Fathers of Men
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Jan did not see that was a confession he could not have made, or have had to make, about himself; and Heriot did not point it out to him. Presently Chips came in from the Sanatorium. He reported Evan as convalescent in body and mind, and so appreciative of the verses on the Old Boys’ Match in the July Mag. that he was getting them framed with the score.
“We’ve been talking about what you fellows get out of a school like this,” said Heriot. “If you ever take to your pen, I think you may owe us more than most, Carpenter; but there was one man once who said what we’re all three probably thinking to-night. Here’s his little book of verses. I’ve had a copy bound for each of you. Here they are.”
The little books were bound in the almost royal blue of the Eleven sash and cap-trimming. Carpenter had scarcely opened his when he exclaimed, “Here’s an old friend!” and read out:
“Rather an old enemy, that,” said Jan, grinning.
“Then, my good fellow, you’re incapable of appreciating four of the most classically perfect lines in a modern language!”
Heriot had quite turned on Jan. It took Chips to explain their former acquaintance with the lines, which he did with much gusto. And then they all three laughed heartily over his misconstruction of “Still are thy quiet voices, thy nightingales, awake,” in the second stanza, and roared at Jan’s nostro loquendo in the first.
“But that’s not the poem I mean,” said Heriot, borrowing Jan’s copy. “It’s this 'Retrospect of School Life.’ Can you stand it?”
And Heriot read a verse that made them hold their breath; then this one, with his head turned towards Jan, and a rich tremor in his virile voice:
“Isn’t that rather what we were driving at?” he asked of Jan.
Jan nodded. Chips begged for more, with a break in his voice. Heriot wagged his spectacles and went on…
Chips had laid an emotional hand on Jan’s arm after the last line but four; and Heriot went almost as far after the last one of all; but Jan had himself well in hand.
“That’s what you and I were forgetting, and we mustn’t,” Heriot said to him. “Your name isn’t only up in the pavilion. It’s in some of our hearts as well. Your brethren and your home are here!”
Still Jan looked rather stolid.
“There’s just one line I should like to alter,” said he with hardihood. “Do you mind reading the first verse over again, sir?”
And Heriot read:
“It’s just that last line,” said Jan. “It should be the other way about.”
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