[Boston—Sunday, 2 July 1871]

Sunday July 2d at home. I find I have said nothing of Catskill. It is because such glory, such experience is indeed impossible to tell. It was not a night to sleep. As we ascended the mountain, indeed as we crossed the lovely swelling plain by which the mountain is skirted from the river side, the lifting of the spirit, the old rush such as the sea always brings to me, came surging over us. The laurels were in full bloom, the air was heavy with the odor of clover & myriad blossoms and the whole scene radiant with the beauty of summer. Our late rains had given a new lustre to every leaf. We took a light carriage in the village, a place much changed since the old days of Rip Van Winkle and drove lightly up without luggage in three hours & ten minutes. A young driver with a pair of fine horses seemed both to enjoy throughly the rapid ascent, in strong contrast to the usual drag of 5 hours. The boy-driver had never read Irving’s story but had often heard of Rip Van Winkle. Who wrote the story do you know asked J. “Washington, didn’t he?” was the reply. He said his father came “from those parts” and had told him the story over and over until he was curious to come to see the place. It was “all flat” as the West where he passed his boyhood and the “first time I saw this I tell you, I never thought there could be such a place. Well, I just came to see it and I’ve stayed here ever since nigh on three years”.

The place where Rip had his long sleep and where a small wayside inn now stands overlooks a wonderful valley through a natural gorge. The sunset light made the whole place radiant with a beauty beyond itself as we ascended. Coming to the summit with hands full of laurel-blooms, we went out at once upon the magnificent plateau in front of the house and hardly left it again until we were obliged to come away altogether, except to stroll out back of the house in the moonlight where the tree toads were calling, and everything that lives in the woods and can stir at that weird hour. The sky was “living sapphire” where the sun had left it long before, the stars and planets were appearing in the east, the trees stood as if put upon the steps of heaven, and the whole scene was solemn with night and loveliness.

The next morning at breakfast the landlord described to us some members of the complex family necessary to be maintained at this height in order to carry the establishment properly forward. There is an old negro woman there who had not been off the mountain for 20 years. She went off on the plateau a few years ago back of the house and got lost and has never strayed away from the house door since. She can do little but peel potatoes now.

Today “J” and I are enjoying a lovely summer day at home. There are clouds in the sky with a half promise of rain. He is about among his books and just looked up to me laughingly to say “I must get a boy to pull my hair, this is too fine!—but the difficulty is to get the right boy!”.

Christine Nilsson’s fondness for slang, her way of catching it up and harping upon it, is her own. We shall not soon forget “Get along with yer damned mud scow, I won’t hav’ yer anyhow”! Her face is filled with changing light—nothing escapes from her memory in the way of music which she has once adopted, but she is full of freaks and whims. She promised to go over to Mr. Bryant’s house and sing, the last evening of our visit, but when the time came although a number of guests were invited, she said she was tired and would not go. There was nothing for it but to go without her. Of course Miss Bryant was disappointed. Christine stayed at home with her lover, whom we think she will never marry. His slight clever way of touching every topic, her terribly earnest womanly fashion; his light heartedness, her frantic revelry and thoughtfulness by turns, contrast heavily, and we could only feel that they were never to be man and wife—I shall not soon forget watching them upon the steam yacht as they sat murmuring songs in snatches to each other & to the company. She was giving a few notes of one of the most glorious contralto songs in the “Messiah” and she closed her eyes as if to listen better to the simple pathos of the melody. He looked at her and in a light laughing way pretended to wipe her tears away and immediately began to sing from the little “Faust”. We all laughed; we were all amused at his cheerful piping amiable French ways and his own little songs, but I wondered if Christine did not feel a lack and desire something further. She was but a child when they were engaged. She is a European however and will never be happy I think in America. She longs for the ease and graces of Europe. Her nature cannot live & spread without them. Musicians are indeed “born so.” The sound of the piano or banjo or voice were never silent in the house and I fancied she felt more at home there than she had for many a long day. Beside Mr. Godwin is like a father & I shall not forget when he came up to our group on the grass and asked where Maddermoiselle was or if there was any such a person. How prettily she rose and put her arms up to embrace him. He understands her well. We were all most jocose together because of “J’s suggestion on the night of our arrival that we should call each other by our Christian names & say “thee”. So it was “Christine” and “Parkey” & “Jimmy” during our stay. The laughter reached its full height when the gentlemen came from the yacht and we all called them also by their Christian names, having never seen them before.


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