An Old Man's Exegesis

“My dear Trafton,” said a young friend, who met me on the street the other day, “why the Dickens will you persist in associating with that Gregory Judd?”

I know all about Judd. He fails to pay his bills, neglects his engagements and dresses far from fashionably. Judd is what the world styles a shiftless man. His whole tout ensemble, whichever way you view him, reminds you of a shoe that has run down at the heel. The question put to me was a difficult one to answer, off hand, and so I did what my fellow man usually does when he is puzzled. I assumed a look of surprise and replied:


My interrogator, aware that I knew Judd’s failings fully as well as he, became indignant at once, and bestowing a look upon me which said as plainly as words could do, “Trafton, I blush for you,” walked away, blushing as he went, whether from shame for me or from indignation, I can not pretend to say.

When I reached my office I sat and thought about Judd for a long time, but pondering on the question propounded did not assist me much toward giving a satisfactory answer. Finally I was aroused by a light tap on my shoulder, and looking up I beheld the veritable Mr. Judd himself. He was as forlorn looking as ever, under a venerable hat, matched with an untidy cravat, lack luster gaiters, and a suit of clothes which had not improved on long acquaintance. “I have just dropped in,” said Judd, “like Pry in the play, and I hope I don’t intrude.” He added that having discovered a creditor whom he could not pay coming up the street, he had eluded him by dodging into my office.

An hour elapsed before Judd left me. It was a joyous hour to me and to him, too, I think, for when he left me the look of weariness which was settled on his face when he came had disappeared, and his countenance beamed as pleasantly as ever Harold Skimpole’s beamed in his afflictions. Judd is, in fact, a sort of modified Skimpole with embarrassments as numerous, though lacking some of the lax ideas entertained by Mr. Dickens’ hero. If my young friend had been present as I pressed a bank note into Judd’s hand and wished him better fortune, I should have replied to the query with which this explanation opens something as follows:

There is no good end to be served by my denying that I like Judd immensely, or that his society, despite his many weaknesses, is dearer to me than that of any of my other friends. I always feel younger after seeing him—his presence near me is a perpetual solace. In Judd you behold the friend and companion of my youth. We are both old men, now; our spring, summer, and autumn have passed away and in this, the winter of our lives, when the snow is settling upon our heads and beards, and when our faces are beginning to bear witness of heavy weather experienced during life’s voyage, we live over in memory the three seasons which are gone, and deduce unspeakable pleasure therefrom. Away up among the hills and dales of Massachusetts, where the Blackstone winds brightly in the sunlight a mere brook; where the atmosphere is as clear and fragrant as nectar; where, of all the world, the trees and the earth are of the greenest possible tint; where the robin sings in the sweetest strains at morning; where the blue jay is the bluest; where the whippoorwill chirps in tones of the most melancholy sweetness at night; where the sun is brightest, the sky clearest; where the moon shines the softest; where the stars twinkle the merriest, and where everything around, in our opinion at least, is primitive, beautiful and smiling, we were born and passed together our dear, dreamy, delicious days of boyhood.

Amid these gentle scenes, we read the Children of the Abbey, the Arabian Nights, Robinson Crusoe, and many other delightful books borrowed from a half hermit, half philosopher who lived in our neighborhood. Along the banks of the most crooked and most lively of all brooks that babble through sweet meadows we have crept with catlike steps angling for the wary trout, until we knew by heart each rock and bush along the devious course of that garrulous streamlet. We have hunted the hills together for miles around for hazel nuts; we have raked hay, stolen peaches and musk mellons and attended huskings, weddings, and rural merry makings of every kind, in company, forty long years ago. Schools were not as plentiful in our time as now, but after the busy summer time was over, when the “school marm” had departed for

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