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The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss
by George L. Prentiss
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[1] Richard H. Dana, the poet.

[2] The article referred to appeared in The Biblical Repository and Quarterly Observer for January, 1835. Vol V., pp. 1-32. It is entitled, "What form of Law is best suited to the individual and social nature of man?"

[3] Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson.

[4] The article appeared in the New York Review for July, 1839.

[5] Some passages from the little diaries referred to, together with further extracts from her literary journal, will be found in appendix D, p. 541.

[6] The Proclamation of Emancipation.

[7] By Anna Warner.

[8] By her friend, Mrs. Frederick G. Burnham.

[9] "The Little Corporal."

[10] At Fredericksburg.

[11] Referring to the sudden death of a young niece of Mrs. S.

[12] This was written before the assassination of President Garfield.

[13] The "Rhapsody," referred to by Mr. Butler was preserved by a young lady of the party, and will be found in appendix E, p. 555.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE PASTOR'S WIFE AND DAUGHTER OF CONSOLATION.

1866-1868.

I.

Happiness as a Pastor's Wife. Visits to Newport and Williamstown Letters. The great Portland Fire. First Summer at Dorset. The new Parsonage occupied. Second Summer at Dorset. Little Lou's Sayings and Doings. Project of a Cottage. Letters. The Little Preacher. Illness and Death of Mrs. Edward Payson and of Little Francis.

We now enter upon the most interesting and happiest period of Mrs. Prentiss's experience as a pastor's wife. The congregation of the Church of the Covenant had been slowly forming in "troublous times"; it was composed of congenial elements, being of one heart and one mind; some of the most cultivated families and family-circles in New York belonged to it; and Mrs. Prentiss was much beloved in them all. What a help-meet she was to her husband and with what zeal and delight she fulfilled her office, especially that of a daughter of consolation, among his people, will soon appear.

How ignorant we often are, at the time, of the turning-points in our life! We inquire for a summer boarding-place and decide upon it without any thought beyond the few weeks for which it was engaged; and yet, perhaps, our whole earthly future or that of those most dear to us, is to be vitally affected by this seemingly trifling decision. So it happened to Mrs. Prentiss in 1866. Early in May her husband and his brother-in-law, Dr. Stearns, went, at a venture, to Dorset, Vt., and there secured rooms for their families during the summer. But little did either she, or they, dream that Dorset was to be henceforth her summer home and her resting-place in death! [1]

The Portland fire, to which reference is made in the following letters, occurred on the 4th of July, and consumed a large portion of the city.

To Miss Mary B. Shipman, Dorset, July 25, 1866.

Never in my life did I live through such a spring and early summer as this! As to business and bustle, I mean. You must have given me up as a lost case! But I have thought of you every day and longed to hear how you were getting on, and whether you lived through that dreadful weather. Annie went with the children to Williamstown about the middle of June; I nearly killed myself with getting them ready to go and could see the flesh drop off my bones. George and I went to Newport on what Mrs. Bronson called our "bridal trip," and stayed eleven days. Mr. and Mrs. McCurdy were kindness personified. We came home and preached on the first Sunday in July, and then went to Greenfield Hill to spend the Fourth with Mrs. Bronson. [2] That nearly finished me, and then I went to Williamstown on that hot Friday and was quite finished on reaching there, to hear about the fire in Portland. Did you ever hear of anything so dreadful? I did not know for several days but H. and C. were burnt out of house and home; most of my other friends I knew were, and can there be any calamity like being left naked, hungry and homeless, everything gone forever.... But let no one say a word that has a roof over his head. All my father's sermons were burned, the house where most of us were born, his church, etc. Fancy New Haven stripped of its shade-trees, and you can form some idea of the loss of Portland in that respect. Well, I might go on talking forever, and not have said anything. [3] The heat upset G. and we have been fighting off sickness for a week, I getting wild with loss of sleep. We are enchanted with Dorset. We are so near the woods and mountains that we go every day and spend hours wandering about among them. If there is any difference, I think this place even more beautiful than Williamstown; it suits us better as a summer retreat, from its great seclusion. I am, that is we are, mean enough to want to keep it as quiet and secluded as it is now, by not letting people know how nice it is; a very few fashionably dressed people would just spoil it for us. So keep our counsel, you dear child.

A few days later she writes to Mrs. Smith, then in Europe:

On the sixth, a day of fearful heat, I went to Williamstown, where I found all the children as well as possible, but heard the news of the Portland fire which almost killed me. All my father's manuscripts are destroyed; we always meant to divide them among us and ought to have done it long ago. I heard of any number of injudicious babies as taking the inopportune day succeeding the fire to enter on the scene of desolation; all born in tents. I am sorry my children will never see my father's church, nor the house where I was born; but private griefs are nothing when compared with a calamity that is so appalling and that must send many a heart homeless and aching to the grave. I spent two weeks at Williamstown, when George came for me, and the weather cooling off, we had a comfortable journey here. We are perfectly delighted with Dorset; the sweet seclusion is most soothing, and the house is very pleasant. Mr. and Mrs. F. are intelligent, agreeable people, and do all they can to make us comfortable. The mountains are so near that I hear the crows cawing in the trees. We are making pretty things and pressing an unheard-of quantity of ferns. We go to the woods regularly every morning and stay the whole forenoon. In the afternoon we rest, read, write, etc.; sometimes we drive and always after tea George walks with me about two miles. I hope the war is not impeding your movements. I suppose you will call this a short letter, but I think it is as long as is good for you. All my dear nine pounds gained at Newburgh have gone by the board. August 20th.—I am sorry you had such hot weather in Paris, but hope it passed off as our heat did. Dr. Hamlin's two youngest daughters have been here, and came to see me; they are both interesting girls, and the elder of the two really brilliant. They had never been here before, and were carried away with the beauties of their mother's birthplace. I wish you could see my room. Every pretty thing grows here and has come to cheer and beautify it. The woods are everywhere, and as for the views, oh my child! However, I do not suppose anything short of Mt. Blanc will suit you now.

In April, 1867, the parsonage on Thirty-fifth street was occupied. It had been built more especially for her sake, and was furnished by the generosity of her friends. Her joy in entering it was completed by a "house-warming," at the close of which a passage of Scripture was read by Prof. Smith, "All hail the power of Jesus's name" sung, and then the blessing of Heaven invoked upon the new home by that holy man of God, Dr. Thomas H. Skinner. Here she passed the next six years of her life. Here she wrote the larger portion of "Stepping Heavenward." And here the cup of her domestic joy, and of joy in her God and Saviour often ran over. Here, too, some of her dearest Christian friendships were formed and enjoyed.

The summer of 1867 was passed at Dorset. In less than a month of it she wrote one of her best children's books, Little Lou's Sayings and Doings; and much of the remainder was spent in discussing with her husband the project of building a cottage of their own. In a letter to her cousin, Miss Shipman, dated Sept. 21, she writes:

We have had our heads full all summer, of building a little cottage here. We are having a plan made, and have about fixed on a lot. We are rather tired of boarding; George hates it, and Dorset suits us as well, I presume, as any village would. It is a lovely spot, and the people are as intelligent as in other parts of New England. The Professor is disappointed at our choosing this rather than Williamstown, but it would be no rest to us to go there. We have not decided to build; it may turn out too expensive; but we have taken lots of comfort in talking about it. We have been on several excursions, one of them to the top of Equinox. It is a hard trip, fully six miles walking and climbing. I have amused myself with writing some little books of the Susy sort: four in less than a month, A.'s sickness taking a good piece of time out of that period. They are to appear, or a part of them, in the Riverside next winter, and then to be issued in book-form by Hurd and Houghton. This will a good deal more than furnish our cottage and what trees and shrubs we want, so that I feel justified in undertaking that expense. We had two weeks at Newport before we came here, and Mr. and Mrs. McCurdy overwhelmed us with kindness, paying our traveling expenses, etc., and keeping up one steady stream of such favors the whole time. I never saw such people. How delightful it must be to be able to express such benevolence! Well; you and I can be faithful in that which is least, at any rate.

We have all had plenty to read all summer, and have sat out of doors and read a good deal. I am going now to carry a little wreath to a missionary's wife who is spending the summer here; a nice little woman; this will give me a three miles walk and about use up the rest of the forenoon. In the afternoon I have promised to go to the woods with the children, all of whom are as brown as Indians. My room is all aflame with two great trees of maple; I never saw such a beautiful velvety color as they have. We have just had a very pleasant excursion to a mountain called Haystack, and ate our dinner sitting round in the grass in view of a splendid prospect.... I have thus given you the history of our summer, as far as its history can be written. Its ecstatic joys have not been wanting, nor its hours of shame and confusion of face; but these are things that can not be described. What a mystery life is, and how we go up and down, glad to-day and sorrowful to-morrow! I took real solid comfort thinking of you and praying for you this morning. I love you dearly and always shall. Good-bye, dear child.

