Sidneys still are here

There is so much to tell about our father that I hardly know where to
begin. First, you must know something of his appearance. He was tall and
very erect, with the carriage and walk of a soldier. His hair was black,
with silver threads in it; his eyes were of the deepest and brightest
blue I ever saw. They were eyes full of light: to us it was the soft,
beaming light of love and tenderness, but sometimes to others it was the
flash of a sword. He was very handsome; in his youth he had been thought
one of the handsomest men of his day. It was a gallant time, this youth
of our father. When hardly more than a lad, he went out to help the
brave Greeks who were fighting to free their country from the cruel
yoke of the Turks. At an age when most young men were thinking how they
could make money, and how they could best advance themselves in the
world, our father thought only how he could do most good, be of most
help to others. So he went out to Greece, and fought in many a battle
beside the brave mountaineers. Dressed like them in the “snowy chemise
and the shaggy capote,” he shared their toils and their hardships;
slept, rolled in his cloak, under the open stars, or sat over the
camp-fire, roasting wasps strung on a stick like dried cherries. The old
Greek chieftains called him “the beautiful youth,” and loved him. Once
he saved the life of a wounded Greek, at the risk of his own, as you
shall read by and by in Whittier’s beautiful words; and the rescued man
followed him afterward like a dog, not wishing to lose sight of him for
an hour, and would even sleep at his feet at night.

Our father’s letters and journals give vivid pictures of the wild life
among the rugged Greek mountains. Now he describes his

[Illustration: DR. SAMUEL GRIDLEY HOWE.]

lodging in a village, which he has reached late at night, in a pouring
rain:–

“Squatted down upon a sort of straw pillow placed on the ground, I
enjoy all the luxury of a Grecian hut; which in point of elegance,
ease, and comfort, although not equal to the meanest of our negro
huts, is nevertheless somewhat superior to the naked rock. We have
two apartments, but no partitions between them, the different rooms
being constituted by the inequality of the ground,–we living up
the hill, while the servants and horses live down in the lower
part; and the smoke of our fires, rising to the roof and seeking in
vain for some hole to escape, comes back again to me.”

Again, he gives a pleasant account of his visit to a good old Greek
priest, who lived with his family in a tiny cottage, the best house in
the village. He found the good old man just sitting down to supper with
his wife and children, and was invited most cordially to join them. The
supper consisted of a huge beet, boiled, and served with butter and
black bread. This was enough for the whole family, and the guest too;
and after describing the perfect contentment and cheerfulness which
reigned in the humble dwelling, our father makes some reflections on the
different things which go to make up a pleasant meal, and decides that
the old “Papa” (as a Greek priest is called) had a much better supper
than many rich people he remembered at home, who feasted three times a
day on all that money could furnish in the way of good cheer, and found
neither joy nor comfort in their victuals.

Once our father and his comrades lay hidden for hours in the hollow of
an ancient wall (built thousands of years ago, perhaps in Homer’s day),
while the Turks, scimitar in hand, scoured the fields in search of them.
Many years after, he showed this hollow to Julia and Laura, who went
with him on his fourth journey to Greece, and told them the story.

When our father saw the terrible sufferings of the Greek women and
children, who were starving while their husbands and fathers were
fighting for life and freedom, he thought that he could help best by
helping them; so, though I know he loved the fighting, for he was a
born soldier, he came back to this country, and told all that he had
seen, and asked for money and clothes and food for the perishing wives
and mothers and children. He told the story well, and put his whole
heart into it; and people listen to a story so told. Many hearts beat in
answer to his, and in a short time he sailed for Greece again, with a
good ship full of rice and flour, and cloth to make into garments, and
money to buy whatever else might be needed. When he landed in Greece,
the women came flocking about him by thousands, crying for bread, and
praying God to bless him. He felt blessed enough when he saw the
children eating bread, and saw the naked backs covered, and the sad,
hungry faces smiling again. So he went about doing good, and helping
whenever he saw need. Perhaps many a poor woman may have thought that
the beautiful youth was almost like an angel sent by God to relieve her;
and she may not have been far wrong.

When the war was over, and Greece was a free country, our father came
home, and looked about him again to see what he could do to help
others. He talked with a friend of his, Dr. Fisher, and they decided
that they would give their time to helping the blind, who needed help
greatly. There were no schools for them in those days; and if a child
was blind, it must sit with folded hands and learn nothing.

Our father found several blind children, and took them to his home and
taught them. By and by some kind friends gave money, and one–Colonel
Perkins–gave a fine house to be a school for these children and others;
and that was the beginning of the Perkins Institution for the Blind, now
a great school where many blind boys and girls learn to read and study,
and to play on various instruments, and to help themselves and others in
the world.

Our father always said, “Help people to help themselves; don’t accustom
them to being helped by others.” Another saying of his, perhaps his
favorite one, next to the familiar “Let justice be done, if the heavens
fall!” was this: “Obstacles are things to be overcome.” Indeed, this
was one of the governing principles of his life; and there were few
obstacles that did not go down before that keen lance of his, always in
rest and ready for a charge.

When our father first began his work in philanthropy, some of his
friends used to laugh at him, and call him Don Quixote. Especially was
this the case when he took up the cause of the idiotic and weak-minded,
and vowed that instead of being condemned to live like animals, and be
treated as such, they should have their rights as human beings, and
should be taught all the more carefully and tenderly because their minds
were weak and helpless.

“What do you think Howe is going to do now?” cried one gentleman to
another, merrily. “He is going to teach the idiots, ha, ha, ha!” and
they both laughed heartily, and thought it a very good joke. But people
soon ceased to laugh when they saw the helpless creatures beginning to
help themselves; saw the girls learning to sew and the boys to work; saw
light gradually come into the vacant eyes (dim and uncertain light it
might be, but how much better than blank darkness!), and strength and
purpose to the nerveless fingers.

So the School for Feeble-minded Children was founded, and has been ever
since a pleasant place, full of hope and cheer; and when people found
that this Don Quixote knew very well the difference between a giant and
a windmill, and that he always brought down his giants, they soon ceased
to laugh, and began to wonder and admire.

All my readers have probably heard about Laura Bridgman, whom he found a
little child, deaf, dumb, and blind, knowing no more than an animal, and
how he taught her to read and write, to talk with her fingers, and to
become an earnest, thoughtful, industrious woman. It is a wonderful
story; but it has already been told, and will soon be still more fully
told, so I will not dwell upon it now.

But I hope you will all read, some day, a Life of our father, and learn
about all the things he did, for it needs a whole volume to tell them.

But it is especially as our father that I want to describe this great
and good man. I suppose there never was a tenderer or kinder father. He
liked to make companions of his children, and was never weary of having
us “tagging” at his heels. We followed him about the garden like so many
little dogs, watching the pruning or grafting which were his special
tasks. We followed him up into the wonderful pear-room, where were many
chests of drawers, every drawer full of pears lying on cotton-wool. Our
father watched their ripening with careful heed, and told us many things
about their growth and habits. We learned about the Curé pear, which,
one fancied, had been named for an old gentleman with a long and waving
nose; and about the Duchesse d’Angoulême, which suggested, in appearance
as in name, a splendid dame in gold and crimson velvet. Then there were
all the Beurrés, from the pale beauty of the Beurré Diel to the Beurré
Bosc in its coat of rich russet, and the Easter Beurré, latest of all.
There, too, was the Winter Nelis,–which we persisted in calling “Winter
Nelly,” and regarded as a friend of our own age, though this never
prevented us from eating her with delight whenever occasion
offered,–and the Glout Morceau, and the Doyenne d’Eté, and hundreds
more. Julia’s favorite was always the Bartlett, which appealed to her
both by its beauty and its sweetness; but Flossy always held, and Laura
held with her, and does hold, and will hold till she dies, that no pear
is to be named in the same breath with the Louise Bonne de Jersey.

