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Chapter 20

THE FAMILY LIFE


“The Family Life is romantic because it is uncertain. Every member of it likes different work and different play. These differences make the household bracing. Those who want to get out of family life will go into a much narrower world.”


Our home at this time was in the pretty row of flats opposite the Dominican Church on Lexington Avenue. They were light, sunny apartments and had a satisfactory share of what we call, modern conveniences. Every one knows how New York looks now, between Lexington Avenue and the old entrance to Central Park at the Arsenal. Then, it was a clear, open space. I remember just one cottage standing at the southeast corner opposite to the park entrance; and I remember this cottage, because its garden was full of old-fashioned English flowers—columbines, sops-in-wine, calamuth, kingspear, crown imperials, Michaelmas daisies, and the only auriculas I have seen in America, the aristocrat of the primrose family, dressed in royal purple, and powdered as daintily as any court lady.


AURICULAS

“Grave grandees from pageant olden,

Purple, crimson, primrose, golden,

Yellow-hearted, tawny-tuckered,

Velvet-robed, and flounced and puckered,

Golden-eyed and garnet-breasted,

Cherry-rimmed and velvet-vested,

Silver-powdered, golden-dusted,

Damson-dyed or orange-rusted,

Pencilled, painted, grained and graded,

Frilled and broidered and brocaded,

Ye should move in gilded coaches,

While some gorgeous Prince approaches;

Let the Polyanthi then,

Run as dapper liverymen!

Till your dames on polished floors,

Sail like splendid Pompadours.”


Our dining-room faced this pleasant outlook, and it was a favorite family gathering place; for Mary had her sewing machine at one of its windows, and there she sat sewing and singing nearly every morning. The parlor looked on to Lexington Avenue, and was exactly opposite the Dominican Church entrance, and on Sunday mornings I found at its windows never-ceasing food for thought and observation. Early as six o’clock, there was a reverent praying congregation there, and soon after nine the congregation had overflowed its capacity, and men and women were kneeling on its steps, and broad sidewalk. They were indifferent to passers-by, and with their rosaries in their hands, made publicly their confession of sin, and their prayer for pardon. I never wearied of this Sabbath spectacle, and I never dreamed of smiling at it. I could not imagine myself praying on the sidewalk, or even on the church steps, but sincere religion always commands respect. It is never ridiculous or contemptible.

The parlor, like the rest of the house, was plainly furnished. There were white curtains at the windows, and white matting on the floor, and a very good cottage piano, which we rented when we were in the Amity Street rooms, and had to deny ourselves in other matters, in order to pay the eight dollars a month it called for. But Mary had acquired a certain proficiency in music that must not be lost, and at this time she was taking singing lessons from Errani, and they needed steady, regular practice, which was given while I was at the Astor Library.

Through my reviewing for the Christian Union and other papers, we had collected a number of good books, but we had no pictures excepting two fine crayon portraits of my eldest daughters, which had been presented to me by a young artist, who came frequently to our house. And there was always plenty of flowers, for New Yorkers then, as now, delighted in them; and our visitors brought them freely. I suppose, excluding the piano and the two portraits, the whole house was furnished at the cost of three or four hundred dollars; but for all that, it made a cheerful pleasant impression on all who entered it; its atmosphere was so homelike, so comfortable, and happy.

Undoubtedly we were very happy there, though I worked ten hours or more, daily, including the unpleasant ride to the Astor Library, and often as far as Park Row or its vicinity; for I had to be a worker, as well as a dreamer, and my thoughts needed hands and feet, as well as wings in order to turn them into money. Generally I was far too busy, or too tired, to join the pleasant company usually brightening the parlor in the evenings; but everyone came into the dining-room, where I did my daily overflow of copying, for there was no blessed typewriter then, and had a few kind words with me—and I heard Mary singing or playing, or the murmur of joyous conversation, or the echo of light laughter, and I was as happy as the rest:

“For this it was that made me move

As light as carrier birds in air;

I loved the weight I had to bear,

Because it needed help of Love.”


