We select from Marie's extensive lectures and writings three choice specimens, viz.:
(a) Her poem "To My Chatelaine," written during the year after my return from California, and before the renewal of our engagement.
(b) Her beautiful verses about the log chapel on Grand Isle. These were attached to photographs of the chapel, which we gave to our Redeemer parishioners as Christmas cards, one year.
(c) Her "day dream" as she calls it, entitled "Sunset." This charming little morceau is an example of her poetic style and of her rare command of language. It was written during our life at The Church of The Epiphany, Chicago, about the year 1905.
TO MY CHATELAINE I
Ah, tiny golden vinaigrette, all studded thick with turquoise blue,
You bring to mind Italian skies, so like yourself in azure hue.
And once again o'er Naples' Bay eve's amethystine shadows fall,
And once again my soul is swayed by music's magic, trancing call.
We drifted on, and one of us,--that one was I,--can ne'er forget.
He never knew the truth, and I,--Ah, keep my secret, vinaigrette!
My little silver tablet there, its pencil tipped with opal's sheen:
Gay Paris is before us now, with all its maddening, rushing scene.
We dashed adown the boulevards that afternoon in hot July:
Life seemed so full of all good things, and o'er us smiled the summer sky.
For what's to come who cares or knows? And on my breast were Jacqueminows.
Dear little tablet, on your leaves is writ one word with careless grace--:
The date and place,--that's all he cared--but 'twixt those leaves and your bright face,--
This is our secret--lies a rose, the last of all my Jacqueminows.
This little square of pasteboard blue, this is a Dresden ticket. See?
When I but speak the magic words the Spring and hope come back to me.
What! Never knew a Dresden Spring? Ah, then to you I sadly say
'Tis flowers and birds and life and hope all crowded into one brief day.
That day passed, not another comes, though you may wait and watch and long,
And all your joy in after life is but the echo of that song
You heard one day in Dresden. So
As now the gentle Springtime breeze, all damp with drops of April rain,
Soothes my sad brow, I close my eyes and I'm in Dresden once again!
This little Cross of marble white,--this is the end. It brings to view
A lonely grave in Switzerland in a green vale that once I knew.
That's all. You call me flirt? She can but flirt who cares for none.
You call me ice? You speak the truth. My heart lies dead beneath that stone.
And yet he never knew it.
But you and I,--we know it quite,
Although I am so proud, so cold,--my little Cross of marble white.
And so my life hangs dangling here, its righteous joy, its biting pain.
Hangs dangling idly by my side suspended by a silver chain.
You wonder at it? Wonder on. Perhaps you smile at nearer view.
I know my life's with roses trimmed,--my roses have their spring of rue,
But it brings joy as well as pain,--the jingle of my chatelaine!
Written by Marie, 1887.
THE LADY CHAPEL. WESTERLY ON LAKE CHAMPLAIN I
A little Chapel nestles by the lake.
The green fields creep up to its very door.
The gentle stars peep o'er the cloister wall,
Above the belfry's Cross, birds, wondering, soar.
Its bell rings out above the waves' wild song
An Angelus, that calls to worship and adore.
The Chapel speaks. It tells of those we love;
Pure hearts and true, with us but yester-year,
As here we toil and buffet, hope and strive,
And grope our way through many a blinding tear.
Now they await us there, where dawns the day,
That fairer land, where love reigns without fear,
By Marie M. Hopkins. Written about 1914.
"As we journeyed towards the sunset, we came to a stretch of country road fringed by the pointed cedars that guard like sentinels, the rocky shores of Lake Champlain."--Quotation from the booklet's cover.
These words of introduction are written in a great city on a raw March day. Yet, so potent is memory's spell, I can fancy it is summer and I am in Wedding Bells Tent, beside the blue waters of Lake Champlain.
The lapping waves are not a stone's throw from our door, and a bird, that has built its nest in a tangle of wild grape-vine, pours forth its little heart in the ecstasy of song. A friendly chipmunk has just darted up the bank, to stand upright on its hind feet, and peer curiously into the tent to see what those two-footed strangers are doing. The breeze is laden with the fragrance of flowers; the spicy breath of the cedars is as balm to tired nerves, and the drowse of summer is over all. So it is within Wedding Bells Tent, as it stands on the sunset shore of the Island of Peace, that I write this day dream, the child of my pen and of my heart. Marie M. Hopkins.
