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20 Mary Isabel’s Chimney No one who reads the lives of writers attentively can fail of perceiving the periods of depression—almost of despair—into which we are all liable to fall—days when nothing that we have done seems worth while—moods of groping indecision during which we groan and most unworthily complain. I am no exception. For several months after the publication of Hesper I experienced a despairing emptiness,a sense of unworthiness,a feeling of weakness which I am certain made me a burden to my long-suffering wife. “What shall I do now?” I asked myself. From my standpoint as a novelist of The Great Northwest,there remained another subject of study, the red man—The Sioux and the Algonquin loomed large in the prairie landscape.They were, in fact, quite as significant in the history of the border as the pioneer himself,for they were his antagonists.Not content with using the Indian as an actor in stories like The Captain of the Gray Horse Troop, I had done something more direct and worthy through a manuscript which I called The Silent Eaters, a story in which I tried to put the Sitting Bull’s case as one of his partisans might have depicted it.I had failed for lack of detailed knowledge,and the manuscript lay in my desk untouched. It was in this period of doubt and disheartenment that I turned to my little daughter with gratitude and a deep sense of the mystery of her coming. The never-ending surprise of her presence filled me with delight. Like billions of other Daddies I forgot my worries as I looked into her tranquil eyes.To protect and educate her seemed at the moment my chiefest care. During the mother’s period of convalescence I acted—in my hours of leisure—as nurse-maid quite indifferent to the smiles of spectators,who made question of my method.I became an expert in holding the babe so that her spine should not be overtaxed,and I think she liked to feel the grip of my big fingers.That she appre236 Garland_Daughter_to press 10/20/06 3:43 PM Page 236 ciated the lullabies I sang to her I am certain, for even my Aunt Deborah was forced to admit that my control of my daughter’s slumber period was remarkably efficient. The coming of this child changed the universe for me. She brought into my life a new element, a new consideration.The insoluble mystery of sex, the heroism of maternity, the measureless wrongs of womankind and the selfish cruelty of man rose into my thinking with such power that I began to write of them, although they had held but academic interest hitherto. With that tiny woman in my arms I looked into the faces of my fellow men with a sudden realization that the world as it stands to-day is essentially a male world—a world in which the female is but a subservient partner.“It is changing,but it will still be a man’s world when you are grown,” I said to Mary Isabel. My devotion, my slavery to this ten-pound daughter greatly amused my friends and neighbors.To see “the grim Klondiker,” in meek attendance on a midget sovereign was highly diverting—so I was told by Mary Easton,and I rather think she was right.However , I was undisturbed so long as Mary Isabel did not complain. She was happy with me. She rode unnumbered joyous miles upon my left elbow and cantered away into dreamland by way of the ancient walnut rocker in which her grandmother had been wont to sit and dream. Deep in her baby brain-cells I planted vague memories of “Down the River,”“Over the Hills in Legions,” and “Nellie Wildwood,” for I sang to her almost every evening of her infant life. Rock-a-bye, baby, thy cradle is green. Papa’s a nobleman—mother’s a queen, was one of her most admired lullabys.It was a marvelous time for me—the happiest I had known since boyhood. Not even my days of courtship have greater charm to me now. The old soldierwas almost as completely subordinated as I.Several times each day he came into the house to say,“Well, how is my granddaughter getting on?” and upon seeing her,invariably remarked ,“She’s the very image of Belle,”—and indeed she did resemble my mother. He expressed...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780873516662
Related ISBN
9780873515665
MARC Record
OCLC
835517518
Pages
352
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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