Letters of Life/IX
The memories of the time devoted to the education of others are faithfully cherished and fondly recalled. They beckon me with a loving smile, and I willingly follow. They embrace the most cloudless period of my life, the most methodical, tranquil, and congenial.
My earliest promptings of ambition were, not to possess the trappings of wealth or the indulgences of luxury, but to keep a school. A modest aspiration truly, yet predominant in the reveries to which I was addicted. Only children, probably, are more in the habit of making their lonely hours dramatic, than those whose companionship with brothers and sisters leads them to the sports and affinities of outer life. At all events, with the visiting thoughts that cheered my solitary childhood, snatches of song I know not from whence, and scenes peopled by fancy, came vivid pencillings of the delight, dignity, and glory of a schoolmistress. Whereupon I arranged my dolls in various classes, instructing them not only in the scanty knowledge I had myself attained, but boldly exhorting and lecturing them on the higher moral duties.
According to their imagined progress or obedience, they were elevated from shelf to shelf in the baby-house, which, being a capacious beaufet of carved oak, with many compartments, was favorable to this gradation of discipline. Afterwards, when I became, at the age of four, a member of school, I observed as a sort of adept the modus operandi; while these incipient criticisms, with the previous doll-practice, were not without their use when, in due time, the ruling hope reached fruition.
In the early bloom of youth, surrounded by the attractions of life's gayest period, interested in its innocent pleasures, and happy with loving and loved associates, the desire of teaching remained inherent and unimpaired. It was not sustained by sympathy, for I cherished it in secret; nor by example, as my young friends had no such ambition, and, had they discovered mine, might have regarded it with surprise or ridicule. Yet there it dwelt, as the germ that the snows cover, biding its time.
I did not fully communicate it even to my parents, for I thought it might strike them as arrogance. Yet my mother, who with a kind of second sight had always read my heart, knew its unuttered yearning. She had probably enlightened herself also by some passages in a journal, which I closely concealed, and believed to be private.
My father marvelled at my preference, but not more than I at his proposal to fit up one of our pleasantest apartments for my chosen purpose. With what exultation I welcomed a new, long desk and benches neatly made of fair, white wood! To these I proceeded to add an hour-glass, and a few other articles of convenience and adornment. My active imagination peopled the room with attentive scholars, and I meditated the opening address, which I trusted would win their hearts, and the rules that were to regulate their conduct. Without delay I set forth to obtain those personages, bearing a prospectus, very beautifully written, of an extensive course of English studies, with instruction in needlework. My slight knowledge of the world induced me to offer it courageously to ladies in their parlors, or fathers in their stores, who had daughters of an age adapted to my course. I did not anticipate the difficulty of one at so early an age suddenly installing herself in a position of that nature, especially among her own people. Day after day I returned from my walk of solicitation without a name on my catalogue. Yet with every morning came fresh zeal to persevere. At length, wearied with fruitless pedestrian excursions and still more depressing refusals, I opened my school with two sweet little girls of eleven and nine years old. Consolatory was it to my chastened vanity that they were of the highest and most wealthy families among us. Cousins were they, both bearing the aristocratic name of Lathrop. Very happy was I with these plastic and lovely beings. Six hours of five days in the week, besides three on Saturday, did I sedulously devote to them, questioning, simplifying, illustrating, and impressing various departments of knowledge, as though a large class were auditors. A young lady from Massachusetts, of the name of Bliss, being in town for a short time, also joined us during that interval, to pursue drawing, and painting in water-colors. At the close of our term, or quarter as it was then called, was an elaborate examination in all the studies, with which the invited guests signified their entire approbation.
It might be supposed that this experience of the actual labor of teaching, without éclat or pecuniary gain, might have checked my enthusiasm in that department. Not a whit. It was a love which stood the test, as the sapling strikes deeper from the trials of its first season. I only sought another opportunity of renewing the toil. And it came.
The father of my most intimate friend had sustained a reverse of fortune. She meditated how to aid him, as he had no son, and was past the prime of days. The office of a teacher seemed the only feasible channel. Our intellectual sympathies had been long in unison; now, our purposes "like kindred drops were melted into one."
It was suggested that residence at a boarding-school in one of the larger cities, and attention to those ornamental branches which the taste of the times demanded, might give a prestige to our desired profession. Forthwith, at the coldest period of one of our coldest winters, without companion or protector, we might have been seen slowly rumbling in the stage-coach over frozen ground, for the greater part of a day, toward the banks of the ice-bound Connecticut. At two of the best seminaries that Hartford then afforded, we devoted ourselves to the accomplishments of drawing, painting in water-colors, embroidery of various kinds, filigree, and other things too tedious to mention. "Cobwebs to catch flies," said my sweet associate with a sigh, as we laid by our working implements late at night, our hearts turning to our distant homes, and the fond parents who missed from their fireside the brightness of the one young face.
At our return, and announcement that we would open a joint school, we were thronged with applicants. Its location was on the beautiful plain between the old town and the southern section of Norwich, where we became fellow-boarders with the widowed sister of my friend.
The first appearance before our assembled disciples was formidable. There they were, in full array, every eye fixed in curious and significant inquiry. Most of them were entire strangers. We were known to be young, and would be considered, even by close observers, younger than we were. How should we clothe ourselves with the dignity and authority which were then held essential to the office we had assumed?
The subject of daily commencing and closing our school with prayer had been discussed between my friend and myself. It was the only point which we did not view as with the same eyes. The custom was not in those days prevalent in female schools, especially where the teachers were so youthful. She was fearful of ostentation. She was diffident, and extemporary prayer, which was required by the religious denomination to which we belonged, seemed an effort, and a cross which she shrank to take up.
Being her senior by six months, it was decided that the responsibility of the first, most appalling, day must be mine.
Never shall I forget the relief that came over my burdened spirit, when, after having all read together a chapter from the blessed Scriptures, my supplication arose to the Father of Lights for His guidance and smile on our future intercourse. Never before was a full interpretation given to the passage:
"Nothing in my hand I bring:
Simply to Thy cross I cling."
Strength entered into my soul, and a peace unspeakable. Every face was clothed with new beauty. We were all the children of one Father. He had brought us together, that we might do each other good. Henceforth we were no more strangers, but members of a dear household, of which He was the Head. Ever afterwards, this daily exercise, commenced with such timidity and lowliness of soul, seemed fraught with comfort, and fortified by the promise, "In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths." My loved friend also took part in it, and throughout the whole of our course as teachers, there was as perfect a coincidence as could be expected to exist between separate minds; indeed, it might almost seem like one mind or soul inhabiting two bodies.
Arm in arm, like sisters, we entered school every morning, and, after our sweet devotional services, separated, one to the chair of supreme authority, and the other to a seat among the pupils. There, while mingling in their pursuits and sympathies, she secretly exercised an influence over both, leading them by her example to application, order, and obedience. Thus, escaping the inconvenience of "two kings of Brentford sitting on one throne," we were alternately principal and subaltern, ruler and ruled.
