MARY GAY'S WORK IN AUTUMN.
ONE day when Mary and Luly were walking along the street in the town, they saw through a shop-window where toys were exhibited, a house with a field enclosed near it by means of a rail-fence. The posts of this fence were made of small blocks of wood with three holes bored in each. The posts were of the right length for such a fence, but they were made broader and thicker than they should have been to be in just proportion with the rails, ill order that they might stand of them- selves when placed upon the table or floor. Real posts do not require to be of great thickness or breadth, as they are supported by having the lower ends of them set into the ground.
The rails of the fence which the children saw in the toy-shop window were formed of long and slender bars of wood, not much larger than matches. These bars had evidently been split out of a straight-grained piece of pine.
" Luly," said Mary, " I verily believe that you and I might make such a fence as that, if we only had the right kind of wood."
" John will give us the right kind of wood," said Luly.
" So he will," said Mary; " and we will go round now by his house and ask him."
So they went round that way in going home, and asked John for the wood that they wanted. Mary explained to him the plan that she had of making such a fence, and he told her that he thought she could do it very well, if she had straight-grained wood of the right kind. The only difficulty would be in boring the holes in such small blocks as the posts, without splitting them.
" You see," said he, " the holes must be pretty large, so that the ends of the bars can go into them, and it is very hard to bore large holes in small blocks of wood without splitting them, unless you have a peculiar kind of tool."
" What kind of tool ? " asked Mary.
"A centre-bit is the best kind," said John.
So saying, John brought out what is called a set of tools contained in a hollow handle, and from among them selected a small centre-bit,-one that was made for boring a hole about a quarter of an inch in diameter. He fitted this bit into the handle, and laid all the other tools away, and then told Mary that he would lend her that to bore the holes with.
" You must put some rough board down upon the floor," said John, " and lay the piece that you are going to bore upon it, and put your foot on it, to keep it still. Then you must bore three holes near the edge, in such a way that when that piece is split off it will make a little post with three holes in it."
" Yes," said Mary, " I will do it that way."
" You must bore the holes before you split the piece off," continued John, " for in that way you will have the rest of the piece to hold your work steady by. You could not bore the boles with a bit in so small a piece of wood as one of the posts would be after it is split off, without a clamp to hold it in."
" Could not I do it with a gimlet ? " asked Mary.
" Yes," said John, " you might possibly do it with a gimlet, because you could hold the piece of wood with one hand and bore with the other. But then it would be very difficult to bore holes with a gimlet in such a small piece of wood, without splitting it.
" And even with a bit," continued John, " you might possibly hold the wood in one hand, and work the bit with the other, when the bit is in such a handle as this. But it is easier to put it down upon a board on the floor."
John then proceeded to saw out the pieces of board to make the posts and rails of. He selected from his stock a very clear and straight-grained piece of wood, and first sawed off, from one end, about two inches of the length of the board, by which means he produced a block, which, if we consider the direction of the grain as denoting the length, was about two inches long, and more than a foot wide.
"There," said John, "you must bore three holes pretty near the edge of this piece, at one end, and then split off about an inch with a case-knife and a hammer, and that will make one post. Then you bore three more holes and split off another piece of that width, making another post. You will get eight or ten out of this strip, even if you spoil one or two.
" I will saw you off another strip just like this, and that will make as many more. The two will give you eighteen or twenty posts in all, and that will be enough, I suppose."
After having done this and given Mary the two pieces which were to be split into posts, and which Mary called her post-timber, he sawed off two more pieces, each about a foot long. These were to make rails of.
" You had better split these up into pretty thick pieces," said John, " and then afterward subdivide them by splitting each thick piece in the middle, and then each half in the middle again, and so on until you get them thin enough for your bars."
" Why not split one bar off at a time ? " asked Mary.
" Because," said John, " when you attempt to split a thin piece off from the edge of a thick piece, the cleft is very apt to run out toward the side where the wood is thinnest, and that makes the piece very thin at the lower end. But you can try it in that way, if you. like, and see how it works.
" And now," continued John, " you will want some wedges."
" No," said Mary ; " I am going to split out my rails with a knife."
" You can begin the split with a knife," said John, " but the knife is not thick enough to split it open entirely. At least it is much more convenient to have some wedges, to drive in when the cleft is open."
So John made a couple of wooden wedges of the right size and proportions for the work intended, and then Mary and Lilly, taking in their hands the tools and materials which John had given them, set off for home.
They commenced their work that very afternoon. They found a place by a sunny door in the back-room, - the same one that the stove had stood in. Mary borrowed from Sophronia an old kitchen-knife.
" Now," said Mary, " the hardest of the work is boring the holes, and we will do that first."
