THE LIBERTIES of these United States are founded upon the doctrine that all men are born free and equal, that, according to the Rev. Mother of the Transfiguration, simply means that all men are born just babies. Yet even babies differ. Mother Eva Mary, herself a case in point, began to transcend circumstance before she was eight days old. In the south spare room of the old three gabled grey brick house in Glendale, Ohio--there were afterwards six gables; to our lasting regret as children, we never achieved seven--in the early days of February, 1862, after the ground hog had made his momentous decision to prolong the winter, a strange and unusual rite was being performed. A little blonde baby under two weeks of age seemed to be dying of a mysterious carbuncle, and the kindly Presbyterian minister was willingly doing all in his power to comfort the anxious mother by giving the baby Christian baptism. The rite administered in this private manner savored, perhaps, a little of the superstitious formalism of Rome, but charity could cover that with so good a man. The motives of that gentle mother who had sent for the minister were probably a mixture; remnants of Calvinistic fear and true Evangelic faith, as was much of the healthiest of nineteenth century Christianity.
The water was poured, the name given, Eva Lee, and the keynote of her life was struck--an escape from the rigid walls of Calvinism by the door of Catholic practice. The Calvinistic baby began life, avoiding pre-terition, and so started her vigorous progress towards the Catholic Faith and the establishment of the Community of the Transfiguration.
It is the story of beginnings which I am trying to tell.
A little genealogy is necessary for the understanding of my narrative, but it need not detain us long.
Thomas Johnson Matthews, the founder of the Ohio branch of the Matthews family, was born in Leesburg, Virginia, January 25, 1788, of Quaker parentage. His youth was spent in Virginia in the city of Alexandria, and in Philadelphia, from which latter city he came to Cincinnati in 1818. In 1823, soon after his marriage to Isabella, the daughter of Colonel William Brown, he was elected Morrison Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in Transylvania University at Lexington, Kentucky. In 1832 Professor Matthews became President of Woodward College, Cincinnati, and in 1845, Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. He died November n, 1852, in Cincinnati.
Colonel Brown was one of the early settlers of Hamilton County, Ohio, coming from Connecticut in 1788.
A tradition in the family connected an old, slightly moth-eaten, faded, heart-shaped badge, packed away with other relics in an ancient leather trunk in the wide garret, with Revolutionary days. It was a decoration conferred upon Great-Grandfather William Brown by Washington himself, we were told, for leading a forlorn hope at the storming of Stony Point. The badge had been made by Martha Washington and sewed or pinned on the breast of his coat by her own hands. Recently I have been given a little book published by the Society of the Cincinnati which contains an interesting account of this Order of Military Merit, one of the earliest instances of a badge of honor created exclusively for the private soldier. So far as the surviving records show, only three of these Purple Heart badges were ever given. The story of the one given to our ancestor I quote from this publication, which inserts Yorktown for the family tradition of Stony Point.
"The Heart awarded to Sergeant William Brown was gained on the historic field of Yorktown. On the evening of October 14, 1781, the two British redoubts that checked the progress of the siege were stormed and taken by the allied troops. The French took the inner; the Americans the outer redoubt, or the one nearest the river. Sergeant Brown led a 'Forlorn Hope' as it is called because, being the advance party and the first to attack, the hazard is so great that these attackers can have but a forlorn hope of coming out alive. The assault on the British redoubt was under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton, then serving as a volunteer. Sergeant Brown's party was the first to dash forward; and the brave sergeant did not wait upon the sappers to cut away the abatis and breach the obstacles, but carried his men over the obstructions and into the redoubt in the face of murderous fire. The British seem to have been confused by this unethical performance, and the redoubt was taken in less than a quarter of an hour and with small loss to the stormers. Sergeant William Brown of Captain Samuel Comstock's Company, Connecticut Line, was born in Stamford, Connecticut, February 12, 1761. After the war he removed to Columbia, now a part of the city of Cincinnati, where he died in 1808. He is buried there and the Purple Heart Badge is now in the possession of his great grandson, the Right Rev. Paul Matthews, Bishop of New Jersey. The Pension Office shows no application for a pension by Sergeant Brown. The name of his wife was Ruth Hanford."
