TEACHERS

I do not know why we had so many teachers. No doubt it was partly
because we were very troublesome children. But I think it was also
partly owing to the fact that our father was constantly overrun by needy
foreigners seeking employment. He was a philanthropist; he had been
abroad, and spoke foreign languages,–that was enough! His office was
besieged by “all peoples, nations, and languages,”–all, as a rule,
hungry,–Greeks, Germans, Poles, Hungarians, occasionally a Frenchman or
an Englishman, though these last were rare. Many of them were political
exiles; sometimes they brought letters from friends in Europe, sometimes
not.

Our father’s heart never failed to respond to any appeal of this kind
when the applicant really wanted work; for sturdy beggars he had no
mercy. So it sometimes happened that, while waiting for something else
to turn up, the exile of the day would be set to teaching us,–partly to
give him employment, partly also by way of finding out what he knew and
was fit for. In this way did Professor Feaster (this may not be the
correct spelling, but it was our way, and suited him well) come to be
our tutor for a time. He was a very stout man, so stout that we
considered him a second Daniel Lambert. He may have been an excellent
teacher, but almost my only recollection of him is that he made the most
enchanting little paper houses, with green doors and blinds that opened
and shut. He painted the inside of the houses in some mysterious
way,–at least there were patterns on the floor, like mosaic-work,–and
the only drawback to our perfect happiness on receiving one of them was
that we were too big to get inside.

I say this is almost my only recollection of this worthy man; but candor
compels me to add that the other picture which his name conjures up is
of Harry and Laura marching round the dining-room table, each
shouldering a log of wood, and shouting,–

“We’ll kill old Feaster!
We’ll kill old Feaster!”

This was very naughty indeed; but, as I have said before, we were often
naughty.

One thing more I do recollect about poor Professor Feaster. Flossy was
at once his delight and his terror. She was so bright, so original,
so–alas! so impish. She used to climb up on his back, lean over his
shoulder, and pull out his watch to see if the lesson-hour were over. To
be sure, she was only eight at this time, and possibly the scenes from
“Wilhelm Tell” which he loved to declaim with republican fervor may have
been rather beyond her infant comprehension.

One day Flossy made up her mind that the Professor should take her way
about something–I quite forget what–rather than his own. She set
herself deliberately against him,–three feet to six!–and declared that
he should do as she said. The poor Professor looked down on this fiery
pygmy with eyes that sparkled through his gold-bowed spectacles. “I haf
refused,” he cried in desperation, “to opey ze Emperor of Austria, mees!
Do you sink I will opey _you?_”

Then there was Madame S—-, a Danish lady, very worthy, very
accomplished, and–ugly enough to frighten all knowledge out of a
child’s head. She was my childish ideal of personal uncomeliness, yet
she was most good and kind.

It was whispered that she had come to this country with intent to join
the Mormons (of course we heard nothing of this till years after), but
the plan had fallen through; she, Madame S—-, did not understand why,
but our mother, on looking at her, thought the explanation not so
difficult. She had a religion of her own, this poor, good, ugly dame. It
was probably an entirely harmless one, though she startled our mother
one day by approving the action of certain fanatics who had killed one
of their number (by his own consent) because he had a devil. “If he did
have a devil,” quoth Madame, beaming mildly over the purple
morning-glory she was crocheting, “it may have been a good thing that he
was killed.”

As I say, this startled our mother, who began to wonder what would
happen if Madame S—- should take it into her head that any of our
family was possessed by a devil; but neither poison nor dagger appeared,
and Madame was never anything but the meekest of women.

I must not forget to say that before she began to teach she had wished
to become a lecturer. She had a lecture all ready; it began with a
poetical outburst, as follows:

“I am a Dane! I am a Dane!
I am not ashamed of the royal name!”

But we never heard of its being delivered. I find this mention of Madame
S—- in a letter from our mother to her sister:–

“Danish woman very ugly,
But remarkably instructive,–
Drawing, painting, French, and German,
Fancy-work of all descriptions,
With geography and grammar.
She will teach for very little,
And is a superior person.”

I remember some of the fancy-work. There were pink-worsted roses, very
wonderful,–really not at all like the common roses one sees in gardens.
You wound the worsted round and round, spirally, and then you ran your
needle down through the petal and pulled it a little; this, as any
person of intelligence will readily perceive, made a rose-petal with a
dent of the proper shape in it. These petals had to be pressed in a book
to keep them flat, while others were making. Sometimes, years and years
after, one would find two or three of them between the leaves of an old
volume of “Punch,” or some other book; and instantly would rise up
before the mind’s eye the figure of Madame S—-, with scarlet face and
dark-green dress, and a very remarkable nose.

Flossy reminds me that she always smelt of peppermint. So she did, poor
lady! and probably took it for its medicinal properties.

