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Clara Barton: "The Angel Of The Battlefields"
by [?]

David was Clara’s favorite brother. So athletic was he, and so fond of all forms of out-of-door life and exercise, that he was no less than a hero to the little sister, who watched him with intense admiration, and in her secret heart determined that some day and in some way she, too, would be brave and daring.

Having decided this in her own mind, when David suggested teaching her to ride, she was delighted, and, hiding her fear, at once took her first lesson on one of the beautiful blooded colts which were a feature of her father’s farm. In her Story of My Childhood she says: “It was David’s delight to take me, a little girl five years old, to the field, seize a couple of those beautiful grazing creatures, broken only to the halter and bit, and, gathering the reins of both bridles in one hand, throw me on the back of one colt, spring on the other himself, and, catching me by the foot and bidding me ‘cling fast to the mane,’ gallop away over field and fen, in and out among the other colts, in wild glee like ourselves. They were merry rides we took. This was my riding-school. I never had any other, but it served me well…. Sometimes in later years when I found myself on a strange horse, in a troop saddle, flying for life or liberty in front of pursuit, I blessed the baby lessons of the wild gallops among the colts.”

And so it was that the child grew strong in body and alert in mind, while the routine of daily farm duties, when she was not at school or galloping over the fields with David, developed her in concentration and in inventive ability. Housekeeping at that time was crude, and most of the necessary articles used were made at home. There were no matches. The flint snapped by the lock was the only way of lighting a fire. Garments were homespun, and home-made food was dried, canned and cooked in large quantities by the busy housekeeper. Although there was always a fire blazing on the hearth of the home, it was thought to be a religious duty to have the meeting-house unheated on the Sabbath day. Little Clara, who was particularly susceptible to cold, bore the bitter chill of the building as bravely as she could, each week in the long winter, but one Sunday as she sat in the big pew, not daring to swing her feet, they grew more and more numb until at last, when she was obliged to stand on them, she fell over–her poor little feet were frozen, and she had to be carried home and thawed out!

When she was eight years old her father left his hill farm and moved down to the Learned house, a much bigger farm of three hundred acres, with the brook-like French river winding through its broad meadows, and three great barns standing in the lowlands between the hill and the house. Stephen and David remained on the hill to work their small farms there, and the other sisters stayed there, but Clara was not lonesome in the new home in the valley, for at that time she had as playmates the four children of Captain Barton’s nephew, who had recently died. With them Clara played hide-and-seek in the big hay-mows, and other interesting games. Her most marked characteristic then and for many years afterward was her excessive shyness, yet when there was anything to do which did not include conversation she was always the champion. At times she was so bashful that even speaking to an intimate friend was often an agony to her, and it is said she once stayed home from meeting on Sunday rather than tell her mother that her gloves were too worn out to wear!

Inside the new house she found many fascinating things to do, and did them with eager interest. The house was being redecorated, and Clara went from room to room, watching the workmen, and even learned to grind and mix paints. Then she turned her attention to the paperers, who were so much amused with the child’s cleverness that they showed her how to match, trim and hang paper, and in every room they good-naturedly let her paste up some piece of the decoration, so she felt that the house was truly hers, and never lost her affection for it in any of her later wanderings or changes of residence.