Sunday, July 4, 2010


This is a work of fiction, a novel, with a difference. All of the people in the book are actual people from the pages of history. In every case, their story is recounted accurately.

Informing this novel’s chapters is a wonderful discovery, actual autobiographical material written by Cyrus Elder, a man whose life was more dramatic than most fiction. Long cherished among the keepsakes of his descendants, this 34-page handwritten autobiography has recently come to light. The family shared it with the author, who has expand upon it to tell the whole story of Cyrus’ life.

The book is reminiscent of E. L. Doctorow’s “Ragtime” in its interweaving of historic fact and “what may have been.” Cyrus Elder was among his many accomplishments, a twice-published poet. Some of his poetry is included in this book.

Subsequent chapters will be added on a regular basis. Become a Follower to be alerted to the posting of each. Your comments are welcome.

The Mountain of a Dream

Copyright © 2010, by the author.

One - 1833

June 16, 1833

It was three hours before dawn. The Elder household was in turmoil. The lamps had been lit, a fire was blazing on the hearth. Everyone moved about purposefully. The door to the street would open and then close again; voices whispered; something deemed necessary was searched for and found. Someone hurried, heavy footed down the hallway; a man, from the sound of the boots on the wide plank floors.

Magdelen Elder, as she took a pot of steaming tea, and poured it out into cups, making a rich mix of tea, cream and sugar to brace the other adults. Her daughter Anne Elder Pythian, young and as pretty as the Queen of Scots, with her red-gold hair drawn up into a knot at the nape of her neck, moved deftly, taking several of the hot mugs to the Elder brothers, the men and boys gathered in the sitting room. William, round faced and florid, stood by the fire staring into the flames, twiddling his waistcoat button nervously. Young Samuel, composed and steady, already taller than the rest at 16, and his little brother Joseph, sat on the floor, their long frames folded easily, their heads together, talking in that quiet way they had. They took the tea as their sister passed it round. The only brother not there was John Robinson, who had been sent off to Mercersburg Academy the past fall and was not yet home from his studies.

One brother looked more sheepish than the others. Clifford Elder, with his unruly red hair and boyish face, still looking down at the offending boots and smarting from his mother’s rebuke. The boots were his fault, the noise was his fault, all of this was his fault—again! He took a cup of the tea gratefully from his sister Anne, and then peered into the hallway.

“They have things well in hand upstairs,” intoned William, who always sounded as if he were going to preach a sermon—and a long one. The look on his face a mix of weariness and disdain. “Cliff; there is no need to get yourself all worked up about it. After all, if you are going to insist on making babies, you must be prepared for them to arrive. Compose yourself as a father-to-be ought.”

“I was thinking Rosanna,” said Clifford to his older brother, now, ostensibly the head of the family. William, with his fussy, pompous ways! Where did they come from? Certainly not from their father. Old Dr. Elder had been a proud and wise Presbyterian, with the Edinburgh polish, always correct. But never, never pompous. And their mother Magdelen, no matter how old she grew, she still was the young lassie of the Ennskillen hills. You could almost hear the heather in her voice and see the shimmer of the loch in her eyes. Clifford did his best to ignore William, and instead rubbed his hand through his unruly hair, making matters worse, not better. “I’ll just go and look in on them.” Clifford took himself down the hall toward the small anteroom that for the moment served as the birthing room. He stood there in the hallway for he knew not how long, thinking these things. There was a rustle behind him. Clifford sensed but not saw his sister in the hallway.

“If father were here…” Clifford said quietly, so that only his sister could hear.

“He’d let John take charge,” his sister answered, resting her hand on his shoulder for just a moment. “Why, no self-respecting doctor would deliver his own grandchild. Not if he didn’t have to. Not if there were someone else to do it. And John is a good doctor.”

“Aye, that he is; and a good man,” said Clifford. John Pythian had been Clifford’s boon companion of boyhood, lazy hours fishing and swimming in the Cassleman River, rollicking over the laurel highlands. Now, a popular physician, John had become his darling sister’s husband; they had been happily married for four years, and seemed more in love than ever.

Another whispered voice said, simply, “All will be well.” It was their mother, Magdelen, who had tiptoed to their side.

“Yes,” Anne replied, “Rosanna will be fine. She takes everything in life with a readiness and a sweetness that we all admire.”

“How true,” Magdelen turned back toward the kitchen, sensing it was time to check the progress of the hearty potato cakes. “And when it is time, all will be well.”

Clifford seemed to suddenly relax.

“Mother!” said Anne, with more than a twinkle in her voice, “if we were surrounded by fifty savages all threatening to scalp us, and not a gun in the house, she would still say, ‘All will be well’.”

Clifford simply smiled at his sister, and nodded his head. All would be well, for the Elders and for their Pennsylvania town of Somerset.

Somerset had known its wild days and altercations with the native population. Guns aimed at savages, however, were mostly a thing of the past. The days of the hunters and traders were gone. It was still in the memory of some, how old Harmon Husband had fled from North Carolina to this valley, back in 1771, to be one of the first permanent settlers. His big house still stood in the town, not far from their own home. But he was long in the grave, just a memory, as were the others who came with him and made a new settlement along the Cassleman River in the foothills of the Alleghenies. There were Wilsons, too, and their extended kin, who had come with Harmon Husband, all the way from Orange County, North Carolina. Those North Carolina transplants had been part of the rebellion—the first armed rising against the British in 1769. Oh, others might boast of the Boston Massacre or Sons of Liberty, and let them, but the ever-contentious Scots Presbyterians had started it all, and had kept it going and had made these United States free of their British oppressors.

Those first settlers had a difficult time. When they weren’t agitating and fighting against England; they were agitated by and had to fight against the wilderness and its people. When nearby Hannastown was destroyed by the natives, there was a general Indian scare. 1783 was a bad year. But that was before Clifford’s father had come to Somerset. In fact, the county itself had not been carved out of Bedford County until 1795; and the town was incorporated in 1804, only two years after Clifford had been born here. Some homesick fellow had named it for the shire of Somerset in England he’d left behind. The rest of the populace seemed, generally, to be glad to be living here and now, as the pleasant little town grew and the frontier shifted farther and farther westward into Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and beyond.

By 1833, the rugged Allegheny Mountains that had presented such a formidable barrier to the eighteenth century settlers had been tamed, more or less, along with the rest of the countryside. There were the old roads that Braddock and Forbes had hewn westward into Pittsburgh, much improved and in heavy use for commerce. The goods moved ponderously over the toll roads and the keepers of the quaint octagonal tollbooths kept track of it all. There was the Cassleman River, leading as it did into the Monongahela, and from there, down to Pittsburgh and the broad Ohio as far as the Mississippi, a highway of water all the way to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. And on April 4 of that year, the Reading Railroad was incorporated.