And also, I was often conscious of a strength, not physical, lying under the tired sinews and muscles.

These evening meetings were of the most informal character. There never was any special invitation to them, and the visitors wore their ordinary street costumes, and were mostly literary men and women; though not altogether so. Mr. Isaac Bloom of Galveston, who had been my husband’s friend, often came to New York, and when he did so, always came to visit us; bringing with him, some young Jewish gentleman of his acquaintance. Socially, I never met finer gentlemen. They were well educated, and their reverence for religion, for their parents and family, and for all that is lovely and of good report, made their friendship most pleasant and desirable. This may not be a popular opinion, but it is the truth concerning all the Jews I have known socially, and their number is neither small nor unimportant. My Galveston friend is dead, and I have gradually lost sight of the Franks, and the two Blumenthals, the cultured Noemagen, Julius Sterne and others; but I have not forgotten their good nature, and exquisite courtesy, and I am sure if I met them at this day, they would give my age an even deeper respect, than they gave me forty years ago. Then also, Mary had made many friends while with Mrs. Sykes, and they drifted now and then into our circle; while not infrequently S. S. Conant, the editor of Harper’s Weekly, passed an hour in it before going to his club; or Mr. Mengins called to talk to Lilly about her mission work, readily falling into conversation, and changing opinions with all present; or telling them Scotch stories, with all the rich emphatic idioms, of the Land o’ Cakes.

Always I was well content to sit copying my day’s work in the dining-room, within sound of the happiness, that I could share at any moment; but I grew restless at once, if I heard the voice of a young man called Cochran. He was one of the librarians of the Astor Library when I first met him, but very soon went to where he naturally belonged—the daily press. A man so vivid, so clever, so brimful of intellect, I had never before met. He was like a flash of flame.

The first thing he always did, was to walk through the dining-room, and ask me if he was welcome. Being assured of our pleasure in his company he would answer, “Then I shall make my tea”; and immediately proceeded to make himself a cup of tea. Having drank it, he poured out a second cup, and with this in his hand went back to the parlor, taking if possible his seat on the piano stool. Then he saluted the company, and as he sipped his tea, began a conversation that no one could describe. It was gay and grotesque, thoughtful, and often serious, constantly witty and idiomatic. Oh, it was a dish of all kinds! but all good. Thus he would sit drinking one cup of tea after another, and clinching every discussion with a few trenchant words, driven home as a nail is driven into a sure place, with a few strong blows. It is impossible for words to give any adequate example of this man’s conversation; because it was so vividly illuminated by his personality, the inflections of his voice, his expressive gestures, and the large gray eyes, that beamed or flashed in sympathy with all he said.

On one occasion a minister and his wife from Glasgow and a close friend of my mother-in-law and of all my Scotch connections was present. They had sent me a note from the Metropolitan Hotel saying they would like to call, if it was convenient; and had been invited to take tea, and spend the following evening with us. I confess that I was pleased to have such credible witnesses assure my mother-in-law that I had not done badly for the grandchildren she had neglected; and moreover I did arrange everything as American as possible, and I did pretend to have forgotten all about Glasgow, whereas there was not a street of the murky city, or a day of my life in it, which was not clear and fresh in my memory. And I did dress myself in the finest gown of white mull and lace, with which Southern extravagance in that direction before the war had provided me, and I did go to unnecessary expense in cut flowers and jellies and confectionery, not from the best of motives, not out of respect to the minister and his wife, but just because I suspected them of coming as spies, and I did not wish them to take back an evil report. Before they left New York I was ashamed of my suspicions, but that night I enjoyed myself in them.

And all went exactly as I desired. My visitors were astonished and much pleased with their reception, my daughters had never looked better. Mary sang very well, and Lilly interested the minister with her stories of the Five Points Mission so much, that he wished to go there, and she agreed to go with him on the following day. About eight o’clock Mr. Cochran and Albert Webster came in, and we had an intellectual feast of good things until midnight.

