KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS
Life at Laurel Town in Anglo Saxon Kansas by Kate Stephens

ON A FARM NEAR LAUREL TOWN



DIONYSUS IN KANSAS

Make glad!
The Lord of Growth has come;
The sun has half his northward journey done,
And in deep-buried roots moves the Spirit!

On the dark-earth fields
Fires of last year's husks the farmer kindles--
Sacrifices to the Lord of Growth;
Smoke rises to the bluer heavens;
While hawk and solemn crow
Cut with long wings the sparkling air.
And little birds do sing "Rejoice!
Rejoice! the Springing Life is here!"

Mounting sap brightens trunk of tree and vine;
And every tip-most twig swells out its leaf-buds.
The peach puts forth her bitter-tinted pink;
Redbud empurples for each wooded stretch;
And, by the magic of the Lord of Spring,
Stand orchards, very ghosts of winter snows,
White-cloaked in blossom.

Wheat, O sisters, greens in our rolling glebe!
And corn, O brothers, springs from its golden seed!

For Sun-Warmth and wind-strength and Praise-God-Rain
Are abroad in our land;
Three builders of worlds, with the Spirit,
Go forth hand in hand.

Make glad!
The Lord of Growth has come;
The sun has near his northward journey run,
And in deep-buried roots moves Life-Ever-Living!

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ON A FARM NEAR LAUREL TOWN

I

From heights of Kansas City the country rolling westward gleamed like a Land of Beulah that spring my Father first saw it. War between the states had ended. Peace had come.

And a Kansas spring was burgeoning--the verdure of April, indescribably luscious May days, June air fragrant with wild grape blossoms and musical with stir of leaves. As the traveler watched and waited on Kansas City bluffs, and later turned his horse's head westward, the soil's promise of overmastering harvests delighted him.

A certain melancholy which broods over Kansas, greater in the western than eastern part, agenius loci, induced, perhaps, by the seemingly unending stretch of fertile earth, a broad sky shutting down like an inverted bowl and suggesting the impenetrability of heaventimes conveying by massing clouds, fierce winds and rains, vaulting of lightning and voices of thunder, the impression that demiurgic forces are about to unite and grind to nothing the puny works of man reverse of the loving exuberance of Kansas nature affected the traveler slightly.

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Then, too, the people at the time of his coming settled, and settling, in this rich environment--a people for the most part of the blood of Anglo-Saxon statemakers, a democracy saving to the world the traditions and courage of their forefathers; ranchers and lovers of live stock, farmers and such fosterers of growing grain that, like the Hebrew Job of old, they never "let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockle instead of barley;" farmers as farms were in those days; not seeking to specialize, as in this of ours, but growing a little of every farm thing for their families' needs and comforts; having their own orchards, their own berry bushes, their own vegetable gardens, their own chickens, pigs, cows and even sheep.

Sometimes these people were children of frontier dwellers for generations, cradled in supplies so slender that they had developed a godlike energy, an amazing adaptability, and what it might be unjust to call insensibility to finer shadings and yet was not wholly stoicism of feeling.

Also there were the citizens--craft folks, professional folk, gathered in the community of tiny towns where no man owned material advantage over his neighbor, and therefore was not apt to assume to himself airs of superiority.

This people, identical in ethics and language, identical in political ends, my Father thought as free a democracy as the world had ever seen, alert of intellect,


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ON A FARM NEAR LAUREL TOWN

restless in experiment, inebriate of optimism, self-confident to an astonishing degree, earnest in our American faith in education and local self-government; and loyal to the ideas of our foreparents who looked upon government as a form to which they, exercising their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, contributed support and delegated their authority, not a system from which they might draw maintenance and patronage.

Parasitic peoples, those not led by spiritual vigor and spiritual truth, who go where wealth is merely because wealth is there, fervent solely for themselves, ignorant of the institutions of our country or disregardful of their meaning in any other significance than affording them a protected dwelling place and opportunity to make money; and also parasitic institutions which establish themselves and fatten on present human labor and accumulations of past labor--in those days, in Kansas, they were too few to count.

