Page 244

        And into the hands of this "reader" I was to commit my "brain-child!" I cried out against the act in such terms as these, and stronger, in relating the substance of the interview to my father.

        "Be sensible, little girl! Keep a cool head!" he counselled "Business is business. And I suppose John R. understands his. I will take the manuscript to Morris myself tomorrow."

        "And make him comprehend," I interjected, "that I do not shirk criticism. I see the faults of my book. If I were sure that it would be judged fairly, I wouldn't mind it so much."

        The reader kept the manuscript two months. Then my father wrote a civil demand to Mr. Morris for the return of the work. I was too sick of soul to lift a finger to reclaim what I was persuaded was predestined to be a dead failure Two days later the bulky parcel came back. Mr. Morris had enclosed with it the reader's opinion:

        "I regret that the young author's anxiety to regain possession of her banding has prevented me from reading more than a few pages of the story. Judging from what I have read, however, I should not advise you to publish it upon speculation."

        I laid the note before my father after supper that evening. Our mother had early inculcated in our minds the eminent expediency of never speaking of unpleasant topics to a tired and hungry man. We always waited until bath, food, and rest had had their perfect work upon the head of the house. He leaned back in his arm-chair, the evening paper at his elbow, his slippered feet to the glowing grate, and a good cigar between his lips. His teeth tightened suddenly upon it when he heard the note. It was curt. To my flayed sensibilities, it was brutal. I see, now, that it was businesslike and impersonal. Were I a professional "reader," I should indite one as brief, and,


Page 245

not a whit more sympathetic. Alone was my first book, and a sentient fraction of my soul and heart.

        For a whole minute there was no sound in the room but the bubbling song of the soft coal. I sat upon a stool beside my confidant, and, having passed the letter up to him, my head sank gradually to his knee. I was unspeakably miserable, but I made no moan. He had not patience with weak wails when anything remained to be done. His cigar had gone out, for when I lifted my head at his movement toward the lamp, he had folded the scrap of paper into a spire, and was lighting it. He touched the dead cigar with the flame, and drew hard upon it until it was in working order before he said:

        "I believe in that book! I shall send it back to Morris, to-morrow, and tell him to bring it out in good style and send the bill to me."

        "But," I gasped, "you may lose money by it!"

        "I don't think so. At any rate, we will make the experiment."


Page 246

XXIV

THE DAWNING OF LITERARY LIFE

"January 28th, 1854.

        "MY VERY DEAR FRIEND, - I wish you were here this morning! I long to talk with you. There are many things I cannot commit to paper, or of which I might be ashamed as soon as they were written. There are no short-hand and long tongued reporters at our face-to-face confabulations.

        "Of one thing I will give you a hint: Have you any recollection of a certain MS., portions of which were read in you hearing last spring? I should not be surprised if you were to hear something of it before long. Keep your eyes upon the papers for a few weeks, and if you see nothing that looks like a harbinger of the advent, just conclude that I have changed my mind at the last gasp and recalled it. For it has gone out of my hands! After the appearance of anything that looks that way, I unseal your mouth.

        "Seriously, I have much pending upon this venture. The success of the book may be the opening of the path I cannot but feel that Providence has marked out for me.

        "As it is a Virginia story, Southerners should buy it, if it has no other merit. My misgivings are grave and many; but my advisers urge me on, and notices of fugitive articles that have appeared in Northern and Southern papers have inoculated me with a little confidence in the wisdom of their counsel.

        "I had not meant to say this, or, indeed, to mention the matter at all, but as the day of publication draws near, I am to use an expressive Yankeeism - 'fidgety.'

        "If anything I have said savors of undue solicitude for the bantling's welfare, recollect that I am the mother. One thing


Page 247

more I shall have nothing to do with advertisements. If they laud the work too highly, bear in mind that it is 'all in the way of trade,' and that booksellers will have their way.

        "Our 'Musical Molasses Stew' came off last night. We had a grand 'time!' Violin, flute, guitar, piano - all played by masculine amateurs, and a chorus of men's voices. It was 'nae see bad,' as the Scotch critic said of Mrs. Siddons's acting. The same might be said of the real frolic of pulling the treacle. My partner was a young Nova Scotian - 'Blackader' by name - an intelligent, agreeable, and versatile youth who entered gloriously into the spirit of the occasion. He played upon the piano, sang treble, tenor, and bass by turns, and pulled and laughed with me until he had no strength left."

        I was but feebly convalescent from a brief illness when, chancing to pick up the latest number of Godey's Magazine, and fluttering the leaves aimlessly, my eyes rested upon a paragraph in the "Editor's Table."

        "Will the author of 'Marrying Through Prudential Motives' send her address to the editor?"

        A queer story followed. The tale, sent so long ago to Mr. Godey that I had almost forgotten it, had fallen behind a drawer of his desk, and lain there for three years and more. When it finally turned up, curiosity, aroused by its disappearance and exhumation, led the editor to read it more carefully than if it had reached him through ordinary channels. He liked it, published it, and waited to hear from the author.

        By some mischance that particular number of the "Lady's Book" had escaped my notice. The story was copied into an English periodical; translated from this into French, and appeared on the other side of the channel. Another British monthly "took up the wondrous tale" by rendering the French version back into the vernacular. In this guise the much-handled bit of fiction was brought across the seas by The Albion, a New York periodical that


Page 248

published only English "stuff." Mr. Godey arraigned The Albion for piracy, and the truth was revealed by degrees. Richmond papers copied the odd "happening" from Northern, and Mr. Morris made capital of it in advertising the forthcoming novel.

        I have more than once spoken of the Richmond of that date as "provincial." It was so backward in literary enterprise that the leading bookseller had not facilities at his command for publishing the book committed to him.

        On March 9, 1854, I wrote to my Powhatan correspondent:

        "Cousin Joe says he was charged by you to get 'my book.' I am sorry to say that it cannot be procured as yet. Unlooked for delays have impeded the work of publication. But as the proofs arrive daily, now, I trust that the wheels are beginning to run more smoothly. It is printed in Philadelphia, although copyrighted in Richmond. Not a printer in this city could finish it before the 1st of May, so we were forced to send it to the North. . . .

        "You will read and like it, if only because I wrote it Whether or not others may cavil at the religious tone, and ridicule the simplicity of the narrative, remains to be seen. Thus far I have had encouragement from all sides. My own fears are the drawback to sanguine expectation."

        The actual advent of Alone was a surprise, after all the waiting and wondering that left the heart sick with hope deferred.

        I was setting out for a walk one balmy May morning, and standing on the front porch to draw on my gloves, when Doctor Haxall, who had long had in our family the sobriquet of "the beloved physician," reined in his horses at the gate and called out that he was "just coming to ask me to drive with him." He had often done the like good turn to me.

        I was not robust, and he had watched my growth with


Page 249

more than professional solicitude. Had he been of my very own kindred, he could not have been kinder or displayed more active interest in all my affairs - great to me and small to him.

        "Headache?" he queried, with a keen look at my pale face when I was seated at his side.

        "Not exactly! I think the warm weather makes me languid."

        "More likely overexcited nerves. You must learn to take life more philosophically. But we won't talk shop!"

        We were bowling along at a fine rate. The doctor drove fast, blooded horses, and liked to handle the ribbons himself. The day was deliciously fresh, the air sweet with early roses and honeysuckle. I called his attention, in passing Conway Robinson's grounds, to the perfume of violets rising in almost visible waves from a ravine where the grass was whitened by them as with a light fall of snow. I asked no questions as we turned down Capitol Street, and thence into Main Street. Sometimes I sat in the carriage while he paid a professional call. This might be his intention now. We brought up abruptly at Morris's book-store, and the blesséd man leaped out and held his hand to me. He probably had an errand there. He handed me into the interior in his brisk way, and marched straight up to Mr. Morris, who advanced to meet us.

        "Good-morning! I have come for a copy of this young lady's book!"

        If I had ever fainted, I should have swooned on the spot.

        For there, in heaps and heaps upon the front counter - in bindings of dark-blue, and purple, and crimson, and leaf-brown - lay in lordly state, portly volumes, on the backs of which, in gleaming gold that shimmered and shook before my incredulous vision, was stamped:

        "ALONE."

        I saw, through the sudden dazzlement of the whole world


Page 250

about me, that a clerk had set a chair for me. I sat down gratefully.

        Mr. Morris was talking:

        "Opened this morning! I sent six copies up to you. I suppose you got them?"

        "No!" I tried so hard to say it firmly that it sounded careless. I would have added, "I did not know it was out," but dared not attempt a sentence.

        Mr. Morris attended us to the door to point to placards a porter was tacking to boards put there for that express purpose:

JUST OUT!!

ALONE!

