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Title: A Life Unveiled - By a Child of the Drumlins
Author: Anonymous
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Life Unveiled - By a Child of the Drumlins" ***

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A LIFE UNVEILED

BY
A CHILD OF THE DRUMLINS

WITH AN INTRODUCTION
BY
JOHN BURROUGHS


[Illustration: Logo]


     _Ce livre est toute ma jeunesse; je
     l’ai fait sans presque y songer._
                               --DE MUSSET


  GARDEN CITY NEW YORK
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
         1922



COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, INCLUDING THAT OF TRANSLATION
INTO FOREIGN LANGUAGES, INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES
AT
THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS, GARDEN CITY, N. Y.

_First Edition_



CONTENTS

                                     PAGE
INTRODUCTION BY JOHN BURROUGHS        vii

TO THE READER                          xi

CHAPTER
   I. THE FAMILY TREE                   1

  II. THE ROOF-TREE                    14

 III. “A CHILD WENT FORTH”             42

  IV. IN THE OLD PATHS                 71

   V. “AS TWIG IS BENT”                94

  VI. “BRED IN THE BONE”              119

 VII. SCHOOL DAYS                     134

VIII. THE “MEDIC”                     172

  IX. THE “MEDIC” (Continued)         229

   X. THE “MEDIC” (Concluded)         245

  XI. THROUGH THE GATE OF DREAMS      273



INTRODUCTION


I fancy that this “Child of the Drumlins” did not know she was living
amid drumlins when she passed her youth there. She knew them only as
the long, smooth, loaf-shaped hills that were scattered over her native
landscape, upon which she saw cattle grazing and grain ripening, and
upon which she roamed and played in the freedom of childhood.

These curious-looking hills are found in certain parts of New England,
and in a large section of the central and western parts of New York
state. They would suggest artificial mounds were they not so large
as to preclude all idea of their being the work of man. They were
indeed made, but not by human hands. They are the work of the great
continental ice-sheet which tens of thousands of years ago crept slowly
over a large part of the Northern hemisphere, giving to the landscape,
among many other strange new features, these long, low, rounded hills,
called by the geologists drumlins, amid which the “Child” passed her
early life. Carpeted with grass and often dotted with trees, these
peaceful pastoral elevations are seldom more than a quarter of a mile
long, and perhaps a hundred feet high. Their trend is in one direction,
from northeast to southwest--the general course the ice-flood took.
They are simply huge heaps of clay and water-worn boulders shovelled
together by the gods of the Ice Age, though just how it all came about
the geologists are not clear. But there they stand, making a marked
feature in the landscape.

To the Land of the Drumlins, rich in its early associations, the
writer of this narrative turns, giving a moving record of real life
which to me makes fiction insipid. It presents the natural history of
an American girl in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. (And
why should we not have such a history, as well as that of much less
interesting animals?) Herein we see pictured typical and representative
conditions and individuals which contributed to the development
of a dreaming, aspiring girl into a woman of serious purpose and
substantial achievement in a strenuous and useful career. A notable
piece of work of permanent literary and psychological value, it sweeps
one along by its intrinsic interest, its candour, its playfulness,
and its seriousness. Childhood memories, trivial and signal events,
portraiture, incidents, form a picture of real life convincing as
only real things can convince. Through it we look into a heart and a
life. It is life. One sees the writer from her forebears up. With what
admirable art she brings certain scenes before us! One is present,
sees and feels them all, and shares her inmost thoughts and emotions.
One’s tears stand trembling at the doorway; smiles and laughter are
irresistibly evoked. The feeling with which the writer has invested the
narrative is the principal source of its charm and value; it is that
which makes us a sharer in all her life. The book does not appear to be
written, but rather an unveiling of memories, with an entire absence of
literary consciousness. Her mind seems transparent; her life like an
open book before her where she can trace every passage. Does she forget
nothing? Few persons can see themselves objectively and at the same
time achieve such self-analysis.

One is carried along by the rush and spontaneity of the record, as the
author evidently was in writing it. In her passionate confession,
faults and errors are courageously set down. One rejoices to know that
there were imps in the girl who shows at the same time such a serious,
earnest nature, such a vibrant, susceptible personality. One likes her
for her pranks and her naughtiness, her stubbornness, her primness,
and her deep attachments. She piques one and leads one on, a willing
sharer in all her experiences. One comes to see that he is always to
expect the unexpected from this demure, enigmatic creature who, though
preserving her own individuality, is so like all girls of her time
and race. And it is this universal appeal which gives the record its
value: other girls and women, other youths and men as well, will see
themselves in this “Child of the Drumlins” who summons her past before
us so vividly that we, too, live over again the days of our own youth.

[Illustration: _John Burroughs_[signature]]



TO THE READER


Have you ever reached a time in your life when all that had gone before
seemed cut off from the present; when you felt an imperious need to
review whatever had gone to the making of the You; when the preceding
years, full as they had seemed, were barren of that which made the
present so vital; when, because of that barrenness, they seemed to
have belonged rather to the life of one you knew than to your own? If
you have, you will understand the motive that sometimes leads one to
deliberate self-study and self-delineation.

He who honestly undertakes such study is pledged to candour at all
costs. Beginning by reviewing his ancestry and environment, he also
tries to recapture some of those earliest, evanescent sense experiences
and memories of childhood. He peers into that mysterious borderland
between childhood and youth; surveys the formative influences,
the outstanding events, the proclivities, longings, aspirations,
achievements, struggles, temptations, successes, defeats--reviews
them all, tries to estimate their influence, and to recognize their
possible reappearance, in other guises perhaps, in his present self.
The dawning of religious emotion, sex consciousness, the gradual
transition from the receptiveness and naïve simplicity of childhood
to the wilful caprice of adolescence (with its blind gropings, its
heightened emotional life, its contradictory moods, its evolution of
self-consciousness and social consciousness)--all these phases he
passes in review and weighs, hoping to form a just estimate as to
their effect upon his personality as he alone knows it.

One cannot compass this survey until one has passed beyond the
seething period of adolescence which merges so insensibly into that of
maturity. Immaturity, maturity--the difference is only of degree; the
child _is_ father to the man; the psychology we trace in child life
is fundamentally the same that obtains when the individual achieves
that self-control and balance, that steadiness of aim, that harmonious
union of bodily and mental powers which characterize maturity. Until we
understand this merging and blending of experiences that make up a life
history, we may regard as trivial the fleeting events and memories of
childhood which the psychologist knows are significant and far-reaching.

In the rapid setting down of what comes crowding into the consciousness
as the canvas of one’s life unrolls before him, one is not especially
concerned with the orderly sequence of events; mental associations
are intractable forces to deal with; a certain looseness of exterior
matters is inevitable; the eye cannot look both in and out at the
same time. What really matters is that one accurately read one’s own
consciousness, without mistakes, without self-deception, without wilful
deceit. Unless this is achieved, one cheats one’s self.

Perhaps the record is made for self alone; perhaps for another; in any
case not for the public; and yet as the years pass, and the events
recorded have become so remote as to seem dissociated from the present
self, it may happen that the question of sharing the record with others
arises--a question which gives pause to the autobiographer with scant
claim on the public.

“Who is this,” he imagines the reader inquiring, “who so confidently
asks us to share all these details of her life?” And then there
comes to mind that statement of Carlyle’s: that the humblest life,
if truthfully presented, would be of absorbing interest; that a true
delineation of the smallest man and his scene of pilgrimage throughout
life, is capable of interesting the greatest men, since all men are
brothers, and since human portraits, faithfully drawn, must be of all
pictures the welcomest on human walls.

And so the story goes forth. If it faithfully depict the psychology
of child life, of adolescence, of dawning maturity, devoid though it
be of plot and, as a whole, of dramatic interest, it may yet, as a
typical human portrait, justify itself; may aid the young to a better
understanding of their own natures, and help those no longer young
to a keener remembrance, a deeper sympathy, and a broader tolerance
concerning the struggles, problems, and complexities that beset the
young lives around them.

This book of my childhood and youth, written many years ago, is as
sincere as such a thing can well be, and this constitutes its only
excuse for being. Unless I have told the naked, unblushing truth,
why pretend to unveil my life?[1] If I have concealed faults and
follies, what is there in common with your life as you alone know it?
Doubtless you yourself would shrink from the deliberate self-analysis
and self-revelation I have made, and yet may find herein natural human
reactions which tally with your own inarticulate experiences.

L’INNOMMÉE.

FOOTNOTE:

[1] The names in the narrative are, of course, fictitious.



A LIFE UNVEILED


_I once wandered in a beautiful garden. It had high walls which made
one feel safe and sheltered. There were many flower-bordered paths, and
some that were stony and rough. There were broad open spaces, dark,
wooded corners, cosy nooks, and friendly trees. Openings in the wall
gave glimpses that made one’s heart beat faster and that filled one
with queer restless feelings, half pleasure, half pain._

_There came a day when I left the garden and started on a long journey.
I have never been back. Sometimes I have wanted to go back, but the
great gate can never open from the outside._

_When we lose our Edens, you and I, is it any wonder that we sometimes
pause in the journey, and long to recapture the days when we played in
the enchanted enclosure? What if, some day, one creeps back close to
the wall, holding up the magic mirror he brought away with him? What
if he gets glimpses that help him to continue on the way? What if he
lets you peep into the mirror, too--the mirror which will reflect the
garden you played in, the paths you trod, the flowers you gathered, the
playmates you knew?_



A LIFE UNVEILED



CHAPTER I

THE FAMILY TREE


I seem always to have lived a life apart from the obvious one, seeing
the strange contrasts, the incongruities, the dramatic moments, though
always these things were unexpressed. Those about me had no inkling of
what was passing in my mind. Perhaps it is so with all children. One
can only know one’s self, and that so vaguely.

I was born near the foot of a drumlin. Their smooth level crests broke
the horizon line of my native village. Amid the drumlins I shared
in all the little world they bounded. On the summit of a drumlin my
kindred lie buried, and back to the drumlins I shall one day turn--back
to the commonplace little village where my life began. The village has
not grown in all the years, either in population or importance; on the
contrary, it seems to have dwindled to tiny dimensions. Whenever I go
back there now, the houses and the prominent buildings look smaller,
the drumlins lower, and all the distances are lessened to a surprising
degree. I look at the one handsome residence the village boasts and
ask, Is that the house I used to think so imposing? Are those the
grounds so illimitable to my childish eyes? And is this the same hill
near Grandfather’s barn that was so steep when three happy children
clambered over it in search of sorrel leaves? What a paltry patch
of ground Grandmother’s garden now is! yet there was a time when,
engaged in one of the tasks of my childhood (that of picking Grandma’s
raspberries and currants), her garden bounded my little world which
then did not seem little at all. Nor was it; for while moving among the
currant bushes, my fingers busy, my thoughts roamed far afield--out
past the hop vines in the rear; out past the clump of big red “pineys”
in front, and the corner where the smallage grew; past the snowball
bush, even past the oxheart cherry tree; through the little blue gate,
and out into the big wonderful world beyond. No, it was not a little
garden; it was a very big garden then; some unkind trickery has been
at work these later years to make it the poor cramped little enclosure
which I viewed last summer through blinding tears.

And Grandma’s old house, too. How low the rooms are now! There was
a time when, caught up in the arms of an uncle, and seated on his
shoulder, the laughing faces below me seemed remote indeed to my
half-pleased, half-frightened eyes. How tall I feel, almost stately, as
I enter the rooms now; and what a chill and gloom strike to the marrow
of my being to find no longer the dear old wrinkled face to greet me!
To see the same paper on the walls, the same clock on the mantel, the
same familiar things at every turn, worn and faded, but still there,
while that cherished face, and those beneficent, toil-worn hands, and
the tired, pain-racked heart are gone forever!

No one was ever so hospitable as Grandpa and Grandma. “Just sit by
and have a bite of something,” Grandma would urge, unaware that she
was dispensing a blessing instead of asking a boon. Their meals were
frugal--no recollection of bounty comes to me, except at Thanksgiving
or other family reunions; but Grandma’s bread and butter, her
warmed-up potatoes, and her sugar cookies (with caraway seeds in them),
touched the spot as no other food ever did or can. Then she used to
place a cup of tea (green tea, it always was) slyly by my plate,
saying: “I guess your Ma won’t care this time if you take a little.”
I can see the little brown tea-pot now as she brings it from the back
of the stove; the silver lustre sugar-bowl with its ribbed sides, and
the nick on the knob of the cover; the blue dishes; the Britannia
spoons--no one but Grandma had Britannia spoons--and the thin, pointed
silver ones; the yellow-handled knives; and the funny little two-tined
fork that Grandma herself used--the rest of us had forks with three
tines.

There’s the Boston rocker in which Grandpa sat of a winter evening and
peeled apples for drying. I wonder where his little old “shoe-knife”
is. “What makes your hands tremble so, Grandpa?” Sister would ask; but
in spite of the tremor he peeled a heaping pile of an evening.

“Eunice, fetch me a bigger pan,” he would call to Grandma, busy in
kitchen or buttery; and how testy he got if she didn’t understand,
or brought the wrong pan! I shuddered when he spoke that way to her,
and wondered why it was; and her meek face and humble silence made
me love and pity her the more. I never learned not to mind Grandpa’s
angry tones. It was “his way” with her. His voice, as I remember it,
was almost always harsh to her, but never to me, never to me. He was
always indulgent with me, and with all of us children--except when we
hung around the barn at milking-time--then he would forget himself,
and one would have thought he was shouting to Grandma or to the
cows instead. We learned not to put his temper to this strain very
often--his hospitality did not extend that far. I don’t know how much
an incident of my babyhood engendered this feeling: Grandpa had a white
cow, a gentle, well-behaved “critter,” but one day when they took her
calf away, maddened, she made a dash at me, playing near; caught me on
her horns, and ran up the bank of the tow-path, while Mother looked on
paralyzed with fear. As Grandpa and a neighbour ran up the bank, the
cow ran faster, then tossed me wildly in the air.

“I didn’t know whether you would fall in the water or on her horns,”
Mother used to say; “I expected to see you drowned in the canal or
horribly wounded; but Mr. Mintline caught you in his arms--Grandpa sold
the cow the next day.” Mother’s voice always trembled in recounting the
incident.

Since then I have always been afraid of cows. If the peaceable
creatures come slowly toward me, try as I will I cannot walk slowly
away. I breathe freely only when the fence is between them and me. By
some childish twist of the imagination, so vivid was the impression
made upon me by hearing of being caught on the horns of that old white
cow, I believed myself to have been injured by the act, and was quite a
big child before I learned that certain anatomical mark on my body--the
little deep dimple in the abdomen--was not made by the horns of that
angry cow. It needed the confirmation given by seeing my sister’s and
other children’s bodies similarly marked to disabuse my mind of that
belief.

I remember when in my early ’teens I would meet that
neighbour--Mintline--an unkempt man, who had long since forgotten his
share in my life, I would think, “He caught you in his arms,” and
would smile to myself at the incongruity as, fluttering past him on
the street in my pretty muslin gown, I was acutely conscious of the
contrast with his rough, untidy clothes. Turning and looking after
him I would say under my breath, “_You_ don’t know, but I do, and I’m
grateful to you, even if you have forgotten it all.”

Grandpa, as I have said, was impatient and irascible; he was easily
moved to profanity; but he was a man of probity of life and character
and a hater of shams. His sense of humour was keen, also his sense
of justice. He was a mason by trade; had built the brick church in
the town, the old Academy, and a few other fine old brick buildings
standing there to-day. I used to look upon these with pride, saying
to myself, “Grandpa built that--and that”; though, since my earliest
recollection, he had not worked at his trade. He led an active life
up to his eighty-sixth year about his village farm, with his cows and
his pigs, and his haying in the low-lying meadows. I can see him now
riding his black horse, straight and sturdy, on his way to the pasture
with the cows. Often they were wayward and the boys in the street would
annoy him. I used to feel chagrined beyond words when I heard him
swearing at the cows, or at the boys, and saw him brandishing his whip
in the air. Mother felt the same. I could detect a look of relief on
her face those days when Grandpa rode peaceably by with the cows.

Grandma was not pious, she was a saint. Though a church member, she
seldom went to church. Toiling from morning till night, she endured
hardship, harshness, and pain with a sweet reasonableness that endeared
her to all. Grandpa’s impatience and shouting never provoked complaints
from her. She seemed to think his quick temper and deafness excused him.

In contrast to her hard workaday life I was always dreaming of the
romance of Grandma’s early days. Filling in related facts with fancies,
I pored over her early picture with its quaint arrangement of gown and
hair, rejoicing in traces of her girlish beauty. I liked her quaint
name, Eunice (a cousin of hers, a courtly old gentleman, used to
call her Eu-ni’-ce--that was beautiful, but Grandpa uncompromisingly
pronounced it Eu’-nis); I liked the names of her sisters,
too--Thankful, Peace, and Nancy.

In retrospect I mourned with my great-grandfather Albro when he lost
his young wife and had to scatter his baby girls among their relatives.
Near neighbours, John Gear and wife, had begged for little Eunice, then
less than two years old. Though he let them take her, he had refused
their repeated requests to adopt her. But one morning the neighbours
were astonished to find the Gear house dismantled and deserted, the
couple having stolen away in the night. They were bound to have that
child. No trace of them could be obtained. That was in 1813. They
easily escaped detection, though for years the poor father inquired
diligently of chance strangers and travellers for news of the fugitives.

The Gears journeyed to a distant county. Eunice was reared in ignorance
of her real parentage. Even when she married, her foster parents were
loth to let her leave them. Her own home and children soon claimed all
her thoughts, and she lived on unaware of the tragedy in the life of
her father.

There was a certain youth, Otis Sprague, to whom Grandma had been
attached before marrying Grandpa; at least, she went to parties with
him. (I can’t tell just how much of this is my own romancing, but I
convinced myself he was a disappointed suitor.) He left home in the
early years after Grandma’s marriage, journeying to Washington county,
the home of his ancestors. (I used to make believe he left because he
could not bear to see Grandma the wife of another.) Visiting among his
kindred, he came upon his uncle, my great-grandfather. As usual, the
old man inquired of the traveller what parts he had come from, and then
ventured, “Did you ever chance to meet a man, Gear--John Gear?”

“John Gear? Why, yes--there’s a John Gear lives in our place. I know
him well.”

I could see the old man trembling with joy--the long-expected answer
come at last! Faltering as he tried to frame the next question, he
hesitated so long the young man thought him a little daft:

“And did you--has he--is there--did you ever hear tell of Eunice--a
child with big blue eyes and”--then he broke off, afraid to question
further--she might be dead, or, if living, must be a woman now.

Otis had his own reasons, I was confident, for remembering Eunice. He
knew just how those wistful blue eyes looked, and how the soft brown
hair waved over her forehead. Seeing at once that this meant more to
the old man than he could express, Otis answered the unasked questions;
told him there had been a Eunice Gear, eldest daughter of John Gear
(for the childless couple had later had children born to them). She
had married a young mason a few years ago--Crandall by name--quick
tempered, but a good fellow; they had two babies when he came away, and
he guessed there was another one a-coming. Yes, he went to school with
her--took her to a party once.

Then I saw the scene that followed--the broken explanations of the
joyous father--questions, answers, hurriedly uttered, and the growing
eagerness of both men as they supplemented for each other the missing
information about the lost-and-found Eunice.

Enraged at the Gears, on his return home Otis told Grandma the story
of her abduction, and gave her the messages from her father and sisters.

After that, one hope dominated Grandma’s life--to save enough money
to go to her father. Loving the Gears, her heart yet yearned for
the father and sisters she had never known. But her children came
near together; money was scarce; means of travel were difficult and
uncertain; two children sickened and died; and the years went by with
her hope unfulfilled, an infrequent and laboured correspondence being
the only link between them.

After many years of careful saving, the little hoard was thought
sufficient for the trip. The children were old enough to be left with
Otis’s sister, and Grandma set out on her long journey.

There were no railroads then. She went on the canal “packet.” This
scene was very real to me. I could see her starting, loth to leave her
little family, yet eager to go; timid at the thought of the enterprise,
but impatient at the slow-moving boat. I’m sure she often walked on the
towpath to relieve excitement and suspense. I wonder how long it took
that snail boat to make the trip. Parts of the journey were made by
stagecoach.

On reaching her old home she found her sisters, but her father
had moved to Warren County. More than that, he had had one or two
strokes of apoplexy and could no longer converse; he would, as the
sisters said, “say one word when he meant another.” Her money was not
sufficient to meet the additional expenses; the extra time it would
take was a serious drawback to the anxious mother; then there was her
father’s inability to talk with her; so, torn between conflicting
interests, hampered, anxious, and sore beset, she abandoned the quest,
renounced her long-cherished hope of reunion with her father, and
turned her face toward home and family, drawn by a half-defined fear
lest they get scattered, too.

During Grandma’s last years her sister Thankful came and lived with
her--two feeble old women, united in infancy, separated throughout
their long lives, reunited just before the end! We children called her
Aunt Unthankful: her presence added much to Grandma’s burdens, but no
murmur passed the patient lips; nor would she suffer criticism of the
poor soul who had found refuge in her home and heart.

As a girl I was keenly alive to the pathos of my great-grandfather’s
life, and to the deferred, then all-but-accomplished hope in Grandma’s.
My own mother’s cherished hope of one day taking Grandma to her
childhood home was also doomed to unfulfilment; and with a curious
prescience I used to ask, “Will the dearest hope that sleeps against
my own heart meet a like rebuff?” Had the tired, saddened woman found
her father at the last, I wonder if his failing mind could have grasped
the truth. Perhaps he would have turned away in bitter disappointment
when they had tried to make him understand; unable to articulate, but
thinking, “That is not my baby Eunice that John Gear stole from me.”
Perhaps he died hoping, believing, that his little Eunice would still
come back.

As a child I remember being gathered into Grandma’s arms, conscious of
an infinite tenderness, inarticulate but encompassing. I used to look
up into her pale, weary face and wonder why she had to work so hard. I
loved to stroke her soft cheeks; was mystified by the wrinkled flesh
that hung beneath her chin; and her poor hands with their enlarged
joints and crooked fingers--it seemed as though they must hurt to be so
bent; vainly I tried to straighten them. It was such a puzzle, too--the
contrast between age and youth as I saw and felt it in Grandma
and myself when patting her face with my chubby hand. I looked and
marvelled and questioned, then gave up questioning, and rested my head
on her breast, content to be folded in her arms.

There was a pink china teapot with a broken spout high on Grandma’s
pantry shelf. I never saw inside it, but a delightful jingle came from
its capacious depths. In it Grandma kept pennies, nickels, half-dimes
and dimes, and those tiny, three-cent coins I haven’t seen since
childhood; yes, and there were the large three-cent pieces and the
two-cent coppers that one sees no more. Grandma had a way of urging us
children: “Now take a nickel for all your trouble,” just as she had of
urging us to help her empty the old brown cookie jar. Although there
were no injunctions concerning a reasonable amount of cookies, we were
taught at home that we must not accept Grandma’s nickels (her milk and
yeast money) for the errands we did; and to our credit, be it said, we
refused them as a rule, even when we had to summon all our strength to
refuse. I can see now three pairs of red-mittened hands quickly drawn
away as Grandma would press the tempting coins, first on one, then the
other, of her little helpers. Sometimes the nickel would fall into
the pail, and we would fumble to get it out, while Grandma’s siren
tones would urge: “There, run along home like good children and mind
Grandma, just this once.” Ah, Grandma! many an enticing temptation of
yours did our childish strength withstand! Would that the forbidden
sweets and glittering coins Life has proffered had oftener met a like
renunciation! And yet, can one ever really say that he would change
anything that has become a part of him, of his experience--that, if he
could, he would blot it out, make it as though it had never been?

So used to serving was she, instead of being served, Grandma seemed
always to ask aid under protest; her gratitude was out of all
proportion to the service rendered: “You poor child, when will you get
paid for all you do for Grandma?” was the burden of her talk, though
the “poor child” fairly doted on running errands for her. “Four pounds
of white sugar, two of light brown, half a pound of green tea, and a
ball of Babbitt’s concentrated lye”--this refrain I would con over and
over on my way to the village, lest I forget it while loitering to
watch the boats crawl under the canal bridge.

How many hours I have spent down in her cool sweet cellar over the
little red churn, the dasher going up and down, up and down, while I
said aloud my favourite poems--after Grandma had gone upstairs. Many
a pat of butter has gathered under the dasher while I rehearsed the
winning of Juliet, Othello’s speech to the senate, Portia’s speech to
Shylock--extracts from Cathcart’s Literary Reader, which was my first
introduction to real literature.

Men do not gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles. As
Grandma’s life had been one of service, so her daughter, my mother,
was untiring in devotion to her mother; and so, too, I am glad to say,
Mother’s children have tried to emulate the filial examples set them.
By way of contrast I am reminded of a story illustrating hereditary
tendencies: A boy was arrested for beating his father; the injured
father defended his boy thus, “He can’t help beating me: I beat my
father; my father beat his father; and my son’s son will beat him--it
runs in our family.” I am glad it runs in our family to love and revere
our parents. Yet, there was Grandpa with his habit of profanity, the
son of a Baptist clergyman! Mother used to marvel how he could have
grown up that way, since his father, who used to take boys to tutor
in his own home, was said to have given him and them a very strict
up-bringing. His mother, Katrina Klincke, born in Alsace, was an
inexorable housekeeper. Her exacting ways have cropped out in full
force in one of our aunts; and in later years I’m not sure but this
great-grandmother wields an influence over my sister and me--we cannot
be comfortable in disorder or slack housekeeping, nor--more’s the
pity!--can we let any one else be.

My paternal ancestry is French and, probably, Scottish. Father used to
say we were descended on his father’s side from one of the celebrated
French Revolutionists, an intimate of Napoleon’s and Josephine’s;
but my grandparents and great-grandparents were born in the Land
of the Drumlins. When, some years ago, the memoirs of our reputed
French ancestor were published, bringing to light his brilliant but
unscrupulous career, I took a mischievous pleasure in sending Father
the particularly scathing comments concerning “our ancestor.”

My father was the fifth child in a family of ten; his father died in
early adult life, presumably of tuberculosis, though Father would never
admit it. Two of his sisters had the same disease, and, because of my
resemblance to one of them, and my not robust health in childhood, I
was something of an object of solicitude in early girlhood, though
all fears on that score vanished long ago. I have heard that my
paternal grandfather drank to excess, and know that one of his sons
did, which may largely account for my father’s life-long zeal for the
Temperance Cause. His mother, of Scottish descent, left with a large
family, was brave, strong, and resourceful to an unusual degree. Their
little log-house being miles away from a neighbour, once during a big
snow-storm lasting several days they had nothing in the house to eat
but potatoes and salt. “But we ate them and were glad to get them,”
said Father, who added, “We can never know how much inward anxiety
Mother felt at such times, but whatever it was, none but herself ever
knew.”

We children called her “the other Grandma,” for she then lived “way
out West” (in Michigan), and we never saw her but once. I remember her
serious face, which could look very merry when she smiled; and her
black gown with a purple stripe running through it. She was at our
house on one of my early birthdays and helped us smoke glass to look at
a total eclipse of the sun. When she died, a cousin came running down
the hill waving a yellow paper and saying breathlessly, “Grandma is
dead!” _And she smiled when she said it!_ A sensitive girl, overcome
with the importance of being the bearer of such news, her smile, I
know now, was a purely nervous manifestation; but I could not judge
her leniently then. Moved by the grief of my parents, I wept to see
them weep, but the shadow passed quickly; not so the resentment I held
toward that cousin for her untimely smile.

As youth passes one longs for fuller knowledge of the lives that
preceded one’s own. We are the result of all that has gone before,
but how often important figures are missing; and even when not, how
inexplicable the sum total is! Lives cut off in our childhood and
youth, or perhaps before we were born, may have endowed us with this
or that constitutional bias, this weakness, that strength--to which of
them do I owe this fault?--is this trait, for which I am commended, my
own, or my great grandmother’s?--insoluble complexities, yet how we
seek an answer, here and there, as we study our tree of life from the
roots up!



CHAPTER II

THE ROOF-TREE


If my father had married a certain sweetheart of his early youth, and
Mother a suitor to whom she almost became engaged, what would have
become of me?


     Should I be I, or would it be
     One-tenth another to nine-tenths me?


I often asked myself this question. But after each of my parents had
had a preliminary romance, they met at a Methodist prayer-meeting, and
each knew from the start what the outcome would be.

Mother was then a school-teacher, Father a dry-goods clerk. Both were
born in log houses; both reared in the frugal way of their times; the
snow often blew in on their coverlids through chinks in the logs; they
slept in trundle beds; wore homespun clothes and calf-skin shoes,
and had their education at the district schools to which they walked
through the woods following marked trees. Born amid the drumlins less
than fifty miles apart, all their married lives--more than fifty years
together--have been spent in the little village where they met.

In the early years of their marriage Father had a travelling wagon
called a “Yankee Notion and Boot and Shoe Store.” Brother, several
years my senior, would tell with pride of Papa’s big wagon and the
iron-gray horses. In girlhood I spent hours upstairs, when supposed
to be putting the large closet to rights at the spring housecleaning,
sitting on the floor poring over Father’s letters to Mother, written
during those years. How like a romance to find those letters so full
of solicitude and love!--comments on Brother’s baby ways; admonitions
to the adopted brother; words of love to Mother--strange to get this
glimpse of my parents; to see the young father’s pride in his boy; and
to read these unrestrained expressions of devotion! For the father I
knew, though affectionate and kind, was a more staid, reserved person
than the one in the letters. Now the baby boy was grown up, the adopted
brother scarcely a memory, and the girl who was not born when the
letters were written was reading eagerly the ardent words that had
gladdened her mother’s young heart!

The circumstances of my brother’s birth strongly appealed to my
imagination: My parents had given up hopes of a child some years before
he came. Father’s health had long been precarious--a persistent cough
and exhausting night sweats were wasting him rapidly. Mother, at his
side day and night, facing his approaching death, was facing a hidden
dread as well--the fear that she was now to become a mother. As the
weeks passed and the fear became a certainty, she determined to spare
Father the knowledge, thinking it would kill him outright. She almost
prayed for his release before the truth must be apparent. How she
dreaded the scrutiny of the Doctor, and Father’s questioning eyes!
How she resorted to evasion, artifice, and concealment! But one day,
suddenly changing her mind, trusting in God to help him bear it, she
told Father that the child they had hoped for so long was actually to
come.

Instantly he became electrified with the glad tidings. Summoning
unknown funds of strength he cried, “I must live, _I will live_!” It
was a greatly improved patient that the Doctor found the next day, and
recovery, though slow, dated from that time. (It was probably arrested
tuberculosis.)

Many years later Father’s health again seemed precarious--dizziness,
and numbness of the arms, caused the physician to prophesy approaching
paralysis. I remember this as my first sorrow. I was perhaps fourteen
years old. When Mother told me what the Doctor had said I flung myself
on the bed in a paroxysm of grief. My Father was going to leave me!
The utter helplessness and wretchedness of us all without him! It
was an hour of agony. But there stood Mother with her own grief, and
mine. This calmed me. I must help and comfort her, instead of giving
way like this. The storm passed; but the days, weeks, and months that
followed were shadowed by this dread, which, however, proved less
well-founded than it had seemed; or else Father’s change in his mode
of life effected a decided change in his condition. Closing out his
boot-and-shoe store, and travelling again for the same firm for which
he had travelled as a young man, he recuperated markedly. Now, in his
seventy-second year, he is in fair health, alert, enduring, and with
keen intellectual vigour--a man of undaunted courage and unconquerable
optimism.

I have often wondered how it would seem to have more than one brother
and sister; it always seems as if all the love I have went to these
two, and that there would have been none left for others; or at least
that it would have had to be divided up, leaving each the poorer--one
does not have to divide for brother and sister--the love you give a
sister is peculiarly hers, the love to a brother peculiarly his, but
how is it that large families have enough to go around?

Death has never come nearer to me than when my grandparents were
taken. Not unmindful of this escape, I think of it often now. Once I
thought, “Death can never take away my father and mother, my sister
and brother,” but of late I am losing the feeling that none of the
calamities of life can come nigh me; and, instead, find myself trying
to think what it would be like to live on if one of them were taken.

Once when Brother was a lad of perhaps twelve, during an attack of
inflammatory rheumatism, his heart acted so badly that Sister and I
were sent for in great haste to come home from school. The attack
passed, but after that illness his disposition was altered; he was
more irritable, with a temper much like Grandpa’s. He would domineer
over us, as big brothers will, speaking sharply over trifles, and he
and Sister would quarrel. I did not quarrel, but would grieve over his
harsh tones. I never could endure angry tones, they always made me
shudder. Noting this susceptibility, Brother was more patient with me
than with Sister, who would get miffed easily and talk back. My tears,
which came easily in those days, always melted him. Consciously or
unconsciously, I ruled him to some extent by this weakness.

Once in school a boy whispered maliciously, “Genie, Art is reading a
dime novel.” Now I had never read a dime novel, but having strait-laced
notions of how wicked they were, my whole soul rose in denial--_my_
brother do such a thing! No! But seeing Arthur bending over his
geography with unaccustomed diligence, something in his absorption
told me that _what that boy said was true_! The tears flowed fast. Ah,
the bitterness of that knowledge! Someone--the same boy, was it?--told
Arthur his little sister was weeping because he was reading a dime
novel, and at recess he berated me; I cried the more bitterly; he then
consoled me in his half-scolding, half-wheedling way, finally promising
not to do it again.

And when he first learned to smoke! We were skating on the canal at
noon-time, I skating with a girl that Arthur was “sweet on.” Suddenly
he skated past us with a braggadocio air, _a cigar in his mouth_!
Carrie and I gave one look at each other, one swift, comprehending
look--if Arthur had robbed a bank or stolen a horse we could hardly
have felt worse. We tacitly sat down and took off our skates, and,
heavy-hearted, went ’cross-lots to school, the skates dangling from our
arms, and the lumps in our throats choking us. I cannot remember that
we talked about it; it was too awful to discuss. And that defiant look
of Arthur’s, how it cut! Our grief-stricken faces must have worked on
his conscience, for in the afternoon a note was passed to me (I’ve no
doubt he wrote to Her, too), in which Arthur said:


     DEAR SISTER,

     Why did you leave the ice this noon? We had a good time.


Then as if in afterthought,


     Did you feel bad because I was smoking? I won’t do it again.

     Your loving brother,
     ARTHUR.


He kept his word for a long time; then, whenever he would break it,
there would be tears and repentance and fresh promises. Similar scenes
occurred the first time I smelled his breath and learned that he had
been drinking. Heart-breakings, attempted denials, then confessions,
promises, struggles to keep them, followed by lapses, penitence, and
tears.

“I’ll never do it again, Genie,” used to make my heart bound with hope.
The tears no longer come now. Something too deep for tears is felt
when the poor fellow, thinking he can keep his word this time, says
penitently, “I’ve learned my lesson. I won’t do it again, Genie.”

This weakness of Arthur’s has been almost the only sorrow in our
family. We each react to it in different ways, according to our
temperaments. Father’s watchfulness, and the necessary work and care
that are occasioned by this infirmity; his forgiveness, seventy times
seven; and his optimism, are his ways of meeting the conditions; Mother
suffers, pities him, and prays that with the grace of God he will yet
be able to conquer; Sister, seeing the sorrow that follows in the
wake of such indulgence, loses patience with a weakness she cannot
understand, upbraids him, and chides the rest of us for lenience; yet,
in spite of herself, breaks through her resolutions and, in practical
ways, dispenses timely aid; and I, knowing it to be a disease, perhaps
largely an inheritance, am bound to regard it charitably. Trying
to throw around him what safeguards we can, I am thankful for the
periods of well-doing, and can but be merciful when defeat comes. He
tries hard, never stops trying, and suffers keen remorse at times. It
is unspeakably pitiful, and especially in later years, since he has
children of his own and sees how they suffer through his infirmity.

Who knows how much inherited tendencies in certain ancestors, the poor
state of Father’s and Mother’s health before and at the time of his
birth, and that critical illness when a lad, may have had to do with
giving him an organization seriously hampered from the beginning? How
can any of us blame another for a given course since, if we were that
other, and were confronted with identical conditions, we should have to
react to them in the same way? We make the mistake of saying virtually,
“If I were _you_, I would be _I_” whereas, the truth would be, “If I
were you, I should _be_ you, and do as _you_ do.”

But all my life with Brother has not been under a cloud. He used to let
me go fishing with him (though I had to keep very still); sometimes
go with him down to the pasture after Grandpa’s cows; and often when
he went alone he would bring me back a flower--usually a syringa,
“cabbaged” from a bush that overhung a fence we used to pass. This
stolen sweet was precious to me, largely because he gave it, perhaps
partly because it was stolen.

One especially joyous memory is that of a visit to a cousin in a
neighbouring village, and the happy time we children had there one
sunny forenoon. Three things contributed to our pleasure: Brother and
Sister, who usually bickered a lot, were amiable; the spearmint was
luxurious and abundant; and we followed a path across a meadow to a
spring--little things, simple things, but that particular day with its
keen joy of life is a red-letter day in my memory. That was the one
spring of my childhood. To this day the taste and smell of spearmint
bring all this back, and I mentally substitute “spearmint” for
Tennyson’s “violet”--


     Who can tell
     Why to smell
     The violet recalls the dewy prime
     Of youth and buried time?
     The cause is nowhere found in rhyme.


I never go past the little town nowadays without looking longingly
at that farm from the car-window and wondering if the spring and the
spearmint are still there. At times I have almost decided to get off
the train and seek it, but have never dared--it would be a needless
pain to find my one little spring gone dry.


The name of my mother’s rejected suitor was Fairchild. If she could
have overcome a certain inexplicable repugnance and married him, “then
I might have been a fair child,” I used to think, with a mental play
upon the name; for I knew myself to be a very plain little girl. I
suffered over this fact; could see myself objectively--greenish-gray
eyes, a long nose, a prominent forehead--I hated the sight of my
face in the glass, yet would torture myself with scrutinizing it,
searching for some redeeming thing, but ending with, “No, there’s
nothing, _nothing_ nice about it.” My facial angle I used to study
with a hand-glass, mentally cutting about half an inch from my nose,
pinning back my ears, and thinking how nice it would be if the straight
uncompromising hair would grow low in ripples on that ugly forehead.
But, opposed to anything artificial, I would, not bang and curl my
hair as the others girls did. Looking at certain girls that I now know
were plainer than I, I wondered pitifully if I looked as well as they,
afraid of deceiving myself with such cold comfort.

All of which shows how self-engrossed and morbid I was; what capacity
for self-torture I developed early. I was constantly reading of
beautiful persons. I lamented secretly because my mother was not
beautiful. I loved her none the less, but had such a craving for the
beautiful, which Fate had cruelly withheld from me and my mother. I
have often been ashamed of this feeling; it seems as though a child
should so love its mother (and such a mother!) that her face would have
to be beautiful to it; but it was not so with me. And it was one of
my bitter childish and girlish griefs that Mother would not take more
pains always to appear at her best. It seems pathetic, how pleased I
used to feel when she would wear particularly becoming gowns, or take
special pains with dressing her hair. Unable to overcome this feeling,
I have always envied one with a beautiful mother. My mother’s heart and
soul are beautiful, but there was always this yearning for beauty of
face as well as of character.

Once, as a child, when impersonating Summer at a school exhibition,
crowned with roses and bedecked with garlands of flowers, elated by it
all, I sang so much better at the concert than I had at rehearsals as
to surprise every one, myself included. Best of all I overheard someone
say that I “really looked pretty”; that she never knew before _that my
eyes were black_! How I treasured that statement, though knowing it was
only a temporary condition!

I have no doubt I exaggerated my ugliness somewhat for, in addition to
youth and health, I had a clear dark skin, good teeth, unusually fine
and abundant hair, and a well-formed body. The one thing I took pride
in was my hair. It was a pardonable pleasure that I felt in contrasting
my long heavy brown braids with the wisps of hair many of the girls
had. But when I was perhaps sixteen, working too hard in school and
with my music, my hair came out so rapidly that one day a girl sitting
behind me leaned over and whispered, “Why, what has become of your
hair?” Bitter were the tears I shed that night! “_That_ is going, too!”
I cried in my wretchedness. But it did not all go; I still had more
than the average girl. Even to-day I sometimes get a sudden sense of
that schoolgirl’s pang at the threatened loss of her one beauty.

In babyhood I received a burn the shock of which nearly cut short my
life: Tied in a high chair and placed before a stove, I was pushed over
by some frozen clothes which a “green” Irish girl had brought in from
the yard. The under part of my chin rested upon the stove, leaving its
imprint, when I was snatched from it.

As I grew up I grieved over the scar thus sustained. I became morbidly
sensitive over it, though consoling myself somewhat that it was not in
a more conspicuous place. I envied children and girls their smooth soft
chins. It seemed to me the sweetest part of a girl’s features--that
white, smooth place under the chin. When a child I would never play “Do
you love butter?” although I liked to see the buttercup’s yellow shadow
on the chins of the other girls. When my turn came I always drew away,
painfully embarrassed.

As a young girl I used to think it would be lovely to faint away. When
we “made believe,” I usually chose to be French, to have black eyes and
red cheeks, and to faint away on critical occasions. But after studying
physiology and hygiene, and acquiring more sensible views, I scorned
these earlier ambitions, and ridiculed the silly girls who pretended to
swoon when vaccinated; and who turned pale and asked to leave the room
when the skeleton was brought in to the physiology recitations.


There were only eighteen months between my sister’s age and mine,
and, although I was the elder, she dominated me. There was almost no
difference in our heights, and not much in our figures. She had a
pretty face with fairer skin and sunnier hair. Unobserving persons
thought we looked alike. Dressing alike until we were sixteen, we were
often asked by strangers if we were twins. Those who mistook one for
the other could not have been very discriminating, for with the marked
difference in our natures, there must have been, even in childhood, a
corresponding difference in our looks. I was quiet, shy, and dreamy;
Kate lively, active, outspoken. She had to take the lead because I
would hang back. In church, when we were little things, she would fix a
place for my head on her lap, then pull me down and pet me, whispering
to me to keep still and go to sleep; and, although I knew I should have
been the one to play that rôle, I would submit, while she carried out
to the finish her assumed dignity.

How quick-witted she was! One summer Father had a certain pear tree
that yielded only a few choice pears which he was jealously watching.
We children had been admonished not to touch them. One day as Father
walked around the yard, he hesitated before the ripening pears, then
passed on. We thought him waiting unnecessarily long: one was surely
dead ripe. That afternoon, while he was taking his Sunday nap, Kate
picked that pear. She had just bitten into it as Father appeared.
Putting both hands behind her, she edged backward in the yard till she
stood under the astrachan tree, frightened, but “gamey.”

“Katherine, come here,” Father called sternly.

She came slowly, hands behind her and mouth full of the big bite she
was vainly trying to swallow.

“What have you in your mouth?”

A gulp, and she said, “Nothing,” opening wide her little mouth.

“Let me see your hand.”

Out from behind her came the right hand.

“Let me see your other hand.”

Back went her right hand, out came her left, the pear still invisible.

“Let me see both hands,” said Father relentlessly.

Quick as thought the little minx lifted her leg and, hands still behind
her, thrust the pear between her thighs, and calmly held out both
hands. Father’s anger vanished.

Kate never resorted to deceit, and almost never to untruths, unless
hard pressed. While my own hypocrisies were subtle, hers were palpable.
But I long cherished resentment for one offense--an unusual one
with her: Mother had a bed of choice tulips--her special pride, our
special temptation. Kate succumbed one day, picking nearly all of them,
and with such short stems they were useless. Mother’s anger really
frightened Kate, who declared, “Genie did it.” Though denying it, I
probably acted guilty, for Mother believed her. (I always blushed
and looked the culprit in school if a general accusation was made;
and if any one rapped on the door and asked if a certain article had
been found, I used to feel so uncomfortable it is a wonder I was not
accused of having stolen it--self-conscious little snip that I was!)
To punish me for my supposed falsehood Mother put red pepper on my
tongue--a practice which a cousin had told her that she followed with
her children. It was terrible, and was all the worse because I was
innocent; though I’ve no doubt it was good for me, for I was more given
to prevarication than was Sister.

My tendency to exaggerate was the cause of my fibs; they were
usually harmless ones; facts never seemed startling enough; I liked
to embellish them. Then, too, I was always making mistakes about
quantities or anything with figures or distances, and some of my
misstatements should be set down to this weakness rather than to
deliberate deception. In this very matter, years after, when speaking
of this red-pepper punishment, I used to say that my mother put a
teaspoonful of red pepper on my tongue. I can’t remember that any one
ever questioned or corrected the statement. I probably told it mostly
to children. It is only within a few years that, telling the story
again, my own common sense, so late to develop, showed me that that
must have been a gross exaggeration--a teaspoonful of cayenne pepper on
a child’s tongue!--the red pepper had punished one lie that had never
been told, but had given rise to one that I had gone on repeating until
at last I had sense enough to see that it was too preposterous to be
believed!

Similarly in the matter of my weight: I had heard it mentioned--it
was probably fifty pounds--but with my usual inaccuracy for figures I
solemnly protested that I weighed five pounds, standing my ground even
when corrected, till the absurdity of it was shown me.

I remember, too, hearing Mother talking with some women about how
young a certain neighbour was when her daughter was born. In telling
the school girls about it later, I announced that Mrs. H---- was only
five years older than her daughter Ida. Shouts of derision greeted my
statement, but I was firm. One big girl called me “little fool,” and
I suffered I know not what ridicule. It was partly an exaggeration,
partly ignorance. Grasping the main fact, that the mother was very
young when her child was born, and having forgotten how young, but
wanting to make my story worth while, I had resorted to a positive
statement which I stoutly maintained. I could not see why those girls
should doubt my word, even if the statement was startling. _Of course_
it was unusual--that was why I had cited it. I have a fellow feeling
for the Vassar student who, when asked by the resident woman physician
what her paternal grandfather died of, and not knowing, but wishing not
to seem ignorant, said, “I--I think he died in infancy.”

For years I was not a little given to reporting bright things people
might have said, as though they had said them. It was such fun to
embellish commonplace events and comments with additions of my own.
Whenever I would tell these untruths I always had a queer feeling
(almost of disappointment) to find that nothing happened to me; that
no one questioned them; and that everything went on just as before
the lie had slipped off my tongue. I don’t know whether I expected
Ananias’s and Sapphira’s fate, or what, but I expected something, and
nothing happened!

This tendency to exaggeration and misstatement, and, on occasion, to
deliberate falsehood, I have tried conscientiously to overcome. In
fact, for years I swung far to the other side. Now, in matters of fact,
I think I am more often scrupulously accurate than not. If I cannot
be accurate, I refrain from giving a definite statement. My special
training in later years of course helped in this respect. But it was
earlier, when I became a “Christian,” that this tendency appeared to me
in all its heinousness, and in striving to overcome it I became, for a
time, almost morbidly conscientious.

One day in school the word “conscientious” came up for discussion. I
was not present, but learned from one of the girls that “Prof” had
spoken out in school freely, using my name as an example of what
conscientiousness meant. But my wise little sister (and how I loved
her for it!), though pleased at the reference to me, went to all the
girls she thought likely to mention it to me, and cautioned them not
to. When I learned of it, from one who never could keep a secret, I
asked why Sister didn’t want her to tell me. “Oh, she said it would
make you proud, or something like that.” And she was right. I was too
self-conscious as it was, and vain, in a demure kind of way. Kate knew
my weaknesses.

Sister’s deceits, as I have said, were such funny ones; they never
deceived any one--were never really intended to; they were only
desperate measures resorted to when in a tight place, their drollery
usually serving to protect her from punishment. As a rule she and
Brother managed to quarrel when left to their own devices. I played
the peace-maker between them, and have done it ever since. One Sunday,
when we stayed home from church, they got into a wrangle. Spiteful
words led to threats, and Kate was soon chasing Arthur round the room
in childish rage, I trying to intervene. In the squabble my belt fell
off--a black shiny belt with a metal buckle. As Kate could not reach
Arthur, she grabbed up my belt and, brandishing it in the air, chased
him, trying to hit him.

Crash! went the buckle against the rosewood mirror. When Father and
Mother came home and saw that crack in the mirror, they saw also three
guilty apprehensive children. Brother and Sister pitched in, telling
about the quarrel, who did this, and who did that. “I don’t care about
who started it, or who kept it up,” said Father, “I want to know who
broke that looking-glass--the one to blame for that will be punished.”

“Genie is to blame for it,” Kate promptly rejoined.

Father looked at me in surprise, Arthur opened his mouth in wonderment,
while I stood dumb and guilty-looking beyond question. Then Kate added:

“Arthur hit me, and I chased him with the belt, and the buckle broke
the glass, _and it was Genie’s belt-buckle_!”

She escaped punishment.


We had fewer playthings than children have nowadays, but for that very
reason they meant more to us. I had but two dolls in my childhood
and one is still--living, I was about to say. One was a leather-head
doll, with painted cheeks, black hair, and blue, blue eyes. But in the
beginning of her career she met a strange fate--a boy much bigger than
I snatched her from me and bit off her nose before my very eyes! This
was one of my earliest griefs. I hated that boy but cherished the
noseless doll for many years.

Later Kate and I had big wax dolls whose eyes would open and shut and
who would cry when we pressed a little place in the pit of the stomach.

We played with them only on state occasions. They were kept up in the
“front bedroom” in a bureau drawer. I saw them a year ago. They had on
the same scarlet wool dresses trimmed with narrow black velvet ribbon,
but the dresses were moth-eaten and the dolls showed the ravages of
time.

Occasionally, other relatives joining us, we had a family Christmas
tree--perhaps only four or five in our childhood. But there was always
the hope of one, and when there was one, the joy recompensed for the
lean years. One Christmas tree at Aunt Lucinda’s at which some Western
relatives were present, stands out vividly--the big house overflowing
with people, the smell of the dinner preparing, the air of mystery
of the elders as they went to and fro to the parlour with various
parcels; and then, at last, when the doors swung open and we got
that first glimpse of the blessed tree! But how was my joy modified!
Making our way, pell-mell, grown-ups and children, in the eagerness to
push through, someone bumped against me, driving my nose against the
door-jamb. I can feel the pain yet, and the blinding tears. Not all the
splendour of that tree could drive that pain away. After that, in a way
I had of accounting for things, I attributed a slight deflection of
my nose to that bump. I recall black walnut work-boxes for Sister and
me and a writing-desk for Brother as the most elaborate and expensive
gifts which as children we ever received. Some years there were no
gifts, except new clothing, which never satisfied the craving--except
once--our white “moss velvet hats”--these made our hearts light as
well as our heads. When there were no presents--can one ever forget the
bitter disappointment? A trivial gift means so much to an expectant
child! All in vain were we told (as we sometimes were in advance) that
no gifts could be afforded that year. We never quite gave up hope. But,
cruel as was the disappointment, perhaps the discipline was wholesome.
One year there were crosses covered with crinkly paper bedecked with
wreaths of worsted flowers, and framed in deep rustic frames. What
works of art! Almost equal to the hanging basket made of allspice that
adorned a cousin’s parlour, and to the framed pyramid of hair-flowers
that hung in our own!

I still treasure a paper-covered Red Riding Hood, cut in the form
of the little lass, with the wolf crouching at her feet, the text a
metrical version, charmingly illustrated. I must have had it since I
was seven or eight years old. I knew the verses “by heart,” and have
heard Mother tell that I used to recite them and other long pieces in
my sleep. A bottle of oil once made a spot on the book and the paper
is yellow with age, but I still cherish it and would part with many a
choicer possession sooner than with this childhood treasure.

In this connection I recall that when I was perhaps in my early ’teens,
the instinct of acquisition developing, I went about the house placing
my name upon all my belongings--every book and picture, even on the
bottoms of little toy vases, a porcelain lamb, and so on. As to Red
Riding Hood, I seemed to think it fitting to write my name in a big
sprawling child’s hand, every letter a capital, with the notion, I
suppose, that it would be thought that I had written it there when
a child. I even selected a date, reckoning back as well as I could,
and putting it upon one of my early birthdays. In the same way I
mutilated a quaint book that had belonged to Grandpa, by writing his
name on the fly leaf, and the legend, “His Book,” in what I considered
an old-fashioned hand-writing. Some years later, coming upon these
evidences of my silly deception, my cheeks burned with shame, and I
erased the false records.

Fondness for my own belongings did not prevent me from a cruel piece
of vandalism in regard to a cherished possession of my sister’s: She
had made a clove-apple by sticking a greening full of cloves, and
hiding it in a cuff-box in the upstairs closet, had declared she was
going to keep it till she grew up. Laughing at her, I said it would
decay, but she maintained that it would not. On rare occasions, as if
it were a religious rite, she would peep into the box and sniff at the
apple, vouchsafe us a sniff also, and put it carefully away. As it
dwindled and dwindled, her attachment strengthened and strengthened.
I believe she kept it six years. Although I had often threatened to
throw it away, she never believed I would. But one day, whether out
of spite, or because of my strenuous housekeeping, I did it, probably
silencing my compunctions by thinking she was too old longer to indulge
in such nonsense. But her grief and anger on learning of the loss were
so moving that I was conscience-stricken, and would then have given
anything to have restored the treasure. She scorned all attempts at
extenuation. It is with real shame that I confess this misdeed--more,
perhaps, than I feel for later, graver ones. I know now that as one
of her treasures it should have been respected. Anything that another
really loves--a toy, a bauble, an idol, a comforting superstition--why
not let him keep it as long as he can?

We were a happy and harmonious family as such things go. I do not mean
that we never said a cross word to one another; such families, I
fancy, exist only in Sunday-school books. There was not always unity;
our parents sometimes differed; Father was critical and methodical;
Mother forgetful and wanting in system. She was tried by Father’s
smoking and inordinate croquet-playing, and he was tried by her
procrastination; at such times fault-finding was forthcoming. Sister
and Brother had early and late unpleasantnesses; and, in our ’teens,
Sister and I became less harmonious than formerly, about the time, I
suppose, when we were each becoming more individual; at least, when,
ceasing to be docile, I became more assertive. But there was always the
good-night kiss all around, and Kate and I went to sleep with our arms
around each other as long as we were girls at home. I do not think we
could have slept had we let the sun go down upon our wrath.

I remember the first time I omitted our custom of kissing all round
at night--the family and any guest staying with us. Some strange man
was there; when I had kissed Father and Mother I hesitated before the
man--I was getting to be a big girl--then, putting out my hand, said a
bashful good night and went upstairs with burning cheeks, wondering if
it had seemed rude not to kiss him.

We were not a demonstrative family--the good-night kiss was the chief
expression of affection. I remember no fondling, no caresses after
early childhood, except the habitual ones--no spontaneous overflow of
affection at irregular intervals, such as I was inclined to, had the
others been so minded. Once in a great while Father would call us the
sweetest pet name in the world--“darling.” On these rare occasions I
was secretly overjoyed. Had he known the delight it gave me, I’m sure
he would have said it oftener. Mother sometimes jocosely called me
“Keturah,” and when, in one of her rare playful moods, she dubbed me
“Keturah Ketunk,” I liked it exceedingly.

I remember once--I was probably thirteen or fourteen--going into the
bedroom to bid my parents good night, when, having kissed them, as I
started to leave the bed, Father threw out his arm; and, seeing it in
the half light, and thinking he did it to motion me back, I bent down
and swiftly kissed him again--an unusual thing for either him or me.
No sooner had I done it than my cheeks got hot as fire: perhaps I had
misunderstood his gesture; he may have just happened to stretch out
his arm, and was not beckoning me at all. Upstairs I went, torturing
myself with the query which I never solved. Whether or not he had
called me back, I now know he was not sorry to get the extra kiss. Why
couldn’t I have thus comforted myself then? I suppose I was hungry for
more demonstration of affection than I got, yet ashamed to show it.
Sister, not at all demonstrative, provoked demonstration in me; the
curve of her cheek, and her long eyelashes resting upon it, appealed
to me as a child’s beauty appeals; I longed to kiss her at inopportune
times, and sometimes did not resist. Half annoyed at me, she thought
it nonsense, I suppose. As we grew up, when she would be fitting a
dress for me, I would try to snatch kisses, sometimes calling forth
her impatience, at others her laughing dexterity as she eluded me. I
admired her prettiness, but was never jealous of her, though she could
dance and skate, and do all such things, with an ease and grace I could
never acquire. Making friends more readily than I, being sociable,
lively, and even-tempered, she had plenty of beaux while I had none.
But I had friends among the beaux of the other girls. Although I did
not want them for beaux, I should have been unhappy had I not had them
for friends--I understood myself well enough to know that much then,
though the general impression among my schoolmates was that I cared
nothing for the boys.

My hypersensitiveness about the life of the affections was apparent in
the way I felt when Father would bid us all good-bye: When he kissed
Mother I would always turn away. It never seemed right to look on;
perhaps, partly, because it made me want to cry; but also because it
seemed as though _I had no right_. Even to-day, if I see lovers on the
stage whose acting is good enough to give the sense of reality, I find
myself turning away--it seems too intimate for me to witness.

A favourite custom in our family was an annual Sunday drive in
apple-blossom time. Father would hire a team and a sort of landau
which, on a pinch, would hold ten persons--an aunt’s family and
ours--big baskets would be stowed under the seats, and off we would
go through the country on an all-day’s drive, stopping to picnic in
some grove, or by a stream. Then on again under the blue skies, the
air sweet with blossoming trees; and the tender spring green giving
that hazy, twiggy look of early May. (That line of Whitman’s--“Rich
apple-blossomed earth”--always brings back those far-off May-times
with those perfect childish joys.) Then we would drive home in the
twilight, singing as we went, old and young joining in the songs. Happy
children, happy parents! I’m sure the apple blossom is an escape from
the Beautiful Garden. I never breathe its fragrance without recalling
those cherished drives in the Mays that are no more.

Our parents were wisely indulgent, giving us treats and privileges as
they could afford them. We were brought up to go without a thing till
it could be paid for; consequently, all of us have a horror of being in
debt. Father spent a good deal (considering our circumstances) on our
music, first and last, and he and Mother were ever looking forward to
our advancement. But there was always a struggle over money matters. We
had to economize and count the cost of any indulgence; but when it was
decided that we could afford a given thing, how happy, almost jubilant,
Father was over the expenditure!

One of the happiest hours in childhood (I was perhaps ten years old)
was when, after spending the day from home, we returned at dusk and
were met at the door by Father and Mother looking so excited and happy
we knew something was on the carpet. And there was! In the sitting-room
our eyes encountered a change--the furniture was rearranged, and there
standing against the wall (were we awake or dreaming?) was a brand new
organ!

Our joy was unbounded, our parents’ delight no less. How we smoothed
the polished walnut case; gingerly touched the black and the white
keys; fingered the stops; tried the pedals; moved the swell; and asked
to have the top lifted so we could look inside! And then Father sat
down and struck a few rich chords--those chords with their variations
that seemed peculiarly his own! Soon the music teacher came in, and
some neighbours, and the new organ sounded throughout our home, and
doubtless in our dreams that night; and the next morning _it was still
there_!

Then began the lessons. Gradually the novelty wore away, lessons grew
harder and harder. Kate and Arthur, restless beings that they were,
made only fair progress; they disliked the practice. But, taking to it
eagerly from the start, I made rather more than ordinary progress. It
was as hard to get me away from the organ as it was to get Kate and
Arthur to it. I was still very young when, one day, putting aside my
exercise book, I opened the Methodist Hymnal and “picked out” one of
the hymns--Boylston. I was scared, it sounded so natural--and I had
done it alone! Mother came running in to see if it was really I who was
playing.