The "four little books" afford a good illustration of the ease and rapidity with which she composed. When once she had fixed upon a subject, her pen almost flew over the paper. Scarcely ever did she hesitate for a thought or for the right words to express it. Her manuscript rarely showed an erasure or any change whatever. She generally wrote on a portfolio, holding it upon her knees. Her pen seemed to be a veritable part of herself; and the instant it began to move, her face glowed with eager and pleasurable feeling. "A kitten (she wrote to a maiden friend) a kitten without a tail to play with, a mariner without a compass, a bird without wings, a woman without a husband (and fifty-five at that!) furnish faint images of the desolation of my heart without a pen." But although she wrote very fast, she never began to write without careful study and premeditation when her subject required it.

About this time The Little Preacher appeared. The scene of the story is laid in the Black Forest. Before writing it she spent a good deal of time in the Astor Library, reading about peasant life in Germany. In a letter from a literary friend this little work is thus referred to:

I want to tell you what a German gentleman said to me the other day about your "Little Preacher." He was talking with me of German peasant life, and inquired if I had read your charming story. He was delighted to find I knew you, and exclaimed enthusiastically: "I wish I knew her! I would so like to thank her for her perfect picture. It is a miracle of genius," he added, "to be able thus to portray the life of a foreign people." He is very intelligent, and so I know you will be pleased with his appreciation of your book. He said if he were not so poor, he would buy a whole edition of the "Little Preacher" to give to his friends.

During the autumn of this year her sister-in-law, Mrs. Edward Payson, died after a lingering, painful illness. The following letter, dated October 28, was written to her shortly before her departure:

I have been so engrossed with sympathy for Edward and your children, that I have but just begun to realise that you are about entering on a state of felicity which ought, for the time, to make me forget them. Dear Nelly, I congratulate you with all my heart. Do not let the thought of what those who love you must suffer in your loss, diminish the peace and joy with which God now calls you to think only of Himself and the home He has prepared for you. Try to leave them to His kind, tender care. He loves them better than you do; He can be to them more than you have been; He will hear your prayers and all the prayers offered for them, and as one whom his mother comforteth, so will He comfort them. We, who shall be left here without you, can not conceive the joys on which you are to enter, but we know enough to go with you to the very gates of the city, longing to enter in with you to go no more out. All your tears will soon be wiped away; you will see the King in His beauty; you will see Christ your Redeemer and realise all He is and all He has done for you; and how many saints whom you have loved on earth will be standing ready to seize you by the hand and welcome you among them! As I think of these things my soul is in haste to be gone; I long to be set free from sin and self and to go to the fellowship of those who have done with them forever, and are perfect and entire, wanting nothing. Dear Nelly, I pray that you may have as easy a journey homeward as your Father's love and compassion can make for you; but these sufferings at the worst can not last long, and they are only the messengers sent to loosen your last tie on earth, and conduct you to the sweetest rest. But I dare not write more lest I weary your poor worn frame with words. May the very God of peace be with you every moment, even unto the end, and keep your heart and mind stayed upon Him!

Mrs. Payson had been an intimate friend of her childhood, and was endeared to her by uncommon loveliness and excellence of character. The bereaved husband, with his little boy, passed a portion of the ensuing winter at the parsonage in New York. There was something about the child, a sweetness and a clinging, almost wild, devotion to his father, which, together with his motherless state, touched his aunt to the quick and called forth her tenderest love. Many a page of Stepping Heavenward was written with this child in her arms; and perhaps that is one secret of its power. When, not very long afterwards, he went to his mother, Mrs. Prentiss wrote to the father:

Only this morning I was trying to invent some way of framing my little picture of Francis, so as to see it every day before my eyes. And now this evening's mail brings your letter, and I am trying to believe what it says is true. If grief and pain could comfort you, you would be comforted; we all loved Francis, and A. has always said he was too lovely to live. How are you going to bear this new blow? My heart aches as it asks the question, aches and trembles for you. But perhaps you loved him so, that you will come to be willing to have him in his dear mother's safe keeping; will bear your own pain in future because through your anguish your lamb is sheltered forever, to know no more pain, to suffer no more for lack of womanly care, and is already developing into the rare character which made him so precious to you. Oh do try to rejoice for him while you can not but mourn for yourself. At the longest you will not have long to suffer; we are a short-lived race.

But while I write I feel that I want some one to speak a comforting word to me; I too am bereaved in the death of this precious child, and my sympathy for you is in itself a pang. Dear little lamb! I can not realise that I shall never see that sweet face again in this world; but I shall see it in heaven. God bless and comfort you, my dear afflicted brother. I dare not weary you with words which all seem a mockery; I can only assure you of my tenderest love and sympathy, and that we all feel with and for you as only those can who know what this child was to you. I am going to bed with an aching heart, praying that light may spring out of this darkness. Give love from us all to Ned and Will. Perhaps Ned will kindly write me if you feel that you can not, and tell me all about the dear child's illness.

* * * * *

II.

Last Visit from Mrs. Stearns. Visits to old Friends at Newport and Rochester. Letters. Goes to Dorset. Fred and Maria and Me. Letters.

The life of a pastor's wife is passed in the midst of mingled gladness and sorrow. While somebody is always rejoicing, somebody, too, is always sick or dying, or else weeping. How often she goes with her husband from the wedding to the funeral, or hurries with him from the funeral to the wedding. And then, perhaps, in her own family circle the same process is repeated. The year 1868 was marked for Mrs. Prentiss in an unusual degree by the sorrowful experience. The latter part of May Mrs. Stearns, then suffering from an exhausting disease, came to New York and spent several weeks in hopes of finding some relief from change of scene. But her case grew more alarming; she passed the summer at Cornwall on the Hudson in great pain and feebleness, and was then carried home to lie down on her dying bed.

To Mrs. Stearns, Newport, July 7, 1868.

We had a dreadful time getting here; I did not sleep a wink; there were 1,250 passengers on board, almost piled on each other, and such screaming of babies it would be hard to equal. There are lots of people here we know; ever so many stopped to speak to us after church. We are in the midst of a perfect world of show and glitter. But how many empty hearts drive up and down in this gay procession of wealth and fashion!

I shall think of you a good deal to-day, as setting forth on your journey and reaching your new home. I do hope you will find it refreshing to go up the river, and that your rooms will be pleasant and airy. We shall be anxious to hear all about it.

It is a constant lesson to be with Mrs. McCurdy. I think she is a true Christian in all her views of life and death. Her sweet patience, cheerfulness and contentment are a continual reproof to me. Here she is so lame that she can go nowhere—a lameness of over twenty years—restricted to the plainest food, liable to die at any moment, yet the very happiest, sunniest creature I ever saw. She says, with tears, that God has been too good to her and given her too much; that she sometimes fears He does not love her because He gives her such prosperity. I reminded her of the four lovely children she had lost. "Yes," she says, "but how many lovely ones I have left!" She says that the long hours she has to spend alone, on account of her physical infirmities, are never lonely or sad; she sings hymns and thinks over to herself all the pleasures she has enjoyed in the past, in her husband and children and devoted servants. She goes up to bed singing, and I hear her singing while she dresses. She said, the other day, that at her funeral she hoped the only services would be prayers and hymns of praise. I think this very remarkable from one who enjoys life as she does. [4]

To the Same, Newport, July 20.

George and I went to Rochester, taking M. with us, last Wednesday and got back Friday night. We had one of those visits that make a mark in one's life; seeing Mr. and Mrs. Leonard, and Mrs. Randall, and Miss Deborah, [5] so fond of us, and all together we were stirred up as we rarely are, and refreshed beyond description. We rowed on Mr. Leonard's beautiful, nameless lake, fished, gathered water-lilies, ate black Hamburg grapes and broiled chickens, and wished you had them in our place. Mr. L.'s mother is a sweet, calm old lady, with whom I wanted to have a talk about Christian perfection, in which she believes; but there was no time. It was a great rest to unbend the bow strung so high here at Newport, where there is so much of receiving and paying visits. I have been reading a delightful French book, the history of a saintly Catholic family of great talent and culture, six of whom, in the course of seven years, died the most beautiful, happy deaths. I am going to make an abstract of it, for I want everybody I love to get the cream of it. You would enjoy it; I do not know whether it has been translated.

To the Same, Dorset, July 26.

