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Grandmother Brown's Hundred Years

1827 - 1927

Chapter VIII




"And now, dear Grandmother," said I, "we come to a period in your story in which I feel that I have a special interest.  In the last years of Grandfather Brown's life, it was a child of mine and Herbert's who lived with you most intimately."

"How Dan'l did love that baby!"


"I'm sorry that you did not visit us in the years we live in Mexico,"  I told Grandmother, "but you see you did not go to Mexico until after Frank married Concha and we had left by that time, so that that part of our story belongs to them.  You remember that ill health and financial disaster drove us all home after a couple of years, Frank convalescing from the smallpox.  After that, you and I always held on to Herbie's coat tails every time he turned his face towards Mexico."

"Ah, that was an anxious time for us all," sighed Grandmother.


Salvaged through the years I have kept a little package of letters from Grandfather and Grandmother Brown that tell the story of their lives - and much of ours - in the opening years of the twentieth century.  Reading them, I realize how vicariously good mothers live.  I see how often Grandmother Brown had tried to hold out a helping hand to her children, how she had understood and sympathized with them in situations which they perhaps thought were uniquely their own.

I was grateful for the warmth of welcome she had extended to her youngest son's partner.  "I will just mention one remark of Father Brown's about you," she wrote to me.  "He said a man ought to be willing to serve as long as Jacob did for such a woman as you."  And again she took my measure approvingly when she wrote:  "I heard you say once, 'My father always said that no little bird ever built a nest alone,' and again, 'I am going to break Herbert of thinking he must make so much money.  People can be just as happy without it, if they only have a mind to.'  I marked such expressions as good and excellent views."


She held me to them, too, when financial troubles pressed heavily on her son and she divined his need of encouragement at home.  "A woman's first duty is to make a happy home," she told me.  Again she wrote: -


Oh, Chedie, we women do know all about the agonies of childbirth.  It is dreadful.  but there is an end of it, and it is over with.  But we do not know what it is to be the bread winner, to be responsible for the food and clothes and shelter for a family, not for a few months, but for a natural life.  And if they have not plenty, the man is to blame before the world, not the women.  Men are in every respect just like we are.  They are as easily fatigued; if any difference, their power of endurance is not so great as that of a women.  They need just the same care to protect their health that women do.  In truth, we each need the other.


There were times, indeed, when she did not hesitate to remind us that mutual forbearance is necessary to the happiness of the married state.  From time to time she admonished us on principles of conduct peculiarly dear to her heart:  keeping the Sabbath holy, refraining from strong drink, disciplining children, avoiding debt.  "It is not the few big things which we need, and must have," she wrote once, "that bankrupt us.  It is the never-ending multitude of little things.  The deceiving little things will call out, 'I'm only a nickel or a dime.'  And the very next thing you need that nickel for carfare or a loaf of bread."


Not long after Constance, our first child, was born, Grandmother Brown came to visit us in Buffalo, where we lived two years.  Buffalo had harnessed the falls of Niagara and started an exposition, inviting all the Americas - North, South, and Central - to exhibit their wares within her gates.  There was much to see, to hear, to write about.  With Grandmother Brown to keep a managing eye on the baby and our good German Luise, I made hay as fast as I could, writing for the newspapers about the wonders of that exposition.


With my desire to help mend our fortunes Grandmother was profoundly sympathetic.  She spent half a year with us, holding the fort for me at home so that I might labor, gainfully, abroad.  Between her and the baby there was complete understanding.


Grandmother Brown told lovely stories.  "Look, Constance, what do you suppose this is?" she would say, picking up from the floor a straw that had fallen from a broom.  "Once upon a time, this little piece of broom lived in the ground in a tiny, cunning little house they called a seed."  Soon the baby was looking for stories in everything.  "How does the marble grow, Gwamma?" she demanded, standing in front of the washstand to have her soiled little hands washed.  Grandmother could always find the satisfactory answer.


Most important of all stories that spring was the story of the waterfall.  We all went to see it one balmy day, riding down the beautiful Niagara River in a big boat.  Grandmother had heard of Niagara Falls from her earliest days at the knees of her Grandmother Culver.  Said she:  "My mother went with her father and mother to see Niagara when she was a little girl.  She told me that when the falls came into view she buried her face in her mother's lap.  The sight was so overwhelming."


Grandmother went to the Exposition too, of course, and lingered long enough in the early evening to hear the rapturous "Ah": that always burst from the crowd when the illuminating lights that outlined the lovely buildings came slowly on, and the dashing fountain in the Plaza seemed to shoot fire, and the music of Sousa's band swept softly across the grounds.

She was especially interested in the concession called "The Streets of Mexico."  Naturally, since two of her sons had lived such momentous years in that Land of the Snake and Cactus!  We made her look at everything, including the bull ring and the dance hall.  She admired the handsome horses and the picturesque clothes of toreador and matador.  She was fascinated by the girl who danced la jota.


And then we had a Mexican diner with sopa de arroz and chile con carne and hot tamales.  But Grandmother never liked hot things - folks were better off without pepper, she always said, "and you need n't put any on my fried egg, thank you."

As the spring days grew warmer, Grandmother began to sigh for her own dooryard.  "I must go," she said, "but let me take the baby with me.  Grandpa is crazy to see her, and it is only fair he should have her awhile."