Then there was the wax fruit. You young people of sophisticated to-day,
who make such things of real beauty with your skilful,
kindergarten-trained fingers, what would you say to the wax fruit and
flowers of our childhood? Perhaps you would like to know how to make
them. We bought wax at the apothecary’s, white wax, in round flat cakes,
pleasant to nibble, and altogether gratifying,–wax, and chrome-yellow
and carmine, the colors in powder. We put the wax in a pipkin (I always
say “pipkin” when I have a chance, because it is such a charming word;
but if my readers prefer “saucepan,” let them have it by all means!)–we
put it, I say, in a pipkin, and melted it. (For a pleasure wholly
without alloy, I can recommend the poking and punching of half-melted
wax.) Then, when it was ready, we stirred in the yellow powder, which
produced a fine Bartlett color. Then we poured the mixture–oh,
joy!–into the two pear or peach shaped halves of the plaster mold, and
clapped them together; and when the pear or peach was cool and dry, we
took a camel’s-hair brush and painted a carmine cheek on one side. I do
not say that this was art, or advancement of culture; I do not say that
its results were anything but hideous and abnormal; but I do maintain
that it was a delightful and enchanting amusement. And if there was a
point of rapture beyond this, it was the coloring of melted wax to a
delicate rose hue, and dipping into it a dear little spaddle (which, be
it explained to the ignorant, is a flat disk with a handle to it) and
taking out liquid rose-petals, which hardened in a few minutes and were
rolled delicately off with the finger. When one had enough (say, rather,
when one could tear one’s self away from the magic pipkin), one put the
petals together; and there you had a rose that was like nothing upon
earth.

After all, were wax flowers so much more hideous, I wonder, than some
things one sees to-day? Why is it that such a stigma attaches to the
very name of them? Why do not people go any longer to see the wax
figures in the Boston Museum? Perhaps they are not there now; perhaps
they are grown forlorn and dilapidated–indeed, they never were very
splendid!–and have been hustled away into some dim lumber-room, from
whose corners they glare out at the errant call-boy of the theatre, and
frighten him into fits. Daniel Lambert, in scarlet waistcoat and
knee-breeches! the “Drunkard’s Career,” the bare recollection of which
brings a thrill of horror,–there was one child at least who regarded
you as miracles of art!

Speaking of wax reminds me of Monsieur N—-, who gave us, I am inclined
to think, our first French lessons, besides those we received from our
mother. He was a very French Frenchman, with blond mustache and imperial
waxed à la Louis Napoleon, and a military carriage. He had been a
soldier, and taught fencing as well as French, though not to us. This
unhappy gentleman had married a Smyrniote woman, out of gratitude to her
family, who had rescued him from some pressing danger. Apparently he did
them a great service by marrying the young woman and taking her away,
for she had a violent temper,–was, in short, a perfect vixen. The evils
of this were perhaps lessened by the fact that she could not speak
French, while her husband had no knowledge of her native Greek. It is
the simple truth that this singular couple in their disputes, which
unfortunately were many, used often to come and ask our father to act as
interpreter between them. Monsieur N—- himself was a kind man, and a
very good teacher.

There is a tale told of a christening feast which he gave in honor of
Candide, his eldest child. Julia and Flossy were invited, and also the
governess of the time, whoever she was. The company went in two hacks to
the priest’s house, where the ceremony was to be performed; on the way
the rival hackmen fell out, and jeered at each other, and, whipping up
their lean horses, made frantic efforts each to obtain the front rank in
the small cortége. Whereupon Monsieur N—-, very angry at this
infringement of the dignity of the occasion, thrust his head out of the
window and shrieked to his hackman:–

“Firts or sekind, vich you bleece!” which delighted the children more
than any other part of the entertainment.

There was poor Miss R—-, whom I recall with mingled dislike and
compassion. She must have been very young, and she had about as much
idea of managing children (we required a great deal of managing) as a
tree might have. Her one idea of discipline was to give us
“misdemeanors,” which in ordinary speech were “black marks.” What is it
I hear her say in the monotonous sing-song voice which always
exasperated us?–“Doctor, Laura has had fourteen misdemeanors!” Then
Laura was put to bed, no doubt very properly; but she has always felt
that she need not have had the “misdemeanors” if the teaching had been a
little different. Miss R—- it was who took away the glass eye-cup;
therefore I am aware that I cannot think of her with clear and
unprejudiced mind. But she must have had bitter times with us, poor
thing! I can distinctly remember Flossy urging Harry, with fiery zeal,
not to recite his geography lesson,–I cannot imagine why.

Miss R—- often rocked in the junk with us. That reminds me that I
promised to describe the junk. But how shall I picture that perennial
fount of joy? It was crescent-shaped, or rather it was like a
longitudinal slice cut out of a watermelon. Magnify the slice a
hundred-fold; put seats up and down the sides, with iron bars in front
to hold on by; set it on two grooved rails and paint it red,–there you
have the junk! Nay! you have it not entire; for it should be filled with
rosy, shouting children, standing or sitting, holding on by the bars and
rocking with might and main,–

“Yo-ho! Here we go!
Up and down! Heigh-ho!”

