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11 My Father’s Inheritance At half-past six on the morning following our arrival at the Homestead , my father opened the stairway door and shouted, just as he had been wont to do in the days when I was a boy on the farm— “Hamlin! Time to get up!” and with a wry grin I called to Zulime and explained,“In our family, breakfast is a full and regular meal at which every member of the household is expected promptly at seven.” It was not yet fully dawn and the thought of rising in a cold room at that time of night was appalling to a city woman,but with heroic resolution Zulime dressed,and followed me down the narrow stairway to the lamp-lit dining-room, where a steaming throng of dishes, containing oatmeal, potatoes, flap-jacks and sausage (supplemented by cookies, doughnuts and two kinds of jam), invited us to start the day with indigestion. The dim yellow light of the kerosene lamp,the familiar smell of the buckwheat cakes and my father’s clarion voice brought back to me very vividly and with a curious pang of mingled pleasure and regret,the corn-husking days when I habitually ate by candlelight in order to reach the field by daybreak. I recalled to my father ’s memory one sadly remembered Thanksgiving Day when he forced us all to husk corn from dawn to sunset in order that we might finish the harvest before the snowstorm covered the fallen stalks.“But mother’s turkey dinner saved the day,” I remarked to Zulime.“Nothing can ever taste so good as that meal.As we came into the house,cold,famished and weary,the smell of the kitchen was celestial.” My mother smiled but father explained in justification,“I could feel a storm in the air and I knew that we had just time to reach the last row if we all worked,and worked hard.As a matter of fact we were all done at four o’clock.” 127 Garland_Daughter_to press 10/20/06 3:43 PM Page 127 “O, we worked!” I interpolated. “Frank and I had no vote in those days.” During the week which followed, most of my relatives, and a good many of the neighbors, called on us, and as a result Zulime spent several highly educational afternoons listening to the candid comments of elderly widows and sharp-eyed old maids. Furthermore , being possessed of a most excellent digestion, she was able to accept the daily invitations to supper, at which rich cakes and home-made jams abounded. She was also called upon to examine “hand-made paintings in oil,” which she did with tender care. No one could have detected in her smile anything less than kindly interest in the quaint interior decorations of the homes.Her comment to me was a different matter. That she was an object of commiseration on the part of the women I soon learned, for Mrs. Dunlap was overheard to say, “She’s altogether too good for him” (meaning me), and Mrs. McIlvane, with the candor of a life-long friendship, replied, “That’s what I told Belle.” Uncle William,notwithstanding a liking for me,remarked with feeling,“She’s a wonder! I don’t see how you got her.” To which I replied,“Neither do I.” In setting down these derogatory comments I do not wish to imply that I was positively detested but that I was not a beloved county institution was soon evident to my wife. Delegations of school children did not call upon me, and very few of my fellow citizens pointed out my house to travelers—at that time. In truth little of New England’s regard for authorship existed in the valley and my head possessed no literary aureole.The fact that I could— and did—send away bundles of manuscript and get in return perfectly good checks for them,was a miracle of doubtful virtue to my relatives as well as to my neighbors. My money came as if by magic,unasked and unwarranted, like the gold of sunset.“I don’t see how you do it,” my Uncle Frank said to me one day, and his tone implied that he considered my authorship a questionable kind of legerdemain, as if I were, somehow, getting money under false pretenses. Rightly or wrongly,I had never pretended to a keen concern in the “social doings” of my village. Coming to the valley...


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