The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss
by George L. Prentiss
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The lady herself thus recalls these afternoons:

How dearly I should love to add but one little flower to her wreath of immortelles! I cherish memories of her as among the pleasantest of my life. I recall her room so bright and cheery, just like herself, and all the incidents of those Saturday afternoons. When she first asked me to paint with her, I thought it very kind, but with her multiplicity of cares, felt it must be burdensome to her, and that possibly she would even forget the invitation, and so I hesitated about going. But when the week came round everything was made ready to give me a cordial welcome. Again and again I found my chair, palette and other materials waiting for me, while she sat in her little nook, busy as a bee over some painting of her own.

One day, passing about the room, I saw on her book-shelves, arranged with order and precision, nine little butter plates in the form of pansies. I uttered an exclamation of delight, and she from her corner, with the artlessness of a child, said, "I put them there for you to see." Another time she sprang up with her quick, light step, and ran to the yard to fetch a flower for me to copy, apparently thoughtless of two flights of stairs to tax her strength. Sometimes she would read to me verses of poetry that pleased her. Once I remember her throwing herself at my feet, and when I stopped to listen to the reading, she said, "Oh, go right on with your painting." Now she would relate some amusing anecdote that almost convulsed me with laughter, and then again speak of some serious theme with such earnestness of feeling! She was eager to give of her store of strength and cheer to others, but the store seemed inexhaustible. The more she gave, the more one felt that there was enough and to spare. I looked forward to my little weekly visit as to an oasis in the desert; not that all else was bleak, but that spot seemed to me so very refreshing and attractive.

Little did I think, when she loaded me down that last day with all I could carry, then ran down to the parlor to show me some choice articles there which she knew would give me pleasure—little did I think that I should see her again no more! Not a day passed after leaving her that she was not an inspiration to me. While painting a wayside flower I would think, "Mrs. Prentiss would like this"—or, "In the fall I must show that to Mrs. Prentiss." Even in my dreams she was present with me, and one morning, only a little while before she passed from us, I waked with a heavy burden upon my spirits—for it seemed to me as if she were gone. The impression was so strong that I spoke of it at the time, and for days could not throw it off. But at last, saying to myself, "Oh, it is only a dream," I answered her little note, making, of course, no reference to my strange feelings in regard to her. Her letter, by a singular mistake, is dated "Kauinfels, October 10, 1878," nearly two months after she had fallen asleep. How just like her is this passage in it: "I wish you could leave your little flock, and take some rest with us. It would do you good, I am sure. Is it impossible? you do look so tired." My letter in reply must have been one of the very last received by her. In it I spoke of having just re-read Stepping Heavenward and Aunt Jane's Hero, and of having enjoyed them almost as much as at the first. This was, perhaps, one reason why she had been so constantly in my thoughts. When the news came that she had left us, I was at first greatly shocked and grieved—for I felt that I had lost no ordinary friend—but when I considered how complete her life had been in all that makes life noble and beautiful, and how meet it was that, having borne the burden and heat of the day, she should now rest from her labors, it seemed selfish to give way to sorrow and not rather to rejoice that she had gone to be with Christ.

Scores of such grateful testimonies as this might be given. To all who knew and loved her well, Mrs. Prentiss was "an inspiration." They delighted to talk about her to each other and even to strangers. They repeated her bright and pithy sayings. They associated her with favorite characters in the books they read. The very thought of her wrought upon them with gracious and cheering influence. An extract from a letter of one of her old and dearest friends, written to her husband after her death, will illustrate this:

On the very morning of her departure I had been conversing with my physician about her. He spoke in admiration of her published works, and I tried to give him a description of her personal characteristics. The night before, in my hours of sleeplessness, I recounted the names of friends who I thought had been most instrumental in moulding my character, and Mrs. Prentiss led the list. How little did I dream that already her feet had safely touched "the shining shore"! In all the three and thirty years of our acquaintance I loved her DEARLY and reverenced her most deeply; but between us there was such a gulf that I always felt unworthy to touch even the hem of her garment. Whenever I did touch it, strength and comfort were imparted to me. How much I was indebted to her most tender sympathy and her prayers in my own great sorrow, only another world will reveal. Is it not a little remarkable that her last letter to me, written only a few weeks before her death, closed with a benediction? I could go on talking about her without end; for I have often said that there was more of her, and to her, and in her, than belonged to any five women I ever knew. How exceedingly lovely she was in her own home! I remember you once said to me, "The greatest charm of my wife is, after all, her perfect naturalness." All who knew her, must have recognised the same winning characteristic. She was always fresh and always new—for she had "the well-spring of wisdom as a flowing brook." ... Were you not struck, in reading Thomas Erskine's letters on the death of Madame de Broglie, by the wonderful likeness between her and dear Mrs. Prentiss? Twin sisters could scarcely have resembled each other more perfectly. Such passages as the following quite startled me:

Her friendship has been to me a great gift. She has been a witness to me for God, a voice crying in the wilderness. She has been a warner and a comforter. I have seen her continually thirsting after a spiritual union with God. I have heard the voice of her heart crying after God out from the midst of all things which make this life pleasant and satisfying.... She had all the gifts of mind and character—intelligence, imagination, nobleness, and thoughts that wandered through eternity. She had a heart fitted for friendship, and she had friends who could appreciate her; but God suffered her not to find rest in these things, her ear was open to His own paternal voice, and she became His child, in the way that the world is not and knoweth not. I see her before me, her loving spirit uttering itself through every feature of her beautiful and animated countenance.... There was an unspeakable charm about her. She had a truth and simplicity of character, which one rarely finds even in the highest order of men. I know nobody like her now. I hope to pass eternity with her. It is wonderful to think what a place she has occupied in my life since I became acquainted with her.

You know it is my belief that we become better acquainted with our friends after they have passed on "within the veil." And may it not be that they become better acquainted with us, too, loving us more perfectly and forgiving all that has been amiss? [4]

To her eldest son, New York, May 12, 1878.

This is your father's birthday, and I have given him, to his great delight, a Fairbanks postal scale. His twenty-years-old one would not weigh newspapers or books, and it is time for an improvement on it. On Thursday evening there was a festival at our church in aid of sick mission children. Everybody was there with their children, and it was the nicest affair we ever had. M. and I went and enjoyed it ever so much. I took between four and five dollars to spend, though I had given between twenty and thirty to the mission, but did not get a chance to spend much, as Mr. M. took me in charge and paid for everything I ate. Your father and I rather expect to go to East River, Conn., tomorrow to help Mrs. Washburn celebrate her seventieth birthday; but the weather is so cold he doubts whether I had better go. A. went on a long drive on Friday and brought back a host of wild flowers, which I tried with some failure and some success to paint.

May 19th.—We went to East River on Monday afternoon and came home on Thursday, making a delightful visit. On Tuesday Mrs. W. and I went to Norwich to see the Gilmans. I was very tired when we got back, and had to go to bed at half-past seven. The next day it rained; so Mrs. W. and I fell to painting. She became so interested in learning Mrs. Fisher's system that she got up at five the next morning and worked two hours. In the evening your father gave his lecture at a little club-room, got up chiefly by Mr. and Mrs. Washburn at their own expense. It is just such a room as I should like to build at Dorset. On Thursday morning Mrs. W. took me out to drive through their own woods and dug up some wild flowers for me. A. has a Miss Crocker, an artistic friend from Portland, staying with her—a very nice, plucky girl. She wants me to let her take my portrait. [5] H. is full of a story of a pious dog, who was only fond of people who prayed, went to church regularly, and, when not prevented, to all the neighborhood prayer-meetings, which were changed every week from house to house; his only knowledge of where they would be held being from Sunday notices from the pulpit! I believe this the more readily because of Pharaoh's always going to my Bible-reading at Dorset and never barking there, whereas if I went to the same house to call he barked dreadfully.

We are constantly wondering what you boys will be. Good men, I hope, at any rate. Good-night, with a kiss from your affectionate mother.

The substance of the following letter of Mrs. Washburn, giving an account of the visit to East River, as also her impressions of Mrs. Prentiss, was written in response to one received by her from an old friend in Turk's Island: [6]

I am most thankful that we had that last visit from dear Mrs. Prentiss. It was a rare favor to us that she came. Her health was very delicate, and a slight deviation from the regular routine of home life was apt to give her sleepless nights. Dr. P. had sent us word that he was going to be in New Haven, and would give us a call before returning to New York. We' were overjoyed at the prospect of seeing him, and wrote immediately begging Mrs. Prentiss to come with him. She, ever ready to sacrifice her own ease for the sake of giving pleasure to others, and knowing that the 15th of May would be my 70th anniversary, and that I perfectly longed to see her, took the risk of personal suffering upon herself to satisfy my earnest desire, and came. They arrived on the 13th in the late afternoon train. She was so bright and cheerful it was difficult to notice any traces of the weariness which she must have felt.

We passed a delightful evening, and as Dr. P. was to spend a part of the next day in New Haven, we formed a plan for Mrs. Prentiss and me to go to Norwich at the same time and make a brief visit to our mutual friends, the Misses Gilman. Mr. Washburn telegraphed to them that we were coming. On arriving at New London we found, to our dismay, that we had been misinformed in regard to the trains, and that the one we had taken did not connect with the one to Norwich, which had been gone two hours. So there we were, left alone on the platform, strangers in the place, with no means of either going on or returning. What should we do? Our first thought was to procure, if possible, some conveyance to take us to Norwich and back; but this we found could not be done, for want of time, the distance between the two cities being fourteen miles or more. Fortunately for us, a young lad appeared, who promised to take us to our friends in Norwich, allow us half an hour to spend with them, and drive to the station there in time for the return train to New London and East River. He looked so honest and true that we felt we could trust him, and we acceded to his terms at once. As soon as he could get his carriage ready we started off on our untried way.