Oh good Louise, you admirable woman, for whom this green-coated ambrosia
was named! what a delightful person you must have been! How sweetness
and piquancy must have mingled in your adorable disposition! Happy was
the man who called you his! happy was the island of Jersey, which saw
you and your pears ripening and mellowing side by side!

I must not leave the pear-room without mentioning the beloved Strawberry
Book, which was usually to be found there, and over which we children
used to pore by the hour together. “Fruits of America” was its real
name, but we did not care for that; we loved it for its brilliant
pictures of strawberries and all other fruits, and perhaps even more for
the wonderful descriptions which were really as satisfying as many an
actual feast. Was it not almost as good as eating a pear, to read these
words about it:–

“Skin a rich golden yellow, dappled with orange and crimson, smooth
and delicate; flesh smooth, melting, and buttery; flavor rich,
sprightly, vinous, and delicious!”

Almost as good, I say, but not quite; and it is pleasant to recall that
we seldom left the pear-room empty-handed.

Then there was his own room, where we could examine the wonderful
drawers of his great bureau, and play with the “picknickles” and
“bucknickles.” I believe our father invented these words. They
were–well, all kinds of pleasant little things,–amber mouthpieces, and
buckles and bits of enamel, and a wonderful Turkish pipe, and seals and
wax, and some large pins two inches long which were great treasures. On
his writing-table were many clean pens in boxes, which you could lay out
in patterns; and a sand-box–very delightful! We were never tired of
pouring the fine black sand into our hands, where it felt so cool and
smooth, and then back again into the box with its holes arranged
star-fashion. And to see him shake sand over his paper when he wrote a
letter, and then pour it back in a smooth stream, while the written
lines sparkled and seemed to stand up from the page! Ah, blotting-paper
is no doubt very convenient, but I should like to have a sand-box,
nevertheless!

I cannot remember that our father was ever out of patience when we
pulled his things about. He had many delightful stories,–one of “Jacky
Nory,” which had no end, and went on and on, through many a walk and
garden prowl. Often, too, he would tell us of his own pranks when he was
a little boy,–how they used to tease an old Portuguese sailor with a
wooden leg, and how the old man would get very angry, and cry out,
“Calabash me rompe you!” meaning, “I’ll break your head!” How when he
was a student in college, and ought to have known better, he led the
president’s old horse upstairs and left him in an upper room of one of
the college buildings, where the poor beast astonished the passers-by by
putting his head out of the windows and neighing. And then our father
would shake his head and say he was a very naughty boy, and Harry must
never do such things. (But Harry did!)

He loved to play and romp with us. Sometimes he would put on his great
fur-coat, and come into the dining-room at dancing-time, on all-fours,
growling horribly, and pursue us into corners, we shrieking with
delighted terror. Or he would sing for us, sending us into fits of
laughter, for he had absolutely no ear for music. There was one tune
which he was quite sure he sang correctly, but no one could recognize
it. At last he said, “Oh–Su-_san_na!” and then we all knew what the
tune was. “Hail to the Chief!” was his favorite song, and he sang it
with great spirit and fervor, though the air was strictly original, and
very peculiar. When he was tired of romping or carrying us on his
shoulder, he would say, “No; no more! I have a bone in my leg!” which
excuse was accepted by us little ones in perfect good faith, as we
thought it some mysterious but painful malady.

If our father had no ear for music, he had a fine one for metre, and
read poetry aloud very beautifully. His voice was melodious and ringing,
and we were thrilled with his own enthusiasm as he read to us from Scott
or Byron, his favorite poets. I never can read “The Assyrian came down,”
without hearing the ring of his voice and seeing the flash of his blue
eyes as he recited the splendid lines. He had a great liking for Pope,
too (as I wish more people had nowadays), and for Butler’s “Hudibras,”
which he was constantly quoting. He commonly, when riding, wore but one
spur, giving Hudibras’s reason, that if one side of the horse went, the
other must perforce go with it; and how often, on some early morning
walk or ride, have I heard him say,–

“And, like a lobster boiled, the morn
From black to red began to turn.”

Or if war or fighting were mentioned, he would often cry,–

“Ay me! what perils do environ
The man that meddles with cold iron!”

I must not leave the subject of reading without speaking of his reading
of the Bible, which was most impressive. No one who ever heard him read
morning prayers at the Institution (which he always did until his health
failed in later years) can have forgotten the grave, melodious voice,
the reverent tone, the majestic head bent above the sacred book. Nor was
it less impressive when on Sunday afternoons he read to us, his
children. He would have us read, too, allowing us to choose our favorite
psalms or other passages.

He was an early riser, and often shared our morning walks. Each child,
as soon as it was old enough, was taught to ride; and the rides before
breakfast with him are things never to be forgotten. He took one child
at a time, so that all in turn might have the pleasure. It seems hardly
longer ago than yesterday,–the coming downstairs in the cool, dewy
morning, nibbling a cracker for fear of hunger, springing into the
saddle, the little black mare shaking her head, impatient to be off; the
canter through the quiet streets, where only an early milkman or baker
was to be seen, though on our return we should find them full of boys,
who pointed the finger and shouted,–

“Lady on a hossback,
Row, row, row!”

then out into the pleasant country, galloping over the smooth road, or
pacing quietly under shady trees. Our father was a superb rider; indeed,
he never seemed so absolutely at home as in the saddle. He was very
particular about our holding whip and reins in the right way.

Speaking of his riding reminds me of a story our mother used to tell us.
When Julia was a baby, they were travelling in Italy, driving in an
old-fashioned travelling-carriage. One day they stopped at the door of
an inn, and our father went in to make some inquiries. While he was
gone, the rascally driver thought it a good opportunity for him to slip
in at the side door to get a draught of wine; and, the driver gone, the
horses saw that here was _their_ opportunity; so they took it, and ran
away with our mother, the baby, and nurse in the carriage.

Our father, hearing the sound of wheels, came out, caught sight of the
driver’s guilty face peering round the corner in affright, and at once
saw what had happened. He ran at full speed along the road in the
direction in which the horses were headed. Rounding a corner of the
mountain which the road skirted, he saw at a little distance a country
wagon coming slowly toward him, drawn by a stout horse, the wagoner half
asleep on the seat. Instantly our father’s resolve was taken. He ran up,
stopped the horse, unhitched him in the twinkling of an eye, leaped upon
his back, and was off like a flash, before the astonished driver, who
was not used to two-legged whirlwinds, could utter a word.

Probably the horse was equally astonished; but he felt a master on his
back, and, urged by hand and voice, he sprang to his topmost speed,
galloped bravely on, and soon overtook the lumbering carriage-horses,
which were easily stopped. No one was hurt, though our mother and the
nurse had of course been sadly frightened. The horses were turned, and
soon they came in sight of the unhappy countryman, still sitting on his
wagon, petrified with astonishment. He received a liberal reward, and
probably regretted that there were no more mad Americans to “steal a
ride,” and pay for it.

This presence of mind, this power of acting on the instant, was one of
our father’s great qualities. It was this that made him, when the
wounded Greek sank down before him–

“ … fling him from his saddle,
And place the stranger there.”

