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"My grandmother's governesses always came from Brattleboro, Vermont"
into the butter. I clearly remember the glories of that fly-brush. It was made of peacocks' feathers, which glowed and gleamed like jewels as little Liz slowly waved it to and fro. We had no flowers in the middle of the table in that early time. A silver castor, holding tall cut-glass bottles for vinegar, pepper, mustard, and catsup, occupied the place of honor. This was flanked by a silver dish, set rather high on four legs, in which reposed a huge lump of yellow butter. When I read that passage in Judges where Jael "brought forth butter in a lordly dish," I think of the butter-dish of my childhood.
All my father's sisters took music lessons, and my mother played and sang also, as did her two sisters. I know there were three pianos in the house, one in the parlor, one in the sitting-room, and one in the schoolroom. Perhaps this may account for
my father's detestation of the instrument; then, poor man, he had no ear for music and could not turn a tune.
In those days music was a necessary accomplishment to ladyhood. If you had any talent, well and good; if not, still well and good. To be a lady, you must play on the piano, and down you sat on the piano-stool and practised and counted your "one and two and three" through your weary daily hour. It was the same way with poetry. You might have no taste for it, but a lady should like poetry, and consequently we memorized whole books. I could at one time repeat "The Lady of the Lake," entire reams of Thomas Moore, many of Mrs. Hemans's shorter poems, an occasional fragment of Byron, who was thought terrifically wicked, and was consequently a great favorite. I did not begin Tennyson until much later in life, at the mature age of sixteen.
My grandmother's governesses always came from Brattleboro, Vermont. That may seem queer, but one succeeded the other from that town. The ladies, once imported, shared the family life out of school hours, and in due time married. Beside my grandmother's daughters, several young granddaughters and nieces came to school, so the big school-room built just across the court from the back porch was a gay scene. The last year we lived in Kentucky, for some reason we had no governess, and all the children drove into Stanford to school in what we called a rockaway. Once out of sight of the house, a young aunt, famous for her handling of the whip, stood up in the front of the carriage and drove with the driving of Jehu, so as to distance two boy cousins who rode to school on their ponies. The Lord was surely very good to us, for I do not recall that any were killed or maimed.
A room called the "lower room," because it was reached by steps from my grandmother's room, was where all the children congregated in the evening to crack nuts, eat apples, pop corn, and tell stories. The advantages of all these amusements for a lady of my years was questionable, as the "raw head and bloody bones" with which one young relative embellished her narration occasionally disturbed my sleep even at that time of my life, though it was delightful. Here I heard the story of the tar baby thirty years before Uncle Remus told it. And we sang many a hymn, which mammy called a "hime." In one the words ran thus:
Some said dat John de Baptist
I been listenin' all the night-time,
Who am dese dat am dressed in red?
Holy, Holy, my Lord's Holy!
He 'll improve it, I 've no doubt!
In more mature years it has dawned on me that "blood off the land" may have been intended for "blood of the lamb," but the negroes sang "Blood off the land."
Saturday night was a time of great festivity for the negro. It was then that he went up to the big house to get his pass. If he was married to a woman who was owned on a neighboring place, he was permitted to stay all night, returning before seven o'clock Sunday night. Or perhaps he was merely "co'tin' Marse Tom Breckinridge's Sallie," in which case he must return by twelve o'clock Saturday. Anyway, it was fatal to be caught out without a pass. My father always had a great distaste for men who called on Saturday or Sunday night. He said that a gentleman (laying great stress on the word) had leisure to call during the week. Forty years after slavery was done away with, to him they were still negro nights.
In such a composite household, in a State noted for its hospitality, there were, of course, a great many guests coming and going. The big bedroom
opening out of the parlor was called the "beaus' room," for every one who came at night was asked to stay all night. We lived about fifteen miles from Danville, and seven from Stanford, and though the turnpike made the house easy of access, the beaus were nevertheless always asked to stay all night, and this room, with two big beds in it (for four might elect to stay), was always kept in readiness for them. I can recall the mortification of my younger aunts, after we moved to Illinois, because my grandfather, with his old-fashioned Southern hospitality,
would come into the parlor and ask their beaus to stay all night.
