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The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss by George L. Prentiss

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appointed morning found her surrounded by a little group of from eight
to fifteen, each with an open Bible and all intent less to analyse
the word of God than to feed upon it and "grow thereby." And what a
wonderful teacher she was! Not neglectful of any helps that dictionary
or commentator might give, her chief source of light was none of these,
but was received in answer to the promise, "If any man will do the will
of God he shall know of the doctrine." She wished the service to be
entirely informal, and that each one present should do her part to aid
in the study. This brought out diverse views and different standards of
opinion. Here her keen intellect, her warm heart, the rich stores of her
experience and her "sanctified common sense" all found play, and many
of the words that fell from her lips dwell in the memory as little
less than inspired. The last winter of this service showed some marked
differences from previous years. As eager as ever to have questions
asked and answered by others, yet from the moment she commenced to speak
she scarcely paused till the hour was finished, her eyes sparkling and
her whole manner intensely earnest. Often those words of the Psalmist
passed through my mind, _The zeal of Thy house hath eaten me up._ Her
love for her work and zeal in doing it were visibly consuming her. At
the last meeting I asked her if she should commence the Bible-reading at
Dorset immediately. She said no, she must rest a little; she would wait
till her garden was made. When next I heard from her flowers and her
Bible-study she had made the "bound into home immortal." And all who
loved her must rejoice with her; else have we failed to learn one of the
clearest lessons of her life: _For me to live is Christ, and to die is

_To Mrs. Condict, Feb. 14, 1878._

Is it possible I had portiere on the brain when I wrote you last? I
thought I had just caught the disease. I am very fond of needle-work,
but for years have nearly abandoned it, because I could not thread my
needle. But the portiere is made with a large worsted needle and will
give me pleasant work for the evening. I am getting my hand in on a
contumacious closet door that won't stay open in my bedroom....

Imitation Macaroni,

By the author of Pemaquid:

Boil hominy overnight. Next day's dinner prepare like macaroni, with a
little milk and grated cheese and bake. Good for a change and cheaper.

_March 9th._--What an improvement on the old fashion of _reading_
the Bible is the present _search_ of the Word! It is, as you say,
fascinating work. I have just given M. an admirable book called
"Emphatic Diaglott," being the Greek Testament with a literal
translation; still even that can be misunderstood by one who has a false
theory to sustain. The spiritual conflicts I have passed through have
been a blessing, as I am beginning to see; I can understand better _how_
such conflicts may prepare one for work. This afternoon I have, as
usual, been getting ready for the Wednesday reading, and as I was
requested to speak of the Holy Spirit, have been poring over the Bible
and am astonished at the frequency and variety of passages in which
He is spoken of. But I feel painfully unfit to guide even this little
circle of women, and would be so glad to sit as a learner.

Some of the children were going, last Friday night, to see the Aquarium,
and some educated horses and dogs there, and they persuaded me to go.
The performance was wonderful, but I could not help thinking of all
these poor animals had gone through in learning all these incredible
feats; each horse responding to his own name, each dog barking in
response to his; two dogs hanging a third, cutting him down, when he lay
apparently dead, other dogs driving in, in a cart, and carrying away the
body; others waltzing on their hind legs, and others jumping the rope.
Two horses played see-saw, and one rolled a barrel up an inclined plane
with his fore legs; he _hated_ to do it. But the marvellous fishes and
sea-flowers charmed me most.

_To Mrs. Reed, New York, March 13, 1878._

... I have had a busy winter. We had a variety of losses, and I
undertook, therefore, to manufacture Reed, most of my Christmas
gifts, which were, chiefly, umbrella racks; this took time. Then my
Bible-reading uses up pretty much one day. I never felt so unfit for
it, or more determined to keep it up as long as one would come. Besides
that, I have read and painted more or less and sewed a good deal; on the
whole, have had more vacation than work, at least one looking on would
say so. But we all lead two lives, and one of them is penetrated and
understood by no mortal eye. I heard such a sermon from Dr. Bevan last
Sunday night on the text, "They saw God and did eat and drink." He
divided mankind into four classes: Those who do eat and drink and do not
see God; those who do not see Him and do not eat and drink; those who
see Him and do not eat and drink (he handled them tenderly); and those
who see Him and yet eat and drink. I hope I have made its outline plain
to you. It took hold of me.

_To Mrs. Donaghe, New York, April 26, 1878._

I am living my life among breakings-up; you gone, Mrs. Smith about to
flee to Northampton, and our neighbor Miss W. storing her furniture and
probably leaving New York for good. On the other hand, M. spends most of
her time in helping Mr. and Mrs. Talbot get to rights in apartments they
have just taken. Mr. T., as I suppose you know, is pastor of our Mission
and as good as gold. God has been pleased greatly to bless two ladies,
who attend the Bible-reading, and I am sure He loves to have us study
His Word. The more I dig into it the richer I find it, and I have had
some delightful hours this winter in preparing for my Wednesday work.

There is to be a Women's Exchange in this city, where everything
manufactured by them (except underclothing) will be exposed for sale;
embroidery, pickles, preserves, confectionery, and articles rejected by
the Society of Decorative Art. I hope it will be a success, and help
many worthy women, all over the land, to help themselves.... I find it
hard to consent to your having, at your age, to flit about from home to
home, but a loving Father has a mansion for you beyond all the changes
and chances of this strange complicated life. If He gives you His
presence, that will be a home. I wish you could visit us at Dorset.

A visit to Dorset was afterward arranged, and one of Mrs. Prentiss' last
letters was addressed to this old friend, giving her directions how to
get there. [3]

_To Mrs. Condict, New York, May 6, 1878._ My last Bible-reading, or
rather one of the last, was on prayer; as I could not do justice to
it in one reading, I concluded to make a resume of the whole subject.
Though I devoted all the readings to this topic last summer, yet it
loomed up wonderfully in this resume. Last week the subject was "the
precious blood of Christ," and in studying up the word "precious" I
lighted on these lovely verses, Deut. xxxiii. 13-16. Since I began to
_study_ the Bible, it often seems like a new book. And that passage
thrilled the ladies, as a novelty. I am to have but one more reading.
The last sermon I heard was on lying. That is not one of my besetting
sins, but, on the other hand, I push the truth too far, haggling about
evils better let alone. A. has just finished a splendid placque to
order; a Japanese figure, with exquisite foliage in black and grey as
background. I have a widow lady every Saturday to paint with me; she has
a large family, limited means, and delicate health; and I want to aid
her all I can. She enjoys these afternoons so much, and is doing so

The lady herself thus recalls these afternoons:

How dearly I should love to add but one little flower to her wreath of
immortelles! I cherish memories of her as among the pleasantest of my
life. I recall her room so bright and cheery, just like herself, and all
the incidents of those Saturday afternoons. When she first asked me to
paint with her, I thought it very kind, but with her multiplicity of
cares, felt it must be burdensome to her, and that possibly she would
even forget the invitation, and so I hesitated about going. But when the
week came round everything was made ready to give me a cordial welcome.
Again and again I found my chair, palette and other materials waiting
for me, while she sat in her little nook, busy as a bee over some
painting of her own.

One day, passing about the room, I saw on her book-shelves, arranged
with order and precision, nine little butter plates in the form of
pansies. I uttered an exclamation of delight, and she from her corner,
with the artlessness of a child, said, "I _put_ them there for you to
see." Another time she sprang up with her quick, light step, and ran to
the yard to fetch a flower for me to copy, apparently thoughtless of two
flights of stairs to tax her strength. Sometimes she would read to me
verses of poetry that pleased her. Once I remember her throwing herself
at my feet, and when I stopped to listen to the reading, she said, "Oh,
go right on with your painting." Now she would relate some amusing
anecdote that almost convulsed me with laughter, and then again speak of
some serious theme with such earnestness of feeling! She was eager to
give of her store of strength and cheer to others, but the store seemed
inexhaustible. The more she gave, the more one felt that there was
enough and to spare. I looked forward to my little weekly visit as to an
oasis in the desert; not that all else was bleak, but that spot seemed
to me so very refreshing and attractive.

Little did I think, when she loaded me down that last day with all I
could carry, then ran down to the parlor to show me some choice articles
there which she knew would give me pleasure--little did I think that I
should see her again no more! Not a day passed after leaving her that
she was not an inspiration to me. While painting a wayside flower I
would think, "Mrs. Prentiss would like this"--or, "In the fall I must
show that to Mrs. Prentiss." Even in my dreams she was present with me,
and one morning, only a little while before she passed from us, I waked
with a heavy burden upon my spirits--for it seemed to me as if she were
gone. The impression was so strong that I spoke of it at the time, and
for days could not throw it off. But at last, saying to myself, "Oh,
it is only a dream," I answered her little note, making, of course, no
reference to my strange feelings in regard to her. Her letter, by a
singular mistake, is dated "Kauinfels, _October_ 10, 1878," nearly two
months after she had fallen asleep. How just like her is this passage in
it: "I wish you could leave your little flock, and take some rest with
us. It would do you good, I am sure. Is it impossible? you do look so
tired." My letter in reply must have been one of the very last received
by her. In it I spoke of having just re-read Stepping Heavenward and
Aunt Jane's Hero, and of having enjoyed them almost as much as at the
first. This was, perhaps, one reason why she had been so constantly in
my thoughts. When the news came that she had left us, I was at first
greatly shocked and grieved--for I felt that I had lost no ordinary
friend--but when I considered how complete her life had been in all that
makes life noble and beautiful, and how meet it was that, having borne
the burden and heat of the day, she should now rest from her labors, it
seemed selfish to give way to sorrow and not rather to rejoice that she
had gone to be with Christ.

Scores of such grateful testimonies as this might be given. To all
who knew and loved her well, Mrs. Prentiss was "an inspiration." They
delighted to talk about her to each other and even to strangers. They
repeated her bright and pithy sayings. They associated her with favorite
characters in the books they read. The very thought of her wrought upon
them with gracious and cheering influence. An extract from a letter of
one of her old and dearest friends, written to her husband after her
death, will illustrate this:

On the very morning of her departure I had been conversing with my
physician about her. He spoke in admiration of her published works, and
I tried to give him a description of her personal characteristics. The
night before, in my hours of sleeplessness, I recounted the names
of friends who I thought had been most instrumental in moulding my
character, and Mrs. Prentiss led the list. How little did I dream that
already her feet had safely touched "the shining shore"! In all the
three and thirty years of our acquaintance I loved her DEARLY and
reverenced her most deeply; but between us there was such a gulf that I
always felt unworthy to touch even the hem of her garment. Whenever I
did touch it, strength and comfort were imparted to me. How much I was
indebted to her most tender sympathy and her prayers in my own great
sorrow, only another world will reveal. Is it not a little remarkable
that her last letter to me, written only a few weeks before her death,
closed with a benediction? I could go on talking about her without end;
for I have often said that there was more of her, and to her, and in
her, than belonged to any five women I ever knew. How exceedingly lovely
she was in her own home! I remember you once said to me, "The greatest
charm of my wife is, after all, her perfect naturalness." All who knew
her, must have recognised the same winning characteristic. She was
always fresh and always new--for she had "the well-spring of wisdom as
a flowing brook." ... Were you not struck, in reading Thomas Erskine's
letters on the death of Madame de Broglie, by the wonderful likeness
between her and dear Mrs. Prentiss? Twin sisters could scarcely have
resembled each other more perfectly. Such passages as the following
quite startled me:

Her friendship has been to me a great gift. She has been a witness to me
for God, a voice crying in the wilderness. She has been a warner and a
comforter. I have seen her continually thirsting after a spiritual union
with God. I have heard the voice of her heart crying after God out from
the midst of all things which make this life pleasant and satisfying....
She had all the gifts of mind and character--intelligence, imagination,
nobleness, and thoughts that wandered through eternity. She had a heart
fitted for friendship, and she had friends who could appreciate her; but
God suffered her not to find rest in these things, her ear was open to
His own paternal voice, and she became His child, in the way that the
world is not and knoweth not. I see her before me, her loving spirit
uttering itself through every feature of her beautiful and animated
countenance.... There was an unspeakable charm about her. She had a
truth and simplicity of character, which one rarely finds even in
the highest order of men. I know nobody like her now. I hope to pass
eternity with her. It is wonderful to think what a place she has
occupied in my life since I became acquainted with her.