These two makers of environment, the magnificence of nature and the spirit of Anglo-Saxon state-makers, led my Father to cast his lot in the state when an invalidism settled upon him and made change of climate needful.

Years before, in New York, he was a lawyer with a lucrative practice. When President Lincoln sent out the call of the 15th of April, 1861, for seventy-five


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thousand volunteers, however, he at once locked his office-doors and went enlisting men for defense of the Union.

Not many days later his recruits assembled in the main street of the snug, little village as a bright spring morning and wives and children, and folks from the neighboring hills, were there to see. Drums beat attention, two or three men stepped forward and presenting him with a captain's sword buckled it round his waist, and the company set forth for war.

"Marched from Martinsburg [Virginia] to Bunkerhill," he wrote in his diary, under July 15th. "Marched to Charlestown," July 17th. "Marched to Harper's Ferry," July 20th. "Battle of Lovettsville," August 8th; and two days later, "Went to Baltimore sick."

When able to travel he came home "suffering from fever, neuralgia and general prostration resulting from severe service," the army-surgeon stated. By merit of home, and rest, he so far recovered as to resume practice of law.

But after a couple of years the doctors found him invalided by war's aftermath, tuberculosis of the lungs. They gave him "two years to live" (a child standing by overheard their sentence), and sent him south for benefits of open-air healing.

The south, totally disrupted, proved hostile to his family traditions. He saw he must seek an environ


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ON A FARM NEAR LAUREL TOWN

ment other, in spiritual lines, if he were once more to have wife and children with him. So, urging his horse northward delaying sometime in Missouri because of its attractive face, but there, also, finding hatred of his home people, he finally came to Kansas City, and from its heights looked out over fat lands rolling westward.

Country life Pater had always loved. Years before, when practicing law in New York, a farm some thirty miles from his office delighted him, and to its pleasantnesses he would often go, spending the day in the open, laying out work for its men. Besides gratifying his taste for close touch with the land's beauty and for thought, such outings increased his frail body's strength. And now, when need of spending his days out of doors had shut him off from his profession, he determined to be a farmer. In those times farming was a manner of living, not a trade, not a bartering and bargaining, but an independent existence, desirable because more self-reliant, more nearly autonomous than any other passage through life.

The land he chose for our home, summing about two hundred and thirty acres, lying northward of and adjoining Laurel Town, had many features unusual to a Kansas farm; for instance, in its upland and lowland. And from the main-traveled road on the west line, to the Kansas river and skirting willows on the east, it held some especially lovely spots.


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Wooded ground which had never known the plough lay on its southern border, along a little amber stream called "brewery brook," and on the north a like band of primeval forest stretched from highway to river. Nature had planted the woods after her sweet fashion of making her garden, and in the shadow of the trees wild geranium and columbine blossomed, and wind-flowers nodded, and purple violets carpeted the ground in spring.

The most striking figure of the south woods was a black walnut standing with a girth of toward twenty feet--rising in majesty and aloofness so apart from its brothers, and their shade, that the sun had rounded its branches to an almost perfect globe. A little way off a ravine intersecting this woodland ran north and south, and a sycamore, laid low by some wind, had spanned the gully. Upon the sycamore's satiny bark we walked across when river-waters filled the ravine in time of flood, too, warm afternoons in spring, when frogs were chorusing and water-bugs skating, I found a good place for studying Virgil.

Such little localities as these Pater especially loved, and, as winters passed and springs neared, he spent many a day in their company, himself gaining vigor; here rescuing from deformity some young tree caught by freakish winds and pinned under a weight, there slipping pruning knife at a root he knew to be noxious.

