Harriet had continued to properly mourn her daughter, leaving all comforts aside and dedicating herself to what little work needed to be done around the house. She kept all of the Christmas decorations packed away and turned down a polite invitation from Doctor Warren to join him for a holiday dinner. There seemed to be no need for fun or joy, as Harriet also felt that she was mourning the loss of Claudia along with that of Olivia. She was not a woman given to bouts of depression or sadness; however, she did feel a great loneliness and a sense that there truly was something missing from her life. Even though the last years with Olivia had been extremely difficult, and despite the cold facts of her death, she still missed the company and the sense of having something to do.
It was on a Saturday in February that Harriet realized just how troubled she was, and how much she needed to find something to do. Waking up that morning with a slightly more cheerful attitude than usual, she had slipped on the grey dress she had kept for some future day, not intending to end her period of mourning, just trying it on to see how it felt. Looking into the mirror, past her many wrinkles and weathered skin, Harriet saw only the figure of a woman who looked out of place in any color other than black. The dress seemed too bright, too cheerful, out of place and inappropriate. Stripping it off, she returned to wearing black but settled in for a cup of tea on the porch with a realistic outlook. She needed to get herself into a better frame of mind.
She started as soon as the tea was drained from the cup. Walking back into the sitting room, where Claudia’s repaired dress still lay upon a small side table, Harriet folded it up carefully and placed it into her chest, tucking it into the same cloth bag as Olivia’s dress, and tying it back up with the purple string. Then she settled down to write a letter to her brother.
February 23, 1884
My Dear Wyatt,
I have heard nothing from you since my last letter and hope that all is well with you and Claudia. I worry much, which you should know, so I find your lack of writing to be extremely inconsiderate. I asked you simply to tell me a little news about Claudia and that you both were well. You could at least have sent me a telegram if you were too busy to write.
Spare yourself any further immediate worry over this as I have resolved to travel myself to see you and Claudia. I still mourn Olivia; however, have come to realize that I must find a new sense of purpose and something to do. I will travel to Germany as soon as it can be arranged and although I fear slightly for my health given my age, believe that my usual fortitude will win out. I am hopeful that your town of Lippelsdorf is small enough that a polite inquiry about the new people from the United States will be enough to locate you. It would be helpful of course, if you receive this in time, if you could arrange to check for my arrival in whatever location it is that persons usually arrive there.
I do hope that all is well and look forward to seeing you soon.
With Warm Regards, Your Sister,
P.S. I add this on Monday after a frustrating day in town spent trying to get information on travel. It appears that my first possible crossing would be May 15 so I will be somewhat delayed in reaching you and Claudia. Perhaps this will be for the better as I can gather my strength and get the house closed up. Best – H
Once the letter was sealed and posted on Tuesday, February twenty-sixth, Harriet made good on her goal of trying to regain as much of her strength and vitality as she could. She returned to taking long walks around Hiawatha, and people would greet her with the cheery sort of wave that one gives a person they have not seen in awhile. The older people believed that Harriet must be starting to come out of her period of mourning and several unannounced pies and tarts appeared on her porch one Sunday, a way of welcoming her back to the community. She appreciated these gestures although she was not herself too sure just how close she was to the end of her mourning. She still felt that not enough time had passed and she also had the lingering example set by her own mother hanging over her every day. But she needed to get ready for her trip, so she kept up the walks and started to make arrangements for closing up her house. She was not completely sure how long she would be gone and had not booked a return ticket from Germany. She also realized that it was just possible that the trip would kill her, so she made sure that all of her own personal affairs were in order. By the end of March she was feeling much better, stronger than she had in quite some time, and her mindset was brighter. She was giving serious consideration to taking off the black.
…to be continued