Now, it was time to put the surviving papers away in an orderly fashion. First, I wanted to thoroughly clean the "new" file cabinet. The top drawer was no problem, just needed a little wiping down with some 409. Now I was picking up steam...by the second drawer I was starting to encounter bits of debris...time to get the vacuum cleaner. Third drawer, spider webs, scraps of old paper, twigs, straw and what's this, a feather? Hmmm...wonder what awaits me in the bottom drawer.
A hen's nest! Yes, lovely pure white feathers and a nest. This was going to require reinforcements. I pulled out the drawer and wedged in the back of the file cabinet was a packet of very old genealogy documents. My sense of adventure trumped my need to be organized and sat down to gingerly open each envelope. Most were inquiries for census, birth, death and education records, but I hit the jackpot when I unfolded a letter penned 120 years ago, now yellow with age and crumbling at the folds:
April 28, 1888
This is the anniversary of our marriage thirty years ago. Then you were young and I loved you as my bride. Since, and through the years which with many blessings have brought also some hard trials and afflictions, you have proven to be a [ ] to all the emergencies of life. You have developed strength and beauty of wifely and motherly character commanding my admiration and love in the highest degree. In your sphere you have no superior among all the women I have known on earth. I thank you that you are my wife "the best in the world". I wish I could be as good a husband as you are a wife. I do love you with an undivided heart - love you more and more; but I cannot love you more than is even possbile as you deserve. And you are the best mother on earth. The only thing in you that hurts me is that you are sacrficing yourself for me and the children. Do spare yourself, my darling.
Dear Louise - may she soon be better! How I love her! By Monday morning's mail send me a few words on postal card, care of Pub. House and a letter later in the week. Monday at 11:40 a.m. I expect to take the train at Curve for Nashville. I am well as usual. Love to all of you and most of all for you.
So taken was I by this find, all interest in the origin of the hen's nest was lost. I still don't know how it found it's way into the basement of Penuel Ridge. Those of you who care to speculate, feel free to leave a comment.