Some unwise person might ask the foolish question, “Who is Odger?” I hope, however, that such inquiry will not be made, for I would be compelled to say that I do not know. Whether he is a clergyman or a reformer, or an author, or all these in one, we cannot say. Suffice it he is a foreigner, and that is enough to make us all go wild. A foreigner does not need more than half as much brain or heart to do twice as well as an American, either at preaching or lecturing. There is for many Americans a bewitchment in a foreign brogue. I do not know but that he may have dined with the queen, or have a few drops of lordly blood distributed through his arteries.
I notice, however, that much of this charm has been broken. I used to think that all English lords were talented, till I heard one of them make the only poor speech that was made at the opening meeting of the Evangelical Alliance. Our lecturing committees would not pay very large prices next year for Mr. Bradlaugh and Edmund Yates. Indeed, we expect that the time will soon come when the same kind of balances will weigh Englishmen, Scotchmen, Irishmen, Frenchmen and Americans.
If a man can do anything well, he will be acceptable without reference to whether he was born by the Clyde, the Thames, the Seine, or the Hudson. But until those scales be lifted it is sufficient to announce the joyful tidings that “Odger is coming.”
The hot axle.
The express train was flying from Cork to Queenstown. It was going like sixty—that is, about sixty miles an hour. No sight of an Irish village to arrest our speed, no sign of break-down, and yet the train halted. We looked out of the window, saw the brakemen and a crowd of passengers gathering around the locomotive and a dense smoke arising. What was the matter? A hot axle!
We were on the lightning train for Cleveland. We had no time to spare. If we stopped for a half hour we should be greeted by the anathema of a lecturing committee. We felt a sort of presentiment that we should be too late, when to confirm it the whistle blew, and the brakes fell, and the cry all along the train was, “What is the matter?” Answer: “A hot axle!” The wheels had been making too many revolutions in a minute. The car was on fire. It was a very difficult thing to put it out; water, sand and swabs were tried, and caused long detention and a smoke that threatened flame down to the end of the journey.
We thought then, and think now, this is what is the matter with people everywhere. In this swift, “express,” American life, we go too fast for our endurance. We think ourselves getting on splendidly, when in the midst of our successes we come to a dead halt. What is the matter? Nerves or muscles or brains give out. We have made too many revolutions in an hour. A hot axle!