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 4 of 5)
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no man is ever a match for a witty zvoman. Whether
the latter be true as a general statement, it was surely
often proved in her case, for many a carping pater-
familias has gone down before her return sally. She
tvas laconic as a Spartan, and knew just how to fea-
ther a sharp criticism with a so much sharper jest
that the honors were much more than ''even", and she
retired triumphantly on the 'last word" because it
was likely to settle the question with a laugh from the

She could and did, however, write a model of ep-
istolary style, because her whole heart was in what-
ever she did, without reserve or affectation, and she
always had something to say that struck nerve cen-
tres and vitalized the sympathies of the reader. She
never "composed", but turned off at white heat what-
ever was uppermost in her brain domain. Her hand-
writing was indicative of her directness, strong and
firm, with no suspicion of the copy book or painstak-


ing, but denoting virility and ease, even to the verge
of an independent and noble carelessness, for she al-
ways wrote in haste with the next duty crowding from

vShe was "original" both in thought and expres-
sion, her ideas fresh from the virgin soil of her own
contemplation. She read slozvly, pausing frequently
in some dream revery of her own, or as if making
acquaintance with new ideas which she received, as
it were, "on probation" until they should prove them-
selves belonging to the peerage of thought. She did
not skim easily, busy woman as she was, but plodded
industriously, dreaming her own dreams between
paragraphs, and brooding meanwhile her own embry-
onic ideas.

The writer can here, as previously, fancy the
reader asking, had she then no faults? If so — pass them
over : they were like inequalities on the smoothest
sphere of the roundest orange. If so, they were so
overlain with "sweetness and light" that they were
scarcely discernible. The virtues, the loving-kind-
nesses, were so in the van of any remnant of a "rag-
ged regiment of errors", that they outshone as ban-
ners do the victorious troop of an invading army.
She was abrupt sometimes when preoccupied or
anxious — deaf sometimes when she did not unsh to
hear, because absorbed in some out-lying province of
speculation ; called ahscnt-mm(\td as to the present,
when she was really present-mindtd as to some past
from which she was drawing lessons which should
guide and guard her future. She had a way of ig-


noring petty things which seemed big things to others,
and rolled them lightly off as one tosses pebbles aside
on the shore of the ocean. This sometimes subjected
her to narrow criticism, until the critics themselves dis-
covered that their eye-beams were only motes in the
sunshine of a more dispassionate judgment. Did she
never make mistakes? Was it impossible for her
to blunder when trying some of her novel experi-
ments? Right here, dear interrogators, she was
grandest of all. She met a mistake frankly, gave it
the "right hand of fellowship" as having served its
purpose as a bit of necessary experience, and with a
"wink of consanguinity" passed it on as a finale never
to be repeated. She refused to be disheartened by
that which could not be undone; recognizing a mis-
judgment as a disciplinarian not to be disregarded;
she bowed regretfully, but passed on courageously.

It is well nigh impossible to describe her as a
teacher, not so much of the jargon of conflicting
books as of the harmonies possible in one's own soul.
Her unconscious ^^//-revelation was a better educator
than the compendiums of schools. She was a lover
not of her task, but her art the noblest on earth, the
moulding of ductile natures into the fixed but grace-
ful curves of established womanhood. Higher even
than curriculums for men were her formulas for those
who were to be mothers of men — the power behind
and beneath every scheme that has rocked the world,
every beneficence that has tended toward its salvation.
She never belittled the responsibilities of those who
had girls in their holy keeping — holier perhaps, be-


cause more impartial than the tenderest care of the
woman who bore them.

And yet she was merry withal, and genuinely, not
perfunctorily, sympathetic with youth in all its phases,
its illusions, its follies and frolics, its vanities even,
in a wise way. She cured not so much by caustic re-
buke as by a mild ridicule, not sarcastic or censorious,
wounding and hurting more than it healed, but so
subtly humorous, and so spontaneously witty, that the
laughter it provoked was a sure antidote to the petty
vice under not the scalpel of the surgeon, but the
burin of the deft etcher. For grave offences she was
capable of severe, even scathing rebuke, which she
rarely visited upon culprits in full measure, for she
did not believe in too drastic methods, even for the
most wayward, judging them perhaps to be in
need of wise counsel rather than stern denunciation —
persuasion rather than punishment. She made large
allowance for early training, heredity, cramped en-
vironment, and exceptional temptation.