Shortly after that, in Sunday School, the organist leaving before the
close, the superintendent came to me, saying, “We want you to play the
last piece.” I tried to beg off, but no, he knew I could do it; so, in
fear and trembling, I got up and played. The treadles worked hard, and
the stool was too high, so the superintendent pedalled for me, while
the school rose and sang. It didn’t take us children long to get home
that Sunday. “Genie played the organ! Genie played the organ!” shouted
Kate and Arthur as we rushed into the house. After that this occurred
so often that my timidity before the Sunday School wore away. This was
the forerunner of a greater event: I had never touched the big organ,
but as Father was chorister, we children often sat “in the choir”
pretending to help sing. One day toward the close of the service the
bass singer, leaning over, whispered, “Miss R---- has gone home, you
will have to play for us, Genie.” Protesting, I looked imploringly at
Father, but he only nodded and smiled encouragingly. My heart nearly
thumped itself to pieces, but the wily Basso whispered, “We’ll sing
so loud, if you make a mistake they’ll never know it, and we’ll pick
out one with an easy bass.” So I undertook it. In time, as Miss R----
dropped out more and more, I became the regular organist. Later came
piano lessons, and later still I had a teacher from a neighbouring city.

When I was developing rapidly, undergoing the physiological and
emotional changes of pubescence, they unwisely put me to studying
“Thorough Bass.” A paternal aunt had been an accomplished musician,
and my parents hoped I would show a like talent. How my head used to
ache over that study! As the lessons became more complicated, I grew
stupid; my health failed perceptibly and our family physician was
called. He talked with me a long time, then I was sent out of the room
while he and Mother talked; then called in again, and the little black
medicine-case was opened, while the Doctor folded the tiny powders
that, he said, as he patted my head and called me “lassie,” were to
make me strong again.

The upshot of it all was I had to drop my music, not only then, he
advised, but for all time. I had too emotional a temperament, he said,
to stand the strain. (What kind of a musician would a non-emotional
person be!) But he was wise in prohibiting it then. I used to dignify
the severe headaches which I had at that time by saying I had “brain
fever.” (Girls in the books I read had “brain fever.”) But there was no
real illness, no staying out of school, though for a time my hours were
lessened.

Dropping music was a real cross to me. Probably, had I been allowed to
resume it, I should have followed that as a vocation and not cast about
for another field of work. Although discontinuing the study of music, I
did not drop its practice. Music was an important part of our home life.


I remember how cruel I once thought my parents because they would not
let me go to a distant county to pick hops. One of the schoolgirls
had gone with her mother the year before, had earned a lot, and had
had a “splendid time.” As the season came round again, I “teased” to
go with this girl and her mother. I was hearing a good deal at home
about economy, economy, and Nora’s account of the money she had made
had fired me with the prospect of earning great sums to relieve our
growing needs. Confident, I announced my plan. Was ever a girl so
repulsed, so silenced? They wouldn’t even hear me out. I tried to say
what Nora said, and what her mother said, but they were obdurate.
A martyr in my own eyes for a time, it was probably years before I
realized what I had asked to do. When I learned what class of young
people usually engaged in such work, I understood how “out of the
question” (a finality of Father’s) it had been for my parents even to
discuss the project. I remembered, too, how the same bright-eyed Nora
had soon left school; how she changed in manner; became coarsened;
drifted out of our lives. Strange how, years after, children become
aware of the safeguards thrown around them in youth! With this
awareness, what a feeling of gratitude wells up within one toward the
parents who have surrounded them with such wise and loving care! How
one longs to fly home and tell them of it; yet how reticent are we, how
chary of expressing this gratitude!


One of the deepest of my early griefs was when we first learned what it
was as a family to be separated; when Brother, who was a printer, went
to Colorado to work. We had been so closely bound together. I realized
the anxiety of our parents, divined the loneliness Arthur would feel,
and what it would mean to lose him from the home. What interesting and
humorous letters he wrote us, with the homesickness sometimes peeping
through! How we read and re-read them!

He stayed away less than a year. Shall I ever forget the day he came
back? His clothes had become shabby; he was stained with travel, but
I almost devoured him with my eyes. How good his voice sounded--every
well-known tone; every gesture; and his laugh--my heart was like to
burst. And, oh, the joy, the security, the blessed feeling that night,
to know we were all together again under the home roof!

I used to resort to various devices to keep Arthur at home in the
evening, which sometimes worked, sometimes not. The most effectual was
to slip away from the supper table while the rest were still seated,
under the pretext of wishing to try a new piece, thus getting him under
the spell of the music while he was filling the stoves and bringing in
water, so he would be drawn in spite of himself into the sitting-room.
Once there, he would hang around and read, often appearing indifferent
when I knew he was not. When he would get up to go, after I had held
him as long as I could, how my heart would sink as the door closed and
his steps sounded fainter and fainter on “stoop” and sidewalk! But I
would keep on playing long enough so as not to make it too apparent to
the others what I had been up to, though they were doubtless as well
aware of my motive as I. Sometimes he would say, on going out, “Well,
I’ve got to go now”--his way of thanking me for playing.

Even when he was doing his best, there was always more or less anxiety
until Brother would come home at night. No matter what I was reading,
when ten o’clock came, unless he had come, I felt an anxious pang.
All of us felt it, though it was seldom mentioned. Mother sometimes
spoke of it, or her sighs betrayed it, but as a rule we hid our
anxiety under an assumed cheerfulness. I would listen when the steps
came on the veranda to see if there were two walking, or only Father.
Then if Father came alone, he would ask with apparent lightness, “Is
Arthur home yet?” and I would hasten to answer, “No, not yet,” just to
forestall Mother’s sadder negative with its accompanying sigh. Then
we would all fall to talking to cover our fears. But when he did come,
how we strove to conceal the delight that our fears had been unfounded!
Putting up my books, but not too quickly, lest he be aware that I was
trying to reward him for coming home early, I would go to the organ,
and after making a pretense by first playing some indifferent thing,
would play and sing the songs he liked best.

Oh, the safe housed feeling, when we could say good night to one
another, and not have to lie awake listening for Brother’s footsteps
that came so late sometimes, and sometimes not at all! After such
nights of watching, Sister and I would peep into his room in the
morning, to see if perchance he had come after we had fallen asleep.
And when his bed was untouched--the dread and fear of what may have
befallen him!

Brother was always good company. He is witty, and easily moved by
humour or pathos. Once stir his worthy emotions and his better nature
comes to the surface, though he resists being stirred as long as he
can. A fond father, he is, on the whole, a wise one, except when his
temper, or his infirmity, gets the better of him. Like our dear, testy
grandfather in disposition, he reacts in much the same way, yet, with
all his impatience, shows surprising tolerance with certain vagaries
and eccentricities in others who, being the victims of hereditary and
constitutional handicaps, are “gey ill to live with.” Love for his
children is one of his strongest traits.

A few months ago, when a maternal uncle, an alcoholic, died, Brother
took his own little son to the uncle’s coffin and there, telling the
child what a promising youth the uncle had been, explained to him
that drink had been his ruination. He wrote me that he had made the
child (only three years old) understand it all; and then had made him
promise that he would never touch alcohol in any form.

Poor, tempted, struggling soul! Whitman has expressed tenderly and
understandingly the feelings that always well up in me at the thought
of my brother’s struggles and defeats--“Vivas for those who have
failed!” Such need pity, help, and credit far more than we are wont to
give. Bobbie Burns knew whereof he spoke when he reminded us:


     What’s done we partly may compute,
       But know not what’s resisted.


Father and Mother still have hope in Brother’s ultimate
victory[2]--such faith, and such optimism, combined with such
tenderness and forgiveness! I know of nothing more God-like than these
attributes as I have seen them exemplified in the daily lives of my
parents. “Like as a father pitieth his children”--what a perfect
example I have known of this infinite, compassionate love!

FOOTNOTE:

[2] The victory came some years after this was written. My brother now
knows the triumph of him “who ruleth his spirit.”



CHAPTER III

“A CHILD WENT FORTH”


Environment--what part does it play? Its stamp is upon us, but other
forces and influences also determine our reactions and mould our
characters. Is the objective environment alone the sea in which we
swim? More significant still are the emotions which a given environment
induces in each individual. To determine these it is needful to resort
to our earliest memories. What were the things that so impressed us
that we carry them on down through the years, an inseparable part of
our inmost selves? What part have they played in shaping our characters?

I have said that it was a commonplace little village where I was born,
and to another it may seem a commonplace outward life that I have to
record. But who among us will own to a commonplace inner, subjective
life?

Our village, named after him who sang of the “deep and dark blue
ocean,” is a prosaic port on the Erie Canal along whose banks mules
slowly draw the heavy-laden boats. The canal divides the village
into north and south, as Owasco creek divides it into east and
west. Rising from the level landscape here and there, the long, low
lenticular drumlins form a conspicuous feature through that section
of the state. Commonplace, did I say? But less than three miles away
are the marshes of the Montezumas. What strange wild feelings the
lighted skies at night evoked! “The marshes are burning!” was such an
inadequate explanation of that lurid western sky. A few miles to the
south is Goldsmith’s “loveliest village of the plain”; about the same
distance west, one reaches Tyre; as far again, and Palmyra is found;
while a little to the east sits Syracuse in all her glory--surely an
illustrious environment, this Drumlin Land, if names could make it so.

In the upper and hilly part of the town, called “Nauvoo,” the house
still stands where Brigham Young lived before he became famous--or,
shall we say, infamous? He was a carpenter and painter, and several
buildings are there pointed out as houses that “Brigham” built. They
tell that the Mormon went to Utah owing a certain couple in our village
for his board, and that years after, on learning that they were to
celebrate their golden wedding, he sent them the amount he owed, with
interest for all the years.

In the decrepit old hotel on the village green Isaac Singer once
lived and dreamed of the sewing-machine which later made his name a
household word. There, too, in our little hamlet faithful Henry Wells,
sometimes a-foot, sometimes on horseback, went hither and yon amid the
drumlins carrying in his shabby carpet-bags messages and parcels to the
scattered homes. Trusty and dependable, there in our little village he
laid the humble foundations of the Wells-Fargo Express of to-day.

Six churches, two hotels, several dry goods and grocery stores, a
drug store, a meat market, the Post Office, sometimes a bank, a
boot-and-shoe store, cigar shops and saloons, a pie factory, a shirt
factory, the Masonic Hall--these, most of which were grouped around the
Village fountain, constituted the town life I knew.

It was amid these scenes that I as a child went forth; the objects I
looked upon became a part of me, interwoven with my very being: the
familiar drumlins on the horizon, flowers and the wayside weeds, the
pets I cherished, the family life, our neighbours, my teachers and
playmates, the games we played, the songs we sang, the books I read,
the sunset clouds, the friendly trees, and the winding creek; and
mingled with these commonplace scenes, the sorrows, joys, affections,
hopes, and fears--all these became a part of that child that went forth.

In thinking of my earliest memories, why does my mind revert to that
little old tannery down by the dam which we passed on our way to
Grandma’s? It was painted red. There was a multitude of little square,
mahogany-brown pieces of wood that covered the yard like a carpet.
There was a buzz of machinery which always frightened me (and machinery
frightens me still), and a peculiar smell always emanated from the
place. And though later a grist mill, still later a paper mill, and
then a planing mill stood there, and now for many years dwelling houses
have occupied the spot, yet as I think back to my childhood I recall
most vividly the earliest scene, and the peculiar elastic feel of those
pieces of tan-bark under my feet.

Quiet and shy, I was, as I have said, dominated by my sister till
perhaps a year or two before I went away from home. More of a leader,
more practical, in those days more executive, my sister had withal
more common sense and far more initiative than I. She mothered me as
a child, and “bossed” me as a little girl, and for a long time I was
content to have it so. In truth, so established was that order of
things that she has never, I think, quite accepted my emancipation.

I was more shy in Father’s presence than elsewhere, even in my late
’teens. I don’t know why, but involuntarily I became more reserved.
I myself could see a difference in voice and manner. I was not afraid
of him (though that was the way Sister put it), for I had no reason
to be, he was kindness itself, and more gentle with me than with
Kate, she being so full of pranks he often had to rebuke her. I don’t
know just what the shyness was, but I was two different beings when
with and away from my father. As nearly as I can explain it now, it
was my exaggerated love of approbation making me so anxious for his
approval that I over-exerted myself when near him, the result being a
shy awkwardness. Yet he always seemed to understand me, and to make
it easy for me. I never would ask him for favours; Kate always had to
do such things for both herself and me. “You do it,” I would plead,
and she would “sputter” and say I ought to do it for myself, but would
give in. Sometimes she made me go with her, occasionally taking revenge
by saying, “Genie wants to ask you for a penny.” Then I felt like
running away. He seldom refused us; I don’t see why I was so bashful
with him. It irritated Sister. Straightforward herself, she thought me
two-sided. I don’t know when this shyness came, or when it wore away,
but before it developed I have one memory that is significant--one of
my earliest recollections. Years later I marvelled that I ever dared do
it: I remember sitting on Father’s lap (he in a little black rocker)
and “teasing” him to tell me where I came from. It must have been when
I first began to wonder about such things. I recall how I kept pulling
his face around by putting my hands in his long brown beard; how he
would laugh and turn away, trying to avoid me; and I can remember just
how he looked at Mother as they exchanged glances. I can’t recall how
they answered me, but think they told me I would know when I was older.
(I never remember being told about storks bringing babies, though I
do remember someone saying the Doctor brought them, and that God sent
them.) But that scene is very vivid to me; and afterward, when I began
to know, though imperfectly, the answer to my question, I thought of
how I had sat and coaxed Father to tell me. I would like to know just
how old I was when this question first seemed so important to me. I
recall when still very small, though later than this, being in the yard
and digging in the ground when Brother and some older boys, going by,
asked what we were doing. “Digging for babies,” we said, and it seems
as though I can remember the smile that passed between Brother and the
boys as they ran off shouting derisively, “Digging for babies!” That
must have been in the days when we used earnestly to try to dig down to
China.

Although asking my father this question is one of my earliest
recollections, I think the very earliest is that of my first day in
school. I can remember just how I trotted along by my brother’s side;
how my starched skirts stood out proudly, and how my heart swelled with
excitement when, at the sound of the “first bell,” I started off to
school. Arthur was very nice to me, and granted permission (!) to two
of the bigger girls to let me sit between them. I recall the delicious
feeling of being the object of interest in the little flock, and how
they petted and entertained me. But the most wonderful thing was a
little wire frame which the teacher let me take to amuse myself with--a
frame with coloured balls big as cranberries, which could be moved
back and forth on the wires. Not long after I began going to school
regularly, and that little frame (years later I learned it was called
an _abacus_) was given out as a reward of merit. I can see now the
look of blushing pride mantling the cheeks of the favoured pupils as
they marched from the teacher’s desk back to their seats bearing the
coveted trophy.

One evening shortly after my first day in school, we were startled by
the alarm of fire, and saw the flames coming from the direction of the
Academy. “Goody, Goody!” shouted some boys in the street, “We won’t
have to go to school any more!” But I cried as though my heart would
break, until a neighbour came down the hill and told us it was some
unimportant building farther away.

A few years ago the Academy did burn, and the news came to me with a
far keener pang than that felt in childhood at the false alarm. The
present was momentarily blotted out. My thoughts flew back to the old
building where the most tender and beautiful memories centred. Of that
place so rich in associations only ashes remained; only in memory could
I see again the old brick walls--the walls my grandfather had helped
to build--only in memory hear the school bell ring! Curious, but more
than all the furnishings--the books, the globes, the maps and charts,
the chemical apparatus--more than all the things really of value in
the building, my thoughts kept going back perversely to that dear
little wire frame with coloured balls which I had so cherished since
my first day at school!--_that_ was gone past recall!--that and the
old bell! At those earlier home-comings after graduation, one of my
keenest pleasures had been to be awakened in the morning by the sound
of the school bell; it brought back so much: I was a girl again; the
past was bridged over; it stirred a host of chaotic feelings of mingled
sweetness and sadness--longing for my lost girlhood, and exultation at
the successes and achievements of to-day--the Spell of the Past was in
that bell.

A fine high-school building, well equipped, now stands where the old
Academy stood. To the younger generation it will doubtless mean all
that the old school meant to us, but how like an interloper it is! Only
the ground and the old trees are left--the old linden trees under which
we played, where we used to gather the tiny round nuts and eat the
sweet brown kernels that ripen in September!

Once when Sister was a little thing, perhaps four or five years old,
and an aunt, in telling her Bible stories, started to make some
explanation about God, Kate interrupted her in a superior way with,
“Oh, yes, I know God--he lives over there,” pointing to a meadow
opposite our house. Astonished, Aunt Kate inquired further, when the
child added:

“He’s got white hair and wears a long coat; he walks around there when
it’s getting dark.” She meant an old man with a white beard and flowing
locks who, like Old Grimes, wore a “long gray coat all buttoned down
before.” His unusual appearance as he came and went in the hay-meadows
had appealed to the child’s imagination, and she had settled to her own
satisfaction that he was God!

An experience of my own, some years later however, illustrates the
marked difference in our minds and temperaments--the one given to
definite, concrete ways of thinking, and to settled convictions which
satisfy her, however inadequate they may seem to others; the other,
at that time, to vague, even mystical interpretations. And a similar
tendency exists to-day in our attitudes where temperament and personal
bent are concerned: One spring, going to a sheltered strip in our yard
where we had previously transplanted wild flowers from the woods, I
found a pale blue hepatica in bloom. I remember the directness with
which the flower spoke to me. Something in its gem-like beauty and
its completeness touched me peculiarly; my eyes filled with tears.
I hesitate to write it, but it seemed almost as though the flower
whispered to me, “God.” It was an exquisite moment. The beauty and
purity of that flower spoke to my soul, and for a brief while I had a
conception of Divinity that made the day and hour memorable.


To my mother I am primarily indebted for my love of nature. She used to
take us to the cowslip woods every spring, and later to the Wintergreen
woods. We would begin coaxing to go weeks beforehand. Something sweet
and tender stirs at the thought of our excursions to those distant
moist woods in the early spring days. With what eagerness we started
off, Mother as eager as any of us! How we ran across lots, climbed rail
fences and a stone wall, peeped into deserted barns, traversed meadow
after meadow, till we came to the swampy woods where the gay flowers
grew! It was dark and wet and mysterious in those woods; we knew them
only as the cowslip woods; other woods we frequented at other times of
the year, these only in the cowslip days. I liked the crackle as we
gathered the plant for “greens.” We even ate the bitter buds raw. Often
we would slip from the mossy, decaying logs into the brown pools; we
always returned home with squeaking shoes, wet feet, full baskets, and
happy hearts.

Mother used to go wading with us, too. Taking our luncheon, we would
follow the winding creek along the willows a mile or more till we
came to a little grove, a sort of natural park, with an island and a
dam, and a big swimming hole on one side of the island. Brother, who
had been to Niagara Falls, called this Goat Island; the water that
went over the dam was Niagara; and the grove was Prospect Park. Many
a time he has lain in his little bedroom, his door and ours open,
and recounted to Sister and me his visit to Niagara, always getting
excited and waxing eloquent, and seeming to see it all over again, as
he talked to his willing listeners till sleep overtook them.

“Down to the dam”--there some of our sweetest childhood hours were
spent, Mother, one with us, wading the stream, teaching us the names
of the flowers, and telling us what was “good to eat.” When she was
in doubt about a certain thing, and so would caution us, I was pretty
sure to taste it, thus finding out for myself that many a thing is good
to eat at which others looked askance. Some Eves begin early to taste
forbidden fruit.

Up the Ditch Bank was another favourite place for our picnics--a high
grassy bank running along a feeder, and farther up a big round pond on
one side of the bank, and a long stretch of marshy creek below on the
other. From the bank, across a precarious bridge we got into “Groom’s
Woods,” where the wake robins grew, and the large white trilliums,
Dutchman’s breeches, squirrel corn, crinkle root, spring beauties,
anemones, hepaticas, blood roots, and mandrakes. Mother taught us these
names, and the names of what few birds we knew--robins, goldfinches,
humming birds, and orioles, chiefly. Each year in cherry-blossom time,
Mother would say, “The orioles are here again.”


I had a goldfinch in a cage for a time, I called it a wild canary, and
grew much attached to it, but it soon died, and after that I never
cared to have another bird. I had one cat that I loved, too; his name
was Nimrod. He got so old a neighbour took him away. They told me what
was going to happen, but when I heard the gun-shot, far away, though I
had braced for it, I was nearly frantic. I could never bear to have it
mentioned after that, and loathed the man who did it. Children’s griefs
are about little things, but they are not little griefs. I feel sorry
for the child who suffered some of the things I remember. Mother used
to say,


     “Poor Nimrod’s dead, he’s run his race,
     No other cat can fill his place.”


And no other cat ever did. I have never cared for cats since. Cats came
and went, there was always one at home; they multiplied as cats have
a way of doing, but after Nimrod’s death I was indifferent to them. I
had one dog, too--one cat, one bird, one dog, and ever after eschewed
all pets. A little yellow dog came to our house once--from heaven, I
guess. We called him Ponto--such a big name for such a roly-poly dog!
Æolus would have suited him better, for we knew not whence he came, nor
whither he went, months later, after having endeared himself to us all.
He came the night I was brought home with a broken arm, and was such a
dear companion during my six weeks in splints that I grew inordinately
fond of him. Rheumatism attacking the arm caused me more suffering than
did the fracture itself. Ponto would cry when I cried, putting up his
paws so imploringly that, just to hear him take on, I’d stop crying in
earnest, only to cry louder in make-believe. How piteously he wailed! I
would get ashamed of myself for enlisting his ever-ready sympathy. He
left so mysteriously that we found no trace of him. One of the desires
of my heart for a year or two was to have Ponto back. I believe I used
to pray for his return. “Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,” and my
soul surely longed for Ponto.


Another love of mine, a less responsive one, was my big willow tree. It
was only one of many trees along the creek, but oh, the difference to
me! Cows grazed in the pasture near by; spearmint grew in patches along
the path; the water flowed quietly. It was about ten minutes’ walk
from home, but I was in another world when there. Seated in the heart
of the old tree, I looked out upon a scene commonplace enough to the
eye--level fields and houses and distant drumlins, but ah, what inner
visions! What happy hours I have spent ensconced in that old willow!
Just a little climb (for I never could really climb a tree--I was too
afraid of getting up high), and there I sat, a queen on her throne.
Safe in the tree I was not afraid of the cows. There I read and sang,
recited poetry, and dreamed dreams.

“I am monarch of all I survey,” I usually began with--the place really
belonged to me. The old farmer who came after his cows every night
thought he owned the land, but I knew and the old tree knew who was
the real owner. For years, as a child and a girl, I kept tryst with
this tree; and for years only the cows and I knew just where it was
that I went when I stole away “to the willows,” for I guarded the
exact spot jealously. Often in going past it with others, I have
feigned indifference, lest someone note its natural seat. I wanted it
all to myself. I used to feel uneasy when I had to climb down, about
supper-time; for the cows, eager for their own supper, came near the
bars and insisted on coming close to me. Although my heart beat wildly
at their approach, I would try to brave it out and look them down as
I had heard one should do. On they always came, bland and peaceable.
Facing them as long as I could, ashamed to show fright, even to cows,
I finally had to cut and run, and then how chagrined I felt! Once in
running from them, in my hurry to get under the fence, I flung my
book ahead of me, and it went into the creek--my beloved Cathcart’s
Literary Reader! To this day its stained leaves and warped cover remind
me of the fright I got from the harmless, curious cows.


“Oh, aren’t they cute, they must be twins,” was a remark Sister and I
often heard, long before we knew what twins really meant. Mother would
follow such remarks with, “No, there’s eighteen months’ difference
between them.”

We thought “twins” must be something pretty nice, and learned to feel
the disappointment that we saw on the faces of strangers when Mother
set them right. Once at camp-meeting we were playing together, when
some ladies stopped us asking, “Little girls, are you twins?” Mother
was not near. Kate and I looked at each other and knew that our time
had come to be twins. With one accord we nodded yes, and had some few
minutes of unalloyed pleasure. Days later, while playing in our tent
door, the same lady and another passed. Pausing and noting us as we sat
with our big wax dolls (they, too, dressed just alike) the one lady
told the other that we were twins.

“Oh, no, there’s eighteen months’ difference between them,” said
Mother, sitting near.

“But they told me they were twins,” insisted the lady. We were covered
with confusion; tears, chidings, shame, and repentance followed. Though
I am not sure whether at that time we knew what twins really meant,
still we knew very well that we were not twins.

When we were perhaps ten and eleven years of age, one of our
schoolmates, a child in a destitute Irish family living in the west
part of the village, died of scarlet fever. They lived in the “haunted
house” on the hill--a house near which we never ventured, though Mother
had repeatedly assured us there was no such thing as a haunted house.
Now, however, because of the fever, one would have thought we would
have still kept our distance. But hearing of the child’s death, Sister
was bound to go there. The dead always had a strange fascination for
her; she wanted to feel the corpse--the last thing I wanted to do. At
noon Kate made me go with her to that house. Other children accompanied
us. Awe-struck, we crept up the hill; we glanced furtively at the
broken shutters of the windows from which a ghostly arm was said often
to beckon. Such poverty and squalor we had never before come in contact
with. We filed past the body of our little schoolmate (Kate touched the
marble forehead), awed by the presence of Death, and uneasy at what we
knew was wrong. If the ghosts of the Board of Health of to-day could
have antedated themselves and walked there, what consternation would
they have felt at the presence of those children in the fever-stricken
precinct!

The bereaved mother howled hysterically. An elder sister told us they
had no underclothes to put on the dead child. Kate marched me home,
enjoining strict secrecy. Moved by the poverty and grief we had seen,
with one accord we stole upstairs and purloined a suit of our best
underclothes, secreting them till after dinner, when we ran with them
to the house of mourning, intending then to hurry back to school. I can
see now the trimming on that little white petticoat that we stole from
ourselves; we hesitated, it was such a pretty petticoat; but the need
was urgent, and, somehow, we thought it must be the very best that we
give to the dead child.

The family welcomed us effusively, blessing us, or asking Holy Mary to,
as they immediately put our offerings to use; and still we lingered
on. Presently they asked Kate to go with them to the burial, bribing
her with a nice long drive; before I knew it, it was all settled. Kate
ordered me to stop my opposition, _she was going to that funeral_. She
also persuaded, or commanded, me to give her my hat, having lent hers
to the sister. Then she made me promise to go back to school and say
nothing; she would soon be home. The “last bell” had long since rung
when, bareheaded, frightened, and alone, Miss Docility ran to school,
tardily repentant over the whole strange proceedings. A wretched
afternoon! As soon as school was out, I rushed up to the Post Office
and in tears and penitence told it all to Father. I can see now his
growing anxiety on learning of our visit to that fever-stricken house;
and then of Kate’s having gone to the burial. He upbraided me for not
coming to him at once, but knew that, as usual, Kate had dominated me.

“Run home and tell your mother not to worry,” he said; “we will soon
get track of her and see that she gets home safe.”

Mother’s distress was pitiful. Tormenting herself and me, she
rehearsed tales of Catholic funerals where they raced horses and
got drunk--perhaps they would have a runaway--Kate might be thrown
out--hurt, maybe killed--and perhaps we would all get the scarlet fever!

When Father came home to supper, no trace had yet been found of the
funeral train, though a man had driven to the cemetery--the mourners
were either driving home by some other road, or had gone on to a
near-by city.

How the hours dragged! But the joy when Father came in bringing Kate,
safe and sound, her elation over the experience only a little dampened
by the fear of punishment! But she escaped it that time; and we all
escaped the fever!

Although I had had to drop the study of music in early girlhood,
music continued to be an important part of our home life. Other boys
and girls in our street used to gather round our organ in the winter
evenings, or sit on the veranda in summer, and sing till we had to
stop for hoarseness, the neighbours often calling to us for this and
that favourite. “Gathering up the Sea Shells,” “Pass under the Rod,”
“Jamie’s on the Stormy Sea,” “O, Fair Dove,” “We’d Better Bide a
Wee,” “I’ll Be All Smiles To-night, Love,” “Then You’ll Remember Me,”
“Juanita”--a heterogeneous repertoire, the list seems interminable.
There were certain favourites we would get Father to sing--“Bonnie
Doon,” “The Sword of Bunker Hill,” and “My Susanna”--songs inseparably
linked with home and those happy days.

I used to sing Father to sleep Sunday afternoons. No matter how many
other songs I introduced, I always had to sing Longfellow’s “Bridge,”
and “The Day Is Done.” I was annoyed if he asked for the latter before
the day _was_ done. I liked best to sing it as the afternoon light
began to fade and barely come in at the west window, just enough for me
to trace the notes.

Sometimes of a Sunday evening an aunt and uncle would ask for more
lively songs than those I chose, for there was a long period when I
steadfastly refused to sing secular songs on the Sabbath. At their
request, I would evade and substitute; but if their insistence became
too pronounced to be set aside, I would refuse point blank. In my
unregenerate days there had been a time when I had sung “The Yellow
Rose of Texas,” “Nancy Lee,” “Putting on the Style,” “Father, Come
Down with the Stamps,” and such worldly things, but later the little
Puritan was shocked to be asked to desecrate the Sabbath with such
levity. They learned to cater to my strait-laced notions. I am afraid
I was a not very pleasant person to deal with when a question of what
I considered the fitness of things was involved. (Perhaps I am not
even now.) I strongly suspect I was a self-righteous little prig for
several years. At a later period one of the schoolboys described me
to a newcomer in the town as “a nice girl, only _such_ a prim little
Methodist.” Not many weeks later, that girl and I were laughing in
great glee over the description which, though it had once been true,
was then hardly applicable; but I was still living on the reputation of
a past phase of religious emotion.

We had a song called “Fire Bells Are Ringing,” a dramatic account of
a fire on a wild winter night, the chorus ringing out with repeated
cries of “Fire!” One windy night in February as Sister and I were at
the organ singing this with all the dramatic power we could summon,
the wild night putting us in the mood, Father, who had been in the
kitchen popping corn, came running in shouting “Fire!” even louder
than we were. Smiling, we sang on with redoubled energy, pleased that
we had put him in the spirit of acting, too. He rushed around the room
frantically shouting, “Fire! I tell you! Girls! _do you hear?_” Louder
and more dramatic grew our efforts, and louder grew his cries until, a
still more desperate tone in his voice, and the words, “Girls! Get me
my coat, quick!” finally made us understand he was in earnest. Mother,
too, had thought him fooling and there he was, excited as he always got
at the alarm of fire, almost in despair of making any of us take him
seriously!

It was a house on the street above. A fierce conflagration was under
way. With the high wind, the adjoining house of a neighbour was
endangered, and we had an exciting time helping our friends gather
together valuables and other belongings, though luckily the fire did
not spread. Ah! the cruel, relentless sight of that burning home!
What if it was “the meanest man in town” whose house was burning
down--everyone pitied him that wild night when they saw the pitiless
flames.


We never associated with the neighbours on our right, except
to be civil to them (and I to borrow their novels by Mary Jane
Holmes--whenever I could without the knowledge of my parents). The man
was coarse and illiterate, his wife a silly, slovenly, red-haired woman
who would sit on her husband’s lap on the doorstep in full view of
passers-by. But our left-hand neighbours, though shiftless and lawless,
were interesting and likeable. Great borrowers, always borrowing,
they would keep our belongings till we had to go after them. I would
feel chagrined to have to ask for our own flatirons, or tack-hammer,
or chopping-knife, when we needed them, but Jean, the witty daughter,
would relieve my embarrassment by her ready assurance: “Certainly,
Miss Genie, you are welcome to the irons; keep them as long as you
like--we’ll come after them when we need them again.”

Formerly there had been a picket fence between our yard and theirs,
along which the “myrtle” grew, and a board fence farther back, between
the gardens; but, little by little, first the board fence disappeared,
later the picket fence--whenever they got out of kindling wood they
would take a board here, a picket there (usually early in the morning,
or late at night). In time both fences were down, and only the “myrtle”
in front and the pie-plant bed and berry bushes in the rear marked the
division between our yards.

Mother would try shaming them out of it by wondering (to them) who
could be carrying off our fence boards, and the wily Jean would reply,
“It’s a shame, Mrs. Arnold, such people ought to have something done
to them,” when perhaps that very morning Mother had seen her slip out,
knock off a picket or two, and hustle with it into the woodshed. But
the whole family had a way with them that was irresistible, and they
were kindness itself when any one was sick or in trouble.

A slack housekeeper, the mother of the family, proud as Lucifer, was a
remarkable character. She reared a large family, all “smart as whips,”
but inclined to waywardness of one kind and another--the boys handsome
and debonair, but profane and given to drink, yet more gentlemanly when
drunk than many are when sober. Although we lived near them all their
lives, the young men never spoke to Sister and me after we reached
our ’teens without prefixing our names with “Miss,” and lifting their
hats. If they stood at the wood-pile (perhaps sawing some of our
fence-boards!) when we went to the well, they would bid us a courteous
good morning, always cutting short their profanity, if indulging in it
at the time.

I admired their chivalrous manners, their good looks, and their witty
talk, even though knowing less admirable things about them.

The father, a crafty man, with no visible means of support, lived
mostly by his wits. He was handsome, and humorous in a droll way.
Never lifting his hand to help his over-worked wife, he would yet say
ingratiatingly, “Mother, I don’t like to see you work so hard--we are
not worthy of it.” And she, knowing how lazy he was, how it was all
talk, would beam on him, proud of his good looks--the handsome father
of her handsome sons--pleased with the affectionate protestations that
he shouted in her deaf ears. She never criticized him or her sons to
others; but sometimes her lips would shut in an emphatic way and her
eyes say unutterable things if she thought herself unobserved; but the
face she turned to others was innocent of all this. How her eyes would
shine as she watched her sons start out of the house, well dressed,
with manly carriage, and that air of distinction that never wholly
left them! and when they came home intoxicated, how fertile she was in
resources to get them quietly out of sight; how apt in concealing the
loquacity induced by a lesser degree of intoxication!

An incident in her earlier days put her on a pedestal in my regard.
Jean, her daughter, a fiery girl with coal-black eyes and hair
was witty and irresponsible, as I have said, but energetic and
warm-hearted. The neighbours knew her to be capable of escapades of
which her doting mother was innocent! More than once she had been seen
creeping down the slanting veranda-roof and down the porch pillars,
from which she dropped softly to the ground. But no one dared acquaint
her mother with the fact. In the course of time Jean was missing. Her
brother traced her to a neighbouring town, and going to the hotel where
she and her lover were staying, so arranged it that when they came into
the dining-room, there he sat confronting them!

Equal to the occasion, Jean, I’ll wager, showed no embarrassment, and
though her brother was bursting with rage and shame, he, too, was
mindful not to make a scene. But what a dinner it must have been! Yet
I can imagine that Jean kept the conversation going in her inimitable
way. Dinner over, she asked her brother when he was going home. “Just
as soon as you can get your things packed,” Dick said significantly.
Knowing the Norton blood was up, she made the best of it and returned
with him. After that she stayed closely at home. People in general
did not know of her elopement, nor of the fact that she was to become
a mother. Both she and her mother kept secluded for months. I wish I
knew just how old her mother’s youngest child was when Jean’s child
was born. My impression is that he was at least three or four years
old. Nevertheless, it is stated as a fact, and was generally believed
in the village, that at the birth of Jean’s baby, Mrs. Norton, its
grandmother, put the baby to her own breast, and, by sheer force of
will causing the milk to flow, brought up the child at her breast!
He always called her “Mamma,” and his own mother by her given name;
and although after a time, the fact of his parentage was learned, the
family pride was saved to a great degree. People tacitly accepted the
child as Jean’s youngest brother, and he himself thought he was until
quite a lad.

Not having learned of all this till years after it occurred, the
impression it made upon me was far less pronounced than when I learned
about a certain girl, nearer my own age, who “went wrong.” But I did
not learn of this little tragedy till a year or two afterward, although
when I did, I was so sorry for the girl that there was no room for
blame, and I was glad to know that Mother, knowing it all along, had
befriended her; I loved my mother the more for it. But how incredible
that such a thing had happened to one I actually knew! I used to wonder
how she could go on living and acting like other folk; how she could
meet that young man on the street; how she could fulfil her daily
tasks. Divining what she must secretly have suffered, I felt sure her
keenest grief must come from knowing that she was not as good as people
thought her. I used to wish that she knew I knew of it, and that
Mother had known it all the time, and yet that we felt the same toward
her. I was sure that would have been a comfort to her.

A boy in our neighbourhood, a gay, boastful, light-hearted boy, who was
always whistling on the street, got into difficulties, became entangled
with low companions, and a grave charge was made against him from
which he was only partly exonerated. The first year I was away from
home, in writing to me about it, Mother had said, “Howard has lost his
whistle.” How significant that was! The merry-hearted boy was never the
same after that. These and other revelations concerning townspeople I
knew made a profound impression upon me. They were the beginnings of
my plucking the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and
I found it bitter. Every taste saddened me. The dispersion of every
illusion was accompanied by a distinct pain. I think it must always
be so for those who believe that persons and things are what they
seem. The surface so smooth, so fair--incredible that beneath lie many
diverse strata seldom or never seen. Outcroppings come as a revelation,
and with the shattering of an ideal--inevitable sadness and pain!

One of my vivid childhood experiences comes to me here--that of being
taken through the State Prison at Auburn, and to chapel services there,
and how my throat ached as those hundreds and hundreds of men in
convict garb filed in and took their places! The striped gray-and-black
cloth for their suits was made at a woolen mill just outside our
village. We sat in the gallery and looked down on the men. I have never
forgotten the pain I felt, child that I was, at seeing such a mass of
men branded with shame and crime, many imprisoned for life. I wonder
if my sympathy and tolerance for wrong-doing were not generated by
that early experience, when I pitied them so that there was no room to
condemn.

Notes of piercing sweetness sounded through that vast auditorium as a
convict played on a cornet the prelude to “Watchman, tell us of the
night.” When they began singing I thought my heart would break. A part
of the men sang the questions, then another body of them the answers,
all joining in the refrain. Mother and all of us were in tears. Always
after that, at home, when we would sing that piece, that moving scene
would be vividly reproduced.

Chaplain Searle preached that day, and I remember (or think I remember)
his beautiful, beneficent spirit as he talked to the men. (He used
later to lecture in our village, and those impressions of him became
blended with the earlier. One of his lectures was “The Sunny Side of
Life in Libby Prison.”)

We saw the men march to dinner; saw their coarse fare, and peered into
their bare cells; and a great pity rose within me for their blighted
lives. To this day the sight of “Copper John”--the statue we see on the
top of the prison, on driving in to Auburn--awakens the recollection of
the painful emotions born that day when I first learned how hard the
way of the transgressor really is.


About the only plays I ever saw, until I went away from home, were
“Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” and “Ten Nights in a Bar Room,” played in our home
town, and “East Lynne” in Syracuse. These were my only preparation for
the appreciation and understanding of Booth’s “Hamlet,” which I saw my
first year in Boston.

A mere child when “Uncle Tom” came to town, and too moved to do
anything but cry openly, I was unmercifully tormented the next day
at school by the older girls who, having witnessed my humiliation of
the night before, jeered at and mimicked me. Curiously enough, many
years later, while visiting in Worcester, Massachusetts, I encountered
the star of this performance at close quarters: I was taken ill while
there, and the landlady of my hostess was the “Topsy” of my early
remembrance. When she learned that I had seen her as “Topsy,” she
doubled her offices in my behalf: there was a distinct improvement in
my toast and gruel, although her housekeeping was almost as “shifless”
as “Aunt Ophelia” had complained of years before.

My first experience with remorse came when I was quite a little girl,
on learning of the death of a schoolmate: One of the older girls, on
seeing me weeping bitterly, looking at me coldly said, “Humph! _you_
needn’t cry--you used to quarrel with her--you know you did.” As though
I didn’t know it only too well! For years that girl’s twitting me of
those irrevocable quarrels seemed the most unfeeling thing imaginable.

It was perhaps when I was sixteen that another schoolmate, going into
a rapid decline, died of “consumption.” During that summer I went
almost daily to brush her hair; she said I did not tangle it as others
did. It was painful to see her wasting daily: that ominous cough, that
sickly odour, and her pathetic hopefulness as her condition became more
hopeless! But I had a strong sense of duty then. It was about the time,
I suppose, that youthful altruism developed. Sometimes I would be so
tired from work at home that I could hardly drag myself up the hill,
and I dreaded the depressing environment. When she died they sent for
me to dress her hair. She had requested it. That seemed more than I
could do. (I have never been able to conquer my repugnance to touching
a dead body.) But there was no way out of it. After the task was done,
with which there was no one to help me except her brother, who was no
help at all, I stayed and got supper for the invalid parents, and did
other little things round the house, waiting for someone to come in who
would stay the night. But no one came. I could not leave those helpless
parents alone, so sent word home that I was going to stay, at the same
time sending for a schoolmate to come and bear me company.

We had Louisa M. Alcott’s “Old-Fashioned Girl” to read, and proceeded
to pass the night sitting up in the room next to the one where our
dead schoolmate lay. The girl’s brother (the same who years before
had bitten off the nose of my leatherhead doll), kept coming into the
room and lamenting his sister’s death; then, going into the parlour,
he would weep over the body, groaning and reproaching himself noisily
for his past unkindness. The wildness of his grief, which came in
paroxysms, was terrible. I pitied him, but it was a relief when he
calmed down and went to bed.

Late in the evening the undertaker came and was alone in the parlour
a long time. On coming out he asked who was going to stay over night.
Lizzie and I told him we were. “But what grown person, I mean.” On
learning that there was no one else, he scrutinized us a moment, then
said to me, “If you will step in here, I will show you what I wish you
to do.” Wondering, I followed him and learned that at midnight I was to
remove the cloth from the face, moisten it in a solution, replace it,
“taking care to press it well down on the eyes and around the nose and
lips.” I have forgotten what else we had to do, but remember that I had
to remove the folded hands from across the chest. (I did it by taking
hold of the nightgown sleeves at the wrist. How startled I was at the
spring the arms gave as I let go the sleeves!) He added that if I did
it at midnight, and again at three or four o’clock in the morning, it
would answer.

I have done much harder things since, but never remember undertaking
anything that seemed more of an ordeal than that was then--our dead
schoolmate, my shrinking at the feel of a corpse, the mere staying up
in this remote house that night, no neighbours within call, we two
girls, with the sick parents and the remorse-stricken brother--no one
to give us moral support--small wonder that I quailed! But it had to be
done.

My companion, less self-contained, and terrified on learning what was
required, began to be hysterical. It was not easy to get her interested
in the book, but we read on and on, taking turns through the long
hours, our feverish excitement increasing as the dread hour approached.
How loud the clock ticked! how every little sound about the house smote
our ears! how furtively we kept glancing at the time, pretending not to
be thinking of it! how our voices trembled! We both started in affright
as the clock began to strike twelve! Lizzie held the lamp while I did
as I had been instructed. Poor girls! They seem like someone else,
not I and another. She trembled and nearly dropped the lamp; and when
it was done, we almost ran from the room. It was no vulgar fear of
the corpse; it was the general gruesomeness, our loneliness, and all
that--the uncanny, tiny little mother, a mere skeleton; the Quilp-like
father--everything added to our shuddering dread.

No sooner had we closed the creaking folding-doors and were back
in the sitting-room than my companion, heaving a sigh of relief,
said, “Now let’s go and have something to eat.” I could have
screamed outright--“Eat _now!_ after that experience!” My hands felt
contaminated, even after repeated washings. I begged her to wait
awhile. So Miss Alcott still diverted us till I felt I could go and
eat. After that we grew cheerful, even hilarious, and then felt guilty
for laughing in that house of mourning.

Long hours passed in talking and reading till we had to go in that
dread room again. Finally morning came, and with it a neighbour who
relieved us. Going home in the early dawn, the queer look of the quiet
streets, the physical weariness, combined with the night’s experiences,
made me feel years older. Stealing up the steps at home and creeping
into the hammock on the veranda, I slept until the opening of doors and
windows in the house announced the family astir.

Perhaps a year after the death of this girl, another schoolmate died
of the same disease--a brilliant, beautiful girl with smouldering dark
eyes, a girl of great promise, who had made a brave fight for life.

Her mother, who was given to doing things in a theatrical way, asked
four of us girls to be honorary pall-bearers--to dress in white and
follow the casket in and out of the church.

At the house the general gloom and our own grief had been a strain on
us, but as we got into the carriage we calmed down from our weeping and
were trying to get in condition to face the ordeal at the church when,
just as we were driving through the main street, without any warning,
one of us _broke into laughter_! Two others followed in sympathy,
the fourth girl looking so disgusted that it made us laugh the more.
Finally she gave way, too, and we were all in a state of uncontrolled,
unreasoning mirth!

Although the carriage was closed, we feared the driver would hear
us, or people in the street catch a glimpse of us. Our efforts at
self-control were painful in the extreme. What would Ruth think if
she could know of our conduct? But everything we tried to say only
made matters worse. When the carriage drove into the churchyard, we
were still in a pitiable plight, and how we ever mastered ourselves
enough to step out and walk past the by-standers and on into the church
behind the casket is something I marvel at even yet. But we had had our
escape-valve, and now everything was done “decently and in order.” Long
after that, we thought with remorse of our conduct, not understanding
how blameless we were--how wrong it was to subject a group of
impressionable girls to such an emotional strain.


I recall some by-word meetings which I think had some share in my
development at a plastic period. They were conducted by the wife of
the Presbyterian minister, their object being to help us refrain from
the use of slang. That minister’s wife seems to me, even yet, the most
beautiful woman I ever saw--tall, slender, with a queenly carriage, the
smoothest, creamiest skin, bewitching dimples, jet black hair and eyes,
and slender white hands.

On the street she wore a heavy veil, and when she lifted it as she came
into the meetings, it was like the unveiling of a beautiful statue. She
had a silvery voice, so different from any voice I had heard. In fact,
she seemed a little too bright and good for everyday life. We children
idolized her. Some of our playmates would not go to her meetings,
and spitefully told us she was “proud”; wore a veil to preserve her
complexion; never ate butter; and nearly starved herself to keep
slender; but, resenting these rude charges against our divinity, we
continued her willing devotees.

How good she used to talk to us! She began her prayers with “Dear
Father,” praying easily as she stood before us, as though talking to
a loved parent. She listened to our confessions of what by-words we
had been betrayed into saying during the week, smiling brilliantly at
times, looking grieved at other disclosures, and sometimes shocked,
but always encouraging us to try harder the next week. The by-words
permitted were, “Oh!” “Oh, my!” “Oh, dear!” and “Oh, dear me!”--these
with varying intensity were the legitimate outlets for the various
experiences and emotions of our lives! All others we must strive to
keep from saying, “with the aid of our Heavenly Father.” I think
“Grief!” was the word with which I kicked over the traces the oftenest;
but her reproving smile was not a hard punishment; and it was such a
delight to see her approval when we could make a good confession. It
was an excellent influence she shed, not the least of which was due to
her beauty. My aversion to slang (except when “right off the bat”) is
probably due to those early by-word meetings.

Although the hands of this woman strongly appealed to me by their
beauty and delicacy, my mother’s appealed more powerfully--the whole
woman in her seems typified in her hands. Not small, nor especially
white, they are well-formed, and, in spite of a life filled with work,
are soft, yet firm, strong, capable, and tender. Even as a child I
seemed aware of her emotion, as well as her strength, in them. I used
to like to clasp them--such a warm, sustaining grasp! And I liked to
open them and look at the palms. She has a hollow palm (something
like my own), and all the mounds are full and elastic--a warm, soft,
brooding handclasp peculiarly her own. In my emotional nature I am
more like Mother, in mental make-up more like Father. Sister’s hands
are more like Father’s, yet her physical type in general, and her
mental, is more like Mother’s. From Mother she and Brother get their
fairer skin, while mine is the brunette shade, like Father’s. How
mysterious it all is! How complex!--“Mate and make beget such different
issues!”



CHAPTER IV

IN THE OLD PATHS


Does one ever outgrow one’s early religious training? Though he outgrow
his credulity, his faith, his observance of rite and ceremony, and
though he wander far from the paths he followed when being trained “in
the way he should go,” still must the religious influences shed round
him in those early, plastic years have their permanent bearing upon his
after life, even though sometimes so transformed as to be traceable
only to the keen student of personality.

“Back to the Old Paths” was a gospel hymn I heard in the days when
those paths were traversed by my childish feet; and back to the old
paths I now turn, seeking to retrace the steps which time and disuse
have almost obliterated.

Being Methodists, we children had been baptized in infancy, and
our childhood and youth had been divided into three-year periods,
diminutive dynasties, marked by the reigns of the different ministers,
events being referred to as “during Brother Gregg’s stay,” “in Brother
Carrier’s time,” “when Brother Browne was here.” What excitement toward
the close of one of those “dynasties” to see what the new minister
would be like!

Father was one of the church trustees, Mother had a class in Sunday
School. Although we children regularly attended church and Sunday
School, and often prayer-meeting and class-meeting, we showed little
of the early piety which our Sunday-school books set forth. When
there was no one to leave us with at home, Mother usually took us to
prayer-meeting. All would kneel during the seasons of prayer--each
consisting of about three prayers--then would rise and sing; then kneel
for another season, and so on. I remember once awaking in shame and
confusion, still on my knees while the others stood round me singing.
Crouching there, a miserable heap on the floor, I waited for them to
kneel again, hoping no one but Mother had noticed me. But as it proved
the last season that evening, when the hymn ended and all took their
seats, the little heap on the floor had to creep up and seat itself
shamefacedly by its mother, its discomfiture unrelieved until they rose
and sang “Blest Be the Tie that Binds,” and the meeting closed.

Sometimes Mother put us to bed when she went to evening meetings. It
was a hardship to be locked in the house those spring twilights with
the church bells tolling and the boys and girls calling us to come out
and play “I-Spy.” Everything called us out of doors. What was there
about that time of day that seemed made for frolic? How we pitied
ourselves when the “All free” of our playmates floated to us on the
twilight air! Once we climbed out of the window and played in the
street--bare-footed, too! Oh, the delight of our bare feet on the soft,
cool grass! But we had to climb in again soon, gloating guiltily over
the stolen liberty. We thought Mother unfeeling to leave us locked in
the house, but if we objected to the prayer-meetings she sometimes had
no alternative. We rather liked the class-meetings; there were only two
or three prayers then, and all gave their “experiences.” We knew by
heart some of the stereotyped speeches. Sometimes we would signal to
one another when it was about time for certain expressions that amused
us; and again would giggle if the good brethren and sisters varied
their remarks and failed to repeat the queer things we expected.

One man at a certain stage in his prayer always rubbed his palms
together, then as his voice got louder, he would rub faster and faster;
his straggling hair would fall over his face; the veins would swell in
his forehead; and he would reach a climax of frenzied petition from
which he would gradually subside, tapering to a breathless “Amen!”
Sister could repeat this prayer and his manœuvres to perfection: “Oh,
Lord-ah, we have come here to night-ah, to crave thy mercy-ah”--thus
regaling us with reproductions of “Brother Aaron” and other eccentric
ones--when Mother was not near. Mother herself, though quiet in
testimony and prayer, would not let us ridicule those who were
not. There were three or four of the brethren and sisters of the
old-fashioned kind of Methodists, who were a boon to sleepy children;
but as I grew older I wearied of their stereotyped speeches, and felt a
repugnance to their emotional storms.

In the home, at seasons of special religious fervour, we had family
prayers. There was something peculiarly satisfying to me in all of us
kneeling together while Father prayed. His prayers were controlled and
rational; I never felt uneasy when he prayed; while with Mother there
was always the fear that her voice would tremble, as it did when she
read touching passages in our Sunday-school books. I could not bear to
hear the tears come in her voice, for it meant we would all ultimately
break down and cry.

Mother loved the Bible. How well she knew it! It was history, poetry,
and all literature to her. How interesting she made the stories when
telling them in her own words--the story of Ruth, of Queen Esther, of
Joseph and his coat of many colours--how inseparably these are linked
with Mother’s interpretations!

She loved music, too, but none of her family could carry a tune, except
one brother who died in his youth. She would try so hard to sing,
“Hush, My Dear, Lie Still and Slumber,” usually getting the first two
lines pretty well, then would flounder around, unable to get the rest.
In church she would start out bravely to sing the “Doxology,” or “By
Cool Siloam’s Shady Rill,” or “There is a Land of Pure Delight,” but
would falter and have to stop entirely before the end of the first
stanza. I have seen her almost weep because she wanted so much to sing.
At first we laughed at her--it seemed so funny, and so easy to catch a
tune--but with her it was so serious a matter that I learned to pity
her.

Unless Sister was watched throughout the church service, she would
excite the risibilities of all around by her antics and imitation of
the minister. Quick as a flash she would jump up on the seat, tiny mite
that she was, and flourish her arms as the speaker was doing. Mrs.
R----, the wife of a certain pastor who made very awkward gestures,
used to say it was bad enough to see the gestures themselves, but to
see them so perfectly reproduced was much too much; still she would
laugh about it till the tears ran down her cheeks. Kate would imitate
the twisting gait and fidgety manner of a sister of Father’s so well
that a neighbour seeing her would say, “There goes your Aunt Lucinda,
boiled down.”

I learned early to while away the long sermons by reading Sunday-school
books, Mother remonstrating, but often ignoring the practice, for it
lightened her duties--she was thus sure of one of us being quiet during
services. If not reading, Arthur and I were bound to titter at Kate’s
pranks.

“Who is this?” she would whisper, then pull down her face like old
Aaron Wilson in the side pew, or again like Brother Schermerhorn, or
saintly Sister Brown, or lugubrious Sister Stiles. She could look like
any of them in a jiffy, and we would nearly explode, while she was
tickled to get us in such an uncomfortable plight. Mother was often on
pins and needles lest we laugh outright in church.

Sometimes it would please the minx to assume a demure, reverential
air throughout the entire service. Then we almost went into spasms.
She would turn the leaves of the Bible, rise, bow her head, and sing;
would place a hymn-book behind her, as the good sister in front of
us did, halfway through the sermon, to ease her back; would use her
handkerchief in a grown-up way--all apparently unaware of her giggling
brother and sister, except when she would turn upon us a pained,
reproving glance--usually the last straw for the poor camels.

I kept up the habit of reading during services till the pastor
mentioned it so pointedly in Sunday School that I had to stop. When
the sermons interested me, I no longer cared to read. I recall three
of our ministers who were liberally educated for pastors in small
churches. One, in particular, a Scotch-Irishman, was an original
thinker, emotional, with a tumultuous Carlylean eloquence. He preached
remarkable sermons. Father and I followed his thought, I think, more
closely than any one else in the congregation. He seemed to feel this,
too, addressing us almost personally, sure of sympathetic attention.
Many of his stolid hearers had no idea “what he was driving at.”
Sometimes he would labour so to bring forth his thought that it was
painful to watch him--it was as though his mind was laid bare. Carried
away with the grandeur of a conception, he would wrestle with it,
conquer it, and finally unfold it. His influence on my mental and
religious nature (I was seventeen then) was unquestionable, but
unsettling, seeming to increase the chaotic state of my mind; at least,
it was during his “dynasty” that I became so unsettled--doubting and
trying to think a way out of the inconsistencies I was continually
coming upon.

But earlier wanderings in the old paths claim their share in this
backward glance. Tenting at camp-meeting (Auburndale), perhaps four
times in all--not four years in succession, for that would have been
too great a boon--was a keen pleasure of our childhood. How we felt the
deprivation of the blank years! What a homesick longing for our tent in
the woods when the August days came round! The woods were perhaps five
miles away. It seemed a long journey. What fun to see the wagon piled
with bedding, furniture, and tinware; to see kettles dangling below;
to hear the rattle as we sat a-top of the heterogeneous array! Then
the ride along the sunny country road to the camp-grounds! I wonder if
a part of my fascination for gypsy wagons and the life of the Romanys
isn’t due to our own gypsying in the camp-meeting woods.

Mother usually shared a tent with a certain good sister, an
old-fashioned fat countrywoman who was very devout and who made good
cookies. We liked her best for the last quality.

How our hearts swelled as we neared the grounds and saw the high board
fence enclosing the sacred woods! Going nearer, we heard the singing as
the sound rose through the trees. The preacher’s stand, and the tents,
were down a steep hill from the road along which we came. Jumping
from the wagon, we would go in at the little gate, for the team had
to go a long way farther to enter the big gate. Wild with delight we
bounded down the hill, shouting a greeting to the lame gatekeeper and
taking care not to trip on the long roots extending into the path. Our
exuberance was always checked, partly by admonitions from our elders,
partly by the spirit of the place--there was something in the sight of
those white tents among the trees and the voices of song and prayer
floating up to us that in themselves held us in check--but ah, the
smell of the woods, and the realization that we were to dwell there for
ten blissful days! Did ever children have a more beautiful experience?

Then the hunting for our tent-site, the scrutiny of its
surroundings--its relation to the various places of interest; the fun
of getting settled; of seeing the stove put up; the tent raised on its
wooden platform; Mrs. Van Aiken’s queer little cord-bedstead set up;
and the funny makeshifts of housekeeping that Mother and her tent-mate
would devise. The mere sight of a familiar kettle or a “spider” hung
on a tree at the back door, the improvised wash-bench with leaves from
the beech trees falling on the soap-dish and into the water as we
washed--these simple things provoked the most delightful sensations and
made us so happy, so happy! It is a delight just to stop and think how
happy we were.

In the morning there were the walks after milk to a neighbouring
farmhouse, and the smell of the breakfast cooking under the trees as
we returned. Mrs. Van Aiken’s fried pork and warmed-up potatoes made
our mouths water; we liked her best when she was doing these things. As
the day wore on she got absorbed in sermons and religious experiences,
and became “teary” and lugubrious, making us feel our unregeneracy at
the bubbling of our spirits; it was bad enough at dinner time, but at
supper--_Whew!!!_ At breakfast, however, she was livable and human.
Mother was sufficiently zealous, often uncomfortably so, but not
unbearably so, as was Mrs. Van Aiken when the religious leaven leavened
the whole lump (and she weighed near two hundred). But she did make
good fat cookies, bless her heart! She scowled if we lingered on the
way with the milk, and there was so much to make us linger, even with
breakfast at the end! Ah! the smell of the woods in the early morning!
There were the places deep in the woods where we were not supposed to
wander, but where we did sometimes wander later in the day in quest
of mandrakes (they made us sick, but we never ceased to seek them,
the sickish yellow things!). There were the yellow-jackets’ nests,
our especial bane--one year a troop of us, Sister in the lead, while
exploring forbidden territory, suddenly plunged into one of those
miniature hells and were beset by those flying fiends. Such howling as
arose from our savage breasts--the Methodist shouting was for once in
the shade! Six tortured little beings ran screaming to their tents,
half-blinded from swelling faces. Pandemonium reigned. Sister and the
Presiding Elder’s boy were stung the worst; her eyes were swollen shut;
her face was unrecognizable; she was frightful to behold, and her
hands looked like Mrs. Van Aiken’s fattest cookies. I was stung only a
little, but enough to know why the others howled so.

We liked to jump from bench to bench in the large circle in front of
the preachers’ stand, when it was not sermon time, but some pious
brother or sister would usually come along and tell us to stop.
Sometimes Willie Ives, the Presiding Elder’s son, would creep up to
the pulpit and exhort us eloquently, but such pleasures were quickly
curtailed, and we were made to feel the meaning of the formidable word
“sacrilege.”

It was the custom of some to sing the blessing at breakfast. Hurrying
along with our milk-pail past the tents, we would hear men’s, women’s,
and children’s voices mingled as the family gathered around their
tables singing to the tune of “Doxology”:


     We thank thee, Lord, for this our food,
     But more because of Jesus’ blood;
     Let manna to our souls be given--
     The Bread of Life sent down from heaven.


This usually had a subduing effect, as did the voices at family
devotions which issued through the tent-openings. But we were little
pagans after all, and many a time did not resist the temptation to
pluck at a woman’s skirt, or punch a foot, as we caught sight of them
under the half-rolled tent folds, while the occupants knelt in prayer.

Not compelled to listen to the long morning and afternoon sermons,
except on Sundays, we had to attend evening services or go to bed. But
there was much to make them endurable, especially if a certain woman
“got the power.” And, anyhow, the scene was impressive out there in the
night, the tents gleaming in the distance, and the hymns and petitions
echoing under the trees.

We went willingly to the Children’s Meetings, held after dinner in
a huge tent with its carpet of straw. Certain brethren and sisters
would address the children. Many an infant convert would “go forward”
amid great rejoicing. The singing and childish “experiences” were
interesting, though then our religious natures were fortunately but
slightly aroused. I would choke up and cry softly sometimes, but was
not deeply moved--the woods being a powerful rival at that early age.

