Una Atherton Clark Hunt.

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Published September, 1914




THIS is the true story of the inner life of my
childhood. It is the story of the life of any
imaginative child, differing from others only in
details of the material which came my way and
from which I built my life, my friendships, my
world, and my beliefs with the needs felt by
every sensitive child, the same searching for an
explanation of life and the universe and the same
hunger for a religion through which to become
part of what I saw and felt, to link me with the
known and the unknown, the unseen mystery of
which a child is so acutely conscious and which
I felt pressing in upon me from every side.

The life of Una Mary ended when I was four
teen years old. It was hardly a case of dual per
sonality. I did not feel that I was two people.
She was the rest of me, the deep, inner, real part
that no one else seemed to know was there; the
part of me that felt, felt with an intensity that
was almost pain, a dumb ache of emotion.

The outward surroundings and circumstances
as I have used them are partly real, partly imag-



inary, and very often adapted to conceal the iden
tity of other people who were part of my life but
might not care to have me trespass on their per
sonalities. I have changed all the names except
my own and have taken liberties with many of
the places and events, but in every case I have
kept the essential truth of their relation to my life
and their influence upon the mind of Una Mary.
All that concerns her, everything that is descrip
tive of Una and the Imp, my kaleidoscopic ideas
about religion, and my imaginary existence with
Edward in My Country, I have told with absolute
literalness, and have tried, in doing so, to give
some vague idea of chronological development,
though to avoid confusion it seemed simpler to
arrange the book roughly, according to subjects;
therefore many ideas and beliefs that were emerg
ing at the same time are necessarily described in
separate chapters.

My one object in writing has been the hope
that some of my readers might say, "I remember
I felt so, too," the hope that they might become
vividly conscious of their own half-forgotten points
of view as children, with their tragedies, bewil
derments, and joys.











X. MAMMY 154








T WISH, as far as I am able, to write the inner
-*- imaginative and religious life of my childhood,
beginning with my earliest memories. This was
the part of my life of which I spoke to no one
until after I was nine years old, but of which I
was always conscious with an intensity that at
times made my outer life seem a dream and this
the only reality, in which I grouped and arranged
all that was most precious to me, and from the com
binations worked out successive theories of the
meaning of life and beauty, of God, and the rela
tion of these elusive feelings to the spirit within
myself that I felt was the Real Me and named
Una Mary to distinguish her from my outer self,
named Una.

Like every child, I was conscious of the special
personality of all objects, making them terrible or
lovable, and responsive to me, but more than that,


I, Una Mary, was part of them; I understood them
as themselves, and we were altogether parts of
some vast, unseen whole, all symbols of an infinite
greatness just beyond my grasp. I felt it in the
ache of beauty, in the wild power of the wind and
sea, in the brooding mystery of mountains, in a
star-clear night, in the joy of running water, in the
miracle of flowers, in the Presence-haunted forest,
in the pulse of great cities, in the dauntlessness of
ships, and, above all, in the radiance of certain
human faces. I had been at the heart of them all,
but our hearts were the heart of something greater,
and we had known each other and this Some
thing, and been interrelated from all time. Of
course the full consciousness of this did not come to
me as a small child, yet I never remember the
time when it was not in some measure present.

As I look back I first find myself standing on
the porch of the house we lived in until I was two
and a half years old. I stood between the piazza.
posts facing Mamma, some strange old lady dressed
in black with a large lace cap, and Lizzie, the
cook, all of them horrified because I had just
swallowed an orange seed. I felt it prick as it
went down, and then, when I saw how frightened
the others were, I had my face puckered up ready
to howl with terror, the tears beginning to stream
down my cheeks, when I was arrested by hearing


Lizzie say, "I wonder if it will grow inside her?"
and I winked back the tears at once, entranced at
the thought of myself as a flower-pot. I have no
idea what happened next; the picture is blurred
out, for always my memories are pictures. I see
the whole scene, the grouping and expressions of
the people, and I even know how all of them are
dressed. I wore a blue coat with white pearl but
tons the day the seed went down.

