Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“
[ocr errors]

however, by showing that he could readily let himself out when he wished. "We don't know very much," he said; "practically nothing, when you think of it. There is the infinitely large, and the infinitely small. The sun is a big ball of fire, and every star is like the sun, and around them are planets like ours. They run into millions upon millions. No man can imagine how many and how big. Then everything runs down to the infinitely small, and each cell of everything is as wonderful in its way as the bigger things. A man can't really know anything about the universe -just a few little things here on the surface."

[blocks in formation]

"Oh, I don't know," he replied in a tone indicating that this is beyond the possibility of human knowledge. "As far as I can see, we do not think with the brain; that is only a recording-office for things brought to it by our five senses. It's like a phonograph-record. I understand that there is a certain fold in the brain called Broca's convolution, which is about the size of a short lead-pencil, and everything the senses pick up is therein recorded for future use. Injuries to this convolution have proved that it is the seat of memory. Our first impressions are recorded at its base, and as we advance in age the seat of the record advances from the base. If the base is injured, we forget our mother tongue and remember only things learned later in life. If the other end is injured, we remember only things recorded in early life. What makes us do things is that mysterious thing called the will.

"If a man has a powerful will, he can force an unwilling brain to record things that seem to be repellent to it, like acquiring Latin, etc. I can understand or imagine that the brain can record impressions, but I cannot understand the will that forces it to take records.

"Returning to Broca's convolution, I once made a calculation if it were possible to record in so small a space the whole record of a man's life, supposing him to have a perfect memory. And I found that if it were possible to make a cylinder of diamond three quarters of an inch in diameter and four inches long, by shaving off the records after each layer was made there could be recorded thereon all that a person could say in talking ten hours a day for thirty years, and none of it would be beyond the limits of the microscope. So this branch of the thing is not so wonderful.

"But the will of man, that is the mystery. Our body is highly organized and made up of cells, all symmetrical and beautifully arranged. Is it the combined intelligence of the whole of the cells which we call 'will-power,' or is our body only a building in which these cells are bricks without intelligence and the will resides in a highly organized unit which everywhere permeates our body, and which is beyond the range of vision even with the most powerful microscope, just as I imagined in the case of the tree?

"When we consider that there is apparently no end to space, that every time we increase the power of our telescopes we see more unknown suns of gigantic size, then why should there not be the infinitely little?

"Matter, as shown by radium, is a grain, fine enough to make a living aggregate or being as highly organized and as complicated as a man, and still be beyond recognition by the microscope. Of course these remarks are fanciful and remind one of the great physicist Clerk-Maxwell, who, when working out his theories, used a hypothetical little demon, which he said he sent in among the molecules to gather information."

Returning to activities he said:

"I have tried so many things I thought were true, and found I was mistaken, that I have quit being too sure about anything. All I can do is to try out what seems to be

the right thing, and be ready to give it up as soon as I am convinced that there is nothing in it."

"Do you find," I asked, "that you can force a solution by making yourself think hard along a given line?"

"Oh, no," he said. "I never think about a thing any longer than I want to. If I lose my interest in it, I turn to something else. I always keep six or eight things going at once, and turn from one to the other as I feel like it. Very often I will work at a thing and get where I can't see anything more in it, and just put it aside and go at something else; and the first thing I know the very idea I wanted will come to me. Then I drop the other and go back to it and work it out."

"Tell me more," I said, "about how the ideas come to you. Do you read much for mental culture or do you confine your self chiefly to scientific works? Do you like poetry?"

"Oh, I read everything," he said. "Not merely scientific works, but anything that helps the imagination. But I can't stand jingle. Where the thought is twisted out. of shape just to make it rime-I can't stand that. But I like Evangeline,' 'Enoch Arden,' and things like that. These I call true poetry.”

Then, as if suddenly remembering the best point of all, he spoke in an enthusiastic way: "But, ah, Shakspere! That's where you get the ideas! My, but that man did have ideas! He would have been an inventor, a wonderful inventor, if he had turned his mind to it. He seemed to see the inside of everything. Perfectly wonderful how many things he could think about. His originality in the way of expressing things has never been approached."

"Then you think, do you, that our ideas do not have to be closely connected with our work to be useful?"

“All kinds of ideas help to set the mind going. If a man has enough ideas to be an inventor, he can turn the same force in another direction, if he wishes to, and be a business man, an architect, or anything."

"Then in teaching inventiveness, it would not be necessary to confine it to men who expected to be inventors?"

"Oh, no. It's the same thing, whatever a man does. It's the creative fac

ulty. The more it is developed, the more successful a man should be in any line of work."

Glancing at the notes he had written, which were then before me, I noticed where he had set down twelve years of age as the time when instruction would perhaps be the most effective. Reminding him of this point, he went on:

"Yes, at about that age a boy is interested in knowing how things are done, and you can build on that interest easily. It is hard to teach a man anything if he is n't interested in it. But if you can get him when he is, then everything you do to instruct him counts. His brain or recording department wants work and receives it with pleasure."

