31 December 1864: “all the grateful swelling of the heart, all the music of the soul which this deep, this eternal music of the winds awakes as it passes over me”

Item Description: Diary entry dated 31 December 1864 by Sarah Lois Wadley.





Item Citation: Folder 5, Sarah Lois Wadley Papers, #01258, Southern Historical CollectionWilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Item Transcription:

Friday, Dec. 31st. 1864.

I am all alone in the house. Father and Miss Mary and Eva left yesterday. Oh, we miss them so very much, all the house seems desolate. Mother and I sit together to keep our spirits up but succeed but poorly.

I was very busy yesterday “cleaning up and putting to rights” in my room, which was indeed an operation sadly needed after the work and confusion to get the children ready. I have been doing nothing today but read that marvellously eloquent and tender book “Les Miserables,” it is so beautiful, it seems to distill the spirit of a compassionate Saviour from the most miserable as well as the grandest beings in human nature.

Mother and the children have gone down to Mrs. Lidwell’s this evening. I stayed at home to write a letter, but as it is a letter to Julia Compton I don’t know how far I shall get in it, it is so pleasant to feel that everything here in my room is perfectly clean and orderly as I know by personal inspection, truly I think neatness forms a part of that broad basis upon which enjoyment is built; then this quiet house in which there is not a soul but myself, this wind sweeping through the leafless treetops and branches hung with withered leaves with such a beautiful living music, and above all the beautiful, lovely blue sky, with white, feathery clouds flecking it, and the warm, brilliant sunlight falling upon the landscape which winter has shorn of all its covering, with that peculiar brightness which makes us feel light and life and warmth and yet penetrates the heart with a sort of etherial stillness which I have never seen expressed so much to mind as in that line “Sunshine lay sleeping on the hill,” thus it lies sleeping on that brown hillside, thus it lightens that beautiful sky against which rises the strong, dark and spiritual heads of my pines, and it seems to me the soul of this sunshine is gathered into and breathes out from the little violets which sweetly perfume my desk, and which bring to my soul the loveliness of spring, though they are only one or two which have peeped out after the freezing cold. Then through the open window comes the twitter of little birds, the small hum of insects and the living sound which adds instead of diminishing the silence. All these things fill my soul with quiet rapture, they incline me to delicious reverie, and my mind is softened by the deep pathos of the grand renunciations of Jean Val Jean and the sufferings of the poor little Cosette. I have for a long time been so very busy, it is so long since I have been thus alone with the sunshine and the wind and the trees, that I take pleasure in my idleness, in a certain freedom for all cares, from all occupation that is so delightful when rarely enjoyed. How impossible is it for me to express all this quiet rapture, all the grateful swelling of the heart, all the music of the soul which this deep, this eternal music of the winds awakes as it passes over me. If I had the pen of a ready writer, if I had the art, the marvellous art of combining into a melody of sounds all this melody of the senses, the heart, soul, and mind, how blest I would be, but Oh, how blest am I and how I thank Him who has given to me the capability of joy which is so pure and deep since it comes from Him.

But let me now remember and write these what we call events, but which are not events as much as a new thought or a happy feeling. The date with which I commenced reminds me that Christmas has passed, that the Old year is passing through its last days, were it not for this date I could indeed hardly persuade myself that it is so, for how unlike is this to December, and how unlike is this quiet time to Christmas week! All Christmas day I kept saying over and over “it is Christmas” to keep myself in mind of it. It was very much like any other Sunday, only sometimes we would hear a “Merry Christmas,” which sounded hollow, like the echo of past times; we had an egg nogg in the morning but drank it with only an occasional attempt at hilarity. Mr. Gordon came up Christmas eve and spent the day with us, we had a very fine dinner, which we could not fully enjoy for thinking of Willie. In the evening we had some ice cream which the children malted at the fire, and so the day passed. I had an hour of pleasure when I read the Christmas service and beautiful Psalms and lessons and again in the evening when Miss May and I contemplated the glories of the setting sun. We retired early as we were fatigued with having sat up late the night before to reach a good stopping place in “Old Mortality,” in which we were all highly interested, Mr. Gordon included.

I am afflicted much for the past month or two with a dreadful debility which at nightfall sometimes almost prostrates me, especially in warm weather; we have had so much warm, damp weather since the winter months commenced. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we were very busy preparing for the approaching departure of the children. As the roads were very bad and we had but few mules, Father concluded to take Miss Mary and Eva in the North Carolina wagon, which was obliged to go to carry their baggage, so Thursday morning early it was brought up to the door to pack, this was quite an undertaking as they carried all their bedroom furniture, besides clothing and books, the wagon was quite full even with Father’s close packing; they had such a nice seat, Father laid their mattress on the floor with part of it against two trunks for the back and part against the wagon sides so that they had a complete large easy chair, which was very soft with blankets laid on it. Father sat just before them on some blankets laid on the corn, Prince rode one of the mules; it me so hard to tell them goodbye for such a long time. It was lonesome indeed for Willie to be gone, but doubly lonesome now; we miss them especially at meal times where the table is now almost round, and at night when it used to be so pleasant around the fire, but now only Mother and I are left.

A Mr. James, and Mr. Britt took supper here last night and the former remained all night. Mr. Britt said he saw Willie at Oak Ridge a few days ago, that he was well and on detached service.

I believe I have not written here since Tabitha (now Mrs. Shields) was here, she and her husband and baby spent the night with us last week on their way to Homer, I was so glad to see her, and she has such a sweet little baby.The setting sun warns me that I must leave this and commence Julia Compton’s letter if I would finish it tonight.


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