It began at the foot of a long hill, and continued up and down over a succession of the same kind, with very rare exceptions of a level space between them, through the whole distance. But the scenery was so varied and beautiful, we thought if our only object in setting out had been a drive, we could not have chosen one more charming. The weather was fine, and dear Mrs. Prentiss in her happiest mood. As for me, nothing marred my enjoyment but fear that the fatigue would be too much for her, and an undercurrent of anxiety lest by some mishap we should fail to re-arrive at the home-station in time to meet our husbands who would be waiting for us. But if she had any such misgivings nothing in word or manner betrayed it. So entire was her self-control, and so delicate her tact, not to throw the faintest shadow across the wisdom of my precipitate arrangements. She was as happy as a bird all the way, and talked delightfully.

We found our friends had been in a state of great excitement on our account, having received the telegram, and knowing that we had taken the wrong train; so that our unexpected arrival was greeted with even more than their usual cordiality; and they were specially gratified to see Mrs. Prentiss, who almost without looking, discovered a hundred beauties in and around their lovely home, which it would have taken the eyes of an ordinary guest a week to notice. The very shortness of our time to stay, intensified our enjoyment while it lasted. Our half hour was soon over, and we came away with our hands full of flowers and our hearts as full of love.

We arrived in good time and met our husbands waiting for us at the station. Dear Mrs. Prentiss did not appear to be very much fatigued while recounting in her inimitably pleasant manner the various experiences of the day. A restful night prepared her for the quiet enjoyments of the next day, which we spent mostly at home, merely making short calls in the morning on my two sisters, and slowly driving, or rather, as I call it, "taking a walk in the buggy," through the woods, stopping every few minutes to look at, or gather ferns or mosses or budding wild flowers that could not escape her beauty-loving eye. The afternoon we remained in the house, occupied with our pencils. She painted a spray of trailing arbutus, talking while she was doing it, as nobody else could, about things beloved and fair. Our darling Julia was with us, completely charmed with her, and as busy as we, trying with her little hands to make pictures as pretty as ours.

In the evening Dr. P. gave his most interesting lecture on "Recollections of Hurstmonceaux" in our reading-room; but Mrs. Prentiss was not able to go, which I regretted the more because I knew many ladies would be there who came almost as much to see her as to hear him. They were greatly disappointed, but enjoyed every word of the lecture, as well they might. The next day was all too short. It seemed to me that I could not let them go. But she had more than enough for her ever busy hands and mind and heart to do in preparation for going to her summer home, and we had to say good-bye.

A few short, characteristic, loving notes came from the city, before she left, and I did not hear from her at Dorset till the overwhelming news came of her death. I could not control my grief. Little Julia tried to comfort me with her sweet sympathy. "Dear grandma," she said, "I am sorry too. I can not feel so bad as you do, because you loved her so much, and you loved her so long; but I loved her too, and I can think just how she looked when she sat right there by that little table talking, and painting those beautiful flowers. Oh! I am very sorry." And here the poor child's tears flowed again with mine. So will all the children who knew her say, "We remember just how she looked." Yes, there was no mistaking or forgetting that kindly, loving "look." Julia's mother had felt its influence from her own early childhood till she left her precious little one to receive it in her stead. To each of these half-orphaned ones in turn, I had to read "Little Susy's Six Birthdays," and both always said to me when I finished, "Please read it again."

She could read and understand the heart of children through and through, as indeed she could everybody's. And that was, perhaps, her chiefest charm; a keen eye to see and a true heart to sympathise and love. She was absolutely sincere, and no one could help feeling that she was so. We felt ourselves fairly imaged when standing before her, as in a clear plate-glass mirror. There were no distorted lines caused by her own imperfections; for although she considered herself "compassed with infirmity," no one else could take such a view of her, but only saw the abundant charity which could cover and forgive a multitude of failings in others. We felt that if there was any good in us, she knew it, and even when she saw them "with all our faults she loved us still," and loved to do us good.

You would like me to tell you "how she looked." You can form some idea from her picture, but not an adequate one. Her face defied both the photographer's and the painter's art. The crayon likeness, taken shortly before her death by Miss Crocker, a young artist from Maine, is, in some respects, excellent. The eyes and mouth—not to speak of other features—are very happily reproduced. She was of medium height, yet stood and walked so erect as to appear taller than she really was. Her dress, always tasteful, with little or no ornament that one could remember, was ever suited to the time and place, and seemed the most becoming to her which could have been chosen. She was perfectly natural, and, though shy and reserved among strangers, had a quiet, easy grace of manner, that showed at once deference for them and utter unconsciousness of self. Her head was very fine and admirably poised. She had a symmetrical figure, and her step to the last was as light and elastic as a girl's.

When I first knew her, in the flush and bloom of young maternity, her face scarcely differed in its curving outlines from what it was more than a quarter of a century later, when the joys and sorrows of full-orbed womanhood had stamped upon it indelible marks of the perfection they had wrought. Her hair was then a dark-brown; her forehead smooth and fair, her general complexion rich without much depth of color except upon the lips. In silvering her clustering locks time only added to her aspect a graver charm, and harmonised the still more delicate tints of cheek and brow. Her eyes were black, and at times wonderfully bright and full of spiritual power; but they were shaded by deep, smooth lids which gave them when at rest a most dove-like serenity. Her other features were equally striking; the lips and chin exquisitely moulded and marked by great strength as well as beauty. Her face, in repose, wore the habitual expression of deep thought and a soft earnestness, like a thin veil of sadness, which I never saw in the same degree in any other. Yet when animated by interchange of thought and feeling with congenial minds, it lighted up with a perfect radiance of love and intelligence, and a most beaming smile that no pen or pencil can describe—least of all in my hand, which trembles when I try to sketch the faintest outline.

Hundreds of heart-stirring memories crowd upon me as I write, but it is impossible to give them expression. Her books give you the truest transcript of herself. She wrote, as she talked, from the heart. To those who knew her, a written page in almost any one of them recalls her image with the vividness of a portrait; and they can almost hear her musical voice as they read it themselves. But, alas! in reality—

No more her low sweet accents can we hear No more our plaints can reach her patient ear. O! loved and lost, oh! trusted, tried, and true, O! tender, pitying eyes forever sealed; How can we bear to speak our last adieu? How to the grave the precious casket yield, And to those old familiar places go That knew thee once, and never more shall know?

I hear from heaven a voice angelic cry, "Blessed, thrice blessed are the dead who lie Beneath the flowery sod and graven stone." "Yea," saith the answering Spirit, "for they rest Forever from the labors they have done. Their works do follow them to regions blest; No stain hereafter can their lustre dim; The dead in Christ from henceforth live in Him."

O! doubly dear transfigured friend on high, We, through our tears, behold thine eyelids dry. By Him who suffered once, and once was dead, But liveth evermore through endless days, God hath encircled thy redeemed head With rays of glory and eternal praise, And with His own kind hand wiped every trace Of tears, and pain and sorrow from thy face.

C. W. WILDWOOD, March 7, 1880.

One of the notes referred to is as follows:

DEAR MRS. WASHBURN:—If you judge by my handwriting, you will have to conclude that I am 100 years old. But it all comes of my carrying a heavy bag too long, and is all my own fault for trying to do too many errands in one trip. Your dear little chair, the like of which I should love to give to 540 people, only cost $2.50, so I enclose my check for the rest of your $10. We sent off Mrs. Badger's parcel early this morning. I hope digging and driving and packing and climbing in my behalf, has not quite killed you. A lot of flowers in two boxes came to me from Matteawan while I was gone, and as my waitress fancied I had been shopping—as if I should shop at East River!—she did not open the boxes or inform the children, so the spectacle of withered beauty was not very agreeable. A. and M. send love and thanks. The flowers you gave me look beautifully. Give our love to Mr. W. and Julia, and write about her. We shall not soon forget our charming visit to East River!

In acknowledging this note Mrs. Washburn alludes to one of Mrs. Prentiss' most striking traits—the eager promptitude with which she would execute little commissions for her friends. It was as if she had taken a vow that there should not be one instant's delay.

I do hope you have not been made sick by doing so many errands in such a short time. The little chair has come and Mr. W. is much pleased with it. Nobody is so punctual as you. We were all amazed at receiving the picture so soon. How could you possibly have gotten home and packed it and marked the catalogues and bought the chair and written the check and sent me the little package of Japanese corn-seed and written me the note and have had a moment even to look at A.'s portrait? It is a mystery to me. You are a wonder of a woman! You are a genius! You are a beloved friend! I thank you again and again. Just think of the good you have done us. Shall I send you some more daisies? I have written in the greatest haste. That is the reason I have done no better and not because I am seventy years old.

Here is her last note to Mrs. Washburn, dated June 3:

The box of daisies, clover, and grass came on Saturday. We set the plants out in the box in which they came, and mixed the grass with what cut flowers we had, in the very prettiest receptacle for flowers I ever saw, just given M. The plants look this morning like a piece of Wildwood and a piece of you, and will gladden every spring we live to see.... We are packing for Dorset, though we do not mean to go if this weather lasts. I wonder if you have a "daily rose"? I have just bought one; first heard of it at the Centennial. It is said to bloom every day from May to December.