During this evening there was a conversation concerning women which may indicate how much their character has changed during the last thirty years. Mr. Webster related a social anecdote about Mrs. Astor, and her unanswerable way of snubbing rivals aspiring to social prominence; and I asked Mr. Cochran what he thought of Mrs. Astor’s behavior.


“I think the things women bear from each other are amazing,” he answered. “Men would not stand them. Men would not attempt them.”

“Then why do women attempt them?”

“First, because they don’t respect each other; second, because they have no fear of consequences.”

“Consequences!” I exclaimed.

“Yes. They cannot knock each other down, and it is not ladylike to call names.”

“Well then, if a woman is insulted by a woman, what can she do?”

“Repay in kind, and to give women justice, they generally do so.”

“How?”

“A stare, a shrug, a toss of the head, conveys their infinite disdain; and answers the end perfectly.”

Conversation then drifted to Susan B. Anthony, and Mr. Cochran said, “I respect her, but she will not succeed.”

“Why not?” asked Albert Webster.

“Because, though women are gregarious in fashions and follies, they cannot combine. They will not support their weak sisters, and they shrink from their strong ones. Generally speaking, they have a radical contempt for each other’s intellects, and have no class solidarity. Because of the latter want, men have always had the upper hand, and will always keep it.”[7]


The minister approved these opinions, and also kindly looked over, or forgave, any lapses from the strict formalities of a Glasgow evening, by a kindly allowance for our grievous want of a Scotch education. Twelve years afterwards, I paid my mother-in-law a visit at her summer residence in the Isle of Arran. She had forgotten nothing the minister and his wife had told her concerning their visit, but they had told only the things I wished her to hear. Even Mr. Cochran making his own tea, and drinking eight cups or more, had not been reported. I am sensible that I have been smiling as I wrote the last two pages, and I shall not try to justify myself. Sometimes we act naturally, and sometimes we have a grace beyond nature, and that night I dispensed with “the grace beyond,” but I enjoyed the dispensation, and I hope it was not very wrong, because I am not yet sorry for it.

The Albert Webster named here was a fiction writer of a very high order. His work was done principally for Appleton’s Magazine. He was a grave, thoughtful young man, with a charming presence, a high opinion of women, and a passionate love for one of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s daughters; but he was perilously delicate and unfit for the struggle of life. In about two years the work, and the struggle was over. They whom the gods love, die young. The brilliant Cochran followed Webster in a short time, and the rest of the clever, kindly group whom we called friends are scattered far and wide. Max Freelander went to the African diamond mines. S. S. Conant’s sudden disappearance is still a mystery. The Reverend Mr. Mengins is dead. My Jewish friends are immersed in business. They doubtless remember me, as I do them, but I am on Storm King Mountain, and they are in New York’s busiest thoroughfare, sixty-five miles away. Death and distance make barren our lives.

About this time the brilliant scholar Moses Coit Tyler was editor of the Christian Union. He was a great man in every respect. If he only entered a room, it appeared to become lighter; and in no other man have I ever noticed the radiation of the body so pronounced. He made me believe in the aureoles of the saints. Reverent to sacred things, he was still very much of an every day man. He fearlessly spoke his mind, fearlessly opposed what he disapproved; and was not, I suspected, an admirer of Mr. Beecher. I remember thinking that if the two men came to an active dispute, I should like to be present. Professor Tyler soon left the newspaper world, and went to his place in Michigan University. Many years afterwards he wrote me some hearty letters, praising the work I had done, and telling me, he knew I would do still better.

Not long after he left the Christian Union Mary and I took a passage on an Anchor Line steamer for Glasgow. I had various reasons for this journey, partly relating to the family, and partly to business. Also, I was exceedingly weary both physically and mentally, and my physician is ever the sea and the air of my native land, if by any means I can secure their help. Having fainted three times within a month, it was not considered prudent for me to go alone, and we hoped Mary might please her relatives better than Lilly had been able to do. So Mary went with me.