Than the coming of spring in Kansas nothing can


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be more beautiful. It is day after day of perfection. Winds do blow over rolling lands. Even in February, as if conscious of a mighty secret they purpose later to reveal. They begin a hollow murmur, and dip down chimneys, and slap house-tops and loosen cornices. Not all days are calm.

Neither are all days warm. Frosts dart from upper airs.

But tree-trunks brighten, and the onward push of beauty is so superb -- color in sky and budding things; the very soil gleams back at you overwhelming in voice of lowing calf and whinnying mare, amorous birds and wild, sweet-scented winds, there is no telling in words.

All leading to May -- the earth inwrought with violets, flowering star-grasses, mandrake, yellow blossoms of the oxalis, native blue phlox. And above this carpet from the Eternal's loom, tree and shrub leafed in rose-velvet or fresh green, thrushes fluting, mourning dove lamenting passion to mate, and the meadowlark

"Scattering his loose notes in the waste of air."

With June ahead! Ripe-eared wheat-fields shadowed by clouds drifting across the sky. Lakes of corn, their dark-green blades swishing drowsily, like little waves lapping pebbly shores, and whispering prophecies of September kernels. Myriads of bees booming


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their wares (just as brokers do) as they pass from clover-globe to purple clover-globe and then whirl away to hive their stores.

Where, round a fecund earth, can you find sight more enchanting! even of sapphire blue on-spurring fruits of an ambitious, up-sending soil and their message for the furthering of man; standing from dawn till that veiling hour when grey sphinx- moth and ruby-throated humming-bird search their supper in the cup of the trumpet-flower.

Those closings of the day, at times, especially in May and June, forerun by rainbows, we often gathered, like a group of Parsees, to watch the sky's tumbling, tumultuary vapors -- billows crimson, golden, amethyst, sea-green and soft greys shading to black; or a gleaming globe, unattended by cloud seraphim, sinking in solitary splendor behind the western hills.

We also knew early mornings in summer when the sun struck the river, and brightened its waters till they shone out behind the fringing willows and made a silver ribbon binding the land. And in depths of winter, too, when "Phoebus 'gan to rise," we watched for the two misty sun-dogs who would now and then start him on another circuit of the heavens.

One of our family cults was finding the earliest dog-tooth violet. Days in February we would notice winter silences giving way to those mysterious voices which bespeak the spring theophany near; and then


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we would slip off without others knowledge to turn leaf-mould in the woods, or to lift fallen boughs from warm bank-sides, heckling our brains to recall where we had noted the sturdiest plants. As weeks went on our hunt grew more thorough, and sometimes of a biting morning, we plunged out of doors to see if the plant we had chosen had not, coaxed by warm airs of the day before, put forth a pale bell, nodding now in spite of bitter skies. In this contest Pater commonly came off victor, and offered the firstling, eyes dancing and fine mouth smiling to our: "Youare a winner, Daddy! Where you found it I don't see." From that hour spring had come.

The legended redbud also marked the year's incoming tide. I still recall mornings when report went at breakfast that one of the trees had garmented itself in imperial colors, amid a group of pawpaws and coffee-beans down on the south bank -- to one redbud slipping roots in level ground you will find an aspiring ten loving to climb the broken side of a hill. Redbuds bespeak Kansas. That April morning the train rolled up the valley bearing us to our new home, our fascinated eyes saw first the Kaw silvering on our left, and then, on the right, ridges far and woods near blotched with the purple of the lovely tree.

Many another growth witnessed to the beauty through which nature speaks in Kansas. On a little rise between our house and Laurel Town, at the edge


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of the highway, just outside the fence and therefore public property, a wild crab lifted its warty trunk. It was a sturdy little fellow, the tree, not so tall as wild crabs sometimes grow, but making up for its dwarfish stature by a particularly beautiful and symmetrical umbrella of branches and foliage. We loved the wilding, just as you love some cherished growth, and Pater protected its sturdiness, so far as he was able; and also its comrade, the weaker mandrake, that grew close to and straight up from its foot.

