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Love Is The Whole






A STORY FOR CHILDREN.


This is a story about some children who were living together in a
Western State, in a little house on the prairie, nearly two miles from
any other. There were three boys and three girls; the oldest girl was
seventeen, and her oldest brother a year younger. Their mother had died
two or three years before, and now their father grew sick,--more sick
and more, and died also. The children were taking the best care they
could of him, wondering and watching. But no care could do much, and so
he told them. He told them all that he should not live long; but that
when he died he should not be far from them, and should be with their
dear mother. "Remember," he said, "to love each other. Be kind to each
other. Stick together, if you can. Or, if you separate, love one
another as if you were together." He did not say any more then. He lay
still awhile, with his eyes closed; but every now and then a sweet smile
swept over his face, so that they knew he was awake. Then he roused up
once more, and said, "Love is the whole, George; love is the
whole,"--and so he died.

I have no idea that the children, in the midst of their grief and
loneliness, took in his meaning. But afterwards they remembered it again
and again, and found out why he said it to them.

Any of you would have thought it a queer little house. It was not a log
cabin. They had not many logs there. But it was no larger than the log
cabin which General Grant is building in the picture. There was a little
entry-way at one end, and two rooms opening on the right as you went. A
flight of steps went up into the loft, and in the loft the boys slept in
two beds. This was all. But if they had no rooms for servants, on the
other hand they had no servants for rooms. If they had no hot-water
pipes, on the other hand a large kettle hung on the crane above the
kitchen fire, and there was but a very short period of any day that one
could not dip out hot water. They had no gas-pipes laid through the
house. But they went to bed the earlier, and were the more sure to enjoy
the luxury of the great morning illumination by the sun. They lost but
few steps in going from room to room. They were never troubled for want
of fresh air. They had no door-bell, so no guest was ever left waiting
in the cold. And though they had no speaking-tubes in the house, still
they found no difficulty in calling each other if Ethan were up stairs
and Alice wanted him to come down.

Their father was buried, and the children were left alone. The first
night after the funeral they stole to their beds as soon as they could,
after the mock supper was over. The next morning George and Fanny found
themselves the first to meet at the kitchen hearth. Each had tried to
anticipate the other in making the morning fire. Each confessed to the
other that there had been but little sleep, and that the night had
seemed hopelessly long.

"But I have thought it all over," said the brave, stout boy. "Father
told us to stick together as long as we can. And I know I can manage it.
The children will all do their best when they understand it. And I
know, though father could not believe it, I know that I can manage with
the team. We will never get in debt. I shall never drink. Drink and
debt, as he used to say, are the only two devils. Never you cry, darling
Fanny, I know we can get along."

"George," said Fanny, "I know we can get along if you say so. I know it
will be very hard upon you. There are so many things the other young men
do which you will not be able to do; and so many things which they have
which you might have. But none of them has a sister who loves them as I
love you. And, as he said, 'Love is the whole.'"

I suppose those words over the hearth were almost the only words of
sentiment which ever passed between those two about their plans. But
from that moment those plans went forward more perfectly than if they
had been talked over at every turn, and amended every day. That is the
way with all true stories of hearth and home.

For instance, it was only that evening, when the day's work of all the
six was done--and for boys and girls, it was hard work, too--Fanny and
George would have been glad enough, both of them, to take each a book,
and have the comfort of resting and reading. But George saw that the
younger girls looked down-cast and heavy, and that the boys were
whispering round the door-steps as if they wanted to go down to the
blacksmith's shop by way of getting away from the sadness of the house.
He hated to have them begin the habit of loafing there, with all the
lazy boys and men from three miles round. And so he laid down his book,
and said, as cheerily as if he had not laid his father's body in the
grave the day before,--

"What shall we do to-night that we can all do together? Let us have
something that we have never had before. Let us try what Mrs. Chisholm
told us about. Let us act a ballad."

