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A Grandmother's Recollections by Ella Rodman

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A GRANDMOTHER'S RECOLLECTIONS.

BY ELLA RODMAN.

1851.

A GRANDMOTHER'S RECOLLECTIONS.

CHAPTER I.

The best bed-chamber, with its hangings of crimson moreen, was opened
and aired--a performance which always caused my eight little brothers
and sisters to place themselves in convenient positions for being
stumbled over, to the great annoyance of industrious damsels, who, armed
with broom and duster, endeavored to render their reign as arbitrary as
it was short. For some time past, the nursery-maids had invariably
silenced refractory children with "Fie, Miss Matilda! Your grandmother
will make you behave yourself--_she_ won't allow such doings, I'll be
bound!" or "Aren't you ashamed of yourself, Master Clarence? What will
your grandmother say to that!" The nursery was in a state of uproar on
the day of my venerable relative's arrival; for the children almost
expected to see, in their grandmother, an ogress, both in features and
disposition.

My mother was the eldest of two children, and my grandmother, from the
period of my infancy, had resided in England with her youngest daughter;
and we were now all employed in wondering what sort of a person our
relative might be. Mamma informed us that the old lady was extremely
dignified, and exacted respect and attention from all around; she also
hinted, at the same time, that it would be well for me to lay aside a
little of my self-sufficiency, and accommodate myself to the humors of
my grandmother. This to me!--to _me_, whose temper was so inflammable
that the least inadvertent touch was sufficient to set it in a blaze--it
was too much! So, like a well-disposed young lady, I very properly
resolved that _mine_ should not be the arm to support the venerable Mrs.
Arlington in her daily walks; that should the children playfully
ornament the cushion of her easy-chair with pins, _I_ would not turn
informant; and should a conspiracy be on foot to burn the old lady's
best wig, I entertained serious thoughts of helping along myself.

In the meantime, like all selfish persons, I considered what demeanor I
should assume, in order to impress my grandmother with a conviction of
my own consequence. Of course, dignified and unbending I _would_ be; but
what if she chose to consider me a child, and treat me accordingly? The
idea was agonizing to my feelings; but then I proudly surveyed my five
feet two inches of height, and wondered how I could have thought of such
a thing! Still I had sense enough to know that such a supposition would
never have entered my head, had there not been sufficient grounds for
it; and, with no small trepidation, I prepared for my first appearance.

It went off as first appearances generally do. I _was_ to have been
seated in an attitude of great elegance, with my eyes fixed on the pages
of some wonderfully wise book, but my thoughts anywhere but in company
with my eyes; while, to give more dignity to a girlish figure, my hair
was to be turned up on the very top of my head with a huge shell comb,
borrowed for the occasion from mamma's drawer. Upon my grandmother's
entrance, I intended to rise and make her a very stiff courtesy, and
then deliver a series of womanish remarks. This, I say, _was_ to have
been my first appearance--but alas! fate ordered otherwise. I was caught
by my dignified relative indulging in a game of romps upon the balcony
with two or three little sisters in pinafores and pantalettes--myself as
much a child as any of them. My grandmother came rather suddenly upon me
as, with my long hair floating in wild confusion, I stooped to pick up
my comb; and while in this ungraceful position, one of the little
urchins playfully climbed upon my back, while the others held me down.
My three little sisters had never appeared to such disadvantage in my
eyes, as they did at the present moment; in vain I tried to shake them
off--they only clung the closer, from fright, on being told of their
grandmother's arrival.

At length, with crimsoned cheeks, and the hot tears starting to my eyes,
I rose and received, rather than returned the offered embrace, and found
myself in the capacious arms of one whom I should have taken for an old
dowager duchess. On glancing at my grandmother's portly figure and
consequential air, I experienced the uncomfortable sensation of utter
insignificance--I encountered the gaze of those full, piercing eyes, and
felt that I was conquered. Still I resolved to make some struggles for
my dignity yet, and not submit until defeat was no longer doubtful.
People in talking of "unrequited affection," speak of "the knell of
departed hopes," but no knell could sound more dreadful to the
ears of a girl in her teens--trembling for her scarcely-fledged
young-lady-hood--than did the voice of my grandmother, (and it was by no
means low), as she remarked:

"So this is Ella. Why, how the child has altered! I remember her only as
a little, screaming baby, that was forever holding its breath with
passion till it became black in the face. Many a thumping have I given
you, child, to make you come to, and sometimes I doubted if your face
ever would be straight again. Even now it can hardly be said to belong
to the meek and amiable order."

Here my grandmother drew forth her gold spectacles from a
richly-ornamented case, and deliberately scanned my indignant features,
while she observed: "Not much of the Bredforth style--quite an
Arlington." I drew myself up with all the offended dignity of sixteen,
but it was of no use; my grandmother turned me round, in much the same
manner that the giant might have been supposed to handle Tom Thumb, and
surveyed me from top to toe.

I was unable to discover the effect of her investigation, but I
immediately became convinced that my grandmother's opinion was one of
the greatest importance. She possessed that indescribable kind of manner
which places you under the conviction that you are continually doing,
saying, or thinking something wrong; and which makes you humbly obliged
to such a person for coinciding in any of your opinions. Instead of the
dignified part I had expected to play, I looked very like a naughty
child that has just been taken out of its corner. The impression left
upon my mind by my grandmother's appearance will never be effaced; her
whole _tout ensemble_ was peculiarly striking, with full dark eyes,
high Roman nose, mouth of great beauty and firmness of expression, and
teeth whose splendor I have never seen equalled--although she was then
past her fiftieth year. Add to this a tall, well-proportioned figure,
and a certain air of authority, and my grandmother stands before you.

As time somewhat diminished our awe, we gained the _entree_ of my
grandmother's apartment, and even ventured to express our curiosity
respecting the contents of various trunks, parcels, and curious-looking
boxes. To children, there is no greater pleasure than being permitted to
look over and arrange the articles contained in certain carefully-locked
up drawers, unopened boxes, and old-fashioned chests; stray jewels from
broken rings--two or three beads of a necklace--a sleeve or breadth of
somebody's wedding dress--locks of hair--gifts of schoolgirl
friendships--and all those little mementoes of the past, that lie
neglected and forgotten till a search after some mislaid article brings
them again to our view, and excites a burst of feeling that causes us to
look sadly back upon the long vista of departed years, with their
withered hopes, never-realized expectations, and fresh, joyous tone,
seared by disappointment and worldly wisdom. The reward of patient toil
and deep-laid schemes yields not half the pleasure that did the little
Indian cabinet, (which always stood so provokingly locked, and just
within reach), when during a period of convalescence, we were permitted
to examine its recesses--when floods of sunlight danced upon the wall of
the darkened room towards the close of day, and every one seemed _so_
kind!

My grandmother indulged our curiosity to the utmost; now a pair of
diamond ear-pendants would appear among the soft folds of perfumed
cotton, and flash and glow with all the brilliancy of former days--now a
rich brocaded petticoat called up phantoms of the past, when ladies wore
high-heeled shoes, and waists of no size at all--and gentlemen felt
magnificently attired in powdered curls and cues, and as many ruffles as
would fill a modern dressing gown. There were also fairy slippers,
curiously embroidered, with neatly covered heels; and anxious to adorn
myself with these relics of the olden time I attempted to draw one on.
But like the renowned glass-slipper, it would fit none but the owner,
and I found myself in the same predicament as Cinderella's sisters. In
vain I tugged and pulled; the more I tried, the more it wouldn't go
on--and my grandmother remarked with a sigh, that "people's feet were
not as small as they were in old times." I panted with vexation; for I
had always been proud of my foot, and now put it forward that my
grandmother might see how small it was. But no well-timed compliment
soothed my irritated feelings; and more dissatisfied with myself than
ever, I pursued my investigations.

My grandmother, as if talking to herself, murmured: "How little do we
know, when we set out in life, of the many disappointments before us!
How little can we deem that the heart which then is ours will change
with the fleeting sunshine! It is fearful to have the love of a
life-time thrown back as a worthless thing!"

"Fearful!" I chimed in. "Death were preferable!"

"You little goose!" exclaimed my grandmother, as she looked me full in
the face, "What can _you_ possibly know about the matter?"

I had nothing to do but bury my head down low in the trunk I was
exploring; it was my last attempt at sentiment. My grandmother took
occasion to give me some very good advice with respect to the behavior
of hardly-grown girls; she remarked that they should be careful not to
engross the conversation, and also, that quiet people were always more
interesting than loud talkers. I resolved to try my utmost to be quiet
and interesting, though at the same time it did occur to me as a little
strange that, being so great an admirer of the species, she was not
quiet and interesting herself. But being quiet was not my grandmother's
forte; and it is generally understood that people always admire what
they are not, or have not themselves.

CHAPTER II.

The old lady also possessed rather strict ideas of the respect and
deference due to parents and elders; and poor mamma, whose authority did
not stand very high, felt considerable relief in consequence of our,
(or, as I am tempted to say, _the children's_) improved behavior. I
remember being rather startled myself one day, when one of the
before-mentioned little sisters commenced a system of teazing for some
forbidden article.

"Mother, mother,--can't I have that set of cards? We want it in our
play-room--Phemie and me are going to build a house."

"I do not like to give you permission," replied mamma, looking
considerably worried, "for George does not wish you to have them."

"Oh, but George is out, mother--out for all day," rejoined the
precocious canvasser, "and will never know anything about it."

"But perhaps he might come home before you had done with them, and
George is so terribly passionate, and hates to have his things touched,
that he will raise the whole house."

"Poor boy!" observed my grandmother dryly, "What a misfortune to be so
passionate! A deep-seated, and, I fear, incurable one, Amy; for of
course you have used your utmost endeavors, both by precept and example,
to render him otherwise."

I almost pitied my mother's feelings; for well did I remember the
cried-for toy placed within his hands, to stop the constant succession
of screams sent forth by a pair of lungs whose strength seemed
inexhaustible--the comfort and convenience of the whole family
disregarded, not because he was the _best_, but the _worst_ child--and
often the destruction of some highly-prized trinket or gem of art,
because he was "_passionate_;" the result of which was, that my poor
brother George became one of the most selfish, exacting, intolerable
boys that ever lived.

There was no reply, save a troubled look; and the little tormentor
continued in a fretful tone; "We'll put 'em all away before he gets in,
and never tell him a word of it--can't we have them, mother?"

My mother glanced towards her mentor, but the look which she met
impelled her to pursue a course so different from her usual one, that I
listened in surprise: "No, Caroline, you can _not_ have them--now leave
the room, and let me hear no more about it."

"I want them," said the child in a sullen tone, while she turned to that
invariable resource of refactory children who happen to be near a door;
namely, turning the knob, and clicking the lock back and forth, and
swinging on it at intervals.

This performance is extremely trying to a person of restless, nervous
temperament, and my grandmother, setting up her spectacles, exclaimed
commandingly: "Caroline, how dare you stand pouting there? Did you not
hear your mother, naughty girl? Leave the room--this instant?"

The child stood a moment almost transfixed with surprise; but as she saw
my grandmother preparing to advance upon her--her ample skirts and
portly person somewhat resembling a ship under full sail--she made
rather an abrupt retreat; discomposing the nerves of a small
nursery-maid, whom she encountered in the passage, to such a degree
that, as the girl expressed it, "she was took all of a sudden."

I had given a quick, convulsive start as the first tones fell upon my
ear, and now sat bending over my sewing like a chidden child, almost
afraid to look up. I was one of those unlucky mortals who bear the blame
of everything wrong they witness; and having, in tender infancy, been
suddenly seized upon in Sunday school by the superintendent, and placed
in a conspicuous situation of disgrace for looking at a companion who
was performing some strange antic, but who possessed one of those
india-rubber faces that, after twisting themselves into all possible, or
rather impossible shapes, immediately become straight the moment any
one observes them--having, I say, met with this mortifying exposure, it
gave me a shock which I have not to this day recovered; and I cannot now
see any one start up hastily in pursuit of another without fancying
myself the culprit, and trembling accordingly. This sudden movement,
therefore, of my grandmother's threw me into an alarming state of
terror, and, quite still and subdued, I sat industriously stitching, all
the morning after.