You know it is my belief that we become better acquainted with our
friends after they have passed on "within the veil." And may it not
be that they become better acquainted with us, too, loving us more
perfectly and forgiving all that has been amiss? [4]

_To her eldest son, New York, May 12, 1878._

This is your father's birthday, and I have given him, to his great
delight, a Fairbanks postal scale. His twenty-years-old one would not
weigh newspapers or books, and it is time for an improvement on it.
On Thursday evening there was a festival at our church in aid of sick
mission children. Everybody was there with their children, and it was
the nicest affair we ever had. M. and I went and enjoyed it ever so
much. I took between four and five dollars to spend, though I had given
between twenty and thirty to the mission, but did not get a chance to
spend much, as Mr. M. took me in charge and paid for everything I ate.
Your father and I rather expect to go to East River, Conn., tomorrow to
help Mrs. Washburn celebrate her seventieth birthday; but the weather is
so cold he doubts whether I had better go. A. went on a long drive on
Friday and brought back a host of wild flowers, which I tried with some
failure and some success to paint.

_May 19th._--We went to East River on Monday afternoon and came home on
Thursday, making a delightful visit. On Tuesday Mrs. W. and I went to
Norwich to see the Gilmans. I was very tired when we got back, and had
to go to bed at half-past seven. The next day it rained; so Mrs. W. and
I fell to painting. She became so interested in learning Mrs. Fisher's
system that she got up at five the next morning and worked two hours. In
the evening your father gave his lecture at a little club-room, got up
chiefly by Mr. and Mrs. Washburn at their own expense. It is just such
a room as I should like to build at Dorset. On Thursday morning Mrs.
W. took me out to drive through their own woods and dug up some wild
flowers for me. A. has a Miss Crocker, an artistic friend from Portland,
staying with her--a very nice, plucky girl. She wants me to let her take
my portrait. [5] H. is full of a story of a pious dog, who was only fond
of people who prayed, went to church regularly, and, when not prevented,
to all the neighborhood prayer-meetings, which were changed every week
from house to house; his only knowledge of where they would be held
being from Sunday notices from the pulpit! I believe this the more
readily because of Pharaoh's always going to my Bible-reading at Dorset
and never barking there, whereas if I went to the same house to call he
barked dreadfully.

We are constantly wondering what you boys will be. Good men, I hope, at
any rate. Good-night, with a kiss from your affectionate mother.

The substance of the following letter of Mrs. Washburn, giving an
account of the visit to East River, as also her impressions of Mrs.
Prentiss, was written in response to one received by her from an old
friend in Turk's Island: [6]

I am most thankful that we had that last visit from dear Mrs. Prentiss.
It was a rare favor to us that she came. Her health was very delicate,
and a slight deviation from the regular routine of home life was apt to
give her sleepless nights. Dr. P. had sent us word that he was going to
be in New Haven, and would give us a call before returning to New York.
We' were overjoyed at the prospect of seeing him, and wrote immediately
begging Mrs. Prentiss to come with him. She, ever ready to sacrifice her
own ease for the sake of giving pleasure to others, and knowing that the
15th of May would be my 70th anniversary, and that I perfectly longed to
see her, took the risk of personal suffering upon herself to satisfy my
earnest desire, and came. They arrived on the 13th in the late afternoon
train. She was so bright and cheerful it was difficult to notice any
traces of the weariness which she must have felt.

We passed a delightful evening, and as Dr. P. was to spend a part of the
next day in New Haven, we formed a plan for Mrs. Prentiss and me to
go to Norwich at the same time and make a brief visit to our mutual
friends, the Misses Gilman. Mr. Washburn telegraphed to them that we
were coming. On arriving at New London we found, to our dismay, that we
had been misinformed in regard to the trains, and that the one we had
taken did not connect with the one to Norwich, which had been gone two
hours. So there we were, left alone on the platform, strangers in the
place, with no means of either going on or returning. What should we do?
Our first thought was to procure, if possible, some conveyance to take
us to Norwich and back; but this we found could not be done, for want of
time, the distance between the two cities being fourteen miles or more.
Fortunately for us, a young lad appeared, who promised to take us to our
friends in Norwich, allow us half an hour to spend with them, and drive
to the station there in time for the return train to New London and East
River. He looked so honest and true that we felt we could trust him, and
we acceded to his terms at once. As soon as he could get his carriage
ready we started off on our untried way.

It began at the foot of a long hill, and continued up and down over a
succession of the same kind, with very rare exceptions of a level space
between them, through the whole distance. But the scenery was so varied
and beautiful, we thought if our only object in setting out had been a
drive, we could not have chosen one more charming. The weather was fine,
and dear Mrs. Prentiss in her happiest mood. As for me, nothing marred
my enjoyment but fear that the fatigue would be too much for her, and an
undercurrent of anxiety lest by some mishap we should fail to re-arrive
at the home-station in time to meet our husbands who would be waiting
for us. But if she had any such misgivings nothing in word or manner
betrayed it. So entire was her self-control, and so delicate her tact,
not to throw the faintest shadow across the wisdom of my precipitate
arrangements. She was as happy as a bird all the way, and talked

We found our friends had been in a state of great excitement on our
account, having received the telegram, and knowing that we had taken the
wrong train; so that our unexpected arrival was greeted with even more
than their usual cordiality; and they were specially gratified to see
Mrs. Prentiss, who almost without looking, discovered a hundred beauties
in and around their lovely home, which it would have taken the eyes of
an ordinary guest a week to notice. The very shortness of our time to
stay, intensified our enjoyment while it lasted. Our half hour was soon
over, and we came away with our hands full of flowers and our hearts as
full of love.

We arrived in good time and met our husbands waiting for us at the
station. Dear Mrs. Prentiss did not appear to be very much fatigued
while recounting in her inimitably pleasant manner the various
experiences of the day. A restful night prepared her for the quiet
enjoyments of the next day, which we spent mostly at home, merely making
short calls in the morning on my two sisters, and slowly driving, or
rather, as I call it, "taking a walk in the buggy," through the woods,
stopping every few minutes to look at, or gather ferns or mosses or
budding wild flowers that could not escape her beauty-loving eye. The
afternoon we remained in the house, occupied with our pencils. She
painted a spray of trailing arbutus, talking while she was doing it, as
nobody else could, about things beloved and fair. Our darling Julia was
with us, completely charmed with her, and as busy as we, trying with her
little hands to make pictures as pretty as ours.

In the evening Dr. P. gave his most interesting lecture on
"Recollections of Hurstmonceaux" in our reading-room; but Mrs. Prentiss
was not able to go, which I regretted the more because I knew many
ladies would be there who came almost as much to see her as to hear him.
They were greatly disappointed, but enjoyed every word of the lecture,
as well they might. The next day was all too short. It seemed to me that
I _could not_ let them go. But she had more than enough for her ever
busy hands and mind and heart to do in preparation for going to her
summer home, and we _had_ to say good-bye.

A few short, characteristic, loving notes came from the city, before she
left, and I did not hear from her at Dorset till the overwhelming news
came of her death. I could not control my grief. Little Julia tried to
comfort me with her sweet sympathy. "Dear grandma," she said, "I am
sorry too. I can not feel so bad as you do, because you loved her so
much, and you loved her so long; but _I_ loved her too, and I can think
just how she looked when she sat right there by that little table
talking, and painting those beautiful flowers. Oh! I am very sorry."
And here the poor child's tears flowed again with mine. So will all the
children who knew her say, "We remember just how she looked." Yes, there
was no mistaking or forgetting that kindly, loving "look." Julia's
mother had felt its influence from her own early childhood till she left
her precious little one to receive it in her stead. To each of these
half-orphaned ones in turn, I had to read "Little Susy's Six Birthdays,"
and both always said to me when I finished, "Please read it again."

She could read and understand the heart of children through and through,
as indeed she could everybody's. And that was, perhaps, her chiefest
charm; a keen eye to see and a true heart to sympathise and love. She
was absolutely sincere, and no one could help feeling that she was so.
We felt ourselves fairly imaged when standing before her, as in a clear
plate-glass mirror. There were no distorted lines caused by her own
imperfections; for although she considered herself "compassed with
infirmity," no one else could take such a view of her, but only saw the
abundant charity which could cover and forgive a multitude of failings
in others. We felt that if there was any good in us, she knew it, and
even when she saw them "with all our faults she loved us still," and
loved to do us good.

You would like me to tell you "how she looked." You can form some idea
from her picture, but not an adequate one. Her face defied both the
photographer's and the painter's art. The crayon likeness, taken shortly
before her death by Miss Crocker, a young artist from Maine, is, in
some respects, excellent. The eyes and mouth--not to speak of other
features--are very happily reproduced. She was of medium height, yet
stood and walked so erect as to appear taller than she really was.
Her dress, always tasteful, with little or no ornament that one could
remember, was ever suited to the time and place, and seemed the most
becoming to her which could have been chosen. She was perfectly natural,
and, though shy and reserved among strangers, had a quiet, easy grace of
manner, that showed at once deference for them and utter unconsciousness
of self. Her head was very fine and admirably poised. She had a
symmetrical figure, and her step to the last was as light and elastic as
a girl's.

When I first knew her, in the flush and bloom of young maternity, her
face scarcely differed in its curving outlines from what it was more
than a quarter of a century later, when the joys and sorrows of
full-orbed womanhood had stamped upon it indelible marks of the
perfection they had wrought. Her hair was then a dark-brown; her
forehead smooth and fair, her general complexion rich without much depth
of color except upon the lips. In silvering her clustering locks time
only added to her aspect a graver charm, and harmonised the still more
delicate tints of cheek and brow. Her eyes were black, and at times
wonderfully bright and full of spiritual power; but they were shaded
by deep, smooth lids which gave them when at rest a most dove-like
serenity. Her other features were equally striking; the lips and chin
exquisitely moulded and marked by great strength as well as beauty. Her
face, in repose, wore the habitual expression of deep thought and a soft
earnestness, like a thin veil of sadness, which I never saw in the same
degree in any other. Yet when animated by interchange of thought and
feeling with congenial minds, it lighted up with a perfect radiance of
love and intelligence, and a most beaming smile that no pen or pencil
can describe--least of all in my hand, which trembles when I try to
sketch the faintest outline.

Hundreds of heart-stirring memories crowd upon me as I write, but it
is impossible to give them expression. Her books give you the truest
transcript of herself. She wrote, as she talked, from the heart. To
those who knew her, a written page in almost any one of them recalls her
image with the vividness of a portrait; and they can almost hear her
musical voice as they read it themselves. But, alas! in reality--

No more her low sweet accents can we hear
No more our plaints can reach her patient ear.
O! loved and lost, oh! trusted, tried, and true,
O! tender, pitying eyes forever sealed;
How can we bear to speak our last adieu?
How to the grave the precious casket yield,
And to those old familiar places go
That knew thee once, and never more shall know?

I hear from heaven a voice angelic cry,
"Blessed, thrice blessed are the dead who lie
Beneath the flowery sod and graven stone."
"Yea," saith the answering Spirit, "for they rest
Forever from the labors they have done.
Their works do follow them to regions blest;
No stain hereafter can their lustre dim;
The dead in Christ from henceforth live in Him."

O! doubly dear transfigured friend on high,
We, through our tears, behold thine eyelids dry.
By Him who suffered once, and once was dead,
But liveth evermore through endless days,
God hath encircled thy redeemed head
With rays of glory and eternal praise,
And with His own kind hand wiped every trace
Of tears, and pain and sorrow from thy face.

C. W.
WILDWOOD, March 7, 1880.

One of the notes referred to is as follows:

DEAR MRS. WASHBURN:--If you judge by my handwriting, you will have to
conclude that I am 100 years old. But it all comes of my carrying a
heavy bag too long, and is all my own fault for trying to do too many
errands in one trip. Your dear little chair, the like of which I should
love to give to 540 people, only cost $2.50, so I enclose my check
for the rest of your $10. We sent off Mrs. Badger's parcel early this
morning. I hope digging and driving and packing and climbing in my
behalf, has not quite killed you. A lot of flowers in two boxes came to
me from Matteawan while I was gone, and as my waitress fancied I had
been shopping--as if I _should_ shop at East River!--she did not open
the boxes or inform the children, so the spectacle of withered beauty
was not very agreeable. A. and M. send love and thanks. The flowers you
gave me look beautifully. Give our love to Mr. W. and Julia, and write
about her. We shall not soon forget our charming visit to East River!