Thomas Stanley Matthews was the eldest son of Thomas Johnson Matthews and Isabella Brown. He was born in Cincinnati, July 21, 1824. He was graduated from Kenyon College at Gambier, Ohio, in 1840, and in 1843 ne married Mary Ann, a daughter of James Black of Spring Hill, Maury County, Tennessee.
And thereby hangs a tale not all irrelevant to the subject of this memoir, for James Black, if there be anything in inheritance, had a character to be inherited--I have often wondered over the strong strain of Calvinism in my so-Catholic-minded sister, and have come to feel that here lies the key--strong, forceful, lovable, religious, deeply prejudiced, he ruled his plantation, his family, and his slaves by wisdom torn bodily in texts from scripture, mainly from the Old Testament.
He gave his daughters fearful names, taken from his reading of the moment, historical, mythological, or biblical--Almedea, Talitha Cumi, Barsaba, Panthea--not one of them was named Jeanie Morrison for his wife's mother, though there were eight. Our mother was always devoutly grateful that he had temporarily run out of names at her birth and could think of nothing but plain Mary Ann. There was one son, Mortimer, but he surely was given that name by Mary Morrison, his mother. Talitha Cumi, the most like him of all his children, became the mother of Henry Watter-son of Courier Journal distinction.
It was in eighteen hundred and forty-one or two, that James Black was instrumental in bringing to Columbia, Tennessee, to fill the pastorate of the Presbyterian Church, a certain Mr. Dodson who happened to be a friend of Thomas Johnson Matthews. Mr. and Mrs. Black hospitably entertained the Dodsons at Spring Hill until they found a house in Columbia. Among the picturesque fragments stored in my memory from my mother's reminiscences of "when she was a girl" is a picture of a radiant Mrs. Dodson coming up the path from the orchard, her hands full of ripe peaches, biting into first one and then another as she came, and Mary Ann running from the cool spring house to cry, "but Mrs. Dodson, your peach has a worm in it!"
"Peaches from a tree, peaches from a tree, what do I care for worms!" cried the enthusiastic lady.
But worms do matter if they happen to be in the constitution of one's husband, and Mr. Dodson--that was not his name; I do not use it, having nothing inspiring to write of him--proved to be the worm in the story. On this occasion Mr. Dodson made a more dignified entrance to the breakfast room than his wife, and soon announced that he was negotiating with the son of a friend to take the school at Columbia, "A fine young man named Stanley Matthews."
What a beautiful name, thought Mary Ann, and fell in love with the name. I know this to be true because my mother told me so herself.
So, in the fall of the year, came young Stanley Matthews to Columbia, nineteen years of age, a graduate of Kenyon, already cultivating the silken sandy beard which was his through life. He wore a suit of plum color, offsetting his red cheeks and bright blue eyes, and seemed a very David among the sallow sons of the South.
It was September, still warm and sunny. Mary Ann and Finnic, the only daughters left at home to lie in hammocks, fanned by little black maids, reading with avidity the last serial number of Boz; only a few miles to walk on Friday afternoons after school hours, and a hearty week-end welcome at the end, at the plantation of Squire Black: what young schoolmaster of nineteen could resist going? Not that young David, certainly.
A little later, as the weeks sped by and winter came, and still he found it so easy to walk to Spring Hill, he questioned himself as to his impecuniosity and his intentions. He had started out as usual, and suddenly bethought himself of a midweek resolve to be prudent. Before him down the road gleamed the white milestone. "Now when I reach that stone," he said, "I will turn back." So, having taken his resolve, he passed the stone briskly and went on, arriving at Spring Hill at the usual time. Finding Mary Ann alone, he asked her hand in marriage; and I know this to be true, for my father told me so himself.
Mary Ann, after due deliberation, that is, one night of hard thinking in which a young southerner with money was not able to balance the equation as equal to brains and beauty, accepted him.