I am going out, now, to do ever so many errands for H.'s outfit for college. Give our dear love to Mr. Washburn and Julia. O, what a mercy it is to have somebody to love. [7]

On the 6th of June Mrs. Prentiss went to Dorset for the last time. Her husband, after her departure, thus referred to this period:

For four or five weeks after coming here she was very much occupied about the house, and seemed rather weary and care-worn. But the pressure was then over and she had leisure for her flowers and her painting, for going to the woods with the girls, and for taking her favorite drives with me. She spoke repeatedly of you and other friends. On the 23d of July I started for Monmouth Beach. The week preceding this little journey was one of the happiest of our married life. No words can tell how sweet and loving and bright—in a word, how just like herself—she was. The impassion of that week accompanied me to the sea-side and continued with me during my whole stay there. As day after day I sat looking out upon the ocean, or walked alone up and down the shore, she was still in all my thoughts. The noise of the breakers, the boundless expanse of waters, the passing ships, going out and coming in, recalled similar scenes long ago on the coast of Maine, before and after our marriage—scenes with which her image was indissolubly blended. Then I met old friends and found new ones, who talked to me with grateful enthusiasm of "Stepping Heavenward," "More Love to Thee, O Christ," and other of her writings. In truth, my feelings about her, while I was at Monmouth Beach, were quite peculiar and excite my wonder still. I scarcely know how to describe them. They were at times very intense, and, I had almost said, awe-struck, seemed bathed in a sweet Sabbath stillness, and to belong rather to the other world than to this of time and sense. How do you explain this? Was my spirit, perhaps, touched in some mysterious way by the coming event? Certainly, had I been warned that she was so soon to leave me, I could hardly have passed those days of absence in a mood better attuned to that in which I now think of her as forever at home with the Lord.

The following are two of her last letters:

To Mrs. Condict, Kauinfels, July 22, 1878.

To begin with the most important part of your letter. I reply that neither Mr. Prentiss or myself have ever had any sympathy with Second Adventists. All the talk about it seems to us mere speculation and probable doom to disappointment. I do not see that it is as powerful a stimulant to holiness as the uncertainty of life is. Christ may come any day; but He may not come for ages; but we must and shall die in the merest fragment of an age, and see Him as He is. It will be a day of unspeakable joy, when we meet Him here or there. I shrink from unprofitable discussion of points that, after all, can only be tested by time and events. I do not think our expecting Christ will bring Him a minute sooner, for the early church expected Him, yet He came not. There has been so much wildness in theories on this subject that I am sore when I hear new ones advanced; none of these theories have proved to be correct, and I do not imagine any of them will.

I have been busy indoors, upholstering not only curtains and couches, but ever so many boxes, as our bureaus are shallow and our closets small. I made one for A. large enough for her to get into, and she uses it as she would a room, suspending objects from the sides and keeping all her artistic implements in it. I began my Bible-reading last Thursday, the hottest day we have had; but there was a good attendance. My G. met with an accident from the circular saw which alarmed and distressed me so that his father had to hartshorn and fan me, while the girls did what they could for G. till the doctor could be got from Factory Point. His eyebrow was cut open and his forehead gashed, but all healed wonderfully, and we have reason to be thankful that he did not lose an eye, as he was so near doing. At any time when you must have change, let me know, as there are often gaps between guests, and sometimes those we expected, fail. Mr. Prentiss is, apparently, benefited by hot weather, and is unusually well. Thanks for the needles, which will be a great comfort. Have you painted a horse-shoe? I had one given me; black ground and blue forget-me-nots, and hung by a blue ribbon. I am going to paint one for M. and Hatty. I feel as if I had left out something I wanted to say.

To Mrs. George Payson, Kauinfels, Aug. 1, 1878.

I am all alone in the house, this evening, and as this gives me room at the table, I am going to begin to answer your letter. George is out of town, and all the rest, including the servants, have gone to see the Mistletoe Bough. It is astonishing how slowly you get well; and yet with such heat and such smells as you have in Chicago, it is yet more astonishing that you live at all. I thought it dreadful to have the thermometer stand at 90 deg. in my bedroom, three weeks running, and to sniff a bad sniff now and then from our pond, when the water got low, but I see I was wrong. We have next to no flowers this summer; white flies destroyed the roses, frost killed other things, and then the three weeks of burning heat, with no rain, finished up others. Portulacca is our rear-guard, on which we fall back, filling empty spaces with it, and I grow more fond of it every year. A good many verbenas sowed themselves, but came up too late to be of any use. We have a splendid bed of pansies, sown by a friend here.

I have not done much indoors but renovate the house, but that has been a great job. I brought up a Japanese picture-book to use as a cornice in my den, but A. persuaded me to get some wall paper, and use the pictures as a dado for the dining-room. The effect is very unique and pretty. I expect George home to-morrow; he has been spending a delightful week at Monmouth Beach, visiting friends. I wish I could send you some of our delicious ice-cream. We have it twice a week, with the juices of what fruit is going; peaches being best. We have not had much company yet. Last Saturday a friend of A.'s came and goes with her to Prout's Neck to-morrow. We do not count Hatty K. as company, but as one of us. She gets the brightest letters from Rob S., son of George. I should burst and blow up if my boys wrote as well. They have telephone and microphone on the brain, and such a bawling between the house and the mill you never heard. It is nice for us when we want meal, or to have a horse harnessed. Have you heard of the chair, with a fan each side, that fans you twenty-five minutes from just seating yourself in it. It must be delightful, especially to invalids, and ought to prolong life for them.... The clock is striking nine, my hour for fleeing to get ready for bed, but none of the angels have come home from the Mistletoe Bough, and so I suppose I shall have to make haste slowly in undressing. Love to all.

Aug. 3d.—I am delighted that you enjoyed the serge so much; I knew you would. I forgot to answer your question about books. Have you read "Noblesse Oblige"? We admire it extremely. There are two works by this title; one poor. I read "Les Miserables" last winter, and got greatly interested in it; whether there is a good English translation, I do not know. "That Lass o' Lowrie's" you have probably read. I saw a Russian novel highly praised the other day; "Dosea," translated from the French by Mary Neal (Sherwood); "Victor Lascar" is said to be good. I have, probably, praised "Misunderstood" to you. "Strange Adventures of a Phaeton" we liked; also "The Maid of Sker" and "Off the Skelligs"; its sequel is "Fated to be Free."

Two tongues are running like mill-clappers, so good-night.

* * * * *


Little Incidents and Details of her last Days on Earth. Last Visit to the Woods. Sudden Illness. Last Bible-reading. Last Drive to Hager-Brook. Reminiscence of a last Interview. Closing Scenes. Death. The Burial.

Her last days on earth were now close at hand. Such days have in themselves, of necessity, no virtue above other days; and yet a tender interest clings to them simply as the last. Their conjunction with death and the Life beyond seems to invest whatsoever comes to pass in them—even trifles light as air—with unwonted significance. Soon after her sudden departure her husband noted down, for the satisfaction of absent friends, such little incidents and details as could be recalled of her last ten days on earth. The following is a part of this simple record:

Sunday, Aug. 4, 1878.—To-day she went to the house of God for the last time; and, as would have been her wish, had she known it was for the last time, heard me preach. There was much in both the tone and matter of the sermon, that made it seem, afterwards, as if it had been written in full view of the approaching sorrow. A good deal of the day at home was spent in getting ready for her Bible-reading on the ensuing Thursday. At four o'clock in the afternoon she and the girls, M. and H., usually drove in the phaeton over to the Rev. Mr. Reed's, on the West road, to attend a neighborhood prayer-meeting; but to-day, on account of a threatening thunder-shower, they did not go. She enjoyed this little meeting very much.

Monday, Aug. 5th.—Soon after breakfast, she and the girl—"we three girls," as she used to say—started off, carrying each a basket, for the Cheney woods in quest of ferns; it having been arranged that at ten o'clock I should come with the phaeton to fetch her and the baskets home. The morning, although warm, was very pleasant and all three were in high spirits. Before leaving the house, she ran up to her "den"—so she called the little room where she wrote and painted—to get something; and on passing out of it through the chamber, where just then I was shaving, she suddenly stopped, and pointing at me with her forefinger, her eye and face beaming with love and full of sweet witchery, she exclaimed in a tone of pretended anger: "How dare you, sir, to be shaving in my room?" and in an instant she was gone! A minute or two later I looked after her from the window and saw her, with her two shadows, hurrying towards the woods. At the time appointed, I went for her. She awaited me sitting on the ground on the further side of the woods, near the old sugar-house. The three baskets, all filled with beautiful ferns, were placed in the phaeton and we drove home.

The Cheney woods, as we call them, form one of the attractions of Dorset. They are quite extensive, abound in majestic sugar-maples, some of which have been "tapped," it is said, for more than sixty successive seasons, and at one point in them is a water-shed dividing into two little rivulets, one of which, after mingling with the waters of the Battenkill and the Hudson, finds its way at last into the Atlantic Ocean; while the other reaches the same ocean through Pawlet River, Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River. These woods and our own, together with the mountain and waterfall and groves beyond Deacon Kellogg's, where she often met her old friend "Uncle Isaac," [8] were her favorite resorts.

A little while after returning home I found her in her little room, looking well and happy, and busy with her brush. The girls, also, on reaching the house found her there. But somewhat later, without our knowledge, she went out and worked for a long time on and about the lawn. There was a breeze, but the rays of the sun were scorchingly hot and she doubtless exerted herself, as she was always tempted to do, beyond her strength. I was occupied until noon at the mill and later, in the field, watching the men cradling oats. On coming in to dinner, a little past one, I was startled not to find her at the table, "Where is mamma?" said I to M. "She is not feeling very well," M. answered, "and said she would not come down, as she did not want any dinner." I ran up-stairs, found her in her little room, and asked her what was the matter. She replied that she had been troubled with a little nausea and felt weak, but it was nothing serious. I went back to the table, but with a worried, anxious mind. Somewhat later she lay down on the bed and the prostration became so great, that I rubbed her hands vigorously and administered hartshorn. It occurred to me at once that she had barely escaped a sunstroke. After rallying from this terrible fit of exhaustion, she seemed quite like herself again, and listened with much interest while the girls read to her out of Boswell's Johnson. She was in a sweet, gentle mood all the afternoon. "I prayed this morning," she said, "that I might be a comfort to-day to everybody in the house."

