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´╗┐Title: A New England girlhood, outlined from memory (Beverly, MA)
Author: Larcom, Lucy, 1824-1893
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A New England girlhood, outlined from memory (Beverly, MA)" ***





  I dedicated this sketch
  To my girlfriends in general;
  And in particular
  To my namesake-niece,
  Lucy Larcom Spaulding.

  Happy those early days, when I
  Shined in my angel-infancy!
  --When on some gilded cloud or flower
  My gazing soul would dwell an hour,
  And in those weaker glories spy
  Some shadows of eternity:--
  Before I taught my tongue to wound
  My conscience by a sinful sound;--
  But felt through all this fleshy dress
  Bright shoots of everlastingness.


  The thought of our past years in me doth breed
  Perpetual benediction.



THE following sketch was written for the young, at the suggestion of

My audience is understood to be composed of girls of all ages, and of
women who have not forgotten their girlhood. Such as have a friendly
appreciation of girls--and of those who write for them--are also
welcome to listen to as much of my narrative as they choose. All others
are eavesdroppers, and, of course, have no right to criticise.

To many, the word "autobiography" implies nothing but conceit and
egotism. But these are not necessarily its characteristics. If an apple
blossom or a ripe apple could tell its own story, it would be, still
more than its own, the story of the sunshine that smiled upon it, of
the winds that whispered to it, of the birds that sang around it, of
the storms that visited it, and of the motherly tree that held it and
fed it until its petals were unfolded and its form developed.

A complete autobiography would indeed be a picture of the outer and
inner universe photographed upon one little life's consciousness. For
does not the whole world, seen and unseen go to the making up of every
human being? The commonest personal history has its value when it is
looked at as a part of the One Infinite Life. Our life--which is the
very best thing we have--is ours only that we may share it with Our
Father's family, at their need. If we have anything, within us worth
giving away, to withhold it is ungenerous; and we cannot look honestly
into ourselves without acknowledging with humility our debt to the
lives around us for whatever of power or beauty has been poured into

None of us can think of ourselves as entirely separate beings. Even an
autobiographer has to say "we" much oftener than "I." Indeed, there may
be more egotism in withdrawing mysteriously into one's self, than in
frankly unfolding one's life--story, for better or worse. There may be
more vanity in covering, one's face with a veil, to be wondered at and
guessed about, than in drawing it aside, and saying by that act,
"There! you see that I am nothing remarkable."

However, I do not know that I altogether approve of autobiography
myself, when the subject is a person of so little importance as in the
present instance.  Still, it may have a reason for being, even in a
case like this.

Every one whose name is before the public at all must be aware of a
common annoyance in the frequent requests which are made for personal
facts, data for biographical paragraphs, and the like. To answer such
requests and furnish the material asked for, were it desirable, would
interfere seriously with the necessary work of almost any writer. The
first impulse is to pay no attention to them, putting them aside as
mere signs of the ill-bred, idle curiosity of the age we live in about
people and their private affairs. It does not seem to be supposed
possible that authors can have any natural shrinking from publicity,
like other mortals.

But while one would not willingly encourage an intrusive custom, there
is another view of the matter. The most enjoyable thing about writing
is that the relation between writer and reader may be and often does
become that of mutual friendship; an friends naturally like to know
each other in a neighborly way.

We are all willing to gossip about ourselves, sometimes, with those who
are really interested in us. Girls especially are fond of exchanging
confidences with those whom they think they can trust; it is one of the
most charming traits of a simple, earnest-hearted girlhood, and they
are the happiest women who never lose it entirely.

I should like far better to listen to my girl-readers' thoughts about
life and themselves than to be writing out my own experiences. It is to
my disadvantage that the confidences, in this case, must all be on one
side. But I have known so many girls so well in my relation to them of
schoolmate, workmate, and teacher, I feel sure of a fair share of their
sympathy and attention.

It is hardly possible for an author to write anything sincerely without
making it something of an autobiography. Friends can always read a
personal history, or guess at it, between the lines. So I sometimes
think I have already written mine, in my verses. In them, I have found
the most natural and free expression of myself. They have seemed to set
my life to music for me, a life that has always had to be occupied with
many things besides writing. Not, however, that I claim to have written
much poetry: only perhaps some true rhymes: I do not see how there
could be any pleasure in writing insincere ones.

Whatever special interest this little narrative of mine may have is due
to the social influences under which I was reared, and particularly to
the prominent place held by both work and religion in New England half
a century ago. The period of my growing-up had peculiarities which our
future history can never repeat, although something far better is
undoubtedly already resulting thence. Those peculiarities were the
natural development of the seed sown by our sturdy Puritan ancestry.
The religion of our fathers overhung us children like the shadow of a
mighty tree against the trunk of which we rested, while we looked up in
wonder through the great boughs that half hid and half revealed the
sky. Some of the boughs were already decaying, so that perhaps we began
to see a little more of the sky, than our elders; but the tree was
sound at its heart. There was life in it that can never be lost to the

One thing we are at last beginning to understand, which our ancestors
evidently had not learned; that it is far more needful for theologians
to become as little children, than for little children to become
theologians. They considered it a duty that they owed to the youngest
of us, to teach us doctrines. And we believed in our instructors, if we
could not always digest their instructions. We learned to reverence
truth as they received it and lived it, and to feel that the search for
truth was one chief end of our being.

It was a pity that we were expected to begin thinking upon hard
subjects so soon, and it was also a pity that we were set to hard work
while so young. Yet these were both inevitable results of circumstances
then existing; and perhaps the two belong together. Perhaps habits of
conscientious work induce thought. Certainly, right thinking naturally
impels people to work.

We learned no theories about "the dignity of labor," but we were taught
to work almost as if it were a religion; to keep at work, expecting
nothing else. It was our inheritance, banded down from the outcasts of
Eden.  And for us, as for them, there was a blessing hidden in the
curse. I am glad that I grew up under these wholesome Puritanic
influences, as glad as I am that I was born a New Englander; and I
surely should have chosen New England for my birthplace before any
region under the sun.

Rich or poor, every child comes into the world with some imperative
need of its own, which shapes its individuality. I believe it was
Grotius who said, "Books are necessities of my life. Food and clothing
I can do without, if I must."

My "must-have" was poetry. From the first, life meant that to me. And,
fortunately, poetry is not purchasable material, but an atmosphere in
which every life may expand. I found it everywhere about me. The
children of old New England were always surrounded, it is true, with
stubborn matter of fact,--the hand to hand struggle for existence. But
that was no hindrance. Poetry must have prose to root itself in; the
homelier its earth-spot, the lovelier, by contrast, its
heaven-breathing flowers.

To different minds, poetry may present different phases. To me, the
reverent faith of the people I lived among, and their faithful everyday
living, was poetry; blossoms and trees and blue skies were poetry. God
himself was poetry. As I grew up and lived on, friendship became to me
the deepest and sweetest ideal of poetry. To live in other lives, to
take their power and beauty into our own, that is poetry experienced,
the most inspiring of all. Poetry embodied in persons, in lovely and
lofty characters, more sacredly than all in the One Divine Person who
has transfigured our human life with the glory of His sacrifice,--all
the great lyrics and epics pale before that, and it is within the reach
and comprehension of every human soul.

To care for poetry in this way does not make one a poet, but it does
make one feel blessedly rich, and quite indifferent to many things
which are usually looked upon as desirable possessions. I am sincerely
grateful that it was given to me, from childhood, to see life from this
point of view. And it seems to me that every young girl would be
happier for beginning her earthly journey with the thankful
consciousness that her life does not consist in the abundance of things
that she possesses.

The highest possible poetic conception is that of a life consecrated to
a noble ideal. It may be unable to find expression for itself except
through humble, even menial services, or through unselfish devotion
whose silent song is audible to God alone; yet such music as this might
rise to heaven from every young girl's heart and character if she would
set it free. In such ways it was meant that the world should be filled
with the true poetry of womanhood.

It is one of the most beautiful facts in this human existence of ours,
that we remember the earliest and freshest part of it most vividly.
Doubtless it was meant that our childhood should live on in us forever.
My childhood was by no means a cloudless one. It had its light and
shade, each contributing a charm which makes it wholly delightful in
the retrospect.

I can see very distinctly the child that I was, and I know how the
world looked to her, far off as she is now. She seems to me like my
little sister, at play in a garden where I can at any time return and
find her. I have enjoyed bringing her back, and letting her tell her
story, almost as if she were somebody else. I like her better than I
did when I was really a child, and I hope never to part company with

I do not feel so much satisfaction in the older girl who comes between
her and me, although she, too, is enough like me to be my sister, or
even more like my young, undisciplined mother; for the girl is mother
of the woman. But I have to acknowledge her faults and mistakes as my
own, while I sometimes feel like reproving her severely for her
carelessly performed tasks, her habit of lapsing into listless
reveries, her cowardly shrinking from responsibility and vigorous
endeavor, and many other faults that I have inherited from her. Still,
she is myself, and I could not be quite happy without her comradeship.

Every phase of our life belongs to us. The moon does not, except in
appearance, lose her first thin, luminous curve, nor her silvery
crescent, in rounding to her full. The woman is still both child and
girl, in the completeness of womanly character. We have a right to our
entire selves, through all the changes of this mortal state, a claim
which we shall doubtless carry along with us into the unfolding
mysteries of our eternal being. Perhaps in this thought lies hidden the
secret of immortal youth; for a seer has said that "to grow old in
heaven is to grow young."

To take life as it is sent to us, to live it faithfully, looking and
striving always towards better life, this was the lesson that came to
me from my early teachers.  It was not an easy lesson, but it was a
healthful one; and I pass it on to younger pupils, trusting that they
will learn it more thoroughly than I ever have.

Young or old, we may all win inspiration to do our best, from the needs
of a world to which the humblest life may be permitted to bring
immeasurable blessings:--

  "For no one doth know
  What he can bestow,
  What light, strength, and beauty may after him go:
  Thus onward we move,
  And, save God above,
  None guesseth how wondrous the journey will prove."

  October, 1889.







IT is strange that the spot of earth where we were born should make
such a difference to us. People can live and grow anywhere, but people
as well as plants have their habitat,--the place where they belong, and
where they find their happiest, because their most natural life. If I
had opened my eyes upon this planet elsewhere than in this northeastern
corner of Massachusetts, elsewhere than on this green, rocky strip of
shore between Beverly Bridge and the Misery Islands, it seems to me as
if I must have been somebody else, and not myself. These gray ledges
hold me by the roots, as they do the bayberry bushes, the sweet-fern,
and the rock-saxifrage.

When I look from my window over the tree-tops to the sea, I could
almost fancy that from the deck of some one of those inward bound
vessels the wistful eyes of the Lady Arbella might be turned towards
this very hillside, and that mine were meeting hers in sympathy, across
the graves of two hundred and fifty years. For Winthrop's fleet, led by
the ship that bore her name, must have passed into harbor that way.
Dear and gracious spirit! The memory of her brief sojourn here has left
New England more truly consecrated ground. Sweetest of womanly
pioneers! It is as if an angel in passing on to heaven just touched
with her wings this rough coast of ours.

In those primitive years, before any town but Salem had been named,
this whole region was known as Cape Ann Side; and about ten years after
Winthrop's arrival, my first ancestor's name appears among those of
other hardy settlers of the neighborhood. No record has been found of
his coming, but emigration by that time had grown so rapid that ships'
lists were no longer carefully preserved. And then he was but a simple
yeoman, a tiller of the soil; one who must have loved the sea, however,
for he moved nearer and nearer towards it from Agawam through Wenham
woods, until the close of the seventeenth century found his
descendants--my own great-great-grandfather's family--planted in a
romantic homestead-nook on a hillside, overlooking wide gray spaces of
the bay at the part of Beverly known as "The Farms." The situation was
beautiful, and home attachments proved tenacious, the family claim to
the farm having only been resigned within the last thirty or forty

I am proud of my unlettered forefathers, who were also too humbly proud
to care whether their names would be remembered or not; for they were
God-fearing men, and had been persecuted for their faith long before
they found their way either to Old or New England.

The name is rather an unusual one, and has been traced back from Wales
and the Isle of Wight through France to Languedoc and Piedmont; a
little hamlet in the south of France still bearing it in what was
probably the original spelling-La Combe. There is a family shield in
existence, showing a hill surmounted by a tree, and a bird with spread
wings above. It might symbolize flight in times of persecution, from
the mountains to the forests, and thence to heaven, or to the free
skies of this New World.

But it is certain that my own immediate ancestors were both indifferent
and ignorant as to questions of pedigree, and accepted with sturdy
dignity an inheritance of hard work and the privileges of poverty,
leaving the same bequest to their descendants. And poverty has its
privileges. When there is very little of the seen and temporal to
intercept spiritual vision, unseen and eternal realities are, or may
be, more clearly beheld.

To have been born of people of integrity and profound faith in God, is
better than to have inherited material wealth of any kind. And to those
serious-minded, reticent progenitors of mine, looking out from their
lonely fields across the lonelier sea, their faith must have been

My father's parents both died years before my birth. My grandmother had
been left a widow with a large family in my father's boyhood, and he,
with the rest, had to toil early for a livelihood. She was an earnest
Christian woman, of keen intelligence and unusual spiritual perception.
She was supposed by her neighbors to have the gift of "second sight";
and some remarkable stories are told of her knowledge of distant events
while they were occurring, or just before they took place. Her dignity
of presence and character must have been noticeable. A relative of
mine, who as a very little child, was taken by her mother to visit my
grandmother, told me that she had always remembered the aged woman's
solemnity of voice and bearing, and her mother's deferential attitude
towards her: and she was so profoundly impressed by it all at the time,
that when they had left the house, and were on their homeward path
through the woods, she looked up into her mother's face and asked in a
whisper, "Mother, was that God?"

I used sometimes to feel a little resentment at my fate in not having
been born at the old Beverly Farms home-place, as my father and uncles
and aunts and some of my cousins had been. But perhaps I had more of
the romantic and legendary charm of it than if I had been brought up
there, for my father, in his communicative moods, never wearied of
telling us about his childhood; and we felt that we still held a
birthright claim upon that picturesque spot through him. Besides, it
was only three or four miles away, and before the day of railroads,
that was thought nothing of as a walk, by young or old.

But, in fact, I first saw the light in the very middle of Beverly, in
full view of the town clock and the Old South steeple. (I believe there
is an "Old South" in nearly all these first-settled cities and villages
of Eastern Massachusetts.) The town wore a half-rustic air of antiquity
then, with its old-fashioned people and weather-worn houses; for I was
born while my mother-century was still in her youth, just rounding the
first quarter of her hundred years.

Primitive ways of doing things had not wholly ceased during my
childhood; they were kept up in these old towns longer than elsewhere.
We used tallow candles and oil lamps, and sat by open fireplaces. There
was always a tinder-box in some safe corner or other, and fire was
kindled by striking flint and steel upon the tinder. What magic it
seemed to me, when I was first allowed to strike that wonderful spark,
and light the kitchen fire!

The fireplace was deep, and there was a "settle" in the chimney corner,
where three of us youngest girls could sit together and toast our toes
on the andirons (two Continental soldiers in full uniform, marching one
after the other), while we looked up the chimney into a square of blue
sky, and sometimes caught a snowflake on our foreheads; or sometimes
smirched our clean aprons (high-necked and long sleeved ones, known as
"tiers"), against the swinging crane with its sooty pot-hooks and

The coffee-pot was set for breakfast over hot coals, on a three-legged
bit of iron called a "trivet." Potatoes were roasted in the ashes, and
the Thanksgiving turkey in a "tin-kitchen," the business of turning the
spit being usually delegate to some of us, small folk, who were only
too willing to burn our faces in honor of the annual festival.

There were brick ovens in the chimney corner, where the great bakings
were done; but there was also an iron article called a "Dutch oven," in
which delicious bread could be baked over the coals at short notice.
And there was never was anything that tasted better than my mother's
"firecake,"--a short-cake spread on a smooth piece of board, and set up
with a flat-iron before the blaze, browned on one side, and then turned
over to be browned on the other. (It required some sleight of hand to
do that.) If I could only be allowed to blow the bellows--the very old
people called them "belluses"--when the fire began to get low, I was a
happy girl.

Cooking-stoves were coming into fashion, but they were clumsy affairs,
and our elders thought that no cooking could be quite so nice as that
which was done by an open fire. We younger ones reveled in the warm,
beautiful glow, that we look back to as to a remembered sunset.  There
is no such home-splendor now.

When supper was finished, and the tea-kettle was pushed back on the
crane, and the backlog had been reduced to a heap of fiery embers, then
was the time for listening to sailor yarns and ghost and witch legends.
The wonder seems somehow to have faded out of those tales of eld since
the gleam of red-hot coals died away from the hearthstone. The shutting
up of the great fireplaces and the introduction of stoves marks an era;
the abdication of shaggy Romance and the enthronement of elegant
Commonplace--sometimes, alas! the opposite of elegant--at the New
England fireside.

Have we indeed a fireside any longer in the old sense? It hardly seems
as if the young people of to-day can really understand the poetry of
English domestic life, reading it, as they must, by a reflected
illumination from the past. What would "Cotter's Saturday Night" have
been, if Burns had written it by the opaque heat of a stove instead of
at his

  "Wee bit ingle blinkin' bonnilie?"

New England as it used to be was so much like Scotland in many of its
ways of doing and thinking, that it almost seems as if that tender poem
of hearth-and-home life had been written for us too. I can see the
features of my father, who died when I was a little child, whenever I
read the familiar verse:--

  "The cheerfu' supper done, wi' serious face
  They round the ingle form a circle wide:
  The sire turns o'er, wi' patriarchal grace,
  The big ha' Bible, ance his father's pride."

A grave, thoughtful face his was, lifted up so grandly amid that
blooming semicircle of boys and girls, all gathered silently in the
glow of the ruddy firelight! The great family Bible had the look upon
its leathern covers of a book that bad never been new, and we honored
it the more for its apparent age. Its companion was the Westminster
Assembly's and Shorter Catechism, out of which my father asked us
questions on Sabbath afternoons, when the tea-table had been cleared.
He ended the exercise with a prayer, standing up with his face turned
toward the wall. My most vivid recollection of his living face is as I
saw it reflected in a mirror while he stood thus praying. His closed
eyes, the paleness and seriousness of his countenance, awed me. I never
forgot that look. I saw it but once again, when, a child of six or
seven years, I was lifted to a footstool beside his coffin to gaze upon
his face for the last time. It wore the same expression that it did in
prayer; paler, but no longer care-worn; so peaceful, so noble! They
left me standing there a long time, and I could not take my eyes away.
I had never thought my father's face a beautiful one until then, but I
believe it must have been so, always.

I know that he was a studious man, fond of what was called "solid
reading." He delighted in problems of navigation (he was for many years
the master of a merchant-vessel sailing to various European ports), in
astronomical calculations and historical computations. A rhyming genius
in the town, who undertook to hit off the peculiarities of well-known
residents, characterized my father as

  "Philosophic Ben,
  Who, pointing to the stars, cries, Land ahead!"

His reserved, abstracted manner,--though his gravity concealed a fund
of rare humor,--kept us children somewhat aloof from him; but my
mother's temperament formed a complete contrast to his. She was chatty
and social, rosy-cheeked and dimpled, with bright blue eyes and soft,
dark, curling hair, which she kept pinned up under her white lace
cap-border. Not even the eldest child remembered her without her cap,
and when some of us asked her why she never let her pretty curls be
visible, she said,--

"Your father liked to see me in a cap. I put it on soon after we were
married, to please him; I always have worn it, and I always shall wear
it, for the same reason."

My mother had that sort of sunshiny nature which easily shifts to
shadow, like the atmosphere of an April day. Cheerfulness held sway
with her, except occasionally, when her domestic cares grew too
overwhelming; but her spirits rebounded quickly from discouragement.

Her father was the only one of our grandparents who had survived to my
time,--of French descent, piquant, merry, exceedingly polite, and very
fond of us children, whom he was always treating to raisins and
peppermints and rules for good behavior. He had been a soldier in the
Revolutionary War,--the greatest distinction we could imagine. And he
was also the sexton of the oldest church in town,--the Old South,--and
had charge of the winding-up of the town clock, and the ringing of the
bell on week-days and Sundays, and the tolling for funerals,--into
which mysteries he sometimes allowed us youngsters a furtive glimpse. I
did not believe that there was another grandfather so delightful as
ours in all the world.

Uncles, aunts, and cousins were plentiful in the family, but they did
not live near enough for us to see them very often, excepting one aunt,
my father's sister, for whom I was named. She was fair, with large,
clear eyes that seemed to look far into one's heart, with an expression
at once penetrating and benignant. To my childish imagination she was
an embodiment of serene and lofty goodness. I wished and hoped that by
bearing her baptismal name I might become like her; and when I found
out its signification (I learned that "Lucy" means "with light"), I
wished it more earnestly still. For her beautiful character was just
such an illumination to my young life as I should most desire mine to
be to the lives of others.

My aunt, like my father, was always studying something. Some map or
book always lay open before her, when I went to visit her, in her
picturesque old house, with its sloping roof and tall well-sweep. And
she always brought out some book or picture for me from her quaint
old-fashioned chest of drawers. I still possess the "Children in the
Wood," which she gave me, as a keepsake, when I was about ten years old.

Our relatives form the natural setting of our childhood. We understand
ourselves best and are best understood by others through the persons
who came nearest to us in our earliest years. Those larger planets held
our little one to its orbit, and lent it their brightness. Happy indeed
is the infancy which is surrounded only by the loving and the good!

Besides those who were of my kindred, I had several aunts by courtesy,
or rather by the privilege of neighborhood, who seemed to belong to my
babyhood. Indeed, the family hearthstone came near being the scene of a
tragedy to me, through the blind fondness of one of these.

The adjective is literal. This dear old lady, almost sightless, sitting
in a low chair far in the chimney corner, where she had been placed on
her first call to see the new baby, took me upon her lap, and--so they
say--unconsciously let me slip off into the coals. I was rescued
unsinged, however, and it was one of the earliest accomplishments of my
infancy to thread my poor, half-blind Aunt Stanley's needles for her.
We were close neighbors and gossips until my fourth year. Many an hour
I sat by her side drawing a needle and thread through a bit of calico,
under the delusion that I was sewing, while she repeated all sorts of
juvenile singsongs of which her memory seemed full, for my
entertainment. There used to be a legend current among my brothers and
sisters that this aunt unwittingly taught me to use a reprehensible
word. One of her ditties began with the lines:--

  "Miss Lucy was a charming child;
  She never said, 'I won't.'"

After bearing this once or twice, the willful negative was continually
upon my lips; doubtless a symptom of what was dormant within--a will
perhaps not quite so aggressive as it was obstinate. But she meant only
to praise me and please me; and dearly I loved to stay with her in her
cozy up-stairs room across the lane, that the sun looked into nearly
all day.

Another adopted aunt lived down-stairs in the same house. This one was
a sober woman; life meant business to her, and she taught me to sew in
earnest, with a knot in the end of my thread, although it was only upon
clothing for my ragchildren--absurd creatures of my own invention,
limbless and destitute of features, except as now and then one of my
older sisters would, upon my earnest petition, outline a face for one
of them, with pen and ink. I loved them, nevertheless, far better than
I did the London doll that lay in waxen state in an upper drawer at
home,--the fine lady that did not wish to be played with, but only to
be looked at and admired.

This latter aunt I regarded as a woman of great possessions. She owned
the land beside us and opposite us. Her well was close to our door, a
well of the coldest and clearest water I ever drank, and it abundantly
supplied the whole neighborhood.

The hill behind her house was our general playground; and I supposed
she owned that, too, since through her dooryard, and over her stone
wall, was our permitted thoroughfare thither. I imagined that those
were her buttercups that we gathered when we got over the wall, and
held under each other's chin, to see, by the reflection, who was fond
of butter; and surely the yellow toadflax (we called it "lady's
slipper") that grew in the rock-crevices was hers, for we found it
nowhere else.

The blue gill-over-the-ground unmistakably belonged to her, for it
carpeted an unused triangular corner of her garden inclosed by a
leaning fence gray and gold with sea-side lichens. Its blue was
beautiful, but its pungent earthy odor--I can smell it now--repelled us
from the damp corner where it grew. It made us think of graves and
ghosts; and I think we were forbidden to go there. We much preferred to
sit on the sunken curbstones, in the shade of the broad-leaved
burdocks, and shape their spiny balls into chairs and cradles and sofas
for our dollies, or to "play school" on the doorsteps, or to climb over
the wall, and to feel the freedom of the hill.

We were a neighborhood of large families, and most of us enjoyed the
privilege of "a little wholesome neglect." Our tether was a long one,
and when, grown a little older, we occasionally asked to have it
lengthened, a maternal "I don't care" amounted to almost unlimited

The hill itself was well-nigh boundless in its capacities for juvenile
occupation. Besides its miniature precipices, that walled in some of
the neighbors' gardens, and its slanting slides, worn smooth by the
feet of many childish generations, there were partly quarried ledges,
which had shaped themselves into rock-stairs, carpeted with lovely
mosses, in various patterns. These were the winding ways up our
castle-towers, with breakfast-rooms and boudoirs along the landings,
where we set our tables for expected guests with bits of broken china,
and left our numerous rag-children tucked in asleep under mullein
blankets or plantain-coverlets, while we ascended to the topmost turret
to watch for our ships coming in from sea.

For leagues of ocean were visible from the tiptop of the ledge, a tiny
cleft peak that held always little rain-pool for thirsty birds that now
and then stopped as they flew over, to dip their beaks and glance shyly
at us, as if they wished to share our games. We could see the steeples
and smokes of Salem in the distance, and the bill, as it descended,
lost itself in mowing fields that slid again into the river. Beyond
that was Rial Side and Folly Hill, and they looked so very far off!

They called it "over to Green's" across the river. I thought it was
because of the thick growth of dark green junipers, that covered the
cliff-side down to the water's edge; but they were only giving the name
of the farmer who owned the land, Whenever there was an unusual barking
of dogs in the distance, they said it was "over to Green's." That
barking of dogs made the place seem very mysterious to me.

Our lane ran parallel with the hill and the mowing fields, and down our
lane we were always free to go. It was a genuine lane, all ups and
downs, and too narrow for a street, although at last they have leveled
it and widened it, and made a commonplace thoroughfare of it. I am glad
that my baby life knew it in all its queer, original irregularities,
for it seemed to have a character of its own, like many of its
inhabitants, all the more charming because it was unlike anything but
itself. The hill, too, is lost now, buried under houses.

Our lane came to an end at some bars that let us into another lane,--or
rather a footpath or cowpath, bordered with cornfields and orchards. We
were still on home ground, for my father's vegetable garden and orchard
were here. After a long straight stretch, the path suddenly took an
abrupt turn, widening into a cart road, then to a tumble-down wharf,
and there was the river!

An "arm of the sea" I was told that our river was, and it did seem to
reach around the town and hold it in a liquid embrace. Twice a day the
tide came in and filled its muddy bed with a sparkling flood. So it was
a river only half the time, but at high tide it was a river indeed; all
that a child could wish, with its boats and its sloops, and now and
then that most available craft for a crew of children--a gundalow. We
easily transformed the spelling into "gondola," and in fancy were
afloat on Venetian waters, under some overhanging balcony, perhaps at
the very Palace of the Doges,--willingly blind to the reality of a
mudscow leaning against some rickety wharf posts, covered with

Sometimes a neighbor boy who was the fortunate owner of a boat would
row us down the river a fearful, because a forbidden, joy. The widening
waters made us tremble with dread and longing for what might be beyond;
for when we had passed under the piers of the bridge, the estuary
broadened into the harbor and the open sea. Then somebody on board
would tell a story of children who had drifted away beyond the
harbor-bar and the light-house, and were drowned; and our boyish
helmsman would begin to look grave and anxious, and would turn his boat
and row us back swiftly to the safe gundalow and tumbledown wharf.

The cars rush into the station now, right over our riverside
playground. I can often hear the mirthful shout of boys and girls under
the shriek of the steam whistle. No dream of a railroad had then come
to the quiet old town, but it was a wild train of children that ran
homeward in the twilight up the narrow lane, with wind-shod feet, and
hair flying like the manes of young colts, and light hearts bounding to
their own footsteps. How good and dear our plain, two-story
dwelling-house looked to us as we came in sight of it, and what sweet
odors stole out to meet us from the white-fenced inclosure of our small
garden,--from peach-trees and lilac-bushes in bloom, from bergamot and
balm and beds of camomile!

Sometimes we would find the pathetic figure of white-haired Larkin
Moore, the insane preacher, his two canes lain aside, waiting, in our
dooryard for any audience that he could gather: boys and girls were as
welcome as anybody. He would seat us in a row on the green slope, and
give us a half hour or so of incoherent exhortation, to which we
attended respectfully, if not reverently; for his whole manner showed
that, though demented, he was deeply in earnest. He seemed there in the
twilight like a dazed angel who had lost his way, and had half
forgotten his errand, which yet he must try to tell to anybody who
would listen.

I have heard my mother say that sometimes he would ask if he might take
her baby in his arms and sing to it; and that though she was half
afraid herself, the baby--I like to fancy I was that baby--seemed to
enjoy it, and played gleefully with the old man's flowing gray locks.

Good Larkin Moore was well known through the two neighboring counties,
Essex and Middlesex. We saw him afterward on the banks of the
Merrimack. He always wore a loose calico tunic over his trousers; and,
when the mood came upon him, he started off with two canes,--seeming to
think he could travel faster as a quadruped than as a biped. He was
entirely harmless; his only wish was to preach or to sing.

A characteristic anecdote used to be told of him: that once, as a
stage-coach containing, only a few passengers passed him on the road,
he asked the favor of a seat on the top, and was refused. There were
many miles between him and his destination. But he did not upbraid the
ungracious driver; he only swung his two canes a little more briskly,
and kept breast of the horses all the way, entering the town side by
side with the inhospitable vehicles--a running reproach to the churl on
the box.

There was another wanderer, a blind woman, whom my mother treated with
great respect on her annual pilgrimages. She brought with her some
printed rhymes to sell, purporting to be composed by herself, and
beginning with the verse:--

  "I, Nancy Welsh, was born and bred
  In Essex County, Marblehead.
  And when I was an infant quite
  The Lord deprived me of my sight."

I labored under the delusion that blindness was a sort of insanity, and
I used to run away when this pilgrim came, for she was not talkative
like Larkin Moore. I fancied she disliked children, and so I shrank
from her.

There were other odd estrays going about, who were either well known,
or could account for them selves. The one human phenomenon that filled
us little ones with mortal terror was an unknown "man with a pack on
his back." I do not know what we thought he would do with us, but the
sight of one always sent us breathless with fright to the shelter of
the maternal wing. I did not at all like the picture of Christian on
his way to the wicket-gate, in "Pilgrim's Progress," before I had read
the book, because he had "a pack on his back." But there was really
nothing to be afraid of in those simple, honest old times. I suppose we
children would not have known how happy and safe we were, in our
secluded lane, if we had not conjured up a few imaginary fears.

Long as it is since the rural features of our lane were entirely
obliterated, my feet often go back and press, in memory, its
grass-grown borders, and in delight and liberty I am a child again. Its
narrow limits were once my whole known world. Even then it seemed to me
as if it might lead everywhere; and it was indeed but the beginning of
a road which must lengthen and widen beneath my feet forever.



THERE were only two or three houses between ours and the main street,
and then our lane came out directly opposite the finest house in town,
a three-story edifice of brick, painted white, the "Colonel's"
residence. There was a spacious garden behind it, from which we caught
glimpses and perfumes of unknown flowers. Over its high walls hung
boughs of splendid great yellow sweet apples, which, when they fell on
the outside, we children considered as our perquisites. When I first
read about the apples of the Hesperides, my idea of them was that they
were like the Colonel's "pumpkin-sweetings."

Beyond the garden were wide green fields which reached eastward down to
the beach. It was one of those large old estates which used to give to
the very heart of our New England coast towns a delightful breeziness
and roominess.

A coach-and-pair was one of the appurtenances of this estate, with a
coachman on the box; and when he took the family out for an airing we
small children thought it was a sort of Cinderella spectacle, prepared
expressly for us.

It was not, however, quite so interesting as the Boston stage-coach,
that rolled regularly every day past the head of our lane into and out
of its headquarters, a big, unpainted stable close at hand. This
stage-coach, in our minds, meant the city,--twenty miles off; an
immeasurable distance to us then. Even our elders did not go there very

In those early days, towns used to give each other nicknames, like
schoolboys. Ours was called "Bean-town" not because it was especially
devoted to the cultivation of this leguminous edible, but probably
because it adhered a long time to the Puritanic custom of saving
Sunday-work by baking beans on Saturday evening, leaving them in the
oven over night. After a while, as families left off heating their
ovens, the bean-pots were taken by the village baker on Saturday
afternoon, who returned them to each house early on Sunday morning with
the pan of brown bread that went with them. The jingling of the baker's
bells made the matter a public one.

The towns through which our stage-coach passed sometimes called it the
"bean-pot." The Jehn who drove it was something of a wag. Once, coming
through Charlestown, while waiting in the street for a resident
passenger, he was hailed by another resident who thought him
obstructing the passage, with the shout,--

"Halloo there! Get your old bean-pot out of the way!"

"I will, when I have got my pork in," was the ready reply. What the
sobriquet of Charlestown was, need not be explained.

We had a good opportunity to watch both coaches, as my father's shop
was just at the head of the lane, and we went to school upstairs in the
same building. After he left off going to sea,--before my birth,--my
father took a store for the sale of what used to be called "West India
goods," and various other domestic commodities.

The school was kept by a neighbor whom everybody called "Aunt Hannah."
It took in all the little ones about us, no matter how young they were,
provided they could walk and talk, and were considered capable of
learning their letters.

A ladder-like flight of stairs on the outside of the house led up to
the schoolroom, and another flight, also outside, took us down into a
bit of a garden, where grew tansy and spearmint and southernwood and
wormwood, and, among other old-fashioned flowers, an abundance of
many-tinted four o'clocks, whose regular afternoon-opening just at the
close of school, was a daily wonder to us babies. From the schoolroom
window we could watch the slow hands of the town clock and get a peep
at what was going on in the street, although there was seldom anybody
in sight except the Colonel's gardener or coachman, going into or out
of the driveway directly opposite. It was a very still street; the
front windows of the houses were generally closed, and a few
military-looking Lombardy poplars stood like sentinels on guard before

Another shop--a very small one--joined my father's, where three
shoemakers, all of the same name--the name our lane went by--sat at
their benches and plied their "waxed ends." One of them, an elderly
man, tall and erect, used to come out regularly every day, and stand
for a long time at the corner, motionless as a post, with his nose and
chin pointing skyward, usually to the northeast. I watched his face
with wonder, for it was said that "Uncle John" was "weatherwise," and
knew all the secrets of the heavens.

Aunt Hannah's schoolroom and "our shop" are a blended memory to me. As
I was only a baby when I began to go to school, I was often sent
down-stairs for a half hour's recreation not permitted to the older
ones. I think I looked upon both school and shop entirely as places of
entertainment for little children.

