Guests in Eden

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.

image | previous page | next page | search the archives

  Critical Materials Main Menu
Transcription and commentary copyright 2000 by
Martha Nell Smith, all rights reserved.
Maintained by Lara Vetter <>
Last updated on March 10, 2008

Dickinson Electronic Archives