Six hours daily we gave to our school, except Saturday, when there was only a semi-session. Neither was our office any sinecure. Our pupils were of different ages and grades of improvement, some, indeed, older than ourselves, so that accurate classification was a matter of labor as well as tact. Our course of study was extensive for the times, and thorough. We encouraged them to question us on points not well understood, and, as we required of them readiness of reply in recitation, found it necessary to review our own studies, especially historical ones, lest some inquiry of a chronological character should cause hesitation, or haply disclose ignorance.
We attached great importance to clear, fair chirography. One hour every morning was devoted to this accomplishment. It was one of earnest manual as well as mental effort. Metallic pens were unknown, and we set copies in their writing-books with our own hands. Our knives must be continually sharpened for manipulation upon the goose-quills which solicited us from every quarter, like the bristling of chevaux-de-frise. We were continually on our feet during that hour, overlooking and advising the writers, making and mending pens, which sometimes seemed to us returned for alteration with capricious frequency.
But the muscular fatigue of the chirographical morning hour was nothing to the onerous labor of the afternoons, which it was expected we should devote to the ornamental branches. The number and nature of these it would be tedious to enumerate. The supervision of the fancy-work that then entered into feminine training taxed us body and mind. There were the varied designs and nameless shades of embroidery in silks; the progress of the brilliant filigree from its first inception; the countless varieties of wrought muslin essential to a lady-like wardrobe; and the movements of pencil and paint-brush, from the transcript of the simplest flower to the landscape, the group of figures, or "the human face divine."
Besides these, the fitting and responsibility of what was termed plain work devolved upon us. Among the most elaborate portions of this department was the construction of fine linen shirts, with their appanage of ruffles. Though occasionally sorely puzzled, we soon discovered that it was our policy, perhaps safety, to appear to be ignorant of nothing. Young as we were, we boldly adventured on untried ground, though with many things that we were expected to teach we had as little congeniality as experience. Yet a deep interest in the welfare of those whom we instructed, and their affectionate attentions, lightened every toil. In process of time, what was at first laborious became easy, and the irksome pleasant.
Still, the chief solace was our own unswerving, all-pervading friendship. Every evening, in our sequestered nook, we confidentially compared the result of our investigations during the day, imparted such idioms of character as had unfolded, taking counsel for the reform of those who needed it, and for the welfare of all. Double force was thus concentrated for action, and each, in shielding the breast of her loved one, more imperviously guarded her own. Methinks I still hear those tones of sweetness, that often mingled with the liquid moonlight, as they soothed both ear and heart.
We were also cheered by the appreciation of those whom we served. This was evinced by affectionate attentions, and a respectful deportment beyond what, at our immature age, we might have rationally anticipated. The foundation was also laid for some pleasant friendships, which lapse of years has not extinguished.
The increasing number of scholars made it necessary, the second year, to provide more spacious accommodations. We therefore obtained a fine, large building, formerly used for a public school. It was situated on rather a steep hill, from whence we had a delightful view of the winding Thames, and the romantic beauty of its banks. Fair surroundings, during the process of education, are salubrious to the young. The charms of Nature cheat study of its weariness, and refine the heart while they enrich the mind. It has been well said, that "those who do not appreciate the beautiful have no heart for what is good."
Our new edifice, being in the centre of the southern section, or what was called the Landing, obliged us to seek a nearer boarding place, and we became denizens under the roof of an aunt of my friend—a pleasing lady, of animated, graceful manners, and an excellent housekeeper. Her husband, Captain Erastus Perkins, who was much older than herself, had been, in earlier life, a skilful, practical navigator. His quietness, and equanimity of temperament on all occasions, attracted our admiration. We spoke of it to each other as what, in physiological science, denoted longevity. Without arrogating the honor of prophecy, our token became true. He completed more than a century in health and comfort, beloved by all who knew him. To borrow the simple words of a German poet:
"There flowed around that good man's ears
The silver of a hundred years."
Our school continued to grow in popular favor, and the parents and friends of our pupils vied with each other in polite attentions and proofs of regard. The sole drawback to the felicity of our lot was the loneliness of our parents. Especially were those of my loved associate unreconciled to her protracted absence. I could perceive that the Saturday afternoon and Sunday spent with them only heightened their desire to retain her longer, and that the sorrow of parting on Monday morning overshadowed her sweet spirit during the early portion of the week. I fancied also that my beautiful mother looked a little pale and thin, though she made no complaint. After consultation, and taking into full view our filial duties, we decided on the plan of so dividing our labors that each could remain at home every other week. Our plan of instruction and discipline had been so long established, that it was thought this alternation of service might involve no loss to its subjects. But ere long inconveniences became apparent. The school was large and miscellaneous in its elements, and missed the force of the double rein. My second self was discovered to be the most indulgent. The truth is, she had not indwelling enough with aught of evil, to look out for or to manage it. There were not wanting some spirits to take advantage of this. They calculated every other week to have what they called a "good time." As I was a stickler for strict order, a part of my week was devoted to restoring the effects of the carnival of the preceding one. I would not imply there was any thing morally wrong among them, but they simply followed the dictates of nature in wishing to have their own way.
We also missed the great solace of our teaching, the confidential evenings of friendship, which, next to Divine aid, gave us strength for the burdens of the day. After a season our parents consented that the experiment should cease, and we resumed our conjoint authority.
Our school, from the moderate price of tuition—which was three dollars per quarter, the accustomed price in those days—yielded us no great pecuniary gain. I was anxious that my dear parents should have a more tangible recompense for the loss of my time and filial service, and therefore determined to save the expense of board by returning every night. This implied a daily walk of fully four miles, the accommodations of omnibus and livery stable being then wholly unknown in that region. My friend continued a boarder as heretofore, and my enterprise was censured as Quixotic. But the motive sustained me, and I doubt whether at any period of my life I was ever more perfectly happy.
My morning walk of two miles imparted such vigor and cheerfulness that the cares of teaching were unfelt. My noon's repast consisted of two or three hard biscuits, made in the most delicate manner by my mother, and placed by her hand in my little bag. They were taken, as I sat with a book, when the weather was fine, under some umbrageous trees in the grounds at the rear of our school-house. I needed nothing more, but was satisfied and light-hearted. At night, our work done, the image of my watching, welcoming parents nerved my feet, and bore me over the intervening space as on the wings of a bird. Sometimes there were severe storms. Then the parents of such pupils as lived in my section of the town were kind enough to take me in the family carriage with their daughters. These occasions were, however, but few; and the amount of exercise, which had been deprecated by friends and even blamed by physicians, thus combining with the occupation that I loved, gave elasticity to the spirits and energy to the constitution.