"But she's our baby," we protested.  Still Grandmother pleaded and Grandfather wrote:  "Our house is roomy and cool, our lawn is green and pleasant.  The young squirrels have come down to play on the ground.  Let Constance come and play too.  Our hearts go out very largely to that baby."  And I calculated that I could not spend my time writing articles about the Exposition and take care of the baby, too, at home.  And so I let Grandmother take her back to Iowa.


The things that were done and said that summer and the next, and the next after that, while two happy old people played with their little granddaughter, were the subject of Grandmother Brown's most eloquent reminiscences.  She spent an hour at least on that theme in the course of celebrating her ninety-ninth birthday.  It was not that she loved this particular grandchild more than the others of her children's children.  It was rather that, for three happy summers, she and Grandfather Brown had her all to themselves.


"When we got home," said Grandmother Brown, "I put her to sleep in the room next to ours where her father had slept when he was a little boy.  She had the same bed and the same bureau that he had had and she ate her porridge out of a bowl that had been his.  She liked to know about her father.  'Do you know what I'm going to do when I'm a big lady?' she would say.  'I'm going to play the organ and people will come from far and near to hear me.  Then they will say:  "Who is that making such lovely music?"  And the other people will say, "Why, that's Herbie's baby!" '


"the array on the top of her bureau did not suit her.  'Grandpa,' she said one day, 'I need some ta'cum powder an' some witch hazel, an' some 'fumery.'


" 'Mother,' said he, 'have you a little bottle that would hold perfumery?'


"I found one and said to him, 'White Rose is nice.'


"When he brought her the 'fumery at night he said to me:  'Would you think, Mother, that that would cost fifty cents, that little bit of scent?'  'Yes, I would,' I told him.


"It was a very hot summer and after one of our warm summer rains I used to let her go wading with her friend, Sarah Hamilton, in the gutter.  They enjoyed it mightily.  And then she would be all dressed up so sweet and clean and sit out on the porch beside me, waiting for Grandpa to come to supper.  When he was within hailing distance, off she'd dart to meet him, bringing him home by the hand.  And how he did love it!


"She went to church with us every Sunday morning.  And no lady in the congregation behaved better.  She looked on the hymn book with me, and always when they passed the plate she had her nickel ready.  Lizzie helped me to make her a little outfit to wear to church - a blue dress of soft nun's veiling and a lace bonnet trimmed with blue forget-me-nots.  She was a quaint- looking child with her big forehead and slim little neck.


"Once in a while I let her go to the store with Grandpa, but not often.  She received too much attention there.  Nothing was quite so nice as going down to Uncle Charlie's to see the little pigs and calves and baby chicks.  As we got on the train at Fort Madison, the conductor said, 'Let me take the young lady.'  As we got off it at Revere, Charlie said, 'Let me take the baby.'  She herself said severely,  'The conductor called me a young lady.'  Which amused Uncle Charlie.


"She acted everything out.  And she acted it perfectly.  Dan'l and I would be sitting here quietly with her.  Suddenly she would start up, saying:  'Oh, dear!  There's that phone again!'  And she would rush to the doorknob and , holding her ear against it, call:  'Hello, Sarah, is that you?  No, I'm not going.  yes, we're well acquainted, but - oh, well, you know!  Oh, if you're going - well perhaps  I'll come.  yes, I think I'll wear my pink.'  And then she'd begin to get ready for a party.  She'd go through all the motions of putting on each garment and combing out her hair - such long hair and so many hairpins to stick in.  And she'd do everything proper order, her collar the last thing on.


"I had given her a little cabinet for a cupboard.  There she kept her pewter dishes.  And we had a foot rest that I let her use for a table.  Around that she would assemble her imaginary family.  Almost as soon as she could talk, you remember, she had had two make-believe sisters, Clara and Paystress.  In Fort Madison that summer she added a husband named Albert.  She was very attentive to him at these make-believe feasts.  'Albert, I knew you didn't use vinegar on your beans and so I got a few olives for you,' she'd say.  And then, perhaps, she'd suddenly break off and turn politely to Dan'l and say, 'Grandpa, did you ever meet my husband'?'  And, perhaps, if Dan'l wanted to tease her, he'd say, 'Why, Constance, I don't see anyone.'  'Oh, Grandpa, it's just your 'imagination!' "


When I went to fetch my child in the fall, I walked in without knocking and found Grandmother sitting in the back parlor with Constance on her lap, looking at a book called Christ in Art.  It contained illustrations of the Bible by Gustave Dore, and had been a favorite picture book all summer.  "She asked me one day," explained Grandmother, "if I had a picture of God.  [There seemed to have been a good deal of talk about God in the course of the season.]  I told her no, but I had a picture of His son.  And then, when she looked at it, what do you suppose she said?  'Oh, Grandma, doesn't Jesus look swell in that long raglan?'  Another time she remarked, 'Jesus didn't have any luck at all, did he?'


"You remember how excited she was,"  Grandmother Brown reminded me, "when she hears us talking that evening about the assassination of President McKinley?  As you had just come from Buffalo where the tragedy had occurred, it was natural that we should ask you a good many questions about it.  Suddenly we all noticed Constance's distress.  She was walking up and down the porch, wagging her head and talking to herself:  'Why doesn't someone give me a gun, so I can kill that naughty Czologoz?'  Dear me!  That was just the way her father acted when he heard them talking about Guiteau having killed President Garfield.  'Why don't they kill him quick,' Herbie said, ''for he asks God to forgive him?  They won't get him into Hell at all."


