Emily Gilmore Alden.

Harriet Newell Haskell : January 14th, 1835, Waldoboro, Me. May 6th, 1907, Godfrey, Ill. ; A span of sunshine gold online

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Online LibraryEmily Gilmore AldenHarriet Newell Haskell : January 14th, 1835, Waldoboro, Me. May 6th, 1907, Godfrey, Ill. ; A span of sunshine gold → online text (page 1 of 5)
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Harriet Newell Haskell

January 14th, 1835, Waldoboro, Me.
May 6th, 1907, Godfrey, III.

A Span of Sunshine Gold.


Dedicated to
Those who loved Jier much and long


One who loved her more and longer.



Early Womanhood.


Harvest Home.

APOLOGIA {Iniime.)

Though this ''Labor of love" is intended for you
and you only, dear Monticello girls, for some reasons
it has been undertaken with the most timorous re-
luctance. But yearning from within and pressure
from without have so combined, that further re-
sistance to these forces seems any longer impossible,
while the loyalty of the one who has been "left" to-
wards the one who has been "taken" demands some
tribute of expression.

Our beloved, tenderly cherished, and now
sincerely mourned, though widely known, was not
in the usually accepted sense a public woman. The
private charm of her home school life can no more
be spread upon paper for every runner to read than
the odor of field strawberries or the incense of lilies.

As we were always together for over fifty years,
I have not a single letter of hers in my possession.
I am, moreover, at a distance from any proper "base
of supplies" (viz.: exact data for the narrative),
therefore this is a memory intaglio rather than a
chronological record. It is neither obituary notice
nor eulogy, for both were fully compassed in the
Memorial Echo, but is intended rather as a freehand


character sketch of one so electrically alive that it
seemed impossible for death to claim her. Indeed she
yet lives — her potent influence the simshine-gold that
gilds to-day the towers of her new Monticello.

Oh! give me back

That sweet crisp speech of her,

That laughter on the air;

That buoyant presence by my side

And everywhere !

E. G. A.



As a child the subject of this sketch was a "Little
Classic" of the unexpected. What she had done was
no guarantee for what she would do next. She could
"send a ball" like a boy ; though caught one day climb-
ing experimentally, like a Jackie, the mainmast of a
craft building in the ship-yard of her native town, she
never owned a thimble nor mothered dolls overmuch,
after the fashion of girls. Born to lead, she led by
some sort of "divine right", which was never gainsaid
nor disputed because she led so well. Though a hale
comrade with boys she was a queen among girls,
affiliating with each in an individual and unique man-
ner, easier to appreciate than describe. Though not
a "daughter" of any "regiment", she was the child of
her home village, the little democrat of the play-
ground, who greeted everybody she met there with so
much sunshine in her smile, so much sparkle in her
"bonnie blue e'en," that she captured hearts by an
unconscious magic of free masonry, which was surer
and safer than necromancy of gypsies in the olden

She was frankly mischievous, but so good-natured
withal, that wrath vanished when she became her own
"confessor" to so bald a statement as — "/ did it with
my little hatchet"—/ killed Cock Robin! What are
you going to do about it?" She hated the bondage of


"pretty clothes", and wore her siinbonnet upon her
arm, danghng thereto by its strings, or else swinging
loosely down her back, quite below her braids of Saxon
hair. One of her early, though not childish, griefs, was
the present of a silk gown, because she said it would
make her "ache" everywhere, and she wept profusely
at the anticipation of being "dressed up" as a lady
when she preferred the freedom of the field.

She was not precocious, and at thirteen remained
blissfully unconscious of the numerical woes lurking
in the multiplication table, but upon suddenly realiz-
ing her ignorance, and the necessity of some mathe-
matical basis for her schemes of "frenzied finance",
she stole into her father's barn, and climbing into an
old carriage, mastered, even the ''nines", at one ses-
sion of solitude. But the knowledge of "affairs" was
hers from the start. Keen to see, quick to feel, sure
to ask both the first and last question, she was a cyclo-
pedia of "general information".