The next scene that comes to me must have
been a few weeks later, when we were moving into
our new house. I sat on a table in the pantry
watching Mamma and Lizzie arrange the china on
the shelves. There were an iron mortar and pestle
which I had never seen before, as they always lived
on the top shelf, and it seemed to me very pathetic,
after such an exclusive existence, that they should
have to travel over in a moving van, jumbled to
gether with all the common kind of lower-shelf
crockery. I felt very sorry for the mortar and
pestle, and kept them beside me where I could
pat and comfort them. Then, when the whole
pantry was in order, I watched Lizzie, who stood
on the step-ladder, carefully put them in their
proper place on the top shelf where I could no
longer see them a retreat worthy of their dignity.
Afterward I insisted upon being present when they
were taken down for the yearly pickling and pre-


serving, that opulent week when the whole house
and even out to the sidewalk smelled of aromatic
deliciousness, all made possible by the pounding
of the pestle in the mortar. They seemed to me
the king and queen of the preserves, and much
more to be thanked than Lizzie for the sticky joys
of the large spoon I was allowed to "scrape" after
the stirring of each kettle of jam.

One morning about six weeks later I was playing
alone in the kitchen it impressed me because I
had almost never been alone before when Papa
called me to come up-stairs. As I toiled up the
stairs, which were still quite a mountain for me
to climb, stepping up, as I did, with one foot and
hitching the other up after it, Papa, who stood at
the top, told me to come quickly and see my sister
who had just been born. He seemed greatly
pleased and excited, but I was quite calm, only
so surprised that nothing seemed real. I stood
still on the next to the top step, holding on to the
banister, trying to believe it was true, until Papa
leaned over, took me in his arms, and kissed me
as he carried me into Mamma s room. I was
sorry to find Mamma sick in bed, but she looked
very happy in spite of it, and after I had kissed
her, "very careful," as Papa told me to, he uncov
ered the basket in front of the open fire over which
Lizzie and a strange woman were hovering, and in


it I saw a queer little squirming red-faced creature
that they said was the baby, my sister! I was never
so disappointed in my life, and went back to the
kitchen to cry because she was so ugly.

As she grew older other people seemed to think
she was a very pretty baby, but she was not my
idea of beauty, and my only consolation about her
was that now everybody kissed her dimples in
stead of mine the ones in a row along the back of
her hand. I had hated it. On my hands, instead
of the dimples, they now only noticed the mole
on the little finger of my left hand, which they
said was a pity, but I might outgrow it. I hoped
not, for I was very fond of the mole. It looked
to me like the stone in a ring, giving that finger
an air of extreme elegance, and I used to hold my
cup, when I drank, with the little finger crooked
out as I had seen a much-beringed lady hold hers.
And besides, without it, if the two looked exactly
alike, how could I ever tell my right hand from
my left?

With the next thing I remember came for the
first time that over-feeling of a something beyond
and more than the thing itself, the personality that
was part of something greater. It was the first
of those deep, vague feelings which made up the
life of Una Mary, and it was on that day that my
inner life began, although it was not until a year


later that I gave the name of Una Mary to my
Inner Self, the self who seemed so apart from the
Una who was just a member of a family, so dif
ferent from the me our friends saw and talked to,
who played with toys, sat on people s laps, and
"took walks," dragged about the streets by the
nurse who wheeled my sister s carriage ; and, above
all, who wore the clothes I hated, of dark blue or
brown, because they "did not show the soot like
white." My clothes were so unlike me, so unlike
the person I felt I was inside, and made me look
so unlike myself, to myself, that I think they were
one of the main reasons for my inventing Una
Mary. I had to be some one unlike the child
who wore them.

