CHAPTER FOURTEEN. LEXINGTON AND CONCORD
Over the road we were following the British marched in order and retreated in disorder. The undisciplined minute-men were not very good at standing up in an open square and awaiting the onslaught of a company of regulars, - it takes regulars to meet regulars out in the open; but behind trees and fences, from breast-works and scattered points of advantage, each minute-man was a whole army in himself, and the regulars had a hard time of it on their retreat, - the trees and stones which a few hours before had been just trees and stones, became miniature fortresses.
The old vineyard, where in 1855 Ephraim Bull produced the now well known Concord grape by using the native wild grape in a cross with a cultivated variety, is at the outskirts of Concord.
A little farther on is "The Wayside," so named by Hawthorne, who purchased the place from Alcott in 1852, lived there until his appointment as Consul at Liverpool in 1853, and again on his return from England in 1860, until he died in 1864. But "The Wayside" was not Hawthorne's first Concord home. He came there with his bride in 1842 and lived four years in the Old Manse.
There has never been written but one adequate description of this venerable dwelling, and that by Hawthorne himself in "Mosses from an Old Manse." To most readers the description seems part and parcel of the fanciful tales that follow; no more real than the "House of the Seven Gables." We of the outside world who know our Concord only by hearsay cannot realize that "The Wayside" and the "Old Manse" and "Sleepy Hollow" are verities, - verities which the plodding language of prose tails to compass, unless the pen is wielded by a master hand.
Cut in a window-pane of one of the rooms were left these inscriptions: "Nat'l Hawthorne. This is his study, 1843." "Inscribed by my husband at sunset, April 3d, 1843, in the gold light, S. A. H. Man's accidents are God's purposes. Sophia A. Hawthorne, 1843."
Dear, devoted bride, after more than fifty years your bright, loving letters have come to light, and through your clear vision we catch unobstructed glimpses of men and things of those days. After years of devotion to your husband and his memory it was your lot to die and be buried in a foreign land, while he lies lonely in "Sleepy Hollow."
When the honeymoon was still a silver crescent in the sky she wrote a friend, "I hoped I should see you again before I came home to our paradise. I intended to give you a concise history of my elysian life. Soon after we returned my dear lord began to write in earnest, and then commenced my leisure, because, till we meet at dinner, I do not see him. We were interrupted by no one, except a short call now and then from Elizabeth Hoar, who can hardly be called an earthly inhabitant; and Mr. Emerson, whose face pictured the promised land (which we were then enjoying), and intruded no more than a sunset or a rich warble from a bird.
"One evening, two days after our arrival at the Old Manse, George Hilliard and Henry Cleveland appeared for fifteen minutes on their way to Niagara Falls, and were thrown into raptures by the embowering flowers and the dear old house they adorned, and the pictures of Holy Mothers mild on the walls, and Mr. Hawthorne's study, and the noble avenue. We forgive them for their appearance here, because they were gone as soon as they had come, and we felt very hospitable. We wandered down to our sweet, sleepy river, and it was so silent all around us and so solitary, that we seemed the only persons living. We sat beneath our stately trees, and felt as if we were the rightful inheritors of the old abbey, which had descended to us from a long line. The tree-tops waved a majestic welcome, and rustled their thousand leaves like brooks over our heads. But the bloom and fragrance of nature had become secondary to us, though we were lovers of it. In my husband's face and eyes I saw a fairer world, of which the other was a faint copy."