Story of Harriet Beecher Stowe - R. B. MacArthur

As a Child

"Children, who do you suppose came to live with us last night?" The proud father's-face shone happily as he asked this question of a band of bright-eyed girls and boys gathered around the breakfast table that bright June morning.

"Who?" they instantly demanded with youthful eagerness, pausing with forks or spoons uplifted as they waited for his answer.

"A baby girl!"

"Hurrah! What is her name?" they chorused, and immediately everyone had some suggestion to offer for the naming of the wee one just come to join their number and be one of them.

In some such manner was the birth of Harriet Elizabeth Beecher announced to her brothers and sisters, for she was sixth child in this lively household where children were always welcomed with warm hearts and childish devotion. "The more the merrier," seemed to be their motto. At least, the family circle continued to grow until there were thirteen children, eleven of whom grew to manhood and womanhood.

The father, Dr. Lyman Beecher, was a Presbyterian minister, who, at the time Harriet was born, was living in the beautiful town of Litchfield, Connecticut. The parsonage was a huge, rambling affair, which had grown with the family. The original house was a square building with a great brick chimney in the middle of it; but as the family needs had increased, several bedrooms, a new kitchen, a sink-room, a woodshed, a carriage house, and other out-buildings had been added one by one, until someone had suggested that it seemed as if the house had been constructed on the model of a telescope. Besides all these rooms in which the family lived, there were several cellars where the autumn harvests were stored for winter use, and four great garrets to add to the charm of the place; and as Harriet grew up she loved them all, from the damp, dark vegetable cellar with its earthy smell, to the attic where many-barrels of old sermons were kept, and in which she reveled to her heart's content.

The Beecher family was an old one, rich in intellect and achievement, makers of history both in the Old World and in the New. Eighteen years after the first Pilgrims had landed from the Mayflower on the rugged shores of our beloved America, a company of rich and cultured men and women under the guidance of a London clergyman named Davenport, came to the same part of the country with the intention of founding a new colony. Among this band were John Beecher and his mother. His father had been promised land in this country if he would join the colony, but he died just before the venturesome band left old England. However, Mrs. Beecher had proved herself so useful to the company, that she was given a large tract of land near New Haven, where they set up their home, and here the first religious services of the new colony were held. This is an interesting fact when we remember that Lyman Beecher and six of his sons were ministers of the Gospel years later.

Lyman Beecher himself was an only child. His mother died of consumption two days after he was born, and so puny and frail was he at birth that the neighbors who cared for his mother decided he could not live, and actually wrapped him up and laid him aside as not worth dressing. Later, some curious soul investigated the little bundle and discovered that the babe still breathed, so he was taken care of and given a chance to live. As he says in his Autobiography, "It was by a hair's breadth I got a foothold in this world." Although his father married again and had several children by his second wife, Lyman Beecher was brought up in his uncle's family, at Guilford, Connecticut, went to college, earning most of the necessary money himself, and married Roxana Foote while still very young. Eight children were born of this union, Catherine, William Henry, Edward, Mary Foote, George, Harriet Elizabeth, Henry Ward and Charles, of whom, as stated before, Harriet was the sixth. Harriet's birthday was June 14, 1811. After her came her famous brother, Henry Ward, her inseparable companion, and a brother Charles. When her mother died of that same dread disease, consumption, Harriet was but five years old, so her memories of her mother were not many, yet there was a subtle bond between the two which influenced all Harriet's life, and is revealed in nearly everything she wrote.

Mrs. Beecher was a calm, restful, sympathetic person, whose temper never seemed to get ruffled, no matter what emergency might arise, so the discipline of the large family of children was left to the father, whose punishments, though few, were so severe and unique that they were never forgotten by the culprits, and all it required to gain immediate and explicit obedience from any of the children was his command, "Mind your mother! Quick! No crying! Look pleasant!" Yet they remembered him as their playfellow, not as a disciplinarian. He believed thoroughly in playtime, and when long or hard tasks were well done, often rewarded the small workers with a fishing trip or a nut-gathering, according to the season of the year. Huge baskets were filled with a substantial lunch for the hearty appetites, and the pleasure seekers tramped happily away at daybreak for a holiday that often lasted till after dark. Harriet Writes of the fishing excursions particularly, for she was not included in the merrymaking until she was quite a girl, and the days seemed so lonely and long-drawn-out with all the noisy brothers away that she scarcely knew what to do with herself till bedtime came.

