THE STORY OF A SUMMER;
JOURNAL LEAVES FROM CHAPPAQUA
G. W. Carleton & Co., Publishers.
LONDON: S. LOW, SON & CO.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1874, by
G. W. CARLETON & CO.,
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
MY DEAR COUSINS,
IDA AND GABRIELLE,
STORY OF A SUMMER
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but a simple record of a pleasant summer's residence at Chappaqua, embracing many facts and incidents heretofore unpublished, relating to one who once occupied a large portion of the public mind.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 Chatelaine—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
The Side-Hill House
The Rail-Road Station
The House in the Woods
The Children's Play House
The Stone Barn
THE STORY OF A SUMMER;
JOURNAL LEAVES FROM 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 Chatelaine—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 cochere 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 bete 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 Chatelaine. 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 Chatelaine, 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 "gnaedige Frau," or "Fraeulein"—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, Fraeulein Cecilia?"
"I do not really know, Minna," I replied. "You are a Lutheran, I suppose?"
"Yes, Fraeulein 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, Fraeulein. 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 a 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 Imperatrice 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 soupcon 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 Chatelaine'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 Chocolatiere" 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 case
"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 Maerchen, 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 Staeel'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 Sacre 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 Velocite, 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 Senor 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 Sevres; 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.
Senor 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 Senor 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 Chatelaine 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 fiancee 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 tete-a-tete 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 Hollaender, 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 chiffonniere, 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 Hollaender 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 "Naiade," a lovely salon piece), we were speaking of the loss of dear little Hollaender, 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, Hollaender'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. Hollaender 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 Hollaender, 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 fiance 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 pere 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 debris 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 had
"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 debut 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 fiance, 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.