Reminiscence for her grandson, Sherman Otis Hayes, 1890
Reminiscence for Her Grandson
By One of her Nieces, Laura Mitchell
To Sherman Otis Hayes - Care of his Uncle Webb
Dear Boy, of the oratorical, gesturing hands! irresistible baby hands! with their swift appeal of graceful application. Have you also, perhaps, in reserved possession that other farther eloquence of quivering words?
Your uncle Webb has set the stint for me of telling you tales of your Grandmother Hayes—a wondrous grandmother, indeed, for birthright of blest boy! with a marvelous eloquence of Life through which she yet “speaketh” to us.
I fancy that a sunbeam-woven cradle was the ark of rushes in which her mother found this Child-of-Light—this baby-Grandmother Lucy, of yours—the twenty-eighth of August, 1831, that day of her wonderful coming to earth to bless her now vanished family folk, and her dear Spiegel of a later time; and you, dear boy, and all of us who are to-day left loving her through tears!
Her first home was in Chillicothe, the old-time capital of Ohio, and center of its intellectual culture and social life. In 1833 her father, a young physician of wide and growing practice left the home of his wedded life in its early brightness, for a brief visit to Kentucky, to make arrangements there for giving freedom to slaves of his inheritance. During his visit to Lexington the cholera broke out there, and Dr. Webb, with the self abnegation of a courageous spirit, lingered among his kindred and friends to administer to them as he could—to save them when he might—by his medical skill and his unwearying attendance. The cholera, that dragon of disease! breathed its pestilential breath upon him while he so bravely fought it in defence of others, and smote to death this knightly young great-grand father of yours. Your small grandmother, then but two years old, lived on in Chillicothe with her young widowed mother and two playfellow brothers. Here—strange to tell!—people never thought of her as anybody’s grandmother, but having known her first as a wee baby, kept on loving her as the winsome, dark-eyed little Lucy Webb.
During these young years she was oftentimes a visitor, with her brother, under the roof of her grandfather, Judge Isaac Cook, a gentleman of stately olden school, who dispensed through the Ross County region the generous, open-door hospitality brought with him to the young West from him New England home. The little maid breathed here her native air in a social circle of folk too truly well-born, well-bred, for any need to hedge themselves about with thorny exclusiveness—their silent only proclamation of high lineage being the self-ruling “noblesse oblige” hidden in the heart of their every-day life.
The grown up people at Chillicothe, in those early days, read the weekly newspapers, and the books and periodicals which the leisurely-lounging stage coach brought to them from far-off New England and New York, and re-read and re-re-read the few volumes of classic literature brought across the mountains with their ancestral book shelves, here to maintain a perennial fragrant bloom of interest, a whiff of which the children sometimes came to breathe while they rested from a trying game of romps.
Your gay little grandmother and her companions were meanwhile taught to “mind their manners,” and to sew their seams, and to broider cross-stitch samplers; but even when the lesson-burdened dignity of school-girlhood arrived for her, and dictatorial bell-taps summoned her to resign the dear delights of doll companionship at times for Childhood’s chastening experience of primer and multiplication table, still the days sped by in merry measures to the dancing beat of her light heart.
The Spring-times—through which we, in these degenerate years, sit by our firesides shivering—were then, express creations for May-day picnicing, that little butterfly girls might flutter their white dresses and gay sash ribbons through the woods, and hover over the buttercups and wild violets of Dame Nature’s annual strewing, while Robin Redbreast boys hopped and twittered round them.
I am sure that the sweet alacrity with which our dear “Aunt Lu” of indulgent middle age—middle age as mortals count the years, the Youngest of us all as heaven recons the measurement of heart shine, was wont to take kaleidoscopic groups of juvenile nieces a-wading in Sandusky waters, must have had in it a gentle reminiscence of these, her own young years on the banks of the Scioto.
I have listened with breathless interest to her tales of a scampering scamp-of-a-pony, on whose back, she, a speck of a girl in a sunbonnet, her apron springs flying behind her, used to go galloping “over the hills and far away.” One day Sir Head-strong Pony made up his will to come home “all of a sudden,” whether his rider would or no. Presently Lucy’s mother and aunt heart the multitudinous, resolute clatter of four perverse little hoofs, and saw absolute-Master Pony and his plucky would-be mistress flash past the window in far too headlong fashion for their on-looking calm content. Out they rushed, with up-held hands and fear-stricken faces, just in time to see we Miss Lucy spring from pony-back and alight in safety, while her small dashing steed sped on through the stable doorway. Dauntless Mistress Lucy was eager to bring him out from his retreat at once, and soon in a bouncing canter over miles of hill and valley tamed his wilfulness into abject and weary submission.
Ah! but now I must tell one among my “ower true tales” for you, in which this Grandmother-Little-Girl proved not such a triumphing heroine—of how the old witch Superstition once indulged her scarecrow inclination by making that brave Child-Lucy quail before her. A neighboring madcap girl, one Sunday afternoon, enticed Lucy to wander off with her to the river side, for that guileful Willow-Branch, in its wandering way to the Scioto, gleamed as temptingly, and, possibly, purred more coaxingly in the Sabbath-day quiet for the good little children who passed within sight of its mischievous twinkle, than it did in all six of its worldly week days. The two girls sat on a rough-and-ready boulder at the edge of the stream, forgetful alike of laws from Sinai (or the Catechism!), and maternal commands, and with shoes and stocking happily abandoned, plashed their toes in the cool, bright water. Into the midst of this delightfull dolce far niente a colony of large black ants all at once intruded, swarming toward them, and, unobserved, began a desultory scramble over Lucy’s neck. She gave a little scream of sudden dismay, and her scapegrace elder companion flung up her hands in simulated horror, exclaiming with doom-dealing emphasis—“There! Lucy Webb, those are the black ants, and they’ll be the death of you, sure!” Poor little Lucy, with her instantaneous remembrance of that hopelessly splintered Sabbath day, and her panic stricken conscience! Home to her mother she flew, like a fleet-footed fawn with the hunter’s barb still pricking it, for a breathless confession of her escapade, in a tremor of wild fright to learn whether there might be any hope for her that she might live for holier keeping of another Sabbath day.
Her native fearlessness was a life-abiding trait, and in womanhood-years bestowed on the adoring sons who came crowding into her life, her comradeship in many a daring exploit such as mothers rarely share. During our war time the occasional lull of a camp sojourn with her soldier husband made her happy in the midst of anxieties for him, and for her country, which beat upon her heart all those troubled years. One such visit to the Twenty-third regiment of Ohio Volunteers found the half spread brownish wings of their flock of tents drooping over the turfy hillsides of the Kanawha valley. The near river, rock-choked and gurgling here, tosses uneasily on its stony bed, before taking its perpetual plunge down from the sudden slippery ledge into the irrevocable surging doom always awaiting below, in uneasy impatience the river’s leap of continuous arrival.
