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Meet Priscilla Hunter

5 Jun

In her books Isabella Alden created many endearing and memorable characters; but perhaps one of the most beloved people who appeared in her stories was Miss Priscilla Hunter.

In fact, Isabella liked Priscilla Hunter so much, she included Priscilla in four of her books:

The Man of the House
Miss Priscilla Hunter
One Commonplace Day
People Who Haven’t Time and Can’t Afford It

If you haven’t heard of Priscilla Hunter before, here’s how Mr. Durant described her in One Commonplace Day:

Miss Priscilla Hunter [is] a maiden lady who has just come here to live. If you have not heard of her before, you will do well to make her acquaintance. I think you will find her a woman after your own heart on the temperance question, as well as on some others.

And in The Man of the House, little Beth Stone said Priscilla was:

A woman; kind of old, and not so very old, either. She’s got grey hair, and she is tall and straight, and her face looks sort of nice; not pretty, and not exactly pleasant as I know of, but the kind of face one likes.

But don’t let Priscilla’s grey hair fool you. She was a woman of high energy and focused activity. It was Priscilla Hunter who almost single-handedly raised the money needed for the church in Miss Priscilla Hunter.

And when (in People Who Haven’t Time and Can’t Afford It) pretty Mrs. Leymon asked Priscilla to help bring some hope to a poverty-stricken family, Priscilla energetically replied:

Help! Of course I will. I’ll bring my scissors and snip out things for you in odd hours. Oceans of things can be done in odd hours; and I’ve got a little bundle laid away that will do to make over for somebody; and Mrs. Jackson has an attic full of trumpery that she will never use. I’ll see that a good load of it gets sent around to the room. You’ve got a good room? It’s Mr. Hoardwell’s, isn’t it! Of course he’ll let you have it; I’ll see him if you want me to; he’s a friend of mine. I’ll slip up there between daylight and dark and see about it.

Priscilla’s scissors and snips were always at work. She was a seamstress by trade; and in People Who Haven’t Time Priscilla . . .

. . . sewed all day in her attic room on clothes for boys too young or too poor to go to the regular clothing establishments. Poor was Miss Hunter; that is, people looking on called her so. But, after all, I hardly knew of a richer person than Miss Priscilla Hunter.

But if Priscilla Hunter was poor, why would characters in Isabella’s stories describe Priscilla as rich?

First, she was extremely wise. She was adept at sizing up a situation, asking the right questions, and dispensing the truest and most needed morsel of advice at just the right time.

She gave advice to children and adults, women and men, friends and strangers; and her advice was always the right advice!

She was intuitive, too. Sometimes she could figure out what someone’s worries were just by looking at them. She noticed everything; no detail was too small to escape her notice.  In “Miss Priscilla Hunter” Priscilla observed:

It is the trifling sacrifices that pinch. [A man] can do a great thing now and then that he knows people will admire, even though he has no such selfish motive in doing it; still it helps and cheers, to know that an appreciative world looks on and says: “That was well done!”

But to go without a new dress all winter—to go to church, and to society, and occasionally to a tea-party, wearing the cashmere or alpaca that has done duty as best for two years, and do it for the sake of the church, and say nothing about it, and know that people are ignorant of the reason, and feel that they are wondering whether you are aware that your dress begins to look “rusty”—that is sacrifice.

Priscilla was also generous. What little she had she shared with others, always trusting that as long as she did the Lord’s work, God would provide whatever she needed.

But the most important reason Priscilla was rich was her unshakable faith in God. She had a way of talking about God that made clear to everyone He was her best friend and constant companion:

You will find that if this life is a warfare, we have more than a Captain—we’ve a Commander-in-chief, and we have nothing to do with the fight, other than to obey orders and keep behind the shield.

Priscilla Hunter’s unwavering faith is on full display in the book The Man of the House. And though the hero of the story, Reuben Stone, is honest and trustworthy and always tries to do right, Miss Hunter shows Reuben how much better his life can be if he will make the decision to follow Jesus.

It’s no wonder Isabella Alden liked Miss Priscilla Hunter so much. And since she created Priscilla as a “maiden lady” without family or possessions to tie her down, Isabella could move Miss Hunter from place to place, and into the lives of the very people who needed someone to remind them of God’s love and friendship.

If you’d like to read about Miss Priscilla Hunter, you can read these stories for free on this website:

Miss Priscilla Hunter

People Who Haven’t Time and Can’t Afford It

Or you can click on the book covers below to read The Man of the House and One Commonplace Day:

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Reuben and the Bound Out Boys

29 Mar

When Isabella wrote about children in her novels, she often gave them jobs.

That was true of six-year-old Daisy Bryant, who worked alongside her mother in a canning factory in the novel, Miss Dee Dunmore Bryant.

Interior of a South Carolina canning factory showing a 7-year old girl who shucks 3 pots of oysters a day. Her 6-year old brother works across from her. Also in the photo are boys aged 11 and 12 years old. (From the Library of Congress)

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And in Household Puzzles, enterprising teenager Maria Randolph decided to take in laundry to help support her family.

A 1916 photo of sisters Zelina & Florence Richards, 12 and 13 years old, doing laundry. (From the Library of Congress)

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In the world in which Isabella lived, it was very common for children to work … and it was even more common for employers to exploit child laborers.

Six-year old Henry and three-year old Hilda were beet workers on a Wisconsin farm. Henry told the photographer, “I don’t never git no rest.” (From the Library of Congress)

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Children were paid pennies for twelve-hour work days, and often worked in dangerous conditions, as Isabella knew well. In her book Ester Ried Yet Speaking, young Mark Calkins, who worked long hours at a printing house, was injured in an elevator accident at work. With no money to see a doctor, and no help from his employer, Mark was left to suffer his injuries alone until kindly Dr. Everett intervened.

Eight-year-old, Jennie Camillo, a cranberry picker near Pemberton, New Jersey. (From the Library of Congress)

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But it was the children who had no parents who often fared the worst. With no one to protect them or look out for their interests, they were sometimes “bound out” to a family to work in exchange for food and shelter.

A four-year-old cotton picker who regularly picks fifteen pounds a day, and a seven-year old who picks fifty pounds a day. Homeless, they move from farm to farm with the emigrant wagons. Notice the knees of the boy’s pants have been worn through from constant kneeling. (From the Library of Congress)

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Orphanages regularly bound out boys and girls in their care. They would send a child to live with an individual or a family; in exchange, the child received training in some craft or trade that would support them in the future.

Boys from the Baptist Orphanage working in the cotton fields near Waxahachie Texas. The boys, aged seven years and up, pick cotton for the man in the photo. (From the Library of Congress)

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Some masters were exacting, severe, even cruel, and used the children they took in as slaves. Others were fair and kindly, even though they may have been strict and insisted on good workmanship.

Meet Jack

In 1915 Jack was an eight-year-old boy who worked sunrise to sunset on a farm in Western Massachusetts. Jack’s daily work was documented by photographer Lewis Hines.

Eight-year old Jack on a Western Massachusetts farm. He is representative of many young children who were overworked in rural areas of the country. (From the Library of Congress)

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An investigator with The National Child Labor Committee (an advocacy group that organized is 1904), Lewis Hines sought to publicize the plight of working children in America. Mr. Hines traveled the country documenting the children who labored in rural and urban areas of America, and he took all the photographs used in this post.

In her book Reuben’s Hindrances, Isabella wrote about a boy who was very much like Jack. Orphaned when his mother died, Reuben went to live with a poor farming family. The Hardmans treated Reuben badly and even begrudged him the bit of food he was given to eat each day.

Eight-year old Jack moving heavy cans of milk on a stone sled. (From the Library of Congress)

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In the novel, Reuben is overworked. His duties keep him busy from sun up to sun down on the Hardman farm, and he sometimes performs backbreaking tasks.

Jack milking a cow. (From the Library of Congress)

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But all the while, Reuben dreams of going to school and building a better life. Yet every time he tries to get away from the Hardmans, his efforts are thwarted.

Eight-year old Jack driving a horse rake. A small boy, he’s clearly having difficulty keeping his seat as he travels over the rough ground, making his task much more dangerous. (From the Library of Congress)

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In desperation, Reuben turns to his mother’s Bible for comfort. The verses he reads help Reuben realize that the things he thought hindered his progress were really opportunities he failed to recognize.

