W0572 TO MARGARETTE B. LERNED [MCQUESTEN] from C. Smith
Oct 11 1826
To: Margarette B. Lerned [McQuesten], Hopkinton, New Hampshire, [U.S.A.]
From: Thetford, Vermont, [U.S.A.]
My dear Margaret [sic],
How am I to construe your determined silence? Twice have I written you. The first time, I opened my heart to you. In the second letter, I begged of you to tell me whether the first was unanswered for the reason of its having never reached you. Still you are silent; and I still remain stretched on the rack of doubt and anxiety. In the name of mercy will you not at least tell me in what you suspect me so trifling or unworthy, that you will not deign one word in answer to an application the issue of which will determine so much of my hope of earthly happiness? I thought your kindness such that you would not willingly occasion uneasiness to the veriest [sic] wretch. Yet you suffer me for a long--long month to linger in the most heart-sickening anxiety upon a subject in which I feel the deepest concern, and refuse me even the miserable satisfaction of knowing the worst with certainty. Yet I know not that I ought to remain in doubt. In such a question, silence I believe is generally taken for contempt; and I, who have dragged through a month without being favored with a word from her to whom I tendered my heart, should perhaps conclude either that she is pleased to consider my suit feigned--to disbelieve me when I tell her of the pain occasioned by suspense; or that she considers me unworthy her civility.
But there is a consideration that interposes itself, and prevents me from accepting either of these unwelcome opinions. It is the recollection of the past; of the affability and cordiality with which she charmed me during a happy week spent near her. It is the recollection that when I flew to her presence so often and sometimes under circumstances so peculiar as must have plainly declared the feeling that brought me to her, she still met me with a smile, and enabled me to go from her with the delicious idea that I was each time not less welcome than before. It is the recollection that when I parted from her for the last time; and hinted that the letters she had given me permission to write her might contain "something particular," she expressed no disapprobation, but maintained a silence that augured willingness. It is the recollection that our parting was sealed with "Love's own signet." My dear Margaret such reflections forbid me to believe that I suffer my present uncertainty from your distrust of my sincerity or belief of my unworthiness. I should have permitted myself to be made unhappy with the apprehension that you might be hindered from writing by sickness, but for the idea that your kindness would prompt you to permit a friend, in that case, to relieve my anxiety by an explanation.
There is but one other reason for your silence that I can conceive. I may be indebted for all this unhappiness to the [?] interference of some third person. My name may have been coupled with unpleasant insinuations. There may have been breathed into your ear hints and surmises intended to excite your resentment toward me. I know the mischievous curiosity that characterizes some of your acquaintances; and I am aware how little they would hesitate in the choice of means to prevent others from engaging in what is forbidden to themselves. You surely must know them too well to have attached importance to their prating. And I know too Margaret that there are in Hopkinton one or two persons that would not tamely behold another succeeding where they would fain secure an interest without a struggle to prevent him. These have watched the progress of my attentions to you with the most jealous scrutiny. Have they been whispering? Let them have a care. Some of them have endeavored to prevent any attachment between us by means much more foul and villainous than any aspersions with which they can visit us. I have listened to their insinuations with disgust. My love for your person--my respect for your judgment--my estimation of your good sense all combined to make me look upon their suggestions as purely the offspring of meddling malicious envy; and my affection for you was softened by regret that, innocent at heart, you moved in the midst of slanderous, treacherous friends, and knew it not.--Has some one of these pitiful fellows presumed to approach you with aught against me? I should have expected from your candor a fair hearing--an opportunity for explanation.--All this is vague conjecture--perhaps in your estimation degrading to me. But I am driven to it by your silence. Tormented with anxiety for the issue of an application to me so interesting, my ingenuity is constantly exerting itself to make out some explication for your refusing so long to determine this issue; and though conscious that my every thought, word, and action concerning you has been of the most honorable nature, yet for want of a better I have sometimes been driven to adopt the solution above named.
Will you not never dearest M. clear up all doubts, & tell me plainly what must be my success with you? Decide with precision whether I am to cherish or subdue the affection which alone has occasioned these communications? In a word, will you not now answer definitively whether your heart can sanction my attachment, by a reciprocation?--But perhaps you are unwilling to determine, with so little knowledge of my circumstances and prospects? The tale is now told. They are those of a young man of no fortune, with God & his own exertions for a dependence;--education and ambition for guarantees of the successful issue of his exertions. Do you like the terms? All of good in them, or that can result from them is at your service; and I only beg of you to say "yes" or "no" to the question "will you have it." You will thus save me from the most unwelcome necessity of inferring a denial from either your hesitancy in speaking at all upon it, or your unwillingness to speak determinately.--Possibly you may think my urgency premature. But I have always thought that after a fair opportunity for acquaintance, an hour was as good a time as an age for a young lady to decide whether she would favor or discourage an application such as I make to you; and that when I permitted myself to love, it would [?] too much of a serious business to bear easily the [?] with [?], or the pain of long uncertainty. I am confident you will so far coincide with me in opinion, as to tell me explicitly whether I should continue to call myself--as I must sensibly feel myself--your lover.
C. [Carlos?] Smith
[Envelope:] Norwich, Vt.,1 Oct 11, Paid 10,
Miss Margaret B. Lerned
1 Norwich is likely the post office address for Thetford, Vermont. Thetford is approximately forty miles from Margarette Lerned's home in Hopkinton, New Hampshire.
2 To learn more about Margarette Barker Lerned [McQuesten] please see W0609.