The Harvest of Years
HARVEST OF YEARS
G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS
182 Fifth Avenue
G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS
TO MY FAMILY
THIS RECITAL OF MY LIFE IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED.
Old friends and other days have risen about me as I have written,recalling, through my pen, these treasured experiences; and the picturedcharacters are to me as real as earthly hands, whose touch we feel. Ihave written as the story runs, with no effort at adorning, and thosewho love me best will not bring to it the cold criticisms that may comefrom other readers. To illustrate the truth of "a little leaven'sleavening the whole lump" has been my purpose, and if this purpose canbe 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'sdear sake, been impelled to utterances, to these friends I may hope thisvolume 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.
"EMILY DID IT."
Among my earliest recollections these three words have a place, comingto my ears as the presages of a reprimand. I had made a frantic effortto lift my baby-brother from his cradle, and had succeeded only inupsetting baby, pillows and all, waking my mother from her little nap,while brother Hal stood by and shouted, "Emily did it." I was only fiveyears of age at that eventful period, and was as indignant at thescolding I received when trying to do a magnanimous act, take care ofbaby 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" hasrung 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 yearsin everything I attempted, and the naturally quick temper I possessedwas only aggravated and tortured into more harassing activity, renderingme on the[Pg 2] whole, perhaps, not very amiable. Interesting I could not be,since whatever I attempted I seemed fated to say or do something to hurtsomebody's feelings, and, mortified at my failures, I would draw myselfcloser 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 myreader would be interested in a rehearsal of all my early trials.
You can imagine how it must have been as I marched along from childhoodthrough girlhood into womanhood, while I still clung to my strange waysand peculiar sayings; upsetting of inkstands at school, mud trackingover the carpet in the "best room" at home, unconscious betrayal ofmischief plans, etc., etc., made up the full catalogue of my days andtheir experiences, and although I did have a few warm friends, I couldnot 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 waswholly blameless, and when sometimes she stroked my hair, and said, "Mydear child, how unlucky you are," I felt that I could do anything forher, and she never, to my remembrance, said "Emily did it."
From my father I often heard it. Hal rarely, if ever, said anythingelse, and if I did sometimes darn his stockings a little too thick, itwas not such a heinous crime. He was handsome, and I was as proud of hisface as I was ashamed of my own; I know now that my features were not sobad, but my spirit never shone through them,[Pg 3] while Hal carried everythought right in his face. My face also might have looked attractive ifI had only been understood, but I blame no one for that, when I wascovered even as a "leopard with spots," indicating everything but theblessed thoughts I sometimes had and the better part of my nature. Theinterval of years between my fifth and sixteenth birthdays was too fullof recurring mishaps of every kind to leave within my memory distincttraces of the little joys that sometimes crept in upon me. I number themall when I recall the face of my more than blessed mother and the mildeyes of Mary Snow, who was kinder and nearer to me than the others of myschool-mates.
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 grewtoo vexed with him to restrain my anger, and turning upon him would pourvolleys of wrath upon his head. On these occasions he seemed reallyafraid of me, and, for a time after, I would experience a little peace.Learning from experience that keeping my thoughts to myself was the bestmeans of quiet, I grew, after leaving school, less inclined to associatewith anyone except sweet Mary Snow. One blessed consciousness grew dailyon me, and that was that I came nearer my mother's heart, and as I wasnever lazy, I shared many of her joys and trials and learned to keep myrebellious nature almost wholly in check. Father was a good man, butunfortunate in business affairs, and the first time he undertook tocarry out an enterprise of his own, he pulled everything over on to hishead—just as I did the baby. This was of course a misfortune of which[Pg 4]his wife had her share, but she never complained. The lines about hereyes grew darker, and she ceased to sing at her work as before, and Iknew, for she told me, that in the years that followed, I grew so closeto her, I became a great help to her and really shared her burdens. Mylittle brother, Ben, varied Hal's "Emily did it," and with him "Emilywill do it" was a perfect maxim. Kites I made without number, and gavemy spare time to running through the meadows with him to help him flythem and to the making of his little wheelbarrows, and I loved himdearly. 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—forsomething, I knew not what.[Pg 5]
FROM GIRLHOOD TO WOMANHOOD.
The old adage of a poor beginning makes a good ending, may have beentrue in my case; certain it is that my sorest mishaps, or those I hadleast 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 whenteased by Hal, who at that time was developing rapidly into manhood andwas growing very handsome.
I was not changed outwardly, unless my smile was more bright andfrequent, as became my feelings, and my eyes, I know, shot fewer darkglances at those around me when mishaps, although less frequent, camesometimes to me. My good angel was with me oftener then, I thought, andas 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 pulsatingas a life within my heart that seemed like a strong full tide constantlybearing me up. I scarcely understood it then, but now I know I had, asevery one has, a dual nature, one side of which had never been allowedto appear above its earthly covering.[Pg 6]
My daily trials, coming always from luckless mistakes of my own, wereequal in their effect to the killing of my blossoms, for if any dared toshow their heads an untimely word or deed would bring a reproach—ifonly in the three words, "Emily did it"—and this reproach was like thestamping of feet on violet buds, breaking, crushing and robbing them oftheir sweet promise. The life then must go back into the roots and along time elapse ere they could again burst forth; so all my betternature, with its higher thoughts longing to develop, was forced down andback, and now, in the enjoyment of more favorable environment, I wasbeginning to realize the fruitful life which daily grew upon me, andwith it came strength of mind and purpose and an imagery of thought thatfilled my soul to a delicious fullness.
What a power those conditions were to me! I drank joy in everything. Mymother's step was as music, and her teachings even in household affairsa blessing to my spirit. I remember how one day in September I wasdishing soup for dinner, the thought—suppose that she dies—camerushing over me like a cold wave, and I screamed aloud; dropping mysoup-dish and all, and frightening poor mother almost out of her senses.
"Have you scalded yourself, dear?" she cried, running toward me, and Iwas nearly faint as I replied:
"Only a thought. I am so sorry about the soup, but it was a terriblethought," and then I told her.
No word of chiding came from her lips. I thought I saw tears in her eyesas she said: "I should not like to leave you, dear. We are very happyhere together,"[Pg 7] and I know my eyes were moist as I thought, "Emily didit," but her mother understands her.
How necessary all those days of feeling, full and deep, combined withthe details of practical life were to me, and although I shall neverdate pleasant memories back to my earlier years, still if I had been toocarefully handled and nursed I never could have enjoyed those days somuch.
Nearly twenty-four months of uninterrupted work and enjoyment passedover me—and here is a thought from that first experience in soulgrowth; I cannot ever believe that people will enjoy themselves lazilyin heaven more than here; I have another, only a vague idea of how itwill be, but I cannot think of being idle there—when a little changeappeared, only to usher in what proved to be a greater one, and the daysof the June month in which the first came