Lizzie Canon was born before her time. Part 2
John Williams called on me often that summer. He took me to the theater, we went to teas, walking, and he came to supper a lot. It was a happy summer. But the feeling I experienced, the empty, missing feeling I often felt, that Abby and Hope were gone. We went completely back to normal except for that.
In August, we learned that Annabelle was pregnant. I was going to turn twenty-one in December. Mama said it was high time I got married, that she was married to Father when she turned seventeen. The third Thursday in November, John Williams invited me to his house. He introduced me to his parents and I thought they were very kind.
On my birthday Mama threw a party for me. “Elizabeth, happy twenty-first birthday!” Mama said. She gave me pearl earrings. I dressed in a pink velvet gown. Annabelle came with William. She would give birth by January, she said. And the most exciting thing happened.
“Elizabeth, will you marry me?” John asked, kneeling. I looked at Father and he smiled slightly. And I knew Father had known this, that John was going to propose to me. Katherine clasped her hands and Mary and Beth were about to jump up and down.
“Yes, John.” I breathed the words and smiled. Mary and Beth did jump then. Mama clapped and hugged Father. John pecked me and we danced. That was they best birthday I’d ever had.
In January, Annabelle gave birth to a lovely little girl which she named Susan Ella May Canon Myrtle. Mama was very touched by this.
John and I decided the wedding should be on June fifth. He bought a mansion on White Oak Street. We decided to call the estate Wellsbury. I bought and plotted for Wellsbury. I would wear a blue silk taffeta to my wedding. It wasn’t going to be big, just family and close friends. The Palmers, Poluyetes (not Edward, of course), Delvaries, Tylands,and Mama invited all our family. Mary Palmer, Samantha, Katherine, Mary and Beth, and Kara and Maggie were my bridesmaids. John and I were together frequently, planning for the wedding.
The week before the wedding I packed all my girlhood treasures. John came by and took them to Wellsbury. Father gave me a set of dishes for my house and Mama gave me her diamond earrings. “But Mama! These are your favorites!”
“Elizabeth, I want you to have them.”
“Thank you Mama.”
My sister followed me everywhere. Katherine moped though. When I asked her what was wrong, she said she wished it was just like before. Every night Nancy cooked my favorite dishes. And Missy did whatever she could to make me happy.
I went to the kitchen to visit Nancy for a while. I said I would miss her. She replied, “It won’t be the same, Miss Elizabeth, it won’t be like before. You are the one who keeps us all sane, especially your mother after the death of your sisters. I wish you well, Elizabeth, and I’ll miss you.”
The day of the wedding it was warm and beautiful outside. Nancy helped me dress and she did my hair. Corset pulled, petticoats on, hoop skirt attached, dress slipped over, and finally hair done. I walked downstairs and Katherine pronounced me perfect.
We went in the carriage to Dermond Hall, the place where the wedding was going to be held. All the people that were invited came. Mama was crying silently. As I walked down the path between the guests, I swear I could hear Mama whisper, “It’s not like before, but it’s for the better, for the hope we’ll have for the future.”
Reverend Fryton married us. I felt myself blushing. John smiled at me encouragingly. We said our I do’s and then it was over. I was now Mrs. Elizabeth May Canon Williams.
We went back to the house in carriages. Mama let John and I have one all on our own. I stepped out with John’s assistance. Mama hugged me and Father patted me on the back and said hoarsely, “Well, you’re married now. My little Elizabeth married. Can you imagine that?”
I smiled and hugged him. “I’ll always be your little girl, Father.” And I planted a kiss on his cheek.
At the party there was dancing and lots of food. I was so hungry I ate three plates full of food because I hadn’t eaten any supper or breakfast. I danced with John, and one dance with Father.
Samantha Jane Pington came and she gave me a pair of garnet earrings as my wedding gift. “Congratulations, Lizzie. I wish you and John many happy years together. And I am going to go to New York in the fall with my mother to go on a shopping trip ,” she said.
“Wonderful! Mayhap I can come with you. And my mother.”
“Yes, it would be fun.”
“Well, Mrs. Williams, I must being going, and again, congratulations and you will be hearing from me by the end of the week.” Samantha hugged me and went back to her family.
