Russell H. Conwell
by Agnes Rush Burr
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Founder of the Institutional Church in America




With His Two Famous Lectures as Recently Delivered, entitled "Acres of Diamonds," and "Personal Glimpses of Celebrated Men and Women"

With an Appreciative Introduction by FLOYD W. TOMKINS, D.D., LL.D.








The measure of greatness is helpfulness. We have gone back to the method of the Master and learned to test men not by wealth, nor by birth, nor by intellectual power, but by service. Wealth is not to be despised if it is untainted and consecrated. Ancestry is noble if the good survives and the bad perishes in him who boasts of his forebears. Intellectual force is worthy if only it can escape from that cursed attendant, conceit. But they sink, one and all into insignificance when character is considered; for character is the child of godly parents whose names are self-denial and love. The man who lives not for himself but for others, and who has a heart big enough to take all men into its living sympathies—he is the man we delight to honor.

Biographies have a large place in present day literature. A woman long associated with some foreign potentates tells her story and it is read with unhealthy avidity. Some man fights many battles, and his career told by an amiable critic excites temporary interest. Yet as we read we are unsatisfied. The heart and mind, consciously or unconsciously, ask for some deeds other than those of arms and sycophancies. Did he make the world better by his living? Were rough places smoothed and crooked things straightened by his energies? And withal, had he that tender grace which drew little children to him and made him the knight-attendant of the feeble and overborne amongst his fellows? The life from which men draw daily can alone make a book richly worth the reading.

It is good that something should be known of a man whilst he yet lives. We are overcrowded with monuments commemorating those into whose faces we cannot look for inspiration. It is always easy to strew flowers upon the tomb. But to hear somewhat of living realities; to grasp the hand which has wrought, and feel the thrill while we hear of the struggles which made it a beautiful hand; to see the face marked by lines cut with the chisel of inner experience and the sword of lonely misunderstanding and perchance of biting criticism, and learn how the brave contest spelt out a life-history on feature and brow;—this is at once to know the man and his career.

This life of a man justly honored and loved in Philadelphia will find a welcome seldom accorded to the routine biography. It is difficult for one who rejoices in Dr. Conwell's friendship to speak in tempered language. It is yet more difficult to do justice to the great work which Church and College and Hospital, united in a trinity of service, have accomplished in our very midst. God hath done mighty things through this His servant, and the end is not yet. To attend the Temple services on Sunday and feel the pulse of worship is to enter into a blessed fellowship with God and men. To see the thousands pursuing their studies during the week in Temple College and to realize the thoroughness of the work done is to gain a belief in Christian education. To move through the beautiful Hospital and mark the gentle ministration of Christian physician and nurse is to learn what Jesus meant when, quoting Hosea, He said: "I will have mercy and not sacrifice." And these all bring one very near to the great human heart, the intelligent and far-reaching judgment, the ripe and real religion of him whose life this volume tells.

May God bless Dr. Conwell in the days to come, and graciously spare him to us for many years! We need such men in this old sin-stained and weary world. He is an inspiration to his brothers in the ministry of Jesus Christ, He is a proof of the power in the world of pure Christianity. He is a friend to all that is good, a foe to all that is evil, a strength to the weak, a comforter to the sorrowing, a man of God.

He would not suffer these words to be printed if he saw them. But they come from the heart of one who loves, honors, and reverences him for his character and his deeds. They are the words of a friend.



Speaking of Russell Conwell's career, a Western paper has called it, "a pioneer life."

No phrase better describes it.

Dr. Conwell preaches to the largest Protestant congregation in America each Sunday. He is the founder and president of a college that has a yearly roll-call of three thousand students. He is the founder and president of a hospital that annually treats more than five thousand patients. Yet great as these achievements are, they are yet greater in prophecy than in fulfilment. For they are the first landmarks in a new world of philanthropic work. He has blazed a path through the dark, tangled wilderness of tradition and convention, hewing away the worthless, making a straight road for progress, letting in God's clear light to show what the world needs done and how to do it.

He has shown how a church can reach out into the home, the business, the social life of thousands of people until their religion is their life, their life a religion. He has given the word "church" its real meaning. No longer is it a building merely for worship, but, with doors never closed, it is a vital part of the community and the lives of the people.

He has proven that the great masses of people are hungry and thirsty for knowledge. The halls of Temple College have resounded to the tread of an army of working men and women more than fifty thousand strong. The man with an hour a day and a few dollars a year is as eager and as welcome a student there, and has the same educational opportunities to the same grade of learning as though he had the birthright of leisure and money which opens the doors to Harvard and Yale.

He has shown that a hospital can be built not merely as a charity, not merely as a necessity, but as a visible expression of Christ's love and command, "Heal the sick."

In all these three lines he has blazed new paths, opened new worlds for man's endeavors—new worlds of religious work, new worlds of educational work. He has not only proven their need, demonstrated their worth, but he has shown how it is possible to accomplish such results from small beginnings with no large gifts of money, with only the hands and hearts of willing workers.

Not only has he done a magnificent pioneer work in these great fields, but from boyhood he has blazed trails of one kind or another, for the pioneer fever was in his blood—that burning desire to do, to discover, to strike out into new fields.

As a mere child, he organized a strange club called "Silence," also the first debating society in the district schoolhouse, and circulated the first petition for the opening of a post-office near his home in South Worthington, Mass.

In his school days at Wilbraham Academy, he organized an original critics' club, started the first academy paper, organized the original alumni association.

In war time, he built the first schoolhouse for the first free colored school, still standing at Newport, N.C.; and started the first "Comfort Bag" movement at a war meeting in Springfield, Mass.

As a lawyer, he opened the first noon prayer meeting in the Northwest, called the first meeting to organize the Y.M.C.A. at Minneapolis, Minn., organized four literary and social clubs in Minneapolis, started the first library in that city, began the publication of the first daily paper there called "The Daily Chronicle," afterward "The Minneapolis Tribune."

In Boston, he started the "Somerville Journal," now edited by his son, Leon M. Conwell, one of the most quoted publications in the country. He called the first meeting which organized the Boston Young Men's Congress, and was one of the first editors of the "Boston Globe." He was the personal adviser of James Redpath, who opened the first Lecture and Lyceum Bureau in the United States.

He began a new church work in the old Baptist church building at Lexington, Mass., and he opened in a schoolhouse the mission from which grew the West Somerville (Mass.) Baptist church.

He was special counselor for four new Railroad companies and for two new National banks.

In Philadelphia, in addition to being the founder of the first Institutional church in America, of a college practically free for busy men and women, and a hospital for the sick poor, he has organized twenty or more societies for religions and benevolent purposes including the Philadelphia Orphan's Home Society.

His pioneer work is not all. As a lecturer Dr. Conwell is known from the Atlantic to the Pacific, having been on the lecture platform for forty-three years, speaking from one hundred to two hundred and twenty-five nights each year.

As an author he has written books that have run into editions of hundreds of thousands, his "Life of Spurgeon" selling one hundred and twenty-five thousand copies in four months. He has been around the globe many times, counted among his intimate friends Garibaldi, Bayard Taylor, Stanley, Longfellow, Blaine, Henry Ward Beecher, John G. Whittier, President Garfield, Horace Greeley, Alexander Stevens, John Brown, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John B. Gough and General Sherman.

He fought in the war of the Rebellion, was left for dead on the battlefield of Kenesaw mountain—in fact, he has had a career as picturesque and thrilling as a Scott or Dumas could picture.

Yet the man whose energy has reared enduring monuments of stone, and more lasting ones in the hearts of thousands whose lives he has made happier and brighter, fought his way upward alone and single-handed from a childhood of poverty. He rose by his own efforts, in the face of great and seemingly insurmountable obstacles and discouragements. The path he took from that little humble farmhouse to the big church, the wide-reaching college, the kindly hospital, the head of the Lecture Platform, it is the purpose of this book to picture, in the hope that it may be helpful to others, either young or old, who desire to better their condition, or to do some work of which the inner voice tells them the world is in need.

Dr. Conwell believes, with George Macdonald, that "The one secret of life and development is not to devise or plan, but to fall in with the forces at work—to do every moment's duty aright—that being the part in the process allotted to us; and let come ... what the Eternal Thought wills for each of us, has intended in each of us from the first."

Or in the words of the greatest of Books, "See that thou make it according to the pattern that was shewed thee in the mount."

Every one at some time in his life has been "in the mount." To follow and obey the Heavenly Vision means a life of usefulness and happiness. That obstacles and discouragements can be surmounted, the life of Russell Conwell shows. For this purpose it is written, that others who have heard the Voice may go forward with faith and perseverance to work of which the world stands in need.


In the preparation of this book, the three excellent biographies already written, "Scaling the Eagle's Nest," by Wm. C. Higgins, "The Modern Temple and Templars," by Robert J. Burdette, and "The Life of Russell H. Conwell," by Albert Hatcher Smith, have been of the utmost help. The writer wishes to acknowledge her great indebtedness to all for much of the information in the present work. These writers have with the utmost care gathered the facts concerning Dr. Conwell's early life, and the writer most gratefully owns her deep obligation to them.


Chapter I.—Ancestry. John Conwell, the English Ancestor who fought for the Preservation of the English Language. Martin Conwell of Maryland. A Runaway Marriage. The Parents of Russell H. Conwell.

Chapter II.—Early Environment. The Family Circle. An Unusual Mother. What She Read Her Children. A Preacher at Three Years of Age.