"Dear me!" said my mother with a sigh, "how much better you make them
mind than I can."

"I see, Amy," said my grandmother kindly, "that your influence is very
weak--the care of of so large a family has prevented you from attending
to each one properly. You perceive the effect of a little well-timed
authority, and I do not despair of you yet. You are naturally," she
continued, "amiable and indolent, and though gentleness is certainly
agreeable and interesting, yet a constant succession of sweets cannot
fail to cloy, and engender a taste for something sharper and more
wholesome."

Delicacy prevented me from remaining to hear my mother advised and
lectured, and the rest of my grandmother's discourse was therefore lost
to me; but whatever it was, I soon perceived its beneficial results--the
children were no longer permitted to roam indiscriminately through all
parts of the house--certain rooms were proof againt their
invasions--they became less troublesome and exacting, and far more
companionable. The worried look gradually cleared from my mother's brow,
and as my grandmother was extremely fond of sight-seeing, visiting,
tea-drinkings, and everything in the shape of company, she persevered in
dragging her daughter out day after day, until she made her enjoy it
almost as much as herself. Old acquaintances were hunted up and brought
to light, and new ones made through the exertions of my grandmother,
who, in consequence of such a sociable disposition, soon became very
popular. The young ones were banished to the nursery; and, as they were
no longer allowed to spend their days in eating, there was far less
sickness among them, and our family doctor's bill decreased amazingly.

Our grandmother, having spent many years in the "mother-country," was
extremely English in her feelings and opinions, and highly advocated the
frugal diet on which the children of the higher classes are always kept.
Lord and Lady Grantham, the son-in-law and daughter at whose residence
she passed the time of her sojourn in England, were infallible models of
excellence and prudence; and the children were again and again informed
that their little English cousins were never allowed meat until the age
of seven, and considered it a great treat to get beef broth twice a
week. Butter was also a prohibited article of luxury--their usual
breakfast consisting of mashed potatoes, or bread and milk; and my
grandmother used to relate how one morning a little curly-headed thing
approached her with an air of great mystery, and whispered: "What _do_
you think we had for breakfast?" "Something very good, I suspect--what
can it be?" "Guess." "O, I cannot; you must tell me." "_Buttered
bread_!" Our laughter increased as she gave an amusing account of the
blue eyes stretched to their utmost extent, as these wonderful words
were pronounced hesitatingly, as though doubtful of the effect; and in
consequence of various anecdotes of the same nature, the children's
impressions of England were by no means agreeable. Our little cousins
must certainly have been the most wonderful children ever heard of, for
by my grandmother's account, they could dance, sing, and speak French
almost as soon as they could walk. She also informed us, as a positive
fact, that on saying: "_Baisez, Cora--baisez la dame_," the very baby in
arms put up its rosebud lips to kiss the stranger mentioned. It would
have been stranger still for the younger children to speak English, as
they were always in the company of French nurses.

Although my grandmother could so easily assume a stern and commanding
air, it was by no means habitual to her; and the children, though they
feared and never dared to dispute her authority, soon loved her with all
the pure, unselfish love of childhood, which cannot be bought. "Things
were not so and so when I was young," was a favorite remark of hers; and
as I one day remarked that "those must have been wonderful times when
old people were young," she smiled and said that "though not wonderful,
they were times when parents and teachers were much more strict with
children than they are now." I immediately experienced a strong desire
to be made acquainted with the circumstances of my grandmother's
childhood, and began hinting to that effect.

"Were they very strict with you, grandmother?" asked we mischievously.

She looked rather disconcerted for a moment, and then replied with a
smile: "Not very--I saw very little of my parents, being mostly left to
nurses and servants; but you all seem eager for information on that
point, and although there is absolutely nothing worth relating, you may
all come to my room this evening, and we will begin on the subject of my
younger days."

We swallowed tea rather hastily, and danced off in high glee to my
grandmother's apartment, ready for the unfolding of unheard-of
occurrences and mysteries.

CHAPTER III.

We were all happily seated around the fire; the grate was piled up high
with coal, and threw a bright reflection upon the polished
marble--everything was ready to begin, when a most unfortunate question
of my sister Emma's interfered with our progress. She had settled
herself on a low stool at my grandmother's feet, and while we all sat in
silent expectation of the "once upon a time," or "when I was young,"
which is generally the prelude to similar narratives, Emma suddenly
started up, and fixing an incredulous gaze upon our dignified relative,
exclaimed: "But were you _ever_ young, grandmother? I mean," she
continued, a little frightened at her own temerity, "were you ever as
little as I am now?"

Some of us began to cough, others used their pocket-handkerchiefs, and
one and all waited in some anxiety for the effect. Emma, poor child!
seemed almost ready to sink through the floor under the many astonished
and reproving glances which she encountered; and my grandmother's
countenance at first betokened a gathering storm.

But in a few moments this cleared up; and ashamed of her momentary anger
at this childish question, she placed her hand kindly on Emma's head as
she replied: "Yes, Emma, quite as little as you are--and it is of those
very times that I am going to tell you. I shall not begin at the
beginning, but speak of whatever happens to enter my mind, and a
complete history of my childhood will probably furnish employment for a
great many evenings. But I am very much averse to interruptions, and if
you have any particular questions to ask, all inquiries must be made
before I commence."

"Were you born and did you live in America?" said I.

"Yes," replied my grandmother, "I was born and lived in America, in the
State of New York. So much for the locality--now, what next?"

"Did you ever see Washington?" inquired Bob, "And were you ever taken
prisoner and had your house burned by the British?"

Bob was a great patriot, and on Saturdays practised shooting in the
attic with a bow and arrow, to perfect himself against the time of his
attaining to man's estate, when he fully intended to collect an army and
make an invasion on England. As an earnest of his hostile intentions, he
had already broken all the windows on that floor, and nearly
extinguished the eye of Betty, the chambermaid. To both of these
questions my grandmother replied in the negative, for she happened to
come into the world just after the Revolution; but in answer to Bob's
look of disappointment, she promised to tell him something about it in
the course of her narrative.

"My two most prominent faults," said she, "were vanity and curiosity,
and these both led me into a great many scrapes, which I shall endeavor
to relate for your edification. I shall represent them just as they
really were, and if I do not make especial comments on each separate
piece of misconduct, it is because I leave you to judge for yourselves,
by placing them in their true light. I shall not tell you the year I was
born in," she continued, "for then there would be a counting on certain
little fingers to see how old grandmamma is now. When I was a child--a
_very_ young one--I used to say that I remembered very well the day on
which I was born, for mother was down stairs frying dough-nuts. This
nondescript kind of cake was then much more fashionable for the
tea-table than it is at the present day. My mother was quite famous for
her skill in manufacturing them, and my great delight was to superintend
her operations, and be rewarded for good behavior with a limited
quantity of dough, which I manufactured into certain uncouth images,
called 'dough-nut babies.' Sometimes these beloved creations of genius
performed rather curious gymnastics on being placed in the boiling
grease--such as twisting on one side, throwing a limb entirely over
their heads, &c.; while not unfrequently a leg or an arm was found
missing when boiled to the requisite degree of hardness. But sometimes,
oh, sad to relate! my fingers committed such unheard-of depredations in
the large bowl or tray appropriated by my mother, that I was sentenced
to be tied in a high chair drawn close to her side, whence I could
quietly watch her proceedings without being able to assist her.

I know that our home was situated in a pleasant village which has long
since disappeared in the flourishing city; the house was of white brick,
three stories high, with rooms on each side of the front entrance. A
large and beautiful flower-garden was visible from the back windows; and
beyond this was a still larger fruit-garden, the gate of which was
generally locked, while a formidable row of nails with the points up,
repelled all attempts at climbing over the fence. The peaches, and
plums, apricots, nectarines, grapes, cherries, and apples were such as I
have seldom, if ever, seen since. My lather was wealthy, and my earliest
recollections are connected with large, handsomely-furnished rooms,
numerous servants, massive plate, and a constant succession of
dinner-parties and visitors. How often have I watched the servants as
they filled the decanters, rubbed the silver, and made other
preparations for company, while I drew comparisons between the lot of
the favored beings for whom these preparations were made, and my own, on
being condemned to the unvarying routine of the nursery. Childhood then
appeared to me a kind of penance which we were doomed to undergo--a sort
of imprisonment or chrysalis, which, like the butterfly, left us in a
fairy-like and beautiful existence. Little did I then dream of the
cares, and toils, and troubles from which that happy season is exempt.
My father realized in his own person, to the fullest extent, all the
traditionary legends of old English hospitality; he hated everything
like parsimony--delighted to see his table surrounded with visitors--and
in this was indulged to the extent of his wishes; for day after day
seemed to pass in our being put out of sight, where we could witness the
preparations going on for other people's entertainment.

The presiding goddess in our region of the house was a faithful and
attached old nurse, whom we all called 'Mammy.' Although sometimes a
little sharp, as was necessary to keep such wild spirits in order, the
old nurse was invariably kind, and even indulgent. It was well indeed
for us that she was so, for we were left almost entirely to her
direction, and saw very little of any one else. Mammy's everyday attire
consisted of a calico short-gown, with large figures, and a stuff
petticoat, with a cap whose huge ruffles stood up in all directions;
made after a pattern which I have never since beheld, and in which the
crown formed the principal feature. But this economical dress was not
for want of means; for Mammy's wardrobe boasted several silk gowns, and
visitors seldom stayed at the house without making her a present. On
great occasions, she approached our beau-ideal of an empress, by
appearing in a black silk dress lace collar, and gold repeater at her
side. This particular dress Mammy valued more highly than any of the
others, for my father had brought it to her, as a present, from Italy,
and the pleasant consciousness of being recollected in this manner by
her master was highly gratifying to the old nurse.

I was an only daughter, with several wild brothers, and I often thought
that Mammy displayed most unjust partiality. For instance, there was
Fred who never did anything right--upset his breakfast, dinner, and
tea--several times set the clothes-horse, containing the nursery
wardrobe, in a blaze--was forever getting lost, and, when sought for,
often found dangling from a three-story window, hanging on by two
fingers, and even one--who would scarcely have weighed a person's life
in the scale with a successful joke--and always had a finger, foot, or
eye bound up as the result of his hair-brained adventures. I really
believe that Mammy bestowed all a mother's affection on this wild,
reckless boy; he seldom missed an opportunity of being impertinent, and
yet Mammy invariably said that 'Fred had a saucy tongue, but a good
heart.' This _good-heartedness_ probably consisted in drowning kittens,
worrying dogs, and throwing stones at every bird he saw. Fred always had
the warmest seat, the most thickly-buttered bread and the largest piece
of pie. I remember one day on watching Mammy cut the pie, I observed, as
usual, that she reserved the largest piece.

"Who is that for?" I enquired, although perfectly aware of its intended
destination.

"O, no one in particular," replied Mammy.

"Well then" said I, "I believe I'll take it."

"There! there!" exclaimed Mammy, pointing her finger at me, "See the
greedy girl! Now you shall not have it, just for asking for it." The
disputed piece was immediately deposited on Fred's plate; and from that
day forth I gave up all hopes of the largest piece of pie.

O, that Fred was an imp! There was nothing in the shape of mischief,
which he would not do. If left to amuse the baby, he often amused
himself by tying a string to its toe, and every now and then giving it a
sudden pull. The child would cry, of course, and, on the approach of any
one, Master Fred sat looking as demure as possible, while trying to keep
his little brother quiet. The string would then be twitched again for
his own private edification; and it was sometime before the trick was
discovered. My brother Henry had at one time several little chickens, of
which he became very fond. Day after day he fed, admired, and caressed
them; and Fred, who never could bear to see others happy long, began to
revolve in his own mind certain plans respecting the chickens. One by
one they disappeared, until the number decreased alarmingly; but no
traces of them could be found. We were questioned, but, as all denied
the charge, the culprit remained undiscovered, although strong
suspicions rested on Fred. At last the indignant owner came upon him one
day, as he stood quietly watching the struggles of two little chickens
in a tub of water. Henry bitterly exclaimed against this cruelty, but
Fred innocently replied that "he had no hand in the matter; he had
thought, for some time, how much prettier they would look swimming like
ducks, and therefore tried to teach them--but the foolish things
persisted in walking along with their eyes shut, and so got drowned."

