Martha Lewis Beckwith Ewell.

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Old friends and other days have risen about me as I have written,
recalling, through my pen, these treasured experiences; and the pictured
characters are to me as real as earthly hands, whose touch we feel. I
have written as the story runs, with no effort at adorning, and those
who love me best will not bring to it the cold criticisms that may come
from other readers. To illustrate the truth of "a little leaven's
leavening the whole lump" has been my purpose, and if this purpose can
be even partially achieved, I shall deem myself sufficiently rewarded.
To those whom in previous years I have met in the field of my mission,
whose heart-felt sympathy and interest became the tide which bore me on,
as from public platform (as well as in private ways) I have, for truth's
dear sake, been impelled to utterances, to these friends I may hope this
volume will not come as a stranger, but that through it I may receive,
as in the days gone by, the grasp of their friendly hands.


New Haven, Conn., _June_, 1880.



I. - Emily Did It 1

II. - From Girlhood to Womanhood 5

III. - Changes 11

IV. - Our New Friend 18

V. - Louis Robert 31

VI. - A Question and a Problem 49

VII. - Wilmur Benton 60

VIII. - Fears and Hopes 71

IX. - The New Faith 84

X. - Matthias Jones 95

XI. - The Teaching of Hosea Ballou 109

XII. - A Remedy for Wrong-talking 123

XIII. - Perplexities 137

XIV. - Louis returns 150

XV. - Emily finds peace 164

XVI. - Mary Harris 177

XVII. - Precious Thoughts 210

XVIII. - Emily's Marriage 226

XIX. - Married Life 240

XX. - Life Pictures and Life Work 254

XXI. - John Jones 274

XXII. - Clara leaves us 290

XXIII. - Aunt Hildy's Legacy 317




Among my earliest recollections these three words have a place, coming
to my ears as the presages of a reprimand. I had made a frantic effort
to lift my baby-brother from his cradle, and had succeeded only in
upsetting baby, pillows and all, waking my mother from her little nap,
while brother Hal stood by and shouted, "Emily did it." I was only five
years of age at that eventful period, and was as indignant at the
scolding I received when trying to do a magnanimous act, take care of
baby and let poor, tired mother sleep, as I have been many times since,
when, unluckily, I had upset somebody's dish, and "Emily did it" has
rung its hateful sound in my ears. To say I was unlucky was not enough;
I was untimely, unwarranted and unwanted, I often felt, in early years
in everything I attempted, and the naturally quick temper I possessed
was only aggravated and tortured into more harassing activity, rendering
me on the whole, perhaps, not very amiable. Interesting I could not be,
since whatever I attempted I seemed fated to say or do something to hurt
somebody's feelings, and, mortified at my failures, I would draw myself
closer to myself, shrinking from others, and saying again and again,
"Emily, why _must_ you do it?"

Introducing myself thus clouded to your sympathy, I cannot expect my
reader would be interested in a rehearsal of all my early trials.

You can imagine how it must have been as I marched along from childhood
through girlhood into womanhood, while I still clung to my strange ways
and peculiar sayings; upsetting of inkstands at school, mud tracking
over the carpet in the "best room" at home, unconscious betrayal of
mischief plans, etc., etc., made up the full catalogue of my days and
their experiences, and although I did have a few warm friends, I could
not be as other girls were, generally happy and beloved.

Mother was the only real friend I had; it seemed to me, as I grew older,
she learned to know that I was too often blamed, where at heart I was
wholly blameless, and when sometimes she stroked my hair, and said, "My
dear child, how unlucky you are," I felt that I could do anything for
her, and she never, to my remembrance, said "Emily did it."