Of course there were carriages on the place. I can recall the glories of a stately, satin-lined closed carriage sacred to my grandmother. It had a set of four folding-steps that a negro man, seated beside the driver, let down when he opened the carriage-door. A barouche and a rockaway were for more common use, but all the young women of the household rode on horseback. When they went to church they buttoned a linen riding-skirt round their slender waists, put on a cape to keep
off the dust, and rode to church, to be met by a dozen gallant hands eager to hand them down at the church horseblock. They slipped off the linen riding-skirt and cape, hung them on the horn of the saddle, and were all ready to be escorted up the aisle by the favored swain, who of course came home to dinner and perhaps stayed all night. My mother was married in Jamestown, a Cumberland Mountain village. The roads were cut from the solid rock of the mountain-side, and so steep was the winding way that her piano had to be brought twenty-five miles from the river by men who carried it on their shoulders. I have heard her sisters say she wore a white book muslin, made with a double skirt, with a wide hem to match the lower hem. She was married in April, and had the lovely white dogwood for her wedding blossoms. The next morning the bride of eighteen started with her husband, who was twenty years old, to ride on horseback to his father's home, where the "infare" was to be held, taking her trousseau in a pair of saddle-bags swung across the groom's horse, and a carpet-bag hung from the horn of her own saddle. She had a leghorn bonnet, tied modestly under her girlish chin by a pink ribbon. This leghorn bonnet was a bonnet worthy of the name; it was no ephemeral adornment for a single season. Costing the great sum of thirty dollars, it was expected to last a goodly time; and although it was my mother's wedding bonnet, I remember it well.
Ordinarily, a much-ruffled white sunbonnet guarded the ladies' complexions from spot or stain. These were the days when the complexion really flourished; no modern powders or paints would be countenanced. To say a girl painted was to condemn her as defi
cient in some moral as well as physical sense, and Madam Grundy permitted only a starch bag, as a sort of compromise measure. I remember I used to get so hot, with my sunbonnet tied tightly under my small chin to preserve my too easily freckled cheeks, that I would push the bonnet back; but my mother was determined that I should at least preserve the one alleviation for my hair, and she worked a buttonhole in the top of my sunbonnet, drew a long, red curl through it, and pinned or tied the curl so that it would cruelly pull if I tried to push the bonnet back.
Young ladies took great care of their hands, wearing gloves at night and often during the morning hours. I heard of one who used to put iron thimbles on her fingers at night, draw on gloves, and sleep thus, in the effort to gain the much-admired tapering fingers. Curls were much admired. A girl whose hair could be curled in numberless rows of curls was counted a fortunate woman. I do not think that people paid as much attention to what was becoming or fitting as they do now. There were, to be sure, certain broad rules that one never transgressed. A fair-skinned person had to wear blue and green; a dark one, pink and red.
People became old much sooner then than now. I often wonder what my grandmother would think of my uncovered white head. I fear she would feel it quite immodest. Grandmother put on caps tied in a big bow under her chin when she was thirty. But it was not the fashion to have white hair. If nature silvered her locks, certain secret hours spent alone in her own room sent grandmama forth with shining dark bands peeping from the snowy folds of her muslin cap.
Dr. Adrian Hale Hellmuth*
By HARVEY O'HIGGINS
OU have never heard of him. Naturally. He was one of the most valuable citizens of our day. He saved innumerable lives. He taught others how to save more innumerable lives. But, our civilization being what it is, he could live in distinguished obscurity for twenty years, in New York city itself, within hailing distance of all the newspaper presses and publicity agents and notoriety factories of the metropolis, and you would never hear of him. I never heard of him myself until Dr. Ward spoke of him to me-Dr. Lucius Freeman Ward.
"Hellmuth was the best surgeon that America has turned out," Dr. Ward said. "I've seen students come out of his clinics almost with tears in their eyes-tears of admiration and a sort of despair, like young pianists from a Paderewski concert. He worked as if he were clairvoyant, as if he had eyes in the blade of his knife. And when he came to one of those abdominal operations where you have
to depend on your fingers to tell you what you can't see, and you 're wearing rubber gloves, he had a sixth sense. I 've never seen anything like it; never."
I believe it was this suggestion of clairvoyance that really interested me. Occultism in a surgeon! It was like being told that the stock exchange at its noisiest hour was haunted.
I asked for evidence and instances, and, of course, it began to appear that Dr. Hellmuth's magic was just surgical legerdemain. He had devoted himself to his profession with such singleness of determination that he had developed, as it were, special sense organs in his hands. He could shut his eyes, spread his fingers, and tell you to the sixty-fourth of an inch how far his finger-tips were apart. He could separate his hands in the same way, and give the exact distance between his forefingers, blindfold.
"He had a grip like a pipe wrench," Dr. Ward said. "He could pull a cork with his second and third fingers.