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Title: Marion Harland's Autobiography - The Story of a Long Life
Author: Harland, Marion
Language: English
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MARION HARLAND’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY

    THE STORY OF A LONG LIFE

    [Illustration]

    HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
    NEW YORK AND LONDON
    MCMX



    Copyright, 1910, by HARPER & BROTHERS
    ————
    _All rights reserved_
    ————
    Published April, 1910

    _Printed in the United States of America_



    WITH
    REVERENT TENDERNESS
    THIS SIMPLE STORY OF MY LONG LIFE
    IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF
    MY FATHER



CONTENTS


     CHAP.                                                         PAGE
        I. FOREBEARS AND PATRON SAINT                                 1
       II. LAFAYETTE; REVOLUTIONARY TALES; PARENTS’ MARRIAGE         16
      III. A COUNTRY EXILE; DEATH OF THE FIRST-BORN; CHANGE
               OF HOME; A FIRESIDE TRAGEDY; “COGITO, ERGO SUM”       27
       IV. A BERSERKER RAGE; A FRIGHT; THE WESTERN FEVER;
               MONTROSE; A MOTHER REGAINED                           37
        V. OUR POWHATAN HOME; A COUNTRY FUNERAL; “OLD MRS.
                O’HARA”                                              52
       VI. OLD-FASHIONED HUSBAND’S LOVE-LETTER; AN ALMOST
               HOMICIDE; A “SLAUGHTERED MONSTER”; A WESLEYAN
               SCHOOLMISTRESS                                        61
      VII. MY FIRST TUTOR; THE REIGN OF TERROR                       70
     VIII. CALM AFTER STORM; OUR HANDSOME YANKEE GOVERNESS;
               THE NASCENT AUTHOR                                    84
       IX. A COLLEGE NEIGHBORHOOD; THE WORLD WIDENS; A
               BELOVED TUTOR; COLONIZATION DREAMS AND
               DISAPPOINTMENT; MAJOR MORTON                          90
        X. FAMILY LETTERS; COMMENCEMENT AT HAMPDEN-SIDNEY;
               THEN AND NOW                                         104
       XI. BACK IN POWHATAN; OLD VIRGINIA HOUSEWIFERY;
               A SINGING-CLASS IN THE FORTIES; THE
               SIMPLE LIFE?                                         110
      XII. ELECTION DAY AND A DEMOCRATIC BARBECUE                   117
     XIII. A WHIG RALLY AND MUSTER DAY                              129
      XIV. RUMORS OF CHANGES; A CORN-SHUCKING; A NEGRO
               TOPICAL SONG                                         143
       XV. THE COUNTRY GIRLS AT A CITY SCHOOL; VELVET HATS
               AND CLAY’S DEFEAT                                    149
      XVI. HOME AT CHRISTMAS; A CANDY-PULL AND HOG-KILLING          162
     XVII. A NOTABLE AFFAIR OF HONOR      171
    XVIII. THE MENACE OF SLAVE INSURRECTION                         186
      XIX. WEDDING AND BRIDESMAID; THE ROUTINE OF A LARGE
               FAMILY; MY FIRST BEREAVEMENT                         196
       XX. OUR TRUE FAMILY GHOST-STORY                              203
      XXI. TWO MONUMENTAL FRIENDSHIPS                               218
     XXII. THE “OLD AFRICAN CHURCH”                                 227
    XXIII. HOW “ALONE” CAME TO BE                                   237
     XXIV. THE DAWNING OF LITERARY LIFE                             246
      XXV. BROUGHT FACE TO FACE WITH MY FATE                        254
     XXVI. LITERARY WELL-WISHERS; GEORGE D. PRENTICE; MRS.
               SIGOURNEY; GRACE GREENWOOD; H. W. LONGFELLOW;
               JAMES REDPATH; THE “WANDERING JEW”                   262
    XXVII. MY NORTHERN KINSPEOPLE; “QUELQU’UN” AND LIFELONG
               FRIENDSHIP                                           270
   XXVIII. MY FIRST OPERA; “PETER PARLEY”; RACHEL AS
               “CAMILLE”; BAYARD TAYLOR; T. B. ALDRICH;
               G. P. MORRIS; MARIA CUMMINS; MRS. A. D. T.
               WHITNEY                                              280
     XXIX. ANNA CORA (MOWATT) RITCHIE; EDWARD EVERETT;
               GOVERNOR WISE; A MEMORABLE DINNER-PARTY              288
      XXX. A MUSICAL CONVENTION; GEORGE FRANCIS ROOT; WHEN
               “THE SHINING SHORE” WAS FIRST SUNG; THE
               HALLELUJAH CHORUS; BETROTHAL; DEMPSTER IN HIS
               OLD AGE                                              297
     XXXI. WEDDING BELLS; A BRIDAL TOUR; A DISCOVERED
               RELATIVE; A NOBLE LIFE                               304
    XXXII. PARSONAGE LIFE; WILLIAM WIRT HENRY; HISTORIC SOIL;
               JOHN RANDOLPH; THE LAST OF THE RANDOLPHS             313
   XXXIII. PLANTATION PREACHING; COLORED COMMUNICANTS; A
               “MIGHTY MAN IN PRAYER”                               325
    XXXIV. MY NOVITIATE AS A PRACTICAL HOUSEWIFE; MY COOK
               “GETS HER HAND OUT”; INCEPTION OF “COMMON SENSE
               IN THE HOUSEHOLD”                                    333
     XXXV. THE STIRRED “NEST AMONG THE OAKS”; A CRUCIAL CRISIS      346
    XXXVI. MIGRATION NORTHWARD; ACCLIMATION; ALBERT EDWARD,
               PRINCE OF WALES, IN NEW YORK; POLITICAL PORTENTS     355
   XXXVII. THE PANIC OF ’61; A VIRGINIA VACATION; MUTTERINGS
               OF COMING STORM                                      363
  XXXVIII. THE FOURTEENTH OF APRIL, 1861, IN RICHMOND               370
    XXXIX. “THE LAST THROUGH TRAIN FOR FOUR YEARS”                  382
       XL. DOMESTIC SORROWS AND NATIONAL STORM AND STRESS;
               FRIENDS, TRIED AND TRUE                              389
      XLI. FORT DELAWARE; “OLD GLORY”; LINCOLN’S
               ASSASSINATION; THE RELEASED PRISONER OF WAR          399
     XLII. A CHRISTMAS REUNION; A MIDNIGHT WARNING; HOW A
               GOOD MAN CAME TO “THE HAPPIEST DAY OF HIS LIFE”      408
    XLIII. TWO BRIDALS; A BIRTH AND A PASSING; “MY LITTLE
               LOVE”; “DRIFTING OUT”; A NONPAREIL PARISH            417
     XLIV. TWO YEARS OVERSEAS; LIFE IN ROME AND GENEVA              427
      XLV. SUNNYBANK; A NEW ENGLAND PARISH; “MY BOYS”; TWO
               “STARRED” NAMES                                      436
     XLVI. RETURN TO MIDDLE STATES; THE HOLY LAND; MY FRIENDS
               THE MISSIONARIES; TWO CONSULS IN JERUSALEM           448
    XLVII. LUCERNE; GOOD SAMARITANS AND AN ENGLISHMAN; A
               LECTURE TOUR; OHIOAN HOSPITALITY; MR. AND MRS.
               MCKINLEY                                             457
   XLVIII. THE CLOUDS RETURN AFTER THE RAIN; ABROAD AGAIN;
               HEALING AND HEALTH; IDYLLIC WINTER IN FLORENCE       470
     XLIX. THE GOING-OUT OF A YOUNG LIFE; PRESENT ACTIVITIES;
               “LITERARY HEARTHSTONES”; GRATEFUL REMINISCENCES      481
           APPENDIX                                                 491
               A FRATERNAL TRIBUTE
               THE GOLDEN WEDDING



FOREWORD


FROM the time when, as a mere baby, I dreamed myself to slumber every
night by “making up stories,” down to the present hour, every human
life with which I have been associated, or of which I had any intimate
knowledge, has been to me a living story. All interest me in some
measure. Many enlist my sympathy and fascinate the imagination as no
tale that is avowedly fictitious has ever bewitched me.

I hold and believe for certain that if I could draw aside the veil of
conventional reserve from the daily thinking, feeling, and _living_
of my most commonplace acquaintance, and read these from “Preface” to
“Finis,” I should rate the wildest dream of the novelist as tame by
comparison.

My children tell me, laughingly, that I “turn everything into a story.”
In my heart I know that the romances are all ready-made and laid to my
hand.

In the pages that follow this word of explanation I have essayed no
dramatic effects or artistic “situations.” “The Story of My Long Life”
tells itself as one friend might talk to another as the two sit in
the confidential firelight on a winter evening. The idea of reviewing
that life upon paper first came to me with the consciousness—which was
almost a shock—that, of all the authors still on active professional
duty in our country, I am the only one whose memory runs back to
the stage of national history that preceded the Civil War by a
quarter-century. I, alone, am left to tell, of my own knowledge and
experience, what the Old South was in deed and in truth. Other and far
abler pens than mine have portrayed scenes of those days with skill I
cannot emulate. But theirs is hearsay evidence—second-hand testimony
as truly as if they wrote of Shakespeare’s haps and mishaps in the
grammar-school at Stratford-on-Avon, or of Master George Herbert’s
early love affairs.

True, the fathers told it to the generation following, and the
generation has been faithful to the traditions committed to it. What I
have to say in the aforesaid gossip over the confidential fire is of
what I saw and heard and did—and _was_ in that hoary Long Ago.

Throughout the telling I have kept the personal touch. The story
is autobiography—not history. I began it for my children, whose
importunities for tales of the olden—and now forever gone—“times” have
been taken up by the least grandchild.

It was my lot to know the Old South in her prime, and to see her
downfall. Mine to witness the throes that racked her during four black
and bitter years. Mine to watch the dawn of a new and vigorous life and
the full glory of a restored Union. I shall tell of nothing that my
eyes did not see, and depict neither tragedy nor comedy in which I was
not cast for a part.

Mine is a story for the table and arm-chair under the reading-lamp in
the living-room, and not for the library shelves. To the family and to
those who make and keep the home do I commit it.

    MARION HARLAND.

NEW YORK CITY, _November, 1909._



MARION HARLAND’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY



MARION HARLAND’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY



I

FOREBEARS AND PATRON SAINT


MY father, Samuel Pierce Hawes, was born in the town of Dorchester,
Massachusetts, July 30, 1799.

The homestead, still standing and reckoned among the notable sites of
the region, was built in 1640, by Robert Pierce, who emigrated to the
New World in 1630, having sailed from Plymouth, England, in the _Mary
and John_, in company with others of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. On
the voyage, he married Ann Greenaway—registered as “Daughter of Goodman
Greenaway,” a fellow-passenger.

The family trace their descent, by old domestic and town records, from
the Northumberland Percies. Traditions, cherished by the race, affirm
that Godfrey of Bouillon was a remote ancestor. It is unquestionably
true that “Robert of Dorchester,” as he is put down in the genealogy of
the Percies, was a blood relative of Master George Percy, John Smith’s
friend, and his successor in the presidency of the Jamestown colony.

The emigrants had a temporary home in Neponset Village, prospering so
far in worldly substance as to justify the erection of the substantial
house upon the hill overlooking the “village,” ten years after the
landing. So substantial was it, and so honest were the builders,
that it has come down in a direct line from father to son, and been
inhabited by ten generations of thrifty folk who have left it stanch
and weatherproof to this day.

My father’s mother, a handsome, wilful girl of seventeen, ran away
to be married to one whom her father—“Squire Pierce”—considered
a presumptuous adventurer. He was from Maine, a stranger in the
neighborhood, and reputed (justly) to be wild and unsteady. When he
asked for the girl’s hand he was summarily commanded to hold no further
communication with her. He had served as a private in the Revolutionary
War; he had winning ways and a good-looking face, and Ann had a liberal
spice of her sire’s unbending will. She would have him, and no other of
the youths who sued for her favor.

The family genealogy records that “Squire Pierce,” as he was named
by his neighbors, received a captain’s commission from the parent
government at the outbreak of the Rebellion, and on the self-same day
one from the Continental Congress appointing him as a colonel in the
Massachusetts forces. As “Colonel Pierce,” he fought throughout the
eight bloody years to which we owe our national life.

In his home he was a despot of the true Puritan, patriarchal type.

For three years after the elopement the name of his daughter’s husband
was never uttered in his hearing. Nor did she enter the house, until
at twenty, her proud spirit bowed but not broken by sorrows she
never retailed, she came back to the old roof-tree on the eve of her
confinement with her first and only child. He was born there and
received the grandfather’s name in full. From that hour he was adopted
as a son of the house by the stern old Puritan, and brought up at his
knees.

With the shrewd sense and sturdy independence characteristic of the
true New-Englander, the mother was never forgetful of the fact that her
boy was half-orphaned and dependent upon his grandfather’s bounty, and
began early to equip him for a single-handed fight with the world.

Within a decade I have studied an authentic and detailed genealogy of
the Hawes stock from which my grandfather sprang. It is a fine old
English family, and the American branch, in which appear the birth and
death of Jesse Hawes, of Maine, numbers many men of distinction in
various professions. It is a comfort to a believer in heredity to be
assured that the tree was sound at heart, in spite of the warped and
severed bough.

By the time my father was fourteen, he was at work in a Boston
mercantile house, boarding with his employer, Mr. Baker, a personal
friend of the Pierces. The growing lad walked out to Dorchester every
Saturday night to spend Sunday at home and attend divine service in
the “Dorchester Old Meeting-House,” the same in which I first saw and
heard Edward Everett Hale, over forty years later. The youth arose, in
all weathers, before the sun on Monday morning in order to be at his
place of business at seven o’clock. When he was sixteen, his employer
removed to Richmond, Virginia, and took his favorite clerk with him.
From Boston to the capital of the Old Dominion was then a fortnight’s
journey by the quickest mode of travel. The boy could hardly hope to
see his mother even once a year.

At twenty-five he was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church
in Richmond, established and built up by Rev. John Holt Rice, D.D.,
who was also the founder of Union Theological Seminary, now situated
in Richmond. The young New-Englander was, likewise, a teacher in the
Sunday-school—the first of its kind in Virginia, conducted under the
auspices of Doctor Rice’s church—a partner in a flourishing mercantile
house, and engaged to be married to Miss Judith Anna Smith, of Olney,
a plantation on the Chickahominy, five miles from the city.

I have a miniature of my father, painted upon ivory a few years after
his marriage. It is that of a handsome man, with deeply set gray eyes,
very dark hair, and a well-cut, resolute mouth. The head is nobly
shaped, the forehead full and broad. His face was singularly mobile,
and deeply lined, even in youth.

In intellect he was far above the average business man. His library, at
that early date, was more than respectable. Some of the most valuable
early editions of the English classics that enrich my book-shelves
have his book-plate upon the fly-leaves. He had, moreover, a number
of standard French books, having studied the language with a tutor in
the evenings. The range of his reading was wide and of a high order.
Histories, biographies, books of travel, and essays had a prominent
place in his store of “solid reading.” That really good novels were
not included in this condemnation we learn from a brief note to
his betrothed, accompanying a copy of Walter Scott’s _Pirate_. He
apologizes for the profanity of certain characters in semi-humorous
fashion, and signs himself, “Your friend, Samuel.”

Doctor Rice, whose wife was my mother’s first cousin, appreciated young
Hawes’s character and ability; the parsonage was thrown open to him at
all times, and within the hospitable precincts he first met his future
wife.

She was a pretty, amiable girl of eighteen, like himself an omnivorous
reader, and, like him also, a zealous church-worker.

Her father, Capt. William Sterling Smith, was the master of the
ancestral estate of Olney, rechristened in the latter part of the
eighteenth century by an ardent admirer of William Cowper. I am under
the impression that the change of name was the work of my grandmother,
his second wife, Miss Judith Smith, of Montrose, and a second cousin
of “Captain Sterling,” as he was familiarly called.

Late in the seventeenth century, William Smith, of Devonshire, a lineal
descendant of the brother and heir of Capt. John Smith of Pocahontas
fame, married Ann Sterling in England, and, emigrating to America,
pitched his moving tent, first in Gloucester, then in Henrico County.
His cousin, bearing the same name, took up land in Powhatan, naming his
homestead for the hapless Earl of Montrose. The questionable custom of
the intermarriage of cousins prevailed in the clan, as among other old
Virginia families.

My maternal grandmother was petite, refined in feature, bearing, and
speech, and remarkable in her day for intellectual vivacity and moral
graces. Her chief associates of the other sex were men of profound
learning, distinguished for services done to Church and State. Among
them were the founders of the Presbyterian Church in Virginia. The
Smiths had seceded from the Established Church of England before Thomas
Jefferson rent it from the State.

There lies at my elbow a time-worn volume bound in unpolished
calf-skin, and lettered on one side, “D. Lacy’s Letters”; on the
reverse, “Friendship Perpetuated.” It contains one hundred and
forty-two letters, copied from the original epistles and engrossed in
exquisitely neat and minute characters. They represent one side of a
correspondence maintained by the scribe with my grandmother before
and after her marriage. The writer and copyist was the Rev. Drury
Lacy, D.D., then a professor in Hampden Sidney College, and destined
to become the progenitor of a long line of divines and scholars.
The Hoges, Lacys, Brookeses, and Waddells were of this lineage. The
epistles are Addisonian in purity of moral teaching and in grammatical
structure, Johnsonian in verboseness, and interfused throughout with
a pietistic priggishness all their own. We are glad to carry with us
through the perusal (in instalments) of the hundred and forty-two,
the tales current in that all-so-long-ago of the genial nature and
liveliness of conversation that made him a star in social life. One
wonders, in hearing of the “perpetuation” of the brotherly-and-sisterly
intimacy, begun months before he wedded the “Nancy” of the Montrose
group, who, from all I have been able to gather, was a very commonplace
personage by comparison with “Judith”—one marvels, I say, that the
affection never ripened into a warmer sentiment. They had themselves
better in hand evidently than the “affinities” of the twentieth century.

Old people I knew, when a child, delighted in relating how, when “Mr.
Lacy” held meetings in country churches in Powhatan and Prince Edward,
and his sister-in-law was in the congregation, everybody listened for
the voices of those two. His was strong, flexible, and sweet, and he
read music as he read a printed page. While she, as an old admirer—who
up to his eightieth year loved to visit my mother that he might talk
of his early love—used to declare, “sang like an angel just down from
heaven.”

She added all womanly accomplishments to musical skill and literary
tastes. An embroidered counterpane, of which I am the proud owner, is
wrought in thirteen varieties of stitch, and in patterns invented by
herself and three sisters, the only brother contributing what may be
classed as a “conventional design” of an altar and two turtle-doves
perched upon a brace of coupled hearts—symbolical of his passion for
the beauty of the county, Judith Mosby, of Fonthill, whom he married.
Our Judith held on the peaceful tenor of her way, reading all the
books she could lay her shapely hands upon, keeping up her end of
correspondences with Lacys, Rices, Speeces, Randolphs, and Blaines,
and gently rejecting one offer after another, until she married at
thirty-three—an advanced stage of spinsterdom, then—honest Capt.
Sterling Smith, the widower-father of three children.

Her husband was the proprietor of broad acres, a man of birth and fair
education, high-minded, honorable, and devoted to his delicate wife.
Nevertheless, the dainty _châtelaine_ must, sometimes, have missed her
erudite admirers, and wished in her heart that the worthy planter were,
intellectually, more in tune with herself.

My own mother’s recollections of her mother were vivid, and I never
wearied of hearing them. My grandmother’s wedding night-gown, which I
have, helps me to picture her as she moved about the modest homestead,
directing and overseeing servants, key-basket on arm, keeping, as
she did, a daily record of provisions “given out” from store-room
and smoke-house, writing down in her hand-book bills-of-fare for the
week (my mother treasured them for years), entertaining the friends
attracted by her influence, her husband’s hospitality, and his two
daughters’ charms of person and disposition.

This gown is of fine cambric, with a falling collar and a short,
shirred waist. The buttons are wooden moulds, covered with cambric, and
each bears a tiny embroidered sprig. Collar and sleeves are trimmed
with ruffles, worked in scallops by her deft fingers. The owner and
wearer was below the medium height of women, and slight to fragility.
Her love of the beautiful found expression in her exquisite needlework,
in copying “commonplace-books” full of poetry and the music she loved
passionately, and most healthful of all, in flower-gardening. Within my
memory, the white jessamine planted by her still draped the window of
“the chamber” on the first floor. Few Virginia housewives would consent
to have their bedrooms up-stairs. “Looking after the servants” was
no idle figure of speech with them. Eternal vigilance was the price
of home comfort. A hardy white-rose-tree, also planted by her, lived
almost as long as the jessamine—her favorite flower.

In the shade of the bower formed by these, Mrs. Judith Smith sat with
her embroidery on summer days, her little name-daughter upon a cricket
beside her, reading aloud by the hour. It was rather startling to me to
learn that, at thirteen, the precocious child read thus _Pamela_, _The
Children of the Abbey_, and _Clarissa_ to the sweet-faced, white-souled
matron. Likewise _The Rambler_, _Rasselas_, Shakespeare, and _The
Spectator_ (unexpurgated). But Young’s _Night Thoughts_, Thomson’s
_Seasons_, _Paradise Lost_, Pope’s _Essays_, and the Book of Books
qualified whatever of evil might have crept into the tender imagination
from the strong meat, spiced. Cowper was a living presence to mother
and girl. My mother could repeat pages of _The Tas_ from memory fifty
years after she recited them to her gentle teacher, and his hymns were
the daily food of the twain.

The Olney family drove in the heavy coach over heavy roads five miles
in all weathers to the First Presbyterian Church of Richmond. My
grandfather had helped raise the money for the building, as his letters
show, and was one of the elders ordained soon after the church was
organized.

Thither they had gone on Christmas Sunday, 1811, to be met on the
threshold by the news of the burning of the theatre on Saturday night.
My mother, although but six years old, never forgot the scenes of that
day. Doctor Rice had deviated from the rutted road of the “long prayer”
constructed by ecclesiastical surveyors along the lines of Adoration,
Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication (“A, C, T, S”)—to talk as man to
man with the Ruler of the universe of the terrible judgment which had
befallen the mourning city. He had even alluded to it in his sermon,
and it was discussed in awe-stricken tones by lingering groups in the
aisles when service was over. Then, her little hand locked fast in that
of her mother, the child was guided along the valley and up the steep
hill to the smoking ruins, surrounded by a silent crowd, many of them
in tears. In low, impressive accents the mother told the baby what had
happened there last night, and, as the little creature began to sob,
led her on up the street. A few squares farther on, my grandfather and
a friend who walked with him laughed slightly at something they said or
saw, and my grandmother said, sorrowfully:

“How can you laugh when sixty fellow-creatures lie dead over there—all
hurried into Eternity without warning?”

I have never passed the now-old Monumental Church without recalling the
incident engraved upon my childish mind by my mother’s story.

In the volume of “D. Lacy’s Letters” I found, laid carefully between
the embrowned leaves for safest keeping, several letters from Capt.
Sterling Smith to his “dear Judy,” and one from her to him, written
while she was on a visit to Montrose, her birthplace, with her only
son. We have such a pretty, pathetic expression of her love for husband
and child, and touches, few but graphic, that outline for us so clearly
her personality and environment, that I insert it here:

                            “MONTROSE, _September 5th, 1817._
                                 “(Ten o’clock at night.)

    “MY DEAR MR. SMITH,—I am sitting by my dear Josiah, who
    continues ill. His fever rises about dark. The chills are
    less severe, and the fever does not last as long as it did a
    week ago. Still, he suffers much, and is very weak. He has
    taken a great deal of medicine with very little benefit. His
    gums are sore. The doctor thinks they are touched by the
    calomel. He was here this morning, and advised some oil and
    then the bark.

    “We have been looking for you ever since yesterday. Poor
    fellow! He longs to see you—and so do I! I was up last
    night, and I have been to-night very often—indeed, almost
    constantly—at the door and the window, listening for the
    sound of your horse’s feet. I have written by post, by John
    Morton, and by Mr. Mosby. I think if you had received either
    of the notes I should see you to-night, unless something
    serious is the matter. I am so much afraid that you are ill
    as to be quite unhappy.

    “My love to my dear girls and all the family. My dear! my
    heart is sore! Pray that God may support me. I am too easily
    depressed—particularly when you are not with me. I _long_ to
    see you! I hope I shall before you receive this. God bless
    you!

    “Your very affectionate—your own

                                                 JUDY.

                                          “(Saturday morning.)

    “We are both better. Josiah’s fever is off, but he is very
    weak.”

That the wife should begin the love-full epistle, “My dear Mr. Smith,”
and sign it, “your own Judy,” seems the queerer to modern readers when
it is considered that her husband was also her cousin, and had married
her niece as his first wife. Few wives called their lords by their
Christian names a hundred years back, and the custom is not yet fully
established in the Southern States.

The few letters written by my grandfather that have been preserved
until now show him to have been a man of sincere piety, sterling sense,
and affectionate disposition. One herewith given betrays what a wealth
of tenderness was poured out upon his fairy-like wife. It likewise
offers a fair sketch of the life of a well-to-do Virginia planter of
that date.

His wife was visiting her Montrose relatives.

                                   “OLNEY, _March 30th, 1814._

    “With inexpressible pleasure I received yours by Mr. Mosby.
    I rejoice that the expected event with our dear sister has
    turned out favorably, and that you, my dear, are enjoying
    better health.

    “I hope that you will not be uneasy about my lonely
    situation. Every one must know that it cannot be agreeable,
    but when I consider that you may be benefited by it, and
    even that your health may be restored (which we have reason
    to hope for), what would I not forego to secure so great a
    blessing!

    “I have kept close at home, except when I went to meeting
    on Sabbath, and to town to-day to hear from you. During the
    day I have been busy, and at night have enjoyed the company
    of good books until ten or eleven o’clock, then gone to bed
    and slept tolerably well. I eat at the usual times, and have
    as good health as usual. Thus situated, I will try to be as
    comfortable as I can until God shall be pleased to bring us
    together again.

    “Some of our black people are still sick. Amy is much
    better, and speaks plainly. Rose is but poorly, yet no
    worse. Nanny is in appearance no better. Becky has been
    really sick, but seems comfortable this evening. The doctor
    has ordered medicine which will, I hope, restore her to
    health. Oba was a little while in the garden on Monday, but
    has been closely housed ever since. His cough is very bad,
    and I suppose him unable to labor.

    “I wish to come for you as soon as possible, and I would,
    if I could, rejoin you to-morrow. The election would not
    keep me, but I have business I wish to attend to this week,
    and also to attend the meeting of the Bible Society at the
    Capitol on Tuesday. I hope to see you on Wednesday. I wish
    you to be prepared to come home with me soon after that.
    With regard to Betsy, I don’t expect she will be ready to
    come home with us, and, if she could, I dread riding an
    ill-gaited horse thirty miles. Mr. Mosby’s carriage is to go
    to Lynchburg in a few days, and he talks of returning home
    by way of Prince Edward, and bringing the two Betsies home.
    The carriage will be empty. I shall persuade him to be in
    earnest about it.

    “Now, my dear, I must conclude with committing you to the
    care of our Heavenly Father. May He keep you from every
    evil! Give my love to the dear family you are with. May you
    be a comfort to them, and an instrument in the hands of God
    to do them good! Kiss my little ones for me, and tell them I
    love them!

                                 “Your own affectionate,
                                             “WM. S. SMITH.”

The matter-of-fact manner in which the writer hints at the ride of
thirty miles upon the ill-gaited horse he would have to bestride
if the women, babies, and maid filled the family chariot, and his
intention of making Mr. Mosby “earnest” in the scheme of despatching
his empty carriage to Lynchburg—a distance of one hundred and forty
miles—returning by way of Prince Edward, eighty miles from Olney—to
fetch “the two Betsies” home, was a perfectly natural proceeding in the
eyes of him who wrote and of her who read. There was not so much as a
stage-coach route between the two towns. Heavy as were the carriages
that swung and creaked through the red mud-holes and corduroy roads
that did duty for thoroughfares all over the State, they were on the go
continually, except when the mud-holes became bottomless and the red
clay as sticky as putty. Then men and women went on horseback, unless
the women were too old for the saddle. The men never were.

It was, likewise, an everyday matter with our planter that five of his
“black people” should be down “sick” at one time. The race had then, as
they have to our day, a penchant for disease. Every plantation had a
hospital ward that was never empty.

A letter penned three years earlier than that we have just read:

    “We are going on bravely with our subscription for building
    a meeting-house. Yesterday was the first of my turning out
    with subscription-paper. I got 162 dollars subscribed, with
    a promise of more. We have now about 1800 dollars on our
    subscription-list, which sum increases at least 100 dollars
    a day. I hope, with a little help that we have reason to
    expect from New York, we shall soon be able to begin the
    work, which may the Lord prosper in our hands!”

The “meeting-house,” when constructed, was popularly known as the
“Pineapple Church,” from the conical ornament topping the steeple.
As Richmond grew westward and climbed up Shockoe Hill, the First
Presbyterian Church was swept up with the congregation to another site.
The deserted building was bought by the Episcopalians, and christened
“Christ Church.” As long as it stood it was known by the “old-timers”
as the “Old Pineapple.”

The daughters of Captain Sterling’s first wife were Mary and Elizabeth
(the “Betsy” of his letters). She married Rev. Thomas Lumpkin, whom
she met on one of her visits to Prince Edward County, where her aunt,
Mrs. James Morton, lived in the vicinity of Hampden Sidney College. Her
husband lived but seven months from the wedding-day, and she returned
to Olney and the fostering care of her father and the second mother,
who was ever her fast and tender friend. There, in the house where she
was born, she laid in her stepmother’s arms a baby-girl, born four
months later. The posthumous child became the beloved “Cousin Mary” of
these memoirs. She had been the petted darling of the homestead five
years when her mother married again, and another clergyman, whom I
shall call “Mr. Carus.” He was a Connecticut man who had been a tutor
in the Olney household before he took orders. For reasons which will
appear by-and-by, I prefer to disguise his name. Others in his native
New England bear it, although he left no descendants.

From my mother I had the particulars of the death-scene in that
first-floor “chamber” in the homestead, when, on a sultry August
day (1820), “the longest, saddest day I have ever known”—said the
daughter—the dainty, delicate creature who was soul and heart to the
home passed away from earth.

My mother has told me how the scent of white jessamine flowed into the
room where grief was hushed to hearken for the failing breath.

Dr. Rice’s niece leaned over the pillow in which the girl of fourteen
smothered her sobs in clinging to the small hand so strangely cold.

“She does not breathe!” the weeper heard the friend whisper. And in a
moment more, “Her heart does not beat!”

I have dwelt at length upon the character and life of my maternal
grandmother because of my solemn conviction that I inherit what humble
talent is mine from her. I cannot recall the time when everything
connected with her did not possess for me a sweet and weird charm; when
the fancy that this _petite_ woman, with a heart and soul too great for
her physique, was my guardian angel, did not stay my soul and renew my
courage in all good emprises.

Her profiled portrait hangs before me as I write. The features are
finely chiselled and high-bred; the expression is sweet. She wears a
close cap with a lace border (she was but fifty-three at death!), and a
crimped frill stands up about a slender neck.

My fantasy may be a figment of the imagination. I cherish it with a
tenacity that tells me it is more. That my mother shared it was proved
by her legacy to me of all the books and other relics of her mother
she possessed at the time of her own decease, and the richer legacy of
tales of that mother’s life and words, her deeds of mercy and love,
which cannot but make me a better woman.

The mortal remains of my patron saint lie in the old family
burying-ground. War, in its rudest shape, swept over the ancestral
acres for two years. Trees, centuries old, were cut down; ruffian
soldiery camped upon and tramped over desolated fields; outbuildings
were destroyed, and the cosey home stripped of porches and wings,
leaving it a pitiful shell. Captain Sterling had fought at Germantown
and Monmouth, leading his Henrico troopers in the train of Washington
and Gates. And Northern cannon and Southern musketry jarred his bones
after their rest of half a century in the country graveyard!

Yet—and this I like to think of—the periwinkle that opens its blue eyes
in the early springtime, and the long-stemmed narcissus, waving its
golden censers above the tangled grasses, spring from the roots _her_
dear hands buried there one hundred years ago.



II

LAFAYETTE—REVOLUTIONARY TALES—PARENTS’ MARRIAGE


MY father’s wooing, carried on, now at Dr. Rice’s house in town, now
at Olney, progressed propitiously. During the engagement, Lafayette
visited Richmond. My father was a member of the once-famous volunteer
company, the Richmond Blues, and marched with it when it was detailed
as a body-guard for the illustrious guest of the nation. My mother
walked at the head of her class of Sunday-school children in the
procession of women and girls mustered here to do him honor, as was
done in Trenton and other towns. She kept among her treasured relics
the blue-satin badge, with Lafayette’s likeness stamped on it in
silver, which she wore upon her left shoulder. The Blues were arrayed
in Continental uniform, with powdered hair. So completely was my father
metamorphosed by the costume that, when, at the close of the parade, he
presented himself in Dr. Rice’s drawing-room to pay his devoirs to his
fiancée, she did not recognize him until he spoke.

I have heard the particulars of that day’s pageant and of Lafayette’s
behavior at the public reception awarded him by a grateful people,
so often that I seem to have been part of the scene in a former
incarnation. So vivid were my reminiscences that, when a bride and
a guest at Redhill, the former home of Patrick Henry, I exchanged
incidents and sayings with the great orator’s son, Mr. John Henry, who
had been on the Committee of Reception in 1824. In the enthusiasm of
his own recollections of the fête he inquired, naïvely:

“Do you, then, remember Lafayette’s visit to America so well?”

The general burst of merriment that went around the table, and Wirt
Henry’s respectful, half-distressed—“Why, father! she wasn’t born!”
brought both of us back to the actual and present time and place.

A large platform erected upon the Capitol Square was filled with
distinguished guests and officials. From this Lafayette reviewed the
regiments of soldiers, and here he stood when the schools of the city
sent up as their representative a pretty little girl, eight or ten
years of age, to “speak a piece” written for the occasion by a local
bard. The midget went through the task bravely, but with filling eyes
and trembling limbs. Her store of factitious courage exhaled with the
last line reeled off from the red lips, and, with a scared, piteous
look into the benign face brought upon a level with hers by the table
upon which she had been set, like an animated puppet, she cast herself
upon the great man’s decorated breast and wept sore. He kissed and
cuddled and soothed her as he might pet his own grandchild, and not
until she could return his smile, and he had dried her tears upon his
laced handkerchief, did he transfer her to other arms.

Major James Morton, of “Willington,” Prince Edward County, who married
my grandmother’s sister Mary, of Montrose, had served under Lafayette
and came down to Richmond to do honor to his former chief. The Major’s
_sobriquet_ in the army was “Solid Column,” in reference to his
“stocky” build. Although he had been on Washington’s staff, he did not
expect to be recognized, after the lapse of thirty years and more, by
the renowned Frenchman, who had passed since their parting through a
bloodier revolution than that which won freedom for America.

General Lafayette was standing at the head of the ball-room (which was,
I think, in the Eagle Hotel), where he received the crowds of citizens
and military flocking to pay their respects, when he espied his whilom
comrade on the outskirts of the throng. Instantly stepping outside of
the cordon of aids and attendants, the Marquis held out both hands with:

“Vy, old So_lee_d Col_uu_me! I am ’appy to see you!”

A marvellous memory and a more marvellous facile tongue and quick
wit had the distinguished leader of freedom-lovers! There lived in
Richmond, until the latter quarter of the nineteenth century, a stately
gentlewoman of the very old school whom we, of two younger generations,
regarded with prideful veneration, and with reason. For Lafayette, who
had seen her dance at the aforesaid ball, had pronounced her, audibly,
“the handsomest woman he had seen in America.” Time had handled her
disrespectfully by the time I heard the tale. But I never questioned
the truth of it until I found in three other cities as many antique
belles upon whom he had set a seal of the self-same pattern.

We were generously fed with authentic stories of Revolutionary days in
my far-off childhood. I have sat at Major Morton’s feet and learned
of the veteran much that nobody else wots of in our rushing times. I
recall his emphatic denial of the assertion made by a Fourth-of-July
orator to the effect that so grievous was the weight of public cares
upon the Commander-in-Chief, he was never seen to smile during those
eventful eight years of struggle and suspense.

“Not a word of truth in it, sir!” Thus old Solid Column to the man
who reported the speech to him. “I was with him at Valley Forge, sir,
and nobody there tried harder to keep up the spirits of the men. I
recollect, particularly, one bitter cold day, when a dozen or so of the
officers were amusing themselves and trying to get warm by jumping up
and down, leaping high up in the air and trying to clap their heels
together twice before they struck the ground in coming down. General
Greene was sure he could do it, but he was fleshy and never light on
his feet, besides being naturally sober. He was a Quaker, you know,
and was turned out of meeting for joining the army. Well, on this
particular day he took his turn with the others in jumping. And a
poor hand he was at it! He couldn’t clap his heels together once on
the way down, let alone twice. By-and-by he made a tremendous effort
and pitched over, head down and heels up—flat on the snow. General
Washington was watching them from where he stood in his tent door, and
when General Greene went down—how the General laughed! He fairly held
his sides!

“‘Ah, Greene!’ he called out. ‘You were always a lubberly fellow!’

“I am not saying he wasn’t one of the gravest men I ever saw, as a
rule, but he often smiled, and he did laugh sometimes.”

My grandfather’s uncle and godfather, Sterling Smith, was one of our
family Revolutionary heroes. My mother, who had a fair talent for
mimicry, had an anecdote of the old war-horse’s defence of Washington
against the oft-repeated charge of profanity upon the field of Monmouth:

“‘He did not swear!’ the veteran would thunder when irreverent
youngsters retailed the slander in his hearing—and with malice
prepense. ‘I was close behind him—and I can tell you, sir, we rode
_fast_—when what should we meet, running away, licketty-split, from the
field of battle, with the British almost on their heels, but Gen’ral
Lee and his men?

“‘Then, with that, says Gen’ral Washington, speaking out loud and
sharp—says he, “Gen’ral Lee! in God’s name, sir, what is the meaning of
this ill-timed prudence?”

“‘Now, you see, Gen’ral Lee, he was mighty high-sperrited always, and
all of us could hear what was going on. So he speaks up as haughty as
the Gen’ral had done, and says he:

“‘“I know of no one who has more of that most damnable virtue than your
Excellency!”

“‘So, you see, young man, it was Gen’ral Lee that swore, and not
Gen’ral Washington! Don’t you ever let me hear that lie again!’”

A Revolutionary reminiscence of my mother’s (or mine) is always renewed
by the sight of an Old Virginia plantation-gate, swinging gratingly on
ponderous hinges and kept shut by the fall of a wooden latch, two yards
long, into a wooden hook set in the gate-post. This latch is usually
nearly half-way down the gate, and a horseman approaching it from the
outside must dismount to lift the heavy bar, or be practised in the
trick of throwing himself well over the top-rail to reach the latch and
hold it, while he guides his horse through the narrow opening.

My grandfather, “Captain Sterling,” was at the head of a foraging-party
near Yorktown when they were chased by British troopers. The Americans
scattered in various directions and escaped for the most part, being
familiar with the country by-ways and cross-roads. Their captain was
closely pursued by three troopers to a high plantation-gate. The
Virginian opened it, without leaving the saddle, shot through, shut the
gate, and rammed down the latch into the socket _hard_. The pursuers
had to alight to raise the latch, and the delay gave the fugitive time
to get away.

My parents were married at Olney, in Henrico County, January 25, 1825.

The bride—not yet nineteen years of age—wore a soft, sheer India
muslin, a veil falling to the hem of the gown, and white brocade
slippers embroidered with faint blue flowers. The bridegroom’s suit
was of fine blue cloth, with real silver buttons. His feet were clad
in white-silk stockings and low shoes—“pumps” as they were called—with
wrought-silver buckles. Those shoes and buckles were long preserved in
the family. I do not know what befell them finally. The ceremony was
performed by the brother-in-law whom I have called, for the sake of
convenience, the Reverend Mr. Carus.

The girl had laughingly threatened that she would not promise to
“obey,” and that a scene would follow the use of the obnoxious word in
the marriage service. The young divine, with this in mind, or in a fit
of absent-mindedness or of stage-fright, actually blundered out, “Love,
honor—and obey, _in all things consistent_!”

As may be imagined, the interpolation produced a lively sensation in
the well-mannered company thronging the homestead, and took rank as a
family legend. How many times I have heard my mother quote the saving
clause in playful monition to my masterful father!

The bride’s portion, on leaving home for the house her father had
furnished for her in town, was ten thousand dollars in stocks and
bonds, and two family servants—a husband and wife.

The following summer the wedded pair visited the husband’s mother in
Roxbury, Massachusetts. The journey from Richmond to New York was by
a packet-ship, and lasted for two weeks. My poor little mother was
horribly seasick for a week each way. To her latest day she could not
hear of “Point Judith” without a qualm. She said that, for a time,
the association “disgusted her with her own name.” The mother-in-law,
hale and handsome at forty-five, had married, less than a year before,
Deacon John Clapp, a well-to-do and excellent citizen of Roxbury, and
installed the buxom, “capable” widow, whose father was now dead, as
the mother of four children by a former marriage, and as mistress of
a comfortable home. She had not come to him portionless. The sturdy
“Squire,” mindful of her filial devotion to him in his declining
years, had left her an equal share of his estate with her sisters. The
brother, Lewis Pierce, had succeeded to the homestead.

Mrs. Clapp appeared in the door of her pretty house, radiant in her
best black silk and cap of fine lace (she never wore any other), her
husband at her side, the little girls and the boy in the background, as
the stage bringing her son and new daughter from Boston stopped at the
gate.

At their nearer approach she uttered an exclamation, flung up her hands
before her eyes, and ran back into the house for the “good cry” the
calmest matron of the day considered obligatory upon her when state
family occasions demanded a show of “proper feeling.”

The worthy Deacon saved the situation from embarrassment by the
heartiness of his welcome to the pair, neither of whom he had ever met
before.

The second incident linked in my mind with the important visit is of
a more serious complexion. I note it upon Memory’s tablets as the
solitary exhibition of aught approaching jealousy I ever saw in the
wife, who knew that her lover-husband’s heart was all her own, then and
as long as it beat. I give the story in her own words:

“A Miss Topliffe and her mother were invited to take tea with us one
evening. I had gathered from sundry hints—and eloquent sighs—from your
grandmother that she had set her heart upon a match between her son
and this young lady. She even went to the length of advising me to pay
particular attention to my dress on this evening. ‘Miss Topliffe was
very dressy!’ I found this to be true. She was also an airy personage,
talkative to your father, and supercilious to me. A few days afterward
we were asked to tea at the Topliffes. I had a wretched evening! Miss
Topliffe was rather handsome and very lively, and she was in high
feather that night, directing most of her conversation, as before,
to my husband. She played upon the piano, and sang love-songs, and
altogether made herself the attraction of the occasion. I felt small
and insignificant and dull beside her, and I could see that she amused
your father so much that he did not see how I was pushed into the
background.

“I said never a word of all this to him, still less to my
mother-in-law, when she told me, next day, that ‘every one of his
friends had hoped my son would marry Miss Topliffe. The match would
have been very agreeable to both families. But it seems that it was not
to be. The ways of Providence are past finding out!’

“Then she sighed, just as she might have mourned over a bereavement in
the family. I have _hated_ that girl ever since!”

“But, mother,” I essayed, consolingly, “you knew he loved you best all
the time!”

“Of course, child, but _she_ didn’t! There was the rub!”

I can respond now. It always is the bitter drop at the bottom of the
cup held to the lips of the wife who cannot resent her lord’s innocent
flirtation with “that other woman.” She knows, and he is serenely
conscious of his unshaken loyalty, but the other woman has her own
beliefs and hugs them.

In May, 1826, my brother William Edwin was born in the cosey home on
the slope of Church Hill overlooking the “Pineapple Church.” More than
forty years afterward, in the last drive I had with my mother, she
leaned forward in the carriage to point out the neat three-story brick
dwelling, now in the heart of the business section of the city:

“That was the house in which I spent the first three years of my
married life!”

Then, dreamily and softly, she related what was the peaceful tenor of
those first years. Her father was alive, and she saw him often; her
sister, “Aunt Betsy,” and her children kept the old home-nest warm for
him; the young couple had hosts of friends in town and country, and
both were as deeply interested, as of yore, in church-work.

Edwin was two years old when a single bolt from the blue changed life
for her.

My father’s partner was a personal and trusted friend before they went
into business together. They had kept bachelor’s hall in partnership
up to the marriage of the junior member of the firm. It transpired
subsequently that the senior, who was the financial manager of the
concern, had “cooked” accounts and made up false exhibits of the status
of the house to coax the confiding comrade to join his fortunes with
his. The tale is old and as common to-day as when my father discovered
that his own savings and my mother’s wedding-portion would be swallowed
up in the payment of his partner’s debts.

It was dark and bitter weather that swept down upon the peaceful home
and blighted the ambitions of the rising young merchant.

The man who had brought about the reverse of fortune “took to drink.”
That was likewise as common then as now. My father paid his debts,
wound up the business honestly, and braced himself to begin the world
anew.

In his chagrin at the overthrow of plans and hopes, he somewhat rashly
accepted the proposal that the fresh beginning should be in the
country. Richmond was full of disagreeable associations, and country
merchants were making money.

Country “storekeeping” was then as honorable as the calling of a
city merchant. In fact, many town-houses had rural branches. It was
not unusual for a city man to set up his son in one of these, thus
controlling the trade of a larger territory than a single house could
command. There were no railways in Virginia. Merchandise was carried
all over the state in big, covered wagons, known in Pennsylvania as
“Conestogas.” Long-bodied, with hooped awnings of sail-cloth lashed
over the ark-like interior to keep out dust and rain, and drawn by six
powerful draught-horses, the leaders wearing sprays of bells, they
were a picturesque feature of country roads. Fortunes were amassed by
the owners of wagon-lines, the great arks keeping the road winter and
summer, and well laden both ways. Planters had their teams and wagons
for hauling tobacco and other crops to town, and bringing back stores
of groceries and dry-goods at stated periods in the spring and autumn;
but between times they were glad to avail themselves of the caravans
for transportation of butter, eggs, poultry, potatoes, dried fruits,
yarn, cotton, and other domestic products to the city, to be sold or
bartered for articles they could not raise.

In such a wheeléd boat the furniture and personal belongings of our
small family were transported from Richmond to Dennisville, Amelia
County, a journey of two dreary days.

Husband, wife, and baby travelled in their own barouche, my father
acting as coachman. Sam and Milly, the colored servants, had preceded
them by two days, taking passage in the Conestoga. One November
afternoon, the carriage drew up at the future home of the three
passengers. The dwelling adjoined the store—a circumstance that shocked
the city woman. The joint structure was of wood, mean in dimensions and
inconvenient in plan. Dead leaves were heaped about the steps. As Baby
Edwin was lifted from the carriage to the ground, he stood knee-deep in
the rustling leaves, and began to cry with the cold and the strangeness
of it all. Not a carpet was down, and the efforts of the faithful
servants to make two rooms home-like for “Miss Jud’ Anna” increased
the forlornness of the situation by reminding her of the habitation and
friends she had left behind.

It was a comfortless winter and spring. I fancy it was as delightless
to the husband as to the wife—just turning her twenty-first year,
and learning for the first time in her sheltered life the taste of
privation. She loved her church, her father and her sister and dear
old Olney—unchanged while she dwelt so far apart from them and it
and home-comforts; she was fond of society, and in Richmond she had
her merry circle close at hand. In Dennisville she had, literally,
no neighbors, and without the walls of her house no palliatives of
homesickness. The cottage was small; her servants were trained,
diligent, and solicitous to spare her toil and inconvenience; her
husband and her distant friends kept her supplied with books, and as
the period of her second confinement drew near she yielded more and
more to natural lassitude, spent the summer days upon the sofa or in
bed, reading, and rarely left the house on foot.

In direct consequence, as she ever afterward maintained, of this
indolent mode of life, she went down to the gate of death when her
first daughter, Ann Almeria (named for two grandmothers), was born in
June.

Providentially, an able specialist from another county was visiting a
friend upon a neighboring plantation, and the local practitioner, at
his wits’ end, chanced to think of him. A messenger was sent for him in
hot haste, and he saved the life of mother and child. The baby was puny
and delicate, and was a source of anxiety throughout her childhood.



III

A COUNTRY EXILE—DEATH OF THE FIRST-BORN—CHANGE OF HOME—A FIRESIDE
TRAGEDY—“COGITO, ERGO SUM.”


I, the third child born to my parents, was but a few months old when my
little brother was taken by my father to Roxbury and left there with
his grandmother.

This singular and painful episode in our family history illustrates
more clearly than could any mere description, the mode of thought and
action prevalent at that date respecting the training and education of
children.

Our parents lived in an obscure country village, a mere hamlet,
destitute of school and social privileges. The few families who, with
them, made up the population of the hamlet were their inferiors in
breeding and education; their children were a lawless, ill-mannered
set, and the only school near them was what was known as “an old field
school” upon the outskirts of a plantation three miles away. Little
Edwin, a bright, intelligent laddie, was taught to read and write by
his mother before he was five. He loved books; but he was restless
for the lack of playfellows of his own age. His father was bent upon
giving him all the learning that could be crammed into one small
head, and cast about for opportunities of carrying out the design.
The grandmother begged to have one of the children for a long visit;
schooling of an advanced type was to be had within a stone’s-throw
of her door, and the boy, if intrusted to her, would have a mother’s
care. My father urged the measure upon his weaker-willed wife. She
opposed it less and less strenuously until the boy came in from the
street one day with an oath in his mouth he had learned from one of the
Dennisville boys.

“That night, upon my knees, and with a breaking heart, I consented to
let him go North,” the mother told me, falteringly, when I was a woman
grown.

The father hurried him off within the week—I imagine lest she might
change her mind—and remained in Roxbury three weeks with him to
accustom him to his new abode. His letters written during this absence
are cheerful—I am disposed to say, “obstinately optimistic.” I detect,
too, a touch of diplomacy in the remarks dropped here and there, as to
his mortification at finding Edwin so “backward in his education by
comparison with other children of his age,” and the bright prospects
opening for his future in the “excellent school of which everybody
speaks highly.”

The day before his father left him, Edwin accompanied him to Boston,
and books were bought for his sister, with a pretty gift for his
mother. He had grown quite fond of his grandmother, so the father
reported when he arrived at home, and the kind-hearted “Deacon was as
good as another boy.”

Letters came with gratifying regularity—fortnightly—from Roxbury.
The boy was going to school and making amends for his “backwardness”
by diligence and proficiency. I have laid away in our family Bible
quaintly worded “Rewards of Merit”—printed forms upon paper which
crackles under the fingers that unfold it—testifying to perfect
recitations and good behavior. The boy’s name and the testimonials
are filled in by his woman teacher in legible, ladylike script. The
fortnightly epistles told of the child’s health and “nice” behavior. I
fancy that more stress was laid upon the last item by his grandmother
than upon the first. My father expressed himself as satisfied with the
result of the experiment. The mother mourned secretly for the merry
voice and bonny face of her darling. At the end of three months the
longing leaped the bounds of wifely submission, and she won from her
husband the admission that home was not home without his boy. They
would go in company to Roxbury next summer and bring him back with
them. If he were to be sent from home to school, they would commit him
to the Olney or Richmond kinspeople. Roxbury was a cruel distance from
central Virginia.

A month later two letters were brought to my father’s counting-room
with the Richmond mail. One told of Edwin’s dangerous illness, the
second of his death and burial. His malady—brain-fever—was set down
by the grandmother to “the visitation of God.” In view of his rapid
progress in learning, and the strict discipline of the household in
which he studied the lessons to be recited on the morrow, and without a
blunder, we may hold a different opinion, and one that exonerates the
Deity of direct interference in the work.

Be this as it may, the precious five-year-old had died so far from his
mother’s arms that, had she set out immediately upon receipt of the
news of his illness, a month would have elapsed between the departure
of the letter from Roxbury and her arrival there, if she had travelled
day and night. His earthly education was finished.

The stricken father, staring at the brace of fatal letters—couched, you
may be sure, in duly pietistic phrase and interlarded with Scripture
texts—had the terrible task of breaking the news to the mother whose
happy dream and talk were all of “when we go North for our boy.”

He carried the letters home. His wife was not in “the chamber,” where
a colored nurse—another family servant—was in charge of the two little
girls. Hearing her footsteps approaching presently, the strong man’s
heart failed him suddenly. He retreated behind the open door, actually
afraid to face the gentle woman to whom his will was law.

Suspecting a practical joke, my light-hearted mother pulled back the
door, the knob of which he had clutched in his desperate misery, saw
his face and the letters in his hand, and fell in a dead faint at his
feet.

In the summer of 1863 I visited the little grave with my husband. Civil
War raged like a sea of blood between North and South. The parents had
not seen Edwin’s last resting-place in several years. I knew the way
to the secluded corner of the old Dorchester Cemetery where, beside
the kind old step-grandfather who loved the boy while living, lies the
first-born of our Virginia home. The stone is inscribed with his name
and the names of his parents, the dates of his birth and death, and
below these:

    “Our trust is in the Lord.”

None of our friends in Roxbury and Dorchester knew so much as the
child’s name. The headstone leaned one way, the footstone another,
and a desolate hollow, telling of total neglect, lay between. Yet
right above the heart of the forgotten boy was a tumbler of white
flowers, still fresh. By whom left we never knew, although we made many
inquiries. Dr. Terhune had the grave remounded and turfed, the stones
cleaned and set upright, and at the second visit that assured us this
was done, we covered the grave with flowers.

In my next “flag-of-truce” letter, I wrote to let his mother know what
we had seen and done, and of the bunch of white flowers left by the
nameless friend.

Our grandmother treasured and sent home to his mother, after a while,
the child’s clothing and every toy and book that had been his, even a
hard cracker bearing the imprint of the tiny teeth he was too weak to
set firmly in the biscuit.

The preservation of the odd relic was the only touch of poetry I ever
discerned in the granite nature of my father’s mother.

With him the sorrow for his boy lasted with his life. Thirty years
afterward I heard Edwin’s name from his lips for the first time.

“No other child has ever been to me what he was!” he said. “And the
pain is as keen now as it was then.”

Then he arose and began pacing the room, as was his habit when strongly
moved, hands behind his back, head depressed, and lips closely folded.

He loved the child so passing well that he could sacrifice his own joy
in his companionship to what he believed to be the child’s better good.

After this bereavement the Dennisville life became insupportably sad. I
think it was more in consequence of this than for pecuniary profit that
my father, the next year, removed his family to Lunenburg.

My mother could never speak of her residence in Amelia County without
a pale shudder. Yet that it was not wasted time, I have evidences from
other sources.

Part of a letter written to her at Olney in the early spring succeeding
the removal to Dennisville shows with what cheerful courage my father
set about church and neighborhood work. Next to his home and the loved
ones gathered there, the church of which he was a loyal son had his
best energies and warmest thought.

    “You cannot imagine how solitary I am. I could not have
    thought that the absence of my dear wife and child would
    create so great a vacuum in my life. I do not wish to hasten
    your return from your friends, but you may rest assured
    that I shall be heartily glad when you come home. I got
    home on Sunday morning, and found Mr. White here in quiet
    possession of the house. His wife did not come with him on
    account of the bad roads.

    “He gave us for a text John xv: 25:—‘They hated me without a
    cause.’

    “The congregation was nearly, if not quite, as large as when
    he preached the first time, and very attentive. Many express
    a wish to hear him again. He gave notice that he would on
    the third Sunday in March preach, and also mentioned that
    an effort would be made to establish a Sabbath-school and
    Bible-class. It is really encouraging to see how readily
    many of the people fall into the measure, without going from
    home, too. Fathers have given their names to me, wishing to
    send their children, and several others I have heard of who
    appear anxious to embrace the opportunity. Doctor Shore and
    Mr. White dined with me yesterday, and quite unexpectedly
    I had the pleasure of Doctor Shore, Mr. Bland, and Mr.
    Lancaster at dinner with me to-day. So you see that I now
    get the society of all the good folks while you are away.
    But do not be jealous, for Doctor S. had not heard of your
    absence, and apologized for Mrs. Shore and Mrs. Hardy not
    calling on you, saying that he considered it as his and
    their duty so to do, and they would not be so remiss for the
    future. You cannot imagine what a rain we have had for the
    last twelve hours, accompanied with thunder and lightning.
    All the creeks about us are impassable, so that we live, I
    may say, in a corner with but one way to get out without
    swimming, and that is to go to Prince Edward. We can get
    there when we can go nowhere else. I have got a hen-house
    _full_ of eggs, and have been working right hard to-day to
    make the hens and an old Muscovy set on them, but they are
    obstinate things, and will have their own way, so I have
    given it up as a bad job. Don’t forget to ask Mr. Carus for
    some of the _big_ pumpkin seed. By-the-by, Mrs. Branch had
    found out before I returned who I was, where I lived, what
    I did, and, in fact, knew almost as much about me as I did
    myself. These wagoners are great telltales! To-morrow I pen
    a pig for you. The calves and cows are in good order. I will
    try to have some fresh butter for you. _Bose is in excellent
    health_, and the rats are as plentiful as ever. You must
    kiss our little one for me, and take thousands for yourself.
    I again repeat that time hangs heavy on my hands when you
    are away, but I would not be so selfish as to debar you the
    pleasure of a few days’ society with those who are dear to
    us both.”

The “Mr. White” mentioned in this letter became an eminent clergyman
as Rev. William Spotswood White, D.D. The services described here
were held in a private house in Dennisville, for the nearest place of
regular worship was some miles away in Nottoway County. In this church
my father was ordained an elder. He was, also, superintendent of the
Sunday-school established through his personal influence. The pupils
and teachers were collected from the surrounding plantations, and the
new-comer to the sleepy neighborhood made life-long friends with the
“best people” of the region.

Quite unconsciously, he gives us, in this résumé of every-day
happenings, glimpses into a life at once primitive and refined. The
roads are all afloat, but three men draw rein at his door on one day,
and dine with him while his wife is away—“an unexpected pleasure.” He
busies himself with chickens, eggs, and pigs, cows and calves, reports
the health of the house-dog, the promise of Sabbath-school and church,
and runs the only store in that part of the county successfully. And
this was the first experience of country life for the city-bred man and
merchant!

The Lunenburg home was not even a “ville.” A house that had been a
rural inn, and, across the road, a hundred yards down its irregular
length, “the store,” formed, with the usual outbuildings, the small
settlement three days distant from Richmond. My father and mother
boarded for a few months with Captain and Mrs. Bragg, who lived in the
whilom “House of Entertainment” on the roadside.

I was but two years old when there occurred a calamity, the
particulars of which I have heard so often that I seem to recollect
them for myself:

One cold winter day my mother left her little daughters with their toys
at the end of the large bedroom most remote from a roaring wood-fire;
told them not to go nearer to it, and took her work down to Mrs.
Bragg’s chamber. The gentle hostess had a baby but a week old, and her
boarder’s call was one of neighborly kindness. On the stairs she met
Lucy Bragg, a child about my sister’s age—five—a pretty, merry baby,
and our only playfellow. My mother’s discipline was never harsh. It was
ever effectual, for we seldom disobeyed her. She stopped Lucy on the
stairs to warn her not to play near the fire.

We played happily together for an hour or two, before Lucy complained
of being cold and went up to the fireplace; stood there for a moment,
her back to the fire and hands behind her, prattling with the children
at the other end of the room. Suddenly she screamed and darted past us,
her clothing on fire.

My mother heard the shrieks from the distant “chamber” on the ground
floor, and, without arousing the sleeping patient, slipped noiselessly
from the room and ran with all her might toward the stairs. Half-way up
she met a child wrapped in flames, which she was beating with her poor
little hands while she shrieked for help. My mother flashed by her,
escaping harm on the narrow stairway as by a miracle. One glance into
her own room showed her that her girls were safe; she tore a blanket
from the bed and was back so quickly that she overtook the burning
figure on the lowermost stair, and wrapped her in the blanket. Captain
Bragg appeared below at the same instant, wound the cover about the
frantic, struggling creature, and extinguished the fire.

Little Lucy died that night. Her mother and the baby followed her to
the grave in a week.

The tragedy broke up the Bragg household, and we found a temporary home
in the family of Mr. Andrew McQuie (pronounced “McWay”), two miles from
the store. The McQuies were prosperous planters, and the intimacy begun
that winter continued as long as the older members of the clan lived.
We girls learned to call her “Grandma,” and never remitted the title
and the affection that prompted it.

Our apartments were in the “Office,” a detached brick building
in the corner of the house-yard—a common appendage to most
plantation-homesteads. At some period of the family history a father or
son of the house had practised law or medicine, and used the “office”
in that capacity. It never lost the name.

And here, on a windy wintry evening, I awoke to the consciousness of my
Individuality.

I do not know how better to express the earliest memory I have of
being—and thinking. It was a living demonstration of the great truth
shallow thinkers never comprehend—“_Cogito, ergo sum_.”

I had fallen asleep, tired with play, and lulled into drowsiness by the
falling rain outside. I lay among the pillows of the trundle-bed at
the back of the room, and, awakening with a cry of fright at finding
myself, as I thought, alone, was answered by my mother’s voice.

She sat by the fire in a low rocking-chair, and, guided by her
reassuring tone, I tumbled out of bed and ran toward her. In the area
lighted by the burning logs, I saw her, as in another sphere. To this
hour I recall the impression that she was thinking of something besides
myself. Baby as I was, I felt vaguely that she was not “all there,”
even when she took me upon her lap. When she said, kindly and in her
own sweet way, “Did my little girl think her mother had left her alone
in the dark?” she did not withdraw her eyes from the ruddy fire.

Something warned me not to speak again. I leaned my head against her
shoulder, and we studied the fire together. Did the intensity of her
musing stir my dormant soul into life? I cannot say. Only that I date
my conscious personal existence from that mystic hour. The picture is
before me to-night, as I hear my daughter singing her boy to sleep in
the next room, and the lake-wind rattles the vines about my window. The
sough of the heated air over the brands and embers; the slow motion of
the rocker as we swayed to and fro; my mother’s thoughtful silence,
and my small self, awed into speechlessness by the new thing that had
come to me; my pulpy brain interfused with the knowledge that I was a
thinking entity, and unable to grapple with the revelation—all this is
as distinct as things of yesternight.

I have heard but one experience that resembled this supreme moment of
my infancy. My best-beloved tutor related to me when I was twelve years
old that he “recollected when he began to think.” The sensation, he
said, was as if he were talking to himself and could not stop. I had
that day heard the epigrammatic “_Cogito, ergo sum_,” and I told of my
awakening from a mere animal to spiritual and intellectual life.

I do not comprehend the mystery better now than on that
never-to-be-forgotten evening. I but know that the miracle _was_!



IV

A BERSERKER RAGE—A FRIGHT—THE WESTERN FEVER—MONTROSE—A MOTHER REGAINED


UP to this point of my story, what I have written is hearsay. With the
awakening recorded in the last chapter, my real reminiscences begin.

The next vivid impression upon my plastic memory has its setting in
the McQuie yard. My mother had been to Richmond on a visit and brought
back, as a present from a woman who was said to be “good,” a doll for
my sister. Perhaps she considered me too young to be intrusted with the
keeping of the rare creation of wax and real hair. Perhaps she did not
recollect my existence. In either case, as I promptly settled within
myself, she was not the good woman of my mother’s painting.

Not that I had ever cared for “dead dolls.” When I could just put
the wish into words, my craving was for a “real, live, _skin_ baby
that could laugh and talk.” But this specimen was so nearly alive
that it opened its eyes when one pulled a wire concealed by the satin
petticoat, and shut them at another tweak. Moreover, the (alleged) good
woman in the beautiful city I heard as much of as of heaven, had sent
my sister the gift, and none to me. Furthermore, and worst of all, my
sister paraded the gift before my angry, miserable eyes, and, out of
my mother’s hearing, taunted me with the evident fact that “nobody
cared for a little girl whose hands were dirty and whose hair was never
smooth.” I was barely three years old. My sister was a prodigy of
learning in the estimation of our acquaintances, and nearer six than
five. I took in the case with extraordinary clearness of judgment and
soreness of heart, and meditated revenge.

Watching an opportunity when mother, nurse, and sister were out of
the way, I stole into the office-cottage, possessed myself of the
hated puppet, who had been put into my bed for an afternoon nap—lying
there for all the world like “a sure-enough baby,” with her eyes fast
shut—and bore her off behind the house. There I stripped off her
gay attire; twisted a string about her neck; contrived—nobody could
ever tell how—to fasten one end of the cord to the lowest bough of a
peach-tree, armed myself with a stout switch, and lashed every grain of
sawdust out of the dangling effigy.

I recollect that my sister, rushing to the scene of action, dared not
approach the fury into which I had been transformed, but stood aloof,
screaming and wringing her hands. I have no recollection of my mother’s
interference, or of the chastisement which, I have been told, was
inflicted with the self-same rod that had mangled the detested doll
into a shapeless rag. In my berserker rage I probably did not hear
scolding or feel stripes.

My father rented the house vacated by the Braggs, finding the daily
ride to and from the store too long in the short winter days. Soon
after our return to our old quarters, another boy was born to the
bereaved parents—my brother Herbert. He was but a few days old when
“Grandma” McQuie and her two daughters called to inquire after mother
and child, and carried me off with them, I suppose to get me out of the
way of nurse and mother. My whole body was a-tingle with excitement
when I found myself snugly tucked up in shawls on the back seat of the
roomy chariot, beside the dear old lady, and rolling down the road. We
had not gone far before she untied and took off my bonnet, and tied
over my curly head a great red bandanna handkerchief “to keep your ears
warm.” The warm color and the delicious cosiness of the covering put
an idea into my head. I had heard the story of Red Riding Hood from
my colored nurse, and I had already the trick of “playing ladies,” as
I named the story-making that has been my trade ever since. I was Red
Riding Hood, and my grandmother was taking me away from the wolf. The
woods we presently entered were full of fairies. They swung from the
little branches of shrubs that brushed the carriage-windows, and peeped
at me from behind the boles of oak and hickory, and climbed to the top
of sweetbrier sprays writhing in the winter wind. One and all, they did
obeisance to me as I drove in my state coach through the forest aisles.
I nodded back industriously, and would have kissed my hand to them had
not Grandma McQuie told me to keep it under the shawl.

My companions in the carriage paid no attention to my smiles and
antics. They were busy talking of their own affairs, and probably did
not give the silent child a look or thought. A word or a curious glance
would have spoiled the glorious fun that lasted until I was lifted in
Mr. McQuie’s arms at his hospitable door.

I never spoke of the “make believe.” What child does?

The Bragg house was roomy and rambling, and nobody troubled herself to
look after me when I would steal away alone to the stairs leading to
the room we had occupied while Mrs. Bragg and Lucy were alive, and sit
on the steps which still bore the stains of the scorching flames that
had licked up poor Lucy’s life, and dreaming over the details as I had
had them, over and over, from my sister and ’Lizabeth, the colored girl
whose life-work was to “look after” us three.

Just opposite the door of our old room was one that was always closed
and locked and bolted. It shared in the ghoul-like interest I gave to
the scorched stairs, and there was reason for this. The furniture of
Mrs. Bragg’s chamber was stored here. Through a wide keyhole I could
espy the corner of a bureau, and all of a Boston rocker, cushioned and
valanced with dark-red calico. This, I assumed in the fancies which
were more real than what I beheld with the bodily eyes, had been the
favorite seat of the dead woman.

One wild March day, when the rain thundered upon the roof over my head,
and the staircase and hall echoed with sighs and whistlings, my eye,
glued to the awful keyhole, saw the chair begin to rock! Slowly and
slightly; but it actually swayed back and forth, and, to the horrified
fancy of the credulous infant without, there grew into view a shadowy
form—a pale lady about whose slight figure flowed a misty robe, and who
held a baby in her arms.

One long, wild look sufficed to show me this. Then I sped down the
stairs like a lapwing, and into the dining-room, where sat ’Lizabeth
holding my baby brother. I rushed up to her and babbled my story
in panting incoherence. I had seen a ghost sitting in Mrs. Bragg’s
rocking-chair, getting a baby to sleep!

The exemplary nurse was adequate to the occasion thrust suddenly upon
her. Without waiting to draw breath, she gave me the lie direct, and
warned me that “Mistis wouldn’t stan’ no sech dreadful stories. Ef so
be you wan’ a whippin’ sech as you never had befo’ in all yer born
days, you jes’ better run into the chamber an’ tell her what you done
tole me, Miss Firginny!”

I did not go. Suppression of the awful truth was preferable to
the certainty of a chastisement. Our parents were strict in their
prohibition of all bugaboo and ghost stories. That may have been the
reason we heard so many. It certainly accounts for our reticence on
subjects that crammed our brains with fancies and chilled the marrow
in our young bones.

The wind, finding its way between sashes and under the ill-fitting
doors of the old house, no doubt set the chair in motion. My heated
imagination did the rest. Five minutes’ talk with my mother or one
hearty laugh from my father would have laid the spectre. She loomed up
more and more distinctly before my mental vision because I kept the
awesome experience locked within my own heaving heart.

Another thrilling incident, framed in memory as a fadeless fresco
upon the wall of a locked temple, is the Bragg burial-lot, in which
lay Lucy, her mother and baby-brother, and Mrs. Moore, Mrs. Bragg’s
mother, who had followed her daughter to the grave a few weeks before
we returned to the house. A low brick wall enclosed the plot, which was
overgrown with neglected shrubbery and briers. On a certain day I set
my small head like a flint upon the execution of no less an enterprise
than a visit to the forbidden ground and a peep through the gates at
the _graves_! I had never seen one. I do not know what I expected to
behold of raw-head-and-bloody-bones horror. But ’Lizabeth’s hobgoblin
and vampire recitals had enkindled within me a burning curiosity to
inspect a charnel-house. Visions of skeletons lying on the bare ground,
of hovering spectres and nameless Udolphian marvels, wrought me up to
the expedition. The graveyard was a long way off—quite at the bottom
of the garden, and the walk thither was breast-high in dead weeds. I
buffeted them valiantly, striding ahead of my companions—my protesting
sister, ’Lizabeth, and the baby borne upon her hip—and was so near the
goal that a few minutes would show me all there was to see, when I
espied _Something_ gliding along the top of the wall! Something that
was white and stealthy; something that moved without sound, and that
wore projecting ribbon bows upon a snowy head!

’Lizabeth emitted a bloodcurdling shriek:

“Ole Mis’ Moore! Sure’s you born! Don’ you see her cap on her hade?”

We fled, helter-skelter, as for our four lives, and never stopped to
look behind us.

The apparition did resemble the crown of a mob-cap with knots of black
ribbons at the sides. I saw, almost as plainly as I had beheld her
daughter’s wraith, the form hidden by the wall, picking her way over
the brier-grown enclosure.

I do not know how much longer we lived at the Bragg house. Sure am I
that I never paid a second call upon the denizens of the half-acre
defended by the brick wall.

Years afterward, my mother told me the true tale of the old lady’s
pet cat that would not leave her mistress’s grave, having followed
in the funeral train down the long alley, and seen the coffin laid
in the ground on the day of the funeral. The dumb beast haunted the
burying-ground ever after, living on birds and field-mice, and starved
to death in a deep snow that lay long on the frozen ground the second
winter of her watch.

Why the four-year-old child did not lose what wits were hers by nature,
or become a nerveless coward for the rest of her days, under the stress
of influences never suspected by her parents, was due, probably, to
a strain of physical and mental hardihood inherited from a dauntless
father.

It must have been shortly after this incident that, coming into the
dining-room one morning, I heard my mother say to my father:

“My dear, Frank has the Western fever!”

Frank Wilson, a nice boy, the son of a neighboring planter, was my
father’s bookkeeper and an inmate of our house. He was very kind to
me, and had won a lasting place in my regard as the maker of the
very best whistles and fifes of chincapin bark of any one I had ever
known. They piped more shrilly and held their shape longer than those
turned out by my father and by various visitors who paid court to my
young lady cousins through me. So I looked anxiously at the alleged
sufferer, startled and pained by the announcement of his affliction.
He was eating his breakfast composedly, and answered my father’s
“Good-morning—and is that true, my boy?” with a pleasant laugh. There
was not a sign of the invalid in look, action, or tone.

“I can’t deny it, sir!”

I slipped into my chair beside him, receiving a caressing pat on the
hand I laid on his arm, and hearkened with greedy ears for further
particulars of the case, never asking a question. Children of that
generation were trained to make their ears and eyes do duty for the
tongue. I comprehended but a tithe of the ensuing conversation. I
made out that the mysterious fever did not affect Frank’s appetite
and general health, but that it involved the necessity of his leaving
us for a long time. He might never come back. His proviso in this
direction was, “If I do as well as I hope to do out there.”

When he had excused himself and left the table, my father startled me
yet more by his answer to my mother’s remark: “We shall miss him. He is
a nice boy!”

Her husband stirred his coffee meditatively for a moment before saying,
without looking up:

“I am not sure that I have not a touch of that same fever myself.”

With the inconsequence of infancy, I did not connect the speech with
our breaking up the Lunenburg home the next autumn and setting out
for what was explained to us girls as a round of visits to friends in
Richmond and Powhatan.

We call ours a restless age, and the modern American man a predatory
animal, with an abnormal craving for adventure. Change and Progress are
the genii who claim his allegiance and sway his destiny. In sighing for
the peace and rest of the “former times” we think were “better than
these,” we forget (if we ever knew) that our sires were possessed by,
and yielded to, unrest as intense and dreams as golden as those that
animate the explorer and inventor of the twentieth century. My father
was in no sense a dreamer of day dreams of the dazzling impossible.
He was making a fair living in the heart of what was, even then, “Old
Virginia.” He had recouped his shattered fortunes by judicious business
enterprise, and the neat share of her father’s estate that had fallen
to my mother at his demise in 1829, placed her and her children beyond
the reach of poverty. The merchant was respected here as he had been in
Amelia, for his intelligence, probity, courtesy, and energy. His place
in society and in church was assured. Yet he had caught the Western
fever. And—a mightier marvel—“Uncle Carus,” the clerical Connecticut
Yankee, the soul of conservatism, who had settled in the downiest of
nests as the incumbent of Mount Carmel, a Presbyterian church built
upon the outskirts of the Montrose plantation, and virtually maintained
by that family—sober, ease-loving Uncle Carus—had joined hands with his
wife’s brother-in-law in the purchase of Western lands and the scheme
of emigration.

The two men had travelled hundreds of miles on horseback during
the last year in quest of a location for the new home. My
father’s letters—worn by many readings, and showing all over the
odd and unaccountable brown thumbmarks of time—bear dates of
wayside post-offices as well as of towns—Lynchburg, Staunton, and
Charlottesville. Finally they crossed the Ohio line, and after
due deliberation, bought a farm in partnership. The letters are
interesting reading, but too many and too long to be copied in full.

Every detail of business and each variation of plans were communicated
as freely as if the wife were associated with him in commercial as in
domestic life.

Once, when he is doubtful what step to take next, he writes, playfully:
“Some men need a propelling power. It might be well for you to exert a
little of the ‘government’ with which some of our friends accredit you,
and move _me_ in the right direction.”

When, the long journey accomplished and the purchase of the farm
completed, he returned home, he encountered no opposition from his
wife, but much from neighbors and friends. A letter written to her from
Lunenburg, whither he had returned to close up his affairs, leaving
her with her brother at Olney, describes the numerous tokens of regret
and esteem of which he is the recipient. The climax of the list comes
in the humorous tale of how an old-fashioned neighbor, Mrs. L——, “says
it troubled her so much on New Year’s night that she could not sleep.
She actually got up after trying vainly to court slumber, _lighted her
pipe_, and smoked and thought the matter over. She was not reconciled,
after all.... When I take my departure it will be with feelings of
profound regret, and full confidence in the friendship of those I leave
behind.”

The land bought in Ohio by the two victims of the “Western fever” is
now covered by the city of Cleveland. If the two New-Englanders could
have forecast the future, their heirs would be multi-millionaires.

Behold us, then, a family of two adults and three babies—the eldest not
yet seven years old—_en route_ from Richmond to Montrose, travelling in
a big barouche, with a trunk strapped on the rack behind, in lumbering
progress over thirty-seven miles of execrable roads, just now at their
worst after a week of autumnal rains.

The damp discomfort of the journey is present with me now. The sun did
not shine all day long; the raw air pierced to the bones; the baby was
cross; my mother was not well, and my sister and myself were cramped by
long sitting upon the back seat. Our horses were strong, but mud-holes
were deep, the red clay was adhesive, and the corduroy causeways jarred
us to soreness. It was late in the day when we turned from the highway
toward the gate of the Montrose plantation. We were seen from the
house, and a colored lad of fifteen or thereabouts ran fleetly down the
avenue to open the great outer gate. He flung it wide with a hospitable
intent that knocked poor Selim—the off-horse—flat into the mud. Once
down, he did not offer to arise from the ruddy ooze that embedded
one side. He had snapped the harness in falling, but that made no
difference to the fagged-out beast. The accident was visible from the
porch of the house, an eighth of a mile away, and four men hastened to
the rescue.

The foremost was, I thought, the handsomest man I had ever seen.
He was tall, young, as dark as a Frenchman (having Huguenot blood
in his veins), and with a marvellously sweet smile. Coming up to
my pale mother, as she stood on the miry roadside, he kissed her,
picked up the baby, and bade “Cousin Anna” lean upon his other arm.
My father insisted upon relieving him of the child; but the picture
of my delicate mother, supported in the walk up the drive by the
gallant youth—her favorite cousin of all the clan—Josiah Smith, of
Montrose—will never leave the gallery of pictures that multiplied fast
from this date.

I did him loving honor to the best of my poor ability as the “Uncle
Archie” of “Judith.” I cannot pass him by without this brief tribute.

A second and younger cousin, who seemed uninteresting beside my new
hero, took charge of my sister and myself, and we trudged stiffly on
to the ancient homestead. An avalanche of feminine cousins descended
upon us as we entered the front gate, and swept us along through
porch and hall and one room after another, to the “chamber,” where a
beautiful old lady lay in bed.

Her hair was dark as midnight; so were her eyes; her cap, pillows,
gown, and the bed-coverings were snowy white. Her face was that of a
saint. This was “Aunt Smith,” the widowed mistress of Montrose. She
was of the Huguenot Michaux stock, the American founders of a colony
on James River. During a widowhood of twenty years she had, by wise
management, relieved the estate from embarrassment, brought up and
educated six children, and established for herself a reputation for
intelligence, refinement, and piety that is yet fragrant in the minds
of those who recollect Montrose as it was in its palmy days.

She was often ailing, as I saw her now. Accustomed as I am to the
improved physical condition of American women, I wonder _what_ was
amiss with the gentlewomen of that generation; how they lived through
the protracted seasons of “feeling poorly,” and their frequent
confinement to bed and bed-chambers. The observation of that winter
fixed in my imagination the belief that genteel invalidism was the
normal state of what the colored servants classified as “real ladies.”
To be healthy was to approximate vulgarity. Aunt Smith was as much
in her bed as out of it—or, so it seemed to me. Her eldest child, a
daughter and the most brilliant of the family, had not had a day of
perfect health since she had an unhappy love-affair at twenty. She was
now nearly forty, still vivacious, and the oracle of the homestead. My
dearest “Cousin Mary,” resident for the winter at Montrose with her
mother, was fragile as a wind-flower, and my own mother fell ill a few
days after our arrival at her mother’s birthplace, and did not lift her
head from the pillow for three months.

I have no data by which to fix the relative times of any happenings
of that long, long, dreary winter. It dragged by like an interminable
dream. My father was absent in Ohio for some weeks of the first month.
He had set out on a second journey to his Promised Land when his wife
fell ill. He hurried back as soon as the news overtook him. But it took
a long time for the letter of recall to find him, and as long for him
to retrace his steps—or his horse’s.

I have but a hazy recollection of his telling me one day that I was
five years old. I had had other birthdays, of course, but this was the
first I remember. It was equally, of course, the 21st of December.
There was no celebration of the unimportant event. If anybody was
glad I was upon the earth, I had no intimation of the fact. I should
not mark the anniversary as of any note, now, had not it been fixed
in my brain by a present from my father of _The New York Reader_, a
hideous little volume, with stiff covers of straw pasteboard pasted
over with blue paper. My father took me upon his knee, and talked to
me, seriously and sorrowfully, of my crass ignorance and disinclination
to “learn.” I was five years old, and—this low and mournfully, as one
might state a fact disgraceful to the family connection—I “did not even
know my letters!” The dear mother, who lay sick up-stairs, had tried,
over and over, to teach me what every big girl of my age ought to know.
He did not believe that his little daughter was a dunce. He hoped that
I loved my mother and himself well enough to try to learn how to read
out of this nice, new book. Cousin Paulina Carus—a girl of sixteen, at
home from school on sick-leave, indefinitely extended—had offered to
teach me. He had told her he was sure I would do better than I had done
up to this time. He was mortified when people asked him what books I
had read, and he had to tell the truth. He did not believe there was
another “nice” child in the county, five years old, who did not know
her a, b, c’s.

I was wetting his frilled shirt-front with penitential tears long
before the sermon was finished. He wiped them with a big silk
handkerchief—red, with white spots scattered over the expanse—kissed
me, and set me down very gently.

“My little girl will not forget what father has been saying. Think how
pleased mother will be when she gets well to find that you can read a
chapter in the Bible to her!”

The story went for fact in the family that I set myself zealously about
the appointed task of learning the alphabet in consequence of this
lecture. I heard it told, times without number, and never contradicted
it. It sounded well, and I had a passion for heroinism, on never so
small a scale. And grown people should know what they were talking of
in asserting that “Virginia made up her mind, the day she was five
years old, that she would turn over a new leaf, and be no longer a
dunce at her books.” It may be, too, as I now see, that the solemn
parental homily (I always dreaded the lecture succeeding a whipping
more than the stripes)—it may be, I grant, that something was stirred
in my fallow intellect akin to the germination of the “bare grain”
under spring showers. If this were true, it was a clear case of what
theologians term “unconscious conversion.” Were I to trust to my own
judgment, based upon personal reminiscence, I should say that I went to
bed one night not—as the phrase goes—“knowing B from a bull’s foot,”
and awoke reading. Perhaps Dogberry was nearer right than we think in
averring that “reading and writing come by nature.” And that my time
was ripe for receiving them.

I had outgrown my dislike of _The New York Reader_, wearing most of the
blue paper off the straw, and loosening not a few of the tiny fibres
beneath; I could read, without spelling aloud, the stories that were
the jelly to the pill of conning the alphabet and the combinations
thereof; the spring had really come at last on the tardy heels of that
black winter. The grass was lush and warm under my feet; the sweetbrier
and multiflora roses over the Montrose porches were in bloom, and the
locust-trees were white with flowers and resonant with the hum of bees,
when, one day, as I played in the yard, I heard a weak, sweet voice
calling my name.

Looking up, I saw my mother in a white gown, a scarlet shawl wrapped
about her shoulders, leaning from her bedroom window and smiling down
upon me.

I screamed with ecstasy, jumping up and down, clapping my hands, and
crying to my dusky playfellows, Rose and Judy:

“Look! Oh, look! I have a mother again—as well as anybody!”

Close upon the blessed apparition came her championship of her
neglected “middle child,” against the impositions of “Mea,” Anne Carus,
and a bigger niece of Aunt Smith who was much at the homestead. On a
happy forenoon the mother I had received back from the edge of the
grave called me to her bedside, for, although convalescent, she did not
rise until noon.

Pointing to a covered basket that stood by her bed, she bade me lift
the lid. Within, upon white paper, lay a great handful of dried
cherries, a sheet of “peach leather,” and four round ginger-cakes, the
pattern and taste of which I knew well as the _chef d’œuvre_ of the
“sweeties” manufactured by Mam’ Peggy, the Montrose cook.

“I heard that the bigger children had a tea-party last night after
you had gone to bed,” she said, smilingly tender. “It isn’t fair that
my little daughter should not have her share. So I sent Jane”—her
maid—“down for these, and saved them for you.”

No other “goodies” were ever so delicious, but their finest flavor was
drawn from the mental repetition of the exultant: “I have a mother
again—as well as anybody!”



V

OUR POWHATAN HOME—A COUNTRY FUNERAL—“OLD MRS. O’HARA.”


MY mother’s illness of nearly four months deflected the current of our
lives. My father, convinced probably of the peril to her life of a
Western journey, and wrought upon by the persuasions of her relatives,
bought the “good-will and fixtures” of a store at Powhatan Court House,
a village seven miles nearer Richmond than Montrose, and thither we
removed as soon as the convalescent was strong enough.

Her husband wrote to her from Richmond _en route_ for “the North,”
where he was to purchase a stock of the “goods” upon which the
territory environing his new home was dependent for most of the
necessaries and all of the luxuries of life.

    “I am very solicitous as to your early restoration to
    health. Be careful not to rise too early, and keep a strict
    watch over your appetite. It is not safe to indulge it, yet
    there is danger in the opposite course....

    “I attended a prayer-meeting at Mr. Hutchinson’s on Thursday
    evening, and had the pleasure of hearing a lecture from Mr.
    Nettleton. It was a pleasant meeting. I wish you had been
    with me! To-day (Sunday) I heard Mr. Plumer and Mr. Brown,
    both of whom were interesting. Mr. Plumer’s subject was the
    young ruler _running_ to Our Saviour and kneeling down with
    the inquiry, ‘What must I do to be saved?’...

    “Your brother was at church yesterday. His wife has a fine
    boy a month old. You have probably heard of the event,
    although I did not until my arrival here. I am told he says
    it is ‘the prettiest thing that was ever seen,’ and feels
    quite proud of this, their first exhibition.

    “There is great difficulty in getting to New York this
    spring. The Delaware was closed by ice for two months, and
    up to the middle of March this was eighteen inches thick.
    Merchants have been detained in Baltimore from two to seven
    days, waiting for stages to go on. The number of travellers
    was so large that they could not be accommodated sooner. The
    steamboat runs from Richmond to Baltimore but once a week,
    and leaves on Sunday morning. Several of my acquaintances
    went on to-day. They were urgent that I should go with them,
    but my determination is not to travel on the Sabbath. I
    shall, therefore, take the land route to Balto....

    “Goods are reported to be very scarce and high in all the
    Northern cities. They are high in this place, and advancing
    every day. Groceries are dearer than I have seen them since
    1815, and it is thought they will be yet dearer.

    “‘That will do!’ I hear you say, ‘as I am not a merchant.’
    Well, no more of it! I must charge you again to be very,
    _very_ careful of yourself. Kiss our little children for
    father. I shall hurry through my business here as soon as
    possible and hasten my return to my home.

    “May the Lord bestow on you His choicest blessings and grant
    a speedy return of health! Remember me in your prayers.
    Adieu, my Love!

                                           “Your own S.”

The sere and yellow sheet is marked on the outside, in the upper
left-hand corner, “_Single_,” in the lower, “_Mail_,” and in the upper
right-hand, “12 _cents_.”

This was in the dark ages when there was but one steamer per week to
Baltimore, and there were not stages enough to carry the passengers
from the Monument City to New York; when the railway to Fredericksburg
was a dream in the minds of a few Northern visionaries, and the
magnetic telegraph was not even dreamed of. My mother has told me that,
in reading the newspaper aloud to her father in 1824, she happened
upon an account of an invention of one George Stephenson for running
carriages by steam. Captain Sterling laughed derisively.

“What nonsense these papers print! You and I won’t live to see that,
little girl!”

I heard the anecdote upon an express train from Richmond to New York,
his “little girl” being the narrator.

In those same dark ages, strong men, whom acquaintances never
accused of cant, or suspected of sentimentality, went to evening
prayer-meetings, and accounted it a delight to hear two sermons on
Sunday; laid pulpit teachings to heart; practised self-examination, and
wrote love-letters to their own wives. If this were not the “Simple
Life” latter-day philosophists exploit as a branch of the New Thought
Movement, it will never be lived on this low earth.

Our first home in the little shire-town (then “Scottville”) was at
“Bellevue,” a red brick house on a hill overlooking the hamlet.
Separated from Bellevue by two fields and the public highway, was “Erin
Hill,” built by one of the same family, which had, it is needless to
observe, both Irish and French blood in it.

Erin Hill was for rent just when Uncle Carus decided to bring his
family from Montrose—where they had lived for ten years—to the village.

This is the fittest time and place in which to sketch the pastor of
Mount Carmel Church. _Martin Chuzzlewit_ was not written until a score
of years later. When it was read aloud in our family circle, there was
not a dissenting voice when my mother uttered, in a voice smothered by
inward mirth, “Mr. Carus!” as Mr. Pecksniff appeared upon the stage.

The portrait was absurdly striking. The Yankee Pecksniff was
good-looking after his kind, which was the dark-eyed, well-featured,
serenely-sanctimonious type. He wore his hair longer than most laymen
cut theirs, and it curled naturally. His voice was low and even, with
the pulpitine cadences hit off, and at, cleverly by Doctor Holmes as “a
tone supposed by the speaker to be peculiarly pleasing to the Almighty.”

His smile was sweet, his gait was felinely dignified, and a pervasive
aroma of meekness tempered his daily walk and conversation. His wife,
“Aunt Betsy,” was the saintliest soul that ever rated herself as the
least important of God’s creatures, and cared with motherly tenderness
for everything else her Creator brought within her modest sphere of
action. In all the years of our intimate association I never saw her
out of temper or heard a harsh word from the lips in which nestled
and abode the law of kindness. She brought him a tidy little slice of
her father’s estate, which he husbanded wisely. He was economical to
parsimony, and contrived to imbue wife and children with a lively sense
of the need of saving in every conceivable way “against a rainy day.”

