Perhaps I should record also, as a curious experience, that I was required to appear as one of the guests of honor at a large reception. This meant that I had to stand in line, with certain other marionettes, and shake hands with an apparently endless procession of people who were themselves as bored as were the guests of honor. I determined then and there that I should never run for President,—not even in response to an irresistible appeal from the populace. I had never suspected before that there could be so many hands without the touch of nature in them. I shook hands mechanically, chatting all the while with a humorous and human woman who stood next to me in the line of the attacked—until suddenly I felt the sensitive and tender grasp of a sure-enough hand, reminding me of friends and one or two women it has been a holiness to know. My attention was attracted by the thrill. I turned swiftly—and I looked upon a little bent old woman who was blind. She had a voice, too, for she spoke to me ... and,—well, I was very glad that I went to that reception.
And many other matters I remember fondly,—a certain lonely hill at sunset, whence you looked over wide water to distant dream-enchanted shores; the urbanity and humor of the wise directors of the Institution; the manner of many young students who discerned an unadmitted sanctity beneath the smiling conversations of those summer hours; my own last lecture, on “The Importance of Enjoying Life”; the people who walked with me to the station and whom I was sorry to leave; and the oddly-minded student behind the desk of the hotel; and an old man from Kentucky who cared about Walt Whitman after I had talked about his ministrations in the army hospitals; and the trees, and the reverberating organ, and, beneath a benison of midnight peace, the hushed moon-silvery surface of the lake. It is, indeed, a memorable experience to have lectured at Chautauqua.
Any one who has traveled much about the country of recent years must have been impressed by the growing uneasiness of mind among thoughtful men. Whether in the smoking car, or the hotel corridor, or the college hall, everywhere, if you meet them off their guard and stripped of the optimism which we wear as a public convention, you will hear them saying in a kind of sad amazement, “What is to be the end of it all?” They are alarmed at the unsettlement of property and the difficulties that harass the man of moderate means in making provision for the future; they are uneasy over the breaking up of the old laws of decorum, if not of decency, and over the unrestrained pursuit of excitement at any cost; they feel vaguely that in the decay of religion the bases of society have been somehow weakened. Now, much of this sort of talk is as old as history, and has no special significance. We are prone to forget that civilization has always been a tour de force, so to speak, a little