HOW THE WORLD GOES WITH ME, ETC.
FEBRUARY 18TH, 1859.
MY DEAR MRS. VOORHEES:
In the Spring of 1868 I bought forty apple trees, (they are not yet paid for,) and had them set, thus commencing an orchard; had currant bushes taken up, that were growing ill front of my house, and set in my garden, making two long thrifty rows; and a few plum and cherry trees set near the house. I and my Mema brought cherry trees, gooseberry bushes, and strawberry vines, two miles in our arms, and set them. We re-set some peach and plum trees that we brought from Michigan, in our trunks. We went to the swamps for balsam and tamarack, to the sugar bush for maples, and to the hills for sumac. We set rose bushes, lilacs, various other shrubs and vines, many of them presents from friends, and sowed flower seeds. Methinks you ask, "Why! how could you do it?" I will tell you. We would choose small trees, such as we could handle, hoe off the top dirt, leaves or moss, then take one root at a time and loosen that, then another, and so on until we got the tree. We would get five or six trees at a time, lug them home, rest, then just at night dig places for them, pour in water and sprinkle dirt around the roots, and soon they would be made fast in their new position. I would get so tired that I would lay awake nights with lameness and pain, and perhaps get a three days headache; but when I could see the trees swell their buds, put forth leaves, and grow larger, I felt paid for my toil.
I hired men to work by the day in cultivating my land, we doing our garden work ourselves, which kept us digging, weeding and hoeing, all the summer long. What I raised on my land would hardly pay for the work of cultivating, so it would not make us a livelihood; and situated as I am, in the country, cannot get work such as would help to support us, so I am obliged to turn my hand to anything that is within reach. Last fall I bought wool and spun and prepared sock yarn, and these winter evenings are spent in knitting sale socks, and in meditation. I have had a boarder a few weeks, and the pay will be a great help to me.
My brother's people across the way have been sorely afflicted. Their only daughter, a beautiful and lovely child of ten years, has sickened and died with the scarlet fever. Their jewel has gone from their household, and a shadow of deep mourning broods over our pleasant hill.
MARCH 21ST, 1860.
MY DEAR MRS. V---:
My large debts, as I call them, were pressing upon me so heavily that last fall I went and mortgaged my little home here, and paid them. I have changed the place, but keep the pain. I felt that honor, that I had rather lose my home than to have others suffer losses by me. So what I am owing now is $300, all in one place. My interest, could I have it, would soon pay it and give us a livelihood besides. The saying is that " Misfortunes never come singly." Another that I have deemed misfortune is, that my brother, whom I came to live beside, has sold his farm, and on the first day of this month moved away; so I am left settled down in the country alone, where I would not have come but for the sake of living by my brother, and with my stake so firmly driven down, that it will take another adversity's upheaval to loosen it so that I could follow in their wake, even if I desired it. I have learned this lesson, that it will never do to follow friends around the world. It has proved unfortunate to me that I yearned to hover to the side of consanguineous friends--that I felt the want of a ladder, trellis, or oak, around which to twine for support. I must stand up like the lone weather-beaten pine on the plain, and take the winds and storms as I travel life's sandy desert, seeking shelter and protection from Him, who, when told that his brethren desired to speak with him, asked, "Who are my brethren?" Happy will be the time when the Christ principle of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us, shall be lived out--then my interest will be your interest, and your interest will be my interest--and by becoming, "My brother's keeper," or my sister's "keeper," we shall become our own keepers, and enrich ourselves far beyond the value of gold!
In the past year, I, with many others, have been wreathed in cypress and willow again. My most lovely sister Louisa,(Mrs. Briggs,) on the morning of the last Fourth of July plumed her wings of immortality and left this mortal sphere, leaving a husband and six children, besides numerous friends, to mourn.
A lovely niece of rare endowments in musical lore, has been suddenly removed from fond and doating parents, an adoring husband, and a large circle of friends.
Our friends leave us, and we say,
You will be pleased to know that this sad heart of mine is often cheered with letters from Booneville, Mo.; and in summer-time they come laden with leaves from the rose, myrtle, and verbena, that my friends have planted on the graves of my loved ones, who are sleeping far away from me. Leaves from, off their graves.