Once your grandmother crossed this rough Kanawha in charge of her three venturesome boys, so close to the fall that having first descried the row boat when in mid-stream, with its passenger freight so precious to them all, the whole regiment gathered to the bank with every procurable boat, and waited and watched in breathless line ready to plunge to the rescue when the threatened overturn should chance; and one looker-on heart sickened in his helpless terror for her, as he watched the mighty pull of the plunging waters till mother and boys were safely landed, exultant and exhilarated by their grand tug of resistance.
Another camp-sketch shows her fishing from the Kanawha bank, while a hundred of her loyal solder boys were scattered all across the river on the jutting stones which here chafed its calm into a fretful turbulence. Its width at this point was perhaps a third of a mile, and each statue fisherman on his uncertain and impromptu pedestal, was eager for the bite and sudden jerk of an Ohio River salmon. The fish were large, one sufficing for a soldier-mess, but not numerous. Thirty of them might probably be caught during the day by the hundred fisher Boys in Blue. Yet, for all their eager intentness on their lines, whenever the quick thrill came at the end of one, of a too impetuous salmon, hooked, the first impulsive exclamation was sure to be—“I’ve got him! Mrs. Hayes, I wish you had him instead, on your line.”
One of the delights of this camp life for mother and sons was the frequent thrilling experience of a row to meet an approaching stern-wheel steamer, which had no sooner swept by on its majestic course to the invisible regions beyond, than they pulled “in” behind it, to toss up and down on the long, swelling wave that swung between shore and shore, after the steamer, until the deserted river’s billowy fervor of farewell became a gentle sob of remembrance, and finally sighed itself away into the serene forgetfulness of its brief turmoil, the daring little boat under the control of its young oarsmen having, meanwhile, come safe to shore.
With her courage your grandmother had a quickness of perception to discern the needful deed before her, and a swiftness of action to do it, which never delayed to reckon possible effects on the admiration of others for herself, or to balance self-sacrifice involved.
It was with a characteristic impulse to immediate rescue that one day, during your grandfather’s Governorship of Ohio, she suddenly stopped her carriage in a principal city-street to alight by the side of a drunken woman who sat on the curb-stone under-going the torment of the ingenious and cosmopolitan small street Arab. With a persuasive word, but kindling and commanding eye, your grandmother bundled the daft creature into her carriage and bore her off to the hovel in the alley from which the drink demon had lured her.
That aforetime stranger, Sorrow, came last summer to abide with us, has done us thus much grace, to unlock for us many treasured remembrances of your grandmother, hidden in many hearts. This street incident is but one of the shining pieces of such gold which will “ring true” forever, as they are dropped for us by one and another into whose experience she had unconsciously let them fall, gleaming.
But, how is it that we find ourselves wandering years and years out of our road so far on into these later days, as storyteller for you, dear boy? Shame on that mischeevous pony! he must have run away with us. Doubtless, he tossed up his head and away he went! Then back again through days and months he shall carry us, bounding over many a year to retrace the road, while we signal back once more our wayward, precipitate memories to the days of your grandmother’s girlhood.
With the light step of a glad heart she came twelve years on, through that “wonder-wood of childhood,” which you, dear Boy, are entering, having gathered during those happy years in her Chillicothe home, the charming lore of forest, farm and river, and having done her unaware childish weaving into Life’s Experience—web of the sunlight and the shadows reflected on her from the social surroundings and schoolroom episodes of her earliest days.
Then, when she took that long, triumphant step into her teens, and looked around, the scene had shifted. In the place of Chillicothe hills now sloped the gentle knolls surrounding Delaware . The old red schoolhouse had disappeared, and in its stead up-rose a dignified institution of learning the Ohio Weslyan College . Under its wing a small cottage found shelter in the same attractive grounds, and into this Mrs. Webb removed with her little family, that the college-life of the brothers might not separate them from the mother and sister.
Village society and the college campus were alike graced by the beautiful, odorous sulphur spring, and round the basin with its ever bubbling center, flowed then, as during the cycles since of young folks, the laughing life of maidens and students, winding vivaciously in and out among the sedate, discoursing groups of their elders. It was hereabouts, in a later year, that your Grandmother Lucy Webb passed your unacquainted Grandfather Hayes, and in the midst of her girl companions was moved, just then, by some gay word, or other impulse, to a peal of that ringing, musical laughter which caught his ear and heart. Thus it chanced that he first heard the voice which was to make for him the music of many after years—that merry peal destined to repeat itself in the endless echoing that should make glad all the loving life of which she became, long afterwards (“long ago,” is the way we say it now, dear boy), and, forever, is the radiant center. Voice and laughter have “gone silent” now, but in our remembering hearts we listen to their haunting reverberations.
In Delaware, to turn back the leaves of years which keep opening pages ahead of our reading place, books became more especially your Grandmother Lucy’s educators. While her brothers went to their daily class rooms, she made her brave recitations to the formidable College Professors, at their homes. They became friends for all her future years, and delighted in their pupil’s loveliness of character, her quickness of apprehension, and the rare, clear-shining of her mind.
The transparency of her mental atmosphere gave her always a wonderful discernment, and that judgment which comes through right-seeing—in her, fortunately joined with such swift sympathy as can alone bestow on human judgment the feminine heart-quality for its needful tempering with mercy. Her quick, vivid perception and sympathetic imagination, rather than any logical reasoning, decided vexed questions for her, and gave her intuitions an almost papal infallibility.
Threads of girlhood intimacies woven about her in this Delaware home, held firm and true through all her after life. With one, a few years older than herself, she read, sometimes a Shakespeare play, sometimes chapters of History’s more slowly unfolded drama.
Another of these dear girl friends claimed bridal attendance from her, a few years later, and when the gay wedding came to pass, by some prophetic happy chance, your Grandfather Hayes and Grandmother Lucy stood side by side during the ceremony—bridesmaid and groomsman—and the soothsaying ring which dropped from the bride’s cake that evening fell into his hand to be given by him to her.
When college days came to an end for your great-uncles, the family circle was transferred to Cincinnati ; and while they were studying medicine and growing into young doctors, their mother and sister were comfortably established in the Weslyan Young Ladies Seminary.
Here, as every where, the hearts of all who her knew her were won by the rare charm of your grandmother’s character, her sparkling vivacity, her tenderness of feeling for another, her sincerity and earnestness, and the retiring, almost shy grace of her manner.
