letters from dickinson to frances and louise
TO: Louise and Frances Norcross
late January 1863
What shall I tell these darlings except that my father and mother are half their father and mother, my
home half theirs, whenever, and for as long as, they will. And sometimes a dearer thought than that
creeps into my mind, but it is not for to-night. Wasn't dear papa so tired always after mamma
went, and wasn't it almost sweet to think of the two together these new winter nights? The grief is
our side, darlings, and the glad is theirs. Vinnie and I sit down to-night, while mother tells what makes
us cry, though we know it is well and easy with uncle and papa, and only our part hurts. Mother tells
us how gently he looked on all who looked at him - how he held his bouquet sweet, as he were a
guest in a friend's parlor and must still do honor. The meek, mild gentleman who thought no hard,
but peace toward all.
Vinnie intended to go, but the day was cold, and she wanted to keep Uncle Loring as she talked with
him, always, instead of this new way. She thought too, for the crowd, she could not see you, children,
and she would be another one to give others care. Mother said Mr. V[aill], yes dears, even Mr.
V[aill], at whom we sometimes smile, talked about "Lorin' and Laviny" and his friendship towards
them, to your father's guest. We don't smile at him any more now, will we? Perhaps he'll live to tell
some gentleness of us, who made merry of him.
But never mind that now. When you have strength, tell us how it is, and what we may do for you, of
comfort, or of service. Be sure you crowd all others out, precious little cousins. Good-night. Let
Emily sing for you because she cannot pray:
It is not dying hurts us so, -
'Tis living hurts us more;
But dying is a different way,
A kind, behind the door, -
The southern custom of the bird
That soon as frosts are due
Adopts a better latitude.
We are the birds that stay,
The shiverers round farmers' doors,
For whose reluctant crumb
We stipulate, till pitying snows
Persuade our feathers home.
thomas johnson's note on letter 278 | index
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