[Manchester—Monday, 24 July 1871]

Monday morn. A young girl in a wagon under my window and unconscious of anything but utter village solitude is sitting waiting and singing to herself—nothing could be prettier—the undertone and constant repetition, the careless attitude, her sweeping hair, are all most lovely—they are a part of the sweeping tree which hangs above her and forms the only screen between us. It is a glimpse back. I seem to see myself under a tree I remember well—reading Italian now and then until the music of Nature overcomes all other music. What time is so sacred to noble idleness as youth and midsummer. I was sitting under an oak tree this morning when a gay group of people arrived and planted themselves quite near. At first I was absorbed and hardly heard them till a young girl jumping up and flinging back her hat with a shower of light beautiful hair shouted a pretty gabble of nonsense begging the back seats to give attention as she would speak loud enough for them to hear. The rapidity of her utterance and the manner as well as matter (which I was not near enough to hear) were very funny and the audience applauded rapturously—thinking I was too near to be honest I arose from my shelter and walked on—ah said she merrily in an undertone—there was somebody in the back seats after all!

They were all so merry it would have put a heart of merriment into Jaques and I could not help laughing as I went on.

Jamie and I had a delicious afternoon yesterday in the woods and by the shore. R.H. Dana. Father, Son, Grandson were walking together and greeted us as we sat by the sea. The old man of 80 years with white hair floating on his shoulders—his son a worn man of fifty or sixty, his son freshman at Cambridge who has just helped win in a boat race as stroke oar. I confessed to R.H. Dana (Two years before the Mast) my enjoyment at floating about here without thought of ownership. Ah! said he “my father has but one objection to this beautiful place and that is he owns it. He would like to rest upon it like a cloud but if a hoe handle is broken in the morning and he is told of it, it swells to fill the whole horizon before night.

In paradise, they are all ill—I mean the women of the house are nearly all so. Their household grief fills the place with solemnity, the voice of the sea is never so full of grief elsewhere.


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