The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Story of a Summer, by Cecilia Cleveland This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: The Story of a Summer Or, Journal Leaves from Chappaqua Author: Cecilia Cleveland Release Date: May 1, 2006 [EBook #18297] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE STORY OF A SUMMER *** Produced by Al Haines
This little volume is in no sense a work of the imagination, but a simple record of a pleasant summer's residence at Chappaqua, embracing many facts and incidents heretofore unpublished, relating to one who once occupied a large portion of the public mind. Believing that it may interest many who care to know more of that portion of his busy life which was not seen by the public, but which pertained to his home circle, the author has been persuaded to print what was written merely for the amusement of herself and friends.
Return to Chappaqua—A Walk over the Grounds—The Side-hill House—Our First Sunday at Chappaqua—Drive to Mount Kisco—A Country Church—A Dame Châtelaine—Our Domestic Surroundings
Arrival of the Piano—Routine of a Day—Morning Toilettes—The Dining-room—Pictures—Ida and Gabrielle—How occupied—The Evening Mail—Musical Evening
An Unexpected Visit—Morning Drives—Gabrielle's Ponies—A Repulsive Object—A Visitor—The King of Sweden's Soup—Advantages of a Royal Kitchen—Startling Experience—Ida's Letters—Strange Contents—A Lucky Stone—Request for a Melodeon—Offers of Marriage—Arrival of a Suitor—Reasons why he should marry Ida Greeley—He proves a Lunatic—He is taken before a Magistrate—He is lodged in the County Jail
A Visit from Papa—A Musical Squirrel—Letters—Croquet—Extracts from Letters—Visitors—The Loss of the Missouri—The True Story of Ida's Engagement
Sunday in the Country—Proximity of a Meeting-house—How we pass our Sundays—The House in the Woods—Ida's Glen—Mrs. Greeley's Favorite Spring—The Children's Play-house—Gabrielle's Pets—Travelling in 1836—New York Society—Mr. Greeley's Friday Evenings—Mrs. Greeley as a Bride—Her Accomplishments—A Letter concerning Mr. Greeley's Wedding
Visitors—Our Neighbors—The Chappaqua Croquet Club—Gabrielle's Letter—A Riding Party—Summer Heat—The Music-room—Friends from the City
Midsummer Day—An Artist's Visit—Ida's Letter—Moonlight on Croton Lake—Morning Readings—Plato and Kohlrausch
Story-telling—Mr. Greeley's Father—His Personal Appearance—His Education—A Fine Voice—Mr. Greeley's Mother—A Handsome Woman—How she is remembered in Vermont—Field Labor—Bankruptcy—A Journey to Vermont—School Days—The Boy Horace—How he entertained his Playmates—His First Ball—Separation from his Family
A Picnic at Croton Dam—The Waterworks—A Game of Twenty Questions—Gabrielle as a Logician—Evangeline's Betrothal—Marguerite's Letter—Description of Chappaqua—Visitors—Edmonia Lewis
Cataloguing the Library—A Thousand Volumes—Contrasting Books—Some Rare Volumes—Mr. Greeley's Collection of Paintings—Authenticity of the Cenci Questioned—A Portrait of Galileo—Portrait of Martin Luther—Portrait of Mr. Greeley at Thirty—Powers' Proserpine—Hart's Bust of Mr. Greeley—Mosaics and Medallions
The Fourth of July—A Quaker Celebration—The House in the Woods—Mrs. Greeley's Life there—Pickie—Mary Inez—Raffie—Childhood of Ida and Gabrielle—Heroism of Mrs. Greeley—The Riots of 1863—Mrs. Greeley defends her House against the Mob
Pen Portraits—Lela—Majoli—Guerrabella and Celina—Their Characteristics
Biography of Mr. Greeley—Gabrielle's Questions—Mrs. Cleveland's Corrections—The Boy Horace not Gawky, Clownish, or a Tow-head—His Parents not in Abject Want—Mr. Greeley's Letter about his Former Playmates—Young Horace and his Girl Friends—He Corrects their Grammar and Lectures them upon Hygiene—He disapproves of Corsets
The Morning Mail—A Letter to Mrs. Cleveland—Strange Contents—Ida's Letter Bag—Appeals for Money, for Clothing, and for her Hand—An Original Letter from a Trapper
Life in the Woods of Pennsylvania—Journey from Vermont to Pennsylvania in 1826—Travelling on Canal-boats—Incidents by the Way—Home in the Wilderness—Aggressions of Bears and Wolves
A Birthday—A Surprise—The Day celebrated by a Dinner—An Awkward Mistake—A Queen of Fashion—A Drive to Tarrytown—A Poem to Ida
Gabrielle and her Embroidery—Life in Pennsylvania continued—Sugar-making—Horrible Incident—A Woman devoured by Wolves—A Domestic Picture—Evening Readings—The Library of Mr. Greeley's Father—Mr. Greeley's Mother intellectually considered—Her Education—Mr. Greeley's Eldest Sister—She teaches School at the Age of Twelve
Visitors—A Sunday Drive—Croton Lake by Daylight—A Sail—A Sudden Squall—Anxiety about our Fate—Miraculous Escape from Drowning—Arrival of a Pretty Cousin—A Child Poetess
Mr. Greeley visits his Family in Pennsylvania—He expounds Mathematics and Philosophy to his Brother and Sisters—Fishing and Bee Hunting—Forest Fires—A Subsequent Visit—He returns as Editor of the New Yorker—He writes the 'Faded Stars'—Characteristics of Mr. Greeley's Brother—His Children—Mr. Greeley's Younger Sisters—Their Education
A Quiet Household—Absence of Marguerite and Gabrielle—Amusing Letters from them—A Gypsy Fortune-teller—Marguerite returns with a Visitor—The Harvest Moon—Preparing for Company—Arranging the Blue Room—Intense Anticipation—"'He Cometh Not,' She Said"
The Story of Mr. Greeley's Parents continued—He accompanies his Mother to New Hampshire—Her Sisters—Three Thanksgivings in One Year—Pickie as a Baby—His Childhood—Mrs. Greeley's Careful Training—His Playthings—His Death—A Letter from Margaret Fuller
The Friends' Seminary—The Principal Chappaqua Residences—Reminiscences of Paris during the War—An Accomplished Lady—Her Voice—Festivities—A Drive to Rye Lake—Making Tea on the Beach—A Sail at Sunset—Fortune-telling by Firelight—The Drive Home—Sunday Morning—A Row on the Pond—Dramatic Representations in the Barn—A Drive to Lake Wampus—Starlight Row
Marriage of a Cousin—A Pretty Bride—Letters—Home Circle Complete—A Letter of Adventures—Wedding Cards—A Musical Marriage—Housekeeping under Difficulties—Telegraphic Blunders—A Bust of Mr. Greeley—More Visitors
"All that's Bright must Fade"—Departures—Preparing the House for the Winter—Page's Portrait of Pickie—Packing up—Studious Habits of the Domestics—The Cook and her Admirers—Adieu to Chappaqua
Return to Chappaqua—A Walk over the Grounds—The Sidehill House—Our First Sunday at Chappaqua—Drive to Mount Kisco—A Country Church—A Dame Châtelaine—Our Domestic Surroundings.
CHAPPAQUA, WESTCHESTER Co.,
New York, May 28, 1873
Again at dear Chappaqua, after an absence of seven months. I have not the heart to journalize tonight, everything seems so sad and strange. What a year this has been—what bright anticipations, what overwhelming sorrow!
I have just returned from a long ramble over the dear old place; first up to the new house so picturesquely placed upon a hill, and down through the woods to the cool pine grove and the flower-garden. Here I found a wilderness of purple and white lilacs, longing, I thought, for a friendly hand to gather them before they faded; dear little bright-eyed pansies, and scarlet and crimson flowering shrubs, a souvenir of travel in England, with sweet-scented violets striped blue and white, transplanted from Pickie's little garden at Turtle Bay long years ago.
Returning, I again climbed the hill, and unlocked the doors of the new house; that house built expressly for Aunt Mary's comfort, but which has never yet been occupied. Every convenience of the architect's art is to be found in this house, from the immense, airy bedroom, with its seven windows, intended for Aunt Mary, to a porte cochère to protect her against the inclemency of the weather upon returning from a drive. But this house, in the building of which she took so keen an interest, she was not destined to inhabit, although with that buoyancy of mind and tenacity to life that characterized her during her long years of weary illness, she contemplated being carried into it during the early days of last October, and even ordered fires to be lighted to carry off the dampness before she tried her new room. By much persuasion, however, she was induced to postpone her removal from day to day; and finally, as she grew weaker and weaker, she decided to abandon that plan, and journey to New York while she could. In two weeks more she had left us forever.
Our first Sunday at Chappaqua. We have a little church for a next-door neighbor, in which services of different sects are held on alternate Sundays, the pulpit being hospitably open to all denominations excepting Papists. Three members of our little household, however—mamma, Marguerite, and I—belong to the grand old Church of Rome; so the carriage was ordered, and with our brother in religion, Bernard, the coachman, for a pioneer, we started to find a church or chapel of the Latin faith. At Mount Kisco, a little town four miles distant, Bernard thought we might hear Mass, "but then it's not the sort of church you ladies are used to," he added, apologetically; "it's a small chapel, and only rough working people go there."
I was quite amused at the idea that the presence of poor people was any
objection, for is it not a source of pride to Catholics that their
church is open alike to the humblest and richest; so with a suggestive
word from Bernard, Gabrielle's spirited ponies flew
"Over the hills, and far away."
A perpetual ascent and descent it seemed—a dusty road, for we are sadly in want of rain, and few shade-trees border the road; but once in Mount Kisco, the novelty of the little chapel quite compensated for the disagreeable features of our journey there. A tiny chapel indeed—a plain frame building, with no pretence to architectural beauty. It was intended originally, I thought, for a Protestant meeting-house, as the cruciform shape, so conspicuous in all Catholic-built churches was wanting here. The whitewashed walls were hung with small, rude pictures, representing the Via Crucis or Stations of the Cross, and the altar-piece—not, I fancy, a remarkable work of art in its prime—had become so darkened by smoke, that I only conjectured its subject to be St. Francis in prayer.
Although it was Whit-Sunday the altar was quite innocent of ornament, having only six candles, and a floral display of two bouquets. The seats and kneeling-benches were uncushioned, and the congregation was composed, as Bernard said, entirely of the working class; but the people were very clean and respectable in their appearance, and fervent in their devotions as only the Irish peasantry can be.
The pastor, an intelligent young Irishman, apparently under thirty, had already said Mass at Pleasantville, six miles distant, and upon arriving at Mount Kisco he found that about twenty of his small congregation wished to receive Communion, as it was a festival; consequently, he spent the next hour not literally in the confessional, for there was none, but in the tiny closet dignified by the name of a vestry. From thence, the door being open, we could with ease, had we had nothing better to do, have heard all of the priest's advice to his penitents.
This ceremony over, the young Father came out in his black cassock, and taking up his vestments which lay upon the altar-steps, he proceeded with the utmost nonchalance to put them on, not hesitating to display a long rent in his surplice, and a decidedly ragged sleeve.
The Mass was a Low one, and the congregation were too poor to have an organ or organist. Quite a contrast to a Sunday at St. Stephen's or St. Francis Xavier's, but the Mass is always the same, however humble the surroundings.
We are unusually fortunate, I think, in our domestic surroundings. Servants are proverbially the bête noire of American ladies, and the prospect of having to train some unskilled specimens of foreign peasantry weighed heavily, I fancy, upon our beautiful Ida in her new responsibility of a young Dame Châtelaine. However, we have been, as I said, singularly successful in obtaining servants.
To my great delight, there is not one ugly name in our little household, although composed of eight members, commencing with Queen Esther as mamma has been named; then we four girls—la Dame Châtelaine, with her fair face, dark, pensive eyes, and modest dignity; Gabrielle, or Tourbillon, our brilliant pet, and the youngest of our quartette, although her graceful figure rises above the rest of us; my sister Marguerite, la Gentille Demoiselle; and I, Cecilia.
Then come the household retinue: Bernard, the coachman, already introduced, a smart-looking young Irishman, whom the maids always find very beguiling; Lina, the autocrat of the kitchen, a little, wiry-looking woman from Stockholm, formerly cook, so she says, to King Charles of Sweden; and Minna, the maid.
Minna is a pretty young Bavarian, who has been only fifteen days in the Land of Liberty, but she has already learnt, I am amused to see, not to address a lady as "gnädige Frau," or "Fräulein"—a style of address imperative in South Germany from a maid to her mistress. Minna has not, however, imbibed all of the democratic principles that will, I fear, come to her only too soon, for she has not yet learnt to emulate her mistress in dress. It is really quite refreshing to see a servant dressed as a servant. Minna is the perfection of neatness, and her plain stuff or print gowns are sans reproche in their freshness. In the matter of aprons she must be quite reckless, for they always look as if just from the ironing-table. They are made, too, in an especially pretty fashion that I have never before seen out of Munich. Scorning chignons, Minna appears with her own luxuriant hair in massive braids wound about her well-shaped head, and as to-day is Sunday and a Fest-tag, she adorns herself with a large shell-comb. She has very pretty, coquettish ways, that have already melted the heart of our hitherto unsusceptible Bernard, and it is quite charming to hear her attempts to converse with him in her broken English.
Minna came to me this morning directly after breakfast, and said, "Where shall I go to church, Fräulein Cecilia?"
"I do not really know, Minna," I replied. "You are a Lutheran, I suppose?"
"Yes, Fräulein Cecilia."
"There is no church of that sort here," I said, "but there is a Reformed Church next door."
With a very doubtful expression, she said: "I will see, Fräulein. And bitte, is not the Pfingsten a Fest-tag in America? In our country, you know, it is more than Sunday, and the people always amuse themselves."
I explained to her as clearly as I could, that Pfingsten (Whit-Sunday) was only a Fest-tag in her church, mine, and the Church of England, and that it was never in this country a Fest-tag, outside of the religious observance.
A very perplexed face was the result of my explanations; why Pfingsten should not be Pfingsten the world over, and a public holiday with all sorts of merry-makings, she could not understand.
Arrival of the Piano—Routine of a Day—Morning Toilettes—The Dining-room—Pictures—Ida and Gabrielle—How occupied—The Evening Mail—Musical Evenings.
Yesterday the piano was sent up from Steinway's, where it has been stored since last fall, and now we have all settled to our different occupations, and are as methodical in the disposition of our time as though we were in school.
None of us are very early risers, for mamma, who should naturally set us a good example, has been too long an invalid to admit of it, and we girls have become habituated to the luxury of breakfasting in bed, from residence abroad and in the tropics. Not that we breakfast in bed at the "Villa Greeley," however; we are much too sociable, and our dining-room is too attractive, for that. But we gratify our taste for reasonable hours by assembling around the table at half-past eight.
"Shocking!" I fancy I hear Katie exclaim. "I breakfast at least two hours earlier. How can you bear to lose so much of the beautiful morning?"
Don't imagine, dear Katie, that I sleep till half-past eight: you must know the wakeful temperament of our family too well for that. I find it, however, very poetic and delightful to listen to the matins of the robins, thrushes, and wrens, from my pillows; and by merely lifting my head I have as extended a panorama of swelling hills and emerald meadows, as though promenading the piazza.
I have been in my day as early a riser as any one—even you, dear Katie, have not surpassed me in this, respect; for you recollect those cold winter days when I arose at "five o'clock in the morning," not, however, to meet Corydon, but to attack the Gradus ad Parnassum of Clementi by gaslight, in my desire to accomplish eight hours of practice undisturbed by visitors. At seven, however, I used to meet with an interruption from my German professor. Poor man! I now pity his old rheumatic limbs stumbling over the ice and snow to be with me at that unreasonable hour of the morning. But I then was ruthless, and would not allow him even five minutes grace, for my time was then regulated like clockwork, and a delay of a few moments would cause an unpardonable gap in my day. Now, however, that my education is nominally finished, I feel that I may without self-reproach indulge in some extra moments of repose, for it is impossible for one to work all the time; and a quiet hour of reflection is often, I think, as useful as continual reading or writing.
We indulge in very simple morning toilettes here, as we have no gentleman guests for whom to dress, nor ladies to criticise us; consequently a few brief moments before the mirror suffice to make us presentable. A black print wrapper made Gabrielle-fashion, with our hair brushed off plain from our faces, and flowing loosely à la belle sauvage, or in cool braids, is the order of the day. Even Marguerite, who is the most conventional of our quartette, has conformed to the fashion reigning here, and no longer coiffed in the stylish Impératrice mode, her sunny brown hair floats over her shoulders unconfined by hair-pins, cushions, or rats. Truly we live in Arcadian simplicity, for under our roof there are neither curling nor crimping irons, nor even a soupçon of the most innocent poudre de riz.
At half-past eight a little hand-bell, silver in material and tone, summons us to the breakfast-room. This room is on the ground floor, and is one of the prettiest in the house. Four windows give us an extended view of our Dame Châtelaine's sloping meadows and wooded hills, and the carriage road winding off towards the pine grove and the house in the woods. We have several pictures on the walls—first a portrait of my dear uncle; a boyish face with fair hair, deep blue eyes, and an expression angelic in sweetness. No one would imagine it to be the face of a married man, but it was painted, mamma says, when he was thirty years old. Two large and admirable photographs, taken early last summer, hang opposite it. A striking contrast they are to the pensive, fragile, blonde boy; these are impressed with the vigor and mental and physical activity of his busy life, but the broad intellectual brow, and the almost divine expression that plays about the mouth, are the same in each.
An engraving from a picture by Paul Delaroche, the Archangel
Gabriel—the "patron," in Catholic parlance, of our little
Gabrielle—hangs between the windows, and over the comfortable sofa is
a copy of Liotard's celebrated pastel "la belle Chocolatière" in the
Dresden Gallery. This copy Aunt Mary bought in that city when there
some years ago, and it is considered wonderfully fine. Very pretty and
coquettish she looks in her picturesque Vienna dress, with the small,
neatly-fitting cap, ample apron, and tiny Louis Quinze shoes. In her
"My face is my fortune,"
was exemplified, and so pretty and modest is her demeanor that it is no wonder that Count Dietrichstein, haughty nobleman though he was, married her. She is very different, however, from the chocolate vendors whom I have seen in the streets of Paris. I don't think a nobleman would ever raise one of them from their original station, for they are as a rule past fifty, and ugly and withered as only a Frenchwoman of that age can be.
Breakfast is followed by a turn upon the piazza, a little stroll to the
spring, near which delicious wild strawberries nestle in a background
of sweet clover, bright buttercups, and field daisies, or a game of
croquet under the grand old oak-trees
"After the sun has dried the dew."
Then we separate, each to our own room, and our different occupations.
Ida is very busy now, for she is preparing a volume for publication in the fall—her dear father's manuscript lectures and letters.
Gabrielle throws herself upon a sofa, and lies there motionless, absorbed in the fascinating pages of some favorite book; indeed, she is so quiet that in my periodical fits of tidiness I often seize a print or bombazine frock, thrown, as I suppose, carelessly upon the bed or sofa, and only by its weight do I discover that it is animated. Last year, Gabrielle's favorite site for reading was in the dear old apple-tree close beside the house; but since she has attained the dignity of sixteen and train dresses, she has abjured the apple-tree.
Marguerite is translating a volume from the German, Musikalische Märchen, and I divide my time between the piano and occasional newspaper articles.
But it is already one o'clock and dinner hour. The afternoon passes much like the morning. We have letters to write, and much reading aloud. I have two books in progress—Plato's "Dialogues," and Madame de Stäel's incomparable "Germany:" the latter I read aloud while in Munich, but it is a work that cannot be too often studied.
At half-past six we dress and go down to the postoffice (about a hundred yards distant) for the evening mail. Half an hour later we sup, and then follows, as L. E. L. would say, "a struggle and a sacrifice." What could be more delicious than a game of croquet, or a drive in the cool twilight? But Chappaqua, lovely though it is, possesses a malaria that is dangerous after sunset, they say, and much as I love to drive when Nature is bathed in the last ruddy flush of day, and during the soft gray hour that succeeds it, I must heed the prediction of chills to all who indulge.
The evening is always devoted to music. Both Ida and Gabrielle are very fond of the piano, and Ida is rapidly becoming quite proficient in the divine art. She commenced the study of music when a little child, under an excellent teacher, and also took lessons while in boarding-school; but one studies the piano under difficulties while in the routine of a pensionnat, for the hour devoted to it must be taken from one's recreation time, or from some other lessons. Our friends will remember, too, that dear Ida was taken out of school while yet very young, to become the devoted nurse that she has since shown herself to her mother, and from the time she left the Sacré Coeur until this spring she has never opened the piano. Now, however, she practises regularly and conscientiously, and brings to her music all the enthusiasm of her loving nature, and the intelligence of her superior mind; consequently, when her fingers are well trained, I shall expect to see her a thoughtful and brilliant pianist.
Gabrielle is still in the tedious preliminary steps, for Geometry and Latin, rather than the Rhythme des Doigts and the Ecole de la Velocité, have hitherto engaged her attention; but time will show.
An Unexpected Visit—Morning Drives—Gabrielle's Ponies—A Repulsive Object—A Visitor—The King of Sweden's Soup—Advantages of a Royal Kitchen—Startling Experience—Ida's Letters—Strange Contents—A Lucky Stone—Bequest for a Melodeon—Offers of Marriage—Arrival of a Suitor—Reasons why he should marry Ida Greeley—He proves a Lunatic—He is taken before a Magistrate—He is lodged in the County Jail.
As unexpected visit yesterday from Mr. O'Dwyer, a member of The Tribune staff, and for several years dear uncle's private secretary.
Mamma had invited Mr. O'Dwyer to come out and pass a quiet day with us, and had appointed Wednesday for the visit. Desirous of a little excitement, and already somewhat weary of our nun-like simplicity of toilette, we decided to do honor to our guest by dressing our hair quite elaborately, and attiring ourselves, despite the heat, in our best bombazines with their weight of crape. We were assembled in the dining-room after our early dinner, discussing, in our plain print wrappers and Marguerite braids, our plans for the morrow, when Minna announced:
"A visit, Madame; a gentleman."
"Probably a neighbor upon business," said mamma to us; "show him in here, Minna."
The door opened, and enter the guest for whom, in imagination, we were making such extensive preparations.
A very expressive glance was telegraphed around our circle. I was engaged in the domestic occupation of hemming one of papa's handkerchiefs, and although Hawthorne draws so pretty a picture of the beautiful Miriam while engaged in "the feminine task of mending a pair of gloves," with all deference to the poet's taste, I consider the beguiling little scraps of canvas or kid which I produce when company is present, much more attractive than plain sewing.
In a moment the surprise was explained. Mr. O'Dwyer had received orders to represent The Tribune somewhere, the following day, just in time to catch the Pleasantville express, and run out to tell us that he could not come at the time appointed.
"The circumstances were trying," we said to each other, after his departure; but imagine, girls, how much worse they would have been, had the visitor been a lady! As long as a wrapper is black, I very much doubt if a gentleman would know it from an afternoon dress.
The usual routine of our morning occupations has been somewhat broken of late, for these June days are too perfect to be spent within doors, even with such grand companions as Plato or Beethoven. We plan charming hours to be spent in the pine grove, where Marguerite will read to us a chapter or two of Kohlrausch's "Germany," and Ida will give us a few pages of Taine's brilliant "Angleterre;" but as we are starting with camp chairs, books, and work, Bernard approaches:
"Any orders, Miss?"
Frail mortals are too weak to resist, and in a few moments we are seated in Ida's stylish new phaeton; and Gabrielle's irrepressible ponies, under the guidance of Tourbillon herself, are dashing away at a pace that terrifies our sober Quaker neighbors beyond expression. Mamma has been solemnly warned against allowing Gabrielle to drive "those fearful horses;" but we all share our pretty Tourbillon's fondness for a tourbillon pace, and know well the strength she possesses in her little wrists, and the coolness she could exercise were there any danger.
While returning from a charming drive upon the Sing Sing road, a day or two since, the horses, whose spirits were unusually high, shied suddenly at something dark by the roadside. By a dexterous management of the reins, Gabrielle quickly subdued them, and we all looked to see what had startled them. An object was crouching in the grass, evidently human, but of what sex or nationality it was impossible in one swift glance to determine; and it was quite amusing to hear our different opinions as we drove on.
"I think," said mamma, "that it was an enormous woman, with a baby in her arms, but I really cannot be sure, for I only looked at the face—such a hideous, repulsive face. I shall dream of it to-night, I am convinced."
"A woman!" said Marguerite. "My impression was of a very murderous-looking man—an Indian, I thought, he was so very dark."
Gabrielle's view of the case differed from the others. The creature
had, she said, a heavy black beard, which, was un-Indian-like, and was
garbed in a dark calico gown with open sleeves, through which she
plainly perceived a pair of unmistakably muscular, masculine arms. In
the words of Macbeth—
"You should be woman,
And yet your beard forbids me to interpret
That you are so."
Neither Marguerite nor Gabrielle had seen the baby, and Gabrielle's conclusion that this frightful being was a convict who had escaped from Sing Sing disguised as a woman, was quite logical.
"Chappaqua is certainly in unpleasant proximity to Sing Sing," I said with a shudder, for I have not many elements of a heroine about me.
"Yes," was mamma's cheerful rejoinder, "and you know we were told yesterday that one or two of the most dangerous convicts had recently escaped, and had entered several houses in Chappaqua—to say nothing of Mr. O'Dwyer's report that that dreadful Captain Jack has escaped, and is known to be lurking in the neighborhood of our peaceful little village."
"Pray let us change the subject," I entreated, "or between convicts and Modocs I shall have the nightmare for a month."
We have just said good-by to Señor Delmonte, of Hayti, who has gone down on the 4.45 train, after passing, I hope, a pleasant day with us.
We have led such a quiet life since last fall, that a visit from a friend is a very pleasant excitement, and with the assistance of our invaluable Minna and Lina, there is nothing to be dreaded in the preparations. Then, too, it is so pleasant to unpack the superb linen that Aunt Mary bought abroad—the heavy damask table-cloths with their beautiful designs, and the immense dinner napkins, protecting one's dress so admirably against possible accident—and to take out the exquisite silver and Sèvres; everything is perfection, even to the little gold, lily-shaped hand-bell. Afterwards we go to gather flowers in all their morning freshness, and if it is ten o'clock, we walk down to the station to meet the New York train.
Señor Delmonte is a very agreeable gentleman, and quite a favorite in New York circles. In figure he rises far above ordinary humanity, six feet two inches being, I believe, his exact height—and his very dark complexion and stately gravity render him quite conspicuous in a drawing-room. He is reported extremely wealthy.
Upon returning from a drive on the Pleasantville road with Señor Delmonte, Ida ran down to the kitchen for a moment, to see if harmony reigned there (for Lina and Minna are not, I regret to say, becoming warm friends; but more of that to-morrow). Ida rarely troubles the cook with her presence, for Lina, like all cordons bleus, is a great despot, and impatient of surveillance; but as she can be trusted to arrange an entire menu without any hints from Ida, la Dame Châtelaine gladly leaves the responsibility to her. What therefore was my surprise to see Ida return from her visit downstairs with an unmistakable look of anxiety upon her pretty face, and beckon me out of the music room where we were sitting.
"What do you think, Cecilia?" she announced, in despairing accents. "Lina has made a soup of sour cream, which is now reposing in the ice-box!"
"Of what?" I said, scarcely crediting her words, and running down to the kitchen.
Lina's feelings were considerably ruffled that her young mistress did not appreciate the soup, which she considered a triumph of art, and which consisted of sour cream, spices, and a little sugar—to be eaten, of course, cold.
"Nice soup," she said, in the most injured tones; "King of Sweden think excellent, but Miss no like it."
It was, however, too late to make another soup, so we consoled ourselves with the thought that a king approved of it, and we would show a plebeian taste if we did not also appreciate it. However, some wry faces were made over the unlucky soup at the table, and the King of Sweden's taste was the subject of much merriment.
I was somewhat sceptical at first that Lina had ever been in the royal household at Stockholm, notwithstanding that she did cook so admirably; but she managed yesterday evening to tell me, in her broken English, about her residence in the palace.
It seems that inexperienced cooks can, by paying a certain sum, be admitted into the royal kitchen to learn from the chief cook. After they have perfected themselves in their profession, they receive wages, and upon leaving, are presented with a diploma. Why could not a somewhat similar institution—omitting the sovereign—become practicable in our own country? Both housekeepers and newspapers groan over the frightful cooking of our Bridgets; Professor Blot lectures upon the kitchen scientifically and artistically considered, and our fashionable ladies go to his classes to play at cooking; but the novelty soon wears off, and home matters continue as badly as ever.
I do not know if the President would consent to imitate the Swedish sovereign, by throwing open the kitchen of the White House in the same liberal fashion, but surely he ought to be willing to make some sacrifices for the common good—perhaps even to submit occasionally to a dinner spoilt by the experiments of young apprentices to the culinary art. Three months' training ought to suffice to make a very good cook, and with a diploma from the White House, situations would be plentiful, wages higher than ever, and employers would have the satisfaction of knowing that their money was not thrown away.
We may pass some sad hours at Chappaqua this summer, but I do not think we shall suffer from ennui—that is, if the startling events of the past week are to be repeated often during the summer.
I have already spoken of the escaped convict whom we saw in the grass the other day. It is unnecessary to say that we carefully barricaded our doors that night; for, in case of danger, our situation would not be a cheerful one—a household of seven helpless women, save during papa's weekly visit, and Bernard, our only protector, asleep in the side-hill house. Our precautions, however, were superfluous; the convict did not favor us with a visit, but something far more thrilling than the loss of the family silver was in store for us.
Dear Ida has received since last fall scores of letters from, I think, every State in the Union, and even from Europe, from people of whom she had never heard before, and upon all sorts of subjects. Some of her correspondents are interested in her spiritual, others in her temporal, welfare; some advise change of air as beneficial after her affliction, and alternately she is offered a home in Colorado and Maine. But such letters form the exception; usually the writer has a favor to request. The most modest of the petitions are for Ida's autograph or photograph, while others request loans of different sums from units to thousands. She is occasionally informed that the writer has a baby named Ida Greeley, and it is intimated that a present from the godmother would be acceptable. Again she is asked to assist in building a church, or to clothe and educate some poor girl—her own cast-off wardrobe of colored clothes will be accepted, the writer graciously says, although new dresses would be preferable.
One letter dated Lebanon is chiefly upon the virtues of a lucky stone, which the writer will as a great favor sell to Miss Greeley for twenty-five dollars. All further misfortune will, she says, be averted from Ida if she becomes its owner; the stone is especially recommended as beneficial in love-affairs, and, the writer kindly adds, it is not to be taken internally.
Another letter is from the mother of a young invalid girl, begging Miss Greeley, whom she knows by report to be very wealthy and charitably inclined, to make her daughter a present of a melodeon, as music, she thinks, might help to pass away the tedious hours of illness.
Sometimes Ida is solicited to open a correspondence for the improvement of her unknown friend, or to dispose of some one's literary wares, while offers of marriage from her unseen admirers are of almost daily occurrence. I think I would not exaggerate in saying she might reckon by the bushel these letters, written generally in very questionable grammar, and worse chirography. In very few instances has she ever replied to them, for they have been usually from people possessing so little claim upon her, that the favors they so boldly requested could only be viewed in the light of impertinence.
One letter, couched in somewhat enigmatical terms, was dated from Baltimore, and was explicit upon one point only—that it was the manifest will of Providence that Ida should marry him—S. M. Hudson. We read the letter together, laughed a little over it, and threw it into the waste basket. Time passed, and we came out here. Ida was greeted upon her arrival by another letter from the mysterious Hudson, who, not at all discomfited by the cool reception, of his proposal, addressed her as his future wife, and announced that he had come on from Baltimore to marry her, that he was now in New York, and would wait there to hear from her.
"The man is certainly crazy!" exclaimed Marguerite.
"Indeed he is!" said mamma, reading his rambling sentences very slowly: "I should judge him to be perfectly insane, and I only hope he will not come out here to pay his fiancée a visit."
"You know he requests me to send him funds to defray his expenses, Aunt Esther," said Ida quietly; "perhaps the lack of money will avert such a calamity."
"What an unromantic conclusion to a love-letter!" said Gabrielle scornfully.
The conversation turned to the depredations of the neighbors and neighbors' children upon the property. "Mr. Greeley's place" had always been looked upon in the light of public property, and intruders walked and drove through the grounds quite as a matter of course, and helped themselves freely to whatever they liked in the floral, fruit, or vegetable line. The young ladies, however, decided that they had submitted to such conduct quite long enough, and we sent to Sing Sing for some printed handbills warning trespassers off the place.
Two or three days passed, and we had entirely forgotten Ida's erratic admirer, when Gabrielle returned from a morning walk with the information that an intoxicated man was sitting upon the steps of the side-hill house. She met mamma and Ida starting for a little stroll, and communicated this unpleasant news to them. Mamma, however, is not timid, and she walked on with Ida, determined to view the invader from afar, and then summon Bernard to dismiss him.
A figure was sitting, as Gabrielle said, upon the piazza of the new house, but was so motionless that Ida exclaimed laughingly:
"It is a scarecrow placed there by some one in retaliation for our notice to trespassers to keep off the grounds."
As they passed it, however, the scarecrow slowly lifted its head and addressed them with:
"Is this Mr. Greeley's place?"
"Yes," said mamma.
"And is this young lady Miss Ida?"
"You have received, I believe, a few letters from me, Miss Ida: my name is Hudson."
Fortunately our family are not of a fainting disposition, for a tête-à-tête with a lunatic was a situation requiring some nerve and perfect self-control; so, although mamma and Ida were much alarmed upon learning the name of their visitor, they neither screamed nor fainted, and mamma invited him quite courteously to walk up to the house.
