Travel Letters: Trento (1883)

DEAR GERTIE, —I bought the prettiest thing you ever saw for you the other day. If you were to guess for three weeks, making two guesses every minute, you could not guess what it is. I shall not tell you, because I want you to be all surprised to pieces when you see it, and I am so impatient to give it to you that I can hardly wait. Only you must be in a great hurry and get well, because you see it is only five weeks from to-day that I shall expect to see you in the dear old study in Clarendon Street, where we have had such a lot of good times together before now. Just think of it! We ’11 set the music box a-going, and light all the gaslights in the house, and get my doll out of her cupboard, and dress Tood up in a red pocket handkerchief and stand her up on the study table, and make her give three cheers ! And we’ll have some gingerbread and lemonade.

I ‘ve got a lot of things for you besides the one which I bought for you the other day. You couldn’t guess what it is if you were to guess forever, but this is the best of all, and when you see it you will jump the rheumatism right out of you. I hope you will be quite well by that time. What sort of a place is Sharon ? Do not write to me about it, but tell me all about it when I see you. What a lot you will have to tell. You can tell me what was in that Christmas letter which the wicked mail-man never brought to me.

Goodbye, dear little girl. Don’t you wish you knew what it was that I bought for you the other day ? Give my love to Agnes and Tood.

Your affectionate uncle, P.

TRENTO, August 19, 1883.

DEAR MARY, — I have come to another place which seems to justify a letter to you. Three hundred and twenty-eight years ago, a lot of clergymen climbed up here into the mountains and held the Council of Trent, and fixed forever the Church of Rome. Last night Paine and I arrived here in the train, and are holding our council now in the Hotel de Trento. This morning we went to the old church in which the Council sat, and there we listened to a sermon which we did not understand, looked at a crowded congregation of people (as different from that which meets in Trinity as anybody can imagine), and wondered how the old church looked when the Bishops and Archbishops were sitting there in council three hundred and twenty-eight years ago.

Just in front of me was a poor old weather-beaten lady, who went fast asleep in the sermon time and woke up beautifully refreshed when it was over. I rather think the sleep did her more good than the sermon would have done, for she looked as if she had been overworked ever since she was a baby, and that was long ago. On the walls hung a picture of the Council, and after service we went off to the other church, where is the crucifix before which all the Tridentine Fathers, when their long work was over, said their prayers. How modern it makes our General Convention of this autumn look, and yet it is the modern things that are of more interest to us than all the old ones ; and more important to me today, a great deal, than the Council of Trent is poor little G.’s chamber at Sharon. I wonder whether, in the two weeks since she went there, the waters have done her good. I cannot tell you how anxious I am, or how, getting the news only once a week, I wait in suspense to hear what the blue envelopes will bring which the Barings send to meet us. If I were at home, I would take the train to Sharon and see what sort of a nurse I should make for the dear little woman. At least I could know how it fared with her, and perhaps you would not mind having me about, and if I were very much in the way I could go out and smoke my cigar behind the house. But it is not long now. Five weeks from today I shall be in the old place again. I will not think of anything else than that then you will be back from Sharon, with G. vastly better for it, and the new house as lively as a summer’s day. And then what a winter we will have.

There goes the church-bell again ! They are going to have another meeting in the Council church, but I shall stay at home and write my letters. To-morrow morning a carriage will start with us for a three days’ drive through the glorious Dolomites, and next Sunday I shall hear at Wildbad-Gastein how you all are.