Of course the children were delighted with acting. George knew that, and
Fanny looked across so gratefully to him, and laid her book away also;
and, in a minute, Ethan, the young carpenter of the family, was putting
up sconces for tallow candles to light the scenes, and Fanny had Sarah
and Alice out in the wood-house, with the shawls, and the old ribbons,
and strips of bright calico, which made up the dresses, and George
instructed Walter as to the way in which he should arrange his armor and
his horse, and so, after a period of preparation, which was much longer
than the period of performance, they got ready to act in the kitchen the
ballad of Lochinvar.

The children had a happy evening. They were frightened when they went to
bed--the little ones--because they had been so merry. They came together
with George and Fanny, and read their Bible as they had been used to do
with their father, and the last text they read was, "Love is the
fulfilling of the law." So the little ones went to bed, and left George
and Fanny again together.

"Pretty hard, was it not?" said she, smiling through her tears. "But it
is so much best for them that home should be the happiest place of all
for them. After all, 'Love is the whole.'"

And that night's sacrifice, which the two older children made to the
younger brothers and sisters as it were over their father's grave, was
the beginning of many such nights, and of many other joint amusements
which the children arranged together. They read Dickens aloud. They
cleared out the corn-room at the end of the wood-house for a place for
their dialogues and charades. The neighbors' children liked to come in,
and, under very strict rules of early hours and of good behavior, they
came. And George and Fanny found, not only that they were getting a
reputation for keeping their own little flock in order, but that the
nicest children all around were intrusted to their oversight, even by
the most careful fathers and mothers. All this pleasure to the children
came from the remembrance that "Love is the whole."

Far from finding themselves a lonely and forsaken family, these boys and
girls soon found that they were surrounded with friends. George was
quite right in assuming that he could manage the team, and could keep
the little farm up, not to its full production under his father, but to
a crop large enough to make them comfortable. Every little while there
had to be a consultation. Mr. Snyder came down one day to offer him
forty dollars a month and his board, if he would go off on a surveying
party and carry chain for the engineers. It would be in a good line for
promotion. Forty dollars a month to send home to Fanny was a great
temptation. And George and Fanny put an extra pine-knot on the fire,
after the children had gone to bed, that they might talk it over. But
George declined the proposal, with many thanks to Mr. Snyder. He said to
him, "that, if he went away, the whole household would be very much
weakened. The boys could not carry on the farm alone, and would have to
hire out. He thought they were too young for that. After all, Mr.
Snyder, 'Love is the whole.'" And Mr. Snyder agreed with him.

Then, as a few years passed by, after another long council, in which
another pine-knot was sacrificed on the hearth, and in which Walter
assisted with George and Fanny, it was agreed that Walter should "hire
out." He had "a chance," as they said, to go over to the Stacy Brothers,
in the next county. Now the Stacy Brothers had the greatest stock farm
in all that part of Illinois. They had to hire a great deal of help, and
it was a great question to George and Fanny whether poor Walter might
not get more harm than good there. But they told Walter perfectly
frankly their doubts and their hopes. And he said boldly, "Never you
fear me. Do you think I am such a fool as to forget? Do I not know that
'Love is the whole'? Shall I ever forget who taught us so?" And so it
was determined that he should go.

Yes, and he went. The Stacys' great establishment was different indeed
from the little cabin he had left. But the other boys there, and the men
he met, Norwegians, Welshmen, Germans, Yankees, all sorts of people, all
had hearts just like his heart. And a helpful boy, honest as a clock and
brave as St. Paul, who really tried to serve every one as he found
opportunity, made friends on the great stock farm just as he had in the
corn-room at the end of the wood-house. And once a month, when their
wages were paid, he was able to send home the lion's share of his to
Fanny, in letters which every month were written a little better, and
seemed a little more easy for him to write. And when Thanksgiving came,
Mr. George Stacy sent him home for a fortnight, with a special message
to his sister, "that he could not do without him, and he wished she
would send him a dozen of such boys. He knew how to raise oxen, he said;
but would Miss Fanny tell him how she brought up boys like Walter?"

"I could have told him," said Walter, "but I did not choose to; I could
have told him that love was the whole."