APRIL 18TH, 1861.
When the day of sale came, Mr. Byerly bid in the farm on the first mortgage-- nothing was left for me. Thus you see, our laws will take the bread from the mouth of the widow and the fatherless, and lay it in the lap of the man worth more than his hundred thousands. The weaker must submit to the stronger.
I learn that there is no sale for the village lots. Notwithstanding my dues come not--yet I have been called upon to pay for the last nibble of grass my cow has taken in a generous man's pasture; though it has taken that which I would have held in pleasant remembrance of a promise I made in sunnier days.
It often seems as though every thread of hope was cut off, leaving no way for us to obtain a livelihood. My physical health is not strong enough to enable me to labor for people; I could not stand it three days; neither can I send my child out to earn her bread, for I am so afflicted with my dreadful headaches and with their convulsive tendency, that it would not be safe for me to be left in my house alone. It is but little sewing I can get to do, for here in the country people generally do their own sewing then it is the worst work for my poor head. Were we situated in a town or village, I should try and do something at my old avocation, teaching, although my nerves are weak. Last season hired my land cultivated, paying by the day, but when what I raised was stored in the fall, it would not have sold for enough to pay for the work.
I have learned not to want, and all I pray for, is bread to eat and wood to warm--apparel the plainest and cheapest, for we cannot desire superfluities, when we know not how that which serves to keep soul and body together is to be supplied. The past winter has seemed long, and loneliness has brooded around our little home,--the winds have blown cold and the snow has piled mountains high around, which we must needs dig through. Our "cruise of oil" has been almost drained--and almost the last stick of wood laid on the coals; yet my grateful thanks have ascended to Him who forgetteth not the sparrow, for my kind neighbors came to my relief, and have supplied me with a whole year's stock of wood.
My nephew who had my money, invested his all in said farm--he is now a poor man, with feeble health, and with a little family on his hands; still he has made an effort, and has just sent me fifteen dollars, which I know well how to appropriate. Should he be prospered, some time in the future I may hope for more.
We keep our a cow and a few hens, so that like the old swain,
Now, my dear friend, let me turn your attention from the foregoing adverse picture, and invite you to read a piece of my Mema's, poetry.
THE WORLD'S A MYSTERY.
DEAR MRS. V---:
MY DEAR MIRIAM--My dear wife--you are longing to
hear from one who loves you yet. Dear wife, remember that
I am with you I long to comfort you--long to let you know
how bright is the pure reward here for you. Have hope my
love; skies may lower and all seem dark, but the day is
dawning! Remember our little girl, she needs your care;
watch over her carefully, and the angels will bless you.
My boy is here--he sends love to mamma, and to Mema. May
hope smile on you, my Miriam. Day after day I watch over
you, and you cannot see me. I am near you--ever near
you--always when affection calls. Good-bye, my dear, for
Last fall I sent a sealed letter to the same medium, in which were the following questions: What shall I do with my little home here? Can you read my thoughts? Do you know my troubles? When shall I come to you? Do you love me! Direct about Mema? What of my Willie? Do you see your father? In a short time I received the following answer, and my sealed letter unbroken:
DEAR WIFE--You ask for a test. I am not sure that one can be given whereby you will know me. Patience, O my dear. Do not give up your little all. Aid will come; my own help is always ready as far as I am able to give. Miriam, my own dear wife, it grieves me to see you doubt that I can see you. Sands of life are running short--you will soon join me--and, O, dear one, do not fear for a moment that eternity will be all dark. Poverty so afflicting is not known in this bright land. We love the same of ruin, the old loves of earth we are so glad to bring glad tidings to them. You are tired, my Miriam. Your lamp is growing dim. There will be no more headaches nor heartaches on this side the river.* Will that comfort you? Rejoice! Willie is well cared for. Do not doubt for a moment that we are living yet.
Father says, at times he revisits old scenes he goes in, he says, and nobody says, "How d'ye do," or "Will you come in?"--and so he thinks nobody wants to see him. The old gentleman will have it so, and being rather obstinate, won't listen to my explanation.