Jack preparing to drive a load of hay. (From the Library of Congress)

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Soon Reuben has a new outlook on life; and with the words of his mother’s Bible to guide him, he sets out to bring some happiness to the same people who once treated him badly and did him the most harm.

You can read more about Reuben’s Hindrances here.

Would you like to see more of Lewis Hines’ photographs? Click here to visit the Library of Congress and their collection of images by Lewis Hines.

Click here to read more about The National Child Labor Committee and their advocacy work for children.

Sunday on the Street Cars

20 Mar

If you’ve read any of Isabella’s books, chances are you’ve noticed that her Christian characters refused to travel on Sundays.

Day of Rest, an engraving by Currier and Ives, 1869 (from Library of Congress)

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While others in the story may have planned a carriage ride to a pleasure garden, or a train ride to the next town to hear a famous minister preach, good Christians in Isabella’s stories didn’t go anywhere on Sunday unless they could get there on foot.

Walking to Church in Charleston, 1864.

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That was true of Ruth Burnham in Judge Burnham’s Daughters. Here’s an exchange between Ruth and her young son:

“Mamma, what makes it wicked to ride in the steam cars on Sunday?”

“My darling, don’t you remember mamma told you how the poor men who have to make the cars go cannot have any Sunday—any time to go to church, and read the Bible, and learn about God and heaven?”

“I know, mamma; but the cars go all the same, and the men have to work, and so why can’t we ride on them? They wouldn’t have to work any harder because we went along.”

A motorman on a street-car, about 1930 (from Library of Congress).

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Ruth’s son voiced an argument that wasn’t new. Isabella had heard it herself many times; but she believed in the sanctity of the day of rest, and she followed her church’s direction on the proper way to observe Sundays.

A busy street-car in 1909 (from the Library of Congress).

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When Isabella was growing up in New York, it was much easier to observe the Sabbath because there were laws on the books that enforced Sabbath rules and eliminated personal choice:

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There were similar laws in most other states. Having been raised in such an environment, Isabella’s strict observance of the Sabbath rules became second-nature to her.

A cartoon from an 1895 issue of Puck Magazine, showing New York legislators dressed as Puritans. On the left are businessmen and women in stocks and pillories with signs of their crimes: serving guests wine on Sunday, shaving on Sunday, delivering ice on Sunday, selling a glass of beer on Sunday, and blacking shoes on Sunday. A notice states “Behold the Punishment of the Wicked Sabbath Breaker. Let All Evil Doers Beware”.

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In the early days of street-cars, many cities barred cars from operating on Sundays. Here’s a record of a driver who was arrested in 1859 for violating the law:

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It wasn’t just street-cars that fell afoul of the fourth commandment. When the Postmaster General of the United States proposed delivering mail on Sunday to aid in its efficient flow, conservative Christians took swift action, circulating a petition to stop the plan:

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But by the end of the 19th century, the average American’s perception of Sunday had shifted. No more was Sunday a traditional day of rest; it had morphed into a day of liberty. After a long, six-day work week, people wanted to do something or go somewhere, and trains and street-cars made it possible.

With street-cars, pleasure gardens and museums were only a short ride away. And a day at the sea shore was possible, thanks to an intricate network of train tracks and passenger cars that whisked people away from the hot, humid city twice a day on Sunday, and returned them safe and sound to the city in the early evening.

Sunday, the Day of Rest. A cartoon in a 1918 edition of Puck magazine (from the Library of Congress).

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Cities and states soon saw the commercial benefits of allowing restaurants, theaters and other businesses to open on Sundays; and they began to quietly repeal the old Sabbath laws.

Like many Christians, Isabella viewed the changes with concern. After all, America was a country founded on Christian principles. But as more and more Sabbath observances fell by the wayside, many Christians saw the change as a symptom of a bigger issue: Christianity was losing its grip as the leading religion of the country.

A street-car in Washington DC, 1890 (from the Library of Congress).

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But Christians didn’t take the changes lying down. They organized and petitioned, wrote their congressmen, and fought for new laws and ordinances to protect the Sabbath, to no avail.

The newspapers and magazines caught wind of their efforts and labeled them Sabbatarian Fanatics.

When Christians protested plans to open the 1901 Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York on a Sunday, Puck magazine spoofed their efforts with this cover illustration:

A female figure labeled “Enlightenment” pushes open the doors of the Pan-American Exposition on a Sunday, knocking out of the way an old woman labeled “Sabbatarian Fanatic” and a man labeled “Sabbatarian Bigot” who tried to prevent the opening. (from Library of Congress)

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Isabella knew all about the “fanatic” label. She probably had heard it used in regard to herself; and since she often used her own life experiences in her books, she wrote about it in Judge Burnham’s Daughters. When Ruth refused to entertain unexpected callers on a Sunday, the town gossips said:

What a pity it was that so fine a woman as Mrs. Burnham should be so completely under the control of fanatical ideas!

Even Ruth’s husband applied the word to her:

I do not quite understand how you came to be such a slave to fanaticism, Ruth; it does not seem like you. Your father had a touch of it, to be sure, but I think he must have caught it from you, since you go so far beyond him.

But Isabella—like Ruth—held fast to her fundamental belief that the Sabbath should remain holy. Despite the name-calling and the opposition around her, she held to her belief that the Lord’s Day should be spent in Divine activities that celebrated her relationship with God. And that was something Isabella knew she couldn’t accomplish on a street-car.

Street-car traffic in Washington DC in 1918 (from the Library of Congress).

 


In the early 1900s Reverend R. A. Torrey compiled the works of different conservative writers into an article titled, “Why Save the Lord’s Day?” You can click here to read the complete article.


Many thanks to Marie Peters who inspired this post! If you have a question about Isabella or a related topic you’d like to see explored on this blog, leave a comment here or on Facebook!

Something Sweet and Sticky

15 Mar

With a few exceptions, the women in Isabella’s stories spent a lot of time in the kitchen. One hundred years ago when Isabella wrote her novels, keeping house for her family was a woman’s primary concern; and preparing food filled up the majority of her waking hours.

Magazine illustration of a 1913 kitchen.

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Chrissy Holmes Hollister was a something of an exception to the rule. Although she could easily afford to hire someone to do the daily cooking, Chrissy’s mother had taught her how to properly manage a kitchen. Chrissy had also been taught to bake a decent loaf of bread and prepare a delicious meal when needed.

Cover illustration for a 1908 cook book.

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In Her Associate Members Chrissy’s husband Stuart was struggling to recover from an illness. On doctor’s orders, Chrissy and Stuart removed to a warm southern state to pass the winter; but Chrissy had a hard time finding a boarding house that was well-run and could serve palatable meals to her invalid husband.

Vacancy sign on an Alabama boarding house in 1936.

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In the boarding house they finally settled in, Chrissy found the food so distasteful, she negotiated with her landlady, Mrs. Stetson, for permission to make Stuart’s meals herself.

A model kitchen in 1921; from an issue of Ladies Home Journal magazine.

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Soon Chrissy’s trips to the chaotic and messy kitchen to prepare a cup of beef tea for her husband became opportunities for her to teach Mrs. Stetson to run her kitchen more efficiently. That’s when she discovered how much Mrs. Stetson disliked having to cook for her boarders.

“What in the name of wonder will I get for dessert?” Mrs. Stetson pronounced the word as though she were speaking of the plains of Sahara. “I wish to the land folks didn’t have to have dessert every blessed day of their lives! It hasn’t got any reason nor sense in it, to my way of thinking. Eat a good big dinner of roast beef, and two kinds of potatoes, and beans, or something, and pickles and bread and jelly, and everything they can get, and then begin all over again, with fresh plates and all, and swallow down something sweet and sticky. I’d like to know who first got up such a ridiculous fashion, anyway! But there is no use in talking; folks do it, and so I s’pose folks will keep on doing it to the end of time. But I don’t know more than the babes in the woods what to have, nor how to make it.”

Mrs. Stetson’s lament gave Chrissy an idea. Since her arrival she had been patiently waiting for an opportunity to do something nice for overworked Mrs. Stetson, and she now saw an opportunity:

“Mrs. Stetson, I have been looking at some beautiful lemons while I was at work. Do your boarders all like lemon pie, and do you care to have me make some for dessert?”

Mrs. Stetson didn’t hesitate in answering:

“Like lemon pie? I should say they did. Every last one of them looks as though he had had a fortune left him when he sees a piece coming!”