In acknowledging this note Mrs. Washburn alludes to one of Mrs.
Prentiss' most striking traits--the eager promptitude with which she
would execute little commissions for her friends. It was as if she had
taken a vow that there should not be one instant's delay.

I do hope you have not been made sick by doing so many errands in such
a short time. The little chair has come and Mr. W. is much pleased with
it. Nobody is so punctual as you. We were all amazed at receiving the
picture so soon. How could you possibly have gotten home and packed it
and marked the catalogues and bought the chair and written the check and
sent me the little package of Japanese corn-seed and written me the note
and have had a moment even to look at A.'s portrait? It is a mystery to
me. You are a wonder of a woman! You are a genius! You are a _beloved
friend!_ I thank you again and again. Just think of the good you have
done us. Shall I send you some more daisies? I have written in the
greatest haste. That is the reason I have done no better and not because
I am seventy years old.

Here is her last note to Mrs. Washburn, dated June 3:

The box of daisies, clover, and grass came on Saturday. We set the
plants out in the box in which they came, and mixed the grass with what
cut flowers we had, in the very prettiest receptacle for flowers I ever
saw, just given M. The plants look this morning like a piece of Wildwood
and a piece of you, and will gladden every spring we live to see....
We are packing for Dorset, though we do not mean to go if this weather
lasts. I wonder if you have a "daily rose"? I have just bought one;
first heard of it at the Centennial. It is said to bloom every day from
May to December.

I am going out, now, to do ever so many errands for H.'s outfit for
college. Give our dear love to Mr. Washburn and Julia. O, what a mercy
it is to have somebody to love. [7]

On the 6th of June Mrs. Prentiss went to Dorset for the last time. Her
husband, after her departure, thus referred to this period:

For four or five weeks after coming here she was very much occupied
about the house, and seemed rather weary and care-worn. But the pressure
was then over and she had leisure for her flowers and her painting, for
going to the woods with the girls, and for taking her favorite drives
with me. She spoke repeatedly of you and other friends. On the 23d
of July I started for Monmouth Beach. The week preceding this little
journey was one of the happiest of our married life. No words can tell
how sweet and loving and bright--in a word, how just like herself--she
was. The impassion of that week accompanied me to the sea-side and
continued with me during my whole stay there. As day after day I sat
looking out upon the ocean, or walked alone up and down the shore, she
was still in all my thoughts. The noise of the breakers, the boundless
expanse of waters, the passing ships, going out and coming in, recalled
similar scenes long ago on the coast of Maine, before and after our
marriage--scenes with which her image was indissolubly blended. Then
I met old friends and found new ones, who talked to me with grateful
enthusiasm of "Stepping Heavenward," "More Love to Thee, O Christ," and
other of her writings. In truth, my feelings about her, while I was
at Monmouth Beach, were quite peculiar and excite my wonder still. I
scarcely know how to describe them. They were at times very intense,
and, I had almost said, awe-struck, seemed bathed in a sweet Sabbath
stillness, and to belong rather to the other world than to this of time
and sense. How do you explain this? Was my spirit, perhaps, touched in
some mysterious way by the coming event? Certainly, had I been warned
that she was so soon to leave me, I could hardly have passed those days
of absence in a mood better attuned to that in which I now think of her
as forever at home with the Lord.

The following are two of her last letters:

_To Mrs. Condict, Kauinfels, July 22, 1878._

To begin with the most important part of your letter. I reply that
neither Mr. Prentiss or myself have ever had any sympathy with Second
Adventists. All the talk about it seems to us mere speculation and
probable doom to disappointment. I do not see that it is as powerful a
stimulant to holiness as the uncertainty of life is. Christ may come any
day; but He may not come for ages; but we must and _shall_ die in the
merest fragment of an age, and see Him as He is. It will be a day
of unspeakable joy, when we meet Him here or there. I shrink from
unprofitable discussion of points that, after all, can only be tested by
time and events. I do not think our expecting Christ will bring Him a
minute sooner, for the early church expected Him, yet He came not. There
has been so much wildness in theories on this subject that I am sore
when I hear new ones advanced; none of these theories have proved to be
correct, and I do not imagine any of them will.

I have been busy indoors, upholstering not only curtains and couches,
but ever so many boxes, as our bureaus are shallow and our closets
small. I made one for A. large enough for her to get into, and she uses
it as she would a room, suspending objects from the sides and keeping
all her artistic implements in it. I began my Bible-reading last
Thursday, the hottest day we have had; but there was a good attendance.
My G. met with an accident from the circular saw which alarmed and
distressed me so that his father had to hartshorn and fan me, while
the girls did what they could for G. till the doctor could be got from
Factory Point. His eyebrow was cut open and his forehead gashed, but all
healed wonderfully, and we have reason to be thankful that he did not
lose an eye, as he was so near doing. At any time when you must have
change, let me know, as there are often gaps between guests, and
sometimes those we expected, fail. Mr. Prentiss is, apparently,
benefited by hot weather, and is unusually well. Thanks for the needles,
which will be a great comfort. Have you painted a horse-shoe? I had
one given me; black ground and blue forget-me-nots, and hung by a blue
ribbon. I am going to paint one for M. and Hatty. I feel as if I had
left out something I wanted to say.

_To Mrs. George Payson, Kauinfels, Aug. 1, 1878._

I am all alone in the house, this evening, and as this gives me room at
the table, I am going to begin to answer your letter. George is out of
town, and all the rest, including the servants, have gone to see the
Mistletoe Bough. It is astonishing how slowly you get well; and yet
with such heat and such smells as you have in Chicago, it is yet more
astonishing that you live at all. I thought it dreadful to have the
thermometer stand at 90 deg. in my bedroom, three weeks running, and to
sniff a bad sniff now and then from our pond, when the water got low,
but I see I was wrong. We have next to no flowers this summer; white
flies destroyed the roses, frost killed other things, and then the three
weeks of burning heat, with no rain, finished up others. Portulacca is
our rear-guard, on which we fall back, filling empty spaces with it,
and I grow more fond of it every year. A good many verbenas sowed
themselves, but came up too late to be of any use. We have a splendid
bed of pansies, sown by a friend here.

I have not done much indoors but renovate the house, but that has been a
great job. I brought up a Japanese picture-book to use as a cornice in
my den, but A. persuaded me to get some wall paper, and use the pictures
as a dado for the dining-room. The effect is very unique and pretty. I
expect George home to-morrow; he has been spending a delightful week at
Monmouth Beach, visiting friends. I wish I could send you some of our
delicious ice-cream. We have it twice a week, with the juices of what
fruit is going; peaches being best. We have not had much company yet.
Last Saturday a friend of A.'s came and goes with her to Prout's Neck
to-morrow. We do not count Hatty K. as company, but as one of us. She
gets the brightest letters from Rob S., son of George. I should burst
and blow up if my boys wrote as well. They have telephone and microphone
on the brain, and such a bawling between the house and the mill you
never heard. It is nice for us when we want meal, or to have a horse
harnessed. Have you heard of the chair, with a fan each side, that fans
you twenty-five minutes from just seating yourself in it. It must be
delightful, especially to invalids, and ought to prolong life for
them.... The clock is striking nine, my hour for fleeing to get ready
for bed, but none of the angels have come home from the Mistletoe Bough,
and so I suppose I shall have to make haste slowly in undressing. Love
to all.

_Aug. 3d._--I am delighted that you enjoyed the serge so much; I knew
you would. I forgot to answer your question about books. Have you read
"Noblesse Oblige"? We admire it extremely. There are two works by this
title; one poor. I read "Les Miserables" last winter, and got greatly
interested in it; whether there is a good English translation, I do not
know. "That Lass o' Lowrie's" you have probably read. I saw a Russian
novel highly praised the other day; "Dosea," translated from the French
by Mary Neal (Sherwood); "Victor Lascar" is said to be good. I have,
probably, praised "Misunderstood" to you. "Strange Adventures of a
Phaeton" we liked; also "The Maid of Sker" and "Off the Skelligs"; its
sequel is "Fated to be Free."

Two tongues are running like mill-clappers, so good-night.

* * * * *


Little Incidents and Details of her last Days on Earth. Last Visit
to the Woods. Sudden Illness. Last Bible-reading. Last Drive to
Hager-Brook. Reminiscence of a last Interview. Closing Scenes. Death.
The Burial.

Her last days on earth were now close at hand. Such days have in
themselves, of necessity, no virtue above other days; and yet a tender
interest clings to them simply as the last. Their conjunction with
death and the Life beyond seems to invest whatsoever comes to pass in
them--even trifles light as air--with unwonted significance. Soon after
her sudden departure her husband noted down, for the satisfaction of
absent friends, such little incidents and details as could be recalled
of her last ten days on earth. The following is a part of this simple

_Sunday, Aug. 4, 1878._--To-day she went to the house of God for the
last time; and, as would have been her wish, had she known it was for
the last time, heard me preach. There was much in both the tone and
matter of the sermon, that made it seem, afterwards, as if it had been
written in full view of the approaching sorrow. A good deal of the day
at home was spent in getting ready for her Bible-reading on the ensuing
Thursday. At four o'clock in the afternoon she and the girls, M. and H.,
usually drove in the phaeton over to the Rev. Mr. Reed's, on the West
road, to attend a neighborhood prayer-meeting; but to-day, on account of
a threatening thunder-shower, they did not go. She enjoyed this little
meeting very much.

_Monday, Aug. 5th._--Soon after breakfast, she and the girl--"we three
girls," as she used to say--started off, carrying each a basket, for
the Cheney woods in quest of ferns; it having been arranged that at ten
o'clock I should come with the phaeton to fetch her and the baskets
home. The morning, although warm, was very pleasant and all three were
in high spirits. Before leaving the house, she ran up to her "den"--so
she called the little room where she wrote and painted--to get
something; and on passing out of it through the chamber, where just
then I was shaving, she suddenly stopped, and pointing at me with
her forefinger, her eye and face beaming with love and full of sweet
witchery, she exclaimed in a tone of pretended anger: "How dare you,
sir, to be shaving in my room?" and in an instant she was gone! A minute
or two later I looked after her from the window and saw her, with her
two shadows, hurrying towards the woods. At the time appointed, I went
for her. She awaited me sitting on the ground on the further side of
the woods, near the old sugar-house. The three baskets, all filled with
beautiful ferns, were placed in the phaeton and we drove home.

The Cheney woods, as we call them, form one of the attractions of
Dorset. They are quite extensive, abound in majestic sugar-maples, some
of which have been "tapped," it is said, for more than sixty successive
seasons, and at one point in them is a water-shed dividing into two
little rivulets, one of which, after mingling with the waters of the
Battenkill and the Hudson, finds its way at last into the Atlantic
Ocean; while the other reaches the same ocean through Pawlet River, Lake
Champlain and the St. Lawrence River. These woods and our own, together
with the mountain and waterfall and groves beyond Deacon Kellogg's,
where she often met her old friend "Uncle Isaac," [8] were her favorite

A little while after returning home I found her in her little room,
looking well and happy, and busy with her brush. The girls, also, on
reaching the house found her there. But somewhat later, without our
knowledge, she went out and worked for a long time on and about the
lawn. There was a breeze, but the rays of the sun were scorchingly hot
and she doubtless exerted herself, as she was always tempted to do,
beyond her strength. I was occupied until noon at the mill and later,
in the field, watching the men cradling oats. On coming in to dinner, a
little past one, I was startled not to find her at the table, "Where is
mamma?" said I to M. "She is not feeling very well," M. answered, "and
said she would not come down, as she did not want any dinner." I ran
up-stairs, found her in her little room, and asked her what was the
matter. She replied that she had been troubled with a little nausea and
felt weak, but it was nothing serious. I went back to the table, but
with a worried, anxious mind. Somewhat later she lay down on the bed and
the prostration became so great, that I rubbed her hands vigorously and
administered hartshorn. It occurred to me at once that she had
barely escaped a sunstroke. After rallying from this terrible fit of
exhaustion, she seemed quite like herself again, and listened with much
interest while the girls read to her out of Boswell's Johnson. She was
in a sweet, gentle mood all the afternoon. "I prayed this morning," she
said, "that I might be a comfort to-day to everybody in the house."

