When CJ died we children were allowed into his great, private
parlor. I sat for a long time at his desk and ran my hands over
all his things. I lifted his old black pen-his father's pen-and
wrote my name on the desk-cover. Cilla sat at the piano and pretended
to play "Camptown Races." I was nearly asleep in CJ's
chair when Mary Francis came into the room and said in her softest
voiceand her voice was soft naturally and was a great strain
to hear at the best of timesokay girls it's time to see
your father off.
When CJ left the General Storehis feet couldn't take it
he decided to get in to the mining business, as an owner this
time rather than an employee. In the years immediately following
the First World War, he gradually bought a controlling interest
in the Springhill Mine.
CJ had been unable to fight in the war to do his condition; one
I would not understand until fifty years later, one particular
to the Kents. The mine was full of coal in those days and my most
vivid memories as a young girl are watching my father, the great
Charles Jeptha Kent, glancing at himself one last time in the
hallway mirror before he would depart for the working day. His
office looked over our school ground and many times during the
day I would see him staring, worried as ever, out the great window
behind his oak desk at us, me really, in the playground.
Where Priscilla was passive and uniquely feminine I began life
as more tomboy than anything else. I was the playground knifey
champion; a game my parents hated but that I could do better than
any of the boys, even my brother Sam. It involved taking the blade
end of a pocketknife in one's mouth and then throwing one's head
backwards to send the knife as far as possible, while, at the
same time, landing it with the blade piercing the ground. I am
sure CJ recoiled at horror in seeing one of his daughters with
a sharp knife in her mouth encircled by a group of dirty mine-town
boys goading her on. He tolerated this for awhile-right
up until he decided to run for Mayor of Jogginsat which
point I was told, in certain terms, that my knifey days were over.
But I was good at it then and I am sure that even now, even if
this pale orderly rolling me and changing my ill-smelling sheets
has no idea, that lying here 70 years later, I could still beat
any man in the place if I had a sharp knife, ten feet to work
with, and my father peering out of his great window; secretly
cheering me on.