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McMurran-Austen Family Papers

Elmscourt Sunday

Feb 10th 1866

Thank you thousands of times, my dearest Alie, for your delightful letter of Jany 4th which Linton placed in my hand as he came from town some weeks ago. Again and again was it read and reread…

Yes, Elmscourt is now my home for awhile. Jn [John] will make no permanent investments in thie counry as we intend leaving a the earliest possible time. The house is partially furnished. Most of the furniture in use is our own, some we got from Monmouth and some recently purchased from Frank Surget, old-fashioned but very nice. So we are very comfortably fixed. But our great trouble is for servants. It is too far in the country for the delicate constitutions of the American Ladies of African descent to walk with church and too retired from the gaities of town—so have been most of the time minus both cook and dining room servants, as Billy, our main-stay, has been sick. Imgaine me, dearest Alie, cooking dinner, cleaning rooms, etc. all of which pastimes I have enjoyed since being at Elmscourt, very conducive to health, now doubt, but it mars the flesh of my bones badly…Sweet and sad are the influences of the season—oppression almost and call up such longings for the absent and the past…You ask about our Christmas. We had, for these times, quite a merry one, as Linton insisted upon every ones dining with us….

It was a great shock to us when Melrose was sold. The place Cousin Mary had for years centered all her hopes and taste upon. I know of no sadder lesson of the fallibility of human plans and hopes than is taught in the history of that place and its inmates. In former years it was the ideal of peace and happiness in a home…It makes me look back to one year ago when we passed through such fearful scenes and the months of privation and anxiety which followed. Sometimes when we had literally no bread to eat and Linton far away in Europe. Those days have told sadly upon all who passed through them together. It was on the night of the 17th Feb. when we were exposed to the fury of sixty-thousand fiends in the shape of Yankee soldiers. Much as I hated the race before, I feel a ten-fold bitterness to them now. I can not grow familiar with the sight of them, the glimpse of that uniform fills one with loathing and horror, and I feel as I ever shall do that they are our bitter foes forever. With me there is no forgetting the past, indeed the present keeps it continually in remembrance. This galling yoke is more than we can bear,, and now the brightest hope we have is to get away from this downtrodden country. Forgive me this outburst, dearest Alie. These are the feelings we all have every day of our lives, and I wrote them down almost without realizing it….

Love your loving Tonie

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