In one or two respects the voyage was a success. Ten days on the Atlantic perfectly restored me to health, and I landed at Glasgow fit for anything I ought to do. We went to a private hotel, and I sent my mother-in-law word of our arrival. Towards evening Mrs. Colville and her daughter Jessy came to visit us, bringing me a letter from Mother, desiring us to leave the hotel, and stay with them. So we went to their residence in Bath Street, and were entertained there with great kindness. And I was glad of it. I could not forget that I was with Robert’s mother, sister, and kindred, and I tried for his sake to offend in nothing.

The morning after I arrived I was sitting in a parlor by myself, writing letters, when a gentleman entered. I looked up and as I did not recognize him rose. Then he came eagerly forward crying softly, “Amelia! O Amelia!” The sound of my baptismal name went poignantly to my consciousness; no man since Robert’s death had ever called me by it. As the speaker came closer to me, I saw that it was Alick Sage, my old lover. He had just returned from Australia, a widower with one daughter. I did not know whether I was pleased to see him, or not. He had grown as far away from me, as I from him, and there was not one plank of tenderness in my heart to bridge the chasm. I wanted no lovers; my affections were well satisfied with my daughters, and my work.

He was persistent, and his persistency annoyed me, and I left Mary with her aunt, and went down to Yorkshire to see my sisters, who were then living in Leeds. After spending two days with them, I went on to London, where I collected money enough to pay the expenses of our trip, and also made arrangements for three American stories. Returning to Glasgow I sailed two days afterwards for New York, but Mary remained in Scotland until near Christmas.

In the gloaming of the day before leaving I made two memorable visits, the first was to the house in which I had lived and loved with such passionate earnestness, as I could never know again. It looked as if I had never left it, and a constable walking the broad pavement in front of it, told me that “a real bein, nice couple” lived there, that the wife was “gey bonnie,” and her man had “a fine job in the custom house.” I asked if they had any children. “Aye,” he answered, “a braw lad o’ five, or thereabouts, and a genty wee lassie, just toddling around.” I looked up at the windows, silently blessed the home, and all within it, and giving the man a shilling took leave of it forever. Another inquiry might not have been so happily answered. When a thing is well enough, let it alone.

The other visit was to my husband’s warehouse in Virginia Street. It had been closed for the day, and being entirely a business street was absolutely empty. I stood upon the stone door steps, worn away in the center to a mere flag, and I looked at the row of windows covered with dust and cobwebs, just as Robert and his predecessors had kept them, as emblematical of a large, steady business, not requiring blazoning of any kind. And though my heart was full, I could not help a faint smile at the superstition—which still prevailed—and I made a promise to myself to go down to the big offices in lower New York to see whether New York merchants cleaned their windows, or let them accumulate the dust in which the lucky cobwebs dwell. This promise to myself, I have not yet fulfilled.

When I went to the steamer the next morning I found Mr. Sage there. It troubled me, and made my last talk with Mary conventional, instead of confidential; and yet when he turned away saying, “Farewell, Milly!” I felt unhappy. Indeed for some days I was angry at myself. I had denied and passed by a loving soul without caring. Alas! the pain of reunion is often greater than the pain of parting. Some secret disappointment enters into all meetings after long separation. We feel that it is easier to accept the loss, than to adapt ourselves to this person not expected.

Soon after my return home, I was engaged by Fords, Howard and Hulbert to write a history of the condition and treatment of women in all civilized and semi-civilized countries. Grace Greenwood was to assist me in this work, but I never saw her but once, and that only for about an hour. I have the impression that she lived near Boston, but she took little interest in the book, and when she saw the list of volumes laid out at the Astor Library for reference and information, she shook her head in a kind of laughing despair, and said,

“Your plan is excellent, go on and complete it. The firm do not expect me to do any writing. I am to advise with you.” Then she laughed pleasantly again, and our interview was practically over.

She was a pretty woman, bright and agreeable, and doubtless was paid only for the use of her name on the title page, and having satisfied herself that it was safe in my care and ability, she passed out of my life with a pleasant smile and a compliment. Yet I could not help thinking of what Mr. Cochran said, “Women have a radical contempt for each other’s intellects, and they can not combine.” But she was kind to me in one important respect; she advised me in a peculiarly marked manner to “insist on some weekly payment” for my work.