From my father I often heard it. Hal rarely, if ever, said anything
else, and if I did sometimes darn his stockings a little too thick, it
was not such a heinous crime. He was handsome, and I was as proud of his
face as I was ashamed of my own; I know now that my features were not so
bad, but my spirit never shone through them, while Hal carried every
thought right in his face. My face also might have looked attractive if
I had only been understood, but I blame no one for that, when I was
covered even as a "leopard with spots," indicating everything but the
blessed thoughts I sometimes had and the better part of my nature. The
interval of years between my fifth and sixteenth birthdays was too full
of recurring mishaps of every kind to leave within my memory distinct
traces of the little joys that sometimes crept in upon me. I number them
all when I recall the face of my more than blessed mother and the mild
eyes of Mary Snow, who was kinder and nearer to me than the others of my

Hal grew daily more of a torment, and being five years my senior,
"bossed" me about to his satisfaction, except at such times as I grew
too vexed with him to restrain my anger, and turning upon him would pour
volleys of wrath upon his head. On these occasions he seemed really
afraid of me, and, for a time after, I would experience a little peace.
Learning from experience that keeping my thoughts to myself was the best
means of quiet, I grew, after leaving school, less inclined to associate
with anyone except sweet Mary Snow. One blessed consciousness grew daily
on me, and that was that I came nearer my mother's heart, and as I was
never lazy, I shared many of her joys and trials and learned to keep my
rebellious nature almost wholly in check. Father was a good man, but
unfortunate in business affairs, and the first time he undertook to
carry out an enterprise of his own, he pulled everything over on to his
head - just as I did the baby. This was of course a misfortune of which
his wife had her share, but she never complained. The lines about her
eyes grew darker, and she ceased to sing at her work as before, and I
knew, for she told me, that in the years that followed, I grew so close
to her, I became a great help to her and really shared her burdens. My
little brother, Ben, varied Hal's "Emily did it," and with him "Emily
will do it" was a perfect maxim. Kites I made without number, and gave
my spare time to running through the meadows with him to help him fly
them and to the making of his little wheelbarrows, and I loved him
dearly. I seemed now to be less unlucky, and at home, at least,
contented, but society had no charms for me and I had none for society;
consequently we could happily agree to let each other alone, but,
without repining, I had still sometimes, oh! such longings - for
something, I knew not what.



The old adage of a poor beginning makes a good ending, may have been
true in my case; certain it is that my sorest mishaps, or those I had
least strength to bear, came between my fifth and sixteenth birthdays.
After this came the happy period in which I was helpmeet to my mother,
and the gaining of an almost complete victory over my temper, even when
teased by Hal, who at that time was developing rapidly into manhood and
was growing very handsome.

I was not changed outwardly, unless my smile was more bright and
frequent, as became my feelings, and my eyes, I know, shot fewer dark
glances at those around me when mishaps, although less frequent, came
sometimes to me. My good angel was with me oftener then, I thought, and
as I often told mother, it seemed to me I had daily a two-fold growth,
meaning that there was the growing consciousness of a nature pulsating
as a life within my heart that seemed like a strong full tide constantly
bearing me up. I scarcely understood it then, but now I know I had, as
every one has, a dual nature, one side of which had never been allowed
to appear above its earthly covering.

My daily trials, coming always from luckless mistakes of my own, were
equal in their effect to the killing of my blossoms, for if any dared to
show their heads an untimely word or deed would bring a reproach - if
only in the three words, "Emily did it" - and this reproach was like the
stamping of feet on violet buds, breaking, crushing and robbing them of
their sweet promise. The life then must go back into the roots and a
long time elapse ere they could again burst forth; so all my better
nature, with its higher thoughts longing to develop, was forced down and
back, and now, in the enjoyment of more favorable environment, I was
beginning to realize the fruitful life which daily grew upon me, and
with it came strength of mind and purpose and an imagery of thought that
filled my soul to a delicious fullness.

What a power those conditions were to me! I drank joy in everything. My
mother's step was as music, and her teachings even in household affairs
a blessing to my spirit. I remember how one day in September I was
dishing soup for dinner, the thought - suppose that she dies - came
rushing over me like a cold wave, and I screamed aloud; dropping my
soup-dish and all, and frightening poor mother almost out of her senses.

"Have you scalded yourself, dear?" she cried, running toward me, and I
was nearly faint as I replied:

"Only a thought. I am so sorry about the soup, but it was a terrible
thought," and then I told her.