Mr. Hudson was a tall, powerful man, with cunning, restless, gray eyes, was well dressed, and wore a linen duster. He had come, he said, seven hundred miles to see Ida. Upon reaching the house, he followed mamma into the dining-room where Marguerite, Gabrielle, and I were sitting at work.
"Ah, Miss Gabrielle!" he said, "I supposed you were at school."
One or two other rational remarks of the sort, and mamma's perfect sang-froid so deceived me that I decided the supposed lunatic must be perfectly sane. In a moment, however, he looked somewhat uneasy, and said:
"I have a long story to tell your niece, ma'am, but I feel a little bashful about speaking before so many young ladies."
"Would you like to see me alone, then?" said mamma promptly; "you would not object to telling your story to a married woman."
Then signing to us to leave the room, she followed us to the door, and breathing rather than whispering, "Run for Bernard," returned.
It appears that the man grew more excitable when alone with mamma, and the story he told her was not a cheerful one to hear.
"It began," he said, "five years ago, by my father cutting his throat with a razor. They say he was crazy, and," with a fiendish chuckle, "some people say I am crazy too."
"Indeed!" said mamma, sympathetically, "how sad!"
"This we may call the first scene in the story," he added, although what connection there was between suicide and his proposed marriage with Ida, poor mamma could not imagine.
I could half fill my journal with the rambling, senseless, and menacing remarks that Hudson made to mamma, adding emphasis to his discourse by whirling a pair of very long and sharp scissors close to her eyes (he was further armed with two razors, we subsequently learnt). Ida, he said, first appeared to him in a vision—a beautiful young girl in distress, who appealed to him for aid, but some one seemed to stand between them—a tall woman dressed as a Sister of Charity (evidently mamma, in her mourning dress and long crape veil). He then enlarged upon the awful punishment that inevitably overtook those who opposed the Will of Providence (i.e., his marriage with Ida): death by some violent means being unavoidable. At this point, the scissors were whirled more excitedly than ever, and Hudson's eyes glared with rage. I need not say that mamma feared every moment would be her last; but still preserving a calm exterior, she never took her eyes off him for an instant, and merely remarking, "It is quite warm here; shall we not sit upon the piazza?" accompanied him there, and sat down close beside him, that he might not suspect she feared him. The moments seemed endless until Bernard's heavy tread was heard upon the kitchen stairs.
"Excuse me a moment," said mamma, with a most innocent face; and in an interview of half a minute explained to Bernard that Hudson was a dangerous lunatic who must be taken away immediately; then waiting till the valorous Bernard was safely out on the piazza, she unceremoniously shut and locked the door. Hudson, apparently much surprised at such inhospitable conduct, pulled the door-bell half a dozen times. When he was quite wearied with his exertions, Bernard suggested that they should take a little walk together. Much coaxing was requisite, for Hudson was quite determined to effect an entrance; but finally Bernard took his arm, and bore him off to the tavern.
"I had much more to say to Mrs. Cleveland," he remarked, en route, "but I fear it has already been too much for her nerves."
At the tavern, Bernard found a constable, who immediately arrested the unhappy victim of misplaced affection, and telegraphed to Mount Kisco for a magistrate. Then ensued endless hours of waiting. Mamma lay upon the sofa whiter than any ghost, now that the strain upon her nerves was relaxed, and Mrs. L——, a loquacious neighbor, ran in from time to time with reports of what people were saying, and how the prisoner looked and felt.
At 7 P.M. the magistrate, Mr. Clarence Hyatt, arrived, and we all went down to the improvised court-house in the tavern. Ida and mamma were shown into a private room, where Mr. Hyatt, a very polite and agreeable gentleman, took their affidavits before they were confronted with the enemy. The news had by this time spread far and near, and all Chappaqua was assembled. The wildest reports were now circulated, to the effect that Hudson had pointed a pistol at Ida, and vowed to kill her instantly if she did not promise to marry him, and mamma and Ida were advised to keep their veils down, that he might not become familiar with their faces, and to remain at a respectful distance from him.
Hudson was sitting between two constables, and was being inspected by a large crowd. He looked very quiet, and upon listening to the affidavits, remarked that Mr. Hyatt must have misunderstood the ladies, for he was perfectly incapable of having alarmed them to the extent indicated; that he certainly admired Miss Ida, and desired to marry her, but that he would not willingly injure or alarm the humblest creature—adding reproachfully that those affidavits would suffice to condemn him to State prison for life. He appeared so perfectly rational and calm, that the magistrate was perfectly dumbfoundered, and for the moment thought him sane; and even we commenced to reproach ourselves, and doubt which was the insane party.
"Well," said Mr. Hyatt, "I will now hear your story."
"I will read it to you," said Hudson, drawing a book from his pocket, and then commenced again the same incoherent nonsense with which he had already favored mamma. The object now was to show the chain of evidence that pointed out Ida as his bride. The most important link was the fact that he had once seen a flock of white geese sailing through the air. He put up his finger, and one fluttered down to him; and as G stood both for goose and Greeley, it was a clear manifestation of the Divine Will (at this point, the audience burst into a roar of laughter). Besides, he liked our family, we suited him in every respect; and especially because we so much reminded him of John the Baptist (we inwardly hoped that the resemblance would not extend to decapitation). If Miss Greeley would not marry him, he kindly added, he would take her cousin Marguerite instead, but he must positively marry one of the family. He was now perfectly wild, and when he remarked, with a reproachful glance at Ida, that he disliked ko-kwettes, and liked a girl who would say in answer to an offer, "Yes sir-ee," or "No sir-ee," the magistrate brought the evidence to a conclusion. He gave him to the constable to be taken to the county jail, where he was to be detained until the Court sat, if, in the meantime, his relatives did not appear from Massachusetts to claim him (for his place of residence varied—at first Baltimore, then Michigan, it was now Massachusetts).
Hudson spent the night at the tavern, and appeared at times so rational, that he was not strictly guarded; consequently, when the constable looked for him after breakfast, the bird had flown. He was instantly followed, and discovered walking on the railway track about two miles off, swinging his little bundle quite unconcernedly. In reply to the questions of his captors, he said that he had just intended to make a little circuit about the country, and then return to marry Ida. He is now, thank fortune, safely lodged in jail.
A Visit from Papa—A Musical Squirrel—Letters—Croquet—Extracts from Letters—Visitors—The Loss of the Missouri—The True Story of Ida's Engagement.
Papa came up late last night with a supply of the latest periodicals, weekly journals, etc., and my pet squirrels in a new and spacious cage. These little creatures were presents to me this spring, and are very pretty, and partially tame. I remember, however, one escapade of theirs shortly before we left the city.
My balcony at home is enclosed with glass, and there I frequently allowed the squirrels to play. A game of cache-cache, of half an hour or so, was generally necessary before I could induce Fliegende Holländer, the livelier of the pair, to return to the narrow limits of his cage. One day, however, through some carelessness, the door from the balcony into my room was left open, and the squirrels were missing. Senta (christened after the heroine of Wagner's clever opera) was captured after some little difficulty, but not the Dutchman. Being a flying squirrel, he was so very tiny that he could easily conceal himself in a dark corner, and although I descended upon my knees to peer under my sofa, bureau, writing-table, and chiffonnière, my search was fruitless—the Flying Dutchman had evidently vanished to join the Phantom Ship. I felt very uneasy, fearing he might fall a prey to my two cats, who would no doubt find cold squirrel a very tempting entremet; or if he escaped this Scylla, the Charybdis of death by starvation lay before him. The hours passed, and Fliegende Holländer did not appear. Senta was cheerful, and reigned mistress of the revolving wheel—always the bone of contention between the pair. Once, during the afternoon, I fancied I heard a scratching as if of tiny claws, but could not obtain even a glimpse of his vanishing, fan-shaped tail.
In the evening two or three gentlemen were present, and Marguerite sang for them. After the song (Gounod's "Naïade," a lovely salon piece), we were speaking of the loss of dear little Holländer, when one of our friends exclaimed:
"Why, that squirrel was perched over the register while Miss Cleveland was singing, but he was so quiet that I thought he was stuffed."
"He evidently is fond of music," said another; "pray sing something more, Miss Cleveland, and perhaps he may again come out."
He had travelled down from the third story to the parlor through the flue (fortunately there was no fire), and was now commencing to desire society and food again.
"Since he is fond of music," said Marguerite, "I will sing the ballad of the Flying Dutchman from Wagner's opera—that ought certainly to draw him out again."
A music-loving squirrel evidently, and one versed in the art; for with the first strains of those curious harmonies and chromatic runs, descriptive of the howling winds that herald the coming of the Phantom Ship, Holländer's tiny head peered out, followed, after a furtive glance about, by his little body. Two gentlemen started to capture him, and then a chase ensued. Holländer tried to scamper up a picture, but tripped upon its glass, and fell. At last, the Colonel captured him in an attempt to scale the curtains, and after much struggling, kicking, biting, and other vigorous protestations from Holländer, landed him safely in his cage.
The squirrels evidently enjoy country life very much. Early this morning Minna took them out of doors, and removed the bottom of the cage that they might play upon the grass, which so much exhilarated them that I am convinced they fancied they were entirely free. Then I removed the hot cotton from their little nest, and filled it with fresh clover-leaves, which I am sure they much prefer. They run no risk of being devoured here, for Aunt Mary always disliked cats, so that there is not one upon the place, and Gabrielle's pet dog, a native of Bordeaux, has viewed them from afar, and snuffed at the cage, but is evidently too well-bred a Frenchman to desire even to tease them.
A letter to-day from one of my Paris friends, Jennie Ford. She says:
"How divine it must be at Chappaqua! I am glad you are enjoying yourself, and are well. But you do not say a word of your Western trip. I hope you have not given it up."
Then follows a cordial invitation for me to visit her in her beautiful home upon Lake Erie, now looking its prettiest in the leafy month of June. All sorts of pleasant inducements are held out: a croquet-lawn of velvet softness, long drives, and charming rides in which to display my stylish new beaver and habit, moonlight excursions upon Lake Erie, and no lack of handsome cavaliers, including naval officers. However, despite all these attractions, I do not think I shall care to leave Chappaqua this summer.
Jennie enclosed a photograph of the lady who reigned as belle of the American colony in Paris, some four or five years ago—Mrs. Horace Jenness, then Miss Carrie Deming. Three years of married life have changed the beautiful Carrie somewhat, if this picture is a truthful one. The perfect outline of her face is unaltered, but the haughty expression that "La Princesse" wore in former days has vanished, and the fond young mother, grouped with her two little children is prettier than ever.
I feel singularly indolent, and indisposed to journalize this evening. Perhaps it is the result of two hours spent in croquet, a game in which I am very unproficient and therefore find decidedly wearisome; but Gabrielle, who is the best croquet player in Chappaqua, is in the city to-day, and my feeble assistance was necessary to make up the quartette.
Two entire hours spent in this game seem quite an unwarrantable loss of time, but we have had a guest from New York to-day, and therefore both Plato and Kohlrausch have remained under lock and key in the library.
I think no one enjoys the country more thoroughly than a physician when he can escape from his patients for a holiday, and Dr. Howe, our visitor of to-day, was not an exception. This gentleman is, I fancy, quite young in his profession, for his figure is of almost boyish slenderness; his face, too, which reminds one somewhat of Shelley in its delicacy and brightness, and its dark eyes and luxuriant curls, is quite youthful for a fully fledged M.D.
Dr. Howe returned from Europe some months since, and brought us a letter of introduction from a friend of mamma's in Florence; but owing to mamma's long illness and the seclusion in which we lived last winter, we have not seen him many times.
I have in my lap a number of letters received in this evening's mail. One is from my dear friend, Mrs. Knox, the charming contralto of Christ Church. We had expected her to visit us this week, but her unexpected departure for the West has prevented her from doing so. She says:
"You must truly be enjoying Chappaqua these heavenly June days. I hope that the fresh air and rest are putting roses into your pale cheeks and giving you health and strength for your literary labors. My sudden departure compels me to forego the pleasure I had anticipated in seeing you at Chappaqua—at least until the fall. I am appreciative of the courtesy of your dear mamma in inviting me to spend a day in that lovely retreat, already made sacred to me by my high regard and admiration for your most noble uncle, whose home it was."
Another letter is written upon most dainty stationery, bearing the impress of Tiffany, and adorned with a prettily devised monogram in lavender and gold (handsome stationery is one of my weaknesses). This letter I know to be sprightly and amusing before I open it, for my friend Lela has been for two or three years one of my most entertaining correspondents. We were intimate friends in Paris three or four years ago, when Lela was a school-girl, and I an enfant de Marie, and although we have been separated by hundreds of miles, by the ocean, and finally, by Lela's marriage, our attachment continues; so, no reproaches upon school-girl friendships, I beg.
Lela was married last winter, but she and her handsome French husband are yet in the honeymoon, which will last, I fancy, forever—certainly the former Queen of Hearts seems now to care for only one heart. She says:
"You must be having a lovely time in such a charming place. We have been to Saratoga. It was stupid enough to send your worst enemy there."
This week has been quite lost, so far as study is concerned, for nearly every day has been interrupted by visitors.
Looking out of the window this morning, I saw a carriage containing two strange young ladies stop before the house. In answer to their inquiry for Miss Greeley and Miss Gabrielle, Minna informed them, in her broken English, that they were both in the city for the day. They looked quite aghast upon receiving this information, for they had already dismissed their carriage, in which they had driven from Pleasantville, and knew probably that there was no down train till 4.45, so quite helplessly they inquired if no members of the family were at home. Learning that Mrs. Cleveland and her daughters were here, one of the young ladies, a stylish girl in mourning, desired Minna to announce Miss Hempstead and her cousin. I puzzled a little over the name while glancing in the mirror to see that my crape ruffle was properly adjusted, and my hair in tolerable order. The name seemed familiar, and yet I knew that no friend of mine bore it.
I found the young ladies in the music room. Miss Hempstead introduced herself by saying:
"Perhaps you may have heard my name, although you do not know me. My brother was a friend of Mrs. and Miss Greeley, and was purser of the Missouri."
I was then somewhat surprised that I had not divined Miss Hempstead's identity from the name and her black dress; but the burning of the Missouri made scarce any impression upon me at the time, surrounded as I was last fall by such heavy family afflictions; and the name of the young purser, whose tragic fate then filled the newspapers, had since then almost entirely passed from my memory.
An ordinary passenger ship is wrecked or burned, "Extras" are issued, a three days' excitement follows, and it is then a thing of the past; but as the Missouri bore, on this memorable voyage, not indeed Caesar and his fortunes, but the supposed fiancé of dear Ida, its loss is an event still interesting to the gossiping public. It was useless to try to convince any one that no engagement had ever existed between Mr. Hempstead and Ida: no one would credit my most solemn protestations. Many people not personally acquainted with us, but who knew the facts "upon the best authority," as outsiders usually do, said that the marriage was to have taken place before the election, but after Aunt Mary's death it was postponed for three months. Before two weeks had elapsed, however, Mr. Hempstead was, in the poetic language of the journals, "sleeping beneath the coral wave," and poor Ida received as many well-meant condolences over his death as over Aunt Mary's.
When the tragedy of last autumn was all over, the interest of the public was greater than ever, and Ida, "who had within four short weeks lost mother, lover, and father," formed the subject of many a pathetic editorial and sermon. A London journal styled Ida the "maiden widow," spoke of uncle's fond attachment to Mr. Hempstead, and announced that the loss of his prospective son-in-law was an affliction that precipitated Mr. Greeley's death.
I first heard of Mr. Hempstead in the winter of 1869-70. Aunt Mary, who was then commencing to fail, went with Ida to Nassau to spend the cold months. Her state-room, engaged at the last moment, was a very uncomfortable one, and Mr. Hempstead, then purser of the Eagle, gave up for her use a large deck state-room with three windows—a great comfort to Aunt Mary, who was always so partial to an airy bedroom. The voyage proved, however, a very stormy one, and the waves dashed in through these three windows, quite drenching poor Ida, who suffered so much from sea-sickness as to be quite indifferent to danger or discomfort.
In writing to me after reaching Nassau, Ida mentioned Mr. Hempstead in a few words:
"The purser was an agreeable and gentlemanly officer, and so kind to mamma."
She did not, however, mention his name, and I never knew it till last summer.
After their return to New York, in the spring of 1870, Aunt Mary invited Mr. Hempstead to visit them at Chappaqua, as she felt under some obligations to him for having given her his state-room, and subsequently executed some little commissions for her, between New York and Nassau. He came out here, and made a visit of a week. In July of the same year. Aunt Mary and Ida went abroad, and from that time the acquaintance dropped. That he admired Ida know, but how any one could manufacture an engagement from such slight material, I cannot imagine.
One day last summer, during the excitement of the campaign, I had taken up a rose-tinted society journal as a little respite from politics, when my eyes fell upon a paragraph announcing Ida's engagement to Mr. William Hempstead, Purser of the Missouri; and then I for the first time learnt the officer's name. My astonishment can be imagined; and to this day it remains an enigma who invented that little society item. If a fertile-minded reporter had desired to head his column of Engagements in High Life with Ida's name, and had announced that she would shortly be led to the hymeneal altar (I believe that is the correct phrase in newspaper parlance) by any one in our circle of acquaintances with whom she was at all intimate, it would not have been surprising; but why a person whom she had not seen or heard of for two years should have been selected, is a mystery worthy of G. P. R. James.
But in writing about Mr. Hempstead, I have neglected his sister. Miss Hempstead was a tall, fine-looking young girl, with, however, a strikingly foreign appearance for an American pur sang. She was born, she told me, in Belize, Central America, where her father was United States Consul. A tropical sun had given her a complexion of Spanish darkness, heightened by large black eyes and jet black hair—the exact counterpart, Ida afterwards told me, of her brother, who was often mistaken for a Cuban.
When the period of the consulate of Mr. Hempstead père was over, he had become so much attached to Belize, that he decided to make it his future residence. His daughter said she could not imagine what he found to like in the place, for between earthquakes and yellow fever, one was in a continual state of terror; there was no society, the population being almost entirely negro, and no schools; consequently the children of the few white resident families were obliged to go to England or to the United States to be educated.
Miss Hempstead was sent to London, and five or six years of the discipline of a first-class English school have made her quite different from the fully fledged society queens who graduate from our Murray Hill pensionnats at sixteen or so. A little English reserve to tone down somewhat their sparkling natures is all that our bewitching American girls need to make them perfect, but I fear they will for several years yet bear the stigma of, "Charming, but too wild."
Sunday in the Country—Proximity of a Meeting-house—How we pass our Sundays—The House in the Woods—Ida's Glen—Mrs. Greeley's Favorite Spring—The Children's Play-house—Gabrielle's Pets—Travelling in 1836—New York Society—Mr. Greeley's Friday Evenings—Mrs. Greeley as a Bride—Her Accomplishments—A Letter concerning Mr. Greeley's Wedding.
Sunday is, I think, a very triste day in the country (low be it spoken). I cannot remain longer than an hour at church, for the Mass is a low one, and the sermon consists of fifteen minutes of plain, practical instruction, unembellished by rhetoric, to the congregation. The church, it is true, is four miles distant, but Gabrielle's aristocratic ponies, Lady Alice and The Duchess, fairly fly over the ground—up or down hill, it is immaterial to them—and consequently, I find myself, when my religious duties are over, with many idle hours upon my hands.
The croquet balls and mallets, our "Magic Rings," and other out-of-door games, are put away in the "children's play-house," a little white hut on the borders of the croquet ground, where Ida and dear little Raffie used to keep their toys, and where Gabrielle in later days housed her menagerie of pets.
The piano, too, is not only closed, but locked, for the flesh is weak, and I fear the temptation of the beautiful cold keys. It may be the baneful effect of a foreign education, but I cannot see that there would be any evil result from a little music on Sundays. However, we have a Dissenting church for a next-door neighbor, and the residents of Chappaqua are chiefly Quakers, who frown upon the piano as an ungodly instrument; so with a sigh, I replace in my portfolio that grand hymn that in 1672 saved the life of the singer, Stradella, from the assassin's knife, and a beautiful Ave Maria, solemn and chaste in its style as though written by St. Gregory himself, but composed and dedicated to me by mamma's friend, Professor F. L. Ritter.
My pretty bits of fancy work with their bright-colored silks, the tiny needle-book worked while in Munich in an especially pretty stitch, and in the Bavarian colors—blue and white—and my Bavarian thimble—silver and amethyst—are put away in a bureau drawer, for although a Catholic, I do not imitate our Lutheran maid, who spends her Sundays in sewing and knitting.
Plato and Kohlrausch, our week-day sustenance, do not come certainly under the head of Sunday reading, although I see nothing objectionable in them; but after all, one requires, I think, a change of literature on Sundays as well as a different dress, and an extra course at dinner.
"What shall we do?" says Gabrielle.
We have each written a letter or two, for Sunday is, I am sure, every one's letter-writing day, and now we put on our broad-brimmed garden hats, with their graceful trimmings of gauze and crape, and stroll off to the spicy pine grove, where we sit down on the dry spines, and Arthur repeats to us quaint bits from some of the rare old books he read in the British Museum three years ago, or entertains us with some of his own adventures when travelling on foot over beautiful France and Italy, and "Merrie England."
Ida and I, however, wandered away from the others this morning, and strolled up to the dear old house in the woods where she passed her childhood. This is, to my mind, the sweetest and most picturesque spot upon the entire estate, and I do not wonder that Aunt Mary, with her keen love for the beautiful in Nature, her indifference to general society, and her devotion to her children, to study, and to reflection, preferred the quiet seclusion of her home shut in by evergreens, with the deep ravine, and the joyous little brook at her feet, to the most superb mansion that graces our magnificent Hudson.
One of the purest springs on the place is in the ravine, or "Ida's Glen," as uncle christened it long ago. Here at the foot of the long wooden staircase is a basin of natural rock, and flowing into it is the sweetest, coolest water in the world. This water Aunt Mary always preferred to any other on the place—even to the spring at the foot of the side-hill, so celebrated in the campaign times as the spot where uncle and his visitors would stop to "take a drink," when returning from a walk. Exquisite in her neatness, Aunt Mary would frequently order the basin of her favorite spring to be well purified by a thorough scrubbing with brush and soap, followed by a prolonged rinsing with water. During her illness last fall, she frequently asked to have a pitcher of water brought from this spring, which she always especially relished.
That uncle shared his wife's partiality for this spring is evident by his description of it in his "Recollections":
"In the little dell or glen through which my brook emerges from the wood wherein it has brawled down the hill, to dance across a gentle slope to the swamp below, is the spring,—pure as crystal, never-failing, cold as you could wish it for drink in the hottest day, and so thoroughly shaded and sheltered that, I am confident, it was never warm, and never frozen over. Many springs upon my farm are excellent, but this is peerless."
The house in the woods was built by uncle to suit Aunt Mary's taste, and very comfortable and complete it is. Uncle says of it:
"It is not much—hastily erected, small, slight, and wooden, it has at length been almost deserted for one recently purchased and refitted on the edge of the village; but the cottage in the woods is still my home, where my books remain, and where I mean to garner my treasures."
The house consists of two stories with that most necessary addition to a country house, a broad piazza. To the right stands a white cottage, built for the servants. Almost in front of the house is a large boulder, moss-grown and venerable. This, Aunt Mary would not have removed, for she loved Nature in its wildest primeval beauty, and now the rock is associated with loving memories of Raffie's little hands that once prepared fairy banquets upon it, with acorn-cups for dishes; but now those baby hands have long since been folded quietly in the grave.
The little play-house, that has since been removed to the croquet-ground, once stood not far from this rock, and has been used, as I said, by Gabrielle as a menagerie for her pets. A strange assortment they often were for a little girl. Inheriting her mother's exquisite tenderness of feeling towards helpless animals, Gabrielle would splinter and bandage up the little legs of any baby robin or sparrow that had met with an accident from trying its wings too early, would nurse it till well, and then let it fly away. At one time she had in the play-house a little regiment of twelve toads, a red squirrel, and a large turtle. Aunt Mary never wished her to cage her pets, as she thought it cruel; consequently they had the range of the play-house, and Gabrielle fed them very conscientiously. She ought, however, to have followed the example of St. Francis, who used to preach to animals and insects when he had no human audience, and given her pets a daily dissertation upon brotherly love and tolerance, for they did not, I regret to say, live together in the Christian harmony that distinguished Barnum's Happy Family. The result was, that one day when Gabrielle went to minister to their physical wants, she found only a melancholy débris of little legs. Her supposition was that the turtle had consumed the toads and then died of dyspepsia, and that the squirrel had by some unknown means escaped from the play-house, and returned to primeval liberty.
Forgetting this sad experience, Gabrielle endeavored at another time to bring up a snake and a toad in the way they should go (this time in an empty hen-coop); but the snake certainly did depart from it, and astonished the family much by gliding into the kitchen with the unhappy toad in his mouth. Poor Gabrielle's feelings can be imagined. She endeavored courageously to wrest the toad from its enemy's jaws, but all in vain; she was obliged to see the hapless creature consumed by the snake.
Mamma has often described Aunt Mary to me as she looked when she first
met her. The portrait mamma draws of her as a bride would scarcely be
recognized by those who only knew her after long years of weary illness
"Paled her glowing cheek."
I will give it in mamma's own words:
"Immediately after your uncle's marriage, he sent for me to come from my parents' quiet farm in Pennsylvania, to spend the winter in the city with himself and his wife. A great event this was to me—far greater than your first visit to Europe, for the journey occupied double the time that is now spent between New York and Liverpool, and I was a young girl whose acquaintance with the world was confined to the narrow limits of the little village of Clymer; I had never even been sent away to boarding-school.
"One bright September morning I started upon my eventful journey. Your uncle Barnes drove me in a buggy to Buffalo, a distance of three days at that time. At this city—the first large one that I had ever seen, my brother left me in charge of a party going through, as he supposed, to New York. Then ensued two weeks upon a canal boat; very slow travelling you children would consider it, accustomed as you are to whirling over the country in an express train; but at my romantic age, this dreamy, delicious style of boat travel was the perfection of happiness.
"At Rochester my friends left me, first placing me under the care of the captain of the canal-boat, who promised to put me upon the steamboat when we should reach Albany.
"The prospect of the day to be spent upon the Hudson possessed no charms for me, but on the contrary, untold terror. I had never before seen a steamboat, but they had been introduced upon Lake Erie, near enough to my home for me to hear, with alarm, of all the accidents that had so far befallen them upon that very turbulent sheet of water; consequently, I embarked upon the 'Washington,' in the full conviction that I was about to meet with my doom.
"All that day I sat motionless in a corner of the promenade deck, reading my Bible. Perfectly oblivious alike to the magnificent scenery that I was passing, and to the elegant toilettes such as my country-bred eyes had never before beheld, by which I was surrounded; I neither spoke to nor looked at any one, nor dared to leave my seat even to go to dinner; but endeavored to gain, from the sacred volume in my hands, strength for the terrible fate that I was confident awaited me. I have often since wondered what my fellow-travellers thought of the still, shy little figure whose eyes were never once lifted from her Bible.
"About four o'clock a terrible explosion was heard, the boat was thrown violently upon her side, and a scene of confusion, shrieks, and fainting-fits then ensued. I did not faint—I was much too alarmed for that; I merely turned very white, and trembled from head to foot. The wheel-house had been blown away, I learnt before long, but no one fortunately was injured, and after a delay of an hour or so the boat was righted, and we proceeded upon our journey, at a snail's pace, however.
"Owing to the accident, we did not reach New York until ten o'clock. No one was at the pier to meet me, for brother had supposed that I would arrive before sunset. As I did not appear, however, he concluded that I had not left Albany at the time appointed. But my adventures of the day were not yet over. I secured a cab, and drove to the address he had given me, 123 Hudson Street, which in 1836 was by no means the plebeian locality it is at present, but a fashionable street, devoted exclusively to elegant residences. Upon inquiring for Mr. Greeley, my consternation was great to learn that although he had looked at rooms in that house, he had not engaged them, and the landlady had no idea of his address. I was almost as timid about cabs as I had been about the steamboat; for I had heard stories of young girls being robbed and murdered by New York cab-drivers, and here I was, late at night, in all the whirl and excitement of the metropolis, driving I knew not where, and entirely at the mercy of an assassin. However, my modest trunk did not look very inviting, I suppose, for I reached The New Yorker office—the only other address I knew in the city—without further adventure, where I ascertained that brother was now living at 124 Greenwich Street—a most beautiful situation close by the Battery—then the fashionable promenade of New York. He had written to tell me of his change of residence, but the letter failed to reach me.
"It was half-past eleven when I finally reached my home. The large parlor was ablaze with lights, and crowded with people; for it was Friday, the night that The New Yorker went to press, and brother's reception evening. I was trembling with fatigue and excitement, and very faint, for I had not eaten since early in the morning; but all these emotions vanished when I was introduced to my new sister. I had seen no pictures of her, and knew her only through brother's description, and a few letters she had written me since her marriage, and I was quite unprepared for the exquisite, fairy-like creature I now beheld. A slight, girlish figure, rather petite in stature, dressed in clouds of white muslin, cut low, and her neck and shoulders covered by massive dark curls, from which gleamed out an Oriental-looking coiffure, composed of strands of large gold and pearl beads. Her eyes were large, dark, and pensive, and her rich brunette complexion was heightened by a flush, not brilliant like Gabrielle's, but delicate as a rose-leaf. She appeared to me like a being from another world."
To continue mamma's reminiscences of uncle's first year of married life:
"I found my sister-in-law's tastes," she said, "quite different from those of the majority of young ladies. In literature her preference was for the solid and philosophic, rather than the romantic class of reading; indeed, I may say that she never read, she studied; going over a paragraph several times, until she had fully comprehended its subtleties of thought, and stored them away in her retentive memory for future use. During that year, I never knew her to read a work of fiction; but philosophy or science formed her daily nourishment; whilst brother, whenever he had a free evening, read aloud to Mary and I from Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, sweetened now and then with a selection from Lord Byron or Mrs. Hemans—the two poets that at that time he preferred.
"But although your Aunt Mary had such severe literary tastes, she was by no means gloomy in her disposition, as you might perhaps infer. Your uncle being at that time editor of a weekly journal, he was comparatively a man of leisure, and he and Mary went frequently to the theatre, and to hear lectures—a source of great enjoyment to both of them. They also mingled considerably in general society, for Mary was then very fond of dancing, although there was rarely or never any at her Friday evenings, for literary people then, as now, eschewed the goddess Terpsichore.
"I told you that I arrived in New York upon brother's reception-night. Those Friday evenings wore a great source of pleasure to me, introducing me as they did to the literary coterie of the metropolis. Nearly all the men and women of note at that time met in our parlors on Greenwich Street, and many of them were regular or occasional contributors to brother's journal. Among the names that I can recall, were Gen. Morris, then editing the New York Mirror; the two Clark brothers, editors of the Knickerbocker, one of whom, Willis Gaylord Clark, was at that time writing his clever 'Ollapodiana;' Fitz-Greene Halleck, the poet; George M. Snow, who later in life became financial editor of The Tribune, and is now deceased; Professor A. C. Kendrick, of Hamilton College, the translator of Schiller's 'Victor's Triumph,' which subsequently appeared in The New Yorker, and which, you will remember, your uncle has occasionally read for us at our own Tuesday evening receptions; Mrs. O. M. Sawyer, the accomplished wife of brother's pastor, then making her débût in the literary world with poems and occasional translations from the German; Elizabeth Jessup Eames, who was writing stories and poems for The New Yorker, under the signature of 'Stella;' Mrs. E. F. Ellet, in 1836 a handsome young bride, who had come up from the South, and was contributing translations from the French and German to the same journal; Anne Cora Lynch, now Madame Botta; and many others.
"I must not forget to mention Fisher, the sub-editor of The New Yorker, and, in his own estimation, the most important person upon that journal. He was what might be called a literary fop, and was much given to the production of highly-wrought, Byronic poems and sketches. I remember hearing that some one called one day at the office, and asked to see the editor. Fisher immediately presented himself.
"'What!' said the visitor, somewhat surprised, 'are you Mr. Greeley?'
"'No,' said Fisher, running his fingers nonchalantly through his curls, 'I am not Mr. Greeley, but,' drawing himself up, 'I am the editor of The New Yorker. Mr. Greeley is only the printer.'
"This incident having got out among brother's friends, it was considered so good a joke that for years he was called in the office and by the literary fraternity, 'The Printer.'
"The entertainment at these Friday evenings was mainly conversation, varied by the occasional reading of a poem. Your Aunt Mary was much admired that winter, both for her exquisite beauty and the charm of her winning, artless manners. As I said, she was very fond of dancing; but brother never had time to accomplish himself in the art. I remember, however, that at a Christmas party given by his partner, Mr. Wilson, he was induced to dance a quadrille. His mathematical accuracy enabled him to go through the figures perfectly, when he had once seen them danced; and he enjoyed it so thoroughly, and wore such an air of unconscious happiness, that an old Quaker lady (the mother-in-law of Mr. Wilson) who was looking on remarked to me, 'I didn't think thee could find so beautiful a sight as thy brother's dancing this side of heaven.'
"I have described your Aunt Mary as beautiful, and perhaps you would infer that she was also over-fond of dress. She was no devotee to fashion, and her toilet was, even at that period, characterized by great simplicity, but was noted, at the same time, for picturesqueness."
Ida showed me, the other day, a very interesting letter written to her father by a friend, Mr. Yancey, who was present at his marriage, and as it confirms what mamma has said of Aunt Mary's beauty, I will make some extracts from it. Mr. Yancey was the son-in-law of Squire Bragg, at whose house Aunt Mary resided while teaching school in North Carolina.
"GERMANTOWN, TENNESSEE, July 6, 1847.
"DEAR SIR:—Sitting to-night 'all solitary and alone,' my mind has wandered back upon scenes that have past eleven years ago, though vivid now even as yesterday. It was about that time that I saw you first, and indeed saw you last.
"Little did I then dream that I beheld in that modest personage one who is now acknowledged as the 'distinguished and accomplished Horace Greeley.'