When they went nutting, Dr. Beecher would choose the tallest trees himself to shake for the ripening nuts, and in one well-remembered spot he frequently climbed a tree that leaned far out over a deep gully in order to gather some specially fine nuts. But he would not permit any of the boys to take the same risk.

He possessed a stimulating personality that always brought forth the best efforts of his large brood in whatever tasks they undertook, and he tried to make these tasks so interesting that no one would want to shirk. When the tedious apple-cutting or wood-splitting events occurred, as they did each year, he marshaled his forces with contagious enthusiasm and they all set to work with a royal will. If the tasks were indoors, one of the company would read Scott's novels or some other interesting book, while the rest busied themselves with their hands, and the long evenings slipped by so rapidly that no one could believe bedtime was at hand when the old clock struck the hour. Of course when the great piles of oak and hickory logs were to be sawed and split, such a quiet program was impossible. But even then they strengthened their minds debating some topic suggested by the father, possibly, and often he would purposely take the wrong side of a question in order to create a lively argument. If the children did not make the most of the points in their favor, he would call attention to the arguments they had overlooked, and say, "Now, if you had argued in this way, you could have tripped me up." Thus he developed their reasoning powers to an unusual degree, making strong speakers of all his children, and in this manner fitting them to become the powerful preachers which six of them afterward became.

He was very fond of music, and when some lucky accident made it possible for him to bring home from New Haven a fine, upright piano, the joy of the household knew no bounds. The house must have fairly rung with music at times, for Catherine and Harriet learned to play the magical instrument, their father was a devotee of the violin all his life, and the two oldest boys could perform on the flute; so they had quite a respectable orchestra under their own roof.

Unfortunately, few memories of her mother lingered to comfort her when the dear figure was gone from the home nest. Two incidents, however, impressed themselves so vividly upon her mind that she could never forget them, and they are good examples of how this unusual woman governed her boisterous brood. One Sunday morning, Harriet, with some of her younger brothers, danced noisily out of the nursery to meet the mother as she was passing, and she rebuked them with the gentle admonition, "'Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy "

Another time while Mrs. Beecher was gone from the nursery for some minutes, Harriet unearthed a bag of tulip bulbs which their uncle John had sent his sister, knowing her love of flowers; and the child, mistaking them for onions, which she had never tasted, persuaded her brothers to help her eat them up. When they were entirely devoured, the mother returned, and the children ran to tell her of their discovery and of the feast that had followed. Poor Mrs. Beecher must have been greatly disappointed over the loss of the bulbs, but instead of chiding them for their action, or even frowning her displeasure, she merely explained the nature of the bulbs they had eaten, and told them that now it would be impossible to have the red and yellow blossoms in the garden when spring came around. The children were much crestfallen and more punished than if they had been severely reprimanded.

The mother was a very talented person herself, being quite a musician, and an artist of considerable ability. She painted twenty-four miniatures of her friends on ivory before her marriage, and it is said that the likenesses were very good. She also had a positive genius for home-making, which was very fortunate indeed, being the wife of a minister, and the mother of so large a family. She was well-read, spoke French fluently, made bobbin lace and cobweb stitch such as is never seen any more, and her needlework was truly marvelous for its delicacy. When problems of any sort arose in her domestic duties, she promptly went to the encyclopedia for advice and studied until she had solved the difficulty. With the aid of a mason, she built for her own use a Russian stove, according to a description she had seen in an encyclopedia, which was so successful that it warmed six rooms on less fuel than it took for a single fire in the open fireplaces. She even made a carpet for her parlor floor when such things were unknown in her circle, because Dr. Beecher had brought home a bale of cotton from one of his lecture tours, and she could think of no other use to put it to.

