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DR. JOHNSON AND HIS FATHER
 IT is in a little bookshop in the city of Lichfield,
England. The floor has just been swept and the shutter
taken down from the one small window. The hour is
early, and customers have not yet begun to drop in. Out
of doors the rain is falling.
At a small table near the door, a feeble, white-haired
old man is making up some packages of books. As he
arranges them in a large basket, he stops now and then
as though disturbed by pain. He puts his hand to his
side; he coughs in a most distressing way; then he sits
down and rests himself, leaning his elbows upon the
"Samuel!" he calls.
In the farther corner of the room there is a young man
busily reading from a large book that is spread open
before him. He is a very odd-looking fellow, perhaps
eighteen years of age, but you would take him to be
older. He is large and awkward, with a great round
face, scarred and marked by a strange disease. His
eyesight must be poor, for, as he reads, he bends down
until his face is quite near the printed page.
 "Samuel!" again the old man calls.
But Samuel makes no reply. He is so deeply interested
in his book that he does not hear. The old man rests
himself a little longer and then finishes tying his
packages. He lifts the heavy basket and sets it on the
table. The exertion brings on another fit of coughing;
and when it is over he calls for the third time,
"What is it, father?" This time the call is heard.
"You know, Samuel," he says, "that to-morrow is market
day at Uttoxeter, and our stall must be attended to.
Some of our friends will be there to look at the new
books which they expect me to bring. One of us must go
down on the stage this morning and get everything in
readiness. But I hardly feel able for the journey. My
cough troubles me quite a little, and you see that it
is raining very hard."
"Yes, father; I am sorry," answers Samuel; and his face
is again bent over the book.
"I thought perhaps you would go down to the market, and
that I might stay here at the shop," says his father.
But Samuel does not hear. He is deep in the study of
some Latin classic.
The old man goes to the door and looks out. The rain is
still falling. He shivers, and buttons his coat.
 It is a twenty-mile ride to Uttoxeter. In five minutes
the stage will pass the door.
"Samuel, will you not go down to the market for me this
The old man is putting on his great coat.
reaching for his hat.
The basket is on his arm.
He casts a beseeching glance at his son, hoping that he
will relent at the last moment.
"Here comes the coach, Samuel;" and the old man is
choked by another fit of coughing.
Whether Samuel hears or not, I do not know. He is still
reading, and he makes no sign nor motion.
The stage comes rattling down the street.
The old man with his basket of books staggers out of
the door. The stage halts for a moment while he climbs
inside. Then the driver swings his whip, and all are
Samuel, in the shop, still bends over his book.
doors the rain is falling.
Just fifty years have passed, and again it is market
day at Uttoxeter.
The rain is falling in the streets. The people
 who have wares to sell huddle under the eaves and in
the stalls and booths that have roofs above them.
A chaise from Lichfield pulls up at the entrance to the
An old man alights. One would guess him to be seventy
years of age. He is large and not well-shaped. His face
is seamed and scarred, and he makes strange grimaces as
he clambers out of the chaise. He wheezes and puffs as
though afflicted with asthma. He walks with the aid of
a heavy stick.
With slow but ponderous strides he enters the market
place and looks around. He seems not to know that the
rain is falling.
He looks at the little stalls ranged along the walls of
the market place. Some have roofs over them and are the
centers of noisy trade. Others have fallen into disuse
and are empty.
The stranger halts before one of the latter. "Yes, this
is it," he says. He has a strange habit of talking
aloud to himself. "I remember it well. It was here that
my father, on certain market days, sold books to the
clergy of the county. The good men came from every
parish to see his wares and to hear him describe their
He turns abruptly around. "Yes, this is the place," he
 He stands quite still and upright, directly in front of
the little old stall. He takes off his hat and holds it
beneath his arm. His great walking stick has fallen
into the gutter. He bows his head and clasps his hands.
He does not seem to know that the rain is falling.
The clock in the tower above the market strikes eleven.
The passers-by stop and gaze at the stranger. The
market people peer at him from their booths and stalls.
Some laugh as the rain runs in streams down his scarred
old cheeks. Rain is it? Or can it be tears?
Boys hoot at him. Some of the ruder ones even hint at
throwing mud; but a sense of shame withholds them from
"The stranger has stood a whole hour in the market place."
"He is a poor lunatic. Let him alone," say the more
The rain falls upon his bare head and his broad
shoulders. He is drenched and chilled. But he stands
motionless and silent, looking neither to the right nor
to the left.
"Who is that old fool?" asks a thoughtless young man
who chances to be passing.
"Do you ask who he is?" answers a gentleman from
London. "Why, he is Dr. Samuel Johnson, the most famous
man in England. It was he who wrote Rasselas and
the Lives of the Poets
 and Irene and many another work which all men
are praising. It was he who made the great English
Dictionary, the most wonderful book of our times.
In London, the noblest lords and ladies take pleasure
in doing him honor. He is the literary lion of
"Then why does he come to Uttoxeter and stand thus in
the pouring rain?"
"I cannot tell you; but doubtless he has reasons for
doing so;" and the gentleman passes on.
At length there is a lull in the storm. The birds are
chirping among the housetops. The people wonder if the
rain is over, and venture out into the slippery street.
The clock in the tower above the market strikes twelve.
The renowned stranger has stood a whole hour motionless
in the market place. And again the rain is falling.
Slowly now he returns his hat to his head. He finds his
walking stick where it had fallen. He lifts his eyes
reverently for a moment, and then, with a lordly,
lumbering motion, walks down the street to meet the
chaise which is ready to return to Lichfield.
We follow him through the pattering rain to his native
"Why, Dr. Johnson!" exclaims his hostess;
 "we have missed you all day. And you are so wet and
chilled! Where have you been?"
"Madam," says the great man, "fifty years ago, this
very day, I tacitly refused to oblige or obey my
father. The thought of the pain which I must have
caused him has haunted me ever since. To do away the
sin of that hour, I this morning went in a chaise to
Uttoxeter and did do penance publicly before the stall
which my father had formerly used."
The great man bows his head upon his hands and sobs.
Out of doors the rain is falling.