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CHESTER N. RIGHTER.
THE AUTHOR'S FIRST MEETING WITH RIGHTER- GENERAL
CHARACTER-STRIKING FEATURES-A SEA VOYAGE
Six years ago, in the spring of 1853, the writer of these pages, a poor invalid, was lying on a pile of trunks at the end of a pier in the East River, waiting, with many others, for the steam tug that was to take him and them to a ship in the stream. Worn out with long protracted sickness, embarking without a single companion for a year of foreign travel, he was sadly despondent and half inclined to abandon the voyage. At this moment two young men were introduced to him ; both of them ministers of the gospel, both of them just about to embark for foreign travel, both of them intending to make the tour of Europe, and to journey into the East. One of these gentlemen was the Rev. George E. Hill, of Boston, the other was Chester Newell Righter, the subject of this sketch. A A mutual sympathy seemed instantaneously to unite us. In
TRAITS OF CHARACTER.
a few moments the plans of the year were compared, and without any further concert or agreement, it fell out that we joined our fortunes, and together made the journey, with scarcely any separations till we returned home, in the same vessel, in the spring of 1854.
Righter was a genial, warm-hearted, noble young man. A good scholar, a fluent speaker, ready in conversation, full of ardour, enthusiasm, and energy, buoyant and hopeful, never doubting or afraid, never sick or weary; with exuberant spirits and inexhaustible powers of enjoying or suffering, he was just the companion one wants on land or sea, in desert or city, by night or day.
His eyes had failed while he was pursuing his studies for the sacred ministry, and he had been wisely counselled to spend a year in relaxation and travel. On shipboard, the fine points of his character were soon developed. A week at sea brings out the weaknesses as well as the strength of men. He was with me in all weathers, and in various lands and seas, in times to try the patience, and the faith, and every virtue of the soul; and during all the time he was with me, I never knew him to be other than a high-minded, honourable, faithful, Christian gentleman and friend.
When others were sea-sick, when every passenger on the steamer was stretched out in helpless distress, victims of that malady which everybody, except the victim, laughs at, but to which almost every one succumbs, Righter would stride the deck, swinging his arms and rejoicing in the storm-fearless of danger, and strong in his exemption from the falling sickness to which all around him were a prey. This was a fair type and exhibition of his character. What was to be done, he was ready to do; what was to be
borne, he was ready to suffer. Prompt in his decisions, tenacious of his purposes, self-sacrificing and obliging, when the feelings of others were involved, he was the first in every movement to promote the general comfort of the company, the last to yield when difficulties were to be overcome.
His principles of right and wrong were intelligently settled, and he had no occasion to be “making up his mind” as to the path of duty. The way was always plain, and he pressed straightforward in the fear of God, and without any fear of man. Religion was a well-spring of life and joy in his soul. In all places and times he was the same earnest, outspoken, uniform Christian; never obtruding his opinions on those to whom they were not due, but never ashamed, afraid, or unable to give a reason for the hope that was in him. Yet he was modest with all his self-reliance, gentle with iron firmness, easily to be entreated while he was bold as a lion.
With such a rare and beautiful mingling of elements in his character, I marked him out as a man who had a work to do for his age and the world. Often we lay on deck as we were traversing from land to land the Mediterranean Sea, and when the stars were looking down on us we would while away the hours with long and wandering talks of the future, and then I found that the aspirations of his soul were in harmony with my hopes and prophecies of his career. He was burning to be what I was sure he would be, if God had work for him on this earth. No matter what it was, if the mountains were to be brought down, or the wilderness to be reclaimed by human agency, he was ready to do what the Lord would have him do. And more; he was anxious to be at work. I do not know that
the fires of an earth-born, selfish ambition, a paltry spirit of self-glory, ever burned for a moment in his manly breast. He must have been ambitious—it was part of his nature. But it was a noble, baptized, holy ambition, to do something for God and mankind. He longed to see the world, to know it, to take the measure of it, to compass its wants, to study the ways and means to meet them, and with a full consciousness of his own inherent, physical, and mental adaptedness to labour, he was willing to give himself as a servant, a soldier, a follower, or a leader, to be used as the Lord should appoint in the field of the world.
This was the man with whom I became acquainted under circumstances of peculiar interest, and in a few days, from a stranger, he became a friend and brother beloved. He grew
heart. He was with me in times of trial and peril; in seasons of rich enjoyment; the wonders and glories of nature and art, in the course of a year's travel in Europe and the East, were shared together; and when he went out again into the foreign field to do a mighty work, and there died in the midst of his labours, I mourned his death as that of a brother, and cried with David over Jonathan, “I am distressed for thee, my brother: very pleasant hast thou been unto me, thy love to me was wonderful.”
And this tribute to his memory is but a feeble memorial of one of the purest, noblest young men it was ever my joy to know.
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