But one dear old lady (she seemed old even then) I always loved to
hear. She would come in at the side of the tent, Bible and camp-chair
in hand, stoop under the tentfolds, wade through the straw, which would
cling to her black skirt (the smell of straw always reproduces this
scene), place her blue Brussels camp-chair in front of us, and open
the meeting with, “Now, Children.” I can’t remember what else she used
to say, but that “Now, Children” was so intimate and confidential--not
sanctimonious like many who addressed us. Her voice was rich with
emotion, but controlled, so as not to make her listeners uncomfortable.
(Those good sisters whose voices were on the ragged edge of tears used
to irritate me; it seemed indecent; even in my most devout days I never
overcame my repugnance toward those who “went to pieces” when giving
testimony.) What she said to us day after day I forgot years ago, but
her face, her kindly comprehensive glance, and the inflections of her
voice became a part of my consciousness, deeply fixed in memory.

Years later, soon after entering the hospital where my work has since
been, the poor soul was brought here as a patient. Going on the wards
one morning, note-book in hand, eager to take the history of the
patient admitted the previous night, I found dear old Sister Mifflin,
the same who had exhorted us at Children’s Meetings years before--no
older, it seemed to me, only more broken, pitiably broken.

How the scene at Auburndale came back at the sight of her face, the
sound of her voice! She was just a feeble, whimpering old woman to
the others, but to me she was those dear, dark woods with the white
tents, the holy songs, Mother, Sister, Brother--Childhood! Such a
flood of recollections surged through me that I could only attempt a
few words of consolation and postpone my case-taking till under better
control. But I told her where I used to know her, and she brightened
pathetically at the word “Auburndale.” And here she was now, a child
among other gray-haired children who had lost their way, while the
Drumlin Child, whose feet she had tried to lead in the old paths, was
henceforth to guide her faltering steps to the journey’s end!


I remember the last time we tented at Auburndale an instance of
Mother’s watchful care that humiliated and incensed us then, but for
which I am grateful now: We were probably fourteen and fifteen years
old when, one evening, Sister and I and some other girls and boys
stole up through the little gate and outside the grounds to some
willows a short distance away. We knew it was wrong; the boys were
new acquaintances, unknown to Mother (sons of a man who later became
our pastor); besides, we were not supposed to go beyond the grounds
without permission. But with many misgivings we set out, feeling quite
like young ladies walking out with young men--a very delectable stolen
sweet we were nibbling! Sitting under the trees while the boys made
willow canes for us, tracing fantastic designs on them, we enjoyed
ourselves for a brief period. Presently an uncle of ours went by and,
greeting us, passed on to the camp-ground. The chatting and cane-making
continued. Twilight deepened, but it was still light enough to see
that which filled Sister and me with consternation and chagrin--Mother
coming down the road, bare-headed (in those days betokening great
haste) coming rapidly toward us, and--_with whips in her hand!_

With one accord we all arose and meekly followed her back to the
camp-ground. Something very like hatred stirred within us at the course
she had taken to show us before our new acquaintances that we were
still children and subject to her authority. Not that we questioned
her right to require us to return, but it seemed needlessly humiliating
to come after us with whips. I think we rebelled at her carrying the
whips, and that she finally dropped them.

How crestfallen we all looked, the boys whittling the canes, and the
other girls probably seeing in ours a fate similar to their own! We got
a vigorous talking-to before we were sent to bed. Our uncle, it seems,
had alarmed Mother by saying that we were lounging under the willows
with a “lot of strange fellows.” This was a favourite trysting-place
for the young people whose devotion led them into these by-paths rather
than to the evening meetings. I can laugh now at our discomfiture and
at Mother’s wrath, but it was no laughing matter that August night so
long ago.

I don’t know how old I was when I “experienced religion.” Reared from
infancy “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” there had been,
during childhood, a period of apparent indifference to such matters;
later one of acute interest; then the lull and reaction from the
excitement of a revival; then one of renewed and deepened interest,
followed by a gradual decline in religious observances, a creeping in
of doubt and unbelief; a period of acute suffering, extending probably
over three or four years (because I could no longer walk in the old
paths); then one of lonely wanderings in strange paths, till I finally
settled down to where I now find myself, though that state would be
hard to define. Of the length of these various periods, and the age at
which some of them occurred, I am uncertain.

I was perhaps fifteen When I first became “converted.” There had been
premonitory symptoms a year or two before, at Auburndale, but the
real attack came one winter during a prolonged revival. Many of the
boys and girls “went forward” long before I did. Steeling my heart I
stayed at home and applied myself to my studies with increased zeal,
for Professor Durland, a Baptist, less carried away by the revival
than many others, although attending the meetings occasionally, had
talked wisely in school about religion, urging us to be temperate in
frequenting the meetings. He reminded us that all this emotion was not
religion, and that it was our duty as students to let nothing interfere
with our studies. I was impressed by what he said, but this religious
wave was sweeping over the town, and was hard to withstand. Two young
evangelists were there with gospel hymns, moving prayers, and engaging
ways of leading souls to the Lord. Every night witnessed the conversion
of sinners who, having groaned under the burden of the conviction of
sin, finally sought salvation.

Night after night I studied at home when most of the young people
were thronging to the meetings; but finally I succumbed and went
forward, to the great joy of associates, parents, and friends. But
our principal’s admonitions still acted as a restraining force, and
kept me from yielding to the extreme emotionalism influencing so
many, young and old. Why, the girls got so they held prayer-meetings
at noon in an old stage-coach in the lumber-yard near the Academy! I
went once, but the incongruity so overcame my religious ardour that
I never went again. Still I was devout and had a pretty severe and
long-continued attack. My diaries at that time, were full of religious
yearnings and strivings. I read the Bible diligently, taking a “verse”
for guidance each day. I was religious in season and out of season.
After the revival had died down, many converts backslid, but with me
this religious experience was a steady thing, of varying phases, it is
true, but of tremendous importance for perhaps three years.

During the height of the revival, when the other converts joined the
church, Sister and I, having been baptized in infancy, felt ourselves
defrauded of a part of the ceremony. So intent were we on being
baptized, we prevailed upon our parents, much against their wishes,
to consent to a repetition of the sacrament. Little sophists that we
were, we made it a point of conscience, our argument being the Biblical
injunction, “Repent and be baptized.” Baptized in infancy, before we
had anything to repent of, the cart had been put before the horse, and
we were not following the Scriptures. This view grieved our parents
who had given us to the Lord in holy baptism when we were babies. To
them it seemed wrong to set aside that sacrament for a later one, but
the strenuous converts, thinking they were acting from conscientious
motives, overruled parents and pastor.

Of course “sprinkling” had been the form of baptism in infancy. Now
most of the converts were being immersed. Sister chose “immersion.”
There was still another form sanctioned by the Discipline, though
seldom used--“pouring.” This was to go down into the water and kneel
while the minister, dipping water from the stream, poured it upon the
convert’s head. As usual, seeking something distinctive, therefore
conspicuous (though quietly so), I chose to be “poured.” Not that I was
conscious of it then, but I see now that the desire to be different
from the herd was largely what influenced me in choosing that mode of
baptism. Moreover, I abhorred “immersion.” The sight of it outraged my
esthetic sense. It was such a sudden transition that I, as onlooker,
experienced: the gathering of the congregation at the water-side was
beautiful; the holy songs seemed more holy there; the black-gowned
pastor and the convert wading out in the stream while the hymn was
being sung; the pause, the solemn words; the yielding body as the
minister started to immerse the convert--up to this point the scene
filled me with religious awe; but from that point onward it was most
repellent--the convert’s rigidity and the struggle at contact with
water; the determined push of the minister, as he forced the resisting
head under water; and the gasping, snorting, drowned-rat appearance of
the victim when pulled out--all this was hideous. So I was “poured,”
and it was a beautiful ceremony. But many a time since I have regretted
setting aside the earlier sacrament so revered by my parents. And
yet, how can I regret it when I remember the strange, beatific mood
induced that day by the sacred rite? It lasted several hours. I have
never experienced anything like it before or since. It was hard to
come down to practical matters on reaching home. I went about helping
to get dinner in a kind of dream-state, eager to have the work out of
the way, so I could be alone and think over the beautiful solemnity of
it all. It was a real uplift of my introspective little soul, and very
beautiful while it lasted.

Dressing myself that afternoon with great care, Bible in hand, I
visited a sick neighbour. She had a bad-smelling, untidy house which
I always disliked to enter, though often sent there by Mother with
delicacies. I think it was in a spirit of real self-sacrifice that I
required this of myself that day. Probably nowadays, under a similar
beneficent impulse, I should put on a suitable gown and go and clean
her house; but then I was under the spell of stories of pious maidens
who read the Bible to sick people. I can’t recall whether I actually
read to her that day, but do recall how the dingy house smelled. In
the door-yard was a bush of dainty pink roses, and, as she sometimes
told me to pick one, I hope she did then. It seemed queer that the only
place in town where those exquisite roses grew was in that unlovely
yard, amid those sordid surroundings.

Religion was for a long time thereafter the guiding influence of my
life. Conscientious and devout, I was consumed with the desire to
be useful. Out of school I helped with the housework at home and at
Grandma’s, and helped Father in the Post Office. I do not recall much
recreation. Though sentimental, most of my sentiment took a religious
turn.

The Presiding Elder and other clergymen were entertained in our home
during those years, and the silver Communion service was kept with us.
To polish this before Quarterly meetings was one of my duties; and to
prepare the bread in long strips for Communion, and in the little cubes
for Love Feast. One Communion Sunday, being indisposed and staying at
home alone, when the time came for the sacrament to be administered, I
read aloud the solemn service from the Discipline, sang, then knelt,
devoutly partaking of the bread and water (in place of wine). The hour
was a real means of grace to me. I have never divulged this before.
Much as it meant to me then, I find in myself now a tendency to
ridicule that strange little creature, and to wonder if it was not a
partial pose, albeit at the time she thought herself sincere.


I recall that during the revival at which I was converted Father
took an active part, though in a more moderate way than many of the
brethren and sisters. During the singing of gospel hymns, the workers
would go up and down the aisles and, by a sort of intuitive knowledge,
seek out those “under conviction,” urging the obdurate ones to go
forward and confess Christ. One night after they had sung the hymn
that begins tenderly: “Why do you wait, dear brother? Why do you tarry
so long?” the refrain being, “Why not, why not, why not come to Him
now?” the workers sought to lead the penitents to the Throne of Grace.
The crowded house, vibrant with religious fervour, the reiterated
invitation, the contrite sinners making their way forward, were
powerful appeals to others with whom the Holy Spirit was striving. As
the last words of the hymn died away, Father, stepping up to a certain
townsman, and putting his hand on his shoulder, looked in his face
appealingly and asked, “Why not, Wilbur?” I recall the man’s stern look
as he struggled for further resistance, Father’s quiet, persuasive
tones, and, at length, the actual yielding of the man’s body as the
tension relaxed, and they came down the aisle together, the man shaking
with sobs, while the happy tears streamed down Father’s face.

One particular Love Feast stands out in memory. In fact I never
went to many; they were held too early in the morning. At this one
a loud-mouthed local preacher (whose reputed private life was much
at variance with his professed religion) held forth at great length
about the wrath of God, the fear of God, and the unending punishment
God would visit upon those who kept not his Commandments. He was a
burly, blustering man who worked himself up into a state of tremendous
physical excitement during exhortations. As he sat down, breathless,
with red, sweaty face and tumbled hair, Father arose and in a few
quiet words said that the God he worshipped was a God of love; that
he liked to think of the love, not the fear, of God. Beautiful and
memorable this recollection, and all the more so that Father so seldom
expressed his religious feelings in public, although he frequently
addressed the congregation at the close of the sermon, on financial
matters. It fell to him to stir up the people when there were extra
expenses to be met, church repairs to be made, and the minister’s
salary raised. Generous of time and money, he accepted the trusteeship
with the zeal that characterized him in whatever he undertook. Stating
concisely the needs, he would so plead with the congregation as to
stir up the apathetic members, sometimes fairly talking the money out
of the pockets of those whose purse-strings were tightly drawn. It was
a study to see him play upon the different ones by earnest appeal,
by gleams of humour, by eloquent pauses--his own enthusiasm, as he
announced the sums subscribed, egging others, and still others, on to
announce their grudging subscriptions. He should have been a lawyer.
What a special pleader he would have made! If he had been able to
exercise the same gifts in his own business interests, he would not
always have had to contend with the ogre, Economy. But there seemed
little self-seeking in him; his commercial spirit was never strong; his
zeal could not be aroused for personal gain, only for some Cause into
which he could throw heart and soul. I remember well his weary looks
after such sessions were over, especially if the needed amount had not
been raised. On reaching home he would unburden himself of scorn and
indignation at the parsimonious ones who had sat unmoved when the needs
of the Church were so urgent.

Against the obnoxious local preacher before mentioned, Sister and I had
a special grievance: While standing one day on the creek bridge, when
he and some boys were below, fishing, we had heard him say an obscene
word as a fish got off his hook. Indignant to our finger tips, we
walked on, harbouring this in righteous wrath. And shortly after that,
when he was assisting the pastor at Communion, Sister and I tacitly
agreed to stay away from the altar rather than be ministered unto by
him. Noting our failure to commune, and meeting us on the street later,
he questioned us. Kate took the initiative but we were both terrible in
our wrath. We told him we did not care to take the bread and wine from
one who talked as he did on week-days. Astonished, he inquired what we
meant; concerned and uncomfortable, he seemed divided between wanting
to know and dreading to hear. Kate said she would not repeat such talk,
but that she heard it herself on the creek bridge when he was fishing.
He looked very cheap. Having reproved this whited sepulchre, the
offended misses went disdainfully on their way. I suppose that was the
least of his sins. I fancy he felt relieved that it was nothing worse
we knew about him. Later his conduct became notorious, but he never had
more inflexible accusers than those stern maidens who upbraided him
that Sunday.

Another Communion service, probably before this, stands out vividly. It
was when I was having doubts and waverings about acceptance as a child
of God, when, in Methodist parlance, I was “falling from grace.” That
day, sitting through the service, seeing altar-full after altar-full
kneel, commune, rise, and “go in peace,” I had said to myself, “I
will not go.” Steeling my heart, I sat upright, conscious of Mother’s
questioning glances, but apparently unmoved. After the congregation
had communed, the choir-members went to the altar-rail, and as the
sparse gathering knelt there, and the last notes of the hymn died away,
instead of immediately passing the bread and wine, the minister and
the young evangelist paused to see if others would come. Although the
evangelist made a moving appeal, still was I determined not to go and,
anyhow, having waited so long, I was too embarrassed to go. The choir
communed and left the altar. It was the last chance. No, the evangelist
still stood there, and in a few earnest words besought any who were
hanging back to come. I knew he meant me, still I tried to withstand.
In conclusion he said, “While the choir is singing the next hymn, I
know God will soften your heart and you will come”:


     “Just as I am, without one plea,
     But that thy blood was shed for me,
     And that thou bidd’st me come to thee,
     Oh, Lamb of God, I come, I come!”


Melted by the singing, broken and contrite, alone I went and knelt
at the altar-rail. I can remember just how glad and gentle his voice
sounded; and how soothing it was as the evangelist placed his hand upon
my bowed head and prayed for the young sister who had tried in vain to
turn away the Holy Spirit. One other girl, moved by my example, came
sobbing to the altar, too--one who always followed my lead.

In justice to myself I must say that there was no pose this time. I
did not want to be singled out in this way, for I abhorred betrayal of
emotion in public; to be the centre of a scene like this was painful to
me. Nevertheless, there was a great peace in my heart as I arose and
returned to our pew.

When zealous young converts join the Methodist Church and “renounce the
Devil and all his works,” they give little heed to such renunciation,
only to learn later, as their religious fervour subsides, and
their social needs assert themselves, that the Discipline regards
card-playing and dancing as the works of his Satanic Majesty. I
remember when my sister was inveigled by some unconverted boys and
girls into playing cards, how I laboured with her with but poor
results. She refrained for a time, but soon again succumbed to the
pastime. It makes me smile to recall how long it took me to regard
those wicked-looking cards as an innocent amusement. Not caring for
them, however, they were never a temptation to me, and I found myself
distinctly bored when by the occasional playing of Hearts I declared my
independence. I never could learn Whist or Euchre. But dancing, because
more pleasurable, seemed more wicked; and, little by little, I yielded
to the seductions of the violin and the quadrille when, at an evening
party, dancing would form the wind-up. But I never learned to dance
well. Too self-conscious, the few times that I indulged in it in those
days I suffered so from remorse that it was a questionable pleasure.

Toward spring, after the revival at which we had been converted, we
attended a party given by a boy whose father owned the Masonic Hall. It
was an innocent affair with dancing and light refreshments. I imagine
we were home in our beds before midnight. But a few nights later, at
a church sociable, one of the good sisters of the church, attacking
a group of us, berated us soundly for attending a dance in a public
hall, thus forsaking Christ and espousing the Devil and all his works.
Her unjust, intemperate, and tactless accusations made me regard the
whole matter more rationally than I had theretofore. Through gossip our
little party had grown beyond all recognition. It was characterized as
a public dance. Without any foundation whatever it had been asserted
that we had had supper at the hotel--a thing reprehensible in itself;
that wine had been passed; that Sister had tasted it, but that I had
refused it. Whoever had so falsified had done it skilfully, as Kate
was then more inclined to dip into the untried than I. But we had been
near no hotel, and did not know the taste or sight of wine, except the
unfermented “wine” used at Communion.

This rigour of our church discipline concerning amusements which I
had come to regard as innocent pleasures, made me loth to continue
belonging to a body placing such strictures upon its members. Many
church members danced and played cards without compunction, but I was
strenuously opposed to belonging to anything to which I could not
heartily subscribe and obey to the letter. So when, a year or more
later, I left home, I requested that my name be taken from the church
books. Reluctant to accede to this request, the pastor urged me to take
a church letter, but I refused, determined not to begin my new life by
professing what I no longer believed or practised; I wanted to start
with a clean slate, since I no longer conformed to the rulings of the
church.

Emancipation from the old teachings and beliefs came about gradually
and painfully. When first assailed by doubts as to teachings and
traditions formerly accepted unquestioningly, I had tried to talk them
over with Mother, but her unreasoning faith irritated me. Unable to
command my temper, I was narrowly and harshly critical; her devoutness,
her intuitions, her faith all irritated me, counting for almost nothing
with me then, when I wanted something to satisfy my reason; wanted
to reconcile the conflict between orthodox teachings, and the truths
of science as I was coming upon them in my studies. Moreover, I was
tenderly attached to the Old Paths, and Mother’s manifestations of
feelings I was trying to stifle only increased my intolerance.

The church members no longer rent the same pews year after year.
Now when I go home I look in vain for the old families, or their
representatives, in their accustomed places. Scattered here and
there throughout the congregation, like lost sheep, I see a few of
the brethren and sisters who in the early days sat with us “under the
droppings of the sanctuary.” I would like to see them once again in the
places that knew them in those long-gone days; would like to sit with
Father and Mother in our own pew; join in the hymns, and once again
feel at home in the old church; for, however far I have wandered from
the old paths, they must always be sacred to me.



CHAPTER V

“AS TWIG IS BENT”


The books one reads in childhood and youth are, of course, among the
most potent formative influences of those periods. My post-Mother-Goose
reading consisted largely of the Child’s Bible, later the Bible
itself, and the goody-good Sunday-school books, two or three of Miss
Alcott’s, and whatever else I could find in my browsings. How I
have cried over the Elsie books and rejoiced over the Gypsy books!
Mad-cap Gypsy Breynton and pious Elsie Dinsmore were real beings to
me. Sunday afternoons I would read by the west window with the door
leading upstairs at just a convenient distance, so that when I found
my emotions getting the upper hand, I could at one step open the door,
slip upstairs and weep in secret over the woes of my little heroines.
I thought the others had no inkling what that sudden plunge meant, but
my acute little sister soon learned, and one dreadful Sunday, when
I was making a desperate move for the stairway before the torrent
should burst, she called out mischievously, “Genie, what are you going
upstairs for? It’s warmer down here.”

“Yes, Eugenia, it is too cold for you to sit upstairs,” Mother
intervened. With this sudden centring of attention on me at such a
crucial time, the clouds burst, the situation was revealed, and I
was permitted to go up and have it out. Bitter were my tears. It was
exceedingly painful to be seen thus moved. Such things should be
suffered in secret. When, shamefaced, I returned to the sitting-room,
Sister was not too deep in her book to shoot me a knowing glance,
though she had evidently been instructed to hold her peace. After that
I would feel the storm coming afar off. I learned to rise calmly;
to open the door with less precipitation; sometimes even making
an indifferent comment on leaving the room. So deliberate were my
movements, I flattered myself that no one suspected I was withdrawing
from the family circle in order to dissolve in tears. I would even
open a bureau drawer in hopes they would hear the sound through the
stove-pipe hole and think I had gone up after something. Oh, the poor,
thin artifices of childhood! Looking back and seeing how pitiful they
were, an added tenderness wells up within me for my parents who so
wisely and kindly refrained from letting me see that my little devices
were so ineffectual.

There was no village library, though a Temperance Club supplied a
circulating one of which I availed myself till I learned to use the
Academy library. Then, too, I was a great borrower of books, although
we probably had more in our house than the average family in the town;
these I read over and over. “Robinson Crusoe” and “The Arabian Nights,”
I read surreptitiously in school. I revelled in “The Lady of the Lake,”
and “Aurora Leigh.” I was wont to combine reading and housework to the
detriment of the latter. While ironing sheets and towels I managed to
read at the same time, with long waits between the movements of the
iron--unless Mother came suddenly into the room, when I started up
briskly, sometimes having to fold inside a scorched place where the
iron had rested too long. Many a poem have I committed to memory at the
ironing-board.

Father started to buy the American Cyclopædia when I was very young--a
big undertaking, for they cost five dollars a volume. The volumes came
slowly, but we rejoiced whenever a new one was added to the row. It was
annoying enough, though, to step up to the book case and find that we
had only got to O or P, when we needed volumes containing S or T.

As a girl I had a pastime of my own, a kind of mental book-collecting:
Going along the streets I would say to myself, “What books will you
have from this house?--you may have any three you choose.” Then the fun
would begin. At Grandpa’s were “Timothy Titcomb’s Letters,” and “Bitter
Sweet,” and a queer little book called “Aristotle’s Masterpiece”; at an
uncle’s were Walton’s “Compleat Angler,” “Reveries of a Bachelor,” and
“Lewie, or The Bended Twig”; at an aunt’s was “Right and Wrong, or She
Told the Truth at Last”--a fascinating big, green-covered book that I
used to weep over, pitying the heroine entangled in an intricate web
of deceit. At another aunt’s were “Wells’s Science of Common Things”
and “Sexual Science; or Love, its Powers and Uses,” by O. S. Fowler.
I valued the “Science of Common Things” because it asked and answered
questions about a lot of things I thought I ought to know, and did not
know, and never could study out, even with the help of physics--always
a hard study for me; and I liked the book of Fowler’s because it dealt
with the alluring subject in a lofty and, as I thought then, scientific
way. At still another aunt’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” and Byron’s Poems
leaned confidingly against each other, except when I disturbed them.
Bunyan was the favourite then, and for that matter is yet. At the homes
of neighbours and friends were many coveted treasures--the Embury
Poems, “Physiognomy and Signs of Character” (this I borrowed for months
at a time), Moore’s Melodies, Longfellow’s Poems, Shakespeare, “Fern
Leaves,” and many more. I thought one man in town very literary because
he had all of E. P. Roe’s works; at one time “Barriers Burned Away” and
“Opening of a Chestnut Bur” seemed wonderful productions, and (I may
as well confess it) I adored the novels of Mary Jane Holmes. Though
forbidden to read them, I borrowed them of our slatternly red-haired
neighbour, devouring them on the sly. I read “Darkness and Daylight”
twice or thrice, and five or six others by the same author. The only
times I can remember Father’s voice raised in sternness to me were when
he caught me absorbed in novels by that wicked Mrs. Holmes. (Mother
told me he himself once sat up all night at a hotel to read “Lena
Rivers,” and that he had wanted to name me “Lena.”)

Dr. Dio Lewis was born near our village. One of my schoolmates was
related to him (and one to the wicked “Mary Jane”--I, alas! had no
illustrious kin); she lent me two of his books: “Our Girls” and
“Chastity.” I believe I am indebted to them for a wholesome interest in
physiology and physical life, and for a sudden turning from forbidden
things learned in childhood. I think it was the reading of them that
engendered a repugnance to unchaste thoughts and conversation--a
repugnance that the majority of my schoolmates did not have, and that,
for a certain period, I did not have, for I engaged in talk and stories
and conduct that later made me blush to recall. After reading Dio Lewis
I can remember refusing to stay in the midst of girls who insisted on
telling improper stories. Many a time I have been ridiculed for my
uncompromising attitude, and many a time in later years have had to
check women in their recitals of such stories, though making both them
and myself uncomfortable by a seeming pharisaical attitude. I would
try to lessen the embarrassment by telling them that these things were
likely to come unbidden to the mind, polluting by unwelcome, unchaste
recollections our sweetest experiences--all of which I learned in the
Dio Lewis books.

I recall this man’s once lecturing in our town; he was the first author
I had ever seen and I was somewhat disappointed to find him so like
other folk. On that occasion he confessed to some human weaknesses,
such as eating pumpkin-pie late at night--he, the High Priest of
Hygiene, lightly and shamelessly confessing this, when advice to the
contrary had been so clear in his books! In my ignorance of life I was
startled to learn that one could so earnestly preach one thing and so
lightly practise the opposite. I thought him somewhat of a fraud. I was
getting my eyes opened, and the light hurt.

There was a time when I was under the spell of the poems of Emma
C. Embury, whoever she was. I borrowed a copy of her poems from a
neighbour who lent me the poems of Longfellow in quaint thin volumes;
but those of Emma C. Embury--how beautiful they seemed! Most of them
were sad; that was why I liked them:


     Love’s first step is upon the rose
       His second finds the thorn,


was the burden of one; of another:


     The gathered rose and the stolen heart
       Can charm but for a day.


I would improvise tunes to these verses when I could get away by
myself, preferably down by the creek in the heart of my big willow;
but if not there, then down in Grandma’s cellar, while she discreetly
stayed upstairs, never betraying by word or look her awareness of
anything going on below except the tiresome churning, for which she
pretended to pity me. Was she laughing in her sleeve all the time? It
would have hurt to know it then but would be a delight now if I were
sure that her hours of toil were lightened by quiet amusement at my
expense.

Those sentimental, love-lorn pieces I affected at a time when my
days were so full of sunshine that I had to seek artificial gloom.
My greatest favourites among this melancholy poet’s verses were “The
Mother,” and “The Lonely One”--long poems, but I believe I could say
every word of them now, even without the aid of the churn-dasher. The
first pictured a young mother revelling in the beauty of her baby boy.
Then comes his illness and the harrowing scene as she realizes she is
to be bereft. As I recited the lines, I used to feel her rapt devotion
and her piteous grief. I identified myself with “The Lonely One” in
the same way--a love-lorn, unattractive damsel “on whose spirit genius
poured its rays,” who lived through the bitterness of seeing her hero
marry another, and then, his wife having died, turn to her for comfort,
entreating her love, just as Death was about to claim her:


                                  She died,
     Yet as a day of storms will ofttimes sink
     With a rich burst of sunlight at its close,
     Thus did the rays of happiness illume
     Her parting spirit.


By this time my eyes would be suffused and my voice tremulous; but the
butter had come, and Grandma would come down-cellar and pour a little
cold water into the churn to help the butter “gather”; and despite Emma
C. Embury and her ill-fated maidens, I would drink copiously of that
most delicious beverage, butter-milk from Grandma’s little red churn.

It was a heterogeneous lot of books that I read the last four years in
school--there was perhaps more system during the last two--and though I
had little discrimination myself, I was aggrieved if the interference
of parents or teachers took the form of anything more positive than
suggestion.

How fascinating I found the historical novels of Louise Mühlbach! What
cared I if they were not reliable as history? I turned unwillingly
from them to Scott at the earnest solicitation of my teachers. The
“Correspondence between Goethe and Bettina” made a deep impression
upon me. I should like to see the identical copy I read; it opened up
a new world. And a translation of Faust by Agnes Swanwick, moved me
strangely. I copied favourite passages from it in a blank book, conning
them again and again. Faust’s apostrophe to the radiant moonlight
would put me in an exalted mood whenever I read it, especially the
latter part: “Oh! that I might wander on the mountain tops in thy
loved light--hover with spirits around the mountain caves, flit over
the fields in thy glimmer, and, disencumbered from all the fumes
of knowledge, bathe myself sound in thy dew!” I copied sentimental
passages in German script. I would have blushed to have it known how
much I liked this:


     His stately step,
     His noble form;
     The smile of his mouth,
     The power of his eyes,
     And of his speech the witching flow;
     The pressure of his hand,
     And, Ah, his kiss!


But there was no one in my little world that answered to all these
things--somewhere, some day, I might meet such a being. I was in no
hurry. Enough to know that such things had been and would be again.
Poor little Dreamer! silly little Dreamer! and all the time she was
pretending, even to herself, that she did not care for love or lovers;
that they were never to be a part of her life; that she never wanted to
marry, never would; and that she meant to live a much more serious and
useful life than one of mere married happiness.

It was a perverse, contradictory inner and outer life I lived at the
ages of sixteen and seventeen, yes, and on into the twenties; no girl
ever thought more about love and possible lovers than I, yet I felt
they were never to be really for me. Even my day-dreams had barriers
interposed. I wonder if this is not unusual--do not other dreamers
dream things as they want them--when everything can be rose-colour
for the mere wishing? Is it customary, I wonder, to let dark clouds
overcast the dream-sky? As I think of it, I wonder if it was not a
kind of prescience of what the reality would be. Anyhow, as far back
as I can remember thinking of these things, mingled with the whims,
sentimentalities, and insincerities of the adolescent period, was a
conviction of these two things: that love was the greatest, the most
wonderful thing in the world, and that there would be some barrier
always to my knowing all that it might mean.


Besides the books I read, I can trace other influences that had their
part in bending the twig in the way it was to grow. In the early ’teens
Brother and I helped Father in the Post Office, out of school hours,
an occupation profitable in many ways. I had much leisure there for
reading, was trained to accuracy and alertness in the office-work, and
learned a good deal about human nature. The requirements furnished a
needed corrective to my tendency to dream--I could still dream, but had
to _do_, also. It was a matter of pride between Brother and me to see
how rapidly we could distribute the mail; how quickly deliver it when
the box-numbers were called out; and how well we could remember just
what letters were in the General Delivery.

I was vain, too. I can remember how gratified I was at occasional words
of approbation I heard concerning my efficiency; and when crowds of
men and boys would be standing outside waiting for the distribution
of the mail while Father, Brother, and I would be darting here and
there to put the letters and papers in the boxes, trying at the same
time to keep out of one another’s way, I would think with pride that
I was helping just as much as the others were; and what a “smart
girl” I was to be doing it, too. My cheeks would flush, and I felt a
diminutive sense of power: all these persons waiting for something _we_
were doing; we held in our hands letters fraught with happiness, with
disappointment, with sorrow. I liked to have them crowd around and peer
at us through the windows and from the door in the rear that led to the
“store”; and when the work was done, and the public was at liberty to
inquire for mail, I just doted on reaching through the tiny window and
taking in the little green sign bearing the legend, “Distributing the
Mail.” And the self-centred Miss was aware just how her hand and wrist
must look as they reached through and lifted the sign from the hook
outside the window. (I forgot in cataloguing my unattractive “points”
to mention in extenuation that I did have a pretty arm and hand, and
actually discovering the fact myself, took a keen satisfaction in
the discovery. Perhaps this was not all vanity, as I am especially
susceptible to beauty of form and line, wherever seen.)

In looking back upon my life it seems to have been a strange,
contradictory mixture of sincerity and duplicity. I longed,
passionately longed, for sincerity and openness, anything else tortured
me; and yet I can see how influences seemed always at work to foster
complexity and duplicity.

To begin with, I was always fond of playing a part. Beginning as
children do, we played at ghosts. Wrapped in sheets at twilight,
we peered into the neighbours’ windows to startle them. But I soon
wanted something less crude. One day in my early ’teens, dressing as a
beggar, I went to the houses in our street asking for “cold pieces.”
At first it was a failure, as either I or the others would giggle and
spoil it all. Finally, stipulating that the others keep out of sight,
I went alone to the Widow Earle’s and told a pitiful tale, and the
unsuspicious old soul gave me a slice of her new bread, just out of the
oven. Blessing her, I hobbled away, munching the bread under my veil.
Soon we all scampered back in great glee, confessing to the widow, who
relished the joke far less than I did the bread--no woman likes to cut
into her warm bread, then to find she has been hoodwinked! No wonder
she was cross!

Each time I tried something harder. One day when visiting in the
country, I dressed as a beggar, and going to a neighbour’s, while the
good housewife was in the pantry getting me something to eat, stole her
spectacles, took my food and went my way. Returning shortly after, with
the other girls, I delivered the spectacles to the incredulous victim
of my hoax. Then, in high feather I tackled a newly married elderly
pair at the next farm, concocting my story on the spot and enjoying
keenly their gullibility: I was destitute, was journeying afoot to my
daughter in a distant town, naming a town on the spur of the moment.
They asked my daughter’s name. Chancing to give the name of a new girl
who had come to school that week, I myself met with a surprise, for
the man said, “Why, _I_ know the Godfreys of Groton!” Quickly I begged
him for news of my daughter, and asked about her husband whom I had
never seen, catechizing him awhile, so he would let up on me, as their
questions were proving quite a tax on my ingenuity. As I sat there
after having lunched on pears and a glass of milk, which the deluded
couple had given me, the other girls, impatient at my long stay, came
down the road. The sympathetic farmer by that time was partly hitched
up to take me as far on my way as the next village. As the girls came
tentatively into the yard, my unsuspecting victims called out to them
to come and have their fortunes told, dilating on the wonderful things
I had told them. (I had done this to pay for my luncheon.) I don’t
recall how the revelation came about, but I soon stood confessed, a
sham beggar, while the man and his wife looked sheepishly at me, and at
each other, at the mocking girls and the half-harnessed horses.

Graver instances of duplicity I have to record concerning a planchette
craze, rife in our neighbourhood when I was perhaps fifteen. Although
we had had a planchette in the house for years, and I had heard how
it was supposed to write, it had long lain neglected, none of us
showing either curiosity or credulity concerning it. Our planchette
was a heart-shaped piece of black walnut, large enough for the tips of
the fingers of two hands to rest upon. Mounted upon two gutta-percha
castors fastened to short brass legs, the third leg was formed by a
lead-pencil stuck through a hole in the apex of the heart. When the
right hands of two persons rest lightly on the planchette, the muscular
tremor, I suppose, makes the machine move over the paper placed
beneath. Some supernatural agency was supposed to make the thing reply
to questions asked by someone present.

I can’t recall how we happened to start experimenting with it, but
during one winter, night after night, neighbours and friends gathered
at our house to watch the thing write. It was rather uncanny to see it
travel, fast for some, slower for others, not at all for certain ones.
After a time we detected crude attempts at words, but there were many
trials before any satisfactory results were obtained.

I wish I could recall just how my part in it began, and how much
of my conduct was conscious deception, how much self-deception. My
impression now is that at first, especially, I was to a great extent
self-deceived, although that I was by no means wholly so, I am well
aware. At any rate, it gradually came about that the planchette would
write the best for me and a certain boy in the neighbourhood, but, he
being absent, almost as well if I was one of the operators.

We were closely watched to see that there was no guidance of the
thing--that no perceptible movements of our hands or arms were made.
Sometimes they even blindfolded us, for there were always incredulous
ones in the company. These would take a turn at it, and would admit
that I did not move it; they were sure I did not. _But I did move
it_, whether consciously, with my muscles, or not, I’m not quite sure
myself. I know I determined what the answers were to be, and willed
that the thing should so answer; and, although there seemed to be
little opportunity for actually directing the movements without my
partner detecting it, I think I did do it, artfully and successfully;
and, little hypocrite that I was! pretended to be surprised at the
answers; or at a loss to make them out. Some of the others usually
deciphered the scrawlings, I helping out, occasionally, on a pinch;
and then we would all shout at the unexpectedness and aptness of the
replies.

My parents never suspected me. As I think back on those times I see
how deep within my nature must have been the tendency to deception: of
all the crowd of young persons and adults that gathered around that
mysterious little instrument, I believe I was the only one at all
conscious of deceit being at work; and further, I believe I would have
been the last one to be suspected. My parents and the other adults
were intelligent persons, not prone to vulgar credulity; they did not
pretend to understand the writing, yet knew there was no spiritualistic
explanation--Mother would have burned the thing had any one said that
seriously, though we used to jest about the “spooks” making it go. It
was with living persons and issues that our questions dealt, and we
found it a fascinating amusement.

I remember how they used to try to test it; how my parents would ask
names and things about family history that they thought no one in the
room but they themselves knew or remembered. One of these tests was to
ask for my maternal grandmother’s maiden name. It was usually spoken of
as Eunice Gear (her adopted name), but they forgot that I had noted and
remembered her romantic story, and knew her real name (Albro) as well
as I did my own. And here is where my double-dyed hypocrisy comes in:
I willed the thing to write “Eunice Albro” and, whether consciously or
unconsciously, I cannot now say, guided the movement of the machine in
the formation of the letters; but, watching it, as “Albro” was being
written, I cried out, feigning surprise, “Why, that isn’t right--it
isn’t writing Grandma’s name!” Father and Mother, watching eagerly,
hushed me up, and the thing wrote “Albro,” instead of “Gear.” Excited
and mystified, Father explained to the onlookers about Grandma’s early
abduction, adding that the children had probably always heard her
spoken of by the name of her foster parents. This was often cited as
the most signal triumph Planchette had to its credit. It was but one of
my many conscious intrigues with the little machine. Often, of course,
the answers were evasive or ambiguous, but I made them definite when I
could, and then they were very convincing.

One night a young woman spectator asked a silent question. This
disturbed, but did not nonplus me. I knew she was having a love affair
whose course was not running smoothly, so made the oracle declare:


     “_There’s many a slip_
     _’Twixt the cup and the lip_,”


and although she laughed it away and said there was no sense in the
answer, subsequent events showed that I probably hit the nail on the
head. Much later I learned that a real tragedy for her was going on at
that very time. And there was that poor girl depending on such flimsy
help as this for solution of her difficulties! I tremble when I think
what indirect harm such practices may work--palmistry, and other occult
things--with impressionable, uncritical minds, swayed powerfully by the
hit-and-miss guesses of these worthless oracles.

This craze continued all one winter. It was great fun, but I wearied
of it after a while. And what makes me know that I was more than
vaguely conscious of my own deception is that on “experiencing
religion” I changed so in my feelings about the pastime. After that,
when planchette-writing was proposed, I recoiled from it, refusing
or evading requests for the experiments, and somehow finally managed
to put a quietus on the career of the little instrument. I think I
even appeared to comply with their requests occasionally, but did
not will the thing to write, and, several failures dampening the
interest, the thing was dropped--Planchette was again relegated to the
upstairs closet. For years I never came upon the little heart-shaped
affair without a feeling almost of nausea at the part I had taken
in the mysterious writing. Thereafter it was painful to hear others
recounting, in good faith, the wonderful things it had done.

Harmless as were these pastimes on the whole, it is in their deeper
significance that the gravity lies. They betray innate and grave faults
of character--a capacity for artful duplicity which grew by what it fed
upon, each triumph leading to other, more elaborate experiments. How it
would pain my parents to learn that I had been such a gay deceiver when
they thought me a demure little mouse! The experience has shown me how
easy it is, too, to delude one’s self, as well as to dupe others. I can
see how “mediums,” and all who deal in occult matters, may evolve into
veritable frauds, though starting out in the utmost good faith.

For some years after most of the girls wore bangs or curled their hair
I resolutely refused to do it, on the ground that it was artificial.
Though longing for wavy hair falling softly over my high forehead,
I would not curl it--it was false, the whole idea was wrong; Nature
had denied me natural curls, and I would suffer the sight of my plain
face in the glass rather than employ artificial means to relieve its
plainness. But--when about seventeen, I did begin to curl my hair,
my awakening feminine instincts, I suppose, getting the better of my
principles, such as they were. I disapproved of artificial flowers, and
for years would not wear them on my hats; but there came a time when
I weakened in this, though the flowers must be of the best--the most
natural-looking to be had.

I can see now a significance back of these seemingly trivial things:
they reveal an unenviable complexity of nature. In first one thing,
then another, I have stood out against conforming to customs, if my own
ideas of right and wrong prohibited me, but alas! so often has come
the ultimate defeat--concessions to conventions, customs, overpowering
circumstances, or instincts. And, when finally yielding to that so long
withstood, I have pursued the opposite course with an almost equal
determination to make a success of the counterfeit; to give, as far as
possible, an impression of genuineness. If I curled my hair, the curls
must be as natural as possible. And the same principle has been carried
into less trivial matters. A legitimate outlet for my ingrained mimetic
and dramatic tendency would have been the stage.


When as a child I had sat on my father’s lap and coaxed him to tell
me where I came from, I had no idea of the correct answer to my
question. Though I do not remember how he answered me, I think I
may have persisted in my query because I was beginning to see the
inconsistencies and absurdities of the stories told me, but this is
purely conjecture. I remember the older schoolgirls telling me strange,
incredible things for a time, then later, one dreadful day, explaining
more correctly the real origin of babies. Shocked and horrified by
their talk, I opposed a prompt and stout rejection. It wasn’t so, I
knew it wasn’t so. Laughing at me, they adduced further proof. I tried
to pull away and get out of the room as I hotly declared, “It isn’t so,
I know my father and mother never----” and I choked with indignation.
They evidently enjoyed the torture they were inflicting. I was like
a hunted hare, and half my fright was doubtless due to the growing
conviction that _it might be true_. One girl pulled me back as I tried
to escape; then braced herself against the door while I faced her in
impotent rage and shame. And another informer taunted, “Little Fool!
you wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t true--your father and mother ain’t
any better than anyone else’s.”

This was such a bitter experience that I have always felt strongly
the need of early satisfying these inevitable queries of children by
true, if partial, explanations, thus forestalling their enlightenment
in the brutal way it came to me, associated with impure, repelling
interpretations.

For some months preceding the time of passing from girlhood to
womanhood, I stayed with Cousin Prudence, helping her with the
housework, and going to school from there. Fond of her, I was, too,
more docile in learning from her than I was at home. She was a married
old maid. “Prunes and prisms” was her watchword. Her house was in order
from top to bottom; she could tell on just what shelf, in which box,
in which corner of said box, a given article lay; and whoever helped
her had to observe a like care. She was not at all well and did almost
nothing but to help with the baking. I pitied her, and she managed to
get a lot of work out of me for this reason, and also because she had
tact, and convinced me of the vital importance of attending thoroughly
to the infinite details of housekeeping. From her throne on the couch
she would issue gentle commands and endless queries, and she had an
uncanny way of ascertaining if I slighted anything. But in justice I
must say I was conscientious in carrying out her exacting requirements.

Methodical to a degree, it was not enough that her minute directions
were followed to the letter; she could not drop it there. When, tired
out, I sat by her couch to rest, I would have to listen as she would go
over and over the things that had been done, and the things I was to do
on the morrow. She nearly broke my back, and To-morrow’s too. Saturday
nights were trying times, for she doted on rehearsing all that had been
accomplished through the day, and all that we had in the house to eat
for over Sunday. Her husband was a prodigious eater, and she wanted
to make sure we would not run short. Then, too, it seemed to make her
more a part of these things if she could ring the changes on them; so,
pitying her helplessness, I humoured these foibles that I now know
bordered on morbidity:

“You said you swept off the back porch to-day, dear? I always want it
clean for Sunday.”

“Are you sure you scoured the tea kettle--nice and bright?--yes, I’m
sure you did. You won’t mind if Cousin Prue asks you about these
things, will you?”

“Are the potatoes pared for breakfast? and covered with water, dear?
Because, you know, if some are out of the water they get black--yes,
you are sure, I’m glad of that.”

“Let’s see--there are four loaves of white bread and two of brown, or
is it only three and a half loaves of white? And there is a jar of
sugar cookies, and part of a jar of molasses cookies; and you said
there was a whole loaf of ginger cake? and some--there _is_ some, dear,
isn’t there?--of that one-two-three-and-four cake; you know Uncle--I
should say Cousin Richard--is so fond of that; and there are--how many
pies are there, dear--one lemon, and two apple pies? and about how much
of that custard pie did you say there is left?”

Oh, how weary I got of her endless talk about these matters--the things
themselves were bad enough, though I didn’t mind them so much (only I
_did_ get very tired). I was willing to wash and rinse the dishcloth
till it was sweet and white as a handkerchief, but did not like washing
and rinsing it over again after I got back to the sitting room. I
was always tempted to shirk polishing the stove, but she was sure to
detect it, or I dare say I should have slighted it more frequently,
for I never liked to soil my hands. But she had a way of commending me
that recompensed a good deal; and if there were criticisms, they were
tactfully made:

“Dear, when you have rested a little I wish you would stand the broom
up the other way, you know it wears out sooner to rest on the splint
end.”

“You dusted behind the mirror carefully, didn’t you? but when you get
up, won’t you just straighten it a wee bit?”

“Now, after you have had a good rest, won’t you sweep off the
sidewalk?--I see the leaves have fallen a good deal to-day.”

I pitied her, and I was meek in those days, but I marvel now at my
long-suffering. She was unhappy, but tried to conceal this, making
pitiful excuses which I saw through. Later she knew that I divined her
troubles, yet we each kept up a pretense of not seeing things as they
were. It was easier for her in more ways than one to have me there. I
learned later that that was why my parents let me stay with her.

One day, calling me to her, with much preliminary talk, she said she
was going to tell me some things that I was old enough to know, which
my mother wished me to know. She then explained the mysteries of the
physiological changes of pubescence. My cheeks began to blaze. I
suppose she saw that she was late with her information, and, with less
than her usual tact, asked outright if I knew about it already; and I,
having learned it from older girls, along with forbidden things, and
thinking it something to be ashamed of, lied to her, pretending I did
not know what she meant. Of course she knew better, but not betraying
this, explained it all in a judicious, womanly way, divesting it for me
of the false shame with which I had come to associate it. That day, or
later, I broke down and confessed that I had known about it before, and
we were even better friends than ever after that.


It was about this time that a friend of my mother made a confidante of
me, disclosing deep wrongs endured through her husband, especially in
previous years. Whispering these cruelties to me, even when we were
alone in the house, she would interrupt her dramatic recital again and
again to make me promise never to divulge them, declaring her parents
would force her to leave her husband if they learned about it all. It
was a grave wrong to burden a young girl with this hidden sorrow. But,
nervous and sickly, she craved the sympathy I was ready to give; yet it
was a shadow which should never have rested on my girlhood. I think it
had no inconsiderable share in fostering in me the habit of duplicity.
Her husband was a moody, morose man, subject to spells of unnatural
gayety. Living with him was like living on the rim of a smouldering
volcano ready at any moment to belch forth. By the hour she would pour
into my ears circumstantial details of her husband’s cruelties--it
was like a thrilling continued story--then she would add, “But he’s
different now--you mustn’t lay this up against him, and you mustn’t,
for the world, let him see you mistrust him--Oh, Eugenie, don’t let him
see a difference in you. Swear, swear to me you won’t!” And I would
swear. And when we heard his step on the porch, we would begin to laugh
and chatter in assumed gayety, disarming him of all suspicion. Many a
time after such a recital, I have sat with them when it seemed as if I
must scream out and tell him I knew just how base he had been; but I
only went to the other extreme, becoming unusually gay and talkative,
while the artful little wife would chime in and egg me on. I learned in
watching her what a consummate artist in deception one can become; it
was a revelation to see her coaxing, conciliating manner to the tyrant
follow so closely her terrible disclosures to me.

Happily, more wholesome influences were at work at the same time,
counteracting somewhat these sombre ones. I think I received a certain
intellectual stimulus from attending the debates of the lyceum to which
Father belonged--eight or ten of the townsmen met for years every
Saturday night in a lawyer’s office, debating in a spirited manner.
Though women and girls seldom went, they were made welcome. The last
year or two before leaving home I persuaded another girl to go with
me. She went to please me rather than because she liked it. Father
encouraged me in going. Although I really enjoyed the debates, I know
that a part of my pleasure was because Laura and I were the only girls
there. I liked the oddity of it, and was vain of the fact that I had a
taste in that direction.

Those middle-aged men were much in earnest. There were several lawyers,
a doctor or two, our Professor, ministers, and a few non-professional
men, like Father. One lawyer, a hunchback, was very eloquent. His
smooth, melodious voice and engaging manner made one forget his
deformity. There was a “gentleman farmer,” too, a liberally educated
bachelor, very diffident, with halting speech. They had great respect
for his learning. How easily he coloured up on occasion! I think he
never felt quite so much at ease when we girls were present, but he was
very deferential to us. There were pompous men, testy men, humorous
men, taciturn men--in fact, as I recall the little club, I see it was
composed of very varied types; and therein, I suppose, lay a large part
of the interest for me, as I was always interested in studying people.
Often I had but little understanding of the questions at issue, but
even when these did not concern me, I liked to follow the arguments;
liked to see them pick one another up; liked the mental activity of
it all, just as when, in later years, my life-work calling me much
in the court room, I have enjoyed listening to the trial of even an
indifferent case. To hear the pros and cons, to see the intricate,
many-faceted presentation of the truth, gives me the same kind of
enjoyment I get from Browning’s “Ring and the Book.” Then, too, I was
proud of Father’s part in it all, his reasoning, so clear and forcible,
his humour so compelling, his enthusiasm so contagious! But he was
always partisan; whatever he took up, he espoused _con amore_. I come
honestly by my enthusiasms.

At each meeting they appointed a member to report errors of grammar and
pronunciation. Father’s critical bent earned him the nickname, “The
Critic.” In time the schoolgirls dubbed me “Critic Junior”--an epithet
justly bestowed, I confess--it has always been easy for me to pick
flaws--to criticize myself relentlessly, as well as others.

Another of the formative influences of this period was a literary
society organized by the young people. It started as a secret society,
“for the purpose of mental improvement, and the study of literature.”
We called ourselves the “W. B. S.,” guarding carefully the meaning
of these letters. I feel almost guilty now in revealing that we were
the “Would-Be-Somebodies.” It proved an interesting and profitable
association. Having no older person to direct us, we groped about and
attempted many ridiculous things; and we had to make concessions to
the less serious-minded; but our aspirations were genuine, and the
general effect of the society was beneficial. We began by reading
aloud “Lucile,” but all our selections were not so absurd. In time
we did some creditable work, reading and discussing good literature.
There were original papers, recitations, debates, music--enlisting the
talents of the various members. One winter we raised enough money to
hire a professor from Rochester University to lecture on geology, and
felt we were by way of being Somebodies then. On anniversaries there
were sleigh-rides and suppers--gay and happy times.

My first glimpse of beauty in art I owe to the “W. B. S.” We went to
Rochester and visited Power’s Art Gallery. Until then I had seen no
statuary, no water colours, no etchings, no oil paintings of any merit.
The art with which I had been familiar was the sorry art to be found in
small towns--atrocious paintings and chromos, at the best a few good
steel-engravings. In these days, through reproductions, school children
in small villages become familiar with the world’s masterpieces; but I
was starved in this respect.

I shall never forget the awe and wonder that came over me that day in
Power’s Art Gallery as we stepped into the room where the statuary
stood out against a background of dark plush hangings, while a sweet
low air was played by an orchestrion in an adjoining room. The place
was holy ground. I shall also never forget my disgust when one of
the girls brought me down from the sublime to the ridiculous: While
I stood gazing in rapt admiration at “The Genius of Art”--a wingèd
god carved from the marble, poised as though about to fly--the beauty
and aspiration of the figure holding me spell-bound, I heard the
stage-whisper of this irreverent girl: “He looks as if he hadn’t had
a square meal lately,” referring to the prominence of the ribs of the
beautiful creature. It took me years to forget that speech; it was such
a discord in this new harmony. I saw no humour in it then; now I rather
enjoy the picture my imagination paints--my transition from ecstasy to
detestation, and my struggle not to show her how she had jarred upon me.

The names of the artists meant nothing to me, I cared only for their
works, looking long at what interested me. I remember especially “The
Gathering of the Potatoes,” a huge, sad painting that, as I recall
it, had much of the dreary realism I have since seen in “The Angelus”
and “The Gleaners.” The haunting sadness of that painting, the sombre
sky, the peasants in the foreground, the woman holding open the bag
while the man poured in the potatoes--they seemed to be counting
each one of the scanty store! The homely pathos of their lives moved
me then, and it all comes back to me now. There was much else that
moved me, but I was irritated, too, for that same facetious girl went
around nudging others and giggling over the complete anatomy of the
Cupids and Cherubs, frankly portrayed. I detested this singling out
of such things and talking about them. Prim as I was, I saw nothing
to object to in those charming figures; and it was painful to have
my enjoyment desecrated by these silly observations. To this day I
have no patience with persons who cannot view the nude in art without
low-minded comments (or thoughts) on what seems to fill their entire
field of vision to the exclusion of the work as a whole. I once showed
a vulgar-minded woman a picture of a beautiful, three-year old child,
nude--a thing so lovely I thought it must appeal even to her; but she
was scandalized at the pearl I had cast before her. She began a tirade
against “such things,” her unique argument being: “The sight of means
to do ill deeds, makes ill deeds done.” I thought that Shakespeare
would have risked his own curse and, moving his bones, would almost
have risen to confront her, could he have heard his lines so perversely
misapplied!

A year or two after our visit to Power’s Art Gallery, I had my next
glimpse of art in Boston. But neither the Fine Arts Museum there, nor
those in other cities since, produced upon me the profound impression
that my first excursion into the world of Art produced.



CHAPTER VI

“BRED IN THE BONE”


Whether due to my reading, or almost wholly to observations and
conclusions, I cannot say, but I began early to feel the potency
of heredity; to lament certain tendencies in my kindred which I
saw cropping out in myself, and to realize the gravity of marrying
and having offspring. I saw my grandfather’s ungovernable temper
exaggerated in one of his daughters and in my brother; saw in myself,
though naturally of a mild disposition, a tendency to give away, on
occasion, to intense anger; saw queer traits in aunts and cousins that
frightened me; knew that tuberculosis had attacked some members of my
father’s family; that certain cousins on both sides were neurotic; that
my maternal grandmother had carcinoma; that a cousin was an epileptic;
and that on both sides were intemperate uncles--these were the chief
reasons contributing to my early, deep-seated resolution never to marry.


As a family, one trait which we have in common is intemperance, though
Sister is less so than the rest of us. My father would be surprised
to be charged with intemperance, for all his life he has waged war
against intemperance (in its restricted sense--the excessive use of
strong drink); but he has been intemperate in his zeal for the “Cause
of Temperance.” I remember the “Temperance Movement” in our village,
in my early childhood. Mother and other women went around to the
saloons praying and singing and beseeching the liquor dealers to close
out their business. I have heard them tell that when one obdurate man
finally yielded (pouring barrels of liquor into the street) there was
such rejoicing that staid citizens like my father threw their hats
in the air and shouted for joy. This was years before Father left
the Republican Party to espouse the cause of Prohibition--perhaps
long before there was a Prohibition Party. Of course the reform
wave subsided, the liquor dealers bought more whisky, and the curse
continued. But although that early warfare died out, Father’s zeal, I
might almost say his fanaticism, has ever been unceasingly directed
toward efforts to quell the liquor traffic. So it was not surprising
that, in time, ardent Republican though he was, he allied himself
to the party bent on fighting this evil. It is sad to think of him
expending energy on what seems to me a lost cause; but Prohibition is
no lost cause for him.[3] Logical and clear-sighted as he is, he seems
to me to take a one-sided view in this matter, and to be following a
chimera. He says Prohibition will yet prevail, whereas I feel that the
prohibition--the inhibition--must be in the individual himself. The
long years of character-building determine whether one shall succeed or
fail. Legislative measures, I fear, can never be effective for those
suffering from ingrained weakness, and dragged down by tyrannical
habits. But Father firmly believes that the good time is coming toward
which he labours unceasingly.

Father’s excesses in minor matters also show the intemperance to which
I refer. I mention them only to show that in certain things I am a
“chip of the old block”: Many years ago he had the croquet craze. He
and other business men would play that silly game for hours. I recall
Mother’s disapproval and Father’s lame defence. She was not opposed to
a reasonable amount of playing; it was the intemperate, inopportune
indulgence that disturbed her. The same with chess and checkers. He
and his chess-loving friends pursued these with a fervour prejudicial
to business. Often when I have gone to the lawyer’s office where they
were wont to play, or in the back of Father’s store, I would find him
so absorbed that my timid request would remain long unnoticed. If some
other player would call his attention to me, his preoccupation was
such that I verily believe a moment later he did not know I had been
there. He contended that he never neglected customers for the pastime,
but Mother would tell him that his impatience to get back to his game
made him attend grudgingly to them, and that feeling this they would go
elsewhere. Of course he disavowed this, but it was true.

I can see the same trait strong in myself. Given to riding my hobbies
hard, everything else is relegated to the background. I attend to all
else as expeditiously as possible that I may “return to my knitting,”
whatever it happens to be, though I do try to conceal my lack of
interest in the work at hand. Perhaps I flatter myself that I do, as
Father flattered himself; doubtless onlookers see that “my heart’s in
the Highlands chasing the deer.” For games I have cared but little,
except tennis--that draws me as croquet used to draw my father. My hand
itches for the racquet as his itched for the croquet mallet and the
chess-men, though it is not the ultimate winning I care so much about
as to make good plays, and have an exciting game--I get positively
despondent when I make a succession of poor plays, while with a good
audience, I can sometimes play a brilliant game. I can seldom remember
the score after the game is over.

Many and varied have been the things I have taken up with an ardour
that, bred in the bone, persists in coming out in the flesh--tennis,
bicycling, amateur theatricals, the study of wild flowers, of the
birds, palmistry, handwriting and character, the Romany jib, the
spasmodic study of German and French--for the time these are the things
for which I live; incidentally I followed my profession. Perhaps I
deceive myself in thinking I have more moderation than my father. At
least I can see my tendency and attempt some self-discipline. There
is this marked difference between us: He makes himself believe what
he wants to believe, while the more I want a thing to be so, the more
I am afraid of being deceived into thinking it is so. I want to face
things as they are always; endure them, yield to them, or forego them,
as my will elects, or circumstances decree, but never to cheat myself
into thinking that they are so, if such is not the case. If Father
and I wanted to do a given thing, and the weather threatened to be
unfavourable, Father would be likely to scrutinize the sky, announce
that it was not going to rain, and start out hopefully; I should know
I couldn’t tell if I did scan the sky, but, with a strong feeling that
it probably would rain, would start out, in spite of misgivings, taking
the precaution, however, to carry my umbrella.

Mother’s excesses take her into other fields: Always she has been a
lover of flowers; garden flowers and houseplants have been her hobbies.
How she would pore over the Vick’s catalogues, and stoop for hours over
her flowerbeds, and go miles to lug black dirt to enrich the soil!
Indifferent to sun, rain, heat, and cold, pulling weeds and caring for
her treasures, she would forget her rheumatic tendencies and the pain
that would make her groan outright when under a roof. As a young girl
it tried me sorely that she would do these things at such unseasonable
times, pottering in the yard in her old clothes when I wanted her to
look tidy in the afternoon. But what especially disturbed me was that
she would leave the dinner table standing to pursue her craze. It was
not so much that I objected to doing the dishes after school; if they
had been piled away in the kitchen, and the dining room put in order, I
believe I should not have said a word--it was that sickening feeling on
coming home and seeing the table just as we had risen from it that was
one of the real trials of my girlhood. I used to plead with her, but
all in vain. My training with Cousin Prudence had made me particular
about these things, but I should doubtless have been much the same
anyhow. I would urge how much more she would enjoy the afternoon if she
would give up a half hour to doing the work. I never could understand
her perversity in this, for she knew it distressed us girls, and, in a
way, seemed sorry. Many and bitter are the tears I have shed over the
dish-pan at five in the afternoon; and how ashamed I was if other girls
came home with us and saw the table standing! But, oh, joy! the nights
I opened the door and found the table cleared, and the work done! I
never failed to mention this delight, either, though I am sorry to say
I expressed the opposite feelings when the more accustomed sight met my
eyes. I purposely slammed things to make a commotion, so she could no
longer enjoy in peace her persistent weed-pulling.