It was this, when arrested and imprisoned by the Prussian government on
suspicion of befriending unhappy Poland, that taught him what to do with
the important papers he carried. In the minute during which he was left
alone, before the official came to search

[Illustration: THE DOCTOR TO THE RESCUE!]

him, he thrust the documents up into the hollow head of a bust of the
King of Prussia which stood on a shelf; then tore some unimportant
papers into the smallest possible fragments, and threw them into a basin
of water which stood close at hand.

Next day the fragments carefully pasted together were shown to him,
hours having been spent in the painful and laborious task; but nobody
thought of looking for more papers in the head of King Friedrich
Wilhelm.

Our father, though nothing could be proved against him, might have
languished long in that Prussian prison had it not been for the
exertions of a fellow-countryman. This gentleman had met him in the
street the day before, had asked his address, and promised to call on
him. Inquiring for him next day at the hotel, he was told that no such
person was or had been there. Instantly suspecting foul play, this good
friend went to the American minister, and told his story. The minister
took up the matter warmly, and called upon the Prussian officials to
give up his countryman. This, after repeated denials of any knowledge
of the affair, they at length reluctantly consented to do. Our father
was taken out of prison at night, placed in a carriage, and driven
across the border into France, where he was dismissed with a warning
never to set foot in Prussia again.

One day, I remember, we were sitting at the dinner-table, when a
messenger came flying, “all wild with haste and fear,” to say that a
fire had broken out at the Institution. Now, in those days there lay
between Green Peace and the Institution a remnant of the famous
Washington Heights, where Washington and his staff had once made their
camp.

Much of the high ground had already been dug away, but there still
remained a great hill sloping back and up from the garden wall, and
terminating, on the side toward the Institution, in an abrupt precipice,
some sixty feet high. The bearer of the bad news had been forced to come
round by way of several streets, thus losing precious minutes; but the
Doctor did not know what it was to lose a minute. Before any one could
speak or ask what he would do he was out of the house, ran through the
garden, climbed the slope at the back, rushed like a flame across the
green hill-top, and slid down the almost perpendicular face of the
precipice! Bruised and panting, he reached the Institution and saw at a
glance that the fire was in the upper story. Take time to go round to
the door and up the stairs? Not he! He “swarmed” up the gutter-spout,
and in less time than it takes to tell it was on the roof, and cutting
away at the burning timbers with an axe, which he had got hold of no one
knows how. That fire was put out, as were several others at which our
father assisted.

Fire is swift, but it could not get ahead of the Doctor.

These are a few of the stories; but, as I said, it needs a volume to
tell all about our father’s life. I cannot tell in this short space how
he worked with the friends of liberty to free the slave; how he raised
the poor and needy, and “helped them to help themselves;” how he was a
light to the blind, and to all who walked in darkness, whether of
sorrow, sin, or suffering. Most men, absorbed in such high works as
these would have found scant leisure for family life and communion; but
no finger-ache of our father’s smallest child ever escaped his loving
care, no childish thought or wish ever failed to win his sympathy. We
who had this high privilege of being his children love to think of him
as the brave soldier, the wise physician, the great philanthropist; but
dearest of all is the thought of him as our loving and tender father.

And now, to end this chapter, you shall hear what Mr. Whittier, the
noble and honored poet, thought of this friend of his:–

THE HERO.

“Oh for a knight like Bayard,
Without reproach or fear;
My light glove on his casque of steel,
My love-knot on his spear!

“Oh for the white plume floating
Sad Zutphen’s field above,–
The lion heart in battle,
The woman’s heart in love!

“Oh that man once more were manly,
Woman’s pride and not her scorn;
That once more the pale young mother
Dared to boast ‘a man is born’!

“But now life’s slumberous current
No sun-bowed cascade wakes;
No tall, heroic manhood
The level dullness breaks.

“Oh for a knight like Bayard,
Without reproach or fear!
My light glove on his casque of steel,
My love-knot on his spear!”

Then I said, my own heart throbbing
To the time her proud pulse beat,
“Life hath its regal natures yet,–
True, tender, brave, and sweet!

“Smile not, fair unbeliever!
One man at least I know
Who might wear the crest of Bayard,
Or Sidney’s plume of snow.

“Once, when over purple mountains
Died away the Grecian sun,
And the far Cyllenian ranges
Paled and darkened one by one,–

“Fell the Turk, a bolt of thunder,
Cleaving all the quiet sky;
And against his sharp steel lightnings
Stood the Suliote but to die.

“Woe for the weak and halting!
The crescent blazed behind
A curving line of sabres
Like fire before the wind!

“Last to fly and first to rally,
Rode he of whom I speak,
When, groaning in his bridle-path,
Sank down a wounded Greek.–

“With the rich Albanian costume
Wet with many a ghastly stain,
Gazing on earth and sky as one
Who might not gaze again!

“He looked forward to the mountains,
Back on foes that never spare;
Then flung him from his saddle,
And placed the stranger there.

“‘Alla! hu!’ Through flashing sabres,
Through a stormy hail of lead,
The good Thessalian charger
Up the slopes of olives sped.

“Hot spurred the turbaned riders,–
He almost felt their breath,
Where a mountain stream rolled darkly down
Between the hills and death.

“One brave and manful struggle,–
He gained the solid land,
And the cover of the mountains
And the carbines of his band.”

“It was very brave and noble,”
Said the moist-eyed listener then;
“But one brave deed makes no hero;
Tell me what he since hath been?”

“Still a brave and generous manhood,
Still an honor without stain,
In the prison of the Kaiser,
By the barricades of Seine.

“But dream not helm and harness
The sign of valor true;
Peace hath higher tests of manhood
Than battle ever knew.

“Wouldst know him now? Behold him,
The Cadmus of the blind,
Giving the dumb lip language,
The idiot clay a mind;

“Walking his round of duty
Serenely day by day,
With the strong man’s hand of labor,
And childhood’s heart of play;

“True as the knights of story,
Sir Lancelot and his peers,
Brave in his calm endurance
As they in tilt of spears.

“As waves in stillest waters,
As stars in noon-day skies,
All that wakes to noble action
In his noon of calmness lies.

“Wherever outraged nature
Asks word or action brave;
Wherever struggles labor,
Wherever groans a slave;

“Wherever rise the peoples,
Wherever sinks a throne,–
The throbbing heart of Freedom finds
An answer in his own!

“Knight of a better era,
Without reproach or fear!
Said I not well that Bayards
And Sidneys still are here?”

Once upon a time, in a great house standing at the corner of Bond Street
and Broadway, New York city, there lived a little girl. She was named
Julia, after her lovely young mother; but as she grew she showed no
resemblance to that mother, with her great dark eyes and wealth of black
ringlets. This little girl had red hair, and that was a dreadful thing
in those days. Very fine, soft hair it was, thick and wavy, but–it was
red. Visitors, coming to see her mother, would shake their heads and
say, “Poor little Julia! what a pity she has red hair!” and the tender
mother would sigh, and regret that her child should have this
misfortune, when there was no red hair in the family so far as one knew.
And the beautiful hair was combed with a leaden comb, as one old lady
said that would turn it dark; and it was soaked in honey-water, as
another old lady said that was really the best thing you could do with
it; and the little Julia felt that she might almost as well be a
hunchback or a cripple as that unfortunate creature, a red-haired child.