We laughed at this perpetuation of natural depravity, but Grandmother Brown, aged ninety-nine instead of minus three, shook her head and said:  "Isn't that dreadful?  God's very good to forgive sins.  Though they be like scarlet, He'll make them whiter than snow."


Grandmother Brown was very uneasy following Constance's withdrawal from her care.  Afraid that mere parents might not be equal to the task that grandparents had long since mastered.  Grandfather Brown was quite as anxious.

Reluctantly they reconciled themselves to the thought that their responsibilities for the younger generation were over, that the active work of the world would be carried on, henceforth, in newer homes than theirs.  But how sympathetically they looked on at all their children's struggles, whether with babies or with business!  All the details of our living arrangements interested Grandmother.  "I am so glad that you have concluded to go to housekeeping in the economical way you have done," she wrote us that winter.  "You will be blessed in the effort to do the best you can.  And I want to remind you, Herbie, that housework is new to Chedie and will be hard at first, and, if she has bad luck with anything, you just put your arm around her and say,  'Don't worry about the like of that!  As long as we are all right and happy.'  I think I can see how your apartment looks with the new rugs and a chair for each of the Three Bears.  How I would like to send you some of my canned fruit and jelly to help out on your table!"


And all the time she was following just as sympathetically the fortunes of her other children.  She wrote of the difficulties Will and Libbie were having in trying to run a dairy on the old Knapp farm.  ("With such unreliable help," she told us.)  She was interested in the outlook for Gus, who had moved to Wisconsin, where he was running a tissue-paper mill.  ("Business is good, but Adelaide has the measles," she recorded.)  She worried over the heat of Hermosillo, to which Frank had recently moved with his young family.  ("They are well, however, and have named the baby Edward Augustus," she reported.)


How happy they were when Thanksgiving or Christmas offered an excuse for gathering their children around them!  "Indeed, I think I am the happiest old woman in town," wrote Grandmother.  "Your Christmas letters do me so much good.  I am glad that you had such a pleasant Christmas and glad your employers like you, Herbie.  I think they ought to.  I do.  You spoke about not measuring your love by the gift you sent me.  Now we don't any of us, do that.  I know you would situate me in a palace if you could, and I would make a millionaire of you.  But as these things are not possible, we will have a good time anyway.  Oh, I would that these pleasant days might be prophetic of all!  Our children's joys and sorrows are our own....."


And all this time, I realize sharply now, they had their own personal anxieties - chiefly a fear of physical and financial dependence.  "We begin most sensibly to realize of late,"  wrote Grandfather sadly, "that the infirmities of old age are creeping on us."  Through his mind too ran the unhappy questioning that must weigh heavily at times on all conscientious parents.  "If I had managed this or that differently, would my children be now more happily placed?"  Seeing how I tried to help when financial reverse came to his youngest son, he wrote me words of appreciation that were balm to my troubled heart:  "Chedie, we honor you for the course you have taken in trying to extricate yourselves from your financial difficulties and I have no word of censure to offer because you are less fortunately situated.  Always remember you have in myself and Mother sympathizing hearts.  We will rejoice with your joys and sorrow with your sorrows, always praying for your success and happiness and hoping soon to see you more pleasantly situated than now."  And then he went on to say: -


Within the last ten years I have been compelled to see most of our life savings slip through my hands and pass away from our control forever.  I have done the best I know how, the best I could do, yet it has gone; and I should fee very much hurt, indeed, I should feel very angry if any person should reflect upon my character or integrity because I am worth less than I might have been under more favorable circumstances.  What charity, forbearance, and sympathy I demand for myself I willingly accord to others.  I console myself in the fact that I do not owe a dollar to any man.

But I am old and useless so far as making money is concerned.  With you and Herbert it is different.  You are both in your prime, both possess more than ordinary ability.  Only keep in good heart; do not be discouraged; resolve to pay the just claims against you; pull together; make a long, strong pull together, and we believe a brighter day will dawn upon your pathway.  Just wait and see the cloud roll by.


Herbert and I decided to enter the Government service.  The following summer saw Constance again with her grandparents while we were carrying on an investigation in Cuba.  In the closing years of the nineteenth century momentous events had occurred in the history of our nation.  The Spanish War had been fought and now our Government was beginning to extend its activities beyond our own shores.  Among the Iowa boys who had marched up San Juan Hill Grandmother Brown had had no sons, but a call came afterward from our War Department, while it was administering the affairs of Cuba, that reached Herbert and me.  We were anxious to respond.  But how about the baby?  "Leave her with us!" cried Grandfather and Grandmother eagerly.


The day was just breaking as the Santa Fe train pulled into the sleeping town.  Through the quiet streets Herbert walked the few blocks to the old house, as he had done so many times when coming home on vacation, into the front hallway, up the stairs to his parents' bedroom, leading his small daughter by the hand.  Recognizing familiar landmarks at every step, her excitement was intense when finally, without a word, he popped her into bed between Grandpa and Grandma!

"One could really visit with Constance,"  declared Grandmother.  "Grandpa would get so interested sometimes that he'd almost forget to go back to the store.  She liked, as he sat resting after dinner, to take the pocket comb out of his pocket and comb his hair.  Perhaps she'd put a wreath of clover on his head or a chain of dandelions around his neck.  And how her tongue would run on all the time!  Dan'l used to laugh sometimes until the tears came.


