Letters of Life/XII
LAPSE OF YEARS.
After a residence of eighteen years amid the fairest rural scenery, we removed to another habitation, somewhat nearer the central part of the city. To leave the trees we had planted, and the flowers whose growth we had watched, was like parting with living friends. Associations also were entwined with the walls of the mansion, with the different apartments, the windows where the rising sun had so long greeted us, and the piazzas where we had sat under the rich, soft moonlight. To sever these ties, was like breaking the flexible tendrils of the vine.
But what I permitted myself for a time to make a trial and a sorrow, gradually faded away. In a few years I passed those premises without a thought of self-appropriation or a thrill of regret. This philosophy was doubtless strengthened by the agency of the railroad in ravaging recesses where Memory might have too fondly lingered.
Our new abode, being of much smaller dimensions, required dexterous arrangement in transferring our goods and chattels. The large dining-tables, massy side-board, and other similar furniture, with the alabaster ornaments of the broad mantel-pieces, could not obtain admission. The carved, high-post bedsteads were sawed down to accommodate the lower ceilings, and readily resumed their functions. If, at first, any one might fancy that respiration during warm summer nights might be impeded in those comparatively confined chambers, it was a mistake. We have breathed very well here for years; and after a little judicious management of allotted space, and acclimation of the feelings, it became entirely comfortable.
Yet not all who had composed our household on the hill accompanied us hither. Four years before we left, Death had summoned the first being who had ever passed from its halls to his narrow house. My mother, at the age of sixty-seven, fell the victim of an acute dysentery; and she, who from birth had nurtured me with an exclusive, almost idolatrous love, was a cold form of clay.
"Farewell! farewell! Such thoughts as breathe
The thrilling, grateful sigh,
Still with thy name my lips enwreathe;
God will not let them die."
Our circle was also ere long to be diminished by the departure of our two eldest daughters, who made judicious and happy marriages—Mrs. Elizabeth Knox taking up her residence in Troy, and Mrs. Jane C. Burnham in the city of New York. There they became the mothers of interesting and promising families, beloved by their many friends, and discharging the duties of their position with gracefulness, fidelity, and piety.
All these changes served to make me the more susceptible of gratitude for the attentions of friendship, to which throughout life I have been so deeply indebted. One more instance of its singular disinterestedness I should love to relate to you.
Among the neighbors of our hill-residence were Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Colt, who inhabited the spacious and pleasant mansion opposite our own, now the abode of my friend Mrs. John A. Taintor. He was a native of Massachusetts, a gentleman of fine form and countenance, and amiable manners; and his wife, who was a daughter of the late Major Caldwell, one of our most distinguished citizens in early times, was a model of dignified beauty. At the social visits which that immediate neighborhood strove systematically to maintain, they were accounted our handsomest couple. Their family consisted of two daughters and four sons, the former of whom having been among my pupils when I was so happy as to be employed in the work of education.
Samuel, the second son, was a beautiful boy, uniting sprightliness with a thoughtful temperament. He often attracted my attention among the group of playmates who came to visit Charles, our eldest son, and pursue their sports upon the grounds.
Having once received from some person the rather questionable gift of a pistol, he seated himself in a contemplative manner under a tree, and, taking it entirely to pieces, and laying each part in order by his side, restored and reunited them all perfectly again. Was not this a shadowing forth of the machinery he was to construct, and the armories he should build?
His mechanical genius, which was early developed, did not gain immediate appreciation. Foreign climes made the first true estimate of his extraordinary inventive powers. England, France, Russia, Turkey, and other realms of the older world, discovered, under an exterior wholly devoid of ostentation, and revealed to his birth-land, his scientific skill and indomitable energy. Though a Wisdom that never errs has pointed out the tendency of the human mind to undervalue that which is ever within its reach, yet our country, which, more visibly than any other on the globe, has been uplifted by her self-made men, and is not obtuse to the principles of loss and gain, is unwise to overlook those talents which reflect distinction upon herself. Yet the obstacles which, in early life, Colonel Colt encountered and overcame, deepened his sympathies for every form of hardship, and his liberality in aiding and upholding the laboring classes.
Returning to his native city with the meed of fame and the materials of wealth, he consecrated them to her benefit with a filial warmth, which she had taken little pains to win, and was slow to acknowledge. By the bold design and successful completion of his dike or embankment, he seems to have created a new expanse of land, which he defended against the attacks of the Connecticut, from whose depths it was drawn and consolidated.
