“My Memory is the frame of a thousand pictures.”
. . . . . . . . . .
“The blithe April weather of a child’s life.”
As soon as I saw Ripon, I disliked the place. There were no hills to which I could lift up my eyes, it was a little town squatting among fat green meadows, and by the still waters of three rivers, the Laver, the Ure, and the Skell. The houses were generally small, and roofed with red tiles, and the atmosphere of the place self-satisfied, and decently prosperous. The theological element was distinctly ascendent and I, though a daughter of Levi, did not like it. There were also at that time many ancient customs prevailing, and the queer little place only wanted a few monks strolling about the quiet streets, to make one wonder if they had stepped back into the twelfth century. The modern spirit touching so vividly the West Riding and other parts of England, had not reached Ripon. It retained a monastic air, though there was neither a monastery nor a monk in it. Still the people looked as if they were always going to church, and indeed they did go to church a great deal. I found out later that the whole history of Ripon was blended with churchism, though its one famous manufacture was spurs. “As true steel as Ripon rowels,” is a proverb still applied to men of mettle, trusty and faithful. When I was there it appeared to me that all the craftsmen were saddle-makers.
The dominant power in Ripon was not, however, the bishop; it was the Earl of Grey and Ripon, a man of immense wealth and of great political influence. I saw him frequently, but somehow he lacked the romance that fixed Lonsdale in my memory. I forgot him for nearly fifty years, and then this thing happened. In 1891 I wrote to London for a full set of the Saturday Review, stipulating that it should be second-hand and in good condition. When it arrived at Cherry Croft, I opened the boxes that contained the books eagerly, and lifted one out to examine it. The set was fine and perfect, and contained a most elaborate and beautiful book plate of the Earl of Grey and Ripon. Nearly the whole sixty volumes were ornamented with the Earl’s plate, though in some it was more ornate, than in others. But by what chance these volumes had been cast out of the magnificent library of Studley Royal, the grandest residence in England, and found their way to my little cottage on Storm King, New York, I do not know. Their once lordly owner I had forgotten for fifty years, but now I often remember the handsome, aristocratic George, Frederick, Samuel, Earl of Grey and Ripon.
But withal it was a comfortable well-to-do place and Mother put away cheerfully all fault-finding. Yet our house was not well situated and was much too small. My father looked around dubiously. Ann Oddy wondered if Ripon chapel people knew that Mr. Huddleston had three children, and Jane cast her eyes down on the tesselated brick floor of the living-room, and remarked in a general manner, “The floor is made of brick.”
“This will never do, Mary,” Father said.
“Oh, yes, William!” Mother answered. “I will carpet the floor, and the woman who was here waiting to receive us, pointed out the brick floor and called it ‘beautiful.’ She said they are favorite floors in Ripon. I shall make all pretty and comfortable in a few days.”
Mother kept her promise. In a few days the little house was a pretty place, and even Ann could find nothing against it, but its small size. “There are three children,” she said, “and God willing there may be four, and where are we to sleep them all?”
“Plenty of room, Ann,” answered Mother. “Mr. Huddleston is going to make the parlor his study. His books will furnish the four bare walls handsomely.”
“And what about company, ma’am?” asked Ann. “There will be lots of trouble, if they are put in the parlor, and the Master writing his sermon.”
“When Mr. Huddleston is writing a sermon, we will bring them in here, Ann.”
“And suppose we are just ready for dinner or tea? What then, ma’am?”
“Then Ann, we will ask them to join us,” and Mother laughed pleasantly, and added, “Your cooking, Ann, would be a great treat to them.”
In a fortnight the house being settled, the question was schools. There was no choice on this subject, there being only one ladies’ school. It was kept by the Misses Johnston, three very handsome women who were daughters of one of the old hunting, racing, drinking squires, called “fine old English gentlemen.” At his death, there was nothing left for his daughters, and they opened a school. Jane and I were entered as pupils there, but I did not find in any of the three, another Miss Pearson. They were unfitted for teachers and appeared to dislike the office, and though I learned the lessons set me, I made no particular progress in anything but music. In this study my teacher was a French emigrant, and I learned rapidly under his tuition.
We had not been half a year in this school, when a momentous question arose. A girl called Mary Levine came one day, and she was entered for all the senior classes, as well as for music, dancing, drawing and French. We all concluded that her father must be very rich, but Miss Grey, the daughter of one of the Canons of the Cathedral, said she had never heard of the Levines, and she did not believe they were anybody at all. For a few days suppositions as to Miss Levine’s social standing were rife. Then it was discovered that she was the daughter of Daniel Levine, a Jewish jeweler and money lender. Instantly every one drew away from the girl, and she was shocked and amazed at the scorn and animosity shown towards her. I saw her tearfully talking to Miss Johnston one evening as the dismissed school was leaving the room, and when I reached home I told Mother what I had heard and seen.