Why are there no junks nowadays? Surely it would be better for us, body
and mind, if there were; for, as for the one, the rocking exercised
every muscle in the whole bodily frame, and as for the other, black Care
could not enter the junk (at least he did not), nor weariness, nor
“shadow of annoyance.” There ought to be a junk on Boston Common, free
to all, and half a dozen in Central Park; and I hope every young person
who reads these words will suggest this device to his parents or
guardians.

But teaching is not entirely confined to the archery practice of the
young idea; and any account of our teachers would be incomplete without
mention of our dancing-master,–of _the_ dancing-master, for there was
but one. You remember that the dandy in “Punch,” being asked of whom he
buys his hats, replies: “Scott. Is there another fellah?” Even so it
would be difficult for the Boston generation of middle or elder life to
acknowledge that there could have been “another fellah” to teach dancing
besides Lorenzo Papanti. Who does not remember–nay! who could ever
forget–that tall, graceful figure; that marvellous elastic glide, like
a wave flowing over glass? Who could ever forget the shrewd, kindly
smile when he was pleased, the keen lightning of his glance when
angered? What if he did rap our toes sometimes till the timorous wept,
and those of stouter heart flushed scarlet, and clenched their small
hands and inly vowed revenge? No doubt we richly deserved it, and it did
us good.

If I were to hear a certain strain played in the desert of Sahara or on
the plains of Idaho, I should instantly “forward and back and cross
over,”–and so, I warrant, would most of my generation of Boston people.
There is one grave and courteous gentleman of my acquaintance, whom to
see dance the shawl-dance with his fairy sister was a dream of poetry.
As for the gavotte–O beautiful Amy! O lovely Alice! I see you now, with
your short, silken skirts flowing out to extreme limit of crinoline;
with your fair locks confined by the discreet net, sometimes of brown or
scarlet chenille, sometimes of finest silk; with snowy stockings, and
slippers fastened by elastic bands crossed over the foot and behind the
ankle; with arms and neck bare. If your daughters to-day chance upon a
photograph of you taken in those days, they laugh and ask mamma how she
could wear such queer things, and make such a fright of herself! But I
remember how lovely you were, and how perfectly you always dressed, and
with what exquisite grace you danced the gavotte.

[Illustration: LAURA E. RICHARDS.]

So, I think, all we who jumped and changed our feet, who pirouetted and
chasséed under Mr. Papanti, owe him a debt of gratitude. His hall was a
paradise, the stiff little dressing-room, with its rows of shoe-boxes,
the antechamber of delight,–and thereby hangs a tale. The child Laura
grew up, and married one who had jumped and changed his feet beside her
at Papanti’s, and they two went to Europe and saw many strange lands and
things; and it fell upon a time that they were storm-bound in a little
wretch of a grimy steamer in the Gulf of Corinth. With them was a
travelling companion who also had had the luck to be born in Boston, and
to go to dancing-school; the other passengers were a Greek, an Italian,
and–I think the third was a German, but as he was seasick it made no
difference. Three days were we shut up there while the storm raged and
bellowed, and right thankful we were for the snug little harbor which
stretched its protecting arms between us and the white churning waste of
billows outside the bar.

We played games to make the time pass; we talked endlessly,–and in the
course of talk it naturally came to pass that we told of our adventures,
and where we came from, and, in short, who we were. The Greek gentleman
turned out to be an old acquaintance of our father, and was greatly
overjoyed to see me, and told me many interesting things about the old
fighting-days of the revolution. The Italian spoke little during this
conversation, but when he heard the word “Boston” he pricked up his
ears; and when a pause came, he asked if we came from Boston. “Yes,” we
all answered, with the inward satisfaction which every Bostonian feels
at being able to make the reply. And had we ever heard, in Boston, he
went on to inquire, of “un certo Papanti, maestro di ballo?” “Heard of
him!” cried the three dancing-school children,–“we never heard of any
one else!” Thereupon ensued much delighted questioning and
counter-questioning. This gentleman came from Leghorn, Mr. Papanti’s
native city. He knew his family; they were excellent people. Lorenzo
himself he had never seen, as he left Italy so many years ago; but
reports had reached Leghorn that he was very successful,–that he taught
the best people (O Beacon street! O purple windows and brown-stone
fronts, I should think so!); that he had invented “un piano sopra
molle,” a floor on springs. Was this true? Whereupon we took up our
parable, and unfolded to the Livornese mind the glory of Papanti, till
he fairly glowed with pride in his famous fellow-townsman.

And, finally, was not this a pleasant little episode in a storm-bound
steamer in the Gulf of Corinth?