By Marion Harland

        The doctor nodded satisfiedly and handed me into the carriage. In taking my seat, I thought, in a dull, sick way, of Bruce at the source of the Nile. I had had daydreams of this day and hour a thousand times in the last ten years. Of how I should walk down-town some day, and see a placard at this very door bearing the title of a novel written and bound, and lettered in gilt, and PUBLISHED! bearing my pen-name! The vision was a reality; the dream was a triumphant fulfilment. And I was sitting, unchanged, and non-appreciative, by the dear old doctor, and his full, cordial tones were saying of the portly purple volume lying on the seat between us:

        "Well, my dear child, I congratulate you, and I hope a second edition will be called for within six months!"

        He did not ply me with questions. He may not have suspected that the shock had numbed my ideas and stiffened my tongue. If he had, he could not have borne himself more tactfully. He was a man who had seen the


Page 251

world and hobnobbed with really distinguished live authors. It would not have been possible for him to enter fully into what this day was to me. When I thought of Bruce and the Nile, it was because I did not comprehend that the very magnitude of the crisis was what deprived me of the power of appreciating what had happened.

        No! I am not inclined to ridicule the unsophisticated girl whose emotions were too mighty for speech that May noon, and to minimize what excited them. Nothing that wealth or fame could ever offer me in years to come could stir the depths of heart and mind as they were upheaved in that supreme hour.

        The parcel of books had been opened and the contents examined, by the time I got home. I stole past the open door of my mother's chamber, where she and Aunt Rice, who was visiting us, and Mea were chatting vivaciously, and betook myself to my room.

        When my sister looked me up at dinner-time I told her to excuse me from coming down. "The heat had made me giddy and headachy."

        She bade me "lie still. She would send me a cup of tea."

        "I'll leave you this for company," she cooed, laying the book tenderly on my pillow. "We think it beautiful."

        With that she went out softly, shutting me in with my "beautiful" first-born. Mea always had her wits within easy call. The sixth sense was born within her.

        I saw of the travail of my soul and was satisfied; was repaid a thousandfold for months of toil and years of waiting, when my father read my book. He did not go down-town again that day, after coming home to dinner. My mother told me, with a happy break in her laugh, how he had hardly touched the food on his plate. Aunt Rice's


Page 252

pleasant prattle saved the situation from awkwardness when he lapsed into a brown study and talked less than he ate. When dessert was brought in, he excused himself and disappeared from general view for the rest of the afternoon. The door of "the chamber" to which he withdrew was fast shut. Nobody disturbed him until it was too dark to read by daylight. My mother took in a lighted lamp and set it on the table by him.

        "He didn't see or hear me!" was her report. "He is a quarter through the book already, and he doesn't skip a word."

        He spent just fifteen minutes at the supper-table. It was two o'clock in the morning before he reached the last page.

        After prayers next morning he put his arm about me and held me fast for a moment. Then he kissed me very gravely.

        "I was right about that book, daughter!"

        That was all! but it was, to my speechless self, as if the morning stars had sung together for joy.

        I record here and now what I did not know in the springtime of my happiness. I never had - I shall never have - another reader like him. As long as he lived, he "believed" in me and in my work with a sincerity and fervor as impossible for me to describe as it can be for any outsider to believe. He made the perusal of each volume (and they numbered a score before he died) as solemn a ceremony as he instituted for the first. His absolute absorption in it was the secret jest of the family, but they respected it at heart. When he talked with me of the characters that bore part in my stories, he treated them as real flesh-and-blood entities. He found fault with one, and sympathized with another, and argued with a third, as seeing them in propia personæ. It was strange - phenomenal - when one considers the light weight of the literature under


Page 253

advisement and the mental calibre of the man. To me it was at once inspiration and my exceeding great reward.

"June 5th, 1854.

        "DEAR EFFIE, - From a formidable pile of letters of good wishes and congratulation, I select (not happen upon!) your sweet, affectionate epistle, every word of which, if it did not come from your heart, went straight to mine.

        "I shall never be a literary iceberg! That is clear. I have had a surfeit of compliments in public and in private, but a word of appreciation from a true, loving friend gives me more delicious pleasure than all else.

        "I make no excuse for speaking freely to you of what you say is 'near akin' to you. I thank you heartily for owning the relationship. Two editions have been 'run off' already, and another is now in press - unprecedented success in this part of the world - or so they tell me. Northern papers notice the book more at length and more handsomely than does the Richmond press.

        "Of the sales in your county, I know nothing. Oh yes! C. W. told Mr. Rhodes that 'Miss Virginia Hawes's novel is having a tremendous run in Powhatan. Tre-men-dous, sir! Why, I had an order to buy a copy and send it up, myself, sir!'

        "Isn't that characteristic?"


Page 254

XXV

BROUGHT FACE TO FACE WITH MY FATE

        THE promised visit to Powhatan was paid in July.

                        "How happily the days of Thalaba went by!"

        I said over the strangely musical line to myself scores of times in the two months of my stay in the dear old county. "Homestead," the home of the D.'s, was never more beautiful, and the days were full of innocent fun, and junketings without number. College and University boys were at home, and city people were flocking to the country. There were walks, drives, "dining-days," early and late horseback parties, setting out from one hospitable house before sunrise, and breakfasting at another ten or twelve miles away; or, better yet, leaving home at sunset, and pacing, cantering, and galloping (women never rode trotting horses) along highroad and plantation lane to a house, buried in ancestral woods, in the very heart of the county, for supper, returning by the light of the harvest moon, as fresh as when we set forth. With no premonition that this was to be the most eventful summer and autumn of my hitherto tranquil life, I gave myself up, wholly and happily, to the influences that sweetened and glorified it.

        Late in August I resolved rather suddenly to go home. My sister was in Boston; my father would not leave his business for so much as a week, my mother and the younger children ought to be in the country. Since she would not resign my father to what she spoke of as "Fate and


Page 255

servants," I would throw my now rejuvenated body into the breach, abide by the stuff and her husband and sons, while she took a sadly needed rest with old friends in Nottoway County.

        Recollecting how persistently I clung to the decision in the face of a tempest of protest, my own heart in secret league with the protestants, I acknowledge with humble gratitude the guidance of the "moving finger that writes" out the destinies we think to control for ourselves.

        The glow of the halcyon summer had not passed from my spirit when I wrote to my late hostess two days after my return:

"RICHMOND, August 29th, 1854.

        "MY OWN FRIEND, - I said 'I will write next week,' but it suits my feelings and convenience to write this morning.

        "In the first place, my heart is so full of happiness that it overflows upon and toward everybody that I love, and don't you dear Homesteadians - yourself and Powhie, especially - come in for a share?

        "Mrs. Noble was very pleasant, but the journey was a bit tedious. It always is! Richmond looked enchanting when at last the spires and chimneys appeared upon the horizon, and my sweet home was never so pretty before.

        "Mother had planned an agreeable surprise, and not told me that the painters had been at work elsewhere than in my room. So the freshly painted shutters and the white window- facings and cornices, contrasted with the gray walls, were doubly beautiful, because not expected. Then Percy came tumbling down the steps, clapping his hands and shouting in glee, and Alice's bright smile shone upon me at the gate, and mother left company in the parlor to give me four kisses - and all I could say was, 'I have had such a pleasant visit, and now I am so glad to see you all!'

        "Father could not be coaxed to bed that night until one o'clock, although mother reminded him that he had a headache.

        " 'Never mind! Daughters don't come home every night!'


Page 256

        " 'But this one will be tired out!'

        " 'Well, she may sleep late to-morrow morning.'

        "He doesn't know how lazy I have grown of late.

        "I am surprised to find vegetation so luxuriant here. My inquiries concerning the 'late drought' are answered by a stare of amazement. Rain has been abundant in this region. In our garden the vegetables and grape-vines grow rank and tall. And as for flowers! There were seven bouquets in the parlor, smiling and breathing a welcome. Last night I received one per rail from Horace Lacy (bless his soul!), and Herbert to-night brought up another and a magnificent, when he came to his late supper.

        "Mother had delicious peaches for supper the night I got back, but advised me to 'eat them sparingly, at first.' Yesterday I forgot her caution, and I think I am the better for the lapse. Peaches, watermelons, apples, sweet potatoes, etc., were liberally patronized by us all. The cholera 'scare' seems to be over. Doctor Haxall advised the members of our family to make no change in their diet while they continued well, and they have prospered wonderfully under his regimen. . . .

        "I wish I had time to tell you of some queer letters I found waiting for me. Father would not forward them, 'for fear of annoying me.' They are meant to be complimentary, one requesting 'some particulars of your birthplace, education,' etc. 'Wish he may get them!'

        "Now, dear, forgive this egotistical scrawl - written as fast as fingers can scratch - but just seat yourself and tell me exactly what you have been doing, saying, and thinking since I left; how our pet, Powhie (the dear old scamp!), is thriving; and the state of your mother's health. also the news from The Jungle.

        "Our Heavenly Father bless and love you, my darling!"

