Main Contents & Searchs
Selections from The Night Before Thanksgiving, A White Heron, and Selected Stories
by Sarah Orne Jewett.
Edited by Katharine H. Shute, Head of the Department of English in the Boston Normal School.
Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1910
TO THE TEACHER
To encourage in boys and girls a taste for good reading and to give them some knowledge of where to turn to satisfy that taste is without any question one of the most beneficent things the schools can do. The introduction of literature within recent years into the common school curriculum has had this object primarily in view, but has too often failed of its accomplishment. So long as careful investigations of the reading of children reveal a gulf between the reading done in school and that done outside which at first sight seems impassable; and so long as the reading of the majority of adults who have been educated in the common schools continues to be second-rate at best, and often cheap and sensational, we cannot pride ourselves upon the success of our literary courses in their primary object.
This failure is due in many instances to the fact that the literature read in school is so far removed, both in subject matter and in form, from the things which a child chooses for himself, that the school-room procedures fail to make connection with the habits of out-of-school life. This school-room literature has consisted largely of a rather limited selection of standard English verse, of classics adapted to the understanding of children, and of children's stories. Now it need hardly be said that these things are all essential and desirable and that each has its place in a child's education. An acquaintance with English verse is an indispensable experience, one that should begin in the nursery and never be discontinued; an early introduction to the classics is invaluable; and children's stories help a child both to interpret and to enlarge his own life. But it is a rare boy or girl, man or woman whose voluntary reading will consist largely of standard verse or of any form of the classics, original or adapted; and it is certainly not desirable that boys and girls of high-grade grammar and high school age should keep on reading children's stories, as frequently does occur unless an even more regrettable thing happens, that is, the development of a taste, independently of school influence, for adult fiction of a second or third-rate quality. The natural human demand is for stories; and if a person has no liking for the better sort of story, he will read a worse sort, for stories of some sort he will have.
As in all matters of art, education of the taste in youth makes a difference for life. In the case of stories, the school has a priceless opportunity, -- the opportunity to introduce boys and girls to people worth knowing, to standards worth having, and to a way of looking at the problems of life worth trusting. In the highest grade and in the high school, the great English novel should certainly have the established place which it is gradually making for itself; but there is another form of prose literature, now rarely used, which ought to yield permanent and valuable returns, namely, the short story, for the hurried habits of the age make the short story a peculiarly inviting literary form.
Now the short story -- a literary type which our pupils will constantly meet in the magazines -- may be of high literary grade or may be -- to borrow an expression of Thackeray's – "extraordinary ordinary" in both substance and style. A taste for the better sort of short story cultivated in school would be a very practical contribution toward the resources of actual life; and a few well-chosen short stories read in school should serve as a means of developing simple canons of criticism that cannot fail to have a wholesome influence on later independent choices. In choosing stories for school use from among those that have an accepted literary standing, two tests may be applied: first, does the story contain characters and situations naturally pleasing to a young reader; second, does it contain standards and ideals good for him to meet? Or to modify the form of the questions: -- will a young reader find here what he desires; and will he find what we older people desire him to have? The story which meets one test but not the other, is distinctly not suited to our purpose.
New England has grown rich in short-story writers during the past thirty years. One of the best-beloved, Sarah Orne Jewett, has recently finished her work, leaving the world poorer because her gracious personality and rich gifts have been withdrawn from it; but the precious legacy of her stories remains. These are too genuine, too human, too full of the spirit of New England to be relegated to the shelves of mature and cultivated book-lovers only. A wider circle of readers should be found than that which has hailed with delight each new story as it came fresh from her pen. She has written many things which growing girls and boys care for, especially when they read them with some older friend who appreciates the insight, the sympathy, the delicate taste, the delicious humor, the perfect restraint which characterize them all. Only a few of these have been gathered together in this little volume, but others have been suggested in the introductory notes in the hope that the teacher will read some of them to the pupils and will encourage them to get others from the public libraries to read outside of school.
