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CHAPTER IX
The year after my fifteenth birthday was destined to be an eventful one to me. In May of that year I wrote a letter to my aunt, Mrs. Izard Bacon Rice, who lived at "The Oaks" in Charlotte County. This letter, the earliest extant of my girlhood, has recently been placed in my hands, and I venture to hope I may be pardoned for inserting the na?ve production here; not for any intrinsic merit, but because of the light it reflects upon my development and associations at the age of fifteen,—a light not to be acquired by mere recollection, as a photograph of the person must be more lifelike than a sketch from memory.

"Charlottesville, May 25, 1845.

"My dear Aunt: I think that I have fully tested the truth of the old saying, viz. 'Hope deferred maketh the heart sick,' for I have hoped and hoped in vain for an answer to my last letter, and since it does not make its appearance, I write to request an explanation.

"I received a letter from Willie (Carrington) this morning, and was rejoiced to hear that you still intend coming to Charlottesville 'some of these times,' and that she thinks of coming also. I am overjoyed at the idea of seeing my dear little Henry, and Tom in a few weeks. Willie says that Henry is beautiful, and that Tom has become quite a famous beau, improved wonderfully in gallantry, etc. I anticipate a great many long, pleasant walks with him, 63though I am afraid he will not like Charlottesville, as he will find no rabbits' tracks or partridges here. I hope you will come the first of June and stay a long while with us.

"Aunt Mary has been very unwell for a long time, but I am in hopes that she is getting a little better. I think your visit will improve her wonderfully. We are all as busy as we can be: aunt and uncle in the garden and yard, and I studying my French lessons, sewing, reading, and housekeeping for Aunt Mary when she is sick. I am very disconsolate at the thought of losing my most intimate friend (Lizzie Gilmer) for a few months. She is going to Staunton, and I expect to miss her very much. We have a very quiet time now—as most of my acquaintances were sent off at the late disturbances at the University, and I can study, undisturbed by company. I scarcely visit any one except Lizzy, and receive more visits from her than any one else, as she comes every day, and frequently two or three times a day. I am going to spend my last evening with her this evening, as she leaves to-morrow. I am very sorry that Willie will not see her, as I know they would like each other.

"Who do you think I have had a visit from? No less a personage than Dr. Schéle de Vere, professor of modern languages at the University. He has called on me twice, but I, unfortunately, was not at home once when he called. He is a German (one of the nobility), and speaks our language shockingly, and is such an incessant chatterer that he gives me no possible chance of wedging in a syllable. He walked with me from church last Sunday, and jabbered incessantly, much to the amusement of the congregation in general, but particularly of two little boys who walked behind us. When he parted with us, he asked uncle's permission to visit us, which was granted; and he seemed very grateful, and said he 'would have de pleasure den of sharing de doctor's hospitality and hearing some of Miss 64Rice's fine music.' But what mortifies me beyond measure is that he treats me as a little child, and inquires most affectionately about my progress in music, etc. He is not so much older than I am, either, as he is only twenty-one, so I think he might be more respectful in his demeanor. What do you think of it all? He plays very well on the piano, and has heard the best performers in Europe, so I feel very reluctant to play for him. The first time he heard me play, he wanted to applaud me as they do at concerts, but he was checked by one of the company, who intimated to him that it was not customary in this country, so he contented himself with clapping his hands several times.

"I have neither time nor paper for much more, so good-by. Aunt Mary joins me in love and a kiss to all grandfather's household and to Tom, Henry, and Uncle Izard.

"Yours affectionately,
"Sara A. Rice.

"P.S. I send my best respects to Lethe, Viny, and Aunt Chany, and my love to all the ducks, geese, chickens, turkeys, and Tom's dogs.

"Yours affectionately,
"Sara A. Rice."

This sixty-four-year-old letter was beautifully written with a quill pen, clear and distinct without an erasure, blotted with sand from a perforated box, without envelope, and sealed with wax. Written in figures upon the envelope was "Uncle Sam's" receipt for prepaid postage, 12? cents, no stamps having then been issued by him.

Fanciful seals and motto wafers were in high favor among romantic young people. "L'amitié c'est l'amour sans ailes" was a prime favorite; also a maiden in a shallop looking upward to a star, the 65legend "Si je te perds je suis perdu." The most delicate refusal to a lover on record was the lady's card, "With thanks," sealed with a bird in flight and "Liberty is sweet!"

The "disturbances of late," for which my friends were "suspended for a month," were not of a serious nature. They were only the midnight pranks of mischievous boys, such as hyphenating the livery-stable's name "Le Tellier" to read "Letel-Liar," drawing his "hacks" to the doors of the citizens, placing the undertaker's sign over the physician's office, driving Mr. Schéle's ponies, and leaving on their flanks the painted words "So far for to-day," the phrase with which he invariably ended his lectures. It remained later for the student in whom I was most interested to excel them all. He drove a flock of sheep one dark night up the rotunda stairs to the platform on the roof, and then shut down the trap-door. A plaintive good-morning-bleating welcomed faculty and students next day. Needless to say, the valiant shepherd was "suspended."