We had so many friends that I hardly know where to begin. First of all,
perhaps, I should put the dear old Scotch lady whom we called “D. D.”
She had another name, but that is nobody’s business but her own. D. D.
was a thousand years old. She always said so when we asked her age, and
she certainly ought to have known. No one would have thought it to look
at her, for she had not a single gray hair, and her eyes were as bright
and black as a young girl’s. One of the pleasantest things about her was
the way she dressed, in summer particularly. She wore a gown of white
dimity, always spotlessly clean, made with a single plain skirt, and a
jacket. The jacket was a little open in front, showing a handkerchief of
white net fastened with a brooch of hair in the shape of a harp.
Fashions made no difference to D. D. People might wear green or yellow
or purple, as they pleased,–she wore her white dimity; and we children
knew instinctively that it was the prettiest and most becoming dress
that she could have chosen.

Another wonderful thing about D. D. was her store-closet. There never
was such a closet as that! It was all full of glass jars, and the jars
were full of cinnamon and nutmeg and cloves and raisins, and all manner
of good things. Yes, and they were not screwed down tight, as jars are
likely to be nowadays; but one could take off the top, and see what was
inside; and if it was cinnamon, one might take even a whole stick, and
D. D. would not mind. Sometimes a friend of hers who lived at the South
would send her a barrel of oranges (she called it a “bar’l of awnges,”
because she was Scotch, and we thought it sounded a great deal prettier
than the common way), and then we had glorious times; for D. D. thought
oranges were very good for us, and we thought so too. Then she had some
very delightful and interesting drawers, full of old daguerreotypes and
pieces of coral, and all kinds of alicumtweezles. Have I explained
before that “alicumtweezles” are nearly the same as “picknickles” and
“bucknickles”?

D. D.’s son was a gallant young soldier, and it was his hair that she
wore in the harp-shaped brooch. Many of the daguerreotypes were of him,
and he certainly was as handsome a fellow as any mother could wish a son
to be. When we went to take tea with D. D., which was quite often, we
always looked over her treasures, and asked the same questions over and
over, the dear old lady never losing patience with us. And such jam as
we had for tea! D. D.’s jams and jellies were famous, and she often made
our whole provision of sweet things for the winter. Then we were sure of
having the best quince marmalade and the clearest jelly; while as for
the peach marmalade–no words can describe it!

D. D. was a wonderful nurse; and when we were ill she often came and
helped our mother in taking care of us. Then she would sing us her
song,–a song that no one but D. D. and the fortunate children who had
her for a friend ever heard. It is such a good song that I must write it
down, being very sure that D. D. would not care.

“There was an old man. and he was mad,
And he ran up the steeple;
He took off his great big hat.
And waved it over the people.”

To D. D. we owe the preservation of one of Laura’s first compositions,
written when she was ten years old. She gave it to the good lady, who
kept it for many years in her treasure-drawer till Laura’s own children
were old enough to read it. It is a story, and is called–

LOST AND FOUND.

Marion Gray, a lovely girl of thirteen, one day tied on her gypsy
hat, and, singing a merry song, bade good-by to her mother, and ran
quickly toward the forest. She was the youngest daughter of Sir
Edward Gray, a celebrated nobleman in great favor with the king,
and consequently Marion had everything she wished for. When she
reached the wood she set her basket down under a chestnut-tree,
and climbing up into the branches she shook them till the ripe
fruit came tumbling down. She then jumped down, and having filled
her basket was proceeding to another tree, when all of a sudden a
dark-looking man stepped out, who, when she attempted to fly,
struck her severely with a stick, and she fell senseless to the
ground.

Meanwhile all was in confusion at the manorhouse. Marion’s faithful
dog Carlo had seen the man lurking in the thicket, and had tried to
warn his mistress of the danger. But seeing she did not mind, the
minute he saw the man prepare to spring out he had run to the
house. He made them understand that some one had stolen Marion.
“Who, Carlo, who?” exclaimed the agonized mother. Carlo instantly
picked up some A-B-C blocks which lay on the floor, and putting
together the letters that form the word “Gypsies,” looked up at his
master and wagged his tail. “The Gypsies!” exclaimed Sir Edward;
“alas! if the gypsies have stolen our child, we shall never see her
again.” Nevertheless they searched and searched the wood, but no
trace of her was to be found.

* * * * *

“Hush! here she is! Isn’t she a beauty?”

“Yes! but what is her name?”

“Marion Gray. I picked her up in the wood. A splendid addition to
our train, for she can beg charity and a night’s lodging; and then
the easiest thing in the world is just to find out where they keep
the key, and let us in. Hush! hush! she’s coming to.”

These words were spoken by a withered hag of seventy and the man
who had stolen her. Slowly Marion opened her eyes, and what was her
horror to find herself in a gypsy camp!

I will skip over the five long years of pain and suffering, and
come to the end of my story. Five years have passed, and the new
king sits on his royal throne, judging and condemning a band of
gypsies. They are all condemned but one young girl, who stands with
downcast eyes before him; but when she hears her doom, she raises
her dark flashing eyes on the king. A piercing shriek is heard, the
crown and sceptre roll down the steps of the throne, and Marion
Gray is clasped in her father’s arms!