The front shop-window was especially interesting to us children, for
there were in it a few glass jars containing sticks of striped
barley-candy, and red and white peppermint-drops, and that delectable
achievement of the ancient confectioner's art, the "Salem gibraltar."
One of my first recollections of my father is connected with that
window. He had taken me into the shop with him after dinner,--I was
perhaps two years old,--and I was playing beside him on the counter
when one of his old sea-comrades came in, whom we knew as "Captain
Cross." The Captain tried to make friends with me, and, to seal the
bond, asked my father to take down from its place of exhibition a strip
of red peppermints dropped on white paper, in a style I particularly
admired, which he twisted around my neck, saying, "Now I've bought you!
Now you are my girl. Come, go home with me!"

His words sounded as if he meant them. I took it all in earnest, and
ran, scared and screaming, to my father, dashing down the sugar-plums I
wanted so much, and refusing even to bestow a glance upon my amused
purchaser. My father pacified me by taking me on his shoulders and
carrying me "pickaback" up and down the shop, and I clung to him in the
happy consciousness that I belonged to him, and that he would not let
anybody else have me; though I did not feel quite easy until Captain
Cross disappeared. I suppose that this little incident has always
remained in my memory because it then for the first time became a fact
in my consciousness that my father really loved me as I loved him. He
was not at all a demonstrative man, and any petting that he gave us
children could not fail to make a permanent impression.

I think that must have been also the last special attention I received
from him, for a little sister appeared soon after, whose coming was
announced to me with the accompaniment of certain mysterious hints
about my nose being out of joint. I examined that feature carefully in
the looking glass, but could not discover anything usual about it. It
was quite beyond me to imagine that our innocent little baby could have
anything to do with the possible disfigurement of my face, but she did
absorb the fondness of the whole family, myself included, and she
became my father's playmate and darling, the very apple of his eye. I
used sometimes to wish I were a baby too, so that he would notice me,
but gradually I accepted the situation.

Aunt Hannah used her kitchen or her sitting room for a schoolroom, as
best suited her convenience. We were delighted observers of her
culinary operations and other employments. If a baby's head nodded, a
little bed was made for it on a soft "comforter" in the corner, where
it had its nap out undisturbed. But this did not often happen; there
were so many interesting things going on that we seldom became sleepy.

Aunt Hannah was very kind and motherly, but she kept us in fear of her
ferule, which indicated to us a possibility of smarting palms. This
ferule was shaped much like the stick with which she stirred her hasty
pudding for dinner,--I thought it was the same,--and I found myself
caught in a whirlwind of family laughter by reporting at home that
"Aunt Hannah punished the scholars with the pudding-stick."

There was one colored boy in school, who did not sit on a bench, like
the rest, but on a block of wood that looked like a backlog turned
endwise. Aunt Hannah often called him a "blockhead," and I supposed it
was because he sat on that block. Sometimes, in his absence, a boy was
made to sit in his place for punishment, for being a "blockhead" too,
as I imagined. I hoped I should never be put there. Stupid little girls
received a different treatment,--an occasional rap on the head with the
teacher's thimble; accompanied with a half-whispered, impatient
ejaculation, which sounded very much like "Numskull!" I think this was
a rare occurrence, however, for she was a good-natured, much-enduring

One of our greatest school pleasures was to watch Aunt Hannah spinning
on her flax-wheel, wetting her thumb and forefinger at her lips to
twist the thread, keeping time, meanwhile, to some quaint old tune with
her foot upon the treadle.

A verse of one of her hymns, which I never heard anybody else sing,
resounds in the farthest corner of my memory yet:"--

  "Whither goest thou, pilgrim stranger,
  Wandering through this lowly vale?
  Knowest thou not 't is full of danger?
  And will not thy courage fail?"

Then a little pause, and the refrain of the answer broke in with a
change, quick and jubilant, the treadle moving more rapidly, also:--

  "No, I'm bound for the kingdom!
  Will you go to glory with me?
  Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!"

I began to go to school when I was about two years old, as other
children about us did. The mothers of those large families had to
resort to some means of keeping their little ones out of mischief,
while they attended to their domestic duties. Not much more than that
sort of temporary guardianship was expected of the good dame who had us
in charge.

But I learned my letters in a few days, standing at Aunt Hannah's knee
while she pointed them out in the spelling-book with a pin, skipping
over the "a b abs" into words of one and two syllables, thence taking a
flying leap into the New Testament, in which there is concurrent family
testimony that I was reading at the age of two years and a half.
Certain it is that a few passages in the Bible, whenever I read them
now, do not fail to bring before me a vision of Aunt Hannah's somewhat
sternly smiling lips, with her spectacles just above them, far down on
her nose, encouraging me to pronounce the hard words. I think she tried
to choose for me the least difficult verses, or perhaps those of which
she was herself especially fond. Those which I distinctly recall are
the Beatitudes, the Twenty-third Psalm, parts of the first and
fourteenth chapters of the Gospel of St. John, and the thirteenth
chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians.

I liked to say over the "Blesseds,"--the shortest ones best,--about the
meek and the pure in heart; and the two "In the beginnings," both in
Genesis and John. Every child's earliest and proudest Scriptural
conquest in school was, almost as a matter of course, the first verse
in the Bible.

But the passage which I learned first, and most delighted to repeat
after Aunt Hannah,--I think it must have been her favorite too,--was,
"Let not your heart be troubled. In my Father's house are many

The Voice in the Book seemed so tender! Somebody was speaking who had a
heart, and who knew that even a little child's heart was sometimes
troubled. And it was a Voice that called us somewhere; to the Father's
house, with its many mansions, so sunshiny and so large.

It was a beautiful vision that came to me with the words,--I could see
it best with my eyes shut,-a great, dim Door standing ajar, opening out
of rosy morning mists, overhung with swaying vines and arching boughs
that were full of birds; and from beyond the Door, the ripple of
running waters, and the sound of many happy voices, and above them all
the One Voice that was saying, "I go to prepare a place for you." The
vision gave me a sense of freedom, fearless and infinite. What was
there to be afraid of anywhere? Even we little children could see the
open door of our Father's house. We were playing around its threshold
now, and we need never wander out of sight of it. The feeling was a
vague one, but it was like a remembrance. The spacious mansions were
not far away. They were my home. I had known them, and should return to
them again.

This dim half-memory, which perhaps comes to all children, I had felt
when younger still, almost before I could walk. Sitting on the floor in
a square of sunshine made by an open window, the leaf-shadows from
great boughs outside dancing and wavering around me, I seemed to be
talking to them and they to me in unknown tongues, that left within me
an ecstasy yet unforgotten. These shadows had brought a message to me
from an unseen Somewhere, which my baby heart was to keep forever. The
wonder of that moment often returns. Shadow-traceries of bough and leaf
still seem to me like the hieroglyphics of a lost language.

The stars brought me the same feeling. I remember the surprise they
were to me, seen for the first time. One evening, just before I was put
to bed, I was taken in somebody's arms--my sister's, I think--outside
the door, and lifted up under the dark, still, clear sky, splendid with
stars, thicker and nearer earth than they have ever seemed since. All
my little being shaped itself into a subdued delighted "Oh!" And then
the exultant thought flitted through the mind of the reluctant child,
as she was carried in, "Why, that is the roof of the house I live in."
After that I always went to sleep happier for the feeling that the
stars were outside there in the dark, though I could not see them.

I did firmly believe that I came from some other country to this; I had
a vague notion that we were all here on a journey,--that this was not
the place where we really belonged. Some of the family have told me
that before I could talk plainly, I used to run about humming the

  "My father and mother
  Shall come unto the land,"

sometimes varying it with,

  "My brothers and sisters
  Shall come unto the land;"

Nobody knew where I had caught the words, but I chanted them so
constantly that my brother wrote them down, with chalk, on the under
side of a table, where they remained for years. My thought about that
other land may have been only a baby's dream; but the dream was very
real to me. I used to talk, in sober earnest, about what happened
"before I was a little girl, and came here to live"; and it did seem to
me as if I remembered.

But I was hearty and robust, full of frolicsome health, and very fond
of the matter-of-fact world I lived in. My sturdy little feet felt the
solid earth beneath them. I grew with the sprouting grass, and enjoyed
my life as the buds and birds seemed to enjoy theirs. It was only as if
the bud and the bird and the dear warm earth knew, in the same dumb way
that I did, that all their joy and sweetness came to them out of the

These recollections, that so distinctly belong the baby Myself, before
she could speak her thoughts, though clear and vivid, are difficult to
put into shape. But other grown-up children, in looking back, will
doubtless see many a trailing cloud of glory, that lighted their
unconscious infancy from within and from beyond.

I was quite as literal as I was visionary in my mental renderings of
the New Testament, read at Aunt Hannah's knee. I was much taken with
the sound of words, without any thought of their meaning--a habit not
always outgrown with childhood. The "sounding brass and tinkling
cymbals," for instance, in the Epistle to the Corinthians, seemed to me
things to be greatly desired. "Charity" was an abstract idea. I did not
know what it meant. But "tinkling cymbals" one could make music with. I
wished I could get hold of them. It never occurred to me that the
Apostle meant to speak of their melody slightingly.

At meeting, where I began to go also at two years of age, I made my own
private interpretations of the Bible readings. They were absurd enough,
but after getting laughed at a few times at home for making them
public, I escaped mortification by forming a habit of great reserve as
to my Sabbath-day thoughts.

When the minister read, "Cut it down: why cumbereth it the ground?"? I
thought he meant to say "cu-cumbereth." These vegetables grew on the
ground, and I had heard that they were not very good for people to eat.
I honestly supposed that the New Testament forbade the cultivation of

And "Galilee" I understood as a mispronunciation of "gallery." "Going
up into Galilee" I interpreted into clattering up the uncarpeted stairs
in the meeting-house porch, as the boys did, with their squeaking
brogans, looking as restless as imprisoned monkeys after they had got
into those conspicuous seats, where they behaved as if they thought
nobody could see their pranks. I did not think it could be at all nice
to "go up into Galilee."

I had an "Aunt Nancy," an uncle's wife, to whom I was sometimes sent
for safe-keeping when house-cleaning or anything unusual was going on
at home. She was a large-featured woman, with a very deep masculine
voice, and she conducted family worship herself, kneeling at prayer,
which was not the Orthodox custom.

She always began by saying,--

"Oh Lord, Thou knowest that we are all groveling worms of the dust." I
thought she meant that we all looked like wriggling red earthworms, and
tried to make out the resemblance in my mind, but could not. I
unburdened my difficulty at home, telling the family that "Aunt Nancy
got down on the floor and said we were all grubbelin' worms," begging
to know whether everybody did sometimes have to crawl about in the dust.

A little later, I was much puzzled as to whether I was a Jew or
Gentile. The Bible seemed to divide people into these two classes only.
The Gentiles were not well spoken of: I did not want to be one of them.
The talked about Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and the rest, away back to
Adam, as if they were our forefathers (there was a time when I thought
that Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel were our four fathers); and yet I
was very sure that I was not a Jew. When I ventured to ask, I was told
that we were all Christians or heathen now. That did not help me for I
thought that only grown-up persons could be Christians, from which it
followed that all children must be heathen. Must I think of Myself as a
heathen, then, until I should be old enough to be a Christian? It was a
shocking conclusion, but I could see no other answer to my question,
and I felt ashamed to ask again. My self-invented theory about the
human race was that Adam and Eve were very tall people, taller than the
tallest trees in the Garden of Eden, before they were sent out of it;
but that they then began to dwindle; that their children had ever since
been getting smaller and smaller, and that by and by the inhabitants of
the world would be no bigger than babies. I was afraid I should stop
growing while I was a child, and I used to stand on the footstool in
the pew, and try to stretch myself up to my mother's height, to imagine
how it would seem to be a woman. I hoped I should be a tall one. I did
not wish to be a diminishing specimen of the race;--an anxiety which
proved to be entirely groundless.

The Sabbath mornings in those old times had a peculiar charm. They
seemed so much cleaner than other mornings! The roads and the grassy
footpaths seemed fresher, and the air itself purer and more wholesome
than on week-days. Saturday afternoon and evening were regarded as part
of the Sabbath (we were taught that it was heathenish to call the day
Sunday); work and playthings were laid aside, and every body, as well
as every thing, was subjected to a rigid renovation. Sabbath morning
would not have seemed like itself without a clean house, a clean skin,
and tidy and spotless clothing.

The Saturday's baking was a great event, the brick oven being heated to
receive the flour bread, the flour-and-Indian, and the rye-and-Indian
bread, the traditional pot of beans, the Indian pudding, and the pies;
for no further cooking was to be done until Monday. We smaller girls
thought it a great privilege to be allowed to watch the oven till the
roof of it should be "white-hot," so that the coals could be shoveled

Then it was so still, both out of doors and within! We were not allowed
to walk anywhere except in the yard or garden. I remember wondering
whether it was never Sabbath-day over the fence, in the next field;
whether the field was not a kind of heathen field, since we could only
go into it on week-days. The wild flowers over there were perhaps
Gentile blossoms. Only the flowers in the garden were well-behaved
Christians. It was Sabbath in the house, and possibly even on the
doorstep; but not much farther. The town itself was so quiet that it
scarcely seemed to breathe. The sound of wheels was seldom heard in the
streets on that day; if we heard it, we expected some unusual

I liked to go to meeting,--not wholly oblivious to the fact that going
there sometimes implied wearing a new bonnet and my best white dress
and muslin "vandyke," of which adornments, if very new, I vainly
supposed the whole congregation to be as admiringly aware as I was

But my Sabbath-day enjoyment was not wholly without drawbacks. It was
so hard, sometimes, to stand up through the "long prayer," and to sit
still through the "ninthlies," and "tenthlies," and "finallys" of the
sermon! It was impressed upon me that good children were never restless
in meeting, and never laughed or smiled, however their big brothers
tempted them with winks or grimaces. And I did want to be good.

I was not tall enough to see very far over the top of the pew. I think
there were only three persons that came within range of my eyes. One
was a dark man with black curly hair brushed down in "bangs" over his
eyebrows, who sat behind a green baize curtain near the outside door,
peeping out at me, as I thought. I had an impression that he was the
"tidy-man," though that personage had become mythical long before my
day. He had a dragonish look, to me; and I tried never to meet his

But I did sometimes gaze more earnestly than was polite at a dear,
demure little lady who sat in the corner of the pew next ours, her
downcast eyes shaded by a green calash, and her hidden right hand
gently swaying a long-handled Chinese fan. She was the deacon's wife,
and I felt greatly interested in her movements and in the expression of
her face, because I thought she represented the people they called
"saints," who were, as I supposed, about the same as first cousins to
the angels.

The third figure in sight was the minister.  I did not think he ever
saw me; he was talking to the older people,--usually telling them how
wicked they were. He often said to them that there was not one good
person among them; but I supposed he excepted himself. He seemed to me
so very good that I was very much afraid of him. I was a little afraid
of my father, but then he sometimes played with us children: and
besides, my father was only a man. I thought the minister belonged to
some different order of beings. Up there in the pulpit he seemed to me
so far off--oh! a great deal farther off than God did. His distance
made my reverence for him take the form of idolatry. The pulpit was his
pedestal. If any one had told me that the minister ever did or thought
anything that was wrong, I should have felt as if the foundations of
the earth under me were shaken. I wondered if he ever did laugh.
Perhaps it was wicked for a minister even to smile.

One day, when I was very little, I met the minister in the street; and
he, probably recognizing me as the child of one of his parishioners,
actually bowed to me! His bows were always ministerially profound, and
I was so overwhelmed with surprise and awe that I forgot to make the
proper response of a "curtsey," but ran home as fast as I could go to
proclaim the wonder. It would not have astonished me any more, if one
of the tall Lombardy poplars that stood along the sidewalk had laid
itself down at my feet.

I do not remember anything that the preacher ever said, except some
words which I thought sounded well,--such as "dispensations,"
"decrees," "ordinances," "covenants,"--although I attached no meaning
to them. He seemed to be trying to explain the Bible by putting it into
long words. I did not understand them at all. It was from Aunt Hannah
that I received my first real glimpses of the beautiful New Testament
revelation. In her unconscious wisdom she chose for me passages and
chapters that were like openings into heaven. They contained the great,
deep truths which are simple because they are great. It was not
explanations of those grand words that I required, or that anybody
requires. In reading them we are all children together, and need only
to be led to the banks of the river of God, which is full of water,
that we may look down into its pellucid depths for ourselves.

Our minister was not unlike other ministers of the time, and his
seeming distance from his congregation was doubtless owing to the deep
reverence in which the ministerial office was universally held among
our predecessors. My own graven-image worship of him was only a
childish exaggeration of the general feeling of grown people around me.
He seemed to us an inhabitant of a Sabbath-day sphere, while we
belonged to the every-day world. I distinctly remember the day of my
christening, when I was between three and four years old. My parents
did not make a public profession of their faith until after the birth
of all their children, eight of whom--I being my father's ninth child
and seventh daughter--were baptized at one time. My two half-sisters
were then grown-up young women. My mother had told us that the minister
would be speaking directly to us, and that we must pay close attention
to what he said. I felt that it was an important event, and I wished to
do exactly what the minister desired of me. I listened eagerly while he
read the chapter and the hymn. The latter was one of my favorites:--

  "See Israel's gentle Shepherd stands;"

and the chapter was the third of St. Matthew, containing the story of
our Lord's baptism. I could not make out any special message for us,
until he came to the words, "Whose fan is in his hand."

That must be it! I looked anxiously at my sisters, to see if they had
brought their fans. It was warm weather, and I had taken a little one
of my own to meeting. Believing that I was following a direct
instruction, I clasped my fan to my bosom and held it there as we
walked up the aisle, and during the ceremony, wondering why the others
did not do so, too. The baby in my mother's arms--Octavia, the eighth
daughter--shocked me by crying a little, but I tried to behave the
better on that account.

It all seemed very solemn and mysterious to me. I knew from my father's
and mother's absorbed manner then, and when we returned from church,
that it was something exceedingly important to Them--something that
they wished us neither to talk about nor to forget.

I never did forget it. There remained within me a sweet, haunting
feeling of having come near the "gentle Shepherd" of the hymn, who was
calling the lambs to his side.  The chapter had ended with the echo of
a voice from heaven, and with the glimpse of a descending Dove. And the
water-drops on my forehead, were they not from that "pure river of
water of life, clear as crystal," that made music through those lovely
verses in the last chapter of the good Book?

I am glad that I have always remembered that day of family
consecration. As I look back, it seems as if the horizons of heaven and
earth met and were blended then. And who can tell whether the fragrance
of that day's atmosphere may not enter into the freshness of some new
childhood in the life which is to come?



ALMOST the first decided taste in my life was the love of hymns.
Committing them to memory was as natural to me as breathing. I followed
my mother about with the hymn-book ("Watts' and Select"), reading or
repeating them to her, while she was busy with her baking or ironing,
and she was always a willing listener. She was fond of devotional
reading, but had little time for it, and it pleased her to know that so
small a child as I really cared for the hymns she loved.

I learned most of them at meeting. I was told to listen to the
minister; but as I did not understand a word he was saying, I gave it
up, and took refuge in the hymn-book, with the conscientious purpose of
trying to sit still. I turned the leaves over as noiselessly as
possible, to avoid the dreaded reproof of my mother's keen blue eyes;
and sometimes I learned two or three hymns in a forenoon or an
afternoon. Finding it so easy, I thought I would begin at the
beginning, and learn the whole. There were about a thousand of them
included in the Psalms, the First, Second, and Third Books, and the
Select Hymns. But I had learned to read before I had any knowledge of
counting up numbers, and so was blissfully ignorant of the magnitude of
my undertaking. I did not, I think, change my resolution because there
were so many, but because, little as I was, I discovered that there
were hymns and hymns. Some of them were so prosy that the words would
not stay in my memory at all, so I concluded that I would learn only
those I liked.

I had various reasons for my preferences. With some, I was caught by a
melodious echo, or a sonorous ring; with others by the hint of a
picture, or a story, or by some sacred suggestion that attracted me, I
knew not why. Of some I was fond just because I misunderstood them; and
of these I made a free version in my mind, as I murmured them over. One
of my first favorites was certainly rather a singular choice for a
child of three or four years. I had no idea of its meaning, but made up
a little story out of it, with myself as the heroine. It began with the

  "Come, humble sinner, in whose breast
  A thousand thoughts revolve."

The second stanza read thus:--

  "I'll go to Jesus, though my sin
  Hath like a mountain rose."

I did not know that this last line was bad grammar, but thought that
the sin in question was something pretty, that looked "like a mountain
rose." Mountains I had never seen; they were a glorious dream to me.
And a rose that grew on a mountain must surely be prettier than any of
our red wild roses on the hill, sweet as they were. I would pluck that
rose, and carry it up the mountain-side into the temple where the King
sat, and would give it to Him; and then He would touch me with his
sceptre, and let me through into a garden full of flowers. There was no
garden in the hymn; I suppose the "rose" made me invent one. But it did

  "I know his courts; I'll enter in,
  Whatever may oppose;"

and so I fancied there would be lions in the way, as there were in the
Pilgrim's, at the "House Beautiful"; but I should not be afraid of
them; they would no doubt be chained. The last verse began with the

  "I can but perish if I go:
  I am resolved to try:"

and my heart beat a brave echo to the words, as I started off in fancy
on a "Pilgrim's Progress" of my own, a happy little dreamer, telling
nobody the secret of my imaginary journey, taken in sermon-time.

Usually, the hymns for which I cared most suggested Nature in some
way,--flowers, trees, skies, and stars. When I repeated,--

  "There everlasting spring abides,
  And never-withering flowers,"--

I thought of the faintly flushed anemones and white and blue violets,
the dear little short-lived children of our shivering spring. They also
would surely be found in that heavenly land, blooming on through the
cloudless, endless year. And I seemed to smell the spiciness of bay
berry and sweet-fern and wild roses and meadow-sweet that grew in
fragrant jungles up and down the hillside back of the meeting-house, in
another verse which I dearly loved:--

  "The hill of Zion yields
  A thousand sacred sweet,
  Before we reach the heavenly fields,
  Or walk the golden streets."

We were allowed to take a little nosegay to meeting sometimes: a pink
or two (pinks were pink then, not red, nor white, nor even double) and
a sprig of camomile; and their blended perfume still seems to be a part
of the June Sabbath mornings long passed away.

  When the choir sang of
  "Seas of heavenly rest,"

a breath of salt wind came in with the words through the open door,
from the sheltered waters of the bay, so softly blue and so lovely, I
always wondered how a world could be beautiful where "there was no more
sea." I concluded that the hymn and the text could not really
contradict other; that there must be something like the sea in heaven,
after all. One stanza that I used to croon over, gave me the feeling of
being rocked in a boat on a strange and beautiful ocean, from whose
far-off shores the sunrise beckoned:--

  "At anchor laid, remote from home,
  Toiling I cry, Sweet Spirit, come!
  Celestial breeze, no longer stay!
  But spread my sails, and speed my way!"

Some of the chosen hymns of my infancy the world recognizes among its
noblest treasures of sacred song. That one of Doddridge's, beginning

  "Ye golden lamps of heaven, farewell!"

made me feel as if I had just been gazing in at some window of the
"many mansions" above:--

  "Ye stars are but the shining dust
  Of my divine abode-"

Had I not known that, ever since I was a baby? But the light does not
stream down even into a baby's soul with equal brightness all the time.
Earth draws her dark curtains too soon over the windows of heaven, and
the little children fall asleep in her dim rooms, and forget their

That majestic hymn of Cowper's,--

  "God moves in a mysterious way,"

was one of my first and dearest. It reminded me of the rolling of
thunder through the sky; and, understood as little as the thunder
itself, which my mother told me was God's voice, so that I bent my ear
and listened, expecting to hear it shaped into words, it still did give
me an idea of the presence of One Infinite Being, that thrilled me with
reverent awe. And this was one of the best lessons taught in the
Puritan school,--the lesson of reverence, the certainty that life meant
looking up to something, to Some One greater than ourselves, to a Life
far above us, which yet enfolded ours.

The thought of God, when He was first spoken of to me, seemed as
natural as the thought of my father and mother. That He should be
invisible did not seem strange, for I could not with my eyes see
through the sky, beyond which I supposed he lived. But it was easy to
believe that He could look down and see me, and that He knew all about
me. We were taught very early to say "Thou, God, seest me"; and it was
one of my favorite texts. Heaven seemed nearer, because somebody I
loved was up there looking at me. A baby is not afraid of its father's

The first real unhappiness I remember to have felt was when some one
told me, one day, that I did not love God. I insisted, almost
tearfully, that I did; but I was told that if I did truly love Him I
should always be good. I knew I was not that, and the feeling of sudden
orphanage came over me like a bewildering cloud. Yet I was sure that I
loved my father and mother, even when I was naughty, Was He harder to
please than they?

Then I heard of a dreadful dark Somewhere, the horror of which was that
it was away from Him. What if I should wake some morning, and find
myself there? Sometimes I did not dare to go to sleep for that dread.
And the thought was too awful to speak of to anybody. Baby that I was,
I shut my lips in a sort of reckless despair, and thought that if I
could not be good, I might as well be naughty, and enjoy it. But
somehow I could not enjoy it. I felt sorry and ashamed and degraded
whenever I knew that I had been cross or selfish.

I heard them talk about Jesus as if He were a dead man, one who died a
great while ago, whose death made a great difference to us, I could not
understand how. It seemed like a lovely story, the loveliest in the
world, but it sounded as if it were only a story, even to those who
repeated it to me; something that had happened far away in the past.

But one day a strange minister came into the Sabbath-school in our
little chapel, and spoke to us children about Him, oh! so differently!

"Children," he said, "Jesus is not dead. He is alive: He loves you, and
wants you to love Him! He is your best Friend, and He will show you how
to be good."

My heart beat fast. I could hardly keep back the tears. The New
Testament, then, did really mean what it said! Jesus said He would come
back again, and would always be with those who loved Him.

"He is alive! He loves me! He will tell me how to be good!" I said it
over to myself, but not to anybody else. I was sure that I loved Him.
It was like a beautiful secret between us two. I felt Him so alive and
so near! He wanted me to be good, and I could be, I would be, for his

That stranger never knew how his loving word had touched a child's
heart. The doors of the Father's house were opened wide again, by the
only hand that holds the key. The world was all bright and fresh once
more. It was as if the May sun had suddenly wakened the flowers in an
overshadowed wayside nook.

I tried long afterward, thinking that it was my duty, to build up a
wall of difficult doctrines over my spring blossoms, as if they needed
protection. But the sweet light was never wholly stifled out, though I
did not always keep my face turned towards it: and I know now, that
just to let his lifegiving smile shine into the soul is better than any
of the theories we can invent about Him; and that only so can young or
old receive the kingdom of God as a little child.

I believe that one great reason for a child's love of hymns, such as
mine was, is that they are either addressed to a Person, to the Divine
Person,--or they bring Him before the mind in some distinct way,
instead of being written upon a subject, like a sermon. To make Him
real is the only way to make our own spirits real to ourselves.

I think more gratefully now of the verses I learned from the Bible and
the Hymn-Book than of almost anything that came to me in that time of
beginnings. The whole Hymn-Book was not for me then, any more than the
whole Bible. I took from both only what really belonged to me. To be
among those who found in the true sources of faith and adoration, was
like breathing in my native air, though I could not tell anything about
the land from which I had come. Much that was put in the way of us
children to climb by, we could only stumble over; but around and above
the roughnesses of the road, the pure atmosphere of worship was felt
everywhere, the healthiest atmosphere for a child's soul to breathe in.

I had learned a great many hymns before the family took any notice of
it. When it came to the knowledge of my most motherly sister Emilie,--I
like to call her that, for she was as fond of early rising as Chaucer's

  "Up rose the sun, and up rose Emilie;"

and it is her own name, with a very slight change,--she undertook to
see how many my small memory would contain. She promised me a new book,
when I should have learned fifty; and that when I could repeat any one
of a hundred hymns, she would teach me to write. I earned the book when
I was about four years old. I think it was a collection of some of Jane
Taylor's verses. "For Infant Minds," was part of the title. I did not
care for it, however, nearly so much as I did for the old, thumb-worn
"Watts' and Select Hymns." Before I was five I bad gone beyond the
stipulated hundred.

A proud and happy child I was, when I was permitted to dip a goose
quill into an inkstand, and make written letters, instead of printing
them with a pencil on a slate.

My sister prepared a neat little writing-book for me, and told me not
to make a mark in it except when she was near to tell me what to do. In
my self-sufficient impatience to get out of "pothooks and trammels"
into real letters and words I disobeyed her injunction, and disfigured
the pages with numerous tell-tale blots. Then I hid the book away under
the garret eaves, and refused to bring it to light again. I was not
allowed to resume my studies in penmanship for some months, in
consequence. But when I did learn to write, Emilie was my teacher, and
she made me take great pains with my p's and q's.

It is always a mistake to cram a juvenile mind. A precocious child is
certainly as far as possible from being an interesting one. Children
ought to be children, and nothing else. But I am not sorry that I
learned to read when so young, because there were years of my childhood
that came after, when I had very little time for reading anything.

To learn hymns was not only a pastime, but a pleasure which it would
have been almost cruel to deprive me of. It did not seem to me as if I
learned them, but as if they just gave themselves to me while I read
them over; as if they, and the unseen things they sang about, became a
part of me.

Some of the old hymns did seem to lend us wings, so full were they of
aspiration and hope and courage. To a little child, reading them or
hearing them sung was like being caught up in a strong man's arms, to
gaze upon some wonderful landscape. These climbing and flying
hymns,--how well I remember them, although they were among the first I
learned! They are of the kind that can never wear out. We all know them
by their first lines,--

  "Awake, our souls! away, our fears!"

  "Up to the hills I lift mine eyes."

  "There is a land of pure delight."

  "Rise, my soul, and stretch thy wings,
  Thy better portion trace!"

How the meeting-house rafters used to ring to that last hymn, sung to
the tune of "Amsterdam!" Sometimes it seemed as if the very roof was
lifted off,--nay, the roof of the sky itself--as if the music had burst
an entrance for our souls into the heaven of heavens.

I loved to learn the glad hymns, and there were scores of them. They
come flocking back through the years, like birds that are full of the
music of an immortal spring!

  "Come, let us join our cheerful songs
  With angels round the throne."

  "Love divine, all love excelling;
  Joy of heaven, to earth come down."

  "Joy to the world! the Lord is come!"

  "Hark! the song of jubilee,
  Loud as mighty thunders' roar,
  Or the fullness of the sea
  When it breaks upon the shore!

  "Hallelujah! for the Lord
  God Omnipotent shall reign!
  Hallelujah! let the word
  Echo round the earth and main."

Ah, that word "Hallelujah!" It seemed to express all the joy of spring
mornings and clear sunshine and bursting blossoms, blended with all
that I guessed of the songs of angels, and with all that I had heard
and believed, in my fledgling soul, of the glorious One who was born in
a manger and died on a cross, that He might reign in human hearts as a
king. I wondered why the people did not sing "Hallelujah" more. It
seemed like a word sent straight down to us out of heaven.

I did not like to learn the sorrowful hymns, though I did it when they
were given to me as a task, such as--

  "Hark, from the tombs," and

  "Lord, what a wretched land is this,
  That yields us no supply."

I suppose that these mournful strains had their place, but sometimes
the transition was too sudden, from the outside of the meeting-house to
the inside; from the sunshine and bobolinks and buttercups of the merry
May-day world, to the sad strains that chanted of "this barren land,"
this "vale of tears," this "wilderness" of distress and woe. It let us
light-hearted children too quickly down from the higher key of mirth to
which our careless thoughts were pitched. We knew that we were happy,
and sorrow to us was unreal. But somehow we did often get the
impression that it was our duty to try to be sorrowful; and that we
could not be entirely good, without being rather miserable.

And I am afraid that in my critical little mind I looked upon it as an
affectation on the part of the older people to speak of life in this
doleful way. I thought that they really knew better. It seemed to me
that it must be delightful to grow up, and learn things, and do things,
and be very good indeed,--better than children could possibly know how
to be. I knew afterwards that my elders were sometimes, at least,
sincere in their sadness; for with many of them life must have been a
hard struggle. But when they shook their heads and said,--"Child, you
will not be so happy by and by; you are seeing your best days now," I
still doubted. I was born with the blessing of a cheerful temperament;
and while that is not enough to sustain any of us through the
inevitable sorrows that all must share, it would have been most
unnatural and ungrateful in me to think of earth as a dismal place,
when everything without and within was trying to tell me that this good
and beautiful world belongs to God.

I took exception to some verses in many of the hymns that I loved the
most. I had my own mental reservations with regard even to that
glorious chant of the ages,--

  "Jerusalem, my happy home,
  Name ever dear to me."

I always wanted to skip one half of the third stanza, as it stood in
our Hymn-Book:

  "Where congregations ne'er break up,
  And Sabbaths have no end."

I did not want it to be Sabbath-day always. I was conscious of a
pleasure in the thought of games and frolics and coming week-day
delights that would flit across my mind even when I was studying my
hymns, or trying to listen to the minister. And I did want the
congregation to break up some time. Indeed, in those bright spring
days, the last hymn in the afternoon always sounded best, because with
it came the opening of doors into the outside air, and the pouring in
of a mingled scent of sea winds and apple blossoms, like an invitation
out into the freedom of the beach, the hillsides, the fields and
gardens and orchards. In all this I felt as if I were very wicked. I
was afraid that I loved earth better than I did heaven.

Nevertheless I always did welcome that last hymn, announced to be sung
"with the Doxology," usually in "long metre," to the tune of "Old
Hundred." There were certain mysterious preliminaries,--the rustling of
singing-book leaves, the sliding of the short screen-curtains before
the singers along by their clinking rings, and now and then a
premonitory groan or squeak from bass-viol or violin, as if the
instruments were clearing their throats; and finally the sudden
uprising of that long row of heads in the "singing-seats."

My tallest and prettiest grown-up sister, Louise, stood there among
them, and of all those girlish, blooming faces I thought hers the very
handsomest. But she did not open her lips wide enough to satisfy me. I
could not see that she was singing at all.

To stand up there and be one of the choir, seemed to me very little
short of promotion to the ranks of cherubim and seraphim. I quite
envied that tall, pretty sister of mine. I was sure that I should open
my mouth wide, if I could only be in her place. Alas! the years proved
that, much as I loved the hymns, there was no music in me to give them
voice, except to very indulgent ears.

Some of us must wait for the best human gifts until we come to heavenly
places. Our natural desire for musical utterance is perhaps a prophecy
that in a perfect world we shall all know how to sing. But it is
something to feel music, if we cannot make it. That, in itself, is a
kind of unconscious singing.

As I think back to my childhood, it seems to me as if the air was full
of hymns, as it was of the fragrance of clover-blossoms, and the songs
of bluebirds and robins, and the deep undertone of the sea. And the
purity, the calmness, and the coolness of the dear old Sabbath days
seems lingering yet in the words of those familiar hymns, whenever I
bear them sung. Their melody penetrates deep into my life, assuming me
that I have not left the green pastures and the still waters of my
childhood very far behind me.