"You well remember your first visit to the South, I dare say. You cannot have forgotten many incidents that occurred at a little village of North Carolina, called Warrenton? No, there is one circumstance I feel assured you never can forget while memory lasts, and there are others to which I claim the right to call your attention: for instance, do you remember your first meeting with a certain Miss Cheney at the house of Squire Bragg, the father of Capt. Bragg, who lately distinguished himself at Monterey and Buena Vista? Do you now remember to whom you related the secret of your visit, who procured the parson, and what persons accompanied you to church, and then with your beautiful bride returned to breakfast? We saw you take the solemn vows, we witnessed the plighted betrothal, and when you bore away from us this prize, you also carried our best wishes that you might be ever blessed, and she be made always happy. May it not have been otherwise."
.… "I would, my dear sir, be pleased to hear from you, and to learn something of the results and changes which time has brought about in your own family.
"Be pleased to remember me to your sweet wife, and if there be any, or many little G———s, my kind regards to them also.
"A. L. YANCEY."
Visitors—Our Neighbors—The Chappaqua Croquet Club—Gabrielle's Letter—A Hiding Party—Summer Heat—The Music-room—Friends from the City.
While out on the croquet ground this afternoon, a lady and gentleman alighted from a carriage, and walked up to join us. They proved to be our friends, Mr. and Mrs. Charles E. Wilbour, of New York, who had driven over from White Plains to make us an afternoon call. Mrs. Wilbour is a charming, intellectual woman, the president of Sorosis, and a friend of many years of both mamma and Aunt Mary. In appearance she is tall, handsome, and queenly, dressing in perfect taste, and a graceful hostess. Her pretty daughter Linny is a school friend of Gabrielle's at St. Mary's.
Mr. and Mrs. Wilbour spend much time during the summer, driving about from one town to another; certainly the most comfortable and agreeable mode of travelling that one could adopt.
We have some agreeable neighbors here, who contribute somewhat to the general entertainment. The aristocracy of Chappaqua are chiefly Quaker families who have lived here since the days of the Indians, and who look down quite doubtfully upon the New York families who come out here for the summer only, and of whose ancestry they know nothing. The fathers and mothers wear the Quaker dress, and use the "Friends" phraseology, which I think very pretty and caressing, but the young people depart somewhat from the way of grace, in speech, costume, and habits. The young girls wear whatever color of the rainbow best suits their fresh complexions, are skilled in flirting, and with the assistance of the young gentlemen, have organized a club for weekly croquet parties and private theatricals at the residences of the different members, whilst picnics and riding-parties to Croton and Rye Lakes, and other pretty points of interest, are of frequent occurrence. But of the riding-parties Gabrielle has just written a sprightly description to a school friend, and before the letter goes to the post, I will transcribe it.
CHAPPAQUA, June 18.
"DEAR MOLLIE: I received your charming letter and photograph last week. Many thanks for both. You ask me how do I pass my time, and what is the latest excitement?
"Well, to begin with, you must know that we have just started a club in Chappaqua for mutual amusement, but as I have been indisposed for some time, I certainly have not yet derived much benefit from it, but spend most of my time reading.
"Last Saturday I was just longing for something to happen, and apostrophizing the world as a hollow sham, when Minna came up to say that we had all been invited to an equestrian party, to start after tea. You would have imagined I had been offered several kingdoms by my delight. I gave two or three screams of condensed joy, while dancing wildly around the room, much to Aunt Esther's surprise.
"But on second thoughts, what was I to do for a horse? My ponies had never been broken to the saddle, but having made up my mind to go, go I would, if I had to ride a wild buffalo; so I ordered Lady Alice around an hour before the time to start. When she arrived, the balcony was filled with a large and anxious audience, and rather than fail before so many, I was determined that either I should break the horse in, or she should break me. I sprang into the saddle, but before I could seat myself or put my foot in the stirrup, she jerked her head away from Bernard, and commenced a series of exciting manoeuvres, rearing, plunging, and kicking. For about five minutes I defied all the laws of gravitation. But when the coachman tried to seize her bridle, she shied so suddenly that I was surprised to find myself on terra firma. I jumped up directly and assured every one that I had not hurt myself in the least, in fact had never felt better; but between you and me, I felt very like the dog that was tossed by the cow with the crumpled horn. I am afraid that by this time I had let my little angry passions rise—in other words, I was decidedly angry.
"I got on splendidly this time, and was quite ready to start with my cousins when the time came, although my Lady Alice evinced serious objections to the gate, and preferred ambling gently along sideways up the hill. After a while I intimated kindly with my whip a desire to gallop. I fear that, like some of our friends, she is hard to take a hint, for she progressed by the most wonderful plunges, garnished with little kicks; but I kept her head well up, and clawed out several handfuls of her mane. When we came to the rendezvous, my cavalier proposed running her for two or three miles to take down her spirits a little, after which she went beautifully, and I never enjoyed a ride so much before.
"We rode to Lake Wampus, and everything looked so lovely, for the full moon lighted it up like a mirror, and we had singing and thrilling ghost stories.
"Dear me, how awfully long this letter is! Be sure you answer it soon.
The heat and dust are becoming insufferable, for we have had no rain, save in very homoeopathic doses, during the three weeks that we have been here. The shrubs and bushes by the roadside look so piteous under their weight of dust, that I feel half inclined to try the effect of a feather brush upon their drooping leaves; and Bernard, who is never prone to take cheerful views of anything, grows daily more gloomy when we inquire after the progress of the kitchen-garden. But, although we are sighing under the heat, it is nothing, we are told, to what the New Yorkers are now enduring, and our friends, Mrs. Acheson and Dr. Taylor, who came out yesterday from the city to spend the day with us, congratulated us upon the coolness of the temperature at Chappaqua.
The morning was passed out of doors playing croquet and walking
"Sotto i pini del boschetto,"
to use the words of the coquettish Countess and her arch waiting-maid in the "Marriage of Figaro" (that Letter Duo contains, I think, some of the most delicious music that the joyous Mozart ever wrote).
The sun was too hot after our early dinner, for us to find much pleasure in croquet; so we sat in the music-room, and upon the piazza, and listened to a few songs from Marguerite, and watched the skill of papa and the handsome blond doctor in the "Magic Rings,"—a very easy game, to all appearance, but one which really requires much dexterity of hand.
The music-room is, I think, the coolest and pleasantest room in the house. It is one of the additions built by uncle after he had purchased this house—a large, square room on the ground floor, with curtained windows opening upon the balcony, and upon the old apple-tree. It is singularly favorable for music, for it contains no heavy furniture, and the floor is uncarpeted. We had intended to remove all the pictures from the walls, that they might not deaden the sound of the music, but we could not resist an exquisite "Mary in the Desert," purchased by uncle in Florence, in 1851; so this painting is now hung over the piano.
Our sprightly brunette friend with the merry black eyes, Mrs. Acheson, looked unusually pretty and charming yesterday. I love to describe stylish toilettes as well as any fashion-writer; so here is hers in all its details: steel-colored silk trimmed with turquoise blue, demi-traine, her hair beautifully dressed (or coiffured, to use the fashionable newspaper word) in puffs and rolls, and finished with a little blue feather; while an elegant fan attached to half a yard of gold chain depended from her belt.
When the 4.45 train was at hand, Ida and I walked down to the station with our friends. Quite luckily there was a drawing-room car attached to the train, although such luxury is generally confined to the express, which does not stop here. I learnt, however, from the station-master, that this car had borne some happy pair as far as Albany the day before, had stayed there over-night for repairs, and was now returning in a leisurely manner to New York.
Midsummer Day—An Artist's Visit—Ida's Letter—Moonlight on Croton Lake—Morning Readings—Plato and Kohlrausch.
In honor of Midsummer Day, Marguerite and I have spent the morning at the piano, playing Mendelssohn's delicious fairy music from the Midsummer Night's Dream.
We have had little time to practise or read this week, for company has been of almost daily occurrence; Marguerite returned yesterday morning from a flying visit to the city, accompanied by our friends, Colonel Rogers and Mr. Hows, the artist, who is a neighbor of ours in our rural part of the city—Cottage Place. Colonel Rogers was dressed entirely in gray, a costume that looked delightfully cool, and was a perfect match for his eyes.
The morning was spent in playing croquet, and in showing our guests over the place, whose wild beauty delighted Mr. Hows' artistic eyes. We walked first to the flower-garden, where we gathered flowers to dress the table for dinner, and then visited the pine grove, the romantic dell, and the stone barn of which uncle was always so proud, where we spent an hour amid the sweet hay.
For the evening a drive was proposed, as we have now quite recovered from our former dread of malaria. Ida held the ribbons on this occasion, and as I was not one of the party, I will insert her graceful description of the pleasant evening.
"DEAR JULIA: I was so sorry to get your letter saying you could not come. I wish you had not let your tiresome old dressmaker deprive me of the pleasure of your company on our expedition to Croton Lake.
"I must tell you all about the delightful time we had. Two of the numerous friends of our blue-eyed Marguerite, Colonel Rogers and Mr. Hows, whose exquisite pictures you and I have so often enjoyed together, were our cavaliers on this occasion. As our light carriage only has room for four, I drove the ponies myself. We started just about sundown, and the pleasant coolness of evening came on while there was still daylight enough to light up the constantly changing panorama of hill and dale, and forest and distant river, beyond which the blue mountain range dimly seen, now seemed to emerge into bolder relief, and again to fade back into cloud-land.
"Mr. Hows' delight in the scenery was certainly equalled by mine in listening to its praises. I am very fond of this part of Westchester, and when people talk of the beauties of the Adirondacks, I listen with the silent conviction that we have everything here but the musquitoes and the bad cooking, with both of which I cheerfully dispense.
"But to return to our drive. The last mile the road ran through a dark forest, following the course of a stream called Roaring Brook, which generally makes good its title to the name, but now, owing to the recent drouth, was reduced to roaring as gently as Bottom's Lion promised to do. At last the lake was reached, and turning to the right, we were soon skimming along at a great pace on the wide boulevard that skirts the water as far along as Pine's Bridge. There we put up our ponies at a hotel with an impossible and unpronounceable Indian name, and accepted the Colonel's kind invitation for a row. We all regretted there was no moon, with as much self-reproach as if it had been accidentally left behind, but were glad enough to get into our little white boat, that looked quite silvery against the dark current.
"The gentlemen, who had been dying to hear Marguerite sing ever since coming out here, now suggested that her voice was all that was needed to make the hour perfect; so Marguerite, who is as sweet and unaffected about her singing as if she hadn't the most exquisite soprano ever heard off the stage, consented without any tiresome urging, and asked what it should be. We were evenly divided between 'Robin Adair' and Mario's 'Good-bye, Sweetheart,' so our pretty songstress kindly gave us both.
"I cannot recall the delicious effect of her singing as we were drifting along in the sombre twilight, better than by quoting Buchanan Read's charming lines, which I dare say you have seen before:
"'I heed not if
My rippling skiff
Float swift or slow from cliff to cliff;
With dreamful eyes
My spirit lies
Under the walls of Paradise.
"'Under the walls
Where swells and falls
The bay's deep breast at intervals;
At peace I lie,
Blown softly by
A cloud upon this liquid sky.
"'No more, no more
The worldly shore
Upbraids me with its load uproar:
With dreamful eyes
My spirit lies
Under the walls of Paradise.'
"I. L. G."
The week commenced with a dash of rain, but this morning it was again as hot as though no clouds had darkened the sky. Croquet was out of the question, and not even for the sake of trying my new beaver and stylish habit, so becoming to a slight figure, could I confront the dust and the sun's blazing rays upon Nancy's back (for such is the unromantic name of the horse that oftenest has the honor of bearing me when we ride). No one seemed inclined to drive, so Lady Alice and the Duchess, that had been for some time impatiently stamping, and arching their pretty necks, evidently impatient to be off, were sent back to the stables, much amazed, I doubt not, at our capricious conduct; while we—mamma, Marguerite, and I—sauntered up to the cool pine grove, accompanied by Arthur, bearing a camp-chair for mamma, and a couple of wise-looking tomes, in whose society we were to spend the morning.
But I have not yet introduced Arthur. He is neither brother, cousin, nor fiancé, but bound to us by almost brotherly ties, having been our playmate when we were little children; and after the death of his parents (our eminent historian Richard Hildreth, and his gifted artist wife), he became mamma's ward, and was our constant companion in Italy and France. Arthur has come on from Cambridge, where he has just taken his degree as a lawyer, to make us a visit of some weeks, and we have had much pleasure talking over with him those poetic days that we passed together in Florence and Venice.
But our life is never made up of talking and dreaming, delightful though it may be, and we have a certain amount of reading to do every day, which we despatch as conscientiously as we do our prayers. There is no rule, however, limiting the reading to any one person, and Arthur often relieves us of that duty. I enjoy his reading very much, especially when one of Plato's "Dialogues" is the lesson of the day, for into them he throws so much enthusiasm and dramatic force, that they are quite a revelation to me. I was amused this morning, upon turning over the leaves of my journal of last winter, to find my first impressions of the "Dialogues" thus laconically expressed:
"I have to-day commenced to read Plato aloud. I cannot say that I find him very refreshing as yet; still I try to admire him as much as I conscientiously can."
I must confess that at first the abstruse subtleties of Socrates and his brother logicians were too much for my little brain, but now that I am more familiar with them, I quite delight in following their arguments. These "Dialogues" remind me of a fugue in musical composition; only melody is wanting to make the resemblance perfect, for here, as in the "Well-tempered Harpsichord," one train of thought is taken up, viewed from every side and in every light—that is to say, pursued through every possible key only to return and end at the original starting-point.
Story-telling—Mr. Greeley's Father—His Personal Appearance—His Education—A Fine Voice—Mr. Greeley's Mother—A Handsome Woman—How she is remembered in Vermont—Field Labor—Bankruptcy—A Journey to Vermont—School Days—The Boy Horace—How he entertained his Playmates—His First Ball—Separation from his Family.
"What a delightful evening for story-telling!" said Gabrielle, as she listened to the heavy rain-drops falling upon the leaves of the old apple-tree; "will you not give us one, Aunt Esther?"
"Yes," said Ida and Marguerite, drawing their chairs closer to mamma's sofa. "Do tell us about yourself when you were a young girl, and about grandpapa and grandmamma!"
"Ah," said mamma, with a sigh, "you children have never known my dear parents!"
Marguerite was the only one of the young quartette who remembered having seen grandpapa, and her recollections of him were confused with memories of people in Europe, where our childhood was spent.
"How did he look when you were a little girl, mamma?" I inquired. "I think he is quite imposing in your little picture taken the year before he died, and he must have been very handsome when he was young."
"He was not only handsome: he was an unusual man," said mamma, decidedly. "No biographer, in speaking of our family, has ever estimated him correctly, and even dear brother himself does not give sufficient importance to father's fine character and mental qualities; but you know that he left home when a boy of fifteen, and after that time he only saw father at long intervals.
"You remember, Cecilia, that all the foreign sketches you have ever read of brother, announce that his parents were 'common peasants,' while many American writers, although they do not use the word 'peasant,' convey a similar impression. Father was by no means a common man, for to be 'common' one must be vulgar or ignorant, and father was neither. He was not uneducated, although his schooling was very slight; but he was a good reader, was very skilful in arithmetic, and wrote an excellent hand—an accomplishment for which our family are not celebrated—beside possessing a hoard of self-acquired information upon different subjects. During the long winter evenings in our lonely Pennsylvania home, he taught us younger children arithmetic, and was very fond of giving us long sums to puzzle out. I have often, heard him say to brother Barnes,
"'You must store your mind with useful knowledge, that when you go out into the world you will have something to talk about as well as other people.'
"A poor farmer in those days did not have much opportunity to acquire accomplishments, as you may well imagine; but father possessed one talent that, if properly directed, might have made his fortune and ours. I have never yet heard a natural voice that excelled your grandfather's; a high, clear, powerful tenor, with unsurpassed strength of lungs, which, added to his handsome presence, would have made him one of the finest singers that has yet trodden the boards. Of course his voice was uncultivated, with the exception of the slight training of country singing-classes, and the songs that he knew were simple ballads; but his memory was very retentive, and his singing was in great demand when company was present. At husking-parties and apple-bees, when supper was over and the young people wished to dance, if no fiddler was present, father would be petitioned to sing. I have often known him to sing country dances for hours, and he sung so heartily, and marked the time so well, that the young people enjoyed the dancing as much as if the music had been furnished by the most skilful violinist.
"I told you that father was a handsome man. He had large blue eyes, soft, silky, brown curls clustering around a magnificent brow, a set color in his cheeks, and a hand that the hardest field labor could not deprive of its beauty—long, tapering fingers, and pointed nails, such as novelists love to describe, but in real life are rarely seen outside of the most aristocratic families. His teeth were small, white and even, and at the time of his death, when eighty-seven years old, he had only lost one. His figure, though less than six feet, gave the impression of a much taller man; for he was slenderly built without being thin, and his carriage was almost military. To this fine presence was added an air of dignity and almost hauteur, that was very unusual in a poor farmer. But father was proud to an unparalleled degree. Indeed, it was his pride that caused him to plunge into the wild forests of Pennsylvania. His haughty nature could not bear the life of subordination that he led in Vermont, where he did not own an acre of land, and was obliged to work under the orders of others, often far inferior to him, and where he fancied the story of his flight from New Hampshire was known to every one. Smarting with mortification, he toiled until he could save a few hundred dollars to buy some acres in the wilderness, far from all his former associates, and there he buried himself with my dear mother and their five little children. But these morose feelings were somewhat subdued as the years rolled on.
"With his children he was affectionate, but, like an old-school father, very distant. He never struck one of us in his life—a glance being sufficient to enforce obedience, or subdue the wildest spirits. He was always as particular about the etiquette of the table as though we were served by footmen in livery; and in our poorest days, when cups and saucers were scant and spoons still more so, we were obliged to observe the utmost decorum till we were helped; and any laughing or chatter among the younger ones was immediately quelled by the emphatic descent of father's fork upon the coverless table, with the words, 'Children, silence!'
"Father was highly respected by our neighbors in Pennsylvania, and was often urged to accept some county office. However, he always declined."
"Do you think, mamma," said Marguerite, "that grandmamma was as handsome as grandpapa?"
A pause of a moment or two.
"They were very different," was her reply. "Mother had neither father's brilliant face, nor his imposing presence, but she was a very handsome woman. She had soft blue eyes, a perfectly straight nose, a mouth rather large, perhaps, for beauty, but full of character, brown hair tinged with red, and a transparent, though not pallid complexion. If you wish more minute details, look at your uncle's picture. No man ever resembled a woman more strikingly than he did our dear mother."
"In a recently published life of uncle," said I, "the author speaks of grandmamma as often working in the fields, and describes her as large and muscular, and possessing the strength of a man. Is not that an exaggeration?"
"Mother was above medium height," was mamma's reply, "but her figure was slender, with small and well-shaped hands and feet. It was her pride that water could flow under the arch of her instep; and her fingers, notwithstanding the hard toil of daily life, remained so flexible, that, when fifty years old, she could still bend them backwards to form a drinking-cup."
"Let me tell you, Aunt Esther," interposed Ida, "how grandmamma is remembered in Vermont. When Gabrielle and I were quite small children, we went there on a visit, and papa took us to see some old lady (whose name I have forgotten) residing in Westhaven. This lady had known grandmamma very well, and, after contemplating Gabrielle and I for some time, remarked curtly, 'Neither of you children are as handsome as your grandmother was.'"
This uncomplimentary remark caused us all to laugh heartily. Mamma then resumed her story.
"As for field labor, your grandmother may, while we were in New Hampshire, have sometimes assisted father for a day or two during the pressure of haying or harvesting time; but never, since I was old enough to observe, can I recollect seeing her work in the fields. Certainly mother was not a woman to hesitate to do cheerfully whatever necessity required. But she had quite enough to occupy herself at home with the entire duties of a house, with the spinning, weaving, and making up of all the linen and woollen cloth that the household used; and the care and early instruction of her little ones—for it was her pride that all of her children learned to read before going to school. I remember that when I was first sent to school, at the age of four, the teacher, with a glance at my tiny figure (for I was a small, delicate child), called me up to read to her, and opened the book at the alphabet. Deeply injured, I informed her that I knew my letters, and could read over in 'An old man found a rude boy in one of his apple-trees,'—a fable that all familiar with Webster's Spelling-book will remember.
"My first distinct recollection of mother is in the dark days in New Hampshire. Father, as you know, had lost everything that he possessed, and was obliged to fly into the next State to escape imprisonment for debt. After he left, his furniture was attached and sold. I remember seeing strange, rough men in the house, who pulled open all the trunks and chests of drawers, and tossed about the beautiful bed and table linen that mother had wrought before her marriage. Another picture, too, is impressed indelibly upon my mind—how mother followed the sheriff and his men about from room to room with the tears rolling down her face, while brother Horace, then a little white-haired boy, nine years old, held her hand and tried to comfort her, telling her not to cry—he would take care of her.
"But mother, although humiliated and heart-sore at the poverty and
disgrace that lay before her so early in her married life, was not a
woman to fold her hands and think sadly of what
"'--might have been.'
She wiped away her tears, and her busy fingers were soon preparing warm hoods and dresses to protect her little ones from the bitter cold during the journey that lay before us, for in the course of two or three months father had by hard toil earned money sufficient to send for us. I remember very well that journey over the mountains covered with snow into the State of Vermont, and our establishment in what was called the 'small house by the ledge' in the little neighborhood of houses clustering on and about the old Minot estate.
"You children, accustomed as you have been from your infancy to the attractive text-books of the present day, would quite scorn the system of instruction at the school I attended in Westhaven. I went there three winters, but although I soon rose to the first class in reading and spelling, in which branches I was unusually precocious, my education was confined entirely to those two departments of learning. Few text-books were then used in the school, for the parents of the children were generally too poor to pay for many, and the musty old Grammar and Arithmetic were kept in reserve for the older scholars. On account of my youth the teacher did not advance me, and I went again and again through the old Spelling-book, and learnt by heart what was called the 'fore part of the book'—some dry rules of orthography, which never conveyed the slightest idea to my mind, although I repeated them, parrot-like, without missing a word, and which the teacher never thought of explaining to me. From the spelling-book I was in time promoted to the New Testament (not as easy reading as might have been selected, by the way). This was followed by the American Preceptor, and subsequently by Murray's 'English Reader,' a work reserved for the most advanced scholars.
"My brothers did not go to school during the summer months, for their services were then required to assist father in his work; and I, too, had to leave school every day at eleven o'clock to carry their dinner to them at the place, a mile and a half distant, where they were clearing a portion of the Minot estate.
"When brother Horace was thirteen years old he was taken out of school, as the teacher could instruct him no longer. I was kept at home also, and brother taught me, giving me lessons in arithmetic and penmanship, which studies had been prohibited me at school. Here commenced a most tender attachment and sympathy between brother and I. As there were two children—Barnes and sister Arminda—between us, our difference of years had hitherto kept us somewhat apart; but after brother had been for several months my instructor we were from that time the nearest in heart in our large household.
"I think that mother must have entirely regained her spirits during the four years that we lived in Vermont, for I remember that men, women, and children alike delighted in her society, and our house was the centre of the little neighborhood. We resided very near the school-house, and rarely did a morning pass without a visit from some of the girls, to have a few words of greeting from mother on their way to their lessons. When recess time came, they would arrive in numbers to spend the time with her, and beg for a song or a story from the inexhaustible supply with which her memory was stored, and there they would remain, fascinated by her sweet, low voice until she would be obliged to playfully chase them out of the house to compel them to return to school. From the teacher, for tardiness, punishment was a very frequent occurrence, but it made slight impression upon the girls in comparison with the enjoyment of listening to one of mother's thrilling or romantic stories, for the following day they would return to our house to again risk the penalty.
"I told you that brother taught me after we were taken out of school. He was the gentlest and kindest of instructors, and was always ready to lay down his own book to help me out of any difficulty that my lesson presented, although it was by no means easy to make him close his book under other circumstances; such as the solicitations of his young friends to join them in a game.
"I have described father to you as a stern man in his every-day intercourse with us, but although his motto was 'Work,' he was always willing to grant us a holiday or a play-hour, when he thought we had earned it. He would relax his dignity, too, somewhat when young people came to pass the evening with us; would encourage us to play games and dance, and would often join us; for, although he never played cards himself, nor would he allow them to be played in his house, he himself taught us how to dance.
"When our young friends came to see us, there was much rejoicing from brother Barnes, who was full of life and spirits, and always ready to play, and from Arminda and myself; but brother Horace, not at all allured by blind-man's-buff or a dance, would retire to a corner with a pine knot (for in those days candles were few), preferring the companionship of his book to our merry games. Coaxing was all in vain: the only means of inducing him to join us was to snatch away his book and hide it; but even then he preferred to gather us quietly about him and tell us stories. I remember that before he left home he had related to us, among other things, the thousand and one stories of the 'Arabian Nights,' and 'Robinson Crusoe.' This gift of story-telling he inherited from mother, whose talent in that line certainly equalled that of the beautiful Sultana Scheherazade herself. At this time, although I had never seen a copy of Shakespeare, I was familiar with the names and plots of all his imaginative, and many of his historical plays, which mother would relate to us in her own words, embellished now and then with bits of the original verse, as she sat at her spinning-wheel, or busied herself about the household work.
"It was, I think, at this same time—our last year in Vermont—that a large ball, for young people only, was given in our neighborhood. Much speculation was excited among our young friends as to whether Horace would dance at this ball, and especially if he would fetch a partner with him. It was the general opinion that he would not, as he did not bear a high reputation for gallantry. Great, then, was the astonishment of all present when Horace entered the ballroom with Anne Bush, the prettiest girl in the neighborhood, upon his arm. He opened the ball with her, and his deportment quite silenced those who had questioned his appearance.
"Before long, preparations for another journey were in progress. Father had earned money sufficient to buy some land, and I heard that we were going to Pennsylvania. I was, however, too young to be much impressed by this news, and it was not until I saw mother once more in tears that its importance was apparent to me. This time mother wept as bitterly as before, for not only was she to be separated by a greater distance from her family in New Hampshire, to whom she was fondly attached, and from the pleasant circle of friends she had made in Westhaven, but her darling among us children, her beautiful eldest boy, of whom she was so proud, was to be left in Vermont."
A Picnic at Croton Dam—The Waterworks—A Game of Twenty Questions—Gabrielle as a Logician—Evangeline's Betrothal—Marguerite's Letter—Description of Chappaqua—Visitors—Edmonia Lewis.
Gabrielle and I have just returned from spending the day at Croton Dam. A large party from the prominent families of Chappaqua was organized by Miss Murray, the pretty daughter of one of our neighbors, and at nine o'clock a number of carriages, packed to overflowing with young people and lunch-baskets, and led off by a four-horse wagon, started caravan-wise from the place of rendezvous, Mr. Murray's elegant grounds.
The drive was a very pretty one, skirting for some distance the beautiful little lake that supplies the great thirsty city of New York; and the spot chosen for the picnic—shady, terrace-like heights, with a gradual slope to meet the water, and a rough bench here and there—was declared the most suitable place in the world to lay the cloth. One or two members of the party remained behind to unload the carriages, count the broken dishes, and estimate the proportion of contributions—many people fetching salt in abundance but forgetting sugar, whilst others furnished elaborately frosted cakes, but omitted such necessaries as knives and forks. Meantime, we climbed the stone steps leading to the waterworks, and after a glimpse of the seething dark-green water through the heavy iron grating, we hunted up the overseer and asked him to unlock the doors for us, that we might have a nearer view. He assented, and admitted us very obligingly, giving us meantime a graphic description of the yearly journey of the Inspector in a boat down the dark passage to New York, and pointing out the low narrow place of entry from the water-house where they must lie down in the boat.
Dinner hour is generally a most interesting moment in a picnic, and this was the time when the young gentlemen showed their gallantry by partaking only of such viands as had come from the baskets of their favorites among the young ladies.
A cloth was spread upon the ground; seats were extemporized for the ladies out of carriage cushions, waterproofs and wraps; the knives, forks and plates were dealt out as impartially as possible, and we passed a very merry hour.
When the repast was over, the party dispersed—some to play croquet, others to row upon the lake, or to stroll about under the trees; some young ladies produced books and bright bits of fancy-work, while Gabrielle, Arthur and I, with our pretty captain, Miss Murray, and one of her attendant cavaliers, decided to pass away the time by playing a game—no trivial game, however; neither "consequences" nor fortune-telling, but an eminently scientific one entitled "Twenty Questions." For the benefit of the uninitiated I will remark that the oracle chooses a subject (silently), and the others are allowed to put twenty questions to him to enable them to divine it—usually commencing with "Is the object that you have in your mind to be found in the animal, vegetable, or mineral kingdom?"
Gabrielle is very clever in this somewhat abstruse game, for she possesses her mother's spirit of inquiry and love of reasoning, and she passes entire evenings with Arthur, pursuing the most perplexing and intangible subjects. She and Arthur are admirably matched in this game; for if she is unparalleled in the quickness with which she will follow up a clue and triumphantly announce the mysterious object, after asking eighteen or nineteen questions, Arthur is no less adroit in selecting unusual subjects, and so artfully parrying her questions as to give her the least possible assistance. I often hear them call to each other—
"I have chosen a subject; you will never in the world guess it!"
Then follows an hour of questions and reasoning, with inferences drawn and rejected, and a display of sophistry that would do credit to a more fully fledged lawyer than Arthur is at present.
Yesterday, after dinner, they launched into one of their games, and Gabrielle guessed after eighteen questions what would have required forty, I am sure, from any one else—the eighty-eighth eye of a fly!
Another was even more puzzling. The object belonged, Arthur assured her, to the vegetable kingdom, the color was white, and he had often met it within a dozen yards of the railway station. "A daisy," was the first and natural solution, but she was, he assured her, very far adrift. "A telegraph post," she next announced, but she was again unsuccessful. At this point I left them; but after an hour had passed Gabrielle ran up to my room to tell me that she had guessed it—a polka dot upon one of her morning dresses!
The object chosen by Arthur at the picnic was the right horn of the moon. Gabrielle, this time, sat beside me and enjoyed the perplexity of the questioners, for not until we were about to step into the carriage to return home did they guess it.
A letter this morning from our pretty cousin Evangeline, announcing that she is engaged to a Dr. Ross of Chautauqua county, where she lives. Evangeline is the only daughter of mamma's youngest sister, Margaret. She is eighteen years old, of medium height, and well formed, with a fair complexion, the chestnut hair that is peculiar to the younger members of the Greeley family, and brown eyes inherited from her father's family, for the Greeley eye par excellence is blue. Although Evangeline has been brought up in the quiet little village of Clymer, she has been well educated, and besides being uncle's favorite among his nieces, she was much admired in general society during the winter that she spent with us in New York two years ago. At uncle's birthday party, which she attended, she was by many pronounced the handsomest young lady present.
We have never seen Dr. Ross, but mamma remembers his family well, and says that "he comes of a good stock." He is not wealthy, but he is in a good profession, is of unexceptionable character, and very devoted to our dear Evangeline; so they have my blessing. The marriage will not take place until December, when Evangeline will have laid off her mourning.
Marguerite's portfolio is open upon her writing-table, and a letter to Evangeline, not yet sealed, lies between the blotting-sheets. As it speaks of Evangeline's betrothal, I will insert it here:
"CHAPPAQUA, June 27.
"DEAREST EVANGELINE:—You complain in your last letter that I do not write enough about Chappaqua and 'the farm.' You wish particulars. My sweet cousin, I thought that you were familiar with descriptions of this dearest spot on earth, as I remember that dear uncle gave each of us a copy of his 'Recollections' the last Christmas that you were with us—the last Christmas indeed that he spent upon this earth. Peruse that volume, dear, for in it you will find a more vivid picture, a more poetic description of his dearly loved home and surroundings, than anything that I can say.
"As to Chappaqua being a large or small village—it is small, very small, not half so large as Clymer, where you live; but it is far more picturesque. There are only a dozen or two houses in all, including a couple of stores, a post-office, a 'wayside inn,' and a church without a bell. There are, however, many fine residences scattered over the township; whichever way we drive, we see elegant mansions nestling in a copse of wood, or crowning some hill-top.
"The valley through which we approach Chappaqua is faced on either side
by a succession of beautiful undulating hills that are thickly covered
with dark-green foliage. This farm, consisting of eighty-four acres
(for you know that there is another lying adjacent of nearly the same
size), presents very beautiful and varied scenery. Near the house in
the woods, where uncle and aunt lived so many years, a pretty brook
winds down by the lower barn, and goes singing away through the meadows
"'With steadfast daisies pure and white.'
But this is not all; this lovely, babbling brook fills a large pond, high up in the woods, then flows over a stone dam, and comes rushing down in a succession of waterfalls, stopping for breathing-space in one of the wildest story-telling glens I ever saw.
"And here, in the gloom of the forest-trees, where the birds love to congregate, and a thousand perfumes of clover and new-mown hay, and the aroma of the evergreen grove, come up, Ida and I spend many an hour, forgetful of city life, and heedless about ever returning to it.
"This year we are occupying the roadside house, which, although not so beautiful as the new one on the side-hill, nor so retired and romantic as the one in the woods still is lovely and has a very charming prospect. It stands on sloping ground that is skirted by forest and fruit trees. Some of them throw their grateful shade on the piazza and balcony that run the width of the front of the house. My room opens on the balcony by three French windows, and here I often walk to catch the last gleam of departing day, or linger after nightfall to see the far-away stars come out. The moonrise here is perfectly enchanting, climbing up as it does over the eastern hills, and throwing its pensive light over the silent meadows, and distant, dark woods.
"But I have filled my sheet before speaking of your engagement. As I have not seen your handsome doctor, you will not expect me to be enthusiastic. I hear that he is intelligent, clever in his profession, and of excellent character, but not rich. Well Evangeline, you know I approve of wealth, combined with other good qualifications; but if I had to choose between a man of mind and a man of money, I don't think I would hesitate long which to take; so you are sure of my approbation, and you have my best wishes for your future happiness.
