National Geographic : 1934 Jul
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE In that hour I cursed all the unnecessary things I had learned instead of that. The hours sped by. I rose from time to time to put more wood in the stove. It grew bitterly cold towards dawn. I heard, at regular intervals, the night watch man's steps out in the courtyard and the distant striking of a clock; but I could not tear myself from the enchantment; the past had completely fascinated me. I wandered from one bookcase to an other; I felt I must get through every thing in this one precious night. Perhaps this opportunity would never return; per haps the keys would have been taken away next day and I should not make up my mind to ask for them. There seemed to be no limit to the discoveries I might make. I felt like the boy in the fairy story, who has got into the treasure chamber and can not decide what to choose among all the golden ducats and shining jewels. THE OLD LORDS DEFEND THEMSELVES As I sat there, endeavoring to spell my way through ever older and more venerable manuscripts, the present gradually ceased to exist and time unrolled itself backward in an endless vista. Some of the letter writers were my own ancestors. I remembered their faces from my grandfather's portrait gallery. Others I knew from history; but now they sud denly became close to me and warm-blooded as never before. I saw their faces and eyes around me. My silent tower chamber was peopled with men and women long in their graves; they assembled there in Renaissance dresses of stiffest brocade, with long wigs, pigtails, and gold-laced magnificence. And, as I watched them, it seemed to me that these imposing ladies and gentlemen began vehemently to attack and condemn our generation for the way in which their degenerate descendants had managed the good they had acquired and left behind them. How many, in these last few years, had fallen away from their traditions and al lowed mercenary-minded strangers to dis member the old estates where their fathers had lived and died! What seemed to anger them more than anything was our feeble want of conviction of our inherited right to own, to command, and to direct the des tiny of our country. In this paralyzing poison they seemed to see the root and origin of all evil. It was useless for me to defend our discredited time and explain its leveling process and various social phenomena. That was only to pour oil on the fire; and the longer it lasted, the spicier and stronger grew the formidable old fellows' words, the more violent and angry their voices. This impassioned chorus rose in a vehement cre scendo and swelled into a most terrifying noise, so that at last it seemed to be the ringing of the bells in the Kingdom of Death, calling them back to the world of shadows whence they had come to visit me. Suddenly my bewildered brain realized that it was nothing else than the first breakfast gong I had heard, and I found myself half lying on the bed with a thick portfolio in my hands. I felt miserable after a bare hour's sleep; but, nevertheless, I would not for anything have missed that vigil. It had enabled me to learn, more pal pably and vividly than by years spent in the study of stout volumes, some very essential things about the old Swedish tem perament and substance, and of the predis positions and limitations from which our landed gentry had developed. And it seemed to me then that, taken all in all, there might perhaps still be room in our Lord's garden for all kinds of creatures, even for those saurians which have survived their epoch. Notice of change of address of your NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE should be received in the offices of the National Geographic Society by the first of the month to affect the following month's issue. For instance, if you desire the address changed for your September number, The Society should be notified of your new address not later than August first.