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The Choice Of Amyntas
by [?]


Often enough the lover of cities tires of their unceasing noise; the din of the traffic buzzes perpetually in his ears, and even in the silences of night he hears the footfalls on the pavement, the dull stamping of horses, the screeching of wheels; the fog chokes up the lungs so that he cannot breathe; he sees no longer any charms in the tall chimneys of the factory and the heavy smoke winding in curves against the leaden sky; then he flies to countries where the greenness is like cold spring water, where he can hear the budding of the trees and the stars tell him fantastic things, the silence is full of mysterious new emotions. And so the writer sometimes grows weary to death of the life he sees, and he presses his hands before his eyes, that he may hide from him the endless failure in the endless quest; then he too sets sail for Bohemia by the Sea, and the other countries of the Frankly Impossible, where men are always brave and women ever beautiful; there the tears of the morning are followed by laughter at night, trials are easily surmountable, virtue is always triumphant; there no illusions are lost, and lovers live ever happily in a world without end.


Once upon a time, very long ago, when the world was younger and more wicked than it is now, there lived in the West Country a man called Peter the Schoolmaster. But he was very different from ordinary schoolmasters, for he was a scholar and a man of letters; he was consequently very poor. All his life he had pored over old books and musty parchments; but from them he had acquired little wisdom, for one bright spring-time he fell in love with a farmer’s daughter–and married her. The farmer’s daughter was a buxom wench, and, to the schoolmaster’s delight–he had a careless, charming soul–she presented him in course of time with a round dozen of sturdy children. Peter compared himself with Priam of Troy, with Jacob, with King Solomon of Israel and with Queen Anne of England. Peter wrote a Latin ode to each offspring in turn, which he recited to the assembled multitude when the midwife put into his arms for the first time the new arrival. There was great rejoicing over the birth of every one of the twelve children; but, as was most proper in a land of primogeniture, the chiefest joy was the first-born; and to him Peter wrote an Horatian ode, which was two stanzas longer than the longest Horace ever wrote. Peter vowed that no infant had ever been given the world’s greeting in so magnificent a manner; certainly he had never himself surpassed that first essay. As he told the parson, to write twelve odes on paternity, twelve greetings to the new-born soul, is a severe tax even on the most fertile imagination.

But the object of all this eloquence was the cause of the first and only quarrel between the gentle schoolmaster and his spouse; for the learned man had dug out of one of his old books the name of Amyntas, and Amyntas he vowed should be the name of his son; so with that trisyllable he finished every stanza of his ode. His wife threw her head back, and, putting her hands on her hips, stood with arms akimbo; she said that never in all her born days had she heard of anyone being called by such a name, which was more fit for a heathen idol than for a plain, straightforward member of the church by law established. In its stead she suggested that the boy be called Peter, after his father, or John, after hers. The gentle schoolmaster was in the habit of giving way to his wife in all things, and it may be surmised that this was the reason why the pair had lived in happiest concord; but now he was firm! He said it was impossible to call the boy by any other name than Amyntas.