Story of Thomas Jefferson - J. W. McSpadden
January, 1772, was a cold month in Virginia. Lead-colored skies, chilly downpours, and roaring, growling winds, worrying the clouds like giant mastiffs had marked the coming in of the year. But, in spite of the angry skies, New Year's Day was a joyful one at "The Forest," a broad plantation not far away from Williamsburg, for there, on that day, Thomas Jefferson was married to Martha Skelton, a beautiful young widow.
Within a few days the two set out in a two-wheeled chaise to drive more than a hundred miles home to Monticello.
A happy pair they were; the tall young lawyer, now a successful and honored man, no longer the bashful, freckled youth who treasured and then lost the precious watch paper of Rebecca Burwell; and the beautiful woman, used to every luxury the times could provide, who was snuggled down beside him so warmly, wrapped in her furs.
The horses made as good time as was possible, for loitering was out of the question. But, as the journey advanced, the cold grew every day more bitter. Snow was on the ground when they started boldly out and, as they followed the roads that were hidden under their thin white cover, Jefferson often looked anxiously at the sky.
MONTICELLO, THE HOME OF JEFFERSON.
"Oh, do you think it's going to clear?" asked Mrs. Jefferson. "Or is it really going to snow again? And can we reach home this evening?"
He shook his head doubtfully.
"It may hold off at any rate until we can get to Monticello. I'm hoping we can reach there before sunset. Are you warm enough?"
Reaching over, he wrapped her more closely in the robe.
"Keep this robe about you."
She gave a gay little laugh and pointed one mittened hand.
"There! See that, Thomas! Snowflakes! More and more and more of them! Oh, how thick and lovely they are!"
The young husband was busy with the horses. Greater speed than ever was of the utmost importance to them now. They must get on. The coats of the two animals began to steam udder the fall of the melting snow-flakes. Their breath made frosty clouds.
Darker and darker grew the afternoon, and still the chaise and its gallant horses kept on through the fast deepening snow, alone in a wilderness of white. All traces of the roads had disappeared. Thomas and Martha strained their eyes in vain for the welcome glimmer of light from farmhouse windows, as slowly and yet more slowly the struggling animals pulled the vehicle through the clinging, heavy mass of the snow.
"What shall we do now? Can't they go any farther?" Mrs. Jefferson's face was grave but she was not frightened.
The animals had stopped. Mr. Jefferson jumped out into the snow.
"Well, Martha, there seems only one thing we can do now. That is to take out the horses, leave the chaise here and ride on We ought to he able to reach shelter in an hour or so—it's certainly not far—and, perhaps, by that time—well, we'll see. Here, let me help you."
The bride clapped her mittens softly together and, pushing back a curl of auburn hair that had strayed from under her bonnet, stood up.
"Thomas! It's glorious fun! What would Father say?"
"Say?" He laughed a low, amused laugh. "He'd scalp me for getting you into such a scrape."
He took her in his strong arms and swung her to the back of one of the horses. Then he; mounted the other.
The close of the day, with its twilight that was almost like darkness, brought them within sight of the longed for lights. In a short time after, they were sitting beside a roaring fire, their heavy wraps drying in the kitchen, and themselves telling their adventures to their kind hosts.
After the horses were rested and had been fed and rubbed down, Mrs. Jefferson insisted on going on.
He was as anxious as she to get to Monticello, where he expected a hearty welcome, lights and fires. So they started merrily onward again, the horses, full of renewed strength, plodded along toward the long rest and dry shelter of the stable, their heads down.
It was fortunate that the way was so well known to Mr. Jefferson, who had traveled it since boyhood, for the danger now lay in their getting lost and wandering about all night to freeze, perhaps, at last.
When they reached the foot of the mountain and began the toilsome ascent, the slender bride breathed a sigh of relief.
"Not long, now!" called her husband, cheerfully. "Keep up your courage."
He was watching for the lights, rubbing his eyes as he failed to see them.
"I sent word to the servants," he muttered, "but suppose it's so late they've given us up and gone to bed."
"Never mind," came the cheery answer. "It's all the funnier. You shall make the fires and the lights and the welcome for me. I'll be quite satisfied."
It was but the work of a few moments to strike a light, and to kindle the fire which lay ready on the hearth. Two or three sleepy-looking servants came in and began bustling about, and soon the travelers found food and rest.
Dark and cold, Monticello, a small part of the mansion that was one day to crown the beautiful hill, received them. But dark and; cold it did not long remain, for youth and courage, happiness and high spirits soon made it the brightest home in Virginia.