I have made a voyage upon a golden river, 'Neath clouds of opal and of amethyst. Along its banks bright shapes were moving ever, And threatening shadows melted into mist. The eye, unpractised, sometimes lost the current, When some wild rapid of the tide did whirl, While yet a master hand beyond the torrent Freed my frail shallop from the perilous swirl. Music went with me, fairy flute and viol, The utterance of fancies half expressed, And with these, steadfast, beyond pause or trial, The deep, majestic throb of Nature's breast. My journey nears its close—in some still haven My bark shall find its anchorage of rest, When the kind hand, which ever good has given, Opening with wider grace, shall give the best. J. W. H.
The grandchildren were her chief playmates when Maud was in Europe. To them, the grave tone of the Journal, the tale of her public work, is almost unbelievable, recalling, as they do, the household life, so warm, so rich, so intimate, it seemed enough in itself to fill the cup to overflowing. She had said of herself that in social activities she "bled at every pore": but in these later years it was light and warmth that she shed around her, kindling whatever she touched. At her fire, as at Uncle Sam's, we warmed our hands and our hearts. When she entered a room, all faces lighted up, as if she carried a lamp in her hand.
Day in, day out, she was the Guter Camerad. The desire not to irritate had become so much a second nature that she was the easiest person in the world to live with. If the domestic calm were disturbed, "Don't say anything!" was her word. "Wait a little!"
She might wake with the deep depression so often mentioned in the Journal. Pausing at her door to listen, one might hear a deep sigh, a plaintive ejaculation; but all this was put out of sight before she left her room, and she came down, as one of the grandchildren put it, "bubbling like a silver tea-kettle."
Then came the daily festival of breakfast, never to be hurried or "scamped." The talk, the letters, some of which we might read to her, together with the newspaper. We see her pressing some tidbit on a child, watching intently the eating of it, then, as the last mouthful disappeared, exclaiming with tragic emphasis, "I wanted it!" Then, at the startled face, would come peals of laughter; she would throw herself back in her chair, cover her face with her hands, and tap the floor with her feet.
"Look at her!" cried Maud. "Rippling with sin!"
How she loved to laugh!
"One day," says a granddaughter, "the house was overflowing with guests, and she asked me to take my nap on her sofa, while she took hers on the bed. We both lay down in peace and tranquillity, but after a while, when she thought I was asleep, I heard her laughing, until she almost wept. Presently she fell asleep, and slept her usual twenty minutes, to wake in the same gales of mirth. She laughed until the bed shook, but softly, trying to choke her laughter, lest I should wake.
"'What is it about?' I asked. 'What is so wonderful and funny?'
"'Oh, my dear,' she said, breaking again into laughter, 'it is nothing! It is the most ridiculous thing! I was only trying to translate "fiddle-de-dee" into Greek!'"
This was in her ninety-second year.
But we are still at the breakfast table. Sometimes there were guests at breakfast, a famous actor, a travelling scholar, caught between other engagements for this one leisure hour.
It was a good deal, perhaps, to ask people to leave a warm hotel on a January morning; but it was warm enough by the soft-coal blaze of the dining-room fire. Over the coffee and rolls, sausages and buckwheat cakes, leisure reigned supreme; not the poet's "retired leisure," but a friendly and laughter-loving deity. Everybody was full of engagements, harried with work, pursued by business and pleasure: no matter! the talk ranged high and far, and the morning was half gone before they separated.
Soon after breakfast came the game of ball, played à deux with daughter or grandchild; the ball was tossed back and forth, the players counting meanwhile up to ten in various languages. She delighted in adding to her vocabulary of numerals, and it was a good day when she mastered those of the Kutch-Kutch Esquimaux.
Then came the walk, gallantly taken in every weather save the very worst. She battled with the west wind, getting the matter over as quickly as might be. "It is for my life!" she would say. But on quiet, sunny days she loved to linger along Commonwealth Avenue, watching the parade of babies and little children, stopping to admire this one or chat with that.
This function accomplished, she went straight to her desk, and "P. T." reigned till noon. It was a less rigorous "P. T." than that of our childhood. She could break off in a moment now, give herself entirely, joyously, to the question of dinner for the expected guest, of dress for the afternoon reception, then drop back into Aristotle or Æschylus with a happy sigh. It was less easy to break off when she was writing; we might be begged for "half a moment," as if our time were fully as precious as her own; but there was none of the distress that interruption brought in earlier years. Perhaps she took her writing less seriously. She often said, "Oh, my dear, I am beginning to realize at last that I shall never write my book now, my Magnum Opus, that was to be so great!"
She practised her scales faithfully every day, through the later years. Then she would play snatches of forgotten operas, and the granddaughter would hear her—if she thought no one was near—singing the brilliant arias in "a sweet thread of a voice."
After her practising, if she were alone, she would sit at the window and play her Twilight Game: counting the "passing," one for a biped, two for a quadruped, ten for a white horse, and so on.
In the evening, before the "Victor" concert, came the reading aloud: this was one of her great pleasures. No history or philosophy for the evening reading; she must have a novel (not a "problem novel"; these she detested!)—a good stirring tale, with plenty of action in it. She thrilled over "With Fire and Sword," "Kim," "The Master of Ballantrae." She could not bear to hear of financial anxieties or of physical suffering. "It gives me a pain in my knee!"
We see her now, sitting a little forward in her straight-backed chair, holding the hand of the reading granddaughter, alert and tense. When a catastrophe appears imminent, "Stop a minute!" she cries. "I cannot bear it!"—and the reader must pause while she gathers courage to face disaster with the hero, or dash with him through peril to safety.
She would almost be sorry when the doorbell announced a visitor; almost, not quite, for flesh and blood were better than fiction. If the caller were a familiar friend, how her face lighted up!
"Oh! now we can have whist!"
The table is brought out, the mother-of-pearl counters (a Cutler relic: we remember that Mr. Ward did not allow cards in his house!), and the order for the rest of the evening is "A clear fire, a clean hearth, and the rigor of the game!"—
It was a happy day when, as chanced once or twice, Mr. Ernest Schelling, coming on from New York to play with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, offered to come and play to her, "all by herself, whatever she wanted, and for as long as she liked." She never forgot this pleasure, nor the warm kindness of the giver.
One day Mr. Abel Lefranc, the French lecturer of the year at Harvard, came to lunch with her. He apologized for only being able to stay for the luncheon hour, owing to a press of engagements and work that had grown overpowering. He stayed for two hours and a half after luncheon was over, and during all that time the flow of poignant, brilliant talk, à deux, held the third in the little company absorbed. She was entirely at home in French, and the Frenchman talked over the problems of his country as if to a compatriot.
A few days afterwards a Baptist minister from Texas, a powerfully built and handsome man, came to wait on her. He also stayed two hours: and we heard his "Amen!" and "Bless the Lord for that!" and her gentler "Bless the Lord, indeed, my brother!" as their voices, fervent and grave, mingled in talk.