Great was my enjoyment in this school at Chelsea. The studies were thoroughly taught and zealously pursued. Among its members were some possessing superior talents and great loveliness of character. We were also fortunate in awakening a warm and in many cases an unswerving attachment. It was to me a source of deep regret when, on the arrival of the inclement season of winter, it was deemed advisable to dismiss until the spring. The united voice of the two houses of parents prevailed. They considered no gain of money equivalent to the loss of our society during the long evening and the wintry storm. It was our duty to consult first their happiness. The parting was diminished in pain by the expectation of recommencing in spring, and by the pleasant memories that we bore with us to our sweet homes.
The enjoyment of the parents in the restitution of their broken trio, was now entire. Still, with me the habit of teaching seemed to have become an essential element of happiness. Therefore I procured a large room at a neighboring house, and opened a gratuitous school twice a week for poor children. My principal object was to impart religious instruction, Sunday-schools not having then commenced in our country. It being understood that books, and also articles of clothing, were sometimes distributed, my apartment was thronged. As the comfort of a teacher does not wholly depend on the high erudition of the pupils, I found much gratification in this humble sphere of action.
One of my favorite classes was of sable hue. My dark-browed people were obviously grateful for common attentions, and being most of them quite young, and intellectually untrained, I felt no little pride in their progress. But occasionally this dangerous sentiment was doomed to a downfall. Once, for instance, while recapitulating explanations of the Sermon on the Mount, which had been ofttimes enforced, and in a manner, as I flattered myself, quite admirable for simplicity, I asked them the meaning of the "alms" which our blessed Saviour had commanded should not be done to be seen of men. Whereupon they promptly and exultingly responded: "Oh! guns, pistols, clubs, and such like." I humbled myself at the ignorance of my disciples, as every instructor ought.
In the mean time that kind Providence, which always surpasses our deserts, and often our imaginings, was invisibly preparing for me the fruition of my desires—a school where I might carry out my own ideas of discipline, and pursue not solely the culture of intellect, but the education of the heart and life. I was invited to pass the festivities of Election in Hartford, by the relatives of my dear, departed benefactress, Madam Lathrop. At the close of the visit, which had been prolonged beyond my original intention, it was proposed by Daniel Wadsworth, Esq., a name synonymous with every form of goodness, that I should take charge of a select number of young ladies, the children of his friends, and continue under the roof of his venerated mother, where I had been for more than two months a cherished guest. My whole soul overflowed with gratitude. Nothing was wanting but the consent of my parents. This they freely accorded. Their reply stated that they were both in good health, and while this blessing was vouchsafed to them, would patiently await my vacations, not being able to refuse the request of one to whose judgment and benevolence they could safely entrust what was to them dearer than life.
And now, a man of great wealth, a munificent patron of the fine arts and literature, the merits of which he appreciated with unerring taste, engaged in beautifying his extensive domain of Monte-Video, which was thrown open as a visiting-spot and pleasure-ground for all the people, the founder of our present noble Athæneum, with its libraries, historical archives, and gallery of paintings and sculpture, transmitting his loved name to future generations, humbled himself to the irksome labor of gathering a school, and the minute details for its accommodation. Those most familiar with his inner life of philanthropy were the least surprised at this.
As his influence in society gave him an almost unlimited choice of pupils, he kept in view similarity of station and of attainments, deeming it desirable that in their studies all should go on as one class, and wisely supposing that the children of those who visited in the same circle, might have habits and sympathies somewhat in unison. This principle of organization greatly diminished the labor of teaching, and removed from those who were taught the disparities which sometimes create jealousy, and impede the progress of friendship.
Mr. Wadsworth was not willing that I should incur the fatigue of instructing more than fifteen the first year. In his selection among numerous applicants, he therefore restricted himself to that number, keeping the names of the other candidates on a list for the next year, saying that if our experiment proved successful, my circle should be enlarged to twenty-five. This it was, and thus continued for five years. If the partakers of Heaven's bliss are interested in aught that thrills these our hearts of clay, may he inhale the perfume of that warm gratitude which the lapse of almost half a century has neither dampened nor repressed.
A beautiful apartment was provided for us. This we aimed to keep with the neatness of a parlor. No drop of ink upon its delicate desks was tolerated, no littering papers, or disarrangement of articles from their allotted places. In the season of flowers our capacious vase was freshly filled by contributions from many little hands, and each one in rotation took charge of the premises for a day; no unfitting apprenticeship for that science of household order and neatness which ranks both among the accomplishments and duties of our sex. When I looked on those fifteen fair young faces turned toward me with a loving trust, how earnestly did I desire and determine to omit no labor even on the lowliest foundation, where a symmetrical character might ultimately and safely rest.
Great was my delight at finding that my patrons had decided not to have the ornamental branches divide the attention of their children from the course of study, which was sufficiently extensive, and which they agreed with me in wishing should not be superficially pursued. I required of them thoroughness and accuracy, rather than to surmount a large space, or give a few brilliant illustrations. I believed that the moral nature might be modified by the empty show of the intellect, and become untruthful. Therefore I taught them to prefer a little knowledge well understood, and faithfully remembered, to a reputation more brilliant but unsound. Patient and persevering were those young creatures, and easily guided to every right course. How much did I enjoy unfolding with them the broad annals of History. Seated in a circle, like a band of sisters, we traced in the afternoon, by the guidance of Rollin, the progress of ancient times, or the fall of buried empires. Each one read an allotted portion of those octavo pages with a slow, distinct enunciation, that all might without effort comprehend. At the completion of the reading the book was closed, and each related in her own language the substance of what she had read, questions were asked on the most important parts, pains taken to impress on the memory the dates of prominent facts, and encouragement given to express their own opinions of heroes, or other distinguished personages.
Even now I seem to hear, like the varying tones of music, their sweetly modulated voices, praising deeds of generosity or pity, or expressing surprise that the great were not always good, or amazement that artifice, revenge, or cruelty should sometimes have stained those names whom the world had pronounced illustrious. How rapidly passed the hours spent in each other's society! Often when the duties of the day were closed, and the period of dismission had arrived, if our course of study had been peculiarly interesting, or particularly difficult, they would gather closely around me, like a swarm of honey-laden bees, seeking conversation or explanation, while the gentle entreaty, "Oh, stay a little longer, please!" was so imperative, that the lowering summer sun, or the wintry twilight, drew over us unawares.
Yet the rules to which they were subjected were so strict, that some might have supposed they would repel this loving intercourse. They were intended not only to preserve that order which is essential to successful study, but to cover the minutiæ of deportment. They required punctual attendance, marked courtesy at entering and leaving the room, affectionate treatment of fellow-pupils, and respect to guests who occasionally visited us: they forbade disorder of books or desks, leaving seats without liberty, all whispering, all conversation save with the teacher, except by express permission, or whatever else might disturb those high purposes for which we came together. This code, the fruit of experience and observation, was solidified in twelve brief rules, each fenced by a hope or penalty, and read every morning after our devotional exercises, that none might plead forgetfulness. No slight praise was it to that blessed assemblage of young creatures, that they never objected to this minute supervision, but strove to sustain it. Cheerfully admitting that order, industry, and propriety of conduct, were essential to the object for which as a body politic they held existence, each lent their aid to that discipline which was its health and hope. They counted it their glory never to have broken a rule; and a few there were who stood by my side on the first and last day of my office, a period of five years, who wore this laurel freshly bound upon their fair brows.