"Your loving cousin,
A visit yesterday from our friend Mrs. Sarah L. Hopper, the clever contributor to several Southern journals. Among them the Washington Gazette, and the True Woman—the latter an anti-suffrage journal. Mrs. Hopper not only writes well; she is also a woman of varied and excellent reading, and the appreciation of the modern classics is displayed in one of her poems—an admirable apostrophe to the character and works of Dante. This poem, which was published some time since, Mrs. Hopper once recited to us, and both mamma and I were struck with the true ring of poesy so apparent in it.
Upon returning from church yesterday, we found the front door standing open, a couple of arm-chairs upon the piazza, and a newspaper or two in lieu of the occupants—proof unmistakable of a masculine invasion. Who it was we could not imagine; that it was not a neighbor we were convinced by seeing the morning Herald and Times, for the Sunday papers cannot be obtained here, save by being at the depot when the interminable way-train comes up from New York, and waylaying the newsboy who accompanies the cars; and for this our neighbors are rarely sufficiently enterprising. Unmistakably our visitors had come from the city.
Upon questioning Minna, she gave us a graphic description of the gentlemen. One was "tall, oh so tall! with dark hair and red cheeks"—in him we recognized Mr. Walworth Ward—the other was a blonde gentleman whom she had seen here before.
"Lina has already made wine padding," she said, seeing Ida about to descend and inspect the larder. "Miss no fret—all right."
Ida and I then started to walk to the grove, where we thought we would probably find our guests awaiting our return. Not there, indeed, but in the vegetable garden we found them, where they were kindly looking after the interests of the family by weeding the strawberry-beds, regardless of the Sabbath, and notwithstanding one of the gentlemen was a grandson of a D.D. In answer to our regrets that we should have been absent when they arrived, they mildly intimated some surprise, one having telegraphed his proposed coming, and the other sent a message through papa the day previous; dear papa, however, had as usual forgotten to deliver the message, and whither the telegram went, no one could imagine.
A visit yesterday from the little colored sculptress, Edmonia Lewis. Miss Lewis was accompanied by a box of formidable size, containing, she told us, a marble bust of Mr. Greeley, which she had brought out here for the opinion of the family; but as Ida was in the city where she had gone for a day's shopping, we reserved our judgment until she should return and see it with us.
I was very glad to learn that Miss Lewis was prospering in both a pecuniary and an artistic point of view. She had, she told me, received two orders for busts of uncle—one from the Lincoln Club, and one from a Chicago gentleman. She intends returning to Rome before long.
Miss Lewis had already opened a studio while we were in Rome four or five years ago, and I heard much talk about her from her brother and sister artists. I intended at one time to visit her studio and see her work, but several sculptors advised me not to do so; she was, they declared, "queer," "unsociable," often positively rude to her visitors, and had been heard to fervently wish that the Americans would not come to her studio, as they evidently looked upon her only as a curiosity. When, therefore, I did see her for the first time (last summer), I was much surprised to find her by no means the morose being that had been described to me, but possessed of very soft and quite winning manners. She was amused when I told her what I had heard of her, and remarked, quite pertinently:
"How could I expect to sell my work if I did not receive visitors civilly?"
Miss Lewis expressed much gratitude to Miss Hosmer and Miss Stebbins for their kindness to her in Rome, and of Miss Cushman she said enthusiastically, "She is an angel!"
She is, I have been told, very well received in society abroad, and when baptized a Catholic in Rome, two ladies of high position, Countess Cholmondeley and Princess Wittgenstein, offered to stand godmother for her. Edmonia chose Lady Cholmondeley, whom I remember well in Rome as a great belle and a highly accomplished woman. She wrote poetry, I was told, and modelled in clay with much taste, and her finely trained voice and dainty playing of the harp I well remember as one of the attractions of Miss Cushman's receptions.
Edmonia has, beside her somewhat hard English appellation, two pretty baptismal names—Maria Ignatia.
Cataloguing the Library—A Thousand Volumes—Contrasting Books—Some Rare Volumes—Mr. Greeley's Collection of Paintings—Authenticity of the Cenci Questioned—A Portrait of Galileo—Portrait of Martin Luther—Portrait of Greeley at Thirty—Powers' Proserpine—Hart's Bust of Mr. Greeley—Mosaics and Medallions.
This morning we have had a family picnic at the side-hill house, where the amusement was, however, neither "Twenty Questions," gossip, nor croquet; but arranging and cataloguing uncle's large library. The books had hitherto been kept in the house in the woods, with the exception of those in daily use, filling three good-sized bookcases in our present residence; but as the house in the woods had been twice broken into last winter, Ida thought it safer to move them all down this summer to the side-hill house, where Bernard sleeps. Accordingly, a wagon-load or two was brought down the other day and deposited in the dining-room, and this morning, as we had no guests, and no very pressing occupations, we all, including Minna, went up there directly after breakfast to look them over.
"I am resolved," Ida had said, "to have the books catalogued, that I may know in future how many I yearly lose by lending them to my friends." Consequently the work was doubled by the necessity of writing down the names, and we had unluckily chosen the hottest day that we had so far experienced for this laborious task. We all went to work, however, with as much energy as though the temperature was at a reasonable degree, and I felt quite proud of my achievements when the work was done, having catalogued, myself, over three hundred volumes.
Our work was divided: mamma read off the names of the books, and Marguerite and I wrote them down, and Minna then dusted and carried them into the next room to Ida, who placed them upon the shelves, dividing the library into compartments for poetry, biography, science, fiction, etc. An endless task it seemed at first to sort the books, for more than one thousand volumes of all sizes and in every variety of binding from cloth to calf, had been thrown promiscuously on the floor, and the hottest antagonists in the political and religious world were now lying side by side in the apparent enjoyment of peace and good-will. "Slavery Doomed" and "Slavery Justified" composed one externally harmonious group, while "Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World," "How I became a Unitarian," and Strauss' "Life of Jesus," lay beside their rigidly orthodox neighbors, the "Following of Christ," by Thomas à Kempis, Cardinal Wiseman's "Doctrines of the Church," and a Jesuit Father's idea of the Happiness of Heaven.
Uncle's fondness for his country home was manifested by thirty or more large volumes upon Agriculture, and several others upon Rural Architecture, while his literary and aesthetic taste was displayed by a superb edition of Macaulay, in eight octavo volumes, combining the whitest of paper and the largest and clearest type, with richest binding; Lord Derby's translation of the Iliad, Mackay's "Thousand and One Gems," a large and elegant volume of Byron's complete works, and Bryant's "Library of Poetry and Song"—the two latter beautifully bound and illustrated. Xenophon, Herodotus, Josephus, and Caesar lay off at an aristocratic distance from their neighbors, and looked down with scorn upon anything so modern as Noel's "Rebellion," or Draper's "Civil War in America;" while memories of the buried "Brook Farm" arose from the past as mamma took up a volume or two upon Co-operative Associations.
Uncle's strict temperance principles were illustrated by half a dozen volumes upon the "Effects of Alcohol," including "Scriptural Testimony against Wine;" and a work or two upon the Tariff Question recalled many a Tribune editorial penned by the dear, dead hand.
A large dark pile of some twenty volumes loomed up from a distant corner—Appleton's useful Cyclopaedia—and beside them lay an enormous Webster's Dictionary, handsomely put up in a chocolate-colored library binding.
Many elegantly bound volumes were presentation copies from their authors—among them a magnificent album of languages, beautifully illuminated, and bound in scarlet morocco, containing the Lord's Prayer in one hundred different tongues. This book sold, Ida said, for one hundred dollars a copy.
In striking contrast with this gorgeous volume were two little yellow-leaved, shabbily bound books, valued, however, at one hundred dollars each, and treasures which no money could have bought from uncle—one a copy of Erasmus, dated Basle, 1528, and the other "The tvvoo Bookes of Francis Bacon on the Proficience and Aduancement of Learning, diuine and humane," printed, the fly-leaf states, at London, in 1605.
I have not yet, I believe, spoken of more than one or two of the pictures that uncle bought while in Europe the first time. He then spent ten thousand dollars on paintings, a piece or two of sculpture, and a few little curiosities of art in the way of mosaics and antiquities from different ruins of Italy, which, for a man who was by no means a Stewart or an Astor, showed great liberality. Uncle could not afford, like ostentatious millionnaires, to dazzle the public with paintings bought by the yard; but for a man of his means he displayed, I think, a true love for art and a strong desire to encourage it. His purchases, too, were very different from the second-rate pictures so often purchased abroad by uncultivated eyes, for instead of depending merely upon his own judgment, he asked the assistance of the sculptor Story in choosing his souvenirs; and his collection, though small, is admirable, containing two or three bonâ-fide old masters, purchased at the sales of private galleries in Florence and Rome.
The pictures, like the books, have been kept hitherto in the house in the woods, but this spring Ida moved them all to the roadside house that we might constantly enjoy them, and the parlor now presents quite the appearance of a museum. It is over the music-room, and its long French windows open upon a balcony, from which we daily admire our tender, Italian-like sunsets. To the right it is overhung by the branches of our favorite apple-tree, from whose clusters of tiny fruit we each chose an apple some days since. Gabrielle then marked them with the owner's initial cut out of paper, the form of which we will find in the autumn indelibly impressed in the apple's rosy cheek.
But to return to our museum. Upon ascending the stairs one's eyes first rest upon the "very saddest face ever painted or conceived," as Hawthorne describes the beautiful Cenci. While in Rome I resided upon the Piazza Barberini, opposite the palace containing this exquisite painting, and I visited it with a devotion almost equalling Hilda's. Much excitement prevailed that winter in art circles concerning the authenticity of this picture, and hot discussions took place wherever the believers and unbelievers chanced to meet. No possible proof existed, one party would declare, that Guido had ever painted Beatrice Cenci; and no one had thought of it as other than a fancy head until Shelley had aroused the interest of the public in the half-forgotten tragedy of poor Beatrice's sad life by the sombre drama, "The Cenci." From that time, they say, caprice has christened this picture Beatrice Cenci, and Hawthorne has added much to its interest by the prominence he gives it in the "Marble Faun." They, however, are unable to find the traces of sorrow, the "tear-stained cheeks" and "eyes that have wept till they can weep no more," so eloquently described by all writers and art-critics of the present day; and so far I agree with them—the face does not impress me with such depths of woe.
Their opponents, however, hold the time-honored tradition that Guido painted Beatrice in her cell upon the morning of her execution, or as she stood upon the scaffold—for there are two versions of the story—and that the gown and turban which she wears were made by her own hands on the night preceding the fatal day. But no words of mine can give a fair idea of this celebrated painting: I will transcribe Hawthorne's description of it.
"The picture represented simply a female head; a very youthful, girlish, perfectly beautiful face, enveloped in white drapery, from beneath which strayed a lock or two of what seemed a rich though hidden luxuriance of auburn hair. The eyes were large and brown, and met those of the spectator, but evidently with a strange, ineffectual effort to escape. There was a little redness about the eyes, very slightly indicated, so that you would question whether or no the girl had been weeping. The whole face was quiet; there was no distortion or disturbance of any single feature, nor was it easy to see why the expression was not cheerful, or why a single touch of the artist's pencil should not brighten it into joyousness. But in fact it was the very saddest picture ever painted or conceived; it involved an unfathomable depth of sorrow, the sense of which came to the observer by a sort of intuition. It was a sorrow that removed this beautiful girl out of the sphere of humanity, and set her in a far-off region, the remoteness of which—while yet her face is so close before us—makes us shiver as at a spectre."
Next to the Cenci a St. Francis hangs, his hands devoutly folded and his head bowed in pious meditation upon the sufferings of his Redeemer, whose figure bound upon the Cross lies before him. The skull at his feet and the dreary landscape surrounding him indicate his hermit-life of isolation and penance. The Saint is dressed in the coarse brown habit of a mendicant friar, and his face is luminous with that gentleness that distinguished his character after his conversion; for it is recorded of him that he would step aside rather than harm the smallest insect.
Above St. Francis is one of the most precious gems, historically and intrinsically considered, of the collection. The picture is small—only cabinet size; but it is none the less valuable on that account, when we reflect that it dates from the sixteenth or early in the seventeenth century. It is a portrait of Galileo painted from life by Andrea Bartone, and was bought at a sale of the Santi Gallery. Only the head and bust are represented—the latter clothed in a dark-brown open vest, with a scarlet mantle thrown over the shoulders; but the face is one that would not easily be forgotten—a rugged, powerful face, with great, earnest eyes, scant hair well sprinkled with gray, and deep furrows lining the dark brow.
Over the doorway, opening into the room that was formerly Aunt Mary's, is an antique marble medallion of Juno, the haughty Mother of the gods; this was dug up near Tusculum.
Next comes an exquisite Madonna and Child by Carlo Dolce (a copy). The mother's face is youthful and radiant with divine beauty: the Infant Jesus stands upon her knee, and extends a plump little hand in benediction.
Next, a portrait of uncle painted in 1839—two years earlier than the one that hangs in the dining-room. This picture, mamma says, was an excellent likeness of him when he was twenty-eight years old; and the biographers who are so prone to describe him in his younger days as having been "uncouth" and "awkward," would be, I think, much startled if they could see it. His coat is black, with a black tie, like other gentlemen, and his air, instead of being "rustic" or "gawky," is expressive of gentle dignity, while his face, so often described as plain, is to me beautiful enough to have represented a young saint.
Next these pictures is another medallion—the "Mother of the Gracchi," and under them a small table upon which stand several marble curiosities: a model of the tomb of Scipio, Minerva issuing from the head of Jupiter, and two busts of Roman soldiers in the time of Titus—antiques, and quite yellow and valuable.
In the centre of the parlor is a round table bought in Rome, and made of variegated marble taken from the ruins of the palace of the Caesars.
In a corner, upon a handsome pedestal, stands Powers' bust of Proserpine, of which uncle was especially proud. He speaks of it in his "Glances at Europe," in these words:
"I defy Antiquity to surpass—I doubt its ability to rival—Powers' Proserpine and his Psyche with any models of the female head that have come down to us; and while I do not see how they could be excelled in their own sphere, I feel that Powers, unlike Alexander, has still realms to conquer, and will fulfil his destiny."
A very prominent picture, and one that was a great favorite with uncle, is an original portrait of Luther, by Lucas Cranach, one of the great lights of the Flemish school of painting. I have seen in the Dresden Gallery the counterpart to this picture, painted by the same artist, but representing Luther after death. I much prefer the animated expression of the living picture, for it is hard to think of the fiery reformer as dead, even at this late day.
Over the sofa is a large Holy Family, a painting in the school of Raphael, and underneath it hangs one of our most valuable pictures—a veritable Guercino, painted in 1648. The subject is St. Mary Magdalen.
I wish that I had time to write in detail of all the beautiful things in the parlor—a card-table made like the centre-table of classic marble from the ruins of Rome, an exquisite moonlight view of a Benedictine Convent upon the Bay of Naples, with a young girl kneeling before the shrine of the Madonna; a Venetian scene—the Doge's palace with its graceful, Moorish architecture; St. Peter and St. Paul; the Cumaean Sybil, a beautiful female figure whose partly veiled face seemed full of mystery; St. Agatha, and an Ecce Homo. There are still some more marble medallions that I have not mentioned; several valuable antiques, portraits of Alexander the Great and Tacitus, and a bas-relief representing the flight of Aeneas—the former found near the Appian Way—and two others that are comparatively modern—likenesses of Pope Clement XI., and Vittoria Colonna, the gifted Italian poetess of the fifteenth century.
But I have not yet spoken of the pearl of our museum. This piece of sculpture was not one of uncle's Italian purchases, nor does it date back for centuries, but it is priceless to us, especially as it is, we believe, the only copy now existing. I allude to the bust made of uncle in 1846 by Hart, the Kentucky sculptor. This bust was the first work of importance that Mr. Hart had ever executed, for he was then in the first flush of manhood, and the early vigor of that genius that has since wrought out so many beautiful creations. Then, however, he had not modelled his fine statue of Henry Clay, ordered by the ladies of Virginia, nor had he even dreamed of his lovely "Triumph of Woman" that when finished will send his name down to posterity, as our greatest creative American sculptor.
Mamma was living with uncle when Mr. Hart arrived in New York with a commission from Cassius M. Clay to make this bust, and she has often told me all the circumstances of the sittings. Uncle was then, as ever, extremely busy, and it was very difficult for him to give Mr. Hart an occasional half hour for a sitting. As ordinary means failed, Mr. Hart brought his clay and instruments to The Tribune office, and there he worked whilst uncle rested from his daily editorial labors; but even while "resting," his lap was full of newspapers, and he could not afford the time to "pose," for his eyes were rapidly scanning their columns.
"I never," said mamma, "knew an artist to make such a study of another's face as Mr. Hart did of brother's. He was not content with a mere sitting from him now and then; he visited him at the house; he watched his face in company, and attended every occasion when he spoke in public, that he might model him, he said, in his best mood. Consequently the bust was the most perfect likeness that had ever been made of brother, and as his face was then delicate and his features so classic in their cut, it was, I thought, the most beautiful piece of sculpture that I had ever seen. It was quite a revelation to dear brother, who in his modesty had never had an idea of his own beauty."
Ten plaster busts were struck off for the family and a few intimate friends, but as none of them were ever put into marble, they have all, I believe, with the exception of this one, been destroyed. Mamma's copy was overthrown by Marguerite's little hands when a child; another belonging to one of our cousins was broken by her little son; and although Cassius Clay's copy was buried, Mr. Hart told me, during the war to save it from the hands of the soldiers, he had no reason to suppose that it finally had escaped the fate of the others. Aunt Mary, however, in her anxiety to preserve her copy, at once enveloped it in linen, and packed it in a box. Consequently it is now as perfect as the day it left the studio; but mamma had never seen it from that time until this spring, when Ida exhumed it from the store-room.
Mr. Hart and uncle were always warm friends, although Mr. Hart left for Europe soon after completing this bust, where he has since remained, with the exception of a flying visit to America about twelve years ago. Uncle speaks of visiting his studio in 1851, in these words ("Glances at Europe," page 217):
"I saw something of three younger sculptors now studying and working at Florence—Hart of Kentucky, Galt of Virginia, and Rogers of New York. I believe all are preparing to do credit to their country. Hart has been hindered by a loss of the models at sea from proceeding with the statue of Henry Clay, which he is commissioned by the ladies of Virginia to fashion and construct; but he is wisely devoting much of his time to careful study, and to the modelling of the ideal, before proceeding to commit himself irrevocably by the great work which must fix his position among sculptors, and make or mar his destiny. I have great confidence that what he has already carefully and excellently done is but a foretaste of what he is yet to achieve."
The Fourth of July—A Quaker Celebration—The House in the Woods—Mrs. Greeley's Life there—Pickie—Mary Inez—Raffie—Childhood of Ida and Gabrielle—Heroism of Mrs. Greeley—The Riots of 1863—Mrs. Greeley defends her House against the Mob.
Yesterday was the pleasantest Fourth I ever experienced in America. Last year at this time I was upon the Catskill Mountains, and was aroused at an unearthly hour by the discharge of a cannon, whose reverberation was something appalling, and made me doubt if I was not shot. The hotel was graced with the presence of some thirty or forty children, whose fond parents had invested largely in fire-crackers and toy cannon for them, and no place upon the grounds, it seemed, was so favorable for the ebullition of youthful patriotism as the spot directly under my window. Consequently, as I was already weak from the effect of a prolonged attack of nervous fever, I was before nightfall in a state akin to distraction, and filled with anything but patriotic sentiments. I could not then but think with regret of a previous Fourth spent upon the steamship St. Laurent, where fire-crackers were tabooed, and the celebration consisted entirely of a magnificent dinner, and speeches—during the latter I made my escape to the deck.
This year was pleasanter still. I do not know if the Chappaqua people are less patriotic than other citizens of the Union, but our nerves were only disturbed by the occasional popping of a fire-cracker in the garden of our neighbor, the train-master over the way; and when we strayed off to the Glen after dinner, we were as free from disturbing noise as though our country had not been born ninety-seven years ago. But although noisy demonstrations do not seem the fashion here (perhaps owing to the predominance of Quakers in the neighborhood), the dormant enthusiasm of the people for the Fourth was aroused at sundown, when a mass meeting was held at the tavern, or "Chappaqua Hotel" as it is grandly styled, and lengthy and energetic speeches were delivered. From our piazza we could hear the orators' voices ascending to a very high key as they warmed with their topic, and quite congratulated ourselves that we were not obliged to be of the audience.
After dark there was a small display of Roman candles and sky-rockets; and so ended the glorious Fourth.
I have again dreamed away an entire morning upon the piazza of the
house in the woods—to me the stillest, sweetest spot in the world. I
have described this dear old house and its romantic surroundings again
and again since I have been here this summer. I can scarcely turn over
half a dozen leaves of my journal without finding some allusion to it;
but it is a subject possessing such fascination for me that I must
again revert to it. I like to pass a quiet hour upon the steps of the
piazza, or upon the large moss-grown boulder in front of the house
where Ida, Raphael, and Gabrielle have all played; and while my fingers
are busily employed with some fanciful design wrought with gold thread
or emerald-green silk,
"My thoughts wander on at their own sweet will,";
oftenest returning, however, to Aunt Mary's life here in the woods with her little children. A lonely, comfortless life many women would have deemed it, so entirely shut in as she was from the outer world; and to any one less self-reliant and self-sustained than Aunt Mary it would have been so. For that there were discomforts in her country life I do not doubt, although they were much lessened by uncle's easy circumstances; and the house itself was finished off with all the city improvements and conveniences practicable to introduce into a building of its size and situation. Still, the house was distant from good markets, and the trees encircled it so closely that the sun's rays did not penetrate the rooms until ten o'clock; but Aunt Mary loved her trees as though they were human, and at that time would not allow one to be cut down, notwithstanding the dampness that they created. An idle woman would have regretted the distance at which the house stood from the public road, as no distraction ensued from looking out of the windows; and a timid or nervous one would have dreaded the long nights in that solitary house when uncle was in the city or absent upon lecturing tours, and no neighbor was within calling distance in case of danger.
Occasionally, too, Aunt Mary would be left without servants, for all American ladies know how difficult it is to retain them in the country, especially in so small and lonely a place as Chappaqua was then, and although she frequently had some friend making her long visits of months, still there were days when she would be alone with only the sad memory of her buried darlings, her splendid Pickie, the pride and hope of both parents, and sweet little Mary Inez, and her two living children, too young to be very companionable.
Raphael, mamma says, was a beautiful boy, although not perhaps so noticeable as Pickie, for he had not his brilliant color, and his hair, too, was not so dazzling in shade, but very much like his father's. His features, however, were quite as finely cut as those of his much admired brother, and his temperament was gentle and loving. Ida cherishes very tender memories of him, for he was the only brother whom she knew, and her constant playfellow before Gabrielle's birth. There were seven years difference in the ages of the brothers. Pickie died at five, of cholera; and Raffie at seven years old, of croup.
But although Aunt Mary had such sad memories in the past, she had two beautiful children left to her, and for them she lived this life of seclusion at Chappaqua, remaining here six months of every year that they might acquire a fine physical development from walking, driving, and riding in the pure country air. Ida has often told me of the wild games of play she used to have when a child with Osceola, a little Indian boy, and dwelt especially upon her prowess in racing down hill in emulation of him. The parents of this boy then occupied the roadside house, which did not at that time belong to uncle.
Gabrielle's stories are different. She loved to ride the unbroken colts, and tend her menagerie in the play-house. She has, too, much to tell about the way her mother used to train her to be as fearless in case of fire or thieves as she was when seated upon a bare-backed horse, and often she has made me smile, though fully recognizing the wisdom of Aunt Mary's lessons, when telling me how she was obliged to rehearse imaginary escapes from fire or midnight attacks.
Besides a devoted love for her children, a passion for the beautiful in Nature, and fondness for solitude and books, or the companionship of some one person of congenial tastes and highly cultured mind, Aunt Mary possessed a fund of moral strength and heroism that one might indeed read in the flash of her black eyes, but which a casual observer would think incompatible with her frail figure. It was, however, many times severely tested during uncle's absence when she had no male protector to whom to look for assistance: but then she proved all-sufficient in herself. At one time a number of workmen were employed upon the place—rough, sullen creatures—who used to come to her to receive their pay; and knowing her, a delicate, sickly woman, to be there alone, they would often clamor for more wages than they were entitled to receive, but never could they frighten her into granting it, for though generous and charitable, nothing was more repugnant to her feelings than an attempt to take an unfair advantage of her.
Upon one occasion, a man with whom she had had some business transactions came to claim a payment that was not due him. Aunt Mary explained to him that he was not entitled to it, and refused to see him again. He returned another day, and she would not allow the door to be opened. He then remained outside pulling the bell and thumping for admittance. Aunt Mary spoke to him from the balcony above, and requested him to leave. He vowed he would not stir without his money, and tried to coerce her by the most frightful threats and oaths. "When his imprecations were at their highest, Aunt Mary descended, and throwing open the door, told him to come in; then turning to Gabrielle, who stood beside her, said:
"Go upstairs and fetch my pistol off from the bureau."
Upon hearing these words the man left very quickly, and never returned again to annoy her. In relating this incident to me, Gabrielle said:
"Of course I knew perfectly well that I would find no pistol upon the bureau, but I had been too well trained by mamma to show the slightest surprise, and promptly went upstairs in quest of imaginary firearms."
But this exhibition of cool courage paled in contrast with the true heroism of Aunt Mary displayed at the time of the terrible anti-draft riots in July, 1863. Living in the retirement of the woods, she was not in the habit of going down to the village or associating with the neighbors; consequently, she was rarely informed upon the local news. She wondered that no letters or papers had arrived for a day or two, but merely supposing that some accident upon the road had delayed the mails, she went about her ordinary occupations, perfectly unconscious of the peril she was in. Finally, Mr. Quinby, a Quaker neighbor, came to the house by a long circuit, and informed her that a mob of about three hundred men, who had collected from Sing Sing and other parts of the country, were drinking at the tavern, and threatening to sack "Greeley's house," and hang the family to the nearest trees. It was at the risk of his life that Mr. Quinby had come to warn Aunt Mary, and he implored her to escape as quickly as possible, and offered to conceal her and the children in his house.
Aunt Mary did not shriek or fall down in a fainting fit upon learning that hundreds of desperate men were threatening her life. Although she had been very ill and was still weak, perfectly cool and collected, she considered what was best to be done. Her husband was in New York, and of the dozen or so Irish laborers employed upon the place, two or three had already been seen drinking amicably with the rioters, and the others, as well as the Irish servant, she feared to trust Clark, the overseer, a very competent Englishman, was an excellent shot; but what could one man do against three hundred? As for saving herself by deserting her house, Aunt Mary scorned to do it; but immediately devised a plan that reminds one of the heroism of a Dame Châtelaine of the Middle Ages.
First of all, the valuables were to be moved, but without exciting the suspicions of the servant or workmen, as they might inform the rioters. The men were accordingly sent off to a distant part of the farm to work, and the maid kept busy, while twelve trunks were lowered into a wagon standing at the back of the house. Mr. Quinby immediately covered them with hay, and drove to his own house, where he stored them until the trouble should be over, and then sent his son back to help the family.
To Gabrielle's surprise, her mother and Ida now appeared in very voluminous and housewifely looking aprons, and were constantly going up and down stairs. At last an untimely draught blew Aunt Mary's apron aside, and Gabrielle, who had not been informed of the danger, caught a glimpse of the picture of the Archangel Gabriel. All of the pictures and pieces of sculpture were then removed to a little hut in the orchard near the stables, built in the side of a hillock, half under ground, and quite overgrown by vines; and when both pictures and the precious books were safely out of the house Aunt Mary felt that she could breathe. By that time Clark had returned from Sing Sing, where he had purchased a large amount of gunpowder by Aunt Mary's direction. This he arranged in a train from the house to a distant point, and the preparations were then completed. When the rioters should come Aunt Mary was to speak to them from the balcony and warn them to go away, and in the meantime Mr. Quinby and Clark were to take the children out of the house by the back window, which was but a step to the top of a low woodshed, from which they could easily get to the ground. Then, while the rioters were storming the barricaded doors, Aunt Mary was to make her escape, and when she and the children were at a safe distance a match was to be applied to the gunpowder, blowing up alike house and rioters.
Mr. Quinby, being a Quaker, had looked on reluctantly while the mine was being laid, and when he had done all he could to help Aunt Mary, he returned to the tavern to see the state of affairs there. He found the mob still drinking, and uttering horrible threats against the family. His conscience then obliged him to give the wretches a hint of the doom that awaited them, ending with these words:
"Heed my warning, my brethren; Horace Greeley is a peace man, but Mary Greeley will fight to the last!"
After dark, the rioters came to the gates and howled, and uttered threats, but dared not approach very close to the fortress armed by a sick woman and two children; and when weary of exercising their lungs went peacefully away. Meantime, Aunt Mary, being fatigued by the exertions of the day, laid down, Ida said, when everything was in readiness to meet the rioters, and slept peacefully till morning.
Pen Portraits—Lela—Majoli—Guerrabella and Celina—Their Characteristics.
While looking over a box of old letters and newspapers this morning I came across a little sketch descriptive of our quartette, written last winter for a New York journal. This sketch, or "Pen Portraits," as it was styled, veils our identity under fictitious names, the initials only being preserved, and although it passes over our imperfections and very much exaggerates our accomplishments, still it contains, I think, so much that is characteristic that I will preserve it by copying it into my journal. The writer commenced with a description of mamma's room in Cottage Place, and dwelt particularly upon a picture of uncle hanging over the mantelpiece, but that portion of the sketch has been torn off and lost.
…… "But let us regard the living pictures. You see that youthful group! A group to inspire a poet or painter! They are four—they are cousins. Two are orphans; you see a resemblance to the face in the frame wreathed in immortelles. We will first observe those two that sit with arms entwined, smiling up into each other's eyes. It is the gentle Lela and her cousin Majoli, belle Majoli we may call her. These cousins are nigh the same age, and their hearts beat in sweet accord. And there is a certain likeness, spiritual more than physical—for Majoli is taller and slighter, and fairer, too, if we reckon by the hue of the hair and color of the eyes.
"Lela has soft, soliciting, brown eyes; Majoli is azure-eyed, laughing or languid according to her varying mood. Lela's face is pale as moonbeams; filial solicitude and divine sorrow have left their chastening impression upon her exquisite lineaments. Her countenance is Madonna-like in purity, ingenuousness, and self-abnegation.
"Majoli's delicate features are untouched by pain or care, and though her spiritual countenance is often tinged with melancholy, no harsh experience has traced those pensive lines. 'Tis but the soul's limning—a musical nature is hers, emotional and imaginative.
"Lela's head is large, though not unfeminine, and the magnificent wealth of tawny-colored hair reminds one of Guercino's Holy Magdalen. She has pretty, modest ways of looking down under those pale, drooping lids with her calm, confiding eyes, and if the mouth is somewhat large, the teeth are white and even, and the lips are coral-tinted. The nose is straight and slender, and suggests the chisel of Phidias, and from the expansive brow we infer a broad culture and comprehensive understanding. It is the seat of Philosophy, as well as the throne of the Muses.
"Majoli's head is smaller than Lela's, but its pose is aristocratic and graceful. The blonde hair is artistically coiffed, and though the features are not strikingly regular, there is sympathy and great sweetness in the face, and art and refinement are expressed even by the slim, pale hands. An airy, lithesome figure she has, and the beat of her footfall is cadenced to the measure of joyous music. Frail she seems compared with Lela's well-rounded figure, but if she has not equal strength, she has elasticity; and if more energy and power is indicated by the physiognomy of Lela, Majoli has ambition and judgment to compensate.
"We have compared Lela's face to the rich portraiture of Guercino; Majoli's suggests the pencil of that famous old Spanish master, Ribera, whose pictures of women were always a blending of the elegance of a court lady with the simplicity and naïveté of a church devotee. Half belle, half religieuse we may style her.
"And on what have these dainty minds been nurtured, and who have been their intellectual mentors? Lela has been bred within a cloister's walls, and foreign travel has polished both mind and manners.
"In no school has Majoli's mind been formed, nor is she greatly indebted to learned professors for her mental attainments. A mother's love has quickened the budding intellect, a mother's intelligence has trained and directed the unfolding powers. The grace of foreign speech is on her tongue, and scenes and pictures of distant lands are enshrined in her memory. Ancient lore has for her a peculiar charm; history is her delight; Plutarch, Josephus, Gibbon, Macaulay, she has conned well. Poesy she loves much. The poetry of the Bible, Dante, Schiller, Herbert, Browning, are her favorites. In sacred books she finds sweet enjoyment. The Fathers of the Church afford her great pleasure; St. Augustine, St. Basil, Thomas à Kempis, etc. She has the grace of devotion, but her love of the Church is affected more by its aesthetical qualities than its theological dogmas.
"Lela is a passionate book-lover. There are few modern writers that have not furnished entertainment to her accomplished mind, and she is not unacquainted with the best Latin and Greek authors. English, German, and French literature are alike open to her. Biography, essays, dramas, poetry, with more serious reading, occupy her time. Virgil and Horace, Bacon, Shakespeare, Racine, Victor Hugo, Heine and George Eliot may be mentioned as among her preferences.
"But while we are attempting to portray some noticeable characteristics in Lela and Majoli, how are Celina and Guerrabella occupied? You see Guerrabella has a pencil in her hand. She is sketching a head; if we look closely, we shall probably recognize our own, grotesquely drawn, for there is no denying that our young genius is fond of caricaturing her friends. Celina sits by a table; her large, open eyes have a distant, dreamy expression. Her pen moves rapidly across the page; she is writing a Musical Recollection, we may presume.