She never tried to be interested in people. She was interested, with every fibre of her being. Little household doings: the economies and efforts of brave young people, she thrilled to them all. Indeed, all human facts roused in her the same absorbed and reverent interest.
These are Boston memories, but those of Oak Glen are no less tender and vivid. There, too, the meals were festivals, the midday dinner being now the chief one, with its following hour on the piazza; "Grandmother" in her hooded chair, with her cross-stitch embroidery or "hooked" rug, daughters and grandchildren gathered round her. Horace and Xenophon were on the little table beside her, but they must wait till she had mixed and enjoyed her "social salad."
At Oak Glen, too, she had her novel and her whist, bézique or dominoes, as the family was larger or smaller. She never stooped to solitaire; a game must be an affair of companionship, of the "social tie" in defence of which "Bro' Sam," in his youth, had professed himself ready to die. Instead of the "Victor" concert, she now made music herself, playing four-hand pieces with Florence, the "music daughter," trained in childhood by Otto Dresel. This was another great pleasure. (Did any one, we wonder, ever enjoy pleasures as she did?) These duets were for the afternoon; she almost never used her eyes in the evening. They were perfectly good, strong eyes; in the latter years she rarely used glasses; but the habit dated back to the early fifties, and might not be shaken.
We see her, therefore, in the summer afternoons, sitting at the piano with Florence, playing, "Galatea, dry thy tears!" "Handel's old tie-wig music," as she called his operas. Or, if her son were there, she would play accompaniments from the "Messiah" or "Elijah"; rippling through the difficult music, transposing it, if necessary to suit the singer's voice, with ease and accuracy. Musicians said that she was the ideal accompanist, never asserting herself, but giving perfect sympathy and support to the singer.
We return to the Journal.
"January, 1908. I had prayed the dear Father to give me this one more poem, a verse for this year's Decoration Day, asked for by Amos Wells, of Christian Endeavor belonging. I took my pen and the poem came quite spontaneously. It seemed an answer to my prayer, but I hold fast the thought that the great Christ asked no sign from God and needed none, so deeply did he enter into life divine. I also thought, regarding Christ and Moses, that we must be content that a certain mystery should envelop these heroic figures of human history. Our small measuring tape or rod is not for them. If they were not exactly in fact what we take them to be, let us deeply reverence the human mind which has conceived and built up such splendid and immortal ideals. Was not Christ thinking of something like this when he made the sin against the Holy Ghost and its manifestations the only unpardonable error? He surely did not mean to say that it was beyond the repentance which is the earnest of forgiveness to every sin."
A day or two after this she met at luncheon "a young Reverend Mr. Fitch.... He is earnest and clear-minded, and should do much good. I spoke of the cup [of life], but advised him to use the spoon for stirring up his congregation."
She was asked for a "long and exhaustive paper on Marion Crawford in about a week. I wrote, saying that I could furnish an interesting paper on the elder and younger Crawford, but without any literary estimate of Marion's work, saying that family praise was too much akin to self-praise; also the time allotted much too short."
One night she woke "suddenly and something seemed to say, 'They are on the right tack now.' This microscopic and detailed study of the causes of evil on society will be much forwarded by the direct agency of women. They too will supply that inexhaustible element of hopefulness, without which reforms are a mere working back and forth of machinery. These two things will overcome the evil of the world by prevention first, and then by the optimistic anticipation of good. This is a great work given to Woman now to do. Then I caught at various couplets of a possible millennial poem, but feared I should not write it. Have scrawled these on a large pad. This line kept coming back to me, 'Living, not dying, Christ redeemed mankind.'... This my first day at my desk since Saturday, March 28. I may try some prose about the present patient analysis of the evil of society, the patient intelligent women associated in all this work. To reclaim waste earth is a glory. Why not a greater to reclaim the moral wastes of humanity?"
This midnight vision impressed her deeply, and through the succeeding days she wrote it out in full, bit by bit. On the envelope containing it is written, "An account of my vision of the world regenerated by the combined labor and love of Men and Women." In it she saw "men and women of every clime working like bees to unwrap the evils of society and to discover the whole web of vice and misery and to apply the remedies, and also to find the influences that should best counteract the evil and its attendant suffering.
"There seemed to be a new, a wondrous, ever-permeating light, the glory of which I cannot attempt to put into human words—the light of the newborn hope and sympathy—blazing. The source of this light was born of human endeavor...."
She saw "the men and the women, standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder, a common lofty and indomitable purpose lighting every face with a glory not of this earth. All were advancing with one end in view, one foe to trample, one everlasting goal to gain....
"And then I saw the victory. All of evil was gone from the earth. Misery was blotted out. Mankind was emancipated and ready to march forward in a new Era of human understanding, all-encompassing sympathy and ever-present help, the Era of perfect love, of peace passing understanding."
Mrs. Humphry Ward was in Boston this spring, and there were many pleasant festivities in her honor.
A "luncheon with Mrs. Humphry Ward at Annie Fields'; very pleasant. Edward Emerson there, easy and delightful...."
A fine reception at the Vendôme, where she and Mrs. Ward stood under "a beautiful arch of roses" and exchanged greetings.
"A delightful call from Mrs. Humphry Ward. We had much talk of persons admired in England and America. She has great personal attraction, is not handsome, but very 'simpatica' and is evidently whole-souled and sincere, with much 'good-fellowship.' We embraced at parting."
In strong contrast to this is her comment on a writer whose work did not appeal to her. "But she has merit; yes, she certainly has merit. In fact—" with a flash—"she is meret-ricious!"
May brought the Free Religious Banquet, at which she "compared the difference of sect to the rainbow which divides into its beauty the white light of truth"; and the State Federation of Women's Clubs, where another apt comparison occurred to her.
"I compared the old order among women to the juxtaposition of squares set cornerwise to each other; the intensity of personal feeling and interest infusing an insensible antagonism into our relations with each other. 'Now,' I said, 'the comparison being removed, we no longer stand cornerwise to each other, but so that we can fit into line, and stand and act in concert.'..."
"Newport. I begin to feel something of the 'labor and sorrow' of living so long. I don't even enjoy my books as I used to. My efforts to find a fit word for the Biennial [of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, to meet in Boston, June 22 and 23] are not successful...."
She soon revived under her green trees, and enjoyed her books as much as ever: "got hold of" her screed, wrote it, went up to Boston to deliver it, came back to meet an excursion party of "Biennial" ladies visiting Newport. (N.B. She was late for the reception, and her neighbor, Bradford Norman, drove her into Newport in his automobile "at a terrific clip." On alighting, "Braddie," she said, "if I were ten years younger, I would set up one of these hell-wagons myself!")