I followed her advice, and was glad I did so, for Mr. Beecher’s church officials after a lengthy examination, found no wrong in their pastor; and then Mr. Tilton took his quarrel to the civil courts. It was a ruinous step to Fords, Howard and Hulbert, the publishers of the Christian Union; but I did not dream of it affecting their publishing business. So I had a shock one Saturday afternoon, when I entered Mr. Ford’s office with my week’s Mss for the book about women. The usually busy place was still and empty. I glanced at Mr. Jack Howard’s desk, and he was not in his place. The elder Ford had always been a conspicuous figure but he, too, was absent. I saw no one I knew but the cashier. He called me kindly to his office, and gave me my check.

“It is the last I shall pay here,” he said. “I was waiting for you. Mr. Howard told me to do so.”

He spoke so sympathetically, that I felt my eyes fill with tears. “Thank Mr. Howard for me,” I said, “and you?” He shook his head at my question. I knew he was feeling the closing up, as much as I did, for he had a clever, handsome wife and several little children. We shook hands and parted silently. He was full of anxiety, so was I, for in any worker’s life, the loss of steady employment is often a greater tragedy than any Sophocles or Shakespeare ever wrote.

I did not hurry home. I walked slowly for some distance full of thought. But it was not long ere invincible hope began to say words of reason and consolation. Then I made haste and told my children what had happened, and we talked cheerfully over what we must do in order to make our reduced income meet our output, until good days came again.

“Everybody has ups and downs, Mamma,” said Mary, “and I think a thorough change would do us all good. Lilly has not quite recovered from her illness. Alice is quieter than usual, and you look fagged out, Mamma. Let us go to the country. We could at once save half the rent. Let us go to Rutherford Park. When I was there with Mrs. Sykes, I saw such pretty cottages for twenty dollars a month.”

“O Mamma!” cried Lilly, “think of a cottage all to ourselves! Perhaps a garden—and there might be a chicken house. I could raise chickens and turkeys. I raised hundreds and hundreds in Austin, and we might hire a cow—if we could not at first buy one. I could milk her. Old Mammy Green taught me to milk, and I can make butter, too. What a good time we should have! Say yes, Mamma. Do say yes.”

Of course an hour’s conversation in this mood, decided the question. The next day Mary went to Rutherford Park and took a cottage, and Lilly in high spirits spent the day in packing. “You see, Mamma,” she said, as she triumphantly turned the key in an overflowing trunk, “you see, we ought to have made a change before this. When things begin to go wrong, that is the time to make a change. Sam Houston said that, and I reckon he knew all about things going wrong and changes.” Then after another tug with the straps she looked up, her face aglow and asked,

“Things don’t stay wrong, do they? It is good and bad with them, always good and bad, and good again. You know that, don’t you, Mamma?”

I smiled and answered promptly as she wished, for indeed no one knew better than I did, that

“The Sea of Fortune doth not ever flow,

She draws her favors to the lowest ebb,

Her tides have equal times to come and go,

Her loom doth weave the finest and the coarsest web.

No joy so great, but runneth to an end,

No hap so hard, but will in time amend.”


The ready acceptance of a simpler life by Mary and Lilly greatly relieved me for the fear that it would be a trial to them to leave New York had been the pinch of the trouble. Alice was happy anywhere if we were with her, for her life and conversation was not of this world. Born in the stress and terror of the war time, when I lived and moved only in the mercy and care of God, she came into this world more psychically than physically developed. She has never yet comprehended the meaning of care or want. God is her Father, therefore she can “lack nothing.” Her wants are few and simple, and she asks God for them, and I would sell the wedding ring from my finger, rather than she should fear God had failed her. If she notices that I am anxious, and I say, “I am a little troubled,” she asks if I have “told God about the trouble?” and when I answer, “Yes, darling, I have told Him all about it,” she adds with a confident air, “Then it is all right. God will make it so.”