So she carded, spun, wove and cut it to fit the best room, and stretching it on the garret floor, she brushed it with a thin paste to give it body. Then she painted a design of flowers and leaves on the surface, taking for her patterns the plants of her own garden. When finished it was the envy and admiration of all who saw it, and the church deacons, when they came to call, were afraid to step on it. Indeed, they chided Mrs. Beecher for trying to make the house so splendid that Heaven would lose its attractiveness! But perhaps they were excusable, for at that time the only decorations on parlor floors were made by sifting clean sand over them and marking them off in patterns.

With such a father and mother, it is scarcely to be wondered at that Harriet developed into the genius she afterward became. But she did not inherit all the talent in the family. There were gifted brothers and sisters, as well. Catherine, the oldest girl, was her father's favorite, and in her earlier years was regarded as the most promising of his daughters. She, like her mother, could do almost anything her mind set itself to, and she wrote many books on various subjects, as well as being one of the best-known women educators of her day. Six of the brothers grew up as foremost preachers of that period, and foremost of the six was Henry Ward, Harriet's favorite brother.

There were good times aplenty in the Beecher home while the children were growing up, although there were few toys or story books for their amusement. That was an age when children were seen and not heard, and the world seemed made just for grown-ups. To be sure, the lack of toys was not greatly felt, for all the little Beechers possessed vivid imaginations and could readily think up new games when the old ones palled. Catherine seems to have been particularly gifted along that line, and the younger sisters never lacked for rag dolls with real, painted faces, so long as she was at home to make and dress them for the others.

Indeed, most of their crude toys were the product of this oldest sister's brain and the work of her nimble fingers. Much to the amusement of her father, she once made a Queen of Sheba sitting in a pumpkin chariot which was drawn by four prancing steeds, made of crook-neck squashes, with ears and legs whittled out of wood. Harriet's delight in this contraption knew no bounds, and even the brothers were interested. Catherine celebrated most of the household mishaps in rhyme—nonsense, Dr. Beecher called it, yet it so amused him that he sometimes contributed to the cause himself. On one occasion, when one of the many parsonage cats had died, Harriet begged this big sister for an "epithet," meaning an epitaph for its tombstone, and Catherine wrote this touching ditty:

"Here died our kit

Who had a fit,

And acted queer.

Shot with a gun,

Her race is run,

And she lies here."

All the Beechers were out-of-door people, and when the weather permitted, the children almost lived in the open air, which accounts in a large measure for the robust constitutions they possessed in their youth. Dr. Beecher's salary was paid partly in money, partly in provisions and partly in firewood, and the huge wood-piles that always had a place in the back yard of the parsonage afforded Harriet and the rest an ever-fascinating playground.

In summer there were the gardens to add to her enjoyment also, and no doubt she helped plant the cucumber patch, which always grew where the winter's logs had been piled, so each spring the ground must be cleared of chips before the seed could be sowed. She was an eager little worker, and just a remark from her father that she should have been a boy so she could do as much work as her brothers would stimulate her to arduous efforts in clearing this particular spot. But naturally she liked the flower gardens better, and took great pleasure in watching and tending the little plot of ground where the hollyhocks and marigolds grew in rich profusion of color. The summer months with their warm days and gentle showers were very pleasant, but winter had its charms, too, for when the north winds blew and blizzards raged, the older boys made some rough sleds out of whatever materials were at hand, and many a cold morning Harriet and the younger brothers were hauled to school through the snow when it was too deep for their short legs to wade through.

[Illustration] from Harriet Beecher Stowe by R. B. MacArthur


Day began in the Beecher household at four o'clock in the morning. Harriet was usually awakened by a lighted candle set inside the door of her room. There were no fires to warm the sleeping chambers, and no matter how cold it was she must crawl out of bed and dress herself in the icy room, with fingers that often grew too numb to find the buttons; and then help the younger ones who could not dress themselves. Breakfast followed—not such a breakfast as we would expect to-day, for white bread was unknown then, and a heavy, hard loaf of rye and Indian meal furnished the staff of life for them. However, Harriet wrote in later years that this kind of bread tasted very good, served as it was, smoking hot, with sausage and pork and beans. Family prayers followed breakfast, and every member of the household took part. So impressive were these brief morning services that they were never forgotten by any of them.