She enjoyed all this hugely, but the fatigue was followed by distress so great that the next morning she "thought she should die with her door locked." (She would lock her door: no prayers of ours availed against this. In Boston, an elaborate arrangement of keys made it possible for her room to be entered; at Oak Glen there was but the one stout door. On this occasion, after lying helpless and despairing for some time, she managed to unlock the door and call the faithful maid.)
On June 30 she writes:—
"Oh, beautiful last day of June! Perhaps my last June on earth.... I shall be thankful to live as long as I can be of comfort or help to any one...."
"July 12.... Sherman to Corse [Civil War], 'Can you hold out till I arrive?' Corse to Sherman, 'I have lost an arm, my cheekbone, and am minus one ear, but I can lick all hell yet.'"
"July 30. Have felt so much energy to-day that thought I must begin upon my old philosophizing essays.... Could find only 'Duality of Character.' What is the lesson of this two-foldness? This, that the most excellent person should remember the dual member of his or her firm, the evil possibility; and the most persistent offender should also remember the better personality which is bound up with its opposite, and which can come into activity, if invited to do so."
"August 28. Wrote an immediate reply to a Mrs. ——, who had written to ask leave to use a part of my 'Battle Hymn' with some verses of her own. I replied, refusing this permission, but saying that she should rewrite her own part sufficiently to leave mine out, and should not call it the 'Battle Hymn of the Republic.' The metre and tune, of course, she might use, as they are not mine in any special sense, but my phrases not."
After writing an article for the "Delineator," on "What I should like to give my Country for a Christmas Gift," she dreads a failure of her productive power, but is reassured by Maud's verdict. "I took much pains with it, but think she overpraises it a little to raise my spirits." The gift she would choose was "a more vigilant national conscience." The little essay counts but seventy lines, but every word tells.
In early September she performed a "very small public service," unveiling in Newport a bronze tablet in honor of Count de Rochambeau. She would have been glad to speak, but an anxious daughter had demurred, and at the moment she "only thought of pulling the string the right way."
"September 21. Green Peace, New York. A delightful drive with Mr. Seth Low in his auto. A good talk with him about the multi-millionnaires and the Hague Conferences which he has attended. We reached Green Peace in time for Mr. Frank Potter to sing about half of my songs. He has a fine tenor voice, well cultivated, and is very kind about my small compositions. I had not counted upon this pleasure. I dreaded this visit, for the troublesome journey, but it has been delightful. I am charmed to see my son so handsomely and comfortably established, and with a very devoted wife. Potter brought me some flowers and a curious orchid from Panama."
"November 3. Oak Glen. Yesterday and to-day have had most exquisite sittings in front of my house in the warm sunshine; very closely wrapped up by the dear care of my daughters."
These sittings were on what she called her boulevard, a grassy space in front of the house, bordering on the road, and taking the full strength of the morning sun. Here, with the tall screen of cedars behind her, and a nut tree spreading its golden canopy over her head, she would sit for hours, drinking in the sweet air that was like no other to her.
A companion picture to this is that of the twilight hour, when she would sit alone in the long parlor, looking out on the sunset. Black against the glowing sky rose the pines of the tiny forgotten graveyard, where long-ago neighbors slept, with the white rose tree drooping over the little child's grave; a spot of tender and melancholy beauty. All about were the fields she loved, fragrant with clover and wormwood, vocal with time-keeping crickets. Here she would sit for an hour, meditating, or repeating to herself the Odes of Horace, or some familiar hymn. Horace was one of her best friends, all her life long. She knew many of the Odes by heart, and was constantly memorizing new ones. They filled and brightened many a sleepless or weary hour. Here, when the children came back from their walk, they would find her, quiet and serene, but ready instantly to break into laughter with them, to give herself, as always, entirely and joyously. Now and then she wrote down a meditation; here is one:—
"A thought comes to me to-day which gives me great comfort. This is that, while the transitory incidentals of our life, important for the moment, pass out of it, the steadfast divine life which is in our earthly experience, perseveres, and can never die nor diminish. I feel content that much of me should die. I interpret for myself Christ's parable of the tares sown in the wheat field. As regards the individual, these tares are our personal and selfish traits and limitations. We must restrain and often resist them, but we cannot and must not seek to eradicate them, for they are important agents not only in preserving, but also in energizing our bodily life. Yet they are, compared with our higher life, as the tares compared with the wheat, and we must be well content to feel that, when the death harvest comes, these tares will fall from us and perish, while the wheat will be gathered into the granary of God.
"I do not desire ecstatic, disembodied sainthood, because I do not wish to abdicate any one of the attributes of my humanity. I cherish even the infirmities that bind me to my kind. I would be human, and American, and a woman. Paul of Tarsus had one or two ecstasies, but I feel sure that he lived in his humanity, strenuously and energetically. Indeed, the list he gives us of his trials and persecutions may show us how much he lived as a man among men, even though he did once cry out for deliverance from the body of death, whose wants and pains were a sore hindrance to him in his unceasing labors. That deliverance he found daily in the service of Truth, and finally once for all, when God took him.
"Another thought upholds me. With the recurrence of the cycle, I feel the steady tramp and tread of the world's progress. This Spring is not identical with last Spring, this year is not last year. The predominant fact of the Universe is not the mechanical round and working of its forces, but their advance as moral life develops out of and above material life. Mysterious as the chain of causation is, we know one thing about it, viz.: that we cannot reverse its sequence. Whatever may change or pass away, my father remains my father, my child, my child. The way before us is open—the way behind us is blocked with solid building which cannot be removed. And in this great onward order, life turns not back to death, but goes forward to other life, which we may call immortality. If I would turn backward, I stand still in paralyzed opposition to the mighty sweep of heavenly law. It must go on, and if I could resist and refuse to go with it, I should die a moral death, having isolated myself from the movement which is life. But, do what I will, I cannot resist it. I am carried on perforce, as inanimate rocks and trees are swept away in the course of a resistless torrent. Shall I then abdicate my human privilege which makes the forces of nature Angels to help and minister to me? Let me, instead, take hold of the guiding cords of life with resolute hands and press onward, following the illustrious army whose crowned chiefs have gone before. They too had their weakness, their sorrow, their sin. But they are set as stars in the firmament of God, and their torches flash heavenly light upon our doubtful way, ay, even upon the mysterious bridge whose toll is silence. Beyond that silence reigns the perfect harmony."
"November 6. Expecting to leave this dear place to-morrow before noon, I write one last record in this diary to say that I am very thankful for the season just at end, which has been busy and yet restful. I have seen old friends and new ones, all with pleasure, and mostly with profit of a social and spiritual kind. I have seen dear little Eleanor Hall, the sweetest of babies. Have had all of my dear children with me, some of my grandchildren, and four of my great-grands.
"Our Papéterie has had pleasant meetings.... I am full of hope for the winter. Have had a long season of fresh air, delightful and very invigorating.... Utinam! Gott in Himmel sei Dank!"