But one of Fred's grand _coup-d'oeils_ was the affair of the
cherry-pie. In those days ladies attended more to their household
affairs than they do at present; and my mother, an excellent
housekeeper, was celebrated for her pastry--cherry-pies in particular.
It was the Fourth of July; the boys were released from school, and
roaming about in quest of mischief as boys always are--and, as a rare
thing, we had no company that day, except my aunt, who had come from a
distance on a visit to my mother, while my father had gone to return one
of the numerous visits paid him. Cherry-pie was a standing dish at our
house with which to celebrate the Declaration of Independence. The
servants had all gone out for a holiday, no dinner was cooked, and the
sole dependence was on the cherry-pie.

They sat down to dinner, and I heard my mother say: "Now, sister Berthy,
I really hope you will enjoy this pie, for I bestowed extra pains upon
it, and placed it up in the bed-room pantry out of the boys' reach, who
are very apt to nibble off the edge of the crust. This time, I see, they
have not meddled with it."

The pie was cut; but alas! for the hollowness of human triumphs; the
knife met a wilderness of crust and vacancy, but no cherries. The
bed-room pantry had a window opening on a shed, and into that window
Fred, the scape-grace, had adroitly climbed, carefully lifted the upper
crust from the cherished pie, and abstracted all the cherries. My mother
locked him up, for punishment, but having unfortunately selected a sort
of store-room pantry, he made himself sick with sweetmeats, broke all
the jars he could lay hands on, and, finally, discovering a pair of
scissors, he worked at the lock, spoiled it, and let himself out.

At one time, being rather short of cash, he helped himself to a
five-dollar bill from my mother's drawer; but even _his_ conscience
scarcely resting under so heavy an embezzlement, he got it changed, took
half a dollar, and then put the rest back in the drawer. This
considerateness led to a discovery; they all knew that no one but Fred
would have been guilty of so foolish, and at the same time so dishonest
a thing.

My favorite brother was Henry; just three years older than myself,
manly, amiable, and intellectual in his tastes, he appeared to me
infinitely superior to any one I had ever seen; and we two were almost
inseparable. In winter he always carried me to school on his sled, saw
that Fred did not rob me of my dinner, and was always ready to explain a
difficult lesson. He was an extremely enterprising boy, with an
inexhaustible fund of ingenuity and invention; but, like most geniuses,
received more blame than praise. When quite small he constructed a sort
of gun made of wood, which would discharge a small ball of paper,
pebble, &c. This became a very popular plaything in the nursery, and for
once the inventor received due praise, on account of its keeping the
children so quiet. But one day Fred undertook to teach the year old baby
the art of shooting with it; and with a small corn for a bullet, he
placed the toy in the child's hands, turning the mouth the wrong way.
The young soldier pulled the trigger in delight, and by some strange
mischance, the corn flew up his nose. The doctor was hastily brought,
the child relieved with a great deal of difficulty, the dangerous
plaything burned, and poor Henry sent to coventry for an unlimited time.

CHAPTER IV.

We had a girl named Jane Davis whom my mother had brought up from
childhood. At the period to which I refer, she could not have been more
than fourteen, and as she was always good-humored and willing to oblige,
she became a general favorite. Often, in the early winter evenings, with
the nursery as tidy as hands could make it, (for Mammy, although not an
old maid, was a mortal enemy to dirt and slovenliness) we all gathered
round the fire, while the old nurse and Jane spun out long stories,
sometimes of things which had happened to them, sometimes of things
which had happened to others, and often of things that never did or
could happen to anybody. But I must do them the justice to say, that
although they sometimes related almost impossible occurrencies, they
never, on any one occasion, took advantage of their influence over us to
enforce our obedience by frighful tales of old men with bags, who seem
to have an especial fancy for naughty children. The nearest approach
that Mammy ever made to anything of this kind was to tell us, when we
began to look sleepy, that the sandman had been along and filled our
eyes. On receiving this information, we generally retired peaceably to
bed, without being haunted by any fears of ghost or goblin.

There was a wealthy and fashionable family who lived just opposite,
consisting of a widower, his sister, and two children--a son and
daughter. They lived in most extravagant style, and Jane positively
assured us that the housekeeper had told her with her own lips that
there was no end to Mr. Okeman's wealth, and that he even made his
daughter eat bank-bills on her bread and butter! Whether the son was
exempted from this disagreeable performance we never thought of
inquiring; but our awe rose ten percent, for a girl who was so rich as
absolutely to devour money. On being divulged, this grand secret amused
the inmates of the drawing-room very much, and our parents could
scarcely command their countenances to undeceive us.

Jane Davis remained with us as nursery-maid until she was eighteen, when
my mother, who was always extremely kind to servants and dependants,
placed her at a trade, and supported her comfortably until she learned
enough to support herself. She afterwards married a carpenter, who
always performed for my father those odd jobs that are constantly
required in a house, and they came to live in a kind of cottage at the
end of the garden. They there commenced farming on a small scale, and
often supplied us with milk, eggs, poultry, &c.

Mammy was a firm believer in signs of good and evil import; thus, if, in
dropping the scissors, they stood up erect on the point, she always said
that visitors were coming--a sign that rarely failed, as we were seldom
a day without them. Once I had wished very much for a large wax-doll. My
dreams were beautified with waxen images of immense size, whose china
blue eyes, long flaxen curls, and rosy cheeks, presented a combination
of charms that took my heart by storm. I sat one night, as usual, by the
nursery fire; my thoughts fixed on this all-engrossing subject, when I
ventured to communicate them to Mammy, and ask her if she thought I ever
would become the enviable possessor of such a doll.

"I don't know," replied Mammy at first, "I think it's very doubtful. But
come here," she added, "and let me see your hand."

After an examination, Mammy pronounced with an air of great mystery that
circumstances were propitious, and she was almost convinced beyond a
doubt that ere long the doll would be mine. She then pointed out to me a
small white spot on my left thumb nail, which she said always denoted a
present. I was rather incredulous at first, not conceiving that so
brilliant a dream could be realized; but after a while the doll actually
made its appearance, and I began to regard Mammy as something little
short of a witch, and became far more tractable in consequence of my
increased awe.

Jane's stories, as well as Mammy's always began with "Once upon a time
there were two sisters;" one was represented as plain-looking, but
amiable--the other beautiful, but a very Zantippe in temper. By some
wonderful combination of circumstances, the elder lost her beauty and
ugliness at the same time--when some good fairy always came along, who,
by a magic touch of her wand, made both the sisters far more lovely than
the elder had been. Beauty was always the burden of the tale; people who
were not beautiful met with no adventures, and seemed to lead a hum-drum
sort of life; therefore, I insensibly learned to regard this wonderful
possession as something very much to be desired. I believe I was quite a
pretty child, with dark bright eyes, red lips, and a pair of very rosy
cheeks. I spent considerable time before the glass, and both Mammy and
Jane began to fear the effects of vanity. Often and often would the old
nurse say: "You needn't stand before the glass, Miss Amy--there is
nothing to look at," or when in a bad humor, "Don't make such faces,
child--you have no beauty to spare," and I can very well remember how
both would endeavor to persuade me that I was the most veritable little
fright that ever existed, and quite a bugbear to my relations.

"What a pity," Jane would commence, as she saw me surveying myself with
an air of infinite satisfaction, "what a pity it is that Miss Amy has
such a dark, ugly skin--almost like an Indian, isn't it, nurse?"

I had eyes to judge for myself, and knew that I was much fairer than
either Mammy or Jane; and somebody had remarked in my presence: "What a
lovely neck and shoulders!" therefore I generally remained perfectly
quiet while listening to these inuendoes.

"Yes," Mammy would reply, "a very great pity--but an amiable temper,
Miss Amy, is more than looks; you must try and cultivate that, to make
up for your want of beauty."

"And then," continued Jane, "only see how perfectly straight her hair
is! not a sign of curl, nor even a twist!--and black eyes have such a
wicked kind of a look; they always remind me of cannibals."

Jane's eyes were as blue and bright as glass beads, while Mammy's, I
thought, approached a green, but with my own I felt perfectly satisfied;
for a lady had remarked in my presence what beautiful eyes I
had--adding that "dark eyes were so much more expressive than blue; blue
ones were so very insipid looking." The observation about my hair,
though, was only too correct, and touched me most sensibly. While most
of the other children possessed those soft, flowing curls, so beautiful
in childhood, mine obstinately refused to wave; and was, to use Jane's
expression, "as straight and as stiff as a poker." I had endeavored to
remedy this as far as lay in my power, and one day set my hair in a
blaze, while curling it with a very hot pipe-stem. I was, in
consequence, deemed one of the most abandoned of the nursery inmates;
and found myself minus at least one half of the hair I had hitherto
possessed.

I really believe that both Jane and Mammy sincerely hoped to eradicate
my besetting sin, by such blunt remarks as the former; but no course
could have been less wise than the one which they took. I knew very well
that I was neither a fright, an Indian, nor a cannibal; and the pains
which they took to convince me to the contrary led me to give myself
credit for much more beauty than I really possessed. I also regarded
amiability as a virtue of very small account; and supposed that those
who practised it, only did so because they possessed neither beauty,
grace, nor anything else to recommend them.

A great source of annoyance to me was my dress. As I was an only
daughter, some mothers, with the same means, would have enhanced my
attractions with all the aid of ornament, and established me as a
permanent divinity of the drawing-room, whom all must bow to and flatter
as they entered its precincts. But, although fond of display, and
surrounded with all the appliances of wealth, the taste of my parents
never did run much on dress; and I often felt mortified at my
inferiority to others in this respect. Such articles were then much
dearer, and more in vogue than at the present day, and a blue Circassian
formed my entire stock of gala dresses, and went the rounds of all the
children's parties I attended; my mother seemed to think, (with respect
to me, at least,) that as long as a dress was clean and in good repair,
there was no need of a change--she left nothing to the pleasure of
variety. There appeared to be an inexhaustible store of the same
material in a certain capacious drawer; did an elbow give out, a new
sleeve instantly supplied its place--did I happen to realize the ancient
saying: "There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip," and make my
lap the recipient of some of the goodies provided for us at our
entertainments, the soiled front breadth disappeared, and was replaced
by another, fresh and new--did the waist grow short, it was made over
again--there verily seemed to be no end to the dress; I came to the
conclusion that blue Circassian was the most ugly material ever
invented, and often found myself calculating how many yards there might
be left.

My school hats always looked the worse for wear, and my Sunday ones were
not much better; but once my mother took me to the city, and bought me,
for school, a far handsomer hat than I had hitherto worn for best, and a
still better one for great occasions. Here I, who scarcely ever looked
decent about the upper story, actually had two new hats at once! The
best one, I remember, was a round gipsy flat, then altogether the
fashion; and the first Sunday I put it on I made a perfect fool of
myself by twisting my hair in strings, intended to pass for natural
ringlets, and allowing said strings to hang all around beneath the brim
of my hat. Mamma was sick and confined to her room, and I managed to
appear at church with this ridiculous head-gear. People certainly stared
a little, but this my vanity easily converted into looks of admiration
directed towards my new hat, and perhaps also my improved beauty--and
came home more full of self-complacency than ever.

I have before mentioned that beyond the house there was a large
fruit-garden, respecting which, my father's orders were especially
strict. He expressly forbade our touching any of the fruit unless he
gave us permission; and nothing made him more angry than to have any
gathered before it was quite ripe. It certainly requires a child whose
principle of honesty is a very strong one, to pass every day in full
view of an endless bed of ripening strawberries, whose uncommon size and
luscious hue offered so many temptations. But bad as I was, I think I
was generally pretty honest, and resisted the temptation to the best of
my ability.

CHAPTER V.