Another dear friend was Miss Mary. She was a small, brisk woman, with
“New England” written all over her. She used to stay with us a good
deal, helping my mother in household matters, or writing for our father;
and we all loved her dearly. She had the most beautiful hair, masses
and masses of it, of a deep auburn, and waving in a lovely fashion. She
it was who used to say, “Hurrah for Jackson!” whenever anything met her
special approval; and we all learned to say it too, and to this day some
of us cheer the name of “Old Hickory,” who has been in his grave these
fifty years. Miss Mary came of seafaring people, and had many strange
stories of wreck and tempest, of which we were never weary. Miss Mary’s
energy was untiring, her activity unceasing. She used to make long
woodland expeditions with us in the woods around the Valley, leading the
way “over hill, over dale, thorough bush, thorough brier,” finding all
manner of wild-wood treasures,–creeping-jenny, and ferns and mosses
without end,–which were brought home to decorate the parlors. She knew
the name of every plant, and what it was good for. She knew when the
barberries must be gathered, and when the mullein flowers were ready.
She walked so fast and so far that she wore out an unreasonable number
of shoes in a season.

Speaking of her shoes reminds me that at the fire of which I spoke in a
previous chapter, at the Institution for the Blind, Miss Mary was the
first person to give the alarm. She had on a brand-new pair of morocco
slippers when the fire broke out, and by the time it was extinguished
they were in holes. This will give you some idea of Miss Mary’s energy.

Then there was Mr. Ford, one of the very best of our friends. He was a
sort of factotum of our father, and, like The Bishop in the “Bab
Ballads,” was “short and stout and round-about, and zealous as could
be.” We were very fond of trotting at his heels, and loved to pull him
about and tease him, which the good man never seemed to resent. Once,
however, we carried our teasing too far, as you shall hear. One day our
mother was sitting quietly at her writing, thinking that the children
were all happy and good, and possessing her soul in patience. Suddenly
to her appeared Julia, her hair flying, eyes wide open, mouth
ditto,–the picture of despair.

“Oh, Mamma!” gasped the child, “I have done the most dreadful thing! Oh,
the most dreadful, terrible thing!”

“What is it?” exclaimed our mother, dropping her pen in distress; “what
have you done, dear? Tell me quickly!”

“Oh, I cannot tell you!” sobbed the child; “I cannot!”

“Have you set the house on fire?” cried our mother.

“Oh, worse than that!” gasped poor Julia, “much worse!”

“Have you dropped the baby?”

“Worse than that!”

Now, there _was_ nothing worse than dropping the baby, so our mother
began to feel relieved.

“Tell me at once, Julia,” she said, “what you have done!”

“I–I–” sobbed poor Julia,–“I pulled–I pulled–off–Mr. Ford’s wig!”

There were few people we loved better than Tomty, the gardener. This
dear, good man must have been a martyr to our pranks, and the only
wonder is that he was able to do any gardening at all. It was “Tomty”
here and “Tomty” there, from morning till night. When Laura wanted her
bonnet-strings tied (oh, that odious little bonnet! with the rows of
pink and green quilled ribbon which was always coming off), she never
thought of going into the house to Mary, though Mary was good and kind
too,–she always ran to Tomty, who must “lay down the shovel and the
hoe,” and fashion bow-knots with his big, clumsy, good-natured fingers.
When Harry was playing out in the hot sun without a hat, and Mary called
to him to come in like a good boy and get his hat, did he go? Oh, no! He
tumbled the potatoes or apples out of Tomty’s basket, and put that on
his head instead of a hat, and it answered just as well.

Poor, dear Tomty! He went to California in later years, and was cruelly
murdered by some base wretches for the sake of a little money which he
had saved.

Somehow we had not very many friends of our own age. I suppose one
reason was that we were so many ourselves that there were always enough
to have a good time.

There were one or two little girls who used to go with us on the famous
maying-parties, which were great occasions. On May-day morning we would
take to ourselves baskets,–some full of goodies, some empty,–and start
for a pleasant wooded place not far from Green Peace. Here, on a sunny
slope where the savins grew not too thickly to prevent the sun from
shining merrily down on the mossy sward, we would pitch our tent (only
there was no tent), and prepare to be perfectly happy. We gathered such
early flowers as were to be found, and made garlands of them; we chose a
queen and crowned her; and then we had a feast, which was really the
object of the whole expedition.

It was the proper thing to buy certain viands for this feast, the home
dainties being considered not sufficiently rare.

Well, we ate our oranges and nibbled our cocoanut, and the older ones
drank the milk, if there was any in the nut: this was considered the
very height of luxury, and the little ones knew it was too much for
them to expect. I cannot remember whether we were generally ill after
these feasts, but I think it highly probable.

