[Manchester—Saturday, 13 August 1870]

Saturday. Still warm, but damp now, found it too wet to sit out of doors so came in to write letters; the insects are humming everywhere with the first hint of autumn in their wings.

The vagabond boys of this village are an unceasing comfort to us. They are as free in their ways and thoughts as the birds

“a boy’s will is the winds will”

comes back to me as I watch them lounging around the baker’s cart, or perched on some almost inaccessible rock or eating their dinner out of doors.

We drove over in the sunset to Mr. Dana’s. The house looked weird and deserted as we drove up, but one of the young girls, his grandchildren came forward to welcome us and carry us to the piazza at the back of the house where his sister, an old lady not far from 80 was sitting. The wide sea stretches out at the foot of the bluff upon which the house stands and there was a quiet brooding light and warmth over everything. Presently the old gentleman came down though he has been ill for some days. He was evidently weak physically, but his mental power appears as great as ever, indeed one would say it grew even more lucid with age.

After a while it was proposed we should go to the beach together, he and I, to meet his daughter and others of the family. A short and picturesque descent by the side of the old man who bore a heavy staff to guide his trembling footsteps soon brought us to the sands—the tide was nearly out. It would have been quite possible to go upon their island if time permitted but it was glorious enough where we were—a strange atmosphere enveloped us—we looked at each other as if through some crystal medium and a quick perception came over me that this was like heaven. Charlotte Dana, the old man’s daughter (formerly the Rosalie Singing of Washington Allston though it would be hard to guess it now in her grey and changed appearance) seemed to grow severe and to become healed from her sad nervous disease as I looked at her. Each of us saw it, I mean saw the effect upon each other I am sure but I do not know if they all felt they touched heaven as I did and do still believe.

Celia Thaxter writes there was never such a summer—no, it is true, the summers never seem [to] repeat themselves and the last seems always the most mysterious, the fullest of previously unguessed truths and beauty.


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