I think I was about five years old, when one bright May morning my
brother Henry received especial instructions to be careful of me, and
see that I fell into no mischief on the occasion of my first day at
school. The luncheon-basket was packed with twice the usual quantity of
sandwiches, into which Mammy slyly tucked a small paper of sweet things
as a sort of comforter, with repeated injunctions to Henry not to make a
mistake and confiscate them for his own private use. A superfluous
caution--for Henry was the most generous little fellow that ever lived;
and was far more likely to fall short himself than that others should
suffer through him. Both Jane and Mammy kissed me repeatedly. I had on a
new dress of light, spotted calico, and a straw hat, with a green
ribbon, and a deep green silk cape--underneath the binding of my apron a
small handkerchief had been carefully pinned--a small blue-covered book,
and a slate with a long, sharp-pointed pencil tied on with a red cord,
were placed in my hands; and from these ominous preparations, and the
uncommon kindness of every one around, I concluded that I was at last to
meet with some adventure--perhaps to suffer martyrdom of some kind or
other.

Poor Jane! My great passion was for beads, and when she perceived, from
various indications, that I was not exactly pleased with the change, she
ran up stairs, hastily loosened a whole string from a cherished
necklace, and returning quickly, slipped them into my hand. My mother
also came into the nursery to see that I was perfectly neat, kissed me
affectionately as she whispered to me to be a good girl and learn to
read, and with a strange, undefined sensation at my heart, I found
myself in the street with my hand fast locked in that of Henry. It was
that lovely season of the year when the fruit-trees are all in bloom;
and the sweet, flower-laden breeze, the busy hum of human life that rose
around, and the bounding, restless spirit of childhood, made me shrink
from the bondage I was about to enter.

The school-house was a very pretty cottage with a trellised front of
bean-vines and honeysuckle; and when I entered I found, to my great
surprise, that Miss Sewell, the teacher, looked very much like other
people. There were two moderate-sized rooms, opening into each other, in
one of which Mr. Sewell superintended several desks of unruly boys--in
the other, his daughter directed the studies of about twenty little
girls. There were some large girls seated at the desks, who appeared to
me so very antiquated that I was almost afraid to hazard an idea
respecting their ages; and had I been asked how old they were, should
probably have replied 'at least fifty;' although I do not now suppose
the eldest was more than fourteen.

Rather stunned by the buzz and noise of the classes reciting, and very
much puzzled as to my own probable destiny, I began to climb the hill
of knowledge. I said my letters; and Miss Sewell, having found that I
knew them pretty well, (thanks to Mammy's patient teaching), allowed me
to spell in _a-b, ab_, and _b-a, ba_, and set me some straight marks on
my slate. I met with nothing remarkable during my first day at school;
and on my return informed Mammy, as the result of my studies, that two
and one make four. Nor could I be persuaded to the contrary; for,
although I had been taught by the old nurse to count as far as ten, on
being examined by Miss Sewell, either bashfulness or obstinacy prevented
me from displaying the extent of my knowledge--and, while endeavoring to
explain to me how many one and one make, she had said: "There is one, to
begin with; well now, one more makes two," therefore as one made two in
this case, I supposed it did in every other.

I learned to love the mild countenance of Miss Sewell, with her plain
dark hair and soft eyes, and was never happier then when she was invited
to tea; for then I was emancipated from the nursery and placed beside
her at table. I dearly loved to take her fruit and flowers; and white
lilies, roses, honey-suckles, and the most admired productions of our
garden were daily laid on Miss Sewell's table. For rewards we had a
great many wide, bright-colored ribbons, which were tied upon our arms,
that every one might see them as we went home; and she who could boast a
variety of ribbons was known to have been perfect in all her lessons.
Those who had fallen into disgrace were distinguished by a broad band
passed around the head, on the front of which was written in large
characters the name of the misdemeanor.

One morning I had been rather negligent, and, having my suspicions as to
the consequence, told Mammy of my fears, and my dread of the disgrace.
The old nurse's anger even exceeded mine; she declared that her child
should not be treated so, and advised me to snatch it off and tear it to
pieces. I went to school, not having exactly made up my mind whether to
follow this advice or not; but my afternoon lessons fully made up for
the deficiency of the morning, and I escaped the dreaded punishment. I
had gone with several companions to the closet in which we deposited
our hats and shawls, and while engaged in the process of robing, I heard
a very loud voice talking in great excitement, and one which I
immediately recognised. I overheard Mammy exclaiming: "Where is my
child? Has she got that horrid thing on her head? I want to take it off
before she goes home."

Blushing with mortification, as I noticed the tittering of the
school-girls, called forth by the loud tone and strange figure of the
old nurse, who had rushed into the room in her usual attire of
short-gown and petticoat, I came hastily forward, and was immediately
seized by Mammy, who exclaimed in surprise: "Why, I though you said you
were going to have that thing on your head! I was determined that no
child of mine should wear it, so I came after you to take it off."

Mammy was one of the most independent persons I ever saw; she cared for
no one's frown, and poured forth the whole love of her warm Irish heart
upon us--tormenting and troublesome as we were. Sometimes she sung to us
of "Acushla machree" and "Mavourneen," and Mammy's Irish songs were
especial favorites with the young fry of the nursery. When we were
particularly obstreperous, she threatened to go away and leave us, and
never come back again; a threat which always produced copious showers of
tears, and promises of better behavior. Often have I watched her in
dismay as she dressed herself to go out--fearful that she would really
put her threat in execution, especially as conscience whispered that I
deserved it. At such times, nothing pacified me except the deposit of
her spectacles; when once the case was lodged in my possession, I felt
sure of Mammy--knowing that she could not stay long without them.
Sometimes she would tell us of her life in Ireland; but no act did she
more bitterly deplore than her marriage; complaining that the object of
her choice was far from what he appeared to be when she married him--and
further observing that as he turned out a very bad speculation, and
never gave her anything but a thimble, she wisely left him to his own
society, and emigrated to America.

Mammy very often kept the key of the fruit-garden; and as she never
yielded it to our entreaties, the ever-ready Fred formed a conspiracy
one Sunday afternoon, in which, I am sorry to say, I took a very
conspicuous part--the object of which was to purloin the key, and enjoy
at last this long-coveted, forbidden pleasure. Fred actually succeeded
in abstracting it from Mammy's capacious pocket, and in high glee we
proceeded to the garden. It was in the time of peaches; there hung the
lucious fruit in such profusion, that the trees were almost borne down
by its weight. We ate till we could eat no longer; and then, happening
to see two or three men passing along, we threw some over the fence to
them. They, in return, threw us some pennies; and, delighted with the
success of our frolic, we continued to throw and receive, until startled
by a most unwelcome apparition. There, at the foot of the tree, stood
Mammy--her face expressing the utmost astonishment and indignation, and
her hands extended to seize us. She had watched our manoeuvres from one
of the windows, and astonishment at our boldness and ingenuity kept her
for sometime a silent spectator. But Mammy was not apt to be _silent_
long while witnessing our misdeeds; and in an incredible short space of
time she gained the use of both her feet and her tongue. Our companions
caught a glimpse of flying drapery rapidly advancing, and rather
suddenly made their retreat; while we, now trembling, detected culprits,
took up a line of march for the house.

Not so, Fred; defying Mammy to capture him, and laughing at her dismay,
he started off on a run, and she after him in full pursuit. We watched
the chase from the nursery-window; and as Fred was none of the thinnest,
and Mammy somewhat resembled a meal-bag with a string tied round the
middle, it proved to be quite exciting. But it was brought to an
untimely end by the apparition of a pair of spectacles over the fence;
said spectacles being the undisputed property of a middle-aged
gentleman--a bachelor, who, we suspected, always stayed home from church
on Sunday afternoons to keep the neighbors in order. With
horror-stricken eyes he had beheld only the latter part of the scene,
and conceiving the old nurse to be as bad as her rebellious charge, he
called out from his garden, which communicated with ours:

"My good woman, do you know that this is Sunday?--Depend upon it, a
person of your years would feel much better to be quietly reading in
your own apartment, than racing about the garden in this unseemly
manner."

Poor Mammy! she was well aware of this before; flushed, heated, and
almost overcome with fatigue, she looked the very picture of
uncomfortableness; and this last aggravation increased the feeling to a
tenfold degree. At that moment, Fred, unconsciously, stumbled into her
very arms; she looked up--the spectacles had disappeared--and convinced
of this fact, she bore him in triumph to the nursery.

We had all expected personal chastisement, at the very least, but we
were thrown into a greater degree of horror and dismay than could well
be conceived; Mammy placed her spectacles in her pocket, collected her
valuables, and put on her hat and things, to take passage for Ireland.
We hung about her in every attitude of entreaty--acknowledged our
misdemeanors, promised amendment, and an entire confession of all the
sins we had ever perpetrated. I do think we must have remained upon our
knees at least half an hour; never had Mammy seemed so hard-hearted
before, and we began to think that she might be in earnest after all. We
begged her to whip us--lock us up--anything but leave us; and at last
she relented. She told us that she considered us the most abandoned
children that ever were born; and wished that she had two additional
eyes at the back of her head to watch our movements. We promised to
spend the afternoon in learning hymns and verses; and Mammy, having
taken her position in the large easy-chair, with a footstool at her
feet, tied Fred to one of the legs, as he sat on a low bench at her
side, and made us all study. We succeeded pretty well; although
considerably terrified at the sharp looks which Mammy from time to time
bestowed upon us.

In the evening came the promised confession; and both Mammy and Jane
were rendered almost dumb by these dreadful instances of depravity. Such
secret and unsuspected visits to the store-room pantry--such
conspiracies against locks and bolts--such scaling of walls, and
climbing in at windows, were never heard of before. I rather suspected
Fred to have drawn upon his imagination for instances of the marvellous,
for such adventures as he related never could have been met with; but
Mammy and Jane believed it all. At the conclusion, the old nurse seemed
very much disposed to punish us at once for all these united
misdemeanors--and was only prevented by our remonstrating upon the plea
of a voluntary confession.

That night I lay awake, pretending to sleep, and heard Mammy and her
satellite discussing our conduct in all its enormity. Considerably
influenced by their unaffected horror and astonishment, the thought for
the first time rushed upon my mind, that perhaps I might be much worse
than other people. It troubled me considerably; I found it impossible to
sleep, and following a good impulse, I crept softly out of bed, and
falling on my knees before Mammy, whispered to her to pray for me. There
must have been a very different expression on my countenance from its
usual one; for I afterwards heard the old nurse tell Jane that I
reminded her of an angel. I felt utterly miserable; and sobbing
convulsively, I begged Mammy to pray, not that I might have a new heart,
but that I might live a great while. I had begun to fear speedy
punishment for my misdemeanors. The old nurse, (although a really pious
woman), seemed quite at a loss how to proceed; and Jane, coming forward,
took me kindly by the hand, and reasoned with me on my conduct with all
the wisdom of riper years and a higher education. After convincing me
that I should ask, not for an increased number of years, but for a new
heart and temper, she knelt down with me and repeated the Lord's prayer.

The scene is indelibly impressed upon my memory; for although I have
since witnessed scenes containing more stage effect, and quite as
melting, I never in my life remember to have been so affected as, with
Jane's arm around me, and the light of the nursery-lamp shining upon our
kneeling figures, I distinctly heard Mammy's sobs, as she repeated each
word with a peculiar intonation of reverence. I felt a respect for the
young girl ever afterwards; and as I clasped my arms about her neck and
pressed a warm kiss on her cheek, as I bade her good-night, the tone of
my voice must have been unusually tender--for I saw tears come into her
eyes as she asked Mammy if she was not afraid, from my flushed cheeks,
that I had some fever. Although petulant, and even violent when roused,
I had a warm, loving heart, capable of the most unbounded affection; and
from that time forth Jane and I never had a single dispute. She had
appeared to me in a new light on that Sabbath eve; and with my hand
locked in hers, I fell into a sweet, dreamy sleep.

CHAPTER VI.