So Mary brought a small rough board and laid it down upon the floor, in order that in boring her holes she should not bore through into the floor. She found at first some difficulty in holding her tool in a perfectly perpendicular position, so as to make the holes square with the side of the post, but she soon learned to do this pretty well.
After she had bored three holes, she split off that part of the board by means of the case-knife and a hammer, and one post was made.
She then proceeded to make another, and when she had two Luly asked her to make some rails, so that she might begin to put the fence together.
So Mary split out some rails, following the directions which John had given her, by splitting off first a thick piece, and then subdividing it. In this way she soon had half a dozen very good rails. They were about a foot long and a quarter of an inch thick.
As soon as three were done, Luly seized them, and began to fit them to the two posts. She soon had one length of the fence set up, and as she had more rails than were necessary for that length, she was impatient for Mary to make more posts.
This process went on very successfully for some time, until at length Luly had a fence four or five feet long, extending in a line along the back-room floor.
" Now," said Luly, " I want to turn a corner, and what shall I do ? "
" We must have some corner-posts," said Mary. " Let me see ; how must we make the corner-posts ? I see. I must bore the holes on one side only half through, and then I must begin three more holes on the next side to it, right round the corner, and bore those half through too."
So Mary proceeded to make a corner- post, and she succeeded in doing it pretty well; though she found it rather hard to do it, for she could not bore the second set of holes until she had split the piece off, and then it was hard to hold it.
It was not absolutely necessary to make corner-posts, for Luly might have man- aged as the farmers generally do, who, in turning a corner, do not usually have double-faced posts, so to speak, made expressly for the purpose, but use two common posts, setting them in the ground close together, and in such a position in relation to each other as to turn the face of one in one direction and the other in another, at right angles to it.
While the children were at work in this way making the fence, little Dickey happened to come in.
He was extremely pleased with the fence, and he remained a long time helping Luly put up new lengths and turn new corners, as fast as Mary finished the posts and rails.
" I mean to get my. brother James to make me some posts and rails like these," said Dickey.
" I don't believe he has got any good borer," said Luly. " It needs a very particular kind of borer."
" He will bore the holes with a gimlet," said Richard.
" No," said Luly, " a gimlet won't do. The posts will split."
" Then he will burn out the holes with a hot wire," said Richard. " I have seen him make holes in that way a great many times."
WHEN Dickey went home that evening he told his brother James about the post and rail fence which Mary and Luly were making, and asked him to make one for him and his sister Sarah. James said he would do so, and the next afternoon he fulfilled his promise.
He adopted too, in a measure, the plan which Richard had suggested of burning out his holes with a hot iron. He first however bored through the wood in the places where the holes were to be, with a small gimlet, - so small that there was little danger of splitting the wood with it,- and then enlarged them by means of an iron wire about as large round as a slate- pencil, which he heated red hot at the end in the kitchen-fire.
As for the posts and rails that Mary made, she gave them, when they were done, to Luly, and she also found her an oblong basket to keep them in. The rails would lie lengthwise in the basket, and leave room for all the posts to be piled snugly at the end.
Luly played with her fence a great many times on cold and rainy days, during the fall and ensuing winter. She could make a fence of the rails alone, with only two posts, one at each end, by running it in a zigzag direction and making the ends of the rails at the corners support each other by being laid alternately one upon another. It was at first rather difficult to do this, as Luly would often, in putting a new rail in its place, joggle and throw down those which she had placed before.
But one day when John was there he showed her how to proceed systematically with the process, and after that she had no more difficulty.
She first set up the post; for in making a zigzag fence it is very convenient to have one post to begin with. She would put the end of the lowest rail into the proper hole in the post, and lay the rail itself along the carpet in the direction in which it was going to lie. Then she would insert one end of the second rail in the next hole above in the post, and lay the other back. a little to one side. The end of the third rail she would lay back farther still, to be out of the way.
Next she would take the first rail of the next set and place the end of it upon the end of the lower rail already laid; then she would lift the end of the second rail, which had been set back, and bring it over and lay it gently in its place upon the end of the other, and so on regularly with all the successive lengths.
When Luly had made her fence as long as she chose to make it, another post was required at the farther end, to keep up the ends of the rails of the last length.
It is possible, however, to do without any posts at all, by bringing the fence round in a ring, or in some other form to make an enclosure, so that the two ends shall come together, and support each other.
John also taught Luly how to make Indian wigwams out of her rails, by tying three of them together by a string wound round about an inch from one end, and then spreading the other ends apart so as to form a sort of tripod, and afterward setting up other rails all around it, close together, taking care to keep the work balanced by building pretty equally on all the different sides.
There was a way also of building up a more complicated structure, by making three tripods pretty near together, and laying rails across from one to the other, - making what the children called a grand wig-wam, - and then it is possible with great care to set another tripod upon the top of these, the feet of the upper tripod resting upon the tops of the lower ones. This makes a wigwam two stories high.