Next came the packing of lunches and getting the children ready for school, quite a task when there were seven or eight to look after, for each child carried a small basket, filled with slices of brown bread and rosy apples, with which to appease the hearty appetites during the brief nooning. School kept until late in the afternoon, and by the time the evening chores were done it was supper time. The long evenings were given over to family discussions, preparing the next day's lessons, or household tasks that all could engage in. Then family prayers were held again, and good-nights were spoken.

There were fewer holidays then than now, and those few were celebrated in a different fashion. There were no Christmas trees with splendid gifts, such as we receive to-day, but the occasion was observed rather as a religious Service, beginning the day with old-fashioned Christmas carols. Thanksgiving was a time of merry-making and feasting enjoyed by everyone. It had not then become a national holiday celebrated annually, but was observed by different states at different times, according to different governors' proclamations. When Harriet was about nine years old, Dr. Beecher wrote to one of his sons in college, describing a Thanksgiving just past, in which he says, "We had a pleasant Thanksgiving dinner, and, they say, a good sermon. We had presents piled up yesterday at a great rate. Mr. Henry Wadsworth sent six pounds of butter, six pounds lard, two pounds Hyson tea, five dozen eggs, eight pounds sugar, a large pig, a large turkey, and four cheeses. The Governor sent a turkey, Mrs. Thompson, ditto; and to cap it all, Mr. Rogers sent us a turkey!"

The preparation for this event was almost as much fun as the event itself, and the whole family took part. For days before the feast, the kitchen was full of bustle and commotion, while the children stoned raisins, pounded spices in the big lignum-vitae mortar, peeled apples, picked over cranberries, cracked nuts, and sorted fruit and vegetables for the older members of the family to mix up in all sorts of savory concoctions. When all the family were at home, there were thirteen, without counting the aunts, who from time to time lived with the Beechers, or the other relatives who usually helped celebrate the holidays with them; and we can imagine how the great house must have resounded with their mirth and jollity. After the Thanksgiving dinner had been eaten, Dr. Beecher always preached a little sermon to his own household, recounting the many blessings that had come to them during the year and exhorting them to be good. Then the whole family joined in singing some hymn of praise, and the feast was over until another year.

But the holiday that probably was looked forward to with the most anticipation by the children, at least, was the wood-spell, so called because on this occasion, the members of Dr. Beecher's church brought their contributions of firewood to the parsonage. This event, therefore, had to take place after heavy snows had fallen, so the great, awkward-looking pungs could haul their heavy loads easily; and cords and cords of oak, hickory, birch and pine were dumped into the preacher's dooryard before the eventful day was over. The winter following the death of Mrs. Beecher, possibly to show their sympathy for their pastor in his bereavement, the people brought unusually large donations; and Catherine, then but sixteen years old, prepared the feast with which the farmers regaled themselves before returning to their own homes.

All of this kindness meant the frying of untold dozens of doughnuts and the baking of countless loaves and cakes. Baking powder and compressed yeast were unheard of at that time, and Catherine had to make the preparation for raising her cakes by putting certain ingredients together in covered jars, and setting them dose to the fire so the heat would cause fermentation. So for several days before she could begin her baking, rows of earthen jars almost surrounded the great fireplace, because it would require such large quantities of this sour sponge or home-made yeast. But the young cook was triumphant, and both cakes and doughnuts were voted a great success by her hungry guests. Cider and cheese completed the refreshments, and the day was a gala event for all concerned. The Academy closed in order that the teacher might be present to help entertain the farmers with stories, and all the children were allowed to remain at home. Not until the sun was setting in the west did the last of the sleds depart, while the children perched triumphantly on the great stacks of wood in the back yard, waving their hands and screaming loud farewells to the drivers.