Jane Delvarie came over to me, then. She smiled warmly, “Elizabeth, congratulations. I am happy for you.” Then she left.
Lula and Scarlette suddenly appeared. “We’re so happy, and now that we are sisters, we shall have much fun, I promise.”
I hugged each of them. The rest of the evening passed pleasantly. I went with John into the carriage back to Wellsbury. I slept until noon the next day.
The days at Wellsbury began to take shape, and soon the days passed in a sort of rhythm. It did not take any work to learn how to be waited on hand and foot, for John hired a cook, a butler and four maids. The cook, Peggy, cooked delicious dishes. All the maids were kind and respectful to me. My personal maid, Janie, helped me dress and took care of my room. The housemaids, Rebecca, Lea, and Julia, took care of everything else. The butler, Lucus, took care of the horses in the barn and he tended to the fires.
I felt like a great lady. Our neighbor, Martha Lasonwile, came by the first week and brought a pie as a welcoming gift. I befriended her and we became fast friends. It turned out that she was a niece of Mrs. Tyland’s, Mrs. Tyland’s sister Lily’s daughter. We took tea together nearly everyday.
The summer passed quickly, with decorating the house, seeing Martha, and it was very relaxing. John was a lawyer and he worked from home in his library.
Scarlette and Lula came by often to visit. We chatted over tea and biscuits many an afternoon. We did our sewing as we exchanged tidbits of gossip. The summer passed pleasantly.
One day in August, Samantha came by. She hugged me and sat down. “Well, you certainly live well. And we haven’t seen each other all summer. So, I was thinking we could go on our New York shopping trip. Well, what do you say?”
I jumped up and said, “Oh, yes, when do we go?”
“We can go sometime in early October.”
“Yes, I will consult with John. But I think otherwise I can go.”
That same week I went for a visit home. Mama had turned my room into a sewing room. Katherine, Mary and Beth, Patience, and Hannah were in one room with me, reading or knitting. I told them that I was going on a shopping trip with Samantha Pington. They were entranced, then they started to beg me to allow them to go. I laughed. “I’m sorry, but it is just for us. I promise I’ll take you on another shopping trip.”
Mama arrived then. “Oh, Mama, how are you?”
“I’m good, Lizzie. And you?” She hugged and held me at arm’s length. “Well, you look well.”
“Yes, I am good. And, Mama, I’m going on a shopping in New York with Samantha Pington. John is not coming. It will be fun. The purpose of my visit is to ask you to come with me. Samantha’s mother is going with her. Can you?”
“Elizabeth! Without your husband? It’s unseemly. And yes, I am free to accompany you. But again, it is not proper to go to New York without John.”
“But Mama, he said it would be fun for me.”
“It still is unseemly and my goodness, have you no sense?”
“Well, since you seem to dislike my ways, Mama, I withdraw my offer, and I have obligations and errands to run, so I’ll take my leave now.” I said angrily and I went out the door.
I went home and took to my room for the rest of the day. Janie came in and out of the room. She asked me, “What is wrong, ma’am?”
“Nothing, Janie, I only have a headache. And please tell John I will not be at supper tonight.”
“Of course, madam, and if you need anything, please call for me.”
“Yes, Janie, and thank you.”
Later that night, Janie brought me a tray of food. I picked at it and pondered on why Mama thought it was so wrong for me to go on a shopping trip with Samantha for two days without John. I decided I would not apologize and wait for Mama to come around. I fell asleep and dreamed of Mama slapping me because I disobeyed her. I woke up abruptly and I couldn’t sleep for the rest of the night.
The morning of the trip finally dawned, but I had been up long before dawn came. Samantha had said to be ready by eight o’clock. She said she would come with the carriage to pick me up then, without Mama, of course, for we had not made up yet, even though it had been about a month since we had had the argument.
I finished packing the last things and I went to say goodbye to John. He stood up and kissed me. Then he said, “Elizabeth, have fun with Samantha. Buy whatever you like and if you could buy me a shirt I would be grateful. Here is money––do you think it is enough? Do you need more?”
He handed me a new purse with two hundred dollars in it. “John! You must be crazy! This is more than sufficient. I’ll miss you. Oh! There’s the carriage around the front. Well, goodbye.”