Chapter III.—Days of Study, Work and Play. The Schoolhouse in the Woods. Maple Sugar-making. The Orator of the Dawn. A Boyish Prank. Capturing the Eagle's Nest.

Chapter IV.—Two Men and Their Influence. John Brown. Fireside Discussions. Runaway Slaves. Fred Douglas. Rev. Asa Niles. A Runaway Trip to Boston.

Chapter V—Trying His Wings. Boyhood Days. Russell's First Case at Law. A Cure for Stage Fever. Studying Music. A Runaway Trip to Europe.

Chapter VI—Out of the Home Nest. School Days at Wilbraham Academy. The First School Oration and Its Humiliating End. The Hour of Prayer in the Conwell Home at the Time of John Brown's Execution.

Chapter VII.—War's Alarms. College Days at Yale. The Outbreak of the Civil War. Patriotic Speechmaking. New York and Henry Ward Beecher.

Chapter VIII.—While the Conflict Raged. Lincoln's Call for One Hundred Thousand Men. Enlistment. Captain Conwell. In Camp at Springfield, Mass. The Famous Gold-sheathed Sword.

Chapter IX.—In the Thick of the Fight. Company F at Newberne, N.C. The Fight at Batchelor's Creek. The Goldsboro Expedition. The Battle of Kingston. The Gum Swamp Expedition.

Chapter X.—The Sword and the School Book. Scouting at Bogue Sound. Captain Conwell Wounded. The Second Enlistment. Jealousy and Misunderstanding. Building of the First Free School for Colored Children. Attack on Newport Barracks. Heroic Death of John Ring.

Chapter XI.—A Soldier of the Cross. Under Arrest for Absence Without Leave. Order of Court Reversed by President. Certificate from State Legislature of Massachusetts for Patriotic Services. Appointed by President Lincoln, Lieutenant-Colonel on General McPherson's Staff. Wounded at Kenesaw Mountain. Conversion. Public Profession of Faith.

Chapter XII.—Westward. Resignation from Army. Admission to Bar. Marriage. Removal to Minnesota. Founding of the Minneapolis Y.M.C.A. and of the Present "Minneapolis Tribune." Burning of Home. Breaking Out of Wound. Appointed Emigration Agent to Germany by Governor of Minnesota. Joins Surveying Party to Palestine. Near to Death in Paris Hospital. Journey to New York for Operation in Bellevue Hospital. Return to Boston.

Chapter XIII.—Writing His Way Around the World. Days of Poverty in Boston. Sent to Southern Battlefields. Around the World for New York and Boston Papers. In a Gambling Den in Hong Kong, China. Cholera and Shipwreck.

Chapter XIV.—Busy Days in Boston. Editor of "Boston Traveller." Free Legal Advice for the Poor. Temperance Work. Campaign Manager for General Nathaniel P. Banks. Urged for Consulship at Naples. His Work for the Widows and Orphans of Soldiers.

Chapter XV.—Troubled Days. Death of Wife. Loss of Money. Preaching on Wharves. Growth of Sunday School Class at Tremont Temple from Four to Six Hundred Members in a Brief Time. Second Marriage. Death of Father and Mother. Preaching at Lexington. Building Lexington Baptist Church.

Chapter XVI.—His Entry Into the Ministry. Ordination. First Charge at Lexington. Call to Grace Baptist Church, Philadelphia.

Chapter XVII.—Going to Philadelphia. The Early History of Grace Baptist Church. The Beginning of the Sunday Breakfast Association. Impressions of a Sunday Service.

Chapter XVIII.—First Days at Grace Baptist Church. Early Plans for Church Efficiency. Practical Methods for.

Chapter XXXI.—The Manner of the Message. The Style of the Sermons. Their Subject Matter. Preaching to Help Some Individual Church Member.

Chapter XXXII.—These Busy Later Days. A Typical Week Day. A Typical Sunday. Mrs. Conwell. Back to the Berkshires in Summer for Rest.

Chapter XXXIII.—As a Lecturer. Wide Fame as a Lecturer. Date of Entrance on Lecture Platform. Number of Lectures Given. The Press on His Lectures. Some Instances of How His Lectures Have Helped People. Address at Banquet to President McKinley.

Chapter XXXIV.—As a Writer. Rapid Method of Working. A Popular Biographical Writer. The Books He has Written.

Chapter XXXV.—A Home Coming. Reception Tendered by Citizens of Philadelphia in Acknowledgment of Work as Public Benefactor.

Chapter XXXVI.—The Path That Has Been Blazed. Problems That Need Solving. The Need of Men Able to Solve Them.

Acres of Diamonds.

Personal Glimpses of Celebrated Men and Women.



John Conwell, the English Ancestor who fought for the Preservation of the English Language. Martin Conwell of Maryland. A Runaway Marriage. The Parents of Russell Conwell.

When the Norman-French overran England and threatened to sweep from out the island the English language, many time-honored English customs, and all that those loyal early Britons held dear, a doughty Englishman, John Conwell, took up cudgels in their defence. Long and bitter was the struggle he waged to preserve the English language. Insidious and steady were the encroachments of the Norman-French tongue. The storm centre was the Castle school, for John Conwell realized that the language of the child of to-day is the language of the man of to-morrow. Right royal was the battle, for it was in those old feudal days of strong feeling and bitter, bloody partisanship. But this plucky Briton stood to his guns until he won. Norman-French was beaten back, English was taught in the schools, and preserved in the speech of that day.

It was a tale that was told his children and his children's children. It was a tradition that grew into their blood—the story of perseverance, the story of a fight against oppression and injustice. "Blood" is after all but family traditions and family ideals, and this fighting ancestor handed down to his descendants an inheritance of greater worth than royal lineage or feudal castle. The centuries rolled away, a new world was discovered, and the progressive, energetic Conwell family were not to be held back when adventure beckoned. Two members of it came to America. Courage of a high order, enthusiasm, faith, must they have had, or the call to cross a perilous, pathless ocean, to brave unknown dangers in a new world would have found no response in their hearts. They settled in Maryland and into this fighting pioneer blood entered that strange magic influence of the South, which makes for romance, for imagination, for the poetic and ideal in temperament.

Of this family came Martin Conwell, of Baltimore, hot-blooded, proud, who in 1810, visiting a college chum in western Massachusetts, met and fell in love with a New England girl, Miss Hannah Niles. She was already engaged to a neighbor's son, but the Southerner cared naught for a rival. He wooed earnestly, passionately. He soon swept away her protests, won her heart and the two ran away and were married. But tragic days were ahead. On her return her incensed father locked her in her room and by threats and force compelled her to write a note to her young husband renouncing him. He would accept no such message, but sent a note imploring a meeting in a nearby schoolhouse at nightfall. The letter fell into the father's hands. He compelled her to write a curt reply bidding him leave her "forever." Then the father locked the daughter safely in the attic, and with a mob led by the rejected suitor, surrounded the schoolhouse and burnt it to the ground. The husband, thinking he had been heartlessly forsaken, made a brave fight against the odds, but seeing no hope of success, leaped from the burning building, amid the shots fired at him, escaped down a rocky embankment at the back of the schoolhouse, and under cover of the woods, fled. They told his wife that he was dead.

A little son came to brighten her shadowed life, whom she named, after him, Martin Conwell; and after seven years she married her early lover. But Martin was the son of her first husband and always her dearest child, and day after day when old and gray and again a widow, she would come over the New England hills, a little lonely old woman, to sit by his fireside and dream of those bygone days that were so sweet.

Too proud to again seek an explanation, Martin Conwell, her husband, returned to his Maryland home, living a lonely, bitter life, believing to the day of his death, thirty years later, that his young wife had repudiated and betrayed him.

Martin Conwell, the son, grew to manhood and in 1839 brought a bride to a little farm he had purchased at South Worthington, up in the Hampshire Highlands of the Berkshire Hills in Massachusetts. Here and there among these hills, along the swift mountain streams, the land sweeps out into sunny little meadows filled in summer with rich, tender grasses, starred with flowers. It is not a fertile land. The rocks creep out with frequent and unpleasing persistency. But Martin Conwell viewed life cheerfully, and being an ingenious man, added to the business of farming, several other occupations, and so managed to make a living, and after many years to pay the mortgage on his home which came with the purchase. The little farmhouse, clinging to the bleak hillside, seemed daring to the point of recklessness when the winter's winds swept down the valley, and the icy fingers of the storm reached out as if to pluck it bodily from its exposed position.

But when spring wove her mantle of green over the hills, when summer flung its leafy banners from a million tree tops, then in the wonderful panorama of beauty that spread before it, was the little home justified for the dangers it had dared. Back of the house the land climbed into a little ridge, with great, gray rocks here and there, spots of cool, restful color amid the lavish green and gold and purple of nature's carpeting. To the north swept hills clothed with the deep, rich green of hemlock, the faint green flutter of birch, the dense foliage of sugar maples. To the east, in the valley, a singing silver brook flashed in and out among somber boulders, the land ascending to sunny hilltop pastures beyond. But toward the south from the homestead lay the gem of the scenery; one of the most beautiful pictures the Berkshires know. Down the valley the hills divided, sweeping upward east and west in magnificent curves; and through the opening, range on range of distant mountains, including Mount Tom, filled the view with an ever-changing fairyland of beauty—in the spring a sea of tender, misty green; in the summer, a deep, heaving ocean of billowy foliage; in the fall, a very carnival of color—gold, rich reds, deep glowing browns and orange. And always, at morning, noon and night, was seen subtle tenderness of violet shadows, of hazy blue mists, of far-away purple distances.