Obstacles, to her were "dares", and every dare in
turn an inspiration, as w^hen she was confronted with
some forbidden pleasure. Not being a pattern child,
nor troubled with any pedagogical system of ethics,
she "hungered and thirsted after M;;righteousness" in
the shape of anything she must not touch, taste nor
handle ! A negative roused her to action like a war-
cry. Plucking a peach-blossom, the only one on a
young tree in her father's garden, because she had
been told she must let it alone, her young defiance of
disobedience soon turned into the torturing query,
what to do with her blooming "graft" now she had


obtained it? Hiding her guilty secret in her uneasy
breast, she gave the stolen bloom an unromantic burial
behind the molasses jug in the ''kitchen pantry", and
went her way like many another petty sinner, neither
happier nor any wiser than she had been before.

Not being allowed the privilege of going "bare-
foot" like the boys, she took the matter in her own
hands, removed her shoes and stockings on her way
to district school, hid them under a fence, and unblush-
ingly played the role of the barefoot girl before the
astonished eyes of teacher and pupils. Here again a
swift and most unexpected retribution awaited her,
for a thunder shower arising during the afternoon
session, her father, armed with umbrella, and of all
things rubbers, arrived at the little school-house to es-
cort his lady-bird to the home-nest. It not being
quite time for dismissal, he was invited to wait in-
side until one more class had been called to the front
— hers, of course ! There was no escape, and she
must patter forward in her shame, her bare pedal ex-
tremities not to be hidden under short petticoats. She
saw his eagle eye slowly travel downward, and the
horrified expression upon his stern countenance as he
thundered in a tone Jove might have coveted : ''Har-
riet, zvhere are your shoes?" The fifth act of that
serio-comedy we will not rehearse, sparing the nerves
and saving the sympathies of our readers for Legiti-
mate Drama, broader in draft, but not so momentous
or sudden in disastrous outcome as this petty tra-
gedy, unexpected and significant, of a child in dis-
tress !


On another occasion, while visiting in Boston, she
wandered with her little hostess-playmate out upon
Washington street to see the sights abroad, and look
at the window displays within. Beholding some gaily
pictured cards, then known as Buzby cards for child-
ren, she entered the emporium boldly and coolly or-
dered a pack. Seizing her treasure as if it were an
apple from the tree of life, she marched out calling
airily over her shoulder: ''Charge to father!" She
was so naively innocent as well as swiftly imperative
in the transaction that the amazed but amused custo-
dian allowed her to depart minus arrest for petty lar-

Her volatile spirits bubbled to the well-head every
hour, and brimmed over to any "call of the wild".
There were no diversions in her native town that met
her passion for "something doing" worth while.
There were no vaudeville entertainments, no Y. M.
C. A.'s, no W. C. T. U.'s ; the only gathering of
"clans" being the fortnightly sewing societies and
quilting parties for the elders — no "Girls' Friendlies"
or dances for the juveniles — only the Sunday evening
and weekly prayer meetings for mixed audiences, de-
signed for social as well as religious communion.

Therefore, one day when flaming billboards on all
the fences advertised the coming, in the near future,
of a circus — and moreover a circus with fzi'O clowns —
she was moved to primeval instincts of revolt. She
pleaded eloquently the dual enticement of such an un-
heard-of equipment, yet all in vain ! The tyrants of
the parental persuasion would not listen to her thrill-


ing appeal of "Just this once ! Only think, tzvo
clowns !" Submission was not to be considered for a
moment, and she began to "mobilize" her resources
of escape from the parental mansion on that coming
Saturday afternoon, when she was allowed merciful
freedom from scholastic fetters. She immediately
formed herself into a "Ways and Means Committee"
of One, to raise the necessary funds for the success-
ful accomplishment of her escapade. She did not own
a penny, and a working capital must form the basis
of her monetary operations. After canvassing for the
second time the possibilities of a sort of harmless
graft that should inconvenience nobody, she quietly
and privately removed the palm-leaf fans from the
"meeting-house" pews occupied by her relatives,
thinking perhaps she was invading only private prop-
erty rights. Said fans in some mysterious manner
she conveyed to the camping-ground of the record-
breaking show, and by the aid of some inveigled mas-
culine agents, for boys were always her loyal allies,
she converted her purloined wares into "ready cash"
with which ill-gotten gains she made her audacious
entree to the Elysium of the "Ring". This flagrant
transgression in the role of "heavy villain" for a time
at least remained undetected, unpunished, and there-
fore unsung, until the "star" in after years related the
story in her inimitable way, perhaps to point a moral,
or more probably to adorn a racy tale.

