Read ALMOST A MAN of Almost A Man , free online book, by Mary Wood-Allen, on ReadCentral.com.

By Mary Wood-Allen, M. D.

“Let me take your book of quotations, please.”

“Certainly, if I can find it. O, I remember. I let Susie Glenn take it. No doubt I can find it in her desk.”

As she spoke Miss Bell walked to the desk and, finding the desired book, took possession of it. An open note dropped from it and fell upon the floor. Picking it up Miss Bell read: “My darling little sweetheart,” and glancing at the close saw the signature, “Carl.” Sending of notes in school was forbidden, therefore Miss Bell had no compunction of conscience in taking possession of this one, and, on the impulse of the moment, read it aloud to Miss Lane, her fellow-teacher. It was not only sentimental in tone but there were mysterious phrases which seemed to hold a deep and sinful significance. The women looked at each other with sorrowful faces.

“What shall I do about it?” asked Miss Bell.

“What a depth of wickedness it reveals!” exclaimed Miss Lane. “Who would have imagined that such a nice appearing boy as Carl Woodford could be so base? And Susie Glenn too, such a shy, modest little creature as she seems.”

“Do you suppose it is really as bad as it seems to us? Those expressions which appear to indicate such such almost criminal intimacy perhaps they do not understand fully.”

“Don’t you believe it,” said Miss Lane. “I tell you these children are wiser in sin than we older people can imagine. That boy needs to be whipped within an inch of his life, the little reprobate! I’d give him such a lecture as would make his eyes open wide for once. I’d make him understand that he’d better not let me catch him in such mischief again. And I’d tell Mrs. Glenn about it so that she could punish Susie.”

“I really am afraid that the result would not be what we wish. Suppose we go and talk it over with Dr. Barrett. Maybe she can tell us what to do.”

Dr. Barrett received the ladies with cordiality and professed herself willing to aid them in the solution of their problem. She did not appear as shocked as they did, and even smiled a little as Miss Lane, in indignant tones, read aloud the offending note.

“Don’t you think that little rascal should be nearly annihilated?” she asked, turning to the Doctor.

“I think he should be instructed,” replied the latter. “Will you send him to me, Miss Bell?”

“Most gladly, but I don’t believe he will come.”

“Yes he will, if you don’t frighten him beforehand. Don’t say a word to him about the affair, but send him with a note to me and tell him to wait for an answer.”

The next evening Carl appeared at the Doctor’s residence with the note from Miss Bell. “I am to wait for an answer,” he said.

Dr. Barrett only nodded as she wrote on steadily for a moment, seeming too much engrossed in her work to notice him. Then she read the note, thought a moment, excused herself and left the room. Returning immediately she said, “It will be half an hour before the answer is ready. Can you wait?”

“O certainly.”

“Then sit down here and look over the Youth’s Companion while I finish my letter.”

For some moments there was silence and then the Doctor, laying down her pen, turned to the boy and said, pleasantly; “You are Carl Woodford, are you not?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“It has been so long since I saw you that you have almost grown out of my knowledge. You are getting to be almost a man. You must be fifteen years old.”

“Not quite. I will be next June.”

“Almost a man,” said Dr. Barrett softly as she looked thoughtfully into the fire. After a moment’s silence she asked, “Carl, what is it to be a man?”

The boy drew himself up with a self-conscious air as he replied.

“Why, to have your growth, and get into business for yourself.”

“Well, that is not quite it,” said the Doctor smiling, “for I have my growth and am in business for myself, and yet I am not a man.”

“Maybe it means having a mustache,” said Carl, with a slight flush.

“That has something to do with it certainly, but Mrs. Flynn has a mustache, and she is not a man.”

“Well, I don’t know how to explain it then,” said Carl.

“You have studied grammar, will you parse the word man?”

“Man is a common noun, masculine gender, third ”

“What does masculine gender mean?”

“It means male.”

“Then to be a man means to be a male. How does the grammar define gender?”

“The distinction of nouns with regard to sex.”

“Have you studied physiology?”

“Yes’m.”

“Was it the physiology of man or woman?”

