WILLIE'S DEATH, ETC.
SEPTEMBER 24TH.--Last night, as the waning moon floated along in her nightly path, and hosts of golden stars added lustre to her liquid light-when all noisy voices and heavy footsteps were silenced by the police, in the streets-hushed was every sound throughout the hotel, indicative of sweet repose-when no sound was heard but the fall cricket's croak, as if instinct whispered, "Autumn is on your track; sing and croak, while you feel a balm in the night breezes, for soon the white frost will lay you a stiffened corse, and your night song, so solemn to the anxious watcher, which notes your short tarry, shall be heard no more;" I sat and watched my sick boy. He was restless an his mind wandering; I thought it might be the effect of medicine; I noted every motion; he yawned, which gave me much hope, for I thought that a favorable omen. As the toll of the midnight hour was on the air, I was sitting by my boy-along as morning began to brighten the east, he called for white brad, big apples, and white corn; I thought surely then he was better, for he had not called for anything to eat for a whole week, not since he asked for the crumbs from my plate. I said, "My child is better! As soon as the servants are up in the kitchen I will go and prepare some food for him;"-feeling so pleased and hopeful, I lay myself down on the bed by his side, (Mema lying on the back side,) and being so weary, and cheered with late hope, I fell asleep. I slept a few minutes only, for when I awoke, the sun was not yet above on the horizon; I turned to my sleeping boy; he lay on his face; I put my ear down to note his breathing, but there was no stir in his bosom,--I turned him over, only to see that he was sleeping the sleep of death!--for while I slept, the angels came, and bore him away on their airy wings to their blissful bowers far beyond this scene of struggle, t bloom in Heaven, his natural sphere, without waiting for him to receive father's sister's or mother's kiss of adieu!
I clasped his little white hands over his heaveless breast, closed his blue eyes forever from my sight, and stood for a time spell-bound before him. Here was the pride of a mother's heart,--her support when her footsteps should totter,--here centered all her bright anticipations of beholding the development of a noble man, and of feeling the secret and satisfying honor she would feel, in saying all along the pathway of life, "This is my darling Willie,--this my noble boy,--and this my full-grown and manly man!" I exclaimed, "O my God! My God! Why is this? my hopes all blasted-my bright anticipations ended-my precious darling boy lies here frozen into marble by the icy hand of death; I'll say, O stern decree! O cruel fate!"
I spoke to my husband, and woke Mema, saying, "our Willie is dead."
My husband said, "he must have gone without a struggle. I have been awake, knew when you laid down, and was glad that you were giving yourself a little rest after so much watching; thought you were both asleep. Can it be! Oh, can it be!"
After gazing for a while upon our lovely statue, and regaining a little composure from the stock, which his sudden and unexpected release had given, I stepped to Dr. Hartt's door, repeated my sad news, and soon we were surrounded by warm and sympathizing friends, who tried to comfort us with kind words, and still kinder acts. My husband was so overcome, in his weak state, that his chill and fever came rushing upon him. He was helped to Mrs. Hartt's room, and made comfortable in bed, our little treasure was put in charge of our kind, stranger friends, while I sat by the bedside of my weak, sick, and sorrowing husband. Friends came in to consult about his burial; I could have wished to take his precious remains along with us, and have them deposited near where we find a resting place,that I might see fresh roses bloom on the little grave; but my husband's weak state, pecuniary circumstances, and the voice of friends, prevailed; so I consented to let stranger friends robe him for the grave, (I could do it,) shed on it a tear for his mother, and when Spring shall come, plant on it the flowers.
No minister could be had to attend his funeral this afternoon, all were engaged; so no prayer was offered while we stood around the little coffin, save our own prayer of anguish, and no dirge sung, no bells rung. Father, mother sister, gave the last look, kissed the little cold cheek,--and then in carriages bore the casket away to its final resting place in the city burying ground, a lovely, retired, and shady spot, situated on a slowly-sloping hillside, with other hills rising higher all around, which nature had thickly set with trees, and in among were many large black walnuts, casting their large, lemon-shaped and colored nuts profusely to the ground. The rose, cypress, and myrtle interlaced over many a grave--the wind gently waved the drooping branches of the weeping willow, which bowed over the monuments in a mournful attitude, breathing a soothing requiem as they made up Willie's grave. We saw the little grave all filled up, evenly sodded over,--gazed upon it again and again; then gladly would I have lingered, but kind friends whispered, "your husband and little daughter are weak, and the night damp will soon begin to fall; come away." So we turned and left the spot, taking another glance, as we passed through the gate, and another as we were handed into the carriages, now bidding adieu, a last and long adieu, to the little mound where our Willie would sleep among strangers!