When she was six years old, her beautiful mother died; and after that
Julia and her brothers and sisters were brought up by their good aunt,
who came to make her home with them and their father. A very good aunt
she was, and devoted to the motherless children; but sometimes she did
funny things. They went out to ride every day–the children, I mean–in
a great yellow chariot lined with fine blue cloth. Now, it occurred to
their kind aunt that it would have a charming effect if the children
were dressed to match the chariot. So thought, so done! Dressmakers and
milliners plied their art; and one day Broadway was electrified by the
sight of the little Misses Ward, seated in uneasy state on the blue
cushions, clad in wonderful raiment of yellow and blue. They

[Illustration: JULIA WARD AND HER BROTHERS, AS CHILDREN.

(From a miniature by Miss Anne Hall.)]

had blue pelisses and yellow satin bonnets. And this was all very well
for the two younger ones, with their dark eyes and hair, and their rosy
cheeks; but Julia, young as she was, felt dimly that blue and yellow was
not the combination to set off her tawny locks and exquisite sea-shell
complexion. It is not probable, however, that she sorrowed deeply over
the funny clothes; for her mind was never set on clothes, either in
childhood or in later life. Did not her sister meet her one day coming
home from school with one blue shoe and one green? Her mind was full of
beautiful thoughts; her eyes were lifted to the green trees and the blue
sky bending above them: what did she care about shoes? Yes; and later is
it not recorded that her sisters had great difficulty in persuading her
to choose the stuff for her wedding-gown? So indifferent was she to all
matters of dress!

Auntie F. had her own ideas about shoes and stockings,–not the color,
but the quality of them. She did not believe in “pompeying” the
children; so in the coldest winter weather Julia and her sisters went
to school in thin slippers and white cotton stockings. You shiver at the
bare thought of this, my girl readers! You look at your comfortable
leggings and overshoes (that is, if you live in upper New England, or
anywhere in the same latitude), and wonder how the Ward children lived
through such a course of “hardening”! But they did live, and Julia seems
now far younger and stronger than any of her children.

School, which some children regard with mingled feelings (or so I have
been told), was a delight to Julia. She grasped at knowledge with both
hands,–plucked it as a little child plucks flowers, with unwearying
enjoyment. Her teachers, like the “people” in the case of the

“Young lady whose eyes
Were unique as to color and size,”

all turned aside, and started away in surprise, as this little
red-haired girl went on learning and learning and learning. At nine
years old she was studying Paley’s “Moral Philosophy,” with girls of
sixteen and eighteen. She could not have been older when she heard a
class reciting an Italian lesson, and fell in love with the melodious
language. She listened, and listened again; then got a grammar and
studied secretly, and one day handed to the astonished Italian teacher a
letter correctly written in Italian, begging that she might join the
class.

When I was speaking of the good aunt who was a second mother to the Ward
children, I meant to say a word of the stern but devoted father who was
the principal figure in Julia’s early life. She says of him: “He was a
majestic person, of somewhat severe aspect and reserved manners, but
with a vein of true geniality and a great benevolence of heart.” And she
adds: “His great gravity, and the absence of a mother, naturally subdued
the tone of the whole household; and though a greatly cherished set of
children, we were not a very merry one.”

Still, with all his gravity, Grandfather Ward had his gleams of fun
occasionally. It is told that Julia had a habit of dropping off her
slippers while at table. One day her father felt a wandering shell of
kid, with no foot to keep it steady. He put his own foot on it and moved
it under his chair, then said in his deep, grave voice, “My daughter,
will you bring me my seals, which I have left on the table in my room?”
And poor Julia, after a vain and frantic hunting with both feet, was
forced to go, crimson-cheeked, white-stockinged and slipperless, on the
required errand. She would never have dreamed of asking for the shoe.
She was the eldest daughter, the companion and joy of this sternly
loving father. She always sat next him at table, and sometimes he would
take her right hand in his left, and hold it for many minutes together,
continuing to eat his dinner with his right hand; while she would rather
go dinnerless than ask him to release her own fingers.

Grandfather Ward! It is a relief to confess our faults; and it may be my
duty to say that as soon as I could reach it on tiptoe, it was my joy to
pull the nose of his marble bust, which stood in the great dining-room
at Green Peace. It was a fine, smooth, long nose, most pleasant to
pull; I fear I soiled it sometimes with my little grimy fingers. I trust
children never do such naughty things nowadays.

Then there was Great-grandfather Ward, Julia’s grandfather, who had the
cradle and the great round spectacles. Doubtless he had many other
things besides, for he was a substantial New York merchant; but the
cradle and the spectacles are the only possessions of his that I have
seen. I have the cradle now, and I can testify that Great-grandfather
Ward (for I believe he was rocked in it, as his descendants for four
generations since have been) must have been an extremely long baby. It
is a fine old affair, of solid mahogany, and was evidently built to last
as long as the Wards should last. Not so very long ago, two dear people
who had been rocked together in that cradle fifty–or is it
sixty?–years ago, sat down and clasped hands over it, and wept for pure
love and tenderness and _léal souvenir_. Not less pleasant is its
present use as the good ship “Pinafore,” when six rosy, shouting
children tumble into it and rock violently, singing with might and
main,–

“We sail the ocean blue,
And our saucy ship’s a beauty!”

That is all about the cradle.

My mother writes thus of Great-grandfather Ward, her own grandfather:–

“He had been a lieutenant-colonel in the war of American
Independence. A letter from the Commander-in-Chief to Governor
Samuel Ward (of Rhode Island) mentions a visit from “your son, a
tall young man of soldierly aspect.” I cannot quote the exact
words. My grandfather had seen service in Arnold’s march through
‘the wilderness’ to Quebec. He was present at the battle of Red
Bank. After the close of the war he engaged in commercial pursuits,
and made a voyage to India as supercargo of a merchant vessel
belonging to Moses Brown, of Providence. He was in Paris at the
time of the king’s death (Louis XVI.), and for some time before
that tragic event. He speaks in his journal of having met several
of the leading revolutionists of that time at a friend’s house, and
characterizes them as ‘exceeding plain men, but very zealous.’ He
passed the day of the king’s execution, which he calls ‘one of
horror,’ in Versailles, and was grieved at the conduct of several

[Illustration: LIEUT.-COL. SAMUEL WARD.

Born Nov 17, 1756 Died Aug. 16, 1832.]

Americans, who not only remained in town, but also attended the
execution. When he finally left Paris, a proscribed nobleman,
disguised as a footman, accompanied the carriage, and so cheated
the guillotine of one expected victim.

“Colonel Ward, as my grandfather was always called, was a graduate
of Brown University, and a man of scholarly tastes. He possessed a
diamond edition of Latin classics, which always went with him in
his campaigns, and which is still preserved in the family. In
matters of art he was not so well posted. Of the pictures in the
gallery of the Luxembourg he remarks in his diary: ‘The old
pictures are considered the best. I cannot think why.’

“I remember him as very tall, stooping a little, with white hair
and mild blue eyes, which matched well his composed speech and
manners.”