There is something at the heart of a true song or hymn which keeps the
heart young that listens. It is like a breeze from the eternal hills;
like the west wind of spring, never by a breath less balmy and clear
for having poured life into the old generations of earth for thousands
of years; a spiritual freshness, which has nothing to do with time or



ALTHOUGH the children of an earlier time heard a great deal of
theological discussion which meant little or nothing to them, there was
one thing that was made clear and emphatic in all the Puritan training:
that the heavens and earth stood upon firm foundations--upon the Moral
Law as taught in the Old Testament and confirmed by the New. Whatever
else we did not understand, we believed that to disobey our parents, to
lie or steal, had been forbidden by a Voice which was not to be
gainsaid. People who broke or evaded these commands did so willfully,
and without excusing themselves, or being excused by others. I think
most of us expected the fate of Ananias and Sapphira, if we told what
we knew was a falsehood.

There were reckless exceptions, however. A playmate, of whom I was
quite fond, was once asked, in my presence, whether she had done
something forbidden, which I knew she had been about only a little
while before.  She answered "No," and without any apparent hesitation.
After the person who made the inquiry had gone, I exclaimed, with
horrified wonder, "How could you?"

Her reply was, "Oh, I only kind of said no." What a real lie was to
her, if she understood a distinct denial of the truth as only "kind-of"
lying, it perplexed me to imagine. The years proved that this lack of
moral perception was characteristic, and nearly spoiled a nature full
of beautiful gifts.

I could not deliberately lie, but I had my own temptations, which I did
not always successfully resist. I remember the very spot--in a footpath
through a green field--where I first met the Eighth Commandment, and
felt it looking me full in the face.

I suppose I was five or six years old. I had begun to be trusted with
errands; one of them was to go to a farmhouse for a quart of milk every
morning, to purchase which I went always to the money-drawer in the
shop and took out four cents. We were allowed to take a "small brown"
biscuit, or a date, or a fig, or a "gibraltar," sometimes; but we well
understood that we could not help ourselves to money.

Now there was a little painted sugar equestrian in a shop-window down
town, which I had seen and set my heart upon. I had learned that its
price was two cents; and one morning as I passed around the counter
with my tin pail I made up my mind to possess myself of that amount. My
father's back was turned; he was busy at his desk with account-books
and ledgers. I counted out four cents aloud, but took six, and started
on my errand with a fascinating picture before me of that pink and
green horseback rider as my very own.

I cannot imagine what I meant to do with him. I knew that his paint was
poisonous, and I could not have intended to eat him; there were much
better candies in my father's window; he would not sell these dangerous
painted toys to children. But the little man was pretty to look at, and
I wanted him, and meant to have him. It was just a child's first
temptation to get possession of what was not her own,--the same ugly
temptation that produces the defaulter, the burglar, and the highway
robber, and that made it necessary to declare to every human being the
law, "Thou shalt not covet."

As I left the shop, I was conscious of a certain pleasure in the
success of my attempt, as any thief might be; and I walked off very
fast, clattering the coppers in the tin pail.

When I was fairly through the bars that led into the farmer's field,
and nobody was in sight, I took out my purloined pennies, and looked at
them as they lay in my palm.

Then a strange thing happened. It was a bright morning, but it seemed
to me as if the sky grew suddenly dark; and those two pennies began to
burn through my hand, to scorch me, as if they were red hot, to my very
soul. It was agony to hold them. I laid them down under a tuft of grass
in the footpath, and ran as if I had left a demon behind me. I did my
errand, and returning, I looked about in the grass for the two cents,
wondering whether they could make me feel so badly again. But my good
angel hid them from me; I never found them.

I was too much of a coward to confess my fault to my father; I had
already begun to think of him as "an austere man," like him in the
parable of the talents. I should have been a much happier child if I
bad confessed, for I had to carry about with me for weeks and months a
heavy burden of shame. I thought of myself as a thief, and used to
dream of being carried off to jail and condemned to the gallows for my
offense: one of my story-books told about a boy who was hanged at
Tyburn for stealing, and how was I better than he?

Whatever naughtiness I was guilty of afterwards, I never again wanted
to take what belonged to another, whether in the family or out of it. I
hated the sight of the little sugar horseback rider from that day, and
was thankful enough when some other child had bought him and left his
place in the window vacant.

About this time I used to lie awake nights a good deal, wondering what
became of infants who were wicked. I had heard it said that all who
died in infancy went to heaven, but it was also said that those who
sinned could not possibly go to heaven. I understood, from talks I had
listened to among older people, that infancy lasted until children were
about twelve years of age. Yet here was I, an infant of less than six
years, who had committed a sin. I did not know what to do with my own
case. I doubted whether it would do any good for me to pray to be
forgiven, but I did pray, because I could not help it, though not
aloud. I believe I preferred thinking my prayers to saying them, almost

Inwardly, I objected to the idea of being an infant; it seemed to me
like being nothing in particular--neither a child nor a little girl,
neither a baby nor a woman. Having discovered that I was capable of
being wicked, I thought it would be better if I could grow up at once,
and assume my own responsibilities. It quite demoralized me when people
talked in my presence about "innocent little children."

There was much questioning in those days as to whether fictitious
reading was good for children. To "tell a story" was one equivalent
expression for lying.  But those who came nearest to my child-life
recognized the value of truth as impressed through the imagination, and
left me in delightful freedom among my fairy-tale books. I think I saw
a difference, from the first, between the old poetic legends and a
modern lie, especially if this latter was the invention of a fancy as
youthful as my own.

I supposed that the beings of those imaginative tales had lived some
time, somewhere; perhaps they still existed in foreign countries, which
were all a realm of fancy to me. I was certain that they could not
inhabit our matter-of-fact neighborhood. I had never heard that any
fairies or elves came over with the Pilgrims in the Mayflower. But a
little red-haired playmate with whom I became intimate used to take me
off with her into the fields, where, sitting, on the edge of a disused
cartway fringed with pussy-clover, she poured into my ears the most
remarkable narratives of acquaintances she had made with people who
lived under the ground close by us, in my father's orchard. Her literal
descriptions quite deceived me; I swallowed her stories entire, just as
people in the last century did Defoe's account of "The Apparition of
Mrs. Veal."

She said that these subterranean people kept house, and that they
invited her down to play with their children on Wednesday and Saturday
afternoons; also that they sometimes left a plate of cakes and tarts
for her at their door: she offered to show me the very spot where it
was,--under a great apple-tree which my brothers called "the
luncheon-tree," because we used to rest and refresh ourselves there,
when we helped my father weed his vegetable-garden. But she guarded
herself by informing me that it would be impossible for us to open the
door ourselves; that it could only be unfastened from the inside. She
told me these people's names--a "Mr. Pelican," and a "Mr. Apple-tree
Manasseh," who had a very large family of little "Manassehs." She said
that there was a still larger family, some of them probably living just
under the spot where we sat, whose surname was "Hokes." (If either of
us had been familiar with another word pronounced in the same way,
though spelled differently, I should since have thought that she was
all the time laughing in her sleeve at my easy belief.) These "Hokeses"
were not good-natured people, she added, whispering to me that we must
not speak about them aloud, as they had sharp ears, and might overhear
us, and do us mischief.

I think she was hoaxing herself as well as me; it was her way of being
a heroine in her own eyes and mine, and she had always the manner of
being entirely in earnest.

But she became more and more romantic in her inventions. A distant
aristocratic-looking mansion, which we could see half-hidden by trees,
across the river, she assured me was a haunted house, and that she had
passed many a night there, seeing unaccountable sights, and hearing
mysterious sounds. She further announced that she was to be married,
some time, to a young man who lived over there. I inferred that the
marriage was to take place whenever the ghostly tenants of the house
would give their consent. She revealed to me, under promise of strict
secrecy, the young man's name. It was "Alonzo."

Not long after I picked up a book which one of my sisters had borrowed,
called "Alonzo and Melissa," and I discovered that she had been telling
me page after page of "Melissa's" adventures, as if they were her own.
The fading memory I have of the book is that it was a very silly one;
and when I discovered that the rest of the romantic occurrences she had
related, not in that volume, were to be found in "The Children of the
Abbey," I left off listening to her. I do not think I regarded her
stories as lies; I only lost my interest in them after I knew that they
were all of her own clumsy second-hand making-up, out of the most
commonplace material.

My two brothers liked to play upon my credulity. When my brother Ben
pointed up to the gilded weather-cock on the Old South steeple, and
said to me with a very grave face,--

"Did you know that whenever that cock crows every rooster in town crows
too?" I listened out at the window, and asked,--

"But when will he begin to crow?"

"Oh, roosters crow in the night, sometimes, when you are asleep."

Then my younger brother would break in with a shout of delight at my

"I'll tell you when, goosie!--

  'The next day after never;
  When the dead ducks fly over the river.'"

But this must have been when I was very small; for I remember thinking
that "the next day after never" would come some time, in millions of
years, perhaps. And how queer it would be to see dead ducks flying
through the air!

Witches were seldom spoken of in the presence of us children. We
sometimes overheard a snatch of a witch-story, told in whispers, by the
flickering firelight, just as we were being sent off to bed. But, to
the older people, those legends were too much like realities, and they
preferred not to repeat them. Indeed, it was over our town that the
last black shadow of the dreadful witchcraft delusion had rested.
Mistress Hale's house was just across the burying-ground, and Gallows
Hill was only two miles away, beyond the bridge. Yet I never really
knew what the "Salem Witchcraft" was until Goodrich's "History of the
United States" was put into my hands as a schoolbook, and I read about
it there.

Elves and gnomes and air-sprites and genii were no strangers to us, for
my sister Emilie--she who heard me say my hymns, and taught me to
write--was mistress of an almost limitless fund of imaginative lore.
She was a very Scheherezade of story-tellers, so her younger sisters
thought, who listened to her while twilight grew into moonlight,
evening after evening, with fascinated wakefulness.

Besides the tales that the child-world of all ages is familiar
with,--Red Riding-Hood, the Giant-Killer, Cinderella, Aladdin, the
"Sleeping Beauty," and the rest,--she had picked up somewhere most of
the folk-stories of Ireland and Scotland, and also the wild legends of
Germany, which latter were not then made into the compact volumes known
among juvenile readers of to-day as Grimm's "Household Tales."

Her choice was usually judicious; she omitted the ghosts and goblins
that would have haunted our dreams; although I was now and then visited
by a nightmare-consciousness of being a bewitched princess who must
perform some impossible task, such as turning a whole roomful of straws
into gold, one by one, or else lose my head. But she blended the
humorous with the romantic in her selections, so that we usually
dropped to sleep in good spirits, if not with a laugh.

That old story of the fisherman who had done the "Man of the Sea" a
favor, and was to be rewarded by having his wish granted, she told in
so quaintly realistic a way that I thought it might all have happened
on one of the islands out in Massachusetts Bay. The fisherman was
foolish enough, it seemed, to let his wife do all his wishing for him;
and she, unsatisfied still, though she had been made first an immensely
rich woman, and then a great queen, at last sent her husband to ask
that they two might be made rulers over the sun, moon, and stars.

As my sister went on with the story, I could see the waves grow black,
and could hear the wind mutter and growl, while the fisherman called
for the first, second, and then reluctantly, for the third time:--

  "O Man of the Sea,
  Come listen to me!
  For Alice my wife,
  The plague of my life,
  Has sent me to beg a boon of thee!"

As his call died away on the sullen wind, the mysterious "Man of the
Sea" rose in his wrath out of the billows, and said,--

"Go back to your old mud hut, and stay there with your wife Alice, and
never come to trouble me again."

I sympathized with the "Man of the Sea" in his righteous indignation at
the conduct of the greedy, grasping woman; and the moral of the story
remained with me, as the story itself did. I think I understood dimly,
even then, that mean avarice and self-seeking ambition always find
their true level in muddy earth, never among the stars.

So it proved that my dear mother-sister was preparing me for life when
she did not know it, when she thought she was only amusing me.

This sister, though only just entering her teens, was toughening
herself by all sorts of unnecessary hardships for whatever might await
her womanhood. She used frequently to sleep in the garret on a hard
wooden sea-chest instead of in a bed. And she would get up before
daylight and run over into the burying-ground, barefooted and
white-robed (we lived for two or three years in another house than our
own, where the oldest graveyard in town was only separated from us by
our garden fence), "to see if there were any ghosts there," she told
us.  Returning noiselessly,--herself a smiling phantom, with long,
golden-brown hair rippling over her shoulders,--she would drop a trophy
upon her little sisters' pillow, in the shape of a big, yellow apple
that had dropped from "the Colonel's" "pumpkin sweeting" tree into the
graveyard, close to our fence.

She was fond of giving me surprises, of watching my wonder at seeing
anything beautiful or strange for the first time. Once, when I was very
little, she made me supremely happy by rousing me before four o'clock
in the morning, dressing me hurriedly, and taking me out with her for a
walk across the graveyard and through the dewy fields. The birds were
singing, and the sun was just rising, and we were walking toward the
east, hand in hand, when suddenly there appeared before us what looked
to me like an immense blue wall, stretching right and left as far as I
could see.

"Oh, what is it the wall of?" I cried.

It was a revelation she had meant for me. "So you did not know it was
the sea, little girl!" she said.

It was a wonderful illusion to My unaccustomed eyes, and I took in at
that moment for the first time something of the real grandeur of the
ocean. Not a sail was in sight, and the blue expanse was scarcely
disturbed by a ripple, for it was the high-tide calm. That morning's
freshness, that vision of the sea, I know I can never lose.

From our garret window--and the garret was my usual retreat when I
wanted to get away by myself with my books or my dreams--we had the
distant horizon-line of the bay, across a quarter of a mile of trees
and mowing fields. We could see the white breakers dashing against the
long narrow island just outside of the harbor, which I, with my
childish misconstruction of names, called "Breakers' Island"; supposing
that the grown people had made a mistake when they spoke of it as
"Baker's." But that far-off, shining band of silver and blue seemed so
different from the whole great sea, stretching out as if into eternity
from the feet of the baby on the shore!

The marvel was not lessened when I began to study geography, and
comprehended that the world is round. Could it really be that we had
that endless "Atlantic Ocean" to look at from our window, to dance
along the edge of, to wade into or bathe in, if we chose? The map of
the world became more interesting to me than any of the story-books. In
my fanciful explorations I out-traveled Captain Cook, the only voyager
around the world with whose name my childhood was familiar.

The field-paths were safe, and I was allowed to wander off alone
through them. I greatly enjoyed the freedom of a solitary explorer
among the seashells and wild flowers.

There were wonders everywhere. One day I picked up a star-fish on the
beach (we called it a "five-finger"), and hung him on a tree to dry,
not thinking of him as a living creature. When I went some time after
to take him down he had clasped with two or three of his fingers the
bough where I laid him, so that he could not be removed without
breaking his hardened shell. My conscience smote me when I saw what an
unhappy looking skeleton I had made of him.

I overtook the horse-shoe crab on the sands, but I did not like to turn
him over and make him "say his prayers," as some of the children did. I
thought it must be wicked. And then he looked so uncomfortable,
imploringly wriggling his claws while he lay upon his back! I believe I
did, however, make a small collection of the shells of stranded
horseshoe crabs deserted by their tenants.

There were also pretty canary-colored cockle-shells and tiny purple
mussels washed up by the tide. I gathered them into my apron, and
carried them home, and only learned that they too held living
inhabitants by seeing a dead snail protruding from every shell after
they had been left to themselves for a day or two. This made me careful
to pick up only the empty ones, and there were plenty of them. One we
called a "butterboat"; it had something shaped like a seat across the
end of it on the inside. And the curious sea-urchin, that looked as if
he was made only for ornament, when he had once got rid of his spines,
and the transparent jelly-fish, that seemed to have no more right to be
alive than a ladleful of mucilage,--and the razor-shells, and the
barnacles, and the knotted kelp, and the flabby green
sea-aprons,--there was no end to the interesting things I found when I
was trusted to go down to the edge of the tide alone.

The tide itself was the greatest marvel, slipping away so noiselessly,
and creeping back so softly over the flats, whispering as it reached
the sands, and laughing aloud "I am coming!" as, dashing against the
rocks, it drove me back to where the sea-lovage and purple beach-peas
had dared to root themselves. I listened, and felt through all my
little being that great, surging word of power, but had no guess of its
meaning. I can think of it now as the eternal voice of Law, ever
returning to the green, blossoming, beautiful verge of Gospel truth, to
confirm its later revelation, and to say that Law and Gospel belong
together. "The sea is His, and He made it: and His hands formed the dry

And the dry land, the very dust of the earth, every day revealed to me
some new miracle of a flower. Coming home from school one warm noon, I
chanced to look down, and saw for the first time the dry roadside all
starred with lavender-tinted flowers, scarcely larger than a pin-head;
fairy-flowers, indeed; prettier than anything that grew in gardens. It
was the red sand-wort; but why a purple flower should be called red, I
do not know. I remember holding these little amethystine blossoms like
jewels in the palm of my hand, and wondering whether people who walked
along that road knew what beautiful things they were treading upon. I
never found the flower open except at noonday, when the sun was
hottest. The rest of the time it was nothing but an insignificant,
dusty-leaved weed,--a weed that was transformed into a flower only for
an hour or two every day. It seemed like magic.

The busy people at home could tell me very little about the wild
flowers, and when I found a new one I thought I was its discoverer. I
can see myself now leaning in ecstasy over a small, rough-leaved purple
aster in a lonely spot on the hill, and thinking that nobody else in
all the world had ever beheld such a flower before, because I never
had. I did not know then, that the flower-generations are older than
the human race.

The commonest blossoms were, after all, the dearest, because they were
so familiar. Very few of us lived upon carpeted floors, but soft green
grass stretched away from our door-steps, all golden with dandelions in
spring. Those dandelion fields were like another heaven dropped down
upon the earth, where our feet wandered at will among the stars. What
need had we of luxurious upholstery, when we could step out into such
splendor, from the humblest door?

The dandelions could tell us secrets, too. We blew the fuzz off their
gray beads, and made them answer our question, "Does my mother want me
to come home?" Or we sat down together in the velvety grass, and wove
chains for our necks and wrists of the dandelion-sterns, and "made
believe" we were brides, or queens, or empresses.

Then there was the white rock-saxifrage, that filled the crevices of
the ledges with soft, tufty bloom like lingering snow-drifts, our
May-flower, that brought us the first message of spring. There was an
elusive sweetness in its almost imperceptible breath, which one could
only get by smelling it in close bunches. Its companion was the tiny
four-cleft innocence-flower, that drifted pale sky-tints across the
chilly fields. Both came to us in crowds, and looked out with us, as
they do with the small girls and boys of to-day, from the windy crest
of Powder House Hill,--the one playground of my childhood which is left
to the children and the cows just as it was then. We loved these little
democratic blossoms, that gathered around us in mobs at our May Day
rejoicings. It is doubtful whether we should have loved the trailing
arbutus any better, had it strayed, as it never did, into our woods.

Violets and anemones played at hide-and-seek with us in shady places.
The gay columbine rooted herself among the bleak rocks, and laughed and
nodded in the face of the east wind, coquettishly wasting the show of
her finery on the frowning air. Bluebirds twittered over the dandelions
in spring. In midsummer, goldfinches warbled among the thistle-tops;
and, high above the bird-congregations, the song-sparrow sent forth her
clear, warm, penetrating trill,--sunshine translated into music.

We were not surfeited, in those days, with what is called pleasure; but
we grew up happy and healthy, learning unconsciously the useful lesson
of doing without. The birds and blossoms hardly won a gladder or more
wholesome life from the air of our homely New England than we did.

"Out of the strong came forth sweetness." The Beatitudes are the
natural flowering-forth of the Ten Commandments. And the happiness of
our lives was rooted in the stern, vigorous virtues of the people we
lived among, drawing thence its bloom and song, and fragrance. There
was granite in their character and beliefs, but it was granite that
could smile in the sunshine and clothe itself with flowers. We little
ones felt the firm rock beneath us, and were lifted up on it, to
emulate their goodness, and to share their aspirations.



WHEN I first opened my eyes upon my native town, it was already nearly
two hundred years old, counting from the time when it was part of the
original Salem settlement,--old enough to have gained a character and
an individuality of its own, as it certainly had. We children felt at
once that we belonged to the town, as we did to our father or our

The sea was its nearest neighbor, and penetrated to every fireside,
claiming close intimacy with every home and heart. The farmers up and
down the shore were as much fishermen as farmers; they were as familiar
with the Grand Banks of Newfoundland as they were with their own
potato-fields. Every third man you met in the street, you might safely
hail as "Shipmate," or "Skipper," or "Captain." My father's early
seafaring experience gave him the latter title to the end of his life.

It was hard to keep the boys from going off to sea before they were
grown. No inland occupation attracted them. "Land-lubber" was one of
the most contemptuous epithets heard from boyish lips. The spirit of
adventure developed in them a rough, breezy type of manliness, now
almost extinct.

Men talked about a voyage to Calcutta, or Hong-Kong, or "up the
Straits,"--meaning Gibraltar and the Mediterranean,--as if it were not
much more than going to the next village. It seemed as if our nearest
neighbors lived over there across the water; we breathed the air of
foreign countries, curiously interblended with our own.

The women of well-to-do families had Canton crape shawls and Smyrna
silks and Turk satins, for Sabbath-day wear, which somebody had brought
home for them. Mantel-pieces were adorned with nautilus and
conch-shells, and with branches and fans of coral; and children had
foreign curiosities and treasures of the sea for playthings. There was
one imported shell that we did not value much, it was so abundant--the
freckled univalve they called a "prop." Yet it had a mysterious
interest for us little ones. We held it to our ears, and listened for
the sound of the waves, which we were told that, it still kept, and
always would keep. I remember the time when I thought that the ocean
was really imprisoned somewhere within that narrow aperture.

We were accustomed to seeing barrels full of cocoa-nuts rolled about;
and there were jars of preserved tropical fruits, tamarinds,
ginger-root, and other spicy appetizers, almost as common as barberries
and cranberries, in the cupboards of most housekeepers.

I wonder what has become of those many, many little red "guinea-peas"
we had to play with! It never seemed as if they really belonged to the
vegetable world, notwithstanding their name.

We had foreign coins mixed in with our large copper cents,--all kinds,
from the Russian "kopeck" to the "half-penny token" of Great Britain.
Those were the days when we had half cents in circulation to make
change with. For part of our currency was the old-fashioned
"ninepence,"--twelve and a half cents, and the "four pence
ha'penny,"--six cents and a quarter. There was a good deal of Old
England about us still.

And we had also many living reminders of strange lands across the sea.
Green parrots went scolding and laughing down the thimbleberry hedges
that bordered the cornfields, as much at home out of doors as within.
Java sparrows and canaries and other tropical songbirds poured their
music out of sunny windows into the street, delighting the ears of
passing school children long before the robins came. Now and then
somebody's pet monkey would escape along the stone walls and
shed-roofs, and try to hide from his boy-persecutors by dodging behind
a chimney, or by slipping through an open scuttle, to the terror and
delight of juveniles whose premises he invaded.

And there were wanderers from foreign countries domesticated in many
families, whose swarthy complexions and un-Caucasian features became
familiar in our streets,--Mongolians, Africans, and waifs from the
Pacific islands, who always were known to us by distinguished
names,--Hector and Scipio, and Julius Caesar and Christopher Columbus.
Families of black people were scattered about the place, relics of a
time when even New England had not freed her slaves. Some of them had
belonged in my great-grandfather's family, and they hung about the old
homestead at "The Farms" long after they were at liberty to go anywhere
they pleased. There was a "Rose" and a "Phillis" among them, who came
often to our house to bring luscious high blackberries from the Farms
woods, or to do the household washing. They seemed pathetically out of
place, although they lived among us on equal terms, respectable and

The pathos of the sea haunted the town, made audible to every ear when
a coming northeaster brought the rote of the waves in from the islands
across the harbor-bar, with a moaning like that we heard when we
listened for it in the shell. Almost every house had its sea-tragedy.
Somebody belonging to it had been shipwrecked, or had sailed away one
day, and never returned.

Our own part of the bay was so sheltered by its islands that there were
seldom any disasters heard of near home, although the names of the two
nearest--Great and Little Misery--are said to have originated with a
shipwreck so far back in the history of the region that it was never

But one such calamity happened in my infancy, spoken of always by those
who knew its victims in subdued tones;--the wreck of the "Persia." The
vessel was returning from the Mediterranean, and in a blinding
snow-storm on a wild March night her captain probably mistook one of
the Cape Ann light-houses for that on Baker's Island, and steered
straight upon the rocks in a lonely cove just outside the cape. In the
morning the bodies of her dead crew were found tossing about with her
cargo of paper-manufacturers' rags, among the breakers. Her captain and
mate were Beverly men, and their funeral from the meeting-house the
next Sabbath was an event which long left its solemnity hanging over
the town.

We were rather a young nation at this time. The History of the United
States could only tell the story of the American Revolution, of the War
of 1812, and of the administration of about half a dozen presidents.

Our republicanism was fresh and wide-awake. The edge of George
Washington's little hatchet had not yet been worn down to its
latter-day dullness; it flashed keenly on our young eyes and ears in
the reading books, and through Fourth of July speeches. The Father of
his Country had been dead only a little more than a quarter of a
century, and General Lafayette was still alive; he had, indeed, passed
through our town but a few years before, and had been publicly welcomed
under our own elms and lindens. Even babies echoed the names of our two
heroes in their prattle.

We had great "training days," when drum and fife took our ears by
storm; When the militia and the Light Infantry mustered and marched
through the streets to the Common with boys and girls at their
heels,--such girls as could get their mother's consent, or the courage
to run off without it.(We never could.)But we always managed to get a
good look at the show in one way or another.

"Old Election," "'Lection Day" we called it, a lost holiday now, was a
general training day, and it came at our most delightful season, the
last of May. Lilacs and tulips were in bloom, then; and it was a
picturesque fashion of the time for little girls whose parents had no
flower-gardens to go around begging a bunch of lilacs, or a tulip or
two. My mother always made "'Lection cake" for us on that day. It was
nothing but a kind of sweetened bread with a shine of egg-and-molasses
on top; but we thought it delicious.

The Fourth of July and Thanksgiving Day were the only other holidays
that we made much account of, and the former was a far more well
behaved festival than it is in modern times. The bells rang without
stint, and at morning and noon cannon were fired off. But torpedoes and
fire-crackers did not make the highways dangerous;--perhaps they were
thought too expensive an amusement. Somebody delivered an oration;
there was a good deal said about "this universal Yankee nation"; some
rockets went up from Salem in the evening; we watched them from the
hill, and then went to bed, feeling that we had been good patriots.

There was always a Fast Day, which I am afraid most of us younger ones
regarded merely as a day when we were to eat unlimited quantities of
molasses-gingerbread, instead of sitting down to our regular meals.

When I read about Christmas in the English story-books, I wished we
could have that beautiful holiday. But our Puritan fathers shook their
heads at Christmas.

Our Sabbath-school library books were nearly all English reprints, and
many of the story-books were very interesting. I think that most of my
favorites were by Mrs. Sherwood. Some of them were about life in
India,--"Little Henry and his Bearer," and "Ayah and Lady." Then there
were "The Hedge of Thorns;" "Theophilus and Sophia;" "Anna Ross," and a
whole series of little English books that I took great delight in.

I had begun to be rather introspective and somewhat unhealthily
self-critical, contrasting myself meanwhile with my sister Lida, just a
little older, who was my usual playmate, and whom I admired very much
for what I could not help seeing,--her unusual sweetness of
disposition. I read Mrs. Sherwood's "Infant's Progress," and I made a
personal application of it, picturing myself as the naughty, willful
"Playful," and my sister Lida as the saintly little "Peace."

This book gave me a morbid, unhappy feeling, while yet it had something
of the fascination of the "Pilgrim's Progress," of which it is an
imitation. I fancied myself followed about by a fiend-like boy who
haunted its pages, called "Inbred-Sin;" and the story implied that
there was no such thing as getting rid of him. I began to dislike all
boys on his account. There was one who tormented my sister and me--we
only knew him by name--by jumping out at us from behind doorways or
fences on our way to school, making horrid faces at us. "Inbred-Sin," I
was certain, looked just like him; and the two, strangely blended in
one hideous presence, were the worst nightmare of my dreams. There was
too much reality about that "Inbreed-Sin." I felt that I was acquainted
with him. He was the hateful hero of the little allegory, as Satan is
of "Paradise Lost."

I liked lessons that came to me through fables and fairy tales,
although, in reading Aesop, I invariably skipped the "moral" pinned on
at the end, and made one for myself, or else did without.

Mrs. Lydia Maria Child's story of "The Immortal Fountain," in the
"Girl's Own Book,"--which it was the joy of my heart to read, although
it preached a searching sermon to me,--I applied in the same way that I
did the "Infant's Progress." I thought of Lida as the gentle, unselfish
Rose, and myself as the ugly Marion. She was patient and obliging, and
I felt that I was the reverse.  She was considered pretty, and I knew
that I was the reverse of that, too. I wondered if Lida really had
bathed in the Immortal Fountain, and oh, how I wished I could find the
way there! But I feared that trying to do so would be of no use; the
fairies would cross their wands to keep me back, and their wings would
darken at my approach.

The book that I loved first and best, and lived upon in my childhood,
was "Pilgrim's Progress." It was as a story that I cared for it,
although I knew that it meant something more,--something that was
already going on in my own heart and life. Oh, how I used to wish that
I too could start off on a pilgrimage! It would be so much easier than
the continual, discouraging struggle to be good!

The lot I most envied was that of the contented Shepherd Boy in the
Valley of Humiliation, singing his cheerful songs, and wearing "the
herb called Heart's Ease in his bosom"; but all the glorious ups and
downs of the "Progress" I would gladly have shared with Christiana and
her children, never desiring to turn aside into any "By-Path Meadow"
while Mr. Great-Heart led the way, and the Shining Ones came down to
meet us along the road. It was one of the necessities of my nature, as
a child, to have some one being, real or ideal, man or woman, before
whom I inwardly bowed down and worshiped. Mr. Great-Heart was the
perfect hero of my imagination. Nobody, in books or out of them,
compared with him. I wondered if there were really any Mr. Great-Hearts
to be met with among living men.

I remember reading this beloved book once in a snow-storm, and looking
up from it out among the white, wandering flakes, with a feeling that
they had come down from heaven as its interpreters; that they were
trying to tell me, in their airy up-and-down-flight, the story of
innumerable souls. I tried to fix my eye on one particular flake, and
to follow its course until it touched the earth. But I found that I
could not. A little breeze was stirring an the flake seemed to go and
return, to descend and then ascend again, as if hastening homeward to
the sky, losing itself at last in the airy, infinite throng, and
leaving me filled with thoughts of that "great multitude, which no man
could number, clothed with white robes," crowding so gloriously into
the closing pages of the Bible.

Oh, if I could only be sure that I should some time be one of that
invisible company! But the heavens were already beginning to look a
great way off. I hummed over one of my best loved hymns,--

  "Who are these in bright array?"

and that seemed to bring them nearer again.

The history of the early martyrs, the persecutions of the Waldenses and
of the Scotch Covenanters, I read and re-read with longing emulation!
Why could not I be a martyr, too? It would be so beautiful to die for
the truth as they did, as Jesus did! I did not understand then that He
lived and died to show us what life really means, and to give us true
life, like His,--the life of love to God with all our hearts, of love
to all His human children for His sake;--and that to live this life
faithfully is greater even than to die a martyr's death.

It puzzled me to know what some of the talk I heard about being a
Christian could mean. I saw that it was something which only men and
women could comprehend. And yet they taught me to say those dear words
of the Master, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me!" Surely He
meant what He said. He did not tell the children that they must receive
the kingdom of God like grown people; He said that everybody must enter
into it "as a little child."

But our fathers were stalwart men, with many foes to encounter. If
anybody ever needed a grown-up religion, they surely did; and it became
them well.

Most of our every-day reading also came to us over the sea. Miss
Edgworth's juvenile stories were in general circulation, and we knew
"Harry and Lucy" and "Rosamond" almost as well as we did our own
playmates. But we did not think those English children had so good a
time as we did; they had to be so prim and methodical. It seemed to us
that the little folks across the water never were allowed to romp and
run wild; some of us may have held a vague idea that this freedom of
ours was the natural inheritance of republican children only.

Primroses and cowslips and daisies bloomed in these pleasant
story-books of ours, and we went a-Maying there, with our transatlantic
playmates. I think we sometimes started off with our baskets, expecting
to find those English flowers in our own fields. How should children be
wiser than to look for every beautiful thing they have heard of, on
home ground?

And, indeed, our commonest field-flowers were, many of them,
importations from the mother-country--clover, and dandelions, and
ox-eye daisies. I was delighted when my mother told me one day that a
yellow flower I brought her was a cowslip, for I thought she meant that
it was the genuine English cowslip, which I had read about. I was
disappointed to learn that it was a native blossom, the marsh-marigold.

My sisters had some books that I appropriated to myself a great deal:
"Paul and Virginia;" "Elizabeth, or the Exiles of Siberia;" "Nina: an
Icelandic Tale;" with the "Vicar of Wakefield;" the "Tour to the
Hebrides;" "Gulliver's Travels;" the "Arabian Nights;" and some odd
volumes of Sir Walter Scott's novels.

I read the "Scottish Chiefs"--my first novel when I was about five
years old. So absorbed was I in the sorrows of Lady Helen Mar and Sir
William Wallace, that I crept into a corner where nobody would notice
me, and read on through sunset into moonlight, with eyes blurred with
tears. I did not feel that I was doing anything wrong, for I had heard
my father say he was willing his daughters should read that one novel.
He probably did not intend the remark for the ears of his youngest,

My appetite for reading was omnivorous, and I devoured a great many
romances. My sisters took them from a circulating library, many more,
perhaps, than came to my parents' knowledge; but it was not often that
one escaped me, wherever it was hidden. I did not understand what I was
reading, to be sure; and that was one of the best and worst things
about it. The sentimentalism of some of those romances was altogether
unchildlike; but I did not take much of it in. It was the habit of
running over pages and pages to get to the end of a story, the habit of
reading without caring what I read, that I know to have been bad for my
mind. To use a nautical expression, my brain was in danger of getting
"water-logged." There are so many more books of fiction written
nowadays, I do not see how the young people who try to read one tenth
of them have any brains left for every-day use.

One result of my infantile novel-reading was that I did not like to
look at my own face in a mirror, because it was so unlike that of
heroines, always pictured with "high white foreheads" and "cheeks of a
perfect oval." Mine was round, ruddy, and laughing with health; and,
though I practiced at the glass a good deal, I could not lengthen it by
puckering down my lips. I quite envied the little girls who were pale
and pensive-looking, as that was the only ladyfied standard in the
romances. Of course, the chief pleasure of reading them was that of
identifying myself with every new heroine. They began to call me a
"bookworm" at home. I did not at all relish the title.