But these somewhat crooked and peculiar peccadil-
loes were not confined to the working days of the
week. Sunday presented a stififer challenge to some


exciting deed with which to offset the dull duties of
the monotonous day. Oh, the pain of being ''dressed
up'' for church in that silk gown and those unneces-
sarily shining shoes ! Her father being choir-master
and her elder sister his leading soprano, Harriet must
be safely deposited in the same gallery at one side, as
her little mother in the family pew below did not w4sh
to assume the responsibility of any possible antics she
might feel called upon to perform. But she proved
equal to resenting this ignominious separation from
the congregation at large. It was a most skilful bit
of ^'target practice" when, leaning over the rail be-
fore service began, she dropped an acorn on the bald
pate of a venerable deacon below, who had lingered
for a moment's conversation in the aisle, and dodged
dexterously back out of sight, leaving him to imagine
some ''new dispensation" of an acrobatic gospel above,
for which he had not been prepared in his boyhood
days. The sonorous sermon from the pulpit at the
other end of the house — not being particularly adapted
to her "salad" mentality, as it treated topics, "Predes-
tination" perhaps, or "Divine Sovereignty", quite
foreign to her line of thought — engrossed her not at
all. But as she was never weary of i7/-doing, she drew
a lead-pencil from the capacious museum of even her
Sabbatical pocket, and proceeded to fill in all the o's
in her hymn-book, making the long-suffering pages
appear as if attacked by small-pox or bubonic plague.
Books were her abhorrence unless spattered with
pictures, and those were not the days of illustrated
magazines, but she did devour Pilgrim's Progress be-


cause she supposed it a thrilling novel, and novels
were "contraband of war" in that day and generation.
It carried the additional charm of having to be sur-
reptitiously read at unseasonable hours, and then con-
cealed between the feather-beds in the "guest cham-
ber", where members of the family, an ever-active de-
tective police force, would be less likely to pounce
upon it !

The hay-mow in the barn was the theatre of many
of her histrionic efforts, and she always appeared as
stage-manager, and "star" combined, her more im-
portant roles, however, being set by the vicissitudes
of her daily life in the "open" ! Her musical educa-
tion was pursued under divers and sundry difficulties,
which she met with her usual sangfroid. The
straight- jacket of steady practice along the tedious
route of five-finger exercises was not to be meekly
endured, therefore she procured a boy "understudy",
who upon promise of some return courtesy slyly stole
into the music room and kept up a steady thrumming,
in order that the watchful mother above stairs should
be persuaded thereby to suppose her young hopeful
in the throes of musical evolution to a marvelous de-
gree. When discovered and "brought to book" in the
shape of solitary confinement and the stimulating diet
of bread and water, the by no means non-plussed cul-
prit received her allotted punishment with such un-
failing nonchalance that it seemed like imprisoning a
segment of rainbow to keep her in durance vile. This
young captive of the household Bastile was never sul-
len, always sunny, even under the most depressing cir-


cumstances, and moreover usually managed by some
"wireless" telepathy to communicate with her clien-
tele upon the outside, stating her immediate need of a
more substantial and appetizing menu, whereupon by
means of a kite-string derrick, or some other ingeni-
ous contrivance, various delicacies were noiselessly
hoisted into the stealthily opened window of the
hastily improvised penitentiary wherein our non-peni-
tent but rather jolly jail-bird was in enforced retreat.

Do not suppose that all this time there was no
sagacious effort to reform the skittish criminal on the
general principles of law and order, but she presented
to all such instruction the proverbial "duck's back",
and while she listened good-humoredly, the counsel
was making "rapid transit" to the other ear ! It never
seems to have occurred to her that children were made
for any other purpose than to be a means of saving^
grace to long-suffering parents through their "much
tribulation" in bringing them up.

As will be seen from the foregoing, our juvenile
was not a Sabbath School book precocity of "early
piety". Her parents were too fun-loving themselves,
as well as wise, to break her down, and even to curb
her judiciously must have been a frequent problem in
which the values of x and y were indeterminate, for
animal spirits, like champagne, will foam upon the
least provocation. This picture is not that of a digni-
fied child, but has been drawn from the life — not "still
life", but life effervescent and scintillating. Remem-
ber, reader, that this same fertility of invention and
wealth of resource, determination of will and bubble of


Spirit-sparkle, in after years, when disciplined by ex-
perience and trained by compelling circumstance, made
her the woman she was. Rebuke could not "wither"
her, nor restraint "stale" her "infinite variety" !