“Why, it didn’t say anything but physiology.”

“You studied, then, only those organs in which men and women are alike, as in their muscular and nervous systems, and in the organs of digestion; in fact you learned only of the organs which are for the preservation of the individual. You learned nothing of them in regard to sex, which is termed special physiology.”

A wave of color was creeping over Carl’s face, seeing which the Doctor said:

“As you have never studied this special physiology supposing you try to forget that any one has ever told you anything about it, and let us for a few minutes talk of it as of God’s laws. We believe God to be pure, and we cannot believe that he would make a law that was founded on impurity. It is true we are able to think of his laws in an impure way, but that is our fault, not his. Let us now try to think his pure thoughts after him. If there are two sexes created by the Almighty he must have a pure purpose in creating them. We seldom think how much of beauty and melody and loveliness is due to sex.

“It is because of sex that we are gathered in families and enjoy all the delights of home. It is because of sex that we have ties of kindred, brothers, sisters, father, mother, uncles, aunts and cousins. Think of the pleasant home gatherings at Christmas or Thanksgiving, or upon family birthdays, with all the relatives, old and young, meeting in love and sympathy; think of the sweet prattle of children in the home; think of the tender ministrations of mother or sister in times of sorrow or illness or death, and remember that these are possible because of sex. Men may build themselves fine club houses where they congregate to smoke or drink or eat together, but these are not homes. Women may go away by themselves into a convent and give up the world, but in so doing they give up the home; for in a real true home there must be parents and children, and this comes through sex. We may go even farther and say with Mr. Grant Allen that everything high and ennobling in our nature springs directly from the fact of sex. He claims that to it ’we owe our love of color, of graceful forms, of melodious sound, of rhythmical motion, the evolution of music, of poetry, of romance, of painting, of sculpture, of decorative art, of dramatic entertainment. From it,’ he says, ’springs the love of beauty, around it all beautiful arts circle as their centre. Its subtle aroma pervades all literature, and to it we owe the heart and all that is best within it.’

“We read of knights of old fighting for ‘fayre ladye,’ of heroes who died to save wives and children; we cannot take up a book of poetry without realizing how love of men and women has been the inspiration of the poet in all ages. And this is not all that we owe to sex. In all organic life we find the same force at work. The song of the nightingale is a call to his mate, the chirp of cricket, the song of the thrush, the note of the grasshopper, every charming voice in wild nature are notes of love, and were it not for these, field and forest would be silent. Among the animals we can trace the beauty of form and of covering to the same source. And even in the inanimate world of plants and trees we find sex as the source of life and beauty. The bright tinted flowers are the homes of the father and mother and babies of the plant and without the male and female principle in plants there would be no bud or blossom and no fruit. Remember when you see the beauty of the apple orchard in the spring and the glowing fruit in the autumn that these are the expression of sex-life in the tree.”

“My!” exclaimed Carl, “I never thought of all that before.”

“I presume not, and many who are older than you have no thoughts of sex but those which are low and vile. But when you consider how the same principle reaches through all nature, and upon it depends so much that is beautiful and charming you cannot believe that is in itself vile and unholy, can you? If we are to think God’s thoughts after him we must come to look upon sex as something to be thought of and spoken of only with reverence, never to be jested about or debased in any way. You begin to see that more is involved in the coming into manhood than you had supposed. But we have not gone over the whole matter yet. You have read the first chapter of Genesis how that God made man in his own image, and out of the dust of the earth. We do not suppose that he made him out of dirt and water, as a child makes mud-pies, but we may accept this as a statement of the scientific fact that in man are found the same elements as in the earth, such as iron, soda, lime, etc. What we want to think of now is the statement that God created man by his direct power. Then we are told he made woman also. These are the first living human beings of whom we have record. Who is the third?”

“Cain.”

“And who made Cain?”

“God,” answered Carl glibly, as if that must be the only orthodox answer.

“In the same way that he made Adam and Eve?”

Carl blushed and was silent.