Shall I give you a simple delineation of our daily routine? I almost fear to weary you with prolixity, so agreeable to me is the theme.
The morning clock strikes nine. With light steps and a bright smile they enter, saluting the instructress. Quietly each takes her seat and her Bible. After reading in rotation, they close the book and lay it in its place, each repeating from memory the verse or verses that came to their share. If any question arises in their minds respecting the meaning of their allotted passages, they freely propose it. Should it require a longer explanation than comports with the morning occupations, it is deferred to the season allotted for conversation. A brief prayer ensues, to which they are required reverently to attend. Then the rules are read by the teacher, who, at the close of each separate one, pauses, while one of the young ladies utters in alternate response the reward or penalty that guards it.
But who is she, thus seated in chair of state side by side with the executive, reading with her the judicial code, to whom she defers as an adjunct, ever and anon throughout the day, and in a low voice seems to consult her? That is the Monitress. She has on a large slate before her the name of every pupil, opposite to which she registers their gains and losses by recitation or deportment. How earned she this position of honor and trust? By being at the head of the class at the close of the previous day. How came she there? By immaculate obedience to the rules? Yes—and by somewhat more. It had been observed, during my previous years of service, that correct orthography, and the accurate definition of words, had been too much neglected in female education, or overshadowed by more showy attainments. Desiring to give prominence to this branch, I thought it best to connect it with a palpable and coveted distinction. Just before the devotions that closed our daily school, a short time was allowed to look over the orthographical lesson which had previously been studied. Then each one, as her name was called by the monitress, arose, and took her place in the class. Every word, as given out by the teacher, was required to be accurately spelled, and its etymology, definition, and grammatical signification clearly told. Mistake, or even hesitation, caused the word to be passed onward, and the thorough scholar took her place above the discomfited ones. Close study, a clear understanding of the shades of meaning, and a ready utterance were thus simultaneously cultivated, while the stimulus of emulation concealed the severity of the mental tax. The one left at the head of the class after what was sometimes almost a decimation, was the monitress for the ensuing day. The last act of the ci-devant monitress was to write upon her slate the order of the class, and resign it to her successor; the power attached to that office being too great to be held with safety for a longer period than a single day. Moreover, it involved a future honor—a premium given at the close of the term to the one who had most frequently sustained that office. Another prize was also accorded at the same period to the pupil who had attained the greatest number of credit-marks. These were the test of scholarship, one being given for every correct answer in any recitation which was rendered in a distinct elocution. A list of these credit-marks was kept by the monitress on her slate, and copied by me nightly into a book for this purpose. Infraction of the rules was attended with the loss of an allotted number of credit-marks, or lowering the place in the class. The highest penalty ever inflicted during my five years of administration, was to go to the bottom of the class. This was a very rare occurrence, as our rules were framed on the principle that strictness prevents severity. The monitress, and the credit-mark premium, toward which earnest effort was directed throughout the whole term, consisted of a single volume, of no great pecuniary value, but coveted and prized for its written testimony of merit, and having usually the name of its fortunate possessor in gold letters upon the cover.
These rewards, it will be perceived, bore directly upon scholarship and exemplary deportment. Yet I desired also to encourage those amiable dispositions which are so essential to the true womanly character. I believed that some who were unable to take the highest rank as students, or who might even by inadvertence have fallen short in some of our minuter points of discipline, might still possess that lovely temperament which, more than either, sheds happiness on the domestic sphere. I wished to distinguish this unobtrusive excellence. But how was it to be done? Could I safely trust myself with such a selection? Might not some, by pleasing manners, ingratiate themselves with me, and yet not be remarkable for amiable affections toward their fellow pupils? Therefore they would be the most accurate judges. I decided that they should on such an occasion exercise the right of suffrage. Explaining this to them, and charging them to vote conscientiously, and without influence from others, each was permitted to give me, at the close of the term, a sealed ballot containing the name of the one who had with the least variation given the most amiable example. To the counting of these votes, and the announcement of the successful candidate, I gave as much dignity and éclat as possible. The welcome from her compeers was touching. Each gave her the kiss of the heart. At the examination in all the studies on the last day, where invited friends were present, she wore a crown of flowers, woven by their hands, as their chosen Queen, the loved of all.
In the distribution of these three marked honors, simple enough, yet intensely coveted, it will be perceived that I left myself no chance for partiality, with which instructors are often charged by the discomfited. Two were as clear and open in their winning, as any mathematical demonstration, and the other was the result of an uncanvassed suffrage. A prominent objection to the distribution of school rewards, is the possibility or the odium of injustice. Yet there are some whose system of ethics is so delicate as wholly to discard the principle of emulation. Of this class was my friend the Rev. Mr. Gallaudet, the accomplished principal of the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb. Ever was he saying to me: "I dissent from your theory. You know what Book classes 'emulation' with 'wrath, strifes, seditions,' and other still more wicked works."
"Yet does not the same Sacred Volume appeal to our hope as well as our fear?—as those who run in a race for the 'prize of their high calling.'
"I am sure you ought to agree with me, that a right education should teach to do right from the love of goodness, and not the lucre of gain."
Our arguments, sometimes "long drawn out," usually ended in my confession of inability to manage a school without the aid of this powerful principle. I was sure that the expectation of a meed fairly earned, which would impart happiness to parents and friends, gave strength to their young hearts to overcome indolence and press on in the path of habitual duty. I felt that their guard from the dangers of competition was in the truth and warmth of their own friendships. This was cultivated with such success, that the jealousy and envy against which we were forewarned, gained no entrance into their charmed circle. There were occasions when the claims of aspirants so closely approximated as to make the difference scarcely perceptible. Then their cherished attachment came forth in beautiful prominence.
One instance I chance to recollect, where, in persevering efforts for a particular premium, two pupils had for months advanced side by side. As the term reached its close, there was a slight but clear indication of precedence. In conformity to this, the honor was awarded. When the class came forward, as was their custom, to congratulate their exemplary associate, she who had failed only a step or two in climbing the same arduous height was among them. Possibly a secret tear might have moistened her eye; but, hastening to embrace her more fortunate companion, she said most sweetly and gracefully, in reference to a period of Grecian history recently studied together:
"Pedaritus, when he missed a place among the chosen three hundred, rejoiced that there were in Sparta three hundred better than himself."
She who uttered this sentiment, now Mrs. Catharine N. Toucey, who was with me from the first to the last day of my period of instruction, has continued to advance in loveliness and intellectual attainment, having been distinguished at the court of our nation, where for years her lot was cast, by those graces of manner and conversation that lent attraction to her example of piety.