A number of springs, as we drove to and from town, we watched for the coming of the crab-blossoms and mandrake, and when they did set out their wonders, we would climb from whatever we were riding in, buggy, phaeton or red wagon, to look closer at the pallor of mandragora hiding herself in her own heavy shade, and the crab-buds holding forth their auroral pink. Somehow we never thought of picking or tearing the blossoms would have seemed desecration; an expectancy of the future and regard for others' rights forbade.

But at last, in an election, a new roadmaster (I think that was the name the law gave him) came into power -- a man, I fancy, who endeavored to do his duty in whatever place it pleased heaven to call him, and to do it thoroughly. Leastwise, one day, when we were all gone about our work and no one by to defend the helpless, this roadmaster came with a squad of male-


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factors (they- called themselves roadmakers) and they cut down the crab and drove a scoop shovel over the mandrake.

Back in the centuries, ancestors of ours had a legend that mandrakes cry when wrenched from their soil.

"And shrieks like mandrakes' torn out of the earth,
That living mortals, hearing them, run mad,"

said Romeo's Juliet.

What wail did our mandrake send forth that morning, I wonder!

But those road-makers did not run mad. They were mad before they destroyed the beauty nature had for reasons nature alone knows, paired in intimacy. Barren ignorance only pardons their act. They gained nothing by their havoc, save another stretch of plastic clay, ready for gullying by Kansas down-pours; not protected even by such substitutes as nature in helpful mood is able to plant in Kansas -- sumach and buckberry, mullein and butterfly weed, and the old, native blue-stem grass.

The cutting off of crab and mandrake, beauty-bringing, not offending, proved one of our early disillusionings.


II

We had gone to the farm to stay by it. Pater was not satisfied with all he found at hand, however. He


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remembered with affection growths of his old home, and he sent to Rochester, Philadelphia, Marblehead and other nursery-centers for many a tree, shrub, vine and vegetable. Orchard planting with him was almost a passion; and he imported varieties of trees he thought fitted for the Kansas climate.

One afternoon I recall, when he and another lover of apples whose name I am not so fortunate to bear in memory -- how the two walked about young plantations in the mellow fall sunshine discussing sorts new to pomologists, affectionately rubbing palm over a sapling's bark, opening knife now and then to strike off a sucker, and finally picking first fruits and going with heaping hands and pockets to the dining room for sampling. They had kindly included me in the excursion, and after I got silver-bladed knives for cutting the fruit (for that metal would resist the acid of the apple and not defect the taste), they invited my opinion as to flavor, tenderness and succulency of meat, and other points worth attention in the product of Eve's goodliest tree.

Among his importations of beauty, and not of practical use, that we regarded with special affection was a fringe or smokebush which Kansas suns forced to luxuriant proportions; and among roses a "perpetual bloomer," as catalogues say, which we knew by the name of "Madame Laffay." The rose had a modest turn of petal, as well as a deep pink color and


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fragrant scent, and served Pater in his habit of picking a flower and laying it by the breakfast or dinner plate of some member of the family. The tray that bore food to the one of us confined to a sick-room often carried his greetings of a "Madame Laffay" -- one such tray laden with tender shoots he had searched the asparagus bed to find, I remember; and there beside the toast lay his good wishes, the rose.

In years since then all these growths have perished only trees and shrubs of practical value, but of touching history. Where stood an orchard from which winds of early May bore through our house the fragrance of apple blossoms and whitened the grass with fallen petals, succulent alfalfa was lately growing. But he who cut down the orchards (alas!) had at least one pleasure -- for we learned long before, at times trimmers were lopping branches, that apple-tree wood burns brightly in a fireplace, and when the wind curls down the chimney of a gusty evening in November, and sends whiffs of smoke into the room, its scent is delicious.