Mr. Dodson was not so irresponsible. He wrote a warning letter to Thomas Matthews, with more than hints of a designing father and bold miss, who would have his son married before spring, and there was much ado among their elders and letters of reprobation and explanation between father and son, and an effort at reconciliation undertaken by busy neighbors between the pastor and James Black, because Mr. Dod-son was a little dismayed at the rumpus he had raised. Mary Ann said slyly: "Now if it had been his own daughter, Anna, Mr. Dodson would never have written that letter." And James Black wrote out his "Justification" to the elders of the church, who sat to consider the matter; and the end of it was that the Rev. Mr. Dodson accepted a call elsewhere, and Stanley and Mary were married on February 15, 1843. I have that old document of justification; it is yellow with age. The preamble is especially delightful:
"Anticipating that a zeal to reconcile the differences between Mr. Dodson and myself and to restore the peace and harmony of the church and neighborhood might impose terms upon me, to which as a man I ought not and as a father I could not accede, I have thought it proper to spread out in order in one connected view the precise grounds upon which I base my conduct towards that individual. Hitherto, he has endeavored to assume the position of the injured party and throw the blame of first aggression upon me. With this false assumption he has tried to extort from me acknowledgments which never can nor will be made."
So, completely forestalling the peacemakers, he so circumstantially demolished the character of poor Mr. Dodson that one feels sorry for him--to appear so completely mean in unfriendly meddling. I am afraid our grandfather meditated but little upon the Sermon on the Mount.
His last letter to his children, Stanley and Mary, was written on July 4, 1847. An extraordinary confession of faith in the status quo, it should give pause to some of us today who fear the call of the Spirit speaking to us to go forward:
Maury County, July the 4th, 1847.
My dear children:
I am making an attempt to write you a few lines altho I am but just able to sit up. I was taken sick with the fever about the first of April, which continued with me some two or three weeks, but when we all thought that I was getting well of that, I was attacked with a disease that never will leave me, hydrothorax or dropsy of the chest; great difficulty of breathing, can take no rest nor sleep without having my head and shoulders bolstered up. I make no calculation upon living but a short time now, and cannot unless my disease takes a turn for the better.
I have nothing new or interesting to write. You have all the news both here and there that is of any importance. I regret the war with Mexico, but that is the fruit of democracy. This nation is now under a heavy curse; who brought it upon us is a question every thinking man should ask himself and not be led blindfold by a party.
And now my son [and here we come to the gist of this solemn last letter] I see that you have got wild upon another subject, I mean Abolitionism. You speak of it (slavery) as being a great moral evil. Now my son you know we would never have known the difference between vice and virtue only as we learned it from the Gospel of the Grace of God. Now let us see what the great apostle of the Gentiles says upon the subject. 1st Timothy 6:1: "Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed; and they that have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren but rather do them service because they are faithful and beloved partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. If any man teach otherwise and consent not to wholesome doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing but doting about questions and strife of words whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmis-ings." Now the Saviour in His last admonitions to His disciples says to teach the nations all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and I suppose the apostles taught nothing that they had not learned from their master and whatsoever is more than this cometh of evil. I have always thought and now more than ever that it is a spirit of envy in the people of the North at the South because they have their servants to work for them and wait upon them. I think I can prove to a demonstration that the relation of master and servant was made by the God of Heaven. Abraham was denominated the friend of God and made the father of all that believe, and yet he had more bond men and bond maids than any man that I know of at present. God made the distinction between master and servant when He gave to man a transcript of His moral perfection. Moses the man of God tells you very plainly in what way your bond men and bond women are to be obtained.
My health won't permit or I would say a great deal more. The rest of my family is all well. I should be glad to see you and Mary before I go hence. The family will keep you advised if I should not be able to write. Yours very affectionately,
This letter of my grandfather's is uniquely beyond comment--except that I would say that it is transcribed with reverence for his sturdy courage and definite faith and not in any flippant mood. The civilization which he believed to be rooted in fixed if not eternal principles was even then dissolving, and in two decades was left behind forever. It was already dead in the minds of his children, thinking the thoughts of the new day. It was not possible that Grandfather Black in '47 should grow old thinking the new thought of youth, but perhaps today, eighty years later, as we count time, in Paradise he may be smiling at our frantic clutch upon our own slippery, sliding, passing day.