At ten years of age I asked my mother, point-blank, what salary the
church paid Uncle Carus. She answered as directly:

“Three hundred dollars a year. But he has property of his own.”

Whereupon, without the slightest idea of being pert, I remarked, “If
we were to get a _really_ good preacher, I suppose he would have to
be paid more.” And my mother responded as simply: “No doubt. But your
Uncle Carus is a very faithful pastor.”

I put no questions, but I pondered in my heart the purport of a
dialogue I got in snatches while reading on the back porch one
afternoon, when a good-hearted neighbor and my mother were talking of
the school to be opened in the village under the tuition of Cousin
Paulina, the eldest daughter of Aunt Betsy and her second husband.

She was now in her eighteenth year, a graduate of a somewhat noted
“female” seminary, decidedly pretty, with a quick temper and a talent
for teaching.

“It is a pity,” said the friendly visitor, “to tie her down to a
school-room when she is just at the age when girls like to see company
and go round with other young people. It isn’t as if they were obliged
to put her to work.”

My mother replied discreetly, yet I detected a sympathetic tone in her
speech.

The talk came into my mind many a time after the sessions of the school
began, and I saw, through the window, young men and girls walking,
riding, and driving past, the girls in their prettiest attire, the
young men gallantly attentive, and all enjoying the gala-time of life
that comes but once to any of us.

If the dark-eyed, serious, eighteen-year-old teacher felt the
deprivation, she never murmured. I think her mother had taught her,
with her first word and trial-step, to believe that her “father knew
best.”

The school—the first I ever attended—was in the second story of an
untenanted house on a side-street, rented from a villager. It was kept
for ten months of the year. A vacation of a month in May, and another
in September, divided two terms of five months each. I climbed the
carpetless stairs to the big upper room six or eight times daily for
five days a week, for forty weeks, and never without a quailing of
nerve and sinking of heart as I strode past a locked door at the left
of the entrance.

Inside of that door I had had my first view of Death.

I could not have been six years old, for it was summer, or early
autumn, and I was walking my doll to sleep up and down the main alley
of the garden, happy and bareheaded, and unconsciously “feeling my life
in every limb,” when my mother called to me from the window to “come
and be dressed.”

“I am going to take you and your sister to a funeral,” she continued,
as a maid buttoned me up in a clean white frock, put on my Sunday
shoes, and brushed the rebellious mop of hair that was never smooth for
ten minutes in the day.

“May I take my doll?” asked I, “sh-sh-ing” her in a cuddling arm. I was
trying very hard to love lifeless dolls.

“Shame on you, Miss Firginny!” put in the maid, for all the world as if
I had spoken in church. “Did anybody ever see sech another chile fur
sayin’ _things_?” she added to my mother.

Mea looked properly shocked; my mother, ever light of heart, and
inclined to let unimportant mistakes pass, smiled.

“We don’t take dolls to funerals, my daughter. It would not be right.”

I did not push inquiries as to the nature of the entertainment to
which we were bound, albeit the word, already familiar to me by reason
of two or three repetitions, was not in my vocabulary an hour ago.
Content and pleased in the knowledge that an outing was on foot, I put
my doll to bed in a closet under the stairs used by Mea and myself
as a “baby-house,” shut the door to keep Argus and Rigo—sprightly
puppies with inquisitive noses—from tearing her limb from limb, as they
had rent her immediate predecessor, and sallied forth. The roadside
was thick with sheep-mint and wild hoarhound and tansy. I bruised
them in dancing along in front of my mother and my sober sister.
The bitter-sweet smell arose to my nostrils to be blent forever in
imagination with the event of the day.

A dozen or more carriages were in the road before the shabby frame
house I had heard spoken of as “old Mrs. O’Hara’s,” but which I had
never entered. Eight or ten horses were tethered to the fence, and a
group of men loitered about the door. As we went up the steps I saw
that the parlor was full of villagers. Some were sitting; more were
standing in a kind of expectant way; all were so grave that my spirits
fell to church-temperature. Something solemn was going on. Just inside
of the parlor door the mother of my most intimate girl-friend sat in
a rocking-chair. She had on a black silk dress and her best bonnet.
Every woman present wore black. I saw Mrs. D. beckon up Major Goode, an
elderly beau who was a notable figure in the neighborhood, and whisper
audibly to him, “If you want more chairs, you may send over to our
house for them.”

It was evidently a great function, for Mrs. D. was a notable
housekeeper, and her furniture the finest in the place. Her
drawing-room chairs were heavy mahogany, and upholstered with black
horsehair. Her house, altogether the best within a radius of several
miles, was not a hundred yards from the O’Hara cottage; but that she
should make the neighborly offer thrilled me into nameless awe.

My mother moved forward slowly, holding my hand fast in hers, and I
was led, without warning, up to a long, black, open box, set upon two
chairs, one at each end. In the long, black box lay a woman I had never
seen before. She was awfully white; her eyes were shut; she looked
peaceful, even happy; but she was not asleep. No sleeping creature was
ever so moveless and marble-pale. Her terrible stillness impressed me
most painfully by its very unlikeness to the heaving, palpitating crowd
about her. A mob-cap with a closely fluted border framed the face; she
was dressed in a long cambric gown of a pattern entirely new to me. It
lay in moveless plaits as stiff as paper from her chin to her feet,
which it hid; it was pinked in tiny points at the bottom of the skirt
and the cuffs; the hands, crossed at the wrists as no living hands are
ever laid, were bound at the crossing with white satin ribbon. Under
the moveless figure was a cambric sheet, also pinked at the edges, that
fell straight to the floor over the sides of the coffin.

I must have pinched my mother’s hand with my tightening fingers, for
she eyed me in grave surprise, not unmixed with reproof, in taking a
seat and drawing me to her side. There was no place for children to sit
down. I am sure that she had not an inkling of the unspeakable fright
that possessed my ignorant mind.

From that day to this I have never gone to a funeral when I could
possibly keep away from it upon any decent pretext. When constrained
by circumstance to be one of the party collected about a coffin, I
invariably have a return, in some measure, of the choking horrors of
that awful day. For days, sometimes for weeks afterward, the dread is
an obsession I cannot dispel by any effort of will. Argue and struggle
as I may, I am haunted night and day by the memory of the woman whom I
never saw while she lived.

As if the brooding hush, so deadly to my childish senses; the funeral
sermon, delivered in Uncle Carus’s most sepulchral chest tones, and the
wild, wailing measures of

    “Why should we mourn departing friends?”

sung to immemorial “China”—were not enough to rivet the scene forever
upon my soul, a final and dramatic touch was superadded. Two men
brought forward a long, black top, which they were about to fix in
place upon the dreadful box, when a young woman in black rushed from a
corner, flung herself upon her knees beside the coffin, and screamed:
“Mother, mother! You sha’n’t take her away!” making as if she would
push back the men.

“Harriet! Harriet!” remonstrated a deep voice, and Major Goode, the
tears rolling down his cheeks, stooped and lifted the daughter by main
force. “This won’t do, child!”

Fifteen years later, sitting in the calm moonlight upon the porch-steps
at “Homestead,” the dwelling of my chum, Effie D., I heard from Mrs.
D.’s lips the story of Mrs. O’Hara. Her cottage, subsequently our
school-house, had been pulled down long ago as an eyesore to the
fastidious mistress of Homestead. At least I got that section of the
old lady’s life that had to do with the gray-haired Major Goode, a
veteran of the War of 1812. Both the actors in the closing scene
seemed, in the review of my childish impressions of the funeral, to
have been too old to figure in the tale.

“You can understand why nobody in the village could visit her,”
concluded the placid narrator to whom I am indebted for numberless
traditions and real life-romances. “The funeral was another matter.
Death puts us all upon a level.”

There was the skeleton of a _chronique scandaleuse_ in the bit of
exhumed gossip.



VI

OLD-FASHIONED HUSBAND’S LOVE-LETTER—AN ALMOST HOMICIDE—“SLAUGHTERED
MONSTER”—A WESLEYAN SCHOOLMISTRESS.


                              “ROXBURY, _July 26th, 1838._

    “MY DEAR WIFE,—Your esteemed letter of the 20th is at
    hand, and it has relieved my mind to hear that you are
    all doing so well. I suppose you expect a history of my
    movements here. Well, on Saturday morning went to Boston;
    in the evening took mother and called on all my Dorchester
    friends—stayed with some five minutes, with others fifteen,
    etc. Sunday, went to church; very dry sermon in morning;
    evening attended Mr. Abbot’s church; was much pleased with
    the preaching—text—‘And there came one running and kneeling
    to Him, and said,’ etc. At night attended at same place
    what they call a ‘Conference Meeting’—quite an interesting
    time. Monday, went to Brookline—visited sisters. Tea at
    Mr. Davis’s; music of the best kind in abundance. Tuesday
    to Boston in morning, evening at home to receive company.
    Quite a pleasant afternoon; a good many Dorchester friends
    calling. Wednesday morning as usual in the city; evening
    held a grand _levee_: the street filled with chaises and
    carriages; some twenty or more to tea. Really, my visit has
    created quite a sensation among our good friends; some met
    yesterday afternoon who have not seen each other for ten or
    more years. Don’t you think I had better come here oftener
    to keep up the family acquaintance? for it seems to require
    some extraordinary event to set these good folks to using
    their powers of locomotion. By-the-by, you must not be
    jealous, but I had a lady kiss me yesterday, for the first
    time it was ever done here, and who do you think it was? My
    cousin Mary, of whom you have heard me speak. I have so
    much love given in charge for you, my own dear wife, that
    it will be necessary to send a part of it in this letter
    for fear that I should not be able to travel with it all.
    I am especially directed to bear from a lady two kisses to
    you from her, and they shall be faithfully delivered when
    we are permitted to meet. You don’t know how many inquiries
    have been made after you, and regrets expressed that you
    did not come on with me. Mother says, ‘Tell Anna I should
    like for Samuel to stay longer, but know that he is wanting
    at home, so will not say a word at his leaving.’ She sends
    much love to her daughter Anna. Father keeps coming in, and
    from his movements I judge he is waiting for me to finish.
    You know he is clock-work, so adieu once more. Give my love
    to the girls, and all at the parsonage. Kiss the children
    for father. I must now close my letter by commending you to
    the care and protection of Him who preserves, guides, and
    directs us in all things. May His choicest blessing rest on
    you, my dear wife, and on the children of our love! Adieu,
    my dear wife.

                                   “Your husband,
                                            “SAMUEL.”

Thus cheerily runs the old-fashioned family epistle. The writer, who
never demitted the habit of going to church twice every Sunday, and
sometimes thrice, does not comment upon the coincidence that he hears
again a sermon from the text used and “improved” by a Virginia divine,
two years ago. His mind was full of other things just now. This one of
his annual visits to his mother was a glad holiday. The world was going
smoothly with him, and the hearty congratulations of townspeople and
kindred were a-bubble. His mother was happy in her second marriage. The
good deacon was “father” to her son and his wife, and filled the rôle
well.

My father’s namesake son, Samuel Horace, was born earlier in the summer.

Although the month was June, the weather must have been cold or damp,
for a low wood fire burned upon the hearth one afternoon as I crept
into the “chamber” to get a peep at the three-days-old baby, and
perchance to have a talk with my mother. The nurse, before leaving the
room on an errand, had laid the infant upon a pillow in a rocking-chair
(I have it now!) There was no cradle in the house, and one had been
ordered from Richmond. My mother was asleep, and, I supposed, had the
baby beside her. Stealing noiselessly across the floor, I backed up
to the Boston rocker, in childish fashion, put my hands upon the arms
of the chair, and raised myself on tiptoe, when the child (aroused, I
fancy, by his guardian angel, prescient of the good he would accomplish
in the world he had just entered, and compassionate of the remorseful
wight whose life would be blighted by the impending deed) stretched
out his arms and yawned. I saw the movement under my lifted arm, and
dropped flat upon the rug. I must have crouched there for half an hour,
a prey to horrible imaginings of what might have been. My mother did
not awaken, and the baby went to sleep again. The shock would have
been terrific to any child. To a dreamer like myself, the visions
that flitted between me and the red embers were as varied as they
were fearful. Lucy Bragg’s tragic death had killed her mother and the
baby-boy. If I had crushed our new baby, my own sweet mother would have
died with him. I saw myself at their funeral, beside the coffin holding
them both, and my father shrinking in abhorrence from the murderess.
Forecasting long years to come, I pictured a stricken and solitary
woman, shunned by innocent people who had never broken the sixth
commandment, and cowering beside a brier-grown grave, crying as I had
read somewhere, “Would to God I had died when I was born!”

I do not think I shed a tear. Tears were dried up by the voiceless
misery. I know I could not sleep that night for hours and hours. I
know, too, that I never told the shameful thing—the almost murder—to a
living creature until it was ten years old.

I appreciate, most clearly of all, that my baby-brother became from
that hour, in some sort, my especial property. The peculiar tenderness
that has characterized our feeling for each other, the steadfast
affection and perfect confidence in our mutual love that have known no
variableness or shadow of turning, for all our united lives, may not
have been rooted in the vigil of unutterable horror and unspeakable
thankfulness. I look back upon it as a chrism.

Later in the year, another incident that might have been a tragedy,
stirred the even flow of domestic life. We had finished prayers and
breakfast, and my father was half-way down the avenue on his way to the
village when we saw him stop suddenly, retrace his steps hurriedly,
enter the yard, and shout to the colored butler who was at the
dining-room window. The man ran out and came back shortly, dragging
Argus and Rigo into the hall with him, shutting the front door. My
father was taking down his gun from the hooks on the wall of the hall,
and, without a word, began to load it.

One of the earliest of our nursery lessons was, “Never ask questions of
busy people!” My mother set the example of obedience to this precept
now by silence while her husband, with set lips and resolute eyes,
rammed down a charge of buckshot into the barrel, and, saying, “Keep
the children in the house!” ran down the steps and down the avenue
at the top of his speed toward the big gate opening upon the village
street a hundred yards away.

From the front windows we now saw a crowd of men and boys, tramping
down the middle of the highway, firing confusedly and flinging stones
at a great yellow dog trotting ahead of them, and snapping right and
left as he ran. Before my father reached the gate, the dog had turned
sharply to the right down a cross-street skirting our lower grounds.
A low fence and a ditch divided the meadow from the thoroughfare. My
father kept on our side of the fence, raising his gun to cover the
brute, which, as we could now see, was slavering and growling hoarsely.
A cry arose from the crowd, and my mother groaned, as the dog, espying
the man across the ditch, rushed down one side of it and up the other,
to attack the new foe. My father held his hand until the dog was within
a few feet of him, then fired with steady aim. The brute rolled over to
the bottom of the ditch—dead.

That evening we were allowed to walk down the field to see the
slaughtered monster. That was what I named him to myself, and forthwith
began a story in several chapters, with my father as the hero, and an
astonishing number of beasts of prey as _dramatis personæ_, that lasted
me for many a night thereafter.

The title I had chosen was none too large for the dog as he lay, stark
and still, his big head straight with his back, his teeth showing
savagely in the open jaws. A trickle of water was dammed into a pool by
his huge bulk.

I held my father’s hand and laid my cheek to it in reverence I had not
words to express, when my mother said:

“You ran a terrible risk, love! What if your gun had missed fire, or
you had not hit him?”

“I had settled all that in my mind. I should have stood my ground and
tried to brain him with the butt.”

“As your forefathers did to the British at Bunker Hill!” exulted I,
inwardly.

Be sure the sentence was not uttered. The recollection of the inner
life, in which I was wont to think out such sayings, has made me more
tolerant with so-called priggish children than most of their elders are
prone to be.

One paragraph of our next letter has a distinctly modern flavor. By
substituting millions for thousands in the estimate of the defalcation,
we might date it in this year of our Lord.

                                 “RICHMOND, _April 11th, 1839._
                                        “(Saturday night.)

    “MY DEAR WIFE,—The general subject, and, in fact, the only
    one which at present occupies the minds of the citizens
    here, is the late discovery of defalcations of my old friend
    D., first teller of the Bank of Virginia, for the sum, as
    reports say, of nearly, or quite half a million. He has
    absconded, but some individuals here have had part of the
    cash; among the number is the great speculator, W. D. G.,
    who has ruined and also severely injured many persons in
    this place by borrowing, or getting them to endorse for
    him. I never have before witnessed so general an excitement
    here. Mr. G. has been arrested to-day, and taken before the
    mayor. It is now nine o’clock, and the court is still in
    session. It is probable he will be sent to the higher court
    for trial, etc. I expect a good many of our plain country
    folks will be afraid of Bank of Virginia notes when they
    hear of the loss. I hope it will make some of them shell
    out and pay me all that they owe. I should like to find a
    few thousands waiting for me on my return home. I expect
    to-morrow to attend the Sabbath-school at the Second Church,
    conducted by Mr. Reeve. It is said to be the best school in
    the city. Tell Herbert I have bought a book called _Cobwebs
    to Catch Flies_, and I hope it will be the means of catching
    from him many good lessons. He must learn fast, as I have
    bought for him _Sanford and Merton_, with plates, and when
    he can read he shall have it for his own. May I not hope for
    a letter from you on Tuesday?—for it seems a long time since
    we parted.”

Mrs. Bass, the meek widow of a Methodist clergyman, succeeded the
eighteen-year-old girl in the conduct of the neighborhood school. It
is doubtful if we learned anything worth relating from her. I am sure
we learned nothing evil. She was very kind, very gentle, very devout;
she wore a widow’s cap and a bombazine gown, and she was the only
woman I ever heard pray until I was over fourteen years of age. There
were a dozen girls in the class, which met in a one-roomed building in
a lot adjoining her garden. We had no public schools at that date in
Virginia. We were all paid pupils, and carefully selected from families
in our own class. Those from Presbyterian families outnumbered the
rest, but no objection was made by our parents to the “methods” of the
Wesleyan relict. The tenets of the two churches were the same in the
main. Discrepancies in the matter of free agency, predestination, and
falling from grace were adjudged of minor importance in the present
case. Mrs. Bass was not likely to trench upon them in the tuition of
pupils of tender age. I more than suspect that there would have been
a strong objection made to intrusting us to a Baptist, who would not
lose an opportunity of inculcating the heresy that “baptize” meant,
always and everywhere in the Bible, immersion. And every school was
opened daily by Bible-reading. To this our black-robed, sweet-faced
instructress joined audible petitions, and in our reading and the
lessons that followed she let slip no chance of working in moral and
religious precepts.

Let one example suffice:

One of our recitations was spelling, with the definitions, from
Walker’s Dictionary. Betty Mosby, a pretty girl with a worldly father
and a compliant mother, had learned to dance, and had actually attended
a kind of “Hunt Ball,” given in the vicinity by her father’s sister.
She had descanted volubly upon the festivities to us in “play-times,”
describing her dress and the number of dances in which she figured with
“grown-up gentlemen,” and the hearts of her listeners burned within us
as we listened and longed.

On this day the word “heaven” fell to me to spell and define. This
done, the “improvement” came in Mrs. Bass’s best class-meeting tone:

“Heaven! I hope and pray you may get there, Virginia! You ought not to
fail of the abundant entrance, for your parents are devout Christians
and set you a good example, but from him to whom much is given shall
much be required. Next! ‘Heavenly!’”

Near the foot of the column stood “Hell.”

Anne Carus rendered it with modest confidence, spelling and defining
in a subdued tone befitting the direful monosyllable. That she was
a minister’s daughter was felt by us all to lend her a purchase
in handling the theme. Mrs. Bass was not to be cheated of her
“application”:

“HELL!” she iterated in accents that conveyed the idea of recoiling
from an abyss. “Ah-h-h! I wonder which of my little scholars will lie
down in everlasting burnings?”

“Mercy! I hope I won’t!” cried Betty Mosby, with a shiver of well-acted
terror.

She was a born sensationalist, and quick to voice sensation.

The teacher’s groan was that of the trained exhorter:

“I can’t answer for that, Betty, if you _will_ dance and go to balls!”

That was her “Firstly.” There were at least six heads and two
applications in the lecture “in season” trailing at its heels.

We took it all as a matter of course. Each teacher had ways of his,
and her own. Those of our relict were innocent, and our parents did
not intermeddle. We were very happy under her tutelage. On Saturdays
she had a class in “theorem painting.” That was what she called it,
and we thought it a high-sounding title. Decorators know it as one
style of frescoing. Pinks, roses, dahlias, tulips, and other flowers
with well-defined petals, also birds and butterflies, were cut out
of oiled paper. Through the openings left by removing the outlined
pattern, paint was rubbed upon card-board laid underneath the oiled
paper. I have somewhere still a brick-red pink thus transferred to
bristol-board—a fearful production. I knew no better than to accept it
thankfully when Mrs. Bass had written on the back, “To my dear pupil,
M. V. H., from her affectionate Teacher,” and gave it to me with a kiss
on the last day of the term.

She gave up the school and left the county at the close of that term,
going to live with a brother in another part of the State. I heard,
several years later, that she had “professed sanctification” at a
Lynchburg camp-meeting. Nowadays, they would say she “had entered upon
the Higher Life.”

She must have found, long ago, the abundant entrance into that
Highest Life where creeds and threatenings are abolished. Her benign
administration was to me a summer calm that held no presage of the
morrow’s storm.



VII

MY FIRST TUTOR—THE REIGN OF TERROR


LATE in the October vacation the tranquil routine of our household was
stirred by news of import to us children. We were to have a tutor of
our own, and a school-room under our roof in true Old Virginia style—a
fashion transplanted from the mother-country, eight generations before.

Our father “did not believe in boarding-schools,” holding that parents
shirked a sacred duty in putting the moral and mental training of their
offspring into the hands of hirelings, and sending them away from home
at the formative age, just when girls and boys are most in need of the
mother’s love and watchful care of their health and principles. Yet he
fully appreciated the deficiencies of the small private schools we had
attended, and would not hearken for a moment to the suggestion that
we should be entered as day-scholars in the “Old-Field School,” which
prefigured the Co-educational Institute of to-day. “Nice” girls and
well-born boys attended a school of this kind, and lads were prepared
for college there. The master was himself a college graduate. And the
school was within easy distance of Scottville.

“Too much of an _omnium gatherum_ to suit my taste!” I had overheard
my father say to a friend who urged the advantages of this place,
adding that B. L. was “a good teacher and fair classical scholar.” “He
may be proficient in the classics, but he spells the name of one dead
language, ‘Latten.’ I saw it in his own handwriting. I doubt not that
he can parse in that tongue. _I_ believe him capable of talking of the
‘three R’s.’ My children may never become accomplished, but they shall
be able to write and speak—and _spell_—their mother-tongue correctly!”

Besides Mea and myself there were to be in the home-class ten other
pupils, the daughters of personal friends of like mind with the
independent thinker, and my brother Herbert, lately inducted into the
integuments distinctive of his sex, was to have his trial taste of
schooling. Our mother had taught us all to read and to write before
committing our scholastic education to other hands. I fancy we may
attribute to her training in the rudiments of learning the gratifying
circumstance that one and all of her children have spelled—as did both
parents—with absolute correctness.

The big dining-room in the left wing of the rambling house to which we
had removed from Bellevue when the owner desired to take possession of
it, was to be divided by a partition into school-room and hall; a room
opening from the former would be the tutor’s chamber, and an apartment
in another wing was to be the dining-room. Among other charming changes
in house and family, Dorinda Moody, a ward of my father’s of whom I was
particularly fond, was to live with us and attend “our school.”

I trod upon air all day long, and dismissed the fairy and wonder
tales, with which I was wont to dream myself to sleep nightly, for
visions of the real and present. “Our Tutor”—a title I rolled as a
sweet morsel under my restless tongue—was a divinity student from
Union Theological Seminary, in Prince Edward County. The widow of the
founder of this school of the prophets, and the former pastor of my
parents, lived in the immediate neighborhood of the seminary, and was
the intermediary in the transaction. Through her my father was put
into communication with the faculty—scholars and gentlemen all of
them!!—who agreed in recommending the student whom I have dubbed “Mr.
Tayloe” in my _Old-Field School-Girl_. (The significance of the twin
exclamation-points will be manifest in the next few pages.)

The sun had shivered out of sight below the horizon on a raw November
day when I returned home after a tramp over soaked and sere fields,
attended by my young maid and her elder sister—“bright” mulattoes—and
was met in the end-porch by their mother, my mother’s personal
attendant and the supervisor of nursery-tenants. She was the prettiest
mulatto I have ever seen, owing her regular features and long hair, as
she was proud of telling, to an Indian ancestor. He had entailed upon
her the additional bequest of a peppery temper, and it was on deck now.
She was full of bustle and tartly consequential.

“Lordy, Miss Virginny! whar have you been traipsin’ so late with jus’
these chillun to look after you? It’s pretty nigh plum dark, an’ you, a
young lady, cavortin’ roun’ the country like a tom-boy!”

She hauled me into the house while she talked, and pulled off my shawl
and hood, scolding vehemently at the sight of my muddy shoes, and
promising Molly and Paulina a whipping apiece for not bringing me back
sooner.

I cared not one whit for her scolding after I heard the news with which
she was laden.

Mr. Tayloe had come! My dream-castle had settled into stability upon
rock bottom.

Ten minutes afterward the school-room door was pushed open timidly,
and a childish figure appeared upon the threshold. I was rather tall
for my years, and as lean and lithe as a greyhound. My touzled hair
had been wet and sleeked by Mary Anne’s vigorous fingers. I wore a
brown “Circassian” frock and a spandy clean white apron. The room was
comfortably furnished with desks and chairs, now pushed to the wall,
the carpeted area about the hearth being intended as a sitting-room for
the tutor. There were a table, a desk, and four or five chairs. The
room was bright with lamp and firelight. In front of the red hearth sat
my father and a much smaller man.

His diminutive stature was the first of a series of shocks I was
destined to receive. I had expected him to be tall and stately.
Village wags—with none of whom he was popular—spread the story that he
intermitted his studies for a year in the hope that in the interim he
might grow tall enough to see over the front of a pulpit.

My father looked over his shoulder and held out his hand.

“Come in, my daughter,” in kindly, hearty accents. And, as I obeyed,
“Mr. Tayloe, this is my second daughter—Miss Mary Virginia.”

The hero of my dreams did not rise. There was naught amiss or unusual
in the manner of the introduction. I was “Miss Virginia” to men of my
father’s age, as to youths and boys. I was used to see them get up from
their seats to speak to me, as to a woman of treble my years. I looked,
then, almost aghast at the man who let me walk up to him and offer
my hand before he made any motion in recognition of the unimportant
fact of my presence. His legs were crossed; his hands, the palms laid
lightly together, were tucked between his legs. He pulled one out to
meet mine, touched my fingers coldly, and tucked both hands back as
before.

“How do you do, Mr. Tayloe?” quoth I, primly respectful, as I had been
trained to comport myself with strangers.

He grunted something syllabic in response, and, chilled to the backbone
of my being, I retreated to the shadow of my father’s broad shoulder.
He passed his arm about me and stroked what he used to call my
“Shetland pony mane.” He seldom praised any one of us openly, but he
was a fond father, and he and the “tom-boy” were close comrades.

“I hope you will not find this young lady stupid, Mr. Tayloe,” he went
on, the strong, tender hand still smoothing the rebellious locks. “She
is a bit flighty sometimes, but she has packed away a good deal of
miscellaneous information in this curly pate. I hope she may become a
steady student under your care. What she needs is application.”

Receiving no answer beyond a variation of the grunt, the tutor staring
all the time into the heart of the fire, the dear man went on to tell
of books that had been read aloud in the family, as a supplementary
course to what we had learned in school, referring to me now and then
when he did nor recall title or subject. I fancy, now, that he did this
to rid us both of the embarrassment of the first interview, and to draw
out the taciturn stranger who was to guide my mind in future. Loyal
as was my worshipful admiration of my father, I could not but feel,
although I could not have formulated the thought, that the trend of
talk was not tactful.

Nevertheless, I glowed inwardly with indignation that the third person
present never once took his eyes from the roaring fire, and that his
face, round, fair, and almost boyish in contour, wore a slight smile,
rather supercilious than amused, his brows knitting above the smile in
a fashion I was to know more of in the next ten months.

I have drawn Mr. Tayloe’s portrait at full length in _An Old-Field
School-Girl_, and I need not waste time and nervous tissue in
repetition of the unlovely picture. He was the Evil Genius of my
childhood, and the term of his tutelage may be called the dark
underside of an otherwise happy school-life. Looking back from the
unclouded heights of mature age, I see that my childish valuation of
him was correct. He was, in his association with all without the walls
of the school-room—always excepting the servants, who took his measure
amazingly soon—a gentleman in bearing and speech. He was, I have heard,
well-born. He had gained rank as a student in the university of which
he was a graduate.

At heart and in grain he was a coarse, cruel tyrant, beloved by none of
his pupils, hated by my brother Herbert and myself with an intensity
hardly conceivable in children of our tender years. I owe him one
evil debt I can never forget. Up to now I had had my little gusts of
temper and fleeting grudges against those who angered me. Save for the
episode of the doll-whipping recorded in an earlier chapter, I had
never cherished—if I had felt—an emotion of vindictiveness or a desire
for revenge. This man—this embryo minister of the gospel of love and
peace—aroused in me passions that had slumbered unsuspected by all—most
of all, by myself.

From the beginning he disliked me. Perhaps because he chose to assume,
from the manner of my introduction to him, that I was a spoiled,
conceited child who ought to be “taken down.” Perhaps because, while I
flushed up hotly under rebuke and sarcasms that entered lavishly into
the process of “taking down,” I never broke down abjectly under these,
after the manner of other pupils. Our father had the true masculine
dislike for womanish tears. He had drilled us from babyhood to restrain
the impulse to cry. Many a time I was sent from the table or room when
my eyes filled, with the stern injunction, “Go to your room and stay
there until you can control yourself!” I thought it harsh treatment,
then. I have thanked and blessed him for the discipline a thousand
times since. Our tutor, I verily believed then, and I do not doubt now,
gloated in the sight of the sufferings wrought by his brutality. I can
give it no milder name. I have seen him smile—a tigerish gleam—when he
had scolded the ten outsiders—the “_externes_,” as the French call
them—into convulsive weeping. Mea and I felt the lash of his tongue
quite as keenly as the rest, but our home-drill stood us in good stead.

He rarely found fault with her. She was a comely girl, nearly fourteen,
and womanly for that age, exemplary in deportment, and an excellent
student. It could never be said of her that she “lacked application.”
If one thing were more hateful to me than his surliness and sneers to
me, it was his cubbish gallantry to my pretty sister. He pronounced
her openly the most promising of his scholars, and volunteered to give
her private lessons in botany. Such tokens of preference may have been
the proof of a nascent attachment on his part, or but another of his
honorable ways of amusing himself. It was a genuine comfort to me to
see that she met his gallantries with quiet self-possession and cool
indifference remarkable in a country girl who knew nothing of “society”
and flirtation.

I was the black sheep of the flock, as he took pains to say twice or
a dozen times a week, in the hearing of the school. To me he imparted
privately the agreeable information that I “would never be anything
but a disgrace to my parents; that, in spite of what my father might
say to the contrary, I was stupid by nature and incorrigibly lazy.”
He rang the changes upon that first unfortunate interview until I was
goaded to dumb frenzy. The persecution, begun with the opening day of
the term, was never abated. He would overhear from his chamber window
snatches of talk between my mates and myself, as we played or sat in
the garden below—merry, flippant nothings, as harmless as the twitter
of the birds in the trees over our heads. When we were reassembled
in the school-room he would make my part in the prattle the text of
a lecture ten minutes long, holding the astonished, quivering child
up to ridicule, or stinging her to the quick with invectives. When he
lost his temper—which happened often—he spared nobody. He went out of
his way to attack me. Lest this should read like the exaggeration of
fancied slights to the self-willed, pert youngling he believed me to
be, let me cull one or two sprigs of rue from the lush growth that
embittered ten months of my existence:

I cut my finger to the bone one morning (I carry the scar still). My
mother bound it up in haste, for the school-bell was ringing. I got
into my seat just in time for the opening exercises. A chapter was
read—verse by verse—in turn by the pupils, after which the prospective
divine “offered” a prayer. He stood with his eyes shut and his forehead
knitted into a frown. We knelt with our backs to him before our chairs
around the room. It seems but natural to me, in reflecting upon that
perfunctory “exercise,” that our reading “in course” should never,
during Mr. Tayloe’s reign, have gone beyond the Old Testament. We read
that exactly as it came—word for word. There was nothing of the New
Testament in his walk or conversation.

On this day we had a chapter in Kings—First or Second—in which occurred
a verse my father would have skipped quietly at our family worship.
Sarah L. was the biggest girl in the class—in her sixteenth year, and
quite grown up. She dexterously slipped past the bit of Bible history,
taking the next verse, as if by accident.

“Go back and read your verse!” thundered the young theologue. “I will
have no false modesty in my school.”

My cheeks flamed as redly with anger as Sarah’s had with maiden shame,
as I followed suit with the next passage. I resented the coarse insult
to a decent girl, and the manner thereof. I was faint with the pain of
the wounded finger, and altogether so unnerved that my voice shook and
fell below the pitch at which we were taught to read aloud.

Out barked the bulldog again over the top of the open Bible he held:

“What ails Miss High-and-Mighty to-day? In one of your tantrums, I see.
Read that verse again, and loud enough to be heard by somebody besides
your charming self!”

Where—will be asked by the twentieth-century reader—was parental
affection all this while? How could a fearless gentleman like your
father submit for an hour to the maltreatment of his young daughter and
the daughters of friends who confided in his choice of a tutor?

My answer is direct. We never reported the worst of our wrongs to
our parents. To “tell tales out of school” in that generation was
an offence the enormity of which I cannot make the modern student
comprehend. It was a flagrant misdemeanor, condemned by tradition, by
parental admonition, and by a code of honor accepted by us all. I have
known pupils to be expelled for daring to report at home the secrets
of what was a prison-house for three-fourths of every working-day.
And—strangest of all—their mates thenceforward shunned the tale-tellers
as sinners against scholastic and social laws.

“If you get a flogging at school, you will get another at home!” was a
stock threat that set the seal of silence upon the culprit’s lips. To
carry home the tale of unjust punishment meted out to a school-fellow
would be a gross breach of honorable usage.

The whole system smacked of inquisitorial methods, and gave the
reactionary impetus to the pendulum in the matter of family discipline
and school jurisdiction which helped on the coming of the Children’s
Age in which we now live.

The despotism of that direful period, full of portents and pain, may
have taught me fortitude. It awoke me to the possibilities of evil
hitherto undreamed of in my sunny life. I have lain awake late into the
night, again and again, smarting in the review of the day’s injuries,
and dreading what the morrow might bring of malicious injustice and
overt insult, and cudgelling my hot brain to devise some method of
revenge upon my tormentor. Childish schemes, all of them, but the
noxious seed was one with that which ripens into murder in the first
degree.

One absurd device that haunted and tempted me for weeks was that I
should steal into the tutor’s room some day, when he had gone to ride
or walk, and strew chopped horsehair between the sheets. The one
obstacle to the successful prosecution of the scheme was that we had
no white horses. Ours were dark bay and “blooded chestnut.” No matter
how finely I might chop the hairs, which would prick like pins and bite
like fleas, the color would make them visible when the sheets were
turned down.

It was a _crime_!—this initiation of a mere infant into the mysteries
of the innate possibilities of evil in human nature. I had learned
to _hate_ with all my heart and soul. In all my childish quarrels I
had never felt the temptation to lift my hand against a playmate. I
understood now that I could smite this tyrant to the earth if I had the
power and the opportunity. This lesson I can never forget, or forgive
him who taught it to me. It was a new and a soiled page in the book of
experience.

Despite the continual discouragement that attended the effort to keep
my promise to study diligently, I worked hard in school, partly from
love of learning, partly to please my parents—chiefly, it must be
confessed, because I shrank, as from the cut of a cowhide, from the
pitiless ridicule and abuse that followed upon the least lapse from
absolute perfection in recitation.

Mathematics was never my strong point, and the tutor quickly detected
this one of many weak joints in my armor. There was meaning in the grin
with which he informed me one day, not long after Christmas, that he
had set a test-sum for each of the second class in arithmetic.

“If you can do that sum without, any, help, from, anybody,” slowly,
the grin widening at each comma, “you may go on with the next chapter
in arithmetic. If not, you will be turned back to Simple Division. Of
course, _you_ will do yours, if nobody else can work out the answer!”

Sneer and taunt stung and burned, as he meant they should. I took the
slate from his hand, and carried it to my desk before glancing at it.
It was a _horrible_ sum! I knew it would be, and I forthwith made up my
mind not to try to do it. He might turn me back to Addition, for all I
cared. The worm had turned and stiffened in stubborn protest.

At recess I discovered that not another girl of the six in our class
had an imposition half so severe as my enemy had set for me. The effect
was totally unlike what he had anticipated. My spirit leaped to arms. I
would do that sum and keep up with my class—or _die_!

I bore the slate off to my room as soon as school was out that
afternoon, and wrought mightily upon the task until the supper-bell
rang. My work covered both sides of the slate, and after supper I
waylaid my sister in the hall and begged her to look at what I had
done. She was the crack arithmetician of the school, and I could trust
her decision. She sat down upon the stairs—I standing, wretched and
suspenseful, beside her—and went patiently over it all.

Then she said, gently and regretfully: “No, it is not right. I can’t,
of course, tell you what is wrong, but you have made a mistake.”

With a hot lump in my throat I would not let break into tears, I rushed
off up-stairs, rubbed out every figure of my making, and fell to work
anew upon the original example. Except when I obeyed the summons
to prayers, I appeared no more below that night. My sister found me
bent over the slate when she came up to bed, and said not a word to
distract my attention. By ten o’clock the room was so cold that I got
an old Scotch plaid of my father’s from the closet, and wrapped myself
in it. Still, my limbs were numb and my teeth chattered when, at _one
o’clock_ in the morning, I laid the slate by, in the joyous conviction
that I had conquered in the fight. I had invented a proof-method of
my own—truly ingenious in a child with no turn for mathematics—but
this I did not suspect. I honestly believed, instead, that it was an
inspiration from Him to whom I had been praying through all the hours
of agonized endeavor. I thanked the Author before I slept.

When the class was called upon to show their sums next morning, it
appeared, to my unspeakable amazement and rapture, that my example and
one other—that done by Sarah L., who was backward in figures, although
advanced in years—were right, and all the others wrong.

The gentle shepherd of our fold took up my slate again when the
examination was over, and eyed it sourly, his head on one side, his
fingers plucking at his lower lip, a trick which I knew prefaced
something particularly spiteful. Surely I had nothing to fear now?
Having wrung from him the reluctant admission that my work was correct,
I might rest upon my laurels.

I had underrated his capacity for evil-doing. When he glared at me over
the upper frame of the big slate, the too-familiar heart-nausea got
hold upon me.

“_You_”—he seldom deigned to address me by my proper name—“pretend to
tell me that nobody helped you with this sum?”

“Nobody!” I uttered, made bold by innocence.

“Ha-a-a-a!” malevolence triumphant in the drawl waxing into a snarl.
“As I happened to see you and your sister last night in the hall, and
heard you ask her to show you how to do it, that tale won’t go down, my
lady.”

“She didn’t help me—” I began, eagerly.

“_Silence!_” thumping the slate upon the table, and scowling
ferociously. “How dare you _lie_ to me?”

I glanced at Mea in an agony. She arose in her place, pale to the lips,
albeit she had never felt his wrath, but her voice was firm:

“I only told her the sum was not right. I did not tell her what part of
it was wrong.”

The blending of snarl and smile was something to be recollected for all
time. The smile was for her, the snarl for me.

“It is natural that your sister should try to defend you. But will you
please tell me, Miss Pert, what more help you could have wanted than
to be told by somebody who knew—as your sister did—that your sum was
wrong? Of course, you could rub out and begin again. But for her you
would not have tried a second time. Bring that sponge here!”

I obeyed.

“Take that slate!”

He made as if he would not contaminate his hand by passing it to me,
laying it on the table and pointing a disdainful finger at it.

Again I obeyed.

“Now, Miss Deceitful, wipe every figure off that slate, and never try
any such cock-and-bull story upon me again as long as you live! I am
too old a bird to be caught with _your_ chaff!”

He laughed aloud in savage glee, dismissed the class with a wave of his
hand, and called up the next.

I was turned back to Short Division, with the added stigma of
intentional deception and cheating shadowing me.

Nearly fifteen years after our first tutor withdrew his baleful
presence from our home, my husband was urging upon my brother Herbert
the claims of the ministry of reconciliation as the profession to which
the younger man was evidently called by nature and by Providence.
Herbert looked up with the frank smile those who knew him will never
forget. It was like the clear shining of the sweetest and purest soul
ever committed to mortal keeping.

“‘Plato! thou reasonest well!’ There is but one argument you have not
bowled over. I registered an oath—as bitter as that Hamilcar exacted of
Hannibal—when I was a boy, that I would thrash that cur Tayloe within
an inch of his life as soon as I should be big enough to do it. And it
wouldn’t be quite the thing to flog a brother clergyman. If anything
could keep me out of the pulpit, it would be the fact that he is in it.
That fellow’s cruelties scarred my memory for life, although I was not
seven years old when I knew him.”

In dismissing the disagreeable theme, I offer this bit of testimony
to the truth of my story of the reign of terror neither of us ever
forgave.



VIII

CALM AFTER STORM—OUR HANDSOME YANKEE GOVERNESS—THE NASCENT AUTHOR


AMONG the treasured relics of my youth is a steel engraving in a style
fashionable sixty years agone.

It appeared in _Godey’s Lady’s Book_, then in the heyday of
well-merited popularity. My mother was one of the earliest subscribers.
Every number was read aloud in the family circle gathered on cool
evenings about my mother’s work-stand. We had no ready-made furniture.
This piece was made to order, of solid mahogany, and is, in the
seventy-fifth year of a blameless life, in active use in my eldest
daughter’s household.

Cousin Mary, living on Erin Hill, in her stepfather’s house, took
_Graham’s Magazine_—_Godey’s_ only rival. She likewise subscribed for
the _Saturday Evening Courier_, and exchanged it regularly with my
mother for the _Saturday Evening Post_—all published in Philadelphia.
The _New York Mirror_, edited by N. P. Willis, George P. Morris, and
Theodore S. Fay, was another welcome guest in both families. For
Sunday reading we had the _New York Observer_, _The Watchman and
Observer_, _The Presbyterian_—religious weeklies that circulated in the
neighborhood for a fortnight, and were then filed for future reference.
We children had _Parley’s Magazine_ sent to us, as long ago as I can
recollect, by our grandmother. After the death of her second husband,
the good old deacon, and her removal to Virginia, which events were
coeval with the Tayloe dynasty, our father subscribed for _Parley’s_.

We had all the new books that he adjudged to be worth buying and
reading, watching eagerly for anything from Dickens, Marryat, and
Cooper, and devouring with avidity not excited by any novel, Stephens’s
_Travels in Arabia Petrea_ and in _Central America_, Bruce’s _Travels
in Abyssinia_, and the no less enchanting tales Mungo Park was telling
the world of his adventures in the Dark Continent.

“The chamber” was a big room on the first floor, and adjoined the
dining-room—so big that the wide high-poster, curtained and ceiled
with gayly figured chintz, in a far corner, left three-fourths of
the floor-space unoccupied. My mother’s bureau (another heirloom)
looked small beside the bed; a lounge was between the front windows;
rocking-chairs stood here and there; thick curtains, matching the
bed-hangings, shut out wintry gusts, and a great wood fire leaped and
laughed upon the pipe-clayed hearth from the first of November to
the middle of March. A blaze of dry sticks was kindled there every
morning and evening up to July 4th. The younger children were dressed
and undressed there on cool days. Our mother held, in advance of her
contemporaries, that an open fire was a germ-killer.

Why do I single out that particular engraving for a place in these
reminiscences?

It graced the first page of the November number of _Godey’s Lady’s
Book_. The evening was wild with wind and blustering rain, the fire
roaring defiance as the loosely fitting sashes rattled and the showers
lashed the panes. There were five of us girls, and each had some bit
of handiwork. To sit idle while the reading went on was almost a
misdemeanor.

Dorinda Moody, Virginia Lee Patterson, Musidora Owen, Mea, and myself
were classmates and cronies. My mother was reader that evening, and as
she opened the magazine at the frontispiece, Virginia Patterson and I
called out:

“Why, that is a picture of Miss Wilson!”

We all leaned over the stand to look at the engraving, which my mother
held up to general view.

“It _is_ like her!” she assented.

The young lady across the table blushed brightly in uttering a
laughing disclaimer, and my mother proceeded to explain the extreme
improbability of our hypothesis. Then she read the story, which, to the
other girls, settled the matter. It was called “Our Keziah,” and began
by telling that the title of the portrait was a misnomer. It was no
“fancy sketch,” but a likeness of “Our Keziah.”

Silenced but not convinced, I restrained the impulse to tell my mates
that stories might be made out of nothing. I knew it, and so did my
only confidante, the handsome governess from Massachusetts, who had
been installed in our school-room since June.

Mr. Tayloe had gone back to the theological factory to prosecute the
studies that were to fit him to proclaim the gospel of love and peace.
On the last day of the session he had preached us a short sermon,
seated in his chair at the head of the room, twirling the seal dangling
from his watch-chain; his legs crossed, the left hand tucked between
them; his brows drawn together in the ugly horseshoe we knew well and
dreaded much.

He must have descanted darkly upon the transitoriness of earthly joys
and the hard road to heaven, for every girl in school was in tears
except Mea and myself.

As for my wicked self, as I privately confessed subsequently to my
father’s young partner, “Thad” Ivey—“I could think of nothing but
Franklin’s grace over the whole barrel.” In the ten months of his
incumbency of the tutorship, the incipient divine had never so much as
hinted to one of us that she had a soul.

“I suppose I ought to say that it is like returning thanks over the
empty barrel,” I subjoined, encouraged by my interlocutor’s keen
relish of the irreverent and impertinent comment upon the scene of the
afternoon. “Thad” and I were great friends, and I had an idea that our
views upon this subject did not differ widely.

Mrs. Willis D., our nearest neighbor, was with my mother, and when
the tear-bedraggled procession from the school-room filed into the
porch where the two friends were sitting with three other of the
villagers, and Virginia Winfree threw herself into her aunt’s arms with
a strangled sob of: “Oh, Aunt Betty, he did preach _so_ hard!”—the
dry-eyed composure of the Hawes girls was regarded with disfavor.

“Your daughters have so much fortitude!” remarked one, mopping her
girl’s eyes with a compassionate handkerchief.

Another, “They show wonderful self-control for their age.”

Even our sensible mother was slightly scandalized by what she “hoped,”
deprecatingly, “was not want of feeling.”

Tears were fashionable, and came easily in those early times, and
weeping in church was such a godly exercise that conversation or
exhortation upon what was, in technical phrase, “the subject of
religion,” brought tears as naturally as the wringing of a moist
sponge, water.

“What did you cry for?” demanded I, scornfully, of Anne Carus, when I
got her away from the porch party. “You hate him as much as I do!”

“Oh—I don’t—know!” dubiously. “People always cry when anybody makes a
farewell speech.”

So the Reverend-that-was-to-be Tayloe took his shadow from our door
and his beak from out my heart. The quotation is not a mere figure of
speech.

The handsome Yankee governess opened the door of a new life for me.
Some of the parents complained that she “did not bring the children
on as fast as Mr. Tayloe had done.” Me, she inspired. I comprehended,
as by a special revelation, that hard study might be a joy, and gain
of knowledge rapture. With her I began Vose’s _Astronomy_, Comstock’s
_Natural Philosophy_, and Lyell’s _Elements of Geology_, and revelled
in them all. Her smile was my present reward, and when she offered to
join me in my seemingly aimless rambles in the woods and “old fields,”
I felt honored as by a queen’s favor. We sat together upon mossy stumps
and the banks of the brook I had until then called “a branch” in native
Virginian dialect—talking! talking! talking! for hours, of nymphs,
hamadryads, satyrs, and everything else in the world of imagination and
nature.

She wrote poetry, and she kept a diary; she had travelled in ten states
of the Union, and lived in three different cities; and she never tired
of answering questions as to what she had seen in her wanderings. Her
nature was singularly sweet and sunny, and I never, in all the ten
months of our intimacy, saw in language and deportment aught that was
not refined and gentle.

With her I began to write school “compositions.” The “big girls” wrote
them under the Tayloe régime—neat little essays upon “The Rose,”
“The Lily,” “Morning,” “Night,” and all of the Four Seasons. Never a
syllable had I lisped to one of them of the growing hoard of rhymes,
tales, and sketches in the shabby, corpulent portfolio I had fashioned
with my own fingers and kept in the bottom of a trunk under flannel
skirts and last year’s outgrown frocks.

I brought them out of limbo to show to Miss Wilson, by timid degrees,
and new manuscripts as fast as they were written. She praised them, but
not without discrimination. She suggested topics, and how to treat
them. I never carried an imperfect lesson to her in class. Intellect
and heart throve under her genial influence as frost-hindered buds
under May sunshine.

“The Fancy Sketch” was so like her it was natural I should refuse
to believe the resemblance accidental. It was as plain as day to my
apprehension that the unknown artist had seen her somewhere, and,
unseen by her, had dogged her footsteps until he fixed her face in his
mind’s eye, then transferred it to canvas.

It was a shock when the probability of his pursuit of her to Virginia,
avowing his passion and being rewarded by the gift of her hand, was
dissipated by the apparition of a matter-of-fact personage, McPhail by
name, who was neither poet nor artist. He had been betrothed to our
governess for ever so long. He spent a fortnight at the “Old Tavern,”
opposite our house, and claimed all of the waking hours she could spare
from school duties.

The finale of the romance was that she went back to the North at the
end of her year’s engagement with us, and married him, settling, we
heard, in what sounded like an outlandish region—Cape Neddick, on the
Maine coast.



IX

A COLLEGE NEIGHBORHOOD—THE WORLD WIDENS—A BELOVED TUTOR—COLONIZATION
DREAMS AND DISAPPOINTMENT—MAJOR MORTON


                                “RICEHILL, _February 3d, 1843._

    “DEAR DORINDA,—I suppose mother has told you of our
    privileges and pleasant situation. I only want some of my
    friends to enjoy it with me to make me perfectly happy. Oh,
    how I wish you were here to go to the debating society with
    me and to hear the young men preach! I went to college last
    night to hear some speeches delivered by the Senior Class.
    They have questions given, and one takes one side and one
    another. The two best speeches were made on the question
    ‘Is a love of fame more injurious than beneficial?’ One
    young man took the affirmative, and one the negative. They
    made the best speeches. Then the question was whether ‘the
    execution of Charles I. was just or not.’ Both of these
    speakers needed prompting; that is, one of those who had
    spoken or was to speak took the speaker’s speech which he
    had written off, and, if he forgot, set him right again. The
    young man who performed this office was very well qualified
    for it; he spoke in a low, distinct tone, and seemed to find
    no difficulty in reading the writing. They speak again in
    about six weeks. But the chief enjoyments I have are the
    religious privileges. I can go to the prayer-meeting at the
    Seminary every Wednesday, and can hear three sermons every
    Sunday. Don’t you wish you were here, too? Aunt Rice and
    sister went to the Court House last Sunday evening to hear
    Mr. Ballantine’s lecture, and as they did not come back very
    soon the young men came in to supper. While sister and Aunt
    Rice were away I wrote an account of Mr. Hoge’s and Mr.
    Howison’s sermons. Well, when Mr. Howison came in, ‘Well,
    Miss Virginia, have you been by yourself all this evening?’
    ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘Did you not feel very lonely?’ ‘Not at all.’
    ‘Why, what have you been doing?’ ‘I have been writing.’ He
    paused, laughed, and then said, ‘And what have you been
    writing?’ And when I told him, I wish you could have seen
    him! He looked at me for a while as if he did not understand
    me, and then laughed heartily. He is very easy to laugh, but
    his manners are as different from Mr. Tayloe’s as can be—but
    hush! what am I drawing comparisons for? I do not feel in
    the least restrained where he is, and can talk to him better
    than to any other gentleman here. Would not you like to have
    such a teacher?

    “_Feb. 6th._—I wonder when father will come up; I have
    been looking for him every day for more than a week. Mr.
    Nevius was here the other day. I inquired after you, but
    he had never seen you when he went to Mr. Miller’s. I was
    quite disappointed, and I wish you would show yourself next
    time—that is, if you can.

    “I very often think of the times we ate roasted corn and
    turnips in the midst of the corn-field; don’t you remember
    the evening when the supper-bell rang and we hid our corn
    among the leaves of the corn that was growing? I never
    knew how much I loved you or any of my friends until I was
    separated from them. Mr. Nevius brought a letter for sister
    from Anne Carus. She still writes in that desponding style
    you know she was so remarkable for in school, but I am glad
    to see from her letter that she has come to the conclusion
    to be contented with her lot.

    “I hope you do not indulge in such feelings, and, indeed,
    you have no reason to do so, for you are only six miles from
    your mother and friends, and you are with your brother, and
    I think you will find a valuable friend in Malvina. How do
    you like your new teacher and situation? If you are ever
    home-sick, study hard and forget it.

    “I have made many pleasant acquaintances here, and among
    them Mr. Tayloe’s flame! I do not think they are engaged,
    but he goes there very frequently, and the students plague
    him half to death about her, and he never denies it. He
    boards here. She has a fair skin, blue eyes, and almost red
    hair, but she is very pretty ‘for all that.’ She is about
    seventeen. There is a little girl about my own age here, who
    takes your place in my affections while _here_; she is a
    granddaughter of Professor Wilson, and lives in his house.
    Her name is Louisa Caruthers. I will speak to Lou about you,
    for you _must_ be acquainted. But a truce to this nonsense!
    Do not show this letter to any one of Mr. Miller’s family,
    for I feel restrained if I think that my letters are to
    be shown to any except my particular friends. I will not
    show yours. Show this to mother, your mother, E. D., and V.
    Winfree. Give my respects to all Mr. M.’s family, take some
    of my best love for yourself, and divide the rest among my
    friends.

    “Now farewell, do not forget me, and I will ever be

                   “Your sincerely attached friend,
                                            “M. V. H.”

The foregoing priggish and stilted epistle begins the next chapter of
my life-story.

After Miss Wilson’s departure, and divers unsuccessful attempts to
obtain a successor to his liking, my father determined upon a bold
departure from the beaten path of traditional and conventional usage in
the matter of girls’ education.

The widow of Reverend Doctor Rice lived in the immediate neighborhood
of Union Theological Seminary, founded by her husband, and of which
he was the first president. The cluster of dwellings that had grown
up around the two institutions of learning—Hampden-Sidney College and
the School of Divinity—made, with the venerable “College Church,” an
educational centre for a community noted for generations past for
intelligence and refinement. Prince Edward, Charlotte, and Halifax were
closely adjacent counties peopled by what nobody then ridiculed as some
of the “first families” of the state. Venables, Carringtons, Reades,
Bouldins, Watkinses, Randolphs, Cabells, Mortons, Lacys—had borne a
conspicuous part in state, church, and social history. The region was
aristocratic—and Presbyterian. There was much wealth, for tobacco was
the most profitable crop of Central and Southern Virginia, and the
plantations bordering the Appomattox River were a mine of riches to
the owners. Stately mansions—most of them antedating the Revolutionary
War—crowned gently rolling hills rising beyond the river, each, with
its little village of domestic offices, great stables, tobacco-barns,
and “quarters,” making up an establishment that was feudal in character
and in power.

Every planter was college-bred and a politician.

The local atmosphere of “College Hill” was not unlike that of an Old
World university town. The professors of the sister institutions of
learning occupied houses in the vicinity of seminary and college, and
the quaint church, the bricks mellowed to red-brown by time stood
equidistant from both.

One feature of the church impressed my youthful imagination. “Cousin
Ben,” of Montrose—afterward the senior professor in the seminary, and
as Rev. B. M. Smith, D.D., known throughout the Southern and Northern
Presbyterian Church as a leader in learning and in doctrine—had,
when a student of Hampden-Sidney, brought from Western Virginia a
sprig of Scotch broom in his pocket. “The Valley”—now a part of West
Virginia—was mainly settled by Scotch-Irish emigrants, and the broom
was imported with their household stuff. The boy set the withered slip
in the earth just inside of the gate of the church-yard. In twenty
years it encompassed the walls with a setting of greenery, overran the
enclosure, escaped under the fence, and raced rampant down the hill,
growing tall and lush wherever it could get a foothold. In blossom-time
the mantle of gold was visible a mile away. The smell of broom always
brings back to me a vision of that ugly (but dear) red-brown church
and the goodly throng, pouring from doors and gate at the conclusion
of the morning service, filling yard and road—well-dressed, well-born
county folk, prosperous and hospitable, and so happily content with
their lot and residence as to believe that no other people was so
blessed of the Lord they served diligently and with godly fear. Without
the church-yard were drawn up cumbrous family coaches, which conveyed
dignified dames and dainty daughters to and from the sanctuary.
Beyond these was a long line of saddle-horses waiting for their
masters—blooded hunters for the young men, substantial cobs for their
seniors. None except invalided men deigned to accept seats in carriages.

As may be gathered from the formally familiar and irresistibly funny
epistle, indited when I had been four months an insignificant actor
in the scene I have sketched, “religious privileges” was no idle term
then and there. Our social outings were what I have indicated. There
were no concerts save the “Monthly Concert of Prayer for Foreign
Missions” (held simultaneously in every church in the state and
Union); not a theatre in Virginia, excepting one in Richmond, banned
for the religious public by the awful memories of the burning of
the playhouse in 1811. “Dining-days,” which their descendants name
“dinner-parties,” were numerous, and there was much junketing from one
plantation to another, a ceaseless drifting back and forth of young
people, overflowing, now this house, now that, always certain of a
glad welcome, and contriving, without the adventitious aid of cards or
dancing, to lead joyous, full lives.

Once a week the community turned out, _en masse_, for church-going.
They were a devout folk—those F. F. V.’s, at which we mock now—and
considered it a public duty not to forsake the assembling of themselves
together for worship, prayers, and sermons. These latter were
intellectual, no less than spiritual pabulum. Oratory had not gone out
of fashion in these United States, and in Virginia it was indigenous
to the soil. Pulpit eloquence was in its glory, and speech-making at
barbecues, anniversaries, and political gatherings, in court-rooms and
upon “stumps,” was an art learned by boys in roundabouts and practised
as long as veterans could stand upon their shrunken calves.

People flocked to church to attend reverently upon divine service, and,
when the benediction was pronounced, greeted friends and neighbors,
cheerily chatting in the aisles and exchanging greetings between the
benches they had occupied during the services—men and women sitting
apart, as in the Quaker meeting-house—as freely as we now salute and
stroll with acquaintances in the _foyer_ of the opera-house.

Such were some of the advantages and enjoyments included in the
elastic phrase “religious privileges,” vaunted by the epistolary
twelve-year-old.

“Rice Hill” was a commodious dwelling, one mile from the seminary, and
not quite so far from the college. Doctor Rice had literally spent and
been spent in the work which had crowned his ministry—the foundation
and endowment of a Southern School of Divinity. At his death, friends
and admirers, North and South, agreed that a suitable monument to him
would be a home for the childless widow. She had a full corps of family
servants, who had followed her to her various residences, and she eked
out her income by supplying table-board to students from college and
seminary. Thus much in explanation of the references to the coming in
of “the gentlemen” in the “evening”—rural Virginian for afternoon.

A kindly Providence had appointed unto us these pleasant paths at the
impressionable period of our lives. The goodliest feature in that
appointment was that Robert Reid Howison, subsequently “LL.D.,” and
the author of a _History of Virginia_, and _The Student’s History of
the United States_, became the tutor of my sister and myself.

He came to us at twelve o’clock each day, and we dined at half-past
two. Hence, all our studying was done out of school-hours. The
arrangement was eccentric in the extreme in the eyes of my father’s
acquaintances and critics. Other girls were in the class-room from
nine until twelve, and after recess had a session of two hours more.
That this, the most _outré_ of “Mr. Hawes’s experiments,” would be
a ludicrous failure was a foregone conclusion. Whereas, the cool
brain had reckoned confidently upon the fidelity of the tutor and the
conscientiousness of pupils accustomed to the discipline of a home
where implicit obedience was the law.

Never had learners a happier period of pupilage, and the cordial
relations between teacher and students testified to the mutual desire
to meet, each, the requirements of the other party to the compact.

To the impetus given our minds by association with the genial scholar
who directed our studies, was added the stimulus of the table-talk that
went on in our hearing daily. It was the informal, suggestive chat of
men eager for knowledge, comparing notes and opinions, and discussing
questions of deep import—historical, biological, and theological. In
the main, they were a bright set of fellows; in the main, likewise,
gentlemen at heart and in bearing. It goes without saying that the
exception in my mind to the latter clause was our late and hated tutor.
I might write to Dorinda, in constrained goody-goodyishness, of the
impropriety of “drawing comparisons” between him and Mr. Howison,
whose “easy” laugh and winning personality wrought powerfully upon my
childish fancy. At heart I loved the one and consistently detested the
other.

To this hour I recall the gratified thrill of conscious security and
triumph that coursed through my minute being when, Mr. Tayloe having
taken it upon himself to reprove me for something I said—pert, perhaps,
but not otherwise offensive—Mr. Howison remarked, with no show of
temper, but firmly:

“Mr. Tayloe, you will please recollect that this young lady is now
under _my_ care!”

He laughed the next moment, as if to pass the matter off pleasantly,
but all three of us comprehended what was implied.

We began French with our new tutor, and geometry! I crossed the _Pons
Asinorum_ in January, and went on with Euclid passably well, if not
creditably. Mathematics was never my strong point. The patience and
perfect temper of the preceptor never failed him, no matter how far I
came short of what he would have had me accomplish in that direction.

“Educate them as if they were boys and preparing for college,” my
father had said, and he was obeyed.

Beyond and above the benefit derived from the study of text-books
was the education of daily contact with a mind so richly stored with
classic and modern literature, so keenly alive to all that was worthy
in the natural, mental, and spiritual world as that of Robert Howison.
He had been graduated at the University of Virginia, and for a year or
more had practised law in Richmond, resigning the profession to begin
studies that would prepare him for what he rated as a higher calling.
My debt to him is great, and inadequately acknowledged in these halting
lines.

Were I required to tell what period of my nonage had most to do with
shaping character and coloring my life, I should reply, without
hesitation, “The nine months passed at Rice Hill.” A new, boundless
realm of thought and feeling was opened to the little provincial from
a narrow, neutral-tinted neighborhood. I was a dreamer by nature and
by habit, and my dreams took on a new complexion; a born story-maker,
and a wealth of material was laid to my hand. We were a family of mad
book-lovers, and the libraries of seminary and college were to my eyes
twin Golcondas of illimitable possibilities. Up to now, novel-reading
had been a questionable delight in which I hardly dared indulge freely.
I was taught to abhor deceit and clandestine practices, and my father
had grave scruples as to the wisdom of allowing young people to devour
fiction. We might read magazines, as we might have confectionery, in
limited supplies. A bound novel would be like a dinner of mince-pie and
sweetmeats, breeding mental and moral indigestion.

So, when Mr. Howison not only permitted, but advised the perusal of
Scott’s novels and poems, I fell upon them with joyful surprise that
kindled into rapture as I became familiar with the Wizard and his work.
We lived in the books we read then, discussing them at home and abroad,
as we talk now of living issues and current topics. _The Heart of
Midlothian_, _Marmion_, _The Lay of the Last Minstrel_, _Peveril of the
Peak_, and _Waverley_ were read that winter on stormy afternoons and
during the long evenings that succeeded the early supper. Sometimes Mr.
Howison lingered when his comrades had gone back to their dormitories,
and took his part in the fascinating entertainment. Usually the group
was composed of Aunt Rice, her sister (Mrs. Wharey, lately widowed, who
was making arrangements to settle upon an adjoining plantation), Mrs.
Wharey’s daughter, another “Cousin Mary,” my sister, and myself.

Aunt Rice was a “character” in her way and day; shrewd, kindly
sympathetic, active in church and home, and with a marvellous
repertoire of tale and anecdote that made her a most entertaining
companion. “The Seminary” was her foster-child; the students had from
her maternal interest and affection. Like other gentlewomen of her
time and latitude, she was well versed in the English classics and in
translations from the Latin and Greek. Pope, Swift, and Addison were
household favorites, and this winter she was reading with delight the
just-published _History of the Reformation_, by Merle d’Aubigné. She
always wore black—merino in the morning, black silk or satin in the
afternoon—and a regulation old lady’s cap with ribbon strings tied
under a double chin, and I think of her as always knitting lamb’s-wool
stockings. Hers was a pronounced individuality in every capacity she
assumed to fill—mistress, housewife, neighbor, and general well-wisher.
She never scolded, yet she managed the dozen or more servants that
had come down to her by ordinary generation—seven of them men and
boys—judiciously and well. Even then she was meditating a scheme she
afterward put into successful execution—namely, liberating all her
slaves and sending them to Liberia. To this end she had taught them
to read and write, and each boy was trained in some manual trade.
She superintended their religious education as faithfully. Every
Sunday night all the negroes who were beyond infancy assembled in the
dining-room for Scripture readings expounded by her own pleasant voice,
and for recitations in the Shorter Catechism and Village Hymn-book.
They were what was called in the neighborhood vernacular, “a likely
lot.” The boys and men were clever workers in their several lines of
labor. The women were skilled in the use of loom, spinning-wheel, and
needle, and excellent cooks. One and all, they were made to understand
from babyhood what destiny awaited them so soon as they were equipped
for the enterprise.

I wish I could add that the result met her fond expectations.
While the design was inchoate, her example served as a stock and
animating illustration of the wisdom of those who urged upon Virginia
slaveholders the duty of returning the blacks to the land from which
their fathers were stolen. Colonization was boldly advocated in
public and in private, and the old lady was a fervent convert. In the
fulness of time she sent out five families, strong and healthy, as
well-educated as the average Northern farmer and mechanic. She sold
Rice Hill and well-nigh impoverished herself in her old age to fit
out the colony with clothes and household goods, and went to spend
the few remaining years of her life in the home of her sister. The
great labor of her dreams and hope accomplished, she chanted a happy
“Nunc Dimittis” to sympathizer and to doubter. She had solved the Dark
Problem that baffled the world’s most astute statesmen. If all who
hearkened unto her would do likewise, the muttering of the hell that
was already moving from its depth under the feet of the nation, would
be silenced forever.

The competent colonists had hardly had time to send back to their
emancipated mistress news of their safe arrival in the Promised Land,
when they found themselves in grievous straits. These, duly reported
to Aunt Rice, were African fevers that exhausted their strength
and consumed their stock of ready money; the difficulty of earning
a livelihood while they were ignorant of the language and customs
of the natives; lack of suitable clothing; scarcity of provisions,
and a waiting-list of etceteras that rent the tender heart of the
benefactress with unavailing pity. She was importuned for money, for
clothes, for groceries—even that she would, for the love of Heaven and
the sake of old times, send them a barrel of rice—which, infidels to
her faith in colonization did not fail to remind her, was to be had in
Liberia for the raising.

The stout-hearted liberator never owned in word her disappointment
at the outcome of long years of patient preparation and personal
privation, or gave any sign of appreciation of the truth that her
grand solution of the Dark Problem was the song of the drunkard and a
by-word and a hissing in the mouth of the unbeliever. But she ceased
long before her death, in 1858, to tax her listeners’ patience by
setting forth the beauties of colonization as the practical abolition
of negro slavery in America. If her ancestors had sinned in bringing
the race into bondage, and her teeth were thereby set on edge, she hid
her hurt. This significant silence was the only token by which her best
friends divined her consciousness of the humiliating revelation which
had fallen into the evening of a well-spent life. She had exchanged for
the five families born and reared in her home, dependence, comfort, and
happiness, for freedom, pauperism, and discontent. The cherished bud
had been passing sweet. The fruit was as bitter as gall.

At the time of which I am writing, the dream-bubble was at the
brightest and biggest. She was in active correspondence with the
officers of the Colonization Society; subscribed to and read
colonization publications, and dealt out excerpts from the same to all
who would listen; was busy, sanguine, and bright, beholding herself,
in imagination, the leader in a crusade that would wipe the stain of
slavery from her beloved state.

One event of that wonderful winter was a visit paid to Aunt Rice by her
aged father, Major James Morton, of High Hill, Cumberland County, the
“Old Solid Column” of Revolutionary story. The anecdote of Lafayette’s
recognition of his former brother-in-arms was related in an earlier
chapter. It was treasured in the family as a bit of choice silver
would be prized. I had heard it once and again, and had constructed my
own portrait of the stout-hearted and stout-bodied warrior. Surprise
approximated dismay when I behold a withered, tremulous old man,
enfeebled in mind almost to childishness, his voice breaking shrilly as
he talked—a pitiable, crumbling wreck of the stately column.

He had definite ideas upon certain subjects still, and was doughty in
their defence. For example, during this visit to his daughter, he sat
one evening in the chimney-corner, apparently dozing, while a party of
young people were discussing the increasing facilities of travel by
steam, and contrasting them with the slow methods of their fathers. The
Major drowsed on, head sunken into his military stock, eyes closed, and
jaw drooping—the impersonation of senile decay—when somebody spoke of a
trip up the Hudson to West Point the preceding summer.

The veteran raised himself as if he had been shaken by the shoulder.

“That is not true!” he said, doggedly.

“But, Major,” returned the surprised narrator, “I did go! There is a
regular line of steamers up the river.”

The old war-horse reared his head and beat the floor with an angry heel.

“I say it is not true! It could not be true! General Washington had a
big chain stretched across the river after Arnold tried to sell West
Point, so that no vessel could get up to the fort. And, sir!” bringing
his cane down upon the hearth with a resounding thump, his voice clear
and resonant, “there is not that man upon earth who would dare take
down that chain. Why, sir, _General Washington put it there_!”

A fragment of the mighty chain, forged in the mountains of New Jersey,
lies upon the parade-ground at West Point.

Forty years thereafter I laid a caressing hand upon a huge link of
the displaced boom, and told the anecdote to my twelve-year-old boy,
adding, as if the stubborn loyalist had said it in my ear,

    “And there it stands until this day,
     To witness if I lie.”

We read _Ivanhoe_ in the open air when the spring wore into summer.
The afternoons were long, and when study-hours were over we were wont
to repair to the roomy back-porch, shaded by vines, and looking across
a little valley, at the bottom of which were a bubbling spring, a
twisting brook, and a tiny pool as round as a moon, to the hill crowned
by “Morton,” a plain but spacious house occupied by the Wharey family.

Not infrequently a seminary student, attracted by Mary Wharey’s
brunette comeliness and happy temper, would join our group and lend a
voice in the reading. Moses Drury Hoge, a cousin of my mother and of
Aunt Rice, was with us at least twice a week, basking in the summer
heat like a true son of the tropics. He was a tutor in Hampden-Sidney
while a divinity student, and, as was proved by his subsequent
career, was the superior of his fellows in oratorical gifts and other
endowments that mark the youth for success from the beginning of the
race. I think he was born sophisticated. Already his professors yielded
him something that, while it was not homage in any sense of the word,
yet singled him out as one whose marked individuality and brilliant
talents gave him the right to speak with authority. At twenty-three,
without other wealth than his astute brain and ready wits, his future
was sure.

He won in after years the title of “the Patrick Henry of the Southern
Pulpit.”

Of him I shall have occasion to speak further as my story progresses.



X

FAMILY LETTERS—COMMENCEMENT AT HAMPDEN-SIDNEY—THEN AND NOW


                                “RICHMOND, _June 10th, 1843._

    “MY DEAR WIFE,—After a fatiguing day it is with great
    pleasure I sit down to have a little chat with you, and to
    inform you of our progress. Were I disposed to give credit
    to lucky and unlucky days, a little incident occurred on
    our way down which would have disturbed me very much. We
    were going on at a reasonable rate when, to our surprise,
    the front of the ‘splendid line of coach’ assumed a strange
    position, and for a moment I thought we should be wrecked,
    but it was only minus a wheel—one of the front ones having
    taken leave of us and journeying, ‘singly and alone,’ on the
    other side of the turnpike. We were soon ‘all right,’ and
    arrived here in good health but much fatigued. Mother has
    hardly got rested yet, but thinks another quiet day will be
    sufficient, and that she will be ready to start on Monday
    morning and be able to hold out to go through without again
    stopping. We have passed over the most fatiguing part of our
    journey. We shall leave on Monday morning by the railroad,
    and, unless some accident should happen on the way, expect
    to be in Boston on Wednesday about 9 o’clock A.M. It is my
    intention to keep on, unless mother should require rest,
    more than can be had on the line of travel.... Well, love,
    are you not tired of this overparticularity about business?
    I will not weary you any longer with it. I have never left
    home with a stronger feeling of regret than at the present
    time, and it appears that the older I get, the greater the
    trial to stay away. Now you will say that it is because you
    become more and more interesting. Well, it must be so, for
    I cannot discover any other cause. Do not let it be long
    before you write.

    “The heat, wind, and dust of the city to-day have put me
    entirely out of trim for writing, and my talent is but small
    even under the most favorable circumstances. By-the-bye,
    called on Mrs. D. last evening to deliver a message from Mr.
    D. _Quite_ a pleasant ten minutes’ affair, and was excused.
    Herbert must save some of those nice plants for that box to
    be placed on a pole, and tell him if he is a good boy we
    will try and have a nice affair for the little birds. My
    _man_ must have a hand in the work, if it be only to look
    on, and Alice can do the talking part. Don’t let Virginia
    take to her chamber. Keep her circulating about the house in
    all dry weather; the wind will not injure her, unless it be
    quite damp, at least so I think.

    “_Sunday, 11th._—Attended Doctor Plumer’s church this
    morning, and heard a young man, the son of one of the
    professors at Princeton, preach. The sermon was good, but
    should have preferred the Doctor. Morning rainy and no one
    in from Olney.

    “_Evening._—Attended Mr. Magoon’s church. He preached from
    the words, ‘Be not deceived, God is not mocked,’ etc. A
    good, practical sermon; he alluded to ministers and church
    members away from home, and showed them in many cases to
    be mockers of God, and instanced inconsistencies, all of
    which he termed ‘mockery.’ Expect to-night to hear Doctor
    Plumer. Now, love, you have a full history up to the time of
    our departure. Write to me soon, and, after telling about
    yourself, the children, and servants, give me an account
    of store, farming, and gardening operations. Those large
    sheets will hold a great deal, if written very close. Kiss
    Alice and the baby for father. Tell Herbert and Horace that
    father wishes them to be good boys and learn fast. And now,
    dear Anna, I must bid you adieu, commending you and our dear
    ones to the care of Him whose mercies have been so largely
    bestowed on us in days past. May He preserve you from all
    evil and cause you to dwell in perfect peace.”

The foregoing extracts from a letter written by my father during the
(to us) “wonderful summer” of our sojourn in Prince Edward had to do
with the periodical visit paid by my grandmother to her Massachusetts
home. I am deeply impressed in the perusal of these confidential
epistles with the absolute dependence of the strong man—whom mere
acquaintances rated as reserved to sternness, and singularly
undemonstrative, even to his friends—upon the gentle woman who was,
I truly believe, the one and only love of his lifetime. He talked
to her by tongue and by pen of every detail of business; she was
the confidante of every plan, however immature; she, and she alone,
fathomed the depths of a soul over which Puritan blood and training
impelled him to cast a veil. In all this he had not a secret from her.
Portions of the letter which I have omitted go into particulars of
transactions that would interest few women.

No matter how weary he was after a day of travel or work, he had always
time to “talk it out” with his _alter ego_. The term has solemn force,
thus applied. In the injunction to write of domestic, gardening, and
farming affairs, he brings in “the store,” now of goodly proportions
and “departments,” and into which she did not set foot once a week, and
then as any other customer might. “Those large sheets will hold a great
deal if written very close,” he says, archly. They had evidently been
provided for this express purpose before he left home.

One paragraph in the exscinded section of the letter belongs to a day
and system that have lapsed almost from the memory of the living.

An infant of Mary Anne, my mother’s maid, was ill with whooping-cough
when the master took his journey northward.

“I am quite anxious to hear how Edgar is,” he writes. “I fear the case
may prove fatal, and am inclined to blame myself for leaving home
before it was decided. Yet I know he is in good hands, and that you
have done and will do everything necessary for his comfort. Also that,
in the event of his death, all that is proper will be attended to. When
I get home the funeral shall be preached, of which you will please
inform his parents.”

No word of written or spoken comfort would do more to soothe the hearts
of the bereaved parents than the assurance that the six-months-old baby
should have his funeral sermon in good and regular order. The discourse
was seldom preached at the time of interment. Weeks, and sometimes
months, intervened before the friends and relatives could be convened
with sufficient pomp and circumstance to satisfy the mourners. I have
attended services embodying a long sermon, eulogistic of the deceased
and admonitory of the living, when the poor mortal house of clay had
mouldered in the grave for half a year. I actually knew of one funeral
of a wife that was postponed by untoward circumstances until, when
a sympathizing community was convoked to listen to the sermon, the
ex-widower sat in the front seat as chief mourner with a second wife
and her baby beside him. And the wife wore a black gown with black
ribbon on her bonnet, out of respect to her predecessor!

They were whites, and church members in good and regular standing.

Little Edgar died the day after my father took the train from Richmond
for the fast run through to Boston—in two days and two nights! When
the master got home after a month’s absence, the funeral sermon was
preached in old Petersville Church, three miles from the Court House,
on a Sunday afternoon, and the parents and elder children were conveyed
thither in the family carriage, driven by Spotswood, who would now be
the “coachman.” Then he was the “carriage-driver.” They took time for
everything then-a-days, and plenty of it.

In September, Mea and I had the culmination of our experiences and
“privileges” upon College Hill in the Hampden-Sidney Commencement. I
had never attended one before. I have seen none since that were so
grand, and none that thrilled me to the remotest fibre of my being as
the exercises of that gloriously cloudless day. I hesitate to except
even the supreme occasion when, from a box above the audience-floor
packed with two thousand students and blazing with electric lights, I
saw my tall son march with his class to receive his diploma from the
president of a great university, and greeted him joyfully when, the
ceremonial over, he brought it up to lay in my lap.

There were but four graduates in that far-off little country college
with the hyphenated name and the honored history. It may be that their
grandchildren will read the roll here: Robert Campbell Anderson, Thomas
Brown Venable, Paul Carrington, and Mr. Rice, whose initials I think
were “T. C.” There were, I reiterate, but four graduates, but they
took three honors. Robert Anderson was valedictorian; Mr. Rice of the
uncertain initials had the philosophical oration; Tom Brown Venable
had the Latin salutatory; and Paul Carrington, the one honorless man,
made the most brilliant speech of them all. It was a way he had. The
madcap of the college—who just “got through,” as it were, by the skin
of his teeth, by cramming night and day for two months to make up for
an indefinite series of wretched recitations and numberless escapades
out of class—he easily eclipsed his mates on that day of days. The boys
used to say that he was “Saul,” until he got up to declaim, or make an
original address. Then he was “Paul.” He was Pauline, _par éminence_,
to-day.

I could recite verbatim his lament over Byron’s wasted powers, and
I see, as if it were but yesterday that it thrilled me, the pose and
passion of the outburst, arms tossed to heaven in the declamation:

    “O! had his harp been tuned to Zion’s songs!”

Music was “rendered” by an admirably trained choir. The hour of the
brass-band had not come yet to Hampden-Sidney. And the choir rendered
sacred music—such grand old anthems as,

    “Awake! awake! put on thy strength, O Zion!
       Put on thy beautiful garments”;

and,

    “How beautiful upon the mountains
     Are the feet of him that publisheth salvation;
     That saith unto Zion,
       ‘Thy God reigneth!’”

Doctor Maxwell was the president then, and was portentous in my eyes in
his don’s gown.

Dear old Hampden-Sidney! she has arisen, renewed in youth and vigor,
from the cinders of semi-desolation, has cast aside the sackcloth and
ashes of her grass-widowhood, and stepped into the ranks of modern
progress. I like best to recall her when she maintained the prestige of
her traditional honors and refused to accept decadence as a fixed fact.



XI

BACK IN POWHATAN—OLD VIRGINIA HOUSEWIFERY—A SINGING-CLASS IN THE
FORTIES—THE SIMPLE LIFE?


MY father’s “ways” were so well known by his neighbors it was taken
for granted that the education of his daughters would not be conducted
along conventional lines after we returned home. Mr. Howison had
completed his theological course in the seminary, and there were
other plans on foot, known as yet to my parents alone, which made the
engagement of another tutor inexpedient.

It did not seem odd to us then, but I wonder now over the routine laid
down by our father, and followed steadily by us during the next winter
and summer. A room in the second story was fitted up as a “study” for
the two girls. Each had her desk and her corner. Thither we repaired at
9 o’clock A.M. for five days of the week, and sat us down to work. When
problem, French exercise, history, and rhetoric lessons were prepared,
we gravely and dutifully recited them to each other; wrote French
exercises as carefully as if Mr. Howison’s eye were to scan them; and
each corrected that of her fellow to the best of her ability. We read
history and essays upon divers topics aloud, and discussed them freely.
The course of study was marked out for us by our beloved ex-tutor, who
wrote to us from time to time, in the midst of other and engrossing
cares, in proof of continued remembrance and interest in his whilom
pupils.

We girls wrought faithfully and happily until one o’clock at our
lessons. The rest of the day was our own, except afternoon hours which
were passed with our mother, and in occupations directed by her. She
had inherited from her mother taste and talent for dainty needlework,
and, as all sewing was done by hand, her hands were always full,
although her own maid was an expert seamstress. The Virginian matron of
_antebellum_ days never wielded broom or duster. She did not make beds
or stand at wash-tub or ironing-table. Yet she was as busy in her line
of housewifely duty as her “Yankee” sister.

Provisions were bought by the large quantity, and kept in the spacious
store-room, which was an important section of the dwelling. Every
morning the cook was summoned as soon as breakfast was fairly over,
appearing with a big wooden tray under her elbow, sundry empty
“buckets” slung upon her arm, and often a pail on her head, carried
there because every other available portion of her person was occupied.
The two went together to the store-room, and materials for the daily
food of white and black households were measured into the various
vessels. The notable housewife knew to a fraction how much of the raw
products went to the composition of each dish she ordered. So much
flour was required for a loaf of rolls, and so much for a dozen beaten
biscuits; a stated quantity of butter was for cake or pudding; sugar
was measured for the kitchen-table and for that at which the mistress
would sit with her guests. Molasses was poured into one bucket, lard
measured by the great spoonful into another; “bacon-middling” was cut
off by the chunk for cooking with vegetables and for the servants’
eating; hams and shoulders were laid aside from the supply in the
smoke-house, to which the pair presently repaired. Dried fruits
in the winter, spices, vinegar—the scores of minor condiments and
flavoring that were brought into daily use in the lavish provision
for appetites accustomed to the fat of the land—were “given out” as
scrupulously as staples. If wine or brandy were to be used in sauces,
the mistress would supply them later. It was not right, according to
her code, to put temptation of that sort in the way of her dependants.
It was certainly unsafe. Few colored women drank. I do not now recall
a solitary instance of that kind in all my experience with, and
observation of negro servants, before or after the war. I wish I could
say the same for Scotch, Irish, and German cooks whom I have employed
during a half-century of active housewifery.

Negro men were notoriously weak in that direction. The most honest
could not resist the sight and smell of liquor. The failing would
seem to be racial. It is an established fact that when the solid
reconstructed South “went dry” in certain elections, it was in the hope
of keeping ardent spirits out of the way of the negroes.

To return to our housekeeper of the mid-nineteenth century: The second
stage in the daily round appointed to her by custom and necessity was
to superintend the washing of breakfast china, glass, and silver. In
seven cases out of ten she did the work herself, or deputed it to her
daughters. One of my earliest recollections is of standing by my mother
as she washed the breakfast “things,” and allowed me to polish the
teaspoons with a tiny towel just the right size for my baby hands.

Her own hands were very beautiful, as were her feet. To preserve
her taper fingers from the hot water in which silver and glass were
washed, she wore gloves, cutting off the tips of the fingers. The
proper handling of “fragiles” was a fine art, and few colored servants
arose to the right practice of it. I have in my memory the picture
of one stately gentlewoman, serene of face and dignified of speech,
who retained her seat at the table when the rest of us had finished
breakfast. To her, then, in dramatic parlance, the butler, arrayed
in long, white apron, sleeves rolled to the elbow, bearing a pail
of cedar-wood with bright brass hoops, three-quarters full of hot
water. This he set down upon a small table brought into the room for
the purpose, and proceeded to wash plates, cups, glass, silver, etc.,
collected from the board at which madam still presided, a bit of fancy
knitting or crocheting in hand, which did not withdraw her eyes from
vigilant attention to his movements.

Like surveillance was exercised over each branch of housework. Every
part of the establishment was visited by the mistress before she sat
down to the sewing, which was her own especial task. Her daughters were
instructed in the intricacies of backstitch, fell-seams, overcasting,
hemstitching, herringbone, button-holes, rolled and flat hems, by
the time they let down their frocks and put up their hair. The girl
who had not made a set of chemises for herself before she reached
her fourteenth birthday was accounted slow to learn what became a
gentlewoman who expected to have a home of her own to manage some
day. Until I was ten years old I knit my own stockings of fine,
white cotton, soft as wool. Gentlemen of the old school refused to
wear socks and stockings bought over a counter. In winter they had
woollen, in summer cotton foot-gear, home-knit by wives or aunts or
daughters. We embroidered our chemise bands and the ruffles of skirts,
the undersleeves that came in with “Oriental sleeves,” and the broad
collars that accompanied them.

Reading aloud more often went with the sewing-circle found in every
home, than gossip. My father set his fine, strong face like a flint
against neighborhood scandal and tittle-tattle. “‘They say’ is next
door to a lie,” was one of the sententious sayings that silenced
anecdotes dealing with village characters and doings. A more effectual
quietus was: “_Who says_ that? Never repeat a tale without giving the
author’s name. That is the only honorable thing to do.”

I do not know that the exclusion of chit-chat of our friends drove
us to books for entertainment, when miles of seams and gussets and
overcasting lay between us and springtime with its outdoor amusements
and occupations. I do say that we did not pine for evening “functions,”
for luncheons and matinées, when we had plenty of books to read aloud
and congenial companions with whom to discuss what we read. Once a
week we had a singing-class, which met around our dining-table. My
father led this, giving the key with his tuning-fork, and now and then
accompanying with his flute a hymn in which his tenor was not needed.

Have I ever spoken of the singular fact that he had “no ear for music,”
yet sang tunefully and with absolute accuracy, with the notes before
him? He could not carry the simplest air without the music-book. It was
a clear case of a lack of co-ordination between ear and brain. He was
passionately fond of music, and sang well in spite of it, playing the
flute correctly and with taste—always by note. Take away the printed or
written page, and he was all at sea.

Those songful evenings were the one dissipation of the week. A
singing-master, the leader of a Richmond choir, had had a school at
the Court House the winter before, and _The Boston Academy_ was in
every house in the village. I could run glibly over the names of the
regular attendants on the Tuesday evenings devoted to our _musicale_.
George Moody, my father’s good-looking ward, now seventeen, and already
in love up to his ears with Effie D., my especial crony, who was a
month my junior; Thaddeus Ivey, a big blond of the true Saxon type,
my father’s partner, and engaged to be married to a pretty Lynchburg
girl; James Ivey, a clerk in the employ of Hawes & Ivey—nice and quiet
and gentlemanly, and in love with nobody that we knew of—these were
the bassos. Once in a while, “Cousin Joe,” who was busily engaged in
a seven years’ courtship of a fair villager, Effie’s sister, joined us
and bore our souls and voices aloft with the sonorous “brum! brum!”
of a voice at once rich and well-trained. There were five sopranos—we
called it “the treble” then—and two women sang “the second treble.” One
weak-voiced neighbor helped my father out with the tenor. Until a year
or two before the singing-master invaded the country, women sang tenor,
and the alto was known as “counter.”

The twentieth century has not quite repudiated the tunes we delighted
in on those winter nights, when

    “The fire, with hickory logs supplied,
     Went roaring up the chimney wide,”

and we lined both sides of the long table, lighted by tall sperm-oil
lamps, and bent seriously happy faces over _The Boston Academy_,
singing with the spirit and, to the best of our ability, with the
understanding—“Lanesboro’” and “Cambridge” and “Hebron” and “Boyleston”
and “Zion,” and learning, with puckered brows and steadfast eyes glued
to the notes, such new tunes as “Yarmouth,” “Anvern,” and “Zerah.”

“Sing _at_ it!” my father would command in heartsome tones, from his
stand at the top of the double line. “You will never learn it if you do
not make the first trial.”

I arose to my feet the other day with the rest of the congregation of a
fashionable church for a hymn which “everybody” was enjoined from the
pulpit to “sing.”

When the choir burst forth with

    “Triumphant Zion! Lift thy head!”

I dropped my head upon my hands and sobbed. Were the words ever sung to
any other tune than “Anvern,” I wonder?

In the interval of singing we chatted, laughed, and were happy. How
proud all of us girls were, on one stormy night when the gathering was
smaller than usual, and good-looking George—coloring to his ears, but
resolute—sang the bass solo in the fourth line of “Cambridge”:

    “Resound their Maker’s praise!”

The rest caught the words from his tongue and carried the tune to a
conclusion.

We sang until ten o’clock; then apples, nuts, and cakes were brought
in, and sometimes sweet cider. An hour later we had the house to
ourselves, and knelt for evening prayers about the fire before going to
bed.