When swollen by the reënforcement of melting snows, the proud river returns in spring to the inundated play-places where it had revelled from the beginning, and finds itself excluded, foaming with rage it essays a faint imitation of the waves of the sea, vainly dashing against and battling the immovable parapet.
An immense stone armory, including buildings more than twelve hundred feet in length, and several stories high, filled with his own invented or improved machinery, gave employment to more than a thousand working-men. To these he punctually accorded the wages on which the subsistence of their families depended, erecting for them substantial tenements of brick, and in a range of Swiss cottages kindly consulting the home associations of one class of his immigrants.
A manufacture, whose extent had not been anticipated, sprang from the ozier willow which had been planted on the outer edge of the embankment, that the interlacing of its fibrous roots might aid in communicating permanence. From this, a multitude of exquisite articles for use and adornment came forth as if by magic, revealing both the ingenuity and the Midas-touch that he possessed, and employing throngs of laborers. For the households of all thus under his care, comprising thousands of different ages, from infancy to decrepitude, he testified an interest, wishing to elevate them mentally, providing a large hall where they might have lectures and music, sustaining mission schools, and devising future plans for a more extensive and thorough education.
Yet, amid the magnitude of his pursuits and responsibilities, the honors from foreign climes, and gifts of crowned heads that were showered upon him, the most minute promptings of friendship were never disregarded. Beautiful books and pictures he sent me from abroad; the malachites and porphyries of Russia, and an inlaid writing-desk of the costly buhl-work of Vienna. It would be almost impossible to record the various forms in which his benevolent regard for me was indicated. Yet I would not willingly forget one of them.
Knowing my fondness for flowers, twelve pots of the richest ones would be sent me in winter from his green-house, filling my windows with fragrance, and exciting the wonder of passers-by that a dwelling so lowly should thus be irradiated by tulips and carnations, hyacinths, geraniums, and the soleil d'or. Every ten days or a fortnight he thoughtfully commissioned his gardener to remove these, and replace them by an equal number of fresh ones. Fruits and vegetables from his garden enriched my table; cordials found their way to me if I were but slightly indisposed; and pleasant rides in the fine equipage, driven on those occasions by his own hand, were cheering to my widowed and sonless heart. He was not willing to accept even the offering of thanks, but had implied to some of my friends that he considered himself a debtor for pleasant words spoken to his boyhood, while playing upon our grounds—of which I have no remembrance; and for kindness to his sisters while they were my pupils—which was a pleasure to myself, instead of an obligation to them. Yet it is delightful to find, in these venal times, an example of generosity thus springing wholly from a sense of gratitude, however mistaken. Some philosopher has sagely said, that only generous natures are capable of the grateful sentiment.
Recollecting my interest in our early local histories, and the bi-centennial anniversary of the settlement of Hadley, Mass., the place of his paternal ancestry, being appointed, he invited me to join his family party at that celebration. During this excursion of several days I received unremitted attentions from himself and his wife, formerly Miss Elizabeth Jarvis, a lady of a lovely spirit, accomplished education, and eminent piety, with whom his marriage in 1856 had given the climax to his earthly happiness.
But he, my disinterested, untiring friend, at the age of forty-four, laid down his noble head in the last slumber, on his own fair domain. Surrounded by his three little ones, their white monuments gleam out amid the evergreens he had reared, strewed with votive offerings of fresh flowers.
One of the scenes at his thronged funeral will not soon be effaced. Fifteen hundred or more of the laboring men, who had received from his hand bread for themselves and their families, reverently approached, two and two, to take the last farewell of their benefactor. Sadly they gazed upon the expressive countenance on its coffin-pillow, and, the tears coursing down their rugged cheeks, said: "We shall never look on his like again."
Still his palatial mansion exhibits its charms; the green-houses and graperies overflow with tropical wealth; the broad expanse of velvet turf, interspersed with statuary, delights the eye; the deer gambol in their park, upon the clear lakelet which he formed; the swans, so often fed by his hand, lead forth their young cygnets; but he, the master of all this beauty, for whom the heart of affection grieves, returns no more.
One little son alone survives him. Carefully nurtured by his excellent mother, he already, at the age of four, reveals elements of that courtesy and perseverance which characterized him whose name he bears. May God spare him, and grant him, through a life of usefulness, to evince the same capacity, energy, and generosity!