The short story has developed so distinctive a character and so finished a form since Poe's masterly analysis of it years ago, that by some critics it is as sharply differentiated from other prose forms as the sonnet is, for example, from other verse forms. The essential characteristics of the short story are first, brevity; second, a unity of purpose which forbids digressions; and third, a dominating emotion or atmosphere of feeling animating the writer and controlling the reader. It would be interesting to the teacher to read these stories of Miss Jewett's with these characteristics in mind, for they are written with such apparent unconsciousness that a hasty reading would fail to reveal the exquisite art with which they are constructed. Another interesting point of view from which the teacher might enjoy reading the stories, is that of the elements or materials of which they -- in common with all narrative -- are composed, -- plot, background, characters. We have often in Miss Jewett's stories a very complete and well organized little plot, as in "A White Heron" and "Miss Esther's Guest." Perhaps the most unique bit of plot in her short stories is to be found in "The Only Rose," in which the solution of the whole vexing problem is as satisfactory as it is unexpected. But plot was very evidently not Miss Jewett's chief concern. It is in the delineation of character that she excels; and her handling of background is a close second to her treatment of character. Whether this background is a literal background of outdoor scenery and homely interiors or an atmosphere of customs and manners, the result is equally finished and convincing.
Miss Jewett was so perfect an artist that a shallow adherence to the doctrine of art for art's sake might lead one to conclude that she was never consciously a teacher. That she thought of herself as a teacher, however, is delightfully attested by the following passage from one of her letters, --"You must remember that a story-writer does not have her readers before her with their eager faces as a teacher (I was going to say, the other kind of teacher) does!" Since she thought of herself as another kind of teacher, we teachers may feel an especial pleasure in helping young readers to find and appropriate her message. This message of friendly faith in human nature I have suggested very simply in the pages addressed to the pupils; and it may be found again and again in the stories.
But the pupils' realization of this message will depend upon the teacher's good sense and sympathy and not upon analysis and didacticism. Her larger view, deeper insight, and more cultivated taste may often help a child to interpret and enjoy what would otherwise be beyond his reach. Let her by no means impose her estimates, her judgments, but let her rather encourage a free expression of opinion in regard to characters, situations, and motives, no matter how crude it may be, lending her riper experience, as she would in any other matter, to influence but not to determine the more youthful point of view.
The notes and questions accompanying these stories are intended as suggestions only. Each teacher who reads for herself will find other points which she will wish to make with her own pupils. It is hoped that the pupils will read with the teacher the pages entitled "To the Pupil," and the introductory note accompanying each story. The questions have been made human rather than technical, and the emphasis has been placed on those aspects of the story that contribute to the impression which we desire to have the pupil carry away from the reading. As a rule the most obvious questions have been omitted, except where they have a bearing upon this resulting impression. Many questions which may seem irrelevant are asked for the purpose of training the children to read less superficially than is their habit, and to take intelligent pleasure in the incidental touches and suggestiveness of the writer. The questions are placed at the end of the story in every case except "The Garden Tea," but the teacher may often find it desirable to write two or three of the questions on the board before the pupils read the story, to serve as a stimulus to thought and discussion while the story is being read. It is sometimes interesting to the pupils to answer one or more questions in writing, not as a means of examination, but as an incentive to independence of thought and opinion. It adds greatly to the interest if the answers are read aloud and discussed. Another interesting exercise is to permit the pupils to write questions of their own to be asked of their classmates and the teacher. And a never-failing source of interest is the selection of situations in the stories especially adapted to illustration, with some discussion of the essential features of the illustrations.
In work of this sort the teacher is often confronted by a vexing but amusing problem, the problem of the child who "reads ahead" while the story is being read aloud. Out of order as he is, technically speaking, his behavior is more encouraging than that of the pupil who is cheerfully keeping his place, for he is genuinely interested. He is, indeed, giving incontestable proof of the very state of mind which we are trying to create. Two aids to the solution of the problem may be suggested: first, these stories are so little dependent upon plot for their chief interest that the pupils may be permitted, even encouraged, to read them at odd moments or to take them home; second, when they are being read orally, the teacher should frequently take her turn at the reading, especially in difficult passages and in passages where there is considerable dialect. Not only will the pleasure of the pupils be greatly increased by listening to the teacher's more intelligent and sympathetic interpretation, but their own reading will improve under the stimulus of the teacher's better reading. Unless wreck is to be made of the whole experiment of introducing stories of this sort into the school-room, it must never be lost sight of that the main purpose, the objective point, of the work is not to afford opportunity for oral reading to as many pupils as possible, but to interest the pupils genuinely and happily in these stories. Confusion of aims and the substitution of mere incidental aims for vital ones is the cause of much of the wasted time and energy which make even our earnest efforts unproductive.