In those days I sometimes went down into the basement and banged an
old pie-tin around; this, though, not so much from anger as from a
feeling of inward irritation and pent-up energy--a desire to make a
racket. One day I made such a dent in a tin that Mother told me I had
better keep that one downstairs just for that purpose when the mood
came on. So whenever the desperate spell would come over me, I would
go down there and kick the old tin about; the cat would jump in terror
out of the window, and I’d bang away till the noise, the exercise, and
the absurdity of it all exorcised the demon, when I would go upstairs
flushed, relieved, and good-naturedly at ease. I suppose I did not have
enough play, and this furnished a needed outlet. Mother was wise to
indulge me in it--I often wish I had that pie-tin now!

As to Mother’s habit of leaving the dishes, I used to quote to her,
“Parents, provoke not your children to wrath,” as I would tell her
how other girls’ mothers did. But she would only say, “Don’t touch
the dishes, I’ll do them--I only wanted to put in those bulbs,” or
“transplant that shrub”--“I only went out for a few minutes”; the same
old story--it never appeased me. I wonder now if it was not something
she was practically powerless to resist. She was not very well those
years; it was probably during a crisis in her woman’s life when she
had need of relaxation, and felt difficulty in concentrating on the
common round of duties. It was doubtless a salutary thing for her. Not
always flowers, in winter it was piece-work, carpet rags, or quilting,
pursued to the exclusion of regular tasks, and always from her the
lame excuses! It grieves me now to think how impatient and critical
Sister and I were because she would not conform to our wishes. Now I
believe she could not. Since then I have seen other women pushed on in
a similar manner by an imperative need of some absorbing diversion, and
have come to regard it as a safety-valve at certain periods in their
lives. Mother was not a poor housekeeper in the ordinary sense; she was
neat and fastidious and a good cook; her house was sweet and clean
from top to bottom--this of which I speak was a surface disorder, due
to lack of method and to postponing things, the neglect of which gave
a cluttered appearance to kitchen and pantry which sorely tried my
methodical soul.

I have heard Mother plead with her mother, in much the same way (only
more kindly) that Sister and I would plead with her--concerning
Grandma’s queer way of doing her work. For example she would put the
scouring-board on the floor to scour her knives. But she could not
persuade her to adopt the easier, rational way. We wondered, when
Mother would marvel at Grandma’s obstinacy, why she could not see that
she, in turn, was equally obstinate.


One of Mother’s sisters was such a strenuous housekeeper that she lost
sight of what it means to make a home, so intent was she on having
things immaculate, and in maintaining a painful orderliness from cellar
to garret. The habit grew on her in later years. I can remember when
she used to get up delicious dinners at our family reunions, opening
her house with real hospitality; but a few years after her late
marriage to a widower with a large family, her peculiarities developed
and, taken with a captious disposition and shrewish temper, made her a
trying person to deal with. Yet she had a generous nature and could not
do enough for one at times. But let some little thing displease her and
a tantrum would result; she would twit the one at whom she was enraged
of every trifle she ever gave him and would rake up every little and
big grievance against him. These tirades would be as likely to occur
on the street as elsewhere. We learned not to cross her, even if she
made statements that we knew were wrong; for to disagree with her was
to see the fur fly. Yet how amiable she was to strangers--to everyone,
for that matter, when in her good moods! and she was kind at heart,
even to those she would on occasion rake over the coals. Mother could
not bear to have us criticize her. “I know--I’m sorry, but it’s her
way, you mustn’t stir her up,” she would say. She was a woman of keen
intelligence, well educated, public-spirited, and with a distinct gift
for composition. She dressed much younger than her years, with a marked
individuality in dress. In later years she seemed obsessed with a love
of fine clothes, which she kept in a wardrobe full to overflowing,
wearing her plainer ones as a rule.

Another queer aunt, perhaps in the late thirties, also married a
widower--such a timid, docile creature that we children wondered how he
ever got up spunk enough to propose to Aunt Ann. Though having marked
peculiarities, she had a keen, quick mind and a phenomenal memory. She
was very obstinate.

It was years before we children learned of the skeleton in her house.
We knew that when visiting her, Mother took along sheets, towels, etc.,
but supposed it was to save work for Aunt Ann--the excuse usually
offered. Later we learned that, spic and span as was her house in
general appearance, and neat as she was about her cooking, she had an
unheard-of peculiarity in that she never did any washing nor had any
done. This queerness must have grown on her in middle life. At the time
I learned of it, her washtubs had fallen down, and her flatirons were
covered with rust. Shrewd as she was in concealing this singularity, a
close observer could discern abundant evidence of it. We learned that
Mother had laboured with her all to no purpose. So Sister and I decided
to make Aunt Ann a visit and see what we could do to effect a change.
Talking about it at first with our uncle, we told him our intention.
He said it would do no good, and that it would not be safe for him if
she knew he had discussed it with us. He startled us by saying that
she had a violent temper, and had often berated him so loudly that
the neighbours heard her; that she had even used profane language and
threatened his life--she, a regular church-goer and apparently an
exemplary woman!

“She can’t help it, she’s crazy,” the husband said. This seemed so
incredible that we almost thought him the crazy one; still, there were
these incomprehensible things which we knew _were_ true, and the others
might be so, too.

As Aunt Ann took pride in us and our pretty clothes, we conceived the
plan of appealing to this pride to bring her to terms, an invitation to
a neighbourhood party hastening our preliminary attack. That afternoon
she had said, “Girls, you will wear your velveteen dresses to-night?”
We would, we agreed, if she would let us do her washing the next day.
Bridling up, she said she guessed she could do her own washing when she
needed to. This gave us the opening. Beginning guardedly, not letting
her know that we knew the extent of her negligence, we said we knew
she was not strong, and we wanted to help her. But as she persisted
in saying that nothing needed to be done, we were obliged to instance
this, and that, that were so obvious; and finally laid all pretense
aside. Yet, when confronted with the facts, she stoutly maintained that
everything was as it should be. Then we told her how ashamed we were;
how Grandma and Mother grieved over these queer ways; and how it was
the talk of the neighbourhood. We said we did not care to go to any
parties there, or to church, or anywhere, when one of our own flesh and
blood was such a disgrace to us. Then we threatened to leave her, never
to come there again, unless from that day she would do differently.

It was a tragic afternoon--that middle-aged woman convicted of these
unheard-of things, and berated by her nieces whose family pride was
stung, yet whose affection for her persisted in spite of it all. We
were baffled and bewildered by her conduct in the first place, and her
inaccessibility to reason in the next. She attempted no defence; would
not meet our arguments; would declare things that were so were not so,
till repeatedly confronted with them; then would stand there, sad-eyed,
like a creature at bay, sometimes darkly hinting, “You don’t know, you
can’t understand.”

“What is it we can’t understand? Tell us, let us try,” we urged.
Convinced that there was a dread mystery somewhere, we tried in vain to
fathom it. Was there some terrible thing concerning the poor-spirited
uncle about which we did not know? But all the time we would come back
to the thought that nothing, _nothing_ excused this strange conduct.
We cried, we pleaded, we threatened, we entreated; she would not
promise to mend her ways or even admit that they needed mending; yet
with a strange insistence showed as much persistence in urging us to
go to that party and wear our velveteen gowns as we showed in urging
her to begin a radical reform in this matter of household management,
concerning which there could be no two rational opinions.

In the heat of argument, and knowing her strong interest in church
affairs, I said, “Why, Aunt Ann, how _can_ you do as you do? You know
the Bible says that ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness.’” Her eye
lighted in triumph, and quick as a flash she retorted, “That isn’t
in the Bible, you can’t find it in the Bible.” For a minute I was
chagrined, and she harped on it unmercifully; but I finally told
her it ought to be in the Bible, if it wasn’t; after which I railed
against the kind of Christianity that would let one teach a class in
Sunday school while leading such an unclean daily life. Sister and I
alternated between righteous indignation and crying for shame. Aunt
Ann seemed to harbour no resentment toward us but remained unmoved. I
am convinced now that there was some delusional development back of
those strange ways; yet those who knew her then, and who have known her
since, who see her only as she appears when out among folk, would say
one must be crazy to suggest that she is not in her right mind.


All this gave me an ominous feeling as to my inheritance. It also
served to make both Sister and me extremely fastidious in matters of
personal neatness. We made a kind of god of cleanliness from that
dreadful afternoon when we realized that one of our own kin had
developed these strange ways. I resolved that whatever else heredity
developed in me, I would steer clear of that particular line of offense.

We made good our threats and soon left our Aunt’s to visit a cousin in
the same village. While there I was invited by a young man to drive
out one Sunday evening--my nearest experience to having a beau. I was
pleased but embarrassed. I was probably then seventeen. Rallied by my
cousins before I went, I was laughed at unmercifully on return, early
in the evening, because I had not invited the young man in to call, as
he evidently expected I would. During the drive, when I had mentioned
my plans for further study on leaving school, he had questioned the
wisdom of them, saying a woman should choose no career that would
interfere with her home life, as that assuredly would, if followed.
“But I am not going to marry,” I promptly announced, and then how he
“squelched” me!

“Don’t ever be heard saying that again. When a young girl says that,
it is either because she is so ignorant of life that she doesn’t know
what she is talking about, or else she says it for effect and to be
contradicted.” I think he added that he did not believe I meant to
be insincere; but I felt his rebuke keenly. My cheeks flamed at the
suggestion that I might be saying this for effect. I suppose I did
think it was “smart” to be different from the other girls, though
beneath this was a settled purpose. His advice stung me, but taught me
a lesson. Since then I have been guarded in expressing my intention in
this respect, but my attitude has never changed.

As a family all five of us have alike a strong love for children. The
others have the natural outlet for it which I have never had, and early
knew I should never have. I was perhaps sixteen when I discovered how
strong this feeling was in myself. A friend of Mother’s was visiting
us with her two-year-old child. We girls were planning to go out that
evening for a frolic, but just before starting I had taken that baby
in my arms, and the delicious feeling I had as he nestled up to me
acted like a charm. In spite of the coaxing of the girls I stayed at
home. Left alone in the house, I had a precious hour holding that baby
and singing him to sleep. After all the years, that evening stands out
as a blessed experience, but even then I believe I was more sad than
glad. Possibly I am mistaken, but I think I felt convinced then that no
child of mine would ever nestle in my arms. I remember my voice broke
as I sang to him. The experience was too sacred to repeat. I have never
mentioned it before.

Not long after my sister’s first child came (several years later
than the foregoing incident) I dreamed of being back home, and that a
neighbour boy, running through our yard, in reply to some remark which,
on waking, I could not remember, called out derisively, “Genie’s baby!
you mean Kate’s--who ever heard of Genie’s baby!” (Dream analysts would
find in this a good example of wish-fulfilment.) That dream marked an
epoch in my woman’s life. I realized then and there, how acutely only
a childless woman can know, that I should never be a mother. Till then
I had given the subject but little thought. Occupied with my work, and
having known from girlhood that I should not marry, yet the knowledge
of this other thing came to me like a stab--never a baby of my own! And
then I knew that, fill my life with whatever work and interest I might,
nothing could compensate for missing this supreme joy.

The positive notions I held as to heredity, the traits and diseases
in my kindred which I took so seriously, the disagreeable and morbid
tendencies I noted in myself, had, as I have intimated, all combined to
make me feel it would be wrong for me to marry. I used to argue with
myself: “A man that I could esteem and love would be so far above me
that he could never stoop to love me; if he did, he would not be the
hero I thought him; and if I _were_ to marry, and bring into the world
children like myself, it would be a calamity indeed.” No, I would stop
the perpetuation of beings like myself. It was a blind kind of altruism
that actuated me, and not till I had the dream just mentioned did the
personal side of the question occur to me; and then I learned how, as
an individual, I should suffer in abiding by the stand I had taken. A
lover at this time would probably have swept away all my fine theories
and resolutions; but I had none, and serious work and interests were
filling my days. But how illogical I was! It seemed never to occur to
me that the same conditions that debarred me from marriage should debar
my sister also; I was even anxious for her to marry, while so firmly
convinced that it would be wrong for me. I evidently thought that all
the seeds of disease and crankiness were in me alone and that I must
let them die out.

Now I know, too, that I exaggerated greatly the unfortunate family
inheritance. My studies in this field, in subsequent years--inquiries
into the family histories of many hundreds of persons--have shown me
that my inheritance averages up well with that of most families. My own
little knowledge in girlhood was a dangerous thing. Hypersensitive, and
introspective to a degree, I took my own adolescent impressionability
too seriously, losing sight of the fact that good as well as bad traits
and tendencies are inherited; and that training, environment, and
self-culture may do wonders to counteract undesirable proclivities.
I assuredly locked the barn door before the horse was stolen and
threw away the key. Though perhaps, in a way, so far as my sister was
concerned, I was right, for she is of a more harmonious nature, more
normal and typical, than I am. As to my brother, however, had I spent
my life trying to bring about a deplorable hereditary combination, I
could hardly have succeeded better than when, by the merest chance,
and by my own act, I unwittingly enlisted Propinquity, which lost no
time in bringing about his marriage with a neurotic girl who has since
become the mother of his children. And yet four beautiful little beings
(who seem to be unusually well endowed physically and mentally) gladden
the lives of all of us, and as I reflect how much of the good and true
there is in their inheritance, I am hopeful that, with such training
and fortuitous environment as can be compassed, much can be done to
counteract undesirable tendencies. But my soul sometimes contemplates
all this--my early theories, and the actual conditions--with a grim
smile: that it was I who brought it all about, I, the prudent one, the
far-seeing, the stickler for observing the inexorable laws of heredity!

FOOTNOTE:

[3] The above was written in 1902. Now his hopes are nearly fulfilled,
but he is no longer here to rejoice. All honour to him, and to others
like him, who, true to their vision, were untiring in their efforts to
bring it to realization!



CHAPTER VII

SCHOOL DAYS


Serious as was my girlhood, as the sombre experiences and the
resolutions which grew out of them show, it was by no means always so
shadowed as this record would indicate. And it is a relief to turn from
the detailed account of much of my inner life when a schoolgirl to more
of the objective life, to sunnier memories, to the life within the
school-house walls, even though to do so I go back for a little to the
care-free days of early girlhood.


In school I was a dutiful little girl of the goody-good sort, but from
about thirteen onward my badness cropped out and I became a little
terror. My mates were equally unmanageable. In the senior department we
could keep a teacher only a short time because of our “insubordination
and irregularities,” as one dignified principal said when he came in
to chastise us. And I, though demure in appearance, was one of the
chief offenders among the girls. How fertile we were in devising ways
to annoy the teacher! We would agree to hum a tune in an undertone, so
arranging it that when the teacher would steal up to the desks whence
the humming issued, pupils in another part of the room would take up
the tune, and the baffled teacher would wander from desk to desk trying
in vain to “spot” the offenders. The very diligence with which we were
studying at such times should have enlightened her.

One day the whole roomfull broke out in paroxysms of sneezing. The
ring-leaders when discovered were made to promise never to bring snuff
to school again. I kept my word but sought to get a similar effect some
other way: An arbor-vitæ tree grew near the school-yard, and somehow,
I found that by irritating the nostrils with those rough sprigs, we
could induce sneezing. It worked, though less successfully than the
snuff. I had my triumph when the teacher accused me of having broken
my word. Flatly and indignantly I denied it; we had had no snuff, I
declared emphatically. No, and no pepper, either. Nevertheless, she
kept me after school, whipped my hands, then, taking me on her lap,
wept and talked religion to me. Her leniency should have melted me,
but it did not. I was unregenerate indeed. I remember the casuistry I
used, which she herself must have repeated, for one of the students in
the academic department rallied me on the way I had defended myself for
sneezing in school. I had put a hypothetical question to her: If the
Lord made something grow that tickled the lining of my nose, was I to
blame that I could not control the sneeze? The youth would get that off
with variations till it teased me so that I was fairly punished for my
naughtiness. We also brought soda biscuit to school and ate them fast,
inducing hiccough. And the boys would strike matches, then report that
they _thought_ they smelled something burning--all sorts of schemes
were devised to annoy the poor teacher. Finally the Board of Education
sent one of their members to sit in the schoolroom and keep order. He
was a great fat man I had known from childhood. When I was little he
had called me “Sis Arnold,” and I had called him “Piggie Hanford.”
Mother used to remonstrate with me, but it was not so disrespectful as
it sounded; we understood each other. He always had a Jackson ball to
give me when we met on the street, but first he would pretend to bite
my hand. Once, I remember, he did bite hard enough for the print of
his teeth to show at the base of my thumb. But he didn’t hurt--just
liked to scare me, and I liked being scared. It was such fun to see him
coming toward me, big and black and frowning; to be snatched up, while
he pretended to bite me; to struggle; then to be put down, when I would
hold fast to him while he hunted for the Jackson ball, after which I
would run away calling, “Good bye, Piggie, Piggie Hanford!”

It was years after that when he came to keep order for Miss O----.
I liked to have him there, for he helped me with my examples, and I
needed help sorely then and always. We were as good as pie when he was
there. But one day when he was strutting past my desk, a recollection
of my childish freaks coming to me, I whispered mischievously, “Piggie,
Piggie Hanford.” He turned on me such a stern look that for an instant
I almost screamed, as I used to when he would grab me up as a child.
But I soon saw the smile coming, and he bent down, saying in a low
tone, “That won’t do here, Sis Arnold,” and walked solemnly away. They
hired a more competent teacher the next term, and “Piggie” came no more
to keep us within bounds

In the academic department, becoming interested in my studies, and
having to work hard, I kept out of mischief. Still there was nonsense
going on even there--whispering and writing notes, and passing
them surreptitiously, chiefly for the fun of disobeying the rules,
especially with the preceptress. More afraid of the new principal, we
toed the mark better for him, dreading his ready sarcasm too much to
risk it often.

Mathematics was always a bugbear to me. Passing the Regents early in
the other elementary branches, and also in many of the Intermediate
studies, I was long in passing in arithmetic. It was not only dry, it
was incomprehensible. I detested it. Professor Durland was patient with
me. I verily believe he would have let me drop the study if he could
have. (To this day I often dream of being back in school and sneaking
out of the arithmetic class, only to be discovered by “Prof.” and sent
back to my hated recitations. What present-day duties am I longing to
shirk, the Freudians will inquire?) I tried Regents in arithmetic three
times before I passed. I well remember the last time: Professor Durland
had coached me diligently for weeks, and I had felt desperately that
I must succeed this time. The whole department was interested. It was
unusual for one so advanced as I was in other studies to be so stupid
in this.

It was Father’s day for being present during the Regents examination.
(The different members of the Board of Education took turns in coming,
to see that all was fair play.) How my heart thumped when the principal
opened the sealed questions sent from Albany, handed a paper to Father,
and glanced rapidly over the questions himself! I knew how much he
wanted me to succeed, and I wanted to for his sake as well as for my
own. Soon he nodded satisfactorily. Knowing I was watching him, it was
as though he said to me, “It isn’t so hard--you can do it,” and as he
put the slip of printed questions on my desk he said in a low voice,
“You will pass this time, Eugenia.” That cheered me; it sounded so
confident; and he knew my limitations. He had drilled me so well on the
ground covered by the questions that I myself felt, on setting to work,
that there was a fair chance of getting through.

“Prof.” came often to my desk, overlooking my paper. Once (it was not
fair, I know, and he knew), he drew his pencil across an example I had
worked. I did it over, somewhat conscience-stricken even at that hint,
for at the close of each examination we had to listen to an oath read,
stating that we had neither given nor received help from any source;
then had to write these solemn words: “I do so declare,” and sign our
names. Had I not been conscientious about this oath, I should long
before that have cheated in arithmetic examinations.

When I handed in my paper, “Prof.” said, “Don’t go home till I look it
over.” Returning to my desk, I waited. The suspense while Professor
Durland and Father were bent over my paper was harrowing. It was a real
vivisection for me. I saw by their faces when an answer was right, and
when one was wrong, and saw them estimate the number of counts the
Regents would probably allow on each answer. Other students, too, were
eagerly watching the result--girls I had helped write compositions,
who, in turn, had worked my examples for me, were anxious for me to be
rid of the troublesome study.

Finally those two men lifted their heads. They had evidently marked me
strictly, so as to be sure beyond a doubt that the more rigid Regents
Board would not turn me down. Professor Durland now nodded his head
vigorously, and Father beamed with joy. How gaily I walked out into
the hall, my feet scarcely touching the floor! While I was putting on
my wraps the door softly opened, “Prof.” stepped out and said, “You
are through this time, Eugenia!” It was one of the happiest moments
of my life; but though choking with emotion and gratitude to him,
I don’t suppose I expressed it at all. Still I think he knew; knew
also that I was fond of him. Along with several of the other girls,
I had a schoolgirl’s infatuation for him. He was our hero--a silly,
sentimental fondness of the adolescent period, but then, and always
afterward, redeemed by genuine affection and gratitude. He was then,
I suppose, a man in the thirties, and we were girls of sixteen and
seventeen. I have since thought how wise and kind he was never to seem
to notice or to take advantage of our romantic feelings, and never
to make us appear ridiculous on that score, for he must have seen it
all. (There was a time when we treasured everything he said or did. I
even remember once that a certain girl and I kept count how many times
he glanced at us in a forenoon; though his glances were doubtless of
surveillance, we treasured them just the same.) He pursued just the
right course with us, and our sentimental adoration did us no harm. It
probably helped us in our studies. We blossomed under his approval,
and withered under his biting sarcasm. Yet we often teased and annoyed
him. He was surprisingly forbearing at times, and especially indulgent
with me, giving me freer rein than some others to indulge certain whims
and idiosyncrasies. I half consciously recognized this, girl that I
was, and sometimes took advantage of it. I used to love to hear him
pronounce my name; he said it a different way from any one else. What
is it Whitman says--


     Did you think there was but one pronunciation to your name?


I had nearly as hard a time with algebra as with arithmetic, and often
became rebellious. Feeling that I could not go through the struggles
and humiliations that I had with arithmetic, I tried repeatedly to get
out of going to the class. I simply could not comprehend the study,
and was always behind the others. Girls that were as stupid as stupid
could be about tasks that were play to me would do things on the
blackboard as impossible for me as the labours of Hercules. How glibly
they explained what they had done! How painfully I toiled to perform
the simplest tasks! Oh, those miserable days! Professor Durland tried
all kinds of methods with me; he sometimes lost patience and would make
cutting remarks, not, however, without having first tried to persuade
me to work harder. I would not study if I could possibly help it,
vainly hoping he would overlook me in class or give me something easy
(which he often did), that my stupidity would not be so patent.

One day when sent to the blackboard, knowing that the task was beyond
me, I refused to try. He insisted, saying he would help me. I hung
back. That angered him. “You can go up to the blackboard, can’t you?”
he tauntingly asked. I walked up to the board boiling with rage. He
stood near giving me points and explanations which, had I not been so
incensed and obstinate, would have enabled me to do the work. But I
was angry to my fingertips. I fumbled with the crayon and it broke. I
was powerless to do a thing but stand there and sulk. The tasks of the
other students nearing completion, one by one they took their seats;
one by one rose to explain their work; and still I stood, alone now,
before the long blackboard, my work untouched, my eyes blinded with
angry tears, my listless hand holding that useless piece of crayon, and
those meaningless symbols staring me in the face.

What an awareness I had of my figure as I stood there, my back to the
school! I could see just how the back of my drooping head looked,
my long braids hanging below my waist. It was such an uncomfortable
awareness of my disgraced self that I had as I stood there. The
class-work ended, there was an ominous pause, I still standing
helpless and hopeless. Then the storm fell. Before the whole school he
launched forth a reprimand, every word of which cut me cruelly, the
burden of it being that I was not so stupid as obstinate (I think he
said “mulish”); that I thought I knew better than any one else what
I ought to study; but that I would soon find that I was tremendously
mistaken; that a “bird that can sing, and won’t sing, must be made to
sing”; that algebra has its uses as well as rhetoric and physiology
(oh, what scorn as he said these words--my pet studies!) and that
hereafter I was to get my algebra lessons before being allowed to
recite in anything else.

I got so angry I was cold, and oh, so still! I remember the awful
stillness I felt within myself as I stood there. I knew what he said
was just, but it hurt my pride that he would speak that way to _me_,
and before the whole school!

I don’t know how I ever left the blackboard and faced the others. He
kept me after school and patiently showed me how to do the work. I was
maddened for days after to see how, to conciliate me (who did not want
to be conciliated), and perhaps to avoid the risk for me of another
ignominious failure, he gave me such easy work that I could not fail to
do it. At that I felt insulted. Perhaps I did study harder thereafter,
but I went in and out of school for a period (perhaps only a week, but
it seems ages) with an air of offended dignity that must have been
absurd. I thought myself a martyr. Avoiding his glances at recitations,
I refused to smile at his jests and pleasantries; showed no interest
in the things about which I was wont to be enthusiastic; and was on
my highest heels of offended dignity. If I had the courage to look at
some of my old diaries I should doubtless find my injured feelings
faithfully and minutely recorded in them; but there is a limit to
one’s endurance of self-scrutiny.

Some of “Prof.’s” efforts at reconciliation were obvious; and though
they pleased my vanity, my obduracy would not yield. The girls pleaded
with me to soften my heart; I hardened it instead--the memory of that
hour at the blackboard froze me. Then, too, I was pleased to be of
so much importance. I remember one of the things he tried to soften
me: It was before I had studied Virgil, but always when the class in
Virgil was reciting I had made little pretense of studying, listening
to the translations instead. At this “Prof.” sometimes shook his head
disapprovingly, motioning me to attend to my studies; and sometimes he
suggested that it would be well if those not in the class in Virgil
would kindly study their Cæsar; that there was abundant need of it,
and so on. But I had noticed that he seemed secretly pleased at my
attention when, the students having given their lame translations, he
would take it up and, in his beautiful, smooth rendering, read on and
on, himself carried away by the beauty of it. At such times I could
not help but drink it in; it was a daily dissipation that I struggled
against, but yielded to. Time and again I would pretend to be studying,
but really listening; till, in spite of myself, I would have to glance
up, always to find him looking at me as he translated the beautiful
epic. I think he took a mischievous pleasure in this; he knew I could
not resist it, and it was a tribute to his translation, as well as to
the poet.

Well, after our “quarrel” he tried Virgil as a pacifier. Knowing that
he was seeking to draw some sign of interest from me, and pleased and
angered at the same time, still was I deaf to the charm. But, one day,
in order to counteract its effect, I seized my algebra and, stimulated
by the excitement of it all, dashed off a parody on Hamlet’s
Soliloquy--on the study of algebra. It was rather clever (the girls
thought it wonderful), and it helped to relieve my wounded feelings,
for in it I spoke rather freely of the principal.

Shortly after this, when things were running fairly smooth again,
“Prof.”, who was helping me with my algebra lesson one day, taking up
my book to show me some rule, chanced to see that parody written on the
fly leaves. After reading a few lines he turned fairly white with rage.
In low tones of concentrated anger he said, “I always knew it was pure
mulishness in you; you could master your algebra as well as anything
else, if you would; you spend your time writing things like this,
instead of honestly studying. I have lost all patience with you--‘You
can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.’”

Then followed another period of strained relations when, after days of
obduracy on my part, he enlisted Coleridge to break the spell. It was
in the literature class. Whether by accident or design, I don’t know,
but he read the sonnet on “Severed Friendship” in which are the words:


     “Each spoke words of high disdain and insult to the other,”


and also,


     “And to be wroth with one we love doth work like madness on the
       brain.”


Reading this in class, as he always read poetry, beautifully,
feelingly, while I sat bursting with this teapot-tempest which I was
dignifying into a tragedy, he melted my stony heart. I barely escaped
dissolving in tears; and when the class was dismissed, the skies were
again clear.

He had never again mentioned to me that wretched parody of the previous
year till one day shortly before graduation: One of the lower-class
girls had been using my algebra that term. We were grouped together
during recess, talking over the approaching Commencement, when “Prof.”
came up and asked where my algebra was. “Lizzie has it,” I said,
curious as to why he asked. Thereupon he sat down at Lizzie’s desk
and copied my wicked parody. I mildly protested, but half smiling,
he continued copying, looking grave as he proceeded. Touched and
flattered, the memory of my silly actions, and of his forbearance, and
the thought that our school days were soon to end, made me repentant
and remorseful. I would have given a good deal to have changed some
of the lines in the old thing that I had thought so clever; and would
have given much more to have told him how sorry I then was for my
stubbornness; how grateful for his help; but I couldn’t. He never knew
until years after (when I obeyed an impulse and wrote him), unless he
then divined my contrition.

One other time in school he was severe with me: I had habitually
helped certain girls with their compositions. It was play for me. They
were poor stuff, but better than the others could do, and I always
made theirs inferior to my own. One week I thought it would be fun to
experiment a bit, so, instead of having the girls that I usually aided
write a part of their own essays, I told each one that I would write
her entire essay, if she would not tell a soul, and, after copying it,
would destroy my copy. Each girl jumped at the chance. How the literary
ardour possessed me that week! To write four or five essays besides
my own, all of which were to be read in one afternoon, I must vary my
style so that no one could detect the authorship. I flattered myself
I was versatile enough to do this. Glowing with pride I read them to
myself before handing them over to the girls.

On the momentous afternoon I assumed a calm, indifferent manner while
the various essays were being read; and when my turn came, at the last,
read in my usual faltering voice, my knees trembling so that I felt I
must run from the platform before I was half through. As usual, mine
was greeted with applause, and I took my seat with cheeks aflame, a
sense of elation all through me. It had been an exciting afternoon, but
as I had sworn each girl to secrecy, I could share it with no one.

At the close “Prof.” arose and said the exercises, though longer than
usual, had been uncommonly interesting; that the choice of subjects had
been varied, well chosen, well presented (I glowed more, with scarcely
concealed pride); but--and here he paused--he would like to add that it
seemed a little selfish, not to say conceited, for one person to be so
pleased with her ability that she insisted on being represented five
or six times in one afternoon! Instantly every eye was turned upon me.
Each girl, knowing her own false position, suspected the others, and
his remarks were so pointed that all the others guessed. He rubbed it
in by saying that it was a well-laid plan, but was rather unflattering
to the instructors to suppose them incapable of detecting it. Were we
not aware that our teachers knew what each student was capable of? Then
he launched forth in withering scorn of those who had been so helped,
not only then, but throughout the year. But of what he said to them I
cared little; for my own disgraceful part I felt the deepest chagrin.
He made me realize how culpable I had been in helping them to sail
under false colours. It was a bitter lesson for all of us, but did not
keep me from lending a hand (or pen) when we graduated. It was known
then, I’m sure, but winked at. One girl boldly said: “You’ve helped
us all along, you can’t leave us in the lurch now.” In fact, I wrote
outright the graduating essay of an upper-class girl who graduated the
year before I did; and of the fourteen essays in our class, I had a
hand in six, two of which (my own and another’s) I wrote outright. My
itch for writing bothered me at an early age, and I _had_ to scratch.
Not that there was any merit in the schoolgirl effusions; it was only a
facility for stringing words together, an aptness for quotation, and a
tendency to moralizing and to figurative writing, that let themselves
loose in them.


It has always irritated me to see persons too credulous, and I enjoyed
punishing them for their credulity. One of our classmates could be made
to believe the most absurd things. Sometimes we had spelling bouts
the last few minutes before the close of school, and the principal
would require us to define the words spelled. Sprinkled in with the
long columns of English words were occasional Latin ones. A demon of
some sort possessed me one day on seeing _Sal Atticum_ in the spelling
lesson. It was my first year of Latin and I chose Bessie Barnes,
the credulous one, who had not studied Latin at all, for my victim.
Whispering to her I said, “Shall I tell you the definition of the
Latin words in to-day’s lesson?” Of course she was glad of help, so,
telling her correctly the meaning of the others, when I came to _Sal
Atticum_, pausing and laughing (perforce at the absurd joke I meant to
perpetrate on her) I turned it off by saying that it was such a funny
thing to have in the spelling lesson; and the little goose believed
me when I told her it meant, “With Sal in the Attic”! We both laughed
at the absurdity of it, then I went on soberly to explain that “Sal”
was just Sal, because proper names do not change; then, reminding
her that in Latin the words do not come in consecutive order, as in
English, I said that “_cum_” means “_with_”; that “attic” is the same
in both languages, and that “attic” being in the ablative case, “in” is
understood, thus making the translation, “With Sal in the attic.” Then,
drilling her on the meaning of all the foreign words in the column,
I got heaps of fun every time she came to _Sal Atticum_ and gave the
ludicrous definition. And as we both laughed at the comical phrase, she
said she hoped it would not fall to her to define it. I have forgotten
the outcome. I can’t be sure, but think we gave “Prof.” the tip and got
him to ask her its meaning; but I remember distinctly her indignation
when she learned how I had hoodwinked her.

I formed a romantic affection, perhaps in my seventeenth year, for a
new girl who moved into our village. She appealed to my imagination,
being so different from the girls I had known. Beautiful, with deep,
proud, dark eyes, she was a good student; had read much more than
I had; and could translate Virgil far better, all of which made me
look up to her. Strange to say, I wasn’t jealous of her. We studied
Greek and Roman history together, and astronomy. There were four of
us girls, and two of the boys, who met at our various homes certain
evenings studying together. The old Greek and Roman names, and the
constellations, are inseparably linked in memory, particularly with
that lovely dark-eyed girl and, yes, those two boys. It was a good
fellowship I had with the boys, no nonsense--at least, hardly any. The
boys had their own sweethearts who met with us, as a rule, though they
were less studious than we were.

I think at that time I was vaguely conscious of being liked by these
boys in a different way than they liked their sweethearts--because I
was a girl and because I was companionable besides. There was always
a certain piquancy about it. And this has always been a pleasing
consciousness in connection with my men friends. I never could be
satisfied with a friendship taking cognizance of but one of the
factors. At the time of which I am speaking, though, I would have been
distinctly annoyed at any open manifestation on the part of the boys
of interest other than _camaraderie_. In fact a little later I was
angered at occasional demonstrations in one who was a faithless swain;
for he would often manage to take his sweetheart home first and thus
walk home alone with me. I felt sorry for her because she had so little
spirit; chided her for letting him tyrannize over her; upbraided him
for being fickle; and tried to be a disinterested friend to both. Yet
as time passed there were a few occasions when, silencing my scruples,
I permitted advances on his part of which I was heartily ashamed. He
would take us both for a drive, and after leaving her at her home,
would attempt to put his arm around me. Although at first repulsing
him angrily, at length I suffered it, knowing all the time that it was
wrong. How tender and persuasive his tones as we drove along, yet he
would be talking about the most commonplace things, and I would sit
there straight and unyielding with burning cheeks. I knew it was wrong
for two reasons--because he was Bessie’s “beau,” and because I didn’t
really like him that way; yes, and also because it was wrong to let any
one put his arm around you. The second reason seemed the stronger, and
I was ashamed of myself for being susceptible to his wooing tones and
ingratiating ways while really despising such faithlessness. Had he
tried to kiss me, I think I should have annihilated him on the spot.
In fact, I think I hardly dreamed of such an advance to _me_ then
being possible. I doubt if any other boy of my acquaintance would have
believed that I would permit any one to do as this one did.

I was really more attracted to Walter, the other youth with whom we
studied. We were the best of friends. One night he came to our door and
asked me to come out on the veranda--an unusual request. “Come out and
see the stars,” was all he said. Wonderingly I went out: it was a cold
night, my teeth chattered. We walked to the west end of the veranda
and stood in silence for a little looking at the stars. I remember how
Orion shone; we spoke but little, but I recall how his voice trembled;
I did not understand it, but it moved me. It was such a little thing,
and perhaps I make more of it than there was, but there seemed
something in his impulsive request and the silent contemplation of the
stars that was electrical--youth and propinquity, I suppose. Nothing
came of it. I think at the time I was undoubtedly more attracted to
him than he to me, but I don’t believe he ever dreamed of it. In fact,
the boys and girls were wont to look upon me as a little aloof from
them. The sweetheart of this same youth said to me one Monday morning:
“Genie, when I see you in church Sunday nights, you seem so far away;
your face looks so serious, and as though I would never dare speak to
you; but when I see you in school and hear you laugh and talk you seem
like one of us.”

Most of the girls had had their beaux who had sent them valentines and
bestowed upon them juvenile gifts, but my experience in this field
had been very meagre. When a child, before I had learned to write, I
remember being pleased with a little boy who drew me home on his sled,
and once I printed him a note. I hardly think I ever intended giving it
to him, but I tucked it under the zinc of our sitting-room stove and
my sister found and read it. The mortification I endured hearing her
repeat it cured me. I so hated after that to hear “Freddie boy’s” name
mentioned that I was glad when he moved out of town. I recall no other
sentimental affairs till I was perhaps fifteen or sixteen, when one of
the academy boys and I had a clandestine correspondence. He liked a
lot of the girls, was very popular, and wrote to several of them; they
used to brag about it and show their notes, but I told no one that he
wrote to me. The notes were usually trivial affairs, questions as to
where the grammar lesson was, and the like, although there were a few I
blush to remember. I was quite infatuated for a time; he was the hero
of my daydreams, but far more interested in another girl than in me; he
doubtless had no inkling of what was passing in the mind of his prim
little school-mate. Some time after this, when we were discussing our
futures, he told me of his intention of being a minister. I remember
his earnest voice and shining eyes as he spoke of our anticipated
careers, and said that we ought to do a great deal of good in the
world. When, later than this, Walter, the youth of whom I have spoken,
announced to me that he was going to study law, I recall the occasion
vividly: It was an August night when a lot of us young people and our
mothers were in the creek, in swimming. Since I have known more of
the world, I have wondered that there was never anything unpleasant
to look back upon in those associations. But we had all been well
brought up and were comparatively innocent, although we did not know
it then. (I saw this the other day: “‘I learned of my own existence,’
said Innocence, ‘only when I ceased to exist.’”) We mingled together,
youths and maidens, on geological excursions, star-gazing, in the woods
botanizing, in the water learning to swim, and never thought of the
possibility of anything but the frank, chaste comradeship there was
among us. I recall what a display of meteors there was that night, and
how the sight thrilled us. We had gone to the willows before sundown
and had lingered in the water till the stars came out. During a pause
between one of the trials when Walter was teaching me to swim, we stood
transfixed by the sudden appearance of a great fiery ball which seemed
to burst just over our heads and fall into a near-by meadow. Walter’s
arms tightened as he held me; awestruck, we stood there an instant,
a thrilling one (perhaps it was not all due to the meteor). Whenever
after that I would think of that night, it always made me blush; why, I
did not know, unless because I had to admit to myself that I liked to
feel those strong, firm arms around me.


A broken arm sustained in my school days is closely linked with another
of my girlish romances: One May day, instead of going directly home
from school to help with house-cleaning, as I had promised, I went to
drive with one of the girls. She was bringing home a seamstress. As we
neared the railway track, an approaching train, and simultaneously a
newspaper fluttering at the horse’s feet, made him shy and jump. Essie
was cool enough, but the seamstress shrieked and grabbed the lines,
making the horse wheel, which swung the buggy round and down a bank,
throwing us out.

The woman who had caused the accident, though unharmed, howled with all
her might, adding to the confusion. Essie picked herself up and chased
her horse. I picked myself up and stood, a little dazed, with gravel
and cinders ground in my cheeks and hands, with a general bruised
sensation, and with my left arm hanging in a limp, queer way.

To a man who asked me if I was hurt, I answered, “No, only my arm is
broken.” The by-standers laughed incredulously, but I insisted. They
told me to move it; I tried, but could not tell whether it moved or
not, till I put my other hand on it to follow it. It felt dead. Putting
the pale seamstress and me in a wagon, they drove us home, she groaning
and shrieking most of the remaining mile and half-fainting, so that I
had to support her with my sound arm.

As I went up the steps, Mother and Sister came toward me, frightened
at my bruised face and disordered appearance, and that limp arm. “I’ve
come to settle the house,” I said, trying to make light of it, but as
they started to cry I begged, “Don’t cry, Mother, or I can’t stand it.”
And quickly she braced up and began preparations for the Doctor, only
the tremor in her voice showing her anxiety.

Father and the Doctor soon came; neighbours flocked in; someone asked,
“Are _both_ bones broken?” Even in my distress I was amused at what,
in my recently acquired knowledge of anatomy, I considered woful
ignorance--“both” bones, when there is only one in the arm proper!

I can see now the frightened faces of the children peering in at the
window as I lay on the couch while the arm was being “set.” I almost
wanted to laugh, they looked so distressed. They said I was very brave.
There were weighty reasons for my good behaviour, vanity being the
chief: Already I had decided to study medicine, and thought that any
weakness on my part now would show my unfitness for it; but mainly, I
wanted to appear well before the young doctor who was then the hero of
my dreams and of those of my friend, Annette. For months previous we
had romanced and whispered about him, recording in our diaries every
glance he chanced to bestow upon us. Though scarcely aware of our
existence, he dwelt in all our air-castles, and we shared him between
us in a way girls have before they learn what jealousy means. And now
something had happened that brought him right into my home! Here he
would speak to me, look at me, and take an interest in me--for we never
deceived ourselves that he had ever really shown any interest in us.
It was all this that made me oblivious to the pain, if, indeed, there
was much pain. I was quietly elated. While driving home I had exulted
in the thought that as our family physician lived so far away, Father
would be sure to call the young doctor.

While he was working over me I could hardly wait to see how Annette
would look when I should tell her all about it. What a silly happy
girl I was with my broken arm! Even having to stay out of school was
compensated for by his daily visits. I treasured his lightest word. He
whisked in, breezy and cheery. It was delightful to hear him speak my
name--his rich, full voice, and his slight stammer--I doted on them.
Days when the splints had to be changed and the bandage loosened were
red-letter days, as his calls were then lengthened.

One day just before he came I had read two statements in the Bible that
had amused me: “A horse is a vain thing for safety,” and, “The arms of
the wicked shall be broken.” He laughed heartily when I told him what
I had found, and leaning over my chair as he looked on the page, asked
with engaging stammer, “Is th-that really in the B-bible, Genie?” That
was told with unction to Annette when she came after school--ostensibly
to keep me informed about the lessons, but chiefly to get reports of
the daily visits. She envied me then, but her time of rejoicing came
later when he treated her for jaundice; only, she complained, jaundice
wasn’t as interesting as a broken arm--one “looked such a fright”; and,
if the truth must be told, by the time her jaundice developed we had
both become somewhat disenchanted.

Our unfeeling idol remained in ignorance of our adoration, and actually
wooed and married an attractive young woman of his own age! We tortured
ourselves with watching the progress of this courtship, and tried hard
to pose as blighted beings during the week of his wedding. At the fatal
hour that gave him to another, we agreed to withdraw from the gaze
of the cold world and battle with our sorrow alone. It fell to me to
pick Grandma’s raspberries at that hour; but the hands could perform
their task though the heart was wrung with grief. The seclusion of the
berry-patch was welcome; there would I wrestle with this cup. I thought
of Annette and hoped she was as secluded as I, and wondered if her
heart was as heavy. Picking the berries, I recited aloud “The Lonely
One” (the most melancholy poem I could think of) and tried to picture
the long years of desolation ahead of me. But my recollection is that,
try as I would, I could not induce the requisite degree of misery. And
not long after, Annette and I confessed to each other, rather guiltily,
that for some time our feelings had not been as heartfelt as we had led
each other to suppose.

Thus ended our romance about “Apollo,” as we named him in our diaries.


It must have been three years before I left school that I conceived
the idea of studying medicine; it was during the period when I was
so religiously inclined. I had been to a Sunday-school excursion on
Seneca Lake that day when the idea came to me. There I had heard much
talk of a girl in our class who, having received a severe fall some
months before, and whom we had considered hopelessly injured, was now
improving surprisingly under the care of a woman physician from a
distant town. Her parents were too poor to procure these services, but
an aunt had recently sent for the physician; and the girl’s recovery
then seemed assured. All this I heard without apparently hearing,
giving it scant heed in the hustle and gayety of our lake picnic. An
old negress on the boat had told our fortunes that day, predicting
beaux and happy or unhappy marriages for all the girls but me. When
someone asked, “Isn’t _she_ going to marry?” she replied:

“Go ’long thar, her father doan’t want her to marry--she hain’t got no
call to get married.”

I was rather pleased at this: if it showed anything, I thought, it
showed that I was to have something different from a merely domestic
career; but I had no idea what my course in life was to be, nor what
I wanted it to be; and I think I was not then particularly concerned
about my sick schoolmate.

It was that night after returning home, as Mother and I sat on the
“stoop” in the darkness, talking in a desultory way, that this news
about Dora’s improvement occurred to me. Our talk was mingled with my
own dreams and cogitations as to what my future was to be. I knew I
must do something, but what that something was I did not know. Music
had been prohibited, teaching was out of the question because of my
incompetency in mathematics--suddenly into my mind there came the
strange, hitherto undreamed-of idea, and I said, first to myself, then
to Mother, “I will be a doctor.”

It all came in a twinkling--how scarce women physicians were, how much
they must be needed, and that if there were more of them in the smaller
towns, poor modest girls like Dora, who had refused treatment from a
man, need not suffer so for lack of means to employ them.

I can hear now the dismay in Mother’s voice as she said, “Oh, Eugenia!”
Fired with the idea, I talked eagerly and rapidly; it seemed clear
that it was to be; there was no question about its fulfilment; but how
it was to be accomplished, so far as finances were concerned, I was
puzzled to know. For Father’s health was precarious then--two bank
failures and hard times made just the ordinary expenditures hard to
meet. I did not see how it could be done, but knew it would. Elated
over the project, the very suddenness with which it had come to me
convinced me of its ultimate accomplishment. I felt annoyed at Mother’s
objections. When she demurred, I insisted on her giving a reason. Her
chief one, that it was going out of my sphere, irritated me. In those
days (I hope I am less so now) I was very intolerant of another’s
point of view, and Mother’s illogical way of meeting questions tried
me exceedingly. Her insight, her intuition, her faith, her estimate of
character, were strong, but her logic was poor. Probably then, knowing
me as she did, she felt it would be a life for which temperamentally
I was not suited; perhaps she divined some of the disappointments and
failures I have since experienced; but she was unable to give a reason
and could only protest in a pitying way. I can hear her tones yet, her
words of regret and dismay, as I announced my intention with a finality
she seemed to realize.

That night I wrote in my diary, doubtless sentimentally, of this
new idea. I think I rather gloried in Mother’s objections, and in
the ridicule of my sister when she heard of it. (She probably felt
much as some other girls and boys did: some boys who remembered my
hyper-sensitiveness and timidity as a child thought I would never have
“sand” enough to study medicine.)

For a little I chose to consider myself a martyr. Years later, in
looking over the diaries of that period, much of what I had written
seemed so at variance with what I then felt, that it seemed like the
experience of another person--so false, so sentimental, such a pose! In
shame and disgust I destroyed the records.

From the time, though, that the idea came to me, it was persistently
held. In school I worked with added zeal, paying especial attention
to studies I thought would be of use to me, and feeling impatient at
those which were distasteful, and which I thought little likely to be
helpful. But how poorly qualified was I then to judge of this! I know
now that just because of my failure to buckle down to what was hard for
me (particularly mathematics and physics), I missed the mental training
I most needed in those years. The education of the attention, the
moving along calmly from proof to proof, the deductions, the synthesis,
the exactness, the close, true ways of thinking, the patience, the
calmness; in short, the mental discipline which mathematics would have
given me, I failed to acquire; and I can now see how handicapped I have
been because of this failure. With senses so acute, and the emotional
nature so intense, the proper balance would have been found in a more
rigid intellectual training. The deficiencies have had to be made up,
when made up at all, at too great a cost; and the efficiency in my
chosen field of work has fallen far short of what it might have been
had I been more tractable then, more heedful of the advice of my elders.

Confiding my hopes to a few intimates, from them I got the sympathy
I craved. Gradually my ambition became known in the school. It was
perhaps two years later before a word was said to me on the subject by
my father. I thought it strange that he who showed such an interest in
my studies should be so indifferent in this which meant so much to me.
But I learned in time that it was not indifference. It seems he told
Mother not to be anxious over it and not attempt to dissuade me.

“If it is a mere whim,” he had said, “it will soon pass, and no harm
will be done; but if she is in earnest, she will do it, and opposition
will only make her more intent on it.”

When he saw it was not a whim, he acted promptly enough; and when the
time came for me to go to college, he smoothed the way as only the most
unselfish of fathers could. And so did Mother and Sister; their ready
help was given, their own economies and self-sacrifices were cheerfully
contributed that I might accomplish my purpose.

A certain noon as I started for school as usual Father said:

“Eugenia, hurry up to the office when school is out; I want to take you
to see Dr. Barnard.”

To my questioning look he explained:

“If you are bound to be a doctor, you may as well begin to find out
something about it. I have talked with the Doctor; he says he will take
you as a student; you can read in his office Saturdays and get a start
in that way.”

I wonder if my father knew how happy he made me that day. As I went
back to school I trod on air. A radiance suffused my whole being.
There was very little studying that afternoon--whispered explanations
to a favoured few, wonderful tolerance on the principal’s part at my
inattention to studies and open disregard of rules. We whispered and
wrote notes and were in a delicious flutter of excitement. As Father,
the Doctor, and the Professor were great cronies, I presume my teacher
knew of the plan long before I did.

Dr. Barnard was a man of perhaps thirty-five, though to me he then
seemed much older. He was comparatively a newcomer in the town but,
being a Mason, found favour in Father’s sight. A good man with whom
to be associated, a student of human nature, kind, easy-going, with a
keen sense of humour, he was wide-awake as a physician and, what is
especially to the point, he did not take me too seriously, but wisely
concealed from me that he did not. I think he cured me of some whims
and susceptibilities; and I can see that he helped to develop my sense
of humour and to counteract some of my strenuous, sentimental views
of life. But it was done tactfully. He never shocked, though often
surprised me.

That memorable first day he talked to me about the study of medicine,
about college life, its requirements, the difficulties to be
encountered, and the courage necessary. All that I could hope to do
while in school, he said, was to occupy the time I might otherwise
spend in desultory reading, in studying advanced physiology and
anatomy, thus making my first year in college easier. I could prepare
my lessons and he would quiz me on Saturdays.

So, in addition to my school work, I studied Gray’s Anatomy. He let
me take home a box of bones, and I felt proud indeed to be learning
about each little groove and facet and tuberosity. On Saturdays I
recited and sometimes went with him into the country, often reading to
him from books on _materia medica_ or on pathology as we drove lazily
along. Occasionally he took me into the houses to see an interesting
case, but as a rule I held the lines during his visits (and was always
nervous till he was back in the buggy). Once I went with him when
he reduced a fractured arm. I got angry at the rough, coarse-voiced
woman who stood by ridiculing her husband for his groans and sighs;
she called him a calf, and said he ought to have a few babies, then he
_might_ make a fuss. The Doctor was much amused at my embarrassment.

My preceptor moved away before I was graduated from the Academy,
and I then carried on what studying I did by myself, and later with
another girl, who, though ridiculing me at first, finally decided to
go to Boston with me to study medicine. No urging of mine influenced
her; on the contrary, I was rather disappointed at her decision.
Secretly pleased, as I was, to be different from the others, Belle’s
determination to study medicine robbed me of this distinction. Then
we had never been especially congenial. Totally unlike in tastes and
temperament, we had always been on opposite sides of the fence--she
a Democrat, I a Republican; she a Baptist, I a Methodist--we had
quarrelled over politics and argued over religion, and there was
no love lost between us. But, as she told me later, she had had me
“dinged” into her ears by her mother and sister so long that she had
come to think she must do as I did. This is why she decided to study
medicine.


At our last rhetorical exercises before graduation, we had the usual
history and prophecy, and felt the sentiments and emotions usually felt
on leaving school. We resurrected an old song we had sung in the lower
grades--“Twenty Years Ago”--its sentiment appealing to us now that we
were already beginning to feel a yearning for the old place:


     I’ve wandered to the village, Tom,
       I’ve sat beneath the tree
     Upon the school-house play-ground
       Which sheltered you and me;
     But none were left to greet me, Tom,
       And few were left to know
     Who played with us upon the green
       Just twenty years ago.


Although the boys had jeered at its sentiment, and objected to its
solemnity, they joined in it at the close of the exercises as feelingly
as we could desire. There seemed a world of pathos in it as our young
voices sang it that June afternoon just before we were dismissed for
the last time from the old walls. As the sounds died away, “Prof.”
stepped to the bell-rope, traces of emotion on his face, and rang the
bell--the signal for the close of school. We packed our books, closed
our desks, and dispersed, never more to return to the place that had
grown so dear.

Commencement exercises! There in the old church packed to overflowing,
parents and friends gather to hear the boy or girl on whom their hopes
are set deliver the oration or read the essay that is a marvel of
eloquence and wisdom.

Brimming with youth and hope, each girl graduate flutters before
the audience and from out the glamour of this never-to-be-forgotten
time announces confidently her hopes, her solemn beliefs, her freely
bestowed advice. It is all beautiful. The youths and maidens seem
lifted just a bit above the earth; but underneath the rosy glow solemn
thoughts force their way; sobs and tears are near the smiles; the
earnest students, touched by the remembrance of the love and sacrifice
of their parents, are moved to high resolve--they will yet justify this
faith in them!

Meadow daisies are massed in profusion around altar and platform; a
paper canoe covered with daisies is suspended above--its paddle bearing
the word “Knowledge.” The class motto (translated)--“The love of
knowledge impels us”--is outlined on the wall.

Roses, roses, everywhere. How the breath of June roses always brings up
that scene when I stood on the platform of the Methodist church that
night in June and looked down upon a sea of faces! Behind me, on the
platform, sat the dear teachers, doubly dear now that we were to go
from under their tuition; below me, close at hand, were the classmates,
so soon to “trust their parting feet to separate ways.” What a flood of
thoughts rushed through me as, standing there, in a voice that I did
not know, so loud and clear it rang (as though apart from myself), I
delivered the class valedictory!

Looking down to our pew I saw Father and Mother beaming with pride
and joy; saw my sister and all the friends and neighbours of our
little village. How the expressions and the various faces stand out
even to-day! But am I dreaming? Is it really true? Yes, there sits my
own grandfather, dressed in unaccustomed black clothes, with a rapt
expression on his dear old face, the unheeded tears streaming down his
cheeks. The surprise and delight at seeing him there is one of the
keenest of my girlhood’s happy recollections.

“Now, Eugenia!” my beloved teacher had encouragingly whispered when I
had passed him on the way to the centre of the platform; and afterward,
“I didn’t know you could do it,” he said exultantly, grasping my hand.
Then I knew I had done well. In school, as a rule, I had trembled and
mumbled when reading my essays; and although we had been drilled for
this momentous occasion, I had sadly faltered at rehearsals, and I knew
that “Prof.” had, as I had, grave misgivings as to my ability to get
through with it at all creditably.

“You were inspired,” said an admiring classmate extravagantly; “we
could hardly believe our eyes and ears!”

My essay, called “Sailing,” portrayed allegorically the voyage of
school life. By cables our little boats were fastened to a large ship
on which was the Captain who guided our course near home and foreign
shores, where we learned of the earth and the air, the rocks and the
reefs, and the mysteries of the deep; we studied the stars overhead,
the banks along the shores, the _fauna_ and _flora_, as well as the
peoples of the various climes--their language and literature. And this
is how my wonderful essay ended, as dropping the allegory, I addressed
the class:


     Classmates, we have now come to that part of our voyage where we
     must separate. We have long been fellow-voyagers, sailing side by
     side, upon the Sea of Knowledge; we have had one ship, one voyage,
     and one Captain, but henceforth our course must change; and as
     we end the voyage of school life, and begin the greater one on
     Life’s vast sea, may He who walked upon the waters be your Pilot,
     guarding against shipwreck, and guiding your course until your
     boats shall near the shining shore, and anchor in the peaceful
     haven of Eternal Rest.


For two or more years I had had grave doubts about the truth of certain
orthodox teachings previously accepted unquestioningly. Our studies in
geology and astronomy had set me thinking for myself. I was groping
about for a reconciliation of opposing teachings. Our principal,
too, had often raised questions in class that he made no pretense of
answering, doubtless merely to awaken thought. Some essays of Huxley’s
and Spencer’s had contributed to my unsettled state of mind. In a
veritable chaos, impatient with certain teachings I now knew could not
be true, but too unschooled and dependent to reach a satisfactory
solution, I was a most unhappy being. With an ingrained tenderness for
the old paths, yet was I morally sure that there were broader ones,
with wider, truer vistas. Pulled this way and that, remorse because
of my doubts and uncertainties alternated with defiance; for I felt
that, since my reason was meant for use, there was a higher Right that
sanctioned my attempts to get at the truth.

I revert to all this now because it comes to me how I struggled with
myself, when writing those last words of my essay, as to whether
I would say what I did, knowing in my heart that, in the ordinary
acceptation of the words, it was almost hypocrisy for me so to use
them--“May He who walked upon the waters be your Pilot”--and yet
feeling that they were needed to carry out my figure, and to make a
suitable ending to conform to orthodox beliefs. Besides, what had
I to offer instead? I did not believe that He actually walked upon
the waters, but I did believe that He would make a good Pilot, so,
weighing both sides, stood by what I had written. A lot of talk about
one clause in a schoolgirl’s graduating essay, but it indicates the
spiritual struggle which to recall even now makes me sorry for that
girl I used to know. I think I must have been more conscientious about
these things than most of the girls, for I never heard them hint at
such problems, and never discussed these things with them, though I
did with my friend, Walter. Had I attempted to explain my difficulties
to my elders, I should only have blundered and bungled. Yet, in spite
of these scruples, I sacrificed my dawning convictions that I might
attain what I considered an apt and artistic ending to my allegory!
I remember, though, that after deciding to make this concession to
established opinions, I nudged myself with a congratulatory nudge at
the innocent-looking but non-committal “peaceful haven of Eternal
Rest.” I had not read “The Light of Asia” then, and knew nothing of
what Nirvana meant--the ending merely pleased me by its cadence, and
its figurative fitness; it did no violence to my budding doubts, yet
would, I was sure, be accepted as a pious and fitting ending to my
clever allegory!

Self-centred and self-conscious though I was, I was aware that no one
would give the attention to my little composition that I gave--the
general effect only would be noted; but I wanted to justify myself to
myself; I wanted also to be approved by the public--two opposing trends
of character that have robbed me of peace of mind at many a crucial
moment. In this early crisis, after weighing it all, I decided upon the
expedient course, taking care, however, to be as sincere as I could be
in conforming to the exigencies of the case. Looking back over my life,
I wonder if this has not been the course I have most generally pursued.
It seems to have been typical of much of my conduct.

The above-named was not my original graduating essay but was one I
had written for our Class Day exercises under the emotional stir-up
felt at leaving school. My real essay, written for Commencement, I
considered a much finer production (I blush to think of it now); but
my instructors had persuaded me to read my allegory at Commencement. I
felt aggrieved that the other should be buried in oblivion. It was an
absurd affair--“What is Woman?”--which started out attempting to answer
in a facetious way some of the arguments in Walter’s essay--“Man’s
Place in Nature”--after which I launched forth in a revolt against the
prevailing ideas about woman’s inferior place in nature and in society.
It was a kind of miniature woman’s rights plea, weak and unoriginal,
and with my special thunder directed toward those who would prevent
woman from seeking to “heal the sick world that leans on her.” This
was “Lucile’s” influence, combined with reading “Eminent Women of the
Age,” plus a little Huxley and Spencer. The hodge-podge wound up with
a poetical passage probably inspired by parts of “Paradise Lost,” and
by a poem of Emma C. Embury’s--“The Mother.” Concerning the ending, I
was not aware of its being anything but smooth in expression till, on
reading it aloud to one of the girls, she exclaimed, “Why, Eugenie,
that isn’t prose--that is poetry!” a verdict which naturally made me
feel more keenly than ever the disappointment at not being able to read
my masterpiece at Commencement.