"Guerrabella is the youngest of the group. She is tall, picturesque, imposing. Her face is radiant with blushes, dimples, and smiles. She looks so fresh and beautiful that she might have set for Greuze's picture of 'Sweet Sixteen.' A sense of thorough enjoyment flashes from the bright, blue-gray eyes, and is indicated by the rose-bloom on cheek and lips. There is an air of strength and courage perceptible, and a certain dash in her manner that associates her with Scott's favorite heroine, Di Vernon. She has great mimic powers, and might adorn the histrionic stage. Towards art and literature she seems equally attracted, and what she will eventually decide to follow we cannot now predict. She will fail in nothing for want of talent.
"Celina's height scarce reaches to Guerrabella's shoulder; her figure is fragile and dainty; and though her cheek lacks bloom, the lines are soft and graceful, and the face pensive and poetic. The mouth is small and well curved, and the air of repose that rests upon the imaginative brow resembles the Muse of Meditation. The serenity that is uniformly spread over her unique countenance is in strong contrast to the animated, vivacious features of her cousin. Celina's head is fashioned after a classic model, and the mass of amber-hued hair which crowns it might be taken for an aureola. Her pansy-like eyes are full of sweet, poetic vision. The brow is marked by delicately defined eyebrows, and the eyelashes are long and silken. 'Tis a melodic countenance, foreshadowing that dream-world from which our young heroine has never for a moment awakened. Too petite, some might deem her, for womanly perfection; but physical symmetry, ease, and a dignified bearing elevate the fairy figure to the true standard. She moves about with an airy grace, and nothing earthly is lighter than her footfall. Her small, delicate hands grace the keyboard, and music in her has an enchanting interpreter.
"Guerrabella participates in the family passion for literature. She possesses great intellectual independence, and her preferences are decided, usually inclining to the bold and strong. She is fond of Macaulay's 'Heroic Lays of Many Lands;' she rejoices in Becky Sharp; and there is a tradition that she learned to read in the works of Thackeray, spelling out the words of that magnificent novel, Henry Esmond.
"Celina has explored the treasures of classic lore in music and literature. Homer, Herodotus, Plato, she has read, with Tasso and his chivalrous lays, and Spenser and his stately verse. In music, Glück and Grétry, Beethoven and Boieldieu's dulcet tones have helped to fashion her musical mind.
"But we must not dismiss our heroines without indicating the toilettes that most become them. Velvets and rich brocade befit the Lady Lela's superb figure. Scarlet is her color, and diamonds her essential ornament. The moss-rose should be her favorite flower.
"Soft gray or pale azure of light fabrics do best agree with Majoli's sylph-like form. Pearls and feathers are consonant to her artistic taste. Her emblematic flower is the lily, of sacred and legendary lore.
"All shades and fabrics of whatever texture harmonize with Guerrabella's style. Ample should be the folds that habit her majestic figure, and brilliant the gems that are to rival her flashing, sparkling eyes: yet we might indicate couleur de rose as best blending with her own exquisite tints, and the opal with its mysterious light as in some way prefiguring her genius and high destiny.
"And how shall we vest our mignonne—Celina? Gossamer tissues, fabrics of airy texture—a magic web for the daintiest Lady in our Land. No color of human invention; their dyes would oppress her. White with a gleam of moonlight upon it; a reflection of the aura of her hair, or the first pale beams of the morning. Other gems would I not but those wondrous starlike eyes, to light up a face radiant with thought and sensibility."
 For Lilian, Ida's second name.
Biography of Mr. Greeley—Gabrielle's Questions—Mrs. Cleveland's Corrections—The Boy Horace not Gawky, Clownish, or a Tow-head—His Parents not in Abject Want—Mr. Greeley's Letter about his Former Playmates—Young Horace and his Girl Friends—He Corrects their Grammar and Lectures them upon Hygiene—He disapproves of Corsets.
"Auntie, is it possible," said Gabrielle, indignantly running into mamma's room with an open volume in her hand, "that papa was as homely and awkward when a boy and young man as this writer describes him? 'Tow-head,' 'gawky,' 'plain,' and 'clownish,' are some of the most uncomplimentary epithets applied to him. He is described as having 'white hair with a tinge of orange at the ends,' and as 'eating as if for a wager;' while grandpapa, the writer says, was so poor that papa had to walk barefooted over the thistles, without a jacket, and in trousers cut with an utter disregard of elegance or fit, and it was remarked that they were always short in the legs, while one was invariably shorter than the other. Was it possible that grandpapa could not afford an inch more of cloth to make poor papa's trousers of equal length, and was it true that papa never had but two shirts at a time until he came to New York, and that he never had any gloves? When he was an apprentice in Portland every one used to pity him, Mr. ——— says, as he walked shivering to the Spectator office on cold winter days, thinly clad, and with his gloveless hands thrust into his pockets to protect them from being frost-bitten!"
"My child, you overwhelm me with your questions," said mamma. "Let me take them singly, and I will do my best to refute this writer's unpleasant statements.
"First as to personal appearance. You say he styles your papa 'plain' as a boy. That is absurd, for his features, like mother's, were as perfect as a piece of Grecian sculpture. 'Tow-head' is also a mis-statement. Brother's hair never was at any time tow-color, and the tinge of orange at the ends existed only in the author's imagination. Tow-color, you know, is a sort of dirty white or gray; whereas brother's hair, until he was thirty years old, was like Raffie's, pure white. After that time, it commenced to change to a pale gold-color, which never, however, deepened into orange. What was your next question, my dear?"
"About papa's wardrobe," said Gabrielle, her cheeks still flushed with excitement; "were you indeed so miserably poor, auntie?"
"We were certainly very poor after father failed," said mamma firmly, "but we were by no means reduced to abjectness. I can never remember the time, in our poorest days, when the boys had not, besides their brown linen work-day shirts, cotton shirts for Sunday, and father his 'fine shirt' to wear to church and for visiting. Your papa was dressed suitably for our station in life—neither better nor worse than the sons of neighbors in our circumstances. As for going barefoot, all country boys at that time did so during the summer months; your papa was not an exception.
"You speak of his gloveless hands. I never saw a pair of kid gloves worn by farmers while we lived in Vermont or Pennsylvania; and certainly they would have been very inappropriate for a boy-farmer or a printer's apprentice to wear; but brother was always, both at home and at Poultney, supplied with warm woollen mittens of mother's knitting. As for the cut of his trousers, I am surprised that any sensible author should use so unfit a word as 'elegance' in speaking of a poor farmer's clothing. I told you the other day that our wardrobe for every-day wear was spun, woven, and made by mother, and it is not to be expected that home-made coats and trousers should have the cut of a fashionable New York tailor; but they were, at all events, warm and comfortable. That brother's trousers were always short, and especially in one leg, is an absurd fabrication. The story may perhaps have risen from some one who remembers his lameness in Poultney, when he acquired the habit of dragging one leg a little after the other, and that style of walking may have apparently shortened one of the trouser legs. Have you anything else to ask, little one?"
"Yes, auntie," said Gabrielle, smiling at mamma's methodical way of answering: "was papa an awkward boy, and did he eat vulgarly?"
"I have told you, dear," mamma replied, "how we were brought up. I never saw your papa eat ravenously while he was at home; for father was a despot at table, and any appearance of gluttony would have been quickly checked by the dreaded descent of his fork upon the table. I think it probable that later in life, when your papa became a distinguished man, and every moment was of value, that he did eat quicker than was consistent with the laws of etiquette, but not when he was a boy.
"As for his awkwardness, I can readily imagine that a boy so intensely preoccupied would not appear in so favorable a light to strangers as one who should seek the society of people rather than books, and a superficial observer might have mistaken his air of abstraction for rustic bashfulness. You know that he was always absorbed in a book from the time he was three years old. Father would often send him to do an errand—to fetch wood or the like; he would start very obediently, but with his eyes upon his book, and by the time he had reached the door he would have completely forgotten everything outside the page he was reading, and it was necessary to send some one after him to remind him of his errand. He certainly was very unlike every-day boys, not only in appearance, but in habits and moral qualities. Never did I hear a coarse or profane word pass his lips; the purity of his soul was radiant in his beautiful modest countenance; while his slender, boyish figure, with the ponderous white head poised upon his long, slim neck, always reminded me of a lovely, swaying lily."
"I have seen recently in some book," said Marguerite, "that uncle was never at his ease in polite society. This I think very absurd. To be sure he had not the manners of a dancing-master, but—"
"Yes," interrupted mamma; "this statement is another of the usual exaggerations current about brother. As you say, he had not the manners of a dancing-master, and when importuned and annoyed by shallow people, may often have been abrupt with them; but when in society, I have always seen his company as much or more courted than that of any other person present, and have never known him to shrink or be embarrassed in the presence of people of distinction or rank. Few men have, I think, been more misrepresented, though often with the kindest intentions, than my dear brother."
"You spoke of papa's lameness while at Poultney, Aunt Esther," said Ida, looking up from a letter that she was reading; "pray how did he become lame? Was it serious? I do not remember hearing him mention it."
"It occurred, I believe, in this way," said mamma. "Whilst your papa was in the Spectator office, he chanced one day to step upon a rough box, which turned over, and hitting him upon the leg, inflicted a cut below his knee. At first, brother thought it a mere scratch not worth noticing; but when he subsequently took cold in it, he found it very troublesome, and although he then consulted several medical men, they were unable to cure it, I do not remember hearing that he was ever confined to the house with it—probably because he could not afford to give up his work long enough to have it properly treated; but for two or perhaps three years he limped to and from the office. When he went subsequently to Erie, Pennsylvania, to work as a journeyman printer, the wound, which had partially healed, had again opened, and was very painful. Some old woman residing there, however, gave him a simple remedy which soon cured it permanently."
"From whom is the letter that you are reading, Ida?" inquired Gabrielle, putting up her father's biography in a bookcase; "does it contain a request for a loan of $500, or is it an offer of a home in a Christian family?"
"Neither, for once," answered Ida. "It is from The Tribune office, and contains a slip cut from the Omaha Bee, headed, 'Horace Greeley upon Girls.' It appears that a lady, Miss Hewes, who did not know papa personally, wrote to him to ask if he recollected his first school-house, and a former playmate of his, named Reuben Nichols, whose acquaintance Miss Hewes had just made. Here is papa's answer, dated Washington, 1856. Let me read it to you, Aunt Esther, and tell me if you think it is genuine."
"'MISS HEWES:—As I do not know you, and am little interested in any but a part of your letter, you will allow me, in my terrible hurry—having two days' work that ought to be done to-day, while I must leave at evening for a journey to our Pittsburg Convention—to speak only of that.
"'I very well remember the red school-house in which I first began to learn (the paint was worn off long since, and it was very far from red when I last saw it); I remember the Nichols children, who lived, just below the school-house, in a large house. But I was very young then, and I do not make out a clear mental picture of Reuben Nichols. I think he must have been considerably older than I. But I recollect one Aseneth Nichols, one of two girls not much older than I, whom I thought very pretty, so that while I was a very good speller, and so one of the two at the head of the first class in spelling, who were entitled to "choose sides" for a spelling match; I used to begin by choosing these two pretty girls who couldn't spell hokee to save their souls. Well, this was found not to answer; I knew enough to spell but not to choose sides; so the rôle had to be altered, and the two next to the one at the head had the honor of "choosing sides." Ask Mr. Nichols if he had a sister Aseneth, and if he remembers any such nonsense as this. My kind regards to him.
"I don't believe," said Gabrielle, "that papa ever wrote that letter."
"It does not sound much like him," rejoined Marguerite, "with the exception of 'Yours, Horace Greeley'; what do you think, mamma?"
"The letter is characteristic," was mamma's reply; "the style is his, but there are several words that I have never known him to use; however, they may have been illegible in the original, and their place supplied by the printer's ingenuity. I remember hearing father and mother often speak of Reuben Nichols who lived near grandfather in Londonderry, and I believe that he had a son named Reuben, and a daughter named Aseneth, so the letter must be genuine, I suppose."
"Was it true, mamma?" inquired Marguerite, "that uncle was fond of little girls? You know it has been said of him that he was as a man quite indifferent to women."
"Yes, he was very partial to little girls," was mamma's reply, "when they were pretty and gentle. Not, however, in the love-making way of the present precocious generation, but he liked to talk to them, and relate stories from the books he had read. Perhaps the secret of his preference lay in the fact that they made more attentive and sympathetic listeners than his rough boy-friends.
"I told you the other day that at the ball he attended when thirteen years old, he was the escort of Anne Bush, the prettiest girl in the village. She was perhaps a year younger than he, and as I remember her, extremely pretty—a slender figure, cheeks like roses, blue eyes, dark hair, and very gentle, ladylike ways. She had a sister Sophie, who was as plain as Anne was pretty; and a wild, mischievous girl, but my inseparable and dearest companion.
"There were two other girls of whom brother was very fond at that time; Cornelia Anne Smith and Rebecca Fish. Cornelia Anne was older than the other girls, about fourteen, I think, and was the fondest of learning of the trio. I remember that she often used to bring her school-books to brother when some difficulty had arisen in her lessons, and he would explain the hard points. I think that he always corresponded with these girls, and visited them occasionally after they became women, for you know with what tenacity he clung to his early associations. He has often spoken to me of Rebecca Fish, who is now Mrs. Whipple, of Fairhaven.
"You would be amused if I were to tell you how he used to pass the time that he spent with these three girls. A city-bred boy of thirteen or fourteen would have been quite capable of arranging an elopement with the prettiest one, but brother's style of courtship was quite unique; he used to correct their grammar when they conversed, and gravely lecture them upon the folly of wearing stays!
"The corsets which so aroused his ire were quite different from those of the present day. At that time, you must know, the Empire dress, that you have seen in portraits of the time of the first Napoleon, was all the fashion; no crinoline, skirts so extremely scant and gored that they clung to the figure like drapery upon a statue, and waists a finger and a half in depth, with inch-wide bands instead of sleeves. This style of dress was very graceful and becoming when worn by a woman of slender figure, and those who were not thus favored by Nature made the best of their figures by wearing what was then called 'busks,' or more popularly 'boards.' The corsets worn in those days did not clasp in front, but merely laced behind, and inserted in the lining of the front was the 'busk,' a piece of steel, or (among poorer people) wood two inches wide, and the depth of the corset. This busk, with the addition of very tightly drawn lacing-strings, was supposed to give great symmetry to the figure. No village belle ever liked to own that she laced tightly, or that she wore a board; as it was a tacit admission that her figure could not bear unaided the test of the Empire dress; consequently brother's remarks would be received by his young friends with an injured air, and a vehement protest against such a false accusation. Brother would then test their truth by dropping his handkerchief and requesting them to pick it up; if they 'wore a board,' stooping would be impossible, or, at all events, very difficult; an ordeal that would cover them with confusion, when the philosopher of thirteen years old would resume his moral lecture upon the laws of hygiene, and the follies of fashion."
The Morning Mail—A letter to Mrs. Cleveland—Strange Contents—Ida's Letter Bag—Appeals for Money, for Clothing, and for her Hand—An Original Letter from a Trapper.
Going to the post-office for the morning mail is, I think, our greatest daily pleasure. For some reason, we seldom have many letters by our second mail, the 6.30 P.M. train, but in the morning our box is always well filled, for we receive regularly the dear daily Tribune, six weekly journals, and the leading magazines, and as we all have quite a number of correspondents, we feel deeply aggrieved if our box is not filled to repletion at least once a day.
Ida, of course, is blessed with the greatest number of letters in the
family, for besides those from her own and her father's friends,
"The cry is, still they come!"
in shoals from unknown people of high and low degree, sometimes containing merely poems, or expressions of sympathy and interest in the sad history of our beautiful cousin, but varied occasionally by some of the extraordinary appeals for help which I have already mentioned.
This morning I went down to the office when the mail came in. There was the usual number of expectant faces—Miss Murray and Miss Cox in their carriages, and our more rural neighbors standing about the pigeon-hole; however, every one makes way for us in Chappaqua, and I approached nearer, and asked for our letters. A very rough-looking man standing near by, looked on with interest while the postmaster handed out letter after letter, and finally said:
"You belong to the family, do you not?"
"Yes," I said, for I always answer the rustic salutations of the people about here, knowing them to have had a sort of feudal attachment to uncle.
"I thought a great deal of the old gentleman," he said with a rude pathos in his voice that was very touching. "I used to see him very often, for I live in these parts, and he always used to say good-morning so pleasant, and was never ashamed to shake my dirty, hard hand!"
This reminds me of a little incident that mamma related yesterday. She was standing upon the balcony when an old gentleman who was driving past, seeing mamma, stopped his horses, looked up and bowed, hesitated, and then said:
"Excuse me, but is thee the sister of Horace Greeley that was?"
"I thought so," he said, "I saw it in thy countenance."
He then told mamma his name, and, after making a few remarks about uncle that showed thoroughly good feeling, drove on.
It is not uncommon for those driving past to slacken their horses and gaze earnestly at the house, and, if any of us are upon the piazza or at the windows, they always bow—a mark of respect that is also shown us by all the farmers and working people about here.
But I am forgetting Ida's letters. I brought her this morning as many as six or eight, some of which were put up in yellow-brown envelopes, and directed in very questionable chirography. In a few moments she knocked at mamma's door and said,
"I have brought you a few letters from some of my extraordinary correspondents, Aunt Esther."
"We will compare notes, my dear," said mamma, looking up from a rose-colored sheet embellished with decidedly scrawly writing. "I have just received one that is quite astounding."
"From Tennessee," said Ida, looking at the postmark. "I know the writing; that man has sent me as many as half a dozen letters, wishing to enter into correspondence. I suppose that finding me so unresponsive he thinks he will try another member of the family."
"He comes to the point in a most emphatic manner this time," said mamma, "by asking me for your hand; and as the letter is really a curiosity in a literary point of view, I will read it to you." 
"MRS. JOHN F. CLEVELAND:—I reckon I am one of the spoilt children of the South, similar to what Mr. Greeley says of South Carolina. I want to Marry Miss Ida, because she is the daughter of the most powerful Man that has yet appeared on the American Continent. Mr. Greeley turned four millions of slaves loose with the Pen can't I win his daughter with the same facile weapon? Now Mrs. Cleveland won't you help me? I am not a Humbug, I have too many bullet holes through my body to be classed with that tribe of insects. I begin to feel a little skittish about my age, 35 and not yet Married. Yet I have always been rather a fatalist and incline to Worship some star. The Greeks Worshiped the sun, And moon under the Name of Isis and Osiris, but I am more like the Arab look to the stars for something sublime and unchanging among all the bright lights that hang and move in the firmament. The North Star Appears to be the most important. The Axis on which our Earth daily turns. The point from which all Mariners calculate their course in mid ocean, and safely guides Them from continent to continent. Without the North Star there would be no Magnetic Meridian by which Governments could be surveyed and divided equitably to its inhabitants and civilization would lose its strong hold in being based on Justice. If there is any South Star that plays such an important part on this continent or Europe I have never heard of it. Miss Ida is the North Star made so by the fact her father was the great center around Which The whole country swung. And As she is the oldest the crown of greatness ought to rest on her head. And if she will Marry Me I will do as hard fighting as Caesar did to put it there. With great respects yours Truly
This letter would have excited more astonishment than it did, had it not been only a fair specimen of what Ida has been daily receiving since her father's death. She then read us one from Indiana, addressed to herself, and written, as the newspapers would say, with a view to matrimony, but couched in quite a business-like strain:
"MISS IDA GREELEY:
"May I not surprise you by the fact that I desire an acquaintance with you. I send you my photograph (which however is too light to be perfect), hoping yours in return. If answered, I in my next will give my age and history generally.
Another was from a widow with a son at college, who was very badly in debt. The mother appealed to Ida as a lady of fortune and generosity, and the only person to whom they could look for aid, to pay the son's debts, "And," Ida added with mock indignation, "she does not even promise that I shall be ultimately rewarded with the young man's hand."
A third was dated Illinois, and bore the sonorous signature of Greeley Barnum M———. This epistle was extremely prolific, inasmuch as it gave the occupations, ages, and a personal description of not only the immediate members of the writer's family, but even extended to cousins once or twice removed. He had also much to say about his name of Greeley; sometimes he was proud of it, and sometimes the reverse, according to the company he was in. Passing over all this prelude, we discovered that Greeley Barnum M———'s object in writing was to request a complete outfit for his sister who was about to go to school. "You are a young Lady, Miss greeley," the writer touchingly said, "and know everything that my sister would be likely to want." The clothes, he kindly intimated, could be put up in a box, and sent by express, prepaid; and having done so, Ida was requested to notify his sister and also an uncle and aunt at some distant point, that they might not be distressed by thinking their niece was going to school without a suitable outfit.
The next letter that Ida took up was from a Kansas man, more modest in his requests than the others, for he neither asked for her hand nor a loan, but being anxious for self-improvement, solicited a little assistance from her in that line. This letter was written in an even, flowing hand, with very few mis-spelt words.
"MISS IDA GREELY:
"Well, here is another fool, will no doubt be the first thought that will pass through your mind, and it is quite likely that you may in the main be correct.
"I have a very high regard for all womankind. I have read so much about your sympathetic nature, I thought perhaps our sympathies might be mutual in some respects.
"I am always desirous of improving, and have heretofore looked to much to persons no better qualified than myself to instruct or improve in correspondence of any kind. Knowing that you are educated and refined I apply to you as a perfect Gentleman for a small portion of your time say one half-hour in four weeks as a time set aside to answer any letter I might write, at same time corract misspell'd words etc. And do it unreservedly. I am formerly from the east: come west less than one year ago, have lost my wife, am thirty years old, and like you without friends. In return for your favor I can write you a description of this great Arkansas Valley and county beyond, of the rapid growth of the country etc. which may in part repay you for your trouble to please one lonely heart far from home. Will not give you any description of Self or business unless I receive some answer but will say that I am of good family, in good business, and doing well.
"Here is another letter that at all events is short," said Ida, continuing to read:
"For some years past your father very kindly gave me assistance during three months of the year; if you can continue this, it will be a great charity, as I am very much in need of it.
"Have you not yet exhausted your mail?" enquired Gabrielle.
"No," said Ida, "I have still two or three letters to read to Aunt Esther. Here is one in which you will be interested, Gabrielle. The writer calls you familiarly 'Elite': I think he must have read that very accurate description of you that went the rounds of the papers last summer, in which you remember you are a shy and shrinking flaxen-haired fawn. He would be quite surprised, I think, if he could see what a majestic 'Elite' you are."
"ALLEGHANY CO. PENN.
"To whom it may concern:
"Know ye that I have had a desire to know more about the Greeley girls for several months, and that the desire for acquaintance became so strong after meeting your father and sister a few nights since (while sleeping) that I concluded to write.
"It seems to be Gabrielle's acquaintance I particularly desire, but she being young and inexperienced I address you as her natural guardian, allowing you to dispose of my communication as you think best.
"Being what some folks call an eccentric individual; feeling lonely in the world, and believing, from what I know of the laws of Hereditary Descent and your parents that you and your sister must possess the noblest natures; and believing that no harm but good—at least to me—can come from our acquaintance, I write to ask a correspondence.
"If you or 'Ellie' feel like sending a reply—well; if not, there shall be no hard feelings, but it would be a satisfaction to me to know that my letter had been received.
"Sincerely wishing you and all the world all happiness, I close. Accept my warmest sympathy in your bereavement, and believe me to be the friend of Humanity.
"P.S. For reasons not necessary to mention, I write under an assumed name. Write, PLEASE."
The next one was from Chicago, addressed to Miss ida greeley. The writer said:
"I am about to pen you a few lines, hopeing you will not receive them in a contemptious manner, but rather in a business than a formal way.
"Pleas to put the form of introduction and society regulations aside, and consider your future happiness, pleasure and welfare only. I am well aware that you are very much anoid and persecuted, thereby I mean persistant attentions from undesirable persons; now my obgect at present is to aid you in a manner that you can soon and forever shut down on all disagreeable attentions.
"now I would suggest some beautiful locality in California or orogon there to live a quiet retired life free from former acquaintances and continnad anoyances. now if you think you could accept my services, they are honorably tendered and would be kindly and heartily given. Pleas to inform me at the earliest conveniance. Pleas to not misinterpret my intentions.
"yours in sincerity
"Address ———— ————."
After listening to this extraordinary epistle, mamma said dryly:
"I think, my dear, that that is the strangest letter you have yet received."
"It is nothing, auntie," was the reply, "to one I have in reserve, in which the writer not only has a request to make, but actually proposes making me a present; it is not, however, his hand, for a wonder!"
"To MISS IDA GREELY:
"Young lady I suppose you will be surprised at receiving a letter from the frontier, my motive for writing is this. I am a mountaineer—that is a trapper a good many years ago I met with your father Horace Greely on the plains, and greatly admired the old gentleman. The way I came to make his acquaintance is this. A drunken, unruly Cuss seeing that your father appeared quiet and peaceable thought it safe to play the bully at his expence so he commenced to insult and threaten Mr. Greely in a pretty rough manner. Seeing that your father was quiet and peaceable and did not wish to quarrel with the Cuss I took the Cuss in hand, and spoiled his beauty for him, and taught him a lesson to mind his own business. Mr. Greely greatly overated the trifleing service I had done, he thanked me warmly, he became very friendly with me and gave me good advice. Among other things he advised me to do was to get a breach loading rifle instead of my muzlle loading rifle. I laughed at the idea I supposed my old muzlle loader was the best. Since then I have found out that Mr. Greely was right and that I was rong. Mr. Greely at the time offered to purchase one and give it to me I refused to accept it. He then told me any time I changed my mind to let him know, and he would send me a good breech loading rifle. I have often thought about it since, but never wrote to him. My reasons for writing to you now are these; I and my partner Beaver Bob started down the Yellow Stone last fall to trap near the Big Horn river. We were pretty successful and made the Beaver mink martin and other vermin suffer—but one day we were attaced by a hunting party of 15 or 20 Ogallala Sioux. In the fight my old partner Beaver bob was wiped out I was wounded but managed to make my escape and after a pretty hard time reached the Mission on the head of the Yellow Stone—I mean near the head. I lost my horses all my outfit in fact almost everything. When my ammunition was expended—I mean used up—I threw my rifle away and took to the brush and ran for it—I mean the chance of life. Lately I have heard that Mr. Greely has handed in his chips—that is passed in his checks—I mean gone to limbo you know. I'm sorry for the old man but we must all go some time you know. and now miss what I want to know is will you instead of your father send me a breech loading rifle. If you do I shall be much obliged to you and if you don't I hope there is no harm done. The kind of rifle I want is one of Sharps new improved shooting rifles with a barrell 36 inches in length and a barrell 16 pound weight Calibre 44. They are mad in Sharps factory Connetticot in a place called Hartford. If one was sent to me by Wells and Fargoes express to Deerlodge city Montana Territory, I should get it. The name or rather the nickname by which I am known among mountain men is Death Rifle. The redskins I mean the Indians gave me that name many years in Dacotah Territtory and it stuck to me ever since. My right name is Hugh De Lacey so when you wish to adress or direct any thing to me direct to Hugh De Lacey, Deerlodge City, Montana. Miss Greely a great many eastern men we remarked seem to think that we mountaineers are to blame for having trouble with the redskins I can assure you we never bother the infernal vermin only when they bother us and that is pretty often for when they get a chance to go for our hair they take it no more at present I remain
"HUGH DE LACEY.
"N.B. I have heard you eastern ladies are in the habit of useing a deal of false hair in your toilets if you choose miss Greely I will send you a lot of Indians hair any time you want it. I remain yours respectfully
"HUGH DE LACEY."
"It reads like a chapter from one of Cooper's novels," said mamma, "and the romantic name of Hugh De Lacey would be more appropriate to the handsome young descendant of some old Huguenot refugee family than such a rough trapper as your correspondent 'Death Rifle;' but the present he offers you is most singularly inappropriate; no one who had ever seen your wealth of hair, my child, would think of presenting you with a chignon;" and as she spoke she loosened and shook out Ida's heavy clusters of hair, which, released from their orderly Marguerite braids, swept over her black dress like a tawny mantle.
 I insert this and the subsequent letters precisely as they are written, merely withholding some of the signatures.
Life in the Woods of Pennsylvania—Journey from Vermont to Pennsylvania in 1826—Travelling on Canal-boats—Incidents by the Way—Home in the Wilderness—Aggressions of Bears and Wolves.
"Aunt Esther, in all the stories of your early days that you have told us, you have not yet described your life in Pennsylvania," said Ida one evening, when we were gathered about the piano. "Do tell us about it. You have once or twice merely alluded to living in the woods, and my curiosity is quite excited. Were they veritable forests? I do not remember hearing papa say much about them."
Mamma smiled sadly.
"What makes you think of Pennsylvania to-night, my child?" she asked.
"I do not know, auntie," was the reply, "unless perhaps it was hearing Cecilia sing 'My love is like the red, red rose.' You told me, I remember, that grandmamma used often to sing that pretty little Scotch ballad."
"Yes, it was one of mother's favorite songs," said mamma. "I can remember perfectly the way she used to sing it. Not in your English version, Cecilia, but with Burns' own Scotch words, and in her sweet, low voice, with a ring of passion that one rarely hears in a drawing-room at the present day. As Charles Reade says of one of his heroines, 'She sung the music for the sake of the words, not the words for the sake of the music—which is something very rare.'
"I am not surprised that you have never heard your papa say much of our life in Pennsylvania, for you remember that he did not accompany us there, but only made us occasional visits. Before we left Vermont father had already apprenticed him, at his earnest desire, to the publishers of the North American Spectator, at Poultney, and brother Barnes (who is fifteen months his junior) then took his place in the household. I think that your papa had been some time in the Spectator office before our departure for the woods, in September."
"Yes," said Marguerite, who always remembers dates; "he was apprenticed the April before you left, and came over to Westhaven to bid you all good-by. I remember what he says of the parting in his 'Recollections:' 
"'It was a sad parting. We had seen hard times together, and were very fondly attached to each other. I was urged by some of my kindred to give up Poultney (where there were some things in the office not exactly to my mind), and accompany them to their new home, whence, they urged, I could easily find in its vicinity another and better chance to learn my chosen trade. I was strongly tempted to comply, but it would have been bad faith to do so; and I turned my face once more towards Poultney, with dry eyes but a heavy heart. A word from my mother, at the critical moment, might have overcome my resolution. But she did not speak it, and I went my way, leaving the family soon to travel much farther and in an opposite direction. After the parting was over, and I well on my way, I was strongly tempted to return; and my walk back to Poultney (twelve miles) was one of the slowest and saddest of my life.'
"Do commence at the beginning, mamma," Marguerite continued, "and tell us all about the journey to Pennsylvania, and how your new home looked when you arrived. How large was the family then? Aunt Margaret was born in Vermont, was she not?"
"Yes, and a very pretty little creature she was," said mamma, with a sister's pride in the youngest of the family. "She was extremely small for her age—indeed, she weighed only three pounds and a half at her birth, and I recollect hearing some one say that the nurse put her into the family coffee-pot and shut down the lid."
"The coffee-pot!" we all exclaimed, in chorus. "Pray how large was it? Somewhat over the ordinary size, I trust."
Mamma laughed. "Yes, it was larger than coffee-pots of the present day," she said; "an old-fashioned tin coffee-pot, broad at the bottom and gradually narrowing towards the top. But still it was extraordinary that a baby could be put in it, and the lid shut down."
"What induced grandpapa to select Pennsylvania for a residence, Aunt Esther?" inquired Ida. "Was land cheaper there than elsewhere?"
"You have answered your question yourself, dear," was mamma's reply. "Land was very cheap there, and through our careful economy in Vermont, father had saved enough money to buy about two hundred acres, to which he subsequently added, from time to time, so that the old Greeley homestead now consists of between three and four hundred acres. Then two of father's brothers, Uncle Benjamin and Uncle Leonard, had settled in Wayne township three or four years previous, and, to use your papa's words, had 'made holes in the tall, dense forest that covered nearly all that region for twenty to fifty miles in every direction.' Father went to Pennsylvania in advance of us, bought his land, and then returned to fetch us to our new home.
"I remember seeing mother weep bitterly when she left Vermont; but, as ever through her brave life, she made no complaint. As for myself, I remember no regrets, save at parting with dear brother; for I was too young to feel other than childish exultation at the prospect of making a long journey; and that journey from Vermont to our new home upon the 'State line,' between New York and Pennsylvania, I must here remark, occupied a month. Locomotion, you see, was not so rapid in the year 1826 as it is now."
"I should think not!" exclaimed Gabrielle. "Pray, auntie, in what way did you travel to advance at such a snail's pace? I should think you could almost have walked the distance in that length of time."
"You will be amused when I tell you the length of the first day's journey," replied mamma. "Father hired a large wagon, and stowed away our trunks, furniture, and all of his family in it, and we went as far as Whitehall, a distance of about nine miles. Here we stopped over night, and the next day took the boat for Troy, where we again broke the journey after travelling, I believe, two days. At that time there were no regular ferry-boats to cross the river from East to West Troy, and passengers were taken over in row-boats. I remember that the boatmen stood by the river-side and called all day and night:
"'Over, over, over, going o-o-o-o-ver!' to attract custom.
"Now came the most delightful part of the journey—going from Troy to Buffalo upon the canal-boat. There were two different kinds of boats that went between those cities; the packet-boats, carrying the mails and passengers but no freight, and the line-boats, which took both freight and passengers, and were consequently cheaper. These were used by people like ourselves, who were moving from one part of the country to the other, with furniture, who wished to economize, and to whom time was no object; for the packet-boats travelled twice or thrice as rapidly as the line-boats.