“You were not embarrassed when I spoke of the creation of Adam and Eve, you have no reason to be embarrassed when I speak of the creation of Cain. All was in accordance with the divine will, and must therefore be right. We cannot say positively that God thought this or that, but we have a right to judge from his acts what his purposes were. We have a right to suppose that he created the earth intending to people it with human beings. Of course every possible plan for doing this was open to him. He might have created each individual as he did Adam, but what would have been the result? We should have stood, each one alone, in selfish solitariness, like a lot of ten-pins, able to knock each other down but not to help each other up. Each one would have been thinking only of himself and his own selfish interests. This plan could not commend itself to a compassionate Creator, and we can imagine that he would say to himself: ’That would never do. I must put these, my children, in such relation to each other that they will have love for each other; that they will be bound by ties so strong that nothing can break them; they must be created in such a way that they will also understand their relation to me and love me as their life-giver. To do this I will share with them my greatest power, that of creation. I will let them help me people the world. By this creative power they shall come to understand how I, their heavenly Father, love them, and yearn over them, and by their dependence as children upon their parents they shall learn to depend upon and trust me.’ From the plan God adopted for peopling the earth we may suppose this to have been his process of thought. So you see that sex comes as a wondrous gift from God, a gift endowed with a marvelous power, and therefore to be held most sacred. When I spoke of you as being almost a man it was with the thought that now is being conferred upon you this gift of sex.”

Carl looked up with some surprise. “Why, I have always been a boy.”

“True. And a boy is a being who will become a man. But he is not endowed with the functions of sex until he is about fourteen years old. Then sex begins to make itself felt in his whole being. He grows taller rapidly; he gains in breadth; he begins to see the long-looked-for mustache; he notices the growth of the special organs of sex; he begins to feel more manly; to enjoy the society of girls as never before; and desires to treat them with more attention. This is a time when, if he is wrongly taught, he may fall into great wrong-doing and injure himself, and not that alone, but those who are to come after him. I have not yet told you of the great responsibilities that come with this gift of sex.”

Dr. Barrett rose and, bringing a book from the shelves, opened it and showed Carl an illustration, saying; “Did you ever see such a picture as this?”

“What are they?” asked he. “They look like pollywogs.”

“As much like them as anything. But they are not pollywogs. They have a bigger sounding name than that. They are called spermatozoa, or each one is a spermatozoon. They are so tiny that they are not visible except with the aid of a microscope, and yet they are alive and very active. They live and move in a fluid called semen, and they are the living principle contributed by the male to the formation of a new creature. Each one contains in itself all the particular traits, characteristics or talents which the father would confer on the child of which this spermatozoon would form a part. You are like your father in some things, I suppose.”

“Yes, I am like papa in size and in my love for mathematics. He says I have his quick temper, too.”

“That leads me to speak of another fact. You see that you were a part of your father during his whole life, and you were affected by all that affected him. You were changed or modified by his habits. If he tried to curb his quick temper, it has made it easier for you to control yourself; but if he allowed it full sway, it has made it harder for you. If he were truthful and honest, it has made it easy for you to be the same; but if he were wild and dissipated, it would make it easier for you to yield to the same temptations.”

“Was that what he meant when he said he was not surprised that Will Grey was so bad a boy, for his father was a very wild young man?”

“Yes, that was exactly what he meant.”

“If that is so why don’t fathers tell their boys about it so that they can behave better when they are young?”

“That is just what I think they ought to do, but unfortunately people have thought they must not talk of these things to young folks for fear it will make them bad instead of good.”

“Well, I guess that would depend upon the way they told it. Now they don’t tell it right, but leave the boys to be told in wrong ways, and that really does lead them to be bad. No one ever talked to me as you have to-night, and I am sure it makes me want to be better.”

“That ought to be the effect, and I believe it would be if boys were only ‘told right,’ as you say. But I have told you only half the story. Here is another picture. These are called ova. One is an ovum, and these are the principle the mother gives to the future child. They are greatly magnified. It would take 240 of them lying side by side to make a row an inch long, so we say they are 1/240 of an inch in diameter, but tiny as they are, each ovum contains all the traits or talents that the mother gives to the child of which this particular ovum may form a part. Your mother is English, your father American. Their childhood and youth were spent thousands of miles apart, and yet both were working by the habits of their lives to create you in your peculiar traits and talents. Are you like your parents in any of their capabilities?”