_Tuesday, Aug.6th._--She passed the day in bed; feeble, but otherwise
seeming still like herself. In the course of the morning we persuaded
her to let Margaret, Eddy's old nurse, make her some milk-toast, which
she enjoyed so much that she said, "I wish, Margaret, you were well
enough to come and be our cook." M. had taken the place of our two
servants, who were gone to East Dorset to a Confirmation, at which their
bishop was to be present. Throughout the day she was in a very tender,
gentle mood, as she had been on the previous afternoon. She was much
exercised by the sudden death of the mother of one of our servants, the
news of which came while they were away. Had the case been that of
a near relative, she could hardly have shown warmer sympathy, or
administered consolation in a more considerate manner.

During the day there was more or less talk about the Bible-reading and I
begged her to give it up. We finally agreed that the girls should drive
over to Mrs. Reed's and ask her to take charge of it. They did so; but
at Mrs. R.'s suggestion it was decided not to give up the meeting, but
to convert it, if needful, into a little service of prayer and praise.
This arrangement seemed to please her. Although feeling very weak, she
did not appear at all depressed and was alive to everything that was
going on in the room. The girls having written to a friend who was to
visit us the next week, she asked if they had mentioned her illness.
They both replied no--for each supposed the other had done it. "Then
(said she) you had better add a postscript, telling her that I lie at
the point of death."

_Wednesday, Aug. 7th._--A beautiful day. She got up, put on a
dressing-gown, and sat most of the day in the easy-chair, or rather the
_sea_-chair, given us by my dear friend, Mr. Howland, when we went to
Europe in 1858. She looked very lovely and we all enjoyed sitting and
talking with her in her chamber. The girls arranged her hair to please
their own taste, and then told her how very charming she was! She liked
to be petted by them; and they were never so happy as in petting and
"fussing" about her. She spent an hour or two in looking over a package
of old Agriculturists, that had belonged to her brother-in-law, Prof.
Hopkins, of Williams College. She delighted in such reading, and nothing
curious and interesting, or suggestive, escaped her notice. She called
my attention to an article on raising tomatoes, and cut it out for me;
and also cut out many other articles for her own use.

Towards night she dressed herself and came down to tea. She remained in
the parlor, talking with me and the boys, and reading the paper, until
the girls returned from the Wednesday evening meeting. Something had
occurred to excite their mirth, and they came home in such a "gale" that
she playfully rebuked them for being so light-minded. But at the same
time she couldn't help joining in their mirth. In truth, she was quite
as much a girl as either of them; and her laugh was as merry.

_Thursday, Aug. 8th._--She seemed to feel much better this morning.
Before getting up we talked about her Bible-reading, and she asked me
various questions concerning the passage that was to be its theme,
namely, John xv. 27. She referred particularly to our Lord's sayings, at
the beginning of the sixteenth chapter, on the subject of persecution,
and told me how very strange and impressive they seemed to her, coming,
as they did, in the midst of His last conversation with His disciples--a
conversation so full of divine tenderness and love. This was almost the
last of innumerable and never-to-be-forgotten talks which we had had
together, during more than a third of a century, upon passages of Holy

After breakfast she went to her workshop and painted six large titles;
and then went down to the piazza and painted a chair for Hatty. She also
assisted the girls in watering her flowers. "She came round to the back
stoop Thursday morning (one of the servants told me afterwards) and I
said to her, 'Mis Prentiss, and how d'ye feel?' and she said, 'Ellen, I
feel _weak_, but I shall be all right when I get my strength.'" I still
felt troubled about her holding the Bible-reading and tried to dissuade
her from attempting it. She had set her heart upon it, however, and said
that the disappointment at giving it up would be worse than the exertion
of holding it. Her preparation was all made; the ladies would be there,
some of them from a distance, expecting to see her, and she could not
bear to lose the meeting. So I yielded. We were expecting Dr. Vincent by
the afternoon train and I was to go to the station for him. Just as I
was seated in the carriage and was about to start, she came out on the
porch, already dressed for the Bible-reading, and with an expression of
infinite sweetness, half playful and half solemn, pointing at me with
her finger, said slowly: "_You pray--one--little--prayer for me_." Never
shall I forget that arch expression--so loving, so spiritual, and yet
so stamped with marks of suffering--the peculiar tones of her voice, or
that dear little gesture!

Of her last Bible-reading the following brief account is prepared from
the recollections kindly furnished me by several of the ladies who were


There was something very impressive in Mrs. Prentiss' Bible-readings.
She seemed not unlike her gifted father in the power she possessed of
captivating those who heard her. Her manner was perfectly natural,
quiet, and even shy; it evidently cost her considerable effort to speak
in the presence of so many listeners. She rarely looked round or even
looked up; but a sort of magnetic influence attracted every eye to _her_
and held all our hearts in breathless attention. Her style was entirely
conversational; her sentences were short, clear as crystal, full of
happy turns, and always fresh and to the point. The tones of her voice
were peculiar; I scarcely know how to describe them; they had such a
fine, subtle, _womanly_ quality, were touched--especially at this last
reading--with such tenderness and depth of feeling; I only know that as
we heard them, it was almost as if we were listening to the voice of an
angel! And they are, I am sure, echoing still in all our memories.

The first glance at her, as she entered the room, a little before three
o'clock on the 8th of August, showed that she was not well. Her eyes
were unusually bright, but the marks of recent or approaching illness
were stamped upon her countenance. It was lighted up, indeed, with even
unwonted animation and spiritual beauty; but it had also a pale and
wearied look. The reading was usually opened with a silent prayer and
closed with two or three short oral prayers. The subject this afternoon
was the last verse of the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel according to
John: _And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from
the beginning_. Witnessing for Christ, this was her theme. She began by
giving a variety of Scripture references illustrative of the nature and
different forms of Christian witness-bearing. It was her custom always
to unfold the topic of the reading, and to verify her own views of it,
by copious and carefully prepared citations from the Word of God. A
Bible-reading, as she conducted it, was not merely a study of a text,
or passage of Scripture, by itself, but study of it in its vital
relations to the whole teaching of the Bible on the subject in hand. In
the present instance her references were all written out and were so
numerous and so skilfully arranged that they must have cost her no
little labor. Feeling, apparently, too feeble to read them herself, she
turned to her daughter, who sat by her mother's side, and requested her
to do it.

After the references had been given and the passages read, she went on
to express her own thoughts on the subject. And, surely, had she been
fully conscious that this was the last opportunity she would ever have
of thus bearing witness for Christ, her words could not have been more
happily chosen. Would that they could be recalled just as they issued
from her own lips! But it is not possible so to recall them. One might
as well try to reproduce the sunset scene on the evening of her burial.
For even if the exact words could be repeated, who could bring back
again her tender, loving accents, or that strange earnestness and
"unction from the Holy One" with which they were uttered? Or who could
bring back again the awe-struck, responsive emotions that thrilled our
hearts? The simplest outline of this farewell talk is all that is now
practicable. Had we known what was coming, our memories would, no doubt,
have been rendered thereby sevenfold more retentive, and little that
fell from her lips would have been lost.

Her first point was the great variety of ways in which we can bear
witness for Christ. We can do it in private as well as in public; and it
is in the private spheres and familiar daily intercourse of life
that most of us are called to give this testimony, and to give it by
manifesting in this intercourse and in these retired spheres the spirit
of our Master. What an opportunity does the family, for example, afford
for constant and most effective witness-bearing! How a mother may honor
Christ in what she says to her children about Him and especially by the
manner in which she fulfils her every-day home duties! How a wife may
thus testify of Christ to her worldly, unconverted husband! And here she
spoke of one form of _public_ testimony which everybody might and ought
to give. "I can not (she said) see all the faces in this room but there
may be those here who have never confessed Christ before men by uniting
with His visible church. Let me tell any such who may be present that
they are grieving their Saviour by refusing to give Him this testimony
of their love and devotion."

In referring to this subject she remarked that young persons, after
having united with the church, sometimes felt greatly disheartened and
thought themselves the worst Christians in the world. But this was often
a very wrong feeling. Their sense of their own weakness and unworthiness
might come from the Holy Comforter; and we should be very careful how we
treat Him. His influence is a very tender, sacred thing, and, like the
sensitive plant, recoils at the touch of a rude hand. I have wanted, she
said, to speak _cheerful, comforting_ words to you to-day. It was the
particular desire of my husband this morning that I should do so. He
thought that young Christians, especially, needed much encouragement on
this point. It was a great thing to lead them to feel that they could
please their Master and be witnesses for Him in quiet, simple ways, and
that, too, every day of their lives. Our Lord, to be sure, does not
really _need_ our services. He could quite easily dispense with them.
But He lets us work for Him somewhat as a mother lets her little child
do things for her--not because she needs the child's help, but because
she loves to see the child trying to please her. "And yet, Mrs. Prentiss
(asked one of the ladies), does there not come a time when the child is
really of service to the mother?" "I thank you for the suggestion (she
replied); I left my remark incomplete. Yes, it is true such a time does
come. And so, in a certain sense, it may be said, perhaps, that God
needs the services of His children. But how easily He can dispense with
the best and most useful of them! One may seem to have a great task to
perform in the service of the Master, but in the midst of it he is taken
away, and, while he is missed, the work of God goes right on. God does
not see such a difference as we do, she said, between what we call
great and small services rendered to Him. A cup of cold water given in
Christ's name, if that is all one can give, is just as acceptable as the
richest offering; and so is a tea-spoonful, if one has no more to give.
Christ loves to be loved; and the smallest testimony of real love is
most pleasing to Him. And love shown to one of His suffering disciples
He regards as love to Himself. So a little child, just carrying a flower
to some poor invalid, may thus do Christ honor and become more endeared
to Him. There is no one, old or young, who has not the power of blessing
other souls. We all have far more influence, both for good and evil,
than we dream of."

In the course of her talk she alluded to the trials of life and the
shortness of them at the longest. We are all passing away, one after
another. Our intimate friends will mourn for us when we are gone, but
the world will move on just the same. And we should not allow ourselves
to be troubled lest when our time comes we may be afraid to die. Dying
grace is not usually given until it is needed. Death to the disciple of
Jesus is only stepping from one room to another and far better room of
our Father's house. And how little all the sorrows of the way will seem
to us when we get to our home above! I suppose St. Paul, amidst the
bliss of heaven, fairly _laughs_ at the thought of what he suffered for
Christ in this brief moment of time. And as she said this, she gently
waved her hand in the way of emphasis. No one of us who saw it will soon
forget that little gesture!

In one part of her remarks she cautioned us against hasty and harsh
judgments. We should cover with our charity the faults and imperfections
of those about us, as nature hides with her mossy covering the unsightly

She referred to the case of children: a child often has a sweet
disposition until five or six years of age and then becomes very
irritable and cross, causing the parents much anxiety--and, perhaps,
much impatience. And yet it may not be the child's fault at all; but
only the effect of ill-health, too much study and confinement, or pure
mismanagement. A large portion of the disobedience and wrong temper of
children comes from improper food or loss of sleep, or something of
that sort. And it is not cross fretful _children_ alone that need to be
judged tenderly. A consumptive friend of hers, rendered nervous and weak
by long sickness, upon being asked one morning, as usual, about her
health, replied: "Don't ask me again--_I feel as if I could throw this
chair at you._" Now I do not think, said Mrs. Prentiss, that this
speech was a sin in the sight of God. He saw in it nothing but the poor
invalid's irritable nerves, God judges us according to the thoughts and
intentions of the heart; and we ought, as far as possible, to judge each
other in the same way. And when we ourselves are the ones really at
fault, we ought to confess it. I never shall forget how humiliated I
felt when my mother once came to me and asked my forgiveness--but I
loved her ten times as much for it.

Prayer was another point touched upon in this last Bible-reading. She
almost always had something fresh and striking to say about prayer. It
was one of her favorite topics. I recall two or three of her remarks
at this time. "Always move the lips in prayer. It helps to keep one's
thoughts from wandering." "A mother can pray with a sick child on her
lap more acceptably than to leave it alone in order to go and pray by
herself." "Accustom yourself to turn all your wants, cares and trials
into prayer. If anything troubled or annoyed my mother she went straight
to the 'spare room,' no matter how cold the weather, and we children
knew it was to pray. I shall never forget its influence over me." "When
a question as to duty comes up, I think we can soon settle it in this
way: 'Am I living near to Christ? Am I seeking His guidance? Am I
renouncing self in what I undertake to do for Him?' If we can say yes to
these questions, we may safely go into any path where duty lies." "We
never dread to hear people pray who pray truly and in the Spirit. They
may be unlearned. They may be intellectually weak. But if they pray
habitually in the closet, they will edify out of it."