Here begins my first letter to you from your old room, whence I hope to write you regularly every week. That is the one only little thing I can do to show how truly and constantly I sympathise with you in your sore straits. It distresses me to hear how much you are suffering, and at the same time not to be near enough to speak a word of good cheer, or to do anything for your comfort. It grieves me to find how insecure my health is, for I had promised to myself to be your loving nurse, should any turn in your disease make it desirable. Miss Lyman boards here, but rooms at the Sykes', and her friend Miss Warner is also here, but rooms out. Miss W. is in delicate health, takes no tea or coffee, and is full of humor. We have run at and run upon each other, each trying to get the measure of the other, and shall probably end in becoming very good friends.

It is a splendid day, and we feel perfectly at home, only missing you and finding it queer to be occupying your room. What a nice room it is! How I wish you were sitting here with me behind the shade of these maple trees, and that I could know from your own lips just how you are in body and mind. But I suppose the weary, aching body has the soul pretty well enchained. Never mind, dear, it won't be so always; by and by the tables will be turned, and you will be the conqueror. I like to think that far less than a hundred years hence we shall all be free from the law of sin and death, and happier in one moment of our new existence, than through a whole life-time here. Rest must and will come, sooner or later, to you and to me and to all of us, and it will be glorious. You may have seen a notice of the death of Prof. Hopkins' mother at the age of ninety-five. But for this terribly hot weather, I presume she might have lived to be one hundred.

I shall not write you such a long letter again, as it will tire you, and if you would rather have two short ones a week, I will do that. Let me know if I tire you. Now good-bye, dear child; may God bless and keep you and give you all the faith and patience you need.

To Miss Mary B. Shipman, Dorset, Aug. 2, 1868.

We spent rather more than two weeks at Newport, taking two or three days to run to Rochester, Mass., to see some of our old New Bedford friends. We had a charming time with them, as they took us up just where they left us nearly twenty years ago. Oh, how our tongues did fly! We left Newport for home on Tuesday night about two weeks ago. I went on board and went to bed as well as usual, tossed and turned a few hours, grew faint and began to be sick, as I always am now if I lose my sleep; got out of bed and could not get back again, and so lay on the floor all the rest of the night without a pillow, or anything over me and nearly frozen. The boys were asleep, and anyhow it never crossed my mind to let them call George, who was in another state-room. He says that when he came in, in the morning, I looked as if I had been ill six months, and I am sure I felt so. Imagine the family picture we presented driving from the boat all the way home, George rubbing me with cologne, A. fanning me, the rest crying! On Saturday more dead than alive I started for this place, and by stopping at Troy four or five hours, getting a room and a bed, I got here without much damage.

Our house is very pretty, and I suppose it will be done by next year. Oh, how they do poke! George is so happy in watching it, and in working in his woods, that I am perfectly delighted that he has undertaken this project. It may add years to his life. Imagine my surprise at receiving from Scribner a check for one hundred and sixty-four dollars for six months of Fred and Maria and Me. The little thing has done well, hasn't it? I feel now as if I should never write, any more; letter-writing is only talking and is an amusement, but book-writing looks formidable. Excuse this horrid letter, and write and let me know how you are. Meanwhile collect grasses, dip them in hot water, and sift flour over them. Good-bye, dear.

Fred and Maria and Me first appeared anonymously in the Hours at Home, in 1865. It had been written several years before, and, without the knowledge of Mrs. Prentiss, was offered by a friend to whom she had lent the manuscript, to the Atlantic Monthly and to one or two other magazines, but they all declined it. She herself thus refers to it in a letter to Mrs. Smith, July 13: "I have just got hold of the Hours at Home. I read my article and was disgusted with it. My pride fell below zero, and I wish it would stay there." But the story attracted instant attention. "Aunt Avery" was especially admired, as depicting a very quaint and interesting type of New England religious character in the earlier half of the century. Such men as the late Dr. Horace Bushnell and Dr. William Adams were unstinted in their praise. In a letter to Mrs. Smith, dated a few months later, Mrs. Prentiss writes: "Poor old Aunt Avery! She doesn't know what to make of it that folks make so much of her, and has to keep wiping her spectacles. I feel entirely indebted to you for this thing ever seeing the light." When published as a book, Fred and Maria and Me was received with great favor, and had a wide circulation. In 1874 a German translation appeared. [6] Although no attempt is made to reproduce the Yankee idioms, much of the peculiar spirit and flavor of the original is preserved in this version.

To Mrs. H. B. Smith, Dorset, August 4, 1868.

Miss Lyman says I have no idea of what Miss W. really is; she looks as if she would drop to pieces, can not drive out, far less walk, and every word she speaks costs her an effort. Miss Lyman is not well either; and what with their health and mine, and A.'s, I see little of them. But what I do see is delightful, and I feel it to be a real privilege to get what scraps of their society I can. Our house proves to be far prettier and more tasteful than I supposed. I am writing up lots of letters, and if I ever get well enough, shall try to begin on my Katy once more. But since reading the Recit d'une Soeur, I am disgusted with myself and my writings. I ache to have you read it. Miss Lyman and Miss Warner send love to you. I do not like Miss L.'s hacking cough, and she says she does not believe Miss W. will live through the winter. Among us we contrive to keep up a vast amount of laughter; so we shall probably live forever.

August 18th.—I have enjoyed Miss Lyman wonderfully, but want to get nearer to her. I see that she is one who does not find it easy to express her deepest and most sacred feelings. I read Katy to her and Miss W., as they were kind enough to propose I should, and they made some valuable suggestions to which I shall attend if I ever get to feeling able to begin to write again. I am as well as ever save in one respect, and that is my sleep; I do not sleep as I did before I left home, while I ought to sleep better, as I work several hours a day in the woods, in fact do almost literally nothing else.... But after all, we are having the nicest time in the world. I have not seen George so like himself for many years; he lives out of doors, pulls down fences, picks up brushwood, and keeps happy and well. I feel it a real mercy that his thoughts are agreeably occupied this summer, as otherwise he would be incessantly worried about Anna. We work together a good deal; this morning I spoiled a new hatchet in cutting down milkweed where our kitchen garden is to be and we are literally raising our Ebenezer, which we mean to conceal with vines in due season. George is just as proud of our woods as if he created every tree himself. The minute breakfast is over the boys dart down to the house like arrows from the bow, and there they are till dinner, after which there is another dart and it is as much as I can do to get them to bed; I wonder they don't sleep down there on the shavings. The fact is the whole Prentiss family has got house on the brain. There, this old letter is done, and I am going to bed, all black and blue where I have tumbled down, and as tired as tired can be.

Aug. 28th.—I made a fire in MY woods yesterday, and another to-day, when I melted glue, and worked at my rustic basket, and felt extremely happy and amiable.

Sept. 13th.—Miss Warner told me to-night that she thought my Katy story commonplace at the beginning, but that she changed her mind afterward. Of course I wrote a story about that marigold of G—— W——'s and I am dying to inflict it on you. Then if you like it, hurrah!

To Miss Woolsey, Dorset, Aug. 13, 1868.

I was right glad to get your letter yesterday, and to learn a little of your whereabouts and whatabouts. You may imagine "him" as seated, spectacles on nose, reading The Nation at one end of the table, and "her" as established at the other. This table is homely, but has a literary look, got up to give an air to our room; books and papers are artistically scattered over it; we have two bottles of ink apiece, and a box of stamps, a paper cutter and a pen-wiper between us. Two inevitable vases containing ferns, grasses, buttercups, etc., remind us that we are in the country, and a "natural bracket" regales our august noses with an odor of its own. A can of peaches without any peaches in it, holds a specimen of lycopodium, and a marvelous lantern that folds up into nothing by day and grows big at night, brings up the rear. But the most wonderful article in this room is a bookcase made by "him," all himself, in which may be seen a big volume of Fenelon, Taylor's Holy Living and Dying, the Recit d'une Soeur, which have you read? Les Soirees de Saint Petersbourg, Prayers of the Ages, a volume of Goethe, Aristotle's Ethics and some other Greek books; the Life of Mrs. Fry, etc. etc. Such a queer hodge-podge of books as we brought with us, and such a book-case! The first thing "he" ever made for "her" in his mortal life.

Our house isn't done, and what fun to watch it grow, to discuss its merits and demerits, to grab every check that comes in from magazine and elsewhere, and turn it into chairs and tables and beds and blankets! Then for "them boys," what treasures in the way of bits of boards, and what feats of climbing and leaping! Above all, think of "him" in an old banged-in hat, and "her" in a patched old gown, gathering brushwood in their woods, making it up into heaps, and warming themselves by the fires it is agoing for to make.