"November 28. Boston. Have been much troubled of late by uncertainties about life beyond the present. Quite suddenly, very recently, it occurred to me to consider that Christ understood that spiritual life would not end with death, and that His expressed certainty as to the future life was founded upon His discernment of spiritual things. So, in so far as I am a Christian, I must believe in the immortality of the soul, as our Master surely did. I cannot understand why I have not thought of that before. I think now that I shall nevermore lose sight of it.... Had a very fine call from Mr. Locke, author of the 'Beloved Vagabond,' a book which I have enjoyed."
"December 5.... I learned to-day that my dear friend of many years [the Reverend Mary H. Graves] passed away last night very peacefully.... This is a heart sorrow for me. She has been a most faithful, affectionate and helpful friend. I scarcely know whether any one, outside of my family, would have pained me more by their departure...."
This was indeed a loss. "Saint Mouse," as we called her, was a familiar friend of the household: a little gray figure, with the face of a plain angel. For many years she had been the only person who was allowed to touch our mother's papers. She often came for a day or two and straightened out the tangle. She was the only approach to a secretary ever tolerated.
We used to grieve because our mother had no first-rate "Crutch"; it seemed a waste of power. Now, we see that it was partly the instinct of self-preservation,—keeping the "doing" muscles tense and strong, because action was vital and necessary to her—partly the still deeper instinct of giving her self, body and mind. She seldom failed in any important thing she undertook; the "chores" of life she often left for others to attend to or neglect.
The Christmas services, the Christmas oratorio, brought her the usual serene joy and comfort. She insists that Handel wrote parts of the "Messiah" in heaven itself. "Where else could he have got 'Comfort ye,' 'Thy rebuke,' 'Thou shalt break them,' and much besides?"
Late in December, 1908, came the horror of the Sicilian earthquake. She felt at first that it was impossible to reconcile omnipotence and perfect benevolence with this catastrophe.
"We must hold judgment in suspense and say, 'We don't and we can't understand.'"
She had several tasks on hand this winter, among them a poem for the Centenary of Lincoln's birth. On February 7 she writes:—
"After a time of despair about the poem for the Lincoln Centenary some lines came to me in the early morning. I arose, wrapped myself warmly, and wrote what I could, making quite a beginning."
She finished the poem next day, and on the 12th she went "with three handsome grandchildren" to deliver it at Symphony Hall before the Grand Army of the Republic and their friends.
"The police had to make an entrance for us. I was presently conducted to my seat on the platform. The hall was crammed to its utmost capacity. I had felt doubts of the power of my voice to reach so large a company, but strength seemed to be given to me at once, and I believe that I was heard very well. T. W. H. [Colonel Higginson] came to me soon after my reading and said, 'You have been a good girl and behaved yourself well.'"
The next task was an essay on "Immortality," which cost her much labor and anxious thought.
"March 3.... Got at last some solid ground for my screed on 'Immortality.' Our experience of the goodness of God in our daily life assures us of His mercy hereafter, and seeing God everywhere, we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
"March 27. I am succeeding better with my 'Immortality' paper. Had to-day a little bit of visioning with which I think that I would willingly depart, when my time comes. The dreadful fear of being buried alive disappeared for a time, and I saw only the goodness of God, to which it seemed that I could trust all question of the future life. I said to myself—'The best will be for thee and me.'"
It was in this mood that she wrote:—
"I, for one, feel that my indebtedness grows with my years. And it occurred to me the other day that when I should depart from this earthly scene, 'God's poor Debtor' might be the fittest inscription for my gravestone, if I should have one. So much have I received from the great Giver, so little have I been able to return."
"April 5.... Heard May Alden Ward, N.E.W.C., on 'Current Events.' Praecipuë tariff reform. Proposed a small group to study the question from the point of view of the consumer. What to protect and how? American goods cheaper in Europe than here. Blank tells me of pencils made here for a foreign market and sold in Germany and England at a price impossible here. I said that the real bottomless pit is the depth of infamous slander with which people will assail our public servants, especially when they are faithful and incorruptible, apropos of aspersions cast on Roosevelt and Taft. Mrs. Ward read a very violent attack upon some public man of a hundred or more years ago. He was quoted as a monster of tyranny and injustice. His name was George Washington."
"April 8.... My prayer for this Easter is that I may not waste the inspiration of spring...."
In these days came another real sorrow to her.
"April 10. To-day brings the sad news of Marion Crawford's death at Sorrento. His departure seems to have been a peaceful one. He comforted his family and had his daughter Eleanor read Plato's 'Dialogues' to him. Was unconscious at the last. Poor dear Marion! The end, in his case, comes early. His father was, I think, in the early forties when he died of a cancer behind the eye which caused blindness. He, Thomas Crawford, had a long and very distressing illness."
Crawford had been very dear to her, ever since the days when, a radiant schoolboy, he came and went in his vacations. There was a complete sympathy and understanding between them, and there were few people whom she enjoyed more.
"I wrote a letter to be read, if approved, to-morrow evening at the Faneuil Hall meeting held to advocate the revision of our extradition treaty with the Russian Government, which at present seems to allow that government too much latitude of incrimination, whereby political and civil offences can too easily be confused and a revolutionist surrendered as a criminal, which he may or may not be."
Later in the month she writes:—
"In the early morning I began to feel that I must attempt some sort of tribute to my dear friend of many years, Dr. Holmes, the centenary of whose birth is to be celebrated on Tuesday next. I stayed at home from church to follow some random rhymes which came to me in connection with my remembrance of my ever affectionate friend. I love to think of his beautiful service to his age and to future ages. I fear that my rhymes will fail to crystallize, but sometimes a bad beginning leads to something better...."
The poem was finished, more or less to her satisfaction, but she was weary with working over it, and with "reading heavy books, Max Müller on metaphysics, Blanqui on political economy."
"May 10. I began this day the screed of 'Values' which I mentioned the other day. I have great hopes of accomplishing something useful, remembering, as I do, with sore indignation, my own mistakes, and desiring to help young people to avoid similar ones."
The ninetieth birthday was a festival, indeed. Letters and telegrams poured in, rose in toppling piles which almost—not quite—daunted her; she would hear every one, would answer as many as flesh and blood could compass. Here is one of them:—
Most hearty congratulations on your ninetieth birthday from the boy you picked up somewhere in New York and placed in the New York Orphan Asylum on April 6th, 1841. Sorry I have never been able to meet you in all that time. You [were] one of the Board of Trustees at that time.
Respectfully and Thankfully,
I was then about five years old, now seventy-three.