One of my great troubles, and one too which I regarded in a pretty
serious light, was the obeisance I had been taught to make on meeting
"the minister's wife." I never came within view of this formidable
personage that I did not hesitate and tremble; while I looked wildly
around, in the vain hope of discovering a place of refuge. After
performing my awkward courtesy, I usually hastened on as fast as
possible, being oppressed with a most uncomfortable sensation of awe in
the presence of Mrs. Eylton. This was occasioned by the quiet observance
which I, like other children, took of the conduct of those around me.
Everything in the house seemed to be at her command; if Mrs. Eylton sent
for a thing she must have it immediately; and I drew my conclusions
that "the minister's wife" was a sort of petty sovereign, placed over
the town or village in which she resided, and that all we possessed was
held under her.

Almost every day brought a request from Mrs. Eylton for the loan of some
article in our possession; a repetition of which would naturally lead
one to conclude that ministers merely procured a house, and then
depended for everything else on the charity of the public. This
borrowing mania appeared to gather strength from indulgence, for none of
the neighbors would refuse, whatever the article might be; and our
waffle-iron, toasting-fork, Dutch-oven, bake-pan, and rolling-pin were
frequently from home on visits of a week's duration. On sending for our
muffin-rings or cake-pans, we often received a message to be expeditious
in our manufactures; that Mrs. Eylton could spare them for a day or so,
"but wanted to use them again very shortly." Our parents would buy such
conveniences, send them to the kitchen of Mrs. Eylton, and borrow them
from time to time, if in perfect accordance with that lady's
convenience. She would even borrow her neighbor's servants, and often at
very inconvenient times. Jane had often been sent for to take care of
the children; and the usual request came one afternoon that seemed to me
stamped with most remarkable events.

We were in a kind of sitting-room on the ground-floor, and my father sat
writing at a small table near the window. A servant entered with the
announcement: "Mrs. Eylton, ma'am, wants to borrow Jane."

An expression of vexation crossed my mother's countenance as she
remarked: "I do not know how I can possibly spare Jane this afternoon;
Mammy has gone out, and I do not feel inclined to attend to the children
myself."

My father looked up from his writing as he observed: "Nor do I see the
necessity of your being troubled with them, Laura."

"Not see the necessity!" exclaimed my mother, "How can I refuse the wife
of our minister? I would be willing to put up with some inconvenience
for Mr. Eylton's sake. Poor man! he has a hard time of it, with his
talents and refinement."

"No doubt he has," said my father, pityingly; then, in a more merry
tone, he added: "But can you think of no other alternative, Laura, than
disobliging Mrs. Eylton, if you object to this juvenile infliction for a
whole long summer's afternoon?"

My father was of a bolder, more determined character than my mother, and
had, withal, a spice of fun in his composition; and the expression of
his eyes now rendered her apprehensive of some sudden scheme that might
create a feeling of justifiable anger in Mrs. Eylton.

"Dearest Arthur!" she exclaimed beseechingly, as she placed a soft hand
on his shoulder, "Do not, I beseech of you, put in execution any
outlandish plan respecting Mrs. Eylton!--Do let Jane go as usual; for
she is not one to understand a joke, I can assure you--she will be
offended by it."

"And pray, madam," asked my father, with assumed gravity, "what has led
you to suppose that I intended making Mrs. Eylton the subject of a
joke? Away with you," he continued, with a mischievous look at those
pleading eyes, "Away with you, and let me do as I choose."

Turning to the servant, he asked: "Mrs. Eylton has, I believe, requested
the loan of other articles besides our domestics--has she ever sent to
borrow any of the children?"

"Indeed, and she has not, sir," replied the girl, with difficulty
repressing a laugh.

"Well then," said he, "we will now send her both the article she
requested, and some articles which she did not request. Tell Jane to be
ready to go to Mrs. Eylton's with the children."

"Yes sir," and the servant departed to execute her commission.

"Arthur!" remonstrated my mother.

"Not a word!" said my father gaily. "Children," he continued, "do you
wish to go? What says my madcap, Amy?"

Madcap Amy, for once in her life, said nothing--being too much awed and
astonished to reply. To think that I should actually enter the house,
and be face to face with the formidable Mrs. Eylton? The idea was
appalling; and for sometime I sat biting my nails in thoughful silence.
It was so sudden, it had always appeared to me that a great deal must be
gone through with--a great many different degrees of intimacy
surmounted, before I should ever find myself within the house of Mrs.
Eylton; but here was I, without the least warning, to be transformed
from the bashful child, who made no sign of recognition save an awkward
courtesy, into the regular visitor--and for a whole afternoon! No wonder
I took so long to deliberate. Though not particularly remarkable for
bashfulness or timidity at home, and despite a character for violence
in, "fighting my own battles," to assert some infringed right, I
absolutely trembled at the idea of encountering strangers; and this
visit to Mrs. Eylton's appeared, to my excited mind, like thrusting
myself into the enemy's quarters.

But then curiosity rose up in all its powers, to baffle my fear; I did
_so_ want to see how the house looked inside, and whether they really
had anything that was not borrowed! And then who knows, thought I, but
what Mrs. Eylton will show me the inside of some of her drawers? I dare
say she has a great many pretty things. There was nothing which gave me
greater delight than looking into other people's drawers, and turning
over those remnants of various things which are stored away in most
houses--in many for the mere love of hoarding. Mamma would sometimes
allow me to arrange certain little drawers containing jewelry, ribbons,
and odds and ends. But the charmed room in our house was one that was
always kept locked, and, from the circumstance of a green ribbon being
attached to the key, we called it "the green-ribbon room."

Dear me! what a collection that room contained. There were several large
trunks that nearly covered the floor, besides boxes, and bags, and
bundles; and these were filled with cast-off clothes, silks, ribbons,
and bunches of artificial flowers and feathers. The room was not very
often opened; it was at the very top of the house, and lighted by a
large dormar-window; but as soon as mamma mounted the stairs, with the
key in her hand, the alarm was given: "Quick! mother is going to the
green-ribbon room!" and mamma's ears were immediately refreshed by the
sound of numerous little feet moving up stairs at locomotive speed, with
the ostensible purpose of assisting her in her researches--but in
reality, to be getting in her way, and begging for everything we saw. It
was, "Mamma, mayn't we have this?" or, "mayn't we have that?" or "Do say
yes, just this once; and we'll never ask you for anything again as long
as we live--never," a promise faithfully kept till next time.

Mamma sometimes tried to go up very softly, in order to elude our
vigilance; but it wouldn't do. She often wondered how we found out that
that she was there, but we seldom missed an opportunity. Now and then a
dear little pitcher, or a vase of cream-colored ground with a wreath of
faint pink roses traced around it, or a cluster of bright-colored
flowers in the centre, arrested our attention, and called forth
rhapsodies of admiration. I supposed that everybody had just such a
room; and it was very probable, I thought, that Mrs. Eylton might chance
to open hers during our visit. Therefore I decided that, notwithstanding
my terror of the lady, a greater amount of pleasure might be obtained
by going there, than by staying at home.

So Jane, with her own trim person as neat as possible, bore off her
charges to the nursery, in order, as she said, "to make us fit to be
seen." "Mrs. Eylton might see this," or "notice that," and I felt
uncomfortably convinced that Mrs. Eylton must possess the sharpest pair
of eyes it had ever been my misfortune to encounter. Finally, we set
off; I remember being dressed in a white frock, with a broad sash, and
experiencing a consciousness of looking remarkably well, in spite of my
hair--which, having obstinately repulsed all Jane's advances with tongs
and curl-papers, was suffered to remain in all its native straightness.

It was summer, and a multiflora rose-vine, which extended over the front
of the parsonage, was then in full flower; while, as we mounted the
steps, I distinguished through the green blind door glimpses of a
pleasant-looking garden beyond. We entered the back parlor, where sat
Mrs. Eylton attired for a walk, and surrounded by three children, all
younger than myself. The minister's lady did not appear quite so
formidable on a close survey; though the aspect of her countenance was
by no means promising, as her eye fell upon us.

"Well, Jane," she commenced, in the tone of one who felt herself
injured, "you have kept me waiting some time--how is this? Punctuality
is a virtue very becoming in a young person."

Jane looked exceedingly disconcerted at this address; but at length she
replied, that "she could not get the children ready before."

"_The children_!" repeated Mrs. Eylton; while, young as I was, I plainly
read in her countenance, "What possessed you to bring _them_ here?"

"Yes ma'am," replied Jane, gathering more courage as she proceeded,
"Mrs. Chesbury sent them with me to spend the afternoon. She had no one
to attend to them at home."

In the meantime I became aware, as I glanced around the room, that the
prospect for the afternoon promised very little amusement. Mrs. Eylton
soon after left us, telling Jane to be very careful that we got into no
mischief; and, with, a feeling of disappointment, I saw the door close
behind her. In my scenting of the apartment I became very much struck
with the appearance of a curious looking little work-stand, containing
three small drawers. Immediately my imagination was at work upon their
contents; and I determined, if possible, to satisfy my curiosity. Mrs.
Eylton had departed without making any provision for our amusement, and
I saw no reason why I should not examine the drawers--especially if I
handled things carefully, and put them all back again. Probably they
were in disorder, and then what a pleasant surprise it would be for Mrs.
Eylton to find them all neatly arranged on her return!

Jane now proposed walking in the garden; and to avoid suspicion, I
joined the party for the present. There were a great many flower-beds,
very prettily laid out; and at the end of a wide path stood a pleasant
little summer-house, half-buried in vines. We established ourselves
there, from whence we could view the whole garden; and with a pretence
of looking again at the flowers, I soon made my escape, and returned to
the house. A wide glass-door opened from the back room into the garden,
and carefully closing this, I approached the table and attempted to open
the drawers. I tried the first one,--it was locked; the second,--and met
with no better success. Almost in despair, I placed my hands on the
third, and that finally yielded to my efforts. I beheld heterogeneous
rows of pins, papers of needles, &c., and was about to shut it in
disappointment, when my glance fell on a small box. Small,
mysterious-looking boxes always possessed a talismanic attraction in my
eyes; and the next moment I was busily at work examining the contents.
The round lid lifted, I found my gaze irresistibly fascinated by a
child's face, with fair, curling hair, and azure eyes. But the great
beauty lay in its expression; that was so calm, holy, and serene, that I
felt insensibly better as I gazed upon it. It was a peculiar face; and I
became so wrapt in its contemplation as to lose all hearing of what
passed around, until a step sounded close beside me.

I looked up, and fairly trembled with terror and dismay. There stood
Mr. Eylton, gazing on me in surprise, as if quite at a loss what to make
of the circumstance; but as his eye fell upon the picture, I noticed
that an expression of sadness crossed his countenance. Not knowing what
to do with myself, and almost ready to sink through the floor with
shame, I stood with bowed head and burning cheeks, the very picture of
mortification. But there was no trace of anger in Mr. Eylton's tone, as,
kindly taking me by the hand, he drew me towards him and asked me my
name. I answered as well as I could; and still holding the picture,
remained in silent consternation. Mr. Eylton took it from my hand, and
sighed as he bent a deep, loving gaze upon the fair face.

Prompted by a sudden impulse, I raised my eyes to his, as I enquired:
"Can you tell me where that little girl is now? I should _so_ like to
see her!"

"In heaven, I trust," replied Mr. Eylton, while his voice slightly
faltered, and a tear stood in his eye. "She was my daughter, Amy--she
died some years ago, when very young."

I felt almost ready to cry myself, when told that she was dead, and
gazed lingeringly upon the portrait as Mr. Eylton closed the box; and
placing it in the drawer, he returned to me again.

"But, my dear child," said he suddenly, "Why did you open the drawer? Do
you not know that it was extremely improper?"

"I did _so_ want to see what was in it!" was my rejoinder.

Mr. Eylton seemed puzzled at first by this reply; but probably
perceiving that I had been too much left to myself, he proceeded to
explain, in clear and concise words, the nature and tendency of my
fault. "This curiosity, my dear child, is an improper state of feeling
which should not be indulged in. Suppose," continued he, "that on
looking into this drawer, you had perceived some article which you
immediately felt a great desire to possess; yielding to the temptation
of curiosity would thus lead to the sin of covetousness, and perhaps the
crime of theft might be also added. You would reason with yourself that
no one had seen you open the drawer, and forgetting the all-seeing Eye
which never slumbers, you might conclude that no one would know you took
the article which did not belong to you."