After her graduation from the Seminary, at the close of the three years’ course of study, the family residence continued in Cincinnati . One of the delights of the quiet home life there was the music of sweet Scotch ballads, and negro melodies, of boat songs and hunter’s jodels, in all of which Lucy’s soprano rose, thrilling through her brother Joe’s rich bass tones. There were a hundred or more of these songs—of Hers, we say—for She alone may be a Singer of them, for us! Ballads—Irish, Scotch and English—were among them; stirring battle-cries, the Freedman’s wailing, watchnight strains, soft lullabys, Kathleen Mavourneen, Robin Adair, Randes Vaches, Sweet Afton, My Heart’s in the Highlands, Rally Round the Flag, Boys—in number far beyond their roll-calling for you—dear belated little boy—but whoever may be singing them henceforth, there are some of us hearing always her voice only which wound its way into the heart to hold possession and be the lifelong, lingering music there.
While the River of After-Years was softly flowing, we used to gather round her, under the dim, religious sway of Sunday eventimes, while she sang to us her favorite hymns. There were a score of them honored with a numbering among her very-chosen—“My Jesus, as Thou Wilt,” “Come, Ye Disconsolate,” “Abide With Me,” “One More Day’s Work for Jesus,” and, dearest of all, “God be with us till we meet again”—the funeral-farewell to be last sung for her—woe betide us!
This clear-ringing voice of your grandmother’s had depth and exceeding sweetness, with contralto tones in it, and was of rarely sympathetic quality. It is of her, in her Cincinnati maiden time that we read—it matters not whom Emerson thought that he was writing of—as of one
“- - - - - - - - - - - musical
Alive to gentle influence,
Of landscape and of sky,
And tender to the spirit-touch
Of man’s and woman’s eye.”
- - - Thus the maiden stands before us in receptiveness of shy, alert, sweet girl nature—awaiting! This is She, in her Spring time isolation! No intruder-footstep awakening echo in her heart. But the Prince is coming! A few more dream-days for her, and he has come! and has claimed his waiting domain—his life and hers to be henceforth so wholly interfused in the perfect one-ness which was neither his nor hers, but theirs, that the interwoven strand may not be divied for separate tracing of either thread. In our further reminiscing, dear boy, while we say simply “your grandmother”, it will be with the questioning under thought—Was this she—her very self? Or was it his thought within her, wrought into accomplished deed? For I fancy that they, themselves, could never have told whether it were some gleam-reflection of your grandfather’s considerate philanthropy that made her wise as well as tender in beneficent word and deed—, or whether it were your grandmother’s heart-shine (for the evil and the good) that made his cloud region, philosophical interest in human race or class, warm into a personal glow toward individuals.
Impossible to measure by spirit-thermometer—hers or his—how much higher the courage within her rose because of his steady sustainment, or how often the pressure of her gently constraining influence withdrew him from long study of life’s problems in volume to the instantaneous, practical working out of one in helpfulness to some brother-in-need standing at his elbow. Thus it was, that from her remindfulness came the light touch upon his shoulder which caused him to turn aside on a speech making journey in the South the visit “the modest little Missionary Home” (of the Methodist Freedman’s Industrial Work) which her letter urged him “Don’t forget !” His reverence for her continuous inspiration in his life, has rendered unspoken homage to her memory in the following words—an utterance to which he was irresistibly impelled at the close of his address at Nashville, on Prison Reform, in November, 1889:
“For almost forty years it has been the crowning felicity of my life to travel with a companion, now gone to the world beyond, whose delight it was to shed happiness on all around her. Her joy was so radiant because her life was the very incarnation of these precious and humble words which fell from her lips: “I know that I am not good; but I do try and pray that I may treat all others as I would wish to be treated if I were in their places.” Surely, my friends, if our lives, individually and in communities, our laws and their execution, could be penetrated and controlled by the spirit of this Golden Rule, the solution would be found for every problem which now disturbs or threatens to disturb, the foundations of our American society.”
Now, dear boy, from wistful gazing toward that land into which your grandmother has but entered, we turn away our eyes to look once more, years behind us, through the doorway of that Cincinnati home of her content. We find her there about to step forth from its sheltering quiet, only to cross the threshold of another school—the world—that Life’s High School wherein Experience is the teacher. We read from many memories how, having once entered there, with a bright, teachable spirit and gentle dignity, she passed on from educational grade to grade; through more of them, perhaps, because of some special courses, than ever did other woman.
Early, her way led her, by a supreme life love and its marriage consecration, through the unutterable tender joy of motherhood, and alas! for us of the earth, from whom “passeth away” so much that is sweet and precious—she was also led through motherhood’s heart break of bereavement, for, of the eight children given her, there were three little ones whom, having loved, she “lost awhile!”
There came a time, almost too soon, when she passed inevitably, from out of the soft lights and shadows of the family home, and its sweet sufficiency to her heart, into the more brilliant glare of a public life of varying phases.
Her first stay in Washington was a winter spent there with her husband, while he was member of Congress. Though it was then her preference, and her option, to live somewhat apart from the gayest whirl of the Capital’s social life, she made friends of high worth among those whom she met on her way, by her husband’s side, during those few months.
It was the natural wont of her earnest devotion and her large capability—that she should share wholly her husband’s life. During this winter it was her pleasure to spend many hours in the congressional halls, and to give an intelligent, listening interest to the questions of the day, and the larger National themes discussed around her—then, especially, her husband’s personal concern as Ohio’s Representative, which helped her to grasp such questions and to trace their course, through all the succeeding years of his public service.
During the War of the Rebellion your grandmother shared, as often as she might, the camp sojourns that interspersed her husband’s soldier years. After her glad arrivals in their midst, the hospital bound soldier received the restoring “sweet observances” of her daily ministries, and many a robust private was the better for her brightening presence and her mindfulness of him. When their “Onward” order came, Able bodied and Convalescent marched together, past her, each the braver for the inspiration of her pride in him, and the motherly sweet sympathy of her farewell; each it may be, feeling the holier manhood, soldier-hood, stir within him, as he listened till the last note died away in the silencing distance—to the benediction song with which she had sent him off, while her eyes were streaming—“God be with you till we meet again!” They called her the “Mother of the Regiment” and right well did her Twenty-third boys know that her tenderest sensibilities were ever awake for them—that her heart was brooding over them, and was watching them with never failing faith and interest through all of their hardships and their battles, and into the Peace beyond the Battles sure to come for them, whether it might be Peace from War, or that Eternal Peace nearer perhaps [sic] which is from all Earth’s strifes.
Victory won, and the war become a remembrance, your grandmother was the brightest, most gladdening presence of the annual Soldier Reunions of her Twenty-third. With a gay greeting for ever one, she moulded all constraints on unacquaintance into genial sociability, and drew shy wives, by gentle step-by-step approaches, into the foreground of these happy after-dramas—the successors of their long tragedy of heart-aches.