When all is said, the one thing of importance is to help our boys and girls to live so genuinely in the story which they are reading, that their thought will turn back to it afterwards as to a real experience. Formal treatment will kill interest and will defeat the very purpose with which the stories have been gathered together and the questions written; but human fellowship with the people who move through these stories, and glimpses into the beauty of the outdoor world such as they afford, should make life richer not for the moment only, but for the years that are coming.
TO THE PUPIL
SARAH ORNE JEWETT was born in South Berwick, Maine, in 1849; and in June, 1909, she died in the beautiful old homestead where she was born. Only a part of her life, however, was spent in Berwick. She traveled widely, lived much in Boston, and knew intimately many of the people of her time whom it was a privilege to know, among them the poet Whittier, who writes in one of his letters to her, "When tired and worried I resort to thy books and find rest and refreshing."
Miss Jewett's education, after her girlhood in the South Berwick Academy, was gained not through schools, but through travel and reading and study. She remained a student all her life, even during the last months when stricken with a fatal illness. In 1901 Bowdoin College recognized her services to Literature by conferring upon her the degree of doctor of letters, a richly deserved honor, as you will see, and one never before accorded by that college to a woman.
Those of us who love the country places of New England and the people who belong in them will always be grateful to Miss Jewett for having helped other people to realize the beauty of the New England country and to understand, respect, and love New England people. She was peculiarly well qualified to do this, for as a girl she drove about the country roads with her father, who was a physician, seeing the many sorts of people whom he visited, and seeing them with friendly and intelligent eyes. These hours with her father were, perhaps, the most precious part of Miss Jewett's education. Daily intercourse with a wise and tender-hearted father, the opportunity to watch him and sympathize with him as he met the varied and difficult demands of his profession, afforded her a type of education which the best schools cannot give. Old Doctor Leslie, in "A Country Doctor," and Doctor Prince, in "Betty Leicester," give us delightful glimpses of what Doctor Theodore Jewett must have been. And in the host of stories which came from the daughter's pen we meet the many sorts and kinds of people whom she began to see with discerning eyes in those early days, and whom she continued to study with friendly sympathy as long as she lived. In her pages we meet the old aristocracy of both city and country, cultivated, high-bred people -- far too public- spirited to be unmindful of their responsibility toward those less fortunate than they; plenty of sterling, vigorous farming folk and sea-faring people, the most truly characteristic representatives of New England life; the newer comers who to-day form so large an element in our towns and country places -- thrifty Irish and French Canadians; and even the more degenerate type of native New England country people, whom a speaker in one of her stories characterizes as "an awful sight of poor material walking about that ain't worth the ground it steps on," adding, however, with Miss Jewett's own unfailing charity, "misshaped by nature."
She wrote many stories, some long ones, two of which you will like to read outside of school now, "Deephaven" and "Betty Leicester"; and three others which you will greatly enjoy in a year or two, "A Country Doctor," "A Marsh Island," and "The Tory Lover." She wrote, too, a bit of verse, which most of you have known and liked ever since you were little children, "Discontent"; and a book of charming stories for little children called "Playdays," which some of you have read; one of these, called "The Toll-gate," you would never be too old to enjoy. If you care for English history you would like to read "The Story of the Normans," a book which I think Miss Jewett may have had an especial interest in writing because her ancestry was partially French. Notice her reference to the Normans when you are reading "A War Debt." But her best work was done in writing short stories and sketches for older people; there are nearly one hundred of these, every one of them worth reading, although they vary, of course, in merit and beauty. Her most perfect book, her "high-water mark," is a series of sketches bound together by a slight thread of narrative, called "The Country of the Pointed Firs." If she had written this only, New England would still have reason to be proud and grateful.