        We packed my mother and her younger children off to the country the first of September, and rejoiced unselfishly that they had escaped the fervid heats of the following week. Our house was deliciously cool by comparison with


Page 257

the sultriness of the outer world. The thick walls and lofty ceilings kept the temperature at an equable and comfortable point. We breakfasted early, and by nine o'clock the day was my own - or six consecutive hours of it.

        In unconscious imitation of Charlotte Brontë, who began Jane Eyre while The Professor was "plodding his weary round from publisher to publisher," I had begun another book by the time Alone was turned over to the tender mercies of Mr. Morris's "reader." I finished the first draught on the forenoon of September 11th, having wrought at it with the fierce joy in work that ever comes to me after a season of absolute or comparative idleness.

        I was very weary when the last word was written:

        "Alma was asleep!"

        I read it aloud to myself in the safe solitude of my shaded library. I had not heard then that Thackeray slapped his thigh exultantly after describing the touch of pride Becky felt in her husband's athletic pummelling of her lover. I could have understood it fully at that instant.

        "Thackeray, my boy, that is a stroke of genius!" cried the great author, aloud, in honest pride.

        The small woman writer sat wearily back in her chair, and said - not murmured: "I flatter myself that is a neat touch!"

        Then I found that my head ached. Moreover, it had a strange, empty feeling. I compared it to a squeezed sponge. I likewise reminded myself that I had not been out of the house for two days; that my father had shaken his head when I told him it was "too hot for walking," warning me that I "must not throw away the good the country had done for me." He would ask me, at suppertime, if I had taken the admonition to heart.

        I went off to my room, bathed, and dressed for a round of calls. This I proceeded to make, keeping on the shady side of the street. I called at three houses, and found everybody


Page 258

out. The sun was setting when I stood in front of my mirror on my return, and laid aside bonnet and mantle (we called it a "visite"). The red light from the west shot across me while I was brushing up the hair the hot dampness had laid flat. It struck me suddenly that I was looking rather well. I wore what we knew as a "spencer" of thin, dotted white muslin. It would be a "shirt-waist" to-day. It was belted at what was then a slim waist above a skirt of "changeable" silk. Herbert had said it "reminded him of a pale sunrise," but there were faint green reflections among shimmering pinks. There must be somebody in the immediate neighborhood upon whom I might call while I was dressed to go out. A dart of self-reproach followed swiftly upon the thought.

        My old and favorite tutor, Mr. Howison, had broken down in health two years after accepting a call to his first parish. An obstinate affection of the throat made preaching impracticable. At the end of a year of compulsory inaction, he resumed the practice of law in Richmond, and within another twelve months married the woman he had sought and won before his illness. They lived in a pleasant house upon the next street, so near that we often "ran around" to see each other. "Mary's" younger sister had died during my absence from home, and as I reminded myself, now, I ought to have called before this.

        Half a square from her door, I recalled that the young clergyman who was supplying Doctor Hoge's pulpit while he was abroad, and whom I had heard preach last Sunday, was staying at the Howison's. It was not right, in the eyes of the church, that he should go to a hotel, and since he would go nowhere except as a boarder, the Howisons had opened door and hearts to make him at home in his temporary charge. He had given us an interesting sermon on Sunday, and made a pleasing impression


Page 259

generally. I had not thought of him since, until almost at the gate of my friends' house. Then I said, inly:

        "Should the youthful divine be hanging about the porch or yard, I'll walk on unconcernedly and postpone the call."

        Being familiar with the ways of young sprigs of divinity, and having over twenty blood-relatives who had the right to prefix their baptismal names by "The Reverend," I had no especial fondness for the brand. Furthermore, three callow clerics and one full-fledged had already invited me to share parsonage and poverty with them. For all I had one and the same reply. It might be my predestined lot, as certain anxious friends began to hint, to live out my earthly days in single blessedness; and, if the ancient anti-race-suicide apostles were to be credited, then to lead apes in Hades for an indefinite period. I would risk the terrors of both states sooner than take upon me the duties and liabilities of a minister's wife. Upon that I was determined.

        The youthful divine was nowhere in sight. Nor did he show up during the half-hour I passed with the Howisons. They proposed walking home with me when I arose to go. Just outside the gate we espied a tall figure striding up the street, swinging his cane in very unclerical style. Mr. Howison stopped.

        "Ah, Mr. Terhune! I was hoping you might join us."

        Then he introduced him to me. Of course, he asked permission to accompany us, and we four strolled abreast through the twilight of the embowered street. I had known the sister of Mr. Terhune, who, as the widow of Doctor Hoge's most intimate friend, was a frequent visitor to Richmond. I asked civilly after her, and was answered as civilly. We remarked upon the heat of the day and the fine sunset; then we were at our gate, where my father and brother were looking out for me.

        My escorts declined the invitation to enter garden and


Page 260

house; Mr. Howison passed over to me a big bunch of roses he had gathered from his garden and brought with him and, having exchanged "Good-evenings," we three lingered at the gate to admire the flowers. There was no finer collection of roses in any private garden in town than those which were the lawyer's pets and pride. My face was buried in the cool deliciousness of my bouquet when, through the perfect stillness of the evening, we heard our new acquaintance say:

        "Your friend, Miss Hawes, walks well."

        He had, as we had noticed on Sunday, a voice of marvellous compass, with peculiar "carrying" qualities. He had not spoken more loudly than his companions, and, having reached the corner of the street, he fancied himself beyond earshot. Every word floated back to us.

        We laughed - all three of us. Then I said, deliberately:

        "If that man ever asks me to marry him, I shall have to do it! I vowed solemnly, long ago, to marry the first man who thinks me handsome, if he should give me the chance. Let us hope this one won't!"

        "Amen!" responded my hearers, my father adding, "His cloth rules him out."

        It may have been a week later in the season that I was strolling down Broad Street in company with "Tom" Baxter, Mr. Rhodes's chummiest crony. He had overtaken me a few squares farther up-town, and was begging me, in the naïive way most girls found bewitching, to take a turning that would lead us by an office where he was to leave a paper he had promised to deliver at that hour.

        "Then," he pursued, with the same refreshing simplicity of tone and look, "there will be nothing to hinder me from going all the way home with you."

        I refused point-blank, and he detained me for a minute at the parting of the ways, entreating and arguing, until I cut the nonsense short by saying that I had an engagement


Page 261

which I must keep without regard to his convenience and walked on. Tom was an amusing fellow, and handsome enough to win forgiveness for his absurdities. I was smiling to myself in the recollection of the little farce, when I met, face to face, but not eye to eye - for we were both looking at the pavement - the man who had said that I walked well. He stepped aside hurriedly; the hand that swung the cane went up to his hat, and we went our separate ways.

        That evening I was surprised to receive a call from our pastor pro tempore. He told me, months afterward, that he was homesick and lonely on that particular afternoon. At least two-thirds of the best people in the parish were out of town, and he found little to interest him in those he met socially.

        "You smiled in such a genial fashion when we met on that blesséd corner that I felt better at once. The recollection of that friendly look gave me courage to call, out of hand."

        Whereupon, I brought sentimentality down on the run by asking if he had ever heard the negro proverb, "Fired at the blackbird and hit the crow"?

        "That was Tom Baxter's smile - not yours!"


Page 262

XXVI

LITERARY WELL-WISHERS - GEORGE D.
SIGOURNEY - GRACE GREENWOOD - H. W. LONGFELLOW -
JAMES REDPATH - "THE
WANDERING JEW"

        AUTHORS were not so plentiful then as to attract no attention in a crowd of non-literary people. Men and women who had climbed the heights had leisure to glance down at those nearer the foot of the hill, and to send back a cheering hail. I had twenty letters from George D. Prentice, known of all men as the friend and helper of youthful writers. All were kind and encouraging. By-and-by they were fatherly and familiar. As when I lamented that I had never been able to make my head work without my heart, he responded, "Hearts without heads are too impulsive, sometimes too hot. Heads without hearts are too cold. Suppose you settle the matter by giving the heart into my keeping, in trust for the happy man who will call for it some day?"

        His letters during the war were tinged with sadness. In one he wrote: "My whole heart is one throbbing prayer to the God of Nations that He will have mercy upon my beloved country."

        In reply to a letter of sympathy after the death of a gallant young son, who fell on the battle-field, he said:

        "My dear boy never gave me a pang except by entering the army (in obedience to what he felt was the call of duty), and in dying. A nobler, more dutiful son never gladdened a father's heart."


Page 263

        Our correspondence was continued as long as the poet-editor lived. I owe him much. I wish I had made him comprehend how much.

        Mrs. Sigourney, then on "the retired list" of American authors, sent me a copy of her latest volume of poems - A Western Home - and three or four letters of motherly counsel, one of which advised me to take certain epochs of American history as foundation-stones for any novels I might write in future, and bidding me "God-speed!"