An illustration of a variety of desserts from a 1911 cookbook.

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So Chrissy set to work preparing her ingredients, while Mrs. Stetson sat back and had a much-needed rest.

Although Chrissy made it sound as if it were easy to whip up a lemon pie, dessert making was a tricky business.

Ovens in those days did not have thermostats, and cooks who followed printed recipes had to know what it meant when a recipe called for a “quick oven” instead of a “moderate oven.”

A 1917 recipe for Strawberry Shortcake with instructions to bake the cake in a “moderate” oven.

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Stove-top cooking had its challenges, too. Burners had no gauges to modulate high, low, or medium heat; cooks controlled the level of heat with the amount and type of wood they fed their stove. One too many pieces of wood on the fire or one too few, and a cook could easily scald the contents of a pot, or undercook a sauce on a burner that wasn’t hot enough.

If you’d like to get a sense of what it was like to cook and bake in Isabella’s time, visit A Hundred Years Ago, a blog that prints old recipes, then updates them for today’s cook.

Recently, A Hundred Years Ago took a 1916 dessert recipe for Baked Rice Pudding and updated it with instructions that make it easy for you to make the creamy, sweet delight today.

In previous posts, One Hundred Years Ago has also printed old recipes for making candies and fudge, then tweaked them, of course, to also print updated versions of the original recipes.

Illustrations of chocolate candies from a 1911 cookbook.

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One thing that becomes clear as you read through those old recipes is the amount of time cooks must have spent stirring, beating and whipping their ingredients together. Since they didn’t have the luxury of our modern-day mixers and blenders, it’s easy to understand why Mrs. Stetson grew to hate making desserts each day for her boarders.

But Mrs. Stetson’s life was about to change, because Chrissy soon became not only Mrs. Stetson’s new boarder, but her friend, too. And as Chrissy helped Mrs. Stetson implement simple changes in her kitchen that made her life easier, Chrissy kept watch for a chance to make over Mrs. Stetson’s heart, as well.

Getting from Here to There

8 Mar

Isabella Alden lived during the golden age of train travel, and her books reflected the time. At the turn of the last century, an intricate systems of railroad tracks and heavy, powerful locomotives connected nearby towns and far-away locations.

Train travel ad from Harper’s Monthly magazine, 1909.

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Railroads made it possible for people to easily travel to summer resorts, as Eurie, Marion, Ruth, and Flossy did in Four Girls at Chautauqua. Advertisements made distant American destinations sound exotic and adventurous.

Preparing to board, 1905 (from the Library of Congress).

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But railroad travel also made it possible for people to quickly and economically travel short distances between towns.

In Christie’s Christmas, Christie Tucker set off on a simple, twenty-mile train ride to visit her relatives for the day in a neighboring town.

The rural station at Galion, Ohio.

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Christie’s parents arranged the trip based on the arrival and departure times that were posted at the train station closest to their farm. Christie’s mother told her:

“You are to go up on the train that passes at seven in the morning, and come back on the six o’clock, and that will give you nine whole hours at your Uncle Daniel’s. I’m sure that will give you time to see a good many things.”

The arrival board at London’s North Western Railways station, 1905. The large numbers displayed on the right indicate the platform number of the arriving train.

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The trip was a thrilling adventure for a girl who lived on a farm miles from the nearest neighbor or school.

And though train travel was fairly economical, Christie’s parents had to scrimp and save to afford the fare:

“Eight-five cents there, and eighty-five cents back; that’s a dollar and seventy cents! It seems a good deal to spend; but it is your birthday, and it is Christmas day, and you’ve worked hard, and father and Karl and I think you ought to go.”

To accomplish her day trip, Christie probably traveled in a standard Pullman car, with its narrow seats that faced both front and back.

Interior of a standard Pullman car, 1910 (from the Library of Congress).

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By contrast, Miss Mary Brown (in The Browns at Mount Hermon) could afford to travel in luxury. When Mary left the mid-western village of Centerville, it took her two full days to travel by train to California. Her accommodations probably included a seat in a very nice club car during the day.

A posh car on the Chicago and Alton Railroad, 1910.

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For the overnight portion of her journey, Mary could have secured a berth in a sleeping car.

No matter how long the journey, travel by train usually took preparation. Travelers had to consult departure timetables and plan for connections between railroad lines.

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In those days, travelers had to visit their local train station to obtain printed routes and schedules. But if an in-person visit wasn’t possible, they wrote a letter to the railroad’s passenger agent to ask for help in planning their journey.

The station master wrote back with instructions, usually accompanied by printed schedules.

A printed timetable for the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad.

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An 1881 timetable for Nantasket Beach Railroad (from WikiMedia Commons)

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Once on board, train passengers were ruled by the train’s conductor. It was his job to ensure the train arrived on time at each stop, and that his passengers’ needs were taken care of.

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For the most part, train travel was incredibly efficient. The Georgia Railroad claimed their trains were so timely, residents in the city of Atlanta could set their clocks by the sound of trains going by.

It was also a relatively safe mode of travel. An in an age when few women walked a city street without a chaperone, many women felt comfortable traveling alone by train.

Women traveling alone, 1905 (from the Library of Congress).

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No matter how long the journey, train travel could be tedious; and it was up to the passengers to find ways to entertain themselves.

Passing time with a magazine and a deck of cards, 1905 (from the Library of Congress).

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With the exception of Caroline Bryant, who slept through her train ride in Twenty Minutes Late, Isabella’s characters usually accomplished their journeys by making new friends of their fellow passengers.

A game of chess on board, 1905 (from the Library of Congress)

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That’s what Christie Tucker did. When her twenty-mile train ride came to an unexpected halt because of trouble on the tracks ahead, she set out to make herself useful to her fellow passengers, and reaped unexpected rewards in the process.

Many more of Isabella’s books featured travel by train than those mentioned in this post. Do you have a favorite Pansy character who road the rails? Please use the comment section below to share your favorite.

All aboard! Passengers prepare to depart on the California Limited, part of the Santa Fe Railroad, in 1905 (from the Library of Congress).

If you’d like to learn more about train travel in Isabella’s time, visit Rails West.
Be sure to view their page on overnight accommodations, where they have some interesting illustrations of sleeping cars on trains.

 

Tableaux: Bringing Pictures to Life

28 Feb

Long before last year’s mannequin challenge went viral on social media, Isabella Alden and her contemporaries struck poses like statues. Tableaux vivant (which means, literally, “living pictures”) was a very popular form of entertainment in late 19th century America.

The premise was simple. People donned costumes and recreated famous scenes from literature, art, and historic events.

A 1903 photo of a woman posing as Margaret in Faust.

A 1903 photo of a woman posing as Margaret in Faust.

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On a small scale, people performed tableaux in parlors. They selected a famous scene from history or literature, donned make-shift costumes, and struck poses while other guests observed.

Isabella Alden was very familiar with tableaux. In Julia Ried Isabella described how guests at a party …

made very free use of the wraps in the dressing-room for our impromptu charades and tableaux, and shawls, cloaks, hoods and rubbers were in inextricable confusion.

Woman in Elizabethan costume, 1903.

Woman in Elizabethan costume, 1903.

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On a large scale, churches, women’s clubs and fraternal organizations staged more elaborate tableaux on stages with scenery and props.

There were many books available to help performers turn out their best statue-like performances.

School and Parlour Tableaux by Sarah L. Stocking gave step-by-step instructions for young performers.

From School and Parlour Tableaux by Sarah Stocking

From School and Parlour Tableaux by Sarah Stocking

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While The Book of Tableaux and Shadow Pantomimes by Sarah Annie Frost featured performances with themes more suitable for adults.

Part of the table of contents for The Book of Tableaux and Pantomimes, with detailed instructions for enacting each tableau

Part of the table of contents for The Book of Tableaux and Pantomimes, with detailed instructions for enacting each tableau

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In his book, Parlor Tableaux and Amateur Theatricals, William Gill promoted tableaux as “a simple and elegant amusement,” and “a favorite entertainment of persons with taste.” He recommended that music—vocal or instrumental—be played between representations so the audience would not grow restless and to help heighten the suspense as the audience waited for the curtain to rise on the next scene.