The children also sometimes made a row of tripods, extending all along the floor, with rails laid along upon the top, connecting them. This they called an aqueduct.
It is possible to build an arched bridge with bars like these, without any fastening whatever. Such a bridge as this, though somewhat difficult to make, is much more difficult to describe. It is almost absolutely necessary to have some one to show you bow to do it. But perhaps, if you have the bars, and follow my directions exactly, you may succeed.
You must have six bars at least to make one single combination. We will suppose your bars are a foot long and about a quarter of an inch in diameter. You take two of the bars and lay them down upon the carpet, parallel to each other, and about eight inches apart. '
You take your place on the carpet in front of these bars, in such a manner that they shall point toward you, and then you lift up the two ends that are toward you, first one and then the other, and put an- other bar under the ends, crosswise. This is the first cross-bar. It should be about half an inch back from the end, so that the other bars when let down shall rest upon it securely.
Then lay another bar across from one of the parallel bars to the other, exactly in the middle, and on the top of them. Thus we have two parallel and lengthwise bars upon the carpet, and two cross-bars, - the- first cross-bar under the others, near the end, and the second above them, at the middle.
Now take hold of the first cross-bar, that is the one under the parallel bars at the ends of them, and lift it up six or eight inches from the carpet. It will of course lift up the parallel bars with it, for it is under them. You must do this very carefully, by taking hold of the middle of the crossbar with your thumb and finger, and lifting steadily. When the work is raised sufficiently high you then take two other bars, or let another person who is helping you take them, and run the ends of them under the first cross-bar, and over the second cross-bar, - one on each side of the bridge. This is the difficult part; namely, to know how to put in these two bars. If you do it right, as soon as they are in place yon can let the work down, and you will see that it will rest on the two ends of these new bars, and the middle portion will be supported above the carpet, and will form the commencement of the arch of a bridge.
By going on in the same way for two or three lengths more, a very nice arch can be made.
Then you can make another arch close to it, and by laying a set of bars along from one to the other, you can make a bridge of two arches, or more, if you wish, and if you have bars enough.
In a word, there are a great many things that can be done by such a set of bars or rails, if you have them, even without any posts.
And it is very easy to split them out in great numbers, if you can only get somebody to saw off for you a piece of wood from the end of a board that is straight-grained. You can split them by means of a knife and a small wooden wedge. It is not necessary even to have a hammer. A round stick of wood from a wood-pile is better than a hammer for driving in the knife, inasmuch as that will not bruise the back of the knife as a hammer would be very likely to do.
THE little drawing and painting schools which Mary had in the play-room, on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, awakened a great interest among all the children round about, in learning to paint and to draw. A great many children petitioned to be admitted to her school, when she had a school, many more than she could take. In fact, after having had three schools, she discontinued that plan, but yet whenever any of the children came to her she gave them such advice as she could, and the necessary directions to enable them to practise at home by themselves.
These directions are very few and simple, and any child who chooses can follow them, and can learn a great deal without any regular teacher.
You may make a teacher in fact of every picture you see in a book or a pictorial paper. Drawing is only representing natural objects by means of black lines made upon paper, and any picture that you see will teach you how to do this if you will only examine it attentively and imitate it carefully. I ought not therefore to say that any child can learn without any teacher whatever, but without any living or personal teacher.
If there were a child that had never seen a picture of any kind, as for instance the daughter of a savage, and she were to be told that there was a way practised by civilized people of representing objects by black lines drawn upon white paper, and were to be given a sheet of paper and pencil and asked to try to learn how to do it, when she had never seen it done, that would be having really to teach herself.
But then, if any one were to come and bring her an engraving cut from a pictorial paper, or one printed on the page of a spelling-book, the child might very well say,-
" Ah, now I can find out how it is done, for this paper will teach me."
Then if she was careful and attentive she would examine very closely all the lines, and see how they were made, so as to give a good representation of a house, or a gate, or a tree,-and in that way she might learn how to do it herself. She would have, as it were, the picture for her teacher.
Now any child can learn a great deal about drawing in the same way, that is by carefully and closely observing exactly how the lines are drawn in a picture, and then imitating them. But children generally do not do this. They only look at the model to see what they are to draw, not to learn how they are to draw it, by carefully observing what kinds of lines are drawn, in what places, and in what directions, and how near together, and then endeavoring to do exactly the same thing in their own work.
Mary explained to her scholars, and to all who came to ask her about drawing, that they must examine the picture which they were going to copy very minutely and carefully, in order to see just what kind of lines the artist made in drawing it.
" In drawing it ? " said one of the girls one day after Mary had said this; " but my picture is not drawn. It is printed."