348 Ashland Boulevard, Chicago.
Three of the busiest women in the busiest of American cities had gathered for the evening in my quiet library, which is not five miles from the Art Institute, as the crow flies. A chill rain pattered on the asphalt pavement outside, and the cheerless sound caused the little circle of friends to draw more closely about the open fire, which was the only light the room afforded.
Flickering tongues of flame played upon the family portraits and the rows of familiar books, and disclosed the faces of the group. They were strong, able women, with the lines of struggle and of success graven deep upon their features, while their hair was streaked with the silver of honorable service. Each had turned her back upon a myriad of duties to come to my library for a rare hour or two of rest. They were loyal to the friendship begun in the college days so many years before.
As we sat in that quiet room, the atmosphere of peace and of affection made tired nerves and tired minds relax, and a silence fell upon the group that seemed but the prelude to one of those intimate disclosures of prospect and of retrospect, which speaks without restraint of what is and what might have been. Even as the first words trembled on the lips of the company, my thoughts flew swiftly to a distant land, and I settled back in my chair, with a smile on my lips, waiting for the verdict of the sunset upon those confidences, which, I felt, would be freighted with unique value.
For, you must know, every summer I fly away to an island, set like a jewel, in the crystal waters of Lake Champlain. There we erect the canvas walls of our tent home, called Wedding Bells Tent because it is the fruit of half a hundred weddings. On the sunset shore of that patriarch of lakes we breathe, every hour of the twenty-four, air so pure that it seems an elixir of life. We watch the sunset each evening, and have built a lookout or balcony for that purpose. It is supported by great cedar logs, built up from the rocks below, and there we sit every evening, with the good-night song of birds in our ears, with the murmur of the waves below us, and watch the wondrous panorama of the dying day.
The beauty of the sunset is never the same two successive evenings, but the message of the sunset is always the same. At that mystic hour, just between daylight and shadow, one can estimate things at their true value. So I have gotten into the habit of judging the big and little happenings of the day, the comings and goings of the country folk, their quaint sayings, or the poetry and fiction of the hour, by the voice of the sunset, which always rings true in this world of faulty human kind.
This will explain why, as we sat in the fire-light of my library, the evening glow of the past summer seemed to be about us, and, as my friends began to speak, I closed my eyes, and was once more on my balcony, jutting over the lake, where I could judge aright concerning the truth of what each one said. For the verdict of the sunset brings exquisite harmony from the discords of apparent cross purposes.
The first to break the silence was our doctor--she who had compelled a reluctant world to admit the value of a woman's skill in medicine. Strangely enough, her words were in a minor key, and breathed a bitter complaint that her life had ever been handicapped by her own ill health. The verdict of the sunset seemed blown into the warm room with the spray of the wild Northland, as it murmured in my ears alone. For it was the very ill health she deplored that, at first, led our doctor to take up the study of medicine, until, engrossed by the grim fascination of fighting diseases, she had become famous in her chosen profession.
The voice of the most scholarly of our trio took up the plaint, and spoke sadly of the hard struggle with poverty that had stunted her childhood days, and had rendered it impossible for her to carry out her chosen plans. But she forgot to say what the sunset whispered to me softly, that the poverty against which she rebelled had made her the friend of the multitude. Far more than the fact of her amazing mental acquirements did her humble birth weigh with that exacting throng.
They felt that she could sympathize with them in their every-day needs because she was not separated from them by the power of caste, and no woman in the great city she calls home has more influence in civic matters than has she.
Our gifted author was the last to speak. Her delicate and sprite-like fancy has made her the friend of every child who loves a world peopled by the wee folk of the imagination. She mourned the lack of family ties, and reminded us with emotion that, when Christmas came, she was forced to adopt a family in order to share with others her good cheer. She omitted, however, to state the kernel of the matter, so the silvery voice of the sunset assured me. That home instinct in her lonely life, starved by necessity, had thrown itself with a great burst of longing into making life beautiful for the whole world of little ones. Her name is now known in every family where there are children.