I walked out the door. Samantha greeted me and I got into the carriage. I said, “Good morning, Mrs. Pington.”
The carriage rolled out of town, then past other small towns until we finally reached New York. It was a bumpy ride.
We arrived at Mr. and Mrs. Pington’s New York house and we went inside. I walked around the house. It was furnished with two settees in the parlor, as well as a coffee table and two velvet covered chairs. There were two bedrooms that were off the parlor; one for Samantha and Mrs. Pington, another one for me. A kitchen was connected to the main hallway. Mrs. Pington had three maids and a cook who lived in the residence all year round, and they looked after it for Mrs. Pington. Mr. and Mrs. Pington came to the house about two times a year. I went into the bedroom prepared for me and went to sleep, for I was very sleepy, even though it was only three in the afternoon. So did Samantha and Mrs. Pington.
I roused myself a few hours later. Mrs. Pington and Samantha woke shortly after.
“So, what should we do this evening?” I asked as I sat down on the settee next to Samantha and Mrs. Pington.
“Well, what do you want to do? We could go out to McRield’s Restaurant which is only down the block,” Samantha suggested.
“Why don’t we stay home tonight? Our cook, Mary, could make us a lovely meal. And we could go out other nights. I am sort of tired from the trip still,” Samantha’s mother pointed out.
I responded slowly, “ Well, I agree with Mrs. Pington, Samantha. I am still tired from the trip. And, truth be told, you are as well.”
“All right. It was just a suggestion.” Samantha shrugged her shoulders.
Mary made a quick meal and we ate at the house, and we retired early for bed, so we could be up early the next day to go shopping.
The next day we were up bright and early. Mary cooked a delightful breakfast of eggs, ham, and rolls with butter and honey. We ate in the dining hall, and the maids served us these delicious dishes. After we gathered our cloaks and purses, and we set out. We went to Fifth Avenue, which had the best shopping in New York City. We went to a milliner’s shop and I bought lace, material for a new dress, and three pairs of gloves. I passed by a shop with men’s finery in it. I bought John a nice new shirt. Then we passed by a cobbler’s shop and we each bought four new pairs of well-made shoes.
Then it was noon and we stopped at a café for a quick dinner. After we strolled for a spell, we came upon a fine shop with all kinds of kitchen needs, and furniture as well. I purchased three pots. We spent quite a stretch of time looking at the items in the store. Finally, we proceeded to a favorite shop of Mrs. Pington’s, Queen Anne’s Lace. It was named after a flower. The store had only things needed to sew: needles, knitting needles, yarn, lace, materials, and beautiful threads to embroider with. I acquired many sewing items, as did Mrs. Pington and Samantha. Then we realized it was nearing time for supper. We quickly went home, and we readied ourselves for supper. We were going to Tyler’s Restaurant for supper.
I stepped out of the carriage and went to the entrance of the restaurant with Mrs. Pington and Samantha.
A server welcomed and seated us. We were presented with menus that read:
Tyler’s Restaurant Menu
All meals are served with freshly baked bread, and water. Liqueur and tea or coffee are offered here as well for extra charge of twenty-five cents.
All meals seventy-five cents.
Sheep Head’s Broth
Red Snapper served with Baked Potato
Beef and Potatoes
“What would you like to order, ma’am?” a serving girl asked me, her pen poised over a pad of paper, ready to write my order.
“I’ll take the Chicken Soup, please,” I said.
“Very well, and you, ma’am?” she turned to Mrs. Pington.
“I will take the Sheep Head’s Broth.”
“Thank you. And you, ma’am?” She said to Samantha.
“I’ll have the Red Snapper served with Baked Potato, if you please.” She handed her menu to the waitress.
“Of course. Thank you. The meal should be here shortly.”
I ate the delicious broth slowly, dipping pieces of bread in, every now and then.
“This is delightful,” I remarked.
Mrs. Pington and Samantha murmured in agreement.
“This red snapper is delicious. I’ve never tasted better.”
“This is the best sheep head’s broth I’ve ever had.”
We finished, paid the bill, and left. I dropped in my bed and started to fall into a deep sleep when I heard someone calling out and groaning.
