The large family had waited up for Father Olever’s return, for he and his wagon were the connecting link between that establishment and the outside world. He appeared to great advantage surrounded by a bevy of girls clamoring for letters and messages. To me the scene was fairy-land. I had never before seen anything so grand as the great hall with its polished stairway. We had supper in the housekeeper’s room, and I was taken up this stairway, and then up and up a corkscrew cousin until we reached the attic, which stretched over the whole house, one great dormitory called the “bee-hive.” Here I was to sleep with Helen Semple, a Pittsburg girl, of about my own age, a frail blonde, who quite won my heart at our first meeting.
Next day was Sabbath, and I was greatly surprised to see pupils walk on the lawn. This was such a desecration of the day, but I made no remark. I was too solemnly impressed by the grandeur of being at Braddock’s Field to have hinted that anything could be wrong. But for my own share in the violation I was painfully penitent.
This was not new, for there were a long series of years in which the principal business of six days of every week, was repentance for the very poor use made of the seventh, and from this dreary treadmill of sin and sorrow, no faith ever could or did free me. I never could see salvation in Christ apart from salvation from sin, and while the sin remained the salvation was doubtful and the sorrow certain.
On the afternoon of that first Sabbath, a number of young lady pupils came to the Bee-hive for a visit, and as I afterwards learned to inspect and name the two new girls, when I was promptly and unanimously dubbed “Wax Doll.” After a time, one remarked that they must go and study their “ancient history lesson.” I caught greedily at the words, ancient history. Ah, if I could only be permitted to study such a lesson! No such progress or promotion seemed open to me; but the thought interfered with my prayers, and followed me into the realm of sleep. So when that class was called next forenoon, I was alert, and what was my surprise, to hear those privileged girls stumbling over the story of Sampson? Could it be possible that was ancient history? How did it come to pass that every one did not know all about Sampson, the man who had laid his Lead on Delilah’s wicked lap, to be shorn of his strength. If there is any thing in that account, or any lesson to be drawn from it, with which I was not then familiar, it is something I have never learned. Indeed, I seemed to have completed my theological education before I did my twelfth year.
One morning, Mrs. Olever sent for me, and told me she had learned my mother was not able to send me to school, but if I would take charge of the lessons of the little girls, she would furnish me board and tuition. This most generous offer quite took my breath away, and was most gladly accepted; but it was easy work, and I wondered my own studies were so light. I was allowed to amuse myself drawing flowers, which were quite a surprise, and pronounced better than anything the drawing master could do—to recite poetry, for the benefit of the larger girls, and to play in the orchard with my pupils.