[Illustration: HORACE DAVIS—FIFTY YEARS A FRIEND]
[Illustration: HARVARD UNIVERSITY WHEN HE ENTERED]
His features are familiar from the many published pictures, but no one who had not met his smiling eyes can realize the charm of his personality.
His talk was delightfully genial. I asked him if his journey had been wearisome. “Not at all,” he replied; “I have enjoyed it all.” The scenery seemed to have impressed him deeply. “When one crosses your mountains,” he said, “and sees their wonderful arches, one discovers how architecture came to be invented.” When asked if he could favor us with some lectures, he smiled and said: “Well, my daughter thought you might want something of that kind, and put a few in my trunk, in case of an emergency.” When it came to dates, it was found that he was to leave the next day for a short trip to the Geysers, and it was difficult to arrange the course of three, which had been fixed upon, after his return. It was about eleven o’clock when we called. I asked him if he could give us one of the lectures that evening. He smiled and said, “Oh, yes,” adding, “I don’t know what you can do here, but in Boston we could not expect to get an audience on such short notice.” We assured him that we felt confident in taking the chances on that. Going at once to the office of the Evening Bulletin, we arranged for a good local notice, and soon had a number of small boys distributing announcements in the business streets.
The audience was a good one in point of numbers, and a pleased and interested one. His peculiar manner of reading a few pages, and then shuffling his papers, as though they were inextricably mixed, was embarrassing at first, but when it was found that he was not disturbed by it, and that it was not the result of an accident, but a characteristic manner of delivery, the audience withheld its sympathy and rather enjoyed the novelty and the feeling of uncertainty as to what would come next. One little incident of the lecture occasioned an admiring smile. A small bunch of flowers had been placed on the reading-desk, and by some means, in one of his shuffles, they were tipped over and fell forward to the floor. Not at all disconcerted, he skipped nimbly out of the pulpit, picked up the flowers, put them back in the vase, replaced it on the desk, and went on with the lecture as though nothing had happened.
He was much interested in the twenty-dollar gold pieces in which he was paid, never before having met with that form of money. His encouraging friendliness of manner quite removed any feeling that a great man’s time was being wasted through one’s intercourse. He gossiped pleasantly of men and things as though talking with an equal. On one occasion he seemed greatly to enjoy recounting how cleverly James Russell Lowell imitated Alfred Tennyson’s reading of his own poems. Over the Sunday-school of our church Starr King had provided a small room where he could retire and gain seclusion. It pleased Emerson. He said, “I think I should enjoy a study beyond the orbit of the servant girl.” He was as self-effacing a man as I ever knew, and the most agreeable to meet.