" Yes," said Mary. " But it is printed upon a block that had a drawing made on it at first, and it is printed exactly like the drawing,-only the ink that it is printed with is blacker than the marks made by a lead-pencil. Bat you can see by the printed picture exactly how the drawing was made on the block, and so can learn how to draw properly yourself."
There were about a dozen children living in the different houses in the neighborhood that became very much interested in drawing and painting, in consequence of Mary's schools. They used to draw and paint at home, and then from time to time they would come and show their work to Mary.
Some of them became so much interested that they drew more or less every day, and they saved all their spending-money to buy drawing-pencils and paintboxes and paint-brushes. Sometimes two or three would meet together at their several houses, and draw or paint all the afternoon, and often several of them would come together to Mary, to show her the work that they had done.
At last one day Mary conceived the idea of having an exhibition. She proposed the plan to some of the girls.
" We will take a week, or two weeks if you. please," said she, " to prepare. We will each draw and paint a picture for the exhibition. Then we will have them all arranged in the play-room at our house, and go in and see them."
The girls liked the plan very much.
" Those that are too young to draw their pictures themselves," continued Mary, " may trace the outlines by putting the picture which they are going to copy, with a paper over it, up to the glass."
Perhaps some of my readers may think that to trace their pictures in this way, by holding them up to the window, would not do any good, and the children would not learn anything by drawing in that way. But this is a mistake. Such little things as they would learn a great deal in that way. Children learn a great deal by drawing with a transparent slate, so called. They learn the exact forms of the different objects which they draw, and the mode of representing them in drawing, and they train their hands and fingers to some degree of dexterity and freedom of motion, that will help them very much in all other things depending upon the use of the hand and fingers, which they will afterward have to learn.
They are not learning the same things, it is true, that the older children are learning who are far enough advanced to draw, themselves, by observation and estimate of distances and dimensions; but they are learning something, and something too which is just as important to them in their early stage of progress as that which the older girls learn is to them, in their more advanced stage.
Mary made a rule, however, that all the drawings which were traced in this way should be acknowledged as tracings, in the inscription placed below. Under each picture was to be Written, in the centre, the name of the subject; and in the corner, on one side, the name of the person who drew it, and on the other a memorandum denoting whether it was a tracing or a drawing from some engraving, or an original design.
Some of the girls made original designs, as they called them ; though these designs were made up of elements selected from different engravings, - as a little cottage or hut from one, a group of trees from another, and a fence with a gate from a third; and then by combining these objects in a new way, they would make a new picture.
But in whichever way the children made their picture, they were to write upon the corner what it was, whether a tracing, a drawing, or a design. If they were not old enough to write it themselves, they were to ask some older child to write it for them.
The children were all to keep their drawings out of sight from each other, as much as possible, until the exhibition. The day before the exhibition they were to bring them all to Mary, and she was to arrange them on the table in the play-room, and at the appointed time they were all to come in and walk around the table and see them.
Then, after they had seen them as much as they chose, they could all take their own, and if they wished they could exchange them among each other,
The children were so much pleased with this exhibition that they determined to have another one on a larger scale. Mary assigned three weeks as the time for preparing for the grand exhibition, and each person was allowed to bring in three pictures, and they might be of any kind. They might be drawings or tracings, either colored or not colored, or engravings colored, either large or small. By this plan she thought there would be a great variety of works of art to be exhibited, and as there were now nearly a dozen children interested in the work, if each offered three specimens there would be thirty or forty in all, which would make quite a large collection.
Of course the work of preparing for this exhibition made a great deal of conversation in all the houses where the children lived who were engaged in it, and this called the attention of some older children there to the subject, and they began to feel inclined to paint pictures too, and some of them went to the stationery store to buy back numbers of the pictorial papers, in order to obtain pictures to paint.
In fact the keeper of the little bookstore was quite surprised to find what a demand had sprung up for his old back numbers. He was very much pleased.
These older girls found that they could make very pretty pictures indeed by coloring some of the engravings. They of course had better judgment than the younger ones in selecting the pictures to paint, and more still in choosing and laying on the colors, and some of them made very large and beautiful pictures. These were all sent in for the exhibition, with the rest, and a very fine collection it made.
When the time for the exhibition came, the pictures were put up all about the playroom, on the walls, by means of pins in the corners, and the children all came to look at them. They spent nearly an hour in walking about the room and examining the pictures. They were bung so low that even the youngest children could see them.
They all were extremely interested in walking about the room and looking at the drawings and paintings, and they spent more than an hour in examining and looking at them. Then they began to exchange them among each other. Some however preferred keeping their own. Of course every one could do just as she pleased.
On to chapters 7-8
Return to main page
19th-Century Girls' Series website;
please do not use on other sites without permission