Friday, January 29, 2010

THE ROAD TO CONTENT CORNERS, part 1 of 5, by C. Courtenay Savage (1922)

It was still early in the morning of the Fourth when Boyce Hewett turned his automobile from the state highway to the country road that led to Content Corners. The sun was hot and Boyce had taken off his coat and opened the soft collar of his shirt. He looked much younger than his thoughts, which were entirely of how cheaply he could buy and at what a large figure he might be able to sell.

It was all very familiar country to Hewett. He was born on a farm a mile away from Content Corners, lived there until after his mother's death, when he went to the city where his rise in the business world was almost spectacular.

He was figuring, as he drove alone, that while the Board of Directors had made him no outright offer, he believed that they were thinking of asking him to represent them in Content Corners. Yesterday afternoon he had learned that the Directors had positively decided to build a branch of the railroad through to Content Corners; that was why he was hurrying to buy up as many land options as possible before the farmers and small-town folk became aware of the fortune that awaited them. Land in Content Corners was going to be valuable, especially when it was known that the sole purpose of the men who were to build the branch railroad, was to take advantage of the water power from the hill and build several manufacturing plants.

He had planned his campaign hastily but accurately, making mental note of the places on which he wanted options. The prime site of all was the four or five acres of land where the two small rivers met. He wished the land did not belong to Betty. Of course, Mrs. Sawtell, Betty's mother, had often said that the land was not worth its taxes but just the same, he could not convince himself that it was entirely fair to take advantage of Mrs. Sawtell and her daughter.

If he married Betty--well, that would be different. But was he going to marry her? She was very beautiful but a very simple little lady, after all. He was going to be so very rich, so very successful, that he wondered if he ought not to have a smart, up-to-date city bride? He shrugged his shoulders, shifted his thoughts and began to wonder if the Cummings' field would be suitable for exploitation. The field was on a straight line with the proposed railroad and there were two swift streams that joined the river at that point. When he made the turn beyond the Cummings' farmhouse, he drew his car to the side of the road and jumped out.

Monday, January 25, 2010

IN SPITE OF THE MORTGAGE, Maryland (1931)

I imagine we are mortgaged about as heavily as the average young couple. Nevertheless, last summer we found a few extra dollars and a few days to take a vacation. My mother has lived on the same farm for 60 years and never had been more than a hundred miles from her kitchen door; my mother-in-law the same. So we decided to take them and a neighbor with us. Bright and early one September morning, we left for New York City.

None of us shall ever forget that trip. We traveled through Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York states, spending the first night in Newark, with friends. Putting the car in a garage, we took an electric car for Jersey City. There we entered the subway and rode under the Hudson River to New York. The wonderful work that has been done by human hands can hardly be realized. While we were in that tunnel with the river over our heads, we experienced a strange sensation. We felt dependent on a Higher Power that has made such marvelous work possible.

We saw the lights of Broadway, Wall Street, Fifth Avenue, the slums, the sky-scrapers. Old Trinity Church, the Little Church Around the Corner, the ocean, the harbor, the Statue of Liberty, and Coney Island, the famous playground of America.

To see all this at the price of a cheap theater ticket! We had spent only 65 cents each on arriving back in Newark. It was money well spent. It was time well used.

Friday, January 22, 2010

NO ONE TO PLAY WITH, part 3 of 3, by Marion Temple (1917)

One night he felt more than usually lonely in his little bed. He had left "the boys" in the day nursery seated solemnly round their table for dinner, their silver plates in front of them. Nurse had gone down to supper and thru the chink of his half-opened door he could catch the ray of electric light just falling on the head of the French admiral and the Teddy Bear.

He could not go to sleep and he began to consider what "she" was doing and if--but he hardened his heart and the world felt lonelier than ever. Suddenly he heard some one coming up the stairs. It wasn't nurse; she seemed always to press the stairs downwards as if she wanted to hurt them. A faint scent of fresh flowers came to him like the breath of spring; a very gentle swish of something silky reached his straining ears. He sat up and then slid very noiselessly to the end of the bed which commanded a complete view of the day nursery.

He watched "her" movements with a look of fury. How dare she creep into his nursery when he was supposed to be asleep? Now she was looking at his pictures, and now--anger fairly shook him--she was coming toward "the boys." He was on the point of calling out when the very words stuck in his throat.

She had actually dared to touch the Teddy Bear, which his real mummy had given him.

Then a strange thing happened. She sat down beside "the boys" at the dinner party and her eyes were full of tears. She straightened the tired-looking guests in their chairs tenderly and seriously. She took the Teddy Bear very gently to her knee, bent over him till the light from the passage seemed to strike golden flames from her hair. Philip crept out of bed and watched, with astonishment, the tears dropping silently down her cheeks. He saw a wistful look come over her face as she glanced around the forlorn and empty nursery.

