Chapter 42: summer outing.Mr. Davis still continued so weak and had so little appetite that our medical man ordered him to a higher latitude for a month or two, after the adjournment of Congress. So we took our two little children, Margaret and Jefferson, and embarked on a steamer from Baltimore for Boston. It was not a pleasant route, but Mr. Davis always improved at sea, and in this case he became much stronger; until, when we arrived at Boston, he was quite cheerful, and able to dispense with the shade over his eyes for some hours toward twilight. We made connection with the packet steamer at Boston, and sailed out again for Portland harbor. The Fourth of July fell upon one of the days we were on the ship, and there were prayers read and several speeches. Among those who made addresses was Mr. Davis. He spoke very urgently for peace, and of his devotion to the Constitutional Union. Every one present was stirred by his remarks, and  showed the pleasure he had given by renewed attentions. We found in Portland a charming summer climate. The excursions on Casco Bay, in the little boats that plied to and fro, were delightful. It was cheering to meet occasionally a pleasure party of several hundred, singing as they sailed some old-fashioned hymn. Even now, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” comes floating over the past from those many voices, and I can almost see the green little islands rise before me that dot Casco Bay. The people of Portland were as kind as our own could have been, and we met many old acquaintances and made some agreeable new ones. Mrs. Montgomery Blair's family, many of them, lived there; Mrs. Charles Wingate, a bright, cordial, and stately lady of the old regime; the Dearbons, and Mr. Charles Clapp and his agreeable wife and daughter, entertained profusely in their delightful homes built before the embargo. Mrs. Carroll bore a strong resemblance to her cousin, Mrs. Blair, in person and in temperament, and was a near neighbor; she was kind as she was charming and unaffected. The Honorable Mr. Bradbury and his gentle, kind wife did much to render our visit pleasant. The families of Mr. Muzzy, Colonel  Little, and Mr. and Mrs. Shepley-he was afterward General Shepley during the war — were very kind, and Mr. Davis remembered them always affectionately. Clam-bakes were arranged for his amusement, and evenings at home for me, at different charming houses in the town; but, most pleasant of all, were the basket parties at Cape Elizabeth, where we sat down to exquisite refreshments, cooked under the directions of the ladies of the city, where each dish was the chef-d'oeuvre of some good housekeeper. At one of these parties, when we were all seated at the table, a young man with a salver, white apron, and napkin handed me some very good cake, but as I went to take a piece, he upset the whole plate on my shoulders, and then ejaculated, “Oh, I beg your pardon, I am so very awkward.” As I looked into the blushing face, I answered, “It is of no consequence; you have had no practice.” He retired in confusion, and in a few minutes Colonel Shepley brought in my friend, the awkward servant, metamorphosed into a handsome young gentleman, who was profuse in his apologies, but said he had heard Mr. Davis would make a speech after tea, and had asked to be allowed to attend the table rather than miss hearing it. He was there on a fishing excursion. As the evening progressed he added much to  our pleasure by singing, in a beautiful tenor voice, many popular songs. As the dark settled upon us, we drove home, admiring with “awful joy” the splendid comet that flaunted across the sky that summer. Our little Maggie was a beautiful child, of restless activity, and was the light of her father's eyes. She could not be kept in the old-fashioned garden planted with white, red, and black currants in rows under wide-spreading apple-trees, but whenever it was possible would run off to the neighbors, where her brave little spirited ways always made her welcome. She knew everyone in the neighborhood. One old sea-captain used to tell her wonderful stories upon which she dreamed at night, and the sea-serpent was her familiar demon. Not infrequently I heard people in the street designate me as “little Maggie's mother.” We met in Portland the Rev. Starr King and the Rev. Mr. Stebbins, two great pulpit orators. Mr. Starr King boarded at the same house with us, and his nature and mind combined seemed to me to be a heavenly lyre that was capable of sounding any note in the gamut of joy or sympathy. His eloquence was wondrous, and his cordial grace commended it to us. Mr. Stebbins was also personally most agreeable to Mr. Davis. They  had several long talks upon doctrinal points, and once at a dinner, when the necessity of a formulated creed was urged by my husband, Mr. Stebbins argued against it, and said, “The creed I set before my congregation is one-third democracy and two-thirds pluck.” Mr. Davis used often afterward to cite this speech of a great and good man to show how needful a written code of faith and dogmatic teaching was to Christians. Happy in the society of intellectual men of bright minds and cordial manners, Mr. Davis hourly improved, and found here entire rest and recreation. We were invited to witness the annual commencement of the Portland Free High School, and there saw the daughter of a dissipated, ignorant washer-woman, pass a wonderful examination. She had forgotten the prescribed method of explaining a problem in differential calculus, and formulated one of her own which answered the purpose, thereby showing her clear understanding of the science rather than of the words of the textbooks. As we went home we questioned whether this education, given to her by the State, had not rendered her more sensible, not of the degradation of labor, because education should elevate the dignity of self-help, but  of the squalor of her