It was true that Stanley Matthews hated slavery, and sympathized with every effort towards freedom. In 1854 he began the practice of law at the Ohio bar. During his early years in Cincinnati, he was associated with Chase in his efforts in behalf of the colored race. He was a member of the Liberty party, but, though his sympathies were with the abolitionists in their aims, he still believed in the pursuit of constitutional remedies.
At the outbreak of the war he at once offered his services to Governor Dennison and was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the Twenty-third Ohio Volunteers Infantry. He served at first in the field and afterwards as Provost Marshal of Nashville, Tennessee.
In 1877 Stanley Matthews was appointed United States Senator from Ohio, and in 1881 he was appointed to the Supreme bench, where he served until his death, March 22, 1889.
In his short term in the senate and the brief period of eight years upon the bench, he took his place at once among the leaders. He led and continued always to learn. Even on his deathbed he was led by his youngest son to acknowledge the visible Church of the ages (to his philosophy of idealism an almost unthinkable conception), in which he had been confirmed in his youth, and accepted the Incarnation as the greatest fact in human life. He was received again into the Church and was given the Last Sacrament by Bishop Leonard of Ohio, then rector of St. John's Church, Washington. It was said of him at his death: "Stanley Matthews never stopped growing."
Through the Johnson branch of the family, Stanley Matthews was a descendant of the Honorable Mahlon Stacy of New Jersey, a member of the Colonial Assembly of that province in 1682-1683, whose estate is now the city of Trenton.
It was about the year 1850 that Stanley Matthews, with several other rising young men of Cincinnati, bought property in the village of Glendale and moved his family into the country. The village was laid out like a park, with winding roads; the houses were built and the little community settled down to live as friends and neighbors and to bring up their families. This was no light task in those days, when children were numerous and one servant was considered sufficient for a household.
Eight years later, the home so happily built was visited by a virulent epidemic of scarlet fever, and four of the six children were buried. The eldest daughter, Isabella, a child of seven, and William Mortimer, an infant, were left. Three daughters and one son were born later, one of whom was Eva Lee.
It was during the Civil War. Her father was with his regiment and did not see his infant daughter until three months after her birth. He always remembered her birthday with especial tenderness.
It has been said by some who knew him as a young man that Stanley Matthews was what was called in those days a free thinker; it was a day of questioning and skepticism and although he had been confirmed while at Kenyon, there was nothing to hold him in the Churchmanship of Southern Ohio of that day, and he drifted into liberal Unitarianism. That he was always an idealist, ready to follow his belief even to an erratic practical demonstration, is attested by a circular of the Brook Farm Association which lies among old papers in my possession, for it bears the signatures of Stanley Matthews and Mary, his wife.
The Brook Farm experiment, romanticized by Hawthorne in The Blithedale Romance, failed before Stanley and Mary, his wife, were able to join it; and verily I believe this was deeply to the relief of Mary.
The storm of tragedy which darkened the summer of their married life threw the bereaved father and mother back upon the Christian Faith, and they joined the Presbyterian Church, the only house of worship in the village, on profession of their faith.
It was into this Presbyterian family that the future founder of the Community of the Transfiguration was born on the ninth of February, 1862. She was the eighth child. Her parents were no longer young; the children of their early love had been snatched away from them; a curtain had fallen as at the end of an act in tragic drama; the clouds of war were on the land, the self-abnegation for a great cause in their hearts--and the child of ideals was born.
If Eva was "different" (what child is not different), it was in an almost uncanny appreciation of the joys of being a child. She dreaded "years of accountability" which, she was told, would be upon her when she should reach her eighth year. She was hopeful that she might never reach that mature age; the age arriving, she found herself still able to support the responsibilities of life with joyful equanimity which overflowed in certain trills of ecstatic bird notes of her own. "Accountability," on the other hand, was never successful in suppressing sudden gusts of impatient temper coming at unexpected times and sometimes under ludicrous circumstances. I have never known any child who could get so angry at a needle refusing the thread, perhaps because she believed in fairies and enchantments.
