Friday, January 12, 2018

THE FIRST LADY OF EVANSTON - Cornelia Gray Lunt - BOOK I, Chapter 13 - The Little Southerner

This is the next installment in the autobiography of Cornelia Gray Lunt of Evanston, Illinois: Sketches of Childhood and Girlhood, Chicago, 1847-1864.  For more about the life and times of Miss Lunt, please see the first installment:                                   

Chapter Thirteen
The Little Southerner

Bowdoinham, Maine
In the warm rays of the setting sun the past, not melting away, rises ever more clearly before me.  Nothing of my early life seems very distant or indistinct, and today with all those years behind me, my Lake, stretching from infinite distance with the sunshine making dazzling glory, sings as always to create moods of adventure and revive the old dreams that used to make me so poignantly happy.  Circumstances and temperament combined to make me an Optimist in the grain.  Mine was a sort of insolent joy in life and with every physical care and comfort, the colour of my past tinged always the colour of my future,  And as a schoolgirl of eleven I only missed for a time the vital accents of happiness.

The family gathered at the old Maine homestead that Summer as usual.  My grandfather was changed, very listless and very tired - not interested as before, and I was warned not to disturb him.  His mind stored with knowledge of life and men, no longer acted with its rapier clearness; he was very hollow-eyed, the lines had deepened between and around his eyes, there were dark circles under them, and in them no longer the old flashes of cynical humour.  The cheeks fallen in and the skin like old ivory, made his countenance strange.  But the full significance of his condition did not dawn upon me, only the undoubted fact that he was no longer interested in me caused at first a sharp pang.  He looked oddly short and shrunken sitting in a rolling chair, and my chief memory is how strange a smile curled his lips, and how he raised one hand, the other limp and useless, and someway made for me a picture of splendid isolation.

One day I crept close, and he frowned just a little as I asked timidly - "Oh! dear Grandfather, are you very sick?"  Then he looked exactly at me and those dimmed blue eyes told their story all too plainly.  Life no longer throbbed in face or voice and that twisted smile and futile effort to talk, plainly haunted me for long.  My distress ending in a flood of tears and many inquiries, after that I was kept from the room although I took many a flying look at his closed door, and could not help knowing he was stricken sorely.  My beloved but broken Grandfather with a face carved in ivory , and lips still smiling that strange half smile!  It was a picture I could not shake, I struggled with its unreality; but the heavy weight of loss at ties made the blood seem to leave my heart.

But that special Summer I felt many a thrill of admiration over the grace and beauty of my two youngest Aunts, whose shining dark eyes and glossy hair nipped quickly any bud of vanity ever threatening to grow in me, and my flagrant tendency to hold the center of the stage and focus attention on myself was gone.  I was in good temper with the things around me and there was quickening appreciably in me the love of intrinsic beauty.

And one thing was very different that vacation.  I went often to Grandfather Lunt's, especially after my Aunt Dolly and her step-daughter  Lou Burge arrived for a long deferred visit.  I never lacked skill in making friendly approaches to girls of my own age and I quickly felt her sympathy and understanding.  

She was a clever little girl of middle height.  She was dark-haired, with velvet black eyes, her hair was thick and vital and grew prettily round her slender neck.  She had no freckles; I noticed her skin was smooth and dark, her features straight and clean, and face and eyes were alive with passionate distinction.  She moved slower than any girl I had ever seen, and spoke with a soft drawl.  She was all fire and flame even as a child, and she could repel with pettish words and gestures for her temper was not equal to her looks.  I thought her very graceful and felt the fervent quality in her  - She won allegiance with an effortless ease and we became friends with brave assumption on each side of self-dependence.

Lou would tell me of her entire liberty at the Plantation, and I accepted every factor of that picturesque life of the South with enthusiasm.  It was strange to me that she turned against bonds; the personal will in her always rebelling against the claims of those older; nature clamouring for entire freedom.

If she was slow and drawled her words often, yet at times she talked as fast as the human tongue could go, and I was lost in admiration of her vocabulary.  She was the first human being of my own age I'd ever met difficult to match or over-top.  She told me her Ancestors were Knights, "Such as you read about you know," and threw up her little chin a moment, continuing - "When they died they were all laid in rows and rows of great Vaults, and they had swords and armour too - You can read in history about them, and how they wore knee-breeches and walked in armour and carried big swords and were splendidly handsome like Princes."  Her little oval face was flushed and she looked proud enough to assist in highest functions at Westminster, and to have Manor Houses to bestow on us all!  Well! however useless such knowledge she disturbed me with it - I could only reply that my Grandfather said were direct lineal descendents from the ancient Grays of England, and so Lady Jane Grey belonged to my family and I supposed Oliver Cromwell and perhaps Queen Elizabeth, for anyway they were - Grandfather had told me - very distinguished people of the name of Grey.

She looked at me scornfully "Lade Jane Grey had her head chopped off and never had any children, and Queen Elizabeth wasn't married either."  I looked at her resentfully, and I certainly didn't chasten myself at that point without any knowledge or belief as to how the mighty Grays had fallen to our first American Ancestor, whose epitaph on the tombstone in Old Plymouth graveyard reads simply - "Here lies ye body of Edward Gray, Gentleman." - I merely continued proudly boastful, and Lou frowned listening to my further statements.  She had entirely disassociated self consciousness and disbelief from her features, and both of us recovering equanimity, merriment and satisfaction ensued.  She had concluded me a worthy playmate wherever our family Mansions or mythical Estates were situated!  We were both plainly mere vessels of emotion, and phases of such earlier childhood lurked in our speech and aspect.

The hours were like bubbles in which so much that was unreal was reflected.  When childhood's hours are weighted with happiness that we have no true names they are as fragile as they are beautiful.  And little indeed do we know that ugly or ordinary things are critical crises, and if beautiful weeks of joy are to be found in their effects idealism must never be destroyed.  That will save and prove itself.

We talked very freely together and I told her all sorts of little intimate things about which I was habitually reticent, for frankness itself hides when it dreads criticism or amused comment, and often after I had ceased talking some remark of the young Aunts or one of the elders would make me feel I was nothing but a born prattler.  One thing is certain those gay members of the household, or of the family, never tried to patch up things with the younger generation.  There were never quarrels or estrangements in our immediate circle, but the younger ones were relatively indifferent or critical, and, as I had no sister and neither Joe nor my little cousins were with me in the Gray homestead, I gladly adopted this little Southerner whose voice was as persistent and ready as my own.

I felt a sort of shock when I heard hot and unexpected declarations of dislike to any members of her own family, and sometimes she'd say - "I've made a vow I'll never never when I'm grown up have anything to do with So-and-So: - And she'd draw back as if trying to shake off a grip, as if nerves were shrinking, as if there was some invincible interior recoil.  It was curiously as if the child were struggling to free herself - forcibly facing away from things as they were - with now and then sensations of impotent wrath, and yet all such temporary revolt was easily appeased - sometimes gone as rapidly as it had come.  Lou had no looseness about her, no lack of firmness and she could strike boldly if upset by a touch.  As far as she was concerned emotionally there was an instinctive certitude in her responses, in the swiftness of her speech and in the changes of her mood.

Lou was haughty even to her Step-mother whose every impulse, every word was tenderness.  My Aunt Dolly had a subtly expressive countenance, human kindness could hardly speak more plainly in a human face; her keen intelligence was free from personal preoccupation; hers was a warm Christian outlook on the whole world.  There was something arresting, something noble in both my Father's sisters.  And my Aunt Dolly's dark brows arching on a white forehead, her luxuriant mass of wavy gray hair coiled back on a head so like Father's; a head well carried as though conscious of ancestry and tradition, yet in character she was too benignant to realize or count upon anything so extraneous.  She was wise and humanly beneficent - Sweetened by generosity and sympathy she took upon her own shoulders many burdens and many needs.  She bore her responsibilities and met her emergencies, and gave comfort, enjoyment and service without stint or any troublesome reflections.  She rejoiced to see us together and encouraged every indication of intimacy.

We had fallings out of course, both so positive and self assured, but they were like the filmiest of summer clouds floating mistily for a second, and melting into the blue before one really saw or felt the least danger of dimming the sunshine of unclouded youth and gaiety.  Alas! one careless remark of mine, made with no  foreboding of possible disaster, precipitated trouble prophetic in its nature and its threat of ultimate rupture.

Many of Lou's words and my hot replies have left their lasting imprint - but even when words have apparently left no impression on the memory the scenes of that period in my life cast on such simple lines, the fact of those experiences, the knowledge of the people and familiarity of surroundings, the effects of time and pl;ace and their long after results, all unite to bring back easily, and to make real exactly what in that early period was said and done.

I can see again just how we looked and spoke because in the nature of things, realizing my own feelings and recalling those events, the whole series that led up to climaxes of sensation comes back forcibly - emotions voice themselves naturally and with characteristic spirit and expression.  It is then that with a surge of recollection and feeling the words themselves, largely as they were spoken, accurately as they told their story, come back to me.

We had come in from the orchard up into the small hall bedroom called the library, with its one large book-case, a table and two or three chairs on one of which Lou had climbed, and stood up to rummage the upper shelf, to be sure nothing was hidden away from us.  Suddenly my eye caught the title of that shabby old volume, accounting for the careless question - "Did you know Grandfather Lunt called Byron a bad book?"  "Byron was a man, and he was a Lord and he's good looking - I saw his picture - It's "Byron's Works," don't you know enough to speak it right? - But Grandfather never read it; I have, and it's a beautiful book."  Being very much chagrined over the nature of her rebuke, the justness of its criticism appealing, I was silenced for a moment by rallied to remark stingingly - "Oh! you think you're very smart and know more than anybody else - Byron must be bad, I believe Grandfather, you aren't right always."  "I know bad books and I know the very wickedest one, It's Uncle Tom's Cabin."  For a second I was dumb and then shouted irritably, "Why Lou Burge, You don't know anything - That book is nice - I say it isn't wicked - I say you're crazy" - and with no deference or any reserve politeness for her as a visitor I added the unnecessary slight - "And I guess you are wicked yourself."

