WINNING GOLDEN OPINIONS

“In the morning, Perk, I want you to help me about finding a
boarding-place, or some room that I can hire cheap, and board myself. I
should prefer a garret, as that will be the cheapest. There”–laying a
two-dollar bill on the table–“is every cent of money I possess in the
world; and if I study medicine I must have books, that come very high,
instruments by and by, and instruction from an experienced physician. I
am, to be sure, well clothed. I have clothing sufficient, with economy,
to last for years, but money I have none.”

“I know I am not capable of giving you advice, and cannot expect that
you will receive it from me as you would from Mort; but I beg of you,
whatever you do, don’t go to starving yourself; it will be a losing game
in the end. If you are going to work hard all day in school, and then
study when out of it, you need, and must have, good, nourishing food,
and plenty of it. There was Eckford, of our class, lived on water gruel
and molasses, and roast potatoes, and made out to graduate. But what did
he ever amount to, more than sweetened water?”

“He never was more than half alive, to begin with. I am in good case,
and must economize the last cent.”

“Economize, with a vengeance! Saving at the tap, and spilling at the
bung-hole. A precious doctor you’ll make. Going to dry up the juices,
both of body and brain, by starvation. Now let me plan. My aunt has
considerable land and other property, and needs some one to aid her in
the care of it. Dan is a mere boy, and it brings a good deal of care
upon her. If you will see to her affairs, cut the wood, take care of the
garden in the summer (Dan milks, and takes care of the cow and horse),
keep her accounts, and just do what pertains to the house (if there is
anything beyond that, she will hire other help), you can stay in this
room, have your board, fuel, and a horse to ride occasionally, you can
borrow medical books of Dr. Ryan, practice on my aunt, who is in
delicate health, dearly loves to take medicine, wears a Burgundy pitch
plaster between her shoulders, reads Buchan’s Domestic Medicine, and
Parson Meek will pray for you. I think this will be a great deal better
than your starvation plan, unless you think it would be derogatory to
your character, and injure your influence as principal of the academy,
if it should be known that you cut wood and did chores.”

“Derogatory!” cried Rich, jumping up. “I don’t value the opinion of any
who think honest labor derogatory _that_,” snapping his fingers. “If
they don’t like it, they may dislike it. I can earn as much at the anvil
as I can here, and all the reason I prefer it is, I can study when I
have done my day’s work here; and after I have been at work in the shop
all day I am tired and sleepy. I will most gladly fall in with the offer
of your aunt, and do all or anything she wants done.”

“Rich, you are no more like a fellow we used to call _Rich_ in
Radcliffe, than chalk’s like cheese.”

“I’ve been through a ‘discipline,’ as President Appleton would say.
Then, I used to dip my fingers in rose water of a morning, and dress my
hair with pomatum. Since that, I’ve had to wash in an iron-hooped
bucket, and wipe on a tow towel cousin german to a nutmeg grater. Sweat
and coal dust have taken the place of pomatum. It didn’t last, however,
longer than the first term of the freshman year. I caught an expression
on Mort’s face one day, when I was fixing up before the glass, that made
me, as soon as his back was turned, fling the rose water and pomatum
into the slop pail. I tell you, Perk, there’s no tonic equal to iron. I
mean to give lots of it when I am a doctor.”

“So I think; but I like to take it best in the shape of a gun barrel, a
fish-hook, or a pair of skates.”

The number of pupils in the academy was quite large, and, as was
customary in those days, they consisted of both sexes, ranging in age
from ten to nineteen, and even twenty years. There were boys fitting for
college, and others pursuing English studies. Some of the older scholars
studied surveying, book-keeping, and navigation.

Rich gave himself wholly to his work, and speedily created among his
scholars not merely an attachment to himself, but enthusiasm in study,
and desire to excel. It was soon evident, both to the trustees and more
advanced scholars, that their present teacher was greatly superior in
every department, not only to Perk, but any instructor who had preceded
him.

The fact that he did chores, and attended to business matters, in order
to defray the expense of his board, so far from proving derogatory, as
Perk had hinted, operated in precisely the opposite manner. Had he
resorted to this method of reducing his expenses from penuriousness, and
an overweening desire to accumulate, such, doubtless, would have been
the result, and the proceeding would have excited both ridicule and
contempt.

The instincts of the boys, however, divined that this was not his
character. They felt themselves drawn towards him by that magnetic
influence that his college mates confessed, and were proud of his
scholarship and commanding ability, that even those who could not
appreciate felt. In addition to this they were not long in discovering
that, although he did chores, and even cleaned out the pig-sty, he was
the best dressed man in the town on the Sabbath, which was to them a
sore puzzle. But when it leaked out, probably through Perk, that he had
been reared in affluence, was now flung upon his own resources,
struggling to obtain a professional education, and that his style of
dress was merely the remnant of better days, and not occasioned by mere
love of display, the knowledge produced universal sympathy and respect,
the whole community vying with each other in the manifestation of it.

Although practising the most rigid economy, husbanding every moment of
time, and performing a great deal of labor, the noble nature of Rich
manifested itself in a thousand ways; and strange it is how this
unwritten, unspoken language of the heart is generally felt and
understood. He was patient with the dull, encouraged the industrious,
and stimulated to the utmost those scholars possessed of superior
ability, while the mere desire to merit his esteem and affection roused
indolent and wayward boys to persevering effort, and inspired them with
a love of study and spirit of emulation they had never felt before.