Mother advised us not to name the subject in my father’s presence, but this advice was rendered nugatory by events which had to be met and decided on; for Mr. Downes, the banker, the Reverend Mr. Eamont, Canon Grey and several others removed their daughters the next day from school, pending Miss Johnston’s decision as to opening her school to Jewish children. Every day there were more defections, and the distracted ladies sent a messenger to each patron of the school, asking them to answer by “yes” or “no” the following question:
“Do you object to your daughters associating with the Jewess, Mary Levine, in the classes of our school?
“The Misses Johnston.”
The long roll of patron’s names came to Father among the last, and Mother noticed that the answer in every case had been a positive “yes.” Father took the roll, and without consulting any one, wrote hurriedly but decidedly, “Yes, I object.”
I do not believe there was one reply favorable to the Jewish girl, and yet I could see no fault in her, nor any reason for her dismissal; and the school was much thinned by the circumstances, and I disliked it more than ever. Nor did her ejection from the school restore confidence. Several of the older pupils went to a celebrated boarding school at York, and others to Harrogate, and an air of dissatisfaction pervaded the class rooms.
As the spring opened I was sick. Father said, “No wonder!” He himself felt the change “from the clear, mountain air of Penrith, to the damp heavy atmosphere of Ripon.” The doctor said I had some kind of an ague, and gave me Jesuit’s bark. I had never been sick in all my life, and the feeling of inertia, and the abominable Jesuit’s bark, made me miserable. I was taken from school, and told to “amuse myself.” But books had become uninteresting. I had a headache, and it hurt me to read, and the Jesuit’s bark made every day a sickening terror. We call Jesuit’s bark quinine now, and have it in little white capsules, and are not conscious of its taste; but any one needing quinine in those days had to take a decoction of the bark of the tree—a whole tumbler full of the black, nauseous liquid three times a day. Jane had no ague, and was quite happy at school; for she was fond of embroidery, and was working a petticoat for Mother in a new kind of that art—the same kind that has been fashionable for the last three or four years, which is accomplished by cutting holes in the cloth and then seaming them around.
One day in early June, I was lying on a sofa which stood in the parlor-study, and Father was writing. I can listen now as I write, and hear the scratching of his quill pen upon the paper. Suddenly a gentleman came riding rapidly to our door, and asked for Mr. Huddleston. My father lifted his head at the sound of the voice, listened a moment, threw down his pen and rose to go out of the room, but before he could do so the stranger entered, and then it was “William!” “Thomas!” and they clasped hands and sat down together. I had no mind to go away, unless sent, and I closed my eyes and lay still as if asleep.
Their conversation soon became animated and argumentative, though it was about people and places I had no knowledge of; but finally reached a subject then interesting all clever and thoughtful minds—the Tractarian or High Church Movement. As I had read to Father several small pamphlets “Tracts for the Times” I was familiar with the names they constantly quoted—Newman, Keble, Froude, et cetera, but it was Newman they disputed over. The stranger seemed to dislike Newman. He said he was no better than a Calvinist, and had been brought up by his Calvinistic mother on Watts and Romaine and such teachers, that he was pale and thin, had a poor presence, and was more like a Wesleyan preacher than a pillar of the Church. Father spoke hotly, and said he never thought of Newman’s appearance, his influence was something like magic, and that you could not be fifteen minutes in his company, and not feel yourself invited to take an onward step. I liked the stranger for not liking Newman, for Newman’s writing was the hardest and least interesting reading I did for Father.
I was enjoying the dispute, when Ann Oddy tapped at the door, and told father he was wanted a few minutes. Then I stepped off the sofa, and went to the stranger.
“Well now!” he cried, “who are you, my little maid?”
I said I was Mr. Huddleston’s daughter, and my name was Amelia.
“And you were on the sofa all the time?” he continued.
“Yes,” I replied, “I am sick.”
“Nonsense!” he ejaculated, but I assured him the doctor said I had an ague, and I had been obliged to take Jesuit’s bark.
“Jesuit’s bark! That is enough to make any one sick. Come with me to Richmond farm, and I will give you new milk in place of it. You can get up early, and go with the dawn maids and see the big Durhams milked. I will have a pony saddled for you, and you can ride all over the farm at my side. And the red Morella cherries are just ripe, and the strawberries coming on, and the raspberries not a month behind. And there are hundreds of hens, and you could go with Tabitha, the hen-wife, and see her clear the nests, and feed the chickens—such a lot of them! And I have the prettiest and kindest of house-keepers; she is called Mary, and she will be good and kind to you. Will you come to Richmond farm with me?”