Such is a poor, meagre account of this last precious Bible-reading.
Possibly some of the things here recorded belonged to previous
readings--though Mrs. Prentiss occasionally repeated remarks on points
to which she attached special importance. "Some good (she said) will
come of these meetings, I feel sure. It is impossible that you
should take so much pains, and some of you put yourselves to so much
inconvenience, in order to come here and study together God's Word--and
His blessing not follow." The blessing has already followed, good
measure, pressed down and running over, and it will continue to follow
in days to come; especially the blessings of this last meeting, when, in
a strain so sweet and tender--as though she had a new glimpse of heaven
and the heart of God--our beloved and now sainted teacher urged us to
bear witness for Christ and showed us so plainly how to do it.

At the close of the meeting she looked very pale and seemed much
exhausted. "You are ill, Mrs. Prentiss," said one of the ladies,
distressed by her appearance. "Yes," she said, "I _am_." Still, it
seemed a great pleasure to her to have met us once more. Nor can I help
thinking that, even if she herself had no presentiment of what was
coming, she was yet led of the Spirit, the blessed Comforter, to hold
this last Bible-reading. It was itself just such a testimony for Christ
as fitly crowned her consecrated and beautiful life.

Upon my return from the station with Dr. Vincent she met us on the
porch, bade him welcome to Dorset, told him with what extraordinary care
the girls had made ready his room, and appeared in excellent spirits all
the rest of the day. While at tea she expressed to Dr. V. our regret
that Dr. Poor could not have made his visit at the same time; although,
to be sure, they might, if together, have "brought the house down"
upon our heads by the explosions of their mirth. She then related some
amusing anecdotes of a queer, crotchety old domestic of ours in New
Bedford a third of a century ago, and of her delight when Dr. Poor
(then settled at Fair Haven, opposite New Bedford) got married, because
"_now_, it was to be hoped, he would stay at home with his wife and not
be coming over all the time and drinking up our tea!"

On my asking her about the Bible-reading, she said she got through with
it very well, expressed surprise at the large attendance, and spoke of
the deep interest manifested. After tea she sat with us in the parlor
for some time and then, kissing M. good-night, omitted Hatty and the
boys (a most unusual thing), remarking, as she left for her chamber,
"Well, I'm not going to kiss all this roomful."

_Friday, Aug.9th_--A severe thunder-storm had set in early last night
and continued at short intervals throughout the day. She was very
anxious that Dr. Vincent should enjoy his visit, and on his account
was disturbed by the weather; otherwise, a thunder-storm seemed to
exhilarate her, as is said to have been the case with her father. She
spent most of Friday in her "den," finishing a little picture and
chatting from time to time with the girls who were busy in the adjoining
room. Dr. Vincent and I sat a part of the forenoon on the piazza under
her window and whiled away the time, he in telling and I in listening to
any number of amusing stories. She called the attention of M. and H. to
our unclerical behavior: "Just hear those doctors of divinity giggling
like two schoolgirls!" But nobody enjoyed more an amusing story, or told
one with more zest than she did herself.

I forget whether it was on Friday, or an earlier day, that she showed me
a remarkable letter she had received, during my absence at the sea-side,
from London. It was written by a young wife and mother nearly related to
two of the most honored families of England, and sought her counsel in
reference to certain questions of duty that had grown out of special
domestic trials. "Stepping Heavenward," the writer said, had formed an
era in her religious life; she had read it through _from fifty to sixty
times_; it had its place by the side of her Bible; and no words could
express the good it had done her, or the comfort she had derived from
its pages. "The Home at Greylock" had also been of great help to her as
a wife and mother; and she could not but hope that one whose books had
been such a blessing to her, might be able to render her still greater
and more direct aid by personal counsel. The letter, which was
beautifully written and was full of the most grateful feelings, appealed
very strongly to her sympathy. But it was never answered.

_Saturday, Aug. 10th_--She had a tolerable night, but on coming down to
breakfast said, in reply to Dr. Vincent's question, How she felt? "I
feel like bursting out crying." After prayers, however, when the plans
for the day were arranged and a drive to Hager brook--a picturesque
mountain glen and waterfall--was made the order of the forenoon, she
proposed to go with us. I had almost feared to suggest it, and yet was
greatly relieved to find that she felt able to take the ride. It was
decided, therefore, that she, Hatty K., Dr. Vincent and I should form
the party. As we drove toward the village I noticed that Dr. Wyman was
just stopping at our next neighbor's. Dr. Hemenway, our old physician,
had removed to St. Paul's, and Dr. W. had taken his place. I was
rejoiced to see him, both on her account and my own. I had not been well
myself during the week, and although I had repeatedly proposed to
call in the doctor for her, she stoutly refused. So, after getting a
prescription for myself, I said, "And now, doctor, I want you to
do something for my wife," relating to him her ill-turn on Monday.
"Certainly (the doctor replied) she needs some _arsenicum_," which he
gave her, promising to call and see us on the next Monday. As we rode on
Dr. Vincent suggested, laughingly, what a strange story might be based
upon Dr. W.'s prescription. "I might report, for example, that I myself
saw the author of 'Stepping Heavenward' eating arsenic!" She joined
heartily in the laugh and during all the rest of the drive conversed
with great animation. She related several anecdotes of her early life,
talked with admiration of the writings and genius of Mrs. Stowe--one Of
whose New England stories she had just been reading--and seemed exactly
like herself. Upon reaching the brook in East Rupert and starting with
Dr. Vincent for the glen, I said to her, "Now don't walk off out of
sight, where I can't see you when we come back." "Oh yes, I shall," she
replied in her pleasant way.

"After we were left alone that Saturday morning (Hatty writes) Mrs.
Prentiss gathered quite a bunch of the wild ageratum, and then dug up
the roots of three wild clematis vines with her scissors. She then
called my attention to the thimbleberry bushes along the edge of
the brook, admiring the foliage of the plant and expressing the
determination to have one or more in her garden next year."

On coming down from the glen I found her sitting on the ground near the
brook. Taking her by the hand--for she seemed very tired--I helped
her to rise and walked back with her toward the carriage. Just before
reaching the road she saw some clusters of clematis on the side of the
brook, which at her desire I gathered. It was the last service of the
kind ever performed for her, and I am so thankful that no hands but mine
were privileged to perform it! During the drive home she said almost
nothing and was, evidently, feeling very much wearied. We returned by
the West road and on passing in at our gate I observed that Dr. Wyman's
gig was still in front of Miss Kent's. "Why, Lizzy, Dr. Wyman is still
here," said I. "Then, I would like to see him now rather than wait till
Monday," she said, to my surprise. I went immediately and asked him to
call. It was, I think, between eleven and twelve o'clock. He came very
soon and she received him in the parlor. I noticed at once that she was
extremely nervous and agitated, while explaining to him her symptoms;
and not being able to recall some point, she remarked that her mind had
been much confused all the week. Just then she rose hastily, excused
herself, and went up to her room. "_She is very ill_ (said the doctor,
turning to me) and must go to bed instantly." While he was preparing
her medicines Judge M. and family from New York, who were sojourning at
Manchester, called; but learning of her illness, soon left. Later in the
day I told her who had called and how much Mrs. M. and the young ladies
admired her flowers, especially the portulacas. She seemed pleased
and said to me, "You had better, then, prepare two little boxes of
portulacas and send them over to Mrs. M. to keep in her windows while
she stays at the Equinox House." A few days after her death I did so and
received a touching note of thanks from Mrs. M.

As the doctor directed, she at once took to her bed. For an hour or two
her prostration was extreme, and she nearly fainted. Her head shook and
her condition verged on a collapse. I rubbed her hands vigorously, gave
her a restorative, and gradually her strength returned. In speaking of
the attack she said the sense of weakness was so terrible that she would
gladly have died on the spot. In the course of the afternoon, however,
she was so much easier that the girls read to her again out of Boswell's
Johnson and she seemed to listen with all the old interest. It pleased
her greatly to have them read to her; and she loved to talk with them
about the books read and especially to discuss the characters depicted
in any of them.

Toward evening George brought in some trout, which he had caught for her
out of our brook. Her appetite was exceedingly poor, but she was very
fond of trout and G. often caught a little mess for her supper. Our
brook never seemed so dear to me, nor did its rippling music ever
sound so sweet, as when I did the same thing, before he came home from
Princeton and took the privilege out of my hands. When he brought in the
trout, Ellen went to his mother's chamber and asked if they should not
be kept for breakfast? "No, they are very nice and you had better have
them for supper." "Shan't I save some for your breakfast?" asked Ellen,
knowing how fond she was of them. "No," said she, "the doctor says I
must take nothing but beef-tea." "And d'ye feel better, Mis' Prentiss?"
continued Ellen. "Oh I feel better, Ellen, but I'm very weak--I shall be
all right in a few days."

After tea she insisted on sending for Mrs. Sarah C. Mitchell, of
Philadelphia, whom she had been unable to see on the previous Monday.
Mrs. M. was the last person out of the family, with whom she conversed,
excepting the doctors and nurse. [9]

_Sunday, Aug. 11th._--She slept better than I feared, but awoke very
feeble, taking no nourishment except a little beef-tea. She lay quiet a
part of the time; but the quiet intervals grew shorter and were followed
by most distressing attacks. M. and I sat by her bed, but could do
nothing to relieve her. My fears had now become thoroughly aroused and
I awaited the arrival of the doctor with the most intense anxiety. Hour
after hour of the morning, however, passed slowly away and he did not
come. At length a messenger brought word from the "West road," where he
had been called at midnight, that an urgent telegram had summoned him to
Arlington and that he should not be able to reach Dorset before one or
two o'clock P.M. The anguish of the suspense during the next three or
four hours was something dreadful. When the bell rang for church she
desired that M. should go, as Dr. Vincent was to preach, and it would
give a little relief from the strain that was upon her.

Soon after M. had left, during an interval of comparative ease, she
fixed her eyes upon me with a most tender, loving expression, and in a
sort of beseeching tone, said, "Darling, don't you think you could ask
the Lord to let me go?" Perceiving, no doubt, how the question affected
me, she went on to give some reasons for wishing to go. She spoke very
slowly, in the most natural, simple way, and yet with an indescribable
earnestness of look and voice, as if aware that she was uttering her
dying words. I can not recall all that she said, but its substance, and
some of the exact expressions, are indelibly impressed upon my memory.
For my and the children's sake she had been willing and even desired to
live; and for several years had made extraordinary efforts to keep up,
although much of the time the burden of ill-health, as I well knew, had
been well-nigh insupportable. So far as this world was concerned, few
persons in it had such reasons for wishing to live, or so much to render
life attractive. But the feeling in her heart had become overpowering
that no earthly happiness, no interest, no distraction, could any longer
satisfy her, or give her content, away from Christ; and she longed to be
with Him, where He is. During the past three months especially, she had
passed through very unusual exercises of mind with reference to this
subject; and it seemed to her as if she had now reached a point
beyond which she could not go. She evidently had in view the dreadful
_sleeplessness_, to which she had been so in bondage for a quarter of
a century, whose grasp had become more and more relentless, and the
effects of which upon her nervous system were such as words can hardly
describe. No human being but myself had any conception of her suffering,
both physical and mental, from this cause.

To return to her conversation.... In answer to a question which I put to
her later, about her view of heaven and of the relation of the saints in
glory to their old friends there and here, she replied, in substance,
that to her view _heaven is being with Christ and to be with Christ
is heaven_. By this she did not mean, I am sure, to imply any doubt
respecting the immortality of Christian love and friendship, or that
our individual human affections will survive the grave. Often had she
delighted herself in the thought of meeting her sainted father and
mother in heaven, of meeting there Eddy and Bessie and other dear ones
who had gone before; and certain I am, too, she believed that those who
are gone before retain their peculiar interest in those who are toiling
after, only her mind was so absorbed in the thought of the presence and
beatific vision of Christ in His glory that, for the moment, it was lost
to everything else.