"Do you think toys could be made to perform a real service in developing inventiveness, even in a much younger child?" I asked.

"Oh, yes. That will come. There are great possibilities in starting the mind. right with toys. Give them problems to work out that will make them think for themselves."

As a vision of the commercial and educational possibilities of an "Edison system" of instruction by means of toys flashed over me, I said, "Maybe you will get around to that some day-making scientific toys?"

He made a gesture with both hands, as much as to say that that was somewhat out of his usual line, and said: "That will come. It's a good thing, a scientific kindergarten. dergarten. Somebody will work it out. Plenty of time yet."

Returning to the subject of education of boys, he went on:

"They take up too much time teaching things that don't count. Latin and Greek— what good are they? They say these train the mind. But I don't think they train the mind half so much as working out practical problems. Work is the best kind of school to train the mind. Books are good to show the theory of things, but doing the thing itself is what counts.”

"Have you any suggestion to make about how boys should be taught?"

"Oh, it all depends. They'll work that out. That's a business by itself. It's working out."

Thinking of the possible effects of endowments to stimulate educational effort

in the direction of inventiveness, I asked tion, "that inventors are abnormal people, for his views on that subject.

"Money can help, of course."

"Are experiments costly? Would it help much if there were endowments to promote experiment?"

"Some experiments don't cost muchhardly anything at all; just a little time. and material. The working out or commercializing an invention costs money, but that is usually done by the company that expects to make money out of it. What they need is to do something so the inventor can make money out of his invention and not have it all go to the company that buys up his rights. If an inventor could make $50,000 out of his first invention, he would turn right around and put that money into making other inventionssome that might be worth millions to the public. That is a characteristic of a true inventor. Inventors have insufficient means to fight a patent case with the present methods of procedure in the courts, and it amounts to a nullification of the patent as far as the inventor is concerned. There are many corporations that know this and make a business of appropriating every patent of value. Sometimes a competing company will give the inventor enough to pay a little on his debts and fight the pirating company, but the inventor gains nothing if they are successful. I think courts ought to protect the inventor against business men, for I never knew one that had the faintest idea of modern business methods. If the English court practice was adopted in this country, it would be a great thing for the inventor."

"Is it true," I asked, repeating one of my written questions for further elucida

doing their work in a sort of frenzy of illumination?"

"Nothing to it," he assured me. "Those long-haired fellows that act queer and figure out queer things, I don't call them real inventors. Once in a while they may hit something, but not often. There are perhaps five hundred real inventors in the world-men with scientific training, and imagination. imagination. They have made about ninety-five per cent. of all the good things in the way of inventions and improvements. They are usually connected with some big plant; you may not hear of them, but they are there, working out all kinds of machines and processes. are the real inventors, not the long-haired kind."

They

"If you had any maxims or conclusions you could give to those men,-things you have found out, fundamental laws, you know, what would they be?"

"Ah, these men know more about their own work than I could tell them. I have n't any conclusions to give; I am just learning about things myself. They are doing the same. They are working out their things, and I am working out mine."

"Do you ever speculate about the inventions we may have fifty or a hundred years from now?" I asked.

"No, not very much. Nobody can tell what the conditions will be. We may discover laws that will upset all our calculations. We discover what we think are fundamental laws, then they are upset by another discovery. The only thing to do is to work along and bring out every practical and useful fact we can."

[graphic][merged small]

THE STEPMOTHER

BY KATHERINE METCALF ROOF
Author of "A Lighted House "'

I

CIR

IRCUMSTANCES had so ordered Mildred Tremain's life that the experience of falling in love at what is usually conceived to be the susceptible age had been denied her. She had had other interesting, if more impersonal, experiences. In her nomad life on the Continent with her invalid father she had observed, thought, enjoyed, and had arrived at that expensive stage of development where her pleasures, if more completely realized, were rendered less in number by the process of discrimination and elimination. The chances of her falling in love at all had therefore become reduced as the likelihood of her finding an adequate object became less. Yet the miracle happened, after all, in her late twenties. In Gilbert Fleming she found a being apparently designed to meet every side of her rather complex nature.

Too essentially tactful to arouse antagonism, Mildred Tremain was admirably adapted to a companionable human existence. She was artistic in her appreciations, yet content to enjoy the fruits of art instead of mistaking her appreciation for creative talent and joining the army of dilettante amateurs and imitative producers.