Although he had bought other farms lying across the river, on the home-place Pater spent his love of the growth of things. Renters, testifying to their skill in husbandry and vaunting the richness of the soil, might bring watermelons weighing more than fifty pounds from "White Turkey"; or from "Hawk's Nest" bags of astonishing yams and corn in its day of perfection


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for the hungry tooth (such ears as our Negro friends used to call "roastin-years"), nothing could swerve his loyalty from the homeplace.

In propagation he wanted to improve breeds, and he introduced strains of blood new to Kansas. Mares of good pedigree he brought from the old New York home; and cows of Shorthorn variety he imported to better beef grown for market. Each offspring of these animals we rejoiced in and would discuss through a mealtime what name it should bear.

None of us, however, seemed so successful as Pater in hitting the right descriptive; as "Miggles," after Bret Harte's heroine, for a grey colt; "Beauty" for a Shorthorn calf, perfect in color and outline; "Lucy Lightfoot" for a gazelle-like, chestnut-sorel colt. A bull he named "Robert Burns" because of certain lines of the poet about a rantin', roarin' laddie. In one instance alone do I remember that I succeeded with a name-- when a tiger-striped tramp-cat took up abode with us and I dubbed her "Sallie Brass" because, especially in face, she so much resembled that heroine of Dickens; and, on looking at the cat, friends, with a burst of laughter, said they easily traced the likeness.

Pigs our farm bred by scores, and although about those interesting and sagacious animals, who loved their freedom of broad fields and crunched yellow corn with amazing gusto, my knowledge is somewhat hazy, I know I am safe in saying they were of the Berkshire


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breeding -- yet in my mind's eye I seem, also, to see certain smooth sides of the Poland China.

The comeliness of the piglings in their early days, their slickest of black satin skins, their shrewdest of wits, their cunningest of eyes and hungriest of "tummies" -- how could one forget the piglets! What a sight it was when a mother threw herself on her side with half-shut eyes of rest and satisfaction in motherdom, and all her brood fell to rooting, squealing and crowding for their suppers! Was ever natural sight more mirth-provoking to on-lookers watching over the fence, or satisfactory to actors themselves! With what appetite did the tiny, scareful scamperers pump their milk! -- and when they had their surfeit run grunting to a bundle of straw and pack together for sleep!

In poultry Pater brought in brilliant-plumaged Spanish pheasants. The shell of their eggs had a peculiar translucence, which, we used to say, made them look like pearls. Each industrious hen was apt to meet her duty of laying an egg a day, except in midwinter. But then we may have been gifted with that power Auntie Lee said her owner ascribed to northerners: "De Yankees cozen de hens to make four eggs out o' three."

Through our Father's fondness for animals and household pets we had always various sorts indoors as well as out. Our adventures with their individualities


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would fill a quarto. Most wonderful of them all, I think, was a little hybrid who inherited a half-shaggy tail and upright ears from his milk-white, finely proportioned, Spitz mama, Nipha (named after the Greek word for snow), and for the rest the short hair and colors of his black-and-tan terrier sire. That he came to be an important member of the family would seem all the odder, if you knew my Father's care for fine strain in his dumb friends. But this little fellow won his way by sheer truth and sincerity, his affection and unswerving loyalty; qualities he doubtless inherited from his lady dam.

He answered to John in everyday life, but his full-sized title was Jonathan Edwards, because, just as the distinguished divine of that name, at an exceedingly precocious age, interested himself in his days' burning question of freedom of the will, so this black-and-tan terrier, when a few weeks old, finding himself alone in the library, fell to riddling a pamphlet which treated nineteenth-century views of Liberty and Necessity.

As the little creature grew in months and years, he came to be the canniest of all dumb creatures we had ever known. His knowledge passed canniness as uncanny. All things touching life about him he understood. Even if, knowing his eyes were shining and upright ears listening, you in circumlocutory phrase asked the man to bring up your horse at a certain


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hour. John knew; and just about that hour he would have pressing business calling him out of the house.