It was an easy-going existence, that of the well-to-do Virginia
countryman of that date. If there were already elements at work below
the surface that were to heave the fair level into smoking ruin, the
rank and file of the men who made, and who obeyed the laws, did not
suspect it.

Grumblers there were, and political debates that ran high and hot, but
the Commonwealth that had supplied the United States with statesmen and
leaders since the Constitution was framed, had no fear of a dissolution
of what was, to the apprehension of those now at the helm, the natural
order of things.



XII

ELECTION DAY AND A DEMOCRATIC BARBECUE


THE time of the singing of birds and the departure of winter came
suddenly that year. Hyacinths were aglow in my mother’s front yard
early in February, and the orchards were aflame with “the fiery
blossoms of the peach.” The earth awoke from sleep with a bound, and
human creatures thrilled, as at the presage of great events.

It was the year of the presidential election and a campaign of
extraordinary importance. My father talked to me of what invested it
with this importance as we walked together down the street one morning
when the smell of open flowers and budding foliage was sweet in our
nostrils.

A Democratic barbecue was to be held in a field on the outskirts of the
village just beyond “Jordan’s Creek.” The stream took its name from the
man whose plantation bounded it on the west. The widening and deepening
into a pool at the foot of his garden made it memorable in the Baptist
Church.

I do not believe there was a negro communicant in any other
denomination throughout the length of the county. And their favorite
baptizing-place was “Jordan’s Creek.” I never knew why, until my
mother’s maid—a bright mulatto, with a smart cross of Indian blood in
her veins—“got through,” after mighty strivings on her part, and on the
part of the faithful of her own class and complexion, and confided to
me her complacency in the thought that she was now safe for time and
eternity.

“For, you see, John the Babtis’, he babtized in the River Jerdan, and
Brother Watkins, he babtized me in the Creek Jerdan. I s’pose they must
be some kin to one another?”

My father laughed and then sighed over the story, when I told it as we
set out on our walk. The religious beliefs and superstitions of the
colored servants were respected by their owners to a degree those who
know little of the system as it prevailed at that time, find it hard to
believe. From babyhood we were taught never to speak disrespectfully
of the Baptists, or of the vagaries that passed with the negroes for
revealed truth. They had a right to their creeds as truly as we had to
ours.

This younger generation is also incredulous with respect to another
fact connected with our domestic relations. Children were trained in
respectful speech to elderly servants—indeed, to all who were grown men
and women. My mother made me apologize once to this same maid—Mary Anne
by name—for telling her to “Hush her mouth!” the old Virginian form of
“Hold your tongue!”

The blesséd woman explained the cause of her reproof when the maid was
out of hearing:

“The expression is unladylike and coarse. Then, again, it is
_mean_—despicably mean!—to be saucy to one who has no right to answer
in the same way. If you must be sharp in your talk, quarrel with your
equals, not with servants, who cannot meet you on your own ground.”

The admonition has stuck fast in my mind to this day.

By the time we turned the corner in the direction of Jordan’s Creek,
my father and I were deep in politics. He was the stanchest of Whigs,
and the ancient and honorable party had for leader, in this year’s
fight, one whom my instructor held to be the wisest statesman and
purest patriot in the land. The ticket, “Clay and Frelinghuysen,” was a
beloved household word with us; talk of the tariff, protection and the
national debt, which Henry Clay’s policy would wipe out, and forever,
if opportunity were granted to him, ran as glibly from our childish
tongues as dissertations upon the Catholic bill and parliamentary
action thereupon dropped from the lips of the Brontë boy and girls.
There was not a shadow of doubt in our minds as to the result of the
November fight.

“It seems a pity”—I observed, as we looked across the creek down into
the distant meadow, where men and boys were moving to and fro, and
smoke was rising from fires that had been kindled overnight—“that the
Democrats should go to so much expense and trouble only to be defeated
at last.”

“They may not be so sure as you are that they are working for nothing,”
answered my father, smiling good-humoredly. “They have had some
victories to boast of in the past.”

“Yes!” I assented, reluctantly. “As, for instance, when Colonel Hopkins
was sent to the Legislature! Father, I wish you had agreed to go when
they begged you to let them elect you!”

The smile was now a laugh.

“To nominate me, you mean. A very different matter from election, my
daughter. Not that I cared for either. If I may be instrumental in the
hands of Providence in helping to put the right man into the right
place, my political ambitions will be satisfied.”

“I do hope that Powhatan will go for Clay!” ejaculated I, fervently.
“And I think it an outrage that the Richmond voters cannot come up to
the help of the right, at the presidential election.”

“The law holds that the real strength of the several states would not
be properly represented if this were allowed,” was the reply.

I saw the justice of the law later in life. Then it was oppressive, to
my imagination.

That most doubtful blessing of enlightened freemen—universal
suffrage—had not as yet been thrust upon the voters of the United
States. In Virginia, the man who held the franchise must not only be
“free, white, and twenty-one,” but he must be a land-owner to the
amount of at least twenty-five dollars. Any free white of the masculine
gender owning twenty-five dollars’ worth of real estate in any county
had a vote there. If he owned lands of like value in ten counties,
he might deposit a vote in each of them, if he could reach them all
between sunrise and sunset on Election Day. It was esteemed a duty by
the Richmond voter—the city being overwhelmingly Whig—to distribute his
influence among doubtful counties in which he was a property-holder.
He held and believed for certain that he had a right to protect his
interests wherever they might lie.

Powhatan was a doubtful factor in the addition of election returns.
Witness the election to the Legislature at different periods of such
Democrats as Major Jacob Michaux—from a James River plantation held by
his grandfather by a royal grant since the Huguenots sought refuge in
Virginia from French persecutors—and of the Colonel Hopkins whom I had
named. This last was personally popular, a man of pleasing address and
fair oratorical powers, and represented an influential neighborhood
in the centre of the county. A most worthy gentleman, as I now know.
Then I classed him with Jesuits and tyrants. I had overheard a sanguine
Democrat declare in the heat of political argument that “Henry L.
Hopkins would be President of the United States some day.” To which my
father retorted, “When that day comes I shall cross the ocean and swear
allegiance to Queen Victoria.”

When I repeated the direful threat to my mother, she laughed and bade
me give myself no uneasiness on the subject, as nothing was more
unlikely than that Colonel Hopkins would ever go to the White House.
Nevertheless, I always associated that amiable and courtly gentleman
with our probable expatriation.

Election Day was ever an event of moment with us children. From
the time when I was tall enough to peep over the vine-draped
garden-fence—until I was reckoned too big to stand and stare in so
public a place, and was allowed to join the seniors who watched the
street from behind the blinds and between the sprays of the climbing
roses shading the front windows—it was my delight to inspect and
pronounce upon the groups that filled the highway all day long.
Children are violent partisans, and we separated the sheep from the
goats—_id est_, the Whigs from the Democrats—as soon as the horsemen
became visible through the floating yellow dust of the roads running
from each end of the street back into the country. One neighborhood
in the lower end of the county, bordering upon Chesterfield, was
familiarly known as the “Yellow Jacket region.” It took its name,
according to popular belief, from the butternut and nankeen stuffs that
were worn by men and women. The term had a sinister meaning to us,
although it was sufficiently explained by the costume of the voters,
who seldom appeared at the Court House in force except upon Election
Day. They arrived early in the forenoon—a straggling procession of
sad-faced citizens, or so we fancied—saying little to one another, and
looking neither to the left nor the right as their sorrel nags paced up
the middle of the wide, irregularly built street. I did not understand
then, nor do I now, their preference for sorrel horses. Certain it is
that there were four of that depressing hue to one black, bay, or gray.
So badly groomed were the poor beasts, and so baggy were the nankeen
trousers of the men who bestrode them, that a second look was needed
to determine where the rider ended and the steed began. We noted, with
disdainful glee, that the Yellow Jacket folk turned the corner of the
crossway flanking our garden, and so around the back of the public
square enclosing Court House, clerk’s office, and jail. There they
tethered the sorry beasts to the fence, shook down a peck or so of oats
from bags they had fastened behind their saddles, and shambled into the
square to be lost in the gathering crowd.

As they rode through the village, ill-mannered boys chanted:

    “Democrats—
     They eat rats!
     But Whigs
     Eat pigs!”

Bacon being a product for which the state was famed, the distinction
was invidious to the last degree. My mother never let us take up the
scandalous doggerel. She said it was vulgar, untrue, and unkind. It was
not her fault that each of us had the private belief that there was a
spice of truth in it.

When we saw a smart tilbury, drawn by a pair of glossy horses, stop
before the “Bell Tavern” opposite our house, the occupants spring to
the ground and leave the equipage to the hostlers—who rushed from the
stables at sound of the clanging bell pulled by the landlord as soon as
he caught sight of the carriage—we said in unison:

“They are Whigs!”

We were as positive as to the politics of the men who rode blooded
hunters and wore broadcloth and tall, shining hats. The Yellow Jacket
head-gear was drab in color, uncertain in shape.

It seemed monstrous to our intolerant youth that “poor white folksy”
men should have an equal right with gentlemen, born and bred, in
deciding who should represent the county in the Legislature and the
district in Congress.

The crowning excitement of the occasion was reserved for the afternoon.
As early as three o’clock I was used to see my father come out of the
door of his counting-room over the way, watch in hand, and look down
the Richmond road. Presently he would be joined there by one, two, or
three others, and they compared timepieces, looking up at the westering
sun, their faces graver and gestures more energetic as the minutes sped
by. The junta of women sympathizers behind the vine-curtains began to
speculate as to the possibility of accident to man, beast, or carriage,
and we children inquired, anxiously, “What would happen if the Richmond
voters did not come, after all?”

“No fear of that!” we were assured, our mother adding, with modest
pride, “Your father has attended to the matter.”

They always came. Generally the cloud of distant dust, looming
high and fast upon the wooded horizon, was the first signal of the
reinforcements for the Whig party. Through this we soon made out a
train of ten or twelve carriages, and perhaps as many horsemen—a
triumphal cortége that rolled and caracoled up the street amid the
cheers of expectant fellow-voters and of impartial urchins, glad of any
chance to hurrah for anybody. The most important figure to me in the
scene was my father, as with feigned composure he walked slowly to the
head of the front steps, and lifted his hat in courteous acknowledgment
of the hands and hats waved to him from carriage and saddle-bow. If I
thought of Alexander, Napoleon, and Washington, I am not ashamed to
recollect it now.

That child has been defrauded who has not had a hero in his own home.

I was at no loss to know who mine was, on this bland spring morning, as
my father and I leaned on a fence on the hither side of the creek and
watched the proceedings of the cooks and managers about the _al fresco_
kitchen.

“Too many cooks spoil the dinner!” quoth I, as negroes bustled from
fire to fire, and white men yelled their orders and counter-orders.
“Not that it matters much what kind of victuals are served at a
Democratic barbecue, so long as there is plenty to drink.”

“Easy, easy, daughter!” smiled my auditor. “There are good men and true
in the other party. We are in danger of forgetting that.”

“None as good and great as Mr. Clay, father?”

He raised his hat slightly and involuntarily. “I do not think he has
his equal as man and pure patriot in this, or any other country. God
defend the right!”

“You are not afraid lest _Polk_”—drawling the monosyllable in
derision—“will beat him, father?”

The smile was a laugh—happily confident.

“Hardly! I have more faith in human nature and in the common-sense of
the American people than to think that they will pass over glorious
Harry of the West, and forget his distinguished services to the nation,
to set in the presidential chair an obscure demagogue who has done
nothing. Wouldn’t you like to go down there and see half an ox roasted,
and a whole sheep?”

We crossed the stream upon a shaking plank laid from bank to bank, and
strolled down the slope to the scene of operations. An immense kettle
was swung over a fire of logs that were so many living coals. The smell
of Brunswick stew had been wafted to us while we leaned on the fence. A
young man, who had the reputation of being an epicure, to the best of
his knowledge and ability, superintended the manufacture of the famous
delicacy.

“Two dozen chickens went into it!” he assured us. “They wanted to make
me think it couldn’t be made without green corn and fresh tomatoes.
I knew a trick worth two of that. I have worked it before with dried
tomatoes and dried sweet corn soaked overnight.”

He smacked his lips and winked fatuously.

“I’ve great confidence in your culinary skill,” was the good-natured
rejoinder.

I recollected that I had heard my father say of this very youth:

“I am never hard upon a fellow who is a fool because he can’t help it!”
But I wondered at his gentleness when the epicure prattled on:

“Yes, sir! a stew like this is fit for Democrats to eat. I wouldn’t
give a Whig so much as a smell of the pot!”

“You ought to have a tighter lid, then,” with the same good-humored
intonation, and we passed on to see the roasts. Shallow pits, six
or seven feet long and four feet wide, were half filled with clear
coals of hard hickory billets. Iron bars were laid across these,
gridiron-like, and half-bullocks and whole sheep were cooking over the
scarlet embers. There were six pits, each with its roast. The spot for
the speakers’ rostrum and the seats of the audience was well-selected.
A deep spring welled up in a grove of maples. The fallen red blossoms
carpeted the ground, and the young leaves supplied grateful shade.
The meadows sloped gradually toward the spring; rude benches of what
we called “puncheon logs”—that is, the trunks of trees hewed in half,
and the flat sides laid uppermost—were ranged in the form of an
amphitheatre.

“You have a fine day for the meeting,” observed my father to the master
of ceremonies, a planter from the Genito neighborhood, who greeted the
visitors cordially.

“Yes, sir! The Lord is on our side, and no mistake!” returned the
other, emphatically. “Don’t you see that yourself, Mr. Hawes!”

“I should not venture to base my faith upon the weather,” his eyes
twinkling while he affected gravity, “for we read that He sends His
rain and sunshine upon the evil and the good. Good-morning! I hope the
affair will be as pleasant as the day.”

Our father took his family into confidence more freely than any other
man I ever knew. We were taught not to prattle to outsiders of what
was said and done at home. At ten years of age I was used to hearing
affairs of personal and business moment canvassed by my parents and
my father’s partner, who had been an inmate of our house from his
eighteenth year—intensely interested to the utmost of my comprehension
and drawing my own conclusions privately, yet understanding all the
while that whatever I heard and thought was not to be spoken of to
schoolmate or visitor.

It was not unusual for my father to confide to me in our early morning
rides—for he was my riding-master—some scheme he was considering
pertaining to church, school, or purchase, talking of it as to an equal
in age and intelligence. I hearkened eagerly, and was flattered and
honored by the distinction thus conferred. He never charged me not to
divulge what was committed to me. Once or twice he had added, “I know
I am safe in telling you this.” After which the thumb-screw could not
have extracted a syllable of the communication from me.

It was during one of these morning rides that he unfolded a
plan suggested, as he told me, by our visit to the Democratic
barbecue-ground some weeks before.

We had to rise betimes to secure a ride of tolerable length before the
warmth of the spring and summer days made the exercise fatiguing and
unpleasant. A glass of milk and a biscuit were brought to me while I
was dressing in the gray dawn, and I would join my escort at the front
gate, where stood the hostler with both horses, while the east was yet
but faintly colored by the unseen sun.

We were pacing quietly along a plantation road five miles from the
Court House, and I was dreamily enjoying the fresh taste of the
dew-laden air upon my lips, and inhaling the scent of the wild thyme
and sheep-mint, bruised by the horses’ hoofs, when my companion, who, I
had seen, had been in a brown study for the last mile, began with:

“I have been thinking—” The sure prelude to something worth hearing, or
so I believed then.

A Whig rally was meditated. He had consulted with three of his friends
as to the scheme born of his brain, and there would be a meeting of
perhaps a dozen leading men of the party in his counting-room that
afternoon. The affair was not to be spoken of until date and details
were settled. My heart swelled with pride in him, and in myself as
his chosen confidante, as he went on. The recollection of the scenes
succeeding the barbecue was fresh in our minds, and the memory
sharpened the contrast between the methods of the rival parties.

I was brimful of excitement when I got home, and the various novelties
of the impending event in the history of county politics and village
life were the staple of neighborhood talk for the weeks dividing that
morning ride from the mid-May day of the “rally.”

That was what they called it, for it was not to be a barbecue, although
a collation would be served in the grounds surrounding the Grove Hotel,
situated in the centre of the hamlet, and separated from the public
square by one street. The meeting and the speaking would be in the
grove at the rear of the Court House. Seats were to be arranged among
the trees. It was at my father’s instance and his expense that the
benches would be covered with white cotton cloth—“muslin,” in Northern
parlance. This was in special compliment to the “ladies who, it was
hoped, would compose a great part of the audience.”

This was the chiefest innovation of all that set tongues to wagging
in three counties. The wives and mothers and daughters of voters were
cordially invited by placards strewed broadcast through the length
and breadth of Powhatan. The like had never been heard of within the
memory of the oldest inhabitant. It was universally felt that the step
practically guaranteed the county for Clay and Frelinghuysen.



XIII

A WHIG RALLY AND MUSTER DAY


THE day dawned heavenly fair, and waxed gloriously bright by the time
the preparations for the reception of the guests were completed.
The dust had been laid by an all-day rain forty-eight hours before.
Every blade of grass and the leaves, which rustled joyously overhead,
shone as if newly varnished. At ten o’clock all the sitting-space was
occupied, three-fourths of the assembly being of the fairer sex. Half
an hour later there was not standing-room within the sound of the
orators’ voices. A better-dressed, better-mannered crowd never graced
a political “occasion.” All were in summer gala attire, and all were
seated without confusion. My father, as chairman of the committee of
arrangements, had provided for every stage of the proceeding. It was by
a motion, made by him and carried by acclamation, that Captain Miller,
“a citizen of credit and renown,” was called to preside.

As if it had happened last week, I can, in fancy, see each feature
of this, the most stupendous function that had ever entered my young
life. I suppose there may have been five hundred people present. I
would have said, unhesitatingly, “five thousand,” if asked to make
the computation. I wore, for the first time, a sheer lawn frock—the
longest I had ever had, but, as my mother explained to the village
dressmaker—Miss Judy Cardozo—“Virginia is growing so fast, we would
better have it rather long to begin with.” I secretly rejoiced
in the sweep of the full skirt down to my heels, as giving me a
young-ladylike appearance. “Thad” Ivey, always kind to me, and not
less jolly because he was soon to be a married man, meeting me on the
way up the street, declared that I had “really a ball-room air.” My
hair was “done” in two braids and tied with white ribbon figured with
pale-purple and green flowers. Sprigs of the same color decorated the
white ground of my lawn. I carried a white fan, and I sat, with great
delight, between my mother and Cousin Mary.

                            “‘And bright
    The _sun_ shone o’er fair women and brave men,’”

murmured a gallant Whig to the row of women behind us.

“Isn’t that strange!” whispered I to Cousin Mary; “those lines have
been running in my mind ever since we came.”

Not strange, as I now know. Everybody read and quoted “Childe Harold”
at that period, and I may add, took liberties with the text of favorite
poems to suit them to the occasion.

When the round of applause that greeted the appearance of Captain
Miller upon the platform subsided, everything grew suddenly so still
that I heard the leaves rustling over our heads. His was not an
imposing presence, but he had a stainless reputation as a legislator
and a Whig, and was highly respected as a man. He began in exactly
these words:

“Ladies and gentlemen—fellow-citizens, all!—it behooves us, always
and everywhere, before entering upon the prosecution of any important
enterprise, to invoke the presence and blessing of Almighty God. We
will, therefore, be now led in prayer by the Reverend Mr. Carus.”

My uncle-in-law “offered” a tedious petition, too long-winded to
please the average politician perhaps, but it was generally felt that
a younger man and newer resident could not have been called upon
without incivility verging upon disrespect to a venerable citizen. The
invocation over, the presiding officer announced that “the Whigs, in
obedience to the spirit of fair play to all, and injustice to none,
that had ever characterized the party, would to-day grant to their
honored opponents, the Democrats, the opportunity of replying publicly
to the arguments advanced in the addresses of those representing
the principles in the interest of which the present assembly had
been convened. The first speaker of the day would be the Hon. Holden
Rhodes, of Richmond. The second would be one almost as well known
to the citizens of county and state—the Hon. John Winston Jones, of
Chesterfield. The Whigs reserved to themselves the last and closing
address of the day by the Hon. Watkins Leigh, of Richmond.”

Nothing could be fairer and more courteous, it seemed to me. In the
hum of approval that rippled through the assembly it was apparent that
others held the like sentiment. Likewise, that the “Honorable Chairman”
had scored another point for the magnanimous Whigs. But then—as I
whispered to my indulgent neighbor on the left—they could afford to
surrender an advantage or two to the party they were going to whip out
of existence.

Holden Rhodes was an eminent lawyer, and his speech was a trifle too
professional in sustained and unoratorical argument for my taste and
mental reach. I recall it chiefly because of a comical interruption
that enlivened the hour-long exposition of party creeds.

I have drawn in my book, _Judith_, a full-length portrait of one of the
men of marked individuality who made Powhatan celebrated in the history
of a state remarkable in every period for strongly defined public
characters. In _Judith_ I named this man “Captain Macon.” In real life
he was Capt. John Cocke, a scion of a good old family, a planter of
abundant means, and the father of sons who were already beginning to
take the place in the public eye he had held for fifty years. He was
tall and gaunt, his once lofty head slightly bowed by years and—it was
hinted—by high living. He had been handsome, and his glance was still
piercing, his bearing distinguished. I ever cherished, as I might value
a rare antique, the incident of his introduction to that stalwart dame,
my New England grandmother, who had now been a member of our family for
three years.

We were on our way home after service at Fine Creek, and the carriage
had stopped at a wayside spring to water the horses. Captain Cocke
stood by the spring, his bridle rein thrown over his arm while his
horse stooped to the “branch” flowing across the highway. Expecting to
see my mother in the carriage, he took off his hat and approached the
window.

“This is my mother, Captain,” said my father, raising his voice
slightly, as he then named the new-comer to her deaf ears.

The old cavalier bowed low, his hand upon his heart: “Madam, I am the
friend of your son. I can say nothing more to a mother!”

The fine courtesy, the graceful deference to age, the instant
adaptation of manner and words to the circumstances, have set the
episode aside in my heart as a gem of its kind.

He wore on that Sunday, and he wore on every other day the year
around, a scarlet hunting-coat. I wonder if there were more eccentrics
in Virginia in that generation than are to be met with there—or
anywhere else—nowadays? Certain it is that nobody thought of inquiring
why Captain Cocke, whose ancestors had served under Washington and
Lafayette in the war for freedom, chose to sport the British livery.
We had ceased to remark upon it by the time I write of. When strangers
expressed wonderment at the queer garb, we had a resentful impression
of officiousness.

Mr. Rhodes, with the rest of his party, was thoroughly dissatisfied
with the policy (or want of policy) of John Tyler, who had been called
to the presidential chair by the untimely death of Gen. W. H. Harrison.
In the progress of his review of national affairs, he came to this name
when he had spoken half an hour or so.

Whereupon uprose the majestic figure clad in scarlet, from his seat
a few feet away from the platform. The Captain straightened his bent
shoulders and lifted lean arms and quivering fingers toward heaven. The
red tan of his weather-beaten cheeks was a dusky crimson.

“The Lord have mercy upon the nation!” he cried, his voice solemn with
wrath, and sonorous with the potency of the mint-juleps for which “The
Bell” was noted. “Fellow-citizens! I always cry to High Heaven for
mercy upon this country when John Tyler’s name is mentioned! Amen and
amen!”

He had a hearty round of applause mingled with echoes of his “amens”
and much good-humored laughter. They all knew and loved the Captain.
I felt the blood rush to my face, and I saw others glance around
reprovingly when a city girl who sat behind me, and carried on a
whispered flirtation with a fopling at her side during Mr. Rhodes’s
speech, drawled:

“What voice from the tombs is that?”

Mrs. James Saunders, née Mary Cocke, was my mother’s right-hand
neighbor. With perfect temper and an agreeable smile, she looked over
her shoulder into the babyish face of the cockney guest—

“That is my Uncle John,” she uttered, courteously.

Whereat all within hearing smiled, and the young woman had the grace to
blush.

Mr. Rhodes was speaking again, and the audience was respectfully
attentive. The orator made clever use of the Captain’s interruption.
The manner of it offended nobody. John Tyler was, perhaps, the most
unpopular man in the Union at that particular time. The Democrats
had no use for him, and he had disappointed his own party. When the
smoke and dust of political skirmishing cleared away, Virginians did
something like justice to his motives and his talents. Twenty years
thereafter, my early pre-possessions, engendered by the vituperative
eloquence of the Clay campaign, were corrected by a quiet remark made
by my father to a man who spoke slightingly of the ex-President:

“The man who chose the cabinet that served during Tyler’s
administration was neither fool nor traitor.”

John Winston Jones demolished the fair fabric Mr. Rhodes had spent so
much time and labor in constructing that I began to yawn before the
lively Democrat woke me up. I recollect that he was pungent and funny,
and that I was interested, despite his sacrilegious treatment of what I
regarded as sacred themes.

It was a telling point when he drew deliberately a wicked-looking
jack-knife from his breeches pocket, opened it as deliberately, and,
turning toward Mr. Rhodes, who sat at his left, said:

“If I were to plunge this into the bosom of my friend and respected
opponent (and I beg to assure him that I shall not hurt a hair of his
head, now or ever!), would I be regarded as his benefactor? Yet that is
what General Jackson did to the system of bank monopolies,” etc.

I did not follow him further. For a startled second I had really
thought we were to have a “scene.” I had heard that Democrats were
bloodthirsty by nature, and that sanguinary outbreaks attended
political demonstrations and cataracts of bad whiskey.

It goes without saying that the Hon. Watkins Leigh—a distinguished
member of the Richmond bar, famous for legal acumen and forensic
oratory—made quick and thorough work in the destruction of Mr. Jones’s
building, and sent the Whigs home with what I heard my mother describe
as “a good taste in their mouths.”

The orations were interspersed with “patriotic songs.” A quartette of
young men, picked out by the committee of arrangements, for their fine
voices and stanch Whiggery, stood on the platform and sang the body of
the ballads. The choruses were shouted, with more force and good-will
than tunefulness, by masculine voters of all ages and qualities of tone.

Doctor Henning, an able physician, and as eccentric in his way as
Captain Cocke in his, stood near my father, his back against a tree,
his mouth wide, and all the volume of sound he could pump from his
lungs pouring skyward in the refrain of

    “Get out of the way, you’re all unlucky;
     Clear the track for Old Kentucky!”—

when his eye fell upon a young man, who, having no more ear or voice
than the worthy Galen himself, contented himself with listening. As
the quartette began the next verse, the Doctor collared “Abe” Cardozo
(whom, by the way, he had assisted to bring into the world), and
actually shook him in the energy of his patriotism—

“Abraham James! why don’t you sing?”

“Me, Doctor?” stammered the young fellow, who probably had not heard
his middle name in ten years before—“I never sang a note in my life!”

“Then begin now!” commanded the Doctor, setting the example as the
chorus began anew.

How my father laughed! backing out of sight of the pair, and doubling
himself up in the enjoyment of the scene, real bright tears rolling
down his cheeks. I heard him rehearse the incident twenty times
in after-years, and always with keen delight. For the Doctor was a
scholar and a dreamer, as well as a skilful practitioner, renowned for
his horticultural and ornithological successes, and so taciturn and
absent-minded that he seldom took part in general conversation. That he
should have been drawn out of his shell to the extent of roaring out
ungrammatical doggerel in a public assembly of his fellow-citizens,
was a powerful proof of the tremendous force of party enthusiasm. The
incongruity of the whole affair appealed to my father’s ever-active
sense of humor. He would wind up the story by asserting that “it would
have made Jeremiah chuckle if he had known both of the actors in the
by-play.”

One specimen of the ballads that flooded the land in the fateful 1844
will give some idea of the tenor of all:

    _Tune_: “Ole Dan Tucker”

    “The moon was shining silver bright, the stars with glory
           crowned the night,
     High on a limb that ‘same old Coon’ was singing to himself
           this tune:

    _Chorus_

    “Get out of the way, you’re all unlucky; clear the track
           for Ole Kentucky!

    “Now in a sad predicament the Lokies are for President;
     They have six horses in the pasture, and don’t know which
           can run the faster.

    “The Wagon-Horse from Pennsylvany, the Dutchmen think he’s
           the best of any;
     But he must drag in heavy stages his Federal notions and
           low wages.

    “They proudly bring upon the course an old and broken-down
           war-horse;
     They shout and sing: ‘Oh! rumpsey dumsey, Colonel Johnson
           killed Tecumsey!’

    “And here is Cass, though not a dunce, will run both sides
           of the track at once;
     To win the race will all things copy, be sometimes pig and
           sometimes puppy.

    “The fiery Southern horse, Calhoun, who hates a Fox and fears
           a Coon,
     To toe the scratch will not be able, for Matty keeps him in
           the stable.

    “And here is Matty, never idle, a tricky horse that slips his
           bridle;
     In forty-four we’ll show him soon the little Fox can’t fool
           the Coon.

    “The balky horse they call John Tyler, we’ll head him soon or
           burst his boiler;
     His cursed ‘grippe’ has seized us all, which Doctor Clay will
           cure next fall.

    “The people’s fav’rite, Henry Clay, is now the ‘fashion’ of the
           day;
     And let the track be dry or mucky, we’ll stake our pile on Ole
           Kentucky.

    “Get out of the way, he’s swift and lucky; clear the track for
           Ole Kentucky!”

(The chorus of each preceding verse is, “Get out of the way, you’re all
unlucky,” etc. The “Fox” is Martin Van Buren, or “Matty.” The “Coon” is
Clay. The “Wagon-Horse from Pennsylvany” is James Buchanan.)

Another ballad, sung that day under the trees at the back of the Court
House, began after this wise:

    “What has caused this great commotion
       Our ranks betray?
     It is the ball a-rolling on
       To clear the way
       For Harry Clay.
     And with him we’ll beat your Polk! Polk! Polk!
     And his motley crew of folk.
     O! with him we’ll beat your Polk.”

To my excited imagination it was simple fact, not a flight of fancy,
that Powhatan should be alluded to that day as “your historic county—a
mere wave in the vast Union—

    “That ever shall be
     Divided as billows, yet one as the sea.”

“A wave, fellow-citizens, that has caught the irresistible impulse of
wind and tide bearing us on to the most glorious victory America has
ever seen.”

Ah’s me! That was how both parties talked and felt with regard to the
Union seventeen years before the very name became odious to those who
had been ready to die in defence of it.

I cannot dismiss the subject of public functions in the “historic
county” without devoting a few pages to the annual Muster Day. It was
preceded by five days of “officers’ training.” The manœuvres of the
latter body were carried on in the public square, and, as one end of
our house overlooked this, no lessons were studied or recited between
the hours of 10 A.M. and 4 P.M. on those days. The sophisticated
twentieth-century youngling will smile contemptuously at hearing that,
up to this time, I had never heard a brass-band. But I knew all about
martial music. Already there was laid away in the fat portfolio nobody
except myself ever opened, a story in ten parts, in which the hero’s
voice was compared to “the thrilling strains of martial music.”

I boiled the tale down four years thereafter, and it was printed. It
had a career. But “that is another story.”

I used to sit with my “white work,” or a bit of knitting, in hand, at
that end window, looking across the side-street down upon the square,
watching the backing and filling, the prancing and the halting of the
eight “officers” drilled in military tactics by Colonel Hopkins, the
strains of the drum and fife in my ears, and dream out war-stories by
the dozen.

The thumping and the squealing of drum and fife set my pulses to
dancing as the finest orchestra has never made them leap since that day
when fancy was more real and earnest than what the bodily senses took
in.

By Saturday the officers had learned their lesson well enough to take
their respective stands before (and aft, as we shall see) the larger
body of free and independent American citizens who were not “muster
free,” hence who must study the noble art of war.

They came from every quarter of the county. The Fine Creek and Genito
neighborhoods gave up their quota, and Deep Creek, Red Lane, and Yellow
Jacket country kept not back. It was a motley and most democratic line
that stretched from the main street to that flanking the public square.
Butternut and broadcloth rubbed elbows; planter and overseer were
shoulder to shoulder. “Free, white, and twenty-one” had the additional
qualification of “under forty-five.” Past that, the citizen of these
free and enlightened United States lays down the burden of peaceable
military muster.

Besides those worn by the officers, there was not a uniform on duty
that Saturday. Here and there one might descry the glitter of a
gun-barrel. Walking-canes and, with the Yellow Jacket contingent,
corn-stalks, simulated muskets in the exercises dictated by Colonel
Hopkins, who was to-day at his best. I employ the word “dictated” with
intention. He had to tell the recruits (surely the rawest ever drawn up
in line) exactly what each order meant. To prevent the swaying array
from leaning back against the fence, three officers were detailed to
skirmish behind the long row and shove delinquents into place. The
Colonel instructed them how to hold their “arms,” patiently; in the
simplest colloquial phrase, informed them what each was to do when
ordered to “shoulder arms,” “right dress,” “mark time,” and the rest of
the technicalities confusing to ears unlearned, and which, heard by the
veteran but once in a twelve-month, could not be familiar even after
ten or fifteen years of “service.”

Both the windows commanding the parade-ground were filled on Muster
Day. My mother and our grown-up cousins enjoyed the humors of the
situation almost as much as we girls, who let nothing escape our eager
eyes. Especially do I recall the shout of laughter we drew away from
our outlook to stifle, when the suave commanding officer, mindful of
the dull comprehension and crass ignorance of a large proportion of
his corps, directed them in a clear voice—whose courteous intonations
never varied under provocations that would have thrown some men into
paroxysms of mirth, and moved many to profanity—to “look straight
forward, hold the chin level, and let the hands hang down, keeping
thumbs upon the seam of the pantaloons.” More technical terms would
have been thrown away. Twenty warriors (prospective) brought both
hands forward and laid their thumbs, side by side, upon the central
seams of their pantaloons! Merriment, that threatened to be like the
“inextinguishable laughter” of Olympian deities, followed the grave
anxieties of the officials in rear and front of the mixed multitude to
hinder those at the extreme ends of the line from bending forward to
watch the manœuvres of comrades who occupied the centre of the field.
In spite of hurryings to and fro and up and down the ranks, it chanced,
half a dozen times an hour, that what should have been a straight line
became a curve. Then the gallant, indomitable Colonel would walk
majestically from end to end, and with the flat of his naked sword
repair the damage done to discipline—

“Just like a boy rattling a stick along the palings!” gasped Cousin
Mary, choking with mirth.

The simile was apt.

Some staid citizens, tenacious of dignity and susceptible to ridicule,
seldom appeared upon the parade-ground, preferring to pay the fine
exacted for the omission. Others—and not a few—contended that some
familiarity with military manœuvres was essential to the mental outfit
of every man who would be willing to serve his country in the field
if necessary. This sentiment moved sundry of the younger men to the
formation, that same year (if I mistake not), of the “Powhatan Troop.”

One incident connected with the birth of an organization that still
exists, in name, fixed it in my mind. Cousin Joe—the hero of my
childish days—was mainly instrumental in getting up the company, and
brought the written form of constitution and by-laws to my father’s
house, where he dined on the Court Day which marked the first parade.
Our kinsman, Moses Drury Hoge, came with him. He prided himself, among
a great many other things, upon being phenomenally far-sighted. To test
this he asked Cousin Joe to hold the paper against the wall on the
opposite side of the room, and read it aloud slowly and correctly from
his seat, twenty feet away.

The scene came back to me as it was photographed on my mind that day,
when I read, ten years ago, in a Richmond paper, of the prospective
celebration of the formation of the “Powhatan Troop.” I was more than
four hundred miles away, and fifty-odd years separated me from the
“historic county” and the Court House where the banquet was to be
given. I let the paper drop and closed my eyes. I was back in the big,
square room on the first floor of the long, low, rambling house on the
village street. My favorite cousin, tall and handsome, held the paper
above his head, smiling in indulgent amusement at the young kinsman
of whom he was ever fond and proud. My father stood in the doorway,
watching the progress of the test. My mother had let her sewing fall
to her lap while she looked on. The scent of roses from the garden
that was the joy of my mother’s heart, stole in through open doors
and windows. The well-modulated tones, that were to ring musically
in church and hall on both sides of the sea, and for more than a
half-century to come, read the formal agreement, of which I recalled,
in part, the preamble:

“_We, the undersigned, citizens of the County of Powhatan, in the State
of Virginia._”

While the glamour of that moment of ecstatic reminiscence wrought
within me, I seized my pen and wrote a telegram of congratulation to
the revellers, seated, as I reckoned, at that very hour, about the
banqueting-board. I addressed the despatch to Judge Thomas Miller, the
grandson of the chairman on the day of the Whig rally. By a remarkable
and happy coincidence, for which I had hardly dared to hope, the
telegram, sent from a country station in New Jersey, flew straight
and fast to the obscure hamlet nearly five hundred miles off, and was
handed to Judge Miller at the head of the table while the feast was in
full flow. He read it aloud, and the health of the writer was drunk
amid such applause as my wildest fancy could not have foreseen in the
All-So-Long-Ago when my horizon, all rose-color and gold, was bounded
by the confines of “Our County.”



XIV

RUMORS OF CHANGES—A CORN-SHUCKING—NEGRO TOPICAL SONG


MY mother’s love for Richmond was but second to that she felt for
husband and children. It was evident to us in after-years that her
longing to return to her early home wrought steadily, if silently, upon
my father’s mind and shaped his plans.

These plans were definitively made and announced to us by the early
autumn of 1844. Uncle Carus had removed to the city with his family
late in the summer. My sister and I were to be sent to a new school
just established in Richmond, and recommended to our parents by Moses
Hoge, who was now assistant pastor in the First Presbyterian Church,
and had full charge of a branch of the same, built farther up-town than
the Old First founded by Dr. John H. Rice. We girls were to live with
the Caruses that winter. In the spring the rest of the family would
follow, and, thenceforward, our home would be in Richmond.

A momentous change, and one that was to alter the complexion of all our
lives. Yet it was so gradually and quietly effected that we were not
conscious of so much as a jar in the machinery of our existence.

I heard my mother say, and more than once, in after-years, crowded with
incident and with cares of which we never dreamed in those eventless
months:

“I was never quite contented to live anywhere out of Richmond, yet I
often asked myself during the seven years we spent in Powhatan if they
were not the most care-free I should ever have. I know, now, that they
were.”

My father gave a fervent assent when he heard this. To him the
sojourn was prosperous throughout. Energy, integrity, public spirit,
intelligence, and, under the exterior chance acquaintances thought
stern, the truest heart that ever throbbed with love to God and love
to man, had won for him the esteem and friendship of the best men in
the county. Steadily he mounted, by the force of native worth, to the
magistrate’s bench, and was a recognized factor in local and in state
politics. He had established a flourishing Sunday-school in the “Fine
Creek neighborhood,” where none had ever existed until he made this the
nucleus of a church. He was the confidential adviser of the embarrassed
planter and the struggling mechanic, and lent a helping hand to both.
He was President of a debating society, in which he was, I think, the
only man who was not a college graduate.

His business had succeeded far beyond his expectations. Except that the
increase of means moved him to larger charities, there was no change
in our manner of life. We had always been above the pinch of penury,
living as well as our neighbors, and, so far as the younger members of
the family knew, as well as any reasonable people need desire to live.
We had our carriage and horses, my sister and I a riding-horse apiece,
abundance of delicacies for the table, and new clothes of excellent
quality whenever we wanted them.

The ambitions and glories of the world beyond our limited sphere
came to our ken as matter of entertainment, not as provocatives to
discontent.

Two nights before we left home for our city school, the Harvest
Home—“corn-shucking”—was held. It was always great fun to us younglings
to witness the “show.” With no premonition that I should never assist
at another similar function, I went into the kitchen late in the
afternoon, and, as had been my office ever since I was eight years old,
superintended the setting of the supper-table for our servants and
their expected guests. I was Mammy Ritta’s special pet, and she put in
a petition that I would stand by her now, in terms I could not have
resisted if I had been as averse to the task as I was glad to perform
it:

“Is you goin’ to be sech a town young lady that you won’t jes’ step out
and show us how to set de table, honey?” could have but one answer.

A boiled ham had the place of honor at one end of the board, built
out with loose planks to stretch from the yawning fireplace, bounding
the lower end of the big kitchen, to Mammy’s room at the other. My
mother had lent tablecloth and crockery to meet the demands of the
company. She had, of course, furnished the provisions loading the
planks. A shoulder balanced the ham, and side-dishes of sausage, chine,
spareribs, fried chicken, huge piles of corn and wheat bread, mince and
potato pies, and several varieties of preserves, would fill every spare
foot of cloth when the hot things were in place. Floral decorations
of feasts would not come into vogue for another decade and more, but
I threw the sable corps of workers into ecstasies of delighted wonder
by instructing Spotswood, Gilbert, and a stableman to tack branches of
pine and cedar along the smoke-browned rafters and stack them in the
corners.

“Mos’ as nice as bein’ in de woods!” ejaculated the laundress, with an
audible and long-drawn sniff, parodying, in unconscious anticipation,
Young John Chivery’s—“I feel as if I was in groves!”

It was nine o’clock before the ostensible business of the evening
began. Boards, covered with straw, were the base of the mighty pyramid
of corn in the open space between the kitchen-yard and the stables.
Straw was strewed about the heap to a distance of twenty or thirty
feet, and here the men of the party assembled, sitting flat on the
padded earth. The evening was bland and the moon was at the full. About
the doors of kitchen and laundry fluttered the dusky belles who had
accompanied the shuckers, and who would sit down to supper with them.
Their presence was the inspiration of certain “topical songs,” as we
would name them—sometimes saucy, oftener flattering. As dear Doctor
Primrose hath it, “There was not much wit, but there was a great deal
of laughter, and that did nearly as well.”

This was what Mea and I whispered to each other in our outlook at the
window of our room that gave directly upon the lively scene. We had sat
in the same place for seven successive corn-shuckings, as we reminded
ourselves, sighing reminiscently.

The top of the heap of corn was taken by the biggest man present and
the best singer. From his eminence he tossed down the hooded ears to
the waiting hands that caught them as they hurtled through the air,
and stripped them in a twinkling. As he tossed, he sang, the others
catching up the chorus with a will. Hands and voices kept perfect time.

One famous corn-shuckers’ song was encored vociferously. It ran, in
part, thus:

    “My cow Maria
     She fell in de fire.

    _Chorus_

    “Go de corn! Go de corn!

    “I tell my man Dick
     To pull ’er out quick.
            (Go de corn!)

    “And Dick he said,
     ‘Dis cow done dade!’
            (Go de corn!)”

(Being of an economic turn of mind, the owner of deceased Maria
proceeded to make disposition of her several members:)

    “I made her hide over
     For a wagon-cover.
            (Go de corn!)

    “I cut her hoof up
     For a drinkin’ cup.
            (Go de corn!)

    “Her tail I strip’
     Fur a wagon-whip.
            (Go de corn!)

    “Her ribs hol’ op
     Dat wagon top.
            (Go de corn!)”

And so on until, as Mea murmured, under cover of the uproarious “Go
de corn!” repeated over and over and over, with growing might of
lung—“Maria was worth twice as much dead as alive.”

We had had our first nap when the chatter of the supper-party, saying
their farewells to hosts and companions, awoke us. We tumbled out of
bed and flew to the window. The moon was as bright as day, the dark
figures bustling between us and the heaps of shucks and the mounds
of corn, gleaming like gold in the moonlight, reminded us of nimble
ants scampering about their hills. The supper had evidently been
eminently satisfactory. We could smell hot coffee and sausage still.
Fine phrases, impossible to any but a negro’s brain and tongue, flew
fast and gayly. The girls giggled and gurgled in palpable imitation of
damsels of fairer skins and higher degree.

Hampton—the spruce carriage-driver (as coachmen were named then) of Mr.
Spencer D., Effie’s father—bowed himself almost double right under our
window in worshipful obeisance to a bright mulatto in a blazing red
frock.

“Is all de ladies ockerpied wid gentlemen?” he called, perfunctorily,
over his shoulder. And, ingratiatingly direct to the coy belle who
pretended not to see his approach, “Miss Archer! is you ockerpied?”

Miss Archer tittered and writhed coquettishly.

“Well, Mr. D.! I can’t jes’ say that I is!”

“Then, jes’ hook on hyar, won’t you?” crooking a persuasive elbow.



XV

THE COUNTRY GIRLS AT A CITY SCHOOL—VELVET HATS AND CLAY’S DEFEAT


OUR father took us to Richmond the first of October. A stage ran
between Cumberland Court House and the city, going down one day and
coming up the next, taking in Powhatan wayside stations and one or more
in Chesterfield.

We rarely used the public conveyance. This important journey was made
in our own carriage. A rack at the back contained two trunks. Other
luggage had gone down by the stage. We had dinner at a half-way house
of entertainment, leaving home at 9 o’clock A.M., and coming in sight
of the town at five in the afternoon.

That night I was lulled to sleep for the first time by what was to
be forevermore associated in my thoughts with the fair City of Seven
Hills—the song of the river-rapids. It is a song—never a moan. Men
have come and men may go; the pleasant places endeared by history,
tradition, and memory may be, and have been, laid waste; the holy and
beautiful houses in which our fathers worshipped have been burned with
fire, the bridges spanning the rolling river have been broken down,
and others have arisen in their place; but one thing has remained
as unchanged as the heavens reflected in the broad breast of the
stream—that is the sweet and solemn anthem, dear to the heart of one
who has lived long within the sound of it, as the song of the surf to
the homesick exile who asked in the Vale of Tempë, “Where is the sea!”

We were duly entered in the school conducted by Mrs. Nottingham and her
four daughters in an irregularly built frame-house—painted “colonial
yellow”—which stood at the corner of Fifth and Franklin Streets. It was
pulled down long ago to make room for a stately brick residence, built
and occupied by my brother Horace.

The school was Presbyterian, through and through. Mr. Hoge had a
Bible-class there every Monday morning; the Nottingham family,
including boarders, attended Sunday and week-day services in the
chapel, a block farther down Fifth Street. The eloquent curate of the
Old First was rising fast into prominence in city and church. His
chapel was crowded to the doors on Sunday afternoons when there was
no service in the mother-church, and filled in the forenoon with the
colony which, it was settled, should form itself into a corporate and
independent body within a few months.

It spoke well for the drill we had had from our late tutor, and said
something for the obedient spirit in which we had followed the line
of study indicated by him, that Mea and I were, after the preliminary
examination, classed with girls older than ourselves, and who had
been regular attendants upon boarding and day schools of note. If we
were surprised at this, having anticipated a different result from
the comparison of a desultory home-education in the country, with the
“finish” of city methods, we were the more amazed at the manners of
our present associates. They were, without exception, the offspring
of refined and well-to-do parents. The daughters of distinguished
clergymen, of eminent jurists, of governors and congressmen, of wealthy
merchants and rich James River planters, were our classmates in school
sessions and our companions when lessons were over. It was our initial
experience in the arrogant democracy of the “Institution.”

Be it day-school, boarding-school, or college, the story of this
experience is the same the world over. The frank brutality of question
and comment; the violent and reasonless partisanships; the irrational
intimacies, and the short lives of these; the combinations against
lawful authority; the deceptions and evasions to screen offenders from
the consequences of indolence or disobedience—were but a few of the
revelations made to the two country girls in the trial-months of that
winter.

I had my first shock in the course of an examination upon ancient
history conducted by the second and gentlest of the Nottingham
sisters—Miss Sarah. I was unaffectedly diffident in the presence of
girls who were so much more fashionably attired than we in our brown
merino frocks made by “Miss Judy,” and trimmed with velvet of a darker
shade, that I felt more ill at ease than my innate pride would let
me show. But I kept my eyes upon the kind face of the catechist, and
answered in my turn distinctly, if low, trying with all my might to
think of nothing but the subject in hand. I observed that Mea did the
same. I was always sure of her scholarship, and I tingled with pride
at her composure and the refined intonations that rendered replies
invariably correct. Honestly, I had thought far more of her than of
myself, when, after a question from Miss Sarah revealed the fact that I
had read _Plutarch’s Lives_, a tall girl next to me dug her elbow into
my ribs:

“Law, child! you think yourself so smart!”

She was the daughter of one of the eminent professional men I have
alluded to, and three years my senior. I knew her father by reputation,
and had been immensely impressed with a sense of the honor of being
seated beside her in the class.

“Miss Blank!” said Miss Sarah, as stern as she could ever be. “I am
surprised!”

The girl giggled. So did a dozen others. My cheeks flamed hotly, and
my temper followed suit. I made up my mind, then and there, never to
like that “creature.” I have seen the like misbehavior in college girls
who took the highest honors.

Prof. Brander Matthews, of Columbia University, once said to a class in
English literature, of which my son was a member:

“I could go through all of my classes and pick out, with unerring
certainty, the young men who belong to what may be called ‘reading
families.’ Nothing in the college curriculum ever takes the place in
education of a refined early environment and intellectual atmosphere.”

I am inclined to adapt the wise utterance to the cultivation of what
we class, awkwardly, under the head of “manners.” The child, who is
taught, by precept and hourly example in home-life, that politeness
is a religious duty, and sharp speech vulgar, and who is trained to
practise with the members of his family the “small, sweet courtesies
of life” that make the society man and woman elegant and popular, will
suffer many things at the tongues of school and college mates, yet will
not his “manners” depart from him—when he is older!

As home-bred girls, we had to undergo a system of moral and mental
acclimation during that session. I do not regret the ordeal. Quiet,
confidential talks with Cousin Mary, whose tact was as fine as her
breeding, helped me to sustain philosophically what would have made me
miserable but for her tender and judicious ministrations.

“It is always right to do the right thing,” was a maxim she wrought
into my consciousness by many repetitions. “The danger of association
with rude and coarse people is that we may fall into their ways to
protect ourselves. It may be good for you to rough it for a while, so
long as it does not rough_en_ you.”

Little by little we got used to the “roughing.” School-work we
thoroughly enjoyed, and our teachers appreciated this. From each of
them we met with kind and helpful treatment as soon as the routine of
study was fully established.

Our French master supplied the crucial test of philosophy and
diligence. He was a “character” in his way, and he fostered the
reputation. In all my days I have never known a man who could,
at pleasure, be such a savage and so fine a gentleman. He was
six-feet-something in height, superbly proportioned and heavily
mustachioed. Few men curtained the upper lip then. He had received
a university education in France; had been a rich man in New York,
marrying there the daughter of Samuel Ogden, a well-known citizen, the
father of Anna Cora Mowatt, the actress, who afterward became Mrs.
Ritchie.

Isidore Guillet lost wife and fortune in the same year, and, after a
vain effort to recoup his finances at the North, removed to Richmond
with his three sons, and became a fashionable French teacher. He was
fierce in class, and suave outside of the recitation-room. Our late
and now-more-than-ever-lamented tutor had laid a fair foundation for
us in the French language. We were “up” in the verbs to an extent
that excited the rude applause of our classmates. We read French as
fluently as English, and were tolerably conversant with such French
classics as were current in young ladies’ seminaries. These things
were less than vanity when M. Guillet and Manesca took the field. We
were required to copy daily seven or eight foolscap pages-full of that
detestable “System.” Beginning with “_Avez vous le clou?_” and running
the gamut of “_le bon clou_,” “_le mauvais clou_,” and “_le bon clou
de votre père_,” “_le mauvais clou de votre grandmère_,” up to the
maddening discords of “_l’interrogatif et le negatif_”—we were rushed
breathlessly along the lines ordained by the merciless “System” and
more merciless master, until it was a marvel that nerves and health
were not wrecked. I said just now that the lion roared him soft in
general society. Throughout a series of Spanish lessons given to us
two girls through the medium of French, he was the mildest-mannered
monster I ever beheld. One day he went out of his way to account for
the unlikeness to the language-master of the class. The explanation
was a refined version of Mr. Bagnet’s code—“Discipline must be
maintained.” To the pair of girls who read and recited to him in their
private sitting-room, he was the finished gentleman in demeanor, and
in talk delightfully instructive. His family in Paris had known the
present generation of Lafayettes. Lamartine—at that epoch of French
Revolutionary history, the popular idol—was his personal friend. He
brought and read to us letters from the author-statesman, thrilling
with interest, and kept us advised, through his family correspondence,
of the stirring changes going on in his native land. All this was in
the uncovenanted conversational exercise that succeeded the Spanish
lesson. The latter over, he would toss aside the books used in it
with an airy “_Eh, bien donc! pour la conversation!_” and plunge into
the matter uppermost in his mind, chatting brilliantly and gayly in
the most elegant French imaginable, bringing into our commonplace,
provincial lives the flavor and sparkle of the Parisian salon.

To return to our first winter in a city school: The session began
on October 5th. We had ceased to be homesick, and were learning to
sustain, with seeming good-humor, criticisms of our “countrified ways
and old-fashioned talk,” when our mother came to town for her fall
shopping. She arrived on the first of November, my father tarrying
behind to vote on the fourth. We had a glorious Saturday. It was our
very first real shopping expedition, and it has had no equal in our
subsequent experiences. There was a lecture on Saturday morning. Mr.
Richard Sterling, the brother-in-law of our late tutor, and the
head-master of a classical school for boys, lectured to us weekly upon
Natural Philosophy. We were out by eleven o’clock, and on emerging from
the house, we found our mother awaiting us without.

The day was divine, and we had worn our best walking-dresses, in
anticipation of the shopping frolic. Three of the girls had commented
upon our smart attire, one remarking that we “really looked like
folks.” The vocabulary of school-girls usually harmonizes with their
deportment. The tall girl I have spoken of as “Miss Blank,” added to
her patronizing notice of the country girls, the encouraging assurance
that “if we only had bonnets less than a century old, we would be quite
presentable.”

We held our peace, hugging to our souls the knowledge that we were
that day to try on two velvet bonnets—_real_ velvet—the like of which
had never graced our heads before. We could afford to smile superior
to contempt and to patronage—the lowest device of the mean mind, the
favorite tool of the consciously underbred.

I forgot heat and bitterness, and misanthropy died a natural death in
the milliner’s shop. The new hat was a dream of beauty and becomingness
in my unlearned eyes. It was a soft plum-color, and had a tiny marabou
feather on the side. I had never worn a feather. Mea’s was dark-blue
and of uncut velvet. It, too, was adorned with a white feather. I
could have touched the tender blue heavens with one finger when it was
decided that we might wear the new bonnets home, and have the old ones
sent up instead.

“You know I never like to have new clothes worn for the first time to
church,” our mother remarked, aside, to us.

We walked up-town, meeting my father at the foot of Capitol Street.
He was in a prodigious hurry, forging along at a rate that made it
difficult for me to overtake him when my mother told me to “run after
him, and we would all go home together.”

He drew out his watch when I told my errand breathlessly. His eyes were
bright with excitement; as he hurried back to offer his arm to his
wife, he said:

“I must be on Broad Street when the Northern train comes in. We have
just time if you don’t mind walking briskly.”

Mind it! I could have run every step of the way if that would bring
the news to us more quickly. My heart smote me remorsefully. For in
the engrossing event of the new bonnet I had forgotten, for the time,
that decisive news of the election would certainly be received by
the mail-train which ran into Richmond at two o’clock. It must be
remembered that the period of which I write antedated the electric
telegraph. We had but one through mail daily. Election news had
been pouring in heavily, but slowly. We were not quite sure, even
yet, how our own State had gone. The returns from New York and
Pennsylvania would establish the fact of the great Whig victory
beyond a doubt. We said “the Clay victory,” and were confident that
it was an accomplished, established fact. True, my father and Uncle
Carus had spoken rather gravely than apprehensively last night of the
unprecedentedly large Irish vote that had been polled.

We were at the corner of Broad and Tenth Streets, and still at racing
speed, when the train drew slowly into the station. The track lay
in the centre of Broad Street, and the terminus was flush with the
sidewalk. I was on one side of my father; my mother had his other
arm. Mea, never a rapid walker, was some paces in the rear. I felt my
father’s step falter and slacken suddenly. Looking into his face, I saw
it darken and harden. The mobile mouth was a straight, tense line. I
thought that a groan escaped him. Before I could exclaim, a man strode
toward us from the train. He grasped my father’s arm and said something
in his ear. I caught five words of one sentence:

“The Irish vote did it!”

At the same instant the ludicrous touch, never lacking from the supreme
moments of life, was supplied to this by a boy walking down the street,
his young face disfigured by the wrathful disappointment stamped upon
the visages of most of the men thronging the sidewalk. Some ardent
Democrat had nailed a vigorous poke-stalk against the fence, and the
lad stopped to kick it viciously. Even my father smiled at the impotent
fury of the action.

“That’s right, my boy!” he said, and struck the weed into the gutter
with a blow of his cane.

“I wish other evils were as easily disposed of!” was all that escaped
the tightly-closed lips for the next half-hour.

The gloom rested upon face and spirits for twenty-four hours. Richmond
was a Whig city, and the very air seemed oppressed by what we reckoned
as a National woe. It is not easy to appreciate in this century that
the defeat of a Presidential candidate imported so much to the best men
in the country.

“How did you know what had happened, father?” I ventured to ask that
night when the silent meal was over. We had moved and spoken as if the
beloved dead lay under our roof. I stole out to the long back porch
as we arose from table, and stood there, leaning over the railing
and listening to the dirge chanted by the river. The stars twinkled
murkily through the city fogs; a sallow moon hung low in the west. It
was a dolorous world. I wondered how soon the United States Government
would collapse into anarchy. Could—would my father continue to live
here under the rule of Polk? How I loathed the name and the party that
had made it historic! So quietly had my father approached that I was
made aware of his proximity by the scent of his cigar. I was vaguely
conscious of a gleam of gratitude that he had this slight solace. His
cigar meant much to him. I laid my hand on that resting on the railing.
Such strong, capable hands as his were! His fingers were closed
silently upon mine, and I gathered courage to put my question. The blow
had fallen before we met the man who had hissed at “the Irish vote.”

“How did you know what had happened, father?”

No need to speak more definitely. Our minds had room for but one
thought.

“It was arranged with the engineer and conductor that a flag should be
made fast to the locomotive if there were good news. It was to be a
large and handsome flag. Hundreds were on the lookout for it. As soon
as I caught sight of the train I saw that the flag was not there.”

He smoked hard and fast. A choking in my throat held me silent.
For, in a lightning flash of fancy, I had before me the glorious
might-have-been that would have driven the waiting hundreds mad
with joy. I pictured how proudly the “large, handsome flag” would
have floated in the sunshine, and the wild enthusiasm of the crowds
collected upon the sidewalks—the gladness that would have flooded our
hearts and our home.

It was, perhaps, five minutes before I could manage my voice to say:

“How do you suppose Mr. Clay will bear it?”

I was a woman-child, and my whole soul went out in the longing to
comfort the defeated demigod.

“Like the hero that he is, my daughter. _This_”—still not naming the
disaster—“means more to the nation than to him.”

He raised his hat involuntarily, as I had seen him do that bright,
happy May morning when we walked down to Jordan’s Creek to be amused by
the Democratic barbecue.

He removed it entirely a week later, and bowed his bared head silently,
when a fellow-Whig told him, with moist eyes, that the decisive tidings
were brought to the hero as he stood in a social gathering of friends.
Mr. Clay—so ran the tale I have never heard contradicted—was called out
of the room by the messenger, returning in a few minutes to resume the
conversation the summons had interrupted, with unruffled mien and the
perfect courtesy that never failed him in public and in private. It was
said then that he repeated on that evening, in reply to the expressed
sorrow of his companions—if, indeed, it was not said then for the first
time—the immortal utterance:

“I would rather be right than President!”

The inevitable dash of the ludicrous struck across the calamity in the
form of my father’s disapproval of the velvet bonnet I would not have
exchanged on Saturday for a ducal tiara. I had meant to reserve the
appearance of it as a pleasant surprise, and to call his attention to
it when I was dressed for church next day. I did not blame him for not
noticing it in our rapid tramp up Capitol Street on Saturday. He had
weightier matters on his mind. With the honest desire of diverting him
from the train of ideas that had darkened his visage for twenty-four
hours, I donned the precious head-piece ten minutes before it was time
to set out for church, and danced into my mother’s room where he sat
reading. Walking up to him, I swept a marvellous courtesy and bolted
the query full at him:

“How do you like my new bonnet?”

He lowered the book and surveyed me with lack-lustre eyes.

“Not at all, I am sorry to say.”

I fairly staggered back, casting a look of anguished appeal at my
mother. Being of my sex, she comprehended it.

“Why, father! we think it very pretty,” laying her hand on his
shoulder. “And she never had a velvet bonnet before.”

I saw the significant tightening of the small fingers, and he must have
felt it. But the dull eyes did not lighten, the corners of the mouth
did not lift.

“As I said, I do not admire it. Nor do I think it becoming.”

I turned on my heel, as he might have done, and went to my room. When
Mea and I joined our parents in the lower hall, the splendors of the
new bonnets were extinguished by thick barege veils. We had not meant
to wear them in November. They were indispensable for summer noons.
After I had confided my tale of woe to my sister, we hastened to exhume
the veils from our trunks and to bind them over our hats. We walked,
slow and taciturn, behind our elders for five squares. Then my father
turned and beckoned to us. He was actually smiling—a whimsical gleam
that had in it something of shame, and much of humor.

“Take off those veils!” he said, positively, yet kindly. And, as we
hesitated visibly: “I mean what I say! I want to take a good look at
those bonnets.”

It was in a quiet corner of a secluded street, lined with what was once
a favorite shade-tree in Richmond—the Otaheite mulberry. The night had
been cold, and the last russet leaves were ankle-deep on the sidewalk.
They rustled as I moved uneasily in loosening my veil.

I never passed the spot afterward without thinking of the absurd little
episode in the history of those melancholy days.

“I see, now, that they are very pretty and very becoming,” my father
pursued, as they were divested of the ugly mufflers. “I have been very
cross for the past twenty-four hours. I suppose because I have been
horribly upset by the National calamity. We will turn over a new and
cleaner leaf.”

He was often stern, and oftener imperative. It was his nature to be
strong in all that he set his hand or mind unto. I have yet to see
another strong man who was so ready to acknowledge a fault, and who
made such clean work of the act.



XVI

HOME AT CHRISTMAS—A CANDY-PULL AND HOG-KILLING


WE went home at Christmas!

Twenty years were to elapse before I should spend another Christmas
week in the country. We did not know this then. Not a hitch impeded
the smooth unrolling of the weeks of expectation and the days of
preparation for the holidays. We were to set out on Monday. On Friday,
Spotswood drove up to our door, and Mary Anne, my mother’s own maid,
alighted. That evening James Ivey reported for escort duty. Even
elderly women seldom travelled alone at that date. About young girls
were thrown protective parallels that would widen our college-woman’s
mouth with laughter and her eyes with amazement. There were no footpads
on the stage-road from Richmond to Powhatan, and had these gentry
abounded in the forests running down to the wheel-tracks, stalwart
Spotswood and a shot-gun would have kept them at bay. Maid and outrider
were the outward sign of unspoken and unwritten conventions rooted in
love of womankind. The physical weakness of the sex was their strength;
their dependence upon stronger arms and tender hearts their warrant for
any and every demand they chose to make upon their natural protectors.

We had none of these things in mind that joyful Monday morning when
Uncle Carus, on one hand, and James Ivey on the other, helped us into
the carriage. Carriage-steps were folded up, accordion-wise, and
doubled back and down upon the floor of the vehicle when not in use.
The clatter, as the coach-door was opened and the steps let down,
was the familiar accompaniment of successive arrivals of guests at
hospitable homes, and worshippers at country churches.

The trim flight fell with a merry rattle for the two happiest girls
in the State, and we sprang in, followed by Mary Anne. We were wedged
snugly in place by parcels that filled every corner and almost touched
the roof. Presents we had been buying for a month with our own
pocket-money and making in our few spare hours, were bound into bundles
and packed in boxes. The wells under the cushioned seats were crammed
with fragiles and confectionery, the like of which our lesser sisters
and brothers had never tasted.

Uncle Carus prophesied a snow-storm. My mother used to say that he
was a wise weather-prophet. We stubbornly discredited the prediction
until we had left the city spires five miles behind us, and James
Ivey’s overcoat and leggings (some called them “spatter-dashes”) were
dotted with feathery flakes. Whereupon we discovered that there was
nothing in the world jollier than travelling in a snow-storm, and grew
wildly hilarious in the prospect. The snow fell steadily and in grim
earnest. By the time we got to Flat Rock, where we were to have the
horses and ourselves fed, the wheels churned up, at every revolution,
mud that was crushed strawberry in color, topped with whiteness that
might have been whipped cream; for the roads were heavy by reason of
an open winter. This was Christmas snow. We exulted in it as if we had
had a hand in the making. Our gallant outrider, albeit a staid youth
of three-and-twenty, fell in with our humor. He made feeble fun of his
own appearance as each wrinkle in his garments became a drift, and his
dark hair was like a horsehair wig such as we had seen in pictures of
English barristers. His bay horse was a match to our iron-grays, and
the twelve hoofs were ploughing through a level fall of six inches
before we espied the tremulous sparks we recognized as village windows.

Our throats ached with laughing and our hearts with great swelling
waves of happiness, as we tumbled out of our seats—and our bundles
after us—at the gate of the long, low house that might have been mean
in eyes accustomed to rows of three-storied brick “residences” on city
streets. Every door was flung wide; every window was red with fire and
lamp light.

We had fried chicken and waffles, hot rolls, ham, beaten biscuits,
honey, three kinds of preserves, and, by special petition of all the
children, a mighty bowl of snow and cream, abundantly sweetened, for
supper. This dispatched, and at full length, the journey having made
us hungry, and the sight of us having quickened the appetites of the
rest, we sat about the fire in the great “chamber” on the first floor,
that was the throbbing heart of the home, and talked until ten o’clock.
The faithful clock that hung above the mantel did not vary five minutes
from the truth in that number of years; but it was dumbly discreet,
never obtruding an audible reminder of the flight of hours. I saw one
of the same pattern in a curio shop last week. The salesman asked fifty
dollars for it.

The chimney in “the chamber” drew better than any other in the house.
A fire was kindled on that hearth, night and morning, for nine months
in the year. My mother maintained that the excellent health of her
young family was due in part to that fact. A little blaze dispelled the
lingering dampness of the morning and the gathering fogs of night. She
knew nothing of germs, benevolent and malevolent, but she appreciated
the leading fact that cold and humidity signify danger, heat and
dryness go with health.

I coveted no girl’s home and apparel, as Mea and I snuggled down
under our blankets on the mattress my father was so far in advance
of his times as to insist should be substituted for a feather-bed in
each bedroom occupied by a child. The “whim” was one of the “notions”
that earned for him the reputation of eccentricity with conservative
neighbors.

Our windows were casements, and rattled sharply in blasts that had
thrashed the snow-storm into a tempest. The wind pounded, as with
hammers, upon the sloping roof over our happy heads. Longfellow had not
yet written

    “My little ones are folded like the flocks,”

but I know my mother felt it.

She came near saying it when I told her at the breakfast-table that I
fell asleep, saying to myself:

    “He’ll go into the barn and keep himself warm
     And hide his head under his wing.”

“I could think of nothing, whenever I awoke, but the mother sheep with
her lambs all with her in the fold,” was her answer. “And of ‘the
hollow of His hand.’ We have much to make us thankful this Christmas.”

“To make us thankful!” She was ever on the watch for that. Like Martin
Luther’s little bird, she “sat on her twig, content, and let God take
care.”

A bright sun left little of what had promised to be a deep snow, by
Christmas Day. Four Christmas-guns were fired at midnight of Christmas
Eve in four different quarters of the village. That is, holes were
drilled with a big auger into the heart of a stout oak or hickory, and
stuffed with powder. At twelve o’clock a torch was applied by a fast
runner, who took to his heels on the instant to escape the explosion.
The detonation was that of a big cannon. Sometimes, the tree was rent
apart. That was a matter of small moment in a region where acres of
forest-lands were cleared for tobacco fields by the primitive barbarism
of girdling giant trees that had struck their roots into the virgin
soil and lifted strong arms to heaven for centuries. From midnight
to sunrise the sound of “pop-crackers” and pistol-shots was hardly
intermitted by a minute’s silence. With the awakening of quieter,
because older folk, the air rang with shouts of “Christmas gift!”
addressed impartially to young and old, white and black.

The salutation was a grievous puzzle and positive annoyance to our
New-England grandmother, the first Christmas she passed with us. By the
time she was ready for breakfast she had emptied her pocket of loose
coins, and bestowed small articles of dress and ornament upon three or
four of the (to her apprehension) importunate claimants. When she made
known the grievance—which she did in her usual imperious fashion—my
father shouted with laughter. With difficulty he drilled into her mind
that the greeting was not a petition, still less a demand. From that
day he forbade any of us to say “Christmas gift!” to “Old Mistis,” as
the servants called her. We children wished her, “A merry Christmas.”
The servants never learned the unaccustomed form. The old lady did
not enter into the real significance of the words that offended her.
Nor, for that matter, did one out of a hundred of those who had used
it all their lives, as each Christmas rolled around. It never dawned
upon me until I heard how Russian peasants and Russian nobility alike
greet every one they meet on Easter morning with—“The Lord is risen,”
receiving the answer, “He is risen indeed!” The exultant cry of
“Christmas gift!” was a proclamation of the best thing that ever came
into the world. The exchange of holiday offerings at the festal season
commemorates the same. All over Christendom it is an act of grateful,
if too often blind, obedience to the command—“Freely ye have received,
freely give.”

There were twelve servants in our family—eight adults and four
children. Not one was overlooked in the distribution of presents
that followed breakfast and family prayers. The servants were called
in to morning and evening prayers as regularly as the white members
were assembled for the service. The custom was universal in town and
country, and was, without doubt, borrowed from English country life—the
model for Virginian descendants. Men and women took time to pray,
and made haste to do nothing. We prate long and loudly now of deep
breathing. We _practised_ it in that earlier generation.

On Christmas night we had a “molasses stew.” We have learned to say
“candy-pull” since then. A huge cauldron of molasses was boiled in the
kitchen—a detached building of a story-and-a-half, standing about fifty
feet from “the house.” Gilbert—the dining-room servant, who would be “a
butler” now—brought it into the dining-room when it was done to a turn,
and poured it into great buttered platters arranged around the long
table. All of us, girls and boys, had pinned aprons or towels over our
festive garments, and put back our cuffs from our wrists. My mother set
the pace in the pulling. She had a reputation for making the whitest
and most spongy candy in the county, and she did it in the daintiest
way imaginable. Buttering the tips of her fingers lightly, she drew
carefully from the surface of the platter enough of the cooling mixture
for a good “pull.” In two minutes she had an amber ribbon, glossy and
elastic, that bleached fast to cream-color under her rapid, weaving
motion, until she coiled or braided completed candy—brittle, dry, and
porous—upon a dish lined with paper. She never let anybody take the
other end of the rope; she did not butter her fingers a second time,
and used the taper tips alone in the work, and she had the candy on
the dish before any of the others had the sticky, scalding mass in
working order. We dipped our fingers again and again in butter and,
when hard bestead, into flour, which last resort my mother scorned as
unprofessional, and each girl had a boy at the other end of her rope.
It was graceful work when done _secundum artem_. The fast play of
hands; the dexterous toss and exchange of the ends of shining strands
that stiffened too soon if not handled aright; the strain upon bared
wrists and strong shoulders as the great ropes hardened; the laughing
faces bent over the task; the cries of feigned distress as the immature
confectionery became sticky, or parted into strings, under careless
manipulation; the merry peals of laughter at defeat or success—made the
Christmas frolic picturesque and gay. I wondered then, and I have often
asked since, why no painter has ever chosen as a subject this one of
our national pastimes.

A homelier, but as characteristic an incident of that Christmas—the
last we were to have in the country home—was hog-killing.

The “hog and hominy,” supposed by an ignorant reading-public to have
formed the main sustenance of the Virginian planter and his big family,
are as popularly believed to have been raised upon his own farm or
farms. Large herds of pigs were born and brought up on Virginia lands.
Perhaps one-half of the pork cured into bacon by country and by village
folk, was bought from Kentucky drovers. Early in the winter—before the
roads became impassable—immense droves of full-grown hogs crowded the
routes leading over mountain and valley into the sister State. We had
notice of the approach of one of these to our little town before it
appeared at the far end of the main street, by the hoarse grunting that
swelled into hideous volume—unmistakable and indescribable—a continuous
rush of dissonance, across which were projected occasional squeals.

A drove had entered the village a week before Christmas, and rested
for the night in the wide “old field” back of the Bell Tavern.
Citizens of the Court House and from the vicinity had bought freely
from the drovers. More than twenty big-boned grunters were enclosed
in a large pen at the foot of our garden, and fed lavishly for ten
days, to recover them from the fatigue of the journey that left them
leaner than suited the fancy of the purchaser. On the morning of the
cold day appointed for the “killing,” they were driven to a near-by
“horse-branch” and washed. At noon they were slaughtered at a spot so
distant from the house that no sound indicative of the deed reached our
ears. Next day the carcasses were duly cut up into hams, shoulders,
middlings (or sides of bacon), chines, and spareribs.

Lean leavings from the dissection were apportioned for sausage-meat;
the heads and feet would be made into souse (headcheese); even the
tails, when roasted in the embers, were juicy tidbits devoured
relishfully by children, white and black.

Not an edible atom of the genial porker went to waste in the household
of the notable housewife. The entrails, cleaned and scalded into
“chitterlings,” were accounted a luscious delicacy in the kitchen.
They rarely appeared upon the table of “white folks.” I never saw them
dished for ourselves, or our friends. Yet I have heard my father tell
of meeting John Marshall, then Chief Justice of the United States, in
the Richmond streets one morning, as the great man was on his way home
from the Old Market. He had a brace of ducks over one arm, and a string
of chitterlings swung jauntily from the other.

And why not? Judge Marshall had “Hudibras” at his tongue’s end, and
could have quoted:

    “His warped ear hung o’er the strings,
     Which was but souse to chitterlings.”

The Virginia house-mother had classic precedent for the utilization of
what her granddaughter accounts but offal. I once heard a celebrated
divine say, unctuously:

“‘Hog-killing time’ is to me the feast of the year.”

And nobody stared, or smiled, or said him “Nay.” Chine, sparerib,
and sausage, such as titillated our palates in the first half of the
nineteenth century, are not to be had now for love or money. The base
imitations sold to us in the shambles are the output of “contract
work.”



XVII

A NOTABLE AFFAIR OF HONOR


EARLY in the second winter of our residence in Richmond, the community
and the State were thrilled to painful interest by the most notable
duel recorded in the history of Virginia.

On the desk at my side lies a time-embrowned pamphlet, containing a
full report of the legal proceedings that succeeded the tragedy.

The leading Democratic paper of the State at that time was published by
Thomas Ritchie and his sons. The father, to whom was awarded the title
of “The Nestor of the Southern Press,” was a dignified gentleman who
had won the esteem of his fellow-citizens by a long life spent under
the limelight that beats more fiercely nowhere than upon a political
leader who is also an editor. In morals, stainless, in domestic and
social life, exemplary and beloved, the elder Ritchie enjoyed, in the
evening of his day, a reputation unblurred by the rancor of partisan
spite. The policy of his paper was fearless, but never unscrupulous. To
the Democratic party, the _Enquirer_ was at once banner and bulwark. Of
his elder son, William Foushee, I shall have something to say in later
chapters, and in a lighter vein. The second son, the father’s namesake,
was recognized as the moving spirit of the editorial columns.

John Hampden Pleasants was as strongly identified with the Whig party.
He was a man in the prime of life; like the Ritchies, descended from
an ancient and honorable Virginia family, noble in physique, and
courtly in bearing. He held a trenchant pen, and had been associated
from his youth up with the press. He had lately assumed the office of
editor-in-chief of a new paper, and brought it into notice by vigorous
and brilliant editorials that were the talk of both parties.

The opening gun of what was to be a sanguinary combat was fired by a
Washington correspondent of the _Enquirer_, under date of January 16,
1846:

“I am much mistaken if Mr. John Hampden Pleasants does not intend,
with his new paper, to out-Herod Herod—to take the lead of the
_Intelligencer_, if possible, in exciting Abolitionism by showing
Southern Whig sympathy in their movements; and thus, for the benefit
of Whiggery, to cheat them into the belief that the Southern patrons
of either of these gentlemen are ceasing to detest their incendiary
principles, and beginning, like the Whigs of the North, to coalesce
with them.

“They agitate to affect public opinion at the South, and Messrs. Gales
and Pleasants practically tell them to go on—that they are succeeding
to admiration.”

It was a poor shot—more like a boy’s play with a toy gun than a
marksman’s aim. But the bullet was poisoned by the reference to
Abolitionism. That was never ineffective. A friend in conservative
Philadelphia called Mr. Pleasants’ notice to the attack, which had up
to that time escaped his eyes:

“I have d——d this as a lie every time I had a chance, although I
believe that you, like myself—a Virginian and a slaveholder—regard
Slavery as an evil.”

Mr. Pleasants replied in terms that were singularly mild for a fighting
political editor.

I may say, here, that it is a gross blunder to compare the methods of
party-writers and orators of to-day with those of sixty years ago, to
the disadvantage of the former. They fought, then, without the gloves,
and as long as breath lasted.

“I confess my surprise, nay, my regret,” wrote Mr. Pleasants, “that
the present editors of the _Enquirer_ should, by publication, have
indorsed, so far as that sort of indorsement can go, and without
any explanatory remark, the misrepresentations of their Washington
correspondent. They ought, as public men, to know that I stand upon
exactly the same platform with their father in respect to this subject.
In 1832 we stood, for once, shoulder to shoulder, and since that time
we have both expressed, without intermission, the same abhorrence of
Northern Abolition, and the same determination, under no circumstances
which could be imagined, to submit, in the slightest degree, to its
dictation or intrusion....

“These were also the views—namely, that Slavery was an evil, and ought
to be got rid of, but at our own time, at our own motion, and in our
own way—of Washington, Jefferson, Henry, George Mason, the two Lees,
Madison, Monroe, Wirt, and all the early patriots, statesmen, and sages
of Virginia—WITHOUT EXCEPTION!

“Such are my opinions still, and if they constitute me an Abolitionist,
I can only say that I would go further to see some of the Abolition
leaders hanged than any man in Virginia, especially since their defeat
of Mr. Clay.

“In respect to Slavery, I take no pious, no fanatical view. I am
not opposed to it because I think it morally wrong, for I know the
multitude of slaves to be better off than the whites. I am against
it for the sake of the whites, my own race. I see young and powerful
commonwealths around us, with whom, while we carry the burden of
Slavery, we can never compete in power, and yet with whom we must
prepare to contend with equal arms, or consent to be their slaves and
vassals—we or our children. In all, I look but to the glory and liberty
of Virginia.”

The confession of State’s Rights would seem strong enough to soften the
heart of an original Secessionist—a being as yet unheard of—and the
respectful mention of the Nestor of the _Enquirer_ might have drawn
the fire of the filial editor. How far these failed of their effect is
obvious in the return shot:

“Although the language used by Mr. Pleasants may not be considered
directly offensive, yet we are unwilling to allow him or others to make
hypotheses in regard to our veracity. When we desire lectures on morals
we hope to be allowed to choose our own preceptor. We certainly shall
not apply to _him_!”

In Mr. Pleasants’ rejoinder he again reminds the young men that their
father and himself had been of the same mind on the Slavery question
for twenty years:

“The correspondent may have believed what he said, in ignorance of
the facts, and may therefore be guiltless of premeditated injustice,
but the editors who indorse his calumny by printing it without any
explanation, either did know better, in which case their candor
and liberality are compromised, or ought to have known better, in
which case they themselves may say what responsibility they incur by
printing an accusation utterly false in fact, and calculated to infuse
the greatest possible prejudice against him respecting whom it is
promulgated.”

The answer of the _Enquirer_ was a sneer throughout:

“We doubt whether he knows, himself, what principles he may be disposed
to advocate. His most intimate friends are sometimes puzzled to
understand his position.... If our correspondent ‘Macon’ wishes it, he
will, of course, have the use of our columns, but if he will take our
advice, he will let Mr. J. H. P. alone. To use an old proverb—‘Give the
gentleman rope enough, and he will hang himself!’”

In a long letter to a personal friend, but published in the _News and
Star_—what would be called now an “open letter”—Mr. Pleasants sums up
the points of the controversy, and calmly assumes the animus of the
attack to be personal enmity, a sort of vendetta feud, against which
argument is powerless:

“Justice from the Richmond _Enquirer_ I have long ago ceased to
expect. For more than twenty years I have lived under its ceaseless
misrepresentations and malevolent misconstructions. I had hoped, when
the former editor removed to Washington to receive the rich rewards of
his devotion to party, to live upon better terms with his successors,
and I have studied to cultivate better relations by respectful
consideration and undeviating courtesy; but I have found that other
passions besides the love of liberty are transmitted from sire to
son.... Calmly reviewing this piece of impertinence, I should be of
opinion that this assailant meditated fight, if I could think that a
young brave would seek, as an antagonist upon whom to flesh his maiden
sword, a man so much older than himself as I am, and with dependent
children.”

In allusion to a former altercation with “Il Secretario,” a “foe
illustrious for his virtues and talents, whom this aspirant after
knighthood” declined to encounter—the senior combatant concludes:

“Battle, then, being clearly not his object, I must suppose that he
meant no more than a little gasconade, and the recovery, at a cheap
rate, of a forfeited reputation for courage.”

With the, to modern taste, odd blending of personality with editorial
anonymity that characterized the professional duel throughout, “We, the
junior editor,” retorts:

“This letter affords strong corroborative evidence of our opinion
expressed in our article of the 27th ultimo, and from Mr. J. H.
Pleasants’ communication, evidently understood by him to the extent
we intended—namely, that facts within our knowledge proved him to be a
COWARD.

“He appeals to the confines of age and dependent children. Let it be!
We shall not disturb him.”

Ten years after the correspondence and the “affair” to which it was the
prelude, an eminently respectable citizen of Richmond told my husband
of a street-corner scene, date of February 21, 1846, the day on which
the last contribution to the war of words above recorded, appeared in
the _Enquirer_.

“One of the groups one saw on all sides, in heated discussion of the
newspaper controversy and the probable outcome, was collected about
Doctor ——, then, as now, pastor of the —— —— Church. He read out the
last sentences of Ritchie’s ultimatum with strong excitement. Then he
struck the paper with his finger, and said: ‘That settles the matter!
Pleasants must fight! There is no way out of it!’

“One of the party ventured a remonstrance to the effect that ‘Pleasants
was not a hot-headed boy to throw his life away. He might be made to
see reason, and the matter be smoothed over,’ etc.

“The minister broke in warmly, with—

“‘Impossible, sir, impossible! No honorable man could sit down quietly
under the insult! He must fight! There is no alternative!’

“Now,” continued the narrator, “I am not a church-member, and I had
no overstrained scruples against duelling at that time. But it sent a
queer shock through me when I heard a minister of the gospel of peace
take that ground. I felt that I could never go to hear him preach
again. And I never did! I heard he made a most feeling allusion to poor
Pleasants in a sermon preached shortly after his death. That didn’t
take the bad taste out of my mouth.”

How general was the sympathy with the incautiously expressed opinion of
the divine can hardly be appreciated now that the duello is reckoned
among the errors of a ruder age. The city was in a ferment for the
three days separating the 21st of February and the 25th, on which the
memorable encounter took place. If any friend essayed to reconcile the
offending and offended parties, we have no note of it.

The nearest approach to arbitration recorded in the story of the trial
is in the testimony of a man well-acquainted with both parties, who
was asked by one of Mr. Ritchie’s seconds to “go upon the ground as a
mutual friend.”

He testified on the stand: “I declined to do so. I asked him if the
matter could be adjusted. I asked if Mr. Ritchie would not be willing
to withdraw the epithet of ‘coward,’ in case Mr. Pleasants should come
upon the field. His reply was that Mr. Ritchie conscientiously believed
Mr. Pleasants to be a coward.”

The persuasions of other friends to whom he spoke, at an evening
party(!), of the affair to come off on the morrow, overcame the
scruples of the reluctant pacificator. He accompanied the surgeon
(the most eminent in the city, and one of the Faculty of Richmond
Medical College) to the ground next morning. The meeting was no secret,
except—presumably—to the authorities who might have prevented it. Going
up to Mr. Ritchie’s second, he made a final effort to avert the murder:

“I renewed the application I had made the evening before, telling him
that Mr. Pleasants was on the field, and asking him if he would not
withdraw the imputation of cowardice. He replied that he would keep his
friend there fifteen minutes, and no longer.”

The morning was raw, and the wind from the river was searching. There
had been rain during the night, and the ground was slippery with
sleet. The principals were equipped with other arms than the duelling
pistols.

“Mr. Pleasants put a revolver into the left pocket of his coat; then he
took two duelling pistols, one in his right, and the other in his left
hand.” At this point the witness interpolates: “I looked away about
that time.” (As well he might!) “The next weapon I saw him arm himself
with was his sword-cane under his left arm. He had a bowie-knife under
his vest.”

Of Mr. Ritchie it was testified:

“He had four pistols and also a revolver. He had the larger pistols in
his belt. I did not see his sword until after the rencontre. He had it
drawn when I came up to him. I supposed it was a bowie-knife.”

After a brief parley as to the disadvantages of a position first
selected, and the choice of a second, the word was given to advance and
fire. The principals were two hundred yards apart when the word was
given.

“Mr. Ritchie fired at the distance of twenty-five or thirty yards. Mr.
Pleasants fired his first pistol within about fifteen or twenty feet of
Mr. Ritchie.... At the third shot they were more rapid. Mr. Pleasants
advanced. At the third fire Mr. Ritchie’s form became obscure; Mr.
Pleasants still advancing, I saw him within six or seven feet of Mr.
Ritchie. It was then that Mr. Pleasants fired his second pistol.”

Thus the eminent surgeon, who had refused to come to the field as
the friend of both parties, but yielded when asked to serve in his
professional capacity. He remarks, parenthetically, here:

“I am now giving my recollection of events transpiring in a short time
and under great excitement.”

Perhaps, in spite of the great excitement, the training of his calling
held his senses steady, for his story of the fight is graphic and
succinct.

“I saw Mr. Pleasants level his second pistol; I heard the report; I
saw Mr. Ritchie stagger back, and I remarked to Mr. D.” (the man who
had been overpersuaded to witness the murder as a “mutual friend”),
“‘Ritchie is a dead man!’ I so inferred, because he had staggered back.
Then I heard several discharges without knowing who was firing. I saw
Mr. Pleasants striking at Mr. Ritchie with some weapon—whether a cane
or a pistol, I do not know. I also saw him make several thrusts with a
sword-cane. He gave several blows and two or three thrusts. I do not
know if the sword was sheathed. During this part of the affair I saw
Mr. Ritchie with his sword in his hand. I did not see him draw it. I
saw him in the attitude of one making a thrust, and did see him make
one or two thrusts at Mr. Pleasants. I remarked to Mr. D., ‘Let us go
up, or he’ll be stabbed!’ Two or three times the cry was made, ‘Stop,
Pleasants! Stop, Ritchie!’ We went up. Mr. Pleasants was tottering; Mr.
Ritchie was standing a few feet away, the point of his sword on the
ground; he was perfectly quiet. Mr. Archer took Mr. Pleasants’ arm and
laid him down. He was on the ground when I reached him. Before I got to
him I saw Mr. Ritchie leaving the ground. He walked a short distance,
and then ran.”

It transpired afterward that not one of Pleasants’s balls had struck
Ritchie. The presumption was that the elder man was wounded by his
opponent’s first fire, and fired wildly in consequence. He received six
balls in various parts of his body. But one of his bullets was found,
and that in the gable of a building out of the line of the firing. The
ball was embedded in the wood, nine feet above the ground. Mad with
pain and blinded by rage, the wounded man struck at the other’s face
when they were near together—some said, with the useless pistol, others
with his sword-cane or bowie-knife. When the fugitive reached the
carriage in waiting at the foot of the hill, his face was covered with
blood. His physician was in the carriage, and examined him at once. But
for the cut lip he was absolutely uninjured.

The sun was just rising when John Hampden Pleasants was lifted into the
carriage and borne back to the city. He knew himself to be mortally
wounded from the moment he fell.

This was on Wednesday, February 25th. Before the short winter day
neared its noon, the tale was known from one end of Richmond to the
other, and the whole population heaved with excitement. Business was
practically suspended while men talked over the terrible event; the
sidewalks were blocked by gossiping idlers.

Our school was called to order at nine o’clock daily. On this morning,
teachers and pupils were unfit for lessons. For Mr. Pleasants’ only
daughter was one of us, and a general favorite. His niece was likewise
a pupil, and the two had the same desk. Their vacant chairs made the
tragedy a personal grief to each of us. When Mrs. Nottingham bade us
get our Bibles ready for the morning service, not a girl there could
read without a break in her trembling voice, and when the dear old lady
made tender mention in her prayer of the “sorrowing,” and for “those
drawing near unto death,” our sobs drowned the fervent tones.

I recall, as one of the minor incidents of the dreadful day, that when
I went home in the afternoon, my grandmother insisted I should read the
newspaper correspondence aloud to her. She was a captious tyrant at
times, and, like many another deaf person, sensitive as to the extent
of her infirmity. She “was not so very deaf, except in damp weather,
or when she had a cold. If people would only speak distinctly, and not
mumble, she would have no trouble in understanding what was said.”
In this connection she often made flattering exception of myself as
the “one girl she knew who could speak English.” In this capacity
she summoned me to her side. She had the week’s papers on her lap. I
must pick out the articles “that were responsible for this scandalous
affair.”

Down I sat, close beside her “good ear,” and read, with precise
articulation and right emphasis, the editorials from which I have made
excerpts in this chapter.