The next moment he was standing proudly in the doorway, his hair ruffled, his hands where he wished for pockets in his little pink pajamas.

"What is the matter?" he asked in a clear voice, interested but antagonistic in tone.

She did not look up but in a voice that muffled by a sob she answered unsteadily:

"I am lonely. I have no one to play with. The house is big and empty. At home, I had brothers and sisters but here I have no one at all."

There was a long pause and then--he never could explain to himself afterwards exactly how it happened--he found himself drawn on to her knee, his arms round her neck, his head nestling happily against hers.

They both talked at once. He told her about "the boys" and she told him about her home.

They were so interested that they never even heard nurse come up, hurting each stair as she climbed. Nurse paused a moment by the open door and turned away as noiselessly as she could. Her old face was wet with tears for which she felt no shame.

Monday, January 18, 2010

NO ONE TO PLAY WITH, part 2 of 3, by Marion Temple (1917)

He heard the soft rustle of her clothes as she rose from the forbidden chair and lest he might fall captive to the alluring spell of her voice he turned and fled, not staying his course till he reached the safe refuge of the nursery. For some days after that Philip merely caught glimpses of the wonderful being who was "living in his house."

Nurse asked him each evening if he would like to go down to see her but he always refused. She never came to the nursery and gradually he found himself possessed of a great curiosity about her. He tried all he could to harden his heart and not to listen over the landing gate to the fascinating way she swished downstairs; he tried not to hear her gentle voice when she called up to Nurse to ask how he was getting on.

He knew in a dim way that in not trying to bribe him with irresistible gifts she was deserving of praise but he refused to admit it. Then there was Meg, her great staghound, who kept so close to his mistress that it was difficult to be friends with one and ignore the other, and he desired intensely to talk long and often with the wonderful dog.

He would peep cautiously out of the nursery window to see her mount her chestnut mare for her morning ride. A lady putting her foot in a man's hand before giving that little jump into the saddle, was a new experience of thrilling interest. He would wait for what seemed hours watching for her return. He even caught himself weaving fancies and fairy stories about her and yet no disillusioned lover, no anchorite ever hardened his heart against woman as he did against her.

As the days passed slowly, he found each one more lonely than the last and one day when his father came up and told him that he had to go away on business for sometime, Philip felt something falling down inside him as if there was nothing to look forward to any more. He was lonely.

He confided all his troubles to "the boys"--a motley collection of striking individualities, five in number, a bohemian crowd flung together by frolicsome fate. A large white flannel duck, with an eyeglass and cane, a stuffed squirrel in a poke bonnet, a rag doll representing a French admiral, were parvenus of the society. A disreputable coster and an elderly Teddy Bear of enormous proportions dated back to Christmas and birthday when "Mummy" was here.

Friday, January 15, 2010

NO ONE TO PLAY WITH, part 1 of 3; by Marion Temple (1917)

Philip had only a hazy remembrance of that strange morning and the weary days that followed when the blinds were all down and the house felt dark and queer. Since the day when the long string of black carriages waited outside, the drawing-room had never been used. His father now came home late each day, rushed into the nursery to say "Good-night" and rushed out again. Philip gathered that they played a great deal with a club but wondered where it was hidden as he never saw one in the house. He wished he had one--it might help to pass the time, which often seemed to go very slowly.

One evening his father came home early and sent for him to come down to his study.

"I've something to tell you, Philip," he said rather nervously.

They were standing like two men on the hearth rug side by side. The tall man knew nothing of the etiquette of "Guess and describe."

"Is it animal?" asked Philip politely, quoting the first of his trinity.

His father started, then answered with a strange smile, "Spiritual."

Philip was puzzled as one who hears the first whisper of doubt on an unshakable creed. He had never believed in anything beyond animal, vegetable and mineral.

"Something wonderful is going to happen," continued his father rapidly, "something that will make you very happy. A lady, a beautiful lady is coming to live here."

Philip danced for joy. "Is God sending Mummy back?" he cried.

Mr. Wilton started and ran his fingers thru his iron-ray hair. "No, no," he answered, "not that; but a beautiful lady is coming to play with you and look after you. In fact she's going to marry me."

Something stuck in Philip's throat. He swallowed hard and then something kept twitching at the corners of his mouth. He had all he could do to keep it steady. His eyes felt hot and stinging.