But how widely I am digressing from my prescribed theme! I commenced to give you the programme of a day. in school. Whither have I wandered? In this region of memory I am as a bee hovering over a parterre of flowers, not knowing where to alight. How can I pursue a straight course to the hive, so allured with their honeyed essence?
I think I have already said, that every hour we spent together had its allotted employment. To pass from one to the other promptly, and without loss of time, was numbered among the school virtues. Often, with no announcement save the turning of the hour glass, they changed books or implements, bent over the prescribed lesson, or rose to recitation with military precision. We all became attached to that primitive chronometer, as making visible by its gliding sands the swift transit of time.
I gave all the influence in my power to the simple, solid branches of culture, as the best basis for a rational education, and through that for a consistent character. To distinct, deliberate utterance both in reading and conversation, I attached great importance. They agreed with me, that to puzzle and disappoint others in their efforts to understand, was both unkind and unjust; and that, while they had the use of teeth, tongue, and œsophagus, they would not curtail, cheat, or swallow up any letter of the alphabet. The recitation of select passages of poetry was found a salutary exercise in the regulation of tone and emphasis. They devoted, at my request, much attention to the meaning of the sentences they were to read, that, making the spirit of the author their own, they might more accurately interpret his style.
Next to Reading and Orthography, with Definition, of which I have already spoken, came clear and beautiful Penmanship. In thoroughly teaching this I was most assiduous. During its allotted hour I took no seat, but was ever passing from one to the other, to supply what was needed, regulate the holding of the pen, or improve the formation of the letters. As I set the copies after which they wrote, I reaped the advantage common to instructors who teach any right thing by example—self-improvement, even beyond that of their disciples. The acquisition of a chirography which has been praised as eminently easy to read, and not ungraceful, I owe somewhat to early care, but more to the habit of teaching it to others.
For Arithmetic, as leading the mind to application and concentration, I had a high esteem. I wished to render it subsidiary to the keeping of accounts—a womanly attainment of great practical value. If every girl, as soon as she can write, should be induced to place the items of her expenditure in a little book for that purpose, it would be a practical guide to the right use of her income in future life. It would be a pecuniary protection to her husband, if she chance to have one, and save her from the forgetfulness and reckless indifference with which our sex often spend money, whose true value they cannot know from not having earned it, and whose power as an instrument of good they ought never to forget. Our hour for arithmetic was an exceedingly busy one, and I strove to make it interesting. Yet I could not flatter myself with universal success. Those who excelled were rather exceptions—certainly a minority. I examined myself, not without reproach. I applied the axiom, that if any study is not agreeable to scholars, the teacher is in fault. It had been a favorite science of mine from early childhood, having been inured from the age of eight to keep accounts for my father. I could not discover where the deficiency was, unless I came to the conclusion that a love of arithmetic is not indigenous in the female mind; for I was forced to admit that a class of boys of equal age, in the common district schools, would surpass most of my proficients. To add a feature of novelty, I gave, once a week, exercises in mental arithmetic, beginning simply with the multiplication of one number by itself, until the amount became as large as their memories could retain. To my surprise, they did well in these exercises, seeming scarcely conscious of their difficulty. These were at length omitted, as causing too much mental excitement.
In the Grammar of our language, so often denounced as a dry study, we were particularly fortunate. The etymology which they had from the beginning united with their daily orthographical exercises, gave them both taste and facility in syntax and prosody. These recitations I strove to make pleasant to them; and by the aid of Lindley Murray's Exercises—the best book of the kind then extant—they became thorough adepts in parsing the most intricate sentences of our most diffuse writers. I know not but that small volume is entirely superseded or out of print, but this shall not prevent my commendation and gratitude.
An easy transition led them to enjoy Rhetoric, for which they were well prepared. Indeed, I was surprised at so early a development of correct appreciation for the refinements of their native tongue. Their pure spirits thrilled, or glowed in harmony with our best orators and poets. A disposition to express their own thoughts with ease and elegance, both in writing or orally, being the natural fruit of such studies, was encouraged. Yet, having discovered that the stern requisition of stated compositions from novices often daunted those who might have little to say, and checked the impulse of those who had none, I made no demand for elaborate moral essays. As the epistolary style is always valuable to our sex, and, by its endless variety of subject, allures those who would shrink at the formidable idea of "composition," and its attendant criticism, I permitted them, at stated times, to express their thoughts in a letter addressed to myself. They strenuously insisted on a response, and I found this furnished me with opportunities of suggesting or enforcing subjects of consequence to us both, more fully than I could do in conversation.
Ancient and Modern Geography, with Natural and Moral Philosophy, were sources of mutual enjoyment. Each lesson was required to be studied at home, and their allotted portion of the precious school-hours devoted to recitation and explanation. I was careful not to drive their minds over too great a space at once, lest they should form a habit of being superficial. Neither would I burden them with too many studies at the same time, lest, by pressure or redundancy of aliment, the intellectual digestion should become impaired, or secret harm be done to the invisible network of nerves that link the material to the divine. Knowledge purchased by the wreck of health, is truly but "sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal." To us it was not a task, but, like our daily food, a necessity and a pleasure, for which we gave God thanks.
Four afternoons in the week we read History together, according to the system that has been already mentioned. I took great pains to have them connect with every event of consequence its correlative date. They soon felt the value of this as a map to arrest and deepen the traces of memory. They were pleased with the quaint axiom, that "Geography and Chronology are the eyes of History," and said, "We will not grope, like the blind, through the great Temple of the Past." I was not in possession of any good chronological synopsis for their benefit. With the systems of Mrs. Willard, that noble pioneer in female education, I was not acquainted. My only resource seemed, to make, from my own historical reading, a list of such dates as might be most important or interesting. As this was with me a favorite exercise, it soon swelled to about two hundred. Their copies of my manuscript catalogue while in the progress of arrangement were fragmentary, hastily traced on slips of paper, on corners of slates, and often on no scroll but memory. Yet, almost by magic, they possessed themselves of the chain that bound events together, from the Creation downward. When an unemployed interval of only a few minutes occurred, I was accustomed to ask them for a date, and, looking up with a bright smile, they would answer. Methought they took peculiar pride in that science. Perhaps because they knew I delighted in it, and I was striving, with the aid of crude materials, to impart it to them. The questions were varied, that the answers might combine sometimes the date, sometimes the explanation. For instance: "In what year of the world did the ark rest upon Mount Ararat? Who was called, 1921 years before the Christian era, to go forth alone from his people and his father's house? Who was Queen of Assyria, and who the Judge of Israel, when Troy was destroyed, 1184 years before Christ? When were the Jews carried into captivity by the Chaldeans? How many years afterward was Xerxes defeated at Salamis? Who invaded Britain in A.D. 55, and what was his reception?" The dates after the Christian era were of course more numerous, and a convenient mode for a rapid review of history. I recollect they were fond of replying to the question, "How long after the birth of our Saviour did John the Baptist commence his ministry?" in the comprehensive words of the Evangelist Luke: "In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness." A few of my pupils were tenacious of the honor of never missing in a recitation of nearly two hundred dates; and, clumsy as the course may seem to modern criticism, it enabled them to systematize their knowledge, and confirmed a class of mental habits for which they express gratitude even to this day. The wonderful power of memory revealed by some of them in this and similar exercises, made me think it might be almost limitless; and yet I feared to call it fully forth, or to bring too palpably to bear upon it the force of emulation, lest the healthful balance of the mind might haply be in danger.
