The professor was busy cleaning his rat’s nest of a study. He was going to discard a lot of old journals, and he told me to take whatever struck my fancy. And wouldn’t you know it, the very first thing I selected from the pile in the middle of the floor was the Autum 1999 issue of The American Scholar. The professor’s scribbling was all over the cover.
“What’s this mathematical stuff?” I asked.
“An analysis of The Golden Mean,” he replied.
“I should have known.”
I sat in the old stuffed chair in the corner. On page 5 was an article by someone listed as Philonoe. It said that Samuel Taylor Coleridge, when he was seven, got into a fight with his brother and was about to stab him with a kitchen knife when his mother entered the room. He fully expected a beating, so he ran out the door.
Coleridge wrote later about running to the riverbank, and then spending a stormy night shivering with cold and fright but reflecting “at the same time with inward & gloomy satisfaction how miserable my mother must be!”
All the villagers were called out to search for him, and they even dragged the ponds and millrace. He awoke at dawn, too chilled to move. But he was finally found, and carried back home.
“I remember, & never shall forget, my father’s face as he looked upon me while I lay in the servant’s arms—so calm, and the tears stealing down his face: for I was the child of his old age. My Mother as you may suppose, was outrageous with joy…”
“What’s so fascinating?” the Professor asked.
“This essay about Coleridge disappearing, and then being found.”
“Yes, I recall it. Remarkable how some children quickly learn to empower themselves.”
The professor put a stack of ragged file folders into a plastic garbage bag, then shut the drawer of his cabinet. I continued reading.
“Say, didn’t your Vittoria do something like that when she was a child? Running away and hiding three days in a wine barrel?”
“As a matter of fact she did.”
“Ah, so Vittoria and Coleridge have a couple things in common.”
“Imagination. And courage.”
Need I say how much that dear man’s words pleased me?