No need to screw that "courage to the sticking-
point" for it was never wnscrewed. The "white plume"
was ever in her helmet; she was her own "army with
banners", and let who would follow or desert, she
never hauled down her flag. Victory was ever at the
helm; later, not victory for the slaughter of others,
but triumph over self that she might save others.
There was no such word as defeat in her vocabulary,
and she conquered not with the sword, but with the
olive, from the very first — unconsciously, but all the
more surely, as children do. She lived in the present,
every day a red-letter day in her calendar of continu-
ous delight ; but not in any self-seeking way, for noth-
ing meant much that was not shared. This, however,
is anticipating maturer values.

At the ripe age of fourteen it was considered advis-
able to change this scene of operations. Her field of
adventure had been thoroughly explored, her camp-
ing-ground too well trodden; the heroine was becom-
ing sated with triumph, and too familiar with her
com.peers. She was, therefore, with the more staid
and dignified sister heretofore mentioned, sent to Cas-
tleton, Vt., and there placed in a mixed school of
girls and boys : a fine arena for even more extended
schemes, though of a somewhat different character, as
she was under constant supervision, and also passing
from a "mere child" into a rather broader realm, that
of the schoolgirl "rampant".



The advent of our heroine into Castleton Seminary-
was an ^vent in the annals of that venerable institu-
tion for co-education. To which wing of the co did
she belong? There seemed a call for another cabinet
of miscellaneous curiosities in which to place this new
"genus", so subtle to plan, so swift to execute, was
she masculine or feminine — or compound? So sure

to offend, but as ready to atone — was she saint, or
sinner, or a "Blend"?

The President or Head Master, a very Jupiter
Tonans in demicanor, and regarded with the most rev-
erential awe by all his subordinates, was somewhat
amazed by her breezy, "Good-morning, Doctor'', as
though he were a "hale fellow well met'' at a tennis
match. The Professor of Botany soon made her his
boon companion — his "fetch and carry" in excursions
afield for "rare specimens". She astonished him by
her ready assimilation of nature-knowledge and en-
tertained him by her mercurial, original, but never
silly prattle. The Preceptress shielded and comforted
her when in disgrace, an often occurrence, and her
music teacher, though in a state of abject despair as
to producing a "prodigy" in this special department,
was won to tenderest affection by the ingenious wiles
of this little scapegrace from regulation duty at an
instrument she hated and devoutly wished ground to


powder, while the music page at which she stared un-
seeingly she would fain have torn to tatters in some of
her fits of impotent rage because she could not become
"expert" in a minute.

Mathematics she did not abjure — but English Com-
position! She put her blank (entirely blank) paper in
her shoe in order to spend "required time" on this
literary bug-bear. With groans (unutterable in public
but vociferous in private) and with chewed pencil-tops
as her daily provender, she wrestled with the demon
of prose construction until despairing of success she
savagely tossed aside conscientious scruples, and
abandoned herself to some tabooed sport in which she
could forget the woes of the un-ready as well as the
un-steady writer! But in some miraculous manner,
having meanwhile torn her hair and deluged her pina-
fore with ink, she managed to appear at "Rhetorical"
with some trenchant production, the precursor in later
years of such original themes as "Railroad up the Hill
of Science", or an imaginary and thrilling epic, of
which "The Last Victim of the Deluge" was the
wretched hero. She ''fair'! Never! This minia-
ture Lady Macbeth brandishing the dagger of oppor-
tunity in the shape of a "Washington MedaUion" or,
as she preferred to call it, "Americus Vespucius" pen,
stabbed to the very heart of it the doughtiest obstacle
in her scholastic path, and ever challenged laughter
direct from all listeners to whom her most graphic
contributions of child literature were submitted.

She was neither abashed on the one hand nor con-
ceited on the other, but carried herself with a valiant


front which challenged the admiration of her mates
and defied the criticism of her superiors. She minded
neither encomiums nor censure, but was sufficient unto
herself at all appointed times, if forced to the issue,
though never overly ambitious of distinction. She
simply "went ahead" unmindful of what others were
doing unless they encroached upon her "preserves",
which was seldom.