On one of these Lake-side occasions, the day’s steamer was bringing back to shore a weary, silent boatful of listless reunion comrades, who were unconsciously drifting apart to a final losing of one another in the stolid indifference of a dull late afternoon. With one of her swift inspirations, your grandmother sprang up, saying: “This will never do! We must have some singing! So the poorest singer of you all, will begin.” And at once she sang “John Anderson, my Jo,” with a heart throb in every tone that made every listener ready to go “hand in hand,” indeed with her, whether it might be climbing hills of difficulty, or to the final “sleeping at the foot” of them.
Thus she wrought her song-awakening, stirred the spirit within soldier and wife, and broke effectually the benumbing spell of that excursion—afternoon’s ennui.
During your grandfather’s double term of service as Governor of Ohio, your grandmother’s attractive presence made his home in Columbus a genial center of social life. And when, a few years later, his third term was broken off before its appointed end, by his election to be for four years the Chief Executive of the Nation, she reigned in the White House with a radiant royal grace, and the charity which “vaunteth not itself,” “is not puffed up,”—“is kind”—thinketh no evil”—“hopeth all things”—“never faileth.” However difficult the way through which at times your grandmother’s path was directed, her unfaltering courage led her, simply and naturally, “because right is right, to follow right,” living the poetry which Tennyson has sung, and which we in the prose of our daily life do much evade.
Thus, when she came to the ordering of her White House four-years’ home, though she had been spared from feeling the evil of intemperance through its touch on any held dear by her, and perhaps had given little thought to it heretofore, yet, then, at once her sympathetic imagination brought before her the many women and children of her country known to be writhing helplessly under its strickening results.
These made the suppliant throng, invisible to other eyes, but seen by hers, crowding the ante-chambers in vivid, yearning attendance, upon her arrival; jostling their way in among vaguer high-Actualities, for presentation to her. Could the Invisible but have flashed into open vision—for the once! Fancy a White House reception such as that—Her First!
She believed that an influence might be made to pulsate from the White House through the Land (it did pulsate over land and ocean in a tidal wave far beyond her reckoning) which should at least make it less fashionable for Thoughtlessness to tempt, easier for Weakness to resist. What if it may have been her way of saying that prayer, which we may never dare to utter more exclusively than to our common Father in Heaven with all our human brothers, “Lead us not into temptation!” Then, naturally, and without the single hesitation sure to lose one in a fearsome questioning of the world’s opinion, she banished the wine of respected Tradition from the White House table. And she, who did this moral braving of critical, ridiculing comment, was the woman who, of all, rejoiced most in the brightness of a dear one’s smile upon her—the sunshine of a friend’s favor—and who shivered and suffered quickest whenever the clouding consciousness of their disapprobation crossed her happy spirit.
Mary Clemmer wrote of your grandmother, under the inspiration of a first impression: “On this man of whom every one in the nation is this moment thinking, a fair woman between two little children looks down. She has a singularly gentle and winning face. It looks out from the bands of smooth, dark hair, with that tender light in the eyes which we have come to associate always with the Madonna. I have never seen such a face reign in the White House. I wonder what the world of Vanity Fair will do with it? Will it fritz that hair? powder that face? draw those sweet fine lines away with pride? bare those shoulders? shorten those sleeves[,] hide John Wesley’s discipline out of sight, as it poses and minces before the first lady of the land? What will she do with it? This further question and more blessed in the fullness of the answer now vouchsafed by history, is our slightly differing repetition of it—What did she do with It? Reading your grandmother’s clear-shining day in the White House as it now gleams from out of the past, we turn with an earnest “Amen” to Mrs. Clemmer’s closing burst into what was then a prophecy—albeit her Sybylline tone indulged itself in the early irresponsibility of a rising inflection. “This woman of the hearthand home, strong as she is fair—will she have the grace to use it (that world of Vanity Fair) as not abusing it? To be in it, yet not of it? Priestess of a religion pure and undefiled, holding the white lamp of her womanhood unshaken and unsullied, high above the heated crowd that fawns, and flatters and soils? The Lord in Heaven knows.” Yes, we say, He knows! and now, thank Him! we, and all the world know, too.
The further story of those crowded four years of your grandmother’s life would demand a grander pen than quill of mine, dear boy. But I may write for you of that old fashioned virtue which she possessed in rare degree—a true humility!
A virtue this, become almost a quaintness, it is grown so rare; but we may at least claim for it the charm of its antiquity, old as Scripture-time, and bring it forth into our modern day to receive its meed of homage now fashionably rendered to whatever of the antiquated may be rummaged out of garret-corner darkness. I fancy that it came to your grandmother from her mother, in whose portrait there is a revealing touch of the charm of self-unconsciousness. And she had it doubtless from her mother, in whose line of ancestry it had been, perchance, an heirloom descending out of a dim distance.
However that may be, your grandmother’s characteristic sweet humility made it impossible that she should ever look down upon—hence, talk down toward—her inferior in years, or mind, or social station. Instead, she seemed to lift such, for the time, by her unconsciously gracious estimation of them to her own high level, where in interchange of words with her, children or grown folk lost any native inarticulateness, or conscious clumsiness of mind or manner, in the moment’s aspiration to be all the high and good which they felt that she assumed of them.
She loved all the “green things growing” whether in Washington conservatories of her quickening interest in their springing life, or in the dooryards along the Fremont county roads. She used to stop her carriage frequently to offer admiring congratulations on their floral success, to the mistresses of blushing rose-beauties that nodded to her in familiar salutation, as if she were quite one of their sweet rose-selves (and I dare say those roses knew all about the kinship); or of nasturtiums, not too lazy in their beds for flaunting their variegated reds and yellows to attract her eye.
She kept up a sort of once-a-year correspondence with a grand-nephew barely in his teens, through Spring-interchanges of florists’ catalogues, and when they met, walked around the garden with him in horticultural converse as deeply considerate and advisory as could ever be discussion of state questions held between a Queen and her Prime Minister. And now I have a charming story for you, captured from your grandfather’s note book, of your grandmother and a little boy who was, of his good fortune, and earlier comer than you into our midst, that he might be a small chivalric knight in her boy-train of young and loyal courtiers.
It is written of this little nephew, of years ago, that he “stopped crying over a mashed finger and forgot the pain, spellbound by her eyes and tones, and soothing words. The next day he would let no one touch the finger ‘because Mama Hayes kissed it.’ The ‘Mama Hayes’ was improvised, he not having been taught, as yet, what to call her.” Your grandfather adds the comment: “It was the Madonna love in her beautiful eyes that went to the child’s heart.”
Ah! my boy, is no remembrance of her sweet grandmothering ever to lie, like lavender or pressed rose leaves, among your treasured memories, imparting to each a fragrance?