After graduation I pieced out a summer term in a district school, the
regular teacher falling ill. As it was in one of the same schools where
my mother had taught as a girl, I tried to imagine what her life and
thoughts and hopes had been in those days when she did not know Father,
and when I was--nothing.

Besides giving me the opportunity to earn money, teaching was a
profitable experience: I found it strange to be the mistress of
anything. At first when standing up before the little people, it seemed
queer to have them obey; it took me some time to get over the surprise
of it; had they rebelled I should not have thought it strange. But one
quickly learns to rule when he knows it is expected. I was learning for
the first time what prestige goes with the mere office. It was soon a
delight to direct and sway this little world. I then appreciated what a
trial my teachers had had with me. Encountering occasional opposition
in my pupils, and feeling the consequent disappointment, I had my
first realization of the trouble I had given my own teachers, and felt
a wave of tenderness, especially for “Prof.,” as I marvelled at his
forbearance.

Some of my little charges were amusing and interesting; one or two
repelled me; to others I was strongly drawn. One little boy of five or
six was quaint and original: when I asked him who God was he sighed and
said, “That’s more than _I_ know.” He defined the stomach as “a kind
of bread-basket, ain’t it?” A bare-footed, brown-eyed boy of perhaps
twelve found a warm place in my heart. It was hard work not to pet
him. I grew almost sentimental over him, and made occasions for him
to raise his eyes, just to look into their brown depths. I remember
thinking, “Those eyes will make some girl’s heart ache some day.” They
almost made mine ache then. He seemed indifferent to my poorly veiled
preference for him, and evidently had no ambition to become “‘teacher’s
pet.’” One boy much older than the others grew insubordinate and I told
him he must apologize for his impudence or leave the school. As he was
to attend the Academy in a few weeks, he felt independent and refused.
Having to stand my ground for the sake of discipline, I let him pack
up his books and leave, but it was hard work to keep from calling him
back. I knew he was sorry, but couldn’t say so.

The winter school which I taught was in another district--Johnny Cake
Hollow--in a little red schoolhouse in the same neighbourhood where the
youth lived to whom I had written notes in school. Although I had then
recovered from my early fancy, I was still sentimental enough to wish I
knew which of the battered old desks had been his.

Boarding about half a mile from the schoolhouse in a family with a lot
of children, some of the elder ones of whom had attended the Academy
with me, I carried my dinner in a two-quart pail, and trudged through
the snow in all kinds of weather, all of which helped to make me more
hardy than I had been before. The bigger boys went ahead to break the
paths and open the stove, and “the teacher” followed surrounded by a
little group of red-hooded girls and sturdy urchins, their caps with
ear-laps pulled down low over their faces, their dinner pails gleaming
in the sunshine.

I would have been happy that winter with its rugged pleasures and the
consciousness that I was earning money but for my perpetual anxiety
over the arithmetic lessons. It was easy enough with the B-class, but
with the A-class I was in continual hot water. Studying harder out of
school than any of my pupils did in school, I was always apprehensive
lest something come up that I could not explain. I knew that some
of the older boys and girls understood their lessons better than I
did--or would, if we advanced much farther in the book. Always promptly
dismissing the arithmetic class, I let the others run overtime. I am
afraid I kept the pupils back lest they get to that _terra incognita_
(the back part of the book) where I was so lamentably weak. In other
respects I think I was a good teacher; in that I know there could
scarcely have been a poorer.

The demonstrative _pater familias_ where I boarded gave me some trying
times: he was always putting his arms around me in a jolly, teasing
way that was hard to resist; it offended my dignity, yet I could not
manifest my full displeasure for fear of hurting the feelings of his
daughters, my friends; I thought it would be painful to them to see
their father rebuffed, so, evading him when I could, when I couldn’t,
I bore it with poor grace. Besides, I was displeased to have these
demonstrations before the children, my pupils--the demure young teacher
was very jealous of her dignity.

One of the sons, about my own age, was a fine-grained youth; we and his
sisters had good times together, but something happened one evening
which made me furious: I was lying down, half asleep, dimly conscious
of the light and voices in the adjoining room, when I was startled by
a light kiss on my cheek. Thinking it was one of the girls, or one of
the little boys who was very affectionate, I lazily opened my eyes and
saw the guilty young man standing there, shaking with laughter. His
merriment was short-lived. Whatever I said made him feel sheepish and
contrite, for I felt that he had done me an irreparable wrong. There
was no pose in this: it seemed a real violation. No one, since when in
childhood I had stopped playing kissing-games--no boy or man, except
my relatives--had kissed me, and now this was done and couldn’t be
undone! I was a long time outgrowing my futile regret. Thereafter the
reprimanded youth was properly respectful to the Offended Being who
grudgingly pardoned him.

At the time of Commencement I had formed a friendship with a girl from
Ithaca who, with her brother, visited in our village, and later engaged
in an active correspondence with both of them. They were several years
my senior; they had the charm of the unknown; they had read much and
wrote interesting letters; they were both religious, and in his letters
the young man laboured to bring me back into the old paths, or, rather,
into the Episcopalian fold. He was the nearest to a “beau” I ever had,
and a year later came to town, shortly before I started for college,
just to visit me. Full of my approaching departure and the new life
before me, his coming impressed me less than it might otherwise have
done. I have since wondered if he did not intend something more than
merely looking very soulful things had he met with any response from
me. I recall the thrill in his voice which stirred me a little when we
took a certain afternoon walk. But I found him much less interesting
than I had found his letters; and whenever I looked at the lower part
of his face, thought what a pity it was that such fine eyes should be
offset by such a mouth and chin. I knew I could never love a man with
a mouth and chin like his. He was then studying for the ministry, and,
I think, was tuberculous. His lack of physical strength and vigour
probably repelled me without my realizing what did it. At any rate, he
said no word to indicate anything but warm friendship. After his visit
he sent me Keats’s poems. Our correspondence continued throughout a
part of the college course. I have forgotten how it was dropped. During
one of my vacations I remember hearing him conduct religious services
in the little chapel in our village, but could not endure his intoning
and his priestly ways; his voice was weak, and the clerical garb only
accentuated his masculine deficiencies. I thanked my stars that I had
not been infatuated at the earlier period when he probably was a shy
adorer. Had he been healthy and good-looking, I might have succumbed,
for he pleased my mind at the time.


My sister had left school without graduating, which had greatly
disappointed me. But, more practical than I, and less studious, and
confronted by our growing needs and straitened means, seeing a way
in which she could help, she had taken matters in her own hands, and
a year or more before I left school had begun to learn dress-making.
I used to marvel to see her take the big shears and cut into new
material--such skill and daring, and she such a slip of a girl! What
pretty gowns she made for herself and me, talking me out of my “old
maidish notions,” and making me wear things that were “stylish” in
spite of myself, for I often objected strenuously to prevailing modes.
I can see now that it was individuality in dress that I was striving
for; but, though failing to achieve it to any extent, I habitually
dissented from conformity. How lovingly she worked on my graduation
gown, and how pretty she looked in the old-rose silk which she earned
and made for herself and first wore on that occasion!--the same
old-rose that played so prominent a part in our wardrobe for several
subsequent years. For she let me take it during my college course (when
she needed it herself); then when she married she remodelled it for
her trousseau. Again, when I was practising, and money was scarce, she
made it over for me--the gown going back and forth between us like a
shuttlecock; and every change in its form, and every scrap of the silk
I see to-day, tells its tale of love and devotion and self-sacrifice,
inseparably linked with our girlish hopes and trials and experiences.

I remember with delight the gowns I had to start with to college (no
bride ever enjoyed her trousseau more), and I recall with tenderness
the hours Sister spent on them, planning how she could accomplish
what she wished with as little outlay as possible. The new world I
was entering, the novel experiences, all come back to me now when I
see bits of the old garments--my brown travelling suit that I wore to
lectures; my plaid one that was made over, even prettier than when
first made; my “best dress”; my red “wrapper”; my gymnasium suit--how
much they meant to me, and how impossible they would have been but for
Sister’s love and efficiency!


     You may rip and remodel old gowns as you will,
     But the scent of old memories clings round them still.



CHAPTER VIII

THE “MEDIC”


Belle and I decided to go to a coeducational school to study medicine,
and settled upon Boston University. I was a happy girl that summer,
getting ready and picturing the future. Associating Boston with
Emerson, Holmes, Longfellow, and Whittier, I loved it before going
there. Belle, who had studied guide-books and maps, was glib in her
knowledge of the city; she knew just where the railway station was,
and the college, and how to get from one to the other. Her confidence
impressed me, for maps and topography were ever a vexation to my
spirit; her assurance impressed our parents also, and it was decided to
let us make the journey alone.

Our family physician, who had written to the Dean, had received an
assuring letter: we were to go directly to the College and matriculate,
and there obtain addresses for boarding-places. In later years I have
realized what misgivings our parents must have had in letting us start
out alone, mere schoolgirls who had never been more than thirty miles
from home, green village girls, unused to city ways--ignorant of the
world, of life, of themselves.

The last picture I have of my grandfather, is the one as he rode into
our door-yard the October afternoon of the evening I was to start for
Boston. Sitting his horse firmly and proudly (he was then eighty-five)
he brought me a fine full ear of yellow corn for a “keepsake.” I have
often wondered what made him bring that particular thing. Was it that
he knew the sight of it when far from home would be so dear, serving
to bring back Grandma’s kitchen and the overhanging ears suspended
by their turned-back husks? Or was it that he recollected what a
fascination the full golden ears had had for me when I had played
around the corn-house years before in the October weather? I never
knew. I think I did not then question why. But that long yellow ear of
corn which he brought to me on the eve of my first leaving home was
a precious gift, inexplicably precious as I try to explain it now.
I clung to him with unwonted tenderness as I bade him good-bye, and
through my tears watched him slowly ride away.

The night we left home, just before I started for the train, my
class-mate, Walter, came to the door and asked for me. I wondered why
he had not gone ahead to the station with the other young people.
Drawing me out on the “stoop”, in the darkness he quickly kissed
me, wrung my hand, and with a choked “good-bye” ran down the steps.
Astounded as I was, and with my strict ideas about such things, still
I did not resent that kiss. And as Father and I drove to the station
in the darkness, leaving Mother alone at home, to weep, I was sure
(though she had kept up till the good-byes were over) Walter’s kiss was
a welcome diversion, a partial relief to the pang of leaving home and
parting with Mother.

At the station the young people were gathered, chatting gaily, but
Sister was unusually quiet. They loaded us down with fruit and flowers
and absurd advice--a merry noisy party as the train came thundering
in; merry and noisy except for the few who were pale and silent with
something wretchedly painful tugging at our hearts and rising in our
throats.

Hurried kisses and hearty handclasps to the girls and boys, and
then--my sister! We had not thought it would be so hard. It was like
tearing one’s body apart. Never till that moment had we realized what
we were to each other. We had never been separated more than a week in
our lives, and here was this train ready to bear me away from home,
away from my precious sister, into a life in which she was to have no
part! The agony as they separated us (for we clung in desperation as
the men shouted “All aboard!”) was the most cruel thing that had then
come into my life.

When at Syracuse, after putting us on the sleeper, Father left us,
another pang was added; the last link was snapped. I can see him now
trying to look cheerful as he waved to us from the platform; and I
trying to keep the tears back till the train should bear us from his
sight. Never a word of all the anxiety and misgiving he and Mother
must have felt! The train moved off bearing the two girls with aching
throats and tear-stained faces--two girls who had never left the home
shelter, bearing them rapidly away in the darkness to the unknown city
to begin the study of medicine.

Soon reacting from the sadness of parting, after the lumps had left our
throats, we became excited, even gay. Everyone had advised us what to
do on a sleeper; had warned us about thieves; told us of queer amusing
things which happened to inexperienced travellers, and we were fairly
spoiling for an adventure of some sort. But as our fellow-passengers
seemed strangely indifferent to us, we began to feel it was going to
be quite uneventful. Still, though detecting no one who looked like a
thief or a cut-throat, we hid our purses and watches with care, and I
kept my hat-pin within easy reach, in case any one should molest us. We
found some difficulty in fastening the curtains of our bed; there were
great gaps between the fastenings; men passing down the narrow aisles
would drag the curtains aside. It was a novel and not at all reassuring
experience--we girls cooped up on that narrow bed, undressing in
the dark stuffy place, right in the sound of men’s voices, with men
continually passing. It seemed then, and to this day it seems, a kind
of indelicate thing to disrobe in the proximity of a carful of strange
men, with only insecure draperies to insure privacy.

In our apprehension and unsophistication, we thought this continued
brushing aside of our curtains must be done intentionally. Not then
realizing how narrow the aisles were, or that it was not the same
person going by repeatedly, we grew angry: “If I hear him coming again
I shall grab the curtains together and hold them, so he can’t brush
them aside,” I said resolutely to Belle. The steps soon came again, the
curtains began moving. I made a desperate grab to hold them together,
but, oh horrors! what happened!

“What’s wanted?” I heard in calm, clear, gentlemanly tones, and then
learned that I had also grabbed the coat of a passer-by!

Chagrined, I stammered, “I--I--thought----,” and suddenly realizing my
mistake, felt the impossibility of explaining my awkward blunder--the
man had doubtless inadvertently brushed past, as had the others, in the
narrow aisle. His innocent coat-tail released, he passed on. Wondering
in shame what he must have thought of us, we suddenly awakened to the
realization that no one was inclined to molest us; that our school
fellows had been telling us “yarns”; and we had better lie down and try
to sleep. So, using the hat-pin to fasten the refractory draperies, we
lay down to sleep, though fitfully, the long night through.

As we breakfasted from our lunch-boxes in the morning, we felt years
older; how long it seemed since we had left the little village amid
the drumlins! We were in a new world. It was raining when we reached
Boston, which did not add to our light-heartedness.

How queer to see so many strange faces; everyone so busy, so intent
upon his own concerns, oblivious to the forlorn girls transplanted to
the strange city--everyone but the horrid, importunate cab-drivers
who leaned out from their stalls, and beckoned and called to us,
bewildering us so that we were a long time in settling upon one who
looked less villainous than the rest. We drove directly to the College
to matriculate. The unwonted scenes, the poor sleep, the irregular
meals, and the rain, all contributed to our gloom; but the Dean’s
letters--we had a friend at court!


How forlorn we must have looked, and pitiably young and inexperienced
for such an undertaking! The janitor eyed us curiously, and to our
request to see the Dean said he was not there then, but that Dr.
Caroline Matson was the one to call for--“She sees the new students.”

She came into the room. Shall I ever forget the chill and depression
she brought with her? A short, stout, middle-aged woman with light
brown hair, a turned-up nose, a pink and white complexion, spectacles,
and penetrating steel-blue eyes. She looked us up and down and through
and through. I never felt so utterly small and insignificant. I think
she said “Humph!” when, in desperation at her scrutiny, I faltered,
“We’ve come to study medicine.” I tried to add that we wanted to see
the Dean; that he had written us; was expecting us; but she interrupted
me. The Dean was not to be seen then; we were to register, fill out
certain blanks, answer the questions, and then write an essay of a
given number of words setting forth our reasons for studying medicine,
_if we had any_; or write on any topic we chose. Then she left us.

Glancing furtively at each other, we each read the dismay that
neither dared express. I think we felt her ears were as sharp as her
eyes and that she would hear the lightest whisper. We almost feared
she could hear our thoughts. For an hour or more we wrote on the
questions and the essay. Then she came and told us we were to meet
others of the Faculty to be examined orally in Latin translation,
physics, and chemistry. What a blow! Coming from New York state where
the all-powerful Regents reigned, we had supposed that our Regents’
certificates and our academic diplomas would exempt us from all
examinations.

“We don’t have to be examined,” we ejaculated in unison.

“You don’t? Are you college graduates?” (Sarcastically)

“No, but we have our Regents’ Certificates and pass-cards.”

“Regents’ certificates?--what are they?”

Had the bottom fallen out of everything? The Regents, THE REGENTS--that
tyrant for which we had toiled so long, whose coveted seal we had on
our precious diplomas! _And she doesn’t even know what the Regents is!_

We learned several lessons that bitter hour. Our explanations, though
lame, must have been intelligible, for, moderating a little, she
explained that they had no such system in Massachusetts, and that it
would be necessary to qualify in certain studies since we were not
graduates of a college; but that as we were so recently out of school
(and this seemed reprehensible on our part), we would probably have
no difficulty. Then she examined our papers. Those cold eyes passed
rapidly up and down; once in a while she would look up, sometimes ask
a question, then read on. She could not have been conscious of the
torture she inflicted, or she would surely have been easier on those
sleepy, hungry, homesick girls, so completely at her mercy. Now as I
dimly recall what my essay was, I wonder that her sarcasm and harshness
were so moderate. I remember I quoted from “Lucile” about the mission
of woman being “to help and to heal the sick world that leans on her.”
She grunted when she put my paper down, and I breathed freer. Then,
taking up Belle’s, she gave an angry snort--something had acted like a
red rag to a bull:

“Minnie Isabel Washburn! Is that your name?”

“Ye-es, ma’am,” Belle timidly confessed.

“Were you christened that?” (Glaring at her)

“I wasn’t christened, I was baptized,” Belle corrected boldly, the
Baptist in her rampant--her religion was something for which she could
show courage even in this encounter.

“Well, it won’t be tolerated here. When _will_ mothers learn to give
their children sensible names? Doctor _Minnie_ Washburn! How will that
sound?” and she almost annihilated us in scorn. Belle was speechless,
Belle the assured one, to whom I had looked for leadership and help in
all these new experiences; Belle of the boasted self-confidence, of
the undaunted courage! It was a strange sight to see her cowed, but
that woman’s face and voice were enough to intimidate any one. Without
thinking, surprised and scared at my own voice, but goaded to it by the
pain she was inflicting, I ventured:

“I don’t suppose Belle’s mother knew she was going to be a doctor when
she gave her that name.”

My! how she turned and glared at me! Our eyes were about on a level.
I don’t know whether I flinched or not; I have a recollection of a
superhuman effort to glare back, but dare say I weakened. I remember
her look seemed to say:

“You little upstart! who asked you to speak?” Then she announced:

“Well, it can’t go down ‘Minnie’--that’s settled. You will have to drop
that and just keep the ‘Isabel.’”

“But I can’t drop it (Belle was almost crying)--it was my grandmother’s
name; I’ll have to write home and ask my father first.”

“No time for that--the way you register to-day, that way your diploma
has to read. We will have to see the Dean about this; but you may as
well understand we will have no ‘_i-e_’ names here; we graduate women,
not babies. I’ll see the Dean.”

Out she went. Belle and I looked at each other hopelessly. “If _that_
is what women doctors are like, I don’t want to be one,” each of us
thought, and knew the other’s thought.

Disheartened, disillusioned, tired, sleepy, hungry, far from home,
our Regents’ certificates counting for nothing, this great unfriendly
building, the dull sky, and we not knowing where we were going to stay
that night--all this and more we felt as we looked at each other and
tried to keep back the tears.

And then SHE came back and told us to go across the hall to the Dean.

We saw the sign “Faculty Room,” and went in. Rising to greet us, coming
with both hands extended, his ruddy face and smiling eyes beaming a
welcome, a short, stout, gray-haired man waddled toward us, enveloping
us in his benevolent presence. It was a wonder we did not throw
ourselves into his arms. Taking us by the hand he beamed and we basked
in the sunshine of his fatherly welcome. Many a time in the years that
have passed I have wished I could tell him what he was to us girls that
day. I think I did essay it once, three years later, when I came to
see much of him. I have always loved him for that welcome. He is gone
now. A remarkable man, overflowing with energy and tact, a champion
of Homœopathy in its early days in Boston--the University, in fact,
Homœopathy in general owes more to him, probably, than to any other
man in New England. We came in time to hear him criticized by certain
students; sometimes heard it said that he carried his politic measures
to the point of insincerity; but I never had the slightest reason for
changing the feelings toward him which were born that day. Though
subsequently seeing some of his limitations, I admired his exceptional
gifts--his indomitable energy, and his wonderful executive ability,
while his warmheartedness won my lasting regard. I did change my
opinion of Dr. Caroline Matson, but of that later.

How tactfully the Dean went to work to soothe Belle, and yet bring
about the proper registering of a name that would be dignified and in
good taste as a physician!

“‘Minnie’--let us see--that is your first name? I suppose you are fond
of it, but it doesn’t sound just right for a physician, does it?”

Under his kindly glance Belle explained that she had never used that
name, that she had always been called “Isabel” or “Belle,” but that as
the paper asked for her full name, she had given it.

“Quite right, quite right; well now, if that is not the name you are
accustomed to, why not drop it? Anyhow, your name is a long one,
‘Isabel Washburn,’ what a fine-sounding name! ‘Dr. Isabel Washburn’--I
like that.”

“So do I,” said Belle, getting confidential, “but I can’t drop
‘Minnie,’ because it is my grandmother’s name; my father, I’m sure,
would object.”

This gave him pause, but he was equal to the occasion:

“Of course, of course you can’t drop your grandmother’s name-ah,
but-ah--why, it is all as clear as can be now--‘Minnie’ is only the
nickname for ‘Mary’--your grandmother’s name was Mary, even if they
called her familiarly ‘Minnie’; and all you need to do is to use your
grandmother’s real name instead of her nickname.” And he beamed on her
benevolently.

Belle hesitated, but his charm of manner won the day. The alteration
was made, the obnoxious “Minnie” gave place to “Mary,” and we were
smilingly turned over to other members of the Faculty, who questioned
us on chemistry and botany, in which, I believe, we did fairly well.
We read the easy Latin at sight, conjugated a few verbs (I remember
how they tried to conceal their smiles at our faulty pronunciation--we
knew it was faulty, for we had shifted from the Roman to the English
method, and our hybrid pronunciation was enough to excite mirth). When
it came to physics, always a difficult study for me, we floundered and
failed ignominiously. I’m sure I did the worse, for Belle could reason
out such things pretty well, while I never could. We were “conditioned”
in physics, and in a month’s time were to be examined again. Although
they were very kind, we felt disgraced. Realizing that we had failed in
one study, and probably had been leniently passed in others, we felt
ourselves the ignorant, homeless creatures that we were. They told us
to come the next day at ten for the opening lecture.

Copying several addresses from the bulletin board, we trudged out of
the big building, with our satchels and lunch-boxes in our hands.
A fine rain was falling; it seemed later in the day than it was.
We were adrift in that great city. Deciding to look up none of the
addresses till the morrow, we started for the Young Women’s Christian
Association, of which we had heard before leaving home. Belle thought
that when we got out to Washington Street she could get her bearings
and easily find Warrenton Street, where the Association building was.
But on reaching there, she could not be sure whether to go up or down;
so we plodded on, not knowing whether we were going toward or away
from our hoped-for destination. Everyone we accosted was kind, but no
one knew where Warrenton Street was. Car after car would go by, but we
did not know what one to take. The only policemen we could discover
were on the cars. We laughed miserably as we thought of our parents’
injunctions to “ask a policeman.” The Boston policemen didn’t like
walking in the rain.

On and on we trudged, our arms aching from the satchels, and, much
of the way, harrowed by uncertainty. Finally someone told us we were
nearing the street in which the Y. W. C. A. was located. How good it
was to spy that sign, and how like a shelter the huge building was as
it loomed before us! The street was narrow and dismal (it was even on a
sunshiny day) and on that dark day looked especially unpromising, but
our goal was reached; our strength and courage were well-nigh spent.
Shelter, refuge--what meaning in those words, and how soon we had
learned the need of them in this big, strange, rainy Boston!

The girl who answered the door-bell, a slow-moving, stolid creature,
replying to our request to see the Superintendent, said that she was
at dinner; that we would have to wait. It was then after two in the
afternoon. Of course we would wait; we asked for nothing better. We
volunteered that we had come to engage room and board.

“I’m sorry, but the house is full,” she said.

Belle dropped into a chair. She had gone through so much! Her vaunted
courage was proving a broken reed. I stood there, desperate, not
knowing which way to turn. On the way thither it had gradually dawned
upon me that Belle’s courage was rapidly oozing. I had had to exchange
satchels with her and carry her heavier one (though she was taller and
larger than I), as she had declared she could carry it no farther. It
was a novel position for me--to be the leader; but we tacitly changed
places during that long rainy walk.

I looked at Belle, a forlorn heap in the chair. I saw that stolid girl,
waiting for us to go, since she had told us there was no room--to go
out in the rain, no shelter in view! I felt the humiliation of our
position before the girl who was showing impatience for us to start,
but summoned enough spunk to say, “Please tell the Superintendent we
would like to see her when she is at liberty.”

Leaving us with the parting shot that “Every room in the house is
taken,” she went away.

Bursting into tears, Belle declared she would go home on the morrow;
she didn’t want to study medicine--had never wanted to--only did
it to please her people--didn’t like Boston--hated Dr. Matson, and
didn’t want to be a woman doctor any way; she would go back and teach
school. Her outburst astonished me. Pitying her, and agreeing with
her in part, her giving way put me on my mettle. So, having sense
enough to know that we were both worn from the physical and emotional
strain, and that, dark as things were, they seemed darker because of
our exhaustion, I sat down and, opening our lunch-box, fairly forced
the food into Belle’s mouth, and devoured some myself. The messenger
girl passed the door several times, peering in curiously; she looked
as though she were going to tell us we must not eat in the waiting
room, but passed on. It must have been an unaccustomed sight to her. I
myself felt the unfitness of it all, but did not care; we were nearly
famished; it was the desperation of self-preservation.

As we ate and talked, Belle drooped less, and we soon got interested
in the coming and going past the door. Happy, laughing girls passed
and re-passed, running to catch the elevator, peeping in at us with
half-veiled curiosity, and moving on. How envious we felt at seeing
them greet one another--everybody knew everybody else in Boston, except
these two miserable girls who knew only each other.

We kept looking at the clock; we tried to jest, wondering what that
woman had for dinner that kept her so long. We must have sat there an
hour, expectant, anxious. The messenger girl seemed to have disappeared
for good. At last, desperate, I started out down the strange corridor,
and there met her:

“Hasn’t the Superintendent finished her dinner _yet_?” I queried.

“Oh, my, yes, an hour ago--I forgot to tell her you were waiting.”

I must have looked my wrath, for she went off in short order, returning
soon with a tall, stern, handsome woman, the Superintendent’s
assistant. This lady heard our tale calmly, looked at us critically,
and told us the house was full; she was sorry, but she would give us
addresses of boarding-places near by. Belle declared she could not stir
another step to look for a place. At this vehemence the calm lady
lifted her eyebrows, but said nothing. I must have said in my most
supplicating tones, “Can’t you make room for us some way, just for
to-night--we are _so_ tired,” for she deliberated, then said, “We will
go and see what Miss Dillingham has to suggest.” And she ushered us up
to the office of the Superintendent.

Dark and gloomy every corner of that building had seemed that rainy
afternoon, but as the door opened, a cheerful fire, and an atmosphere
of warmth and ease and home enveloped us. Sitting at a desk was
a stout, red-cheeked, red-nosed woman with bright gray eyes. She
looked up, nodding a greeting to us, and listened to her assistant’s
explanations.

“I’ve told them I don’t see how we can accommodate them,” the younger
woman said, not unkindly but dispassionately. I remember admiring her
stately grace as she moved about the room, but feeling from the way she
closed her lips that we had little to hope from her.

“Why have you come to Boston?” queried the Superintendent as she rose
and came toward us.

“We came to study medicine,” I said, and tried to explain further, when
my voice gave way, and I lost the self-control I had been maintaining
all day against such odds. I turned to Belle and she took up the tale,
but broke down, too. Then the good soul gathered us both in her arms,
held us close to her broad bosom and let us sob out the grief that
refused to be suppressed any longer.

Then, conferring with her assistant, after some directions about
changes, she rang for the bell-girl and told her to have room 60
prepared for us at once; they would manage to keep us that night, and
to-morrow would help us find a boarding-place. She then told us the
supper hour, and the time for evening prayers, and, advising us to get
a nap, said we would feel like new creatures by evening.

The clean little room with its two narrow beds and scanty
furniture--what a haven it was! Exploring our surroundings, and
removing the dust of travel, we lay ourselves down in our little
white beds and quickly fell into a sound if not untroubled sleep. We
must have slept several hours. The first thing I was aware of was the
singing of a hymn in a distant part of the building. It was dark. I
wondered where I was. Low sobs from the other side of the room brought
me to my senses. The singing made me homesick, my throat ached, my own
tears started, and creeping out of bed I went over to Belle, and there
we sobbed away in our misery, while those young voices on the floor
above sang:


     “Jesus, Saviour, pilot me
     Over Life’s tempestuous sea;
     Unknown waves before me roll,
     Hiding rock and treacherous shoal.
     Wondrous Sovereign of the sea,
     Jesus, Saviour, pilot me.”


Our cry out, we felt better. Belle experimented with the gas, finally
succeeding in lighting it. (It was a week or more before I felt safe in
doing it--I disliked that sudden noise just as it ignited, it made me
jump; and I always felt doubtful whether I had turned it off, too, and
had to call Belle to come and see if it was leaking.)

As the supper hour was long past, we ate the remnants of our lunch,
looked out on the strange street with the hurrying passers-by, explored
the bath-room, and, after much investigation about the fixtures, took
our first baths in a bath-tub, and went to bed for the night, in almost
a cheerful frame of mind. We talked long in the darkness, getting
better acquainted than we had in all the years of school together.
Never especially congenial, as children contending together for the
supremacy of the things we espoused--Republicanism and Methodism
_versus_ Democracy and the Baptist faith--over these in former years
we had waged war; but there in the darkness we discussed earnestly and
amicably our individual faiths (or doubts, now, in my case), our hopes,
our ideals, coming to a better understanding than ever before.

In the morning the sun shone gloriously. In the great dining room
a hundred or more girls were seated. No doubt we showed by our
awkwardness that it was our first venture into city life; but we had
a grip on ourselves, and felt equal to the day’s experiences; they
couldn’t possibly be worse than yesterday’s and, I felt exultantly, we
had lived through them. As she left the dining room the Superintendent
nodded kindly to us, later sending for us to come to the office. There
she told us they would manage to keep us a week, or until a room could
be secured for us at the branch Association on Berkeley Street, a newer
and better building, and much nearer the College. This was indeed
good news, and we started off for College with almost pleasurable
anticipations-so bright was the sun, so crisp the October air, and so
eager were we to see what was in store for us.

I remember well those first walks to and from the College; our
perceptions alert, everything so different from what we were accustomed
to; the ordinary street scenes, the ways of the people, the peculiar
pronunciation of the passers-by, even of the newsboys--everything was
food for wonder, amusement, or ridicule to the two village girls: Why
didn’t they build their side-walks on a level, instead of making the
pedestrian step down at every crossing, and then up again? Gradually
we learned that these marked the ends of blocks. We did not like the
houses built all together, they looked queer and dismal. We marvelled
at the huge dray-horses, and laughed at the queer herdics tumbling
along; we puzzled over the street cries; we looked with interest at
the “Tech” boys as we passed them on their way to the Institute of
Technology, and felt a community of interest with them, as well as
with the Conservatory students, as, crossing a little park, we saw
them file into the New England Conservatory of Music. On nearing the
College we saw the medical students coming briskly from all directions,
nearly all of them carrying what seemed to be part and parcel of their
equipment--the ubiquitous brown-leather Boston bag.

A thrill of expectancy went through me as, turning into Concord
Street, we felt ourselves a part of this life. The building looked
quite familiar on seeing it for the second time, and despite our
disheartening experiences of the previous day, I went up the steps
eagerly, in half-suppressed excitement.

It was some days before Belle ceased her threats of going home, and
she was always more or less of a malcontent. I am sorry to say we were
not very harmonious roommates, though we never openly quarrelled. If I
received higher marks than she did in our trial “exams,” she usually
made herself and me wretched; if I met with special cordiality and
friendliness, her ill-natured comments often took the savour out of
what would have been pleasant experiences for me. I frequently found
myself guiltily trying to conceal things of which I would ordinarily
have been frankly glad, just to save a scene. There’s no denying that
she was inordinately jealous, and it was a temperament I had never come
in contact with before. Though seldom airing our differences, there
was, with me, I know, a good deal of unexpressed irritation. Sometimes
I would go in the clothes-press and shake my fist at her wrapper, a
garment which seemed peculiarly to personify her. This relieved me a
little.

New as it all was, I felt at home in Boston at the start, and was
disposed to like everything. Happy and interested in my work, I also
revelled in the good general library at the Y. W. C. A., in the
churches, the lectures, the Art Museum, the symphony concerts, the
quaint old parts of Boston, the Common, the Public Gardens--it was all
life, and more abundant than I had dreamed would be mine. And people
liked me. One of my weaknesses in later years--this liking so to be
liked--then it was merely an innocent pleasure to feel, as I usually
instinctively felt, that I was generally liked.

As a class we were on friendly terms; the ages ranged from girls in
their ’teens to women of perhaps thirty-five; the men were mostly
in the twenties; a few were older. Two of the young men were always
talking to Belle, between lectures, against women studying medicine.
She would rehearse their arguments to me, especially toward the close
of the year, telling how they laboured with her to give up medicine;
that it unsexed women; that they didn’t care a rap about most of the
women in the class, but hated to see “nice girls” like her and me keep
on with the course, and at last turn out like Dr. Matson and some of
the masculine senior girls.

I thought then, and still think, that there is nothing in the study
or practice of medicine that need make a woman less womanly. It ought
rather to make her more so. By reason of being a woman she may lack
some qualities that go to make the ideal physician, but, if so, this
limits her as a physician; it need not detract from her qualities
as a woman. But few women, and by no means all men, physicians,
possess the mechanical skill and other qualities that make a good
surgeon; but the general practice of medicine, I think, is not beyond
the mastery of many a woman’s mind and strength. If a capable woman,
with a well-trained mind, and with self-mastery, engages in the study
and practice of medicine and fails, it is, I believe, rather because
stronger interests attract her than because she cannot master it. And
as for masculinity as seen in women physicians, those same women, as I
used to point out to Belle, were masculine before they began to study
medicine--would have been so in any walk in life. We occasionally saw
Dr. Anna Shaw around the College--she had graduated there some years
before--distinctly the masculine type. Many of the women of the faculty
were charmingly feminine; and, better still, some that were not so
charming were strong and womanly, and commanded the respect of their
_confrères_, both as women and as physicians.


It was months before either Belle or I ceased to shudder when we saw
those steely eyes of “Dr. Caroline” fastened upon us. As she was
professor in anatomy, we saw much of her the first year. Her lectures
were thorough, painstaking, and interesting. But, though excellent as
an instructor, she scared the life out of us at quizzes. She would
call each student by name, then pause--time for every eye to fasten
upon one--then a searching look into one’s eyes, and the question was
fired. I never answered satisfactorily, even when I knew well the
answer, she disconcerted me so, making me tremble to the very marrow
of my bones--those bones she knew so well! She had a system of marking
at quizzes, giving each student a plus mark for correct answers, ten
of which would count one on his final examination. The boys called her
“Our Caddie.” We even got so that we did ourselves. The incongruity
of the “_i-e_” name, applied to HER, particularly pleased Belle and
me. But we learned to respect her, as did all the students. It was
rumoured that she never treated any student with geniality till he
had passed her chair in anatomy; it was also rumoured that it was
one of the hardest things to pass that chair. Occasionally we caught
sight of her friendly manner to some of the upper-class students, and
fairly revelled in her rare smiles when we saw them bestowed on some
lucky senior. She was transformed when she smiled. And in spite of her
mannish stride, and her abrupt, brusque ways, she had certain womanly
traits which we rejoiced to see: she blushed exquisitely, and had
pretty dimpled hands with pink finger tips--I used to note them when
she passed the trays with the anatomical specimens, and her dainty way
of using the towel after handling them. I have said that she was a
middle-aged woman, but I wonder if she was not younger than that: in
those days I regarded every one past the twenties as middle-aged, or
old.

“Dr. Caroline” instructed us that first year, in microscopy, too, and
was very exacting. I had no special aptitude for it, and was afraid
of making blunders. She was so deft, and I so awkward in preparing
specimens, often breaking the fragile cover-glasses and spoiling my
bits of tissue which she doled out to us as precious morsels. How
the smell of the oil of cloves which we used in the work brings up
those sessions in microscopy--the students seated at the long tables
“teasing” their specimens with the fine needles, and mounting and
labelling the minute scraps of tissue!

We had private quizz-classes among ourselves: Four of us girls met
for study in the evening--I say girls, the two others were no longer
girls; one was probably twenty-five, the other perhaps near thirty.
The younger of these, Miss Thorndike, was also from the Empire State,
a bright, capable person, used to city life, a striking, winning
personality, and one who had herself well in hand. She had some
masculine ways which she tried rigorously to overcome. She seemed to
know the ropes of college life pretty well; she was sophisticated,
and we were not and, realizing our inexperience, she exercised a
chaperonage over us so tactful that we were not aware of it till years
after. Miss Wilkins was a typical strenuous New England woman, prim and
sensitive, who constituted herself our avowed chaperone, directing,
scolding, and mothering us; making peace between us, and dictating to
us when we much preferred to paddle our own canoes. Though fond of her,
we often teased her, sometimes deliberately doing things to shock her
(how easily she blushed!); yet we always ended penitently with, “but
Miss Wilkins is such a good woman!” And she was, and withal very human
and tolerant of our uncurbed, undisciplined ways. I realize now how
much we owe to hers and Miss Thorndike’s kind and wise supervision.

We rented bones to study the first year. I recall the amused feeling
I had the night I carried home my box of bones: Crossing the park, as
I met passers-by, I thought, “Wouldn’t they open their eyes if they
knew what is in this box!” Here, as always, the incongruity, the hidden
reality, appealed to me.

One day at the Y. W. C. A., when it was too cold to study in my room,
taking Gray’s Anatomy and my rented femur, I went out and sat by the
radiator at our end of the hall; there was but little passing to and
fro and I was soon absorbed in reading Gray and tracing the various
facets and foramina on the huge thigh-bone.

“Young woman, is that a human bone?” a voice called to me severely from
the other end of the long hall.

“Yes, would you like to see it?” I answered--how innocently, I cannot
say. I am under the impression that even at the start I recognized her
horror, and did it mischievously, but with an air of innocence as I
held it toward her.

“You horrid thing!” she gasped and disappeared in her room. This
disconcerted me: She was the head-laundress of the institution, and she
and the Superintendent were great friends. I well knew she was angry,
but I was a bit angry, too. I didn’t like being called names, and had
high ideas of the respectability of my pursuit; I knew it was neither
horrid nor disgraceful to study anatomy, whatever she in her prim,
prudish way might think. Getting more and more angry, I could study no
longer.

That night, dear, sensitive Miss Wilkins came to me in perturbation:
I had offended Miss Tyler; she might complain of me to the
Superintendent. I got on my highest heels of dignity: Miss Tyler had
offended me; I was sitting in my end of the hall attending to my own
affairs when she accosted me; and when I politely answered her, even
offering to show her what I was interested in, and about which she
seemed so curious, she had insulted me, rudely called me names, and
slammed her door, and the episode had spoiled my afternoon’s study; and
did not Miss Wilkins herself think that the cause for complaint was on
my side?

Then it was that Miss Wilkins laboured with me. At first I was
obdurate, and even in the end did not quite agree with her; but so
persuasive was she, that I promised not to study my bones in the hall
again, and not to offend Miss Tyler, or any one else, by what was to
them unquestionably an offensive sight. She reminded me that we must
not expect everyone to look upon these things from the scientific
standpoint; that we must respect the prejudices of others; that we
surely did not want to make ourselves conspicuous or obnoxious, and
bring reproach upon women medical students. She struck the right note
there, knowing how I recoiled from Dr. Matson’s mannish ways, and that
I had said I would rather not be a doctor at all, if I had to get
coarse and masculine. As she showed how timid and conservative Miss
Tyler was, she made me feel it my duty to refrain from further wounding
her sensibilities.

How we observed, and insensibly estimated, our various instructors!
Our professor in physiology was a diffident, scholarly man, stiff
as a poker; dry and ponderous as a lecturer. We liked the chemistry
professor, and liked the laboratory work, yet chemistry was for me
the hardest first-year study. Nowadays when I see certain chemicals
that we used in experiments, I get a sudden vision of my desk in the
laboratory, with the test-tubes, the gas-burners, the retorts, the
filter-papers, and all; and can even see the faces of the various
students as they stand at their desks heating solutions; holding
others up to the light--now one bends to record something on a chart,
now there’s a crash of broken glass, a rustle and a stir, perhaps a
giggle, as some unlucky student blunders in an experiment. How it all
comes back at the sight of a bottle marked Cupric Sulphate, or H_{2}
SO_{4}! What a witty lecturer we had in the History and Methodology of
Medicine--a short, fidgety man with big blue eyes and benevolent face.
He had a funny way of pulling at his collars and cuffs while lecturing,
as if they choked him and he wished he could take them off.

When early in the first year our courses in dissections began, I was
all eagerness--the untried always having its charm for me. My name
being at the beginning of the alphabet, it fell to me to be one of
the first six students to work on the first subject. I had bought my
dissecting-case from one of the “middlers”; my long-sleeved apron was
ready; and I awaited impatiently the day, little dreaming what I was so
eager about.

Assembled in the dissecting room that first day to see us begin were
many middlers and seniors, as well as the sixty or more in our own
class. Each “subject,” as the cadavers are called, is apportioned in
six “parts,” lots being cast for the “parts,” six students working
simultaneously on a body. Half the abdomen and the right lower
extremity fell to me. My partner on the other side was a young woman,
older than I, but very shy and reserved. Other students drew the head
and neck, the chest and upper extremities.

That first day as we entered the dissecting room there lay the body, a
man’s body, stiff and stark, on the slanting zinc-covered table. The
arteries had been injected with red wax, and much of this loose wax and
other extraneous matter was clinging to the skin of our subject. It was
horrible to see the naked body. I had not thought of that. I don’t know
what I had thought of, surely not that--and this room full of onlooking
students!

The Demonstrator in anatomy gave us a serious talk, inciting us to
earnestness, cautioning us against carelessness, levity, or other
unseemly behaviour, after which he told us to set to work. The first
thing, he said, was to sponge the part assigned to us, then make our
incisions, as we had been previously instructed, and proceed with the
dissections.

I shall never forget the repugnance as well as the embarrassment I
felt at beginning our task. The young men in our class, as new as were
we to it all, were awed as well as we, but those horrid middlers and
seniors looking on with amusement! I felt my face getting redder and
redder, and Miss Bigelow’s cheeks looked as though they would burst;
but with downcast eyes we kept at work, probably taking far more pains
than we needed to. I can see just how gingerly we held the sponges; the
wax stuck; we thought we had to get off every speck. Then Miss Bigelow,
without looking up, whispered, “What shall we do with the pail?”

“Empty it, I suppose,” I snapped out; and getting up courage enough
to glance round the room, spied a sink. Stooping, I picked up the
loathsome pail and, with blazing cheeks, started across the room,
feeling that a great indignity was being undergone--to have to do this
at all was bad enough (I still think it was janitor’s work), but it was
intolerable to do it before those idle middlers.

Before I had taken many steps a young man in our class came up, took
the pail from me, and in a soothing tone said, “Please let me--now the
worst is over, Miss Arnold.” The tears started at his kindness. The
other young men must have felt ashamed, for they soon rallied round
the table, showing us how to make the first incisions, how to hold our
scalpels and tissue forceps, in fact, giving us many useful hints. We
had had the theory, but to make the actual incisions, to lift the skin
and deftly dissect it from the tissues beneath--was different from what
we had imagined.

Going from student to student, the Demonstrator instructed and
encouraged each in turn. Soon the room, thinned of its spectators,
took on a different aspect: the novices bent over their work with
interest and absorption. The painful emotion I had felt at seeing
those bodies, stripped and at the mercy of our little knives and
forceps, soon gave place to genuine enthusiasm. I dreaded the feel of
the cold skin, but once that was removed, I was all interest; one then
lost sight of the human side, and saw only the beautiful mechanism.
How wonderful it seemed when I had the external abdominal muscle laid
bare, and its structure disclosed, and this and the other muscles and
their adaptations seen! Some days later when one of the girls, working
on an arm, had the deltoid exposed, I was surprised to hear one of the
assistant demonstrators (a woman) say to her, “It is a pretty muscle,
isn’t it?” “Pretty” seemed such an incongruous word to use, but I
soon learned to admire the well-dissected muscles, though rather than
“pretty” I should have called them “beautiful.”

The instructors demonstrated the viscera, which, with the muscles and
other “soft parts” were removed piecemeal, and disposed of daily.
Whitman’s tremendously realistic line, “What is removed drops horribly
into the pail,” always takes me back to the dissecting room with its
repulsive odours and its sorry sights. But our growing interest did
much to mitigate the repellent features.

The actual dissection was interesting and easy for me, but it was not
easy to demonstrate the muscles and groups of muscles, for it was
always difficult to comprehend their action. Never having been able
to understand levers and pulleys and mechanical things, I could not
reason out things which were so obvious to others. It was absurd, after
getting the muscles nicely dissected, with their points of origin
and insertion before my very eyes, to be unable to deduce what their
actions were. I had no “gumption.” This inability on my part puzzled
the Demonstrator and his assistants--the senior students, who moved
about from table to table, listening to our recitations whenever we
would get a group of muscles exposed for demonstration. One dignified
senior who was usually on hand to hear me recite, was painstaking in
trying to make me understand their action: “Why, can’t you see?” he
would ask; then, convinced that I could not, would try to drill it into
my head. His dignified air awed me considerably, and I was demure and
respectful to him, always calling him “Doctor” as, in the freshness of
our first-year’s awe of them, we supposed we had to call the seniors.
But one day, when in the reading room, I saw him try to kiss one of
the senior girls, my awe vanished; after that I was a trifle pert and
independent. It was funny how my whole attitude then changed toward
him. I suddenly saw through the mock dignity he carried while in the
dissecting room. In vain he tried to impress me with his gravity, I
only laughed in his face. So we soon got on fairly friendly terms, as
much as a humble junior and a “grave and reverend senior” could be.
Sometimes I surprised him looking at me with a quizzical, half-amused
look that changed to a frown and an attempt at dignity, when he saw
I was observing him. I imagine he quite enjoyed the deference of my
earlier manner, and was not a little annoyed at the discovery which had
disillusioned me.

Some weeks after I had seen him trying to steal that kiss, when I
was one day working on the head and face, he came up to hear me
demonstrate the facial muscles. The action of the muscles had got to
be a kind of joke between us, still he always laid particular stress
on that, persisting until I understood, and when practicable usually
requiring me to illustrate the action. That day I had been dissecting
out the _Orbicularis Oris_--the round muscle of the mouth. After I had
described it and its relations, he asked smilingly, “And the action?”
I replied that it was used to pucker the mouth, as in whistling,
and--and (mischievously) in kissing--_if you can_. He blushed
furiously, knowing then, positively, that I had, on that occasion, seen
the girl slip out of his grasp. Assuming a mock dignity he said, “I
have a mind to require you to illustrate the action--it is within my
province, you know.” Then _I_ felt cheap, and blushed furiously, too.
Later in the afternoon the Demonstrator himself came round and slyly
asked if I was ready to demonstrate the action of the _Orbicularis
Oris_ yet, so I knew the senior assistant had told him about it.

We had been told that no parts of our subjects might be taken from the
dissecting room--a necessary prohibition, as the College pledged itself
to bury the skeletons intact. (The boys used to say it was so there
would not be so much confusion on Resurrection Morn.) But each year
students were intent on purloining a hand or a foot, or some part, as a
souvenir. Because forbidden, of course I had this silly ambition, too.
(We were on our honour, else it would have been easy.) I bethought me
how I could get around the restriction: Our Anatomy said that sesamoid
bones were small unimportant bones sometimes found in the tendons,
not properly included as a part of the skeleton. The Demonstrator had
urged us all to hunt for sesamoid bones, meaning, of course, the small
adventitious ones that were a rarity. Herein I saw my chance: One day
while working around the knee, as the Demonstrator stood watching me, I
asked:

“Doctor S----, have any sesamoid bones been found this year?”

“No, I have heard of none.”

“They are not properly a part of the skeleton, are they?” (Innocently)

“Oh, no, no, they are very unimportant affairs--interesting only as
anomalies,” he said pompously.

“Then (demurely) I suppose I may keep all the sesamoid bones I find in
my subject, mayn’t I?”

He laughed and said, “Yes, you are welcome to all the sesamoid bones
you find,” and started to walk away.

“Thank you, Dr. S----,” I said, with ill-concealed triumph, “I’ll take
this patella when I go home to-night.”

He started, coloured, looked annoyed, then amused. He was fairly
caught, for the patella, though of course a legitimate part of the
skeleton, is formed in the tendon of the _Quadriceps Extensor_, and
is described by Gray, because of its mode of development, as a kind
of sesamoid bone--a fact which had somehow stuck in my memory, as
unimportant things will, while others of greater import sifted through.
The Demonstrator walked away looking a little chagrined, but later I
saw him laughing on the sly with the seniors, and before he left he
came back and said, “You may take your ‘sesamoid bone’, Miss Arnold;
you have earned it.”

I had not thought out how I could contrive to get a souvenir from my
next “part,” but this same Demonstrator unwittingly helped me out.
I was at work on the wrist, and as he stood looking on he asked,
“Have you found any more ‘sesamoid’ bones?” I said No, but just then
the little pisiform bone, not much bigger than a pea, stood out so
conspicuously that, seeing how easy it would be to sever it from the
other small bones, I purposely made a careless cut, and the little
thing rolled on the table.

“Oh, my!--well, you surely wouldn’t have me put that mite in the
pail--and it won’t stay on the wrist _now_.”

He knew, and I knew that he knew, and he knew that I knew that he knew,
that I did it purposely--his question, the prominence of the tiny bone
with its slender attachment, put it in my head--“Opportunity makes the
thief.” So he let me have the pisiform, but shook his head as though
he thought me incorrigible; and after that rallied me on what ruse I
would resort to with my next “part,” as I could hardly take the head,
or any of the vertebræ. I have these bones somewhere now. They gave me
a lot of bother to get clean, and of what earthly use are they? Yet
perhaps as much as many of the things we scheme and work for. It is the
endeavour that counts, and it was fun to outwit the Demonstrator. So we
managed to get some amusement out of the dry bones, but were glad when
the long weeks were at an end and we could go out in the sunshine after
lectures instead of working in that unsightly upper room.


One of the memorable experiences of that first year was an afternoon
spent with Laura Bridgman. Helen Keller’s achievements have since
familiarized us with what wonders can be done in teaching one who is
deaf, dumb, and blind, but when Dr. Samuel G. Howe attempted to teach
the child, Laura, it was pioneer work, and the difficulties were
well-nigh insuperable.

Miss Wilkins and I were invited to meet Miss Bridgman by Mrs. Lamson,
who, under Dr. Howe, had been one of the first to teach Laura to
communicate with others by means of the sign language. Mrs. Lamson told
us of those early struggles, how overjoyed child and teachers were
the day they succeeded in making her understand that certain signs
made upon her open hand represented the door-key which they had put
in her hand. When the import of this one thing, for which they had
toiled long, dawned upon the shut-in soul, she was a freed being; she
went about eagerly touching other objects, teasing in her mute way
to be shown their “sign,” too. Slow, infinitely wearisome were those
first steps in her education, but after a certain point, progress was
astonishingly rapid. She had not the distraction other learners have;
her thirst for knowledge was intense; her memory phenomenal--a thing
once learned became a part of her; she wore out all her teachers with
her insatiable desire to learn.

Among other things Dr. Howe earnestly wished to test whether the human
mind, without suggestions from outside, would, in its development,
evolve the idea of a Supreme Being. Here was an unprecedented
opportunity to test it, for, shut in as she was, Laura had no means of
learning anything except through her teachers. It would be a valuable
contribution to psychology to learn for a surety whether, unaided, her
mind would conceive the idea of a Deity. So for years they planned and
laboured with this experiment continually in view. Assistants were
rigorously instructed to exclude any hints or teachings which would
suggest worship or religion--anything which could in the remotest
way give her a glimmering of such ideas. Laura was showing wonderful
progress in development. Dr. Howe’s efforts seemed on the way to
success in this important test, when one of his teachers was called
away at a time when he himself was in Europe. The substitute, though
carefully enjoined to observe the precautions so jealously practised,
actuated by untimely zeal, and believing it to be her duty to thwart
Dr. Howe in his experiment, deliberately enlightened Laura about the
main orthodox teachings: she told her she had a soul to save from
eternal damnation; that a just God stood ready to pardon her manifold
sins, and so on. Laboriously she poured into Laura’s listening fingers
the intricate orthodox instruction concerning which she had hitherto
been kept in blissful ignorance.

One can imagine the difficulties encountered in expounding to this
deaf, dumb, blind, and bewildered girl (whose only religious training
had been daily examples of loving-kindness), the puzzling doctrines
that then passed for religious teaching. But in that, as in all else,
Laura was an apt pupil, and on Dr. Howe’s return from Europe he found
the careful forethought and labour of years destroyed by that fanatical
teacher. He was nearly frantic with rage and disappointment. I myself
can never think of that bigoted interference without my own breath
coming fast in anger.

When we saw her, Miss Bridgman was a tall, spare woman, perhaps not
more than fifty, though she seemed much older to me than fifty seems
now. Pale (she wore blue spectacles over the blind eyes); her dark
brown hair was parted over a refined face which had a non-fleshly
look, very mobile, very sensitive--a quivering, changing face with
the soul very near the surface; her lips were thin and very red. Her
long white hands were marvellous in their rapidity, receptivity, and
expressiveness.

Mrs. Lamson talked to her by swift touches on the palm, Laura’s
lightning fingers replying on her friend’s hand--a marvellous sight,
those two silently communicating, by touch alone, all the complicated
things which the instructor interpreted to us.

The one word which this mute woman could articulate was “doctor.” In
youth she had accidentally uttered the syllables and on being told what
it sounded like, had eagerly practised until she could articulate the
word. Though intelligible, it was distressing to hear it, and I was
glad when she resumed talk on her silent uncanny fingers.

“I don’t think it is nice for women to be doctors,” she said, on
learning that we were medical students. When her friend told her she
ought not to say this, she inquired, “Why not, if I think so?” They had
never been able to convince her that politeness sometimes constrains us
to conceal our thoughts. She even added, “Tell them I do not think that
women can be as skilful as men.” But she soon asked us to prescribe for
her eyes, explaining that the lids were sometimes sore. It struck us as
novel to be asked to prescribe for Laura Bridgman’s _eyes_. Her friend
told her we were only students, and had not yet learned to prescribe,
but added, “_I_ can tell you something that will relieve them--if you
will get some of the iron-water from a blacksmith and bathe them, it
will help the soreness.”

“What is a blacksmith?” asked Laura--“Is it one who colours things
black?”

There she had been all her life learning far more complicated things
than this, yet this familiar occupation was unknown to her! It was a
pleasure to see her teacher impart to her this information; to see the
eager, childlike delight as the knowledge became her own. We saw why
this aged face gave the impression of perennial youth; why we thought
her then, and still think of her, as a child; she had the freshness and
curiosity of a child; every contact with her fellow-beings opened new
vistas to her mind; every explanation begat other inquiries; she was
tireless in her endeavours to learn. Human strength was not equal to
the avidity she continually showed.

As we were leaving she said, “Please ask them if I may touch their
faces, then I shall know them _when I see them again_.”

Those white fingers twinkled over every part of my face--“the moving
finger” read, and seemed to read with uncanny skill. I was uneasy,
except that it was done so delicately, done eagerly, yet lingeringly.
It was as though she were probing my soul to find what manner of being
I was. She felt my hair, my shoulders, my hands. I cannot recall now
whether she made any comments. Then she did the same with Miss Wilkins,
whose ready blush mounted while restively submitting to those searching
fingers.

Laura paused and began talking to Mrs. Lamson. The latter laughed,
shook her head, replied on Laura’s fingers, seemingly arguing a point.

“What does she say?” insisted Miss Wilkins.

“She says that you are old and, when I told her no, she insisted. I
told her you were not old, but were older than your friend, and then
she cornered me by saying, ‘Ask her the year she was born.’ She always
was obstinate under evasion.”

Miss Wilkins blushed deeper than ever, but enjoyed Laura’s ready wit,
though forbearing to satisfy her curiosity as to the tell-tale year.


Though we attended strictly to business, it was not all work in those
days; yet we had little time or money for amusement. But in Boston
there is much to see and learn at little cost. The churches themselves
are an education, and I was an inveterate church-goer, hearing Phillips
Brooks the oftenest of any, but Minot Savage frequently, occasionally
little old Cyrus Bartol (whom someone called “the moth-eaten angel”),
Edward Everett Hale, James Freeman Clarke, Phillip Moxom, George
Gordon, and others.

When we had been only about two weeks in Boston a Harvard “medic,”
introduced by a Michigan cousin, called upon me. He was a bright,
dignified young man. The acquaintance proved pleasant and stimulating
throughout the college course. It seemed good to have a caller in the
strange city, and one who knew cousin Etta, and we were soon on the
best of terms. Suddenly I thought of Belle upstairs alone, and went
for her, and we three had a lively time, “Westerners” that we were,
comparing the Eastern ways with ours. We giggled and chatted and made
sport of the queer things we had encountered; mimicked the New England
pronunciation, and told him about “Our Caddie”; while, in turn, he told
us bits of his experience, of various places of interest, and how to
get to them. Belle was especially vivacious and entertaining that day.
But, after a little, she and he struck several points of variance, and
differences that began in a jest soon became heated arguments. They
were both Baptists, but he was liberal and she strait-laced; and while
at first it was fun to watch them spar, I grew uneasy as I saw Belle’s
right ear reddening--her danger signal. When she had asked him which
Baptist church he attended, instead of designating it decorously, he
had solemnly replied, “The church of the Holy Bean-Blowers,” referring
to the four figures on its steeple with long gilt trumpets held up to
their mouths. When Belle remonstrated, he declared with mock gravity
that they were assuredly blowing beans all over Boston, and everybody
would have them to-morrow morning for breakfast.

On leaving, Mr. Sergeant said that Canon Farrar was to preach the next
day at Trinity and that if he might he would like to call and accompany
me there. Had I been to Trinity yet? and heard Phillips Brooks? There
would probably be a big crowd, so, if I pleased, he would call early,
that we might be near the doors when they opened.

No, I--we--had not been to Trinity yet, I said, but that I--_we_--(with
an inquiring glance at Belle) would be pleased to go. (I had not the
slightest idea who Canon Farrar was, but did not ask.) Naming an early
hour, and not including Belle, though I had, he took his leave. Belle
was furious, declared she would not go, but did go when the hour came
the next day.

There was a big crowd waiting by the closed doors of Trinity. Belle,
being tall, was left to shift for herself in the crowd. I remember how
pleasant it was--an utterly new sensation--to be piloted and shielded
and gently pushed along in that well-bred crowd by my new acquaintance.
Towering above me he smiled down indulgently as we were jostled this
way and that. Soon I was swept off my feet and packed so closely that
the crowd bore me along, Mr. Sargeant near by assuring me that there
was no danger; that this was only the eagerness of the Bostonians to
attend church. Presently the big doors opened; the surging mass of
people carried me forward; in the vestibule I found my footing, and we
were soon seated in the great, dark, holy Trinity.

We heard the English divine whose “Life of Christ” I have since read.
His voice was not big enough to fill the church. I could not understand
him, and was not at all impressed, but for other reasons the day
was memorable. I was strangely moved by the church itself. When I
go back to Boston now, one of the things I care most to do is to go
down the little side street by which I approached, and come suddenly
upon Trinity as I saw it that first day. The vine on its gray walls,
the doves around its tower, the very stones in its huge pile, have
an inexplicable charm for me; and within--it calmed and satisfied
me; it seemed a worship in itself, that dim interior whose details
gradually became discernible to my unsophisticated eyes. I question
if any old-world cathedral could now have so profound an effect upon
me as Trinity had on that girl fresh from village life, who had seen
only the humble little churches of the home-town, or occasionally a
more pretentious but commonplace church in a small city. Those glorious
stained-glass windows! And the organ! Church and music stirred me, if
the English divine did not.

