Page:My Life and Loves.djvu/67

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SCHOOL DAYS IN ENGLAND.

In all games the English have a high ideal of fairness and courtesy. No one ever took an unfair advantage of another and courtesy was a law. If another school sent a team to play us at cricket or football, the victors aways cheered the vanquished when the game was over, and it was a rule for the Captain to thank the Captain of the visitors for his kindness in coming and for the good game he had given us. This custom obtained too in the Royal Schools in Ireland that were founded for the English garrison, but I couldn't help noting that these courtesies were not practiced in ordinary Irish schools. It was for years the only thing in which I had to admit the superiority of John Bull.

The ideal of a gentleman is not a very high one. Emerson says somewhere that the evolution of the gentleman is the chief spiritual product of the last two or three centuries; but the concept, it seems to me, dwarfs the ideal. A "gentleman" to me is a thing of some parts but no magnitude: one should be a gentleman and much more: a thinker, guide or artist.

English custom in the games taught me the value and need of courtesy, and athletics practiced assiduously did much to steel and strengthen my control of all my bodily desires: they gave my mind and reason the mastery of me. At the same time they taught me the laws of health and the necessity of obeying them.

I found out that by drinking little at meals I could reduce my weight very quickly and was thereby enabled to jump higher than ever; but when I went on reducing I learned that there was a limit beyond which, if I persisted, I began to lose strength: athletics taught me what the French call the juste milieu, the middle path of moderation.