Tuesday, Aug.6th.—She passed the day in bed; feeble, but otherwise seeming still like herself. In the course of the morning we persuaded her to let Margaret, Eddy's old nurse, make her some milk-toast, which she enjoyed so much that she said, "I wish, Margaret, you were well enough to come and be our cook." M. had taken the place of our two servants, who were gone to East Dorset to a Confirmation, at which their bishop was to be present. Throughout the day she was in a very tender, gentle mood, as she had been on the previous afternoon. She was much exercised by the sudden death of the mother of one of our servants, the news of which came while they were away. Had the case been that of a near relative, she could hardly have shown warmer sympathy, or administered consolation in a more considerate manner.

During the day there was more or less talk about the Bible-reading and I begged her to give it up. We finally agreed that the girls should drive over to Mrs. Reed's and ask her to take charge of it. They did so; but at Mrs. R.'s suggestion it was decided not to give up the meeting, but to convert it, if needful, into a little service of prayer and praise. This arrangement seemed to please her. Although feeling very weak, she did not appear at all depressed and was alive to everything that was going on in the room. The girls having written to a friend who was to visit us the next week, she asked if they had mentioned her illness. They both replied no—for each supposed the other had done it. "Then (said she) you had better add a postscript, telling her that I lie at the point of death."

Wednesday, Aug. 7th.—A beautiful day. She got up, put on a dressing-gown, and sat most of the day in the easy-chair, or rather the sea-chair, given us by my dear friend, Mr. Howland, when we went to Europe in 1858. She looked very lovely and we all enjoyed sitting and talking with her in her chamber. The girls arranged her hair to please their own taste, and then told her how very charming she was! She liked to be petted by them; and they were never so happy as in petting and "fussing" about her. She spent an hour or two in looking over a package of old Agriculturists, that had belonged to her brother-in-law, Prof. Hopkins, of Williams College. She delighted in such reading, and nothing curious and interesting, or suggestive, escaped her notice. She called my attention to an article on raising tomatoes, and cut it out for me; and also cut out many other articles for her own use.

Towards night she dressed herself and came down to tea. She remained in the parlor, talking with me and the boys, and reading the paper, until the girls returned from the Wednesday evening meeting. Something had occurred to excite their mirth, and they came home in such a "gale" that she playfully rebuked them for being so light-minded. But at the same time she couldn't help joining in their mirth. In truth, she was quite as much a girl as either of them; and her laugh was as merry.

Thursday, Aug. 8th.—She seemed to feel much better this morning. Before getting up we talked about her Bible-reading, and she asked me various questions concerning the passage that was to be its theme, namely, John xv. 27. She referred particularly to our Lord's sayings, at the beginning of the sixteenth chapter, on the subject of persecution, and told me how very strange and impressive they seemed to her, coming, as they did, in the midst of His last conversation with His disciples—a conversation so full of divine tenderness and love. This was almost the last of innumerable and never-to-be-forgotten talks which we had had together, during more than a third of a century, upon passages of Holy Scripture.

After breakfast she went to her workshop and painted six large titles; and then went down to the piazza and painted a chair for Hatty. She also assisted the girls in watering her flowers. "She came round to the back stoop Thursday morning (one of the servants told me afterwards) and I said to her, 'Mis Prentiss, and how d'ye feel?' and she said, 'Ellen, I feel weak, but I shall be all right when I get my strength.'" I still felt troubled about her holding the Bible-reading and tried to dissuade her from attempting it. She had set her heart upon it, however, and said that the disappointment at giving it up would be worse than the exertion of holding it. Her preparation was all made; the ladies would be there, some of them from a distance, expecting to see her, and she could not bear to lose the meeting. So I yielded. We were expecting Dr. Vincent by the afternoon train and I was to go to the station for him. Just as I was seated in the carriage and was about to start, she came out on the porch, already dressed for the Bible-reading, and with an expression of infinite sweetness, half playful and half solemn, pointing at me with her finger, said slowly: "You pray—one—little—prayer for me." Never shall I forget that arch expression—so loving, so spiritual, and yet so stamped with marks of suffering—the peculiar tones of her voice, or that dear little gesture!

Of her last Bible-reading the following brief account is prepared from the recollections kindly furnished me by several of the ladies who were present:


There was something very impressive in Mrs. Prentiss' Bible-readings. She seemed not unlike her gifted father in the power she possessed of captivating those who heard her. Her manner was perfectly natural, quiet, and even shy; it evidently cost her considerable effort to speak in the presence of so many listeners. She rarely looked round or even looked up; but a sort of magnetic influence attracted every eye to her and held all our hearts in breathless attention. Her style was entirely conversational; her sentences were short, clear as crystal, full of happy turns, and always fresh and to the point. The tones of her voice were peculiar; I scarcely know how to describe them; they had such a fine, subtle, womanly quality, were touched—especially at this last reading—with such tenderness and depth of feeling; I only know that as we heard them, it was almost as if we were listening to the voice of an angel! And they are, I am sure, echoing still in all our memories.

The first glance at her, as she entered the room, a little before three o'clock on the 8th of August, showed that she was not well. Her eyes were unusually bright, but the marks of recent or approaching illness were stamped upon her countenance. It was lighted up, indeed, with even unwonted animation and spiritual beauty; but it had also a pale and wearied look. The reading was usually opened with a silent prayer and closed with two or three short oral prayers. The subject this afternoon was the last verse of the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel according to John: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning. Witnessing for Christ, this was her theme. She began by giving a variety of Scripture references illustrative of the nature and different forms of Christian witness-bearing. It was her custom always to unfold the topic of the reading, and to verify her own views of it, by copious and carefully prepared citations from the Word of God. A Bible-reading, as she conducted it, was not merely a study of a text, or passage of Scripture, by itself, but study of it in its vital relations to the whole teaching of the Bible on the subject in hand. In the present instance her references were all written out and were so numerous and so skilfully arranged that they must have cost her no little labor. Feeling, apparently, too feeble to read them herself, she turned to her daughter, who sat by her mother's side, and requested her to do it.

After the references had been given and the passages read, she went on to express her own thoughts on the subject. And, surely, had she been fully conscious that this was the last opportunity she would ever have of thus bearing witness for Christ, her words could not have been more happily chosen. Would that they could be recalled just as they issued from her own lips! But it is not possible so to recall them. One might as well try to reproduce the sunset scene on the evening of her burial. For even if the exact words could be repeated, who could bring back again her tender, loving accents, or that strange earnestness and "unction from the Holy One" with which they were uttered? Or who could bring back again the awe-struck, responsive emotions that thrilled our hearts? The simplest outline of this farewell talk is all that is now practicable. Had we known what was coming, our memories would, no doubt, have been rendered thereby sevenfold more retentive, and little that fell from her lips would have been lost.

Her first point was the great variety of ways in which we can bear witness for Christ. We can do it in private as well as in public; and it is in the private spheres and familiar daily intercourse of life that most of us are called to give this testimony, and to give it by manifesting in this intercourse and in these retired spheres the spirit of our Master. What an opportunity does the family, for example, afford for constant and most effective witness-bearing! How a mother may honor Christ in what she says to her children about Him and especially by the manner in which she fulfils her every-day home duties! How a wife may thus testify of Christ to her worldly, unconverted husband! And here she spoke of one form of public testimony which everybody might and ought to give. "I can not (she said) see all the faces in this room but there may be those here who have never confessed Christ before men by uniting with His visible church. Let me tell any such who may be present that they are grieving their Saviour by refusing to give Him this testimony of their love and devotion."

In referring to this subject she remarked that young persons, after having united with the church, sometimes felt greatly disheartened and thought themselves the worst Christians in the world. But this was often a very wrong feeling. Their sense of their own weakness and unworthiness might come from the Holy Comforter; and we should be very careful how we treat Him. His influence is a very tender, sacred thing, and, like the sensitive plant, recoils at the touch of a rude hand. I have wanted, she said, to speak cheerful, comforting words to you to-day. It was the particular desire of my husband this morning that I should do so. He thought that young Christians, especially, needed much encouragement on this point. It was a great thing to lead them to feel that they could please their Master and be witnesses for Him in quiet, simple ways, and that, too, every day of their lives. Our Lord, to be sure, does not really need our services. He could quite easily dispense with them. But He lets us work for Him somewhat as a mother lets her little child do things for her—not because she needs the child's help, but because she loves to see the child trying to please her. "And yet, Mrs. Prentiss (asked one of the ladies), does there not come a time when the child is really of service to the mother?" "I thank you for the suggestion (she replied); I left my remark incomplete. Yes, it is true such a time does come. And so, in a certain sense, it may be said, perhaps, that God needs the services of His children. But how easily He can dispense with the best and most useful of them! One may seem to have a great task to perform in the service of the Master, but in the midst of it he is taken away, and, while he is missed, the work of God goes right on. God does not see such a difference as we do, she said, between what we call great and small services rendered to Him. A cup of cold water given in Christ's name, if that is all one can give, is just as acceptable as the richest offering; and so is a tea-spoonful, if one has no more to give. Christ loves to be loved; and the smallest testimony of real love is most pleasing to Him. And love shown to one of His suffering disciples He regards as love to Himself. So a little child, just carrying a flower to some poor invalid, may thus do Christ honor and become more endeared to Him. There is no one, old or young, who has not the power of blessing other souls. We all have far more influence, both for good and evil, than we dream of."

In the course of her talk she alluded to the trials of life and the shortness of them at the longest. We are all passing away, one after another. Our intimate friends will mourn for us when we are gone, but the world will move on just the same. And we should not allow ourselves to be troubled lest when our time comes we may be afraid to die. Dying grace is not usually given until it is needed. Death to the disciple of Jesus is only stepping from one room to another and far better room of our Father's house. And how little all the sorrows of the way will seem to us when we get to our home above! I suppose St. Paul, amidst the bliss of heaven, fairly laughs at the thought of what he suffered for Christ in this brief moment of time. And as she said this, she gently waved her hand in the way of emphasis. No one of us who saw it will soon forget that little gesture!

In one part of her remarks she cautioned us against hasty and harsh judgments. We should cover with our charity the faults and imperfections of those about us, as nature hides with her mossy covering the unsightly stone.