I think I have not spoken much of those important personages in every New England household, the domestic assistants. I early discerned that the term servant was unpopular and inadmissible among them, and that they must be styled help, whether they were in reality helps or hindrances. In our state of society, where equality so evidently prevails, to continue an intercourse that implies subordination without frequent changes, is not often feasible. Yet in this respect I consider myself to have been favored by Providence, having an aversion to fluctuating helpers, unless necessity requires. I commenced housekeeping with the creed of endeavoring to make friends of all who should serve us. Though warned by adepts that this would prove a delusion, I have not yet materially varied in my theory, still believing that, where there is any generosity of nature, kindness and sympathy are not thrown away. It seems to me but just, that those who have in their keeping our home-comforts, and almost the breath of our nostrils, should be treated with respect; and, as their lot is one of toil and hardship, that it be lightened by kindness, and, as far as possible, an assimilation of interests.
Out of the number of our assistants, I have found some whom it was highly desirable to retain, and been fortunate in their continuance for long periods of time. Their distinctive lineaments of person and mind it is still pleasant to recall. Shall I describe to you two or three of these my friends? for friends I consider them, whose faithful hands conferred benefits upon us both day and night.
Anna Brown, the first of these, who remained with us as long as eight years, possessed uncommon capacity for all manner of household labor, untiring industry, and a firmly-knit frame capable of great endurance. While working for us, it seemed as if she were working for herself; and this repelled both complaint and weariness. It seems almost even to myself that I utter fables, when I say that, with the aid of only a young girl under eighteen, she performed the whole work of a family that, during the finer months of the year, often comprised sixteen or eighteen persons, and that the semi-annual ablutions of our large mansion were conducted by her. Our partially agricultural establishment enlarged the sphere of woman's operations, by the care of milk, the making of butter, of soap, and of candles, both mould and dipped—lamp-oil being little used, and gas and kerosene unknown. Not content with these exploits, she occasionally kept the large spinning-wheel in action; also increasing her perquisites by needle-work for the serving-men, producing shirts, jackets, and pantaloons with equal facility. She was liable to some exacerbations of temper, but usually subject to the control of those whom she respected. She was an earnest adherent of the Methodist Church; and I won very much upon her by once attending, in her company, their Watch-Night, or the service with which they bid farewell to the old year, and welcome the new. She zealously prized the public recital of religious experiences, and was tenacious of the privilege of exclamation during sacred worship. Her presence at evening meetings was not affected by distance, darkness, or storm. On one occasion, having surmounted these obstacles without the aid of any companion, she said, rather exultingly, "The Lord went with her, and the Lord brought her back."
"Then I think He leaves you at the door," replied Charles, our eldest son, then a boy, who inherited the vein of humor belonging to his paternal ancestors, and was not particularly her admirer. Her uses of language were quaint, and her phrases often decidedly Yankee in structure. Chancing to hear her say that she had once a twin brother, and being a profound admirer of twins, ever hoping, while building up our family, to possess a pair, I asked, "Did you not love him very much?" "No, me! I hated him worse than any on 'em," was the reply. From this it must not be inferred that her household were brought up as foes—for her sisterly affection always manifested itself by deeds—but that conflicts for coveted things between two little ones of equal age created more protracted struggles, and some approach to a belligerent condition.
This remarkable personage, after a service of eight years in our family, married a very respectable physician, much older than herself, the owner of a small freehold in a neighboring township. Here her efforts were as unceasing as they were characteristic. There being often difficulty in hiring men to aid upon the farm, and her husband's health far from vigorous, she might be seen harnessing their horse with marvellous expedition, or, mounted on a wagon, pitching hay, or making the hoe and spade fly in the garden, or cultivating a field of tobacco, which more readily than better agricultural products was convertible into the circulating medium. She has seemed to me one of the most striking developments of fearless, tireless Yankee activity that I have ever beheld in my own sex.