Isabella wrote often enough about tableaux to indicate she was very familiar with the pastime. In her novel A Dozen of Them, young Joseph participated in a simple New Year’s Eve tableau party where he …

… dressed in an extraordinary manner—like a youthful musician of the olden time. Mrs. Calland had managed—nobody but she knew how—to arrange for him a most remarkable wig of soft curling hair. The mustache part was easy; a little burnt cork settled that.

Cover_Julia RiedOn a larger scale, Julia Ried (heroine in the book of the same name) helped put together a grand tableau of several re-enactments that required weeks of preparation:

I remember an animated discussion that ensued concerning the getting up of tableaux for a certain festival, which was to be held about Christmas time. Mrs. Tyndall gave minute descriptions of the style of dress needed to personate certain characters, and I suddenly became an object of importance, because I had not only seen, but participated in one of the tableaux mentioned, and could give accurate information as to whether the young lady who personated religion should dress in white or black.

Hand-painted 1905 photo of a woman in Old Testament costume

Hand-painted 1905 photo of a woman in Old Testament costume for a religious tableau.

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Rehearsals and sewing costumes consumed Julia’s days. She helped make costumes for characters portraying Religion, Queen Vashti, Quakers, and a Turkish sultan. Some of the elaborate scenes challenged Julia, because she was convinced they weren’t suitable for Christian women to enact.

Society ladies and a gentleman perform as Bacchantes, 1909.

Society ladies and a gentleman perform as Bacchantes, 1909.

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Some of the most common themes for tableaux were religious and patriotic scenes. The scenes below, performed by a church in 1920, depict the story of Jesus’s life, from the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary through his early childhood:

bethlehem-tableau-1920-scene-1

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bethlehem-tableau-1920-scene-12

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Tableaux featuring Greek aesthetics were also popular, because the draped costumes and classical poses were considered to be the epitome of grace and beauty.

A woman in a classic Greek pose, 1903.

A woman in a classic Greek pose, 1903.

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If you’ve ever seen The Music Man you’ll remember that the mayor’s wife was devoted to performing Greek tableaux.

Even the famous Mrs. Astor, leader of New York Society, staged an evening of tableaux for charity in 1909.

mrs-astor-1908

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Women attending Mrs. Astor's society tableau in 1908.

Women attending Mrs. Astor’s society tableau in 1908.

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National organizations also dove into the tableau craze. To publicize their organization, the Red Cross staged tableaux on the south front of the Treasury Building in Washington DC in 1917:

red-cross-demonstration-with-tableaux-on-south-front-of-treasury-building-washington-dc-1917

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red-cross-demonstration_on-guard_1917

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It’s possible that Isabella participated in a few tableaux herself. She was certainly able to describe the entertainment with some affection and a good deal of detail in several of her books and stories.

A tableau for women's suffrage on the front steps of the Treasury Building in Washington DC, 1913.

A tableau for women’s suffrage on the front steps of the Treasury Building in Washington DC, 1913.

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Did you know there are still organizations practicing the art of tableaux vivant today? One such organization is the New Orleans Tableaux Vivant Society. Click here to visit their site, where you’ll find news of upcoming performances and photos of past events.

If you know of any other tableau events coming up, please share by posting a comment below.


The idea for this post was suggested by Karen, a regular reader of this blog. If you have any questions about Isabella Alden or would like to learn more about something you read in one of her books, please leave a comment below.

A Dozen of Them – The Final Chapters

14 Feb

As A Dozen of Them draws to a close, Joseph confronts a fearful situation, and confesses a secret to his sister Jean. If you missed any of the previous chapters, you can read the entire book here.


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A Dozen of Them

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CASTING ALL YOUR CARE UPON HIM, FOR HE CARETH FOR YOU.
THEREFORE ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER YE WOULD THAT MEN SHOULD DO TO YOU, DO YE EVEN SO TO THEM.
EVERY TREE THAT BRINGETH NOT FORTH GOOD FRUIT IS HEWN DOWN AND CAST INTO THE FIRE.

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“I want a nice still verse,” said Joseph, with his head in Jean’s lap. “Things have been in such a bustle for so long, it seems as though all the verses were hot, and had stirred up a fire somehow—no, I don’t mean that, either; they have helped put out the fire, every time, but I want something nice and still.”

Jean smiled; Joseph must be almost tired out if he wanted still things. “I’m sure you can be easily gratified,” she said. “Look at the very first verse for the month.”

bible

 

“Say it to me,” said lazy Joseph, “I don’t want to stir.”

So Jean said it: “Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.”

“But I haven’t any care,” he said, after a moment’s thought.

“Never mind; some care may come, before you expect it; and you may find it good to be prepared. It is a nice still verse, and unless you take the next one to it, I don’t know that you can do better.”

“What is the next?”

“It is the Golden Rule.”

“Then I don’t want it. I don’t want a bit of doing; there will be enough of that when school begins. I’ll take the still one.”

From Pinterest

From Pinterest

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Exactly two days from that talk, this, which I am going to tell you, happened. Miss Emerson was visiting her sister, who was a pupil in the Fowler School, and did not go home for vacation, for the reason that a large part of her home had gone to Europe. Miss Emerson was an elocutionist, and volunteered to give a little entertainment during her visit, for the benefit of the library in the Fowler School.

On the evening in question she was in her room giving the finishing touches to her toilet, and the audience was already assembled in the large parlors waiting for her.

“Let me see,” she said, speaking to her dog Trust, I suppose, as he was the only one present beside herself, “no, I believe I won’t wear diamonds; it would not be in good taste for so small a gathering. They will think I am too much dressed as it is, I presume. I haven’t time to lock these up again. Trust, you may stay here and take care of them; remember, old fellow, you are not to let anybody touch anything of mine until I come back.” She held up her finger at Trust for emphasis, and he gave an intelligent bark in reply; then she smiled on him and swept away.

jewelry_diamond-sapphire-and-ruby-brooch-from-pinterest

From Pinterest

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Five minutes afterwards she was saying in the hall, “Are they waiting? Well, I am quite ready—oh dear! I have left my fan in my room.”

“Joseph will bring it,” said Mrs. Calland who liked things to begin promptly. “Joseph, bring it to me in the parlor. Miss Emerson, will you come now?” And Joseph scampered for the fan.

It lay on the table behind the jewel case. Joseph sprang in breathless, his hand ready to grasp it, when a low growl arrested him, and the fiery eyes of Trust were upon him. He took in the situation at once; Trust was in charge, and he would not be allowed to touch the fan.

fan-03

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“All right,” he said good-naturedly; “I won’t, old fellow. Your mistress wants it, but you cannot be expected to understand that, and I’ll report you as doing your duty.”

Not so fast, my boy; Trust not only distrusts you too much to allow you to touch the fan, but he does not mean that you shall escape him. At the first step toward the door, he grasped Joseph’s trousers with his fierce teeth, almost grazing the skin, and held on. It was by no means a pleasant position. Joseph did not understand dogs very well, was a good deal afraid of this one, as was everybody in the house, and had been glad to think of getting away as quickly as possible from his fiery eye, and here he was a prisoner! For how long? The entertainment was not yet opened. Two hours at least before he could hope that Miss Emerson would reach her room. If her fan was not forthcoming, some other fan would be handed her, and no one would remember that he had been sent for it. What was to be done? Clearly nothing but to stand still and endure Trust’s stern gaze.

mastiff

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Shall you be surprised if I tell you that Joseph’s heart beat fast? He did not know how soon Trust might weary of holding on to cloth only, and conclude to try a bit of the flesh underneath it. In point of fact, Trust soon let go with his teeth; but held on with his eyes. Joseph did not dare to move a muscle, lest it might be taken for resistance, and receive punishment. Was ever a worse dilemma for a good-intentioned boy?

It seemed strange to him long afterwards, the sudden sense of courage which came with the words which memory brought him just then: “Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.”

Wasn’t this care? Had he ever a worse anxiety? Did not God know all about it? Could He not protect from this danger, as well as from others?

The loud thuds which Joseph’s heart were giving, began to quiet. It was a trying place, one full of care, certainly, but he began to have a strange sense of security; a sort of assurance that Trust would do no more than guard his mistress’ property, and that he, Joseph, so long as he stood still, would escape injury. Two hours of standing perfectly still! Never mind, he could bear it; and he was beginning not to be afraid.

Which of you can tell why Jean, just a moment before this, should whisper to Mrs. Calland, daring the voluntary, “Do you know where Joseph is?”