It was fortunate for me that I liked to be out of doors a great deal,
and that I had a brother, John, who was willing to have me for an
occasional companion. Sometimes he would take me with him when he went
huckleberrying, up the rural Montserrat Road, through Cat Swamp, to the
edge of Burnt Hills and Beaver Pond. He had a boy's pride in explaining
these localities to me, making me understand that I had a guide who was
familiar with every inch of the way. Then, charging me not to move
until he came back, he would leave me sitting alone on a great craggy
rock, while he went off and filled his basket out of sight among the
bushes. Indeed, I did not want to move, it was all so new and
fascinating. The tall pine-trees whispering to each other across the
sky-openings above me, the graceful ferns, the velvet mosses dotted
with scarlet fairy-cups, as if the elves had just spread their table
for tea, the unspeakable charm of the spice-breathing air, all wove a
web of enchantment about me, from which I had no wish to disentangle
myself.  The silent spell of the woods held me with a power stronger
even than that of the solemn-voiced sea. Sometimes this same brother
would get permission to take me on a longer excursion,--to visit the
old homestead at "The Farms." Three or four miles was not thought too
long a walk for a healthy child of five years; and that road, in the
old time, led through a rural Paradise, beautiful at every
season,--whether it were the time of song-sparrows and violets, of wild
roses, of coral-hung barberry-bushes, or of fallen leaves and
snow-drifts. The wildness of the road, now exchanged for elegant modern
cultivation, was its great charm to us. We stopped at the Cove Brook to
hear the cat-birds sing, and at Mingo's Beach to revel in the sudden
surprise of the open sea, and to listen to the chant of the waves,
always stronger and grander there than anywhere along the shore. We
passed under dark wooded cliffs out into sunny openings, the last of
which held under its skirting pines the secret of the prettiest
woodpath to us in all the world, the path to the ancestral farmhouse.

We found children enough to play with there,--as numerous a family as
our own. We were sometimes, I fancy, the added drop too much of already
overflowing juvenility. Farther down the road, where the cousins were
all grown-up men and women, Aunt Betsey's cordial, old-fashioned
hospitality sometimes detained us a day or two. We watched the milking,
and fed the chickens, and fared gloriously. Aunt Betsey could not have
done more to entertain us, had we been the President's children.

I have always cherished the memory of a certain pair of large-bowed
spectacles that she wore, and of the green calash, held by a ribbon
bridle, that sheltered her head, when she walked up from the shore to
see us, as she often did. They announced to us the approach of
inexhaustible kindliness and good cheer. We took in a home-feeling with
the words "Aunt Betsey" then and always. She had just the husband that
belonged to her in my Uncle David, an upright man, frank-faced,
large-hearted, and spiritually minded. He was my father's favorite
brother, and to our branch of the family "The Farms" meant "Uncle David
and Aunt Betsey."

My brother John's plans for my entertainment did not always harmonize
entirely with my own ideas. He had an inventive mind, and wanted me to
share his boyish sports. But I did not like to ride in a wheelbarrow,
nor to walk on stilts, nor even to coast down the hill on his sled and
I always got a tumble, if I tried, for I was rather a clumsy child;
besides, I much preferred girls' quieter games.

We were seldom permitted to play with any boys except our brothers. I
drew the inference that our boys must be a great deal better than "the
other boys." My brother John had some fine play-fellows, but he seemed
to consider me in the way when they were his guests. Occasionally we
would forget that the neighbor-boys were not girls, and would find
ourselves all playing together in delightful unconsciousness; although
possibly a thought, like that of the "Ettrick Shepherd," may now and
then have flitted through the mind of some masculine juvenile:--

  "Why the boys should drive away
  Little sweet maidens from the play,
  Or love to banter and fight so well,--
  That Is the thing I never could tell."

One day I thoughtlessly accepted an invitation to get through a gap in
the garden-fence, to where the doctor's two boys were preparing to take
an imaginary sleigh-ride in midsummer. The sleigh was stranded among
tall weeds an cornstalks, but I was politely handed in by the elder
boy, who sat down by my side and tucked his little brother in front at
our feet, informing me that we were father and mother and little son,
going to take a ride to Newburyport.  He had found an old pair of reins
and tied them to a saw-horse, that he switched and "Gee-up"-ed
vigorously. The journey was as brief as delightful. I ran home feeling
like the heroine of an elopement, asking myself meanwhile, "What would
my brother John say if he knew I had been playing with boys?" He was
very particular about his sisters' behavior. But I incautiously said to
one sister in whom I did not usually confide, that I thought James was
the nicest boy in the lane, and that I liked his little brother
Charles, too. She laughed at me so unmercifully for making the remark,
that I never dared look towards the gap in the fence again, beyond
which I could hear the boys' voices around the old sleigh where they
were playing, entirely forgetful of their former traveling companion.
Still, I continued to think that my courteous cavalier, James, was the
nicest boy in the lane.

My brother's vigilant care of his two youngest sisters was once the
occasion to them of a serious fright. My grandfather--the
sexton--sometimes trusted him to toll the bell for a funeral. In those
days the bell was tolled for everybody who died. John was social, and
did not like to go up into the belfry and stay an hour or so alone, and
as my grandfather positively forbade him to take any other boy up
there, he one day got permission for us two little girls to go with
him, for company. We had to climb up a great many stairs, and the last
flight was inclosed by a rough door with a lock inside, which he was
charged to fasten, so that no mischievous boys should follow.

It was strange to be standing up there in the air, gazing over the
balcony-railing down into the street, where the men and women looked so
small, and across to the water and the ships in the east, and the
clouds and hills in the west! But when he struck the tongue against the
great bell, close to our ears, it was more than we were prepared for.
The little sister, scarcely three years old, screamed and shrieked,--

"I shall be stunned-ded! I shall be stunned-ded!" I do not know where
she had picked up that final syllable, but it made her terror much more
emphatic. Still the great waves of solemn sound went eddying on, over
the hills and over the sea, and we had to hear it all, though we
stopped our ears with our fingers. It was an immense relief to us when
the last stroke of the passing-bell was struck, and John said we could
go down.

He took the key from his pocket and was fitting it into the lock, when
it slipped, beyond our reach. Now the little sister cried again, and
would not be pacified; and when I looked up and caught John's blank,
dismayed look, I began to feel like crying, too. The question went
swiftly through my mind,--How many days can we stay up here without
starving to death?--for I really thought we should never get down out
of our prison in the air: never see our mother's face again.

But my brother's wits returned to him. He led us back to the balcony,
and shouted over the railing to a boy in the street, making him
understand that he must go and inform my father that we were locked
into the belfry. It was not long before we saw both him and my
grandfather on their way to the church. They came up to the little
door, and told us to push with our united strength against it. The
rusty lock soon yielded, and how good it was to look into those two
beloved human faces once more! But we little girls were not invited to
join my brother again when he tolled the bell: if we had been, I think
we should have promptly declined the invitation.

Many of my childish misadventures came to me in connection with my
little sister, who, having been much indulged, too it for granted that
she could always have what she wanted.

One day we two were allowed to take a walk together; I, as the older,
being supposed to take care of her. Although we were going towards the
Cove, over a secluded road, she insisted upon wearing a brand-new pair
of red morocco boots. All went well until we came to a bog by the
roadside, where sweet-flag and cat-tails grew. Out in the middle of the
bog, where no venturesome boy had ever attempted their seizure, there
were many tall, fine-looking brown cat-tails growing. She caught sight
of them, and before I saw what she was doing, she had shot from my side
like an arrow from the bow, and was far out on the black, quaking
surface, that at first upheld her light weight. I stood petrified with
horror. I knew all about that dangerous place. I had been told that
nobody had ever found out how deep that mud was. I was uttered just one
imploring "Come back!" when she turned to me with a shriek, throwing up
her arms towards me. She was sinking! There was nobody in sight, and
there was no time to think. I ran, or rather flew, across the bog, with
just one thought in my mind, "I have got to get her out!" Some angel
must have prevented me from making a misstep, and sinking with her. I
felt the power of a giant suddenly taking possession of my small frame.
Quicker than I could tell of it, I had given one tremendous pull (she
had already sunk above her boot-tops), and had dragged her back to the
road. It is a marvel to me now how I--a child of scarcely six
years--succeeded in rescuing her. It did not seem to me as if I were
doing it myself, but as if some unseen Power had taken possession of me
for a moment, and made me do it. And I suppose that when we act from a
sudden impulse to help another out of trouble, it never is ourself that
does the good deed. The Highest Strength just takes us and uses us. I
certainly felt equal to going straight through the earth to China after
my little sister, if she had stink out of sight.

We were two miserable looking children when we reached home, the sticky
ooze having changed her feet into unmanageable lumps of mud, with which
my own clothes also were soiled. I had to drag or carry her all the
way, for she could not or would not walk a step. And alas for the
morocco boots! They were never again red. I also received a scolding
for not taking better care of my little sister, and I was not very soon
allowed again to have her company in my rambles.

We usually joined with other little neighbor girls in some out-of-door
amusement near home. And our sports, as well as our books, had a spice
of Merry Old England. They were full of kings and queens, and made
sharp contrasts, as well as odd mixtures, with the homeliness of our
everyday life.

One of them, a sort of rhymed dialogue, began with the couplet:--

  "Queen Anne, Queen Anne, she sits in the sun,
  As fair as a lady, as white as a nun."

If "Queen Anne" did not give a right guess as to which hand of the
messenger held the king's letter to her, she was contemptuously
informed that she was

  "as brown as a bun."

In another name, four little girls joined hands across, in couples,

  "I wish my father were a king,
  I wish my mother were a queen,
  And I a little companion!"

concluding with a close embrace in a dizzying whirl, breathlessly
shouting all together,--

  "A bundle of fagots! A bundle of fagots!"

In a third, which may have begun with a juvenile reacting of the
Colonial struggle for liberty, we ranged ourselves under two leaders,
who made an archway over our heads of their lifted hands and arms,
saying, as we passed beneath,--

  "Lift up the gates as high as the sky,
  And let King George and his army pass by!"

We were told to whisper "Oranges" or "Lemons" for a pass-word; and
"Oranges" always won the larger enlistment, whether British or American.

And then there was "Grandmother Gray," and the

  "Old woman from Newfoundland,
  With all her children in her hand;"

and the

  "Knight from Spain
  Inquiring for your daughter Jane,"

and numberless others, nearly all of them bearing a distinct Old World
flavor. One of our play-places was an unoccupied end of the
burying-ground, overhung by the Colonel's apple-trees and close under
his wall, so that we should not be too near the grave-stones.

I do not think that death was at all a real thing to me or to my
brothers and sisters at this time. We lived so near the graveyard that
it seemed merely the extension of our garden. We wandered there at
will, trying to decipher the moss-grown inscriptions, and wondering at
the homely carvings of cross-bones and cherubs and willow-trees on the
gray slate-stones. I did not associate those long green mounds with
people who had once lived, though we were careful, having been so
instructed, not to step on the graves. To ramble about there and puzzle
ourselves with the names and dates, was like turning over the pages of
a curious old book. We had not the least feeling of irreverence in
taking the edge of the grave-yard for our playground. It was known as
"the old burying-ground"; and we children regarded it with a sort of
affectionate freedom, as we would a grandmother, because it was old.

That, indeed, was one peculiar attraction of the town itself; it was
old, and it seemed old, much older than it does now. There was only one
main street, said to have been the first settlers' cowpath to Wenham,
which might account for its zigzag picturesqueness. All the rest were
courts or lanes.

The town used to wear a delightful air of drowsiness, as if she had
stretched herself out for an afternoon nap, with her head towards her
old mother, Salem, and her whole length reclining towards the sea, till
she felt at her feet, through her green robes, the clip of the deep
water at the Farms. All her elder children recognized in her quiet
steady-going ways a maternal unity and strength of character, as of a
town that understood her own plans, and had settled down to peaceful,
permanent habits. Her spirit was that of most of our Massachusetts
coast-towns.  They were transplanted shoots of Old England. And it was
the voice of a mother-country more ancient than their own, that little
children heard crooning across the sea in their cradle-hymns and



OUR close relationship to Old England was sometimes a little misleading
to us juveniles. The conditions of our life were entirely different,
but we read her descriptive stories and sang her songs as if they were
true for us, too. One of the first things I learned to repeat--I think
it was in the spelling-book--began with the verse:--

  "I thank the goodness and the grace
  That on my birth has smiled,
  And made me, in these latter days,
  A happy English child."

And some lines of a very familiar hymn by Dr. Watts ran thus:--

  "Whene'er I take my walks abroad,
  How many poor I see.
  . . . . . . . . . . . .
  "How many children in the street
  Half naked I behold;
  While I am clothed from head to feet,
  And sheltered from the cold."

Now a ragged, half-clothed child, or one that could really be called
poor, in the extreme sense of the word, was the rarest of all sights in
a thrifty New England town fifty years ago. I used to look sharply for
those children, but I never could see one. And a beggar! Oh, if a real
beggar would come along, like the one described in

  "Pity the sorrows of a poor old man,"

what a wonderful event that would be! I believe I had more curiosity
about a beggar, and more ignorance, too, than about a king. The poem

  "A pampered menial drove me from the door."

What sort of creature could a "pampered menial" be?  Nothing that had
ever come under our observation corresponded to the words. Nor was it
easy for us to attach any meaning to the word "servant." There were
women who came in occasionally to do the washing, or to help about
extra work. But they were decently clothed, and had homes of their own,
more or less comfortable, and their quaint talk and free-and-easy ways
were often as much of a lift to the household as the actual assistance
they rendered.

I settled down upon the conclusion that "rich" and "poor" were
book-words only, describing something far off, and having nothing to do
with our every-day experience. My mental definition of "rich people,"
from home observation, was something like this: People who live in
three-story houses, and keep their green blinds closed, and hardly ever
come out and talk with the folks in the street. There were a few such
houses in Beverly, and a great many in Salem, where my mother sometimes
took me for a shopping walk. But I did not suppose that any of the
people who lived near us were very rich, like those in books.

Everybody about us worked, and we expected to take hold of our part
while young. I think we were rather eager to begin, for we believed
that work would make men and women of us.

I, however, was not naturally an industrious child, but quite the
reverse. When my father sent us down to weed his vegetable-garden at
the foot of the lane, I, the youngest of his weeders, liked to go with
the rest, but not for the sake of the work or the pay. I generally gave
it up before I had weeded half a bed. It made me so warm! and my back
did ache so! I stole off into the shade of the great apple-trees, and
let the west wind fan my hot cheeks, and looked up into the boughs, and
listened to the many, many birds that seemed chattering to each other
in a language of their own. What was it they were saying? and why could
not I understand it? Perhaps I should, sometime. I had read of people
who did, in fairy tales.

When the others started homeward, I followed. I did not mind their
calling me lazy, nor that my father gave me only one tarnished copper
cent, while Lida received two or three bright ones. I had had what I
wanted most. I would rather sit under the apple-trees and hear the
birds sing than have a whole handful of bright copper pennies. It was
well for my father and his garden that his other children were not like

The work which I was born to, but had not begun to do, was sometimes a
serious weight upon my small, forecasting brain.

One of my hymns ended with the lines,--

  "With books, and work, and healthful play,
  May my first years be passed,
  That I may give, for every day,
  Some good account at last."

I knew all about the books and the play; but the work,--how should I
ever learn to do it?

My father had always strongly emphasized his wish that all his
children, girls as well as boys, should have some independent means of
self-support by the labor of their hands; that every one should, as was
the general custom, "learn a trade." Tailor's work--the finishing of
men's outside garments--was the trade learned most frequently by women
in those days, and one or more of my older sisters worked at it; I
think it must have been at home, for I somehow or somewhere got the
idea, while I was a small child, that the chief end of woman was to
make clothing for mankind.

This thought came over me with a sudden dread one Sabbath morning when
I was a toddling thing, led along by my sister, behind my father and
mother. As they walked arm in arm before me, I lifted my eyes from my
father's heels to his head, and mused: "How tall he is! and how long
his coat looks! and how many thousand, thousand stitches there must be
in his coat and pantaloons! And I suppose I have got to grow up and
have a husband, and put all those little stitches into his coats and
pantaloons. Oh, I never, never can do it!" A shiver of utter
discouragement went through me. With that task before me, it hardly
seemed to me as if life were worth living. I went on to meeting, and I
suppose I forgot my trouble in a hymn, but for the moment it was real.
It was not the only time in my life that I have tired myself out with
crossing bridges to which I never came.

Another trial confronted me in the shape of an ideal but impossible
patchwork quilt. We learned to sew patchwork at school, while we were
learning the alphabet; and almost every girl, large or small, had a
bed-quilt of her own begun, with an eye to future house furnishing. I
was not over fond of sewing, but I thought it best to begin mine early.

So I collected a few squares of calico, and undertook to put them
together in my usual independent way, without asking direction. I liked
assorting those little figured bits of cotton cloth, for they were
scraps of gowns I had seen worn, and they reminded me of the persons
who wore them. One fragment, in particular, was like a picture to me.
It was a delicate pink and brown sea-moss pattern, on a white ground, a
piece of a dress belonging to my married sister, who was to me bride
and angel in One. I always saw her face before me when I unfolded this
scrap,--a face with an expression truly heavenly in its loveliness.
Heaven claimed her before my childhood was ended. Her beautiful form
was laid to rest in mid-ocean, too deep to be pillowed among the soft
sea-mosses. But she lived long enough to make a heaven of my childhood
whenever she came home.

One of the sweetest of our familiar hymns I always think of as
belonging to her, and as a still unbroken bond between her spirit and
mine. She had come back to us for a brief visit, soon after her
marriage, with some deep, new experience of spiritual realities which
I, a child of four or five years, felt in the very tones of her voice,
and in the expression of her eyes.

My mother told her of my fondness for the hymn-book, and she turned to
me with a smile and said, "Won't you learn one hymn for me--one hymn
that I love very much?"

Would I not? She could not guess how happy she made me by wishing me to
do anything for her sake. The hymn was,--

  "Whilst Thee I seek, protecting Power."

In a few minutes I repeated the whole to her and its own beauty,
pervaded with the tenderness of her love for me, fixed it at once
indelibly in my memory. Perhaps I shall repeat it to her again,
deepened with a lifetime's meaning, beyond the sea, and beyond the

I could dream over my patchwork, but I could not bring it into
conventional shape.  My sisters, whose fingers had been educated,
called my sewing "gobblings." I grew disgusted with it myself, and gave
away all my pieces except the pretty sea-moss pattern, which I was not
willing to see patched up with common calico. It was evident that I
should never conquer fate with my needle.

Among other domestic traditions of the old times was the saying that
every girl must have a pillow-case full of stockings of her own
knitting before she was married. Here was another mountain before me,
for I took it for granted that marrying was inevitable--one of the
things that everybody must do, like learning to read, or going to

I began to knit my own stockings when I ways six or seven years old,
and kept on, until home-made stockings went out of fashion. The
pillow-case full, however, was never attempted, any more than the
patchwork quilt. I heard somebody say one day that there must always be
one "old maid" in every family of girls, and I accepted the prophecy of
some of my elders, that I was to be that one. I was rather glad to know
that freedom of choice in the matter was possible.

One day, when we younger ones were hanging about my golden-haired and
golden-hearted sister Emilie, teasing her with wondering questions
about our future, she announced to us (she had reached the mature age
of fifteen years) that she intended to be an old maid, and that we
might all come and live with her. Some one listening reproved her, but
she said, "Why, if they fit themselves to be good, helpful, cheerful
old maids, they will certainly be better wives, if they ever are
married," and that maxim I laid by in my memory for future
contingencies, for I believed in every word she ever uttered. She
herself, however, did not carry out her girlish intention. "Her
children arise up and call her blessed; her husband also; and he
praiseth her." But the little sisters she used to fondle as her
"babies" have never allowed their own years nor her changed relations
to cancel their claim upon her motherly sympathies.

I regard it as a great privilege to have been one of a large family,
and nearly the youngest. We had strong family resemblances, and yet no
two seemed at all alike. It was like rehearsing in a small world each
our own part in the great one awaiting us. If we little ones
occasionally had some severe snubbing mixed with the petting and
praising and loving, that was wholesome for us, and not at all to be

Almost every one of my sisters had some distinctive aptitude with her
fingers. One worked exquisite lace-embroidery; another had a knack at
cutting and fitting her doll's clothing so perfectly that the wooden
lady was always a typical specimen of the genteel doll-world; and
another was an expert at fine stitching, so delicately done that it was
a pleasure to see or to wear anything her needle had touched. I had
none of these gifts. I looked on and admired, and sometimes tried to
imitate, but my efforts usually ended in defeat and mortification.

I did like to knit, however, and I could shape a stocking tolerably
well. My fondness for this kind of work was chiefly because it did not
require much thought. Except when there was "widening" or "narrowing"
to be done, I did not need to keep my eyes upon it at all. So I took a
book upon my lap and read, and read, while the needles clicked on,
comforting me with the reminder that I was not absolutely unemployed,
while yet I was having a good time reading.

I began to know that I liked poetry, and to think a good deal about it
at my childish work. Outside of the hymn-book, the first rhymes I
committed to memory were in the "Old Farmer's Almanac," files of which
hung in the chimney corner, and were an inexhaustible source of
entertainment to us younger ones.

My father kept his newspapers also carefully filed away in the garret,
but we made sad havoc among the "Palladiums" and other journals that we
ought to have kept as antiquarian treasures. We valued the anecdote
column and the poet's corner only; these we clipped unsparingly for our

A tattered copy of Johnson's large Dictionary was a great delight to
me, on account of the specimens of English versification which I found
in the Introduction. I learned them as if they were so many poems. I
used to keep this old volume close to my pillow; and I amused myself
when I awoke in the morning by reciting its jingling contrasts of
iambic and trochaic and dactylic metre, and thinking what a charming
occupation it must be to "make up" verses.

I made my first rhymes when I was about seven years old. My brother
John proposed "writing poetry" as a rainy-day amusement, one afternoon
when we two were sent up into the garret to entertain ourselves without
disturbing the family. He soon grew tired of his unavailing attempts,
but I produced two stanzas, the first of which read thus:--

  "One summer day, said little Jane,
  We were walking down a shady lane,
  When suddenly the wind blew high,
  And the red lightning flashed in the sky.

The second stanza descended in a dreadfully abrupt anti-climax; but I
was blissfully ignorant of rhetoricians' rules, and supposed that the
rhyme was the only important thing. It may amuse my child-readers if I
give them this verse too:

  "The peals of thunder, how they rolled!
  And I felt myself a little cooled;
  For I before had been quite warm;
  But now around me was a storm."

My brother was surprised at my success, and I believe I thought my
verses quite fine, too. But I was rather sorry that I had written them,
for I had to say them over to the family, and then they sounded silly.
The habit was formed, however, and I went on writing little books of
ballads, which I illustrated with colors from my toy paintbox, and then
squeezed down into the cracks of the garret floor, for fear that
somebody would find them.

My fame crept out among the neighbors, nevertheless. I was even invited
to write some verses in young lady's album; and Aunt Hannah asked me to
repeat my verses to her. I considered myself greatly honored by both

My fondness for books began very early. At the age of four I had formed
the plan of collecting a library. Not of limp, paper-covered
picture-books, such as people give to babies; no! I wanted books with
stiff covers, that could stand up side by side on a shelf, and maintain
their own character as books. But I did not know how to make a
beginning, for mine were all of the kind manufactured for infancy, and
I thought they deserved no better fate than to be tossed about among my
rag-babies and playthings.

One day, however, I found among some rubbish in a corner a volume, with
one good stiff cover; the other was missing. It did not look so very
old, nor as if it had been much read; neither did it look very inviting
to me as I turned its leaves. On its title-page I read "The Life of
John Calvin." I did not know who he was, but a book was a book to me,
and this would do as well as any to begin my library with. I looked
upon it as a treasure, and to make sure of my claim, I took it down to
my mother and timidly asked if I might have it for my own. She gave me
in reply a rather amused "Yes," and I ran back happy, and began my
library by setting John Calvin upright on a beam under the garret
eaves, my "make-believe" book-case shelf.

I was proud of my literary property, and filled out the shelf in fancy
with a row of books, every one of which should have two stiff covers.
But I found no more neglected volumes that I could adopt. John Calvin
was left to a lonely fate, and am afraid that at last the mice devoured
him. Before I had quite forgotten him, however, I did pick up one other
book of about his size, and in the same one-covered condition; and this
attracted me more, because it was in verse. Rhyme had always a sort of
magnetic power over me, whether I caught at any idea it contained or

This was written in the measure which I afterwards learned was called
Spenserian. It was Byron's "Vision of Judgment," and Southey's also was
bound up with it.

Southey's hexameters were too much of a mouthful for me, but Byron's
lines jingled, and apparently told a story about something. St. Peter
came into it, and King George the Third; neither of which names meant
anything to me; but the scenery seemed to be somewhere up among the
clouds, and I, unsuspicious of the author's irreverence, took it for a
sort of semi-Biblical fairy tale.

There was on my mother's bed a covering of pink chintz, pictured all
over with the figure of a man sitting on a cloud, holding a bunch of
keys. I put the two together in my mind, imagining the chintz
counterpane to be an illustration of the poem, or the poem an
explanation of the counterpane. For the stanza I liked best began with
the words,--

  "St. Peter sat at the celestial gate,
  And nodded o'er his keys."

I invented a pronunciation for the long words, and went about the house
reciting grandly,--

  "St. Peter sat at the kelestikal gate,
  And nodded o'er his keys."

That volume, swept back to me with the rubbish of Time, still reminds
me, forlorn and half-clad, of my childish fondness for its

John Calvin and Lord Byron were rather a peculiar combination, as the
foundation of an infant's library; but I was not aware of any unfitness
or incompatibility. To me they were two brother-books, like each other
in their refusal to wear limp covers.

It is amusing to recall the rapid succession of contrasts in one
child's tastes. I felt no incongruity between Dr. Watts and Mother
Goose. I supplemented "Pibroch of Donuil Dhu" and

  "Lochiel, Lochiel, beware of the day,"

with "Yankee Doodle" and the "Diverting History of John Gilpin;" and
with the glamour of some fairy tale I had just read still haunting me,
I would run out of doors eating a big piece of bread and
butter,--sweeter than any has tasted since,--and would jump up towards
the crows cawing high above me, cawing back to them, and half wishing I
too were a crow to make the sky ring with my glee.

After Dr. Watts's hymns the first poetry I took great delight in
greeted me upon the pages of the "American First Class Book," handed
down from older pupils in the little private school which my sisters
and I attended when Aunt Hannah had done all she could for us. That
book was a collection of excellent literary extracts, made by one who
was himself an author and a poet. It deserved to be called
"first-class" in another sense than that which was understood by its
title. I cannot think that modern reading books have improved upon it
much. It contained poems from Wordsworth, passages from Shakespeare's
plays, among them the pathetic dialogue between Hubert and little
Prince Arthur, whose appeal to have his eyes spared, brought many a
tear to my own. Bryant's "Waterfowl" and "Thanatopsis" were there also;
and Neal's,--

  "There's a fierce gray bird with a bending beak,"

that the boys loved so dearly to "declaim;" and another poem by this
last author, which we all liked to read, partly from a childish love of
the tragic, and partly for its graphic description of an avalanche's

  "Slowly it came in its mountain wrath,
  And the forests vanished before its path;
  And the rude cliffs bowed; and the waters fled,--
  And the valley of life was the tomb of the dead."

In reading this, "Swiss Minstrel's Lament over the Ruins of Goldau," I
first felt my imagination thrilled with the terrible beauty of the
mountains--a terror and a sublimity which attracted my thoughts far
more than it awed them. But the poem in which they burst upon me as
real presences, unseen, yet known in their remote splendor as kingly
friends before whom I could bow, yet with whom I could aspire,--for
something like this I think mountains must always be to those who truly
love them,--was Coleridge's "Mont Blanc before Sunrise," in this same
"First Class Book." I believe that poetry really first took possession
of me in that poem, so that afterwards I could not easily mistake the
genuineness of its ring, though my ear might not be sufficiently
trained to catch its subtler harmonies. This great mountain poem struck
some hidden key-note in my nature, and I knew thenceforth something of
what it was to live in poetry, and to have it live in me. Of course I
did not consider my own foolish little versifying poetry. The child of
eight or nine years regarded her rhymes as only one among her many
games and pastimes.

But with this ideal picture of mountain scenery there came to me a
revelation of poetry as the one unattainable something which I must
reach out after, because I could not live without it. The thought of it
was to me like the thought of God and of truth. To leave out poetry
would be to lose the real meaning of life. I felt this very blindly and
vaguely, no doubt; but the feeling was deep. It was as if Mont Blanc
stood visibly before me, while I murmured to myself in lonely places--

  "Motionless torrents! silent cataracts!
  Who made you glorious as the gates of heaven
  Beneath the keen full moon? Who bade the sun
  Clothe you with rainbows? Who with lovely flowers
  Of living blue spread garlands at your feet?"

And then the

  "Pine groves with their soft and soul-like sound"

gave glorious answer, with the streams and torrents, and my child-heart
in its trance echoed the poet's invocation,--

  "Rise, like a cloud of incense from the earth!
  And tell the stars, and tell the rising sun,
  Earth, with her thousand voices, calls on GOD!"

I have never visited Switzerland, but I surely saw the Alps, with
Coleridge, in my childhood. And although I never stood face to face
with mountains until I was a mature woman, always, after this vision of
them, they were blended with my dream of whatever is pure and lofty in
human possibilities,--like a white ideal beckoning me on.

Since I am writing these recollections for the young, I may say here
that I regard a love for poetry as one of the most needful and helpful
elements in the life-outfit of a human being. It was the greatest of
blessings to me, in the long days of toil to which I was shut in much
earlier than most young girls are, that the poetry I held in my memory
breathed its enchanted atmosphere through me and around me, and touched
even dull drudgery with its sunshine.

Hard work, however, has its own illumination--if done as duty which
worldliness has not; and worldliness seems to be the greatest
temptation and danger Of young people in this generation. Poetry is one
of the angels whose presence will drive out this sordid demon, if
anything less than the Power of the Highest can. But poetry is of the
Highest. It is the Divine Voice, always, that we recognize through the
poet's, whenever he most deeply moves our souls.

Reason and observation, as well as my own experience, assure me also
that it is great--poetry even the greatest--which the youngest crave,
and upon which they may be fed, because it is the simplest. Nature does
not write down her sunsets, her starry skies, her mountains, and her
oceans in some smaller style, to suit the comprehension of little
children; they do not need any such dilution. So I go back to the
"American First Class Book," and affirm it to have been one of the best
of reading-books, because it gave us children a taste of the finest
poetry and prose which had been written in our English tongue, by
British and by American authors. Among the pieces which left a
permanent impression upon my mind I recall Wirt's description of the
eloquent blind preacher to whom he listened in the forest wilderness of
the Blue Ridge, a remarkable word-portrait, in which the very tones of
the sightless speaker's voice seemed to be reproduced. I believe that
the first words I ever remembered of any sermon were those contained in
the grand, brief sentence,--"Socrates died like a philosopher; but
Jesus Christ--like a God!"

Very vivid, too, is the recollection of the exquisite little prose idyl
of "Moss-Side," from "Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life." From the
few short words with which it began--"Gilbert Ainslee was a poor man,
and he had been a poor man all the days of his life"--to the happy
waking of his little daughter Margaret out of her fever-sleep with
which it ended, it was one sweet picture of lowly life and honorable
poverty irradiated with sacred home-affections, and cheerful in its
rustic homeliness as the blossoms and wild birds of the moorland and
the magic touch of Christopher North could make it. I thought as I

"How much pleasanter it must be to be poor than to be rich--at least in

For I was beginning to be made aware that poverty was a possible
visitation to our own household; and that, in our Cape Ann corner of
Massachusetts, we might find it neither comfortable nor picturesque.
After my father's death, our way of living, never luxurious, grew more
and more frugal. Now and then I heard mysterious allusions to "the wolf
at the door": and it was whispered that, to escape him, we might all
have to turn our backs upon the home where we were born, and find our
safety in the busy world, working among strangers for our daily bread.
Before I had reached my tenth year I began to have rather disturbed
dreams of what it might soon mean for me to "earn my own living."



A CHILD does not easily comprehend even the plain fact of death. Though
I had looked upon my father's still, pale face in his coffin, the
impression it left upon me was of sleep; more peaceful and sacred than
common slumber, yet only sleep. My dreams of him were for a long time
so vivid that I would say to myself, "He was here yesterday; he will be
here again to-morrow," with a feeling that amounted to expectation.

We missed him, we children large and small who made up the yet
untrained home crew, as a ship misses the man at the helm. His grave,
clear perception of what was best for us, his brief words that decided,
once for all, the course we were to take, had been far more to us than
we knew.

It was hardest of all for my mother, who had been accustomed to depend
entirely upon him. Left with her eight children, the eldest a boy of
eighteen years, and with no property except the roof that sheltered us
and a small strip of land, her situation was full of perplexities which
we little ones could not at all understand. To be fed like the ravens
and clothed like the grass of the field seemed to me, for one, a
perfectly natural thing, and I often wondered why my mother was so
fretted and anxious.

I knew that she believed in God, and in the promises of the Bible, and
yet she seemed sometimes to forget everything but her troubles and her
helplessness. I felt almost like preaching to her, but I was too small
a child to do that, I well knew; so I did the next best thing I could
think of--I sang hymns as if singing to myself, while I meant them for
her. Sitting at the window with my book and my knitting, while she was
preparing dinner or supper with a depressed air because she missed the
abundant provision to which she held been accustomed, I would go from
hymn to hymn, selecting those which I thought would be most comforting
to her, out of the many that my memory-book contained, and taking care
to pronounce the words distinctly.

I was glad to observe that she listened to

  "Come, ye disconsolate,"


  "How firm a foundation;"

and that she grew more cheerful; though I did not feel sure that my
singing cheered her so much as some happier thought that had come to
her out of her own heart. Nobody but my mother, indeed, would have
called my chirping singing. But as she did not seem displeased, I went
on, a little more confidently, with some hymns that I loved for their
starry suggestions,--

  "When marshaled on the nightly plain,"


  "Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,"


  "Watchman, tell us of the night?"

The most beautiful picture in the Bible to me, certainly the loveliest
in the Old Testament, had always been that one painted by prophecy, of
the time when wild and tame creatures should live together in peace,
and children should be their fearless playmates. Even the savage wolf
Poverty would be pleasant and neighborly then, no doubt! A Little Child
among them, leading them, stood looking wistfully down through the soft
sunrise of that approaching day, into the cold and darkness of the
world. Oh, it would be so much better than the garden of Eden!

Yes, and it would be a great deal better, I thought, to live in the
millennium, than even to die and go to heaven, although so many people
around me talked as if that were the most desirable thing of all. But I
could never understand why, if God sent us here, we should be in haste
to get away, even to go to a pleasanter place.

I was perplexed by a good many matters besides. I had learned to keep
most of my thoughts to myself, but I did venture to ask about the
Ressurrection--how it was that those who had died and gone straight to
heaven, and had been singing there for thousands of years, could have
any use for the dust to which their bodies had returned. Were they not
already as alive as they could be? I found that there were different
ideas of the resurrection among "orthodox" people, even then. I was
told however, that this was too deep a matter for me, and so I ceased
asking questions. But I pondered the matter of death; what did it mean?
The Apostle Paul gave me more light on the subject than any of the
ministers did. And, as usual, a poem helped me. It was Pope's Ode,
beginning with,--

  "Vital spark of heavenly flame,"--

which I learned out of a reading-book. To die was to "languish into
life." That was the meaning of it! and I loved to repeat to myself the

  "Hark! they whisper: angels say,
  'Sister spirit, come away!'"