In copying them to-day, the strait-laced New-Englander’s classification
of the awful event is in my mind and ear. Every detail of the duel and
the cold-blooded preparations therefor—the deadly weapons borne by,
and girt about the principals; the sang-froid of seconds and attendant
“friends”; the savagery of the combat; the tone of public sentiment
that made the foul fight within sight of the steeples of the city
practicable, although the leading men of the place were cognizant
of each step that led to the scene on the river-bank before sunrise
that gray morning—can we, in these later times we are wont to compare
regretfully with those, sum up the details and the catastrophe in
phrase more fit and true?

I resented it hotly, if silently, then. Even my father, who always
spoke of duelling as a “remnant of Middle Age barbarism,” shared in
the universal grief for his party leader laid low in the prime of his
useful manhood, and would suffer no censure of the challenge that had
made the fight inevitable.

“Pleasants is a brave man, and a proud. He could not endure to sit down
quietly under the aspersion of cowardice.”

Another terrible day of suspense dragged its slow length along. Hourly
bulletins from the chamber where the wounded man was making his last
struggle with Fate, alternately cheered and depressed us. He was
conscious and cheerful; he had exonerated his opponent from blame in
the matter of the duel:

“I thought I had run him through. It was providential that I did not.
Ritchie is a brave man. I shall not recover. You will be candid with
me, Doctor? It is all right.”

These were some of the sentences caught up by young and old, and
repeated with tearful pride in the dying hero. That was what they
called him; and when on Friday morning the flag on the capitol hung
at half-mast, the mourners who went about the streets were his
fellow-townsmen, who had no word of condemnation for him and the rash
act that ended his career.

On Saturday morning it began to snow. By Sunday afternoon the streets
were eighteen inches deep on the level, with the heaviest snow-fall
of the season. Mrs. Pleasants, the widow of a governor of Virginia,
and the mother of the slain editor, was a member of the Grace Street
Presbyterian Church, of which Reverend Doctor Stiles was then pastor.
The funeral services were held there on Sunday, at 3 o’clock P.M. By
two the sidewalks were blocked by a crowd of silent spectators, and,
half an hour later, every seat in the church, except those reserved for
the family and immediate friends of the deceased, was filled. After
these had taken their places, there was not standing-room in aisles or
galleries. The sermon was an eloquent tribute to the private virtues
and the public services of the deceased. One memorable extract is
inscribed upon the monument erected by admirers and friends over his
grave in Shockoe Hill Cemetery:

    With a Genius above talent, a Courage
                 above Heroism

None ever forgot the scene who saw the long line of funeral carriages
winding, like a black stream, through streets where the snow came up to
the axles, under the low-hanging sky that stooped heavily and gloomed
into leaden gray by the time the cortége reached the cemetery. And all
the afternoon the brooding air throbbed with the tolling bells.

We said and believed that Richmond had never known so sad a day since
she went into mourning for the threescore victims of the burning of the
theatre in 1811.

The trial of Thomas Ritchie for murder in the first, and of the seconds
as “principals in the second degree,” followed the duel with swiftness
amazing to the reader of criminal cases in our age. On March 31, 1846,
four of the ablest lawyers in Virginia appeared in court to defend the
prisoner.

The old brochure which records the proceedings is curious and deeply
interesting reading; in nothing more remarkable than in the defence of
what was admitted to be “an unhappy custom” and directly opposed to the
laws of the country.

“_The letter of the law is made to yield to the spirit of the times_”
is an italicized sentence in the principal speech of the defence. The
same speaker dwelt long and earnestly upon precedents that palliated,
excused, and warranted the time-honored (although “unhappy”) practice.

Not less than fifteen instances of the supremacy of the higher law of
the “spirit of the times” were drawn from English history.

“In not one of which had there been any prosecution.

“And now, gentlemen of the jury, does any one suppose that duelling
can be suppressed, or capitally punished, when the first men in the
kingdom—such men as Pitt and Fox, and Castlereagh and Canning and
Grattan, and Nelson and Wellington, lend the high sanction of their
names, and feel themselves justified and compelled to peril their lives
upon a point of honor? And I would ask my friend, the Commonwealth’s
Attorney, if such men as these constitute the ‘swordsmen of England,’
and were alone worthy of the times of Tamerlane and Bajazet?...

“Was Andrew Jackson regarded as a ‘swordsman’ and duellist because
he fought, not one, but three duels, and once shed the blood of a
fellow-man in single combat? He was twice elected to the first office
in the world, and died a Christian.... How many of Henry Clay’s
numerous friends in Virginia, and, especially, the religious portion of
them (including ministers of the Gospel), refused to vote for him as
President of the United States because he had fought two duels?...

“The coroner’s inquest held on the body of General Hamilton brought in
a verdict of wilful murder against Aaron Burr, Vice-President of the
United States.

“Colonel Burr afterward took his seat in the Senate of the United
States as Vice-President; his second, afterward, became a judge; and
the second of General Hamilton—a most amiable and accomplished man—I
served with in Congress, some years ago....

“I call upon you, then, gentlemen, by every motive that can bind you to
a discharge of your duty, to do justice to my unfortunate young friend.
Bind up the wounds of his broken-hearted parents; carry joy and peace
and consolation to his numerous family and friends; wash out the stain
that has been attempted upon his character and reputation, and restore
him to his country—as, in truth, he is—pure and unspotted.”

The address of the Commonwealth’s Attorney is comparatively brief
and emphatically half-hearted. We are entirely prepared for the
announcement in smaller type at the foot of the last page:

“The argument on both sides” (!) “having been concluded, the jury took
the case, and, without leaving the box, returned a verdict of ‘Not
guilty!’

“The verdict was received by the large auditory with loud
manifestations of applause. Order was promptly commanded by the
officers of the court.

“Mr. Ritchie then left the court-house, accompanied by the greater
portion of the spectators, who seemed eager to shake hands with him and
to congratulate him upon his honorable acquittal.”



XVIII

THE MENACE OF SLAVE INSURRECTION


                                   “RICHMOND, _June 8th, 1847._

    “DEAR EFFIE,—It is past ten o’clock, and a rainy night.
    Just such a one as would make a comfortable bed and a sound
    snooze no mean objects of desire.

    “George Moody, alias ‘The Irresistible,’ arrived this
    afternoon, and will leave in the morning, and I cannot let
    so good an opportunity of writing to you escape. I must
    scribble a brief epistle.

    “The drive down from Powhatan was delightful. I found Mr.
    Belt extremely pleasant, full of anecdote, a great talker,
    yet, withal—as Mr. Miller had told me—a good listener. A
    very necessary qualification, by-the-way, for any one with
    whom I may chance to be in company.

    “The first thing I heard when I reached home was tidings
    of that worst of bugbears to a Southern woman—an impending
    insurrection. A double guard was on duty at the capitol,
    and a detachment of military from the armory paraded the
    streets all night. I was, I confess, somewhat alarmed, and
    not a little startled, but gradually my fears wore away, and
    I slept as soundly that night as if no such thing were in
    agitation.

    “‘Puss Sheppard was in to supper, and her parting salutation
    to us at going was: ‘Farewell! If I am alive in the morning
    I will come and see if you are!’

    “The whole matter ended, like Mr. C.’s sermon—‘just where it
    began—_viz._, in nothing.’

    “Richmond is rather dull at present. The Texas excitement
    has subsided almost entirely, and those who gave credence
    to the report of the insurrection are desirous to keep as
    still as possible.

    “_Morning._—I can write no more. I am sure your good-nature
    will acquit me of blame so far as matter, chirography,
    and quality go, when I tell you that I have written this
    partly by the light of a lamp which finally went out,
    self-extinguished for want of oil, and partly this morning,
    when I am suffering with a sick-headache. I feel more like
    going to bed than writing, but ‘The Unexceptionable’ is
    about to take his departure, and waits for this. Write soon
    and much. I will try to treat you better next time.”

There is much reading between the lines to be done for the right
comprehension of that letter. My _genre_ pictures of days that are no
more would be incomplete were I to fail to touch upon the “worst of
bugbears” I feigned to pass over lightly.

In the debate upon the abolition of slavery in my native State, lost by
one vote in the Legislature of 1831-32, while Nat Turner’s insurrection
was fresh in the public mind, John Randolph declared, “Whenever the
fire-alarm rings in Richmond every mother clasps her baby closer to her
breast.”

I cannot recollect when the whisper of the possibility of
“Insurrection” (we needed not to specify of what kind) did not send a
sick chill to my heart. The menace I here dismiss with a sentence or
two was the most serious that had loomed upon my horizon. I could not
trust myself to dwell upon it within the two days that had elapsed
since my return from a vacation month in Powhatan. How keenly every
circumstance attending it was bitten into my mind is proved by the
distinctness of the etching preserved by a memory that has let many
things of greater moment escape its hold.

My host, Mr. D., had come in to dinner the day before that set for
my stage-journey back to town, with the pleasing intelligence that
Mr. Lloyd Belt, a former citizen of Powhatan, but for twenty years a
resident of Richmond, was “going down”—Richmond was always “down,” as
London is “up” from every part of England—the next day, and would be
glad to take me in his carriage. As I wrote to Effie, the drive was
delightful. My courtly escort took as much pains to entertain me as if
I had been a belle and a beauty, instead of an unformed school-girl. It
was a way they had—those gentlemen of the Old School—of recognizing the
woman in every baby-girl, and doing it honor.

It did not strike me as strange that Mr. Belt beguiled the thirty-mile
journey with anecdote and disquisition. He was charming. I never
thought that he was likewise condescending. I am quite as sure that the
idea did not enter his knightly imagination.

As we drove leisurely up Main Street from the bridge, we noticed that
groups of men stood on the street corners and in the doors of stores,
chatting gravely, and, it would seem, confidentially.

“There must be news from the seat of war!” opined my companion.

The Mexican War was then in progress, and accompanying raids into the
debatable territory of Texas kept public sentiment in a ferment.

My father and the rest of the family, with a couple of neighbors, were
enjoying the cool of the day upon our front porch. He came down to the
gate to assist me to alight. So did Mr. Strobia, our elderly next-door
neighbor, and he handed me up the steps while my father lingered to
thank my escort for bringing me safely home. In the joyous confusion of
greetings, I had not observed that Mr. Belt was leaning down from the
carriage to my father’s ear, and that both were very grave, until Puss
Sheppard, like the rattlepate she was, whispered loudly to Mr. Strobia:

“I’m scared to death! What is the latest news? You men won’t tell us.”

“I have heard no news about anything or anybody!” ejaculated the old
gentleman, testily and loudly, glancing over his shoulder at Gilbert,
who had my trunk on his shoulder and was carrying it in at the
side-gate. “Upon my soul, I haven’t!” And as she caught his arm and
swung around to get the truth from his eyes, he bustled down the steps
and so on home.

I had the tale in full by the time my bonnet was off. Mea, on one
side, and Puss on the other, poured it forth in excited whispers,
having closed “the chamber” door. Abolitionists had been at work among
the negroes in Henrico and Hanover counties for weeks. There were
indications of an organized conspiracy (in scope and detail so like
the plot for which John Brown’s blood paid twelve years thereafter,
that I bethought me of it when the news from Harper’s Ferry stunned the
nation), and the city was under arms. Governor Smith was said to have
issued a proclamation to militia and citizens at large in Latin.

I laughed there.

“‘Extra Billy!’ He knows less of Latin than of Choctaw!”

The worthy functionary had earned the _sobriquet_ by superdiligence
in the matter of extra baggage while in the service of a stage-coach
company, and as he was a Democrat we never forgot it.

“Let that pass!” said Mea, impatiently. “We can’t get away from the
fact that where there is so much smoke there must be a little fire.
Some evil business is on foot, and all the servants know what it is,
whether we do or not.”

I felt that she was right when Mary Anne and “Mammy,” Gilbert, Tom, his
assistant, and my little maid Paulina, with black Molly, Percy’s nurse,
trooped in, one after the other, to welcome “Miss Firginny” home. They
had done the like ever since I was born. I should have felt hurt and
angry had they failed in the ceremony. My sharpened senses detected
something that was overdone in manner and speech. They were too glad to
see me, and while they protested, I discerned sarcasm in their grins, a
sinister roll in lively eyeballs.

We talked fast over the supper-table, and of all manner of things
irrelevant to the topic uppermost in our thoughts. Once, while Gilbert
and his half-grown subaltern were out of the room, I ventured a hasty
whisper to my father, at whose right I sat:

“Father, have we any arms in the house if they should come?”

Without turning his head, he saw, out of the tail of his eye, Gilbert
on the threshold, a plate of hot waffles in hand, and Tom at his heels
bearing a pitcher of fresh water. My father reached out a deliberate
hand for a slice of bread from a plate near his elbow.

“All that I have to say, my daughter” (his speech as deliberate as his
hand, and every syllable sharp and clear), “is that we are prepared for
them, come when and how they may.”

A perceptible shiver, as when one catches breath after an electric
shock, ran around the table. All felt that he had thrown down the
gauntlet, and was ready to take the consequences. My heart leaped up as
an elastic bough from the weight that had bowed it to the earth. It was
no effort after that to be gay. I told stories of my country sojourn,
retailed the humors of the visit to our old neighborhood, mimicking
this and that rustic, telling of comical sayings of the colored people
who pressed me with queries as to town life—in short, unbottled a
store of fun and gossip that lasted until bedtime. Then, as I told my
correspondent, I went to bed and slept the sleep of youth, health, and
an easy mind.

And this because he who never lied to me had said that he was
“prepared” for the assassins, come when they might.

A week later, when the fireless smoke had vanished quite from the
horizon, and we dared jest at the “scare,” I asked my mother what
arsenal my father had had in reserve that he could speak so confidently
of preparation for midnight attack and domestic treachery.

“Nothing more formidable than a carving-knife,” she answered, merrily,
“and courage that has always served him in the hour of peril. He was
not alarmed. I believe he would face a hundred negroes with no other
weapon than his bare hands.”

I am often asked why, if our family servants were really and warmly
attached to us, we should have let the “bugbear” poison our pleasures
and haunt our midnight visions. To the present hour I am conscious of a
peculiar stricture of the heart that stops my breath for a second, at
the sudden blast of a hunter’s horn in the country. Before I was eight
years old I had heard the tale of Gabriel’s projected insurrection,
and of the bloodier outbreak of murderous fury led by Nat Turner, the
petted favorite of a trusting master. Heard that the signal of attack
in both cases was to be “a trumpet blown long and loud.” Again and
again, on my visits to country plantations, I have been thrown into
a paroxysm of terror when awakened from sleep in the dead of night,
by the sound of the horns carried by “coon hunters” in their rounds
of the woods nearest us. I could not have been over ten, when, on a
visit to “Lethe,” a homestead occupied for a while by Uncle Carus, I
was rambling in the garden soon after sunrise, picking roses, and let
them fall from nerveless fingers at the ringing blast of a “trumpet
blown long and loud”, from the brow of a neighboring hill. As it pealed
louder and longer, until the blue welkin above me repeated the sound,
I fled as fast as my freezing feet would carry me, to the deepest
recesses of the graveyard at the foot of the garden, and hid in a
tangle of wild raspberry bushes higher than my head. There I lay, wet
with the dews of the past night, and my face and hands scratched to
bleeding, until the winding horn grew faint and fainter, and the bay of
a pack of hounds told me what a fool panic had made of me. We always
thought of the graveyard as an asylum in the event of a rising. No
negro would venture to enter it by day or night.

In any ordinary period of danger or distress, I would have trusted my
life in the hands of the men and women who had been born on the same
plantation with my mother, and the younger generation, to whom she had
been a faithful and benignant friend from their cradles. In fire and
flood and tempest; in good report and evil report; in sickness and in
health; in poverty, as in riches—they would have stood with, and for
us to the death. We knew them to be but children of a larger growth,
passionate and unreasoning, facile and impulsive, and fanatical beyond
anything conceivable by the full-blooded white. The superstitious
savagery their ancestors had brought from barbarous and benighted
Africa, was yet in their veins. We had heard how Gabriel, a leader
in prayer-meetings, and encouraged by the whites to do Christian
evangelization among his own race, had deliberately meditated and
written down, as sections of the code to be put into practice, when he
should come into his kingdom of Lower Virginia—a plan of murder of all
male whites, and a partition of the women and girl-children among his
followers, together with arson and tortures exceeding the deviltries
of the red Indians. We had heard from the lips of eyewitnesses, scenes
succeeding the Southampton massacre of every white within the reach
of the murderous horde howling at the heels of the negro preacher
whom his master had taught to read and write—how the first victim of
the uprising, in the name of God and freedom, was that master as he
lay asleep at his wife’s side. Of how coolly—even complacently—Turner
recorded: “He sprang up, calling his wife’s name. It was his last word.
A single blow was sufficient to kill him. We forgot a baby that was
asleep in the cradle, but Hark went back and dispatched it.”

In every plan of rising against their masters, Religion was a potent
element. It was, to their excitable imaginations, a veritable Holy War,
from which there would be no discharge. The “Mammy” who had nursed her
mistress’s baby at her own bosom, would brain it, with the milk yet wet
upon its lips, if bidden by the “prophet” to make the sacrifice. Nat
Turner split with his axe the skull of a boy he had carried in his arms
scores of times, and stayed not his hand, although the little fellow
met him with a happy laugh and outstretched arms and the cry, “Uncle
Nat, you have come to give me a ride! Haven’t you?”

I repeat, we knew with what elements we should have to deal if the
“rising” ever took an organized form. This ever-present knowledge
lay at the root of the hatred of the “abolition movement.” To the
Northerner, dwelling at ease among his own people, it was—except to the
leaders—an abstract principle. “All men are created free and equal”—a
slaveholder had written before his Northern brother emancipated his
unprofitable serfs. Ergo, reasoned the Northern brother, in judicial
survey of the increasing race, whose labor was still gainful to tobacco
and wheat planter, the negro slave had a right to “liberty and the
pursuit of happiness.”

He did not count the cost of a consummation devoutly to be desired. He
had no occasion to meditate upon the bloody steps by which the enslaved
and alien race would climb to the height the Abolitionist would
stimulate him to attain.

So well was it understood that a mother ran dangerous risks if she put
her child into the care of the colored woman who complained that she
“was tired of that sort of work,” that neglect of such dislike of a
nurse’s duties was considered foolhardy. I heard a good old lady, who
owned so many servants that she hired a dozen or so to her neighbors,
lament that Mrs. Blank “did not mind what I told her about Frances’
determination not to take care of children. I hired the girl to her
as a chambermaid, and gave her fair warning that she just would _not_
be a nurse. A baby was born when Frances had been there four months,
and she was set to nurse it. You must have heard the dreadful story?
Perhaps you saw it in the papers. When the child was six months old
the wretched creature pounded glass and put it in the baby’s milk. The
child died, and the girl was hanged.”

Ugly stories, these, but so true in every particular that I cannot
leave them out of my chronicle of real life and the workings of what we
never thought, then, of calling “the peculiar institution.”

One of my most distinct recollections of the discussions of Slavery
held in my hearing is that my saintly Aunt Betsy said, sadly and
thoughtfully:

“One thing is certain—we will have to pay for the great sin of having
them here. How, or when, God alone knows.”

“We did not bring them to Virginia!” was my mother’s answer. “And I,
for one, wish they were all back in Africa. But what can we do, now
that they are on our hands?”

Before turning to other and pleasanter themes, let me say that my
father, after consultation with the wife who had brought to him eight
or ten “family servants” as part of her father’s estate, resolved to
free them and send them to Liberia at his own expense. This was in
my early childhood, yet I recollect how the scheme failed through the
obstinate refusal of the slaves to leave master, home, and country
for freedom in a strange land. They clung to my mother’s knees, and
prayed her, with wild weeping, not to let them go. They had blood
relatives and dear friends here; their children had intermarried with
men and women in different parts of the county; their grandfathers and
great-grandfathers had left them no legacy of memories that would draw
them toward the far-off country which was but the echo of an empty name
to their descendants. They were comfortable and happy here. Why send
them, for no fault of theirs, into exile?

“There is something in what they say!” my father had said to my mother,
in reviewing the scene. “I cannot see that anything is left for us to
do except to keep on as we are, and wait for further indications of the
Divine will.”

This was in the thirties, not many years after an act of gradual
emancipation was lost in the Legislature by the pitiful majority I
named in an earlier paragraph. A score of years had passed since that
momentous debate in our capitol, and our Urim and Thummin had not
signified that we could do anything better than to “keep on as we were.”

It would be idle to say that we were not, from time to time, aware that
a volcano slumbered fitfully beneath us. There were dark sides to the
Slavery Question, for master, as for slave.



XIX

WEDDING AND BRIDESMAID—THE ROUTINE OF A LARGE FAMILY—MY FIRST
BEREAVEMENT


IN the summer of 1851, my grandmother had bought and given to her
only child the house which was to be our home as long as we remained
a resident family in Richmond. Of this house I shall have a story to
tell in the next chapter. It stands upon Leigh Street (named for the
distinguished lawyer of whom we have heard in these pages as taking
a part in the Clay campaign), and the locality was then quietly, but
eminently, aristocratic. There were few new houses, and the old had a
rural, rather than an urban, air. Each had its garden, stocked with
shrubbery and flowers. Some had encompassing lawns and outlying copses
of virgin native growth.

The new home held a large family. The stately old dame who had settled
us for life, occupied a sunny front chamber, and in addition to our
household proper, we had had with us, for two years, my mother’s
widowed brother-in-law, “Uncle” Cams, and the stepdaughter for whose
sake we had consented to receive him. My aunt had died soon after her
youngest child (Anne) was taken to a Better Country; Cousin Paulina
went a year later, and as the mother’s parting request to the eldest
of her flock was that she would “take care of her father,” separation
was not to be thought of. None of us loved the lonely old man. One and
all, we loved her who was a younger sister to our mother, and a second
mother to her children.

So we sat down to our meals every day, a full dozen, all told, and
as we were seldom without a visitor, we must have been “thirteen
at table”, times without number. If we had ever heard the absurd
superstition that would have forbidden it, we never gave it a thought.
I should not have liked to meet my father’s frown and hear his comment,
had the matter been broached in his hearing.

The modern (nominal) mistress would be horrified at the thought of
twelve eaters, drinkers, and sleepers under the roof of a private
house. We descried nothing out of the way in it, and fared exceeding
comfortably from year’s end to year’s end. Large families were still
respectable in the public eye, and an increase in the number of
domestics kept the addition to the white family from bearing hard upon
the housemother.

How gayly and smoothly the little craft of my life moved on up to the
middle of ’53, let a few passages from a letter dated July 23d of that
year, testify:

    “I came back from the mountains on the 2d of this month.
    I had a charming visit at Piedmont. I believe I left warm
    friends behind me when I reluctantly said ‘Good-bye’ to
    the hospitable abode. I was the only young lady on the
    plantation, and there were four grown brothers and a cousin
    or two. Each had his pet riding-horse, which he ‘must have
    me try.’ I had rides, morning and evening, and once at
    _high noon_. In June! Think of it! I won’t tell you which
    Rosinante I preferred. You might have a notion that his
    master shared his honors, and these shrewd guesses are
    inconvenient sometimes. The very considerate gallants found
    out, ‘by the merest chance,’ that it made me sick to ride in
    a closed carriage, and, of course, as there were two buggies
    on the place, there was ‘tall’ bidding as to which I should
    distinguish by accepting a seat in it. Sarah C., her mother,
    and sister were kindness itself to me. I was quite ashamed
    of my unworthiness of such petting....

    “I got home just in time to help Mea with the preparations
    for her Northern trip, and to get ready for Sarah Ragland’s
    wedding—an event that had its influence in shaping my summer
    plans.

    “We enjoyed the ‘occasion’ heartily. How could I do
    otherwise when my attendant groomsman was ordered for the
    affair from Charlottesville?—the very youth who smote my
    already beriddled heart when I was up in that region. He
    is a cousin of the Raglands—Charley Massie by name—and the
    arrangement was Mary’s (bless her heart!). Mr. Budwell,
    the bridegroom, was indisputably the handsomest man in the
    room. This was as it should be; but I never attended another
    wedding where this could be said with truth. My knight was
    the next best-looking, and for once I was content with a
    second-best article.”

I allude in this letter to “Cousin Mollie’s” illness, but with no
expression of anxiety as to the result. She had been delicate ever
since I could recollect anything. She went to Saratoga every summer,
and now and then to Florida in the winter. The only intimation I ever
had from her as to the cause of her continued singlehood was in answer
to the girlish outburst: “Cousin Mary, you must have been beautiful
when you were young! You will always be charming. I can’t comprehend
why you have never married!”

Her speech was ever even and sweet. I detected a ring of impatience or
of pain in it, as she said: “Why should I marry, Namesake? To get a
nurse for life?”

I had suspected all along that she had a history known to none of us.
After that I knew it, and asked no more questions.

Patient, brave, unselfishly heroic—

            “The sweetest soul
    That ever looked with human eyes,”

—she lingered day after day, now weaker, now rallying, until she spoke
her own conviction to me one day in late July, as I sat by, fanning
her, and no one else was present.

I smiled as she opened her large dark eyes, the only beauty left in the
wasted face, and saw me.

“You are better, dear! We shall have you up and out driving before
long.”

“No, dear child!”—infinite weariness in tone and look. “The old clock
has run clean down!”

I did not believe it, and I said it stoutly aloud, and to myself.

She seemed no more languid—only drowsy—the next afternoon, as I
fluttered into the room and leaned over her in a glow of excitement:

“Cousin Mollie, darling! I have come in to say that Junius Fishburn is
down-stairs. He is in town for a day on his way to Newport.”

The great eyes opened wide, a smile lighted them into liveliness.

“Oh, I am so glad!” she gasped.

She was “glad” of everything that gave me pleasure. I had never doubted
that. I had never gone to her with a pain or a pleasure without getting
my greedy fill of sympathy.

When I had said a hearty “_bon voyage!_” to my caller, I went back
to tell her of the interview. She was dying. We watched by her from
evening to morning twilight.

Ned Rhodes, who was in Boston when he got my letter, telling briefly
what had come to us, sent me lines I read then for the first time. Had
the writer shared that vigil with us, he could not have described it
more vividly:

    “We watched her breathing thro’ the night,
       Her breathing soft and low,
     As in her breast the wave of life
       Kept heaving to and fro.
     Our very hopes belied our fears;
       Our fears our hopes belied:
     We thought her dying while she slept,
       And sleeping when she died.”

At midnight there was a rally for a few minutes. I was wetting the
dry lips, leaning over the pillow, so that she looked into my eyes in
unclosing hers. A smile of heavenly sweetness played over her face—a
ray that irradiated, without moving a feature or line. The poor mouth
stirred ever so slightly. I bent closer to it to hear the whisper:

“I’m almost there!”

Two months later I wrote to my old friend:

    “Our great sorrow in July was my first affliction. Yet I
    was wonderfully supported under it, and the _terrible_
    desolation that has grown upon us, instead of lessening. I
    say ‘supported,’ for not once have I wished her back; but I
    miss her—oh, so sadly!

                 “‘I cannot make her dead!’

    “Then mother went to the country for a month, and I was
    left as housekeeper, with the whole care of the family
    on my hands. Rising betimes to preside at father’s early
    breakfast, pickling, preserving, sewing, overseeing the
    servants, etcetera.

    “Enough of this! Although the little girls’ lessons begin
    again to-day, and I have my sister’s domestic and social
    duties to perform in addition to my own, I have more leisure
    than you might think, and you shall have the benefit of
    a spare half-hour on this bright Monday morning. (Alice
    practising, meanwhile, in the same room!)

    “Mea is still in Boston and the vicinity, and will not
    return for a month or more. Lizzie M. is to be married late
    in October or early in November, and wishes to have Mea with
    her. Another of the three Lizzies, and the prettiest—Lizzie
    N.—married last week a Mr. L.—a nice young man, Mea says. I
    have never seen him, although they have been engaged for
    some time. He has taken up his abode in Boston, to keep his
    lovely wife with her invalid mother.

    “And while upon marriage—E. G. is to wed on October 11th,
    Mr. R. H., one of _ten_ brothers. She is ‘doing very well,’
    say the gossips.

    “Sarah and Mr. Budwell are at home again, he handsomer than
    ever, while she looks prettier and happier than she ever was
    before.

    “While retailing news, let me chronicle the arrival of
    Master Robert Wallace Courtney, an interesting youth, who—as
    father dryly remarked, when I said that he ‘came from a
    foreign shore’—‘speaks the language of the Cry-mea.’

    “Heigho! so goes this mad world of ours: death; marriage;
    birth. Ranks are mowed down, and filled up as soon. Few
    of us appreciate what a fearful thing it is to die, and
    fewer yet how awful it is to live—writing our histories by
    our actions in the Book of God’s Remembrance, a stroke for
    every word, movement, and thought! Again I say, if Death be
    fearful, Life is awful!

    “We are prone to forget, as one and another fall, and the
    chasm is closed up and Life seems the same—except within
    the bleeding hearts of mourners—that our day is coming as
    surely as those others have gone. In effect, we arrogate
    immortality for ourselves.

    “The longer I live, and the more I see of the things that
    perish with the using, the more firmly persuaded am I that
    there is but one reality in life, and that is Religion. Why
    not make it an every-day business? Since the loving care of
    the Father is the only thing that may not be taken from us,
    why do we not look to it for every joy, and cling to it for
    every comfort?...

    “Write soon. Will you not _come_ to me? I am very lonely at
    times. One sister _gone_! Another absent!

    “I am wondering if you have changed as much as I feel
    that I have? It is not natural to suppose that you have.
    You have not the same impression of added responsibility,
    the emulation to throw yourself into the breach made by
    the removal of one so beloved, and, in her quiet way,
    exercising so much influence. If I could but hope that
    patience and prayerful watchfulness would ever make me
    ‘altogether such an one’ as she was!

    “How many and how happy have been the meetings in heaven
    since I last saw you! Dear little Sallie B.! How often in
    fancy do I see her walk away in the moonlight night of our
    parting! I never look from the front window in the evening
    without recalling that hour.”



XX

OUR TRUE FAMILY GHOST-STORY


ONE evening of the winter following the events recorded in the last
chapter, “Ned” Rhodes and I had spent a cosey two hours together. My
parents never did chaperon duty, in the modern acceptation of the
word. They made a habit, without hinting at it as a duty, of knowing
personally every man who called upon us. When, as in the present case,
and it was a common one, the visitor was well known to them, and they
liked him, both of them came into the drawing-room, sat for a half-hour
or longer, as the spirit moved them, then slipped out, separately, to
their own sitting-room and books.

I have drawn Ned Rhodes’s picture at length as “Charley” in _Alone_. I
will only say here that he was my firm and leal friend from the time I
was twelve years old to the time of his death, in the early eighties.

He had a piece of new music for me to-night, and we fell to work with
piano and flute soon after my father’s exit. It was not difficult. The
songs and duets that followed were familiar to us both. We chatted
by the glowing grate when we left the piano—gayly and lightly, of
nothing in particular—the inconsequent gossip of two old and intimate
acquaintances that called for no effort from either.

I mention this to show that I carried a careless spirit and a light
heart with me, as I went off in the direction of my bedroom, having
extinguished the hanging lamp in the hall, and taking one of the lamps
from the parlor to light myself bedward.

It was a big, square Colonial house, with much waste of space in the
matter of halls and passages. The entrance-hall on the first floor was
virtually a reception-room, and nearly as large as any apartment on
that level. It was cut across the left side by an archway, filled with
Venetian blinds and door. Beyond these was a broad, easy stairway,
dropping, by a succession of landings, to the lower from the upper
story. Directly opposite the front door was a second and narrower arch,
the door in which was, likewise, of Venetian slats. This led to the
rooms at the back of the house. The plan of the second floor was the
same. On this eventful night I passed through the smaller archway,
closing the door behind me. It had a spring latch that clicked into
place as I swung it to. The bedroom I shared with my sister, who was
not at home that night, was directly across the passage from that
occupied by our parents. A line of light under their door proved that
they were still up, and I knocked.

“Come in!” called both, in unison.

My mother, wrapped in her dressing-gown, lay back in her rocking-chair,
her book closed upon her finger. My father had laid aside his coat, and
stood on the rug, winding his watch.

“I was hoping that you would look in,” he said. “I wanted to ask what
that new piano-and-flute piece is. I like it!”

We exchanged a few sentences on the subject; I kissed both good-night,
and went out into the hall, humming, as I went, the air that had caught
his fancy.

The lamp in my hand had two strong burners. Gas had not then been
introduced into private dwellings in Richmond. We used what was sold as
“burning fluid,” in illuminating our houses—something less gross than
camphene or oil, and giving more light than either. I carried the lamp
in front of me, so that it threw a bright light upon the door across
the passage, here a little over six feet wide. As I shut the door of my
mother’s room, I saw, as distinctly as if by daylight, a small woman in
gray start out of the opposite door, glide noiselessly along the wall,
and disappear at the Venetian blinds giving upon the big front hall.

I have reviewed that moment and its incident a thousand times, in the
effort to persuade myself that the apparition was an optical illusion
or a trick of fancy.

The thousandth-and-first attempt results as did the first. I shut
my eyes to see—always the one figure, the same motion, the same
disappearance.

She was dressed in gray; she was small and lithe; her head was bowed
upon her hands, and she slipped away, hugging the wall, as in flight,
vanishing at the closed door. The door I had heard latch itself five
minutes ago! Which did not open to let her through! I recall, as
clearly as I see the apparition, what I thought in the few seconds that
flew by as I stood to watch her. I was not in the least frightened
at first. My young maid, Paulina, a bright mulatto of fifteen, had
more than once that winter fallen asleep upon the rug before my fire,
when she went into the room to see that all was in readiness for my
retiring. The servants slept in buildings detached from the main
residence, a custom to which I have referred before.

“The house” was locked up by my father’s own hands at ten o’clock,
unless there were some function to keep one or more of the servants
up and on duty. Therefore, when I had twice awakened Paulina from
her unlawful slumber, I had sent her off to the “offices”—in English
parlance—with a sharp reproof and warning against a repetition of the
offence. My instant thought now was:

“The little minx has been at it again!” The next, “She went like a
cat!” The third, in a lightning flash, “She did not open the door to go
through!” Finally—“Nor did she open the door when she came out of my
room!”

I had never, up to that instant, known one thrill of supernatural dread
since I was old enough to give full credence to my father’s assurances
that there were no such things as ghosts, and to laugh at the tales
told by ignorant negroes to frighten one another, and to awe white
children. I had never been afraid of the darkness or of solitude. I
would take my doll and book to the graveyard and spend whole happy
afternoons there, because it was quiet and shady, and nobody would
interrupt study or dream.

It was, then, the stress of extraordinary emotion which swept me back
into the room I had just quitted, and bore me up to the table by which
my mother sat, there to set down the lamp I could scarcely hold,
enunciating hoarsely:

“I have seen a ghost!”

My father wheeled sharply about.

“_What!_”

At that supreme moment, the influence of his scornful dislike to every
species of superstition made me “hedge,” and falter, in articulating,
“If there is such a thing as a ghost, I have seen one!”

Before I could utter another sound he had caught up the lamp and was
gone. Excited, and almost blind and dumb as I was, I experienced a new
sinking of heart as I heard him draw back the bolt of the door through
which the Thing had passed, without unclosing it. He explored the whole
house, my mother and I sitting, silent, and listening to his swift
tramp upon floor and stairs. In a few minutes the search was over.

He was perfectly calm in returning to us.

“There is nobody in the house who has not a right to be here. And
nobody awake except ourselves.”

Setting down the lamp, he put his hand on my head—his own, and almost
only, form of caress.

“Now, daughter, try and tell us what you think you saw?”

Grateful for the unlooked-for gentleness, I rallied to tell the
story simply and without excitement. When I had finished, he made no
immediate reply, and I looked up timidly.

“I really saw it, father, just as I have said! At least, I believe I
did!”

“I know it, my child. But we will talk no more of it to-night. I will
go to your room with you.”

He preceded me with the lamp. When we were in my chamber, he looked
under the bed (how did he guess that I should do it as soon as his
back was turned, if he had not?). Then he carried the light into the
small dressing-room behind the chamber. I heard him open the doors of a
wardrobe that stood there, and try the fastenings of a window.

“There is nothing to harm you here,” he said, coming back, and speaking
as gently as before. “Now, try not to think of what you believe you
saw. Say your prayers and go to bed, like a good, brave girl!”

He kissed me again, putting his arm around me and, holding me to him
tenderly, said “Good-night,” and went out.

I was ashamed of my fright—heartily ashamed! Yet I was afraid to look
in the mirror while I undid and combed my hair and put on my night-cap.
When, at last, I dared put out the light, I scurried across the floor,
plunged into bed, and drew the blankets tightly over my head.

My father looked sympathizingly at my heavy eyes next morning when I
came down to prayers. After breakfast he took me aside and told me to
keep what I had seen to myself.

“Neither your mother nor I will speak of it in the hearing of the
children and servants. You may, of course, take your sister into your
confidence. She may be trusted. But my opinion is that the fewer who
know of a thing that seems unaccountable, the better. And your sister
is more nervous than you.”

Thus it came about that nothing was said to Mea, and that we three who
knew of the visitation did not discuss it, and tried honestly not to
think of it.

Until, perhaps a month after my fright, about nine o’clock, one wet
night, my mother entered the chamber where my father and I were talking
over political news, as we still had a habit of doing, and said,
hurriedly, glancing nervously behind her:

“I have seen Virginia’s ghost!”

She saw it, just as I had described, issuing from the closed door and
gliding away close to the wall, then vanishing at the Venetian door.

“It was all in gray,” she reported, “but with something white wrapped
about the head. It is very strange!”

Still we held our peace. My father’s will was law, and he counselled
discretion.

“We will await further developments,” he said, oracularly.

Looking back, I think it strange that the example of his cool
fearlessness so far wrought upon me that I would not allow the
mystery to prey upon my spirits, or to make me afraid to go about the
house as I had been wont to do. Once my father broke the reserve we
maintained, even to each other, by asking if I would like to exchange
my sleeping-room for another.

“Why should I?” I interrogated, trying to laugh. “We are not sure where
_she_ goes after she leaves it. It is something to know that she is no
longer there.”

Mea had to be taken into confidence after she burst into the
drawing-room at twilight, one evening, and shut the door, setting her
back against it and trembling from head to foot. She was as white as a
sheet, and when she spoke, it was in a whisper. Something had chased
her down-stairs, she declared. The hall-lamp was burning, and she
could see, by looking over her shoulder, that the halls and stairs
were empty but for her terrified self. But Something—_Somebody_—in
high-heeled shoes, that went “Tap! tap! tap!” on the oaken floor and
staircase, was behind her from the time she left the upper chamber
where she had been dressing, until she reached the parlor door. Her
nerves were not as stout as mine, perhaps, but she was no coward, and
she was not given to foolish imaginations. When we told her what had
been seen, she took a more philosophical view of the situation than I
was able to do.

“Bodiless things can’t hurt bodies!” she opined, and readily joined our
secret circle.

Were we, as a family, as I heard a woman say when we were not
panic-stricken at the rumored approach of yellow-fever, “a queer lot,
taken altogether”? I think so, sometimes.

The crisis came in February of that same winter.

My sister Alice and a young cousin who was near her age—fourteen—were
sent off to bed a little after nine one evening, that they might get
plenty of “beauty sleep.” Passing the drawing-room door, which was
ajar, they were tempted to enter by the red gleam of the blazing
fire of soft coal. Nobody else was there to enjoy it, and they sat
them down for a school-girlish talk, prolonged until the far-off cry
“All’s well!” of the sentinel at the “Barrack” on Capitol Square told
the conscience-smitten pair that it was ten o’clock. Going into the
hall, they were surprised to find it dark. We found afterward that the
servant whose duty it was to fill the lamp had neglected it, and it had
burned out. It was a brilliant moonlight night, and the great window
on the lower landing of the staircase was unshuttered. The arched door
dividing the two halls was open, and from the doorway of the parlor
they had a full view of the stairs. The moonbeams flooded it half-way
up to the upper landing; and from the dark hall they saw a white figure
moving slowly down the steps. The mischievous pair instantly jumped to
the conclusion that one of “the boys”—my brothers—was on his way, _en
déshabillé_, to get a drink of water from the pitcher that always stood
on a table in the reception-room, or main hall. To get it, he must pass
within a few feet of them, and they shrank back into the embrasure of
the door behind them, pinching each other in wicked glee to think how
they would tease the boy about the prank next morning. Down the stairs
it moved, without sound, and slowly, the concealed watchers imagined,
listening for any movement that might make retreat expedient. They
said, afterward, that his nightgown trailed on the stairs, also that he
might have had something white cast over his head. These things did not
strike them as singular while they watched his progress, so full were
they of the fun of the adventure.

It crossed the moonlit landing—an unbroken sheet of light—and stepped,
yet more slowly, from stair to stair of the four that composed the
lowermost flight. It was on the floor and almost within the archway
when the front door opened suddenly and in walked the boys, who had
been out for a stroll.

In a quarter-second the apparition was gone. As Alice phrased it:

“It did not go backward or forward. It did not sink into the floor. It
just was _not_!”

With wild screams the girls threw themselves upon the astonished boys,
and sobbed out the story. In the full persuasion that a trick had been
played upon the frightened children, the brothers rushed up-stairs and
made a search of the premises. The hubbub called every grown member of
the household to the spot except our deaf grandmother, who was fast
asleep in her bed up-stairs.

Assuming the command which was his right, my father ordered all hands
to bed so authoritatively that none ventured to gainsay the edict. In
the morning he made light to the girls and boys of the whole affair,
fairly laughing it out of court, and, breakfast over, sent them off to
school and academy. Then he summoned our mother, my sister, and myself
to a private conference in “the chamber.”

He began business without preliminaries. Standing on the rug, his back
to the fire, his hands behind him, in genuine English-squirely style,
he said, as nearly as I can recall his words:

“It is useless to try to hide from ourselves any longer that there is
something wrong with this house. I have known it for a year and more.
In fact, we had not lived here three months before I was made aware
that some mystery hung about it.

“One windy November night I had gone to bed as usual, before your
mother finished her book.”

He glanced smilingly at her. Her proclivity for reading into the small
hours was a family joke.

“It was a stormy night, as I said, and I lay with closed eyes,
listening to the wind and rain, and thinking over next day’s business,
when somebody touched my feet. Somebody—not something! Hands were
laid lightly upon them, were lifted and laid in the same way upon my
knees, and so on until they rested more heavily on my chest, and I felt
that some one was looking into my face. Up to that moment I had not a
doubt that it was your mother. Like the careful wife she is, she was
arranging the covers over me to keep out stray draughts. So, when she
bent to look into my face, I opened my eyes to thank her.

“She was not there! I was gazing into the empty air. The pressure was
removed as soon as I lifted my eyelids. I raised myself on my elbow
and looked toward the fireplace. Your mother was deep in her book, her
back toward me. I turned over without sound, and looked under the bed
from the side next the wall. The firelight and lamplight shone through,
unobstructed.

“I speak of this now for the first time. I have never opened my lips
about it, even to your mother, until this moment. But it has happened
to me, not once, nor twice, nor twenty—but fifty times—maybe more. It
is always the same thing. The hands—I have settled in my mind that
they are those of a small woman or of a child, they are so little and
light—are laid on my feet, then on my knees, and travel upward to
my chest. There they rest for a few seconds, sometimes for a whole
minute—I have timed them—and _something_ looks into my face and is gone!

“How do I account for it? I don’t account for it at all! I know that
it _is_! That is all. Shakespeare said, long before I was born, that
‘there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our
philosophy.’ This is one of them. You can see, now, daughter”—turning
to me—“why I was not incredulous when you brought your ghost upon the
scene. I have been on the lookout for what our spiritualistic friends
call ‘further manifestations.’”

“You believe, then,” Mea broke in, “that the girls really saw something
supernatural on the stairs last night? That it was not a trick of
moonlight and imagination?”

“If we can make them think so, it will be better for them than to fill
their little brains with ghostly fears. That was the reason I took
a jesting tone at breakfast-time. I charged them, on the penalty of
being the laughing-stock of all of us, not to speak of it to any one
except ourselves. I wish you all to take the cue. Moreover, and above
everything else, don’t let the servants get hold of it. There would be
no living in the house with them, if they were to catch the idea that
it is ‘haunted.’”

He drew his brows into the horseshoe frown that meant annoyance
and perplexity. “How I hate the word! You girls are old enough to
understand that the value of this property would be destroyed were this
story to creep abroad. I would better burn the house down at once than
to attempt to sell it at any time within the next fifty years with a
ghost-tale tagged to it.

“Now, here lies the case! We can talk to outsiders of what we have
seen and felt and heard in this, our home, where your grandmother,
your mother and father have hoped to live comfortably and to die in
peace, or we can keep our own counsel like sensible, brave Christians.
‘Bodiless spirits cannot hurt bodies,’ and”—the frown passing before a
humorous gleam—“the little gray lady seems to be amiable enough. I can
testify that her hands are light, and that they pet, not strike. She is
timid, too. What do you say—all of you? Can we hold our tongues?”

We promised in one voice. We kept the pledge so well that both the
girls and the boys were convinced of our incredulity. Our father
forbade them positively to drop a hint of their foolish fancies in the
hearing of the servants. Young as they were, they knew what stigma
would attach to a haunted house in the community. As time passed,
the incident faded from their minds. It was never mentioned in their
hearing.

A year went by without further demonstration on the part of the little
gray lady, except for two nocturnal visitations of the small, caressing
hands. My father admitted this when we questioned him on the subject;
but he would not talk of it.

The one comic element connected with the bodiless visitant was
introduced, oddly enough, by our sanctimonious clerical uncle-in-law,
who now and then paid us visits of varying lengths. As he came
unannounced, it was not invariably convenient to receive him. On one
occasion his appearance caused dismay akin to consternation. We were
expecting a houseful of younger friends within two days, and needed the
guest-room he must occupy. He was good for a week at the shortest.

True to the Arab-like traditions of hospitality that pervaded all
ranks of Old Dominion society, we suffered nothing of this to appear
in our behavior. Nor could he have heard the anguished discussion of
ways and means that went on between Mea and myself late that night. It
was, therefore, a delightful surprise when he announced, next morning,
his intention of going out to Olney that day, and to remain there
for—perhaps a week. He “had let too long a time elapse since he had
paid the good people there a visit. He didn’t want them to think he had
forgotten them.”

One of the “good people,” the wife of my mother’s brother, drove into
town to spend the day with us, a week after the close of his stay at
Olney. “Aunt Sue” was a prime favorite with us all, and she was in fine
feather to-day, full of fun and anecdote. She interrupted a spicy bit
of family news to say, by-and-by:

“Did any of you ever suspect that your house is haunted?”

“How ridiculous!” laughed my mother. “Why do you ask?”

The narrator laughed yet more merrily.

“The funniest thing you ever heard! The old gentleman had an awful
scare the last night he was here. I asked him what he had eaten—and
drunk—for supper that evening. But he stuck to it that he was standing
at his window, looking out into the moonlight in the garden, when
somebody came up behind him, and took him by the elbows and turned
him clear around! He felt the two hands that grabbed hold of him so
plainly that he made sure Horace had hidden under the bed and jumped
out to scare him. So he looked under the bed and in the wardrobe and
the closet, and, for all I know, in the bureau drawers and under the
washstand, for the boy. There was nobody in the room but himself, and
the door was locked. He says he wouldn’t sleep in that room another
night for a thousand dollars.”

“Nobody is likely to offer it!” retorted Mea, dryly. “I have slept
there nearly a thousand nights, and nothing ever caught hold of me.”

Passing over what might or might not have been a link in the true,
weird history of our bodiless tenant, I leap a chasm of a dozen
years to wind up the tale of the “little gray lady,” so far as it
bears directly upon our family. After the death of her husband and
the marriages of sons and daughters left my mother alone in the old
colonial homestead, she decided to sell it and to live with my youngest
sister.

The property was bought as a “Church Home”—a sort of orphanage,
conducted under the patronage of a prominent Episcopal parish renowned
for good works. In altering the premises to adapt buildings to their
new uses, the workmen came upon the skeleton of a small woman about
four feet below the surface of the front yard. She lay less than
six feet away from the wall of the house, and directly under the
drawing-room window. There was no sign of coffin or coffin-plate. Under
her head was a high, richly carved tortoise-shell comb, mute evidence
that she had not been buried in cap and shroud, as was the custom a
hundred years agone. The oldest inhabitant of a city that is tenacious
of domestic legends, had never heard of an interment in that quarter
of a residential and aristocratic district. The street, named for the
eminent lawyer, must have been laid out since the house was built,
and may have been cut right through grounds, then far more spacious
than when we bought the place. Even so, the grave was dug in the front
garden, and so close to the house as to render untenable the theory
that the plot was ever part of a family burying-ground.

The papers took inquisitive note of all these circumstances, and let
the matter drop as an unexplained mystery. Within the present occupancy
of the house, I have heard that the gray lady still walks on moonlight
nights, and, in gusty midnights, visits the bedside of terrified
inmates to press small, light hands upon the feet, and so passing
upward, to rest upon the chest of the awakened sleeper. I was asked by
one who had felt them, if I had “ever heard the legend that a bride,
dressed for her wedding, fell dead in that upper chamber ages ago.”

My informant could not tell me from whom she had the grewsome tale, or
the date thereof. “Somebody had told her that it happened once upon a
time.” She knew that the unquiet creature still “walked the halls and
stairs.”

She should have been “laid” by the decent ceremony of burial in
consecrated ground, awarded to the exhumed bones.

I have talked with a grandson of our former next-door neighbor, and had
from him a circumstantial account of the disinterment of the nameless
remains. They must have lain nearer the turf above them, a century
back, than when they were found. The young man was a boy when he ran
to the hole made by the workmen’s spades, and watched the men bring to
light the entire skeleton. He verified the story of the high, carved
comb. He told me, too, of a midnight alarm of screaming children at the
vision of a little gray lady, walking between the double row of beds in
the dormitory, adding:

“I told those who asked if any story was attached to the house, that I
had lived next door ever since I was born, and played every day with
your sisters and brothers, and never heard a whisper that the house was
haunted.”

So said all our neighbors. We kept our own counsel. It was our father’s
wise decree.

I have told my ghost-story with no attempt at explanation of psychical
phenomena. After all these years I fall back, when questioned as to
hypotheses, upon my father’s terse dicta:

“How do I account for it? I don’t account for it at all!”



XXI

TWO MONUMENTAL FRIENDSHIPS


EVEN at that period, when I visited my father’s Northern kindred,
I failed to bring them to a right comprehension of the frank, and
oftentimes intimate, relations existing between the young people of
both sexes in my Virginia home. I have marvelled within myself since,
how these relations came to be established at the first. We brought
to the New World, and retained, scores of English customs of domestic
management, and traditions of social obligations. It was never the
fashion in England, or in her Northern colonies, for boys to begin
“visiting the young ladies” before they discarded roundabouts, and to
keep up the fascinating habit until they tottered into the grave at
fourscore. For the same dozen young fellows to call at least once a
week upon as many young girls; to read, chat, jest, flirt, drive, ride,
and walk with them, month after month, and year after year, perhaps
choosing one of the dozen as a lifelong partner, and quite as often
running off for a season to another county or State, and bringing home
a wife, with whom the philosophic coterie speedily got acquainted
amiably, widening the circle to take her in, with never a thought of
chagrin.

The thumbnail sketches I have jotted down in my “purposeful” chapter,
bring in the same names, again and again. They were, indeed, and in
truth, household words. None of the young men and maidens catalogued
in the Christmas doggerel I shall speak of, presently, intermarried.
Two—perhaps four—had secret intentions that tended toward such a
result in the fulness of time. Intentions, that interfered in nowise
with their participation in the general hilarity. If there were any
difference in the demeanor of the engaged, or partially betrothed,
pairs from the behavior of the fancy-free, it was in a somewhat too
obvious show of impartiality. Engagements were never “announced,” and
if suspected, were ignored in general society. Thus it often happened
that a direct proposal took a girl utterly by surprise.

I was but sixteen, and on a summer vacation in Albemarle County,
when a collegian of nineteen, who was swinging me “under green apple
boughs”—lazily, because the rapid rush through the air would interfere
with the chat we were carrying on, in full sight of groups scattered on
the porch steps and about the lawn—brought down my thoughts—which had
strayed far afield under the influence of the languorous motion, the
sunset and the soft mingling of young voices—with stunning velocity,
by declaring that he adored me, and “couldn’t keep it to himself any
longer.”

With never the suspicion of a blush, I looked him straight in the eyes
and begged him not to make a goose of himself, adding: “I didn’t think
you mistook me for a girl who enjoys that kind of badinage. It is not a
bit to my taste. And we have been such good friends!”

When he suffocated himself dangerously with protestations that actually
brought tears to his eyes, I represented that lookers-on would think
we had quarrelled if I left the swing and his society abruptly, as I
certainly should do if he did not begin to talk sensibly, out of hand.
I set the example by calling to a boy who was passing with a basket of
apples, and calmly selecting one, taking my time in doing it.

Coquetry? Not a bit of it! I liked the lad too well to allow him to
make a breach in our friendship by love-making. When he came to his
senses (four years later!) he thanked me for not taking the matter
seriously.

We gave, and attended, few large parties. But there were no dead calms
in our intercourse. Somebody was always getting up a frolic of some
sort. Tableaux, musicales, “sociables,” where, in Christmas week,
and sometimes at other times, we played old-fashioned games, such as
“Consequences” upon slips of paper, and “Kings of England” with cards,
and “What is my thought like?” _viva voce_. We had picnics in warm
weather. Richmond College boys invited us out to receptions following
orations on February 22d, and we had Valentine parties, with original
verses, on February 14th.

Nowhere, and at no time, was there romping. Still less would
kissing-games be allowed among really “nice” young people. This was
deemed incredible by my Boston cousins, and yet more strange the fact
that we kept up among ourselves decorous conventions that appeared
stiff and inconsistent to those not to the manor born and bred. For
example, while I might, and did, name our most intimate masculine
visitors, “Tom,” “Dick,” or “Harry” in chat with my girl friends, I
addressed them as “Mr. Smith,” “Jones,” or “Robinson,” and always spoke
of them in the same manner in mentioning them to strangers. For a man
to touch a lady’s arm or shoulder to attract her attention, was an
unpardonable liberty. If a pair were seen to “hold hands,” it was taken
for granted that they were engaged or—as I heard a matron say, when she
had surprised a couple walking in the moonlight, the fair one’s hand on
the swain’s arm, and his laid lightly upon it—“they ought to be.”

The well-bred girl of the fifties might be a rattle; she might
enjoy life with guileless abandon that earned her the reputation of
“dashing”; she parried shaft of teasing and badinage with weapons
of proof; but she was never “fast.” She kept her self-respect, and
challenged the reverent respect of the men who knew her best.

To this code of social and ceremonial ethics, and to the ban put upon
dancing and card-playing by church and parents, is undoubtedly due the
fact that Southern women of that generation were almost invariably what
we would call, “good talkers.” In the remembrance, and in contrasting
that all-so-long-ago with the times in which we live, I could write a
jeremiade upon “Conversation as a Lost Art.”

From the list of names drawn into line by some Yule-tide rhymes of
my own, bearing the date of “1852,” I single two that must have
more than a passing notice if I would write the true story of my
threescore-and-ten years.

Mary Massie Ragland was, at that Christmas-tide, twenty-two years of
age. I had liked and admired her from the first. In time she grew into
a place in my heart no other friend had ever held, and which, left
vacant by her death six years later, has never been taken. I think no
man or woman has more than one complete, all-satisfying friendship in
a lifetime. Her portrait hangs against the wall in my bedchamber now.
I awake each morning to meet her gaze bent, as in life, on mine. In
sorrow and in joy, I have gone secretly to my room, as to an oratory,
to seek in the depths of the beautiful eyes the sympathy never denied
while she was with me, and visible to my dull vision. To a mind stored
richly with the best literature, eager to acquire and faithful to
retain, she added exquisite fancies, poetic tastes, and love for the
beautiful that was a passion. Her heart was warm, deep, tender, and
true. It well-nigh breaks mine in remembering _how_ true! In all the
ten years in which we lived and loved together in closest intimacy, not
a cloud ever crossed the heaven of our friendship.

One remark, uttered simply and with infinite gentleness by her, after
a great loss had chastened her buoyant spirits, stands with me as the
keynote to action and character.

I was commenting somewhat sharply upon my disappointment in not
meeting, from one whom I loved and trusted, the fulness of sympathy I
thought I had a right to expect in what was a genuine trial to myself.

“She was hard and critical!” I moaned. “You saw it, yourself! You
cannot deny it! And she was absolutely rude to _you_!”

“Dear!” The stroking fingers upon my bowed head were a benediction; the
sweet voice was eloquent with compassion. “Don’t judge her harshly!
She is _good_, and true to you and to the right. But she has never had
sorrow to make her tender.”

How boundless was the tenderness, my mentor, who comforted while she
admonished, learned in the school of pain in which she studied until
Death dismissed her spirit, was fully known to Him alone whose faithful
disciple she was to the end.

To the world she showed a smiling front; her merry laugh and ready
repartee were the life of whatever company she entered, and over and
through it all, it might be reverently said of the true, heroic soul,
that, to high and humble, “her compassions failed not.”

“Refined by nature and refined by grace!” said one above her coffin.

I added, inly: “And by sorrow!”

“The kind of woman to whom a fellow takes off his hat when he thinks
of her,” a young cousin, who had been as a brother to her, wrote to me
after her death. “It took six thousand years to make one such. I shall
never know another.”

While on a visit to my old and beloved preceptors, Mrs. Nottingham
and her daughters, then resident in Lexington, Virginia, I met Junius
Fishburn, lately graduated from Washington College—now Washington and
Lee. He was an early and intimate friend of the “Ragland girls,” and
in a way (according to Virginia ways of reckoning kinship) a family
connection of theirs, too remote to deserve recognition in any other
region or society. But he claimed through this the right to omit the
initial steps of acquaintanceship, and I recognized the right. We
were quickly friends—so quickly, that it was no surprise to me when
he enclosed a note to me in a letter to one of the Ragland sisters,
shortly after my return home. I answered it, and thus was established
a correspondence continued through a term of years, without serious
interruption, up to the day when, in the second year after my marriage,
my husband entered my room with a paper in his hand, and a grave look
on his face.

“Here is sad, sad news for you,” he said, gently. “Professor Fishburn
is dead!”

The beautiful young wife, to whom he had been married less than two
years, was a sister of “Stonewall Jackson’s” first wife, a daughter of
Dr. George Junkin, then President of Washington College, and sister of
the poet, Margaret Junkin Preston. After “June’s” death, Mrs. Preston,
my dear friend, wrote to me of a desire her widowed sister hesitated to
express directly to me. Her husband had told her that more of his early
and inner life was told in this series of letters to me than he could
ever relate to any one else. Would I be willing to let her read a few
selected by myself? I had known him before he met her. If the request
were unreasonable, she would withdraw it.

There could have been no surer proof of the sincerity, the purity, and
absolute absence of everything pertaining to love-making and flirtation
in our ten-year-long friendship, than was offered in the circumstance
that, without a moment’s hesitation or the exclusion of a single
letter, I made up a parcel of the epistles, and sent it, with my fond
love, to the widow of my lamented friend.

His letters were but a degree less charming than his conversation. I
considered him, then, and I have not changed my opinion after seeing
much more of the world of society men and brilliant women, one of the
best talkers I have known.

“You have hit it off happily there,” said Mary, at the jolly reading of
the lines on New-Year’s Day, to “us girls.”

And she repeated:

    “Social and witty, kind and clever;
       His chat an easy, pleasant flow,
     A thread you’d never wish to sever.”

He was all this, and more. Our correspondence was a stage, and an
important, in my education. We discussed books, authors, military and
political heroes, psychology, philology, theology, and, as time made us
more intimate with the depths underlying the dancing waves of thought
and fancy, we talked much of religious faith and tenets.

On August 26, 1850, I wrote to Effie:

    “My long neglect of correspondents (for you are not the
    only neglected one) has caused letters in abundance to
    accumulate. Among others there lies before me one from my
    friend, Junius F., a full sheet, bearing a date anterior to
    your last, and requesting an ‘immediate reply.’ He is a fine
    fellow—one of my ‘literary’ friends. Have you chanced to see
    anything of his published work? His poems, essays, etc.,
    would reflect credit upon any one. I give you the preference
    to-day because it will not hurt him to wait.”

The same calm confidence in the liking we bore one another prevailed
throughout our intercourse. Untimely storms and sudden gusts belong
to the tropics of passion, not to the temperate zone of Platonic
affection.

It was about this time that my presumptuous brain conceived the thought
that my friend should be in the pulpit, instead of in the professorial
chair to which he was appointed after winning his degree from the
University of Virginia, whither he had gone from Washington College for
a post-graduate course, and a more thorough equipment for his chosen
life-work. With the Brahmin traditions strong upon me, and the blue
blood of Presbyterianism seething in my veins, I forthwith made out a
“call,” amplified through six pages of Bath post, and dispatched it to
Lexington.

The nearest approach to tenderness in any of our many letters, came out
in his reply:

“A brother’s fondness gushed up in my heart as I read your earnest
pleadings,” was the opening sentence of a masterly exposition of the
reasons that, as he phrased it, “forbid my unhallowed feet to stand
within the sacred desk.” I was wrong, and he was right. His fearless
utterance of the faith which was the mainspring of life and action,
carried force a licensed clergyman seldom gains.

He fought the good fight in the ranks, refusing the commission that had
not, as he believed, the King’s seal.

I had no living elder brother. I hardly felt the loss while Junius
lived. In 1855 he took a year’s leave of absence, and spent it in a
German university. My father and myself were just setting out for
Boston and the White Mountains, and accompanied him as far as New York.
Junius and I were promenading the deck of the Potomac steamer when I
showed him an ambrotype given me by “a friend whom I am sorry you have
never met.”

He looked at it intently for a moment, and, in closing the case,
searched my face with eyes at once smiling and piercing.

“Are you trying to tell me something?” he asked, in the gentlest of
tones.

I answered honestly: “No; there is nothing to tell. We are warm
friends—no more.”

We were interrupted, and had no more opportunity for confidential
chat until that evening, when we strolled from the hotel along the
moonlighted streets to the Capitol. He alluded playfully, in a German
letter, to the never-to-be-forgotten excursion—our last moonlit ramble,
although we did not dream of it then—as “my walk with Corinne to the
Capitol.”

(Men took time and pains to say graceful things, then-a-days!)

He told me that night—what he had already written in brief in a late
letter—of his betrothal, of his happiness, and his ambition to make the
best of himself for the dear sake of the woman who was waiting for him
in the college town engirdled by the blue Virginian mountains.

The next day but one he sailed. My father and myself bade him
“God-speed!” I was glad it so happened.

If I had fewer causes for devout thanksgiving to the Giver of every
good and perfect joy than have crowned my life, I should still account
myself rich in the memory of these two perfect friendships. In my
ignorance of the world that lay without, and far beyond my small circle
of thought, and what I believed were activities, I did not rightly
appreciate the rarity of the gifts. I did know that they were passing
sweet, and longed to prove myself worthy of holding them.

This chapter of my humble record is a sprig of rosemary laid upon
Friendship’s Shrine.



XXII

THE “OLD AFRICAN CHURCH”


NO description of the Richmond of the forties and fifties would be
complete without a sketch of what was, if I mistake not, the first
Baptist Church erected in the city. The white congregation that
occupied it for some years had built a large, handsome church farther
up the hill, and the squat, but spacious, house on the lower slope of
Broad Street, was made over to the colored population.

I say “population” advisedly. For perhaps half a century, the Richmond
negroes had no other place of public worship, and the communicants
in that denomination were numbered by the thousand. They are an
emotionally religious race, and I doubt if there were, all told, one
hundred colored members of any other sect in the length and breadth of
the county of Henrico.

The low-browed, dingy, brick edifice surrendered to their use was said
to have a seating capacity of two thousand. It was therefore in demand
when mass political meetings were convened. When John B. Gough lectured
in our city, no other building could accommodate the crowds that
flocked to see and hear him.

Big as it was, the house was filled every Sunday. There was a regular
church organization in which deacons and ushers were colored. Of course
the Pastor was a white. And oddly enough, or so it seemed to outsiders,
the shepherd of the black flock was the President of Richmond College
and Divinity School, situated upon the outskirts of the city.

His pastoral duties outside of his pulpit ministrations were not
onerous. The Daughters of Zion, a flourishing society, looked after
the sick and afflicted. There were no colored paupers under the slave
system, except, once in a great while, “a no ‘count free nigger.”
This last word was never applied to a fellow-servant, but freely and
disdainfully fitted to the unfortunate freedman.

I was never able to disabuse my mind of appreciation of the comic
element in viewing the Rev. Robert Ryland, D.D. (and I am not sure
but “LL.D.” as well), in his position as Pastor of the First African
Church. He was a staid personage of middle age, who may have been
learned. If he were, the incongruity was the more absurd. He was never
brilliant. Nor had he the power of adapting himself to his audience
that might have saved the situation in some measure. I heard him preach
once to his dusky cure of souls. He began by saying, apropos to his
text from Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians:

“Shortly after the Apostle’s departure from that place, there arose
dissensions in the church at _Co_-rinth.”

A preamble that was greeted by appreciative groans from the women in
the audience. As was the assertion, later on, in the same discourse,
that—

“Christ may be called the Concrete Idea of our most holy Faith.”
Still more pronounced was the murmured applause that succeeded the
remark—“This may be true in the Abstract. It is not true in the
Concrete.”

“Concrete” was a new word in philosophers’ mouths just then, and he
worked it hard.

The anecdote of the parishioner who found “that blessed word
‘Mesopotamia’” the most comforting part of her minister’s sermon, is
entirely credible if she were of African descent. Polysyllables were
a ceaseless feast to their imaginations. Sesquipedalian periods were
spiritual nectar and ambrosia. The barbaric and the florid were bound
up in their nature, and the rod of an alien civilization could not
drive it far from them.

In church relations, they recognized and revelled rankly in the
levelling principle of Christianity which, within the sacred circle of
the bonds of a common faith, made no invidious distinctions between
bond and free. The staid D.D. was to them “Brer Ryland” on week-days,
as on Sundays. I am sure it never occurred to the humblest of them that
whatever of dignity pertained to the relation was his, by virtue of
his holy calling, and they were honored in that their spiritual guide
belonged to a superior race and was at the head of an institution of
learning.

How freely they discussed him and his teachings, will be illustrated by
a dialogue overheard by me in my early school-days.

I was walking behind two colored women one Sunday on my way home from
church. They were evidently ladies’ maids, from their mincing speech
and affected gait, and were invested with what was, as palpably, their
mistresses’ discarded finery.

“Brer Rylan’ was quite too severe ’pon dancin’,” was the first sentence
that caught my ear. “He is kinder hard ’pon innercint aversions, oncet
in a while. You know we read in the Bible that the angels in heaven
dance ’round the throne.”

“Yes,” assented the elder of the two, “an’ play ’pon jewsharps! But
I’ve been heard that they don’ cross they feet, and that makes a mighty
difference in the sin o’ dancin’. Of course, we all of us knows that
it’s a sin for a Christyun to dance; but, as you say, Brer Rylan’ is
downright oncharitable sometimes in talkin’ ’bout young folks’ ways and
frolickin’. He will let them promenade to the music of the band when
the students has parties at the college, but never a dancin’ step!”

“Not even,” with a shrill giggle, “if they don’t cross they feet?”

As time whitened the good man’s hair and brought heavier duties to his
head and hands, he fell into the habit of delegating the afternoon
service at the “Old African” to his neophytes in the Divinity School.
He may have judged rightly that it was excellent practice for the
’prentice hand of embryo pulpit orators. One of the brightest of these,
who afterward made good the promise of distinguished usefulness in the
Southern Church, was the officiating evangelist on a certain Sunday
afternoon, when a lively party of girls and collegians planned to
attend the “Old African,” in a body, and witness his maiden performance.

He knew we were coming, and why, but he uttered not a word of protest.
As he said afterward, “The sooner he got used to mixed audiences, the
better.”

What were known as the “Amen benches,” at the left of the pulpit, were
reserved for white auditors. They were always full. On this afternoon
they were packed tightly. The main body of the church was also filled,
and we soon became aware that an unusual flutter of solemn excitement
pervaded the well-dressed throng. The front block of seats on each
side of the middle aisle was occupied by women, dressed in black, many
of them closely veiled, and pocket-handkerchiefs were ostentatiously
displayed, generally clasped between black-gloved hands folded upon the
pit of the stomach.

“Reminds one of a rising thundercloud!” whispered a graceless youth
behind me.

Presently a deacon, likewise lugubrious in aspect, tiptoed into the
pulpit, where sat the young theologue, and, holding his silk hat
exactly upon the small of his back in the left hand, bent low in
offering the right to the preacher.

The subdued rustle and shuffling, incident to the settling into place
of a large congregation, prevented us from hearing the low colloquy
that succeeded the handshake. We had it in full from one of the actors,
that evening.

The functionary began by expressing the gratification of the
congregation that “Brer Rylan’ had sent such a talentable young
gentleman to ’ficiate ’pon dis occasion.

“We been heerd a-many times of what a promisin’ young gentleman Brer W.
is, an’ we is certainly mightily flattered at seein’ him in our midst
’pon dis occasion. I jes’ steps up here, suh, to say dis, an’ to arsk
is dere anything any of us ken do to resist Brer W. ’pon dis occasion.”

“Thank you, nothing!” responded the other, courteously. “You are very
kind. The choir will take care of the music, as usual, I suppose?”

“Suttinly, suh, suttinly! De choir am always dependable ’pon every
occasion. An’ dey has prepared special music for dis solemn occasion.”

Reiteration of the word had not aroused the listener’s curiosity. The
last adjective, and the tone in which it was brought out, awoke him
wide.

“Solemn!” he re-echoed. “Is there anything special in the services of
to-day?”

The hand grasping the silk hat executed a half-circle in the air that
seemed to frame the black-robed block of sitters for the startled youth.

“Yaas, suh! Surely Brer Rylan’ must ’a’ told Brer W. de nature of our
comin’ togedder to-day! It’s a funeral, suh. De dear departed deceasted
nigh ’pon two mont’ ago, but we haven’t foun’ it agreeable, as you
mought say, to all parties concerned, fur to bring all de family an’
frien’s together tell ter-day. But dey are here now, suh, as you may
see fur yourself. An’ we are moughty pleased dat Brer Rylan’ has sont
sech a ’sponsible preacher to us as Brer W.”

“Mercy, man!” gasped the affrighted novice, clutching frantically at
the notes he had been conning when the deacon accosted him. “I knew
nothing of the funeral when I came. I can’t preach a funeral sermon out
of hand! There isn’t anything about death in my notes.”

His distress wrought visibly upon the deacon’s sympathies. The hat
described a reassuring parabola.

“There, there! It ain’t necessary for Brer W. to discombobberate
himself ’pon dat account. A young gentleman of Brer W.’s talents
needn’t get skeered at a little thing like an ev’ry-day funeral. All
dat Brer W. has to do is to say a few words ’bout de dear deceasted;
’bout de loss to de church, an’ de family, an’ frien’s, an’ de suttinty
o’ death, an’ de las’ change. An’ den a few rousements, you know,
throwed in at de end. Law! I ken hear Brer W. doin’ it up fine, when I
think on it!

“Dar! de choir is a-startin’ de funeral anthim. Thank you, suh, fur
comin’ to us, and don’t give yo’self no oneasiness! Sling in dem
remarks ’spectin’ de dear deceasted, and you’ll be all right.”

I forget the text of the sermon that followed the anthem and the
prayer. I but know that neither it, nor the introduction, had any
relevancy to the “occasion.” Our friend became a brilliant speaker in
later life. Now, he was no more sophomoric than are nine-tenths of
seminary students. But as he went on, we—in the slang of this era—began
to sit up and take notice; for with dexterity remarkable in a tyro, he
switched off from the main line into a by-road that led, like the paths
of glory, to the grave. He had fine feeling and a lively imagination,
and the scene and the music had laid hold upon both. As he confessed,
subsequently, he surprised himself by his intimate acquaintance
with the departed brother. He dwelt upon his fidelity to duty, his
devotion to the Church of his love, and what he had done for her best
interests. Singling out, as by divination, the widow, whose long crêpe
veil billowed stormily with audible sobs, he referred tenderly to her
loneliness, and committed her and the fatherless children to the
Great Father and Comforter of all. By this time the congregation was a
seething mass of emotion. Fluttering handkerchiefs, sighs that swept
the church like fitful breezes, and suppressed wails from the central
block of reserved seats, drowned the feeling peroration, but we guessed
the purport from the speaker’s face and gestures.

As he sat down, the audience arose, as one woman, and broke into a
funeral chant never written in any music-book, and in which the choir,
who sang by note, took no part:

“We’ll pass over Jordan, O my brothers, O my sisters! De water’s chilly
an’ cold, but Hallelujah to de Lamb! Honor de Lamb, my chillun, honor
de Lamb!”

This was shouted over and over, with upraised arms at one portion, and,
as the refrain was repeated, all joined hands with those nearest to
them and shook from head to foot in a sort of Dervish dance, without,
however, raising the feet from the floor. It was such an ecstatic
shiver as I saw thirty-odd years thereafter, when a Nubian dancer gave
an exhibition in a private house in the suburbs of Jerusalem.

I shall have more to say of that chant presently. Return we to the
orator of the occasion, whose extemporaneous “effort” had stirred up
the pious tumult.

As soon as his share of the service was over, he slipped out of the
box-pulpit and sidled through the throng to the corner where we were
grouped, watching for a chance to make our exit without attracting
the attention of the worshippers. He had just reached us when the
quick-eyed, fleet-footed deacon was at his side. We overheard what
passed between them.

“Brer W., suh, I come to thank you in the name o’ de bereaved fam’ly of
de dear deceasted, suh, for yo’ powerful sermon dis arternoon. Nothin’
could ’a’ been better an’ mo’ suitabler. Dey all agree on dat ar’
p’int, suh. Every one on ’em is _puffickly_ satisfied! You couldn’t ’a’
done no better, suh, ef you ’a’ had a year to get ready in.”

Poor W., red to the roots of his fair hair, murmured his thanks, and
the sable official was backing away when he recollected something
unsaid:

“Dar was jes’ one little matter I mought ’a’ mentioned at de fust, suh
(not dat it made no difference whatsomever; de fam’ly, maybe, wouldn’t
keer to have me speak o’ sech a trifle), _but de dear deceased was a
sister_!”

Then it was that W. turned an agonized face upon our convulsed group:

“For Heaven’s sake, is there a back door or window by which a fellow
can get out of this place?”

The choir of the “Old African” was one of the shows of the city. Few
members of it could read the words of the hymns and anthems. Every
one of them could read the notes, and follow them aright. The parts
were well-balanced and well-sustained. Those who have heard the Fisk
University Jubilee singers do not need the assurance that the quality
of the negro voice is rarely sweet and rich, and that, as a race, they
have a passion for music. Visitors from Northern cities who spent the
Sabbath in Richmond seldom failed to hear the famed choir of the Old
African. On this afternoon, the then popular and always beautiful
_Jerusalem, My Happy Home_, was rendered with exquisite skill and
feeling. George F. Root, who heard the choir more than once while he
was our guest, could not say enough of the beauty of this anthem-hymn
as given by the colored band. He declared that one soloist had “the
finest natural tenor he ever heard.”

But these were not the representative singers of the race. Still less
should airs, composed by white musicians and sung all over the country
as “negro melodies,” pass as characteristic. They are the white man’s
conception of what the expatriated tribes should think and feel and
sing.

More than thirty years after the maiden sermon of which I have written,
our little party of American travellers drew back against the wall
of the reputed “house of Simon the Tanner” in Jaffa (the ancient
Joppa), to let a funeral procession pass. The dead man, borne without
a coffin, upon the shoulders of four gigantic Nubians, was of their
race. Two-thirds of the crowd, that trudged, barefooted, through the
muddy streets behind the bier, were of the same nationality. And as
they plodded through the mire, they chanted the identical “wild,
wailing measure” familiar to me from my infancy, which was sung that
Sunday afternoon to the words “We’ll pass over Jordan”—even to the
oft-iterated refrain, “Honor, my chillun, honor de Lamb!”

The gutterals of the outlandish tongue were all that was unlike. The
air was precisely the same, and the time and intonations.

We have taken great pains to trace the negro folk-lore back to its
root. The musical antiquarian is yet to arise who will track to their
home the unwritten tunes and chants the liberated negro is trying to
forget, and to which his grandparents clung lovingly, all unaware that
they were an inheritance more than a dozen generations old.

Trained choirs might learn “book music,” and scorn the airs crooned
over their cradles, and shouted and wailed in prayer and camp meetings,
by mothers and fathers. The common people held obstinately to their
very own music, and were not to be shaken loose by the “notions” of
“young folks who hadn’t got the egg-shells offen they hades.”

I asked once, during a concert given by students from Hampton
Institute, if the leader would call upon them for certain of the old
songs—naming two or three. I was told that they objected to learning
them, because they were associated with the days of their bondage. I
did not take the trouble to convince the spruce _maestro_ that what
I wished to hear were memorials of the days of wildest liberty, when
their forbears hunted “big game” in their tangled native forests, and
paddled their boats upon rivers the white man had never explored.



XXIII

HOW “ALONE” CAME TO BE


                                            “_June 5th, 1854._

    “... You anticipate from this formidable array of duties,
    hindrances, etc., that it will be some time, yet, before I
    can avail myself of your bewitching invitation. I doubt if
    I shall be ready to accept Powhie’s gallant offer of his
    escort, although it is tempting. But—

              “‘I’m coming! yes, I’m coming!’

    in July, wind, weather, and all else permitting.

    “You will probably see a more august personage next Sunday.
    I cannot resist the temptation to let you into the secret
    of a little manœuvring of my own. I had an intimation a few
    weeks ago that Miss L. and poor lonely Mr. S., her near
    neighbor, were nodding at each other across the road. There
    was an allusion to horseback rides, and a less fertile
    imagination could have concocted a very tolerable story out
    of the facts (?) in hand.

    “But _didn’t_ I make it tell? The plausible tale crashed
    into the peaceful brain of our worthy uncle-in-law like
    a bomb-shell into a quiet chamber at midnight. How he
    squirmed, and fidgeted, and tried to smile! ’Twas all a
    ghastly grin! I winked at Herbert, who chanced to come in
    while the narrative was in progress. The rogue had heard
    but the merest outline, and paid no attention to that;
    but he made a ‘sight draught’ upon his inventive talents,
    and—adding to the rides, ‘moonlight walks, afternoon strolls
    to the tobacco patch, and along the road toward the big
    gate to see whether the joint-worm was in the wheat,’ and
    insinuations that these excursions were more to the lady’s
    taste than ‘sanctuary privileges’—almost drove the venerable
    wooer crazy.

    “‘Yes!’ said he, bitterly, pushing back his chair from the
    table. ‘_He_ has a house and plantation. A land-rope is a
    strong rope! Women look at these things.’

    “He actually followed Herbert to the front door to
    supplicate—Herbert declares, ‘with tears in both
    eyes’—that he would at least tell him if his information
    was ‘authentic, or if it might not be that he was trying
    to scare him?’ Herbert excused himself upon the plea of
    pressing business, but invited him to ‘drop into the office
    some time if he would have further particulars.’

    “Our plot works to a charm. The reverend swain sets out
    ‘this very week’ for Powhatan, and ‘means to have the matter
    settled.’ So, look out for him!

    “All this rigmarole is strictly true. No boy of seventeen
    was ever more angrily jealous or desperate. You may, if
    you like, let the Montrosians into the fun, but, until the
    matter is settled, don’t let the key pass into other hands.

    “Isn’t it glorious? Two bald heads ducking and ogling to
    one fortunate damsel—their bleared eyes looking ‘pistols
    for two, coffee for one!’ at each other? What an entrancing
    interruption to the monotony of a life that, until now, has
    flowed as gently as a canal stream over a grade of a foot to
    a mile?”

I remark, _en passant_, what will probably interest not a living
creature of this generation—to wit, that neither of the competitors
won the amiable woman they made ridiculous by their wintry wooing. She
returned a kindly negative to both bachelor and widower, and died,
as she had lived, the beloved maiden “Auntie” of numerous nieces and
nephews.

Before transcribing other passages from the same letter—one of unusual
length even for that epistolary age—I must retrace my steps to pick
up the first thread of what was in time to thicken into a “cord of
stronger twine.”

When I was sixteen I began to write a book. It was a school-girl’s
story—a picture crudely done, but as truthful as I could make it—of
what was going on in the small world I thought large, and every
personage who figured in it was a portrait. In that book I lived and
moved, and had my inmost being for that year. I spoke to nobody of what
I was doing. The shrinking from confiding to my nearest and dearest
what I was writing, was reluctance unfeigned and unconquerable in the
case of this, my best-beloved brain-child. None of my own household
questioned me as to what went on in the hours spent in my “study,” as
the corner, or closet, or room where I planted myself and desk, was
named. We had a way of respecting one another’s eccentricities that had
no insignificant share in maintaining the harmony which earned for ours
the reputation of a singularly happy family.

I was allowed to plan my day’s work, so long as it did not impinge
upon the rights or convenience of the rest. Directly after breakfast,
I called my two willing little pupil-sisters to their lessons. The
rock and shoals of threatened financial disaster that menaced our home
for a while, were safely overpast by now. We were once more in smooth
water, and sacrifices might be remitted. I continued to teach my little
maids for sheer love of them, and of seeing their minds grow. Both were
bright and docile. Alice had an intellect of uncommon strength and of
a remarkably original cast. It was a delight to instruct her for some
years. After that, we studied together.

Our “school-time” lasted from nine until one. I never emerged from the
study until three—the universal dinner-hour in Richmond. If visitors
called, as often happened, my mother and sister excused me. In the
afternoon we went out together, making calls, or walking, or driving.
In the evening there was usually company, or we practised with piano
and flute, and, as Herbert grew old enough to join our “band,” he
brought in his guitar, or we met in “the chamber,” and one read aloud
in the sweet old way while the others wrought with needle and pencil
and drawing-board. This was the routine varied by occasional concerts
and parties. Now and then, I got away from the group and wrote until
midnight.

In 1853 the _Southern Era_, a semi-literary weekly owned and run by
the then powerful and popular “Sons of Temperance,” offered a prize
of fifty dollars for the best temperance serial of a given length. I
had written at sixteen, and recast it at eighteen, a story entitled
“Marrying Through Prudential Motives,” and sent it secretly to _Godey’s
Magazine_. It bore the signature of “Mary Vale”—a veiled suggestion of
my real name. For four years I heard nothing of the waif. I had had
experiences enough of the same kind to dishearten a vain or a timorous
writer. It was balm to my mortified soul to reflect that nobody was the
wiser for the ventures and the failures.

So I set my pen in rest, and went in for the prize; less, I avow, for
the fifty dollars than for the reward for seeing my ambitious bantling
in print. So faint and few were my expectations of this consummation,
that I went off to Boston for the summer, without intimating to any one
the audacious cast I had made. I had been with my cousins six weeks
when my mother sent me a copy of the _Southern Era_, containing what
she said in a letter by the same mail, “promised to be the best serial
it had published.” I opened the letter first, and tore the wrapper from
the paper carelessly.

How it leaped at me from the outermost page!

                  OUR PRIZE STORY!
                     KATE HARPER
                  By Marion Harland

All set up in what we christened in the last quarter-century,
“scare-heads.”

As I learned later from home-letters, the editor, after advertising
vainly for the author’s address, had published without waiting for it.
I wrote home that night to my father, pouring out the whole revelation,
and stipulating that the secret should be kept among ourselves.

“Marion Harland” was, again, a hint of my name, so covert that it was
not guessed at by readers in general. The editor, an acquaintance of my
father, was informed of my right to draw the money. I continued to send
tales and poems to him for two years, and preserved my incognito.

In the late spring of 1853, “Mea,” Herbert, and I were sitting in the
parlor on a wild night when it rained as rain falls nowhere else as
in the seven-hilled city. My companions had their magazines. Mea’s,
as I well recollect, was _Harper’s New Monthly_; my brother had the
_Southern Literary Messenger_. Ned Rhodes had taken _Harper’s_ for me
from the very first issue. My father subscribed conscientiously for
the _Messenger_ to encourage Southern literature. All right-minded
Virginians acknowledged the duty of extending such encouragement to the
extent of the subscription price of “native productions.”

I had dragged out the rough copy of my book from the bottom of my desk
that day, and was now looking it over at a table on one side of the
fireplace. Chancing upon the page describing Celestia Pratt’s entrance
upon school-life, I laughed aloud.

“What is it?” queried my sister, looking up in surprise.

“See if you know her,” I responded, and read out the scene. She joined
in the laugh.

“To the life!” she pronounced. “Go on!”

I finished the chapter, and the two resumed their magazines. Presently
Herbert tossed his aside.

“I say!” with boyish impetuosity. “This is stupid after what you gave
us. Haven’t you ‘anything more of the same sort?’”

It was a slang phrase of the day.

It was the “Open Sesame” of my literary life.

They kept me reading until nearly midnight, dipping in here for a
scene, there for a character-sketch, until my voice gave out.

I began rewriting _Alone_ next day, and we welcomed stormy evenings
for the next two months. When the MS. was ready for the press, I wrote
the “Dedication to my Brother and Sister” as a pleasant surprise to my
generous critics. They did not suspect it until they read it in print.

Getting the work into print was not so easy as the eager praises of
my small audience might have inclined me to expect. The principal
book-store in Richmond at that time was owned by Adolphus Morris, a
warm personal friend of my father. The two had been intimate for years,
and the families of the friends maintained most cordial relations. Yet
it was with sore and palpable quakings of heart that I betook myself to
the office of the man who took on dignity as a prospective publisher,
and laid bare my project. It was positive _pain_ to tell him that I
had been writing under divers signatures for the press since I was
fourteen. The task grew harder as the judicial look, I have learned
to know since as the publisher’s perfunctory guise, crept over the
handsome face. When I owned, with blushes that scorched my hair, to
the authorship of the “Robert Remer” series, and of the prize story in
the _Era_, he said frankly and coolly that he “had never read either.”
He “fancied that he had heard Mrs. Morris speak of the Remer papers.
Religious—were they not?”

He liked me, and his pretty wife (who had far more brains and vivacity
than he) had made a pet of me. He honored my father, and was under
business obligations to him. I was conscious, while I labored away at
my share in my first business interview, that he lent kindly heed to me
for these reasons, and not that he had the smallest grain of faith in
the merits of my work. I was a child in his sight, and he would humor
my whim.

“I am willing to submit your manuscript to my reader,” he said, at last.

I looked the blank ignorance I felt. He explained patronizingly. He
had patronized me from the moment I said that I had written a book. I
have become familiar with this phase of publisherhood, also, since that
awful day.

“John R. T. reads all my manuscripts!” fell upon my ear like a trickle
of boiling lead. “Send it down when it is ready, and I will put it into
his hands. You know, I suppose, that everything intended for printing
must be written on one side of the paper?”

I answered meekly that I had heard as much, bade him “Good morning!”
and crept homeward, humbled to the dust.

“John R. T.!” (Nobody ever left out the “R.” in speaking of him, and
nobody, so far as I ever heard, knew for what it stood.)

He was the bright son of a worthy citizen; had been graduated at the
University of Virginia; studied _at_ the law, and entered the editorial
profession as manager-in-chief, etc., of the _Southern Literary
Messenger_. He had social ambitions, and had succeeded in acquiring a
sort of world-weary air, and a gentle languor of tone and bearing which
might have been copied from D’Israeli’s _Young Duke_, a book in high
favor in aristocratic circles. I never saw “Johnny”—as graceless youths
who went to school with him grieved him to the heart by calling him on
the street—without thinking of the novel. Like most caricatures, the
likeness was unmistakable.

And into the hands of this “reader” I was to commit my “brain-child!”
I cried out against the act in such terms as these, and stronger, in
relating the substance of the interview to my father.

“Be sensible, little girl! Keep a cool head!” he counselled. “Business
is business. And I suppose John R. understands his. I will take the
manuscript to Morris myself to-morrow.”

“And make him comprehend,” I interjected, “that I do not shirk
criticism. I see the faults of my book. If I were sure that it would be
judged fairly, I wouldn’t mind it so much.”

The reader kept the manuscript two months. Then my father wrote a civil
demand to Mr. Morris for the return of the work. I was too sick of soul
to lift a finger to reclaim what I was persuaded was predestined to be
a dead failure. Two days later the bulky parcel came back. Mr. Morris
had enclosed with it the reader’s opinion:

“I regret that the young author’s anxiety to regain possession of her
bantling has prevented me from reading more than a few pages of the
story. Judging from what I have read, however, I should not advise you
to publish it upon speculation.”

I laid the note before my father after supper that evening. Our mother
had early inculcated in our minds the eminent expediency of never
speaking of unpleasant topics to a tired and hungry man. We always
waited until bath, food, and rest had had their perfect work upon
the head of the house. He leaned back in his arm-chair, the evening
paper at his elbow, his slippered feet to the glowing grate, and a
good cigar between his lips. His teeth tightened suddenly upon it when
he heard the note. It was curt. To my flayed sensibilities, it was
brutal. I see, now, that it was businesslike and impersonal. Were I a
professional “reader,” I should indite one as brief, and not a whit
more sympathetic. _Alone_ was my first book, and a sentient fraction of
my soul and heart.

For a whole minute there was no sound in the room but the bubbling
song of the soft coal. I sat upon a stool beside my confidant, and,
having passed the letter up to him, my head sank gradually to his knee.
I was unspeakably miserable, but I made no moan. He had not patience
with weak wails when anything remained to be done. His cigar had gone
out, for when I lifted my head at his movement toward the lamp, he had
folded the scrap of paper into a spile, and was lighting it. He touched
the dead cigar with the flame, and drew hard upon it until it was in
working order before he said:

“I believe in that book! I shall send it back to Morris, to-morrow, and
tell him to bring it out in good style and send the bill to me.”