Writing to her friend of many years, Mrs. Ellen Mitchell, she says:—
"Your birthday letter was and is much valued by me. Its tone of earnest affection is an element in the new inspiration recently given me by such a wonderful testimony of public and private esteem and goodwill as has been granted me in connection with my attainment of ninety years. It all points to the future. I must work to deserve what I have received. My dearest wish would be to take up some thread of our A.A.W. work, and continue it. I rather hope that I may find the way to do this in the study of Economics which I am just starting with a small group...."
To Mrs. Harriet Prescott Spofford
Dear Mrs. Spofford,—
You wrote me a lovely letter on my ninetieth birthday. I cannot help feeling as if the impression expressed by you and so many other kind friends of my personal merits must refer to some good work which I have yet to do. What I have done looks small to me, but I have tried a good deal for the best I have known. This is all I can say. I am much touched by your letter, and encouraged to go on trying. Don't you think that the best things are already in view? The opportunities for women, the growing toleration and sympathy in religion, the sacred cause of peace? I have lived, like Moses, to see the entrance into the Promised Land. How much is this to be thankful for! My crabbed hand shows how Time abridges my working powers, but I march to the brave music still, as you and many of the juniors do.
Wishing that I might sometimes see you, believe me
Yours with affectionate regard,
Julia Ward Howe.
Close upon the Birthday came another occasion of the kind which we—in these later years—at once welcomed and deplored. She enjoyed nothing so much as a "function," and nothing tired her so much.
On June 16, Brown University, her husband's alma mater and her grandfather's, conferred upon her the degree of Doctor of Laws. She went to Providence to receive it in person, and thus describes the commencement exercises to Mrs. Mitchell:—
"The ordeal of the Doctorate was rather trying, but was made as easy as possible for me. The venerable old church was well filled, and was quite beautiful. I sat in one of the front pews—two learned people led me to the foot of the platform from which President Faunce, with some laudatory remarks, handed me my diploma, while some third party placed a picturesque hood upon my shoulders. The band played the air of my 'Battle Hymn,' and applause followed me as I went back to my seat. So there!"
Her companion on that occasion writes:—
"She sat listening quietly to the addresses, watched each girl and boy just starting on the voyage of life as they marched to the platform and received from the President's hand the scrap of paper, the parchment diploma, reward of all their studies. Her name was called last. With the deliberate step of age, she walked forward, wearing her son's college gown over her white dress, his mortar-board cap over her lace veil. She seemed less moved than any person present; she could not see what we saw, the tiny gallant figure bent with fourscore and ten years of study and hard labor. As she moved between the girl students who stood up to let her pass, she whispered, 'How tall they are! It seems to me the girls are much taller than they used to be.' Did she realize how much shorter she was than she once had been? I think not.
"Then, her eyes sparkling with fun while all other eyes were wet, she shook her hard-earned diploma with a gay gesture in the faces of those girls, cast on them a keen glance that somehow was a challenge, 'Catch up with me if you can!'
"She had labored long for the higher education of women, suffered estrangement, borne ridicule for it—the sight of those girl graduates, starting on their life voyage equipped with a good education, was like a sudden realization of a life-long dream; uplifted her, gave her strength for the fatigues of the day. At the dinner given for her and the college dignitaries by Mrs. William Goddard, she was at her best."
She was asked for a Fourth of July message to the Sunday-School children of the Congregational Church, and wrote:—
"I want them to build up character in themselves and in the community, to give to the country just so many men and women who will be incapable of meanness or dishonesty, who will look upon life as a sacred trust, given to them for honorable service to their fellow men and women. I would have them feel that, whether rich or poor, they are bound to be of use in their day and generation, and to be mindful of the Scripture saying that 'no man liveth unto himself.' We all have our part to do in keeping up the character and credit of our country. For her sake we should study to become good and useful citizens."
In the summer of 1909 the Cretan question came up again. Once more Turkey attempted to regain active possession of Crete; once more the voice of Christendom was raised in protest. She had no thought this time of being "too old." Being called upon for help, she wrote at once to President Taft, "praying him to find some way to help the Cretans in the terrible prospect of their being delivered over, bound hand and foot, to Turkish misrule." She was soon gladdened by a reply from the President, saying that he had not considered the Cretans as he should, but promising to send her letter to the Secretary of State. "I thank God most earnestly," she writes, "for even thus much. To-day, I feel that I must write all pressing letters, as my time may be short."
Accordingly she composed an open letter on the Cretan question. "It is rather crude, but it is from my heart of hearts. I had to write it."
Suffrage, too, had its share of her attention this summer. There were meetings at "Marble House" [Newport] in which she was deeply interested. She attended one in person; to the next she sent the second and third generations, staying at home herself to amuse and care for the fourth.
On the last day of August she records once more her sorrow at the departure of the summer. She adds, "God grant me to be prepared to live or die, as He shall decree. It is best, I think, to anticipate life, and to cultivate forethought.... I think it may have been to-day that I read the last pages of Martineau's 'Seat of Authority in Religion,' an extremely valuable book, yet a painful one to read, so entirely does it do away with the old-time divinity of the dear Christ. But it leaves Him the divinity of character—no theory or discovery can take that away."
Late September brought an occasion to which she had looked forward with mingled pleasure and dread; the celebration of the Hudson-Fulton Centennial in New York. She had been asked for a poem, and had taken great pains with it, writing and re-writing it, hammering and polishing. She thought it finished in July, yet two days before the celebration she was still re-touching it.
"I have been much dissatisfied with my Fulton poem. Lying down to rest this afternoon, instead of sleep, of which I felt no need, I began to try for some new lines which should waken it up a little, and think that I succeeded. I had brought no manuscript paper, so had to scrawl my amendments on Sanborn's old long envelope."
Later in the day two more lines came to her, and again two the day after. Finally, on the morning of the day itself, on awakening, she cried out,—
"I have got my last verse!"
The occasion was a notable one. The stage of the Metropolitan Opera House was filled with dignitaries, delegates from other States, foreign diplomats in brilliant uniforms. The only woman among them was the little figure in white, to greet whom, as she came forward on her son's arm, the whole great assembly rose and stood. They remained standing while she read her poem in clear unfaltering tones; the applause that rang out showed that she had once more touched the heart of the public.
This poem was printed in "Collier's Weekly," unfortunately from a copy made before the "last verse" was finished to her mind. This distressed her. "Let this be a lesson!" she said. "Never print a poem or speech till it has been delivered; always give the eleventh hour its chance!"
This eleventh hour brought a very special chance; a few days before, the world had been electrified by the news of Peary's discovery of the North Pole: it was the general voice that cried through her lips,—
The Flag of Freedom crowns the Pole!
The following letter was written while she was at work on the poem:—
Oak Glen, July 9, 1909.