  "The world recedes; it disappears!
  Heaven opens on my eyes! my ears
  With sounds seraphic ring."

A hymn that I learned a little later expressed to me the same
satisfying thought:

  "For strangers into life we come,
  And dying is but going home."

The Apostle's words, with which the song of "The Dying Christian to his
Soul" ends, left the whole cloudy question lit up with sunshine, to my
childish thoughts:--

  "O grave, where is thy 'victory?
  O death, where is thy sting?"

My father was dead; but that only meant that he had gone to a better
home than the one be lived in with us, and by and by we should go home,

Meanwhile the millennium was coming, and some people thought it was
very near. And what was the millennium? Why, the time when everybody on
earth would live just as they do in heaven. Nobody would be selfish,
nobody would be unkind; no! not so much as in a single thought. What a
delightful world this would be to live in then! Heaven itself could
scarcely be much better! Perhaps people would not die at all, but, when
the right time came, would slip quietly away into heaven, just as Enoch

My father had believed in the near millennium. His very last writing,
in his sick-room, was a penciled computation, from the prophets, of the
time when it would begin. The first minister who preached in our
church, long before I was born, had studied the subject much, and had
written books upon this, his favorite theme. The thought of it was
continually breaking out, like bloom and sunshine, from the stern
doctrines of the period.

One question in this connection puzzled me a good deal. Were people
going to be made good in spite of themselves, whether they wanted to or
not? And what would be done with the bad ones, if there were any left?
I did not like to think of their being killed off, and yet everybody
must be good, or it would not be a true millennium.

It certainly would not matter much who was rich, and who was poor, if
goodness, and not money, was the thing everybody cared for. Oh, if the
millennium would only begin now! I felt as if it were hardly fair to me
that I should not be here during those happy thousand years, when I
wanted to so much. But I had not lived even my short life in the world
without leading something of my own faults and perversities; and when I
saw that there was no sign of an approaching millennium in my heart I
had to conclude that it might be a great way off, after all. Yet the
very thought of it brought warmth and illumination to my dreams by day
and by night. It was coming, some time! And the people who were in
heaven would be as glad of it as those who remained on earth.

That it was a hard world for my mother and her children to live in at
present I could not help seeing. The older members of the family found
occupations by which the domestic burdens were lifted a little; but,
with only the three youngest to clothe and to keep at school, there was
still much more outgo than income, and my mother's discouragement every
day increased.

My eldest brother had gone to sea with a relative who was master of a
merchant vessel in the South American trade. His inclination led him
that way; it seemed to open before him a prospect of profitable
business, and my mother looked upon him as her future stay and support.

One day she came in among us children looking strangely excited. I
heard her tell some one afterwards that she had just been to hear
Father Taylor preach, the sailors minister, whose coming to our town
must have been a rare occurrence. His words had touched her personally,
for he had spoken to mothers whose first-born had left them to venture
upon strange seas and to seek unknown lands. He had even given to the
wanderer he described the name of her own absent son--"Benjamin." As
she left the church she met a neighbor who informed her that the brig
"Mexican" had arrived at Salem, in trouble. It was the vessel in which
my brother had sailed only a short time before, expecting to be absent
for months. "Pirates" was the only word we children caught, as she
hastened away from the house, not knowing whether her son was alive or
not. Fortunately, the news hardly reached the town before my brother
himself did. She met him in the street, and brought him home with her,
forgetting all her anxieties in her joy at his safety.

The "Mexican" had been attacked on the high seas by the piratical craft
"Panda," robbed of twenty thousand dollars in specie, set on fire, and
abandoned to her fate, with the crew fastened down in the hold. One
small skylight had accidentally been overlooked by the freebooters. The
captain discovered it, and making his way through it to the deck,
succeeded in putting out the fire, else vessel and sailors would have
sunk together, and their fate would never have been known.

Breathlessly we listened whenever my brother would relate the story,
which he did not at all enjoy doing, for a cutlass had been swung over
his head, and his life threatened by the pirate's boatswain, demanding
more money, after all had been taken. A Genoese messmate, Iachimo,
shortened to plain "Jack" by the "Mexican's" crew, came to see my
brother one day, and at the dinner table he went through the whole
adventure in pantomime, which we children watched with wide-eyed terror
and amusement. For there was some comedy mixed with what had been so
nearly a tragedy, and Jack made us see the very whites of the black
cook's eyes, who, favored by his color, had hidden himself--all except
that dilated whiteness--between two great casks in the bold. Jack
himself had fallen through a trap-door, was badly hurt, and could not
extricate himself.

It was very ludicrous. Jack crept under the table to show us how he and
the cook made eyes at each other down there in the darkness, not daring
to speak. The pantomime was necessary, for the Genoese had very little
English at his command.

When the pirate crew were brought into Salem for trial, my brother had
the questionable satisfaction of identifying in the court-room the
ruffian of a boatswain who had threatened his life. This boatswain and
several others of the crew were executed in Boston. The boy found his
brief sailor-experience quite enough for him, and afterward settled
down quietly to the trade of a carpenter.

Changes thickened in the air around us. Not the least among them was
the burning of "our meeting-house," in which we had all been baptized.
One Sunday morning we children were told, when we woke, that we could
not go to meeting that day, because the church was a heap of smoking
ruins. It seemed to me almost like the end of the world.

During my father's life, a few years before my birth, his thoughts had
been turned towards the new manufacturing town growing up on the banks
of the Merrimack. He had once taken a journey there, with the
possibility in his mind of making the place his home, his limited
income furnishing no adequate promise of a maintenance for his large
family of daughters. From the beginning, Lowell had a high reputation
for good order, morality, piety, and all that was dear to the
old-fashioned New Englander's heart.

After his death, my mother's thoughts naturally followed the direction
his had taken; and seeing no other opening for herself, she sold her
small estate, and moved to Lowell, with the intention of taking a
corporation-house for mill-girl boarders. Some of the family objected,
for the Old World traditions about factory life were anything but
attractive; and they were current in New England until the experiment
at Lowell had shown that independent and intelligent workers invariably
give their own character to their occupation. My mother had visited
Lowell, and she was willing and glad, knowing all about the place, to
make it our home.

The change involved a great deal of work. "Boarders" signified a large
house, many beds, and an indefinite number of people. Such piles of
sewing accumulated before us! A sewing-bee, volunteered by the
neighbors, reduced the quantity a little, and our child-fingers had to
take their part. But the seams of those sheets did look to me as if
they were miles long!

My sister Lida and I had our "stint,"--so much to do every day. It was
warm weather, and that made it the more tedious, for we wanted to be
running about the fields we were so soon to leave. One day, in sheer
desperation, we dragged a sheet up with us into an apple-tree in the
yard, and sat and sewed there through the summer afternoon, beguiling
the irksomeness of our task by telling stories and guessing riddles.

It was hardest for me to leave the garret and the garden. In the old
houses the garret was the children's castle. The rough rafters,--it was
always ail unfinished room, otherwise not a true garret,--the music of
the rain on the roof, the worn sea-chests with their miscellaneous
treasures, the blue-roofed cradle that had sheltered ten blue-eyed
babies, the tape-looms and reels and spinning wheels, the herby smells,
and the delightful dream corners,--these could not be taken with us to
the new home. Wonderful people had looked out upon us from under those
garret-eaves. Sindbad the Sailor and Baron Munchausen had sometimes
strayed in and told us their unbelievable stories; and we had there
made acquaintance with the great Caliph Haroun Alraschid.

To go away from the little garden was almost as bad. Its lilacs and
peonies were beautiful to me, and in a corner of it was one tiny square
of earth that I called my own, where I was at liberty to pull up my
pinks and lady's delights every day, to see whether they had taken
root, and where I could give my lazy morning-glory seeds a poke,
morning after morning, to help them get up and begin their climb. Oh, I
should miss the garden very much indeed!

It did not take long to turn over the new leaf of our home experience.
One sunny day three of us children, my youngest sister, my brother
John, and I, took with my mother the first stage-coach journey of our
lives, across Lynnfield plains and over Andover hills to the banks of
the Merrimack. We were set down before an empty house in a yet
unfinished brick block, where we watched for the big wagon that was to
bring our household goods.

It came at last; and the novelty of seeing our old furniture settled in
new rooms kept us from being homesick. One after another they
appeared,--bedsteads, chairs, tables, and, to me most welcome of all,
the old mahogany secretary with brass-handled drawers, that had always
stood in the "front room" at home. With it came the barrel full of
books that had filled its shelves, and they took their places as
naturally as if they had always lived in this strange town.

There they all stood again side by side on their shelves, the dear,
dull, good old volumes that all my life I had tried in vain to take a
sincere Sabbath-day interest in,--Scott's Commentaries on the Bible,
Hervey's "Meditations," Young's "Night Thoughts," "Edwards on the
Affections," and the Writings of Baxter and Doddridge. Besides these,
there were bound volumes of the "Repository Tracts," which I had read
and re-read; and the delightfully miscellaneous "Evangelicana,"
containing an account of Gilbert Tennent's wonderful trance; also the
"History of the Spanish Inquisition," with some painfully realistic
illustrations; a German Dictionary, whose outlandish letters and words
I liked to puzzle myself over; and a descriptive History of Hamburg,
full of fine steel engravings--which last two or three volumes my
father had brought with him from the countries to which he had sailed
in his sea-faring days. A complete set of the "Missionary Herald",
unbound, filled the upper shelves.

Other familiar articles journeyed with us: the brass-headed shovel and
tongs, that it had been my especial task to keep bright; the two
card-tables (which were as unacquainted as ourselves with ace, face,
and trump); the two china mugs, with their eighteenth-century lady and
gentleman figurines curiosities brought from over the sea, and
reverently laid away by my mother with her choicest relics in the
secretary-desk; my father's miniature, painted in Antwerp, a treasure
only shown occasionally to us children as a holiday treat; and my
mother's easy-chair,--I should have felt as if I had lost her, had that
been left behind. The earliest unexpressed ambition of my infancy had
been to grow up and wear a cap, and sit in an easy-chair knitting and
look comfortable just as my mother did.

Filled up with these things, the little one-windowed sitting-room
easily caught the home feeling, and gave it back to us. Inanimate
Objects do gather into themselves something of the character of those
who live among them, through association; and this alone makes
heirlooms valuable. They are family treasures, because they are part of
the family life, full of memories and inspirations. Bought or sold,
they are nothing but old furniture. Nobody can buy the old
associations; and nobody who has really felt how everything that has
been in a home makes part of it, can willingly bargain away the old

My mother never thought of disposing of her best furniture, whatever
her need. It traveled with her in every change of her abiding-place, as
long as she lived, so that to us children home seemed to accompany her
wherever she went. And, remaining yet in the family, it often brings
back to me pleasant reminders of my childhood. No other Bible seems
quite so sacred to me as the old Family Bible, out of which my father
used to read when we were all gathered around him for worship. To turn
its leaves and look at its pictures was one of our few Sabbath-day
indulgences; and I cannot touch it now except with feelings of profound

For the first time in our lives, my little sister and I became pupils
in a grammar school for both girls and boys, taught by a man. I was put
with her into the sixth class, but was sent the very next day into the
first. I did not belong in either, but somewhere between. And I was
very uncomfortable in my promotion, for though the reading and spelling
and grammar and geography were perfectly easy, I had never studied any
thing but mental arithmetic, and did not know how to "do a sum." We had
to show, when called up to recite, a slateful of sums, "done" and
"proved." No explanations were ever asked of us.

The girl who sat next to me saw my distress, and offered to do my sums
for me. I accepted her proposal, feeling, however, that I was a
miserable cheat.  But I was afraid of the master, who was tall and
gaunt, and used to stalk across the schoolroom, right over the
desk-tops, to find out if there was any mischief going on. Once, having
caught a boy annoying a seat-mate with a pin, he punished the offender
by pursuing him around the schoolroom, sticking a pin into his shoulder
whenever he could overtake him. And he had a fearful leather strap,
which was sometimes used even upon the shrinking palm of a little girl.
If he should find out that I was a pretender and deceiver, as I knew
that I was, I could not guess what might happen to me. He never did,
however. I was left unmolested in the ignorance which I deserved. But I
never liked the girl who did my sums, and I fancied she had a decided
contempt for me.

There was a friendly looking boy always sitting at the master's desk;
they called him "the monitor." It was his place to assist scholars who
were in trouble about their lessons, but I was too bashful to speak to
him, or to ask assistance of anybody. I think that nobody learned much
under that regime, and the whole school system was soon after entirely

Our house was quickly filled with a large feminine family. As a child,
the gulf between little girlhood and young womanhood had always looked
to me very wide. I suppose we should get across it by some sudden jump,
by and by. But among these new companions of all ages, from fifteen to
thirty years, we slipped into womanhood without knowing when or how.

Most of my mother's boarders were from New Hampshire and Vermont, and
there was a fresh, breezy sociability about them which made them seem
almost like a different race of beings from any we children had
hitherto known.

We helped a little about the housework, before and after school, making
beds, trimming lamps, and washing dishes. The heaviest work was done by
a strong Irish girl, my mother always attending to the cooking herself.
She was, however, a better caterer than the circumstances required or
permitted. She liked to make nice things for the table, and, having
been accustomed to an abundant supply, could never learn to economize.
At a dollar and a quarter a week for board,(the price allowed for
mill-girls by the corporations) great care in expenditure was
necessary. It was not in my mother's nature closely to calculate costs,
and in this way there came to be a continually increasing leak in the
family purse. The older members of the family did everything they
could, but it was not enough. I heard it said one day, in a distressed
tone, "The children will have to leave school and go into the mill."

There were many pros and cons between my mother and sisters before this
was positively decided. The mill-agent did not want to take us two
little girls, but consented on condition we should be sure to attend
school the full number of months prescribed each year. I, the younger
one, was then between eleven and twelve years old.

I listened to all that was said about it, very much fearing that I
should not be permitted to do the coveted work. For the feeling had
already frequently come to me, that I was the one too many in the
overcrowded family nest. Once, before we left our old home, I had heard
a neighbor condoling with my mother because there were so many of us,
and her emphatic reply had been a great relief to my mind:--

"There is isn't one more than I want. I could not spare a single one of
my children."

But her difficulties were increasing, and I thought it would be a
pleasure to feel that I was not a trouble or burden or expense to
anybody. So I went to my first day's work in the mill with a light
heart. The novelty of it made it seem easy, and it really was not hard,
just to change the bobbins on the spinning-frames every three quarters
of an hour or so, with half a dozen other little girls who were doing
the same thing. When I came back at night, the family began to pity me
for my long, tiresome day's work, but I laughed and said,--

"Why, it is nothing but fun. It is just like play."

And for a little while it was only a new amusement; I liked it better
than going to school and "making believe" I was learning when I was
not. And there was a great deal of play mixed with it. We were not
occupied more than half the time. The intervals were spent frolicking
around around the spinning-frames, teasing and talking to the older
girls, or entertaining ourselves with the games and stories in a
corner, or exploring with the overseer's permission, the mysteries of
the the carding-room, the dressing-room and the weaving-room.

I never cared much for machinery. The buzzing and hissing and whizzing
of pulleys and rollers and spindles and flyers around me often grew
tiresome. I could not see into their complications, or feel interested
in them. But in a room below us we were sometimes allowed to peer in
through a sort of blind door at the great water-wheel that carried the
works of the whole mill. It was so huge that we could only watch a few
of its spokes at a time, and part of its dripping rim, moving with a
slow, measured strength through the darkness that shut it in. It
impressed me with something of the awe which comes to us in thinking of
the great Power which keeps the mechanism of the universe in motion.
Even now, the remembrance of its large, mysterious movement, in which
every little motion of every noisy little wheel was involved, brings
back to me a verse from one of my favorite hymns:--

  "Our lives through various scenes are drawn,
  And vexed by trifling cares,
  While Thine eternal thought moves on
  Thy undisturbed affairs."

There were compensations for being shut in to daily toil so early. The
mill itself had its lessons for us. But it was not, and could not be,
the right sort of life for a child, and we were happy in the knowledge
that, at the longest, our employment was only to be temporary.

When I took my next three months at the grammar school, everything
there was changed, and I too was changed. The teachers were kind, and
thorough in their instruction; and my mind seemed to have been ploughed
up during that year of work, so that knowledge took root in it easily.
It was a great delight to me to study, and at the end of the three
months the master told me that I was prepared for the high school.

But alas! I could not go. The little money I could earn--one dollar a
week, besides the price of my board--was needed in the family, and I
must return to the mill. It was a severe disappointment to me, though I
did not say so at home. I did not at all accept the conclusion of a
neighbor whom I heard talking about it with my mother. His daughter was
going to the high school, and my mother was telling him how sorry she
was that I could not.

"Oh," he said, in a soothing tone, "my girl hasn't got any such
head-piece as yours has. Your girl doesn't need to go."

Of course I knew that whatever sort of a "head-piece" I had, I did need
and want just that very opportunity to study. I think the solution was
then formed, inwardly, that I would go to school again, some time,
whatever happened. I went back to my work, but now without enthusiasm.
I had looked through an open door that I was not willing to see shut
upon me.

I began to reflect upon life rather seriously for a girl of twelve or
thirteen. What was I here for? What could I make of myself? Must I
submit to be carried along with the current, and do just what everybody
else did? No: I knew I should not do that, for there was a certain
Myself who was always starting up with her own original plan or
aspiration before me, and who was quite indifferent as to what people,
generally thought.

Well, I would find out what this Myself was good for, and that she
should be! It was but the presumption of extreme youth. How gladly
would I know now, after these long years, just why I was sent into the
world, and whether I have in any degree fulfilled the purpose of my

In the older times it was seldom said to little girls, as it always has
been said to boys, that they ought to have some definite plan, while
they were children, what to be and do when they were grown up. There
was usually but one path open before them, to become good wives and
housekeepers. And the ambition of most girls was to follow their
mothers' footsteps in this direction; a natural and laudable ambition.
But girls, as well as boys, must often have been conscious of their own
peculiar capabilities,--must have desired to cultivate and make use of
their individual powers. When I was growing up, they had already begun
to be encouraged to do so. We were often told that it was our duty to
develop any talent we might possess, or at least to learn how to do
some one thing which the world needed, or which would make it a
pleasanter world.

When I thought what I should best like to do, my first dream--almost a
baby's dream--about it was that it would be a fine thing to be a
schoolteacher, like Aunt Hannah. Afterward, when I heard that there
were artists, I wished I could some time be one. A slate and pencil, to
draw pictures, was my first request whenever a day's ailment kept me at
home from school; and I rather enjoyed being a little ill, for the sake
of amusing myself in that way. The wish grew up with me; but there were
no good drawing-teachers in those days, and if there had been, the cost
of instruction would have been beyond the family means. My sister
Emilie, however, who saw my taste and shared it herself, did her best
to assist me, furnishing me with pencil and paper and paint-box.

If I could only make a rose bloom on paper, I thought I should be
happy! or if I could at last succeed in drawing the outline of
winter-stripped boughs as I saw them against the sky, it seemed to me
that I should be willing to spend years in trying. I did try a little,
and very often. Jack Frost was my most inspiring teacher. His sketches
on the bedroom window-pane in cold mornings were my ideal studies of
Swiss scenery, crags and peaks and chalets and fir-trees,--and graceful
tracery of ferns, like those that grew in the woods where we went
huckleberrying, all blended together by his touch of enchantment. I
wondered whether human fingers ever succeeded in imitating that lovely

The taste has followed me all my life through, but I could never
indulge it except as a recreation. I was not to be an artist, and I am
rather glad that I was hindered, for I had even stronger inclinations
in other directions; and art, really noble art, requires the entire
devotion of a lifetime.

I seldom thought seriously of becoming an author, although it seemed to
me that anybody who had written a book would have a right to feel very
proud. But I believed that a person must be exceedingly wise before
presuming to attempt it: although now and then I thought I could feel
ideas growing in my mind that it might be worth while to put into a
book,--if I lived and studied until I was forty or fifty years old.

I wrote my little verses, to be sure, but that was nothing; they just
grew.  They were the same as breathing or singing. I could not help
writing them, and I thought and dreamed a great many that were ever put
on paper. They seemed to fly into my mind and away again, like birds
with a carol through the air. It seemed strange to me that people
should notice them, or should think my writing verses anything
peculiar; for I supposed that they were in everybody's mind, just as
they were in mine, and that anybody could write them who chose.

One day I heard a relative say to my mother,--

"Keep what she writes till she grows up, and perhaps she will get money
for it. I have heard of somebody who earned a thousand dollars by
writing poetry."

It sounded so absurd to me. Money for writing verses! One dollar would
be as ridiculous as a thousand. I should as soon have thought of being
paid for thinking!  My mother, fortunately, was sensible enough never
to flatter me or let me be flattered about my scribbling. It never was
allowed to hinder any work I had to do. I crept away into a corner to
write what came into my head, just as I ran away to play; and I looked
upon it only as my most agreeable amusement, never thinking of
preserving anything which did not of itself stay in my memory. This too
was well, for the time did lot come when I could afford to look upon
verse-writing as an occupation.  Through my life, it has only been
permitted to me as an aside from other more pressing employments.
Whether I should have written better verses had circumstances left me
free to do what I chose, it is impossible now to know.

All my thoughts about my future sent me back to Aunt Hannah and my
first infantile idea of being a teacher. I foresaw that I should be
that before I could be or do any thing else. It had been impressed upon
me that I must make myself useful in the world, and certainly one could
be useful who could "keep school" as Aunt Hannah did. I did not see
anything else for a girl to do who wanted to use her brains as well as
her hands. So the plan of preparing myself to be a teacher gradually
and almost unconsciously shaped itself in my mind as the only
practicable one. I could earn my living in that way,--all-important

I liked the thought of self-support, but I would have chosen some
artistic or beautiful work if I could. I had no especial aptitude for
teaching, and no absorbing wish to be a teacher, but it seemed to me
that I might succeed if I tried. What I did like about it was that one
must know something first. I must acquire knowledge before I could
impart it, and that was just what I wanted. I could be a student,
wherever I was and whatever else I had to be or do, and I would!

I knew I should write; I could not help doing that, for my hand seemed
instinctively to move towards pen and paper in moments of leisure. But
to write anything worth while, I must have mental cultivation; so, in
preparing myself to teach, I could also be preparing myself to write.

This was the plan that indefinitely shaped itself in my mind as I
returned to my work in the spinning-room, and which I followed out, not
without many breaks and hindrances and neglects, during the next six or
seven years,--to learn all I could, so that I should be fit to teach or
to write, as the way opened. And it turned out that fifteen or twenty
of my best years were given to teaching.



IT did not take us younger ones long to get acquainted with our new
home, and to love it.

To live beside a river had been to me a child's dream of romance.
Rivers, as I pictured them, came down from the mountains, and were born
in the clouds. They were bordered by green meadows, and graceful trees
leaned over to gaze into their bright mirrors. Our shallow tidal creek
was the only river I had known, except as visioned on the pages of the
"Pilgrim's Progress," and in the Book of Revelation. And the Merrimack
was like a continuation of that dream.

I soon made myself familiar with the rocky nooks along Pawtucket Falls,
shaded with hemlocks and white birches. Strange new wild flowers grew
beside the rushing waters,--among them Sir Walter Scott's own
harebells, which I had never thought of except as blossoms of poetry;
here they were, as real to me as to his Lady of the Lake! I loved the
harebell, the first new flower the river gave me, as I had never loved
a flower before.

There was but one summers holiday for us who worked in the mills--the
Fourth of July. We made a point of spending it out of doors, making
excursions down the river to watch the meeting of the slow Concord and
the swift Merrimack; or around by the old canal-path, to explore the
mysteries of the Guard Locks; or across the bridge, clambering up
Dracut Heights, to look away to the dim blue mountains.

On that morning it was our custom to wake one another at four o'clock,
and start off on a tramp together over some retired road whose chief
charm was its unfamiliarity, returning to a very late breakfast, with
draggled gowns and aprons full of dewy wild roses. No matter if we must
get up at five the next morning and go back to our hum-drum toil, we
should have the roses to take with us for company, and the sweet air of
the woodland which lingered about them would scent our thoughts all
day, and make us forget the oily smell of the machinery.

We were children still, whether at school or at work, and Nature still
held us close to her motherly heart. Nature came very close to the
mill-gates, too, in those days. There was green grass all around them;
violets and wild geraniums grew by the canals; and long stretches of
open land between the corporation buildings and the street made the
town seem country-like.

The slope behind our mills (the "Lawrence" Mills) was a green lawn; and
in front of some of them the overseers had gay flower-gardens; we
passed in to our work through a splendor of dahlias and hollyhocks.

The gray stone walls of St. Anne's church and rectory made a
picturesque spot in the middle of the town, remaining still as a
lasting monument to the religious purpose which animated the first
manufacturers. The church arose close to the oldest corporation (the
"Merrimack"), and seemed a part of it, and a part, also, of the
original idea of the place itself, which was always a city of
worshipers, although it came to be filled with a population which
preferred meeting-houses to churches. I admired the church greatly. I
had never before seen a real one; never anything but a plain frame
meeting-house; and it and its benign, apostolic-looking rector were
like a leaf out of an English story-book.

And so, also, was the tiny white cottage nearly opposite, set in the
middle of a pretty flower-garden that sloped down to the canal. In the
garden there was almost always a sweet little girl in a pink gown and
white sunbonnet gathering flowers when I passed that way, and I often
went out of my path to do so. These relieved the monotony of the
shanty-like shops which bordered the main street. The town had sprung
up with a mushroom-rapidity, and there was no attempt at veiling the
newness of its bricks and mortar, its boards and paint.

But there were buildings that had their own individuality, and asserted
it.  One of these was a mud-cabin with a thatched roof, that looked as
if it had emigrated bodily from the bogs of Ireland. It had settled
itself down into a green hollow by the roadside, and it looked as much
at home with the lilac-tinted crane's-bill and yellow buttercups as if
it had never lost sight of the shamrocks of Erin.

Now, too, my childish desire to see a real beggar was gratified.
Straggling petitioners for "cold victuals" hung around our back yard,
always of Hibernian extraction; and a slice of bread was rewarded with
a shower of benedictions that lost itself upon us in the flood of its
own incomprehensible brogue.

Some time every summer a fleet of canoes would glide noiselessly up the
river, and a company of Penobscot Indians would land at a green point
almost in sight from our windows. Pawtucket Falls had always been one
of their favorite camping-places. Their strange endeavors, to combine
civilization with savagery were a great source of amusement to us; men
and women clad alike in loose gowns, stove-pipe hats, and moccasons;
grotesque relies of aboriginal forest-life. The sight of these
uncouth-looking red men made the romance fade entirely out of the
Indian stories we had heard. Still their wigwam camp was a show we
would not willingly have missed.

The transition from childhood to girlhood, when a little girl has had
an almost unlimited freedom of out-of-door life, is practically the
toning down of a mild sort of barbarianism, and is often attended by a
painfully awkward self-consciousness. I had an innate dislike of
conventionalities. I clung to the child's inalienable privilege of
running half wild; and when I found that I really was growing up, I
felt quite rebellious.

I was as tall as a woman at thirteen, and my older sisters insisted
upon lengthening my dresses, and putting up my mop of hair with a comb.
I felt injured and almost outraged because my protestations against
this treatment were unheeded and when the transformation in my visible
appearance was effected, I went away by myself and had a good cry,
which I would not for the world have had them know about, as that would
have added humiliation to my distress. And the greatest pity about it
was that I too soon became accustomed to the situation. I felt like a
child, but considered it my duty to think and behave like a woman. I
began to look upon it as a very serious thing to live. The untried
burden seemed already to have touched my shoulders. For a time I was
morbidly self-critical, and at the same time extremely reserved. The
associates I chose were usually grave young women, ten or fifteen years
older than myself; but I think I felt older and appeared older than
they did.

Childhood, however, is not easily defrauded of its birthright, and mine
soon reasserted itself. At home I was among children of my own age, for
some cousins and other acquaintances had come to live and work with us.
We had our evening frolics and entertainments together, and we always
made the most of our brief holiday hours. We had also with us now the
sister Emilie of my fairy-tale memories, who had grown into a strong,
earnest-hearted woman. We all looked up to her as our model, and the
ideal of our heroine-worship; for our deference to her in every way did
amount to that.

She watched over us, gave us needed reproof and commendation, rarely
cosseted us, but rather made us laugh at what many would have
considered the hardships of our lot. She taught us not only to accept
the circumstances in which we found ourselves, but to win from them
courage and strength. When we came in shivering from our work, through
a snowstorm, complaining of numb hands and feet, she would say
cheerily, "But it doesn't make you any warmer to say you are cold;" and
this was typical of the way she took life generally, and tried to have
us take it. She was constantly denying herself for our sakes, without
making us feel that she was doing so. But she did not let us get into
the bad habit of pitying ourselves because we were not as "well off" as
many other children. And indeed we considered ourselves pleasantly
situated; but the best of it all was that we had her.

Her theories for herself, and her practice, too, were rather severe;
but we tried to follow them, according to our weaker abilities. Her
custom was, for instance, to take a full cold bath every morning before
she went to her work, even though the water was chiefly broken ice; and
we did the same whenever we could be resolute enough. It required both
nerve and will to do this at five o'clock on a zero morning, in a room
without a fire; but it helped us to harden ourselves, while we formed a
good habit. The working-day in winter began at the very earliest
daylight, and ended at half-past seven in the evening.

Another habit of hers was to keep always beside her at her daily work
something to study or to think about. At first it was "Watts on the
Improvement of the Mind," arranged as a textbook, with questions and
answers, by the minister of Beverly who had made the thought of the
millennium such a reality to his people. She quite wore this book out,
carrying it about with her in her working-dress pocket.  After that,
"Locke on the Understanding" was used in the same way. She must have
known both books through and through by heart. Then she read Combe and
Abercrombie, and discussed their physics and metaphysics with our girl
boarders, some of whom had remarkably acute and well-balanced minds.
Her own seemed to have turned from its early bent toward the romantic,
her taste being now for serious and practical, though sometimes
abstruse, themes. I remember that Young and Pollock were her favorite

I could not keep up with her in her studies and readings, for many of
the books she liked seemed to me very dry. I did not easily take to the
argumentative or moralizing method, which I came to regard as a proof
of the weakness of my own intellect in comparison with hers. I would
gladly have kept pace with her if I could. Anything under the heading
of "Didactick," like some of the pieces in the old "English Reader,"
used by school-children in the generation just before ours, always
repelled me. But I though it necessary to discipline myself by reading
such pieces, and my first attempt at prose composition, "On
Friendship," was stiffly modeled after a certain "Didactick Essay" in
that same English Reader.

My sister, however, cared more to watch the natural development of our
minds than to make us follow the direction of hers. She was really our
teacher, although she never assumed that position. Certainly I learned
more from her about my own capabilities, and how I might put them to
use, than I could have done at any school we knew of, had it been
possible for me to attend one.

I think she was determined that we should not be mentally defrauded by
the circumstances which had made it necessary for us to begin so early
to win our daily bread. This remark applies especially to me, as my
older sisters (only two or three of them had come to Lowell) soon
drifted away from us into their own new homes or occupations, and she
and I were left together amid the whir of spindles and wheels.

One thing she planned for us, her younger housemates,--a dozen or so of
cousins, friends, and sisters, some attending school, and some at work
in the mill,--was a little fortnightly paper, to be filled with our
original contributions, she herself acting as editor.

I do not know where she got the idea, unless it was from Mrs. Lydia
Maria Child's "Juvenile Miscellany," which had found its way to us some
years before,--a most delightful guest, and, I think, the first
magazine prepared for American children, who have had so many since
then.(I have always been glad that I knew that sweet woman with the
child's heart and the poet's soul, in her later years, and could tell
her how happy she had helped to make my childhood.) Our little sheet
was called "The Diving Bell," probably from the sea-associations of the
name. We kept our secrets of authorship very close from everybody
except the editor, who had to decipher the handwriting and copy the
pieces. It was, indeed, an important part of the fun to guess who wrote
particular pieces. After a little while, however, our mannerisms
betrayed us. One of my cousins was known to be the chief story-teller,
and I was recognized as the leading rhymer among the younger
contributors; the editor-sister excelling in her versifying, as she did
in almost everything.

It was a cluster of very conscious-looking little girls that assembled
one evening in the attic room, chosen on account of its remoteness from
intruders (for we did not admit even the family as a public, the
writers themselves were the only audience), to listen to the reading of
our first paper. We took Saturday evening, because that was longer than
the other workday evenings, the mills being closed earlier. Such
guessing and wondering and admiring as we had! But nobody would
acknowledge her own work, for that would have spoiled the pleasure.
Only there were certain wise hints and maxims that we knew never came
from any juvenile head among us, and those we set down as "editorials."

Some of the stories contained rather remarkable incidents. One, written
to illustrate a little girl's habit of carelessness about her own
special belongings, told of her rising one morning, and after hunting
around for her shoes half an hour or so, finding them in the book-case,
where she had accidentally locked them up the night before!

To convince myself that I could write something besides rhymes, I had
attempted an essay of half a column on a very extensive subject,
"MIND." It began loftily:--

"What a noble and beautiful thing is mind!" and it went on in the same
high-flown strain to no particular end. But the editor praised it,
after having declined the verdict of the audience that she was its
author; and I felt sufficiently flattered by both judgments.

I wrote more rhymes than anything else, because they came more easily.
But I always felt that the ability to write good prose was far more
desirable, and it seems so to me still. I will give my little girl
readers a single specimen of my twelve-year-old "Diving Bell" verses,
though I feel as if I ought to apologize even for that. It is on a
common subject, "Life like a Rose":--

  "Childhood's like a tender bud
  That's scarce been formed an hour,
  But which erelong will doubtless be
  A bright and lovely flower.

  "And youth is like a full-blown rose
  Which has not known decay;
  But which must soon, alas! too soon!
  Wither and fade away.

  "And age is like a withered rose,
  That bends beneath the blast;
  But though its beauty all is gone,
  Its fragrance yet may last."

This, and other verses that I wrote then, serve to illustrate the
child's usual inclination to look forward meditatively, rather than to
think and write of the simple things that belong to children.

Our small venture set some of us imagining what larger possibilities
might be before us in the far future. We talked over the things we
should like to do when we should be women out in the active world; and
the author of the shoe-story horrified us by declaring that she meant
to be distinguished when she grew up for something, even if it was for
something bad! She did go so far in a bad way as to plagiarize a long
poem in a subsequent number of the "Diving Bell" but the editor found
her out, and we all thought that a reproof from Emilie was sufficient

I do not know whether it was fortunate or unfortunate for me that I had
not, by nature, what is called literary ambition. I knew that I had a
knack at rhyming, and I knew that I enjoyed nothing better than to try
to put thoughts and words together, in any way. But I did it for the
pleasure of rhyming and writing, indifferent as to what might come of
it. For any one who could take hold of every-day, practical work, and
carry it on successfully, I had a profound respect. To be what is
called "capable" seemed to me better worth while than merely to have a
taste or for writing, perhaps because I was conscious of my
deficiencies in the former respect. But certainly the world needs deeds
more than it needs words. I should never have been willing to be only a
writer, without using my hands to some good purpose besides.