Poor boy! never to know, in their loving look upon you, the beautiful radiance of your grandmother’s eloquent eyes! a radiance that, for all its tender shining could flash down indignation upon arrogant pretension, or any cruel oppression of custom or of occasion. The smile of her sensitive, mobile lips would always have been within your summons, and the heavy bands of her dusky hair always within reach of your stroking fingers.
A troop of nieces, little girls in that long-ago time, used to gather around her, having coaxed her into a comfortable chair with “Old Town Folks” open before her for beguilment, to toss, and brush, and braid that hair, and to hold a Carnival of tangle in its heavy sweeping masses.
Among these lovely visions of the past, comes a memory to me of the day before her marriage, in 1852, when I saw her, the dear new aunt of the morrow, for the first time, and yielded my whole child-heart to her sweet spell.
She had a quick perception of the dramatic, whether of ludicrous or pathetic action, and told stories, or described happenings, always in snatches of sentences with touches or irresistible mimicry. Like her songs, we loved to hear her stories, again and again.
A part of the winter of her marriage was spent in Columbus in bridal gaiety; and her round of evening parties had an attendant succeeding round of morning merry narrations—blissful for the large-eared proverbial “little pitchers” listening in their happy moments of safe oblivion. But once, when some one else caught the thread of the story on agile tongue tip, there came an unlucky betrayal of youngster presence, for a child voice protested vehemently: “Don’t you tell it! please don’t! let Aunt Lu tell it ‘cause then it sounds so much better than it is’!”
Again, poor Boy! to know her only by such broken bits of reflected likeness as we can show you in our remembrance mirror; now, some single grace of movement swiftly crossing it; and now, a character-charm, caught for a moment, then flitting off—but never a full-length reflection, turned to show—albeit “darkly”—the whole, vivid, magnetic personality which we fain would summon for your reverencing love.
A friend of hers who was a favorite in the gay society world, and possessed unusual charm in duet tete-a-tete conversation—once, with the half-confession of an envying sigh, drew her companion’s attention to your grandmother, then in her young prime. There before them, in a bright merry nook of the soiree moving-life, she, and a group of gentlemen gathering round her, were laughing and chatting. For your grandmother had—doubtless, from some fairy godmother—the precious endowment of a genius for a very plural tete-a-tete talk.
Her instantaneous mental perception, and the tact which was a grace of her heart, perfectly combined in their rare degree, bestowed on her an unconscious power of attraction which drew many within its charm, and included, equally, the close-at-hand listener and the outermost comer, in the constantly enlarging ring of her radiating talk, and the responsive repartee which it awakened.
You see, dear boy! that I cannot tell you these tales of your grandmother’s life, processionally, or thread its pearls in an orderly straight string. I can give you only some precious jewel-bits in a mosaic chaos of bright and sober memories. We have now come rambling too far off the chronological path for baby feet to patter back toward the diverging point, Let me carry you, then, dear child, to the grand Cathedral aisle of her own oaks and walnuts, the stately approach to her abiding home through which your grandmother returned to the Spiegel Grove held always sacred in her unchanging love.
Very welcome was the shelter of its restfulness after the fluttering poise of her family life in the White House. There throughout the appointed evanescence of their four years’ stay, there had been the consciousness of an ever coming To-morrow, when folded wings were to be spread again for the homeward flight. In Washington she had been so living a center of swiftly succeeding events and responsibilities, and the giving of herself to them had been so real, that she had found a continuing interest and enjoyment in her life there; and after her withdrawal from it her heart rendered its unfailing tribute of remembering fealty to all that had been accorded her there, of widening experience and valued friendship.
While this White House epoch was drawing to a close, your grandmother wrote of it, to a cousin, thus: “We will be ready to leave in the spring. I am surprised to find how I look longingly for the springtime to come. I have had a particularly happy life here, and yet will hail my return home with the greatest pleasure. ‘Four years’ is long enough for a woman like this one.”
And a letter written to Vice President Wheeler, in the early days of her renewed home-life at Spiegel Grove, gives the following pleasant picture of her musings in quiet hours, of her own surroundings, and of his home as she then saw it, in retrospect. She speaks of her “calm uneventful days” as giving her “the more time to think of the dear friends of the last four years,” and continues: “How rapidly the years have passed! How much of joy they have brought me, and less of sorrow or vexation than I could have dared to hope. I had seen in the papers that you were at home, and I could imagine the kind of greeting you would receive, even though it had not been mentioned. I can’t quite see the house with its new dress, but the old appearance is fresh and vivid. I could close my eyes and go about it, and can now see the busy, demure little bird meditating on her nest by the porch—how impatient she must be for the shelter of the green leaves and branches! And Betsy, with her good cheer and kindly greeting! Oh! I can see you all, and the fire you are burning tonight in the pleasant sitting room that looks down the street. And so I go all over our journey again, hear your voice as you acknowledge the greeting of your townsmen, and then the kind and touching words when you presented me to them, and so it all grows brighter and brighter. But I have been thinking of you in your home, and forgetting my own pleasant and bright home. Everything is beginning to put on the spring dress, except the oaks. Like sensible people they don’t intend to take cold by too sudden a change; but the maples, and all the roses and shrubs are beginning to don the spring garb. Right here, Betty must know that I have had my first asparagus—not a satisfying meal, but enough to boast of to my neighbors.”
When Mrs. Harrison, in the elect line of succession, was about to enter the White House, your grandmother wrote to her of her own attachment for it, and her delight in the associations built in with it, clinging to it, and year by year growing around it, thus: I hope you will enjoy and love the old house, as I did. No new house will ever have its charms.”
And yet, as we have already seen, when at the end of her husband’s Presidential term, the release came from its duties and its festivities, she found a deep contentment in the retirement to the Fremont hone, with its abrupt alternations of society and solitude, and its abiding family love. The current of her helpfulness henceforth swept beyond her home in larger and larger circles round it, making its way outward mainly through the two channels—the Woman’s Relief Corps for the aid of soldiers and their families, and the Woman’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Church.
In Spiegel Grove, Missionary-teas and Soldiers’-gatherings were so firmly rooted by your grandmother, that they have evermore a freehold right there, and, springing up every year, will spontaneously people it—her remembering perennials!
A neighboring story has already enshrined her reply to one who asked how many ministers she would hospitably care for, at the time of the annual Conference which was about to meet in Fremont: “Send me ten or fifteen guests, but let them be some of the hardest-worked ministers and their wives. Be sure that you send the wives, those who have had rather a poor time on their circuits! Send them to us, and we will try to give them a pleasant week.”
Two marked characteristics—her earnest love of country and the sacredness in which home life was held by her, combined to make her ardently interested and active in a Missionary work which seeks to uplift the Freedman by sharing with him that “Truth which makes free indeed,” and to gather children into industrial homes for general instruction and their practical education in better, purer, more healthful and comfortable family life.