"Stick after stick did Goody pull!"

Mr. P. is unusually well. His house is the apple of his eye, and he is renewing his youth. Thus far the project has done him a world of good.

To Mrs. Stearns, Dorset, September 13, 1863.

Yesterday Mr. F. and George drove somewhere to look at sand for mortar, and the horse took fright and wheeled round and pitched George out, bruising him in several places, but doing no serious harm. But I shudder when I think how the meaning might be taken out of everything in this world, for me, at least, by such an accident. He preached all day to-day; in the afternoon at Rupert. I find my mission-school a good deal of a tax on time and strength, and it is discouraging business, too. One of the boys, fourteen years old, found the idea that God loved him so irresistibly ludicrous, that his face was a perfect study. I often think of you as these "active limbs of mine" take me over woods and fields, and remind myself that the supreme happiness of my father's life came to him when he called himself what you call yourself—a cripple. If it is not an expensive book, I think you had better buy A Sister's Story, of which I wrote to you, as it would be a nice Sunday book to last some time; the Catholicism you would not mind, and the cultivated, high-toned Christian character you would enjoy.

The boys complain, as George and I do, that the days are not half long enough. They have got their bedsteads and washstands done, and are now going to make couches for George and myself, and an indefinite number of other articles.

Sept. 20th.—I am greatly relieved, my dear Anna, to hear that you have got safely into your new home, and that you like it, and long to see you face to face. George has no doubt told you what a happy summer we have had. It has not been unmingled happiness—that is not to be found in this world—but in many ways it has been pleasant in spite of what infirmities of the flesh we carry with us everywhere, our anxiety about and sympathy with you, and the other cares and solicitudes that are inseparable from humanity. I had a great deal of comfort in seeing Miss Lyman while she was here, and in knowing her better, and now I am finding myself quite in love with her intimate friend, Miss Warner, who has been here all summer. A gentler, tenderer spirit can not exist. Mrs. F.'s brother was here with his wife, some weeks ago, and they were summoned home to the death-bed of their last surviving child. Mrs. F. read me a letter yesterday describing her last hours, which were really touching and beautiful, especially the distributing among her friends the various pretty things she had made for them during her illness, as parting gifts. I suppose this will be my last letter from Dorset and from your old room. Well, you and I have passed some happy hours under this roof. Good-bye, dear, with love to each and all of your beloved ones.

To Miss Eliza A. Warner, Dorset, Sept. 27, 1868.

I was so nearly frantic, my dear Fanny, from want of sleep, that I could not feel anything. I was perfectly stupid, and all the way home from East Dorset hardly spoke a word to my dear John, nor did he to me. [7] The next day he said such lovely things to me that I hardly knew whether I was in the body or out of it, and then came your letter, as if to make my cup run over. I longed for you last night, and it is lucky for your frail body that can bear so little, that you were not in your little room at Mrs. G.'s; but not at all lucky for your heart and soul. I hope God will bless us to each other. It is not enough that we find in our mutual affection something cheering and comforting. It must make us more perfectly His. What a wonderful thing it is that coming here entire strangers to each other, we part as if we had known each other half a century!

I am not afraid that we shall get tired of each other. The great point of union is that we have gone to our Saviour, hand in hand, on the supreme errand of life, and have not come away empty. All my meditations bring me back to that point; or, I should rather say, to Him. I came here praying that in some way I might do something for Him. The summer has gone, and I am grieved that I have not been, from its beginning to its end, so like Him, so full of Him, as to constrain everybody I met to love Him too. Isn't there such power in a holy life, and have not some lived such a life? I hardly know whether to rejoice most in my love for Him, or to mourn over my meagre love; so I do both.

When I think that I have a new friend, who will be indulgent to my imperfections, and is determined to find something in me to love, I am glad and thankful. But when, added to that, I know she will pray for me, and so help my poor soul heavenward, it does seem as if God had been too good to me. You can do it lying down or sitting up, or when you are among other friends. It is true, as you say, that I do not think much of "lying-down prayer" in my own case, but I have not a weak back and do not need such an attitude. And the praying we do by the wayside, in cars and steamboats, in streets and in crowds, perhaps keeps us more near to Christ than long prayers in solitude could without the help of these little messengers, that hardly ever stop running to Him and coming back with the grace every moment needs. You can put me into some of these silent petitions when you are too tired to pray for me otherwise.

I have been writing this in my shawl and bonnet, expecting every instant to hear the bell toll for church, and now it is time to go. Good-bye, dear, till by and by.

Well, I have been and come, and—wonder of wonders!—I have had a little tiny bit of a very much needed nap. Mr. Pratt gave us a really good sermon about living to Christ, and I enjoyed the hymns. We have had a talk, my John and I, about death, and I asked him which of us had better go first, and, to my surprise, he said he thought I should. I am sure that was noble and unselfish in him. But I am not going to have even a wish about it. God only knows which had better go first, and which stay and suffer. Some of His children must go into the furnace to testify that the Son of God is there with them; I do not know why I should insist on not being one of them. Sometimes I almost wish we were not building a house. It seems as if it might stand in the way, if it should happen I had a chance to go to heaven. I should almost feel mean to do that, and disappoint my husband who expects to see me so happy there. But oh, I do so long to be perfected myself, and to live among those whose one thought is Christ, and who only speak to praise Him!

I like you to tell me, as you do in your East Dorset letter, how you spend your time, etc. I have an insatiable curiosity about even the outer life of those I love; and of the inner one you can not say too much. Good-bye. We shall have plenty of time in heaven to say all we have to say to each other.

* * * * *

III.

Return to Town. Death of an old Friend. Letters and Notes of Love and Sympathy. An Old Ladies' Party. Scenes of Trouble and Dying Beds. Fifty Years old. Letters.

Her return to town brought with it a multitude of cares. The following months drew heavily upon her strength and sympathies; but for all that they were laden with unwonted joy. The summer at Dorset had been a very happy one. While there she had finished Stepping Heavenward and on coming back to her city home, the cheery, loving spirit of the book seemed still to possess her whole being. Katy's words at its close were evidently an expression of her own feelings:

Yes, I love everybody! That crowning joy has come to me at last. Christ is in my soul; He is mine; I am as conscious of it as that my husband and children are mine; and His Spirit flows forth from mine in the calm peace of a river, whose banks are green with grass, and glad with flowers.

To Miss Eliza A. Warner, New York, Oct. 5, 1868

This is the first moment since we reached home, in which I could write to you, but I have had you in my heart and in my thoughts as much as ever. We had a prosperous journey, but the ride to Rupert was fearfully cold. I never remember being so cold, unless it was the night I reached Williamstown, when I went to my dear sister's funeral.... I have told you this long story to try to give you a glimpse of the distracted life that meets us at our very threshold as we return home. And now I'm going to trot down to see Miss Lyman, whom I shall just take and hug, for I am so brimful of love to everybody that I must break somebody's bones, or burst. John preached delightfully yesterday; I wanted you there to hear. But all my treasures are in earthen vessels; he seems all used up by his Sunday and scarcely touched his breakfast. I don't see how his or my race can be very long, if we live in New York. All the more reason for running it well. And what a blessed, blessed life it is, at the worst! "Central peace subsisting at the heart of endless agitation." Good-bye, dear; consider yourself embraced by a hearty soul that heartily loves you, and that soul lives in E. P.

On the 25th of October Mr. Charles H. Leonard, an old and highly esteemed friend, died very suddenly at his summer home in Rochester, Mass. He was a man of sterling worth, generous, large-hearted, and endeared to Mrs. Prentiss and her husband by many acts of kindness. He was one of the founders of the Church of the Covenant and had also aided liberally in building its pleasant parsonage.

To Miss Eliza A. Warner, New York, Oct. 26, 1868.

I am reminded as I write my date, that I am fifty years old to-day. My John says it is no such thing, and that I am only thirty; but I begin to feel antiquated, dilapidated, and antediluvian, etc., etc.

I write to let you know that we are going to Rochester, Mass., to attend the funeral of a dear friend there. It seems best for me to risk the wear and tear of the going and the coming, if I can thereby give even a little comfort to one who loves me dearly, and who is now left without a single relative in the world. For twenty-four years these have been faithful friends, loving us better every year, members of our church in New Bedford, Mercer street, and then here. They lived at Rochester during the summer and we visited them there (you may remember my speaking of it) just before we went to Dorset. Mrs. Leonard was then feeling very uneasy about her husband, but he got better and seemed about as usual, till last Tuesday, when he was stricken down with paralysis and died on Saturday. Somebody said that spending so large a portion of my time as I do in scenes of sorrow, she wondered God did not give me more strength. But I think He knows just how much to give. I have been to Newark twice since I wrote you. Mrs. Stearns is in a very suffering condition; I was appalled by the sight; appalled at the weakness of human nature (its physical weakness). But I got over that, and had a sweet glimpse at least of the eternal felicity that is to be the end of what at longest is a brief period of suffering. I write her a little bit of a note every few days. I feel like a ball that now is tossed to Sorrow and tossed back by Sorrow to Joy. For mixed in with every day's experience of suffering are such great, such unmerited mercies.

