I have not had great personal power in that line. But I have seen a man who would take a column of the morning paper and read it down, and hand me the paper and read it through with his eyes shut and scarcely make a mistake. I do not know that I ever saw any one who was infallible, but rarely would he make a mistake. Often he could tell me where the comma, semi-colon, and other marks of punctuation were.
I do not believe there is a normal child who is not mentally capable of that power when he has a teacher who understands how to develop it. That little teacher, who held only a second-class certificate, knew more about psyhology than many of the greatest men who preside over great institutions.
In the Alps some years ago was Professor Slayton, a native of Brighton, England. He was one of the nation's best botanists. His wife died and he was left with a little child between five and six years of age. They boarded at the Hotel Des Alps, in the Chamouni Valley. One morning he took his little girl up to the Mer-de-Glace, and then he told her to run back to the hotel, saying he would return to her in the evening.
She bid her father good-by and saw him go up Mont Blanc into the forest, and she ran back. He did not return in the evening, and she sat up all night and worried, and early in the morning she ran out from the hotel and ran up the stream to the path she had seen her father take. Then, running across, she started climbing up the side of the great snow-capped mountain. She came suddenly to a place where the path ran around along a projecting precipice, two hundred and eighty feet in the perpendicular, around a promontory of rock that set a few feet back.
When she came to that spot her feet slipped upon the snow on the glare ice, and she slid down and down over the edge so far that her fingers just caught in the moss on the edge and one foot rested on about an inch projection of the rock.
As she hung there she screamed, "Papa!" Her father heard that cry. He was down in the valley so far that he could not see her, but he could hear her voice. He recognized it, and he felt there was an awful need of him--"humanity called to him." He ran across the valley and up the path.
On the way there was a tree near which he had previously _noticed_ there was an ax. He pulled out the ax and ran on to a tree where he had previously _observed_ there was a rope which the coal-burners had long used to let coal down from the cliff. He clipped the rope with the ax, threw away the ax, and, tying the rope around him as he had _noticed_ the guides do who take travelers over the "sea of ice," he ran on, until suddenly he came to the spot where his little girl had slipped. He could see the parting in her hair twenty feet down, and all was glare ice between. His heart must have stopped beating. But he suddenly shouted:
"Papa's come. Hold on tight!"
She screamed, "I cannot hold on any longer!"
He turned and threatened her. Oh, ye parents, whosoever you may be, you may save your own son or daughter from a physical or moral death by training them to obey when they are young. Her fingers tightened again, and he threw the rope around the butt of a tree he had _noticed_, and let himself rapidly down over that ice. He tried to get hold of his little child's hands, but they had melted deep into the moss, and he let himself down beside her and caught hold of her dress and pulled her to him.
Both were hanging from the edge of the cliff, and the end of the rope was in his hand, and his hand on the ice. He tried to pull himself up, but the rope would not give an inch, and then he tried to push his little girl up, but with frozen fingers she could not climb.
There they hung in the high Alps, alone! Will he fall on the jagged rocks and be crushed to death? No, he will not fall, because he is a king. He has used his _every-day observation_, though he is a graduate of a university. He had _noticed_ something more--he had observed how the dogs howl when they find perishing travelers. Those St. Bernard dogs, whenever they find a dead body or a man laying insensible, will always howl in one peculiar way. Those dogs know more about acoustics than an architect. How do they know? God told them. When a dog utters that cry it can be heard for miles and miles. The professor imitated the call of the dog, and when it rang down the valley the coal-burners heard it and the wood-choppers heard it. They said:
"That is a dog, and a dog never howls like that unless he has found a dying man." So, throwing down their axes and guns, and running over the snows toward the sound of the call, they suddenly came to the spot. They caught hold of the rope and one of them slid down rapidly and seized the little girl's arm and passed her up, and then caught hold of the professor's arm and lifted him, while the others pulled upon the rope.
Thus they dragged him up. The professor fell on the snow-drift and fainted dead away.
But he was a king. He heard humanity's cry, and when he heard it he knew where the ax was. He had used his every-day study in such a way that he knew where the old rope was, and knew how to tie it, and he knew how to call for help. Whenever you find on earth a successful man or woman you will always find it is a man or woman who hears humanity's call, and who has so used his every-day means of observation that he knows where the weapons are with which to fight those battles, or where the means are with which to bring men relief.
I could not better put into your minds that professor's feelings than by a quotation of an English phrase which he printed in English on his scientific books, though the books were published in French:
We live for those who love us, For those who know us true; For the heavens that bend above us, For the good that we can do.
For the wrongs that lack resistance, For each cause that needs assistance, For the future in the distance, For the good that we can do.