Why, yes, I'm doing the best I know how. Have written a poem for the Hudson and Fulton celebration, September 28. Worked hard at it. Guess it's only pretty good, if even that. Maud takes me out every day under the pine tree, makes me sit while she reads aloud Freeman's shorter work on Sicily. I enjoy this.... I have just read Froude's "Cæsar," which Sanborn says he hates, but which I found as readable as a novel. Am also reading a work of Kuno Fischer on "Philosophy," especially relating to Descartes. Now you know, Miss, or should know, that same had great fame, and sometimes blame, as a philosopher. But he don't make no impression on my mind. I never doubted that I was, so don't need no "cogito, ergo sum," which is what Carty, old Boy, amounts to. Your letter, dear, was a very proper attention under the circumstances. Shouldn't object to another. Lemme see! objects cannot be subjects, nor vice versa. How do you know that you washed your face this morning? You don't know it, and I don't believe that you did. You might consult H. Richards about some of these particulars. He is a man of some sense. You are, bless you, not much wiser than your affectionate
Returned to Oak Glen, after the celebration, she writes:—
To her son and his wife
Oak Glen, October 1, 1909.
... I found my trees still green, and everything comfortable. I did not dare to write to any one yesterday, my head was so full of nonsense. Reaction from brain-fatigue takes this shape with me, and everything goes "higgle-wiggledy, hi-cockalorum," or words to that effect.... We had a delightful visit with you, dear F. G. and H. M. I miss you both, and miss the lovely panorama of the hills, and the beauteous flower parterres. Well, here's for next year in early Autumn, and I hope I may see you both before that time. With thanks for kindest entertainment, and best of love,
Your very affectionate
Mother and ditto-in-law. To George H. Richards
Oak Glen, October 1, 1909.
Dear Uncle George,—
I got through all right, in spite of prospective views, of fainting fits, apoplexy, what not? Trouble is now that I cannot keep calling up some thousands of people, and saying: "Admire me, do. I wrote it all my little own self." Seriously, there is a little reaction from so much excitement. But I hope to recover my senses in time. I improved the last two stanzas much when I recited the poem. The last line read
The Flag of Freedom crowns the Pole!
I tell you, I brought it out with a will, and they all [the audience] made a great noise....
We doubt if any of the compliments pleased her so much as that of the Irish charwoman who, mop in hand, had been listening at one of the side doors of the theatre. "Oh, you dear little old lady!" she cried. "You speaked your piece real good!"
Late October finds her preparing for the move to Boston.
"I have had what I may call a spasm of gratitude to God for His great goodness to me, sitting in my pleasant little parlor, with the lovely golden trees in near view, and the devotion of my children and great kindness of my friends well in mind. Oh! help me, divine Father, to merit even a very little of Thy kindness!"
In this autumn she was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in December she wrote for its first meeting a poem called "The Capitol." She greatly desired to read this poem before the association, and Maud, albeit with many misgivings, agreed to take her on to Washington. This was not to be. On learning of her intention, three officers of the association, William Dean Howells, Robert Underwood Johnson, and Thomas Nelson Page, sent her a "round-robin" telegram, begging her not to run the risk of the long winter journey. The kindly suggestion was not altogether well taken. "Ha!" she flashed out. "They think I am too old, but there's a little ginger left in the old blue jar!"
She soon realized the wisdom as well as the friendliness of the round robin, and confided to the Journal that she had been in two minds about it.
On Christmas Day she writes:—
"Thanks to God who gave us the blessed Christ. What a birth was this! Two thousand years have only increased our gratitude for it. How it has consecrated Babyhood and Maternity! Two infants, grown to man's estate, govern the civilized world to-day, Christ and Moses. I am still thankful to be here in the flesh, as they were once, and oh! that I may never pass where they are not!"
The winter of 1909-10 was a severe one, and she was more or less housed; yet the days were full and bright for her. "Life," she cried one day, "is like a cup of tea; all the sugar is at the bottom!" and again, "Oh! I must go so soon, and I am only just ready to go to college!"
When it was too cold for her to go out, she took her walk in the house, with the windows open, pacing resolutely up and down her room and the room opposite. She sat long hours at her desk, in patient toil. She was always picking up dropped stitches, trying to keep every promise, answer every note.
"Went through waste-paper basket, redeeming some bits torn to fragments, which either should be answered or recorded. Wrote an autograph for Mr. Blank. It was asked for in 1905. Had been put away and forgotten."
She got too tired that morning, and could not fully enjoy the Authors' Club in the afternoon.
"Colonel Higginson and I sat like two superannuated old idols. Each of us said a little say when the business was finished."
It is not recalled that they presented any such appearance to others.
She went to the opera, a mingled pleasure and pain.
"It was the 'Huguenots,' much of which was known to me in early youth, when I used to sing the 'Rataplan' chorus with my brothers. I sang also Valentine's prayer, 'Parmi les fleurs mon rêve se ranime,' with obligato bassoon accompaniment, using the 'cello instead. I know that I sang much better that night than usual, for dear Uncle John said to me, 'You singed good!' Poor Huti played the 'cello. Now, I listened for the familiar bits, and recognized the drinking chorus in Act 1st, the 'Rataplan' in Act 2d. Valentine's prayer, if given, was so overlaid with fioritura that I did not feel sure of it. The page's pretty song was all right, but I suffered great fatigue, and the reminiscences were sad."
Through the winter she continued the study of economics with some fifteen members of the New England Woman's Club. She read Bergson too, and now and then "got completely bogged" in him, finding no "central point that led anywhere."
About this time she wrote:—
"Some Rules for Everyday Life
"1. Begin every day with a few minutes of retired meditation, tending to prayer, in order to feel within yourself the spiritual power which will enable you to answer the demands of practical life.
"2. Cultivate systematic employment and learn to estimate correctly the time required to accomplish whatever you may undertake.
"3. Try to occupy both your mind and your muscles, since each of these will help the other, and both deteriorate without sufficient exercise.
"4. Remember that there is great inherent selfishness in human nature, and train yourself to consider adequately the advantage and pleasure of others.
"5. Be thankful to be useful.
"6. Try to ascertain what are real uses, and to follow such maxims and methods as will stand the test of time, and not fail with the passing away of a transient enthusiasm.
"7. Be neither over distant nor over familiar in your intercourse; friendly rather than confidential; not courting responsibility, but not declining it when it of right belongs to you.
"8. Be careful not to falsify true principles by a thoughtless and insufficient application of them.
"9. Though actions of high morality ensure in the end the greatest success, yet view them in the light of obligation, not in that of policy.
"10. Whatever your talents may be, consider yourself as belonging to the average of humanity, since, even if superior to many in some respects, you will be likely to fall below them in others.
"11. Remember the Christian triad of virtues. Have faith in principles, hope in God, charity with and for all mankind."
A windy March found her "rather miserably ailing." Dr. Langmaid came, and pronounced her lungs "sound as a bass drum"; nothing amiss save a throat irritated by wind and dust. Thereupon she girded herself and buckled to her next task, a poem for the centenary of James Freeman Clarke.
