University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries - Main Library

System

Marion Harland's Autobiography;
The Story of a Long Life:

Electronic Edition

Harland, Marion, 1830-1922


Funding from the Library of Congress/Ameritech National Digital Library Competition
supported the electronic publication of this title.


Text scanned (OCR) by Kathleen Feeney
Image scanned by Jill Kuhn
Text encoded by Jill Kuhn and Natalia Smith
First edition, 1998
ca. 1 MB
Academic Affairs Library, UNC-CH
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,
1998.
        © This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.


Call number PS3008 .A4 1910 (Davis Library, UNC-CH)


        The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-CH digitization project, Documenting the American South, or, The Southern Experience in 19th-century America.
        Any hyphens occurring in line breaks have been removed, and the trailing part of a word has been joined to the preceding line.
        All quotation marks and ampersand have been transcribed as entity references.
        All double right and left quotation marks are encoded as " and " respectively.
        All single right and left quotation marks are encoded as ' and ' respectively.
        Indentation in lines has not been preserved.
        Running titles have not been preserved.
        Spell-check and verification made against printed text using Author/Editor (SoftQuad) and Microsoft Word spell check programs.

Library of Congress Subject Headings, 19th edition, 1996



MARION HARLAND'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY
THE STORY OF A LONG LIFE

HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
NEW YORK AND LONDON
MCMX


Copyright, 1910, by HARPER & BROTHERS
All rights reserved
Published April 1910
Printed in the United States of America


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


Page v


CONTENTS



Page ix


FOREWORD

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

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

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

        In the pages that follow this word of explanation I have essayed no dramatic effects or artistic "situations." "The Story of My Long Life" tells itself as one friend might talk to another as the two sit in the confidential firelight on a winter evening. The idea of reviewing that life upon paper first came to me with the consciousness - which was almost a shock - that, of all the authors still on active professional duty in our country, I am the only one whose memory runs back to the stage of national history that preceded the Civil War by a quarter-century. I, alone, am left to tell, of my own knowledge and experience,


Page x

what the Old South was in deed and in truth. Other and far abler pens than mine have portrayed scenes of those days with skill I cannot emulate. But theirs is hearsay evidence - second-hand testimony as truly as if they wrote of Shakespeare's haps and mishaps in the grammar-school at Stratford-on-Avon, or of Master George Herbert's early love affairs.

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

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

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

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

MARION HARLAND.

             NEW YORK CITY, November, 1909.


Page 1


MARION HARLAND'S
AUTOBIOGRAPHY

I

FOREBEARS AND PATRON SAINT

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

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

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

        The emigrants had a temporary home in Neponset Village, prospering so far in worldly substance as to justify the erection of the substantial house upon the hill overlooking


Page 2

the "village," ten years after the landing. So substantial was it, and so honest were the builders, that it has come down in a direct line from father to son, and been inhabited by ten generations of thrifty folk who have left it stanch and weatherproof to this day.

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

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

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

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


Page 3

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

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

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

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


Page 4

Miss Judith Anna Smith, of Olney, a plantation on the Chickahominy, five miles from the city.

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

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

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

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

        Her father, Capt. William Sterling Smith, was the master of the ancestral estate of Olney, rechristened in the latter part of the eighteenth century by an ardent admirer of William Cowper. I am under the impression that the change of name was the work of my grandmother, his second


Page 5

wife, Miss Judith Smith, of Montrose, and a second cousin of "Captain Sterling," as he was familiarly called.

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

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

        There lies at my elbow a time-worn volume bound in unpolished calf-skin, and lettered on one side, "D. Lacy's Letters"; on the reverse, "Friendship Perpetuated." It contains one hundred and forty-two letters, copied from the original epistles and engrossed in exquisitely neat and minute characters. They represent one side of a correspondence maintained by the scribe with my grandmother before and after her marriage. The writer and copyist was the Rev. Drury Lacy, D.D., then a professor in Hampden Sidney College, and destined to become the progenitor of a long line of divines and scholars. The Hoges, Lacys, Brookeses, and Waddells were of this lineage. The epistles are Addisonian in purity of moral teaching and in grammatical structure, Johnsonian in


Page 6

verboseness, and interfused throughout with a pietistic priggishness all their own. We are glad to carry with us through the perusal (in instalments) of the hundred and forty-two, the tales current in that all-so-long-ago of the genial nature and liveliness of conversation that made him a star in social life. One wonders, in hearing of the "perpetuation" of the brotherly-and-sisterly intimacy begun months before he wedded the "Nancy" of the Montrose group, who, from all I have been able to gather, was a very commonplace personage by comparison with "Judith" - one marvels, I say, that the affection never ripened into a warmer sentiment. They had themselves better in hand evidently than the "affinities" of the twentieth century.