When he had induced you to open the door, and with apparent indifference and dignified slowness had walked to the edge of the porch, he would, after a moment's leisurely survey of the landscape, set out clipping for the recesses of a hedge a little distance away. You would turn your horse's head toward town and drive past the hedge. Then John would suddenly materialize. If you did not want his company, you could not force him back, tell the truth as you might.

At last, wearied of exhorting him settled on his haunches and eying you with a countenance which said, "Suppose you have done with all this chinning and go on" finally you drove forward, he would drop in the rear of your phaeton and pay whatever visits you paid, going in with you, sitting close to your knee, and listening with only an occasional yawn. In spite of the yawn he may not have found your wit so intolerably dull; "When I play with my cat," said Montaigne, "who knows whether I do not make her more sport than she makes me?"

After my Father went on the bench, John seemed to find he must accompany the Judge every day court sat and roads were not muddy -- not in muddy weather as he was exceedingly clean about his person, and such days he would look drearily down the road and stay behind. Keeping clean was an instinct of his.


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When occasion had forced him in the wet Kansas clay, he would glance from his feet to you and stand with a deprecatory expression on his sensitive face, till, from sheer pity you fell to and helped him restore the neatness he loved.

A storm might come when he was in Laurel Town. Then, oftenest, he would drop away from his master, take the sidewalk direct to my sister, Mrs. Green's house, announce himself by a characteristic pawing at an entrance, and when the door opened go in and pass the night as her guest, staying sometimes more than one night if the roads kept bad; but in three days, even with "mud more 'n bootleg deep" (as one of our black aunties once described the highway) picking his way home with crestfallen looks and pleas of forgiveness in every line of his small body. He could not ride in a wagon because its motion upset him.

As I have intimated, John had a most extraordinary sense of time the time of day if, when my Father was holding court, the usual hour for adjournment had passed, the little rascal would issue from a private room, and go to the Judge and strike him with a forepaw on the knee. Lawyers practicing in the court told me this, and that Pater would pat the dog's head and answer, "Yes, John, after a while;" when John would stifle his impatience with another nap.

John as house-dog companioned an out-door collie


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named Tony Weller. Between the two lay an unswerving affection and days in the colder months, when John stayed at home, Tony would come upon the porch and invite him to go hunting was excessively fond of the Nimrod business. In such weather they commonly planned their chase through the long windows (Tony on the outside, as I said, John within with forepaws on the window sill and hind feet on the floor,) and by varying their tones, turning and twisting eyes and ears and heads, wagging tails, lolling out tongues and making other subtle motions of the body, seemingly fitted details to a T; sometimes they even rubbed their noses on the window pane, but that may have been due to their anticipations of pleasures of the chase. Friends seeing their antics for the first time could hardly believe our explanation; "Tony is asking John to go hunting."

Tony did not initiate these expeditions. Before Tony's day Sir Nicholas Tubbus, a liver-colored, short-haired hunting dog had played the game with John he earned the name of Sir Nicholas because as a puppy he was the vera ould Nick, and Tubbus on the ground of his being a vat, a tub, for food, sometimes licking his platter clean and then curling round it and groaning from repletion. But Tubbus was more saturnine in preparing for the chase; in accord with the heavy, wordless, melancholy disposition common to those who eat large meals and chew their food little. Tony's


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Scottish vivacity and vigor gave more color to hunting preliminaries.

When they had settled as to the sally, John's habit was to ask whoever chanced at hand to open the doors for him, and the two dogs would trot away side by side. In colder weather they would commonly make a bee-line for a cornfield, and to some shack where rabbits had set up a bunny nursery and housekeeping.

At this juncture the cleverness of their planning became still clearer to mere humans, for John, much the smaller of the two, would enter the hole the rabbits had made in the shack, and upon his burrowing the game would start forth -- leaping into the lion's mouth, poor rabbits! For Tony, waiting in intense excitement at the door of the passage, caught each one and broke its back.