Many of her short stories are not a bit too old for boys and girls; and a few of these are gathered together in this little volume. You will not find here tales of exciting adventure; but you will find people who seem as real as your own neighbors, much kindliness, much humor, and wise ways of looking at life. Another thing that you will find is a close and loving observation of nature, as might be expected of a person who speaks of "the country out of which I grew, and where every bush and tree seem like my cousins." Scattered through her stories are stately, old-fashioned gardens, such as the one described in "Martha's Lady";bare New England pastures with their mulleins and junipers and moss-grown rocks; winding wood-roads and shaded village streets; rocky bits of sea-coast; and wide green marshes where the sea comes and goes. If you know and love these things already, it will be a delight to you to see them through Miss Jewett's eyes; if many of them are strange to you, begin to be on the outlook for them, -- life is a hundred times as interesting when we are alive to the beauty that is all about us.
Miss Jewett had a keen sense of humor and never failed to recognize the laughable side of things; but her humor was full of sympathy; she never made fun of people, never held them up to ridicule. Read "Miss Esther's Guest" and see how true this is; you don't find yourself laughing at dear Miss Esther and quaint old Mr. Rill; you laugh -- to be sure -- but with friendliness. But Miss Jewett recognized not only the humorous aspect of New England life, but the sadder side with all its privation and narrowness. In a very lovely chapter in "Betty Leicester" called "Up Country," we get a glimpse of two women, each living, solitary, in her lonely little house on the long hillside. Some writers would let you feel the loneliness only, and would leave you with no feeling for the women but pity; but Miss Jewett helps you to see their cheeriness and friendliness and strength. Now and then she paints a sordid and unlovely nature, narrow and even cruel in its selfishness, as in "A Landless Farmer," "In Dark New England Days," and "The Failure of David Berry." As has been said, she was not blind to the more worthless, degenerate side of New England life, as we find in reading such stories as "The Courting of Sister Wisby" and "Miss Debby's Neighbors." A truthful writer could not ignore these things; but she never lets us feel for one moment that the world is made up of such people. She emphasizes, rather, the hopefulness and promise of human life.
One very interesting feature of Miss Jewett's stories is her use of dialect. She was evidently an unusually close observer of speech; she noticed not only the odd ways in which people pronounce words, but the characteristic words and phrases which they use. In reporting conversation, however, she does not weary the reader, as many writers do, with an excessive use of dialect, but records enough only to give a true impression of the person's habit of speech. The intrusion of a rather ambitious word into the midst of otherwise uneducated speech is very characteristic of the New Englander, and this Miss Jewett illustrates again and again. You will notice it with pleasure in reading "Miss Esther's Guest."
There are two reasons why you young people should get in the way of reading the best books while you are young. In the first place they provide you with companionship of the right sort now; and in the second place they help to give you a standard of what is worth reading that will be a guide to you all your lives. That Miss Jewett's work is among these best things there can be no question. You will be interested to hear what James Russell Lowell once said of it: "Nothing more pleasingly characteristic of rural life in New England has been written than that from the pen of Miss Sarah Orne Jewett."
During the last fifty years an astonishing number of really excellent short stories have been written in the United States. Probably nothing else has done more to make people belonging to all parts of the country -- East and West, North and South -- acquainted with one another's lives and ways of looking at things than these short stories. You will readily see that in a country like ours, so extended in its territory and made up of so many different kinds of people, one of the most necessary things is that we should know and understand one another, for our great Union cannot grow in unity of spirit if the people living in different sections of the country misunderstand and distrust one another. The local short story, then, has a use beyond that of entertaining and refreshing its readers; it is a means of bringing the people of the nation nearer together.
Many writers -- men and women -- share the honor of interpreting the people of this great land to one another. You will wish to read much that they have written; and if you are the right sort of reader you will be wiser and broader-minded for the reading. But you cannot do better than to begin your acquaintance with these short-story writers by reading one who was so true and loving a student of nature and of human life, so perfect an artist in her mode of telling what she saw and heard, so wise a guide in the "fine art of living" as Sarah Orne Jewett.