Such was the site Martin Conwell chose for a home, a site that told something of his own character; that had marked influence on the family that grew up in the little farmhouse.

A mixture of the practical, hard common sense of New England and the sympathetic, poetic temperament of the South was in this young New England farmer—the genial, beauty-loving nature of his Southern father, the rigid honesty, the strong convictions, the shrewd sense of his Northern mother. Quiet and reserved in general, he was to those who knew him well, kind-hearted, broad-minded, fun-loving. He not only took an active interest in the affairs of the little mountain community, but his mind and heart went out to the big problems of the nation. He grappled with them, sifted them thoroughly, and having decided what to him was the right course to pursue, expressed his convictions in deed as well as word. His was no passive nature. The square chin denoted the man of will and aggression, and though the genial mouth and kindly blue eyes bespoke the sympathetic heart, they showed no lack of courage to come out in the open and take sides.

The young wife, Miranda Conwell, shared these broader interests of her husband. She came from central New York State and did not have that New England reserve and restraint that amounts almost to coldness. Her mind was keen and vigorous and reached out with her husband's to grasp and ponder the higher things of life. But the beauty of her character lay in the loving, affectionate nature that shone from her dark eyes, in the patient, self-sacrificing, self-denying disposition which found its chief joy in ministering to her husband and children. Deeply religious, she could no more help whispering a fervent little prayer, as she tucked her boys in bed, that the Father above would watch over and protect them, than she could help breathing, her trust in God was so much a part of her nature. Such a silent, beautiful influence unconsciously permeates a child's whole character, moulding it, setting it. Unconscious of it at the time, some day a great event suddenly crystalizes it like a wonderful chemical change, and the beauty of it shines evermore from his life. Miranda Conwell built better than she knew when in the every-day little things of her life, she let her faith shine.

Not a usual couple, by any means, for the early 40's in rugged New England. Yet their unusualness was of a kind within every one's reach. They believed the making of a life of more importance than the making of a living, and they grasped every opportunity of those meagre days to broaden and uplift their mental and spiritual vision. Martin Conwell's thoughts went beyond his plow furrow, Miranda's further than her bread-board; and so the little home had an atmosphere of earnest thought and purpose that clothed the uncarpeted floors and bare walls with dignity and beauty.



The Family Circle. An Unusual Mother. What She Read Her Children. A Preacher at Three Years of Age.

Such was the heritage and the home into which Russell H. Conwell was born February 15, 1843. Think what a world his eyes opened upon—"fair, searching eyes of youth"—steadfast hills holding mystery and fascination in green depths and purple distances, streams rushing with noisy joy over stony beds, sweet violet gloom of night with brilliant stars moving silently across infinite space; tender moss, delicate fern, creeping vine, covering the brown earth with living beauty—a fascinating world of loveliness for boyish eyes to look upon and wonder about.

The home inside was as unpretentious as its exterior suggested. The tiny hall admitted on one side to a bedroom, on the other to a living room, from which opened a room used as a store. Above was an attic. The living room was the bright, cheery heart of the house. The morning sun poured in through two windows which faced the east; a window and door on the south claimed the same cheery rays as the sun journeyed westward. The big open fireplace made a glowing spot of brightness. The floor was uncarpeted, the walls unpapered, the furnishing of the simplest, yet cheerfulness and homely comfort pervaded the room as with an almost tangible spirit.

A brother three years older and a sister three years younger made a trio of bright, childish faces about the hearth on winter evenings as the years went by, while the mother read to them such tales as childish minds could grasp. It was a loving little circle, one that riveted sure and fast the ties of family affection and which helped one boy at her knee in after life to enter with such sure sympathy into the plain, simple lives of the humblest people he met. He had lived that same life, he knew the family affection that grows with such strength around simple firesides, and those of like circumstances felt this knowledge and opened their hearts to him.

That Miranda Conwell was an unusual woman for those times and circumstances is shown in those readings to her children. Not only did she read and explain to them the beautiful stories of the Bible, implanting its truths in their impressionable natures to blossom forth later in beautiful deeds; but she read them the best literature of the ancient days as well as current literature. Into this poor New England home came the "New York Tribune" and the "National Era." The letters of foreign correspondents opened to their childish eyes another world and roused ambitions to see it. Henry Ward Beecher's sermons, and "Uncle Tom's Cabin," when it came out as a serial, all such good and helpful literature, she poured into the eager childish ears. These readings went on, all through the happy days of childhood.

Interesting things were happening in the world then; things that were to mould the future of one of the boys at her knee in a way she little dreamed. A war was being waged in Mexico to train soldiers for a greater war coming. Out in Illinois, a plain rail-splitter, farmer and lawyer was beginning to be heard in the cause of freedom and justice for all men, black or white. These rumors and discussions drifted into the little home and arguments rose high around the crackling woodfire as neighbors dropped in. Martin Conwell was not a man to watch passively the trend of events. He took sides openly, vigorously, and though the small, blue-eyed boy listening so attentively did not comprehend all that it was about, Martin Conwell's views later took shape in action that had a marked bearing on Russell's later life.

But the mother's reading bore more immediate, if less useful, fruit. Hearing rather unusual sounds from the back yard one day, she went to the door to listen. The evening before she had been reading the children one of the sermons of Henry Ward Beecher and telling them something of this great man and his work. Mounted upon one of the largest gray rocks in the yard, stood Russell, solemnly preaching to a collection of wondering, round-eyed chickens. It was a serious, impressive discourse he gave them, much of it, no doubt, a transcript of Henry Ward Beecher's. What led his boyish fancy to do it, no one knew, though many another child has done the same, as children dramatize in play the things they have heard or read. But a chance remark stamped that childish action upon the boyish imagination, making it the corner stone of many a childish castle in Spain. Telling her husband of it in the evening, Miranda Conwell said, half jokingly, "our boy will some day be a great preacher." It was a fertile seed dropped in a fertile mind, tilled assiduously for a brief space by vivid childish imagination; but not ripened till sad experiences of later years brought it to a glorious fruition.

Another result of the fireside readings might have been serious. A short distance from the house a mountain stream leaps and foams over the stones, seeming to choose, as Ruskin says, "the steepest places to come down for the sake of the leaps, scattering its handfuls of crystal this way and that as the wind takes them." The walls of the gorge rise sheer and steep; the path of the stream is strewn with huge boulders, over which it foams snow white, pausing in quiet little pools for breath before the next leap and scramble. Here and there at the sides, stray tiny little waterfalls, very Thoreaus of streamlets, content to wander off by themselves, away from the noisy rush of the others, making little silvery rills of beauty in unobtrusive ways. Over this gorge was a fallen log. Russell determined to enact the part of Eliza in "Uncle Tom's Cabin," fleeing over the ice. It was a feat to make a mother's heart stand still. Three separate times she whipped him severely and forbade him to do it. He took the punishment cheerfully, and went back to the log. He never gave up until he had crossed it.

The vein of perseverance in his character was already setting into firm, unyielding mould—the one trait to which Russell H. Conwell, the preacher, the lecturer, writer, founder of college and hospital, may attribute the success he has gained. This childish escapade was the first to strike fire from its flint.



The Schoolhouse in the Woods. Maple Sugar-making. The Orator of the Dawn. A Boyish Prank. Capturing the Eagle's Nest.

At three years of age, he trudged off to school with his brother Charles. Though Charles was three years the senior, the little fellow struggled to keep pace with him in all their childish play and work. Two miles the children walked daily to the schoolhouse, a long walk for a toddler of three. But it laid the foundation of that strong, rugged constitution that has carried him so unflinchingly through the hard work of these later years. The walk to school was the most important part of the performance, for lessons had no attraction for the boy as yet. But the road through the woods to the schoolhouse was a journey of ever new and never-ending excitement. The road lay along a silver-voiced brook that rippled softly by shadowy rock, or splashed joyous and exultant down its boulder-strewn path. It was this same brook whose music drifted into his little attic bedroom at night, stilled to a faint, far-away murmur as the wind died down, rising to a high, clear crescendo of rushing, tumbling water as the breeze stirred in the tree tops and brought to him the forest sounds. Hour after hour he lay awake listening to it, his childish imagination picturing fairies and elves holding their revels in the woods beyond. An oratorical little brook it was, unconsciously leaving an impress of its musical speech on the ears of the embryo orator. Moreover, in its quiet pools lurked watchful trout. Few country boys could walk along such a stream unheeding its fascinations, especially when the doors of a school house opened at the farther end, and many an hour when studies should have claimed him, he was sitting by the brookside, care-free and contented, delightedly fishing. Nor are any berries quite so luscious as those which grow along the country road to school. It takes long, long hours to satisfy the keen appetite of a boy, and lessons suffered during the berry seasons. Another keen excitement of the daily journey through a living world of mystery and enchantment was the search for frogs. Woe to the unlucky frog that fell in the way of the active, curious boy. Some one had told him that old, old countryside story, "If you kill a frog, the cows will give bloody milk." Eager to see such a phenomenon, he watched sharply. Let an unlucky frog give one unfortunate croak, quick, sure-aimed, flew a stone, and he raced home at night to see the miracle performed. He was just a boy as other boys—mischievous, disobedient, fonder of play than work or study. But underneath, uncalled upon as yet, lay that vein of perseverance as unyielding as the granite of his native hills.

