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recommendation he introduced himself, and presented them to my mother. Like all others who saw him, she was struck with his modest deportment and pleasing address; so much was she impressed by the sparkling flow of his conversation that, during a Jull, she stepped out, and calling her third son, told him to come and listen to the young man who was about to become his teacher. The little boy shied into the room and listened to him as he resumed the conversation. It left a pleasing impression upon his youthful mind, though its purport faded from his memory. That boy, as we shall see, became his life-long friend,
- like Jonathan and David, they loved each other passing the love of woman.
The arrangement with Mrs. Shields was soon made. He was to teach her five children for his board and three hundred dollars, with the privilege of getting other scholars from the neighborhood, and, to him, the inestimable privilege of the use of the law library; besides this, whenever he chose, he was to have the use of horse and saddle for recreation.
The eldest son of Mrs. Shields, Thomas Rodney, was just nine months older than Prentiss. Like him, he was a Bachelor of Arts, and had just returned, with his diploma, a graduate of Transylvania University. Standing, as he did, in loco parentis, he thought it his duty to examine the youthful applicant as to his qualifications. He began very politely and very gently to catechise him. He had become a little rusty in his classic lore from the fact that he had, on his return from college, taken charge of the management of the plantation, and the blending of classics with making cotton was not congenial,--the classics in such case are more apt to rust than even the cotton. He had not proceeded far in his examination before he found himself in deep water. The catechumen, in turn, became the catechist, and the examiner at once saw that, in knowledge at least, the candidate was his superior, and, as the proverb has it, “ took water.”
The engagement being settled, Prentiss took his leave, to return in a day or two to take charge of the school. I remember seeing him, as he left, how he led his horse up to the horse-block to mount, and how he rode away. True to his appointment, he returned, and was duly installed.
The school-house was a hewn-log house, chinked and daubeul with cat and clay. It stood upon an adjoining ridge, about a hundred yards from the dwelling; it was the whilom overseer's house, now elevated to a school-room. I am thus particular in describing the spot because it was the first home of Prentiss in Mississippi, and from that fact,—as will be seen hereafter,—long after his body had mouldered into dust, the halo of his association threw a protecting ægis over it and saved it from desecration. In this humble log cabin he began the treadmill life of tutor.
Availing himself of the privilege of taking other scholars, he carried a letter from my mother to her neighbor, Captain Magruder, a retired sea-captain, who had appropriately named his place of retirement “Mount Ararat." The remarkable first impression Prentiss made in his interview with the old seacaptain is best given in a reminiscence from one of his most distinguished pupils of the “Rokeby School,”—Professor W. H. N. Magruder, now of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He writes to me as follows:
“Do you remember my father? If so, you can appreciate the story of his interview with Prentiss, as he gave it to me a few moments afterwards. Everything is as plain to me now, after fifty years, as though it were yesterday. It was a damp, drizzly day. My father bad a habit, when excited or interested, of walking rapidly back and forth, with his hands behind him, as he had been wont to do on the deck of his ship. It was in this act of walking the deck' under a good deal of excitement, but evidently pleasurable, that I found him, as I entered the hall from the rear of the house with my gun (I had just returned from hunting). When he heard my step he looked up and asked, “Is that you, Nat?' then, turning and pointing to the lane in front, “Do you see that lame brat riding off there ?
“ I answered, ' I see a gentleman on horseback, father, but can't discover his lameness at tbis distance.'
"* • Well,' said he, • I've just engaged him as your teacher, and he's the smartest man that ever entered this house. If he's not at the head of the bar in Mississippi in ten years I shall be more deceived than I ever was in man,
" He then told me that he had brought a note from Mrs. Shields to know if he would not join her in employing him to teach the children of both families. 'I told him'-I give his words—that I always examined my teachers first in the classics : "Can you decline penna ?' lle went
through without a mistake. As that was the limit of classical attainments, I began to examine him in mathematics, where I am at home, and by the holy spoons' (bis common and only oath), . he replied with a question I couldn't answer inyself !'”
How fully the prediction of the old sea-captain was verified proves, to use the language of Professor Magruder, that his “father was a good judge of men,” and in this case he was a true prophet.
A school-boy's memory is like his slate, the sum of one day is rubbed out to make room for that of the next : here and there a scratch may occur to make a lasting impression. My recollection of my childish school days, with Mr. Prentiss as tutor, is almost a perfect blank. We little ones, of course, tried his patience day after day, but I do not remember that he ever spoke a cross word to any of us save once: he became fretted with my little sister, and he pulled her ears till she cried. With the elder scholars he had not the least trouble; they were ambitious, studious, attentive, and respectful. With them it might have been said, as was afterward said of Prentiss by a backwoods orator in a political convention, “Mr. Speaker, it isn't often you meet up with a genus as is a genus,—such a genus as S. S. Prentiss ; and when you do, all you've got to do is to hold him level and let him run." All that Prentiss had to do with the elder scholars was to guide and direct in the race for knowledge without the use of whip or spur.
