New Providence, NJ
Oct 12, 1898
From: Ruth Barrell
To: William A Gray
My dear Will:
Just 406 years today since Columbus discovered this country. A great deal has
happened since then and a great deal has happened since you left me yesterday morning.
I have had much to trouble me since then and much to cheer as well so tonight I am
as ever with you, your happy Ruthy.
I will begin with the troubles. Will, you know that Abe hadn’t been here when you left
yesterday. We waited until after breakfast and as no one came, I rode my wheel up to
Abe’s to find out if any-one was sick or what the trouble was. Abe’s wife answered my
knock at the door and with a troubled face she told me Abe had not been home all night.
She had been up to the village the night before looking for him but didn’t find him. She was
going up again, so I left and went for “Mr. Stiffneck” to do the morning chores. He came
and managed to get through before noon. Ethel and I rode up for the mail. I stopped to see
Gussie and a sad story I heard. She and Ida had just returned and she told me that she
thought Abe had left her. She was crying and Ida was clinging to her and crying too. I tried
to comfort them a little by telling them I didn’t think he could have gone for good and all,
went on to the corner with Ethel, got the mail and let Ethel take it home while I stopped in
to see what I could do for those poor deserted people. Gussie was an old school-mate of
mine and Sunday school ____ too in Miss Maxwell’s class, so I knew her pretty well.
Will I sat down beside them and she poured out all her troubles to me and dear
little Ida put her arm around my neck and with the other clinging to her mother. I couldn’t
keep the tears from my eyes. It seems all the neighbors Hanley, Bill Samson, and her
brother Frank all had hard cider in their houses and been offering it to Abe and she said
he had been drinking for some days. Then that young Harrison has been wanting to get his
horse and Sunday he came with Abe to get it. It seems the horse was given to Abe with the
understanding that he would never sell it or give it away and Gussie knew this besides she
thought a great deal of old Sam. So she was opposed to Abe’s selling him and Sunday she
told me they quarrelled about it when he brought the horse up and she held his head or
something so Abe couldn’t take him away and Abe got very angry with her. Of course he
was under the effects of liquor at the time. Will the amount of the whole miserable
business is that Abe left Monday night after coming down and taking Sam and selling him
to the Harrison fellow. He didn’t take any wagon, harness, not even Sam’s halter. And God
knows where he is tonight. For the sake of his soul and his wife and child I hope he falls
into no bad hands and I think after a few sober days he will return. He leaves all chances
of a respectable life behind him. In the meantime, Lew High does our chores for us.
Harrison drove Sam nearly to death yesterday and today traded him to a Somerville
man, because he was afraid someone would be getting the horse away from him.
What dreadful trouble drink makes. Abe was always a good man but for that, all his
family are nice country people. It was rumored that he went to the city, but I believe the
latest report says not, so one seem to know. The Harrisons must know him.
We tried to find out all we could but of course we couldn’t do much. If some one
could only reach him and bring him back. Shame and pride are all that will keep him from
his home when he comes to his senses.
I don’t know what we’ll do for a man yet. Hope we’ll have heard from Abe by the
time we see you.
Now as to the subject that makes me happy. I had such a happy letter from Bob
today. O, Will, I think he will be just as happy as you or I if he gets Florence, as I trust he
will now. It makes me so happy to know he is, for I love my Bobby so. He was and is
always such a dear good brother. He and I always get on with each other perfectly. O, how
I’d love to see him tonight.
Between others troubles and joys I haven’t spent so much time as usual thinking of
our happiness, that is so secure I don’t need to worry about it. My things came yesterday,
but I haven’t done any sewing yet though I mean to begin very soon. The wall paper is real
pretty. You can see it Saturday if you like though I suppose you cannot tell much what it’s
like until it’s on the wall. You shall not see the other things for you would not be interested
in muslims and laces and such things, but you can see any changes we make in our future
nest, from time to time.
Ethel seems to have less pain in her side yesterday and to day, but the Dr is coming
tomorrow to see about it. I do not think it is serious, at all. She was out for a short ride both
days. I hope the Dr will fix her all right. You worried me by talking as you did Monday
morning. I think it dreadful to keep a Dr you have no faith in, and you always make me feel
as though we were not thoughtful enough of Ethel. Yet we have always found our Dr a
good one. He has always seemed to understand his cases. Even in Father’s case, a
hopeless one from the first of his last illness, the consulting physician agreed perfectly with
Dr Swain and his treatment of the case. Dr Swain ought to know Ethel much better than a
strange one would for he has been the Dr for our family since her birth.
I know you meant it all kindly and in love to us all but you don’t know how much I
have worried over your opinion of the Dr and wondered whether you were right against all
he has seemed to be in times past.
Will it is very late and my eyes ache Dear — and I must leave my cares and other
troubles and seek my couch with only thoughts of your dear love, other’s happiness, and
prayers of thankfulness that all my dear ones safe and quite well tonight. Ethel didn’t seem
a bit sick as she bid me goodnight awhile ago.
I hope you are perfectly well. I feel you are though I dare say you are very tired.
Do you ride any?
I must say goodnight Will my own, and go upstairs or I’ll not be able to get up.
Suppose I’ll hear from you before Saturday if not goodbye until then.
With a heartful of love
I am your happy
Always happy when I think of our love, Dear Will.
O, that future. It is rushing on to meet us Will.
P.S. Thursday morning.
When Lew High went in to clean the stables this morning, he found Jack with a nail
in his foot fastened to a block of wood, about a foot long. He pulled it out and put
turpentine on the wound. Then we had the blacksmith come and cut the wound out and put
turpentine in. He thought it wouldn’t be very bad, as the nail was not badly rusted. The
block must have been in the bedding since the barn was fixed this summer. Lew was a
little late last night and he probably couldn’t see well as it was so dark he had a lantern.
Will, I cannot drive Jack Saturday so you had better come to Murray Hill. If you have
anything too heavy send me word and I will meet you there with Jill after the train leaves.