This next thing was in itself a curious object
to impress a child of three. I can still feel the
shiver of awe that went through me that summer
afternoon, when I saw outlined against a hot blue
sky, the intense dry blue that only the sky of the
Middle West can produce, two large gas tanks
painted red. It was partly, I think, the sudden
rousing of my color sense in response to the pos
itive shout of the contrast of the red against the
blue strong color has always thrilled me but
more than that I felt a sense of silent strength
and reserve power, a feeling of inevitableness that
I have felt ever since in large, simple masses of


construction. I feel it always with tanks, often
when I see great office buildings, and sometimes
it grips me when I see the girders of a bridge out
lined black against the sky or the slow-moving
arm of an immense derrick swinging, heavy-laden
and serene, above a hurrying swarm of workmen.
They all seem the embodiment of something tre
mendous and relentless, and I feel the sort of fear
many people feel during a thunder-storm, fear of
a power beyond my understanding or control, and
with the fear there is exultation in its very strength.

All this did not come to me, of course, that first
afternoon. I often saw the tanks afterward, and
the sensation they gave me gradually became
clearer and more conscious, but I shall never for
get my first sight of them, when a feeling of over
whelming loneliness swept over me, and the way
in which, although I knew he could not under
stand, I tightened my grasp on my father s hand
to assure myself that protection was near. I felt
it as Una Mary, because it was something I could
not explain, could not tell any one about, could
only feel, and feel it, I was sure, as no one else

Whether I was told they were filled with some
thing that might explode, or whether it was be
cause of the similarity of shape and color, I cannot
tell, but always after the next Fourth of July I


associated them with cannon crackers, the largest
and most awful form of the ordinary fire-cracker,
and felt that the tanks might be a gigantic night
mare of the same shattering confusion, ready at
any moment to burst their quiet red cylinders.

The following summer a tornado swept through
the town where we were staying, and as I watched
from the windows and saw the great elm trees that
surrounded the house bend like blown grass, their
tortured branches snapped off like leaves, or whole
trees uprooted and flung aside as lightly as if they
had been weeds, I had again the feeling the gas
tanks had given me, except that this time there
was less fear and more exultation. I clapped my
hands and shouted with excitement, and then be
came more excited still, but silent, as I realized
that I could not hear my own voice, the noise of
the destruction outside was so terrific, the very
soul of power seemed let loose power, the tre
mendous, invisible something that all my life -has
fascinated and perplexed me, which I am always
trying to confine in some embodiment to bring
it within the control of my imagination, power
that cannot even be described and so brought
within the boundaries of fixed words. I felt less
afraid of the tornado than I had of the tanks, be
cause in the storm the power was more obvious.
It seemed to be doing what must be its worst. I


could see its full strength let loose. This same
tumult of destruction I felt was bottled up inside
the tanks, but in them, with their deadly stillness
and immobility, there might be much more be
sides. There seemed no limit to their possibilities
for danger.

All the memories connected with the Una Mary
side of me are either shot darkly with this un
known terror or lit by an unearthly glamour of
beauty and suggestion of enchantment which I
felt, for the first time, on the Christmas eve when
I was three years old and saw my first Christmas
tree. Whatever we discard in our theories about
children, I hope we may always keep the Christ
mas tree, that every one may have the memory
of this miracle of childlike beauty, this supreme
creation of genius, in that it is the embodiment of
all a child can feel, brimming over with wonder
and bursting joy, of the very soul of toys and

Mine was at the house of the German consul.
He and his wife were young people recently mar
ried, and this tree celebrated their first Christmas
in America, and so it was all a perfect German tree
should be. We were the only people asked to it,
my parents, Agnes, and I. I can see the room
still, in a typical rented suburban house, new and
tasteless, with stiff black-walnut furnishings, all


throwing more strongly into relief the glory of the
marvellous glittering tree towering to the ceiling,
shining with threads of fine-spun gold, wreathed
with chains and festoons of red and silver, hung
with iridescent balls of gleaming metallic colors,
with long icicles and toys and silver stars, and
at the very top a snowy angel blowing on a tiny
trumpet. Then my father and the consul began
to light the candles. Real living flames, one by
one they quivered into being like stars that are
born at twilight, until the whole tree shimmered
and breathed with their beauty.
/Of course children believe in fairies and radiant,
half-seen presences, and they always will as long
as we give them Christmas treesN As I sat at the
foot of this personification of all enchantment, all
beauty, and all dreams, I felt as if a spirit had
been called into being before my very eyes, as the
children in the fairy-tales must feel when the fairy
with the magic wand appears, and I burst into
tears, not because I was afraid, but because I
could not bear the ache of all it meant to me.

