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at Austin, I met with the saddest and most disastrous calamity of my whole life.
It was about a day before I was able to leave my room. When I was, I walked down to Congress Avenue and while walking north, on the side of the Lobby, I saw a man of small stature and with a great stiff moustache that attracted my attention. He was standing astride the gutter through which the water was running, and was bent over picking up rotten apples and cutting the rotten parts from them with his knife. As soon as I could, I asked a man who that fellow was. He said, "I think it is Halsted.” “What," I said, “George Bruce Halsted of the University ?” Looking again, he assured me it was. Such was my introduction to one whose books I had often seen and studied and whose name was so familiar to the scientists of every civilized nation. After he had picked up several of the apples, he walked to a Shetland pony hitched near by, and with a smile lighting up his countenance, fed them to the pony. For a moment my respect for the man was lessened, but the more I thought of it, the more it weighed with me as evidence of his greatness, being that childish simplicity that so often characterizes the truly great.
After witnessing this, I walked straight to the capitol and into it until I came to that big hole in the ceiling, better known as the rotunda and was standing there admiring the grandeur of the dome, when suddenly I discovered a country boy over at the other side, eyeing me with considerable interest. Soon he walked a few steps to where that tall German, who has been day watchman at the capitol since its completion, was standing, and said something to him. The old German looked at me and laughed and I felt like the boy that was left to guard his father's melons. I thought they had found out I was a fool and I hadn't said a word. But to my great astonishment, when I passed the old watchman he said, pointing to the boy passing out, “That boy asked me if you were Governor Culberson.” Now, I have never been able to approximate even in my imagination what tribe of Reubens that boy belonged to, as he actually looked as green as I felt, unless perchance he was a right fresh freshman of the Academic Department.
My mission in going to the capitol was to view the University, and at last, after climbing that long flight of winding stairs, I opened a door up near the top of the dome, and there for the first time, I saw the walls of the University looming up in the distance, to the north. I thought of that famous expression of Hannibal, "Italy lies beyond," because that was a battlefield for me and was for you, and is for every one that enters its walls, of as much moment as were those fields of Italy to that great African general. I was filled with fears; I thought of the five hundred struggling, striving, ambitious students there. I wondered what were the names of the friends I would make there, or, if I would have any friends at all. I wondered what would be the measure of my success there, or, if my course would be marked by any success whatever. I thought then, as I think today, I was looking upon the grandest University of the south. I thought then, as I know today, I was looking upon the crowning capstone of the greatest public school system of the nation, a splendid realization of the dream of the founders of the Republic of Texas, when they said in its constitution, "There shall be established and maintained a university of the first class.” If you have not seen the University first from that magnificent view, up near the goddess of liberty, from the top of the capitol, you have missed one of the most vivid and lasting impressions of the University.
The next morning, feeling as if I had the weight of the earth upon my shoulders, I went out to the University. And now my fellow students, I desire to speak first to you of that within the University which made upon me the deepest impression. I believe in speaking of the living the good we believe of them, while they yet live to hear and enjoy it. And I am not speaking to an idle fancy; not for the want of words to say, not simply to win your applause, but I am speaking the words of truth and soberness, with no hope of reward and with no fear of punishment, when I tell you that on that morning I entered the University, I met the grandest man I have ever known in my life. A more admirable character we shall scarcely know in a life time; a more gentlemanly man can not be found. Among us he was as gentle and as kind and as tender as a mother; yet among us and among men his record proves him to be as the giant oak of the forest. The one of whom I speak is that most lovable of men, that grand old man, Judge Robert S. Gould. Am I speaking to you the words of truth? Listen. The “Old Alcalde,” Judge Oran M. Roberts, from whose lips falsehood never fell, and from whose lips mistaken opinions as rarely escaped, said of him, "I have known him as a young man, I have known him as a practitioner at the bar, I have known him as district attorney and as district judge; I have been associated with him upon the supreme bench of my State, and as professor in its University. I have known him as a private citizen and as a public servant; my acquaintance with him covering a period of thirty years, and neither as a private citizen nor as public servant, have I known him to do one thing for which he could be criticized.” What a compliment, coming from such a man. And it must be true. On account of · feebleness, I understand, he has been compelled to retire from his life’s labor. The further the years take us from him, the grander will appear the example of his everyday life in the background. It has been and it will continue to be a pillar of cloud by day and a shining light by night to the pathway of us all.
All another one of that law faculty lacked of being an exact counterpart of the one I have just mentioned is that he did not possess the silvery hairs and stooped shoulders of Judge Gould. That one was and is the Hon. T. S. Miller, now of this city. How grand it is for a preceptor to leave such a legacy to his pupils, as they have left to us in the example of their lives !