(A few years ago, one summer day, I went into Trinity and sat long in
the obscurity--the solitude, the silence, and the enveloping peace
were inexpressibly soothing. I seemed again to feel the uplift that
had always come on hearing Phillips Brooks. I thought of all that had
happened to me since, as a girl, I used to hear him pour out his rapid,
inspired utterances. How directly they always came to me! Tossed with
doubt as I was, I never heard him without receiving help. For years he
had been an uplifting influence in my life, and although I had never
spoken to him, his death (when I was practising in U----) was a real
loss to me--something precious then went out of my life.)

As we came out from Trinity that day, our new acquaintance proposed
going into the Art Museum. Acquiescing promptly, I was annoyed to find
that Belle was scandalized--“The Art Museum on _Sunday_! No, indeed!”
And she and Mr. Sargeant began sparring, he getting very sarcastic and
she very angry; but we ended by going in for a short stay, though the
mental atmosphere was not propitious.


It was always a welcome break in my evenings of study when the gong
would signal our room and “Theresa” the bell-girl, would announce
through the tube, “Miss Arnold has a gentleman caller.” It was almost
never any one but Mr. Sargeant. Down to the big reception room I would
rush, eager to meet him, and not having artifice enough to conceal it,
or not caring to. Other girls, receiving callers in the same room,
would keep them waiting; and when they did come would enter with
indifference and dignity, so unlike my prompt response to the signal.
But we were both “Westerners” and understood frankness, while most of
the young people there were from New England. Sometimes there would be
several young men ranged around the room waiting. As each girl would
appear, she would stand poised in the door-way till she discovered her
caller, then, making directly for him, would be more or less oblivious
to the others throughout the evening. We learned on entering the room
to nod to the other “steady” callers, but there was seldom further
interchange among us. As it neared ten o’clock, the young men would sit
with watches in hand, talking up to the last minute, when “Theresa”
would sound the gong; they would then start with a rush for the door,
and we would hurry to our rooms with a pleased sense of almost having
transgressed the rules; for there was but little time after that signal
before lights had to be out throughout the building.


We had had a funny initiation, after the first two or three weeks in
Boston, when we had moved from the Association building on Warrenton
Street to the one on Berkeley Street. It was then that we came
especially under the chaperonage of Miss Wilkins. That first night, at
the table assigned us, we found some bright girls whom we recognized
as students of some sort, as they evidently did us, but students of
what, all were unaware. One fascinating girl, in a light, bantering
manner, informed us of the rules and regulations of the place. We
liked her vivacity, her gestures, her imitative powers. On learning
that we had just come from the other building, she raised her eyes in
reminiscent horror--she too, had been there. In a serio-comic way she
expatiated on the disadvantages, with an exaggeration and dramatic
power that won the whole table; she declared the lights had to be out
at eight-thirty; that the tea-cups were hewn out of the solid rock;
(they were the thickest cups I ever saw); and that no man’s voice had
ever been heard in the sacred precincts. She then asked us how we had
liked there, for in Boston they never say “How do you like _it_?” We
told her we liked _it_ well enough, but it was too far from our work,
and too noisy to study much--that there had been several elocutionists
who had ranted and howled so much that we found studying almost
impossible. Her amusement at this egged Belle on; she grew vivacious
in elaborating and rehearsing our tribulations on this score, becoming
elated as they laughed gaily at her recital. And when we said that
if by any chance the elocutionists gave us any peace, the musicians
drummed and vocalized until the last state was worse than the first,
fresh gales of laughter arose. Significant glances passed among our new
acquaintances; and then the vivacious one solemnly warned us that she
feared our trials had but begun; for here, she said, in addition to
elocutionists and musicians who infested the place, there were night
prowlers--medical students whose midnight calls disturbed the whole
house. If we heard the door-bell ring vigorously at unseemly hours we
must not think it meant fire or other catastrophe--it would only be
the summons of the “medics” to their nocturnal sprees. All this was
mingled with frank and rather disparaging comments about women medical
students; and by unfeigned rejoicing when someone volunteered that a
bunch of the “medics” had left yesterday; and that the staid spinster
whom they pointed out to us at another table (our own Miss Wilkins)
was the only one of the obnoxious ilk remaining. Belle and I exchanged
glances but held our peace. But on stepping into the elevator, our
table-mates with us, Miss Wilkins came also, with the matron, and there
introduced us to that sober lady as her class-mates who had come over
to-day from the other building, so as to be with her, and nearer the
College. Our new acquaintances, astonished at this disclosure, and a
bit discomfited, soon rallied; the vivacious one declared that we were
now even, since she and her room-mate were elocutionist and musician
respectively, and that the others at our table belonged mostly to one
or the other of those reprehensible classes.

A delightful friendship grew out of all this; especially with the two
girls from Maine. Agnes, the vivacious one, was studying elocution;
Anna, the staid, music--the one all life and vigour; the other quiet,
sombre, phlegmatic. The sprightly Agnes would amuse us by stirring
up her chum--poking her in the ribs, she would say, “Anna, Anna,
animation!” and Anna would laugh and blush and rouse herself to please
her whimsical friend. They went with us on Saturday afternoons on our
sight-seeing expeditions, and to lectures, concerts, and church; and
in the evening, for the half-hour after supper, we usually allowed
ourselves a chat in their room, or in ours, before buckling down to
study. They were curious about our work, as were we about theirs. It
was fun to hear Agnes, who attended the Brown School of Oratory, exalt
it at the expense of the Emerson school; and to see her toss her head,
and watch her nostrils dilate, when she argued with the Emerson girls.
Sometimes we went to their recitals. Anna used to play for me by the
hour, when I had time to listen, shyly pleased that her music pleased
me; she was too susceptible to anything I said or did, and would have
formed one of those extravagant friendships of which we were seeing so
many in Boston, had I been so minded.

Our life at the Y. W. C. A. building had much in common with
boarding-school life--though less restricted in many ways--a community
of women, its walls seldom echoed to a man’s step or voice, except in
the evening when callers came. It sounded good to hear the deep tones
of “Dan,” the janitor, when he brought trunks to the rooms, or was
otherwise called up from the basement. Even the elevator-boy was a girl.


As our medical books accumulated, we had need of book-shelves, but to
buy a book-case, even the cheapest, was not to be thought of. There
were so many expenses to be met, so many fees at College for the
different courses, books to get, bones to rent, chemicals and breakages
to pay for, board and laundry bills and the like, that we cut down
on all else as rigorously as possible. I remember how my heart would
sink at some new item of expense coming up at the College, and how I
dreaded to write home about it, knowing well what a sacrifice it meant
there. But to occasional expressed misgivings of mine, that I had
undertaken anything requiring such an outlay, Father would always write
reassuringly: “We shall manage somehow; don’t worry. One of these days
you will be where you can earn money, and then we shall be glad you
undertook it.” How often these cheery messages came to me during those
years!

One evening we sallied forth to a shoe store and bought a long, narrow
pine box for ten or fifteen cents. “Where will you have it sent?” the
man asked.

“We will take it ourselves,” we replied, much to the man’s amazement
and amusement. And Belle and I merrily carried the long box two or
three blocks to our boarding-place. People turned and looked at us;
street urchins guyed us, asking if it was our coffin; but to their
jibes we answered good-humouredly--it was sport for us as well as for
them. Standing the thing up on end, and making shelves of the lid, we
covered it with blue paper-cambric, and when our medical books were
in it, we were as proud as any girls in Boston; and it cost us about
thirty cents!

We had the diversion of gymnasium practice one evening a week, after
which we would come down to our room for quizzes, sitting around in our
“gym” suits, which rather embarrassed Miss Wilkins, and correspondingly
tickled us. Miss Thorndike did it, too, so she couldn’t very well
criticize it openly.

Some evenings, sitting in our rooms studying, we would hear the street
cry, “Swee-et cidah, five cents a glahss!” We feared it would be
frowned upon by the staid matron if we succumbed to this enticing call,
but as the cries came nearer our mouths watered. One night, deciding
to risk it, seizing the hot-water pitcher and some change, down the
stairs I stole, and sliding out the side door, lurked in the shadow of
the building till the man and his cart came close to the curb, when,
guiltily making the purchase, I stole upstairs. Safe in the room, we
had our spree, becoming as exhilarated as though it had been champagne.
Such simple pleasures--how they come back as I recall those student
days!

One evening Belle and I closed our transom tight and lit a cigar which
one of the men students had given me at college, daring me to smoke
it. (And for a girl to smoke in those days was--well, most unusual.)
How it smarted the lips! I didn’t like it a bit, but smoked it to the
bitter end. And then we were scared, fearing the odour would penetrate
the hall. Quickly airing the room, we sat down with our books and our
bones; and none too soon; for down the hall came the matron, sniffing
and declaring she smelled cigar smoke. We heard her high-pitched voice,
heard her tapping on the doors and making the inquiry; but when she
came to ours we were bending over our big books, one with a skull in
her hand, the other with a long bone which was receiving close scrutiny
as, in answer to her knock, we said “Come,” and looked up with feigned
annoyance at the interruption. Startled at what she saw, she made a
hasty retreat, or would surely have noticed that the smell of smoke was
stronger there than elsewhere.

Another escapade promised to be more serious: One Sunday afternoon
while reading in our room a light flashed in our window; it came again
and again. We soon discovered, in a building about two blocks away,
a young man with a hand-mirror and another with opera glasses. We
dodged back whenever they tried to use the glasses, but as the flash
kept coming, we drew our shades for an instant, piled our skull and
cross-bones on the window-sill, then lifted the shade. Such antics as
they went through! They were certainly taken aback. Feeling that we had
checked them, we resumed our reading. Soon again came the flash and,
looking out, to our amazement we saw on their window-sill also a skull
and cross-bones! They were doubtless Harvard “medics.” But just as we
were elated over the discovery and the curious coincidence, we heard
the matron and housekeeper’s voice as they came down the hall on an
investigation tour.

“It must be in one of these rooms, right along here, either on this
floor or on the next,” we heard the matron say, and her fussy little
tap was heard on door after door. When she came to ours no bones
were in sight; one girl sat quietly writing a letter, the other was
apparently taking a nap. A low “Come” from the one writing, and a hand
held up in warning as the head peeped in, lest the sleeping room-mate
be disturbed, satisfied the guileless matron that we were innocent.
Explaining that some young ladies on that floor, or the floor above,
had evidently been answering signals of some young men across the
way, and that she was anxious to find out who it was, and put a stop
to it, else it would bring disrepute upon our building, she left us,
apologizing for the interruption. Thus ended the flirtation between the
Boston University skull and the skull from Harvard!


The first real sorrow of my life came to me that year: One forenoon,
as we all piled out from the lecture room and rushed to the mail-rack
for our home letters, a tall blond youth who was usually on hand to
lift down my microscope and sharpen my dissecting knives handed me the
home letter which was always too high on the rack for me to reach--the
letter which never failed to come on Tuesday noon. Running with it to
the cloak room, eager for the home news, I read:


     Grandpa is very ill. The Doctor says he cannot get well. “Tell
     Eugenie I shall never see her again,” he said last night. Perhaps
     you can write him a letter we can read to him. You better not try
     to come home. It is too far, would cost so much, and would break
     into your studies so.


How the sunshine vanished as my thoughts flew to that little bedroom
where he lay--my dear, touchy, indulgent grandfather! I did not go to
the lecture that afternoon, but stayed in the library and wrote him a
farewell letter. I should like to see that letter now. I wonder what I
wrote; I know nothing more genuine and tender ever went from one soul
to another. Besides a loving farewell, which his approaching death made
possible for me to express, reticent as I was by nature and training,
it contained, I know, a passionate assurance that it would be well with
him where he was going. I knew that Mother was praying and thinking,
“Oh, if he were only prepared to go!” Something of this might be in
his own heart, too. I thought of his ungodly life, of his profanity;
but against these I weighed his uprightness and his big loving heart,
and _I knew_ that these would count--count with _what_ I was no wise
sure; but I knew that it was right thus to try to ease the terrors
of his last hours, if such were troubling him. It was the passionate
protest of my struggling mind, becoming tinctured with Unitarianism
and Universalism, against the suffering that I knew was Mother’s (if,
indeed, it was not Grandpa’s also), with her Methodist way of looking
at things. Somehow, I could see my grandfather, sturdy to the last,
scorning weakly to repent, even to escape the terrors of the Unknown
into which he must soon go.

He never saw that letter. Whether he became unconscious before it
reached there; or whether Mother in her zeal felt that it might prevent
his last chance of repentance; or whether, because of its passionate,
perhaps hysterical, character, it was deemed by my parents better
withheld, I never knew. I was unwilling to inquire when, months later,
I reached home. Mother said it seemed best only to tell him of my
good-bye. Perhaps it was; but I wonder if he didn’t know without
seeing it--I felt very near him that hour in the library framing my
farewell, and learning for the first time what it means when Death
comes to our own.


After some months, Belle and I took a larger room at the Y. W. C. A.,
and a girl in the class ahead of us joined us--a quiet, amiable girl
who acted as a kind of buffer between us, after which we got on much
more comfortably.

One evening she took me with her to a confinement case on which she and
a senior student were engaged. It was my first experience in dispensary
quarters, and the sordid surroundings, the mean tenements, the poverty
and misery were a revelation to me. Everything was untidy and unclean.
I could not bear even to sit on the chairs. The night was long; the
groans of the woman were painful to hear. Being only a junior, with
no knowledge of obstetrics, I had little intelligent interest in the
case. I gathered from the low conferences of the students, after their
frequent examinations, that all was not progressing satisfactorily;
and some time after midnight they told me they would need to call
in the professor in obstetrics, since it promised to be a case for
instrumental interference. Undergraduates were not allowed to assume
charge of such cases unaided.

The senior student and I went for the professor. I had never been on
the street at so late an hour, and felt a pleasurable excitement in the
adventure. I dreaded most those mean streets through which we had to
go before reaching the more respectable quarters. We had gone only a
short way when our progress was arrested by a night-prowler, though no
more formidable one than a goat. On nearing Boylston Street we met a
few men and saw an occasional policeman. Everyone we passed showed more
or less curiosity, and one policeman halted near us, but said nothing,
Miss Farnsworth’s obstetric bag perhaps indicating to him and others
that we were out on some legitimate errand.

Presently my heart almost stopped: A man stepping alongside Miss
Farnsworth had caught step and was walking by her side without a word.
Glancing up at her in apprehension, I saw her face was pale and stern,
but she looked straight ahead, apparently oblivious of his presence.
Soon I felt her crowding me, and saw he was pushing close to her side;
but she neither slackened her pace nor betrayed awareness of him. My
heart was going like a trip-hammer, but somehow I felt secure, she
seemed so unmoved. Soon the man ceased crowding, lifted his hat, and in
a deferential tone said, “I beg your pardon, ladies,” and walked on. We
walked on, too, not speaking till he had disappeared from sight; then
the imperturbable young woman, with trembling voice, told me she had
heard that that was the best way to treat such an encounter, but that
it was the first time she had had to test the advice.

Professor S---- went back with us and delivered the child.


I heard Lowell lecture two or three times that first
year--conversational talks and readings from the early English
dramatists. I liked his scholarly face and voice, and felt the charm
of his manner, but recall almost nothing of his talks. In reading he
pronounced ocean “o-ce-an.”

One day in walking down Tremont Street, as we halted at Miss
Thorndike’s boarding-house, we saw a stout, middle-aged woman in the
window, who nodded pleasantly to Miss Thorndike: “That is the poet,
Lucy Larcom,” she whispered, to our awed surprise.

We used to go to King’s Chapel just to see Dr. Holmes, who always
sat in the same place in the gallery--the little old man, looking
somewhat sleepy and very remote, but very fitting in that quaint old
meeting-house. I first read his books in Boston, and it was such a
delight in walking across the Common to realize that it was amid these
very scenes that he had written the “Autocrat” and the “Professor.”

It was a notable day when we went to Cambridge and visited Harvard
University, the Old Craigie House, the Washington Elm, and Mount
Auburn. Then there were the trips to Charlestown and Bunker Hill,
and the Navy Yard--these soon after our arrival there--it all seemed
like stepping out of real life into a novel. What a glamour there was
over everything! I remember my awed feeling on gaining admission to
Longfellow’s home, when, standing in the darkened study, we saw his
table, his books and papers, they said, just as he had left them. I had
then scarcely emerged from the spell of his poems, and, as we looked
on the River Charles that afternoon, and thought of the poet standing
in the very places where we stood; then, on returning to Boston across
the long bridge, saw the lights reflected in the dark waters, and the
stream of people hurrying to and fro, it all seemed a beautiful, sacred
experience, linked as it was, with the Sunday afternoons at home, when
I used to sing Father to sleep with “The Bridge” and “The Day Is Done.”
“The Bridge” may have meant London Bridge, but to me it will ever be
that long bridge spanning the Charles, over which we returned to Boston
after our pilgrimage to the poet’s home.


Mary A. Livermore’s lecture on Harriet Martineau was an event of that
_annus mirabilis_; I sent reports of it home to our village paper,
having previously written up several of our noteworthy excursions in
and around Boston. This had begun by Brother letting the editor of the
paper read one of my home letters, which he subsequently published, my
first intimation of it being its discovery in the paper.

I heard Joseph Cook lecture on the Indians, and heard Will Carlton read
some of his own poems, and tried to be impressed with each, but was
not. But I heard Beecher and was impressed without trying. He lectured
on the Conscience; he said some persons’ consciences were like livery
horses--they kept them all saddled and bridled and ready to let, but
never used them themselves.

My first play in Boston was Booth in “Hamlet,” and I was a bit
disappointed, having expected to be swept off my feet; instead, I
found myself coolly watching it all, interested, but calmly, almost
critically so, if a girl at her first real play _can be_ critically
interested. But when I saw J. Wilson Barrett in “The Poet Chatterton” I
_was_ moved, and forgot everything but the woes of that ill-fated youth
whose suffering and tragic death Barrett made so real. My throat ached
and the tears fell fast as the frenzied poet on his knees before an old
chest frantically destroyed his rejected manuscripts. I wonder if the
same thing would not seem melodramatic now.


Toward the close of our first year several of the students were invited
to Cambridge to visit the Agassiz Museum, and take supper with one of
our class-mates. It was the first time I had been in a home in all that
year, and I shall never forget the feeling that came over me after
those months spent in a large institution with its huge dining room,
and a hundred or more girls at table: to sit down in a real home
once more, and see a real mother pouring tea; to hear “Anna” called
by her given name, and see all the intimate home life, was a precious
experience. Until then I had not realized how homesick I had been. I
wondered if they knew how beautiful it all was--they seemed so calm
about it, so unconcerned, while in spite of all I could do my tears
were crowding fast. No one but Belle had called me by my given name
since I had left home, eight long months before; that “Anna” in the
mother’s voice made me hungry to hear my own name. I recall how odd it
sounded to hear them speak of “Mr.” Longfellow, and “Mr. Agassiz,” as
they recounted every-day things about them. From their talk one would
think they came and went around Cambridge like ordinary persons! It
seemed as if this casual manner of speaking of these great men must be
assumed.


Among the revelations of that first year were the vehement women
friendships we saw in Boston. Of course I had known of extravagant
girl friendships, schoolgirls, but these were women, and they acted
like lovers. There was something unpleasant in it to me, even before I
learned, as I did in later years, that such companionships sometimes
degenerate into perverted associations. Not that this was the case
in any of the women I knew, but I had no liking for the peculiar,
absorbing feminine intimacies I saw at the College, at the Association,
and wherever I had near views of the lives of New England women. Even
“Our Caddie” had a beautiful senior student who adored her--a tall,
dark dignified maiden. They were said to be inseparable outside of
college precincts; a strange contrast, this pair! There were several
“pairs” in the senior class, and among the “middlers,” and even with
the juniors they sprang up like mushrooms. They gazed at each other
soulfully; they lived and thought in unison, communicating by glances
rather than by the crudity of the spoken word. I felt inclined to
ridicule them, yet there were some who were restrained in conduct, and
who seemed so unmistakably congenial that their attention for each
other, singular as it was to me, commanded respect. Still I was wont to
say that if ever I did fall in love, it would be with a man.

It seemed to surprise the students of both sexes when it dawned upon
them that Belle and I were not that kind of friends. Miss Thorndike,
our Buffalo friend, attracted the prim Miss Wilkins in this same way.
It amused Belle and me to see Miss Wilkins actually blush at little
attentions from Miss Thorndike; but Belle herself soon succumbed to the
strange attraction: One night after a quiz held at Miss Thorndike’s
room, Belle having lingered behind a little, on joining me, grasped my
hand and fervently whispered, “Genie! Miss Thorndike kissed me good
night!” I could feel only pitying amusement at such extravagance. Miss
Thorndike evidently enjoyed such triumphs; she tried to get me under
her spell. The more I saw of her, I saw that certain girls and women
were always falling a victim to her. Years later a sickly, neurotic
girl became so absorbed in her as to become almost estranged from her
family; she lived merely to bask in the Doctor’s presence--distinctly
an unhealthy relation. My own instincts from the first led me to
avoid such associations. In the years that followed, coming upon
such attachments, I clearly saw how it hampered women in their work,
the “vinewoman” acting like a parasite to the more rugged, energetic
personality; the latter having a multiplicity of interests, while the
clinging vine would be wretched at any interests in which she did
not have the lion’s share; in fact, was always chary of sharing her
inamorata with others to any degree.

There was a lackadaisical girl in our class, several years older than
I, who had been thus inclined toward me. I did not understand it at
first. She followed me about, trying to absorb my time and attention,
eager to do all sorts of little services for me; but I quickly put a
stop to it, though having to seem unkind in doing it. And there was a
married woman in our class who attempted a like attachment. One night
when several of us were discussing this topic, I must have spoken
of myself as bullet proof, as I ridiculed such folly. Suddenly this
student seized and kissed me, not once or twice, but several times,
fiercely, almost brutally. Surprised and indignant, I was actually weak
and unresisting for a moment, the others looking and laughing while
this aggressive creature triumphed and sparkled as she said, “There!
that is the way I would make you love me!” There were but two ways to
treat her assault--as a jest, or an indignity--I chose the former,
and shunned her throughout the rest of the course. I had disliked her
glittering black eyes and her personality anyhow, and this incident
only strengthened my instinctive repugnance.

Still another student, one of the juniors when I was “middler,” showed
a romantic inclination toward me: I had befriended her in little ways
because she seemed forlorn, and because I remembered every little
kindness shown me during the first year. She was of the pronounced
masculine type and seemed to glory in it, was careless in dress;
unprepossessing, and with a heavy voice. She was docile as a lamb with
me, and I succeeded in getting her to abandon some of her mannish
ways, and to be more mindful of her appearance. She would have been
my willing slave; but her devotion was irksome and I nipped it in
the bud; I neither wanted to adore, nor to be adored. Even at their
best, these inordinate attachments seem like outlets into a false
channel--the natural one being impeded. They affect me much as does a
woman’s silly devotion to a pet dog when, failing to find its natural
outlet, her maternal love degenerates, descending to the dog-kennel,
instead of blessing the nursery.


The religious qualms and questions of my school days were still
actively disturbing during that first college year, and I did not
cease trying to get on comfortable footing concerning them, though
knowing it could never be on the old footing. Miss Wilkins, a good
orthodox Congregationalist, listening sympathetically to my doubts and
difficulties, attempted to help me, finally urging me to let the doubts
go and just pray. I tried hard to follow her advice. On my knees alone
I prayed earnestly, but could get no awareness of a listening Father;
still I prayed, but soon, to my shame and sorrow (and, yes, to my
amusement, too), my mind having wandered, I found myself repeating the
branches of the axillary artery which I had been studying that evening!
I arose with a helpless feeling, convinced that it was useless to try
further. The next day when I told Miss Wilkins, grieved, but a bit
amused, too, she shook her head--at a loss whether to scold or to pet
me.


As soon as our first-year “exams” were over I was wild to get home.
Shall I ever look forward to anything with the eagerness I looked to
that first home-going? Belle, who had gone at the Christmas holidays,
was less eager. I had set the date of arrival a day later than I
intended reaching there, just to surprise them. When, on nearing Utica
we saw the fertile Mohawk valley, in such contrast to the stony,
more picturesque scenery of New England, we grew wild with delight.
This was the home country; we were no longer on alien soil. And when
the drumlins came in sight, we jumped from side to side of the car,
hungrily regarding them. The conductor and the few passengers smiled
indulgently; they knew we were going home! That final twenty-five-mile
stretch was interminable, and when, at the last stop but one, three
miles from our station, we saw our own drumlins, and the familiar
houses and trees, my heart leaped for joy. My eyes were blinded with
happy tears when the train pulled in.

There was the very platform on which I had stood in the darkness months
ago and torn myself from my sister’s embrace! There was the dear old
rattly “stage” and the familiar driver to take us to the village! How
good everyone about the station looked! I felt like hugging everybody.
Our trunks were put on; the horses started; the bells jingled; the
windows rattled in the old coach as we jolted along all too slowly over
the mile that lay between me and Home!

It was a beautiful summer evening. I glanced hungrily from the
windows at every familiar sight--it all seemed so real, yet so
incredible--here were the old scenes just as I had known them,
unchanged, when so much had been happening to me! “Unchanged?” But
there was a change, a glamour over everything, a light that never had
been, and never could be again--the light in which one sees a dear,
familiar scene on returning to it after his first absence! When we got
to the “corner”--the top of the hill that leads down to our house--I
climbed out and ran ahead to surprise them before they should hear
the stage-bells. I can see myself now, flying down the hill in the
June twilight, and running up the steps into Mother’s arms, almost
before she knew who it was. Home again, among the four beings I loved
best in all the world! If one wants to know how much he loves home
and family, let him go away in his youth to a distant city for long
months, then let him come back to that shelter and learn to the full
the blessedness, the sacred joy of all that is comprised in that word
“Home”!

How late we talked that night! Neighbours and friends flocked in to
see the wanderer; how good they all looked! but how odd their voices
sounded--every _r_ in their words stood out with such distinctness,
after hearing the broad _a_’s and the softened _r_’s of the New
England pronunciation. I spoke of the peculiarities of the New England
speech; how funny it had seemed to hear the College professors speak
of idea_r_s; how the chemistry professor talked of soda_r_ ash,
and, unless she was very careful, the Maine elocutionist called her
room-mate “Anna_r_”; of how affected it seemed to omit their _r_’s in
words where they should be, and insert them where they did not belong.
I said I had noticed a decided difference in Belle’s speech, although
she had ridiculed it as much as I did when we went there. While I was
speaking of this, a smile went round the family circle, finally they
laughed outright.

“What are you all laughing at?” I asked, a bit nettled. They said
they guessed Belle was not the only one who had taken on the Boston
pronunciation.

“Do you mean me?” I asked incredulously.

“We certainly do.” They had been amused ever since I had arrived to
note the change in my speech.


After we had been home a few days my mark in anatomy came. Belle and I
had been so scared when we had gone into “Our Caddie’s” examination,
that we had cared little about what marks we would get, if we could
only squeeze through. On opening the envelope I thought there must be
some mistake, for there was my name and number and my standing (in “Our
Caddie’s” own handwriting)--“100 plus 1.” She had deigned to write on
the card: “This means that you stood ninety-nine on your paper, and,
with twenty perfect plus marks in quizzes, it makes your standing 100
plus 1. One other in the class stood the same.” Miss Thorndike was that
other. It was always a puzzle to us both that she and I received this
high rating from the exacting Dr. Matson, for others in the class were
unquestionably better students than we were. My rejoicing, however, was
keen--until I thought of what Belle would say; but she was off in the
country, and I did not see her for some weeks; still there _was_ that
fly in the ointment.


During that vacation I took the agency for a book called “Milestones,”
and went about the village canvassing--distasteful work, but I cleared
fifty dollars by the means. One day when storm-stayed in a poor little
house on the east side of the town, an unforgettable experience came
to me. I usually found my best customers in such houses, and rather
enjoyed their rapt attention as I expatiated on the treasures in the
book; for, discarding the printed tale which the publishers had advised
agents to use, I adapted myself to each audience in turn, selecting
for bait the pictures and articles that I thought they would best jump
at. Sometimes, under their interested attention, I would wax eloquent.
I always knew in advance when an order was forthcoming, but enjoyed
quite as much getting my victim on the hook as securing the order.
As I waited that day in the little house till the rain should cease,
a big, strapping neighbour, rushing in out of the storm, puffing and
red-faced, blurted out, “John Stevens’s girl’s dead--died at four
o’clock.” Little did she or the others know! To them it was just a
piece of village news, yet this girl was my dearest friend! I had known
her death was near, but to learn of it in that squalid home, and from
this loud-mouthed woman, seemed a desecration. I sat very still till
the rain ceased, hearing their talk as in a dream.


Our old cat’s time had come to go that summer, and I decided that
I might relieve it of its existence, at the same time that I could
add to my knowledge of comparative anatomy, and give the children
in our street some instruction as well. So, improvising a place in
our back-yard under the Baldwin apple tree, I started out bravely to
chloroform the cat. But its writhings were too much for me; and Sister
and our neighbour, Walter, had to take that part off my hands; the rest
I did without a qualm, instructing the big-eyed, eager children about
the muscles and viscera, and enjoying the amusing questions they asked.



CHAPTER IX

THE “MEDIC”--_Continued_


Our Caddie’s greeting was a pleasant surprise when we went back
to College that second year. Stopping me and beaming on me, she
congratulated me warmly on my anatomy paper:

“Frankly, Miss Arnold, I was astonished when I learned it was your
paper. You seldom did yourself justice in quizzes, it seems.” Even to
this graciousness I was so constrained I could only blush and look
pleased; but some years later when she visited in the city where I was
practising, and I was driving out with her and another woman physician,
I confessed my former fear. How she laughed and melted! Then, turning
suddenly, she asked in her old manner,

“Did you think I would eat you?” For an instant I almost trembled, as
in the old days, but her merry smile soon followed. Since then the
utmost cordiality has existed between us.


The second year in College was the busiest. We had more studies, more
instructors, and a more varied life in every way. They lectured us on
disease-conditions and on the remedies to be applied. There were the
various clinics in the dispensary department--throat clinics, chest
clinics, women’s clinics, surgical clinics, children’s clinics, and so
on, where, under the various instructors, we were required to examine
and diagnose cases and to watch the result of treatment. Patients too
ill to come to the clinics were visited in their homes by the senior
students, and by the “middlers” after the first half of their second
year. Before taking cases, however, we went with the seniors on their
visits to get a little familiar with the work. Once on going with a
senior to an obstetric case, we found the baby already born, and the
cord tied and cut! A half-witted sister of the patient met us at the
door; the woman lay on the bed with no sheets on it; the new baby,
naked and cold, was crying vigorously; and, playing on the bed beside
the mother, was a little five-year-old who had been there through the
labour. It seems when the baby came and the patient had told her sister
to cut the cord, the sister refusing, the woman had sat up in bed and
cut it herself!


What a mass of instruction was thrust upon us that second year! I
enjoyed most the lectures of our professor in _materia medica_. A
charming man, enthusiastic, fluent, apt at illustration--a more
ready and engaging speaker I have never heard. Taking all he said as
gospel-truth, I was not a little disturbed toward the close of that
year to hear the seniors insinuate that he never spoiled a story for
the truth’s sake; that he would tell of some wonderful case one year,
ascribing the favourable termination to a certain remedy, and the next
year would forget and tell of it under quite another remedy! Each
disclosure of this kind came as a shock; it was so difficult--it is,
even now--to believe that people are not what they seem.

One man, our professor in pathology, never swerved one jot or tittle
from the truth. This trait was so strong that he seemed always to be
telling us what _not_ to believe; he was for ever exposing shams and
false theories, dubbing them “all fol-de-rol.” He gave us clear,
concise pictures of diseases; told what measures to adopt to relieve
them; what remedies to rely on, so far as remedies could be of
service; but never failed to impress upon us that “the books lie, and
doctors lie,” if they claim that cases follow the typical courses so
beautifully pictured; or that remedies, however well selected, will
invariably relieve. There was a touch of peevishness in his attempts
to make us chary about believing the stock statements in the books.
I had a great liking for him; his earnestness appealed to me. Abrupt
and brusque as he was, on the rare occasions when he smiled, his smile
had that distinctive charm that an infrequent smile always lends to a
stern, serious face. He was an excellent offset to the optimism and
enthusiasm of our professor in _materia medica_.

(A few years ago he came on as guest of honour and read a paper at our
State Medical Society meeting in Brooklyn. He looked much older, his
hair was thinned and white, but his voice had the old scornful ring,
and carried me back to those student days in Boston; every familiar
inflection was a fresh delight; and to make it more realistic, there
was dear Dr. Wilkins who had come on, too--the Miss Wilkins who had
so mothered me in college--past and present were strangely blended
that day: on the platform Dr. “Conrad,” whose tones made me a student
again; by my side the class-mate who had sat with me in the old days
and listened to those same tones; while all around me were also friends
and associates of to-day, else I surely should have felt myself a girl
again and back in the old lecture room.)

Our professor in throat diseases was no favourite with the students.
He had a smooth face, china-blue eyes, and wore a brown wig. We
thought him vain, and knew he was irritable; and we failed to get
much out of his lectures or clinics. Once I asked him to go with me in
consultation to a home where I suspected my case was diphtheria; he
went and, confirming my diagnosis with alacrity, hurried out of the
house, showing such personal apprehension that it made me feel a bit
contemptuous. He asked me if I were not afraid of it, and advised me,
wisely, to send the case at once to the city hospital, which I did.

The same professor whom we had had the first year in the History
of Medicine, instructed us in diseases of the chest; friendly and
approachable, he gave us good lectures and valuable clinics.

The Dean, bless his heart! lectured to us on surgery. He always seemed
in a hurry; he was an easy talker. Some of the students were inclined
to belittle his skill as an operator, though admitting that he had been
an excellent surgeon in his palmier days. Anyhow, he had force and
charm, and was an indefatigable worker, and a warm-hearted, tactful man.

In obstetrics we had an able man, friendly, alert, conscientious, and a
good instructor.

The professor in diseases of women was a pretty, fascinating woman,
a general favourite; she had a big practice over on the Back Bay. We
students thought her charmingly inefficient as a lecturer; it was a
pleasure to look at her, and to listen to her, but her lectures were
thin, and her clinics disappointing. I could so seldom find what she
would tell us we ought to find in the cases, and when I would say I
couldn’t, she would smile in her bewitching way and say, “Oh, but you
_must_, it is there”; and then I would try again, often unsuccessfully,
while she seemed to have little aptitude to make me find the thing in
question. Somehow, we got in the way of not taking her very seriously;
but, come to think of it, it is hardly fair to single her out as the
cause of my stupidity, for there were clinics of the other professors
as well, where I failed to find conditions we were told existed. I
suppose it was the untrained student’s incapacity for seeing, hearing,
and feeling what the trained clinician sees, hears, and feels so easily.

The man who lectured to us on gunshot wounds always came in the
amphitheatre as though he had been shot out of a gun himself. His
lectures were clear and to the point.

The lecturer on electro-therapeutics was a pleasing, gentle person; the
one on diseases of children a trig, dapper little man; and there were
other branches--medical chemistry, skin diseases, diseases of eye and
ear, and so on--assuredly a busy year.


When, the latter half of the year, we were allowed to take cases, they
were assigned us in alphabetical order. Each student before receiving
his degree must have himself managed at least thirty medical, five
surgical, and three obstetrical cases; although he was at liberty when
necessary to ask a senior to accompany him, and, in grave cases, to
call on the Faculty.

All that we knew of our cases till visiting them in their homes was the
name and address furnished by the house-physician at the Dispensary.
How exciting those first calls--wondering what we should find! I well
remember the first visit I started out alone to make with my new little
medicine-case under my arm: “Lynch, 846 Albany Street” was the legend
supplied at the Dispensary.

The place was in a somewhat better locality than many I had visited
in company with seniors. Mounting the stairs, I knocked in some
trepidation as I realized I was about to undertake alone my first
patient. What would it be? Should I be able, after examining her, to
know what ailed her? and what to do for her? A strapping big Irish
woman came to the door.

“Does Mrs. Lynch live here?” I asked in as professional a tone as I
could summon, to which she grudgingly admitted that she did.

“I am the doctor from the Dispensary, I would like to see her.”

“_I_ am Mrs. Lynch,” she said, without opening the door further, “but
I’ll have you understand my son is pretty sick--it is no time to fool
around; I sent for a doctor, _not for a little girl_.”

I can see myself as I stood there; can feel just how taken aback and
indignant I was; how helpless I felt; but it was only momentary.
Pocketing my anger, I said quietly but firmly, “_I_ am the doctor who
has been sent to you; if your son is very ill, you must let me see him
at once.” She hesitated, but I added that if, after I prescribed for
him, she preferred to have a _man_ doctor, in the morning, I would send
one instead. I chose to relinquish the case, if need be, on the ground
of sex rather than youth, thus seeming to preserve my dignity.

She wavered as though not intending to let me in, but I looked at her
compellingly, and, with an ungracious snort, she led the way to the
sick-room.

There lay a young coal-driver of twenty-five, with high fever, pains
in head and limbs and around his heart, and the fear that he was going
to die--a case of rheumatic fever. He looked disappointed as I came
in, but was civil; he was too apprehensive to reject even my feeble
help. After listening to the history of the onset, I took his pulse and
temperature, asked my questions, which at first the mother refused to
answer, but her son answered them; and, as the examination progressed,
she herself vouchsafed bits of information, showing some lessening
of hostility. Prescribing, and giving strict and explicit directions
about medicine and diet, on leaving, I said, “I will come early in the
morning to see how he is; if you then wish a male physician, I will
have one sent for the next visit.” She was less uncivil as she showed
me out.

I prescribed _rhus toxicodendron_. That very afternoon the lecturer
had discussed the remedy. My case seemed made to order for it. Though
prescribing without a moment’s hesitation, still I rushed home and
looked up my notes, and studied the subject in the books, finding to my
satisfaction that the remedy was well prescribed. In those days one had
abundant faith that the remedies, if correctly applied, that is, if the
true _similimum_ be found, would do all they promised. My class-mates
laughed at my rebuff, but congratulated me on effecting an entrance,
and on the selection of the remedy.

Early in the morning I hastened to my patient. At the door the big
woman met me with the warmth and cordiality that only an Irish woman
can Show when so disposed:

“Come in, Doctor, come right in; my son do be feelin’ better, God bless
you!”

Of course he was better; had I not given him _rhus tox_ when all his
symptoms called for it? I have since wondered what I should have
thought, or done, had my patient failed to respond to the remedy; but
there he was, surprisingly better, it was plain to see.

It was my time for revenge: Treating the woman’s warmth with the same
apparent indifference that I had her insolence, I allowed myself an
outlet for my satisfaction in cordiality to my patient. Going carefully
over his symptoms I found him indeed better, though still far from
well, and this I told him. Mixing fresh medicine, and giving fresh
directions as to his care, I told him he ought to get on nicely now;
and then, turning to the woman, said, “To-morrow I will have one of the
male physicians make the visit.”

The patient began to protest, and the woman herself to show
disappointment:

“Oh, no, Doctor, I guess you’ll do as well as anybody.” But I wickedly
replied that I thought she would be better pleased to have another
doctor, and I could easily arrange it. Then she pleaded with me not to
throw up the case--no one could do so well--her son would get worse
if he had a change of doctors, and so on. So, not wishing to excite
my patient, and thinking I had punished her enough, I condescended to
keep the case. He made a good recovery, and Mrs. Lynch was one of my
staunchest advocates after that, recommending me to her neighbours
in glowing praise. She also recommended her son to me: “Mike do be
thinkin’ a lot of you, Doctor, for savin’ his life. He’s a good boy, is
Mike, and will make someone a good man; he gets twinty dollars a month,
and has no bad habits, Doctor. Sure an’ a woman might do worse. But
Mike says, he says to me, ‘Now, Mother, you do be talkin’ nonsense--the
Doctor ain’t for the loikes of me.’”

I can laugh now at the rebuffs I met on account of my youth, not only
when in College, but even when practising in U----, but it was hard
to laugh at them then. Hence, I suppose, the dignity I instinctively
assumed to make up for my short stature and lack of years. I learned,
toward the close of my medical course, that it had been customary among
the students to speak of me as “the dignified little Miss Arnold.”
This dignity was no pose. I was dreadfully in earnest, and felt keenly
this drawback to success. There was Miss Wilkins in the same class,
no older than I _as a doctor_, but her years and her spectacles were
passports to immediate acceptance, and she got credit for being wise
where I was scarcely tolerated. Exasperation was no name for it! I
lost one obstetrical case in my third year just because of this: After
I had made my first visit, the patient sent me a polite note saying
her husband was unwilling to go so far as my boarding-place for a
doctor; that she would have liked to have me, and hoped I wouldn’t
be offended--all a pretense--she was afraid to trust herself in my
hands. Under this suddenly terminated record in my note-book I wrote
with a sigh, “Oh, for the bonnet and spectacles of Miss Wilkins!” Even
within a few months of graduation, while shopping for a cloak, I was
chagrined to have the saleswoman tell the taller, but younger, girl
who, accompanying me, acted as spokesman, “Oh, you will have to take
_her_ into the misses’ department.” The “misses’ department,” indeed!
and I almost ready to take my degree! and I would have to be taken
in--I could not even go there myself! It amuses me now to recall what a
sore point this was with me.


During my second year, Sister came on to Boston to take up nursing.
What delight when she landed there! She looked so pretty, and I was
so overjoyed to have her there, so proud of her, so eager to show
her about and introduce her to my friends! She had been over to the
hospital only a week when one day, between lectures, one of the young
men came to me and said, “Miss Arnold, there’s an awful nice little
thing out in the hall wants to see you.” Just then another rushed up
and said, “Miss Arnold, if you’re not in here, you’re out in the hall,
and you want to see yourself.” I ran out and found Kate in her nurse’s
garb, smiling, blushing, and enjoying having these young men dance
attendance on her. I was flattered that they had seen so marked a
resemblance when she was so much more attractive than I.

Not wishing to pledge herself to the two-year course, Kate stayed
at the hospital only during the probationer’s term, deciding that
she would go home and say Yes to the wooer to whom distance was
lending enchantment. But she occupied herself with private nursing
in and around Boston till I went home in June. Once she just missed
an opportunity to go as companion to the invalid wife of Dr. Oliver
Wendell Holmes, but an unkind Providence prevented--she having accepted
a case in that city. How I bewailed her untimely absence--actually
to have been in the same house with the dear Autocrat! I was almost
tempted to go myself--medicine or no medicine.


During that second year, Dr. “Conrad” asked for volunteers for
drug-provings among the students: A drug was prepared for each prover
with directions for taking, and whatever symptoms were experienced
while taking it were to be recorded in a little book, whether we
thought them due to the drug or not. The provers were enjoined not to
compare notes, but to turn in their reports at a stated time. I was one
of six to volunteer.

For a few days I had only the slightest symptoms to record, but after
that there developed an intestinal disturbance which gradually became
pronounced. I began to get interested, wondering if it was really
the drug that was responsible--those tiny tasteless powders--so,
doubting it, kept on with the medicine. I suppose I was a little
skeptical because of a rumour that they always gave some of the provers
_saccharum lactis_, and that not infrequently records were turned in
with a long string of symptoms, when the provers had only been given
_sac. lac._ Naturally I did not want to attribute symptoms to drug
action if I were not taking a real drug; so, though growing worse and
worse, I kept on with the proving. The day came for our examination in
pathology by the very professor who had solicited the provings--our
skeptical pessimist. Uncomfortably ill by that time, I could hardly
hold out to take the examination. Miss Wilkins had insisted that if I
did not go to see Dr. “Conrad” immediately afterwards, she would go
herself, so as I handed in my paper, I told him I was ill, and would
like to call at his office in the afternoon. I added that I was one of
the drug-provers, but was not sure whether this illness had anything
to do with what I had been taking. He bent upon me those scrutinizing
eyes, his face stern but kindly, and said, “Poor child, why didn’t you
tell me before? How have you sat through the examination? Go home at
once, and come to me at two o’clock.”

That afternoon I went to his office on Commonwealth Avenue--a luxurious
place, a side of life that, as students, we saw only from the outside,
our entrée in Boston houses being chiefly in those of the Lynches,
the Sullivans, and O’Gradys. The kind, fatherly look he bent upon me
as he drew me in his office and listened to my confused, embarrassed
tale, was worth it all. Weak and in pain, I was unable to tell a clear
story. He snatched my note-book, read the symptoms, looking up every
few minutes, then read on, after which he gave me a soothing talk, and
I have loved him ever since. Though commending my zeal, he deplored the
fact that I had carried it to the extent of suffering so much.

“No one else did it--no one else did it,” he scolded, half to
himself. “They turned in their worthless notes before the time was
up, pretending they had taken the drugs faithfully when I knew they
hadn’t; some of them got symptoms on taking _sac. lac._--a good list of
them! but you wanted to be sure yourself--that is the only way to get
at the truth.”

Who would not have been willing to suffer to get this from the stern
Dr. “Conrad?” Rigidly prescribing my diet and rest, he gave me some
medicine and sent me home in his carriage, calling on me that evening
to my delight. In two days I was as well as ever. I learned later that
it was _mercury_ that I had proved, but in so weak a potency that he
had been surprised at the results.

That same year I experimented with _atropine_ in my eyes (a silly,
risky thing to do), applying it just to see how I would look with the
pupils widely dilated, little knowing how it would incapacitate me for
my work. Putting in a tiny bit just before starting for College one
morning, by the time I got there I could not see to take notes or to
read, and it was only a day or two before “exams”!

For one of the meetings of our College Society, I was given the
subject _materia medica_ to treat in any way I chose. Having just been
reading the “medicated novels” of Dr. Holmes--“Elsie Venner” and “The
Guardian Angel”--I thought it would be fun to take a case described
in one of them, as given in the nurse’s report, ask the students to
diagnose it and prescribe, leading them at the start to think it a
_bona fide_ case. The one I chose, I myself diagnosed as one of _globus
hystericus_, and decided what remedy I would give, were she a real
patient. Then it occurred to me that it would be interesting to know
what our professor in _materia medica_ would prescribe for such a case
in real life; and that it would add to the interest if I could tell the
students that I would give them Prof. S----’s prescription after they
had submitted theirs.

I had no intention of deceiving the professor when I first thought of
going to him, but growing bold on arrival, as I handed him the paper
with the symptoms copied off verbatim, told him I was especially
anxious to prescribe carefully for this case, as it had come into my
hands from _a prominent old school physician_.

As he read, his eyes twinkled at the nurse’s phraseology; he looked up
at me once or twice, curiously, as I sat there scared, then, at what
I had done. Seeing my pencilled diagnosis with a question mark at the
bottom, he said:

“Yes, you have diagnosed the case correctly beyond a doubt, and now for
the remedy--I see you have three suggested, but first, let me know more
about the case.” Then he plied me with questions. By this time I was
greatly embarrassed; a suspicious twinkle in his eye, as he remarked
that the nurse herself must be a unique person, made me uncomfortable.
Finally he queried, “Who _is_ this ‘old school physician’ who had the
case?”

“Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes,” I confessed timorously.

How he laughed! Hastening to explain and apologize, I told him how I
had come to present the case to him, and that only on the spur of the
moment had I conceived the idea of offering it as a real case. He had
seen from the start that there was something queer, but was at a loss
to unravel the mystery. After a jolly chat about it, he discussed the
symptoms as seriously with me as though it had been a case in real
life; so I went to the Society meeting in great glee, hoodwinking them
until their answers were turned in, then telling them the whole story.


The experiences of that second-year vacation kept pace with the advance
in our studies. Uncles, aunts, and cousins, school-mates, neighbours,
and chance acquaintances came rehearsing their aches and pains,
expecting me in my inexperience to help them promptly. I took them
all seriously. I was a good listener, but was often of little further
help. So many of them had complaints about which we had as yet had no
lectures. Still I had the hope and confidence that go with youth, and
the temerity to “rush in” where the more experienced might fear to
tread.

The coloured woman who did our washing asked me to attend her in
confinement--her confidence in me was touching; for, although we had
had our lectures in obstetrics, and I had been to a few cases with
seniors, I had then managed none myself. But Josie had had several
children so would be likely, I thought, to have an easy time; and, if I
should need help, I could call on Dr. Campbell--the physician for whom
I had had the girlish infatuation.

It was a hot Fourth of July when they called me. Josie’s poor little
home was a paradise in neatness and order compared to those I had
frequented in dispensary practice. I felt quite elated at the prospect
of managing a case alone. But from my first examination I felt
uneasy, seeing that I had a different condition to deal with than any
encountered in my limited experience. As labour progressed, to my
consternation I found the cord, instead of the head, presenting, so
knew that I had a case of transverse presentation--one which would
require turning and speedy delivery to save the child. Of course I was
incompetent to do this, nor would it have been lawful to attempt it,
being an undergraduate.

Dr. Campbell responded promptly to my summons, performed version, and
delivered the child and the adherent placenta. I managed the after-care
without difficulty. Josie was glad of her enforced rest in bed. In the
days preceding her confinement I had gone past her house and seen
her, big with child, standing at the ironing-board, late at night,
thus supporting her family while her great lazy husband, John Wesley
Freeman, would loll about all day, then sit by her at night and read
the Bible and exhort as she stood ironing. True to his name, he felt
called to preach, and, failing a larger audience, preached to poor
Josie, in and out of season. While I kept her in bed, the lazy fellow
had to shift for himself or starve, as his swarming offspring were too
small to be of service in the household.

One morning, on finding Josie worse, and learning that John Wesley
had been preaching to her the night before, and scolding her because
she had fallen asleep, I berated him soundly. It was a good time to
chastise him generally; to warn him against deeds of omission and
commission. So I set forth how near Josie had come to losing her life,
and said she probably would not live through another pregnancy. When
I had done, in his drawling, falsetto voice, and with a sanctimonious
air, he said:

“Yes, Miss ’Genia, I reckon she was mighty sick, but she’s gettin’
on now, and you know, Miss ’Genia, the Bible says we chillun must be
fruitful and multiply and ’plenish the earth; and, Miss ’Genia, we
sholy must do as the good Book says.”

More exasperated than amused, I snapped out:

“Well, John Wesley, I think you have done your share toward being
fruitful and multiplying and replenishing the earth--I guess the Lord
will excuse you if you turn around now and help Josie to support the
ones you have on hand.”

But he didn’t; he continued compliant to his favourite text; and after
one or two more evidences of his cheerful obedience came, Josie left
her wash-tub and ironing-board forever and replenished the earth with
her worn-out body, able no longer to be fruitful and multiply at
the rate John Wesley thought necessary in order to fulfil the Holy
Scriptures.

All that summer I attended an old man dying of Bright’s disease,
prescribing for him and helping his over-burdened wife in nursing
him. It was hard work--those bed-sores, his extreme emaciation and
helplessness; but I then learned the luxury of feeling myself really
useful. I knew I was helping to lighten burdens growing well-nigh
unendurable. Yet how critical I was in my heart of the poor wife when,
the morning I went there early and found her carrying out blankets and
pillows to air, I heard her announce, with a relief in which there
was no attempt at concealment, “Well, he’s gone at last!” She let me
do the autopsy. I invited Belle and Dr. Campbell. I can remember the
appearance of those worn-out kidneys far better than the details of
many a later autopsy.



CHAPTER X

THE “MEDIC”--_Concluded_


There were four hospital appointments of one year each open to the
seniors, each student receiving board and laundry, and giving in return
his or her services, except when attending lectures. I had already
declined a position as house-physician at Lasell Seminary, to which
one of the retiring seniors had recommended me, hoping to secure the
next hospital vacancy on January first, though letting go the bird
in the hand with considerable hesitation. Either position would be a
great help financially, but the one at the hospital, if I could obtain
it, would offer exceptional advantages from a medical point of view;
besides would hold over six months after graduation.

We three applicants were in turn called before the Faculty and
questioned as to our past life and experience, our standing in college,
and our dispensary work. Not having thought to supply myself with
letters of recommendation, I was not a little disturbed when the other
girls showed me theirs. My turn came last, and I was considerably awed
on entering the room where the professors were congregated, even though
the dear Dean, and Dr. “Conrad,” and the friendly professor in _materia
medica_ were among the number. My work in the Post Office, and my two
terms of country school-teaching were all I could think of when they
asked me what I had to offer in the way of experience as to fitness for
the position.

Our humorous little chest professor, Dr. C----, could not resist a joke
at my expense:

“I see your standing in anatomy is 100 plus 1--ahem!--ah--just explain
to me, won’t you, what this means? Does it mean that you know one more
thing than Dr. Matson knows about anatomy--or one more thing than there
_is_ to know?”

I snickered at this, but quickly sobered and explained about the plus
marks in quizzes counting on our final marks; and, his eyes twinkling,
he professed his curiosity satisfied. Then some of the others put their
queries, and finally they let me go.

In the adjoining room we three sat in suspense while they talked us
over, each of us dreading yet hoping to be the lucky one. Presently Dr.
C---- came to us, no pleasantry now; he looked really uncomfortable;
fidgeting at his collar and cuffs, and glancing from one to the other
of us, he said apologetically that they were sorry there were not three
positions vacant, so as to give us all a chance to demonstrate our
ability, but--hm! hm!--since there was only one, they had decided in
favour of--ah--Miss Arnold.

I felt almost guilty at being chosen, but the other girls were very
comforting, and the welcome the house-staff gave me, when I went
downstairs, was cheering indeed. It was a great load off my mind--no
more board to pay, to say nothing of other advantages. While the
house-staff were questioning me as to the “grilling” I had received,
the faculty meeting having dispersed, some of the professors dropped in
the office. Dr. S----, in a charmingly facetious way, told the house
officers why he voted for “Dr.” Arnold (with a low bow to me as he said
that the title I was to earn next June was now mine by courtesy)--he
had voted for her, he said, because she once brought him a “novel”
patient from a prominent old school physician--no less a person than
Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes! Another spoke in a more serious vein--my
work in the Post Office he thought ought to have helped me to learn
adaptability; but the irrepressible little Dr. C---- said he had chosen
me because even Dr. Matson was willing to concede that I was more than
perfect in anatomy.


Valuable as was the year in the hospital, I got all too little out of
it, considering what it offered. The daily association with trained
physicians and surgeons, and familiarity with illness, with hospital
methods, with surgical technique, were among the unquestioned benefits.

The three of us who were undergraduates had to work particularly hard,
as there was the college work to keep up, as well as the exacting
demands of ward and operating-room work.

Though on the medical side for the first six months, I had the
anesthetizing to do for a time. It was disagreeable work. Often all
would go well and, interest centring on the operation, no one would
notice the humble etherizer. Again, though I was seemingly just as
painstaking, the patient would become cyanotic, and I would have to
remove the cone, pull out the tongue, and perhaps resort to other
measures to reëstablish respiration. If the operator noticed this,
I would get very nervous, especially if it happened when a certain
irascible surgeon was operating; for, impatient of the slightest delay,
he would scold before the whole class. If I anesthetized so lightly
that the patient moved, or--horror of horrors!--if he began retching,
how mortified I was! And if I made the opposite mistake of pushing the
ether too far--the agony I suffered, even after he was out of danger!
to think how near he came to death through my incompetency! It all came
easier after a while, but I was distinctly relieved when, after three
months, I was graduated from the ether-cone, and promoted to “running
instruments,” though there were trials even here.

So many surgeons, each with his different methods--it was no easy task
for a beginner who knew little about the technique of operations, and
had no special aptitude for anticipating just what instruments were
needed and when. I think I never made a specially good assistant. I
was not mechanical enough myself; but it was a pleasure to attend some
of the surgeons--those who were cool and collected; who remembered our
inexperience; who explained ahead their probable procedures, and called
out clearly the name of the instrument they wished, if we did not
anticipate them.

One of the operators, though skilled, was so nervous he would fairly
jump up and down if one handed him a pair of forceps when he was not
ready for them, or gave him the wrong retractor, or if the cat-gut
broke when tying off arteries. Original in his methods, still he
expected one to know what he wanted, no matter what, in his confusion,
he said. He would throw a knife across the room if it was not sharp
enough, or was not just to his fancy; and how he would scold and abuse
us at times!--seldom at private operations when just the house-staff
was present, but on clinic days when the entire student-body was
assembled and also visiting physicians--at such times he was especially
nervous and would make the fur fly.

“_Can’t_ you tell what I want before I want it?--never did see such
stupid assistants.” “Who sharpened these knives?” “Who prepared this
cat-gut?” “_Can’t_ you keep your patient under ether--have I got to
operate and etherize, too?”

How furious we used to get! We were all in the same boat, though I
am sure I was more stupid than the others, especially when he was
concerned. But he would come around afterwards, while we were washing
up instruments (and at the same time resolving that we were fools to
stay on there and take his abuse), and by a few words he would, as
it were, pat us all on the back; say we had helped him out of a very
trying operation; that he never meant what he said when operating,
and so on. And, so potent was his penitent manner, we were usually
mollified--till the next time. As an operator we respected him; his
cases always did well. We knew he was hot-headed, and that afterwards
he was always ashamed of his temper; we also knew that others had lived
through just such experiences, and that other students stood ready to
take our positions if we abandoned them.


Serious were the daily events by which we were surrounded, but the
irrepressibility of youth asserted itself. Mingled with the memory of
solemn scenes and grave responsibilities are recollections of many a
jolly hour within the hospital walls. I recall in this connection the
initiation that our colleagues, Fenton and Laidlaw, gave me shortly
after I went there. I roomed with Dr. Thorndike who had gone on the
house-staff three months before. One night shortly after we had gone
to bed we suddenly smelled _amyl nitrite_ so strong that we got up
to investigate. All was quiet in the hall and in the private rooms
near by--the odour was clearly more penetrating right there in our
room. After considerable search we found a tiny moist streak on the
floor--those young doctors had injected a hypodermic syringeful of
that pungent drug through our key-hole! We turned out our light and
went back to bed, chagrined that, lurking about somewhere, they had
doubtless heard us and known that we had risen to their bait. Soon we
heard stealthy steps outside in the hall, then a squirt and a splash,
and through the key-hole came a bigger stream--this time they had used
a large syringe and injected strong ammonia. Of course we were forced
to vacate and air our room--just what the besiegers wanted! They,
and we, got all the more fun out of these practical jokes because we
could not risk disturbing the patients, and also had to be guarded
lest the wary matron, or the night nurses, discover our pranks. We
were not above the pranks, but did not wish to impair our prestige as
house-officers.

One evening Laidlaw, looking sober as a deacon, came to the office and
requested us to repair to an upper room for consultation. He looked
so dignified we knew something was up. Closing the door upon us, and
solemnly unbuttoning his coat, he revealed a fat mince pie. After we
had discussed it to the last crumb, and I had voted it the best pie I
ever ate, he informed me it was a brandied pie. In those days I refused
pies or sauces if I knew they contained brandy or sherry. Having
wheedled the cook to put a double dose in that pie, he and the others
chuckled to see the little teetotaller partake of it so greedily.
At that time I was gullible, fairly docile, and must have been rare
sport for the more sophisticated three. The young men lectured me in a
fatherly way, and really did me a good service in getting me over some
of my unduly prim ways. The first college year I had been so “proper”
I would not let my father see me in my “gym” suit; yet before the year
was over Miss Thorndike and I, to shock Miss Wilkins, had had our
tin-types taken in those suits! One morning at the breakfast table,
at the hospital, I was shocked to find a pencil sketch of two young
women gymnasts, a rough sketch which implied that the one who made it
must have seen this tin-type. Knowing it to be the work of Fenton and
Laidlaw, I was distressed to think they must have seen the original;
but was greatly relieved to find that Dr. Thorndike and a girl friend
had simply described it minutely to them, so they could make me think
they had seen it. After that Miss Thorndike’s friend, seeing how I
was given to straining at gnats and swallowing camels, made a clever
sketch of a prim maiden sitting in a large chair, the arms and legs
of which were covered with gloves and stockings, while a statue of
Venus (draped) stood near, and the maiden, holding a fan between her
face and the draped statue, was absorbed in a book of Zola’s! Though
I had never read a word of Zola’s I saw what a clever hit this was at
my inconsistencies. Still I did not consider myself prudish; I could
discuss medical topics freely with any one without embarrassment; but
did not like jesting about certain matters; and perhaps, when in dead
earnest, _was_ rather slow in seeing the funny side of things. So the
others claimed I needed some shocking and disciplining to get me over
my squeamishness, and perhaps I did. I remember how Fenton scolded me
one day for objecting when he started to brush the lint from my gown:
“There’s no sense in your being so prim--I don’t want you to be as free
and easy as Miss ---- is, but you certainly do carry modesty too far.”
He was so fine and honest, I know I profited by that and other advice
of his.