There were two children younger than herself in the household who were her cherished playmates, Their childish lives were made one long fairy tale by her poetic and dominant imagination. Baby dolls and ordinary toys were discarded, and under her tutelage the world became their plaything--the garret, the lawn, the library; it did not matter where they played or how poor the image to represent the idea, it was the Idea which was all important. Some deed of high renown to be enacted, some new continent to discover, some hazardous adventure on Crusoe's island, or the tremendous responsibility of carrying on the teeming life of a whole city--this last was the worst, for life is complicated, even if the people are only dandelion dolls, black sticks, or paper mannikins; and to clothe, feed, buy and sell, cook and provide, for a whole community in a continual round of days of about ten minutes each, requires really unremitting toil which her energetic spirit never shirked. When, however, a colony was started at the other end of the garret, the miserable colonists in charge of a less conscientious small sister were left to perish of famine.
She lived over with her sister and brother everything she read, and then began writing stories for their benefit. With what eagerness they waited for the next instalment of some serial story of adventure, delayed by the labor of hand printing! So the joyous days passed all too fast, and her character was forming in the midst of play. "If I were only a man," she said, "how I should love to be a pirate; or if I were a Catholic, I could be a nun." Equally wicked and lawless imaginations!
Play, though so important, was never the whole of life to Eva. As a very little maid she was oppressed with a deep and practical sympathy for her mother whose life seemed to her to be a dreary round of stitching, mending, and darning. She would spend hours of bright summer days reading aloud, Sir Walter's novels preferably, while her mother sewed. There was no pleasure which she would not forego to be with her mother whom she loved with all the devotion of her fervid nature. It was her impulse to lavish upon one object the depth of love, which was destined, by God's grace, to enfold many. The close companionship of her strong and understanding mother was a formative influence in Eva's life. They read together and wrote together, the same little poem often being the joint work of both. Some of these early verses were gathered together in a little brown copy book; they are youthful efforts of a pretty fancy.
She never made of her literary gift a life work, as she might have done, for it was a real gift. She used it as a vehicle for pleasure or instruction, never as an end in itself; yet her imagination, poetical and romantic, made an ever luminous background for her practical and executive powers. Often her early verses show her grappling already with thoughts and principles which were to sink deep in later life.
A little raindrop looked down from the sky,
And she said: O earth, hast thou room for me?
And the earth looked up at the raindrop's cry
And she said: O drop, I've a grave for thee.
So the raindrop fell and was buried deep
And no man saw it for many a day.
But a little seed awoke from its sleep
In the very spot where the raindrop lay.
And a flower grew from the seedling there
And it's half of heaven and half of earth,
For its roots cling fast to the earth so fair,
But it looks to heaven for the place of its birth.
Eva, in disposition the child of her Calvinistic grandfather, and in endowments more the child of her father, found a needed balance and control in constant and tender intimacy with her mother. She was ardent and impatient, her mother steadfast and sure with a faith which already seemed to see face to face. There was outward austerity in our father's manner; self control was hard won and left the scar of severity. A halo of white hair and a heavenly sweetness of smile was all we, as children, knew of our mother's sorrows. We were not allowed, however, to leave out of our lives those lovely, invisible presences, our brothers and sisters; they were all real and definite personalties of whom we thought lovingly, around whose graves we picnicked and played happily, though a little solemnly, as our mother laid flowers from the garden upon them and told us of the strange warning dream which had come to her before that awful scourge of fever.
She dreamed of herself standing at the window on a deeply clear summer's night, with the stars piercing through depths of blue-black void; and as she stood she saw a strange sight--a flight of birds across the night sky, and as they came nearer, cleaving the air with powerful wings, she saw that they were eagles. Four passed her close, the wind of their going in her face, and they bore the faces of her children; another flew by in the distance lagging behind, far behind the others; and she watched them fly far and at last out of sight; stretching her arms and crying after them, "O my Eagles!" Hearing the story and looking at one another with awe, we found it true, for there were the four little graves covered with ivy, so close together, so nearly of a size, and here was a long grave covered with green grass which we called sister Bella's, and it was beside that grave that our mother sat longest; the last of her eagles, who had lagged behind to comfort her mother as long as might be--dear sister Bella.
A little blank book bound in tooled leather and entitled The Rosebud Album tells the story of this grief as it came to Bella, a child of seven. There are letters to the little brothers and sister in heaven, and childish memories of their baby lives too poignant for printing.