        Grace Greenwood opened a correspondence with the younger woman who had admired her afar off, and we kept up the friendship until she went abroad to live, resuming our intercourse upon her return to New York in the early eighties.

        From Mr. Longfellow I had two letters. One told me that Mrs. Longfellow was "reading Alone in her turn."

        "I am pleased to note upon the title-page of my copy, 'Sixth Edition.' That looks very like a guide-board pointing to Fame. I should think you would feel as does the traveller in the Tyrol who sees, at a turn in the rocky pass, a finger- post with the inscription - 'TO ROME.' Hoping that you will not be molested by the bandits who sometimes infest that route,

I am sincerely yours,
HENRY W. LONGFELLOW."

        I have carried the letter, word for word, in my heart for more than half a century. A patent of nobility would not have brought me keener and more exquisite pleasure.

        Not that I deceived myself, for one mad hour, with the fancy that I could ever gain the right to stand for one beatific moment on a level with the immortals whom I worshipped. In the first flush of my petty triumph, I felt my limitations. The appreciation of these has grown upon me with each succeeding year. "Fred" Cozzens, the "Sparrowgrass" of humorous literature, said to me once when I expressed something of this conviction:


Page 264

        "Yet you occupy an important niche."

        I replied in all sincerity: "I know my place. But the niche Is small, and it is not high up. All that I can hope is to fill it worthily, such as it is."

        The history of one bulky packet of letters takes me back to the orderly progress of my story, and to the most singular and romantic episode of that first year of confessedly literary life.

        Alone had been out in the world about three months when I received a letter from a stranger, postmarked "Baltimore," and bearing the letter-head of a daily paper published in that city. The signature was "James Redpath." The writer related briefly that, chancing to go into Morris's book-store while on a visit to Richmond, he had had from the publisher a copy of my book, and read it. He went on to say:

        "It is full of faults, as you will discover for yourself in time. Personally, I may remark, that I detest both your politics and your theology. All the same, you will make your mark upon the age. In the full persuasion of this, I write to pledge myself to do all in my power to forward your literary interests. I am not on the staff of the Baltimore paper, although now visiting the editor-in-chief. But I have influence in more than one quarter, and you will hear from me again."

        I laid the queer epistle before my father, and we agreed that my outspoken critic was slightly demented. I was already used to odd communications from odd people, some from anonymous admirers, some from reviewers, professional and amateur, who sought to "do me good," after the disinterested style of the guild.

        I was therefore unprepared for the strenuous manner in which Mr. James Redpath proceeded to keep his pledge. Not a week passed in which he did not send me a clipping


Page 265

from some paper, containing a direct or incidental notice Of any book, or work, or personality. Now he was in New Orleans, writing fiery Southern editorials, and insinuating into the body of the same, adroit mention of the rising Southern author. Now he slipped into a Cincinnati paper a poem taken from Alone, with a line or two, calling attention to the novel and the author; then a fierce attack upon the "detested politics and theology" flamed among book- notices in a Buffalo journal, tempered by regrets that "real talent should be grossly perverted by sectional prejudice and superstition." Anon, a clever review in a Boston paper pleased my friends in the classic city so much that they sent a marked copy to me, not dreaming that I had already had the critique, with the now familiar "J. R." scrawled in the margin. The climax of the melodrama was gained during the struggle over "bleeding Kansas" in 1855. A hurried note from the near neighborhood of Leavenworth informed me that a pro-slavery force, double the size of the abolitionist militia gathered to resist it, was advancing upon the position held by the latter. My dauntless knight wrote:

        "Farewell, dear and noble lady! If I am not killed in the fight, you will hear from me again and again. Should I be translated to another sphere, I shall still (if possible) rap back notices of your work through the Fox sisters or other mediums."

        Hearing nothing more of or from him for two months, I was really unhappy in the apprehension that his worst fears had been realized. I had grown to like him, and my gratitude for his disinterested championship was warm and deep. My father expressed his conviction that the eccentric was the Wandering Jew, and predicted his safe deliverance from the pro-slavery hordes, and reappearance in somebody's editorial columns. His prophecy was fulfilled


Page 266

filled in a long report in a Philadelphia sheet of a meeting with the "new star of the South," in the vestibule of the church attended by the aforesaid. Nothing that escaped my lips was set down, but my dress and appearance, my conversational powers and deportment were painted in glowing colors, the veracious portraiture concluding with the intelligence that I would shortly be married to the son of a former Governor of Virginia - "a man, who, despite his youth, has already distinguished himself in the political arena, and we are glad to say, in the Democratic ranks."

        I thought my father would have an apoplectic fit when he got to that!

        "See here, my child! I don't presume to interfere with Salathiel, or by what other name your friend may choose to call himself, and there are all manner of tricks in the trade editorial, but this is going a little too far. He sha'n't marry you off, without your consent - and to a Democrat!

        I had the same idea, and hearing directly from Mr. Redpath path soon afterward, I said as much, as kindly as I could. The remonstrance elicited a gentlemanly rejoinder. While the style of the "report" was "mere newspaper lingo," he claimed that the framework was built by an attaché of the Philadelphia daily, whom he (Redpath) had commissioned to glean all he could of my appearance, etc., during a flying trip to Richmond. The young fellow had written the article and sent it to press without submitting it to Salathiel. The like should not occur again. In my answer to the apology, I expressed my profound sense of gratitude to my advocate, and confessed my inability to divine the motive power of benefactions so numerous and unsolicited. His reply deepened the mystery:

        "Your book held me back from infidelity. Chapter Sixteenth saved my life. Now that you know thus much we will, if you please, have no more talk on your part of gratitude."


Page 267

        Five years elapsed between the receipt of that first note signed "James Redpath," and the explanation of what followed. I may relate here, in a few sentences, what he wrote to me at length, and what was published in an appreciative biographical sketch written by a personal friend after his death.

        He was born in Scotland; emigrated in early manhood to America, and took up journalistic work. Although successful for a while, a series of misfortunes made of him a misanthropic wanderer. His brilliant talents and experience found work and friends wherever he went, and he remained nowhere long. Disappointed in certain enterprises upon which he had fixed his mind and expended his best energies, he found himself in Richmond, with but one purpose in his soul. He would be lost to all who knew him, and leave no trace of the failure he believed himself to be. He put a pistol in his pocket and set out for Hollywood Cemetery. There were sequestered glens there, then, and lonely thickets into which a world-beaten man could crawl to die. On the way up-town, he stopped at the bookstore and fell into talk with the proprietor, who, on learning the stranger's profession, handed him the lately-published novel. Arrived at the cemetery, Redpath was disappointed to see the roads and paths gay with carriages, pedestrians, and riding-parties. He would wait until twilight sent them back to town. He lay down upon the turf on a knoll commanding a view of the beautiful city and the river, took out his book and began reading to while away the hours that would bring quiet and solitude. The sun was high, still. He had the editorial knack of rapid reading. The dew was beginning to fall as he finished the narrative of the interrupted duel in the sixteenth chapter.

        I believed then, and I am yet more sure, now, that other influences than the crude story told by one whose experience of life was that of a child by comparison with his,


Page 268

wrought upon the lonely exile during the still hours of that perfect autumnal day. It suited his whim to think that the book turned his thoughts from his design of self destruction.

        Before he slept that night he registered a vow - thus he phrased it in his explanatory letter - to write and publish one thousand notices of the book that had saved his life.

        When the vow was fulfilled - and not until then - did I get the key to conduct that had puzzled me, and baffled the conjectures of the few friends to whom I had told the tale.

        I met James Redpath, face to face, but once, and that was - if my memory serves me aright - in 1874. He was in Newark, New Jersey, in the capacity of adviser-in-chief, or backer, of a friend who brought a party of Indians from the West on a peaceful mission to Washington and some of the principal cities, in the hope of exciting philanthropic interest in their advancement in civilization.

        "He is as enthusiastic in faith in the future of the redman as I was once in the belief that the negro would arise to higher levels," remarked Salathiel, with a smile that ended in a sigh. "Heigho! youth is prone to ideals as the sparks to fly upward."

        Learning that I was in the opera-house where the "show" was held, he had invited me into his private stage-box, and there, out of sight of the audience, and indifferent to the speech-making and singing going on, on the stage, we talked for an hour with the cordial ease of old friends. My erst knight-errant was a well-mannered gentleman, still in the prime of manhood, with never a sign of the eccentric "stray" in feature, deportment, or the agreeable modulations of his voice. He told me of his wife. He had written to me of his marriage some years before. She was his balance- wheel, he said. I recollect that he likened her to Madam Guyon. At the close of the entertainment, we


Page 269

shook hands cordially and exchanged expressions of mutual regard. We never met again.

        How much or how little I was indebted to him for the success of my first book, I am unable to determine. I shall ever cherish the recollection of his generous spirit and steadfast adherence to his vow of service, as one of the most interesting and gratifying episodes of my authorly career.


