[Wellesley—Saturday, 17 June 1876]

Saturday June 17. This noon we returned from a visit to Wellesley College and Mr. Hunnewell’s gardens. We found it warm in Boston yesterday where we arrived just about noon in season to pick up a few duds and to make one or two visits and for me to go to a meeting in behalf of the Old South before leaving for Wellesley. It was about five o’clock P.M. when we reached the grounds of the college. The sun was streaming across an exquisite lawn and the trees were flinging long shadows. The building when we approached it was beautiful indeed. After a most kind welcome and tea, where we were presented to several teachers, we were carried across the lake in a row-boat christened “Undine” by six young girls as oarsmen with a young teacher as captain. It was a lovely sight especially as we approached the shores of the gardens. Here we were met by Mr & Mrs. Durant who showed us the tent of azaleas and rhododendrons, the garden of roses, the garden of tropical plants & all the green wonders of the place. Mr. & Mrs Hunnewell also kindly came out and spoke to us. The sun was setting and nothing in the world of England or America in the way of a garden could have been more beautiful. We were driven into the smaller garden of Mrs Durant who cut a bouquet of her finest roses for us, huge glowing treasures.

Returning to the college dear J. read us his fine lecture on De Quincy and afterward we enjoyed an hour in the noble library of 10,000 volumes with our host and hostess.

I ought to give some faint idea of these good and rather strange people who at this mature period of their lives, having lost what was worth all else to them in this world, their only son and child, have turned all their influence and fortune and interest into the building of this monument for the education of girls. Mr. Durant’s hair is white now but his eyes are undimmed and his whole frame is full of youthful vigor. His shaven face makes it possible to see every change of expression on his calm countenance, for he is very calm; though a tireless, irresistible spirit. He hardly allows himself to speak of the weight of care which hangs upon him in this new undertaking. Thirty teachers who never agree, grounds which are never in order, 300 pupils with their varied needs and dissatisfactions—these numbers can only convey the faintest hint of the endless cares which depend upon the shoulders of this man. Yet he appears to be self possessed and ready always. His wife who has a more stirring energy is much involved in the care of the charities of Boston and does not have so large a burden here, although for the first three or four months she purchased everything used in the building in the way of food. There are but five servants in the establishment; a French cook and assistants. All the care of the tables and of the rooms being given over to the young ladies.

The Emperor Dom Pedro made a visit here this week. He called it a Paradise and in a letter to Mr. Durant written the afternoon he left he said, he had never excepted [sic] to see the ancient myth—the story of the Muses come true and spoke of the satisfaction Mr. Durant must take in such a noble occupation, what a compensation for the many trials of life, and wishing him all success he signed himself

“votre affectionné

Pedro

Vicomte d’Alcantara”.

We passed the night in what is called the Minister’s Room overlooking the beautiful lake and, after a pleasant breakfast with the young ladies, left in Mr. Durant’s Society for Boston.

We asked our host and hostess to come to see us in Manchester. “We are very fond of the sea” said Mrs. D. smiling “but you must ask my husband.” When I asked him, he also smiled and said they had not made a visit for ten years & he feared they could not now. In vain I told them that was the reason why. He said yes but he feared they could not get away. Evidently they are not only tied by cares, but they have some theory about their life wh. will not admit of much pleasuring. Perchance they are nearer right than most of us.


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