And so he came into the world, the baby that all the commotion was about. He came into the world in the same way as every child. As did those whose names ring down through history and those whose names time has forgotten. The boy was born, the excitement died down, the new uncles went home.

Later, when she felt able, Rosanna sat in the chair by the window, with the baby in her arms. He slept there, and once or twice Clifford moved quietly to her side, rested his hand tenderly on her shoulder, and peered down into the face of his newest son. As he stood there, his mother entered the room and went to the desk in the corner. It was the best piece of furniture, by far, in the room, a Chippendale slant top desk, of walnut with satinwood inlay and beautiful brass hardware. There were large, locking drawers below the desktop, and inside the desk, small
drawers, also with locks, and various pigeonholes, and several secret compartments. Magdelen paused as she sat down before it, thinking of her husband. The desk had been his, Clifford’s father’s, Dr. William Gore Elder’s.

William Gore Elder had been born in 1759 in County Leitrim, Ireland, one of that band of Scots Presbyterians who found a temporary home in Ireland but whose heart and soul remained Scottish to the core. A bright and sturdy lad, William Gore impressed upon his parents his desire to study medicine, which, matched by his ability, led to his being sent to the best school, graduating from the College of Medicine in Edinburgh. Eventually, Scotland could not hold him, nor could Ireland, and not long after the Revolution, he removed to Pennsylvania. Dr. Elder thus became the first physician to settle and serve in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, beginning his practice there in 1797.

It was there in Somerset that Magdelen had met William. She, too was Scots-Irish, they had come to Pennsylvania where her father, John Armstrong, Sr., became a successful and widely sought stonemason. Magdelen was one of many young ladies of Somerset who had noticed that Dr. Elder cut a fine figure as he made his rounds, and looked particularly handsome as he bent over a patient, his sandy hair glowing in the candlelight. One hot August day, when her own father had been ill, she had taken the doctor a cup of cool water from the spring. And when he took it from her hand; for an instant, their fingers had touched.

She could still feel the thrill it had given her these many years later. And the look of tenderness in his eyes as he took the cup and lifted it to his lips. Closer to her father’s age than her own, tall and fine-looking, with a presence that immediately instilled confidence, the doctor was, even so, a painfully shy man.

Yet with his patients, the shyness melted away and everyone said that Dr. Elder made people better just by the sight of him, the moment he walked into the room. The doctor had done well in his practice and one early spring day in 1800 he asked his friend John Armstrong to build him a house. They were standing on the bare lot the doctor had purchased, looking it over, when Dr. Elder gave Armstrong his ideas of what he wanted.

“No skimping, John; I need a place where a doctor can treat his patients and where a doctor can raise a family,” he told the stonemason. “It has to be sturdy and the rooms of good proportion. I want something that will last.”

“Oh, make no mistake, Will. I can give you a fine house that will last. It will stand long after your grandchildren are old and decrepit,” Armstrong answered, “but where are you going to get this family of yours—you, with no wife?”

“As for the wife…” Dr. Elder said, hesitantly.

John Armstrong looked at the man—nearly his contemporary—almost forty, and saw he was blushing like a schoolgirl. “Go on, man!” Armstrong said, “Finish what you started.”

Elder smiled uneasily, “You know where I am going, then, John?”

“How could I not, my friend, when I have seen you stand there unaware of everything else around you when she walks by? Not that I blame you, but then, I am not an uninterested bystander. You may be shy about speaking your mind, but the whole town knows what is on it.”

“Do they, then?” answered the doctor. “What are they all saying’, do you suppose?”

“I am not one to suppose; but only to encourage you to speak your piece. Speak up, Will; speak now. If not now, then when?”

“And you think, John, that I have reason to expect a favorable reply?” the doctor asked in all sincerity, with a look that betrayed all his emotions.

The stonemason laughed aloud, and heartily, in spite of the doctor’s look of pain and love mixed together. “Come on, Will!” he said, “The lass is pining away to hear what’s on your mind.”

“May I, then, my friend, ask you for permission to speak to your daughter Magdelen?”

“You may, but only if you do so before the sun sets today,” Armstrong answered. The doctor looked at him, puzzled. Armstrong explained, “If you hesitate any longer, you’ll work yourself into such a state that the words will never pass your lips!”

The doctor, whose shyness had nearly bested his longing, struggled to find the humor that made the stonemason so gleeful. He drew himself to his full six feet two inches and announced, “I’ll go then; right now, if you don’t mind.”

“Mind?” said Armstrong, “I’ve practically given you a good swift kick with my boots, old man. What more can I say? She is hoping and praying and there is no doubt in this father’s mind that she will say yes before you say two words of your speech. So, get you on your way, Will. I will follow along in a while. I have no doubt but that I will find two very happy people when I arrive at home.”

Magdelen was at home, as her father knew she would be. The girl—for she was only sixteen if truth were told—was in the yard, speaking with a neighbor, when she saw the doctor striding up the street.

“Oh, here comes that dear Dr. Elder,” Mrs. Parsons said, nodding in that direction and smiling slyly, as if she had not noticed the look in Magdelen’s eyes.

“Aye,” said the girl softly. “And without his bag.”

“Right you are,” replied Mrs. Parsons. “A good omen, my dear!”

“Good morning, ladies,” the doctor said, raising his hat to them both, “Mrs. Parsons. Miss Armstrong.”

“A fine day Dr. Elder,” said Mrs. Parsons with spirit.

“Indeed, ma’am, and promises finer,” the doctor answered.

There was a pause, and the little group fell silent.

The doctor toed the gravel with one of his long boots. Magdelen fiddled with her bonnet ribbon, and Mrs. Parsons, all smiles, looked from face to face as if she were about to witness some natural wonder, like a total eclipse of the sun.

“I have those books my father would be lending you,” Magdelen said, abruptly.

Dr. Elder, who had never heard of John Armstrong opening a book except books of house plans, paused almost too long before he understood Magdelen’s ruse, “I’d like to see them,” he said at last.

“Well, they are spread all over the table, you’ll have to pick out the ones you like; come and see,” she said. And when Mrs. Parsons seemed to move in the direction of the house, Magdelen quickly added, “Good day to you, then Mrs. P!”

So the two of them walked up to the door alone.

At the door, the doctor cleared his throat and said, “It wasn’t about the books that I came. Nor about borrowing.”

“No?” said Magdelen.

“Not at all,” Will answered, as they stepped into the front hall.

“What then?” asked Magdelen, as she closed the door.

“I came to speak,” said Will Elder, “about you and about me.” He looked earnestly into her eyes.

“And?” said Magdelen, with a beautiful openness to her face that seemed to draw Will closer.

