Helen Hunt JacksonHELEN HUNT, THE LITTLE GIRL

Several years ago a very mischievous little girl was living in the old-fashioned town of Amherst, Massachusetts. This little girl was Helen Maria Fiske. She was mischievous to be sure and she loved fun dearly, but her frank, honest confessions always kept her from being actually naughty.

Now, if there was one thing little Helen loved more than all others it was to run wild in the fields and meadows around Amherst. Without fear she climbed high fences—so high that no other children would think of climbing them. She waded across brooks in the pasture land to find the first touches of early spring. Then she came home loaded with fresh red berries, and strange plants which she had found by the way.

On one of these trips, Helen with a little girl friend, ran from one grove to another, fairly delighting in the treasures of the woods. No one knew where they were going. As they pushed away the pine needles they found mosses, cones, and acorns which they collected in little heaps to be picked up on their way home.

They begged a lunch from a nearby farm house and seated on a sunny doorstep they ate their bread and milk with hungry relish and then hid their spoons and bowls under a lilac bush in the door yard.

When twilight came and the children had not returned, the people in the town of Amherst, the college boys and the professors all started out to search for them. Several miles from home they found the happy little girls sitting before a warm kitchen fire to dry their shoes and stockings.

A little before ten o’clock that night Helen rushed into her house exclaiming in her very merriest tones. “Oh, mother, I’ve had a perfectly splendid time.”

Childhood days at Amherst were altogether too short. At the age of twelve, Miss Helen and her younger sister were left without father or mother. A dear old grandfather took care of them, but these little girls never knew again the joy of a childhood home. They went to school—learning a little here and a little there, wherever they happened to be.

While still a young lady, Miss Helen married Major Edward Hunt, to begin again the home life which she had dropped at the age of twelve.

HELEN HUNT JACKSON, THE WOMAN

Although Mrs. Jackson was no longer a child, she never lost her joy in things out-of-doors. Early in the morning she was up to watch the sun rise over the hilltops, and all day long she lived in its warmth and sunshine until it faded away into evening.

Everywhere she found something to delight her. The procession of garden flowers from the lily-of-the-valley to the great purple aster, the woodlands, the meadows and the hills, each poured its share of joy into her out-stretched hands.

During many summers Mrs. Jackson made her home in Bethlehem, New Hampshire, a small hamlet in the White Mountains. She wrote her friends of the beauty of the place. Many of them came to see it and stayed all summer. The next year the little village was so crowded that Mrs. Jackson could find no rooms.

“Ah,” she laughingly said, “it’s a bad plan to tell other boys where the birds’ nests are.”

The summers at Bethlehem were very happy ones for Mrs. Jackson. She tramped almost daily through fields of daisies and golden cups, or farther away over the wooded hills, —always watching for the surprises of nature.

At sight of an empty nest she would say, “Oh, an empty nest, I wonder where the little brood has flown.” A tiny track showed her that a squirrel had passed that way in gathering in his nuts. A trailing vine, a stone of unusual beauty, a plant in its last flowering—nothing was too small to claim her attention.

At each fresh surprise her face would brighten and become as innocently childish as when she came home from the Amherst woods after the “perfectly splendid time.”

With her marriage in 1875 to Mr. William Jackson, her home was afterwards in Colorado Springs. In those old-time days Colorado was fairly brimming with wild flowers. The ravines and slopes were covered with wide-eyed anemones, the yellow columbine, crimson and white roses, lilies, and painter’s brush. Mrs. Jackson soon learned to know them all, and watched with eagerness for the return of each in its own season.

At the foot of Cheyenne Mountain there is a little plot which is still called Mrs. Jackson’s Garden. To this little garden Mrs. Jackson came each day, always sure she would find just what she wanted. With loaded arms she carried flower patch and rose thicket from the mountain into her home. Great vases of flowers were in every possible place. Around her desk and pictures were trailing vines and berries, and through the wide open windows came the very breath of the fresh air in which they grew.

It was Mrs. Jackson’s wish to be buried on the slope of this same mountain. In the early summer of 1884 she was laid to rest in a peaceful spot, “tree shaded and sun warmed,” with only the forest birds, the mountain streams, and the wild flowers around her.

 

 

Filed under: Part 3 - Poets

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