The schoolhouse inside was not unattractive. Six windows gave plenty of light, and each framed woodland pictures no painter's canvas could rival. The woods were all about and the voice of the little brook floated in, always calling, calling—at least to one small listener—to come out and see it dance and sparkle and leap from rock to rock. If he gained nothing else from his first school days but a love and appreciation of nature's beauties, it was a lesson well worth learning. To feed the heart and imagination of a child with such scenery is to develop unconsciously a love of the beautiful which brings a pure joy into life never to be lost, no matter what stress and storm may come. In the darkest, stormiest hours of his later life, to think back to the serene beauty of those New England hills was as a hand of peace laid on his troubled spirit.

This love and joy in nature—and the trait was already in his blood—was at first all that he gained from his trips to school. Then came a teacher with a new way of instructing, a Miss Salina Cole, who had mastered the art of visual memory. She taught her pupils to make on the mind a photographic impression of the page, which could be recalled in its entirety, even to the details of punctuation. This was a process of study that appealed immediately to Russell's boyish imagination. Moreover, it was something to "see if he could do," always fascinating to his love of experiment and adventure. It had numerous other advantages. It was quick. It promised far-reaching results. If page after page of the school books could be stored in the mind and called up for future reference, getting an education would become an easy matter. Besides, they could be called up and pondered on in various places—fishing, for instance. He quickly decided to would master this new method, and he went at it with his characteristic energy and determination. Concentrating all his mental force, he would study intently the printed page, and then closing his eyes, repeat it word for word, even giving the punctuation marks. With the other pupils, Salina Cole was not so successful, but with Russell Conwell, the results were remarkable. It was a faculty of the utmost value to him in after years. When in military camp and far from books, he would recall page after page of his law works and study them during the long days of garrison duty as easily as though the printed book were in his hand.

But the work was of more value to him than the mere mastery of something new. It whetted his appetite for more. He began to want to know. School became interesting, and he plunged into studies with an interest and zest that were unflagging. And as he studied, ambitions awoke. The history of the past, the accomplishments of great men stirred him. He began to dream of the things to do in the days to come.

Outside of school hours his time was filled with the ordinary duties of the farm. In the early spring, the maple sugar was to be made and there were long, difficult tramps through woods in those misty, brooding days when the miracle of new life is working in tree and vine and leaf. Often the very earth seemed hushed as if waiting in awe for this marvelous change that transforms brown earth and bare tree to a vision of ethereal, tender green. But his books went with him, and in the long night watches far in the woods alone, when the pans of sirrup were boiling, he studied. So enrapt did he become that sometimes the sugar suffered, and the patience of his father was sorely taxed when told the tale of inattention.

It was during those long night watches that he learned by heart two books of Milton's "Paradise Lost," and so firmly were they fixed in the boyish memory that at this day, Dr. Conwell can repeat them without a break. Many a time as the shadows lightened and the dim, misty dawn came stealing through the forest, would the small boy step outside the rude sugar-house and repeat in that musical, resonant voice that has since held audiences enthralled, Milton's glorious "Invocation to the Light." Strange scene—the great shadowy forest, the distant mist-enfolded hills, the faintly flushing morning sky, the faint splash of a little mountain stream breaking the brooding stillness, and the small boy with intent, inspired face pouring out his very heart in that wonderful invocation:

"Hail, holy light, offspring of Heaven, Firstborn Or of the Eternal, co-eternal beam, May I express thee Unblamed? since God is light, And never but in unapproached light Dwelt from eternity—dwelt then in thee, Bright effluence of bright essence increate! Or hear'st thou, rather, pure Eternal Stream, Whose fountain who shall tell? Before the sun, Before the Heavens thou wert, and at the voice Of God as with a mantle didst invest The rising world of waters dark and deep, Won from the void and formless Infinite!"

Later in spring there was plowing, though the farm was so rocky and stony, there was little of that work to do. But here and there, a sunny hilltop field made cultivation worth while, and as he followed the patient oxen along the shining brown furrow, he looked away to the encircling hills so full of mystery and fascination. What was there? What was beyond? Then into the the morning and well into the afternoon they pried and labored. They dug away earth and exerted to the utmost their childish strength. Charles would soon have given up the gigantic task, but Russell was not of the stuff that quits, and so they toiled on. The father and mother at home wondered and searched for the boys. Then as they began truly to get alarmed, from the woods to the south came a crash and roar, the sound of trees snapping and then a shock that made the earth tremble. The rock had fallen, traversing a mile, in its downward rush to the river bed. Flushed and triumphant the boys returned, and the neighbors who had heard the noise, when it was explained to them, went to see the wreckage. It had dropped first a fall of fifteen feet, where it had paused an instant. Then the earth giving way under its tons of weight, it had plowed a deep furrow right down the mountain side, dislodging rocks, uprooting trees, until with a mighty crash, it struck the borders of the stream where it stands to this day, a monument to boyish ingenuity and perseverance.

But of all the mischievous pranks of these childish days, the one that had perhaps the greatest influence on his life was the capture of an eagle's nest from the top of a dead hemlock. To the north of the farmhouse a hill rises abruptly, covered with bare, outcropping rocks, their fronts sheer and steep. On top clusters a little sombre grove of hemlock trees, and from the midst of these rose the largest one, straight, majestic, swaying a little in the wind that swept on from the distant hills. In the top of this tree, an eagle had built her nest, and it had long been a secret ambition of the boy to capture it, the more resolved upon because it seemed impossible. One day in October he left his sheep, ran to the foot of the hill, and with the sure-footed agility of a mountain boy climbed the rocks and began the ascent of the tree. From the top of a high ledge nearby two men hid and watched him. A fall meant death, and many a time their hearts stood still, as the intrepid lad placed his foot on a dead branch only to have it break under him, or reached for a limb to find it give way at his touch. The tree was nearly fifty feet high and at some time a stroke of lightning had rent it, splintering the trunk. Only one limb was left whole, the others had been broken off or shattered by the storms of winter. In the very crown of the tree swayed the nest, a rude, uncouth thing of sticks and hay.

Up and up he climbed, stopping every now and then in the midst of his struggles to call to the sheep if he saw them wandering too far. He had only to call them by name to bring them nibbling back again.

"Not a man in the mountains," wrote one of those who watched him in that interesting sketch of Mr. Conwell's life, "Scaling the Eagle's Nest," "would have thought it possible to do anything else but shoot, that nest down. When we first saw him he was half way up the great tree, and was tugging away to get up by a broken limb which was swinging loosely about the trunk. For a long time he tried to break it off, but his little hand was too weak. Then he came down from knot to knot like a squirrel, jumped to the ground, ran to his little jacket and took his jack-knife out of the pocket. Slowly he clambered up again. When he reached the limb, he clung to another with his left hand, threw one leg over a splintered knot and with the right hand hacked away with his knife.

"'He will give it up,' we both said.

"But he did not. He chipped away until at last the limb fell to the ground. Then he pocketed his knife, and bravely strove to get up higher. It was a dizzy height even for a grown hunter, but the boy never looked down. He went on until he came to a place about ten feet below the nest, where there was a long, bare space on the trunk, with no limbs or knots to cling to. He was baffled then. He looked up at the nest many times, tried to find some place to catch hold of the rough bark and sought closely for some rest higher up to put his foot on. But there was none. An eagle's nest was a rare thing to him, and he hugged the tree and thought. Suddenly he began to descend again hastily, and soon dropped to the ground. Away he ran down through the ravines, leaped the little streams and disappeared toward his home. In a few minutes the torn straw hat and blue shirt came flitting back among the rocks and bushes. He called the sheep to him, talked to them, and shook his finger at them, then he clambered up the tree again, dragging after him a long piece of his mother's clothes line. At one end of it, he had tied a large stone, which hindered his progress, for it caught in the limbs and splinters. The wind blew his torn straw hat away down a side cliff, and one side of his trousers was soon torn to strips. But he went on. When he got to the smooth place on the tree again, he fastened one end of the rope about his wrist, and then taking the stone which was fastened to the other end, he tried to throw it up over the nest. It was an awkward and dangerous position, and the stone did not reach the top. Six or seven times he threw that stone up, and it fell short or went to one side, and nearly dragged him down as it fell.

"The boy felt for his knife again, opened it with his teeth as he held on, and hauling the rope up, cut off a part of it. He threw a short piece around the trunk and tied himself with it to the tree. Then he could lean back for a longer throw. He tied the rope to his hand again, and threw the stone with all his energy. It went straight as an arrow, drew the rope squarely over the nest and fell down the other side of the tree. After a struggle he reached around for the stone, and tied that end of the rope to a long broken limb. When he drew the other end of the rope which had been fastened to his hand, it broke down the sides of the nest, and an old bird arose with a wild scream.

"Then he loosed the rope which held him to the tree, and pulling himself up with his hands on the scaling line, digging his bare toes, heels and knees at times into the ragged bark, he was up in two minutes to the nest."

"That is a child's ambition," said one of the men, as they both drew a breath of relief, when he stepped safely to the ground. "Wait until he has a man's ambition. If that vein of perseverance doesn't run out, he will do something worth while."



John Brown. Fireside Discussions. Runaway Slaves. Fred Douglas. Rev. Asa Niles. A Runaway Trip to Boston.

Two men entered into Russell Conwell's life in these formative days of boyhood who unconsciously had much to do with the course of his after life.