“Will you marry me, Magdelen? Say you will. Say yes, and I will do all I can to make you happy.”
“You’ve done it already, dearest Will. Yes, of course, yes. I will be your bride.”

They kissed but only for an instant.

“Is that you Magdelen?” a voice called from the kitchen. “Who do you have with you, dear?”

“It’s Doctor Elder, Mother,” Magdelen replied.

“Indeed?” Mrs. Armstrong came from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron. “So it is, and it looks to me as if you have news, Will?”

“Yes, Ann,” he answered, “we are… that is to say… Magdelen and I…”

“The Good Lord be praised!” Ann Armstrong said, not waiting to hear the rest. She ran to her daughter and hugged and kissed her and then turning to Will, she stood on tiptoes and said, “It is about time, Will Elder!”

“That’s what John said, too,” Will replied, smiling at last a smile of relief and joy.

“Did he now?” said Ann. “You mean to say you too slugabouts have talked this over?”

“Well I couldn’t speak with Maggie without first speaking to John,” said Will.

“For a long time, Will, we weren’t sure you knew how to speak at all,” Ann Armstrong teased him. “But all’s well now.”

“Yes,” said Magdelen softly, “All will be well.”

* * * * *

It seemed only yesterday, Magdelen thought, as she took the old Bible from its place and opened it to the page where the first inscription appeared:

“On Sunday, May 8, 1800, in Somerset, Pennsylvania, Dr. William Gore Elder married Magdelen Armstrong, born in 1784 in Enniskillian, Fermanagh County, Ireland.”

Ah! What a day that had been, of worship and of celebration. People came from miles around—mostly relations and connections. The year before, Magdelen had served as the maid of honor and witnessed her dearest friend Elizabeth Tom’s marriage to Henry Liphart; of course, they were there that May Sunday to share in Magdelen and William’s nuptials. Will’s family, of course, were back in Ireland, but her family was prolific; they gathered round, along with the doctor’s many appreciative patients, who numbered the greater part of the population. The joyous throng made it a daylong remembered throughout the county.

Her Mother and Father had made the house a wedding present to the young couple. Her brother-in-law, blacksmith John Cox had forged all the hinges and fittings for the house himself, at his Somerset smithy. Her brother Joseph’s wife, the Quaker poet Elsie Strawn Armstrong—mother of eleven children, his wife had written a poem, which she then had worked in needlepoint. There it stood to this day, framed, over the desk. Magdelen read it through, and then looked down to the Bible, open to the family pages. How odd that a simple line of few
words, written there, could take her back all those years to all those treasured memories of her wedding day.

There, after her own wedding, were recorded the births of each of their children, the boys and Anne, written in her William’s fine, distinctive hand. The handwriting changed when she go to the sad words, “Dr. William Gore Elder departed this life, 1820, Somerset.” And then the marriage of Anne to John Pythian. And then the marriage of Clifford to Rosanna Benford.

She touched the page, lightly, and sighed. Then, Magdelen took the Bible from the desk and placed in her son Clifford’s hand. “Here, Cliff,” she said, “as is our tradition. Put this new lad’s name in its rightful place in the family Bible.”

Clifford nodded.

“Cliff, what have you decided to name him?” Rosanna asked.

“I think I should not be the one to do that, Rosie; why don’t you name the boy?”

She looked down at the new little one there in her arms. “I cannot find a name that suits him,” she said. “We’ll want to consult the Good Lord about it, Cliff.”

Clifford went to the desk, sat down, the Bible still in his hands. His wife and his mother watched him as he closed the book, and then let it fall open at will. It was a ritual they had seen before. Not with every child, but with some. He read the place silently for a moment. Then he sat back in his chair, rubbed a hand through his hair, and bent over and read the passage again. Then he turned to the women.

“Ah, I have found it at once. Listen! Here begins the passage,” said Clifford, clearing his throat, “Isaiah Chapter 45, verses one through three.” And then he read with his strong baritone voice:

“Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden; to subdue nations before him, and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron; and I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which called thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.”

Then, Clifford turned to the front of the Bible, to the family pages, and in the next line, where nothing had yet been recorded, he inscribed with the strokes of his pen these words: “Cyrus Elder, son of Clifford and Rosanna Benford Elder, born June 16, 1833, Somerset, Pennsylvania.”

“Cyrus Elder,” Rosanna said, turning the name over in her mind and looking down at the boy in her arms, “Cyrus Elder. I like it Cliff. It may be a big name for a small baby, but it’s a name a man can live with.”

“Aye, the name of a man and a king,” said Clifford. “And a man blessed by God.”

“What more could a man want of a name?” said Rosanna.

“Rest, Cyrus Elder; rest.” said Magdelen, “All will be well, with thee.”

* * * * *

1833 was a year of strange happenings. An earthquake shook the entire region in September. About the same time, there occurred the great 1833 Somerset fire. It had lasting implications for the Elder family. It was the first of three great fires that destroyed much of Somerset. The conflagration began, as best anyone could tell, in a blacksmith shop and spread rapidly throughout the business section of the town. As it raged, the fire consumed every house that stood between Edgewood Avenue and the Diamond. The buildings that were a total loss included six stables, nine businesses, and ten shops. More than thirty families were left homeless. The damage was estimated to be in excess of $80,000. Miraculously, no one was injured; no one was killed.

But the Elder family’s wealth was consumed by the fire, having consisted chiefly of real estate. Their pride, too, was damaged, since the blacksmith shop in which the fire was said to have begun was the shop of Magdelen’s brother-in-law, John Cox.

* * * * *
November 13, 1833

The family sold its homes and farmland in the neighborhood of Somerset, and, having disposed of what stock and stuff they could not take with them, on the 13th of November, 1833, they were ready to start upon the journey for their new home in the West. On the evening of the twelfth, many of their dear friends came to bid them adieu, and they remained until a very late hour, when, after a prayer, the most of them returned to their homes, a few remaining to see them off in the morning. They had very little rest that night. Sometime before three o’clock in the morning, they were all awakened by Clifford who roused them from their slumbers, to make preparation for an early start.

Rosanna, looking out of the window, said, “It is almost broad daylight, Cliff; you must have the time all wrong!”

"That cannot be," Clifford answered, "For it is scarcely three o’clock."

"I can’t help what the clock says," replied Rosanna, "my eyes cannot deceive me. It is almost broad daylight. Look for yourself!"

After this little discussion, the Clifford went to the door. There was not a cloud in the heavens. But by a glance, everything was made clear.

“Come to the door, Rosie; it is as if the world is coming to an end!"

She leapt to the door and what she saw filled her with awe.

"The whole heavens are on fire! All the stars are falling!"

