Alice Weston Smith.

Alice Weston Smith, 1868-1908; online

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warm. Last night I slept out under the heavy dew
and the stars, and had seen twenty-one kinds of birds
before seven o'clock this morning, to the despair of
"Sopidge." I have found that the darning-egg is the



Aet. 35 401

only egg in which she takes no interest, and it is a dis-
couraging business. She showed me a sample the other
day and asked my advice.

" Burn it I call that a hole with a stocking in it."

Another mild jest of mine I venture to send on the
chance it may awake an echo of the giggles in which it
was created. I advised Mamma, if in low spirits, to
skip in our Book of Prayers anything called " Gen-
eral Intercession," as there they give full rein to a vivid,
morbid imagination. " For all those wrongfully con-
fined in penitentiaries; for women in perils of childbirth
on unsea worthy vessels; for overworked servants; for
tired book agents having dogs set on them; for sailors
with thin ends to their mufflers "

Here Gamdge broke into hysterical sobbings. I
should add that living alone with a Dormouse, " tho' a
highly moral, is not a peculiarly exciting, life," but I
fear she might say that a combination u Hatter " and
" March Hare " also had its drawbacks as a steady com-
panion.

Dickson is a dear, and this afternoon I see Mrs. Pea-
body, who is also a dear. And now, my dearest dear,

good-bye. From

Your devoted

AUNTIE NAN.

To Miss ETHEL L. PAINE.

MANCHESTER,

Sunday, July 24.
Darling Linkstress,

What good care you are taking of my baby, or per-
haps I had better say our baby.

Do you remember Mamma's dashing out as you and



402 1904

I sat on this piazza last year to say, ' ' You girls may
talk as much as you like, but I am Paulina's mother; "
and my answering, "Hush! why not let Ethel go on
thinking she's her mother?"

But if I am so generous about Paulina you must let
me have a good slice of Lily.

That dear thing was here again Friday, and I had the
pleasure of pointing out to her the strange lack of hu-
mour possessed by the Reformer.

Imagine the Total Abstainers nominating for presi-
dent a man named ' ' Swallow!" The vice-president is not
"Rum," as you might imagine at first, but "Carol,"
which Dickson says suggests that the platform is ' ' Wein,
Weib und Gesang."

Poor Dickson has been gazing wistfully to sea this
last two days, where the boys are kept by a northeast
storm and a high sea a hen-father, if there is such a
bird.

Friday night it rained and blew so heavily that at
five o'clock in the morning we were grateful to see the
white tent-top sticking up out of the mist.

Literature preserves an impressive silence as to how
Robinson Crusoe's aunt and grandmother felt.

Tell Paulina I don't know what to think about the
Cardinal's second nest, if they had one, as I strongly
suspect they did, way down the hillside.

Sometimes Sophie and I "hear the lark within the
songless egg," but as a whole we lean to despondency.

However, Virginia is safe, and only once has Florider
been seen trying to eloquently persuade her into being
a Liberal Unionist.

Five minutes for refreshments is nothing to the way
that poor woman is expected to choke down her meals.



Aet. 35 403

" Quick-quick-quick," Wolsey sings, feeling as a mother
does when she has the children and the nurse is at her
meals. Lily also feels that they take an unearthly time,
nurses, I mean, but I tell her it goes with the
nurse attributes.

As the prince in the fairy tale chooses a wife who
pares the rind of a cheese, so before hiring a nurse ask
to see her eat. If she chews the cud and divides the
hoof hire her at once.

You see, darling, I am happy as far as happiness lies
in having no history.

I needn't tell you I love you and long for you and re-
joice with you every minute.

Your most devoted

NANNY.

To HER SISTER.

MANCHESTER, July 28.
Darling Twitty-wee,

I had my last caU from Mrs. Peabody yesterday, and
was horrified to find the Elect Lady was not using hos-
pitality to the saints without grudging. In other
words she hadn't yet invited her Bishop for October.