“Yes, I am like mother in her love for music; you know she is a fine musician.”

“Yes, and in the cultivation of her own musical ability she made it easier for you to learn music; just as your father, in his study as an engineer, has given you a love for mathematics.”

“But my grandfather and great-grandfather were engineers, and I am going to be one, too.”

“It is true that you inherit from your grandparents, also, but it must be through your parents, and they may have changed the direction of the inheritance. This important fact you should know and remember. You can change yourself by education so that the inheritance of your children may be quite changed. For example, if you know that you lack perseverance, you can, by constantly making a mighty effort to overcome this defect, compel yourself to persevere, and this would tend to give your children perseverance. So you see we need not despair because we have inherited faults from our ancestors, but we should determine all the more that we will not pass these defects on to later generations.”

“I guess that is what Dr. Brice meant when he said that mother’s good care of her health had overcome in us children to a great extent the tendency to consumption which is in her family. Nearly all my cousins on her side die with it, but when she was a little girl her father made her live out of doors all the time and she grew strong, and we none of us seem to have any tendency to consumption.”

“You see then the value of caring for yourself in youth, not only for your own sake but for that of your children. Your mother did not know that she would ever have children to be benefitted by her out-door life. But one day she met a young man who pleased her, and as they grew to know each other better they came to love each other so that they wished to leave home and friends and make their own home and live their united lives separate and apart from all the rest of the world. So they were married, as we say. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman under the sanction of the law. This is the closest and most sacred human relation. In this relation the spermatozoon of the man unites with the germ or ovum of the woman and a new life is begun. When your parents knew that such a little life had begun in their home they felt a great and holy joy, and desired that every good might surround it in its development. You were the first to come into your father’s home. After your life had begun you were still so small as not to be visible to the naked eye, and would have been lost had you come into the world. But a home had been prepared for you in your mother’s body, where day by day you grew and grew. The food which she ate nourished you as well as herself. The air which she breathed was life to you as well as to her.

“You have seen the father-bird bringing food to the mother-bird as she sits upon her eggs and waits for the birdlings to come forth, and you have thought it a pretty sight to watch his tender care of her. Even so your father watched over your mother and you. He provided everything as pleasant as possible, he removed every care from her path so that she might be happy and so make you happy. His love for her took on a new and strange tenderness it had not known before. And she, holding you warm and close in the embrace of her body, thought of you and loved you. She wondered how you would look; she dreamed of you; she fancied she could feel the touch of your fluttering fingers; she made your little wardrobe and with each stitch wove in some tender thought of the baby whom she had never seen. Then one day she cried out with great anguish of body but joy of heart, ‘O my baby is coming.’ Then through long hours she suffered, going down almost to the gates of death that you might have life. But she never murmured; in spite of all her pain and anguish of body her very soul was full of rejoicing that soon she would hold you in her arms. When all those hours of peril and anxiety were past and you were laid in your mother’s arms, your father came and bent over you both with a measureless love, and looking into your little face they knew what the Scripture meant when it said, ’And they twain shall be one flesh,’ for were not you a living fulfillment of that saying? You were a part of each united in a living being who belonged to them both. Then for the first time could they realize, even dimly, the yearning, tender love of their heavenly Father who had granted to them to know by experience his feelings towards his children.”

Great tears had gathered in the boy’s eyes as she talked, and now with choking voice he said, “I don’t think I can ever be disobedient again, Dr. Barrett. I did not understand it all as I do now. You know we only hear these things talked of among the boys, and I had come to feel that there was some reason why I ought to be ashamed of my father and mother; but it all looks so different to me now. I wish you could talk to the other boys as you have to me.”

“It may not be possible for me to do so, although I should be glad to do it, but you can help them to think more truly on these subjects. You can especially help them to treat women and girls with more respect than they often do, because you can see how an injury to any girl is an injury to the whole world.”

“I don’t quite see that,” said Carl.

“You can see that if any one had injured your mother in her girlhood it would have been an injury to all her children, can you not?”