"The troubles her imaginary family made her!  Her sister Paystress got sick frequently and had to have a hot-water bottle at her feet.  And how she did worry over her baby!  'What's the matter with the baby?'  I'd ask.  'Oh, she's got the tapiocas,' she would say.  Or perhaps it would be the 'Amelias.'


"But I think the thing that Constance did that tickled Dan'l more than anything else was making friends with the policeman.  When we didn't know how else to quiet her, if she 'acted up,' we'd tell her that we intended to call the policeman if she didn't stop; that he came and took away people who cried and carried on and locked them up.  One day, when we were sitting out on the porch, Dan'l said to her, 'There's Mr. Kessler, the policeman!'  Without a word she started up, ran out of the gate and down the street to him, took hold of his hand, and walked back with him, talking as fast as she could and looking up into his face.  You could see that he was surprised to have her take hold of him that way, but that he was pleased, too.  She asked him if he locked up little girls.  He said he liked good little girls, but had to lock up bad ones.  And he showed her his star.  Then she said, 'Do you know what I've been doing to-day?  I've been planting maple seeds to make trees.  I'll plant two for you.'  And she did.  Later, after she'd gone home, Mr. Kessler called here and said he'd like to have the little trees.  But after that word 'policeman' had no terrors for her.  'He's my friend,' she told Grandpa impressively.  Grandpa laughed about that story until his death.  'How Constance made friends with Mammon,' he used to call it."


At last the happy summer had come to an end.  Grandmother and Grandfather had to give her up again.  Constance wailed:  "I don't want to go away from here.  I'll tell you want we'll do.  We'll have Father and Mother come live here, Grandma.  There's plenty of room.  And I'll take care of you, Grandma, when you are old, so you won't die.  And by and by we'll all put on our hats and go to Heaven together - Grandpa and Grandma and Uncle Will and Aunt Libbie and Aunt Lizzie and Frankie and Henrietta, too - and won't Jesus look pleased when he sees us coming?  He'll think it's a surprise party."


"He'll sutn'ly be s'prised to see my ole black face," grunted Henrietta, while the rest of us laughed.


When Herbert stopped in Fort Madison on his way West, the following January, he was distressed to find that his father was not so well as he had been the previous summer.  On the Sunday before New Year's Day he had suddenly collapsed while sitting at his ease in the family circle.


"Lizzie and Church had come in Sunday evening after meeting as was their wont,"  Grandmother Brown told me.  "Father sat in his big chair by the stove, telling how Charlie was to bring a turkey up for New Year's dinner.  All at once he turned and looked at me with the most peculiar expression.  'What's the matter, Dan'l?  Can't you speak?'  He shook his head, and then his head dropped over his breast.  We thought he had fainted.  Church jumped on his bicycle and flew for the doctor.  Before the doctor came, Father had recovered consciousness, but his mouth was twisted, his speech was thick.  He rallied, however, and on New Year's Day, when Charles came with the turkey, he was able, with the help of his sons, to walk to the table.


"Gradually he got better, but he needed crutch and cane to help him about.  Do you remember what Constance said when you told her that Grandpa was ill and could hardly walk?  'He can lean on me!' she said.  You wrote us that and Dan'l was so pleased - oh, so pleased - that I've always thought it helped him to get better.  And then in the summer she came again, and he did lean on her."


It was  a happy change for all of us at the end of a winter of discontent.  Herbert's Government work had taken him, the previous fall, to field service in the West.  Month after month went by with no sign of his being able to come home again or have us join him.  It was the winter of the anthracite strike and much of the time we suffered for lack of fuel.  When my house was in its most cheerless state, my child took the whooping cough.  But for good old black Maggie, who cooked and stoked for us and entered tirelessly, with song and dance, into the make-believe of my sick baby, while I bent, shiveringly, to an endless task of editing, I should have harbored black bitterness in my heart against the cruelties of life.

When the spring came I took civil service examinations.  I tried every examination I thought I had a chance to pass.  I think I tackled something like seventeen tests; I know I spent a week at it.  Result:  I was appointed to the "permanent" position  as an editorial clerk.  Temporarily, for the summer, I was detailed to follow my husband through Iowa and Minnesota.  Renting my house and seizing my child, I took the first train possible for Fort Madison, knowing that Grandfather and Grandmother Brown would be only too delighted to look after my baby while I followed their son around the country.


The third year's idyll in Fort Madison began with Grandfather Brown and Constance both below par.  Grandfather's huge frame looked sound and stalwart, but he had difficulty in moving about and was dependent on his crutch and Grandmother Brown's assistance.  Constance was pale and puny after her winter's whooping and hung on Grandmother, too.  But it was the month of May.  The trees were full of singing birds and all Fort Madison was sweet with the scent of locust blossoms.


"We used to have a locust tree at the farm," began Constance, addressing Grandpa and Grandma the morning after her arrival, as we all sat together blissfully under the grape arbor, "and it grew and grew until it made a beautiful bower.  Albert and I used to sit under it, and one night he plucked a blossom and gave it to me and when I went to bed I put it under my pillow and kept it there and it smelled so sweet."


"But didn't it wilt?" asked Grandmother.