I told him that I would like it better than anything else in the world, and then I asked, “Would you like me to come?”
“That I would!” he answered heartily, and as he did so, my father re-entered the room with Mother on his arm. Mother had put on her new muslin gown; it was a white muslin, with a tiny pink rosebud in it, and her black hair was beautifully dressed in that Madonna style introduced by Queen Victoria. “I have the prettiest mother in all the world,” I thought, and I went to her side, and clasped her hand.
So the stranger, whom I heard introduced to my mother as Mr. Thomas Richmond ate dinner with us, and this proposal to take me for a few weeks to Richmond farm, was gladly accepted.
Rev. William Henry Huddleston
I was to stay a few weeks, but I stayed most of my time at this farm for two years and a half, and if to be innocently joyful and busy and perfectly free from all care and anxiety is to be happy, then surely these years were the happiest years of my life. A child in Paradise may be as happy, but no earth child could have been more fortunate than I was. Everything was so much better than I expected; yes, I can see the widespreading house amid its trees and gardens as I write, and when I go to Heaven, I would like my angel to pass it on the road, and let me look once more into its sunny rooms.
I soon learned to manage my pony, and I usually rode into Ripon with Mr. Richmond on market days, took my music lesson, and then went home until I was called for. The housekeeper Mary taught me all about milk, cream and butter. I pulled cherries, ate cherries, and made cherry pies, and I knew every hen and chicken on the place. I was very friendly with the gardener, and from him I learned all about vegetables, fruits and flowers. If there was a superstition or story about any flower, he knew it; and he told it to me, generally with the flower in my hand. Thus a lady to whose house I often went to practice my music, gave me one day a pot of myrtle, and I took it at once to the old man. I said, “I want it planted.”
“Well then, Missie, you must plant it yourself,” he replied; “for when myrtle is planted, you must spread out your skirt, and look as proud as you can. I say put it in your window, for myrtle is the luckiest plant for the window, and water it morning and night, looking as proud as you can while doing so. Myrtle is a proud plant, and it loves proud people.” On another day, I was going into the house with a branch of flowering white hawthorn.
“Nay! nay!” he cried to me, “you mustn’t carry white hawthorn into the house. You might go to sleep where it is, and then would come great misfortune.” He looked very differently on a handful of rosemary. “That is all right, is all right,” he said. “Rosemary stands for success in everything.” In the very centre of the garden he had a little bed of grass, and he would not suffer tool of any kind to touch it. He called it “good man’s croft,” and told me that in order “to bring luck, we must always leave a bit of land unplanted for the fairies.”
After I had been about a month at the farm, Mr. Richmond said to me one wet day, “Milly, I have had all my grandfather’s books taken into the library. I want you to sort and shelve them for me. Would you like to do that?”
I knew of nothing I would like half as much, for, as soon as I was well, the thought of books was again a joy to me. We went to the library together, and men were unpacking large boxes of books, and bringing a long table on which to sort them, and a set of library steps, pens, ink, pencils, paper, and so forth. I promised only to sort the books in the afternoon, or when too wet to take my usual morning ride with him about the farm. Then he gave me the key of the room, and left me among a thousand books.
I was so happy! I was so happy! So peacefully, innocently happy! I read more than I sorted; I found so many wonderful books, that it was impossible to pass over. I met Ivanhoe first in that room, and Little Nell, and Pamela, and the Scottish Chiefs, and in a pile of unbound Family Heralds I made acquaintance with the short love story. Never shall I forget what thrilling hours I spent in that room with the “Children of the Abbey.” A year or two ago a lady to whom I named this book, said she had a copy, and would send it to me. I sat down, full of expectation, but alas! though the book was there, I could not summon back the child heart to read it. The tale that stole my heart away when I was eleven years old had nothing to say to me when I was seventy-seven. Yet I touched it tenderly as I whispered, “It charmed me once—I will not spoil that memory,” and so closed it forever.
I thank God that ere any change came over days so beautiful and blessed, they ceased. The library was scarce finished, when I had to leave it; the farm life was just as happy and desirable, when I tearfully bade it good-bye forever. The pretty, clever Mary loved me well, and I had become a real companion to my affectionate friend, who liked me to call him “Uncle Thomas.” It was well to part ere any desire for parting came. Mr. Richmond said he would come for me the following summer, but I knew he would not. I felt sure he would marry Mary, and other interests would occupy him. I said good-bye to Richmond Farm in a fortunate hour. Its memory has sweetened my long, long life, and what I learned in its pleasant rooms, its hay fields, and wheat fields, and cool, sweet dairy, has helped me in many a stress of life, that I then never dreamed of.
