To My Teacher and Friend George Robert Parkin



    SINCE you are on the other side of the world, my dear Parkin, I must offer you my new book without your leave. This is not really so venturesome as it may seem. You never were one of those aloof and awesome Head Masters, who exercise a petty reign of terror over the effervescence of youth; and I cannot recall that we ever tried to steal a march on you, except on a few occasions in the history of the school or of your own life, when we wished to surprise you with some token of our bashful affection.
    When this page comes under that glowing eye, which has since compelled so many audiences, in so many places larger than any schoolroom, on weightier matters than any [Page v] school discipline, let me ask you to recall those occasions long ago, and to think of this prefatory letter as an echo of that happy time. I even feel myself lapsing (or more properly stiffening) into the formal style of an address, to be read to you, with much stumbling and a quaking heart, before the assembled school. But I dare say you will find it none the worse on that account. As you sit now turning these leaves, whether in London or South Africa, you must pretend that you are still in the chair behind the high desk, where we all came for counsel and reproof, and that here is one of your boys come to tender you an offering long overdue, making acknowledgement of most grateful indebtedness never really to be repaid. For the service you did him is, next to the gift of life, the greatest that one man can render another.
    Those were the days when we were all young together, whether at Greek or football, tramping for Mayflowers through the early spring woods, paddling on the river in intoxicating [Page vi] Junes, or snowshoeing across bitter drifts in the perishing December wind, — always under the leadership of your indomitable ardour. In that golden age we first realized the kinship of Nature, whose help is forever unfailing, and whose praise is never outsung. I must remind you, too, of those hours in teh class-room, when the Aeneid was often interrupted by the Idyls of the King or The Blessed Damozel, and William Morris or Arnold or Mr. Swinburne's latest lyric ame to us between the lines of Horace.
    I shall not fasten upon you the heavy responsibility of having turned more than one young scholar aside into the fascinating and headlong current of contemporary poetry, never to emerge again, nor of having helped to make anything so doubtful as a minor bard. It is certain, however, that you gave us whatever solace and inspiration there is in the classics and in modern letters, and set our feet in the devious aisles of the enchanted groves of the Muses. And I for one have to [Page vii] thank you for a pleasure in life, almost the only one, that does not fail.
    We learned from you, or we might have learned, to be zealous, to be fair, to be happy over our work, to love only what is beautiful and of good report, and to follow the truth at all hazards. If you find any good, then, in these pages, take much of the credit for it to yourself, I beg you. And whatever you come upon of ill, attribute to that original perversity for which our grandsires had to make allowance in their theology, and from which no master in the world can quite free even his most desirous pupil.
    The essays which go to make up this volume were written at different times during the past six or seven years. In revising them for publication in their present form, a good deal that was purely ephemeral has been cut away; so that while they may not appear to contain very much that is of great significance, neither will they, I hope, be found altogether trivial.
    Under the circumstances of their production [Page viii], they could scarcely follow any coherent and continuous trend of thought. Perhaps, indeed, it is not to be expected that a book of essays should do this. They can only have whatever unity of feeling and outlook attaches to the writer's philosophy, as it passes from day to day through the changing pageants of Nature or through the varied pomps and vanities of this delightful world. And yet, if I must be my own apologist, perhaps I may be excused for assuming that no work of the sort, however random and perishable, will be entirely futile, if it has been done in the first place with loving sincerity and conviction. It will have in the final analysis some way of looking at life, some tendency or preference, which in a more studied work would be more formal, but not therefore necessarily more true. It may attract only a handful of readers; it may not outlive the hour; but after all, that may be enough, if only it carry with it some hint of the experience which prompted it.
    A book is only written for him who finds it [Page ix]; and should carry to the finder some palpable or even intimate revelation of the man who made it. It is as if, by a tone of the voice or a turn of the head, a stranger should suddenly appeal to us as a comrade. And while it is true that the offices of friendship are not fully accomplished until we have eaten our bushel of salt together, it is also certain that the flavour of friendship may be recognized with the smallest grain. A book may be a cry in the night, like Carlyle's; or a message from "the god of the wood," like Emerson's; or a song of the open, like Whitman's; or the utterance of a scholar like Newman from the schools of ancient learning; or it may be no more than the smiling salutation of a child in the street. let him receive it whom it may serve.
    It is a long way from the little Canadian town on the St. John, in the early seventies, to the centres of the world in the beginning of a new era; but it is good to remember and to take courage. And while we who always must think of you with a touch of hero-worship [Page x], look on with pride at your achievements in that larger workroom of responisibility to which you have so deservedly come, — while we kindle as of old at your unflinching and strenuous eagerness, — I hope that you will be able to read with satisfaction, and with some little pleasure, these latest tasks which I bring for your approval.
    School will not keep forever. By the feel of the sun it must be already past noon. Before very long the hour must strike for our dismissal from this pleasant and airy edifice, a summons less welcome than the four o'clock cathedral bell in that leafy Northern city in old days, and we shall all go scattering forth for the Great Re-creation. Before that time arrives, only let me know that, in your impartial and exacting judgment, I have not altogether failed, and I shall await the Finals with more confidence than most mortals dare enjoy [Page xi].

                                                                                                            B. C.
    New York, June, 1903.