My Story by Sarah P. Brigham

Gracie shows her father the money she has saved

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 I expected.”

“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 back tooth.”

Father laughed.

“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 smilingly said,—

“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 thoughts.

“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 meadows.

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 anxiety.

“What’s the matter? Where am I?” I cried, springing up and gazing wildly around.

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 Peter’s arm.

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 not!”

 “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 car.

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 suspense.

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?” she inquired.

“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 energy.

“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 live.”

I arose comforted and strengthened. Returning to my father’s room, I saw the doctor with his fingers upon his wrist again.

“A faint pulse,” he said, turning towards grandmother.

Another hour passed. The breath was perceptible now, and the doctor looked more hopefully.

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 regular.

 Suddenly he opened his eyes and gazed feebly around.

“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 slumber.

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 physician.

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 parishioners.

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 beat violently.

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 yielded.

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 could hold.

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.”