But when Granny Fluker (after he went into the blacksmith’s shop, made
a new crank to her flax wheel, mended the cover of her Dutch oven, that
was broke in two, by drilling holes in it, and putting wrought iron
cleats across, fastened with rivets, and made a new bail to the oven)
exclaimed, “God bless the young gentleman for condescending to sich a
poor old worn-out critter as I am, that have to be helped by the town.
Well, it’s allers the way, in this world; them what’s got the biggest
hearts to do allers have the least to do _with_. But if the prayers of a
poor old lone body like me can do him any good, he’ll sartain have ’em.”

She expressed the universal sentiment of the whole community.

To increase still more the estimation in which Rich was held, it was
ascertained that he was an excellent singer. The parish choir was in a
most wretched condition. A maiden lady, who had long been distinguished
as a singer, began to show unmistakable signs of age, and her voice
cracked. She received from the younger members sundry hints to leave.
These she took in high dugeon, and left, together with a brother and two
sisters, who were fine singers, and who espoused her quarrel. Before the
new members who were introduced upon their leaving could be drilled, the
chorister, who had made a great part of the disturbance, left town,
taking his bass-viol with him.

In this condition of things, Rich was invited to take the lead of the
choir, and accepted, established choir meetings, and soon put matters to
rights; while the refractory brother and his two sisters, finding that
they were not necessary, got over their huff, and came back.




The younger portion of the choir, ascertaining from Dan Clemens that
Rich played the violin, persuaded him to bring it to church the next
Sunday. The moment Rich drew the bow across the strings, Deacon
Starkweather got up, slamming the pew door after him, left the church,
and going into the pasture, out of sight and sound of the ungodly thing,
sat down on a stump, in a snow-storm, till he judged it was time for the
sermon to begin, when he returned, as he had no quarrel with Parson
Meek, and merely wished to show his displeasure, and enter a protest
against the fiddle. Rich, however, smoothed all asperities, and
reconciled the worthy deacon, by persuading the members of the parish
most interested in music to purchase a bass-viol, upon which he
performed to the satisfaction of all; Deacon Starkweather inviting Rich,
and all the members of the choir, to tea, when he explained to them that
he had never cherished the least hardness against any member of the
choir, but that his action was in reference to the _instrument_, and the
associations connected with that exponent of folly, and concluded with a
most generous contribution toward the purchase of the bass-viol. Thus
was the affair that at one time threatened to break up the parish most
happily settled. Rich earned the reputation of a peacemaker, and young
man of excellent judgment, and the deacon, through his device delivered
from an uncomfortable position (as his conduct by no means met with
general approbation), became the staunch friend of Rich, declaring, upon
every proper occasion, that “he was a young man that had the root of the
matter in him.”

The period at which Rich began the study of medicine was the
commencement of a great revolution in medical theory and practice, both
in relation to the treatment of disease and surgery; young and earnest
men were struggling in every direction for light; new discoveries were
made, reverence for the past was gradually wearing off, and the old
theories of practice were subjected to a most searching and often
irreverent scrutiny.

Dr. Ryan by no means belonged to that class of mind sometimes designated
by the term, “The sword frets out the scabbard.” On the other hand, he
was hale and hearty, possessed of a noble frame, hair slightly tinged
with gray, but ruddy cheeks, a fine set of teeth of pearly whiteness,
and a frank, hearty manner, betokening real goodness of heart.

Though possessed of very moderate abilities, the doctor was a man of
sterling worth, great integrity, and kind and sympathizing nature. He
enjoyed a large practice, being the only physician in the place. The
poor loved him, because he was ever as ready to attend to their wants as
to those of his more wealthy patients, often put shoes on the feet of a
barefooted child, and did not hesitate to bestow flannels and fuel, when
he felt that they were more necessary than medicine. The utmost
confidence was reposed in him, as his more intelligent patients, if
disposed to doubt his skill in difficult cases, knew perfectly well that
he would not hesitate a moment in calling in more competent persons,
when he felt their aid was required.

At this period the spirit of inquiry was abroad. There were rumors in
the air, and forebodings of a radical reform in medical practice.
Practitioners of the doctor’s age, who were either too indolent,
prejudiced, or too far advanced in life to receive and act upon new
ideas, were by no means to be envied, being somewhat in the position of
one upon a ledge in the sea, cut off by the tide, that, constantly
rising, rendered his passing into oblivion merely a question of time.

The old physicians stigmatized these disturbers of the peace of
antiquity and their own as quacks, new lights, upstarts, and utterly
unsafe as experimenters with human life. The advocates of the improved
practice, on the other hand, were by no means backward in denouncing
their seniors as fossils, petrifactions, enemies to all progress, and
only desirous of retailing drugs at ninety per cent. profit, and
fattening the graveyards; of promoting gangrene, and needless
amputations, through their ignorance of the first principles of surgery;
multiplying cripples by malpractice and ignorance of anatomy; that they
had one mode of treatment for all disorders; and the time-honored
allusion to “Procrustes’ bed” was lavishly applied to their opponents.

The good doctor, firmly wedded to the ancient practice, felt all the
animosity his genial nature permitted him to indulge in respect to the
new lights; and when he heard that a young man thoroughly impregnated
(as he could not doubt) with radical notions, was about to take the
academy, and had already commenced the study of medicine, he felt very
much as an old crower, who has walked in state, and lorded it over his
dames, might be supposed to feel when he sees a young rooster suddenly
flung down in the barn-yard, and inwardly resolved that the young
upstart should receive neither aid, comfort, nor countenance from him.