My Story by Sarah P. Brigham
Gracie and her Father.
MANY years ago, when the sky was
as clear, the flowers as fragrant,
and the birds as musical as now, I stood
by a little mahogany table, with pencil and
paper in hand, vainly trying to add a short
column of figures. My small tin box, with
the word Bank in large letters upon it,
had just been opened, and the carefully
hoarded treasure of six months was
spread out before me. Scrip had not
come into use then; and there were one
tiny gold piece, two silver dollars, and
many quarters, dimes, half-dimes, and
pennies. For a full half hour I had been
counting my fingers and trying to reckon
up how much it all amounted to; but the
problem was too hard for me. At last I
took pencil and paper, and sought to work
it out by figures.
“What are you doing, Gracie?” pleasantly
inquired my father, entering the
room with an open letter in his hand.
“O, papa! is that you?” I cried, eagerly
turning towards him. “Just look—see
how much money I’ve got! John has just
opened my bank. It is six months to-day
since I began to save, and I’ve more than
“Yes, you are quite rich.”
“So much that I can’t even count it.
I’ve done harder sums in addition at
school; but somehow, now, every time I
add, I get a different answer. I can’t
make it come out twice alike.”
“Where did you get that gold piece?”
“Why, don’t you know? You gave it to
me for letting Dr. Strong pull out my big
“Did I?” said he; “I had forgotten
it. But where did you get those two silver
dollars?” he inquired.
“O, grandmother gave me this one.
It’s chicken money. She gave it to me for
feeding the chickens every morning all
the while I staid there; and the other is
hat money. Aunt Ellen told me if I’d
wear my hat always when I went out in
the sun, and so keep from getting sun-burned,
that she would give me another
dollar; and she did.”
“Where did the remainder come from?”
“Mostly from you, papa. You are always
giving me money. These two
bright, new quarters you gave me when
you looked over my writing-book, and saw
it hadn’t a blot. How much is there in
all?” I earnestly asked.
Father glanced at the little pile, and
“Seven dollars and ten cents. That’s
a good deal of money for a little girl only
nine years old to spend.”
“And may I spend it just as I please?”
“Certainly, my dear; just as you please.
It’s a great thing for little people to learn
to spend money wisely.”
Saying this, he seated himself by the
window, and drawing me towards him,
placed me upon one knee.
“Gracie, dear, I have just received a
letter from grandmother. She proposes
that I come to Vermont and bring you;
that I remain as long as business will admit,
and leave you to pass the summer
just as you did last year. How would
that suit?” fixing his kind dark eyes full
upon my upturned face to read my changing
“O, I should like it very much!” I
quickly exclaimed, clapping my hands with
delight. Then I reflected a moment, and a
shadow fell over my prospective happiness.
“On the whole, papa,” I said, earnestly,
“I think I had better go, and not stay
any longer than you can stay. I am all
the little girl you have, and you are all
the parent I have, and we should be very
lonely without each other.”
I felt his warm, loving kiss upon my
cheek as he folded me to his heart, and a
tear fell on my forehead. For two years I
had been motherless; but a double portion
of pity and tenderness had been lavished
upon me by my indulgent father. He was
a New York merchant of ample means.
Our home was elegant and tasteful.
The home of my father’s only surviving
parent, my doting grandmother, whom we
were designing to visit, was a plain, unpretending
farm-house, snuggly nestled
up among the hills of Vermont. There
were tall poplar trees and a flower-garden
in front, a little orchard and a whole
row of nice looking out-buildings in the
rear. There was no place on earth so full
of joy for me. The swallows’ nests on the
barn; the turkeys, geese, and chickens;
the colt, lambs, and little pigs; in short,
everything had an ever-increasing attraction,
far exceeding any pleasures to be
found within the limits of the crowded city.
The prospect of another visit to Woodville
filled my heart with intense delight.
A week passed, and on one of the
sunniest and freshest of June mornings
we started for Vermont. I was exceedingly
fond of travelling in the cars, and it
seemed as if a thousand sunbeams had
suddenly fallen upon my young life. The
train left New York, and we found ourselves
rapidly whirling past hills, forests,
towns, and villages. Sometimes we were
flying through dark, deep cuts, then crossing
streams and rich green fields and
We expected to reach grandmother’s
that evening. I had written to inform
her of our coming. One hour after another
passed. The day was declining, and
the sun was slowly sinking in the west.
“How much longer have we to go?”
was the question I had asked for the fiftieth
time at least.
“About another hour’s ride, Gracie,”
smilingly answered my father. “I think
we shall reach Woodville about eight.”