Rosanna stood there, wrapped in a quilt, with the baby Cyrus in her arms. He lay softly there, awake, with his tiny eyes turned toward the uncannily bright sky. Rosanna, too, looked upward, where it appeared as if every star had left its moorings, and was drifting rapidly in a westerly direction, leaving behind a track of light which remained visible for several seconds. Some of those wandering stars seemed as large as the full moon, or nearly so.
And in some cases they appeared to dash at a rapid rate across the general course of the main body of meteors, leaving in their track a bluish light, which gathered into a thin cloud, not unlike a puff of smoke from a tobacco-pipe. Some of the meteors were so bright that they were visible for some time after day had fairly dawned. Imagine large snowflakes drifting over your head, so near you that you can distinguish them, one from the other, and yet so thick in the air as to almost obscure the sky; then imagine each snowflake to be a meteor, leaving behind it a tail like a little comet; these meteors of all sizes, from that of a drop of water to that of a great star, having the size of the full moon in appearance: and you may then have some faint idea of this
wonderful scene.

With the dawn, the family set out on their journey, first by road and then by river. Their belongings loaded onto a flatboat, with a captain named John McCalmont Wilson, assisted by his young son Joseph. They pushed off from shore and were soon on their way down-river, following the current, steered deftly through the shallows and snags by Wilson, who was an old river hand. Most of the talk that day was about the meteor shower.

In that day, there was not much knowledge among the masses upon the subject of meteorology. No tome in a thousand could give any rational account of this wonderful phenomenon; so it will not appear strange that there was widespread alarm at this "star-shooting," so called.

“It seems as if the Judgment Day is at hand,” said Wilson, thoughtfully. “At home some of the family they fell on their knees in penitence, confessing all the sins of their past lives, and calling upon God to have mercy.”

“Did you?” asked Rosanna, trying to picture the captain praying for God’s mercy.
“Naw,” said Wilson, “I had too much to do to be bothered one way or t’other.”

On the remainder of their journey the Elder family heard little talked of but the "falling of the stars." All sorts of conjectures were made by all sorts of people—people on the boat, people at the various stopping places—excepting there were but few, if any, wise conjectures, and very few wise people to make them along the way they traveled. Not a few thought it an evidence of God’s displeasure.

“Fearful calamities will probably speedily follow,” said one old crone.

There were those who believed the Judgment Day was near at hand, and undertook to prove out of the Scriptures that this was one of the signs of the coming of the Son of Man. One old lady was emphatic in the statement that it was certainly a "token of some sign." Though for the life of them Clifford and Rosanna could not imagine what that sign might be. Of course, with the earthquake of September still fresh in their minds, any other odd portent seemed to point to more than just a natural explanation.

Statements made even by good-meaning people were often quite erroneous. Some men declared that they saw great balls of fire fall into the water, and heard the sizzling noise, like that made when a red-hot iron is thrown into a slake-tub. Others thought they saw these great balls of
fire bursting among the treetops. The Elders had seen none of that. And they did not hesitate to say so.

As they followed the Monongahela they came to Pittsburgh, where the procession paused to take on supplies and a few more travelers. Even in the city, there were people who were in a high state of excitement over the meteor shower. They had more wild tales and wilder explanations, their testimony must be taken with many grains of allowance. Some professed religion under the influence of these lights. This was met by approval by many. For in that day, a sinner who could say he had seen a light, whether he had heard a voice or not, furnished a ready passport into almost any church in the land.

“Do you think it was God telling us something?” Rosanna asked one night, as she and Clifford clung together in their narrow berth.

“I suppose there may be something in it,” Clifford answered. “God can change a man with meteors, like as not as well as with a sermon.”

But these professions of faith, like the appearance of the meteors themselves, seemed to be of very short duration. One passenger who said he had left off pastoring a church and was on his way to take up an appointment as Post Master in Paducah agreed, saying, “I have no faith in
any repentance grounded upon objects of sense. The gospel only is the power of God unto salvation. Love to God and hatred for sin, only can work a permanent change in the life of a man; and nothing short of this can be trusted as permanent in its effects.”

Clifford took it at face value, and said, “Wasn’t it grand?”

And as she thought about it, it was grand. Those westward wandering stars made Rosanna think of their own wandering. It seemed a personal omen of their pilgrimage. Was it a good or a bad omen? She wondered. While the rocking of the boat aided her slumbers, Rosanna seemed to hear in the lapping of the river against the boat the voice of her mother-in-law saying, “All will be well.”


Many years previous to this time, a sister of Cyrus’ Grandmother Elder had married David Marple, who resided in Licking County, Ohio. He was a prosperous farmer, owning a number of fine improved farms, and also conducting a distillery.

This relationship had turned Cyrus’ father’s thoughts toward Ohio after he had been burned out in Somerset. So he migrated there, to Ohio, when Cyrus was little more than a year old, and settled in the town of Utica, Licking County, about four miles from the residence of his Uncle Marple.

He built a house and shop in which he carried on the business of tin and coppersmith. He had not learned this trade, but took it up, and with the help of journeymen, carried it on with some success.

Cyrus’ early recollections of this region were very vivid, as Cyrus’ boyhood to the age of thirteen years was spent in this little village and along the banks of the Licking Creek, which was the resort for fishing, swimming, and. skating.

The village had but three or four hundred inhabitants, and. as it was situated, in a very rich agricultural region, one would suppose that life would, be easy, but this was not the case. Of course, being far from markets, all food products were very cheap, and were always very plentiful, eggs selling, when there was a sale for them, at three cents a dozen, chickens at a fip, or six and one quarter cents apiece, pork at a cent and a half a pound, and other things in like proportion.

There were, however, cases of distressing poverty in the village, and families to whom Cyrus carried food from his family’s own table.

There were in the village four churches, the Methodist, and Presbyterian, Covenanter, and. Episcopalian. The Episcopalian congregation was the smallest, and the Methodist was the largest. The Covenanter church was made up largely of farmers, who drove to church on Sunday morning with their families, bringing along their dinner and horse feed. They would have a meeting in the forenoon of Sunday, and then, after eating their picnic dinner, they would have another long session in the afternoon. Cyrus attended this church when still a very little fellow, how dreadfully tired he became, standing up during the long prayer.

Cyrus’ parents were Methodists, and Cyrus’ father’s house was the stopping place for the traveling Methodist ministers, so that it happened that they were rarely without a ministerial guest. There would arrive the circuit rider, who came in often out of the night and storm, with his leggings or galligaskins, and his saddle bags, for all his traveling was done on horseback.

These men were interesting and indeed heroic figures to the boy.

Cyrus’ father had a small library of standard works, and Cyrus read Rollins’ Ancient History, Pilgrim’s Progress, Fox’s Book of Martyrs, and the Bible. Other works, such as Clark’s Commentaries, were too heavy for Cyrus’ childish taste. He read early for his years, reading books that were too heavy for him to hold, so that book and boy were both down on the floor. There were at the time no children’s books and no children’s newspapers, and as a consequence children read much more solid works than they do now. Cyrus read through Paradise Lost, when about eight years of age.