surroundings, and the inequality with hers of her mother's cultivation; if this made her more impatient under the daily scenes which mortified and tortured her; and finally, whether an energetic, cheery working woman had not been spoiled and a learned nondescript substituted for a wholesome, admirable, natural object. Mr. Davis and I felt such sympathy for the poor child that we seriously considered taking her home with us; but when we began to cast about for her proper level in our household we found that, as she had the habits of her class, we could not put her on the social plane of our family, and the learning of a scholar rendered her equally unfit for association with servants. So our project was reluctantly abandoned. We never heard what became of her. As the summer advanced we were invited by Professor Bache to go into tents with him and his party of triangulation on Mount Humpback. We travelled by rail to Bangor, and then took stages to Mount Humpback, spending a night in an old-fashioned inn on the road, much visited by trout fishers. Here was the first man milliner we had met. He was six feet in height, strong in proportion, and an exquisite seamster, as he proved by making a delicate “shirred” satin bonnet. At supper  we had immense dishes of speckled trout caught by the gentlemen anglers who were spending a few weeks there. At day dawn we heard a voice declaiming, in a most impressive tone, apparently to a crowded meeting. Mr. Davis arose and was seized with such spasmodic attacks of laughter that I joined him and looked into the barnyard. On a small cart, which was standing in the yard, arrayed in a long, figured calico dressing-gown, stood the deft seamster of the night before, with a pan of shelled corn, surrounded by a flock of chickens, turkeys, geese, and ducks, each applauding vociferously while he addressed them with a certain kind of eloquence upon all the topics of the day. As he threw one handful of corn after another out to them, he pleaded, “Consider, weigh, and accept these arguments, be just to one another, your liberties, your lives depend upon it.” When he saw Mr. Davis's laughing face at the window he made a deep bow, and said: “Fellow-citizens, allow me to present one more able and more eloquent than myself. Hear ye him.” After breakfast we proceeded on our journey, and the oratory of the merry mountebank has ever since remained a cheerful reminiscence often recalled. We drove nine miles over a most wonderful natural road, called by the country people  “horseback,” elevated over sixty feet and sloping steeply down on each side to the valley which it intersected, like a levee built by Titans. Interspersed throughout the rich valley on either side, in the lush green grass, were the most enormous bowlders of granite, many of which looked like Egyptian tombs. As there was no stone of the kind underlying the soil, Professor Bache thought they had been left there by some great flood. The apex on which we drove was only about twenty-five feet wide. and nearly uniform throughout its whole length, which stretched to the foot of Mount Humpback. There we found an ox team in waiting hitched to a sled, and we were driven up the side of the mountain, which was so steep that the oxen seemed sometimes to be about to fall back upon us. These were the first oxen I ever saw goaded, and Mr. Davis remonstrated many times against it with the driver. On a plateau near the top were white tents pitched, one for each of us, an excellent cook, tenderloin steaks from Bangor, vegetables from the neighboring farms, and to all this comfort was added the newest books, and an exquisite and very large musical box which played “Ah, che la morte,” and many other gems of the then new operas of Verdi. Professor Bache, who could not sing a tune, kept  up a pleased murmur of unmusical accompaniment as an expression of his delight. He read aloud at night, and a part of the day we watched him taking observations and enjoyed his clear explanations of his methods. A, the sun went down and shone upon the heliotropes, one fixed star after another gleamed out on the distant hill-tops, and our heliotrope answered back again to the dumb messages sent by scientists on every hill. The most noticeable thing to us, who were used to the insect clamor of our summer nights; was the silence on the mountain, and we saw no evidences of insect life. The fall of a leaf could be plainly heard, and it seemed to afford relief to Mr. Davis's exacerbated nerves, after the noise and bustle of Washington, to stay in this secluded place where he could be a lotus eater for a while. When not engaged in watching the survey work, we looked for the numerous signs of the glacial period, reasoned and wondered over them, picked up “ghost flowers” and found exquisite mosses, sometimes a foot deep, of velvety green. Mr. Davis took our little girl with us on his shoulder, and did all the things so joyful to towns-people on an outing in the country. So health came back to his wasted form, and his sight improved daily. After three happy weeks we returned  to Portland, bade our good friends there farewell, and went down to Boston, intending only to remain a day; but our baby, Jeff, was seized with membranous croup, and became dangerously ill at the Tremont House. Then I saw Boston under its most lovable guise. Every kindness was showered upon us that benevolence and sympathy could suggest. Many ladies called to inquire for him, but as the baby was too ill to be left for a moment, I saw but few of them. At the darkest hour when we feared the worst, and a foggy night was setting in upon the evening of a raw day, a large, gentle-looking lady knocked at the door in a house dress. She introduced herself as Mrs. Harrison Grey Otis, with whose name we were of course familiar, and said she had come to spend the night and help me to nurse. She kissed the baby and looked over the prescriptions with an experienced