No word of chiding came from her lips. I thought I saw tears in her eyes
as she said: "I should not like to leave you, dear. We are very happy
here together," and I know my eyes were moist as I thought, "Emily did
it," but her mother understands her.

How necessary all those days of feeling, full and deep, combined with
the details of practical life were to me, and although I shall never
date pleasant memories back to my earlier years, still if I had been too
carefully handled and nursed I never could have enjoyed those days so

Nearly twenty-four months of uninterrupted work and enjoyment passed
over me - and here is a thought from that first experience in soul
growth; I cannot ever believe that people will enjoy themselves lazily
in heaven more than here; I have another, only a vague idea of how it
will be, but I cannot think of being idle there - when a little change
appeared, only to usher in what proved to be a greater one, and the days
of the June month in which the first came I shall never forget. It was
when Hal came to me, hemming and thinking under my favorite tree in the
old orchard, while beside me lay my scrap-book in which I from time to
time jotted thoughts as they came to me. Hal sat down beside me and said
at once:

"I'm going to try it, Emily." I dropped hemming and thinking together,
and said:

"Try what?"

"Try my luck."

I was only bewildered by his answer, and he continued:

"Emily, I'm determined to carry out the desires of my life, and now I am
intent on a Western city as the place best calculated to inspire me with
the courage and strength I need to carry out my aims and purposes, and
I thought I'd tell you now that I feel decided, and you will tell mother
for me; will you?"

Never before in my life had I felt Hal so near to me. His manner toward
me had changed, of course, as he grew into manhood, and "Emily, will you
sew on this button?" or "Emily, are my stockings ready?" were given in
place of "Emily did it," but now, as he looked full in my face, and even
passed his arm about me with true brotherly affection, he seemed so
near, that the hot tears chased each other down my cheeks, and I sat
speechless with the feelings that overcame me. I thought of the handsome
face - always handsome in whatever mood - opposite me at the table, of the
manly form and dignified carriage I had watched with pride, and when I
could speak, I said,

"Hal I cannot let you go." Hal was brave, but I knew he felt what I
said, for his looks spoke volumes as he said,

"Shall you miss me so much?"

"Oh! Hal," I cried, "we love you, mother and I, I never knew how much
till now." His head dropped a moment, and then he suddenly said,

"You are the best sister a fellow ever had," and swallowing something
that rose in his throat, marched off through the fields directly away
from the house. I gathered up my work and scrap book, went in and
prepared the supper, showing outwardly no emotion, but with my heart
throbbing as if it would tell the secret on which I pondered, while I
wondered how I should tell my mother.

Hal came in late to supper. I rushed from the table when I heard his
footsteps, and sought my room until I heard him coming up to his room,
when I went down stairs and busied myself with my work as usual.

I washed the milk pans three or four times over that night, and was
about carrying them into the "best room," when mother said,

"Why, Emily, we keep our milk pans in the buttery."

"Oh!" I said, turning suddenly and letting my pans fall and scatter. And
when I picked them up and collected my senses, I thought, "I cannot tell
mother to-night after all, Hal will stay with us." When things were at
last in their places, I sauntered out through the lane in the beautiful
moonlight, and coming back met Hal who took my hand in his and

"Tell mother to-morrow, please, I want to go away next month and some
things are necessary to be done."

"Have you told father yet?"

"No, but he will not care."

"Father _will_ care," I replied, "but you know since his misfortune, and
his conclusion that he cannot do anything but carry on the farm, he
seems to have lost his sprightly step and his cheery ways of old."

"Well, Emily," said Hal, "I am no help to him on the farm, and could not
be if I tried, and the work I am doing now is anything but satisfying to

Then the thought occurred to me, I had no idea of what the boy desired
to accomplish, and the question what would you do Hal? was answered in
this wise -

"Wait till I've been away six months."

"To build mud houses and fill them with mud people, was your favorite
amusement when you were a boy, I remember," I said, and he gave me such
a queer look that I started with the impression that came with it, but
said no more, and we walked along and went into the house together.