But while absorbed in her local work she never
slighted outside or foreign obligations. Her family
ties were iron stanchions. Her invalid father, whom
she took to her western home for his declining years,
he having previously buried her beautiful mother, she
cherished so tenderly that after some special service
he would involuntarily exclaim : '*Oh, she is one of
ten thousand !" She mothered her brother's mother-
less little girls, never dreaming how they would em-
bellish her middle years "after the similitude of pal-
aces", and fulfilled to the uttermost every precious


obligation of kin. Her friendships at large were as
steady as the stars, and though they crowded upon
her as the years passed she never forsook the old in
order to gather in the new. A playmate of her earliest
childhood, who is now living and mourning her loss,
she never failed to visit as often as opportunity of-
fered, strengthening nearly every year the adamant
bonds of child-allegiance. Once a friend, a friend for-
ever, and ''auld acquaintance", because perennial, was
sweetest of all. There were no arid spaces in be-
tween-years, and she had the rare value of beginning
just where she left off, so that the continuity of heart
contact was unbroken, though years and seas rolled
between. To the glory of a crown friendship let
this record testify !

And so to permanent residents of Monticello,
meridian years sped on, as like as the golden apples
in the Garden of the Hesperides. Through them in
regular succession moved the jocund processional of
girls — Seniors going, but Juniors coming — some
tears in June, but more smiles in October, song and
laughter on the air, innocent mirth in the foreground,
and all to the dance music of the young; but above,
beneath and behind all, the rare seriousness which
pervades the atmosphere of earnest study when grey
matter in immature brains begins to stir, and the
rushing interrogatories of "why, whence and where-
fore?" come crowding into the chambers of stimu-
lated thought. No monotony here for those who
were growing almost imperceptibly soberer-minded
in the more frequent pauses for reflection. Life was


neither a tread-mill nor a machine-shop in which
"specimens" were turned out after some stereotyped
pattern, but it was a miniature Paradiso of experi-
ment, in which each flower was called by its own
name, trained and developed by being "personally
conducted" through Queen's Gardens, while the
mother-enchantress waved her wand over the zvaste
places, always discovering the otherwise 'ieft-outs"^
the sore hearts, the dull brains, the "unemployed" be-
cause the formerly unprivileged.

No sorrowful face passed beneath that observant
eye unnoticed, for her sympathies were as quick to
discern the griefs as the joys of her juveniles. She
watched the Waterloo of the defeated, the timid
damsel who failed to pass creditably an exhausting
examination (for examinations are ohvays exhaust-
ing to the high-strung excitable pupil who lives by
nerves alone). The presiding genius had a soft pres-
sure of hand for the quaking performer who "broke
down" in musicale and returned to her seat with sobs
suppressed in her quivering throat. In a word, she
understood with a marvelous prescience the "mixed
mathematics" of unsolved problems, and wrote their
varied equations so deftly that they soon resolved into
"known quantities" beneath puzzled eyes, and bewild-
ered brains. She has been styled "one of the elect
of the earth" who helped each girl "find herself" ! A
complement of Thomas Arnold, the prince of teachers,
she was the priestess of that high vocation, and min-
istered incorparably at its high altars.

But the sun does not tarry at zenith, the day must


wane as well as wax, and there was no staying the
after-crisis. The pulsing life had after all been too
strenuous, though there seemed no lapsing of intel-
lectual force, the aplomb of race maintaining its ''title
clear'' to pride of birth and verve of bearing for a
long time. The surrender would be slow but sure.
The tide was on the turn long e'er its ebb was recog-
nizable, for the tone was still as clear as ringing bell,
the smile as rare and sweet, the cheer as constant,
though the step was not as steady as of old. Could
it be possible that the ''silver cord" always so tense
and taut before could be loosing; the "golden bowl"
so piled with treasure always, could be breaking; the
"pitcher" spilling at the fountain; the "wheel" so
steady at the "cistern" no longer to be trusted?
Could it be possible the light of the house could be
qui veering in the socket, the glory of the house fading,
as do sunset clouds at eventide? Onlookers nearest
and dearest shuddered in silent anguish, but spoke na
word, and gave no sign. They understood too well
what must be voiced if speech escaped the barred
prison of the lips.