I have called Great-grandfather Ward a merchant, but he was far more
than that. The son of Governor Ward of Rhode Island, he was only
eighteen when, as a gallant young captain, he marched his company to the
siege of Boston; and then (as his grandson writes me to-day) he “marched
through the wilderness of Maine, through snow and ice, barefoot, to
Quebec.” Some of my readers may possess an engraving of Trumbull’s
famous painting of the “Attack on Quebec.” Look in the left-hand corner,
and you will see a group of three,–one of them a young, active figure
with flashing eyes; that is Great-grandfather Ward. He rose to be major,
then lieutenant-colonel; was at Peekskill, Valley Forge, and Red Bank,
and wrote the official account of the last-named battle, which may be
found in Washington’s correspondence. Besides being a good man and a
brave soldier, he was a very good grandfather; and this made it all the
more naughty for his granddaughter Julia to behave as she did one day.
Being then a little child, she sat down at the piano, placed a
music-book on the rack, and began to pound and thump on the keys, making
the hideous discord which seems always to afford pleasure to the young.
Her grandfather was sitting by, book in hand; and after enduring the
noise for some time patiently, he said in his kind, courtly way, “Is it
so set down in the book, my dear?”

“Yes, Grandpapa!” said naughty Julia, and went on banging; while
grandpapa, who made no pretense of being a musician, offered no further
comment or remonstrance.

Julia grew up a student and a dreamer. She confesses to having been an
extremely absent person, and much of the time unconscious of what passed
around her. “In the large rooms of my father’s house,” she says, “I
walked up and down, perpetually alone, dreaming of extraordinary things
that I should see and do. I now began to read Shakspere and Byron, and
to try my hand at poems and plays.” She rejoices that none of the
productions of this period were published, and adds: “I regard it as a
piece of great good fortune; for a little praise or a little censure
would have been a much more disturbing element in those days than in
these.” I wish these sentiments were more general with young writers.

Still, life was not all study and dreaming. There were sometimes
merrymakings: witness the gay ball after which Julia wrote to her
brother, “I have been through the burning fiery furnace; and I am
Sad-rake, Me-sick, and Abed-no-go.” There was mischief, too, and
sometimes downright naughtiness, Who was the poor gentleman, an intimate
friend of the family, from whom Julia and her sisters extracted a
promise that he would eat nothing for three days but what they should
send him,–they in return promising three meals a day? He consented,
innocently thinking that these dear young creatures wanted to display
their skill in cookery, and expecting all kinds of delicacies and airy
dainties of pastry and confectionery. Yes! and being a man of his word,
he lived for three days on gruel, of which those “dear young creatures”
sent him a bowl at morning, noon, and night; and on nothing else!

In a certain little cabinet where many precious things are kept, I have
a manuscript poem, written by Julia Ward for the amusement of her
brothers and sisters when she was still a very young girl. It is called
“The Ill-cut Mantell; A Romaunt of the time of Kynge Arthur.” The story
is an old one, but the telling of it is all Julia’s own, and I must
quote a few lines:–

“I cannot well describe in rhyme
The female toilet of that time.
I do not know how trains were carried,
How single ladies dressed or married;
If caps were proper at a ball,
Or even if caps were worn at all;
If robes were made of crape or tulle,
If skirts were narrow, gored, or full.
Perhaps, without consulting grace,
The hair was scraped back from the face,
While on the head a mountain rose,
Crowned, like Mont Blanc, with endless snows.
It may be that the locks were shorn;
It may be that the lofty puff,
The stomacher, the rising ruff,
The bodice, or the veil were worn,
Perhaps mantillas were the passion,
Perhaps ferronières were in fashion,–
I cannot, and I will not tell.
But this one thing I wot full well,
That every lady there was dressed
In what she thought became her best.
All further notices, I grieve,
I must to your imagination leave.”

Julia sometimes tried to awaken in her sisters’ minds the poetic
aspirations which filled her own. One day she found the two little girls
playing some childish game, which seemed to her unnecessarily frivolous.
(You all know, I am sure, the eldest sister’s motto,–

“Good advice and counsel sage,
And ‘I never did so when I was your age;’”

and the companion sentiment of the younger sister,–

“‘Sister, don’t!’ and ‘Sister, do!’
And ‘Why may not I as well as you?’”)

Miss Ward,–she was always called Miss Ward, poor little dear! and her
dolls were taken away from her when she was only nine years old, that
she might better feel the dignity of her position!–Miss Ward rebuked
the little sisters, and bade them lay aside their foolish toys and
improve their minds by composing poetry. Louisa shook her black curls,
and would not,–moreover, did not, being herself a child of some
firmness. But little sweet Annie would try, to please Sister Julia; and
after much thought and labor she produced the following pious
effusion:–

“He feeds the ravens when they call,
And stands them in a pleasant hall.”

I never can recall these lines without having an instant vision of a
pillared hall, fair and

[Illustration: JULIA WARD.]

stately, with ravens standing in niches along the sides, between the
marble columns!

So this maiden, Julia, grew up to womanhood, dreamy and absent, absorbed
in severe study and composition, yet always ready with the brilliant
flashes of her wit, which broke like sunbeams through the mist of
dreams. She was very fair to look upon. No one now pitied her for the
glorious crown of red-gold hair, which set off the rose and ivory of her
matchless complexion; every one recognized and acknowledged in her
“stately Julia, queen of all.”

Once, while on a visit to Boston, Julia heard the wonderful story of
Laura Bridgman, who had just been led out of darkness into the light of
life and joy by a certain Dr. Howe, a man of whom people spoke as a
modern paladin of romance, a Roland or Bayard. She saw him, and felt at
once that he was the most remarkable man she had ever known. He, on his
part, saw a youthful prophetess, radiant and inspired, crowned with
golden hair. Acquaintance ripened into friendship, friendship into love;
and so it happened that, in the year 1843, Samuel G. Howe and Julia
Ward were married. The next chapter shall tell you of Julia Ward Howe,
as we, her children, have known her.

Our mother’s story should be sung rather than said, so much has music to
do with it. My earliest recollection of my mother is of her standing by
the piano in the great dining-room, dressed in black velvet, with her
beautiful neck and arms bare, and singing to us. Her voice was a very
rare and perfect one, we have since learned; we knew then only that we
did not care to hear any one else sing when we might hear her. The time
for singing was at twilight, when the dancing was over, and we gathered
breathless and exhausted about the piano for the last and greatest
treat. Then the beautiful voice would break out, and flood the room with
melody, and fill our childish hearts with almost painful rapture. Our
mother knew all the songs in the world,–that was our firm belief.
Certainly we never found an end to her repertory.

There were German student songs, which she had learned from her brother
when he came back from Heidelberg,–merry, jovial ditties, with choruses
of “Juvevallera!” and “Za hi! Za he! Za ho-o-o-o-o-oh!” in which we
joined with boundless enthusiasm. There were gay little French songs,
all ripple and sparkle and trill; and soft, melting Italian serenades
and barcaroles, which we thought must be like the notes of the
nightingale. And when we called to have our favorites repeated again and
again, she would sing them over and over with never failing patience;
and not one of us ever guessed, as we listened with all our souls, that
the cunning mother was giving us a French lesson, or a German or Italian
lesson, as the case might be, and that what was learned in that way
would never be forgotten all our lives long.

Besides the foreign songs, there were many songs of our mother’s own
making, which we were never weary of hearing. Sometimes

[Illustration: JULIA WARD HOWE.]

she composed a melody for some old ballad, but more often the words and
music both were hers. Where were such nonsense-songs as hers?

“Little old dog sits under the chair,
Twenty-five grasshoppers snarled in his hair.
Little old dog’s beginning to snore,
Mother forbids him to do so no more.”

Or again,–

“Hush, my darling, don’t you cry!
Your sweetheart will come by and by.
When he comes, he’ll come in green,–
That’s a sign that you’re his queen.

“Hush, my darling, don’t you cry!
Your sweetheart will come by and by.
When he comes, he’ll come in blue,–
That’s a sign that he’ll be true.”

