Letters of Life/X
LOVE AND MARRIAGE.
I am extremely tired of these letters. So I am persuaded will you be, or any one else who attempts to read them. I must try to bring them to a close.
And yet, when people talk about themselves, the temptation to garrulity is great. Is not that one reason why we like our physician? We alone are the subject. He asks of our minute symptoms, and listens attentively to all we say. Perhaps he thinks lightly of our statements, or suspects exaggeration; but that he keeps to himself, and on we go.
I think I have already mentioned that social intercourse between the sexes, in the olden time, began at an earlier period than at present, the time allotted to school education being far more brief. Though unencumbered by ceremony, it was characterized by courtesy and severe decorum. It combined the elements of a cheering friendship with some degree of mental improvement. Reading aloud instructive books, with the singing of songs to which our voices became admirably trained, were often the amusement of our evening visits. We gave no entertainment to the animal appetites. It was not expected. Almost children as we were, this Platonic intercourse was genial and elevating. Any slight preference that chanced to reveal itself, caused no disturbance in this sweet preface to the history of life.
But as years glided onward, with their changes, I was no stranger to the language of love, nor unsusceptible to its sentiment. Manly beauty and grace I appreciated, but the chief attraction was in intellect and knowledge. My most valued associates were of the latter order. I had also a penchant for the company of men considerably older than myself. This arose from several motives. I had always been taught to respect seniority. I gained from their experience more information, and felt secretly more at ease in their company, because I thought there could be no suspicion of their partiality, or of my seeking to create it. Ever had I been exceedingly sensitive to aught that bore the appearance of forwardness in my own sex. It seemed to me treason against their native refinement and their allotted sphere. So I still think; and, however the modes of association may vary with differing generations, can never respect any woman who boldly seeks the attentions, or invades their province whose part it is to make advances, to legislate, and to bear rule. Perhaps I might have been deemed fastidious, but have never been able to lay aside my creed.
I had still a deeper reason for avoiding serious advances. My mind was made up never to leave my parents. I felt that their absorbing love could never be repaid by the longest life-service, and that the responsibility of an only child, their sole prop and solace, would be strictly regarded by Him who readeth the heart. I had seen aged people surrounded by indifferent persons, who considered their care a burden, and could not endure the thought that my tender parents, who were without near relatives, should be thrown upon the fluctuating kindness of hirelings and strangers. To me, my father already seemed aged, though scarcely sixty; and I said, in my musing hours, Shall he, who never denied me aught, or spoke to me otherwise than in love-tones, stretch forth his hands in their weakness, "and find none to gird him"?
So my resolution was taken solemnly, and, as I supposed, irrevocably. The loved objects for whose sake it was adopted knew nothing of it. They would not have required such a pledge, nor, perhaps, accepted it. My mother would have been pleased, I fancy, to have seen some reciprocity on my part on particular occasions. She was not without ambition, and would have enjoyed seeing her darling's lot in life uplifted and made permanent. She often rallied me on my indifference to various fascinations, ascribing it to the love of books, which she hinted might become extravagant or morbid. I conversed frankly with her respecting all my gentlemen friends, and my peculiar standing with them, and was both surprised and enlightened by her acuteness in the analysis of character, and her discriminating criticism of the style of manner and conversation.
Secretly deeming myself a thing set apart, I conscientiously avoided all trifling with the feelings of others. Detesting every form of flirtation, when I foresaw by woman's intuition that aught serious was meditated, I withdrew myself as far as possible until the impression passed by. It seemed to me rank dishonesty to sport about the purlieus of matrimony, with a fixed intention of never entering there. Neither were this innate vow and consequent self-denial so great as might naturally appear in one so young and so agreeably allured. Fondness for intellectual pursuits prevented any restless search of excitement or personal admiration; and I never knew a sensation of loneliness save in uncongenial society. As my Lord Bacon says, "he had the privy-coat of a good conscience," I wore, as an inward shield, my own construction of a daughter's duty.
