One of history's greatest love stories was that of Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne.
They called themselves "Adam and Eve" and "loved surpassingly" as Sophia recorded in her journal.
When her sister Lizzie wanted her to come down and meet him, she wasn't a bit interested.
Here's a snippet from that night:
53 Charter Street, Salem, Massachusetts, 1837
Monday eve under a blur of stars, warm for mid-November
“O, Sophie!” My sister pounded on my bedroom door. My head throbbed with every strike of her fist. “Pull on a frock and come downstairs! Now!”
I squeezed my eyes shut. “Please, Lizzie, I have one of my headaches. Leave me be.”
Heedless of my request or of the fierce pain tearing my brain, she shoved the door open. Its rusty hinges screeched. “Oh, dear God.” I covered my ears.
She stomped up to my bed, nudging me. “Another headache? You poor dear.” Her tone indicated neither sympathy nor sincerity. “Take more hyoscyamus.”
“I have none left. I took an opium powder,” my muffled voice cracked. I drew my knees to my chest and burrowed under the covers.
“Then come downstairs. You’ll be cured in an instant. Guess who’s here! Nathaniel Hawthorne! That is, him and his two hooded sisters. At least he took his mantle off. It’s nice to see them out of their house.”
I lowered the blanket past my chin, opened one eye and peeked at Lizzie fussing with her cuffs. “What got the sisters out?”
“My visit to them on Herbert Street.” A smug grin accompanied her air of braggadocio. My ears perked.
“Nobody calls on them!” I raised my shoulders off the bed. “You went there? Why did you intrude? You know how reclusive they are.”
“I went to call on Ebe. I read stories in New England Magazine by a Mr. Hawthorne. Naturally I believed it was Ebe under a pen name. Wanting to help her publish in other magazines, I called at their house. But the other sister, Louisa, answered the door. ‘I believe Ebe a genius,’ I told her, and she corrected me presently—‘Oh, my brother, you mean.’ And you know who that is, of course.”
“Nathaniel.” I nodded. “They only have one brother.”
“None other. I made it clear that if her brother writes like that, he has no right to be idle. And now he sits on our chesterfield directly below you!” She grinned at her accomplishment, beaming in the dim gaslight from the hallway. “My newly discovered genius with both his sisters.” She fanned her face with her hand. “You never saw anything so splendid. He is handsomer than Lord Byron.”
Her gushing eased my pain. “Lord Byron? You don’t say.” I chuckled. “I think it rather ridiculous to get up. If he has come once, he will come again.”
Lizzie shook her head. “Nuh-uh-uh. He specially asked for you.” Her tone carried a hint of resentment.
She blinked, pressing her palm to Grandmother Palmer’s pearl necklace nestled above her bosom. "He wants to talk with you about your Cuba journal. I gave it to him and he devoured it in two days.”
I sat up, shading my eyes from the gaslight, however weak. “That’s why he wants to meet me? I didn’t know you gave him that. Why didn’t you ask me first?” Always direct with Lizzie, I played up the annoyance in my tone.
She shrugged, tracing a pattern on my cover with her forefinger. “Everyone else read it.”
“Lizzie, will you stop trying to run my life?” I snapped. My muscles quivered as familiar outrage rose in me. “I know everybody read it. Without my consent. And you gave it to Nathaniel Hawthorne? Someone I’ve never met?”
“All your chiding was for naught then, and it is now. Everybody I gave it to devoured it, and now he’s fascinated with it.” Her voice lilted. “Says he feels he’s known you all his life and has become—” She cleared her throat. “intimately acquainted with your spirit and inner character.”
I narrowed my eyes, but not to block out light. “He read between the lines, then, if he thinks he knows me . . . intimately.” The word sent heat surging to my cheeks.
She flicked her wrist, her standard pooh-poohing gesture. “Well, it is sensual. He heard about it from others who’ve read it and begged me to see it.”
I snuggled back under the covers. “Tell him thank you. I’ll come down next time, when I have no headache. But he needn’t know that. Give him my regrets. I’m bedridden for now.”
Curiosity gnawed at me. I craved a peek at him. Rubbing my hands together with mischief, I slipt from bed, opened the door and tiptoed out to the hall. I crept to the banister and peered over. There he sat, his imposing presence poised in profile. He chatted with Mary and Lizzie, his enshrouded sisters flanking him. They sat in shadow, but he glowed. His voice, most musical thunder, eased my pain, soothing me. “O’Sullivan asked me to write for his new magazine so I penned The Toll-Gatherer’s Day in a single night when I couldn’t sleep.”
Staring as if entranced, I placed my hand over my dancing heart. Oh, handsomer than Lord Byron, all right. But why did he want to meet poor, miserable, maimed, nerve-twisted, trembling me, with pasty face and ash gray eyes, disciplined and defined by chronic headache? He had free access to Lizzie’s company, flattery, and engaging discourse. Had my breezy Cuba journal sparked that much interest? As I focused on him, unblinking, my head ceased pounding. I drew a sigh, luxuriated in the absence of pain and mentally rehearsed our first meeting.
Purchase FOR THE LOVE OF HAWTHORNE
Read Chapter One on my website