Introduction to "A White Heron," p. 1
The story of "A White Heron" is to be found in one of Miss Jewett's earlier collections, called A White Heron, and Other Stories. Other delightful stories in the same volume are "Mary and Martha" and "A Business Man."
"A White Heron" has been more widely read, perhaps, than any other of Miss Jewett's short stories, and is loved by both old people and young people. It is what we call "a classic," that is, a bit of literature so perfect of its kind that it is likely to live for many years.
QUESTIONS AND SUGGESTIONS
1. How many years had Sylvia lived in the manufacturing town?
2. How did she feel on arriving at her grandmother's house?
3. How old was she when the story opens?
4. Tell how the house appeared inside.
5. What did the house stand near?
6. Where was the pasture?
7. What could sometimes be heard, louder than the wind, beyond the near-by woods?
8. What does Miss Jewett tell us which shows how remote and safe the little house was?
9. Describe Sylvia's looks.
10. What proof does the story give that Sylvia was "afraid of folks," as her mother had said?
11. What was Sylvia's nearest approach to a game with playmates?
12. What is the first suggestion that Sylvia was especially interested in birds?
13. Name as many as you can from memory of the birds mentioned in the story. Which of these have you ever seen or heard?
14. The reference to the hop-toad and the red squirrel shows Miss Jewett's acquaintance with the habits of these little creatures. Recall what she tells about them. Do you know anything else about them?
15. Without really describing the grandmother, Miss Jewett makes us feel acquainted with her. Tell some of the things you know about her.
16. What was it in the stranger that made him so likable?
17. Why did Mrs. Tilley smile when the stranger said that he had been collecting birds ever since he was a boy?
18. "Sylvia would have liked him vastly better without his gun." Why? In recent years a great change has come in the way of studying wild creatures; the opera glass and the camera have partially taken the place of the gun. What can one learn by means of these harmless weapons that cannot be learned with the gun? 19. Give two reasons for Sylvia's wishing to find the nest for the stranger? Which do you think was the stronger?
20. How could the little girl find her way before sunrise?
21. Describe Sylvia's climb up the tree, from the tree's standpoint.
22. Tell all that Sylvia saw from the top of the great pine.
23. As she was coming down the tree, did she intend to tell the stranger about the nest?
24. Did you expect that she would tell him.?
25. Why did she change her mind?
26. Was it easy for her to refuse to tell?
27. Find and read the words in which Sylvia's grandmother describes the little girl's fondness for wild creatures. Do you wonder that Sylvia could not betray such a trust!
THE GARDEN TEA
"The Garden Tea" is a chapter from Betty Leicester, a charming book for girls. Betty, who is about fifteen, has no mother; and her father, with whom Betty is on terms of most delightful good comradeship and whose companion she has been on many journeys, has gone to Alaska for the summer on a scientific expedition, sending Betty to Tideshead, a New England village, to spend the summer with his two aunts, Betty's great-aunts.
After you have read this chapter, you may enjoy discussing the following questions: --
1. In another chapter, Miss Jewett says of Betty and her father, "Their friends thought them good-looking, but it ought to be revealed in this story just what sort of good looks they had, since character makes the expression of people's faces." Tell what you think about Betty's looks after reading this chapter, and give your reasons.
2. In a letter to her father Betty once said of the Tideshead girls, "They think of every reason why you can't do things that you can do." What illustrations of that spirit do you find in this chapter?
3. Give two or three reasons why you would like Miss Barbara for an aunt.
A LITTLE TRAVELER
"A Little Traveler" is one of the stories in a collection entitled The Mate of the Daylight, and Friends Ashore. You would be very much interested in two stories of New England country people contained in this volume, "A Landless Farmer" and "An Only Son."