She then said that, in the event of her death, she would like to be
buried in Dorset, where we could easily visit her grave. "But I do not
expect to go now," she added. This meant, as I interpret it, that she
regarded so speedy a departure to be with Christ as something _too good
to be true_. Repeatedly, when very ill, she had thought herself on the
verge of heaven and had been called back to earth, and she feared it
would be so now.

Hardly had this never-to-be-forgotten conversation come to a close when
her feet entered "the swelling of Jordan," and found no rest until
they walked the "sweet fields beyond." Her disease (gastro-enteritis)
returned with great violence; the medical appliances seemed to have
little or no effect; and the paroxysms of pain were excruciating.
A chill, also, began to creep over her. About two o'clock, to my
inexpressible relief, the doctor arrived. Her first thought was that he
should rest a little and that some ice-cream should be brought to him.
In answer to his inquiries she told him that she had never known agony
such as she had endured that forenoon, and he immediately applied
remedies adapted to the case. But they afforded only temporary relief.
A terrible restlessness seized upon her and would not let go its hold.
Towards evening she got into the sea-chair, and remained in it near the
open window until morning. On leaving for the night Dr. Wyman intrusted
her to the care of Dr. Slocum, who had recently come to Dorset. Dr. S.
remained with her all night and was indefatigable in trying to alleviate
her sufferings. "How kind he is!" she said to me once when he had left
the room. M. sat up with me till towards morning and assisted in
giving the medicines. Her distress could only be assuaged by inhaling
chloroform every few minutes and by the constant use of ice. As from
time to time, going down for the ice, I stepped out on the piazza, the
scene that met my eye was in strange contrast to the one I had just
left. Within the sick-chamber it was a night dark with suffering and
anxiety; as the hours passed slowly away, my heart almost died in the
shadow of the coming event; all was gloom and agitation except the sweet
patience of the sufferer. But the beauty and stillness of the night out
of doors was something marvellous. The light of the great harvest moon
was like the light of the sun. It flooded hills and valley with its
splendor. The outlines of each mountain, of every tree, and of all
visible objects, far or near, were as distinct as those of the stars, or
of the moon itself. As I stood and gazed upon the infinite beauty of the
scene, I felt, as never in my life before, how helpless is Nature in the
presence of a great trouble. The beauty of the night was fully matched
by that of the morning. As the first rays of the sun crossed the
mountains and shone down upon the valley, I said to myself, even while
my heart was racked with anxious foreboding--"How wonderful! How

_Monday, Aug. 12th._--For some hours she seemed much more comfortable,
and, in the course of the morning, of her own accord, was removed from
the chair to the bed. "On Monday morning (writes Dr. Wyman) I found her
with temperature nearly normal, pulse less than 100, and other symptoms
improved. This gave us hope that the worst was passed, but it was only
the lull before the storm." She was for the most part quiet and took
little notice of anything that was going on. During the forenoon M.
tried to get some rest in the sea-chair by the window, while Hatty kept
her place by the bed. Several times Lizzy looked round the room as if
in quest of some one. Hatty perceiving this and guessing what it meant,
stepped aside (she was between the bed and the chair so as to intercept
the view), when she fixed her eyes upon M. and rested as if she had
found what she sought. Having been up most of the night, I also tried
to get a little rest in another room, and later went out in search of
a nurse and engaged an excellent one, Mrs. C., who came early in the

Notwithstanding my deep anxiety I was deceived by the more favorable
symptoms, and did not allow myself, during the day, to think she would
not recover. In the early evening I wrote to A., who was absent in

I am sorry to say that your mother had a very trying day yesterday and
has been extremely weak and exhausted to-day.... Nervous prostration
appears to be the great trouble. She has rested quietly much of the time
to-day and the medicines seem to be doing their work; and in a couple of
days, I trust, she may be greatly improved. You know how these ill-turns
upset her and how quickly she often rallies from them. She is very
anxious you should not shorten your visit on her account.

Soon after this letter was written, the whole aspect of the case
suddenly changed. The unfavorable symptoms had returned with renewed
violence. Dr. W. asked her, during one of the paroxysms, about the pain.
She answered that it was not a pain--it was a distress, an _agony_. But
from first to last she never uttered a groan--not during the sharpest
paroxysms of distress. She seemed to say to herself, in the words of two
favorite German mottoes, which she had illumined and placed on the wall
over her bed, _Geduld, Mein Herz!_ (Patience, My Heart!)--_Stille, Mein
Wille!_ (Still, My Will!) "The patient and uncomplaining manner," writes
Dr. Wyman, "in which the most agonizing pains which it has ever been my
lot to witness were borne--with no repining, no murmur, no fretfulness,
but quiet, peaceful submission to endure and suffer--will not soon be
forgotten." At eleven o'clock, when the doctor left, I sent the nurse
away for a couple of hours rest and took her place by the sick-bed.
Lizzy, who had already begun to feel the effects of the morphine, lay
motionless, and breathed somewhat heavily, but not alarmingly so.

_Tuesday, Aug. 13th._--Shortly after one o'clock I called the nurse and,
directing her to summon me at once in the event of any change, retired
to the green-room for a little rest. The girls had been persuaded before
the doctor left, to throw themselves on their bed. Everything was quiet
until about three o'clock, when Hatty knocked at my door with a message
from the nurse. I hurried down and saw at the first glance as I entered
the room, that a great change had taken place. It seemed as if I heard
the crack of doom and that the world was of a sudden going to pieces. I
went to G.'s room, woke him, told him what I feared, and desired him to
go for Dr. Slocum as quickly as possible. He was dressed in an instant,
as it were, and gone. In the meantime I woke H., and told him his
mother, I feared, was dying. When Dr. Slocum arrived he felt her pulse,
looked at her and listened to her breathing for a minute or two, and
then, turning slowly to me, said, _It is death!_ This was not far from
four o'clock. I asked if I had better send at once for Dr. Wyman? "He
can do nothing for her," was the reply, "but you had better send." I
requested G. to call Albert, and tell him to go for Dr. W. as fast as
possible. "I will saddle Prince and go myself," G. said; and in a few
minutes he was riding rapidly towards Factory Point. I then knocked at
Dr. Poor's door. Upon opening it and being told what was coming, he was
so completely stunned that he could with difficulty utter a word. He had
arrived the previous afternoon on the same train by which Dr. Vincent
left. I had tried by telegraph to _prevent_ his coming; but a kind
Providence so ordered it that my message reached Burlington, where he
had been on a visit, just after he had started for Dorset.

The night, like that of Sunday, was as day for brightness. Never shall
I forget its wondrous beauty, although it seemed only a mockery of my
distress. Soon after the first rays of the sun appeared, Dr. Wyman came,
but only to repeat, _It is death_. I asked him how long she might be a
dying. "Perhaps several hours; but she may drop away at any moment."
We all gathered about her bed and watched the ebbing tide of life.
The girls were already kneeling together on the left side. They never
changed their posture for more than four hours; they wept, but made no
noise. The boys stood at the foot of the bed, deeply moved, but calm
and self-possessed. The strain was fearful; and yet it was relieved by
blessed thoughts and consolations. Although the chamber of death, it was
the chamber of peace, and a light not of earth shone down upon us all.
He who was seen walking, unhurt, in the midst of the fire and whose form
was like the Son of God, seemed to overshadow us with His presence.

As the end drew near, we all knelt together and my old friend, Dr. Poor,
commended the departing spirit to God and invoked for us, who were
about to be so heavily bereaved, the solace and support of the blessed
Comforter.... The breathing had now grown slower and less convulsive,
and at length became gentle almost like that of one asleep; the
distressed look changed into a look of sweet repose; the eyes shut; the
lips closed; and the whole scene recalled her own lines:

Oh, where are words to tell the joy unpriced
Of the rich heart, that breasting waves no more,
Drifts thus to shore,
Laden with peace and tending unto Christ!

About half-past seven it became evident that the mortal struggle was on
the point of ending. For several minutes we could scarcely tell whether
she still lived or not; and at twenty minutes before eight she drew one
long breath and all was over.

Again we knelt together, and in our behalf Dr. Poor gave thanks to
Almighty God for the blessed saint now at rest in Him--and for all she
had been to us and all she had done for Him, through the grace of Christ
her Saviour.

The following account of the burial was written by the Rev. Dr. Vincent
and appeared in the New York Evangelist:

DORSET, VT. _August 16, 1878._

This lovely valley has been, for the past few days, "a valley of the
shadow." It is not the least significant tribute to one so widely known
as Mrs. Prentiss, that her death has affected with such real sorrow, and
with such a deep sense of loss, this little rural community which has
been her home during a large part of the last ten years. It would have
been hard to find among all who gathered at the funeral services on
Wednesday, a face which did not bear the marks of true sorrow and of
tender sympathy; while from the groups of sunburned farmers gathered
round the door or walking towards the cemetery, were often heard the
words "a great loss."

* * * * *

The funeral took place at the house on Wednesday afternoon, and was
conducted by the Rev. P. S. Pratt, pastor of the old Congregational
Church of Dorset; assisted by Dr. Vincent, and Dr. D. W. Poor. Mr. Pratt
read the twenty-third Psalm and a part of the fourteenth chapter of
John, which was followed by the hymn, "O gift of gifts, O grace of
faith," after which Dr. Poor delivered a most appropriate, tender, and
interesting address. Dr. Vincent then offered prayer, and the hymn
"Nearer, my God, to Thee," was sung, closing the services at the house.
The large assemblage passed in succession by the casket, where lay such
an image of perfect rest as one is rarely favored to see. All traces of
struggle and pain had faded from the expressive face, and nothing was
left but the sweetness of eternal repose.

It was now a little after six o'clock, and the shadows were lengthening
in the valley at the close of one of those rare days of the ripe summer,
which only the hill-countries develop in their perfect loveliness. The
long procession moved from the house, and at the distance of about a
quarter of a mile entered the little cemetery; and as it mounted the
slope on which was the grave, the scene was one of most pathetic beauty.
Standing in the shadow of the hills which bound the valley on the east,
the eye ranged southward to the long, undulating outline of the Green
Mountain, coming round to the Equinox range on the west, "muffled thick"
to its very crest with the green maples and pines, and still farther
round to the bold hills and sloping uplands on the north. Below lay the
quiet village, at our feet "God's acre," with the train of mourners
winding among the white stones. Who could stand there, compassed about
by the mountains, and in the shadow of that great sorrow, and not
whisper the words of the Pilgrim Psalm, "I will lift up mine eyes unto
the hills. Whence should help come to me? My help cometh from Jehovah,
who made heaven and earth."

As the casket was borne to the grave, the setting sun, which for the
last half hour had been hidden by a mass of clouds, burst out in full
splendor, gilding the mountain-tops and shedding his parting rays upon
the group around the tomb, the stricken family, the weeping neighbors
and friends, especially the women whom for some years past she had been
in the habit of meeting at her weekly Bible-reading, and some of whom
had walked each week for miles along the mountain roads, through storm
and heat, to drink of the living waters which flowed at her touch.

Dr. Vincent, holding in his hand a little, well-worn volume, and
standing at the foot of the grave, spoke substantially as follows:

I am glad, my friends, that I am not one of those who know God only as
they find Him identified with the woods and fields and streams. If this
were so, I should turn from the grave of this beloved friend, and go my
way in utter heart-sickness and hopelessness; for Nature would but mock
me to-day with her fulness of summer life. These forest-clad mountains,
that waving grain, those woods, pulsating with the hum of insects and
with the song of birds, all speak of life, while we stand here at the
close of a precious and useful human life, to lay in the dust all that
remains of what was so dear, and so fruitful in good.

But, thanks to God, we are not here as those who face an insoluble
riddle. We believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the resurrection of
the dead; and with this key in our hand, we stand here at the grave's
mouth, and looking backward, interpret the lesson of this closed life;
and looking forward, gaze with hope into the future. Thus Nature becomes
our consoler instead of our mocker; a type, and not a contradiction of
human immortality. Thus, and only thus, do we find ourselves at the
standpoint from which Christ viewed nature when He said, "Except a corn
of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone; but if it die,
it bringeth forth much fruit"; the standpoint from which Paul viewed
nature when he wrote, "That which thou sowest is not quickened except it
die; and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body which shall
be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain; but
God giveth it a body as He willeth, and to every seed his own body. So
also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is
raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory.
It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural
body, it is raised a spiritual body."