“But,” I gasped, “you may lose money by it!”

“I don’t think so. At any rate, we will make the experiment.”



XXIV

THE DAWNING OF LITERARY LIFE


                                         “_January 28th, 1854._

    “_My very dear Friend_,—I wish you were here this morning!
    I long to talk with you. There are many things I cannot
    commit to paper, or of which I might be ashamed as soon as
    they were written. There are no short-hand and long-tongued
    reporters at our face-to-face confabulations.

    “Of one thing I will give you a hint: Have you any
    recollection of a certain MS., portions of which were read
    in your hearing last spring? I should not be surprised if
    you were to hear something of it before long. Keep your eyes
    upon the papers for a few weeks, and if you see nothing that
    looks like a harbinger of the advent, just conclude that
    I have changed my mind at the last gasp and recalled it.
    _For it has gone out of my hands!_ After the appearance of
    anything that looks that way, I unseal your mouth.

    “Seriously, I have much pending upon this venture. The
    success of the book may be the opening of the path I cannot
    but feel that Providence has marked out for me.

    “As it is a Virginia story, Southerners should buy it, if it
    has no other merit. My misgivings are grave and many; but
    my advisers urge me on, and notices of fugitive articles
    that have appeared in Northern and Southern papers have
    inoculated me with a little confidence in the wisdom of
    their counsel.

    “I had not meant to say this, or, indeed, to mention the
    matter at all, but as the day of publication draws near, I
    am, to use an expressive Yankeeism—‘fidgety.’

    “If anything I have said savors of undue solicitude for the
    bantling’s welfare, recollect that I am the mother. One
    thing more: I shall have nothing to do with advertisements.
    If they laud the work too highly, bear in mind that it is
    ‘all in the way of trade,’ and that booksellers will have
    their way.

    “Our ‘Musical Molasses Stew’ came off last night. We had a
    grand ‘time!’ Violin, flute, guitar, piano—all played by
    masculine amateurs, and a chorus of men’s voices. It was
    ‘nae sae bad,’ as the Scotch critic said of Mrs. Siddons’s
    acting. The same might be said of the real frolic of pulling
    the treacle. My partner was a young Nova Scotian—‘Blackader’
    by name—an intelligent, agreeable, and versatile youth
    who entered gloriously into the spirit of the occasion.
    He played upon the piano, sang treble, tenor, and bass
    by turns, and pulled and laughed with me until he had no
    strength left.”

I was but feebly convalescent from a brief illness when, chancing to
pick up the latest number of _Godey’s Magazine_, and fluttering the
leaves aimlessly, my eyes rested upon a paragraph in the “Editor’s
Table.”

“Will the author of ‘Marrying Through Prudential Motives’ send her
address to the editor?”

A queer story followed. The tale, sent so long ago to Mr. Godey that
I had almost forgotten it, had fallen behind a drawer of his desk,
and lain there for three years and more. When it finally turned up,
curiosity, aroused by its disappearance and exhumation, led the editor
to read it more carefully than if it had reached him through ordinary
channels. He liked it, published it, and waited to hear from the author.

By some mischance that particular number of the “Lady’s Book” had
escaped my notice. The story was copied into an English periodical;
translated from this into French, and appeared on the other side of
the channel. Another British monthly “took up the wondrous tale” by
rendering the French version back into the vernacular. In this guise
the much-handled bit of fiction was brought across the seas by _The
Albion_, a New York periodical that published only English “stuff.”
Mr. Godey arraigned _The Albion_ for piracy, and the truth was revealed
by degrees. Richmond papers copied the odd “happening” from Northern,
and Mr. Morris made capital of it in advertising the forthcoming novel.

I have more than once spoken of the Richmond of that date as
“provincial.” It was so backward in literary enterprise that the
leading bookseller had not facilities at his command for publishing the
book committed to him.

On March 9, 1854, I wrote to my Powhatan correspondent:

    “Cousin Joe says he was charged by you to get ‘my book.’
    I am sorry to say that it cannot be procured as yet.
    Unlooked for delays have impeded the work of publication.
    But, as the proofs arrive daily, now, I trust that the
    wheels are beginning to run more smoothly. It is printed
    in Philadelphia, although copyrighted in Richmond. Not a
    printer in this city could finish it before the 1st of May,
    so we were forced to send it to the North....

    “You will read and like it, if only because I wrote it.
    Whether or not others may cavil at the religious tone, and
    ridicule the simplicity of the narrative, remains to be
    seen. Thus far I have had encouragement from all sides. My
    own fears are the drawback to sanguine expectation.”

The actual advent of _Alone_ was a surprise, after all the waiting and
wondering that left the heart sick with hope deferred.

I was setting out for a walk one balmy May morning, and standing on the
front porch to draw on my gloves, when Doctor Haxall, who had long had
in our family the sobriquet of “the beloved physician,” reined in his
horses at the gate and called out that he was “just coming to ask me to
drive with him.” He had often done the like good turn to me.

I was not robust, and he had watched my growth with more than
professional solicitude. Had he been of my very own kindred, he could
not have been kinder or displayed more active interest in all my
affairs—great to me and small to him.

“Headache?” he queried, with a keen look at my pale face when I was
seated at his side.

“Not exactly! I think the warm weather makes me languid.”

“More likely overexcited nerves. You must learn to take life more
philosophically. But we won’t talk shop!”

We were bowling along at a fine rate. The doctor drove fast, blooded
horses, and liked to handle the ribbons himself. The day was
deliciously fresh, the air sweet with early roses and honeysuckle. I
called his attention, in passing Conway Robinson’s grounds, to the
perfume of violets rising in almost visible waves from a ravine where
the grass was whitened by them as with a light fall of snow. I asked
no questions as we turned down Capitol Street, and thence into Main
Street. Sometimes I sat in the carriage while he paid a professional
call. This might be his intention now. We brought up abruptly at
Morris’s book-store, and the blesséd man leaped out and held his hand
to me. He probably had an errand there. He handed me into the interior
in his brisk way, and marched straight up to Mr. Morris, who advanced
to meet us.

“Good-morning! I have come for a copy of this young lady’s book!”

If I had ever fainted, I should have swooned on the spot.

For there, in heaps and heaps upon the front counter—in bindings of
dark-blue, and purple, and crimson, and leaf-brown—lay in lordly state,
portly volumes, on the backs of which, in gleaming gold that shimmered
and shook before my incredulous vision, was stamped:

“ALONE.”

I saw, through the sudden dazzlement of the whole world about me, that
a clerk had set a chair for me. I sat down gratefully.

Mr. Morris was talking:

“Opened this morning! I sent six copies up to you. I suppose you got
them?”

“No!” I tried so hard to say it firmly that it sounded careless. I
would have added, “I did not know it was out,” but dared not attempt a
sentence.

Mr. Morris attended us to the door to point to placards a porter was
tacking to boards put there for that express purpose:

                  JUST OUT!!
                    ALONE!
               By Marion Harland

The doctor nodded satisfiedly and handed me into the carriage. In
taking my seat, I thought, in a dull, sick way, of Bruce at the source
of the Nile. I had had day-dreams of this day and hour a thousand times
in the last ten years. Of how I should walk down-town some day, and see
a placard at this very door bearing the title of a novel written and
bound, and lettered in gilt, and PUBLISHED! bearing my pen-name! The
vision was a reality; the dream was a triumphant fulfilment. And I was
sitting, unchanged, and non-appreciative, by the dear old doctor, and
his full, cordial tones were saying of the portly purple volume lying
on the seat between us:

“Well, my dear child, I congratulate you, and I hope a second edition
will be called for within six months!”

He did not ply me with questions. He may not have suspected that the
shock had numbed my ideas and stiffened my tongue. If he had, he could
not have borne himself more tactfully. He was a man who had seen the
world and hobnobbed with really distinguished live authors. It would
not have been possible for him to enter fully into what this day was
to me. When I thought of Bruce and the Nile, it was because I did not
comprehend that the very magnitude of the crisis was what deprived me
of the power of appreciating what had happened.

No! I am not inclined to ridicule the unsophisticated girl whose
emotions were too mighty for speech that May noon, and to minimize what
excited them. Nothing that wealth or fame could ever offer me in years
to come could stir the depths of heart and mind as they were upheaved
in that supreme hour.

The parcel of books had been opened and the contents examined, by the
time I got home. I stole past the open door of my mother’s chamber,
where she and Aunt Rice, who was visiting us, and Mea were chatting
vivaciously, and betook myself to my room.

When my sister looked me up at dinner-time I told her to excuse me from
coming down. “The heat had made me giddy and headachy.”

She bade me “lie still. She would send me a cup of tea.”

“I’ll leave you this for company,” she cooed, laying the book tenderly
on my pillow. “_We_ think it beautiful.”

With that she went out softly, shutting me in with my “beautiful”
first-born. Mea always had her wits within easy call. The sixth sense
was born within her.

I saw of the travail of my soul and was satisfied; was repaid a
thousandfold for months of toil and years of waiting, when my father
read my book. He did not go down-town again that day, after coming
home to dinner. My mother told me, with a happy break in her laugh,
how he had hardly touched the food on his plate. Aunt Rice’s pleasant
prattle saved the situation from awkwardness when he lapsed into a
brown study and talked less than he ate. When dessert was brought in,
he excused himself and disappeared from general view for the rest of
the afternoon. The door of “the chamber” to which he withdrew was fast
shut. Nobody disturbed him until it was too dark to read by daylight.
My mother took in a lighted lamp and set it on the table by him.

“He didn’t see or hear me!” was her report. “He is a quarter through
the book already, and he doesn’t skip a word.”

He spent just fifteen minutes at the supper-table. It was two o’clock
in the morning before he reached the last page.

After prayers next morning he put his arm about me and held me fast for
a moment. Then he kissed me very gravely.

“I was right about that book, daughter!”

That was all! but it was, to my speechless self, as if the morning
stars had sung together for joy.

I record here and now what I did not know in the spring-tide of my
happiness. I never had—I shall never have—another reader like him. As
long as he lived, he “believed” in me and in my work with a sincerity
and fervor as impossible for me to describe as it can be for any
outsider to believe. He made the perusal of each volume (and they
numbered a score before he died) as solemn a ceremony as he instituted
for the first. His absolute absorption in it was the secret jest of
the family, but they respected it at heart. When he talked with me of
the characters that bore part in my stories, he treated them as real
flesh-and-blood entities. He found fault with one, and sympathized with
another, and argued with a third, as seeing them in _propia personæ_.
It was strange—phenomenal—when one considers the light weight of the
literature under advisement and the mental calibre of the man. To me
it was at once inspiration and my exceeding great reward.

                                              “_June 5th, 1854._

    “DEAR EFFIE,—From a formidable pile of letters of good
    wishes and congratulation, I select (not _happen_ upon!)
    your sweet, affectionate epistle, every word of which, if it
    did not come from your heart, went straight to mine.

    “I shall never be a literary iceberg! That is clear. I have
    had a surfeit of compliments in public and in private, but
    a word of appreciation from a true, loving friend gives me
    more delicious pleasure than all else.

    “I make no excuse for speaking freely to you of what you
    say is ‘near akin’ to you. I thank you heartily for owning
    the relationship. Two editions have been ‘run off’ already,
    and another is now in press—unprecedented success in this
    part of the world—or so they tell me. Northern papers notice
    the book more at length and more handsomely than does the
    Richmond press.

    “Of the sales in your county, I know nothing. Oh yes! C. W.
    told Mr. Rhodes that ‘Miss Virginia Hawes’s novel is having
    a tremendous run in Powhatan. Tre-_men_-dous, sir! Why, I
    had an order to buy a copy and send it up, myself, sir!’

    “Isn’t that characteristic?”



XXV

BROUGHT FACE TO FACE WITH MY FATE


THE promised visit to Powhatan was paid in July.

           “How happily the days of Thalaba went by!”

I said over the strangely musical line to myself scores of times in the
two months of my stay in the dear old county. “Homestead,” the home of
the D.’s, was never more beautiful, and the days were full of innocent
fun, and junketings without number. College and University boys were at
home, and city people were flocking to the country. There were walks,
drives, “dining-days,” early and late horseback parties, setting out
from one hospitable house before sunrise, and breakfasting at another
ten or twelve miles away; or, better yet, leaving home at sunset, and
pacing, cantering, and galloping (women never rode trotting horses)
along highroad and plantation lane to a house, buried in ancestral
woods, in the very heart of the county, for supper, returning by the
light of the harvest moon, as fresh as when we set forth. With no
premonition that this was to be the most eventful summer and autumn of
my hitherto tranquil life, I gave myself up, wholly and happily, to the
influences that sweetened and glorified it.

Late in August I resolved rather suddenly to go home. My sister was
in Boston; my father would not leave his business for so much as a
week; my mother and the younger children ought to be in the country.
Since she would not resign my father to what she spoke of as “Fate and
servants,” I would throw my now rejuvenated body into the breach,
abide by the stuff and her husband and sons, while she took a sadly
needed rest with old friends in Nottoway County.

Recollecting how persistently I clung to the decision in the face of a
tempest of protest, my own heart in secret league with the protestants,
I acknowledge with humble gratitude the guidance of the “moving finger
that writes” out the destinies we think to control for ourselves.

The glow of the halcyon summer had not passed from my spirit when I
wrote to my late hostess two days after my return:

                              “RICHMOND, _August 29th, 1854._

    “MY OWN FRIEND,—I said ‘I will write next week,’ but it
    suits my feelings and convenience to write this morning.

    “In the first place, my heart is so full of happiness
    that it overflows upon and toward everybody that I love,
    and don’t you dear Homesteadians—yourself and Powhie,
    especially—come in for a share?

    “Mrs. Noble was very pleasant, but the journey was a bit
    tedious. It always is! Richmond looked enchanting when at
    last the spires and chimneys appeared upon the horizon, and
    my sweet home was never so pretty before.

    “Mother had planned an agreeable surprise, and not told
    me that the painters had been at work elsewhere than in
    my room. So the freshly painted shutters and the white
    window-facings and cornices, contrasted with the gray
    walls, were doubly beautiful, because not expected. Then
    Percy came tumbling down the steps, clapping his hands and
    shouting in glee, and Alice’s bright smile shone upon me at
    the gate, and mother left company in the parlor to give me
    four kisses—and all I could say was, ‘I have had _such_ a
    pleasant visit, and now I am _so_ glad to see you all!’

    “Father could not be coaxed to bed that night until one
    o’clock, although mother reminded him that he had a headache.

    “‘Never mind! Daughters don’t come home every night!’

    “‘But this one will be tired out!’

    “‘Well, she may sleep late to-morrow morning.’

    “He doesn’t know how lazy I have grown of late.

    “I am surprised to find vegetation so luxuriant here. My
    inquiries concerning the ‘late drought’ are answered by a
    stare of amazement. Rain has been abundant in this region.
    In our garden the vegetables and grape-vines grow rank and
    tall. And as for flowers! There were seven bouquets in
    the parlor, smiling and breathing a welcome. Last night I
    received one per rail from Horace Lacy (bless his soul!),
    and Herbert to-night brought up another and a magnificent,
    when he came to his late supper.

    “Mother had delicious peaches for supper the night I got
    back, but advised me to ‘eat them sparingly, at first.’
    Yesterday I forgot her caution, and I think I am the better
    for the lapse. Peaches, watermelons, apples, sweet potatoes,
    etc., were liberally patronized by us all. The cholera
    ‘scare’ seems to be over. Doctor Haxall advised the members
    of our family to make no change in their diet while they
    continued well, and they have prospered wonderfully under
    his regimen....

    “I wish I had time to tell you of some queer letters I found
    waiting for me. Father would not forward them, ‘for fear
    of annoying me.’ They are meant to be complimentary, one
    requesting ‘some particulars of your birthplace, education,’
    etc. ‘Wish he may get them!’

    “Now, dear, forgive this egotistical scrawl—written as fast
    as fingers can scratch—but just seat yourself and tell me
    exactly what you have been doing, saying, and thinking
    since I left; how our pet, Powhie (the dear old scamp!), is
    thriving; and the state of your mother’s health, also the
    news from The Jungle.

    “Our Heavenly Father bless and love you, my darling!”

We packed my mother and her younger children off to the country the
first of September, and rejoiced unselfishly that they had escaped the
fervid heats of the following week. Our house was deliciously cool by
comparison with the sultriness of the outer world. The thick walls
and lofty ceilings kept the temperature at an equable and comfortable
point. We breakfasted early, and by nine o’clock the day was my own—or
six consecutive hours of it.

In unconscious imitation of Charlotte Brontë, who began _Jane Eyre_
while _The Professor_ was “plodding his weary round from publisher to
publisher,” I had begun another book by the time _Alone_ was turned
over to the tender mercies of Mr. Morris’s “reader.” I finished the
first draught on the forenoon of September 11th, having wrought at it
with the fierce joy in work that ever comes to me after a season of
absolute or comparative idleness.

I was very weary when the last word was written:

“Alma was asleep!”

I read it aloud to myself in the safe solitude of my shaded library. I
had not heard then that Thackeray slapped his thigh exultantly after
describing the touch of pride Becky felt in her husband’s athletic
pummelling of her lover. I could have understood it fully at that
instant.

“Thackeray, my boy, that is a stroke of genius!” cried the great
author, aloud, in honest pride.

The small woman writer sat wearily back in her chair, and said—not
murmured: “I flatter myself _that_ is a neat touch!”

Then I found that my head ached. Moreover, it had a strange, empty
feeling. I compared it to a squeezed sponge. I likewise reminded myself
that I had not been out of the house for two days; that my father had
shaken his head when I told him it was “too hot for walking,” warning
me that I “must not throw away the good the country had done for me.”
He would ask me, at supper-time, if I had taken the admonition to heart.

I went off to my room, bathed, and dressed for a round of calls. This
I proceeded to make, keeping on the shady side of the street. I called
at three houses, and found everybody out. The sun was setting when I
stood in front of my mirror on my return, and laid aside bonnet and
mantle (we called it a “visite”). The red light from the west shot
across me while I was brushing up the hair the hot dampness had laid
flat. It struck me suddenly that I was looking rather well. I wore what
we knew as a “spencer” of thin, dotted white muslin. It would be a
“shirt-waist” to-day. It was belted at what was then a slim waist above
a skirt of “changeable” silk. Herbert had said it “reminded him of a
pale sunrise,” but there were faint green reflections among shimmering
pinks. There must be somebody in the immediate neighborhood upon whom
I might call while I was dressed to go out. A dart of self-reproach
followed swiftly upon the thought.

My old and favorite tutor, Mr. Howison, had broken down in health
two years after accepting a call to his first parish. An obstinate
affection of the throat made preaching impracticable. At the end of
a year of compulsory inaction, he resumed the practice of law in
Richmond, and within another twelve months married the woman he had
sought and won before his illness. They lived in a pleasant house upon
the next street, so near that we often “ran around” to see each other.
“Mary’s” younger sister had died during my absence from home, and as I
reminded myself, now, I ought to have called before this.

Half a square from her door, I recalled that the young clergyman who
was supplying Doctor Hoge’s pulpit while he was abroad, and whom I
had heard preach last Sunday, was staying at the Howison’s. It was
not right, in the eyes of the church, that he should go to a hotel,
and since he would go nowhere except as a boarder, the Howisons had
opened door and hearts to make him at home in his temporary charge.
He had given us an interesting sermon on Sunday, and made a pleasing
impression generally. I had not thought of him since, until almost at
the gate of my friends’ house. Then I said, inly:

“Should the youthful divine be hanging about the porch or yard, I’ll
walk on unconcernedly and postpone the call.”

Being familiar with the ways of young sprigs of divinity, and having
over twenty blood-relatives who had the right to prefix their baptismal
names by “The Reverend,” I had no especial fondness for the brand.
Furthermore, three callow clerics and one full-fledged had already
invited me to share parsonage and poverty with them. For all I had
one and the same reply. It might be my predestined lot, as certain
anxious friends began to hint, to live out my earthly days in single
blessedness; and, if the ancient anti-race-suicide apostles were to be
credited, then to lead apes in Hades for an indefinite period. I would
risk the terrors of both states sooner than take upon me the duties and
liabilities of a minister’s wife. Upon that I was determined.

The youthful divine was nowhere in sight. Nor did he show up during the
half-hour I passed with the Howisons. They proposed walking home with
me when I arose to go. Just outside the gate we espied a tall figure
striding up the street, swinging his cane in very unclerical style. Mr.
Howison stopped.

“Ah, Mr. Terhune! I was hoping you might join us.”

Then he introduced him to me. Of course, he asked permission to
accompany us, and we four strolled abreast through the twilight of the
embowered street. I had known the sister of Mr. Terhune, who, as the
widow of Doctor Hoge’s most intimate friend, was a frequent visitor to
Richmond. I asked civilly after her, and was answered as civilly. We
remarked upon the heat of the day and the fine sunset; then we were at
our gate, where my father and brother were looking out for me.

My escorts declined the invitation to enter garden and house; Mr.
Howison passed over to me a big bunch of roses he had gathered from his
garden and brought with him, and, having exchanged “Good-evenings,”
we three lingered at the gate to admire the flowers. There was no
finer collection of roses in any private garden in town than those
which were the lawyer’s pets and pride. My face was buried in the cool
deliciousness of my bouquet when, through the perfect stillness of the
evening, we heard our new acquaintance say:

“Your friend, Miss Hawes, walks well.”

He had, as we had noticed on Sunday, a voice of marvellous compass,
with peculiar “carrying” qualities. He had not spoken more loudly
than his companions, and, having reached the corner of the street, he
fancied himself beyond earshot. Every word floated back to us.

We laughed—all three of us. Then I said, deliberately:

“If that man ever asks me to marry him, I shall have to do it! I vowed
solemnly, long ago, to marry the first man who thinks me handsome, if
he should give me the chance. Let us hope this one won’t!”

“Amen!” responded my hearers, my father adding, “His cloth rules him
out.”

It may have been a week later in the season that I was strolling down
Broad Street in company with “Tom” Baxter, Mr. Rhodes’s chummiest
crony. He had overtaken me a few squares farther up-town, and was
begging me, in the naïve way most girls found bewitching, to take a
turning that would lead us by an office where he was to leave a paper
he had promised to deliver at that hour.

“Then,” he pursued, with the same refreshing simplicity of tone and
look, “there will be nothing to hinder me from going all the way home
with you.”

I refused point-blank, and he detained me for a minute at the parting
of the ways, entreating and arguing, until I cut the nonsense short by
saying that _I_ had an engagement which I must keep without regard
to _his_ convenience, and walked on. Tom was an amusing fellow, and
handsome enough to win forgiveness for his absurdities. I was smiling
to myself in the recollection of the little farce, when I met, face to
face, but not eye to eye—for we were both looking at the pavement—the
man who had said that I walked well. He stepped aside hurriedly; the
hand that swung the cane went up to his hat, and we went our separate
ways.

That evening I was surprised to receive a call from our pastor _pro
tempore_. He told me, months afterward, that he was homesick and lonely
on that particular afternoon. At least two-thirds of the best people
in the parish were out of town, and he found little to interest him in
those he met socially.

“You smiled in such a genial fashion when we met on that blesséd corner
that I felt better at once. The recollection of that friendly look gave
me courage to call, out of hand.”

Whereupon, I brought sentimentality down on the run by asking if he had
ever heard the negro proverb, “Fired at the blackbird and hit the crow”?

“That was Tom Baxter’s smile—not yours!”



XXVI

    LITERARY WELL-WISHERS—GEORGE D. PRENTICE—MRS.
    SIGOURNEY—GRACE GREENWOOD—H. W. LONGFELLOW—JAMES
    REDPATH—“THE WANDERING JEW”


AUTHORS were not so plentiful then as to attract no attention in a
crowd of non-literary people. Men and women who had climbed the heights
had leisure to glance down at those nearer the foot of the hill,
and to send back a cheering hail. I had twenty letters from George
D. Prentice, known of all men as the friend and helper of youthful
writers. All were kind and encouraging. By-and-by, they were fatherly
and familiar. As when I lamented that I had never been able to make my
head work without my heart, he responded, “Hearts without heads are
too impulsive, sometimes too hot. Heads without hearts are too cold.
Suppose you settle the matter by giving the heart into my keeping, in
trust for the happy man who will call for it some day?”

His letters during the war were tinged with sadness. In one he wrote:
“My whole heart is one throbbing prayer to the God of Nations that He
will have mercy upon my beloved country.”

In reply to a letter of sympathy after the death of a gallant young
son, who fell on the battle-field, he said:

    “My dear boy never gave me a pang except by entering the
    army (in obedience to what he felt was the call of duty),
    and in dying. A nobler, more dutiful son never gladdened a
    father’s heart.”

Our correspondence was continued as long as the poet-editor lived. I
owe him much. I wish I had made him comprehend how much.

Mrs. Sigourney, then on “the retired list” of American authors, sent me
a copy of her latest volume of poems—_A Western Home_—and three or four
letters of motherly counsel, one of which advised me to take certain
epochs of American history as foundation-stones for any novels I might
write in future, and bidding me “God-speed!”

Grace Greenwood opened a correspondence with the younger woman who had
admired her afar off, and we kept up the friendship until she went
abroad to live, resuming our intercourse upon her return to New York in
the early eighties.

From Mr. Longfellow I had two letters. One told me that Mrs. Longfellow
was “reading _Alone_ in her turn.”

    “I am pleased to note upon the title-page of my copy,
    ‘_Sixth Edition_.’ That looks very like a guide-board
    pointing to Fame. I should think you would feel as does the
    traveller in the Tyrol who sees, at a turn in the rocky
    pass, a finger-post with the inscription—‘TO ROME.’ Hoping
    that you will not be molested by the bandits who sometimes
    infest that route, I am sincerely yours,

                                        HENRY W. LONGFELLOW.”

I have carried the letter, word for word, in my heart for more than
half a century. A patent of nobility would not have brought me keener
and more exquisite pleasure.

Not that I deceived myself, for one mad hour, with the fancy that I
could ever gain the right to stand for one beatific moment on a level
with the immortals whom I worshipped. In the first flush of my petty
triumph, I felt my limitations. The appreciation of these has grown
upon me with each succeeding year. “Fred” Cozzens, the “Sparrowgrass”
of humorous literature, said to me once when I expressed something of
this conviction:

“Yet you occupy an important niche.”

I replied in all sincerity: “I know my place. But the niche is small,
and it is not high up. All that I can hope is to fill it worthily, such
as it is.”

The history of one bulky packet of letters takes me back to the orderly
progress of my story, and to the most singular and romantic episode of
that first year of confessedly literary life.

_Alone_ had been out in the world about three months, when I received
a letter from a stranger, postmarked “Baltimore,” and bearing the
letter-head of a daily paper published in that city. The signature was
“James Redpath.” The writer related briefly that, chancing to go into
Morris’s book-store while on a visit to Richmond, he had had from the
publisher a copy of my book, and read it. He went on to say:

    “It is full of faults, as you will discover for yourself
    in time. Personally, I may remark, that I detest both your
    politics and your theology. All the same, you will make
    your mark upon the age. In the full persuasion of this, I
    write to pledge myself to do all in my power to forward your
    literary interests. I am not on the staff of the Baltimore
    paper, although now visiting the editor-in-chief. But I have
    influence in more than one quarter, and you will hear from
    me again.”

I laid the queer epistle before my father, and we agreed that my
outspoken critic was slightly demented. I was already used to odd
communications from odd people, some from anonymous admirers, some from
reviewers, professional and amateur, who sought to “do me good,” after
the disinterested style of the guild.

I was therefore unprepared for the strenuous manner in which Mr. James
Redpath proceeded to keep his pledge. Not a week passed in which he
did not send me a clipping from some paper, containing a direct or
incidental notice of my book, or work, or personality. Now he was in
New Orleans, writing fiery Southern editorials, and insinuating into
the body of the same, adroit mention of the rising Southern author.
Now he slipped into a Cincinnati paper a poem taken from _Alone_,
with a line or two, calling attention to the novel and the author;
then a fierce attack upon the “detested politics and theology” flamed
among book-notices in a Buffalo journal, tempered by regrets that
“real talent should be grossly perverted by sectional prejudice and
superstition.” Anon, a clever review in a Boston paper pleased my
friends in the classic city so much that they sent a marked copy to me,
not dreaming that I had already had the critique, with the now familiar
“J. R.” scrawled in the margin. The climax of the melodrama was gained
during the struggle over “bleeding Kansas” in 1855. A hurried note from
the near neighborhood of Leavenworth informed me that a pro-slavery
force, double the size of the abolitionist militia gathered to resist
it, was advancing upon the position held by the latter. My dauntless
knight wrote:

    “Farewell, dear and noble lady! If I am not killed in the
    fight, you will hear from me again and again. Should I be
    translated to another sphere, I shall still (if possible)
    rap back notices of your work through the Fox sisters or
    other mediums.”

Hearing nothing more of or from him for two months, I was really
unhappy in the apprehension that his worst fears had been realized.
I had grown to like him, and my gratitude for his disinterested
championship was warm and deep. My father expressed his conviction that
the eccentric was the Wandering Jew, and predicted his safe deliverance
from the pro-slavery hordes, and reappearance in somebody’s editorial
columns. His prophecy was fulfilled in a long report in a Philadelphia
sheet of a meeting with the “new star of the South,” in the vestibule
of the church attended by the aforesaid. Nothing that escaped my lips
was set down, but my dress and appearance, my conversational powers and
deportment were painted in glowing colors, the veracious portraiture
concluding with the intelligence that I would shortly be married to the
son of a former Governor of Virginia—“a man, who, despite his youth,
has already distinguished himself in the political arena, and we are
glad to say, in the Democratic ranks.”

I thought my father would have an apoplectic fit when he got to that!

“See here, my child! I don’t presume to interfere with Salathiel, or
by what other name your friend may choose to call himself, and there
are all manner of tricks in the trade editorial, but this is going a
little too far. He sha’n’t marry you off, without your consent—and to a
Democrat!”

I had the same idea, and hearing directly from Mr. Redpath soon
afterward, I said as much, as kindly as I could. The remonstrance
elicited a gentlemanly rejoinder. While the style of the “report” was
“mere newspaper lingo,” he claimed that the framework was built by an
_attaché_ of the Philadelphia daily, whom he (Redpath) had commissioned
to glean all he could of my appearance, etc., during a flying trip to
Richmond. The young fellow had written the article and sent it to press
without submitting it to Salathiel. The like should not occur again. In
my answer to the apology, I expressed my profound sense of gratitude
to my advocate, and confessed my inability to divine the motive power
of benefactions so numerous and unsolicited. His reply deepened the
mystery:

“Your book held me back from infidelity. Chapter Sixteenth saved my
life. Now that you know thus much, we will, if you please, have no more
talk on your part of gratitude.”

Five years elapsed between the receipt of that first note signed “James
Redpath,” and the explanation of what followed. I may relate here, in a
few sentences, what he wrote to me at length, and what was published in
an appreciative biographical sketch written by a personal friend after
his death.

He was born in Scotland; emigrated in early manhood to America, and
took up journalistic work. Although successful for a while, a series
of misfortunes made of him a misanthropic wanderer. His brilliant
talents and experience found work and friends wherever he went, and he
remained nowhere long. Disappointed in certain enterprises upon which
he had fixed his mind and expended his best energies, he found himself
in Richmond, with but one purpose in his soul. He would be lost to all
who knew him, and leave no trace of the failure he believed himself to
be. He put a pistol in his pocket and set out for Hollywood Cemetery.
There were sequestered glens there, then, and lonely thickets into
which a world-beaten man could crawl to die. On the way up-town, he
stopped at the book-store and fell into talk with the proprietor, who,
on learning the stranger’s profession, handed him the lately-published
novel. Arrived at the cemetery, Redpath was disappointed to see the
roads and paths gay with carriages, pedestrians, and riding-parties. He
would wait until twilight sent them back to town. He lay down upon the
turf on a knoll commanding a view of the beautiful city and the river,
took out his book and began reading to while away the hours that would
bring quiet and solitude. The sun was high, still. He had the editorial
knack of rapid reading. The dew was beginning to fall as he finished
the narrative of the interrupted duel in the sixteenth chapter.

I believed then, and I am yet more sure, now, that other influences
than the crude story told by one whose experience of life was that of a
child by comparison with his, wrought upon the lonely exile during the
still hours of that perfect autumnal day. It suited his whim to think
that the book turned his thoughts from his design of self-destruction.

Before he slept that night he registered a vow—thus he phrased it in
his explanatory letter—to write and publish one thousand notices of the
book that had saved his life.

When the vow was fulfilled—and not until then—did I get the key to
conduct that had puzzled me, and baffled the conjectures of the few
friends to whom I had told the tale.

I met James Redpath, face to face, but once, and that was—if my memory
serves me aright—in 1874. He was in Newark, New Jersey, in the capacity
of adviser-in-chief, or backer, of a friend who brought a party of
Indians from the West on a peaceful mission to Washington and some of
the principal cities, in the hope of exciting philanthropic interest in
their advancement in civilization.

“He is as enthusiastic in faith in the future of the redman as I was
once in the belief that the negro would arise to higher levels,”
remarked Salathiel, with a smile that ended in a sigh. “Heigho! youth
is prone to ideals as the sparks to fly upward.”

Learning that I was in the opera-house where the “show” was held, he
had invited me into his private stage-box, and there, out of sight of
the audience, and indifferent to the speech-making and singing going
on, on the stage, we talked for an hour with the cordial ease of old
friends. My erst knight-errant was a well-mannered gentleman, still
in the prime of manhood, with never a sign of the eccentric “stray”
in feature, deportment, or the agreeable modulations of his voice. He
told me of his wife. He had written to me of his marriage some years
before. She was his balance-wheel, he said. I recollect that he likened
her to Madam Guyon. At the close of the entertainment, we shook hands
cordially and exchanged expressions of mutual regard. We never met
again.

How much or how little I was indebted to him for the success of
my first book, I am unable to determine. I shall ever cherish the
recollection of his generous spirit and steadfast adherence to his vow
of service, as one of the most interesting and gratifying episodes of
my authorly career.



XXVII

MY NORTHERN KINSPEOPLE—“QUELQU’UN” AND A LIFELONG FRIENDSHIP


I REWROTE the new book that winter, reading it, chapter by chapter,
aloud to my father, in the evening. He was a judicious critic, and I
need not repeat here how earnest and rapt a listener. I had received
proposals for the publication of my “next book” from six Northern
publishers. In the spring my father went to New York and arranged for
the preliminaries with the, then, flourishing firm of Derby & Jackson.

It was brought out while I was in Boston that summer, under the title
of _The Hidden Path_. I anticipate dates in jotting down here that I
had my first taste of professional envy in connection with this book.

My journeying homeward in September was broken by a fortnight’s stay at
the hospitable abode of the Derbys in Yonkers. I was at a reception in
New York one evening, when my unfortunately acute hearing brought to me
a fragment of a conversation, not intended for my edification, between
my publisher and a literary woman of note. Mr. Derby was telling her,
after the tactless manner of men, how well _The Hidden Path_ had “done”
at the Trade Sales just concluded.

“Ah!” said the famous woman, icily. “And I suppose she is naturally
greatly elated?”

Mr. Derby laughed.

“She hides it well if she is. Have you read the book?”

“Yes. You were good enough to send me a copy, you know. It is quite a
creditable school-girl production.”

I moved clean out of hearing. I told Mr. Derby, afterward, what I had
heard, adding that my chief regret was at the lowering of my ideal of
professional generosity. Up to that moment I had met with indulgent
sympathy and such noble freedom from envious hypercriticism, as to
foster the fondly-cherished idea that the expression of lofty sentiment
presupposes the ever-present dwelling of the same within the soul.
In simpler phrase, that the proverb—“Higher than himself can no man
think,” had its converse in—“Lower than himself can no man be.”

In this I erred. I grant it, in this one instance. I had judged
correctly of the grand Guild to which I aspired, with yearnings
unutterable, to belong.

It was an eventful summer. My father and I had gone on to Boston from
New York, setting out, the same week, for a tour through the White
Mountains. I was the only woman in the party. Our friend, Ned Rhodes,
a distant cousin, Henry Field, of Boston, and my father completed the
quartette. Ten days afterward, we two—my father and I—met a larger
travelling party in New York. Mr. and Mrs. William Terhune, Mrs.
Greenleaf, the widow of Doctor Hoge’s friend; “Staff” Little, the
brother of Mrs. William Terhune, and Edward Terhune, now the pastor
of a church at Charlotte C. H., Virginia, composed the company which
joined itself to us, and set forth merrily for Niagara and the Lakes.

The trip accomplished, I settled down comfortably and happily in Boston
and the charming environs thereof for the rest of the season.

Another halcyon summer!

If I have made scant mention of my father’s kindred in the land of his
birth, it is because this is a story of the Old South and of a life
that has ceased to be, except in the hearts of the very few who may
take up the boast of the Grecian historian—“Of which I was a part.”

I should be an ingrate of a despicable type were I to pass by as
matters of no moment, the influences brought to bear upon my life at
that date, and through succeeding years, by my association with the
several households who made up the family connection in that vicinity.

My grandmother’s brother, Uncle Lewis Pierce, owned and occupied
the ancient homestead in Dorchester. He was “a character” in his
way. Handsome in his youth, he was still a man of imposing presence,
especially when, attired in black broadcloth, and clean shaven, he sat
on Sunday in the pew owned by the Pierces for eight generations in the
old church on “Meeting House Hill.” He did not always approve of the
doctrine and politics of the officiating clergyman. He opened his mind
to me to this effect one Sunday that summer, as we jogged along in his
low-hung phaeton, drawn by a horse as portly and as well-set-up as his
master.

“The man that is to hold forth to-day is what my wife scolds me for
calling ‘one of those higher law devils,’” he began by saying. “He is
of the opinion that the law, forbidding slavery and denying rights
to the masters of the slaves and all that, ought to set aside the
Constitution and the laws made by better men and wiser heads than his.
He’d override them all, if he could. I’ve nothing to say against a
man’s having his own notions on that, or any other subject, but if he’s
a minister of the gospel, he ought to preach the truth he finds in the
Bible, and keep his confounded politics out of the pulpit.”

He leaned forward to flick a fly from the sleek horse with his whip.

“I’ve been given to understand that he doesn’t like to see me and some
others of the same stripe in church when he preaches for us. I pay
no attention to that. If he, or any others of his damnable way of
thinking, imagine that I’m to be kept out of the church in which the
Pierces owned a pew before this man and his crew were ever thought of,
he’ll find himself mistaken. That’s all there is about it!”

It was worth seeing, after hearing this, the sturdy old representative
of the Puritans, sitting bolt upright in the quaint box-pew where his
forbears had worshipped the God of battles over a century before, and
keeping what he called his “weather eye” upon the suspected expounder
of the gospel of peace. The obnoxious occupant of the ancient and
honorable pulpit was, to my notion, an amiable and inoffensive
individual. He preached well, and with never an allusion to “higher
law.” Yet Uncle Lewis kept watch and ward throughout the service.
I could easily believe that he would have arisen to his feet and
challenged audibly any approach to the forbidden territory.

The day and scene were recalled forcibly to my memory by a visit paid
to my Newark home in 1864 by Francis Pierce, the protestant’s oldest
son, on his way home from Washington. He was one of a committee of
Dorchester citizens sent to the Capital to look after the welfare of
Massachusetts troops called into the field by a Republican President.

The wife of the head of the Pierce homestead was one of the loveliest
women ever brought into a world where saints are out of place. Near
her lived an old widow, who was a proverb for captiousness and
wrongheadedness. I never heard her say a kind or charitable word of
neighbor or friend, until she astounded me one day by breaking out into
a eulogy upon Aunt Pierce and Cousin Melissa, Francis’s wife:

“We read in the Scriptures that God is love. I allers think of them two
women when I hear that text. It might be said of both of ’em: they are
jest _love_—through an’ through!”

I carried the story to the blesséd pair, you may be sure. Whereupon, my
aunt smiled compassionately.

“Poor old lady! People who don’t know how much trouble she has had, are
hard upon her. We can’t judge one another unless we know all sides of a
question. She is greatly to be pitied.”

And Cousin Melissa, in the gentle tone she might have learned from her
beloved mother-in-law—“I always think that nobody is cross unless she
is unhappy.”

_Aurora Leigh_ had not been written then. If it had been, neither of
the white-souled dears would have read a word of it. Yet Mrs. Browning
put this into the mouth of her heroine:

          “The dear Christ comfort you!
    You must have been most miserable
    To be so cruel!”

The old house was a never-ending delight to me. It was built in 1640
(see Chapter I), ten years after the good ship _Mary and John_ brought
over from Plymouth the Massachusetts Bay Colony, landing her passengers
in Boston. Robert Pierce (or Percie) was, although a blood connection
of the Northumberland Percies, the younger son of a younger son, and so
far “out of the running” for title or fortune on that account, that he
sought a home and livelihood in the New World.

My ancestress, Ann Greenaway, whose tedious voyage from England to
Massachusetts was beguiled by her courtship and marriage to stalwart
“Robert of Dorchester,” bore him many robust sons and “capable,” if not
fair daughters, dying at last in the Dorchester homestead at the ripe
age of one hundred and four.

From her the long line of descendants may have inherited the stout
constitutions and stouter hearts that gave and kept for them a place
in every community in which they have taken root.

The story of the Pierce Homestead is told in _Some Colonial Homesteads_
more at length than I can give it here.

The Virginia cousin was cordially welcomed to the cradle of her
foremothers, and a warm attachment grew up between me and each member
of the two households. My cousin Francis had built a modern house upon
a corner of the homestead grounds, and I was as happily at home there
as in the original nest.

Another adopted home—and in which I spent more time than in all the
rest put together—was that of my cousin, Mrs. Long, “the prettiest of
the three Lizzies” referred to in one of my letters. Her mother, my
father’s favorite relative, had died since my last visit to Boston.
Her daughter was married at her death-bed. She was a beautiful and
intelligent woman, wedded to a man of congenial tastes who adored
her. The intimacy of this one of our Yankee cousins and ourselves
began before Mea and I had ever seen her. My sister and “Lizzie” were
diligent correspondents from their school-days. To a chance remark
of mine relative to their letters, I owe one of the most stable
friendships that has blessed my life.

We sisters were in the school-room at recess one day when I was
fourteen, Mea sixteen. I was preparing a French exercise for M.
Guillet, Mea writing to Boston. We had the room to ourselves for the
time. My sister looked up from her paper to say:

“What shall I say to Lizzie for you?”

“Give her my love, and tell her to provide me with a correspondent as
charming as herself.”

In her reply Lizzie begged leave to introduce a particular friend of
her own, “intelligent and lovable—altogether interesting, in fact.”
This friend had heard her talk of her Southern cousins and wished
to know them; but I must write the first letter. I caught at the
suggestion of what commended itself to me as adventure, and it was an
epistolary age. Letters long and numerous, filled with details and
disquisitions, held the place usurped by telephone, telegraph, and
post-cards. We had time to write, and considered that we could not put
it to a better purpose. So the next letter from my sister to my cousin
contained a four-pager from me, addressed to “Quelqu’une.” I gave fancy
free play in conversing with the unknown, writing more nonsense than
sober reason. I set her in the chair opposite mine, and discoursed _at_
her of “divers sayings.” If not

    “Of ships and shoes and sealing-wax
     And cabbages and kings”—

of wars and rumors of wars, and school duties, and current literature.

In due time I had a reply in like strain, but to my consternation,
written in a man’s hand, and signed “Quelqu’un.” He apologized
respectfully for the ambiguous terms of the introduction that had led
me into a mistake as to his sex, and hoped that the silver that was
beginning to stipple his dark hair would guarantee the propriety of a
continued correspondence.

“Time was,” he mused, “when I could conjugate _Amo_ in all its moods
and tenses. Now I get no further than _Amabam_, and am constrained to
confess myself in the tense at which I halt.”

We had written to one another once a month for two years before the
sight of a note to Lizzie tore the mask from the face of my graybeard
mentor, and confirmed my father’s suspicions as to his identity with
Ossian Ashley, the husband of Aunt Harriet’s elder daughter. The
next visit I paid to Boston brought us together in the intimacy of
the family circle. He never dropped the rôle of elderly, and as
time rolled on, of brotherly friend. He was, at that date, perhaps
thirty-five years of age, and a superb specimen of robust manhood.
I have seldom beheld a handsomer man, and his port was kingly, even
when he had passed his eightieth birthday. Although a busy man of
affairs, he was a systematic student. His library might have been the
work-shop of a professional _litterateur_; he was a regular contributor
to several journals upon financial and literary topics, handling
each with grace and strength. His translation of Victor Cherbuliez’s
_Count Kosta_ was a marvellous rendering of the tone and sense of the
original into elegant English. He was an excellent French and Latin
scholar, and, when his son entered a German university, set himself, at
sixty-odd, to study German, that he “might not shame the boy when he
came home.”

Before that, he had removed to New York City, and engaged in business
there as a railway stock-broker. He was, up to a few months prior to
his death, President of the Wabash Railway, and maintained throughout
his blameless and beneficent life, a reputation for probity, energy,
and talent.

Peace to his knightly soul!

He was passing good to me that summer. In company with his wife, we
drove, sailed, and visited steamships, Bunker Hill Monument, and
other places of historic interest. In their society I made my first
visit to the theatre, and attended concerts and lectures. He lent me
books, and led me on to discuss them, then, and when I was at home.
And this when he was building up his business, looking after various
family interests, not strictly his own (he was forever lending a hand
to somebody!), and studying late into the night, as if working for a
university degree. I am told that such men are so rare in our time and
country as to make this one of my heroes a phenomenon.

It is not marvellous that friendships like these, enjoyed when
character and opinion were in forming, should have cultivated optimism
that has withstood the shock and undermining of late disappointments.
It may well be that I have not known another man who, with his fortune
to found, a household to support, and a press of mental toil that would
have exhausted the energies of the average student, would have kept up
a correspondence with a child for the sake of pleasing and educating
her, and carried it on out of affectionate interest in a provincial
kinswoman.

Affection and genial sympathy, with whatever concerned me or mine,
endured to the end. He was my husband’s warm friend, a second father to
my children—always and everywhere, my ally.

My last sight of him, before he succumbed to lingering and mortal
illness, is vividly present with me. We had dined with him and his
wife, and said to ourselves as we had hundreds of times, that time
had mellowed, without dimming her beauty, and made him magnificent.
The word is none too strong to describe him, as he towered above me
in the parting words exchanged in light-heartedness unchecked by any
premonition that we might never chat and laugh together again this side
of the Silent Sea. He was over six feet in height; his hair and flowing
beard were silver-white; his fine eyes darker and brighter by contrast;
his smile was as gentle and his repartee as ready as when he had jested
with me in those bygone summers from which the glory has never faded
for me.

My upturned face must have expressed something of what filled heart and
thoughts, for he drew me up to him suddenly, and kissed me between the
eyes. Then, with the laugh I knew so well, he held out his hand to my
husband:

“You mustn’t be jealous, my dear fellow! I knew her a long time before
you ever saw her. And such _good_ friends as we have been for—bless my
soul!—can it be more than fifty years?”

Again I say: “God rest his knightly soul!” It is worth living to have
known one such man, and to have had him for my “_good_ friend” for
“more than fifty years.”



XXVIII

    MY FIRST OPERA—“PETER PARLEY”—RACHEL AS “CAMILLE”—BAYARD
    TAYLOR—T. B. ALDRICH—G. P. MORRIS—MARIA CUMMINS—MRS. A. D.
    T. WHITNEY


THE three weeks passed in New York on my way home were thronged with
novel and enchanting “sensations.” I saw my first opera—_Masaniello_,
and it was the début of Elise Henssler. The party of which I was a
member included Caroline Cheeseboro, Elizabeth Oakes Smith, and Samuel
Griswold Goodrich—“Peter Parley.” To my intense satisfaction, my seat
was beside the kindly old gentleman.

Was not _Parley’s Magazine_ the first periodical I had ever read? And
had not I devoured every book he had written, down to a set of popular
biographies for which my father had subscribed as a gift to me on my
eighteenth birthday? That I should, really and truly, be sitting at
his side and hearing him speak, was a treat I could hardly wait until
to-morrow to dilate upon in my home-diary letter. He was social and
amusing, and, withal, intelligently appreciative of the music and
actors. He rattled away jovially in the _entr’actes_ of other operas
and personal traits of stage celebrities, theatrical, and operatic.
He told me, too, of how he had been ridiculed for embarking upon a
career his friends thought puerile and contemptible, when he issued the
initial number of _Parley’s Magazine_. If I was secretly disappointed
that his affection for his juvenile constituency was more perfunctory
than I had supposed from his writings, I smothered the feeling as
disloyal, and would be nothing short of charmed.

I wrote to my mother next day that he was “a nice, friendly old
gentleman, but impressed me as one who had outlived his enthusiasms.”
If I had put the truth into downright English, I should have said that
the circumstance that he was enshrined in thousands of young hearts as
the aged man with a sore foot propped upon a cushion, and whose big
heart was a fountain of love, and his brain a store-house of tales
garnered for their delectation—was of minor importance to the profit
popularity had brought him. I was yet new to the world’s ways and
estimate of values.

The next night I saw Rachel in _Les Horaces_. I had never seen
really great acting before. I had, however, read Charlotte Brontë’s
incomparable portraiture, in _Villette_, of the queen of the modern
stage. Having no language of my own that could depict what was done
before my eyes, and uttered to my rapt soul, I drew upon obedient
memory. Until that moment I had not known how faithful memory could
be. In the breathless excitement of the last act of the tragedy, every
word was laid ready to my hand. I seemed to read, with my subconscious
perceptions, lines of palpitating light, the while my bodily sight lost
not a gesture or look of the stricken tigress:

“An inordinate will, convulsing a perishing mortal frame, bent it to
battle with doom and death; fought every inch of ground, sold every
drop of blood; resisted to the last the rape of every faculty; _would_
see, _would_ hear, _would_ breathe, _would_ live, up to, within,
well-nigh _beyond_ the moment when Death says to all sense and all
being—‘Thus far and no farther!’”

I saw others—some said as great actors—in after years. Among them,
Ristori. I do not think it was because I had seen none of them before
the _Vashti_ of Charlotte Brontë’s impassioned periods flashed upon my
unaccustomed sight, that I still hold her impersonation of Camille in
_Les Horaces_ to be the grandest triumph of the tragedian’s art mine
eyes have ever witnessed. Ristori was always the gentlewoman, born and
reared, in whatever rôle she assumed. Rachel—and again I betake myself
to the weird word-painting:

“Evil forces bore her through the tragedy; kept up her feeble
strength.... They wrote ‘HELL’ on her straight, haughty brow. They
tuned her voice to the note of torment. They writhed her regal face to
a demoniac mask. Hate and Murder and Madness incarnate, she stood.”

I fancy that I must have been whispering the words as I gathered up my
wraps and followed my companions out of the box. I recollect that one
or two persons stared curiously at me. In the _foyer_ I was introduced
to some strangers, and went through certain civil forms of speech. I
did not recollect names or faces when we got back to the hotel. After I
was in bed, I could not sleep for hours. But one other actor has ever
wrought so mightily upon nerves and imagination. When I was forty years
older I was ill for forty-eight hours after seeing Salvini as Othello.

During this memorable stay in New York I met Bayard Taylor. At the
conclusion of his first call, I rushed to my desk and wrote to my
sister:

“He has a port like Jove.

                “‘Nature might stand up
      And say to all the world: “‘This is a MAN!’”’”

For once my ideal did not transcend the reality. Would that I could say
it of all my dream-heroes and heroines! At his second call, Mr. Taylor
was accompanied by Richard Henry Stoddard. At his first, he brought
Charles Frederick Briggs, journalist and author, whose best-known
book, _Harry Franco_, I had read and liked. I met him but once. Mr.
Taylor honored me with his friendship until his lamented death. My
recollections of him are all pleasant.

We met seldom, but our relations were cordial; the renewal of personal
association was ever that of friends who liked and understood each
other. I reckoned it a favor that honored me, that his widow accepted
me as her husband’s old acquaintance, and that his memory has drawn us
together in bonds of affectionate regard.

Thomas Bailey Aldrich was then (in 1855) a mere stripling, yet already
famous as the author of _Babie Bell_ and _Elsinore_, poems that would
have immortalized him had he not written another line. I came to know
him well during my Northern sojourn. His charming personality won
hearts as inevitably as his genius commanded admiration. Halleck’s
hackneyed eulogy of his early friend might be applied, and without
dissent, to the best-belovéd of our later poets. To know him was
to love him. The magnetism of the rarely-sweet smile, the frank
sincerity of his greeting, the direct appeal of the clear eyes to the
brother-heart which, he took for granted, beat responsive to his, were
irresistible, even to the casual acquaintance. His letters were simply
bewitching—as when I wrote to him after each of us had grown children,
asking if he would give my youngest daughter the autograph she coveted
from his hand.

He began by begging me to ask him, the next time I wrote, for something
that he _could_ do, not for what was impossible for him to grant. He
had laid it down as a rule, not to be broken under any temptation,
whatsoever, that he would never give his autograph.

    “If I could make an exception in the present case, you
    know how gladly I would do it, only to prove that I am
    unalterably your friend,

                                   “THOMAS BAILEY ALDRICH.”

He graced whatever he touched, and made the commonplace poetic. The
ineffable tenderness and purity of his verse were the atmosphere in
which the man lived and moved and breathed. The mystic afflatus of the
born poet clothed him, as with a garment.

George P. Morris I met again and again. With the frank conceit, so
permeated with the amiability and naïveté of the veteran songster, that
it offended nobody, he told me how Braham had sung _Woodman, Spare That
Tree_, before Queen Victoria, at her special request, and that _Jenny
Marsh of Cherry Valley_ was more of an accepted classic than _Roy’s
Wife of Aldivalloch_. He narrated, too, the thrilling effect produced
upon an audience in New York or Philadelphia by the singing for the
first time in public of _Near the Rock Where Drooped the Willow_, and
smiled benignantly on hearing that it was a favorite ballad in our
home. He was then associated with N. P. Willis in the editorship of
_The New York Mirror_, and agreed fully with me that it had not its
peer among American literary periodicals.

My mother had taken it for years. We had a shelf full of the bound
volumes at home. I have some of them in my own library, and twice
or three times in the year, have a rainy afternoon-revel over the
yellowed, brittle pages mottled with the mysterious, umber thumbmarks
of Time.

Colonel Morris’s partner, Nathaniel Parker Willis, who had not yet
taken to writing out the name at full length, was at his country-seat
of “Idlewild.” He was ten years older when I saw him last, and under
circumstances that took the sting from regret that I had not met him
when life was fresh and faiths were easily confirmed.

While in Dorchester I had enjoyed improving my acquaintanceship with
Maria Cummins. Encyclopædias register her briefly as “An American
novelist. She wrote _The Lamplighter_.” In 1855, no other woman writer
was so prominently before the reading public. _The Lamplighter_ was in
every home, and gossip of the personality of the author was seized upon
greedily by press and readers. Meeting Augusta Evans, of _Rutledge_ and
_St. Elmo_ and _Beulah_, four years thereafter, I was forcibly reminded
of my Dorchester friend, albeit they belonged to totally different
schools of literature. Both were quietly refined in manner and speech,
and incredibly unspoiled by the flood of popular favor that had taken
each by surprise. Alike, too, was the warmth of cordiality with which
both greeted me, a stranger, whom they might never meet again.

An amusing incident connected with one of Maria Cummins’s visits broke
down any lingering trace of strangerhood. She was to take tea at the
house of my cousin, Francis Pierce. I was sitting by the window of the
drawing-room, awaiting her arrival and gazing at the panorama of Boston
Bay and the intervening hills, when an old lady, a relative-in-law of
“Cousin Melissa,” stole in. She was over eighty, and so pathetically
alone in the lower world that Melissa—the personation of Charity,
which is Love—had granted her home and care for several years. She
had donned her best cap and gown; as she crept up to me, she glanced
nervously from side to side, and her withered hands chafed one another
in agitation she could not conceal.

“I say, dearie,” she began, in a whisper, bending down to my face,
“would you mind if I was to sit in the corner over there”—nodding
toward the back parlor—“and listen to your talk after Miss Cummins
comes? I won’t make the least mite of noise. I am an old woman. I never
had a chance to hear two _actresses_ talk before, and I may never have
another.”

I consented, laughingly, and she took up her position just in time to
escape being seen by the incoming guest. We chatted away cheerily at
our far window, watching the sunset as it crimsoned the bay and faded
languidly into warm gray.

“Summer sunsets are associated in my mind, in a dreamy way, with the
tinkle of cow-bells,” observed my companion, and went on to tell how,
as a child, living in Salem, she used to watch the long lines of cows
coming in from the meadows at evening, and how musically the tinkle of
many bells blended with other sunset sounds.

“I have the same association with my Virginia home,” I answered. “So
had Gray with Stoke Pogis. But _his_ herd lowed as it wound slowly over
the lea.”

“Perhaps English cows are hungrier than ours,” Miss Cummins followed,
in like strain. “I prefer the chiming bells.”

We dropped into more serious talk after that. The unseen listener
carried off, up-stairs, when she stole out, like my little gray ghost,
but one impression of the “actresses’” confabulation. Cousin Melissa
told me of it next day. The old lady was grievously disappointed. We
had talked of nothing but cows and cow-bells, and cows coming home
hungry for supper, and such stuff. “For all the world as if they had
lived on a dairy-farm all their days!”

I supped with Miss Cummins and her widowed mother a day or so later,
and we made merry together over the poor crone’s chagrin.

It was rather singular that in our several meetings neither of us spoke
of Adeline D. T. Whitney. She had not then written the books that
brought for her love and fame in equal portions. But she was Maria
Cummins’s dear friend, and a near neighbor of the Pierces. When we, at
last, formed an intimacy that ceased only with her life, we wondered
why this should have been delayed for a score of years, when we had so
nearly touched, during that and other visits to my ancestral home.

At our earliest meeting in her Milton cottage, whither I had gone by
special invitation, she hurried down the stairs with outstretched hands
and—“I cannot meet you as a stranger. My dear friend, Maria Cummins,
has often talked to me of you!”

In the hasty sketch of a few representative members of the Literary
Guild of America, as it existed a half-century ago, I have made good
what I intimated a few chapters back, in alluding to my introductory
experience of professional jealousies, which, if cynics are to be
credited, pervade the ranks of authors, as the mysterious, fretting
leprosy ate into the condemned garment of the ancient Israelite. In
all frankness, and with a swelling of heart that is both proud and
thankful, I aver that no other order, or class, of men and women is so
informed and permeated and colored with generous and loyal appreciation
of whatever is worthy in the work of a fellow-craftsman; so little
jealous of his reputation; so ready to make his wrongs common property,
and to assist the lowliest member of the Guild in the hour of need.

I make no exception in favor of any profession or calling, in offering
this humble passing tribute to the Fraternity of American Authors. I
could substantiate my assertion by countless illustrations drawn from
personal observation, had I space and time to devote to the task. In my
sixty years of literary life, I have known nearly every writer of note
in our country. In reviewing the list, I bow in spirit, as the seer of
Patmos bent the knee in the presence of the shining ones.



XXIX

ANNA CORA (MOWATT) RITCHIE—EDWARD EVERETT—GOVERNOR WISE—A MEMORABLE
DINNER-PARTY


IN 1854, Anna Cora Mowatt, “American actress, novelist, dramatist, and
poet,” as the cyclopædias catalogue her, left the stage to become the
wife of William Foushee Ritchie, of Richmond, Virginia.

Mrs. Mowatt, _née_ Ogden, was the daughter of a prominent citizen
of New York. She was born in France, and partially educated there.
Returning to America, she married, in her sixteenth year, James Mowatt,
a scholarly and wealthy man, but much the senior of the child-wife.
By a sudden reverse of fortune he was compelled to relinquish the
beautiful country home on Long Island, to which he had taken his wife
soon after their marriage. With the romantic design of saving the home
she loved, Mrs. Mowatt began a series of public readings. Her dramatic
talent was already well known in fashionable private circles. At the
conclusion of the round of readings given in New York and vicinity, she
received a proposal from a theatrical manager to go upon the stage. For
nine years she was a prime favorite with the American theatre-going
public, and almost as popular abroad. She never redeemed “Ravenswood,”
and her husband died while she was in the zenith of her brilliant
success.

Her union with William Ritchie, who had admired her for a long time,
was a love-match on both sides. He brought her to quiet Richmond, and
installed her in a modest cottage on our side of the town, but three
blocks from my father’s house. The Ritchies were one of the best of
our oldest families; Mrs. Mowatt belonged to one as excellent; her
character was irreproachable. I recollect Doctor Haxall insisting upon
this when a very conservative Mrs. Grundy “wondered if we ought to
visit her.”

“You will see, madam, that she will speedily be as popular here as she
has been elsewhere. She is a lovely woman, and as to reputation—hers is
irreproachable—absolutely! No tongue has ever wagged against her.”

I listened with curiosity that had not a tinge of personal concern in
it. It went without saying that an ex-actress was out of my sphere. The
church that condemned dancing was yet more severe upon the theatre.
True, Mrs. Ritchie had left the stage, and, it was soon bruited abroad,
never recited except in her own home and in the fine old colonial
homestead of Brandon, where lived Mr. Ritchie’s sister, Mrs. George
Harrison. But she had trodden the boards for eight or nine years, and
that stamped her as a personage quite unlike the rest of “us.”

So when William Ritchie stopped my father on the street and expressed
a wish that his wife and I should know each other, he had a civil,
non-committal reply, embodying the fact that I was expecting to go
North soon, and would not be at home again before the autumn.

During my absence my father sent me a copy of the _Enquirer_
containing a review of _The Hidden Path_, written by Mrs. Ritchie,
so complimentary, and so replete with frank, cordial interest in the
author, that I could not do less than to call on my return and thank
her.

She was not at home. I recall, with a flush of shame, how relieved I
was that a card should represent me, and that I had “done the decent
thing.” The “decent thing,” in her opinion, was that the call should be
repaid within the week.

No picture of her that I have seen does her even partial justice. In
her youth she was extremely pretty. At thirty-eight, she was more than
handsome. Time had not dimmed her exquisite complexion; her hair had
been cut off during an attack of brain-fever, and grew out again in
short, fair curls; her eyes were soft blue; her teeth dazzlingly white.
Of her smile Edgar Allan Poe had written: “A more radiant gleam could
not be imagined.” In manner, she was as simple as a child. Not with
studied simplicity, but out of genuine self-forgetfulness.

She struck what I was to learn was the keynote to character and motive,
before I had known her ten minutes. I essayed to thank her for what she
had said of my book. She listened in mild surprise:

“Don’t thank me for an act of mere justice. I liked the book. I write
book-reviews for my husband’s paper. I could not do less than say what
I thought.”

And—at my suggestion that adverse criticism was wholesome for the
tyro—“Why should I look for faults when there is so much good to be
seen without searching?”

A woman of an utterly different type sounded the same note a score of
years afterward.

I said to Frances Willard, whose neighbor I was at a luncheon given in
her honor by the wife of the Commandant at Fort Mackinac:

“You know, Miss Willard, that, as General Howard said just now of us,
you and I ‘don’t train in the same band.’”

“No?” The accent and the sweet candor, the ineffable womanliness of the
eyes that sought mine, touched the spring of memory. “Suppose, then,
we talk only of the many points upon which we do agree? Why seek for
opposition when there are so many harmonies close at hand?”

Of such peacelovers and peacemakers is the kingdom of heaven, by
whatsoever name they are called on earth.

Mrs. Ritchie was a Swedenborgian. I had learned that in her
_Autobiography of an Actress_. All denominations—including some whose
adherents would not sit down to the Lord’s Supper with certain others,
and those who would not partake of the consecrated “elements” if
administered by non-prelatic hands—united in shutting and bolting the
door of heaven in her face.

In the intimate companionship, unbroken by these and other admonitions,
I never heard from Mrs. Ritchie’s lips a syllable that was not redolent
with the law of kindness. I learned to love her fondly and to revere
her with fervor I would not have believed possible, six months earlier.
It was not her fascination of manner alone that attracted me, or the
unceasing acts of sisterly kindness she poured upon me, that deepened
my devotion. She opened to me the doors of a new world: broadened and
deepened and sweetened my whole nature. We never spoke of doctrines. We
rarely had a talk—and henceforward our meetings were almost daily—in
which she did not drop into my mind some precious grain of faith in
the All-Father; of love for the good and noble in my fellow-man and of
compassion, rather than blame, for the erring. Of her own church she
did not talk. She assumed, rather, that we were “one family, above,
beneath,” and bound by the sacred tie of kinship, to “do good and to
communicate.” She had a helpful hand, as well as a comforting word,
for the sorrowing and the needy. As to her benefactions, I heard of
them, now and again, from others. Now it was an aged gentlewoman, worn
down to the verge of nervous prostration, and too poor to seek the
change of air she ought to have, who was sent at the Ritchies’ expense
to Old Point Comfort for a month; or a struggling music-mistress,
for whom Mrs. Ritchie exerted herself quietly to secure pupils; or a
girl whose talent for elocution was developed by private lessons from
the ex-actress; or a bedridden matron, who had quieter nights after
Mrs. Ritchie ran in, two or three evenings in a week, to read to her
for half an hour in the rich, thrilling voice that had held hundreds
enchanted in bygone days.

To me she was a revelation of good-will to men. She lectured me
sometimes, as a mother might and ought, always in infinite tenderness.

“I cannot have you say that, my child!” she said once, when I broke
into a tirade against the hypocrisy and general selfishness of
humankind at large, and certain offenders in particular. “Nobody is
all-wicked. There is more unconquered evil in some natures than in
others. There is good—a spark of divine fire—in every soul God has
made. Look for it, and you will find it. Encourage it, and it will
shine.”

And in reply to a murmur during the trial-experiences of parish work,
when I “deplored the effect of these belittling cares and petty
commonplaces upon my intellectual growth,” the caressing hand was laid
against my hot cheek.

“Dear! you are the wife of the man of God! It is a sacred trust
committed to you as his helpmate. To shirk anything that helps him
would be a sin. And we climb one step at a time, you know—not by bold
leaps. Nothing is belittling that God sets for us to do.”

She, and some other things, gave me a royal winter.

Another good friend, Mrs. Stanard, had notified me that Edward Everett,
then lecturing in behalf of the Mount Vernon Association, was to be
her guest while in Richmond, and raised me to the seventh heaven of
delighted anticipation by inviting me to meet him at a dinner-party she
would give him. Mrs. Ritchie forestalled the introduction to the great
man by writing a wee note to me on the morning of the day on which the
dinner was to be.

The Mount Vernon Association had for its express object the purchase
of Washington’s home and burial-place, to be held by the Nation, and
not by the remote descendant of Mary and Augustine Washington, who had
inherited it. Mrs. Ritchie was the secretary of the organization.

Her note said:

    “A committee of our Association will wait upon Mr. Everett
    at the Governor’s house this forenoon. I will smuggle you
    in, if you will go with us. I shall call for you at eleven.”

When we four who had come together were ushered into the spacious
drawing-room of the gubernatorial mansion, we had it to ourselves. Mrs.
Ritchie, with a pretty gesture that reminded one of her French birth,
fell to arranging five or six chairs near the middle of the room, into
a seemingly careless group. One faced the rest at a conversational
angle.

“Now!” she uttered, with a playful pretence of secrecy; “you will see
Mr. Everett seat himself just there! He can do nothing else. Call it a
stage trick, if you like. But he _must_ sit there!”

The words had hardly left her lips when Mr. Everett entered,
accompanied by a younger man, erect in carriage and bronzed in
complexion, whom he presented to us as “My son-in-law, Lieutenant Wise.”

To our secret amusement, Mr. Everett took the chair set for him, and
this, when three remained vacant after the ladies were all seated.

Lieutenant Wise and I, as the non-attached personages present, drifted
to the other side of the room while official talk went on between the
orator-statesman and the committee.

The retentive memory, which has, from my babyhood, been both bane and
blessing, speedily identified my companion with the author of _Los
Gringos_ (The Yankees), a satirical and very clever work that had
fallen in my way a couple of years before. He was a cousin of the
Governor. I learned to-day of his connection with the Everetts.

He was social, and a witty talker. I had time to discover this before
the Governor appeared with his daughter, a charming girl of seventeen,
who did the honors of the house with unaffected grace and ease.

I had met her before, and I knew her father quite well. Mrs. Ritchie
had taken herself severely to task that very week for speaking of him
as “our warm-hearted, hot-headed Governor.”

The characterization was just. We all knew him to be both, and loved
him none the less for the warm temper that had hurried him into
many a scrape, political and personal. We were rather proud of his
belligerency, and took real pride in wondering what “he would do next.”
He was eloquent in debate, a bitter partisan, a warrior who would fight
to the death for friend, country or principle. Virginia never had a
Governor whom she loved more, and of whom she was more justly proud.

This was early in the year 1856. I do not recollect that I ever visited
the state drawing-room of the mansion again, until I stood upon a
dais erected on the very spot where Lieutenant Wise and I had chatted
together that brilliant winter day, and I lectured to crowded parlors
in behalf of the Mary Washington Monument Association. Another Governor
reigned in the stead of our warm-hearted and hot-headed soldier.
Another generation of women than that which had saved the son’s tomb to
the Nation was now working to erect a monument over the neglected grave
of the mother.

When the throng had dispersed, “Annie” Wise, now Mrs. Hobson—and still
of a most winsome presence—and I withdrew into a corner to speak of
that five-and-forty-year-old episode, and said: “The fathers, where are
they? And the prophets—they do live forever!”

Of the group collected about Mr. Everett, on the noon preceding the
delivery of his celebrated oration, but we two were left alive upon the
earth.

Of the Stanard dinner I retain a lively recollection. Among the
guests were Lieutenant Wise; Mr. Corcoran, the Washington banker
and philanthropist; his slim, engaging young daughter (afterward
Mrs. Eustis), and Mr. Everett’s son, Sidney. Mrs. Stanard was the
most judicious and gracious of hostesses. “A fashionable leader of
fashionable society!” sneered somebody in my hearing, one day.

Mrs. Ritchie took up the word promptly. Detraction never passed
unchallenged in her presence.

“Fashionable, if you will. But sincere. She is a true-hearted woman.”

In subscribing heartily to the truth of the statement, I append what I
had abundant reason to know and believe. She was a firm friend to those
she loved, steadfast in affection that outlasted youth and prosperity.

She made life smooth for everybody within her reach whenever she could
do it. She had the inestimable talent of divining what would best
please each of her guests, and ministered to weakness and desire.

On this night, she did not need to be told that a personal talk with
the chief guest would be an event to me. She lured me adroitly into a
nook adjoining the drawing-room, and as Mr. Everett, who was staying
in the house, passed the door, she called him in, and presently left
me on his hands for half an hour. He was always my _beau ideal_ of
the perfect gentleman. He talked quietly, in refined modulations and
chaste English that betokened the scholar. Like all really great men,
he bore himself with modest dignity, with never a touch of bluster
or self-consciousness. In five minutes I found myself listening and
replying, as to an old acquaintance. His voice was low, and so musical
as to fasten upon him the sobriquet of the “silver-tongued orator.” I
could repeat, almost verbatim, his part of our talk on that occasion. I
give the substance of one section that impressed me particularly.

We spoke of _Hiawatha_, then a recent publication. Mr. Everett thought
that Longfellow transgressed artistic rules, and was disobedient
to literary precedent in translating Indian names in the text of
the poem. The repetition of “Minnehaha—Laughing Water,” “The West
Wind—Mudjekeewis,” “Ishkooda—the Comet,” etcetera, was affected and
tedious.

“Moreover,” he continued, smiling, “I have serious doubts respecting
the florid metaphors and highly figurative speech which Cooper and
other writers of North American Indian stories have put into the
mouths of their dusky heroes.” He went on to say that, when Governor
of Massachusetts, he received a deputation of aborigines from the Far
West. In anticipation of the visit, he primed himself with an ornate
address of welcome, couched in the figurative language he imagined
would be familiar and agreeable to the chiefs. This was delivered
through an interpreter, and received in blank silence. Then the
principal sachem replied in curt platitudes, with never a trope or
allegorical allusion. Mr. Everett added that he had learned since
that the vocabulary of the modern Indian is meagre and prosaic in the
extreme.

The justice of the observation was borne in upon me when I sat in James
Redpath’s box at the Indian Exhibition I have spoken of in another
chapter, and heard snatches of alleged oratory as transmitted by a
fluent interpreter to the Newark audience. Anything more tame and bare
it would be hard to imagine.



XXX

A MUSICAL CONVENTION—GEORGE FRANCIS ROOT—WHEN “THE SHINING SHORE” WAS
FIRST SUNG—THE HALLELUJAH CHORUS—BETROTHAL—DEMPSTER IN HIS OLD AGE


REVERSING the wheel of Time by a turn or two, we are in the thick of
preparations for the Christmas of 1855.

It is less than a year since I read and re-read a letter that had lain
among the leaves of my journal for a long term of years. It was never
read by any eyes except my own, and those of him who wrote it. In the
solemn conviction that for any other—no matter how near of kin and dear
of heart—to look upon the lines, would be profanation, I burned the old
letter. Life is short and uncertain. I would take no risks. And what
need of keeping what I can never lose while memory remains faithful to
her trust?

I require no written or printed record to remind me what set that
Yule-tide apart from all the anniversaries that had preceded it, and
distinguished it from all that were to follow in its train.

We had had a guest in the house for three weeks. A Musical
Convention—the first ever held in Richmond—was in session under the
conduct of Lowell Mason and George Francis Root. My father, my sister,
my brother Herbert, and myself were members of a flourishing Sacred
Music Society, composed principally of amateurs, and we had engaged
the distinguished leaders in the profession to preside over the
Conference, by which it was hoped public taste in the matter of choir
and congregational singing might be improved. Classes were formed for
the study of methods and for drill in vocalization. The course would be
closed by a grand concert, in which no professional artists would take
part.

The thought that the imported leaders in the programme should be
allowed to put up at a hotel was opposed to the genius of Southern
hospitality. Doctor and Mrs. Lowell Mason were the honored guests of
Mr. Williams, the President of the Society. My father invited Mr. Root
“to make our house his home while he was in our city.”

That was the old-fashioned form of asking strangers to take bit and sup
and bed with us. We made good the words, too. The “home” was theirs as
truly as it was ours. The Convention was advertised to last ten days.
When the time was nearly expired, the extraordinary success of the
experiment induced the projectors to extend the time to a month. Mr.
Root was for removing to a hotel, but we arose up in arms and forbade
it. His bonhomie, intelligence, and general attractiveness of manner
and disposition had endeared him to us all. We hailed as a reprieve the
postponement of the date of departure. He had never seen a Virginia
Christmas, and here was a special providence he must not overlook.
Household machinery moved as if he had not been there. He entered
jovially into plans, and connived at confidences—the necessary deceits
that are to be condoned by agreeable surprises in the fulness of time.
When the personage whom Mea had long ago dubbed “The Young Evangelist,”
appeared upon the scene a week in advance of the holiday, and spent
three-fourths of each day under our hospitable roof—a state of affairs
that evidently was no new thing—the Professor took in the situation
without the quiver of an eyelash, and asked never a question. He did
more to prove how cordially he was one with the family. Discovering,
in the course of the first evening after the new arrival had enlarged
our circle, that he had an exceptionally fine voice, and knew how to
use it, he pressed him eagerly into service as “the basso he had been
longing for,” and the two sang themselves into each other’s good graces
inside of twenty-four hours.

I had had a cold for a fortnight, and I made the most of my
demi-semi-invalidism when there were sessions of the Convention at
uncanny hours, and secured, instead, quiet evenings at home. All of
which was transparent to our Professor, as I suspected then, and knew
subsequently. He did not disturb a tête-à-tête one December afternoon
by bringing down into the parlor a freshly written sheet of music
he wished to try on the piano. His quartette clustered about the
instrument at his summons, and the hymn was sung over and over. I sat
by the fire and listened. At the third repetition, I asked:

“The music is yours, but where did you get the words?”

Mr. Root answered that his mother had clipped them from a Western
paper, and handed them to him. The music fitted itself to them in his
mind at the first reading. He struck the chords boldly in saying it,
and the four rendered the whole hymn with spirit.

“I am no prophetess,” I commented, “nor the daughter of a prophet; but
I predict that that will be the most popular of your compositions.
It has all the elements of life, and a long life, in it. Once more,
please!”

They sang it with a will:

    “My days are gliding quickly by,
       And I, a pilgrim stranger,
     Would not detain them as they fly,
       Those hours of toil and danger.
     For, oh, we stand on Jordan’s strand,
       Our friends are passing over:
     And just before, The Shining Shore,
            We may almost discover.”

Millions have sung it since. Millions more will yield heart, soul, and
voice to the bound and swing and exultant leap of the melody “thought
out” by the composer in the earliest reading of the anonymous verses.
“Almost” has been “quite” with him for many a year.

It was during that Christmas week that I attended a full rehearsal of
the programme to be given at the grand concert. Near the close of the
rehearsal, Mr. Root came down to the back of the house and dropped
into a seat by me, among the auditors and lookers-on. He was tired, he
explained, “and would loaf for the rest of the affair.” The “affair”
wound up with Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. My “loafing” neighbor pricked
up his ears, as the war-horse at sound of the trumpet; sat upright and
poured the might of heart and voice into the immortal _opus_. With the
precision of a metronome, and the fire of a seraph, he went through it,
from the first to the last note, with never a book or score. It was
more to us, who had the good fortune to be near him, than all the rest
of the performance.

It was inevitable that two of us should recall and speak together in
awed tones, of Handel’s rejoinder to a query, as to his emotions in
writing the Chorus:

“I did verily believe that I saw the Great White Throne and Him Who sat
thereon, and heard the harpers harping with their harps, and all God’s
holy angels.”

I was watching the fine, uplifted head and rapt unconsciousness of him
whose whole frame throbbed and thrilled with clarion tones that pealed
out, “Hallelujah! hallelujah!” when a voice on the other side of me
murmured in my ear:

“And all that sat there, steadfastly watching him, saw his face as it
had been the face of an angel.”

I cherish a hundred pleasant and dear memories of our musical visitor.
I like none other so well as this vision. It so befell that my one and
only visit to the grave of Oliver Goldsmith was made when the choir
of the adjacent Temple church was practising the Hallelujah Chorus.
Although in the heart of mighty London, the place was strangely still
and solitary. We lingered there until the last chord died into silence.
It was not necessary for either of us to put into words what held the
fancy of both. Only—as we turned away we looked up to the sky, and one
whispered, “He is singing it, still!”

Engagements of marriage were never announced in Old Virginia. We took
more pains to keep them secret than family and friends take nowadays to
trumpet them abroad. Mr. Derby ran on from New York to spend Christmas
and the next day with us. He came and departed without an intimation
of any change in the feelings and prospects of his last September
guest. Mr. Terhune went back to his Charlotte parish; letters travelled
regularly and frequently back and forth. Some were addressed to me;
more bore my brother’s name on the envelope, to hoodwink village
post-office gossips. Young men, who were habitual visitors, called as
often and were received with the olden friendliness; I accepted the
escort of this, that, and the other one impartially, and at will. “The
Young Evangelist” was in town for a few days of every month, and was
more with us than anywhere else. And why not? He had visited us more
intimately than at any other house during his six months’ occupancy of
Doctor Hoge’s pulpit. It happened repeatedly that he was one of three
or four callers in the evening. On these occasions he, magnanimously,
as he phrased it, “never interfered with another fellow’s running.” He
was as assiduous in his attentions to girls who chanced to be present
as Ned Rhodes, Tom Baxter, or any other Tom, Dick, or Harry of the
party could be to me. At ten o’clock he arose, made his adieux in
decorous sort to the ladies of the house and to the company generally,
and withdrew. If nobody showed a disposition to follow his example,
he, to quote again from his tactics, “took account of stock,” and,
having assured himself that the others lived in different directions,
appeared in the open door, overcoat on, hat in hand, and in his mouth a
jaunty query as to the probability of having company in his walk to the
Exchange Hotel, where he usually put up. Few were bold enough to loiter
later when the privileged habitué of the house showed so plainly that
the family kept early hours. After his regrets at the prospect of a
lonely tramp were uttered, he departed in good earnest. He had made but
a few rounds of the block when the shutters of the front parlor window
were closed, the signal that the course was clear for a return.

In mid-April he came to Richmond to receive his widowed sister, who
passed some weeks with us. Mea and I had had an engagement with Messrs.
Rhodes and Baxter to go to a Dempster concert. The pair were so often
on escort duty that they were dubbed “The Circumstances” by our saucy
brothers and sisters. It was, according to the younglings, a settled
matter, when we based our prospective presence at any festive scene
upon “circumstances,” that Damon and his Pythias should show up in
season to take us thither.

Mrs. Greenleaf arrived on Tuesday. Her brother came by the noon train
on Wednesday. It was not until I noted the grave wonder in her blue
eyes, as I congratulated her and him that they would have the evening
to themselves and home-talk, that it dawned upon me how unconventional
was the proceeding altogether. North of Mason and Dixon’s line it would
have been downright impropriety for an engaged girl to walk off coolly,
in the escort of another man, within a few hours after the coming of
the betrothed whom she had not seen for a month.

The person who would be supposed to suffer most discomfort from the
outrage to conventionality was, fortunately, more _au fait_ to
Virginia manners and social usages than his relative. When I took an
opportunity to express misgivings lest I might lose ground in her good
graces if I kept the engagement to hear the famous ballad-singer, I was
bidden not to “waste a thought on that matter, but to enjoy the concert
with all my heart. For his part, he was delighted that I had the chance
to go.”

So, when our escorts appeared, I carried off a light heart, and was
obedient to the injunction to get all the enjoyment that Dempster, then
evidently in the decadence of his powers, could give a music-lover.

I heard him but that once. I do not regret that I went then, although
sadness mingled with pleasure while we listened. Dempster’s rendition
of English ballads, without other accompaniment than the piano played
by himself, with no effort after brilliancy of execution, had moved two
continents to smiles and tears. One searches vainly for his name in
cyclopædias and dictionary lists of the famous dead. He was now a gray
and flabby oldish man. His voice was broken in the high register, and
thickened on the lower; his breath was irregular and short. Yet certain
passages—notably in the _Irish Emigrant’s Lament_—had sympathetic
sweetness that helped one to credit the stories of his former
successes. He sang Tennyson’s _May Queen_ all through, not skipping
a stanza of the three parts. It was a dreary performance, that grew
absolutely painful before the consumptive was finally relegated to the
bourne

    “Where the wicked cease from troubling,
      And the weary are at rest.”

“Thank Heaven!” sighed Mr. Rhodes as the last word quavered forth; and
Mea—“She ought to apologize for being such an unconscionably long time
in dying.”



XXXI

WEDDING BELLS—A BRIDAL TOUR—A DISCOVERED RELATIVE—A NOBLE LIFE


                              “RICHMOND, _August 16th, 1856._

    “MY VERY DEAR EFFIE,—My long silence has seemed strange
    and may have appeared unkind to you, but there have been a
    thousand hindrances to my writing.

    “A sudden fit of illness interrupted the health that had
    remained firm throughout the warm spring weather, and
    obliged me to make my visit to Goochland earlier than I
    intended. For a week or more after my arrival there I was
    worse than I had been at home. When I began to recover, the
    amendment was rapid.

    “To cut short these details, I am most unromantically
    well and robust, am gaining flesh daily, and boast an
    appetite that would throw a sentimental young woman into
    convulsions were she to witness my gastronomic exploits. Yet
    I have delayed writing to you because I wished to arrange
    everything relating to the final ‘performances’ before
    notifying you of the same.

    “There have been sundry alterations in the programme since
    you and I last consulted over these things, the principal
    of which is the change of the day and hour. We expect,
    now, to leave home on Tuesday fortnight (September 2d) in
    the morning, instead of (as was first spoken of) on the
    afternoon of Wednesday, the 3d. This will allow us two days
    in Philadelphia, and, being the plan most approved of by
    father and Mr. Terhune, of course I am submissive.

    “The bridal party will spend both Monday and Tuesday
    evenings, besides breakfasting here on Tuesday morning. So
    you girls may bring evening dresses.

    “The bridesmaids are to wear blue muslin or lawn skirts,
    with white muslin basques—a neat breakfast costume that
    will look pretty as a uniform, and be becoming to all of
    you, without throwing my quiet travelling attire too much
    into the shade. You know that at a morning wedding it is
    customary for each to dress as she pleases. This never
    pleased my fancy. The company wears a motley look. Full
    bridal robes would be equally out of place. Therefore, we
    have selected this medium.

    “Now, _ma chère!_ cannot you keep your intention of the
    Richmond trip as profound a secret as you have other matters
    we wot of? Your father and mother must be apprized of it,
    and Colonel and Mrs. Graves; but, for a few days, cannot the
    story be kept within the two families? I trust you to do
    this for me.

    “The Charlotte party will come down on Monday, the 1st.
    We shall expect you and Virginia some days in advance of
    that date. I hope to have everything in readiness, even to
    packing my trunks, by the middle of the preceding week, and
    to have time to enjoy your society. Write as soon as your
    plans are formed, and let that time be very soon. As to my
    trousseau—thanks to nimble and kind fingers, the work is
    nearly done. Next week my time is to be divided between the
    dressmaker and a gentleman who writes that he has ‘business
    to attend to in Richmond,’ and who, it is fair to presume,
    may call occasionally. The latest gossip is that there is to
    be a double wedding here next month; that both sisters are
    to be dressed precisely alike and be married in the evening.
    Therefore, come prepared for the worst—or the best, as the
    case may seem.

    “To drop business and jesting together—it is very hard to
    realize that, if Providence permit, one little fortnight
    will bring such a change into my life. Here, in the home
    of my girlhood, where all else is unaltered, and I seem to
    be welded, as it were, into the household chain, I cannot
    believe that my place is so soon to be vacant. Brain and
    heart are so full of crowding thoughts and emotions that I
    marvel how I preserve a composed demeanor. The past, with
    its tender and hallowed memories; the present, with a
    wealth of calm, real happiness; the bright, although vague
    future, alike strive to enchain my mind.

    “I long to see you; to have a good, old-fashioned chat, a
    familiar interchange of our plans and our hopes. There is a
    sentence in your last that promises much—a promise I shall
    surely call upon you to redeem when we meet. I would have
    you feel that by this union you gain, not lose a friend....

    “My love to your mother and to ‘Cousin Mag.’ May I not ask
    from them a sincere ‘God-speed’?

    “You will not disappoint me, now, dear one? Write at once
    that you are all coming. You and Virginia G. will require
    little preparation—besides the blue skirt and the thin
    muslin spencer (which you are sure to have!), a pair of
    white gloves will be all you need.

    “This is a hasty and, I fear, an incoherent letter, but a
    full freight of love goes with it. As I began, I end with
    ‘COME!’”

As may be gathered from this letter, the wedding was to be a simple
affair—so quiet that it could not be called a social function.

We were of one mind on that point. To secure the presence of our most
intimate friends, we went through the form of selecting bridesmaids
and groomsmen. It was the custom to have a long train of attendants at
large wedding-parties, and we took advantage of the fashion to limit
the company to be assembled on that early September morning to “the
bridal party” and the family. The exceptions to the limit were dear old
Doctor Haxall (whose wife was out of town) and three friends of the
bridegroom. Two were from New Jersey and family connections, although
not related by blood. The other was Mr. Word, of Charlotte, the
gentlest-hearted of old bachelors—known affectionately by his intimates
as “Cousin Jimmy.”

Genial old saint! My heart swells now at the flashlight picture
fastened upon memory of my first sight of, and speech with him. He was
more closely shaven than I ever saw him afterward—and he was ever the
pink of neatness. An expanse of white vest and shirt-bosom covered a
broad chest that palpitated visibly, as, enfolding my hand in both of
his, he said, in the best manner of the gentleman of the old school
(and there are no finer gentlemen anywhere):

“My dear madam, let me entreat you to regard me from this moment as a
BROTHER!”

No capitals can endow the word with the meaning he put into it. He
fulfilled his part of the compact nobly.

To go back to the preparation for the quiet bridal: A Richmond fashion
I have never known elsewhere, and which outlasted the war by some
years, was that the bride-elect and two or three of her bridesmaids
drove from house to house a day, or two or three, before the marriage,
and left cards upon acquaintances who were not bidden to the ceremony.
This was done in cases where, as with me, it was to be a house-wedding,
and the attendants were confined to a few family friends. If there were
to be a church-wedding, followed by a reception, or if the ceremony
at home were to be witnessed by a large party of guests, the drive
and delivery of cards preceded the “occasion” by a week or ten days.
To send an invitation to any social gathering by post would be a
transgression of decorum and precedent—a cheap trick unworthy of any
one tolerably well versed in social forms. The delivery by the bride
and her suite was delicately complimentary to those she wished to honor.

In furtherance of our design of keeping even the date of the marriage
secret up to the last possible hour, we had delayed the delivery of my
“P. P. C.” cards until Monday.

At the very bottom of the box of time-discolored letters preserved by
the friend of my childhood and intimate of my girlhood, I found one
of these cards. Time’s thumbmarks have not spared the bit of glazed
pasteboard. My maiden name is there, and, in the left-hand lower
corner, “P. P. C.” That was all the information it deigned to give the
curious and the friendly. I was going away—somewhere. Just when and
where was nobody’s business.

It will hardly be believed that we kept our own counsel so well that
our own servants, while they might have their suspicions, were only
certain that I was going North on Tuesday, as I had often gone on other
summers, and that the girls who had been visiting me for a week were to
remain to a party my sister would give on Tuesday evening. Not until
Monday morning were any of them, except “Mammy Rachel,” informed what
was on foot.