A number of ladies called this evening, to sympathize wit us in this our great bereavement; and we can try say that the sympathetic tear is very precious.
I have to record here, that the dream of my Willie's sickness and death, was a perfect panoramic view of that which I have just had the closing scene.
SEPTEMBER 25TH.--We concluded this morning, that circumstances must urge us on our way; as strong as the attraction was to remain, we must break from it, and take our one child, feeling all the time that our Willie was left behind.
Dr. Hartt invited my husband to walk just around the corner of the street to his office, thinking it might divert him some, while I re-packed our trunks to have them in readiness for the next steamer. I folded the little clothes that had been so lately worn, and the suit I had intended my Willie would wear when on board the steamer, to add beauty to his always beautiful frame, and to feed his mother's pride, and laid them down to the bottom of the trunk, not a little dampened with tears that flowed from a full fountain. The last article folded was the little purple sun-bonnet, all dusty, but most precious to me, for I had watched the look of his clear blue eyes so many days, looking up from under it into my face, while riding, when he would say, "Willie feels bad; when will he feel better?" He is better now, but his mother's heart is wrong with anguish.
While engaged in packing our trunks, I thought of the shop a little way down the street, where gravestones were made, and thought how pleasing and satisfying it would be to me if I could see some of my good clothing and buy some stones to mark the spot where my boy was sleeping. I said to myself, "I will go and see,--for what are nice clothes to me now, unless I can turn them (for I can't pay money) to accomplish the desire of my heart." I accordingly put on my bonnet, took Mema by the hand, and soon we stood inside the shop. I called for the head man, and soon Mr. Bedwell stood before me. I said, "I should like to get some small stones, if you will take some of my clothes which I do not need now."
He looked at me with surprise, as he was evidently eyeing me from head to foot, as if he questioned my honesty. At length he said, "I do not like to take a lady's clothing."
I related the circumstances that compelled me to ask it, and assured him that he would confer a very great favor on me by so doing. He said he would call at the hotel and look at the clothes, and bade me select some stones, asking how I would have them lettered. "I chose some that he would ask nine dollars for, and said "All I want marked on them is,
"Willie, the Little Stranger."
He assured me that they should be immediately lettered, and if I did not leave to-day, might go out to the burying ground with him in the morning to see them set. I thanked him, returned to the hotel. Soon he was here, made a selection, and said he would send a servant for them in the evening. When my husband came to dinner, I told him what I had done; he seemed pleased, and said, "if I do not have my chill in the morning, I think I can walk down to the marble shop to see the stones; I want to, and think I can.
My husband says he has been trying again to-day to sell his watch, but has failed. I do wish he could, for we need the worth of it so much now, to help us on our journey; besides, he does not feel that he ought to carry a gold watch in our circumstances; but the gold watch which has been worn for so long a time over his heart, and which he has tried so many times to sell, still clings to us; for what, or when we shall need the worth of it more than now, I know not.
SEPTEMBER 26TH.--Last night gave myself up to rest; for my wearied nature, which had been strung to the last strain for many days, with anxiety and sorrow, must embrace the soothing power of sleep, and for a while forget its care and sorrow, in its oblivious rule. But before me, as I slept, floated another singular dream. I dreamed that before our door here, opening on the street as it does, stood a long, black carriage; in it were two seats; on each seat was a person, all dressed in black, and a white sheep with fleece long and snowy white, making the contrast great between them and the black carriage and persons dressed in black. The two persons, instead of sitting opposite each other on the seats, sat diagonally, bringing the two sheep in the same way. Just as the carriage was ready to move off, my husband a cold shudder ran through my frame, as I noted all the premonitory symptoms of that dreaded disease, the dysentery; and an audible voice whispered, "This is your other white sheep!" I said to myself, as I was almost convulsively shaken, "what does this mean; am I to lose my husband as I lost my boy? O, God forbid.
