[Boston—Thursday, 16 July 1868]

Thursday July 16th We did return home yesterday and here we are. The heat of yesterday was the greatest in my experience. The thermometer seldom exceeds º100 anywhere and as much as º110 in some situations in the shade. We left Rye at five oclock and then we caught a fresh breeze from the sea as we rounded Hampton Bluff; it was the only one, the heat continued excessive until we found a delicious breeze blowing in at our back windows at home. It died away and the night was warm, but more airy than at Rye where the small room almost suffocated us.

All quiet and sweet in my dear dear home.

I have omitted to record a delightful day at Portsmouth last Monday with Mr. Fenn the artist. He was in search of us and came upon Mr. Fields just as he was waiting for me to get into the wagon so he joined our party & we went on together all day. It was one of those “perfect days” fine enough for June; the hay was making the air perfectly fragrant and the pines and the sea mingled with the perfume of the fields. We were filled with the joys of seeing and breathing and hearing, for though so late the woods were melodious.

Mr. Fenn had been to see Mr. Whittier and was busied making illustrations for a volume of Ballads which T. & F. propose to issue next year. He has a true love for the poet and his work and was eager to become familiar with every point fit to use. He had already gone to the Isles of Shoals where he found Mrs Thaxter who again rehearsed to him the stories of her childhood and the weird circumstances which surrounded her. Mr. Whittier had prepared him in a measure for seeing her but he was impressed by her fearless, open, sweet, unrestrained, modest, refined manner and conversation. He had not been with her half an hour when asking her how she found the sea-weeds she arranged so beautifully she said “Find them? Why you must wait till low tide and then go down among the stones as far out as you can go and lay yourself flat on your stomach with your nose in the water and your eyes open looking with all your might. After you have stayed so for half an hour you will begin to see the little things unfolding & closing again at the bottom of the pools.”

He asked if when she lived at the Light-House the waves ever came up as high as the windows of the house—“Yes—Once when father had been to Portsmouth to bring our stores, (we were obliged to buy them for three months you know) he was about to anchor at White Island when a huge wave struck him, upset the boat and everything went to the bottom. There was nothing saved but a barrel of walnuts. These we carried into the house & up into the garret, leaving the windows open after spreading the nuts out to dry. In the night there was a furious wind and the first thing we knew there were waves and walnuts running down stairs together.”

We went to Kittery-Side in the afternoon. The true name is Kittery Fore-Side but Whittier calls it as above.

First however in the morning we drove all about Portsmouth which has a keen interest not unmixed with pain for J.T.F. and he told us many many quaint incident[s] of his boyhood, until we were filled with pictures of the past; then we went to dine at what is now called the “Rockingham House” but what was formerly the residence of the Governors. The rooms had lost so little of their old stateliness that we could fancy, without much stretch of the imagination, the stately and picture-like figures which so few years ago walked up and down the halls.

At Kittery we found the residence of Sir William Pepperell. It is much disfigured, though still retaining the old hall and a cupboard of real beauty. An old woman opened the door; “I’ve been a nappin,” she said “and I’d no idee the door was locked.” When we involuntarily expressed pleasure at the fine old hall, she replied: “Well! I don’t think you’d like it if yer lived here; it’s a dusty old place, and stands just as it did when the old gentleman was alive.” It was not difficult to fancy vessels landing at the foot of the pleasant green slope, or to see gentlemen in small clothes, and ladies in hoops moving through the stately entrance.

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to them, only gently <excised text> as if almost inappropriate to the festive occasion referring to the work they had come hither to perform.

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On our way to the Pepperell mansion we passed another house of apparently equal antiquity. Nothing had been done for many years to preserve the place from decay, and even in the cheerful light of that exquisite afternoon it would be hard to find anything more dolorous than its aspect and suggestion. The windows were, many of them, broken, the roof of the barn had fallen in, one of the other out buildings had only one wooden wall still standing, which creaked in the breeze as it swayed towards its fall; the luxuriant shrubbery, with the freshness of the season upon it, was the only thing that chimed with the living. As we came upon this spectral habitation J. recalled the strange history of the family to whom the place belonged. It looked utterly deserted now; even the fence and the gate were in ruins, and a panel had fallen from the front door. Mr. Fenn said he would go in to see if it were really deserted & he could make a sketch there. He pushed the gate but the hinges were rusted and he could not open it wide enough to get in, but finding an aperture in the broken fence he clambered over that. As he went towards the house a window opened and a woman as grey as the moss on the surrounding trees looked out and asked him what he wanted. He made some inquiry as he looked up at her in return. She was bleared and wandering & wretched but her voice was not rough or untaught & the sight of such lonely misery was evidently terrible for when our companion returned he was much like one who had held parley with a ghost. In the course of half a mile we found a grey-haired man sitting under his trees & we ventured to ask him about this woman. “Oh!” he said “she’s mad, & has lived there alone for many a year. She’s 82 years old, but she’s a cousin of my wife who goes up there some times & she there now!”

How blue the water was, how beautiful the sails, how brilliant the white light-houses shine in the afternoon sun; these things can never be told! nor can ever be seen too often. It was a rare day! So long, so short, so calm and full and unexpected! It was the gift of our Best Friend, The Almighty Giver.

We found mother & Sarah patiently waiting tea for us as we returned. Neither of them well, but the sight of us cheered them wondrously & we had quite a merry tea table together.

Thursday. Unpacking—found the house in capital order. Mr. Beal dined with us. Sarah Manning, my good little maid, & her mother have looked after everything.

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