In mentioning our friends, is it right to pass over the good
“four-footers,” who were so patient with us, and bore with so many of
our vagaries? Can we ever forget Oggy the Steamboat, so called from the
loudness of her purring? Do not some of us still think with compunction
of the day when this good cat was put in a tin pan, and covered over
with a pot-lid, while on the lid was set her deadly enemy Ella, the fat
King Charles spaniel? What a snarling ensued! what growls, hisses,
yells, mingled with the clashing of tin and the “unseemly laughter” of
naughty children!

And Lion, the good Newfoundland dog, who let us ride on his back–when
he was in the mood, and tumbled us off when he was not! He was a dear
dog; but Fannie, his mate, was anything but amiable, and sometimes gave
sore offence to visitors by snapping at their heels and growling.

But if the cats and dogs suffered from us, we suffered from José! O
José! what a tyrannous little beast you were! Never was a brown donkey
prettier, I am quite sure; never did a brown donkey have his own way so
completely.

Whether a child could take a ride or not depended entirely on whether
José was in the mood for it. If not, he trotted a little way till he got
the child alone; and then he calmly rubbed off his rider against a tree
or fence, and trotted away to the stable. Of course this was when we
were very little; but by the time the little ones were big enough to
manage him José was dead; so some of us never “got even with him,” as
the boys say. When the dearest uncle in the world sent us the
donkey-carriage, things went better; for the obstinate little brown
gentleman could not get rid of that, of course, and there were many
delightful drives, with much jingling of harness and all manner of style
and splendor.

These were some of our friends, two-footers and four-footers. There were
many others, of course, but time and space fail to tell of them. After
all, perhaps they were just like other children’s friends. I must not
weary my readers by rambling on indefinitely in these long-untrodden
paths; but I wish other children could have heard Oggy purr!

Many interesting visitors came and went, both at Green Peace and the
Valley,–many more than I can recollect. The visit of Kossuth, the great
Hungarian patriot, made no impression upon me, as I was only a year old
when he came to this country; but there was a great reception for him at
Green Peace, and many people assembled to do honor to the brave man who
had tried so hard to free his country from the Austrian yoke, and had so
nearly succeeded. I remember a certain hat, which we younger children
firmly believed to have been his, though I have since been informed that
we were mistaken. At all events, we used to play with the hat (I wonder
whose it was!) under this impression, and it formed an important
element in “dressing up,” which was one of our chief delights.

One child would put on Kossuth’s hat, another Lord Byron’s helmet,–a
superb affair of steel and gold, which had been given to our father in
Greece, after Byron’s death (we ought not to have been allowed to touch
so precious a relic, far less to dress up in it!); while a third would
appropriate a charming little square Polish cap of fine scarlet, which
ought to have belonged to Thaddeus of Warsaw, but did not, I fear.

What pleasant things we had to dress up in! There was our father’s
wedding-coat, bright blue, with brass buttons; and the waistcoat he had
worn with it, white satin with raised velvet flowers,–such a fine
waistcoat! There were two embroidered crape gowns which had been our
grandmother’s, with waists a few inches long, and long, skimp skirts;
and the striped blue and yellow moiré, which our mother had worn in some
private theatricals,–that was beyond description! And the white gauze
with gold flounces–oh! and the peach-blossom silk with flowers all over
it–ah!

But this is a digression, and has nothing whatever to do with our
guests, who never played “dressing up,” that I can remember.

One of our most frequent visitors at Green Peace was the great statesman
and patriot, Charles Sumner. He was a very dear friend of our father,
and they loved to be together whenever the strenuous business of their
lives would permit.

We children used to call Mr. Sumner “the Harmless Giant;” and indeed he
was very kind to us, and had always a pleasant word for us in that deep,
melodious voice which no one, once hearing it, could ever forget. He
towered above us to what seemed an enormous height; yet we were told
that he stood six feet in his stockings,–no more. This impression being
made on Laura’s mind, she was used to employ the great senator as an
imaginary foot-rule (six-foot rule, I should say), and, until she was
almost a woman grown, would measure a thing in her own mind by saying
“two feet higher than Mr. Sumner,” or “twice as high as Mr. Summer,” as
the case might be. I can remember him carrying the baby Maud on his
shoulder, and bowing his lofty crest to pass through the doorway.
Sometimes his mother, Madam Sumner, came with him, a gracious and
charming old lady. I am told that on a day when she was spending an hour
at Green Peace, and sitting in the parlor window with our mother, Laura
felt it incumbent upon her to entertain the distinguished visitor; so,
being arrayed in her best white frock, she took up her station on the
gravel path below the window, and filling a little basket with gravel,
proceeded to pour it over her head, exclaiming, “Mit Humner! hee my
ektibiton!” This meant “exhibition.” Laura could not pronounce the
letter S in childhood’s happy hour. “Mamma,” she would say, if she saw
our mother look grave, “Id you had? Why id you had?” and then she would
bring a doll’s dish, or it might be a saucepan, and give it to her
mother and say, with infinite satisfaction, “Dere! ’mooge you’helf wid
dat!”