The path of duty seemed to lie toward Bishop of

something woolly and western, tho' she longed for
"Sacramento."

She is a dear old thing and when not talking of ' ' the
Sabbaths of Eternity " is refreshingly vicious. It is
another case of "Go to hell, Bunch. "

And, speaking of Bunch, did we tell you that for five
days we added to our list of pets a female Irish terrier
who drove about with William on the front seat of the
carriage looking for her lost home? I called her the



404 1904

Doge of Venice!! And thereby hangs another tale. If
the real Doge of Venice had a ring with which he
"wedded the Adriatic," why should not Bella have a
cake with which to wed Squam Lake? so I am having
her one baked and frosted. She goes up Monday with-
out a Harvard student, and, as her wharf isn't finished,
her furniture and stores must be butted ashore on a raft
by a steam launch.

Her coffee cups came to the enormous sum of one dol-
lar forty cents, so I made her keep the rest of the gold-
piece u to get herself something substantial to eat."
Could a Wiesbaden prune come under this head?

Dickson and I were much diverted by Mamma's say-
ing to me, in all soberness, "There are two tomatoes
left! I bought four!! " I told her it was only equalled
by Oliver Hereford's " going into the country to keep a
bee."

Enter Mamma herself, but without a letter. When
we last heard you were perched on the spire of Cologne
Cathedral taking a bird's-eye view of the adjacent
countries.

Sophie has seen an Orchard Oriole, by the way, and a
Belted Kingfisher, and we have both seen Baby Tana-
gers but, alas! I don't believe we shall ever have
Baby Cardinals. Virginia, we have decided, is a person
marked for ill-fortune. The loss of her tail was, per-
haps, like the loss of Samson's hair.

What frivolous letters I write, don't I? but you can
read the serious love parts between the lines.

Did I tell you how profoundly impressed I was by
Di when she was here? I think she will have the real
fruits of spiritual struggle to give to others.

She has thought on the vision, and heard the knock-



Aet. 35 405

ings of those that seek her. "I think any one would
admit," she said, "that in my life I have had more
than my fair share of " " sorrows," I expected, but
no, " blessings."

Some day I must tell you more of what she said.

Now good-bye, darling.

From your own

SISTER.
To MRS. FREDERIC DEXTER.

MANCHESTER, July 31.
Dearest Mrs. Dexter,

This last month there has not been a day hardly
an hour when I have not longed for Mrs. Whitman
and rejoiced with her, and I know you feel the same,
and often have a dreary sense of being far away and
a-hunger for news.

We who love her gather together and something of
her spirit falls upon us she who in "the midmost
heart of grief " always " clasped the secret joy." What
a brave, forward-looking life full of sympathy and
strength and work!

"Life, I repeat, is energy of love," and how gladly
she spent and was spent for us!

We were weary, and we
Fearful, and we in our march
Fain to drop down and to die ;
Still thou turnedst, and still
Beckonest the trembler, and still
Gavest the weary thy hand.

Every one has written you, but have they dwelt
enough on the beautiful end of that heroic life? After
those tragic months years almost of feverish strug-



406 1904

gle against increasing pain and weakness it is a comfort
to know there was " peace at the last." She said once
to Mrs. Parkman in those last days, " Well, it has been
good, hasn't it? for it has been answering to the Spirit."
And then again, "Oh! how wonderful, how beautiful,
the inner Innerness of " then she stopped as if rapt
in some vision. " I adore Him," she said of our Lord,
and over and over again, " Good-bye, darling, bless you!
that's all I'll say just now, but love to everybody and
all's serene."

In her death, as in her life, she bore witness to the
light, and we lift up our hearts unto the Lord, remem-
bering her.

These are our pillar fires,
Seen as we go,

They are that City's shining spires
We travel to.

And we have been her friends and learnt what friend-
ship may mean.

Yours in true love,

ALICE W. S.