As in her native town, she became the "mascot" of
this village street, and though not the Hebe or cup-
bearer of the gods, she was the recognized errand-
runner for anybody and everybody who needed her
services. Her charming willingness to help other peo-
ple manage their afifairs, as also her constant alacrity
in enhancing what seemed to her the general good,
won for her hosts of genial admirers, for she was not
so much a "busy-body in other men's matters" as a
helper omnipresent wherever and whenever she might
contiibute substantial service.

She could not be "chaperoned" any more than a
rocket or a shooting-star, and the spasmodic efforts of
the authorities to keep her "in position" were more
commendable than successful. She slipped "from un-
der" in the most unprecedented fashion, and was finally
captured on some shining height of erratic achieve-
ment that only served to accentuate her harmless but
quite dashing enterprise. No regulation behavior was
her accepted code, and yet she was by no means a
coarse hoyden of misrule, and only made things move
her way with neatness and dispatch, yet without dis-
honor. The essential humor of a situation so appealed


to her that she made it germane otherwhere, and even
the veriest dragons of school discipHne were forced to
smile, temporarily to be sure, when she appeared a
criminal at the bar, and pleaded "guilty" with bewitch-
ing drollery.

All this time the ''tares" were not choking out the
wheat, for it was not altogether "stony ground" upon
which so much "good seed" had fallen. By degrees
she began to emulate quick brains as well as ready
wits, and there was a manifest uplift of "study" pro-
duction until it appeared there was something more
than fun in her brain granary.

At this juncture when she was giving some promise
of better things, her guardian sister was graduated
(1851), and it was thought best not to return our pro-
tege to the same school for another year as she had ex-
pected. Her watchful family, ever on the look-out for
breakers ahead, intercepted a letter to one of her school
cronies, in which she outlined such a campaign of mis-
chief for the future, giving explicit directions as to
when and where and how implements could be surrep-
titiously obtained for cooking and providing an appe-
tizing night menu — for the boys, mind you — that our
little lady's plans came to a most unexpected halt. But
she had already made her "mark", not an entirely
black one, as subsequent events proved. After much
careful consideration of future possibilities in so grave
a case, through the influence of a friend at that time
Associate Principal of Mt. Holyoke Seminary, (South
Hadley, Mass.) this scarcely more than child was
placed under this mature protection, and entered that


renowned institution (1852) founded by the notable
Mary Lyon, pioneer of educational privilege for

Here as in Castleton she distinguished herself at
once as the "star" of fresh arrivals, and was soon
known everywhere by the pet names of ''Tow Head"
and "Great Heart", the first bestowed, as will readily
be imagined, on account of the spun silk of her fair
hair ; the second suggested by an incident now to be
related, and not told in any previous Memorial.

There was "entered" at the same time with herself a
girl with a withered arm, and in other ways, though
"brainy", rather peculiar and disagreeable. She came,
moreover, from the precincts of Waldoboro, but not
moving in the same class nor claiming the remotest ac-
quaintance with her fellow town's-child. As is usual
in such unfortunate cases, it proved impossible to find
a room-mate for her, which seemed imperative, as the
school was over-flowing with pupils, while many others
were impatiently suing for admission. When affairs
appeared desperate, a rousing knock was heard one day
upon the Principal's door, and to the response "Come
in" a ringing voice answered: "I will take Miss ....
in juy room", and she "made good" ! Not only did she
champion but she compassioned this unfortunate, not
in any patronizing way, but with such a "carry" of
ozone in the social air that no one dared do otherwise
than meet her protege on the broad levels of school

By many kindly deeds of like nature, though not so
conspicious perhaps in the doing, but prompted by the


same mercurial temperament, "Great Heart" soon be-
came not only first in the class-room, an easy pre-
eminence for her, but first in frolic, and, better than all
else, first in the hearts of her school fellows. Sport she
must have, and sport she made at every possible turn.
She did not break rules, but she interpreted them in a
most unheard of manner, to the amazement of teachers
not accustomed to the "higher criticism" of the "canon

As is well known, domestic science not only, but
domestic drudgery in active "ruction" was the then

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Online LibraryEmily Gilmore AldenHarriet Newell Haskell : January 14th, 1835, Waldoboro, Me. May 6th, 1907, Godfrey, Ill. ; A span of sunshine gold → online text (page 1 of 5)