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

        She added all womanly accomplishments to musical skill and literary tastes. An embroidered counterpane, of which I am the proud owner, is wrought in thirteen varieties of stitch, and in patterns invented by herself and three sisters, the only brother contributing what may be classed as a "conventional design" of an altar and two turtle-doves perched upon a brace of coupled hearts - symbolical of his passion for the beauty of the county, Judith Mosby, of Fonthill, whom he married. Our Judith held on the peaceful tenor of her way, reading all the books she could lay her shapely hands upon, keeping up her end of the correspondences with Lacys, Rices, Speeces, Randolphs,


Page 7

and Blaines, and gently rejecting one offer after another, until she married at thirty-three - an advanced stage of spinsterdom, then - honest Capt. Sterling Smith, the widower-father of three children.

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

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

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


Page 8

with them. Eternal vigilance was the price of home comfort. A hardy white-rose-tree, also planted by her, lived almost as long as the Jessamine - her favorite flower.

        In the shade of the bower formed by these, Mrs. Judith Smith sat with her embroidery on summer days, her little name-daughter upon a cricket beside her, reading aloud by the hour. It was rather startling to me to learn that at thirteen, the precocious child read thus Pamela, The Children of the Abbey, and Clarissa to the sweet-faced white-souled matron. Likewise The Rambler, Rasselas, Shakespeare, and The Spectator (unexpurgated). But Young's Night Thoughts, Thomson's Seasons, Paradise Lost, Pope's Essays, and the Book of Books qualified whatever of evil might have crept into the tender imagination from the strong meat, spiced. Cowper was a living presence to mother and girl. My mother could repeat pages of The Tas from memory fifty years after she recited them to her gentle teacher, and his hymns were the daily food of the twain.

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

        Thither they had gone on Christmas Sunday, 1811, to be met on the threshold by the news of the burning of the theatre on Saturday night. My mother, although but six years old, never forgot the scenes of that day. Doctor Rice had deviated from the rutted road of the "long prayer" constructed by ecclesiastical surveyors along the line of Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication ("A, C, T, S") - to talk as man to man with the Ruler of the universe of the terrible judgment which had befallen the mourning city. He had even alluded to it in his sermon, and it was discussed in awe-stricken tones by lingering


Page 9

groups in the aisles when service was over. Then, her little hand locked fast in that of her mother, the child was guided along the valley and up the steep hill to the smoking ruins, surrounded by a silent crowd, many of them in tears. In low, impressive accents the mother told the baby what had happened there last night, and, as the little creature began to sob, led her on up the street. A few squares farther on, my grandfather and a friend who walked with him laughed slightly at something they said or saw, and my grandmother said, sorrowfully:

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

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

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

"MONTROSE, September 5th, 1817.
"(Ten o'clock at night.)

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

        "We have been looking for you ever since yesterday.


Page 10

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

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

"Your very affectionate - your own

JUDY.

"(Saturday morning.)

"We are both better. Josiah's fever is off, but he is very weak."

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

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

        His wife was visiting her Montrose relatives.

"OLNEY, March 30th, 1814.

        "With inexpressible pleasure I received yours by Mr. Mosby I rejoice that the expected event with our dear sister


Page 11

has turned out favorably, and that you, my dear, are enjoying better health.

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

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

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

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

        "Now, my dear, I must conclude with committing you to


Page 12

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

"Your own affectionate,
"WM. S. SMITH."

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

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

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

        "We are going on bravely with our subscription for building a meeting-house. Yesterday was the first of my turning


Page 13

out with subscription-paper. I got 162 dollars subscribed, with a promise of more. We have now about 1800 dollars on our subscription-list, which sum increases at least 100 dollars a day. I hope, with a little help that we have reason to expect from New York, we shall soon be able to begin the work, which may the Lord prosper in our hands!"

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

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

        From my mother I had the particulars of the death-scene


Page 14

in that first-floor "chamber" in the homestead, when, on a sultry August day (1820), "the longest, saddest day I have ever known" - said the daughter - the dainty, delicate creature who was soul and heart to the home passed away from earth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

        The mortal remains of my patron saint lie in the old


Page 15

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

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


Page 16

II

LAFAYETTE - REVOLUTIONARY TALES - PARENTS' MARRIAGE

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

        I have heard the particulars of that day's pageant and of Lafayette's behavior at the public reception award him by a grateful people, so often that I seem to have been part of the scene in a former incarnation. So vivid were my reminiscences that, when a bride and a guest Redhill, the former home of Patrick Henry, I exchanged incidents and sayings with the great orator's son, Mr. John Henry, who had been on the Committee of Reception in


Page 17

1824. In the enthusiasm of his own recollections of the fête he inquired, naively:

        "Do you, then, remember Lafayette's visit to America so well?"