One was John Brown, that man "who would rush through fire though it burn, through water though it drown, to do the work which his soul knew that it must do." During his residence in Springfield, this man "possessed like Socrates with a genius that was too much for him" was a frequent visitor at the Conwell home. Russell learned to know that face with "features chiselled, as it were, in granite," the large clear eyes that seemed fairly to change color with the intensity of his feelings when he spoke on the one subject that was the very heart of the man. Tall, straight, lithe, with hair brushed back from a high forehead, thick, full beard and a wonderful, penetrating voice whose tones once heard were never forgotten, his arrival was always received with shouts by the Conwell boys. Had he not lived in the West and fought real Indians! What surer "open sesame" is there to a boy's heart? He was not so enrapt in his one great project, but that he could go out to the barn and pitch down hay from the mow with Russell, or tell him wonderful stories of the great West where he had lived as a boy, and of the wilderness through which he had tramped as a mere child when he cared for his father's cattle. Russell was entirely too young to grasp the meaning of the earnest discussions that went on about the fireplace of which this Spartan was then the centre. But in later years their meaning came to him with a peculiar significance. A light seemed to be shed on the horrors of slavery as if the voice of his childhood's friend were calling from the grave in impassioned tones, to aid the cause for which he had given his life.

Martin Conwell, progressive, aggressive, was not a man to let his deeds lag behind his words. Such help as he could, he lent the cause of the oppressed. He made his home one of the stations of the "Underground Railway," as the road to freedom for escaping slaves was called. Many a time in the dead of night, awakened by the noise of a wagon, Russell would steal to the little attic window, to see in the light of the lantern, a trembling black man, looking fearfully this way and that for pursuers, being hurried into the barn. Back to bed went Russell, where his imagination pictured all manner of horrible cruelties the slaves were suffering until the childish heart was near to bursting with sympathy for them and with fiery indignation at the injustice that brought them to this pitiful state. Not often did he see them, but sometimes childish curiosity was too strong and he searched out the cowering fugitive in the barn, and if the runaway happened to be communicative, he heard exaggerated tales of cruelty that set even his young blood to tingling with a mighty desire to right their wrongs. Then the next night, the wagon wheels were heard again and the slave was hurried away to the house of a cousin of William Cullen Bryant, at Cummington. As the wheels died in the distance up the mountain road, the boyish imagination pictured the flight, on, on, into the far north till the Canada border was reached and the slave free. Little wonder that when the war broke out, this boy, older grown, spoke as with a tongue of fire and swept men up by the hundreds with his impassioned eloquence, to sign the muster roll.

One of these slaves thus helped to freedom is now Rev. J.G. Ramage, of Atlanta, Ga. In 1905, he applied to Temple College for the degree of LL.D. Noticing on the letter sent in reply to his request, the name of Russell Conwell, President of the College, he wrote Dr. Conwell, telling him that in 1856 when a runaway slave he had stopped at a farmhouse at South Worthington, Mass., and remembered the name of Conwell. Undoubtedly Martin Conwell was one of the men who had helped him to freedom.

John Brown brought Fred Douglas, the colored orator, with him on one of his visits. When Russell was told by his father that this was "a celebrated colored speaker and statesman," the boyish eyes opened wide with amazement, and not able to control himself, he burst out in a fit of laughter, saying, "Why, he's not black," much to the amusement of Douglas, who afterwards told him of his life as a slave.

The other man who so helped Russell in his younger days was the Rev. Asa Niles, a cousin of his father's who lived on a neighboring farm. He had heard of Russell's various exploits and saw that he was a boy far above the average, that he had talents worth training. Himself a scholar and a Methodist minister, he knew the value of an education, and the worth to the world of a brilliant, forceful character with clear ideas of right, and high ideals of duty. He was a man far ahead of his times, broad-minded, spiritual in its best sense, and with a winning personality, just the man to attract a clear-sighted, keen-witted boy who quickly saw through shams and despised affectations. Russell at that plastic period could have fallen into no better hands. With loving interest in the boy's welfare, Asa Niles inspired him to get the broadest education in order to make the most of himself, yet ever held before him the highest ideals of life and manhood. Out of the stores of his own knowledge he told him what to read, helped, encouraged, talked over his studies with him, and in every way possible not only made them real and vital to him, but at every step aided him to see their worth.

His curiosity keenly aroused, his ambitions kindled by his studies, Russell was restless to be off to see this great world he had read and studied about. The mountains suddenly seemed like prison walls holding him in. An uncontrollable longing swept his soul. He determined to escape. Telling no one of his intentions, one morning just before dawn, he raised the window of the little attic in which he and his brother slept, climbed out over the roof of the woodshed, slipped to the ground and made off down the valley to seek his fortune in the world. It was a hasty resolve. In a little bundle slung over his shoulders he had a few clothes and something to eat. How his heart thumped as he went down the familiar path in the woods, crossed the little brook and began the tramp toward Huntington! Every moment he expected to hear his father's footsteps behind him. Charles might have awakened, found him missing and roused the family! When morning came he climbed a little hill, from which he could look back at the house. He gazed long, and his heart nearly failed him. He could see in imagination every homely detail of the living room, his father's chair to the right of the fireplace, his mother's on the left, the clock between the front windows, which his father wound every night. On a nail hung his old rimless hat, Charlie's coat, and the little sister's sunbonnet. His mother would soon be up and getting breakfast. They would all sit down without him—a lump began to rise in his throat and he almost turned back. But something in his nature always prevented him from giving up a thing he had once undertaken. He set his teeth, picked up his bundle and went down the road between the mountains, the woods stretching, dense, silent, on each side, the little brook keeping close by him like the good, true friend it was.

It was a long, long tramp to the little village of Huntington, a walk that went for miles beneath overarching green trees, the sunlight sifting down like a shower of gold in the dim wood aisles. The wild mountain stream merged into the quiet Westfield river that flowed placidly through little sunny meadows and rippled in a sedate way here and there over stones as became the dignity of a river. Small white farmhouses, set about with golden lilies and deep crimson peonies, here and there looked out on the road. But his mind was intent on the wonderful experiences ahead of him; he walked as in a dream. Reaching Huntington, he asked a conductor if he could get a job on the train to pay his way to Boston. The conductor eyed the lanky country boy with sympathetic amusement. He appreciated the situation and told Russell he didn't think he had any job just then, but he might sit in the baggage car and should a job turn up, it would be given him. Delighted with this piece of good luck, Russell sat in the baggage car and journeyed to Boston.

He arrived at night. He found himself in a new world, a world of narrow streets, of hurrying people, of house after house, but in none of them a home for him. They would not let him sit in the station all night, as he had planned to do in his boyish inexperience, and he had no money, for money was a scarce article in the Conwell home. He wandered up one street and down another till finally he came to the water. Footsore and hungry, he crawled into a big empty cask lying on Long Wharf, ate the last bit of bread and meat in his bundle, and went to sleep.

The next day was Sunday, not a day to find work, and he faced a very sure famine. He began again his walk of the streets. It was on toward noon when he noticed crowds of children hurrying into a large building. He stood and watched them wistfully. They made him think of his brother and sister at home. Suddenly an overwhelming longing seized him to be back again in the sheltering farmhouse, to see his father, hear his mother's loving voice, feel his sister's hand in his. Perhaps it was his forlorn expression that attracted the attention of a gentleman passing into the building. He stopped, asked if he would not like to go in; and then taking him by the hand led him in with the others. It was Deacon George W. Chipman, of Tremont Temple, and ever afterwards Russell Conwell's friend. Many, many years later, the boy, become a man, came back to this church, organized and conducted one of the largest and most popular Sunday School classes that famous church has ever known.

After Sunday School, Deacon Chipman and Russell "talked things over." The Deacon, amused and impressed by the original mind of the country boy, persuaded him to go home, and the next morning put him on the train that carried him back to the Berkshires.



Boyhood Days. Russell's First Case at Law. A Cure for Stage Fever. Studying Music. A Runaway Trip to Europe.

So scanty was the income from the rocky farm that the father and mother looked about them to see how they could add to it. Miranda Conwell turned to her needle and often sewed far into the night, making coats, neckties, any work she could obtain that would bring in a few dollars. She was never idle. The moment her housework was done, her needle was flying, and Russell had ever before him the picture of his patient mother, working, ever working, for the family good. The only time her hands rested was when she read her children such stories and pointed such lessons as she knew were needed to develop childish minds and build character. She never lost sight of this in the pressing work and the need for money. She had that mental and spiritual breadth of view that could look beyond problems of the immediate present, no matter how serious they might seem, to the greater, more important needs coming in the future.

Martin Conwell worked as a stonemason every spare minute, and in addition opened a store in the mountain home in a small room adjoining the living room. Neighbors and the world of his day saw only a poor farmer, stonemason and small storekeeper. But in versatility, energy and public spirit, he was far greater than his environment. Considered only as the man there was a largeness of purpose, a broadness of mental and spiritual vision about him that gave a subtle atmosphere of greatness and unconsciously influenced his son to take big views of life.

In the little store one day was enacted a drama not without its effect on Russell's impressionable mind. For a brief time, the store became a court room; a flour barrel was the judge's bench, a soap box and milking stool, the lawyers' seats. The proceedings greatly interested Russell, who lay flat on his breast on the counter, his heels in the air, his chin in his hands, drinking it in with ears and eyes.