My little girl--she is now grown almost out of knowledge, but I must not say out of remembrance. Perhaps the sitting, the studying so much may injure her more than you are aware of her vocation is destined to be one of deeds, not such as you would have her perform, but are not the less useful, if she does right and keeps her system in good tune.
O, my dear,
forget not that there is one who waits for you behind the
veil. Keep up courage, and as regards worldly matters,
could those better fitted by the place they occupy, give
advice better than I, who stand apart, as it were? Yet I
am willing to help you every way that seems needful to
you. A1ways yours, my dear Miriam.
Last fall I was determined to sell my little home, and save what I could, so as not to have it sold on the mortgage, but could get no one to buy. After, I received the following through the same medium:
MY DEAR WIFE--Again I come on wings of love to thee. So you are going away from your home; I wish you could stay where you are. You are having many disappointments, but they will not always last--and here you will find freedom from aught to vex or make afraid.
Now, my dear, let us reason together: you being just now in the "slough of despond," and tempted, and say to yourself,* "O! where is he that once would have protected me from the blasts of adversity? Can he imagine my forlorn condition wherever he is, and give to me of his advice?"
From my being
incapable by the laws of nature and spirit of returning
bodily and taking control of earth-born cares, fixing
matters in my own way--which if all this could come to
pass might not be after all just right--do not imagine
for a moment that I am indifferent to your trials; for,
Miriam, you ought to know that I am now where by the
nature of things I am not so well fitted for acting in
regard to pecuniary matters as I used to be. Still I am
not at all desirous of your becoming a beggar while you
dwell in the bad world,--and let me tell you again, this
will not always last, though for a time you are obliged
to ask for that which is your right, from those who ought
by the ties of consanguinity and honor to see yon
protected--but the end, the end of sorrow is at hand.
Again still later he says:
I would not have you discouraged or perplexed; there are bright days in store for you, my Miriam: you will then see clearly why so much is dark now; then how thankful you will be for the trouble you are undergoing, and rejoice we will all together, that the cloud has passed, leaving our spirits more smilingly bright for the rain of sorrow that swept over them. * * * * Give my love to our daughter, and as for yourself, my Miriam, remember, I am "not lost--only gone before." Farewell. From your husband, WM. H. COLT.
Now my dear friend, you were acquainted with my beloved husband, so judge for yourself whether these breathings, purporting to come from him, seem to be like him. They have buoyed my spirit up when nigh sinking in despair. After reading them the following lines were suggested to my mind. My husbands whisper--
Do you wonder, my friend, that when I have thought of this war that is scourging our land--brother warring with brother--the suffering it produces the keen sorrow and anguish it is sending to almost every hearthstone, that I have congratulated myself that my husband and son are safely moored far beyond the dismal cannon's roar and the bloody carnage of the battle-field?
When will earth's inhabitants "learn war no more?" When that new commandment is lived up to, "that ye love one another."
You ask, "How do you like your neighbors?" I will tell you. The parents of the interesting family who purchased my brother's farm across the way, were once from the Green Isle of the ocean. Mr. Hayes is a quiet, pleasant, unassuming man, who rings up his family in the way they should go; and from the least to the greatest of eight boys, nothing but propriety, good breeding and marks of perfect gentlemen are to be seen. Mrs. Hayes is a true, whole-souled, and noble woman; and Mary, the only daughter, is a picture of health, youth, and beauty, and a model of female loveliness. She is an agreeable and useful associate for Mema, and the whole family are very kind indeed to us.
For the five long years that I have lived here almost a recluse, shut out from society, I am indebted to my friends, Mr. and Mrs. Mathews, who live under the hill, for my peeps out into the big world. They, by their kindness in my desolation, have proved themselves worthy the name of brother and sister; but I do think, now after the confinement through the past howling winter, that should I visit any public place, even to church, there might be danger of my going bare-footed, and of my standing in the doorway to make my obeisance to the audience. My neighbors are all so kind that I often think I could not live without them.