The inner urgency of her own deep conviction, therefore, reinforced the besetting importunities from her church people throughout the country, and impelled her to become the President of the Woman’s Home Missionary Society. A few brief paragraphs of her last annual address, (read in Boston, November 1st, 1888), reveal her own inspiring motive to the work, and its inherent demands upon others.
“It is generally agreed that the negroes of the South are not dying out by reason of the freedom they now enjoy.
Devoted men and women, general philanthropists, and influential religious organizations have labored with zeal and intelligence to uplift these wards of the Nation. The negroes, themselves, wherever they have been adequately reached, have been more than willing, they have been anxious and eager to accept the education and religion. But the lamentable situation still remains. The multitude, vast and increasing, are still in chains to pagan superstition and the ignorance and vice of generations of bondage.
To deal with this condition is Home Missionary work in the large general sense, and to deal with it most effectively, is to reach family life, and to teach correct family habits and true family duties. To do this is the peculiar province of women and the special object of the Woman’s Home Missionary Society.”
Again, with regard to Mormon polygamy, she wrote in this address: “There surely never existed before in the bosom of any civilized community, such an offence against women, and such a crime against the home. If any one asks a reason for home missions, organized and managed by women, Mormonism in Utah furnishes an answer.”
The following paragraph was the natural utterance of her patriotic spirit: “The influences and elements of population brought into our country from abroad, and the questions arising out of immigration, have undergone vast changes during recent years. These changes are not friendly to American institutions. For the most part, in the first century after the Declaration of Independence, immigrants were from the most civilized nations of Europe, and were seeking liberty, and land for homes. Now, however, an increasing number come, or are brought from the less enlightened European nations and from heathen countries, seeking simply better wages, and caring little or nothing for land or homes. They are sadly lacking in education and religion, and are by no means well fitted for the citizenship of a republic. Their great deficiency is the want of a home life, and a due and practical regard for woman. How can their needs be better supplied than by means of missions under the direction of the women of our churches?”
Her sympathy, always yearning over the frontier Missionary, had also a word to say in this address: “The story of the Methodist preacher on his circuit in the forest, on the plains, and in the mountains, is rarely heard and little known in the old and prosperous states. One hundred dollars a year for the minister, his wife and the little ones, often in a cold climate where everything is lacking, and where all things are costly, it has been truly said, ‘is barely enough, not to live upon, but to starve upon’.” Your grandmother felt the earnestness of this work so deeply that it made her impatient for it, of any touch of flippancy or sentimentalism. In a hasty note written from Philadelphia she has thus expressed her satisfaction in the annual meeting being held there, at which Dr. Haygood and Dr. Vincent had been the speakers of the preceeding evening: “Dr. Haygood was strong, effective and encouraging; and Dr. Vincent, who had not been with woman movements was beautiful and vigorous. Not a single nonsensical or sentimental word about women—so I was extremely happy.”
She had a power of imparting enthusiasm by reason of her own heart warmth, which she little realized, and a quick perception of the needs of the work at different points, and of the help which might be rallied for their speediest relief. But she always questioned her own leadership qualities, and it was a characteristic sigh of self-despondency that she breathed to a friend in the words: “You do not know how unworthy and useless I feel myself to be when I think of how much and how great is the work to be done.” She was at all times unwilling to be considered as other than nominally its leader, and as the life current slackened in the vigor and vivacity of its flow, and the burden of responsibility weighed more heavily upon her heart, she came to feel that she must resign a position that demanded the courage and endurance of abounding health, and involved frequent withdrawals from the home which she grew reluctant to leave even for the briefest journeys. She had, therefore, yielded this presiding chair to her reluctant successor before the bereaving day came which took her from our earthly life.
But we were talking, dear boy, of the time when your grandmother came home from the larger Washington world, bringing with her a happy energy of life that soon made Spiegel Grove thoroughly astir with breezy existence. Since she then opened the wide door of its hospitality many have been the rushes of cheerful life through it. There was soon a coming and going of her sons’ good comrades, sure to go forth again from your grandmother’s presence her loyal knights. Merry-making girls from their boarding schools, the gay companions of her so tenderly cherished only daughter—flocked about her with their claims on her bright sympathy, their confidence, and their hovering beaux.
The wedding of your grandmother’s near and dear young cousin, in this, the home-for-years of that cousin’s affection, made one of its hearthstone consecrations. Here were held the weekly, fortnightly, or holiday clan-gatherings, recalling daughter or sons to the home from which educational or business claims had withdrawn them. How essential these family reunions were to her supreme contentment her letters show, as this sentence from one of them reveals: “Saturday evenings Birchard and Webb generally get home to spend the Sabbath, and when they fail us there is a homesick family for the boys.”
On a wedding anniversary of the father and mother (their thirty-fourth) their eldest son, your own papa, dear boy, began the branching new home life in Toledo with the new dear daughter of your grandmother’s heart whom he brought that day to her loving welcome.
In the after years that came with their bestowals of one and then another winsome baby (that latter one, your roguish self, Sir Boy), your grandmother, and indeed the homestead conclave, began to be drawn away on occasion, into that new family circle forever forming around a grandchild’s cradle.
The experience of adoring grandmotherhood had come to her as the crowning grace of her life. But its grief came, too, when your baby brother, with his birthright claim to your grandfather’s name—Rutherford—crossed the threshold into the Life Beyond, just as toddling steps were beginning to lead him out of infancy toward boyhood.
Of all the manifold gladnesses that your grandmother diffused, there are lingering memories forever floating through the grand old house, like those trailing wisps of smoke that idle in the air, serenely reminiscent of the soft gray plumes tossed off by some saluting rail-road engine long since out of sight.
One of her train of young adorers, has lately brought out from some inner corner of his heart, into the beguiling gleam of a quiet fireside evening, a lovely memory-medallion of the dear “Aunt Lu.” Three twelve-year-olders, grand-niece and two grand-nephews, arrived at her door one winter afternoon for a vacation frolic. She greeted them at the entrance steps in a stately gown, its grand train shimmering along the porch, that they might be happy in feeling that their arrival was “an occasion” held in such honor by “Aunt Lu” that, as they described it, she had “dressed up” for them. This was the figure on the obverse side of the charming medallion; the reverse showed that same “Aunt Lu” their comrade of the next morning, ready for a tramp with them through the dripping woods on a showery day, and equipped for roughing it, in rubber boots, a sagging old felt hat, and a rough coat, umbrella overhead, a costume donned as exclusively for their delight as had been the royal raiment of the night before.