Her mentality in some points is superior to my own, thus she is naturally far more shrewd. I am deceived so easily; she is never deceived. She is exquisitely neat and orderly, and as careful and economical as any of her Scotch ancestry. The servants all obey her cheerfully, and I wish they obeyed me half as well, and as cheerfully. She dislikes extravagance in every shape, and yet money is useless to her, for the sense of numbers is wanting. She cannot learn to count, and though she may know the denomination of coins, she has no idea of their relative worth. Nor can she understand space or distance. She knows she must go a long way to reach England, for she has been there several times, but if the distance is told her in miles, it would give her no idea of it. Of course these wants totally unfit her for a world in which numbers and space and distance are constantly present factors. She speaks little, but she sees and knows more than she can tell. Outward things are an hindrance to her.

Yet she is perfectly happy. Her days pass in sweet and innocent regularity. Of her own accord she has assumed certain small household duties, which would otherwise be mine; she spends her first hours of the day in “talking with God,” which is her definition of prayer; then she embroiders or reads, or improvises on her organ, which at times is done with a wonderful touch and sense of purest harmony. Her voice in accompaniment is very sweet but quite childlike. At four o’clock every day, we have a short service of psalms or collects, the Lord’s Prayer, and a hymn, and she is the innocent God-loving priest, who offers our thanksgiving.

Oh, she is the most blessed child that ever a mother nursed! She has never given me one moment’s sorrow, except for her condition, and for this she is in no way responsible. Indeed I feel it to be a great honor to call such a lovely soul “my child.” Yet her perfectly helpless condition shadows all my days and nights for I know that until the end she will remain one of those sweet souls who,

“... ’mid the trampling throng,

With their first beauty bloom at evensong;

Hearts for whom God has judged it best to know

Only by hearsay, sin and want and woe,

Bright to come hither, and to travel hence,

Bright as they came, and wise in innocence.”


And the one prayer I make for her constantly, especially at midnight—for the midnight prayer God loves best of all—is, that she may “travel hence” before I do, or that He mercifully grant “we may travel hence together.” For it is her hand, that will open to me the gate of the celestial city.

In a week we were settled in the Rutherford Park cottage. I had been only half-hearted about the movement, for it appeared to put the Astor Library too far from me. But the children were delighted with the change, and the human heart is a loving thing, and has reasons that reason does not understand. And I had not then learned that a little misgiving in the beginning of things, means much regret in the end of them.

The first change necessary in our lives was that Mary or Lilly should do the office work. One of them went to the city with me nearly every morning. On reaching New York I took the street cars direct to the library, arriving there about nine o’clock and working until four. If there was writing to be done, or writing to be altered, it was brought to the library, and we usually made our arrangements to so fit each other, that we returned home together. Then there was the happy supper table, and the exchange of city and village news.

This was the year 1876—the great celebration of the Independence of the Colonies at Philadelphia—and we had many visitors from the South. Among them was a very interesting gentleman from Tennessee called Thomas Barr. He stayed some weeks in Rutherford Park, and was very popular; for he had a handsome person, a fine manner, and was possessed of considerable wealth. There was an engagement between him and my daughter Mary, but it died a very easy, natural death; and as they were unsuited to each other, I congratulated both of them, for correcting a mistake, before it was made. The last four words are a contradiction, but they state the case plainly enough.

Rutherford Park was then a charming suburb of New York. There were a great many New Yorkers living there, and the society of the place was delightful. But society in Rutherford Park, meant exactly what it meant in New York. There were the same extravagances of dressing and entertaining and we soon found out that economy is an inherent virtue, and not dependent on environment—a charmed word, however, at that time; ethical and social teachers being quite confident, that every one physically or morally sick, could be made healthy and good, by giving them the proper environment. I myself had been advised by the Reverend Mr. Ruston, as true a friend as we ever had, to go to the country and to learn among simple villagers the happiness of a simple life. There were not many simple villagers in Rutherford Park, and they appeared to absolutely separate themselves from what they called “the Yorkers.” So we did not learn anything from our environment. We spent as much living in a cottage, whose rent was twenty dollars a month, as we spent in a New York apartment at fifty dollars a month, for the small cottage did not alter our ideas about the superfluities, that have become the necessities.