Another ever welcome guest was John A. Andrew, the great War Governor,
as we loved to call him. He was not governor in those days,–that is,
when I first remember him; but he was then, as always, one of the most
delightful of men. Who else could tell a story with such exquisite
humor? The stories themselves were better than any others, but his way
of telling them set every word in gold. The very sound of his voice made
the air brighter and warmer, and his own delightful atmosphere of sunny
geniality went always with him. That was a wonderful evening when at one
of our parties some scenes from Thackeray’s “The Rose and the Ring” were
given. Our mother was Countess Gruffanuff, our father Kutasoff Hedzoff;
Governor Andrew took the part of Prince Bulbo, while Flossy made a
sprightly Angelica, and Julia as Betsinda was a vision of rarest beauty.
I cannot remember who was Prince Giglio, but the figure of Bulbo, with
closely curling hair, his fine face aglow with merriment, and the magic
rose in his buttonhole, comes distinctly before me.

Who were the guests at those dinner-parties so well remembered? Alas! I
know not. Great people they often were, famous men and women, who
talked, no doubt, brilliantly and delightfully. But is it their
conversation which lingers like a charm in my memory? Again, alas! my
recollection is of finger-bowls, crimson and purple, which sang beneath
the wetted finger of some kindly elder; of almonds and raisins, and
bonbons mystic, wonderful, all gauze and tinsel and silver paper, with
flat pieces of red sugar within. The red sugar was something of an
anticlimax after the splendors of its envelope, being insipidly sweet,
with no special flavor. The scent of coffee comes back to me, rich,
delicious, breathing of “the golden days of good Haroun Alraschid.” We
were never allowed to drink coffee or tea; but standing by our mother’s
chair, just before saying good-night, we received the most exquisite
dainty the world afforded,–a “coffee-duck,” which to the ignorant is
explained to be a lump of sugar dipped in coffee (black coffee, _bien
entendu_) and held in the amber liquid till it begins to melt in
delicious “honeycomb” (this was probably the true ambrosia of the gods);
and then we said good-night, and–and–went and begged the cook for a
“whip,” or some “floating-island,” or a piece of frosted cake! Was it
strange that occasionally, after one of these feasts, Laura could not
sleep, and was smitten with the “terror by night” (it was generally a
locomotive which was coming in at the window to annihilate her; Julia
was the one who used to weep at night for fear of foxes), and would come
trotting down into the lighted drawing-room, among all the silks and
satins, arrayed in the simple garment known as a “leg-nightgown,”
demanding her mother? Ay, and I remember that she always got her mother,
too.

But these guests? I remember the great Professor Agassiz, with his wise,
kindly face and genial smile. I can see him putting sugar into his
coffee, lump after lump, till it stood up above the liquid like one of
his own glaciers. I remember all the “Abolition” leaders, for our own
parents were stanch Abolitionists, and worked heart and soul for the
cause of freedom. I remember when Swedish ships came into Boston Harbor,
probably for the express purpose of filling our parlors with fair-haired
officers, wonderful, magnificent, shining with epaulets and buttons.
There may have been other reasons for the visit; there may have been
deep political designs, and all manner of mysteries relating to the
peace of nations I know not. But I know that there was a little
midshipman in white trousers, who danced with Laura, and made her a bow
afterward and said, “I tanks you for de polska.” He was a dear little
midshipman! There was an admiral too, who corresponded more or less with
Southey’s description,–

“And last of all an admiral came,
A terrible man with a terrible name,–
A name which, you all must know very well,
Nobody can speak, and nobody can spell.”

The admiral said to Harry, “I understand you shall not go to sea in
future times?” and that is all I remember about him.

I remember Charlotte Cushman, the great actress and noble woman, who was
a dear friend of our mother; with a deep, vibrating, melodious voice,
and a strong, almost masculine face, which was full of wisdom and
kindliness.

I remember Edwin Booth, in the early days, when his brilliant genius and
the splendor of his melancholy beauty were taking all hearts by storm.
He was very shy, this all-powerful Richelieu, this conquering Richard,
this princely Hamlet. He came to a party given in his honor by our
mother, and instead of talking to all the fine people who were dying for
a word with him, he spent nearly the whole evening in a corner with
little Maud, who enjoyed herself immensely. What wonder, when he made
dolls for her out of handkerchiefs, and danced them with dramatic
fervor? She was very gracious to Mr. Booth, which was a good thing; for
one never knew just what Maud would say or do. Truth compels me to add
that she was the _enfant terrible_ of the family, and that the elders
always trembled when visitors noticed or caressed the beautiful child.