“O yes.”

“And that injury might be passed on to future generations. There lived a poor girl, about a hundred years ago, who was uncared for by good people and wronged by evil ones, and to-day she is known as a ’mother of criminals,’ and no one can tell where the mischief will end. You would feel very indignant if you knew that some one had done your mother an injury in her girlhood, and you would feel the same way should any one wrong your sisters.”

“I knocked Bill Jones down last week because he said something to my sister Kate.”

“You felt a righteous anger and manifested it. Well, in all probability you will some day marry. If so, there is in the world to-day the girl who will be your wife. How do you want her to be treated by the boys who are her school-companions? Do you like to think that they are rough with her, or playing at lovering with her? Is it a pleasant thought that she is allowing them to caress her or write her silly sentimental notes?”

Carl’s face was scarlet, but he answered bravely; “No, it isn’t.”

The Doctor continued. “Some day, in all likelihood, a little girl-child will climb upon your knee and call you papa. No creature can ever be to you what that little daughter will be. If any one should injure her .”

“I’d kill him,” broke in Carl hotly.

“If you feel that way, dear boy, you should remember that every girl is some one’s daughter, perhaps some one’s sister, will probably be some one’s wife and some one’s mother, so that all girls should be sacred to you, treated with chivalrous courtesy and protected even as you feel you would protect those who may belong especially to you.”

“But don’t you believe in boys and girls being friends at all?”

“Most assuredly I do. Nothing is more charming than the frank comradeship of girls and boys, and that is why I am so sorry to see them spoil it with sentimentality. They ought to be good friends, helping each other, having jolly good times together, but never in ways that will bring a blush to the cheeks of either, now, or in the years to come.”

A rap sounded on the door and the maid entered with a note which she gave to the doctor, who handed it to Carl, saying, “Here is the note for Miss Bell. I have kept you waiting a long time, but I hope it has not been unprofitable.”

“Indeed it has not. I am ever so much obliged to you, I am sure.”

“And if you ever wish to talk to me again you will feel free to come, will you not?”

“Yes, ma’am, I surely will,” answered the lad with a frank clasp of the hand.

“Wait a moment,” said the doctor, “I have just thought of a little book that I am sure you will be interested in reading. It is called ’A Gateway and a Gift,’ and it deals with some of the questions we have been talking about this evening. You can lend it to some of your boy friends if you wish.”

“Thank you,” said Carl, taking the book which the doctor handed him, and then with another “Good night,” he walked away in the darkness.

The note which he gave to Miss Bell the next morning read merely:

“Don’t say anything to Carl. Just wait.”

If Miss Bell had seen a note slipped by Carl into Susie Glenn’s hand an hour later she might have thought it an evidence that the doctor’s plan had failed. But had she read the note her opinion would have been that it had succeeded. It read:

“Dear Susie: It was real mean of me to write that note yesterday. Will you forgive me? Say, Susie, I think all this nonsense about lovers and sweethearts is silly rot, don’t you? Let’s be just friends. Respectfully yours,

Carl.”

Susie’s answer was short but to the point. It read:

“All right. Let’s.

Susie.”

Several months later Miss Bell and Miss Lane called again on Dr. Barrett.

“Have you come with another problem?” asked the doctor.

“No, we have come to report progress and to learn, if possible, just how it has come about. There has been a wonderful change in the school. The girls and boys are no less friendly, but it is without that silly sentimentality which was so annoying. They are now just real good comrades, and seem to help each other in being orderly, polite, and studious. How did you do it?”

“Perhaps all credit is not due to me, but I will say that I gave Carl the instruction I thought he needed and he has passed the good word along. Several of the boys have met with me once a month to study concerning themselves, and I can see that they have grown to have a reverence for themselves and a deep regard for all womanhood. Carl was in last evening, and said, ’Dr. Barrett, I am so glad Miss Bell sent me with that note to you, for your talk to me that night has changed my whole life, I know. I feel so much cleaner all through, and have so much more respect for myself. And I think so differently of girls and women, and especially of my mother, and I realize as I never did before how important a thing it is to be almost a man.’”