Page:My Life and Loves.djvu/305

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MY LIFE AND LOVES.

hoop and forthwith took a 'room on the same first floor where Barker & Sommerfeld had their offices, and put out my shingle.

I have told this story of my examination at great length because I think it shows as in a glass the amenities and deep kindness of the American character.

A couple of days later I was again in Philadelphia.

Towards the end of this year 1875, I believe, or the beginning of 1876, Smith drew my attention to an announcement that Walt Whitman, the poet, was going to speak in Philadelphia on Thomas Paine, the notorious infidel, who according to Washington had done more to secure the independence of the United States than any other man. Smith determined to go to the meeting and if Whitman could rehabilitate Paine against the venomous attacks of Christian clergymen who had asserted without contradiction that Paine was a notorious drunkard and of the loosest character, he would induce Forney to let him write an exhaustive and forceful defence of Paine in "The Press".

I felt pretty sure that such an article would never appear but I would not pour cold water on Smith's enthusiasm. The day came, one of those villainous days common enough in Philadelphia in every winter: the temperature was about zero with snow falling whenever the driving wind permitted. In the afternoon Smith finally determined that he must not risk it and asked me to go in his stead. I consented willingly and he spent some hours in reading to me the best of Whitman's poetry, laying especial stress, I remember, on "When lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed". He assured me again and again that Whitman and Poe were the two greatest