We sometimes read aloud together in the evening, oftenest from
“Pickwick Papers,” having uproarious times there in the office, with
no patients or nurses near. One evening, when Dr. Thorndike was away,
Laidlaw brought in a book saying, “I’ve found a brand new author--they
say it’s great--let’s try it.” It was Amélie Rives’s “The Quick or the
Dead.” We began it gaily and innocently, at least I did, reading aloud
by turns. From the start it was very fervid, and soon I, and I think
the young men also, began to be embarrassed. Just as I was feeling
uneasy and wondering how I was going to get out of it, a bright little
woman physician whom we all knew, passing the office door and hearing
our gales of laughter (for we were making all sorts of fun of it to
relieve our embarrassment) stopped and asked what we were reading. She
looked surprised on being told, but made no comment about it, and as
she turned to go, asked casually if she could speak with me later, when
I was at liberty. Glad of an excuse, I said I could stop then, and went
with her. Telling me that she had read the book, she said she thought
I would find it quite impossible to go on with it with the young men,
and suggested, as a way out, that I slip down to the office after they
had gone to their rooms, get the book and read it, then tell them I had
already finished it; they would then, she said, read it by themselves,
and soon drop the subject.

That night I did as she advised. They grumbled and rallied me about
being so eager that I couldn’t wait to finish it with them; but they
soon let the subject rest. For years I blushed whenever I heard that
book mentioned. It is the only book I ever read that I feel ashamed to
admit having read, though now I have only the faintest recollection
what it was all about.


Our hospital life was a full one--much work and many emotions crowded
in the days: patients coming to be operated; many operations meaning
life or death, and even the less serious ones always approached by the
patients with dread and apprehension. It fell to the house-officers
to receive and reassure patients and their friends; to calm their
anxiety; to inspire their confidence in the operators, and their hope
for the outcome. Sometimes the apprehension of the patient, and his
forebodings, so weighed me down, that I found it difficult to be very
reassuring; but I learned in time to disregard these, and was then, of
course, of more help to the patients.

I recall one case in which the surgeon found such complications that
there was nothing to do but bring the operation to a close, with the
hope that the patient could rally from the anesthetic and have some
minutes with her friends before the end. As she sank steadily, with
what breathless but orderly haste we worked! That drawn, tense look on
the surgeon’s face, the awful stillness in the operating room! Actuated
by one motive, the assistants were so many extra hands for the surgeon,
anticipating his needs to the letter. Restoratives were applied, every
conceivable means was employed to counteract the collapse into which
the patient was sinking. Giving his entire attention to the field
of operation, and working with marvellous rapidity, the surgeon was
taking the last stitches, when we told him she was gone. Nervelessly he
dropped his hands, leaving Laidlaw and me to finish the stitches and
apply the dressings. The look of agony on the face he lifted to us was
a revelation. I had never realized till then what the taking of such
a serious case means to a surgeon, and was more especially impressed
as I had thought this particular surgeon cold and self-centred. A few
minutes later he came to me, his voice shaking, and asked if, as a
special favour to him, I would go down and speak with the friends, and
tell them carefully about the outcome. Not an easy thing to do, but I
felt so much compassion for him I would not have hesitated had it been
twice as hard. Sometimes our patients were poor and obscure; again, as
in the above case, from well-known Boston families--the extremes of
life met in that little hospital of about one hundred beds, and scenes
grave and gay alternated in rapid succession.

One day a big demonstrative fellow under etherization caused me no
end of embarrassment: It was an emergency case sandwiched in between
others, and they brought him in the operating room only partly
anesthetized. It was a day when the room was full of students. I was
busy, passing back and forth, getting things ready, when in the maudlin
loquacity of that first-stage of ether he threw out his arms and begged
me to come and hold his hand. They tried to quiet him, and to push
the ether, but he took it poorly and resisted vigorously, and kept
addressing to me many endearing epithets as he entreated me to come
and hold his hand. Of course the students enjoyed it, and suppressed
titters passed along the rows of spectators. My face reddened
furiously. I tried to keep out of sight as much as possible, but with
the persistence of one partly under ether, he kept calling, “Let her
come and hold my hand--let the little angel hold my hand.”

The students were highly amused, and even the surgeon, who ordinarily
never betrayed amusement in the amphitheatre, showed a suspicious
twitching about the mouth, and finally, the entreaties continuing,
said to me, “Dr. Arnold, I think perhaps it will quiet him if you do
as he requests.” There was nothing to do but comply. I had to step
up to the table and hold the big baby’s hand, to the delight of the
students--especially to one Breynton, one of the house-staff over
at the Dispensary, who, having been a victim of some of my practical
jokes, rejoiced at my discomfiture.


When Fenton’s term of service ended, and he went to practise in a
neighbouring city, he left the rest of us disconsolate. We four had
had such good times together. He was a fine, manly fellow, very
kind to the patients, conscientious, impatient of pretense--it was
he who had lectured me about my prudishness. He had a keen sense of
humour and a fine sense of honour; and the friendship begun in those
hospital days has been one of the most satisfactory in my life--a real
_camaraderie_. We did not take so kindly to his successor, Dr. James--a
genial but presuming youth, harder to keep in place, more daring, more
flirtatious. It wasn’t long before James was teaching me to dance in
the amphitheatre, after we would get the instruments put away, he
whistling the music. I soon saw that that would not do. But we often
played and sang together; he had a fine tenor voice. Dr. Thorndike’s
term expiring shortly after she took her degree, and no one applying
through that summer, there were then but three of us to do the work
previously shared by four.

Our Commencement was held in Tremont Temple, the whole University
participating--an immense affair, very impersonal, it meant far less to
me than our modest little Commencement of Academy days. Coming, too,
in the midst of hospital work, it was but an event in the day. Still,
I remember a thrill, as of something achieved, when, filing across the
platform with hundreds of other students, I received my diploma from
President Warren. Each department of the University sat in a body;
each student stepped upon the big platform as his name was called out;
his diploma was handed him; and the generous applause from his own
student-body sounded very good, as (if a “medic”) he walked down the
steps on the other side, a full-fledged M.D. Most of the graduates were
immediately confronted by the vexed question of where to “locate,” but
those of us in the hospital had six months’ grace before that bugbear
stared us in the face.


My thesis, on “Heredity,” consisted mainly of quotations from
authorities I had consulted in the Public Library. The original matter
in it, feeble and inadequate, was chiefly a protest against the
marriage of the unfit. I was ardently espousing the cause of Eugenics
before there was such a cause, or at least before Galton’s seed-sowing
had found a friendly soil. There was an unscientific portion about
pre-natal influence, and plenty of advice to prospective parents as
to the need of influencing the unborn, so as to make them beautiful
of body and soul. There is nothing, I am convinced, that the Young
Person hesitates to advise humanity about just as he himself is
about to take his plunge into the sea of life. Slumbering somewhere
in the dusty archives of Boston University is my lengthy thesis
on Heredity--slumbering? but a thing has to live to slumber--this
offspring of mine never had any life--it was still-born.


Shortly after Commencement I went to W---- to visit a former
class-mate, and also to see Dr. Fenton who had “located” there. He had
called at Dr. Carson’s on my arrival, and it was agreed that she and I
would go to see him the next day in his new office.

That afternoon it popped into my head to dress up as an old woman and
make him think for a moment that he had a new patient. Combing my hair
down over my ears, putting on spectacles, and a black gown, bonnet, and
veil, I looked very like a little elderly widow. Dr. Carson waited at a
near-by drug-store. The lame woman in black hobbled up the steps to the
young doctor’s office. His door was ajar. (He was expecting Dr. Carson
and me.) I purposely halted as he came toward me, that he might take in
my general appearance before I spoke, the better to aid the disguise.

He looked, I thought, a bit disappointed not to see his friends, but
the look gave place to one of quiet attention, and even a gleam of
pleasure at acquiring a new patient. I saw as he invited me to be
seated that he had no suspicion of me, and consequently, could scarcely
articulate for laughter. Not having expected to deceive him, except for
an instant, I had not thought up a story, but, suppressing my giggles,
and assuming the Irish brogue, I began a story about my sick daughter.

His questions, so to the point, so professional, so serious, nearly
convulsed me, but turning my suppressed laughter into pretended crying,
to gain time to concoct a story, I claimed to be too distressed to talk
about what was troubling me.

The Doctor gravely offered me a fan, which act, together with his
guarded manner, started my risibilities afresh. He showed clearly that
he was annoyed at this queer person, but was doing his best to be
patient with her. I had gone so far, it was imperative to invent some
story to account for my distress, and to my own surprise I told him,
with many haltings and outbursts of grief, that my daughter, though
unmarried, was, I feared, “in trouble”; and I had come to him for help.
(This from Miss Prim who, a few months before, would not let this young
man brush the lint from her gown!) Would he come to see the girl? And
my tears and sighs broke forth afresh.

He looked grave and sympathetic, yet somewhat suspicious. As his
questions became more searching, I was consumed with shame at the
thought of how I should feel when he knew the truth. But I was in
for it. I was a strange-acting old mother with my aborted giggles
transformed to sobs and sighs. He grew more suspicious, saying, at
length: “I think you will be more comfortable, and can talk more
easily, if you remove your veil.”

Then I was scared. Perhaps he recognized me; perhaps he had all along;
but now, disgusted at the lengths I had gone, was taking this way to
punish me. Still, so long as he kept up the pretense, I would not
throw up the game. But from that time on I was decidedly uncomfortable
and every answer I made, was made with the double feeling: Perhaps he
knows, and is getting even with me; and, If he doesn’t know, this is a
tremendous success.

As his inquiries progressed, I was heartily ashamed at the answers and
details I was forced to submit to keep in character. This continuing, I
grew hysterical in earnest, acting more and more extravagantly, while
his suspicions were more and more aroused, or his anger--I could not
tell which. He grew very stern. Sitting back in his chair, he said
decidedly, “I shall discuss this no further with you until you remove
your veil.”

I would have given anything then to get away. I felt sure he knew me.
That veil had got to come off. Delaying, I fumbled with it, dreading to
meet his eyes when my own were uncovered. As I cried and fumbled, my
hands trembling in earnest, the veil caught in the trimmings, and he
got up to help me. His face was softening, he looked sympathetic again.
Then he _didn’t_ know me after all? or, was he carrying the sorry
jest as far as he could? The veil at last removed, I looked up in his
face--afraid of him, and ready to cry at what I had done. We gazed at
each other for an instant, and then--I saw such a look of astonishment
as I have seldom seen--he had not suspected me at all!

He was so overwhelmed with mortification that my own mortification
vanished, and I confessed that I had been on pins and needles most of
the time, fearing it was he who was getting the joke on me. What gales
of laughter went up from that office! We had such a hilarious time we
almost forgot to summon Dr. Carson who was impatiently waiting outside.

Dr. Fenton made me promise to try the same trick on Dr. James, the new
interne, on my return to the hospital. He did not dream of asking me to
keep it from Laidlaw; he declared they would have to admit that I had
wiped out all our old scores. And when I told the story to Laidlaw, how
delighted he was! though he could hardly credit that Fenton, knowing me
so well, could have been so long deceived.

“How could he--your voice, your hands, your eyes, even with veil and
spectacles--incredible!” Yet he revelled in it--that demure, prudish
“Little Arnold” would do such a thing. “You! _You!_--we thought we knew
Little Arnold, but we didn’t.”

He was tickled at Fenton’s suggestion that I try the thing on James,
and eager for me to start at once, begging me to let him be near to see
the fun. But I only half promised, fearing I could not carry it through
if any one in the secret were about.

One night when I knew he and James were to be in the office, telling
them I expected to be occupied most of the evening, so would not
myself be down as usual, I borrowed some toggery from a patient, and
arrayed myself in my widow’s garb; and, slipping out by a side door,
came in just before dusk at the front gate, hobbling across the lawn
and up to the hospital in plain sight of the young doctors sitting in
the office window.

College and Hospital are in the same enclosure, and outdoor Dispensary
patients were expected to be taken care of over at the College; we of
the hospital-staff, being supposed to refer all cases applying there
to the Dispensary department. But knowing that James was eager for
obstetric work, and that he would be likely to snap up any he could, I
hoped by my tale to get him out as far as the street with me (to attend
my daughter in confinement) before he should discover my identity.

Jack, the bell-boy, came to the door: Might I see the house-doctor?
“Which one?” he asked--“the medical or the surgical doctor?” If
Laidlaw, who was the surgical interne, came, I should be undone; he
would know me, and I could not keep in character with him looking on;
so I said, “Oh, the medical--don’t say anything to any one but him.”

The boy lit the gas in the waiting room and went for Dr. James. I
quickly turned it low.

James came, curious and important. Using the Irish brogue and the
expressions used by Dispensary patients, I explained that my daughter
was in labour and that I wanted him to hurry as fast as ever he could
to save her life. He was not at all suspicious. But not yet having
had an obstetric case, and learning that it was a _primipara_ (first
birth), he anticipated trouble, and was averse to tackling it alone. I
knew of what he was thinking, so feigning impatience, related symptoms
which would impress him with the need of haste. Would he come, or not?
Yes, he would come, but he must take the house-surgeon also, as he
might need assistance with instruments.

Fearing the game would be up if Laidlaw appeared on the scene, I
protested vehemently: I would have no one else; one doctor was enough;
my daughter’s condition should not be known to everybody--that was
why I had come here instead of going to the “Dispensatory”; I was no
pauper, and would pay him well, if he would come alone. He wavered,
then excused himself for a moment. I could hear him and Laidlaw in
the office discussing it. Finally Laidlaw said, “Tell her it is
customary--that you won’t undertake it under other conditions.”

I was annoyed at Laidlaw for making it more difficult for me. James
came back, conciliatory and persuasive: it was liable to be a serious
case; my daughter was young; he must take help with him; it would cost
no more than for one, and the utmost secrecy would be preserved; the
house-surgeon would go with him and assist if need be, otherwise he
must decline the case.

I said to myself, “It is mean of Laidlaw when he knew I wanted to do it
alone. But he’s bound to see me in the act, and I guess I can keep a
stiff upper lip if he can.” By that time, too, I was fairly confident.
“Let him come, then,” I said, “but hurry.”

They soon came with their obstetric bags, James excited and flurried,
Laidlaw quiet and dignified. He gave me a curt “Good evening”; and,
with directions to Jack to ask Dr. Arnold to come down to the office,
as he and Dr. James had been called out, we three went down the steps,
I hobbling and stooping, but hurrying along between them. At first I
was a little more self-conscious with Laidlaw along, but by the time
we had gone a few steps, instead of being longer provoked at him for
coming, I was glad; it was such fun to be sharing it with him; his
acting was perfect; he was cool and self-controlled, and James was so
unsuspecting!

Laidlaw asked me a few of the usual questions. Answering in character,
I looked slyly out of the corner of my eye, expecting him to exchange
surreptitious glances with me occasionally, but he looked straight
ahead, sober as a deacon, probably afraid of disconcerting me.
Presently he put other questions, and still no betrayal of anything but
the apparent situation. Suddenly it dawned upon me that neither he nor
James knew me! Then I _was_ set up! This was a triumph I could never
have dreamed of--since he had heard the story of the trick played upon
Fenton, and knew I intended trying it on James, too! It was incredible,
but I soon saw, beyond doubt, that he was as completely taken in (or
out) as was James. I had said to myself: “If I can only get James out
on the street a way with his bag, it will be all I will ask.” And here
I had them both!

In the course of the walk I promised them five dollars apiece for
their services, if they would bring my daughter safely through. After
walking a few blocks, I began to be anxious, as there was now no one at
the hospital to attend to emergencies. They, of course, thought I was
there. I must bring this to a close speedily.

Assuming an hysterical manner, so as to draw their attention more
closely to me, and thus bring about the disclosure, I even took off
my veil, walking in the glare of the street lamps--all to no purpose;
the more I tried to reveal myself, the more I concealed myself; they
only tried to hush my noisy grief and to pacify me. Once Laidlaw helped
me to adjust my bonnet, which I nearly knocked off, purposely, by my
wild jostling against them, but all in vain--the wilder my conduct, the
better my disguise. We were now several blocks away from the hospital.
I saw I must terminate it some other way.

Walking up some steps of a darkened house, I pretended to fumble for
my keys, and, waiting till they had followed so close that their faces
were on a level with mine, I turned, and in my own voice said, “Haven’t
we carried this far enough?”

James, to whom my other masquerade was unknown, was dazed, he ran down
the steps, leaned against the house, and stood there speechless, his
face hid in his hands. Laidlaw--took me in his arms; he could seem to
find no other mode of expression. Tired from the walk, and the heat,
and weak from laughter, I found it a comfortable position--but was too
intent on flying back to the hospital to stay in it long.

Dignified and unemotional as Laidlaw was, he let himself go that night;
his manner was charming. I basked in his generous praise as I imagine
an actor basks in the applause of his audience:

“You’re a revelation, you’re an actress, you are wonderful! Why, Little
Arnold, is it really you? Oh, James! James! you don’t _know_ what she’s
done--you don’t know _half_ of it!”

And as we hurried home, they half-carrying me between them, the young
doctors and the crazy-acting little widow traversed the Boston streets,
hilarious over the whole proceeding. Laidlaw explained to James what
a signal triumph it was, in that he had not only known of the joke on
Fenton, but also knew that I intended trying a similar one on him. This
appeased James’s chagrin somewhat, still he was badly cut up over it;
but Laidlaw magnanimously gave me all the credit imaginable, fairly
rejoicing in having been so duped by me. As we neared the hospital,
however, it dawned upon both of them what laughing-stocks they would be
when the thing was noised around, especially when Breynton and Hummel,
of the Dispensary-staff, learned of it; so nothing would do but that
I should try the same scheme on them. They assured me I could do it
easily, even with them looking on; and as they would let Jack know
that they were back and within call, I need have no compunctions. So,
dropping behind, while they sauntered up to the College steps where
Breynton and Hummel sat smoking and complaining of the hot night, I
soon came hobbling up to the group. And Laidlaw and James soon had the
satisfaction of seeing Breynton and Hummel walk off with the little
widow--and in the course of an hour, walk back again, chagrined beyond
words, but somewhat mollified when they learned that their colleagues
had also been victimized in the same way. Each man rejoiced that the
others were in the same box. The double, yes, triple, hoax, served for
conversation for many a week. If one would instance some proof of the
density of the others, he would soon be silenced by fresh proofs of
his own asininity. “It was a famous victory” was their ever-generous
verdict, and it only cemented the _camaraderie_ among us.


As the time approached for Laidlaw’s term to expire I began to be
wretched, at first hardly realizing, much less acknowledging to myself,
that it was because he was leaving. I was even less friendly, less
responsive, and, as the time drew near, more inclined to stay in my
room than usual. Dr. Reynolds, a keen little woman who was much about
the hospital in those days, suspected the cause of my glumness. One
evening as she was calling on me and rallying me on moping in my
room alone instead of staying down in the office, a knock on my door
arrested her banter.

“Who’s there?” I called.

The door opened a crack, and Laidlaw’s voice announced, “_I’m_
here--you are wanted down in the office.”

“Who wants me?”

“_I_ want you,” and with that he pushed open the door, and to his
confusion (and mine) encountered Dr. Reynolds’s merry, mischievous
eyes, the occurrence, of course, only serving to confirm her in her
belief that there was something more than good-fellowship between us.
Laidlaw and James often rang my bell of an evening, summoning me to the
office, when it was only they who wanted me. They knew that I never
dared disregard it, for fear it might be a call to the wards; once down
there, I was usually easily persuaded to stay.

That night after Dr. Reynolds left, I went down, but when reading aloud
was proposed, did not fall in with the proposition--the good times
we had all had together were so soon to end--I was in no mood for
reading aloud. We sat near each other, each busy with his own book,
or pretending to be. Later, having dropped my book, I was looking out
of the window, fearing Laidlaw would see my tell-tale face, when,
presently, taking me by the shoulder, he gently turned me round facing
him:

“What are you doing, Little Arnold?”

“Thinking.”

“_Don’t_ think.” It was all he said, but his tone, and my silence, were
tacit acknowledgment--we understood each other better then, and after
that he did not chide me, as he had before, for not caring that he was
so soon to go away.

Those last days of his stay were very hard, and when the day came when
he assisted at operations for the last time, and we were clearing
up afterward as usual, we laughed a sort of hollow laughter, laughed
at anything and everything; at the awkwardness of the stuttering
little student, his successor--we tried to find funny things to talk
about--anything so long as we kept away from what was uppermost in our
minds, and allowed no silences.

When Laidlaw left, James was away on his vacation, and a likeable
little German student, who was acting as substitute, was very
acceptable to both of us, we three being very congenial. When Laidlaw
put out his hand to the German to bid him farewell, he attempted to be
jocose, but failed sadly; then,

“Take good care of Little Arnold, Old Boy,” he said, and, turning to
me, drew me to him and would have kissed me; but, fond as I was of him,
I couldn’t do that. He looked pained. By this time I could no longer
control my tears; this surprised and perplexed him:

“Why, why, why--Little Arnold, why, you _do_ care!” and standing dumb
for an instant, he wrung my hand and went slowly out and down the
steps; and I--I felt I had lost my last friend.

I had to give way and weep in spite of the presence of the little
German. He was very good to me then, and always. I think he then
thought that it was a more serious attachment than it was; he chided me
for not bidding Laidlaw a more affectionate farewell--could not seem
to understand why I did not, since I cared so much about his going.
That evening, picking up a copy of Emerson’s essays I had been reading,
and seeing it was the essay on Friendship, with a searching look he
asked, “And is it only friendship that I see between you and Laidlaw?”
When I stoutly maintained that it was, he seemed half credulous, half
doubtful, but in his naïve foreign way said appealingly, “Then, Little
_Racker_, be _my_ friend, too.” And we were warm friends after that.

In a few days came Laidlaw’s first letter; it gave me a thrill of joy,
but I am bound to confess that even before it came (after the acuteness
of the grief was over) I had grown surprisingly cheerful, so much so
that I was ashamed of myself for not continuing to feel as wretched
as when he went away. I reproached myself, but all to no purpose.
Every day brought its duties; added responsibilities now fell on me;
the new interne had to be taught “the ropes”; and, while I missed my
good friend at every turn, I could not mope and pine. But I could not
understand myself--how such wretchedness, such utter wretchedness,
could be so short-lived!


A few weeks before my own term of service expired I had a hard time
with septic infection--a serious inflammation in my thumb, probably
contracted while assisting at an operation. I was tired out, and the
thing took a severe hold on me. They temporized for a time, but finally
decided I must take an anesthetic and have the nail removed and the
deeper tissues thoroughly cleansed. As we were short-handed at the
Hospital, I dragged around when I should have been in bed.

I shall not soon forget the feeling I had on learning that I had
actually to surrender myself to an anesthetic, to submit voluntarily
to that which would rob me of consciousness. It was horrible to
contemplate. It seemed such a momentous thing--not the operation, of
course, but the taking of chloroform. I wrote a letter home the night
before, to be posted in case I did not survive. One would have thought
my year in the hospital would have made me more callous to such things.
I myself can hardly understand why it was so painful to me to face
this experience--just like any other patient. Somehow, I had always
felt outside of such things, a mere spectator, though considering
myself a sympathetic one. But, until then, I had not dreamed what dread
consumed the souls of the patients whom I had so lightly encouraged to
submit to the inevitable.

Extracting a promise from “Polly,” the nurse, that if I showed any
tendency to loquacity she would send everyone from the room, and
would remember to tell me all I said, I braced for the ordeal. That
morning, omitting breakfast, visiting my patients as usual, I put up
prescriptions, and helped prepare the amphitheatre for an operation
that was to precede mine. Then, looking in on the young patient before
he went to the anesthetizing room, I told him I was going to give the
surgeon a chance at me after his operation. He said afterward that my
cheery way of speaking made him ashamed of his trepidation, so that he
went to his operation with more courage than he had believed himself
capable of. He little knew how I quaked internally--it was awful--that
thought of having the chloroform steal away my senses!

After helping with that case, I slipped off to my room to get ready,
expecting to return to the amphitheatre for my own operation; but,
while I was undressing, “Polly” rushed in to say that Dr. Paxton would
operate in my own room. This was a relief. Soon they came: Higginson,
the new house-doctor, carrying the tray with instruments and dressings,
James with the chloroform and the inhaler, and Dr. Paxton in his
operating gown.

Lying down on my little white bed, with an outward semblance of
composure, I inhaled the chloroform. The surgeon listened to my heart,
and, after assuring me it was all right, began himself to give me
the anesthetic. The first few breaths were not so bad; then I felt
the stuff insidiously stealing through me. “Ah! how sweet it is,” I
remember saying--a peculiar, sickish sweetness that I can never smell
now without recalling the scene and my growing terror of the drug
as its effects crept through me, faster and faster, and I impotent
to stay its power. I remember noting and analyzing my sensations as
it progressed; remember the feeling of confidence in Dr. Paxton’s
assurance that it was all right; then I opened my eyes and saw James
bending over me. He had the inhaler now, and was looking at me with
such a pitying gaze that I felt sorry for myself, and told myself
I must be careful or I should whimper, which would be disgraceful.
Still it kept stealing on, and yet I knew what they were all doing. I
heard preparations; heard the new doctor stutter as he tried to ask
about something, getting so tangled up that it made me want to laugh,
but reminded myself I must not. It was all so curious--to be able to
think these things and yet to feel this creeping, creeping up slowly,
surely. Ah, now I am almost gone--an instant of rebellion--it must not
be, I cannot succumb; but, following quickly, came the realization
that it must be, and that I must not struggle. Once more I opened my
eyes and looked at them all--poor “Polly”! the tears were streaming
down her cheeks; and James looked wretchedly unhappy. I knew that in
another moment I should be beyond recognizing anything. They said I
gave a low, piteous cry (I seem to remember even this), and said, “I’m
going now--watch my pulse!” Even then I felt Dr. Paxton take my wrist,
and assure me in a voice that sounded very far away, “It’s all right,
Doctor, all right!”

The next I knew I found myself in my bed with my head turned in the
opposite direction. “Polly” was moving quietly about the room; and
by my side sat Dr. James holding my hand, and smoothing my arm in a
kindly way. Scarcely a trace was left in the room of what had taken
place there. A feeling of incredulity, almost of indignation--had
nothing been done to my thumb, then, after going through with all that!
I started to ask why they had not done it, but seeing my bandaged hand,
and simultaneously becoming conscious of a newer sharper pain than I
had ever felt, I had to believe that it was all over; but how could
it be, and I not know it! Then I began laughing! I started to chide
“Polly” for letting James stay in the room; but could not do so for
laughter. James tried to pacify me, talking as though I were a sick
child--the same way I had talked to ether patients. The oddity of this
coming over me, I said, “I’m just like any other silly patient,” then
laughed afresh; and the more I laughed, the less self-restraint I had.
But, impressed with the necessity of assuring them that I knew what I
was about, I said: “I know what I am saying, and why you are laughing,
but I don’t care--I know who you are, you are Dr. James, and you’re
holding my hand, and I don’t care if you do,” and I laughed in reckless
abandon. “Polly” was distressed; she knew I would be angry later. James
looked delighted. “Do you like it?” he asked--the rogue! “Yes, I like
it--it feels so big and strong.” How he shouted! That shout sobered me.
In no time I was completely myself--no more aware than before, but with
the Censor at the helm.

After that James used to try to squeeze my hand, reminding me that it
was my real self that had spoken then--in wine (and chloroform) one
speaks the truth.

Shortly after that two fingers on my left hand became infected, and
again I had to be lightly anesthetized and operated. By that time I was
so much run down they kept me in bed for days, taking excellent care
of me--a rather delightful experience. The visiting physicians and
surgeons called; the nurses were more than attentive; the Dispensary
house-staff came over and read to me, and groaned to think they had
been debarred from my operations. Breynton said he would have liked
nothing better than to have given “the little angel” the anesthetic;
and James told him he would have been welcome to the job, but
mischievously added that he was willing to watch me come out of the
chloroform. It was much harder after that to keep James within bounds.
One day when “Polly” had gone from the room a minute, he grabbed up
my hair which lay across the pillow, and winding it around his neck,
buried his face in it for an instant. Astonished and angered, I felt
wronged and insulted. Half-contritely, half-teasingly, he tried to
laugh me out of my wrath, and “Polly” coming in just then, I was
obliged to act as though nothing had happened. On his good behaviour
after that, he never transgressed so seriously again. I could never
think of that impulsive act of his without my cheeks burning with shame.


My own time soon came to leave the hospital. The night before, I went
over to the College, went in each empty room, lingered in the halls,
and even down in the stuffy Dispensary quarters. I thought of all that
had happened during the time since Belle and I had first entered that
building on that rainy October day, and wondered what changes would
come before I should see the place again. Even then the girl who had
entered College seemed a different person from the one who was leaving
Boston on the morrow. In the same way I went about the hospital, loth
to break with it all, and trying as it were to gather up the spent life
I had lived there. It was with a queer kind of satisfaction to note
that they all seemed sorry to see me go. I felt jealous of the new
student, my successor; felt pained that I was no longer necessary; that
the routine would soon continue as smoothly as ever. As the hour drew
near I felt tenderly toward everyone--patients, nurses, the janitor,
the bell-boy, even the opinionated English nurse, “Wraggie,” for whom I
had no real liking.

As they all crowded around the door-way at my leave-taking, and the
other house-doctors came over from the Dispensary, I saw regretfully
that Breynton was not among them; the night before he had said he would
surely see me again. But as the cab left the hospital grounds and I
leaned out for a last look at the College, I saw Breynton signalling
the cab-man to stop--he had stationed himself there at the entrance
to say good-bye. It touched me to see his altered manner--instead of
his jovial hectoring ways, a big brotherly fondness and regret showed
in face and voice. A warm handclasp, then, as the horses started up,
his wholesome smile shone out encouragingly, and he said in his old
bantering way, “So _this_ is the last of the ‘Little Angel’!”

The cab whirled me to the station, the same station where Belle and I
had landed three and one half years before when we had come to this
strange city--the city I was now leaving with such a store of memories!
It had grown very clear, it always will be dear--my beloved Boston!



CHAPTER XI

THROUGH THE GATE OF DREAMS


Much of the good fortune that has come to me has come unsought: Shortly
after returning home from Boston an elderly friend of our family, an
invalid who spent her winters in Florida, invited me to go there with
her. In my somewhat reduced state of health the invitation was most
opportune.

My first glimpse of New York, as we stopped there on the way, made
Boston seem small.

We started for the South at night. I was a bit timid at going so far
from home with the frail little old woman who had tuberculosis, and
already had had alarming hemorrhages, and who calmly told me that she
would probably die while in the South that winter. With only a kit
of medicines and my inexperience to cope with what might arise, I
felt rather helpless; but my patient had a stout heart and a cheery
disposition, and was soon enjoying my enthusiasm for experiences and
scenes which had become an old story to her.

We reached Palatka at sunset one night in February, so the calendar
said, but how soft and sweet the air! how like pictures every scene on
the street! The palm trees looked artificial, and the orange trees,
with both blossoms and fruit on them, reminded me of the toy trees
belonging to the Noah’s Ark with which I had played in childhood.
Darkies were everywhere, real darkies, with their soft voices and
shiftless ways. We had rooms in a fine old comfortable house with
a Southern family, and a typical Southern darkey to wait on us who
crooned Negro melodies as she lounged around and occasionally did a
stroke of work. Her deliberation and her dialect were most amusing.
When reminded that her tasks were still undone, she was always “jes’
a-fixin’ to begin to get ready” to do them.

Oh, the delight of the senses that first night under Florida skies!
I stepped out on the balcony into a moonlight such as I had never
before known--and the delicious odours, the caressing air, the outline
of those unfamiliar trees in the garden below! I heard the fountain,
and smelled the sulphur water as it trickled in the moonlight, and,
gazing on the dreaming view, was stirred by the soft, sensuous beauty
of the night. Something seemed to awaken in me: I was happy and sad:
lonely, yet wanting to be alone. It was as though something very
beautiful ought to happen; my heart seemed ready to burst with either
joy or sorrow, I hardly knew which. I suppose all the loveliness made
me homesick without knowing it; and that I also vaguely felt that
here, in all this sensuous beauty, life--my life--lacked something,
perhaps always would lack something--Juliet was on her balcony in the
moonlight, but only the roses were climbing to whisper to her; only the
fountain trickled to her half-formed thoughts.


At the hotel where we took our meals we made acquaintances, but
found none especially congenial. I could not sit on the veranda and
play cards, as most of the women did. There were no young people,
no children, and few books were accessible. On rainy days the time
dragged. Several little excursions on the St. John’s River, and down
Rice Creek, varied the monotony of visiting old plantations and
orange groves, and strolling along the quiet streets basking in the
sunshine. The indolent life was a welcome change after my arduous year
at the hospital, and for a time I was content to drift and dream. I
enjoyed most the evenings when, in the hotel parlour, my patient would
play on the piano. Her touch had a peculiar charm. She could bring
the men in from the office; the darkies from the kitchen would peer
in at the doors; people loitering on the street would come up on the
veranda; even the women would stop their stupid cards and furtively
wipe away the tears, as the frail little figure sat at the piano, and
the thin white fingers twinkled over the keys, playing “Ben Bolt,” “By
Bendermeer’s Stream,” “The Harp that Once Through Tara’s Halls,” and
a host of other ballads and dance-tunes. Sometimes she would sing a
ballad, and the pathos of her voice made one’s heart ache.

She always left the piano with liquid eyes and a delicate flush on her
cheek that made me apprehensive. Music stirred her so much that she
permitted herself to indulge in it but infrequently. How she loved life
and youth, and what a young heart she had to the last!

A coloured folks’ meeting which I attended there was like the things
one reads about: The preacher’s text was “Under a Palm Tree”; he
pronounced it “pam” tree, and nearly convulsed us with his big words
misapplied. An “experience meeting” followed. Beginning quietly, the
experiences and prayers gradually increased in fervour and unction till
finally the dusky worshippers were all on their knees--one eloquent
supplicant held forth in a lengthy, moving appeal, while the others
kept up a monotonous undertone--a weird, melodious sing-song, with
interjections of “Amen!” “Hallelujah!” and “Bless de Lawd!” as they
swayed and chanted in an abandonment of religious fervour.

At St. Augustine symptoms of “malaria,” which I had developed while in
Palatka, suddenly left me. (Our “Dr. Conrad” used to say scornfully,
“‘Malaria’ is simply a convenient term to express the unknown.”)
What invigoration! what skies! and the sea! Stealing away to the Sea
Wall and old Fort Marion, I would look far out across the waters
and dream--of what, I know not--just dream. Keen as was already my
realization that life is real and earnest, I was yet reluctant to pass
through “girlhood’s Gate of Dreams”; I well knew that on my return
North I must decide where I should begin to practise; must engage in
the work for which the preceding years had been preparing me; but there
on the old Sea Wall I could still hold back from the oncoming Future.


On our return we spent some delightful weeks in Washington; saw
hundreds of children on Easter Monday at their egg-rolling on the White
House lawn, and heard their united voices as they greeted President
Harrison when he came out to watch them, with Baby McKee in his arms.
In New York, we witnessed the splendid spectacle of the Washington
Centennial celebration; and then, in early May, returned to our little
village amid the drumlins.

Spectacles and parades have never much interested me, but, besides the
Washington Centennial parade, I recall one other (a few years later,
however) which stands out significantly, more especially because of
my own reactions to it. As a girl I had always been more moved by
history or fiction dealing with any other nationality than with my own.
When, as children, we had played at being Somebody Else, I chose to
be French, Scotch, German--anything but American! The romance of the
distant, the unattainable! In school I was never interested in American
history, but the history of Greece and Rome--what charm they had!

I actually believed myself wanting in patriotism--a Girl without a
Country--till, one summer when visiting in Buffalo, I saw a G. A. R.
parade. Parades as parades I abominated, but tried to show a polite
interest when my hostess, Dr. Thorndike, announced what good seats she
had been able to secure. I learned something about myself that day. I
had never supposed I would go across the street to see a president, but
when McKinley rode by, and I saw his kindly face and gracious responses
to the crowds’ salutes, something stirred within me. Suddenly I got a
conception of what it meant to be a president of a great republic. I
seemed to realize that it was a nation doing homage to its government,
as well as to its chief executive, when the cheers and huzzas greeted
our president. It was the first time I had ever thought of him or
another as _our_ President; it was really the first time I had felt
myself a part of our nation; and it was a thrilling awakening for
one who had always believed herself wanting in patriotism. What had
done it? Partly the sight of the army of soldiers, I suppose; but I
believe it was largely due to the way in which McKinley responded to
the greetings of the crowd. There was that in his manner which seemed
to say: “I am proud to be your servant; you appear to exalt me, but it
is our nation and the office that you exalt. I am one with you, and
will do my best to serve you, or rather, to conserve the honour and
interests of our nation.” Always after that, the thought of McKinley
was blended with gratitude that I was no longer a Girl without a
Country.

This stirring of patriotism when he rode by was a feeble forerunner of
what I felt later, when I saw on a banner the name of Cayuga County,
and of the Post from our home town--saw in the old soldiers the remnant
of the Company of which two of my uncles were a part. The faded,
tattered flag they carried stood to me for the one under which they
had marched away; and, though scrutinizing the ranks in vain for their
faces, still I knew the men marching past were among those with whom my
young uncles had gone to the front. I began to understand what Mother
had always felt when the soldiers had marched by on Decoration Day: she
would get away by herself, and, coming suddenly upon her, we would find
her weeping--the martial music and the sight always bringing back those
dreadful years when her young brothers went away to the War. My Buffalo
friends were surprised at the change in my attitude toward parades, for
before the day was over I grew enthusiastic enough to suit the most
exacting--and why not?--that day I was born an American!


An old schoolmate living in U---- had written me that there was a
good opening there for a woman physician, and as Father’s business
took him to that city every month or so, I decided to investigate the
possibilities there rather than in New England, where, personally, I
was more inclined to go. Accordingly, Father called on the leading
woman physician in U---- (herself a graduate of Boston University) and
reported her as eager to have me come and look the field over.


I had a long wait in Dr. Wyeth’s reception room that afternoon in
July, as there were many patients ahead of me. Each time she came out
and smilingly said “Next,” I scrutinized her to learn what manner of
woman she was. I saw a tall, well-built, middle-aged woman, rather
spare, of erect carriage, with a quick, nervous step. Her soft brown
hair was ’wavy and streaked with gray; she had clear blue eyes and a
fair skin with pink cheeks. Her face had a weary look, but her smile
was kind, and I noted her long, white, capable-looking hands. Quietly
distinctive in dress, she gave one the impression of being untrammelled
by her clothing, yet by no means unmindful of her appearance--there
were certain little touches that showed her feminine side, businesslike
as was her manner. On the whole I approved of her. She seemed to have
all the business capability of “Our Caddie” without her masculinity. I
saw her surrounded by evidences of prosperity; heard her spoken of as
a successful physician and a noble woman; and thought with admiration
and wonder, “Will the time ever come when I shall be a real woman
physician--established, successful, and as independent as is she?”

At length she ushered me into her private office, and our acquaintance
progressed rapidly. We liked each other instantly; she urged me to
come there; gave me sound advice; and prophesied advantages to us
both should I come. Practically alone, so far as sister physicians
were concerned, she craved one with whom she could affiliate, for
although there were three other women physicians in the city, one was
intemperate and impossible, one a “bluffer,” and the other, though
bright and well-educated, was so lacking in self-confidence as to be of
no practical help in consultation.

At the Doctor’s home that night I met her mother, who had one of the
sweetest faces I ever saw; it was framed in brown ringlets which hung
in a waterfall under her cap; her hair was less tinged with gray than
was her daughter’s--a sweet-souled woman, hospitable, with a good word
for everyone; a clinging nature that called out the protective instinct
in all who met her. I saw that the numerous relatives of the Doctor’s
leaned on her and looked to her as to an oracle, and that she lavishly
spent herself for them. It was “Dr. Sue” here, and “Dr. Sue” there; and
as I came to see more of her, I used to wish she could get away for a
long holiday and forget that she had relatives or patients depending
upon her. I have never known a life more beautifully and unselfishly
lived than that of this noble woman--so resourceful, so ready, so full
of reserve strength, even when worn and tired almost to the point of
exhaustion.

The business proposition which the Doctor made was that I share her
office, taking different office hours; pay the rent for a year, and
receive, in turn, the benefit of her office furnishings and medical
equipment. She would call me in consultation whenever she had an
opportunity, and turn over her practice to me whenever she went away,
as she would do in a few weeks, if I would come soon.

How my head whirled that night as I pondered the proposition! The
cost seemed stupendous--twenty-eight dollars a month for office
rent alone!--but on reaching home and talking it over with Father,
we decided to accept her terms. So in mid-July Father and I started
for U----, I with my trunk and books, my medicines, and few surgical
instruments, and Father with the money to pay a month’s expenses,
and a big fund of hope and faith in his daughter’s ability to make a
success of this momentous undertaking. When I look back and see how
inexperienced I was, how little I knew of the world and of life, I
wonder at my audacity; I wonder still more at the faith my friends had
in me, and at the confidence and respect which Dr. Wyeth showed in my
ability and opinions; but to such faith and confidence I owe largely
what success I have attained.

How busy Father and I were that first day, making my few purchases--a
small desk being the main one; making arrangements for my business
cards in the papers; ordering stationery; renting a lodging-room; and
looking up a boarding-place! I recall the gown I wore--a dark green
serge which Sister had made for me--very plain, as I had insisted, and
suitable for a staid physician.

In a building adjoining the office building, I found a furnished room
which I sub-rented from a woman living there, though just as I went
there she went away for a time. I have never had such a desolate
feeling as I had those few nights when, after closing the office, I
climbed the stairs to that lonely little room, the halls echoing to my
steps. And I kept thinking, “I am paying eight dollars a month extra
for this loneliness!” So it was not many days before I asked Dr. Wyeth
if she minded if I slept in the office, using her operating-chair as
my bed; arranging a place behind the draperies for my clothes; and
making a few other little additions which would suffice for my needs,
yet not detract from the professional appearance of the office. She
had no objection, but thought I ought to have a more comfortable bed.
The change was made, and few who visited the office ever knew that I
lodged there. For four years I slept on a narrow operating-chair, never
thinking it a hardship.

Sending a month’s rent to the woman of whom I had engaged the room, I
wrote her why I had decided to give it up. Replying with a menacing
letter, she tried to intimidate me into keeping the room. Scared,
though knowing I had made no compact with her for a stated time, I
anxiously awaited her return to town, when I called upon her. Pale with
rage, her eyes blazing, she denounced me as a liar and a hypocrite, and
said she would blast my reputation in U----. I did not know what to
make of such conduct. It was the first time I had ever had threatening
or abusive language used to me. I had been perfectly honourable with
her, but she was wildly unreasonable. I could hardly speak for the
dryness of my mouth as she continued her vituperations, and when I
escaped from her presence, it was as though from the den of a wild
beast. For some time after I was uneasy, but she never took the steps
she threatened. I learned later that her mother was insane, and that
she herself finally lost her mind.


Under the head of “Business” in one of the city papers, the day after I
went to U----, were two items only, the first telling of a new doctor
(my humble self) locating there, and the other of a new undertaker
having set up in business. Accidental as was the juxtaposition, it was
nevertheless a bit startling.

One of the men in the office of the firm for which Father was then
travelling had recommended to him a boarding-place for me near my
office, and I had engaged board there at once. Although disappointed on
seeing the fellow-boarders, knowing I could not afford a high-priced
place, I had decided to grin and bear it; but when Dr. Wyeth learned
where I was boarding, she said it would not do at all; she named two
places, either one of which would be desirable. On asking what they
charged, I found that one was two dollars more a week than I was
paying, the other one dollar more. So, telling her how necessary it
was to count the cost till I could get a footing, I said I had better
make no change. But she earnestly and emphatically opposed my staying
there; said it was poor policy, would immediately tell against me--a
bit of worldly wisdom that I strongly rebelled against--a dollar a
week more just to please Mrs. Grundy and board in a more aristocratic
neighbourhood! I was full of impotent rage at such a state of affairs,
and Father had much the same feeling, but having great respect for
Dr. Wyeth’s judgment, I reluctantly made the change. Immediately I saw
that she was right. The people with whom I then came in contact were
cultured; the whole atmosphere was desirable; and, in a short time,
through acquaintances there, I was engaged in work which did much to
introduce me well in the city.


“In the leisure of your first few months’ practice” was a phrase which
one of our professors had often used in lecturing to us, and through
this facetious reiteration, I was prepared for a long wait before that
first patient should arrive. But my second day in the city, the woman
physician who had an office adjoining ours asked me to see a case
with her. It was a servant in a fine house next to the home of Roscoe
Conklin. As it was a case of varicose ulcers such as I had seen dozens
of in the Dispensary clinics, I was able to make a positive diagnosis,
and confidently to advise the Doctor as to treatment, for which she was
grateful and gave me a dollar and a half--my first fee. This physician
was rather pompous, and not well grounded in medicine. She had a fair
exterior, an open countenance, and a big, motherly figure, but she did
not inspire confidence in me, yet she was kind-hearted and disposed
to be friendly. When, some months later, Sister came to visit me,
and the Doctor learned that we were sleeping together on that narrow
office-chair, she insisted on our using the unused folding-bed in her
office.

As a neighbour she was something of a nuisance, for whenever she knew I
was alone in my office she would come in and stay the entire evening.
I tired of her talk, and soon resorted to subterfuge to rid myself of
her: I would open my waiting-room door (which rang a bell whenever
the door opened); would pretend to usher someone in, and then try
to simulate the conversation of two persons, also moving about the
office, rattling instruments, letting water run, and so on. Knowing she
could hear some sounds from her office, I hoped she would think I was
engaged, and so stay away. Sometimes I would read aloud, so she would
think I had someone in there. Perhaps she heard more distinctly than I
thought, and saw through my deception. My most serious grudge against
her was for trying to destroy my ideal of one of our much-loved New
England poets. She had lived in the same city with him and claimed to
have been a frequenter in his home, and she met my glowing enthusiasm
for him with the rehearsal of gossip about an intrigue between him and
some woman friend. I did not believe her story, but it shocked and
angered me, and I detested her for mentioning it. I must have been
pretty severe, for she grew apologetic and conciliatory, and never
afterward talked to me about such things. Her story may or may not
have been true, but I smile sadly now at that girl who looked out upon
the world with such unbounded faith in humanity; who held such rigid
notions of right and wrong; and suffered such painful shocks on finding
both good and bad mixed in the same individual.


I had been practising nine days when I received my first office call.
The time had seemed very long since that day after my arrival, when
Dr. M---- had called me in consultation. I had begun to feel that
the waiting time was going to be no joke. But on that momentous day,
a working-girl strayed into my office. Listening to her symptoms, I
prescribed as carefully as I could, calmly took the seventy-five cents
office-fee, and ushered her out in my most professional manner. When
the door had closed upon her, I literally danced for joy; the capers I
cut would have made an onlooker laugh--or cry, for it had its pathetic
side. There was so much at stake; it meant so much to me, to my family,
and friends--and here was the beginning! a patient had actually come
to me! I had to be careful lest the physicians whose offices were
each side of mine should hear my demonstrations. I ran to the mirror
and stood on tip-toe (it was hung high for Dr. Wyeth), and looked for
sympathy into my own sparkling eyes, and saw my flushed face, and felt
half ashamed, and wholly elated, as I nodded and smiled to myself. Then
I skipped about the room again, until I remembered my new account-book
with its lone entry. Proudly making my second entry, I then recorded
in my case-book the patient’s symptoms and my prescription. I do not
recall that she ever came again, but hope the _bryonia_ which I gave
her for rheumatism helped her as much as her coming helped me.

This was my red-letter day, for scarcely had I become presentable from
the elation of that first call when another patient came. I felt like
an old hand at the business as I gave her the medicine and carelessly
took the office-fee. Although I had had patients for two years in
dispensary and hospital, these were the first who had paid me for my
services. A check for several months of my present salary, put into my
hands this minute, could not produce the elation I felt at receiving
those paltry office-fees.

As though that were not enough for one day! My cup literally ran over
when, in the evening, the telephone rang and there was a hurry call
from the hotel across the way. Seizing my medicine-case, which I had
heretofore been unnecessarily carrying in my walks about the city (in
obedience to Dr. Wyeth, though I felt like a hypocrite in so doing), I
flew down the stairs and across the street where I found the patient--a
nervous, impressionable girl, whom I had no difficulty in quieting and
relieving, at the same time alleviating her mother’s anxiety as well.

As I went through the hotel corridors I walked on air; my heart was
beating tumultuously. I wanted to shout for joy. A band was playing in
the street, making it harder still to maintain decorum until I could
reach my friendly office--that office where I had spent so many lonely
hours waiting for the door-bell to ring! that office which had this day
witnessed my triple triumph!

A few evenings later the bell rang. In the waiting room stood a tall,
lanky old chap.

“Hello, thar! Whar’s Doctor Sue?”

I told him Dr. Wyeth was out of town for a week or two and that I was
taking her practice. He looked at me comically; his face underwent some
kind of contortion which I suppose was a smile, as he said:

“Ye be? Wall, I vum! I don’t know just how that’ll strike Betsy.
Ye--ye’re used to old wimmen? Ye’re jest a-studyin’ with Doctor Sue,
I calk’late--No? Ye’re a full-fledged doctor, be ye? Wall, wall,
no harm intended--I’m jest a-wonderin’ about Betsy--she’s kind o’
cantankerous.” He scratched his head and eyed me.

“Wall, ye may as well come along and see what ye can make out with her.”

Inquiring his name and where he lived, I said I would call as soon as
my office hours were over.

“I’m Uncle Bill Gilmore--live in West U----. Ye git off the car at
V---- Street, and ask the fust one ye meet whar Uncle Bill lives, and
he’ll tell ye. Doctor Sue’s doctored us ever sen’ she hung out her
shingle. Betsy sets great store by her--don’t know how she’ll cotton to
you--ye mustn’t mind if she’s a leetle peppery.”

Off he went, and I, to maintain the dignity of my office hours,
waited, though I could just as well have gone with him. “Betsy”
“cottoned” to me all right, and thereafter they called me whenever Dr.
Wyeth was out of town.

During October and November, the Doctor being away, I was busy and
happy--busy mostly with work which would have been hers had she been
there, but with occasional patients who came to me. How the sight
of my old account-book brings back those days--my struggles, hopes,
exultations, and dismays, and Father’s visits! He came to the city
every few weeks, and always after the greeting and home news were
over would ask with assumed indifference to see the book. And I would
watch him look it over--the tears often coming to his eyes as he saw
evidences of a streak of good luck. And what a lively interest he took
in my rehearsal of experiences and descriptions of people and incidents!

Spendthrift that I am, I practised the strictest economy those days;
but then, as now, I would walk miles to save a carfare; then, on
occasion, suddenly launch out in some expenditure that proved how prone
I was to strain at gnats and swallow camels.


That first year I saw a great deal of Dr. Holton, a timid,
conscientious, romantic person several years my senior. She was much
addicted to novel-reading and prone to neglect things which she knew
would have contributed to her success. Her comments on her own failures
were most amusing; she had the real Irish wit, and enjoyed a joke on
herself. As she urged me to, I often visited her during her office
hours, usually finding her with nothing to do; we talked over books,
cases, people, and experiences, and got on famously together. I throve
on her expressed admiration of certain qualities which I had and she
lacked. She would comment on the friendliness of the County Society
members toward me, and how easily I talked with them, while she, who
had long known them, felt so abashed in their presence. She said they
treated all women physicians better since I had come among them. I told
her they would treat her in a more friendly way if she were not so
shrinking and apologetic; that they took her at her own valuation. But
how I used to wish they could hear her witty and caustic remarks about
them! They little dreamed how keen she was because in their presence
she was so Uriah-Heepish.

The men respected Dr. Wyeth, but her reserve and apparent coldness
stood in the way of a really cordial feeling. She had started in
medicine when much more antagonism had existed between men and women
physicians than obtained when I began the study, and had never quite
overcome the feeling that the men considered the women as interlopers.
She used to say it did her good to see the frank, fearless way in
which I spoke to Dr. Torrey, the surgeon of whom everyone else, even
the other men, stood in awe; she declared I could smile and talk him
into anything I wanted to. Occasionally he asked me to anesthetize his
patients, and, knowing I had been in hospital service, would sometimes
inquire what I thought of this or that procedure, and I would tell him,
without hesitation, which Dr. Wyeth and Dr. Holton would never have
dared to do, though having as decided opinions perhaps as I had.

Dr. Torrey was a sandy-haired man with a mouthful of fine teeth and a
ready smile; jovial yet irascible; a bachelor; always well-groomed;
and with the ego ever on duty. He had a habit of preparing papers for
the medical society, whirling in and asking to be allowed to read
them right away, as he had an important engagement. Everything would
be set aside for him, and, on finishing, he would whirl out again,
indifferent to all other papers. I had watched this happen on several
occasions; then once, when he asked me to write a paper, I spoke out in
meeting and said that I would, if he would have the uncommon courtesy
to stay and listen to it. A little chagrined, but amused, he really
did better after that. Dr. Wyeth said that if she had attempted to say
that to him, she would have incurred his lasting enmity; and Dr. Holton
declared that the very thought of her undertaking it paralyzed her; yet
my temerity made him more friendly than before. He was something of
a nettle in disposition, and because I laid hold with a firm grasp I
didn’t get hurt.


One of the leading physicians, Dr. Lord, turned practically all
his gynecological cases over to me. This physician had great charm
of manner, an engaging smile, and the most infectious laugh I have
ever heard--a valuable asset in the sick room. But what an alarmist!
His patients were always being saved as by fire. He could make most
persons believe that black was white, and when confronted by his
irresistible manner, I was almost as ready as others to espouse his
various medical fads, though I soon found that his fad of to-day was
ousted by that of the day after to-morrow. What a study the different
ones among my _confrères_ were! Dr. Hood, another of them, boarded
where I boarded the first year--a big, lymphatic man with a smooth,
fat face, eyes that could smile merrily, but a mouth that drooped at
the corners as though with a perpetual grievance. He looked profound,
but was not. Always chivalrous in his treatment of women, his courtesy
had a Southern flavour. His friends and associates were chiefly
women, and, I am bound to say, he excelled them in gossip. He had a
never-failing curiosity, seemed interested in everybody, remembered
details, was a capital _raconteur_. Delightful as a table-companion,
but as full of sarcasm and prejudices as a dressmaker’s pincushion is
of pin-pricks; back-biting was, in his case, one of the little foxes
that spoiled the vines. Never busy, never in a hurry, he apparently
never cared whether he had any professional work to do. He knew how
to cook better than most women can; would on occasion go into the
homes of his patients and prepare special diets; more than that, he
could knit, crochet, and embroider, and they used to say that he made
most of the trimming for his step-daughter’s underwear when she was
preparing her wedding trousseau! Dr. Chapin, another brother physician,
was a mild, easy-going man, somewhat lacking in decision, unassuming,
conscientious, dependable; never one to make a big stir, but one of a
class now fast disappearing--a typical family physician. Besides these
in our own school of medicine, there were a few of the old school
physicians with whom I became friendly.


Early in October of my first year of practice, through the secretary
of the Y. M. C. A., who boarded where I boarded, I was engaged to make
the physical examination of about two hundred women who were to join
the ladies’ club of the gymnasium. Professor Barton, the Physical
Director, called on me and explained the work: each applicant was to be
examined as to heart and lungs, general nutrition, and abnormalities;
and certain measurements were to be taken so that the Director could
ascertain what parts needed special development.

The Director himself was a fine specimen of physical manhood, past
forty, slightly below medium height, a strong, masculine frame,
vigorous, energetic; dark brown, penetrating eyes, black hair, a firm
chin--a forceful personality. Almost boyish in his love for his work,
his enthusiasm was contagious. Firmly believing in the efficacy of
body-building to form mind and character, his work was his religion;
and so impressed was I with its importance, I consented to undertake
it without the question of compensation for my services being even
mentioned. The ladies came to my office, I gave the greater part of my
time for a month to the work, and the only remuneration I received was
my ticket to the gymnasium class for a year! The Secretary had probably
left the question of my remuneration to the Physical Director, and
he probably thought the Secretary had arranged it; while I supposed
that, in time, one or the other would attend to it. So when the
ladies, on being examined, asked what the charges were, I foolishly
said, “Nothing”; therefore, I came out with no financial gain whatever
when, but for my timidity in speaking up when engaged for the work, I
should have realized, at the very least, two hundred dollars; while,
the probabilities are, it would have amounted to double that sum, had
I let each lady pay me, as the most of them evidently expected to do,
when I made the examination. The whole thing is rather characteristic
of my way of dealing with financial matters when my own interests are
at stake--a trait which I share in common with my father. But the work
was interesting, and by its means I gained a speedy introduction to the
“Two Hundred” of U----, while the gymnasium practice was beneficial to
me.


Early in my practice, when I had but few acquaintances in U----, I
became intimate with a certain family, through having the wife and
children as patients. My old school-mate had moved away shortly
after I went there, and as I had no place to go during Dr. Wyeth’s
office hours, I got in the way of spending a good deal of time in the
Richards’s home. Mrs. Richards, a woman of tall, handsome figure, was
a mild, placid woman, an excellent housekeeper, kind and motherly. She
made me welcome in her home; her boys, of whom I was fond, were fine
little fellows. The freedom with which I came and went in their home
was delightful. The father of the family was a forceful man of keen
intellect, impulsive, ardent, magnetic, and of ungovernable temper
when aroused. He was alive to all that pertained to the development
and guidance of his boys, and got in the way of coming to my office
of an evening to borrow books and chat awhile about them; he said it
did him good to discuss these matters with me, and he was glad to have
my influence on his boys. He was frank in his liking for me, and his
occasional calls were welcome in my lonely evenings. Sometimes he would
say: “I fear I come here too much--I don’t want to do that; Jane likes
to have me come--but if you mind, you must tell me.”

It was perhaps after a half dozen calls that he began telling me about
his early life, of his proud and passionate mother, and of her second
marriage to a man so vastly inferior in race and breeding that his
childhood and youth were made utterly miserable. As he recounted some
of the experiences of his boyhood, and the shame and rage he had often
been made to feel because of taunts concerning his step-father, I
felt a great pity for him, and was able to understand, in a measure,
his curious outbursts of temper of which he told me. Later he began
speaking more freely about his wife, of her goodness, but also of her
limitations; her incapacity for companionship, her unresponsiveness.
Because of all this, he said, he especially appreciated my kindness to
him, and thanked God he had found such a friend; he thought we could
be of help to each other, and was sure I understood him as no one else
ever had. That night when he left he held my hand longer than his wont,
and I felt an uneasiness, combined with an unwonted pleasure.

At his next call he found me upset over the elopement of the husband
of a favourite cousin. Those horrid headlines in the paper referred
to someone I actually knew! It was a relief to discuss it with a
friend. This talk led to a discussion of kindred topics. Afterward, as
I tried to recall our conversation, it seemed to me it had been on a
particularly lofty plane. I could seem to remember nothing which led
up to what happened. I remember that the large willow rockers in which
we sat got gradually nearer, and that the first I knew he was holding
my hands and looking in my eyes, and I was permitting it with less and
less resistance, a dangerous fascination, a kind of paralysis stealing
over me that held me spellbound. He was talking, talking breathlessly,
ardently, on his knees by my chair. I think he wept over my hand and
put his head in my lap; and there I sat like one dazed--conscious of
all he said, but only half able to reason, and, for a time, seemingly,
wholly incapable of stemming the tide of his passionate outburst.
I seemed to live ages in what must have been only a few minutes.
Presently I roused myself and then, like one in pain on awakening,
felt wounded to the very soul--a stain was forever on my womanhood--a
married man had confessed his love for me! Suddenly I saw what in
my blindness and ignorance I had only vaguely divined in the weeks
previous--all, all had been leading up to this.