The prospect of becoming a thief struck me with horror; and resolving
never again to meddle with other people's things, I begged Mr. Eylton to
forgive me, and entreated him not to inform Mrs. Eylton of my
misdemeanor. He smiled at the anxiety I displayed not to have it known;
and then taking a bunch of keys from a box, he proceeded to gratify my
curiosity with respect to the other drawers. These amply repaid an
investigation; containing numerous toys and trinkets of foreign
manufacture, among which were two or three small alabaster images. One
represented a beautiful greyhound in a reclining position; there was an
Italian image of the Virgin and Child; and some others which I have
almost forgotten. I was allowed to examine all these things at my
leisure; and when I departed, it was with a firm conviction that Mr.
Eylton was far more agreeable than his wife.

Jane soon came in from the summer-house, after an unsuccessful search
for me through the garden, and was not a little surprised to find me
quietly established with Mr. Eylton. Towards sunset Mrs. Eylton
returned; and being graciously dismissed, we went home with the
impression that it had been altogether rather a curious visit. But the
afternoon dwelt in my memory like a golden gleam; and often I went over,
in imagination, that delightful investigation of Mrs. Eylton's drawers.

CHAPTER VII.

We were generally besieged with visitors of all descriptions and
characters. My parents had one or two poor relations who made long stays
at every visit; and being generous, even to a fault, they loaded them
with presents at their departure, and invitations to come again. There
was one old lady, in particular, who engaged my fancy; she came to see
us quite often, and in the family went by the name of "Aunty Patton."
Aunty Patton was a widow, with very slender means; and boarded with a
married daughter, who had a large family of children, but very little to
support them on. Poor Aunty! she fared rather poorly at home, and did
_so_ seem to enjoy everything. She was particularly fond of fruit-cake;
and whenever she came, mamma took particular pains that this should be
one of the appliances of the tea-table. She possessed many wealthy
acquaintances and relations, and enjoyed visiting around among them very
much; praising everything that was set before her, and never
contradicting any one. It teemed impossible to put anything on the table
which she did not like; everything was "good," and "delightful," and
"just what she would have fancied." At length some cousin determined to
test her patience; and on one occasion, when the old lady happened to
dine there, the dishes, when uncovered, were found to contain nothing
but supaun and potatoes.

"I am really sorry, Aunty Patton," began the hostess, "to be able to
offer you nothing better for dinner--but sometimes you know"--

"O," said Aunty, with rather a rueful look, "it'll _do_."

Poor Aunty had that very day prepared herself for something uncommonly
nice in the way of dinner, and felt a little disappointed; but cousin
Emma soon restored her equanimity by a liberal display of fruit-cake and
other nice things, which presented themselves on opening the side-board
door.

Aunty Patton had mild, winning kind of manners, and became a general
favorite in the nursery; probably on account of her always noticing us,
and pronouncing us "lovely little creatures." She appeared to me the
most heavenly-minded old lady I had ever seen; and I listened, with a
species of awe, to the long stories which she loved so dearly to relate
about everybody whom she visited. She was very short--not seeming to me
much taller than myself--and the cumbrous dress of the period was
calculated to make her appear much shorter. She would sit and relate
wonderful occurrences which seemed constantly taking place in her
daughter's family; one of the children would cut his foot, and for
sometime there would be danger of amputation--another urchin would upset
a kettle of scalding water on himself, and then he would be laid up for
sometime, while mamma turned the green-ribbon room topsy-turvy in her
searches after old linen--and once the daughter fell down stairs, and
was taken up for dead. They seemed to be an unfortunate family--always
meeting with hair-breadth escapes. Aunty Patton's reticule was always
well filled with good things on every occasion of her departure; and
very often a collection of money was added to the stock.

Mamma sometimes endeavored to enlist our sympathies in benevolent
purposes. I remember, on one occasion, when I had been teasing sometime
for a new tortoise-shell comb to keep back my hair with, it suddenly
entered my head that it would be a well-disposed action to ask for some
money to give Aunty Patton.

"Are you willing, Amy, to deny yourself anything," asked mamma, after I
had made my request, "in order that I may give this money to Aunty
Patton? It is no benevolence in you to ask me to give away money, unless
you are willing to do without something in consequence. If I give Aunty
Patton the five dollars that your comb will cost, are you willing to do
without it?"

"Dear me," thought I, "being good is very expensive." I deliberated for
sometime, but finally answered, "No." My mother pressed the subject no
farther; but after a while I exclaimed with a comfortable feeling of
magnanimity; "Yes, dear mamma, you _may_ give Aunty Patton the five
dollars--and I'll get _papa_ to buy me the comb!"

Mammy was a great judge of character, and when she once made up her mind
not to like a person, it was very difficult to make her change her
sentiments. My father once brought in a travelling clergyman, who
represented himself as very devout and unfortunate; and we all made
great efforts to entertain him. He was travelling West, he said, and
endeavoring to collect on the road sufficient money to pay his expenses.
My father invited him to remain with us a month; and he seemed very much
to enjoy the good things so liberally showered upon him--contriving at
the same time to render himself so agreeable that he quite won our
hearts. Mammy alone remained proof against his insinuations; he paid
assiduous court to her, and did his best to remove this unfavorable
impression, but the old nurse remained immovable.

He once asked her for the key to the fruit-garden, when my parents were
both out; but Mammy stedfastly refused him. "She had orders," she said,
"not to let the key go out of her possession, and she didn't intend to
now." The wandering clergyman departed quite enraged; and reported
proceedings as soon as my father returned. He was very much displeased
at Mammy's obstinacy, and spoke quite warmly on the subject; but the old
nurse replied that "she didn't know but he might make off with half the
fruit in the garden--she didn't like the man's looks at any rate."

I had then in my possession a little morocco pocket-book, a treasured
article, which I valued above all my other worldly goods. Sometime
before Christmas, I had observed it in a a shop-window with passionate
admiration; and on my return home, I threw out various hints and
inuendoes--scarcely hoping that they would be attended to. They were,
however; for on examining my stocking on the eventful morning, the
long-coveted pocket-book was found sticking in the toe--and what was
still better, well supplied with contents. I was in ecstasy for
sometime after; but wishing to do something to signalize myself, I now
placed it in the hands of the Rev. Mr. Motley for safe keeping.

"Mark my words," said Mammy prophetically, "you'll never see a sign of
that pocket-book again."

Alas! her words were but too true; circumstances came to light not very
favorable to the character of our visitor; and that very night the Rev.
Mr. Motley secretly decamped--mentioning in a note left behind, that
unlooked-for events had hastened his departure. My little pocket-book
accompanied him, as he quite forgot to return it; and Mammy's triumph
was almost as provoking as the loss. She had, however, with
characteristic caution, abstracted whatever money it contained; and the
reflection that the reverend gentleman had not gained much, gave her
considerable pleasure. The lesson taught me not to trust strangers again
too readily, and my father imbibed somewhat of a prejudice against
travelling clergymen in distress. Rev. Mr. Motley was never again heard
of.

We once had a visit from a Captain Vardell, an acquaintance of my
father's, who had married a Spanish woman. This Captain had spent much
of his time at sea; roving about from place to place, until at length he
settled down for some years in Spain. He had no relations in America,
and but little money, so that of course my father's house, the usual
refuge of the needy and distressed, was at once his destination. He
appeared to us an indolent, good-natured kind of a man, and his wife
resembled him in the former quality, though quite deficient in the
latter. She could not speak a word of English, and would scold and rail
at her husband in Spanish for hours together. We did not understand what
she said, but we knew, by the flashing of those great black eyes and her
animated gestures, that her words were not words of love. She was a
large woman, with straight, black hair, that seemed to be always hanging
about her face, and rather handsome features. She spent most of her time
in playing jackstraws with us, or else lounging on the sofa; muttering
in rapid succession the words of a small prayer-book, which Captain
Vardell told us she always carried about her, as it had been consecrated
and given to her by a Spanish priest. She appeared to us very much like
a great overgrown baby; manifesting the most childish delight on winning
a game, and equally angry when defeated. Once, when in extreme
good-humor, she shewed us how to make beads resembling coral, from a
certain paste which she manufactured; but we never could extract from
her the names of the materials, and were obliged to content ourselves
with making them under her direction.

Mrs. Vardell was so extremely lazy that she would never stoop to pick up
anything she had dropped. If her handkerchief or prayer-book fell to the
floor, she made motions for us to bring them to her; and when we
sometimes mischievously pretended not to understand these signs, she
would let the article remain until some one restored it to her. She
never seemed to experience the least emotion of gratitude, and received
all favors as a natural right. She was an extremely troublesome,
exacting visitor, and we were not at all sorry when the time of her
departure arrived.

My father had exerted himself on their behalf, and at the end of their
visit handed Captain Vardell a handsome sum of money, collected from
among his merchant friends and acquaintances. People were much more
liberal then than now, and the case of the Vardells did not fail to call
forth their sympathy and generosity. The Spanish lady made her adieus,
if so they could be called, with an easy indifference--apparently
considering her fellow-mortals as machines invented for her sole use and
benefit. Captain Vardell presented us children with a handsome
collection of shells, picked up on foreign shores during his numerous
voyages; and some of them were very rare and beautiful. Most of them had
a delicate pink tinge, like the outer leaves of a just-blown rose; and
we amused ourselves fur a long time by arranging them in a glass-case
which my father gave us for the purpose.

Among our visitors was an aunt of my mother's who lived in Waterford,
Connecticut; and being a widow, with quite a large farm to attend to,
her visits were never of long duration. I became very much attached to
her, for she often entertained us with long stories about the Revolution
and the aggressions of the British soldiers--about which you shall hear
when I come to tell you of the long visit I made there one summer. Aunt
Henshaw was very proud of her farm and farming operations; her cattle
and vegetables had several times won the prize at agricultural fairs,
and she boasted that her land produced more than any of her neighbors';
who, being men, were of course expected to be more accomplished in such
matters. She appeared to delight in giving away things, and seldom made
us a visit without bringing something of her own raising. These little
presents my father always repaid tenfold; and Aunt Henshaw departed
without a new gown or hat, or something to show when she got home. I
believe that we generally anticipated more pleasure from her visits than
from any of the numerous friends who often favored us with
their company.

But Aunt Henshaw, I must confess, won my heart less by her own
individual merits than a present she once made me, which actually
appeared to me like a windfall from the skies. I was always
inordinately fond of reading, and my predelictions for fairy tales
amounted to an actual passion. When Mammy and Jane's ingenuity had been
exhausted in framing instances of the marvellous for my special
gratification, I would often fold my hands before my face, to shut out
all actual scenes, and thus sit and dream of wonderful adventures with
fairies, witches, and enchanted princesses. I was always happier in a
reverie than in the company of others--my own ideals I could make as I
chose--the real I must take as I found it. Castle-building is a pleasant
but dangerous occupation; had I not been so much of an enthusiast, a
day-dreamer, it would have been better for my happiness.

But to return to Aunt Henshaw and her present. Some school-mate one day
told me of the varied wonders contained in the "Arabian Kights." My
imagination, always excitable, became worked up to a high pitch by tales
of diamond caverns, flying horses, and mysterious Baloons under ground.
If I went to sleep, it was to dream of gardens more beautiful than
Paradise itself--of cooling fountains springing up at every step--of
all sorts of impossible fruits growing just where you wanted them--and
lamps and songs that gratified every wish. At length I could bear these
tantalizing visions of unattainable pleasure no longer; I put on my
bonnet and determined to go the whole rounds of the village until I met
with some success. People wondered what ailed me that afternoon; I
bolted directly into a room--asked if they had the Arabian Nights--and,
on being answered in the negative, went out as expeditiously as I had
gone in, and tried another acquaintance. I was not easily daunted, and
took each one in succession, but all to no purpose; I returned home,
fairly sick with disappointment, and hope delayed.

The very next day Aunt Henshaw came down on a visit; and placing in my
hands an old-looking, leather-covered book, observed, "I happened to
come across this stowed away in an old chest, Amy, and knowing your
fondness for fairy tales, I have brought it for you to read."