The day dawned—if dawn it could be called—through steady sheets of
rain. No delusive adage of “Rain before seven, clear before eleven”
ever gained currency in Richmond. It was as clear to our dismayed souls
that this was an all-day rain, as that the drive and cards could not
be postponed until to-morrow. Sampson, the carriage-driver, whom we
did not dub “coachman” until after the war, was notified by the mouth
of Tom, the young dining-room servant, that he must have the carriage
at the door at ten o’clock, and prepare for a long expedition. We were
at the breakfast-table when word came back that “it warn’t a fittin’
day for no young ladies to go out. Nor for his carriage an’ horses. De
ladies will have to put off their shoppin’ for another time.”

Mea turned upon the respectful emissary with the snap of the eyes and
incisive accent he knew full well:

“Say to Sampson that Miss Virginia is to be married to-morrow, and that
we have to take out cards. He will be here on time!”

We had an answer before we left our chairs.

“Yes, ma’am! He says he’d go if it _killed_ him and the horses!”

We set forth at the appointed hour. Mea, Effie, Virginia Graves, and
myself, wrapped up as for a winter journey, but in as high spirits as
if the sun had shone and birds sung blithely in trees that shivered
and shrank and streamed under the weight of the bitter rain. Poor
Tom—for the nonce, the footman whose duty it was to jump down from
his perch at every door before which we signalled Sampson to stop, to
receive the enveloped card upon a silver tray, and to scamper up a
walk or up a flight of steps, his umbrella held low over the precious
consignment—had the worst of it all. He was soaked to the skin by the
time the route was finished and we turned homeward. We were out four
hours. And in all the four hours the rain never intermitted one drop,
and the wind only changed from the east to blow from all quarters of
the heavens at once. If coachman and patient footman were drenched, we
were more than moist, and so chilled that we rejoiced with exceeding
great joy at the sight of blazing fires in chambers and dining-room on
our return.

The home atmosphere was all that it should be on the eve of the first
wedding in a household where the happiness of one was the joy of all.
Maybe I took it too much as a matter of course, then. I value the
recollection with something akin to jealous fondness. How, all day
long, while the skies streamed without and the wind dashed the water
by pailfuls against the windows, mirth and frolic within went on like
a peal of joy-bells, and every look, gesture, and word carried to my
heart the sweet persuasion that I was not absent from the thoughts of
one of them for a moment.

So certain were we that nothing could “gang agley”—and this in the
teeth of the storm that had abated naught of its fury by nightfall—that
when Herbert, who had gone to the station to meet the Charlotte party
(including Doctor Hoge, who was returning from his vacation), brought
back a rueful countenance and the news that “the flood had washed away
a bridge on the Danville Railway and made it impracticable for trains
to run for twenty-four hours,” we fell upon him with a hail-storm of
laughing reproaches that swept away the pretence of sorrowful sympathy.

How could anything go wrong? Not one of us was hoaxed for the fraction
of a second.

We took for granted, with the like gay confidence, that the tempest
would rage itself faint by morning. It was no surprise that the day
was so brilliantly clear, so fresh and fragrant, that Doctor Hoge was
reminded of

    “The rose that was newly washed by the shower”—

and, after the ceremony, strayed from one to another of the thirty
present, asking if any one could tell him who was the author of the
line.

Which quest, when comparison of notes elicited the fact that ten
persons had been catechised, took a place among our family jests.

One incident of the journey to Washington stands out in my mind among
the thousand and one “coincidences,” falsely so-called, that star or
mar every human life, if we will but heed them and their consequences.
Mr. Terhune, and Mr. Cardwell, one of the groomsmen, who went as far as
Baltimore with us, on his way to speak at a political meeting, had gone
to look to the luggage after settling me in the car in Richmond. The
air was close, and I tried to raise the window by me.

“Allow me!” said a pleasant voice in my ear, and a strong hand reached
forward to perform the trifling service.

I said, over my shoulder, “Thank you!” catching sight of a fine, manly
face, lighted by a pair of kind, gray eyes. I saw the shadow of the
hand that went up to his hat, as he uttered some conventional phrase
in acknowledgment, and thought no more of him until we had taken the
Potomac boat at Acquia Creek. I recognized my neighbor of the train
then, in the tall man who tramped the deck to stretch long limbs
cramped by sitting in the car, and checked his walk to pick up and
comfort a child that fell headlong in running away from its nurse. I
was struck by the gentleness of the handsome giant in handling the
baby, and the tact he displayed in taking the weeper in his arms, and
directing his attention to a passing steamer. The little fellow stopped
crying at once, and, when the frightened nurse found the runaway, he
clung to the stranger’s neck, much to the amusement of the latter. He
carried him to the far end of the boat, talking cheerily with him, and
finally handed him over to the woman, with a kiss upon the baby-lips
held up to him.

The call to dinner diverted my mind from the little scene, and it was
not until we were in our hotel in Washington that I alluded to it, and
told Mr. Terhune of the courtesy the stranger had rendered me on the
train.

“I wish you had mentioned it before,” he said. “I should have thanked
him. I saw him at the hotel last night. His name is Brookes, I think.
He is a cousin of Doctor Hoge. By-the-way, he must be related to your
mother. And”—laughingly—“naturally, to yourself.”

“Of course!” I broke in, excitedly. “I wish I had guessed who he was.
It must be the Rev. James Brookes, my mother’s cousin. You needn’t
laugh! and you must not say ‘Another?’ He is a splendid fellow. His
mother was Judith Lacy, and named for my grandmother!”

As the genealogist of the family, I reckoned up the “handsome giant”
forthwith. I even knew incidents of his family history he never heard
until I rehearsed them to him in his St. Louis home, thirty years
afterward. He was, by then, to me the best-belovéd of all my clerical
kinsmen. I upbraided him, when we were made known to one another, for
not letting me know who he was at our first encounter.

“My dear cousin! On your wedding-day!” was his exclamation. “Even the
tie of kindred blood would not have justified the intermeddling of a
stranger at that time.”

We made up for the delay of a quarter-century by full and glad
recognition of the blood-claim. He was a master in Israel; eloquent
in the pulpit; as a writer, strong and convincing; in parish
ministrations, as tender as a woman and helpful as a brother. He
adorned his profession; as a citizen he fought evil with a lion’s
strength, and succored the erring with the wisdom of Paul, the
gentleness of John.

What strength and comfort I drew from intimate association with this
wise, tender, and leal kinsman, may not be told here. I can never
acknowledge it aright until I speak with the tongue of angels.

More than a dozen years have passed since the Easter noon, when the
lightning leaped along a thousand miles of telegraph lines, to bring me
this message from his son-in-law:

    “_James H. Brookes fell asleep at sunrise on Easter
    morning._”

Since that glorious awakening he has dwelt forever with the Lord.



XXXII

    PARSONAGE LIFE—WILLIAM WIRT HENRY—HISTORIC SOIL—JOHN
    RANDOLPH—THE LAST OF THE RANDOLPHS


THE village of Charlotte Court-House was a rambling hamlet in 1856.
The plank-road from the nearest railway station (“Drake’s Branch”)
entered the village at one side, and cut abruptly into the main street.
This thoroughfare meandered leisurely from a country road at each end,
through the entire length of the shiretown. It was lined irregularly
with public and private buildings. The Court House, three or four
stores, a couple of hotels, and perhaps half a dozen residences, made
up the nucleus of the place. Beyond, and on either side, dwellings—some
of brick, some of wood—were surrounded by spacious grounds embracing
shrubbery, plantations, groves, and gardens. The “Village Church,”
a brick edifice hoary with years, and redolent of ecclesiastical
traditions, stood at the left of the plank turnpike as one approached
the village from the station. A porticoed manor-house, that had a
history almost as old, faced it across lawn and shrubbery on the
opposite side of the way. When one had left the turnpike for the main
street, and driven a quarter of a mile or so toward the “real country,”
one passed the Parsonage. It stood well away from the street, from
which it was screened by a grove of native oaks. Behind it lay a large
yard, at one side of which were the kitchen and other domestic offices.
A picket fence divided the yard from a garden, and at the left of this
were the stables and pasture. Back of the garden a field lost itself
in a wood of virgin growth.

The house was a white cottage, a story-and-a-half high, fronted and
backed by wide porches. A hall cut the lower floor in half, and ran
from the entrance to the back door. On the left of the hall was a
parlor of fair dimensions, with windows at the front and rear. “The
chamber,” of like shape and proportions, was on the other side. The
dining-room was one wing, and “the study” another. Both connected
directly with a deep portico which filled the intermediate space. Two
bedrooms above stairs, and a store-room adjoining the dining-room,
completed the tale of rooms.

A modest establishment in very truth, but not contemptible from the Old
Virginia standpoint. Small as it was, we did not have it to ourselves
until after Christmas. I esteemed this a fortunate circumstance from
the first, considering how much I had to learn of housekeeping and
parish work. Subsequently, I knew it for one of the signal blessings of
a life that has been affluent in goodness and mercy.

For the occupants of the Parsonage, pending the completion of a house
of their own in building at the other end of the village, were Mr. and
Mrs. Wirt Henry, a young married couple with one child. They had rented
the cottage for the year ending January 1st, and kindly consented to
receive us as boarders until the term had expired.

From the moment that Wirt Henry came out to assist me to alight from
the carriage that had brought us from the station, one mid-October day,
to the end of his honored and useful life, his friendship for us knew
no variableness nor shadow of turning. He was already my husband’s
staunch right hand in church and community. He took me upon trust for
the time. I learned to love husband and wife long before we became
separate households. To this day, his widow is to me as a sister.
In the care-free three months of our happy companionship, Mrs. Henry
helped me tactfully through the initial stages of acquaintanceship with
parish and neighborhood. To the manor born, and connected by blood with
two-thirds of the best families in the county, her gentle “coaching”
was an inestimable benefit to the stranger within her gates.

Her husband was a grandson of Patrick Henry, and a lawyer of note,
although not yet thirty years of age. He attained eminence in his
native county as time went on, and in Richmond, to which city he
removed after the War. His _Life and Letters of Patrick Henry_ is
a standard biographical and historical classic; he filled with
distinction several public offices, among them that of President of the
American Historical Society, and Delegate to the Historical Congress at
The Hague, in 1897.

In private life he was the best of husbands and fathers, sweet-hearted
to the core, a thorough gentleman always and everywhere, and a genial
and delightful comrade. When I turned study and pen in the direction
of Colonial historical research, he was an invaluable auxiliary. I
told him, over and over, that he was to me an exhaustless reservoir of
information. I had only to open a sluiceway, to draw in copious measure
in my hour of need. As a faint expression of my sense of overwhelming
obligation to him, I dedicated to him my first volume on _Colonial
Homesteads and Their Stories_, published in 1896.

I cannot say that my thirst for Colonial traditions and histories
was created by my residence in Charlotte. From childhood I had been
indefatigable in the pursuit of genealogical details and the tales of
real life and happenings collected from the converse of my elders of
the “former days,” which they rated as better than these in defiance
of Solomon’s admonition. But it was not possible to live for three
years, as I did, in a region where the very earth was soaked in
historical associations; where every other name mentioned in my hearing
was interwoven with recitals of deeds of valor and of statesmanship
performed by the fathers of American history, and not be kindled into
zealous prosecution of my favorite studies.

The Court House, built in 1823, was designed by Thomas Jefferson. A
more interesting building was a shabby, tumbledown house, not far from
the site of the newer and better edifice. It was the “Court House”
in the stirring days when the paternal Government would not squander
money upon Colonial seats of justice. From the porch of this, Patrick
Henry delivered his last speech to his adoring constituents. He was
tottering upon the verge of the grave, into which he sank gently a few
weeks later. A crisis of national and state importance had called him
from his home at Red Hill, a dozen miles away. Keyed up by a sense of
the imminence of the peril to the country he had saved, his magnificent
will-power responded to the call; the dying fire leaped high. He had
never reasoned more cogently, never pleaded with more power than on
that day. But as the last word fell from his lips, he sank fainting
into the arms of his attendants. Dr. John Holt Rice stood on the
outskirts of the crowd. As the dying lion fell in his tracks, the
clergyman cried out: “The sun has set in all his glory!”

From the same homely rostrum John Randolph (whose homestead of
“Roanoke” is but a few miles from the county-seat) made his maiden
speech, and addressed for the last time those of whom he declared—“No
other man ever had such constituents.” In this address he recounted
the history of that relation, from the hour when the beardless boy
had raised his reedy voice to confute the arguments of the people’s
idol—Patrick Henry—to the date of this, his resignation of his office.

“Men of Charlotte!” The piercing voice that carried further in his
weakness than more stentorian tones, sent the farewell to the outskirts
of the breathless throng—“Forty years ago you confided this sacred
trust to me. Take it back! Take it back!”

The gesture, as of rolling a ponderous weight from heart and arms, was
never forgotten by those who saw it. With it he left the platform,
mounted his horse without another word, and rode off to Roanoke.

Mr. Jacob Michaux, of Powhatan County, was at that time a student in
Hampden-Sidney College, and came over to Charlotte for the express
purpose of hearing the famous orator. I had from his lips the
description of the scene. John Randolph, as is well known, never used
notes in speaking. It sent a sort of shudder, therefore, through the
audience, when he took a folded paper from his pocket and opened it,
saying:

“The infirmities of advancing age, and the consequent failure of
memory, have made it expedient that I should bring with me to-day a few
notes to remind me of what I would say to you.”

He held the paper in his hand while speaking, and referred to it
twice in the exordium. Warming to his work, he waved it aloft in his
impassioned gesticulation, evidently forgetful of it and what was
written on it. At last, it escaped from his fingers and fluttered down
to Mr. Michaux’s feet. The crowd, engrossed in the fervid oratory, did
not notice what had happened. The student put his foot upon the bit
of paper, without change of place or position. “It flashed across my
mind that I would secure it when the speech was over, and keep it as a
souvenir,” he said. “The next moment I forgot it, and everything else
except what the man before me was saying. It was a Vesuvian tide of
eloquence, and carried thought, feeling, imagination along with it. One
hears nothing like it in these degenerate days. I did not recollect the
paper until I was a mile away from the Court House, and the orator’s
voice began to die out of my ears.”

What a souvenir that would have been! I do not know that this anecdote
has ever been published before. I had it, as I have said, directly from
Mr. Michaux’s lips, and vouch for the authenticity.

Many of the stories that clung to the Parsonage had to do with the
Orator of Roanoke. The house was at one time the home of Captain “Jack”
Marshall, the father of the late Judge Hunter Marshall. The latter
was, during our residence in Charlotte, a near neighbor and charming
acquaintance. His father, “Captain Jack,” was one of the cronies
whom John Randolph’s eccentricities and fits of violent rage had not
estranged. Politically, his constituents adored Randolph. Personally,
they found him intolerable. Mrs. Eggleston, of whom I shall have more
to say by-and-by, told me of visiting a playfellow in the Marshall home
while John Randolph was staying with Captain Marshall. The two little
girls were busy with their dolls in the lower hall, when a hand-bell
was rung furiously above stairs.

Little Lucy looked wonderingly at her companion.

“Who is that? And what does it mean?”

“Oh, it’s Mr. Randolph trying to frighten away the devil. He has just
got up, you see, and he says the devil creeps from under his bed as
soon as he wakes up.”

The ringing continued at intervals for some minutes, and Lucy,
terrified by the fancy that the fleeing demon might appear on the
stairs, ran off home with the tale.

“My mother had heard it often, before,” said my friend, laughing at my
horrified incredulity. “It was but one of his crazy antics. No-o-o!”
doubtfully, as I put a question. “I _don’t_ believe it was delirium
tremens. He took opium at times. I don’t know that he drank heavily.
Everybody took his toddy in those days, you know. John Randolph was
_queer_, through and through, from the cradle to the grave, and like no
other man that ever lived! We children were terribly afraid of him.”

One of the numerous stories Mr. Henry told of the eccentric was of his
asking a neighboring planter who was dining at Roanoke, if “he would
not take a slice of cold meat upon a hot plate?”

As “Juba,” Mr. Randolph’s body-servant, was at the guest’s elbow with
the hot plate, the gentleman thought he was expected to say “Yes,”
and fearing to anger the choleric host, took the plate, accepting the
offered cold meat. Whereupon, Randolph swore savagely at him for a
“lickspittle,” and a “coward.”

“You dare not speak up to me like a man!” he snarled. “I asked the
question to see what you would say.”

He was as brutal to members of his own family. A clergyman, who studied
divinity under Doctor Rice in Richmond, told me of a conversation
between John Randolph and his sister-in-law, the widow of Richard
Randolph. She was very fond of the Rices, spending weeks together
at their home, and at last, dying while on one of these visits.
Some months prior to her death, she joined the Presbyterian Church,
and shortly after taking this step, had a call from her terrible
brother-in-law. Regardless of the fact that two of the students were in
the next room, and that what he shrieked in his piercing falsetto must
be heard from the top of the house to the bottom, the irate Congressman
berated Mrs. Judith Randolph in the coarsest terms for the disgrace she
had brought upon an honorable name in uniting with “the Dissenters.”

He stayed not for any law, written or tacit, of respect due to host or
hostess, reviling both as scheming hypocrites and wolves in sheep’s
clothing, who had decoyed her into their “conventicle” in the hope of
securing her fortune for themselves.

Yet, there is extant a letter which I have read, from John Randolph to
Doctor Rice, written after his sister-in-law’s death, extolling her
piety, thanking her late host for his great goodness to the sainted
deceased, and winding up by saying that he had, all day, been possessed
by the idea that he could see her spirit, “mild, loving, and benignant,
hovering above him!”

We must fall back upon Mrs. Eggleston’s dictum—“_Queer_, through and
through, from the cradle to the grave, and like no other man that ever
lived!”

Before quitting my gossip of the Randolphs, I must touch upon one of
the most pitiful of the many tragedies that darken the history of the
aristocratic clan.

The Sunday after my arrival in my new home, I saw, from my seat in
church, a late-comer stride up the aisle to one of the pews running at
right angles with those filling the body of the building. The tardy
worshipper was a man above the medium height, and erect as a Virginia
pine. He walked like an Indian, as I observed at once, planting his
feet straight forward, and rising on his toes with a loping motion. His
hair was snowy white, and hung down to the collar of his coat. When he
took his seat, and faced the congregation, one saw that his eyes were
dark and piercing; his eyebrows black; his features finely chiselled. A
full white beard added to his venerable appearance and accentuated the
quaintness of the figure in a community where shaven chins and upper
lips were the rule.

I had hardly noted these peculiarities when he bowed his head upon
his hands, resting his elbows upon his knees, evidently in silent
devotion, and remained thus for several minutes. The choir was singing
the introductory anthem when he sat upright, and perceived the occupant
of the pulpit. A brilliant smile irradiated the grave features; to
my amazement he arose, ran up the steps of the sacred desk, and held
out his hand to the preacher, the other hand upon his heart, and
bowed deferentially. Mr. Terhune arose, with no sign of surprise or
annoyance, and bowed silently over the locked hands. As nimbly as he
had mounted the steps, the eccentric individual ran down and resumed
his seat. Neither man had unclosed his lips, but the pantomime of
welcome and acknowledgment was so significant that words would have
been superfluous. The Unknown appeared to hearken devoutly to reading
and to sermon, accompanying his listening by actions foreign to the
behavior of latter-day church-goers. They were singularly expressive to
me, whose eyes wandered to him covertly every few minutes. Nobody else
paid any attention to him. Now, his joined hands were raised almost to
his chin, and the bowed head shaken over them, as in deep contrition—an
attitude that recalled the “publican standing afar off.” Once he beat
softly upon his breast. Again, he nodded approval of what he heard.
Often he closed his eyes, and his lips moved in prayer. He was the
foremost of the retiring congregation to leave the church after the
benediction, passing down the aisle with the free, sweeping lope that
had reminded me of an Indian.

I had the story over our early Sunday dinner. When Mr. Henry finished
it, I recalled that I had heard, when a mere child, my mother speak
of meeting at Doctor Rice’s, in her early girlhood, a nephew of John
Randolph—St. George Randolph by name—who was deaf and dumb.

“One of the handsomest young men I ever saw,” she subjoined, “with
flashing black eyes and dark, beautiful curls. He frightened me by
offering to teach me the finger alphabet; but his manners were very
pleasant, and he seemed gay, in spite of his affliction. He was
educated in France, and had just come home when I saw him.”

Obedient memory, following this clue, unearthed a passage in Garnett’s
_Life of John Randolph_, which was part of my biographical library.
In a letter to an old friend the uncle lamented that his nephew St.
George had become insane. He had made several efforts to marry, and was
unsuccessful—as he was given to understand—on account of his infirmity.

Mr. Henry’s narrative brought the biography down to date. The unhappy
youth—sole heir to his father’s and his uncle’s wealth after the
death of his younger brother, Tudor—was committed to an asylum for
the insane. How long this man—born in the purple, highly educated,
refined in taste, and elegant in bearing—was allowed to linger in the
filthy inferno of the old-time “mad-house,” I would not recollect if
I could. Then the creaking wheel of his fortunes took an unexpected
turn. By some legal manipulation I do not pretend to understand,
Mr. Wyatt Cardwell, of Charlotte, the father of our groomsman and
travelling companion in the first stage of our wedding-journey, became
the guardian of the almost forgotten lunatic. A visit to his afflicted
charge wrought so powerfully upon Mr. Cardwell’s sympathies, that he
left no stone unturned until the last of the direct line of Randolphs
was a free man, and domesticated in the home of his guardian. The
remnants of his once fine library were placed at his disposal; he had
his own riding-horse, and other luxuries—in short, all that he was
able to enjoy. The Charlotte people respected his misfortunes, and
treated him kindly whenever occasion offered. He read, and apparently
enjoyed books, reading French, Latin, and English at pleasure. His
reminiscences of his distinguished uncle, and the politics of his
unquiet day, were distinct, and to those who communicated with him by
signs or by writing, extremely entertaining.

His fellow-citizens came to have a pride in the relic of the heroic
age. His shrewd comments upon men he had known in his prime, and the
acquaintances of to-day, were repeated as _bon mots_.

Sane, he would never be. The splendid intellect, that should have
surmounted the frightful disability imposed at birth, was hopelessly
shattered. But he was a local celebrity, about whom clung a glamour of
romantic importance.

I entered fully into this feeling within three weeks after I had my
earliest glimpse of him.

The Rev. Mr. ——, from another county, who had filled the pulpit of the
Village Church more frequently in past years than was quite agreeable
to the congregation, chanced to spend the Sunday in the neighborhood,
and was invited to preach. He arose to announce the opening hymn just
as St. George Randolph lifted his head from his private devotions.
The expression of ineffable disgust, when he discovered who was to
officiate that forenoon, was unmistakable and indescribable. Then
he deliberately went through the pantomime of sharpening a pencil,
a forefinger doing duty as the pencil, three fingers of the right
hand holding an imaginary pen-knife. The sharpening done, he blew the
imaginary refuse into the air with a disdainful puff. We all witnessed
the operation, and the dullest could not miss the meaning. More than
one was unable to join in the song of praise selected by the only
man who was unconscious of the by-play. In the forty-five years of
his active pastorate, my husband but twice violated pulpit and pew
proprieties so far as to exchange meaning and amused glances with me.
That was one of the times. As for Wirt Henry, nothing but an agonized
ray from his wife’s eye kept him from disgracing himself.

Having testified to the nature and sincerity of his sentiments with
respect to the obnoxious interloper, as he considered him, our local
wit turned a cold shoulder toward the pulpit and buried himself in
the pages of a small, much-worn volume he drew from his pocket, never
vouchsafing another glance at desk or occupant during the service.

The little book was a collection of devotional readings he carried with
him everywhere. His mother had given it to him when he went abroad.
From her, too, he had learned to kneel by his bed each night and pray,
as he had done at her knee in infancy. He never remitted the habit. I
used to wonder, with a hard heartache, if he kept it up during that
dark, dreadful age in the asylum.

Less than three years after my first sight of him, the deaf, dumb and
lunatic heir of the vast Randolph estate joined the mother he had not
forgotten, nor ceased to love and venerate in the long night that had
no star of hope, and which was to know no dawning this side of heaven.



XXXIII

PLANTATION PREACHING—COLORED COMMUNICANTS—A “MIGHTY MAN IN PRAYER”


IN the group of midland counties that embraced Charlotte, Prince Edward
and Halifax—names that fell into line, as by natural gravitation, in
the thought and speech of the “Old Virginian”—the Presbyterian was the
leading denomination. Rice, Lacy, Hoge, Alexander, and Speece had left
their mark upon preceding generations, and a fragrant memory—as of
mountains of myrrh and hills of frankincense—through all the Southern
Church.

Five out of seven of the leading planters in the region were
Presbyterians. The others were, almost without exception,
Episcopalians, and the two denominations affiliated more cordially than
with Baptists, Methodists, and the sparse sprinkling of Campbellites,
or “Christians,” as they preferred to call their sect.

Slavery existed in Virginia in its mildest possible form, and
nowhere was the master’s rule more paternal than in the group of
counties I have named. The negroes were permitted to hold their
own prayer-meetings in their cabins whenever it pleased them; they
attended religious services as regularly as their owners, and, in a
majority of the old families, were called in to family worship with the
children of the household. No more convincing proof of their religious
freedom could be desired than the fact that the bulk of the colored
population belonged to the Baptist Church. Why, I could never make out.
The Methodists would seem likely to attract them with equal force,
their methods appealing to the emotional, excitable natures of the
semi-tropical race as strongly as those of the denomination that found
favor in their sight. Yet, when one of our servants “got through” the
spiritual conflicts that ushered in a state of grace, we expected him,
or her, to join the Baptist Church as confidently as we looked for the
child of the Covenant, “ordered in all things and sure,” to confirm,
when it arrived at “the age of discretion,” the vows taken by parents
and sponsors in baptism.

It was not singular, therefore, that the new pastor of the Village
Church at Charlotte Court-House should find, at his installation in
his cure of souls, the name of but one colored person upon the roll of
communicants. We never spoke of them as “negroes” in that benighted age.

“Uncle Cæsar,” the trusted “headman” upon the plantation of Colonel
Marshall—Mrs. Henry’s father—had once partaken of the Lord’s Supper in
the church in which his master was an elder. Which violation of the
laws of his denomination, being duly reported, was the occasion of a
case of discipline long talked of throughout the colored community.
The recusant was sharply reprimanded, and notified that a second
offence would be punished by ex-communication. The doughty old servitor
thereupon declared that, as he hoped to sit down to the supper of the
Lamb in heaven with his master, so he would continue to do on earth,
when the Lord’s table was spread in the Village Church. An example
was made of him for the edification of others, and Cæsar became a
Presbyterian, taking his seat among the communicants gathered in the
main body of the church, whenever a Communion season came around.

With a broad catholicity of spirit that appears, in perspective,
incompatible with the narrowness of creeds and ordinances prevalent,
even among the educated Christians of that time, the “plantation
preachings” held regularly during the summer at various homesteads
in those parts of the county near the churches, were attended by the
colored population in large numbers, irrespective of the sect to which
the officiating minister might belong. It was an established custom
in the Village Church that the second Sunday service should be, in
summer, at the house of some neighboring planter, and held for the
colored people, in particular. That the whites, within a radius of five
or six miles, drove over for the afternoon service, did not alter the
expressed purpose of the meeting, or the manner of conducting it.

Autumn was tardy in approach that year, and so it fell out that notice
was given on the second Sunday morning after my arrival at my new
abode, of “a plantation preaching to be held, at three o’clock, at the
residence of Mr. Richard I. Gaines, to which all are cordially invited.”

We had an early dinner in consequence of the service. Over the
dessert—the servants having been excused, that they might get ready
for the “preaching”—we talked more freely of their ideas and mode of
worship, than would have been kind in their presence. Among other
anecdotes I related one I had had from Ned Rhodes last summer, when he
had, as he reported, been “blackburying” on Sunday afternoon.

The cemetery of the colored people was then, as now, situated upon
high, rising ground, overlooking the ravine separating Shockoe Hill
from the adjacent country. Mr. Rhodes and a friend, in the course of a
Sunday afternoon walk, were drawn to the spot by the sight of a great
crowd of negroes and a string of mourning coaches.

When the two young men were near enough to the concourse to hear what
was going on, they were espied by the orator of the day, who instantly
soared into what his ilk admired as “dictionary English.” Upon the
heap of red clay beside the grave was a tiny coffin. The new-comers
agreed, in telling the story, that they had never beheld a smaller, and
that the size of the pitiful little casket, wrapped with flowers, by
contrast with the number of attendants upon the pompous service, set
the stamp of absurdity upon the whole performance before they caught
what the man was saying.

That this was in keeping with the rest, they speedily perceived. In
hortatory tones that thundered to the remotest auditor, he dilated upon
the uncertainty of life:

“... Even de distinguished lives of de two ‘lustr’ous strangers what
has honored us by comin’ among us dis blessed arternoon, to jine in our
mo’nin’. What is they? And what is we? And what is any man, bo’n o’
woman, my brethren? Up ter-day wid de hoppergrass, and down ter-morrow
wid de sparrergrass! Like de flower ob de corn-fiel’, so he spreads
hisself, like a tree planted by de horse-branch. Den de win’ rises and
de tempes’ blows, an’ beats upon dat man—and whar is he? An’ he shan’
know dat place o’ his’n, no mo’.”

Pausing in mid-career, he touched the pathetically ridiculous box with
a disdainful foot.

“As fur dis _t’ing_!” rising on his toes in the energy of his
contempt—“as fur dis ’ere _itum_—put de t’ing in de groun’! _It’s too
small fer to be argyin’ over!_”

Mr. Henry followed with a story of a darky, who prayed that “we might
grow up befo’ de Lord, like calves and beeves of de stall, and be made
_meat_ for de kingdom o’ heaven.”

Mrs. Henry had a tale of a man who prayed at a plantation-meeting
at Woodfork—Dr. Joel Watkins’s homestead—that Rev. John Rice, Mr.
Terhune’s immediate predecessor and a nephew of “Aunt Rice’s”
husband—“might soon cease from his labors, and his works, may dey
foller him!”

“After which performance,” she continued, “my uncle—his master—had a
private interview with him, and forbade him ever to pray in public
again.”

Then I heard that, within the two years’ incumbency of the present
pastor, ten colored members had been added to the Village Church, much
to the satisfaction of their owners. Among them, one Dabney and his
brother Chesley, or Chelsea (I am not sure which), were prominent in
all good words and works. Both could read and write, and both were
skilled carpenters, who had hired their time from their master, and
were working at their trade for themselves—respectable citizens in all
but the right of franchise. The pastor spoke seriously and gratefully
of their influence for good among their fellows, and of his hopes for
the class they represented.

“Dabney is especially gifted in prayer,” commented Mr. Henry, gravely.

I did not then comprehend why his eyes twinkled, and why the others
laughed. I was to know before the day was done.

The Gaines homestead was a fine old brick building, fronted by a broad
veranda (we said “porch” then, in true English fashion). A spacious
lawn stretched between the house and the gate. Under the trees shading
the turf were ranged long rows of benches, occupied, that Sunday
afternoon, by men and women from the Gaines plantation and from other
freeholdings for miles around. There may have been four hundred, all
told. A healthier, happier peasant class could not be found on either
side of the ocean. All were clean; all were well-dressed. The younger
women were gay with the discarded finery which was the perquisite of
house-servants, ladies’ maids in particular.

The porch and the windows of the drawing-room were filled with guests
of fairer complexion, but in demeanor and general behavior not a whit
more quietly reverent. The brief invocation, the reading of the
Scriptures, and the sermon were the duty of the presiding clergyman.
He stood at the head of the short flight of steps, facing the dusky
throng, and paying no more heed to the small audience behind him than
if it had not been. It was the “colored people’s” service. In the
selection of hymns the leader was guided by his knowledge of what would
be familiar to them. The first went with a swing and a rush, that shook
the branches above the singers’ heads, and brought down slow showers of
tinted leaves upon the grass.

It was a perfect afternoon. The fields were golden brown; no frost
had fallen to blacken or bleach them. Hickories were canopies of warm
amber; oaks were reddening, and the maples were aglow with autumnal
fires. The still air was nutty sweet.

The prayer, immediately preceding the sermon, was offered by an aged
farm-hand, upon whom the leader called to conduct our devotions.
His hair was pale chinchilla; his back was bent, and his thin voice
quavered sadly. All the same, he voiced the petitions of every heart
for strength, wisdom, and righteousness, briefly and pertinently. The
sermon over, Dabney was bidden to “lead us in prayer.”

I was more than curious to hear the “gifted” brother. I had, on
the drive out from the village, illustrations of his practice
of introducing pointed personalities into extempore blending of
supplication, confession, and adoration. How, the year before, when the
smallpox appeared in the lower end of the village, Doctor Flournoy, a
leading physician in the county, undertook the charge of the few cases
of the dreaded disease, quarantining himself from the homes of other
patients and acquaintances. In the cold weather, the second service of
the Sabbath was still for the negroes. But they occupied the lower part
of the church, and the whites sat in the gallery, reversing the order
of the morning services. There were few in the gallery when Doctor
Flournoy, peeping in at the door, thought it safe to slip into a seat
in the choir-loft, which was quite empty.

Dabney’s falcon eye had descried him, and when he arose to pray he
“improved” the incident:

“O Lord! we beseech Thee to bless and take care of the good doctor who
has _crope_ into the gallery up yonder, ’cause why, he’s afeerd he may
carry smallpox in his clo’es to some of us. Be a shield about that good
man whose heart so faints for the courts of the Lord that he jes’ can’t
keep away. See to it, O Shepherd of Thine Isrul! that he don’t ketch
the smallpox himself!”

With all this, I was so far unprepared for what was to follow the
uprising of the tall figure from the ranks of the believers, collected
in the heart of the congregation, that I shrank back, out of sight of
those who might have their eyes open and focussed upon me, in my seat
just within a front window.

For thus held forth the man mighty in prayer, when he had disposed
comfortably of the world at large and the brotherhood of saints in
especial:

“O Lord! have mercy upon the hardened and hell-defying, hell-desarvin’
sinners, in these ’ere low-groun’s of sin an’ sorrow, ’roun’ about
Charlotte Coate-House, from the rivers to the ends of the yearth.

“Bring ’em to mou’n as one mou’ns fer his first-born, and come a
flockin’ into the kingdom, as doves to their windows, from the rivers
to the ends of the yearth.

“Bless the master an’ mistis of this home, an’ pour out on ’em the
riches of the heavens above, and the earth beneath, and the waters
under the earth, from the rivers to the ends of the yearth.

“O Lord! in the plentifulness of Thy mercy, bless with all manner of
mercies the great and notable man of God, whom Thou hast placed over
us in speritual things. Bless him in his rising up, and goin’ about,
and among the sheep of his parstur’, from the rivers to the ends of the
yearth.

“Bless her who Thou hast given to him to be a pardner in the lan’ what
flows wid milk an’ honey, an’ in de was’ and desolate po’tions, whar no
water is, from the rivers to the ends of the yearth.

“May they two live together for many a long year, like two turtle-doves
in one nes’, with nary a jar between, from the rivers to the ends of
the yearth!”

“A powerful figure—that of the family jars!” said my companion, when
we had had our confidential laugh out, driving homeward between the
hedgerows of the plantation-road and the cool depths of forest-lands.
“And the only one he did not borrow from the Bible. He knows but one
book.”



XXXIV

    MY NOVITIATE AS A PRACTICAL HOUSEWIFE—MY COOK “GETS HER HAND
    OUT”—INCEPTION OF “COMMON SENSE IN THE HOUSEHOLD”


FIFTY years after it was written, I found among some family papers a
letter from my husband to his father, dated “February 20, 1857.” His
description of the cottage home in which we were now installed, as
master and mistress, reads like a pastoral. He was not addicted to
sentimental rhapsodies. If this were ever his style, he would have
curbed the disposition to effervesce, in writing to another man. But
the tone of the whole epistle is that of one thoroughly content with
his home and the management thereof.

One sentence brought deep gratification to me, blended oddly with
amusement and a tinge of melancholy:

    “Virginia is very well and very busy. I confess to some
    surprise at her skill in housewifery. She seems as much at
    home in the kitchen as in the drawing-room, to which she is
    summoned many times a day to receive visitors.”

Until I read that letter, I had not meant to devote so much as a
page—much less a chapter—to the crucial experiences of that novitiate
in domestic lore. Now, I feel it incumbent upon me, as a duty I owe to
the countrywomen I have tried to help along these lines, for forty-odd
years, to lift the veil from the homely, ill-appointed kitchen in which
I successfully deluded a quick-eyed, quick-witted man into believing I
was mistress of the situation.

In my father’s house I was considered to have a turn, if not a talent,
for housewifery. From childhood it was my delight to haunt the laundry,
where the finer branches of cookery were carried on when the washing
was out of the way. My mother was a very Mrs. Rundle in the excellence
of her preserves and pickles. Mary Anne, the comely Indo-mulatto,
was proficient in the composition of cakes, jellies, and pastries,
syllabubs and creams. She liked to have me “help” her, as she put it.
That is, I whipped eggs and beat butter and pounded spices, peeled
fruit, topped and tailed gooseberries, when I felt like it, and kept
her amused with my chatter.

At ten, I was trusted to carry the key-basket and to “give out”
ingredients required for the day’s cooking and serving. At fourteen,
I believed myself to be a clever cake-maker, and at sixteen, proudly
assumed the responsibility of putting up preserves and pickles for the
winter’s consumption, one summer, when my mother’s health obliged her
to leave town in the height of the fruit season. When she came home,
the stern old granddame, with whom I was rather a favorite (if she ever
indulged her buckram-clad spirit in the weakness of having a favorite),
informed her gentle daughter-in-law that “Mary”—as she persisted in
calling me—“had kept the house so well that we had hardly missed her
mother.”

It was not strange, therefore, that I took the helm of my newly
launched barque with faint and few misgivings as to my ability to
navigate the unknown seas that looked calm and bright from the shore.

Ours was a prosperous country parish, and liberal hospitality was
the law of daily living. The Henrys vacated the Parsonage a few days
before Christmas, and I went down to Richmond for a fortnight, to
complete the household plenishing we had begun during the honeymoon. My
sisters-in-law—with whom I was ever upon cordial terms—had lent advice
and co-operation in the selection of furniture at the North. My carpets
were bought in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where Judge Terhune was an
old and honored resident. My mother had seen to the outfit of household
linen. I smile now, in recollecting how care-free was my mood through
that happy Christmas fortnight, after the receipt of a letter from the
member of the firm who abode by the stuff for ten days of my holiday,
apprised me of the arrival of the furniture from New Brunswick and from
Richmond, likewise, that “Mrs. Eggleston and Mrs. Henry, with some
other ladies, kindly insist upon having the house cleaned, the carpets
made and put down, and the furniture settled in place while you are
away.”

The proceedings would astound me now that I know more of humankind,
and of parishes. Still more extraordinary would I consider the cool,
matter-of-course way in which I received the intelligence. It was the
Old Virginia atmosphere in that long-dead-and-buried time.

I did open my eyes, and break into ecstatic gratitude, when, on taking
formal possession of our real home, where we had expected to live
in picnic fashion upon the provisions we had laid away in baskets
and trunks before leaving Richmond, we beheld the table set in the
dining-room for supper, and fires alight in every room. Further search
revealed that the house was in perfect order, the curtains hung,
carpets down, and the larder stocked to overflowing with staples
and delicacies. The cook and chambermaid hired for the year—as was
the invariable custom of the “system”—were on hand, and John, the
man-of-all-work, had met us at the station. Not another human creature
was visible. For any evidence furnished to the contrary, by sight or
hearing, the “surprise” might have been the work of benevolent pixies.
My sister Alice—a girl of fourteen—would be an inmate of our house for
most of the time, and study with us as heretofore. She and I ran about
the house like two madcaps, after supper and until bedtime, calling out
excitedly at each fresh discovery.

Two barrels of flour and one of corn-meal; two of apples and one of
potatoes; a half-barrel of sugar, and other staple groceries, in divers
measures, made the foundation of the abundant supply for creature
wants. The upper shelves of the store-room were crowded with pickles,
preserves, and all manner of conserved fruits for which the Virginia
housewife was justly famed. Truly, the lines had fallen to us in
pleasant places.

Excitement was renewed next morning by the appearance at the outer
gate, and streaming down the walk, of a procession of colored men
and women, each laden with basket, or pail, or tray, or parcel. The
women bore their burdens on their heads, the men upon shoulders or in
their arms. All, like the Greeks of old, came bearing gifts, and of a
more perishable nature than those that loaded pantry and store-room
shelves. Honey, breads of all shapes and characters; cakes, butter, and
eggs; chickens, dressed for the table; sausage, spareribs, hams, and
shoulders; a roast of beef; custards and puddings and mince-pies—seemed
designed to victual a garrison rather than a family of three whites
and three servants. To crown the profusion and add to the variety,
the elegant young lawyer, Mr. Cardwell, who had figured in our bridal
train, drove up through the main street, in at our front gate, and
down to the Parsonage door, a cow and calf, to the unbounded delight
of the village urchins who flocked at his heels up to the gate. The
cow, “Old Blue,” as she was dubbed, because her color could not be more
accurately described, gave the richest milk I ever skimmed. I would
let no one else take care of it after one week’s experience had taught
me the necessity of giving my personal attention to each department
of housewifery, if I would not be cheated at every conceivable
opportunity.

Thus gayly began my training in a school from which I have not yet been
graduated.

My mother was a good housekeeper, and the wheels of her machine ran
in smooth ruts. She had old and competent servants. I doubt if she
had ever swept a room, or roasted a piece of meat, in her life.
The cook we had hired from a neighboring planter had excellent
recommendations. True, she had been one of the superfluous “hands”
who were hired out from year’s end to year’s end, and such were not
warranted as first-class workers. They were prone to become shiftless
and indifferent to their work, by reason of frequent changes. Still,
Emily was reputed to be a fair cook and laundress. Among the cuts of
fresh meat sent in by the friends, whose consistent generosity moved
me to the invention of the phrase “kitchenly-kindness,” was a noble
beefsteak. I ordered it to be cooked for breakfast the second day of
our incumbency.

Emily _fried_ it brown—almost to a crisp!

Five cook-books were in my just-unpacked library. Breakfast over, I
sought out Miss Leslie’s _Complete Cook-Book_, and read up on beefsteak.

Two more were sent in that day from country parishioners. Next
morning, I hied me surreptitiously to the kitchen before my husband or
sister was awake. I bore the steak upon a charger—_alias_, a crockery
platter. It had been under lock and key until then; otherwise, its
fair proportions would inevitably have been shorn. The honesty of the
hired hand was an axiomatic negligible quantity; and the most faithful
of family servants seldom resisted successfully the temptation to
appropriate to their own use an unlawful share of eatables. They were
a gluttonous race, and the tenet that “taking from marster wasn’t
stealing,” stood high in their creed.

I had told Emily overnight that I would show her how a steak should be
cooked, and she was more than ready for me.

I had never touched a bit of raw meat before, and the clamminess of
the gory cut sent “creeps” all over me. It was _very_ bloody to my
eyes, and I washed it well in cold water preparatory to laying it upon
the broad bottom of the frying-pan, heated and buttered, which, I had
learned from another of the five manuals, was “a passable substitute
for a gridiron if the young housekeeper had failed to provide herself
with this important utensil.” Emily had not found a gridiron in the box
of kitchen utensils unpacked before my arrival, and there was no time
to look it up. The steak, dripping wet, went into the broad pan set
over a bed of red coals. We cooked with wood in Old Virginia. It hissed
and spluttered and steamed like the escape-valve of a balky locomotive.
Miss Leslie said, “Turn it at the end of eight minutes.” The sodden
pallor of the exposed side did not look right to me, somehow.

“Oh!” quoth Emily, “you is gwine to stew it—is you?”

Pass we quickly over the abhorrent tale! The steak never attained unto
the “rich brown” which, according to my cook-book makers, it should
display when ready for table. I turned it four times, and, with a
vague idea that butter browned more readily than meat, I added a great
spoonful to the juices oozing from the steak. There was a great deal of
gravy in the dish when it was served, and my companions pronounced it
“extremely savory.”

“But you should not have gone out into the kitchen,” demurred my
husband. “Does not the cook understand her business?”

“Few of her class can do without teaching,” I rejoined, valiantly.

I had already made a resolve from which I never swerved: If my cook
did not understand her business, and I understood it even less, I
would not confess it. As time went on, I was to feel such test of
the heroic resolve as I had never anticipated. For, as the knowledge
of Emily’s ineptitude grew upon me, the conviction of my own crass
and comprehensive ignorance waxed into a haunting horror. I was as
unlearned as the babe unborn in everything that a practical housekeeper
should know. I could not make a batch of bread, or boil a potato, or
broil a chop, had my eternal welfare—or my husband’s happiness—depended
upon it. As for soup-making, roasting, stewing, and boiling meats,
frying and baking fish—the very commonest and coarsest rudiments of the
lore in which I was supposed to be proficient—I was as idiotically void
of comprehension as if I had never heard of a kitchen. How I maintained
a brazen show of competency is a mystery to me at this distance from
that awful trial-period. I studied my quintette of cook-books with
agonized earnestness. And when I was tolerably positive that I had
mastered a recipe, I “went and did it” with Squeersian philosophy.
How many failures were buried out of the sight of those who loved me
best, and were most constantly with me, would have shocked the frugal
housewife into hysterics. My mastery of this and of that process was
painfully slow, but it began to tell upon our daily fare. I got out the
gridiron, and learned to cook to perfection the steaks my husband’s
soul loved, and from my nonpareil of neighbors, Mrs. Eggleston, I got a
recipe for quick biscuits.

To the acquisition of that particular formula, and the conversation
that embedded the gift, I attribute a large measure of the success
which eventually rewarded the striving unto blood, that was my secret
martyrdom for half a year.

She was a “capable” housewife, according to Mrs. Stowe’s
characterization of the guild. She was, moreover, warm-hearted,
sensible, and sympathetically reminiscent of her own early struggles
with the housekeeping problem. When I took her into confidence as to my
distrust of my quintette of manuals, she laughed out so cheerily that I
felt the fog lift from my spirits.

“All written by old maids, or by women who never kept house,” she
declared. “To my certain knowledge, Miss Leslie has boarded in a
Philadelphia hotel for twenty years. I wouldn’t give a guinea a gross
for their books. Make your own! _I_ do! When I get a tiptop, practical
recipe—one that I have tried for myself and proved, I write it down
in my own every-day language; then I have met _that_ enemy, and it is
mine!”

We were in her house, and she brought out the manuscript book in which
her victories were recorded. Next, she offered to lend it to me.

“I don’t think,” she subjoined, tactfully, “that old-fashioned
housekeepers, like your mother and mine—yes, and my mother-in-law—take
the lively interest in learning new ways of doing things that _we_ do.
I am very proud of some discoveries and a few inventions that I have
written down there. Those quick biscuits, for instance, are my resource
when the bread doesn’t turn out just right. They never fail. And
speaking of bread, here is a sort of short-cut to excellence in that
direction. That is my composition, too. Take the book with you, and
copy anything you fancy.”

“Bread is Emily’s strong point,” I remarked, complacently, in accepting
the loan. “Nevertheless, I shall try your composition.”

The promise was fulfilled in a way I had not expected. I had been
keeping house now about four months, and was beginning to justify, in
some degree, the fond boast of the son to the father of my familiarity
with kitchen-craft, when Emily announced one morning, as I was “giving
out” for the day:

“Tain’ no use measurin’ out dat ar’ flour, Miss Virginny!” (The
old-time servant never said “Mrs.” to, or of anybody.) “I done got my
han’ out makin’ bread! I’d jes’ spile yer flour an’ things ef I was to
try to make a batch o’ bread.”

“What is the matter with your hands?” I looked at the members, brown
and brawny, and apparently uninjured.

She spread them out as a bat might his wings, and regarded them in
affectionate commiseration.

“As I tole you, I done got my han’ out for makin’ bread. Nobody
don’ know how-come a body’s han’ gits out for somethin’ or ’nother.
Sometimes, it’s fur bread, an’ then agin it’s fur cake, or maybe
cookin’ chickens, or the likes o’ that. Thar’s some as thinks it’s a
sort of bewitched, or conjurin’. Some says as how it’s the ole Satan
what takes his spite on us that ’ar way. I don’t know nothin’ bout how
that may be. I jes’ know that my han’ done got out for makin’ bread. I
been done feel it soon’s I got out o’ bade this mornin’.”

“And may I ask,” I interrupted, in freezing politeness that was utterly
wasted, “how long your hand is likely to stay out?”

She shook her head, sadly, imperturbably.

“Nobody can’ never say how long, Miss Virginny. Maybe six days, and
maybe two mont’s. Sis’ Phœbe” (fellow church-members were always
“Brother” and “Sister” even in every-day speech), “what b’long to Mars’
Wyatt Cardwell, she got her han’ out for two or three t’ings at oncet
las’ year, an’ sho’s you’re born an’ I’m standin’ here in this yere
blessed sto’-room, she ain’t got it in agin fur better’n six mont. I’s
certainly mighty sorry fur you an’ Mars’ Ed’ard, but the Lord’s will is
jes’ p’intedly got to be done.”

Constant to my vow of discretion in all things pertaining to domestic
tribulations, I said never a word to the other members of the smitten
household of what menaced them. The congestion was the more serious,
inasmuch as there was not a baker within twenty miles, and we baked
fresh bread and rolls every day. I was in poor physical case for
culinary enterprise, for one of the constitutional headaches which I
had inherited from both parents had warned me of its approach; I ought
to keep quiet and discourage the advance. Instead of which, I girded
up the loins of my spirit and concluded that there could hardly be a
more propitious opportunity for trying Mrs. Eggleston’s bread recipe.
Since a knowledge of practical bread-making was one of life’s stringent
necessities in this latitude, “better sune than syne.”

I set the sponge at noon, in pursuance of directions laid down so
explicitly that a novice with a headache that was by now a fixed fact,
could not err therein. I could not sit up to supper for the blinding
pain. Alice was taking that meal, and was to spend the evening with a
friend, and my husband had a business call in his study. No one would
be privy to the appeal I meditated making to my tyrant. I sent for her,
and ordered her to bring to my room the sponge I had left in a secluded
corner of the dining-room. When it came, I bade her bring kneading-tray
and flour. These set in order on the table, I called her attention to
the hopeful and enticing foaming condition of the sponge, and assured
her that no evil could befall the dough if she were to knead in the
flour and prepare the mass for the night’s working, there under my eyes.

She planted herself in the middle of the floor and surveyed me
mournfully—a sphinx done in chocolate.

“I suttinly is mighty sorry for you, Miss Virginny, an’ I’d do
anyt’ing what I _could_ do fur to help you out o’ you’ trouble. But
thar ain’t no manner o’ use in my layin’ my han’ to that ar’ dough. It
wouldn’t never rise, not ‘tell the jedgment-day. It would be temptin’
Providence, out and out. When a body’s han’ is out, it’s _out_ for good
and all! I done do my best to make you onderstan’ what’s happen’ to me,
an’ angels couldn’t do no mo’! Lord ’a’ mercy! what is you goin’ to
do?”

I had jumped up and belted in my dressing-gown, rushed to the
wash-stand, and washed my hands furiously. Without a syllable I tackled
the sponge, measured and worked in the flour, and fell to kneading
it in a blind rage. Pretty soon my strength flagged; the pain in my
temples and back of the eyes beat me faint. To get a better purchase on
the stiffened mass, I set the tray down on the floor and knelt over it.
That bread had to be made if I perished in the attempt.

The chocolate-colored sphinx surveyed me sorrowfully, without stirring
an inch from her place on the hearth-rug.

Neither of us heard the door open, softly and cautiously, lest the
noise might disturb my slumbers. Both of us started violently at the
voice that said:

“What is the meaning of this?”

I sat up on my knees and faced the speaker, essaying a miserable
imitation of a laugh.

“Emily has got her hand out in bread-making, and I am trying mine. This
is almost ready now.”

He walked across the floor and lifted me to my feet; laid me
incontinently upon the lounge, and confronted the cook.

“Take up that tray!” She obeyed dumbly. “Carry it out into the kitchen
and finish the bread. Yes! I mean it! Get your hand in before you are
a minute older, or I’ll know the reason why. And if the bread is not
good, I shall send you back to your master to-morrow morning, and tell
him I have no further use for you.”

He would have cut his hand off before he would have struck a woman, and
the creature knew it as well as I did, but she cowered before the blue
blaze of his eyes, as at a lightning flash.

His call stayed her on the threshold.

“Do you understand what I have said?”

The sphinx crumbled:

“Ya’as, suh!”

“You understand, too, that your hand is not to get out again?”

“Not ef I can holp it, Mars’ Ed’ard!”

“See that you _do_ help it!”

Then I held my head hard with both hands to keep the sutures from
flying asunder, and laughed until I cried.

From the stress and toils, the mortifications and bewilderment of that
year, grew into a settled purpose the longing to spare other women—as
ill-equipped as I was, when I entered upon my housewifely career—the
real anguish of my novitiate. The foundation of _Common Sense in
the Household_ was laid in the manuscript recipe-book begun at Mrs.
Eggleston’s instance. I had learned, to my bitter woe, that there was
no printed manual that would take the tyro by the hand and show her a
plain path between pitfalls and morasses. I learned, by degrees, to
regard housewifery as a profession that dignifies her who follows it,
and contributes, more than any other calling, to the mental, moral, and
spiritual sanity of the human race. I received my call to this ministry
in that cottage parsonage.

My departure from the beaten track of novel-writing, in which I had
achieved a moderate degree of success, was in direct opposition to the
advice of the friends to whom I mentioned the project. The publishers,
in whose hands my first cook-book has reached the million mark,
confessed frankly to me, after ten editions had sold in as many months,
that they accepted the work solely in the hope that I might give them
a novel at some subsequent period. Even my husband shook a doubtful
head over the wild scheme. It was the only book published by me that
had not his frank and hearty approval. Upheld by the rooted conviction
that I had been made, through my own shortcomings and battles, fit to
supply what American women lacked and needed sorely, I never debated or
doubted.

My husband found me “gloating” over a copy of _Common Sense_ the week
after it was published.

“I verily believe,” he said, wonderingly, “that you take more pride in
that book than in all the rest you have written.”

I answered, confidently, “It will do more good than all of them put
together.”

This was fifteen years after Emily’s hand got out, and I knelt on the
carpet in my bedroom to knead my trial batch of bread.



XXXV

THE STIRRED “NEST AMONG THE OAKS”—A CRUCIAL CRISIS


                        “CHARLOTTE C. H., _April 12th, 1857._

    “MY STILL-REMEMBERED FRIEND,—It is a raw, cloudy Sunday
    afternoon; Mr. Terhune is suffering somewhat from a cold,
    and is, moreover, fatigued by the labors of the day. I
    have persuaded him to take a siesta on the lounge. Even my
    birds are quiet under the drowsy influence of the weather,
    and only the fire and clock interrupt the stillness of my
    pleasant chamber....

    “I have been on the point several times of writing to you
    (despite your broken promise of last September), begging
    you to visit us during the summer. Need I say how happy we
    should be to see you in our _Home_?

    “It is a sweet word to my ear, a sweet place to my heart,
    for a happier was never granted to mortals. I do not say
    this as a matter of course. You should know me too well than
    to suppose that. It comes up freely—joyously—from a brimming
    heart. My only fear is lest my cup should be too full, for
    what more could I ask at the hands of the Giver of mercies?
    I have a dear little home, furnished in accordance with
    my own taste; delightful society, and an abundance of it;
    perfect health, having scarcely seen a sick day since my
    marriage—and the best husband that lives upon the globe....

    “This is a large and flourishing church, demanding much hard
    work on his part; but he is young and strong, and he loves
    his profession. We visit constantly together, and here end
    my out-of-door ‘pastoral duties.’ Within doors, my aim is
    to make home bright; to guard my husband from annoyance and
    intrusion during study-hours; to entertain him when he is
    weary, and to listen sympathizingly to all that interests
    him. I shall never be a model ‘minister’s wife.’ I knew that
    from the first, so I have never attempted to play the rôle.
    Fortunately, it is not expected, much less demanded.

    “We shall make a flying visit to Richmond in May. After
    that, we shall be at home, off and on, certainly until
    September. Our cottage parsonage—the ‘little nest among the
    oaks,’ as Alice calls it—is ever ready to receive you, and
    so are our hearts.

    “Were my other and very much better half awake, he would
    join me in love and good wishes, for I have taught him to
    know and to love you all.”

A year after my marriage, the friend of my childhood and the intimate
correspondent of my girl-life, was married to Rev. William Campbell,
the pastor of “Mount Carmel,” the pretty country church in which my
forebears and contemporaries had worshipped for generations, the church
for which my great-grandfather gave the land; in which he was the first
ordained elder, and in which my beloved “Cousin Joe” (“Uncle Archie”)
had succeeded him in the same office. In Mount Carmel I had taken my
first Communion, and here the new wife of the pastor was to be welcomed
into full fellowship with her husband’s flock in November. My husband
was invited by Mr. Campbell to take the service on that day, and I was
warmly pressed to accompany him.

                        “CHARLOTTE C. H., _November 8th, 1857._

    “MY OWN DEAR FRIEND,—A fact overlooked by Mr. Terhune and
    myself, occurred to me a little while ago—_viz._, that
    there is only a semi-weekly mail to Smithville. Therefore,
    to insure your reception of this in season at Montrose, it
    should go from this place to-morrow. It was Mr. Terhune’s
    intention to drop a line to Mr. Campbell to-night; but I
    have begged that I might write to you instead.

    “I have many and bright hopes for you. Hopes, not ‘as
    lovely as baseless,’ but founded upon a knowledge of your
    character and that of him whom God has given you as your
    other and stronger self. When I rejoiced in your union, it
    was with sincere and full delight. You have a mate worthy of
    you—one whom you love, and who loves you. What more does the
    woman’s heart crave? You have chosen wisely, and happiness,
    such as you have never known before, must follow.

    “Will you not come up and see us this winter? Nothing would
    give me more pleasure than to see you in our dear little
    home.

    “Mr. Terhune is very anxious that I should accompany him
    to Powhatan, but I dare not suffer my mind to dwell upon a
    project so charming. He cannot, all at once, get used to
    visiting without me, but in the crib, over in the corner,
    lies an insurmountable obstacle—tiny to view, but which may
    not be set aside.

    “I wish you could see my noble boy, who will be two months
    old to-morrow! He is very pretty, says the infallible
    ‘Everybody.’ To us, he is passing dear. Already he
    recognizes us and frolics by the half-hour with us,
    laughing and cooing—the sweetest music that ever sounded
    through our hearts and home. Nothing but the extreme
    inconvenience attendant upon travelling and visiting with so
    young a child, prevents me from accompanying the Reverend
    gentleman....

    “I have no advice to give you except that you shall be
    _yourself_, instead of following the kind suggestions of
    any Mrs. Grundy who has an ideal pattern of the ‘Minister’s
    Wife’ ready for you to copy. I am confident that you will be
    ‘helpmeet’ for the _man_, and since he will ask no more, his
    parish has no right to do it.

    “My warm regards to Mr. Campbell. When I see him I will
    congratulate him. You would not deliver the messages I would
    send to him. ‘Eddie’ sends a kiss to ‘Auntie Effie.’”

In folding, almost reverently, the time-dyed letter and laying
it beside the rest in the box at the bottom of which I found the
sallowed “P.P.C.” card, date of “September 2, 1856,” I feel as if I
were shutting the door and turning the key upon that far-away time;
bidding farewell to a state of society that seems, by contrast with
the complex interests of To-day, pastoral in simplicity. In reviewing
the setting and scenes of my early history, I am reading a quaint
chronicle, inhaling an atmosphere redolent of spices beloved of our
granddames, and foreign to their descendants.

It is not I who have told the story, but the girl from provinces that
are no more on earth than if they had never been. The Spirit of that
Past is the narrator. I sit with her by the open “chimney-piece,”
packed as far as arms can reach with blazing hickory logs; as she
talks, the imagery of a yet older day comes to my tongue. We knew our
Bibles “by heart” in both senses of the term, then, and believed in the
spiritual symbolism of that perfervid love-Canticle—the song of the
Royal Preacher. I find myself whispering certain musical phrases while
the tale goes on, and the story-teller’s face grows more rapt:

    “Thy lips drop as the honey-comb; honey and milk are under
    thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell
    of Lebanon;

    “Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates with pleasant
    fruits; camphire, with spikenard;

    “Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon.”

It is not a mystic love-chant, or a dreamy jargon, that I recite under
my breath. The sadly few (more sad and few with each year) who recall
with me the days that are no more—and forever—will feel what I cannot
put into words.

Soon after the dawn of the year 1858, we had news of the death of my
husband’s youngest sister, a bright, engaging matron, of whom I had
grown very fond in my visits to her New Jersey home. The happy wife of
a man who adored her, and the mother of a beautiful boy, she had but
one unfulfilled wish on earth. When a baby-girl was put into her arms,
she confessed this, and that now she could ask nothing more of heaven.
The coveted gift cost her her life.

In March, my dearest friend, Mary Ragland, paid a long-promised visit
to the “nest among the oaks.” She had not been strong all winter. She
was never robust. I brought her up from town, in joyous confidence that
the climate that had kept me well and vigorous would brace her up to
concert pitch. For a few weeks she seemed to justify that belief. Then
the languor and slow fever returned. She faded before our incredulous
eyes as a flower droops on the stem. She had no pain, and so slight
was the rise in temperature that made her thirsty by night, that we
would not have detected it had she not mentioned casually at breakfast
that she arose to get a drink of water, and chanced to see, through
the window, a lunar rainbow. This led to the discovery that she
always arose two or three times each night to quench her thirst. It
was characteristic that she saw the rainbow, and was eager to report
it next day. Beautiful things floated to her by some law of natural
attraction. She never took to her bed. To the last, she averred,
laughingly, that she was “only lazy and languid.” She “would be all
right very soon.”

As a sort of low delirium overtook her senses, her fantasies were all
of fair and lovely sights and sweet sounds. She asked me “where I
got the chain of pearls I was wearing, and why she had never seen it
before?” She exclaimed at the beauty of garlands of flowers wreathing
pictures and window-cornices, invisible to our eyes. Music—a passion of
her life—was a solace in the fearful restlessness of the dying hours.
She would have us sing to her—first one, then the other, for an hour at
a time—lying peacefully attent, with that unearthly radiance upon her
face that never left it until the coffin-lid shut it from our sight,
and joining in, when a favorite hymn was sung, with the rich contralto
which was her “part” in our family concerts.

“She is singing herself away,” said my husband, at twilight on the
ninth of May—my mother’s birthday.

At nine o’clock that evening the swan-song was hushed.

We carried her down to Richmond, the next day but one.

I have said elsewhere that it is not given to one to have two perfect,
all-satisfying, friendships this side of the Land that is all Love. She
had gladdened our cottage for little over a month. It was never quite
the same after she flew heavenward. Nor was my life.

To everybody else, it seemed that the “stirring” of the nest began
during the visit we paid to Northern friends that summer.

Our vacation was longer than usual. It could not be gay, for our
mourning garments expressed but inadequately the gloom from which our
spirits could not escape, with the memory of two bereavements fresh in
the minds of all.

It was during this sojourn with the relatives, whose adoption of me had
been frankly affectionate from the beginning of our association, that
I learned of the desire of my father-in-law to have his son removed
nearer to the rest of the family. The old Judge was proud and fond of
the boy, and Virginia was a long distance away from New York—to him,
and other loyal Middle Statesmen, as truly the Hub of Civilization as
Boston to the born Bostonian. Moreover, the Village Church at Charlotte
Court-House was a country charge, although eminently respectable in
character, and honorable in all things pertaining to church traditions.
Other men as young, and, in the father’s opinion, inferior in talent
and education, were called to city parishes. “It was not right for
Edward to bury himself in the backwoods until such time as he would be
too near the dead line, with respect to age, to hope for preferment.”

All this and more of the like purport fell upon unheeding ears,
when addressed to me. I had but one answer to make, after listening
respectfully to argument and appeal:

“I promised Edward, of my own free will and accord, before our
marriage, that I would never attempt to sway his judgment in anything
relating to his profession. Least of all, would I cast the weight of
what influence I might have into either scale, if he were called upon
to make a change of pastorate. He must do as he thinks best.”

More than one church had made overtures to the rising man, and his
kindred were hanging eagerly upon his decision. The initial “stir” had
been given. It was a positive relief when we turned our faces southward.

The nest was full that autumn. My husband’s widower brother-in-law,
crushed by his late bereavement, and compelled to resign the home
in which his wife had taken just pride; helpless, as only a man of
strictly domestic tastes can be in such circumstances, abandoned his
profession of the law, and resolved to study divinity. My brother
Herbert turned his back upon a promising business career, and made
the same resolution. Both men were rusty in Latin and Greek, and
neither knew anything of Hebrew. My husband—ever generous to a fault
in the expenditure of his own time and strength in the service of
others—rashly offered to “coach” them for a few months. I think they
believed him, when he represented that Latin was mere play to him, and
that an hour or two a day would be an advantage to him in refreshing
his recollection of other dead languages.

Alice and I bemoaned ourselves, in confidence and privily, over the
loss of the quietly-happy evenings when we sewed or crocheted, while
the third person of the trio read aloud, as few other men could
read—according to our notion. We grudged sharing the merry chats over
the little round table with those who were not quite _au fait_ to all
our _mots de famille_, and did not invariably sympathize with our
judgment of people and things. Mr. Frazee was one of the most genial of
men—_good_ through and through, and as kind of heart as he was engaging
in manner. My brother was a fine young fellow, and his sisters loved
him dearly. It was ungracious, ungenerous, and all the other “uns” in
the English language, to regret the former order of every-day life. We
berated ourselves soundly, at each of our secret conferences, and kept
on doing it. Home was still passing lovely, but the stirring went on.

Is everything—moral, spiritual, and physical—epidemic? I put the
question to myself when, less than a week after the arrival of an
invitation to become the leader of the Third Presbyterian Church in
Richmond, Virginia, and before a definite answer was returned, the mail
brought an important document, portentous with signatures and seals
official, requesting Rev. Edward Payson Terhune to assume the pastorate
of the First Reformed Church in Newark, New Jersey.

Here was a crucial test of my voluntary pledge never, by word, look,
or deed, to let my husband suspect the trend of my inclinations with
respect to any proposed change of clerical relations!

For, as I am at liberty now to confess, I wanted to go to Richmond
_horribly_! Family, friends, ties of early association, strengthened
by nearly fifteen years of residence at the formative period of life;
the solicitations of parents, brothers, sisters, and true and tried
intimates, who wrote to say how delighted they were at the prospect
of having me “back home”—tugged at my heartstrings until I needed
Spartan firmness of will and stoical reticence, to hold me fast to my
vow. Meanwhile, letters bearing Northern postmarks were fluttering
down upon the one whose must be, not the casting vote alone, but the
responsibility of the decision of what he felt was one of the most
momentous problems he was ever to face. Fortunately, neither of us
knew then the full gravity of the crisis.

Looking back from the top of the hill, I see so clearly the working out
of a benign and merciful design in what was then perplexity, puzzle,
and pain, that I cannot say whether humility or devout gratitude has
the ascendancy in my thoughts. Especially is this true when I reflect
that strength was vouchsafed to me to hold my peace, even from what I
conceived was “good,” when my husband brought both calls to me, after
four days of anxious deliberation, and bade me speak one word in favor
of, or against, either.

Side by side, they lay upon my table, and with them a paper upon which
he had set down, clearly and fairly, the pros and cons of each.

He read these aloud, slowly and emphatically, then looked up at me.

“I am in a sore strait! Can you help me?”

In my heart I thought I could, and that right speedily. With my tongue
I said: “No one has a right to say a word. It is a matter between God
and yourself.”

He took up the papers silently, and went to the study. And I prayed,
with strong crying and tears, that God would send us to Richmond.

An hour later he came back. The light of a settled purpose was in his
face. All he said was:

“I have decided to go to Newark. We will talk it over to-morrow
morning.”

He slept soundly that night, for the first time in a week. So did not
I!



XXXVI

MIGRATION NORTHWARD—ACCLIMATION—ALBERT EDWARD, PRINCE OF WALES, IN NEW
YORK—POLITICAL PORTENTS


ONE who had known my husband well for fifty years, wrote of him soon
after his translation: “More than any other man I ever knew, he had a
genius for friendship.”

This testimony is amply supported by the fact that he kept, to his
journey’s end, the friends whose loving confidence he gained during
the five years of his Charlotte pastorate. Those who loved him in his
youth loved him to the end—or so many of them as remained to see the
beautiful close of his long day.

We left our Parsonage home and the parish, which was our first love,
laden with proofs of the deep affection inspired by devoted service in
behalf of a united constituency, and the rare personal gifts of the man
who suffered, in the parting, a wrench as sharp as that which made the
separation a grief to each member of the flock he was leaving. It was a
just tribute to his integrity of purpose and conscientiousness that the
purity of his motives in deciding upon the step were never questioned.
Leading men in the church said openly that they could not have hoped to
keep him, after his talents and his ability to fill worthily a wider
field were recognized in the world outlying this section of the Great
Vineyard. They had foreseen that the parting must come, and that before
long. He was a growing man, and the sphere they offered was narrow.

It was in no spirit of Christian philosophy that I dismantled the nest
among the oaks, and packed my Lares and Penates with a fair show of
cheerfulness. Inly, I was in high revolt for a full week after the die
was cast. The final acceptance of the inevitable, and the steadfast
setting of my face Northward, ensued upon the persuasion that the one
and only thing for a sensible, God-fearing woman to do was to make the
very best of what no human power could avert.

It is a family saying, based upon the assertion of my eldest daughter,
that “if mother were set down in the middle of the Desert of Sahara,
and made to comprehend that she must spend the rest of her days there,
she would, within ten minutes, begin to expatiate upon the many
advantages of a dry climate as a residential region.”

By the time we stayed our flight in Richmond, where we spent our
Christmas, I took from the worn and harassed man of the hour the burden
of explanation and defence of the reasons for tearing ourselves up
by the roots and transplanting the tender vine into what some of our
best wishers called, “alien soil.” I had worked myself into an honest
defender of the Middle States in contradistinction to “Yankee land,”
before we departed, bag, baggage, and baby, for the new home.

Mr. Terhune had preached twice in Newark, in December, after formally
accepting the call. We removed to that city in February of 1859.

With the Saharan spirit in full flow, I met the welcoming “people”;
settled in the house we bought in a pleasant quarter of the
growing city—then claiming a population of less than seventy-five
thousand—installed white servants; received and returned calls, and
was, for the first time in my life, homesick at heart for three months.

In the recollection of the eighteen years that succeeded that period of
blind rebellion against the gentle leading which was, for us, wisdom
and loving-kindness throughout, I write down the confession in shame
and confusion of face, and abasement of soul.

I stay the course of the narrative at this point to record, devoutly
and gratefully, that never had pastor and pastor’s wife, in any section
of our land, a parish in which “pleasant places” did more richly
abound. I would write down, yet more emphatically and thankfully, the
amazing fact that, in the dozen-and-a-half years of my dwelling among
them, I never had a word of unkind criticism of myself and my ways; not
a remark that could wound or offend was ever addressed to me.

I wish I might have that last paragraph engraved in golden capitals and
set to the everlasting credit of that Ideal Parish! To this hour, I
turn instinctively in times of joy and of sorrow, as to members of the
true household of faith, to the comparatively small band of the once
large congregation who are left alive upon the earth.

For eighteen years I walked up the central aisle of the church, as
I might tread the halls and chambers of my father’s house in that
far Southern town, with the consciousness that we were surrounded by
an atmosphere of affectionate appreciation, at once comforting and
invigorating.

All this—and I understate, rather than exaggerate, the real state of
circumstance and feeling I am trying to depict—was the more surprising,
because I went to this people young, and with little experience as a
clergyman’s wife. In Charlotte, I had, as we have seen, done no “church
work.” I was petted and made much of, in consideration of my position
as the wife of the idolized pastor, and my newness to the duties of
country housekeeping and the nursery. In Newark, I was gradually to
discover that I could not shirk certain obligations connected with
parish and city charities. The logic of events—never the monitions of
friends and parishioners—opened my eyes to the truth. When, at length,
I took charge of a girls’ Bible Class, and, some years after, worked
up the Infant Class from tens to hundreds, there was much expression
of unfeigned gratification and eager rallying to my help, not an
intimation of relief that I “had, at last, seen my way clear to the
performance of what everybody else had expected of a minister’s wife.”

I have never had a higher compliment than was paid me by the
invitation, a dozen years back, to address the Alumni of Union
Theological Seminary in New York City upon the subject of “Ministers’
Wives.”

I took occasion, in the presence of that grave and reverend assembly of
distinguished theologues, to pay a brief tribute, as strong as words
could make it, to that Ideal Parish. I could not withhold it then. I
cannot keep it back now. I believe my experience in this regard to be
highly exceptional. More’s the pity and the shame!

Five children were born to us in those happy, busy years. Each was
adopted lovingly by the people, so far as prideful affection and
generous deeds implied adoption. We were all of one family.

Returning to the direct line of my narrative—the spring of 1860 found
us well, at work, and contented. I had good servants, kindly neighbors,
and a growing host of congenial acquaintances. Our proximity to New
York was an important factor in the lives of both of us, bringing us,
as it did, within easy reach of the best libraries and shops in the
country, and putting numberless means of entertainment and education at
our very door. There were two babies by now—healthy, happy, bright—in
every way thoroughly satisfactory specimens of infant humanity. In
the matter of children’s nurses, I have been extraordinarily blessed
among American women. In the twenty-one years separating the birth of
our elder boy from the day when the younger was released from nursery
government, I had but three of these indispensable comforts. Two
married after years of faithful service; the third retired upon an
invalid’s pension. All were Irish by birth. After much experience in,
and more observation of, the Domestic Service of these United States,
I incline to believe that, as a rule, we draw our best material from
Celtic emigrant stock.

So smoothly ran the sands of life that I recall but one striking
incident in the early part of 1860. That was the visit of the Prince of
Wales to this country. We witnessed the passage of the long procession
that received and escorted him up-town, to his quarters at the, then,
new and fashionable hostelry—the Fifth Avenue Hotel. My husband went
down to the Battery to see the princeling’s review of the regiments
drawn up in line before him, as he rode from end to end of the
parade-ground.

Joining us at the window, from which we had a splendid view of the
pageant, the critic, who was an accomplished horseman, reported
disdainfully that “the boy was exceedingly awkward. He had no seat to
speak of, leaning forward, until his weak chin was nearly on a line
with the horse’s ears, and sticking his feet out stiffly on each side.”

Our impression of the imperial youth was not more agreeable. He sat
back in the open coach, “hunched” together in an ungainly heap, looking
neither to the right nor the left, evincing no consciousness of the
existence of the shouting throngs that lined the pavements ten deep,
other than by raising, with the lifeless precision of a mechanical toy,
the cocked hat he wore as part of the uniform of a British colonel.

There was a big ball the next night, at which gowns of fabulous prices
were sported, and reported by the newspapers, and Albert Edward flitted
on to his mother’s dominions of Canada, leaving not a ripple in the
ocean of local and national happenings.

That ocean was stilling and darkening with the brooding of a
threatening storm. Newspapers bristled with portents and denunciations;
demagogues bellowed themselves hoarse in parks and from stumps;
torchlight processions displayed new and startling features.

“So much for so little!” sighed I, upon our return from a lookout
at the nearest corner, commanding long miles of marching men. “It
was ingenious and amusing; but what a deal of drilling those embryo
patriots must have gone through to do it so well! And for what? The
President will be elected, as other Presidents have been, and as maybe
a hundred others will be, and there the farce will end. Does it pay to
amuse themselves so very hard?”

“If we could be sure that it _would_ end there!” answered my husband,
with unexpected gravity. “The sky is red and lowering in the South.
Between politicians, and the freedom of the press to play with all
sorts of explosives, there is no telling what the rabble may do.”

I looked up, startled.

“You are not in earnest? The good Ship of State has been driving
straight on to the rocks ever since I can recollect, and she has not
struck yet. Think of the Clay and Polk campaign!”

“Child’s play compared with the fight that is on now!” was the curt
retort.

Something—I know not what—in his manner moved me to put a leading
question.

“Have you made up your mind how _you_ will vote?”

“Yes.”

“A month ago, you said you had not.”

“A good deal has happened in that month.”

It was not like him to be sententious with me, but I pushed the subject.

“I have never interfered with your political opinions, as you know,
and I don’t care to vote, myself; but if I had a vote, I should be in
no doubt where to cast it. Lovers of peace and concord should unite
upon Bell and Everett. That party seems to me to represent the sanest
element in this mammoth muddle.”

He smiled.

“To say nothing of your fondness for Mr. Everett. A charming gentleman,
I grant. But the helm of state is not to be in his hands. Even,
supposing”—grave again, and sighing slightly—“that they are strong
enough to hold it in a storm.”

There was a boding pause. Then I spoke, and unadvisedly:

“I ask no questions that I think you would not care to answer. But I
do hope you are not thinking of voting for Abraham Lincoln? Think of
him in the White House! Mr. Buchanan may be weak—and a Democrat. I
heard father say, as the one drop of comfort he could express from his
election: ‘At any rate, he is a gentleman by birth and breeding.’ Mr.
Lincoln is low-born, and has no pretensions to breeding.”

“Then, if I should be so far lost to the proprieties as to vote for
him, I would better not let either of you know.” And he glanced
teasingly at Alice, who had just entered the room.

“I could never respect you if you did!” she said, spiritedly. “I am
persuaded better things of you.”

A teasing rejoinder was all she got out of him. The matter was never
brought up again by any of us. When Election Day came, I was too proud
to seem inquisitive. But in my inmost soul I was assured that reticence
boded no good to my hope of one gallant gentleman’s vote for Bell and
Everett.

Months afterward, when we were once again of one mind with respect to
the nation’s peril and the nation’s need, he told me that he had kept
his own counsel, not only because the truth might grieve me, but that
party feeling ran so high in his church he thought it best not to
intimate to any one how he meant to vote.

“And, like Harry Percy’s wife, I could be trusted not to tell what I
did not know?” said I.

“You might have been catechised,” he admitted. “There are times when
the Know-nothing policy is the safest.”



XXXVII

THE PANIC OF ’61—A VIRGINIA VACATION—MUTTERINGS OF COMING STORM


BAYARD TAYLOR said to me once of a publishing house, “An honest firm,
but one that has an incorrigible habit of _failing_!”

The habit was epidemic in the first half of 1861. Among others who
caught the trick were my publishers. Like a thunderbolt came the
announcement, when I was expecting my February semi-annual remittance
of fat royalties: “We regret to inform you that we have been compelled
to succumb to the stringency of the times.”

The political heavens were black with storm-clouds, and, as was
inevitable then, and is now, the monetary market shut its jaws tightly
upon everything within reach. We could not reasonably have expected
immunity, but we had. We had never known the pinch of financial
“difficulties.” Prudent salaried men are the last to feel hard times,
if their wage is paid regularly. I had three books in the hands of the
“failing” firm. All were “good sellers,” and I had come to look upon
royalties as my husband regarded his salary, as a sure and certain
source of revenue.

We had other and what appeared to us graver anxieties. My sister Alice
had passed the winter with us, and the climate had told unhappily upon
her throat. My husband had not escaped injury from the pernicious
sea-fogs and the malarial marshes, over which the breath of the
Atlantic flowed in upon us. He had a bronchial cough that defied
medical treatment; and March, the worst month of the twelve for tender
throats and susceptible lungs, would soon be upon us. His physician,
a warm personal friend, ordered him South, and the church seconded
the advice by a formal grant of an out-of-season vacation. We did not
change our main plan in consequence of the disappointment as to funds.
Nor did we noise our loss abroad. Somehow, the truth leaked out. Not a
word of condolence was breathed to us. But on the afternoon of the day
but one before that set for our departure, the daughter of a neighborly
parishioner dropped in to leave a basket of flowers, and to say that
her father and mother “would like to call that evening, if we were
to be at home.” I answered that we should be glad to see them, and
notified my husband of the impending call. The expected couple appeared
at eight o’clock, and by nine the parlors were thronged with guests
who “dropped in, in passing, to say ‘Good-bye.’” None stayed late, and
before any took leave, there was the presentation of a parcel, through
the hands of Edgar Farmer, a member of the Consistory, who, in days to
come, was to be to my husband as David to Jonathan. He was young then,
and of a goodly presence, with bright, kind eyes and a happy gift of
speech. Neither Mr. Terhune nor I had any misgivings of what was in
prospect, when he was asked to step forward and face the spokesman
deputed to wish us _Bon voyage_ and recovery of health in our old home.
Mr. Farmer said this felicitously, and with genuine feeling. Then he
asked the pastor’s acceptance of a parcel “containing reading-matter
for the journey.”

The reading-matter was bank-bills, the amount of which made us open
our eyes wide when the company had dispersed and we undid the ribbons
binding the “literature.”

That was their way of doing things in the “Old First.” A way they never
lost. In a dozen-and-a-half years we should have become used to it, but
we never did. Each new manifestation of the esteem in which they held
their leader, and of the royally generous spirit that interfused the
whole church, as it might the body and soul of one man, remained to the
last a fresh and delicious surprise.

Ten days out of the six weeks of our vacation were spent in Charlotte.
Mr. Terhune’s successor was Rev. Henry C. Alexander, one of a family
of notable divines whose praise is in all the Presbyterian churches.
He was a bachelor, and the “nest among the oaks” was rented to an
acquaintance. I did not enter it then, or ever again. I even looked
the other way when we drove or walked past the gate and grove. To let
this weakness be seen would have been ungracious, in the face of the
hospitalities enlapping us during every hour of our stay. We dined with
one family, supped with another, spent the night and breakfasted with
a third, and there was ever a houseful of old friends to meet us. My
husband wrote to his father:

    “Swinging around the circle at a rate that would turn
    steadier heads. And talk of the fat of the land and groaning
    tables! These tables fairly _shriek_, and the fat flows like
    a river. Heaven send we may live through it! We _like_ it,
    all the same!”

And enjoyed every hour, albeit senses less agreeably preoccupied might
have detected the smell of gunpowder in the air.

I am often asked if we were not uneasy for the safety of the Union,
while in the thick of sectional wordy strife, and how it was possible
to enjoy visits when much of the talk must have jarred upon the
sensibilities of loyal lovers of that Union.

The truth is that I had been used to political wrangling from my youth
up. The fact that South Carolina and six other States had seceded
in name from the control of the Federal government; that, in every
county and “Cross-Roads” hamlet, from the Gulf of Mexico to Chesapeake
Bay, bands of volunteers were drilling daily and nightly, and that
cargoes of arms were arriving from the North and in distribution among
the enlisted militiamen; that the Southern papers sounded the tocsin
of war to the death, and “Death in the last ditch!” and “Down with
the Yankees!” with every red-hot issue; that a convention had been
solemnly summoned to meet in Richmond to decide upon the action of the
Old Dominion at the supreme moment of the nation’s destiny—weighed
marvellously little against the settled conviction, well-nigh sublime
in its fatuousness, that the right must prevail, and that such furious
folly must die ignominiously before the steadfast front maintained by
the Union men of the infected section.

To my apprehension, so much that we heard was sheer gasconade, amusing
for a time from its very unreason and illogical conclusions, and often
indicative of such blatant ignorance of the spirit and the resources of
the Federal government, that I failed to attach to it the importance
the magnitude of the mischief deserved to have.

I refused stubbornly to let the clear joy of my holiday be clouded by
the smoke from blank cartridges. So light was my spirit that I made
capital for fun of bombastic threats and gloomy predictions, touching
the stabling of Confederate cavalry in Faneuil Hall inside of three
months from the day of the inauguration of the “Springfield Ape” at
Washington. The Vice-President was a full-blooded negro, or, at the
least, a mulatto, I was assured over and over. Wasn’t his name damning
evidence of the disgraceful fact? What white man ever called his child
“Hannibal”?

I supplied other confirmation to one fiery orator:

“‘_Ham_-lin’ sounds suspicious, too. I wonder you have not thought of
the color that gives to your theory.”

The youth foamed at the mouth. He wore a Secession cockade on his
breast, and proved, to a demonstration, that any Southerner over
fourteen years old was equal, on the battle-field, to five Yankees. Why
not seven, I could never ascertain.

Such funny things were happening hourly, and such funnier things were
said every minute, that I was in what we used to call, when I was a
child, “a continual gale.”

Let one bit of nonsense illustrate the frivolity that, in the
retrospect, resembles the _pas seul_ of a child on the edge of a
reeking crater.

I was summoned to the drawing-room, one forenoon, to receive a call
from the son of an old friend who had promised his mother to look me
up, in passing through the city on his way to the “Republic of South
Carolina.” That was the letter-head of epistles received from the
Palmetto State.

In descending the stairs, I heard the scamper of small boots over the
floor of the square, central hall, and caught the flash of golden
curls through the arched doorway leading into the narrower passage at
the rear of the house. Knowing the infinite capacity of my son for
ingenious mischief, I stayed my progress to the parlor, and looked
about for some hint as to the nature of the present adventure. Sofa
and chairs were in place, as was the mahogany table at the far corner.
On this was a silver tray, and on the tray the pitcher of iced water,
which was a fixture the year through. Two tumblers flanked it on one
side, and my visitor had set on the other the sleekest tall silk hat
I had ever seen outside of a shop window. There was absolutely no
rational association of ideas between the iced water-pitcher and that
stunning specimen of head-gear. Yet I glanced into the depths of both.
One was half-full; the other was empty. Clutching the desecrated hat
wildly, I sped to the sitting-room. “Oh, mother, what is to be done?
Eddie has emptied the water-pitcher into William M.’s hat!”

Whereupon, that gentlest, yet finest, of disciplinarians, who would
have sent one of her own bairns to bed in the middle of the day,
for an offence one-tenth as flagrant, dropped her sewing on her lap
and went off into a speechless convulsion of laughter. A chuckle of
intense delight from behind her rocking-chair, and a glimpse of dancing
blue eyes under her elbow, put the finishing touches to a scene so
discreditable to grandmotherly ideas of domestic management, that the
family refused to believe the story told at the supper-table, when the
culprit was safe in his crib.

Leaving the dishonored “tile” to the merciful manipulations of the
laundress, who begged me to “keep the pore young gentleman a-talkin’
‘tell she could dry it at the fire,” I went to meet the unsuspecting
victim.

It was not difficult to keep him talking, when once he was launched
upon the topic paramount in the mind of what he denominated as “every
truly loyal and chivalrous Son of the South.” He had a plan of campaign
so well concerted and so thoroughly digested, that it could have but
one culmination.

“But why Faneuil Hall?” I demurred, plaintively. “You are the sixth man
who has informed me that your cavalry are to tie and feed their horses
there. Why not the City Hall in New York? There must be stable-room
short of Boston.”

He flushed brick-red.

“It is no laughing matter to us who have been ground down so long under
the iron heels of Yankee mud-sills!”

I found his mixed metaphors so diverting that I was near forgetting the
ruined head-piece, and the inexorable necessity of confession.

Sobering under the thought, I let him go on, lending but half an ear,
yet, in seeming, bowed by the weight of his discourse. Moved by my
mournful silence, he stopped midway.

“I beg your pardon if my feelings and patriotism have carried me too
far. I own that I am hot-headed—”

Another such chance would not come in a life-time. I broke his sentence
short.

“Oh, I am glad to know that! For my boy has filled your hat with iced
water!”

_Eheu!_ That night’s supper was the last merry meal the old home was to
know for many a long month and year. For, by breakfast-time next day,
the news had come of the bombardment of Fort Sumter, and men’s hearts
were hot within them, and women’s hearts were failing them for fear of
battle, murder, and sudden death to sons, husbands, and brothers.

One might have fancied that a visible pall hung over the city, so
universal and deep was the agony of suspense.

While the recollection of suspense and agony was fresh in my mind, I
wrote of the awful awakening from my fool’s paradise of incredulity and
levity:

“For two days, the air was thick with rumors of war and bloodshed. For
two days, the eyes and thoughts of the nation were fixed upon that
fire-girt Southern island, with its brave but feeble garrison—the
representative of that nation’s majesty—testifying, in the defiant boom
of every cannon’s answer to the rebel bombardment, that resistance to
armed treason is henceforward to be learned as one of the nation’s
laws. For two days, thousands and hundreds of thousands of loyal hearts
all over this broad land, cried mightily unto our country’s God to
avert this last and direst trial—the humiliation of our Flag by hands
that once helped to rear it in the sight of the world, as the ensign
of national faith. And under the whole expanse of heaven, there was no
answer to those prayers, except the reverberation of the cruel guns.

“On Saturday, April 14th, the End came!”



XXXVIII

THE FOURTEENTH OF APRIL, 1861, IN RICHMOND


WE had planned to leave Richmond for home on Tuesday afternoon. At noon
on Saturday, my husband asked me if I would not like to prolong my stay
with my relatives, adding significantly:

“We do not know how long it may be before you can get South again.
There is thunder in the air.”

I looked up from the letter I was writing to Newark:

“Thunder—alone—is harmless. I take no stock in gasconade that is only
thunder. And if trouble is coming, it is clear that our place is not
here.”

The letter-writing went on not uncheerfully. Far down in my soul was
the belief that a peaceful issue must be in store for the land beloved
of the Lord. Were we not brethren? When brought, face to face, with the
fact that brothers’ hands must be dipped in brothers’ blood, reaction
was inevitable.

So foolish was I, and ignorant of the excesses to which sectional fury
can carry individuals and nations.

I was in my room, getting ready for our last walk among scenes endeared
to us by thousands of associations, my husband standing by, hat in
hand, when a terrific report split the brooding air and rent the very
heavens. Another and another followed. We stood transfixed, without
motion or speech, until we counted, silently, seven.