The life of a growing boy, with a brother old enough to be his companion in this comparatively new country of Central Ohio, was very pleasant. Both dress and manners were primitive, the summer costume consisting merely of a pair of trousers and a shirts.

The Licking Creek, which flowed past the village, was full of a great variety of fish, and fishing with a hook and line for catfish, chub, silvers ides, sunfish, suckers, etc., was a great enjoyment for the youth. The hills around the village and in the country were largely clad with the primitive forests, and these woods were filled with wild fruit, and there was a great plentifulness of game, especially squirrels.

Cyrus would go out with hunting parties. It was a pretty difficult sort of problem to manage carrying the game. When Cyrus would be loaded up with a string of grey squirrels, he generally wished that he was back at home. All the hunting was done with rifles, not shotguns. It was essential that a squirrel should be shot through the head, and if it was not, it was no use taking it home, for the women would not cook it.

When visiting Uncle Marple’s farm, if the women folk wanted chicken to cook, they did not chase the chickens around and catch them, but one of the boys took his rifle and shot their heads off. This farm was a very interesting place; and. Cyrus’ father often took the family there on a visit. There was one very long hill where he always got out of the wagon and walked to relieve the horse, and on one occasion when Cyrus’ younger brother Virgil and Cyrus were going to Uncle Marple’s, riding double on a big horse bareback, they dismounted when they came to this hill and very tenderly led the horse to the top, where they had great difficulty in getting on again, but accomplished it by the aid of a stake and rider fence.

The farm-house was very liberal in size, and it had great fireplaces in its rooms, where wood was burned, and the slate hearths being useful for the roasting of apples. The bread was baked in an out-door oven in great loaves. It was not unusual to find bits of the charred coal, used in the heating of the ovens, sticking in the bottom crust of the loaf. The distillery was an interesting place: the power needed in its operation was furnished by a treadmill operated by an ox, and there were great droves of hogs that were fattened upon the offal of the distillery. It did not have the approval of Cyrus’ father, who was a total abstainer, and a very earnest advocate of temperance.

As a very small boy, Cyrus was sent along to attend select school for girls, the only one in the area. Afterwards he attended some sessions of the public school in Utica. While spending a year of Cyrus’ boyhood in Somerset, Pennsylvania, Cyrus attended a public school there, and after Cyrus’ return home to Utica, Cyrus was for a year or more in a select school. There, he had instruction in reading, writing, and mental arithmetic, grammar, and geography, but Cyrus’ schooling ended when he was but thirteen years of age.

The town of Utica was situated in a tract of country that was ravaged by consumption. When Cyrus lived there, there was always two or three people dying of consumption in the little village. Cyrus’ father contracted the disease, and died of it in 1843. He was buried in the Methodist graveyard near Licking creek, the grave being marked by a stone which is still standing. He had been man of singularly kindly nature and exceedingly benevolent, and part of his ancestral estate that was not lost in the Somerset fire was mainly expended in charities and church work, so that at his death he left no estate other than his village home. Cyrus was the oldest of seven children, one of whom, Cyrus’ sister Mary, was a posthumous child.

* * * * *

A number of months, perhaps a year after the death of Cyrus’ father, Cyrus’ Grandfather Benford drove from Somerset, Pennsylvania, out to Utica, with a carriage and pair of horses, and moved the whole family to Somerset.
This journey was made by comparatively short stages, their stopping places being always at some farmhouse in the country. On arriving in Somerset, Cyrus was placed with an uncle, Elias Benford, who had a farm and country store, and a saddler shop at Snydersville, a little place four miles from Somerset, where Cyrus remained for a year or more, working on the farm and tending store.
Cyrus’ Uncle Cyrus Benford was a merchant in the town of Somerset, who went twice a year to Philadelphia to buy goods: he dealt there with the jobbing dry goods house of Bunn, Regel & Company, and he interested the head of this firm, Mr. Solomon N. Bunn, in Cyrus’ case, inducing him to employ him in the business.
Cyrus learned that Mr. Bunn would probably take him, and that he was expected on a business visit to Somerset. One day Cyrus was standing in the store door, dressed in his usual costume of trousers and shirt, and Cyrus saw a horse and buggy, driven from the direction of Somerset, come up to the store and stop, and the driver, looking him over, said he wanted to see a boy named Cyrus Elder.

“That is my name, sir,” Cyrus told him.

The man adjusted his glasses and looked him over more carefully, and appeared at a loss. Cyrus was also quite at a loss.

The man then asked him for a specimen of his handwriting. Cyrus went to the desk and wrote off something, handing it to him. He looked at it and made no remark.

Cyrus knew that his penmanship was not good; in fact, it was very bad. Without saying anything further the man drove off in the direction of Stoyestown.

Cyrus heard nothing further in the matter for some months, when he was given notice that he would be taken on in Philadelphia, and was to make the journey there under the convoy of his Aunt Sarah Elder, who, with her daughter Jessie, had been visiting Grandmother Elder at Indian Creek.

This journey was accordingly made, and Cyrus arrived in Philadelphia in the fall of 1848, and was taken as a boy of all-work by the firm of Bunn, Regel & Company, whose place of business was then in an old building at the corner of Third and Cherry Streets. Cyrus entered the business upon a contract to work for three years for his board and clothing.

This contract was honestly carried out by the firm. During those three years, when Cyrus got board and clothing, they never gave him a penny. Cyrus did not, during that time, have any spending money, except one dollar that was sent to him from home. Of course, Cyrus would have liked to have had some things that other boys enjoyed, as for instance, a pair of skates, but really he had no sense of privation, no envious feeling for other boys who were better placed, and certainly Cyrus was not socially at any disadvantage whatever.

Cyrus’ boy and girl friends were all of well-to-do families, indeed what might be called rich for that day, and it never appeared to make any difference in any way. Cyrus was socially as much regarded as they were, and was really leader in all their youthful occupations and ad ventures.
In those days, there was no one-price system in the mercantile business, neither wholesale nor retail. In the retail business there was an asking price and a selling price. Nobody paid the price that was marked or asked, and shopping consisted in bargaining down the price.

As the business was then conducted, each salesman had his customers of whom he kept track, and when they arrived in the city, he met them promptly, charged himself with their amusement, and brought them to the store, where he sold them personally the line of goods they required. These sales were made by taking the customer from room to room, and from one department to another, the articles selected being placed in a bin or receptacle, marked with the customer’s name. The salesmen and members of the firm were busy with this work all day during the season, at night the salesmen and boys who assisted gathered together the customer’s goods and sent them by the hatchway in large crates down to the basement, where there were long tables provided with desks for the entry clerks. Each customer’s goods would be arranged here, on a table or tables, and then would be charged by the salesmen, calling off each article for entry by the clerk, this being verified by calling back, sometimes to the member of the firm; the salesmen, with the assistance of the boys, packing the goods in pine boxes, there being a large standard size box known as the “W” box.