She referred to the case of children: a child often has a sweet disposition until five or six years of age and then becomes very irritable and cross, causing the parents much anxiety—and, perhaps, much impatience. And yet it may not be the child's fault at all; but only the effect of ill-health, too much study and confinement, or pure mismanagement. A large portion of the disobedience and wrong temper of children comes from improper food or loss of sleep, or something of that sort. And it is not cross fretful children alone that need to be judged tenderly. A consumptive friend of hers, rendered nervous and weak by long sickness, upon being asked one morning, as usual, about her health, replied: "Don't ask me again—I feel as if I could throw this chair at you." Now I do not think, said Mrs. Prentiss, that this speech was a sin in the sight of God. He saw in it nothing but the poor invalid's irritable nerves, God judges us according to the thoughts and intentions of the heart; and we ought, as far as possible, to judge each other in the same way. And when we ourselves are the ones really at fault, we ought to confess it. I never shall forget how humiliated I felt when my mother once came to me and asked my forgiveness—but I loved her ten times as much for it.

Prayer was another point touched upon in this last Bible-reading. She almost always had something fresh and striking to say about prayer. It was one of her favorite topics. I recall two or three of her remarks at this time. "Always move the lips in prayer. It helps to keep one's thoughts from wandering." "A mother can pray with a sick child on her lap more acceptably than to leave it alone in order to go and pray by herself." "Accustom yourself to turn all your wants, cares and trials into prayer. If anything troubled or annoyed my mother she went straight to the 'spare room,' no matter how cold the weather, and we children knew it was to pray. I shall never forget its influence over me." "When a question as to duty comes up, I think we can soon settle it in this way: 'Am I living near to Christ? Am I seeking His guidance? Am I renouncing self in what I undertake to do for Him?' If we can say yes to these questions, we may safely go into any path where duty lies." "We never dread to hear people pray who pray truly and in the Spirit. They may be unlearned. They may be intellectually weak. But if they pray habitually in the closet, they will edify out of it."

Such is a poor, meagre account of this last precious Bible-reading. Possibly some of the things here recorded belonged to previous readings—though Mrs. Prentiss occasionally repeated remarks on points to which she attached special importance. "Some good (she said) will come of these meetings, I feel sure. It is impossible that you should take so much pains, and some of you put yourselves to so much inconvenience, in order to come here and study together God's Word—and His blessing not follow." The blessing has already followed, good measure, pressed down and running over, and it will continue to follow in days to come; especially the blessings of this last meeting, when, in a strain so sweet and tender—as though she had a new glimpse of heaven and the heart of God—our beloved and now sainted teacher urged us to bear witness for Christ and showed us so plainly how to do it.

At the close of the meeting she looked very pale and seemed much exhausted. "You are ill, Mrs. Prentiss," said one of the ladies, distressed by her appearance. "Yes," she said, "I am." Still, it seemed a great pleasure to her to have met us once more. Nor can I help thinking that, even if she herself had no presentiment of what was coming, she was yet led of the Spirit, the blessed Comforter, to hold this last Bible-reading. It was itself just such a testimony for Christ as fitly crowned her consecrated and beautiful life.

Upon my return from the station with Dr. Vincent she met us on the porch, bade him welcome to Dorset, told him with what extraordinary care the girls had made ready his room, and appeared in excellent spirits all the rest of the day. While at tea she expressed to Dr. V. our regret that Dr. Poor could not have made his visit at the same time; although, to be sure, they might, if together, have "brought the house down" upon our heads by the explosions of their mirth. She then related some amusing anecdotes of a queer, crotchety old domestic of ours in New Bedford a third of a century ago, and of her delight when Dr. Poor (then settled at Fair Haven, opposite New Bedford) got married, because "now, it was to be hoped, he would stay at home with his wife and not be coming over all the time and drinking up our tea!"

On my asking her about the Bible-reading, she said she got through with it very well, expressed surprise at the large attendance, and spoke of the deep interest manifested. After tea she sat with us in the parlor for some time and then, kissing M. good-night, omitted Hatty and the boys (a most unusual thing), remarking, as she left for her chamber, "Well, I'm not going to kiss all this roomful."

Friday, Aug.9th—A severe thunder-storm had set in early last night and continued at short intervals throughout the day. She was very anxious that Dr. Vincent should enjoy his visit, and on his account was disturbed by the weather; otherwise, a thunder-storm seemed to exhilarate her, as is said to have been the case with her father. She spent most of Friday in her "den," finishing a little picture and chatting from time to time with the girls who were busy in the adjoining room. Dr. Vincent and I sat a part of the forenoon on the piazza under her window and whiled away the time, he in telling and I in listening to any number of amusing stories. She called the attention of M. and H. to our unclerical behavior: "Just hear those doctors of divinity giggling like two schoolgirls!" But nobody enjoyed more an amusing story, or told one with more zest than she did herself.

I forget whether it was on Friday, or an earlier day, that she showed me a remarkable letter she had received, during my absence at the sea-side, from London. It was written by a young wife and mother nearly related to two of the most honored families of England, and sought her counsel in reference to certain questions of duty that had grown out of special domestic trials. "Stepping Heavenward," the writer said, had formed an era in her religious life; she had read it through from fifty to sixty times; it had its place by the side of her Bible; and no words could express the good it had done her, or the comfort she had derived from its pages. "The Home at Greylock" had also been of great help to her as a wife and mother; and she could not but hope that one whose books had been such a blessing to her, might be able to render her still greater and more direct aid by personal counsel. The letter, which was beautifully written and was full of the most grateful feelings, appealed very strongly to her sympathy. But it was never answered.

Saturday, Aug. 10th—She had a tolerable night, but on coming down to breakfast said, in reply to Dr. Vincent's question, How she felt? "I feel like bursting out crying." After prayers, however, when the plans for the day were arranged and a drive to Hager brook—a picturesque mountain glen and waterfall—was made the order of the forenoon, she proposed to go with us. I had almost feared to suggest it, and yet was greatly relieved to find that she felt able to take the ride. It was decided, therefore, that she, Hatty K., Dr. Vincent and I should form the party. As we drove toward the village I noticed that Dr. Wyman was just stopping at our next neighbor's. Dr. Hemenway, our old physician, had removed to St. Paul's, and Dr. W. had taken his place. I was rejoiced to see him, both on her account and my own. I had not been well myself during the week, and although I had repeatedly proposed to call in the doctor for her, she stoutly refused. So, after getting a prescription for myself, I said, "And now, doctor, I want you to do something for my wife," relating to him her ill-turn on Monday. "Certainly (the doctor replied) she needs some arsenicum," which he gave her, promising to call and see us on the next Monday. As we rode on Dr. Vincent suggested, laughingly, what a strange story might be based upon Dr. W.'s prescription. "I might report, for example, that I myself saw the author of 'Stepping Heavenward' eating arsenic!" She joined heartily in the laugh and during all the rest of the drive conversed with great animation. She related several anecdotes of her early life, talked with admiration of the writings and genius of Mrs. Stowe—one Of whose New England stories she had just been reading—and seemed exactly like herself. Upon reaching the brook in East Rupert and starting with Dr. Vincent for the glen, I said to her, "Now don't walk off out of sight, where I can't see you when we come back." "Oh yes, I shall," she replied in her pleasant way.

"After we were left alone that Saturday morning (Hatty writes) Mrs. Prentiss gathered quite a bunch of the wild ageratum, and then dug up the roots of three wild clematis vines with her scissors. She then called my attention to the thimbleberry bushes along the edge of the brook, admiring the foliage of the plant and expressing the determination to have one or more in her garden next year."

On coming down from the glen I found her sitting on the ground near the brook. Taking her by the hand—for she seemed very tired—I helped her to rise and walked back with her toward the carriage. Just before reaching the road she saw some clusters of clematis on the side of the brook, which at her desire I gathered. It was the last service of the kind ever performed for her, and I am so thankful that no hands but mine were privileged to perform it! During the drive home she said almost nothing and was, evidently, feeling very much wearied. We returned by the West road and on passing in at our gate I observed that Dr. Wyman's gig was still in front of Miss Kent's. "Why, Lizzy, Dr. Wyman is still here," said I. "Then, I would like to see him now rather than wait till Monday," she said, to my surprise. I went immediately and asked him to call. It was, I think, between eleven and twelve o'clock. He came very soon and she received him in the parlor. I noticed at once that she was extremely nervous and agitated, while explaining to him her symptoms; and not being able to recall some point, she remarked that her mind had been much confused all the week. Just then she rose hastily, excused herself, and went up to her room. "She is very ill (said the doctor, turning to me) and must go to bed instantly." While he was preparing her medicines Judge M. and family from New York, who were sojourning at Manchester, called; but learning of her illness, soon left. Later in the day I told her who had called and how much Mrs. M. and the young ladies admired her flowers, especially the portulacas. She seemed pleased and said to me, "You had better, then, prepare two little boxes of portulacas and send them over to Mrs. M. to keep in her windows while she stays at the Equinox House." A few days after her death I did so and received a touching note of thanks from Mrs. M.

As the doctor directed, she at once took to her bed. For an hour or two her prostration was extreme, and she nearly fainted. Her head shook and her condition verged on a collapse. I rubbed her hands vigorously, gave her a restorative, and gradually her strength returned. In speaking of the attack she said the sense of weakness was so terrible that she would gladly have died on the spot. In the course of the afternoon, however, she was so much easier that the girls read to her again out of Boswell's Johnson and she seemed to listen with all the old interest. It pleased her greatly to have them read to her; and she loved to talk with them about the books read and especially to discuss the characters depicted in any of them.