"I have despaired of a poem which people seem to expect from me for the dear James Freeman's centennial. To-day the rhymes suddenly flowed, but the thought is difficult to convey—the reflection of heaven in his soul is what he gave, and what he left us."
"April 1. Very much tossed up and down about my poem...."
"April 2. Was able at last, D.G., to make the poem explain itself. Rosalind, my incorruptible critic, was satisfied with it. I think and hope that all my trouble has been worth while. I bestowed it most unwillingly, having had little hope that I could make my figure of speech intelligible. I am very thankful for this poem, cannot be thankful enough."
This was her third tribute to the beloved Minister, and is, perhaps, the best of the three. The thought which she found so difficult of conveyance is thus expressed:—
Lifting from the Past its veil, What of his does now avail? Just a mirror in his breast That revealed a heavenly guest, And the love that made us free Of the same high company. These he brought us, these he left, When we were of him bereft.
She thus describes the occasion:—
"Coughed in the night, and at waking suffered much in mind, fearing that a wild fit of coughing might make my reading unacceptable and even ridiculous. Imagine my joy when I found my voice clear and strong, and read the whole poem [forty-four lines] without the slightest inclination to cough. This really was the granting of my prayer, and my first thought about it was, 'What shall I render to the Lord for all His goodness to me?' I thought, 'I will interest myself more efficiently in the great questions which concern Life and Society at large.' If I have 'the word for the moment,' as some think, I will take more pains to speak it."
A little later came a centenary which—alas!—she did not enjoy. It was that of Margaret Fuller, and was held in Cambridge. She was asked to attend it, and was assured that she "would not be expected to speak." This kindly wish to spare fatigue to a woman of ninety-one was the last thing she desired. She could hardly believe that she would be left out—she, who had known Margaret, had talked and corresponded with her.
"They have not asked me to speak!" she said more than once as the time drew near.
She was reassured; of course they would ask her when they saw her!
"I have a poem on Margaret!"
"Take it with you! Of course you will be asked to say something, and then you will be all ready with your poem in your pocket."
Thus Maud, in all confidence. Indeed, if one of her own had gone with her, the matter would have been easily arranged; unfortunately, the companion was a friend who could make no motion in the matter. She returned tired and depressed. "They did not ask me to speak," she said, "and I was the only person present who had known Margaret and remembered her."
For a little while this incident weighed on her. She felt that she was "out of the running"; but a winning race was close at hand.
The question of pure milk was before the Massachusetts Legislature, and was being hotly argued. An urgent message came by telephone; would Mrs. Howe say a word for the good cause? Maud went to her room, and found her at her desk, the morning's campaign already begun.
"There is to be a hearing at the State House on the milk question; they want you dreadfully to speak. What do you say?"
"Give me half an hour!" she said.
Before the half-hour was over she had sketched out her speech and dressed herself in her best flowered silk cloak and her new lilac hood, a birthday gift from a poor seamstress. Arrived at the State House, she sat patiently through many speeches. Finally she was called on to speak; it was noticed that no oath was required of her. As she rose and came forward on her daughter's arm,—"You may remain seated, Mrs. Howe," said the benevolent chairman.
"I prefer to stand!" was the reply.
She had left her notes behind; she did not need them. Standing in the place where, year after year, she had stood to ask for the full rights of citizenship, she made her last thrilling appeal for justice.
"We have heard," she said, "a great deal about the farmers' and the dealers' side of this case. We want the matter settled on the ground of justice and mercy; it ought not to take long to settle what is just to all parties. Justice to all! Let us stand on that. There is one deeply interested party, however, of whom we have heard nothing. He cannot speak for himself; I am here to speak for him: the infant!"
The effect was electrical. In an instant the tired audience, the dull or dogged or angry debaters, woke to a new interest, a new spirit. No farmer so rough, no middle-man so keen, no legislator so apathetic, but felt the thrill. In a silence charged with deepest feeling all listened as to a prophetess, as, step by step, she unfolded the case of the infant as against farmers and dealers.
As Arthur Dehon Hill, counsel for the Pure Milk Association, led her from the room, he said, "Mrs. Howe, you have saved the day!"
This incident was still in her mind on her ninety-first birthday, a few days later.
"My parlors are full of beautiful flowers and other gifts, interpreted by notes expressive of much affection, and telegrams of the same sort. What dare I ask for more? Only that I may do something in the future to deserve all this love and gratitude. I have intended to deserve it all and more. Yet, when in thought I review my life, I feel the waste and loss of power thro' want of outlook. Like many another young person, I did not know what my really available gifts were. Perhaps the best was a feeling of what I may call 'the sense of the moment,' which led a French friend to say of me: 'Mme. Howe possède le mot à un dégré remarquable.' I was often praised for saying 'just the right word,' and I usually did this with a strong feeling that it ought to be said."
Early in June, just as she was preparing for the summer flitting, she had a bad fall, breaking a rib. This delayed the move for a week, no more, the bone knitting easily. She was soon happy among her green trees, her birds singing around her.
The memories of this last summer come flocking in, themselves like bright birds. She was so well, so joyous, giving her lilies with such full hands; it was a golden time.
As the body failed, the mind—or so it seemed to us—grew ever clearer, the veil that shrouds the spirit ever more transparent. She "saw things hidden."
One day a summer neighbor came, bringing her son, a handsome, athletic fellow, smartly dressed, a fine figure of gilded youth. She looked at him a good deal: presently she said suddenly,—
"You write poetry!"
The lad turned crimson: his mother looked dumfounded. It proved that he had lately written a prize poem, and that literature was the goal of his ambition. Another day she found a philosopher hidden in what seemed to the rest of the family merely "a callow boy in pretty white duck clothes." So she plucked out the heart of each man's mystery, but so tenderly that it was yielded gladly, young and old alike feeling themselves understood.
Among the visitors of this summer none was more welcome than her great-grandson, Christopher Birckhead, then an infant in arms. She loved to hold and watch the child, brooding over him with grave tenderness: it was a beautiful and gracious picture of Past and Future.
Maud had just written a book on Sicily, and, as always, our mother read and corrected the galley proofs. She did this with exquisite care and thoughtfulness, never making her suggestions on the proof itself, but on a separate sheet of paper, with the number of the galley, the phrase, and her suggested emendations. This was her invariable custom: the writer must be perfectly free to retain her own phrase, if she preferred it.
Walking tired her that summer, but she was very faithful about it.
"Zacko," she would command John Elliott, "take me for a walk."
The day before she took to her bed, he remembers that she clung to him more than usual and said,—
"It tires me very much." (This after walking twice round the piazza.)
"Once more!" he encouraged.
"No—I have walked all I can to-day."
"Let me take you back to your room this way," he said, leading her back by the piazza. "That makes five times each way!"
She laughed and was pleased to have done this, but he thinks she had a great sense of weakness too.