She grew more excited.  She was clean mad - carried away by something she had heard or remembered - but I interrupted raising my voice, my heart beating proudly and with some sense of power - "I tell you "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is a fine book, - You never read it- Everybody knows its fine."  Her cry nearly rang through the house - "No, I wouldn't read it - My Uncle said he wouldn't touch it with the tongs - They ought to make a bon-fire as tall as the sky to burn them all up."  But the ordeal of battle was not over, for she added scathingly "Wicked yourself! - I reckon you-all are wicked - I reckon you-all are black inside.  Yes! you-all are black inside, worse than n_____s, - Worse than pore white trash - I hate you Yankees - You-all are common."  And my shocked silence was the price of her triumph.  I was dazed, humiliated, bewildered - and I had long after a picture of her as she stood, that little figure drawn to its full height pointing at me with blazing eyes the finger of scorn.  Those flashing eyes! and that face crimson with the hot blood of her race was photographed upon my brain.

"For Shame! Children, How can you quarrel so?"  The furious tones had resounded through the house.  There was something oddly direct, oddly compelling in the level steady glance of my Aunt Dolly's grave unsmiling eyes.  Always self possessed, always gentle and sympathetic there was now as she stood before us no sense of unfinished youth anywhere about her.She was the Judge, the experienced woman, and a very determined and decided one.

We had been fighting as truly as if we had used weapons of steel instead of sharp words.  And we were not willing to pick up what we had lost.  It was still rage in both hearts with no desire for reconciliation.  I slipped by and got myself blindly into the hall, as she addressed her step-daughter in reproof, but could beat no retreat.  "Don't run away - Come here Neanie - You poor child! - Lou, how could you, dear? - Why you too are cousins," but the little Southerner could not be silenced.  "She called "Uncle Tom's Cabin" a nice book - She said we were a wicked set - She is nothing but a Yankee." - "There, There! not another word - Now listen both of you - You don't either of you know what you mean.  You, Lou, are rude and ill-bred to call names.  You're a visitor and I'm ashamed that you shouldn't behave better.  The Northerners are just the same as Southerners.  Some are very fine - and some are not like our people.  You don't like everybody down there! - Neanie - You see that book isn't true, I mean it says lots of things that aren't true.  It makes you believe lots of things that are not true."  There was neither invective nor sarcasm in her quiet words as she proceeded to tell me how they took acre of all their slaves, saw they had clothes and plenty to eat, and looked after every one of them when they were sick, and that they all had little cabins of their own on the place.  And I never forgot the emphasis of her closing sentence - "It takes over a hundred of our slaves to pick the cotton, and if you could only hear them singing while they work or when they sit in their own cabins sometimes, you'd know why they were happy and well taken care of.  There are cruel and wicked people everywhere all over the world, but down South we don't any of us know such terrible ones as she writes about."

My Aunt Dolly in her benevolence saw only her own and her neighbours Plantations.  She had experienced only the Patriarchal system, and kindness to the core herself she could not conceive of injustice or tyranny.  It only illustrates that truth that we all cut the diagram of human nature by our own limitations.  Curious when one begins to think of a subject how it crops up at most unexpected times and in most unexpected places.  I verily believe looking back that I perceive objects not visible to those of us who always depend on the usual senses - That is - I can see things of which I now write without my eyes; but certain things are very curious and yet are all capable of a natural explanation in coming back to me, marching again into my field of vision as if they all actually stood up before the camera for it to take afresh the old-time pictures.  There are faint differences of course, sometimes a sort of shadowiness, sometimes almost a lack of definition because indistinct and so far off, to you who read - But I can smile at my feeblest efforts, and I am held so that I can neither turn away nor forget.   

My Aunt talked long and wisely.  She drew us both figuratively as well as literally into her arms, and we were both finally reduced to apparently friendly relations, but were neither fully thawed nor at all altered in our mental attitudes.  Lou's tones of scorn echoed and re-echoed.  "I hate you Yankees, you-all are common."  I had been chilled, dashed down from my high perch, and the humiliation of that encounter, the recoil and futile dislike it engendered, would have lasted long and killed all affection but for the skill and tact with which we were handled.  We shook hands before I stole away but neither of us were going to be beaten from the field.  I had a fancy that in both cases our strength was spent.  I realized long after that hour of revealment, that we had reached each other understandingly.  Those words spoken in sharp detached particles that hurt swept so much aside - it was  momentous and revealing - but the force was not evil.  We were both true to our standards.  We were only riven apart by a blinding stroke, and Aunt Dolly's wise and tender touch connected for us the two edges of conscious thought.  Aunt Dolly knew the signs - Knew a receptive mind from an inquiring one,and had understood the peculiar mental excitement in each of us.

As I ascended the steps and entered the larger lining-room at the homestead I so shrank from its recollection that I tried to slip through unseen.  But there was Aunt Beulah Patten talking to my Grandmother, and the loveliest looking old lady ever seen, Aunt Hannah Gray, who had just come from grandfather's room and there were tears in her eyes.  Aunt Beulah was always smiling, humourous and kind, and now she called out - "Don't run away - What's the matter?  You look peaked." - and out it came!  They all laughed at being called "Yankees," and Sarah Ann Fulton who came in with my Aunt Sarah in time to hear the tragic tale, cried out, "Mercy Sakes!  What do you care?  They don't know us and we don't know them, and don't want to, I guess.  You'd better give your Grandfather Lunt the go-by for a while, I should think Dolly Burge ought to make that young one she brought North behave better."  But something stirred in my heart to defend her.  "I said just as bad as I could and I wanted to make her mad" - and in a subtle sense not comprehending it at all I seemed to see that if we wanted to keep something good and sweet we must not stop loving but snatch at the joy of being together.  The thought of little Lou and Aunt Dolly being so severely blamed brought about in me a complete recovery from anger or aversion.

Aunt Beulah invited me to spend the next day with her.  She always gave me seed-cakes and awfully thick cream over the blueberries when I made her visits and I loved to go there.  Her daughter Nannie was very pretty but very fat.  She drank cream they said.  Everybody laughed and had a good time at Aunt Beulah's.  I guess there were no shadows or clouds hanging over the home.  It was a lovely farm and they were dear and lovely people.

On the second day after that, Aunt Dolly brought her little stepdaughter and came to the Gray house to spend the afternoon.  She and my Aunts were great friends having grown up together from childhood.  Lou's sparkle had no sobering touch as we met again.  She was a born charmer and something had completely tranquilized her.  I felt the summons of her warm and impulsive nature.  It answered to mine.  The inner doors opened - Our hearts met - We forgot differences, - We felt the call of an acknowledged kinship.  We glowed comfortably in happy sunshine far removed from angry clouds or the black background of battle.  For years after that summer it was a reign of peace - Ah! God that it could not have lasted!  Why!  Why should enmities burrow in and burn until they flash into destructive flame?  It was s supreme chance that parted us for ever.

And now I look back to that last day we spent together, to the last time I ever saw her and I cannot forbear speaking just here of a little scene, and some words that surprised and gave me a thrill of pleasure unqualified, as all praises of those dear to us invariably must.  Lou said to me at first what seemed a funny thing - It sounded as if it came out of a book - "I think your Mother is statuesque."

My Mother always impressed me as tall, but she is not above medium height, only with a figure very straight and slender so that seeming height only adds to the extreme grace and dignity of her carriage.  She has fair hair that shows a natural wave and is abundant, and large eyes of hazel or grey; dear deep eyes that look out upon the world always serene and yet with a touch of sadness and something indefinable.  All that I felt, as I looked at the little speaker, but I could not then have put it into words.  All I said was to quote Grandfather - "They say Mother was beautiful." - Well she is, only she's very pale and they say she's very delicate, but she makes everybody comfortable, I like to be near her and I like to look at her."

Whatever tests or trials my Mother met must have early opened her eyes to the calls and claims of others - to sorrows and disappointments perhaps - most certainly to the exigencies and demands of life we face daily.  As I grew older my sensations were sometimes vivid as I looked and noticed the lines ands shadows on that delicate countenance, that gave a touch of sadness and meaning that young faces never have.  It is the great in spirit who have no affectations, know no jealousies, acquire a sort of infinite patience or gentle tolerance and never know fears of losing place or position, wherever they may be, or with whomever they are associating.  My Mother never appraised human beings by possessions instead of personal attributes.  She was very fastidious in tastes and habits, but she never showed that instinct of criticism of which she was not devoid, where it could hurt or wound anyone.

All this returns to my  mind in such vividness and strength that, almost the actual surroundings are here, and I am back at my Grandfather Lunts once more and see again the Little Southerner's bright face, and realize that she never harboured unkind feelings long however unexpected or ominous her outbreaks.  We two flew on swift wings of confidence until the eternal division came.  There is no vagueness and no imperfect memory of that companionship.  It is ever clearer and less incomprehensible from my childhood's point of view that what so often and necessarily hung about my intercourse with grown people.

That summer gave me surpassing views of beauty and peace, a sort of tranquilness grew in me and, but for my Grandfather Gray's continued illness and close confinement to the closed room, the joy of its many experiences would have filled me to overflowing.  But no days passed wholly without thoughts of him and memories of his undeviating kindness never lost poignancy or strength.  It was all mysterious, inexplicable, deadly that I could no longer see or talk to him.  The Gray homestead had lost so much of its charm.  It had lost its stately Head that embodied such dignity and hospitality.  There was something pain burdened in the atmosphere.  And invariably I rebelled at the authoritativeness that shut me out from vision and association with the beloved invalid.  I was always regretfully aware of the fact I could not get away from that Grandfather was changed, that he no longer listened to what was said - and that no one must trouble to question or interrupt the train of thought in which he seemed so strangely, so completely wrapped up.  He had never been unsympathetic.  He had never before waved me aside - The few times I saw him he looked as if he did not see me - as if I did not exist, and I knew he must not be bothered, but did not know enough to understand that he would never again be free to occupy himself as of yore, or that never again could I look into his eyes. hang on his words or draw spiritual and intellectual strength from his store of knowledge and reservoir of experience.  never got away from hope - because I had never known its failure to warm the hearts, and bring back life to the death-stricken.

No intimate possessions of the Past have lost meaning nor have any been rudely wrenched away from me.  They belong now as they did then, and if happiness in age is sometimes crossed by melancholy recollection I quickly shut the doors on any reproachful emptiness of the present.

I write for you - Oh! Children of our blood!  You that are here - You that will come after - And I am still touched with excitement recounting fancies and feelings that flooded everything with sunlight.  

Friday, December 8, 2017

THE FIRST LADY OF EVANSTON - Cornelia Gray Lunt - BOOK I, Chapter 12 - The First Vacation

This is the next installment in the autobiography of Cornelia Gray Lunt of Evanston, Illinois: Sketches of Childhood and Girlhood, Chicago, 1847-1864.  For more about the life and times of Miss Lunt, please see the first installment:                                   

Chapter Twelve
The First Vacation

Boston, Mass.

What we hear, think or see produces many results of which we are not aware.  The smallest events often play their part in moulding the machinery of our mental or spiritual life, in making an indelible record, and difficult as it may be to entirely decipher or recall them their influence is always working.

I am only interested with the conscious processes, and illustrative experiences rise easily in the simplest occurrences - not in the least uncommon; but significant because they link the common with the seemingly unusual and are individual and impressive as belonging exclusively to the writer.

These Sketches have application to development and I can explain them to myself sometimes by a flash of insight, and think and write rapidly , extensively and correctly even in the very language of my childhood.  A certain Physcologist has said, "The method of recall is the association of ideas, and if we once can pull the right string all sorts of forgotten memories will come into consciousness."  Evidently impressions made upon the mind are retained and used without any sense of dependence upon an efficient memory; but we are not supplied with information sufficient for their solution.  The dreams, longings and golden panoramas of life rolled up in the film of memory, their richness of colour, strangeness of thought and fervour of emotion, I do not believe, are wholly lost.

The delight of that moment, when learning Captain Gray was waiting for us, and I dashed into Carrie's room in excitement, was sobered to see her sitting on the side of the bed, cloak and little hood all on and hands calmly folded in her muff, with a well stuffed, funny looking shiny black carpet bag at her feet.  In the hush of that second sew looked, to my bewildered gaze, unusually pretty.  She had such white teeth and brown eyes under thick curling lashes.  I had often wished mine were not blue and that I resembled a brunette!

"What's the matter?  It's time to go!  My Uncle's downstairs!  Where's your trunk?"  "Do you suppose I am going to take my things home when I've got to come back?  I've got plenty there anyway, and this," kicking the bag, "is full of dirty clothes that I've kept out of the wash and I've got to carry it down myself."  "Why, I'll help you," I said, and suddenly her passionate tone changed to a good humoured one.  She gave me a side look and a little grin, "Don't you know I had to have a few in the wash to please the old lady, and here they go home and I'll be scoulded; but I don't know what for, I get in hot water easy there."

"Oh! who cares, come on," and imperatively I turned, and with little muttered exclamations we dragged the huge carpet-bag between us, which thumped down the stairs and brought Mrs. Spaulding to the scene.  She held in her hand the box of candy my Mother had sent me three months before, and with words of caution as to behaviour, she ushered us into the room where my Uncle waited.

He was a large man, with an unusually humourous expression, and patting us on head and shoulders said jovially "Ahoy! Ahoy little ship-0mates, Let's be off" and shaking hands with Mrs. Spaulding picked up Carrie's carpet-bag as if it were a paper parcel.  My own little horse-hair covered trunk I saw strapped on behind the old hack and we were hilariously pile din and soon steaming out of the town and far away.

I have never mentioned Uncle Horace's (Horace A. Gray 1814-1887) fine house on the hill opposite my Grandfather Gray's which I passed every time I turned towards Grandfather Lunt's.  It had a very shut-up look, the parlous was always dark; but there were beautiful things from over-seas, and the furniture looked very heavy and handsome.  They said his wife painted, and I thought it was pictures instead of her cheeks, but I saw always how very red they were, and that she never seemed well or at ease.  My Aunts did not like their older brother's wife, but all I ever heard was that "She was a Tinker, that no one could expect anything better of the Tinker's - a family that lived on the outskirts - that it was true she was pretty, but Horace must have been crazy to marry her.

They had no children; and I only remember taking a meal once in that pretentious house, and having all the red-currants and purple plums I wanted, and that the cakes were small and had sugar on the top.  I didn't care for Aunt Eliza (Eliza A. Tinker Gray 1830-1904), but my Uncle Horace was jolly, he gave me pretty shells and showed me a model of his "Big Ship" and said he would bring me something pretty from Russia, where he was going on his next voyage.  But I never felt well-acquainted, as with Uncle William of Uncle John, until that day hurrying towards Boston.

Carrie and I disposed of a goodly amount from the Candy box he handed over, old and stale, and someway sticking in my throat, reviving sharply that sense of injury from its long detention.  "Better than nothing," Carrie exclaimed, and "I like candy better than fruit.  We have fruit orchards, and if it wasn't winter there'd be lots of apples and pears and plums and grapes."  And with astonishing irrelevance the question - "Do you like Olives?"  "Are they big," I countered.  "Mercy! don't you know, - Why you must eat ten before you can like them, but don't make a fuss or splutter swallowing, or Mother will say you are silly and send you from the table.  No, she won't, you'll be a visitor, but you'd better not hate Olives, or say you don't like anything on the table, for Mother will tell us you are under-bred - that's awful you know."

I was rather frightened at that picture so unflinchingly presented, and I determined secretly in a sort of panic to hurry ands eat those ten Olives, big or little, and gain her Mother's good opinion.  I felt splendidly direct in a steadfast purpose not to quail at any such test.

About Carrie there was something clean and valiant and I never had to compromise with my liking, and I think I looked candid and fearless interrogation as I turned my face and said - "I guess your Mother will like me?" - and in equally candid knowledge she responded - "Mother's only twenty-nine and she had notions."

My lovely Mother was thirty-five on her last Birthday, I murmured, and felt a homesick stab that hurt and filled me with unutterable longing. I was sorry she was so old; but she wouldn't care whether I ate ten Olives or not, and I was sure she was prettier than Carrie's Mother!  I kept winking away the sudden rush of tears, and just then my Uncle produced a good sized package which checked home-sickness and aroused considerable satisfaction.  It was a great treat, two big squares of Berwick Sponge Cake. 

There never was such sponge-cake in all the world as that made by some woman in North Berwick, Maine.  You might say it had a national reputation for whenever trains went through all the passengers emptied out and went to the counter, to purchase the delectable golden squares so fine you could tear off strips as if from delicate muslin, smooth as silk in its delicate grain and with a brown rich top - "Just like the shiny brown oil-cloth in the back hall," cried Carrie in glee, as we opened the white paper parcels.

That promised treat for us nearly cost me my life, I swallowed great mouth-fulls so fast and greedily that I failed to stop as my mouth got dry - It closed with a chunk I could not down and the choke increased till I could neither gasp not cry out.  "Why's she choking, Oh Captain Gray, she's going to die" yelled my little companion.  I think I must have been purple in the face, I could not seem to see or speak, and my amazed Uncle caught hold of me and poured something awful down my throat.  I felt him shaking me while that strangling continued, and breath would not come.  "Damn' that cake!  Devil take it, you little fool, to eat so fast and with no water," and he threw disgustedly the remaining half of his too generous supply out of the car window.  Carrie hid hers under her cape.  He displayed sort of an unregenerate wrath instead of sympathy.

Politeness does not carry a person far when human nature gets stirred up, and that scene just experienced rankled, as still weak from my monstrous glut of Sponge cake contrition overcame me, and I stammered out slowly, "I couldn't help choking, Uncle Horace - that's the silly kind I am - don't mind now please, I'm all right," and there were actually tears of mortified pride in my eyes, real tears that time, not the choking kind that had poured out a few minuted before.  

I still shuddered a little in anticipation of a dreadful unbecoming seizure, which one lamentable senses or feels, when wrenches in the lower regions make existence a horror to all beholders, as well as fiendish to its victim.

Sharp exclamations again broke from him, "Damn' it" I heard again, she's going to be sick," and I shrank from words I thought belonged to the unpardonable wicked who swore.

Staring at him and at all around in astonished perturbation, Carrie's smiling calm restored me to more normal poise, and I at last breathed naturally, but with inarticulate deprecating murmurs of apology.  I was conscious of a hostile feeling, I had been so shocked at such, to me, awful swearing and looking at Carie for similar fear or disapproval of his profanity, I caught her covering her mouth to  control laughter.  "That's like Father when he's mad, only he says worse."  It was the first oath I had ever heard - I was lost in amaze that anyone's Father could say such bad words, but someway I was reassured by her amused indifference which seemed to most comfortingly reduce my horror and cover distress.  It became to me curiously an increasingly sympathetic companionship in evil!  I welcomed carelessness and indifference, and when after a few moments she whispered, "I like your Uncle, I think he's handsome," and he later looked up to smile on us as we were quietly finishing what Carrie had kept hidden under the flap of her coat, and tossed us each a shining half-dollar, all my formless and foreign uneasiness fled.  I heard him say "Do learn to eat with moderation children," but the atmosphere had again become friendly.

"Don't you think it's wicked to swear" I whispered under my breath to Carrie - A little spasm of amusement lit up her pretty face - "Why no, when anyone's mad enough, - I say "Damn'" softly when my shoe-strings get in knots, I hate tying them anyway, - I don't have to do it at home - and anyone can say bad words in a temper" was my serene reply.

As we descended from the cars, a man wearing a dark coat with big brass buttons and a cockade on his hat touched it with two fingers and without a word grabbed Carrie's awful carpet-bag, - She nodded "Hello Tom" and we followed his rapid strides to the street outside.  There was a fat coachman on top the waiting carriage, and he lifted his whip to his hat; nobody spoke, and my Uncle and I saw her whirled off in the big carriage; nobody had come to meet her and she didn't seem to mind, Oh! I thought, where were her Father and Mother?

My kindly disposed Uncle, to make amends, for what he felt had been undue impatience, took me first to a Hotel, - perhaps the old Revere House.  It was large and impressive, and he plied me with "goodies," ice cream, lots of fruit, cakes and candies.  A sicker child than I became on reaching my Aunt's, or a bigger stomachache was never before felt.  I went on record for nausea and its dire results, was put to be instanter, and treated with solicitous tenderness.  Later I heard Aunt Nan say to her husband who hovered about the door, - Horace is such a fool with children - It's well he never had any, they'd never live to grow up, Eliza would neglect them, and he'd never known better than to stuff, or swear at them, just as he felt."

It is not too long ago for me to remember definitely the few wonderful things that marked the first vacation spent at my Aunt Nancy's in Boston.  She had married for the second time, a very brilliant lawyer, and they had a charming little home just out of the City.  I felt no freedom there to do exactly what I like.  It was impressed upon my mind that I was a visitor and everyone wished to make it pleasant, and I had surprises, and was amazed at much I saw and experienced.  

Carrie's home in Roxbury, where by special invitation I spent two days and a night, was quite a revelation.  The large grounds gave me wild flights of fancy.  So many birds and trees and flowers, and fruit in Summer they told me.  How far removed it was from the business of lessons.  It was a beautiful home.  Something there seemed to sing in the trees and the loveliness all about served only to make me more terribly scornful of our school.  But I asked no real questions of the young laughing Mother, so pretty and graceful and gay, who appeared to think children were made for her own amusement merely, yet my soul was full of interrogations.  

They were a family so widely different from anything I had ever met or seen before.  The children, her two sisters and brother, seemed to regard each other with disfavour frequently - and Carrie once whispered to me, "You'd better believe I am not going back to Newburyport after next year, but Georgianna will have to; Good! I'm glad" and I was a bit bewildered, although on the surface the remarks seemed good-humoured enough.

Several new traits in the characters of Mothers were revealed to me, when Mrs. Reed would call us to her room and asking pertinent questions, in evident enjoyment, of the result to make me talk fast and furious, working insidiously on whatever I liked, or disliked most, with peals of laughter making me think myself of vast consequence.

I used ridiculous phrases in trying to be grand enough to please her, and it must have been preposterous, for several times she sent Carrie away, the first time saying, "I want to have Neannie alone, you are dull and she's never anything but entertaining.  Her little daughter, dismissed so ruthlessly, .flounced out of the room with the expression of a martyr.  It was my first sight of indifferent coldness on the part of the Mother and flaming jealousy on the part of the Mother and flaming jealousy on the part of the daughter,

Carrie was comparatively sullen to me during the rest of my stay; but I didn't care; I preened myself as something especially precious in the eyes of that woman, only then in the late twenties.  The merry gleam in those pretty eyes, and the open flattery of her words made me each time more resolutely determined to do and say whatever she wanted.  It was a strangely glorious triumph over Carrie to be for an hour her Mother's favorite.  The trenchant emphasis of that experience, because of my obvious enthusiasm over things and people, made me while with her, and under such supposed admiration, like a galvanized little Mercury flying hither and yon over personal subjects, and manoeuvering in speech for a better seat in the heaven of her regard.

In my inflated vanity she suddenly made me feel a great dislike to others who gave me what, by comparison, seemed only a grudging appreciation.  Praise was a benevolent germ, and its effects upon me even after all those pages were closed, made for so much quiet elation in weeks and months that followed.  I had no analytical knife to use, and no symbols to save me by showing that experience in its worthlessness.  I had been too fevered with delight, and was too ignorant to measure values, not to fail to believe that I had fully justified myself.  It was a triumph, for which I had waited a long time, and it only added new richness to facts of existence.  And feelings, that I only began very slowly to comprehend years and years after, return to me when conscious of that great romantic longing to be first; interpreting itself to more mature feelings as the ultimate purpose, the dream and aspiration which is the "Open Sesame" of every woman's life.

One afternoon my Aunt Nancy found me happily engaged and said quickly - "Come Neanie, put up that book - Mrs. Benedict has come to take you for a long drive."  Oh! No, - No - No, Not Aria, I cried - I can't see her, - I can't.  You know I look like her - Oh, no" - and I tried not to cry but the tears were forced out of a huge lump in my throat, and I made a display of overwhelming grief while my enormously puzzled Aunt, unaware of the terrible experience that name recalled, distressed and annoyed but growingly determined argued a bit hotly until she led me a despairing little victim, trembling and tearful to the dreaded presence.

All the time confused with that returned misery and fear the conflict raged within - Oh! if I could hide somewhere - If I could get away - I'm a visitor - I'm a visitor.  Mother said I must do whatever they asked but I'm not going to loo at her - I won't look - and I hung as far behind as I dared.  

Just inside the door, listening to my Aunt's apologies - "She's out of sorts - she's had a fit of home-sickness I suppose - I heard what made the blood race through every vein - "How she favours Orrington!"  And with eyes still fixed on the ground the blessed words made a riot of joy when she repeated " I was saying, child, how much you look like your Father.  I hope you have his beautiful voice.  Do you like music?"  I gave a feeble assent, and too deeply interested to have time or desire for more tears I slowly lifted my eyes to the face quite close to mine.

Why!  She wasn't so awful looking.  She had on a big bonnet with a big blue bow on top and one tied under her chin, and a curl hung each side her face tucked a little inside that fine bonnet, and she was smiling.  "We'll have some fine Christmas music.  Get you things on quick."  As soon in the carriage we whirled to the Music Hall - a sacred place where I listened spell-bound to the Oratorio of The Messiah - My first sight of the High Altar - my first introduction into the realm of glorious sound - My first knowledge of the Divine language - My first kneeling at that Shrine where I have worshipped and swung incense ever since.  

Bewildered, with inexpressible delight I critically and secretly regarded my kind entertainer, and when I made my thanks in a state of open excitement, she smiled and said, "I'll have to plan it with your Aunt and take you to the theatre."  She was no longer terrible - She had changed - She was a kind lady; and enormously difficult as it was for my tyrannous imagination I disputed with my first impressions, and all suddenly considered her as a sort of splendid investment to know and to feel as a part of our family.  And that face I had thought of such distinctive ugliness I found well worth reading, with its hidden writing of character that must have been plainly visible and so dear to those who loved her.

Someone has aptly said, "That kindness is the most difficult quality to manifest because it demands the essence of sympathy."  When she said "You are a delightful little girl to take out, and next week there are Play's of Shakespeare, and we'll go to hear "The Tempest" and The Mid Summer Night's Dream," - to, show you that there are real Fairies."  I somehow felt her to be genuinely of my kind and unequivocally surrendered my dislike, and felt tempted to resent the recoil which at the outset had made me so pathetically wretched.

And after that introduction to the Drama that opened a new country, those wonderful sights consecrated forever to immensities of charm and sacrifice and heroism.  When Edwin Booth, making his debut there, bowed to the acclaim of that critical Boston audience, I was whirled into a wild and breathless world - a child in love - in love with Genius and Art.

Oh! those symbols of infinity and spaciousness! Oh! the violence of delight that caught my breath - the overwhelming realization of the weird and wonderful - the unutterable joy as I sat forward in the seat with clasped hands and fixed eyes and throbbing heart.  Some racing, twisting, turning feelings that could only afterward be paralleled when with a strong wrist on the bridle of a tearing thorough-bred, I have rushed through forests or over hills in the very heart of the Rockies.

Booth looked like a streak of flame when he raised those splendid eyes and sent messages that I could catch, but not understand.  Oh! the rollicking answer in me to the happy ending for the lovers.  I was too obviously happy, with no words to express what, when you get right down to the fundamentals, all young hearts feel at the first revelation of romance.

Strong winds blew over me, something stuck in my eyes and on hot cheeks as I drew up close to Mrs. Benedict, and kissed her gratefully  when she took her leave and returned me to every-day life.  She seemed to me, and yet I know not how to express it, to have an affectionate understanding of sanctities, humanities and spiritualities.  She had talked to me as if to an equal, such was her sympathetic understanding of a child.  

No realization can be perfected in us that teaches human nature unless we have the gift of imagination, and among influences that were unconsciously moulding me, wherever associations moved freely and uncontrolled, was the quest of adventure.  And whatever has since linked my soul with the soul of beauty that Music and the Drama stirs to reverent worship in its eternal remembrance of that spirit if divine childhood lived amidst what most energizes and urges.

The jumble of odds and ends in those days in those days, the treasures and promises have sorted themselves out so that memories and impressions are tacked on to the right people and places, and all sorts of forgotten notions come into consciousness.  To my mind, then in a world of uncertainties, there was but one thing to do, to grow up too soon, to go upon the stage, and to play plays with Edwin Booth.  

I had no suspicion of difficulties or unrealities for a long time, everything else but that mimic life which tugged at my heart slipped into the background.  It was extraordinary how adventurous and exciting life suddenly became.  The twin arts, Music and the Drama, made for a new surprising life of freedom.  It brought delicious, poignant satisfaction that ran through the days like magic.  It was no disturbing phenomenon, it was only a sum of addition.  It seemed quite sane and sensible for me to read between the lines of all literary expression thereafter, in buoyant optimism and expectation, the grandeur if life on the Stage.  

Friday, November 24, 2017

THE FIRST LADY OF EVANSTON - Cornelia Gray Lunt - BOOK I, Chapter 11 - The Boarding School

This is the next installment in the autobiography of Cornelia Gray Lunt of Evanston, Illinois: Sketches of Childhood and Girlhood, Chicago, 1847-1864.  For more about the life and times of Miss Lunt, please see the first installment:                                   

Chapter Eleven
The Boarding School

Newburyport, Mass., 1853-1854

The entire course of my life was now to be changed.  It suited my family mightily when asked if I would like to go to Boarding-school with my cousin Etta Lunt (1841-1879) and little Joe Evans, as soon as Aunt Margaret could consummate arrangements?  I was tremendously interested over the idea it sounded so like a story-book-adventure.

We were certain, at the small family school selected, to be brought up in the fear of the Lord, and instruction in the Holy Scriptures was very properly, from the widow of the Missionary's point of view, the most important part of our education.  But I had seemed to live under the eaves of the Sanctuary without any sense of bondage, unaware in my parents of either bigotry or intolerance, or any enslavement.  And here the despotism exercised over the ten or twelve pupils never seemed benevolent.  Only one of the "grown-ups" was affectionately regarded.  She was kind, gentle and sweet to look upon, and meant encouragement to an existence where festivities rarely occurred, and most pleasures seemed regarded as either foolish or wicked pastimes.  Her Mother, the Head of the House, was tall and thin and taciturn, an extreme Puritan type.  The hair grey and very smooth, very sharp-eyed, very straight, very severe looking, and the verbal shafts she let fly reached their goal passing righteous judgments on us all.  She insisted that her household  should live up to Scriptural injunctions - and I at first, sat in a sort of hypnotized astonishment when I heard that deep voice demanding sternly why this or that had, or had not been done.  I never lacked courage to assert myself; but the first evening taught me that  I no longer breathe the air of freedom.  We all, at the supper table, had been asked, "Which will you have, butter or molasses?" presumably to make the dry bread edible - and when my turn came , I answered promptly - "Both!" with a perfect sense of security, serene in the belief of my own right to have all I wanted, yet with no excess of boldness.  Great was my astonishment at that first encounter when, for reasons I could not comprehend, I was instantly reprimanded.  "No - You can have but one - Understand! it is either butter or molasses, and I asked you which?"  The dearest friend of more mature years, always declared I went through life demanding both! that neither butter nor molasses alone was enough for me.

No such suffering from such small self-denials had before been exacted from me without adequate explanations.  Reserves and reticences and unmovedness always with me baffles understanding, and suddenly, as she spoke, something snapped like a whip handle and I wished myself off somewhere else.  Earthly faults and failures stood up in shape unknown before.  Lay the reason to the fact that I knew little or nothing of small deprivations or restrictions, and the entering into a relation so personal that She, a stranger, should curb my lightly expressed wish filled me with misgivings.  It was a novel, trivial, new aspect of human nature embodied; and a proceeding of restraining power I met for the first time.  The situation incommoded me.  It hinted at caution in future demands.  I was not at all incensed, or even markedly embarrassed - only something depicted itself at that particular time that was serviceable, because it suggested my waiting in silence for whatever was to follow, and omitting hereafter any flourish of words or wishes.

Soon after arrival, one stormy afternoon during the so-called play hour, I had a sort of illuminative recollection of the force and frenzy of the "Whirling Dervishes" as pictured in a traveller's account in a pamphlet of Grandfather's, who had further enlightened me as to their religious beliefs and practises to which I had listened in wide-eyed wonder.  "I have thought of a new play" I whispered eagerly to my cousins, to Susie and the little Gleason girls, and we six trooped to the upper front chamber with its two big feather-topped beds, in one of which Etta slept with Mary Waldron and Joe and I in the other.  We formed a circle at my solemn directions and began to whirl slowly, increasing speed at my excited demands - faster and faster.  "Keep at it, girls, the one that holds on longest gets to Heaven first," and then Susie dropped with a thud, and thump thump went the little Gleason girls and Etta tumbled after.  At that moment I heard a foot-fall on the stairs, softly she came to surprise us; but I sprang to the door, turned the key and whispered wildly, "Oh girls' Mrs. Spaulding," and in a sudden access of fear we all - little cowards - dashed under the beds.  I quick turning of the knob which resisted entrance and made the intended catching us unawares impossible - a jerk and sharp call - "Open at once" - It was useless - the door was shaking violently - no escape and delay dangerous.  Another loud call with punishment looming.  "This instant open the door," and I crawled out and unlocked the barrier.  One glance at me and she strode across the room and and lifted the copper-plate calico cover which hung to the floor each side.  "Come out this minute, ever4y one of you" and the trembling quartet, Etta, Susie and the others ranged themselves beside me.  "Is that all," in the same stentorian tones.  "no, Ma'am, I'm here" squealed a frightened little voice.  And poor Joe who could have escaped if she'd kept still, was ordered sternly, - "Come out this instant."  She emerged the whitest and most terrified little object, crying audibly, and in muffled accents repeating, "I won't do it again, I won't do it again, Please ma'am, I won't."  And spectacles of woe we weer marshalled below stairs to receive sentence.  An extra study hour then and there in the deserted school-room, and still punitive justice unsatisfied, we were forbidden all chances in our rooms that term; and in further reprimand, must lose this coming Sunday half-holiday.

The noise that summoned that severe judge must have warranted belief in a regiment of culprits.  At each new ultimatum I learned the hopelessness of argument, and I speedily realized the character of encounters bound to ensue if I ever undertook to assert any wish outside the rules of the school.  My Militant Guardian Angel taught me soon the sense of security in silence and submission.

One day Miss Mary told us if we wanted to write well begin a Journal and put down what happened and what interested us, and at my immediate request, she further explained, "You can write whatever you chose, and no one need see it," and she smiled at my interest and gave me a mottled-covered blank book, some pages of which are still in existence.

So, perhaps here, a few excerpts from my first efforts may throw further light on the experiences of no unusual or outside interest, but significant as to growth either mentally or morally - both of which I have thought retarded in a sense, although my amused family have declared that "No one could have prophesied what I would have become without the discipline at Newburyport!"

The quotations that follow tell their own arid little tale.

October 15, 1854
"Mrs. Spaulding seems to think we play too much ever since that afternoon recess when we all powdered our hair with some flour somebody had stolen, and pinned leaves all over our dresses, to pretend we were foreigners.  Miss Coffin saw us first, and called us in to brush off and get clean before any one else knew it.  Miss Coffin laughed we looked so funny, and, Oh, what a time we had shouting and laughing at each other, until we were found out and got scolded.  We couldn't get that flour out of our hair.  I have enjoyed good health, I never feel sick like Mary and Susie, I scarcely know how to be thankful enough, and another very great blessing is that my Parents and brothers are also enjoying this great blessing of good health.  We have the most beautiful sunsets here I ever saw.  I got my package today.  It contained my winter coat and a pretty new red marino dress.  And my tippet newly lined with cherry silk.  It looks twice as nice as it did before;but I wish I had a new muff.  

October 20.
"I received a letter from my own dear Mother Tuesday morning.  It was written from Boston and they were going to New York that afternoon to buy furniture for the new home, and after November first I was top address all my letters to 171 Michigan Avenue.  Mother asked me if I was brave and good, and asked my not to cry and be homesick, so I will try and smile oftener.  She said people loved to see smiles.  Mother dear Mother how I long to see you again, God forever bless my dear Parents and brothers.  I asked Susie if she didn't think my little brother George was beautiful, and had beautiful yellow curls, and she wouldn't answer at first, but after hesitating for a short time she said "Yes" - very slowly - "I think he looks well enough but his curls aren't very long.":  I don't like her for that, and besides she hasn't had any spirit playing, she just as lief be a beggar girl as anything else.  She is Motherless and her Father is a Doctor of Divinity and that makes me sorry.  She hasn't any beautiful brothers and she has to live with a married sister.  I'll try to like her some; but not the way I do little Sarah.  She is only nine and she has to wear black stockings.  I never saw a pair before; but I read once of a little girl whose Mother went Missionarying, and an ugly Aunt put all her lovely white ones into a pot and dyed them black.  Poor thing! she has to wear long dark woolen dresses, I mean Sarah, and her Mother is so queer.  Whenever she comes to visit here she prays so long after Supper, and her voice goes up and down awfully funny, I never heard such a voice, she almost screeches as if the Lord couldn't hear, it makes Carrie and me laugh behind our hands and nudge each other when we are on our knees."

October 31.
"I received a letter from my very dear Mother, it is very kind of my Mother to write me so regularly.  She says that next years I shall attend a Seminary for young ladies now being erected in Chicago.  I am now writing a story for which I have located in Newport, the name of it is "The Blonde and the Brunette" and I am describing my Mother for the Blonde, and my Aunt Helen for the Brunette, Oh how good God is to me to give me such Parents.

Next year if we all live and nothing happens what happiness I shall enjoy!  For dinner today we had salt fish, potatoes and butter, squash and cabbage and I hate both; home bread and course brown bread and for dessert we baked apple pudding.  It's better than dried apple pie, the crust is so think it gags me sometimes and I go out and almost vomit, but I am hungry so I eat it.  Miss Davis gave me "Snowflake Polka" for my last music lesson, but she says she won't give me such an easy piece again.

November 2.
"As I was descending the stairs yesterday morning Mary Waldron slipped into my hands a large round gum-drop.  It was mighty good of her, she had on a beautiful large plaid dress, it was blue and yellow and had yellow trimming, but she got out of Church by saying she had a terrible toothache.  She often has cramps in her legs and I jump out of bed and rub them, she makes me do it a long time before she stops groaning and I am tired of doing it.  She never calls anyone else and I have to kneel by the bed when I am rubbing and my feet get  cold as ice, and Carrie told me "She could have cramps in her legs all she wanted to for all of her," But I hate to hear her say - "Oh' how it hurts, do come Neanine, come quick, do rub them hard" - and so I do and that's the only reason.

November 9.
Miss Coffin said that if we spoke without raising our hands for permission, or whispered once she would have to put a mark against our names, and at a specified time show them to Mrs. Spaulding and there would be a penalty assigned for a certain number of marks as those were her orders.  But she said it was not her arrangement and she blushed when we looked up at her to the very temples, she has a dimple.  Miss Coffin is pretty and I think I shall; put her in my story.  I will have another girl not quite so pretty as my Aunt Helen.  I'd like to make Mrs. Spaulding an Ogre.  I haven't cried since I came the way I did when she took away the box of candy Mother sent me.  She said my Mother couldn't have known that it was against the rules, that she never let the girls have any candy in term time, and Oh! when she took that box and put in on a high shelf in the closet I almost screamed.  "It's your candy of course and you can have it when Christmas comes and you go to your Aunt in Boston."  I try not to see it when I go but the corner sticks out and Mother gave it to me.  I just hated Mrs. Spaulding and I'll make a face at her when her back's turned.  And I hope she won't go to Heaven!  So there!

November 15.
We are in subtraction of Vulgar Fractions now and in Latin we are almost to the life of Joseph.  Miss Mary says that next term Carrie and I may drop arithmetic for a while and take up History and draw maps.  I am at the head of the spelling class all the time.  Last week Carrie's and my clothes were starched.  Harriet told me Mrs. Spaulding did not allow her to starch the girl's clothes.  But I rather think she starched mine because I gave her two pears from the basket of fruit Mother sent me.  She wrote Aunt Nancy to buy it in Boston foe me, and perhaps Carrie's clothes were starched because she has such few pieces.

November 18.
Yesterday afternoon Carrie and I were real saucy to Miss Coffin.  I will relate the circumstances.  Miss Coffin called the first class in reading.  We all took our places.  Carrie was head and she gave her Reader to Miss Coffin and turned to look over with me.  I opened my book to find the place.  "No let me" said Carrie.  It was my book and I held on.  She insisted she would have it, and seeing I wouldn't let her but grabbed it tighter every minute, she spoke up loud to Miss Coffin.  "Can't I find the place, I won't read if I can't."  Miss Coffin said "You will if I tell you to."  "I shan't unless you make Neanie give me that book, I am head of the class today, - it's my day."  "Give it to her Neanie" I heard in a gentle voice.  "She has no right to my book, I was head yesterday and I'll be head tomorrow, Carrie had better mind her own business and let me alone."  Miss Coffin looked at us and never said another word.  I felt queer, but I found the place myself, and then handed it to Carrie, and she read without a word and as soon as we got through I ran and got the biggest bunch of grapes Mother sent me and gave them to Miss Coffin, and she smiled and her dimple looked so pretty and I tried to say something, "I - I wish I hadn't," and Miss Coffin took my hand and I felt something choke me, and winked very hard.  And Miss Coffin pressed my hand, "Never mind Neanie," she said, and told me she was very much obliged for the grapes.  And that evening before she went home after school she kissed me.  Just think! she never kissed any of the girls before, and I shouldn't have thought she would have don it today of all days when I had been so saucy.  I will never speak so again - Never - Never.

December 4.
This is my little brother George's birthday, and I expect Mahaly will make him a little cake with three candles and I know Mother will let him have a piece of candy.  Sometimes I long to see Mother so it seems as if I should fly.  Mother - Mother - How very much I do love you.  How pleasant it is to feel that Mother loves me dearly.  I know she does because she told me so in her last letter.

Wednesday Afternoon, December 19.
Mary Waldron is engaged to be married.  She whispered it to me and said his name was Eddie Crawford.  Oh, it is very silly - A girl of fourteen.  She says she is writing to him now and keeps saying, Sh-Sh-Sh-if I say a word about her horrid boy, for he must be horrid.  "If you ever breathe a word I'll never tell you one of my secrets again as long as I live."  I never asked her to tell me her secrets, and I do think it is low for her to be cutting up such capers.  I don't approve of them certainly.  Yesterday we had such a beautiful snowfall and everything is so white and shining now.  All the girls have some marks against their names for speaking improperly but Miss Coffin told me I had none.  Wasn't it wonderful.  Oh, the twenty-second will it never, never come?  I am going to Boston to be with Aunt Nancy for the holiday vacations and I am to visit Carrie in Dorchester.

December 20.
Father told me his first Ancestor was one of the founders of Newburyport - his name was Henry Lunt (1610-1662) and he came over awfully long ago and they are as thick as flies now, I mean the people named Lunt.  But in Chicago there is nobody named Lunt but Father.  It is so far from Newburyport I suppose, and Miss Mary said they were home loving people and didn't like to roam.  Yesterday Carrie was mad about something and said it was so stupid here she felt crazy to have to spend two more days.  My Uncle Horace is coming to take me to Boston and Carrie is going home at the same time.

Then I thought up a play to use up the time.  And Carrie asked Mrs. Spaulding if we could stay upstairs in her room and Mrs. Spaulding graciously said yes, because we were going away in two days I guess.  Littler Sarah sleeps with Carrie and we called Susie in and I gave them all strict injunctions.  Susie was to be lover and little Sarah a fair maiden, Carrie was to abduct her for me, and I was Brigand in a cave.  The name of the play was "The Cave of Despair" and I made it up right then, but I did not tell them.  I told them I was Captain of the Band and the maiden was my "Pray" (sic), and Carrie must drag her off up in the corner by the bed which we called the Cave and say "Death or Dishonour."  They wouldn't play nicely, Sarah wouldn't do it right.  "When I told her she mustn't choose Dishonour, she said she wouldn't say Death, because she didn't want o die, and Carrie got cross and said "What's the difference - Let her say what she wants for mercy's sakes," and I told her they always got rescued if they said the right thing, I had read it lots of times and it was going to be a noble play.  But it all got spoiled because Sarah began to cry.  I just hate whimpering, nobody wanted to do it right, Susie said she was tired and ran out, and she was a fearful disappointment to me.  Anyway she isn't coming back next term and I thought I was sorry, but we will have a new girl in her place."

The experiment for me of Boarding School for me was far from satisfactory; but after long periods of watching and waiting I had become relatively reconciled; nothing could wipe out wholly my confidence or sweep away the comfort of my innermost self, because the whole fabric of my life had been built on security, and no unknown or incalculable power could readily destroy it.  However gloomy or prison-like the house sometimes seemed I pursued my way, finally enduring the occasionally withering sarcasms, that often in disapproval measured me from top to toe with cold critical glances, in an ever growing indifference. 

The barometer rose as soon as I was out of sight of the One who held such tight reins, and Carrie Reid had become my chosen chum.  We laughed and talked much together, and allowed our fancies full flower in a game which we played often, walking up and down the big yard.  We would meet and part - exchange polite greetings as Mrs. Seymour and Mrs. Gordon, our chosen married titles.  We were each the proud Mother of seven children whose adventures were in turn glowingly recounted.  We were always devising startling incidents to attract, and arouse in our individual consciousness the poignant certainty of the supremacy and greater charms our own little ones could show.  I ranged afar in wondrous tales to prove transcendent gifts in mine, and to manifest in my progeny points of vantage unapproachable!  It was very exciting to work for their pre-eminence, and sometimes affecting such wonders produced emotions that made for sharp comments of disbelief, and sudden separations!  I was hardly fitted by nature, however sharp our differences, or quarrels over facts of possibility to cease strenuous efforts to prove my children superior, and finer than hers.  I must concede now that my  pictures of their strange performances showed surprising contradictions and they produced frequent contention.

Curiously enough in my regular letters home I never once wrote of what was hard and unpleasant, I some way did not think of complaining.  I had no experience of great grievance.  I was never personally abused, and outside the dreary round my spirits always rose responsive to fresh air and sunlight.  To many details my mind reacted rather than noted the comparative coldness, or the lack of warmth which had hitherto always surrounded me.  Brought up in that sheltered happiness where all things were tempered I had never suffered from uncertainties or fears, and I was immensely fitted to understand and meet small difficulties than those who had known struggles or friction in their home lief.  

So youthful good spirits asserted themselves, and the future seemed assured as forebodings fled and self-confidence refused to weaken.  And while that present did not please me it could not hold me.  I supposed or concluded it was always that way at schools, that there, one was inevitably reduced to a state of subjugation, and the habit of going unchecked after what one wanted could be allowed to compromise.

But my curtailed imagination ran riot in secret when the girls grew to demand stories and would ask so frequently - "now Neanie tell us again what we all wish would happen to Mrs. Spaulding?"  Since her taking away the one box of candy I had had, she embodied what caused rebellion to rage in my soul.  I was brilliantly successful to the delight of all my school-mates in depicting horrors, and creating scenes of terrible drama where the Head of the House could not escape the devised defeats and torments which expressed retaliation.  She was thus miraculously made to suffer; in one way or another my vivid interest in life continued, and laughter was mine at all times.

Carrie was always so bright and responsive and she had the immeasurable advantage of knowing how to smooth down the irateness of our ruler, who, very evidently had a marked preference for that brown-eyed little Bostonian.  As I said before, it was indisputable that the small specimen from Chicago held no such personal charms.  There was a sparkle about Carrie that was beautifully proved one night at Supper.

Over our Bible verses we had come to try to regularly outdo each other by their length or the importance of their selection.  Before each evening meal we sat silent after grace: In turn each child repeated the verse command for that day with which we were always to prepare ourselves.  We had been solemnly told when first initiated that no circumstances should ever arise that ought to find us lacking in suitable selections.

But Oh!, one fatal Sunday evening for me, our gloating eyes fell on piles of snow-white bakers bread of very different quality and consistency from that served daily.  I have never understood why it appeared on that single occasion unless there was strife in the kitchen, and a dearth of what was usually set before us; for, to my recollection, I never saw its like again.  It was Heavenly Manna to my imagination when beyond my reach.  Whatever that household contingency our eyes glistened as they fell on the tempting plate, and those white slices appealed as a blessing no less appreciated than the plum preserves, which were served once in a while as the greatest treat.

Every detail rises before me.  I can feel this minute the gusto with which I seated myself and whispered to my equally eager neighbour, "Mercy!, Look at the bread" - "Verses first," she retorted.  The usual solemn ceremony of repetition had reached us; but when I heard Carrie beside me say earnestly - "Lord, evermore give us this Bread" I was instantly fired not to be daunted, not to be outdone; impatience for the bread was lost for a second as spurred with sudden ambition my mind leaped to the only verse it could recall.  It was not so strictly relative as Carrie's; but it seemed sufficiently important. - Firmly and clearly it was enunciated - "I am the Bread of Life."  They had tittered at Carrie's.  They broke order and laughed aloud at mine.  "Neanie, leave the table.  Go to your room.  You will spend the evening alone."  There was no "present help" for me in that desperate "time of trouble."  Carrie had scored her great victory.  And I - Alas! I never tasted that Bread.   

Friday, November 17, 2017

THE FIRST LADY OF EVANSTON - Cornelia Gray Lunt - BOOK I, Chapter 10 - The Little Lunts

This is the next installment in the autobiography of Cornelia Gray Lunt of Evanston, Illinois: Sketches of Childhood and Girlhood, Chicago, 1847-1864.  For more about the life and times of Miss Lunt, please see the first installment:                                   

Chapter Ten
The Little Lunts

Nothing easily ruffled the surface of my good spirits, and I could never long keep quiet.  I was always doing things, and I early began to find people the most attractive things on earth.  I suppose I dwelt vaguely, when at all, upon the individuals about me, but I was disposed to enjoy everyone and everything.  I loved to hear the interminable discussions going on about personal matters, but there was never in me then or since any hostile curiosity.  Something kindlier was instinctively active, as I have since divined and realized exists in all the Lunts.  The disquieting allusions, and any sharp stories that scandalized, always seemed to confirm and fortify a sudden disbelief that made a contrary view from what I was hearing natural, and so not particularly creditable.  If I could not unravel I could not bear to be in the network of things that alarmed, and I shrank at once and became increasingly reluctant to listen.  I never seemed to understand animosity, and I think I've been willing to leave that field to others rather than to contend or even listen.

Somebody once said long ago that people who made no efforts to contest or to rule were usually superior to such efforts, as they were never necessary with those born to rule.  But it was neither mental nor moral striving that made me feel I hated to struggle or quarrel.  I wanted to rule, of course, I was a little dominant and always liked my own way, I believed in the nature of things I was right, but I discovered long after that I wanted to rule because of endowments and superior gifts, not as a result of battling or battles.

It makes no difference whether the days are bright or monotonous, whether the imagination is active or sluggish, whether enthusiasms are vivid or blunted - Nature touches and stirs, uplifts and blesses every blunted sensibility - and then come  action and thrills.

I began to feel delicious agitations listening to comments on my various relatives outside the Gray household.  I especially remember remarks of my Aunt Sarah Rhoades (Sarah Patten Bailey Gray Rhoades 1821-1893) lately arrived on the scene with her little son Sam (Samuel Gray Rhoades 1844-1912) a new playmate for my little brothers.  Aunt Sarah seemed to be comparing children and she said to Mother "Your Horace and George are so merry, so full of questions and observations that their activities never seem exhausted; they mind you too, Cornelia, but are always betaking themselves to occupations that absorb them heart and brain; never so very quiet, and confinement or restraint would be intolerable to such bounding spirits - but those boys of William Lunt's are painfully quiet; no mischief seemingly there, and I think they are too well behaved.  If it means thoughtfulness and sensibility it's begun to show itself far too early.  No doubt Susan Lunt takes the cake for obedient children  - politeness is all very well but it's plain they're afraid to say their soul's their own - Susan is a terrible disciplinarian.  I tell you those young ones have to toe the mark.  Why! I believe she'd work her fingers to the bone before she'd have a speck of dust anywhere in that house of hers.  The children are always so spic and span, and they mind at the wink of an eyelash!  Those little fellows are awfully good-looking.  Susan's severe - but she's a good Mother and a splendid housekeeper.  Everything is in tip-top order over there.     

I summoned up my resolution to learn all I could about my kindred.  They were numerous and seemed widely divided.  One happy hour alone with my grandfather I asked suddenly - "Isn't it funny about relatives, Grandfather?"  "How do you mean child - What's funny?  Don't you understand about your family?"  "There are so many of them and all with so many names - And what is a grand-uncle?  Grandmother says that Uncle Job Gray (1788-????) and Uncle John Fulton (1797-????) are my Grand Uncles, and there's such a lot of Fultons' and Pattens' and Grays' and Lunts', and I've got two Uncle Williams (William H. Lunt 1819-1904 and William Patten Gray 1827-1910) and two Aunt Sarahs'." (Sarah Patten Bailey Gray Rhoades 1821-1893 and Sarah Ann Lunt Comings 1821-1880) - "Well, now listen - You have no clear knowledge of kinship I see and I'll tell you a little" and he talked so engagingly that some way I seemed introduced to them all.

"You see Uncle William Lunt is your Grandfather Lunt's son - He's a very good man - very good, and so is your Father, and Uncle William Gray is my son and a pretty lively one.  And your Aunt Sarah who is visiting us while your Mother is here, you know she's my daughter, don't you, but that Aunt Sarah Comings is your Grandfather Lunt's daughter."  His conversation went round the circle including other Uncles and Aunts and gave me the bearings of the question.  

I even laughed at some of his descriptive adjectives and hits upon the foibles and looks of different individuals.  I recall now with similar amusement that one was "A modest gentle sort of man very humble and meek" - another - "Fiery and crazy and tried to make everyone mind him" - One was - "gracious and meant well, but you must mind your P's and Q's when with her." and another - "So solemn that you wanted to run a mile to get out of her sight," and he laughed heartily when he described someone as "Long and spare" and "She liked to smarten up and be conspicuous."

When Grandfather chose he was addicted to sharpness in description and his talk then was like clean pistol practise (sic).  He praised very few - He was keen-sighted, practical and critical and was inclined to be choleric whenever opposed.  His opinions were very definite, and his will was like well-tempered steel. Grandfather Gray had no weakness of purpose and in him there was little or no resignation, no self-abnegation or voluntary self-denial, yet generosity, consideration and kindly service were all bestowed freely and often.  He did not exemplify the religious virtues, nor associate himself with those who worshipped as did my Grandfather Lunt, who found all his comfort in the Word of God.  It is told of his forebears that in olden times some of them could not wait for prayers until they reached the Church, but if the spirit moved them they got down knelt by the road and offered petitions long and fervent.

There are records of one of our Ancestors who knocked up his family every morning with verses of Scripture, and whose piety was so tremendous that no one dared to interrupt him with a question when he held forth, usually at meals, so none of the family peeped during one of his homilies when he told them as Christians what to believe and how to behave!  If anyone asked a question he flamed into a tempest of wrath far from saintly, insisting that his ten or twelve "Olive Branches" were in the nature of all things Christian, and all Christians behaved of course according to his rules.

My own Grandfather Lunt was a Puritan in grain but one of the mildest of men.  He was too patient and too enduring, for no words of complaint ever escaped him, and nothing existed to show that he had sad privations, and sore trials to put up with.  His sons, my father and his brother William, founded their families on principles also; but while there was perfect purity, intrepidity and consecration manifest in both there was in them an elasticity of nature, as far as the kindlier emotions were concerned, for however firm in word or deed there was in neither any absence of humanity or sympathy.

It was entire faith, entire belief, with no disturbing element of doubt and every action and attitude was built upon their interpretation of the Holiest of Books - The Book of Life - the Christian's Bible.  The Divine Will was an inevitable Guide, and faith in the answer to prayer revealed to them the path they trod.  So confident were those brothers of the reality of the Overshadowing Providence, and of spiritual authority, that if they were bounded by narrow views and correct Orthodoxy they were still armoured in right thinking and a tender feeling.  They were consistent and forgiving.  They knew nothing about "A Tooth for a Tooth and an Eye for an Eye."  They could never hold a grudge.  They could forget, and ignore what  was unpleasant, and they could give - give - give everything but their free souls.  To conserve liberty of view and follow the lead of conscience was more than a right - it was a religious duty.

There is a rather startling intensity in one afternoon at my Uncle William Lunt's.  They had a pleasant little home on one of the ascending streets with vines that covered the porch and sides - the vines seem stamped upon my memory.  More than a name-plate on that door the home meant frugality, industry, and unyielding purpose - punctilious, precise, exact, even heart-beats were hidden under well-brushed clothes; and a mask of reserve sometimes worn by the elders sometimes reached and was copied by the children.

In that bygone time I saw comparatively little of those young cousins who had been held up to me by my Aunt Sarah as models of behaviour.  I insist here that I am not censuring anyone, but in the force of atmosphere there was something tangible like a weapon and it always hushed me.  There was something in addition to my Aunt Sarah's qualities that intensified her power to command.  It was a firmness that never failed, for inconstancy to her ideals was as impossible as forgetfulness of her duties.  The graces of virtue, and duty in bodily force and mental vigor united to life-long integrity and made, though never reciprocally demonstrative, a good wife and a good mother, producing for the world worthy sons and loving daughters.  But she was diametrically opposed to what was easy going, self indulgent indifference to rules, or to any training that was luxurious and in a sense not self supporting.  At an extremely early age her children were very strictly reared - some way they had no irregular pleasures and a tender conscience was developed beyond their years.   

I was quite reckless in comparison with those perfectly behaved cousins - I am quite sure I like things even at that age distasteful to young persons so rigidly reared; for festivals and ornaments, and the negation of all solemnity or of any austere spiritual methods, marked me out form the first.  I was never lonely and I was always allowed room to dance in imaginatively; so little was demanded with severity that I could create means of enjoyment, and became indifferent to any but the gayest sort of existence.  I was therefore ready for the raptures of life; its turmoils, its anxieties, its contests, its sorrows, its denials, its suffering of any sort never came into my childhood's thoughts fancies or experiences - and fears never hindered expression or dimmed manifest pleasures.

I love to conjure up the visions and traditions of my childhood, and let memory-fed imagination take its flights.  And now the mental panorama turns to the well regulated family of my Father's brother.  Their costumes, their customs, their manners differing from the cheeriness, the breeziness and the freedom of mine!  They were firm where I was yielding, staunch and definitive when I was shallow, light and buoyant.  They were shut in to constant activity where no one was allowed to dream the hours away.  Idleness was never permitted.  There was little open enthusiasm, and apparently few outside enjoyments, but the family Crest there meant what was truest and noblest in religious faith and works.

It seems to me that perhaps without knowing it both Aunt Susan Lunt and my own Mother exercised sort of a magnetic will over their husbands.  And, as far as I know, it has been so ever since with all the Lunts.  The women they love, the women to whom they give their name command not only devotion and service, but it seems as if something in the nature of men yielded readily to their will and purpose; and while both may be unquestionably strong the definite position of the wife and mother is in our family a thing as dominant as it is prevalent, and permanent.  I do not think there is any struggle in the matter for, while theirs is the ruling voice, harmony seems undisturbed; certainly there is no lack of affection, and those close ties of relationship were always honoured and sustained.  In my own home it was a high Heaven of love and trust.

My Uncle, William Lunt, was beautiful in countenance.  He had thick hair like his Father's very dark, parted at the side and combed back from an intelligent brow.  It was touched with gray and had a tendency to curl.  His olive skin made a contrast with very white teeth.  His deeply set eyes had an intense blueness, almost purple like a pansy and with a strange depth of sadness in them.  His beard was cut round and short, the whiskers grew close and high from throat to cheek.  he had a well-shaped figure a little above medium size, and although his shoulders stooped a little he carried himself easily and with distinction.  The expression of his face was sympathetic, the lips were rather thin but modelled to fineness, and his was a voice always low and restrained to gentleness.  Indeed in all our connection I have never heard a voice among Lunts or Grays, Sumners or Pattens, Evans or Cornells that fell unpleasantly to the ear.  They are usually low-pitched and agreeable and some are fortunately sonorous rich and musical.  I have always been proud of the well-bred quiet and agreeable voices I think characterizes the whole circle, but my Father's was exceptionally beautiful, more resonant, warmer, more musical and in tone and inflection challenged all others.

I can easily recall preparations for the special visit I have intended to those little Lunt cousins, because I was so disappointed in not being allowed to wear my new muslin frock with green sprigs and rose buds, of which I was inordinately proud, or to adorn myself as I ardently desired  with my Tenth birthday present, the gold locket with pictures of my Father and Mother inside - instead of such yielding to vanity I was robed in a fresh gingham of green and white,  - equally new but far less grand I thought - and I could not be quite satisfied that I was not more decoratively arrayed.

The impressions of the visit, except my dilating and telling stories to Etta and Sunie that seemed almost to frighten them, has largely vanished.  Etta however, had something startling to tell me.  She was excited in her mind and manner when she whispered that she had heard of the possibility of her going to Newburyport with Joe and me.  I myself knew no details of any such plan and had not taken any such project into consideration.  I remembered hearing my Aunts talk about the Ipswich School for Young Ladies they had attended, and that some Teacher there had a school for little girls in Newburyport - that was all I knew - but Etta declared with an air of mystery, "Anyway I heard my Mother say to your Mother, that it would be nice to have all us three together there, and that she'd like to send me with you and Joe and would try to bring it about."

Little Sunie listened eagerly to our discussions, never showed any aversion to being left out, or any envy when we became excited anticipating new adventures, or when I launched forth into descriptions of what I possessed, what I wanted, what I intended to do, or where I expected to go.  It was all a fairy tale to the modest demure darling little girl.  Sunie was pretty, like her Father in looks even then, the same dark blue eyes easily saddened, the same well-moulded features, the same abundance of dark hair growing low on a lovely brow.  I verily believe that child could not remember the time she did not love and exemplify in her own little person what she called religion.  She seemed even then to be dedicated to that Shrine, - and to serve forever as an Acolyte at that High Altar.  It was her "Vocation" to live for others, to serve her family in utter unselfishness which to the end kept her "Unspotted from the World."  In the ideas and fancies, and the faces of little children, there is something it would require the thought of a lifetime to even partially analyze or comprehend.

The little boys, Will and Robert, were also individual and about the same age as our Horace and George.  They never seemed troublesome, and the active element in them never broke into and abnormal manifestations in company.  Something had restrained all the usual turns of mischief, of boisterous expressions or of wild desires for fun.  They had learned to be still, and were never roused to noisy action when I was present.  Perhaps they were in that condition of character or development when everything is transacted inside.  The many undefined inexplicable impulses, the ways children have, which occasion their singular actions - how can those not in their confidence pretend to any measure of familiarity with, or do them perhaps any measure of justice?

Little Will, the older one, seemed to be always in a thinking mood.  He was decidedly blonde in type, bright-haired, blue-eyed and quiet like all the others.  He had a paid of eyes that were always looking wistfully out of doors and windows as if he longed even then for flight, and visioned new fields and woods and wide Prairie spaces far away from the home-nest.  What he saw no one knew.  He was a silent child and could scarcely be aware of any possibilities of change or of any different existence, but he liked to stand at the windows looking out and whenever I was there his eager little face was usually the first I saw.  Possibly windows on the street were congenial to meditations in which the small boy indulged.  He seemed to have some faculty for enduring cold or heat, or anything for the price of solitude.  I did not know those little Lunts very well, and some boys are given to subjects of serious thought very early, much earlier than older people are willing to believe.  I knew that, because my own little brothers always alone or together had occupations or interests, or some unfathomed pursuits that filled their hours and were quite beyond my comprehension.  I suppose they all had their full share of castle building, but I believe in that sex the constructive faculty gives them scope to supply satisfaction in whatever they are doing at the time, and to deepened their interest and efforts in various subjects that me be quite abstruse in themselves.

Little Robert was fascinating - the eyes he fixed on you were so surprisingly lovely that they foretold possibilities unusual and prophesied a personality rarely attractive.  His broad smooth forehead over the irresistible twinkle in those dark eyes gave to his smile a peculiar brightness.  One loved him at sight.  The entire quality of little children lies in the fact that they have personality.  They are such docile targets for all remarks, and sweet endearments lavished on certain little ones have seemingly no effect.  The appear sometimes to resent approach.  They seem to have a grip on things - on the real thing, unfledged as they are - and they like you or not for reasons often palpable but that they alone immediately recognize or understand.

As I wash it all with the vivifying waters of recollection, events or incidents  have largely vanished, except that we played happily together; but were not allowed a single step outside the yard.  And that particular day I discovered that Etta could jump twenty times nearly, up and down, steady, and without a single stop for breath; so deftly could she whirl the jumping-rope with its little wooden handles held so firmly that one could scarcely follow its swift curves, and her own perfect rhythmic motion - and Sunie, her eyes shining like stars, said that she "could jump with her and not stop for a long time."  So the two showed me what I had never seen before, jumping in unison without a single break.  The two in complete harmony of motion while only one held and swung the rope!  It was a pretty sight.  I was dared to the trial for which I was eager, believing in my own strength and skill, but after the first spring I tripped and fell ignominiously.  Down I went, bruising hands and knees, and tearing a great hole in my clean little gingham frock, as well as soiling skirts and underclothes disgracefully.  The whirling rope stopped.  It had been far too much of a test.  The stillness was appalling as I got up red and tearful, and the eyes of both stared at me frightened, while I gulped down a sob or two.  Etta broke the silence, "We'll have to go in and you'll have to show it."

Aunt Susan looked unutterably disturbed as we trooped into her presence, a discomforted trio.  "Oh no matter," I whispered, "I've got lots of dresses and I'm glad I didn't wear my best muslin."  I was given a disapproving look and heard in cold tones, "Your Mother will be displeased.  You must have been careless.  How did it happen?" looking at her own little daughters -0 but I didn't wait, I took it out of their trembling little mouths and gave the account graphically, at least putting the blame where it belonged.  "I wanted to do it as well as Etta and Sunie - and I just couldn't.  I plumped right down in the dust!  But I'll learn - I'm going to do it too, I'm going to keep on trying - it must be great fun."  Aunt Susan actually smiled and I heard the children laugh.  "You see Mother, she can't jump very well and she thought she could - She said it was so easy" and quite a little silvery burst of merriment followed.  "You needn't try it again here, once is enough." Aunt Susan remarked emphatically, while she brushed me very carefully, and proceeded with thread and needle to mend that tear so neatly that I thought to myself that no one would ever see it, and I needn't even show it to Mother.  What was the use of troubling her? But still holding me against her knee as she sewed, I heard in rather stern accents - "Be sure and say to your Mother that I have done the best I could, I am very sorry my little girls could play so roughly.  Now all of you sit down, call your little brothers and play a game, or make a circle on the floor and take the Jack-straws.  Etta can teach you, Neanie how to pick them up - jumping the rope isn't all she can do," and at my direct enquiring gaze - "She can sew nicely, and sweep and dust and help keep the house clean; she can set the table, and is going to learn to cook, and she can dress and undress her little brothers, and keeps her drawers in perfect order."

I was overcome at such a list of accomplishments, not one of them mine, and hopped Sunie was defective somewhere, but seeing her eager look of expectancy the Mother smiled on her and added  - "Sunie is going to be a fine housekeeper, she can knit and sew already and keeps her things clean, and she helps me a lot, - but Sunie hasn't much Purington in her - she looks like her Father."  "But he's very good looking, isn't he?  I timidly interrupted, which brought an answer I long remembered with joy.  "Oh yes, and so is your Father" - "And do I look like my Father? - do you think I'm good-looking?" and my voice fairly trembled.  "Why a little girl can't expect to look like a big, grown-up very handsome man - but when you're grown up I think you will look very much like your Father," which filled my cup to overflowing.  I had been struggling between the recollections of Grandfather Gray's "comforting answer" and my Grandmother's startling words - "This is the little girl who looks like you, Aria."  Mine probably was always a nature active in the generating of hope, and now I could have hugged Aunt Susan - "I was going to look like Father, and Father was handsome."  I dared not make any demonstration, as I felt instinctively Aunt Susan would put her finger on my swelling vanity, for she never had time for weaknesses of that order, nor would she be patient with them in young or old.  "Now go to your games and Etta will show you how to play" - And so I was there initiated into a very quiet one that nevertheless called for skill, steadiness of hand, and quickness of eye.

My Uncle William, as I later learned, was then considering a removal of all his interests, and taking his family to, what was then called, the far West.  However executive and faithful in a business sense he could not flourish financially in that small town.  He proposed now to migrate as had his brother Orrington more than a decade before.  He was told of the larger field out there, and that application and faithfulness which marked his course would certainly bring success.  He was held to that view and urged to action by his clear-sighted wife, even as in the case of my own Mother, who was always held responsible for Father's move, so soon after their marriage.  I have heard from various sources that my Mother felt their future welfare demanded travelling even to the distant Prairies, and their settling in the young and energetic little City of Chicago.  The outlook while good in Maine, was entirely too restricted,  Her ambitions had been stirred by what she had heard of opportunities in that part of our country.  And she roused and fed my Father's resolution, upheld him in every effort and never faltered, even in that first hard Winter of 1842 and the Spring of my birth next year March 19, 1843, with its strain of prolonged illness which so nearly cost her life.  Nothing crushed or daunted her and faith and courage kept them on the field.

Perhaps that is why my nature from the first was active in the generating of hope.  We were all in a sense so incredibly young.  I am awe-struck with gratitude as I realize what their leaving that narrow New England life meant for all the Little Lunts.