Another assistant—Miss S. Albro—I was so fortunate as to secure, of a higher grade of intellect and character. She was of a respectable family, well educated in the common branches, and decidedly religious. She came to me at the birth of my last child, and chanced to conceive for my baby-boy so devoted an attachment as to release herself from some previous engagements, that she might longer attend upon him. Indeed, her fondness for him seemed less like a sentiment than a passion, and was at first the ruling motive of retaining her in my house for a period that proved longer than the love-term which Jacob served for Rachel. His attachment for his foster-mother was early and touchingly evident. Her attention to the physical welfare of both the little ones never knew declension; and her influence over them for word and deed proved an important aid in their incipient training. When they grew older, and her labor for them was diminished, it was found to be invaluable to the family. In cases of indisposition, her experience enabled her to save much resort to the physician, by applying at their earliest development some judicious domestic remedy, and adding—what was still more important—her watchful nursing-care. As she wrote a remarkably clear, distinct hand, she sometimes aided me as a copyist, and was much gratified to be thus employed. Her skill and diligence in the uses of the needle, whether in constructing or repairing, were proverbial in the household, monuments of which remain with me to this day. Soon after becoming a resident among us, she took my advice to lay aside her surplus wages; and such an example of prudence did she become, that sometimes, when her quarterly payments were made, she deposited the whole in the Savings Bank, reserving nothing for contingent expenses. There, by the punctual addition of interest to principal during the seventeen years of her continuance with me, she accumulated an amount of more than two thousand dollars, and was enabled to take up her abode with a widowed sister, who owned a dwelling in their pleasant native township. There she still resides, in that comfort and respectability which flow from a life of industry, frugality, and piety.
Have patience with me while I trace the image of one more earnest helper, who, notwithstanding her sable brow, is fair and dear to memory.
She was a person of small size, but great activity and strength. Her hands seemed always ready for action, and, by a spirit of order and systematic arrangement, she accomplished what was required in our large family without confusion or neglect. She had no idea of working a certain portion of the time, and taking the remainder for herself, but only of working faithfully as long as there was any thing to do. With her, neither the name nor condition of servitude were accounted dishonorable. She respected those who employed and provided for her; and, having been brought up a slave until the age of eighteen, would gladly have given me the title of "Mistress," had I not refused it.
Perceiving, though a regular attendant on the Episcopal Church, that she had never partaken of its ordinances, I conversed with her, and found she was desirous of receiving both baptism and confirmation. After interviews of examination with our clergyman, she was accepted, and I stood her sponsor in the baptismal rite; after which she was duly confirmed, and partook of the communion with great reverence and solemnity. Afterwards I found that she considered my agency in this cause as a personal obligation; and sometimes, when I expressed sympathy if she had sustained some unusually arduous labor, would say, in her animated manner: "Oh! that's nothing, ma'am. Did not you stand for me when I was baptized?" Poor, dear Ann Prince! Her gratitude seemed unbounded.
Her style of cooking and operations in the laundry were unexceptionable; and she was an excellent adjunct on any short journey, taking excellent care of baggage in the cars, and packing and unpacking with great address and rapidity. In her own costume she was plain and old-fashioned, and of scrupulous neatness, delighting in clean checked aprons, the more because she saw they were pleasing to me. She hailed the coming of our guests as the friends of her friends, not regarding any additional toil that might ensue. She was a close observer of the manners of our visitants, and had remarkable powers of setting things in a ludicrous light. Some faults she had, arising from an active imagination, sometimes overstepping the reality of circumstances; while the desire of making her stories or statements worth hearing tempted her to wander from matters of fact, or mingle them with inventions. Religious admonition she received with an affecting humility, and those purposes of amendment that heightened the friendly regard of the reprover.
Our interests as a family she identified with her own. In our happiness she rejoiced, at our bereavements she wept, and clothed herself in the habiliments of mourning. She sympathized with me in my widowhood, and strove to lighten its cares. She had always by economy endeavored to diminish our expenses; and now, conceiving some new anxieties for me, proposed in the most affectionate manner to work without wages, saying she wished to do so, and appearing grieved that her heart-prompted offer was not accepted. Yet not until the final departure of my daughter by marriage did I fully realize the worth of this devoted creature. She exerted herself to supply the desolation of all kindred blood, and tried to cover the whole vacated ground, and guard it at every point. She assumed the charge of my wardrobe, and desired me to dispense with a second assistant, that she might do every thing for me herself. If she fancied that a shade of sadness stole over my brow, she immediately made it her business to dispel it. She possessed uncommon powers of imitation, and some degree of histrionic talent. She could speak in the voices of different people; and, as her strong memory enabled her to repeat their language, I would sometimes seem to hear from the next room the conversation of friends or acquaintances on some amusing subject. If she elicited laughter from me, she was fully repaid. Her watchfulness over my health was incessant. By regarding my countenance, she sometimes discerned symptoms of indisposition before I suspected it myself, and was assiduous in applying some judicious domestic remedy. Thus was I favored with this heart-service for a period of twenty-five years—as long as age and disease permitted her to make any effort. The sharp and short ministry of a cancer dismissed her from earth. Her image is still vivid before me, and I cherish it with tenderness. Her color was no obstacle to my grateful attachment. She was to me as my own flesh and blood.
