Searching for Susan (Chapter Five - A Little Art Appreciation, page 1 of 1)

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More than a week passed by before Susan wrote again. They have met, first at her school and then in Boston. It is Friday when she commences her next letter, but she remains in Lynn as there is a brief Saturday school session. She speaks of Miss Brown, a teacher-friend from her days at the Gravesend School. Miss Brown was with them in Boston. As a chaperone?

The free day from school she mentions commemorates the June 17, 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill. The date was first publically recognized as a holiday a few years earlier in 1863. As the date fell on Sunday, Monday was the day of celebration in 1866. The observance continues to be a state holiday in Massachusetts.

Respected Friend.

As I have no more lessons to prepare for this week, I will spend a part of the afternoon in writing to you. Tomorrow we have only a short session from eight till eleven as the committee allows us Monday, the 18th as a holiday; so you will see I am anticipating quite a little vacation at home. I trust you were in season for the cars on Tuesday and were not obliged to find your way from the Concord station. Miss Brown and I went back to Washington St. & after doing a few errands took the horse cars for the Eastern depot & returned in the 6:20 train. Notwithstanding the day was spent very pleasantly, when I remembered that I took breakfast in Danvers, had an early ride which I enjoyed very much; taught school in Lynn, and spent the afternoon in Boston, I thought the day had been a very long one!

Our school is fairly underway and we are enjoying the term very much. You can, from what you saw of it, form some idea of the way in which we are employed, perhaps. I sometimes wish I could more fully realize, that in each hour & each day following in such quick succession, life is passing, for if I did, it seems as though I should be more earnest to accomplish something for our Heavenly Master.

I feel particularly glad that we have no school on Monday since it is the anniversary of my mother's death; the day will ever carry with it a shade of sadness and sacredness.

"After tea."

We have had a delightful shower, accompanied by some thunder. The sun is just shining from between the broken and scattering clouds and the bright bow of promise fading slowly from the eastern sky. The silver lined clouds rolling away from the tops of the "high rocks" and hill, revealing a clear blue beneath, the bright and fresh green of the grass and foliage all gilded by the setting sun, present a picture which language is powerless to describe, and painter's skill unable to imitate. I was intending to visit my old school at Gravesend this afternoon, but found myself too tired for so long a walk. I shall have the pleasure in reserve for next week.

Miss Brown wished to be remembered to you and thanks you for your kindness to her when in Boston; she would also like to ask if you have had any opportunity of late, for studying paintings of John, the Baptist's head, or Adam's expulsion from the Garden of Eden?

While the location was not identified, the couple probably visited the Boston Athenaeum on Beacon Street. This private subscription museum was founded sixty years earlier was, and yet remains, a city landmark. Before the opening of the Boston Museum of Fine Art in 1870, the Athenaeum displayed numerous works of important art.

I think this must have been a fine growing day for your plants in your garden; the sun has been very warm.

Miss Annie Wilkins is visiting here, she has been teaching the freedmen at the south; perhaps you have heard your brother speak of her; he knows her well; she gives us some interesting accounts of life in Virginia.

Daylight is fading, & I will bid you good night. Hoping to hear from you, and with kind regards,
I am very respectfully

Susan Smith

It is just a year after the end of the Civil war and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The Boston area was at the forefront of the abolitionist movement long before the war began and continued to strive to improve the lot of the freed slaves.

Once again the mail delivery is prompt. Edwin receives her letter the very next day and responds.

Acton Monday Eve June 18, 1866

Dear friend
The Sat. eve mail again made me happy by receiving your ever welcome letter. I was gratified to learn of your safe arrival in Lynn. I must confess I felt a little uneasy to leave you alone with Miss Brown after finding that you were both so much attached to the bottle.

This remark is totally out of character with everything else written. I know from later comments about temperance that Edwin wasn't referring to liquor! I assume this was some private joke between them or "bottle" had another meaning we'll never know.

I was just in season for the 5:30 train, not having time to purchase a ticket. I should have had ample time but for the blockade of the car by a truck across the street unloading molasses. I amused myself during the stoppage by noticing the expressions on the countenances of those expecting to be "too late for the cars." Others might have been amusing themselves at my expense but I trust not.

It is interesting that Edwin noted molasses being unloaded. New England was long noted for consuming and distilling the sticky stuff, back to colonial days. For many decades molasses was used in lieu of sugar. It is found in numerous recipes. Fifty years after these letters, in this Boston neighborhood, a tragic event took place. A fifty foot tank, containing over two million gallons of molasses ruptured, spewing a river of the slow moving liquid that crested at twenty-five feet and covered several blocks. Twenty-one people died, and over a hundred were injured. It was said you could smell molasses in Boston's North End for years after.

I had the good fortune to get a ride from the depot with one of my neighbors. I must say that I enjoyed the trip very much, particularly the ride to Lynn in the morning under your skillful management of the "ribbons" and it affords me much pleasure to think of the visit to Lynn and Danvers and also of the P.M. spent in Boston.

Please give my regards to Miss Brown and say to her that I have had no opportunity to study paintings since we had her for a delineator. I think she was more successful in her explanations than you were. She must be well versed in Bible history judging from her quick understanding of the characters in the picture of the garden of Eden.

We have had another fine rain which I was glad to see. I have no doubt you have enjoyed it today in your pleasant home not being obliged to start for Lynn in the rain. My plants are coming forward very fast and I find that the weeds are not at all backward.

I made a bouquet for the church yesterday. I should be happy to give you one of the best my garden affords if you could call some evening "after tea" when you will usually find me "at home" in my garden. I expect my brother's family will accept my offer next week when I shall have an abundance of company. His little girl is sick with the measles or they would have come this week.

My sister and family started for Clinton Saturday on a visit and the weather today will cause them some disappointment. I don't know but you may have other engagements but if not and it would be agreeable to you it will give me pleasure to have you meet me in Boston and spend the P. M. next Saturday. Perhaps you may not able to take the 11:00 train but if convenient I should be happy to have you come in season to take dinner with me. If you have other engagements I trust you will feel at liberty to change my plans. I shall be pleased to receive a line from you by the Friday evening mail or earlier if convenient. It is getting late, though I am disturbing no one by keeping late hours, and I will bid you good night with kind regards and pleasant recollections.

I remain very respectfully
Yours etc.

E. Fletcher

Times may seem tranquil, but brother James is about to become a disruptive force.

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