My childhood, as I look back upon it, is to me a mystery. While I always possessed a keen sense of the ludicrous, and a hearty appreciation of fun of all sorts, there was a sedate side of my nature that demonstrated itself to the older members of the family, and of which they often spoke. For half days, or whole days, at a time I remember sitting on a small footstool beside an ordinary chair on which lay open “Scott’s Commentaries on the Bible.” I not only read the Scriptures out of this book, but long discourses of Thomas Scott, and passages adjoining. I could not have understood much of these profound and elaborate commentaries. They were not written or printed for children, but they had for my childish mind a fascination that kept me from play, and from the ordinary occupations of persons of my years.
So, also, it was with the religious literature of the old-fashioned kind, with which some of the tables of my father’s house were piled. Indeed, when afterwards I was living at my brothers’ house, he a clergyman, I read through and through and through the four or five volumes of Dwight’s “Theology,” which must have been a wading-in far beyond my depth. I think if I had not possessed an unusual resiliency of temperament, the reading and thinking so much of things pertaining to the soul and a future state would have made me morbid and unnatural. This tendency to read and think in sacred directions was not a case of early piety. I do not know what it was. I suppose in all natures there are things inexplicable. How strange is the phenomenon of childhood days to an old man!
How well I remember Sanderson’s stage coach, running from New Brunswick to Easton, as he drove through Somerville, New Jersey, turning up to the post-office and dropping the mail-bags with ten letters and two or three newspapers! On the box Sanderson himself, six feet two inches, and well proportioned, long lash-whip in one hand, the reins of six horses in the other, the “leaders” lathered along the lines of the traces, foam dripping from the bits! It was the event of the day when the stage came. It was our highest ambition to become a stage-driver. Some of the boys climbed on the great leathern boot of the stage, and those of us who could not get on shouted “Cut behind!” I saw the old stage-driver not long ago, and I expressed to him my surprise that one around whose head I had seen a halo of glory in my boyhood time was only a man like the rest of us. Between Sanderson’s stage-coach and a Chicago express train, what a difference!