Page images
PDF
EPUB

He told an anecdote which should be preserved as illustrating the crudeness of life in those early times. One bitter winter day he saw a man walking back and forth in front of his office, evidently suffering greatly from the cold. Finally he went to the door, and asked the man to come in; when his visitor exclaimed in surprise, “Why, are you there? I saw the door shut, and so I supposed that nobody was at home.” No wonder that tuberculosis was then unknown in Arkansas !

With him his brother-in-law, William E. Gibos, came to Batesville, and they formed a partnership. Mr. Gibbs was a good lawyer, but had not the genius for the law that characterized his associate. He took the mountain counties of the circuit, whose hardships his more robust constitution enabled him to support. Mr. Rose took the eastern counties, where the litigation was more important, where he had to measure himself with the leaders of the Little Rock bar, and where he soon taught them that they had found in him a foeman worthy of their steel. Absolom Fowler was the one who came most frequently. A powerful, aggressive, bitter man, merciless in speech and a consummate master of all the arts of special pleading, he was feared by his brethren, who too often had cause to resent his caustic tongue. But in the refined elegance of Mr. Rose that was something that disarmed his wrath, and he recognized in the young man a mastery of his chosen weapon equal to his own; so that to Mr. Rose alone of all his adversaries he was uniformly courteous.

In fact, from the beginning Mr. Rose had the

[ocr errors]

rare faculty of protecting his client's rights with extreme vigilance while retaining the good will of his professional brethren. He never conducted a lawsuit as a personal grievance. He was always the advocate, representing his client, putting his cause in the most favorable light, but never indulging in personalities. His exquisite refinement and graceful courtesy made it impossible for the coarsest vulgarian to insult him, and lifted the conduct of litigation into a higher plane.

Then, as always, his most conspicuous personal trait was grace.

Tall and slender, every movement was graceful. It seemed impossible for him to do an ungraceful act; as it was impossible for him to utter an unbecoming speech. No one ever heard him say an indecent word or tell a vulgar anecdote; and vulgarity was impossible in his presence. With his vast and varied reading it was inevitable that he should have become acquainted with all aspects of human depravity; but he instinctively put aside all that was not becoming to the high-minded gentleman. He had a keen sense of humor, and his conversation was full of amusing anecdotes and bright with a scintillating wit. At every gathering of the bar he was the centre of a delighted circle; but none of the countless droll stories that he told would have brought a blush to a woman's cheek.

While he lived at Batesville he studied French first under a German and later under two welleducated and aristocratic young women who had come from Paris to join their brother. The brother died, leaving them in straightened circumstances. Mr. Rose aided them in their distress, and had them much in his home. In this way he laid the foundation for the truly extraordinary mastery of the French language that he afterwards achieved. There was also at Batesville a

. Madame Audigier, a French lady who supported herself by teaching music and her native language. Under her Mr. Rose also studied. During this period her grandmother came from Paris to visit her. Ninety-five years of age, but still bright and vivacious as a girl, the old lady crossed the sea in one of the wretched ships of those days, and ascended from New Orleans on a steamboat. Eighteen years of age at the time of the taking of the Bastille, she had witnessed all the horrors of the French Revolution; she had seen the King and Queen, the Girondists, Danton and Robespierre borne in the death-cart to the guillotine; and amongst her most cherished possessions was a handkerchief soaked in the blood of Robespierre. It was perhaps in listening to her that Mr. Rose acquired that deep interest in the history of the French Revolution that led him in later years to read so profoundly on the subject, and to seek out all the places in Paris made memorable by the events of that stupendous tragedy. After a pleasant visit of some months' duration, the sprightly old lady returned to her home in Paris by the route she came.

In these early days Mr. Rose was laying the foundations of the vast and singularly varied knowledge that he afterwards acquired. The most striking characteristic of his mind was an insatiable intellectual curiosity, which remained just as keen until the day of his death. He wanted literally to know everything, and besides the great facts of science and history he sought out the most recondite and curious things. He gave to the study of his profession far more time than is bestowed upon

it by most lawyers; but this seemed only a small part of his intellectual activities. He was enabled to accomplish so much by his singular gift for reading. He did not read from word to word and from line to line, like most of us. Like Lord Macaulay, he looked at the page as a whole, as the rest of us look at a picture. In this way he grasped the general meaning of the page at a glance, as a judge of pictures sees at a glance whether they are worthy of careful examination. If the page contained nothing of importance, he turned it over. If it was worthy study, he paused to digest its meaning. In this way he read books with incredible rapidity, and yet mastered their contents.

The position of chancellor of Pulaski County, always an important one, because, being at the seat of government, the most important questions touching the administration of the state government are usually first presented there, was then of especial importance, because the failure of the Real Estate Bank, a state institution which held mortgages upon a large part of the most valuable lands in the state, had brought universal confusion; and this court, the only chancery court then existing within our borders, had been created with jurisdiction co-extensive with the state on ques

tions involving the title to these lands. Judge Fairchild, of Batesville, had made quite a reputation upon this bench; and when in 1860 he was raised to a place on the Supreme Court, he recommended Mr. Rose as his successor. Judge Rose at once acquired the respect and confidence of the bar. The breaking out of the Civil War soon put a virtual stop to business in his court; but the opinion in Turnbull v. Turnbull, 23 Ark. 615, where the Supreme Court adopted his opinion as its own, gives an illustration of the felicity of his judicial style.

While chancellor he continued to reside at Batesville, and the tireless energy of his frail body was well illustrated in the fact that he always made the journey between Batesville and Little Rock, a distance of one hundred and twenty-five miles, on horseback, over atrocious roads, in two days, when all his brethren of the bar took three days or more for the trip.

He earnestly opposed the secession movement. He realized that the North was far richer, far more populous, vastly stronger in men and money. He comprehended the folly of the prevailing southern view that the men of the North were so engrossed in money making that they had become sordid and would not fight. He foresaw all the disaster that secession would entail; and he realized that slavery was a terrible evil, more ruinous to master than to slave. But when the die was cast he threw in his lot with his own people, though understanding fully the desolation that must

ensue.

« PreviousContinue »