“He is with the scholars, I suppose,” answered Mrs. Calland, a little surprised at the question. Where should Joseph be but in his place? She had already forgotten that she sent him for a fan.

What made Jean anxious? She couldn’t have told you. Joseph was never in mischief, was almost certain to be where he ought to be, yet his sister fidgeted, stretched her neck up to get a glimpse of her brother, and finally slipped quietly away to investigate. The boys did not know where he was; the girls had not seen him since supper. Oh, yes, Laura Akers saw him just before the entertainment commenced; she heard Mrs. Calland send him to Miss Emerson’s room for her fan; she was passing the hall, and heard her give the direction; he was to bring it to the parlor; she presumed he had done so, but she had not seen him come in.

Neither had Jean, and in two minutes more she knocked at Miss Emerson’s door and said, “Joseph!”

mastiff-full-left-facing

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Trust looked toward the door, and gave an ominous growl.

Joseph spoke in low, quiet tones, “I’m all right, Jean. Trust is on guard and won’t let the fan go, nor me either. Don’t make a fuss; just run and ask little Fanny Emerson to come here a minute; Trust will obey her.”

This sensible idea was at once carried out. Fanny Emerson, the young sister of the elocutionist, came in haste, exclaimed over the situation, scolded Trust, and carried off both Joseph and the fan in triumph.

When the owner of the fan heard the story a few hours later, she exclaimed over it, too; looked a trifle pale; told Joseph it was well he had sense enough not to try to move, for Trust would have torn him in pieces.

“I quite forgot that I left him on guard,” she said. “I don’t know how you escaped so easily. Mercy! If he had bitten you I would never have forgiven myself.”

mastiff-front

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“I should think not,” said Jean, her, face flushing. She could not help feeling a little indignant.

But Joseph smiled.

“It is all right,” he said, “I wasn’t hurt a bit.” It was only to Jean that he added, afterwards, this bit of information:

“I was scared, Jean, most as much as I ever was in my life; but it came to me all of a sudden that it was big enough to be called a ‘care,’ and I just tried, you know, to give it to Him; and somehow, I don’t know how, He took it. It does beat all how those verses fit in!”

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I HAVE NOT FOUND SO GREAT FAITH, NO, NOT IN ISRAEL.

WHY ARE YE FEARFUL, O YE OF LITTLE FAITH.

THE SON OF MAN HATH POWER ON EARTH TO FORGIVE SINS.

ACCORDING TO YOUR FAITH, BE IT UNTO YOU.

FREELY YE HAVE RECEIVED, FREELY GIVE.

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“But I have nothing to give,” said Joseph. He was, as usual, talking with Jean about the verse he would take for the month.

“I’ve received enough, I’ll own that; a fellow never received a nicer year in his life than I have spent here; but I haven’t a thing to give, as you know yourself.”

Jean sewed in silence for a few minutes, then said, “It seems strange to me that a bright boy like you, with strong hands and feet and a good sensible tongue and a pair of eyes of his own, should make a speech like that.”

young-woman-sewing

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Joseph laughed a little. “Well, I have those things, of course,” he said at last. “Everybody has; but I can’t very well give them away.”

“I don’t see why not. I’m sure of one thing: it makes very little difference what else you give, so long as you hold on to those. Why don’t you give your heart, out and out, Josey, and be done with it?”

“How do you know but I have?” said Joseph, after resting his chin on his hand and looking thoughtfully out of the window for awhile.

Jean looked at him eagerly, a bright light in her eyes. “Sometimes I think you have, Joseph, but you never said so in words.”

“A fellow doesn’t say everything he thinks; but I always meant to tell you I did it, Jean, quite a while ago; and I mean that my hands and tongue and all that, shall be His forever; but I was thinking of money and such things when I said I had nothing to give.”

“Oh, Joseph! Never mind the money. Don’t you suppose He can get it for you whenever He wants you to give any? I’m so glad!”

She looked it, out of her eyes; and she did what was not usual with her—drew his brown head close to her lips and kissed him two or three times; tender, slow kisses such as his mother might have given him.

Joseph said nothing, only winked hard, and told himself that his sister was the best sister a boy ever had, and he chose the verse she suggested for the month.

That was the reason it came to him, while he stood talking with merry little Nellie Ayers, as she sat on a bench in the workshop, her great green-eyed cat in her arms. Nellie Ayers was a character in the school; a homeless orphan to whom Mrs. Fowler was almost a mother, just because her heart was large and she could not help being. Nellie was bright, and warm-hearted, and thoughtless, and in a hundred thoughtless ways gave more trouble than all the other scholars put together. Mrs. Calland even reached the point of sometimes saying, “I really don’t believe we can keep Nellie another year unless she is changed in some way.”

girl-and-cats-cropped

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Just now, Nellie was putting as much mourning into her words as her merry heart could furnish, as she explained to Joseph, “Why, I haven’t the first thing to put in the special collection for next week. I wish I had; I’m the only girl, I guess, who won’t have anything. I wish they’d let me give my shoes and stockings; I hate to wear them; but Mrs. Calland won’t allow that; I wouldn’t like her to see me this minute sitting here without them. Or I might give Muffy; she is all I have of my very own; but she wouldn’t look well in a collection-box; besides, she would be sure to say ‘Meow’ right in the midst of the prayer, maybe,” and then Nellie laughed.

It was then that Joseph thought of the verse. Surely none had received more freely than Nellie; yet what had she to give in return? This set him to studying.

“What do you want to give anything for?”

“Why, just because I do. All the girls are going to; why shouldn’t I want to? You don’t think I haven’t any heart, do you?”

“Oh, no! But I was wondering what the motive of it all was, you know.”

“The motive? Why, you ought to know; one would think you had never heard Mrs. Calland talk. Doesn’t she say a hundred times a week that we must give always for Jesus’ sake?”

“That’s just it. Is that what you want to give for?”

“Why, I suppose so, of course.”

“Then why don’t you give yourself?”

“Myself?”

“Yes,” said Joseph steadily, though there was a flush on his face which deepened as he went on. “Out and out; settle this whole business forever. Give your hands, and your feet, and your tongue, and —well, your heart, you know, and that covers all the rest. If folks really want to give for Jesus’ sake, I say, why don’t they give the only thing He wants, instead of hunting around for something that they haven’t got, and he doesn’t want them to give?”

Said Nellie, “You are a queer boy! Why, that means— do you mean being a Christian?”

“Yes; I said so, out and out. Why not? That is giving the thing He has asked for; and He doesn’t care for all the money in the country unless we do as He wants us to.”

“Have you done it?”

“Yes, I have.” The whole face was rosy red now, but Joseph’s clear eyes looked steadily into the face of the little girl. “I belong to Him; I’ve given to Him all I’ve got; strength and voice and everything. I’m going to serve Him the best way I know how.”

He said not another word at -that time, but turned away, leaving Nellie to her kitten and her thoughts. He had not the least idea how large a harvest would grow from that little seed. It was only a few days afterwards that Nellie came to Mrs. Calland with something hid under her little work apron. “I don’t know whether it will do to put in the collection basket,” she explained, her cheeks rosy, “but I haven’t any money, you know, and I truly mean this.”

It was a carefully-shaped heart cut from pure white paper, and on it were printed these words:

nelllies-heart-red-and-white-in-jpg

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“I have given them all to Him,” said Nellie, “and He will understand that if I had any money for the basket that would belong, too.”

There were tears in Mrs. Calland’s eyes when she kissed Nellie. “He will certainly understand,” she said. “Give the heart to me; it is very precious. I will put a silver dollar in the basket in its place, and keep the heart in memory of my little scholar. You have given the only offering which He cares for, Nellie.”

“That was what Joseph said,” was Nellie’s answer, and it set Mrs. Calland to questioning, to learn that the consecration of this young, and heretofore almost wasted life, was the first fruit of Joseph’s seed-sowing.

But not the last; during the fall term a new spirit seemed to pervade the school. The change in Nellie was decided and marked, and being a little girl of energy, she worked with all her heart in this new way which she had entered; awakening a new courage in Joseph’s heart; helping him to see a dozen ways of “giving” which had never occurred to him before.

Teacher and students 1918

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While the golden days of October were still smiling on them, one and another, and yet another of the scholars came quietly to Mrs. Calland with the story of their new-born life, hid in Christ; and each time she traced the seed-sowing to Joseph and Nellie.