A deadly faintness came over me. I fell back in my chair, conscious
still, cruelly conscious, but passive, limp, and mute. He must have
taken this for acquiescence, for he kissed me--on the cheek, near the
neck. _It burned me_, and aroused me. I sat up, passive no longer.

What I said I do not know, but he felt my anger and shrank from it. I
almost tore the spot from my face in the vehemence with which I tried
to eradicate that burning kiss. That angered him to the point of fury,
and my words enraged him more. While I had been in that passive state,
and he was covering my hands with kisses, he had said he would wait
years for me, if need be, if I would only tell him that I would love
him when he was free. On finding my tongue, I bitterly denounced him
for that; told him if he were free I would not marry him; that I could
never love him; and by then I must have experienced a marked revulsion
of feeling, for I loathed him.

Growing fairly black with rage, he became threatening; accused me of
leading him on, or at least of permitting his love, only to thrust
it back upon him. He took me by the shoulders roughly, looking into
my face with rage and hatred. I looked steadily back. I had a vague
realization of his great strength, and of his fiendish temper when
aroused, but was at that instant beyond physical fear; my desperation
at what I then felt was an ineradicable stain upon my soul was so
extreme that mere danger to life was as nothing. I must have met him
unflinchingly; I think I even said, “Kill me if you like!” Then a
terrible remorse came upon me. Suddenly I seemed to feel wholly to
blame, and with that began to soften towards him; he softened then, and
wept. One thing he said then pierced me to the heart:

“Why did you do it, Doctor? Why did you let me love you--life was
hard enough before--why did you do it?” And as he talked that way my
agony grew apace. I believed myself guilty--responsible for it all; I
believed (what I knew later was not true) that I must have seen it all
from the beginning--my consent to his calls, our handclasps at parting,
were blackest evidence of the steps I had permitted to lead up to this.

My remorse and misery changed his attitude entirely; he then began
accusing himself. Presently we fell to discussing it more calmly. But
at the recollection of my scornful words, the fire leaped in his eyes,
and a malicious purpose again plainly showed itself:

“You could never love me if I were ‘the last man on
earth’--you--_girl_! You don’t know what you are saying. Do you want to
rouse the very devil in me? Don’t you know that if I were free, free
to make you love me, you would be mine--_mine_! I’d make you take back
those words--I’ve a mind to make you take them back--_I’ve a mind to
make you love me now_!”

He was sitting or kneeling beside me, his face close to mine. I looked
in his eyes, and the very devil of daring and adventure must have been
in me at that instant, for I was fully conscious of a challenge passing
into my look. I think I said no word, but fairly defied him to make me
love him--if he could. He fixed my glance imperiously, and with his
face close to mine he hissed:

“Kiss me--on the lips--kiss me! You don’t dare to--_you’re afraid_!”

His lips came closer, his eyes flamed. I had a wild desire to do
as he commanded--not because I wanted to kiss him, for I hated him
again--such rapid revulsions of feeling swept over me--but just to
prove to him that his words were false--that I dared to kiss him and
still would not love him as he boasted. I had a curiosity also, a real
desire to know if there could possibly be such potency in a kiss.
But the instant of wavering could not have been long. At that crucial
moment my guardian angel (surely I had a guardian angel than) turned
my eyes from his compelling gaze to the top of the book-case by the
wall where stood the photographs of my father and mother. Instantly the
spell was broken. The power he had regained over me, after my first
repulsion had subsided, was dispelled by the sight of my parents’
faces looking down at me. But oh, the agony then! The remorse I had
felt earlier was as nothing compared to this. I cannot recall clearly
what followed. I know my defiance of him gave place to self-loathing
and self-castigation. It must have been shortly after that a profound
prostration supervened--the conflicting emotions were having their
effect upon my physical self. My pallor must have been extreme for
he became alarmed; he called to me; he chafed my hands, and pleaded
with me to rally, to speak, to live. I heard it all and knew all--was
never more aware in my life--but was powerless to stir, almost, it
seemed, to breathe. Finally, the faintness wearing away, I was again in
possession of all my faculties, but, oh, so cold, so cold! and with the
consciousness of an ineradicable stain on my soul.

It was then after midnight. All at once I became aware of the
compromising situation should he be seen leaving my office at that time
of night. I was disturbed, too, as to what Mrs. Richards would think
of his staying so late, yet was afraid to have him go. I was afraid to
be alone, afraid of my own thoughts. I clung to him, my fear of him
all gone--the danger now all gone--for my weakness appealed to his
strength, and his one thought then seemed to be to restore and help me.
He urged me to come home with him; he would carry me, if necessary; we
would together tell Jane; she would understand; or, should he rush home
and get her, and have her come and stay the night with me? he did not
dare to leave me there alone. But all this time I was getting where I
could think and plan for the future. When, previously, in helplessness,
I had clung to him, it was as though I must make him take it all back,
wipe it out; yet I was acutely conscious of the irrevocableness of it
all, I had only clung in desperation--like two drowning persons must
cling--no longer blaming him, but in utter wretchedness that together
we had brought this on ourselves.

Now I was clearer. I began to talk. I told him he must never come there
again alone. Then, as I thought of Mrs. Richards and the boys, and how
they loved and trusted me, I broke down completely. I felt I could
never again look into their faces; never enter their home, nor again
have the happy times we had enjoyed. This he opposed vigorously. He
asked nothing for himself, he said, but for her and the boys he pleaded
that I would not be so cruel: they needed me; I had brightened their
lives; he was more patient and kind when I was there, even when he knew
I was coming; I helped him to control his temper, they all knew it--if
I deserted them now, it would add to their misery. I suppose I then
promised to go to their home as usual. I, having completely rallied by
that time, he left me, himself looking worn and penitent, and showing
unfeigned concern at my wretchedness.

As I opened the door to let him out, every sound in the quiet building,
every fall of his foot down the stairs, struck me with dread; and when
I found myself alone in the room, my terror increased. I did not dare
to move; every sound I made increased this feeling; I was afraid to
undress; afraid to open out the operating-chair and make my bed; so,
wrapping a blanket around me, I reclined on the half-opened chair and
slept from sheer exhaustion.

When I awoke, the terrible consciousness was there that _it was all
true_; that it was not an ugly dream. Then I drank my first bitter
draught of the cup of life. I had thought I had known sorrow before;
thought I had suffered; but then, then, I knew that never until
then had I realized what suffering is. “It _isn’t_ true”--“It _is_
true,”--fast upon the one thought, said as though the very force
with which I uttered it would undo the truth, would follow the other
inexorable sentence, “It _is_ true.”

The events of the next few days, even my first meeting with Mrs.
Richards, are gone from my recollection. I remember one thing, though:
The next day, at my boarding-place, at dinner, a little Chatterbox of
a woman spoke of how pale and wretched I looked, then, babbling on,
told me that, having dropped into Mrs. Richards’s that morning, she
had found her suffering from a severe sick headache. It seemed as if I
must cry out in remorse and despair. In my hypersensitive condition I
felt directly responsible for her suffering, though she had suffered
similarly for years. I seemed made up of two entities, the one being
stabbed by this chatter, and by my own self-reproaches, and the other
calmly and indifferently replying to my table-mate, discussing the
most commonplace affairs. I marvelled at my own unmoved exterior,
marvelled at everything going on the same in the street, at the office,
everywhere--the same as the day before--when all was so changed in me!

The first time I saw Mr. Richards after that was in his home, the
family having sent for me to come to the house for supper. Already
there, and dreading to meet him, I heard him run up the steps briskly,
_whistling as he came_! He called out cheerily, “Are you in there,
Doctor?” It was a shock to me. I had so dreaded to meet him; had
thought of him as suffering from remorse as I had suffered (had he not
said with contrition that he would ask God to forgive him?); and here
he was whistling, and a love song! Again I recoiled from him, and with
it came a sickening sense of being alone in my misery, and of having
wasted more pity on him than he deserved. I was pretty severe when we
spoke of it later, but think he succeeded in mollifying me somewhat,
though I began then to think that his religious talk was largely cant,
and so ceased to have much patience with his asking God to forgive him.

My friendliness with the family continued, but I never received him in
the office after that, unless Mrs. Richards, or the boys, came with
him. Later I learned a great deal of their home life which I had only
divined before--learned that he was a very different man when I was
there from his ordinary self; that the boys’ fondness for me, though
genuine, was only a part of the reason why they were always so eager
for me to come there, the other part being that Dad was always so jolly
and good then, and things went so smoothly.

One evening while he and his wife and I were sitting on the veranda,
the boys came home, greeted us, and passed on into the house, after
which their father followed them, and we heard them in earnest
conversation. Soon they were talking angrily. Mrs. Richards hurried
in, and shortly after, I heard a cry of distress, and then her voice
calling, “Doctor, come--_come_!”

Rushing in, there in the dining room I saw what nearly paralyzed
me--the father, looking more like a fiend than a human being, had his
younger son by the throat, while the elder boy, white with terror,
stood on one side of the table, as far from his father as he could get.
The mother was closing windows and doors, so that the neighbours could
not hear, and was all the time beseeching the boy in jeopardy to say he
did it: “Say it, Tommy, or he’ll kill you!”

With no clue as to what it all meant, I only knew that here was an
enraged man, beside himself, and that his son, though in danger of
being choked to death, was defying him, standing out about something
he had been accused of. I took no time for thought, but, feeling
exultantly, “Here, I have some power over him--now I can expiate my
wrong,” rushed between the struggling father and son, tearing at the
man’s fingers as they clasped the boy’s neck. He tried to push me away,
looking as though he only half realized who I was; but, pulling at him,
I interfered with all my strength, calling to him. Presently he warned
me: “Doctor, get away if you don’t want me to hurt you, too--I warn
you--I will not be thwarted--he _shall_ confess.”

But I felt I must save the boy; must exert to the full my influence
over this enraged man. I don’t know what followed, or just what I did,
except that we three were being dragged around the table, and that I
kept my hands on those powerful hands that were grasping the boy’s
throat; and soon I stood looking into the eyes of that crazed creature
for what seemed an eternity--it was probably only a few seconds--all
the force of my being bent on making him relax his hold. Gradually I
felt his fingers loosen, his eyes ceased to glare with that lurid rage,
and at last his hands dropped limp; the boy was freed, and the man and
I confronted each other in breathless silence.

“Thank God! Thank God!” hysterically cried the mother, while the older
boy tried to hush her cry.

But the calm was of short duration. A second rage succeeded the first.
At the thought that I had seen this exhibition of his wrath, and that
further concealment was futile, he sprang at the boy again. Tommy ran
round the table. I sprang again at the father, and a second contest
took place. I can only remember clinging to his hands, and holding his
gaze, and hearing the frightened woman scream to me to be careful, or
he would attack me as he had attacked Tom.

How the storm subsided I cannot recall, except that he gradually got
control of himself, though the looks he cast at the boys showed that
his rage was only sleeping. His remarks to me were to the effect that
the game was up; I would loathe him now; I may as well know him now as
they knew him, and, though I had prevented him from carrying out his
threats, he would know the truth yet--he would wait till to-morrow--but
punish those boys he would, and I need not think I could prevent it.
Then he left the house.

We breathed freer after he was gone, but looked at one another in
dismay, feeling it was only a lull in the storm. They depended on me
for help, but how was I to help them? It seems that evening at the
“Gym,” he had seen the boys hobnobbing with some others whose habits he
had warned them against; he thought they acted guilty when he came upon
them, and had been awaiting their return home to confront them with his
suspicions. Their denial had enraged him, hence the terrible scene.


All the woman’s disguises were now laid aside. Previously she had tried
heroically to conceal the unhappiness in their home life. Many a time I
had detected her anxiety when the boys had been saying or doing things
which she feared might anger their father, but, on meeting my glance,
she would summon a smile and change the subject. Now it was all out.

We talked it all over. She was afraid he would desert them now, as he
had threatened doing of late; but what she feared most was his coming
home late in the night, after I had gone, and dragging the boys out of
bed and repeating the scene; or, if just sullen, he would wait till
morning, and then give the boys a thrashing; his smouldering anger
would flare afresh--and, God pity them all! They implored me not to
leave them. It was a miserable evening that we spent listening for him.
I heard him come in late in the night, stalk about his room, and fling
off his shoes. How I pitied the woman lying there, afraid to speak,
feigning sleep, recoiling, as she must, from that man’s presence, yet
welcoming that rather than that he should go across the hall to where
the boys were sleeping!

In the morning she came to my room, heavy-eyed and anxious, dreading
what the day held for them. He did not come down to breakfast. They
seemed to think the storm had got to come--that it was only being
postponed while I could stay with them.

Reassuring them as best I could, I went upstairs to him. I had no
definite plan, but knew I must in some way extract a promise to let the
matter drop, at least not to punish the boys till entirely over his
anger, he had heard them calmly; and that, if he did punish them, I was
to be present.

There the great black creature lay, his face sullenly turned to the
wall. What should I do? My instinct told me what. And here I recall the
complexity of feelings I experienced: the shrinking from him at the
recollection of his brutal rage; the thought that I had calmed that
rage somewhat, and could still more if I could conquer my repugnance.
Then came the recognition that I could only do it by exerting my power
as a woman over him--the discovery of a power that shortly before
had made me sick with remorse. Then came another thought: If, though
unwittingly, I have acquired this power over him, and have suffered it
to develop to the point it has with no object in view, why not now,
with this worthy object, take advantage of the influence, and compel
him to do my bidding? It was similar reasoning to what I had used the
night before, if my rapid thoughts and impulsive acts could be said to
be the result of reasoning. This morning’s course was more deliberate,
though hardly as much so as this statement of it would seem to imply.

Stepping to the bed I put my hand on his shoulder and tried to have
him look round. He snarled savagely, turning farther away. I remember
keeping my hand on his shoulder and trying to get him to turn over and
talk to me. I sat on the bed and pleaded with him. After he did turn,
he looked at me searchingly for a while, and, when he spoke, expressed
surprise that I would ever speak to him again. I don’t recall what I
said, but suddenly he looked at me sharply and said: “See here! I have
a great big thought--is it true?--tell me! Do you care for me more than
you have let me know, but have fought it because it was right to---- Is
it so? _Is_ it?”

And I, seeing him melting under my influence, and knowing that I had
set to work deliberately to bring this melting about, anxious to gain
my ends, conscious of what a fiend he was when thwarted--I did not have
the courage to contradict him outright; and, if I did make some half
dissent, was at least keeping my hold on him, literally, by the touch
of my hand, while wondering how far it would do to let him think he
was right--enough at least to gain this point about the boys, so he
would take back his threats and let go the punishment. I was conscious
of making some compromise with my conscience on the ground of the
exigencies of the case; conscious that the look in his eyes, before we
were done talking, was that of a tamed, or, rather, subdued, animal,
instead of an angry, morose one; yet I really did nothing except
just to be my undisguised self--soft and pitying and tender to this
man whose evil temper I now understood. I let him see that I did not
despise him, even for this revelation; but that I wanted to help him
and them; still I did not entirely dispel that thought which had come
to him, and think I hoped he would continue to think that perhaps it
was true--for a time, at least.

Downstairs we all talked it over together, and he gave me his word
before them all that that should end it. And it did.

My intimacy with the family increased. I felt their dependence upon me,
and was easier now that he frankly showed his interest in me before his
wife; it seemed to take the sting from the recollection of that tragic
night in the office.

One evening, weeks later, at their home, they began jesting about my
marrying, speculating as to the kind of man I would be likely to love.
I did not like such talk. (Once, earlier, when he had been trying to
make light of what had happened, to reassure me and dispel my remorse
he had said, “You will marry some good man one of these days, and
forget all about this.” Aside from other considerations, entirely apart
from this, I had previously declared that I should never marry; but now
in my hypersensitiveness over it all, I actually thought I had lost
the right to marry--I knew I could not marry without confessing that a
married man had made love to me, and that I had listened to him, and I
fully believed that any honourable man would despise me for this. I was
in dead earnest. In vain he had tried to point out how little I had to
be remorseful about; deaf to his arguments, I thought them put forth
only because of his own callous depravity.) And so I was angry at him
now for bringing up this question in his home; but continuing, he said:

“Jane, the Doctor says she will never marry--do you know why?”

I was afraid he was coming out with the whole story. He turned on the
boys, who were showing an eager interest in the talk, saying, “Boys, go
in the other room”; then, turning to me, said, “You say you will never
marry; you think you are strong enough to stick to that; you pride
yourself on being independent, but--_if I were free_, I’d make you
marry me, _and I’d make you love me_! You couldn’t help yourself. Oh,
you needn’t mind Jane--she doesn’t mind--do you, Jane? She knows me,
and knows I love you--I’d show you what your resolutions would amount
to--_if I were free_!”

This, accompanied with poorly veiled excitement and a daredevil look,
and said to me _before her_, in their own home, made me speechless. For
her sake I had done my best to appear ignorant of his special interest
in me; but here he was boldly confessing it, and, in a way, challenging
me again to withstand him. It roused my scorn and contempt, and I fear
I showed it that night.

So, little by little, the disguises dropped away all around, though
our friendship continued. As I became busier in my work I went less
frequently to their house. Subsequently he confessed to me an intrigue
he had had some years before. This shocked me, and lowered him further
(as well as myself) in my esteem, for, in trying to win me he had
claimed that I was the one woman to him; and, while having admitted
that it was wrong to confess his love, he had declared that something
in me made it impossible to help it, and so on; and, in my ignorance
and vanity, I had believed him; had doubtless condoned his wrong for
this very reason. This later confession of a previous infatuation--even
a guilty one--made all this in which I had had a share seem not only
more wrong, but more sordid; and, too, it gave a deep wound to my
self-love. I was getting my eyes opened to life and human nature at
a rapid rate. Other revelations of his temper and character, as time
passed, made me sick at heart, but gradually out-growing the acuteness
of my remorse, I learned in time rather to exult in the fact that I had
not been more deeply compromised.

After a time the family moved away. Years later I saw them again. They
seemed to be getting on well. We then discussed calmly the earlier
times. I found much of my bitterness and denunciation toward him had
moderated. I had by that time seen more of life; had learned to be more
tolerant; understood him better. He told me that he had never ceased to
be thankful that my own steadfastness had prevented him from ruining my
life; that, whether I chose to believe him or not, bad as he had been,
he had never meant to wrong me; that he had always esteemed me above
any woman he had known; and that no one in the world, knowing of his
baseness, had shown him the tenderness and tolerance and helpfulness
that I had shown. He talked over my own life and subsequent experiences
with me, and gave me sound advice. He understood me better than I
had understood myself. I am bound to say that his retrospections and
prophecies were alike sympathetic and penetrating.


During that first year’s practice, a few weeks after this regrettable
experience which had cast such a shadow over me, I saw deep into the
tragedy of the life of a young girl who came to me for succour. She
was only nineteen; she refused to give me her name or address, but
haltingly told me her story, and expressed her fears. It was some weeks
before I could either dispel or confirm her fears, during which time
my hold on her was precarious; but she came again and again, both of
us hoping against hope as long as we could. On the day when I had to
acknowledge to myself and her that what she feared was true, I seemed
to grow years older. Though I had now been graduated in medicine a
year, my worldly wisdom was very limited, and here was a desperate
girl looking to me for help--a pretty, round-faced, red-cheeked child,
unsophisticated, undeveloped. She resolutely refused to tell me the
name of the young man concerned, saying if he were willing she would
not marry him. She did not mind what she suffered if only her parents
did not find out. Her mother would die if she learned the truth. When
she found I could not help her in the way she had hoped, she was in
dire distress. I tried to persuade her to send her mother to me and
together we would plan something, but she would not consent; if I could
help her to go away and keep the secret from everyone there, she would
go and have her child honourably; if not, she would go to someone who
would help her in the other way. I felt I must save her from that crime
at all costs, and my earnest convictions must have impressed her, too;
for she then begged me to think out some way by which it could be
arranged.

Knowing the resident woman physician in a Home in a distant city, where
they took girls who had gone astray for the first time, and found homes
for their babies, I took steps to get her admitted there. While our
plans were pending, the girl came to me almost daily; she had nowhere
else to go. During these interviews, I was struck by the fact that she
seemed all intent on concealing the consequences of her wrong-doing,
but showed little remorse for the wrong itself. I could not understand
this; but, as I came later to see more of such cases, I learned
that by the time the poor creatures are certain of their condition,
the acuteness of remorse has spent itself--they are confronted by a
desperate condition calling for action, and their need of escaping
detection then overrides contrition. Not appreciating this then, I was
puzzled and hurt at the girl’s apparent callousness. As an accomplice
in the scheme for getting her away, I was throwing myself so completely
into the situation that I shared her shame. I verily believe I felt
her sin and remorse more than she did _at that time_, though there’s
no telling what she had felt earlier. The knowledge which I had so
recently gained had made me aware of the dangerous fascination between
the sexes, or I might have been less sympathetic with her; as it was,
I came to be almost glad of an experience that enabled me to help the
poor girl more understandingly than I otherwise could have helped her.

At length we learned the cost and requirements at the Home. She could
manage the cost, but how were we to get her away, and keep her away all
the months necessary, so that her family and friends should be blinded
to the facts? Her already changing figure made it imperative that
she go at once. Persuading a friend in the country to take her a few
weeks to board, it was still necessary to devise some excuse for her
going that would appeal to her family. As her mother knew that I had
been treating her for an “anemic condition,” it would be, I thought, a
simple matter to persuade her that her daughter needed to get away for
a change of air, so I told her to bring her mother to the office.

The woman came, solicitous about her daughter. She rehearsed her
daughter’s symptoms; was afraid she was going into a decline, or had a
tumour growing, or some other serious condition. The mother was very
deaf; I thought her blind also, for she evidently suspected nothing.
Reassuring her as well as I could, I persuaded her to let Hetty go
to my friend’s for two weeks, well knowing that after once getting
her away, we must invent some other excuse for a longer stay. Right
there in the mother’s presence, owing to her deafness, we perfected
the plans. I shudder when I think of that hour; when necessary to talk
at length about details, to avoid suspicion, I would go to a distant
part of the room a little out of range of the mother’s vision, and,
appearing to be busy there, would, in a low voice, give my directions.

Our scheme was for her to stay with my friend for two months, if
possible, writing back home frequent encouraging letters as to her
marked improvement in health, thus gaining consent to remain away.
Later she was to state that my friend, Miss Hurd, a semi-invalid, had
grown attached to her and had invited her to go on to New England for
a little visit. If this worked, and she obtained permission to go so
far from home, we were to have Miss Hurd become so ill while away as to
require Hetty’s services as a nurse, thus accounting for her long stay
in Providence.

It proved even a harder undertaking than I had bargained for. It was my
first experience in downright, sustained deception; but there was much
at stake, and I was bound to carry the thing through.

Hetty had been at Miss Hurd’s only three weeks when they felt they
could keep her no longer--the neighbours were getting curious, and the
family was uneasy about the whole situation. So it was decided to have
Hetty go on to Providence early. As a matter of fact, Miss Hurd came
on to U---- to visit me, so they came that far together, Hetty going
on to New England. Meeting her at the train, I could offer only a few
hurried words of direction and encouragement, and the train bore her
away in the darkness. Homesick and frightened, she could not get off
that train and seek her home, but must journey on, alone, at night, to
that strange city, suffering, dread, and wretchedness ahead of her!

About two weeks later her mother appeared at my office, this time in
great distress. Miss Hurd opened the door for her--the very young woman
with whom her daughter was supposed to be in Providence--but of course
she had no suspicion as to who she was. The woman demanded that I write
and tell Miss Hurd that her daughter must come home at once: people
were thinking it queer that Hetty was staying away so long; someone had
even intimated that she was married and was going to have a baby--they
were saying all sorts of things. There that deluded mother sat and said
to me: “You and I know that it isn’t so; we know the poor girl has been
sick, and that she is taking care of this invalid friend of yours; but
they have made these insinuations and her father is furious; he says
she must come home at once and put a stop to such reports--he says that
under the circumstances her duty is to herself and not to Miss Hurd.”

I used what persuasion and arguments I could, and assured her I would
communicate immediately with Miss Hurd and Hetty, and tell them how
matters stood here, though I hated to distress the poor child with
such reports being circulated about her. She agreed it was a great
shame, and, too, just as she was so happy and feeling so like her
old self. As soon as she had gone, in the same room where she had
been sitting, Miss Hurd sat and, heading the letter from Providence,
wrote to the girl’s mother, begging her to let Hetty stay another
month at least, pleading her need, and her physician’s opinion that
a change of companions just then would be very prejudicial to her--a
letter which the family could show to doubting friends, thus allaying
suspicion. This letter, inclosed in one to Hetty, was sent back with
the Providence post-mark, and the family quieted down.

This was near a month before the baby came--an anxious month for me,
what must it have been for Hetty! The baby died in two weeks. I felt
relieved; it simplified things; but Hetty’s grief was real and deep:
“Oh, Doctor, my baby is dead!” she wrote. She was not a “Hetty Sorrel,”
after all, as I had sometimes thought her, but a sorrowing mother, her
shame and fear of detection--everything--forgotten in her anguish over
the death of her illegitimate baby!

The night she came home, meeting her train, I went with her to her
door. I longed to go in and help her face her family; but that could
not be. She had brought back to me all the letters I had written her,
with a lock of her baby’s hair--a tiny silken curl which the doctor had
cut from the dead baby’s head. The pathos of it! the little curl was
folded in a powder paper, and put in a tiny box marked “mourning-pins.”

“I don’t dare to take it home with me, but you will keep it for me,”
she said.

We had been preparing her family for her altered appearance: she was
supposed to be worn out from caring for the invalid, and, the last two
weeks, to have had a severe attack of dysentery. By her manner of dress
she was to arrange that her figure should appear much as when she went
away; but, oh, her face!--they must have been blind, indeed, if they
could not see that it was not, and never would be again, the round
girlish face they had known. It was the face of a saddened woman. Her
grief for her baby was pitiful, and she was denied even the comfort of
that little lock of hair!

Months later she told me her people never learned the truth, but I
sometimes felt that they must have surmised more than they let her
know; and yet, perhaps not. By a ruse I got from her subsequently
the name of her child’s father, making her think I knew it when only
suspecting it--a strange thing this--the woman’s loyalty in shielding
the man! My little “Hetty Sorrel” began to show the more heroic traits
of “Hester Prynne.” I kept in touch with her for several years.

When Dr. Wyeth learned of all this, she was frightened at the risks I
had taken, and begged me never to undertake a case like that again,
unless some other member of the family be taken into confidence. But
the poor girl had said that it would kill her mother; that her father
would kill her lover; and that, if they knew the truth, she might as
well kill herself; so I had yielded to her entreaties for secrecy. Had
she died in confinement, I knew my letters to her, and hers to me,
would vindicate me, proving that there had been no crime--merely the
attempt to help her to keep her secret.

Only a short time after this another girl came to me in the same
trouble. Here the circumstances were different: She had no relatives in
this country; she was English, twenty-three years old; her lover was
Irish, and a Roman Catholic. She frankly told me his name and where
he worked, and said he drank some, but she was willing to marry him
if he would have her, but she doubted if he would marry her. I told
her to send him to me. When he paid no attention to this request, I
wrote, asking him to call. This also he ignored; then I called at his
boarding-place and left a note saying I should be under the necessity
of calling upon him at his place of business, unless he came at once
to see me. This brought him to the office. He was a factory hand. He
had a dogged air. While sounding him, to see if he would marry the
girl, I had spoken of seeing the priest, which evidently impressed him,
for he said, “You can make me marry her, but I won’t live with her.”
Then I took another tack: Of course I could make him marry her, but I
wouldn’t do that if he was not man enough to marry her willingly--such
marriages could only bring misery; and anyhow, I understood he was a
drinking man, and Molly was too good a girl to be tied to a man with
such habits. He sneered when I spoke of her as being a good girl; that
roused my wrath. I told him he was a coward to get a girl in trouble
and refuse to stand by her, then sneer at her in the bargain; that the
least he could do was to help her financially, so she could go away
and have her child where her acquaintances would be none the wiser,
and she could take up her old life again, untrammelled by the stain
and disgrace. I made him see that she had got to face all the pain and
danger and disgrace, and that he certainly ought to make it easier for
her by paying her board in a Home, and the expenses of her confinement.

He rose to the occasion, and went out of the office with more
self-respect, and commanding more respect from me, than when he had
come in; and in a few days, when he sent me money for several months’
board, I arranged for Molly’s admittance to the Providence Home. It was
a much easier affair to manage than the other. But as Molly’s money
began to give out, Mike’s manliness oozed out, too. As he ignored her
appeals, I wrote for him to call on me again. The days went by and he
made no sign. Meantime, a letter from the doctor told me that Molly’s
son was born, was already adopted, and that Molly had a place as a wet
nurse for a premature baby which was being raised in an incubator.
Molly’s bills were still unsettled; if Mike was to help any more I
must compass it then; she would need all she could earn for future
necessities.

Calling at his boarding-place, I found he had just gone back to work.
Hurrying toward the factory, I saw him ahead of me, sauntering along,
all unconscious of who or what was overtaking him. Coming up behind
him, I spoke his name. Turning, surprised and sheepish, he faltered,
“I was going to come to the office to-night.” Looking in his eyes
I announced, “Mr. Dagon, your son was born day before yesterday.”
Conflicting emotions showed in his wretched face--astonishment, pride,
joy, were quickly followed by shame and humiliation, as he realized
he had no right to be proud of being a father. The words “your son”
had roused the man and the father in him, but the painful feelings had
quickly supervened. My anger melted as I saw his pitiable state; but,
knowing him for a shifty fellow, I realized I must get him to commit
himself in regard to the money. He promised to bring it that evening;
then asked in a shamefaced way more about Molly and the boy. I told him
of the baby being adopted by a childless couple almost before it was
born.

The practice in that institution was to encourage the prospective
mothers to keep their babies, face conditions, and live so correctly
afterward that people would overlook the wrong-doing; but the girls
were offered the alternative of giving up the child; the decision,
however, had to be made before the child was born. Molly had decided
to give up her baby. When it came, she wanted it back; but it was too
late--it had been pledged to these people, who had immediately taken
it away. They had taken Molly’s name, left her a name and address that
would always reach them, and had agreed to let her hear from the child
once a year, on his birthday; but she was not to see him, and he was
never to learn that she was his mother.

As I explained all this to Mike, he listened in silence till I said
she was to be a wet nurse for a feeble baby; then he fired up, looking
black and angry. “I should think she’d be ashamed,” he said, “to nurse
a strange baby, and let her own be brought up on a bottle.”

“Whose fault is it that she has to do this?” I retorted. “She wanted
to keep her child; she would have borne the disgrace; would have come
back openly with it in her arms, had you stood ready to support her and
it; but you would have none of it; you wouldn’t even send her enough
money to pay for her board and medical care. She couldn’t face the
world, weak and sick, in disgrace, in debt, and out of work, with a
helpless baby; she had to decide as she did that her child might have
a good home, and she be free to support herself. And now, after it is
too late, after you have neglected her, you dare to blame her for what
she has done! Don’t you suppose she has suffered, and will suffer, more
than you can ever know? Hasn’t she everything to bear, and alone; while
you, who have gone scot-free, have the face to blame her for what you
have forced her to do!”

He was man enough to be ashamed, and lamely said so, and then, of
course, I pitied him. He came in the evening with the money, asked for
more particulars, and showed the best there was in him.

In time Molly returned to her old work in U----. She had developed
remarkably. Association with persons of refinement had helped her; she
wanted to better herself; was full of plans for going to night-school,
and for seeking worthier associates. She was hungry for news of her
baby, and its adopted mother was soon better than her word, writing to
her, and continuing to write every few months--letters full of his baby
ways, which Molly would bring to me with all a mother’s pride in her
boy, but with a cruel hunger that most mothers never know.

In a year’s time Molly came to me saying that a young carpenter wanted
to marry her, a good steady fellow that she liked, but that she would
not marry him and not tell him about the baby; and if she told him, she
feared he would cease to care for her. We agreed that there was but the
one right thing to do, and though feeling sure he would turn against
her, she heroically promised to do it. A few days later she came to me
with a radiant face: she had told him her story; he had “been good”
to her; had even said they would take the baby to rear if she could
get it; but, alas! she was pledged not to seek to do this. They soon
married and had babies of their own.

The queer thing about the little “John Alden,” as Molly’s baby was
called, is this: he had the same effect that adopted waifs have often
had in childless homes--within a year or two the foster-parents had a
child of their own, which naturally called out the mother’s strongest
love; still she wrote Molly that the little John was as dear as ever.
But after a second child came, and then reverses, Molly and I detected
a change in the letters. I fancied the foster-parents would not be
sorry to relinquish the care of the little fellow; but whether or not
the question was ever really broached I cannot remember, if indeed I
ever knew.

These were only two of several similar cases which fell into my hands
during my years in U----. Dr. Wyeth told me I had had more of them
than she had had in all her years of practice. Nothing that has come
into my professional life has yielded me such unalloyed satisfaction as
the help I was able to give these girls. Sometimes I have had to go to
parents and break the news, in one case, actually had to plead with the
girl’s mother for mercy and kind treatment of the misguided girl. Much
of my work as a physician has been inefficient and faulty--this I know
better than any one else--but this work is the best I have ever done;
and it is work that I was perhaps better prepared to do in the right
spirit because of that regrettable personal experience during my first
few months of practice.


After a year’s time I was cosily established in an office of my own
across the hall from Dr. Wyeth. What a good time I had getting my
furniture! Not a cent was spent without careful planning. My rooms were
modestly but attractively furnished, and I was happy in the change. I
had a small waiting room, a large private office, and a little room
where I kept my gas-stove and household appliances--an improvised
kitchenette. I could choose my own office hours now, so had better
ones, and my practice steadily increased. Then I reduced expenses
further by getting my own meals and caring for my rooms. What cosy
suppers we had when Father came in town, or when friends came to see
me! But I lived frugally, and accounted for every quart of milk, or
pound of beef, or box of cocoa, every postage stamp, and carfare; I
think, on the whole, there was little that I bought which I could have
done without. If I purchased a book, or spent more than was absolutely
necessary in some such way, I skimped in table supplies to even up
matters. Eating alone, as I did most of the time, very little sufficed
me; but once in a while I would get downright hungry, then would buy a
beefsteak, and was sometimes so ravenous I could hardly wait to get it
cooked. It was worth the abstinence to have the appetite I occasionally
had.

Dr. Wyeth’s kindness and helpfulness did not abate when I moved to
my new office; she always left her keys with me, so I had the use of
her books, and telephone, and her operating-chair for a bed for my
occasional guests--a similar chair of my own now serving as bed for me.


One day, while sitting in my new office, a queer-looking old farmer
came in. He blinked and stared around as I stepped out, and asked,
“Where’s the Doctor?”

“I’m the doctor.”

“Oh--a woman doctor!”

He continued to stare; then, as he recovered himself, said musingly, “I
never saw one before.”

“Well, what do you think of It?” I felt like asking, but probably
inquired in my politest professional manner what I could do for him.
He told me about his wife. I made an appointment for an examination,
and shortly after she came. The little woman, between fifty and sixty,
was suffering from a long-standing cancer. I hated to tell her the
truth; she caught eagerly at the slightest hope. There was but little
to expect at that advanced stage from an operation, and I told her so,
but she wanted the benefit of that little; so Dr. Wyeth and I operated,
and for a time she was more comfortable; but later her symptoms became
distressing; yet how she clung to life, even to the last!

One day, toward the end, her husband came for me to go out to their
home and see her--one of the queerest drives I ever took. The man
appeared elated, though from his report of her symptoms her death
seemed imminent. I had told him that there was probably little that
I could do if I went to see her, and he had seemed divided between
pleasure at my going and miserliness at having to pay for the visit.
While I was getting instruments and dressings ready, he looked about
the office in undisguised interest and curiosity, commenting naïvely
on what must have been the cost of various things; asking if I had a
big practice; what I did when I had to go out at night; if I didn’t
sometimes wish I had a man to help me; and if I wasn’t lonesome in the
evening.

When we stepped into his buggy, he started up his fine horses with
a flourish, proud to show them off. I must have spoken approvingly
of them, for he said, “_You_ like to ride fast, don’t you? So do I.
_She_ don’t; she says it hurts her.” Passing some children along the
country road, when I waved a greeting to them, he observed, “_You_ like
children? So do I. _She_ don’t--never could bear to have them around.”

I found the poor woman near the end, and told him it could be a
question of only a few days at the most. His comments on the way
had prepared me for his callousness at this news, but not for what
followed. Instead of driving me right back, as I wished, he insisted
on showing me all about the house and barns, and even out to the
hill-meadow, where he had a fine view of the city. He acted like a boy.
As we stood on the hill-top, he expatiated on the extent and value of
his farm; on his stock and barns; on the improvements he meant to make;
all of which was tiresome to me; but he finally arrested my attention
by the remark.

“See what a fine place this would be for a doctor to live; she could
come out here after office hours, and could drive into the city in no
time with horses like mine.”

More of such talk followed--I hardly knew whether to be angry or
amused--the conceited, unfeeling old wretch was apparently making a
tentative proposal to me there in his home, his wife within a few days
of her death! (I learned some weeks afterward that he had for some time
previous been in the habit of stopping at a neighbour’s and talking
excitedly about the “little Doctor”; wondering what her practice
amounted to, and whether she would want to give it up, if she married,
or keep on with it.)

“What’s the damage?” he asked, as we were driving home; and when I
named the charge for the visit, he sighed as, slowly drawing out his
wallet, he said regretfully: “That’s just what I got for the last calf
I sold.”

I don’t recall much about him after that, except that he dropped into
the office a few times for prescriptions for himself, and once brought
me some fruit and some Christmas greens; but if he pushed his hints
further, I have forgotten about it.


It was during my years in U---- that Sister’s marriage took place; that
Grandma died; and that Kate’s first baby was born--events of great
moment to me. I recall the feeling of sadness and irrevocability that
night as the train bore Sister away on her honeymoon. It was harder,
though, to see her leave, a year later, after a summer spent at home,
for she was then about to become a mother, and was going so far away;
but, well and happy, she was full of plans for getting settled in her
new home, and her chief regret was Grandma’s approaching death with the
certainty that she could never see her baby.

When Grandma died we were all anxious to know just the nature of the
heart trouble from which she had suffered so long. Our family physician
had refused to do the autopsy; and, incredible as it seems to me now
(so important did it seem then), I said, “I will do it since Dr.
Hall will not.” I asked Dr. Campbell to be present; his right hand
was disabled, or he would have spared me the ordeal. There, in that
little bedroom, the Doctor and my father looking on, on my twenty-third
birthday, I made the examination which revealed to us the cause of
those agonizing attacks from which Grandma so long had suffered; but it
was little more than a careful study of the case ought to have shown
during life. In these later years I have thought with horror of the
girl that stood there that afternoon and cut through the breast that
had nourished her mother; through the dear breast that had pillowed
so often her own childish head; down, down, into the poor, out-worn
heart. It was a horrible thing to do. Now, try as I will, I can hardly
see how the thing could have presented itself to me so as to make
it seem imperative to take that unnatural step. Father, who was as
tenderly attached to Grandma as an own son could be, had to leave
the room before the work was done. A merciful something kept me from
feeling about it then as I do now. Yet I knew then, and know now, that,
hard as it was, it was easier to do the work myself--for it was done
reverently, and from a rigid sense of duty--than it would have been
to stand by and see even the most considerate of physicians lay the
investigating hands of science upon the body of my grandmother.


As Sister’s husband was just starting in the practice of medicine in a
little New England village, and as he had had no experience with such
cases outside of his college work, both he and Sister wished me to be
with them at the time of her confinement. I also wished to be there,
and was planning my work accordingly when, to my consternation, I
received a telegram saying: “Read Isaiah IX 6, and come immediately.
Both doing well.” Rushing across the hall into the rooms of my
neighbours, the Randolphs, I cried, “Give me a Bible, quick! I’m afraid
my sister’s got her baby!” And so it was: “Unto us a Child is born;
unto us a Son is given.”

What disappointment and anxiety I felt as I journeyed there! It
seemed unbelievable that she could go through all that, and I not
with her. I felt resentment toward the little being that had come so
inopportunely--there she was in her new home, not yet settled, among
strangers, all unprepared for what had been happening in the last
twenty-four hours!

When I saw her, pale and weak, but smiling through her tears as she
guarded the little bundle by her side, I felt an added resentment
toward that bundle. I did not even feel drawn to it when I saw the tiny
red face; but when he lifted up his voice and wept, the cry, so weak
and helpless, went to my heart; from that instant I loved him.

During labour, when they had told my sister that the child would be
there before morning, she had exclaimed, “It isn’t so--it can’t be
so--Genie can’t get here--I won’t have my baby till Genie gets here!”
They laughed at us both for our disappointment over the precipitate
outcome.

I stayed with them two weeks--a strenuous, anxious time--and, the very
day I left, was taken with what later proved to be gastric fever.
Stopping over in Concord a day and a night to see Laidlaw, and have
dinner with him and two other class-mates living near, I was so ill
that evening that I had to leave the dining room, and that night
Laidlaw and his landlady were up with me most of the night. Journeying
next day as far as Worcester, I was detained there for two weeks at Dr.
Carson’s, where she and Fenton (of the hospital days) took excellent
care of me. It was the first time since childhood that I had been
“down sick,” but, soon recuperating, I went back to my work in U----.

From that time onward my interests widened--two centres now--Home,
and Sister’s home; everything that happened in that New England home
was of great moment to me. The baby’s growth and development were
topics of never-failing interest. When they came home the next year,
how infinitely richer life was with that baby in our midst! How much
more wonderful than ordinary babies--his winsome smile, his soft pansy
eyes, and that first tooth! I suspect that for the next three years, at
least, I taxed to the limit the tolerance of my friends with numerous
little stories about my sister’s phenomenal child.


The most intimate, and certainly the most far-reaching, influence
which came to me during my life in U---- came through the Randolphs--a
physician and his wife who had their home, and the Doctor his office,
on the same floor of the building where I had mine. Perhaps a little
slow in making friends, they made up for that in steadfastness and
helpfulness as time passed. The Doctor was then probably forty years of
age--a tall, large-framed man, with a superb head, a fine brow, a firm
mouth and chin, a face always pale, but eloquent with the determination
to rise above suffering. Neurasthenic, crippled since youth from an
injury to one knee, he was subject to frequent breakdowns, was seldom
free from pain, and his work, confined to an office practice, was done
under great disadvantage. I think he has the kindest eyes I have ever
seen--eyes that look deep into the soul, seeing all its frailties and
struggles, its triumphs and defeats. To the needs of all who came his
comprehension and ready help were assured.

Of Mrs. Randolph’s friendliness one felt less certain; she had even
a repellent manner with strangers; she must weigh them in the balance
before acceptance, no taking on trust with her. A trim little body,
keen of perception and sharp of tongue, she gave one, on meeting her,
a sense of openly taking one’s measure. Sometimes you could fairly
see her making up her mind; and her “Humph!” was eloquent of her
unflattering conclusion. Although really kind-hearted, her range of
sympathies, when I first met her, seemed narrow, her judgments harsh
and often faulty; it seemed easy for her to condemn and sentence
others before she had half the evidence. As time passed it was a study
to see her growing and expanding under the Doctor’s more tolerant
influence and example, and with her increasing knowledge of life and
human sorrows. Sometimes it would be just a mild, “Oh, Ethel, Ethel!”
as she would rail at something or somebody; sometimes he would laugh
indulgently at her caustic and often accurate “sizing up” of persons
who could not, as she would boast, “pull the wool” over _her_ eyes,
as they could over “Dearie’s”; again he would drop a word or two that
would enlighten her--some extenuating explanation; some recital of
good in the one she was condemning. If she pried about any of his
patients, his lips would be sealed, but though replying to her abrupt,
unwarrantable questions so as not to betray professional secrets, he
would, in so doing, help her to view more charitably what she was so
readily inclined to condemn. There were times, though, when she would
close her lips with a snap, unconvinced, though silent; again she would
say she did not believe he knew what he was talking about; or, if he
knew, he himself did not believe what he was saying; but more often
she would stop her tirade and make a wild dash at him, patting his
benevolent face as she exclaimed, “You old Dearie! You think the whole
world is as good as you are!” and sometimes she would include, “You and
Dr. Arnold--she’s ’most as good as you, but not quite.” And he would
smile at her as one would at a spoiled child.

Her devotion to him was beautiful; she tried to keep him from going
beyond his strength, for patients, recognizing his tolerant, helpful
nature, made many demands upon him; his wife called it imposing upon
him; and if she had dared, would often have berated soundly the
“whining women” who came to him for help and stayed so long after
office hours. I have seen her follow such persons with her scornful
glance as they came out of the office, when I knew she was making a
tremendous effort to keep her tongue between her teeth. All this, and
much more, I could see or divine in my four years’ association with
these friends. I saw, too, that as the years passed and sorrows came,
she softened and broadened, never, however, losing her spiciness, and
never judging either me or “Dearie” as critically as we deserved,
however severe she might be with the rest of humanity. She has
continued one of my staunchest friends through all the years, and
somehow I am always the better for the thought of her unbounded belief
in me.

Months before our intimacy grew, she knew of many of my makeshifts
and economies, for she kept a sharp lookout upon everything going on
in that vicinity--not only in her doctor’s practice, and in mine, but
also in that of the other physicians in the huge office-building. I am
sure she could have told any one of us what patients were in the habit
of coming to our offices, how long they usually stayed, and many other
facts gleaned in her numerous little journeys through the corridors.

I spent many evenings in their rooms, and borrowed books from the
Doctor’s large library; looked after them when they were ill; and
they looked after me that I should not get ill, she in practical ways,
and he in help and counsel of an immaterial but quite as essential a
nature. As we became better acquainted, she would scold me because
I did not have a “decent bed”; would upbraid me for not going more
regularly to my boarding-place; or not getting myself more substantial
meals. Sometimes when I would come in, worn from a hard case, and too
tired to think of supper, she would come and march me into their rooms
and, in her brusque but kind way, insist on my taking a cup of tea,
or some hot food: “I’ll get the beefsteak into your stomach first,
and then Dearie can talk to you about your ‘case’--but not a word
till I have my way”; thus would she domineer over me, chide me for
neglecting myself, and scold Doctor for not scolding me. There was no
nonsense about her; she had no patience with half measures, or with
procrastination when promptness was indicated.


It was on a blustering evening in March, during my second year of
practice, that something came to me through Dr. Randolph that was
the beginning of one of the dearest and deepest joys of my life. And
yet another decade was to pass before I was to experience the great
friendship toward which a chance act of the Doctor’s on that wild March
night so inevitably contributed.

I had been attending a case of puerperal fever, a patient of Dr.
Wyeth’s--the Doctor having been suddenly called out of town shortly
after the confinement. For two weeks or more it was an anxious time
for me. The patient was in a serious condition; she belonged to an
influential family; friends and relatives were solicitous, some
officious. On my first visit I had found the condition disturbing, and
it grew rapidly more so. Pressure was brought to bear on the husband
to dismiss “that girl doctor” and employ someone more experienced. My
professional skin was painfully thin in those days--it seemed such a
crime to be young. I felt such comments keenly, and though I could not
have blamed the husband had he yielded to the requests of the friends,
he did not. The case pulled through and was a real triumph for me,
and later some who had sneered at “the girl doctor” came to her for
treatment. But it was a strenuous time, and I was worn and anxious; and
in the evening, on returning to the office, it was a great consolation
to talk over the case with Dr. Randolph, and listen to his helpful
suggestions, or his emphasis of the encouraging symptoms.

On that eventful night in March, though my patient had then passed the
danger-point, I was in that overwrought state where I could bear to
talk or think only of her. Recognizing this, Dr. Randolph discussed
the case with me briefly, congratulating me on the patient’s assured
safety, then said firmly: “Now we will dismiss this from our minds.
You are going to rest while I read something to you that will make you
forget Mrs. Leighton and her pulse and temperature; so lie down and be
quiet.” I obeyed.

Seating himself in a big chair beside me, he opened a little
olive-green volume and read to me an essay called “Strawberries.”

Jaded, anxious, and overwrought as I was, the crispness and freshness
of that essay came to me as the most welcome and delicious restorative
I have ever known. I forgot my cares, forgot the blustering March
outside, I was transported to summer and sunshine, bobolink music, and
the joy of life in heaping measure. My very soul was steeped in summer.
I sniffed the clover-scented air of those high upland meadows where
wild strawberries grew. I stooped low, parting the grass and daisies,
gathering the fragrant berries, while the breath of June meadows came
up in my face, and the light and warmth of June skies enveloped me.

The essay finished, Dr. Randolph wrote on the fly-leaf of the book
my name and the date, and gave it to me. It was “Locusts and Wild
Honey”--the first book of John Burroughs’s that I ever owned, or knew.
Were there nothing else to be grateful to the Doctor for, the bestowal
of that book, and of all that it later brought into my life, would make
me forever deeply his debtor.

For two or more years it was the only book of this author that I
owned; but as soon as I could indulge myself in book-buying, his
were the first that I secured. I remember so well the three-quarters
guilty feeling I had in ordering them; it was such unmitigated
self-indulgence; they were so distinctly a purely personal pleasure,
and I had so long schooled myself to regard self-indulgence as
reprehensible. Here was a sober little Stoic taking almost her first
dip into epicureanism; she had many qualms of conscience, but many
thrills of pride as well, each time that another olive-green volume was
added to the row. The “Strawberries” had done it! Doubtless God _might_
have created a more seductive and more delicious berry, but doubtless
God never did!

It was many years after I had grown to know and love the author through
his books before I met him face to face. Through his writings I had
learned to love all outdoors; to feel a kinship with Nature which
had deeply enriched my life; and at length there came a day when I
journeyed to his home, sat by his hearth, and felt a deepening of the
sense of comradeship that I had felt in reading his books. He became my
friend. Many years later I even gathered strawberries with him and Dr.
Randolph from the upland meadows of which he had written in that essay
which was the means of bringing this rare friendship into my life.

Dr. Randolph had a nickname for me which had grown out of our reading
James’s “Psychology” together. There had been a good deal said in the
early chapters about “psychosis,” and one day in my attempts to be
funny I had said something about “psycho_sis_” being undignified--that
James should have said “psycho_sister_”; hence he had dubbed me his
“psychosister.”

There had been a time, when my intimacy with the Randolphs began, that
I had felt uneasy at the growing friendship. There was charm in the
companionship with him, and sympathy and congeniality between us; and
when his hand rested on my shoulder in a kindly way I was moved by it,
also by the gentleness and consideration he invariably showed me; but
I soon began torturing myself with doubts and fears. The fact was, I
was no longer innocent: one man, who had no right to, had grown to care
for me more than he should, and I began to wonder if this friendship,
too, might not turn out in that way. I shrank from such an ending to so
beautiful a friendship, then blushed with shame at my unfounded fear.
I was experiencing for the first time what, I think, is one of the
saddest things about transgressions--the feeling of suspicion toward
others that grows in us as soon as we have done wrong ourselves, or
have even nibbled at the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and
Evil. But I soon put aside this fear as unworthy of my friend, and
enjoyed the intimacy of which I have written--a friendship with which
I am still blessed, and which has been one of the most enlarging and
ennobling of my life.

Interests outside of medicine claimed some of my time, of which
activities in the Working Women’s League, emergency lectures to a
Girls’ Friendly Society, and to nurses in one of the city hospitals,
membership in a German class, in a Browning club, even in a Plato
club, were among the chief. The Browning club, especially, proved
intensely interesting--three or four married couples, three spinsters
(including myself) and one bashful bachelor. None of us, except Dr.
Randolph, knew anything about Browning when we began; the club was not
started in the reverential spirit that I fancy most Browning clubs are.
At first we ridiculed ourselves and Browning not a little; but if we
came to scoff, we remained to pray--or, if we first endured our poet,
then pitied ourselves, we ended by embracing Browning. But the last
stage was slow in coming; we struggled and puzzled and got entangled;
we were helped out by Dr. Randolph, and amused by Mrs. Randolph,
who would not stand--only up to a certain point--what she could not
understand. She would blurt out, “Oh, mercy! let’s stop this moonshine,
and read something we _can_ understand.” And we soon learned that hers
was the sensible view--there was so much that was lucid in Browning
that we came in time to pity the too-easily discouraged readers who
stopped short at the stumbling-blocks.

The Plato Club, conducted by the Universalist minister, was an
incongruous affair--the clergyman, a young lawyer, a factory girl
who wrote poetry, a Vassar graduate, teachers in the seminary, two
seamstresses, a choice assortment of “old maids,” and the “girl
doctor.” They met at my office. I got very little from Plato as we read
it, but the incongruous assembly was a perpetual delight. In a few
months it petered out, but the young lawyer and I formed a club of two
and read Emerson together Sunday evenings (until he became engaged),
and thus cemented a friendship which has grown and strengthened with
the years.

Another of the Browning Club friendships has also proved of lasting
delight. Marion Rockwood, a bachelor-maid who had a studio two floors
above me, was a splendid, energetic creature with a glorious soprano
voice. Both too occupied to see much of each other, we called a
greeting in the morning and at night as we went through the halls. I
loved to hear her trilling away up there in her sky-top, as she went
about busy with household duties, as I with mine. In the years that
followed, reverses and sorrows have come to her, but she has sung on
when her heart was heavy; sung to supply losses that would have crushed
one less stout of heart. Now a great happiness has come into her life;
but whatever of joy or sorrow comes, she will always be the dauntless,
inimitable creature I knew in the old Browning Club days.


The first taste of real wild life, the first taste of any woods life,
since the camp-meeting days, came to me one summer while in U----,
when, joining a jolly crowd of young people, with three elders, we
camped on Lake Piseco in the Adirondacks for two happy weeks.

After leaving the outposts of civilization, driving over a rough
corduroy road for many miles, we camped on that wild mountain lake in
a log-camp; rowed, sailed, fished, swam, tramped, climbed mountains,
and, one memorable night, having followed all day the T-lake trail (a
blazed trail through the deep forest), slept on a bed of boughs in an
open camp. Another night we paddled out with a jacklight and saw a deer
feeding among the lily pads--a never-to-be-forgotten sight. How flat
and cramped and artificial seemed the city life to which we returned
after those care-free days in the woods! But I was soon again absorbed
in the routine of practice, and in the human problems confronting me.

One of the saddest things in connection with my practice was the
loss of a little patient with capillary bronchitis, a lovely child of
three. I had done all I could to save her, had had good counsel, and
had fought desperately. The defeat came to me as a terrible blow. I
reproached myself for not having relinquished the case, feeling sure it
was my incompetency that was at fault; that some other physician might
have saved her. The continued confidence which the family showed in me
was consoling, but I think many such experiences would have tempted me
to abandon medicine entirely.


After the third year of practice, my outlook as a physician, though by
no means brilliant, was encouraging. My practice was steadily growing,
my interests widening, friends and acquaintances increasing. Economy
was still necessary, but I had passed through the trying time when
expenses far exceeded income, through that when the income crept up
till it equalled expenses, and on to that when it exceeded them. Now
each month when Father looked over my books he nodded satisfactorily.
To him my success was assured.

At this juncture came an urgent call to leave all that I had gained and
engage in an entirely new field of medical work--the care of the insane
in a distant part of the state--a branch of medicine toward which I had
had a strong leaning in College.

I found myself in an unenviable state of indecision, but the seductive
letters of the genial Superintendent at the institution at M----
decided me to go to Albany and take the Civil Service examination,
and, that being satisfactorily passed, to go on to M---- on a visit of
investigation. The visit was most enjoyable; the new life and work drew
me powerfully; the assured salary was a great temptation, promising
freedom from financial strain; the friendly physicians I met there--all
conspired to make me consent to return there for a trial month, as soon
as I could arrange matters in U----.

The weeks that followed were busy and exciting. I cleared up my work as
well as I could for the month’s absence, but, not willing to burn my
bridges, retained my office. It was gratifying to see that patients and
friends were unreconciled, even rebellious, at the possibility of my
leaving. My evenings at this time were spent mostly with the Randolphs.
I knew I should never meet friends like them again. As the days passed
we drew nearer in sympathy; we had grown so in the habit of one another
that the thought of separation was painful. Sometimes we sat long
together saying little, not daring to trust ourselves to speak; then
perhaps she would make a dash at me, hug and kiss me vigorously, and
rush from the room, only to rush back again, angry at herself for this
betrayal of emotion. Popping her head in the door, she would call to
the Doctor:

“Come, Dearie, you better come home, too--before you get to
snivelling,”--thus saving the situation.

When we said good-bye, the Doctor told me, haltingly, that he could
never hope to express what a help I had been to both of them, and to
him in particular--“I think you know it, and have known it, and I don’t
know just how I am going to get on without my little ‘psychosister.’”

Although my leaving was ostensibly for a trial month, I felt it was
probably the termination of my life in U----. Toward the last, one of
the surgeons gave me a farewell dinner, and there were luncheons and
teas and cosy little suppers among my intimates. And at length came
the night for leaving. I took my last supper in the home of Dr. Wyeth
where I had always been so warmly welcomed; and she and a jolly crowd
of the Adirondack campers went to the train to see me off. With Dr.
Wyeth I parted with the keenest regret; her help and loyalty had been a
steady light along my path. I knew I was leaving her the lonelier for
my going, but she would say no word to keep me from what looked like
increasing good fortune for me.

Alone in the train I gave myself up to a good cry. I could get
no sleeper till half the journey was made. As I sat, forlorn and
disconsolate, the sole occupant of the car, the train-man came in
and sat down at the farther end to eat his midnight lunch. He must
have pitied my loneliness, for presently he came toward me carrying
his piece of pie on the cover of his dinner-pail, and half-shyly,
half-gruffly, placed it on my lap. The act touched me, and the pie
seemed to take the lump from my aching throat. And when I carried back
the cover, I felt so much lighter hearted that I sat and chatted with
him till we came to the junction where I took the sleeper for M----.
Early in the morning, on reaching the city, I was welcomed to the large
institution where my work has since been for so many years.


Here my life has gone on--a busy, eventful, and, I trust, a useful
one, among persons grievously afflicted, hampered as they are by
vagaries and abnormalities, yet capable of tender affection, of keen
appreciation for services rendered, and of a degree of companionship it
would be hard for an outsider to comprehend. It has been a life rich in
compensations, whatever of deprivation and of limitation it has held;
above all, a life rich in friendships--friendships staunch and leal and
priceless. And it has been crowned in the later years with a signal
friendship which has yielded a measureless satisfaction--a friendship
and comradeship with one whom the world calls great, yet who made a
place in his heart and life for the “Child of the Drumlins,” as he was
wont to name her.


The termination of this record at the beginning of a new epoch in the
writer’s life--an epoch when all the lines of character were converging
to maturity--gives the reader of necessity a sense of incompleteness.
The whole record, as I try to see it from the reader’s point of view,
seems to be like


       “one stone stair ...
     Ascending, winding, leading up to naught,”


because perforce the superstructure is missing. Yet one who follows the
writer’s efforts to gain the image of her own soul may perhaps learn
herein the better to know his own and also the souls of others; learn,
too, that each of us proceeds on the lines of his own development;
and that all that comes into the mature life is but an extension, an
unfolding, of all that went before. “Our to-days and yesterdays _are_
the blocks with which we build.” Would that we had builded better!

If it were possible to treat the subsequent epochs as candidly as the
earlier ones are here treated, they would not be found lacking in
moving events, in dramatic moments, even in tragedies--some in the
lives of those closely knit to one’s own, some of the soul only, some
in the outer life--but all this cannot be viewed objectively; it is too
close--it is a life of yesterday and to-day, while the other, detached,
and seen through the Spell of the Past, is as a tale that is told.


THE END



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