I flew to Samantha’s room. Mrs. Pington was bent over Samantha, mopping up her brow with a wrung out cloth. Samantha’s eyes stared up into space, looking blank, and she was perspiring a great deal.
“Samantha! Mrs. Pington, what happened to Samantha?” I asked, staring at Samantha.
“Well, I don’t quite know. She’s got a fever, a high one. She doesn’t know who I am. And I woke up and I found her like this. But I don’t what caused the illness to come on so suddenly.” Mrs. Pington reapplied the cloth to Samantha’s head.
Samantha vomited then. She started to moan, and she turned over. I called the maids. But they were in their rooms fast asleep. “The maids’ rooms are down the hall to the right.”
I hurried to their rooms. I knocked on the first door. They didn’t open. So I just went in and woke up Mary, who lived in this room. Mary woke up and I half shook her.
“Mrs. Williams, what is it?” she asked in a sleepy voice.
“Mary, Samantha is very sick. She is vomiting and she has a high fever.”
“Oh no! I’ll call the other maids now. I’ll be right over. You go back and help poor Samantha.”
“Okay. Thank you.” I rushed back to Samantha.
She was still vomiting. Mrs. Pington was holding a bucket, in which Samantha was throwing up. I tied Samantha’s hair back.
“Oh, you poor thing.” I turned around. Mary was standing there with the other maids. She took one look at the vomit, and she murmured, “Food poisoning.”
Mrs. Pington exclaimed, “Excuse me?”
“Samantha ate something that she was allergic to, or it was not eatable food. She is vomiting it up because that is the way her body is getting rid of it. What did Samantha order last night at the restaurant?”
“Well! It couldn’t have been from Tyler’s, they use good quality food.”
“What did she order?”
“She ordered red snapper, I believe.”
“Well, it was obviously not good fish.”
She said to the other maids, “Make Samantha a weak broth. June, get towels and fresh sheets. And Anna, please get a new bucket. Go on, now.”
“Yes.” They hurried off to do their bidding.
The next day had arrived and instead of Samantha getting better, she got worse.
Day after day passed. Samantha did not get any better, nor did she get any worse. The doctor was summoned. He diagnosed Samantha’s sickness as fever and food poisoning, as Mary thought. He left her medicine that improved her health very little.
At the end of one visit, he said, “Mrs. Pington, I will not say that your daughter is out of danger. She is gravely ill. There is little I can do, but I will do all I can for her. The most you can do is watch over her, give her the medicines I leave, let her rest, and feed her weak broth and water. I will be back tomorrow.” And with that he left.
We did exactly that, but it seemed nothing helped. Weeks passed with the same rhythm. She was barely alive, yet she was not dead. I prayed for her, but my prayers weren’t answered. She got worse and worse. She wouldn’t eat anymore, not even weak broth. She lay in her bed, not aware of her surroundings. She lay in this state, half alive, half dead. Her breathing was uneasy; I could hear the troubled inhales and exhales, and I pitied her more.
Mrs. Pington was losing hope everyday. She prayed nonstop, ate little between prayers, and slept rarely. I had to pull her from her prayer, and persuade her to rest.
One day as I was reading beside Samantha, she stirred.
I jumped up and bent over her.
“Samantha. Samantha?” I touched her head. Her head felt cooler.
“Elizabeth?” I heard a soft whisper. It was Samantha. “What happened?”
“Oh! You’re okay! Well, you’ve been deathly sick for the past three weeks. Your doctor has been here everyday to see you. Oh! That’s him right now. I’ll be right back.”
I ran to where Mrs. Pington was resting. “Mrs. Pington! Mrs. Pington! Wake up! The fever broke. Samantha’s talking to me, asking what happened.”
Mrs. Pington sprang out of bed. “Repeat what you just said.”
“All right. The fever broke. Samantha’s talking to me, asking what happened.”
She fell to her knees and she started to pray and cry. “Thank the lord,” she kept repeating.
She knelt by Samantha and held Samantha’s hand. Mary, the cook, was overjoyed. The doctor kept staring at Samantha, his eyes filled with wonder. “It’s a miracle she survived,” he murmured.
Samantha smiled up at him and said, “Thank you.”
