How is that new slave of your father's? What is his name? Paul? Write me soon...
Lavinia

Boston, Massachusetts

August 13, 1859

 Dearest Cousin,

 It is hard to believe that it has been three weeks since I left your father's plantation. They have been long, tedious weeks for me. There is nothing here in Boston to match the adventures we had in the saddle and at the dances; not that we are lacking in dances. I have attended several since my return, but it is hard to enjoy them without you. Such social events are dull without a close friend or relative with which to giggle, and they are made even duller by my mother's constant matchmaking. I told you once and I will say again that it was like a breath of fresh air to escape her less-than-subtle suggestions even for a short time.

 How is my valiant steed Quincy? I am feeling quite jealous of you these days. I shall have to marry a man with an estate in the countryside so that I can take long rides whenever I choose.

  I am growing peevish from being so confined. Mother can hardly stand to be around me sometimes. Today she told me to leave the parlor because I was being so rude. See what boredom does to me? I must plan to spend the holidays with you, or I may lose my sanity.

  It is strange, is it not? I used to be content in the city. You have spoiled me, Cousin. I have never been quite happy here since your father invited me to spend that first summer with you.

 Do you remember what fun we had last year when we attended Mrs. Martin's ball?  I will never forget the look on Nellie Cook's face when she found that frog little Eddie Martin put on her chair. Do you ever see Miss Cook anymore? She was such a prissy girl, but the gentlemen seemed to like her. It would not surprise me if she had fooled some poor chap into marrying her.

 It is growing late, and we are having company tonight. I must go put on my best dress. Some of father's most respected colleagues are coming for dinner. One more thing before I end this letter. How is that new slave of your father's? What is his name? Paul? Write me soon. I am desperate for news of the plantation.

 Yours affectionately,

Lavinia Lewis

Gordonsville, Virginia

   August 25, 1859

My Lovely Cousin, Lavinia,

      I was overjoyed to receive your letter!  I believe that corresponding shall ease our impatience until we are able to see each other once again.

  My, what lovely times we had, indeed, just as you wrote.  I am pleased that you were happy here, but I find it difficult to imagine not being content in the city as well.  Sometimes the days grow long for me, but I am grateful for the usual quiet of the country.

  However, I should like to take a turn in visiting you sometime, cousin, for the city life does intrigue me with all its fuss and fun.  You know how Father tends to keep from many social parties.  I would delight in dances every week! 

  Here at the plantation we have gatherings only for holidays and special occasions, mostly.  I, too, was grateful for Father allowing us to attend Mrs. Martin’s Ball last summer, although that rascal Eddie was always up to something.  I must admit, however, that I didn’t much mind him teasing Nellie Cook with his frog.  What memories we have!

  Nellie has indeed fooled some chap into marrying her.  He is a rich gentleman and has a most despicable air about him.  They seem a suitable match – both being so irksome.  

  Do tell me of any exciting events occurring in Boston.  How are those gentlemen, William and James, whom you spoke about during your visit here?  The stories you related of their adventures were simply astounding. 

  Yesterday, I went for a ride on Flash, down to the trail in the woods and to the creek.  I remembered the wonderful times we had there together with our horses.  Quincy is doing well, though I believe he misses you.  He never took a fancy to anyone like he did to you.  You needn’t worry about him for I award him sugar and apples every time I visit the stables, as you did during your stay here.

  Oh yes, Paul, the new slave, has already proven to be quite strong and hard working, according to Father.  (And you know how difficult it is, at times, to please Father)  Paul was assigned with the field workers without needing any guidance as he seems quite experienced for his age.  Father is very pleased with this investment.

  I miss you, Lavinia!  But I do hope you are happy in the city.  Mother says that we should be content wherever the Lord places us.  I am glad he placed you with us this summer again and I pray we will spend much more time together soon.

    And so, please do continue to avoid your mother’s matchmaking efforts.  I couldn’t bear to have you drawn away yet!

  The tea bell has just been rung and Eliza is here to help me freshen up, so I must close this letter.

  Lovingly, Your cousin,

     Amanda Mills


 

December 25, 1859


Dear Diary,

  What a marvelous Christmas we have had! Amanda and I rose early because we were excited for the festivities to begin. After breakfast and church the entire family gathered near the door to the parlor where the Christmas tree was displayed. The doors had been shut, and the children had not been allowed entrance while the tree was being decorated.

  This morning the doors were thrown open, and the gifts were distributed. It was delightful to see the amazement and wonder on the faces of my younger siblings and cousins. Aunt Lucille’s youngest boys are only little babes of three and six, adorable lads with chubby cheeks and dimpled smiles. They both clapped their hands and shouted, “Hurrah!”

  The toys that we had hung on the tree were accepted with rapturous exclamations. It reminded me of my own childhood when Lottie and I would plead with our parents for just one sight of the Christmas tree.

  After all of the children had received their toys, the adults began to exchange gifts as well. I was so excited for Amanda to see the gift I had for her that I had scarcely thought of receiving gifts myself. I was surprised and delighted to see that she had given me a miniature of herself, just as I had given her one of me. Her gift to me also included a pair of handsomely crafted combs and a garnet bracelet engraved with forget-me-nots. They are lovely gifts. I could not be happier with them.

  I received many gifts from other family members as well: a deep blue cloak, pearl earrings, a painted fan, and lace gloves among other beautiful things. Amanda and I gave gifts to my parents, our aunt and uncle, Lottie, and Aunt Lucille’s eldest daughter Clara, who is one year older than Lottie. It was a jolly time!