Thus far, we have said little about the town in which Harriet was born; but it, of itself; was a constant inspiration to the imaginative child, nestling among the beautiful Connecticut hills with wonderful, enchanted forests on all sides, and the river and lakes gleaming in the distance. The wild beauty of the place held the child enthralled even before she could tell what it was that seemed so beautiful about her surroundings, and she afterwards described the hours she sat on the rough granite steps at the front of the rambling old parsonage and gazed at the landscape with loving eyes, or watched the glorious sunsets fade into the purple twilights, too deeply moved for words. Old Mount Tom with its round, blue head, the Great and Little Ponds, curtained by steel-blue pines, Prospect Hill with its smooth, grassy, inviting slopes, and Chestnut Hill, thickly wooded with chestnut and hickory trees, were very dear to her heart, and when the Beechers moved to Hartford, Harriet felt that no other home would ever be quite so well beloved as the lovely town of Litchfield.

It also had an historical setting that must have filled the growing girl's heart with intense patriotism, for during the Revolutionary War this town had been a place of great activity. It lay along the state road connecting Boston, West Point and New York, and many an exciting incident of this struggle for liberty took place within or close to its borders. At one time there were only eight men left in Litchfield, and these were all too old or feeble to fight. All the able-bodied men had responded to the call to arms. But the men were not the only patriots in this patriotic town. It is said that when the leaden statue of King George was thrown from its pedestal in New York City, the pieces were gathered up and taken to the military storehouses in Litchfield, where they remained hidden until the ammunition of the American Army ran low. Then the women of Litchfield melted the great lumps of the broken statue and made bullets for their men to fire.

At different times during the course of the war General Washington, Lafayette, Rochambeau, and many other officers of the army visited the town, and one of the chief heroes of the time afterward became a parishioner of Dr. Beecher. So Harriet must have heard many stories of those stirring times, for she was born less than thirty-five years after the American colonies had won their independence and had set up a government of their own. Thus she lived during the infancy of our nation and became a staunch patriot, interested in every movement for the betterment of her government.

When Mrs. Beecher died, the aunt for whom Harriet was named, Harriet Foote, was living with the family, and after the funeral she took the child home to Nutplains for a long visit. Here Harriet heard many tales of her own dear mother, saw her paintings and examined her needlework, for Harriet Foote had a great propensity for treasuring family relics, and had great drawers and cabinets filled with things that had belonged to friends or relatives, and were prized accordingly. Here the child also saw wonderful treasures of foreign countries brought home by her Uncle Samuel Foote, and listened to the tales of adventure he told of his trips around the world, for he was a sea-captain, and had visited many, quaint and little-heard-of places in his travels. The bed in which she slept was hung with draperies adorned with Chinese mandarins, quaint summer houses decorated with bells that never rang, and birds larger than the pictured people, all of which made impressions never to be forgotten by the sensitive, romantic child.

The Footes were Episcopalians and followed the customs of that church very strictly; so Harriet became as familiar with its teachings as with those of her father's faith, and, in fact, learned both catechisms, for after her Aunt Harriet had taught her the daily portion of the Church catechism, she evidently thought it her duty to teach her the Primer of the Presbyterian Church as well, much to Harriet's dismay, although she was too well-bred to rebel. Besides this, she also learned twenty-seven hymns and two chapters of the Bible one summer while she was visiting Nutplains as a small child.

She stood somewhat in awe of her Aunt Harriet, who was a strict disciplinarian, but between her and Grandmother Foote there existed a very tender bond of sympathy, although this dearly beloved soul was in her secret heart a Tory, and Harriet was the staunchest of patriots. The grandmother made no outward demonstrations of her beliefs, but confided in Harriet her grief that the prayers for the king and queen and royal family had ceased to be read in church. As for herself, she often turned to those particular passages in her prayer book and read them aloud in a voice that trembled with emotion, for she always felt that there must have been some other way of settling the dispute which led to American independence.

She was a strong character with a clear, active mind, fond of reading and always busy, at something. She liked to have her grandchildren read to her from the Bible, and gave them many explanations which made certain passages very plain to their youthful minds. But it always troubled her when any of them got into a controversy over religion, as they were sure to do whenever they visited Nutplains, because their Uncle George and Aunt Harriet were such firm believers in the Episcopalian doctrines, and the young Beechers were equally firm believers in the views their father held and expounded from his pulpit. These discussions were always friendly affairs, but oftentimes in the heat of argument the voices would be raised unnecessarily loud, and the deaf grandmother, watching their impassioned gestures, feared that a real quarrel was imminent. The place was rather lonely for a child, but the atmosphere of the home was so cordial and cheerful that the hours Harriet spent there were golden memories to her, and she welcomed every chance she got to visit Nutplains, her mother's former home.