Thus did the voice of the sunset translate for me the confidences of my friends, who seemed determined to mourn the one cloud that had darkened the sunshine of their lives, forgetting that days of unbroken sunshine are as rare as they are monotonous. Finally, struck by my silence, they turned to me and demanded where my thoughts were wandering. To appease them, I told them the story of the little cloud:
One evening last summer, we were seated on the balcony, waiting for the sunset. For fully a week previous, one evening had vied with another in giving us a series of ravishing color schemes. We had seen such pale tints shimmer over lake and sky, that we had been unable to name the delicate and elusive shades, as they blended in one harmony of color. We had beheld the water so glassy in its calm that the stars were reflected in its mirror-like surface, until they might have been the gems of mermaid constellations. We had watched the mountains shade from amethyst to a dark and steel-like blue, and had grown familiar, as we thought, with every phase of the after-glow, when the broad lake quivers, as the long streaks of pink and lavender and pale apple-green transform it into an enchanted sea of opal fire and mist. Many a time and oft had we seen the evening star slowly set, and the great moon plough her golden way across the silent waters.
But this particular evening, as we sat waiting for the sunset, we seemed doomed to disappointment. The faint-hearted had already given up and gone indoors. A bank of leaden clouds stretched across the Western horizon; the wind blew an angry gale; tiny whitecaps ruffled the water, and we shivered as we waited. Yet we felt that we could not seek our rest until we had learned anew the message of the sunset.
Suddenly there came up the lake a little cloud, scudding before the strong south wind. It was such a dark, cross little cloud, that I made bold to speak to it, and to ask it why it was so discontented. (That is one of the joys of country life. You can talk to grass and flowers and clouds, in the language of Kipling's "Jungle Books," and you will find them quite as interesting as people.) This little cloud had a long story. It had been born not many days before, of the rainbow-tinted spray that mounts in snowy masses at the foot of Niagara Falls. All good little clouds are moist and warm, and so was this one, who started out in life, all eager to do good, its heart throbbing with the wish really to help the world. Everywhere it had met with disappointment.
No sooner did it obscure the sunlight, than the children in their play, cried "Oh, it is going to rain!" and fled indoors. It found a flower garden, whose fragile blossoms drooped in the heat, but when the warm, moist heart of the cloud sent a shower to refresh the fading plants, although the drops fell in a delicate, lacelike spray, a party of merrymakers near-by grumbled that their "picnic had been spoiled." Finally, in its flight from such ungrateful people, the cloud came to a region devastated by drouth. The crops were ruined; the farmers, in despair; the ground, like ashes beneath one's feet. "Here," thought the cloud, "I can surely do good." But the rain that made the arid place green and fragrant caused a brook to overflow its banks and carry down the stream a rustic bridge, and loud were the complaints of those who forgot the blessing of the shower.
It was in a very angry and sullen mood that the little cloud reached Lake Champlain, and, seeing the bank of dull-gray clouds which threatened to obscure the sunset, it went deliberately over to them, and joined the ranks of the malcontents, feeling that a sunset more or less could not change its opinion of the cruelty and ingratitude of the world.
And so we waited, expectantly, for the sunset, feeling, rather than seeing, the monarch of the day sink behind the mountains. All was dark and gloomy and the color of lead. But, suddenly, just as we were turning away, the afterglow came, and those wondrous rays of light penetrated the dark clouds. Such a wealth of color flamed across the heavens that we leaned forward, breathless, eager not to miss one tint of the glory of that sunset. Hues of vivid orange streamed here and there like strains of martial music. The serried ranks of clouds were driven by the wind into the semblance of huge war chariots in the eternal conflict between right and wrong. Suddenly I saw my friend, the little discontented cloud. It had become a vision rare and strange, shining with a light seldom seen on land or sea. Its heart was touched with molten gold; its dark outline was silhouetted in liquid fire, and I closed my eyes, as I gazed, so intense was the joy of seeing.
When I looked again, the cloud had vanished, had gone like a puff of vapor. It is my private opinion that its heart had burst with gratitude--gratitude that at last it had been able to do some good in the world. For it had shown to the most grudging soul a fleeting glimpse of the hereafter--that would surely seem honor enough for one little cloud. And it had also taught the most doubting heart that the sunshine is not all of life's day, for it is the clouds of life that make its sunset glorious.