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

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

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


Page 18

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

        "Vy, old Soleed Coluume! I am 'appy to see you!"

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

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

        "Not a word of truth in it, sir!" Thus old Solid Column to the man who reported the speech to him. "I was him at Valley Forge, sir, and nobody there tried hard keep up the spirits of the men. I recollect, particularly, one bitter cold day, when a dozen or so of the officers were


Page 19

amusing themselves and trying to get warm by jumping up and down, leaping high up in the air and trying to clap their heels together twice before they struck the ground in coming down. General Greene was sure he could do it, but he was fleshy and never light on his feet, besides being naturally sober. He was a Quaker, you know, and was turned out of meeting for joining the army. Well, on this particular day he took his turn with the others in jumping. And a poor hand he was at it! He couldn't clap his heels together once on the way down, let alone twice. By-and-by he made a tremendous effort and pitched over, head down and heels up - flat on the snow. General Washington was watching them from where he stood in his tent door, and when General Greene went down - how the General laughed! He fairly held his sides!

        " 'Ah, Greene!' he called out. 'You were always a lubberly fellow!'

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

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

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

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


Page 20

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

        " ' "I know of no one who has more of that most damnable virtue than your Excellency!"

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

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

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

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

        The bride - not yet nineteen years of age - wore a soft, sheer India muslin, a veil falling to the hem of the gown, and white brocade slippers embroidered with faint blue


Page 21

flowers. The bridegroom's suit was of fine blue cloth, with real silver buttons. His feet were clad in white-silk stockings and low shoes - "pumps" as they were called - with wrought-silver buckles. Those shoes and buckles were long preserved in the family. I do not know what befell them finally The ceremony was performed by the brother-in-law whom I have called, for the sake of convenience, the Reverend Mr. Carus.

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

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

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

        The following summer the wedded pair visited the husband's mother in Roxbury, Massachusetts. The journey from Richmond to New York was by a packet-ship, and lasted for two weeks. My poor little mother was horribly seasick for a week each way. To her latest day she could not hear of "Point Judith" without a qualm. She said that, for a time, the association "disgusted her with her own name." The mother-in-law, hale and handsome at forty-five, had married, less than a year before, Deacon John Clapp, a well- to-do and excellent citizen of Roxbury, and installed the buxom, "capable" widow, whose father was now dead, as the mother of four children by a former


Page 22

marriage, and as mistress of a comfortable home. She had not come to him portionless. The sturdy "Squire," mindful of her filial devotion to him in his declining years, had left her an equal share of his estate with her sisters. The brother, Lewis Pierce, had succeeded to the homestead.

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

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

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

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

        "A Miss Topliffe and her mother were invited to tea with us one evening. I had gathered from sundry hints - and eloquent sighs - from your grandmother that she had set her heart upon a match between her son and this young lady. She even went to the length of advising me to pay particular attention to my dress on this evening. 'Miss Topliffe was very dressy!' I found this to be true. She was also an airy personage, talkative to father, and supercilious to me. A few days afterward we were asked to tea at the Topliffes. I had a wretched evening!


Page 23

Miss Topliffe was rather handsome and very lively, and she was in high feather that night, directing most of her conversation, as before, to my husband. She played upon the piano, and sang love-songs, and altogether made herself the attraction of the occasion. I felt small and insignificant and dull beside her, and I could see that she amused your father so much that he did not see how I was pushed into the background.

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

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

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

        "Of course, child, but she didn't! There was the rub!"

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

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

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


Page 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Country "storekeeping" was then as honorable as the calling of a city merchant. In fact, many town-houses had rural branches. It was not unusual for a city man to set up his son in one of these, thus controlling the trade of a


Page 25

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

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

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


Page 26

for "Miss Jud' Anna" increased the forlornness of the situation by reminding her of the habitation and friends she had left behind.

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

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

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


Page 27

III

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

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

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

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


Page 28

father urged the measure upon his weaker-willed wife. She opposed it less and less strenuously until the boy came in from the street one day with an oath in his mouth he had learned from one of the Dennisville boys.