Still, I was sometimes sorely tempted, and my faith ready to fail. At a time when my religious convictions were peculiarly strong, I painfully studied the case, whether I ought not to take part in mission labor in a foreign clime. The literal application of the passage was warmly pressed: "He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me." "Not worthy of me! Not worthy of me!" rang like a dirge in my soul. But the surge of feeling subsided, and in deepened humility I decided that, without any worthiness whatsoever, I must cling to my Saviour's cross.
Sundry times, also, I came near being caught in the clerical net, but broke through. Fascinations of a more ambitious character had likewise their scope and sway. Still my slight bark was guided, though sometimes veering, to keep its pole-star in view. Those who would have steered it to some favoring haven, where
"The light-house looked lovely as hope,
That star on life's tremulous ocean,"
I remember with great respect and gratitude. Worth was theirs, and wealth, and mental culture, and the world's consideration. I was not insensible to their virtues; their kind attentions are embalmed in memory. I have regarded their success and happiness with satisfaction, and would fain have ever considered them as brothers or friends.
But the blind archer, though oft repulsed, and long held in subjection, bided his time. One might have supposed that, for me, this time had passed. A quiet school-dame, most happy with her scholars and friends, having surmounted the period of youth's romantic enthusiasm, and addicted to "maiden meditation, fancy-free," might have been thought no fit mark for his arrow.
Nevertheless, as I plodded my way to and from my school-house, a pair of deep-set and most expressive black eyes sometimes encountered mine, and spoke unutterable things. They were the property of a gentleman of striking physiognomy and the elegant manners of the olden school. Their dialect might not have made a lasting impression on one whose every thought and faculty were bespoken by her daily occupation; but ere long a letter came—a letter of touching eloquence and the fairest chirography. From this there was no escape. It was like a grappling-iron, not to be evaded. Wherever I turned, its words followed me as living creatures—an image of the wheel seen by the entranced prophet, full of eyes, that gazed wherever he went. To love-letters I had been no stranger, yet nothing like this appeal had caused such perturbation, and captivity of thought. Its writer I had occasionally met in select parties, with his wife, a being of angelic loveliness and beauty, who had gone to a higher and congenial sphere.
At length I determined to consult my dear Mr. and Mrs. Wadsworth. Readily and affectionately they gave me their opinion, adding earnest urgency that I should accept the proposal. The gentleman who had thus honored me was of the highest respectability, their neighbor and friend. He possessed intellectual tastes, an accomplished education, and had given proof of his domestic virtues during a conjugal union of fifteen years. They also expressed apprehensions that my present profession, though delightful and prosperous, might eventually make inroads on my health. They adduced several occasions where its inevitable exposure to changes and inclemency of weather had produced colds of peculiar severity and obstinacy. Now I could take leave of the employment honorably, and without shadow of blame. We should permanently dwell near each other, and be sundered no more. They held me closely to their heart, as they gave their advice that this should be viewed as a favoring providence of our Heavenly Benefactor.
But the parents—the parents, already looking with hope to the next vacation, when the sole idol of their thoughts and prayers should come with her lamp of love to enlighten their lonely dwelling—shall they be told that she is making to herself a new home?—that she is meditating to sojourn with them no more?
It was decided that the case should be simply and circumstantially stated to them, with the assurance that I had not committed myself in any form, but awaited their decision, by which I would be implicitly guided, and begging that they would take full leisure to deliberate. I wrote the letter, and then led a life of supplication to Him who alone giveth wisdom. I might have said with the Psalmist, "I wait on the Lord; my soul doth wait, and in His word is my hope."
Several circumstances conspired to lengthen this period of suspense. And then came the letter from my blessed father and mother, cordially consenting to the proposed change of condition, and adding that, after the first surprise had subsided, their minds felt relief at the thought that, when death should take them from me, my brotherless and sisterless heart might rest on such a protector as he was represented to be by our most faithful friends and benefactors.
During this probationary interval of somewhat more than three weeks, I had declined an interview. After the reception of the parental sanction, I find in my journal, with the date of January 27th, 1819, the following notice:
"I feel almost astonished as I write the words. I am no more mine own, but another's. Last evening I promised to do all in my power to advance the happiness of a man of the purest integrity, sensibility, and piety. I surely anticipate improvement from intercourse with his elegant and scientific mind, but cannot avoid shuddering at my unfitness to fill the station his generosity has designated."