One day, I remember, a very wise and learned man came to Green Peace to
see our mother,–a man of high reputation, and withal a valued friend.
He was fond of children, and took Maud on his knee, meaning to have a
pleasant chat with her. But Maud fixed her great gray eyes on him, and
surveyed him with an air of keen and hostile criticism. “What makes all
those little red lines in your nose?” she asked, after an ominous
silence. Mr. H—-, somewhat taken aback, explained as well as he could
the nature of the veins, and our mother was about to send the child on
some suddenly-bethought-of errand, when her clear, melodious voice broke
out again, relentless, insistent: “Do you know, I think you are the
ugliest man I ever saw in my life!” “That will do, Maud!” said Mr.
H—-, putting her down from his knee. “You are charming, but you may go
now, my dear.” Then he and our mother both tried to become very much
interested in metaphysics; and next day he went and asked a mutual
friend if he were really the ugliest man that ever was seen, telling
her what Maud had said.

Again, there was a certain acquaintance–long since dead–who was in the
habit of making interminable calls at Green Peace, and who would talk by
the hour together without pausing. Our parents were often wearied by
this gentleman’s conversational powers, and one of them (let this be a
warning to young and old) chanced one day to speak of him in Maud’s
hearing as “a great bore.” This was enough! The next time the unlucky
talker appeared, the child ran up to him, and greeted him cordially
with, “How do you do, bore? Oh, you great bore!” A quick-witted friend
who was in the room instantly asked Mr. S—- if he had seen the copy of
Snyder’s “Boar Hunt” which our father had lately bought, thinking it
better that he should fancy himself addressed as a beast of the forest
than as _Borus humanus_; but he kept his own counsel, and we never knew
what he really thought of Maud’s greeting.

But of all visitors at either house, there was one whom we loved more
than all others put together. Marked with a white stone was the happy
day which brought the wonderful uncle, the fairy godfather, the
realization of all that is delightful in man, to Green Peace or the
Valley. Uncle Sam Ward!–uncle by adoption to half the young people he
knew, but our very own uncle, our mother’s beloved brother. We might
have said to him, with Shelley,–

“Rarely, rarely comest thou,
Spirit of delight!”

for he was a busy man, and Washington was a long way off; but when he
did come, as I said, it was a golden day. We fairly smothered him,–each
child wanting to sit on his knee, to see his great watch, and the
wonderful sapphire that he always wore on his little finger. Then he
must sing for us; and he would sing the old Studenten Lieder in his
full, joyous voice; but he must always wind up with “Balzoroschko
Schnego” (at least that is what it sounded like), a certain Polish
drinking-song, in which he sneezed and yodeled, and did all kinds of
wonderful things.

Then would come an hour of quiet talk with our mother, when we knew
enough to be silent and listen,–feeling, perhaps, rather than realizing
that it was not a common privilege to listen to such talk.

“No matter how much I may differ from Sam Ward in principles or
opinion,” said Charles Sumner once, “when I have been with him five
minutes, I forget everything except that he is the most delightful man
in the world.”

Again (but this was the least part of the pleasure), he never came
empty-handed. Now it was a basket of wonderful peaches, which he thought
might rival ours; now a gold bracelet for a niece’s wrist; now a
beautiful book, or a pretty dress-pattern that had caught his eye in
some shop-window. Now he came direct from South America, bringing for
our mother a silver pitcher which he had won as a prize at a
shooting-match in Paraguay. One of us will never forget being waked in
the gray dawn of a summer morning at the Valley, by the sound of a
voice singing outside,–will never forget creeping to the window and
peeping out through the blinds. There on the door-step stood the fairy
uncle, with a great basket of peaches beside him; and he was singing the
lovely old French song, which has always since then seemed to me to
belong to him:

“Noble Châtelaine,
Voyez notre peine,
Et dans vos domaines
Rendez charité!
Voyez le disgrace
Qui nous menace,
Et donnez, par grace,
L’hospitalité!
Toi que je révère,
Entends ma prière.
O Dieu tutelaire,
Viens dans ta bonte,
Pour sauver l’innocence,
Et que ta puissance
Un jour recompense
L’hospitalité!”

There is no sweeter song. And do you think we did not tumble into our
clothes and rush down, in wrappers, in petticoats, in whatever gown
could be most quickly put on, and unbar the door, and bring the dear
wanderer in, with joyful cries, with laughter, almost with tears of pure
pleasure?

All, that was “long ago and long ago;” and now the kind uncle, the great
heart that overflowed with love and charity and goodwill to all human
kind, has passed through another door, and will not return! Be sure that
on knocking at that white portal, he found hospitality within.

* * * * *

And now it is time that these rambling notes should draw to a close.
There are many things that I might still speak of. But, after all, long
ago _is_ long ago, and these glimpses of our happy childhood must
necessarily be fragmentary and brief. I trust they may have given
pleasure to some children. I wish all childhood might be as bright, as
happy, as free from care or sorrow, as was ours.

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