Almost a Man - Part 1

Part 1

Almost A Man.

by Mary Wood-Allen.


Two lads had crossed the sunny meadow-land of childhood and stood by the gate, at the entrance to the rougher paths of youth leading up to the grander heights of maturity. They glanced backward, but not with regret, for their eyes shone with eagerness to climb the upward way. As they waited, an angel came bearing a gift for each, which he gave them, saying: "I have brought you a wondrous gift, not for yourselves but for others. Listen."

And they bent their heads and listened. And one said: "I hear most entrancing music. It thrills my very being. It is for me, for me."

But the angel said: "Listen again. Shut your ears to those bewildering tones and you will hear a deeper, holier strain."

But the youth said: "No, I hear only that melody which speaks to my own heart. I can hear nothing else."

The other youth too took the gift and, bending his head at the command of the angel, said: "I hear that sweet entrancing strain which speaks to myself, and which promises me pleasure; but deeper than all that I hear a tone soft, sweet and low, that sounds like the voices of happy children, and of a mother singing to her babe."

The angel smiled. "It is for them," he said, "that you must keep your gift. And in the years to come that music will be to you the sweetest in the world."

So the youths started on their devious ways through the hilly land of youth. There were bird-songs and flowers; there were bright paths, and dark ones; there were sunny by-paths, which ended in dreamy forests; there were pitfalls in unexpected places; there was often sorrow where they looked for joy, and failure where they expected success. And the one listened oft to the entrancing music of his angelic gift, and was led to think only of himself, and his eye lost its fire, his feet often stumbled, and the days and nights had no pleasure for him. As he reached the heights of maturity he was met by a bright creature who laughed with great joy when he offered her his love and said exultantly: "I have kept myself pure for you," and he, knowing his own dark secrets, could make no reply but hung his head and was silent. And, thus silent, he heard no more the bewildering music of his youth, but instead there came to his ears the sound of a broken-hearted woman's sobs, and the weeping of children mourning the birthright that had been lost for them in their father's wayward youth. And the man said sighingly:

"O that I had my innocence again My untouched honor. But I wish in vain."

But the other lad turned a deaf ear to the brain-bewildering music and listened with his soul for the happy melodies of the future. And his eye grew brighter and his strength increased and his paths were straight and clean, and as he neared the heights of maturity he was met by one whose robe was shining in its brightness and who whispered: "I have kept myself pure for you."

And gladly he answered: "And I for you;" and so their lives became one, and the melody of happy children's voices drew nearer and nearer, and listening to the sweet voice of the mother singing to her babe, and looking into the bright and rosy faces that with every glance and motion thanked him for their dower of health and honor, he blessed the great Creator from whom he had received the wondrous gift of potential fatherhood, and gave thanks that he had wisely listened to the angel's voice bidding him keep his gift for those whose life, in the years to come, was to be his holiest possession.


By Mary Wood-Allen, M. D.

"Let me take your book of quotations, please."

"Certainly, if I can find it. O, I remember. I let Susie Glenn take it.

No doubt I can find it in her desk."

As she spoke Miss Bell walked to the desk and, finding the desired book, took possession of it. An open note dropped from it and fell upon the floor. Picking it up Miss Bell read: "My darling little sweetheart," and glancing at the close saw the signature, "Carl." Sending of notes in school was forbidden, therefore Miss Bell had no compunction of conscience in taking possession of this one, and, on the impulse of the moment, read it aloud to Miss Lane, her fellow-teacher. It was not only sentimental in tone but there were mysterious phrases which seemed to hold a deep and sinful significance. The women looked at each other with sorrowful faces.

"What shall I do about it?" asked Miss Bell.

"What a depth of wickedness it reveals!" exclaimed Miss Lane. "Who would have imagined that such a nice appearing boy as Carl Woodford could be so base? And Susie Glenn too, such a shy, modest little creature as she seems."

"Do you suppose it is really as bad as it seems to us? Those expressions which appear to indicate such--such almost criminal intimacy perhaps they do not understand fully."

"Don't you believe it," said Miss Lane. "I tell you these children are wiser in sin than we older people can imagine. That boy needs to be whipped within an inch of his life, the little reprobate! I'd give him such a lecture as would make his eyes open wide for once. I'd make him understand that he'd better not let me catch him in such mischief again.

And I'd tell Mrs. Glenn about it so that she could punish Susie."

"I really am afraid that the result would not be what we wish. Suppose we go and talk it over with Dr. Barrett. Maybe she can tell us what to do."

Dr. Barrett received the ladies with cordiality and professed herself willing to aid them in the solution of their problem. She did not appear as shocked as they did, and even smiled a little as Miss Lane, in indignant tones, read aloud the offending note.

"Don't you think that little rascal should be nearly annihilated?" she asked, turning to the Doctor.

"I think he should be instructed," replied the latter. "Will you send him to me, Miss Bell?"

"Most gladly, but I don't believe he will come."

"Yes he will, if you don't frighten him beforehand. Don't say a word to him about the affair, but send him with a note to me and tell him to wait for an answer."

The next evening Carl appeared at the Doctor's residence with the note from Miss Bell. "I am to wait for an answer," he said.

Dr. Barrett only nodded as she wrote on steadily for a moment, seeming too much engrossed in her work to notice him. Then she read the note, thought a moment, excused herself and left the room. Returning immediately she said, "It will be half an hour before the answer is ready. Can you wait?"

"O certainly."

"Then sit down here and look over the Youth's Companion while I finish my letter."

For some moments there was silence and then the Doctor, laying down her pen, turned to the boy and said, pleasantly; "You are Carl Woodford, are you not?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"It has been so long since I saw you that you have almost grown out of my knowledge. You are getting to be almost a man. You must be fifteen years old."

"Not quite. I will be next June."

"Almost a man," said Dr. Barrett softly as she looked thoughtfully into the fire. After a moment's silence she asked, "Carl, what is it to be a man?"

The boy drew himself up with a self-conscious air as he replied.

"Why, to have your growth, and get into business for yourself."

"Well, that is not quite it," said the Doctor smiling, "for I have my growth and am in business for myself, and yet I am not a man."

"Maybe it means having a mustache," said Carl, with a slight flush.

"That has something to do with it certainly, but Mrs. Flynn has a mustache, and she is not a man."

"Well, I don't know how to explain it then," said Carl.

"You have studied grammar, will you pa.r.s.e the word man?"

"Man is a common noun, masculine gender, third----"

"What does masculine gender mean?"