My husband's chill came on, too, this morning, so that he was doubly hindered from going with me to see the little gravestones. I left him in charge of my friend, Mrs. Hartt, and went to the burying ground; saw the stones set at my Willie's grave, bid the sacred spot another long and last farewell.
Some of the kind ladies assure me that they will plant a weeping willow to droop over the little stranger's grave, and that the rose and myrtle shall intertwine thereon.
This evening finds me watching by the sick instead of being borne along down the Missouri on a steamer as we anticipated.
SEPTEMBER 27TH.--I have been advised by Dr. Hartt and others, to employ a Dr. McCutchen for my husband; they assure me that he will get well under his treatment, adding, that he has the best success in treating dysentery of any doctor in the city. Gentlemen that have called on us, invite my husband to take up his residence here; say that he will find many kinds of business, from which he can choose one that will insure him and his family more than a livelihood. But he has intended to decide what to do, upon our way to St. Louis; if he should be well enough to teach, or to engage in business of any kind, thought w would go up into Wisconsin; if sick, must make our way to friends, and ask their assistance.
Our Willie's death came out in the "Boonville Weekly Observer," this morning. It reads thus: "In this city, on the 24th, Wm. H. Colt, Jr., aged 3 years and 8 months, son of W. H. Colt, of the State of New York." I have been writing letters and doing up papers to send to friends; have written also to the forwarders in St. Louis, to ascertain the fate of our goods.
SEPTEMBER 28TH.--This has been a long and anxious Sunday. Several gentlemen have been in to see my husband; among the number was one Capt. Walter, who seemed very kind and brotherly. Dr. McCutchen is very attentive; stays every night until twelve or one o'clock, and insists upon my resting while he stays.
SEPTEMBER 30TH.--This month closes with to-day. O, how heavily it has been fraught with anxiety and sorrow to me. I thought when we left Kansas, the first of the month, that before this month closed I should have my sick family safely moored in some place that I could call home. My darling boy has gone home; here lies my husband, I fear, on the point of going home. My lady friends try to comfort me with hope that my husband will be better in a few days; but there is a voice whispering to me all the time, that I don't like to hear, saying, "This is your other white sheep!" My heart is heavily vibrating with anxiety. O, my God! "let this cup pass from me."
OCTOBER 1ST.--Went early for the doctor this morning; my husband is very sick; two kind gentlemen will sit up with him to-night. Mrs. Hartt has given up her room to me and Mema. How very kind these stranger friends are.
OCTOBER 2D.--Friends are very kind. My husband is not better,--is not able to get up--grows weaker and weaker every day; his voice is almost gone,--can converse hardly above a whisper. But the subject of death, and a separation from each other, has always been a common topic of conversation between us; for the reality, which I fear is approaching, has always been a vision that has haunted my dreams. How many times have I been awakened by my much-loved husband, with his asking me what I was weeping for. I would instantly say, "why, I dreamed that you were dead! How could I live without you?" O, my God! is that time coming when all of my dreams will have foreshadowed a reality? How can I,--O, how can I bear to live in that point of time!
I have just been conversing a little with my own best-beloved about going away; he has no fear of death, for himself; feels the assurance that beyond the so-called "dark vale" opens the "pearly gate" to one of his Heavenly Father's "mansions"; but the thought of leaving me and his little daughter in this land of strangers, and in want, grieves his affectionate and noble heart. I asked him what he would advise me to do. He said, "got to your friends; and you know you are to have that insurance money."
Now, as a last request, at this solemn hour, when I am with my beloved husband alone, and while he can speak, I have said, "O, my own dear William, if there is any truth in the so-called 'spirit manifestations,' will you come to me?"
He has said, "Yes, my dear; if there is any law in nature, by the action of which I can come to you, and commune, you may rest assured that I shall make use of that law and come. And now, my dear wife, my Miriam, may Heaven deal gently with you and my child!
OCTOBER 3D.--"The days of affliction have taken hold upon me." O, my God! That dreaded day has surely come; that point of time has made haste; this day has been the day! this even that point of time! Yes; just after the sun had bid us adieu, and night was hanging her sable curtains round, did my support, my life, my all, bid adieu to earthly scenes, and mount Heaven-ward! I had watched all day,--noted the wanderings of that once strong mind,--wiped the fearful sweat from face and limb,--saw the lamp of life burn faintly, and still more faintly, until it went out without the contraction of a single muscle. I then closed the eyes whose last gaze was bent on me, with my own hand, and exclaimed, "My God! my God! why hast Thou forsaken me?"