Her favorite piece on the "Victor" that summer was "The Artillerist's Oath." The music had a gallant ring to it, and there was something heroic about the whole thing, something that suggested the Forlorn Hope—how many of them she had led! When nine o'clock came, she would ask for this piece by the nickname she had given it, taken from one of its odd lines,—
"I'll wed thee in the battle's front!" While the song was being given, she was all alert and alive, even if she may have been sleepy earlier in the evening. She would get up with a little gesture of courage, and take leave of us, always with a certain ceremony, that was like the withdrawing of royalty. The evening was then over, and we too went to bed!
As we gather up our treasures of this last summer, we remember that several things might have prepared us for what was coming, had not our eyes been holden. She spoke a great deal of old times, the figures of her childhood and girlhood being evidently very near to her. She quoted them often; "My grandma used to say—" She spoke as naturally as the boy in the next room might speak of her.
She would not look in the glass; "I don't like to see my old face!" she said. She could not see the beauty that every one else saw. Yet she kept to the very last a certain tender coquetry. She loved her white dresses, and the flowered silk cloak of that last summer. She chose with care the jewels suited to each costume, the topaz cross for the white, the amethysts for the lilac. She had a great dread of old people's being untidy or unprepossessing in appearance, and never grudged the moments spent in adjusting the right cap and lace collar.
There was an almost unearthly light in her face, a transparency and sweetness that spoke to others more plainly than to us: Hugh Birckhead saw and recognized it as a look he had seen in other faces of saintly age, as their translation approached. But we said joyously to her and to each other, "She will round out the century; we shall all keep the Hundredth Birthday together!" And we and she partly believed it.
The doctor had insisted strongly that she should keep, through the summer at least, the trained nurse who had ministered to her after her fall. She "heard what he said, but it made no difference." In early August she records "a passage at arms with Maud, in which I clearly announced my intention of dispensing with the services of a trained nurse, my good health and simple habits rendering it entirely unnecessary."
She threatened to write to her man of business.
"I would rather die," she said, "than be an old woman with a nurse!"
Maud and Florence wept, argued, implored, but the nurse was dismissed. The Journal acknowledges that "her ministrations and Dr. Cobb's diagnosis have been very beneficial to my bodily health." On the same day she records the visit of a Persian Prince, who had come to this country chiefly to see two persons, the President of the United States and Mrs. Julia Ward Howe. "He also claims to be a reincarnation of some remarkable philosopher; and to be so greatly interested in the cause of Peace that he declines to visit our ships now in the harbor here, to which he has been invited."
Reading Theodore Parker's sermon on "Wisdom and Intellect," she found it so full of notable sayings that she thought "a little familiar book of daily inspiration and aspiration" might be made from his writings: she wrote to Mr. Francis J. Garrison suggesting this, and suggesting also, what had been long in her mind, the collecting and publishing of her "Occasional Poems."
In late September, she was "moved to write one or more open letters on what religion really is, for some one of the women's papers"; and the next day began upon "What is Religion?" or rather, "What Sort of Religion makes Religious Liberty possible?"
A day or two later, she was giving an "offhand talk" on the early recollections of Newport at the Papéterie, and going to an afternoon tea at a musical house, where, after listening to Schumann Romances and Chopin waltzes, and to the "Battle Hymn" on the 'cello, she was moved to give a performance of "Flibbertigibbet." This occasion reminded her happily of her father's house, of Henry "playing tolerably on the 'cello, Marion studying the violin, Bro' Sam's lovely tenor voice."
Now came the early October days when she was to receive the degree of Doctor of Laws from Smith College. She hesitated about making the tiresome journey, but finally, "Grudging the trouble and expense, I decide to go to Smith College, for my degree, but think I won't do so any more."
She started accordingly with daughter and maid, for Northampton, Massachusetts. It was golden weather, and she was in high spirits. Various college dignitaries met her at the station; one of these had given up a suite of rooms for her use; she was soon established in much peace and comfort.
Wednesday, October 5, was a day of perfect autumn beauty. She was early dressed in her white dress, with the college gown of rich black silk over it, the "mortar-board" covering in like manner her white lace cap. Thus arrayed, a wheeled chair conveyed her to the great hall, already packed with visitors and graduates, as was the deep platform with college officials and guests of honor. Opposite the platform, as if hung in air, a curving gallery was filled with white-clad girls, some two thousand of them; as she entered they rose like a flock of doves, and with them the whole audience. They rose once more when her name was called, last in the list of those honored with degrees; and as she came forward, the organ pealed, and the great chorus of fresh young voices broke out with
"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord—" It was the last time.
Later in the day the students of Chapin House brought their guest-book, begging for her autograph. She looked at Laura with a twinkle.
"Do you think they would like me to write something?"
Assured on that point, she waited a moment, and then wrote after her signature,—
Wandered to Smith College In pursuit of knowledge; Leaves so much the wiser, Nothing can surprise her!
She reached home apparently without undue fatigue. "She will be more tired to-morrow!" we said; but she was not. Her son came for the week-end, and his presence was always a cordial. Sunday was a happy day. In the evening we gathered round the piano, she playing, son and daughters singing the old German student songs brought by "Uncle Sam" from Heidelberg seventy years before.
On the Tuesday she went to the Papéterie, and was the life and soul of the party, sparkling with merriment. Driving home, it was so warm that she begged to have the top of the carriage put back, and so she enjoyed the crowning pageant of the autumn, the full hunter's moon and the crimson ball of the sun both visible at once.
Wednesday found her busy at her desk, confessing to a slight cold, but making nothing of it. The next day bronchitis developed, followed by pneumonia. For several days the issue seemed doubtful, the strong constitution fighting for life. Two devoted physicians were beside her, one the friend of many years, the other a young assistant. The presence of the latter puzzled her, but his youth and strength seemed tonic to her, and she would rest quietly with her hand in his strong hand.
On Sunday evening the younger physician thought her convalescent; the elder said, "If she pulls through the next twenty-four hours, she will recover."
But she was too weary. That night they heard her say, "God will help me!" and again, toward morning, "I am so tired!"
Being alone for a moment with Maud, she spoke one word: a little word that had meant "good-bye" between them in the nursery days.
So, in the morning of Monday, October 17, her spirit passed quietly on to God's keeping.
Those who were present at her funeral will not forget it. The flower-decked church, the mourning multitude, the white coffin borne high on the shoulders of eight stalwart grandsons, the words of age-long wisdom and beauty gathered into a parting tribute, the bugle sounding Taps, as she passed out in her last earthly triumph, the blind children singing round the grave on which the autumn sun shone with a final golden greeting.
We have told the story of our mother's life, possibly at too great length; but she herself told it in eight words.
"Tell me," Maud asked her once, "what is the ideal aim of life?"
She paused a moment, and replied, dwelling thoughtfully on each word,—
"To learn, to teach, to serve, to enjoy!"