Her life helped to establish my favorite theory of cultivating the friendship of household assistants; her example illustrated how labor may be lightened by love, and how the heart enlarges through the exercise of its affections.
The services of these three remarkable personages covered half a century—a longer period than that after my marriage; the two last-named having been dwellers under my roof at the same time during seventeen years. I have sometimes thought that their agency might be compared to that of the hands, the intellect, and the heart, personifying the threefold cord that metaphysicians ascribe to our mixed nature of body, mind, and soul.
A friend of a still higher order it was my privilege to retain as a companion at different periods during several consecutive years. I must indulge myself in here inscribing the name of Miss Anna Freeman. She possessed a rare combination of excellences, refinement with practical efficiency, and tact without its frequent concomitant of worldliness. She was one of the most disinterested beings I have ever known. Long care of an enfeebled mother had given her a nursing knowledge and a sweet patience that were invaluable. The bright smile that lighted up her face when she spoke communicated its spirit to those around, and seemed to inspire with vitality, until a stroke of paralysis took her from us.
The world seems poorer when the good depart—
The just, the truthful, such as never made
Self their chief aim, nor strove with glozing words
To counterfeit a warmth they never felt;
But, steadfast and serene, to friendship gave
Its sacred force, and ne'er from duty shrank
Because stern care or toil environ'd it.
They, loving others better than themselves,
Maintain the Gospel rule, and taste a bliss
Unknown to selfish souls. These, when they die,
Must find a realm of truth, as kindred streams
Turn to the absorbing ocean.
Such was she
Who left us yesterday. Her speaking smile,
Her earnest footstep, speeding to give aid
Or sympathy, her ready hand well skill'd
In all that appertains to woman's sphere,
Her large heart pouring life o'er every deed,
And her glad interchange of social joy,
Dwell with us as a picture.
There the heart
Shall muse, and contemplate each lineament
With lingering tenderness, through dropping tears
That tell our loss, and her eternal gain.
You have asked me, dear friend, for some sketch of my journeyings. During the earlier stages of matrimonial life we visited Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, where, having friends, we had opportunity of examining the principal institutions and distinctive attractions of those noble cities. Our longest excursion was to Virginia, where we were greatly interested in seeing the remains of the ancient church at Jamestown, and the university then newly established at Charlottesville; also in the privilege of meeting, at their own homes, ex-Presidents Jefferson and Madison, and, in Pennsylvania, the venerable Charles West Thompson, the secretary of the first Congress of the United States.
After the birth of our two little ones I was stationary, except for brief excursions to our neighboring sea shore during the heat of summer, until they were large enough to be left, without anxiety, in charge of their attentive and efficient nurse. Then I accepted an invitation from my friends, Mr. and Mrs. Griffin, of New York, to accompany them and their daughter on a journey whose most prominent points were Niagara and the Valley of Wyoming. We visited Saratoga, the Falls of Trenton, the wheat-covered vales of the Mohawk, several of the lakes of Western New York, the beautiful Seneca, the glorious Niagara, the Canadian possessions of her Majesty of Great Britain, and, turning southward to the fair State of the good William Penn, where his just and calm spirit still seems to linger, explored the region of Wyoming, famed both in history and song, and also the then newly-opened mines of anthracite, whose sable sceptre has since held such domination over the commerce of the civilized world. There being no railroads to expedite our course, we enjoyed the advantage of a leisurely survey of the peculiarities and attractions of the regions we traversed. Instead of the tramp and shriek of the fiery-nostrilled steed that now propels the traveller, it was the habit of my friends to hire a large, easy carriage, with either two or four horses, and, when their freshness became impaired, send back the conveyance to its owner, and take a new one. This they considered more independent for a long journey than to depend on their own equipage, and run the risk of exhausting their favorite horses, being able to proceed either slowly or rapidly as they chose, having opportunity to examine the beauties of nature or curiosities of art, and lingering as long as they desired in any interesting locality. Much varied scenery we saw, to furnish vivid pictures for memory.