But blue glass and environment, which were at that time the great cures for personal and moral ailments, did not in the least affect us. We saw every one bringing home a square of blue glass to sit under and be cured of their bodily sickness, and we heard everywhere the great word “environment” as the true specific for original sin. Even yet, “good environments and good associations,” are the shibboleth of philanthropists. I want to remind them, that Nature prevails enormously over nurture; for instance the cuckoo has been laying her eggs in the respectable nests of the dove and the titlark ever since the creation, but never a cuckoo yet imbibed, or even imitated the virtues of their foster parents. I know that poets sing beautifully of the cuckoo bird,

“Breaking the silence of the seas,

Among the furthest Hebrides.”


But Moses forbade the Jews to incorporate their vices by eating them, and Milton centuries later classed them with “owls, apes and dogs.” Three centuries have passed since Milton, and the cuckoo is just as bad as he was at the beginning. He has had, say six thousand years of the respectable environment and excellent moral associations of doves and titlarks, and he has not been cured of a single fault. So much for environment and good associations! I find I have written a little lecture but if it teaches one philanthropist, that all moral improvement must be from the inside outward, it will not be in vain. If the heart of even a bad child is not changed, all outside moralities will be useless; he will become a bad man.

Our real life in Rutherford Park was just what it had been in New York. I wrote constantly, but not as comfortably as in the city. The train wearied me, and also there were always people in it, who talked to me all the time. If they were women and going up town to shop, they talked until I left them at Astor Place. Coming to my work from Seventy-seventh Street in the horse cars was different. There I was among strangers. I could sit still and think, and possess myself in reflection. Socially things were different enough. We had been very kindly received, and soon had numerous acquaintances and callers, and we had found it quite possible to go to church, which had been a serious query in New York.

This may seem a peculiar statement. I will explain it. One Sunday I went to hear a minister whom I had read a good deal about. I liked his sermon, and I liked the music, and I felt that I would be happy to join its congregation. I wrote a few lines to this minister, telling him with what churches I had been connected, referring him to Mr. Beecher and Dr. Tyng, and asking what preliminaries were necessary.

Some time passed and then one day an officer of this church called on me. I happened to be at home very busy copying. Mary was sewing beside me; Alice was coloring a picture; Lilly opened the door for him, and as he wished “to see Mrs. Barr” she brought him into the dining-room, where I was at work. She thought he was a very respectable editor. I thought the same, and I rose to greet him. I have no doubt he was a millionaire, but he was courteous and gentlemanly, and after a few minutes quite kindly. He said, he had come in response to my letter, sent to Dr. C.

I smiled and he continued, “Dr. C—— would like to know the name of your banker.”

“My banker!” I replied in amazement. “I have no banker.”

“You see,” he continued, “ours is a very extravagant church—I mean in good works—and our members must be looked to for large subscriptions. Dr. C—— is acquainted with your name—and thinks highly of you—but he is afraid you would not be able to give as—as liberally—as liberally as our church expenses—demanded.”

He spoke with difficulty, and as I continued to look at him, and remained silent, he was confused and said hastily, “I am afraid you do not understand the situation.”

I said I did not, and he tried to explain, but he was much embarrassed and I shook my head and said, “You had better make no more explanations, sir. I understand that only the rich can be members of Dr. C——’s church. The Lord Christ, also, is therefore ineligible. I will remain outside with Him. I had an old-fashioned idea, that every Church was a House of God, I have no desire to intrude on premises belonging to Dr. C——.”

The official sat a while, talked of other things, and went away I think not very happy. If he is still in life, and this relation should meet his eyes, he will remember. He did his best to make the refusal as inoffensive as possible but he had to present a case utterly destitute of every gracious element.

