Travel Letters: Madrid, Spain (1883)

DEAR WILLIAM, — Ever since I received your letter yesterday, I have been trying to realize that it is true that aunt S. and aunt C. are really gone. It seems almost impossible to picture the old house as it must be today. I wish so much that I had been at home, and I hope I shall hear from you some time about the last of those two long, faithful lives.

It seems as if this great change swept away from the world the last remnants of the background of our earliest life. Even after father and mother went, as long as aunt S. lived, there was somebody who had to do with us when we were babies. Now that generation has all passed away. How many old scenes it brings up. This is Sunday morning, right after breakfast, and it seems as if I could see a Sunday morning of the old times in Rowe Street, with the general bustle of mother and aunt S. getting off to Sunday-school, and father settling down to read to the bigger boys in the front parlor ; and there are faint memories of much earlier days when the aunts must have been blooming young ladies, though they seemed to us then almost as old as they ever did in later times. I hope the last years of their lives have been happy, in spite of the suffering. They have been spared what was most to be dreaded, long, hopeless illness and helplessness. But I am so sorry to hear that aunt S ____had to suffer. If there were ever lives totally unselfish, and finding all their pleasure in making other people happy, these were they. We know aunt S– best, of course, but dear little aunt C___, with her quiet ways, had something very touching and beautiful about her. She seems to have slipped out of life as unobtrusively and with as little trouble as she lived.

When I left them, of course I knew it was very likely that I should not see them again. But all I had heard since made me feel as if they would be there when I came home. I had a nice letter from aunt Susan in the autumn, which must have been a good deal of an effort for her to write, and I wrote to her, from India, a letter which must have reached Andover after it was all over.

It cannot be long one cannot ask that it should be long before aunt S___ follows her sisters. Give her my love and sympathy. As it may be that she will go before I come home, the old house be left empty, and something have to be done about the property, I want to say that I should like to buy it, and I authorize you to buy it for me, if the chance offers. Or, if you and Arthur and John would not like that, I will join with any or all of you to buy and hold it. I do not know whether you liked it well enough last summer to think of making it a summer home, but I should like to hold it as a place where, for the whole or part of any summer, we could gather and have a delightful, easy time, among the most sacred associations which remain for us on earth. A few very simple improvements would make it a most charming place, so do not by any chance let it slip, and hold, by purchase or otherwise, to as much of the furniture as you can. One of these days, when I am a little older and feebler, I should like to retire to it and succeed Augustine Amory at the little church. Is not our window done there yet ?

I am sorry for poor little G—. I hope she is better long before this. Tell her I would come home and see her if I really thought it would make her rheumatism better. If it does not get well quickly, tell her to get into the Servia and come over here, and we will lay her down in the Spanish sun, and melt it out of her. It is hard for the poor little thing to have to suffer so. Give her my love, and tell her I shall be back in about five months.

I am with the Brimmers and the Wisters of Philadelphia, a party of seven, which is quite a new traveling experience for me. I like it. I shall be almost in England when you get this. Good-by, P.