But whither had fled that settled purpose of celibacy, which with almost the sanctity of a vow had so long ruled my life? Where was even the compunction that was wont to attend any parley with temptation to forsake the watch and ward of parental welfare? Where that impersonation of filial gratitude and duty, to which I had bound myself, as a willing servant, for ever? Ay, where?
I gave scope to the new affection, so long repressed or chastised, and its sway was pervading and delightful. Every task was achieved with new vigor, every obstacle surmounted as with double strength. Indeed, it seemed as if nothing remained worthy the name of task or obstacle, so perfectly did couleur de rose overspread all things. The refrain of an ancient sacred melody echoed in my secret thought a perpetual melody:
"O God of grace!
Henceforth to Thee
A hymn of praise
My life must be."
I was as one wrapped in the tissued drapery of a pleasant dream. What came the nearest to awakening me as a stern reality, was the necessary dissolution of my cherished school. It was in a highly prosperous state. The studies had never been more agreeably or earnestly prosecuted. We had recently commenced an interesting course of Modern History, and I was pursuing a system of experiment on the extent of the capacities of memory in the young unpreoccupied mind, which I was persuaded had not been fully ascertained.
Not long after my engagement, and while I supposed its knowledge confined to particular friends, I met, on approaching our school-room, several knots of its occupants on the stairs and in the halls, with heads in close propinquity, which parted and flitted away as I drew near. Some exciting intelligence seemed circulating with telegraphic speed. Not a whisper was heard; but I fancied I could divine their subject. During the exercises of the morning, eyes were fixed on me with a varying expression of wondering curiosity or incipient regret. One or two of the youngest made errands to come to me, and linger as long as possible, watching my every movement as if they expected me to spread two great wings of an eagle, and vanish from their sight. It became fashionable among them, for a while, to asperse him to whose agency they ascribed the anticipated loss. But these childish ebullitions soon evaporated, and, in pleasant harmony with him and with me, we prepared for separation at the close of the existing term. It approached with unexampled rapidity; and again I have recourse to my journal:
"The trial of parting with those blessed young creatures whom I love, and whose affection for me cannot be mistaken, has this afternoon been accomplished. In dispensing parting gifts, it gave me great satisfaction that so exemplary had been their deportment, that there was not a single one unrewarded, either by a book-premium, or a certificate of merit in my best handwriting. Surely their intercourse has been one of improvement. Wherever their future course, or my own, shall lead, I must cherish the memory of the years God permitted us thus to pass together, while 'His banner over us was love.' Tears and irrepressible anguish marked our final leave-taking. They parted, and returned, prolonging the painful scene till the dimness of twilight drew over us. Their unaffected grief cut my heart in fragments. And every fragment found a voice, saying: 'Oh, most selfish! thus for your own ease and aggrandizement to trample out this Heaven-enkindled love.'"
Sweet, sweet band of sisters! Ah, how could I sever
The bright, golden chain that encircling has charm'd?
How shall I write the words, Parted forever!
On the casket our friendship so long has embalm'd?
Here, where your groups would so joyously meet me,
Gay as the birds through pure ether that soar;
Here, where your eyes with fond dialect greet me,
The step of Affection returneth no more.
Knowledge you've sought with a warm emulation,
Quicken'd to ardor, yet soften'd by love;
Wisdom invoked with profound veneration—
That wisdom whose mansion and crown are above.
And now, empty Vase, by thy flow'rets deserted,
Full oft round thy borders, though cheerless and lone,
Fond Memory shall linger, averse to be parted
From fragrance thy blossoms around thee have strown.
Farewell, dear companions! Heaven's blessing attend you;
And when those bright locks shall be frosted and gray,
When Age the faint light of his taper shall lend you,
Come, stand by my mouldering pillow, and say:
We remember the friend by whose side we were seated,
While knowledge allured us with lessons of love,
And whose prayer of the Father of Mercies entreated
That we all might unite in His kingdom above.
