From Ailenroc’s Book, by Cornelia Alexander
I have set out to write my autobiography, and I believe that I shall not go back to the first of my existence and tell how the flax and cotton grew, was made into cloth, was worn out, and finally went as assorted rags to the paper mill; neither shall I tell how I was soaked, rubbed, pressed, glazed, cut, ruled, and sent out as writing paper; but I will tell you how I was laid away in a clean bureau drawer, perfumed with lavender and rose leaves, and was one day brought out and laid on a little table before the window, where sat an old lady with a placid, benevolent expression on her still comely face, a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles upon her nose, and gray curls escaping from her white cap. She held a pen in her hand, and an old-fashioned inkstand sat with its mouth wide open, ready to do its part toward writing a letter; and I can assure you that I was ready, for I wished to be of use. Mine had been an active existence, and I was anxious to try the novelty of my new life.
As I had been housed up so long, I took a whiff of fresh air and glanced about me. It was a cozy little room; the rag carpet on the floor looked warm and cozy. There was a crackling fire in the grate—for it was cool October—yet through the window I saw late flowers blossoming in the yard, clambering vines ruddy with glowing leaves, and a stretch of woods that I cannot describe—gold and scarlet flamed from the tree tops, and the lower bushes were one mass of glowing colors.
The dear old lady began to write. When she had, with old-fashioned precision, put the day, the month, the year, she began: “My Dear Child.” Then I knew that I should carry the message of a loving mother to a far-away child, and I was glad that my first mission was to be so holy a one. As the letter progressed, I found she was writing to a daughter. She gave her a glimpse of the old home, clad in its autumnal glory; messages from old friends and neighbors; and, lastly, a page of motherly counsel. When she had concluded the letter, signing herself, “Your loving mother,” she laid her cheek softly against it for a moment, and I heard her lips moving, as if in prayer. When she laid me down, a big tear fell with a splash upon me. I carry the mark of that tear yet. Then she added a postscript—“I send my little grandchild and namesake a bit of money to buy a new dress”—placed a smooth two-dollar bill within my folds, slipped me into an envelope with a three-cent stamp upon it, and called: “Mary Ann, Mary Ann!” Mary Ann appeared, and I was consigned to her tender mercies, and she was told to hurry to the post office. Then I took my last look at the pleasant little room, the kind-looking old lady, and hurried down the road in Mary Ann’s grimy palm. She was a mulatto, with a great quantity of kinky hair standing out like a halo around her saffron-colored face. I inferred that she was quite a scholar, from the way she translated the name and address on my face, and once I trembled for fear she had no respect for the sanctity of a seal. Read More