It proves again that, as plant life, the vine on yonder window for instance, will turn from darkness and crawl and creep toward the light, just so the tendrils of the mind and affections of a young life will turn from the ignoble and reach out toward the pure and grand, even in the life of a man. It was my misfortune that I personally knew almost none of the faculty in the other branches of the University.
Some of the most impressive lectures were by our worthy toastmaster, the Hon. R. L. Batts. I will never forget one he made. It was near the close of the session of '96. We seniors were feeling blue; the Rubicon must soon be crossed and the battle commenced. He entered the classroom with an unusually serious look upon his face and speaking to us with considerable emotion in his voice, as if he had our interest at stake, he said, “Young men, if after you leave this University you are able to borrow money to live on the first year, you should feel encouraged; if the second year you make enough and borrow enough to live on, consider that you are doing well; if the third year, with the greatest effort, you make a living, be thankful for your remarkable success, as it comes
to but few.” Those three years have passed now. I wonder what the books would show. We thought he was getting off a huge joke then, we know it was a true and a solemn prophecy now, and doubtless we have often wondered why people would persist in passing by such a colossal pile of brains to get others to attend to their business.
When I entered the University, I was in fact a barbarian; when I left it I was in fact dubbed a barbarian, and some of the most pleasant and amusing things I remember are in connection with the fights between the Frats and the Barbs. Pleasant, not because our side was always victorious, but because the warfare was an honorable one. We were always in the majority in time of peace, but generally in the minority in time of war. When we needed to be strongest, we were weakest; when we should have stood together, we stood apart, secession and desertion being the bane of our camp, and therefore in fights, as a rule, came out about as the parrot did in his fight with the monkey. Their mistress accidentally left them in a room together, and as soon as she had gone they got into a fight, the monkey proceeding to pick the parrot. When the lady returned and opened the door she was horrified by the sight of green feathers scattered all over the floor and bed, and as soon as the parrot discovered some one had entered he walked out from under the bed with a few feathers around his neck and a few broken ones remaining in his tail, and said, “We've had a hell of a fight here since you left.” But the feathers would soon grow out and we were game and ready for another fight.
The most painful recollection the Barb has of his Frat brother is the all-absorbing, eternal fascination a fraternity pin has for the University girl. The poor man without this breast-plate of righteousness must have his sweetheart at home. Though he sojourn at college for years, he will not get a decent smile until he dons one, and without it, to make even a sorry catch, if that is possible in the University, is entirely out of the question.
My fellow students, I would hate to think I harbored malice against any fraternity man on account of differences there. When the class of '96 was graduated, the campaign was on, and when I went home I found two graduates of the University running for the office of county attorney. In that race I worked and voted for an S. A. E., as against a non-fraternity man, actually not thinking of that fact until I sat down to write this speech. The fact that non-fraternity men are here as speakers for this occasion, chosen by committees of fraternity men, is proof convincing that you too consider those as toy ideas for school boys to play with, rather than worthy to cause differences and breaches between men out in life. I think fraternities are not bad things in the University; they give snap and ginger to the movements of things there; they furnish a field for the exploits of the practical politician and arouse competition. I did not oppose them because I did not believe in brotherhood; on the contrary, because I thought the student body of the University should constitute the membership of one grand fraternity; having our favorites and our differences, yet bound together by ties akin to those that bind together the members of a sacred household. My idea today is, we should be as the scattered members of a great family.
Everywhere the greatness of our State is being talked and written of. In every state it is looked upon as having a brilliant past and a most brilliant future. Its University of today will be its University when it rivals in wealth and power and greatness the state of New York. If they can speak of the illimitable possibilities of our great State, we can predict a future as brilliant for its University. Those who attend it, as a rule, are influential in life. If the average of their influence is ten, we are fifty or sixty thousand strong in the State today. If we would do a great work in the fight for the University, and for ourselves, and be felt in every cause to which we set our shoulder, we must stand together, undivided, constituting one grand fraternity, allowing only the answers to the questions: “Is he honest? Is he a man?” to determine our fellowship, and our brotherhood, rather than the manner of parting his hair, or his dress, or his pocketbook, or his politics, or his religious creed. Our honored fellow student, Judge Smith, a moment ago told you that we were not here as a clan, nor for a clannish purpose, but prompted by a patriotic motive. For him and his opinions, we have the highest regard and I am sure concur with him in that lofty sentiment. I, too, am opposed to clans and clannishness, yet I am in favor of our standing together. If it is no crime to have one brother, it is no sin to have five thousand. If it is good to have one brother to stand by you in your troubles and ambitions, it is five thousand times better to have five thousand scattered over the State.