“Of course. It’s my job. Well, I have another patient to attend. Good luck and goodbye,” the doctor said, and went out the door.
“Mama, I’m starved. Could I have something to eat, please?” Samantha asked.
“Of course. Mary!” Mrs. Pington called.
“Yes, ma’am?” Mary answered.
“Samantha is starved. Fix her something to eat please.”
A few minutes later Mary appeared with a tray of food for Samantha. Samantha ate hungrily, for she had truly not eaten much while she was ill.
Samantha gradually started to recover. She sat up in bed, her head propped up by pillows, and read. Then she sat in a chair and read. She eventually walked around, and she became her own self.
One day as I was thinking over what had happened, I realized I had been away from home for over a month.
When Samantha was well enough to travel, we went home to Cherry Hill. We went slowly, because Samantha was still a little weak. When we arrived home, they dropped me off at Wellsbury. Lucus was the first person to notice my arrival home. “Madam! You’re home. Come. Let me take you inside.” He led me withindoors.
The maids saw me and the started to jump. Then they threw questions at me: “Madam! What happened?Why are you delayed so? How was it? What did you buy?”
I started to answer when John interrupted me, “Elizabeth?”
“John! Hello. How are you?”
“I’m good. We have to talk. Now. Come into my office. Lea, Janie, Rebecca, Lucus, Julia, that will be all. I wish to have some time alone with my wife.”
“Yes, sir.” They left.
“Now, Elizabeth,” he continued, “why have you been gone for over a month? I have been worried about you.”
“Oh, John! It was terrible. Samantha was deathly ill. She ate some tainted fish and she was on the verge of death for the past three weeks. Now she has recovered, thank the Lord. I missed you so much,” I explained.
“Oh, how awful! I am so sorry. Is Samantha okay? But why didn’t you write to me?”
“Samantha’s all right now. And I didn’t write to you because I was tending to Samantha. I’m sorry John. I didn’t have time to even change into my nightgown at night. I didn’t have time to even think about writing to you. I am sorry.”
We embraced, then had supper. Afterwards I went to straight to bed, for I was exhausted. I heard Janie come into the room, and fumble with something on my dresser.
“Good night, madam, it is good to have you back,” Janie whispered to me.
“Thank you Janie––yes, it is good to be back at Wellsbury,” I replied happily.
The next day I slept until ten o’clock. When I rose, everyone was up and working busily: John in his office, and the maids and Lucus were bustling about. I quickly got dressed, and Janie dressed my hair. After breakfast, I said to John, “Today I am going to pay a visit to Mama.”
Lucus drove me to Mama’s house. “Miss Elizabeth! How are you?” Missy cried and she flung open the door. “This way, Miss Elizabeth. It’s good to have you home.”
“Well Missy. Thank you.”
Missy ushered me into the upstairs parlor. Mama was sitting in a chair, sewing. “Mama! How are you! Oh, I’ve missed you so!” I hugged Mama.
“Elizabeth, dear, how are you? Sit, dear. Girls! Come. Elizabeth has come for a visit,” Mama said, happily. “Now, tell me, how was your shopping trip? What did you buy? You must have seen––”
“Mama, it was terrible. Samantha was deathly ill for about three weeks. We cared for her and prayed. Oh, Mama, you can’t imagine. Samantha barley lived. She is better, but still week.” I smiled weakly at Mama. Her mouth made a perfect O by now.
“Yes. It’s true. And Mama, we were so worried. I am sorry about our––our quarrel.”
“Yes, so am I. I am sorry for the things I said to you.”
We hugged again. The rest of the afternoon passed pleasantly. I chatted with my sisters, conversed with Mama, and knitted while talking. Missy served tea and cakes. Nancy, the cook, came to visit with me awhile. I had a merry time with my sisters, laughing at their different stories, especially the one where Katherine lost her slipper in Lake Goodwin, where she was riding her horse along the edge and it came off. Lake Goodwin was located at Grandpa Thompson’s estate in the country. After, Katherine had to walk back to the old mansion without one shoe, and how everyone laughed at her. Everyone giggled at this story, however, Katherine did not. Instead she blushed and, trying to keep a stern face, she only grinned unsuccessfully.