A neighbor had lost a calf, a white-faced calf with a broken horn. In the barn of a neighbor had been seen a white-faced calf with a broken horn. The coincidence was suspicions. The plaintiff declared it was his calf. The defendant swore he had never seen the lost heifer, and that the one in his barn he had raised himself. Neighbors lent their testimony, for the little store was crowded, a justice of the peace from Northampton having come to try the case. One man said he had seen the defendant driving a white-faced calf up the mountain one night just after the stolen calf had been missed from the pasture. The defendant intimated in no mild language that he must be a close blood relation to Ananias. Hot words flew back and forth between judge, lawyers and witnesses, and it began to look as if the man in whose barn the calf was placidly munching was guilty. Just then Russell, with a chuckle, slipped from the counter and disappeared through the back door. In a minute he returned, and solemnly pushed a white-faced calf with a broken horn squarely among the almost fighting disputants. There was a lull in the storm of angry words. Here was the lost calf. With a bawl of dismay and many gyrations of tail, it occupied the centre of the floor. None could dispute the fact that it was the calf in question. The defendant assumed an injured, innocent air, the plaintiff looked crestfallen. Russell explained he had found the calf among his father's cows. But, knowing the true situation, he had enjoyed the heated argument too hugely to produce the calf earlier in the case.

The event caused much amusement among the neighbors. Some said if they ever were hailed to court, they should employ Russell as their lawyer. The women, when they dropped in to see his mother, called him the little lawyer. The boyish ambition to be a minister faded. Once more he went to building castles in Spain, but this time they had a legal capstone.

Thus the years rolled by much as they do with any boy on a farm. Of work there was plenty, but he found time to become a proficient skater, and a strong, sturdy swimmer, to learn and take delight in outdoor sports, all of which helped to build a constitution like iron, and to give him an interest in such things which he has never lost. The boys of Temple College find in him not only a pastor and president, but a sympathetic and understanding friend in all forms of healthy, honorable sport.

Attending a Fourth of July parade in Springfield, he was so impressed with the marching and manoeuvres of the troops that he returned home, formed a company of his schoolmates, drilled and marched them as if they were already an important part of the G.A.R. He secured a book on tactics and studied it with his usual thoroughness and perseverance. He presented his company with badges, and one of the relics of his childhood days is a wooden sword he made himself out of a piece of board. Little did any one dream that this childish pastime would in later years become the serious work of a man.

In all the school and church entertainments he took an active part. His talent for organizing and managing showed itself early, while his magnetism and enthusiasm swept his companions with him, eager only to do his bidding. Many were the entertainments he planned and carried through. Recitations, dialogues, little plays all were presented under his management to the people of South Worthington. It was these that gave him the first taste of the fascination of the stage and set him to thinking of the dazzling career of an actor. He is not the only country boy that has dreamed of winning undying fame on the boards, but not every one received such a speedy and permanent cure.

"One day in the height of the maple sugar season," says Burdette, in his excellent life of Mr. Conwell, "The Modern Temple and Templars," "Russell was sent by his father with a load of the sugar to Huntington. The ancient farm wagon complicated, doubtless, with sundry Conwell improvements, drawn by a venerable horse, was so well loaded that the seat had to be left out, and the youthful driver was forced to stand. Down deep in the valley, the road runs through a dense woodland which veiled the way in solitude and silence. The very place, thought Russell, for a rehearsal of the part he had in a play to be given shortly at school; a beautiful grade, thought the horse, to trot a little and make up time. Russell had been cast for a part of a crazy man—a character admirably adapted for the entire cast of the average amateur dramatic performer. He had very little to say, a sort of 'The-carriage-waits-my-lord' declamation, but he had to say it with thrilling and startling earnestness. He was to rush in on a love scene bubbling like a mush-pot with billing and cooing, and paralyze the lovers by shrieking 'Woe! Woe! unto ye all, ye children of men!' Throwing up his arms, after the manner of the Fourth of July orator's justly celebrated windmill gesture, he roared, in his thunderous voice: 'Woe! Woe! unto ye—'

"That was as far as the declamation got, although the actor went considerably farther. The obedient horse, never averse to standing still, suddenly and firmly planted his feet and stood—motionless as a painted horse upon a painted highway. Russell, obedient to the laws of inertia, made a parabola over the dashboard, landed on the back of the patient beast, ricochetted to the ground, cutting his forehead on the shaft as he descended, a scar whereof he carries unto this day, and plunged into a yielding cushion of mud at the roadside."

He returned home, a confused mixture of blood, mud, black eyes and torn clothes. Such a condition must be explained. It could not be turned aside by any off-handed joke. The jeers and jibes, the unsympathetic and irritating comments effectually killed any desire he cherished for the life of the stage. It became a sore subject. He didn't even want it mentioned in his hearing. He never again thought of it seriously as a life work.

But one thing these entertainments did that was of great value. They developed and fostered a love of music and eventually led to his gaining the musical education which has proven of such value to him. He had a voice of singular sweetness and great power. At school, at church, in the little social gatherings of the neighborhood, whenever there was singing his voice led. It was almost a passion with him. At the few parades and entertainments he saw in nearby towns, he watched the musicians fascinated. He was consumed with a desire to learn to play. Inventive as he was and having already made so many things useful about the farm or in the house, it is a wonder he did not immediately begin the making of some musical instrument rather than go without it. Probably he would, if an agent had not appeared for the Estey Organ Company. They were beginning to make the little home organs which have since become an ornament of nearly every country parlor. But they were rare in those days and the price to Martin Conwell, almost prohibitive. Knowing Russell's love of music, the father fully realized the pleasure an organ in the home would give his son. But the price was beyond him. He offered the man every dollar he felt he could afford. But it was ten dollars below the cost of the organ and the agent refused it.

Martin Conwell felt he must not spend more on a luxury, and the agent left. Crossing the fields to seek another purchaser, he met Miranda Conwell. She asked him if her husband had bought the organ. His answer was a keen disappointment The mother's heart had sympathized with the boy's passion for music and knew the joy such a possession would be to Russell. Ever ready to sacrifice herself, she told the man she would pay him the ten dollars, if he would wait for it, but not to let her husband know. The agent returned to Martin Conwell, told him he would accept his offer, and in a short time a brand new organ was installed in the farmhouse. Miranda Conwell sewed later at nights, that was all. Not till she had earned the ten dollars with her needle did she tell her husband why the agent had, with such surprising celerity, changed his mind in regard to the price.

Russell's joy in the organ was unbounded, and the mother was more than repaid for her extra work by his pleasure and delight. He immediately plunged unaided into the study of music, and he never gave up until he was complete master of the organ. His was no half-hearted love. The work and drudgery connected with practising never daunted him. He kept steadily at it until he could roll out the familiar songs and hymns while the small room fairly rang with their melody. He also improvised, composing both words and music, a gift that went with him into the ministry and which has given the membership of Grace Baptist Church, Philadelphia, many beautiful hymns and melodies.

Later he learned the bass viol, violoncello and cornet, and made money by playing for parties and entertainments in his neighborhood. Years afterward, when pastor of Grace Church, and with the Sunday School on an excursion to Cape May, he saw a cornet lying on a bench on the pier. Seized with a longing to play again this instrument of his boyhood, he picked it up and began softly a familiar air. Soon lost to his surroundings, he played on and on. At last remembering where he was, he laid down the instrument and walked away. The owner, who had returned, followed him and offered him first five dollars and then ten to play that night for a dance at Congress Hall.

Martin Conwell, during Russell's boyhood days, carefully guarded his son from being spoiled by the flattery of neighbors and friends. He realized that Russell was a boy in many ways above the average, but his practical common sense prevented him from taking such pride in Russell's various achievements as to let him become spoiled and conceited. Many a whipping Russell received for the personal songs he composed about the neighbors. But that was not prohibitive. The very next night, Russell would hold up to ridicule the peculiarity of some one in the neighborhood, much to his victim's chagrin and to the amusement of the listeners. He was forever inventing improvements for the fishing apparatus, oars, boats, coasting sleds, household and farm utensils, often forgetting the tasks his father had given him while doing it. Naturally, this exasperated Martin Conwell, who had no help on the farm but the boys, and the rod would again be brought into active service. Once, after whipping him for such neglect of work—he had left the cider apples out in the frost—Martin Conwell asked his son's pardon because he had invented an improved ox-sled that was of great practical value.

When he was fifteen he ran away again. No friendly Deacon Chipman interfered this time, nor is it likely he would easily have been turned from the project, for he planned to go to Europe. He went to Chicopee to an uncle's, whom he frankly told of his intended trip. The uncle kept Russell for a day or two by various expedients, while he wrote to his father telling him Russell was there and what he intended doing. The father wrote back saying to give him what money he needed and let him go. So Russell started on his journey over the sea. He worked his way on a cattle steamer from New York to Liverpool. But it was a homesick boy that roamed around in foreign lands, and as he has said most feelingly since, "I felt that if I could only get back home, I would never, never leave it again." He did not stay abroad long and when he returned to his home, his father greeted him as if he had been absent a few hours, and never in any way, by word or action, referred to the subject. In fact, so far as Martin Conwell appeared, Russell might have been no farther than Huntington.

Thus boyhood days passed with their measure of work and their measure of play. He lived the healthy, active life of a farm boy, taking a keen interest in the affairs of the young people of the neighborhood, amusing the older heads by his mischievous pranks. He diligently and perseveringly studied in school hours and out. He read every book he could get hold of. He was sometimes disobedient, often intractable, in no way different from thousands of other farm boys of those days or these.

But the times were coming which would test his mettle. Would he continue to climb as he had done after the eagle's nest, though compelled many times to go to the very ground and begin over again?

Would the experiences of life transmute into pure gold, these undeveloped traits of character or prove them mere dross? It rested with him. He was the alchemist, as is every other man. The philosopher's stone is in every one's hands.



School Days at Wilbraham Academy. The First School Oration and Its Humiliating End. The Hour of Prayer in the Conwell Home at the Time of John Brown's Execution.

