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24 The Old Homestead Suffers Disaster The summer of 1912, so stormy in a political sense was singularly serene and happy for us.The old house had been received back into favor.It was beloved by us all but especially was it dear to my children.To Mary Isabel it possessed a value which it could not have to any of us, for it was her birth-place and she knew every stick and stone of it. To her it had all the glamor of a childhood home in summer time. On Sunday, October 6,we began to plan our return to the city, and as we sat about our fire that night the big room never looked so warm, so homelike, so permanent. The deep fireplace was ablaze with light,and the walls packed with books and hung with pictures spoke of a realized ideal. On the tall settee (which I had built myself),lay a richly-colored balletta Navajo blanket,one that I had bought of a Flathead Indian in St. Ignatius. Others from Zuni and Ganado covered the floor. Over the piano “Apple Blossom Time,” a wedding present from John Ennecking glowed like a jewel in the light of the quaint electric candles which had been set in the sockets of hammered brass sconces. In short, the place had the mellow charm of a completed home,and I said to Zulime “There isn’t much more to do to it.It is rude and queer,a mixture of Paris,Boston,and the Wild West;but it belongs to us.” It was in truth a union of what we both represented,including our poverty, for it was all cheap and humble. My father,white-haired,eighty-two years of age was living with us again, basking in the light of our fire and smiling at his grandchildren , who with lithe limbs and sweet young voices were singing and circling before him. I was glad to have him back in mother’s room, and to him and to those who were to be his caretakers for the winter I gravely repeated,“I want everything kept just as it is. I want to feel that we can come back to it at any time and find every object in place, including the fire.” 288 Garland_Daughter_to press 10/20/06 3:43 PM Page 288 To which father replied,“I don’t want to change it.It suits me.” The children, darting out of the music-room (which was the “dressing-room” of their stage),swung their Japanese lanterns,enacting once again their pretty little play, and then our guests rose two by two and went away.Zulime led the march to bed,the lights were turned out and the clear,crisp,odorous October night closed over our scene. As I was about to leave the low-ceiled library, I took another look at it saying to myself, “It seems absurd to abandon this roomy, human habitation for a cramped little dwelling on a city lot.” But with a sense of what the city offered by way of compensation , I climbed the old-fashioned, crooked, narrow stairway to my bed in the chamber over the music-room,content to say goodby for the winter. . . . It was dusky dawn when I awoke,with a sense of alarm,unable to tell what had awakened me. For several seconds I lay in confusion and vague suspense. Then a cry, a strange cry—a woman’s scream—arose, followed by a rush of feet. Other cries, and the shrieks of children succeeded close,one upon the other. My first thought was,“Constance has fallen.” I sprang from my bed and was standing in the middle of the room when I heard Zulime cross the floor beneath me, and a moment later she called up the stairway,“Hamlin,Fan has set the house on fire!” My heart was gripped as if by an icy hand for I knew how inflammable the whole building was,and without stopping to put on coat or slippers, I ran swiftly down the stairs.As I entered the sitting -room so silent,so peaceful,so undisturbed,it seemed that my alarm was only a part of a dream till the sobbing of my daughters and my wife’s voice at the telephone calling for help,convinced me of the frightful reality. I heard, too, the ominous crackling of flames in the kitchen. Pushing open the swinging door I confronted a wall...

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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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