And thus too we can understand the words which I read from this little
volume, the daily companion of our friend for many years, containing a
passage of Scripture for every day in the year, and marked everywhere
with her notes of special anniversaries and memorable incidents. Was it
merely an accidental coincidence that, on the morning of the thirteenth
of August, on which she exchanged earth for heaven, the passage for the
day was, "I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are
the dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth, yea, saith the Spirit,
that they may rest from their labors, and their works do follow them."

There are two thoughts in this verse which seem to me to be fraught
with comfort and hope to us as we gather round this grave. There is the
thought of rest. "They rest from their labors." Bethink you of the long
life marked by the discipline of sorrow, and by those unwearied labors
for others. Bethink you of the racking agony of the last two days; and
how blessed, how soothing the contrast introduced by the words--"She
rests from her labors." Still is the busy hand; at rest the active
brain; completed the discipline; the pain ended forever.

The other thought is that her work is not done, so far as its results
are concerned. "Their works do follow them." Think you that because she
will no longer meet you in her weekly Bible-readings, because her pen
will no more indite the thoughts which have made so many patient under
life's burdens, and helped so many to make of their burdens steps on
which to mount heavenward--think you her work is ended? Nay. Go into
yonder field, and pluck a single head of wheat, and plant the grains,
and you know that out of each grain which falls into the ground and
dies, there shall spring up an hundred-fold. Shall you recognise so much
multiplying power in a corn of wheat, and not discern the infinitely
greater power of multiplication enfolded in a holy life and in a holy
thought? No. Through the long years in which her mortal remains shall be
quietly resting beneath this sod, the work of her tongue and pen shall
be reproducing itself in new forms of power, of faith, and of patience.

And yet we seem to want something more than these two thoughts give
us. It does not satisfy us to contemplate only rest from labor and the
perpetuated fruits of labor. And that something this same little volume
gives us in the words appointed for this day, on which we commit her
mortal part to the grave: "For God is not unrighteous to forget your
work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward His name, in that
ye have ministered to the saints and do minister. Be not slothful,
but followers of them who, through faith and patience, inherit the
promises." Here the veil is lifted, and we get the glimpse we want of
her inheritance and reward in heaven. She has inherited the promises;
such promises as these: "If children, then heirs, heirs of God, and
joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may
be also glorified together." "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst
any more, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat; for the
Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead
them to living fountains of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears
from their eyes." "They shall see His face, and His name shall be in
their foreheads." "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in
my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in
His throne."

Thus we commit this mortal body to the ground in hope, and with
assurances of victory. Oh, it is one of the most wonderful of facts,
that at the grave's very portal, amid all the tears and desolation which
death brings, we can stand and sing hymns of triumph--even that song
which, from the morning when the angels met Mary at the Lord's empty
supulchre, has been sounding over the graves of the dead in Christ--"O
death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of
death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law; but thanks be to God,
who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

How sweet, how impressive, is this scene! No wonder that we linger
here while Nature, at this evening hour, speaks to us so tenderly and
beautifully of rest. Even as yonder clouds break from the setting
sun, and are tinged with glory by its parting beams, so our sorrow is
illumined by this truth of the Resurrection. There is no terror in
death, and relieved by such a faith and hope, our thoughts are all of
peace, and flow naturally into the mould of those familiar lines:

"So fades a summer cloud away,
So sinks the gale when storms are o'er,
So gently shuts the eye of day,
So dies a wave along the shore."

But this scene is adapted also to kindle aspiration in our hearts--
aspiration to be followers of them who, through faith and patience,
inherit the promises. Her victory over death is the victory of love to
Christ; and that same victory may be yours through the same Christ in
whose name she conquered. Shall we not pray that His love may be shed
abroad in all our hearts in richer measure? And can we better frame that
prayer than in those lines which she wrote out of her own heart? Let us
then sing


More love, O Christ, to Thee!
Hear Thou the prayer I make
On bended knee:
This is my earnest plea,--
More love, O Christ, to Thee!
More love, O Christ, to Thee!
More love to Thee.

Once earthly joy I craved,
Sought peace and rest;
Now Thee alone I seek;
Give what is best!

This all my prayer shall be,--
More love, O Christ, to Thee!
More love to Thee.

Let sorrow do its work,
Send grief and pain;
Sweet are Thy messengers,
Sweet their refrain,
When they can sing with me
More love, O Christ, to Thee!
More love to Thee.

Then shall my latest breath
Whisper Thy praise!
This be the parting cry
My heart shall raise,
This still its prayer shall be,
More love, O Christ, to Thee!
More love to Thee.

After the singing of these words, Mr. Pratt, according to the old
country custom, returned thanks to the assembled friends in the name of
the family, for their sympathy and aid in the burial of their dead. The
several members of the household each laid a floral offering upon the
casket lid, and the body was lowered into the grave. Dr. Vincent uttered
the solemn words of committal to the dust, and Dr. Poor pronounced the
parting blessing in the words, "The God of peace who brought again from
the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, through the
blood of the Everlasting Covenant, make you perfect in every good work
to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight,
through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."

Thus the valley of the shadow has been irradiated. To those who have
been permitted to participate in these closing scenes, it has seemed
like standing at heaven's gate. The valley of the shadow has become a
transfiguration mountain, where we have seen the Lord.

* * * * *

Hardly had the news of her death left Dorset when there began to pour
in upon its stricken household a stream of the tenderest Christian
sympathy; nor did the stream cease until it had brought loving messages
from the remotest parts of the land. Her friends seemed overcome with
special wonder that she could have died, so vividly was she associated
in their thoughts with life and sunlight. For months, too, after the
return of the family to their city home, letters from far and near
continued to bear witness to the mingled emotions of sorrow and of
thanksgiving excited by her sudden departure from earth--sorrow for a
great personal loss; thanksgiving that she had gone to be forever with
the Lord. A little volume of selections from these varied testimonies
would form a very touching and precious tribute to her memory.

"The human heart," to use her own words, "was made by so delicate, so
cunning a hand, that it needs less than a breath to put it out of tune;
and an invisible touch, known only to its own consciousness, may set
all its silvery bells to ringing out a joyous chime. Happy he, thrice
blessed she, who is striving to hush its discords and to awaken its
harmonies by never so imperceptible a motion!" Surely, the triple
benediction belonged to her. Already tens of thousands, both young and
old, who never saw her face, but have been aided and cheered by her
writings, gladly call her "thrice blessed." May this story of her life
serve to increase their number and so to render her name dearer still.
Above all, may it help to inspire some other souls with her own
impassioned and adoring love to our Lord Jesus Christ.

[1] She was specially touched by the sudden decease of Mrs. Harriet
Woolsey Hodge, of Philadelphia, to whom both for her mother's and her
own sake she was warmly attached.

[2] J. Cleveland Cady, the distinguished architect.

[3] Mrs. Antoinette Donaghe died at Staunton, Va., April 14, 1882. Her
last years were passed amid great bodily sufferings, which she bore with
the patience of a saint. She was a woman of uncommon excellence, a true
Christian lady, and much endeared to a wide circle of friends in New
Haven, New York, and elsewhere. Her husband, Mr. James Donaghe, a most
worthy man, for many years a prominent citizen of New Haven, died on
the 1st of January, 1878. He and Mrs. Donaghe were among the original
members of the Church of the Covenant.

[4] The book alluded to is Letters of Thomas Erskine of Linlathen. From
1800 till 1840. Edited by Dr. Hanna, and republished by G. P. Putnam's
Sons. The Duchess de Broglie was born in Paris, in 1797, and died in
September, 1838, at the age of forty-one. She was the only daughter of
the celebrated Madame de Stael. Some pleasant glimpses of her are given
in the Life, Letters, and Journals of George Ticknor. Vol. I., pp.
128-139. Vol. II., pp. 103-139.

[5] The portrait in this volume is from a drawing by Miss Crocker,
engraved by A. H. Ritchie. Miss C., after pursuing her studies for some
time in Paris, has opened a studio in New York.

[6] In this letter she told me how much good Stepping Heavenward had
done her and how sorry she felt on hearing of Mrs. P.'s death, that she
had never written, as she longed to do, to thank her for it. "Dear soul!
(she added) perhaps she knows now how many hearts she has lifted up and
comforted by her wonderful words."--_From a letter of Mrs. W._

[7] Mr. Washburn died on Sunday, the 18th of September, 1881, aged 80
years. He was born in Farmington, Conn. His father, the Rev. Joseph
Washburn, pastor of the Congregational Church in F., was cut off in
the prime of a beautiful and saintly manhood. He inherited some of his
father's most attractive traits and was a model of Christian fidelity
and uprightness. In a notice which appeared in the New York Evangelist,
shortly after his death, President Porter, of Yale College, whose father
succeeded the Rev. Mr. Washburn as pastor of the church in Farmington,
thus refers to his life at Wildwood: "Some twenty years since he retired
for a part of eight years to the singularly beautiful house which was
selected and prepared by the taste of himself and wife, near East River,
a district in Madison, which he has for several years made his permanent
residence. His life was singularly even in its course and happy in its
allotments; a blessing to himself and a blessing to the world. His
memory will long be cherished by the many who knew him as one whom to
know was to love and honor."

[8] Mr. Isaac Farwell, or "Uncle Isaac," as everybody called him, was
the most remarkable man in Dorset. He died in 1881 in the 102d year of
his age. His centennial was celebrated on the 14th of July, 1879; the
whole town joining in it. He was full of interest in life, retained his
mental powers unimpaired, and would relate incidents that occurred in
the last century, as if they had just happened. Mrs. Prentiss was fond
of meeting him: and after her departure he delighted to recall his talks
with her and to tell where he had seen her creeping through fences,
laden with rustic trophies, as she and her daughter came home from their
tramps in the fields and over the hills.

[9] The following is an extract from a letter of Mrs. M. giving an
account of the interview: It was of her I thought, as an hour before
sunset, on that day, I passed through the grounds to the door of her
beautiful home. I thought of her as I had seen her busy at work among
her flowers on the morning of the day when the fatal illness began,
wearing a straw hat, with broad brim to protect her from the heat of the
sun. Several of her family were standing around her, and the pleasant
picture we saw as we drove by the lovely lawn is fresh and green in
my memory now. Once, after this, I had seen her, at our last precious
Bible-reading (though little thought we then it would be our last), when
she so earnestly urged us to be true "witnesses" for our Master and Lord
and gently bade us God-speed, "_encouraging_" us also, as she expressed
it, "by the particular desire of my husband to-day," in the heavenward
path. I knew that she was not quite well, and as I entered the house was
invited to her chamber.

I found her attired as usual, but reclining on the bed, apparently only
for quiet rest. Her greeting was warm, her eyes bright, she was very
cheerful, and, I think, was not then suffering from pain. To my
inquiries after her health, she replied, that she had been at first
prostrated by the heat of the sun, remaining at work in it too long,
with no idea of danger from the exposure; "but now," she said, "I do not
think much is the matter with me"--though afterwards she added, "The
doctor has said something to my husband which has alarmed him about
me, and he is anxious, but I can not perceive any reason for this." We
talked of many familiar things, even of home-like methods of cookery,
and she kindly sent for a small manuscript receipt-book of her own to
lend me, looking it over and turning down the leaves at some particular
receipts which she approved, and "those were my mother's," she said
of several. She spoke of her engagements and the guests she loved to
entertain, adding that she thought God had given this pleasant home,
surrounded by such beautiful things in nature, that others too might
be made happy in enjoying them. All the time while listening to her
remarks, and deeply interested in every one she made, the strong desire
was in my heart to speak to her of her works, of my appreciation of
their great usefulness, and how God had blessed her in permitting her to
do so much to benefit others. I longed to say to her, "O had you only
written the books for the little ones, 'Little Susy's Six Birthdays,'
and its companions, it would have been well worth living for! had
you never written anything but 'The Flower of the Family,' it were
a blessing for you to have lived! And 'Stepping Heavenward'--what a
privilege to have lived to write only that volume!" I could scarcely
refrain from pouring out before her the thoughts which warmed my heart,
but I had been told that she preferred not to be spoken to of her works,
and I refrained. Only once, when we were alone, I said, with some
emotion, "I am so glad to have seen you; it was because _you_ were here
that I wished to come to this village; this was the strong attraction."
... Thus I parted from her. I shall not look upon her again until the
day when "those who sleep in Jesus shall God bring with Him."