Perhaps the atmosphere of our home was more serious than in families where parents and children are nearer of an age, but if it was a serious atmosphere, it was not sad. There were pleasures enough, but duty was paramount.
Eva's soaring temperament, aspiring to heights, was sometimes driven to sound the depths also. On reaching the questioning years, her spiritual nature felt the boundaries of Protestantism. It was impossible for her to develop in the unstrained manner of a Catholic child. The revivalist methods of the Evangelicalism of that time threw her back upon a deep, introspective, personal religion, not always healthy, but always restlessly seeking something to help, some means to make applicable and practical the truths of religion.
The early joyfulness of her childhood dropped away as Eva entered her teens. Certain trills and bird-notes of utter ecstasy were never heard again about the old house. The over-sensitiveness of her nature asserted itself, and she shrank in misery from strangers and from every uncongenial relation. To the atmosphere of certain persons she was acutely sensitive, and as she mingled necessarily more with others, she drew more deeply within herself. The sunrise of her vocation cast its long shadows before, enveloping her young life in mystery until the day should break.
She was thirteen years of age when she joined the Presbyterian Church on confession of her faith in Christ.
The long struggle towards Catholic truth began with her first Communion. She was deeply troubled over the condemnation pronounced upon those who do not discern the Lord's Body. She had been taught that the Lord was present spiritually and only to those who could worthily receive Him, making her own state of mind the main feature of Communion. It is significant that it was the sacrificial view of the Eucharistic feast which was the final magnet to draw her to the Church. Until she was sixteen, her quarterly Communions were only a trial to her. Protestantism begets spiritual self-consciousness often murderous to peace, Eva would gladly have stayed away from the Lord's table, but by doing so she would become a confessed backslider, and she was only an unhappy little seeker after truth, generally healthy enough spiritually to know it. On the occasion of a village revival, however, she did horrify the members of her family by suddenly appearing in tears upon an improvised mourners' bench. The good little pastor, deeply shocked, conducted her back in haste to the ranks of the redeemed with well meant assurances of comfort: "Why, Eva, what are you doing here? You are a good child, my dear, you are all right!" So inadequate are our elders in every generation!
At sixteen she discovered Jeremy Taylor's Holy Living, which from that time became her friend of friends among books and began a series of experiments in Catholic practice. Jeremy Taylor taught fasting as a means to holy living, and Eva tried it before the eleven o'clock Communion service with a special prayer that, though she could not understand the meaning of St. Paul's mysterious words, she might at any rate have peace in her Communions. From that time her scruples ceased and she went joyfully to her Communions, becoming, I am bound to say, more and more of a thoroughgoing Calvinist. Her experiments in Catholic practices, all unconscious that they were Catholic (for was not Jeremy Taylor a Protestant Englishman?), continued in one form or another until the death of her mother, which occurred in her twenty-third year.
Our mother died on Thursday, January the twenty-second, 1885; and from that time Eva spent every Thursday as a day of fasting and prayer. During one of these Thursdays as she knelt, it suddenly occurred to her that if it seemed appropriate to celebrate her mother's death in this manner, how much the more the death on Calvary! The suggestion of the Friday fast savored too much of the horrors of Rome, and her fasting came at once to an abrupt end.
But this is anticipating; there were happenings between the years of 1875 and 1885. In the summer of '75 our father took Eva and her older sister abroad for a five months' tour in England, Scotland, and the continent. The story of their travels was told in long circumstantial letters to the mother and little sister and brother left at home; there were some quaint observations from the traveler of thirteen years. After a long description of Napoleon's tomb, she wrote: "He conquered others but not himself," and in describing the Cathedral at Chester: "Tell G. the service was Episcopalian, there are not enough Roman Catholics in England to make a Cathedral!"
After a serious discussion with an Englishman as to the comparative danger in London of death by lightning or by being run down, she wrote: "Doubtless this is true here, but nevertheless I feel more awe in a thunder storm than at sight of a cab."