But the crown of all was Niagara. Who can describe it? If he should attempt, he will be either smothered with emotion or silenced by shame. It is as the voice of Him who "poured it from His hollow hand." Its perpetual warning is, "Hence, ye profane!"
In the album of our hotel, where we were requested to write our names, I left the following lines, extemporaneous and inadequate, yet irresistibly prompted:
Flow on forever, in thy glorious robe
Of terror and of beauty.
Yea, flow on,
Unfathom'd and resistless. God hath set
His rainbow on thy forehead, and the cloud
Mantled around thy feet. And He doth give
Thy voice of thunder power to speak His name
Eternally, bidding the lip of man
Keep silence, and upon thy rocky altar pour
Incense of awe-struck praise.
Through the kindness of these disinterested friends, to whom I was indebted for this delightful excursion, I had subsequently an opportunity, during a visit at their country seat on Staten Island, to become acquainted with the charming scenery of that region, which occasionally exhibits the wildness and grandeur that mark the cliffs of the Isle of Wight, and then, with sudden contrast, softens into the luxuriance of the vale of Tempe. We also explored the watering-places of Long Island, from Brooklyn to Montauk, from the quiet shades of Greenport to the rock-bound coast of Southampton, battling with unsubdued though not unscathed heroism the terrific surges of the southern Atlantic.
I have been always a devotee of Ocean. In my earliest days I was a stranger to it, but from the time I first looked upon its face its sublimity enchanted and subdued me. I had been introduced by my husband to the wonderfully excavated rocks of Nahant, where the storm-wrought billows sport and reverberate; and the luxuriant scenery of Newport, whose beautiful beaches carpet themselves with the softest, whitest sand for the foot of aristocracy.
We followed the custom of many of the inland dwellers, to resort, during warm weather, to the sea for invigoration. There was a rocky peninsula on the shore of Connecticut, bearing the name of Sachem's Head, from a tragedy once enacted there of decapitating, upon one of its stony scaffolds, a chieftain of our poor forest tribes. This retreat we claimed almost by right of discovery, when there was but a single farm-house where boarders were received, and only one chamber capable of accommodating them. Mr. Sigourney used to write, and engage this apartment in advance; and at early autumn, when the completed elections at the bank of which he was president gave him release, drove thither his own faithful horse, to enjoy a quiet vacation unimpeded by the restraints of fashionable society. Here, in long rambles, sometimes with his hammer to examine minerals, collecting crystals, and endless varieties of felspar, in the favorite luxury of sea-bathing, or the perusal of books which we carried with us, he tasted a happiness known only by those who, amid the cares and conflicts of business, preserve unalloyed the love of nature and the pleasures of intellect. Mental progress he was conspicuous for keeping in view; and after surpassing the age of fifty, having received into his house a young native of Samos, who was desirous of obtaining a collegiate education in this country, he decided to commence with him the study of modern Greek, often rising earlier in the morning to obtain more uninterrupted leisure.
To witness his satisfaction at this occasional recess from employment, and free intercourse with the bounding billows, was a privilege; and I have never received so much physical benefit from the presence of the great, solemn sea, as when we were its guests in this rude, solitary spot. I identified myself as far as possible with his pursuits—became a tireless walker, a fearless climber, a searcher in caverns for sea-weed, and a rather expert swimmer; occupying intervals with needle-work, of which I brought great store for stormy days. It seems difficult to realize that this secluded retreat, approached by almost precipitous roads, should now exhibit a spacious edifice, with bathing-houses, bowling-alleys, carriages in waiting, and a range of barns and stables, where erst our single animal was not very largely accommodated or thoroughly groomed. Methinks I see his exulting step, as he was led to his daily sea-bath, his great delight, arching his noble neck above the crested wave, and striking out boldly as if to sweep across the Sound. Now, the Sachem's Head House, with its three long piazzas, and colonnades of white pillars reaching to the roof, from whence floats a brilliant flag, is a striking object to the passing voyager. Its numerous dormitories, spacious apartment for music, dining-room capable of accommodating hundreds, parterres of flowers, graperies, and pleasure-boats, offer attractions to thronging guests. I frequently make a brief stay there, and admire its improvements, yet find ancient cherished memories more vivid than surrounding pageantry.
