Letter from Elizabeth H. Bartol, Boston, Massachusetts, to Anne Whitney, 1909 June 9
Boston. June 9. /09 My dear friend Anne Whitney I carried a good letter of yours through the Southern states and - brought it back again; & now since I came home, comes another proof of your remembrance of your most unworthy chum, - a fine photograph of the mask of Dante. Thank you for both, tardily it may be - most sincerely nevertheless. I can't excuse myself for not writing; but the world is very big & I am very small & I have been blown about for the last year like a grain of dust & hardly found my connection with anything past or to come, but only with the busy or very idle present. Do you want to know what my fortunes have been all this long time that I haven't given any sign of existence? Last summer Father was very ill & we went to Orford among the hills, & kept him in the open air hoping for good results. As the hot weather came, [deletion: home] we thought best to try the sea air & went to Pigeon Cove. There however matters didn't improve for Father grew worse & finally Mother gave out in sheer weariness & anxiety - Towards August we began to look up a little & went to Manchester & then began the talk about a sea voyage. I said I would go for I knew Mother never could & so finally it came about I hardly know how & the 17. of September we sailed from Boston Harbor for the Western Islands - A sea voyage on a sailing brig of 370 tons has a very rough side as well as a romantic one; but I wasn't sea sick nor very squeamish & I enjoyed the sea life very much. Father was exceedingly home sick & very unhappy & of course I was anxious about the result of the experiment though I never once doubted its expediency - we were on the brig 28 days - stopping one day at Fayal one at Madeira & reaching Tenerife as our moon's waning crescent faded away - for we started with the little new moon & I thought it a good omen. The deck of a sailing ship is the place to see the sea I am convinced - & nothing can be freer than the life on board such a vessel. We had a dozen passengers & all dressed & lived as they pleased - we were in the blue waters of the Gulf stream most of the way & we had calms & high winds & gulf weed & porpoises & no end of sea wonders - Fayal is a fairy land & Mr Dabney the King - Any thing more dazzling to weary voyagers than his gardens & hospitable mansion would be hard to imagine - We revelled on shore for half a day & then the bare-foot Portuguese boatmen rowed us back again to the brig. I could descant to your weariness I fear, on the models I saw at the Islands - In Madeira specialy the boat men seem a race of magnificent mermen! Their dress is almost nothing - simply a white garment about the hips - sometimes a shirt all open - sometimes a bright scarf to hold up the short trousers - and they rush in & out of the breakers to haul up or push off their boats, the only landing being on the open beach - no harbor at any of the islands - They are great swimmers & divers & beg to go over the side of your ship into 30 fathoms of water for a shilling, which they bring up between the teeth - Of course they catch it before it reaches the bottom, but it is just as wonderful. Two of them went over after the same [overwritten: thing] - a bit of tabacco & how they rolled over each other in a mad sort of aquatic gymnastics, brown backs all gleaming! The feet of these people are noticeable - They wear no shoes even when otherwise dressed and have the savage foot [sketch: triangle with four lines at top indicating toes] Dr Remineo used to describe - often very handsome always clean from constant washing; & I noticed they could cling as if their toes were fingers - At Teneriffe we spent nine days waiting for the English steamer from the coast of Africa - We went across the island to Orotava - the loveliest valley in the world Humboldt said - & I think it may be worthy of the compliment - The road is some thousands of feet above the sea which looks like a blue arch over the horizon & the valley rises to the Peak nearly 13.000 ft. about the sea level. We didn't see the Peak till sunset from the flat roof of the inn in the quaint little Spanish villa. In Madeira the beasts are bullocks - in Teneriffe donkeys & camels - I should not easily tire of watching a camel I think - but I am glad now to have left even camels & palms & bananas behind. We were five days in England - on the same side of the atlantic with you; & sailed for New York in the Scotia on the 7. of November. Father was much improved but Dr Talbot wouldn't hear to his going to work nor to his staying at home even, so in three weeks we pushed off again & traveling by land & making a detour into Western Virginia we spent a month in reaching Jacksonville Florida. I haven't much to say about the South except that I didn't like it; the only attraction to me is the darkeys; I do like them. But we met some pleasant people during our stay of nine weeks at Jacksonville & among others Mr & Mrs. Manning & Mr Henry Manning - We took the trip up the river St John which I didn't regret though it was hot & uncomfortable & we were all glad to be back. But I wouldn't have missed St. Augustine a bit of Spain you would hardly expect to see on these shores. We came home in April making a few short halts on the way & getting home in time for Father to preach the first Sunday in May as he wished - He is much better though not yet well & some days feeling as if he were losing ground; Mother holds her own wonderfully. We are planning to spend the summer at Manchester & leave town July 1.- I believe I have told you in short of our doings. Art hasn't flourished with me as you may suppose - I have done nothing all winter & but little since I came home - I like it as well as ever & don't mean it shall slip away again; but the South was not conducive - 60 looks very pleasant; Lizzy has been working there a little this winter & I have enjoyed my few weeks there very differently from the sea or the land so many miles away - We have two new works of art in our city - both an ornament & a 'joy forever' I think - one, Mr Brewer's gift - a bronze fountain with eight figures - the other the Ether monument with a statue by Quincy Ward atop & some pretty little designs on the base - I dare say however you know about both - All your letter so long ago, telling of your summer was delightful - I hear of you some times when I happen to meet one of your family, as I did in Philadelphia, Mr & Mrs Edward Whitney - & I want to find time to go to Belmont, though I don't yet 'see it' - The great excitement of the season is to be the Jubilee next week - I shall probably go for curiosity & to see the people. I lost Mr Hunt's class this winter of course. and a great loss it was. But I don't stop to think about it now, but hope he will do it again some time when I am here to be one. I should so like to know what you are doing - but won't ask questions nor expect you to answer such a tardy letter - Give much love to A.A.M. & a great deal to her AW - EHB.