To comfort me, my Wonder Lady, as I after
ward called the consul s wife, took from the tree
a gilded walnut, which she gave me, telling me to
pull the loop of ribbon that made its stem. As I
did so the two halves flew apart, and there inside,
on beds of pale-blue cotton, lay two tiny dolls.


Could any one have been dull to the charm of
that two real little dolls as the kernel of a magic
nut! It was like the Wonder Lady to give it to
me to quiet my tears. She always understood Una
Mary. A real toy or an ordinary doll would have
tumbled me to earth too suddenly, but the magic
golden nut with its dolls of unmistakable china
was the one perfect link between the tree and me,
the one thing that could make the glamour real and
tangible enough to belong to me and yet no less
marvellous and beautiful.

Afterward we went home through a snow-storm
just as the street lamps were being lit. I had
never seen them before, and as I saw the lamp
lighter put up his little ladder, light the lamp,
and almost with the click of its closing door run off
to light the next, I felt as if the whole city was a
Christmas tree with the lamps for its candles,
and I longed to hang presents for everybody on
the lamp-posts.

I loved the whirling snow, the orange lights
cast on the whiteness, and, above all, the moving
shadows, especially the one of Papa with me in
his arms, that crept long and thin ahead of us
until something frightened it, when back it scut
tled and squatted down at our very feet.

As Mamma put me to bed that night she told
me about Santa Claus and read me "The Night


before Christmas" a poem sacred to many of
my most precious memories. Then we all hung
up our stockings around the fireplace in Mamma s
room, and, sure enough, in the morning they were
filled and overflowing in piles on the floor with
presents for all of us, proving that the poem had
been true and Santa Claus really had come down
the chimney and galloped away with a much light
ened sleigh. And when I went down-stairs to wish
Lizzie a Merry Christmas, there, on the kitchen
table, stood a statue of Santa Claus himself, the
snow still sprinkled over him and in his arms a
small Christmas tree, so I knew that the marvel
lous tree of the day before had come from him,
top. It had seemed too beautiful for the earth.
[ Christmas became the great day of the year,
the day all the other days seemed merely shadows
of, and Santa Claus was its spirit, the only person
I associated with Christmas, for it was not until I
was nine A^ears old that I heard it was Christ s
birthday. ^

I got Lizzie to write letters to Santa Claus for
me, asking for everything I wanted, from a brother
to a toy broom, and the year my youngest sister
was born I wrote to him at once to tell him of
her arrival, and at Christmas the presents in and
below her minute sock, all of them labelled cor
rectly with her name, I looked upon as a personal


achievement, for no one else had remembered to
tell Santa Glaus about her.

I always drew three large kisses at the bottom
of the page and signed the letters "Una Mary."
I felt Santa Glaus would understand letters from
her better than he possibly could from Una, for
it was Una Mary who loved his Christmas tree
and who dreamed off in his sleigh. Each night
before going to sleep I used to say:

"Santa Glaus, Santa Claus,
Send your sleigh
And Una Mary whisk away."

