She laughed as she told me she had looked up my career and been a little alarmed when she discovered that I had once been a Sanitary Inspector for the Red Cross. "What manner of person is this particular Benet?" she had asked Mr. Hampson, who soon allayed her fears.
That visit was the first of several made to the historic house during my days in the town. On the first night I was shown the portrait of Emily as a child with her brother and sister, the old sideboard, the Dickinson watch-chain, brooches, and little ornaments that had belonged to the poet. The house seemed filled with fine old furniture, as all relics and mementoes of Emily had been transferred there. My hostess told me she would like to ask me to dinner-but her cook had gone away. "You must come to tea instead, and I will pour out for you from Emily's teacups." And she showed me the cream colored ones, fine as egg-shells.
Within a day or two I went to tea and the bond that drew
us quickly together was our mutual sorrow over the loss of our
mothers. I found that Madame Bianchi had been her own
mother's inseparable companion. Of Emily, her distinguished
aunt and one of her idols, she spoke constantly, and one felt
Emily's distinct presence and influence in her life; Vinnie's
was far less close. She told me anecdotes of both her brothers.
The elder, Ned, died young as he was about to be married.
He too had been close to Emily and used to read Scott with
her in the evenings. The little child, Gilbert, who died at
eight, was a bewitching boy, she said, "who got away with
murder." She was "Mattie" to all of them. With real mischief
in her eyes, she described the afternoon when she and Ned
were playing with the minister's children, "Mac" and "Dids".
Emily, their friend and confidante, who never betrayed them,
had been called upon for provender. As was her custom, she
lowered her offerings from the window. This time it was
neither cake nor caramels that dangled on the string, but a
package of raisins. Mattie had retired with her comrades to
the woodpile and eaten every single one. They had never
been able to face a raisin since, she said.
Transcription and commentary copyright 2000 by
Martha Nell Smith, all rights reserved.
Maintained by Lara Vetter <email@example.com>
Last updated on March 10, 2008