To HER SISTER.

MANCHESTER, August 1st.

Dearest Teeny, so with the Jungfrau for a back-
ground you have seen my tender-eyed Little Cock?

So Mr. Paine went to Berne on Peace business? Has
he converted those bun-eating bears? and did he read an
article in the "Spectator" on the "Idealism of War"?
It seemed to me quite interesting as an answer to Tol-
stoi. Give him my dear love.



Aet. 35 407

Yesterday Mamma went to Emanuel and heard Bishop
McVickar. Today the Weston-Smiths scatter for their
fortnight's vacation. Dickson has been working hard
enough to really need it, and Anstiss hasn't picked
up yet from her lightning experience. She doesn't yet
like being left in the house alone. As for me, my feel-
ing about thunderstorms was always a matter of pure
unreason, so the knowledge that something sometimes
really does happen rather steadies my nerves than
otherwise.

Do you remember saying when you went to town for
the day remarkable events took place? This was an
example of " Ellen Emmons's ten ten-strikes" with a
vengeance.

News I have none seeing you have promised to read
a fat red tome full of daily lists of birds when you get
home. Mamma sleeps well and Pussy is adorable.
Evenings we have chills and fever over Stanley Wey-
man, daytimes we toy with the "Outlook," and
wish the Negro-problem had never been invented. A
' ' distinguished Southern Educator " apparently thinks
the root of the evil in colored schools is that the litera-
ture presented to their minds is full of white heroes and
heroines. This is the Black Letter Press with a ven-
geance! May they read " Othello," or would that " put
vanilla beans up their chocolate nose"? He seriously
suggests that in their primers after B Y a small negro
should appear in the woodcut also after 6r I R L (to
teach chivalry for their own race, presumably); I sug-
gested that FRUIT should be illustrated by water-
melon! ! Do I see a frown on the face of my Linkstress?
then let me pass to more harmless jests!

Mamma too likes watermelons and lemon pie, but



408 1904

peaches she won't eat unless cut up and sugared
heavily.

I tell her it looks as if she had only a sweet tooth
that wobbled.

I am afraid Mamma would " look long at a five-cent
stamp" before sending so frivolous a letter as this.
But a Nanny Dog must needs be waggish.



My precious child,



To HER SISTER.

MANCHESTER, August 5.



Ethel's cheery letter was a real comfort to Gamdge,
tell her. I am really proud of that woman, who looks
like the Co-operative Cauliflower, and under the kindly
influence of Mary, the cook, is beginning to find that
she needs to be the Judicious Hooker if she is to get into
her gowns at all.

The first week after you left I kept her pretty anx-
ious, and she showed it, but now she looks rested and
blooming. Early bed, few fellow-creatures, two short
drives a day, agree with her, to say nothing of an hour
and a half of solid sleep every afternoon. She wants
you to know that "when the mouse is away the cat
will nap," and that the mouse does occasionally go the
grand tour is proved by his being seen in however
lowly a position at the diamond jubilee.

We miss Dickson and his evening calls, but he seems
to be having a pleasant time on the blue Kennebec, and
writes that he had a dear letter from you.



Aet. 35 409

Except little scraps of conversation, and a few mild
jests, what have I to tell you?

We have decided the reason nohody in bird books sees
any feathered friends in August is because they are all
here. The Thrushes still sing and my sunny pine tops
are just full of young Warblers playing tag. I saw
twenty-five kinds of bird yesterday, and among them a
dear Indigo, who sat on the suet branch, the piazza rail,
and Blue's cage fifteen minutes by Shrewsbury clock.
But, oh! my bird of birds "half angel and half bird "

there's nae luck about the house when my gude

Mauve's awa'.

Her ain

AULD NANNIE.
To HER SISTER.

MANCHESTER, August 9.
Dearest Paulina,

It is a beautiful day, cool and sparkling, and Mamma
has gone to Dr. Donald's funeral.