The next day after dinner, when we were cleared up and alone in quiet, I
told mother. She was of course covered with surprise, but her words came
in wisdom and she said:

"I can imagine what Halbert desires to do, and although the way looks
anything but clear, still I know I can trust him anywhere. He is a
blessed son and brother, Emily, and I doubt not I am selfish to feel
saddened by the thought of his leaving home (and a tear drop fell as she
spoke). I only fear he may be sick. His lungs are not very strong."

"What will father say?" I asked.

"Father's heart will miss him but he will not seek to stay an endeavor
of his earnest, ambitious boy."

So my trial was not so hard as I had expected, and father was just as
wise as mother, and I alone rebellious concerning his departure. I cried
night and day whenever I could get a moment to cry in, and I could not
help it. How perverse I felt, although doing all I could to forward his
departure, which was daily coming nearer, and when the 4th of July came
and with it the gala day which the entire country about us enjoyed, I
could not and did not go to the pic-nic, or the speech ground, and I
succeeded in making all at home nearly as unhappy as myself.



Some people believe in predestination (or "fore-ordering," as Aunt Ruth
used to call it), and some do not. I never knew what I believed about
events and their happening, but it was certainly true I learned to know
that my efforts to hurry or retard anything were in one sense entirely
futile - that is, when I did not work in unison with my surroundings, and
made haste only when impelled. If I could have felt thus concerning
Hal's departure, I should have been of more service to him, and saved
myself from hearing "Oh, Emily, don't," falling as an entreaty from his
lips, at sight of my swelled eyes and woeful countenance. I think he was
heartily glad of the innovation made in our family circle, which, of
itself, was as wonderful to me as the story of Aladdin's Lamp to the
mind of a child. It happened so strangely too. Before I tell you of this
event I must explain that our family circle consisted of father, mother,
Halbert, Ben and myself. It was half past six in the evening of July 8,
18 - , and we had just finished supper, when a loud knock was heard at
the back door, and opening it we received a letter from the hands of a
neighbor, who came over from the post-office and kindly brought our mail
with him. We received a good many letters for farming people, and I had
kept up a perfect fire of correspondence with Mary Snow ever since she
went to the home of her uncle, who lived some twenty miles distant, but
this appeared to be a double letter, and mother broke the seal, while we
all listened to her as she read it. It is not necessary to quote the
whole of it, but the gist of the matter was this: A distant cousin of
father's who had never seen any of us, nor any member of the family to
which her mother and my father belonged, had settled in the city of
- - , about thirty miles from our little village. Her husband dying
shortly afterward, she was left a widow with one child, a son. In some
unaccountable way she had heard of father, and she now wrote telling us
that she proposed to come to see us the very next day, only two days
before Hal was to leave us. She went on to say that she hoped her visit
would not be an intrusion, but she wanted to see us, and if we could
only accommodate her during the summer she would be so glad to stay, and
would be willing to remunerate us doubly. Mother said simply, "Well, she
must come." Father looked at her and said nothing, while I flew at the
supper dishes attacking them so ferociously that I should have broken
them all, I guess, had not mother said gently,

"Let me wash them, Emily, your hands tremble so." Then I tried to
exorcise the demon within, and I said:

"How can we have a stranger here, putting on airs, and Hal going away,
and our home probably too homely for her. I know she never washed her
hands in a blue wash-bowl in the world, much less in a pewter basin such
as we use. She'll want everything we haven't got, and I shall tip
everything over, and be as awkward as - oh, dear! Mother, how I do wish I
could be ground over and put in good shape before to-morrow night." I
never saw my mother laugh so heartily in my life; she laughed till I was
fairly frightened and thought she had a hysteric fit, and when she could
speak, said:

"Emily, don't borrow trouble, it may make Hal's departure easier for us.
It must be right for her to come, else it would not have happened. You
are growing so like a careful woman, I doubt not you will be the very
one to please her."

