September

September

AUTUMN SONG

My Life is but a leaf upon the tree—
A growth upon the stem that feedeth all.
A touch of frost—and suddenly I fall,
To follow where my sister-blossoms be.

The selfsame sun, the shadow, and the rain
That brought the budding verdure to the bough,
Shall strip the fading foliage as now,
And leave the limb in nakedness again.

My life is but a leaf upon the tree;
The winds of birth and death upon it blow;
But whence it came and whither it shall go,
Is mystery of mysteries to me.
John B. Tabb

237. Abigail Adams.[193]

The morning after I received your very short letter, I determined to devote the day to writing to my friend; but I had only just breakfasted, when I had a visit from Monsieur Rivière, an officer on board the Languedoc, who speaks English well, the captain of the Zara, and six or eight other officers, from on board another ship. The first gentleman dined with me, and spent the day, so that I had no opportunity of writing that day. The gentlemen officers have made me several visits, and I have dined twice on board, at very elegant entertainments. Count d'Estaing has been exceedingly polite to me. Soon after he arrived here, I received a message from him requesting that I would meet him at Colonel Quincy's, as it was inconvenient leaving his ship for any long time. I waited upon him, and was very politely received. Upon parting, he requested that the family would accompany me on board his ship and dine with him the next Thursday, with any friends we chose to bring; and his barge should come for us. We went, according to the invitation, and were sumptuously entertained, with every delicacy that this country produces, and the addition of every foreign article that could render our feast splendid. Music and dancing for the young folks closed the day.

The temperance of these gentlemen, the peaceable, quiet disposition both of officers and men, joined to many other virtues which they have exhibited during their continuance with us, are sufficient to make Europeans, and Americans too, blush at their own degeneracy of manners. Not one officer has been seen the least disguised with liquor since their arrival. Most that I have seen appear to be gentlemen of family and education. I have been the more desirous to take notice of them, as I cannot help saying that they have been neglected in the town of Boston. Generals Heath and Hancock have done their part, but very few, if any, private families have any acquaintance with them. Perhaps I feel more anxious to have them distinguished, on account of the near and dear connections I have among them. It would gratify me much, if I had it in my power, to entertain every officer in the fleet.

In the very few lines I have received from you, not the least mention is made that you have ever received a line from me. I have not been so parsimonious as my friend,—perhaps I am not so prudent; but I cannot take my pen, with my heart overflowing, and not give utterance to some of the abundance which is in it. Could you, after a thousand fears and anxieties, long expectation, and painful suspense, be satisfied with my telling you that I was well, that I wished you were with me, that my daughter sent her duty, that I had ordered some articles for you, which I hoped would arrive, etc., etc.? By Heaven, if you could, you have changed hearts with some frozen Laplander, or made a voyage to a region that has chilled every drop of your blood; but I will restrain a pen already, I fear, too rash, nor shall it tell you how much I have suffered from this appearance of—inattention.

The articles sent by Captain Tucker have arrived safe, and will be of great service to me. Our money is very little better than blank paper. It takes forty dollars to purchase a barrel of cider; fifty pounds lawful for a hundred of sugar, and fifty dollars for a hundred of flour; four dollars per day for a laborer, and find him, which will amount to four more. You will see, by bills drawn before the date of this, that I had taken the method which I was happy in finding you had directed me to. I shall draw for the rest as I find my situation requires. No article that can be named, foreign or domestic, but what costs more than double in hard money what it once sold for. In one letter I have given you an account of our local situation, and of everything  I thought you might wish to know. Four or five sheets of paper, written to you by the last mail, were destroyed when the vessel was taken.[194] Duplicates are my aversion, though I believe I should set a value upon them, if I were to receive them from a certain friend; a friend who never was deficient in testifying his regard and affection to his

Portia.

Footnotes:

[193]This letter is also taken from a rough draught without date. The allusions to Count d'Estaing and his fleet fix it in September or October of 1778.

[194]About this time many of the letters written by both the parties were intercepted by British cruisers.