I believe I will tell you the story of Grandma Parlin’s little childhood, as nearly as possible in the way I have heard her tell it herself to Flyaway Clifford.
Well, then, Grandma Parlin, her face full of wrinkles, lay in bed under a red and green patchwork quilt, with her day-cap on. That is, the one who was going to be Grandma Parlin some time in the far-off future.
She wouldn’t have believed it of herself[Pg 10] now if you had told her. You might as well have talked to the four walls. Not that she was deaf: she had ears enough; it was only brains she lacked—being exactly six hours old, and not a day over.
This was more than seventy years ago, little reader, for she was born on New Year’s day, 1800,—born in a town we will call Perseverance, among the hills in Maine, in a large, unpainted house, on the corner of two streets, in a bedroom which looked out upon the east.
Her mother, who was, of course, our little Flyaway’s great grandmother, lay beside her, with a very happy face.
“Poor little lamb,” said she, “you have come into this strange world just as the new century begins; but you haven’t the least idea what you are undertaking!—I am going to call this baby Patience,” said she[Pg 11] to the nurse; “for if she lives she will have plenty of trouble, and perhaps the name will help her bear it better.”
And then the good woman lay silent a long while, and prayed in her heart that the little one might grow up in the fear of the Lord. She had breathed the same wish over her other eight children, and now for this ninth little darling what better prayer could be found?
“She’s the sweetest little angel picter,” said Siller Noonin, smoothing baby’s dot of a nose; “I guess she’s going to take after your side of the house, and grow up a regular beauty.”
“Well, well, what a hand Mrs. Lyman is for Scripter,” thought Siller, as she bustled to the fireplace, and began to stir the gruel which was boiling on the coals. Then she poured the gruel into a blue bowl, tasting it to make sure it was salted properly. Mrs. Lyman kept her eyes closed all the while, that she might not see it done, for it was not pleasant to know she must use the spoon after Priscilla.
The gruel was swallowed, Mrs. Lyman and the baby were both asleep, and the nurse had taken out her knitting, when she heard some one step into the south entry.
“I wonder who that is,” thought Siller; “it’s my private opinion it’s somebody come to see the new baby.”
She knew it was not one of the family, for the older children had all gone to school and taken their dinners, and the two little ones[Pg 13] were spending the day at their aunt Hannah’s. Now it was really no particular business of Siller Noonin’s who was at the door. Squire Lyman was in the “fore room,” and Betsey Gould, “the help,” in the kitchen. Siller was not needed to attend to callers; but when she was “out nursing” she always liked to know what was going on in every part of the house, and was often seen wandering about with her knitting in her hands.
As she stole softly out of the bedroom now, not to waken Mrs. Lyman, she heard Mr. Bosworth talking to Squire Lyman, and was just in time to catch the words,—
“The poor General! The doctors couldn’t do nothing for him, and he died.”
“Yes, George Washington,” replied the visitor, solemnly.
Siller leaned back against the open door, too much excited to notice how the cold air was rushing into the house. “General Washington! When did he die? and what was the matter of him?” gasped she. “Speak low; I wouldn’t have Mrs. Lyman get hold of it for the world!”
“He died a Saturday night, the fourteenth of last month, of something like the croup, as near as I can make out,” said Mr. Bosworth.
Squire Lyman shook his head sorrowfully, and put another stick of wood on the fire.
“Mrs. Noonin,” said he, “will you have the goodness to shut that door?”
Siller shut the door, and walked to the fire with her apron at her eyes. “O dear, O dear, how quick the news has come! Only[Pg 15] a little over a fortnight! Here it is a Wednesday. Where was I a Saturday night a fortnight ago? O, a settin’ up with old Mrs. Gould, and little did I think—Why, I never was so beat! Do you suppose the Britishers will come over and go to fighting us again? There never was such a man as General Washington! What shall we do without him?”
Siller’s voice was pitched very high, but she herself supposed she was speaking just above her breath. Mr. Bosworth stamped his snowy boots on the husk mat, and was just taking out his silk handkerchief, when Siller, who knew what a frightful noise he always made blowing his nose, seized his arm and whispered,—
As she spoke there was a sudden sharp tinkle of the tea-bell—Mrs. Lyman’s bell—and Priscilla ran back at once to her duty.
“Where have you been?” said Mrs. Lyman, “and what did I hear you say about George Washington?”
There was a fire in the lady’s mild, blue eyes, which startled Priscilla.
“You’ve been dozing off, ma’am,” said she, soothingly. “I hadn’t been gone more’n a minute; but folks does get the cur’usest notions, dreaming like in the daytime.”
