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A short story by Harriet S. Caswell

The Student's Dream

Title:     The Student's Dream
Author: Harriet S. Caswell [More Titles by Caswell]

Arthur Wilton had been for several years a student; but he was one of the plodding sort, who make but slow progress. The principal barrier to his improvement arose from one defect in his character; and that was the habit in which he constantly indulged, of deploring the past, without making any very strong efforts toward amendment in the future. He was one evening seated in his room; a ponderous volume lay open on his study-table, and for a time he vainly tried to fix his attention thereon, till finally he closed the book, and leaning back in his chair, his brows contracted, and the lines about his mouth grew tense, as if his thoughts were anything but pleasing. As usual he was bemoaning his misspent hours.

"Ah," said he, speaking in soliloquy, "they are gone, never more to return, the careless happy days of childhood, the sunny period of youth, and the aspiring dreams of mature manhood. I once indulged in many ambitious dreams of fame, and those dreams have never been realized. Many with whom I set out on equal ground have outstripped me in the race of life, and here am I alone. Many who were once my inferiors have nearly overtaken me, and doubtless they too will soon pass me by. What I very much prize is a true friend, and yet no friend approaches with a word of sympathy or encouragement; would that some would counsel me, as to how I may better my condition." Thus far had Arthur Wilton proceeded in his soliloquy, when his eyelids were weighed down by drowsiness, and he soon sank into a deep slumber. In his dream an aged man, with a most mild and venerable countenance stood before him, who, addressing him by name, said: "Thy heart is full of sorrow; but if you will listen to, and profit by my words, your sorrow shall be turned into joy. You have been grieving over the hours which have been run to waste, without pausing to reflect, that while you have been occupied with these unavailing regrets, another hour has glided away past your recall forever; and will be added to your already lengthened list of opportunities misimproved. You grieve that your name is not placed on the lists of fame. Cease from thy fruitless longings. Discharge faithfully your present duties, and if you merit fame it will certainly be awarded you. You also complain that no friend is near you. Have you ever truly sought a friend, by the unwearied exercise of those affections, and in the performance of those numberless offices of kindness by which alone friendship is secured and perpetuated?

'All like the purchase, few the price will pay;
And this makes friends such miracles below.'

Hast thou hoped for the society of the wise and good? Then with diligence and untiring zeal you should seek to fit yourself for such companionship. Have your early companions got before you in the race of life; and yet you remain at ease, dreaming over the past? Awake, young man, ere yet your day is done, and address yourself to your work with renewed energy; look forward to the future instead of brooding over the past, and be assured you will acquire wisdom, friends and every other needful blessing." With these words the aged man disappeared, and the student awoke. His fire had gone out and his lamp burned but dimly. He rose, replenished his fire, trimmed his lamp, and resumed his studies with ardor. This dream was not lost upon Arthur Wilton. Instead of now wasting his time in regrets for the past, he looked forward with a steady purpose of improvement, and from that period no harder student was to be found in the college; and he finally graduated with high honors. In after years he often related this dream to those of his acquaintances whom he thought in danger of falling into the same habit to which he himself had been so prone in his youthful days.

[The end]
Harriet S. Caswell's short story: Student's Dream