The school of “Rokeby” was made up of A. Leonard Magruder, now a distinguished physician of Macon, Georgia ; his brother, Nathaniel, from whom I have already quoted, now professor at Baton Rouge; two sons and two daughters of James Dunbar, all of whom are dead except one; and five of our family, who have all passed away save one. Hinc illæ lachrymæ.
Being thoroughly competent, Prentiss was saved the drudgery of rehearsal for preparation, and therefore had ample time for recreation; he passed his leisure hours in miscellaneous reading, horseback exercise, and gunning. At night he devoted himself to the study of law. His chum, the eldest son, had some idea that he too would, in the future, become a lawyer, and began to study it, but the fatigues of the body and the racking cares of the plantation were a sad hindrance to his intellectual progress. One night be was delving along on the abstruse subject while Prentiss was also reading by his side. Tom's attention was attracted by the marvellous rapidity with which Prentiss turned the pages of the book, which was the very interesting commentary of my Lord Coke on Lyttleton. While he, Thomas, was mastering one page, Prentiss glided over ten or twelve.
“ Prentiss,” he asked, “what are you doing?” “Don't you see? I'm reading law.” “ You don't pretend to say that you've been studying it, do
“Suppose you try me."
With that he handed over the book,—that Book the very mention of which is apt to give a law student the back-ache. Tom began his examination on the portion that the other had so rapidly glanced over; to his utter amazement Prentiss answered the queries clearly, distinctly, and accurately. From this it appears he did not acquire a knowledge of law by intuition, as some have supposed, but by the marvellous rapidity with which he learned.
Occasionally he would ride out to patrol at night. On one of these occasions his natural exuberance of spirits, slightly stimulated, perhaps, carried him to an excess of bilarity. When they all got home and were seated in the attic chamber, Tom felt it to be his duty to give him a lecture, so he began, in a very patronizing way,
“Prentiss, you must remember you are a teacher of youth and that your example must influence them, and I must say you were too uproarious to-night, sir.”
“I should like to know, sir, what right you have to speak to me in that imperious way, sir ?" retorted Prentiss.
“I beg your pardon —”
Just as Toni's sentence had proceeded thus far Prentiss saw the delicacy of the crisis ; it would never do to hinge a quarrel on such a cause; so, quick as thought, he choked off the rest of the coming sentence.
“Oh, well, if you beg my pardon there's an end of it.”
“But stop," said Tom; “I didn't mean to beg your pardon ; I meant
“That makes no difference," chimed in Prentiss; “if you beg my pardon that's all a gentleman can ask.”
This was said with such irresistible drollery that Tom's homily exploded in an uncontrollable fit of laughter. This was the only approach to a quarrel that ever occurred between Prentiss and any under that roof.
It was one of the delights of the boys to bathe in the swimming-holes of Fairchild's Creek. These “holes” were deep and narrow, but the water therein was pellucid and of very pleasant temperature. One of the swimmers was a square-built man and had a large, broad foot; strange to say, he was proud of this, always contending that the base onght to be broad enough for the superstructure. In dressing, after swimming was over, he prided himself upon being able to stand longer than any one else on one foot. He would pull on his drawers on one leg, then his pants, and then his socks, without a tremor, all the while standing on one leg as firm as an obelisk on its pedestal. Proud of the achievement, he would banter us crowd of youngsters and
“I'll bet not one of you can do it." “If you'll allow me to bring a goose into the ring, I'll take the bet,” said Prentiss.
The wit was probably borrowed from the old Latin story of two thousand years ago, but it was so happy that we all shouteci, and Tom among the rest, for he was one of those good-humored souls who enjoyed a joke, even though it might be at his own expense.
Prentiss, with three of the boys, occupied the up-stairs room
“Rokeby,"—this was their sleeping apartment as well as studio. Sometimes they were annoyed by mosquitoes,-the cozening insects of this southern clime,-and they resorted to a slow way to dispose of them. The ceiling was low and hipped, and they would watch the mosquito as he lit and stealthily slip up, apply the candle, and singe it to death. It is more than probable that, like the palmlicist theory of De Quincey, if the modern paint was scraped from the old ceiling, here and there could be found the smoky epitaph of many a victim to this then new process of cremation.
Prentiss's mind was ever active and inquisitive, and he liked