“He is helpful in every way, and our troublesome, mischievous Nellie is going to develop into a real comfort, thanks to his leading.” This was the sentence with which Mrs. Calland closed a long talk with Father and Mother Fowler.

“Well, mother,” said Farmer Fowler, “you and I think about the same, I believe; and I don’t know as we need wait any longer. Mrs. Calland will be carrying him off before our eyes, if we don’t make haste;” and he smiled on his daughter as he spoke.

“Harry would carry him off in a minute,” said Mrs. Calland, “and make a merchant of him.” Harry was Mrs. Calland’s city brother-in-law, with whom her husband had been in business during his lifetime.

“I don’t doubt it; and Joseph would make a good one; but your mother and I have about decided to make a son of him, that is, if you will have him for a brother. I was for waiting a year or two longer, but she wants it done out and out; and I don’t know but she is right.”

“I’m sure she is,” Mrs. Calland said, with radiant face. “He is just the boy to be a son to you always, and, as for me, I’ll adopt Jean; I don’t believe I could get along without her.”

But Joseph does not know a word of all this yet. He will soon be told, but I determined that you should know it first.


Thanks for reading A Dozen of Them by Isabella Alden. Later this week a complete version of the book will be added under the Free Reads tab on this site, so you can re-read the book or share it with others.

A Pansy Fact

9 Feb

Cover of Twenty Minutes LateIsabella’s novel Twenty Minutes Late was first published as a serial in The Pansy Magazine in 1892. Isabella originally named the story “Way Stations,” referring to the unexpected train trip one of the characters—Caroline Bryant—takes in the story.

Twenty Minutes Late is the sequel to Miss Dee Dunmore Bryant (which also began life as a serial in The Pansy), and follows the fortunes of the Bryant children as they learn to trust Jesus as their savior and friend.

Isabella often test-drove her novels by publishing them as serials in her magazine; then she made final edits and adjustments to her stories before they were published in book form.

You can find out more about Twenty Minutes Late and read sample chapters from the book by clicking on the cover image.

A Dozen of Them – Chapters 9 and 10

7 Feb

This week, Joseph deals with peer pressure and finds himself accused of another boy’s crime. If you missed any of the previous chapters, you can read them here.


A Dozen of Them

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THOU SHALT CALL HIS NAME JESUS, FOR HE SHALL SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS.
HE DELIVERED ME BECAUSE HE DELIGHTED IN ME.
BRING FORTH THEREFORE FRUITS MEET FOR REPENTANCE.
THIS IS MY BELOVED SON IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED.
HE IS ABLE TO SUCCOR THEM THAT ARE TEMPTED.

It was Jean who helped him choose his verse. She had a private notion that the Fourth of July was a rather dangerous time for a boy, so she hinted that of all the July verses the one which she thought the most helpful was the very last. It made some talk; Jean was sewing a button on his shirt and he was waiting for it, so there was time for a few pleasant words. Joseph said he remembered the lesson for next Sunday; he looked it over last Sunday afternoon, and that if a fellow knew as much about the Bible as Jesus did, of course it would help him, but that he, Joseph, would never expect to think of the right verse.

“But that,” said Jean, “is Jesus’ part; if you learn the verses, he has promised that the Holy Spirit shall remind you of them at the right time, if you depend on his help.”

This thought seemed new to Joseph, and held him dumb with wonder that the great God could actually take time to remind a boy of his Bible verses!

He chose the last verse, with a dim notion of putting the thought to the test of experience. There was never a day more full of temptation than that same Fourth of July. Turn which way he would, it seemed to Joseph that the tempter was waiting for him.

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It began the day before; the boys coaxed him to join them in a midnight frolic, when the bells of the village should be made to ring, and a wheezy cannon should bang, and various other noises should help to make night hideous.

It was really very tempting. Joseph had not much patience with people who wanted to sleep the night before the “glorious Fourth;” and it seemed to him that boys ought to have free license once a year to make all the noise they could.

But then, Mrs. Calland did not approve of such doings, and had expressly hoped that none of their family would be guilty of helping along the village uproar. Still, the boys argued that she need never know anything about their share in it; she would be in bed and asleep when they slipped away; and they would slip back, long before she was up in the morning; and there would be a noise, anyhow, whether they helped make it or not, and they might as well have the fun.

independence-day-boy

“Not with eye service as men pleasers.”

Where did that verse come from? Joseph did not know it was stored away in his memory, until someone brought it suddenly before him at that moment. He could not help speaking the words aloud, they fitted so perfectly, and he added, “No, you don’t! if you fellows want to do behind her back what you would be ashamed to do when her eyes were on you, why, I suppose you will, for all me, but I don’t propose to train in any such company.”

The boys “poohed” and “pshawed” a little, but the conclusion of it was that they gave up the plan. He had no trouble the next morning in convincing the boys that it would be mean to put a torpedo under Rettie’s crib and scare her awake. Because she was such a little thing, and was very much afraid, and the old verse “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” came in to do good service. It is true that Will Jenkins said Rettie wasn’t his “neighbor; “ that she roomed two flights of stairs below him; but he laughed, while he said it, and looked a little ashamed of himself, and no torpedoes were placed under Rettie’s crib.

independence-day-boy-and-firecrackers

But the next scheme held out strong temptations for a fun-loving boy. It was all very well for little Rettie to be afraid; but it did seem ridiculous for Sarah, the tall, pretty-faced, good-natured chambermaid to have such a horror of firecrackers that she would run and scream whenever she heard one snap. Joseph did not understand this in the least, and felt disposed to ridicule it. So when the boys hurriedly planned their next bit of mischief, he was on the very verge of joining them. It was such an excellent opportunity: Sarah was out under the gnarled old tree, with Rettie on one side of her, and the little daughter from the next neighbor’s, on the other, and they were having a grand frolic. What unutterable fun it would be to fasten the strings of her long apron to the tree, and then set fire to a bunch of crackers at her feet; and when she squealed and tried to run, she would find herself tied fast, and would have to stay and see what innocent things firecrackers really were. The boys rolled on the grass and laughed over the thought of how her eyes would look, and how she would squeal! Yes, Joseph was almost ready to help in this; because no one could possibly be harmed, and what sense was there in a grown woman being scared with firecrackers?

“Yes, sir, we’ll do it,” said Will Jenkins. “We’ll have one bit of fun this morning, anyhow. Luckily for us there isn’t a Bible verse that will fit it. There’s the Golden Rule, even, encourages us: ‘Do to others whatever they do to you.’ Didn’t Sarah sprinkle us with a dipper of water, this very morning? Tell me it was an accident! I saw by the twinkle in her eyes that she meant it.”

If he hadn’t misquoted that verse I am not sure that Joseph would have stopped to do any thinking; but the thought which struck him was that Satan had done that very thing at the temptation of Jesus! Was this a temptation? Ought he to want help to get out of it?

independence-day-firecracker

“Consider them that are bound as bound with them.” Was that Bible? Yes, he was sure of it; though when learned, or where found, he did not know. It was absurd for Sarah to be “bound” by such silly fears; but then she was; and if the words meant anything, they meant that we must try to put ourselves in other people’s places and see if we should like done to us what we were about to do to them, provided we felt about things just as they did.

“S’posin’ I was most dreadful scared at firecrackers,” said Joseph to himself, and that “s’posin’” cleared the air wonderfully. He told the boys decidedly that he couldn’t join them, and there was a rather heated argument, in which the Bible verse took a prominent part; and before it was concluded, Sarah’s frolic was over, and the opportunity for mischief had passed.

I have not time to follow my boy through the day, but he was really amazed at night over its history; almost it seemed to him that the Fourth of July ought to be named “slave” day, instead of “independence,” so many of the boys were slaves to fun.

independence-day-firecrackers

About their latest scheme he knew nothing. It was no more nor less than to take a pitch-pine stick, dress it in white garments saturated in benzine, set it up in a pine-knot seat on the stone floor of the dairy, and fire it at just the moment that Hannah the cook would visit the dairy for butter for tea. How royally scared she would be to see a woman in white all ablaze! This precious piece of mischief was planned most carefully, and finally abandoned, for the simple reason that Joseph was the only one of the scholars who could gain access to the dairy.