Late in the summer of this year another large convention of clergymen, Presbyterian this time, was held at Charlottesville. No good hotel could be found anywhere in Virginia. The landlord was ruined by the hospitality of the citizens. As soon as a pleasant stranger "put up" at a public house, he was claimed as a guest by the first man who could reach him.

When large religious or political or literary meetings convened in our town, my uncle would send to the chairman asking for the number of guests 66we could entertain. Until they arrived, we were as much on the qui vive as if we had bought numbers in a lottery.

On this occasion, Lizzie and I were in great grief. She had been away from town for two months, and was now to make me a long visit. We had made plans for a lovely week. Now the house would be filled with clergymen,—no music, no visitors (and Lizzie was engaged), no "fun"! My aunt sympathized with us, and fitted up a small room at the far end of the hall, moved in the piano and guitar, and bade us make ourselves at home.

We were seated at church behind a row of the grave and reverend seniors, when Dr. White leaned over our pew and said to one of them, "I'm glad to tell you I can send you to Dr. Hargrave's. He will take fine care of you."

"But," demurred the reverend gentleman, "I have my son with me."

"Take him along! There's plenty of room," replied the doctor.

Lizzie gave me a despairing glance. Now we are ruined, we thought. A dreadful small boy to be amused and kept out of mischief.

That afternoon we were condoling with each other in our little city of refuge, when the opening front door revealed among our guests a slender youth, who, upon being directed to his room, sprang up the stairs two or three steps at a time.

"Mercy!" said I. "Worse and worse! There's no hope for us! A strange young man to be entertained in our little parlor!" 67 My aunt entering just then, we confided our miseries to her. "Never mind, Lizzie," she said, "Sara shall keep him in the large room. She must bring down all her prettiest books and pictures and arrange a table in a corner for his amusement. He will not be here much of the time. He has to go to church with his father, you know."

The name of this unwelcome intruder was Roger A. Pryor. He made himself charming. I had not yet tucked up my long braids, but he treated me beautifully. He was so alert, so witty, so amiable, that he was unanimously voted the freedom of our sanctum. He entered with glee into our schemes for self-defence. Running out to a shrub on the lawn, he returned with a handful of "wax berries," gravely explained, "ammunition," and proceeded to test the range of the missile. Just then one of the enemy, the great Dr. Plumer, entered the hall, and the soft berry neatly reached his dignified nose. His Reverence gave no sign of intelligence. He had been a boy himself!

St. George Tucker took an immense fancy to our new ally. He found a great deal to say to me. How glad was I that my aunt had given me a new rose-colored silk bonnet from Mme. Viglini's.

The week passed like a dream. When the stage drew up at midnight to take our guest to the railroad, seven miles distant, we were both very triste at parting.

He was sixteen years old, was to graduate next summer at Hampden Sidney College, and come the session afterward to our University. I hoped all 68would go well with him; and after the winding horn of the stage was quite out of hearing, I,—well, I had been taught early to entreat the Father of all to take care of my friends. There could be no great harm in including him by name, nor yet in adding to my petition the words "for me!"

I suppose I may have seemed a bit distrait after this incident, for my uncle, who was always devising occupation for me, insisted upon my writing a story. I liked to please him, and I surprised him by producing a love story. I think I called it "The Birthnight Ball." I remember this quotation, which I considered quite delicate and suggestive:—

"The stars, with vain ambition, emulate her eyes." That is all I remember of my story. My uncle sent it to the Saturday Evening Post in Philadelphia and it was accepted, the editor proposing, as I was a young writer, to waive the honorarium! I was only too glad to accept the honor.

In the autumn my uncle took us on a long journey to Niagara Falls and the Northern Lakes. In New York we stopped at the Astor House on Broadway, and my room looked into the park then opposite, where scarlet flamingoes gathered around a fountain. We walked in the beautiful Bowling Green Park, then the fashionable promenade, took tea with the Miss Bleeckers on Bleecker Street, and bought a lovely set of turquoises, a jewelled comb, and a white topaz brooch from Tiffany's. Moreover, my seat at table was near that of John Quincy Adams, now an aged man, paralytic, and almost incapable of conveying his food to his lips. He was charmingly cheerful, 69and courteous to a sweet-faced lady who attended him.

I think we took the canal-boat in Schenectady which was to convey us across the state of New York.

My uncle had been beguiled in New York by a flaming pictorial advertisement of palatial packet-boats, drawn by spirited horses galloping at full speed. When we entered our little craft, we found it so crowded that we were wretchedly uncomfortable. Possibly, in our ignorance, we had not taken the fine packet of the advertisement. Our own boat crawled along at a snail's pace, making three or four miles an hour. Many of the passengers left it every morning, preferring to walk ahead and wait for us until night. We made the journey in five or six days. The heat, the discomfort, the mosquitoes! Who can imagine the misery of that journey? Fresh from the mountains and gorgeous sunsets of Albemarle, we found little to admire in the scenery.