The boxes were nailed up and marked for shipment with the customer’s name and residence of the purchaser. This sort of work often lasted beyond midnight, sometimes as late as two o’clock in the morning. Of course Cyrus was in the different branches of this work and had the longest hours. In fact, Cyrus sometimes carried the mail to the post-office, which was then in the Old Exchange Building on Dock Street, after the store had been closed and locked.

In the seven years which Cyrus spent in the city and in this business, Cyrus had, from time to time, experience in every department of the business, from errand boy to salesman. Cyrus was, during pretty much the whole time, in charge of the banking business, and daily the cashier would give to him the currency that had been paid in, together with a memorandum of the notes of the firm falling due that day.

Cyrus would take the currency to a broker on Third Street, and exchange it with him for bankable funds, he deducting a discount ranging from a quarter of one percent to five percent; depositing this money, and, having checks to meet the firm’s notes falling due, Cyrus drew the money upon each of the checks, and took it to the bank that held the note of the firm which was to be paid.

This is the business in which Cyrus was employed in the year 1848, and in which Cyrus continued until 1855. Removal to Philadelphia opened an entirely new chapter in Cyrus’ history.
Cyrus was not very large but was very hearty and was seldom sick, He had but a very defective education, though he was fond of reading and had naturally good taste in literature. Cyrus had always been very fond of poetry, and even at this early age Cyrus wrote verse that was accepted and published.

Having been brought up in a Methodist family, Cyrus was a firm believer in the essential truths of the Christian religion, though Cyrus’ faith was not at all Orthodox. Take it all in all, the boy was rather poorly equipped for the struggle of life in a large city. He was fortunate in having at all time the respect of Cyrus’ employers, and Cyrus was also fortunate in practically making his home with his Uncle, Dr. Elder and Dr. Pythian. While living in Philadelphia Cyrus was part of these families.

* * * * *

Philadelphia (1848-1855)

From 1848 until 1855, the City of Brotherly Love would be his home.

One evening as they were seated round the hearth, Cyrus spied an article in the newspaper that caught his imagination.
“Look at this,” said Cyrus, pointing to a notice in the “Inquirer.” “Barnum Offers Prize of $200” the headline stated. In anticipation of Jenny Lind’s American Tour, impresario Phineas T. Barnum offered a prize of two hundred dollars for the best ode, to be set to music and sung by
her at her first concert. Its topic was to be, "Greeting to America."
“You ought to write something, Cyrus,” his cousin Johnny Pythian said. “I’d wager you would win the prize.”
“I might just do that,” Cyrus answered. “I wonder what I would want to say, if I were a famous singer, greeting America for the first time?”

“How about, ‘Come and listen; pay a lot’?” Johnny teased.
“Oh, that would be sure to win the two hundred,” Cyrus answered, ironically. “And wouldn’t Miss Lind sound so sublime singing about the ticket sales?”
“Wouldn’t she just?” Johnny continued. “I can hear the chorus: ‘Dollars, dollars waft to me; whilst I venture cross the sea!’”

“I think you should be the one to compose that ode,” said Cyrus, wryly, “Obviously you have more of a feeling for the delicacies of the situation than I have. Perhaps you can find something that rhymes with nickels and dimes?”

“Why bother with small change when there are greenbacks to be had!” answered Johnny gleefully.

“I think you fellows are being much too crass,” Aunt Anne said, “from all I have read, I am sure that Miss Lind would never agree to such a thing. Her disposition is widely reported to be as sweet as her voice. She has given up the theatre because of its low associations and will only sing in oratorios or concerts that ennoble men’s minds. I believe she comes to America to give us joy, not to give herself riches.”

“You’re entirely correct, Aunt Anne,” Cyrus said. “And we will stop our jesting. Even so, I may try my hand at a real tribute to her, in verse.”

“You should, Cy,” Mrs. Pythian answered. “Even if it doesn’t win, I am sure it will be lovely.”
So it was that in-between his work and his studies, Cyrus set aside time to scratch some lines on paper. It was not easy. So many wonderful things had been written about Mademoiselle Lind already. He had to put all of those ideas out of his mind in order to find new words to say.
Nothing about flutes. Everyone compared her voice to a flute. But Cyrus thought flutes a bit too jarring in their higher registers. Were he a soprano he would not want to be likened to a flute. A clarinet, perhaps. But what in the word rhymed with clarinet? No use asking Johnny, he
would probably say, ‘Win the bet.’ No, this, Cyrus had to do solitarily.

So, when he had time alone, to think, Cyrus began to picture himself a stranger on a strange shore. What would Miss Lind see, and say? More importantly, what might she feel? After much thought along these lines, Cyrus completed his poem:

Greetings to America!
By Cyrus Elder

To stand upon the ocean’s shore,
and mark the crossing of the sea
is thrilling; but the wonders, more,
are greetings that you give to me!

For you have held me in your heart;
You say the song I sing is fine,
You hear my blend of skill and art,
And welcome me with care divine.

America! With open arms,
You bid me greet you with my song.
Here I behold your freedom’s charms;
and your embrace, my joys prolong!

When songs are done, faint the refrains,
of art and skill that we employ,
These vanish too, but what remains,
Are echoes of unending joy!

Cyrus put the poem away, carefully, in his desk and resolved to leave it there unread for three days. He felt certain that if there were any flaws in it, he would see them immediately, after he had put the details of the composition out of his mind for a period of time. So for the next three days, he tried to forget what he had written. Instead, he concentrated on his studies and by prodigious effort, kept from his thoughts the rhymes for Mademoiselle Lind.
When the three days were over, he opened the drawer with eager anticipation. He read the poem through, only once. And then said to himself, “Why take any further pains? I like it. Whether the luminaries who make the selection approve of it or not.” So he copied it out without his name and placed it with the other requirements in an envelope and sent it off to the offices of
Mr. Phineas T. Barnum, with a wish and a prayer.

The newspapers kept the competition in everyone’s mind. It was reported that in response to Mr. Barnum’s search for a new ode, several hundred poems were sent in for consideration. Several hundred! The thought struck Cyrus like a blow to the stomach. Nothing more was said directly—the competition was after all to occur in secret and the verses to be judged by a panel of worthies—but it was intimated that such notables as Stephen Collins Foster had condescended to submit verses for consideration. Cyrus, although pleased with his own creation, felt his heart sink when he saw the name of the nation’s leading songwriter among his competitors.