QUESTIONS AND SUGGESTIONS
1. Tell just how the little girl looked and how she was dressed. How old do you think she was?
2. At what time in the year was the little traveler taking her long journey?
3. For whom do you think she was named?
4. Name five of the people who were on the train and tell something that each one did for the little traveler.
5. Why was every one so good to her?
6. What two sparrows are meant on page 32?
7. Why were the conductor and the writer so sure that the aunt was the right sort of woman?
8. I think that the writer of the story grew fonder of the little girl than any of the other travelers did. What do you think my reasons are?
THE CIRCUS AT DENBY
" The Circus at Denby" is taken from Deephaven, of which John G. Whittier once wrote to Miss Jewett, "I have read Deephaven over half a dozen times and always with gratitude to thee for such a book -- so simple, pure, and so true to nature." Deephaven is a story of two girls from the city -- dear friends --who spent a summer together in a dignified, old-fashioned house in a sea-port town in New England. One of the girls -- Helen Denis -- tells the story. The summer was full of happiness and quiet good times; and when the girls went away they left dear friends behind them. As you read the chapter see if you can find several reasons why they made so many friends.
QUESTIONS AND SUGGESTIONS
1. Tell all you can about Mrs. Kew and life at the lighthouse. You would be greatly interested in another chapter in the story, called "The Lighthouse."
2. How would girls who were less kind-hearted and well-bred than Kate and Helen have acted when they went into the tent of the Kentucky giantess?
3. Why was Helen proud of Kate?
4. It often happens that funny and sorrowful things are very closely bound up together. Sometimes the same thing is both funny and touching. Find a good illustration of this in this story.
THE NIGHT BEFORE THANKSGIVING
"The Night before Thanksgiving" occurs in Miss Jewett's last volume of short stories, The Queen's Twin and Other Stories. You would enjoy many of the stories in this volume, especially "The Queen's Twin" and "The Coon Dog." There is a very sweet and humorous little Irish story in the collection, called "Bold Words at the Bridge"; and in the story called "Aunt Cynthy Dallett" is an incidental account of a New England woman's perverted notion of hospitality, which is deliciously humorous and worth reading and discussing even without the rest of the story.
It is very interesting to find how much Miss Jewett has made us see in this little Thanksgiving story without writing long descriptions. After reading the story, you may be interested to answer questions 1, 2, 3, and 4 to prove this.
A good short-story writer does not talk a great deal about the people in the story, but makes us acquainted with them by telling us what they do and say. After reading, answer questions 5, 6, 7, and 8 with this in mind.
QUESTIONS AND SUGGESTIONS
1. Describe Mrs. Robb's house as it would have looked to a passer-by.
2. What could she see from the front window?
3. Draw a ground-plan of the house.
4. If you had walked through the field beside the house, what should you have found there?
5. Read what Mrs. Robb said to herself as she drew her chair up in front of the fire. If this were all we were told about her, what should we know of her character?
6. Read what she says to the man whom she takes to be the poorhouse keeper. What does this show us? 7. Find one of the ways in which Miss Jewett tells us how glad Mother Robb was to have John Harris back again.
8. How do you know that John Harris was loyal, generous, tender-hearted? How could he have let so long a time go by without writing to Mother Robb?
9. How does the first sentence in the story make you feel? The last sentence?
10. What is the first sentence in the story that makes you begin to be hopeful?
11. What verse from the Bible would make a good name for the story?
A WAR DEBT
"A War Debt" is in one of Miss Jewett's latest and best volumes, The Life of Nancy. You would enjoy almost every story in this book: some are sad, some are amusing, all help us to understand life better and to feel more kindly towards "all sorts and conditions of men." You would love "The Life of Nancy" and would have a good laugh over "The Guests of Mrs. Tim[m]s" and "Fame's Little Day." The story called "The Hiltons Holiday" is one of the most exquisite Miss Jewett ever wrote and is a great favorite among grown-up people, although it is written about children.
"A War Debt" is chosen for you because it deals with a period of American history in which you are especially interested, -- the Civil War. Another good story by Miss Jewett dealing with the same event, but from a very different point of view, is "Decoration Day," in the volume entitled "A Native of Winby." In "Strangers and Wayfarers" there is a very touching story picturing the South after the war, called "The Mistress of Sydenham Plantation." It would be quite worth while for you to read both of these.