"Oh yes, but when I'd sprinkle it with water the flowers would pop right up again.  Well, the years went by and the years went by" - with a large wave of her hand - "and Albert didn't come any more."  She was very sad and mused awhile, then suddenly smiled and jumped up, ecstatically.  "But one morning I opened my eyes suddenly and there was Albert.  And he said:  'Will you marry me?'  And I said, 'Yes, I will.'  And so we were married the next day.  And I looked under my pillow and there was the locust blossom.  I wore it in my hair.  Isn't that a pretty story?"

I left them to their stories and their plays and turned to my Government work.


"Grandpa did enjoy her so that last summer," sighed Grandmother.  "Of course she was older, and more interesting than she had been before, and then, too, he was physically more helpless and sat at home with us more than he had done in other years.  I remember one afternoon, when he had gone to the store and we were waiting for him to come to supper, Constance said:  'Don't you think it would be nice if we'd hear someone come crutching' along, an' crutchin' along, and he would crutch up on the porch, an' it would be Grandpa?'


"When we'd start up the stairs for bed, Grandpa first with his crutches, I next with the lamp in my hand, Constance following behind, she'd sometimes say, 'I want to be carried.'  I'd say, 'No; Grandpa can't carry you and I can't.  You'll have to walk alone.'  'I'm coming,'  she'd call every gayly after a moment.  And then, when we got upstairs, she'd be so busy helping.  'Now, Grandpa, you sit down on this box and let me take off your shoes and stockings,' she'd say.  'Grandma says it isn't good for you to stoop your head.'  And it wasn't.


"She 'acted' more than ever that summer, but 'acted up' rather less,"  continued Grandmother Brown.  "Dan'l was so amused one day when we were coming out of church and Constance whispered to him:  'That's the best sermon I ever heard.'  'How so, Constance?' asked Dan'l.  (Dr. Stewart's text had been:  'Be not weary in well doing'!)  'Well, Dr. Stewart said it was hard to be good all the time.  I guess he knows.' "


When the time came to leave Fort Madison, it was hard to say which mourned the most, grandparents or child.  "All I want is Father and Mother and a farm!" was her passionate declaration when told that she was going to live in a beautiful city called Washington.


Settled in Washington, we invited Grandmother Brown to spend the winter with us.  No one was, at that time, seriously concerned about Grandfather Brown's condition.  While considerably crippled, his general health and spirits seemed to be good.  He said that he would like to go up to Lizzie's for a change, if Grandmother wanted to visit Washington and we needed her help.  She came a few weeks before Christmas and stayed until April.


How wonderful life seemed that fall of 1903!  To have a steady job - meagre, perhaps, but certain - with a fair outlook for growth and advancement!  To have a neat little house where we could be together!  Modest wishes, but how hard had they been to realize!  Now, at last, we had earned the right to stay in Washington, each of us with a job, my husband with the hope of a place in the newly created Bureau of Corporations, which promised to make such interesting investigations in fields with which he was familiar.  There was the possibility, too, of his being able to go to the law school after office hours.


Whenever we could get release from our various duties, we showed Grandmother the wonders of Washington.  She was nearly seventy-seven by this time, but as unjaded in her appetite for sightseeing as any girl of seven-and-ten.  For the emblems of her country's majesty she had great reverence.  The Capital and White House she approached as if they were the seats of liberty, the shrines of greatness.  As for the Library of Congress!


"I think often," she told me on the day of her ninety-ninth birthday, "of what Constance said once after we had been there:  'Grandmother, do you suppose that Heaven is any prettier than the Library?'  I said to her:  'Why, yes, we are told that eye hath not seen nor has it entered into the heart of man to know how beautiful Heaven is.'  And then Constance said, 'But they couldn't make anything prettier than the Library.' "


A spring day at Mount Vernon raised Grandmother Brown to the zenith of enthusiasm.  For Grandmother Brown no halo had a lustre comparable to that of George Washington's.  The correctness of his deportment and the elegance of his manners, added to the high integrity of his character, always appealed to her particularly.  To visit his home was a memorable experience for her, and Mount Vernon has few visitors in these careless days who observe its details with the enthusiastic understanding that Grandmother bestowed on it.  Every iron crane, copper kettle, and pewter plate in and around the kitchen fireplace reminded her of similar implements in her own childhood home.  The spinning room where yarn was spun and cloth was woven for General Washington's slaves moved her to recollections of spinning wheels and looms she had seen in action.  The old carriage in which General Washington and his lady drove to his Virginia church was unlike the Ohio vehicles in use in her day, but interested her, therefore, all the more.  As we stood on the lawn in front of the mansion regarding the noble river below us, she exclaimed:  "Oh, what merry junketings must have gone up and down this stream!  Can't you just imagine what interchange of hospitality there was between this house and that of the Custises and Lees at Arlington?"  But there was one thing at Mount Vernon that Grandmother Brown did not approve of, and that was the cat hole in the bottom of Martha Washington's bedchamber door.  "I wouldn't want a cat coming into my room at night," she said, inclined to be critical of Martha for allowing it.


"We went to Arlington twice that spring," said Grandmother Brown.  "The view from that terrace is worth many trips.  But the great pillars Lee put up in front of his house are too big.  They look as if he had tried to show off.  I remember that on either side of the hall that runs through the house is a large wall tablet which gives the history of the land and tells what it sold for originally.  I remember it was so cheap.


