TRAITS AND PHILOSOPHIES
I brought to the dictation one morning the Omar Khayyam card which Twichell had written him so long ago; I had found it among the letters. It furnished him a subject for that morning. He said:
How strange there was a time when I had never heard of Omar Khayyam! When that card arrived I had already read the dozen quatrains or so in the morning paper, and was still steeped in the ecstasy of delight which they occasioned. No poem had ever given me so much pleasure before, and none has given me so much pleasure since. It is the only poem I have ever carried about with me. It has not been from under my hand all these years.
He had no general fondness for poetry; but many poems appealed to him, and on occasion he liked to read them aloud. Once, during the dictation, some verses were sent up by a young authoress who was waiting below for his verdict. The lines pictured a phase of negro life, and she wished to know if he thought them worthy of being read at some Tuskegee ceremony. He did not fancy the idea of attending to the matter just then and said:
“Tell her she can read it. She has my permission. She may commit any crime she wishes in my name.”
It was urged that the verses were of high merit and the author a very charming young lady.
“I’m very glad,” he said, “and I am glad the Lord made her; I hope He will make some more just like her. I don’t always approve of His handiwork, but in this case I do.”
Then suddenly he added:
“Well, let me see it—no time like the present to get rid of these things.”
He took the manuscript and gave such a rendition of those really fine verses as I believe could not be improved upon. We were held breathless by his dramatic fervor and power. He returned a message to that young aspirant that must have made her heart sing. When the dictation had ended that day, I mentioned his dramatic gift.
“Yes,” he said, “it is a gift, I suppose, like spelling and punctuation and smoking. I seem to have inherited all those.” Continuing, he spoke of inherited traits in general.