The cars continued to hurry on till we
were within a few rods of the station.
The bell was ringing its usual warning,
and the bell from a train from behind was
beginning to be heard. We had commenced
to switch off, to allow the express
train to pass. But by some carelessness
or miscalculation our train was a minute
too late. Father and I were comfortably
occupying one of the front seats of the
rear car; and I was in a state of impatient
excitement to reach our destination.
But there came, in an instant, a stunning,
frightful crash; and I was thrown violently
forward. What followed for the next
ten minutes I do not know.
I think I must have been in a semi-unconscious
state, for I have a dim recollection
of strange sounds, confusion, anxiety,
and terror. Strong hands seemed to pull
me out from under a heavy weight, and
gently lay me down. I felt dizzy and
faint. I opened my eyes, and light came
gradually to my darkened vision. A
gentleman stood over me with his fingers
upon my wrist. A kind, sunny-faced old
lady was wetting my head.
“Are you much hurt?” she tenderly
inquired, gazing upon me in undisguised
“What’s the matter? Where am I?”
I cried, springing up and gazing wildly
In a moment my eye caught sight of
the broken rear car. There were several
wounded and bleeding people about me.
I saw the front cars emptied of passengers,
who were actively employed in caring
for the injured. I comprehended in an
instant that there had been an accident.
“My father! my father!” I cried.
“You shall see him soon,” soothingly
answered the gentleman by my side.
“Drink this;” and he held to my mouth
a glass of something pleasant and pungent.
I drank its entire contents. I think
it helped to quite restore me. I ran wildly
about in search of my missing parent.
There was a little group of men and women
a short distance off. I hurried towards
it, and recognized Peter, my grandmother’s
man, who had come to meet us
at the station.
“Where is my father?” I said in a
voice hardly audible from terror, seizing
Before he could reply, I saw father,
white and motionless, upon the ground.
“He is dead!” I shrieked, springing
towards him, and convulsively throwing
my arms about him.
“He is stunned, not dead, my child,”
said the physician, kindly drawing me
away, to minister to him. “We hope he
will soon be better.”
In spite of his soothing words and
tones, I read the truth in his face; that
he feared life was almost extinct.
“O, what can I do? Save him! save
him! You must not let him die! you must
“My poor child, I will do all I can,”
replied the physician, touched by my distress.
But no efforts to restore my father to
consciousness availed anything. There
was a deep, ugly cut on one side of his
head. No other external injury could be
found; yet he had not spoken or moved
since he was taken out from the broken
The accident had occurred but a few
rods from the station; and as grandmother’s
house was scarcely a mile distant,
Peter strongly urged that he should
be taken there at once. Accordingly a
wagon was procured. The seats were
taken out, and a mattress placed upon the
bottom, and father was carefully laid upon
it; and Peter drove rapidly home, while I
followed with the doctor in his buggy.
A man had been sent in advance of us to
inform grandmother of our coming. She
met us at the door with a pallid face, but
was so outwardly calm, that I took courage
from beholding her.
Father was laid upon a nice, white bed,
in a little room on the ground floor; and
again every means for restoring him was
resorted to. Still he remained unconscious.
The hours went on. The old family
clock had just struck two, and we were
watching and working in an agony of
I had not left my father’s bedside, till
the low, indistinct conversation between
the doctor and grandmother, in the next
room, fell upon my ear.
“There is life yet,” said he. “I thought
once he had ceased to breathe.”
“And you are quite sure he does?”
“Yes. I held a small mirror over his
face; and the mist that gathered upon it
proves there is still faint breathing.”
I shuddered and ran out to them.
“You think he will die!” I cried,
seizing grandmother’s hand with desperate
“I cannot tell, dear Gracie. His life,
like yours and mine, is in the hands of
God. We cannot foresee his purposes.
We can only submit to his will.”
Saying this, she returned with the doctor
to the sick room, and I was left alone.
The prospect of being deprived of my
only surviving parent almost paralyzed
me. I looked out of the open window.
It was a calm, clear summer night. The
moon shone out in all its glory and brilliancy,
and the stars twinkled as cheerily
as though there was no sorrow, suffering,
or death in the world.
I sprang towards the door and closed
it, and then threw myself upon my knees,
and poured out my great anguish into the
pitying ear of the heavenly Father.
“O, good, kind Father in heaven, do
hear and quickly answer me. Do save
my own dear papa from death. Mother,
Bessie, and little Fred have all gone to
live with thee; and he is all I have left.