Toward evening George brought in some trout, which he had caught for her out of our brook. Her appetite was exceedingly poor, but she was very fond of trout and G. often caught a little mess for her supper. Our brook never seemed so dear to me, nor did its rippling music ever sound so sweet, as when I did the same thing, before he came home from Princeton and took the privilege out of my hands. When he brought in the trout, Ellen went to his mother's chamber and asked if they should not be kept for breakfast? "No, they are very nice and you had better have them for supper." "Shan't I save some for your breakfast?" asked Ellen, knowing how fond she was of them. "No," said she, "the doctor says I must take nothing but beef-tea." "And d'ye feel better, Mis' Prentiss?" continued Ellen. "Oh I feel better, Ellen, but I'm very weak—I shall be all right in a few days."

After tea she insisted on sending for Mrs. Sarah C. Mitchell, of Philadelphia, whom she had been unable to see on the previous Monday. Mrs. M. was the last person out of the family, with whom she conversed, excepting the doctors and nurse. [9]

Sunday, Aug. 11th.—She slept better than I feared, but awoke very feeble, taking no nourishment except a little beef-tea. She lay quiet a part of the time; but the quiet intervals grew shorter and were followed by most distressing attacks. M. and I sat by her bed, but could do nothing to relieve her. My fears had now become thoroughly aroused and I awaited the arrival of the doctor with the most intense anxiety. Hour after hour of the morning, however, passed slowly away and he did not come. At length a messenger brought word from the "West road," where he had been called at midnight, that an urgent telegram had summoned him to Arlington and that he should not be able to reach Dorset before one or two o'clock P.M. The anguish of the suspense during the next three or four hours was something dreadful. When the bell rang for church she desired that M. should go, as Dr. Vincent was to preach, and it would give a little relief from the strain that was upon her.

Soon after M. had left, during an interval of comparative ease, she fixed her eyes upon me with a most tender, loving expression, and in a sort of beseeching tone, said, "Darling, don't you think you could ask the Lord to let me go?" Perceiving, no doubt, how the question affected me, she went on to give some reasons for wishing to go. She spoke very slowly, in the most natural, simple way, and yet with an indescribable earnestness of look and voice, as if aware that she was uttering her dying words. I can not recall all that she said, but its substance, and some of the exact expressions, are indelibly impressed upon my memory. For my and the children's sake she had been willing and even desired to live; and for several years had made extraordinary efforts to keep up, although much of the time the burden of ill-health, as I well knew, had been well-nigh insupportable. So far as this world was concerned, few persons in it had such reasons for wishing to live, or so much to render life attractive. But the feeling in her heart had become overpowering that no earthly happiness, no interest, no distraction, could any longer satisfy her, or give her content, away from Christ; and she longed to be with Him, where He is. During the past three months especially, she had passed through very unusual exercises of mind with reference to this subject; and it seemed to her as if she had now reached a point beyond which she could not go. She evidently had in view the dreadful sleeplessness, to which she had been so in bondage for a quarter of a century, whose grasp had become more and more relentless, and the effects of which upon her nervous system were such as words can hardly describe. No human being but myself had any conception of her suffering, both physical and mental, from this cause.

To return to her conversation.... In answer to a question which I put to her later, about her view of heaven and of the relation of the saints in glory to their old friends there and here, she replied, in substance, that to her view heaven is being with Christ and to be with Christ is heaven. By this she did not mean, I am sure, to imply any doubt respecting the immortality of Christian love and friendship, or that our individual human affections will survive the grave. Often had she delighted herself in the thought of meeting her sainted father and mother in heaven, of meeting there Eddy and Bessie and other dear ones who had gone before; and certain I am, too, she believed that those who are gone before retain their peculiar interest in those who are toiling after, only her mind was so absorbed in the thought of the presence and beatific vision of Christ in His glory that, for the moment, it was lost to everything else.

She then said that, in the event of her death, she would like to be buried in Dorset, where we could easily visit her grave. "But I do not expect to go now," she added. This meant, as I interpret it, that she regarded so speedy a departure to be with Christ as something too good to be true. Repeatedly, when very ill, she had thought herself on the verge of heaven and had been called back to earth, and she feared it would be so now.

Hardly had this never-to-be-forgotten conversation come to a close when her feet entered "the swelling of Jordan," and found no rest until they walked the "sweet fields beyond." Her disease (gastro-enteritis) returned with great violence; the medical appliances seemed to have little or no effect; and the paroxysms of pain were excruciating. A chill, also, began to creep over her. About two o'clock, to my inexpressible relief, the doctor arrived. Her first thought was that he should rest a little and that some ice-cream should be brought to him. In answer to his inquiries she told him that she had never known agony such as she had endured that forenoon, and he immediately applied remedies adapted to the case. But they afforded only temporary relief. A terrible restlessness seized upon her and would not let go its hold. Towards evening she got into the sea-chair, and remained in it near the open window until morning. On leaving for the night Dr. Wyman intrusted her to the care of Dr. Slocum, who had recently come to Dorset. Dr. S. remained with her all night and was indefatigable in trying to alleviate her sufferings. "How kind he is!" she said to me once when he had left the room. M. sat up with me till towards morning and assisted in giving the medicines. Her distress could only be assuaged by inhaling chloroform every few minutes and by the constant use of ice. As from time to time, going down for the ice, I stepped out on the piazza, the scene that met my eye was in strange contrast to the one I had just left. Within the sick-chamber it was a night dark with suffering and anxiety; as the hours passed slowly away, my heart almost died in the shadow of the coming event; all was gloom and agitation except the sweet patience of the sufferer. But the beauty and stillness of the night out of doors was something marvellous. The light of the great harvest moon was like the light of the sun. It flooded hills and valley with its splendor. The outlines of each mountain, of every tree, and of all visible objects, far or near, were as distinct as those of the stars, or of the moon itself. As I stood and gazed upon the infinite beauty of the scene, I felt, as never in my life before, how helpless is Nature in the presence of a great trouble. The beauty of the night was fully matched by that of the morning. As the first rays of the sun crossed the mountains and shone down upon the valley, I said to myself, even while my heart was racked with anxious foreboding—"How wonderful! How wonderful!"

Monday, Aug. 12th.—For some hours she seemed much more comfortable, and, in the course of the morning, of her own accord, was removed from the chair to the bed. "On Monday morning (writes Dr. Wyman) I found her with temperature nearly normal, pulse less than 100, and other symptoms improved. This gave us hope that the worst was passed, but it was only the lull before the storm." She was for the most part quiet and took little notice of anything that was going on. During the forenoon M. tried to get some rest in the sea-chair by the window, while Hatty kept her place by the bed. Several times Lizzy looked round the room as if in quest of some one. Hatty perceiving this and guessing what it meant, stepped aside (she was between the bed and the chair so as to intercept the view), when she fixed her eyes upon M. and rested as if she had found what she sought. Having been up most of the night, I also tried to get a little rest in another room, and later went out in search of a nurse and engaged an excellent one, Mrs. C., who came early in the afternoon.

Notwithstanding my deep anxiety I was deceived by the more favorable symptoms, and did not allow myself, during the day, to think she would not recover. In the early evening I wrote to A., who was absent in Maine:

I am sorry to say that your mother had a very trying day yesterday and has been extremely weak and exhausted to-day.... Nervous prostration appears to be the great trouble. She has rested quietly much of the time to-day and the medicines seem to be doing their work; and in a couple of days, I trust, she may be greatly improved. You know how these ill-turns upset her and how quickly she often rallies from them. She is very anxious you should not shorten your visit on her account.

Soon after this letter was written, the whole aspect of the case suddenly changed. The unfavorable symptoms had returned with renewed violence. Dr. W. asked her, during one of the paroxysms, about the pain. She answered that it was not a pain—it was a distress, an agony. But from first to last she never uttered a groan—not during the sharpest paroxysms of distress. She seemed to say to herself, in the words of two favorite German mottoes, which she had illumined and placed on the wall over her bed, Geduld, Mein Herz! (Patience, My Heart!)—Stille, Mein Wille! (Still, My Will!) "The patient and uncomplaining manner," writes Dr. Wyman, "in which the most agonizing pains which it has ever been my lot to witness were borne—with no repining, no murmur, no fretfulness, but quiet, peaceful submission to endure and suffer—will not soon be forgotten." At eleven o'clock, when the doctor left, I sent the nurse away for a couple of hours rest and took her place by the sick-bed. Lizzy, who had already begun to feel the effects of the morphine, lay motionless, and breathed somewhat heavily, but not alarmingly so.

Tuesday, Aug. 13th.—Shortly after one o'clock I called the nurse and, directing her to summon me at once in the event of any change, retired to the green-room for a little rest. The girls had been persuaded before the doctor left, to throw themselves on their bed. Everything was quiet until about three o'clock, when Hatty knocked at my door with a message from the nurse. I hurried down and saw at the first glance as I entered the room, that a great change had taken place. It seemed as if I heard the crack of doom and that the world was of a sudden going to pieces. I went to G.'s room, woke him, told him what I feared, and desired him to go for Dr. Slocum as quickly as possible. He was dressed in an instant, as it were, and gone. In the meantime I woke H., and told him his mother, I feared, was dying. When Dr. Slocum arrived he felt her pulse, looked at her and listened to her breathing for a minute or two, and then, turning slowly to me, said, It is death! This was not far from four o'clock. I asked if I had better send at once for Dr. Wyman? "He can do nothing for her," was the reply, "but you had better send." I requested G. to call Albert, and tell him to go for Dr. W. as fast as possible. "I will saddle Prince and go myself," G. said; and in a few minutes he was riding rapidly towards Factory Point. I then knocked at Dr. Poor's door. Upon opening it and being told what was coming, he was so completely stunned that he could with difficulty utter a word. He had arrived the previous afternoon on the same train by which Dr. Vincent left. I had tried by telegraph to prevent his coming; but a kind Providence so ordered it that my message reached Burlington, where he had been on a visit, just after he had started for Dorset.