"I think I never enjoyed myself so thoroughly when a child, as at that time. My sisters and I were much petted by the captain and the passengers; and the excitement of being on the water, and the constant change of scene, kept up our spirits to the highest pitch. Margaret, who was then four years old, was, I remember, an especial favorite on the boat; for she was extremely pretty, with her fragile, doll-like figure, her clear complexion, bright blue eyes, and reddish gold curls. She inherited the family talent for spelling, and was very fond of displaying her accomplishments in that line; for sister Margaret was a very self-possessed little creature, and was afraid of no one—not even of father himself. I recollect that when the boat stopped at any small town to take on passengers, Margaret's bright eyes would if possible discover a shop with the sign 'Grocery;' and then, going up to some one of her new friends, would gravely spell 'G-r-o, gro, c-e, ce, groce, r-y, ry, grocery;' followed usually by an intimation that a reward of merit would be acceptable. She was so extremely small for her age, that her achievement of spelling a three-syllable word was looked upon as something marvellous by the passengers, and some one would immediately take her ashore, and buy her some candy or fruit from the grocery.
"Another incident that impressed itself strongly upon me during this journey, was eating a peach for the first time. I had never seen a peach in either New Hampshire or Vermont.
"But, during those long September days that we children spent running over the boat, and indulging in all sorts of wild mischief, poor mother had by no means an easy life. It was impossible for her to keep us together and under her eyes; and what with the fear that we might fall overboard, or meet with some accident from the bridges, I know that she only looked forward to the time when the journey should be over, and we safe on land again."
"The bridges, mamma!" said Marguerite, "to what danger were you exposed from them?"
"The bridges crossing the canal," explained mamma, "were so extremely low, that no one upon the boat could stand upright; often the boat could barely glide under them without grazing the rails of the deck. The captain used to keep on the lookout, and as we approached one, would call, 'Bridge ahead.' Then the women and children would rush down the staircase to the little cabin, and the gentlemen would usually throw themselves at full length upon the dock until the bridge was passed. That was always a moment of terrible anxiety for poor mother if we were out of sight; for accidents and even loss of life had been known to occur; indeed, on father's previous journey, he witnessed an accident of a most terrible character. A woman, who was going only a short distance in the boat, was very much afraid that she would be taken past the town where she wished to stop, and paid no attention to the warning to go below as they approached a bridge. The captain, seeing the danger she was in, seized her by the arm, and thrust her downstairs. She rushed up, and he again pulled her down. Confident that she was about to be taken past her destination, the poor woman for the third time broke away from him, and reached the deck just in time to be struck by the bridge and instantly killed."
"Frightful!" said Marguerite with a shudder. "Tell us about the rest of your journey, mamma. How did you travel after you left Buffalo? Upon Lake Erie, I suppose?"
"No, indeed!" replied mamma, "although there were at that time steamboats upon the lake; but father had had so terrible an experience upon his previous journey, that he would not subject his family to the caprices of Lake Erie. He had started from Buffalo upon a schooner, but a dreadful storm arose, in which the boat struggled for three days and was then obliged to put back to Buffalo a complete wreck. Father declared at that time that he would never expose his family to the hair-breadth escape from death that he had undergone; consequently, he hired a strong wagon at Buffalo, and we travelled along what was called the 'Lake Shore Road' to the town of North East, whence we took a southern course to Wattsburgh.
"When at Wattsburgh, we were only eight miles distant from our destination, but as we were now to leave the main road and plunge into the deep forest, father exchanged his horses and wagon for a heavy wooden sled and a yoke of oxen. Then we commenced to realize what our new life was to be. There was no road through the woods, and the only indication of the route was blazed or marked trees. Huge logs, so high that the oxen could barely step over them, lay occasionally across our path, and from time to time we had to stop while father and brother Barnes hewed down the trees that obstructed the way. We children thought this pioneer episode even preferable to our experience upon the boat, but I remember that dear mother sighed often and deeply.
"At the close of the second day, the eight miles were accomplished, and we reached father's property. He had bought with the land a rough little log-house, or rather hut, as it had but one room, and in this we were to live until he could build a better one. At the sight of her dreary home, mother's heart fairly sunk, and I shall never forget her tears."
Mamma paused for a moment; then steadying her voice, said:
"I am prouder than ever of my mother when I think how nobly she bore the separation from her darling son, and her exile from her family, and, you may almost say, from civilization. She could not, at first, it is true, restrain her tears, but from that moment never a murmur of complaint crossed her brave lips, and we children never dreamed, till years later, how keenly she felt the sacrifice that she had been compelled to make."
"But were you really so far out of the world, Aunt Esther?" inquired Ida. "Did you have no neighbors at all? We had two uncles there, I thought. Surely they must have been some society for grandmamma?"
"I do not believe," mamma replied, "that any other spot upon the globe, not even Robinson Crusoe's island, could now seem so desolate and shut off from all communication as our home in the woods did then. You must remember that there were no railways in 1826, which fact made us still more remote from the rest of the world. Now, with the railways spreading in every direction over our vast Republic, you can scarcely imagine what it was to live with an almost impenetrable forest between yourself and your nearest neighbor. Uncle Benjamin occupied what was called the 'next lot,' and had the ground been cleared, the distance from us would still have been three-quarters of a mile; but when the distance was increased three-fold by the darkness of the forest, and there was in addition every probability of meeting a bear or two on the way, you can imagine that being neighborly was scarcely practicable."
"Bears!" exclaimed Gabrielle, her eyes sparkling with excitement; "how lovely! Darling auntie, do tell us more about them. It must have been like one of Captain Mayne Reid's stories, to live in that delightful Pennsylvania!"
"Our life there," said mamma, "certainly equalled the wildest tales of adventures experienced by early settlers that I have ever read, and we children found it quite as 'lovely' as you imagine it to have been. We never felt isolated, although our entire 'clearing' consisted of only four acres, upon which our house stood, and any further prospect was shut out by the woods. To us it was delightful to realize the adventures of Robinson Crusoe, which, as I told you, brother had read to us in Vermont, merely changing tropical animals and scenery for that of the North. I do not remember ever being afraid, but the wolves, who nightly howled in gangs about our slightly built house, the bears who ate up the corn in our little patch, the porcupines who gnawed the hoops off our pork barrels, and the frightful, screaming owls, struck terror to poor mother's heart.
"I recollect that one night father went out to drive away a porcupine whose teeth and claws he heard busily at work upon a barrel hoop, but the creature rushed into the house through the open door, and ran across the trundle bed where sister Arminda and I slept. I need not tell you how dangerous it would have been had one of his quills penetrated our flesh."
"Do go on, auntie; this is delightful," said Gabrielle.
"When father had paid for his land," said mamma, "and bought a yoke of oxen and a cow—two essential things for a farmer—he had very little, if any, money left. There was no danger, however, that we should suffer from want, for the woods were so full of game that father would take his gun in the morning and go out to shoot something for dinner with the same confidence that he would have gone to a market to buy it. Partridges and pigeons in the greatest abundance formed our daily fare, while the deer used to walk into our corn-patch and almost offer themselves as targets for father's or brother Barnes' gun. Venison, I recollect, was so plentiful that a farmer, after shooting a deer, would only trouble himself to fetch home the hind-quarters and hide—the latter being marketable. In the spring there were cowslips and other wood plants in abundance, which made a delicious substitute for spinach. Tea was very scarce with us, and was kept for Sundays; but beech nuts, burnt and ground, made a very palatable coffee, that formed our daily beverage. Butter must have been an unmarketable article, for I remember that during the first three years we spent there, it sold for six cents a pound."
"Did you grow anything on the farm to sell, mamma?" I inquired. "I suppose not, during the first years."
"'No," said mamma; "and if we had, there would have been no market for it."
"Then what did you do for money, Aunt Esther?" said Ida. "Grandpapa had very little, you say."
"I must not forget," said mamma, "that we had one marketable production, and one that you would not easily guess.
"I wonder, Gabrielle, if your favorite chemistry goes back so far into elementary principles, as to tell you from what black salts are made? School-books seldom, I think, trouble themselves with the origin of things, so I will tell you that after the great logs were burnt that father had felled in clearing, the ashes were collected and leeched, and the lye boiled down in immense cauldrons till it became granulated like sugar. It then formed what was called 'black salts,' and these salts are the basis of potash, soda, etc. The salts could always find a ready market, and with them we paid our taxes, and bought what necessaries we could not raise ourselves."
 Page 62.
A Birthday—A Surprise—The Day celebrated by a Dinner—An Awkward Mistake—A Queen of Fashion—A Drive to Tarrytown—A Poem to Ida.
An air of mystery has pervaded the house for the past week. My offers to take Ida's letters to the post, or to go and fetch home the mail, have been met with a hasty negative, and Minna despatched forthwith to attend to them; and whenever I might enter Ida's room, it would appear to be at a most inopportune moment, for the earnest conversation that had been going on between herself and Gabrielle would instantly stop, and their countenances assume a most transparent expression of indifference. Long whispered conversations with mamma were continually taking place, and Ida seemed to be more frequently called to the kitchen by Lina than I had ever before known her to be, that autocrat being ordinarily by no means tolerant of her presence there. Finally, Ida was summoned to New York upon important business—to meet her lawyer, I supposed, but wondered why she did not simply authorize papa to represent herself, as well as Gabrielle, whose guardian he is, and thus spare herself a tedious day in the city in such sultry weather.
Yesterday was my birthday, and to-day is Marguerite's. As the fêtes occur in midsummer, we are usually—if in America—upon the Catskill Mountains, or some equally inaccessible place, so that a celebration is not practicable; indeed, our birthdays have not been celebrated since 1869, when some friends in Paris took us all to St. Germain, where we passed a most delightful week at the Pavilion Henri Quatre (a hotel built upon the spot where Louis XIV. was born), and daily drove and picniced in the grand old forest for which St. Germain is noted. The events of yesterday were therefore most unexpected and agreeable.
Ida and Gabrielle, after congratulating Marguerite and I, and giving us some elegant presents (for we usually receive our presents upon the same day, as less than twenty-four hours separate our anniversaries), asked us to drive down to the station with them to meet the train, and gently intimated that as some one might come up from New York with papa, we had better put on our best bombazines. Quite obediently I went upstairs, put on the dress with its weight of crape, clasped on my new black velvet ceinture, with its buckles of oxidized silver in delicate filagree work, (Marguerite's gift), and obtuse to the inappropriateness of a dress fan for morning use, suspended from the châtelaine another birthday gift—a black lace fan. Then, when I had put the finishing touch, in the shape of dear Ida's present—a vinaigrette of oxidized silver formed like a half-furled fan—I was quite satisfied with my toilette; before the day was over, however, my ceinture was adorned with a tortoise-shell châtelaine, whistle, and tablets, as well as a dainty riding-whip—papa's present—and I deeply mourned the impossibility of wearing two beautiful pictures, a new novel, and a large box of Iauch's best bonbons.
When the train arrived, papa emerged, followed by our artist neighbor, Mr. John Hows.
"Why, papa has brought up Mr. Hows!" I said. "How very—" my exclamation of pleasure was checked by surprise at the appearance of his brother, the musical editor of the Express, followed by our friends, Dr. Taylor and Colonel Rogers.
"Is this a surprise party?" Marguerite and I inquired blankly.
My dear friend Lela Paraf then tripped out, assisted by her elegant husband, and followed by Mr. Eugene Durkee and his brother, two Paris friends of ours. Then the car door opened once more, and "our young chief," as papa calls Mr. Reid, and Colonel Hay issued—a surprise party indeed.
Ida had intended to invite only a few young gentlemen to spend the day with us, fearing that if she sent out invitations to ladies to dinner, some enterprising reporter might announce that she had given at least a fête champêtre, if not a bal masqué, which in our deep mourning would not be an agreeable report to be in circulation; but Lela is so charming and dear to us all, and has remained so faithfully my most intimate friend for the last six months, notwithstanding the rival that I dreaded in her husband, that Ida made an exception for her.
As we were marshalling our regiment to return to the house, a tall, dark, distinguished-looking gentleman, elegantly dressed, hastened towards us. Who he was I could not imagine, but as his face seemed familiar, I welcomed him with a beaming smile. He must, however, be very near-sighted, I thought, for he overlooked my extended hand, merely bowing very low, and going on towards the house.
"Who is he, Ida?" I said in a whisper; "I don't remember his name."
"I suppose not," said Ida, laughing; "though you have seen him often enough. It is Emile, from Delmonico's. I sent for him to help Minna serve the table."
I was no longer surprised that my distinguished-looking gentleman did not shake hands with me.
When we were upon the croquet ground, I had an opportunity to admire Lela's toilette. A born Queen of Fashion, her dresses even when as a school-girl were my admiration, and her toilette for my birthday showed the refinement of delicacy and taste: for, not wishing to be the only lady present in colors, she wore a black grenadine, with black bows and a black lace hat; her diamond ear-drops and one half-blown deep red rose alone testifying that her mourning robe was only worn through sympathy.
We had sat three hours at the table, and were lingering over the ices and awaiting the coffee and fruit, when a shrill whistle, warning the guests that the train was nigh, caused a flight more rapid than that of Cinderella. Farewells were left unspoken, and "French leave" taken in good earnest, as our friends made a short cut through the garden of Bischoff, the trainmaster, who lives opposite us. Their departure could scarcely be said to be graceful, but as they had only three minutes' time to meet the train, it was obligatory.
Lina had exercised all of her art in preparing the birthday dinner, and as Ida gave her carte blanche in her most extravagant demands—such as twenty pounds of beef for gravies, and an entire bottle of Madeira for the soup, the dinner was very elegant and satisfactory. Lina would, I fancy, have been much aggrieved, had she known that her artistic dishes were supposed to have been sent up from Delmonico's.
A drive to Tarrytown to-day. After two months of inland air, the change to the exhilarating salt breeze blowing up from the Hudson was very refreshing, and made us quite regret, during the few hours we spent there, that Chappaqua could not be occasionally transported to the seaside.
"I am especially fond," said Ida, "of living by the sea, although I do not enjoy an ocean voyage; but a cottage at Newport is my ideal home for the summer."
"Newport air," said mamma, "would, I think, be too strong for me. The most agreeable sea air that I ever experienced was upon the Isle of Wight. There the climate was so mild as to be very beneficial to me. But you must know as much or more than I do about the Isle of Wight air, for you spent several months there with your mother when last in Europe, did you not?"
"Yes, we spent a winter and spring at Ventnor," said Ida; "that town, you know, is especially recommended to people with lung troubles, although I could never see that it did poor mamma much good."
"Did you ever see, Aunt Esther," inquired Gabrielle, "the poem that was addressed to Ida while she was at Ventnor?"
Mamma had not before heard of it; therefore, upon our return, Ida took it out of her portfolio, and showed it to us. It was written by a New York editor and poet, and was, we all thought, very beautiful and appropriate. As it was in MSS., Ida allowed me to copy it into my journal.
A FAMILIAR IDYL.
FOR IDA LILLIAN GREELEY.
Dear friend! If I could step to-day
Upon your cosey English isle,
Victoria's chosen home erewhile,
And hallowed by the Laureate's lay;
Though beauty breaks from every view,
And one long splendor edge the shore,
I should not pause an hour before
I touched the terrace graced by you.
For what's a Queen's or Poet's worth?
The light that lies on land and sea
Resplendent? Dearer far to me
The friendship which outweighs the earth.
Should I not find you--happy chance--
Just where your ivied cottage stands,
Dreaming with hope of western lands,
Or facing torn and tortured France?
And you could tell of sunny days?
Of chalky cliffs and spreading downs;
Nature is more than bustling towns,
And country life than city ways.
But hearing now a robin sing,
I wonder if his English mate
May not be hopping near your gate,
A harbinger, with ours, of Spring.
I know the precious charge you hold;
But now, when comes the budding year,
I wish the rather you were here
To see our leafy months unfold.
To watch the coming choir of birds,
And note the lengthening twilight hours,
The miracles of buds and flowers,
And tender shows too sweet for words.
But you who hear the throstle sing,
And greet the lark's high ecstasies,
May learn to care no more for these,
And spurn each weaker voice and wing.
I will not think it--home is home;
And much as other skies may do,
Ours will not reach its sweetest blue,
Nor May seem perfect, till you come.
March 1, 1871.
Gabrielle and her Embroidery—Life in Pennsylvania continued—Sugar-making—Horrible Incident—A Woman devoured by Wolves—A Domestic Picture—Evening Readings—The Library of Mr. Greeley's Father—Mr. Greeley's Mother intellectually considered—Her Education—Mr. Greeley's Eldest Sister—She teaches School at the Age of Twelve.
"It is some time, auntie," said Gabrielle, from the sofa, "since you have told us any stories. Now I wish that this evening, while I am working upon my pin-cushion, you would relate some more episodes of your Pennsylvania life;" and she opened her work box, and took out a little roll of canvas, upon which she was busy delineating in pale yellow wool a stiff little canary, with a surprising eye, and an impossible tail.
"I have forgotten what I have already related, dear," replied mamma; "you must tell me where to take up my story."
"You left off at the manufacture of black salts," said Gabrielle, "and I want you to commence at that very point, and not forget anything that occurred."
"Perhaps you would like to hear about sugar making," said mamma; "that was one of father's yearly enterprises, and great sport we young people thought it."
"Oh, do tell us about it," said Gabrielle, with sparkling eyes; "that will be delightful; almost as good as meeting a bear."
"Although not so exciting, I fear," said mamma, laughing; "I am sorry that I have no encounters with bears to meet your demands for thrilling adventures to-night; but if, as I suppose, you have never seen the process of sugar making, you will find an account of it quite interesting."
"Father had upon his extensive acres hundreds of grand old forest maples, which, growing as they did, in patches in the wilderness, formed what were called in country parlance 'sugar bushes,' or, in the more elegant language of books, 'sugar orchards.' Early in the spring, when the sun stood high, and the snow began to melt, the maples would be 'tapped,' as the farmers say; sometimes by boring into them, and often by driving in a chisel; then a wooden spout would be inserted through which the sweet sap would begin to trickle down into the troughs placed there to receive it. From these troughs it was collected and carried in buckets and pails to an immense receptacle hollowed out of the trunk of some great tree; usually selecting what was called the 'cucumber tree,' as its soft wood could be more easily excavated than that of other trees. The men used to wear a yoke upon their shoulders with hooks from which the pails were suspended; and thus equipped they would traverse to and fro with the sap. I well remember lending my assistance to father by trudging valiantly through snow that reached my knees, to carry buckets of sap, but without the assistance of a yoke.
"The process of making sugar is very like that I described in the manufacture of black salts. The sap is poured into immense cauldrons, and boils sometimes for several days. As fast as it evaporates, fresh sap is poured in until the syrup becomes thick, and then follows granulation, or, as the farmers call it, 'sugaring off.' These periods of sugaring off, which occurred usually once or twice a week during the sugar season, were participated in by the neighbors from far and near, who would come to eat sugar and make merry.
"I forgot, however, to tell you that while the sap was boiling, some one had to spend the night in the woods to refill the cauldron, and to keep up the fire. In our family this duty fell to brother Barnes, who took much delight in it. With some boy friend he would camp out upon a bundle of straw before the fire, and with a nice supper, and songs and stories, diversified by rising every half hour to stir up the fire, and watch the cauldron, and to have a private sugaring off for their own benefit, the boys would pass away the night.
"But were they in no danger from wild animals, mamma?" inquired Marguerite.
"Not much," replied mamma; "the boys always took their guns with them, but although the deer would rustle over the leaves, and bears and wolves would creep softly up to the little encampment, the fire was usually sufficient protection, and the wolves would content themselves with howling, and with a dissatisfied grunt the bears would move slowly away.
"Often the boys would see through the darkness a pair of fiery eyes glaring at them, and seizing their rifles they would shoot; but if they missed aim, the bears or wolves would have been sufficiently alarmed by the noise to make their escape whilst they could. Boys accustomed to a pioneer's life feared nothing; such adventures were as great sport to them in the woods, as they are to you, Gabrielle, while listening to them safely housed."
"But in novels, and books of travel in new countries, auntie," said Gabrielle with a dissatisfied shake of her pretty head, "when you fire at a bear or other wild animal and do not kill him, he instantly turns and kills you. Were the bears and wolves of Pennsylvania less ferocious than those of other countries?"
"They did not often seem bloodthirsty," replied mamma, "for the reason, I suppose, that the woods were full of smaller animals on which they could prey, and consequently they did not need to attack human beings for sustenance. I remember, however, one incident that may perhaps satisfy your desire for more thrilling adventures.
"An old woman living near what was called 'the Carter settlement,' some six miles from us, started to pay a visit to a friend in the next 'clearing.' To reach her destination she had to pass through the densest part of the forest, with no indication of a path to guide her: but she never thought of danger as she started upon her long, lonely walk.
"Several days elapsed before it was fairly realized that the old lady was missing; and then the neighbors started en masse through the forest with tin pans, tin horns, and stalwart lungs, to look for her. Their shouts met with no response, but after a long search they met a pack of wolves who fled rapidly past them. Fairly alarmed now lest the old woman should have perished from fatigue and exposure, they pursued the search with desperate haste, and not far from the spot where they had met the wolves, found some scraps of a dress that was recognized as hers, a few bones, and her feet, which, encased as they were in stout boots, the wolves had disdained to devour. Whether the old woman had fallen a live victim to the wolves, or had died of hunger and fatigue and then furnished a repast to them, we never knew; this latter supposition, however, seemed hardly probable, for she could have found in the woods wild berries, succulent roots, and water sufficient to subsist upon for several days."
A shiver of horror went around our little circle, and even Gabrielle's love for the terrible was satisfied.
After a short pause, Marguerite said:
"You must often have felt lonely, mamma, did you not, living so far away from all places of amusement, lectures, and the like? Indeed, I suppose that buried as you were in the woods, you did not even have the excitement of going to church."
"No," said mamma; "we were dependent for entertainment entirely upon our own resources and the few books we had brought with us from Vermont; but we children were never conscious of a lonely hour, and if dear mother felt sad and weary of our uneventful life, we never knew it.
"We worked hard all day, every one of us, even little Margaret having something to do; but in the evening we had a change of occupation. At twilight, when father and brother Barnes had come home, and our early supper was over, father would say:
"'Mary, what have you to read to us to-night?'
"Immediately fresh logs would be piled up in the great open fireplace, the candles lighted, we girls would draw up to the table with our knitting or sewing, Barnes would throw himself down before the fire, and mother would take up a book for the evening's reading. This reading was as much a part of the routine of the day as dinner or supper, and was indeed our only means of culture that winter, distant as we were from schools and all other educational advantages. Mother always monopolized the position of reader; indeed, until after her death, father seldom read a book, but contented himself with being a listener."
"And was he a good listener, mamma?" I inquired, "or did he stop grandmamma from time to time to comment upon the author and the events?"
"Father's intentions were the best in the world," replied mamma smiling, "but you must remember that he would sit down to listen, completely exhausted from a day's work that had commenced with the first tinge of dawn, and before very long, soothed by mother's musical voice, his breathing would become more and more audible, and his head commence to nod. Quite patiently mother would continue her chapter, feigning not to be conscious of the heavy breathing that proceeded from the arm-chair, and often from the boyish figure stretched before the fire, until their slumber would become too apparent, when, closing the book, she would call them severely to task for their inattention.
"Rubbing his eyes, father would rouse up, and indignantly refuting the accusation, declare that he had heard every word.
"Instantly putting him to the test, mother would inquire what she had been reading about?
"After a moment of deep reflection, father would say penitently:
"'Well, Mary, if you will just read back a page or two, I will remember all about it.'
"Very indulgently mother would turn back, but often before she had reached the former stopping-place, father's breathing would announce that he was again resting from the hard day's toil.
"Barnes was somewhat better as a listener, but he, like father, worked hard, and it was often difficult for him to keep awake during the reading of history or novels; but we three girls were a most interested audience, and somewhat compensated for masculine inattention.
"But father was not always drowsy; at times he would listen with keen interest to the evening reading, and very much vexed he would be if the arrival of any neighbor should put a stop to it.
"'My wife is reading something extremely interesting to us,' he would artfully say; 'perhaps you would like to listen to it also?'
"'By all means,' the unsuspecting visitor would reply, and not another opportunity would he have to speak until it was time to take leave."
"What books did grandmamma read to you?" inquired Marguerite. "You have mentioned both history and novels, but without giving any names."
"Your uncle," replied mamma, "supplied us with light literature from the resources of the Spectator office—newspapers, pamphlets, periodicals, etc., and mother's own little library was sterling in its quality as her own old-fashioned ballads; it was quite varied, too, considering how few volumes it contained.
"One of the books that I remember was Butler's 'History of the United States;' a ponderous tome that I presume you children have never seen.
"Another volume from which we derived much information and pleasure was a large 'Universal History;' the name of its author I have forgotten.
"The 'History of the Jews,' by Josephus, was also a great favorite with mother; this work did not, however, belong to us, but was lent us by your other grandfather, Marguerite. Mr. Cleveland, a neighbor of ours, you know, had, like us, a small library of standard books, which he was always glad to lend to an appreciative reader.
"The 'Wonders of Nature and Providence' was another book that I remember well, and a 'Life of Napoleon,' by what author I do not know, but which was a source of endless delight both to father and mother. The emperor, you know, had been dead only since 1821, consequently his exploits were fresh in every one's memory, and some of mother's most stirring songs were about 'General Bonaparte.' You four children come legitimately by your devotion to Napoleon, for both father and mother were enthusiastic in their admiration for the great French hero.
"Among our smaller books was a life of Prince Eugene of Savoy, and the memoirs of Baron Trenck, whose romantic history we enjoyed as much as the most thrilling novel.
"As for novels, we had not many at that time, although the newspapers with which brother furnished us usually contained serial stories that mother used to read aloud. I remember, however, that mother owned 'Waverley,' 'Rob Roy,' and 'Francis Berrian,' a romance of which father was especially fond, and all of which she read to us.
"For poetry, we had a volume of selections from English poets, accompanied with brief sketches of their lives, a volume about two-thirds the size of Dana's 'Household Book of Poetry,' a copy of Cowper, whose poems mother particularly liked, especially 'The Task'; a small, unbound copy of Byron's 'Corsair,' and a volume of English songs, a collection that I have never since seen. This list refers, you know, to our first years in the woods, and everything that I have mentioned was read aloud to us by mother.
"On Sundays we had a change of literature. Father, although not what would be called a religious man, as he was not a member of any church, had a great respect for the observance of the Sabbath, and unlike his less scrupulous neighbors, rested from work on that day. The morning was devoted to reading the Bible, and in the evening father would sing with his splendid voice, 'God of Israel,' the 'Rock of Ages,' and other fine old psalm tunes. One hymn of which he was especially fond, I remember commenced,
"'The day is past and gone,
The evening shades appear;
Oh, may we all remember well
The day of Death draws near.'
"This he used to sing with great expression of devotion.
"I have often wished that I had had the advantage of living in New York when a child, but I would not now exchange a city education for the sweet memory of our quiet evenings at home, and the sphere of intelligence and affection in which I was nurtured."
Mamma paused a moment, then continued:
"These books that I have mentioned were not new to mother: she had read and knew them almost by heart long before she commenced reading them to us, and her mind was an inexhaustible source of knowledge. Although her school-days were limited, she was not ignorant of the common branches. She had studied, she told me, the 'Ladies' Lexicon,' from which she had obtained a very thorough knowledge of English grammar. She wrote a trim hand, she had a practical knowledge of arithmetic, and geography had claimed a portion of her time in school; but what she had learnt there was but a commencement. She must subsequently have studied astronomy, for she taught me without books to recognize the planets and trace the constellations, and at any hour of the night she could tell the time by looking at the position of the stars. She had the talent for dates that you have inherited, Marguerite, and was authority for the neighborhood upon all disputed points in politics since the days of Washington; indeed, it was quite amusing to see the men all come to consult 'Aunt Mary' rather than father, when a knotty question arose."
"As you have described grandmamma," said Marguerite, "she appears to be superior to grandpapa. Do you so consider her?"
"Mother was father's superior," replied mamma, "intellectually and morally. Father was rather cold in his nature, but mother had a warm heart. She was an enthusiastic friend, and she loved every living thing. I do not remember ever hearing her speak an ill word of a neighbor, and I am sure she never had an enemy in her life.
"Though I do not call father warm-hearted, he certainly had great affection for mother, and was sincerely attached to his family. I have heard him say that he would walk all night, rather than stop short of his home.
"Father was sometimes called by our neighbors a hard parent. He never was, it is true, demonstrative in his affection, but he was strictly just, and never harsh in his treatment of us. As I have often told you, he believed in work for himself and his family, and I have heard him say that sooner than have a child of his grow up idle, he would make him pick up stones in one lot, and throw them over into the next one. He considered that he had been generous in allowing brother Horace to leave home, or, as country people call it, 'giving him his time,' six years before he became of age, and he was willing at any time to allow his daughters to seek their fortunes away from home, should they desire to do so.
"This winter of 1826-27 was the last one that we four children spent at home together. The next year sister Arminda, although only twelve years old, opened a school in the little log-house upon our west farm—"
"When only twelve years old!" we interrupted in chorus; "pray whom did she teach? Babies?"
"No," replied mamma, "she had a dozen or fourteen pupils, little boys and girls, some of whom were older than herself, for very young children could not have walked that distance—three and four miles."
"But I should think," interposed Gabrielle, "that the scholars would have felt more inclined to play with Aunt Arminda, than to learn the lessons she gave them; she was such a child."
"Your aunt was tall and well-developed," replied mamma, "and had a natural air of dignity that gave her the appearance of being older than she really was. She did not find it difficult to impress her pupils with respect, or to enforce obedience."
"What did she teach them, Aunt Esther?" inquired Ida; "only the elementary branches, I suppose?"
"Reading, writing, and spelling," replied mamma; "arithmetic and grammar, geography, sewing and knitting."
"And how much did she make?" I inquired, being of a practical turn of mind at that moment.
"She was paid by the week," said mamma, "and received the same salary as the majority of school-mistresses in those primeval days; seventy-five cents and her board. She 'boarded around,' as the phrase was, among her pupils. This may seem very little to you, but you must remember that in those days a good milch cow cost only ten dollars, and everything else was proportionately cheap.
"The next two winters, sister Arminda was in school herself, and the following year, when she was fifteen, she was married to our handsome cousin Lovel, Uncle Benjamin's son."
Another exclamation of amazement from the little group, and a chorus of—
"Married at fifteen! How surprising! And did she make a pretty bride?"
"She was a very handsome girl," replied mamma, and made a striking contrast to her blonde brothers and sisters, for she had a rich brunette complexion, large, dark-blue eyes, glossy dark hair, and set roses in her cheeks, which, even now that she is a great-grandmother have not entirely faded. She was womanly far beyond her years; not so romantic, perhaps, as sister Margaret and I were at her age, but that she possessed talent, enterprise, and ambition, is shown by the success of her school, established at an age when most girls are contentedly dressing their dolls.
"Sister Arminda is a woman of superior character, and a devoted wife and mother. She has had many severe trials to contend with during her long married life. Her heart has known bitter sorrow, for of her family of eleven beautiful children only four are now living; but she has borne all these afflictions with enduring heroism. The devotion of herself and her husband is something people of the world would consider quite Arcadian in these days of matrimonial infelicity, for until your Aunt Arminda paid me that visit three years ago, she had never, since her marriage, left her husband two successive nights."
Visitors—A Sunday Drive—Croton lake by Daylight—A Sail—A Sudden Squall—Anxiety about our Fate—Miraculous Escape from Drowning—Arrival of a Pretty Cousin—A Child Poetess.
A gap in my journal of several days, during which time I have found it impossible to write. I have now several events to record.
Papa came out Saturday afternoon to make us his weekly visit, accompanied by Mr. Reid.
Papa's "young chief" looked as well as though he had not the weight of the new nine-story Tribune building upon his shoulders this hot weather, and was exceedingly agreeable. Those who have only known Mr. Reid in New York salons and in editorial rooms can have no idea what a different man he is when enjoying the relaxation of the country. Never could I have imagined that the haughty young proprietor of The Tribune would condescend to participate in "ring toss," croquet, and similar frivolities; but I have found this summer that, besides being an adept in the masculine accomplishments of driving and riding, he is an enthusiastic champion of croquet, taking apparently the same pleasure in sending an adversary's ball to the extreme limits of the croquet-ground that he would in refuting a Times editorial.
The evening was devoted to cards and ballad-singing, for, although so prominent a member of New York literary society, Mr. Reid does not, I am glad to say, think it necessary to dislike music.
For the next day an expedition to Croton Lake had been planned. When alone, we never drive on Sunday, except to church, lest our sober Puritan neighbors should be shocked; but as we had a guest for that day, we made an exception to our usual severe rules; for a Sunday in Chappaqua is somewhat gloomy to a visitor. Immediately after breakfast, therefore, the carriage came, and Ida and I, with papa and Mr. Reid, started on this pleasant little excursion, papa mischievously suggesting that we should look pious, and the neighbors would never know that we were not going to church.
One little contretemps marked our departure. The Duchess had been lame for a day or two, and another horse had been hired for the day to replace her. The strange horse was evidently the property of a Quaker, and more accustomed to going to meeting than on frivolous pleasure parties, for she was a very staid and subdued animal, and strongly disinclined to keep up with the lively pace adopted by spirited little Lady Alice. The drive, therefore, was decidedly an interesting one. Papa held the reins, and Mr. Reid devoted himself to whipping up the laggard beast. In this style we proceeded over the country at a moderate pace, and finally reached the beautiful lake and the hotel upon its banks. The shade of the broad piazza formed a very pleasant relief from the heat overhead, and we were glad to rest a little while. We had not been there many minutes before some one recognized Mr. Reid, and informed the portly landlord, who immediately hastened upon the scene, and welcomed him to Croton Lake with enthusiasm.
In the parlor the piano was open, and half a dozen children were drumming upon it; therefore, seeing that "music" on Sundays was not prohibited by the rules of the house, I went to the piano when the children wearied of it, and sung, at Ida's request, an Ave Maria, and grandpapa's favorite "Rock of Ages." We had some little amusement over the necessity of going four miles from home in order to enjoy music on Sundays.
The water looked very inviting, rippling up to the beach, and a row to Croton Dam was proposed. After some little delay, a boat and a very good-natured negro boatman were procured, and we departed.