It was the number of the seceding States! As if pandemonium had waited
for the seventh boom to die sullenly away among the hills, the pause
succeeding the echo was ended by an outburst of yells, cheers, and
screams that beggars description. The streets in our quiet quarter were
alive with men, women, and children. Fire-crackers, pistols, and guns
were discharged into the throbbing air.

“The fort has fallen!” broke in one breath from our lips. And
simultaneously: “The Lord have mercy upon the country!”

We ran down-stairs and into the street.

My sister “Mea” was upon the front porch, and the steps were thronged
by children and servants, wild with curiosity.

I have not mentioned that my sister had married, two years before, Mr.
John Miller, a Scotchman by birth. He was much liked and respected by
us all, and it spoke volumes for his breeding and the genuine good
feeling prevailing among us, that although he was the only “original
secessionist” in our household band, our cordial relations remained
unbroken in spite of the many political arguments we had had with him.

His wife was holding aloft her baby boy, a pretty year-old, in her
arms. A Secession cockade was pinned upon his breast; in his chubby
hand he flourished a rebel flag, and he laughed down into her radiant
face.

We feigned not to see them as we hurried past. But a gulf seemed to
open at my feet. As in a baleful dream, I comprehended, in the sick
whirl of conflicting sensations, what Rebellion, active and in arms,
would mean in hundreds of homes on both sides of the border.

“Is the world going mad?” muttered my husband, between his teeth, and I
knew that the same horror was present with him.

Secession flags blossomed in windows and from roofs; were waved from
doors and porches by girls and women; were shaken in mad exultation
by boys on the sidewalks; hung upon lamp-posts, and were stretched
from side to side of the street. It was like the magical upspringing
of baneful fungi. Where had they all come from? And at what infernal
behest had they leaped into being?

The living stream poured toward the Capitol Square, and it swept us
with it. The grounds were filled with a tumultuous crowd. Upon the
southern terrace was the park of artillery that had fired the salute
of seven guns. As we entered the upper gate a long procession of men
issued from the western door of the Capitol, and descended the steps.

“The convention has adjourned for the day,” remarked Mr. Terhune. We
were at the base of the Washington monument, and he drew me up on the
lower step of the base to avoid the press.

The delegates streamed by us in groups; some striding in excited
haste; talking gleefully, and gesticulating wildly. Others were grave
and slow, silent, or deep in low-toned conversation; others yet—and
these were marked men already—walked with bent heads, and faces set in
wordless sadness. One of these, recognizing Mr. Terhune, approached us,
and with a brief apology to me, drew him a few paces apart.

Three years before, I had seen the ceremonies by which this
monument—Crawford’s finest work in marble—was uncovered and dedicated.
On the next day, Mr. Everett had repeated his oration on Washington in
the Richmond theatre. The silver-tongued orator had joined hands, then
and there, with Tyler, Wise, and Yancey, in proclaiming the unity of
the nation. General Scott had sat in the centre of the stage, like a
hoary keystone in the semi-circle of honorable men and counsellors.

Was it all a farce, even then, this talk of brotherhood and patriotism?
And of what avail were wisdom and diplomacy and the multitude of
counsels, if this were to be the end?

I was saying it to myself in disgustful bewilderment, when the crowd
cheered itself mad over a fresh demonstration of popular passion. The
rebel flag had been run up from the peak of the Capitol roof!

My husband came back to me instantly. He was pale, and the lines of his
mouth were tense.

“Let us get out of this!” he said. “I cannot breathe!”

On the way to Gamble’s Hill—a long-loved walk with us—I heard how
Sumter had fallen. We were not hopeless, yet, as to the final outcome
of the tragical complication that had turned the heads of the populace.
The outrage offered the Flag of our common country must open the eyes
of true men, and all who had one spark of patriotism left in their
souls. We could have no longer any doubt as to the real animus of
the Rebellion. One thing was certain: To-day’s work would decide the
question for Virginia. She could not hang back now.

Thus reasoning, we took our last look of the lovely panorama of river,
islets, and hills; of the city of the dead—beautiful in wooded heights
and streams and peaceful valleys, on our right—while on the left was
the city of the living, noble and fair, and, in the distance, now as
silent as Hollywood.

My companion lifted his arm abruptly and pointed northward.

A long, low line of cloud hung on the horizon—dun, with brassy
edges—sullen and dense, save where a rainbow, vivid with emerald,
rose-color, and gold, spanned the murky vapor.

“Fair weather cometh out of the North,” uttered the resolute optimist.
“With the Lord is terrible majesty. After all, He is omnipotent. We
will hope on!”

We were measurably cheered on our way back to the heart of the city by
the sight of the Flag of Virginia flying serenely from the staff where
had flaunted the Stars and Bars, an hour ago. At supper, my father
related with gusto how a deputation of Secessionists had waited on
the Governor to offer congratulations upon the Confederate victory.
How he had received them but sourly, being, as the deputation should
have known, an “inveterate Unionist.” When felicitated upon the result
of the siege, he returned that he “did not consider it a matter for
any compliments.” At that instant he caught sight of the flag hoisted
to the roof of the Capitol, demanded by whose order it was done, and
straightway commanded it to be hauled down and the State flag, usually
sported when the Legislature was in session, to be run up in its stead.

“Governor Letcher has a rough tongue when he chooses to use it,”
commented my father. “He is honest, through and through.”

The talk of the evening could run in but one channel. Our nerves were
keyed up to the highest tension, and the day’s events had gone deep
into mind and heart. Two or three visitors dropped in, and both sides
of the Great Controversy were brought forward, temperately, but with
force born of conviction. If I go somewhat into the details of the
conversation, it is because I would make clear the truth that each
party in the struggle we feared might be imminent, believed honestly
that justice and right were at the foundation of his faith. I wrote
down the substance of the memorable discussion, as I recorded and
published other incidents of the ever-to-be-remembered era, while the
history of it was still in the making. I am, then, sure that I give the
story correctly.

John Miller opened the ball by “hoping that the North was now convinced
that the South was in earnest in maintaining her rights.”

I liked my Scotch brother-in-law, and we bandied jests safely and
often. But it irked me that we should have a Secessionist in a loyal
family, and I retorted flippantly, lest I should betray the underlying
feeling:

“There has been no madness equal to Secession since the swine ran
violently down a steep place into the sea. The choking in the waves
will come later.”

“Let wise men stand from under!” he retorted, smiling good-humoredly.
“As to the choking, that may not be such an easy job as you think.”

A visitor took up the word, and seriously:

“The dissatisfaction of the South is no new thing. It is as old as the
Constitution itself. John Randolph said of it: ‘I saw what Washington
did not see. Two other men in Virginia saw it—the _poison under its
wings_.’ Grayson, another far-sighted statesman, prophesied just what
has come to pass. He said of the consolidation policy taught in the
Constitution: ‘It will, in operation, be found unequal, grievous,
and oppressive.’ He foresaw that the manufacturer of the North would
dominate the agriculturist of the South; that there would be burdensome
taxation without adequate representation; in short, that there would
be numberless encroachments of the North upon the prerogatives of the
Southern slaveholder.”

“He said nothing of the manifest injustice in a republic, of the
election of a candidate by the votes of a petty faction, dominant for
the time, because the other party split and ran several men?”

This was said by a young man who had not spoken until then.

My father replied: “Suppose Breckenridge had been elected? Would that
have been the triumph of a faction?”

“Circumstances alter cases,” said my brother Horace, dryly.

Everybody laughed, except the man who had quoted Grayson and Randolph.

“It is not easy for the Mother of Presidents to submit to the rule
of those whom, as Job says, they would have scorned to put with their
cattle,” he said, with temper.

I saw the blue fire in my husband’s eyes before he spoke; but his voice
was even and full; every sentence was studiedly calm.

“For more than seventy years, the South has prospered under the
Constitution, which, according to the renowned authorities cited just
now, had poison under its wings. Hers have been the chief places in
our national councils, and the most lucrative offices in the gift of
the government. It is her boast, if we are to believe what this one
of your leading papers says”—unfolding and reading from the editorial
page—“that ‘since the organization of the Union, she has held the
balance of power—_as it is her right to do_—her citizens being
socially, morally, and intellectually, superior to those of the North.’”

My father filliped his cigar ash into the fire.

“Now you are improvising?”

“Not a word! Our editor goes on to say further: ‘Our whilom servants
have lately strangely forgotten their places. They now aspire to an
equal share in the administration of the government. They have presumed
to elect from their own ranks an illiterate, base-born, sectional
tool, whom they rely upon to do their foul work of subverting our
sovereignty. It is high time the real masters awoke from their fatal
lethargy, and forced their insubordinate hinds to stand once more, cap
in hand, at their behest.’”

The stump of my father’s cigar followed the ash.

“Come, come, my dear boy! it isn’t fair to take the ravings of one fool
as the sentiment of the section in which that stuff is printed. I could
quote talk, as intemperate and incendiary, from your Northern papers.
You wouldn’t have us suppose that you and other sane voters indorse
them?”

“I grant what you say, sir. And, as I long ago affirmed, the shortest
and best way to put out the fire that threatens the integrity of the
government, would be to muzzle every political ranter in the country,
and suppress every newspaper for six months. The conflagration would
die for want of fuel.”

My mother interposed here:

“Good people, don’t you think there is ‘somewhat too much of this’? I,
for one, refuse to believe that anything but smoke will come of the
alarm that is frightening weak brothers out of their wits. The good
Ship of State will ‘sail on, strong and great,’ when our children’s
children are in their graves.”

She changed the current of talk, but not of thought. After the rest
had gone, there lingered a young fellow whose case was so striking an
example of a host of others, who were forced into the forefront of the
battle, that I take leave to relate it.

He still lives, an honored citizen of the State he loved as a son
loves the mother who bore and nursed him. Therefore I shall not use
his real name. Eric S., as I shall call him, was an intimate friend of
my brother Herbert, and as much at home in our house as if he were,
in very deed, one of the blood and name. He had visited us in Newark,
and made warm friends there, during the past year. Mr. Terhune had had
long and serious consultations with him since we came to Virginia,
and, within a few days, as the war-cloud took form, had urged him to
accompany us to New Jersey, or, at least, to promise to come to us
should hostilities actually begin between the two sections. The lad
(scarcely twenty-one) was an ardent Unionist, and, although a member
of a crack volunteer company in Richmond, had declared to us that
nothing would ever induce him to bear arms under the Rebel government.
Mea and her spouse went up-stairs early, and the rest of us were in
hearty sympathy with our guest. He had not taken an active share in
the discussion, and his distrait manner and sober face prepared us, in
part, for the disclosure that followed the departure of the others.

He had been credibly and confidentially informed that a mighty pressure
would be brought to bear upon the convention, at their next sitting, to
force the Ordinance of Secession. If it were carried, by fair means or
foul, every man who could bear arms would be called into the field.

While he talked, the boy stood against the mantel—erect, lithe, and
handsome—the typical mother’s and sister’s darling, yet manly in every
look and lineament. The thought tore through my imagination while I
looked at him:

“And it is material like _this_ that will go to feed the maw of
War!—such flesh and blood as his that will be mangled by bullet and
shell!”

I had never had the ghastly reality brought so near to me until that
moment.

“Oh-h!” I shuddered. “You won’t stay to be shot at like a mad dog!”

The first bright smile that had lighted his face was on it. “It isn’t
being shot at that I am thinking of.” The gleam faded suddenly. “I
don’t think I am a coward. It doesn’t run in the blood. But”—flinging
out his arm with a passionate gesture that said more than his words—“I
think _that_ would be paralyzed if I were to lift it against the dear
old flag!”

Before he left it was agreed privately, between him and my husband,
that he would try his fortune on the other side of Mason and Dixon’s
line, should the axe fall that would sever Virginia from the Union her
sons had been mainly instrumental in creating.

Sunday came and went. Such a strange, sad Sunday as it was! with the
marked omission, in every pulpit, of the prayer for the President of
the United States and others in authority; with scanty congregations
in the churches, and growing throngs of excited talkers at the street
corners, and knots of dark-browed men in hotel lobbies, and the porches
of private houses.

In the length and breadth of the town but one Union flag was visible.
Nicholas Mills, a wealthy citizen of high character and fearless
temper, defied public opinion and risked popular wrath, by keeping a
superb flag flying at the head of a tall staff in his garden on Leigh
Street. We went out of our way, in returning from afternoon service, to
refresh eyes and spirits with the sight.

On Monday, the mutterings of rebellion waxed into a roar of angry
revolt over the published proclamation of the President, calling for an
army of seventy-five thousand men to quell the insurrection. The quota
from Virginia was, I think, five thousand.

“A fatal blunder!” said my father, in stern disapproval.

My husband’s answer was prompt:

“To omit her name from the roll would be an accusation of disloyalty.”

The senior shook his head.

“It may have been a choice of evils. I hope he has chosen the less! But
I doubt it! I doubt it!”

So might Eli have looked and spoken when his heart trembled for the ark
of the Lord.

That afternoon, the flagstaff in the Mills garden was empty. The Stars
and Stripes were banned as an unholy ensign.

Eric S. paid us a flying visit that evening. His parents urged his
going. The father was especially anxious that he should not risk
the probability of impressment, and, should he refuse to serve,
of imprisonment. Already Union men were regarded with suspicion.
The exodus of the disaffected could not be long delayed. He had
influential family connections at the North who would see to it that
he found occupation. When we parted that night, it was with a definite
understanding that he would be our travelling companion.

Tuesday noon, he appeared, haggard and well-nigh desperate. Going, like
the honorable gentleman he was, to the Colonel of his regiment early
in the day, to tender his resignation and declare his intentions, he
was stricken by the news that the State had seceded in secret session
Monday night.

Whereupon the Colonel had offered the services of his regiment to the
authorities of the Confederate States. They were accepted.

“You are now in the Confederate army,” added the superior officer,
“and, from present indications, we will not be idle long.”

“But,” stammered the stunned subaltern, “I am going North this very
afternoon with friends, and I shall not consent to serve.”

“If you attempt to leave, you will be reckoned as a deserter from the
regular army, and dealt with accordingly.”

I do not attempt to estimate what proportion of men, who would have
remained loyal to flag and government if they could, were coerced, or
cajoled, into bearing arms under a government they abhorred. I tell the
plain facts in the instance before me.

Eric S. fought in fifteen general engagements, and came out with his
life when the cruel war was over. He told with deep satisfaction, in
after-years, that he had never worn the Confederate uniform, but always
that of his own regiment.

It is easy for us to prate, at this distance from those times of trial
to brave men’s souls, of the high and sacred duty of living and, if
need be, of dying for the right. From our standpoint, it is as clear
as the noonday sun, that allegiance to the general government should
outrank allegiance to the State in which one has chanced to be born and
to live. We have had an awful object-lesson in the study of that creed
since the day when the Virginian, who saw his native State invaded,
believed that he had no alternative but to “strike for his altars and
his fires.”

Upon the gallant fellows who, seeing this, and no further, risked their
lives unto the death, fell the penalty of the demagogues’ sin.

_We_ may surely lay the blame where it belongs.



XXXIX

“THE LAST THROUGH TRAIN FOR FOUR YEARS”


I COPY in substance, and sometimes verbatim, the account written in
1861, and published later, of our journey northward in the last train
that went through to Washington before the outbreak of hostilities.

I preface the narrative by saying that, by the merciful provision of
the Divine Father, Who will not try us beyond our strength, we, one
and all, kept up to our own hearts the sanguine incredulity in the
possibility of the worst coming to pass, which was characteristic of
Union lovers at the South, up to the battle of Manassas.

After that, the scales fell from all eyes. Had not my mother hoped
confidently that the war-cloud would blow over, and that, before long,
she would not have allowed Alice to go back to Newark with us? My place
was with my husband, but this young daughter she had the right to keep
with her.

Had I not hoped for a peaceful solution of the national problem, if
only through the awakening of the fraternal love of those whose fathers
had fought, shoulder to shoulder, to wrest their country from a common
oppressor, I could not have said “Good-bye” smilingly to home and
kindred. When I said to my mother: “We shall have you with us at the
seashore, this summer,” it was not in bravado, to cheat her into belief
in my cheerfulness.

Our party of Mr. Terhune, Alice, our boy and baby Christine, with their
nurse and myself, was comfortably bestowed in the train that was to
meet the boat at Acquia Creek. Luggage and luncheon were looked after
as sedulously as if there were no superior interest in our minds. The
very commonplaceness of the details of getting ready and sending us
off, exactly as had been done, time and time again, were in themselves
heartening. What had been, would be. To-morrow should be as to-day.

When we and our appurtenances were comfortably bestowed in the ladies’
car (there were no parlor cars or sleepers, as yet), I had leisure to
note what was passing without. The scene should be that which always
attends the departure of a passenger train from a provincial city. Yet
I felt, at once, that there was a difference.

I noticed, and not without an undefined sense of uneasiness, the
unusual number of strollers that lounged up and down the sidewalks,
and loitered about the train, and that some of these were evidently
listening to the guarded subtones to which the voices of all—even the
rudest of the loungers—were modulated. With this shade of uneasiness
there stole upon me a strange, indescribable sense of the unreality of
all that I saw and heard. The familiar streets and houses were seen,
as through the bewildering vapors of a dream; men and women glided by
like phantoms, and there was a shimmer of red-and-orange light in the
air—the reflection of the glowing west—that was vague and dazing, not
dazzling.

The train slid away from the station. My father and my brother Horace
lifted their hats to us from the pavement; we held the children up to
the open window to kiss their hands to them; I leaned forward for one
last, fond look into the dear eyes, and our journey had begun.

Not a word was exchanged between the members of our party, while we
rumbled slowly up Broad Street toward the open country.

I was unaccountably indisposed to talk, and this feeling seemed to
pervade the company of passengers. The dreamy haze enveloped me again.
The car was very full and very quiet. The languorous hues of the west
swooned into twilight, and here and there a star peeped through the
gray veil of the sky.

We had cleared the city limits, and the blending of daylight and the
falling darkness were most confusing to the eye, when I became aware
that the train was slowing up where there was no sign of a switch or
“turn-out.” If it actually halted, it was but for a second, just long
enough to enable two men, standing close to the track, to board the
train. They entered our car, and my husband pressed my arm as they
passed down the aisle to seats diagonally opposite to us.

Under cover of the rattle and roar of the speeding train, he told me
presently—after cautioning me not to glance in their direction—that
they were Messrs. Carlisle and Dent—well known to visitors to the
convention as most prominent among the leaders of the Union party.

On through the gathering gloom rolled the ponderous train—the only
moving thing abroad, on that enchanted night. Within it there was
none of the hum of social intercourse one might have expected in the
circumstances. Adult passengers were not drowsy, for every figure was
upright, and the few faces, dimly visible in the low light of the lamps
overhead, were wakeful—one might have imagined, watchful. I learned
subsequently that the insufficient light was purposely contrived by
conductor and brakemen, and why. But for the touch of my husband’s
hand, laid in sympathy or reassurance upon mine, and the sight of my
babies, sleeping peacefully—one in the nurse’s arms, the other on
the seat beside her, his head in her lap—I might have believed the
weird light within, the darkness without, and the motionless shapes
and saddened faces about me, accessories to the fantasy that gained
steadily upon me.

The spell was broken rudely—terribly—at Fredericksburg. We steamed
right into the heart of a crowd, assembled to await the arrival of
the train, which halted there for wood and water. It was a tumultuous
throng, and evidently drawn thither with a purpose understood by all.
The babel of queries and exclamations smote the breezeless night-air
like a hail-storm. It was apparent that the railway officials returned
curt and unsatisfactory replies, for the noise gathered volume, and
uncomplimentary expletives flew freely. All at once, a rush was made
in the direction of the ladies’ car. Eager and angry visages, dusky in
shadow, or ruddied by torch-light, were pressed against closed windows,
and thrust impudently into the few that were open.

“Three cheers for the Southern Confederacy!” yelled stentorian tones.

Three-times-three roars of triumph deafened us.

“Three cheers for Jefferson Davis—the savior of Southern liberties!”
shouted the fugleman.

Again a burst of frenzied acclamation that made the windows rattle.

I could see the leader of the riot—a big fellow who stood close to our
window. He was bareheaded, and he rested one hand on the side of the
car, swinging his hat with the other, far above his head.

“Three groans for Carlisle!”

Nothing else that has ever pained my ears has given me the impression
of brute ferocity that stopped the beating of my heart for one awful
moment.

From the mob went up a responsive bellow of execration and derision.

“All aboard!” shouted conductor and trainmen.

The hoarse call and the shriek of the engine were welcome music to the
travellers.

My husband’s eyes met mine.

“What Eric S. told us was then true,” he said, without forming the
words with his lips. “Virginia has joined her sisters. And the people
have got hold of the news. Are they blind, not to see that their State
will be the battle-ground, if war should be declared?”

How dearly and for how long she was to pay for her blindness, let the
history of the next four years say!

Leaving the boat at Washington, we were conveyed by stages across
the city to the Baltimore station. It was two o’clock in the spring
morning, when we passed the Capitol. It was lighted from basement to
roof, but, to passers-by, as still as a tomb. Nothing had brought
home to us the fact and the imminence of the peril to our national
existence, as did the sight of that lighted pile. For, as we had been
informed, it was filled with armed men, on guard against surprise or
open attack. On the train, we heard how troops had been hurried from
all quarters of the still loyal States into Washington. The war was on!

Full appreciation of what the Great Awakening was, and what it
portended, came to us in Philadelphia. I had not known there was so
much bunting on this side of the Atlantic as fluttered in the breeze
in the city of staid homes and brotherly loves. It was a veritable
bourgeoning of patriotism. From church-spires; from shop-windows;
from stately dwellings, and from the lowliest house in the meanest
street—they

    “All uttered forth a glorious voice.”

Successful rebellion seemed an impossibility in the face of the
demonstration.

Every village, town, and farm-house along the route proclaimed the same
thing. So convinced were we that the mere knowledge of the strength
and unity of the North, East, and West would carry conviction to the
minds of the led, and strike terror to the hearts of the leaders in the
gigantic Treason, that we rallied marvellously the spirits which had
flagged last night.

The train ran into Newark at eight o’clock that evening. By the time
it stopped, we had a glimpse of familiar and anxious faces. We stepped
off into the arms of four of our parishioners, all on the alert for the
first sight of the man of their hour. They received us as they might
welcome friends rescued from great and sore perils.

Carriage and baggage-wagon were waiting. We were tucked into our seats
tenderly, and with what would have been exaggerated solicitude in men
less single of heart and motive.

“But you knew that we would surely come back?” I said to Mr. Farmer, at
the third repetition of his—“Thank Heaven you are here!”

The quartette of heads wagged gravely.

“We knew you would, if you could get here. But there is no telling what
may not happen in these times.”

Their thanksgivings were echoed by ourselves, when, that very week, a
Massachusetts regiment, _en route_ for Washington, was assailed by a
Baltimore mob, several killed and more wounded, and the railway tracks
torn up, to prevent the progress of troops to the national capital.

We laughed a little, and were much moved to see a handsome flag
projecting from a second-story window of our house, as we alighted at
the door. It was a mute token of confidence in our loyalty. Smiles
and softness chased each other when the proud cook, left in charge
during our absence, related how the “beautiful supper,” smoking hot,
and redolent of all manner of appetizing viands, was the gift of two
neighbors, and that pantry and larder were “just packed full” of
useful and dainty edibles, sent and brought by ladies who had forbidden
her to tell their names.

Thus began the four years of separation from my early home and those
who had hallowed it for all time. That eventful journey was the
dividing line between the Old Time and the New. With it, also dawned
apprehension of the gracious dealings of the All-wise and All-merciful
with us—His ignorant, and ofttimes captious, children. It would have
been impossible for my husband, with his staunch principles of fidelity
to the government, and uncompromising adherence to what he believed
to be the right in the lamentable sectional strife, to remain in the
seceding State. Dearly as he loved Virginia—and romantic and tender as
was his attachment to the brave old days that were to him the poetry
of domestic and social life—he must have severed his connection with a
parish in which he would have been accounted a “suspect.” Before the
storm broke, we were gently lifted out of the “nest among the oaks”
and established, as tenderly, in the “pleasant places” the Father—not
we—had chosen.



XL

DOMESTIC SORROWS AND NATIONAL STORM AND STRESS—FRIENDS, TRIED AND TRUE


WE were to need all the fulness of consolation that could be expressed
from divine grace and human friendships, in the years immediately
succeeding the events recorded in the last chapter.

The Muse of American History has set a bloody and fire-blackened cross
against 1861. To us, it was darkened, through three-quarters of its
weary length, by the shadows of graves. One death after another among
the friends to whom we clung the more gratefully, because of the
gulf—fast filling with blood—that parted us from kindred and early
companions, followed our home-coming. In the last week of August, my
husband recorded, in his pastor’s notebook, that he had stood, in
fourteen weeks, at the open graves of as many parishioners, among them
some who had been most forward in welcoming him to his new field, and
most faithful in their support of him in it.

“It is literally walking in the valley of the shadow of death!” he
sighed, closing the melancholy pages. “I ask myself tremblingly, after
each funeral—Who next?”

At noon on September second—the fifth anniversary of our
wedding-day—our boy came home from a drive with his father, feverish
and drowsy, and fell asleep in my arms. On the fourteenth of the same
month, he was folded in an embrace, yet more fond and safe, beyond the
touch of mortal sorrow.

My bonnie, bonnie boy! who had never had a day’s illness until he was
stricken by that from which there was no recovery! Diphtheria was
comparatively new at that time, even to the able physician who was our
devoted personal friend. The boy faded before it, as a lily in drought.
Four days before he left us, his baby sister was smitten by the same
disease. Two days after the funeral, their father fell ill with it. Why
neither Alice, I, nor the faithful nurse who assisted us in the care
of the three patients, did not take the infection is a mystery. There
were no quarantine regulations to prevent the spread of what is now
recognized as one of the most virulent of epidemics. We took absolutely
no precautions; friends flocked to us as freely as if there were no
danger. Our fearlessness may have been a catholicon. We nursed the
sufferers back to health, and, looking to God for strength, took our
places again in the ranks.

Such a trite, every-day story as it is! To the soul for which the task
is set, it is as novel and crucial as death itself. It is not the young
mother who finds comfort and tonic in the inspired assurance:

    “For while we bear it, we can bear;
       Past that—we lay it down!”

For four months, we had not a letter from Richmond. The cordon was
drawn closely about the chief seat of the Rebellion—now the capital
of the Confederacy. It was hard to smuggle private letters through
the lines. We wrote by every possible opportunity, and were certain
that my family were as watchful of chances, likely and improbable.
At Christmas, we had a packet that had been run through by way of
Kentucky, by a man who wrote to say that he had been ill in a Richmond
hospital and received great kindness from my mother. When he was well
enough to rejoin his regiment, he had offered to get her letters to
me, if it were in the power of man to do it. His plan, he said, was to
entrust the parcel to a trusty negro, who would swim the Ohio River
on horseback at a point where the stream was narrow, and post letters
on the other side. If I should receive them, I might know that he had
fulfilled his pledge to my mother. If I did not get them, I would never
know how hard he had tried to keep his word.

I have often wondered if he received the answers we dispatched to the
post-office from which our precious letters were mailed. I never heard
from him again.

Home-bulletins brought the news of the death of my stern old
grandmother at the advanced age of eighty-four. She had never given
her sanction to the war, disapproving of military operations with the
whole might of her rugged nature. On a certain Sunday in June, news
was brought by fast express, while the people were in church, that the
war-vessel _Pawnee_ was on its way up the river to bombard the town.
Owing to the old lady’s deafness, she did not fully comprehend why the
services were closed summarily, and the streets were too full of people
hurrying to and fro, for my father to explain the state of affairs on
the way home. On the front steps they met my brother Horace in the
uniform of the Richmond Howitzers, to which he belonged. They had been
ordered summarily to repair to the point from which the expected attack
was to be repelled. A few hasty sentences put her into possession of
leading facts; the boy kissed her; shook hands with his father, and ran
down the street.

The old Massachusetts dame, whose father and husband had fought in the
Revolutionary War, stood still and looked after him until he was out of
sight.

He was her favorite of the boys—we fancied because he resembled the
Edwin she had wished to adopt, and who died in her arms.

The lad she followed with puzzled and griefful eyes was of a goodly
presence, and never goodlier than in his uniform. Did she bethink
herself of the probability that she might never see him again? What
she thought, and what she felt, will never be known. When my father
addressed her, she gazed at him with uncomprehending eyes, turned, and
walked feebly up the stairs.

“I am afraid mother is not well,” said my father to my mother, after
they had talked a few minutes of the alarm and Horace’s departure. “She
looked shaken by the boy’s going. Will you go up and look after her?”

She had undressed and gone to bed. She had taken her seat in church
that morning, a fine-looking dame of the old school; erect and strong;
alert of wits and firm of purpose. My mother looked into the face of
a shrunken, dull-eyed crone, who asked, in quavering accents, “Who
she was, and what was her business?” Then she began to moan and beg
to be taken “home.” That was her cry, whenever she spoke at all, all
summer long. But once did she quit her bed. That was when the nurse
left her, as they supposed, sleeping, and discovered her half an hour
later, fumbling at the lock of the front door, and in her nightgown.
She “wanted to go home! she would go home!” She went on September 5th,
while we, hundreds of miles away, were watching over our sick boy.

“The war killed off most of our old people,” said an ex-Confederate
officer once to me. “Almost as many died of sheer brokenheartedness,
as on the battle-field! _That’s_ an account somebody has got to settle
some day, if there is any justice in heaven.”

In the autumn of 1862, the state of my sister Alice’s health demanded
a change of climate so imperatively that we had no option in the
consideration of the emergency. Her throat was seriously affected;
she had not spoken above a whisper for six months. To keep her in
Newark for another winter was not to be thought of. Our parents were
writing by every available flag of truce strenuous orders that she
should “come home.” In early October, Mr. Terhune took her down to an
obscure village in Maryland directly upon Chesapeake Bay. It was, in
fact, a smuggling-station, from which merchandise of various sorts was
ferried into Virginia, in direct violation of embargo laws. Southern
sympathizers, whom loyalists were beginning to brand as “Copperheads”—a
name that stuck fast to them throughout the war—ran the enterprise and
profited by it. Through one of these, information sifted to us of which
we made use. When necessity drives, it will not do to be fastidious as
to instruments that will save us.

At dead of night my young sister was put into a boat, warmly wrapped
from the river-fogs, and, in charge of a Richmond gentleman who was
returning home, sent across the unlicensed ferry. Her father awaited
her on the other shore. A mile above and a mile below, lurid gleams,
like the eyes of river-monsters watching for their prey, showed where
United States gunboats lay in mid-stream to intercept unlawful commerce
and to arrest offenders. My husband did not impart to me the details
of the adventure until we had heard of the child’s restoration to
her father’s arms. Then he told of the fearful anxiety with which
he waited on the Maryland shore, under starless skies, scanning the
menacing lights up and down the river, and straining his ears for the
ripple against the sides of the boat making its way, cautiously, with
muffled oars, across the watery track. To deflect from the viewless
course would be to awaken the sleeping dogs of war. The lonely watcher
feared every minute to see from either of the gunboats a flash of fire,
followed by the boom of a cannon, signalling the discovery of the
attempt to evade the embargo.

“The dreariest vigil imaginable!” he said. “I stayed there for two
hours, until I was sure the boat must have made the landing. Had it
been intercepted, I should have seen some change in the position of
those red eyes and heard a shot.”

Before she embarked he had given the fugitive a self-addressed envelope
enclosing a card, on which was written: “Arrived safely.” She pencilled
below—“Alice,” and sent it back by the boatman. It was a week old when
he got it, and creased and soiled by much handling.

Then fell silence, that was felt every waking hour, and lasted for four
long months. On the first day of February, my husband being absent from
home, I walked down to the city post-office with Mrs. Greenleaf, my
eldest sister-in-law, who was visiting us, and took from our box a thin
letter addressed in my mother’s hand, and stamped “FLAG OF TRUCE.”

It was but one page in length. Flag-of-truce communications were
limited to that. The first line branded itself upon my brain:

    “_I have written to you several times since our precious
    Alice’s death!_”

She had rallied finely in her native air, and was, apparently, on
the highroad to health when smallpox broke out in Richmond military
hospitals. It spread to the citizens. The town was crowded, and
quarantine laws were lax. Dr. Haxall called and insisted that the
entire family be re-vaccinated. He had his way with all save one. Alice
put him off with a jest, and my mother bade him “call again, when she
may be more reasonable.” I fancy none of them put much faith in the
honest physician’s assertion that the precautionary measure was a
necessity. In those days a “good vaccination scar” was supposed to last
a lifetime. My sister fell ill a fortnight afterward, and the seizure
was pronounced to be “varioloid.”

A girl’s wilful whim! A mother’s indulgence! These may, or may not,
have been the opening acts of the tragedy. God knows!

Alice was in her twenty-second year, and in mind the most brilliant
of the family. She was an ardent student for learning’s sake, and an
accomplished English scholar; wrote and spoke French fluently, and
was proficient in the Latin classics. The one sketch from her pen
ever published appeared in _The Southern Literary Messenger_ while
she was ill. It proved what we had known already, that her talent for
composition was of a high order. Had she lived, the reading world would
have ratified our judgment.

On March 7th of that dark and bloody year, the low tide of hope
with the nation, our home was brightened by the birth of a second
daughter—our first brunette bairnie. Her brother and sister had the
Terhune blue eyes and sunny hair. She came on a wild, snowy day, and
brought such wealth of balm and blessing with her as seldom endows
parents and home by reason of a single birth. From the hour of her
advent, Baby Alice was her father’s idol. Why, we could not say then.
The fact—amusing at times—always patent—of the peculiar tenderness
binding together the hearts of the father and the girl-child—remained,
and was gradually accepted, without comment, by us all.

It was an unspeakable comfort to be able once more to talk of “the
children.” One never divines the depth of sweetness and significance
in the term until one has been robbed of the right to use it, through
months of missing what has been.

Other, if minor, distractions from personal sorrow and public
solicitudes were not wanting that year. I had been drawn into
charitable organizations born of the times. Our noble church was
forward in co-operation with municipal and State authorities in
relieving the distress of the thousands who were reduced to poverty by
the loss of the Southern trade and the stagnation of home industries.
Prices went up, and wages went down; soldiers’ widows and orphans must
be cared for; the soldiers in camps and hospitals were but ill-provided
with the comforts they had a right to expect from the government and
their fellow-citizens. We had Soldiers’ Relief Societies, and Auxiliary
Societies to the Sanitary and Christian Commissions, and by-and-by,
as the monetary situation told fiercely upon the women and children
of unemployed operatives, associations that supplied their wives with
sewing.

But for active participation in each of these benevolent organizations,
I do not see how I could have kept my reason while the fratricidal
conflict gathered force and heat.

My situation was peculiar, and, among my daily associates, unique.
Loving the Union with a passion of patriotism inconceivable by those
who have never had what they call by that name put to such test of
rack and flame as the martyrs of old endured, I yet had no personal
interest in one soldier who fought for the Cause as dear to me as life
itself. My prayers and hopes went out to the Federal army as a glorious
engine, consecrated to a sublime and holy purpose—even the salvation
of the nation by the preservation of the Union. And all the while, my
best-beloved brother was in the fiercest of the fight down there, in
the State dearer to me than any other could ever be. Cousins by the
score, and friends and valued acquaintances by the hundred, were with
Lee and Jackson, Early, Stuart, and Hill, exposed to shot and shell and
sword. My brother Herbert had gone home in ’61, after he was graduated
from the Theological Seminary in New Brunswick, and received a license
to preach.

Shortly after his installation in a country parish, he had married
a girl he had fallen in love with while studying with my husband
in Charlotte. Although a non-combatant, he might be forced by
circumstances to take up arms, as many of the profession were doing.
His home was raided more than once by predatory bands of stragglers
from the Federal army, and twice by cavalry dashes under leaders whose
names were a terror throughout southern and central Virginia. My
brother Percy, at fourteen, enlisted, and quickly gained reputation as
a courier under Lee’s own eye, being a daring rider, courting, instead
of shunning, danger, and, like his father and brothers, an utter
stranger to physical fear in any shape whatsoever.

When—as happened almost daily—our papers published lists of the killed
and wounded in Lee’s army, my hand shook so violently in holding the
sheet, that I had to lay it on the table to steady the lines into
legibility, my heart rolling over with sick thuds, while my eyes ran
down the line of names. Add to this ceaseless horror of suspense the
long, awful spaces of silence between the flag-of-truce letters—and
is it to be wondered at that I plunged into routine work—domestic,
literary, religious, charitable, and patriotic—with feverish energy, as
the only hope of maintaining a tolerable degree of sanity?

And how _good_ “our people” were to me through it all! The simple
act of setting the flag above our door-steps when we returned from
Rebeldom, was emblematic of the position taken and held by them, as a
body, during that trial-period. They trusted us without reservation.
Moreover, never, howsoever high might run the tide of popular feeling
at the tidings of defeat or victory to the national Cause, was one of
them ever betrayed into a word of vituperation of my native South, or
ungenerous exultation over her downfall. The tact and delicacy in this
respect displayed by them, without an exception, deserves higher praise
than I can award in this humble chronicle.

Loving loyalty of this type was a panoply and a stimulant to my
sorely-taxed spirit. Sheer gratitude should have bound me to them as a
co-worker.

When men like Peter and John Ballantine—than whom God never made a
nobler pair of brothers—and Edgar Farmer—all the busiest of men—would
go out of their way, in business hours, to make a special call upon me,
after the news of a battle had set the town on fire with excitement,
to “hope,” in brotherly solicitude, that “this does not mean a
heartache for you?”—when the safety of my brothers, and the welfare
of my parents, was the subject of affectionate inquiry, whenever we
met friend or acquaintance connected with church or parish, I used to
say to my husband and myself, that the world had never seen more truly
chivalrous natures than those of these practical Middle States men, who
never thought of themselves as knightly.



XLI

FORT DELAWARE—“OLD GLORY”—LINCOLN’S ASSASSINATION—THE RELEASED PRISONER
OF WAR


IN the last week of May, 1864, I had a letter from my brother Horace,
now a Lieutenant in the Richmond Howitzers, C.S.A.

It bore the heading: “_Under the walls of Fort Delaware_,” and was
scribbled upon the deck of a United States transport.

With the gay courage that was his characteristic, and without waste of
words in preliminaries, directness in action and speech being another
prominent trait with him, he informed me that “General Hancock, by
making an ungenerously early start at Spottsylvania Court-House—before
breakfast, in fact—on the morning of May 21st, captured part of our
division.”

The letter wound up with: “We are now approaching Fort Delaware, which
is, we are told, our destination. I am well. Don’t take this to heart.
_I_ don’t!”

I was so far from taking it to heart that I called upon my soul, and
all that was within me, to return thanks to Him who had delivered my
darling boy from the battle that was against him. He was now out of the
reach of bullet and bayonet.

If I did not summon neighbors and friends to rejoice with me over my
brother’s capture, the news spread fast, and congratulatory calls were
the order of the next few days. Not satisfied with words of good-will,
every bit of political machinery at the command of our friends was put
in motion to secure for me the great joy of visiting him.

One of these plans so nearly succeeded that I went, under the escort
of the plotter, as far as Delaware City, within sight of the gloomy
fortress, to be turned back by a new order—incited by a rumored attempt
at escape of the prisoners—prohibiting any visitors from entering the
fort.

In the tranquil assurance of the captive s security from the chances
of war, I bore up under the failure better than could have been
expected, solacing myself by writing, regularly, long letters, and the
preparation of boxes of books and provisions, which I was allowed to
forward weekly. It was “almost as good,” I wrote to him, gleefully, “as
having a son at school, for whom I could get up boxes of goodies.”

Twice I had direct intelligence of him from army officers, who sought
him out and talked to him of us.

One wrote: “Fine-looking fellow—hearty as a buck! In good heart, and in
good looks.” Another: “Never met a nicer fellow. I wish he had been on
our side!”

While I was comforting myself with these mitigating incidents, the line
of communication was abruptly severed by the transfer of prisoners from
Fort Delaware to Hilton, South Carolina. I had no letter for a month,
and began to think—I might say, to fear—that an exchange of prisoners
had returned him to Virginia. He gave the reason for his silence
finally:

    “In pursuance of the retaliatory policy determined upon by
    the Federal authorities, we were brought here and placed,
    for three weeks, under the fire of our own guns from the
    shore. Our fare was pickles and corn-meal, for the same
    time. I did not write while this state of things prevailed.
    It would have distressed you uselessly.”

He went on to say that the order of retaliation for the cruelties
inflicted upon Federal captives in Confederate prisons, had been
rescinded. The Confederates, now at Hilton Head, could hardly be said
to be lodged luxuriously; but they were no longer animated targets.

Through the intercession of a friend with Gen. Stewart L. Woodford,
then in command in South Carolina, I gained permission to supply my
brother with “plain clothing, books, papers, food, and small sums of
money.” The latter went to him by the kind and safe hand of Richard
Ryerson, a young Jerseyman, holding office in the Commissary Department
at Hilton Head. My letters were forwarded under cover to the same
generous intermediary.

Thus was another crooked way made straight.

The news of the evacuation; of my brother’s removal back to Fort
Delaware, and a letter from my father, sent by private hand to Mr.
Terhune, came simultaneously. My husband had had a verbal message
through a trusty “refugee,” as long ago as January, to the effect
that the fall of the city could not, in my father’s judgment, be long
delayed. Since confiscation was sure to follow the collapse of the
Confederacy, he instructed my husband to repair to Richmond, at the
earliest possible moment after the way was cut open by the victorious
army, and claim the family estate in the name of his wife, our loyalty
being unquestionable.

In the light of what really happened when the city was occupied by
the invaders, the precaution seems absurdly useless. Then, it was
prudent in the estimation of those best acquainted with the current of
public affairs. Every dollar belonging, in fact, or constructively, to
Northern citizens, that the Confederate authorities could reach, had
been confiscated early in the action. My husband was a non-combatant in
the eye of the law, by reason of his profession. Yet the few thousands
we had invested in various ways in Virginia had gone the way of all
the rest. It was but fair to suppose that the rebels would be stripped
of houses, lands, and money.

On New-Year’s day, we had a call from Dr. J. J. Craven, Medical
Director of the Army of the Potomac, a warm personal friend of Mr.
Terhune. He was stationed at Fort Monroe, the key to the James River.
Him, my husband took into confidence, and it was arranged between them
that the latter was to be notified of the practicability of entering
the city in the track of the troops, when the inevitable hour should
arrive.

On one and the same day in April, Mr. Terhune had a telegram from Fort
Monroe, containing three words: “Come at once,” and I a letter from
my faithful ally, Ossian Ashley, enclosing an introductory note from
General Butterfield to the Commandant at Fort Delaware, requesting him
to permit me to see my brother.

Mr. Farmer, my husband’s companion in many expeditions and journeyings,
consented gladly to go with him now. We three left next morning for
Philadelphia, and the two gentlemen accompanied me in the afternoon to
Fort Delaware.

We were courteously received by the officials, the Commandant
voluntarily relaxing the rules at our parting, to let my brother walk
across the drawbridge and down to the wharf with me. High good-humor
reigned in all branches of the service. The war was virtually over. As
we sailed out into the bay, and I threw a last salute to the soldierly
figure standing on the pier, it was with a bound of hope at my heart
to which it had been long a stranger. “My boy” would join us in our
home before many days. He had never been a rebel, indeed; he had gone
reluctantly into the service, as had thousands of others. The chance to
take the oath of allegiance to the Federal government would be readily
embraced by him and his comrades. And my husband had engaged to see
to it that the opportunity should not be long delayed. We parted in
Philadelphia, I passing the night with friends there, the two men going
on to Fort Monroe. By Doctor Craven’s kindly management, they found a
transport awaiting their arrival. They were, thus, the first civilians
to enter Richmond after the military took possession.

A hasty note from Fort Monroe apprised me of the success of the
expedition, up to that point. Beyond that place there were no postal or
telegraphic facilities. I must wait patiently until they touched Old
Point on the return journey.

With a thankful spirit and busy hands, I fell to work, making ready for
the home-coming of husband and brother. It was as if the world and the
house were swept and garnished together.

In the early dawn of April 15th, too happily excited to sleep, I arose
and looked from my dressing-room window over intervening buildings and
streets, to the spire of Old Trinity Church.

Church’s picture, _Our Banner in the Sky_, was painted during the
Rebellion, and every print-shop window displayed a copy of it. Some
of my older readers may recollect it. A tall, and at the summit,
leafless, pine stood up, stark and gaunt, against a sky barred with
crimson-and-white. Above, a cluster of stars glimmered faintly in the
dusky blue. It was a weird “impressionist” picture, that fired the
imagination and thrilled the heart of the lover of our glorious Union.

From my window, I saw it now in fulness of detail. I had heard the
story of “Old Glory,” a little while before. The words leaped from my
lips at the sight of the splendid flag on the staff towering from the
church-spire. Straight and strong, it streamed over the sleeping city
in the fresh breeze from the sea, emblem of the triumphant right—of a
saved nation!

“Old Glory!” I cried aloud, and fell upon my knees to thank God for
what it meant.

Had another woman in the land—now, more than ever and forever, “God’s
Country”—such cause as I to return thanks for what had been in the last
month?

The glow of exultation still warmed my inmost being, when I halted on
the upper stair on my way down to breakfast. Hearing a ring at the
door-bell, with the thought of a telegram, as probable explanation of
the untimely call, I leaned breathlessly over the balustrade as the
maid opened the door.

It was a parishioner, and a neighbor. He spoke hurriedly:

“Will you say to Mrs. Terhune that the President was assassinated in
Ford’s Theatre in Washington last night?”

When, hours and hours afterward, I looked, with eyes dimmed by weeping,
upon “Old Glory,” it hung limp at half-mast, and the background was
dull with rain-clouds.

I had many visitors that day. My nearest neighbor, and, to this hour,
one of my closest friends, ran in to “see how I was bearing it. I must
not get overexcited!” Then she broke down, and wept stormily, as for a
murdered father.

“We never knew how we loved him until now!” she sobbed.

That was the cry of every torn heart. At last, we knew the patient,
tender-hearted, magnificent patriot-hero for what he was—the second
Father of his Country. At least a dozen men dropped in to “talk over”
the bereavement. One, as rugged of feature and as soft of heart as our
martyred head, said, huskily, holding my hand in our “good-bye”:

“Somehow, it does me good to hear you talk, in your Southern accent,
of our common grief. I can’t exactly express what it means to me. Words
come hard to-day. But it may be a sign that this awful sorrow may, in
God’s hands, be the means of bringing us brothers together again. _He_
always felt kindly toward them. Some day, they may be brought to see
that they have lost their best friend. God knows!”

I thank Him that, in the fulness of time, the old man’s hope has been
fulfilled.

My husband brought home with him my youngest sister, Myrtle.

One of the incongruities that strike oddly across our moments of
intensest emotion was, that, in the excitement of welcome and surprise
(for I had had no intimation of her coming), I bethought myself that
I had never known, until I heard her call my name, that girls’ voices
change as boys’ do, in passing from childhood into youth. I left her a
little girl in short dresses. In four years she had passed the delta

    “Where the brook and river meet.”

Girls and boys matured fast under the influences that had ripened her
character.

It was a rare and lovely product which linked itself into the chain of
my life, for the score of years beyond our reunion. To say that her
companionship was a comfort and joy unspeakable, that summer, would
be to describe feebly what her coming brought into my existence. The
burden of solicitudes and suspense, of actual bereavement and dreads of
the morrow’s happenings, slid from my shoulders, as Christian’s pack
from him at the Cross. I grew young again.

My third baby-girl, Virginia Belle, was ten days old when my liberated
brother was added, like a beautiful clasp, to the golden circle of our
reunited family. He came directly to us, and lingered longer than I
had dared expect, for recuperation, and for enjoyment of the society
from which he had been so long exiled.

A pretty love-story, the initial chapters of which had been rudely
broken into by the war, was resumed and continued at this visit. That
the girl-friend who had grown into a sister’s place in our home and
affections, should marry my dearest brother, was a dream too fair of
complexion and too symmetrical in proportions, to be indulged under
conditions that had prevailed since his visit to Newark, almost five
years ago. Yet this was the vision that began to define itself into a
blessed reality, by the time the soldier-returned-from-the-war packed
the outfit of civilized and civilian clothing—the getting-together of
which had been one ostensible excuse for extending the visit—and took
his way southward.

It was a divine breathing-spell for us and for the country—that summer
of peace and plenty.

For three years past, we had spent each July and August in a roomy
farm-house among the Jersey hills. For the first season, we were the
only boarders. Then, perhaps because we boasted somewhat too freely
of the healthfulness of the region, and the excellent country fare
set before us by good Mrs. Blauvelt, the retreat from malaria and
mosquitoes became too popular for our comfort. When there were three
babies, a nurse, a visiting sister, our two selves, and a horse, to be
accommodated, we found the once ample quarters too strait for us.

For baby Belle’s sake we migrated late in June of this year. We were
discussing the seriousness of the problem consequent upon a growing
family, as we drove up a long hill, one July day, Alice on a cricket
between us in the foot of the buggy, when an exclamation from my
husband stopped a sentence in the middle. He drew the horse to a sudden
halt.

Woodmen were busy with destructive axes upon a body of native trees at
the left of our road. They had opened to our sight a view heretofore
hidden by the wood. A lake, blue and tranquil as the heavens it
mirrored; green slopes, running down to the water; wooded heights,
bordering the thither banks, and around, as far as the eye could
reach, mountains, benignant in outline and verdant to their summits,
billowing, range beyond range, against the horizon—why had we never
seen this before? It was like a section of the Delectable Mountains,
gently lowered from Bunyan’s Beulah Land, and set down within thirty
miles of the biggest city in America.

The rapt silence was ended by one word from my companion:

“Alabama!”

He passed the reins into my hands, and leaped over the wheel. Making
his way down the hill, he stopped to talk with the workmen for ten
minutes. Then he came back, held up a hand to help me out of the
carriage, and lifted “Brownie” in his arms. Next, he tied the horse to
a tree, and, saying to me—“Come!” led the way to the lake.

We bought the tract, in imagination, and decided upon the site of our
cottage, in the next half-hour. On the way home we called upon the
owner of the tract, paid a hundred dollars down to bind the bargain,
and left orders that not another tree was to be felled until further
notice.

It would have been expecting too much of human nature had we been
required to go back to the farm-house dinner, without driving again by
“Our Land.” The happy silence of the second survey culminated in my
declaration and the instant assent of my companion to the same:

“And we will name it ‘_Sunnybank_’!”



XLII

A CHRISTMAS REUNION—A MIDNIGHT WARNING—HOW A GOOD MAN CAME TO “THE
HAPPIEST DAY OF HIS LIFE”


“SKIES bright, and brightening!” was the clan watchword, in passing
along the summons for a rally in the old home at Christmas-time, 1866,
that should include three generations of the name and blood.

On Sunday, December 23d, we attended church in a body, in morning and
afternoon. Not one was missing from the band except my brother Herbert,
whose professional duties detained him over Sunday. He was pledged to
be with us early on Monday morning.

That evening, we grouped about the fire in the parlor, a wide circle
that left room for the babyest of the party to disport themselves upon
the rug, in the glow of the grate piled with cannel coal. My father,
entering last of all, stooped to pick up a granddaughter and kiss her,
in remarking:

“I had intended to go down to hear Doctor Moore to-night. I am very
fond of him as man and preacher. But”—a comprehensive glance around the
room, pointing the demurrer—“you look so comfortable here that I am
tempted to change my mind.”

A chorus of entreaties broke forth. It had been so long since we had
had—“all of us together—a Sunday evening at home; there was so much to
talk of; Christmas was so near; the night was damp and raw; there would
be snow by ten o’clock,” etc.—all in a breath, until the dear man put
his hands to his ears, ready to promise anything and everything, for
the sake of peace.

This was before supper, a jolly meal, over which we lingered until the
mothers of the company had to hustle the younglings off to bed by the
time we left the table.

Returning to the drawing-room after hearing my girls’ prayers, and
assuaging their impatience at the lagging flight of time, by telling
them that, in twenty-two hours more, they would be hanging up their
stockings, I found my father alone. He stood on the rug, looking down
into the scarlet depths of the coals, his hands behind him and his head
bent—in thought, not in sadness, for he turned a bright face to me as
my voice awoke him from his revery:

“‘A penny for your thoughts!’”

I said it gayly, laying my hand on his shoulder. He turned his cheek to
meet it.

“My thoughts were running upon what has kept them busy all day. I
suppose I ought to be ashamed to confess it, but I lost one ‘head’ of
Doctor Hoge’s sermon this afternoon. I was thinking of—_my children_!”

His voice sank into a tender cadence it seldom took. He was reckoned
an undemonstrative man, and he had a full strain of the New England
Puritan in his blood.

I waited to steady my own voice before asking, softly, “And what of
them, father?”

The query was never answered. The opening door let in a stream of happy
humanity—mother, brothers, and sisters—Mea and her husband, Horace
and Percy, Myrtle and her _fiancé_, “Will” Robertson, who would, ere
long, be one of us in fact, as he was now in heart. They were full of
Christmas plans and talk. Among other items one was fixed in my memory
by subsequent events. In consequence of the intervention of Sunday, the
business of decorating the house had to be postponed until Monday. The
evergreens were to be sent in from the country early on the morrow.
Percy reported that the snow had begun to fall. If the roads were heavy
by morning, would the countryman who had promised a liberal store of
running cedar, pine, and juniper, in addition to the Christmas-tree,
keep his word?

“I will see that the evergreens are provided,” my father laid the
disquiet by saying. “There will be no harm in engaging a double supply.”

Then Mea went to the piano, and we had the olden-time Sunday-evening
concert, all the dear old hymns we could recall, among them two called
for by our father:

    “God moves in a mysterious way,”

and,

    “There is an hour of peaceful rest,
       To weary wanderers given;
     There is a joy for souls distressed,
     A balm for every wounded breast,—
       ’Tis found alone in Heaven!”

We sang, last of all, _The Shining Shore_, and talked of the time when
the composer set the MS. upon the piano-rack, with the ink hardly dried
upon the score, and trial was made of the music in that very room—could
it be just eleven years ago?

My father left us as the clock struck ten. My mother lingered half an
hour later. We all knew, although none of us spoke of it, that he liked
to have a little time for devotional reading on Sunday evening, before
he went to bed. He had not demitted the habit in fifty-odd years, yet I
doubt if he had ever mentioned, even to his wife, why he kept it up and
what it meant to him.

Our mother told me afterward that when she joined him in their chamber,
the Bible was still open on the stand before him. He closed it at her
entrance and glanced around, a smile of serene happiness lighting up
his face.

“We have had a delightful Sunday!” he observed. “It is like renewing my
youth to have all the children about us once more.”

He had had his breakfast and gone down-town, when we came into the
dining-room next morning. At my exclamation of regretful surprise, our
mother told us how he had hurried the meal for himself, pleading that
he had much to attend to that forenoon. The snow was not deep, but
it was sodden by the fine rain that had succeeded it toward the dawn
of the gray December day, and he feared the evergreens might not be
forthcoming.

“I shall send a couple of carts into the country at once,” were his
parting words. “I would not have the children disappointed for ten
times the worth of the evergreens.”

It was to be a busy morning with us all. As soon as breakfast
was dispatched, the long table—pulled out to its utmost limit to
accommodate the tribe—was cleared of dishes, plates, and cloth, and we
fell to tying up parcels for the tree, sorting _bonbons_, and other
light tasks. Mince-pies, concocted according to the incomparable
recipe handed down from mother to daughter, in the Montrose and
Olney families, for a century-and-a-half, had been baked last week,
and loaded the pantry-shelves. My mother’s unsurpassable crullers,
superintended by herself at Christmas, and at no other season, were
packed away in stone jars; and, that no distinctive feature of
Yule-tide might be missing from the morrow’s dinner, the whitest,
plumpest, tenderest sucking pig the market could offer, lay at length
in a platter in the store-room. Before he could go into the oven, he
would be buttered from nose to toes, and coated with bread-crumbs.
When he appeared on the table, he would be adorned with a necklace of
sausages, cranberries would fill out the sunken eyes, and a lemon be
thrust into his mouth. A mammoth gobbler, fattened for the occasion,
would support him at the other end of the board.

I had offered last Friday to make pumpkin-pies—the genuine New England
brand, such as my father had eaten at Thanksgiving in the Dorchester
homestead.

The colored cooks could not compass the delicacy. He had sent home four
bouncing pumpkins on Saturday, and two had been pared, eviscerated,
and stewed. I sat at the far end of the table, beating, seasoning, and
tasting. My mother was filling candy-bags at the other, when Myrtle
rallied her upon not tasting the confectionery, of which she was
extravagantly fond.

“Mother is saving up her appetite for the Christmas pig!” she asserted.

“I never eat sweets when I have a headache,” was the answer. “I did not
sleep well last night.”

This led to her account of a “queer fright” she had had at midnight, or
thereabouts. Awakened from her first sound sleep by the unaccountable
thrill of alarm each of us has felt, in the impression that some one or
something that has no right to be there, is in the darkened chamber,
she lay still with beating heart and listened for further proof of the
intrusion. In a few minutes she heard a faint rustle that ran from the
farthest window toward her bed, and passed to the door leading into the
hall. Thoroughly startled, she shook my father’s shoulder and whispered
to him that there was some one in the room. He sprang up, lighted the
gas, and made a thorough search of the chamber and the dressing-room.
The door was locked, and, besides themselves, there was no occupant
of the apartment. He had fallen asleep again, when she heard the same
rustling noise, louder and more definite than before. There was no
mistaking the direction of the movement. It began at the window, swept
by the bed, and was lost at the door. The terrified wife again awoke
her husband, and he made the round a second time, with the same result
as before.

When the mysterious movement seemed to brush her at the third coming,
she aroused her companion in an agony of nervousness:

“I am terribly ashamed of my foolishness,” she told him, shivering with
nameless fears; “but there really is something here, now!” He was, as I
have said in a former part of my true story, usually so intolerant of
nervous whimsies that we forbore to express them in his hearing. He had
mellowed and sweetened marvellously within the last few years, as rare
vintages are sure to ripen. Arising now, with a good-humored laugh, he
made a third exploration of the premises, and with no better result.
When he lay down again, he put his hand affectionately upon my mother’s
arm with a soothing word:

“I will hold _you_ fast! You are the most precious thing in the house.
Neither burglar nor bogie shall get you.”

“What was it?” we asked.

“Oh, probably the wind blowing the shade, or making free with something
else that was loose. It was a stormy night. We agreed, this morning,
that it must have been that.”

She spoke carelessly, and we took the incident as little to heart.
Passing through the hall, awhile later, I espied my maid Ellen, who
had lived with me for five years, whispering with a mulatto woman in
a corner. They fell apart at seeing me, and Ellen followed me to the
sitting-room.

“Rhoda was saying that the colored people think what happened last
night was a warnin’,” she observed, with affected lightness. “They are
awful superstitious, ma’am, ain’t they?”

“Very superstitious and very ignorant!” I returned, severely.

The trifling episode was gone, like a vapor passing from a mirror,
before my brother Herbert appeared. He had arisen at daybreak, driven
to Petersburg, and taken there the train to Richmond, arriving by nine
o’clock.

At the same hour our father reached his office. I have heard the story
of his walk down-town so minutely described that I can trace each step.
It was more than a mile from his house to the office. There were no
street-cars or omnibuses in the city, at that time. Sometimes he drove
to his place of business; sometimes he rode on horseback. Generally, he
chose to walk. He was a fine horseman and a fearless driver, from his
youth up. At sixty-eight he carried himself as erect as at thirty, and
made less of tramping miles in all weathers than men of half his age
thought of pacing a dozen squares on a sunny day. As he had reminded
his wife, in excusing his hurried breakfast, there were errands, many
and important, to be looked after. He stopped at Pizzini’s, the noted
confectioner of the town, to interview that dignitary in person, anent
a cake of noble proportions and brave with ornate icing—Christmas
fruit-cake—of Pizzini’s own composition, for which the order was given
a week ago. To the man of sweets he said that nothing must hinder the
delivery of the cake beyond that evening.

“We are planning a royal, old-fashioned family Christmas,” he
subjoined, “and there must be no disappointments.”

The evergreens were ordered as stringently. Two cart-loads, as he had
said, and two more Christmas-trees, in case one was not satisfactory.
“There must be no disappointments.”

Not far from Pizzini’s he met Doctor Haxall, also “Christmasing.” The
two silver-haired men shook hands, standing in the damp snow on the
corner, and exchanged the compliments of the season.

“What has come to you?” queried the doctor, eying his friend curiously.
“You are renewing your youth. You have the color, the step, and the
eyes of a boy!”

“Doctor!” letting his hand drop upon the other’s shoulder, “to-morrow
will be the happiest day of my life! After four terrible years of
war and separation, I am to have in the old home all my children and
grandchildren—a united and loving family. It will be the first time in
eight years! My cup runneth over!”

He strode into his office with the springing step that had brought him
all the long mile and a half; spoke cheerily to two or three employees
who were on hand; remarked upon the weather, and his confidence that
we would have a fine day to-morrow, and laid aside his overcoat and
hat. Then he stepped to the outer door to issue an order to two colored
men standing there, began to speak, put his hand to his head, and fell
forward. The men caught him, saved him from falling, and supported him
to a chair. He pointed to the door, and spoke one word:

“Horace!”

My brother was his partner in business, and he could not be far away.
The messenger met him within a short distance of the door. The dulling
eyes brightened at sight of him; with an inarticulate murmur, the
stricken man raised his hand to his head, to indicate the seat of pain,
leaned back upon the strong young arms that held him, and closed his
eyes.

He was still breathing when they brought him home. Doctor Haxall had
galloped on ahead of the carriage containing him and the attendants,
to prepare us measurably for what was coming. The unconscious master
of the home was brought through the hall between banks of evergreens,
delivered in obedience to his order issued but three hours earlier.
Two tall Christmas-trees and three wagon-loads of running cedar, pine,
and spruce heaped the floor, and were pushed aside hastily by the
servants to make way for the mournful procession.

He did not speak or move after they laid him upon his own bed.

One more hour of anguished waiting, and we knew that he had entered
upon the “happiest day of his life.”



XLIII

TWO BRIDALS—A BIRTH AND A PASSING—“MY LITTLE LOVE”—“DRIFTING OUT”—A
NONPAREIL PARISH


IN October, 1867, I had the great happiness of seeing my favorite
brother married to the woman he had loved so long and so faithfully
that the marriage was the fitting and only sequel the romance of the
Civil War could have. From the day of our coming to Newark, she,
who was now my sister, then a school-girl, had established herself
in our hearts. She was my sister Alice’s most intimate friend, and,
after Alice left us, glided into the vacant place naturally. With the
delicacy and discretion characteristic of a fine and noble nature,
she never, during those dreary years of separation and silence,
alluded, in her talks with me, to the tacit “understanding” existing
between herself and my brother. When he visited us immediately upon
his liberation from Fort Delaware, it was evident that both of the
unacknowledged lovers took up the association where it had been severed
four years ago.

They were wedded on October 5th. The next day Mr. (now “Doctor”)
Terhune, the three little girls, and myself, with their nurse, took the
train for Richmond to assist in the preparations for the marriage of
Myrtle and “Will” Robertson. The newly wedded pair returned from their
bridal tour in season to witness the second marriage, on October 17th.

On February 4, 1869, my little Myrtle opened her beautiful eyes upon
the world in which she was to have an abiding-place for so short a
time that the fast, bright months of her sojourn are as a dream to
me at this distance from that spring and summer. She was a splendid
baby, finely developed, perfect in feature, as in form, and grew so
rapidly in size and strength that my fashionable friends pointed to
her as a lively refutation of my theory that “bottle babies” were
never so strong as those who had their natural nourishment. A tedious
spell of intermittent fever that laid hold of me, when she was but two
months old, deprived her of her rightful nutriment. When she was four
months old, we removed for the summer to Sunnybank, and set aside one
cow expressly for her use. She throve gloriously until, in September,
dentition sapped her vitality, and, as I had dreaded might ensue upon
the system of artificial feeding, none of the various substitutes
for nature’s own provision for the young of the human race, were
assimilated by the digestive organs. On the last day of the month she
passed into safer hands than ours.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have told the story of our Alice’s wonderful life in _My Little
Love_. Now that my mind and nerves have regained a more healthful tone
than they could claim during the months when I found a sad solace in
the portraiture of our lost darling, I cannot trust myself to dwell
at length upon the rich endowments of mind and heart that made the
ten-year-old girl the idol of her home, and a favorite with playmates
and acquaintances. Although thirty-five years have set that beautiful
life among the things of a former generation, I still meet those who
recollect and speak of her as one might of a round and perfect star.

We, her parents, knew her for what she was, while she was spared to
glorify our home. Once and again, we congratulated ourselves that we
comprehended the value of our treasure while we held it—did not wait
for the brightening of the fleeting blessing. When He who bestowed the
good and perfect gift recalled her to Himself, we thanked Him, from the
sincere depths of broken hearts, that He had deemed us worthy to keep
it for Him for almost eleven years.

She went from us January 1, 1874.

By the time the spring opened, repeated hemorrhages from lungs I had
been vain enough to believe were exceptionally strong, had reduced me
to a pitiable state of weakness.

If I have not spoken, at every stage of the narrative of these late
years, of the unutterable goodness of Newark friends and parishioners,
it is not that this had abated in degree, or weakened in quality.
In all our afflictions they bore the part of comforters to whom our
losses were theirs. Strong arms and hearts in our hours of weakness
were ever at our call. When it became apparent that my health was
seriously impaired, the “people,” with one voice, insisted that Doctor
Terhune should take a vacation of uncertain length, and go with me to
the Adirondacks for as long a time as might be needed to restore me to
health and vigor.

I had worked hard for the past five or six years. Besides my literary
engagements, which were many, including the arrangement of material
for, and publication of, _Common Sense in the Household_, I was deep
in church and charitable work, and had a large visiting-list. Little
account was made, at that date, of nervous prostration. I should have
laughed that little to scorn had it been intimated by physician or
friend that I was a victim to the disorder. I know now, to a certainty,
that I was so near the “verge” that a touch would have toppled me over.
My very ignorance of the peril may have saved me from the fall.

We were four months in the Adirondacks. Except that the sore lungs
drew in the resinous airs more freely than they had taken in the
fog-laden salt air of the lowlands, and that I slept better, I could
not discern any improvement in my condition when the shortening and
cooling days called us southward.

In July, a telegram from Richmond had informed me of my mother’s death.
So battered and worn was I that the full import of the tidings did
not reach my mind and heart, until my brother Herbert sought in the
balsam forests relief from the cares of home and parish, and we talked
together of our common loss in the quiet woods fringing the lake. I
shall never forget the strange chill that froze my heart during one
of these talks, when I bethought myself that I now belonged to the
“passing generation.” My mother’s going had struck down a barrier which
kept off the cold blast from the boundless Sea of Eternity. I could
not shake off the fancy for many weeks. It recurred to me in wakeful
midnights, and in the enforced rest succeeding toilful days, until it
threatened to become an obsession. Instead of accepting this and other,
to me, novel and distressing sensations, as features of confirmed
invalidism, I fought them with all the might of a will that was not
used to submission.

The next winter was one of ceaseless conflict. I grew insanely
sensitive on the subject of my failing health. When, after walking
quickly up the stairs, or climbing the hill from the lower town to our
home, a fit of coughing brought the blood to my lips, I stanched it
with my handkerchief and kept the incident to myself. I went into a
shop, or turned a corner, to avoid meeting any one who would be likely
to question me as to my health, or remark upon my pallor. At home, the
routine of work knew no break; I attended and presided at charitable
and parish meetings, as if nervous prostration were a figment of the
hypochondriacal imagination.

So well did I play the part to the members of my own household, that
my husband himself believed me to be on the low, if not the high, road
to recovery. He was as busy in his line as I pretended to be in mine,
and certain projects affecting the future welfare of his parish were
on foot, enlisting his lively interest. How far the pious deception
may have gone, was not to be tested. The active intervention of one
plain-spoken woman was the pivotal point of our two lives.

I mentioned, some chapters back, the call of one of my best friends
and the best neighbor I ever had, on the day of Mr. Lincoln’s death.
Although we had removed, by medical advice, to the higher part of
the city, and a full mile away from her home, she never relaxed her
neighborly kindness. I had not been aware of her close surveillance of
myself; still less did I suspect at what conclusion she had arrived.
She had reasons, cogent and sad, for surveillance and conclusions.
Several members of her own family had died of consumption, and she
was familiar with the indications of the Great White Plague. When she
came, day after day, to take me to drive at noon, when, as she phrased
it, “the world was properly aired,” and, when she could not come, sent
carriage and coachman with the request that I would use the conveyance
at pleasure—I was touched and a little amused at what was, I conceived,
exaggerated solicitude for me, whose indisposition was only temporary.
Meanwhile, her quick eyes and keen wits were busy. Not a change of
color, not a flutter of the breath escaped her, and in the fulness of
time she opened her mouth and spoke.

My husband had a habit, of many years’ standing, of winding up a busy,
harassing day by dropping into the home of our whilom neighbors, and
having a tranquillizing cigar with the husband. I never expected
him home before midnight when he did this, and on one particular
evening, knowing that he was at the B.’s, and feeling more than usually
fatigued, I went to bed at ten. Awakened, by-and-by, by the glare of a
gas-burner full in my face, I unclosed my eyes upon a visage so full of
anxiety, so haggard with emotion, that I started up in alarm.

“Don’t be frightened!” he said, soothingly. “Nothing has happened. But,
is it true that you are so ill as Mrs. B. would have me believe? And
have I been blind?”

The energetic little lady had, as she confessed to me when I charged
her with it, freed her burdened mind without reserve or fear:

“It was time somebody opened his eyes, and I felt myself called to do
it.”

Within twenty-four hours a consultation of physicians was held.

They, too, made no secret of their verdict. The apex of the right lung
was gone, and it was doubtful whether anything could prevent the rapid
waste of both. When Doctor Terhune, ever a stanch believer in the
efficacy of change of air and place, declared his determination to take
me abroad, without the delay of a month, two of the Galens affirmed
that it would be of no use. I “had not three months of life left to me,
under the most favorable circumstances.”

The ghastly truth was withheld from me at the time. I was told that
I must not spend another winter in Newark, and that we would, if
possible, go to the south of Europe for the winter. “To go abroad” had
been the dream of my life. Yet, under the anticipation of the labor and
bustle of closing the house, perhaps breaking up our home for good,
and going forth into a new world, my strength failed utterly. Now
that my husband knew the worst, there was no more need of keeping up
appearances. I became aware that I had, all along, been holding on to
life with will-power that had no physical underpinning. Each day found
me weaker and more spiritless. The idea that I was clinging to a shred
of existence by a thinning thread, seized upon me like a nightmare. And
I was tired! _tired!_ TIRED!

There came a day when I resolved to let go and drift out.

That was the way I put it to my husband when he approached my bed, from
which I never arose until nine or ten o’clock, and inquired how I felt.

“I am worn out, holding on!” I informed him. “I shall not get up
to-day. All that is needed to end the useless fight is to let go and
drift out. I shall drift!”

He sat down on the side of the bed and looked at me. Not gloomily, but
thoughtfully. There was not a suspicion of sentimentality in the gaze,
or in the tone in which he remarked, reflectively:

“I appreciate fully what you mean, and how hard it is for you to keep
on living. And I say nothing of the inconvenience it would cause your
girls and myself were you to die. It is asking a great deal of you—”
(bringing out the words slowly and with seeming reluctance). “But if
you _could_ bring yourself to live until Bert is through college, it
would be a great kindness all around. The boy will go to the devil
without his mother. Think of it—won’t you? Just hold on until your boy
is safely launched in life.”

With that he left me to “think of it.”

My boy! My baby! Just four years old, on my last birthday! The
man-child, of whom I was wont to say proudly that he was the handsomest
birthday gift I ever had, and that no young man could ever pay his
mother a more delicate and gracious compliment than he had paid me
in timing his advent upon December 21st. The baby that had Alice’s
eyes and brunette coloring! I lay still, staring up at the ceiling,
and doing the fastest thinking I had ever accomplished. I saw the
motherless boy, sensitive and high-spirited, affectionate and clever,
the butt of rude lads, and misinterpreted by brutish teachers; exposed
to fiery temptations at school and in college, and yielding to them for
the lack of a mother’s training and the ægis of a mother’s love.

“The boy will go to the devil without his mother!”

Hard words those, and curtly uttered, but they struck home as coaxings
and arguments and pettings could not have done.

In half an hour my husband looked in upon me again. I intercepted
remark or query by saying:

“Will you ring the bell for Rose to help me dress? I have made up my
mind to hold on for a while longer.”

The tactful ruse had given me a new lease of life.

One more circumstance connected with our first foreign trip may be
worth mentioning here.

During the summer of 1855, which I spent in Boston and the vicinity,
I consulted Ossian Ashley with regard to a project that had engaged
my mind for some months—_viz._, indulging my long-cherished desire to
visit Europe, and to spend a year there. There was no reason, that I
could see, why I should wait longer to put the plan into execution.
My parents were living, and were in the prime of healthy maturity;
I had plenty of money of my own, and, if I had not, my father would
cheerfully defray the expenses of the trip. We discussed the scheme at
length, and with growing zest. Then he made the proposition that his
wife should accompany me, taking her boy and girl along (she had but
two children then), and that he would join us in time to journey with
us for a few months, and bring us home.

With this well-digested scheme in my mind, I returned to Richmond.
There I met with strenuous opposition from an unexpected quarter:

“If you will stay at home and marry me, I guarantee to take you abroad
within seven years,” was one of the few promises the speaker ever broke
to me.

Just twenty-one years from the day in which Ossian Ashley and I
blocked out the route his wife and I would take on the other side, I
looked into his New York office to say that we had engaged passage for
Liverpool for October 15th, and that we expected to be absent for two
years at the least.

His look was something to be remembered. His son was in a Berlin
University, and Mrs. Ashley and her two young daughters would sail on
September 15th for Liverpool, intending to go thence to Germany. They
would remain there for two years.

On the morrow, we had a letter from him, notifying us that they had
exchanged the date of sailing for October 15th, and the boat for the
_City of Berlin_, in which we were to sail.

“A trifling delay of twenty-one years!” observed my husband,
philosophically. “If all human projects came as near prompt fulfilment
as that, there would be fewer grumblers.”

We took with us our three children and my maid, who had been the boy’s
nurse. In _Loiterings in Pleasant Paths_, written in part while we
sojourned abroad, she figures as “The Invaluable.” Never was title
more justly earned. In that book the events of the next two years are
recorded at greater length than they could be set down here.

I made no note there of the pain that seemed to pluck out our
heartstrings, consequent upon our parting with our Newark parish and
fellow-citizens. We had grown with the place, which was a mere village,
eighteen years ago, by comparison with the large city we left. Her
interests were ours. Doctor Terhune was identified with her public and
private enterprises, and known by sight and by reputation throughout
the town and its environs. His church stubbornly refused to consider
his resignation as final. He might have an indefinite leave of
absence—two, four, six years—provided he would engage to come to them
when he could bring me back well. He wisely refused to listen to the
proposal. The business quarter of the thriving city was encroaching
upon the neighborhood of the church. It was likely to be abandoned
as “a residential locality” within a few years. In which event, the
removal of building and congregation would be a necessity. The history
of such changes in the character of sections of fast-enlarging cities
is familiar to all urbanites. It was essential, in the opinion of
the retiring incumbent, that the church should select another pastor
speedily, if it would retain its integrity and identity.

The love and loyalty that had enveloped us, like a vitalizing
atmosphere, for almost a score of winters and summers, wrapped
us warmly to the last. There were public receptions and private
house-parties, by the dozen, and

                  “Partings such as press
    The life from out the heart,”—

and a gathering on the steamer on sailing-day that made us homesick in
anticipation of the actual rending of ties that were living flesh and
blood—and we were afloat.

As one of the leading men in the church shook my husband’s hand, in
leaving the deck, he pressed into it an envelope. We were well down the
bay when it was opened. It contained a supplementary letter of credit
of three thousand dollars—the farewell gift of a few men whose names
accompanied the token.

“Faithful to the end!” murmured the recipient, reading the short list
through mists that thickened between his eyes and the paper. “Had ever
another man such a parish?”

I answered “No!” then, emphatically.

My response would be the same to-day.



XLIV

TWO YEARS OVERSEAS—LIFE IN ROME AND GENEVA


THE main events of the two years spent abroad by our small family,
including “The Invaluable,” as we soon came to call Rose O’Neill, are
set down in _Loiterings in Pleasant Paths_, a chatty volume of travel
and sojourn, published soon after our return to America. The private
record of those two dozen months would far surpass the book in bulk. It
will never be written except as it is stamped upon “the fleshly tables
of the hearts” of those who lived and loved, studied, and revelled with
us.

We had meant to pass the first winter in Paris, but the most beautiful
city of the world was unfriendly to my sore and aching lung. After an
experiment of six weeks, we broke camp and sped southward. Ten days in
the fair Florence I was to learn in after years to love as a second
home, repeated the doleful tale of fog, rain, and chill that pierced
our bones.

An old Richmond friend, with whom I had had many a jolly frolic in my
early girlhood, was now Reverend Doctor Taylor, a resident of Rome.
After the exchange of several letters, we adopted his friendly advice
that we should give the Eternal City a trial as the refuge we sought—so
much less hopefully than at first, that I entreated my husband, on the
rainy evening of our arrival in Rome, not to push inquiries further,
but to let me go home, and die in comfort there.

Doctor Taylor had ordered rooms for us in a family hotel well spoken
of by Americans, and was at the station to conduct us to our quarters.

I was deposited upon a sofa, when my wraps were removed, and lay there,
fairly wearied out by the railway journey. The room was fireless and
carpetless. I could feel the chill of the stone flooring and the bare
walls through the blankets in which I was swathed by distressful Rose,
who “guessed these Eyetalians hadn’t the first notion of what American
comfort is!” Three long French casements afforded a full view of
leaden, low-stooping skies and straight sheets of rain. When a fire
of sticks, besmeared with resin, was coaxed into a spiteful flare,
the smoke puffed as spitefully into the room, and drifted up to the
ceiling twenty feet overhead. Invited by my ever-hospitable husband
to seat himself near an apology for a cheery hearthstone—less pitiful
to him after his ten years’ residence in Italy than to us, the new
arrivals—our friend fell into social chat of ways and means. The carpet
would be down to-morrow; the sun would shine to-morrow; I would be
rested to-morrow.

He broke off with a genial laugh there, to impart a bit of information
we were to prove true to the utmost during the next year:

“Everything is ‘_domano_’ with Italians. I think the babies are born
with it in their mouths. One falls into the habit with mortifying ease.”

I am afraid I dozed for a few minutes, lulled by the patter of rain
and the low-toned talk going on at the far (literally) side of the
apartment. A lively visitor used to wonder if we “could see across it
on cloudy days without an opera-glass.”

This was the next sentence that reached me:

“Thus far, we have met with discouragement. March is the most trying
month to weak lungs in America. And ever since we landed in Liverpool
we have had nothing but March weather. I think now we shall push on
to Algiers”—glancing ruefully at the murky windows. “Upon one thing
I am determined—to find a land where there is no March, as we know
the month. For one year I want to secure that for my wife’s breathing
apparatus.”

“I know of but one such region.” The answer was in the slight drawl
natural to the George Taylor I used to know; the speaker stared
sombrely into the peevish fire.

“And that?” interrogated the other, eagerly.

The drawl had now a nasal touch befitting the question:

    “‘No chilling winds, no poisonous breath
       Can reach that healthful shore!’”

“Heavens and earth, man! _That_ is just where I don’t want her to go
yet! Nor for many a long year!”

The laugh I could not suppress helped to warm and brighten us all. Do
any of us suspect how much we owe to the funny side of life?

Thus began my Roman winter. With “_domano_” came the sunshine and the
carpet, and the first of the hundred drives in and about the storied
city, that were to bring healing and vigor, such as even my optimistic
husband had scarcely dared to anticipate. That I am alive upon this
wonderful, beautiful earth at this good hour, I owe, under God, to
those divine four months among the Seven Hills. Doctor Terhune had
received the appointment to the Chaplaincy of the American Chapel in
Rome before we left Paris. He decided to accept it within a week after
our arrival in the Eternal City. It was a cosey corner for pastor
and flock—that little church in Piazza Poli, belonging to an Italian
Protestant corporation, and occupied by them for half of each Sunday,
by American tourists and transient residents of Rome for the other
half. All my memories of the wonderful and bewitching winter are happy.
None have a gentler charm than those which renew the scenes of quiet
Sunday forenoons when visitors from the dear home-land, who had never
before looked upon the faces of their fellow-worshippers, gathered by
common consent in the place “where prayer was wont to be made” in their
own tongue. There were no strangers in the assembly that lingered in
the tiny vestibule and blocked the aisle when the service was over. The
spirit of mutual helpfulness spoke in eye and speech. It should not
have been considered singular that those thus convened were, almost
without exception, refined and educated, and so unlike the commonly
accepted type of travelling American, that we often commented upon the
fact in conferences with familiar friends. We felicitated ourselves
that we caught the cream of the flow of tourists, that season.

“It is a breath of the dear old home-life!” said more than one
attendant upon the simple services, where the congregation was
kaleidoscopic in outward seeming, the same in spirit.

I cannot pass over this period of our foreign life without a tribute to
one whose friendship and able co-operation in the work laid to Doctor
Terhune’s hand, did more than any other one influence to make for him a
home in Rome. Dr. Leroy M. Vernon, who subsequently became Dean of the
University of Syracuse, in New York State, was the rarest combination
of strength and gentleness I have ever seen. He had been for some years
resident in Rome; was an enthusiastic archæologist and art-student,
speaking Italian with fluency and grace, and thoroughly _au fait_
to the best literature of that tongue. From the beginning of their
acquaintanceship, the two men fraternized heartily. In the ripening of
liking into intimacy, they walked, rode, talked, and studied together.
What the association was to the younger of the two, may be imagined
by one who has had the privilege of close communion with a beloved
comrade who held the key to the treasure-house one has longed all his
life to enter.

“The winter in Italy with Vernon was worth more to me than a course
in the Academy of Fine Arts, combined with ten years of archæological
lectures from experts,” was the testimony of the survivor, twenty years
later, when the news of the dean’s death was brought to us.

They loved each other tenderly to the end of mortal companionship.

Who can doubt that it has been renewed in the City where eager minds
are never checked by physical weakness, and aspiration is identical
with fulfilment?

In mid-May, when the Pincio put on its beautiful garments in the purple
flowering of the Judas-trees, and the tawny Tiber rolled between hills
of living green, we turned our backs upon what those marvellous months
had wrought into our own familiar dwelling-place, and took our sad,
reluctant way to Florence. Five weeks there were varied by excursions
to Fiesole, Bologna, and Venice. Our next move was to Lucerne. Leaving
the children in care of “The Invaluable,” we ran up to Heidelberg,
joining there our kinspeople, the Ashleys, and travelling with them
leisurely over mountain and through pass, until we brought up in Geneva.

We were hardly settled, as we supposed for the season, in the bright
little town of Calvin and Voltaire, when a summons came from the
American Chapel in Paris for Doctor Terhune’s services, pending the
absence of the regular incumbent in America, whither he had been
summoned by the illness of his mother. We had no thought that the
separation of the head from our transplanted family would be a matter
of even a few weeks, whereas it lasted for four months. There was
visiting back and fro; a reunion at Christmas under the massive crowns
of mistletoe, such as grow nowhere else—not even in the Britain of
the Druids—and a memorable New-Year’s dinner at the Hôtel Metropole,
arranged under American auspices, the chief pride of the feast being
mince-pies, concocted by Yankee housewives, and misspelled among the
French dishes on the gorgeously illuminated menus. In February, my
eldest daughter and myself went to Paris for a fortnight—a tentative
trip which proved beyond a question that the air of the city on the
Seine was rank poison to the healing lungs. We hurried back to jolly,
friendly Geneva, where I could walk five miles _per diem_ in air that
was the very elixir of life to my system, physical, mental, and moral.
Even the lusty winds from Mont Blanc, and the rough gales that lashed
Lake Leman into yeasty ridges for a week at a time, wrought strength,
instead of harm. That bodily strength grew apace was but one element
in the fulness of content in which we basked throughout the eight
months we spent in the lakeside city, behind which the Alps stood in
sublime calmness that was in itself tonic and inspiration. We had a
pleasant _appartement_ in the _Pension Magnenat_, directly upon the
quay. From our drawing-room windows we looked across the lake upon the
Juras, capped with snow, and made beautiful exceedingly all day long,
by changeful lights and shadows, reflected in the waters in opaline,
prismatic hues we had never seen surpassed, even in Italy.

The American colony in Geneva has a stable reputation for intelligence
and good-breeding. One expects to find these in university towns
abroad, as at home. It may not have been unusually delightful that
winter. Perhaps climate and health combined with our peaceful domestic
life, to incline us to be more than satisfied with our social
environment. Certain it is that the circle of congenial associates,
that had widened to take us in, as a part of a harmonious corporate
whole, was, to our apprehension, ideally charming. Everybody had some
specific work or pursuit to explain his, or her residence in Geneva.
The younger men were in the university, or in preparation for it,
with “coaches”; the girls were studying French, German, and Italian,
or painting from nature under such instructors as Madame Vouga, whose
renown as a painter of wild flowers was international. We matrons had
a reading-class, enlivened by the membership of our daughters, that
met weekly at the house of some one of the party. To it we brought our
easels, boards, and paint-boxes, our embroidery, or other fancy-work.
One of the girls read aloud for two hours—history, biography, or
essay—and at five o’clock what had been read was discussed freely
over afternoon tea. A club of young people of both sexes read German,
alternately with Italian and French plays, on Wednesday night, in my
_salon_, I playing chaperon at my embroidery-frame at a side-table, and
admitted to the merry chat that went around with coffee and cake, when
the reading was concluded. Some of the members of that informal “Club”
have made their mark in the large outer world since that care-free,
all-satisfying sojourn in what we forgot to call an alien land, so
happily did we blend with the classic influences, lapping us about so
softly that we were never conscious of the acclimating process.

The tall youth, who submitted meekly (or gallantly) to correction
of lingual lapses in his rendering of Molière or Wallenstein or
Ariosto, from the girl at his elbow—revenging himself by a brisk
fire of badinage in honest English after the books were closed—is an
eminent metropolitan lawyer, whose income runs up well into the tens
of thousands; another, a Berlin graduate, is the dignified dean of a
law school attached to an American university; another is a college
professor; another, a Genevan graduate, is rising in fame and fortune
in an English city; one, beloved by all, completed a brilliant course
at Harvard, and when hope and life were in their prime, laid his noble
head down for his last sleep in Mount Auburn. The gay girls are staid
matrons and mothers now, with sons and daughters of their own, as old
as themselves were in that far-off, care-free time.

I have written “care-free” twice upon one page, and because I can
conjure up no other phrase that so aptly describes what that veritable
arbor on the Hill Difficulty we call “Life,” was to me. Household cares
were an unknown quantity in the well-conducted pension. Our breakfast
of French rolls, coffee, tea, boiled eggs, honey, and, for the younger
children, creamy milk, was brought to our _salon_ every morning. A
substantial luncheon (the _déjeuner à la fourchette_) was served in the
pension _salle à manger_ at one, and a dinner of six or seven courses,
at seven. Our fellow-guests were, for the most part, unobjectionable;
a fair proportion were agreeable and desirable acquaintances. About
one-third were Americans; another third were English; the rest were
Italians, Germans, Russians, and French. A table at one end of the
room was assigned to English-speaking boarders, and we soon made up a
pleasant clique that did not, however, exclude several foreigners. Thus
we persisted in calling them to ourselves. There were excursions every
few days to places of interest within easy reach. Coppet, the home
and burial-place of Madame de Staël; the Villa Diodati, where Byron
and Shelley lived and wrote; Ferney the château from which Voltaire
wrote letters to the magnates of the world, and within the walls of
which he entertained all the famous wits and many of the beauties of
his stirring times; Chillon, immortalized by Bonnivard and the poem
founded upon his captivity—were some of the memorable haunts with which
frequent visits made us familiar.

Exercise was a luxury in the ozone-fraught air, fresh every morning,
and work was the natural result of the abounding vitality thus
engendered. In no other quarter of the globe have I found such
sustained vigor of mental and physical forces as during our residence
in Switzerland. I record the fact gratefully, and as a possible helpful
suggestion to other sufferers from the overstimulating climate and
prevalent energy of American life. Rome was a gracious rest; Geneva was
upbuilding.

It was a positive wrench to the heartstrings to leave her in May, and
take our course leisurely northward.

The summer was given, and happily, to England, our headquarters being,
successively, the Isle of Wight, Leamington, and Brighton.

Late in September, we sailed for New York.



XLV

SUNNYBANK—A NEW ENGLAND PARISH—“MY BOYS”—TWO “STARRED” NAMES


WITH no more idea as to our permanent abiding-place than had the Father
of the Faithful, when he turned his back upon Ur of the Chaldees, and
his face toward a land he knew not of, “still journeying toward the
south,” in obedience to daily marching orders—we sought, upon reaching
our native shores, the one _pied-à-terre_ left to us on the continent.