Two or three of the little notes follow:

MY DEAREST ANNA :-I long to be with you through the hours that are before you, and to help cheer and sustain you in the trial of faith and patience to which you are called. But unless you need me I will not go, lest I should be the one too many in your state of excitement and suspense. We all feel anxiety as to the result of the incision, but take comfort in casting our care upon God. May Christ Jesus, our dear Saviour, who loves and pities you infinitely more than any of us do, be very near you in this season of suspense. I would gladly exchange positions with you if I might, and if it were best; but as I may not, and it is not best, because God wills otherwise, I earnestly commend you to His tender sympathy. If He means that you shall be restored to health, He will make you happy in living; if He means to call you home to Himself, He will make you happy in dying. Dear Anna, stay yourself on Him: He has strength enough to support you, when all other strength fails. Remember, as Lizzy Smith said, you are "encompassed with prayers."

Friday Afternoon,

MY DEAR ANNA :-I send you a "lullaby" for next Sunday, which I met with at Dorset, and hope it will speak a little word and sing a little song to you while the rest are at church. How I do wish I could see you every day! I feel restless with longing; but you are hardly able to take any comfort in a long visit and it is such a journey to make for-a short one! But, as I said the other day, if at any time you feel a little stronger and it would comfort you even a little bit to see me, I will drop everything and run right over. It seems hard to have you suffer so and do nothing for you. But don't be discouraged; pain can't last forever.

"I know not the way I am going But well do I know my Guide! With a childlike trust I give my hand, To the mighty Friend at my side. The only thing that I say to Him As He takes it, is, 'Hold it fast. Suffer me not to lose my way, And bring me home at last!'"

MY DEAR ANNA:-I feel such tender love and pity for you, but I know you are too sick to read more than a few words.

"In the furnace God may prove thee, Thence to bring thee forth more bright But can never cease to love thee: Thou art precious in His sight!" Your ever affectionate LIZZY.

To Mrs. Lenard, Friday, Oct. 30, 1858.

We got home safely last evening before any of the children had gone to bed, and they all came running to meet us most joyfully. This morning I am restless and can not set about anything. It distresses me to think how little human friendship can do for such a sorrow as yours. When a sufferer is on the rack he cares little for what is said to him though he may feel grateful for sympathy. I found it hard to tear myself away from you so soon, but all I could do for you there I could do all along the way home and since I have got here: love you, be sorry for you, and constantly pray for you. I am sure that He who has so sorely afflicted you accepts the patience with which you bear the rod, and that when this first terrible amazement and bewilderment are over, and you can enter into communion and fellowship with Him, you will find a joy in Him that, hard as it is to the flesh to say so, transcends all the sweetest and best joys of human life. You will have nothing to do now but to fly to Him. I have seen the time when I could hide myself in Him as a little child hides in its mother's arms, and so have thousands of aching hearts. In all our afflictions He is afflicted. But I must not weary you with words. May God bless and keep you, and fully reveal Himself unto you!

To Miss. E. A. Warner, New York, Nov. 2, 1868.

I have been lying on the sofa in my room, half asleep, and feeling rather guilty at the lot of gas I was wasting, but too lazy or too tired to get up to turn it down. Your little "spray" hangs right over the head of my bed, an it was it was slightly dilapidated by its journey hither, I have tucked in a bit of green fern with it to remind me that I was not always in the sere and yellow leaf, but had a spring-time once. To think of your going for to go and write verses to me in my old age! I have just been reading them over and think it was real good of you to up and say such nice things in such a nice way. I'd no idea you could! We did not come home from Rochester through Boston; if we had done so I meant to go and see you. I made it up in many loving thoughts to you on our twelve hours' journey. Poor Mrs. L. met me with open arms, and I was thankful indeed that I went, though every word I said in the presence of her terrible grief, sounded flat and cold and dead. How little the tenderest love and sympathy can do, in such sorrows! She was so bewildered and appalled by her sudden bereavement, that it was almost a mockery to say a word; and yet I kept saying what I know is true, that Christ in the soul is better than any earthly joy. Both Mr. Prentiss and myself feel the reaction which must inevitably follow such a strain.

You ask if I look over the past on my birthdays. I suppose I used to do it and feel dreadfully at the pitiful review, but since I have had the children's to celebrate, I haven't thought much of mine. But this time, being fifty years old, did set me upon thinking, and I had so many mercies to recount and to thank God for, that I hardly felt pangs of any sort. I suppose He controls our moods in such seasons, and I have done trying to force myself into this or that train of thought. I am sure that a good deal of what used to seem like repentance and sorrow for sin on such occasions, was really nothing but wounded pride that wished it could appear better in its own eyes. God has been so good to me! I wish I could begin to realise how good! I think a great many thoughts to you that I can't put on paper. Life seems teaching some new, or deepening the impression of some old, lesson, all the time.

You think A. may have looked scornfully at your little "spray." Well, she didn't; she said, "What's that funny little thing perched up there? Well, it's pretty anyhow." Among the rush of visitors to-day were Miss Haines and the W——s. I fell upon Miss W. and told her about you, furiously; then we got upon Miss Lyman, and it did my very soul good to hear Miss Haines praise and magnify her. Never shall I cease to be thankful for being with her at Dorset, to say nothing, dear, of you! Do you know that there are twelve cases of typhoid fever at Vassar? and that Miss Lyman is not as well as she was? I feel greatly concerned about her, not to say troubled. I don't suppose I shall ever hear her pray. But I shall hear her and help her praise. I don't believe a word about there being different grades of saints in heaven. Some people think it modest to say that they don't expect to get anywhere near so and so, they are so—etc., etc. But I expect to be mixed all up with the saints, and to take perfect delight in their testimony to my Saviour.

Can you put up with this miserable letter? Folks can't rush to Newark and to Rochester and agonise in every nerve at the sufferings of others, and be quite coherent. I have sense enough left to know that I love you dearly, and that I long to see you and to take sweet counsel with you once more. Don't fail to give me the helping hand.

The following was written to Mrs. Stearns on her silver-wedding day, Nov. 15:

MY DEAREST ANNA: I have thought of you all day with the tenderest sympathy, knowing how you had looked forward to it, and what a contrast it offers to your bridal day twenty-five years ago. But I hope it has not been wholly sad. You have a rich past that can not be taken from you, and a richer future lies before you. For I can see, though through your tears you can not, that the Son of God walks with you in this furnace of affliction, and that He is so sanctifying it to your soul, that ages hence you will look on this day as better, sweeter, than the day of your espousals. It is hard now to suffer, but after all, the light affliction is nothing, and the weight of glory is everything. You may not fully realise this or any other truth, in your enfeebled state, but truth remains the same whether we appreciate it or not; and so does Christ. Your despondency does not prove that He is not just as near to you as He is to those who see Him more clearly; and it is better to be despondent than to be self-righteous. Don't you see that in afflicting you He means to prove to you that He loves you, and that you love Him? Don't you remember that it is His son—not His enemy—that He scourgeth?

The greatest saint on earth has got to reach heaven on the same terms as the greatest sinner; unworthy, unfit, good-for-nothing; but saved through grace. Do cheer and comfort yourself with these thoughts, my dearest Anna, and your sick-room will be the happiest room in your house, as I constantly pray it may be! Your ever affectionate Lizzy.

To Miss E.A.W., New York, Nov. 17, 1868

You ask how I sleep. I always sleep better at home than elsewhere; this is one great reason why we decided to have a home all the year round. I have to walk four or five miles a day, which takes a good deal of time, these short days, but there is no help for it. I do not think the time is lost when I am out of doors; I suppose Christ may go with us, does go with us, wherever we go. But I am too eager and vehement, too anxious to be working all the time. Why, no, I don't think it wrong to want to be at work provided God gives us strength for work; the great thing is not to repine when He disables us. I don't think, my dear, that you need trouble yourself about my dying at present; it is not at all likely that I shall. I feel as if I had got to be tested yet; this sweet peace, of which I have so much, almost startles me. I keep asking myself whether it is not a stupendous delusion of Satan and my own wicked heart. How I wish I could see you to-night! There is so much one does not like to put on paper that one would love to say.