Not long after removing to our present abode I was earnestly invited to attend an annual exhibition of the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, and went to South Hadley, Mass., taking with me my little daughter of ten years. Miss Mary Lyon, the truly remarkable originator of this institution, having overcome many obstacles by an indomitable energy, had now the pleasure of seeing it in successful operation. Her plan was to receive pupils of fifteen or sixteen, and conduct them through a thorough course of study for four years, to a regular graduation. Desirous also of repelling the indolence and frivolity often springing from boarding-school culture, she decided that the housekeeping department should be committed to them. Though I had long wished that practical utility, and a respect for home duties, should be carefully intermingled with the scholastic nurture of my own sex, I was skeptical with regard to the feasibility of this part of her plan, or rather whether it could be rendered agreeable to her disciples, and was therefore a critical observer. After a public recitation in Mathematics, Metaphysics, and other elevated sciences, that would have been creditable to graduating classes in any of our colleges, those white-robed young ladies resorted to the refectory of the Seminary, and, slipping on white aprons with long sleeves, shelled six bushels of peas, and made thirty pies, with the utmost alacrity and pleasant emulation. To do the honors of Mount Holyoke to their assembled guests, and see to the minutiæ of their comfortable accommodation, seemed an additional source of pride and pleasure. The spacious edifice was a model of neatness and order, and every department so arranged as to facilitate the processes on which domestic comfort depend. To remove the contempt in which these are too often held by those whose sphere of action is eventually to comprehend them, and to prove that they are not inconsistent with advanced knowledge and refinement, were among the essential principles of the system of Miss Lyon. I said to her:
"You have convinced me of the practicability of what I viewed with doubt. But you have the power of inspiring the young with your own convictions and zeal, and I doubt whether the system can be thus carried out by another person."
"It can be equally well sustained by my teachers when I am no longer here," was her confident reply. The prediction seems to have been fulfilled.
The twenty-fifth anniversary of the institution has been recently celebrated by a joyous reunion. The published account of the festival states that more than three thousand have received instruction within its walls, under a band of one hundred and twenty-seven teachers, and that its existence is still vigorous and full of hope. As the piety inculcated both by word and deed by its founder, Miss Lyon, was of a zealous and self-denying character, a large proportion of its students have devoted themselves as teachers in our new Western States, and missionaries to benighted lands. Nearly one hundred have labored or fallen at their post of duty, either among our forest tribes, amid the snows of Labrador, under the shadow of the mountains of Persia, on the plains of Syria, in the wilds of Africa, under the Turkish crescent, amid the coral-reefs of the Sandwich Islands, the idol-worshipping Chinese, or the cannibals of Borneo.
In my list of short journeys, this to Mount Holyoke has ever been pleasantly remembered.
Finding, as do most of our inland dwellers, the influences of a saline atmosphere subsidiary to health, I have sometimes during summer paid short visits to the various localities on our own coast and that of our neighbor, little Rhoda, to Watch Hill, Stonington, Guilford, and Madison; the last being endeared by the hospitalities of the lady of Wildwood, Mrs. Washburn, as also is Newport by those of Mr. and Mrs. Pond, and New London by Miss F. M. Caulkins, the historian of Connecticut, and the family of her brother, the Hon. H P. Havens.
My longest excursion was to Europe. An incipient, yet apparently adhesive bronchial affection, induced our skilful physician, Dr. A. Brigham, to recommend a sea voyage. A visit to the older world had been a favorite dream in my childhood, but dispelled and dismissed by the realities of mature years. The opportunity of joining a party who would afford both protection and agreeable intercourse, an accomplished clergyman, now the Assistant Bishop of Connecticut, and his excellent mother, with the young son of an esteemed friend, was a concurrence of circumstances of which it was deemed expedient for me to avail myself. My children having reached the ages of ten and twelve, could be safely left, the daughter under the charge of a governess, and the son at a boarding-school in an adjacent township, where the wife of the Principal with whom he was to reside having been an early acquaintance of mine, would extend to him some degree of maternal attention.
So I went. Yet scarcely did I realize either the decision or the separation until I found myself out on the deep, dark waters, like a waif or a spray of sea-weed. The absence of nearly a year gave time and facility for exploration of the more interesting parts of England, Scotland, and France. Then I was much urged to proceed to Italy by my attached friends Hon. Mr. and Mrs. Dixon, who showed me filial attentions in foreign climes, and would have taken the kindest care of me. But an aversion to be so far from my children, lest they might be taken sick, and a desire to rejoin them prevailed, and caused a refusal of the privilege. Did I do wrong? So some said, who were not mothers. But I have never regretted it.