Note. To a certain class of readers it may seem
surprising that the account of this remarkable life, now
nearing its close, should be buttressed by so few dates
and names. Apologetically, there are few dates to
give, and they do not matter or particularly profit.
'Tis not formal biography which is recorded here, but
more the life intimate, the song that murmured in the
shell rather than the anthem that pounded on the
shore. "Times and seasons" in such lives are practi-


cally dateless, for gala days and ''melancholy" merge
into a Pilgrim's Progress of delight ; more mellow
than any splendid vision of a Faery Queen, it becomes
a living allegory, shining true in real life.

"There is no death, what seems so is transition.

This life of mortal breath is but a suburb of the life

Whose portals, we call death."


The dreaded possible now became probable, the
probable the inevitable ! "Great Heart" spiritually
was now weak heart physically; that once bounding
pulse was slowing down. Skilled doctors with all
modern scientific appliances sought to steady the
fluctuating beat, to strengthen the relaxing muscle.
The nurses, expert professionals, become almost kin
sisters in exquisite devotion to "such a patient as they
had never treated before !" one displaying fortitude,
to be sure, as did many another, but fortitude shot all
through with sunny smiles, racy words, and over all
the most gracious benignity of presence.

Where she lay was the throneroom of the house,
from which went every morning at the prayer hour
some tender and beautiful message to the school, as
often bearing laughter as tears. Every evening her
door must be wide opened that she might catch
the vesper song as its sweet notes were wafted up-
ward. Her absence was more potent than an aver-
age presence ; her slightest wish the Golden Law of
all behavior. Enshrined in flowers, and surrounded
by those who watched every breath and motion, she
seemed least concerned of any. The silver tongue
had lost none of the magic of its low, rich, trenchant
eloquence ; the clear, keen eye no twinkle of its spark-
ling humor when "somebody blundered" in very eager-


ness to exactly suit occasion. Not a meal was placed
before her that she did not receive it with the grace
befitting a banquet of the gods — never failing to send
some facetious message to those who had so striven
to prepare it to her taste. She must be sure upon re-
tiring that the "night watch" had the daily paper to
beguile the rests between the beats of hourly rounds.
Despite the doctors and the nurses she would know
what was "going on" ; and it was really better so, for
then she felt herself in her Queen Chariot of state, and
it was a delight ever for her "ladies in waiting" to
appear to yield (when in any measure possible) to
her bland command.

Perhaps 7nore in illness than in health did she ex-
hibit the prime traits of her noble character — self
was submerged in her continuous solicitude for some-
body else. As was said of Gen. Grant during his last
days (Century Magazine), Her "last and only surren-
der was her greatest victory". "It is not so much
the mere size of a person, as actions under ordinary
circumstances which make up human experience".
Again : "There is no place in which human nature
shows itself so plainly as in the sick-room. The
patient is there *off guard' against all conventional
formalities, and appears the plain and simple self".
So her "out put" under these circumstances was of
nobility and sweetness at the core. Not a single
peevish expression of face, not an irritated fret upon
the tongue, indicated that she was battling with the
great conqueror, and constituting herself a heroine
of Christian fortitude, worthy the proudest laurels of


a victor, but a victor "retired" by suffering from the
plaudits of the "open" field. The few who were
nearest — her "body-guard" — knew her struggle to
breathe — but never any apparent struggle to smile
or speak the word so like an "apple of gold in a pic-
ture of silver". They saw the labor of the heart to
beat — but also the spontaneous sparkle of the eye in
appreciative response. As ever it was a privilege to
be of her "entourage", while to render her a service
and receive her grateful recognition was like a jewel
in hand. So non-assertive of sovereignty was she
that her sovereignty was the imperialism of Love un-

