At this time there was a fashionable furor for lace work. Mother sent me to learn it, and then procured me pupils, whom I taught, usually sitting on their knee. But lace work soon gave way to painting on velvet. This, too, I learned, and found profit in selling pictures. Ah, what pictures I did make. I reached the culminating glory of artist life, when Judge Braden, of Butler, gave me a new crisp five dollar bill for a Goddess of Liberty. Indeed, he wanted me to be educated for an artist, and was far-seeing and generous enough to have been my permanent patron, had an artistic education, or any other education, been possible for a Western Pennsylvania girl in that dark age—the first half of the nineteenth century.
Mother made a discovery in the art of coloring leghorn and straw bonnets, which brought her plenty of work, so we never lacked comforts of life, although grandfather’s executors made us pay rent for the house we occupied.
GO TO BOARDING-SCHOOL.—AGE, 12.
During my childhood there were no public schools in Pennsylvania. The State was pretty well supplied with colleges for boys, while girls were permitted to go to subscription schools. To these we were sent part of the time, and in one of them Joseph Caldwell, afterwards a prominent missionary to India, was a schoolmate. But we had Dr. Black’s sermons, full of grand morals, science and history.
In lieu of colleges for girls, there were boarding-schools, and Edgeworth was esteemed one of the best in the State. It was at Braddock’s Field, and Mrs. Olever, an English woman of high culture, was its founder and principal. To it my cousin, Mary Alexander, was sent, but returned homesick, and refused to go back unless I went with her. It was arranged that I should go for a few weeks, as I was greatly in need of country air; and, highly delighted, I was at the rendezvous at the hour, one o’clock, with my box, ready for this excursion into the world of polite literature. Mary was also there, and a new scholar, but Father Olever did not come for us until four o’clock. He was a small, nervous gentleman, and lamps were already lighted in the smoky city when we started to drive twelve miles through spring mud, on a cloudy, cheerless afternoon. We knew he had no confidence in his power to manage those horses, though we also knew he would do his best to save us from harm; but as darkness closed around us, I think we felt like babes in the woods, and shuddered with vague fear as much as with cold and damp. When we reached the “Bullock Pens,” half a mile west of Wilkinsburg, there were many lights and much bustle in and around the old yellow tavern, where teamsters were attending to their weary horses. Here we turned off to the old mud road, and came to a place of which I had no previous knowledge—a place of outer darkness and chattering teeth.