The allusion is to a young officer of the navy, James Swan Thatcher--a
grandson of General Knox, the friend of Washington, and a younger
brother of Lieutenant, afterwards the gallant Rear Admiral, Henry Knox
Thatcher. He had become deeply interested in Miss Payson, and at length
solicited her hand. The story of his hopeless attachment to her, as
disclosed after his death, is most touching. He would spend hours
together late into the night in walking about the house, which, to
borrow his brother's expression, "his love had placed on holy ground."
He was a young man of singular purity and nobleness of character--"one
of a thousand," to use her own words--and, although she could not accept
him as a lover, she cherished for him a very cordial friendship. Not
long after, he was lost at sea. In later years she often referred to him
and his tragical end with the tenderest feeling. The following is an
extract from a letter of Rear Admiral Thatcher to her husband, written
several months after her death and shortly before his own:

I have read with great interest your reference to my dear and only
brother, James Swan Thatcher. It carried me back to one of the saddest
afflictions of my life. We had both been stationed at Portland for the
purpose of recruiting some of the hardy sons of Maine as seamen for the
U. S. naval service. The wife of the Rev. Dr. Dwight had advised my
calling upon Mrs. Payson, Cumberland street, to obtain quarters. I did
so, and with my wife removed from a noisy hotel to the quiet of that
most desirable retreat. My brother made frequent visits to us, and, by
invitation of Mrs. Payson, dined with us on Sundays, and passed the
hours between meetings, accompanying the ladies to church in the
afternoons. This led to an acquaintance between Miss Payson and
himself. As they were both highly intellectual and were both "stepping
heavenward," they naturally fancied each other's conversation and
formed a mutual friendship. Until after my dear brother's death I
never imagined that it was more than a fondness for Miss Payson's
conversational gifts that induced him to call so frequently at
Cumberland street.... James was unexpectedly ordered to join the U. S.
schooner Grampus at Norfolk, Va., for a winter cruise on the Southern
coast for relief of distressed merchant vessels. The cruise continued
for some weeks without entering any port, but about the 20th of March,
1843, the Grampus appeared off the bar of Charleston, S. C., and sent in
a letter-bag for mailing. That night there came on a terrible gale and
the Grampus disappeared forever--no vestige of her ever having been
seen. She was commanded by Lt.-Commander Albert E. Downes, a good man
and a fine seaman, and who as a midshipman had sailed with me three
years before in the Pacific. My brother was educated for the law, and
studied his profession with the Hon. John Holmes, and, after completing
his studies, became Mr. Holmes' law-partner. But he being my only
brother, I was very desirous that he should obtain a commission as a
purser in the navy, in order that we might be associated on duty; and,
at Mr. H.'s request, he was appointed by General Harrison soon after his
inauguration. My brother then joined me in Portland. It is a consolation
to know that he lived and died in the exercise of those Christian
sentiments which were deeply instilled into his mind by the society of
your angelic wife, who has preceded you to our home of rest. God grant
that we may all meet there!

* * * * *



One of the best informed writers on the history of the Revolutionary
times and of the war for the Union thus introduces a notice of Mr.

Small in stature; limping in gait; broad-chested; a high intellectual
forehead; manly beauty in every feature; a voice of remarkable sweetness
and flexibility; a mild but deeply penetrating eye; a most retentive
memory; endowed with varied knowledge by extensive reading; unrivaled
in power of oratory; frank in thought, speech, and manner; patient and
forbearing in temper; powerfully governed by the affections, and with
unbounded generosity of disposition, Seargent Smith Prentiss was one of
the most remarkable characters in our history. Living persons who were
adults a generation ago will remember how the newspapers between 1835
and 1850 were filled with his praises as a citizen unapproachable in
oratory, whether he spoke as an advocate at the bar, a debater in the
halls of legislation, or at occasional public gatherings. [1]

S. S. Prentiss was born at Portland, Maine, September 30, 1808. While
yet an infant, he was reduced by a violent fever to the verge of the
grave and deprived for several years of the use of his limbs, the right
leg remaining lame and feeble to the last. For his partial recovery he
was indebted to the unwearied care and devotion of his mother, herself
in delicate health.

During the war of 1812 his father removed to Gorham. At the academy
in this town, then one of the best in Maine, Seargent was fitted for
Bowdoin College, where he was graduated in the class of 1826, at the
age of seventeen. After studying law for a year with Judge Pierce, of
Gorham, he set out for what was at that day the Far West, in quest of
fortune. Having tarried a few months at Cincinnati, he then made his
way down the Mississippi to Natchez, where he obtained the situation
of tutor in a private family. Here he completed his legal studies;
was admitted to the bar in June, 1829, soon afterwards became the
law-partner of Gen. Felix Huston, and almost at a bound stood in the
front rank of his profession in the State. "Boundless good-nature," to
use the language of Dr. Lossing; "keen logic; quickness and aptness
at repartee; overflowing but kindly wit; an absolute earnestness and
sincerity in all he undertook to do, made him a universal favorite
in every circle." In 1832 Mr. Prentiss removed to Vicksburg. John M.
Chilton, a leading member of the bar of that place, thus describes his
first appearance in the Circuit Court of Warren county:

There arrived, with other members of the bar, from Natchez, a limping
youth in plain garb, but in whose bearing there was a manly, indeed
almost a haughty, mien; in whose cheek a rich glow, telling the
influence of more northern climes; in whose eye a keen but meditative
expression; and in whose voice and conversation a vivacity and
originality that attracted every one, and drew around him, wherever he
appeared, a knot of listeners, whose curiosity invariably yielded in a
few moments to admiration and delight. There was then a buzz of inquiry,
succeeded by a pleased look of friendly recognition, and a closer
approach, and in most instances an introduction, to the object of this
general attraction, so soon as it was told that the stranger was S. S.
Prentiss, of Natchez. His fame had preceded him, and men were surprised
to see only beardless youth in one whose speeches, and learning, and
wit, and fine social qualities, had already rendered him at Natchez "the
observed of all observers."

Society in the Southwest at that day was full of perils to young men,
especially to young men of talent and generous, impressionable natures.
Drinking, duelling, and gambling widely prevailed. It was a period of
"flush times," and wild, reckless habits. Mr. Prentiss did not wholly
escape the contagion; but his faults and errors were very much
exaggerated in many of the stories that found currency concerning him.
One of his friends wrote after his death: "I have heard many anecdotes
of him, which I considered of doubtful authority; for he is a
traditional character all over Mississippi--their Cid, their Wallace,
their Coeur de Lion, and all the old stories are wrought over again,
and annexed to his name." Another of his friends, who knew him long and
intimately, the late Balie Peyton, of Tennessee, testified: "No man ever
left a purer fame than Seargent S. Prentiss, in all that constitutes
high honor and spotless integrity of character. His principles remained
as pure, and his heart continued as warm and fresh, as at the instant he
bade farewell to his mother."

From his settlement at Vicksburg his career as a lawyer was one of
remarkable success; and it were hard to say in what department of his
profession he most excelled, whether in the varied contests of the
_Nisi Prius_ courts, in an argument on a difficult question of legal
construction, or in discussing a fundamental principle of jurisprudence.
In 1833, at the age of 24, he appeared before the Supreme Court at
Washington, where, in spite of his youth, he at once attracted the
notice of Chief Justice Marshall. "I made a speech three or four hours
long (he wrote to his mother); and I suppose you will say I have
acquired a great deal of brass since I left home, when I tell you that I
was not at all abashed or alarmed in addressing so grave a set of men as
their Honors the Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States." In
attending the circuit courts of Mississippi he had experiences of the
roughest sort and many a hairbreadth escape. He wrote:

I travel entirely on horseback; and have had to swim, on my horse, over
creeks and bayous that would astonish you Northerners. Beyond Pearl
river I had to ride, and repeatedly to swim, through a swamp four miles
in extent, in which the water was all the time up to the horse's belly.
What do you think of that for a lawyer's life?

In the winter of 1836-7 he won the great "Commons" suit, which involved
a considerable portion of the town of Vicksburg. This made him, as was
supposed, one of the richest men in the State.

About this time he was induced to run for the legislature of
Mississippi. He was elected, and at once took a foremost position as
leader of his party.

The next summer he visited his home, and by a speech at a Whig political
meeting in Portland, on the Fourth of July, he so electrified his
hearers by his eloquence that he was pronounced, in the East, the most
finished orator of his time; as he really was. He became a candidate for
a seat in Congress, and made the most remarkable electioneering canvass
ever recorded. Traveling on horseback, he visited forty-five counties in
a sparsely-settled country. For ten weeks he traveled thirty miles each
week-day, and spoke each day two hours. He had announced his engagements
beforehand, and never missed one. Mississippi was a strong "Jackson
State," but Mr. Prentiss carried it for the Whigs. His seat was
contested by his Democratic opponent, and his speech in the House of
Representatives at Washington in favor of his claim gained for him a
national reputation as the greatest orator of the age. It occupied three
days in its delivery. He had not spoken long before intelligence of his
wonderful oratory reached the Senate chamber and drew its members to the
other House. Rumors of his speech ran through the city, and before it
was concluded the anxiety to hear him became intense. The galleries of
the House became densely packed, chiefly with ladies, and the lobbies
were crowded with foreign ministers, heads of departments, judges,
officers of the army and navy, and distinguished citizens. Among the
charmed auditors were the best American statesmen of the time who then
occupied seats in both branches of Congress--John Quincy Adams leading
those of the Representatives, and Daniel Webster and Henry Clay of
the Senate. The entire self-possession of Mr. Prentiss, then only
twenty-nine years of age, never forsook him in such an august presence.
There was no straining for effect, no trick of oratory; but, from the
first to the last sentence, everything in manner, as in matter, seemed
perfectly natural, as if he were addressing a jury on an ordinary
question of law. This feature of his speech--this evidence of sincerity
in every word--with the almost boyish beauty of his face, bound his
distinguished audience as with a magic spell. When, at the conclusion of
the speech, Mr. Webster left the hall, he remarked to a friend, with his
comprehensive brevity, "Nobody can equal that!" [2]

Mr. Prentiss was rejected by the casting vote of the Speaker, Mr.
Polk, and the election sent back to the people; when, after another
extraordinary canvass, he was triumphantly returned. After the
adjournment of Congress he visited his mother in Portland. About this
time a great reception was given to Mr. Webster, as defender of the
Constitution, in Faneuil Hall, and Mr. Prentiss was invited to be
present and address the assemblage. His speech on the occasion is still
fresh in the memory of all who heard it. He was called upon late in the
evening, and after a succession of very able speakers; but hardly had
the vast audience heard the tap of his cane, as he stepped forward, and
caught the first sound of his marvellous voice, when he held them, as it
were, spell-bound. Before he had uttered a word, indeed, he had taken
possession of his audience by his very look--for, when aroused by a
great occasion, his countenance flashed like a diamond. Gov. Everett,
who presided at the banquet, himself an orator of classic power, thus
referred to Mr. Prentiss' address, in a letter written more than a dozen
years later:

It seemed to me the most wonderful specimen of sententious fluency I had
ever witnessed. The words poured from his lips in a torrent, but the
sentences were correctly formed, the matter grave and important, the
train of thought distinctly pursued, the illustrations wonderfully
happy, drawn from a wide range of reading, and aided by a brilliant
imagination. That it was a carefully prepared speech, no one could
believe for a moment. It was the overflow of a full mind, swelling in
the joyous excitement of the friendly reception, kindling with the
glowing themes suggested by the occasion, and not unmoved by the genius
of the place. Sitting by Mr. Webster, I asked him if he had ever
heard anything like it? He answered, "Never, except from Mr. Prentiss

Political life was exceedingly distasteful to Mr. Prentiss and he
soon abandoned it and returned with fresh zeal to the practice of his
profession. The applauses of the world seemed never for an instant to
deceive him. He wrote after a great speech at Nashville, addressed, it
was estimated, to 40,000 people: "They heap compliments upon me till I
am almost crushed beneath them." And yet in the midst of such popular
ovations he wrote to his sister:

I laugh at those who look upon the uncertain, slight, and changeable
regards of the multitude, as worthy even of comparison with the true
affection of one warm heart. I have ever yearned for affection; I
believe it is the only thing of which I am avaricious. I never had any
personal ambition, and do not recollect the time when I would not
have exchanged the applause of thousands for the love of one of my

Book of the day: