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. 


Friday, November 10, 2017

THE FIRST LADY OF EVANSTON - Cornelia Gray Lunt - BOOK I, Chapter 9 - The Discovered Likeness

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 Nine
The Discovered Likeness

Bowdoinham, Maine
Summer of 1853

The visit to Maine was nearing its close.  Grandfather gave me funny answers to my questions, for I met with frequent stumbling blocks, and many books I read that Summer did not by any means belong to the mysterious something called Literature.  But I devoured them all alike. - "Night Thoughts" shared with "Munchausen," "Addison" with "Gulliver;" "Pride and Prejudice" with "Grimm's Fairy Tales" all alike awakening vivid interest.  I was eclectic for a girl of ten, and splendid religious imagery invariably captivated fancy and had given me a grand conception of God, Heaven and Hell, which for years saved me from no end of trouble and vexation.

I had in those days a great advantage over Moses, for I knew exactly every time what that glorified Titanic Being, familiarly described and dilated upon in pulpits and Sunday-School, felt about me and everything else, since He so evidently, as the Preachers taught, let down strings for the faithful to pull!  And I was one of the puppets that found it all enthralling to belong to the Elect, and Hell and Heaven and incredible wickedness that I could not understand gave me great suspense and delight.

It was always the story, the romance, the novelty and excitement that gripped me, and made me weep and flow out in sympathy, and grow ever more tolerant and self-sufficient.  Book-hungry as I was I continued anxious to get certain baffling queries answered for I could never explain unhappy endings; To be joyous I considered essential and part of the Divine Plot.  Solemnity was not for me, nor denials or restraints, since all the major external influences made for freedom of thought and action and an ever growing mighty self-confidence.

It was in that spirit exuberant and gay that the blow fell one terrible afternoon.  Could I dream of the illustration reserved for me that day, crashing upon sensitiveness, and with one avenging blow destroying all hopes of personal attractiveness by the revelation in a bitter driving blow that left only conviction of personal defects.

On the sixth of August, the month just opening, there was to be a gathering of the Clan, relatives from Little Compton, Rhode Island, from Seaconnet-by-the-Sea, and the near towns of Brunswick and Bath.  My heart was full of eager anticipation, as my Grandparents on the eve of our departure for Chicago, were planning to hold high holiday with a hospitable feast for Aunts and Cousins to celebrate my Mother's Birthday.

That afternoon I had been sent on some errand, and returning elate I swung into the lower entrance, ran up the steps and was hurrying through the large living-room regardless of a visitor casually noticed, when I heard the voice that called me, and beheld my Grandmother sitting by one of the windows busily engaged talking to a lady facing her whom, I could not distinguish.  She turned her face as I drew near and heard the words - "This, Aria, is the little girl we think looks so much like you." - Oh! the wild horror of that moment, for I saw a face to my inflamed imagination, fairly hideous.  It would be a gross caricature of a good and clever woman to give any shadow of how she looked to me at that moment; I did not see the kindly expression, only the course gray skin; the big features, brow retreating, teeth projecting, and eyes with a cast that made them queerly repellent.  The straight hair was drawn back from a countenance which seemed of grotesque ugliness.  I could see nothing else and I snatched, with a choked cry, my hand from hers, and rushed wildly from the rooms, up and up into the garret's furthest corner!

It was a brand that set me aside from my family.  Of course I knew that Grandmother had long ago decided I was not good-looking, but she always added, "No matter how I looked, I was only half as entertaining as Aria," and I had always managed to cheer up ever since Grandfather said, "I was nice and had a twinkle in my eye."  Even after hearing again and again "That handsome is as handsome does," I plodded on easily consoled.  But that awful moment shattered all confidence or comfort.

I had never learned by inevitable limitations the finiteness of human capacity, or by bitter experience the fixity of laws relentless.  The temptation of a turbulent rebellious emotional nature had never before been aroused.  Now in manifest power and refusal revolt shook me to the foundations of fear and despair.

"I want to die - I want to die - I am so homely - I am so homely - I look like Aria Sumner!"  And until utterly exhausted over and over I cried that refrain, a sobbing heap of misery.

I did not answer to repeated calls, growingly and more anxiously insistent, until my Mother's repeated use of my name finally evoked a muffled response, as she mounted the garret steps.  The violence of my crying startled her - "Hush Neanie - Hush - Tell Mother what it is? - Now, at once," as I continued to gasp and shake.  "I look like Aria Sumner, - I am so homely, - I want to die - I want to die," between choking sobs, and it was  moment before I could listen to the quiet soothing voice.  "But that is wicked, God made your face."  "I don't care, - I don't care, - He wasn't good to me - He made me homely like Aria Sumner, and she has pig's eyes - I want to die, - Oh, I want to die!"

"Are her eyes like your Father's and yours? - Is her hair curly like Father's and yours? - Stop this minute and think - Did you never hear of people looking like each other and yet looking different?  To Mother your face is dear and when you smile everyone likes it."

Oh that drop of oil on the bleeding wound!  My swollen face was washed tenderly after the descent to Mother's room and she continued while bathing my half closed eyes, "Grandmother did not mean she thought you very homely, only you don't look like her family.  And one does not have to be handsome to be loved - Aria has lots of friends."

"Oh Mother don't let me see her again - I can't bear it - I can't bear it, - I can't," and I clung hysterically, but was soon startled into relative composure.  "She is your Father's cousin, and he will be hurt and ashamed you can show such feelings.  Now you must dry your tears and I will never let anyone know how you have behaved.  God has been very good to you and to us all.  I think my little girl can love and be loved a lot if she tries, and nobody will mind her looks; pretty people are not always nice, we won't talk any more about it.  Come with me to pick currants and berries for Grandmother's pies and puddings and jellies.  Don't you want to look into the big brick oven?  It's a fine sight.  Full of bread loaves, and cakes, and baked puddings, and we'll open it and have a peep."

Thus gently talking, quiet ensued and until maturity came, and the pictures of that episode grew absurd and laughter provoking to recount, it was never mentioned again; and never did my Grandmother the hurt frequent allusions to my looks cost, in comparisons (she illustrated) by incidents or distinct references to her own daughters, the so-called "Beautiful Gray Sisters."  Even my own lovely Mother did not dream how that wound opened and I ached afresh with convictions of the hopelessness of form and feature that distinguished our family.

That one agonizing emotion stands out in an intensity, fore the details of that unimaginable hour haunted me for years.  The keen impressions of the faces, my Grandmother's placid smile, and my sickening recoil from what represented at that moment an indescribable ugliness.

Remembrances from the interminable years of childhood are out of all proportion to their importance.  Agitated, excited, the horror of that moment was an actuality that for years made me shrink at its poignant recollection.  There was tumult and recoil in my hurt soul and a deepened consciousness of the defaced realities of the flesh.  It remained a tragic situation until I grew scornful of myself, could see the humour of the scene, and could laugh and declare that the grief was forgotten.

Foundations may be so deeply set that until some violent shock stirs us, and we are suddenly hurled into a whirl of feeling strong as the strong storms that sweep the sea, we never realize the power that lies within.

But I have progressed in ways small and great since then, and utilized in measure as the years mounted whatever inspiration or recognized instruction appealed to a nature like mine.  I have not known degeneration of energy, or lack of activity in attempts to accomplish things desired, or to induce growth by doing certain things for others well and quickly.


Friday, November 3, 2017

THE FIRST LADY OF EVANSTON - Cornelia Gray Lunt - BOOK I, Chapter 8 - The Two Grandfathers

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 Eight
The Two Grandfathers

Bowdoinham, Maine
Summer of 1853

That first decade of my life there always seemed a light shining within.  As I look back, I see a somewhat solitary child, but never bored, fretful, harried or dissatisfied; I never had to ignore, evade or capitulate.  Parents and environment had no cramping influence; No methods in my rearing fantastic or severe were ever used.  I was conscious in  myself of no resistance - active or passive to existing conditions.  I could act on the assumption of freedom to a large extent; obedience when required was easily yielded, and the adult world was to me always kindly and interesting.  So I never broke with the older generation, and age-old problems were never thrust upon me.  I did not know that I had to be safe-guarded, and naturally I did not recognize the value of my happy surroundings, or the fortunate influences exerted by association, parental devotion and the process of education.

Mutual affection in my life has always been sufficient even in seasons of domestic stress to meet all emergencies.  There were never with my beloved Father and Mother any natural incompatibilities which enforced unwilling submission from their children.  What an immense help to love each other!  How easy to avoid the contradictions that affect our lives if inter-actions adjust themselves amicably to situations as they arise.  And no situation had arisen that left me unprotected or conscious of any flame of opposition within.  I was in the safe shelter of a happy home.

There were always intoxicating possibilities in the dream-world; but the real world held dignity and nobility and serenity in the poise and sweetness of its days .  We are, I suppose, all beholden to our thousands of ancestors for disposition, temperament, moral or mental attitudes; and mine were self-respecting individuals, and passed on some dominant racial ideas of primary importance in our social world.  All this is beyond the scope of definition but is absorbed by human contact.

My two grandfathers in the Maine village, in those days prosperous, and with no threat of its present stagnation and social dearth or death, lived not far apart, in homes of attractive outward aspect, but far different in appointment, comfort and peace.

Grandfather Gray erect, impressive, with finer features, keen eyes and firm mouth, had, in those days, the great advantage of College education - having been duly graduated from Brown University.  He speedily attained to unquestioned importance and relative wealth - coming from Rhode Island, to marry and settle in that small ship-building centre, he became a member of the state legislature, a lawyer of high standing, the Justice of the Peace, and the Squire of the Village.  He had large interests in ships, and was widely known, respected, admired and in a sense feared.  His manner demanded a deference quickly yielded.  He brooked neither criticisms nor advice in matters of business, and more than he would endure the least interference in domestic rule.  He directed and domineered, but was generous and kind at bottom.  Very proud of his family and ancestry, he taught "Noblesse oblige" to his children, and watched over them with unfailing care as he did of material possessions.

Across the bridge, under which the river or stream below his house rose and fell with the tides, and up the opposite hill, one turned into a pretty street all lined with pleasant homes.  And Grandfather Lunt's, (William Webb Lunt, 1788-1864) a square white green-blinded one, was set well back among the trees, with apple orchards beside and behind it that were a never failing source of delight.  The central hall and good sized rooms were always bare and forbidding.  It was not only the contrasts that struck somewhat heavy on my spirits, but the atmosphere of fault-finding and unchecked temper that characterized the household, seldom as it was openly expressed in my presence.  

Grandfather Lunt was the principal merchant of the little village, a man of perfect probity and profound piety.    

In church and business he stood as an example beyond reproach, he was true to the best as he saw it: In a sense he must have once been a strong man, but he had a wasted look; His cheeks were thin and hollowed, the yellow skin tight drawn.  His snow white hair thick and wavy was brushed back from a beautiful brow, and it looked like a thick frame each side of the sad face; sad somehow as if light had been washed out.  His was a good figure still, but he stooped somewhat, and his melancholy eyes were set deep back under overhanging brows.  He was a dignified, quiet old man, but warmth had died out of him.

My father's step-mother (Priscilla Purrington Lunt, 1795-1863) had in the children's early life made misery for them all - Orrington and William (William H. Lunt, 1814-1816) and Sarah (Sarah Ann Lunt, 1821-1880) and Dolly, (Dolly Sumner Lunt, 1817-1891) and the little Sumner whose birth had cost his Mother's life (Davis Sumner Lunt, 1825-1835).

My own grandmother Lunt (Ann Matilda Sumner Lunt, 1795-1825) was described to me by Grandmother Gray as a "Great Lady" since she brought to that small community a style and dress hitherto by the natives unseen: Such high-heeled slippers, and tall combs, and laces and fans: How did mild Grandfather Lunt ever persuade that daughter of the Sumner's and Vose's, of such marked breeding and refinement, to turn her back upon Boston and Milton and bury herself in that inland village?  True, he was good to look upon, and there must have been sparkle in those deep blue eyes, for when he smiled even now, and ever so faintly, something stirred in the heart - But, Alas! and alas! however tender and devoted, he must have lacked firmness and discernment, or after that early death of his lovely wife, how could he have come so speedily under the dominance of the managing, sharp-tongued housekeeper, who had acted as Nurse when the little Sumner was born?  The report was current that in his short unhappy life the child was harried by unkindness that developed into cruelty.  The towns-people averred that he suffered from lack of love, and severity of discipline, until driven into brain-fever to join his Mother who had given her life so vainly.

This awful tale recounted to me with gruesome additions filled my young soul  with horror, and an approach to hatred of the old lady who greeted my rare appearance with gentle words and smiles.  All sense of kinship had been killed in me, and revolt in its place made me shrink unjustly from the whole household.  The neighbor's gossipy tales, which would not seem to die out, were responsible for my attitude of aversion and distaste. My visits were enforced ones and always as brief as I dared make them.  I was under order from my beloved and forgiving Father, who was their support and dependence for many years and acted to the end as a devoted and supporting son of the house.

All the years that have passed have not dimmed my memory of the one time my Father's Father seemed familiar and came close to me.  I had been in the orchard where the fresh blown afternoon winds, that shook the trees and made the earth so dear, had almost obsessed me with something complete in joy.  My Grandfather saw and called to me as he entered the gate, and reluctantly I rose and followed him into the house and unused parlour, where he shut the door and stood silent for a second looking at me; - wide-eyed I watched every movement as I listened afterward to every word.

Behind that outward semblance lurked a shadow that could not be explored - grudges and wrongs and bitter tales had made me lose all comprehension and affection: Resting on a rock of inarticulate resentment had broken all bonds of sympathy, and there was a bolt, an impassible barrier between us.