Although Gilbert Fleming had given her her first experience in love, she felt no pang in the realization that, aside from those more or less superficial affairs that most men over thirty have had, Fleming himself had had the far more tangible and penetrating experience of matrimony. He had been married for nearly three years to a woman he had loved, and they had had one child, a boy whom Mildred had not seen before her engagement. That first love and marriage, she decided in her innermost communion with herself, could

not have contained such complete understanding as existed between Gilbert and herself. She had seen Amy's picture-an intense, delicate face with a high forehead and great eyes, a serious concentrated face. Amy had been a "college woman," one, Mildred felt, with a life dedicated to progressive movements and ideals and, she was convinced, with no sense of humor. She wondered sometimes how companionable Gilbert had found her-Gilbert with his gay, whimsical point of view, his sensitive, cultivated American mind, which met all discomforts, as well as deeper troubles, with a light, courageous philosophy. Yet she felt not the faintest pang of jealousy toward the dead wife or toward the child, to whom Fleming was unselfishly devoted.

Mildred was not a woman possessed of a wide and overflowing maternal instinct. That is to say, her heart did not go out toward every child she saw simply because it was a child. It is possible that she would not have suffered deeply if denied the experience of motherhood. At the same time she was far from being devoid of maternal instinct. She took children upon the same basis of selection as grown people, liking some, finding others unsympathetic; but her heart had gone out in advance to Fleming's son. She felt stirred at the thought of him. She hoped he was like Gilbert. She had seen a picture of him taken two years before, he was six now,-a beautiful boy with a mass of curls and large eyes, a picturesque child of a type that lent itself to the photogra pher's art.

It happened that it was a bare month before the wedding when she first saw Arthur. His father, intensely alive to the significance of the meeting, brought him.

[ocr errors]

It was not surprising that the child should shrink from a stranger, Mildred reminded herself afterward; she had prepared herself beforehand for such a possibility. But Arthur had been too young when his mother died to remember her, and his grandmother, far from consciously or unconsciously seeking to prejudice him against his new mother, was sincerely pleased with Gilbert's choice. Yes, it was natural enough, yet something in the way the child turned his shoulder, in his fretful, inarticulate sound of repulse, gave a chill to Mildred. Wisely, she did not attempt effusive overtures.

"I believe in letting children alone when they are shy, instead of trying to force their interest," she said to Gilbert, who agreed as he passed his hands lovingly over the child's curls.

"He is a little out of sorts to-day. He is n't like himself," he apologized. The meeting was not quite as he had imagined it.

Arthur climbed up into his father's lap and regarded Mildred frowningly over his shoulder a minute, then buried his face in Fleming's arm.

"He does n't look like you." Mildred had searched the child's features in vain for any resemblance to Gilbert's strong, keen, responsive face.

Arthur, whimpering, began to try to attract his father's attention. "You must n't interrupt, dear," Fleming reproved him gently; but Arthur continued to keep up a fretful undertone of protest while they talked. In a way, he was a beautiful boy, Mildred reflected, observing the child without letting him become aware of it. Yet somehow the impression left her let down, chilled. There was something about Arthur's face-the large, cold, dark eyes, the long upper lip; the relaxed mouth, which dropped at the corners and was seldom closed-that was not pleasing. She caught the thought back half formulated. She would love Gilbert's child, of course, and he would love her; she would win his love.

II

A FEW days after they had returned from their honeymoon, and were settled in their new house on the Sound, Arthur was brought home by his grandmother. It was natural, Mildred told herself again, that

the child should cling to his grandmother, natural that he should cry in parting with her. She reproached herself for the reflection that Arthur's roars-of unexpected volume, for his speaking voice was low-seemed more suggestive of anger than of sorrow.

She set herself to work unobtrusively to win the little boy's love. She gave him books and toys, she read to him, she told him stories. He accepted these attentions impersonally, listening solemnly. He was an intelligent child with an excellent memory. She took him into town to the hippodrome, but he was afraid of the animals, and cried to be taken home. All attempts to amuse him that met with his approval he accepted; personal demonstration of any kind he instantly rejected. For the first time in her life Mildred worked to please, and without success. Arthur continued literally and figuratively to turn a cold shoulder upon her advances. continued to regard her attempts with somber eyes and the relaxed lips that seemed to be part of his unfriendly stare. With his father he was always demonstrative, demanding of him his undivided attention. The moment Gilbert's interest was centered upon Mildred, Arthur would begin to whimper and pull at his hand. Indeed, the second day after the stepson's arrival, Mildred realized that he was jealous of his father's affection for her and that, child as he was, his interruptions to their conversations were intentional. Well, that was natural, too. She fought back any lack of sympathy in herself, willing to be patient; but Arthur did not become reconciled to the situation. Any demonstration between herself and her husband in his presence produced such a tempest of tears that it was abandoned by tacit conGilbert, however, was disposed to take the child's attitude lightly.

sent.

"Poor little chap!" he exclaimed with a tender amusement. "I really believe he is jealous, he has always had me so absolutely to himself. We must deal gently with him. It will wear away in time."

And Mildred assented, smiling sympathetically. Indeed, she did not at this time admit her doubts to herself. But Arthur's feeling did not wear away, and at the end of four months Mildred was forced to admit that she had made no progress in his affections.

« AnkstesnisTęsti »