The sun, I must own, was rather hot at that hour of the day, and struck with peculiar force upon our hot bombazine dresses, and heavy crape veils. Ida and I looked with a sigh at Mr. Reid's cool white flannel suit. Sam, the boatman, ceased to row, and let the boat drift, being overcome by the heat, while papa sat in the bow, and looked disconsolate that he had not the morning news to read.
We were now at quite a distance from the shore, and as there was no one present but the boatman to be shocked by hearing secular music, I ventured to sing a few simple ballads, for music and water I think blend most harmoniously.
Soon light, fleecy clouds commenced to shield us from the sun's scorching rays; we closed our parasols, and played with the deliciously cool water, wondering meantime like Miss Helen, in that exquisite "Atlantic" story, if we could call up a mermaid front below. But while we were drifting along so charmingly, the clouds had become heavier and blacker, and seizing the oars, Sam commenced to row with desperate haste. We were, however, beaten in our race with the storm, and reached Croton Dam in a perfect tempest of thunder, and lightning, and dashing rain. Unfortunately Ida and I had worn slippers, not having expected to walk, and there was only one umbrella in the party—our little parasols with their crape borders and bows being more suitable for ornament than service; however, we scrambled up the steep bank as best we could, and ran to the protecting doorway of the water-house (the house itself was locked as it was Sunday). Here we stowed ourselves away like so many sardines, and waited patiently under the umbrella for an hour. Finally the sun broke out, and we made our way over deep ponds of water back to our boat. Sam looked up with a dejected expression as we approached, and feared the boat wasn't fit for the ladies to go home in; he was bailing it out as fast as he could, but it was very wet.
Wet indeed! Why Sam had not drawn the boat up on the beach and turned it over during the rain, no one could imagine; but that brilliant idea had not occurred to him. Therefore we were obliged to row back with our feet reposing in little pools of water.
Before long, down came the rain again in torrents, but stimulated by the prospective fee, Sam rowed with giant strokes. About a mile from the hotel, we met the landlord rowing with desperate haste. It seems that the rain had been even more violent at his end of the lake, having been magnified into a squall upon the water, and a tornado upon land, blowing down trees, and breaking away the lattice-work of the hotel piazza; consequently he supposed our boat must have been ingulfed, and had come to look for the corpses. His amazement at finding us alive, and, though very wet, in excellent spirits, was great.
An entrée into the hotel in our wet dresses was rather a formidable affair for Ida and myself, as all the boarders were assembled upon the piazza to see, I suppose, how we looked after our "miraculous escape from drowning." Hastening past them into a private room, we took off our dripping wraps, and supplied their places with brilliant plaid shawls lent us by the landlady, in which we drove back to Chappaqua—to the wonder, I doubt not, of all who recognized us on the way. The horses this time went more evenly, and the entire strain of propelling the carriage did not fall upon poor Lady Alice. But when we reached home, Mr. Reid's white suit, and our dresses, veils, and even faces, were a sight to behold from the liquid mud with which we were bespattered. We had to turn out of our way for a couple of miles, as a tree blown down by the storm lay across the main road, and this second detention did not increase the enthusiasm of our welcome from Lina, for dinner had been ordered at half-past three, and it was five when we reached the house. Her pet dessert, a lemon soufflée, intended to be eaten as soon as baked, was not, I must own, improved by standing so long; but otherwise no serious damage was done to the dinner, and we were thankful that our adventures when indulging in pleasure parties on Sunday were over.
The evening passed quietly, but very agreeably. Mr. Reid went down to the city in the six o'clock train, and papa read aloud to us Byron's splendid, stirring "Isles of Greece," and portions of "Childe Harold." Reading poetry is quite an accomplishment of papa's, and although he is very happy in sentimental and heroic verse, he has also a keen sense of humor, and his reading of comic and dialect poems, especially those of Hans Breitmann, have been much complimented; indeed, in "our circle" he is the reader par excellence of Bret Harte, John Hay, and Hans Breitmann.
Marguerite and Ida went down yesterday to the city for a day's shopping, a relaxation of which we are all quite fond. I walked down to the station to meet them upon their return, and was not a little surprised to see a third black-robed figure emerge from the cars with them. Too petite to be Gabrielle, who has been visiting a school-friend for the last week, it was not until the second glance that I recognized the abundant golden-brown hair and romantic eyes of our pretty cousin, Theresa Walling.
Theresa is Aunt Arminda's granddaughter, and although only eighteen, is entitled to pass through a door in advance of Marguerite, Ida and I, and to occupy the back seat in a carriage, for she is married, and has had two sweet little girls, one of whom died during that sad month of November, last year, and the oldest, her pretty Theresa Beatrice, only a week ago. Quite delicate from her childhood, the loss of her babies has been a great affliction to their poor little mother, and Ida brought her out to visit us, hoping that change of scene might bring back the former rose-flush to her pale cheeks.
Early marriages appear hereditary in that branch of the family, for Aunt Arminda was married at fifteen, and Theresa's mother at fourteen; consequently, Aunt Arminda found herself a great-grandmother when some years short of sixty.
I said that Theresa lost her youngest child within the thirty days that elapsed between uncle's and Aunt Mary's deaths; but those were not the only bereavements in our family that sad winter; before the spring came, Theresa's father and a little girl, our cousin Victoria's child, had also died.
Theresa's beauty is not the true Greeley type—blonde, with blue eyes. Her complexion is somewhat like her grandmother's—a delicate olive with an exquisite flush, when in health. The contour of her face is a perfect oval; her eyes are dark and pensive, and although her hair is almost golden in its brightness, both her eyebrows and lashes are of a dark chestnut brown. In figure she is, as I said, very petite; she and I are the two "little ones" of the family.
Theresa displays considerable taste for literature; and, notwithstanding the demand that her children made upon her time, has written some romantic stories that have been published in New York journals.
She has a bright little brother, and three sisters—Fannie, Jessie, and Lillian; all pretty and clever children. Fannie, who is now only fourteen, will, I hope, when older, become a graceful poetess; for the verses that she has already had published under her pretty signature, "Fannie Fawn," are very musical, and promise well for the future.
Mr. Greeley visits his Family in Pennsylvania—He expounds Mathematics and Philosophy to his Brother and Sisters—Fishing and Bee Hunting—Forest Fires—A Subsequent Visit—He returns as Editor of the New Yorker—He writes the 'Faded Stars'—Characteristics of Mr. Greeley's Brother—His Children—Mr. Greeley's Younger Sisters—Their Education.
"Mamma," said Marguerite, looking up from the tea-table where we were all assembled, "did uncle visit you often in Pennsylvania? I suppose so, for I know what an affectionate family you wore, and how very fond he was of his parents."
"He visited us as often as he could," replied mamma, "but you know that the distance was great, and during the four years that he spent in Poultney, his time was not at his command. I can only remember two visits that he made us during that period; each one, however, lasted a month.
"It was, I think, during our second year in the woods that he came home for the first time. I well remember, after the first joy of the reunion was over, examining his trunk to see what books he had brought with him. Those that I found there were quite different from what many boys of seventeen would have chosen, when going home for a vacation. I do not recollect meeting any books of adventure or romance; but works upon the higher mathematics and philosophy were there to show that dear brother's education was by no means at a standstill, although he was working hard to earn his own living.
"During the evenings, he would gather us about him, and illustrate some mathematical problem, or, giving us a dissertation upon natural science, would expound the laws of gravitation, etc.
"In the daytime, when not fishing or bee hunting, he would work in the fields with father and brother Barnes. There was excellent trout fishing, I remember, in the brooks; and that, with bee hunting and watching the forest fires, was his only amusement; for shooting was a pastime in which he never indulged."
"I thought," said Marguerite, "that boys in the country were always fond of shooting."
"As a rule they are," replied mamma; "but your uncle was not. His delicate, sensitive nature was always shocked by the sharp report of a gun. I remember that when we were in Vermont he and brother Barnes would go out together to hunt squirrels, Barnes carrying the gun; and that when the game was found, brother Horace would cover his ears with his hands, to soften the noise of the discharge.
"I suppose, my dears, that you do not know how hunters find wild honey?"
We knew little of wild honey save that John the Baptist used to eat it, so mamma continued:
"The bees, having no hives provided for them, made their honey in the hollow trunks of trees; and as it was one of the luxuries of our table, it was quite important to trace out their hiding-places. Brother Barnes would go out with a little box of syrup or honey, and when he found a bee upon a flower would imprison it in the box, detaining it there until it had had time to load itself with sweetness. When it was released, it would make a 'bee line' for its home in the tree; never pausing by the way, even for the sweetest flowers. Barnes would note the direction it had taken, and follow it as well as he could; but often he would be obliged to capture several bees, and sometimes pass days in the pursuit, before he would be rewarded by hearing in some tree a buzzing that could almost be called roaring. The next step was to fell the tree, which would cause the bees to quickly disperse; not, however, without stinging the intruder; but the result compensated for a sting or two, for it was not unusual for Barnes to find from twenty to thirty pounds in a tree, often, however, so mixed with the soft wood that we were obliged to strain it before it was fit to put upon the table."
"You spoke of the forest fires, mamma," said Marguerite; "pray, what were they? The woods were never literally on fire, I suppose."
"Oh yes," replied mamma, "and the fire often lasted a long time. One means of clearing the ground to make a farm was to fell the trees, while in full leafage, in what were called 'winrows.' They lay in great piles for a year and sometimes longer; then when quite dry they would be ignited, and a glorious bonfire on a gigantic scale would ensue. The fire would burn up not only all the logs and dead leaves upon the ground, but, spreading its way through the forest, would do considerable damage to the living trees, burning as it often did for weeks. It was, however, a grand sight to watch it through the darkness of the night, and when the fire running up the hollow trunk of some dead tree would burst out in a blaze at the top, we children were filled with enthusiasm, and used to call them 'our beacon lights.' Never did brother Horace seem happier than during that fiery season, and often he and brother Barnes spent the greater portion of the night among the burning log-piles, stirring up the fires when they smouldered, and throwing on brush and fresh logs.
"During the year that he worked at his trade upon the shores of Lake Erie, we saw him more frequently; but the visit that I remember with the greatest pleasure was one that he made us just after establishing his New Yorker. I was much impressed during this last visit with a marked change in brother's taste and character—a change indicated as much by his reading as by his external appearance. His trunk was now filled with standard works and volumes of poems, instead of treatises upon science, and he appeared in a perpetual rose-dream. He seemed to me the embodiment of romance and poesy, and now as I think of him with his pure, unselfish nature, so early devoted to what was noblest and best, I can only compare him to the high-minded boy-saint, the chaste, seraphic Aloysius.
"It was while at home this time that he wrote his poem 'The Faded Stars,' that was published in the New Yorker, and copied into several leading journals—"
"Oh, I am so fond of that poem," interrupted Ida, "that I have copied it into my album of poetical selections. Papa wrote it, you say, while visiting you?"
"Yes, he wrote it in the room where the family were all assembled. I recollect sitting beside him and watching his face as line after line flowed from his pen. I had never before seen any one write a poem, and it seemed to me quite wonderful. Read it to me, Ida, if your album is at hand; I do not recollect all the stanzas."
"THE FADED STARS."
BY HORACE GREELEY.
"I mind the time when Heaven's high dome
Woke in my soul a wondrous thrill--
When every leaf in Nature's tome
Bespoke Creation's marvels still;
When morn unclosed her rosy bars,
Woke joys intense; but naught e'er bade
My soul leap up like ye bright stars!
"Calm ministrants to God's high glory!
Pure gems around His burning throne!
Mute watchers o'er man's strange, sad story
Of crime and woe through ages gone!
'Twas yours, the wild and hallowing spell,
That lured me from ignoble glens--
Taught me where sweeter fountains
Than ever bless the worldling's dreams.
"How changed was life! A waste no more
Beset by Pain, and Want, and Wrong,
Earth seemed a glad and fairy shore,
Made vocal with Hope's impassioned song.
But ye bright sentinels of Heaven!
Far glories of Night's radiant sky!
Who when ye lit the brow of Even
Has ever deemed man born to die?
"'Tis faded now! That wondrous grace
That once on Heaven's forehead shone:
I see no more in Nature's face
A soul responsive to mine own.
A dimness on my eye and spirit
Has fallen since those gladsome years,
Few joys my hardier years inherit,
And leaden dulness rules the spheres.
"Yet mourn not I! A stern high duty
Now nerves my arm and fires my brain.
Perish the dream of shapes of Beauty!
And that this strife be not in vain
To war on fraud intrenched with power,
On smooth pretence and specious wrong,
This task be mine tho' Fortune lower--
For this be banished sky and song."
"How did it happen, mamma," inquired Marguerite, "that Uncle Barnes has not become a distinguished man? Is he not clever like Uncle Horace, or was he not fond of learning? It seems strange that he never left home to seek his fortune in the world."
"Brother Barnes has quite as much genius," mamma quickly replied, "as your Uncle Horace, and under equally favoring circumstances would have made as brilliant a man. A farmer's life was distasteful to him, and it was for years his dream to go away from home, and receive an education that would fit him for the bar or the pulpit, towards both of which 'callings' he was strongly attracted. It would, however, have been impossible for father to have hewn a farm unaided out of the wilderness, and he could not afford to hire any assistance, so brother Barnes generously sacrificed all his own aspirations and preferences, and devoted his life, which might have been a brilliant and successful one, to the dull routine of farm acres."
"Did Uncle Barnes resemble papa much, as a boy?" inquired Ida.
"Your uncle was of a very different temperament," replied mamma; "he was as gay and loquacious as your papa was silent and abstracted. He was very fond of reading and of study, but he lacked your papa's perseverance; he was more awake to the outer world and its distractions, whereas brother Horace was oblivious to everything else, when he once held a book in his hand.
"I have told you what a splendid voice your grandfather had. Brother Barnes was the only one of the five children who inherited it, and with it a very quick ear for music. I remember hearing mother say, that when he was three and four years old, he was often called upon to sing for our friends, who not unfrequently rewarded his talent with presents; however, at the time when his voice changed, it completely lost its musical qualities, to our great regret.
"As he grew older, he developed a taste for argument, that would have done him good service had he been able to follow out his darling project of becoming a lawyer; indeed, as it was, he was always called upon, unprofessionally, to settle the neighbors' disputes, and was renowned for making all the love-matches of the neighborhood. In his reading he had rather a peculiar taste; he delighted in theological and controversial books, and I never knew any one who was more thoroughly acquainted with the Bible. He could not only give the precise chapter and verse from which any text was taken, but was able to detect the slightest verbal error in the quotation.
"He had a passion for preaching, and although unordained, was always ready to deliver a sermon whenever he could find a vacant church and an audience.
"Every one in America has heard of your papa's benevolent disposition, and the amount he used to spend in private charities. Your Uncle Barnes was, if possible, more generous. I have known him to part with his last dollar to relieve another from want or embarrassment, and this was not done through weakness or inability to refuse, but from a genuine impulse of sympathy with those in need.
"I am very proud to say of my only surviving brother, that although he has never had the advantage of a good education, he has lived to the age of sixty without indulging in tobacco, wine, or profane language, and has brought up his boys in the same temperate habits."
"How many children has Uncle Barnes, Aunt Esther?" inquired Ida. "I have, I think, seen only three."
"There are ten living," replied mamma. "Brother Barnes, you know, has been twice married. His first wife was a woman of fine character, but became, soon after her marriage, a confirmed invalid, and brother Barnes' constant attention and care of her during her years of illness was almost unparalleled for devotion.
"Victoria is the oldest of the children: she was a very bright, clever little girl, and a great pet with mother, as she was the first grandchild born at home. Sister Arminda's children, living at some distance, were not so available for instruction, and in that occupation consisted mother's happiness. She taught Victoria to read when she was two years and a half old, and I remember seeing her stand, a few years later, at mother's knee, reading one of Hans Christian Andersen's stories, with the tears streaming down her cheeks at the pathos—a proof of appreciation that delighted mother's heart.
"Victoria is married, and lives in Kansas. She is a fine, intelligent woman, and since the loss of her little girl, last winter, has shown a strong disposition to write. She has the ability to do so, and if her health and her home duties permit, I am sure she will make a clever writer.
"Horace, whom you have seen, is next Victoria in age; he is also married, and lives in New Jersey.
"Two married daughters, Mary and Esther, follow. Mary's mind resembles mother's in her grasp for politics and history, but she inherits her own mother's feeble health, which unfits her for giving expression to her masculine intellect. Esther, who was named for me, is a sweet and lovely woman, and a devoted wife and mother.
"Poor Woodburn came next on the list—a sensitive, silent youth, more resembling his Uncle Horace than any of the other children. You all recollect his sad death three years ago.
"Oscar and Clarence are the youngest of Sally's, the first wife's, children. Clarence is the cleverest of the family among the boys. He is very well educated, and now supports himself as a land surveyor, although not yet twenty years old."
"Where does he live, Aunt Esther?" inquired Gabrielle, "With his father?"
"No; in Kansas with Victoria," was the reply. "I must not forget to tell you that he taught school in Indiana when only sixteen years old, and received a diploma from the State. His half-sister, Eugenia, who is only fourteen, has had very pretty verses published in different New York journals."
"Did Aunt Margaret receive as good an education as you did, when a young girl, mamma?" inquired Marguerite. "I remember hearing you say that you were sent away to school for two or three years."
"No," replied mamma, "her advantages for learning were not so good as mine; indeed, I was her principal teacher. As I have told you, I went to school very little as a child, and the village school at Vermont gave only the most meagre and elementary instruction, but I was always an eager reader of whatever came in my way, as well as an attentive listener, and thus I contrived while in the woods to pick up considerable information. I remember seeing at that time in a neighbor's house, a little, cheaply bound volume, 'Blair's Rhetoric,' which so interested me that I offered to take care of the owner's baby for two weeks, if she would give me the book. A bargain was accordingly made; I 'tended baby' for fifteen days, and received in exchange the precious volume, which I studied until I learnt it by heart.
"Then I saved pennies until I had collected a sufficient number to send to Erie and purchase a copy of Comstock's Natural Philosophy—the first one by the way that had ever been brought into our township—and these two books, together with my self-acquired knowledge, and my own experience of two years as a teacher, sufficed to fit me to enter the Fredonia Academy, and to compete fairly with the other girls whose instruction had not been so dearly bought.
"I spent four of the happiest years of my life in school at Fredonia, and only regretted that sister Margaret could not have shared my advantages.
"Meantime, Margaret commenced to teach school at the age of fifteen, and continued to do so, until she was married, when twenty years old, giving great satisfaction to every one. She has, you know, three children. Her two boys, Eugene and Arthur, are promising young men, and are both employed in The Tribune office. Arthur is married, and has several children. We all know how pretty his sister Evangeline is; she, you know, is to become Mrs. Dr. Ross this winter."
 Here a line is missing.
A Quiet Household—Absence of Marguerite and Gabrielle—Amusing Letters from them—A Gypsy Fortune-teller—Marguerite returns with a Visitor—The Harvest Moon—Preparing for Company—Arranging the Blue Room—Intense Anticipation—"'He Cometh Not,' She Said."
Our little household has been unusually quiet for the past week, owing to the absence of the two lively members of the family, Marguerite and Gabrielle, who are visiting friends by the seaside and upon the shores of Seneca Lake. Their absence makes a great change in the ways of the household, for Ida and I have not the high spirits and constant flow of words that distinguish our sisters, and we spend our time as quietly and busily as two little nuns, not even dreaming of asking any one to come up from the city and pass Saturday with us. We miss them very much, especially at the table, and in the half hour after tea, when we always gather about mamma's sofa for a little chat, before separating for our evening's work—writing, practising, or whatever it may be.
Ida and I usually form the audience upon these occasions, and listen with great interest to Marguerite's entertaining stories of adventures at home and abroad, or Gabrielle's droll mimicry of the strongly marked characteristics of some one she has met or dreamed of. Sometimes the candles are extinguished, and a ghost story is told, for Gabrielle is fond of the supernatural, and her dramatic style of narration adds much to our enjoyment; indeed, chancing the other day to read in a magazine one of her pet stories, I was astonished to find how tame it sounded.
Ida and I find, however, some compensation for our sisters' absence in their sprightly letters, which arrive while we are at the tea-table. Marguerite writes every day, and her letters are inimitable in their humor and esprit, for she writes exactly as she talks. She is visiting some friends whose acquaintance we made in Paris, and who have a beautiful country-seat upon Long Island. Her letters are filled with accounts of drives, fishing-parties, and excursions in yachts and row-boats, and, lastly, of meeting a real gypsy encampment (not the time-honored one in "Trovatore") and having her fortune told.
A gypsy woman, it seems, stopped the carriage as Marguerite was driving past, and expressed so strong a desire to "unveil the future for the young lady," that Marguerite consented, and held out her hand. Quite scornfully the gypsy said that her own palm must first be crossed with money. Marguerite accordingly gave her a dollar bill, thinking that would be the full value of any fortune she would receive from a wandering gypsy, but the money was indignantly returned—the oracle did not tell one-dollar fortunes.
Somewhat astonished at so extensive a demand upon her purse, Marguerite gave her another dollar, whereupon the gypsy at once declared that the young lady had a lucky face, and would never want for anything during her life. The usual dark and fair gentlemen figured largely in her fortune, and—with a glance at Marguerite's blonde complexion—she was to beware the treachery of a brunette rival; however, she was destined to triumph in the end, and would indeed succeed in all her undertakings. I am sure the gypsy could have promised no less, considering the high price she placed upon her predictions.
Gabrielle's experience is very different. She is visiting a former schoolmate, a young girl of her own age. Bessie is now a pupil of Vassar College, and enthusiastic over her studies: consequently the amusements of the two girls are of a very sedate nature: in Gabrielle's words, "A hermit in his cell, my dear Cecilia, never had a more quiet life than I at present enjoy."
She and Bessie had commenced, Gabrielle told me, to write a story together. The débût was most brilliant, and for a time they worked very harmoniously, but unluckily the two little authoresses had different views respecting the proposal (not drawn from life, I imagine, considering their years), and in Gabrielle's letter of yesterday no mention was made of the progress of the story.
The letter, which was very vivacious, was chiefly devoted to the girls' exploits while taking a buggy drive. Gabrielle, who is so fearless with her own ponies, quite scorned the lamb-like animal that was sent up from the livery stable, but she appears to have had much diversion, nevertheless, to judge from her letter. She says:
"Yesterday I tried to break the monotony of life at Seneca Lake by hiring a buggy and horse for Bessie and me to drive. You should have heard the shriek of horror that rent the air at the approach of the peaceful old nag. Miss Carpenter exclaimed:
"'Oh mercy, he points his ears!'
"Poor beast, his ears were pointed by nature, and he could not help it. Mrs. Brown burst forth to the astonished stableman:
"'Does he kick, roll, rear, bite, or shy? Tell me quick, for I know he must do some of them.'
"We did have our drive though, and an adventure too, for we were caught in the rain, and entered a barn where a handsome young man acted the part of host, and generously bestowed hay upon our horse."
A telegram last night from Marguerite, saying, "Will come on the early train with the Honorable Francis"—a very pleasant surprise, for, knowing the habits of that gentleman, we had supposed him to be, if not at the Antipodes, at least in Europe; accordingly, we went down to meet the train in quite a flutter of excitement.
Mr. Colton is "honorable" from having represented his government for four years at Venice. In appearance he is tall and swarthy, with a foreign and picturesque cast of features not unlike the Italian type: a "lovely brigand" we sometimes call him. Notwithstanding his easy and somewhat nonchalant air, he is a true American in his active and restless disposition and his love for travelling. I would be afraid to state the number of miles he has travelled since we made his acquaintance in Paris four years ago, and I have known him to start at forty-eight hours' notice to make a tour of the world.
Mr. Colton made us a visit of two days, and was sufficiently enthusiastic over dear Chappaqua to satisfy even our exacting demands.
We had some sport over the probable speculations of the telegraph operators concerning our visitor. Out of mischief, Marguerite had mentioned him in her telegram merely as "the Honorable Francis;" for so deep an interest is taken in the messages we receive and send, that we enjoy puzzling the operators a little; indeed, we may say that our telegrams are common property here, for seldom do we receive them until they have been carefully read by the telegraph and railroad officials, and then handed to any interested outsider who may chance to be in the office. I will give a little scene that occurred not long ago, by way of illustration.
Our friend Mr. A—— alights from the morning train, and is welcomed by a friend of his who is stopping for a week or so in Chappaqua.
"Delighted to see you, A——. Knew you were coming up this morning, so thought I would run down to the train and meet you."
"How in the world did you know I was coming, my dear fellow?" inquires the astonished A——. "You don't know Mrs. Cleveland or her niece, do you?"
"No, I don't know them," is the prompt reply, "but I was in the telegraph office yesterday, and saw your acceptance when it arrived."
I am not partial to Friday, as it is often an unlucky day for me—a superstition that has come down to me from grandmamma; but, although I try to think it absurd, our experience of yesterday proved a singular confirmation.
Ida and I had thought to celebrate the return of Marguerite and Gabrielle by inviting several friends from the city to enjoy the delicious moonlight with us. Mamma accordingly wrote the invitations, and we at once commenced our preparations. The fête we decided should last three days, and was to commence Friday afternoon—ominous day! We were to have moonlight walks and drives; we were to kindle a fire of pine cones and charcoal upon the beach at Rye Lake, and boil the kettle and make tea; a boat was to be placed upon our own little pond, and a tent pitched near by; and, last and most brilliant, Ida's lovely Southern friend, Miss Worthington, and Gabrielle, were to occupy the tent, dressed as gypsies, and tell the fortunes of the company.
We could scarcely wait for Friday to arrive, but there were many preparations to be made, so we curbed our impatience and worked very industriously. As we were now seven in the household, not counting the servants, and had invited quite a number of guests, the resources of our house were not extensive enough to stow them all away, consequently we spent a lively morning at the side-hill house fitting up three rooms, with Minna's assistance.
The blue room, with its pretty outlook upon the meadows, was our favorite, and upon it we bestowed the most attention. The carpet was gray and blue, of an especially pretty pattern, and the handsome marble-topped bureau, exhumed from the never-failing resources of the house in the woods, looked as fresh as though purchased yesterday. We made the bed with our own hands, touching with reverent care the superb blankets with their inscription:
"To Horace Greeley, the Protector of American Industry."
Then, when the blue silk eider-down counterpane was adjusted to our satisfaction, and one or two little ornaments added to the bureau and chimney-piece—"Cupid" in the Naples Gallery, and my dear Lela's portrait, both framed in blue velvet, and a beautiful Sèvres vase which mamma calls "the one that Pickie didn't break" (his little hands destroyed its mate)—we congratulated ourselves upon the effect of the room.
Apropos of the Cupid, Ida sent it last winter with Annibal Caracci's "Magdalen" and one or two other religious pictures to be framed at Schaus'. When they were sent home, to our surprise, the frames were all surmounted by crosses—an emblem that, although quite en règle for the Holy Magdalen, was, we thought, singularly inappropriate for Cupid. Stopping in at Schaus' a day or two later, I inquired of young Mr. Schaus, to whose taste we had left the selection of the frames, his reason for this extraordinary innovation. His reply was as naïve as unexpected:
"But, mademoiselle, does Cupid, then, never meet with crosses?"
Having done our best for the blue room, we walked over the grounds to see that they were all in order, and when we had admired the pretty blue boat, the white tent, and the water-lilies in full bloom (planted that morning), and gone down to the express office to receive a package due by the ten o'clock train—a copy of the poems of one of the expected guests, which was to be left carelessly in his room with a mark at one of the ballads,—we congratulated ourselves that we had done all in our power to make the rooms look tasteful and pretty.
Lina was in her glory, having had an unrestricted order to do her best. I had a slight foreboding of disappointment, as it was Friday, remembering, too, that the dining-room was lighted by three candles the previous night (a French superstition); but we all dressed in good spirits.
The somewhat spectral appearance of five ladies in mourning was somewhat relieved by the recent addition to our little circle, Miss Worthington, whose dress, though black, was enlivened by a little dash of pale blue—a most becoming match for her fair complexion and golden curls.
We did not wish to ruffle our hair unnecessarily by playing croquet or walking, so we all sat very sedately in the music-room watching for the 5.15 train to arrive. It came at last. We rushed out on the piazza, but recognized no one among the few passengers who alighted.
Disappointment number one. However, they will surely come at half-past six, we argued, and taking up some books and work, we waited patiently until the next train arrived. Again we ran out upon the piazza. Papa was upon the platform at the depot, but we saw no other figure that looked familiar.
"What did I tell you, Ida," said I solemnly, "when, against my entreaties, three candles were lighted last night?"
Never before was papa so long in walking up from the station—I suppose for the reason that he came laden with messages, notes, and telegrams. His "young chief" was detained in the editorial rooms by affairs of great moment; another gentleman had been summoned to the bedside of his father, who was in a dying condition; two other gentlemen had plunged rashly into the preliminary steps to matrimony, and were, I suppose, engaged in serenading their fiancées, while the other two had apparently been made way with, for from them we had no message of any sort.
The crowning injury was the receipt of a book from a friend who is in the habit of supplying me with the latest novels. Usually I am pleased with the books she sends me, but a glance at the title, "'He Cometh Not,' She Said," made me hurl it to the farthest corner of the room; that was too much for any one to bear.
We sat down with small appetites to the elaborate dinner that Lina had prepared, and went gloomily to bed at an early hour.
The Story of Mr. Greeley's Parents continued—He accompanies his Mother to New Hampshire—Her Sisters—Three Thanksgivings in One Year—Pickie as a Baby—His Childhood—Mrs. Greeley's Careful Training—His Playthings—His Death—A Letter from Margaret Fuller.
"Mammi," said I, waking from a deep reverie as I sat beside our bright wood-fire (for we have had two days of dashing rain, and fires have not been at all disagreeable), "did grandpapa ever return to New Hampshire after he left it in 1821?"
"No, my dear," was the reply; "he never returned, nor did he manifest any desire to see his former home and his old friends again. I suppose that all of his pleasant recollections of New Hampshire were superseded by the thought that it was the scene of his bankruptcy, and his proud spirit shrunk from meeting those who might remember that he had left Amherst a fugitive. He was deeply attached to his forest home, and I do not think he ever had an hour of discomfort after he came there. Father always expressed the wish that he might be buried upon his farm. His old age was very serene and happy; he lived to see his 'hole in the forest' become an extensive farm, and the vast wilderness that had surrounded him disappear, while the little tavern and cluster of log-houses across the State line from us grew to be the village of Clymer.
"Father died in 1867, at the age of eighty-seven.
"As for mother, she had the happiness before her death of seeing her fondly loved relatives once more. In the autumn of 1843, mother and I went to New Hampshire to visit the old home and friends. Father was urged to accompany us, but he chose to cling to his Western home. For the third time I now travelled in a canal-boat, but this time it was a packet, and not one of the slow 'line-boats' that I described to you in speaking of our journey from Vermont to Pennsylvania.
"Brother Horace accompanied us from New York to New Hampshire, where we spent several weeks visiting mother's old friends and relatives. The meeting between mother and her sister, Aunt Margaret Dickey, was especially tender, for they had been separated many years, and did not expect to meet again.
"Aunt Margaret is still living, although now in her ninetieth year. I remember hearing that she read your uncle's 'Recollections,' as they appeared in the Ledger, with the liveliest interest. She was at that time eighty-four years old.
"In her youth Aunt Margaret was a decided beauty, with luxuriant hair of the real golden shade, neither flaxen, ash-color, nor red. She was naturally refined and amiable.
"From New Hampshire we went to Fitchburg, Massachusetts, where mother's half-sister, Sally, resided. Aunt Sally was doubly my aunt, having married father's brother, Dustin Greeley. She was a slender, handsome woman, with blue eyes and light hair, and possessed mother's happy temperament, which all the trials of her hard life had not been able to change.
"That year I celebrated three Thanksgivings within as many weeks."
"Pray how did that happen, auntie?" inquired Gabrielle, who had just entered the room.
"Thanksgiving Day was not then restricted to the last Thursday in the month," was the reply, "but was appointed by the Governor of each State at any time that he saw fit between harvest and the holidays; therefore, being in three different States within a month, I had three Thanksgiving dinners.
"When we returned to New York, we stopped for a short visit at Turtle Bay. Pickie was then eight months old, and as sweet and poetic-looking as one of Correggio's cherubs. Your mamma was then in the first flush of her maternal enthusiasm. She and your papa were desirous that mother should remain in New York and spend the winter with them; but fondly as she loved your papa, and dear as her daughter-in-law and her little grandson were to her, she felt that her duty and her strongest love recalled her to her husband and her home in the woods. She returned to Pennsylvania, and took up again her life of daily care, but she brought back little joy with her, although no word of discontent escaped her. Her favorite seat was by the window looking east, and there we often surprised her gazing with an intent look down the road. When we would ask her if she was expecting any one, or for whom she was looking, she would say with a startled expression, 'Oh, no one;' but we always fancied that she was thinking of her early home that she had now left forever.
"A year or two later, slowly, silently, and peacefully she passed away."
"I thought, auntie," said Gabrielle, "that you lived with mamma when Pickie was a baby. I am sure I have heard her say that you helped her to take care of him."
"That is true, dear," replied mamma, "but I did not remain in New York at the time of which we are now speaking. I accompanied mother home to Pennsylvania, and the following spring, when Pickie was a year old, your mamma wrote to ask me to come back, and assist her in the care of her beautiful boy. I remained with her until my marriage, consequently Pickie became very near to me, and his death was almost as great a shock to me as it was to his parents."
"Do tell us, mamma," said Marguerite, "about Pickie's childhood. I have always heard that he was brought up in a very remarkable way, but beyond the fact of Aunt Mary's great devotion to him, I know very little concerning him."