As to the Falls, which we had come so far to see—they and their entourage made me ill. It was all so weird and strange; the dark forests of evergreen, pine, and spruce; the sullen Indians, squatted around blankets, embroidering with beads and porcupine quills; the hapless little Indian babies strapped to boards and swinging in the trees, and over all, the heavy roar of the waters. The immensity of their power filled me with terror. I longed to get away from the awful spectacle.

The best part of a journey is the home-coming. The dear familiar house,—we never knew how good 70it was,—the welcome of affectionate, cheerful servants; the dogs beside themselves with joy, the perfect peace, leisure, relaxation! Flowers, fruit, and much accumulated mail awaited us. My keen eye detected a large-enveloped paper from Philadelphia, and my nimble fingers quickly abstracted it, unperceived, from the miscellaneous heap, and consigned it to a bureau drawer in my room, the key of which went into my pocket.

In the privacy of my bedtime hour—having bolted the door—I drew it forth. Oh, what inane foolishness! What sad trash! Tearing it into strips, I lighted each one at my candle and saw the whole burned—burned to impalpable smoke and degraded dust and ashes; consigned then and there to utter oblivion!

My uncle often wondered why the story had not appeared. There was a perilous moment when he threatened to write to the publishers, but I persuaded him to be patient and dignified about it, and the matter, after a while, was forgotten. Never was an uncle so managed by a young girl!

I think my great card with him was my interest in his office work. Physicians compounded and prepared their own prescriptions sixty-five years ago. He delighted in me when I donned my ample apron and, armed with scales and spatula, gravely assumed the airs of a physician's assistant. I knew all his professional man?uvres to satisfy hypochondriac old gentlemen and nervous old ladies. I learned to make the innocuous pills which "helped" them "so much," and the carminative for the aching little stomachs 71of the babies. Great have been the strides since then in the noblest of all professions!

Mrs. Fanny Bland Randolph.

Just here I venture to illustrate some of the radical changes in the practice of medicine by extracts from a letter written by Dr. Theodorick Bland to his sister, Fanny Bland Randolph. The letter is copied from the original in the possession of the late Joseph Bryan of Richmond, Virginia.

The treatment in 1840 differed in no material particular from that of 1771, when Dr. Bland prescribed—regretting the necessity of "absent treatment"—to his sister's husband, John Randolph, as follows:—

"I take Mr. Randolph's case to be a bilious intermittent, something of the inflammatory kind, which, had he been bled pretty plentifully in the beginning, would have intermitted perfectly; but unless his pulse is hard and, as it were, laboring and strong, I would not advise that he should now be bled; but if they are strong and his head-ache violent, and the weight of the stomach great, let him lose about six ounces of blood from the arm, and if he is much relieved from that, and his pulse rises and is full and strong after it, a little more may be taken. Let his body be kept open by Glysters, made with chicken water, molasses, decoction of marsh-mallows and manna, given once, twice or three times,—nay, even four times a day if occasion requires, and let him have manna and cream of tartar dissolved in Barley Water,—one ounce of manna and a half ounce of Cream of Tartar to every pint. Of this let him drink plentifully, but prior to this, after bleeding (should bleeding be necessary) let him take a vomit of Ipecac, four grains every half hour until he has four or five plentiful vomits, drinking plentifully of Camomile Tea (to three or 72four pints at intervals) to work it off. Should the pain in the head be violent and the eyes red and heavy, let his temples be cupped or leeches applied to his temples, which operation may be repeated every day, if he find relief from it, for two or three days. If the manna, Cream of Tartar and Glysters be not effectual, let him take fifteen grains of rhubarb and as many of Vitriolated Tartar, repeating the dose, twice or three times at six or eight hours intervals. Should he have any catching of the nerves, let one of the powders be given every four hours in a spoonful of jalop or pennyroyal water. Should he be delirious, sleepy, or dozing in a half kind of a sleep, his pulse small and quick, put blisters to his back, arms and legs, and leeches and cupping to his temples. If his skin should be hot, dry and parched after he has taken his vomit or before, let him be put in a tub of warm water with vinegar in it, up to his arm-pits and continue in it as long as he can bear it, first wetting his head therein. He may, now and then, drink a little claret-whey and have his tongue sponged with sage-tea, honey and vinegar. Dear Fanny, with sincere wishes for his safe and speedy recovery, and love to him and your dear little ones,

"Your affectionate brother,
"T. Bland."

It is difficult to imagine that one of the "dear little ones" was John Randolph of Roanoke—that incarnation of genius and outrageous temper. His father survived Dr. Bland's treatment only a few years. Still, fidelity to historic truth impels me to state that we have no evidence that the doctor was in league with Henry St. George Tucker, who almost immediately married the widow!


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