And so on through all the colors of the rainbow, till finally
expectation was wrought up to the highest pitch by the concluding lines:

“When he comes, he’ll come in gray,–
That’s a sign he’ll come to-day!”

Then it was a pleasant thing that each child could have his or her own
particular song merely for the asking. Laura well remembers her
good-night song, which was sung to the very prettiest tune in the world:

“Sleep, my little child,
So gentle, sweet, and mild!
The little lamb has gone to rest,
The little bird is in its nest,”–

“Put in the donkey!” cried Laura, at this point of the first singing.
“Please put in the donkey!” So the mother went on,–

“The little donkey in the stable
Sleeps as sound as he is able;
All things now their rest pursue,
You are sleepy too.”

It was with this song sounding softly in her ears, and with the
beautiful hand, like soft warm ivory, stroking her hair, that Laura used
to fall asleep. Do you not envy the child?

Maud’s songs were perhaps the loveliest of all, though they could not be
dearer than my donkey-song. Here is one of them:–

“Baby with the hat and plume,
And the scarlet cloak so fine,
Come where thou hast rest and room,
Little baby mine!

“Whence those eyes so crystal clear?
Whence those curls, so silky soft?
Thou art Mother’s darling dear,
I have told thee oft.

“I have told thee many times,
And repeat it yet again,
Wreathing thee about with rhymes
Like a flowery chain,–

“Rhymes that sever and unite
As the blossom fetters do,
As the mother’s weary night
Happy days renew.”

Perhaps some of my readers may already know the lovely verses called
“Baby’s Shoes.”

“Little feet, pretty feet,
Feet of fairy Maud,–
Fair and fleet, trim and neat,
Carry her abroad!

“Be as wings, tiny things,
To my butterfly;
In the flowers, hours on hours,
Let my darling lie.

“Shine ye must, in the dust,
Twinkle as she runs,
Threading a necklace gay,
Through the summer suns.

“Stringing days, borrowing phrase,
Weaving wondrous plots,
With her eyes blue and wise
As forget-me-nots

* * * * *

“Cinderel, grown a belle,
Coming from her ball,
Frightened much, let just such
A tiny slipper fall.

“If men knew as I do
Half thy sweets, my own,
They’d not delay another day,–
I should be alone.

“Come and go, friend and foe,
Fairy Prince most fine!
Take your gear otherwhere!
Maud is only mine.”

But it was not all singing, of course. Our mother read to us a great
deal too, and told us stories, from the Trojan War down to “Puss in
Boots.” It was under her care, I think, that we used to look over the
“Shakspere book.” This was a huge folio, bound in rusty-brown leather,
and containing the famous Boydell prints illustrating the plays of
Shakspere. The frontispiece represented Shakspere nursed by Tragedy and
Comedy,–the prettiest, chubbiest of babies, seated on the ground with
his little toes curled up under him, while a lovely, laughing lady bent
down to whisper in his ear; and another one, grave but no less
beautiful, gazed earnestly upon him. Then came the “Tempest,”–oh, most
lovely! The first picture showed Ariel dancing along the “yellow sands,”
while Prospero waved him on with a commanding gesture; in the second,
Miranda, all white and lovely, was coming out of the darksome cavern,
and smiling with tender compassion on Ferdinand, who was trying to lift
an impossible log. Then there was the delicious terror of the “Macbeth”
pictures, with the witches and Banquo’s ghost. But soon our mother would
turn the page and show us the exquisite figure of Puck, sitting on a
toadstool, and make us shout with laughter over Nick Bottom and his
rustic mates. From these magic pages we learned to hate Richard III.
duly, and to love the little princes, whom Northcote’s lovely picture
showed in white-satin doublet and hose, embracing each other, while the
wicked uncle glowered at them from behind; and we wept over the second
picture, where they lay asleep, unconscious of the fierce faces bending
over them. Yes, we loved the “Shakspere book” very much.

Sometimes our mother would give us a party,–and that was sure to be a
delightful affair, with charades or magic lantern or something of the
kind. Here is an account of one such party, written by our mother
herself in a letter to her sister, which lies before me:–

“My guests arrived in omnibus loads at four o’clock. My notes to
parents concluded with the following P. S.: ‘Return omnibus
provided, with insurance against plum-cake and other accidents.’ A
donkey carriage afforded great amusement out of doors, together
with swing, bowling-alley, and the Great Junk. [I have not
mentioned the Junk yet, but you shall hear of it in good time.]
While all this was going on, the H.’s, J. S., and I prepared a
theatrical exhibition, of which I had made a hasty outline. It was
the story of ‘Blue Beard.’ We had curtains which drew back and
forth, and regular footlights. You can’t think how good it was!
There were four scenes. My antique cabinet was the ‘Blue Beard’
cabinet; we yelled in delightful chorus when the door was opened,
and the children stretched their necks to the last degree to see
the horrible sight. The curtain closed upon a fainting-fit, done by
four women. In the third scene we were scrubbing the fatal key,
when I cried out, ‘Try the mustang liniment! It’s _the_ liniment
for us, for you know we _must hang_ if we don’t succeed!’ This,
which was made on the spur of the moment, overcame the whole
audience with laughter, and I myself shook so that I had to go down
into the tub in which we were scrubbing the key. Well, to make a
long story short, our play was very successful, and immediately
afterward came supper. There were four long tables for the
children; twenty sat at each. Ice-cream, cake, blancmange, and
delicious sugar-plums, also oranges, etc., were served up ‘in
style.’ We had our supper a little later. Three omnibus-loads went
from my door; the last–the grown people–at nine o’clock.”

In another letter to the same dear sister, our mother says:–

“I have written a play for our doll theatre, and performed it
yesterday afternoon with great success. It occupied nearly an hour.
I had alternately to grunt and squeak the parts, while Chev played
the puppets. [Chev was the name by which she always called our
father; it was an abbreviation of Chevalier, for he was always to
her the ‘knight without reproach or fear.’] The effect was really
extremely good. The spectators were in a dark room, and the little
theatre, lighted by a lamp from the top, looked very pretty.”

This may have been the play of “Beauty and the Beast,” of which the
manuscript is unhappily lost. I can recall but one passage:

“But he thought on ‘Beauty’s’ flower,
And he popped into a bower,
And he plucked the fairest rose
That grew beneath his nose.”

I remember the theatre well, and the puppets. They were quite unearthly
in their beauty,–all except the “Beast,” a strange, fur-covered
monstrosity. The “Prince” was gilded in a most enchanting manner, and
his mustache curled with an expression of royal pride. I have seen no
other prince like him.

All this was at Green Peace; but many as are the associations with her
beloved presence there, it is at the Valley that I most constantly
picture our mother. She loved the Valley more than any other place on
earth, I think; so it is always pleasant to fancy her there. Study
formed always an important part of her life. It was her delight and
recreation, when wearied with household cares, to plunge into German
metaphysics, or into the works of the Latin poets, whom she greatly
loved. She has told, in one of her own poems, how she used to sit under
the apple-trees with her favorite poet,–

“Here amid shadows, lovingly embracing,
Dropt from above by apple-trees unfruitful,
With a chance scholar, caught and held to help me,
Read I in Horace,” etc.

But I do not think she had great need of the “chance scholar.” I
remember the book well,–two great brown volumes, morocco-bound, with
“Horatius Ed. Orelli” on the back. We naturally supposed this to be the
writer’s entire name; and to this day, ‘Quintus Horatius Flaccus’
(though I have nothing to say against its authenticity) does not seem to
me as _real_ a name as “Horatius Ed. Orelli.”