Capt. Walter, who was standing by, thought I knew it not, laid his hand on my shoulder, saying "My dear woman, though God has taken your husband, He is able to raise up friends for you."
But O, I cannot be comforted in this hour. When my Willie was taken, I felt that my heart was lifted from its place, and my eyes were a fountain of tears; but now, my whole being is petrified; my breath seems frozen, that it will not come, and I have no tears to flow. My child stands as if bewildered,--tearless. Oh! this is more than we can bear. We must refuse to be comforted because they are not.
The doctor never told me that my husband would die; and why! I could not ask him,--could not bear to hear my doom pronounced by other lips.
OCTOBER 4TH.--I and my Mema arose this morning and went into our room, where lay husband and father, statue like, in the cold embrace of death. I said, "O, my God! my God! can this be a reality; or am I dreaming again, to awake with a shudder,--then to rejoice, and thank Heaven that it was only a dream?"
Capt. Walter called early at the hotel; bade me put my trunks in readiness, and he would send a servant for them, "for," said he, "after the funeral I want to take you and your little daughter to my house, and want you to feel that my house is your home, as long as you wish to stay in Missouri." I thanked him for his kindness; felt that his words "Though God has taken your husband, He is able to raise up friends for you," were being made true. Parcel after parcel was handed into Mrs. Hartt's room for me, even to a paper of handkerchiefs, and I soon learned that the kind ladies were fitting me out with mourning. O, such kindness and thoughtfulness is balm to this deeply wounded heart.
Afternoon came. The ceremonies of a city funeral were held at the hotel; then the hearse moved slowly through the streets, then along the quiet, retired, and shady road that leads to the silent resting place of the dead, followed by two true mourners, and a few sympathizing friends. Then was committed to the grave my support, my life, my guiding star! Oh! language is too feeble to describe the deep anguish that was smothered deep down in my heart; so deep that my whole being was paralyzed with a mountain's weight of bitterness, as I heard the pebbly dirt rattle down upon the coffin's lid--it seemed to me as though all nature was being rolled together, and I the only one left to hear the dismal sound. I would have bowed over the two mounds forever, but a voice, weak, sweet and low at my said, said "Mamma." I touched the only life cord, and thrilled my heart with a strong and life-giving desire to protect, guide, and love the one that yet called me "Mamma."
I find myself and my fatherless child, on this sad night, under the hospitable roof of the very pleasant and refined home of Capt. Walter. Mrs. Walter seems to be a most excellent and warm-hearted lady; and it seems to give the whole family pleasure to administer comfort and sympathy to us, the afflicted.
This seems almost too much of a refined life for me to come in contact with at once, when I have of so late been obliged to live almost as rude a life as though I had lived in the red man's wigwam. Then, how can I bear to step on these soft carpets, partake of the dainty meal, and rest my wearied nature on this soft and snow-white bed, when my beloved husband and darling boy were called away so soon by death, before they had hardly tasted of the comforts of civilization?
Ah! my husband's dream comes to me now, when he said, "we traveled until we came to a great river;" and so we did,--the river of death. He has taken one child, and has passed over into life,--immortal life--while I remain here with the other. O, why could we not all have struggled in the dark waters of "Jordan" together, and all have come out on "Canaan's fair banks," and have been a happy family,--not separated.
This sorrow-stricken heart of mine would naturally give up to the corroding influence of silent grief; but circumstances that surround me bid me arise, and give my mind at once to business and preparations for the future.