Our hearts have been very full of him these last weeks

ever since we heard the solemn word "dying," which
is always new and sudden, however long expected.

He has always been a kind friend to this family.

Mercifully, the pain stopped at the last, but it has
been a long, hard crossing, and, for the rest, it has all
been so tragically piteous that it takes one by the throat.
If every one had been as generous and affectionate and
loyal as Mr. Paine!

There Blame deserts, there his unfaltering dogs
He from the chase recalls, and homeward rides,
Yet Praise and Love pass over and go in.



410 1904

Our neighbor, Mr. Weston, died suddenly the other
night, which will make the poor " Owl " long more than
ever to be at home. It seems sometimes as tho' no sound
reached across the ocean but the knelling of bells.

This morning I saw the first Golden-winged Warbler
and (with the first red leaf on the sumachs) he made
me realize, with a pang, that summer is on the wane.
Such a beautiful summer, with what Shakespeare calls
"shiny nights."

A Song-sparrow feeds on the path now and sings grace
but the Cardinal mystery is still unsolved. That big,
striped young one was the authentic "Baby Sphinx."
It was, line for line, a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak,
and yet

Do you think they could have hired a baby to hold
under their shawl while they sang, " Who will buy my
sweet lavender? "

I really am better, not worth much but very grate-
ful when I realize how I was the first two or three
weeks after you left and how I am now.

Pussy is getting fond of Sophie, but she is never gush-
ing, you know.

Congo is still weeping for his lost family, tho' we do
our best. Indeed, he has blacked himself all over for
the part of chief mourner, and sits on their doorsteps
singing the coronach. Bella's island is a great success
even tho' no Ferdinand in the form of a hired Harvard
student has been wrecked there yet.

You get an occasional communication from Mrs.
Carderelli and Mrs. Morgan and Rita Crombie which
we answer.



Aet. 35 411

But what is a letter without a conversation between
the two familiar dramatis personae?

A. Virginia would like you to buy her some currants
to keep her bill pink.

Mrs. S. Would blueberries do as well?

We dote.

To HER SISTER.

August 12.
My precious Baby,

I must begin my tomorrow's letter today not that
I intend, tell that brutal Linkstress, to write the kind
of birthday letter she does, which leaves the recipient
bathed in blushes and tears.

Lily and I were talking of the futility of attempting

to cheer with such vacant chaff as * ' gaining a new

sister," even if it were not rather blasphemous to fling
round the name of sister, which ' ' we two knew the
meaning of."

"Perhaps 'new' makes the distinction," Lily sug-
gested, but I told her a new sister was what I gained
thirty-two years ago this very Friday. She was dear
then, but her dearness has gone multiplying like the
nails in that horseshoe.

Aug. 13.

Sophie is bustling about all smiles, for her Ida comes
this afternoon and like Kitty her attendant is more
affectionate than she likes to own up to.

I shall be glad to have another mouth to feed for the
sake of Hilton and Woodward.

You never saw such ridiculous letters as I write them.
Occasionally as an encouragement we ask the price



412 1904

of things which we don't buy. Last time, as I told
Mamma, we were very dashing and inquired the price
of tame ducks. Ducks, mark you instead of the
market value of half a tame duck.

By the way, isn't that what I am, now my Siamese
has been cut from me? or is it half a wild goose?

I had a delightful call from Miss Ida Mason last
evening. She came after Diana so she was contraband
goods, but "nice customs curtsey to great Kings" and
she only comes to the Winthrops twice a summer for
one night. She gave me good accounts of Mrs. Perkins
who had had her house filled with young descendants
who needed her which, tho' somewhat fatiguing, has
been cheerful and comforting.

It is another glorious Autumnal morning and I have
sent Mamma out to call on Mrs. Morse and Mrs. Dalton.
I am so glad you saw Mrs. Dexter, "and now," as
Mamma said in triumph, "I have something to tell
her." It is news, you know, that she met you. We
celebrated your birthday last evening by opening a new
box of Page and Shaw.