So "the nights were filled with music, and the
cares that infested day, oft folded tents like Arabs,
and silently stole away". Every hour grew more and
more consecrate as it passed on toward the Eternities,
and rendered more fixed the fact that Hope must furl
her wings ; while faces must remain placid, lest a
frown of brow or quiver of eye-lash should quicken
that labored breathing beyond recovery. Conversa-
tion was not allowed to languish, nor light persiflage
concerning "affairs". The quickest reply, the sagest
obseivation, the cleverest quip was ever hers. Every-
thing human, sane and suggestive was "in order",
and there was no frightened repression of the chaste
gayety that always clothed her as a garment. She
watched the marvel of the springing grass, the miracle
of budding trees, the timid flutter of the robin's wing,
from her bay-window, where she always sat, with as
much alert interest as in any spring before, except


that sometimes for a moment there stole over that
beautiful face a holy calm that was a precursor of a
better country' than even this earth, so lovely to behold
when opening to the resurrection of flowers.

These sacred weeks were her last evangels of
teaching by example what she had so often taught by
precept. Though her bodily strength steadily di-
minished, her gallant spirit maintained its equilibrium,
but everybody knew the struggle was unequal, and
though no apprehensive word was spoken, on each face
as it turned azcay from her keen scrutiny was writ-
ten the dumb alphabet of grief. Such tensions are
impossible of long continuance, such an impressive
object lesson must soon come to inevitable closure
from its own accentuated significance ; and so while
brave expectant watchers bent above her, the sleep
He giveth His Beloved brooded over the pillow;

That sleep more sound than poppies can procure ;

More sweet than little children's slumber pure ;

More dreamless than a spotless conscience gives

To couch of the most righteous man that lives ;

The hush of that enforced burial wait

When humblest menial is nobilitate ;

That marble silence, though the sleeper knows

The secrets of her sculpturesque repose ;

The rigid curves of that God-moulded form,

But late so flexible and rosy-warm,

All testify with a supreme accord

And in concurrence with the ivritten word

The high prerogatives of that still clime

That lift the lowliest to rank sublime.

Whom final passage of the mortal breath

Escutcheons with the regnant dignity of death.


A sacrament of perfect peace now consecrated that
absolutely breathless silence, so that there was no
"shock", but rather a benediction of departure.

The knowledge that she was "resting'' smothered
for a time all sense of loss, and things moved on as
quietly as though a babe had fallen into natural slum-
ber. As if she herself had ordered it, the household
kept its mute tryst with sorrow, and gave no vehe-
ment sign — because she would have wished it so!

Permit here some partial quotation from Memor-
ial tributes with which to conclude.

"In silent majesty within the beautiful Eleanor
Reid Chapel lay the earth form of her, the ever Be-
loved. A service brief and beautiful was held. As
in the past, so now there rose in unison the prayer in
which she had so often led, and under the arches
swelled the chorus of sweet young voices :

"In Heavenly Love abiding,
No change my heart shall fear".

Then between lines of reverent girls all clad in
spotless white, no carriage following, she was borne
down the driveway leading through the campus, green
with early spring, her maiden band in last sad wait-
ing, a shining picture and a hallowed scene, a chaste
memory to be cherished forevermore."

Far off in her native state rests her mortal body.
The silver splendor of the single rose in the folded
hand over the sable robe has withered, but she now
walks in white amid amaranth and immortelles.


'Tis well that her noble bust, no nobler than her
character, consecrates the chapel foyer; better that her
sweet pictured face, no sweeter than her sunny dis-
position, adorn its walls amid the gallery of its previ-
ous worthies, but best of all that the open gates to the
campus should ever hereafter be known as the Haskell
Gates, through which must pass crowds of Hebes to
learn the story of her who loved, rebuilt, and died for
Monticello — for the strain of it all (though blessed
strain it was) broke her down at last!

Hers was ideal dying; like after glow of eve
That brings from noon-tide fevers such exquisite re-
prieve ;
(My hand was last in clasping, one cooling 'neath my

touch :
Was ever mortal anguish to be compared with such?)
Yet 'twas ideal dying; some angel swept his wing
Across those classic features, as if en-spiriting
With heavenly grace the passing of a finished human

Into the broader reaches of more majestic state.
Yes, 'twas ideal dying, her shallop "crossed the Bar"
Toward sea's unruffled splendor since light of

Bethlehem's star ;
Who walked upon those waters through tempests of

Toward Azrael's holy silence 'mid "calms of pure de-
light" ?
There was no farewell spoken, for music of the spheres
Gave pledges of a dawning beyond these mortal years,


Where welcomes shall be ringing instead of drear

For Calvary has promised that all the dead shall rise.
''Tis all ideal dying — the Resurrection Morn
Shows all the zvorld, an Eden in which mankind was

We weep meanwhile, forgetting, that glory of the sea
Which trailed the silver treading of God of Galilee.