Do, I entreat thee, help him to get well;
I will be more kind, and generous, and
obedient than I have ever been before,
and will try to please thee as long as I
I arose comforted and strengthened.
Returning to my father’s room, I saw the
doctor with his fingers upon his wrist
“A faint pulse,” he said, turning towards
Another hour passed. The breath was
perceptible now, and the doctor looked
Morning came, and the glad sunlight
streamed in through the windows. Father
remained in a deep stupor, but manifested
more signs of life than at any time since
the accident. He had moved slightly
several times, and as the hours went on
his breathing became more natural and
Suddenly he opened his eyes and gazed
“Father, dear father, are you better?”
I cried in a choking voice.
He smiled faintly, then closed his eyes
again, and sank into a sweet, refreshing
Another day came, bringing joy immeasurable
to all of us. Father was conscious
and rallying fast, and before night
the doctor assured us all danger was past.
The weeks went on.
June went out and July came in. We
had been nearly a month in Woodville;
and how different my visit had resulted
from the season of perfect happiness I
had so ardently anticipated!
Father was gradually regaining his former
health; and although the wound on
his head was but partially healed, he was
pronounced doing admirably by the attentive
He was now able to go out, and we
took many long rides together, keenly enjoying
the beautiful scenery and the pure
air. As strength increased, the necessity
of returning to his business pressed upon
my father, and the first week in September
was appointed for our departure.
On the last Sunday of our sojourn in
Woodville, grandmother and I went in
the morning to church. There had just
been a fearfully destructive fire in one of
the neighboring towns, and a large number
of people were homeless. The minister
announced that at the close of the
afternoon service, a collection would be
taken up for the sufferers, and he strongly
urged a generous contribution from his
I had hitherto paid little heed, when in
church, to what the minister said; but
since the dreadful accident and father’s
almost miraculous recovery, I had been far
more thoughtful and attentive than formerly.
My heart went out in deep sympathy
and pity for the poor men, women,
and children who were made houseless in
a single night, and I ardently longed to
do the little in my power to relieve them.
So, during the intermission between
the services, I took out the money I had
brought with me, and which father had
told me I was free to spend as I pleased.
I tied it up in my handkerchief. There
was too much for my pocket-book to conveniently
hold, for it was all of the carefully
hoarded treasure of my bank. It
was my design to put it into the contribution-box.
Grandmother did not go to church in
the afternoon; but father decided to go,
and I accompanied him. After the services
were over, two men arose and began
to pass round the boxes to collect money
for the people whose homes had been
burned. As I beheld one of them coming
slowly up the aisle, stopping at every
pew, I was in a flutter of excitement. It
was a novel thing for me to put money
into the contribution-box, and my heart
I drew out my handkerchief from my
pocket, and hurriedly began to untie the
knot. But my usually nimble fingers
were provokingly slow to act now; and I
pulled and pulled away, but to no purpose.
The knot obstinately refused to yield.
The man with the box had nearly reached
our pew, and I began to fear I should lose
the chance to give.
“Don’t let him slip by me,” I whispered
so loudly to father as to cause at least a
dozen persons in the adjacent seats to
stare wonderingly at me. “I’ve something
to put in.”
Another prodigious effort, and the knot
The man passed the box first to father,
and he put in a bill. He glanced at me, evidently
thinking a child would hardly have
money to give, and was about to go on;
but I looked beseechingly towards him,
and he stopped and extended the box to
me. In an instant the entire contents of
my handkerchief were emptied into it—as
much money as my two chubby hands
Father looked down upon me, and a
half-amused smile flitted over his face, as
he beheld my unexpected act.
After we had returned home, father sat
down by the window in an easy chair, and
calling me to him, placed me upon his knee.
“Gracie, dear,” said he, smilingly, “tell
me how it happened you put so much
money into the contribution-box. It must
have taken nearly all you had.”
“It was all I had, papa. It was the
money I saved in my bank, and you told
me I could spend it just as I pleased.”
“O, yes, dear; I am glad to have you;
only it was a good deal for a little girl.”
“I gave it because I wanted to please
God,” I replied with earnest solemnity.
“That dreadful night, when we all thought
you would die, dear papa, I promised
God I would be a better girl than I have
ever been before. I would be more kind,
generous, and obedient, and would try
and please him all my life, if he would
only let you get well; and I gave my
money to-day because I am so glad and
grateful to him.”
“Precious child,” said he tenderly and
with much emotion, drawing me close to
him, “and I am glad, and grateful too, for
the rich gift of my dear little daughter.”