Mama begged me to stay for supper, and, as much as I wished to, I had promised John I would sup with him tonight. As a matter of fact, I had stayed far longer than I had intended to. I reassured them that I would be back next week, with John to eat with them.
I rode home in the carriage. I quickly readied myself for supper and I went down the the dining hall. John was sitting there already. He said grace. Dishes were brought out and served to each of us. I recounted my day with my family to John over roast chicken, baked potatoes, mixed greens, and lovely apple pie for dessert.
I retired to my chambers and went to sleep rapidly for I was quite wearied.
Since I had been married, I realized, that I had given my friend Mary Palmer scant attention. So I said to John that I would call at Mary’s house today. John agreed heartily with my plan. “’Tis true, dear. You have not paid a visit to Mary for a long while. And it is your duty as a friend to see her and help her frequently, which you have not. But that is excusable because you were helping Samantha overcome her sickness, and that is helping a friend, so you were too busy to call upon her. And now it is consequential that you do visit her,” John said wisely.
I nodded and left, with Lucus driving me to Mary’s residence. When the servants ushered me into the sitting room, Mary dropped her mending and ran to hug me. “Elizabeth!” she cried, embracing me again. “How are you, ELizabeth,or Mrs. Williams, pardon me.”
“Oh stop. I’m good. Now, how are you?” I inquired.
“Well, thank you,” she responded, pretending to be polite. “Now I have some impending news which I have to tell you and I must ask your advice on it.” Her voice became more serious.
“Well? Tell me,” I returned with equal sobriety.
“Well…Okay, here it is: Johnathan Betinhosen has proposed to me. You know he has been courting me for the past year, don’t you? Well, my parents think he is a fine match, and so does everyone else. But I need your advice; what should I do?” Mary told me, watching my dumbfounded look that had taken shape on my face. Finally, I collected myself and took it in. She looked expectantly at me, waiting for some sort of answer to this news, I realized. I hesitated. What should I say? I took my gaze from her and planted it on a spot on the floor.
“Well, Mary, I will answer your question if you answer my question: what do you think?”
“Well, I don’t really know. I guess I do want to accept his proposal, which I haven’t done yet.”
“Now, Mary, look at me.” I lifted her chin so her eyes would look at me. “Do you love him?”
She stared at me now. I could see the thoughts swirling in her mind. “Um…well…I don’t know…,” she said uncertainly. “Oh, I give up. Yes, I do.” She sighed as if a heavy load had been removed from her back.
“Then, I say, marry him.” I patted Mary on the back.
“All right, I will. Mama! Father! Please come.”
And, of course, as Mary was their youngest, they came running to her. “Yes, dear?” Mrs. Palmer inquired.
“I’ve decided to accept Johnathan’s marriage proposal.”
“Oh, my dear, we are so happy for you!” her mother exclaimed.
Mr. Palmer said, “Very well, Mary.” And then he hugged her.
I stayed to supper that day. Then I rode home in the carriage, with Lucus driving.
I went straight to my bed chamber. As I changed into my nightgown, I thought of Mary’s engagement, and how happy she was. I thought of Samantha’s sickness and how she got better. And, finally, I thought of the merry balls people had thrown so often before Hope and Abby died. I remember Hope’s laugh, the way Abigail used to smile, and I missed them.
Before their death, I took them for granted, as I did everyone else. And after all that I’d been through, I realized how important the people whom I loved were to me, and they were not replaceable. As well as they were not to be taken for granted. Even if they did agitate me, that was part of who they were.
I recalled how carefree I used to feel. Now I was more serious, and I thought before I did. I appreciated the people who loved me. Each time they did me a turn of kindness, I noted it, and returned it later. I cried more than I used to. I told people how I felt more often, also. And I felt older. I felt a hundred years older since my sisters’ deaths. I chose my friends carefully, and trusted people whom I loved only.
I felt experienced and I felt like my life had finally become a reality, joy mixed with sorrow, not just joy and hapiness. I realized that life was not perfect, nothing was, and you just had to make it through by taking one step at a time. I realized things didn’t matter, the people you loved did. I also realized that even though sorrow was a bitter thing, you learned from it and used it next time.
And that’s what life is all about.