QUESTIONS AND SUGGESTIONS
1. "There was a tinge of autumn color on even the English elms as Tom Burton walked slowly up Beacon Street." Why on even the elms? If you do not know the difference between the English and the American elm, be on the lookout for the two. Each is so beautiful in its own way, -- the American elm in its grace, the English elm in its sturdy strength -- that one appreciates each more because of knowing the other.
2. What are the ways in which Miss Jewett gives you an impression of the position, wealth, and leisure of the Burtons in the opening section of the story, without deliberately talking of those things?
3. What special interest of Tom's -- other than travel -- is mentioned, which shows you that he was not a mere idler?
4. In what two ways did Tom and his grandmother interpret the motto? Can you suggest any other meaning?
5. The date of Tom's journey to Virginia seems to the editor to have been about 1878. Does it seem either earlier or later to you? Why?
6. What was the element of pathos, "the inmost secret," that Tom felt at once upon seeing the young Southern lady on the train?
7. When did you begin to suspect that the young lady belonged to the Bellamy household? When did you feel sure?
8. How do you account for the slight hesitation which both Colonel and Madam Bellamy showed at first in greeting Tom?
9. Find any expression describing Madam Bellamy which impressed you particularly.
10. "A woman who is charming in youth is still more charming in age to a man of Tom Burton's imagination." Why should she be?
11. Find and read aloud an instance of Tom's good breeding; of the Colonel's; of Madam Bellamy's. Some of the instances of good breeding of which the story is so full are matters of custom and are due to social training; others are spontaneous expressions of kind-hearted consideration for others; find an illustration of each.
12. Find and read some of the passages in which Miss Jewett makes you feel the desolating effects of the war in the South.
13. Explain how this story might be regarded as a sermon against war.
14. Find in the story two significant statements about slavery.
15. Read the sentence which sums up what the Civil War had meant to the Bellamys. What else does the sentence tell you about them?
16. What constituted one steady drain upon their slender means after the war? What does it show you about them?
17. Find some little touch which shows that the Bellamys kept in their more straitened way of living some of the dignified customs of their prosperity.
18. Do you know or can you find out to what story by the great English novelist Thackeray, Colonel Bellamy referred in his talk with Tom?
19. "It was like the dread of going into battle, but the moment had come." To what moment does this refer and why was it so hard a moment?
20. What shows how dear a possession the cup had been to Colonel Bellamy? Why had it been especially precious to Madam Bellamy?
21. In giving the motto as Tom quoted it to himself just before leaving Fairford, the writer spells two of the words differently. Find out what the difference in spelling means.
22. What makes you sure that the "most lovely hope" was realized? You may be interested to know that when Miss Jewett first published the story, there was a little paragraph in italics at the end, which ran as follows: "This was the way that, many years ago, a Northerner found his love, a poor but noble lady in the South, and Fortune smiled again upon the ruined house of Fairford." But the two paragraphs preceding the last paragraph in the story as you know it were omitted. Which of the two ways of ending the story do you prefer?
MISS ESTHER'S GUEST
The story of "Miss Esther's Guest" occurs in one of the later volumes, A Native of Winby and Other Tales. You would especially enjoy the story which gives the title to the volume, and also "Decoration Day" and "The Flight of Betsey Lane." A very true and touching story is that called "The Failure of David Berry." David Berry, unpretentious and honest, the victim of a "smarter" man, was a moral hero. In three of the remaining stories Miss Jewett writes of other than native New England people, and with the same delightful sympathy. Indeed there is not a story in the whole hook that boys and girls could not understand and enjoy.
QUESTIONS AND SUGGESTIONS
1. How does Miss Jewett make you realize the old-fashioned quality and the straitened circumstances of Miss Esther in the very first paragraph?
2. What sort of house did Miss Esther live in? In what two places are you told about it?
3. What was Miss Esther's objection to the boys who had been at the Barnard's the year before? What does this strong objection tell you about her?
4. Why did Miss Esther hesitate so long about offering to take a "Country Week" guest?
5. Tell all you can about Miss Esther's mother. Should you have liked her? Why? What other member of the family is mentioned?