My sister, however, told me that here was a talent which I had no right
to neglect, and which I ought to make the most of. I believed in her; I
thought she understood me better than I understood myself; and it was a
comfort to be assured that my scribbling was not wholly a waste of
time. So I used pencil and paper in every spare minute I could find.
Our little home-journal went bravely on through twelve numbers.  Its
yellow manuscript pages occasionally meet my eyes when I am rummaging
among my old papers, with the half-conscious look of a waif that knows
it has no right to its escape from the waters of oblivion.

While it was in progress my sister Emilie became acquainted with a
family of bright girls, near neighbors of ours, who proposed that we
should join with them, and form a little society for writing and
discussion, to meet fortnightly at their house. We met,--I think I was
the youngest of the group,--prepared a Constitution and By-Laws, and
named ourselves "The Improvement Circle." If I remember rightly, my
sister was our first president. The older ones talked and wrote on many
subjects quite above me. I was shrinkingly bashful, as half-grown girls
usually are, but I wrote my little essays and read them, and listened
to the rest, and enjoyed it all exceedingly. Out of this little
"Improvement Circle" grew the larger one whence issued the "Lowell
Offering," a year or two later.

At this time I had learned to do a spinner's work, and I obtained
permission to tend some frames that stood directly in front of the
river-windows, with only them and the wall behind me, extending half
the length of the mill,--and one young woman beside me, at the farther
end of the row. She was a sober, mature person, who scarcely thought it
worth her while to speak often to a child like me; and I was, when with
strangers, rather a reserved girl; so I kept myself occupied with the
river, my work, and my thoughts. And the river and my thoughts flowed
on together, the happiest of companions. Like a loitering pilgrim, it
sparkled up to me in recognition as it glided along and bore away my
little frets and fatigues on its bosom. When the work "went well," I
sat in the window-seat, and let my fancies fly whither they
would,--downward to the sea, or upward to the hills that hid the
mountain-cradle of the Merrimack.

The printed regulations forbade us to bring books into the mill, so I
made my window-seat into a small library of poetry, pasting its side
all over with newspaper clippings. In those days we had only weekly
papers, and they had always a "poet's corner," where standard writers
were well represented, with anonymous ones, also. I was not, of course,
much of a critic. I chose my verses for their sentiment, and because I
wanted to commit them to memory; sometimes it was a long poem,
sometimes a hymn, sometimes only a stray verse.  Mrs. Hemans sang with

  "Far away, o'er the blue hills far away;"

and I learned and loved her "Better Land," and

  "If thou hast crushed a flower,"

and "Kindred Hearts."

I wonder if Miss Landon really did write that fine poem to Mont Blanc
which was printed in her volume, but which sounds so entirely unlike
everything else she wrote! This was one of my window-gems. It ended
with the appeal,--

  "Alas for thy past mystery!
    For thine untrodden snow!
  Nurse of the tempest! hast thou none
    To guard thine outraged brow?"

and it contained a stanza that I often now repeat to myself:--

  "We know too much: scroll after scroll
    Weighs down our weary shelves:
  Our only point of ignorance
    Is centred in ourselves."

There was one anonymous waif in my collection that I was very fond of.
I have never seen it since, nor ever had the least clue to its
authorship. It stirred me and haunted me; and it often comes back to me
now, in snatches like these:--

  "The human mind! That lofty thing,
    The palace and the throne
  Where Reason sits, a sceptred king,
    And breathes his judgment-tone!"

  "The human soul! That startling thing,
    Mysterious and sublime;
  An angel sleeping on the wing,
    Worn by the scoffs of time.
  From heaven in tears to earth it stole--
    That startling thing, the human soul."

I was just beginning, in my questionings as to the meaning of life, to
get glimpses of its true definition from the poets,--that it is love,
service, the sacrifice of self for others' good. The lesson was slowly
learned, but every hint of it went to my heart, and I kept in silent
upon my window wall reminders like that of holy George Herbert:--

  "Be useful where thou livest, that they may
  Both want and wish thy pleasing presence still.
          --Find out men's wants and will,
  And meet them there. All worldly joys go less
  To the one joy of doing kindnesses;"

and that well-known passage from Talfourd,--

  "The blessings which the weak and poor can scatter,
  Have their own season.
  It is a little thing to speak a phase
  Of common comfort, which, by daily use,
  Has almost lost its sense; yet on the ear
  Of him who thought to die unmourned 't will fall
  Like choicest music."

A very familiar extract from Carlos Wilcox, almost the only quotation
made nowadays from his poems, was often on my sister Emilie's lips,
whose heart seemed always to be saying to itself:--

  "Pour blessings round thee like a shower of gold!"

I had that beside me, too, and I copy part of it here, for her sake,
and because it will be good for my girl readers to keep in mind one of
the noblest utterances of an almost forgotten American poet:--

  "Rouse to some work of high and holy love,
  And thou an angel's happiness shalt know;
  Shalt bless the earth while in the world above.
  The good begun by thee shall onward flow.
  The pure, sweet stream shall deeper, wider grow.
  The seed that in these few and fleeting hours
  Thy hands, unsparing and unwearied sow,
  Shall deck thy grave with amaranthine flowers,
  And yield thee fruits divine in heaven's immortal bowers."

One great advantage which came to these many stranger girls through
being brought together, away from their own homes, was that it taught
them to go out of themselves, and enter into the lives of others.
Home-life, when one always stays at home, is necessarily narrowing.
That is one reason why so many women are petty and unthoughtful of any
except their own family's interests. We have hardly begun to live until
we can take in the idea of the whole human family as the one to which
we truly belong.  To me, it was an incalculable help to find myself
among so many working-girls, all of us thrown upon our own resources,
but thrown much more upon each others' sympathies.

And the stream beside which we toiled added to its own inspirations
human suggestions drawn from our acquaintance with each other. It
blended itself with the flow of our lives. Almost the first of my
poemlets in the "Lowell Offering" was entitled "The River." These are
some lines of it:--

  "Gently flowed a river bright
  On its path of liquid light,
  Gleaming now soft banks between,
  Winding now through valleys green,
  Cheering with its presence mild
  Cultured fields and woodlands wild.

  "Is not such a pure one's life?
  Ever shunning pride and strife,
  Noiselessly along she goes,
  Known by gentle deeds she does;
  Often wandering far, to bless,
  And do others kindnesses.

  "Thus, by her own virtues shaded,
  While pure thoughts, like starbeams, lie
  Mirrored in her heart and eye,
  She, content to be unknown,
  All serenely moveth on,
  Till, released from Time's commotion,
  Self is lost in Love's wide ocean."

There was many a young girl near me whose life was like the beautiful
course of the river in my ideal of her. The Merrimack has blent its
music with the onward song of many a lovely soul that, clad in plain
working-clothes, moved heavenward beside its waters.

One of the loveliest persons I ever knew was a young girl who worked
opposite to me in the spinning-room. Our eyes made us friends long
before we spoke to each other. She was an orphan, well-bred and
well-educated, about twenty years old, and she had brought with her to
her place of toil the orphan child of her sister, left to her as a
death-bed legacy. They boarded with a relative. The factory
boarding-houses were often managed by families of genuine refinement,
as in this case, and the one comfort of Caroline's life was her
beautiful little niece, to whom she could go home when the day's work
was over.

Her bereavements had given an appealing sadness to her whole
expression; but she had accepted them and her changed circumstances
with the submission of profound faith which everybody about her felt in
everything she said and did. I think I first knew, through her, how
character can teach, without words. To see her and her little niece
together was almost like looking at a picture of the Madonna. Caroline
afterwards became an inmate of my mother's family, and we were warm
friends until her death a few years ago.

Some of the girls could not believe that the Bible was meant to be
counted among forbidden books. We all thought that the Scriptures had a
right to go wherever we went, and that if we needed them anywhere, it
was at our work. I evaded the law by carrying some leaves from a torn
Testament in my pocket.

The overseer, caring more for law than gospel, confiscated all he
found. He had his desk full of Bibles. It sounded oddly to hear him say
to the most religious girl in the room, when he took hers away, "I did
think you had more conscience than to bring that book here." But we had
some close ethical questions to settle in those days. It was a rigid
code of morality under which we lived. Nobody complained of it,
however, and we were doubtless better off for its strictness, in the

The last window in the row behind me was filled with flourishing
house-plants--fragrant leaved geraniums, the overseer's pets. They gave
that corner a bowery look; the perfume and freshness tempted me there
often. Standing before that window, I could look across the room and
see girls moving backwards and forwards among the spinning-frames,
sometimes stooping, sometimes reaching up their arms, as their work
required, with easy and not ungraceful movements. On the whole, it was
far from being a disagreeable place to stay in. The girls were
bright-looking and neat, and everything was kept clean and shining. The
effect of the whole was rather attractive to strangers.

My grandfather came to see my mother once at about this time and
visited the mills. When he had entered our room, and looked around for
a moment, he took off his hat and made a low bow to the girls, first
toward the right, and then toward the left. We were familiar with his
courteous habits, partly due to his French descent; but we had never
seen anybody bow to a room full of mill girls in that polite way, and
some one of the family afterwards asked him why he did so. He looked a
little surprised at the question, but answered promptly and with
dignity, "I always take off my hat to ladies."

His courtesy was genuine. Still, we did not call ourselves ladies. We
did not forget that we were working-girls, wearing coarse aprons
suitable to our work, and that there was some danger of our becoming
drudges. I know that sometimes the confinement of the mill became very
wearisome to me. In the sweet June weather I would lean far out of the
window, and try not to hear the unceasing clash of sound inside.
Looking away to the hills, my whole stifled being would cry out

  "Oh, that I had wings!"

Still I was there from choice, and

  "The prison unto which we doom ourselves,
  No prison is."

And I was every day making discoveries about life, and about myself. I
had naturally some elements of the recluse, and would never, of my own
choice, have lived in a crowd. I loved quietness. The noise of
machinery was particularly distasteful to me. But I found that the
crowd was made up of single human lives, not one of them wholly
uninteresting, when separately known. I learned also that there are
many things which belong to the whole world of us together, that no one
of us, nor any few of us, can claim or enjoy for ourselves alone. I
discovered, too, that I could so accustom myself to the noise that it
became like a silence to me. And I defied the machinery to make me its
slave. Its incessant discords could not drown the music of my thoughts
if I would let them fly high enough. Even the long hours, the early
rising and the regularity enforced by the clangor of the bell were good
discipline for one who was naturally inclined to dally and to dream,
and who loved her own personal liberty with a willful rebellion against
control. Perhaps I could have brought myself into the limitations of
order and method in no other way.

Like a plant that starts up in showers and sunshine and does not know
which has best helped it to grow, it is difficult to say whether the
hard things or the pleasant things did me most good. But when I was
sincerest with myself, as also when I thought least about it, I know
that I was glad to be alive, and to be just where I was.

It is a conquest when we can lift ourselves above the annoyances of
circumstances over which we have no control; but it is a greater
victory when we can make those circumstances our helpers, when we can
appreciate the good there is in them. It has often seemed to me as if
Life stood beside me, looking me in the face, and saying, "Child, you
must learn to like me in the form in which you see me, before I can
offer myself to you in any other aspect."

It was so with this disagreeable necessity of living among many people.
There is nothing more miserable than to lose the feeling of our own
distinctiveness, since that is our only clue to the Purpose behind us
and the End before us. But when we have discovered that human beings
are not a mere "mass," but an orderly Whole, of which we are a part, it
is all so different!

This we working-girls might have learned from the webs of cloth we saw
woven around us. Every little thread must take its place as warp or
woof, and keep in it steadily. Left to itself, it would be only a
loose, useless filament. Trying to wander in an independent or a
disconnected way among the other threads, it would make of the whole
web an inextricable snarl. Yet each little thread must be as firmly
spun as if it were the only one, or the result would be a worthless

That we are entirely separate, while yet we entirely belong to the
Whole, is a truth that we learn to rejoice in, as we come to understand
more and more of ourselves, and of this human life of ours, which seems
so complicated, and yet is so simple. And when we once get a glimpse of
the Divine Plan in it all, and know that to be just where we are, doing
just what we are doing just at this hour because it is our appointed
hour,--when we become aware that this is the very best thing possible
for us in God's universe, the hard task grows easy, the tiresome
employment welcome and delightful. Having fitted ourselves to our
present work in such a way as this, we are usually prepared for better
work, and are sent to take a better place.

Perhaps this is one of the unfailing laws of progress in our being.
Perhaps the Master of Life always rewards those who do their little
faithfully by giving them some greater opportunity for faithfulness.
Certainly, it is a comfort, wherever we are, to say to ourselves:--

  "Thou camest not to thy place by accident,
  It is the very place God meant for thee."



THE pleasure we found in making new acquaintances among our workmates
arose partly from their having come from great distances, regions
unknown to us, as the northern districts of Maine and New Hampshire and
Vermont were, in those days of stage-coach traveling, when rail-roads
had as yet only connected the larger cities with one another.

It seemed wonderful to me to be talking with anybody who had really
seen mountains and lived among them. One of the younger girls, who
worked beside me during my very first days in the mill, had come from
far up near the sources of the Merrimack, and she told me a great deal
about her home, and about farm-life among the hills. I listened almost
with awe when she said that she lived in a valley where the sun set at
four o'clock, and where the great snowstorms drifted in so that
sometimes they did not see a neighbor for weeks.

To have mountain-summits looking down upon one out of the clouds,
summer and winter, by day and by night, seemed to me something both
delightful and terrible. And yet here was this girl to whom it all
appeared like the merest commonplace. What she felt about it was that
it was "awful cold, sometimes; the days were so short! and it grew dark
so early!" Then she told me about the spinning, and the husking, and
the sugar-making, while we sat in a corner together, waiting to replace
the full spools by empty ones,--the work usually given to the little

I had a great admiration for this girl, because she had come from those
wilderness-regions. The scent of pine-woods and checkerberry-leaves
seemed to bang about her. I believe I liked her all the better because
she said "daown" and "haow." It was part of the mountain-flavor.

I tried, on my part, to impress her with stories of the sea; but I did
not succeed very well. Her principal comment was, "They don't think
much of sailors up aour way." And I received the impression, from her
and others, and from my own imagination, that rural life was far more
delightful than the life of towns.

But there is something in the place where we were born that holds us
always by the heartstrings. A town that still has a great deal of the
country in it, one that is rich in beautiful scenery and ancestral
associations, is almost like a living being, with a body and a soul. We
speak of such a town, if our birthplace, as of a mother, and think of
ourselves as her sons and daughters.

So we felt, my sisters and I, about our dear native town of Beverly.
Its miles of sea-border, almost every sunny cove and rocky headland of
which was a part of some near relative's homestead, were only half a
day's journey distant; and the misty ocean-spaces beyond still widened
out on our imagination from the green inland landscape around us. But
the hills sometimes shut us in, body and soul. To those who have been
reared by the sea a wide horizon is a necessity, both for the mind and
for the eye.

We had many opportunities of escape towards our native shores, for the
larger part of our large family still remained there, and there was a
constant coming and going among us. The stagedriver looked upon us as
his especial charge, and we had a sense of personal property in the
Salem and Lowell stagecoach, which had once, like a fairy-godmother's
coach, rumbled down into our own little lane, taken possession of us,
and carried us off to a new home.

My married sisters had families growing up about them, and they liked
to have us younger ones come and help take care of their babies. One of
them sent for me just when the close air and long days' work were
beginning to tell upon my health, and it was decided that I had better
go. The salt wind soon restored my strength, and those months of quiet
family life were very good for me.

Like most young girls, I had a motherly fondness for little children,
and my two baby-nephews were my pride and delight. The older one had a
delicate constitution, and there was a thoughtful, questioning look in
his eyes, that seemed to gaze forward almost sadly, and foresee that he
should never attain to manhood. The younger, a plump, vigorous urchin,
three or four months old, did, without doubt, "feel his life in every
limb." He was my especial charge, for his brother's clinging weakness
gave him, the first-born, the place nearest his mother's heart. The
baby bore the family name, mine and his mother's; "our little Lark," we
sometimes called him, for his wide-awakeness and his
merry-heartedness.(Alas! neither of those beautiful boys grew up to be
men! One page of my home-memories is sadly written over with their
elegy, the "Graves of a Household." Father, mother, and four sons, an
entire family, long since passed away from earthly sight.)

The tie between my lovely baby-nephew and myself became very close. The
first two years of a child's life are its most appealing years, and
call out all the latent tenderness of the nature on which it leans for
protection. I think I should have missed one of the best educating
influences of my youth, if I had not had the care of that baby for a
year or more just as I entered my teens. I was never so happy as when I
held him in my arms, sleeping or waking; and he, happy anywhere, was
always contented when he was with me.

I was as fond as ever of reading, and somehow I managed to combine baby
and book. Dickens's "Old Curiosity Shop" was just then coming out in a
Philadelphia weekly paper, and I read it with the baby playing at my
feet, or lying across my lap, in an unfinished room given up to
sea-chests and coffee-bags and spicy foreign odors. (My cherub's papa
was a sea-captain, usually away on his African voyages.) Little Nell
and her grandfather became as real to me as my darling charge, and if a
tear from his nurse's eyes sometimes dropped upon his cheek as he
slept, he was not saddened by it. When he awoke he was irrepressible;
clutching at my hair with his stout pink fists, and driving all
dream-people effectually out of my head. Like all babies, he was
something of a tyrant; but that brief, sweet despotism ends only too
soon. I put him gratefully down, dimpled, chubby, and imperious, upon
the list of my girlhood's teachers.

My sister had no domestic help besides mine, so I learned a good deal
about general housework.  A girl's preparation for life was, in those
days, considered quite imperfect, who had no practical knowledge of
that kind. We were taught, indeed, how to do everything that a woman
might be called upon to do under any circumstances, for herself or for
the household she lived in. It was one of the advantages of the old
simple way of living, that the young daughters of the house were, as a
matter of course, instructed in all these things. They acquired the
habit of being ready for emergencies, and the family that required no
outside assistance was delightfully independent.

A young woman would have been considered a very inefficient being who
could not make and mend and wash and iron her own clothing, and get
three regular meals and clear them away every day, besides keeping the
house tidy, and doing any other needed neighborly service, such as
sitting all night by a sick-bed.  To be "a good watcher" was considered
one of the most important of womanly attainments. People who lived side
by side exchanged such services without waiting to be asked, and they
seemed to be happiest of whom such kindnesses were most expected.

Every kind of work brings its own compensations and attractions. I
really began to like plain sewing; I enjoyed sitting down for a whole
afternoon of it, fingers flying and thoughts flying faster still,--the
motion of the hands seeming to set the mind astir. Such afternoons used
to bring me throngs of poetic suggestions, particularly if I sat by an
open window and could hear the wind blowing and a bird or two singing.
Nature is often very generous in opening her heart to those who must
keep their hands employed. Perhaps it is because she is always quietly
at work herself, and so sympathizes with her busy human friends. And
possibly there is no needful occupation which is wholly unbeautiful.
The beauty of work depends upon the way we meet it--whether we arm
ourselves each morning to attack it as an enemy that must be vanquished
before night comes, or whether we open our eyes with the sunrise to
welcome it as an approaching friend who will keep us delightful company
all day, and who will make us feel, at evening, that the day was well
worth its fatigues.

I found my practical experience of housekeeping and baby-tending very
useful to me afterwards at the West, in my sister Emilie's family, when
she was disabled by illness. I think, indeed, that every item of real
knowledge I ever acquired has come into use somewhere or somehow in the
course of the years. But these were not the things I had most wished to
do. The whole world of thought lay unexplored before me,--a world of
which I had already caught large and tempting glimpses, and I did not
like to feel the horizon shutting me in, even to so pleasant a corner
as this. And the worst of it was that I was getting too easy and
contented, too indifferent to the higher realities which my work and my
thoughtful companions had kept keenly clear before me. I felt myself
slipping into an inward apathy from which it was hard to rouse myself.
I could not let it go on so. I must be where my life could expand.

It was hard to leave the dear little fellow I had taught to walk and to
talk, but I knew he would not be inconsolable. So I only said "I must
go,"--and turned my back upon the sea, and my face to the banks of the

When I returned I found that I enjoyed even the familiar, unremitting
clatter of the mill, because it indicated that something was going on.
I liked to feel the people around me, even those whom I did not know,
as a wave may like to feel the surrounding waves urging it forward,
with or against its own will. I felt that I belonged to the world, that
there was something for me to do in it, though I had not yet found out
what. Something to do; it might be very little, but still it would be
my own work. And then there was the better something which I had almost
forgotten--to be! Underneath my dull thoughts the old aspirations were
smouldering, the old ideals rose and beckoned to me through the
rekindling light.

It was always aspiration rather than ambition by which I felt myself
stirred. I did not care to outstrip others, and become what is called
"distinguished," were that a possibility, so much as I longed to answer
the Voice that invited, ever receding, up to invisible heights, however
unattainable they might seem. I was conscious of a desire that others
should feel something coming to them out of my life like the breath of
flowers, the whisper of the winds, the warmth of the sunshine, and the
depth of the sky. That, I felt, did not require great gifts or a fine
education. We might all be that to each other. And there was no
opportunity for vanity or pride in receiving a beautiful influence, and
giving it out again.

I do not suppose that I definitely thought all this, though I find that
the verses I wrote for our two mill magazines at about this time often
expressed these and similar longings. They were vague, and they were
too likely to dissipate themselves in mere dreams. But our aspirations
come to us from a source far beyond ourselves. Happy are they who are
"not disobedient unto the heavenly vision"!

A girl of sixteen sees the world before her through rose-tinted mists,
a blending of celestial colors and earthly exhalations, and she cannot
separate their elements, if she would; they all belong to the landscape
of her youth. It is the mystery of the meeting horizons,--the visible
beauty seeking to lose and find itself in the Invisible.

In returning to my daily toil among workmates from the hill-country,
the scenery to which they belonged became also a part of my life. They
brought the mountains with them, a new background and a new hope. We
shared an uneven path and homely occupations; but above us hung
glorious summits never wholly out of sight. Every blossom and every
dewdrop at our feet was touched with some tint of that far-off
splendor, and every pebble by the wayside was a messenger from the peak
that our feet would stand upon by and by.

The true climber knows the delight of trusting his path, of following
it without seeing a step before him, or a glimpse of blue sky above
him, sometimes only knowing that it is the right path because it is the
only one, and because it leads upward. This our daily duty was to us.
Though we did not always know it, the faithful plodder was sure to win
the heights. Unconsciously we learned the lesson that only by humble
Doing can any of us win the lofty possibilities of Being. For indeed,
what we all want to find is not so much our place as our path. The path
leads to the place, and the place, when we have found it, is only a
clearing by the roadside, an opening into another path.

And no comrades are so dear as those who have broken with us a pioneer
road which it will be safe and good for others to follow; which will
furnish a plain clue for all bewildered travelers hereafter. There is
no more exhilarating human experience than this, and perhaps it is the
highest angelic one. It may be that some such mutual work is to link us
forever with one another in the Infinite Life.

The girls who toiled together at Lowell were clearing away a few weeds
from the overgrown track of independent labor for other women. They
practically said, by numbering themselves among factory girls, that in
our country no real odium could be attached to any honest toil that any
self-respecting woman might undertake.

I regard it as one of the privileges of my youth that I was permitted
to grow up among those active, interesting girls, whose lives were not
mere echoes of other lives, but had principle and purpose distinctly
their own. Their vigor of character was a natural development. The New
Hampshire girls who came to Lowell were descendants of the sturdy
backwoodsmen who settled that State scarcely a hundred years before.
Their grandmothers had suffered the hardships of frontier life, had
known the horrors of savage warfare when the beautiful valleys of the
Connecticut and the Merrimack were threaded with Indian trails from
Canada to the white settlements. Those young women did justice to their
inheritance. They were earnest and capable; ready to undertake anything
that was worth doing. My dreamy, indolent nature was shamed into
activity among them. They gave me a larger, firmer ideal of womanhood.

Often during the many summers and autumns that of late years I have
spent among the New Hampshire hills, sometimes far up the
mountainsides, where I could listen to the first song of the little
brooks setting out on their journey to join the very river that flowed
at my feet when I was a working girl on its banks,--the Merrimack,--I
have felt as if I could also hear the early music of my workmates'
lives, those who were born among these glorious summits. Pure, strong,
crystalline natures, carrying down with them the light of blue skies
and the freshness of free winds to their place of toil, broadening and
strengthening as they went on, who can tell how they have refreshed the
world, how beautifully they have blended their being with the great
ocean of results? A brook's life is like the life of a maiden. The
rivers receive their strength from the rock-born hills, from the
unfailing purity of the mountain-streams.

A girl's place in the world is a very strong one: it is a pity that she
does not always see it so. It is strongest through her natural impulse
to steady herself by leaning upon the Eternal Life, the only Reality;
and her weakness comes also from her inclination to lean against
something,--upon an unworthy support, rather than none at all. She
often lets her life get broken into fragments among the flimsy
trellises of fashion and conventionality, when it might be a perfect
thing in the upright beauty of its own consecrated freedom.

Yet girlhood seldom appreciates itself. We often hear a girl wishing
that she were a boy. That seems so strange! God made no mistake in her
creation. He sent her into the world full of power and will to be a
helper; and only He knows how much his world needs help. She is here to
make this great house of humanity a habitable and a beautiful place,
without and within,--a true home for every one of his children. It
matters not if she is poor, if she has to toil for her daily bread, or
even if she is surrounded by coarseness and uncongeniality: nothing can
deprive her of her natural instinct to help, of her birthright as a
helper. These very hindrances may, with faith and patience, develop in
her a nobler womanhood.

No; let girls be as thankful that they are girls as that they are human
beings; for they also, according to his own loving plan for them, were
created in the image of God. Their real power, the divine dowry of
womanhood, is that of receiving and giving inspiration. In this a girl
often surpasses her brother; and it is for her to hold firmly and
faithfully to her holiest instincts, so that when he lets his standard
droop, she may, through her spiritual strength, be a standard bearer
for him. Courage and self-reliance are now held to be virtues as
womanly as they are manly; for the world has grown wise enough to see
that nothing except a life can really help another life. It is strange
that it should ever have held any other theory about woman.

That was a true use of the word "help" that grew up so naturally in the
rendering and receiving of womanly service in the old-fashioned New
England household. A girl came into a family as one of the home-group,
to share its burdens, to feel that they were her own. The woman who
employed her, if her nature was at all generous, could not feel that
money alone was an equivalent for a heart's service; she added to it
her friendship, her gratitude and esteem. The domestic problem can
never be rightly settled until the old idea of mutual help is in some
way restored. This is a question for girls of the present generation to
consider, and she who can bring about a practical solution of it will
win the world's gratitude.

We used sometimes to see it claimed, in public prints, that it would be
better for all of us mill-girls to be working in families, at domestic
service, than to be where we were. Perhaps the difficulties of modern
housekeepers did begin with the opening of the Lowell factories.
Country girls were naturally independent, and the feeling that at this
new work the few hours they had of every-day leisure were entirely
their own was a satisfaction to them. They preferred it to going out as
"hired help." It was like a young man's pleasure in entering upon
business for himself. Girls had never tried that experiment before, and
they liked it. It brought out in them a dormant strength of character
which the world did not previously see, but now fully acknowledges. Of
course they had a right to continue at that freer kind of work as long
as they chose, although their doing so increased the perplexities of
the housekeeping problem for themselves even, since many of them were
to become, and did become, American house-mistresses.

It would be a step towards the settlement of this vexed and vexing
question if girls would decline to classify each other by their
occupations, which among us are usually only temporary, and are
continually shifting from one pair of hands to another. Changes of
fortune come so abruptly that the millionaire's daughter of to-day may
be glad to earn her living by sewing or sweeping tomorrow.

It is the first duty of every woman to recognize the mutual bond of
universal womanhood. Let her ask herself whether she would like to hear
herself or little sister spoken of as a shop-girl, or a factory-girl,
or a servant-girl, if necessity had compelled her for a time to be
employed in either of the ways indicated. If she would shrink from it a
little, then she is a little inhuman when she puts her unknown human
sisters who are so occupied into a class by themselves, feeling herself
to be somewhat their superior. She is really the superior person who
has accepted her work and is doing it faithfully, whatever it is. This
designating others by their casual employments prevents one from making
real distinctions, from knowing persons as persons. A false standard is
set up in the minds of those who classify and of those who are

Perhaps it is chiefly the fault of ladies themselves that the word
"lady" has nearly lost its original meaning (a noble one) indicating
sympathy and service;--bread-giver to those who are in need. The idea
that it means something external in dress or circumstances has been too
generally adopted by rich and poor; and this, coupled with the sweeping
notion that in our country one person is just as good as another, has
led to ridiculous results, like that of saleswomen calling themselves
"sales-ladies." I have even heard  a chambermaid at a hotel introduce
herself to guests as "the chamber-lady."

I do not believe that any Lowell mill-girl was ever absurd enough to
wish to be known as a "factory-lady," although most of them knew that
"factory-girl" did not represent a high type of womanhood in the Old
World. But they themselves belonged to the New World, not to the Old;
and they were making their own traditions, to hand down to their
Republican descendants--one of which was and is that honest work has no
need to assert itself or to humble itself in a nation like ours, but
simply to take its place as one of the foundation-stones of the

The young women who worked at Lowell had the advantage of living in a
community where character alone commanded respect. They never, at their
work or away from it, heard themselves contemptuously spoken of on
account of their occupation, except by the ignorant or weak-minded,
whose comments they were of course to sensible to heed.

We may as well acknowledge that one of the unworthy tendencies of
womankind is towards petty estimates of other women. This classifying
habit illustrates the fact. If we must classify our sisters, let us
broaden ourselves by making large classifications. We might all place
ourselves in one of two ranks--the women who do something and the women
who do nothing; the first being of course the only creditable place to
occupy. And if we would escape from our pettinesses, as we all may and
should, the way to do it is to find the key to other lives, and live in
their largeness, by sharing their outlook upon life. Even poorer
people's windows will give us a new horizon, and people's windows will
give us a new horizon, and often a far broader one than our own.



THERE was a passage from Cowper that my sister used to quote to us,
because, she said, she often repeated it to herself, and found that it
did her good:--

  "In such a world, so thorny, and where none
  Finds happiness unblighted, or if found,
  Without some thistly sorrow at its side,
  It seems the part of wisdom, and no sin
  Against the law of love, to measure lots
  With less distinguished than ourselves, that thus
  We may with patience bear our moderate ills,
  And sympathize with others, suffering more."

I think she made us feel--she certainly made me feel--that our lot was
in many ways an unusually fortunate one, and full of responsibilities.
She herself was always thinking what she could do for others, not only
immediately about her, but in the farthest corners of the earth. She
had her Sabbath-school class, and visited all the children in it: she
sat up all night, very often, watching by a sick girl's bed, in the
hospital or in some distant boarding-house; she gave money to send to
missionaries, or to help build new churches in the city, when she was
earning only eight or ten dollars a month clear of her board, and could
afford herself but one "best dress," besides her working clothes. That
best dress was often nothing but a Merrimack print. But she insisted
that it was a great saving of trouble to have just this one, because
she was not obliged to think what she should wear if she were invited
out to spend an evening. And she kept track of all the great
philanthropic movements of the day. She felt deeply the shame and wrong
of American slavery, and tried to make her workmates see and feel it
too.(Petitions to Congress for the abolition of slavery in the District
of Columbia were circulated nearly every year among the mill-girls, and
received thousands of signatures.)

Whenever she was not occupied with her work or her reading, or with
looking after us younger ones,--two or three hours a day was all the
time she could call her own,--she was sure to be away on some errand of
friendliness or mercy.

Those who do most for others are always those who are called upon
continually to do a little more, and who find a way to do it. People go
to them as to a bank that never fails. And surely, they who have an
abundance of life in themselves and who give their life out freely to
others are the only really rich.

Two dollars a week sounds very small, but in Emilie's hands it went
farther than many a princely fortune of to-day, because she managed
with it to make so many people happy. But then she wanted absolutely
nothing for herself; nothing but the privilege of helping others.

I seem to be eulogizing my sister, though I am simply relating matters
of fact. I could not, however, illustrate my own early experience,
except by the lives around me which most influenced mine. And it was
true that our smaller and more self-centred natures in touching hers
caught something of her spirit, the contagion of her warm heart and
healthy energy. For health is more contagious than disease, and lives
that exhale sweetness around them from the inner heaven of their souls
keep the world wholesome.

I tried to follow her in my faltering way, and was gratified when she
would send me to look up one of her stray children, or would let me
watch with her at night by a sick-bed. I think it was partly for the
sake of keeping as close to her as I could--though not without a
sincere desire to consecrate myself to the Best--that I became, at
about thirteen, a member of the church which we attended.

Our minister was a scholarly man, of refined tastes and a sensitive
organization, fervently spiritual, and earnestly devoted to his work.
It was all education to grow up under his influence. I shall never
forget the effect left by the tones of his voice when he first spoke to
me, a child of ten years, at a neighborhood prayer-meeting in my
mother's sitting-room. He had been inviting his listeners to the
friendship of Christ, and turning to my little sister and me, he said,--

"And these little children, too; won't they come?"

The words, and his manner of saving them, brought the tears to my eyes.
Once only before, far back in my earlier childhood--I have already
mentioned the incident--had I heard that Name spoken so tenderly and
familiarly, yet so reverently. It was as if he had been gazing into the
face of an invisible Friend, and bad just turned from Him to look into
ours, while he gave us his message, that He loved us.

In that moment I again caught a glimpse of One whom I had always known,
but had often forgotten,--One who claimed me as his Father's child, and
would never let me go. It was a real Face that I saw, a real Voice that
I heard, a real Person who was calling me. I could not mistake the
Presence that had so often drawn near me and shone with sunlike eyes
into my soul. The words, "Lord, lift Thou up the light of thy
countenance upon us!" had always given me the feeling that a beautiful
sunrise does. It is indeed a sunrise text, for is not He the Light of
the World?

And peaceful sunshine seemed pouring in at the windows of my life on
the day when I stood in the aisle before the pulpit with a group, who,
though young, were all much older than myself, and took with them the
vows that bound us to his service. Of what was then said and read I
scarcely remember more than the words of heavenly welcome in the
Epistle, "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners." It
was like coming home, like stepping a little farther beyond the
threshold in at the open door of our Father's house.

Perhaps I was too young to assume those vows. Had I deferred it a few
years there would have been serious intellectual hindrances. But it was
not the Articles of Faith I was thinking of, although there was a long
list of them, to which we all bowed assent, as was the custom. It was
the homecoming to the "house not made with hands," the gladness of
signifying that I belonged to God's spiritual family, and was being
drawn closer to his heart, with whom none of us are held as "strangers
and foreigners."

