The Card: 2♣2 Two of Clubs.
The Suit: For 2016, Clubs is my suit for “Stories by ’Legendary’ Indiana Authors”
The Selection: “The Boyhood of Christ” first published by Harper and Brothers of New York in 1888. I found a copy online at https://archive.org/stream/boyhoodofchr00wall#page/n135/mode/2up which includes some great illustrations, a couple of which are included below.
The Author: Lew Wallace – one of the most famous Hoosiers of the 19th Century. Diplomat, Civil War general, and author of the epic, best selling novel, “Ben-Hur” (you may have seen the reasonably successful 1959 film version with Charlton Heston)
What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storyroster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.
The Boyhood of Christ
For week 25 of Deal Me “IN” I drew the two of clubs. In my version of the Deal Me In challenge, “deuces are wild” so I get to pick an “at large” story, preferably staying within the theme of the suit. Why did I choose this story? Well, partly because when I first announced my bicentennial version of Deal Me In December, I was scolded (good-naturedly, I presumed) for not initially including anything by Lew Wallace in a so called “Legendary Indiana Authors” category. Point taken, I made a mental note of it. So when the wild card came around, off I went in search of this lesser-known work of the author of Ben-Hur.
I was actually quite charmed by this story, even if the title is somewhat misleading (we don’t learn much more about the actual boyhood of Christ than is available in the scant scriptural references, but that doesn’t turn out to matter). The setting is at an estate when an evening dance for young people is taking place. Two young girls break away from the group and seek out “Uncle Midas” (a thinly disguised fictional version of Wallace himself) in hopes of him “telling them a story for Christmas Eve,” the occasion of the party. Wallace describes them as no longer girls, but not quite young women, and that “for persons so young they were well read, and could talk about great events and take delight in hearing of far countries.”
Aerial picture of study from: http://www.ben-hur.com/
The young auditors settle into Uncle Midas’s study (not coincidentally, also a fictional approximation of Wallace’s actual study – now a museum in Crawfordsville) to hear his story about The Boyhood of Christ. Uncle Midas explains how there are some stories not found in scripture that they may have heard, and relates some from the apocryphal “The First Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus” for his listeners. Ending these stories, he says of this gospel that “The book has its place on my shelf along with other religious curiosities, such as the Koran and the Mormon bible.” – Not sure how the Muslims and Mormons would feel about their faith being relegated to the status of “curiosity”(!)
Throughout his storytelling, Uncle Midas tries to give his young listeners an excuse to return to their party rather than continue to humor him by sitting through an old man’s storytelling. In spite of this, His audience continues to grow as the other young people at the party join them – at first to lure the initial two girls back to the party – but later finding themselves becoming rapt listeners as well. At the end, in a final plea, Midas says that “the band” (er, I mean the fiddlers) must be anxiously waiting their return, but:
“‘You are mistaken, Uncle,’ said Nan.
‘The Fiddlers are here too, and have been for the past fifteen minutes.’
‘Oh! Very well; I am content with my short triumph over them. Good-night to you all.’
Thereupon the company went to him one by one; the boys shook his hand and thanked him and the girls kissed him. And the music and the dance went on until the holy-day stole through the windows.”
I DID say it was charming, remember? 🙂
I also loved an earlier passage where the author describes how Uncle Midas (i.e. Wallace) has prepared to spend his retiring years:
“Uncle Midas had led a busy life; he had been a lawyer, a soldier, an author, and a traveller; he had dabbled in art, diplomacy, and politics; and, like most men so diversely occupied, there had never been a day in which he had not promised himself to let his mind say to his body, ‘Thou has served me well, and carried me about for much teaching, and I have profited much; now, O good servant, take thine ease; the gathered fruits are waiting, and I alone will continue to labor.’ At length, noting the coming of his mid-afternoon of life, he determined to make the promise good. Towards that end he built the study, and tied it to his house with the conservatory, reserving the shelves for those other and higher associates which, in their cloaks of cloth and gold, would also wait for him, and, being called, begin talking in a manner the cleverest tongue cannot attain…”
Playing card image found at: https://playingcardcollector.net/2013/07/18/kashmir-playing-cards-by-printissa/