Page 270

XXVII

MY NORTHERN KINSPEOPLE - "QUELQU'UN" AND A
LIFE-LONG FRIENDSHIP

        I REWROTE the new book that winter, reading it, chapter by chapter, aloud to my father, in the evening. He was a judicious critic, and I need not repeat here how earnest and rapt a listener. I had received proposals for the publication of my "next book" from six Northern publishers. In the spring my father went to New York and arranged for the preliminaries with the, then, flourishing firm of Derby& Jackson.

        It was brought out while I was in Boston that summer, under the title of The Hidden Path. I anticipate dates in jotting down here that I had my first taste of professional envy in connection with this book.

        My journeying homeward in September was broken by a fortnight's stay at the hospitable abode of the Derbys in Yonkers. I was at a reception in New York one evening, when my unfortunately acute hearing brought to me a fragment of a conversation, not intended for my edification, between my publisher and a literary woman of note. Mr. Derby was telling her, after the tactless manner of men, how well The Hidden Path had "done" at the Trade Sales just concluded.

        "Ah!" said the famous woman, icily. "And I suppose she is naturally greatly elated?"

        Mr. Derby laughed.

        "She hides it well if she is. Have you read the book?"


Page 271

        "Yes. You were good enough to send me a copy, you know. It is quite a creditable school-girl production."

        I moved clean out of hearing. I told Mr. Derby, afterward, what I had heard, adding that my chief regret was at the lowering of my ideal of professional generosity. Up to that moment I had met with indulgent sympathy and such noble freedom from envious hypercriticism, as to foster the fondly-cherished idea that the expression of lofty sentiment presupposes the ever-present dwelling of the same within the soul. In simpler phrase, that the proverb - "Higher than himself can no man think," had its converse in - "Lower than himself can no man be."

        In this I erred. I grant it, in this one instance. I had judged correctly of the grand Guild to which I aspired, with yearnings unutterable, to belong.

        It was an eventful summer. My father and I had gone on to Boston from New York, setting out, the same week, for a tour through the White Mountains. I was the only woman in the party. Our friend, Ned Rhodes, a distant cousin, Henry Field, of Boston, and my father completed the quartette. Ten days afterward, we two - my father and I - met a larger travelling party in New York. Mr. and Mrs. William Terhune, Mrs. Greenleaf, the widow of Doctor Hoge's friend; "Staff" Little, the brother of Mrs. William Terhune, and Edward Terhune, now the pastor of a church at Charlotte C. H., Virginia, composed the company which joined itself to us, and set forth merrily for Niagara and the Lakes.

        The trip accomplished, I settled down comfortably and happily in Boston and the charming environs thereof for the rest of the season.

        Another halcyon summer!

        If I have made scant mention of my father's kindred in the land of his birth, it is because this is a story of the Old South and of a life that has ceased to be, except in the


Page 272

hearts of the very few who may take up the boast of the Grecian historian - "Of which I was a part."

        I should be an ingrate of a despicable type were I to pass by as matters of no moment, the influences brought to bear upon my life at that date, and through succeeding years, by my association with the several households who made up the family connection in that vicinity.

        My grandmother's brother, Uncle Lewis Pierce, owned and occupied the ancient homestead in Dorchester. He was "a character" in his way. Handsome in his youth, he was still a man of imposing presence, especially when, attired in black broadcloth, and clean shaven, he sat on Sunday in the pew owned by the Pierces for eight generations in the old church on "Meeting House Hill." he did not always approve of the doctrine and politics of the officiating clergyman. He opened his mind to me to this effect one Sunday that summer, as we jogged along in his low-hung phaeton, drawn by a horse as portly and as well-set-up as his master.

        "The man that is to hold forth to-day is what my wife scolds me for calling 'one of those higher law devils,' " he began by saying. "He is of the opinion that the law, forbidding slavery and denying rights to the masters of the slaves and all that, ought to set aside the Constitution and the laws made by better men and wiser heads than his. He'd override them all, if he could. I've nothing to say against a man's having his own notions on that, or any other subject, but if he's a minister of the gospel, he ought to preach the truth he finds in the Bible, and keep his confounded politics out of the pulpit."

        He leaned forward to flick a fly from the sleek horse with his whip.

        "I've been given to understand that he doesn't like to see me and some others of the same stripe in church when he preaches for us. I pay no attention to that. If he,


Page 273

or any others of his damnable way of thinking, imagine that I'm to be kept out of the church in which the Pierces owned a pew before this man and his crew were ever thought of, he'll find himself mistaken. That's all there is about it!"

        It was worth seeing, after hearing this, the sturdy old representative of the Puritans, sitting bolt upright in the quaint box-pew where his forbears had worshipped the God of battles over a century before, and keeping what he called his "weather eye" upon the suspected expounder of the gospel of peace. The obnoxious occupant of the ancient and honorable pulpit was, to my notion, an amiable and inoffensive individual. He preached well, and with never an allusion to "higher law." Yet Uncle Lewis kept watch and ward throughout the service. I could easily believe that he would have arisen to his feet and challenged audibly any approach to the forbidden territory.

        The day and scene were recalled forcibly to my memory by a visit paid to my Newark home in 1864 by Francis Pierce, the protestant's oldest son, on his way home from Washington. He was one of a committee of Dorchester citizens sent to the Capital to look after the welfare of Massachusetts troops called into the field by a Republican President.

        The wife of the head of the Pierce homestead was one of the loveliest women ever brought into a world where saints are out of place. Near her lived an old widow, who was a proverb for captiousness and wrongheadedness. I never heard her say a kind or charitable word of neighbor or friend , until she astounded me one day by breaking out into a eulogy upon Aunt Pierce and Cousin Melissa, Francis's wife:

        "We read in the Scriptures that God is love. I allers think of them two women when I hear that text. It might be said of both of 'em: they are jest love - through an' through!"


Page 274

        I carried the story to the blesséd pair, you may be sure. Whereupon, my aunt smiled compassionately.

        "Poor old lady! People who don't know how much trouble she has had, are hard upon her. We can't judge one another unless we know all sides of a question. She is greatly to be pitied."

        And Cousin Melissa, in the gentle tone she might have learned from her beloved mother-in-law - "I always think that nobody is cross unless she is unhappy."

        Aurora Leigh had not been written then. If it had been, neither of the white-souled dears would have read a word of it. Yet Mrs. Browning put this into the mouth of her heroine:

                        "The dear Christ comfort you!
                        You must have been most miserable
                        To be so cruel!"

        The old house was a never-ending delight to me. It was built in 1640 (see Chapter I), ten years after the good ship Mary and John brought over from Plymouth the Massachusetts Bay Colony, landing her passengers in Boston. Robert Pierce (or Percie) was, although a blood connection of the Northumberland Percies, the younger son of a younger son, and so far "out of the running" for title or fortune on that account, that he sought a home and livelihood in the New World.

        My ancestress, Ann Greenaway, whose tedious voyage from England to Massachusetts was beguiled by her courtship and marriage to stalwart "Robert of Dorchester," bore him many robust sons and "capable," if not fair daughters, dying at last in the Dorchester homestead at the ripe age of one hundred and four.

        From her the long line of descendants may have inherited the stout constitutions and stouter hearts that gave


Page 275

and kept for them a place in every community in which they have taken root.

        The story of the Pierce Homestead is told in Some Colonial Homesteads more at length than I can give it here.

        The Virginia cousin was cordially welcomed to the cradle of her foremothers, and a warm attachment grew up between me and each member of the two households. My cousin Francis had built a modern house upon a corner of the homestead grounds, and I was as happily at home there as in the original nest.

        Another adopted home - and in which I spent more time than in all the rest put together - was that of my cousin, Mrs. Long, "the prettiest of the three Lizzies" referred to in one of my letters. Her mother, my father's favorite relative, had died since my last visit to Boston. Her daughter was married at her death-bed. She was a beautiful and intelligent woman, wedded to a man of congenial tastes who adored her. The intimacy of this one of our Yankee cousins and ourselves began before Mea and I had ever seen her. My sister and "Lizzie" were diligent correspondents from their school-days. To a chance remark of mine relative to their letters, I owe one of the most stable friendships that has blessed my life.

        We sisters were in the school-room at recess one day when I was fourteen, Mea sixteen. I was preparing a French exercise for M. Guillet, Mea writing to Boston. We had the room to ourselves for the time. My sister looked up from her paper to say:

        "What shall I say to Lizzie for you?"

        "Give her my love, and tell her to provide me with a correspondent as charming as herself."