But even when we were living in the rooms in Amity Street, we found out that the church in New York had a social side, that could not be intruded upon. We went then regularly to a Methodist church in our neighborhood, a large well-appointed building, with a very excellent preacher. His manner even in his service was so really “brotherly” and “sisterly,” that I was in no way astonished when he made us a pastoral call. We found him socially a delightful man, responding gladly to intellectual and spiritual conversation. He remained talking with me over my life, and especially over my work on the religious press for at least two hours. When he rose to go he said, he would like to bring Mrs. D—— to see us, and would surely do so, as soon as we moved “into a more fashionable street.”

He meant nothing unkind by this proviso, and in future years I did a great deal of work for him, and he visited me at Cherry Croft. But the remark made us think, and then laugh a little—perhaps, not a happy laugh. Hitherto I had not troubled myself as to whether the street was fashionable or not. Mr. Sykes had approved the locality, and it suited my library wants perfectly, but now I asked Mary, if she thought we ought to see about a change? “Not for the honor of Mrs. D——’s call,” she answered. Then I looked at Lilly and she laughed and said, “You ought to have told Mr. D——, Mamma, that we were not lonely nor likely to be so. We are not fashionable people; why should we go to a fashionable street?”

In direct opposition to this exclusiveness Dr. Tyng offered me a pew for myself and family in the new church he had just built on Madison Avenue and Forty-second Street, without money and without price. But at that time I had worked a great deal with, and for ministers of more than one denomination, and I confess my ideas of the sacred office were turned topsy-turvey. The clergy I knew in England and Scotland were so exclusively “Ministers of The Word.” Their church and pastoral work completely absorbed them. They were really “reverend” and entitled to that respect mingled with fear and affection which they received. I have gone out of my way many and many a time, so that I might meet a minister, and have him smile at me, and say “God bless you, child!” Much of this sentiment remained with me when I came to New York, but it was soon killed—for a minister in the market place, bargaining for stories and editorials, is not as “reverend” as the man who goes up to the Holy Place and opens with prayer and praise a solemn service to the Eternal One.

In Rutherford we had an excellent minister—a Mr. Walcott, a good man full of the Evangel he loved to proclaim. He and Mrs. Walcott welcomed us gladly, and the church welcomed us, and we had in Rutherford all the spiritual privileges hungry souls could wish. I was conscious, however, of a great change. I had acquired, I knew not how, a self-sufficiency in spiritual things that needed nothing from human sympathy or numbers. There are experiences in life, after which we cannot go on in the old way; can never be what we were before. I had gone through several such experiences.

I had lost many of the convictions and illusions of my youth. I had gained much knowledge of men and of things, that I had not yet either accepted or refused. But I clung with passionate fervor to my trust in God’s love and care, and in spite of the frequent dropping of cold words of doubt in my presence, I still had an almost awful prepossession in favor of the Bible. I read it alone with my daughters, and we talked of its promises, and as we four knelt together in earnest prayer, or holy silence, there was some times the blessed consciousness of Another with us. Christ had promised to be with such worshippers. Christ will keep His promise even to the end of the world. So we passed out of the splendid church, into the little upper chamber, but we did not pass out of God’s love and presence.



[7] Mr. Cochran’s opinion has been overwhelmingly refuted by the vast number of Women’s Clubs scattered all over the civilized and semi-civilized world; and more especially so by the suffragist movement of the present day. In this effort for their enfranchisement, the cultured woman and the ignorant woman, the nobly born, and the lowly born, the wealthy woman, clothed in purple, and the poor girl in her clean cotton waist, stand shoulder to shoulder, and plan and work together. Neither are they indifferent to their weak sisters, or afraid of their strong ones. The very clubs for helping the weak, the sick, the poor, and the ignorant, are numberless. Tired mothers are succored by them, deficient and neglected children are their care. The strong ones are demanding clean cities, and healthy food, and are looking after defiled waterways, and the savagely abused forests of the country. Indeed if Mr. Cochran could revisit earth at this day the thing that would amaze him more than all other changes would be the condition of women—their work, their aims, their already vast success, embodying as it does the sure fulfilment of the promise that she should “bruise the serpent’s head” which will be done when woman has put down drunkenness, and cleansed the Augean stables of civil government of its vile methods of bribery, graft, and injustice.



Amelia E. Barr