  This afternoon we went for a sleigh ride in the countryside. Lottie and Clara rode in a sleigh with Amanda and I, and we all sang Christmas carols. Lottie was in a good mood and said not one unkind word all day. What a miracle!

  This evening I held Baby Evelyn, Aunt Lucille’s youngest, for half an hour while she played with her rattle and drooled on my hand. She is such a darling baby. It has been years since I have held an infant. It awakened in me a desire to be a mother someday. I have yet to meet a man I could marry, but tonight I realized that despite my best efforts to convince myself I would not mind spinsterhood, I do have a deep longing for a family of my own. But I shall not dwell on such thoughts. They can only dissatisfy me.

  Tomorrow is our Christmas party. It is going to be a grand affair!
Mr. Carlson will likely be in attendance, and I hope that nothing awkward will arise from his presence. Amanda seemed to enjoy his company at the Puddister’s ball last evening so I am hopeful that there are no ill feelings between them.

  Mother insisted that Dr. Jennison be invited as well. Our family was not well acquainted with him before Mother’s accident, but it seems he is from a family of good standing.

  Luther Puddister will no doubt attend the party, and I fear he will make things unpleasant. I am still angry with him for the cruel things he said to Amanda, and I wish that he would apologize. I told Father what he said, but Father was not inclined to speak with him about it.

  “The issue of slavery is not one to take lightly,” he said. “It has already caused many divisions, and I know Mr. Puddister well enough to know he will not apologize for his frankness.”

  Father’s words made me unhappy. It seems unjust to let such a man go unpunished, but there is nothing I can do about it. My! How he irks me!

Lavinia Lewis


 

December 26, 1859

Dear Diary,

  Christmas was simply splendid! In the morning, I rose early and was tip-toeing down the stairs when I nearly bumped into Lavinia, who had also risen early and was also tip-toeing down the stairs! Suppressing our excited giggles, we hurried to sit by the fire. After we had spoken about the forthcoming day in impatient whispers, Lavinia suggested we go to the kitchen and ask the servants to let us help with some of the Christmas baking. It took some pleading, but we were allowed in. I am afraid we hindered more than helped, but the servants did not seem to mind. There is something about Christmas time that puts most everyone in good humor.


  After we had breakfasted and been to a lovely church service, everyone was admitted into the parlor where the tree was admired and exclaimed over and gifts were exchanged. My gifts to the Lewises were a miniature of myself, combs, and a bracelet for Lavinia; a fan for Lottie; scarves and hair ribbons for Sarah Ann and Mildred; and a set of marbles for Thomas. I had carefully selected a cigar case for Uncle and cologne for Aunt, as well. There was also an abundance of candies and goodies, along with other delightful trinkets, sent from my family. I slipped away and gave some to Jasper, Eliza, and Paul. They received them quite happily. 


  I, myself, was given so many wonderful things - a miniature of Lavinia, a music book, a fashionable muff, handkerchiefs stitched by the younger girls, and Thomas surprised me with a sketch of a horse. It was beautiful (and it reminded me of how I miss Flash). The gift that surprised me most, however, was from my Uncle. It was a book titled, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Of course I have heard of it. It is written by a Northern woman! I am quite eager to read it. 

  “Well now, if that isn’t fitting,” Uncle said of his gift to me, “a book about Uncle Tom, from Uncle Tom.”

  “Shall I call you that from now on?” I teased back.

  “Oh, do, dear niece. I would enjoy it.” he replied. So I thanked Uncle ‘Tom’ for the book.

  That evening, the children played joyfully with their new toys. Little Richard galloped about the room on his stick horse, nearly upsetting a vase before Aunt Lucille reminded him that ‘gentlemen do not ride recklessly in the house.’ Charlie did cry when his toy soldier’s head broke off, but Uncle Charles promised to have it hammered back on and then tossed his youngest son in the air until he squealed.

  Lottie and Clara chatted merrily, and Lavinia and I took turns holding baby Evelyn.
Before Christmas, the doctor had pronounced Aunt Mary healthy enough to be moved from her room. However, he cautioned that she be kept calm and that nothing be done that might overly excite her. So we have all been attentive and careful to make Christmas (and now the party tonight) an enjoyable yet peaceful time.


  As I just wrote, our party is tonight, and Lavinia suggested that it might be nice to have Paul, Jasper, and Eliza join the party. However, that simply would not do. They do not know proper etiquette for such gatherings. They would not belong! It is- not their fault – they do not know better. With all the talk I have heard amongst the Northerners of how evil slavery is, I have thought much on slaves and their treatment. And here is one of my questions: would suddenly declaring that a slave, who has no rights, is free and will be treated equally among whites truly do him any good? What would all the slaves do if one day they awake and are told that they are free?

 
  Most Northerners insist slavery must be abolished. I know better than to insist that the practice does not have flaws, but to do away with it completely? What would we in the South do without plantations? 


  I remember Lavinia once wrote to me that she was afraid the issue was more serious than it is being taken and that our nation may come to some sort of crisis over it. I had not before taken notice of the tension slavery has caused, but now I have come to observe and understand much more and can see that she may be right! 

  Oh, but I do hate to have such dismal thoughts, especially at Christmas time. I shall attempt to push them aside for now.


   Amanda Mills