And now " my dearly beloved and longed-for, my joy
and crown so stand fast in the Lord, dearly beloved."

Your own loving old only

SISTER.

To HER SISTER.

MANCHESTER, Aug. 17th.

Darling Teeny, think of this being almost the last let-
ter! That seems so near, that three weeks and two days
which it is literally seems dreadfully long.

When I feel rather desolate I say "Rockets! " which



Aet. 35 413

means I am sinking, wrecked in deep waters and send-
ing up signals of distress, but Gamdge, who is the only
lighthouse within reach, has let out her lamp and is not
even looking seaward, she says, but in her kitchen eat-
ing apple- tarts.

You needn't expect to find a sensible family when you
get home. We are exactly the same, if not more so.

Mamma is still human and Mrs. Linnet-like. I tell
her I don't dare quote Coleridge to her for fear she'll
say he was the man who took opium and left his chil-
dren for Sou they to bring up. As for Watts, the artist,
she can only look on him as the first husband of Ellen
Terry!

I had a most charming letter from Ellen at her French
chateau. We felt as tho' we were there in the hot sun-
shine.

Was it too hot for her to get to Paris to see you?

We read the accounts of European heat as if it were
a dream. We stayed in Spring-time and now Autumn
has come, and the birds, instead of singing, talk eagerly
of the South. It is sad work, but " who can keep the
bird from following the flown Summer? " Each morn-
ing when the Cardinals come up to breakfast I am grate-
ful my dear tailless Virginia hasn't decided to climb to
Florida from bush to bush.

Your own Permanent Resident.

To Miss ELLEN HOOPER.

MANCHESTER, August 18.
Dearest Ellen,

Your tissue paper played the part of a magic carpet
and transported us to your charming French chateau,
lying so peaceful under the hot sunshine. I wish the



4:14 1904:

sunshine hadn't been quite so hot on your account
and did you see my children?

Paulina's letters today are still tremulous with the
vision and glory of Chartres Cathedral.

I am glad Mrs. Whitman had it before she died. I
say died, but I can't believe it can't believe that I
shall touch her hand no more. As when your father
went, I understood it best lying out in the quiet hours
of sunrise and sunset.

Mrs. Dow came to see me one afternoon, and I am so
glad you told me of her.

As for Diana, she comes once a week, and I am some-
times cheered and sometimes much discouraged about
her health but always profoundly impressed by the
gallant struggle she is making Jacob's struggle "in
the darkness with the unseen."

I miss you every minute and my Ethel as for Paul-
ina but we are doing bravely and every one is most
kind and devoted.

Gamdge and I have merry times together and read
exciting novels and take early beds. The first two or
three weeks I kept her very anxious, but she has had
time to pick up since and looks remarkably well.

My birds are more fascinating than ever, but alas!
the Thrushes have ceased singing and the little warblers
are gathering up their feather skirts to be gone.

Paulina writes that she has seen Storks! but they are
not confined to Europe.

And now, my darling, good-bye and God bless you

and bring you safe home to

Your

NANNY.



Aet. 35 415

To HER SISTER.

August 19, 20, 21.

Here's a fat letter for my darling to put under her
pillow so long as they won't let her stick hatpins into
the air-mattress and is she really coming home
leaving all the glories and the visions behind her on the
mountains because " love dwelleth in the valley " ?

I am glad Mrs. Whitman saw Chartres before she
died. I was struck, in reading Coleridge's translation
of ' ' Wallenstein " the other day, with something Wal-
lenstein says after Max is killed:

This anguish will be wearied down, I know
What pang is permanent with man ?
For the strong hours conquer him
Yet I feel what I have lost in him.
The bloom is banished from my life.

The strong hours do conquer us the pang is "grieved
down " somehow, but I think the dumb, numb heartache
is much the worst to bear.