The inevitable has always found me ready and hopeful, and I was glad we were going to the Isle of Man. I had never consciously seen the sea, but its tides were surely in my blood. I was much excited at the prospect, and Father was as eager and restless as a boy. It called him now, as it had called his fathers before him, and he was impatient of delay. We went in a little steamer called The King Orry, sailing from Liverpool. And, as I walked with him about the deck, we were both silent with emotion. But I felt quite at home. The motion of the boat was natural, and, when I walked to the wheel, I could scarcely keep my hands off it. I knew I could manage it. The salt breeze, and the smell of the sea, went to my head like wine.
“Oh, Father!” I cried. “I wish that I might live always on the tide-top.”
“The tide-top!” he echoed. “Who taught you those words, Milly?”
“Nobody,” I answered. “They just came to me. Are they not right words, Father?”
“Yes,” he answered slowly. “Your grandfather used them frequently. The last words he said to my mother were, ‘Fear not, Milly! I shall try to keep my ship on the tide-top.’”
“But he did not, Father.”
“No—no! He found a sailor’s grave. I will go and bring John here.”
In a few minutes he returned with an armful of pillows, and then he carried my brother in his arms to the deck. I have never seen since such a transfiguration of Joy. The boy clapped his thin, white hands, and cried out, “The Sea! The Sea! The Sea!” His face glowed and shone, and he took deep breaths of the salt air. So he sat all day, feeding his heart on the sight of the blue, tossing waves, and some wild pageant of memories far far off, and hardly to be caught, as they threw the accumulated past upon his consciousness, very much as that last vision clangs and flashes for a drowning man.
A never-to-be-forgotten, quiet, thoughtful day, and in the autumn gloaming we landed at Douglas, and the next morning took a carriage for the ten-mile ride, which would take us to Castletown, then the capital of Man, and the place of our destination. With a lavish hand Nature has beautified this wonderful little island, thirty-three miles long, by thirteen miles wide, with the most exquisite scenes of sylvan loveliness, while the Gulf Stream laves all its rocky shores, giving it a climate such as we may have in Paradise. In the hottest month of the year the temperature is a little below sixty degrees, in the coldest month it is a little above forty-one.
Our ride to Castletown was an enchanting one. It was on a day at the end of August, sunny and pleasantly warm. Such wealth of flowers! such multitudes of singing birds! I had never before seen or heard. And the sea was on every side of us! As we approached the capital we saw first the noble old fortress of the Lords of Man, lifting its huge bulk in the very centre of the town. It was but a small place, built of gray stone, in narrow winding streets, and so old that its very origin is lost in the mists of antiquity. Certainly it is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, town in Great Britain. It looked to me as if it had always existed.
As we passed through the square of which the castle forms one side, we saw a fine regiment of Highlanders, in their picturesque costume, drilling, and a few ladies and some old gentlemen were sauntering along, stopping occasionally to watch some manœuver that interested them. An air of the utmost serenity pervaded the place, as we turned into a long crooked street called Malew Street, and stopped finally at a house whose door stood open to receive us. It was a large-roomed, sunny house, of three stories, and had a fine garden at the back, stretching almost to the river side. The rooms were comfortably furnished, and full of peace, and I caught and answered my mother’s look of pleasure and satisfaction. In a few days all was in order, and we settled down to what promised to be three years of delightful life.
For two years all our hopes were amply satisfied. I was at a good school: I was in the fishers’ cottages. I was in a boat with John and my father, or I was off with Father to the preachings at Ballasalla, or Ballabeg. I had many friends, and among them was Chrisna, the daughter of the master of Rushen Castle. With her I wandered about the wonderful old palace, learning its history in the very rooms wherein that history was made. The whole huge fabric was an historical romance written in stone. Chrisna was a Manx girl, of long Manx descent, and she knew all the traditions and superstitions of her people. She believed in fairies as firmly as she believed in the Gospels, and indeed I never met either a Manx man or a Manx woman who did not believe in fairies. Chrisna told me with perfect honesty that she had seen them often, and heard their music, and she quite convinced me that she had.
Seventy years ago the Isle of Man was little more than a name to the average Briton. It had its own government, its own laws, and its own House of Parliament, which was called the “House of Keys.” There were no Custom Houses, and no duties. There were no Poor Laws. When I was there those in need were empowered to knock at the door of every householder, once a week, and receive what could be given. There was no stipulated sum, but a penny and a few groceries, or a little clothing, was cheerfully spared. The number of such callers were few, and they were kindly treated.