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

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

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

        Letters came with gratifying regularity - fortnightly - from Roxbury. The boy was going to school and making amends for his "backwardness" by diligence and proficiency. I have laid away in our family Bible quaintly worded "Rewards of Merit" - printed forms upon paper which crackles under the fingers that unfold it - testifying to perfect recitations and good behavior. The boy's name and the testimonials are filled in by his woman teacher in legible, ladylike script. The fortnightly epistles told of the child's health and "nice" behavior. I fancy that more stress was laid upon the last item by his grandmother than


Page 29

upon the first. My father expressed himself as satisfied with the result of the experiment. The mother mourned secretly for the merry voice and bonny face of her darling. At the end of three months the longing leaped the bounds of wifely submission, and she won from her husband the admission that home was not home without his boy. They would go in company to Roxbury next summer and bring him back with them. If he were to be sent from home to school, they would commit him to the Olney or Richmond kinspeople. Roxbury was a cruel distance from central Virginia.

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

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

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

        He carried the letters home. His wife was not in "the chamber," where a colored nurse - another family servant - was in charge of the two little girls. Hearing her footsteps


Page 30

approaching presently, the strong man's heart failed him suddenly. He retreated behind the open door, actually afraid to face the gentle woman to whom his will was law.

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

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

        "Our trust is in the Lord."

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

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

        Our grandmother treasured and sent home to his mother, after a while, the child's clothing and every toy and book that had been his, even a hard cracker bearing the imprint


Page 31

of the tiny teeth he was too weak to set firmly in the biscuit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Page 32

of the house. His wife did not come with him on account of the bad roads.

        "He gave us for a text John xv: 25: - 'They hated me without a cause.'

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


Page 33

rats are as plentiful as ever. You must kiss our little one for me, and take thousands for yourself. I again repeat that time hangs heavy on my hands when you are away, but I would not be so selfish as to debar you the pleasure of a few days' society with those who are dear to us both."

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

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

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

        I was but two years old when there occurred a calamity,


Page 34

the particulars of which I have heard so often that I seem to recollect them for myself:

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

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

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

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


Page 35

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

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

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

        I do not know how better to express the earliest memory I have of being - and thinking. It was a living demonstration of the great truth shallow thinkers never comprehend - "Cogito, ergo sum."

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

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


Page 36

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

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

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


Page 37

IV

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

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

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

        Not that I had ever cared for "dead dolls." When I could just put the wish into words, my craving was for a "real, live, skin baby that could laugh and talk." But this specimen was so nearly alive that it opened its eyes when one pulled a wire concealed by the satin petticoat, and shut them at another tweak. Moreover, the (alleged) good woman in the beautiful city I heard as much of as of heaven, had sent my sister the gift, and none to me. Furthermore, and worst of all, my sister paraded the gift before my angry, miserable eyes, and, out of my mother's hearing, taunted me with the evident fact that "nobody cared for a little girl whose hands were dirty and whose hair was never smooth." I was barely three years old.


Page 38

My sister was a prodigy of learning in the estimation of our acquaintances, and nearer six than five. I took in the case with extraordinary clearness of judgment and soreness of heart, and meditated revenge.

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

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

        My father rented the house vacated by the Braggs, finding the daily ride to and from the store too long in the short winter days. Soon after our return to our old quarters, another boy was born to the bereaved parents - my brother Herbert. He was but a few days old when "Grandma" McQuie and her two daughters called to inquire after mother and child, and carried me off with them, I suppose to get me out of the way of nurse and mother. My whole body was a-tingle with excitement when I found myself snugly tucked up in shawls on the back seat of the roomy chariot, beside the dear old lady, and rolling down the road. We had not gone far before she untied and took off my


Page 39

bonnet, and tied over my curly head a great red bandanna handkerchief "to keep your ears warm." The warm color and the delicious cosiness of the covering put an idea into my head. I had heard the story of Red Riding Hood from my colored nurse, and I had already the trick of "playing ladies," as I named the story-making that has been my trade ever since. I was Red Riding Hood, and my grandmother was taking me away from the wolf. The woods we presently entered were full of fairies. They swung from the little branches of shrubs that brushed the carriage-windows, and peeped at me from behind the boles of oak and hickory, and climbed to the top of sweetbrier sprays writhing in the winter wind. One and all, they did obeisance to me as I drove in my state coach through the forest aisles. I nodded back industriously, and would have kissed my hand to them had not Grandma McQuie told me to keep it under the shawl.

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

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

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

        Just opposite the door of our old room was one that


Page 40

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

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

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

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

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