Our mother’s books,–alas that we should have been so familiar with the
outside of them, and have known so little of the inside! There was
Tacitus, who was high-shouldered and pleasant to handle, being bound in
smooth brown calf. There was Kant, who could not spell his own name (we
thought it ought to begin with a C!). There was Spinoza, whom we fancied
a hunchback, with a long, thin, vibrating nose. (“What’s in a name?” A
great deal, dear Juliet, I assure you.) Fichte had a sneezing sort of
face, with the nose all “squinnied up,” as we used to say; and as for
Hilpert, who wrote the great German dictionary, there can be no
reasonable doubt that he was a cripple and went on crutches, though I
have no authority to give for the fact beyond the resemblance of his
name to the Scotch verb “hirple,” meaning “to hobble.”

Very, very much our mother loved her books. Yet how quickly were they
laid aside when any head was bumped, any knee scratched, any finger cut!
When we tumbled down and hurt ourselves, our father always cried, “Jump
up and take another!” and that was very good for us; but our mother’s
kiss made it easier to jump up.

Horace could be brought out under the apple-trees; even Kant and Spinoza
sometimes came there, though I doubt whether they enjoyed the fresh air.
But our mother had other work besides study, and many of her most
precious hours were spent each day at the little black table in her own
room, where papers lay heaped like snowdrifts. Here she wrote the
beautiful poems, the brilliant essays, the earnest and thoughtful
addresses, which have given pleasure and help and comfort to so many
people throughout the length and breadth of the land. Many of her words
have become household sayings which we could not spare; but there is one
poem which every child knows, at whose opening line every heart, from
youth to age, must thrill,–“The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Thirty
years have passed since this noble poem was written. It came in that
first year of the war, like the sound of a silver trumpet, like the
flash of a lifted sword; and all men felt that this was the word for
which they had been waiting. You shall hear, in our mother’s own words,
how it came to be written:–

“In the late autumn of the year 1861 I visited the national capital
in company with my husband Dr. Howe, and a party of friends, among
whom were Governor and Mrs. Andrew, Mr. and Mrs. E. P. Whipple, and
my dear pastor Rev. James Freeman Clarke.

“The journey was one of vivid, even romantic interest. We were
about to see the grim Demon of War face to face; and long before we
reached the city his presence made itself felt in the blaze of
fires along the road where sat or stood our pickets, guarding the
road on which we travelled.

“One day we drove out to attend a review of troops, appointed to
take place some distance from the city. In the carriage with me
were James Freeman Clarke and Mr. and Mrs. Whipple. The day was
fine, and everything promised well; but a sudden surprise on the
part of the enemy interrupted the proceedings before they were well
begun. A small body of our men had been surrounded and cut off from
their companions; reinforcements were sent to their assistance, and
the expected pageant was necessarily given up. The troops who were
to have taken part in it were ordered back to their quarters, and
we also turned our horses’ heads homeward.

“For a long distance the foot-soldiers nearly filled the road. They
were before and behind, and we were obliged to drive very slowly.
We presently began to sing some of the well-known songs of the war,
and among them–

‘John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave.’

This seemed to please the soldiers, who cried, ‘Good for you!’ and
themselves took up the strain. Mr. Clarke said to me, ‘You ought to
write some new words to that tune.’ I replied that I had often
wished to do so.

“In spite of the excitement of the day I went to bed and slept as
usual, but awoke next morning in the gray of the early dawn, and to
my astonishment found that the wished-for lines were arranging
themselves in my brain. I lay quite still until the last verse had
completed itself in my thoughts, then hastily rose, saying to
myself, ‘I shall lose this if I don’t write it down immediately.’ I
searched for a sheet of paper and an old stump of a pen which I had
had the night before, and began to scrawl the lines almost without
looking, as I had learned to do by often scratching down verses in
the darkened room where my little children were sleeping. Having
completed this, I lay down again and fell asleep, but not without
feeling that something of importance had happened to me.

“The poem was published soon after this time in the Atlantic
Monthly. It first came prominently into notice when Chaplain
McCabe, newly released from Libby Prison, gave a lecture in
Washington, and in the course of it told how he and his
fellow-prisoners, having somehow become possessed of a copy of the
‘Battle Hymn,’ sang it with a will in their prison, on receiving
surreptitious tidings of a Union victory.”

Our mother’s genius might soar as high as heaven on the wings of such a
song as this; but we always considered that she was tied to our little
string, and we never doubted (alas!) our perfect right to pull her down
to earth whenever a matter of importance–such as a doll’s funeral or a
sick kitten–was at hand.

To her our confidences were made, for she had a rare understanding of
the child-mind. We were always sure that Mamma knew “just how it was.”

To her did Julia, at the age of five, or it may have been six, impart
the first utterances of her infant Muse. “Mamma,” said the child,
trembling with delight and awe, “I have made a poem, and set it to
music!” Of course our mother was deeply interested, and begged to hear
the composition; whereupon, encouraged by her voice and smile, Julia
sang as follows:–

[Illustration: Music

I had a lit-tle boy;
He died when he was young.]

[Illusration: Music

As soon as he was dead,
He walked upon his tongue!]

Our mother’s ear for music was exquisitely fine,–so fine, that when she
was in her own room, and a child practising below-stairs played a false
note, she would open her door and cry, “B _flat_, clear! not B natural!”
This being; so, it was grievous to her when one day, during her precious
study hour, Harry came and chanted outside her door:

“Hong-kong! hong-kong! hong-kong!”

“Harry!” she cried, “do stop that dreadful noise!” But when the little
lad showed a piteous face, and said reproachfully, “Why, Mamma, I was
singing to you!” who so ready as our mother to listen to the funny song
and thank the child for it?

When ten-year-old Laura wrote, in a certain precious little volume bound
in Scotch plaid, “Whence these longings after the infinite?” (I cannot
remember any more!) be sure that if any eyes were suffered to rest upon
the sacred lines they were those kind, clear, understanding gray eyes of
our mother.

Through all and round all, like a laughing river, flowed the current of
her wit and fun. No child could be sad in her company. If we were cold,
there was a merry bout of “fisticuffs” to warm us; if we were too warm,
there was a song or story while we sat still and “cooled off.” We all
had nicknames, our own names being often too sober to suit her laughing
mood. We were “Petotty,” “Jehu,” “Wolly,” and “Bunks of Bunktown.”

[Illustration: JULIA ROMANA HOWE.]

On one occasion our mother’s presence of mind saved the life of the
child Laura, then a baby of two years old. We were all staying at the
Institution for some reason, and the nursery was in the fourth story of
the lofty building. One day our mother came into the room, and to her
horror saw little Laura rolling about on the broad window-sill, the
window being wide open; only a few inches space between her and the
edge, and then–the street, fifty feet below! The nurse was, I know not
where,–anywhere save where she ought to have been. Our mother stepped
quickly and quietly back out of sight, and called gently, “Laura! come
here, dear! Come to me! I have something to show you.” A moment’s
agonized pause,–and then she heard the little feet patter on the floor,
and in another instant held the child clasped in her arms. If she had
screamed, or rushed forward, the child would have started, and probably
would have fallen and been dashed to pieces.

It was very strange to us to find other children holding their revels
without their father and mother. “Papa and Mamma” were always the life
and soul of ours.

