« VorigeDoorgaan »
the letters had been more so. I saw the tears quietly stealing down the well-worn furrows of Miss Matty's cheeks, and her spectacles often wanted wiping. I trusted at last that she would light the other candle, for my own eyes werd rather dim, and I wanted more light to see the pale, faded ink ; but no-even through her tears, she saw and remembered her little economical ways.
The earliest set of letters were two bundles tied together, and ticketed (in Miss Jenkyns's handwriting), “ Letters interchanged between my ever-honored father and my dearly-beloved mother prior to their marriage in July, 1774." I should guess that the Rector of Cranford was about twenty-seven years of age when he wrote those letters; and Miss Matty told me that her mother was just eighteen at the time of her wedding. With my idea of the rector, derived from a picture in the dining parlor, stiff and stately, in a huge full-bottomed wig, with gown, cassock, and bands, and his hand upon a copy of the only sermon he ever published—it was strange to read these letters. They were full of eager, passionate ardor; short homely sentences, right fresh from the heart (very different from the grand Latinized, Johnsonian style of the printed sermon, preached before some judge at assize time). His letters were a curious con. trast to those of his girl-bride. She was evidently rather annoyed at his demands upon her for expressions of love, and could not quite un. derstand what he meant by repeating the same thing over in so many different ways; but what she was quite clear about was her longing for a white “Paduasoy”—whatever that might be; and six or seven letters were principally occupied in asking her lover to use his influence with her parents (who evidently kept her in good order) to obtain this or that article of dress, more especially the white “ Paduasoy." He cared nothing how she was dressed ; she was always lovely enough for him, as he took pains to assure her, when she begged him to express in his answers a predilection for particular pieces of finery, in order that she might show what he said to her parents. But at length he seemed to find out that she would not be married till she had a “trousseau” to her mind; and then he sent her a letter, which had evidently accompanied a whole box full of finery, and in which he requested that she might be dressed in every thing her heart desired. This was the first let. ter, ticketed in a frail, delicate hand, “ From my dearest John.” Shortly afterward they were married — I suppose, from the intermission in their correspondence.
"We must burn them, I think,” said Miss Matty, looking doubtfully at me. “No one will care for them when I am gone." And one by one she dropped them into the middle of the fire ; watching each blaze up, die out, and rise away, in faint, white, ghostly semblance, up the chimney, before she gave up another to the same fate. The room was light enough now; but I, like her, was fascinated into watching the destruction of those letters, into which the honest warmth of a manly heart had been poured forth.
The next letter, likewise docketed by Miss Jenkyns, was endorsed, “ Letter of pious congratulation and exhortation from my venerable grandfather to my mother, on occasion of my own birth. Also some practical remarks on the desirability of keeping warm the extremities of infants, from my excellent grandmother.”
The first part was, indeed, a severe and forcible picture of the responsibilities of mothers, and a warning against the evils that were in the world, and lying in ghastly wait for the little baby of two days old. His wife did not write, said the old gentleman, because he had forbidden it, she being indisposed with a sprained ankle, which (he said) quité incapacitated her from holding a pen. However, at the foot of the page was a small " r.o.," and on turning it over, sure enough, there was a letter to “my dear, dearest Molly,” begging her, when she left her room, whatever she did, to go up stairs before going down; and telling her to wrap her baby's feet up in flannel, and keep it warm by the fire, although it was summer, for babies were so tender.
It was pretty to see from the letters, which were evidently exchanged with some frequency, between the young mother and the grandmother, how the girlish vanity was being weeded out of her heart by love for her baby. The white “Paduasoy” figured again in the letters, with almost as much vigor as before. In one, it was being made into a christening cloak for the baby. It decked it when it went with its parents to spend a day or two at Arley Hall. It added to its charms when it was “the prettiest little baby that ever was seen. Dear mother, I wish you could see her! Without any parshality, I do think she will grow up a regular bewty!" I thought of Miss Jenkyns, gray, withered, and wrinkled ; and I wondered if her mother had known her in the courts of heaven ; and then I knew that she had, and that they stood there in angelic guise.
There was a great gap before any of the rector's letters appeared. And then his wite had changed her mode of endorsement. It was no longer from “My dearest John;" it. was from “My honored Husband.” The lotters were written on occasion of the publication of the same sermon which was represented in the picture. The preaching before " My Lord Judge," and the "publishing by request,” was evidently the culminating point-the event of his life. It had been necessary for him to go up to London to superintend it through the press. Many friends had to be called upon, and consulted, before he could decide on any printer fit for so onerous a task; and at length it was arranged that J. and J. Rivingtons were to have the honorable responsibility. The worthy rector seemed to be strung up by the occasion to a high literary pitch, for he could hardly write a letter to his wife without cropping out into Latin. I remember the end.of one of his letters ran thus: “I shall ever hold the virtuous qualities of my Molly in remembrance, dum memor ipse mei, dum spiritus regit artus," which, considering that the English of his correspondent was sometimes at fault in grammar, and often in spelling, might be taken as a proof of how much he “idealized” his Molly; and, as Miss Jenkyns used to say, “ People