Oftenest they would bring what booty they had bagged up to the house, and, with gleaming eyes and considerable appearance of fatigue, lay it on the ground. John would then paw at a door, and on entering would attract attention by looking steadfastly in the face of whomsoever he found and running to door or window -- inviting to a view of the chase's trophies, that is. The hunters' gratification lay in their receiving approving pats and hearing themselves called "good boys" for their help in reducing the girdlers of young apple trees and other growths.

Little happenings like these lightened our days.


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III

Oversight of land, increase of basket and of flock bring the homier things to a farm's family. My Father's frail body and life-long habits of study permitted little physical labor. Driving a pair of horses from the seat of a mower and reaper one summer morning I remember seeing him; and the few times the picturesque threshing machine set up its engine and broad chute beside the stone barn, he stood not far off counting bags of wheat and jotting in his diary.

So with other members of the family lending a hand to the farming came about only by some spontaneity, some whimsey. Every day the children who were at home drove off to Laurel Town, preparing to enter, or already matriculated at the university. Treasures of other peoples, other centuries and other lands had captivated us; and our parents, loyal to the ardor for education inherited of their old New England blood, gave us free leash and furthered our zeal to their utmost.

Therefore, just as a story of a larger human society tells not only of its political economies, but also of its people's inward life, their spirit's wonder at this mysterious world, its beauty, its truth; so this halftold tale of the microcosm of a farm must, in some slight way, speak of the purely inward action of its dwellers. Mental and imaginative life to many natures is the best part of their days.


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We were readers. Books then appearing of George Eliot, Charles Reade, Wilkie Collins, Walter Besant, Victor Hugo, Ernest Renan and others to us; and periodicals from New York and Boston. Every week we anxiously waited the serialized "Mystery of Edwin Drood." And dark and unhappy was the June day that brought news of the passing of its author.

Charles Dickens dead! His pen fallen! How could all be as before! Why did the sun shine! Why the birds sing! That slender figure whose every movement we had watched in hushed awe! That mellow voice to which we had rapturously listened! Never again to tell "The Christmas Carol!" Never again the laughter-moving trial of Bardell versus Pickwick! Why should he, wonder-worker, lie motionless at Gad's Hill, and worthless lives cumber the earth? In the great scheme of justice how could it be;

But weeping under Kansas cottonwoods; questioning the sky; listening to the threnody of the winds' voices tears never yet restored a maker of the magic of literature. Not even when, in old Trinacria, his work-fellow lamented the end of the singing of Bion:

"Begin ye, Muses of Sicily, begin the dirge!"

Evenings on a farm were lacking in vacuous liveliness, entertainment such as merrier natures afford. Our short hours were of reading and music. Mother


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had a voice of unusual sweetness and sympathy, and she sometimes sang with us the carmina sacra we Americans inherit from colonial forebears.

Other times Pater would, with piano accompaniment take "Scots wha ha' wi' Wallace, bled," "Bonnie Doon," "Mary's Dream," "Sweet Afton." Then, too, humorous solos, such as "Vilikens and his Dinah;" and American melodies like "Uncle Ned," "Nelly Gray," "Old Folks at Home," and the soft-voiced

"On a floating scow of Ole Virginy,
I worked from day to day,
A-fishin' amongst the oyster-beds,
To me it was but play.
But now I'm old, and feeble too,
I cannot work any more;
So carry me back to Ole Virginy,
To Ole Virginy shore."

From one book, so aged that its music stood in "buckwheat" notes, we took English martial tunes, as "The Moonlight March," with Bishop Heber's

"I see them on their winding way,
About their ranks the moonbeams play;
Their lofty deeds and daring high,
Blend with the notes of victory;
And waving arms and banners bright
Are glancing in the mellow light."