Our mother’s letters to her sister are delightful, and abound in
allusions to the children. In one of them she playfully upbraids her
sister for want of attention to the needs of the baby of the day, in
what she calls “Family Trochaics”:–

“Send along that other pink shoe
You have been so long in knitting!
Are you not ashamed to think that
Wool was paid for at Miss Carman’s
With explicit understanding
You should knit it for my baby?
And that baby’s now a-barefoot,
While your own, no doubt, has choice of
Pink, blue, yellow–every color,
For its little drawn-up toe-toes,
For its toe-toes, small as green peas,
Counted daily by the mother,
To be sure that none is missing!”

Our mother could find amusement in almost anything. Even a winter day of
pouring rain, which made other housewives groan and shake their heads at
thought of the washing, could draw from her the following lines:–

THE RAINY DAY.

(_After Longfellow._)

The morn was dark, the weather low,
The household fed by gaslight show,–
When from the street a shriek arose:
The milkman, bellowing through his nose,
Expluvior!

The butcher came, a walking flood,
Drenching the kitchen where he stood:
“Deucalion is your name, I pray?”
“Moses!” he choked, and slid away.
Expluvior!

The neighbor had a coach and pair
To struggle out and take the air;
Slip-slop, the loose galoshes went;
I watched his paddling with content.
Expluvior!

A wretch came floundering up the ice
(The rain had washed it smooth and nice),
Two ribs stove in above his head,
As, turning inside out, he said,
Expluvior!

No doubt, alas! we often imposed upon the tenderness of this dear
mother. She was always absent-minded, and of this quality advantage was
sometimes taken. One day, when guests were dining with her, Harry came
and asked if he might do something that happened to be against the
rules. “No, dear,” said our mother, and went on with the conversation.
In a few moments Harry was at her elbow again with the same question,
and received the same answer. This was repeated an indefinite number of
times; at length our mother awoke suddenly to the absurdity of it, and,
turning to the child, said: “Harry, what do you mean by asking me this
question over and over again, when I have said ‘no’ each time?”
“Because,” was the reply, “Flossy said that if I asked often enough, you
might say ‘yes!’”

I am glad to say that our mother did _not_ “say yes” on this occasion.
But, on the other hand, Maud was not whipped for taking the cherries,
when she needed a whipping sorely. The story is this: it was in the
silent days of her babyhood, for Maud did not speak a single word till
she was two years and a half old; then she said, one day, “Look at that
little dog!” and after that talked as well as any child. But if she did
not speak in those baby days, she thought a great deal. One day she
thought she wanted some wild cherries from the little tree by the
stone-wall, down behind the corn-crib at the Valley. So she took them,
such being her disposition. Our mother, coming upon the child thus,
forbade her strictly to touch the cherries, showing her at the same time
a little switch, and saying: “If you eat any more cherries, I shall have
to whip you with this switch!” She went into the house, and forgot the
incident. But presently Maud appeared, with a bunch of cherries in one
hand and the switch in the other. Fixing her great blue eyes on our
mother with earnest meaning, she put the cherries in her mouth, and then
held out the switch. Alas! and our mother–did–not–whip her! I mention
this merely to show that our mother was (and, indeed, is) mortal. But
Maud was the baby, and the prettiest thing in the world, and had a way
with her that was very hard to resist.

It was worth while to have measles and things of that sort, not because
one had stewed prunes and cream-toast–oh, no!–but because our mother
sat by us, and sang “Lord Thomas and Fair Elinor,” or some mystic
ballad.

The walks with her are never to be forgotten,–twilight walks round the
hill behind the house, with the wonderful sunset deepening over the bay,
turning all the world to gold and jewels; or through the Valley itself,
the lovely wild glen, with its waterfall and its murmuring stream, and
the solemn Norway firs, with their warning fingers. The stream was clear
as crystal, its rocky banks fringed with jewel-weed and rushes; the
level sward was smooth and green as emerald. By the waterfall stood an
old mill, whose black walls looked down on a deep brown pool, into which
the foaming cascade fell with a musical, rushing sound. I have described
the Valley very fully elsewhere,[2] but cannot resist dwelling on its
beauty again in connection with our mother,–who loved so to wander
through it, or to sit with her work under the huge ash-tree in the
middle, where

[Illustration: JULIA WARD HOWE.

(From a recent photograph.)]

our father had placed seats and a rustic table. Here, and in the lovely,
lonely fields, as we walked, our mother talked with us, and we might
share the rich treasures of her thought.

“And oh the words that fell from her mouth
Were words of wonder and words of truth!”

One such word, dropped in the course of conversation as the maiden in
the fairy-story dropped diamonds and pearls, comes now to my mind, and I
shall write it here because it is good to think of and to say over to
one’s self:–

“I gave my son a palace
And a kingdom to control,–
The palace of his body,
The kingdom of his soul.”

In the Valley, too, many famous parties and picnics were given. The
latter are to be remembered with especial delight. A picnic with our
mother and one without her are two very different things. I never knew
that a picnic could be dull till I grew up and went to one where that
brilliant, gracious presence was lacking. The games we played, the
songs we sang, the garlands of oak and maple leaves that we wove,
listening to the gay talk if we were little, joining in it when we were
older; the simple feast, and then the improvised charades or tableaux,
always merry, often graceful and lovely!–ah, these are things to
remember!

Our mother’s hospitality was boundless. She loved to fill the little
house to overflowing in summer days, when every one was glad to get out
into the fresh, green country. Often the beds were all filled, and we
children had to take to sofas and cots: once, I remember, Harry slept on
a mattress laid on top of the piano, there being no other vacant spot.

Sometimes strangers as well as friends shared this kindly hospitality. I
well remember one wild stormy night, when two men knocked at the door
and begged for a night’s lodging. They were walking to the town, they
said, five miles distant, but had been overtaken by the storm. The
people at the farm-house near by had refused to take them in; there was
no other shelter near. Our mother hesitated a moment. Our father was
away; the old coachman slept in the barn, at some distance from the
house; she was alone with the children and the two maids, and Julia was
ill with a fever. These men might be vagabonds, or worse. Should she let
them in? Then, perhaps, she may have heard, amid the howling of the
storm, a voice which she has followed all her life, saying, “I was a
stranger, and ye took me in!” She bade the men enter, in God’s name, and
gave them food, and then led them to an upper bedroom, cautioning them
to tread softly as they passed the door of the sick child’s room.

Well, that is all. Nothing happened. The men proved to be quiet,
respectable persons, who departed, thankful, the next morning.

The music of our mother’s life is still sounding on, noble, helpful, and
beautiful. Many people may still look into her serene face, and hear her
silver voice; and no one will look or hear without being the better for
it. I cannot close this chapter better than with some of her own
words,–a poem which I wish every child, and every grown person too,
who reads this might learn by heart.

A PARABLE.

“I sent a child of mine to-day:
I hope you used him well.”
“Now, Lord, no visitor of yours
Has waited at my bell.

“The children of the millionaire
Run up and down our street;
I glory in their well-combed hair,
Their dress and trim complete.

“But yours would in a chariot come
With thoroughbreds so gay,
And little merry maids and men
To cheer him on his way.”

“Stood, then, no child before your door?”
The Lord, persistent, said.
“Only a ragged beggar-boy,
With rough and frowzy head.

“The dirt was crusted on his skin,
His muddy feet were bare;
The cook gave victuals from within:
I cursed his coming there.”

What sorrow, silvered with a smile,
Glides o’er the face divine?
What tenderest whisper thrills rebuke?
“The beggar-boy was mine!”

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