I felt that I was taking up again the clue which had been put into my
childish hand at baptism, and was being led on by it into the unfolding
mysteries of life. Should I ever let it slip from me, and lose the way
to the "many mansions" that now seemed so open and so near? I could not
think so. It is well that we cannot foresee our falterings and
failures. At least I could never forget that I had once felt my own and
other lives bound together with the Eternal Life by an invisible thread.

The vague, fitful desire I had felt from my childhood to be something
to the world I lived in, to give it something of the the inexpressible
sweetness that often seemed pouring through me, I knew not whence, now
began to shape itself into a definite outreach towards the Source of
all spiritual life. To draw near to the One All-Beautiful Being,
Christ, to know Him as our spirits may know The Spirit, to receive the
breath of his infinitely loving Life into mine, that I might breathe
out that fragrance again into the lives around me--this was the longing
wish that, half hidden from myself, lay deep beneath all other desires
of my soul. This was what religion grew to mean to me, what it is still
growing to mean, more simply and more clearly as the years go on.

The heart must be very humble to which this heavenly approach is
permitted. It knows that it has nothing in itself, nothing for others,
which it has not received. The loving Voice of Him who gives his
friends his errands to do whispers through them constantly, "Ye are not
your own."

There may be those who would think my narrative more entertaining, if I
omitted these inner experiences, and related only lighter incidents.
But one thing I was aware of, from the time I began to think and to
wonder about my own life--that what I felt and thought was far more
real to me than the things that happened.

Circumstances are only the keys that unlock for us the secret of
ourselves; and I learned very early that though there is much to enjoy
in this beautiful outside world, there is much more to love, to believe
in, and to seek, in the invisible world out of which it all grows.
What has best revealed our true selves to ourselves must be most
helpful to others, and one can willingly sacrifice some natural
reserves to such an end. Besides, if we tell our own story at all, we
naturally wish to tell the truest part of it.

Work, study, and worship were interblended in our life. The church was
really the home-centre to many, perhaps to most of us; and it was one
of the mill regulations that everybody should go to church somewhere.
There must have been an earnest group of ministers at Lowell, since
nearly all the girls attended public worship from choice.

Our minister joined us in our social gatherings, often inviting us to
his own house, visiting us at our work, accompanying us on our picnics
down the river-bank,--a walk of a mile or so took us into charmingly
picturesque scenery, and we always walked,--suggesting books for our
reading, and assisting us in our studies.

The two magazines published by the mill-girls, the "Lowell Offering"
and the "Operatives' Magazine," originated with literary meetings in
the vestry of two religious societies, the first in the Universalist
Church, the second in the First Congregational, to which my sister and
I belonged.

On account of our belonging there, our contributions were given to the
"Operatives' Magazine," the first periodical for which I ever wrote,
issued by the literary society of which our minister took charge. He
met us on regular evenings, read aloud our poems and sketches, and made
such critical suggestions as he thought desirable. This magazine was
edited by two young women, both of whom had been employed in the mills,
although at that time the were teachers in the public schools--a change
which was often made by mill-girls after a few months' residence at
Lowell. A great many of them were district-school teachers at their
homes in the summer, spending only the winters at their work.

The two magazines went on side by side for a year or two, and then were
united in the "Lowell Offering" which had made the first experiment of
the kind by publishing a trial number or two at irregular intervals. My
sister had sent some verses of mine, on request, to be published in one
of those specimen numbers. But we were not acquainted with the editor
of the "Offering," and we knew only a few of its contributors. The
Universalist Church, in the vestry of which they met, was in a distant
part of the city. Socially, the place where we worshiped was the place
where we naturally came together in other ways. The churches were all
filled to overflowing, so that the grouping together of the girls by
their denominational preferences was almost unavoidable. It was in some
such way as this that two magazines were started instead of one. If the
girls who enjoyed writing had not been so many and so scattered, they
might have made the better arrangement of joining their forces from the

I was too young a contributor to be at first of much value to either
periodical. They began their regular issues, I think, while I was the
nursemaid of my little nephews at Beverly. When I returned to Lowell,
at about sixteen, I found my sister Emilie interested in the
"Operatives' Magazine," and we both contributed to it regularly, until
it was merged in the "Lowell Offering," to which we then transferred
our writing efforts. It did not occur to us to call these efforts
"literary." I know that I wrote just as I did for our little "Diving
Bell,"--as a sort of pastime, and because my daily toil was mechanical,
and furnished no occupation for my thoughts. Perhaps the fact that most
of us wrote in this way accounted for the rather sketchy and
fragmentary character of our "Magazine." It gave evidence that we
thought, and that we thought upon solid and serious matters; but the
criticism of one of our superintendents upon it, very kindly given, was
undoubtedly just: "It has plenty of pith, but it lacks point."

The "Offering" had always more of the literary spirit and touch. It
was, indeed, for the first two years, edited by a gentleman of
acknowledged literary ability. But people seemed to be more interested
in it after it passed entirely into the bands of the girls themselves.

The "Operatives' Magazine" had a decidedly religious tone.  We who
wrote for it were loyal to our Puritanic antecedents, and considered it
all-important that our lightest actions should be moved by some earnest
impulse from behind. We might write playfully, but there must be
conscience and reverence somewhere within it all. We had been taught,
and we believed, that idle words were a sin, whether spoken or written.
This, no doubt, gave us a gravity of expression rather unnatural to

In looking over the bound volume of this magazine, I am amused at the
grown-up style of thought assumed by myself, probably its very youngest
contributor. I wrote a dissertation on "Fame," quoting from Pollok,
Cowper, and Milton, and ending with Diedrich Knickerbocker's definition
of immortal fame,--"Half a page of dirty paper." For other titles I had
"Thoughts on Beauty;" "Gentility;" "Sympathy," etc.  And in one longish
poem, entitled "My Childhood" (written when I was about fifteen), I
find verses like these, which would seem to have come out of a mature

  My childhood! O those pleasant days, when everything seemed free,
  And in the broad and verdant fields I frolicked merrily;
  When joy came to my bounding heart with every wild bird's song,
  And Nature's music in my ears was ringing all day long!

  And yet I would not call them back, those blessed times of yore,
  For riper years are fraught with joys I dreamed not of before.
  The labyrinth of Science opes with wonders every day;
  And friendship hath full many a flower to cheer life's dreary way.

And glancing through the pages of the "Lowell Offering" a year or two
later, I see that I continued to dismalize myself at times, quite
unnecessarily. The title of one sting of morbid verses is "The
Complaint of a Nobody," in which I compare myself to a weed growing up
in a garden; and the conclusion of it all is this stanza:--

  "When the fierce storms are raging, I will not repine,
  Though I'm heedlessly crushed in the strife;
  For surely 't were better oblivion were mine
  Than a worthless, inglorious life.

Now I do not suppose that I really considered myself a weed, though I
did sometimes fancy that a different kind of cultivation would tend to
make me a more useful plant. I am glad to remember that these
discontented fits were only occasional, for certainly they were
unreasonable. I was not unhappy; this was an affectation of
unhappiness; and half conscious that it was, I hid it behind a
different signature from my usual one.

How truly Wordsworth describes this phase of undeveloped feeling:--

  "In youth sad fancies we affect,
  In luxury of disrespect
  To our own prodigal excess
  Of too familiar happiness."

It is a very youthful weakness to exaggerate passing moods into deep
experiences, and if we put them down on paper, we get a fine
opportunity of laughing at ourselves, if we live to outgrow them, as
most of us do. I think I must have had a frequent fancy that I was not
long for this world. Perhaps I thought an early death rather
picturesque; many young people do. There is a certain kind of poetry
that fosters this idea; that delights in imaginary youthful victims,
and has, reciprocally, its youthful devotees. One of my blank verse
poems in the "Offering" is entitled "The Early Doomed." It begins,--

  And must I die? The world is bright to me,
  And everything that looks upon me, smiles.

Another poem is headed "Memento Mori;" and another, entitled a "Song in
June," which ought to be cheerful, goes off into the doleful request to
somebody, or anybody, to

  Weave me a shroud in the month of June!

I was, perhaps, healthier than the average girl, and had no
predisposition to a premature decline; and in reviewing these
absurdities of my pen, I feel like saying to any young girl who
inclines to rhyme, "Don't sentimentalize!  Write more of what you see
than of what you feel, and let your feelings realize themselves to
others in the shape of worthy actions. Then they will be natural, and
will furnish you with something worth writing."

It is fair to myself to explain, however, that many of these verses of
mine were written chiefly as exercises in rhythmic expression. I
remember this distinctly about one of my poems with a terrible
title,--"The Murderer's Request,"--in which I made an imaginary
criminal pose for me, telling where he would not and where he would
like to be buried. I modeled my verses,--

  "Bury ye me on some storm-rifted mountain,
    O'erhanging the depths of a yawning abyss,"--

upon Byron's,

  "Know ye the land where the cypress and myrtle
    Are emblems of deeds that are done in their clime;"

and I was only trying to see how near I could approach to his exquisite
metre. I do not think I felt at all murderous in writing it; but a more
innocent subject would have been in better taste, and would have met
the exigencies of the dactyl quite as well.

It is also only fair to myself to say that my rhyming was usually of a
more wholesome kind. I loved Nature as I knew her,--in our stern,
blustering, stimulating New England,--and I chanted the praises of
Winter, of snow-storms, and of March winds (I always took pride in my
birth month, March), with hearty delight.

Flowers had begun to bring me messages from their own world when I was
a very small child, and they never withdrew their companionship from my
thoughts, for there came summers when I could only look out of the mill
window and dream about them.

I had one pet window plant of my own, a red rosebush, almost a
perpetual bloomer, that I kept beside me at my work for years. I parted
with it only when I went away to the West, and then with regret, for it
had been to me like a human little friend. But the wild flowers had my
heart. I lived and breathed with them, out under the free winds of
heaven; and when I could not see them, I wrote about them. Much that I
contributed to those mill-magazine pages, they suggested,--my mute
teachers, comforters, and inspirers. It seems to me that any one who
does not care for wild flowers misses half the sweetness of this mortal

Horace Smith's "Hymn to the Flowers" was a continual delight to me,
after I made its acquaintance. It seemed as if all the wild blossoms of
the woods had wandered in and were twining themselves around the
whirring spindles, as I repeated it, verse after verse. Better still,
they drew me out, in fancy, to their own forest-haunts under
"cloistered boughs," where each swinging "floral bell" was ringing "a
call to prayer," and making "Sabbath in the fields."

Bryant's "Forest Hymn" did me an equally beautiful service. I knew
every word of it. It seemed to me that Bryant understood the very heart
and soul of the flowers as hardly anybody else did. He made me feel as
if they were really related to us human beings. In fancy my feet
pressed the turf where they grew, and I knew them as my little sisters,
while my thoughts touched them, one by one, saying with him,--

  "That delicate forest-flower,
  With scented breath, and look so like a smile,
  Seems, as it issues from the shapeless mould,
  An emanation of the indwelling Life,
  A visible token of the upholding Love,
  That are the soul of this wide universe."

I suppose that most of my readers will scarcely be older than I was
when I wrote my sermonish little poems under the inspiration of the
flowers at my factory work, and perhaps they will be interested in
reading a specimen or two from the "Lowell Offering:"--


  Cheerfully wave they o'er valley and mountain,
  Gladden the desert, and smile by the fountain;
  Pale discontent in no young blossom lowers:--
  Live like the flowers!

  Meekly their buds in the heavy rain bending,
  Softly their hues with the mellow light blending,
  Gratefully welcoming sunlight and showers:--
  Live like the flowers!

  Freely their sweets on the wild breezes flinging,
  While in their depths are new odors upspringing:--
  (Blessedness twofold of Love's holy dowers,)
  Live like the flowers!

  Gladly they heed Who their brightness has given:
  Blooming on earth, look they all up to heaven;
  Humbly look up from their loveliest bowers:--
  Live like the flowers!

  Peacefully droop they when autumn is sighing;
  Breathing mild fragrance around them in dying,
  Sleep they in hope of Spring's freshening hours:--
  Die like the flowers!

The prose-poem that follows was put into a rhymed version by several
unknown hands in periodicals of that day, so that at last I also wrote
one, in self-defense, to claim my own waif.  But it was a prose-poem
that I intended it to be, and I think it is better so.


On the bank of a rivulet sat a rosy child. Her lap was filled with
flowers, and a garland of rose-buds was twined around her neck. Her
face was as radiant as the sunshine that fell upon it, and her voice
was as clear as that of the bird which warbled at her side.

The little stream went singing on, and with every gush of its music the
child lifted a flower in her dimpled hand, and, with a merry laugh,
threw it upon the water. In her glee she forgot that her treasures were
growing less, and with the swift motion of childhood, she flung them
upon the sparkling tide, until every bud and blossom had disappeared.

Then, seeing her loss, she sprang to her feet, and bursting into tears,
called aloud to the stream, "Bring back my flowers!" But the stream
danced along, regardless of her sorrow; and as it bore the blooming
burden away, her words came back in a taunting echo, along its reedy
margin. And long after, amid the wailing of the breeze and the fitful
bursts of childish grief, was heard the fruitless cry, "Bring back my

Merry maiden, who art idly wasting the precious moments so bountifully
bestowed upon thee, see in the thoughtless child an emblem of thyself!
Each moment is a perfumed flower. Let its fragrance be diffused in
blessings around thee, and ascend as sweet incense to the beneficent

Else, when thou hast carelessly flung them from thee, and seest them
receding on the swift waters of Time, thou wilt cry, in tones more
sorrowful than those of the weeping child, "Bring back my flowers!" And
thy only answer will be an echo from the shadowy Past,--"Bring back my

In the above, a reminiscence of my German studies comes back to me. I
was an admirer of Jean Paul, and one of my earliest attempts at
translation was his "New Year's Night of an Unhappy Man," with its yet
haunting glimpse of "a fair long paradise beyond the mountains." I am
not sure but the idea of trying my hand at a "prose-poem" came to me
from Richter, though it may have been from Herder or Krummacher, whom I
also enjoyed and attempted to translate.

I have a manuscript-book still, filled with these youthful efforts. I
even undertook to put German verse into English verse, not wincing at
the greatest--Goethe and Schiller. These studies were pursued in the
pleasant days of cloth-room leisure, when my work claimed me only seven
or eight hours in a day.

I suppose I should have tried to write,--perhaps I could not very well
have helped attempting it,--under any circumstances. My early efforts
would not, probably, have found their way into print, however, but for
the coincident publication of the two mill-girls' magazines, just as I
entered my teens. I fancy that almost everything any of us offered them
was published, though I never was let in to editorial secrets. The
editors of both magazines were my seniors, and I felt greatly honored
by their approval of my contributions.

One of the "Offering" editors was a Unitarian clergyman's daughter, and
had received an excellent education. The other was a remarkably
brilliant and original young woman, who wrote novels that were
published by the Harpers of New York while she was employed at Lowell.
The two had rooms together for a time, where the members of the
"Improvement Circle," chiefly composed of "Offering" writers, were
hospitably received.

The "Operatives' Magazine" and the "Lowell Offering" were united in the
year 1842, under the title of the "Lowell Offering and Magazine."

(And--to correct a mistake which has crept into print--I will say that
I never attained the honor of being editor of either of these
magazines. I was only one of their youngest contributors. The "Lowell
Offering" closed its existence when I was a little more than twenty
years old. The only continuous editing I have ever been engaged in was
upon "Our Young Folks." About twenty years ago I was editor-in-charge
of that magazine for a year or more, and I had previously been its
assistant-editor from its beginning. These explanatory items, however,
do not quite belong to my narrative, and I return to our magazines.)

We did not receive much criticism; perhaps it would have been better
for us if we had. But then we did lot set ourselves up to be literary;
though we enjoyed the freedom of writing what we pleased, and seeing
how it looked in print. It was good practice for us, and that was all
that we desired. We were complimented and quoted. When a Philadelphia
paper copied one of my little poems, suggesting some verbal
improvements, and predicting recognition for me in the future, I felt
for the first time that there might be such a thing as public opinion
worth caring for, in addition to doing one's best for its own sake.

Fame, indeed, never had much attraction for me, except as it took the
form of friendly recognition and the sympathetic approval of worthy
judges. I wished to do good and true things, but not such as would
subject me to the stare of coldly curious eyes. I could never imagine a
girl feeling any pleasure in placing herself "before the public." The
privilege of seclusion must be the last one a woman can willingly

And, indeed, what we wrote was not remarkable,--perhaps no more so than
the usual school compositions of intelligent girls. It would hardly be
worth while to refer to it particularly, had not the Lowell girls and
their magazines been so frequently spoken of as something phenomenal.
But it was a perfectly natural outgrowth of those girls' previous life.
For what were we?  Girls who were working in a factory for the time, to
be sure; but none of us had the least idea of continuing at that kind
of work permanently. Our composite photograph, had it been taken, would
have been the representative New England girlhood of those days. We had
all been fairly educated at public or private schools, and many of us
were resolutely bent upon obtaining a better education. Very few were
among us without some distinct plan for bettering the condition of
themselves and those they loved. For the first time, our young women
had come forth from their home retirement in a throng, each with her
own individual purpose. For twenty years or so, Lowell might have been
looked upon as a rather select industrial school for young people. The
girls there were just such girls as are knocking at the doors of young
women's colleges to-day. They had come to work with their hands, but
they could not hinder the working of their minds also. Their mental
activity was overflowing at every possible outlet.

Many of them were supporting themselves at schools like Bradford
Academy or Ipswich Seminary half the year, by working in the mills the
other half. Mount Holyoke Seminary broke upon the thoughts of many of
them as a vision of hope,--I remember being dazzled by it myself for a
while,--and Mary Lyon's name was honored nowhere more than among the
Lowell mill-girls. Meanwhile they were improving themselves and
preparing for their future in every possible way, by purchasing and
reading standard books, by attending lectures, and evening classes of
their own getting up, and by meeting each other for reading and

That they should write was no more strange than that they should study,
or read, or think. And yet there were those to whom it seemed
incredible that a girl could, in the pauses of her work, put together
words with her pen that it would do to print; and after a while the
assertion was circulated, through some distant newspaper, that our
magazine was not written by ourselves at all, but by "Lowell lawyers."
This seemed almost too foolish a suggestion to contradict, but the
editor of the "Offering" thought it best to give the name and
occupation of some of the writers by way of refutation. It was for this
reason (much against my own wish) that my real name was first attached
to anything I wrote. I was then book-keeper in the cloth-room of the
Lawrence Mills. We had all used any fanciful signature we chose,
varying it as we pleased. After I began to read and love Wordsworth, my
favorite nom de plume was "Rotha." In the later numbers of the
magazine, the editor more frequently made us of my initials. One day I
was surprised by seeing my name in full in Griswold's "Female
Poet's;"--no great distinction, however, since there were a hundred
names or so, besides.

It seemed necessary to give these gossip items about myself; but the
real interest of every separate life-story is involved in the larger
life-history which is going on around it. We do not know ourselves
without our companions and surroundings. I cannot narrate my workmates'
separate experiences, but I know that because of having lived among
them, and because of having felt the beauty and power of their lives, I
am different from what I should otherwise have been, and it is my own
fault if I am not better for my life with them.

In recalling those years of my girlhood at Lowell, I often think that I
knew then what real society is better perhaps than ever since. For in
that large gathering together of young womanhood there were many choice
natures---some of the choicest in all our excellent New England, and
there were no false social standards to hold them apart. It is the best
society when people meet sincerely, on the ground of their deepest
sympathies and highest aspirations, without conventionality or cliques
or affectation; and it was in that way that these young girls met and
became acquainted with each other, almost of necessity.

There were all varieties of woman-nature among them, all degrees of
refinement and cultivation, and, of course, many sharp contrasts of
agreeable and disagreeable. It was not always the most cultivated,
however, who were the most companionable.  There were gentle, untaught
girls, as fresh and simple as wild flowers, whose unpretending goodness
of heart was better to have than bookishness; girls who loved
everybody, and were loved by everybody. Those are the girls that I
remember best, and their memory is sweet as a breeze from the clover

As I recall the throngs of unknown girlish forms that used to pass and
repass me on the familiar road to the mill-gates, and also the few that
I knew so well, those with whom I worked, thought, read, wrote,
studied, and worshiped, my thoughts send a heartfelt greeting to them
all, wherever in God's beautiful, busy universe they may now be

"I am glad I have lived in the world with you!"



My return to mill-work involved making acquaintance with a new kind of
machinery. The spinning-room was the only one I had hitherto known
anything about. Now my sister Emilie found a place for me in the
dressing-room, beside herself. It was more airy, and fewer girls were
in the room, for the dressing-frame itself was a large, clumsy affair,
that occupied a great deal of space. Mine seemed to me as unmanageable
as an overgrown spoilt child. It had to be  watched in a dozen
directions every minute, and even then it was always getting itself and
me into trouble. I felt as if the half-live creature, with its great,
groaning joints and whizzing fan, was aware of my incapacity to manage
it, and had a fiendish spite against me. I contracted an unconquerable
dislike to it; indeed, I had never liked, and never could learn to
like, any kind of machinery. And this machine finally conquered me. It
was humiliating, but I had to acknowledge that there were some things I
could not do, and I retired from the field, vanquished.

The two things I had enjoyed in this room were that my sister was with
me, and that our windows looked toward the west. When the work was
running smoothly, we looked out together and quoted to each other all
the sunset-poetry we could remember. Our tastes did not quite agree.
Her favorite description of the clouds was from Pollok:--

  "They seemed like chariots of saints,
  By fiery coursers drawn; as brightly hued
  As if the glorious, bushy, golden locks
  Of thousand cherubim had been shorn off,
  And on the temples hung of morn and even."

I liked better a translation from the German, beginning

  "Methinks it were no pain to die
  On such an eve, while such a sky
  O'ercanopies the west."

And she generally had to hear the whole poem, for I was very fond of
it; though the especial verse that I contrasted with hers was,--

  "There's peace and welcome in yon sea
  Of endless blue tranquillity;
  Those clouds are living things;
  I trace their veins of liquid gold,
  And see them silently unfold
  Their soft and fleecy wings."

Then she would tell me that my nature inclined to quietness and
harmony, while hers asked for motion and splendor. I wondered whether
it really were so. But that huge, creaking framework beside us would
continually intrude upon our meditations and break up our discussions,
and silence all poetry for us with its dull prose.

Emilie found more profitable work elsewhere, and I found some that was
less so, but far more satisfactory, as it would give me the openings of
leisure which I craved.

The paymaster asked, when I left, "Going where on can earn more money?"

"No," I answered, "I am going where I can have more time." "Ah, yes!"
he said sententiously, "time is money." But that was not my thought
about it. "Time is education," I said to myself; for that was what I
meant it should be to me.

Perhaps I never gave the wage-earning element in work its due weight.
It always seemed to me that the Apostle's idea about worldly
possessions was the only sensible one,--

  "Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content."

If I could earn enough to furnish that, and have time to study
besides,--of course we always gave away a little, however little we
had,--it seemed to me a sufficiency. At this time I was receiving two
dollars a week, besides my board. Those who were earning much more, and
were carefully "laying it up," did not appear to be any happier than I

I never thought that the possession of money would make me feel rich:
it often does seem to have an opposite effect. But then, I have never
had the opportunity of knowing, by experience, how it does make one
feel. It is something to have been spared the responsibility of taking
charge of the Lord's silver and gold. Let us be thankful for what we
have not, as well as for what we have!

Freedom to live one's life truly is surely more desirable than any
earthly acquisition or possession; and at my new work I had hours of
freedom every day. I never went back again to the bondage of machinery
and a working-day thirteen hours long.

The daughter of one of our neighbors, who also went to the same church
with us, told me of a vacant place in the cloth-room, where she was,
which I gladly secured. This was a low brick building next the
counting-room, and a little apart from the mills, where the cloth was
folded, stamped, and baled for the market.

There were only half a dozen girls of us, who measured the cloth, and
kept an account of the pieces baled, and their length in yards. It
pleased me much to have something to do which required the use of pen
and ink, and I think there must be a good many scraps of verse buried
among the blank pages of those old account-books of that found their
way there during the frequent half-hours of waiting for the cloth to be
brought in from the mills.

The only machinery in the room was a hydraulic arrangement for pressing
the cloth into bales, managed by two or three men, one of whom was
quite a poet, and a fine singer also. His hymns were frequently in
request, on public occasions. He lent me the first volume of Whittier's
poems that I ever saw. It was a small book, containing mostly
Antislavery pieces. "The Yankee Girl" was one of them, fully to
appreciate the spirit of which, it is necessary to have been a
working-girl in slave-labor times.  New England Womanhood crowned
Whittier as her laureate from the day of his heroine's spirited
response to the slaveholder:--

  "O, could ye have seen her--that pride of our girls--
  Arise and cast back the dark wealth of her curls,
  With a scorn in her eye that the gazer could feel,
  And a glance like the sunshine that flashes on steel!

  Go back, haughty Southron!  Go back! for thy gold
  Is red with the blood of the hearts thou hast sold!"

There was in this volume another poem which is not in any of the later
editions, the impression of which, as it remains to me in broken
snatches, is very beautiful. It began with the lines

  "Bind up thy tresses, thou beautiful one,
  Of brown in the shadow, and gold in the sun."

It was a refreshment and an inspiration to look into this book between
my long rows of figures, and read such poems as "The Angel of
Patience," "Follen," "Raphael," and that wonderfully rendered "Hymn"
from Lamartine, that used to whisper itself through me after I had read
it, like the echo of a spirit's voice:--

  "When the Breath Divine is flowing,
  Zephyr-like o'er all things going,
  And, as the touch of viewless fingers,
  Softly on my soul it lingers,
  Open to a breath the lightest,
  Conscious of a touch the slightest,--

  Then, O Father, Thou alone,
  From the shadow of thy throne,
  To the sighing of my breast
  And its rapture answerest."

I grew so familiar with this volume that I felt acquainted with the
poet long before I met him. It remained in my desk-drawer for months. I
thought it belonged to my poetic friend, the baler of cloth. But one
day he informed me that it was a borrowed book; he thought, however, he
should claim it for his own, now that he had kept it so long. Upon
which remark I delivered it up to the custody of his own conscience,
and saw it no more.

One day, towards the last of my stay at Lowell (I never changed my
work-room again), this same friendly fellow-toiler handed me a poem to
read, which some one had sent in to us from the counting-room, with the
penciled comment, "Singularly beautiful." It was Poe's "Raven," which
had just made its first appearance in some magazine. It seemed like an
apparition in literature, indeed; the sensation it created among the
staid, measured lyrics of that day, with its flit of spectral wings,
and its ghostly refrain of "Nevermore!" was very noticeable. Poe came
to Lowell to live awhile, but it was after I had gone away.

Our national poetry was at this time just beginning to be well known
and appreciated. Bryant had published two volumes, and every school
child was familiar with his "Death of the Flowers" and "God's First
Temples." Some one lent me the "Voices of the Night," the only
collection of Longfellow's verse then issued, I think.  The "Footsteps
of Angels" glided at once into my memory, and took possession of a
permanent place there, with its tender melody. "The Last Leaf" and "Old
Ironsides" were favorites with everybody who read poetry at all, but I
do not think we Lowell girls had a volume of Dr. Holmes's poems at that

"The Lady's Book" and "Graham's Magazine" were then the popular
periodicals, and the mill-girls took them. I remember that the
"nuggets" I used to pick out of one or the other of them when I was
quite a child were labeled with the signature of Harriet E. Beecher.
"Father Morris," and "Uncle Tim," and others of the delightful
"May-Flower" snatches first appeared in this way. Irving's
"Sketch-Book" all reading people were supposed to have read, and I
recall the pleasure it was to me when one of my sisters came into
possession of "Knickerbocker's History of New York." It was the first
humorous book, as well as the first history, that I ever cared about.
And I was pleased enough--for I was a little girl when my fondness for
it began--to hear our minister say that he always read Diedrich
Knickerbocker for his tired Monday's recreation.

We were allowed to have books in the cloth-room. The absence of
machinery permitted that privilege. Our superintendent, who was a man
of culture and a Christian gentleman of the Puritan-school, dignified
and reserved, used often to stop at my desk in his daily round to see
what book I was reading. One day it was Mather's "Magnalia," which I
had brought from the public library, with a desire to know something of
the early history of New England. He looked a little surprised at the
archaeological turn my mind had taken, but his only comment was, "A
valuable old book that." It was a satisfaction to have a superintendent
like him, whose granite principles, emphasized by his stately figure
and bearing, made him a tower of strength in the church and in the
community. He kept a silent, kindly, rigid watch over the
corporation-life of which he was the head; and only those of us who
were incidentally admitted to his confidence knew how carefully we were

We had occasional glimpses into his own well-ordered home-life, at
social gatherings. His little daughter was in my infant Sabbath-school
class from her fourth to her seventh or eighth year. She sometimes
visited me at my work, and we had our frolics among the heaps of cloth,
as if we were both children. She had also the same love of hymns that I
had as a child, and she would sit by my side and repeat to me one after
another that she had learned, not as a task, but because of her delight
in them. One of my sincerest griefs in going off to the West was that I
should see my little pupil Mary as a child no more. When I came back,
she was a grown-up young woman.

My friend Anna, who had procured for me the place and work beside her
which I liked so much, was not at all a bookish person, but we had
perhaps a better time together than if she had been. She was one who
found the happiness of her life in doing kindnesses for others, and in
helping them bear their burdens. Family reverses had brought her, with
her mother and sisters, to Lowell, and this was one strong point of
sympathy between my own family and hers. It was, indeed, a bond of
neighborly union between a great many households in the young
manufacturing city. Anna's manners and language were those of a lady,
though she had come from the wilds of Maine, somewhere in the vicinity
of Mount Desert, the very name of which seemed in those days to carry
one into a wilderness of mountains and waves. We chatted together at
our work on all manner of subjects, and once she astonished me by
saying confidentially, in a low tone, "Do you know, I am thirty years
old!" She spoke as if she thought the fact implied something serious.
My surprise was that she should have taken me into her intimate
friendship when I was only seventeen. I should hardly have supposed her
older than myself, if she had not volunteered the information.

When I lifted my eyes from her tall, thin figure to her fair face and
somewhat sad blue eyes, I saw that she looked a little worn; but I knew
that it was from care for others, strangers as well as her own
relatives; and it seemed to me as if those thirty loving years were her
rose-garland. I became more attached to her than ever.

What a foolish dread it is,--showing unripeness rather than youth,--the
dread of growing old! For how can a life be beautified more than by its
beautiful years? A living, loving, growing spirit can never be old.
Emerson says:

  "Spring still makes spring in the mind,
  When sixty years are told;"

and some of us are thankful to have lived long enough to bear witness
with him to that truth.

The few others who measured cloth with us were nice, bright girls, and
some of them remarkably pretty. Our work and the room itself were so
clean that in summer we could wear fresh muslin dresses, sometimes
white ones, without fear of soiling them. This slight difference of
apparel and our fewer work-hours seemed to give us a slight advantage
over the toilers in the mills opposite, and we occasionally heard
ourselves spoken of as "the cloth-room aristocracy." But that was only
in fun. Most of us had served an apprenticeship in the mills, and many
of our best friends were still there, preferring their work because it
brought them more money than we could earn.

For myself, no amount of money would have been a temptation, compared
with my precious daytime freedom. Whole hours of sunshine for reading,
for walking, for studying, for writing, for anything that I wanted to
do! The days were so lovely and so long! and yet how fast they slipped
away! I had not given up my dream of a better education, and as I could
not go to school, I began to study by myself.

I had received a pretty thorough drill in the common English branches
at the grammar school, and at my employment I only needed a little
simple arithmetic. A few of my friends were studying algebra in an
evening class, but I had no fancy for mathematics. My first wish was to
learn about English Literature, to go back to its very beginnings. It
was not then studied even in the higher schools, and I knew no one who
could give me any assistance in it, as a teacher. "Percy's Reliques"
and "Chambers' Cyclopoedia of English Literature" were in the city
library, and I used them, making extracts from Chaucer and Spenser, to
fix their peculiarities in my memory, though there was only a taste of
them to be had from the Cyclopaedia.

Shakespeare I had read from childhood, in a fragmentary way. "The
Tempest," and "Midsummer Night's Dream," and "King Lear," I had
swallowed among my fairy tales. Now I discovered that the historical
plays, notably, "Julius Caesar" and "Coriolanus," had no less
attraction for me, though of a different kind. But it was easy for me
to forget that I was trying to be a literary student, and slip off from
Belmont to Venice with Portia to witness the discomfiture of Shylock;
although I did pity the miserable Jew, and thought he might at least
have been allowed the comfort of his paltry ducats. I do not think that
any of my studying at this time was very severe; it was pleasure rather
than toil, for I undertook only the tasks I liked. But what I learned
remained with me, nevertheless.

With Milton I was more familiar than with any other poet, and from
thirteen years of age to eighteen he was my preference. My friend
Angeline and I (another of my cloth-room associates) made the "Paradise
Lost" a language-study in an evening class, under one of the grammar
school masters, and I never open to the majestic lines,--

  "High on a throne of royal state, which far
  Outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind,
  Or where the gorgeous east with richest hand
  Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold,"--

Without seeing Angeline's kindly, homely face out-lined through that
magnificence, instead of the lineaments of the evil angel

  "by merit raised
  To that bad eminence."

She, too, was much older than I, and a most excellent, energetic, and
studious young woman. I wonder if she remembers how hard we tried to get

  "Beelzebub--than whom,
  Satan except, none higher sat,"

into the limits of our grammatical rules,--not altogether with success,
I believe.

I copied passages from Jeremy Taylor and the old theologians into my
note-books, and have found them useful even recently, in preparing
compilations. Dryden and the eighteenth century poets generally did not
interest me, though I tried to read them from a sense of duty. Pope was
an exception, however. Aphorisms from the "Essay on Man" were in as
common use among us as those from the Book of Proverbs.

Some of my choicest extracts were in the first volume of collected
poetry I ever owned, a little red morocco book called "The Young Man's
Book of Poetry." It was given me by one of my sisters when I was about
a dozen years old, who rather apologized for the young man on the
title-page, saying that the poetry was just as good as if he were not

And, indeed, no young man could have valued it more than I did. It
contained selections from standard poets, and choice ones from less
familiar sources. One of the extracts was Wordsworth's "Sunset among
the Mountains," from the "Excursion," to read which, however often,
always lifted me into an ecstasy.  That red morocco book was my
treasure. It traveled with me to the West, and I meant to keep it as
long as I lived. But alas! it was borrowed by a little girl out on the
Illinois prairies, who never brought it back. I do not know that I have
ever quite forgiven her. I have wished I could look into it again,
often and often through the years. But perhaps I ought to be grateful
to that little girl for teaching me to be careful about returning
borrowed books myself. Only a lover of them can appreciate the loss of
one which has been a possession from childhood.

Young and Cowper were considered religious reading, and as such I had
always known something of them. The songs of Burns were in the air.
Through him I best learned to know poetry as song. I think that I heard
the "Cotter's Saturday Night" and "A man's a man for a' that" more
frequently quoted than any other poems familiar to my girlhood.