Thursday, 4 P.M.—Well, my lunch-party is over, and my sewing society is re-organised, and before I go forth to tea, let me finish and send off this epistle. We had the Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Washburn, of Constantinople, Dr. Chickering, and Prof, and Mrs. Smith; gave them cold turkey, cold ham, cold ice-cream and hot coffee; that was about all, for society in New York is just about reduced down to eating and drinking together, after which you go about your business.

I am re-reading Leighton on 1st Peter; I wonder if you like it as much as my John and I do! I hope your murderous book goes on well; then you can take your rest next summer. Now I must get ready for my long walk down and over to Ninth st., to see a tiny little woman, and English at that. Her prayer at our meeting yesterday moved us all to tears.

To Miss Eliza A. Warner, New York, Nov. 25, 1868

Mr. Prentiss complained yesterday that no letters came, an unheard-of event in our family history, and this morning found twelve sticking in the top of the box; among them was yours, but I was just going off to my Prayer-meeting, and had to put it into my pocket and let it go too. I am glad you sent me Mrs. Field's letter and poem; she is a genius, and writes beautifully. And how glad you must be to hear about your books. I can't imagine what better work you want than writing. In what other way could you reach so many minds and hearts? You must always send me such letters. Before I forget it, let me tell you of a real Thanksgiving present we have just had; three barrels of potatoes, some apples, some dried apples, cranberries, celery, canned corn, canned strawberries, and two big chickens.

After church, Thursday.—I must indulge myself with going on with my letter, for after dinner I want to play with the children, and make this day mean something to them besides pies. For everybody spoke for pies this year (you know we almost never make such sinful things) and they all said ice-cream wouldn't do at all, so yesterday I made fourteen of these enormities, and mean to stuff them (the children, not the pies!) so that they won't want any more for a year. I want to tell you about some pretty coincidences; we went to church in a dismal rain, and Mr. Prentiss preached on the beauty of holiness, and every time he said anything that made sunshine particularly appropriate, the sun came in in floods, then disappeared till the next occasion. For instance, he spoke of the sunshine of a happy home as so much brighter than that of the natural sun, and the whole church was instantly illuminated; then he said that if we had each come there with ten million sorrows, Christ could give us light, when, lo, the church glowed again; and so on half-a-dozen times, till at last he quoted the verse "And the Lamb is the light thereof," when a perfect blaze of effulgence made those mysterious, words almost startling. And then he wound up by describing the Tyrolese custom on which Mrs. Field's poem is founded, which he had himself seen and enjoyed, and of which, it seems, he spoke at East Dorset last summer at the Sunday-school. [8] I read the poem and letter to him the instant we got home, and he admired them both. It was a little singular that her poem and his sermon came to me at almost the identical moment, wasn't it?

I must tell you about an old ladies' party given by Mrs. Cummings, wife of him who prepared my father's memoir. [9] She had had a fortune left to her and was all the time doing good with it, and it entered her head to get up a very nice supper for twenty-six old ladies, the youngest of whom was seventy-five (the Portland people rarely die till they're ninety or so). She sent carriages for all who couldn't walk, and when they all got together, the lady who described the scene to me, said it was indescribably beautiful, all congratulating each other that they were so far on in their pilgrimage and so near heaven! Lovely, wasn't it? I wish I could spend the rest of my life with such people! Then she spoke of Mrs. C.'s face during the last six months of her life, when it had an expression so blest, so seraphic, that it was a delight to look upon it—and how she had all the members of the ladies' prayer-meeting come and kiss her good-bye after she was too weak to speak.

And now the children have got together again, and I must go and stay with them till their bed-time, when, partly for the sake of the walk, partly because they asked us, we twain are going to see the Smiths. I rather think, my dear, that if, as you say, you could see all my thoughts, you would drop me as you would a hot potato. You would see many good thoughts, I won't deny that, and some loving ones; but you would also see an abominable lot of elated, conceited, horrid ones; self-laudation even at good planned to do, and admired before done. But God can endure what no mortal eye could; He does not love us because we are so lovely, but because He always loves what He pities. I fall back upon this thought whenever I feel discouraged; I was going to say sad, but that isn't the word, for I never do feel sad except when I've been eating something I'd no business to! Good-bye, dearie.

To the Same, New York, Dec. 3, 1868.

I think I must indulge myself, my dear, in writing to you to-night, it being really the only thing I want to do, unless it be to lie half asleep on the sofa. And that I can't do, for there's no sofa in the room! The cold weather has made it agreeable to have a fire in the dining-room grate, and this makes it a cheerful resort for the children, especially as the long table is very convenient for their books, map-drawing, etc. And wherever the rest are the mother must be; I suppose that is the law of a happy family, in the winter at least. The reason I am so tired to-night is that I have been unexpectedly to Newark. I went, as soon as I could after breakfast, to market, and then on a walk of over two miles to prepare myself for our sewing-circle! I met our sexton as I was coming home, and asked him to see what ailed one of the drawers of my desk that wouldn't shut. We had a terrible time with it, and I had to take everything out, and turn my desk topsy-turvy, and your letters and all my other papers got raving distracted, and all mixed up with bits of sealing-wax, old pens, and dear knows what not, when down comes A. from the school-room, to say that Mrs. Stearns had sent for me to come right out, thinking she was dying. I knew nothing about the trains, always trusting to Mr. Prentiss about that, but in five minutes I was off, and on reaching the depot found I had lost a train by ten minutes, and that there wouldn't be another for an hour. Then I had leisure to remember that Mr. P. was to get home from Dorset, that I had left no message for him, had hid away all the letters that had come in his absence, where he couldn't find them; that if it was necessary for me to stay at Newark all night he would be dreadfully frightened, etc., etc. Somehow I felt very blue, but at last concluded to get rid of a part of the time by hunting up some dinner at a restaurant.

When I at last got to Newark, I found that Mrs. Stearns' disease had suddenly developed several unfavorable symptoms. She had made up her mind that all hope was over, had taken leave of her family, and now wanted to bid me good-bye. She held my hands fast in both hers, begging me to talk. I spoke freely to her about her death; she pointed up once to an illumination I gave her last spring: SIMPLY TO THY CROSS I CLING. "That," she said, "is all I can do." I said all I could to comfort her, but I do not know whether God gave me the right word or not.

On my return, as I got out of the stage near the corner of our street, whom should my weary eyes light on but my dear good man, just got home from Dorset; how surprised and delighted we were to meet so unexpectedly! M. rushed to meet us, and afterward said to me, "I have three great reliefs; you have got home; papa has got home; and Aunt Anna is still alive." My children were never so lovely and loving as they are this winter; my home is almost too luxurious and happy; such things don't belong to this world. We have just heard of the death in Switzerland of Mr. Prentiss' successor at New Bedford, classmate of one of my brothers, and some one has sent a plaintive, sweet little dying song written at Florence by him. Now I am too fagged to say another word.

Dec. 4th.—"I do not get any time to write; each day brings its own special work that can't be done to-morrow; as to letters, I scratch them off at odd moments, when too tired to do anything else. What a resource they are! They do instead of crying for me. And how many I get every week that are loving and pleasant!

What do you think of this? I hope it will make you laugh—a lady told me she never confessed her sins aloud (in prayer) lest Satan should find out her weak points and tempt her more effectually! And I want to ask you if you ever offer to pray with people? I never do, and yet there are cases when nothing else seems to answer. Oh, how many questions of duty come up every hour, and how many reasons we have every hour to be ashamed of ourselves!

Monday morning.—It was a shame to write to you, when I was so tired that I could not write legibly, but my heart was full of love, and I longed to be near you. Now Monday has come, a lowering, forbidding day, yet all is sunshine in my soul, and I hope that may make my home light to my beloved ones, and even reach you, wherever you are. I am going to run out to see how Mrs. Stearns is. Our plan is for me to make arrangements to stay with her, if I can be of any use or comfort. I literally love the house of mourning better than the house of feasting. All my long, long years of suffering and sorrow make sorrow-stricken homes homelike, and I can not but feel, because I know it from experience, that Christ loves to be in such homes. So you may congratulate me, dear, if I may be permitted to go where He goes. I wish you could have heard yesterday's sermon about God's having as characteristic, individual a love to each of us as we have to our friends. Think of that, dear, when you remember how I loved you in Mrs. G.'s little parlor! Can you realise that your Lord and Saviour loves you infinitely more? I confess that such conceptions are hard to attain.... Can't you do M—— S—— up in your next letter, and send her to me on approbation? Instead of being satisfied that I've got you, I want her and everybody else who is really good, to fill up some of the empty rooms in my heart. This is a rambling, scrambling letter, but I don't care, and don't believe you do. Well, good-bye; thank your stars that this bit of paper hasn't got any arms and can't hug you!