It had been arranged that, after the termination of my school, I should make a valedictory visit to my beloved Mr. and Mrs. Wadsworth, before returning home to prepare for my marriage. In their blessed, sympathetic society, I found solace for the dejection of my recent farewell, and counsel for the new and important duties that awaited me. I was constantly by her side, who seemed to me more like an angel than a partaker of our own infirm humanity. The wise, encouraging voice of him who had been to me both as a patron and father, gave me increased confidence in good men, and in a God of goodness.
During the six weeks that thus glided away, I had unrestrained opportunities of becoming more intimately acquainted with Mr. Sigourney, whose residence was in the neighborhood, and who had been courteously invited by my kind benefactors to visit their house freely at all times. This unrestricted intercourse revealed some new and interesting points of his history, calculated still more to rivet my affections. He was a native of Boston, and of a family of the highest respectability. To me it was a source both of gratulation and pride, that he should have descended from that pious race of Huguenots, who left their fair clime of birth for conscience' sake, and emigrated to this New World soon after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. His father, Mr. Charles Sigourney, of Boston, was the third in descent from Mr. Andrew Sigourney, who, with his son Andrew, came to this country from France in 1686. His mother, whose name was Frazer, was of Scottish ancestry, and dying while he was yet a child, his father took him to England, and placed him at an excellent school at Hampstead. Here, under a strictness of discipline that would not be tolerated in Young America, he was inured to habits of obedience, order, and application. His acquaintance with the studies that he pursued was eminently thorough and accurate. Particularly was the grammatical construction of the Latin and French so well acquired, that, though he left school at a very early age, their knowledge remained with him unimpaired to the close of life.
At thirteen he returned to Boston, and entered the store of his father as a clerk, where he evinced the same patient devotedness to mercantile employment that he had formerly displayed in the requisitions of scholastic lore. In the first year of the present century, having attained his majority, he removed to Hartford and commenced the hardware business, which he pursued with unintermitting diligence and ability to the close of life. In his profession he was distinguished by accuracy, integrity, and knowledge of mankind; and in every department of action his public and private virtues had won the respect of the community. He married, at the age of twenty-three, a young lady from his native city, of uncommon loveliness and beauty, to whom he had been attached from early youth, receiving and imparting, for fifteen years, as pure conjugal happiness as appertains to our changeful humanity. She fell a victim to consumption, leaving three fair and interesting children to solace his mourning heart. A few years after his marriage he commenced attending the Episcopal Church, where he became a communicant, and ever continued to evince his devoted attachment by faithful and important services.
His native taste for literature and the fine arts was carefully cherished. He was a critical judge of pictures, and drew architecturally with precision and elegance. He was fond of history and the standard authors, but objected to the floating miscellanies of the day, as furnishing no nutritive aliment to the mind, and enervating its appetite for solidity. So elevated was his theory, that he decried the use of newspapers for the young, as tending to debase the style by bad models of composition, and to weaken the retentive powers by reading what they did not intend to remember, and what was not worthy of being remembered. He was watchful against new-coined words and innovations of the language, constantly referring to the large edition of Dr. Johnson's Dictionary for etymology and shades of signification.
Possibly a fondness for the study of geometry in boyhood might have contributed to develop the perception of symmetry, and the features of order and exactness that characterized his mind. His style of conversation was refined, and he never hesitated to introduce intellectual and elevated subjects, from which some might be deterred by the imputation of pedantry. His manners, marked by the courtesy of the old school, had a mixture of dignity which would be sure to repel all undue familiarity. Cheered by intercourse with him, and the beloved ones whose beautiful mansion was as a home, the fair spring had reached its meridian, when, with a heart overflowing with gratitude to my benefactors, and prayers that Heaven would repay them fourfold, he accompanied me to my parents. Having a noble horse that he was fond of driving, and an easy chaise, he preferred on this occasion that primitive form of conveyance to a more ostentatious equipage. Thus we had liberty to enjoy the varied landscape, beautified by the soft green and opening buds of April, and vivified by the song of many birds. To me it was a significant fact, that our first journey together should have been made on the anniversary of my parents' birth; which I have before mentioned occurred on the same day of the month, with an interval of thirteen years.