I scarcely heard what she said; I had glanced at the book, and on
seeing "Arabian Nights" traced in large gilt letters, the ground seemed
swimming before me, and I could scarcely contain my senses. Seizing the
beloved book, I made my escape as quickly as possible; and mounting up
to the cupola, a tiny room with glass sides, that commanded a view of
the country round, I effectually secured myself against interruption,
and soon became fascinated out of all remembrance. The day waned into
evening--the shadows deepened around--I remember fixing my eyes on a
brilliant star that seemed to come closer and closer, until it assumed a
strangely beautiful form, and I lost all consciousness.

In the meantime a strict search for me had been going on below. They
began to be alarmed at my continued absence; and after examining every
room, the garden, and every spot on the premises, they sent around the
neighborhood. I was known to be extremely fond of visiting, and every
acquaintance was interrogated in turn--of course, without success. No
one had thought of the cupola, and mamma was getting fairly frightened;
when Mammy took a light, and on ascending to my dormitory, discovered me
fast asleep, with the book tightly clasped to my bosom.

It afterwards yielded the boys as much delight as it had me; Fred, in
particular, had a notion of trying experiments upon the plan there laid
out. He had sat one afternoon for sometime with the book in his
hands--apparently resolving some problem in his own mind; Mammy was
stooping over the nursery fire, when she was suddenly startled by an
unexpected shower of water sprinkled over her head and neck--Fred at the
same time exclaiming, in a tone that seemed to doubt not: "I command you
instantly to turn into a coal black mare!"

"I don't know what would become of you, you good-for-naught, if I did!"
returned Mammy.

Some years later I read "The Children of the Abbey," and this opened a
new field of thought. My dreams, instead of being peopled with fairies
and genii, were now filled with distressed damsels who met with all
sorts of persecutions and Quixotic adventures, and finally ended where
they should have commenced.

CHAPTER VIII.

I had a boy-lover who always selected me as his partner in all our
plays, and kept me in pointers with blue ribbons attached to them, to
point out the towns on the large map in the school-room. Charles Tracy
was about my own age, but in disposition and taste he resembled my
brother Henry, and the two were quite inseparable; while his sister
Ellen and I formed an acquaintance through the fence by displaying our
dolls to each other--and this was the beginning of an intimacy that
lasted a long time for children's friendships.

Ellen possessed a charm which often caused me to experience the
uncomfortable sensation of envy; her hair fell in long, golden-colored
ringlets upon her neck and shoulders, and these same curls seemed to
shake about so nicely whenever she moved her head. I sometimes thought
that Ellen shook them about much more than was absolutely necessary; but
at the same time they excited my warmest admiration. I felt as though I
could do anything--go through with all sorts of difficulties to have my
hair curl naturally; and with a feeling of unspeakable rapture I
listened to Ellen one day as she told me in a mysterious whisper that
the nurse had said eating crusts made her hair curl.

_Eating crusts!_ What a discovery!--I immediately felt ready to eat all
the crusts in our house and every one else's. I bribed the children to
deliver up all their crusts to me, and commenced eating them with a
voracity that excited the surprise of all the nursery inmates. But
already, in perspective, I beheld my head adorned with long, glossy
curls, and I persevered, despite the laughter I excited. I devoured
crusts by the wholesale, but alas! no waving locks rewarded my patient
toil; and at length I had the pleasure of hearing that the crust
business was a fable, invented by Ellen's nurse to induce that young
lady to finish her odds and ends of bread, which she was very much
disposed to scatter about the nursery. It was cruel, after being
elevated to such a pinnacle of happiness, to find my hopes thus rudely
dashed to the ground; and my hair seemed straighter than ever, from
contrast with what I had expected it to be. Ellen was prevented from
wasting her crusts, and so far it was well; but the nurse lost by her
falsehood whatever respect I may have had for her--a loss which she
perhaps did not regard as such, or indeed trouble herself at all
about--but even a child's good opinion is something.

I was very much inclined to be fleshy--too much so, I thought, for
beauty of figure; and this was another great annoyance. People in
speaking of us, always used to say: "What fine large children!" until I
hated the very sound of it, and wished most earnestly for Ellen's light,
fairy-like figure. I once resolved to starve myself into growing thin;
and, to Mammy's great surprise, refused to taste the dinner she handed
me, and resolutely persisted in going to bed without my supper. Mammy,
good old soul! watched me narrowly, not having been let into the secret
of my laudable resolve; and while she supposed that I had fallen into a
restless slumber, I was in reality tossing about on my trundle bed,
suffering the tantalizing pains of hunger. I remonstrated with myself in
vain; heard all the _pros_ and _cons_ on both sides in this perplexing
case of vanity _vs._ appetite, and finally resolved to satisfy my
hunger, cost what it would.

But how to do this was the next question. Enticing slices of bread and
butter kept dancing before my eyes; and at length, when I heard the
snore which announced Mammy's departure to the land of dreams, I rose as
quietly as possible, and descended on a foraging expedition to the
pantry. How very nice everything did look! I stood for a moment feasting
my eyes with the sight, but oh, ill-timed delay! I had not tasted a
single morsel, when a low whisper fell upon my ear, and on turning, I
beheld Mammy gazing on me rather fearfully, while at her elbow stood
Jane in night-gown and cap, who was violently rubbing her eyes in order
to clear away the fancied mist, and thus convince herself that it was
really the veritable _me_ who was about to perform such an
unheroine-like part.

This discovery seemed to me exactly like those tantalizing dreams in
which you are sitting down at a table covered with everything nice, but
before you have time to taste anything your visions are rudely
dispelled, and you wake and look in vain for the tempting paraphernalia.
I once bore this in mind after being several times teased in this
manner; and resolving not to be so deceived again, I succeeded in
regaling myself with a mince-pie--which appeared to me quite in the
light of a triumph. I now cast about me for some means to escape from
this disagreeable dilemma; and having heard Mammy whisper to Jane: "How
very wild she looks!" I found that they supposed me to be walking in my
sleep, a practice to which I was somewhat addicted; and not seeing why
sleep-walkers should not direct their course to the cupboard as well as
anywhere else, I boldly seized a loaf and commenced an attack upon it.

"Let us wait and see what she will do," whispered Mammy.

"It is very evident what she will do, now that she has the loaf in her
hands," replied Jane in a sleepy tone. "I do not believe that she is
asleep at all, but just as wide awake as we are. I have read a story
somewhere," she continued, "of a French girl who succeeded in persuading
people that she lived without eating; but at last some one watched the
girl closely, and one night discovered her at the pantry, regaling
herself with cold chicken sufficiently to go without eating for a week.
Now, Miss Amy has eaten neither dinner nor supper, and she may be
imitating the French girl, in order to be made a fuss with. I will speak
to her and see."

"Not for the world!" exclaimed Mammy in terror, as she grasped the more
enterprising Jane. "Do not touch her--for I have heard of its killing
people to be awakened suddenly while in this state."

Jane obeyed, although her face still wore an incredulous expression; and
I continued eating, looking as wild as possible all the time. The
nursery-maid began at length to fear that I would put an end to my own
life, if not spoken to; but Mammy still objected--murmuring as she
watched my voracious performances; "Poor child! how hungry she must have
been to come down and eat in her sleep! I wonder why she refused her
tea?"

After a while, however, I became more sleepy than hungry; and Mammy and
Jane kindly conveyed me back to my little bed, where I slept soundly
till morning. I was not destined to reap much glory from this
escapade--not even the glory of being a sleep-walker; for Jane, looking
me steadily in the face, said: "Now, Miss Amy, I wish you to tell me
truly whether you were asleep last night, when you went down into the
pantry and devoured almost a whole loaf of bread! Now be a good girl,
and tell the truth, for you frightened us very much."

At first I pretended stupidity, and inquired, "what pantry?" and "what
bread?" but Jane soon discovered that I knew very well; and while she
looked at me so searchingly I could not possibly frame a plausible
story--so, from sheer necessity, I told the whole truth, "and nothing
but the truth." My curious attempt at getting thin excited great
amusement; but Mammy told me that she knew of a better way than that,
which was to run up and down stairs as much as possible. I followed her
advice until I became tired of it; and during that period I was
universally acknowledged to be the most obliging child in the house, for
I was quite indefatigable in running on other people's errands. I became
discouraged, though, when I found that I remained as fat as ever; and
began tasking my brain for some other expedient.

I had gone to Ellen Tracy's to enjoy a holiday; and, quite mad with
spirits, we roamed hither and thither, scarcely knowing what to do with
ourselves. At length Ellen proposed that we should go to "the boys'
room," and go we accordingly did. We would have recognized it as the
sanctum of two or three noisy urchins of the male gender, even had we
not known it beforehand. On the dressing-table stood a top, half-a-dozen
marbles, and a fishing-line; while the walls displayed various quaint
devices of their own drawing. There was a something which, Ellen
informed us, was intended for a ghost; but if so, he had a most undue
proportion of flesh on his bones, and looked far more like a giant. We
concluded to equip ourselves in male attire, for the sake of
variety--being heartily tired of frocks and petticoats; and Ellen's
pretty curls having been tucked up under a round cap, she looked so
fascinating that I felt quite ambitious to rival her--but in attempting
to draw on one of Charles' jackets, I found that it would not meet round
my waist. Oh, mortification unspeakable! to find myself larger around
the waist than a boy a whole year my senior! I could scarcely refrain
from bursting into tears; forgetting that I belonged to the dumpling
order, while Charles was as slender and straight as a young birch tree.
My pleasure for that day was gone; in vain Ellen displayed her whole
stock of worldly possessions to tempt my admiration. I scarcely bestowed
a look on anything, and returned home perfectly miserable.

For days I kept my ears wide open in hopes of catching something that
might relieve my distress, and at length I met with some success. I
overheard a visitor telling my mother of some young lady, whose figure
they had been admiring, that she was nothing at all without her
corsets--a complete dumpling; and then followed a long digression on the
impropriety of imposing upon the public in this manner; but for that I
did not care--I determined to impose upon them too, as soon as I got a
chance. Soon after, a school-mate encased me in a remarkably tight pair,
during an afternoon's visit; and having, as she said, 'made me look
quite genteel,' I departed for home with the delightful consciousness of
being 'something of a figure.' Before bed-time I had a romp in the
garden with my wild brother and Charles Tracy; I experienced a feeling
of suffocation, while running through the paths, that became quite
insupportable.

"Why Amy!" exclaimed Charles as he grasped my arm, "What _is_ the
matter? you look quite black in the face!" They all gathered around me,
but unable to speak, I sank back into Charles Tracy's arms, and lost
all consciousness.

When I recovered, I found myself lying on my own little bed, with my
mother bending fondly over me--the cause of all this trouble on a chair
at my side--and Mammy, dear, good Mammy! regarding me with a puzzled
look of surprise.

"Why, she actually fainted!" whispered Jane, "just dead away, like any
grown person!"

"No," replied Mammy, "the child was dreadfully squeezed, and that took
away her breath. She'll kill herself next, with some of her capers!"

Mamma now made a sign for them to be quiet, and stooping down close to
my face, asked me how I felt. I tried to answer, "better;" but the words
almost choked me, and I still experienced a difficulty in breathing. The
evil consequences of this attempt at the graceful were but temporary,
however; and the next morning, as I sat up quite recovered, a discussion
took place between mamma and the old nurse on the propriety of
equipping me at once in corsets to improve my figure. I soon experienced
the delight of possessing a pair of my own; on which memorable occasion,
I resolved that, like the old woman, I would "neither borrow nor lend;"
but the present was conditional--on the first instance of my lacing too
tight it was to be taken from me. I took care that this should never
happen--that is, to such a degree as to expose myself to punishment; but
in many a scene of enjoyment did I suffer the consequences of my foolish
vanity. Often while music, and dancing, and everything contributed to
render a children's party delightful, I sat apart in a corner, or else
went languidly through the figures of the dance, while every nerve
throbbed with acute pain.