The carefree days of boyhood rapidly drew to a close. The serious work of life was beginning. The bitter struggle for an education was at hand. And because one boy did so struggle, thousands of boys now are being given the broadest education, practically free.

Russell had gone as far in his studies as the country school could take him. Should he stop there as his companions were doing and settle down to the work of the farm? The outlook for anything else was almost hopeless. He had absolutely no money, nor could his father spare him any. He knew no other work than farming. It was a prospect to daunt even the most determined, yet Russell Conwell is not the only farmer's boy who has looked such a situation in the face and succeeded in spite of it. Nor were helping hands stretched out in those days to aid ambitious boys, as they are in these.

Asa Niles, matching Russell's progress with loving interest, told Martin Conwell the boy ought to go to Wilbraham Academy. His own son William was going, and he strongly urged that Charles and Russell Conwell enter at the same time. It was no light decision for the father to make. He needed the boys in the work on the farm. Not only was he unable to help them, but it was a decided loss to let them go. Long and earnest were the consultations the father and mother held. The mother, willing to sacrifice herself to the utmost, said, of course, "let them go," deciding she could earn something to help them along by taking in more sewing. So it was decided, and in the fall of 1858, Russell and his brother entered the Academy of Wilbraham, a small town about twelve miles east from Springfield.

It was bitter, uphill work. All the money the two boys had, both to pay their tuition and their board, they earned. They worked for the near-by farmers. They spent long days gathering chestnuts and walnuts at a few cents a quart. They split wood, they did anything they could find to do. In fact, they worked as hard and as long as though no studies were awaiting to be eagerly attacked when the exhausting labor was finished. Such tasks interfered with their studies, so that Russell never stood very high in his Academy classes. Part of the time they lived in a small room on the outskirts of the village, barren of all furniture save the absolutely necessary, and for six weeks at a stretch, lived on nothing but mush and milk. Their clothes were of the cheapest kind, countrified in cut and make, a decided contrast to those of their fellow students, who came from homes of wealth and refinement It is very easy for outsiders and older heads to talk philosophically of being above such things, but young, sensitive boys feel such a position keenly and none but those who have actually endured such a martyrdom of pride know what they suffer. It takes the grittiest kind of perseverance to face such slights, to seem not to see the amused glance, not to hear the sneering comment, not to notice the contemptuous shrug.

Such slights Russell endured daily from certain of his classmates, and though he realized fully that the opinion of these was of little value, nevertheless they hurt. But to the world he stood his ground unflinchingly, even if there were secret heartaches. He studied hard, and what he studied he learned. He had his own peculiar way of studying. Once he was missing from his classes several days. The teachers reported it to the principal, Dr. Raymond, who investigated. He found Russell completely absorbed in history and mastering it at a mile-a-minute gait. Dr. Raymond was wise in the management of boys, especially such a boy as Russell, and he reported to the teachers, "Let him alone. Conwell is working out his own education, and it isn't worth while to disturb him."

His passion for debate and oratory found full scope in the debating societies of the Academy. These welcomed him with open arms. He was so quick with his witty repartee, could so readily turn an opponent's arguments against him, that the nights it was known he would speak, found the "Old Club" hall always crowded to hear "that boy from the country."

Thus working as hard as though he were doing nothing else, and studying as hard as though he were not working, Russell made his way through two terms of the academic year. Nobody knows or ever will know, all he suffered. Often almost on the point of starvation, yet too proud and sensitive to ask for help, he toiled on, working by day and studying by night. He never thought of giving up the fight and going back to the farm. But funds completely ran out for the spring term and he yielded the struggle for a brief while, returning to help his father, or to earn what he could teaching school, or working on neighboring farms, saving every cent like a very miser for the coming year's tuition. In addition, he kept up with his studies, so that when he returned the next fall, he went on with his class the same as if he had attended for the entire year.

The second year was a repetition of the first, work and study, grinding poverty, glorious perseverance. Again the spring term found him out of funds, and this time he replenished by teaching school at Blandford, Massachusetts. Among his pupils here was a bully of the worst type, whose conduct had caused most of the former teachers to resign. In fact, he was quite proud of his ability to give the school a holiday, and as on former occasions, made his boasts that it wouldn't be long before the new teacher would take a vacation. The other pupils watched with eager curiosity for the conflict. In due course of time it came. Russell at first dealt with him kindly. It hadn't been so many years since he himself had been the cause of numerous uproars at school. But this youth was not of the kind to be impressed by good treatment. He simply took it as a showing of the white feather on the part of the new teacher and became bolder in his misconduct. On a day, when he was unruly beyond all pardon, Russell took down the birch and invited him up before the school to receive the usual punishment. The great occasion had come. The children waited with bated breath. The boy refused openly, sneeringly. The next moment, he thought lightning had struck him. He was grabbed by the neck, held with a grip of iron despite all his struggles, whipped before the gaping school, taken to the door and kicked out in the snow. Then the school lessons proceeded. It made a sensation, of course. Some of the parents wanted to request the new teacher to resign. But others rallied to his support and protested to the school board that the right man had been found at last. And so Russell held the post until the school term was over. Thirty-five years after, Russell Conwell, pastor of the Baptist Temple, was asked to head a petition to get this same evil doer out of Sing Sing prison.

But despite his hard work and hard study at Wilbraham, the spirit of fun cropped out as persistently as in his younger days at the country school. A chance to play a good joke was not to be missed. At one of the school entertainments, a student whom few liked was to take part. Relatives of his had given a large sum of money to the Academy, and on this account he somewhat lorded it over the other boys. He was, in addition, foppish in his dress, and on account of his money, position, and tailor, felt the country boys of the class a decided drawback to his social status. So the country boys decided to "get even," and they needed no other leader while Russell Conwell was about. Finally it came the dandy's turn to go on the platform to deliver a recitation. Just as he stepped out of the little anteroom before the audience, Russell, with deft fingers, fastened a paper jumping-jack to the tail of his coat, where it dangled back of his legs in plain view of the audience but unobserved by himself. With every gesture the figure jumped, climbed, contorted, and went through all manner of gymnastics. The more enthusiastic became the young orator, the more active the tiny figure in his rear. The audience went into convulsions. Utterly unable to tell what was the matter, he finally retired, red and confused, and the audience wiped away the tears of laughter.

It was at one of these entertainments that Russell himself met with a bitter defeat. A public debate was announced in which he was to take part. His classmates had spread abroad the story of his eloquence and the hall was packed to hear him. Knowing that it would be a great occasion and conscious of his poor clothes, he determined to make an impression by his speech. He prepared it with the utmost care, and to "make assurance doubly sure," committed it to memory, a thing he rarely did. His turn came. There was an expectant rustle through the audience, some almost audible comments on his clothes, his height, his thinness. He cleared his voice. He started to say the first word. It was gone. Frantically he searched his memory for that speech. His mind was a blank. Again he cleared his voice and wrestled fiercely with his inner consciousness. Only one phrase could he remember, and shouting in his thunderous tones, "Give me liberty or give me death," sat down, "not caring much which he got," as Burdette says, "so it came quickly and plenty of it."

It was while at Wilbraham that he laid down text books and stepped aside for a brief space to pay honor to a hero. Sorrow hung like a pall over the little home at South Worthington. In far-off Virginia, a brave, true-hearted man had raised a weak arm against the hosts of slavery, raised it and been stricken down. John Brown had been tried, convicted and sentenced to be hanged. The day of his execution was a day of mourning in the Conwell home. As the hour for the deed drew near, the father called the family into the little living room where Brown had so often sat among them. And during the hour while the tragedy was enacted in Virginia, the family sat silent with bowed heads doing reverence to the memory of this man who with single-minded earnestness went forward so fearlessly when others held back, to strike the shackles from those in chains.

It was a solemn hour, an hour in which worldly ambitions faded before the sublime spectacle of a man freely, calmly giving his very life because he had dared to live out his honest belief that all men should be free. Like a kaleidoscope, Brown's history passed through Russell's mind as he sat there. He saw the brutal whipping of the little slave boy which had so aroused Brown's anger when, a small boy himself, he led cattle through the western forests. Russell's hands clenched as he pictured it and he felt willing to fight as Brown had done, single-handed and alone if need be, to right so horrible a wrong. He could see how the idea had grown with John Brown's growth and strengthened with his strength until he came to manhood with a single purpose dominating his life, and a will to do it that could neither be broken nor bent. He pictured him in Kansas when son after son was laid on the altar of liberty as unflinchingly as Abraham held the knife at his own son's breast at God's behest. Then the first "blow at Harper's Ferry in the cause of liberty for all men—the capture of the town of three thousand by twenty-two men, and now this—the public execution—the fearless spirit that looked only to God for guidance, that feared neither man nor man's laws, stopped on the very threshold of the supreme effort for which he had planned his life. Stopped? It was the 2nd Massachusetts Regiment of Infantry that was the first to sing on its way South, that song, afterward sung by the armies of a nation to the steady tramp of feet,

"John Brown's body lies mouldering in the grave, But his soul goes marching on."



College Days at Yale. The Outbreak of the Civil War. Patriotic Speechmaking. New York and Henry Ward Beecher.