“And there’s no kind of use in applying to him,” said Will Jenkins. “He’s so chock full of Bible that all he will do will be to pitch a verse at a fellow. We’ve just got to give it up.” Which, fortunately for them, they did.

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THE PEOPLE WHICH SAT IN DARKNESS SAW GREAT LIGHT.
GRACE AND TRUTH CAME BY JESUS CHRIST.
THINK NOT THAT I AM COME TO DESTROY THE LAW OR THE PROPHETS, I AM NOT COME TO DESTROY, BUT TO FULFIL.
MAN LOOKETH ON THE OUTWARD APPEARANCE, BUT THE LORD LOOKETH ON THE HEART.

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It was little Dick who helped our Joseph into trouble. The fact is, little Dick was skillful in getting up trouble for other people. He liked apples; most boys do; but little Dick liked them so much that he could not help taking them from the tree by the garden wall, before they were ready to pick; and before the injunction had been taken off that not one of the scholars must so much as touch them. It is quite a long story, how little Dick reached the point where he felt as though he must have just one apple, whatever happened; and how he stationed his friend and constant companion in mischief, Rufus Miller, to watch that nothing special did happen, while he climbed the wall for just a taste.

children-under-an-apple-tree

 

Something happened. Hannah came to the back door and called John, the coachman. That was all; but it was enough to frighten little Dick so much that he lost his balance and pitched over the wall with a loud cry, carrying a branch from the apple-tree with him.

Rufus, much alarmed, ran away, leaving the sobbing little boy with scratched face and torn trousers to get along the best way he could. You will understand that he was not very badly hurt when I tell you that after he had gotten a little over his fright, he waited to pick every apple from that broken limb and stuff them into his pockets, as many as would go in, and tug the rest home in his hands. He meant to get to his own little corner closet before anybody saw him; and if he didn’t, it wouldn’t matter; folks were always giving him apples.

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So reasoned little Dick; but the scratched face smarted, and he could not help crying, which made it smart worse. In this plight Joseph found him, pitied him, comforted him, offered to carry some of his burdens, stuffed his own pockets with the, fruit, saying as he did so, “What pretty apples! Did Farmer Brooks give you these?” and did not think it at all strange that Dick cried on, without answering.

The scratches were soothed at last, the torn trousers, together with little Dick’s bump, reported to Mrs. Calland and properly cared for, and peace was restored; that is, to all outward appearances. Greedy little Dick ate every apple from the broken limb during the day, except a little red-cheeked one which lay in the bottom of Joseph’s pocket, unknown to anybody.

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By six o’clock in the evening, trouble came. Farmer Fowler found the broken limb, guessed that some of the boys knew more about it than he did, told Mrs. Calland, and a search was the result. No trace of that peculiar kind of apple anywhere, except—Oh, dear me!—in the pocket of our Joseph’s school trousers, which he had changed when he went to drive Mrs. Fowler to town.

Can you imagine what anxiety there was in the home after that? Mrs. Calland declared that it could not be possible Joseph broke the limb, and Farmer Fowler admitted that he would almost as soon have thought of the minister doing it, but, after all, there was the broken limb, and there was the tell-tale apple. When Joseph-returned from town, and Mrs. Calland sent for him and told him the whole story, his face was redder than the little red apple.

“Mrs. Calland, you don’t think—” he burst forth excitedly, but she quietly interrupted him.

“I don’t think anything about it, Joseph; I am going to think just what you tell me. I know it will be the truth, even if you did, by accident, break a limb of the choice tree.”

“I didn’t,” he said, speaking more quietly. “I didn’t, Mrs. Calland, and I did not know one was broken, and I did not know that apple was in my pocket; but I can guess now, how it got there, and I’ll tell you, if you say so; but it isn’t about me; and Mrs. Calland, don’t you think folks would be a great deal better off if they would tell about their own scrapes?”

 

Mrs. Calland admitted that she thought they would; told him he need say no more at present, and the next morning took the apple with her into the schoolroom, told part of its story, then called on any boy or girl who could tell any more, to rise and do so. This did not mean Joseph, as she had explained to him, that when she called for information, he was not to speak.

No one rose; Joseph tried not to look at little Dick, but stole a glance at him, and saw that although his cheeks were redder than usual, he was busy with his spelling-book and did not mean to speak.

“Joseph,” said Mrs. Calland, that afternoon, “I will not ask you yet, to tell me what you can guess about this sad business; but you may answer my questions: were the persons who, you guess, know about it, in the school-room this morning?”

“Yes’m,” said Joseph.

“That will do,” said Mrs. Calland. The days passed, and no word was heard about the apple.

Joseph’s heart was very sore. Mrs. Calland treated him just as usual, but Farmer Fowler occasionally cross-questioned him—as much as his promise to Mrs. Calland not to make Joseph tell what he suspected would admit—and Joseph felt that when he shook his head, and said: “It is very strange,” Farmer Fowler thought he was in some way to blame. It was hard.

apple-branch-with-two-apples

Jean sympathized with him, but said very little; the fact is, she longed to have him tell the whole story and bring the right person to justice.

There was one evil result of all this, which none but Joseph knew. He could not feel right toward little Dick. As the days passed and the little boy seemed much as usual, but kept his lips tightly closed, Joseph glowered at him often when no one was looking, and could not help feeling that something dreadful ought to happen to him; and that he certainly could never forgive him. There were times when he wished that Mrs. Calland would command him to tell the whole story, so that he might see Dick brought to shame. But Mrs. Calland seemed to have forgotten about it. She asked no questions, and Farmer Fowler continued to say occasionally that it was very strange.

Matters were in this state when, one evening at the quiet hour when all the home scholars were gathered in the school-room and Mrs. Calland read to them from the Bible, she read slowly and carefully the verse which Joseph had, some time before, chosen for his own.

“Man looketh upon the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”

She closed her reading with that verse and began to talk—a few earnest simple words, to help the scholars to think of that solemn truth; then she asked them to bow their heads, and in utter silence look for a moment at their hearts, and try to think what God saw there at that moment.

Now, the verse had for some time been Joseph’s greatest comfort; he had repeated it perhaps oftener than any other verse of his during the year; as often as Farmer Fowler had sighed and spoken of his injured apple-tree with its choice graft, Joseph had thrilled with satisfaction over this thought:

“Oh, yes! You sigh, and look at me; and I know you think I am to blame; and God can see right into my heart; and he knows I have nothing to be ashamed of.”

And as often as he thought of something which would displease God’s all-seeing eye, it was found in little Dick’s heart, not his own. But on this evening as he bowed his head with the rest, under pledge to look into his own heart, he started as though a thorn had pierced him. What did he see? Why, an ugly weed named “Hate.” Yes, actually, he almost hated little Dick! What a dreadful thing this was; almost as bad, perhaps to God’s sight just as bad as poor little silly Dick’s unspoken falsehood! Yet how could he help it? He could not feel right toward little Dick!

The silent minute was passed, and heads were upraised. I do not know but Joseph in his distress would have begged to be excused and have gotten to his room, if little Dick had not at that moment taken all the attention. He came with a sudden rush to Mrs. Calland’s side, bowed his head in her lap and sobbed:

“I don’t want Him to see it in my heart; I did eat the apples! The branch broke; I didn’t mean to break it; and Joseph didn’t take one, and he didn’t know where the apples came from; and I don’t want to be a naughty boy.”

You can imagine what a time there was after that.

It was late when Joseph went to bed; he stayed a good while with Jean, talking things over, after all the other scholars were quiet for the night.

“I oughtn’t to have any trouble in forgiving him,” he said, in answer to a question of Jean’s. “I don’t suppose weeds of hate look much better than weeds made out of lies. When it comes to hearts, I guess maybe little Dick’s looked most as well as mine.”


We’re nearing the end of A Dozen of Them. Join us next Tuesday for the final installment!

 

A Dozen of Them – Chapters 7 and 8

31 Jan

This week, Joseph learns to be a help instead of a hindrance to one of his teachers; and Mrs. Calland shares a story with Joseph that has an immediate effect on him. If you missed any of the previous chapters, you can read them here.


A Dozen of Them

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HE INCREASED HIS PEOPLE GREATLY; AND MADE THEM STRONGER THAN THEIR ENEMIES.
THE LORD IS THY KEEPER.
I WILL BE THY MOUTH, AND TEACH THEE WHAT THOU SHALT SAY.
CHRIST OUR PASSOVER, IS SACRIFICED FOR US.
WHEN THOU PASSEST THROUGH THE WATERS I WILL BE WITH THEE; AND THROUGH THE RIVERS, THEY SHALL NOT OVERTHROW THEE.

