Searching for Susan (Chapter Six - Brother James Offers His Opinion, page 1 of 2)


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There are no surviving letters between June 18th and July 4th, but much occurred during that two week period. Edwin and Susan apparently met as they planned, on Saturday, June 23rd. Either on that date or later, Edwin traveled to Danvers, where Susan was living with her brother's family. Also, during that period, she visited his Acton homestead. The details of what was discussed have been lost to history, but we may assume the main topic was a serious discussion of their future together. This we can surmise given the third party comments of snoopy brother James who details his investigation of the potential bride and offers his strong opinion.

Danvers - July 4th evening, 1866, Wednesday

Dear Brother Edwin.

I went to the depot at 6 1/2 o'clock Tuesday evening, but did not see you. Did you come to Danvers? I could not infer certainly what course you took - nor what decision you reached in conference. We talked over matters quite freely with Mr. and Mrs. Hills. They were glad you invited Miss Smith to go to Acton, as it brought her to some decision, at least so far as to mention the case of her Father. I should expect from the impressions they have received that she would probably insist upon this condition, of any permanent arrangement. If so, I am clearer in my advice than when I saw you, to let her go.

Mr. Hills thinks the son Mr. Smith should take on the laboring (word unclear.) and not let this prevent an engagement if other things are mutually satisfactory. I am more apprehensive in regard to her health, from little items referred to by Mrs. Hills. Mrs. Hills thinks Miss Smith ought to have mentioned the objection of her father's case sooner and has told her so, as she has spoken of it occasionally. They think in Lynn it must have been made public - so far as it has been - through the Smith family - as they, Mr. Hills & family have kept perfectly quiet.

Your letter affected her a good deal - as they saw from her appearance, and changed countenance. It was just the thing, under the circumstances. I am the more persuaded, whatever may be the issue. We felt a lively sympathy with you all day Tuesday, and today, and of course it marred our pleasure in visiting, though we had a cordial welcome at Mr. and Mrs. Hills. We spent the forenoon quietly at home and went to the beach in P.M., taking the horse cars, and walking home. I was obliged to leave this evening in order to be in season for my school tomorrow. Lydia and Mary will spend tomorrow at Lynn and I shall keep bachelor's hall.

I trust you will not lay the disappointment and trial too much at heart. It may be the most fortunate thing to you in the light of future events that you have preceded no further. Do not be discouraged in the least, for you are not half so badly situated as many who have wives and the right one will cross your path at the proper time and place. Let me hear from you soon. Do not have the least thought about us - in connection with the subject - as we shall get over it easily enough.

With love and sincere sympathy,

Your brother, James Fletcher


Perhaps James is looking out for the welfare of his younger brother. Remember, Edwin lost his first wife and infant daughter in the same year, so health is a matter that must be on their minds, and of primary concern. However, it's difficult not to think ill of James for putting his nose where it doesn't belong. It looks like he is trying too hard to make Edwin's decision for him. Edwin responds immediately to James letter, but we're not privy to his answer, only a second letter from James three days later that acknowledges hearing from him. Now he has his wife Lydia snooping as well. Poor Susan is getting it from all sides.

Dear Brother Edwin.

Danvers, Mass July 7, 1866

Your letters have been received and though I have nothing really important to add, I will write a few lines. Mary (James fifteen-year-old daughter) remained in Lynn through Thursday, coming home in the eve. Lydia came home last evening, and is nicely - the visit and journey having done her good.

Yesterday she visited Mr. Hills' school, and went into Miss Smith's department. She looked pretty sober at first, but afterwards resumed her usual cheerfulness and they had a pleasant time in P.M. playing backgammon, etc.

Lydia inquired of her how the case stood. She said her father was to remain in Danvers with her brother, so that I infer she will write to you a favorable letter. You ask about her health? I hardly know what to say.

She has been poorly more or less through the season, but still she has not been obliged at any time to give her school up. It has been a hard year with her. A married life and a change of scene and occupation may effect a decided change for the better, possibly not.

You will have to decide with an uncertainty facing you. Mrs. Hills said she thought she would be able to do the house work with perhaps someone to wash for her. She is particular about matters - sewing, etc. Mrs. Hills thinks she has good ideas about cooking.

I should wish to have the matter of her Father put perfectly at rest, so that she should not feel uneasy or dissatisfied. And I should want her to be cordial and happy in any arrangement made.
Her father is somewhat childish and thinks a good deal of her, as of course he should. I learn she has recently received a little legacy, some five hundred dollars from her grandmother. This is in confidence to Lydia from Mrs. Hills.

My school closes next week. It was pretty hard for the scholars on the 5th, after the holiday. I told them they might have one nap apiece.

I trust brother John is better by this time.

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