Some of my work-folk acquaintances were regular subscribers to
"Blackwood's Magazine" and the "Westminster" and "Edinburgh" reviews,
and they lent them to me. These, and Macaulay's "Essays," were a great
help and delight. I had also the reading of the "Bibliotheca Sacra" and
the "New Englander;" and sometimes of the "North American Review."

By the time I had come down to Wordsworth and Coleridge in my readings
of English poetry, I was enjoying it all so much that I could not any
longer call it study.

A gift from a friend of Griswold's "Poets and Poetry of England" gave
me my first knowledge of Tennyson. It was a great experience to read
"Locksley Hall" for the first time while it was yet a new poem, and
while one's own young life was stirred by the prophetic spirit of the
age that gave it birth.

I had a friend about my own age, and between us there was something
very much like what is called a "school-girl friendship," a kind of
intimacy supposed to be superficial, but often as deep and permanent as
it is pleasant.

Eliza and I managed to see each other every day; we exchanged
confidences, laughed and cried together, read, wrote, walked, visited,
and studied together. Her dress always had an airy touch which I
admired, although I was rather indifferent as to what I wore myself.
But she would endeavor to "fix me up" tastefully, while I would help
her to put her compositions for the "Offering" into proper style. She
had not begun to go to school at two years old, repeating the same
routine of study every year of her childhood, as I had.  When a child,
I should have thought it almost as much of a disgrace to spell a word
wrong, or make a mistake in the multiplication table, as to break one
of the Ten Commandments. I was astonished to find that Eliza and other
friends had not been as particularly dealt with in their early
education. But she knew her deficiencies, and earned money enough to
leave her work and attend a day-school part of the year.

She was an ambitious scholar, and she persuaded me into studying the
German language with her. A native professor had formed a class among
young women connected with the mills, and we joined it. We met, six or
eight of us, at the home of two of these young women,--a factory
boarding-house,--in a neat little parlor which contained a piano. The
professor was a music-teacher also, and he sometimes brought his
guitar, and let us finish our recitation with a concert. More
frequently he gave us the songs of Deutschland that we begged for. He
sang the "Erl-King" in his own tongue admirably. We went through
Follen's German Grammar and Reader:--what a choice collection of
extracts that "Reader" was! We conquered the difficult gutturals, like
those in the numeral "acht und achtzig" (the test of our pronouncing
abilities) so completely that the professor told us a native really
would understand us! At his request, I put some little German songs
into English, which he published as sheet-music, with my name. To hear
my words sung quite gave me the feeling of a successful translator. The
professor had his own distinctive name for each of his pupils. Eliza
was "Naivete," from her artless manners; and me he called "Etheria,"
probably on account of my star-gazing and verse-writing habits.
Certainly there was never anything ethereal in my visible presence.

A botany class was formed in town by a literary lady who was preparing
a school text-book on the subject, and Eliza and I joined that also.
The most I recall about that is the delightful flower-hunting rambles
we took together. The Linnaean system, then in use, did not give us a
very satisfactory key to the science. But we made the acquaintance of
hitherto unfamiliar wild flowers that grew around us, and that was the
opening to us of another door towards the Beautiful.

Our minister offered to instruct the young people of his parish in
ethics, and my sister Emilie and myself were among his pupils. We came
to regard Wayland's "Moral Science" (our text-book) as most interesting
reading, and it furnished us with many subjects for thought and for
social discussion.

Carlyle's "Hero-Worship" brought us a startling and keen enjoyment. It
was lent me by a Dartmouth College student, the brother of one of my
room-mates, soon after it was first published in this country. The
young man did not seem to know exactly what to think of it, and wanted
another reader's opinion. Few persons could have welcomed those early
writings of Carlyle more enthusiastically than some of us working-girls
did. The very ruggedness of the sentences had a fascination for us,
like that of climbing over loose bowlders in a mountain scramble to get
sight of a wonderful landscape.

My room-mate, the student's sister, was the possessor of an
electrifying new poem,--"Festus,"--that we sat up nights to read. It
does not seem as if it could be more than forty years since Sarah and I
looked up into each other's face from the page as the lamplight grew
dim, and said, quoting from the poem,--

"Who can mistake great thoughts?"

She gave me the volume afterwards, when we went West together, and I
have it still. Its questions and conjectures were like a glimpse into
the chaos of our own dimly developing inner life. The fascination of
"Festus" was that of wonder, doubt, and dissent, with great outbursts
of an overmastering faith sweeping over our minds as we read. Some of
our friends thought it not quite safe reading; but we remember it as
one of the inspirations of our workaday youth.

We read books, also, that bore directly upon the condition of humanity
in our time. "The Glory and Shame of England" was one of them, and it
stirred us with a wonderful and painful interest.

We followed travelers and explorers,--Layard to Nineveh, and Stephens
to Yucatan. And we were as fond of good story-books as any girls that
live in these days of overflowing libraries. One book, a
character-picture from history, had a wide popularity in those days. It
is a pity that it should be unfamiliar to modern girlhood,--Ware's
"Zenobia." The Queen of Palmyra walked among us, and held a lofty place
among our ideals of heroic womanhood, never yet obliterated from
admiring remembrance.

We had the delight of reading Frederika Bremer's "Home" and "Neighbors"
when they were  fresh from the fountains of her own heart; and some of
us must not be blamed for feeling as if no tales of domestic life half
so charming have been written since. Perhaps it is partly because the
home-life of Sweden is in itself so delightfully unique.

We read George Borrow's "Bible in Spain," and wandered with him among
the gypsies to whom he seemed to belong. I have never forgotten a verse
that this strange traveler picked up somewhere among the Zincali:--

  "I'll joyfully labor, both night and day,
  To aid my unfortunate brothers;
  As a laundress tans her own face in the ray
  To cleanse the garments of others."

It suggested a somewhat similar verse to my own mind. Why should not
our washerwoman's work have its touch of poetry also?--

  This thought flashed by like a ray of light
  That brightened my homely labor:--
  The water is making my own hands white
  While I wash the robes of my neighbor.

And how delighted we were with Mrs. Kirkland's "A New Home: Who'll
Follow?" the first real Western book I ever read. Its genuine
pioneer-flavor was delicious. And, moreover, it was a prophecy to
Sarah, Emilie, and myself, who were one day thankful enough to find an
"Aunty Parshall's dish-kettle" in a cabin on an Illinois prairie.

So the pleasantly occupied years slipped on, I still nursing my purpose
of a more systematic course of study, though I saw no near possibility
of its fulfillment. It came in an unexpected way, as almost everything
worth having does come. I could never have dreamed that I was going to
meet my opportunity nearly or quite a thousand miles away, on the banks
of the Mississippi. And yet, with that strange, delightful
consciousness of growth into a comprehension of one's self and of one's
life that most young persons must occasionally have experienced, I
often vaguely felt heavens opening for my half-fledged wings to try
themselves in. Things about me were good and enjoyable, but I could not
quite rest in them; there was more for me to be, to know, and to do. I
felt almost surer of the future than of the present.

If the dream of the millennium which brightened the somewhat sombre
close of the first ten years of my life had faded a little, out of the
very roughnesses of the intervening road light had been kindled which
made the end of the second ten years glow with enthusiastic hope. I had
early been saved from a great mistake; for it is the greatest of
mistakes to begin life with the expectation that it is going to be
easy, or with the wish to have it so. What a world it would be, if
there were no hills to climb! Our powers were given us that we might
conquer obstacles, and clear obstructions from the overgrown human
path, and grow strong by striving, led onward always by an Invisible

Life to me, as I looked forward, was a bright blank of mystery, like
the broad Western tracts of our continent, which in the atlases of
those days bore the title of "Unexplored Regions." It was to be
penetrated, struggled through; and its difficulties were not greatly
dreaded, for I had not lost

  "The dream of Doing,--
  The first bound in the pursuing."

I knew that there was no joy like the joy of pressing forward.



THE years between 1835 and 1845, which nearly cover the time I lived at
Lowell, seem to me, as I look back at them, singularly interesting
years. People were guessing and experimenting and wondering and
prophesying about a great many things,--about almost everything. We
were only beginning to get accustomed to steamboats and railroads. To
travel by either was scarcely less an adventure to us younger ones than
going up in a balloon.

Phrenology was much talked about; and numerous "professors" of it came
around lecturing, and examining heads, and making charts of cranial
"bumps." This was profitable business to them for a while, as almost
everybody who invested in a "character" received a good one; while many
very commonplace people were flattered into the belief that they were
geniuses, or might be if they chose.

Mesmerism followed close upon phrenology; and this too had its
lecturers, who entertained the stronger portion of their audiences by
showing them how easily the weaker ones could be brought under an
uncanny influence.

The most widespread delusion of the time was Millerism. A great many
persons--and yet not so many that I knew even one of them--believed
that the end of the world was coming in the year 1842; though the date
was postponed from year to year, as the prophesy failed of fulfillment.
The idea in itself was almost too serious to be jested about; and yet
its advocates made it so literal a matter that it did look very
ridiculous to unbelievers.

An irreverent little workmate of mine in the spinning-room made a
string of jingling couplets about it, like this:--

  "Oh dear! oh dear! what shall we do
  In eighteen hundred and forty-two?

  "Oh dear! oh dear! where shall we be
  In eighteen hundred and forty-three?

  "Oh dear! oh dear! we shall be no more
  In eighteen hundred and forty-four,

  "Oh dear! oh dear! we sha'n't be alive
  In eighteen hundred and forty-five."

I thought it audacious in her, since surely she and all of us were
aware that the world would come to an end some time, in some way, for
every one of us. I said to myself that I could not have "made up" those
rhymes. Nevertheless we all laughed at them together.

A comet appeared at about the time of the Miller excitement, and also a
very unusual illumination of sky and earth by the Aurora Borealis. This
latter occurred in midwinter. The whole heavens were of a deep
rose-color--almost crimson--reddest at the zenith, and paling as it
radiated towards the horizon. The snow was fresh on the ground, and
that, too, was of a brilliant red. Cold as it was, windows were thrown
up all around us for people to look out at the wonderful sight. I was
gazing with the rest, and listening to exclamations of wonder from
surrounding unseen beholders, when somebody shouted from far down the
opposite block of buildings, with startling effect,--

  "You can't stand the fire
  In that great day!"

It was the refrain of a Millerite hymn. The Millerites believed that
these signs in the sky were omens of the approaching catastrophe. And
it was said that some of them did go so far as to put on white
"ascension robes," and assemble somewhere, to wait for the expected

When daguerreotypes were first made, when we heard that the sun was
going to take everybody's portrait, it seemed almost too great a marvel
to be believed. While it was yet only a rumor that such a thing had
been done, somewhere across the sea, I saw some verses about it which
impressed me much, but which I only partly remember. These were the
opening lines:--

  "Oh, what if thus our evil deeds
  Are mirrored on the sky,
  And every line of our wild lives
  Daguerreotyped on high!"

My sister and I considered it quite an event when we went to have our
daguerreotypes taken just before we started for the West. The
photograph was still an undeveloped mystery.

Things that looked miraculous then are commonplace now. It almost seems
as if the children of to-day could not have so good a time as we did,
science has left them so little to wonder about. Our attitude--the
attitude of the time--was that of children climbing their dooryard
fence, to watch an approaching show, and to conjecture what more
remarkable spectacle could be following behind. New England had kept to
the quiet old-fashioned ways of living for the first fifty years of the
Republic. Now all was expectancy. Changes were coming. Things were
going to happen, nobody could guess what.

Things have happened, and changes have come. The New England that has
grown up with the last fifty years is not at all the New England that
our fathers knew. We speak of having been reared under Puritanic
influences, but the traditionary sternness of these was much modified,
even in the childhood of the generation to which I belong.  We did not
recognize the grim features of the Puritan, as we used sometimes to
read about him, in our parents or relatives. And yet we were children
of the Puritans.

Everything that was new or strange came to us at Lowell. And most of
the remarkable people of the day came also. How strange it was to see
Mar Yohannan, a Nestorian bishop, walking through the factory yard in
his Oriental robes with more than a child's wonder on his face at the
stir and rush of everything! He came from Boston by railroad, and was
present at the wedding at the clergyman's house where he visited. The
rapidity of the simple Congregational service astonished him.

"What? Marry on railroad, too?" he asked.

Dickens visited Lowell while I was there, and gave a good report of
what he saw in his "American Notes." We did not leave work even to gaze
at distinguished strangers, so I missed seeing him. But a friend who
did see him sketched his profile in pencil for me as he passed along
the street. He was then best known as "Boz."

Many of the prominent men of the country were in the habit of giving
Lyceum lectures, and the Lyceum lecture of that day was a means of
education, conveying to the people the results of study and thought
through the best minds. At Lowell it was more patronized by the
mill-people than any mere entertainment. We had John Quincy Adams,
Edward Everett, John Pierpont, and Ralph Waldo Emerson among our
lecturers, with numerous distinguished clergymen of the day. Daniel
Webster was once in the city, trying a law case. Some of my girl
friends went to the court-room and had a glimpse of his face, but I
just missed seeing him.

Sometimes an Englishman, who was studying our national institutions,
would call and have a friendly talk with us at work. Sometimes it was a
traveler from the South, who was interested in some way. I remember
one, an editor and author from Georgia, who visited our Improvement
Circle, and who sent some of us "Offering" contributors copies of his
book after he had returned home.

One of the pleasantest visitors that I recall was a young Quaker woman
from Philadelphia, a school-teacher, who came to see for herself how
the Lowell girls lived, of whom she had heard so much. A deep, quiet
friendship grew up between us two. I wrote some verses for her when we
parted, and she sent me one cordial, charmingly-written letter. In a
few weeks I answered it; but the response was from another person, a
near relative. She was dead. But she still remains a real person to me;
I often recall her features and the tone of her voice. It was as if a
beautiful spirit from an invisible world had slipped in among us, and
quickly gone back again.

It was an event to me, and to my immediate friends among the
mill-girls, when the poet Whittier came to Lowell to stay awhile. I had
not supposed that it would be my good fortune to meet him; but one
evening when we assembled at the "Improvement Circle," he was there.
The "Offering" editor, Miss Harriet Farley, had lived in the same town
with him, and they were old acquaintances. It was a warm, summer
evening. I recall the circumstance that a number of us wore white
dresses; also that I shrank back into myself, and felt much abashed
when some verses of mine were read by the editor,--with others so much
better, however, that mine received little attention.  I felt relieved;
for I was not fond of having my productions spoken of, for good or ill.
He commended quite highly a poem by another member of the Circle, on
"Pentucket," the Indian name of his native place, Haverhill.  My
subject was "Sabbath Bells." As the Friends do not believe in
"steeple-houses," I was at liberty to imagine that it was my theme, and
not my verses, that failed to interest him.

Various other papers were read,--stories, sketches, etc., and after the
reading there was a little conversation, when he came and spoke to me.
I let the friend who had accompanied me do my part of the talking for I
was too much overawed by the presence of one whose poetry I had so long
admired, to say a great deal. But from that evening we knew each other
as friends; and, of course, the day has a white mark among memories of
my Lowell life.

Mr. Whittier's visit to Lowell had some political bearing upon the
antislavery cause. It is strange now to think that a cause like that
should not always have been our country's cause,--our country,--our own
free nation! But antislavery sentiments were then regarded by many as
traitorous heresies; and those who held them did not expect to win
popularity. If the vote of the mill-girls had been taken, it would
doubtless have been unanimous on the antislavery side. But those were
also the days when a woman was not expected to give, or even to have,
an opinion on subjects of public interest.

Occasionally a young girl was attracted to the Lowell mills through her
own idealization of the life there, as it had been reported to her.
Margaret Foley, who afterwards became distinguished as a sculptor, was
one of these. She did not remain many months at her occupation,--which
I think was weaving,--soon changing it for that of teaching and
studying art. Those who came as she did were usually disappointed.
Instead of an Arcadia, they found a place of matter-of-fact toil,
filled with a company of industrious, wide-awake girls, who were
faithfully improving their opportunities, while looking through them
into avenues Toward profit and usefulness, more desirable yet. It has
always been the way of the steady-minded New Englander to accept the
present situation--but to accept it without boundaries, taking in also
the larger prospects--all the heavens above and the earth
beneath--towards which it opens.

The movement of New England girls toward Lowell was only an impulse of
a larger movement which about that time sent so many people from the
Eastern States into the West. The needs of the West were constantly
kept before us in the churches. We were asked for contributions for
Home Missions, which were willingly given; and some of us were
appointed collectors of funds for the education of indigent young men
to become Western Home Missionary preachers. There was something almost
pathetic in the readiness with which this was done by young girls who
were longing to fit themselves for teachers, but had not the means.
Many a girl at Lowell was working to send her brother to college, who
had far more talent and character than he; but a man could preach, and
it was not "orthodox" to think that a woman could. And in her devotion
to him, and her zeal for the spread of Christian truth, she was hardly
conscious of her own sacrifice. Yet our ministers appreciated the
intelligence and piety of their feminine parishioners. An agent who
came from the West for school-teachers was told by our own pastor that
five hundred could easily be furnished from among Lowell mill-girls.
Many did go, and they made another New England in some of our Western

The missionary spirit was strong among my companions. I never thought
that I had the right qualifications for that work; but I had a desire
to see the prairies and the great rivers of the West, and to get a
taste of free, primitive life among pioneers.

Before the year 1845, several of my friends had emigrated as teachers
or missionaries. One of the editors of the "Operatives' Magazine" had
gone to Arkansas with a mill-girl who had worked beside her among the
looms. They were at an Indian mission--to the Cherokees and Choctaws. I
seemed to breathe the air of that far Southwest, in a spray of yellow
jessamine which one of those friends sent me, pressed in a letter.
People wrote very long letters then, in those days of twenty-five cent

Rachel, at whose house our German class had been accustomed to meet,
had also left her work, and had gone to western Virginia to take charge
of a school. She wrote alluring letters to us about the scenery there;
it was in the neighborhood of the Natural Bridge.

My friend Angeline, with whom I used to read "Paradise Lost," went to
Ohio as a teacher, and returned the following year, for a very brief
visit, however,--and with a husband. Another acquaintance was in
Wisconsin, teaching a pioneer school. Eliza, my intimate companion, was
about to be married to a clergyman. She, too, eventually settled at the

The event which brought most change into my own life was the marriage
of my sister Emilie. It involved the breaking up of our own little
family, of which she had really been the "houseband," the return of my
mother to my sisters at Beverly, and my going to board among strangers,
as other girls did. I found excellent quarters and kind friends, but
the home-life was ended.

My sister's husband was a grammar school master in the city, and their
cottage, a mile or more out, among the open fields, was my frequent
refuge from homesickness and the general clatter. Our partial
separation showed me how much I had depended upon my sister. I had
really let her do most of my thinking for me. Henceforth I was to trust
to my own resources. I was no longer the "little sister" who could ask
what to do, and do as she was told. It often brought me a feeling of
dismay to find that I must make up my own mind about things small and
great. And yet I was naturally self-reliant. I am not sure but
self-reliance and dependence really belong together. They do seem to
meet in the same character, like other extremes.

The health of Emilie's husband failing, after a year or two, it was
evident that he must change his employment and his residence. He
decided to go with his brother to Illinois and settle upon a prairie
farm. Of course his wife and baby boy must go too, and with the
announcement of this decision came an invitation to me to accompany
them. I had no difficulty as to my response. It was just what I wanted
to do. I was to teach a district school; but what there was beyond
that, I could not guess. I liked to feel that it was all as vague as
the unexplored regions to which I was going. My friend and room-mate
Sarah, who was preparing herself to be a teacher, was invited to join
us, and she was glad to do so. It was all quickly settled, and early in
the spring of 1846 we left New England.

When I came to a realization of what I was leaving, when good-bys had
to be said, I began to feel very sorrowful, and to wish it was not to
be. I said positively that I should soon return, but underneath my
protestations I was afraid that I might not. The West was very far off
then, a full week's journey. It would be hard getting back. Those I
loved might die; I might die myself. These thoughts passed through my
mind, though not through my lips. My eyes would sometimes tell the
story, however, and I fancy that my tearful farewells must have seemed
ridiculous to many of my friends, since my going was of my own cheerful

The last meeting of the Improvement Circle before I went away was a
kind of surprise party to me. Several original poems were read,
addressed to me personally. I am afraid that I received it all in a
dumb, undemonstrative way, for I could not make it seem real that I was
the person meant, or that I was going away at all. But I treasured
those tributes of sympathy afterwards, under the strange, spacious
skies where I sometimes felt so alone.

The editors of the "Offering" left with me a testimonial in money,
accompanied by an acknowledgment of my contributions during several
years; but I had never dreamed of pay, and did not know how to look
upon it so. I took it gratefully, however, as a token of their
appreciation, and twenty dollars was no small help toward my outfit.
Friends brought me books and other keepsakes. Our minister, gave me
D'Aubigne's "History of the Reformation" as a parting gift. It was
quite a circumstance to be "going out West."

The exhilaration of starting off on one's first long journey, young,
ignorant, buoyant, expectant, is unlike anything else, unless it be
youth itself, the real beginning of the real journey--life. Annoyances
are overlooked. Everything seems romantic and dreamlike.

We went by a southerly route, on account of starting so early in the
season there was snow on the ground the day we left. On the second day,
after a moonlight night on Long Island Sound, we were floating down the
Delaware, between shores misty-green with budding willows; then (most
of us seasick, though I was not) we were tossed across Chesapeake Bay;
then there was a railway ride to the Alleghanies, which gave us
glimpses of the Potomac and the Blue Ridge, and of the lovely scenery
around Harper's Ferry; then followed a stifling night on the mountains,
when we were packed like sardines into a stagecoach, without a breath
of air, and the passengers were cross because the baby cried, while I
felt inwardly glad that one voice among us could give utterance to the
general discomfort, my own part of which I could have borne if I could
only have had an occasional peep out at the mountain-side. After that
it was all river-voyaging, down the Monongahela into the Ohio, and up
the Mississippi.

As I recall this part of it, I should say that it was the perfection of
a Western journey to travel in early spring by an Ohio River
steamboat,--such steamboats as they had forty years ago, comfortable,
roomy, and well ordered. The company was social, as Western emigrants
were wont to be when there were not so very many of them, and the
shores of the river, then only thinly populated, were a constantly
shifting panorama of wilderness beauty. I have never since seen a
combination of spring colors so delicate as those shown by the uplifted
forests of the Ohio, where the pure white of the dogwood and the
peach-bloom tint of the red-bud (Judas tree) were contrasted with soft
shades of green, almost endlessly various, on the unfolding leafage.

Contrasted with the Ohio, the Mississippi had nothing to show but
breadth and muddiness. More than one of us glanced at its level shores,
edged with a monotonous growth of cottonwood, and sent back a sigh
towards the banks of the Merrimack. But we did not let each other know
what the sigh was for, until long after. The breaking-up of our little
company when the steamboat landed at Saint Louis was like the ending of
a pleasant dream. We had to wake up to the fact that by striking due
east thirty or forty miles across that monotonous Greenness, we should
reach our destination, and must accept whatever we should find there,
with such grace as we could.

What we did find, and did not find, there is not room fully to relate
here. Ours was at first the roughest kind of pioneering experience;
such as persons brought up in our well-to-do New England could not be
in the least prepared for, though they might imagine they were, as we
did. We were dropped down finally upon a vast green expense, extending
hundreds of miles north and south through the State of Illinois, then
known as Looking-Glass Prairie. The nearest cabin to our own was about
a mile away, and so small that at that distance it looked like a
shingle set up endwise in the grass. Nothing else was in sight, not
even a tree, although we could see miles and miles in every direction.
There were only the hollow blue heavens above us and the level green
prairie around us,--an immensity of intense loneliness. We seldom saw a
cloud in the sky, and never a pebble beneath our feet. If we could have
picked up the commonest one, we should have treasured it like a
diamond. Nothing in nature now seemed so beautiful to us as rocks. We
had never dreamed of a world without them; it seemed like living on a
floor without walls or foundations.

After a while we became accustomed to the vast sameness, and even liked
it in a lukewarm way. And there were times when it filled us with
emotions of grandeur. Boundlessness in itself is impressive; it makes
us feel our littleness, and yet releases us from that littleness.

The grass was always astir, blowing one way, like the waves of the sea;
for there was a steady, almost an unvarying wind from the south. It was
like the sea, and yet even more wonderful, for it was a sea of living
and growing things. The Spirit of God was moving upon the face of the
earth, and breathing everything into life. We were but specks on the
great landscape. But God was above it all, penetrating it and us with
his infinite warmth. The distance from human beings made the Invisible
One seem so near! Only Nature and ourselves now, face to face with Him!

We could scarcely have found in all the world a more complete contrast
to the moving crowds and the whir and dust of the City of Spindles,
than this unpeopled, silent prairie.

For myself, I know that I was sent in upon my own thoughts deeper than
I had ever been before. I began to question things which I had never
before doubted. I must have reality. Nothing but transparent truth
would bear the test of this great, solitary stillness. As the prairies
lay open to the sunshine, my heart seemed to lie bare beneath the
piercing eye of the All-Seeing. I may say with gratitude that only some
superficial rubbish of acquired opinion was scorched away by this
searching light and heat. The faith of my childhood, in its simplest
elements, took firmer root as it found broader room to grow in.

I had many peculiar experiences in my log-cabin school-teaching, which
was seldom more than three months in one place. Only once I found
myself among New England people, and there I remained a year or more,
fairly reveling in a return to the familiar, thrifty ways that seem to
me to shape a more comfortable style of living than any under the sun.
"Vine Lodge" (so we named the cottage for its embowering
honey-suckles), and its warm-hearted inmates, with my little white
schoolhouse under the oaks, make one of the brightest of my Western

Only a mile or two away from this pretty retreat there was an edifice
towards which I often looked with longing. It was a seminary for young
women, probably at that time one of the best in the country, certainly
second to none in the West. It had originated about a dozen years
before, in a plan for Western collegiate education, organized by Yale
College graduates. It was thought that women as well as men ought to
share in the benefits of such a plan, and the result was Monticello
Seminary. The good man whose wealth had made the institution a
possibility lived in the neighborhood. Its trustees were of the best
type of pioneer manhood, and its pupils came from all parts of the
South and West.

Its Principal--I wonder now that I could have lived so near her for a
year without becoming acquainted with her,--but her high local
reputation as an intellectual woman inspired me with awe, and I was
foolishly diffident. One day, however, upon the persuasion of my
friends at Vine Lodge, who knew my wishes for a higher education, I
went with them to call upon her. We talked about the matter which had
been in my thoughts so long, and she gave me not only a cordial but an
urgent invitation to come and enroll myself as a student. There were
arrangements for those who could not incur the current expenses, to
meet them by doing part of the domestic work, and of these I gladly
availed myself. The stately limestone edifice, standing in the midst of
an original growth of forest-trees, two or three miles from the
Mississippi River, became my home--my student-home--for three years.
The benefits of those three years I have been reaping ever since, I
trust not altogether selfishly. It was always my desire and my ambition
as a teacher, to help my pupils as my teachers had helped me.

The course of study at Monticello Seminary was the broadest, the most
college-like, that I have ever known; and I have had experience since
in several institutions of the kind. The study of mediaeval and modern
history, and of the history of modern philosophy, especially, opened
new vistas to me. In these our Principal was also our teacher, and her
method was to show us the tendencies of thought, to put our minds into
the great current of human affairs, leaving us to collect details as we
could, then or afterward. We came thus to feel that these were
life-long studies, as indeed they are.

The course was somewhat elective, but her advice to me was, not to omit
anything because I did not like it. I had a natural distaste for
mathematics, and my recollections of my struggles with trigonometry and
conic sections are not altogether those of a conquering heroine. But my
teacher told me that my mind had need of just that exact sort of
discipline, and I think she was right.

A habit of indiscriminate, unsystematized reading, such as I had fallen
into, is entirely foreign to the scholarly habit of mind. Attention is
the secret of real acquirement; but it was months before I could
command my own attention, even when I was interested in the subject I
was examining. It seemed as if all the pages of all the books I had
ever read were turning themselves over between me and this one page
that I wanted to understand. I found that mere reading does not by any
means make a student.

It was more to me to come into communication with my wise teacher as a
friend than even to receive the wisdom she had to impart. She was
dignified and reticent, but beneath her reserve, as is often the case,
was a sealed fountain of sympathy, which one who had the key could
easily unlock. Thinking of her nobleness of character, her piety, her
learning, her power, and her sweetness, it seems to me as if I had once
had a Christian Zenobia or Hypatia for my teacher.

We speak with awed tenderness of our unseen guardian angels, but have
we not all had our guiding angels, who came to us in visible form, and,
recognized or unknown, kept beside us on our difficult path until they
had done for us all they could? It seems to me as if one had succeeded
another by my side all through the years,--always some one whose
influence made my heart stronger and my way clearer; though sometimes
it has been only a little child that came and laid its hand into my
hand as if I were its guide, instead of its being mine.

My dear and honored Lady-Principal was surely one of my strong guiding
angels, sent to meet me as I went to meet her upon my life-road, just
at the point where I most needed her. For the one great thing she gave
her pupils,--scope, often quite left out of woman's education,--I
especially thank her. The true education is to go on forever. But how
can there be any hopeful going on without outlook? And having an
infinite outlook, how can progress ever cease? It was worth while for
me to go to those Western prairies, if only for the broader mental view
that opened upon me in my pupilage there.

During my first year at the seminary I was appointed teacher of the
Preparatory Department,--a separate school of thirty or forty
girls,--with the opportunity to go on with my studies at the same time.
It was a little hard, but I was very glad to do it, as I was unwilling
to receive an education without rendering an equivalent, and I did not
wish to incur a debt.

I believe that the postponement of these maturer studies to my early
womanhood, after I had worked and taught, was a benefit to me. I had
found out some of my special ignorances, what the things were which I
most needed to know. I had learned that the book-knowledge I so much
craved was not itself education, was not even culture, but only a help,
an adjunct to both. As I studied more earnestly, I cared for fewer
books, but those few made themselves indispensable. It still seems to
me that in the Lowell mills, and in my log-cabin schoolhouse on the
Western prairies, I received the best part of my early education.

The great advantage of a seminary course to me was that under my
broad-minded Principal I learned what education really is: the
penetrating deeper and rising higher into life, as well as making
continually wider explorations; the rounding of the whole human being
out of its nebulous elements into form, as planets and suns are
rounded, until they give out safe and steady light. This makes the
process an infinite one, not possible to be completed at any school.

Returning from the West immediately after my graduation, I was for ten
years or so a teacher of young girls in seminaries much like my own
Alma Mater. The best result to me of that experience has been the
friendship of my pupils,--a happiness which must last as long as life

A book must end somewhere, and the natural boundary of this narrative
is drawn with my leaving New England for the West. I was to outline the
story of my youth for the young, though I think many a one among them
might tell a story far more interesting than mine. The most beautiful
lives seldom find their way into print. Perhaps the most beautiful part
of any life never does. I should like to flatter myself so.

I could not stay at the West. It was never really home to me there, and
my sojourn of six or seven years on the prairies only deepened my love
and longing for the dear old State of Massachusetts. I came back in the
summer of 1852, and the unwritten remainder of my sketch is chiefly
that of a teacher's and writer's experience; regarding which latter I
will add, for the gratification of those who have desired them, a few
personal particulars.

While a student and teacher at the West I was still writing, and much
that I wrote was published. A poem printed in "Sartain's Magazine,"
sent there at the suggestion of the editor of the "Lowell Offering" was
the first for which I received remuneration--five dollars. Several
poems written for the manuscript school journal at Monticello Seminary
are in the "Household" collection of my verses, among them those
entitled "Eureka," "Hand in Hand with Angels," and "Psyche at School."
These, and various others written soon after, were printed in the
"National Era," in return for which a copy of the paper was sent me.
Nothing further was asked or expected.

The little song "Hannah Binding Shoes"--written immediately after my
return from the West,--was a study from life--though not from any one
life--in my native town. It was brought into notice in a peculiar
way,--by my being accused of stealing it, by the editor of the magazine
to which I had sent it with a request for the usual remuneration, if
accepted. Accidentally or otherwise, this editor lost my note and
signature, and then denounced me by name in a newspaper as a "literary
thiefess;" having printed the verses with a nom de plume in his
magazine without my knowledge. It was awkward to have to come to my own
defense. But the curious incident gave the song a wide circulation.

I did not attempt writing for money until it became a necessity, when
my health failed at teaching, although I should long before then have
liked to spend my whole time with my pen, could I have done so. But it
was imperative that I should have an assured income, however small; and
every one who has tried it knows how uncertain a support one's pen is,
unless it has become very famous indeed. My life as a teacher, however,
I regard as part of my best preparation for whatever I have since
written. I do not know but I should recommend five or ten years of
teaching as the most profitable apprenticeship for a young person who
wished to become an author. To be a good teacher implies
self-discipline, and a book written without something of that sort of
personal preparation cannot be a very valuable one.

Success in writing may mean many different things. I do not know that I
have ever reached it, except in the sense of liking better and better
to write, and of finding expression easier. It is something to have won
the privilege of going on. Sympathy and recognition are worth a great
deal; the power to touch human beings inwardly and nobly is worth far
more. The hope of attaining to such results, if only occasionally, must
be a writer's best inspiration.

So far as successful publication goes, perhaps the first I considered
so came when a poem of mine was accepted by the "Atlantic Monthly." Its
title was "The Rose Enthroned," and as the poet Lowell was at that time
editing the magazine I felt especially gratified. That and another
poem, "The Loyal Woman's No," written early in the War of the
Rebellion, were each attributed to a different person among our
prominent poets, the "Atlantic" at that time not giving authors'
signatures. Of course I knew the unlikeness; nevertheless, those who
made the mistake paid me an unintentional compliment. Compliments,
however, are very cheap, and by no means signify success. I have always
regarded it as a better ambition to be a true woman than to become a
successful writer. To be the second would never have seemed to me
desirable, without also being the first.

In concluding, let me say to you, dear girls, for whom these pages have
been written, that if I have learned anything by living, it is
this,--that the meaning of life is education; not through
book-knowledge alone, sometimes entirely without it. Education is
growth, the development of our best possibilities from within outward;
and it cannot be carried on as it should be except in a school, just
such a school as we all find ourselves in--this world of human beings
by whom we are surrounded. The beauty of belonging to this school is
that we cannot learn anything in it by ourselves alone, but for and
with our fellow pupils, the wide earth over. We can never expect
promotion here, except by taking our place among the lowest, and
sharing their difficulties until they are removed, and we all become
graduates together for a higher school.

Humility, Sympathy, Helpfulness, and Faith are the best teachers in
this great university, and none of us are well educated who do not
accept their training. The real satisfaction of living is, and must
forever be, the education of all for each, and of each for all. So let
us all try together to be good and faithful women, and not care too
much for what the world may think of us or of our abilities!

My little story is not a remarkable one, for I have never attempted
remarkable things. In the words of one of our honored elder writers,
given in reply to a youthful aspirant who had asked for some points of
her "literary career,"--"I never had a career."

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A New England girlhood, outlined from memory (Beverly, MA)" ***

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