A few weeks later the elder of the two neices,
(before mentioned as her devoted care) Elizabeth
Porter Haskell, was laid beside her. Devitalized by a
previous illness arising from no appreciable cause at
the time, she proved unequal to the wrench of separa-
tion from one so much beloved, and faded like a
blighted flower. It was as if she said : "Entreat me
not to leave thee or to return from following after thee.
Where thou goest I will go ; where thou lodgest I will
lodge. Where thou diest I will die and there will I
be buried. The Lord do so to me and more also"
if even death part thee and me!

As medallion against statue

Knows no terms of great or small,

Does the one who followed after

Heed our agonizing call?

Does she speak our dear love language,

Sonsie, sweet Elizabeth ;

Does she ''sense" us now she's wearing

Nimbus drapery of death?

FAREWELL (Intivie)

Dear friends, whoever and wherever you are, I
hesitatingly place this pen mosaic in your hands, un-
even in detail as mosaics are apt to be in their cubes,
but perchance effective and shapely in general contour.
It has really written itself as such heart tributes do,
without diplomatic reserves, as also without any dis-
play of technique. Truth has been my pole star as
clearly as I could discern it through the hazing mists
of memories past, though I am well aware there may
be some trivial errors as to order of events, but they
are unimportant and do not affect the general carry
of the narrative.

Not a word has been set down for "effect". Hav-
ing been constantly with her by day and by night, at
home and abroad, through girlhood, womanhood and
maturity, I claim my rights as an accredited witness,
one of which rights is to be believed because I know
so thoroughly that which I have delineated — not "after
the manner of men", statuesque — but after the man-
ner of women, arabesque — and diviner because the
brochure has been dipped in the chrism of a life-long

I submit it with most sincere affection both for
yourselves and Her, so mutually beloved, and now"


that it is finished, on this Sixth of May, the first an-
niversary of Her Harvest Home, I drop my pen be-
tween, and weave my Rosemary round those conse-
crated graves in Maine.

Emily Gilmore Alden.

Boston, May 6th, 1908.


Mine eyes have seen the gflory of memorials for the

Because of hearts sob-shaken, and the tears that wait

unshed ;
A cave was called Machpelah, for therein a woman

And did not waken at the call of patriarch who


For since this brilliant star-dust has been thickly

sown with sins.
Our losses write in requiems, while love and grief

are twins ;
It may be g-ranite pillar, or a head-stone in the

Which tells of rest in pace to all mourners as they


More numerous than palaces are cenotaphs and

Which speak a tongue more eloquent than languages

of flowers.
It may be English Westminster, or India's Taj

Or grand St. Peter's lordly dome, or Spain's

Escurial ;


Or Santa Croce beauteous, or Kremlin's mina-

They each and all are witnesses : when loyalty

The stars will jump their courses, or the rivers
shun the sea

If there remain no crosses for the Christ of Calvary.

Mine eyes have seen the sadness of memorials for

the dead.
When there is only sig-hing:. and no services are

A v/aft of crape is floating; loose beside a hovel

A sing-le rose bush blooming fresh upon a lonely
. moor.

A field of wheat may wave lament where that "Old

Guard" went down.
While not an olive spreads above the gfrave on

Xebo's crown ;
It may be Doric column or the curves of Ang^elo.
All tell the self-same story of the weig:ht of human


It may be brush of painter, or the magpie of the pen
That tries to soften trag^edy. vrhich broods the race

of men :
Perchance a strain of music, or the wealth of spoken

That phrases a beatitude wherever it is heard.


But this memorial differs, for 'tis not a pilgprim's

Nor yet a mausoleum, with its sculpturesque design ;
Instead, a stately portal, with a name graved on the

Which always will be spoken in our hushed and

reverent tones.

The name of her who builded so much better than

she knew,
Not only temple made with hands but life so rich

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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 4 of 5)