When Harriet was between six and seven years old, her father took one of his customary journeys, to preach or lecture in a neighboring town, and went to Portland, Maine, where he married Harriet Porter, a woman of good family and remarkable intelligence. They returned to Litchfield one night after the children were in bed. Harriet was roused from her dreams by an unusual stir about the house, and sitting up in her bed, she saw her father standing in the door of the nursery where she slept with her two younger brothers. "Why, here is Pa!" she cried in surprise. A voice from behind him echoed, "And here is Ma!"

There before their wondering eyes stood a beautiful lady with lovely blue eyes and auburn hair, who bent over them eagerly and kissed them, telling them that she loved little children and had come to be their mother. They immediately demanded to be dressed, but were persuaded to wait until morning, as this new mother had come to stay. No step-mother ever made a sweeter impression on the children she had come to mother, and though they felt some awe of her at first because of her dainty elegance and unusual grace and beauty, they learned to love her dearly, and she returned the feeling with her whole heart. In a letter she wrote shortly after her arrival as mistress of the Beecher home, she describes each member of the lively brood with appreciative words, closing with the lines, "Harriet and Henry come next, and they are always hand in hand. They are as lovely children as I ever saw; amiable, affectionate, and very bright."

Among the impressions of Harriet's childhood, one of the most vivid was of her father's study. It was in one of the four great attics, in order that the noise of the household should not disturb his meditations. Here Harriet loved to browse among the books that lined the walls, or sit and watch her father at work on his sermons, sometimes speaking to himself in a loud whisper as he studied. To her, this retreat seemed like holy ground, and it must have been a solemn place, for she was never allowed to disturb her father by a question or a remark. The books on the shelves were like Greek to her, for she could not understand the deep theology expounded in their pages; but one day Dr. Beecher brought home Cotton Mather's Magnalia, in two volumes, and Harriet was overjoyed to have such wonderful stories of her own country to read, although it is very doubtful if boys and girls of to-day would find them very interesting.

But she had no access to public libraries, as we have, and indeed there were very few children's books written at that time. So she was glad to find anything to read, and when in rummaging through some barrels of old sermons in the garret one day she unearthed tattered copies of The Tempest  and Arabian Nights, her delight knew no bounds. After that she did not care how often the boys went fishing without her, for curled up in a corner with one of these books in her hands she was soon lost to the world, living the scenes herself that the stories depicted. Of course, she was familiar with Pilgrim's Progress, too, reading it over and over again until she knew it almost by heart. The passage describing the dwelling place of the tormented made a great impression on her, for in childish curiosity she had one day opened the glistening, creosote-incrusted door of the smokehouse, built into the kitchen chimney, and the rumbling noises within, as well as the biting, strangling smoke that issued from the black pit below reminded her of Bunyan's vivid description, and she fled from the place in terror.

Another childhood memory of this old parsonage which had a lasting effect on her sensitive nature was of the rats in the old walls. The Beecher cats and dogs did not seem able to exterminate them, and traps failed to diminish their number, so they flourished and grew fat and raised large families of little rats to take their places when they should die of old age. In the daytime they stayed strictly at home, but when the darkness of night settled over the old house, they scuttled out of their holes, and scrambled and squealed and fought so madly through the partitions and across the attic floors above Harriet's head, that she used to cower and quake under the bedclothes, expecting any moment to see them burst through the walls and pounce upon her.

Sometimes the racket they made was terrific as they rolled ears of corn over the rough boards and down into their nests between the beams; and when the winter winds bellowed about the old house, whistling around the corners, roaring down the chimneys, rattling the windows, and banging the doors, the revels of the rats grew so loud and hideous that the frightened child could scarcely sleep at all. But they never did get a hole gnawed through the wainscoting while the Beechers lived there, and in after years Harriet could laugh at the frights they used to give her.