To Mrs. Leonard, New York, Dec. 13, 1868.

There is half an hour before bed-time, and I have been thinking of and praying for you, till I feel that I must write. I forgot to tell you, how the verses in my Daily Food, on the day of your dear husband's death, seem meant for you:

"Thou art my refuge and portion."—Ps. cxliii. 5.

'Tis God that lifts our comforts high, Or sinks them in the grave; He gives, and blessed be His name! He takes but what He gave.

The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away.—JOB i. 21.

I have had this little book thirty-three years, it has travelled with me wherever I have been, and it has been indeed my song in the house of my pilgrimage. This has been our communion Sunday, and I have been very glad of the rest and peace it has afforded, for I have done little during the last ten days but fly from one scene of sorrow to another, from here to Newark and from Newark to Brooklyn.... So I have alternated between the two dying beds; yesterday Jennie P. went into a convulsion just as I entered the room, and did not fully come out of it for an hour and a half, when I had to come away in order to get home before pitch dark. What a terrible sight it is! They use chloroform, and that has a very marked effect, controlling all violence in a few seconds. Whether the poor child came out of that attack alive I do not know; I had no doubt she was dying till just before I came away, when she appeared easier, though still unconscious. The family seem nearly frantic, and the sisters are so upset by witnessing these turns, that I shall feel that I must be there all I can. I am in cruel doubt which household to go to, but hope God will direct.

Mr. Prentiss is a good deal withered and worn by his sister's state; he had never, by any means, ceased to hope, and he is much afflicted. She and Jennie may live a week or more, or go at any moment. In my long hours of silent musing and prayer, as I go from place to place, I think often of you. I think one reason why we do not get all the love and faith we sigh for is that we try to force them to come to us, instead of realising that they must be God's free gifts, to be won by prayer.... And now Mr. P. has come up-stairs rolled up in your afghan, and we have decided to go to both Newark and Brooklyn to-morrow, so I know I ought to go to bed. You must take this letter as a great proof of my love to you, though it does not say much, for I am bewildered by the scenes through which I am passing, and hardly fit therefore to write. What I do not say I truly feel, real, deep, constant sympathy with you in your sorrow and loneliness. May God bless you in it.

[1] Dorset is situated in Bennington county, about sixty miles from Troy and twenty-five miles from Rutland. Its eastern portion lies in a deep-cut valley along the western slope of the Green Mountain range, on the line of the Bennington and Rutland railroad. Its western part—the valley in which Mrs. Prentiss passed her summers—is separated from East Dorset by Mt. Aeolus, Owl's Head, and a succession of maple-crested hills, all belonging to the Taconic system of rocks, which contains the rich marble, slate, and limestone quarries of Western Vermont. In the north this range sweeps round toward the Equinox range, enclosing the beautiful and fertile upland region called The Hollow. Dorset belonged to the so-called New Hampshire Grants, and was organised into a township shortly before the Revolutionary War. Its first settlers were largely from Connecticut and Massachusetts. They were a hardy, intelligent, liberty-loving race, and impressed upon the town a moral and religious character, which remains to this day.

[2] Mrs. Arthur Bronson, of New York. A life of Mrs. Prentiss would scarcely be complete without a grateful mention of this devoted friend and true Christian lady. She was the centre of a wide family circle, to all of whose members, both young and old, she was greatly endeared by the beauty and excellence of her character. She died shortly after Mrs. Prentiss.

[3] While supposing that her brothers had been burnt out and had, perhaps, lost everything, she wrote to her husband with characteristic generosity: "If they did not kill themselves working at the fire, they will kill themselves trying to get on their feet again. Every cent I have I think should be given them. My father's church and everything associated with my youth, gone forever! I can't think of anything else."

[4] Mrs. McCurdy died at her home in New York in December, 1876. A few sentences from a brief address at the funeral by her old pastor will not be here out of place. "Her natural character was one of the loveliest I have ever known. Its leading traits were as simple and clear as daylight, while its cheering effect upon those who came under its influence was like that of sunshine. She was not only very happy herself—enjoying life to the last in her home and her friends—but she was gifted with a disposition and power to make others happy such as falls to the lot of only a select few of the race. Her domestic and church ties brought her into relations of intimate acquaintance and friendship with some of the best men of her times. I will venture to mention two of them: her uncle, the late Theodore Frelinghuysen, one of the noblest men our country has produced, eminent alike as statesman, scholar, and Christian philanthropist; and the sainted Thomas H. Skinner, her former pastor. Her sick-room—if sick-room is the proper name—in which, during the last seventeen years, she passed so much of her time, was tinged with no sort of gloom; it seemed to have two doors, one of them opening into the world, through which her family and friends passed in and out, learning lessons of patience and love and sweet contentment: the other opening heavenward, and ever ajar to admit the messenger of her Lord, in whatever watch he should come to summon her home. The place was like that upper chamber facing the sunrising, and whose name was Peace, in which Bunyan's Pilgrim was lodged on the way to the celestial city. How many pleasant and hallowed memories lead back to that room!"

[5] Old New Bedford friends.

[6] Fritz und Maria und Ich. Von Mrs. Prentiss. Deutsche autorisirte Ausgabe. Von Marie Morgenstern. Itzchoe, 1874.

[7] She gave me the pet-name of "Fanny" because she did not like mine, and there was an old joke about "John."—E. A. W.

[8] The custom related to a pious salutation, with which two friends, or even strangers, greet each other, when meeting on the mountain highways and passes in certain districts of Tyrol. "Gelobt sei Jesu Christ!" cries one; "In Ewigkeit, Amen!" answers the other (i.e., "Praised be Jesus Christ!" "For evermore, Amen!") The following lines are from Mrs. F.'s Poem:

"When the poor peasant, alpenstock in hand, Toils up the steep, And finds a friend upon the dizzy height Amid his sheep,

"They do not greet each other as in our Kind English way, Ask not for health, nor wish in cheerful phrase prosperous day;

"Infinite thoughts alone spring up in that Great solitude, Nothing seems worthy or significant But heavenly good;

"So in this reverent and sacred form Their souls outpour,— Blessed be Jesus Christ's most holy name! 'For evermore!'"

[9] Rev. Asa Cummings, D.D., of Portland, for many years editor of the Christian Mirror; one of the weightiest, wisest and best men of his generation.



CHAPTER IX.

STEPPING HEAVENWARD.

1869.

I.

Death of Mrs. Stearns. Her Character. Dangerous Illness of Prof. Smith. Death at the Parsonage. Letters. A Visit to Vassar College. Letters. Getting ready for General Assembly. "Gates Ajar."

A little past three o'clock on Saturday afternoon, January 2, 1869, Anna S. Prentiss, wife of the Rev. Jonathan F. Stearns, D.D., fell asleep in Jesus. The preceding pages show what strong ties bound Mrs. Prentiss to this beloved sister. Their friendship dated back thirty years; it was cemented by common joys and common sorrows in some of their deepest experiences of life; and it had been kept fresh and sweet by frequent intercourse and correspondence. Mrs. Stearns was a woman of uncommon attractions and energy of character. She impressed herself strongly upon all who came within the sphere of her influence; the hearts of her husband's people, as well as his own and those of her children, trusted in her; and the whole community where she dwelt mourned her loss. She had been especially endeared to her brother Seargent, with whom she spent several winters in the South prior to her marriage. Her influence over him, at a critical period of his life, was alike potent and happy; their relation to each other was, in truth, full of the elements of romance; and some of his letters to her are exquisite effusions of fraternal confidence and affection. [1] Her letters to him, beginning when she was a young girl and ending only with his life, would form a large volume. "You excel any one I know," he wrote to her, "in the kind and gentle art of letter-writing." In the midst of his early professional triumphs he writes:

You do not know what obligations I am under to you; I owe all my success in this country to the fact of having so kind a mother and such sweet affectionate sisters as Abby and yourself. It has been my only motive to exertion; without it I should long since have thrown myself away. Even now, when, as is frequently the case, I feel perfectly reckless both of life and fortune, and look with contempt upon them both, the recollection that there are two or three hearts that beat for me with real affection, even though far away—comes over me as the music of David did over the dark spirit of Saul. I still feel that I have something worth living for.