"Oh!" he exclaimed. He could not think of anything else to say. His father, longing to conclude so embarrassing an interview, drew forth from his pocket a large silver watch and chain, and Philip forgetting everything else dashed off, calling on Nurse and Jessie and Annie and Mrs. Coleman to come and see a watch which had a loud voice of its own.

For a fortnight Philip did not see his father even for a minute or two in the nursery. Nurse and Jessie whispered mysteriously together, the housemaids were busy all day long and Mrs. Colman the housekeeper looked anxious and worried. One special day there was even more excitement than usual and in the evening Philip was sent for to come to see his "new mamma."

He entered the room solemnly. He knew he must be polite to ladies but there was no trace of friendliness in his frank direct gaze. His attitude bespoke strong disapproval.

Someone very beautiful, wrapped in sable furs, was sitting by the fire.

"You are sitting in my Mummy's chair," he said slowly, and steadily looked away from her. There came a moment of tense silence and then a sweet, gentle voice whispered tenderly across the room:

"I am sorry--but you see I did not know. Won't you come to me?"

Monday, January 11, 2010

A VACATION MADE EASY, by Mrs. M.T.C., New York (1927)

Last year we took a vacation that lasted all summer and well into the autumn, and yet the actual "vacationing" took place on only one day each week. John and I both believe in the re-creating powers of an occasional outing, and since we could not leave our little farm for more than a day at a time, we hit upon this plan.
Every Sunday morning last summer we were up before dawn and while I packed a well-planned lunch, John took care of the chores. When everything was in order for the day, our little car slid down the shadowy driveway and out into the open road. And with what joy we went out to meet adventure!

Sometimes we had a trip planned, to some resort or beauty spot, a visit to a distant relative, to the mountains or the lakes. Or again we started out with no particular destination in view, just following any road that took our fancy. Sometimes after a strenuous week we looked for a quiet spot where we might just rest among Nature's beauties. A fishing trip, perhaps. At least that is what we called it--even though our idle lines bobbed on the sunny waters all day long and we never caught a thing!
Each of these trips brought its little adventure, its bit of beauty, a lesson, an amusing incident, a lovely memory to store away and think about and discuss all through the following week. Our kodak album is filled with pictures that tell the story of each of those trips, and often during the winter we have taken them out and laughed and talked them over.

And best of all, we never missed a Sunday at church all summer. It was always possible to find along the way a church of our denomination holding services sometime during the morning. We always came away refreshed, awakened, with some old truth or some new thought to take with us on our little journey.

Friday, January 8, 2010

LOVELY IS THE WORLD, part 3 of 3; by Hattie A. Pike (1917)

And the youths and maidens entering the doors of sin and misery in search, remember, of something beautiful, for this is the inborn craving of every human being, choose the lower forms of enjoyment because they know of nothing better! Can Church, State or Nation do better than to send the greatest men and women of the world to them--thousands of messengers where now there is but one, to read to them from nature's open book and give to them her messages, which are connecting links between us and higher things?

"The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places," for always have I have been among people whose ruling love has been the study of nature. I have had weeks of tramping with lovers of the beautiful, up mountains, along mountain torrents, beside quiet brooks where, at every step nature showed her hidden choice treasures.

Have you ever hunted the fresh water mussels where repose the lambent pearl? Have you ever visited the various mines of your country? Bits of amethyst and tourmaline which I have literally "dug out" from the many "dumps" of my state now serve in glittering rings and pendants and are to me more choice than any that money can buy. Interesting specimens of many Maine stones are added to my collection, which, at the same time have brought years of pleasure and good health.

To me one of the greatest joys of living comes in the early spring, when with fishing rod in hand, I follow the meadow brooks. Pussy willows and alders scatter their golden dust, frog ripples fill the air, and amid May-flower scents, the bobolink gurgles, sways and swings in rollicking delight.

Even higher than the joy of spring time, is the privilege of making mine some of the rare sweet wisdom nature offers me on the pages of her lovely book. In the stilly depths of the pools I catch a glimpse of what my spirit's calm should be. In the quiet coming of the rains, I read the truth what life and hope spring forth tho tears are falling. When the big winds billow across the world, something within me lifts and grows brave, and the warm touch of the sun glows clearly thru me so that I feel made anew!

"When you go out into the world at night, lift your face to the storm or to the myriad stars and be glad. A storm is beautiful! Listen to the winds and love them; they are just fresh, let loose from the hand of God. Love the tranquil summer, the golden autumn, the silvered moon overhead and the rustling leaves underfoot. In the depth of winter lift your face to the pure white snow, for every flake is a palace for a fairy. And love the rushing rain, the wide and white-winged angel rain. See beauty, grandeur, goodness in all things, for this is poetry, so free for all.
And the lovers of this beautiful world are brothers and sisters. They are the true poets of the Universe."--Joaquin Miller.