In 1877 her father was appointed United States Senator from Ohio, and the family removed to Washington, which continued, with the intermission of two winters, to be our home until his death in 1889. The winters of '80 and '81 were spent at Wellesley College, but she was brought home during her second year there on account of the failure of her health. The time spent at college was not long enough to have a formative influence in her life, but the taste for good reading acquired in early childhood was there strengthened and enlarged. The rule of the home had been simple and firm, no borrowing and no lending, so that Eva, with an omnivorous literary appetite, had been confined to a library of about two thousand well chosen books, with not many modern novels among them. Happy half-hours had been spent by the small Eva in the book-lined library, climbing from floor to ceiling, gaining a precarious foothold on the shelves by clinging high and kicking in the books below, so, one foot on shelf and one on chair or ledge or ladder, she balanced while discovering some new and unforbidden fruit concealed under dull and unattractive bindings. Dickens, Thackeray, and the best beloved Sir Walter, invited at the first glance, but what questionable covers gave up the riches of Irving and De Quincey. There was Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, with David Scott's mystical illustrations.
Then the poets--the master leading in the lovely old Saunders edition; we would not have recognized him as Shakespeare without those illustrations. Mrs. Jameson expounded the charms of womanhood in tree calf; Cowper, dressed shabbily in faded green, voluminous in two large volumes. There were others in one volume tomes, to be handled with both hands and cautiously lest they fall and hurt one's toes. Milton was read, and Pope and Southey and Spenser; Thalaba became a favorite hero and the Faery Queene beloved.
I do not know at what age she discovered Life Stories of Saints and Martyrs, but only that to her the stories of heroes and martyrs who gave their lives for love of God seemed more deeply romantic than the love story ending in marriage. A glorious death was to her the perfect consummation.
The large and beautiful library at Wellesley College gave Eva abundant opportunity to continue her explorations among standard authors both English and French, and her letters home are full of references to books newly discovered. Here she read Racine and Savage Landor, Ruskin and gossipy Herodotus, and steeped herself in history. She wrote to her mother: "I feel most the value of a fine education when I am in the library and in a somewhat less degree when I am studying the ancient languages, in both of which--Latin and Greek--I am very much interested. Greek especially, I go through the corridors declining the article so wildly that should any one hear me she would certainly think much learning had made me mad." She wrote of torch light processions and receptions projected by the students, but felt little interest in them, adding; "We hoard every minute of our time to spend in the library."
After an account of election day in the school, when her sympathies were with the Republican ticket, and Garfield that day chosen to be our chief executive, she describes an evangelical Sunday. "What a contrast yesterday was to Sunday, our favorite day, which G--and I passed so happily together. G-- had obtained from the library a volume of Phillips Brooks' sermons, and after we had finished our letters we spent a lovely afternoon reading aloud, gaining so many new ideas and talking them over together, then in the evening we invited Miss G-- into our room and read together Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, which neither she nor F-- had ever read."
Sunday was her precious day of devotion, sisterly companionship, and home letters, not to be spent lightly or thrown away. "Are we mutually writing to one another this Sunday afternoon, Mama mia?" she wrote; "I know that we are mutually thinking of each other."
After Christmas of 1881, Eva's health was so delicate that her mother was no longer willing to be separated from her, and her college life came to an end; not, however, her studies or reading. The Congressional Library at Washington supplied her growing intellectual demands. It was before the building of the new library, and such modern efficient and uninspiring innovations as bookstacks had not been thought of. No browsing in these days of high efficiency; we know what we want, we walk briskly to the desk and ask for it, stand on impatient foot without looking about until it is brought, and then walk briskly out. It was not so in the old "Congressional," when Mr. Spofford, lean and lank and learned, long-armed, long-fingered, and toneless as dust, sat like a benevolent old grey spider in the midst of a web incomprehensible to any other. He alone could unwind the labyrinthine mystery of the overcrowded alcoves; he alone, in the midst of the confusion of books piled knee high and breast high in unexpected places, could lay his hand easily and quickly on the very book desired; he alone was master magician and kept the key to the musty mysteries of that enchanted castle, the old Congressional Library. From this treasure house of books, old and new, Eva was free to choose, and found many old, out of date books, and read omnivorously. She also took up the study of Spanish as pastime with her uncle Harvey Watterson, who read and corresponded with her in Spanish.