A B C D E F
G H I J K L M 

Total read books on site:
more than 10 000

You can read its for free!


Text on one page: Few Medium Many
This was Elizabeth Hohenhorst, a child of twelve, remarkably
quiet, and disposed to melancholy. She was a devout Catholic; and, knowing
that she was fated to become a nun, was fitting herself for that dreary
destiny, which rendered her very sentimental She was full of fanciful
visions, but extremely sweet and gentle in her manners. My love for her
was unbounded. I went to church in her company, was present at all the
religious festivals, and accompanied her to receive religious instruction:
in short, I made up my mind to become a Catholic, and, if possible, a nun
like herself. My parents, who were Rationalists, belonging to no church,
gave me full scope to follow out my own inclinations; leaving it to my
nature to choose for me a fitting path. This lasted until Elizabeth went
for the first time to the confessional; and, when the poor innocent child
could find no other sin of which to speak than the friendship which she
cherished for a Protestant, the priest forbade her to continue this, until
I, too, had become a Catholic; reminding her of the holiness of her future
career. The poor girl conscientiously promised to obey. When I came the
next morning and spoke to her as usual, she turned away from me, and burst
into tears. Surprised and anxious, I asked what was the matter; when, in a
voice broken with sobs, she told me the whole story, and begged me to
become a Catholic as soon as I was fourteen years old. Never in my whole
life shall I forget that morning. For a moment, I gazed on her with the
deepest emotion, pitying her almost more than myself; then suddenly turned
coldly and calmly away, without answering a single word. My mind had
awakened to the despotism of Roman Catholicism, and the church had lost
its expected convert. I never went near her again, and never exchanged
another word with her. This was the only friend I had during eight and a
half years of uninterrupted attendance at school.

A visit that I paid to my maternal grandfather, when seven or eight years
old, made a strong impression on my mind. My grandfather, on his return
from the war of 1813-15, in which he had served, had received from the
authorities of Prenzlau (the city in which he lived) a grant of a
half-ruined cloister, with about a hundred acres of uncultivated land
attached, by way of acknowledgment for his services. He removed thither
with his family; and shortly after invited the widows of some soldiers,
who lived in the city, to occupy the apartments which he did not need. The
habitable rooms were soon filled to overflowing with widows and orphans,
who went to work with him to cultivate the ground. It was not long before
crippled and invalid soldiers arrived, begging to be allowed to repair the
cloister, and to find a shelter also within its walls. They were set to
work at making brick, the material for which my grandfather had discovered
on his land: and, in about five years, an institution was built, the more
valuable from the fact that none lived there on charity, but all earned
what they needed by cultivating the ground; having first built their own
dwelling, which, at this time, looked like a palace, surrounded by trees,
grass, and flowers. Here, in the evening, the old soldiers sung martial
songs, or told stories of the wars to the orphans gathered about them,
while resting from the labors of the day.

I tell you of this institution so minutely, to prove to you how wrong it
is to provide charitable homes for the poor as we provide them,--homes in
which the charity always humiliates and degrades the individual. Here you
have an instance in which poor crippled invalids and destitute women and
children established and supported themselves, under the guidance of a
clear-headed, benevolent man, who said, "Do what you like, but work for
what you need." He succeeded admirably, though he died a very poor man;
his younger children becoming inmates of the establishment, until they
were adopted by their relatives.

When I visited my grandfather, the "convent," as he insisted on calling
it,--rejecting any name that would have indicated a charitable
institution,--contained about a hundred invalid soldiers, a hundred old
women, and two hundred and fifty orphans. One of the wings of the building
was fitted up as a hospital, and a few of the rooms were occupied by
lunatics. It was my greatest delight to take my grandfather's hand at
noon, as he walked up and down the dining-room, between the long tables,
around which were grouped so many cheerful, hearty faces; and I stood
before him with an admiration that it is impossible to describe, as he
prayed, with his black velvet cap in his hand, before and after dinner;
though I could not comprehend why he should thank another person for what
had been done, when every one there told me that all that they had they
owed to my grandfather.