Your grandmother felt a caressing interest in all living creatures—the “beasties” as the Scotch call them, in the cuddling diminutive which seems to fold them closest into the comforting care of the glebe life. A Noah’s collection of them surrounded her in Spiegel Grove. The Alderneys [dairy cattle] turned their large, dreamy eyes toward her whenever she approached, and shook their plump sides in a clumsy, swinging jog trot to her, for special dispensations of salt. The ducklings felt her careful eye upon them from the moment that they rashly cracked their eggshells to venture out of doors, tempt their fate as full fledged prodigals, and explore whether life was worth the living.
Here favorite greyhound—Grim—had a stateliness so acknowledged through the countryside, that when he chose to assume possession of the middle of the road, the teamsters turned aside. But, alas for Pride! Between the railroad tracks Grim stood a single time, and challenged a fiery, snorting locomotive-demon, which did not stop! The end of Grim!
Years before these days of a Golden Prime, a large, smoothly rounded stone had been brought from its river bed and dropped on the lawn under Spiegel sunbeams and shadows. During the unnumbered centuries of its river retirement, its slightly flattened upper side had been shaped into a bowl-like hollow by some vagary of the chafing, whirling waters, and in this up-held basin the rain drops were caught and held, as blue jays and robins knew full well, for they daily sought it, to dip their bills in it, or to take their morning baths. There are times when the rain fails to descend on either the evil or the good, and then your grandmother was sure to see that the brown stone bowl was filled faster than it could be emptied by the greedy draughts of foot-sore, dusty dogs, or the timorous, swift sips of nimble squirrels, or by all the thirsty creatures that came to drink. One of her letters shows her untiring delight in the birds that began a twittering tree-top stir and bustle of nest building, as soon as the sheltering branches were still from their rough tossing by boisterous winter winds. Looking-on, sympathetically, she writes of these spring settlers: “We have great numbers of birds—robins, red-headed woodpeckers, bluejays, the thrush—and yesterday we saw the smart red bird with its mate, and just now in my window the oriole. Then the squirrels are as saucy and happy as can be. All these are joys.”
Her daily remembering care had lavishly adopted an unaccountable, ever changeably-intermingling flock of pigeons, tame dwellers in Spiegel dove cotes. Every morning your grandmother used to call them fluttering about her, in hungry eagerness for the dropping kernels from her hand, by a long, cooing, melancholy cry, which, in a single cadence seemed to give utterance to all the plaintiveness of all her doves, and went ringing upwards through the grand old tree tops, and in and out among Spiegel’s seven gables, where, forevermore, those who love her hear the haunting echo-call.
A dove, flying on wounded wing, once came drooping slowly through the summer sunshine to her feet, and was lifted gently, and tended caressingly by her till its hurt had been soothed away.
Whatever her surroundings, your grandmother had a winning, magnetic presence which made her their radiating center. Life both glowed and sparkled in her. Her vivacity of interest in all around her was an inspiring influence; through it, she gave herself and thereby her wonderful vital force imparted energy, and started currents of endeavor all around her, afterwards unfailingly sustained by the quick observation and responsive sympathy with which she shared all difficulties and appreciated all successes.
Truly a rare education was your grandmother’s! a liberal education, indeed! The teaching of Nature, of Books, of Action, all were hers!—and these, the three grades of Life’s full School course, as Emerson names them. Widely inclusive were her lessons from an experience so varying in situation and responsibility, and broad and deep was the culture of mind and heart which they bestowed on her.
As to her Religion, thus much we do know: God dwelt in the secret place of her heart’s innermost shrine, for his Love, and Light and Truth shone in her life, and through it upon all around her, to comfort, vitalize and bless. Her name was sure to be inscribed by Life’s Recording-angel among those best-lovers of the All-Father, who have best loved the brothers and sisters of their Humanity.
In the summer of 1889, June the twenty-first, your grandmother was stricken by paralysis. Azrael, Angel of Death—“Help of God” sent to us when life faints utterly away, to up-bear us to Himself—entered into the Spiegel home over which the sunshine rolicked all that day with chasing forest-tree shadows.
He came invisibly, and stood in patient tarrying by her side four days and nights, then, touched her lips with his softly silencing finger, gently closed her eyes, and bore her away from all our weeping into Paradise.
“Aunt Lu is coming! Aunt Lu is coming!” had been the joyful cry of children that had oftenest welcomed her happy arrivals at their homes. And, instinctively we listened for a diviner heavenly echo of children’s greeting from the three little ones of her own, and the grandchild-darling, who were already awaiting her in the Paradise of God.
With the dear children clustering around her there, in the wonted way of her sweet earthly life, we may be sure that she felt herself to be in the loving presence of the Father of All, and Heaven was already become, for her, The Home.
It is into a large Life ife that she has entered—not a vague Emptiness by the Fullness of Life—of Joy immortal, beautiful and rich with all that “God has prepared for them that love Him.”
Thus has the Angel of our Bereavements borne our vanished Beloveds—away from us, till we follow—into the World Unseen. But how near to us is that Invisible Country—or, whether lying close around us—who may know? Only, for us, there remains the yearning toward it, and toward our dear ones gathered there.—
“God be with us, till we meet again!”
One of the scenes of that strange morning of her funeral when the air felt unaccustomed, and “even the sunshine had a heart of pain”—enacted its involuntary pathos on the long broad porch that “marches” with the homestead’s wide-spread front. There a score of the Twenty-third boys had gathered from Ohio towns and villages and farms, in waiting—with the homage of their farewell salutation to the reverence Mother of the Regiment.
Drawn to them, in the grief which was the order of that funeral day, throughout the land, he spoke, who had commanded them under the inspiration of that same unfailing sympathy from which had wrought, in them, a brave obedience to orders. “Old Times,” with their broidering reminiscences of camping days that she had shared in, made the subject of the broken talk he drifted into, with them. With a wavering voice that often dropped abruptly into silence, your grandfather told, by, chance, of the troubled anxiety with which your grandmother had yearned over a young soldier in the hospital with typhoid fever. The boy had been with the regiment just long enough to feel the spirit within him smitten down and slain by the heart-sick longing for his home. The Doctor had grappled with the fever-fiend and thrust him out, but the subtle spirit-poisoning, which made the patient numb to all interest in living, defied his medical skill. Your grandmother busied herself about the boy, carrying him daily dainty dishes to tempt his listless appetite, which stirred him only to a shadowy smile, and the patient, grateful endurance of but a single spoonful from her hand—a meek effort that was followed always by the piteous, weak-voiced protest: “I’d like to eat it to please you, Mrs. Hayes, but I guess I can’t.” After a night when sore perplexity about him had stolen her sleep away, she resolved to go to the sick boy in the morning, and stay by his side relentlessly till her dominant will should have made him think of some desired eatable, and confess what it might be. So she did her next-day coaxing—“What did your mother use to cook, at home, that would taste “good” to you? Think! I shall stay here till you tell me, for there must be something, somewhere, that you crave. We are only twenty-four hours away from Cincinnati, and you shall have anything you like from there.” For long, he answered only, “It is n’t any use—there is n’t anything that you can get for me.” But her pertinacity wore out at last his resisting feebleness, and he confessed—“If I could only have a roasted onion! That would taste so good—so good! She exclaimed over in joy, “Then you shall have one to-morrow, or the next day—as soon as we can send for it.” He only shook his head again in relapsed indifference—“It is n’t any use—The Company’s boys have hunted the country over, and couldn’t find one anywhere!” It was true, that, longing as they did for vegetables, the scurvy-threatened soldiers had scoured the region over, in search of them with scant result. But your grandmother’s sympathetic energy could be imperious in its order “To the Rescue!” and after she had spurred a sergeant to thorough regimental search, he reported that one company had a few onions the week before. At once she sent two soldiers speeding on horse back to the farm eight miles away, where the week-before onion-foraging had been successful, and they came back to the hospital tent bringing two precious onions—the whole farm-store of them. When she had carefully roasted them, and carried her trophies to the boy, his eyes sparkled and life kindled in him with his finally aroused and now impatient appetite.