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Several of the boys were listening and laughing.

“And he drawls his words,” said Joseph, “and loses his place, and drops his lesson leaf; and never by any luck or chance asks a question that isn’t right before him on the leaf. Oh, he’s a rare teacher! I tell you what it is, when I get to be a man I won’t teach Sunday-school unless I have an idea of my own to give out now and then.”

Joseph’s sister Jean overheard this; it made her sad. She knew very well that Joseph’s teacher was one not calculated to win the respect of a bright boy like her brother. He was a good man, but he did not seem to know how to teach a class of wide-awake boys. She talked with Mrs. Calland about it, and wondered if anything could be done. This was the way Mrs. Calland came to have her talk with Joseph.

“How much time do you give to the preparation of your lesson, Joseph?”

“Why, there isn’t anything to prepare. He just asks the questions, and we read the answers, when we can find ’em.”

“I know; but suppose you should come into my history class with as little preparation for reciting as you give to the Bible lesson; what would be the result?”

cover_bible-stories

Joseph shrugged his shoulders. “Mrs. Calland, if you should come into the history class and do nothing but put on your spectacles and read from the book, ‘What is the name of this lesson? What did Moses then say? What did Moses do next?’ I don’t know what kind of lessons we would get.”

“But I want you, for the moment, to forget about every person but Joseph Holbrook, and tell me what he does to make the lesson interesting.”

“I!” said Joseph, astonished. “Of course I can’t do anything.”

“I don’t quite understand why. You certainly asked some good questions in the history class yesterday, which helped the interest very much.”

“Oh, that’s different,” said Joseph.

“I know it is different; you were interested in history, and wanted to know more about it; and you were interested because you had carefully studied the lesson.”

“I should not know a thing to ask in Sunday-school,” declared Joseph stoutly, but Mrs. Calland only smiled on him and went away. It was because of that talk that he stopped, astonished, over the third verse, when he went to his little book to select his next one.

“I will be thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.”

“Queer!” said Joseph aloud. He meant, it seemed queer to him that those words should be there just then. Was it a possible thing that the Lord might mean him, Joseph Holbrook, to consider them as spoken to him, about the Sabbath-school lesson, for instance? Was there anything he could say which might help?

It was this thought which made him read the next lesson over carefully, that very night. There were some references in it which he did not understand, and he resolved the next day to look them up; this he did, and found himself growing interested.

He read the lesson over each day that week, and thought much about it, chiefly because he had become so interested that he could not help thinking about it.

On Sunday, as soon as the lesson was read, he asked, “How many Israelites do you suppose there were at that time?”

The teacher looked astonished, but pleased, and was ready with his opinion.

“Seems to me they had forgotten Joseph very soon,” said young Joseph again. “It wasn’t so very long after he died, was it?”

This started more talk. Then the treasure cities grew very interesting; Joseph had been studying in history that week, something which was connected with them, and the talk which was started was pleasant and profitable.

cover_the-story-of-joseph

“Do you think it was a very wise plan which that old king had?” Joseph asked. Then the boys each described the plan which he would have tried if he had been king; and altogether, the superintendent’s bell rang before they were half through with the list of printed questions.

“Didn’t we have a good time today?” said one of the boys, passing out. And the teacher pushed his spectacles on his forehead and told Joseph it did his heart good to see how carefully the lesson had been prepared.

Joseph thought about it a good deal. He said nothing to the scholars at home. None of them were in his class; but he had a little talk with Jean, that night.

“I forgot my verse,” he said. “Didn’t think of it once till Sunday-school was out; but I asked lots of questions, and answered some, and had a real good time; I only did it because I was interested and wanted to. Do you think, Jean, that the Lord might have put into my mind some of the things to ask? Because the others seemed interested in them right away.”

“I haven’t a doubt of it,” said Jean heartily. “He helps us in all sorts of quiet little ways, as well as in great ones. Besides, He promised, you know. You don’t suppose Moses was the only one He was willing to tell what to say?”

Joseph had no answer ready. He sat silent and thoughtful for some time; it seemed a wonderful thought that the Lord could possibly care what questions he asked in Sunday-school. Yet the “verse” had been chosen by him for the month, and in school as well as out, he was bound to trust the Lord for words to speak.

“I know one thing,” he said suddenly, “I shall always study my Sunday-school lesson after this; it makes Mr. Stevens a much more interesting teacher!”

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JESUS SAID UNTO THEM I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE.
JESUS SAID UNTO HIM, THOU SHALT LOVE THE LORD THY GOD WITH ALL THEY HEART.
THOU SHALT LOVE THY NEIGHBOR AS THYSELF.

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Rettie was seated on the bright rug in the schoolroom. It was Saturday, and it was raining. Joseph had been, for the last half-hour, entertaining Rettie, making a building for her out of spools and buttons, with scissors for the big gate; now she was absorbed in a lovely red paper heart which he had just cut out for her, and he had time to glance over his verses and decide which to take.

“Nobody ever does it; I never saw or heard of a fellow who did.”

Mrs. Calland came into the room at the moment.

“What is it, Joseph, that nobody ever does?” she asked.

Joseph looked up astonished, then laughed; he did not know he had spoken aloud.

“I was thinking of this verse,” he answered: “‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself!‘ I don’t believe people ever do that.”

“I’m not sure; I heard of a little boy, once, who loved a very little girl-neighbor of his so much better than himself that he gave up a whole hour of his Saturday afternoon to her, because she could not go out in the rain.”

“That won’t do,” said Joseph, laughing again, though his face flushed and he looked pleased. “I didn’t want to go with the boys, and I had nothing in particular to do, and would rather amuse Rettie than not; so you see, I just pleased myself.”

arm-chair-1911-ed“I see. Well, I knew a man once, who in a small matter carried out the rule. He was a poor man and he wanted a certain kind of easy chair for his daughter. A neighbor of his who had lost a great deal of money and was selling his goods, and going to move away, had a chair of the kind wanted, and offered it to this man for five dollars. It was worth a great deal more money than that, but its owner did not expect to get what it was worth, and needed money; so the poor man bought it for five dollars and was to bring the money for it in the afternoon and take it away. In his shop that morning, he heard a gentleman say he was going to offer ten dollars for that very chair. ‘Now,’ said the poor man to himself, here is something for me to think about; I can’t afford to pay ten dollars for the chair, but this man can, and is willing to do it, and its owner needs the money; to be sure I have bought the chair and can claim it if I choose, but then, if I were in his place, what would I want done?’ The end of the matter was, that he went at noon and told the man that he would not take the chair away, because he thought someone was coming to offer ten dollars for it. The other man appeared, just as he said he would, and the owner of the chair got his ten dollars. What do you think of it all?”

“Why,” said Joseph, “I think the first man had a right to the chair for five dollars.”

“I don’t doubt it; at least, what we call a legal right; but judged by the verse you have just repeated, I am not so sure of it.”

Then Mrs. Calland went away, leaving Joseph more thoughtful than little Rettie liked.

He said no more about the chair or the verse, neither did Mrs. Calland; but she smiled to herself when she heard Joseph’s voice in the hall that evening, talking to little Dick Wheeler:

“Here, little chap, is your knife. I really don’t think you ought to sell it for a quarter; it is all I can afford to pay, but if you really want to get rid of it, I know a boy who would pay as much as forty cents.”

1924-magazine-ad-for-remington-pocket-knife

A 1924 magazine ad for Remington’s “official” pocket knife of the Boy Scouts, featuring Scout Howard Burr of Hayward, California.

“Why!” said little Dick, “I did sell it fast and true.”

“I know you did, but I’ve brought it back. You see, I’m sure you can get forty cents for it, and I’m sure it is worth it, and I’m sure if I were in your place I should want to have it; so here’s the knife, as good as it was day before yesterday, when I bought it.”

“Joseph has discovered that little Dick is his neighbor,” said Mrs. Calland softly. “I hope he doesn’t imagine that I knew anything about the knife. How strange it is that I should have happened to tell him that story! And how steadily the dear boy grows!”


We’re nearing the end of the story; only two more installments to go! Chapters 9 and 10 will post on February 7. See you then!

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