        In her reply Lizzie begged leave to introduce a particular friend of her own, "intelligent and lovable - altogether interesting, in fact." This friend had heard her talk of her Southern cousins and wished to know them; but I must


Page 276

write the first letter. I caught at the suggestion of what commended itself to me as adventure, and it was an epistolary age. Letters long and numerous, filled with details and disquisitions, held the place usurped by phone, telegraph, and post-cards. We had time to write, and considered that we could not put it to a better purpose. So the next letter from my sister to my cousin contained a four-pager from me, addressed to "Quelqu'une." I gave fancy free play in conversing with the unknown, writing more nonsense than sober reason. I set her in the chair opposite mine, and discoursed at her of "divers sayings." If not

                        "Of ships and shoes and sealing-wax
                        And cabbages and kings" -

        of wars and rumors of wars, and school duties, and current literature.

        In due time I had a reply in like strain, but to my consternation, written in a man's hand, and signed "Quelqu'un." He apologized respectfully for the ambiguous terms of the introduction that had led me into a mistake as to his sex, and hoped that the silver that was beginning to stipple his dark hair would guarantee the propriety of a continued correspondence.

        "Time was," he mused, "when I could conjugate Amo in all its moods and tenses. Now I get no further than Amabam, and am constrained to confess myself in the tense at which I halt."

        We had written to one another once a month for two years before the sight of a note to Lizzie tore the mask from the face of my graybeard mentor, and confirmed my father's suspicions as to his identity with Ossian Ashley, the husband of Aunt Harriet's elder daughter. The next visit I paid to Boston brought us together in the intimacy of the family circle. He never dropped the role


Page 277

of elderly, and as time rolled on, of brotherly friend. He was, at that date, perhaps thirty-five years of age, and a superb specimen of robust manhood. I have seldom beheld a handsomer man, and his port was kingly, even when he had passed his eightieth birthday. Although a busy man of affairs, he was a systematic student. His library might have been the work-shop of a professional litterateur; he was a regular contributor to several journals upon financial and literary topics, handling each with grace and strength. His translation of Victor Cherbuliez's Count Kosta was a marvellous rendering of the tone and sense of the original into elegant English. He was an excellent French and Latin scholar, and, when his son entered a German university, set himself, at sixty-odd, to study German, that he "might not shame the boy when he came home."

        Before that, he had removed to New York City, and engaged in business there as a railway stock-broker. He was, up to a few months prior to his death, President of the Wabash Railway, and maintained throughout his blameless and beneficent life, a reputation for probity, energy, and talent.

        Peace to his knightly soul!

        He was passing good to me that summer. In company with his wife, we drove, sailed, and visited steamships, Bunker Hill Monument, and other places of historic interest. In their society I made my first visit to the theatre, and attended concerts and lectures. He lent me books, and led me on to discuss them, then, and when I was at home. And this when he was building up his business, looking after various family interests, not strictly his own (he was forever lending a hand to somebody!), and studying late into the night, as if working for a university degree. I am told that such men are so rare in our time and country as to make this one of my heroes a phenomenon.

        It is not marvellous that friendships like these, enjoyed


Page 278

when character and opinion were in forming, should have cultivated optimism that has withstood the shock and undermining of late disappointments. It may well be that I have not known another man who, with his fortune to found, a household to support, and a press of mental toil that would have exhausted the energies of the average student, would have kept up a correspondence with a child for the sake of pleasing and educating her, and carried it on out of affectionate interest in a provincial kinswoman.

        Affection and genial sympathy, with whatever concerned me or mine, endured to the end. He was my husband's warm friend, a second father to my children - always and everywhere, my ally.

        My last sight of him, before he succumbed to lingering and mortal illness, is vividly present with me. We had dined with him and his wife, and said to ourselves as we had hundreds of times, that time had mellowed, without dimming her beauty, and made him magnificent. The word is none too strong to describe him, as he towered above me in the parting words exchanged in light-heartedness unchecked by any premonition that we might never chat and laugh together again this side of the Silent Sea. He was over six feet in height; his hair and flowing beard were silver-white; his fine eyes darker and brighter by contrast; his smile was as gentle and his repartee as ready as when he had jested with me in those bygone summers from which the glory has never faded for me.

        My upturned face must have expressed something of what filled heart and thoughts, for he drew me up to him suddenly, and kissed me between the eyes. Then, with the laugh I knew so well, he held out his hand to my husband:

        "You mustn't be jealous, my dear fellow! I knew her a long time before you ever saw her. And such good friends


Page 279

as we have been for - bless my soul! - can it be more than fifty years?"

        Again I say: "God rest his knightly soul!" It is worth living to have known one such man, and to have had him for my "good friend" for "more than fifty years."


Page 280

XXVIII

MY FIRST OPERA - "PETER PARLEY" - RACHEL AS
"CAMILLE" - BAYARD TAYLOR - T. B. ALDRICH -
G. P. MORRIS - MARIA CUMMINS - MRS. A. D. T. WHITNEY

        THE three weeks passed in New York on my way home were thronged with novel and enchanting "sensations." I saw my first opera - Masaniello, and it was the début of Elise Henssler. The party of which I was a member included Caroline Cheeseboro, Elizabeth Oakes Smith, and Samuel Griswold Goodrich - "Peter Parley." To my intense satisfaction, my seat was beside the kindly old gentleman.

        Was not Parley's Magazine the first periodical I had ever read? And had not I devoured every book he had written, down to a set of popular biographies for which my father had subscribed as a gift to me on my eighteenth birthday? That I should, really and truly, be sitting at his side and hearing him speak, was a treat I could hardly wait until to-morrow to dilate upon in my home-diary letter. He was social and amusing, and, withal, intelligently appreciative of the music and actors. He rattled away jovially in the entr'actes of other operas and personal traits of stage celebrities, theatrical, and operatic. He told me, too, of how he had been ridiculed for embarking upon a career his friends thought puerile and contemptible, when he issued the initial number of Parley's Magazine. If I was secretly disappointed that his affection for his juvenile constituency was more perfunctory than I had supposed


Page 281

from his writings, I smothered the feeling as disloyal, and would be nothing short of charmed.

        I wrote to my mother next day that he was "a nice, friendly old gentleman, but impressed me as one who had outlived his enthusiasms." If I had put the truth into downright English, I should have said that the circumstance that he was enshrined in thousands of young hearts as the aged man with a sore foot propped upon a cushion, and whose big heart was a fountain of love, and his brain a store-house of tales garnered for their delectation - was of minor importance to the profit popularity had brought him. I was yet new to the world's ways and estimate of values.

        The next night I saw Rachel in Les Horaces. I had never seen really great acting before. I had, however, read Charlotte Brontë's incomparable portraiture, in Villette, of the queen of the modern stage. Having no language of my own that could depict what was done before my eyes, and uttered to my rapt soul, I drew upon obedient memory. Until that moment I had not known how faithful memory could be. In the breathless excitement of the last act of the tragedy, every word was laid ready to my hand. I seemed to read, with my subconscious perceptions, lines of palpitating light, the while my bodily sight lost not a gesture or look of the stricken tigress:

        "An inordinate will, convulsing a perishing mortal frame, bent it to battle with doom and death; fought every inch of ground, sold every drop of blood; resisted to the last the rape of every faculty; would see, would hear, would breathe, would live, up to, within, well-nigh beyond the moment when Death says to all sense and all being - 'Thus far and no farther!' "

        I saw others - some said as great actors - in after years. Among them, Ristori. I do not think it was because I had seen none of them before the Vashti of Charlotte


Page 282

Brontë's impassioned periods flashed upon my unaccustomed sight, that I still hold her impersonation of Camille in Les Horaces to be the grandest triumph of the tragedian's art mine eyes have ever witnessed. Ristori was always the gentlewoman, born and reared, in whatever rôle she assumed. Rachel - and again I betake myself to the weird word-painting:

        "Evil forces bore her through the tragedy; kept up her feeble strength. . . . They wrote "HELL" on her straight, haughty brow. They tuned her voice to the note of torment. They writhed her regal face to a demonic mask. Hate and Murder and Madness incarnate, she stood.

        I fancy that I must have been whispering the words as I gathered up my wraps and followed my companions out of the box. I recollect that one or two persons stared curiously at me. In the foyer I was introduced to some strangers, and went through certain civil forms of speech. I did not recollect names or faces when we got back to the hotel. After I was in bed, I could not sleep for hours. But one other actor has ever wrought so mightily upon nerves and imagination. When I was forty years older I was ill for forty-eight hours after seeing Salvini as Othello.

        During this memorable stay in New York I met Bayard Taylor. At the conclusion of his first call, I rushed to my desk and wrote to my sister:

                        "He has a port like Jove.

                        "Nature might stand up
                        And say to all the world: " 'This is a MAN!' "

        For once my ideal did not transcend the reality. Would that I could say it of all my dream-heroes and heroines! At his second call, Mr. Taylor was accompanied by Richard Henry Stoddard. At his first, he brought Charles Frederick Briggs, journalist and author, whose best-known book,


Page 283

Harry Franco, I had read and liked. I met him but once. Mr. Taylor honored me with his friendship until his lamented death. My recollections of him are all pleasant.