One afternoon, on returning from the dining-room to his study, I spied on
his desk a neatly written manuscript. I took it up, and began to read. It
was a dissertation on immortality, attempting by scientific arguments to
prove its impossibility. I became greatly interested, and read on without
noticing that my grandfather had left the room, nor that the large bell
had rung to call the family to dinner. My grandfather, a very punctual
man, who would never allow lingering, came back to call and to reprimand
me; when he suddenly started on seeing the paper in my hands, and,
snatching it from me, tore it in pieces, exclaiming, "That man is insane,
and will make this child so too!" A little frightened, I went to the
dinner-table, thinking as much about my grandfather's words as about what
I had read; without daring, however, to ask who this man was. The next
day, curiosity mastered fear. I asked my grandfather who had written that
paper; and was told, in reply, that it was poor crazy Jacob. I then begged
to see him; but this my grandfather decidedly refused, saying that he was
like a wild beast, and lay, without clothes, upon the straw. I knew
nothing of lunatics; and the idea of a wild man stimulated my curiosity to
such an extent, that, from that time, I teased my grandfather incessantly
to let me see Jacob, until he finally yielded, to be rid of my
importunity, and led me to the cell in which he was confined. What a
spectacle presented itself in the house that I had looked on as the abode
of so much comfort! On a bundle of straw, in a corner of a room, with no
furniture save its bare walls, sat a man, clad only in a shirt; with the
left hand chained to the wall, and the right foot to the floor. An
inkstand stood on the floor by his side; and on his knee was some paper,
on which he was writing. His hair and beard were uncombed, and his fine
eyes glared with fury as we approached him. He tried to rise, ground his
teeth, made grimaces, and shook his fist at my grandfather, who tried in
vain to draw me out of the room. But, escaping from his grasp, I stepped
towards the lunatic, who grew more quiet when he saw me approach; and I
tried to lift the chain, which had attracted my attention. Then, finding
it too heavy for me, I turned to my grandfather and asked, "Does not this
hurt the poor man?" I had hardly spoken the words when his fury returned,
and he shrieked,--

"Have I not always told you that you were cruel to me? Must this child
come to convince you of your barbarity? Yes: you have no heart."

I looked at my grandfather: all my admiration of him was gone; and I said,
almost commandingly,--"Take off these chains! It is bad of you to tie this
man!"

The man grew calm at once, and asked imploringly to be set free;
promising to be quiet and tractable if my grandfather would give him a
trial. This was promised him: his chains were removed the same day; and
Jacob was ever after not only harmless and obedient, but also a very
useful man in the house.

I never afterwards accompanied my grandfather. I had discovered a side in
his nature which repelled me. I spent the remainder of my visit in the
workrooms and the sickroom, always secretly fearing that I should meet
with some new cruelty; but no such instance ever came to my view.

On my return from my grandfather's, I found that a cousin had suddenly
become blind. She was soon after sent to the ophthalmic hospital, where
she remained for more than a year; and, during this time, I was her
constant companion after school-hours. I was anxious to be useful to her;
and, being gentler than the nurse, she liked to have me wash out the
issues that were made in her back and arms. The nurse, who was very
willing to be relieved of the duty, allowed me to cleanse the eyes of the
girl next my cousin; and thus these cares were soon made to depend on my
daily visit. Child as I was, I could not help observing the carelessness
of the nurses, and their great neglect of cleanliness. One day, when the
head-nurse had washed the floor, leaving pools of water standing under the
beds, the under-nurse found fault with it, and said, "I shall tell the
doctor, when he comes, why it is that the patients always have colds."
"Do," said the head-nurse. "What do men understand of such matters? If
they knew any thing about them, they would long ago have taken care that
the mattress upon which one patient dies should always be changed before
another comes in." This quarrel impressed itself upon my memory; and the
wish rose in my mind, that some day I might be head-nurse, to prevent such
wrongs, and to show kindness to the poor lunatics.

At the end of the year, my cousin left the hospital At the same time,
trouble and constant sickness fell upon our family. My father, who held
liberal opinions and was of an impetuous temperament manifested some
revolutionary tendencies, which drew upon him the displeasure of the
government and caused his dismissal, with a very small pension, from his
position as military officer. This involved us in great pecuniary
difficulties; for our family was large, and my father's income too small
to supply the most necessary wants; while to obtain other occupation for
the time was out of the question In this emergency, my mother determined
to petition the city government for admission to the school of midwives
established in Berlin, in order in this manner to aid in the support of
the family.



Pages: | Prev | | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 4 | | 5 | | 6 | | 7 | | 8 | | 9 | | 10 | | 11 | | 12 | | 13 | | 14 | | 15 | | 16 | | 17 | | 18 | | 19 | | 20 | | 21 | | Next |

N O P Q R S T
U V W X Y Z 

Your last read book:

You dont read books at this site.