For years her letters helped to cherish and deepen this feeling. He thus refers to one of them:

I can not tell how much I thank you for it. I cried like a child while reading it, and even now the tears stand in my eyes, as I think of its expressions of affection, sympathy, and good sense.... I wish you were here now—oh, how I do wish it! But you will come next fall, won't you? and be to me

The antelope whose feet shall bless With her light step my loneliness.

But my candle burns low, and it is past the witching hour of night. Whether sleeping or waking, God bless you and our dear mother, and all of you. Good-night—good-night. My love loads this last line.

To Mrs. Prentiss and her husband, the death of Mrs. Stearns was an irreparable loss. It took out of their life one of its greatest earthly blessings.

The new year opened with another painful shock—the sudden and dangerous illness of her husband's bosom friend, Henry Boynton Smith. Prof. Smith was to have made one of the addresses at the funeral of Mrs. Stearns; but instead of doing so, he was obliged to take to his bed, and, soon afterwards, to flee for his life beyond the sea. To this affliction the reader is indebted for the letters to Mrs. Smith, contained in this chapter. On the 16th of February another niece of her husband, a sweet child of seventeen, was brought to the parsonage very ill and died there before the close of the month. Her letters will show how she was affected by these troubles.

To Mrs. Leonard, New York, Jan. 9, 1869.

So many unanswered letters lie piled on my desk that I hardly know which to take up first, but my heart yearns over you, and I can not help writing you. No wonder you grow sadder as time passes and the beloved one comes not, and comes not. I wish I could help you bear your burden, but all I can do is to be sorry for you. The peaceable fruits of sorrow do not ripen at once; there is a long time of weariness and heaviness while this process is going on; but I do not, will not doubt, that you will taste these fruits, and find them very sweet. One of the hard things about bereavement is the physical prostration and listlessness which make it next to impossible to pray, and quite impossible to feel the least interest in anything. We must bear this as a part of the pain, believing that it will not last forever, for nothing but God's goodness does. How I wish you were near us, and that we could meet and talk and pray together over all that has saddened our lives, and made heaven such a blessed reality!

There is not much to tell about the last hours of our dear sister. She had rallied a good deal, and they all thought she was getting well; but the day after Christmas typhoid symptoms began to set in. I saw her on the Monday following, found her greatly depressed, and did not stay long. On Saturday morning, we got a dispatch we should have received early on New Year's day, saying she was sinking. We hurried out, found her flushed and bright, but near her end, having no pulse at either wrist, and her hands and feet cold. She had had a distressing day and night, but now seemed perfectly easy; knew us, gave us a glad welcome, reminded me that I had promised to go with her to the end, and kissed us heartily. Every time we went near her she gave us such a glad smile that it was hard to believe she was going so soon. She talked incessantly, with no signs of debility, but it was the restlessness of approaching death.

At three in the afternoon they all came into the room, as they always did at that hour. She said a few things, and evidently began to lose her sight, for as Lewis was about to leave the room, she said, "Good-night, L.," and then to me, "Why, Lizzy dear, you are not going to stay all night?" I said, "Oh yes, don't you know I promised to stay with A., who will be so lonely?" She looked pleased, but greatly surprised, her mind being so weak, and in a few seconds she laid her restless hands on her breast, her eyes became fixed, and the last gentle breaths began to come and go. "Is the doctor here?" she asked. We told her no, and then Mr. S. and the nurse, who were close each side of her, began to repeat a verse or two of Scripture; then seeing she was apparently too far gone to hear, Mr. S. leaned over and whispered, "My darling!" She made no response, on which he said, "She can make no response," and she said, "But I hear," gave one or two more gentle little breaths, and was gone. I forgot to say that after her eyes were fixed, hearing Mr. S. groan, she stopped dying, turned and gave a parting look! I never saw an easier death, nor such a bright face up to the very last. One of the doctors coming in, in the morning, was apparently overcome by the extraordinary smile she gave him, for he turned away immediately without a word, and left the house. I staid, as they wished me to do, till Monday night, when I came home quite used up. Your sorrow, and the sorrow at Brooklyn, and now this one, have come one after another until it seemed as if there was no end to it; such is life, and we must bear it patiently, knowing the end will be the more joyful for all that saddened the way.

I shall always let you know if anything of special interest occurs in the church or among ourselves. After loving you so many years, I am not likely to forget you now. The addresses at Mrs. S.'s funeral will probably be published, and we will send you a copy. Mr. P. is bearing up bravely, but feels the listlessness of which I spoke, and finds sermonising hard work. He joins me in love to you. Do write often.

To Miss Eliza A. Warner, New York, Feb. 16, 1869.

On coming home from church on Sunday afternoon I found one of the Brooklyn family waiting to tell us that another of the girls was very ill, that they were all worn out and nearly frantic, and asking if she might be brought here to be put under the care of some German doctor, as Dr. Smith had given her up. In the midst of my sorrow for the poor mother, I thought of myself. How could I, who had not been allowed to invite Miss Lyman here, undertake this terrible care? You know what a fearful disease it is—how many convulsions they have; but you don't know the harm it did me just seeing poor Jennie P. in one. Yesterday I tried hard to let God manage it, but I know I wished He would manage it so as to spare me; it takes so little to pull me down, and so little to destroy my health. But I wasn't in a good frame, couldn't write a Percy for the Observer, got a letter from some house down town, asking me to write them Susy books, got a London Daily News containing a nice notice of Little Lou, but nought consoled me. [2] In fact, I dawdled so long over H.'s lessons, which I always hear after breakfast, that I had not my usual time to pray; and that, of itself, would spoil any day. After dinner came two of the Prentiss sisters to say that Dr. [Horatio] Smith said Eva's one chance of getting well was to come here for change of air and scene—would I take her and her mother? Of course I would. They then told me that Dr. Smith had said his brother's case was perfectly hopeless. This upset me. My feet turned into ice and my head into a ball of fire. As soon as they left, I had the spare room arranged, and then went out and walked till dark to cool off my head, but to so little purpose that I had a bad night; the news about Prof. S. was so dreadful. Mr. Prentiss was appalled, too. I had to make this a day of rest—not daring to work after such a night. Got up at seven or so, took my bath, rung the bell for prayers at twenty minutes of eight. After breakfast heard H.'s lessons, then read the 20th chapter of Matthew; and mused long on Christ's coming to minister—not to be ministered unto. Prayed for poor Mrs. Smith and a good many weary souls, and felt a little bit better. Then went down to Randolph's at the request of a lady, who wanted him to sell some books she had got up for a benevolent object. He said he'd take twelve. Then to the Smiths, burdened with my sad secret. Got home tired and depressed. Tried to get to sleep and couldn't, tried to read and couldn't.

At last they came with the sick girl, and one look at the poor, half- fainting child, and her mother's "Nobody in the world but you would have let us come," made them welcome; and I have rejoiced ever since that God let them come. One of the first things they said took my worst burden off my back; the whole story about Prof. Smith was a dream! Can you conceive my relief? We had dinner. Eva ate more than she had done for a long time. We had a long talk with her mother after dinner; then I went up to the sick-room and stayed an hour or so; then had a call; then ran out to carry a book to a widowed lady, that I hoped would comfort her; then home, and with Eva till tea-time. Then had some comfort in laying all these cares and interests in those loving Arms that are always so ready to take them in. I enjoy praying in the morning best, however—perhaps because less tired; but sometimes I think it is owing to a sort of night-preparation for it; I mean, in the wakeful times of night and early morning.

Wednesday, 17th—While I was writing the above all the Brooklyn Prentisses went to bed, and we New York Prentisses went to the Sunday- school rooms next door to a church-gathering. There are three rooms that can be thrown together, and they were bright and fragrant with flowers, most of which the young men sent me afterwards, exquisite things. I had a precious talk with Dr. Abbot, one of whose feet, to say the least, is already on the topmost round. I only wish he was a woman. The church was open, and we all went in and listened to some fine music. Coming out I said to a gentleman who approached me, "How is little baby?" "Which little baby?" "Why, the youngest." "Oh, we haven't any baby." And lo! I had mistaken my man! Imagine how he felt and how I felt! We got home at eleven P.M., and so ended my day of rest. I have 540 things to say, but there is so much going on that I shall defraud you of them—aren't you glad? Have you read the "Gates Ajar"? I have, with real pain. I do not think you will be so shocked at it as I am, but hope you don't like it. It is full of talent, but has next to no Christ in it, and my heaven is full of Him. I have finished Faber. How queer he is with his 3's and 5's and 6's and 7's! I feel all done up into little sums in addition, and that's about all I know of myself—he's bewildered me so. There are fine things in it, and I took the liberty of making a wee cross against some of them, which you can rub out. Miss L. sent me another of his books, which I am reading now—"All for Jesus."

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