Page:Female Prose Writers of America.djvu/96

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times been read aloud, from beginning to end, by the young student, at an age in which most children can scarcely read, intelligibly, the simplest verse. Other tomes, and some heavy and sombrous, were also made familiar to her young mind, by repeated perusal; but as the upper shelves of the lady’s library contained some volumes of a lighter character, the curiosity of childhood would render it pardonable, if now and then those shelves were furtively explored, or some old play or romance withdrawn, to be read by stealth in the solitary chamber.

The chamber, to the young student, is a sacred precinct. There, not only is the evening problem and the morning recitation faithfully prepared for the school, and the borrowed book pored over in delightful secrecy, with no intrusive eye to note the smiles and tears and unconscious gesticulation, that respond to the moving incidents of the tale—but there, too, in silent and solitary hours, the light-footed muse slips in, and makes her earliest visits, leaving behind those first faintly dotted notes of music, which are for a long time bashfully kept concealed from every eye.

Madam Lathrop watched with entire complacency the dawning genius of her young favourite. The simple, poetic effusion occasionally brought from that solitary chamber and timidly submitted to her inspection, was sure to be received with encouraging praise, and to kindle in the face of her aged friend that glow of approbation which was the highest reward that the imagination of the young aspirant had then conceived.

The death of her venerable benefactress, which took place when she was fourteen years of age, was the first deep sorrow which her young heart had known. It was a disruption of very tender ties the breaking up of a peculiar intimacy between youth and age, and she could not be easily solaced for the bereavement. Nor has her mind ever lost the influence of this early association. It has kept with her through life, and runs like a fine vein through all her writings. The memory, the image, the teachings of this sainted friend, seem to accompany her like an invisible presence, and wherever the scene may be, she turns aside to commune with her spirit, or to cast a fresh flower upon her grave.

Mrs. Sigourney has been remarkable through life for the steadfastness of her friendships. Besides the venerable companion already commemorated, she became early in life very tenderly attached to one of her own age, whose history has become identified with her own. This was Anna Maria Hyde a young lady whose sterling worth and fine mental powers were graced arid rendered winning by uncommon vivacity and sweetness of disposition, unaffected modesty, and varied acquirements. The friendship of these two young persons for each other was intimate and endearing. They were companions in long rural walks, they sat side by side at their studies, visited at each other’s dwellings, read together, wrought the same needle-work pattern, or, with paint and pencil, shaded the same flower. The neighbours regarded them as inseparable; the names of Hyde and