I desired to form in them the habit of a daily transcript of events and feelings, believing that it not only teaches the value of time, by turning attention to its minuter portions, but rescues life from dreamy forgetfulness, and deepens the lessons derived from God's varied discipline, by keeping it freshly in remembrance. To borrow the language of a beautiful writer:
"There is a richness about the life of one who keeps a diary, unknown to others. Time, thus looking back, is not a bare line, just stringing together personal identity, but intermingled and intertwined with thousands of slight incidents that give it beauty, kindliness, reality. It is not merely a collection, an aggregate of facts, that comes back to you; it is something far more excellent than that: it is the soul of days gone by, the dear auld lang syne itself, quickened, and in new robes. The perfume of the faded hawthorn hedge is there—the sweet breath of breezes that fanned our gray hair when it made sunny curls, smoothed down by hands that are in the grave."
Convinced as I was by experience of the benefits of this practice, which I had commenced unprompted at the age of eleven, I still hesitated to press upon those young pupils, amid their many studies, the requisition of a daily journal. I therefore devised a preparatory step, which I hoped might eventually lead to the desired result. During one of my short vacations with my parents, I made a number of blank books—methinks I see them now, with their long foolscap pages and marble-paper covers. These were christened "Remembrancers," and each pupil encouraged to write therein, at the close of each week, a brief synopsis of whatever had occurred around her, or within herself, that she deemed worthy of preservation. They faithfully complied with my request; and since these school-sketches had not the secresy of a diary, I appointed a time every Saturday to have them read aloud. This induced them to be more attentive to the style, and the subjects were often found mutually and pleasantly suggestive.
So regular was our established system, that each hour during the week had its appointed employment, almost as unalterable as the code of the Medes and Persians. Still, as the young heart loves variety, I endeavored to keep that in view whenever it could be consistently combined with the great features of order. On Monday was the recitation of the sermons heard the preceding day. It comprised the text, and such recollections of the teachings from the pulpit as they were able to bear away. They were advised not to take notes on paper, but on Memory's tablet. This served to fix their attention on the instructions of the sacred day; and they gradually made such proficiency, that the language of the speaker, if in any degree remarkable, was correctly reported. They had liberty, if they chose, afterwards to write these recollections in their Remembrancer, or to keep a blank-book for that especial purpose.
On Friday afternoon was a thorough review of all the studies which had been pursued during the week—a "gathering up of the fragments, that nothing might be lost." Then, also, my dear little silent disciple, Alice Cogswell, the loved of all, had her pleasant privilege of examination. Coming ever to my side, if she saw me a moment disengaged, with her sweet supplication, "Please, teach Alice something," the words, or historical facts thus explained by signs, were alphabetically arranged in a small manuscript book, for her to recapitulate and familiarize. Great was her delight when called forth to take her part. Descriptions in animated gesture she was fond of intermingling with a few articulate sounds, unshaped by the ear's criticism. In alluding to the death of Henry II. of England from a surfeit of lamprey-eels, she invariably uttered, in strong, guttural intonation, the word "fool!" adding, by signs, her contempt of eating too much, and a scornful imitation of the squirming creature who had thus prostrated a mighty king. Fragments from the annals of all nations, with the signification of a multitude of words, had been taught by little and little, until her lexicon had become comprehensive; and as her companions, from love, had possessed themselves of the manual alphabet and much of the sign-language, they affectionately proposed that the examination should be of themselves, and that she might be permitted to conduct it. Here was a new pleasure, the result of their thoughtful kindness. Eminently happy was she made, while each in rotation answered with the lips her question given by the hand, I alternately officiating as interpreter to her, or critic to them, if an explanation chanced to be erroneous. Never can I forget the varied expression of intelligence, naïveté, irony, or love that would radiate from her beautiful hazel eyes on these occasions. It was such intercourse that suggested the following poetical reply to a question once asked in the institution of the Abbé Sicard, at Paris: "Les Sourds Muets se trouvent-ils malheureux?"
Oh, could the kind inquirer gaze
Upon thy brow with gladness fraught,
Its smile, like inspiration's rays,
Would give the answer to his thought.
And could he see thy sportive grace
Soft blending with submission due,
And note thy bosom's tenderness
To every just emotion true;
Or, when some new idea glows
On the pure altar of the mind,
Behold the exulting tear that flows,
In silent ecstasy refined;
Thine active life, thy look of bliss,
The sparkling of thy magic eye,
Would all his skeptic doubts dismiss,
And bid him lay his pity by,
To bless the ear that ne'er has known
The voice of censure, pride, or art,
Nor trembled at that sterner tone
Which like an ice-bolt chills the heart;
And bless the lip that ne'er may tell
Of human woes the vast amount,
Nor pour those idle words that swell
The terror of our last account.
For sure the stream of noiseless course
May flow as deep, as pure, as blest,
As that which bursts in torrents hoarse,
Or whitens o'er the mountain's breast;
As sweet a scene, as fair a shore,
As rich a soil its tide may lave,
Then joyful and accepted pour
Its tribute to the Eternal wave.
The pleasures of the Friday's rehearsal were terminated by each one's quietly bringing me a written vote, on which was the name of the young lady whom they considered to have exhibited throughout the week the most faultless example.
The successful candidate, amid the greetings of her companions, was invested with the honor of Saturday Monitress. This implied the reception of a certificate in my best chirography, a seat at my side as vice-regent, and the privilege of inviting some of her friends to pass the forenoon in our school-room. The exercises differed from those of any other day in the week, and after our stated religious worship, commenced with the recitation of poetry and prose, to which I attached great importance, and in which they were thought by competent judges to excel. The right of selection was accorded to them, subject to my approval, and I was often both surprised and delighted at the accuracy of taste they evinced. Their style of elocution, not ambitious of rhetorical flourish, was required to be deliberate, distinct, and perfectly feminine. How admirably many of them entered into the spirit of the author! Methinks I still hear the sweet tones of some of the younger ones repeating the favorite hymns of Addison:
"The spacious firmament on high,"
"When all thy mercies, O my God,
My rising soul surveys;"
or his almost inspired version of the Twenty-third Psalm.
A lovely creature, with flowing, flaxen curls, a daughter of Mrs. Thomas Chester, who gave in unequalled intonations the ode of Henry Kirke White:
"Come, Disappointment, come!