"Of course, I enjoyed the wonders of the Capitol and like sitting in the galleries of Congress.  One day, when I was in the Senate, I remember hearing a debate between Senator Tillman and another senator who was, I think, Senator Dolliver of Iowa.  'Pitchfork' Tillamn, you say!  Yes, I thought he acted kind o' like a - well, like a pitchfork.   He'd shake his mane and get so excited.  They were discussing the Isthmian Canal.  I got very much excited myself, listening to them.  It looked so nice to me to have ships going through from one ocean to another.  Dolliver came out away ahead in the argument, I thought.  I looked for out other Iowa Senator, too, Mr. Allison.  Dan'l always admired him so much.


"In the House of Representatives I soon picked out General Grosvenor, representative from Athens.  With his heavy head of snow-white hair he was easy to identify.  But then, I had known him all my life.  He always came to see me when I went to Athens."


"Do you remember the New Year's Reception we went to at the White House?" I asked.  "It was a lovely, mild winter day and as you and I were walking down Pennsylvania Avenue, past the White House, we noticed the line of people going in to the reception. 'Let's fall in,' I suggested."


"Yes indeed, I remember," answered Grandmother Brown.  "Before I knew it, I was shaking hands with Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States.  I thought he was rather a homely man.  He might have been a man of strong mind, but he wasn't good looking like my boys.  There were some things I'd have liked to say to him, but people were crowding along and I didn't like to stop.  I would have liked to mention that I had a husband and five sons, all Republicans, and that my daughter had married a Democrat but had brought him around into the fold.  It didn't please me when he took 'In God We Trust' off our money.  I wanted that left on for the good of our government.  But I often think of what Dan'l used to say when Gus would be scolding away about Roosevelt:  'Well, I don't suppose Roosevelt is perfect.  Fact is, I don't know of anyone who is perfect, except myself.'


"I saw President Roosevelt quite a number of times that winter.  You remember he used to go riding from Park Road and take his horse down into the park not far from your house.  One evening when Herbert and I were coming from the city we met him just as he was going to mount his horse.  He spoke to us.


"Oh, all of Washington was interesting to me.  I had had a life of toil.  It was a great change.   I kept lingering on and on.  It was hard to leave.


"Dan'l had been writing, you remember, that he was enjoying himself so much with the young folks at Lizzie's.  He wrote that a fine time he'd had on Halloween with pumpkins and things, cutting up with the young people in the barn.  But after a while he began to get tired of so much singing and going-on.  'Bessie and Frank are nice girls,' he wrote, 'but it's beau and go, and go and beau, all the time.  Better come home soon now, Mother.'  I was beginning to pack up when I got another letter that made me hustle, sure enough, as fast as ever I could.  He wrote that he had rented a house, furnished, to some people who wanted it very much, and that he had arranged to have us board with them.  The idea!  I hurried home, stopping in Athens only long enough to attend the Home-Coming Reunion.  Very uneasy I was every mile of the way back.


"And yet I had such a good time, too, in Athens.  That home-coming week of 1904 was wonderful.  It was organized by George A. Beaton, who had become a rich man, the grandson of a neighbor of ours.  There was a tent in front of the college with seats and food for three thousand people.  Tables covered with muslin.  Sister Libbie, Sister Kate, and I were guest of honor.  We came in by a separate door and sat with Mr. Beaton's sister.  That's something - to be the guest of honor among three thousand people."


To Grandmother Brown her home had always been the centre of her life.  That anyone else should take possession of it and be able to lay rough hands on her household goods filled her with dismay.  She went hurrying back to Iowa with blood in her eye.  One of the characteristic things about Grandmother Brown that always delighted me was the way in which, when she thought it worth while, timid as she was, she would put her back against the wall and defy all comers.


In her absence, members of her family had been thinking that she and Grandfather Brown ought not to live alone, that they had more house than they needed or could comfortably take care of, that it would be a good idea - and profitable, too - to have others living with them.


But their ideas did not meet with Grandmother Brown's approval.  On July 24 came a letter giving delicious recital of her trials, all happily past by that time, accompanied by a neat little drawing of her plan for remodeling the house for the use of two families.


I had hears so much about the money I was throwing away, and that I did not need so many rooms, that I determined to make one more desperate effort to get the house into shape so that the rooms could be rented.  We have applicants for rooms all the time.  But they always ask the same questions:  Have you a bathroom?  And how is the house lighted?  Finally, I decided where and how a bathroom could be made and telephoned Mr. Vollers to call and give his opinion of my plan, which he did.  He said it was a fine one.


Now I will borrow that money which your father calls scared for our burial purposes and put in the bathroom and the gas and pay it back with the rent.  I will make a diagram of my plan so you will know how it is.


Since I have got the snarls and tangles all straightened out, I am going to tell you that i had a hot time at first when I got home.  Father was down at Charlie's, had been there several weeks.  From the time these people came in here he had given no attention to how things were going.  He was so perfectly happy with the arrangement that he made them feel that the house and all that was in it was theirs,  with himself in the bargain, and he had won all the children his way, except Gus, who said to him, 'Mother will not stand this when she comes.'  Well, I cannot give it to you in full detail, but the whole house and the warehouse and grounds about it were Chaos.  I had looked around what time I had before starting for Charlie's that morning and I went away heartsick.  Of course when I got down there I tried to tell how I found things.  Well, I might as well have tried to put out a fire by pouring on coal oil.  Finally, Father swelled up and declared to me that I could just set my heart at rest, that he had made this arrangement and it was a good one, and that he would never keep house again while we lived.  I told him he could live with them without me, or with me without them.


