The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg and Other Stories
[NOTE. --This is not a fancy sketch. I got it from a clergyman who was an instructor at
Woolwich forty years ago, and who vouched for its truth. --M.T.]
It was at a banquet in London in honour of one of the two or three conspicuously
illustrious English military names of this generation. For reasons which will presently
appear, I will withhold his real name and titles, and call him Lieutenant-General Lord
Arthur Scoresby, V.C., K.C.B., etc., etc., etc. What a fascination there is in a renowned
name! There say the man, in actual flesh, whom I had heard of so many thousands of
times since that day, thirty years before, when his name shot suddenly to the zenith from
a Crimean battle-field, to remain for ever celebrated. It was food and drink to me to look,
and look, and look at that demigod; scanning, searching, noting: the quietness, the
reserve, the noble gravity of his countenance; the simple honesty that expressed itself all
over him; the sweet unconsciousness of his greatness--unconsciousness of the hundreds
of admiring eyes fastened upon him, unconsciousness of the deep, loving, sincere
worship welling out of the breasts of those people and flowing toward him.
The clergyman at my left was an old acquaintance of mine--clergyman now, but had
spent the first half of his life in the camp and field, and as an instructor in the military
school at Woolwich. Just at the moment I have been talking about, a veiled and singular
light glimmered in his eyes, and he leaned down and muttered confidentially to me--
indicating the hero of the banquet with a gesture,--'Privately--his glory is an accident--
just a product of incredible luck.'
This verdict was a great surprise to me. If its subject had been Napoleon, or Socrates, or
Solomon, my astonishment could not have been greater.
Some days later came the explanation of this strange remark, and this is what the
Reverend told me.
About forty years ago I was an instructor in the military academy at Woolwich. I was
present in one of the sections when young Scoresby underwent his preliminary
examination. I was touched to the quick with pity; for the rest of the class answered up
brightly and handsomely, while he--why, dear me, he didn't know anything, so to speak.
He was evidently good, and sweet, and lovable, and guileless; and so it was exceedingly
painful to see him stand there, as serene as a graven image, and deliver himself of
answers which were veritably miraculous for stupidity and ignorance. All the compassion
in me was aroused in his behalf. I said to myself, when he comes to be examined again,
he will be flung over, of course; so it will be simple a harmless act of charity to ease his
fall as much as I can.
I took him aside, and found that he knew a little of Caesar's history; and as he didn't know
anything else, I went to work and drilled him like a galley-slave on a certain line of stock
questions concerning Caesar which I knew would be used. If you'll believe me, he went