Alas for the boys in town! Easter comes to them on stilts, and they buy their eggs out of the store. There is no room for a boy to swing round. There is no good place in town to fly a kite, or trundle a hoop, or even shout without people’s throwing up the window to see who is killed. The holidays are robbed of half their life because some wiseacre will persist in telling him who Santa Claus is, while yet he is hanging up his first pair of stockings. Here the boy pays half a dollar for a bottle of perfume as big as his finger, when out of town, for nothing but the trouble of breathing it, he may smell a country full of new-mown hay and wild honeysuckle. In a painted bath-tub he takes his Saturday bath careful lest he hit his head against the spigot, while in the meadow-brook the boys plunge in wild glee, and pluck up health and long life from the pebbly bottom. Oh, the joy in the spring day, when, after long teasing of mother to let you take off your shoes, you dash out on the cool grass barefoot, or down the road, the dust curling about the instep in warm enjoyment, and, henceforth, for months, there shall be no shoes to tie or blacken.
Let us send the boys out into the country every year for an airing. If their grandfather and grandmother be yet alive, they will give them a good time. They will learn in a little while the mysteries of the hay-mow, how to drive oxen and how to keep Easter. They will take the old people back to the time when you yourself were a boy. There will be for the grandson an extra cake in each oven. And grandfather and grandmother will sit and watch the prodigy, and wonder if any other family ever had such grandchildren. It will be a good thing when the evenings are short, and the old folks’ eyesight is somewhat dim, if you can set up in their house for a little while one or two of these lights of childhood. For the time the aches and pains of old age will be gone, and they will feel as lithe and merry as when sixty years ago they themselves rummaged hayrick, and mow and wagon-house, hiding eggs for Easter.
Sink or swim.
We entered the ministry with a mortal horror of extemporaneous speaking. Each week we wrote two sermons and a lecture all out, from the text to the amen. We did not dare to give out the notice of a prayer-meeting unless it was on paper. We were a slave to manuscript, and the chains were galling; and three months more of such work would have put us in the graveyard. We resolved on emancipation. The Sunday night was approaching when we expected to make violent rebellion against this bondage of pen and paper. We had an essay about ten minutes long on some Christian subject, which we proposed to preach as an introduction to the sermon, resolved, at the close of that brief composition, to launch out on the great sea of extemporaneousness.