“There, that will do,” said the sweet-voiced lady, with a keen glance at the nurse’s red eyelids; “you mean well, but the plain truth is always safest. You need not try to deceive me, and what is more, you can’t do it, Priscilla.”
Then the nurse had to tell what she had heard, though it was too sad a story to come[Pg 17] to the sick woman’s ears; for every man, woman, and child in the United States loved the good George Washington, and must grieve at the news of his death.
Mrs. Lyman said nothing, but lay quite still, looking out of the window upon the white fields and the bare trees, till the baby began to cry, and Siller came to take it away.
“Bless its little heart,” said the nurse, holding it against her tear-wet cheek; “it’s born into this world in a poor time, so it is. No wonder it feels bad. Open its eyes and look around. See, Pinky Posy, this is a free country now, and has been for over twenty years; but it’s my private opinion it won’t stay so long, for the Father of it is dead and gone! O, Mrs. Lyman, what awful times there’ll be before this child grows up!”[Pg 18]
“Don’t borrow trouble, Priscilla. The world won’t stop because one man is dead. It is God’s world, and it moves.”
“But, Mrs. Lyman, do you think the United States is going to hold together without General Washington?”
“Yes, to be sure I do; and my baby will find it a great deal better place to live in than ever you or I have done; now you mark my words, Priscilla.”
All the people of Perseverance considered Mrs. Lyman a very wise woman, and when she said, “Now you mark my words,” it was as good as Elder Lovejoy’s amen at the end of a sermon. Priscilla wiped her eyes and looked consoled. After what Mrs. Lyman had said, she felt perfectly easy about the United States.
And upon that the baby went to sleep quite peacefully, though without ever dreaming of any “great times.”
Ah, if Siller could only have guessed what wonderful things that baby was really going to see “in her day and generation!” The good woman had never heard of a railroad car, or a telegraph wire, or a gaslight. How she would have screamed with astonishment if any one had told her that Miss Patience would some time go whizzing through the country without horses, and with nothing to draw the carriage but a puff of smoke! Or that Miss Patience would warm her feet at a hole in the floor (for Siller had no idea of our furnaces). Or that Miss Patience’s grandchildren would write letters to her with lightning (for[Pg 20] a telegraph is almost the same thing as that).
But, no; Siller was only thinking about some cracker toast and a cup of tea, and wondering if it was time to set the heel in her stocking. And before she had counted off the stitches, the children came home from school, and she had more than she could do to keep the house still.
Little Moses, two years old, had to see the new baby, and in a fit of indignation almost put her eyes out with his little thumbs; for what right had “um naughty sing” in his red cradle?
But Moses soon found he could not help himself; and as “um naughty sing” did not seem to mean any harm, he gave up with a good grace.
Days, weeks, and months passed on. Siller Noonin went to other houses with her[Pg 21] knitting-work, and Patience cut her teeth on a wooden plate, took the whooping-cough, and by that time it was her turn to give up; for another baby came to the house, and wanted that same red cradle. It was a boy, and his name was Solomon. And after that there was another boy by the name of Benjamin; and Benjamin was the only one who never had to give up, for he was always the youngest. That made eleven children in all: James, John, Rachel, and Dorcas; the twins, Silas and George; and then Mary, Moses, Patience, Solomon, and Benjamin.
There was a great deal to be done in the house, for there were two large farms, with cattle and sheep, and two men who lived at Squire Lyman’s and took care of the farms. Milk had to be made into butter and cheese, and wool into blankets and gowns, and there was generally only one girl in the kitchen to[Pg 22] help to do all the work. Her name was Betsey Gould, and she was strong and willing; and Rachel and Dorcas each did her share, and so did even little Mary; but they could not do everything. The dear mother of all had to spin and weave, and bake and brew, and pray every hour in the day for strength and patience to do her whole duty by such a large family.
They were pretty good children, but she did not have so much time to attend to them as mothers have in these days, and they did not always look as tidy or talk as correctly as you do, my dears. You must not expect too much of little folks who lived before the time of railroads, in a little country town where there were no Sabbath schools, and hardly any news-papers.
It is of Patience Lyman, the one who[Pg 23] afterwards became Grandma Parlin, that I shall have most to say. She was usually called Patty, for short (though Patty is really the pet name for Martha instead of Patience), and she was, as nearly as I can find out, very much such a child as Flyaway Clifford—with blue eyes, soft light hair, and little feet that went dancing everywhere.
And now, if you think you know her well enough, perhaps you would like to go to school with her a day or two, about three quarters of a mile away from home.
Categories: The Book Lover