**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


William H. Seward
by [?]

And thus does many a mother scrub the kitchen-floor on her knees, rather than face the irony of maternity and ask the assistance of the seventeen-year-old pert chit with bangs, who strums a mandolin in the little front parlor, gay with its paper flowers, six plush-covered chairs and a “company” sofa.

The late Commodore Vanderbilt is reported to have said, “I have over a dozen sons, and not one is worth a damn.” I fear me that every father with sons grown to manhood has at some time voiced the same sentiment, curtailed, possibly, only as to numbers, and softened by another expletive, which does not mitigate the anguish of his cry, as he sees the dreams he had for his baby boys fade away into a mist of agonizing tears.

And is all this worry the penalty that Nature exacts for dreaming dreams that can not in their very nature come true? Jean Jacques Rousseau, who wrote so beautifully on child-study, avoided the risk of failure by putting his children into an asylum; several “Communities” since have set apart certain women to be mothers to all, and bring up and care for the young, and strangely, with no apparent loss to the children; and Bellamy prophesies a day when the worries of parenthood will all be transferred to a “committee.”

But the worry is futile and senseless, being born often of a blindness that will not wait. Man has not only “Seven Ages,” but many more, and he must pass through this one before the next arrives. The Commodore certainly possessed what is called horse-sense, and if his conceptions of character had been clearer, he might have realized that in more ways than one the abilities of his sons were going to be greater than his own. His eldest son was, nevertheless, banished to a Long Island farm on a pension, “because he could not be trusted to do business.” The same son once modestly asked the Commodore if he would allow him to have the compost that had been for a year accumulating outside the Fifth Avenue barns. “Just one load, and no more,” said pater. William thereupon took twenty teams and as many men, and transferred the entire pile to a barge moored in the river. It was a barge-load. And when pater saw what had been done, he said, “The boy is not so big a fool as I thought.” The boy was forty-five ere death put him in possession of the gold that the father no longer had use for, there being no pockets in a shroud, and he then showed that as a financier he could have given his father points, for in a few years he doubled the millions and drove horses faster without a break than his father had ever ridden.

Seward’s father was a doctor, justice of the peace, merchant, and the general first citizen of the village of Florida, Orange County, New York. And he had no more confidence in his boy William than Vanderbilt had in his. He educated him only because the lad was not strong enough to work, and it seems to have been the firm belief that the boy would come to no good end. In order to discipline him, the father put the youngster in college on such a scanty allowance that the lad was obliged to run away and go to teaching school in order to be free from financial humiliation. Here was the best possible proof that the young man had the germs of excellence in him; but the father took it as a proof of depravity, and sent warning letters to the young school-teacher’s friends threatening them “not to harbor the scapegrace.”

The years went by and the parental distrust slackened very little. The boy was slim and slender and his hair was tow-colored and his head too big for his body. He had gotten a goodly smattering of education some way and was intent on being a lawyer. He seemed to know that if he was to succeed he must get well away from the parent nest, and out of the reach of daily advice.