School days at Wilbraham ended, Russell determined to climb higher. As yet, he scarcely knew the purpose of his studying. Ambitions seethed in him to know, to be able to do. He only realized that he must have the tools ready when the work came. Not daunted, therefore, by the bitter experiences at Wilbraham, Russell determined to go to Yale. This meant a stern fight indeed, one that would call out all his reserves of determination, perseverance and indifference to the jeers and jibes of unthinking and unfeeling classmates. But he did not flinch at the prospect. His brother Charles went with him, and in the fall of '60 they entered Yale College. If poverty was bitter at Wilbraham, it was bitterer here. They were utter strangers among hundreds of boys from all parts of the country, the majority of them coming from homes of luxury and with money for all their needs. At Wilbraham, there had been a certain number of boys from their own section, many of them poor, though few so poor as themselves. They had not felt so altogether alone as they did at Yale. It is perhaps for this reason that so little is known of Russell Conwell's career at Yale. He was as unobtrusive as possible. "Silent as the Sphinx," some describe him. His sensitive nature withdrew into itself, and since he could not mingle with his classmates on a ground of equality, he kept to himself, alone, silent, studying, working, but telling no one how keenly he felt the difference between his own position and that of his fellow students. He worked for the nearby farmers as at Wilbraham and did anything that he could to earn money. But his clothes were poor, his manner of living the cheapest, and except in classes, his fellow students met him little.

He took the law course and followed fully the classical course at the same time—a feat no student at that time had ever done and few, if any, since. How he managed it, working as hard as he did at the same time, to earn money, seems impossible to comprehend. His iron constitution, for one thing, that seemed capable of standing any strain, helped him. And his remarkable ability to photograph whole pages of his text books on his memory was another powerful ally. He could reel off page after page of Virgil, Homer, Blackstone—anything he "memorized" in this unusual fashion. Well for him that he grasped the opportunity to learn this method presented him as a child. But it has always been one of the traits of his character to see opportunities where others walk right over them, and to seize and make use of them.

He did not register in the classical course as he was too poor to pay the tuition fee, nor did he join any of the clubs, as he could not afford it. He seldom appeared in debates or the moot courts, for he was so shabbily dressed he felt he would not be welcome. It was undoubtedly these humiliating experiences, combined with certain of his studies and reading, that caused him to drift into an atheistic train of thought. Working hard, living poor, desiring so much, yet on all sides he saw boys with all the opportunities he longed for, utterly indifferent to them. He saw boys spending in riotous dissipation the money that would have meant so much to him. He saw them recklessly squandering health, time, priceless educational opportunities, for the veriest froth of pleasure. He saw them sowing the wind, yet to his inexperienced eyes not reaping the whirlwind, but faring far more prosperously than he who worked and studied hard and yet had not what they threw so lightly away. It was all at variance with his mother's teaching, with such of the preaching at the little white church as he had heard. Bible promises, as he interpreted them, were not fulfilled. So he scoffed, cynically, bitterly, and said, as many another has done before he has learned the lessons of the world's hard school, "There is no God." And having said it, he took rather a pride in it and said it openly, boastingly.

As at Wilbraham, funds ran out before the school year was completed and he left Yale and taught district school during the day and vocal and instrumental music in the evenings.

But into this eager, undaunted struggle for an education came the trumpet call to arms. With the memory of John Brown like a living coal in his heart, with the pictures of the cowering, runaway slaves ever before his eyes, he flung away his books and was one of the first to enlist. But his father interfered. Russell was only eighteen. Martin Conwell went to the recruiting officer and had his name taken from the rolls. It was a bitter disappointment. But since he might not help with his hands, he spoke with his tongue. All his pent-up enthusiasm flowed out in impassioned speeches that brought men by the hundreds to the recruiting offices. His fame spread up and down the Connecticut valley and wherever troops were to be raised, "the boy" was in demand.

"His youthful oratory," says the author of "Scaling the Eagle's Nest," "was a wonderful thing which drew crowds of excited listeners wherever he went. Towns sent for him to help raise their quotas of soldiers, and ranks speedily filled before his inspiring and patriotic speeches. In 1862 I remember a scene at Whitman Hall in Westfield, Massachusetts, which none who were there can forget. Russell had delivered two addresses there before. On that night there were two addresses before his by prominent lawyers, but there was evident impatience to hear 'The boy.' When he came forward there was the most deafening applause. He really seemed inspired by miraculous powers. Every auditor was fascinated and held closely bound. There was for a time breathless suspense, and then at some telling sentence the whole building shook with wild applause. At its close a shower of bouquets from hundreds of ladies carpeted the stage in a moment, and men from all parts of the hall rushed forward to enlist."

The adulation and flattery showered upon him were enough to turn any other's head. But it made no impression upon him. Heart, mind and soul he was wrapped up in the cause. He was burning with zeal to help the oppressed and suffering. His words poured from a heart overflowing with pity, love, and indignation. Never once did he think of himself, only of those in bonds crying, "Come over and help us."

When Lincoln made his great address in Cooper Institute in 1860, Russell was there. It was a longer journey from New England to New York in those days than it is now, and longer yet for a boy who had so little money, but he let no obstacle keep him away.

He utilized his visit also to hear Beecher, the man who had taken so powerful a hold of his childish fancy. Ever since those boyish days when his mother read Beecher's sermons to him, and standing on the big gray rock he had imagined himself another Beecher, he had longed to hear this great man. It was only this childish desire holding fast to him through the year that took him now, for church-going itself had no attraction for him.

He sat on the steps of the gallery and heard this wonderful man preach a sermon in which he illustrated an auctioneer selling a negro girl at the block. He sat as one entranced. So did the immense audience, held spellbound by the scene so graphically pictured. It was the first interesting sermon he had ever heard. It made a tremendous impression on him, not only in itself, but as a vivid contrast between the formal, rattling-of-dry-bones sermon and the live, vital discourse that takes hold of a man's mind and heart and compels him to go out in the world and do things for the good of his fellow men. Long it remained in his memory, but the greatest inspiration from it did not come till later years, when suddenly it stood forth as if illumined, to throw a brilliant radiance on a path he had decided to tread.



Lincoln's Call for 100,000 Men. Enlistment. Captain Conwell. In Camp at Springfield, Mass. The Famous Gold-sheathed Sword.

In 1862, Lincoln sent out an earnest call for 100,000 men for the war. Russell was not longer to be denied, and his father permitted him to enlist. What silent agony, what earnest prayers for his safety went up from his mother's heart, only other mothers in those terrible days knew.

He raised a company from Worthington, Chesterfield, Huntington, Russell, Blandford and the neighboring towns and was unanimously elected captain, though only nineteen. His earnest, fiery speeches had already made him famous, and when it was known he had enlisted and was raising a company, there was a rush to get into it, and the men as with one voice, demanded that he be their captain. No one ever thought of canvassing against him. A committee was appointed to wait on Governor Andrew to persuade him to commission Russell in spite of his age, and when he received the appointment, the cheers and applause of the enthusiastic, the quiet satisfaction of the sedate, showed the place which he had in their hearts. It is almost incomprehensible to those not acquainted with the man, but those who have come in contact with him, know what a hold he would soon gain over those "Mountain Boys," as the company was called. His kindly sympathy would quickly make them feel that in their captain, each had a warm personal friend. His generous heart would back up that belief with a hundred and one little acts of thoughtful kindness. Over each and every one would be exercised a watchful care that cheered the long days, lightened heavy loads, lessened discomforts. It is little wonder that their devotion to him amounted almost to adoration. Gray-haired men followed him as proudly as though his years matched theirs. Indeed, to their loyalty was added a fatherly feeling of guardianship over him, because of his youth, that brought a new pleasure into the relationship. The company was knit together with the bonds of loving comradeship as were few others.

The rendezvous of the company was at Huntington, and there a banquet was given before the troops departed for war. Proud day for him when he marched down the familiar road from South Worthington, through the autumn woods with their slowly falling leaves, their shadowy forest aisles all glorious now with the banners of autumn, past the white farmhouses with their golden lilies, the faithful little brook singing ever at his side. Sad day for his mother as she watched him go, long looking after him, till she could see no more for tears.

From Huntington the company went into camp at Springfield. And now came into use, those tactics and drills he had studied as a boy, and others he had been secretly studying ever since the war broke out. His men were astonished to find how perfectly at home he was in military tactics. It further added to their pride in him. They fully expected him to know as little as they, but when he came to his work fully prepared, to their admiration of him as an orator, their love as a leader, was now added their confidence as an officer.

Camp life at Springfield made war no longer a glorious contemplation but an uncomfortable reality. The ground for a bed, a spadeful of earth for a pillow, sharp mountain winds, cold autumn storms, insufficient food, hinted at the hardships to follow. The gold and the alloy in the men's characters began to shine out, and Company F soon realized in practical ways, the nature of the man who led them. His new uniform overcoat went to a shivering boy, his rations were divided with those less fortunate, his blankets were given to a comrade in need. Always it was of his men, not himself, he thought.

Before leaving camp for the seat of war, Captain Conwell was presented with a sword by his Company, bearing this inscription:—

"Presented to Captain Russell H. Conwell by the soldiers of Company F, 46th Mass. Vol. Militia, known as 'The Mountain Boys.' Vera Amicitia est sempiterna. (True friendship is eternal.)" Colonel Shurtleff made the speech of presentation. The passionately eloquent reply of the boy captain is yet remembered by those who heard it. He received the beautiful, glittering weapon in silence. Slowly he drew the gleaming steel from its golden sheath and solemnly held it upward as if dedicating it to heaven, the sunlight bathing the blade with blinding flashes of light. His eyes were fixed upon the steel, as if in a rapt vision, he swept the centuries past, the centuries to come, and saw what it stood for in the destinies of men. Breathless silence fell upon his waiting comrades. Thus for a few moments he stood and then he spoke to the sword.

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