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Then he drew himself
up so there was but the faintest suspicion of a stoop in his broad shoulders and awaited our congratulations. The crown of his hat just cleared the lintel of the Sanctum door. Strength and bodily confidence pervaded his person and the flush of health and exercise glowed in his clean shaven face. His hair was white, but his eye was as bright and alert as a schoolboy's. Not until he gave the military salute did we recollect the ugly saber cut concealed beneath his immaculate shirt bosom. We always referred to it as the Sanctum's "V.C." The Parson, however, was prouder of the fact that his four years at the front had left no cause, in his own estimation, that would call for a pension, than that he had brought this glory to the Sanctum. There was a grain of vanity in the good man's consciousness of perfect health and unimpaired vitality that we were secretly proud of, although the Contributor never failed to remark solicitously on occasions, "I wish you could have seen the Parson in such and such a year — healthy you would n't know he was the same man."
Then we would all look sympathetically towards the "invalid" and mourn that we could not have known him in his prime.
The Parson was a sturdy shepherd, both mentally and physically, and had it ever come to the point of holding his aristocratic flock together by sheer force of muscle he would have been equal to the trial. It would have taken a strong sheep indeed to twist out of his powerful hands.
The Parson believes that no man is so busy or driven that he cannot afford an hour a day to physical drill; that that much time given to Indian clubs, dumbbells, or to his own hobby-fencing-is invested at compound interest. It had not taken
(Copyright, 1895, by OVERLAND MONTHLY PUBLISHING CO.) All rights reserved.
him long to convert the Sanctum and turn it into a fencing class, but with the outside world, even with his own flock, he had not made the least impression. I have heard him preach and lecture again and again on the Gospel of Exercise - only to have his pleased audiences agree with him from first to last, without a thought of even giving his method a trial. We had only to mention that the Parson was looking well to start him off on this well built hobby.
The Parson. “Looking well, am I? I am sixty-four to-day, remember, and I can sleep and eat like a baby. I can chase a street car two blocks without losing my breath and tramp from here to Menlo and back without an effort, or I can work in my study if necessary from six in the morning until twelve at night, and not feel it. Do you know why? Because I devote one hour of every day, save Sunday, of my life to good hard exercise. I bring ever muscle of my body and brain into action and for the time being I forget my trials, my business, my work, in a grand salle d'armes. During that hour I had rather touché Professeur Ansot than pen the best sermon ever written. Or if it is a lesson instead of a bout, I am prouder of my self control as I stand before the dancing point of his foil than I am of the biggest marriage fee that I ever received. And then to stop before you are tired, dripping with perspiration, the blood bounding through your body, your muscles all quivering with excitement, and go out into the street with head up and shoulders thrown back, it is glorious! Tell me, cannot you do better work in the office or in the study after that! Look around among our friends,--hollow chests and stooping shoulders greet you everywhere. In the spring this one must have a tonic, in the fall that one must go to the country for rest. The one spends more money for medicine than I do for fencing lessons and the other more time in his one trip than I do with my hour a day the year round. What is the result on their part? Nothing. Why, four years ago the Editor got la grippe, he took a sea voyage and a hogshead of medicine. It went away for the summer, and returned the next winter. You all said he was going into a decline. I am not preaching, but you know the result. I got him down to Ansot's and started him in fencing, an hour a day. The grippe fled. Look at him now. He can do two men's work. His two years' fencing has made a man of him, although I confess he has n't become much of a fencer.”
I bowed and threw my glove at the reverend man's patent leathers.
“ This generation is brought up wrong. No attention is paid to health. It has flaccid muscles and weak lungs. The American father imagines that the Indian club belongs to the specialty man on the variety stage and the fencing foil to the pages of Dumas's novels. Consequently the American boy is sent to school to develop his brain and abuse his body. He studied trigonometry for discipline without knowing that there is more discipline in a parry and three times as much mathematics in a touché. The English know better. They walk and ride and exercise conscientiously, and they do not have the dyspepsia or insomnia. When I advise a business friend to take an hour a day for exercise he replies, I wish I could, but I have n't time.' Has n't time! Mark my word, that man will be old at 40, wear out at 50, and die at 55. The ten or fifteen years that he will spend in his grave before I shall join him would have been plenty of time. Look at the patent medicines in our stores. What country on earth has as many ? Of them all, which ones have we inherited from Greece or Rome or even France ? Do you think that there would be any sale for these concoctions of iron and cod liver oil, if it were fashionable for our young
ladies and gentlemen to walk and ride and fence. Bah! Not one per cent of them have strength enough to pick themselves up if they fall down, and none of them know the pleasure of being able to enjoy the good things of this world.”
The Reader. “Not even the Parson's sermons."
Why, when I was abroad -" The Office Boy. “ There is a lady outside who wishes to know if you can use a poem on the California Poppy?”
The Reader. “Tell the lady that the demand for poems on the California Poppy and Mount Shasta is weak to-day. We are running the Yosemite and the Golden Gate for a change."
The Parson. “You may smile at my five weeks abroad, but it was a vigorous trip. I started with a party of thirty and by the time we arrived at the base of the Pyramids there were only nine left. We had tired the weaklings out. My physical training stood me in good stead. Three of the nine attempted the Great Pyramid,
. but only two of us succeeded. Do not you think that I was paid for my hour every morning by the view I got at its top and the proud consciousness that I had won where so many others had failed? There are many men, - yes, and women, who claim that they have scaled the great Pyramid of Cheops. Collectively, I admire them, particularly the women ; individually, all but the athletes like myself must pardon me if I am politely skeptical. The ledges that I walked along between my Bedouins, the blocks of granite the height of a man, that I was dragged up over, and the corners and crevices I edged into, would put the walls of one of our cañons to shame. But the reward! I had waited until I was sixty, but it was mine at last. The Pyramids, the Sphinx, staring right on, with calm, eternal eye,' Heliopolis, the city of the sun,- the On of Genesis,- Cairo with its thousand domes and minarets, the sacred Nile, the red desert of Lybia, where there is no shade save what the chameleon casts, the tombs of the Mamelukes, the Island of Roda, where the great law-giver was found, lay stretched below me like the panoramic map of the Sunday School room of my childhood. Away to the right was Goshen, the which the silver-haired patriarch Jacob and his sons came. Farther, Ur of the Chaldees, from out of which Abraham journeyed in the time of famine. To the south, Ghizeh and Memphis, only a mass of scattered ruins to tell of their former greatness."
The Artist. “Very pretty. Accept my humble congratulations and wishes for many happy returns of this day."
The Poet. “And from me
A green old age, unconscious of decays,
That proves the hero born in better days.” The Occasional Visitor. “ I shall take up fencing at once, if it will enable me to ascend the Great Pyramid when I am sixty and have breath enough left to see any thing but a dizzy whirl before my eyes."
THEN we fell to talking about fencing as an art, not strictly as a means of exer
cise. It is rather a remarkable thing that the theory of fencing has reached all but absolute perfection at this day when the art has become practically useless. Had D'Artagnan known how to use his rapier as Ansot of San Francisco or Senac