Monday, January 4, 2010

LOVELY IS THE WORLD, part 2 of 3; by Hattie A. Pike (1917)

To another friend, a married woman, whose one idea was "to live to keep house," I said, "Let's go May-flowering!"

"May-flowering! Do you still go May-flowering? I can't spend the time; I have too many other things to do."

She did the "other things" so fussily and faithfully that her life became barren. Depression seized upon both husband and wife; her children in distant schools dreaded their home-coming. But fortunately one member of the family was cheery and a lover of the beautiful. With wondrous patience she helped them to become interested in out-of-door things and gradually they are being freed from the tangled snarl of cares; a bit of the poetry of living is coming back to them.

In direct contrast to this family is a mother with four boys, who "keeps house to live." Both father and mother have made themselves companions of the boys. Together they have painted, studied the rocks and gems of the surrounding country, fished, camped and hunted with the camera, gathered cocoons by the hundreds and watched their coming out in a room given up for the purpose. One son has chosen the subject of Entomology as a life study. The others, engaged in various commercial lines, are so filled with the love of nature that their lives could never become empty or humdrum.

In the most beautiful of all of Joaquin Miller's books, Memory and Rime, he asks "What is Poetry--what was poetry before poetry was written?" and answers, "Beauty--beauty of soul, thought, passion, expression--beauty visible and invisible. The flight of a bird thru the air is a song. The bugle call to battle, the shouts of men and the neighing of horses, the roar of cannon, the waving banners--here is something sinfully poetic. The spotted cattle on the hills, the winding rivers thru valleys, the surging white seas against the granite shores--all life, all action that is beautiful, grand and good, is poetry. The world is one great poem because it is very grand, very good and very beautiful.

How can the eyes of every one be opened to these beauties? He does not know how to find them for himself. He does not realize how his family may be hungering for them and if he does realize, a great speaker, a great student of nature is utterly beyond his means. Is it visionary to feel that State or Nation should see to it that some of the world's best instruction be carried to the doors of the farmers?

And the poor children in the cities, playing in the dark alleys of the squalid tenement districts and penned up in unattractive schoolyards! Is it visionary to feel that City, State or Nation should put beauty spots at these children's doors where, as their rightful due, may be seen every day, growing grass, waving trees and the flight of birds?

Friday, January 1, 2010

LOVELY IS THE WORLD, part 1 of 3; by Hattie A. Pike (1917)

"Would you like to know the secret of happiness?--a secret no merchant prince was ever rich enough to purchase? I will tell you: the secret of happiness is the appreciation of the beautiful in nature--the appreciation of God's unwritten poetry." Joaquin Miller

I once listened to a talk by the artist and true lover of nature, Henry Bailey Turner, on the beauty of the common things of life, the weeds and the storm-buffeted seed vessels. Quickly and truthfully he drew them on the blackboard and pointed out their picturesqueness and elegance of form. We were charmed by the speaker and delighted with the beauty which for the first time, was revealed to us.

The world is starving for this waiting inheritance but, being blind, gropes and is unable to find it.

I have always lived much in the open. My earliest recollection stretches back to the time when I was a mite of a girl munching hot buttered biscuit in the orchard watching the oxen at their noon baiting. Overhead were low bending boughs of purple Blue-pearmains, at my feet lay yellow, mellow August Sweetings cracked by their own rich weight and overmealiness.

Thru all the years this day, with its misty clover-scented air, its songs of birds and droning insect sounds, has been one of my sweetest memories.

Later there were fishing trips and all sorts of jaunts with a big brother. To him alone, who always bothered himself with a little seven-year-old, I owe my great love for all outdoors--and incidentally my perfect health.

As I look back to my girl friends of those days, whose big brothers did not take the bother and who never acquired the love for nature, I find, with one exception, they were subject to all manner of ills, headaches, heartaches, dyspepsia and nerves.

This one exception was left with a farm, eight small children and sorrow enough to swamp a dozen women. To keep soul and body together, she was obliged to take charge of the farm herself, doing a good share of outdoor work. She not only made a living for her large brood but became one of the healthiest and most contented women I ever knew. Thus her heritage came to her.

Years after, going back to the same little neighborhood, I said to one whose home was on the side of a mountain, with sunsets and the distant White Mountains spread before him, "I had forgotten this view was so wonderful."

"We don't mind it," said he, "we see it every day."

I am wondering whether if he had learned to "mind it," would he have brought upon his home the domestic tragedy which has darkened and almost ruined several lives?