The meeting-house, in the middle of the village green, where her father preached, of course, was never forgotten. She thought its architecture resembled Noah's Ark and Solomon's Temple combined, as pictured in her catechism. It had a double row of windows, which she counted over and over until she knew exactly how many there were and where they were placed. It had great, wooden curls over the doors, a belfry on the east end, and a steeple with a bell. The turnip-like canopy that hung over the preacher's head in the pulpit, suspended by a long iron rod to the ceiling above, seemed very magnificent to Harriet's eyes, but she could not help wondering what would happen to that august personage if the canopy ever should fall. The singing of the choir also caused her a great deal of wonder, for each of the four different parts of the choir sang a different set of words, and Harriet felt sure each time they attempted a selection that they would lose themselves in the medley, and when they did triumphantly reach the end of the piece in perfect harmony, she never ceased to feel an amazed delight over the feat they had accomplished.

Sunday mornings after the several little Beechers had donned their best clothes and had recited their catechisms, they wended their way soberly to the meeting-house, where they must sit through long hours of sermons on a low seat in front of the pulpit. They found the time dragged heavily when they were too small to understand what the minister was talking about, and sometimes tried to amuse themselves by making rabbits out of their handkerchiefs, or nibbling at a bit of gingerbread or an apple which they had hidden in their pockets, but woe to them if the deacon caught them at it!

Although Dr. Beecher insisted that his children be in their seats when the old steeple bell pealed out its Sabbath summons, he himself caused his wife much anxiety by one peculiar habit of his. Every Sunday morning he roamed about the house, chatting amiably with various members of his family, apparently without a care in the world, until nearly time to start for meeting. Then suddenly he would rush away to his study in the attic, frantically begin writing notes for the sermon he was about to preach, and remain in this seclusion until the hour for the service was at hand.

Poor Mrs. Beecher would wait for him apprehensively while the minutes flew rapidly by, till just when she had decided he could not possibly reach his charge on time, he would rush out from his retreat again with his cravat tied under one ear or with a button conspicuously off his coat, and seizing his wife or daughter by the arm, much as he would grab a hand satchel, he would hurry away to the meeting-house, hardly allowing his family time to make him presentable. After a mad race through the quiet Sunday streets, they would arrive at the church panting and breathless, but triumphant, just as the last peal of the bell sounded; and the smiling doctor of divinity would push his way through the crowded aisles to the pulpit as if he enjoyed that particular part of the program.

The parishioners came from miles around, and of course their dogs came too, lying very quietly in the aisle or under the pews while the preaching was in progress. But occasionally they were not so well behaved. The Beechers had a dog named Trip, who, according to Harriet, had a nervous disposition, and would snap and snarl at the bothersome flies which interrupted his Sabbath meditations, and this annoyed the sober elderly folk of the congregation. Sometimes he even howled out loud in a nightmare, and this sort of thing could not be tolerated, so the animal was shut up on Sunday before the family went to meeting, in order to keep him from attending also. But often he would manage to break out of prison, and sneak up the aisle to his position right in front of the pulpit after the morning service had begun, so he could not be removed without too much commotion.

Harriet tells of one memorable occasion, when Dr. Beecher exchanged pulpits with a neighboring preacher, a thin, wiry little man, given to wearing many buckles about his clothing, and being afflicted with a comically high, cracked voice which made the children stare and giggle whenever he spoke. On that particular morning, the young Beechers were in rather a hilarious mood when they set out for church, and Trip somehow managed to follow them, taking his place just as the bell ceased its compelling summons. He looked very meek and innocent, but the minute the strange preacher rose in the pulpit, Trip also rose, alert and attentive. The minister began to read the hymn according to the custom:

"'Sing to the Lord aloud."

At the sound of the queer, squeaking voice, the surprised dog burst into a dismal howl. But the visiting divine was not dismayed, and issued instructions for the removal of the dog in the same tone in which he read the hymn, so to the spirited children it sounded like this:

"'Sing to the Lord aloud,

(Please put that dog out)

And make a joyful noise."

This the children proceeded to do, laughing unrestrainedly, but fortunately the choir had taken up the words of the hymn, and their joyful noise drowned out that of the children.