After the announced closing of the competition, Barnum and his worthy judges gathered at his New York office to sift through the submissions and select the winning entry. Barnum had prevailed upon a clergyman, a newspaper editor and a fashionable society hostess to help in the
daunting task; he set the tone of the judging by urging them to look not only for tenderness of expression but also marketability.

“After all,” said Barnum, “Jenny Lind has caught the imagination of the world—there are Jenny Lind beds and Jenny Lind bonnets, Jenny Lind hatpins and Jenny Lind toothpowder. Why shouldn’t her new American song be just as much a sensation as these?”

The entries were mostly pretty poor fare; many did not even rhyme or follow a recognizable meter. Barnum ruled many of these out immediately, “I would not ask the washerwoman to sing them, let alone the world’s greatest soprano! They are fluff and stuff.”

The other judges agreed with Barnum, and so the pile of submissions was whittled down, like a sequoia destined for a toothpick. Finally, a dozen of the submissions were judged by one and all to be very good. These entries were narrowed down to three fine works, one by one they were read and reread until the judges were weary from the mental concentration needed to select the winner.
After a great deal of hard work in reading and considering them, the Prize Committee selected as the best the one—as it turned out once the author’s names were known—offered by the unconventional and peripatetic traveler writer, Bayard Taylor. It was duly set to music by Jules Benedict, and was marked for its debut at the New York concert of Miss Lind.

The poem’s author was a wildly popular, if notably eccentric travel writer, who affected the flamboyant attire of the exotic lands he visited once he returned to civilized society. It was not unusual to see Bayard Taylor bedecked as a glamorous Arab pasha or in the gleaming silks of a Chinese mandarin, making his sportive way about New York. Heads turned first to his gaudy costumes and then to the colorful output of his pen.

By 1850, Taylor had already produced a succession of popular chronicles of his journeys, including many articles for “The Saturday Evening Post” and a travel journal, “Views Afoot,” which he had brought out in 1848. Whatever he wrote was exotic and redolent of mysterious places. After he went West for the “Tribune” to cover the 1849 Gold Rush, Taylor brought out his book “Eldorado” to tell of the wonders to be had in California, the popularity of his book adding to the phenomenal growth of that region. His trips to the Middle East, India, China, and Japan were ahead of him in 1850, and the prize money would come in handy to help fund his next adventure. Also ahead of him were the resulting records of his globetrotting, including The Lands of the Saracen; or, Pictures of Palestine, Asia Minor, Sicily, and Spain (1855), as well as a popular translation of the Russian folk tale, Beauty and the Beast. So, too, a few years to the future, was the painting of Taylor by his friend, artist Thomas Hicks. In the painting, Taylor is swathed in clothing he acquired in Egypt. He is seen posed under an open archway, on colorful cushions, along with Achmet, his manservant on his Middle East travels, with the ancient city of Damascus in the background. Heady stuff for a poet from Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, as painted by a Quaker artist.

A second submission that the Prize Committee felt nearly as laudatory fell somehow into the hands of the press and was reproduced for those eager for any news of the competition, it having been written by the illustrious Mrs. Lydia H. Sigourney of Hartford, Connecticut. Mrs. Sigourney was somewhat the senior of Bayard, having been born in the waning days of the Eighteenth Century. Her “Letter to Mothers” (1838) a paean to motherhood combing sentiment and practicality, helped usher in the Victorian era’s adulation of children. The redoubtable Mrs. Sigourney was a sometime contributor to the Philadelphia journal edited by fellow poet Edgar Allen Poe. Celebrated for her poem “Washington’s Tomb: An Ode to the Memory of Washington” (1837) and “Pocahontas and other Poems” (1841); Mrs. Sigourney was at her best when expressing the heart and mind of the woman of her era. Although its title reflected a healthy dose of poetic license for a long-in-the-tooth author of fifty-five, her “The Young Ladies’ Offering, or Gems of Prose and Poetry” enjoyed brisk sales the year before the Lind competition.

The selection of Bayard Taylor’s poem met with general public satisfaction, although a few of the disappointed competitors complained publicly and offered their work for publication as proof of the Prize Committee’s incompetence. No matter, Taylor was the winner and he received his two hundred dollars with considerable aplomb. As he accepted the “Greeting to America” prize, the ostentatious author, never at a loss for words, intoned in a measured manner, “Fame is what you have taken, character is what you give. When to this truth you awaken, then you begin to live!”

Upon hearing this, showman P. T. Barnum, no shrinking violet himself when it came to milking the publicity of any given occasion, felt that he had nearly met his match.
Cyrus, who was quite familiar with the output of both Bayard Taylor and Mrs. Sigourney, felt gratified to receive a kind letter from the secretary of the prize committee stating that his poem had reached the final phase of the judging and in the opinion of some, could have served well as the winning selection. The combination of judges had placed it “third” after the words of Mr. Taylor and Mrs. Sigourney. Cyrus said nothing of the competition, or his contribution to it, feeling that any discussion before, during or after might unnerve him unnecessarily.

Mademoiselle Jenny Lind sailed for America on Wednesday morning, August 21, 1850, onboard the steamship “Atlantic”. On her American tour, the celebrated soprano was accompanied by her conductor, Jules Benedict and Signor Belletti, the Italian baritone. With Miss Lind as well were Mr. Wilton, her two cousins, and three or four servants. She also brought along with her a piano for her use. Mr. Barnum had engaged the necessary accommodations for the company on the steamship Atlantic, and every aspect of their journey, from their departure to their arrival in New York was reported in great detail. In the United States, Jenny Lind’s arrival was as anticipated as a royal visit.

The Philadelphia newspapers told their readers how, on Sunday, September 1st. just before noon, the “Atlantic” was sighted in New York harbor; how Mr. Barnum then went out to the arriving steamer by launch, and met Miss Lind for the first time, there on the deck; how, when they had greeted each other and shared a few pleasantries, Miss Lind inquired of Mr. Barnum when and where he had heard her sing.

Cyrus read the charming details of their ensuing conversation along with the rest of America.

"I never had the pleasure of seeing you before in my life," Barnum told Miss Lind.

"How is it possible that you dared risk so much money on a person whom you never heard sing?" she asked in great surprise.

"I risked it," answered Barnum, "on your reputation, which in musical matters I would much rather trust than my own judgment."

“Isn’t that grand?” Cyrus said, as he read the account aloud to the Pythians.

“Yes,” agreed the doctor, “I believe we should make plans to hear Miss Lind when she comes to our city.”

Cyrus thought it a wonderful plan and kept the idea before the family as the great day approached. But first she sang in New York, exceeding all expectations of ticket sales and critical acclaim. By this time, the seats for her Philadelphia concert were hard to come by.