Mamma is gone to town she and Dickson, to put
their arms round the poor little Chief Justice.

It needs a good deal of coaxing to make Gamdge
desert her post even for a few hours, but when she in-
terferes with my Napoleonic plans I call her "Grouchy "
with the pronunciation in the English mode.

My plans, as you may guess, are more of the ' ' Poli-
tique de Longwood " than of the haute politique.

Where, for instance, Sophie and Ida shall drive.

A happier pair you never saw, and Sophie deserves it
after her enthusiastic devotion to all her strange duties.



416 1904

I tell her she must have printed on her business cards,
" Currying cats a specialty."

Oh! Mauvaise! your little charge is more bewitching
than ever. As she lies sleeping on my bed I have fas-
tened on her collar. So that if she did get lost, you
know!!

She sends you a hard, rubbing kiss, preceded by a
curtsey one of her curtseys!

Aug. 20.

To go back to " Wallenstein," which we've been read-
ing Mamma turned so eagerly to the Piccolomini that
I told her she thought " Tiny Tim " was the hero.

We've left the Thirty Years' War now and the French
Revolution, and betaken ourselves to ' ' Silas Lapham. "

It seems rather quiet indeed, the Lapham family
life at the South End is almost as quiet as ours now.

Did you know Mrs. Dexter, in her last letter, still
hopes we have visitors? Tho', unless we had the Pris-
oner of Chillon and kept him immured in the parlor

There is the greatest thumping overhead, where
Mamma and William and Ben pursue the imaginary
buffalo bug among the trunks. William, who keeps a
marshal's baton in the whipholder, is ordering Ben
about with great zeal.

He said of Mr. the other day that he was "fear-
ful! fearful! " but, as I told Mamma, his only other ex-
pression, "A perfect little beauty, "was hardly appli-
cable.

It's blowing a gale outside and there is no letter.
Yesterday one from Ethel.

Your Paris news seems a happy mixture of cathedrals
and restaurants le tour d'Eglise and le tour d' Argent.

I merely mention one of our entremets:



Aet. 35 417

11 Doughnuts a la Princess Colonna! "

If only this storm would stop howling but it started
in St. Louis and has swept over the whole country
drowning New York city in rain. Virginia and her
Cardinal, when they leave the safe harbour of the hem-
lock hedge to eat, anchor themselves tight to the edge
of the bird-table and reef their top-gallant crests.

Sunday, Aug. 21.

A glorious, bright morning, with the weather pretend-
ing it has never done anything but smile, and who will
be here Sunday after-next after-next, to listen to
the Baptist Church bells, from her nest among the
tree-tops? "J'ai vaincu le participe passe" is noth-
ing to mentally conquering the paulo-post future, and
realizing that when you get this the wonder-world will
lie behind you as a dream when one awakeneth.

By means of scraps of paper, in the form of postcards,
these hounds of affection have tracked their fox as far
as Amiens. But England seems only a bright blur.

Did you see Sir Louis at last and Mary Beaumont?
but of course you must and Professor Cunningham
and that nouveau ricJie, the Duke of Argyle?

Tell Ethel all my callers are nice, but three of them I
love through and through with my soul, as well as my
heart and they are Mrs. Higginson and Miss Fanny
Morse and her Lily.

And now good-bye, darling, and God bless you all and
bring you safe home to

Your loving

ALICE.



418 1904

To MRS. FREDERIC DEXTER.

MANCHESTER,

All Saints' Day.
Dearest Mrs. Dexter,

Today, when we try to enter more closely into the
Communion of Saints our friends who are separated
from us not only by death, but absence seem very
near. You and Ellen are with me tho' I do long to
hear your voices and feel the touch of your hands.

When we reach " 48 " on Thursday there will be no


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Online LibraryAlice Weston SmithAlice Weston Smith, 1868-1908; → online text (page 24 of 28)