Those words were a sort of strengthening cordial, and before I went to
sleep I had firmly determined to receive my cousin as I would one of my
neighbors, and not allow my spirit to chafe itself against the wall of
conditions, whatever they might be.

So when the stage came over the hill, and round the turn in the road
leading to our house, I stood quietly with mother in the doorway waiting
to give the strange guest welcome in our midst. I was the first to take
her hand, for the blundering stage-driver nearly let her fall to the
ground, her foot missing the step as she clambered over the side of the
old stage. She gave me such a warm smile of recognition, and a moment
after turned to us all and said, "My name is Clara Estelle Desmonde,
call me Clara," - and with hearty hand-shaking passed into the house as
one of us. Her hat and traveling mantle laid aside, she was soon seated
at the table with us, and chatting merrily, praising every dish before
her, and since her appetite did justice to her words, we did not feel
her praise as flattery. I had made some of my snow cake, and it was the
best, I think, I ever made. Mother had cream biscuit, blackberry jelly,
some cold fowl, and, to tempt the appetite of our city visitor, a few of
the old speckled hen's finest and freshest eggs, dropped on toast. She
did not slight any of our cooking, and my cake was particularly praised.
When mother told her I made it, the little lady looked at me so brightly
as she said, "You must keep plenty of it on hand as long as I stay, I am
especially fond of cake and pie," and although I well knew her dainty
fingers had never been immersed in pie-crust, still she had made herself
acquainted with the _modus operandi_ of various culinary productions and
talked as easily with us about them as if she were a real cook. She
seemed from the first to take a great liking to Hal, and, seated in our
family circle, this first night of our acquaintance, expressed great
regret at his early departure, and remarked several times during the
evening, that it would have been so nice if Halbert and her son Louis
Robert could have been companions here in "Cosy Nook," as she called our
house. It seemed anything but a nook to me, situated as it was on high
ground, while about us on either side, lay the seventy-five acres which
was my father's inheritance, when he attained his majority; but, to her,
this living aside from the dusty streets and exciting novelties of the
city, was, I suppose, like being deposited in a little quiet nook. When
we said "good night," all of us were of one mind regarding our new-found
friend. I was perfectly at ease that first evening, and felt no
inclination to make an unlucky speech until the next day, which was
Sunday, came, and with it the question, "Are you going to church?" It
was always our custom to go to the village church each Sabbath, and I
enjoyed the sermons of Mr. Davis, then our minister, very much. He was a
man of broad soul and genial spirit, and very generally liked. His
sermons were never a re-hash but were quickened and brightened by new
ideas originally expressed. Now, however, when this little lady asked,
"Are you going to church?" I did not think at all of a good sermon, but
of the shabbiness of my best bonnet, and I bit my tongue to check the
speech which rose to my lips - "We generally go, but I'd rather not go
with you" - while mother answered,

"Yes, Mrs. Desmonde" ("Clara, if you please," the lady interposed), "we
always go; would you like to go with us?"

"Oh, yes, thank you, it is a delightful day."

I kept thinking about those shabby ribbons and wondering if I could not
cover them up with my brown veil, and after breakfast was over, I
actually did re-make an old lemon-colored bow to adorn myself with. I
felt shabby enough, however, when we were all ready to start and my poor
cotton gloves came in contact with the delicate kids of our guest, when
she grasped my hand to say, "You cannot know, Emily dear, how happy I

Somehow she made me forget all about how I looked, but the sermon that
day was all lost. My eyes divided their light between herself and
Halbert, and my heart kept thumping heavily, "Hal goes away to-morrow."
I think Hal knew my thoughts, for he sat next to me in our pew, and once
when tears were in my eyes, tears which came with thoughts of his
departure, he took my hand in his and held it firmly, as if to say, "I
shall come back, Emily, don't feel badly." I looked him the grateful
recognition my heart felt, and I crowded back the tears that were ready
to fall, and when we drove home, our little lady chatting all the way, I

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Online LibraryMartha Lewis Beckwith EwellThe Harvest of Years → online text (page 1 of 20)