Thou art not stern to me"—
has entered where harmony is unending; and another, Mrs. Mary Weld, who has successfully trained sons and daughters for the race of life, used to thrill every hearer by her full, fine emphasis in the poem of Pope:
"Rise, crown'd with light, imperial Salem, rise!"
This pleasant entertainment was followed by reading their weekly remembrances, where the same clear elocution was required, for I well remembered how often, in seminaries of young ladies, I had listened painfully, but almost in vain, to the movements of their ruby lips, doubtless uttering beautiful sentiments. Every third Saturday they read a letter which they had written to me; and I also, one addressed to them, and which was claimed by the Saturday Monitress as her peculiar perquisite. A selection from the last-named class of epistles I have been within a few years induced to publish, entitled "Letters to my Pupils," connected with biographical sketches of some of that loved group who have been earliest summoned to begin the travel of eternity.
During the two intervening Saturdays, for I directed epistolary composition only once in three weeks, our closing exercise was reading to them the memoir of some distinguished person, which I had abridged for their use. I was careful to select those whose examples might naturally and happily bear upon their own course of principle or action. Always did they reward me by fixed attention, as if they fully appreciated this loving service. And then we parted until another week. It might seem affectation to say, not without regret. And yet I have heard them express it, for they delighted in each other's company, as I in theirs.
The discovery of a new pleasure brought them occasionally together during this interval, the pleasure of doing good. They had become somewhat acquainted with a class of girls in humble life, to whom I gave religious instruction on Saturday afternoons. Their quick eyes detected some deficiencies in apparel which they thought the supernumeraries of their own wardrobe might happily supply. Obtaining permission at home for this transfer, they found it desirable to meet and consult on the best modes of adaptation and repair. It was felt to be no privation thus to devote a portion of their only weekly recess. I sometimes saw them, thus gathered in the school-room, with their busy needles, thoughtfully devising to whom this or that garment should appertain, and how it might be most accurately fitted to the dimensions of the recipient. I was surprised at both their judgment and efficiency. The oldest of this board of commissioners was sixteen, and the youngest six, the majority ranging from nine to thirteen. Yet with a singular mixture of maternal care, and the acuteness of the sempstress, they might be heard debating how a dress might be repaired, or a mantle enlarged, or a hood rejuvenated, so as best to accommodate the little body or head that most needed them. When I listened to the ring of their melodious voices, and saw the glance of their bright eyes, as they decided on some successful expedient, or triumphantly displayed some finished garment, I have felt that they could never be so truly happy at any splendid party.
As it is the nature of true charity to expand, they were led from link to link in the chain of goodness. This clothing process induced more intimate acquaintance with their pensioners, and they thus ascertained that in the families of some were aged, or sick persons, or feeble infants, requiring assistance. Appointing almoners to visit and report, they formed themselves into a regular society, with a written constitution, at a time when such associations were so much less common than at present, as to give the plan almost a pioneer, or at least a novel character.
Prompted by that charity which leads its votaries from grace to grace, these pure-hearted beings conceived a desire of making their monthly alms the fruit of their own efforts. "Is it any benevolence," said they, "to give away the money of others?" When they first mentioned to me their design, I replied: "What can you do, my children, with those little hands?" But they persevered. Each consulted with mother and friends at home. There they found concurrence. A variety of methods were adopted, suited to their respective positions. One was systematically to perform some slight domestic service, to which a stipend was attached. Another was to aid in the department of plain needle-work, or mending, all happily bearing upon the cultivation of a taste for household good. If it was found that these new occupations invaded the time appropriated to their daily lessons, they promised to rise an hour earlier in the morning. Their fixedness of purpose was remarkable; so was their ingenuity in searching out forms of remunerative industry. During one afternoon reading of History, I observed one bright little head bent over her desk, instead of the accustomed attitude of face to the circle. On going to her seat I found her with an elongated piece of leather on her lap, in which she was dexterously inserting slender pieces of bent wire. To the inquiry, what she was doing, she briskly answered:
"Setting card-teeth for the spinning machines. They have promised to pay me."
"How did you learn the art?"
"Oh, in their shop, by looking on a few minutes. It is more profitable work than I could get at home."
When they brought their first contribution at the opening of a new month, under this new régime, observing their eyes to beam with a deep satisfaction, I said: "You have not cast into the treasury that which cost you nothing." Their quiet reply was sweet: "Of thine own, Lord, have we given Thee."
Their benevolence had also the crowning grace of humility. They avoided allusions to it save for purposes of consultation. "It is our design," says one of the articles of their written constitution, "to impart our bounty without ostentation, following the example of Him who went about doing good, without seeking the applause of men." I have reason to believe that they were strictly governed by this principle. Some touching incidents were related to me by various friends, of light footsteps in the abodes of the sick or sorrowing poor, flitting garments, vanishing forms, and relief left behind, as if by angel visitants.
Their spirit of good works had also the element of continuance. Long after the termination of their school, their charitable society held its annual meetings, its choice of officers, its varied and judicious enterprises. I find the following tribute to one of their regular anniversaries, addressed to them several years after my marriage:
The traveller in some clime serene,
Where Nature rules with genial sway,
Blots from his heart no blissful scene
That cheer'd the wanderings of his way.
If beauty rose with winning air,
If Flora's drapery deck'd the place;
If birds of Paradise were there,
He fondly guards the glowing trace.
Like him, recall the landscape sweet
That woke on this auspicious day;
Nor let so fair an image fleet
From memory's vivid page away.
Regard, as through some fountain wave,
Whose crystal courts the admiring view;
The brilliant pearls that knowledge gave,
The coral cells where friendship grew.
Nor oh, forget the sigh for those,
Companions then, in youthful bloom;
Who, withering like the smitten rose,
Have sunk in beauty to the tomb.
Where'er o'er life's eventful stage
Your far divided path may tend;
Where o'er your locks the frosts of age
Or chilling snows of care descend,
Though she, who once with partial eyes,
The record of your worth would keep,
Buried and cold to earthly ties,
Should moulder in oblivion's sleep,
Remember still this sacred hour,
By pity to the sons of need;
By pure affection's changeless power,
By deep devotion's heaven-born deed.
Engrave it on your fleeting span,
By prayers of faith, and acts of love,
That He who reads the heart of man,
May note it in His Book above.
So that dread Book which none may dare
Unmoved, unshrinking to survey;
A bright, auspicious trace shall bear,
K thus ye keep this hallowed day.
Great was my rejoicing over these lovely beings. Great my glorying in them. Earnest my petitions that they might lead all the remainder of their lives according to this beginning. I trust it has been so. Cheered have I been by their course among more arduous duties and important responsibilities.
As the close of our first year approached, they sought my permission to celebrate the day on which our school commenced. With a pleasing flattery they said, "It is more to us than the Fourth of July was to our fathers. It began for us a new life." I found their plans, which had only awaited my consent, in quite a state of forwardness. From various propositions and phases of enjoyment, they had chosen a rural festival. The designated spot was a beautiful grove, on the banks of a fair stream, carpeted with a rich, dense turf. No more congenial locality could have been selected, in which to rivet the links of cherished remembrance.