        We met seldom, but our relations were cordial; the renewal of personal association was ever that of friends who liked and understood each other. I reckoned it a favor that honored me, that his widow accepted me as her husband's old acquaintance, and that his memory has drawn us together in bonds of affectionate regard.

        Thomas Bailey Aldrich was then (in 1855) a mere stripling, yet already famous as the author of Babie Bell and Elsinore, poems that would have immortalized him had he not written another line. I came to know him well during my Northern sojourn. His charming personality won hearts as inevitably as his genius commanded admiration. Halleck's hackneyed eulogy of his early friend might be applied, and without dissent, to the best belovéd of our later poets. To know him was to love him. The magnetism of the rarely-sweet smile, the frank sincerity of his greeting, the direct appeal of the clear eyes to the brother-heart which, he took for granted, beat responsive to his, were irresistible, even to the casual acquaintance. His letters were simply bewitching - as when I wrote to him after each of us had grown children, asking if he would give my youngest daughter the autograph she dearly coveted from his hand.

        He began by begging me to ask him, the next time I wrote, for something that he could do, not for what was impossible for him to grant. He had laid it down as a rule, not to be broken under any temptation, whatsoever, that he would never give his autograph.

        "If I could make an exception in the present case, you know how gladly I would do it, only to prove that I am unalterably your friend,

"THOMAS BAILEY ALDRICH."


Page 284

        He graced whatever he touched, and made the commonplace poetic. The ineffable tenderness and purity of his verse were the atmosphere in which the man lived and moved and breathed. The mystic afflatus of the born poet clothed him, as with a garment.

        George P. Morris I met again and again. With the frank conceit, so permeated with the amiability and naïiveté of the veteran songster, that it offended nobody, he told me how Braham had sung Woodman, Spare That Tree, before Queen Victoria, at her special request, and that Jenny Marsh of Cherry Valley was more of an accepted classic than Roy's Wife of Aldivalloch. He narrated, too, the thrilling effect produced upon an audience in New York or Philadelphia by the singing for the first time in public of Near the Rock Where Drooped the Willow, and smiled benignantly on hearing that it was a favorite ballad in our home. He was then associated with N. P. Willis in the editorship of The New York Mirror, and agreed fully with me that it had not its peer among American literary periodicals.

        My mother had taken it for years. We had a shelf full of the bound volumes at home. I have some of them in my own library, and twice or three times in the year, have a rainy afternoon-revel over the yellowed, brittle pages mottled with the mysterious, umber thumbmarks of Time.

        Colonel Morris's partner, Nathaniel Parker Willis, who had not yet taken to writing out the name at full length, was at his country-seat of "Idlewild." He was ten years older when I saw him last, and under circumstances that took the sting from regret that I had not met him when life was fresh and faiths were easily confirmed.

        While in Dorchester I had enjoyed improving my acquaintanceship with Maria Cummins. Encyclopædias register her briefly as "An American novelist. She wrote The Lamplighter." In 1855, no other woman writer was


Page 285

so prominently before the reading public. The Lamplighter was in every home, and gossip of the personality of the author was seized upon greedily by press and readers. Meeting Augusta Evans, of Rutledge and St. Elmo and Beulah, four years thereafter, I was forcibly reminded of my Dorchester friend, albeit they belonged to totally different schools of literature. Both were quietly refined in manner and speech, and incredibly unspoiled by the flood of popular favor that had taken each by surprise. Alike, too, was the warmth of cordiality with which both greeted me, a stranger, whom they might never meet again.

        An amusing incident connected with one of Maria Cummins's visits broke down any lingering trace of strangerhood. She was to take tea at the house of my cousin, Francis Pierce. I was sitting by the window of the drawing-room, awaiting her arrival and gazing at the panorama of Boston Bay and the intervening hills, when an old lady, a relative-in-law of "Cousin Melissa," stole in. She was over eighty, and so pathetically alone in the lower world that Melissa - the personation of Charity, which is Love - had granted her home and care for several years. She had donned her best cap and gown; as she crept up to me, she glanced nervously from side to side, and her withered hands chafed one another in agitation she could not conceal.

        "I say, dearie," she began, in a whisper, bending down to my face, "would you mind if I was to sit in the corner over there" - nodding toward the back parlor - "and listen to your talk after Miss Cummins comes? I won't make the least mite of noise. I am an old woman. I never had a chance to hear two actresses talk before, and I may never have another."

        I consented, laughingly, and she took up her position just in time to escape being seen by the incoming guest. We chatted away cheerily at our far window, watching the


Page 286

sunset as it crimsoned the bay and faded languidly into warm gray.

        "Summer sunsets are associated in my mind, in a dreamy way, with the tinkle of cow-bells," observed my companion, and went on to tell how, as a child, living in Salem, she used to watch the long lines of cows coming in from the meadows at evening, and how musically the tinkle of many bells blended with other sunset sounds.

        "I have the same association with my Virginia home," I answered. "So had Gray with Stoke Pogis. But his herd lowed as it wound slowly over the lea."

        "Perhaps English cows are hungrier than ours," Miss Cummins followed, in like strain. "I prefer the chiming bells."

        We dropped into more serious talk after that. The unseen listener carried off, up-stairs, when she stole out, like my little gray ghost, but one impression of the "actresses' " confabulation. Cousin Melissa told me of it next day. The old lady was grievously disappointed. We had talked of nothing but cows and cow-bells, and cows coming home hungry for supper, and such stuff. "For all the world as if they had lived on a dairy-farm all their days!"

        I supped with Miss Cummins and her widowed mother a day or so later, and we made merry together over the poor crone's chagrin.

        It was rather singular that in our several meetings neither of us spoke of Adeline D. T. Whitney. She had not then written the books that brought for her love and fame in equal portions. But she was Maria Cummins's dear friend, and a near neighbor of the Pierces. When we, at last, formed an intimacy that ceased only with her life, we wondered why this should have been delayed for a score of years, when we had so nearly touched, during that and other visits to my ancestral home.

        At our earliest meeting in her Milton cottage, whither


Page 287

I had gone by special invitation, she hurried down the stairs with outstretched hands and - "I cannot meet you as a stranger. My dear friend, Maria Cummins, has often talked to me of you!"

        In the hasty sketch of a few representative members of the Literary Guild of America, as it existed a half-century ago, I have made good what I intimated a few chapters back, in alluding to my introductory experience of professional jealousies, which, if cynics are to be credited, pervade the ranks of authors, as the mysterious, fretting leprosy ate into the condemned garment of the ancient Israelite. In all frankness, and with a swelling of heart that is both proud and thankful, I aver that no other order, or class, of men and women is so informed and permeated and colored with generous and loyal appreciation of whatever is worthy in the work of a fellow-craftsman; so little jealous of his reputation; so ready to make his wrongs common property, and to assist the lowliest member of the Guild in the hour of need.

        I make no exception in favor of any profession or calling, in offering this humble passing tribute to the Fraternity of American Authors. I could substantiate my assertion by countless illustrations drawn from personal observation, had I space and time to devote to the task. In my sixty years of literary life, I have known nearly every writer of note in our country. In reviewing the list, I bow in spirit, as the seer of Patmos bent the knee in the presence of the shining ones.


Page 288

XXIX

ANNA CORA (MOWATT) RITCHIE - EDWARD EVERETT
GOVERNOR WISE - A MEMORABLE DINNER-PARTY

        IN 1854, Anna Cora Mowatt, "American actress, novelist, dramatist, and poet," as the cyclopædias catalogue her, left the stage to become the wife of William Foushee Ritchie of Richmond, Virginia.

        Mrs. Mowatt, née Ogden, was the daughter of a prominent citizen of New York. She was born in France, and partially educated there. Returning to America, she married, in her sixteenth year, James Mowatt, a scholarly and wealthy man, but much the senior of the child-wife. By a sudden reverse of fortune he was compelled to relinquish the beautiful country home on Long Island, to which he had taken his wife soon after their marriage. With the romantic design of saving the home she loved, Mrs. Mowatt began a series of public readings. Her dramatic talent was already well known in fashionable private circles. At the conclusion of the round of readings given in New York and vicinity, she received a proposal from a theatrical manager to go upon the stage. For nine years she was a prime favorite with the American theatre-going public, and almost as popular abroad. She never redeemed "Ravenswood," and her husband died while she was in the zenith of her brilliant success.

        Her union with William Ritchie, who had admired her for a long time, was a love-match on both sides. He brought her to quiet Richmond, and installed her in a


Page 289

modest cottage on our side of the town, but three blocks from my father's house. The Ritchies were one of the best of our oldest families; Mrs. Mowatt belonged to one as excellent; her character was irreproachable. I recollect Doctor Haxall insisting upon this when a very conservative Mrs. Grundy "wondered if we ought to visit her."