Have received a letter from Simmons & Leadbeater, forwarders in St. Louis, saying that the goods have been sent up to Kansas City. My friends here think it best, (as my goods must be sold to pay freightage,) for me to go to Kansas City, and attend to the sale of them myself; keeping my books, and selecting the articles I wish to retain. But my child is very weak; she cannot bear to be away from her mother a moment; it would be cruel to leave her, even with such kind friends, who are willing and anxious to care for her; and it would be exposing her delicate health too much to journey there and back, the distance of four hundred miles, on a steamer, with drinking the Missouri water; neither can I bear to make the journey myself, unprotected, now in these troublesome times. So many dangers and sore trials have beset my path, that I have but little effort to put forth, and had rather lose everything I have in Kansas City, than to bring one exposure upon us two, who are now to move over the world's dark waters alone. My kind friends tell me to keep my husband's gold watch, and not part with it on any account. Another friend , Mr. Williams, tells me to take no thought about my bill at the hotel, that he will see that it is paid; then my late husband's funeral expenses have all been paid; his coffin was$20; it was covered with black velvet, and mounted with silver-plated screws.
The kindness of these my stranger friends, in these my necessitous, trying, and afflictive circumstances, strikes upon a vein of gratitude in my heart, which otherwise I would not have known was there. And could they know the volume of gratitude that wells up from my heart to them and to Heaven, for their kindness and sympathy to this deeply wounded heart, and for administering to my necessities, they would say, "It is more blessed to given than to receive."
And now, after all they have done, they offer to raise any amount necessary to take us to our friends; but I am glad to say, that after all my bills have been settled by their kindness, I think I have enough in my possession to take us on to our friends.
OCTOBER 7TH.--This week the county fair is held in this city. I have been invited to attend, but have too dark a shade of sorrow thrown around me, to have a desire to go where the joyful will meet, and the gay put on their gayety.
My friends have devised a way to have the sale of my goods attended to without my going to Kansas City. Mr. Dr. McCutchen has a brother, Dr. J. O. Boggs, residing in Westport, Mo.; A. B. Coffey has a friend residing in the same place, Col. A. G. Boone. These two gentlemen it is thought best to appoint to attend to the sale of said goods. As all the good were marked in my husband's name, it has given me a long and a very descriptive letter to write, to describe the contents of the boxes, so that my goods can be taken and sold, and father Colt's reserved for him. I also had to write out a list of the articles I would like to have reserved. I have written in great haste in order to send by this night's mail. It has overtaxed my brain, for I feel one of my hard headaches coming on.
OCTOBER 9TH.--All day yesterday I suffered in my room with a severe headache. My Mema, the while, amused herself by going into the flower garden and gathering seeds, bringing them into our room and doing them up in papers to be packed away in our trunks, and in making rag dolls. It has seemed to me, all through my sojourn in Kansas, and my journeying thus far, that I have been upheld by a power and sustained by a strength beyond my own; but now I feel like Sampson shorn of his locks; I have become weak, my strength has departed.
Friends advise me (and it seems also necessary) to reduce my baggage, as I should be obliged to pay extra with so many trunks, and besides it would make so much care for me when I come to travel alone. So I have concluded to have the clothes of my dear, departed husband sold at auction, (Oh! how can I bear it?) and to use the avails in purchasing grave-stones for him, so that I can also mark the spot where HE lies sleeping. Accordingly, I have folded each precious article, which seems an embodiment of his own true and noble self, have taken a farewell look and filled a trunk to the overflowing; the trunk was a present from my father, and still bears the initials of my girlhood, but it is too much worn with this season's travel to bear any more hard usage, so it must go too.
Soon a servant is to be sent to take these precious garments to the auctioneer's stand, where clothes are sold, and there every article which I would press closely to my heart, is to be held up to receive the bids, then struck off to the one who bids the highest, scattered to the four points of the compass, and worn I know not by whom! Ah, ah, ah; this is aggravating in the extreme,--but I must submit. It is like probing a fresh wound with a red-hot iron, but it must needs be.
"My heart is sore pained within me; and the
terrors of death are fallen upon me,--
OCTOBER 10TH.--Have been to the marble shop, and selected the stones for my husband's grave. They are to be lettered with his name and age, with the addition of this line,
HERE SLEEPS MY HUSBAND, BESIDE MY DARLING WILLIE.
Stones that would be sold to others for twenty-two dollars, I get for eighteen. Friends seem anxious for me to remain in Booneville, and I feel riveted here--cannot bear to think of leaving the spot where my two treasures lie buried. Have hinted that if I could get a place as governess in a family would stay; and now a friend assures me such a place is open for me, if I will accept it, in a fine family of seven children, where I and my little girl will be well cared for, and I remunerated with eight dollars per month. I shall think upon it.