Our anniversary was the 1st of August. Many young eyes studied the promise of the clouds, rain being a fearful foe to such delights as they anticipated. A finer morning never dawned upon expectant earth. At an early hour the committee of arrangements proceeded to their field of action. Parents, and particular friends, had already received invitations to be present, and partake our happiness.
Vividly the scene returns, with all its minute lineaments. The lofty trees, lightly waving with the breath of summer, the "smooth-shaven green," the sparkling river, with its liquid monotony of welcome, the beaming countenances of the white-robed band, the light footsteps of those of their number whose office it was to receive the guests, and who, with graceful courtesy, their sashes floating out on the breeze, hastened forward to greet every coming friend. Then there was the long table, with its white cloth gleaming through embowering branches, spread with a plentiful collation of wonderful variety, each having contributed, in an ample basket, such viands as were deemed most rare or congenial. Thus every visitant was liberally entertained, and hospitably pressed to replenish, by the wide-awake, untiring hostesses. There were also songs, and pleasant talk, among the picturesque groups seated beneath umbrageous trees, or wandering by the fringed margin of the river, and, as the sun drew low, warm thanks of the gratified visitants, as they returned to their carriages. After their departure, the care of the young dispensers of the feast over its varied fragments was admirable, for in the time of their gayety they did not forget the poor. Intimate knowledge of the state of their pensioners, enabled them to decide what would be most appropriate for the sick, the aged, and the families where many children clustered. With promptitude, each allotted portion was despatched to its respective designation.
These delightful festivals were maintained with unimpaired enthusiasm at every return of the 1st of August, during the continuance of the school. One of their unique and interesting habitudes, was the coronation of the Queen of the year, the young lady who, during that period, had been pronounced, by the suffrage of her companions, to have excelled them all in amiable disposition and virtues. At the appointed time, a rich garland of woven flowers was placed upon her brow, with congratulations from her subjects. Her Majesty vouchsafed a brief address, sometimes poetical, and the whole beautiful ceremony was calculated to inspire good resolutions in the hearts of her compeers.
They sometimes wished to extend their enjoyment beyond the circle of consanguinity or friendship, and invited the silent inmates of the neighboring institution for the deaf and dumb to spend an hour in the grove, and share their collation; or the orphan girls of the Beneficent Society, whose improved wardrobe, or new dresses, disclosed the bounty of their fair entertainers.
It was to me an unexpected and affecting proposition, that after the dissolution of our school, its anniversary should still be kept in the consecrated grove. Thither we therefore gathered year by year, brightening the links of memory's jewelled chain. The gravity of life's cares had settled upon some of us. There were no more flower coverings; but in every hand was a vivid evergreen, or a thornless rose, culled from the field of knowledge and of love, which we had together traversed. Still, their charitable society was in existence; and here, in a quiet little nook, was held their annual choice of officers. Considerable variety marked their selection of objects. On one occasion it would be an infant school apparatus for a loved associate, who had gone forth to bear the Gospel to heathen Burmah; then a choice collection of books for a missionary among our own aborigines, or a library for the colony of Liberia, in Africa, which was just lifting its head above the surrounding darkness. An eloquent letter which accompanied a donation of fifty dollars to the widows and orphans of Athens, during the struggle with Moslem tyranny, says:
"We were once members of a happy school, with whose early studies the history of your classic clime was prominently interwoven. To Greece, especially to Athens, our young hearts went forth in willing pilgrimage. We now offer you a gift, in the name of our common Redeemer. Stretching our hands to you across the globe, we pray you to be of good courage."
By degrees our band became widely separated, their new homes forming a line of posts from New Hampshire to Georgia. They twined a wreath of remembrances by promising to write to some one of their number, or to me, on the return of the 1st of August. These epistles were often read at our assemblages in the grove. But if some had left our charmed circle, others appeared, claiming a right of representation. Carpets were spread on the fresh, smooth turf, where little forms gambolled, and small, new faces looked up with glad, wondering eyes. Sometimes a joyous prattler would be led to a fair recess, and told that on that spot its mother had placed upon her head a beautiful crown, for being the very best among all good children. Over many brows was stealing a deeper thoughtfulness, from the blessed cares of the mother and housekeeper, the climax of woman's happiness, for which their course of education had striven to give fitness and harmony.
Our anniversary festival, though sometimes omitted by the necessity of circumstances, was observed with more punctuality than could have been naturally anticipated, and always preserved its features of tender interest. The twenty-fifth return of the 1st of August found me on the ocean, a voyager to Europe. Still that loved band, true as the tribes of Israel to Mount Zion, gathered in their dedicated grove, with kind wishes and prayers for her who rode the "tossing, melancholy main," and from the far-off, crested billow, breathed for them, in the voice of affection, her blended greeting and adieu.
Our latest celebration, the forty-fifth, seemed to me to possess features of peculiar interest. Diminished numbers, and mournful associations connected with the grove, of those who must meet us there no more, suggested the propriety of a different gathering-place, and my own quiet parlors were the accepted substitute. Thither they came, the lovely and beloved. A few of them were from other cities, and from distant States. Thirty-three out of our circle had entered that angelic class, than which they had here stood but a "little lower." The original eighty-four were now more than twice outnumbered in the second generation.
Yet in our hearts there was no change. Each one of us, perchance, had hidden there some cypress-bud. But we came not together for sadness. Every face was wreathed in smiles. We summoned the past, and it returned without a shadow or a thorn. One, Mrs. Emmeline Rockwell, who had preserved much of the beauty and grace of early prime, and who, in her journey from the Hudson River, had been fourteen hours in the cars, said, with a sparkle in her expressive black eye, she was "not at all fatigued, and would have remained there twice as long, rather than not be in season for the reunion." Interesting epistles were read from absent ones, my early records of our school-life searched into, while this revivifying of scenes and events of other days made us all young again.
As twilight approached, two bright, efficient beings, insisted on relieving me from all superintendence of the tea-table, which they had all previously united in loading with luxuries. This blissful occasion was to me most sweet and salubrious. It brought new life into the lone heart. It restored those precious years when side by side we labored and aspired, viewing education as a mighty and solemn thing, which was to gird us for the battle of life, and the victory over death.
With my whole soul I bless God for those years of diligent effort. I thank Him that I was permitted to sustain such a relation to those pure-hearted and affectionate creatures. If I was made an instrument of any good to them, I received tenfold from them, and from the sweet toil of being their teacher. What can better close remembrances so dear, than the eloquent words of the great statesman of Massachusetts:
"If we work upon marble, it will perish. If we work upon brass, time will efface it. If we rear temples, they will crumble to dust. But, if we work upon immortal minds; if we imbue them with high principles, with a just fear of God, and respect for their fellow-men, we engrave on those tablets something which no time can deface, but which will deepen and brighten throughout all eternity."
- "Are the deaf and dumb unhappy?"