Deeply anxious was I that the introduction and subsequent acquaintance of the three beings who were now my all in the world, should produce a mutually favorable impression; and proportionably grateful that so it seemed to be. I could not but feel how momentous might prove the import of even slight circumstances at such a crisis, both on this life and the next. Viewing him as the life-protector of their dearest one, when they should be taken away, they were at once disposed to the exercise of trusting affection. The sterling and unobtrusive qualities of my excellent father required intimate acquaintance for their full development; but I could perceive that my loved friend was struck at first sight with the youthful aspect and animated manner of my beautiful mother, who, though past fifty, seemed scarcely older than myself, and vastly more impulsive and enthusiastic. I was also much gratified that from the many friends who were prompt in paying him attentions, he invariably won the high suffrage of a perfect gentleman.
He admired the variegated landscapes and surroundings of my native city, to which might be applied what the eloquent author of the recent "Personal History of Lord Bacon" has said of Twickenham: "Every plant that thrives, every flower that blows, is in love with its soil." Its rural walks, also, were faithfully explored, much to our enjoyment. At his departure, he left with me "Wakefield's Treatise on Botany," and a small microscope, for the examination of plants; also the eight volumes of Sir Charles Grandison, commending both works to my perusal. With regard to the first, I was obediently compliant. Miss F. M. Caulkins, afterwards well known as the meritorious historian of Norwich and of New London, was staying with me, as an agreeable companion and kind assistant. Together, we pursued strenuous dissections of the vegetable races, from mouse-ear to cactus. I felt almost as a pirate and murderer in Flora's realm. Not having been accustomed to such researches, my conscience reproached me, that, for the sake of technicalities of class and order, we should thus ravage the calyx, and despoil the corolla, to which Nature had given life and brilliance.
Richardson's novel did not fare as well as the scientific treatise. It was so diffuse; the elegant manners which it portrayed were, to our republican notions, so ceremonious and formal, that it was impossible to keep up a sustained interest. Therefore, though I deemed myself in fault for dissenting from so cultivated a taste as that of its owner, I was ever ready to lay down the books, in which I made progress by skipping formidable intervals. Sir Walter Scott's earlier works had appeared, and already effected a revolution in the region of romance. By making the passion of love subsidiary to historic lore, his powerful genius was able to throw into the shade that class of works which had so long made it their basis and integral element, while at the same time they emasculated it by minute and puerile delineations.
Among my occupations, at this period, were visits to my pensioners, which assumed somewhat of a valedictory character. These were not numerous, for habits of industry, and the circumstance of having no foreigners among us, forbade the growth of absolute penury. Those who needed aid were principally such as age or sickness had impaired, and for whom a well-conducted alms-house furnished a comfortable asylum. Still there were a few, to whom the proud memory of better days rendered this retreat an object of disgust, and who preferred to suffer privation rather than enter it. One of these was an antiquated spinster, known by the familiar sobriquet of Aunt Renie, her original name being the poetical one of Irene. She seemed to have fallen much within my own province, a prejudice being in prevalence that she felt vastly above her condition. She kept a single chamber at a low rent, in which was some old-fashioned furniture; and contributions to her fire-place and larder were acceptable, though usually received without thanks, as she seemed to hold the theory that the world owed her a living. She had, in her prime, been a nurse and a common needle-woman, but I believe never a servant of all work. She was of huge proportions, and such an immense adipose substance that it was impossible to connect with her the idea of pining poverty. Her heavy footstep was literally a "threshing of the floors." I have seldom seen womanhood attain such a bulk. She was garrulous, and, as is natural to threescore and ten, dwelt much on the past. She imagined that she had once been the possessor of beauty, and the rallying point of several admirers. This required the strength of an implicit faith, overcoming all evidence of the things that were seen. But the vanity was harmless, and seemed to entertain her. She also wished to convey an opinion of the dignity of her family. The effort centred principally in her mother, whose name, she never omitted to add, was Miss Remembrance Carrier, abridged for domestic convenience to the monosyllable Mem. An acrostic, inspired by this parent, she was fond of repeating. Its concluding lines I chance to recollect, the last syllable of her conjugal nomenclature being land:
"Let Satan fly with fiery dart—
Arise, commune with thy own heart,—
Now, learn to choose the better part, —
Deliverance find from sin's desert."