The night, like that of Sunday, was as day for brightness. Never shall I forget its wondrous beauty, although it seemed only a mockery of my distress. Soon after the first rays of the sun appeared, Dr. Wyman came, but only to repeat, It is death. I asked him how long she might be a dying. "Perhaps several hours; but she may drop away at any moment." We all gathered about her bed and watched the ebbing tide of life. The girls were already kneeling together on the left side. They never changed their posture for more than four hours; they wept, but made no noise. The boys stood at the foot of the bed, deeply moved, but calm and self-possessed. The strain was fearful; and yet it was relieved by blessed thoughts and consolations. Although the chamber of death, it was the chamber of peace, and a light not of earth shone down upon us all. He who was seen walking, unhurt, in the midst of the fire and whose form was like the Son of God, seemed to overshadow us with His presence.

As the end drew near, we all knelt together and my old friend, Dr. Poor, commended the departing spirit to God and invoked for us, who were about to be so heavily bereaved, the solace and support of the blessed Comforter.... The breathing had now grown slower and less convulsive, and at length became gentle almost like that of one asleep; the distressed look changed into a look of sweet repose; the eyes shut; the lips closed; and the whole scene recalled her own lines:

Oh, where are words to tell the joy unpriced Of the rich heart, that breasting waves no more, Drifts thus to shore, Laden with peace and tending unto Christ!

About half-past seven it became evident that the mortal struggle was on the point of ending. For several minutes we could scarcely tell whether she still lived or not; and at twenty minutes before eight she drew one long breath and all was over.

Again we knelt together, and in our behalf Dr. Poor gave thanks to Almighty God for the blessed saint now at rest in Him—and for all she had been to us and all she had done for Him, through the grace of Christ her Saviour.

The following account of the burial was written by the Rev. Dr. Vincent and appeared in the New York Evangelist:

DORSET, VT. August 16, 1878.

This lovely valley has been, for the past few days, "a valley of the shadow." It is not the least significant tribute to one so widely known as Mrs. Prentiss, that her death has affected with such real sorrow, and with such a deep sense of loss, this little rural community which has been her home during a large part of the last ten years. It would have been hard to find among all who gathered at the funeral services on Wednesday, a face which did not bear the marks of true sorrow and of tender sympathy; while from the groups of sunburned farmers gathered round the door or walking towards the cemetery, were often heard the words "a great loss."

* * * * *

The funeral took place at the house on Wednesday afternoon, and was conducted by the Rev. P. S. Pratt, pastor of the old Congregational Church of Dorset; assisted by Dr. Vincent, and Dr. D. W. Poor. Mr. Pratt read the twenty-third Psalm and a part of the fourteenth chapter of John, which was followed by the hymn, "O gift of gifts, O grace of faith," after which Dr. Poor delivered a most appropriate, tender, and interesting address. Dr. Vincent then offered prayer, and the hymn "Nearer, my God, to Thee," was sung, closing the services at the house. The large assemblage passed in succession by the casket, where lay such an image of perfect rest as one is rarely favored to see. All traces of struggle and pain had faded from the expressive face, and nothing was left but the sweetness of eternal repose.

It was now a little after six o'clock, and the shadows were lengthening in the valley at the close of one of those rare days of the ripe summer, which only the hill-countries develop in their perfect loveliness. The long procession moved from the house, and at the distance of about a quarter of a mile entered the little cemetery; and as it mounted the slope on which was the grave, the scene was one of most pathetic beauty. Standing in the shadow of the hills which bound the valley on the east, the eye ranged southward to the long, undulating outline of the Green Mountain, coming round to the Equinox range on the west, "muffled thick" to its very crest with the green maples and pines, and still farther round to the bold hills and sloping uplands on the north. Below lay the quiet village, at our feet "God's acre," with the train of mourners winding among the white stones. Who could stand there, compassed about by the mountains, and in the shadow of that great sorrow, and not whisper the words of the Pilgrim Psalm, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills. Whence should help come to me? My help cometh from Jehovah, who made heaven and earth."

As the casket was borne to the grave, the setting sun, which for the last half hour had been hidden by a mass of clouds, burst out in full splendor, gilding the mountain-tops and shedding his parting rays upon the group around the tomb, the stricken family, the weeping neighbors and friends, especially the women whom for some years past she had been in the habit of meeting at her weekly Bible-reading, and some of whom had walked each week for miles along the mountain roads, through storm and heat, to drink of the living waters which flowed at her touch.

Dr. Vincent, holding in his hand a little, well-worn volume, and standing at the foot of the grave, spoke substantially as follows:

I am glad, my friends, that I am not one of those who know God only as they find Him identified with the woods and fields and streams. If this were so, I should turn from the grave of this beloved friend, and go my way in utter heart-sickness and hopelessness; for Nature would but mock me to-day with her fulness of summer life. These forest-clad mountains, that waving grain, those woods, pulsating with the hum of insects and with the song of birds, all speak of life, while we stand here at the close of a precious and useful human life, to lay in the dust all that remains of what was so dear, and so fruitful in good.

But, thanks to God, we are not here as those who face an insoluble riddle. We believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the resurrection of the dead; and with this key in our hand, we stand here at the grave's mouth, and looking backward, interpret the lesson of this closed life; and looking forward, gaze with hope into the future. Thus Nature becomes our consoler instead of our mocker; a type, and not a contradiction of human immortality. Thus, and only thus, do we find ourselves at the standpoint from which Christ viewed nature when He said, "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit"; the standpoint from which Paul viewed nature when he wrote, "That which thou sowest is not quickened except it die; and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body which shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain; but God giveth it a body as He willeth, and to every seed his own body. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body."

And thus too we can understand the words which I read from this little volume, the daily companion of our friend for many years, containing a passage of Scripture for every day in the year, and marked everywhere with her notes of special anniversaries and memorable incidents. Was it merely an accidental coincidence that, on the morning of the thirteenth of August, on which she exchanged earth for heaven, the passage for the day was, "I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth, yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, and their works do follow them."

There are two thoughts in this verse which seem to me to be fraught with comfort and hope to us as we gather round this grave. There is the thought of rest. "They rest from their labors." Bethink you of the long life marked by the discipline of sorrow, and by those unwearied labors for others. Bethink you of the racking agony of the last two days; and how blessed, how soothing the contrast introduced by the words—"She rests from her labors." Still is the busy hand; at rest the active brain; completed the discipline; the pain ended forever.

The other thought is that her work is not done, so far as its results are concerned. "Their works do follow them." Think you that because she will no longer meet you in her weekly Bible-readings, because her pen will no more indite the thoughts which have made so many patient under life's burdens, and helped so many to make of their burdens steps on which to mount heavenward—think you her work is ended? Nay. Go into yonder field, and pluck a single head of wheat, and plant the grains, and you know that out of each grain which falls into the ground and dies, there shall spring up an hundred-fold. Shall you recognise so much multiplying power in a corn of wheat, and not discern the infinitely greater power of multiplication enfolded in a holy life and in a holy thought? No. Through the long years in which her mortal remains shall be quietly resting beneath this sod, the work of her tongue and pen shall be reproducing itself in new forms of power, of faith, and of patience.

And yet we seem to want something more than these two thoughts give us. It does not satisfy us to contemplate only rest from labor and the perpetuated fruits of labor. And that something this same little volume gives us in the words appointed for this day, on which we commit her mortal part to the grave: "For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints and do minister. Be not slothful, but followers of them who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises." Here the veil is lifted, and we get the glimpse we want of her inheritance and reward in heaven. She has inherited the promises; such promises as these: "If children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together." "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them to living fountains of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." "They shall see His face, and His name shall be in their foreheads." "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne."

Thus we commit this mortal body to the ground in hope, and with assurances of victory. Oh, it is one of the most wonderful of facts, that at the grave's very portal, amid all the tears and desolation which death brings, we can stand and sing hymns of triumph—even that song which, from the morning when the angels met Mary at the Lord's empty supulchre, has been sounding over the graves of the dead in Christ—"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

How sweet, how impressive, is this scene! No wonder that we linger here while Nature, at this evening hour, speaks to us so tenderly and beautifully of rest. Even as yonder clouds break from the setting sun, and are tinged with glory by its parting beams, so our sorrow is illumined by this truth of the Resurrection. There is no terror in death, and relieved by such a faith and hope, our thoughts are all of peace, and flow naturally into the mould of those familiar lines:

"So fades a summer cloud away, So sinks the gale when storms are o'er, So gently shuts the eye of day, So dies a wave along the shore."

But this scene is adapted also to kindle aspiration in our hearts— aspiration to be followers of them who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises. Her victory over death is the victory of love to Christ; and that same victory may be yours through the same Christ in whose name she conquered. Shall we not pray that His love may be shed abroad in all our hearts in richer measure? And can we better frame that prayer than in those lines which she wrote out of her own heart? Let us then sing


More love, O Christ, to Thee! Hear Thou the prayer I make On bended knee: This is my earnest plea,— More love, O Christ, to Thee! More love, O Christ, to Thee! More love to Thee.

Once earthly joy I craved, Sought peace and rest; Now Thee alone I seek; Give what is best!

This all my prayer shall be,— More love, O Christ, to Thee! More love to Thee.

Let sorrow do its work, Send grief and pain; Sweet are Thy messengers, Sweet their refrain, When they can sing with me More love, O Christ, to Thee! More love to Thee.

Then shall my latest breath Whisper Thy praise! This be the parting cry My heart shall raise, This still its prayer shall be, More love, O Christ, to Thee! More love to Thee.

After the singing of these words, Mr. Pratt, according to the old country custom, returned thanks to the assembled friends in the name of the family, for their sympathy and aid in the burial of their dead. The several members of the household each laid a floral offering upon the casket lid, and the body was lowered into the grave. Dr. Vincent uttered the solemn words of committal to the dust, and Dr. Poor pronounced the parting blessing in the words, "The God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the Everlasting Covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."