But just as soon as we got home and Father began to look around he went at once and told them that we would have to have the house, and he said to me that he was sorry he rented it, also that he was sorry for the way in which he had talked to me, and that he would never do it again.  I cannot take time to tell the half.  But poor old Father, he does feel so chagrined.  He told Libbie to-day that he had been completely hypnotized.   I think this is why he feels so willing to fix up the house.  So when you write do not refer to any of the unpleasant things I have mentioned.  My ill feelings have passed, and when one is sorry for his mistakes and errors he should be forgiven.  So, too, I wish you and Chedie to forgive me for losing my patience sometimes and acting foolish.  And do not forge to praise Father for fixing the house......


And so Grandmother and Grandfather settled down for their last two years together in quarters snugly suited to their needs.  In numerous letters - usually addressed Constance - Grandfather described the new arrangements with satisfaction.  He wrote: -


Grandmother and I sleep in the sitting room now because I cannot go upstairs.  The base-bruenr sits in the front room where we can hear the doorbell and our friends find us at home.  My big chair stands by the south front window.  While we have given up most of the chamber rooms to the Thomas's, we are quite comfortably settled.  The Thomas's are very quiet people and have everything nice, so they suit us to a T.


We are keeping our little bedroom as near like it was as we can, so it will be ready for you when you come back next summer with the robins and worms.  We have not let them cut your little maple trees down, either.


Grandma has things pretty well placed and regulated again.  She says she wishes you could just see her brass andirons and brass doorknobs now that they are polished until they are as bright as gold!  She has worked awfully hard, too hard for one of her age, getting things straightened up but she will do it.  I am so crippled that virtually I can do nothing, though I do make out to get a bucket of coal now and then.


This has been one of the loveliest falls I ever knew.  And now we are having beautiful Indian summer.  The perhaps comes winter after election.  You may say to your father that your Uncle Will is running for county auditor with a fair prospect of election.  Three days more and I guess we shall elect Teddy for four years more.  Well, I like Teddy - I do!


On the opening day of 1905 - a day "as pretty as May, clear and bright," he wrote:  "I went over to the Court House to shake hands and wish all the new incoming county officers a happy new year, Will among the rest.  All Republicans - for once!"


Drawing closer and closer to each other in those last intimate days and yearning towards their children, Grandfather and Grandmother approached the sixtieth anniversary of their union.  Centered in their own destiny, they yet looked around them thoughtfully, taking note of how the world wagged.  Roosevelt's tiltings with Big Business interested them, especially when their son Herbert was assigned to help in the much-advertised investigation of the Oil Trust.  "Herbert must tell us all about the Government investigation and what is going to be done," wrote Grandmother.  Having a lively memory of how the Paper Trust had picked him clean, Grandfather regarded Roosevelt as a just avenger of the Little Business man.

Grandmother regarded her son's part in the "trust-busting" programme very seriously.  But she was anxious, too, that he should get that law degree.  And she wondered, uneasily, how he could manage both.  "My only fear is that you are loading yourself too heavily," she wrote.


She had perfect faith in the outcome of the Government's inquiry.    Of course righteousness must triumph - in the nation as in its small component units.  Writing on her seventy-eight birthday anniversary, she said:  "This is a beautiful, bright April day and the first Sunday after our Gus has taken the office of Mayor of Fort Madison.  I am happy to say that every saloon and poolroom and all that sort of thing in the town is closed to-day - from eleven o'clock last night until to-morrow morning.  Now that Will is Auditor, and Gus Mayor, and Church President of the Board of Education, I think Herbert should be here.  He might be City Attorney.  How is that?  Oh, I do want to know all about Herbert's progress in the law college and everything."


Every letter that year of 1905 breathed a longing to gather her children around her.  She was rebellious that Government work held us in Washington, even during the hot summer.  "Oh, if we could only see your whole family come walking in!" was her cry.


As the year wore on, she wrote:  "Father has even suggested taking enough out of the little money we have at interest to go to Washington and return.  He would do it at once if I would give him the least encouragement.  That is how childish he is.  My opinion is that he is deeply regretting not having kept our boys in school, though he does not come right out and say it in so many words.  He sees how well Lizzie's children are doing.  The boys are saving money to go to college.  Father often makes the remark that he has made many mistakes, but that he did the best he knew how, and that it is too late now to help the matter.  When he talks that way, I feel very sorry for him, because I see my own mistakes in the same way and there is no help now.  I can only try to do my best in the future."


Some weeks after their sixtieth wedding anniversary Herbert was able to join them.  "We would have been glad to celebrate our anniversary,"  Grandmother had written, "but all things seemed to go against it, with Sue's mother buried that very day, Will and Libbie short of help on their dairy farm, Charlie overburdened, Lizzie doing her work alone.  But they all came in that evening, some of the grandchildren with them.  Lizzie went to the kitchen and made chocolate, the best we ever tasted.  It was a little quiet surprise, altogether pleasant."  When Herbert arrived, soon after, he took comfort in seeing how actively his mother's lithe figure flitted about her small domain, and what satisfaction she found in ministering to her Dan'l.  He carried away with him a pretty last picture of them sitting before a cheerful fire, touched with the sorrows of life but delicately happy too.