The shop-keepers of every city she visited showered their attentions upon Jenny Lind, gift upon gift was sent to her seeking only her acceptance and her autograph acknowledgment. Cunning new styles of everything from gloves to gowns appeared in the stores and were named in her honor.

Chairs, carriages, beds and pianos were all dubbed “Jenny Lind”. A veritable Niagara of songs were brought out in her honor, and reams of poems dedicated to her. The public never tired of her doings, and bought anything that bore her name. Barnum himself was so pleased with her popular success that he changed his financial agreement in her favor, and she, in turn, assured him that she would sing for him whenever, wherever he requested. Moreover, she vowed to donate her extra income to a variety of American charities, further endearing herself to the public.

In Philadelphia at last, and with Cyrus and his Pythian relations ensconced in the crowd at the Music Fund Hall, the Swedish Nightingale appeared to wild enthusiasm. In a moment of breathless expectation, Jenny Lind, clad in a white gown that matched the sincerity of her face, came forward through the orchestra. Her conductor Mr. Jules Benedict led her towards the footlights, as the entire audience rose to their feet and welcomed her with cheers and by waving thousands of hats and handkerchiefs. She opened with "Casta Diva," poised and lovely; her voice and presence creating a serenity in the hall as other-worldly as it was remarkable.
The audience was so completely carried away by their feelings, that the conclusion of the aria was drenched by a wonderful hurricane of applause. At the close of the concert Miss Lind was called for three times, singing encores of the “Swedish Herdsman’s Song” and the National Prize Song by Bayard Taylor, before the throng could be contented. Taylor, who was in the box to the right, dressed as an exceptionally well-tailored Swedish Herdsman for the occasion, stood and shared in the cheers for his work.
Then they called enthusiastically for "Barnum," and he "grudgingly" responded to their demand. He came forward with some theatrical posturing and hushed the crowd sufficiently, then said. 'My friends,' said he, 'you have often heard it asked, 'Where's Barnum?" Amid the cheers and laughter which followed, the clever showman could be heard quipping, “Henceforth, you may say, 'Barnum's nowhere!”

It was a splendid ending to a brilliant evening. Cyrus laughed and cheered along with the rest of the audience. Johnny Pythian clapped him on the back repeatedly and said, “You were right, Cy; she’s a gem!”

Cyrus’ girl cousins trembled with excitement. Dr. Pythian nodded and waved affectionately toward the diva in the spotlight, as if Miss Lind were his dearest friend in all the world. Aunt Annie, in her new Jenny Lind bonnet, smiled and smiled. They were caught up in the moment and so, it was rather astonishing to them all that a small envelope was handed to Cyrus by an usher, as the echoes of the crowd’s approval still rang in their ears.

Cyrus opened it quickly.

“Maestro Jules Benedict” the engraved card read. Penciled on the card was this notation, “The pleasure of your company is requested following the performance in Dressing Room A.” What could it mean?

“Is there a reply?” asked the usher, correctly.
“Yes,” said Cyrus, “please tell Maestro Benedict yes.”

“Very good, sir,” answered the usher. “In that case, if you would, please follow me? At once, before the crowd begins to leave the theatre.”

The little party followed the usher through a maze of passages, stairways and turnings, until they found themselves in the vast nether reaches of the theatre, and brought through a door which opened into a room of considerable size, furnished as a large salon, with divans and chairs, brocaded draperies and a rosewood piano. In the room were masses of flowers at the center of which they found themselves face to face with Maestro Benedict and Signor Belletti.

“Ah, you are here, splendid, splendid!” said Benedict, introducing himself and Signor Belletti. "We have a small surprise in store for you but first, please, come and sit down and have some champagne.”

Champagne? Flowers? Famous musicians? Cyrus felt it must all be a dream. On a large table there appeared a dozen crystal glasses and a silver bucket filled with ice and several bottles, which Maestro Benedict himself opened and poured with a flourish. As he passed the glasses round (here, Dr. Pythian nodded his approval and whispered to the girls “special occasion”) a soft rustling sound was heard and before they realized what was happening, into the room from some heretofore unnoticed anteroom came Miss Lind.

“Jenny, these are the Pythians, and of course, Mr. Cyrus Elder,” said Benedict warmly. Then, without hesitation, Jenny Lind crossed the room, extending her hand to Cyrus.

“Mr. Elder,” she said softly, “this is a moment I have long anticipated. How glad I am to see that you are just as young and charming as I had hoped.”

Cyrus, showing remarkable control under the circumstances, said, “Miss Lind, I never dreamed of this!”

“I don’t see why not, Mr. Elder,” said the soprano with a smile, “your words have proceeded you, and their kind introduction has made the dream a reality.”

“Your words?” asked Aunt Annie, Uncle John, the girls and Johnny all at once.

“Ah, I see you are a man of humility as well as talent,” Jenny Lind observed. “Do you mean to say you have not told your family about your poem ‘Greeting from America’?”

Cyrus shook his head solemnly.

“A pity. Well, no matter! They shall hear it now!” Miss Lind replied. “Jules?”

Maestro Benedict nodded and sat down at the piano. “Mr. Elder,” he said, “I happened to see a copy of your words. Even though they were not chosen by the Prize Committee, both Miss Lind and I felt that they were without a doubt the most splendid sentiments and worthy of a soft, lilting air. And so, ladies and gentlemen, if you will please indulge us, Miss Lind, Signor Belletti and I would like to offer you, for the very first time, our interpretation of this duet for soprano and baritone, by Mssrs. Elder and Benedict, which we like to call, “To Stand Upon the Ocean’s Shore.”

Then, Maestro Benedict placed his hands upon the keys, Miss Lind took her place at its side, and Signor Belletti took one of her hands in his own. The music began, and it was as if a wisp of a breeze had flown into the room, the piano’s notes wafting to them from afar. The sound intensified. Miss Lind smiled at Cyrus, and began with a sustained, ethereal note, like an echo of the vast sea itself. The piano sounded the crashing breakers and the trills of the ocean’s mists and spray. Miss Lind’s voice seemed to twine in and out of the piano’s accompaniment, until the “ooh” that she sang formed itself into a word, and then a phrase, “To stand upon the ocean’s shore…”

As she finished the first thought of the poem, Signor Belletti joined his voice to Miss Lind’s, and together, they sang a duet, haunting and romantic. Just as they reached the words “echoes” it seemed as if there were ten or twenty singers, not two, as the sense of overlapping echoes filled the room. Then, as softly as it began, the song was ended on a note that did not resolve, but simply drifted away.

Cyrus sat there, transfixed. He knew he had found his life’s love—the writing of poetry. Not as a way to make a living, but as a way to express the deepest feelings of his soul.

The reader is invited to check this blog often to be able to read the next chapters as they are posted.