Searching for Susan (Chapter Four - A Date at a Cemetery, page 1 of 1)

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Edwin has written to Susan while she vacationed, either in Danvers with her brother Charles and his family, or in Ipswich, presumably with her father. Edwin acknowledges her agreement to meet him in Boston.

Acton, Monday Eve. May 28th 1866

Miss Smith.
The Saturday evening mail brought me your very welcome letter accepting the invitation to meet me in Boston and I now take pleasure in writing a few lines in reply. The time you name will suit my convenience and I hope the weather will prove favorable but if otherwise the next day will accommodate me as well or even Sat. if that should be the first pleasant day. I shall enjoy much in anticipation and trust we may have a pleasant day. I am much interested in the lines you sent. I always like to read the poems of Whittier as there is something in them that cannot fail to interest. I think I have never met with this one before. I used to see many of them in the "National Era" for which he used to be corresponding editor and which I took several years.

John Greenleaf Whittier was an influential poet and strong antislavery advocate. He was widely read, especially in his native New England. Early in life, before he was successful, he was employed for a short time as a shoe maker, a similar profession of Edwin. He later taught school. At the time of the letters, Whittier was living in nearby Amesbury, Mass.

I hope you will have a pleasant time at Ipswich and have no doubt you will enjoy visiting the scenes of former days. My sister attended the Seminary at Ipswich several years ago.

What a fine rain we had on the Sabbath. I could not help enjoy it though I much prefer to have it pleasant on the Sabbath. Our people seemed to be unusually afraid of getting wet and we had a very thin meeting. I think I never heard it rain much faster than it did during the night accompanied with some thunder. My trees and plants seem to enjoy it even more than I did myself.

Your vacation is passing so quickly that I should hardly think you would feel satisfied with it. Perhaps it would be for your health and comfort if you should fail to receive the appointment in the high school and take a longer vacation, but I suppose you would hardly feel reconciled to the disappointment it would cause you.

Could this line be Edwin feeling her out about "staying at home?" He continues his letter discussing the weather, his garden and apple orchard, and how the moon "made a beautiful show," after a shower. He ends, remaining, "as ever, very respectfully."

After their Thursday meeting on May 31st, Susan responds.

Lynn. June 4th , 1866. Monday P.M.

Mr. Fletcher.
Respected Friend.
Vacation being ended, this rainy morning found me on my way to Lynn to begin the labors of a new term in the High School. My appointment as teacher there was received on the Friday previous. I hardly felt in the right mood for it this morning but soon got into working order when I found 170 scholars waiting for something to do. The machinery is hardly running smoothly yet, but hope to take a fair start tomorrow. I am quite satisfied with the arrangement for study. Two classes in Botany , three in Algebra, one in English Analysis, and perhaps one in Chemistry coming under my care. I love to teach these (with the exception of the last) and shall not find the need of much work out of school. The afternoon of every day I can use as I choose. But excuse me for giving you so detailed an account of school affairs. I forget sometimes, that other people may not be as much interested as myself.

I decided, all things considered, that it would not be best to return to Danvers daily and I am boarding with Mrs. Hills.

I trust you were as successful in reaching home on Thursday as in times before when you have taken the 5:30 train. I stopped in Lynn till half past six and reached home safely three quarters of an hour later, with pleasant thoughts of the visit to Mount Auburn. On referring to my Botany, I find my impressions concerning the odd looking tree with its showy white blossoms, were correct; it is the flowering dogwood, not belonging to the Sumac family which includes the poison dogwoods, but to the Cornel order. I was glad to know we were not poisoned by trespassing on forbidden ground to examine it!

Susan refers to Mount Auburn Cemetery, near Boston, in Watertown, Mass. The one-hundred-and-seventy acre site was first established in 1831as "America's First Garden Cemetery." With the help of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, it was constructed far differently than Colonial graveyards, and is a beautiful arboretum. Mount Auburn is considered the start of the American Garden movement and many cities followed suit in mid 1800s. It is now a National Historic Landmark, welcoming two-hundred-thousand visitors annually. She continues.

On Friday I visited Holten High School. I think your brother must enjoy teaching there; everything seemed to be moving on very pleasantly and successfully. The religious interest still continues in Danvers, and I wish many more souls might be led to Christ. Mr. Carruthers was quite unwell last week and was not able to perform his usual labor. I think he was expecting to preach on the Sabbath however. If you will excuse me I will not lengthen my letter now, but answer the summons of the tea-bell which just at this time is no unwelcome sound.

Hoping to hear from you soon, with esteem, I am
Very respectfully,
Susan Smith

P.S. "Please not view it with a critic's eye - But pass its imperfections by."

Edwin wasted no time, responding two days later.

Acton, Wed. Eve. June 6, 1866

Esteemed Friend
It gave me much pleasure to receive yours of Monday evening and to learn that you have so pleasant and easy a prospect before you for the coming term. Judging from the number of scholars I should think Mr. Hills would have a plenty to do to keep the scholars in order and the teachers in good mood, though I presume the latter will cause him no trouble. It must be much more agreeable and less care for you than the school at Gravesend.

I succeeded in reaching the 5:30 train just in season and had the pleasure of walking from So. Acton, which on the whole I enjoyed as it was such a pleasant evening and the thought of the day spent so pleasantly made the time pass quickly away and I found myself at home a little after seven o'clock about the time you found the end of your journey. My brother John was busy making preparations to attend a wedding in the evening or he would have come after me.

Last Sabbath our minister gave us quite a severe, though perhaps deserved, sermon on conduct in and about church. I hope it may do good but thought at the time it might not tend to make him more in favor with those who already have a prejudice against him.

Edwin mentions the wet weather and gifts they have exchanged on the recent visit.

Your painting of the pansies is very fine and much prized and for which you will please accept my thanks. I enclose a photograph of a later date than the one I showed you in Boston, though this was taken two or three years ago.

This oil painting by Susan of flowers from Edwin's garden comes up again, much later. Photographs too, a popular item of the era, are also mentioned many more times. Edwin then makes additional plans.

I have been thinking that I would call on you the first of the week - perhaps Monday or Tuesday if pleasant and agreeable to you. If you would prefer to see me at some other time I should be happy to receive a letter by the Sat. evening mail. It's getting late and I will bid you good night and hoping for the pleasure of meeting you again soon. I remain as ever, again soon, I remain as ever Respected Friend,
Very respectfully yours etc.

E. Fletcher

We have moved along to "very" respectfully! Now, if older brother James won't poke around too much, we may progress further.

Susan was raised in Ipswich, Mass. This seacoast town was first settled in 1633 and is located about fifteen miles north of Danversport where she is living with her brother's family. Her father still resides in Ipswich but we're not sure of his circumstances.

Nine days pass before we hear from Edwin, answering another letter from Susan which is missing from the collection.

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