I am trying to fit my Mema to make her own way in the world, by having her prepare herself for teaching. She has attended the district school since we have lived here and in fact, she never attended school until we came here. Last fall, by the assistance of friends, I was enabled to send her to a select school kept two miles away; she walked back and forth each day, staying out only two days during the term of twelve weeks. She has a pretty good knowledge of the elementary branches, geography, grammar and arithmetic; and has studied algebra, McElligott's Analytical Manual, ancient and modern history, philosophy and physiology, and loves to read. In the time of flowers her botany, Brecks Book of Flowers, and the Poetry of Flowers, are often perused, giving her much pleasure. Could she have the advantage, she would make a scholar; she however improves her time at home, and has my assistance.
The poultry business, like everything else I have undertaken, has proved a failure; not that it could not be made as profitable as keeping cows, for I have done enough at it to know that it could, if a person could take advantage of the times in getting in food for them when it could be got at the lowest price, and in marketing their won eggs and chickens; but when manacled it is hard to labor and have it tell; it is also profitless to labor at arms length. Mema, however, has taken much pleasure in looking after the hens, petting the chickens, and gathering the eggs. In our hen park, empires and kingdoms have risen and gone to decay; thrones have been abdicated and kingdoms usurped; renowned personages have lived and died or been guillotined. Darius, Ninus, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Lady Jane Grey, Mary Queen of Scots, Queen Elizabeth, Louis Fourteenth, Maria Antoinette, Napoleon, Victoria, Prince Albert, and the Prince of Wales, have all figured here in hen-dom. Our number of hens is only eight now; it consists of one pair of white-faced black Spanish, that are known by the name of Ferdinand and Isabella--grandma'am Rosa Bramah, the only one left of the Michigan emigrants, now five years old, and enjoying a quiet life--and five peasants.
We still keep our noble cow dairy, and are raising her cow baby, Lily, which is a perfect fac simile of its mother. The above mentioned, and Foxy Johnny, (our red cat,) are all that we have the care of, that breathe the breath of life.
You would know, if I said no more, that poverty is still gaping upon us; but you know that I am bound to tell the whole story just how life goes with me. My nephew is still in poor health, but is doing what his health will permit, at teaching among the Indians up Lake Superior; consequently he has no money for me. On account of the rainy season last year, I had nothing to speak of raised on my lot excepting hay for my cow. I have had to buy potatoes. I committed the sin of trafficking again in ardent spirits, in the shape of a little currant wine, that I made from currants picked from my own bushes. But when fall came, we had not the wherewith to procure our necessities through the cold winter. But HE who feedeth the ravens, has fed, warmed and clothed me and my child; thereby keeping us from the streets and the county house, through the kindness and benevolence of my much esteemed Montreal friends. My gratitude to God and to them cannot be measured by a whole catalogue of big-sounding words, their reward is with them for drying the tears of the widow, and comforting the fatherless. I have given my bread freely to all who have come to partake with me, and I am glad that I still have something "when somebody comes."
Notwithstanding our little home is under a mortgage, (which by the way runs out next fall,) we have tried to improve it all we could with our own hands; so from year to year we have added to our fruit and shade trees. Last spring we set twenty small apple trees, and those that had been set three years, in the fall yielded four apples. This year we were expecting a full supply from them, but the deep snows of the past winter produced such a famine among the mice that they were driven to subsist on the bark of trees; consequently when the snow melted away, we found that the bark from the trunks of our apple trees had been gnawed off one-half yard up. I bandaged them with cloths, applying a plaster from the cow stable, and now the most of them look as though they would live.
Our shade trees, shrubbery, and climbing vines are growing finely. We can almost describe our home--(can when the trees and vines grown little more,) thus--
Mema had last year fifty kinds of flowers, which gave us much pleasure and knowledge; she will have more this year. I think we shall have a good supply of plums, cherries, currants, strawberries and raspberries. One of our peach trees still survives, and our pear trees, quince trees, and grape vines are thriving.
I rejoice in the return of green fields and woods, and the buds and flowers of spring, and can, with the little birds,
My prayer to Heaven is, that I may profit by past experiences, and have grace to bear all the remaining reverses that may come in my pathway. Until more transpires of note,--ADIEU.