eye, offered comforting suggestions, and in fact seemed to diffuse a sense of relief and confidence about her. She said she was having her house painted, and feared the odor would injure the baby, or she would take him home with her. Throughout the long anxious night she sat calm and tender, doing what she could, and this was much. After thirty years this memory is clear and blessed to me, and her name has always been  honored in our household. The Honorable William Appleton, Robert C. Winthrop, Caleb Cushing, Edward Everett, Colonel Charles Green, of The Post, Professor Pearce, Sidney Webster, and hundreds of others expressed their sympathy in the kindest manner. The happiest hours I spent in Boston were in Mr. Everett's library, looking over the editions de luxe in which it abounded, and hearing him talk about his travels. These reminiscences of Boston to this day soften all the asperities developed by our bloody war. Mr. Davis was invited to speak in Faneuil Hall by a committee consisting of the leading men of his party, and was glad of the opportunity to plead with the men of Massachusetts against the encroachments upon the rights and domestic institutions of the South; and indeed, many of the Democrats who urged him to make the address were anxious upon this point, one of whom was Benjamin F. Butler, then an enthusiastic State rights Democrat, but who, I think, was considered a kind of “ward politician.” This speech and Mr. Cushing's address of welcome are here quoted to show the tone Mr. Davis adopted toward them, how frank were his statements, and how exactly like those expressed elsewhere. The Hall was packed and the meeting was enthusiastic. The Honorable Caleb Cushing  introduced Mr. Davis to the assembly in the following speech, copied from the Boston Morning Post, October 12, 1858. The welcome of Mr. Cushing was extremely cordial, cheer upon cheer going up in token of the strong hold that distinguished orator, statesman, jurist, and soldier possesses upon the confidence and affection of the Democrats of this locality.
As Mr. Davis took the stand, a scene of enthusiasm was presented which defies description. Those who held seats in the galleries rose en masse, and joined with those standing on the lower floor in extending a cordial, very cordial greeting to the honored guest from Mississippi.
His speech was received with enthusiasm, and Mr. Davis came home pleased with the reception accorded him, but far more happy over the hope of a peaceable adjustment of the sectional dissonance, the acerbity of which existed not in his heart, but in theirs who were the aggressors. As soon as our boy was better we bade farewell to Boston, and though “The tender grace of a day that is dead, can never come back to me,” we often looked through the mists of the long ago, and heartily rendered thanks to those who were actively kind to us when we were in dire need. In Boston we were joined by Colonel Samuel Cooper and Professor Pearce, and we all went to New York together. At breakfast Professor Bache came in, flushed with the triumph of the cable-layers. He brought a copy of Queen Victoria's cablegram, “Peace on earth and good — will toward men.” Then began a series of questionings. Professor Pearce believed it had really been sent and received. Professor Bache said he was inclined to think it must be true; a hoax would cause so much indignation that the perpetrator would not be safe. Governor Seymour  thought it was not a real despatch. Mr. Davis felt almost sure that the cable could not be insulated so as to transmit the fluid so far. The pressure of the sea would break the cable. In other words, it was an impossibility; but the great feat had been accomplished, though the belief in it percolated very slowly through the minds of the people of that day. Now our conversation with the other side of the world is only limited by the length of our purses, or the extent of our needs. Diseases may be treated from day to day by cable, and consols rise to meet the fluctuations in the Bourse. Both dominate the gold-room in New York on the same day. A note of war sounded in the morning, comes trumpeting over the cable, and cotton, the victim of all earthly disasters, trembles and retreats without parleying. We returned in safety to Washington, and Mr. Davis, “after the first frost,” which is the period our people believe makes one safe from chills and fevers, returned to Mississippi to straighten out plantation matters and give an account of his stewardship to his constituents. When their “Colonel” came to them, they had no sharp criticism to pass upon him, asked questions for information, but never for censure. No man ever had more generous,  consistent, and admiring constituents. When he left them it was only a “lengthening chain,” and no disruption. If he had not been their first choice, he did not wish to serve them; if they disagreed with him, they wondered if they were not mistaken, and argued the point with the “Colonel” with equal frankness and faith. If at any time he had found out that a considerable body of them disapproved of his course, he would have relieved them of the necessity to censure by resigning their free gift. In this time such relations seem impossible, and the account of such a state of politics appears now arcadian. Perhaps it would always have been as at present, had the population of Mississippi not consisted mainly of the planters, who were a law unto themselves and felt themselves to be the conservators of the public peace and weal. This condition developed the feudal or patriarchal character that was fostered by the segregated, independent households, and they wisely ruled over their laborers, their families, and themselves, and cultivated in peace and plenty the wide tracts of land owned by them. A vote could not have been bought or sold in that day, and the man who would have offered a bribe would have fared ill at their hands.