Among the disturbing forces that conflicted with this somewhat dreamy period of my existence, was the thought that I could no longer, by my own earnings, add to the comfort of my parents. It had been the purest, most unmixed pleasure, that I had ever tasted. How could I possibly resign it? Imagination was active in searching if there were not some form of productive employment consistent with my new position. The liberality of my future husband was unquestioned. But I desired to retain the privilege of working for my parents. Selfishly, I was unwilling that any should intermeddle with this sacred joy. Yet how could it be retained? Might I not write some small work for children—some school-book, and get money? I had heard of a society in New York, which accorded good prices for nice needle-work, with the intention of encouraging that form of female industry. I was expert and delicate in the uses of the needle. Might I not sew, and earn something for them?
These unsolved anxieties were deepened by the consciousness that I was soon to leave their roof forever. Still this was imperfectly realized until the time of separation came. They were so thoughtful of my feelings, as never to allude to that event with any expression of regret. Often was I saying in my heart, the Lord bless them for their forbearance and self-control. The reserve which we thus practised toward each other, led me to the journal, my confidante from childhood, and it records a few such effusions as the following:
Dear native earth, sweet spot of rest,
In summer's fair attractions drest;
Wild springing flowers, romantic shores,
Gray cliffs, where light-wing'd Fancy soars;
Green valleys where my childhood rov'd,
Deep groves, in musing youth beloved,
Loved scenes where social virtues dwell
In sweetest harmony—farewell!
Dear parents' home of happiness,
Which hovering angels deign to bless;
Where every pain my heart could know,
And every care, and every woe,
Were ruled by soft affection's sway,
And banish'd from their haunts away—
Still lingering in this sacred cell,
The gushing tear-drops say—farewell!
Thou too, my harp! and can it be,
That I must bid adieu to thee?
Thou, who hast cheered me day and night,
Turn'd every gathering shade to light,
And made a lot the world might scorn,
Bright as the rose-ray of the morn;
Oh! dearer far than words can tell,
My wild, my mountain-harp—farewell!
Yet all perturbations were allayed, and for a season dispersed, when the long, journalizing letters of my life's companion arrived, rich in description and philosophical remark, and redolent of the love-spell. I think I have before mentioned, that one element of their attraction was the beauty of their chirography. In later years, while puzzled with deciphering the involutions of fashionable writing, I have earnestly remembered the clearness and symmetry of every separate word and letter, the finished elegance of page after page, even through whole volumes of mercantile accounts, and the decided contrast of the downward and upward marks, which the rigidity of the modern, metallic pen precludes.
Among the pleasant grouping in which imagination indulged, and prominent in all my castle-building, were the three children of my husband. Mrs. Grant, in her "Letters from the Mountains," says, rather flippantly, that "she is partial to ready-made families." The eldest of those to whom I contemplated assuming so important a relation, was a boy of eight years, and the two youngest were daughters. I anticipated much pleasure in promoting their improvement, the habit of teaching having become almost an essential part of my nature, while it was an object of my supplications that I might be permitted to share their affections, and enabled in some measure to supply the unspeakable loss of a departed mother.
After the last visit of my affianced lover, which was to precede our nuptial ceremony, I seemed to attain a more abiding sense of the responsibilities that awaited me, and a more intense desire that I might so discharge them as to enhance his comfort. I also became fatigued, almost disgusted, with the preparation of a wardrobe, which, in comparison with my previous simplicity and frugality, seemed unduly elaborate.
"Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire?" asked one of the prophets of Israel. I should have been thankful to have been allowed to forget mine. Such purchasing, devising, driving of needle and shears, dealing with mantuamakers, milliners, and sempstresses, had never before entered into my history. I was humbled by it. I analyzed it as an inherent selfishness, a weak compliance with the tyranny of Fashion. It struck me that an event so sacred, so entwined with eternal destinies, should be less marked by trifles and trappings. Nor could I witness without regret the consequent and almost entire absorption of a moderate sum laid aside from my school-earnings, and mentally devoted to my dear, deserted parents.