He must have known nothing that could have forbidden personal relations between us.  He looked up on me kindly.  He seemed not excited, very calm and patient in manner, but when he began to speak it was as if he were looking and listening to something far away.     

His mind seemed full of my Father, "My son Orrington my dear son" - he repeated with an anxious inflection.  He lacked the qualities which would have made him firm in conflict, when his sovereignty at home was usurped almost to the point of tragedy, and that lost him the whip-hand in his family.  He must have called up pictures and people that set a drama going in his brain, for it was of the conditions and adventures of Orrington's childhood that he spoke: And for the first time I realized that my Father had been his little boy.

Mine had been a pitiless judgment upon his wife's pitilessness, and now I felt a love had lived in my Grandfather's heart that I could not understand.  But I was not handicapped with the mental blindness of the unimaginative, and he made me feel and see in that past, and in him, something that curiously aroused a feeling of impetuous feeling of allegiance, almost a friendship for ever after for my little understood Grandfather.

He talked on and on of the children of Orrington and William, and Sarah and Dolly, and of the Mother who died when my Father was eleven; and I looked up admiringly at his crinkly white whiskers; and the wavy snow white hair that framed so beautifully his tired face.  His eyes for the first time had lovely light and they glittered like blue steel, not like those of an old man.  There had come a sudden sparkle, and the overhanging brows had lifted, to show me an unexpected reserve and a secret of intense devotion.  His voice always low, changed to subtle sympathy and he continued to recount little incidents of the childrens lives.  Living over the past he became impressive almost to tenderness.  For a second he put his arm about me, but habitual repression was too strong and we heard a voice, and a call which was a menace to him, a devastating demoralizing factor that held all loving expression in leash.

Just then he saw the small volume of Byron that I had found behind a shelf of books upstairs - strange indeed to have found this book in his ill-assorted library, but it had been eagerly grasped because anecdotes, and adventures and emotions were a stock in trade to delight in or advertise with.  My efforts that day had not resulted in understanding exactly what the author was talking about, but beautiful descriptions enchanted me, and allusions stimulated curiosity.  "This is no book for you" I heard in stern accents - I had always chosen for myself and under that alien roof received the first criticism.

Little assistance in training or choice of reading had not harmed me because the treasure-trove of raw material for childish fingers to dig in was not of a nature to prove injurious.  Grandfather Gray had opened to me that summer "Paradise Lost," and "Pepy's Diary" and "Plutarch's Lives" and read some aloud to me from Essays and Histories; and there were those enchanting novels he had given me, which made for enrichment and enhanced imagination.

Now surprise at an unexpected reproof kept me silent, as Grandfather Lunt put on his spectacles, took up the big Bible from the round centre-table with a plainly fixed idea that I needed Scriptural teaching.  So, that one interview that I can remember, ended with his reading first from the Epistles, and then The Psalms to which I listened with pleasure.  I had heard them every day of my life at morning prayers, and loved my Father's beautiful; voice as we all knelt at the family altar.  There was something sweet and sonorous in Grandfather's tones, and it was all very familiar like fables of poems.  I had little real idea what the oracular words so solemnly brought forth meant, and in the last Psalm he chose, that oft repeated "Selah," long drawn out, began to give me a strange sensation of awe.  I was glad to get relieved finally, and with a brief farewell, for the resources of the entertainment had become insufficient, I ran gaily down the hill towards the homestead longing for Grandfather Gray's explanation.

That ever recurring "Selah, Selah" sang to me and lacked intelligibility; and I wanted also to ask about the "Ark of the Covenant," references to which in something very pious, read lately, had distinctly needed interpretation.  My own reading, hitherto neither directed nor supervised, did not certainly by any means fulfil its mission in proving steps to learning.

In that far-off, but not forgotten time before the age of important school or wise schooling, which I now gravely doubt I ever had, the pictures of the text were always brightly coloured, and active fancies made their ineffaceable impression.  It seems incredible to me now in extreme age that I can draw upon memory, and utilize so many points in experience, droll or otherwise, to hang ethical teachings on today; morals or lessons that never appealed to me then, any more than they do today to grand-nieces or adopted children!

I was sometimes serious, but I think at the very beginning my mind was bent in the way it has grown; not for any fine or valuable work in life, but for much enjoyment, and an overflowing fund of sympathy; a capacity to see the other side, and to put myself in another's place.  Yes, and for good that at times has come to me - good beyond calculation, in swift response to the challenge of nature.  Mine was apparently not the soil from which springs great enterprises or noble successful ventures, or wonderful sacrificial labours.

It was far-reaching philanthropies, splendid self-effacement, devotion to the highest standards, love of Church and State, that made my Father's life so worthy and wonderful.  To him it was always Causes that appealed - To me it was, and ever has been the individual.