We found very much to interest us in those ancient regions, with whose history we had been long familiar Yet more than ruinous castle, where romance lingered, or royal palace, where pomp abode, or tower, obelisk, or cathedral, or galleries where congregated the world's artistic power, were the sight of the face and sound of the voice of those whose writings had instructed or charmed me, and before whose ideal images I had bowed as in a sacred shrine. Too late was I, alas! for Miss Hannah More, and Sir Walter Scott, and Mrs. Hemans, and Coleridge. Over Southey had settled that rayless cloud, which lifted not till the pall enveloped him for his burial. Yet I was indulged in the privilege of the society of Wordsworth, and Maria Edgeworth, and Joanna Baillie—a rich payment for crossing the storm-tossed Atlantic. I was also favored with the acquaintance of Mrs. Norton, Mrs. Austin, the Countess of Blessington, Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall, the venerable poet, Samuel Rogers, the philanthropic Mrs. Fry, and her distinguished brother, John Joseph Gurney, with others whose classic pens had delighted me when life was new. In Scotland I was so fortunate as to meet John Foster, the essayist, and Allan Cunningham; and in Paris to share for several weeks the hospitalities of the elegant Marchioness Lavalette, whom we proudly claim as a native of New England, by whom I was introduced, among other memorable personages of that courteous clime, to Count Roy, one of the most high-bred of the ancient noblesse, to De la Vigne, the lyrist, and the white-haired philosopher, Arago. Yet, as the descriptions of my European tour are embodied in a volume entitled "Pleasant Memories of Pleasant Lands," I will not indulge myself here in recapitulation.
But I must tell you of the jewels that, since removing to our present abode, have been transferred from my heart's casket to sparkle in the Redeemer's crown. One year and two months had scarcely passed away since our residence here, when my father, who retained an active step, a florid complexion, and bright hair unmingled with a thread of silver, died at the age of eighty-seven. He had never known sickness, save that single day and night when cholera-morbus laid him by her side, whom for five years he had mourned.
Next, my only son, my faded hope—apparently of an excellent constitution—fell, like a rootless flower, the victim of a quick consumption, while a student in college, in the bloom of nineteen.
Four years and a half after his death, my husband, being in comfortable health, though not entirely free from infirmities, was prostrated by a sudden stroke of apoplexy at the age of seventy-six. No previous confinement had precluded his attention to his professional business. Morning and noon of his last day on earth found him as usual at his store, from whence he walked home, but at the setting of the sun entered on that glorious life which hath no end.
Two years and a half had elapsed after his departure, when the oldest and only remaining son yielded, at the age of forty-five, to a consumption with which he had for some years contended, and probably inherited from his beautiful mother. Do not these glorified ones, from the other side of Jordan, warn us to be ready to join their blissful company?
Other changes, besides those made by death, have also swept over me. Eight months after the decease of her father, my only child left my desolated hearthstone, having given her heart and hand to the Rev. F. T. Russell, a clergyman of the Episcopal Church, possessing amiable sympathies and attractive manners, and calling forth the strong attachment of an affectionate people during the nine years that he was rector of St. Mark's, in New Britain, a pleasant and flourishing town in our vicinity. He is at present Professor of Elocution in Hobart College, Geneva, N. Y.—a department for which he is eminently qualified, not only by the training of his accomplished father, but by having been himself a successful teacher of that science in various localities, for several years of his early life.
The happiness that my daughter enjoys and imparts in the conjugal sphere, by a faithful, unselfish discharge of every duty, should reconcile or lead me to rejoice in the transfer, which at first seemed like the extinction of the last lamp at my altar.
Rapidly have I sketched for you, dear friend, some of the bereavements that have cost my heart so much. It is not my purpose to murmur, but rather to thank Him who so long indulged me in the use of His loans, and had a full right to resume them.
My home, which might strike you as desolate, becomes dearer every year. The habit of staying much there grows strong, so that the thought of leaving it, even for a short season, is repulsive. Does not this indicate that the home draws near from whence there is neither return nor removal?
Even so, Father! if so it seemeth good in Thy sight.
- This faithful helper and friend outlived the one who thus chronicled her virtues only a few weeks.—M. R.