"After Dan'l got sick, I used to wash his feet,"  Grandmother told me as she gathered up her century of memories.  "He couldn't do it himself.  I'd bring in the little foot tub and set it before the base-burner.  He said to Lizzie, 'Since Mother's taken charge of my feet they're just as smooth as a baby's.'  But he would say to me, 'I hate to have you wash my feet.'  And I would answer, 'Why, that's according to the contract, Dan'l.'  And he would say other nice things to me.  He told me he was a better man for having lived with me.  Dan'l seemed sort o' mellowed all those last years."


Grandfather's last Christmas came.  "Oh, I had the best joke on Dan'l," said Grandmother, recalling that happy holiday.  "He was in need of a new suit, and I thought I wouldn't let him know I had saved the money for one.  I went to Ben Hesse, the tailor.  I selected the kind of goods I wanted - dark blue.  I said to DAn'l:  'Mr. Hesse wants to take your measure for a man about your size who lives in the country and can't come to be fitted.'  I told Mr. Hesse to leave the suit in the hall on the settee Christmas morning.  Mrs. Thomas found the box there and came bringing it in.  'Aunt Maria, what's this?' she asked.  'Let's see,' I said, and opened it.  'Now, that's Gus!' exclaimed Dan'l.  'I do wish he wouldn't do such things.'  'Gus nothing! said Mrs. Thomas.  'It's Aunt Maria!'  I said, 'Now, Father, go out and get into that suit and let's see how it fits.'  He looked fine in it.  But suddenly he said, 'Are these things paid for?'  'I wanted you to look nice,' I told him.  He died before it was worn out.  But we had had that happy Christmas time.  And our children all remembered us so generously!"


Grandfather died in May 1906.


The year had opened auspiciously for him, and Grandmother's letters had glowed with satisfaction in his apparent improvement.  "Father is very much better," she wrote in January.  "He can walk about the room without his crutch, with just his cane."


Confident that Grandfather would be himself again "when the nice warm weather" came, Grandmother even thought it might be possible for her to make some summer visits.  "I am thanking my Heavenly Father now every day that he has blessed me with such good children.  I want to see them all.  I want to visit Charlie's folks.  They have been so nice to me these last two years.  And then I want to come to your house again or have you come here.  Ah, Herbie, I am so happy to learn of the work you are capable of doing for the Government.


"The first years of a person's life," she told us, "the advance is rapid.  Likewise, the last years, the decline is swift.  So, dear children, let us all try to make the best of the time allotted to us.  I have now entered my eightieth year and your father will be eighty-four in August."


We planned another visit to them, but Grandfather Brown's summons came before we could get off.  On April 24, Grandmother wrote to tell us that he had had "a return of that old paralytic trouble," and that his right arm and hand had become entirely helpless.  "I hope my own strength may hold out, so that I may be able to wait on him," she wrote.  "He could never get his clothes off or on alone, or cut up his food on his plate.  In many ways he needs help all the time.  He has wanted to write you, but put it off.  This morning he says, 'Now it is impossible.'  The children here are all very attentive and kind to us.  And I hope, as the weather grow warm, that things may move on comfortably with us and that we can yet have one more visit from you and your family."  But, alas, a few days later she wrote to say that Grandfather was much worse, had become entirely helpless and unconscious.  "The boys have their business which they are compelled to attend to," she told us, "but they and Lizzie take turn about with the nurse at night, taking care of him.  The doctors think he will recover.  But it will be very slow, many weeks or perhaps months; so the outlook is a sad one at best.  All our pleasant anticipations of a visit from your family this summer are at an end, I fear.  To see him is only to make the heart ache!


"That last fatal stroke came on Easter Sunday," Grandmother Brown told me, "while Father was eating his supper.  He has been looking for Charlie all day, wanting to see him.  Charlie did not get there until after Father had been stricken, but he thought that Father knew him.  Dr. Stewart had been in, late in the afternoon, and had prayed.  When he had finished, Father had said 'Amen' in a clear voice.  Then he wanted his supper.  Henrietta was late, so I hurried to the kitchen, and I quick made some biscuits.  They turned out to be fine, and I poached an egg and opened some Grimes Golden Jelly.  Sue had come in and she said, 'I'll sit here and wait on Grandpa.'  He ate awhile, and all at once he couldn't swallow.  From that time on, he was confined to his bed.  We got a nurse.  He never seemed to suffer.  He died in a few weeks."


All of his children lived near except Frank and Herbert.  From far-away Mexico Frank could not come to the funeral.  From Washington Herbert hurried as soon as the news of his father's death reached him.  He came into Fort Madison on the early morning train and walked, as he had so often walked at that hour, the few blocks to his old home.  He entered the front hallway of the quiet house where all were still sleeping.  Turning into the parlor at the left, he found himself standing, unexpectedly, beside the body of his father, lying on the old sofa where for many years he had been wont to take his daily nap.  But for the telegram which had brought Herbert, that morning, to that place, he would have fancied that his father was only sleeping.  Numb and shaken, he stood alone there in the twilight of the early morning and looked, with startled eyes, upon his father's face, knowing that his gaze could never be returned.


"It shook me so," he told me, "that I had to go out in the air again and walk up and down the porch awhile before I could go in and speak to Mother.  If you could have seen how majestic he looked!  Like a fallen tree!  So tall and symmetrical, larger, stronger-looking than any son he has.  He lay there, smiling pleasantly.  Just as if he had laid down for an hour's restful sleep."


"On the hillsides the peach trees were in bloom when we laid him away," Grandmother Brown told me sadly.


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