Thus the valley of the shadow has been irradiated. To those who have been permitted to participate in these closing scenes, it has seemed like standing at heaven's gate. The valley of the shadow has become a transfiguration mountain, where we have seen the Lord.

* * * * *

Hardly had the news of her death left Dorset when there began to pour in upon its stricken household a stream of the tenderest Christian sympathy; nor did the stream cease until it had brought loving messages from the remotest parts of the land. Her friends seemed overcome with special wonder that she could have died, so vividly was she associated in their thoughts with life and sunlight. For months, too, after the return of the family to their city home, letters from far and near continued to bear witness to the mingled emotions of sorrow and of thanksgiving excited by her sudden departure from earth—sorrow for a great personal loss; thanksgiving that she had gone to be forever with the Lord. A little volume of selections from these varied testimonies would form a very touching and precious tribute to her memory.

"The human heart," to use her own words, "was made by so delicate, so cunning a hand, that it needs less than a breath to put it out of tune; and an invisible touch, known only to its own consciousness, may set all its silvery bells to ringing out a joyous chime. Happy he, thrice blessed she, who is striving to hush its discords and to awaken its harmonies by never so imperceptible a motion!" Surely, the triple benediction belonged to her. Already tens of thousands, both young and old, who never saw her face, but have been aided and cheered by her writings, gladly call her "thrice blessed." May this story of her life serve to increase their number and so to render her name dearer still. Above all, may it help to inspire some other souls with her own impassioned and adoring love to our Lord Jesus Christ.

[1] She was specially touched by the sudden decease of Mrs. Harriet Woolsey Hodge, of Philadelphia, to whom both for her mother's and her own sake she was warmly attached.

[2] J. Cleveland Cady, the distinguished architect.

[3] Mrs. Antoinette Donaghe died at Staunton, Va., April 14, 1882. Her last years were passed amid great bodily sufferings, which she bore with the patience of a saint. She was a woman of uncommon excellence, a true Christian lady, and much endeared to a wide circle of friends in New Haven, New York, and elsewhere. Her husband, Mr. James Donaghe, a most worthy man, for many years a prominent citizen of New Haven, died on the 1st of January, 1878. He and Mrs. Donaghe were among the original members of the Church of the Covenant.

[4] The book alluded to is Letters of Thomas Erskine of Linlathen. From 1800 till 1840. Edited by Dr. Hanna, and republished by G. P. Putnam's Sons. The Duchess de Broglie was born in Paris, in 1797, and died in September, 1838, at the age of forty-one. She was the only daughter of the celebrated Madame de Stael. Some pleasant glimpses of her are given in the Life, Letters, and Journals of George Ticknor. Vol. I., pp. 128-139. Vol. II., pp. 103-139.

[5] The portrait in this volume is from a drawing by Miss Crocker, engraved by A. H. Ritchie. Miss C., after pursuing her studies for some time in Paris, has opened a studio in New York.

[6] In this letter she told me how much good Stepping Heavenward had done her and how sorry she felt on hearing of Mrs. P.'s death, that she had never written, as she longed to do, to thank her for it. "Dear soul! (she added) perhaps she knows now how many hearts she has lifted up and comforted by her wonderful words."—From a letter of Mrs. W.

[7] Mr. Washburn died on Sunday, the 18th of September, 1881, aged 80 years. He was born in Farmington, Conn. His father, the Rev. Joseph Washburn, pastor of the Congregational Church in F., was cut off in the prime of a beautiful and saintly manhood. He inherited some of his father's most attractive traits and was a model of Christian fidelity and uprightness. In a notice which appeared in the New York Evangelist, shortly after his death, President Porter, of Yale College, whose father succeeded the Rev. Mr. Washburn as pastor of the church in Farmington, thus refers to his life at Wildwood: "Some twenty years since he retired for a part of eight years to the singularly beautiful house which was selected and prepared by the taste of himself and wife, near East River, a district in Madison, which he has for several years made his permanent residence. His life was singularly even in its course and happy in its allotments; a blessing to himself and a blessing to the world. His memory will long be cherished by the many who knew him as one whom to know was to love and honor."

[8] Mr. Isaac Farwell, or "Uncle Isaac," as everybody called him, was the most remarkable man in Dorset. He died in 1881 in the 102d year of his age. His centennial was celebrated on the 14th of July, 1879; the whole town joining in it. He was full of interest in life, retained his mental powers unimpaired, and would relate incidents that occurred in the last century, as if they had just happened. Mrs. Prentiss was fond of meeting him: and after her departure he delighted to recall his talks with her and to tell where he had seen her creeping through fences, laden with rustic trophies, as she and her daughter came home from their tramps in the fields and over the hills.

[9] The following is an extract from a letter of Mrs. M. giving an account of the interview: It was of her I thought, as an hour before sunset, on that day, I passed through the grounds to the door of her beautiful home. I thought of her as I had seen her busy at work among her flowers on the morning of the day when the fatal illness began, wearing a straw hat, with broad brim to protect her from the heat of the sun. Several of her family were standing around her, and the pleasant picture we saw as we drove by the lovely lawn is fresh and green in my memory now. Once, after this, I had seen her, at our last precious Bible-reading (though little thought we then it would be our last), when she so earnestly urged us to be true "witnesses" for our Master and Lord and gently bade us God-speed, "encouraging" us also, as she expressed it, "by the particular desire of my husband to-day," in the heavenward path. I knew that she was not quite well, and as I entered the house was invited to her chamber.

I found her attired as usual, but reclining on the bed, apparently only for quiet rest. Her greeting was warm, her eyes bright, she was very cheerful, and, I think, was not then suffering from pain. To my inquiries after her health, she replied, that she had been at first prostrated by the heat of the sun, remaining at work in it too long, with no idea of danger from the exposure; "but now," she said, "I do not think much is the matter with me"—though afterwards she added, "The doctor has said something to my husband which has alarmed him about me, and he is anxious, but I can not perceive any reason for this." We talked of many familiar things, even of home-like methods of cookery, and she kindly sent for a small manuscript receipt-book of her own to lend me, looking it over and turning down the leaves at some particular receipts which she approved, and "those were my mother's," she said of several. She spoke of her engagements and the guests she loved to entertain, adding that she thought God had given this pleasant home, surrounded by such beautiful things in nature, that others too might be made happy in enjoying them. All the time while listening to her remarks, and deeply interested in every one she made, the strong desire was in my heart to speak to her of her works, of my appreciation of their great usefulness, and how God had blessed her in permitting her to do so much to benefit others. I longed to say to her, "O had you only written the books for the little ones, 'Little Susy's Six Birthdays,' and its companions, it would have been well worth living for! had you never written anything but 'The Flower of the Family,' it were a blessing for you to have lived! And 'Stepping Heavenward'—what a privilege to have lived to write only that volume!" I could scarcely refrain from pouring out before her the thoughts which warmed my heart, but I had been told that she preferred not to be spoken to of her works, and I refrained. Only once, when we were alone, I said, with some emotion, "I am so glad to have seen you; it was because you were here that I wished to come to this village; this was the strong attraction." ... Thus I parted from her. I shall not look upon her again until the day when "those who sleep in Jesus shall God bring with Him."



The allusion is to a young officer of the navy, James Swan Thatcher—a grandson of General Knox, the friend of Washington, and a younger brother of Lieutenant, afterwards the gallant Rear Admiral, Henry Knox Thatcher. He had become deeply interested in Miss Payson, and at length solicited her hand. The story of his hopeless attachment to her, as disclosed after his death, is most touching. He would spend hours together late into the night in walking about the house, which, to borrow his brother's expression, "his love had placed on holy ground." He was a young man of singular purity and nobleness of character—"one of a thousand," to use her own words—and, although she could not accept him as a lover, she cherished for him a very cordial friendship. Not long after, he was lost at sea. In later years she often referred to him and his tragical end with the tenderest feeling. The following is an extract from a letter of Rear Admiral Thatcher to her husband, written several months after her death and shortly before his own:

I have read with great interest your reference to my dear and only brother, James Swan Thatcher. It carried me back to one of the saddest afflictions of my life. We had both been stationed at Portland for the purpose of recruiting some of the hardy sons of Maine as seamen for the U. S. naval service. The wife of the Rev. Dr. Dwight had advised my calling upon Mrs. Payson, Cumberland street, to obtain quarters. I did so, and with my wife removed from a noisy hotel to the quiet of that most desirable retreat. My brother made frequent visits to us, and, by invitation of Mrs. Payson, dined with us on Sundays, and passed the hours between meetings, accompanying the ladies to church in the afternoons. This led to an acquaintance between Miss Payson and himself. As they were both highly intellectual and were both "stepping heavenward," they naturally fancied each other's conversation and formed a mutual friendship. Until after my dear brother's death I never imagined that it was more than a fondness for Miss Payson's conversational gifts that induced him to call so frequently at Cumberland street.... James was unexpectedly ordered to join the U. S. schooner Grampus at Norfolk, Va., for a winter cruise on the Southern coast for relief of distressed merchant vessels. The cruise continued for some weeks without entering any port, but about the 20th of March, 1843, the Grampus appeared off the bar of Charleston, S. C., and sent in a letter-bag for mailing. That night there came on a terrible gale and the Grampus disappeared forever—no vestige of her ever having been seen. She was commanded by Lt.-Commander Albert E. Downes, a good man and a fine seaman, and who as a midshipman had sailed with me three years before in the Pacific. My brother was educated for the law, and studied his profession with the Hon. John Holmes, and, after completing his studies, became Mr. Holmes' law-partner. But he being my only brother, I was very desirous that he should obtain a commission as a purser in the navy, in order that we might be associated on duty; and, at Mr. H.'s request, he was appointed by General Harrison soon after his inauguration. My brother then joined me in Portland. It is a consolation to know that he lived and died in the exercise of those Christian sentiments which were deeply instilled into his mind by the society of your angelic wife, who has preceded you to our home of rest. God grant that we may all meet there!

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