I speak with particularity because I have heard foreigners, in our country to gain a better living than


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they could get in their birthlands, by speech and mannerisms constantly endeavoring to assure us that they were not Americans -- I have heard salad-minded foreigners (the salad suffering an overdose of vinegar) repeatedly declare we Americans had no music, "except Yankee Doodle," before they projected their egotism in our midst.

My sister played with brilliance concert pieces then in vogue, and had for her field Scottish melodies and Chopin's nocturnes; while I ranged in Irish and German songs and Beethoven's sonatas. Wagner's music was then wandering to us in fragments; which grew more meaningful when Mr. J. R. G. Hassard filled the New York Tribune with analyses of the first Bayreuth "Ring of the Nibelungs." English folk-songs and adaptations from operas we divided.

Evenings, too, and Sunday afternoons, Pater would now and then read aloud -- I recall times he chose the Book of Job; certain Psalms; Hamlet; Pope's "Essay on Man;" Burns' "Cotter's Saturday Night" and "Tam O' Shanter;" poems of Thomas Hood about Dame Eleanor Spearing's trumpet, "The Elm Tree," "Miss Killmansegg and her Precious Leg;" and stories from Washington Irving.

Along with my Father's view of life, and love for the fundamentals of life, lay unswerving devotion to truth and loathing of presence and shams. This, with him, included an abhorrence of the intellectual dis-


27

ON A FARM NEAR LAUREL TOWN

honesty which twists and distorts words from their commonly accepted meaning, and cloaks itself in phrases that cant or conceal their real significance.

In those times, the eighteen seventies, every day saw publication of hypotheses upon our world's evolution. Now, at first blush, those hypotheses seemed to war with the prevalent theology. Therefore their popularization met many anathemata from short-sighted or fear-stricken ecclesiasts; who rose as a man to the defense of Pliny.

Theories of evolution went on winning, however.

They appealed to those seeking enduring foundations, and not endeavoring to square their reasoning to some evanescent dogma. They appealed to thinkers in fundamental truths who were to create the spiritual atmosphere of heirs of the anathematizers -- heirs who have now come to realize that the hypotheses endow our earth, and all it carries, and has carried, with a divinity beyond the vision of any arrogance; spiritual heirs whom I (so great changes may one life witness!) lately heard preaching from a pulpit of old Trinity, New York, on Hebrews, xiii, 2, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares;" "angels," the sermon explained, being current theories of evolution. In all the then ferment and stir, calm thinking ruled at our household standing firm on truth,


28

LIFE AT LAUREL TOWN

first "angels," and ultimately all peoples come. Of the Eternal Power

"Which wields the world with never-wearied love Sustains it from beneath, and kindles it above,"

we spoke not readily. But the mighty works of that Power we watched with unceasing awe. Darwin's books, and Huxley's, and Tyndall's, found ready readers with us; no where more interested discussers. We brought the teachings into various, although necessarily minor, relations. For instance, Pater now and then called our attention to coloration in plants and animals, and constantly taught us to reason towards causes from effects.

One occurrence, but I hasten to add exceedingly minor, rises to memory at this moment: -- A September morning, the sun burning through a light, veiling fog, as he and I were driving I exclaimed, "I smell tuberoses in the wind."

"Let us keep to the scent till we find them," he answered.

At last we came upon a field of

"The sweetest flower for scent that blows."

"A field of tuberoses!" I cried, amazed at the exotic opulence of the acres. It seemed as if an aromatic plain, or fragrant garden of Lallah Rookh, unfolded before us; or better still the Feast of Roses at Cashmere.


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ON A FARM NEAR LAUREL TOWN

"To sell," the owner answered with a farmer's practicality, telling how he raised bulbs to market in colder latitudes.

Another day I found a dried field-mouse on the thorn of an osage-orange hedge, and we studied how a butcher-bird had probably caught the little pilferer and impaled it against his needs.

Many were such learnings.



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