One of the brightest of June mornings shone upon our nuptials. Every leaf and flower was redolent of dew and sunshine, as the bridal procession set forth. The Episcopal church in Chelsea was two miles distant, and, notwithstanding the early hour of eight, densely thronged. The ceremony, most touching of all save that which renders us back to dust, was feelingly performed by the venerable Mr. Tyler, rector for fifty-four years of Christ Church, Norwich, assisted by the Rev. Mr., afterwards Bishop Wainwright, then rector of Christ Church, Hartford, who, with his lady, and other friends from that city, had kindly come on to be present at the marriage.
It had been my resolution to utter audibly the responses required of me. Yet I was not aware, until hearing the clear, impressive enunciation of him who stood by my side, that my lips gave no sound. The power of articulation fled. The presence of the throng had no influence. It did not enter my mind. I seemed wrapped in a dream, and to have no personal identity with surrounding things. The congratulations that succeeded the ceremony, the world of flowers that were pressed upon me and showered around, seemed cheering and beautiful; but I could not think them mine. It seemed an illusion, though without the loss of self-command. What first restored full consciousness, was the blessing of an old lady of ninety—Madam Lathrop, a connection of my earliest benefactress—and the fervent glance of her still lustrous black eye. Her voice touched the sealed fountains of other years, and I was again myself.
The country through which we journeyed was interspersed with thriving villages, and gorgeous in its summer drapery. Here and there early haymakers loaded the air with fragrance. Rocks robed themselves in laurel, and the wild strawberry blushed as it ran to hide among the matted grass. In the bridal coach which led the way were my husband and myself, our little son who had accompanied him on this occasion, and a servant-girl devoted to the care of the children. Several carriages followed with the returning guests, with whom we held pleasant converse when any peculiarly fine prospect attracted admiration. Our dinner had been previously bespoken by the bridegroom at Andover, a rural township which equally divided the distance of somewhat more than forty miles. The whole party partook of it with glee, and, as it was a banquet of some pretension, it seemed to have made an impression in the surrounding region, as, several years after, a substantial-looking, elderly woman called, introducing herself as one who had assisted in cooking my wedding dinner.
The sun drew near the golden verge of his cloudless rest as we approached our home. Our blessed friends, the Wadsworths, gave us cheering welcome from door and window as we passed. Our travelling companions and a few other friends took tea, and spent the evening with us, cheering me with their cordial good wishes. Novel yet sweet to me was the appellation of "Mother" from the dear little ones; while the kind induction into a new abode by him who held supreme authority there, assured my heart and inspired the desire to be faithful in every duty.
Loved friend, whose urgency has called forth these reminiscences, I transcribe for you a few aspirations, bearing date with the earliest light of my wedding morning—June 16th—and written on the little white deal table in the front chamber of my father's house in Norwich, where from childhood the intercourse of thought and pen had been pursued.
"Almighty God! deign to look down and strengthen me on this the most fearfully important era of my life. Divine Saviour! touched with the feeling of our infirmities—Lamb of God! who takest away the sins of the world—I beseech Thee to hear me. Holy Spirit! sustain, cheer, animate me; breathe into my soul the calmness of self-possession, the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.
"Blessed Trinity! endue me with such virtues and graces as my lot may require. May I move in the untried sphere that awaits me with the humility of a Christian and the benevolence of an angel. Heavenly Father! remember my forsaken parents. Known unto Thee is the loneliness of their hearts. Thou alone hast the power to comfort them. Bless him whom Thy providence has appointed as my guide, companion, and counsellor until death. Bless our children, and prepare them early to walk in Thy truth. Thou hast called their mother unto the perfect rest of heaven. Fill my heart with her love toward them, and grant me success in the duties and affections that their tender age requires.
"Art Thou not the God of Hope to all who put their trust in Thee? the God of Consolation to the desolate? the God of Wisdom to those who falter by reason of darkness? Oh! for the sake of Him whose last sigh on Calvary was peace to the sinner, suffer no error or evil to overtake me. Let the solemn vows of this day be registered in heaven. May I go forth to my new lot in Thy holy fear. And when Thou shalt summon me from earth's duties, may I be ready joyfully to pass where all tears are wiped from the eyes for evermore."