The onions eaten, there came a relish for other food, and at last came strength, and his heart shook off his home-sickness and desired life, and he was well once more. The story ended, and your grandfather added: “She often wondered about that boy—what his name, forgotten by her, might be—and where was that long-for home?” And he said, “I wish I knew.” The soldier on whom his tear filled eyes chanced to rest, looked behind him with a peculiar smile—and then all the men seemed to be turning toward one who stood in the corner weeping. When this soldier could check his sobs, he said “I was that boy! and when I heard Mrs. Hayes was dead, I told my wife that I would go to her funeral if I had to walk all the way from Ashland to California !”
It was June the twenty-eighth—her funeral day! That one day out of all the years when it befell that she was to us the Departed! for that one day departed indeed, from us. How else could it have been that the life tide of kindred, friends of her heart’s large embracement from near and far, and many personally strangers bringing homage to her name, surged through Spiegel, the long day, and she lay in her own wide hall—white-robed and statue-still, Death’s majesty enveloping her—unregarding!—while they tarried with bowed heads for the last memory-gathering look upon her face. Unresponsive to their tears? She, the Tender-hearted! Her languid eyelid never lifted for return of loving glance dropped down? No winsome smile on intermingling flowers from over all the land?—sent by earth’s mighty ones and lowlier loving hands, to breathe together through the house, heart incense for her! Unheeded?—even the scores of little children lifted from among the thronging grown-up people that they might see that sweet face in its unmoved tranquility! Asleep, was she? Ah! out of any sleep, had her heart awakened, surely, to such stir of other hearts—awakened and made sign! That day, her life had slipped away from us. She was afar, and we, alone—in Spiegel! Shadowed house and sunlit grove were filled, and overflowing all along the country roads, with lonely people missing her! Yet, even there, and then, was felt her spirit presence. Only while we looked and wondered at the vesture-body of its withdrawal—so strangely immobile, did we wholly lose her. How beautiful it was! but She, gone from it! And yet in that most desolated hour there was the touch of her influence throughout that be-thronged home. Doors and windows were open as she would have them, and through them freely flowed the sunshine, and the voices, and the innumerable folk-stir. The Psalm read, was of the green pastures and still waters of his enfolding care. The hymns sung, were her favorites: “My Jesus as Thou Wilt;” “It is Well, it is Well With My Soul,” and “God be With Us Till We Meet Again.” The prayer was one of thanksgiving and trustful entreaty The address was by the Minister of her marriage ceremony, who had known her from childhood, and who, from his revering reminiscence, drew an inspiring lesson.
Then came the softened tread through the Hall of many men Grand Army comrades—“marching by, as one said, “for a farewell look at the beautiful face of her who had been the veteran’s steadfast friend.”
They entered the Grove led by a martial band playing “Auld Lang Syne” and “Nearer My God to Thee.” On leaving the house they ranged themselves in line each side the drive-way, and stood with uncovered heads as the funeral cortege moved past them.
Her own Twenty-third boys formed themselves in Guard of Honor about the hearse. Thus, followed by long carriage line, the precious burden was borne through forest Cathedral-aisle and out of the entrance-way become her Gate-of-Departure. The Grand-Army comrades had turned, as the last carriage passed them, and, in order to meet and head the procession onward, had marched through Spiegel Grove in the opposite direction, by the old “Harrison road” past “Grandfather Webb’s tree,” which, the family tradition has taught you, dear boy, is where your ancestor-soldier, of Harrison’s little army, rested, on his march through these woods in Ohio’s early days. To Oakwood Cemetery moved the funeral train, to strains of the martial music so dear to your grandmother’s ear.
There, the reverent hands of sons and nephews lowered the coffin into a grave companioned only, in that large circle lot, those two little children—Manning Force, her youngest child laid there in 1874, and Rutherford Birchard Hayes, her first grandson, who had died the November before, and had been brought to this last resting-place at her request.
“I cannot help thinking,” she had said, and had smiled through her tears, “that it will be less lonely for little Manning.”
Again to Spiegel Grove came the carriages, and strange! the sunlight had not gone out forever! It was only drooping and softened in the waning afternoon, and, in dying, let fall a promise of sunrise and fair morrow! The reluctant, lingering groups still peopling Spiegel, both near the house and remotely, slowly fell apart and disappeared. There came a few momentary bustles of departure—presently the twilight fell—the stars came out—a remnant—few drew together on the porch, and lo! she was there! Come again! a loving and beloved presence—forevermore the inspiration of life in that home. Only in the funeral strangeness of her dear Spiegel, had she fled from it! The house is, ever since, bright and sweet with her diffused light. In and around it, life is busy with her imparted quick vitality. To that home she gave too much of herself ever to be wholly missing there. Plans of her making shaped the addition to the house which has been finished since her death. She inhabits there as vividly as the older rooms do know her. About the architectural promise of their early paper-outlines she delighted in weaving fancies; and in her penciled memorandum of suggestions about the dining room, her Fanny’s room, the window over the front door “to be changed in some cheerful, pleasant way,” underneath the initials of her signature, she has written those words: The contemplation of the above is very delightful to me, on this 28th of Jan. (1889). Thinking over it and studying the plan, I wonder if it will ever be—or will it be in my lifetime?”
I fancy your grandmother, in such musing times, may have sung in her inmost soul:
“Life! we’ve been long together—
Through sunny and through cloudy weather—
‘Tis hard to part when friends are dear;
Perhaps ‘t will cause a sigh—a tear!
Then steal away—give little warning!
Chose thine own time—
Say not goodnight, but in some fairer clime
Bid me good morning!”
And in the drooping of an eyelid, her “Good Morning” came!