And that story of Walter is only the story of the way in which Ethan
also kept up the home tie, and came back, when he got a chance, from his
voyages. His voyages were not on the sea. He "hired out" with a
canal-boatman. Sometimes they went to the lake, and once they set sail
there and came as far as Cleveland. Ethan made a great deal of fun in
pretending to tell great sea-stories, like Swiss Family Robinson and
Sinbad the Sailor. Fresh-water voyaging has its funny side, as has the
deep-sea sailing. But Ethan did not hold to it long. His experience with
grain brought him at last to Chicago, and he engaged there in the work
of an elevator. But he lived always the old home life. There were three
other boys he got acquainted with, one at Mr. Eggleston's church, one at
the Custom House, and one at the place where he got his dinner, and they
used to come up to his little room in the seventh story of the McKenzie
House, and sit on his bed and in his chairs, just as the boys from the
blacksmith's came into the corn-room. These four boys made a literary
club "for reading Shakespeare and the British essayists." Often did they
laugh afterwards at its title. They called it the Club of the Tetrarchy,
because they thought it grand to have a Greek name. Whatever its name
was, it kept them out of mischief. These boys grew up to be four ruling
powers in Western life. And when, years after, some one asked Ethan how
it was that he had so stanch a friend in Torrey, Ethan told the history
of the seventh-story room at the McKenzie House, and he said, "Love is
the whole."

Central in all his life was the little cabin of two rooms and a loft
over it. There is no day of his life, from that time to this, of which
Fanny cannot tell you the story from his weekly letters home. For though
she does not live in the cabin now, she keeps the old letters filed and
in order, and once a week steadily Ethan has written to her, and the
letters are all sealed now with his own seal-ring, and on the seal-ring
is carved the inscription, "Love is the whole."

I must not try to tell you the story of Alice's fortunes, or Sarah's.
Every day of their lives was a romance, as is every day of yours and
mine. Every day was a love-story, as may be every day of yours and
mine, if we will make it so. As they all grew older their homes were all
somewhat parted. The boys became men and married. The girls became women
and married. George never pulled down the old farm-house, not even when
he and Mr. Vaux built the beautiful house that stands next to it to-day.
He put trellises on the sides of it. He trained cotoneaster and Roxbury
wax-work over it. He carved a cross himself, and fastened it in the
gable. Above the door, as you went in, was a picture of Mary Mother and
her Child, with this inscription:--

"Holy cell and holy shrine,
For the Maid and Child divine!
Remember, thou that seest her bending
O'er that babe upon her knee,
All heaven is ever thus extending
Its arms of love round thee.
Such love shall bless our arched porch;
Crowned with his cross, our cot becomes a church."

And in that little church he gathered the boys and girls of the
neighborhood every Sunday afternoon, and told them stories and they sang
together. And on the week days he got up children's parties there, which
all the children thought rather the best experiences of the week, and
he and his wife and his own children grew to think the hours in the
cabin the best hours of all. There were pictures on the walls; they
painted the windows themselves with flower-pictures, and illuminated
them with colored leaves. But there were but two inscriptions. These
were over the inside of the two doors, and both inscriptions were the
same,--"Love is the whole."

They told all these stories, and a hundred more, at a great Thanksgiving
party after the war. Walter and his wife and his children came from
Sangamon County; and the General and all his family came down from
Winetka; and Fanny and the Governor and all their seven came all the way
from Minnesota; and Alice and her husband and all her little ones came
up the river, and so across from Quincy; and Sarah and Gilbert, with the
twins and the babies, came in their own carriage all the way from
Horace. So there was a Thanksgiving dinner set for all the six, and the
six husbands and wives, and the twenty-seven children. In twenty years,
since their father died, those brothers and sisters had lived for each
other. They had had separate houses, but they had spent the money in
them for each other. No one of them had said that anything he had was
his own. They had confided wholly each in each. They had passed through
much sorrow, and in that sorrow had strengthened each other. They had
passed through much joy, and the joy had been multiplied tenfold because
it was joy that was shared. At the Thanksgiving they acted the ballad of
Lochinvar again, or rather some of the children did. And that set Fanny
the oldest and Sarah the youngest to telling to the oldest nephews and
nieces some of the stories of the cabin days. But Fanny said, when the
children asked for more, "There is no need of any more,--'Love is the
whole.'"





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