"Your Aunt Mary," mamma replied, "looked upon Pickie's birth as much in the light of a miracle as if no other child had ever before been born. He was Heaven-sent to her, and she sacrificed herself completely for the better development of Pickie's individuality, or, to use the language of the reformers of those days, in 'illustrating the independence of the child's self-hood.' Nothing could have been more boundless than her enthusiasm for her baby; and it was night and day her study to guard his health, and to watch and cherish his opening intellect. No child prince could have been more tenderly and daintily nurtured than he was; as his father often said, 'Pickie is a dear boy in every sense of the word;' for nothing was too rare or too costly for him.
"You have heard of the brilliancy of his complexion: this was owing in part to his mother's watchful care of his diet, and to his bathing. An hour was allowed for his daily bath, and for brushing out his luxuriant, silken hair. This was one of my duties, and no doubt it was that scrupulous care that gave it so rare a shade.
"As for his food, it was quite peculiar. He never ate baker's bread, nor indeed any bread prepared by other hands than his mother's or mine, and he was not given meat or cake—with the exception of oatmeal cake—while candies, or indeed sugar in any form, butter, and salt were rigidly excluded from his diet; but white grapes, and every choice fruit that this or foreign markets afforded, he was allowed to eat in abundance, and the result of this system was a sturdy constitution, and a complexion unparalleled for beauty.
"I said that he never ate butter; but cream and milk were given him instead."
"What sort of toys did he have, mamma?" I inquired. "I can never imagine him playing with dolls like an ordinary child."
"He never did," replied mamma; "his toys, like his meals, were peculiar. One of the largest rooms in the house was chosen for his nursery, and as his mother would not have a carpet upon the floor, it was scrubbed daily. Here his playthings were kept—a singular assortment one would think them, but your aunt seldom gave him what would simply amuse him for the moment, but sought rather to surround him by objects that would suggest ideas to his mind—on a plan somewhat like that of the Kindergarten system, but more poetic, and entirely original with herself. He had lovely pictures, and a real violin, while the shops were constantly searched for whatever was curious, instructive, or beautiful.
"Pickie's mind and conversation were very unlike those of the children even of our best families, for he never had children for playfellows, and those friends whom his mother permitted to be near him were of the most cultivated and noble character. His language consequently was as choice as that of the minds who surrounded him, and very quaint it sounded from a child's lips. At this time Margaret Fuller was with us, and Pickie lived in most intimate relations to this pure, high-minded woman.
"In her care to prevent Pickie from knowing of the existence of wickedness and cruelty in this world, your Aunt Mary would rarely permit him to converse long with any save the chosen few that I have mentioned, lest the innocence of his child-mind should be shocked by hearing of war, or murder, or cruelty to animals, while she was ever guarding him lest his eyes might rest upon some painful or disagreeable object."
"Don't you think, mamma," said Marguerite, "that that letter of Margaret Fuller's upon Pickie's death shows remarkable feeling for a child unrelated to her?"
"Which letter?" inquired Ida.
"The one that is copied in the 'Recollections,'" was the reply.
"I think," returned Ida, "that the one she wrote to papa which has never been published is much finer."
"Oh, do read it to us," said Marguerite. So, unlocking a little box, Ida took out a sheet quite yellow and worn, and read it to us:
"RIETI, August 25, 1848.
"MY BELOVED FRIEND:—Bitterest tears alone can answer those words—Pickie is dead. My heart has all these years presaged them. I have suffered not a few sleepless hours thinking of our darling, haunted with fears never again to see his sweet, joyous face which on me, also, always looked with love and trust. But I always thought of small-pox. Now how strangely snatched from you, oh poor mother; how vain all your feverish care night and day to ward off the least possible ill from that fair frame. Oh, how pathetic it seems to think of all that was done for dear, dear Pickie to build up strong that temple from which the soul departed so easily.
"You say I left him too soon to know him well, but it was not so. I had spiritual sight of the child, and knew his capacities. I hoped to be of use to him if he lived, for sweet was our communion beside the murmuring river, and when he imitated the low voices of the little brook, or telling him stories in my room, which even then he well understood. A thousand times I have thought of the time when he first said the word Open to get into my room, and my heart always was open to him. He was my consolation in hours sadder than you ever guessed—my spring-flower, my cheerful lark. None but his parents could love him so well; no child, except little Waldo Emerson, had I ever so loved. In both I saw the promise of a great future: its realization is deferred to some other sphere; ere long may we follow and aid it there.
"Ever sacred, my friend, be this bond between us—the love and knowledge of the child. I was his aunty; and no sister can so feel what you lose. My friend, I have never wept so for grief of my own, as now for yours. It seems to me too cruel; you are resigned; you make holy profit of it; the spear has entered and forced out the heart's blood, the pure ichor follows. I know not yet how to feel so; I have not yet grieved away the bitter pang.
"My mother wrote me he said sometimes he would get a boat and carry yellow flowers to his Aunty Margaret. I suppose he had not yet quite forgotten that I used to get such for him. I often thought what I should carry him from Europe—what I should tell him—what teach? He had a heart of natural poetry; he would have prized all that was best.
"Oh, it is all over; and indeed this life is over for me. The conditions of this planet are not propitious to the lovely, the just, the pure; it is these that go away; it is the unjust that triumph. Let us, as you say, purify ourselves; let us labor in the good spirit here, but leave all thought of results to Eternity.
"I say this, and yet my heart is bound to earth as never before; for I, too, have a dearer self—a little son. He is now about the age sweet Pickie was when I was with him most; and I have thought much of the one in the dawning graces of the other. But I accept the lesson, and will strive to prepare myself to resign him. Indeed, I had the warning before; for, during the siege of Rome, when I could not see him, my mind, agonized by the danger of his father, as well as all the overpowering and infamous injuries heaped upon the noble, sought refuge in the thought of him safe, in his green nook, and, as I thought, in care of worthy persons. When at last we left, our dearest friends laid low, our fortunes finally ruined, and every hope for which we struggled, blighted, I hoped to find comfort in his smiles. I found him wasted to a skeleton; and it is only by a month of daily and hourly most anxious care (in which I was often assisted by memories of what Mrs. Greeley did for Pickie) that I have been able to restore him. But I hold him by a frail tenure; he has the tendency to cough by which I was brought so low.
"Adieu. You say, pray for you; oh, let us all pray together. I hope we shall yet find dear Pickie where he is; that earthly blemishes will be washed out, and he be able to love us all. Till then, God help and guide us, dear friend. Amen.
"M. F. O.
"You may address me in future as Marchioness Ossoli."
The Friends' Seminary—The Principal Chappaqua Residences—Reminiscences of Paris during the War—An Accomplished Lady—Her Voice—Festivities—A Drive to Rye Lake—Making Tea on the Beach—A Sail at Sunset—Fortune-telling by Firelight—The Drive Home—Sunday Morning—A Row on the Pond—Dramatic Representations in the Barn—A Drive to Lake Wampas—Starlight Row.
A visit last night from Mr. Collins, the Principal of Chappaqua Institute. This gentleman is one of our neighbors; so when the duties of school hours are over, he frequently calls in to play a game of croquet, or to join in the evening rubber of whist, of which Marguerite and Gabrielle are so fond. I had often heard his name before he was introduced to us, and imagined, from his responsible position, that he must be some staid, gray-haired Quaker; but, upon meeting him, I was surprised to discover that, although Principal of the "Friends' Seminary," he belonged to the "world's people"; and was quite young enough to impress the more susceptible among his young lady pupils.
In speaking of the handsome residences about and near Chappaqua, I have unintentionally overlooked one of the finest among them. It is situated about half-way between Chappaqua and Mount Kisco; and so far as I can judge by a view from the road, the grounds are both extensive and well cultivated. The house stands back from the road, and is quite imbedded in trees, and the lawn and flower-beds are very prettily laid out.
Upon asking Bernard one day, as we were driving to Mount Kisco, to whom this place belonged, he said that he had forgotten the owner's name, but believed he was now in Europe; and it was not until quite recently that I ascertained it was the property of Mr. Elliott O. Cowdin, of New York City, Paris, or Westchester County. I really do not know which place to accredit to him as his residence.
Yesterday Mr. Cowdin dined with us, and we had quite a merry time recalling our adventures upon leaving Paris in 1870. It was only three days before the battle of Sedan, when every one was rushing away from the doomed city, that we also decided to leave; and Mr. Cowdin was very kind in helping us off. We had many tribulations and delays in procuring our tickets, and having our luggage registered, for thousands were waiting in the Gare St. Lazare to escape from the range of Prussian shells; but between the energy of Mr. Cowdin and his servant Harry, and the talismanic name of Washburne (for our ambassador had kindly given us his card to present at the ticket and freight offices), we succeeded in running the blockade much easier than we had anticipated. Once in the waiting-room, we seated ourselves upon our bags, for every chair had been taken hours before, and waited for the twelve o'clock train. We sat patiently for an hour, and were then informed it would not start until six, for what reason we could not learn; for French officials can never be induced to give you any information.
At the close of another hour, we were not only white with alarm, supposing the Prussians were at the city gates, but were also in a starving condition, having eaten nothing since our eight o'clock breakfast of chocolate and rolls. What to do we did not know; the doors of the waiting-room were closed, and despite the shrieks and frantic kicks of the terrified and penned-up passengers, no egress was permitted. Finally, our party of five helpless women decided to appeal to Mr. Cowdin, feeling confident that he would devise some means to relieve our forlorn condition. A piteous note was accordingly written, informing him that we should be prisoners until six o'clock, and appealing to his American chivalry to come and share our confinement with us, and to fetch some bread and butter, of which we stood sorely in need.
Among the employees of the station a messenger was found, and in less than an hour Mr. Cowdin's friendly face was seen, as he made his way through the crowd, followed by the invaluable Harry with a basket. An impromptu table-cloth, consisting of newspapers, was spread upon the floor, and we gathered about our feast, the other passengers meantime eying us hungrily, as roast chicken, Bordeaux, and a four-pound loaf appeared from the basket.
That was my last meal in Paris, and although the circumstances appeared very amusing as we talked them over with Mr. Cowdin yesterday, they were anything but entertaining at that time, expecting momentarily as we did that a shell would explode among us.
I have just returned from a walk to the station to meet our friend, Mrs. George Gilman, whom we expected would spend the day with us, but found instead a note from her saying that ill-health would prevent her from visiting us at present.
Mrs. Gilman is a dear friend of ours, and a charming and accomplished woman. Her elegant drawing-rooms upon Lexington Avenue are a resort for not only the fashionable world, but a favorite rendezvous for the principal vocalists and pianists of the city, for Mrs. Gilman is perhaps the only amateur in New York society whose voice equals Carlotta Patti's in extent, and the ease with which her flute-like tones reach G in alt. Her voice has been carefully trained by many of the great New York masters, and has also had the advantage of Paris instruction. Therefore we may congratulate ourselves that we possess in private life, one who would make so admirable a prima donna.
My journal, about which I am usually so conscientious, has been neglected for nearly a week, for we have had a succession of visitors, and my time has been entirely taken up with drives, games of croquet, and starlight walks.
On Saturday, several friends came up with papa in the morning train; some merely to pass the day, and others to make a longer stay with us. Mr. James Parton, the well-known author, had not visited dear Chappaqua in twenty years, and was desirous of seeing the changes that time had effected in this lovely spot. Others, too, were visiting us for the first time, and preferred to see the wild, picturesque beauties of the place, rather than to drive, ride, or play croquet; consequently the company soon divided. One party strolled off through the woods, and followed the course of the brook up to our tiny cascade—now, however, swollen by the heavy rains we have recently had into quite a noisy and impetuous waterfall, while others who had earlier in the season spent long mornings with us under the pines and beneath the oaks on the side-hill, now enrolled themselves in Gabrielle's regiment, confident that she would lead them to a glorious victory on the field of croquet.
We did not assemble again until our two o'clock dinner, and as soon as that meal was over, we started upon the long-contemplated picnic to Rye Lake. A large six-seated carriage and a pair of stout horses had been hired, and Ida's own phaeton and ponies were also at the door to convey our party to that most romantic sheet of water.
Every seat in the two conveyances was occupied, and all the available corners were filled with tightly packed baskets, containing charcoal and pine-cones to kindle a fire upon the smooth beach, tea-kettles and teapots, table linen, dishes and provisions. The drive was one of the most delightful that we have yet had, and was heightened by the dreamy haze of autumn, that is now faintly perceptible.
The lake is private property, and picnics are frowned upon; however, the most attractive gentleman in our party was sent to ask permission for us to pass the afternoon there, and a cordial assent was quickly granted.
A well-trimmed sward, shaded by fine old oaks, was selected as the most suitable place to lay the cloth, and then, to pass away the time until six o'clock, several of the party went out in a row-boat.
"We were absent an hour or more, playing cards, singing, and drifting about; now and then grazing a rock, or narrowly escaping an upset, owing to the disproportion of weight among the passengers, and at sunset returned to our encampment. Here we found a blazing fire, and the tea-kettle singing joyously. An extensive meal was spread upon a neat white cloth, and we grouped about it upon our bright carriage rugs, so like leopard skins with their black spots upon a yellow ground. Hot tea was a very agreeable substitute for the lemonade that generally forms the beverage at picnics, and as we all had excellent appetites, the meal passed off very pleasantly.
"What are we to do now!" inquired one restless being, as we walked down to the beach, leaving Bernard to consume the débris of the feast and collect the dishes.
"I think this fire so comfortable," said one of the young ladies, "that I mean to remain beside it, as it is now dark and rather chill."
"Let us play whist by the firelight," was suggested by those who had not been out in the boat.
"Or, better still, have our fortunes told by its light," said Ida, throwing a couple of branches upon the burning coals.
"Delightful!" exclaimed Marguerite. "I have not forgotten that we have among us a Gypsy Queen, whose predictions are always realized;" turning to a pretty blonde, whose delicate features and sunny curls testified that she was only a gypsy through her talent for unveiling the future to her friends.
The rugs were accordingly spread out upon the beach, and we gathered about the fire whilst the cards were being shuffled and cut for the past, present, and future. A weird sight it was, and one that the great Rembrandt would have delighted to paint: a background of dark, silent trees, before us the motionless lake, illumined by the silver crescent then setting, while the faint glimmer of starlight, and the fiery glow of the burning wood, lit up the face of our young seeress, as with a puzzled brow, but a pretty air of faith, she bent over the talismanic cards.
In turn our fortunes were all told, and not a little wonder was excited when some hidden page of the past, as a former engagement, or a never-mentioned marriage, was disclosed.
One young man was told that he would live happily, but always be poor—a destiny that he received with a droll air of resignation and philosophy; while another was warned to beware of a blonde enemy, causing him to recoil with a look of mock terror from the fair-haired Philippe Hubert who sat beside him.
An elegant young Englishman was alternately inspirited and depressed, by hearing that an uncle in India was about to leave him a legacy, and that a tailor's bill of many years' standing was now upon its way to him, whilst for all the young ladies a brilliant future was predicted.
My fortune was, however, quite mysterious. I was told to beware of a
male enemy, and two rivals, a blonde and a brunette, and was in
imminent danger of poison. I was soon to be engaged to a poor man, but
was to marry a millionnaire, who would leave me a widow at the end of
five years' time. Whether I was then to
"--marry my own love,"
the oracle did not disclose.
Then ensued the long drive home. The air was chill but exhilarating,
and we sung and told ghost stories, and were astonished, when at last
we dashed through a white gate, to find ourselves at home once more.
It was ten o'clock the next morning before we were all assembled at the
breakfast-table, and we had scarcely risen from our last cups of
coffee, when a couple of friends arrived upon the slow Sunday train.
How we were now to amuse ourselves was the question for the proximity
of a church compelled very quiet demeanor. Finally we had a brilliant
idea: the stone barn which had been filled only a few days previous
with fresh, sweet hay, would be just the place to spend the morning.
Accordingly we walked up there, pausing, however, on the way for a row
on the pond in our pretty blue boat, and then ensued two charming
hours. We mounted the hay-loft, and nestled down in the soft mounds
(to the detriment of our black dresses, by the way, for upon emerging
we were covered with burrs and straws), and being far from reproving
ears we sung both sacred and secular music, and laughed at a droll
impersonation, of Fechter's Claude—
"Ah! false one,
It is ze Prince zow lovest, not ze man," etc.,
and an equally comic burlesque upon Forrest, and were very sorry to learn that the carriages were waiting to take us to Lake Wampas.
"A new lake?" inquired a friend who had already accompanied us to Rye and Croton Lakes; "pray how many does Westchester County possess?"
Each new one is of course the prettiest, and beautiful as Rye Lake had been the previous night under the influence of the setting sun, and starlight, we all decided that Lake Wampas was simply perfect.
Dinner was ready upon our return, and before the dessert was placed upon the table a warning whistle was heard, and several of our friends were obliged to bid us a hasty adieu, and rush through Bischoff's garden to catch the train.
In the evening we walked up to the pond for a row among the water-lilies by starlight. There we found the bonny blue boat awaiting us, but the oars had disappeared. Whether Bernard disapproved of water-parties on Sunday, or had merely put the oars away for safety, we could not tell, but having gone so far, we were determined not to be disappointed, so we embarked, and with an old garden-rake, and a long pole to propel the boat, we succeeded, at all events, in having a very laughable row.
The next morning our friends left us; the play-days were over, and we once more settled ourselves to study.
Marriage of a Cousin—A Pretty Bride—Letters—Home Circle Complete—A Letter of Adventures—Wedding Cards—A Musical Marriage—Housekeeping under Difficulties—Telegraphic Blunders—A Bust of Mr. Greeley—More Visitors.
A letter yesterday from our cousin Estelle Greeley, signed, however, by a new name, for she was married last week. Estelle is Aunt Arminda's youngest daughter, and although not yet eighteen, was before the death of Theresa's children a great-aunt. She sent us her picture, taken with her husband. She is a very pretty girl, with large, dreamy, blue eyes, and lashes so long and dark as to cast deep shadows—a languishing effect often produced on city belles by artificial means. Her hair is of that sunny brown shade peculiar to so many of our cousins, and she has hitherto worn it floating over her shoulders à la belle sauvage; but now I suppose she thinks so negligée and girlish a coiffure incompatible with her new dignity as a married woman, for I observed in her picture that it was wreathed into an imposing diadem braid.
Although Estelle is rather young to have married, the match has received the cordial approbation of tho entire family. She was married at home, but has now gone to live at Columbus, Pennsylvania, where her father-in-law is a prominent merchant. Her letter was full of enthusiasm over her happiness, but I was glad to learn that she did not intend, like so many young brides, to give up her music in the excitement of her new married life.
Our mail was not large this morning, for our friends are now returning to the city, and are busy with the demands of upholsterers and dress-makers in anticipation of the gayeties of the coming season; some few, however, are still enjoying this delicious September weather by the seaside or inland.
Our friend, Mrs. Cutler, the pretty Virginia novelist and society star, is now in Westchester County, and promises us a visit very soon. She speaks with deep feeling of the pleasure it will afford her to visit dear uncle's loved home, and in conclusion sends many kind messages to mamma's "bouquet of girls."
One of my most intimate friends, Marguerite Aymar, after having visited several watering-places, and contributed sparkling letters to different New York journals this summer, has now come to Westchester County to pass away quietly the remainder of the season, and gather up strength for her literary labors during the coming winter. I learn by a letter received from her yesterday, that she is boarding within driving distance of Chappaqua—a very agreeable prospect for me, for Marguerite and I are much given to long talks together, and are very fond of an exchange of ideas over our many literary plans.
Miss Aymar is a clever young writer, by no means confining herself to the graceful poems, stories, and sketches that she dashes off with such ease, but evincing talent and tact in her more thoughtful magazine articles. She is now, she tells me, at work upon a novel.
Our home circle is once more complete, for Mrs. Lamson, who left us some weeks ago to visit friends in Connecticut, has now returned to remain with us until we go down to the city.
Mrs. Lamson was one of dear uncle's earliest friends, their acquaintance dating back indeed to the days of Poultney—and we are all deeply attached to her.
Arthur's name, I believe, has not yet been mentioned in my journal since he left us early in August. He is a very tormenting correspondent, for he never writes with the promptitude that would be agreeable, but his letters when they do come are always entertaining, and one that arrived this morning, detailing his adventures since his departure from Chappaqua, we found especially so. Before making some extracts from it, I must explain that he left us to join a number of young men from Chappaqua, headed by our neighbor, Mr. Carpenter, who were to camp out at Rye Beach, and indulge in unlimited fishing parties. This out-of-doors life delighted Arthur, accustomed as he had been to foot journeys in Europe, and when the party broke up he bought a waterproof suit, hired a boat and a tent, and rowed up the Sound to Boston, where he lives, sleeping meantime on land or in his boat, as best suited his caprice. I will now give his exploits in his own words.
"I remained on the beach some time after Mr. Carpenter and the others left, caught and made food of many fishes, and came near making myself food for them, for in hauling up anchor in a rough sea I tipped out of the boat, but luckily saved myself by clutching its side, and lifting myself in at imminent risk of turning the whole concern bottom upwards.
"Being wrapped in slumber on the rocks one night with a big fire burning beside me, my bed of dry seaweed caught fire, and woke me by its fierce breath; but escaping an evil fate for the present, I came safely home to Boston, which I felt keen joy to see once more.
"I have gone into the office of a lawyer here, and am engaged in the delightful occupation of 'sooing folks' (as the old fellow pronounces it). You may imagine me seated on the extreme top of a high stool, forging like a young Cyclops with malignant pleasure, the writs and summonses which are presently to be flourished by the Sheriff in the face of the astonished Defendant."
Among our other letters this morning was a package from London containing the dainty wedding-cards of a beautiful young American pianist (Teresa Carreño) and her handsome violinist husband, accompanied by a long letter from the bride. The letter was overflowing with happiness, and the naïveté with which she described all the little annoyances of her new married life, and especially the trials of a young housekeeper, was quite delicious. Her furniture had not yet come from Paris, and there were but two chairs in the parlor; consequently, when a visitor came, her husband was obliged to stand, she said, with the greatest ceremony. She sat by the kitchen table to write to me, and the cook overturned her ink, making a blot upon the page: all of these little details made up a perfect picture of her life. Of course the letter was full of "my husband," and the signature was no longer the impulsive, girlish—"With a thousand kisses, my darling, ever your own Teresita," but a decorous and matronly ending: "Yours affectionately, Teresa Carreño Sauret."
Two more letters by the evening mail; one having the features of the "Re Galantuomo" upon the postage stamps, is from a young American music student in Florence, a pupil of Hans Von Bülow, who will, upon her return to her own country, be known as one of our finest amateur pianists.
There is also a letter from our estimable friend, Miss Booth, the accomplished Editress of Harper's Bazar. She will spend next Saturday with us, accompanied by her friend, Mrs. Wright.
Ida went down to the city yesterday, to see both her lawyer and dress-maker, saying that she would return by the half past six o'clock train. We went down accordingly to meet the cars, but she did not arrive upon them; a telegram, however, was shortly sent up to the house, announcing that she would come on the eight o'clock train, accompanied by Mrs. and Miss Wiss.
"Mrs. Wiss!" exclaimed mamma, upon reading the telegram, "who can she be? I do not know any such person."
Gabrielle could not remember any one by the name of Wiss among Ida's friends, and suggested that the ladies might be old friends of her father's, whom Ida had never before seen; so remarking that the eight o'clock train was a late one for ladies to travel upon alone, mamma rang for Minna, and told her to delay our tea an hour and a half longer.
When we heard the footsteps of the travellers upon the piazza, we all went out with some curiosity to meet our unknown visitors. For a moment we were speechless, as we recognized in the matron of the party, Ida's charming Southern friend, Mrs. Ives, and in the tall young man (her son) who accompanied her, the supposed Miss Wiss. How the telegraph operator could have so confused the names, no one could imagine.
Mrs. Ives is a brilliant talker, and a woman of great polish and high family connections. She has lived North for several years, but will return to Baltimore this winter to our great regret, for her picturesque home near the Manhattanville Convent was a most delightful place to spend an hour, while listening to the entertaining conversation of the hostess, and the exquisite harp-playing of her sister.
A letter this morning from the little sculptress, Vinnie Ream. She is at Washington, and writes me that she has sold her bust of dear uncle to the Cornell University. I have not seen the bust since it was put into marble, but when I saw it in clay at her New York studio two years ago, I considered it a spirited and excellent likeness. Vinnie is full of the high courage that never deserts her through all of her trials from public and private criticism, and she has my best wishes for a bright and successful future.
Two arrivals by the morning train: Mrs. Gibbons, a friend of many years of dear uncle, Aunt Mary, and mamma, and a lady at whose hospitable residence uncle often found a pleasant home, when his family were absent, and Lucy White, an intimate friend of Ida and myself.
Miss White has just returned from a three months' visit to Europe, and she gave us a very lively account of her gay season in London, and her visit to Paris. I was glad to learn from her that my favorite Italian and Spanish pictures again occupied their accustomed places in the Salon Carré at the Louvre, and that the diadem mode of dressing the hair, so becoming to my tiny figure, was by no means out of style in Paris, but was, on the contrary, more fashionable than ever.
A letter this morning from Katie Sinclair. I rejoice to learn that her health is improving, for, when we visited her some weeks ago, her cheeks were almost as white as the pillows upon which they rested.
We were disappointed that we could not hear Katie sing that day, for we had anticipated quite a little musical matinée; but her sister Mary, who is an enthusiastic pianoforte student, made amends by playing with much taste and expression, a dreamy "Melody," by Rubenstein.
"All that's Bright must Fade"—Departures—Preparing the House for the Winter—Page's Portrait of Pickie—Packing up—Studious Habits of the Domestics—The Cook and her Admirers—Adieu to Chappaqua.
"All that's bright must fade."
This long, delightful summer is now over, and the time approaches for us to return to the din and whirl of city life.
Miss Worthington left us this morning to return to her beautiful Southern home, and Gabrielle, too, has gone back to the quiet of her convent school, guided by the Protestant Sisters of St. Mary.
Ida is busily counting, and packing away the dainty china and silver, suggestive of so many pleasant gatherings of friends that we have had this summer, and Minna has brought down from the store-room large chests to contain the heavy linen sheets with Aunt Mary's initials beautifully embroidered in scarlet.
The guest-room and the parlors commence to wear a dismantled look, for one by one the pretty trifles that ornamented them are being removed, and although many of the pictures still hang upon the walls, dear little Pickie's portrait stands in an unoccupied bedroom swathed in linen, and ready to journey to the city when we do, for Ida prizes it so highly that she will not box it up and send it by express, but intends to have one of the servants carry it under her supervision, lest some harm may befall it. I do not wonder that it is priceless to her; I also think it of inestimable value, for not only is it a portrait of the beautiful little cousin whom I never saw, but even one uninterested in Pickie would, I am sure, be attracted by it as a rare work of art. It is a full-length picture: the child holds in his hands a cluster of lilies—a fit emblem of his spotless purity, and his undraped limbs are perfectly moulded as those of an infant St. John. His hair, of the line that Titian and Tintoretto loved to paint, falls upon his shoulders like a shower of ruddy gold, and for depth of tone and richness of color the picture more resembles the work of one of the old Venetian Masters than a painting by modern hands.
Whilst in town the other day, I called in the Tenth Street Studio Buildings to ask Mr. Page when he could give a few days of his time to restoring Pickie's portrait, as it has been somewhat affected by the dampness during the years that it has stood in the house in the woods. Mr. Page gave me a very amusing account of the difficulty he experienced in obtaining sittings from Pickie.
"Young children," he said, "are always averse to having their portraits painted, and there is usually a struggle to induce them to submit to the confinement of posing for me; but in Master Pickie's case, the child was so full of life that I might almost as well have tried to obtain sittings from a butterfly as from him."
Pickie's rapid illness and sudden death occurred before the picture was completed, and although Mr. Page worked upon it for some time from memory and from daguerrotypes of the child, a few finishing touches remain to be added.
This morning I at last realized what I have been endeavoring to banish from my mind—that the day of our departure from dear Chappaqua is at hand. This fact was brought home to me in a very practical manner by the arrival of our immense French trunks from the side-hill house, where they have been stored this summer, and the necessity of packing them, coupled with an intimation from mamma that it would be as well to put my books and music in the bottom, and my dresses in the top of my trunk. I am somewhat of a novice in packing, for during the preparations for our eight ocean voyages that duty never once fell to my lot; however I flatter myself that such very elementary instructions were not necessary.
Quite tenderly I took down from the shelves the books that I had brought from New York for summer reading, for mingled with every page was some pleasant association. One chapter in Kohlrausch's "Germany" seemed still to retain the faint perfume of the pale primroses that I gathered in the meadow that day to mark my stopping-place, and my little volume of Voltaire's "Charles Douze" recalled an interesting argument upon the relative claims to greatness of that hero, and my hero par excellence, the first Napoleon.
My ponderous volumes of Plato brought before my mind Arthur's reading, and the life with which he invested the words of these old-time philosophers that had so keen an interest for him; while Madame de Staël's "Allemagne," and my little copy of Ehlert's "Letters on Music" were associated with almost every hour of the day. They had lain upon my writing-table the entire summer, and it was my habit whenever I laid down my pen for a moment to take up one book or the other, and glance at a page of Ehlert's criticisms upon opera, symphony, or song, or Madame de Staël's profound essays upon art, morals, and politics.
This long summer has been one of great sweetness and content to us all. A tinge of sadness has, it is true, been mingled with our daily life, but we have felt the spiritual presence of our loved ones always near us, urging and encouraging us to persevere and fit ourselves to join them hereafter. With this feeling we have worked constantly and closely, and our record of improvement has been somewhat satisfactory—to ourselves at least. We have gone through the weighty volumes that we had given ourselves as summer tasks; we have written and practised; and, although Minna constantly exclaims upon our close attention to study, a desire for improvement has extended (unconsciously to ourselves) from the parlor to the kitchen. Going down there one night to give some orders for the next day, I was amused by overhearing Lina say, "It is time to go to school now." Immediately Minna's bright-colored knitting was laid aside, and the two women drew up to the table with their books. After studying their English lesson, they recited it to each other, followed by a brief reciprocal lesson of Swedish and German.
Bernard also had his book, and was studying with great apparent industry, although in what foreign tongue he was accomplishing himself I do not know. Perhaps he was trying to master the intricacies of the German language, that he might offer himself to Minna through the medium of her own tongue. I was amused to see that he occupied what might be called the neutral ground, at a table lighted by a flickering candle, and at an equal distance from his sweetheart and his foe; for since Bernard has commenced to take moonlight strolls with Minna, Lina has taken deadly umbrage, which she manifests by giving him candle-ends, cutting off his supply of coffee, and reducing his comforts generally.
At first I felt quite sorry for Lina, so completely excluded as she was at one time from the society of the other two, especially as she was much older than Minna, and not at all prepossessing in appearance; but since I have learned that she has in the village four Swedish admirers who make her weekly visits, I have ceased to waste any sympathy upon her. We were quite amazed one Sunday afternoon to see four stalwart blond men wending their way kitchen-wards, and inquiring in broken English for "Swedish girl;" for of all places our quiet little Chappaqua is the last one where we would have thought of seeing any of Lina's compatriots. These men, it seems, are employed in repairing the railroad track; and learning that they had a countrywoman in the village, called to make her acquaintance; so Lina can now triumph over Minna. I have heard from Minna that each one of the four men has already offered himself to Lina, and that she refused them, remarking, however, that she knew a girl in New York who would like to marry one of them. The men thanked her, but thought the distance rather too great to go for a wife.
Despite their little difference over Bernard, the two women have lived together quite amicably this summer; and it has been a great relief to dear Ida, while so gracefully presiding as mistress of the house, to feel that harmony reigned in the kitchen.
Our last day in dear Chappaqua; we go down to the city to-morrow morning. How dread is the thought of leaving the poetic quiet of our country home, to return to the confusion and excitement of city life; that city, too, that will be fraught with such sad memories for us during the last days of October and November.
How quickly it has gone, this long, sweet summer. I cannot realize
that near five months have passed since that bright May morning that we
arrived here, and found dear Chappaqua in all her tender spring
freshness. Imperceptibly the days have flown; the delicate hues of
leafy May have deepened and gone; the summer is over, and autumn with
her glowing tints has stolen upon us. Now in vain do we hunt for
daisies to pull apart petal by petal with the old French rhyme that
every schoolgirl knows,
"Il m'aime un peu--beaucoup,
Passionément,--pas du tout!"
The daisies have gone with the sweet double violets and roses, and the fragrant heliotrope and mignonette, of which we used to make bouquets to dress the table and adorn the rooms; whilst brilliant, scentless flowers now fill our garden beds, and the maples with their aureolas of flame color and molten cold tell the same sad story—summer has fled.
For the last time I have walked up to the pine grove, and have taken
leave of that spot where dear uncle's feet have so often trodden, and
said farewell, too, to the forest trees whose trunks still bear the
impress of the axe once wielded by that hand now forever at rest; I
have drunk once more from the spring that Aunt Mary so dearly loved,
and which is far sweeter to me than the vaunted waters of Trevi, and
entered for the last time her loved home in the woods over whose
threshold her weary feet will never pass again.
"Tempo passato, perche non ritorni a me?"
Adieu to Chappaqua and to my journal. My daintily bound volume, so large that I feared not easily to fill its pages, is closely covered, and only a few blank lines remain whereon to take leave of it forever. Adieus are always saddening, and I close it with the words unspoken.
And for dear, dear Chappaqua, I can find no words more fitting to express my love than those verses written, it is true, in honor of another Westchester Home, but so appropriate that I will insert them here, trusting their author, Mr. JOHN SAVAGE, will pardon me for so doing.
OUR DEAR WESTCHESTER HOME.
Where'er my hopeful fancy dares,
Or toiling footstep falls--
Through ancient cities' thoroughfares
Or Fortune's festal halls;
O'er mountains grand, through forests deep,
Or crest the yielding foam,
I find no spot
Like that dear cot,
My own Westchester Home!
Bedecked with every sylvan charm,
By loving Nature blest,
Embraced between the ocean's arm
And Hudson's bounteous breast,
Westchester, in her beauty smiles
To Heaven's protecting dome,
For all the good.
By field or flood
That crowns our happy home!