Abby's journal

 

 

December 15, 2017

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I had told Steve that something from our past would be coming his way. Just now, looking through his "saved searches" on Ebay, he noticed something new (i.e., old)--"La Fontaine's Fables," translated by Mathew's friend, Elizur Wright, and published two years after my death, in 1841.* Steve has no proof of this whatsoever--except that fables, including La Fontaine's fables and characters--keep showing up in Mathew's published works throughout his life--and Steve knows that Mathew kept on embedding bits and pieces of our marriage into his writing, for many years.

Steve has long felt that I tried to teach him French with these fables; and there is a mention, in one of Mathew's travelogues from 1851, that he at least knew a little French, just enough to attempt conversation. Oh, Steve, let's reproduce that account, okay? Take the time to do it (Steve, like Mathew, can be lazy...)

Having now seen the most interesting places in Paris and vicinity, we prepare for our return to London. We are escorted to the depot by our worthy friend, Monsieur Ernest Lacan, and there, after a hearty shake of the hand and an affectionate farewell, the bell rings and we find ourself fast departing from the gayest and most beautiful city in the world.

We now look around to scan our traveling companions, who prove to be a mixture of French, Germans, and English. The former class is composed of one gentleman belonging to the upper ranks of society, one lieutenant in the army, and a rather pretty-looking grisette;--the second class, of a couple of German students;--and the third, of an Englishman and his wife, who, we learned from their conversation, had been passing the last two weeks in Paris, and were now on their way home to Birmingham. The French gentleman, with that sociability peculiar to the nation, turns to the Englishman, who is sitting on his left, and makes a remark in broken English on the beauty of the day and the probability of our having a bon voyage. The Englishman stares him in the face with the coolest impudence for about a minute, gives a wink of conceited wit to his wife, and then replies, in freezing tones--

"I don't understand you, sir."

"Pardon Monsieur," replied the French gentleman, his face coloring with mortification at the rebuff his sociability had received.

Without deigning a reply, the Englishman gazed intently with an expression of wonderful wisdom on a small spot of vacancy for about two minutes, and then exclaimed to his wife--

"How did you like your breakfast, my dear?"

"O, not at all; I could hardly endure it," she replied, in a half-simpering, affected tone: "it is quite inendurable to be obliged to eat such hard bread as the French do have."

Feeling for the first time in our life ashamed of our national language, and wishing, if possible, to turn the current of the Frenchman's thoughts, we addressed him in our bad French, relative to the beauties of the country through which we were passing, and the improvements in agriculture that had been made in France within the past three years.

Without making fun of our poorly expressed ideas, or looking at us as if he dreaded our near approach, he pretended to understand more than we fear we were able to explain, and we were soon on as intimate and sociable terms as a Frenchman who could speak English very poorly and an American who spake still poorer French could well be.

It was the French I had taught him, that he was able to draw upon in this situation. He didn't have much aptitude for language, and what little he had wasn't put to good use, as he was admiring me most of the time. He did love the fables, but he was beginning to love me, more! This is when I had to firmly but gently admonish him, "Please pay more attention to the lesson, and less to the teacher." But I was secretly pleased, of course.

After I died, Mathew had these materials of ours, you see, things we had worked on, together. They were so painful--and Mathew had embraced ancient Greek Stoic philosophy so completely--that he endeavored to give them all away. This is how our joint manuscript, "A Christmas Carol," got into the hands of Charles Dickens, when Dickens visited Boston in February, 1842. This is also how "La Fontaine's Fables" happened to be translated, and published, by Elizur Wright. Because our translations, Mathew's class assignments, were already there. They only needed some tweaking-up. But Mathew wanted Wright to cite himself as the translator.

So that 1843 edition just showed up on Ebay, and Steve, checking in with me, bought it. Not that he can afford it, now. But he has been feeling this for some time; it was there; and he bought it. Once he has it in his hands, and we begin reading them, together (Steve will read them aloud to me--dears, try to read aloud to your loved on on the other side--we love it!)--then he will start to remember which were our favorites, just as he did with our sheet music, which he also purchased.

But there is one important point. This is not nostalgia, this is us picking up where we left off. Nostalgia--and the pain which comes up with it--will naturally be there. But Steve must move past that to enjoying it, once again, with me in the present. What did Mathew always wish, most fervently, deep in his heart? To merge with me. And I, with him, likewise. We tried and tried physically--each thrust and counter-thrust, all the holding and embracing, all the wet kisses, were for the purpose of merging. But you can't do it. The bodies remain separate, and they are proxies of the soul, after all. Not the actual person inside.

But now we can have real merging, actual person to actual person, mind and spirit. It is difficult to learn, at first, like riding a bicycle. But don't you have the motivation? Those of you, I mean, currently in this type of relationship? Isn't it worth the persistent effort? And what could be more fun? Try. Even a little of this bliss, of soul-union, far exceeds anything achieved by sex, in the body. Try. You will get to a point where you can share what you shared before--but this time, at the level of direct mind-to-mind, and direct heart-to-heart.

It will sound crazy, like fantasy, to those not ready for it. That is fine, and as it should be. But to those of you who can hear...

Oh, in case you are wondering, this is my Christmas present to Steve. He doesn't have to give me a present--him taking me seriously--taking that terrifying leap into the unknown, on faith that I am real and our relationship is real, almost eight years ago, now--is present enough, for me.

Love to each and all,
Abby

*The first edition was published in 1842, which would have been the year that Mathew might have been giving away things that were his and Abby's.--S