Mrs. Hartt has fitted my all-wool delaine dress; I sew all the time I get from writing letters and attending to other business; my dresses will soon be finished. Several kind ladies have called on me to-day; sympathy, to my sorrow-seared heart, is like rain drops to the drought-parched earth,--and may they be bountifully rewarded for weeping "with those that weep."
OCTOBER 12TH.--This has been a most lovely day; the rich autumnal sun has bathed this lovely city, the fields, woods and glens, with his bright crimsoned light; heating down through all the mat of leaves on the garden vines, as if meaning to ripen all the last set fruit, before the heavy frost shall come. The family have all attended church; I staid with my Mema, who is not very well. We have walked in the orchard, where the trees are bending with most delicious fruit, and the full ripened and golden corn is ready for the harvest. We have walked in the vegetable garden, and the garden of vines, where now the melons and tomatoes enrich their vines, as yet untouched by frost; then in the flower garden, where blooms many a modest flower, and many very rich and rare.
The negro servants belonging to this fine establishment, Peter, his wife Harriet, and little David, have been away since yesterday to attend a daughter's and sister's wedding. They came home just at night full well loaded with wedding cake, which was passed around in whole-souled pieces. I never saw cake that looked nicer, or that tasted better. Peter gave me a fine paw-paw; it was as large as a medium sized long potato, bluish, with large flat seeds imbedded along in the rich meat; it resembles the muskmelon in taste, only much richer.
The negro slaves here have a very easy servitude I should think. The kitchen, which stands a few feet from the house, seems to be a palace to them; in their private rooms, joining the cook room, stands their curtained bed; a carpet is on the floor; the mantel piece is ornamented with lamps and vases, and many keepsakes; while on one side of the room hung in sight Harriet's silk dresses, much gayer and most costly than those worn by her mistress. All of these Peter gets by improving the time that is his; and when his Harriet, his "ole woman," is dressed in one, he thinks there is not a negro woman around that surpasses her in beauty of form or feature.
The negroes are all out here on Sunday nights, as happy as all Africa when the sun goes down; but when the nine o'clock bell rings, then there is a scampering heard in every direction homeward.
I have attended church this even, leaving my puny child with Mrs. Walter. And now, this hour of ten, finds us in this large, pleasant square chamber, where we can overlook the most of the city from the balcony. My Mema is wrapt in sleep. Yonder's untired moon, veiled in a halo of silver mist from the air of this balmy autumn eve, is pouring in a flood of heaven's own light at my window, as if anxious to light up a heart overburthened with dark sorrow, with the light of hope, of which her own pure and mystical beams are an emblem.
OCTOBER 13TH.--W. W. Gill, editor of the Booneville Weekly Patriot, (in which is a notice of my husband's death,) has sent twenty-four numbers to me; I have them done up to send to friends. The notice reads thus:
DIED.--In this city, at even of the 3d inst., WM. H. COLT, son of John G. and Mary Colt, of the State of New York, aged 40 years, 3 months, and 3 days. The deceased leaves a wife and one little daughter to mourn his loss. As a husband, he was devotedly attached to his wife,--and a kind and indulgent father."
I have decided to leave Booneville; my husband's voice whispers in my ear, "Go to your friends," and my heart yearns to meet kindred again, and to behold familiar faces; although strong cords and friendships bind me to this lovely place. I must obey that voice.
OCTOBER 14TH.--That trunk full, and more, of precious clothing has been blown to the winds; and I received twenty-six dollars, a paltry sum for so much good and nice clothing.
Mr. Bedwell calls, and takes me in his carriage to the resting place of the "much-loved dead," to see the stones set at my husband's grave, and to take a long and last farewell.
OCTOBER 16TH.--Have been to the office of Joseph L. Stephens, with Drs. Geo. C. Hartt and Jos. E. McCutchen, where they have made affidavit to the sickness and death of my husband. The papers are all made out, and I shall send them to R. Wood of Montreal, (where my husband's life was insured,) agent of the Conn. Mutual Life Insurance Co. I have to record the kindness of J. L. Stephens in making out said papers for me free of charge; for which I am very thankful.
I believe my business is done now, in this place; my trunks are packed again, and have taken leave of the most of my friends; am waiting to hear the word, "the steamer Russel is here--make haste or she'll be off!"