Then I imagined myself sitting in it, the reindeer
pulling faster and faster over the snow, until we
rose up in the air over the housetops, flying up,
up, and then I was asleep always I was asleep
before I got high enough to find out where Santa
Claus lived, whether it was behind a cloud or up
in the moon. Perhaps he was the Man in the
Moon except at Christmas, smiling down on the
world by night and busy making our presents by

Once, when I said I hated a certain toy, Lizzie
told me I ought to be very thankful for everything
I had as there were a great many children who had
no toys at all. Instead of making me thankful
it roused all my sense of injustice. I could not


bear the thought of those other children; it seemed
so unfair that they should have no toys. It must
be because Santa Claus did not know about them;
so each night afterward, as soon as I had called
for his sleigh, I really prayed to him and implored
him, between Christmases, to be sure and find
the names and addresses of all the children there
were so that no one should ever be left out again.

Perhaps Santa Claus is as good a preparation
as a child can have for God. I know they were
real prayers I prayed to him.

The Wonder Lady played an important part
in my life for the next five years she was so at
heart a child herself. In a cabinet in her parlor
there were some china dogs and a little tub in
which I was allowed to wash them with make-
believe water just the sort of things to put in
a cabinet, it seemed to me and I cared for them
more than for any of my own toys, except a stick
on which some one had carved for my mother the
head of the Old Man of the Mountain. They
appealed particularly to Una Mary, who did not
care much for regular toys.

The Wonder Lady had several children of her
own during those years, but she still kept a place
forme, and each time she came back from Ger
many, where they spent the summers in a castle


in the Black Forest I was sure it was the cas
tle where Grimm s Princesses used to live she
brought me a wonderful present. Once it was a
sash from Algiers, striped in the softest living
colors of raw silk. I was only allowed to wear
it on rare occasions, but I used to love to open the
drawer where it was kept and stroke its clinging
smoothness. I have it still and am glad to know
that I felt it was beautiful even then.

Another year she brought me a necklace of
cloudy amber, fine, round, graduated beads, and
in one of them there was a speck which, when I
examined it, proved to be a tiny fly. Papa told
me that amber had been the gum of a tree at the
time when the fly was caught, and afterward such
great changes had gone over the world that the
trees had turned to stone and were now covered
with water, so men dug for the gum in mines un
der the sea. \ It was my interest in the amber, my
own amber, that first opened my mind to glim
merings of the stupendous shaping of the world,
its vast changes and its curious continuity, for
even in those far-off times, when what was now
sea had been dry land, the familiar fly had buzzed
and blundered his way to the first sticky surface
he found, exactly as he might do to-day. \

The last time I saw the Wonder Lady was just
before we moved to Washington. She had come


to say good-by, and as I stood beside her she let
me play with a pin she wore, made in the shape of
a tiny box of crystal, set in gold, with a lid that
opened, and inside a tiny crystal that moved
around like a drop of water. It had always seemed
to me the most entrancing jewel, and as she went
away she gave it to me. Mamma used "to wear
it for me until I grew up," but I found it on the
pincushion occasionally, and then I would pin it
to my nightgown so Una Mary could wear it all

I wonder if she was just kind or if the Wonder
Lady realized a little what her presents meant to
me, knew how much food she was giving to the
imaginative, beauty-loving Una Mary side of me.
I think she must have known. I remember her
as always dressed in soft, lustrous materials that
I loved to rest my cheek against, a harmony of
dull browns and tans melting into the tones of her
smooth, dark hair. With her I always think of
Agnes, who became, through me, a friend of hers,
and my mother s most intimate friend; but she
was my friend first.

I was born in a curious little gabled house
across the street from what I remember as the
large and stately mansion where Agnes lived. Our
house was on the side of the hill above the city,
there so steep that the back yard went down in


terraces to the roofs of the houses below, while
on the street side there was a long flight of steps
up to the sidewalk on a level with the second-story
windows so Agnes from her house always knew,
by the commotion of getting my carriage up the
steps, when "the baby was going out," and used
often to come over and wheel me up and down.
But as she was fourteen years old and I three
months old when we first met and smiled, most
of my memories of her come later and are con
nected with her growing up and becoming a young
lady, a time of great excitement, with many con
fidences to my mother, interspersed with teasing

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