        "You will see, madam, that she will speedily be as popular here as she has been elsewhere. She is a lovely woman, and as to reputation - hers is irreproachable - absolutely! No tongue has ever wagged against her."

        I listened with curiosity that had not a tinge of personal concern in it. It went without saying that an ex-actress was out of my sphere. The church that condemned dancing was yet more severe upon the theatre. True, Mrs. Ritchie had left the stage, and, it was soon bruited abroad, never recited except in her own home and in the fine old colonial homestead of Brandon, where lived Mr. Ritchie's sister, Mrs. George Harrison. But she had trodden the boards for eight or nine years, and that stamped her as a personage quite unlike the rest of "us."

        So when William Ritchie stopped my father on the street and expressed a wish that his wife and I should know each other, he had a civil, non-committal reply, embodying the fact that I was expecting to go North soon, and would not be at home again before the autumn.

        During my absence my father sent me a copy of the Enquirer containing a review of The Hidden Path, written by Mrs. Ritchie, so complimentary, and so replete with frank, cordial interest in the author, that I could not do less than to call on my return and thank her.

        She was not at home. I recall, with a flush of shame, how relieved I was that a card should represent me, and that I had "done the decent thing." The "decent thing," in her opinion, was that the call should be repaid within the week.


Page 290

        No picture of her that I have seen does her even partial justice. In her youth she was extremely pretty. At thirty-eight, she was more than handsome. Time had not dimmed her exquisite complexion; her hair had been cut off during an attack of brain-fever, and grew out again in short, fair curls; her eyes were soft blue; her teeth dazzlingly white. Of her smile Edgar Allan Poe had written: "A more radiant gleam could not be imagined." In manner, she was as simple as a child. Not with studied simplicity, but out of genuine self-forgetfulness.

        She struck what I was to learn was the keynote to character and motive, before I had known her ten minutes. I essayed to thank her for what she had said of my book. She listened in mild surprise:

        "Don't thank me for an act of mere justice. I liked the book. I write book-reviews for my husband's paper. I could not do less than say what I thought."

        And - at my suggestion that adverse criticism was wholesome for the tyro - "Why should I look for faults when there is so much good to be seen without searching?"

        A woman of an utterly different type sounded the same note a score of years afterward.

        I said to Frances Willard, whose neighbor I was at a luncheon given in her honor by the wife of the Commandant at Fort Mackinac:

        "You know, Miss Willard, that, as General Howard said just now of us, you and I 'don't train in the same band.' "

        "No?" The accent and the sweet candor, the ineffable womanliness of the eyes that sought mine, touched the spring of memory. "Suppose, then, we talk only of the many points upon which we do agree? Why seek for opposition when there are so many harmonies close at hand?"

        Of such peacelovers and peacemakers is the kingdom of heaven, by whatsoever name they are called on earth.


Page 291

        Mrs. Ritchie was a Swedenborgian. I had learned that in her Autobiography of an Actress. All denominations - including some whose adherents would not sit down to the Lord's Supper with certain others, and those who would not partake of the consecrated "elements" if administered by non-prelatic hands - united in shutting and bolting the door of heaven in her face.

        In the intimate companionship, unbroken by these and other admonitions, I never heard from Mrs. Ritchie's lips a syllable that was not redolent with the law of kindness. I learned to love her fondly and to revere her with fervor I would not have believed possible, six months earlier. It was not her fascination of manner alone that attracted me, or the unceasing acts of sisterly kindness she poured upon me, that deepened my devotion. She opened to me the doors of a new world: broadened and deepened and sweetened my whole nature. We never spoke of doctrines. We rarely had a talk - and henceforward our meetings were almost daily - in which she did not drop into my mind some precious grain of faith in the All-Father; of love for the good and noble in my fellow-man and of compassion, rather than blame, for the erring. Of her own church she did not talk. She assumed, rather, that we were "one family, above, beneath," and bound by the sacred tie of kinship, to "do good and to communicate." She had a helpful hand, as well as a comforting word, for the sorrowing and the needy. As to her benefactions, I heard of them, now and again, from others. Now it was an aged gentlewoman, worn down to the verge of nervous prostration, and too poor to seek the change of air she ought to have, who was sent at the Ritchies' expense to Old Point Comfort for a month; or a struggling music-mistress, for whom Mrs. Ritchie exerted herself quietly to secure pupils; or a girl whose talent for elocution was developed by private lessons from the ex-actress; or a bedridden matron, who


Page 292

had quieter nights after Mrs. Ritchie ran in, two or three evenings in a week, to read to her for half an hour in the rich, thrilling voice that had held hundreds enchanted in bygone days.

        To me she was a revelation of good-will to men. She lectured me sometimes, as a mother might and ought, always in infinite tenderness.

        "I cannot have you say that, my child!" she said once, when I broke into a tirade against the hypocrisy and general selfishness of humankind at large, and certain offenders in particular. "Nobody is all-wicked. There is more unconquered evil in some natures than in others. There is good - a spark of divine fire - in every soul God has made. Look for it, and you will find it. Encourage it, and it will shine.

        And in reply to a murmur during the trial-experiences of parish work, when I "deplored the effect of these belittling cares and petty commonplaces upon my intellectual growth," the caressing hand was laid against my hot cheek.

        "Dear! you are the wife of the man of God! It is a sacred trust committed to you as his helpmate. To shirk anything that helps him would be a sin. And we climb one step at a time, you know - not by bold leaps. Nothing is belittling that God sets for us to do."

        She, and some other things, gave me a royal winter.

        Another good friend, Mrs. Stanard, had notified me that Edward Everett, then lecturing in behalf of the Mount Vernon Association, was to be her guest while in Richmond, and raised me to the seventh heaven of delighted anticipation by inviting me to meet him at a dinner-party she would give him. Mrs. Ritchie forestalled the introduction to the great man by writing a wee note to me on the morning of the day on which the dinner was to be.

        The Mount Vernon Association had for its express object the purchase of Washington's home and burial-place,


Page 293

to be held by the Nation, and not by the remote descendant of Mary and Augustine Washington, who had inherited it. Mrs. Ritchie was the secretary of the organization.

        Her note said:

        "A committee of our Association will wait upon Mr. Everett at the Governor's house this forenoon. I will smuggle you in, if you will go with us. I shall call for you at eleven."

        When we four who had come together were ushered into the spacious drawing-room of the gubernatorial mansion, we had it to ourselves. Mrs. Ritchie, with a pretty gesture that reminded one of her French birth, fell to arranging five or six chairs near the middle of the room, into a seemingly careless group. One faced the rest at a conversational angle.

        "Now!" she uttered, with a playful presence of secrecy; "you will see Mr. Everett seat himself just there! He can do nothing else. Call it a stage trick, if you like. But he must sit there!"

        The words had hardly left her lips when Mr. Everett entered, accompanied by a younger man, erect in carriage and bronzed in complexion, whom he presented to us as "My son-in-law, Lieutenant Wise."

        To our secret amusement, Mr. Everett took the chair set for him, and this, when three remained vacant after the ladies were all seated.

        Lieutenant Wise and I, as the non-attached personages present, drifted to the other side of the room while official talk went on between the orator-statesman and the committee.

        The retentive memory, which has, from my babyhood, been both bane and blessing, speedily identified my companion with the author of Los Gringos (The Yankees), a satirical and very clever work that had fallen in my way


Page 294

a couple of years before. He was a cousin of the Governor. I learned to-day of his connection with the Everetts.

        He was social, and a witty talker. I had time to discover this before the Governor appeared with his daughter, a charming girl of seventeen, who did the honors of the house with unaffected grace and ease.

        I had met her before, and I knew her father quite well. Mrs. Ritchie had taken herself severely to task that very week for speaking of him as "our warm-hearted, hot-headed Governor."

        The characterization was just. We all knew him to be both, and loved him none the less for the warm temper that had hurried him into many a scrape, political and personal. We were rather proud of his belligerency, and took real pride in wondering what "he would do next." He was eloquent in debate, a bitter partisan, a warrior who would fight to the death for friend, country or principle. Virginia never had a Governor whom she loved more, and of whom she was more justly proud.

        This was early in the year 1856. I do not recollect that I ever visited the state drawing-room of the mansion again, until I stood upon a dais erected on the very spot where Lieutenant Wise and I had chatted together that brilliant winter day, and I lectured to crowded parlors in behalf of the Mary Washington Monument Association. Another Governor reigned in the stead of our warm-hearted and hot-headed soldier. Another generation of women than that which had saved the son's tomb to the Nation was now working to erect a monument over the neglected grave of the mother.

        When the throng had dispersed, "Annie" Wise, now Mrs. Hobson - and still of a most winsome presence - and I withdrew into a corner to speak of that five-and-forty-year- old episode, and said: "The fathers, where are they? And the prophets - they do live forever!"