Ellen and I had for sometime noticed that Charles and Henry were more
together than ever. They seldom associated with us now, or asked us to
join them; Henry proved faithless with respect to a table he had
promised my doll, and Charles refused, for the present, to dig his
sister's garden spot; therefore we put our two wise heads together and
concluded that this must mean something. The moment school was out, the
cap was hastily snatched from its nail in the entry, and they both
sallied forth together--where, or for what purpose, we tried in vain to
discover. On Saturdays they were constantly at work in the barn,
hammering, and cutting, and shaving; and one day we detected them
making, over a fire which they had built on bricks in the open air,
something which smelt very much like molasses candy. But upon Ellen's
venturing to communicate this to Charles, he answered contemptuously
that "it was just like girls!--always fancying that everything was
something eatable!"

The two made a journey to town together, and came back laden with sundry
parcels; and notwithstanding all this business, Henry found time to be
very industrious in weeding the flower-beds, for which my father paid
him so much an hour--and I noticed that he was uncommonly punctual in
presenting his bills. Without being very penetrating, we discovered
that the scheme, whatever it might be, was one that required a great
deal of time, a great deal of shopping, and a great deal of money. We
racked our brains in vain, and not a single mite of information could we
extract from the boys; indeed, we might just as well have attacked two
pine boards, for they pretended to be deaf as soon as we commenced our
inquiries. Ellen began to be afraid that they meditated living on some
wild island, like Robinson Crusoe, for she had seen Charles privately
appropriate a hatchet, and a ball of twine; and I inclined to the
opinion that they were both going to sea, and represented to Ellen how
delightful it would be to have them making voyages and bringing us
shells, and corals, and all sorts of curious things. But I was the
greatest philosopher of the two, for my more timid playmate cried
bitterly at the idea; and it was sometime before I could succeed in
pacifying her.

We one day discovered the boys in an old barn on the premises; and
waiting patiently near by until we saw them depart on some errand to the
house, we perceived, to our great joy that the door was unfastened; and
effecting a hasty entrance, we expected to be almost as well rewarded
for our trouble as was Blue-beard's wife on entering the forbidden
chamber. But nothing could we see except a few old boxes turned upside
down, and along one side a neat row of shelves. We perceived indeed that
the small window now contained four panes of glass, and we also
discovered two or three little shelves there. But here our discoveries
ended; there was nothing to account for all the labor and privacy that
had been going on for the last two or three weeks,--and quite in
despair, we returned to the house before the boys discovered our prying.

Things continued in this state for sometime longer; and finding that all
our efforts at discovery were not rewarded with the slightest success,
we assumed an appearance of proud indifference, and pretended to be as
much occupied with our dolls and baby-houses as they were with their
barn. Now and then one of the boys, in the tantalizing spirit of
mischief, would thrust a parcel under our very eyes, exclaiming at the
same time: "Wouldn't you like to see the inside, though? Confess, now,
that you would give your very ears to know what's in it!"

"Indeed, and we would not!" in great indignation, "not we! We supposed
that it was some boys' nonsense not worth talking about, and were quite
occupied with our own affairs, without troubling ourselves about them."

In a tone that sounded very much as though he were in earnest, Charles
would continue: "Suppose, Henry, that we let them know what it is, if
they promise not to tell--shall we?"

"By no means," Henry would reply, with the air of a Socrates, "Women can
never keep a secret--I have heard my father say so."

"We were sure we didn't want to hear their secrets!" and indignantly
clipping away with our scissors, we turned a deaf ear to all further
remarks. However, the secret did come to light after a while, and in a
most unexpected manner.

We had just received a liberal allowance of pocket-money, and while
Ellen and I deliberated on the various ways in which it might be spent
to advantage, Henry asked us, with a perfectly grave face, if we had
heard of the new store lately opened near us? _New_ store! Why there had
never been any store at all, except the little stand kept by old Betty
Tweednor, and now Henry spoke of the new store as though such a thing
had ever existed. Certainly we had not heard of it; but resolving to
remain no longer in ignorance, we seized our bonnets, and were ready to
start in a moment. Henry looked very knowing and mysterious; but
following his guidance, we soon found ourselves at the barn which had
before excited our curiosity. Why, it had been turned into a regular
shop! Rows of candies, better known among children as "barber's-poles,"
looked imposingly out of the window, and these were flanked by piles of
pea-nuts, apples, &c. But all these would have been nothing without that
delight of childhood--taffy-candy; and upon a further investigation, we
discovered a very ingenious pair of clam-shell scales, with holes bored
for strings to pass through, and suspended from a stout stick which was
kept in its place by being fastened to an upright piece of wood at each
end--the whole resting upon a very complete counter formed of old
boxes. It looked exactly like a real store; and behind the counter stood
Charles, as demure as possible,--while crowds of our schoolmates gazed,
admired, and wondered.

A sign near the door informed passers that "the proprietors, grateful
for past favors and the patronage of a liberal public, would continue
the business under the firm of Chesbury and Tracy." It would be a
somewhat difficult task, we thought, to discover the favors and
patronage alluded to; but the young merchants had concluded that this
clause gave a dignity and air of reality to the whole. We experienced
the pleasure of making purchases, weighed out to us from the much
admired clam-shell scales, and were very particular in exacting full
weight. Each sale was recorded in a small account book; and long after
we had grown to the years of discretion, our mirth was excited by
accidentally meeting with this juvenile record. So many purchases were
made that afternoon, that the young storekeepers perceived with dismay
the very visible decrease in their supplies. We accused them of
retrenching considerably in their quantities, on this discovery, and
thought that they were too inexperienced for so weighty an office.

Ellen and I often added to their stores by little pies and cakes which
we manufactured at home; and in process of time their articles embraced
such a variety that the shop became quite celebrated. Even mamma would
sometimes come to make purchases; and the boy-merchants found their
scheme a very profitable one. But alas! it vanished with the last summer
breath; the early snows surrounded their little store, and all access
became inconvenient. So they had a sale at prime cost--and we then
obtained most wonderful bargains in the confectionary line. Finding
himself quite wealthy now, Charles could well afford to be generous; and
presented me with a new doll, and his sister Ellen with a miniature set
of cups and saucers, over which we had many happy tea-drinkings. We
received no presents from Henry, and heard nothing of his money; and it
was not till some time after, and then through another source, that we
learned that his portion had materially helped to keep a poor woman
from freezing during the winter. My father often remarked of Henry, that
"he was too generous and self-forgetful ever to be rich;" but there is
no doubt that such have their reward--in their own consciences at least.

CHAPTER IX.

The winter wore rapidly away with sleigh-riding, snow-balling, and our
usual parties; and spring, lovely spring! again made its appearance. Our
flower-garden looked its very loveliest at this season; for it boasted
countless stores of hyacinths, tulips, daffodils, blue-bells, violets,
crocuses, &c. I remember so well when we first noticed the little green
sprouts shooting up in spots from which the snow had melted; and on
making this discovery, we always danced into the house and shouted out:
"Spring has come!" It gladdened our very hearts to find the first little
violet that dared to show its head above the ground; and then we ran to
the peach-trees to look at the delicate pink buds that shot forth so
curiously without any leaves. There was a warm sweet breath abroad upon
the air that tossed our hair about, and fanned our flushed cheeks, and
we knew that it was spring, sweet spring! that had come again to us. Oh,
how delightful it was when, escaped from all watchful eyes, I could
throw aside the troublesome sun-bonnet, that so obstructed my sight, and
dig and delve at pleasure! Never in all my life have I been so happy as
in these delightful spring days, when I roved about the paths with a
heart full of happiness, and a sensation of thankfulness for the
blessings I enjoyed.

Two circumstances contributed materially to immortalize this particular
spring in my recollections: I then completed my tenth year, which I
thought left me on the very threshold of womanhood, and we had two pet
squirrels, who inhabited the locust trees in front of the house, with a
tin cage to retire to at night--one of whom we called "blackey," and the
other "browney," from their different colors.

"Blackey" was extremely mischievous, and rarely could be caught; but
"browney" seemed a perfect paragon of gentleness and goodness--and I
would seat myself on the steps, holding him for hours, and listening to
the monotonous hum of the locusts, which always filled my heart with a
sense of quiet happiness. Did you never sit watching the glorious
sunbeams, as they fell on the soft, fresh grass, and with this low,
soothing hum in your ears, feel that the earth was very beautiful? I
have; but then I was a dreamer--an unmistakable, enthusiastic dreamer,
and my fancies would, perhaps, be laughed at by the wise ones of earth.

To return to "browney;" my love cooled for him very suddenly one
morning, as, with my finger in close proximity to his mouth, I sat and
apostrophized him thus, "You dear, little angel, you! I love you
dearly!" a sudden closing of sharp little teeth on my poor fingers put
an end to my rhapsodies; and the "little angel" was most unceremoniously
dropped on the ground, from whence he made his escape to his usual home,
the locust tree--and I never again sought to entice him from his
retreat. I ran about the walks as usual this spring, but it was with
languor and indifference that I visited our usual haunts; and I
wondered what it was that made my steps so very slow and dragging--it
seemed as though a weight were tied on each heel. If I attempted a race
with the boys, I was obliged to give up from very weariness; and
laughing at what they termed my laziness, they pursued their amusements
without me. Charles Tracy would now and then bring me a bunch of wild
flowers; and to the surprise of all, I preferred sitting with them in my
hands to joining in my usual noisy games. I grew pale and thin; and
Mammy and Jane began to express their uneasiness about me, while I often
noticed my mother's eyes fixed upon me in tender solicitude.

I went to bed one night feeling restless and feverish. It was the latter
part of April, and a small wood-fire still burned on the hearth; on the
embers of which I fixed my eyes steadfastly, until strange shapes and
burning eyes seemed moving about the quiet hearth. I was quite alone;
Mammy had gone out to spend the evening, and Jane was taking her tea in
the kitchen. Had it been for life or death I could not have spoken; I
tried to scream--but a hollow sound rattled in my ears--and with the
cold drops gathering on my forehead, I lay still, subdued, in a state of
delirious agony. I was almost senseless; until at length, feeling a
touch upon my arm, and a breathing at my side, I started wildly up, and
eluding all pursuit, fled swiftly down the stair-case. I pressed my hand
tightly on my throbbing head, and gaining the kitchen, burst suddenly
in, exclaiming, "O! Jane! Jane! do not leave me again!" I sunk down
insensible; and remember nothing but a scream of horror which proceeded
from Jane, who, having just seated herself beside me as I sprang out of
bed, had followed me in a state of breathless alarm to the kitchen.

When I again opened my eyes, it was about midnight. I had been conveyed
to my mother's room, and now experienced the delightful sensation of
finding myself in a high bed, with curtains; while my head was raised up
with pillows to an unusual height. In turning myself to obtain a better
view of the surrounding scenery, I became conscious of a stiffness in my
right arm; and fairly shuddered with horror on perceiving a basin of
blood close to my bedside. But worse and worse! a few paces further off
stood a grave-looking man, whom, from his very air, I knew to be a
doctor. Nay, had I been at all doubtful on this point, the addition of a
pair of spectacles would have convinced me at once--as this is an
ornament especially pertaining to M. D.'s. I had always hated, loathed,
dreaded a doctor as I would a nauseous object; and I now trembled to
find myself in his power--fearing that he read my dislike in my face.
Spectacles, too, disconcerted me; the glimmer of the polished glass
seems to add new fire to the eyes beneath; and I now beheld a pair, eyes
and all, levelled directly upon me. I shuddered at the very idea of a
doctor, and could never sit still in the room with one; and now there
stood that horrid man, evidently regarding me as his victim, while I
felt too weak and sick to make the least resistance.

My aversion probably arose from the circumstance of once having had a
loose front tooth pulled out--one that was just ready to jump out
itself; which operation, I felt convinced, had left my system in a very
shattered state. Often since did I torture myself for hours by mounting
up on a table before the glass, and with a string tied around a loosened
tooth, give it a little cowardly pull at intervals--lacking sufficient
courage to rid myself of my trouble at once. I have sometimes sat in
this interesting position for a whole morning; and should probably have
continued it through the afternoon had not Fred, or Henry, perceiving my
employment, come slyly behind me and caused me to start suddenly, which
always dislodged the troublesome tooth.

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