Sunnybank had been left in charge of the gardener, who, with his comely
English wife and four children, had now occupied the lodge at the gate
of our domain for ten years. He was Pompton-born and bred, and so
unromantic in sentiment and undemonstrative in demeanor, that we were
not prepared to behold a triumphal wreath on the gate when we drove
into the grounds. No human creature was visible until, winding through
the grove that hides the house from the highway, we saw the whole
family collected about the door. All were in holiday garb; wreaths of
goldenrod hung in the windows, and above the porch was tacked a scroll
with the word “WELCOME” wrought upon it in the same flowers. Yet more
amazed were we when, as Doctor Terhune stepped from the carriage,
Conrad knelt suddenly and embraced the knees of his employer, with an
inarticulate shout of joy, tears raining down his tanned cheeks.

“Just like a scene in an English play!” commented Christine,
afterward. “But not a bit like what one would expect in Pompton, New
Jersey, U. S. A.”

The unexpectedness of it all, especially the involuntary outbreak in a
man who had never seen a play in his life, and despised “foolishness”
of whatsoever description, moved us to answering softness, and brought
the first rush of home-gladness we had felt since landing. For, to be
honest, I confess that none of us were as yet reconciled to exchanging
the life we had luxuriated in for the past two years—full, rich, and
varied—for a toilful routine of parish duties, we knew not where.
Without confiding the weakness to the others, each of us, as we owned
subsequently with a twinge of shame, had been wofully dashed in spirit
by the circumstances attending our arrival. Clarence Ashley had met us
upon the wharf, his mother and sisters being at their country-place;
the day was unseasonably warm for late September, and New York was
in its least attractive out-of-season dress and mood. The docks were
dirty, and littered with trunks, crates, and boxes; the custom-house
officers were slow, and most of them sulky. We parted on the wharf
with a dear friend from Virginia, who had travelled with us for nearly
a year, and had taken return passage in the same ship. She had a home
to which to go. We felt like pilgrims and strangers in a foreign land.
As the carriage into which we had packed ourselves threaded its way
through the grimy purlieus of the lower city, I found myself saying
over mentally the unpatriotic doggerel I used to declare was unworthy
of any true American:

    “The streets are narrow and the buildings mean—
     Did I, or fancy, leave them broad and clean?”

Then, the fields and roads past which the train (yclept “an
accommodation”) bumped and swung, were ragged and dusty; the hedge-rows
were unkempt, the trees untrimmed. Fresh as we were from the verdure
of English parks, the shaven lawns, and blossoming hedges that make a
garden-spot of the tight little island we proudly recognized as our Old
Home, the effect of that sultry afternoon was distinctly depressing.
Our lakeside cottage, the one nook in all the broad land we could call
“Home,” on this side of the water, was another disappointment. Mrs.
Haycock and her girls had wrought zealously to make it comfortable, and
even festive. The wee rooms (as they looked to us) were shining clean;
flowers were set here and there, white curtains, white bedspreads,
and bright brasses betokened loving solicitude for our welfare and
contentment, and the good woman had ready a hot supper, enriched with
such Pompton dainties as she knew we loved. “The Invaluable” bustled
over luggage, and added finishing touches to bedrooms and nursery. I am
sure she was the only one of the returned exiles who was really happy
that night.

I am thus frank in relating our experiences, because I believe them
to be identical with those of a majority of tourists, upon resuming
home-habits in their native country. After excitement and novelty comes
the ebb-tide of reaction for the bravest and the most loving. Home is
home, but readjustment precedes real enjoyment of the old scenes and
ways.

We were hardly settled in the nest before we paid a promised visit to
Richmond. There were resident there, now, three families of the clan.
My brother Horace and the noble wife with whom my intimacy continued
unshadowed by a cloud of distrust until her death in 1894; my sister
Myrtle, more my daughter than sister, her husband, and the boy who was
my husband’s namesake; and Percy, the youngling of the brood, with a
dainty little spouse and their first-born son—made up the group that
welcomed us to dear old Richmond in early December.

To this was added, a week or so later, our eldest sister, who
journeyed all the way from her Missouri home to join in the greetings
to the whilom wanderers. We had one more Christmas-week together—the
last that was to collect the unbroken band under one roof-tree. Then
Mea went westward, and we took our way toward the north, leaving
Christine to make her début in society under the auspices of her uncles
and aunts, and where her mother had first tasted the pleasures of
young-ladyhood.

It was, as I wrote to her, history repeating itself, and that I felt as
if I had taken root again in my native soil, and was budding anew into
a second springtime.

In May I wrote to the girl whose first winter “out” had, thanks to the
affectionate adoption of uncles and aunts, fulfilled her rosiest dreams:

    “Do you recollect that I quoted to you at our parting in
    January, what a quaint old lady said to me in my girlhood:
    ‘My dear, you may be an angel some day! You will never be
    young again. Therefore, make the most of youth.’

    “I paraphrase her counsel now, and to you: Make the most of
    your present freedom, for you are going to be a pastor’s
    daughter again. As you know, your father has been preaching
    hither and yon all winter, and has had four calls to as many
    different churches: two in New Jersey, one in New Haven,
    and, lastly, in Springfield, Massachusetts. For reasons
    that seem good and sufficient to him, he has accepted the
    last-named invitation, and he will enter upon the duties
    connected therewith, this month.

    “The ‘Old First’ is the most ancient church in Springfield,
    if not the oldest in the Connecticut Valley. It has had
    an honorable history, in more than two hundred years of
    existence. If you have read Doctor Holland’s _Bay Path_, you
    will recollect Mr. Moxon, the then pastor of this church.
    Perhaps because I have read the book, and maybe because my
    old Massachusetts grandmother (a Puritan of the Puritans,
    and preciously uncomfortable to live with, she was!) talked
    to me of the straitlaced notions, works, and ways of the
    ‘orthodox’ New-Englander, which she thought ‘blazed’ the
    only road to heaven—I have an idea that we will find the
    atmosphere of Springfield very different from any other in
    which we have lived. If I am right, it will be a change even
    from Presbyterian Richmond. However this may be, I counsel
    you to enjoy the remaining weeks of your stay there to the
    utmost.”

If I were called upon to describe what was the real “atmosphere” of
the loveliest of New England towns, in which we lived for five busy
years, I should say that it was “stratified,” and that in a fashion
that puzzled us grievously up to the latest day of our sojourn. Public
spirit of the best and most enlightened sort; refinement and taste in
art and literature; social manners and usages that were metropolitan,
and neighborliness which made the stranger and sojourner welcome and
at ease—all this was “shot,” if I may so express it, with strata of
bigotry; with stubborn convictions that the holders thereof were right,
and the insignificant residue of the world utterly wrong, and with
primitive modes of daily life and speech, that never ceased to surprise
and baffle us. Yet we flattered ourselves that we knew something of the
world and the inhabitants thereof!

In the process of acclimation we had occasion, if we had never had it
before, to be thankful for the unfailing and robust sense of humor
that had stood our friend in many straits which would else have been
annoyances. Before long, we recognized that certain contradictory
phases of conduct and language, hard to comprehend and hard to endure,
had their keynote in what one of the best of my new friends once aptly
defined to me as “an agony of incommunicableness,” inherent in the
New-Englander’s composition. He may have drawn the strain through
nearly three centuries from his early English ancestry. I have seen the
same paradox in the Briton of this generation. Of one such man I said,
later in life, when I was alone with my sick son, thousands of miles
from home: “The ice was slow in breaking up; but it gave way all at
once, and there was warm water under it.”

“Agony of incommunicableness!” Over and over, during those five years,
I blessed the man who put that key into my hand.

I cannot better illustrate what I am trying to explain than by relating
what is, to me, one of the most precious and altogether satisfactory
memories connected with our Springfield experiences.

Four months after our removal to the beautiful city, I received a
formal request (everything up to that time had a smack of formality to
my apprehension) that I would take charge of a young men’s Bible-class,
the teacher of which had left the town. The application was startling,
for not one of the young fellows had ever called on me, or evinced
other consciousness of the insignificant fact of my existence than was
implied in a grave salutation at the church-door and on the street.
After consultation with my husband I accepted the position, and on
the next Sabbath was duly inducted into office by the superintendent.
That is, he took me to the door of the class-room and announced: “Mrs.
Terhune, young gentlemen, who will conduct your class in the place of
Mr. L., resigned.”

I walked up the room to face eight bearded men, the youngest twenty-two
years of age, drawn up in line of battle at the far end. I bowed
and said “Good-afternoon,” in taking the seat and table set for me
in front of the line. They bowed in silence. I began the attack by
disclaiming the idea of “teaching” them, concealing as best I could my
consternation at finding men where I had looked for lads. I asked “the
privilege of studying with them,” and thanked them for the compliment
of the invitation to do this. Then I opened the Bible and delivered a
familiar running lecture upon the lesson for the day. Not a question
was asked by one of the dumb eight, and not a comment was made at the
close of the “exercises” upon what had been said. I went through the
miserable form of shaking hands with them all as we separated, and
carried home a thoroughly discouraged spirit. By the following Sunday
I hit upon the idea of calling upon each student to read a reference
text, as it occurred in the course of the lecture, and I took care
there should be plenty of them. That was the first crack in the ice.
Encouraged by the sound of their own voices, the young fellows put a
query or two, and I used these as nails upon which to hang observations
not indicated in the “lesson-papers.” Next week there were sixteen in
line. Before the first year was out there were forty, and they gave a
dramatic entertainment in a neighboring hall, which netted a sum large
enough to enlarge the class-room to double the original size. They
decorated it with their own hands, and I was with them every evening
thus employed.

Still, there was never a syllable to indicate that this was anything
but a business venture. I love boys with my whole heart, and I had said
this and more in their hearing, eliciting no response.

At the end of the second year, when there were fifty members in the
class, one of the eldest of the number removed from Springfield to a
distant city. One of the greatest surprises of my life was in the form
of a letter I had the week after he had bidden me good-bye as coolly as
if he had expected to see me next Sunday as usual.

He began by telling me how often he had wished he could express what
those Sunday afternoons had been in his life. He “feared that I might
have thought him unresponsive and ungrateful.”

“If indeed you ever troubled yourself to bestow more than a passing
thought upon this one of the many to whom you have ministered,” he
went on, “I don’t believe you ever noticed that I let nobody else take
the seat next to you on the left? I used to go very early to make sure
of it. I shall unite with the church here next Sunday. You have a right
to know of a purpose, formed weeks ago, in that class-room—the most
sacred spot to me on earth.”

He wrote to me of his marriage two years later, then of the coming of
his first-born son. About once a year I heard from him, and that he was
prospering in business and happy in his home. Ten years ago I had a
paper containing a marked obituary-notice bearing his name.

The same story, with variations that do not affect the general purport
of the class-history, might be repeated here. I hear of “my boys” from
all parts of the world. All are gray-haired now who have not preceded
their grateful leader to the Changeless Home.

There were sixty-six of them when I told them, one Sunday afternoon,
five years after our first meeting, that Doctor Terhune had accepted
a pressing call to a Brooklyn church, and that I must leave them. The
news was absolutely unexpected, and a dead silence ensued. Then one
fellow, who had been received into the church with ten others of our
class, at the preceding communion season, arose in his place:

“Is there anything _we_ could do to keep him—and you?” he asked,
huskily. “Has anybody done anything to make your residence here
unpleasant? If so”—stammering now, and a defiant scowl gathering upon
his handsome face—“Say! can’t we fellows just _clean them out_, and
keep you and the Doctor?”

It was impossible not to laugh. It was as impossible to hold back the
tears at the odd demonstration of the “boys’” claim to membership in
the Church Militant. He may have forgotten the upgushing of the warm
water under the ice. I shall never lose the memory.

Nor yet of the farewell reception to which the boys rallied in force,
excluding all other guests from the pleasant class-room we had built,
and in which I spent some of the happiest hours vouchsafed to me in the
city I had called “a cold-storage vault,” before I got under the ice of
English reserve and Puritanical self-consciousness—engendered, as I am
fain to believe, by the rigid self-examination enjoined by the founders
of State and Church. In those rude and strenuous days, self-examination
took the place, with tortured, naked souls, of the penances prescribed
in the communion they had left to find

    “Freedom to worship God,”

and

    “A church without a bishop,
     A state without a king.”

The class-room was wreathed with flowers; there was music by the boys,
and social chat; a collation of their own devising: then the eldest of
the band, a married man for years, goodly of form and feature, and with
a nature as lovely as his face, arose to make a farewell “presentation
address.” He never finished it, although it began bravely enough. The
handsome set of brasses he passed over to me were labelled, as he
showed me, “FROM YOUR BOYS.”

“You will have another class in your new home,” the speaker broke into
the carefully prepared peroration to say, “but please let us always
call ourselves, ‘Your Boys!’”

They are that still, and they will be evermore! A finer, more loyal
body of young men it would be hard to find in New England, or
elsewhere. It has happened so often that I have come to look for it,
that, on steamer or train, on the street or in hotel, I am accosted by
a middle-aged man—invariably highly respectable in appearance—with—

“I beg your pardon. Let me recall myself to your memory. I belonged to
your Bible-class in Springfield.”

If, as usually happens, he adds to his name, “One of your boys”—the
ashes are blown away from the embers of long-past acquaintanceship. The
talk that ensues invariably emphasizes the pleasing fact that, if there
were a black sheep in our fold, he has, up to date, escaped detection.

God bless each and every one of them!

I cannot close the chapter that has to do with our Springfield days,
without paying a brief tribute to two who played important parts in the
drama of our family life. Both have passed from mortal vision, and I
may, therefore, name them freely.

The house built for us by a parishioner in the pleasantest part of
the city, was in the immediate neighborhood of the homestead of the
late Samuel Bowles, the well-known proprietor of the _Springfield
Republican_. The house was now occupied by his widow and family. To
the warm friendship that grew up between Mrs. Bowles and myself I
owe more than I can trust my pen to express here. From our earliest
meeting, the “middle wall of partition” of strangerhood ceased to
be to either of us. Hers, as I often reminded her, was the one and
only house in the place into which I could drop, between the lights,
unannounced, when the humor seized me, and without putting on hat or
coat. The ascent of the half-block of space dividing our doors is ever
associated in my mind with the gloaming and moonlight, and slipping
away from duties to relax thought and tongue, for one calming and
sweetening half-hour, in the society of one “who knew.” It was not
alone that, as one who had been born, and had lived out her girlhood in
the Middle States, her range of ideas and sympathies was not limited
by the circle of hills binding Springfield into a close corporation.
Her great, warm heart took in the homesick stranger that I was, for
many a month after transplantation, and gave me a corner of my very
own. She was a safe, as well as an appreciative listener, and gave
me many a hint respecting my new environment that wrought out good to
me. Her fine sense of humor was another bond that drew us together.
The snug sitting-room, looking upon the quiet street, up which the
shadows gathered slowly on summer evenings, and where the sleigh-bells
jingled shrilly in the early winter twilight, echoed to bursts of
laughter better befitting a pair of school-girls than two matrons who
were both on the shady side of fifty. I was in the earthly Jerusalem,
with my son, when the gates of the Celestial City opened to receive
her faithful, loving spirit. I am sure that, as Bunyan affirmed when
another travel-worn pilgrim entered into rest, “All the bells of the
city rang for joy.”

In April, 1884, our eldest daughter became the wife of James Frederick
Herrick, one of the _Republican’s_ editorial staff. We left her in
Springfield when, in the same year, we returned to the Middle States
to take up our abode for the next twelve years in Brooklyn. We could
not have left her in safer, tenderer keeping. A brother-editor said of
him once that he “had a heart of fire in a case of ice.” The simile did
not do justice to the gentle courtesy and dignity that lent a touch
of old-school courtliness to manner and address. In all the intimate
association of the next ten years, I never saw in him an act, or heard
a word that approximated unkindness or incivility. I wrote him down
then, as I do now, as in all respects, the thorough gentleman in what
makes the much-abused word a badge of honor. His ideals were high and
pure; his life, private and professional, above reproach.

“The stuff martyrs and heroes are made of,” said one who knew him well
and long.

He would have died for the truth; he would have laid down his life with
a smile for his wife and children. Such harmonious blending of strength
and sweetness as were found in the life of this man—modest to a fault,
and resolute to a proverb—I have never seen in another.

“_I have fought the good fight_” is the wording of his epitaph. I could
have wished to add, “_Of whom the world was not worthy_.”

In 1886 he received an appointment that brought him to New York. There
he yielded up a blameless life in 1893. If his last illness were not
the direct result of steady, unremitting work, it is yet true that he
wrought gallantly after the fatal fever fastened upon him, standing
patiently in his lot until prostrated by delirium.

I shall part with reason and memory before I forget that his last
thought was of the young wife kneeling at his pillow, and that the
dying eyes, in losing their hold upon earth, committed her to me.



XLVI

RETURN TO MIDDLE STATES—THE HOLY LAND—MY FRIENDS THE MISSIONARIES—TWO
CONSULS IN JERUSALEM


IN the sketch of my husband’s life-work, written by a faithful
co-laborer in the vineyard which is the world, and appended to this
story, his reasons for returning to the Middle States are briefly
given. As I near the latter chapters of my record, I am hampered by the
necessity of treating cautiously of persons and incidents too near the
present day to be spoken of with the freedom time made justifiable in
earlier reminiscences. Those twelve years in the City of Churches were
crowded with events of more or less moment. They were busy, and not
unhappy years. Our home-group, reduced to four by the marriage of our
eldest daughter, was made still smaller by the marriage of her sister
on March 5, 1889, to Frederic Van de Water, of Brooklyn. The choice was
wise, and the union has been one of rare blessedness.

“In-laws” have no terrors in our circle. No sinister significance
attaches to the term “mother-in-law.” The adopted sons were loyal and
loving to the parents of their wives. Not a cloud darkens the memory of
our intercourse. The only obstacle to Belle’s marriage was thus stated
in whimsical vexation by her father:

“It is hard that, when there are said to be fifteen hundred proper
names in the English language, my girls must select men who have the
same. It leads to no end of confusion!”

Our boy, now grown into an athletic six-footer, was graduated from
Columbia University in 1893. We three had lived in great peace and
contentment during his college course. We talk often, and wistfully,
of those four years of church-work, social duties, literary tasks, and
academic studies, which filled hands and heads. We spent our winters in
town. Sunnybank grew to be more and more a home in the summer months.
It was like a return to the time when our own babies filled house and
verandas with merry prattle, and our hearts made music; for there were,
at the date I name, four boys to repeat the history for the proud
grandparents. But for the great sorrow that had broken up Christine’s
happy home in February, and brought her back to us with her two boys,
and the birth, a fortnight thereafter, of Belle’s second boy, the
years slipped by brightly, without other signal event until “Bert’s”
graduation at the June Commencement. There was, for me, one notable
exception to the gentle flow.

It was, I think, in mid-June, that I had a letter from the proprietor
of the _Christian Herald_, a religious paper of wide circulation,
asking me to write a serial that should run through six months’
issues of that periodical. Just at that time my mind was working
upon a projected story (published afterward in book-form under the
caption _The Royal Road_), and this seemed a promising medium for
circulating it among the classes I wished to reach. Accordingly, I
called at the _Christian Herald_ office to discuss the plan. My brief
and satisfactory interview with the managing editor over, I arose
to go when he invited me to step into the adjoining room, where the
proprietor would like to speak with me for a minute. I was courteously
received, and final arrangements for the publication of the serial
were made. I was again on the point of departure, when the proprietor
directed my attention to a new and handsome map of the city of
Jerusalem, spread out upon his desk, inquiring, in an offhand way:

“Have you ever visited the Holy Land?”

“Never,” I replied, adding involuntarily, “It has been one of my
dearest dreams that I might go some day.”

“It would be a very easy matter for you to fulfil the wish,” in the
same easy, unpremeditated tone.

“Easy?” I repeated. “Yes; in my dreams!”

“In the flesh, and in reality. Will you sit down for a moment, please?”

He proceeded then, in less time than it will take me to write it, to
unfold a plan in which I soon saw, although he did not say it, that
the serial story, my call, and the map of Jerusalem, conspicuously
displayed on his desk, were so many stages of a carefully concerted
scheme. He wanted me to go to Syria, with the express purpose of
investigating the condition of the women of that land, and getting an
insight into their domestic life, and at the same time incidentally
gleaning material for sketches of historical localities—in short, to
gather material for such “familiar talks” as I had held with American
women upon household and social topics. These were to be supplied to
his paper, week by week. His provision for travelling expenses would
include those of my husband, or any other escort I might select. The
sum he named as remuneration for the work was handsome, but this
circumstance made a slight impression upon me at the time. Our dialogue
ended in my promise to take the matter into consideration, and to let
him have my decision in a day or two. I hope he never guessed at the
whirl of emotions lying back of a sober face and calm demeanor.

I recollect walking out into the bustling streets as if I trod upon
air, my head ringing as if nerves were taut harpstrings, my heart
throbbing tumultuously. I scarcely knew where I was, or whither I was
going. Something, somewhere—it seemed in the upper ether, yet so near
that I heard words and music—was singing rapturously:

    “Jerusalem the Golden!
       Methinks each flower that blows,
     And every bird a-singing
       Of that sweet secret knows.
     I know not what the flowers
       May feel, or singers see,
     But all these summer raptures
       Are prophecies of thee!”

It was my favorite hymn, but it was nothing in me that sang it then.

“One of my dearest dreams!”—ever since, as a child, I had fed a
perfervid imagination upon Bible stories, and chanted David’s psalms
aloud in the Virginia woods, to tunes of my own making. One of them
broke into the jubilant _Jerusalem the Golden_ pealing in the ether
overhead:

    “My feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem!”

Was I, then, so near the fulfilment of the heavenly dream?

       *       *       *       *       *

We sailed for the Holy City in September—my big boy and I. Doctor
Terhune could not go, and we had always promised that our son should
have a foreign trip when his university work was done. The opportunity
was auspicious.

Each of us told as much of the story of the memorable seven months
abroad as we were willing the public should read—I, in the letters
published first in the _Christian Herald_, subsequently in book-form
under the title, _The Home of the Bible_; Bert, in a smaller volume,
_Syria from the Saddle_, a breezy chronicle of a young man’s
impressions of what he saw and heard while in Syria. I considered it
then, and I think it now, a remarkable book, coming, as it did, from
the pen of a boy of twenty-one. He celebrated his majority in the
desert-places between Damascus and Jerusalem.

Two or three incidents, eventful forever to us, may be mentioned
briefly in this personal narrative.

I am not a believer in dreams. I do attach importance to
“coincidences,” holding some that have fallen into my life in reverence
the more sincere because I cannot explain them away.

One night in Paris, where we spent a fortnight on the way to Syria
_via_ Egypt, I had a long and distressing dream of carrying a poor
ailing baby along dark streets and over fences and fields. My arms
ached under the weight of the limp body; my heart and ears ached with
the piteous wailing of the sufferer, for whom I could do nothing.
I awoke in the morning, utterly worn out in nerve, and depressed
unreasonably in spirit. That forenoon I wrote my daughter:

    “It was an ugly, gruesome dream. Your aunt Myrtle would
    see in it an omen of evil. She says that a death in the
    family has always followed her dream of the sick baby she
    cannot put out of her arms. It is an old superstition. You
    may recollect that Charlotte Brontë alludes to it in _Jane
    Eyre_. I have so such dreads. Yet I find myself wishing
    that I had not had that ‘visitation.’ It has left a very
    unpleasant impression on my mind—a sort of bad taste in my
    mental mouth. I am thankful that it came to me, and not to
    Myrtle.”

My sister had been ill before we left home, but was convalescent when
we sailed, and a letter from her husband awaited us in Paris, conveying
the cheerful assurance of her confirmed improvement in health and
strength, and bidding me have no further anxiety on her account.

It was, therefore, a terrible shock when a letter, forwarded from place
to place, overtook us in Northern Syria, informing us that my dear
little “sister-daughter,” as she loved to call herself, had died on the
night of November 3, 1893—the very night through which the “gruesome”
dream had pursued me from midnight until dawn. Christine wrote in reply:

    “When we read your letter of that date, Belle’s eyes met
    mine in silent, awesome questioning. Merely a coincidence?
    Perhaps, but strange!”

I can add no other comment.

My second eventful incident hinges upon a short severe illness that
prostrated me, the third day after we landed in Beirut from the steamer
we had taken at Port Saïd. I had already made acquaintance with
President Bliss and some of the professors in the American College,
crowning one of the heights of the beautiful town, and I sent at once
for Doctor Schauffler, whom I had known slightly in Springfield,
Massachusetts.

On the fourth day of my illness I asked him, plaintively:

“Do you know there is not a woman-servant in this hotel? The person who
‘does’ my room has a long white beard and wears a skull-cap. Bert calls
the photograph he has made of the nondescript: ‘_Le femme de chambre!_’
It is very funny—and rather dreadful!”

“The beloved physician” eyed me in thoughtful compassion.

“We are so used to that sort of thing here that we rarely think of it
as out of the way. No decent woman would take a position in a house
where she must work with men. She would lose caste and reputation,
forthwith. Hence, ‘_le femme de chambre_.’ I can see that it must be
intensely disagreeable to you.”

There the matter dropped. I was still in bed when, at four o’clock
that afternoon, he paid his second visit. He wasted no time in apology
or solicitation. His carriage was at the door, packed with cushions.
I must be taken out of bed, rolled up in rugs and shawls, carried
down-stairs by my son and my dragoman, deposited in the carriage and
driven up to his house.

“Where there are women-servants,” he added, laughingly, “and where a
cordial American welcome awaits you. Doctor and Mrs. Webster, of Haifa,
are visiting us, and you will be well looked after. And Mrs. Bliss is
coming over to drink afternoon tea with you. So, we have no time to
lose.”

That was the beginning of ten days of such luxurious rest and
continuous petting as I had never expected to find out of my native
land and my own home. I rallied fast under the new conditions of
invalidism. In two days, I left my bed and lay, for most of the
forenoon and all the latter part of the day, upon a luxurious lounge
in the square central hall, from which doors led on all sides to the
other parts of the house. The ceilings were twenty feet above me; the
casements opened down to the tiled floors; palms, and other tall plants
rounded the corners of the hall, and vases of cut flowers filled the
cooled air with fragrance. As I lay, I could see trees laden with
oranges and tangerines in the gardens below; hedges of cactus and
geraniums, the latter in the fulness of scarlet bloom, intersecting the
grounds of the college and the neighboring dwellings. The colony of
President and professors was one united family, and they took me—sick,
and a stranger—into the heart of the household. I recall, with pride,
that not a day passed that did not bring me a call from Doctor Bliss,
the genial and honored head of the noble institution, while Mrs.
Bliss’s neighborly attentions were maternally tender. I had not been
at the hotel in the lower town for an hour before she appeared, laden
with flowers and an offering of “American apples, such as one cannot
buy in the East.” The next day, and for every day following, before
Doctor Schauffler carried me off with benevolent violence, she sent to
me home-made bread, having heard (as was true) that the hotel bread was
generally sour.

I looked forward with especial pleasure to the afternoon-tea hour. The
gathering about my lounge would have graced any _salon_ where wits
do congregate. The silver-haired President never failed to put in
an appearance; Doctor Post, the distinguished senior of the medical
professors, and his charming daughter, afterward my cicerone in the
visits I paid to Syrian women in their own homes; Doctor and Mrs.
Eddy, whose daughter was just then surprising the social world of
Constantinople by taking her degree in medicine, and with honor; the
Jessup brothers and their families, known to all readers of church
and charitable literature by their achievements in the mission-field;
Doctor and Mrs. Porter, in whose house we had celebrated Thanksgiving
Day the evening succeeding our arrival in Beirut, singing, at the close
of the joyous festivities, “My country, ’tis of thee,” with all the
might of our lungs, and with hearts aglow with patriotism distance and
expatriation could not abate—these, with a group of younger professors,
tutors, and winsome girls, were the ministering genii that buoyed me
speedily back to robust health.

They gave me a concert, a night or two before our parting. The light in
the great hall was a pleasant _chiaro-oscuro_, the music-room opening
out of it being brilliantly illuminated for the performers upon piano,
violin, violoncello, guitar, and flute. From my sofa I had a full view
of them all, and through one long window a moon, but four days old,
looked at us through the orange-trees.

Is it strange that the chapter in my _Home of the Bible_, headed “_My
Friends the Missionaries_,” was penned with grateful memories too
tender for speech?

We had in Jerusalem another true, hearty, and affectionate
home-welcome. Dr. Selah Merrill, the well-known archæologist and
Oriental scholar, had then been United States Consul at Jerusalem for
nine years. The change of administration in Washington had put in his
place Rev. Edwin Wallace, and we found both consuls still in residence
upon our arrival. It was a happy combination for us. The consuls and
their wives were settled in the one good hotel in the city—the “Grand
New”—to which our incomparable dragoman, David Jamal, conducted us. We
fraternized at sight. Doctor Merrill and his successor were upon most
amicable terms, the senior and late incumbent doing all in his power
to lessen the labors of the novice. The fatherly kindness of one, and
the gentle deference of the junior, were beautiful to behold. We two
travellers shared the advantages enjoyed by Mr. Wallace in his first
visits to memorable places in the new home, of which he has written
eloquently in his book—_Jerusalem the Holy_. I shall always esteem
as one of the rarest bits of good-fortune which befell us in our
wanderings in storied lands, that Doctor Merrill was emphatically our
“guide, philosopher, and friend,” during our stay in Southern Syria.
He, it was, who made out our itinerary when he could not conduct us
personally, as he did in our expeditions in and about Jerusalem.

I reckon the four, who made the City of the Great King home to us,
among the friends to whom my obligations are not to be described in
words. And what royally “good times” we had together! Had it been in
the power of Mrs. Merrill and Mrs. Wallace to spare me every possible
inconvenience of tent-life and Eastern transit, I should have been
lapped in luxury throughout our tour of village and desert.

Of these I have written elsewhere, and at length.



XLVII

    LUCERNE—GOOD SAMARITANS AND AN ENGLISHMAN—A LECTURE
    TOUR—OHIOAN HOSPITALITY—MR. AND MRS. McKINLEY


OUR homeward journey was performed in a delicious, leisurely fashion.
We had worked hard for three months, collecting material for our
prospective books. Once and again, when we would fain have had heart
and imagination free to take in, at their full value, associations
connected with, and emotions excited by, this or that sacred spot—did
we remind ourselves of the plaint of the poet, who could never give
himself up to the enjoyment of nature, because he saw, stamped upon sea
and sky, mountain and river, in huge capitals—“MATERIAL.” Neither of us
meant to write up Egypt, Rome, Florence, Switzerland, and the British
Isles. With very much the joyous sense of relief with which children
scamper home, when school is out, we roamed and lingered to our hearts’
content for the ten weeks that were left of our vacation. We fell in
with congenial travelling companions in Egypt, joining parties for the
run through Greece and Lower Italy. In Florence, we were reunited to
friends with whom we had crossed the ocean, and did not part from them
until, in Lucerne, they were summoned to Paris, while we planned a stay
of some days in romantic regions endeared to us by former experiences,
when the “Boy” of _Loitering in Pleasant Paths_ was too young to
appreciate the grandeur of mountain passes, snow-capped heights, azure
lakes, and historic cantons.

Anticipation received a cruel blow in the beautiful lakeside city in
which we had passed the heart of a memorable summer, fifteen years
before. My son was stricken down with appendicitis in Lucerne, and
I knew not a human creature beside himself in all Switzerland! By
rare good-fortune, I recalled the name of a physician with whom my
husband had become acquainted in our former stay here, and sent for
him at once. He had retired from the active duties of his profession,
resigning his practice to his son, who was, I learned, at the head of
the hospital in Lucerne.

To my infinite relief, he informed me that there would be no need of an
operation unless more serious symptoms should intervene. I subjoin the
addenda to the verdict for the benefit of those whom it may concern:

“You Americans are too fond of the knife! It is not always necessary to
cut out an inflamed appendix. In my hospital we have had four hundred
cases of appendicitis within the last ten years, and have operated just
forty times! The patients recovered without the use of the knife.”

If I had ever leaned, never so slightly, to misanthropic judgment of my
fellow-mortals, I must have been shamed out of them by the incidents
of the next fortnight of cruel anxiety, and what would have been
unutterable loneliness but for the exceeding and abounding charity of
the strangers by whom I was surrounded.

“It is my opinion,” pronounced the patient, when, on Easter morning,
his chamber was fragrant with flowers and brightened by cards
and messages of cheer and sympathy—“my decided and well-grounded
conviction—that this Canton is peopled by the posterity of the Good
Samaritan. Even the innkeeper has taken a hand in the mission to the
traveller on the Jericho Road!”

The last remark was drawn out by the opening of a great box of violets,
richly purple, and so freshly gathered that the odor floated into the
air, like clouds of incense, with the lifting of the cover.

And, as a sudden thought struck him: “Have the blasted Britishers
spoken yet?”

“No! Their conversation is confined to their own party.”

I had brought the like report every day for a week. “The blasted
Britishers,” for whom he had no milder name, were a young man, his
wife, and sister, who were at the end of my table and my nearest
neighbors. The hotel was very full. A fair sprinkling of Americans,
a few English, and a mixture of French, Swiss, Germans, and Italians
made up a crowd that changed daily in some of its features. From the
proprietor down to the porter, there was not an employé or official
connected with the house who did not inquire, whenever I showed myself
in hall or _salle à manger_, “how the young gentleman was getting on?”
and express the hope of his early recovery. The entire working-staff of
the Hotel de Cygne was at our feet, and the guests in the house were
assiduous in offers of assistance and assurances of sympathy. Strangers
inquired across the table as to the patient’s condition, and if there
were any way in which they could be of service. The “B. B.’s”—as
the object of this kindly solicitude contemptuously abbreviated the
appellation—held aloof, apparently ignorant of my existence, much less
of the cause of inquiry and response. They chatted together pleasantly,
in subdued, refined tones betokening the gentle-folk they were, but,
for all the sign they gave of consciousness of the existence of the
afflicted Americans, they might have been—to quote again from the
indignant youth above-stairs—“priest and Levite, rolled into one mass
of incarnate selfishness.”

So matters went on until next to the last day we spent in Lucerne.
My patient was on his feet in his room, and had been down-stairs
twice to drive for an hour, and test his strength for the journey to
Paris, which he was impatient to begin. I had heard that there was a
sleeping-car—a “_wagon-au-lit_,” as the Swiss put it—upon one train
each day. This I wished to take, if possible, and to break the journey
by stopping overnight at least once, in the transit of fifteen hours
that separated us from the French capital. It so chanced that the talk
of the “B. B.’s” at luncheon that day turned upon this train, and,
forgetful, for the moment, of their discourteous reserve, I addressed
the man of the party with—“Pardon me! but can you tell me at what hour
that train leaves Lucerne, and when it reaches Basle?”

“With great pleasure!” turning an eager face upon me. “But may I
ask, first, how your son is to-day? We have inquired constantly of
the proprietor, and of the doctor, when we could see him, how he was
getting on. We were delighted to hear that he is improving, etc., etc.,
etcetera”—while I was getting my breath, and rallying my fluttered
wits. With this preamble, he proceeded to tell me all he knew of
trains that were likely to be of service, volunteering to make direct
inquiries at the station that afternoon, and begging to know in what
way he could forward my purpose.

When I could escape, I carried a bewildered face and soul up to the
convalescent.

Then it was that I made the remark I quoted in a former chapter,
apropos of New England “incommunicableness”:

“The ice is broken, and there is warm water under it!”

We had not finished discussing the idiosyncrasies of Old and New
England when, half an hour later, there came a gentle tap at the door.
I opened it, and nearly swooned with an access of amazement when I saw
the young Englishman.

He had a paper in his hand, and began without preface:

“I have made so bold as to look up the trains, don’t you know? And—oh,
I say”—breaking off as he espied the figure on the lounge through the
half-opened door—“mayn’t I come in and see him? We are both young men,
you know!”

He was at the sofa by this time, and shaking hands with the occupant.
“Awfully glad to see you are doing so well! Oh, by Jove!” interrupting
himself anew, with the frank boyishness that had marked his entrance.
“I believe you are taller than I!”

He surveyed the recumbent figure with undisguised admiration.

“Six feet, two-and-a-half, gymnasium measure!” rejoined the other,
laughing.

It was impossible to resist the cordial _bonhommie_ of the self-invited
guest.

“And I six, three!” complacently. “But a fellow looks longer when he is
on his back. May I sit down?” drawing up a chair for me, and one for
himself. “And would it tire you to talk a bit about routes and so on?
Do you think you are really fit for the jaunt?”

The “bit” of talk lasted an hour, and the invalid brightened with every
minute. The “Britisher” was an army man, at home on leave, after ten
years in India. He had travelled far and used all his senses while _en
route_. He was eloquent in praise of India, and so diligently was the
time improved by both the young men that, in leaving, the elder exacted
a promise that, when the other should visit India, he would apply to
him—the “B. B.”—for letters of introduction to “some fellows” who might
be of use to him. He gave us his card, lest he might not see us again.
It bore the name of a fashionable London hotel, at which he “hoped to
see” his new acquaintance, since he was going to London within the
month. He did see us again, calling on the morrow to ask if there were
anything he could do to facilitate our departure. He brought, also,
the compliments and good wishes of his wife and sister for our safe
journey. The schedule of travel he had arranged for us was so carefully
drawn up that a fool could not err therein.

We never saw or heard from him again. It was not convenient for Bert
to call during the brief stay we made in London, on the very eve of
sailing for home. And we have never yet been to India. The “B. B.”
seemed not to be able to conceive the possibility that any one who
could get to that end of the earth could refrain from going.

I have seen enough of the English since to comprehend that this was
not a phenomenal illustration of native reserve, that waits for the
initiative from the other party to the meeting, and, like the traveller
in the fable of the contest between the wind and sun, throws away the
cloak of strangerhood as soon as the first step is taken by another. I
have heard other anecdotes descriptive of a characteristic which belies
the depth and warmth of the underlying heart, but none that bring it
more prominently into view. It is strange—and interesting—to us of a
more emotional race, to see the sudden leap of the unsealed fountain.

During the summer and autumn succeeding our return to America, I
utilized much of the “material” collected in the East in a series of
lectures delivered in seven different States. For two summers preceding
my tour abroad, I had, in conjunction with Mrs. Margaret E. Sangster,
conducted what we called “Women’s Councils”, in various Summer Schools
modelled upon the famous Chautauquan Assemblies. I had hardly settled
in the peaceful home-nest when applications from similar organizations
began to arrive. Upon former expeditions, my husband, and sometimes
our son, and Mrs. Sangster’s nephew, Bert’s classmate and chum, had
accompanied us, and when the “Council” adjourned, we made up a jolly
party to Mackinac Island (in which beautiful spot I laid the scene of
_With the Best Intentions_), to Niagara Falls, the Adirondacks, and
divers other summer resorts. Mrs. Sangster had no share in my present
lecture engagements, and neither my husband nor son could spare the
time to accompany me. In the comparatively secluded and carefully
sheltered life of to-day, I marvel at the courage that enabled me to
journey for thousands of miles, unattended, and to face audiences
that numbered from one to two thousand women, with never a misgiving
as to my reception, and perfect security from annoyance. Wherever I
went, doors and hearts were opened to me. But once, in a series that
comprised twenty towns and villages, was I ever allowed to stay at
a hotel, and that was for a single night. The friends made then are
cherished to this hour.

Time would fail me and the patience of the reader be exhausted, were
I to attempt even a catalogue of the localities in which I talked, as
woman to woman, of what I had seen and heard in those seven months
of wandering and study. If I had never loved women before, and held
in especial and tender regard those of my own country, I must have
learned the sweet lesson in the unescorted itineraries from Syracuse,
N.Y., to Chicago; from Vermont to Michigan; from Richmond, Va., to
Cincinnati. And in all the thousands of miles, and in the intercourse
with tens of thousands of people whose faces I had never seen before, I
had, in the three lecture seasons in which I took part, not one unkind
word—received nothing but kindness, and that continually. Hospitality
and brotherly (and sisterly) love have had new and deeper meaning to
me, ever since. I permit myself the recital of two “happenings” in
Ohio, that have historic interest in consideration of subsequent events.

After fulfilling a delightful engagement at Monona Lake—near Madison,
Wisconsin—I set out for Lakeview, Ohio, where I was to hold a Women’s
Council for the next week, beginning Monday. This was Saturday noon,
and I was to travel all night. Dr. T. De Witt Talmage, whom I had seen
at Monona Lake, had told me of a branch road connecting the station,
at which I was to leave the main line, early Sunday morning, with
Lakeview. I would reach that place, he said, by seven o’clock, and have
a quiet Sunday to myself. This was preferable to passing it in Chicago
or any other large town. In the Madison station I was so fortunate
as to meet Mr. Hamilton W. Mabie and Dr. Francis Maurice Egan, at
that time Professor of English Literature in the Georgetown (R. C.)
University, and, subsequently, United States Minister to Denmark. Both
of these distinguished men had been lecturing at Monona Lake Assembly.
The rest of the day passed swiftly and brightly. Mr. Mabie left us in
Chicago, where we were detained until midnight, on account of some
delay in incoming trains. Doctor Egan, whose spirits never flagged,
proposed a walk through the illuminated streets, and a supper together,
which “lark” we enjoyed with the zest of two school-children. Then we
returned to the waiting train, and bade each other “Good-bye.”

The journey had begun so auspiciously that I alighted from the sleeper
in the early dawn, feeling, what the sporting Englishman would call
“uncommonly fit,” and with no prevision of what lay before me.

For not a symptom of the promised branch line was to be seen, as far as
eye could reach. There were two houses at the terminus of my railway
journey. One was the usual station and freight-house; the other, a
neat cottage a stone’s-throw away, was, I found, the dwelling of the
station-agent. He was the one and only human thing in sight. Beyond lay
woods and cultivated fields.

The man was very civil, but positive in the declaration that the branch
line connecting with the Assembly grounds was ten miles further
on; also, that no trains ran over it on Sunday. As at Monona Lake,
admission was denied to the public on that day. Otherwise, the ground
would be overrun by the rabble of curious sight-seers. There was no
hotel within five miles, and no conveyance to take me to it, or to
Lakeview.

The predicament was serious, yet it provoked me to mirth. Doctor
Talmage’s directions to alight at this particular point (as he “had
done not a week ago”); my cheerful confidence that the day would be as
yesterday, if not more abundant in enjoyment; the immediate prospect of
starvation and discomfort, since all the accommodations I could command
were that one room of the country station—made up a picture at which
any woman must laugh—or cry. The station-master looked relieved that I
did not weep, or whine. When I laughed, he smiled sympathetically:

“If you will sit here for a few minutes,” leading the way into the room
behind us, “I’ll step over and talk to my wife.”

From that moment I had no apprehension of further misadventures.

If I had indulged a fleeting misgiving, it would have been dissipated
by the sight of the woman to whom I was introduced when I had accepted
the invitation to “step over” to the neat cottage a few rods down the
road.

It was a veritable cottage—low-browed and cosey, vine-draped, and
simply but comfortably furnished. The mistress met me in the door with
a cordial welcome, and took me into her bedroom to wash away the dust
of travel and lay off my hat. For I was to breakfast with them, after
which her husband would get up the horse and buggy, and she would drive
me over to the Assembly grounds. She looked, moved, and spoke like a
gentlewoman. Against the background of my late predicament, she wore
the guise of a ministering angel. The breakfast was just what she
had prepared for her husband. She proved the quality of her breeding
there, too, in not lisping a syllable of apology. None was required
for a meal so well-cooked and served, but few women would have let the
occasion pass of informing the stranger within their gates how much
better they might have done had they been notified of the coming of
“company.” On the road she told me that she had a season-ticket for
the Summer School, and that she had attended the sessions regularly
during the week that had passed since it opened. She was a pretty
little body, becomingly attired, and intelligent beyond her apparent
station. I was to learn more in time of the minds and manners of the
average Ohio woman and man, and to be moved to wondering admiration
thereby. The road, level as a floor for most of the way, lay between
fields, orchards and vineyards so well cultivated that they recalled
the husbandry of older lands. My companion was _au fait_ to the
agricultural interests of her native State, and descanted upon the
resources of the region with modest complacency. The weather was
delicious, the drive a pleasure. Not until we were in sight of the
lake, on the shores of which the camp was located, did she suggest
the possible difficulty of gaining admission to the grounds. She had
her ticket, which would pass her on Sunday, as on week-days. Perhaps
I had one? I said, “No,” frankly. Were the rules very strict? She was
“afraid they were.” It was evident that she had wholesome respect for
the regulation barring out unlicensed intruders. My credentials, in the
form of letters and contract, were in the trunk the station-master had
engaged to send over on Monday. Up to this moment I was an anonymous
wayfarer to my hosts, and I did not care to owe their hospitality to
any prestige that might attach to an advertised name. So I said we
would postpone uneasiness until I was actually refused admittance
by the gate-keeper. When he halted us, my companion produced her
passport, and I offered, as warrant of my eligibility, to send for
Doctor Lewis, the superintendent of the Assembly, to vouch for me. He
gave me a searching glance, and stood back to let us pass.

I recognized my guardian angel in my audience on Monday, and made it my
business and pleasure to seek her out at the conclusion of the lecture.

“We made up our minds last night, as we were talking it over, who you
were,” she remarked, quietly. “I had my list of the speakers, and you
were set down for to-day. I wished, then, that I had guessed the truth
before.”

I did not echo the wish. My first taste of Ohio hospitality would have
lost the fine flavor that lingers in my memory, like the aroma of old
Falernian wine. A duchess of high degree might have taken lessons in
breeding and Christian charity from the station-keeper’s wife.

During the week spent at Lakeview I had an opportunity, which I prize
now beyond expression, of meeting Mr. McKinley, then the Governor of
Ohio. He passed a day at the principal hotel of the place with his
wife, and visited the Assembly. I was invited, with other visitors, to
dine with him, and afterward to drive into the country with himself and
Mrs. McKinley.

“The future President of the United States!” a friend had said to me
when I told her of the projected drive.

“I don’t think so,” was my answer. “But a good man and an honest
politician.”

As he lifted his invalid wife into the carriage, a packet of letters
was handed to me.

In taking his place on the front seat he begged me to open them:

“Home letters should never be kept waiting.”

“I will avail myself of your kind permission so far as to look into
one,” I answered. “It is the daily bulletin from my husband. A glance
at the first paragraph will tell me how matters are at home.”

“A daily bulletin!” repeated Mr. McKinley, as I refolded the epistle
after the satisfactory glance.

“Yes—and we have been married nearly forty years!”

“A commendable example—” he began, when his wife caught him up:

“Which he does not need! He never fails to write to me every day when
he is away; but when he was in Washington, some years ago, and I was
not well enough to go with him, he telegraphed every morning to know
how I was, besides writing a long letter to me in the afternoon.”

Laughingly putting the remark aside, he leaned forward to direct my
attention to a row of hills on the horizon, and to talk of certain
historical associations connected with that part of the State. She
resumed the topic, awhile later, descanting in a low tone upon his
unwearied regard for her health, his tender solicitude, his skill as
a nurse, and similar themes, drawn on by my unfeigned interest in the
story, until he checked her, with the same light laugh:

“Ida, my dear! you are making Mrs. Terhune lose the finest points in
the landscape we brought her out to admire.”

“Permit me to remind you that there are moral beauties better worth my
attention,” retorted I.

He lifted his hat, with a bright look that went from my face to
dwell upon that of the fragile woman opposite him, with affectionate
appreciation, and full confidence that I would comprehend the feeling
that led her to praise him—a flashing smile, I despair of describing as
it deserves. It transfigured his face into beauty I can never forget.
In all my thoughts of the man who became the idol of his compatriots,
dying, like a martyr-hero, with a plea for mercy for the insane
assassin upon his lips, I recur to that incident in my brief personal
acquaintanceship with him, as a revelation of what was purest and
sweetest in a nature singularly strong and gentle.

In relating the little by-play to my dear friend, Mrs. Waite, the widow
of the Chief-Justice, then living in Washington, I said that it was a
pity to see a man in Mr. McKinley’s exalted and responsible position
tied to the arm-chair of a hopeless invalid, who could contribute
nothing to his usefulness in any relation of life.

“He owes more to her than the public will ever suspect,” was the reply.
“We knew him from a boy, and watched his early struggles upward. His
wife was his guiding star, his right hand. She was, then, a woman of
unusual personal and mental gifts, more ambitious for him than he
was for himself. My husband often said that she was Mr. McKinley’s
inspiration. Those who have never known her except as the fragile,
nerveless creature she is now, cannot imagine what she was before the
deaths of her children and her terrible illness left her the wreck you
see. But _he_ does not forget what she was, and what she did for him.”

I treasured the tribute gratefully, and I never failed to
quote it when I heard—as was frequent during Mr. McKinley’s
administration—contemptuous criticism of the helpless, sickly woman—the
poor shade of the First Lady of the Land—whose demands upon his time
and care were unremittent and heavy. He was held up to the world by his
eulogists as a Model Husband, a Knight of To-day, whose devotion never
wavered. As my now sainted mentor said, few of the admiring multitude
guessed at his debt of gratitude and at his chivalrous remembrance of
the same.



XLVIII

THE CLOUDS RETURN AFTER THE RAIN—ABROAD AGAIN—HEALING AND
HEALTH—IDYLLIC WINTER IN FLORENCE


WHAT one of Doctor Terhune’s biographers has alluded to as his
“splendid vitality,” had been cruelly taxed by his professional labors
in his first charge in Brooklyn. With a strong man’s aversion to the
acknowledgment of physical weakness, he had fought, with heroic courage
and reserve, the inroads of a disease that was steadily sapping his
constitution and vigor. None except his physician and myself dreamed
of the gnawing pain that was never quiet during his waking hours, and
robbed the nights of rest. The services of Sunday left him as weak as
a child, and stretched him upon the rack all of that night. When, the
work he had assigned to himself soon after accepting the pastorate
of the Bedford Avenue Church having been accomplished, he resigned
the position, and quoted his physician’s advice that he should take a
few months of rest and change of scene—the information was couched in
terms so light that, with the exception of two or three of his chosen
and most faithful friends, his parishioners had no suspicion of his
real condition. The public press hazarded the wildest and most absurd
guesses at the causes that had stirred the nest he had builded wisely
and well during the last seven years.

Perhaps the theory that amused us most, and flew most widely from the
mark, was “that his wife—known to the public as ‘Marion Harland’—took
no interest in church-work—in fact, never attended church at all.” My
class of forty-four splendid “boys”—the youngest being twenty-one years
of age—begged to be allowed to look up the imaginative reporter and, as
the Springfield member of the Church Militant had proposed, “fire him
out.” Calmer counter-statements from older heads, and hearts as loyal,
met the assertion in print and in private. To me, it weighed less than
a grain of dust in the greater solicitude that engrossed my thoughts.
For, in a week after the formal resignation of his office, the patient
sufferer was under the surgeon’s knife.

They called it “a minor operation,” and enjoined complete rest, for
a month or so, that ought to bring recuperation of energies so sadly
depleted that those who knew him best were urgent in the entreaty that
the mandate should be obeyed. He “rested” in the blessed quiet of
Sunnybank for a couple of months; then set out for a leisurely jaunt
westward. He had been invited to preach in Omaha, and thought that he
would “take a look at the country” which he had never visited. He got
no further than Chicago, falling in love with the warm-hearted people
of a church which he agreed to supply for “a few weeks.” The weeks
grew into seven months of active and satisfying work among his new
parishioners. Our eldest daughter was with him part of the time, and I
went to him for a visit of considerable length, returning home with the
sad conviction, deep down in my soul, that to accept the offered “call”
to a permanent pastorate would be suicidal. He could never do half-way
work, and he loved the duties of his profession with a love that never
abated. By the beginning of the next summer, he was forced to admit to
himself that his physical powers were inadequate to the task laid to
his hand. Yet, on the way home, he was lured into agreeing to supply
the pulpit of a friend, a St. Louis clergyman, during the vacation of
the latter, preaching zealously and eloquently for five weeks, and
this in the heat of a Missourian summer.

It was but a wreck of his old, buoyant self that he brought back to
us. Confident in his ability to rise above “temporary weakness,” he
insisted that “Sunnybank and home-rest were all he needed to set him up
again as good as new.”

I had said once, jestingly, in his hearing, after his quick recovery
from a short and sharp attack of illness:

“It is hard to kill a Terhune. Nothing is really effectual except a
stroke of lightning, and that will paralyze but one side. None of them
die under ninety!”

He reminded me of the foolish speech, many and many a time, in the
weeks that dragged themselves by us who watched the steady ebb of vital
forces and the pitiable failure of all remedial agencies. He was the
finest horseman I have ever known, and, as I have already said, sat his
saddle as if he were a part of the spirited animal he bestrode. “Let
me once get into the saddle again, and all will be right,” had been
his hopeful prognostication in every illness prior to this mysterious
disorder. He mounted his horse a few times after he got home, and
rode for a mile or two, but listlessly and with pain. Then he ceased
to ask for the old-time tonic that had acted like a magic potion upon
the exhausted body, in answer to the indomitable spirit. The spring of
desire and courage was not broken, but it bent more and more visibly
daily, until it was a gray wraith of the former man that lay, hour
after hour, upon the library sofa, uncomplaining and patient, utterly
indifferent to things that once brought light to the eyes and ring to
the voice. Even his voice—a marvel up to seventy-five, for sweetness,
resonance, and strength—quavered and broke when he forced himself to
speak.

In this, our sore and unprecedented extremity, we who watched him took
counsel together and urged him to go to the city and consult Doctor
McBurney, the ablest specialist and surgeon in New York, and with no
superior in America. The patient offered feeble opposition. It was
easier to do as we wished, than to argue the point. Our eldest daughter
was living in New York, and not far from the surgeon. We lost no time
in securing an appointment, and the surgeon was prompt in decision.
“The minor operation,” in which he had had no hand, was well enough
as far as scalpel and probe had gone, but the seat of the malady was
left untouched. There was a malignant internal growth which had already
poisoned the blood. To delay a “major operation” a fortnight, would be
to forfeit the one and only chance of life. It might already be too
late.

In three days the almost dying man was in the Presbyterian Hospital,
and under the knife.

I hasten past the month that followed. With clean blood, a temperate
life, and a superb constitution as his backers, my brave husband stood
once more upon his feet, and was apparently upon the highroad to
recovery. When he was restored to our home-circle in season for the
Christmas festivities, we rejoiced without a prevision of possible
further ill from the hateful cause, now forever removed, as we fondly
believed. Early in January, I had a sudden and violent hemorrhage
from the lungs, superinduced, we were told by the eminent specialist
summoned immediately, by the long-continued nervous strain and general
weakening of the entire system.

Doctor Terhune took me to the train when I set out upon the southern
trip prescribed strenuously by consulting practitioners. My dearest and
faithful brother was to meet me on the last stage of my easy journey.
When the late invalid waved his hat to me from the platform as the
train began to move, I noted with pride and devout gratitude, how clear
were his blue eyes, how healthful his complexion, and, looking back as
far as I could catch sight of him, that his step had the elasticity of
a boy of twenty.

He wrote daily to me, and in the old, lively fashion, for three weeks.
Then a letter dictated by him to Christine told of a boil upon his
wrist that hindered pen-work. I “was not to be uneasy. It was probably
a wholesome working out of the virus of original sin. He would be all
the better when the system was freed from it.”

I wrote at once, begging that nothing might be concealed from me, and
setting a day for my return.

A telegram from my husband forbade me to stir until the time originally
named as the limit of my visit. And the daily letters continued to
arrive. One, I recollect, began:

    “A second rising, farther up the arm, is ‘carrying on the
    work of purification.’ So says the poor Pater, with a rueful
    glance at his bandaged hand and arm. If it were only the
    left, and not the right hand, he would not have to put up
    with this unworthy amanuensis.”

Those six weeks in Richmond stand out in memory like sunlighted
peaks seen between clouds that gathered below and all around it. My
brother’s wife, the cherished girl-friend of our Newark life, was so
far from well that we enacted the rôles of semi-invalids in company.
Sometimes we breakfasted in her room, sometimes in mine, as the humor
seized us. I lounged in one easy-chair, and she in another, all the
forenoon, making no pretence of occupation. Had we not been straitly
commanded to do nothing but get well? We drove out in company, every
moderately fine day. When we tired of talking (which was seldom), we
had our books. I sent to a book-store for a copy of Barrie’s _Margaret
Ogilvie_—the matchless tribute of the brilliant son to the peasant
woman from whom he drew all that was noblest and highest in himself—and
gave it to my fellow-invalid to read. Then we talked it over—we two
mothers—tenderly and happily, as befitted the parents of grown children
who were fulfilling our best hopes for them. I repeated to her once, in
the twilight of a winter afternoon, as we sat before the blazing fire
of soft coal that tinted the far corners of the library a soft, dusky
red—a stanza of Elizabeth Akers Allen’s _Rock Me to Sleep, Mother_:

    “Over my heart in the days that have flown,
     No love like mother-love ever has shone;
     No other worship abides and endures,
     Faithful unselfish, and patient like yours.”

“That is one of my husband’s favorite songs,” I said. “I often sing it
to him and to Bert in the twilights at home.” And with a little laugh,
I added: “My boy asked me once to emphasize ‘patient.’ He says that is
the strongest characteristic of the mother’s love.”

“They repay us for it all!” was the fervent reply.

And I returned as feelingly, “Yes, a thousandfold.”

She was ever the true, unselfish woman, generous in impulse and in
action, sweet and sound to the very core of her great heart. We had
loved each other without a shadow of changing for over thirty years.
In all our intercourse there is nothing upon which I dwell with such
fondness as on the days that slipped by brightly and smoothly, that
late January and early February. If I observed with regret that I
rallied from my sudden seizure more rapidly than she threw off the
languor and loss of appetite which, she assured us, over and over,
“meant next to nothing”—I was not seriously uneasy at what I saw. She
had not been strong for the last year. Time would restore her, surely.
She had just arisen on the morning of my departure, when I went into
her room to say, “Good-bye.” She smiled brightly as I put my arms
about her and bade her, “Hurry up and return my visit.”

“You will see me before long,” she said, confidently. “As soon as I
can bear the journey I shall go to Newark. My native air always brings
healing on its wings.”

My beloved friend Mrs. Waite had passed from earth, six months before.
The visit I paid at her house, on the way back to New York, was the
first I had made there since the beauty of her presence was withdrawn.

On the morning after my arrival I had a long letter from Christine. It
began ominously:

    “I have a confession to make. Father has been far more
    indisposed than I would let you think. Do not blame me.
    I have acted under orders from him and from the doctor.
    Neither would hear of your recall. Not that this relapse is
    a dangerous matter. The ‘boils’ were a return of the old
    trouble. He has not left his bed for a fortnight. I thought
    it best to prepare you for seeing him there.”

An hour later I had a telegram from my brother:

    “M. is decidedly worse. We apprehend heart-failure.”

Again I say, I would shorten the recital of how the clouds returned
after the rain which we had believed would clear the atmosphere.

I was seated at the bedside of my husband, who aroused himself with
difficulty to speak to me, as one shakes off a stupor, relapsing into
slumber with the murmured welcome on his fevered lips, when a dispatch
was brought to me from Richmond.

My sister-in-love had died that afternoon.

Five months to a day, from the beginning of my husband’s serious
illness, he was brought down-stairs in the arms of a stalwart
attendant, and lifted into a carriage for his first ride. We drove to
the neighboring Central Park, and were threading the leafy avenues
before the convalescent offered to speak. Then the tone was of one
dazed into disbelief of what was before his eyes:

“The last time I was out of doors, the ground was covered with snow. I
am like those that dream. I never knew until now what a beautiful place
the world is!”

It was glorious in July verdure when we got him back to Sunnybank.
There was no talk now of the saddle, and the briefest of drives
fatigued him to faintness. Whatever the doctors might say as to the
ultimate elimination of the hidden poison they had found so difficult
to drive out, watchers, who had more at stake in the issue of his
protracted illness, failed to see the proof that skill had effected
what they claimed. After the glow of pleasure at getting home again
subsided, he relapsed into the old lassitude and sad indifference to
what was going on about him; his eyes were dull; his tone was lifeless;
he seemed to have forgotten that he had ever had appetite for food.

At last, one day, as I sat fanning him, while he lay on the wicker
sofa on the vine-clad veranda, regarding neither lake nor mountain,
and smiling wanly at my chatter of the seven birds’-nests in the
honeysuckle, from which the last fledgling had been coaxed away by
their parents that morning—an inspiration came to me. I laid my hand on
his to make sure that he would be aroused to listen, and stooped to the
ear that shared in the deadening of the rest of the body.

“What do you say to going abroad again—and very soon?”

He opened his eyes wide, lifting his head to look directly at me.

“What did you say?”

I repeated the query.

He lay back with closed lids for so long I thought he was asleep. Then
an echo of his own voice, as it was in the olden time, said:

“I _think_, if I could once more hear the rush of the waves against the
keel of the steamer, and feel the salt air on my face, it would bring
me back to life. But—where’s the use of dreaming of it? I shall never
be strong enough to go on board.”

“You will, and you shall! You saved my life by taking me abroad. We
will try the efficacy of your own prescription.”

I think that not one of the crowd of friends who came down to the
steamer to see us off, had any hope of seeing again his living face.
I heard, afterward, that they said as much among themselves, when the
resolutely cheerful farewells had been spoken, and they stood watching
the vessel’s slow motion out of the dock, the eyes of all fixed upon
one figure recumbent in a deck-chair, a thin hand responding to the
fluttering handkerchiefs above the throng on the end of the pier.

Our son was there with his betrothed, who wrote to me afterward that he
was “depressed to despondency.” Belle, with her husband and boys, would
occupy Sunnybank while we were away. Christine had insisted that it was
not kind or safe to leave to me the sole care of the invalid. In the
three weeks that elapsed between the “inspiration” and our embarkation,
the brave girl had wound up all affairs that would detain her in
America, and made herself and two sons ready to accompany us. The party
was completed by the faithful maid who had nursed her children from
infancy, and who was quite competent to aid me in nursely offices to
the patient for whose sake the desperate expedition was undertaken.

He averred, in later life, that he felt an impulse of new life with
the first revolution of the paddle-wheel. Certain it is that he showed
signs of rallying before twenty-four hours had passed, spending all
the daylight hours upon deck, and, before the voyage was half over,
joining in our promenades from bow to stern. Always an excellent
sailor, he drank in the sea-breeze as he might have quaffed so much
nectar. The only complaint that escaped him was that, “whereas he had
been promised an eleven days’ voyage, we steamed up the Clyde on the
afternoon of the ninth day.”

A series of jaunts in Scotland and England was the prelude to our
settling down in Florence for the winter.

Had I no other reason to urge for my deep and abiding love for that
fairest and dearest of Italian cities, it would suffice me to recollect
the unutterable peace and full content of that memorable half-year.

Friends, old and new, clustered about us, and lent the charm of home
to the cosey apartment in Via San Giuseppe, where the gentle flow of
domestic life was bright with the shining of present happiness and
rekindled hope of the future. We learned to know “La Bella” at her best
in those halcyon days. The boys were at a day-school; thanks to our
efficient “padrona,” there were no household anxieties, and we seniors
were free to enjoy to the full all that makes up the inestimable riches
of the storied city.

Doctor Terhune and I claimed the privilege of convalescent and
custodian, in declining to accept invitations to evening functions,
thus securing opportunity for what we loved far better than the gayest
of “entertainments”—long, quiet hours spent in our sitting-room “under
the evening lamp,” I, busy with needle-work or knitting, while he read
aloud, after the dear old fashion, works on Florentine history, art,
and romance, all tending to enfold us more closely with the charméd
atmosphere of the region. It would be laughable to one who has never
fallen under the nameless spell of Florence to know how often, that
season, we repeated aloud, as the book was laid aside for the night:

    “With dreamful eyes
     My spirit lies
     Under the walls of Paradise.”

Letters from home were frequent and regular. Much was happening across
the water while we revelled in our dreams. The Spanish War was on. It
was begun and ended during our peace-fraught exile. In January, our boy
took unto himself the young wife to whom he had been troth-plight for a
year, and we were the easier in mind for the knowledge that this, the
last of our unwedded bairns, was no longer without a home of his own.

In the spring we travelled at pleasure through Switzerland and Belgium,
and so to England—my husband and I now in the _solitude à deux_ belovéd
by congenial souls. Christine and her sons were left in Switzerland for
a longer tour of that country.

Still wandering, lingering, and dreaming, in the long, delicious calm
succeeding the darkest and stormiest period our united lives were ever
to know, we revisited English villages and towns, and made acquaintance
in Scotland with new and enchanting scenes, until the September day
when we took passage from Glasgow for New York.

We steamed into our harbor on Sunday afternoon, just as the news of
peace between the warring nations was acclaimed through the megaphone
to incoming craft, and thundered from the mouths of rejoicing cannon.



XLIX

THE GOING-OUT OF A YOUNG LIFE—PRESENT ACTIVITIES—“LITERARY
HEARTHSTONES”—GRATEFUL REMINISCENCES


AS upon our return from foreign lands nearly twenty years before this
home-coming, Sunnybank was now our _pied á terre_. Our daughter, Mrs.
Van de Water, and her family had occupied it during our absence. It
was, therefore, not merely swept and garnished for our reception, but
the spirit of Home, sweet, radiant, and indescribable, was in full
possession. We were settled in the nest within an hour after we drove
up to the open door. A week later, the happy circle was widened by the
arrival of our son and his young wife from the Adirondacks. A second
attack of appendicitis had made an operation imperatively necessary. It
was performed in July, and as soon as the patient was strong enough to
travel, he was sent to the mountains for recuperation. The pair were
our guests for four weeks. Then they returned to town to prepare for
the housekeeping upon which they had planned to enter in October. Happy
letters, telling of the preparations going briskly forward, and filled
with domestic details, than which nothing in the wide world was more
fascinating to the little wife, reminded us of the contented cooings
of mating pigeons, or, as I told the prospective housewife, of the
purring of the kittens she loved to fondle under the honeysuckles of
the veranda, while with us.

On October 5th an unexpected telegram brought the news of the
premature birth of a baby daughter, and that “mother and child were
doing well.” Four days later, a second dispatch summoned us to New
York. The tiny girl was but four days old when her gentle mother passed
quietly out of the life, so rich in love and hope that, up to the hour
when she laid herself down cheerfully upon her couch of pain, she was,
to use her own words, “almost frightened at her own happiness.”

She was married on January 10, 1898. We bore her to her last home
October 12th of the same year. She sleeps in the quiet “God’s Acre,”
back of the old colonial church in Pompton, in the heart of the
fairest of New Jersey valleys. A peaceful spot it is, cradled by the
everlasting hills. There were but three graves in our family plot when
we took her there. There are five, now.

We spent that winter in the city, and our boy was again one of our
small household. But for the care and the blesséd comfort of the
baby daughter, the light and life of hearts and house, we might
have fancied the events of the last five years a dream, and that we
were once more the busy trio with whom time had sped so swiftly and
brightly while “Bert” was in college. We were busy now as then. Doctor
Terhune preached with tolerable regularity in different churches,
and he was ever a diligent student. Bert wrought faithfully in his
chosen profession of journalism, and I accepted in, 1901, the charge
of a Woman’s Syndicate page established by _The North American_, in
Philadelphia. I had never been idle. Month after month, work was laid
to my hands that pleased my taste, and occupied all the time I could
devote to literary tasks. When I agreed to take on the new burden, it
was with no forecasting of what proportions it might assume.

“What do these women write to you about?” asked the proprietor of the
paper under the auspices of which the syndicate was carried on.

I answered, laughingly, “Everything—from Marmalade to Matrimony.”

When he put the question, I was representing the need of an assistant,
since I was getting twenty letters per diem. Four years later, a
secretary and a stenographer shared the labor of keeping in touch with
writers who poured in upon my desk an average mail of one hundred
letters a day. Two years afterward, the average was over a thousand a
week.

I have been asked often why I expend energies and fill my days in what
my critics are pleased to depreciate as “hack-work.” Nobody believes
my assertion that I heartily enjoy being thus brought into intimate
association with the women of America. The Syndicate has extended its
territory into twenty-five States, and it is still growing. Women,
boys, and girls, and housefathers—no less than housemothers—tell me of
their lives, their successes, their failures, their trials, and their
several problems. From the mighty mass of correspondence I select
letters dealing with topics of general interest, or that seem to call
for free and friendly discussion, and base upon them daily articles for
the Syndicate public. Thousands of letters contain stamps for replies
by mail. Out of this germ of “hack-work” has grown “The Helping-Hand
Club,” an informal organization, with no “plant” except my desk and
the postal service that transports applications for books, magazines,
and such useful articles as correspondents know will be welcome to the
indigent, the shut-in, the aged, charitable societies and missions
in waste places. Quietly, and without parade, our volunteer agents
visit the needy, and report to us. We distribute, by correspondence,
thousands of volumes and periodicals annually; we bring together supply
and demand, “without money and without price,” and in ways that would
appear ridiculous to some, and incredible to many.

“For Love’s Sake” is our motto, and it is caught up eagerly, from
Canada to California. “The Big Family,” they call themselves—these dear
co-workers of mine whose faces I shall never see on earth. When, as
happens daily, I read, “Dear Mother of us all,” from those I have been
permitted to help in mind, body, or estate, I thank the Master and take
courage.

After eight years’ active service in the field so strangely appointed
to me that I cannot but recognize (and with humble gratitude) the
direct leading of the Divine Hand, I say, frankly, that I have never
had such fulness of satisfaction in any other sphere of labor.

“But it is not Literature!” cried a friend to me, the other day,
voicing the sentiment of many.

“No,” I answered, “but it is _Influence_, and that of the best kind.”

I have, with all this, made time—or it has been made for me—to write
half a dozen books in the last ten years.

_Where Ghosts Walk_ (1898) was a joy in the writing, as was the
collection of material. It reproduces for me—as I turn the pages, in
maternal fashion, lingering upon a scene here, and snatching a phrase
there—our strayings in storied climes, rambles into enchanted nooks
untrodden by the conventional tourist, but full of mystery and charm
for us. In those dim paths I still walk with the ghosts that were once
visible and sentient things like ourselves.

_Literary Hearthstones_ (1899-1902) was, even more emphatically, a
labor of delight. I had made studies of Charlotte Brontë and Hannah
More, of John Knox and William Cowper, in the homes and haunts they
glorified into shrines for the reading and the religious world. Other
hallowed names are yet on my memorandum-book, and in my portfolio are
the notes made in other homes and haunts, and pictures collected for
the illustrations of four more volumes of the series.

If I live and hold my strength and health of body and of mind, I shall,
please God, complete the tale of worthies I have singled out for study.
If not—they are yet mine own brain-children. None may rob me of the
pleasure of having and of holding them—until death us do part.

I should be ungrateful, and do my own feelings a wrong, were I to fail,
in this connection, to acknowledge my obligations to those who kindly
seconded my efforts to accumulate the material for the _Hearthstones_.

Our pilgrimages to Haworth, Olney, Wrington, and Edinburgh, are
starred in the reminiscence by hospitable intent and deed, by such
real sympathy in my mission, and friendly aid in the prosecution of my
design, that I cannot pass them over with casual mention.

For Charlotte Brontë I had, since my early girlhood, nourished
admiration that ripened into reverence, as I read with avidity every
page and line relating to the marvellous sisters. I had conned her
books until I knew them, from cover to cover. Her _dramatis personæ_
were friends more familiar to the dreaming girl than our next-door
neighbors. It was a bitter disappointment to me that the unforeseen
miscarriage of our plans frustrated my longing to go to Haworth, at our
first visit to the Old World. So, when my son and I set out for our
Eastern trip, Haworth stood first upon our memorandum of places that
_must_ be seen in England. I had letters from four men who had engaged
to facilitate my attempts to enter the Parsonage. One and all, they
assured me that I would find the door inhospitably closed in my face.
Nevertheless, they advised me to go to Haworth, and put up at “that
resort of the thirsty—the Black Bull.” Thus one of the quartette, and
who had lately published a book on the Brontës:

“The present incumbent of the parish is an ogre, a veritable dragon!”
he went on to say. “He savagely refused to let me set foot upon his
threshhold, and he turns hundreds of pilgrims away empty every year.
But go to Haworth, by all means! Put up at the ancient hostelry; walk
about the old stone house and tell well its windows, and take pleasure
in Emily’s moors. The dragon has restored (?) the Brontë church, and
consigned the remains of the wonderful family to a genteel crypt under
the renovated pavement. All the same, go to Haworth! The hills and the
moors and the heather are unchanged.”

In my _Life of Charlotte Brontë_, I have related how I fared in the
pilgrimage that stands out clearly in my memory as one of the sunniest
spots of that memorable seven months’ tour. I have not told how simple
and direct were the means by which I gained the fulfilment of my
desires. Within an hour after we had registered our names in the shabby
book kept for guests and transients at the Black Bull, I wrote a note
to Mr. Wade, the rector of Haworth Church, asking permission to “stand,
for a few minutes, within the doors of the house that had been the home
of Charlotte and Emily Brontë.” I added that I should not blame him if
he objected to the intrusion of strangers upon domestic privacy.

The messenger returned speedily with word that Mr. Wade had that
hour returned from London, and that he could not then write a note.
He would, however, be happy to see me at the Rectory on the morrow
(Sunday), and would write in the morning, naming the hour for our call.
His note came while we were at breakfast, to say that he would be at
liberty to receive us between services. We attended morning service,
but, when it was over, refrained from making ourselves known to the
rector, lingering, instead, in the church to see the tablet above the
Brontë vault, and the fine window, set in the restored wall by an
anonymous American, “To the glory of God, and in pleasant memory of
Charlotte Brontë.” Emerging from the church, with the intention of
strolling up to the Parsonage, we were met by Mr. Wade, who had gone
home, expecting to find us there, and was on his way to the inn to
look us up. His cordial hand-clasp and genial smile were so opposed to
our preconceptions of the “dragon,” that we exchanged furtive glances
of relief. He took us back to the Parsonage, and showed us everything
we had wished to see, with much we had not thought of, telling us, in
the same hospitable way, that, although he was the only member of the
family at home that day, he would be happy to have us partake of a
bachelor’s luncheon. When we declined, gratefully, he accompanied us
to the church, and unlocked the case in which is kept the register of
Charlotte Brontë’s marriage, signed by herself—the last time she wrote
her maiden name.

Several letters passed between us, in the course of the next four
years, and he opened to me, on our second visit to Haworth, in 1898,
unexpected avenues of information respecting her whose biography I
was writing, which were of incalculable value to me. When he retired
from the active duties of his profession to Hurley, in another county,
he wrote to me a long, interesting letter, enclosing a copy of the
resolutions passed by the Yorkshire parish he had served faithfully for
forty-seven years.

Besides the precious stock of building “material” for the construction
of my story of Charlotte, which I could have gained in no other way
than through his kindly offices, this odd friendship taught me a lesson
of faith in my kind, and of distrust of hearsay evidence and of popular
disfavor, that will last me forever. I dedicated the biography to
“Rev. J. Wade, for forty-seven years incumbent of Haworth, in cordial
appreciation of the unfailing courtesy and kindly aid extended by him
to the American stranger within his gates.”

A dedication that brought me many letters of surprised dissent from
English and American tourists, and writers whose experience was less
pleasant than my own. I tell the tale, in brief, as an act of simple
justice to a much-abused man.

“You have been told that I am a vandal and a bear,” he said to me on
that Sunday. “I found church and Parsonage almost in ruins. I was not
appointed to this parish as the curator of a museum, but to do my best
for the cure of souls. When I tell you that, for ten years after Mr.
Brontë’s death, the average number of sight-seers who called at the
Parsonage was three thousand a year, and that they still mount up to
a third of that number, you may be more lenient in judgment than the
touring public and the press proved themselves to be.”

From Rev. Mr. Langley—incumbent of Olney, and resident in the quaintly
beautiful parsonage that was the home of Lady Austin, Cowper’s friend
and disciple—we met with courtesy as fine. And in seeking details of
Hannah More’s private life, I found an able and enthusiastic assistant
in Rev. Mr. Wright, of Wrington, in the church-yard of which the “Queen
of Barleywood” is buried.

Cherished reminiscences are these, which neither the mists of years nor
the clouds of sorrow have dimmed. In dwelling upon them, as I near the
close of my annals of an every-day woman’s life, I comprehend what the
Psalmist meant when he said, “They have been my song in the house of my
pilgrimage.”

Perhaps I erred in writing, “every-day life.” Or, it may be because
so few women have recorded the lights and shadows of their lives as
frankly and as fully as I am doing, that I am asking myself whether it
may not be that the chequered scene I survey from the hill-top—which
gives me on clear days a fine view of the Delectable Mountains—has been
exceptionally eventful, as it has been affluent in God’s choicest gifts
of home-joys and home-loves, and in opportunities of proving, by word
and in deed, my love for fellow-travellers along the King’s Highway.

The reader who has followed me patiently, because sympathetically, from
the beginning of the narrative, will comprehend, through the depth
of that sympathy, why I now leave to other pens the recital of what
remains to be said. The hands that guided the pen were tender of touch,
the hearts were true that dictated the report of the Golden Wedding and
the abstract of a noble life, now developing throughout the ages into
the stature of the Perfect Man. The voluntary tributes they combined to
offer are dear beyond expression, to wife and children and to a great
host of friends.



APPENDIX


THE REV. EDWARD PAYSON TERHUNE, D.D.

BY REV. JOSEPH R. DURYEE, D.D.

PERMIT one who has loved Doctor Terhune for fifty years, to pay tribute
to his character and outline his attainments.

He was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, November 22, 1830. It does
not seem possible that this was his birth-year, he was so vigorous and
his spirit was so youthful to the end. The best things in life were
his rich inheritance. His father, Judge John Terhune, for fifty-four
years an elder in the Presbyterian Church, was a rare man, and for
generations the family had led in the moral and material development
of New Jersey. He was named for Edward Payson, his father’s friend,
a saintly Christian leader still remembered in the American church.
Few boys have had a happier childhood. It was partly spent with his
grandmother in Princeton. Her house was a centre of influence. Doctors
Alexander, Hodge, Miller, and other professors were her intimate
friends, and the boy was welcomed at their homes. Members of their
families were life-long companions. Entering Rutgers, he was graduated
in the class of 1850 with Doctors Elmendorf and Sheperd, Judges
Lawrence and Ludlow, and others who became equally distinguished.
His heart was set on becoming a physician, and for nearly two years
he studied medicine. Then he obeyed the higher call and consecrated
himself to the Christian ministry.

On graduating from the New Brunswick Seminary, several calls came. He
accepted that of the Presbyterian Church of Charlotte Court-House,
Virginia, and in the spring of 1855 began his pastorate. It was an
ideal charge for any man. The best blood of the Old Dominion was
in the congregation. No less than eighty-six of the members were
college graduates. In 1856 he married Miss Mary Virginia Hawes, of
Richmond. Their home became as near the ideal as any this earth has
known—beautiful in its comradeship, beneficent in its influence.

In 1858, Doctor Terhune was called to the pastorate of the First
Reformed Dutch Church, of Newark. To decide as he did, must have been
a singular test of faith and courage. The claims of material comfort,
intellectual fellowship, and family ties on one side, on the other a
depleted church, in a community almost entirely dependent for support
on manufacturing interests, most of which were then bankrupt. But
Doctor Terhune was a soldier of the cross, and the red fighting blood
ran too strong in him to resist the opportunity that called for heroic
self-denial, constraint, toil and trials of faith and patience that
would, for years, tax to the utmost every power of heart and mind. Few
men have possessed as clear a vision of life; for him there were no
illusions in the Newark outlook. He knew that, in the modern city life,
then just beginning, must be fought the main battle of Christianity
with the powers of evil. His commission was to lead, and he accepted
the detail. For eighteen years Doctor Terhune remained at his post.
Immediately his work began to tell for blessing, nor was this confined
to his parish;—the entire city felt his presence. While his work in all
its many parts was of the highest order, the man was always greater
than his work. Men, women, and children instinctively loved him. They
brought to him their problems, then felt his impression on their
hearts. And it was abiding. To-day a great company scattered throughout
the earth thank God for what he wrought in them.

In 1876, in consequence of the state of Mrs. Terhune’s health, Doctor
Terhune resigned his Newark charge, and went abroad. His ministry did
not lapse, for all the time he labored as chaplain, first in Rome and
then in Paris, having entire charge of the American churches there.

Immediately on his return, in 1878, he received calls from leading
churches in Newark, Plainfield, New Haven, and Springfield,
Massachusetts. The last named he accepted. There he remained for five
years, honored and loved throughout the city. Then came another call.
The Williamsburg Reformed Church in Brooklyn had had a remarkable
history. At times prosperous, then on the verge of collapse. In the
centre of a great population, with a plant capable of accommodating
an enormous congregation, it had never fulfilled its promise. Unless
an unusual man, with rare gifts, not merely eloquence and ordinary
leadership, but with almost divine tact, patience, and unselfishness,
came to save it, the church would disband. Doctor Terhune loved the
Old Dutch Church as loyally as any man who has ever served her, but
this call must have taxed his sense of proportion. I am sure it was
his Master’s higher call that decided him to go to Williamsburg. He
had never cared for wealth except for its uses, was generous in every
direction, and needed all the salary he could win; and the church was
$80,000 in debt; its membership was scattered, and its attendants
divided into antagonistic groups. More than one friend urged him to
refuse such a sacrifice. What the seven years’ labor there cost him
only God knew. He became twenty years older in appearance, and he lost
much of the splendid vitality that had never before failed him for any
length of time. But he left the church united, entirely free from debt,
and with a promise for the future never before so bright. A year abroad
was needed to establish his broken health.

Since then Doctor Terhune, while refusing another pastorate, has been a
constant laborer. Large churches in Chicago and St. Louis called him.
In these, he became for upward of a year a stated supply, but he knew
that his physical strength was waning. A few years ago, he underwent
a serious surgical operation, and for nearly six months lay helpless
from its effect. Indeed, his life was despaired of. I talked with
his surgeon, who told me that, in his long experience, he had “never
known a patient endure greater or more constant suffering; I cannot
understand his marvellous self-control. He is always bright, always
thinking of others, and never of himself.” It was characteristic.
After his recovery Doctor Terhune led an active life. The churches
sought his help, and he was a frequent preacher in New York, Newark,
and elsewhere. More than forty years ago, he purchased a tract of land
on Pompton Lake, New Jersey. It was then a primitive region, to which
he was attracted by the scenery and the opportunity to satisfy his
special recreation; for from boyhood he was a great fisherman. As time
and means permitted, he made “Sunnybank” blossom into rare beauty. How
he loved this home! There he lived close to nature, and the trees,
flowers, streams, and sky rested and refreshed him. Because a true
child of nature, she gave back to him rich treasures that are denied to
most; a joy in her communion; knowledge of her secrets; a vision of God
through her revelation. There dear friends gathered about him, and the
ideal beauty of a country home was, through his inspiration, revealed
to some for the first time.

A year ago, Doctor and Mrs. Terhune celebrated their golden wedding.
After a day of loving congratulations from friends almost innumerable,
who, in body or spirit, gathered about them, they took their wedding
journey in their carriage, driving horses born on their place, through
the country of his boyhood and elsewhere. The refreshment of this
fortnight of perfect happiness lingered on for all the remaining days
of earth.

More than forty years ago, while a pastor in Newark, Doctor Terhune
united with Alpha Delta, an association limited to twelve active
members, meeting monthly at their homes. With its founders in 1855,
among whom were Drs. G. W. Berthune, Robert Davidson, A. R. Van Nest,
A. B. Van Zandt, and others, he was intimate. After the death of Doctor
Chambers he became the senior member, and in 1900 prepared its history,
a copy of which is before me now. In the brief studies of the character
of nearly two score friends, there is revealed the secret of his power.
He possessed the genius of friendship as few have done.

Ten days before the end came, he read to Alpha Delta a paper prepared
at our request, “The Story of the Jamestown, Virginia, Settlement and
the James River Estates.” Every monograph of Doctor Terhune had its
special value, but into this last he poured the memories of happy
years and an estimate of values in human life, as never before. All
through there ran that subtle charm of style, tender pathos, and gentle
humor of which he was master. And there was added a peculiar quality
impossible to define. I think we all felt that, unconsciously, he
had pictured himself, always seeing, knowing, loving, and inspiring
the best in men. Not feeling well, he left us suddenly. There was no
good-bye. Perhaps it is better so. But Alpha Delta can never be the
same to us here.

After a week of fever he fell asleep, to awaken in the Father’s House,
to the vision of the One he loved, and with Him, the children who had
passed before.

More than once I have been asked to describe the distinctive
characteristics of admirable men, and have named them “many-sided,”
and “standing four square.” But as I think of Doctor Terhune, the
trite phrases seem insufficient. Nor is it easy to differentiate his
character. He was a strong man physically, intellectually, and morally.
As few of his generation, he held his course through a long life of
trial consistently. He had a definite hatred of sin, and when duty
called, never hesitated to particularize the evil of which men were
guilty. But in this he always aimed to discover to such the good they
were capable of attaining. His fearless courage was balanced by the
finest gentleness. His presence was gracious, and the charm of perfect
manners was natural in him. Instinctively, men looked up to him and
remembered his sayings. Doctor Terhune was a diligent man; all his
life he was a student. He loved his books intelligently. His literary
experience was unusual in its range and depth. Even more than books
he studied men; their problems were his greatest interest. He thought
these out so wisely and sympathetically that he seemed to possess the
prophet’s vision.

In the pulpit, Doctor Terhune was earnest, clear, direct, and simple.
His teachers had been rare men in the school of eloquence that was
the glory of America fifty years ago. On occasion he was equal to the
best of these. As I recall his presence in his Newark church, I seem
now to hear his wonderful voice ring out words that moved men to purer
thinking, nobler living, and greater loyalty to the Master he loved.
As a pastor, he was devoted to every interest of his people; in their
homes no guest was as welcome. These, and other traits I could name,
found their spring in as tender a heart as ever beat; constantly he
carried there all God gave him to love. Next to the members of his
family, I think his ministerial brethren realized most this supreme
value in their friend. They knew he loved them as few men could. I have
never heard him speak an unkind word of a clergyman. His presence never
failed to hearten and stimulate them in their work. So he honored his
manhood and his calling. He has left behind not only a stainless name,
but living and blesséd power.


A GOLDEN WEDDING

IN her beautiful home at Pompton, New Jersey, surrounded by the flowers
she loves so dearly, “Marion Harland,” the celebrated writer, held
court, Saturday afternoon. More properly speaking, Dr. and Mrs. Edward
Payson Terhune were “at home” from four to seven o’clock, the occasion
being the celebration of their golden-wedding anniversary.

In front of the house, upon the prettiest bit of lawn for miles about,
was set the present that children and grandchildren gave—a sundial made
of Pompton granite, inscribed with the same pretty legend as that upon
the famous one of Queen Alexandra at Sandringham:

    “Let others tell of storm or showers,
     I only mark the sunny hours.”

The little room, set aside, as upon the occasion of a real wedding, for
the presents, revealed plenty of sentiment. There was a cake, made from
an old Virginia recipe, baked in the shape that every Virginian bride
in “Marion Harland’s” girlhood days used to have. It had been made by
an old friend. A great bowl of water-lilies stood near by—some one had
got up at daybreak and scoured their haunts to get fifty of them to
present.

Gold purses and gold-trimmed purses—some of them with gold pieces
inside—a gold brooch for the wife and a gold scarf-pin for her husband,
gold fruit-knives, and Austrian glassware were among the gifts.

In the receiving-party were Doctor and Mrs. Terhune’s daughters and
daughter-in-law—Mrs. Christine Terhune Herrick, Mrs. Van de Water, and
Mrs. Albert Payson Terhune. The men of the family did honors as ushers,
and the boys—the grandsons—patrolled the porches and lawn with ices and
salads and delicious yellow-iced cakes.

Golden-rod and golden-glow were everywhere. The porch posts were hidden
from sight by them, and the room where the receiving-party stood was
banked and massed in a bewilderment of blooms.

And “Marion Harland” herself, in her beautiful gown of black lace, with
violet orchids pinned upon her bosom, did honors, much after the manner
of that famous hostess of old whose greeting was invariably “At last!”
and whose parting word was “Already?” Only (unlike that famous hostess)
through her greetings unmistakably rang the note of sincerity.

Everybody wandered about in delightfully informal fashion. Doctor
Terhune and General Buffington gossiped of old times in one corner;
“Marion Harland,” Margaret E. Sangster, May Riley Smith, and two or
three others made an interesting group in another, and reminiscences
were so beautiful and so many—“Do you remember when we used to do this
or that?”—the sentence most constantly heard—that unconsciously you
began to regret that you, yourself, had not lived in those days, so
splendid seemed the sentiment and the honor of the times.

Everybody came who could. Some had travelled all day to get there, and
must travel all night to get home again. Letters—there were hundreds of
them, for it seemed that everybody who even knew her slightly, wanted
to send some word of greeting to “Marion Harland.”

Among the invited guests were Prof. and Mrs. John W. Burgess, Prof.
and Mrs. William H. Carpenter, Prof. and Mrs. B. D. Woodward, of
Columbia; Miss Laura D. Gill, Dean of Barnard College; Dr. and Mrs.
G. H. Fox, Mrs. Henry Villard, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Scribner, Mr. and
Mrs. G. H. Putnam, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Lauterbach, the Rev. Dr. George
Alexander, Mr. and Mrs. Rossiter Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. Albert Bigelow
Paine, Mr. and Mrs. George Cary Eggleston, the Rev. Dr. and Mrs. James
I. Vance, of Newark, New Jersey; Mr. and Mrs. Talcott Williams, Mr.
and Mrs. Francis Howard Williams, Mr. and Mrs. Churchill Williams,
of Philadelphia; Gen. and Mrs. A. R. Buffington, Mrs. Margaret E.
Sangster, Miss Ida Tarbell, Mr. and Mrs. Albert Smith.—_Philadelphia
North American_, September 2, 1906.


    THE END

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber’s Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

Page 179, “fireing” changed to “firing” (knowing who was firing)





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