6. What must Mrs. Belton have overlooked in reading her letter from Mrs. Wayton?
7. How did Mr. Rill busy himself while he was at Miss Esther's?
8. What curious word is used for sitting-room?
9. What do you think is the most amusing place in the story?
"Martha's Lady" is to be found in the same volume with "The Night before Thanksgiving." (See introductory note to that story.) It is pleasant to know that this story was peculiarly dear to Miss Jewett herself. She spoke of it as one into which she had put much time and thought and affection; and in a letter to some one who dearly loved the story, she once wrote, "It went to my heart to find such a friend of Martha's Lady."
In one of Miss Jewett's loveliest stories, "The Life of Nancy," Nancy says, "There's nothing so beautiful to me as manners." I sometimes wonder if that may not have been a true expression of Miss Jewett's own feeling, for the people whom one loves best in her stories -- from Kate Lancaster with her perfect good breeding, and Madam Bellamy looking "like some exiled queen in a peasant's lodging," to dear Nancy Gale in her narrow village environment and that most exquisite of hostesses, Mrs. Blackett, 1 on her lonely island -- all attract us by their manners, manners which are plainly the expression of sincere, generous, and gentle natures. And Miss Jewett's stories show us not only the beauty of genuine good manners but their infectiousness. This we feel strongly in "Martha's Lady." But we feel much more than this, -- we feel the abiding reality of a deep and grateful affection, expressing itself in service, triumphing over time and change and absence, transfiguring life.
It might be wise for the teacher to read aloud certain of the more difficult paragraphs, such as the fourth, giving a free translation where the wording is especially difficult. This is an interesting and effective way of enlarging the pupil's vocabulary, and it prevents a story that ought to be a pleasure from becoming a burden.
1 Mrs. Blackett is in "The Country of the Pointed Firs."
QUESTIONS AND SUGGESTIONS
1. "One day, many years ago." At about what date does the story open?
2. Speak of two or three things which show that the story deals with a time many years past.
3. Stand a moment at the open front door of the old Judge Pyne house and tell what you see as you look out, and then as you look in.
4. Describe the garden as it looked in June.
5. Describe Helena as she appears at the opening of the story; at the end. In what respects was she unchanged?
6. Describe Martha's appearance at the beginning of the story; at the end. Was the change in her greater or less than in Helena?
7. Find and read the words that account for Helena's charm.
8. Tell what happened at the tea-table on the night of Helena's arrival.
9. Why was Helena more successful than Miss Harriet in teaching Martha to wait on table?
10. When did Martha first seem well-mannered and "almost pretty"? Why did she seem so?
11. Mention one very delightful thing that Helena taught Martha to do well.
12. Find and read the one short sentence in which Miss Jewett refers to Martha's aunt (p. 100). See how much she tells you about her in a few words and contrast her with Martha.
13. What helped Martha to be happy after Helena had gone away?
14. What proofs are there of Helena's continued interest in Martha after Helena went back to the city?
15. "The true links with the past were quite different." What were some of these links?
16. Read the lines on page 108 beginning "War and peace" and ending "a family pew." These lines have the force and beauty of poetry. Choose the picture that seems most vivid to you.
17. "She was always conscientious about the kind messages that were sent back by grateful guests." Whom does she mean? What does the passage tell you about Martha? About the guests?
18. When does Miss Pyne show unwonted appreciation of Martha? How does she express it?
19. Why had she never recognized Martha's deep feeling for Helena?
20. In what way did the customs of the house change during the forty years?
21. Tell all that the title of the story means to you. Would "Martha's Miss Helena" be an equally good name? Make a good name of your own for the story.
22. Mention some one incident that you would be very unwilling to have left out of the story. Why?
23. What incident in the story do you wish had happened differently?
24. Should you be as well satisfied to have the story end just before the last two paragraphs? Give your reasons.
25. Which of the three characters -- the old-fashioned gentlewoman, the younger lady, or the faithful servant -- do you care the most for, and why?
26. Find in Part IV a brief statement that expresses the meaning of the whole story in a few words.
Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College.