The small sum it cost then to live in the Isle of Man was a great temptation to retired army and naval officers, and Castletown was full of these interesting gentry. They gave to the place an air of refinement, which was still further increased by the professors and students of King William’s College. I saw this college burned to the ground on the second of January, A.D. 1844, and I remember well that I had no wrap on, and the night was so warm I did not miss it. Yet January is the coldest month in the mild Manx winter.
We went to Castletown in the autumn, and the following spring two events happened affecting our household. My mother had another daughter, whom Father christened Alethia Mona. Alethia being, with Jane or Joan, and Isabel, the three prominent names of the Huddleston women, just as William, John, Thomas, and Henry are the family names of the men. Mona was added, because it was the ancient name of the island of her birth.
Soon after this event Ann Oddy left us. I am rather ashamed to say that we were all privately very glad. She had become a kind of household tyrant, whom we had to constantly conciliate, and we had long ago discovered that the old family servant was just as serious a problem as the modern monthly one. Our emancipation from Ann’s rule came very unexpectedly. She entered the parlor one afternoon, with a letter in her hand, and, with great excitement, said: “Mrs. Huddleston, I am sorry, but I must go back to England at once.”
Mother told her she was not out of England, and asked why she must go in such a hurry, and Ann answered:
“You see, ma’am, Adam Bradley wants me. We were to have been wed ten years ago, but one night Adam he walked home from chapel with Sarah Sykes, and I had words with him about Sarah, so he married Sarah to spite me. But she’s dead now, and Adam wants me. I think it is best to go to him, Mrs. Huddleston.”
So Ann went. We hardly said to each other how glad we were, and we all pressed any gift we could spare on her. Mother even gave her one of her silk gowns, which I am pretty sure she missed a little later. But, until we knew Ann was safely away in the Douglas coach, we did not talk about her; then I shall never forget Mother’s smile, and sigh of relief, and Jane’s neatly expressed opinion, that “the Irish Sea was always rough with the wind in the present direction.” Jane had never liked Ann; and she knew Ann was both sick and terrified, when at the mercy of wind and waves. A middle-aged Manx woman was easily found to take Ann’s place, and Jane, who was now well grown and womanly, took charge of many things relating to the household.
It was about this time I began to seriously try to write. I commenced a tragedy which I called “Seneca.” I do not remember anything about the work, except that it was laid in ancient Rome, and that Seneca was a philosopher and a senator. I showed the first act to Father, and he gave it back to me with a smile, and the opinion that “it might have been worse.” I used to take pencil and paper and go out to Scarlet Stack, and there alone, with the sun and the wind and the sea and the sky, try to reconstruct the men and women and life of ancient Rome. It was a presumptuous effort, but perhaps the gain to myself was in the effort; for I had become very ambitious. I had abandoned the missionary idea, and longed to write books, and to travel and to see the great cities and the strange peoples I had read about.
We had fully expected to remain at Castletown for three years, but, at the end of the second year, my Father was removed to the Whitehaven Circuit. I shall never forget the morning the news came to us. Mother was making sandwiches for Father, John and I were going to row as far as Ballasalla, then land, and go to the Silverburn River for trout. But Father was so shocked, he put off the trip. I wondered that he should do so, and said:
“Whitehaven is your birthplace, Father; it will surely please you to go there.”
“I would rather go to the most desolate spot on the earth,” he answered with a passion that silenced me.
“It is a much larger circuit, William,” said Mother, “and your income will be larger, and you will have an assistant—a very popular young man, your letter says.”
“I have heard of him, Mary. Popular young men are not always nice young men. He is a nephew of Sir William Morley, and his name is William Morley Punshon.”
Then I took an instant dislike to the popular young man called Punshon. “Such a name!” I ejaculated.
That afternoon Father called Mother in a strange, thick voice of alarm, and she found him looking ill and terrified. “I have had a singular sensation all down my right side, Mary,” he said. “It frightens me.” And my brave little mother said, “Nonsense, William! As we grow old, we have such sensations. I have them myself now and then; my father had them often. Come down and talk with me and the girls,” and she laughed softly and took his arm. But I am sure she knew that this “sensation” was the first touch of a hand that would finally prevail.
As for me, I threw off the thought of trouble by a conscious effort, just as I would throw off my clothes; for I was yet an easy-hearted child, who could say to sorrow, “Let it go.”
Sorry, no summary available yet.