Though these pages are her biography, rather than his, yet, in the sequel, since their lives have become so intertwined, these references to his career may not be out of order. After ten days in Chicago, visiting, he went first straight to Minnesota, where he worked as a farm hand on the big wheat farm of his distant cousin, Thomas C. Hawley, near Lake Park, on the western boundary of Minnesota. There were three sections, and the young graduate from college handled pitchforks, curried horses, and drove the bull rake, during haying, harvest, and "thrashing" seasons, which occupied three months or more of the summer and fall.
Marie wrote often to him during those first months after his departure from Burlington and home. It was four miles of a walk from the farm at Lake Park to the little railroad station and post-office on the Northern Pacific Railroad, and he would willingly add the eight miles of walk to his day's work if he could but bring back to the farm one of her letters.
As for her, her life went on in the routine channels of teaching school, living at home, reading voraciously everything she could lay her hands on in the way of books, largely from the Fletcher Free Library, and now and then entering into some gatherings socially among her Burlington friends. One of these years between John Henry's leaving for California and his return, four years later, she spent, as has already been described, in Brattleboro. Some of the available young men in Burlington paid her some attentions during these four years, but for the most part she followed the steady rule of a tireless worker, absorbed in her profession of teaching, and occupied amply at home amid the circumstances of a group of five younger sisters and brothers, all of whom were very much alive.
When John Henry finally reached San Francisco, in October, 1883, and entered the fire insurance office of the California Fire Insurance Company, of which his uncle, Caspar T. Hopkins, was the president and the founder, he lived with his uncle and aunt, in San Francisco. His letters to Marie were frequent, and told of his many new experiences amid the unaccustomed ways and doings of young people in that free and easy, wide-open, and largely Godless city.
Then there came over their mutual attachment and relationship one of those strange misunderstandings, which sometimes attack conscientious and able young people even of the highest standards. He was only about two months older than she was. He matured rather slowly, as it eventuated, for he had always lived at home, and his contacts with the outside world had been few and superficial. True, he at once began to "learn things," among the twenty clerks who worked in the office, and within a year after he first became a clerk, his uncle was able to persuade the board of directors of the company to let him buy out the California's agency in Oakland, which had been supporting a young married man for some time previous. Yet, after about two years or more of his absence, Marie somehow felt so uncertain that she wrote a letter, which he afterwards destroyed, and which he understood to be the breaking of their engagement.
It was a body blow to him, and the less said now about it all, the better. He was as deeply attached to her as ever, and never, during those two long years when they did not correspond, did he run across a fine-looking young woman with anything like a round face and blue eyes, that he did not realize from the depths how impossible it was for him to think of anybody but of Marie as the guiding star of his life.
Since this is a chronicle of her, rather than of him, it must be briefly stated what befell him during those two or three years before their engagement was renewed. He applied himself to his little business with unstinted energy. He found a dozen ways of earning money, in small sums, including his fire insurance agencies, which soon after his Oakland life began, in the fall of 1884, added the Oakland agency of the Aetna Fire Insurance Company to that of the "Old California," as it was called. He joined a dozen different groups, including the Odd Fellows, the Ancient Order of United Workmen, and for these he played the organ at lodge meetings sometimes three nights a week. He played at the First Presbyterian Church of Oakland (then the largest church of that denomination west of Chicago), for three and one-half years without missing a Sunday service, morning or evening. He gave organ lessons; copied music; loaned small sums of money at good interest; sold railroad tickets on commission, and the like, and finally, when he left California, in August, 1887, he had supported himself, and had saved $3,000, which he had in the savings bank.
He joined the "Athenian Club" of Oakland, for social purposes, and during his last year on the coast he gave a good deal of spare time to the society of a younger set, some from Oakland and some from San Francisco. One of his club members, a Dr. Southard, an oculist, proved to be one of his greatest benefactors, for the doctor, noticing John Henry's eyes one night at the club, suggested that he come around to the office and be measured for glasses. During two years the ex-college boy's eyes had been so weak that he read only four books, and had about decided that he could do no more studying of any kind. Dr. Southard found one eye nearsighted and astigmatized, and the other fairly normal. The new glasses (his first ones) soon restored to him the great world of books.
Little by little, he became convinced that he ought to sell out his business and go east to the General Theological Seminary and to devote his life to the holy ministry. There was no one with whom he could consult personally, except by correspondence, and his Uncle John Henry Hopkins ("the Great") was of special help to him at this important juncture. One week he became so troubled as to what was his duty that he closed his desk, took his high Columbia "wheel," and spent six days at Monterey, three of them at the beautiful Hotel Del Monte, trying to think it out. One of those days he spent all alone in a yacht on San Francisco Bay, using part of the time to write a long letter to his favorite uncle, John Henry, who at once urged him to come to New York that fall. He demurred, and said that he wanted to have a better year in business first. That last year was the best of his four, and so, in August, 1887, he turned his face eastward, and that September he entered the class of 1890, at the General Theological Seminary, rooming at No. 5, Pintard Hall, his room-mate being (now) the Rev. William W. Love, from Macon, Missouri.
He felt that he was not engaged to Marie, that he could offer himself to the Church absolutely, at the close of his course, for any work for which he might be considered fit. All the time, of course, she owned the bottom of his heart, though they had not written to each other for two years or more. When he reached the seminary, he found that many of his classmates were engaged, and that fact took deep root in his thinking. He went to his father's home in South Burlington, for the vacations, and soon became convinced that he could not live without Marie.
At the U. V. M. Commencement Ball, in June, 1888, she wouldn't look at him, very naturally, and he rarely passed the Billings Library in after years without recalling his poignant feelings as he stood in the gallery and watched her brilliant face while she chatted and danced with some other man.
The upshot of it all was his utmost plea that they might renew their engagement, and one happy Sunday evening, on July 8, 1888, as he went up to "96" Colchester Avenue after playing the evening service in St. Paul's Church, she said the mighty "Yes" which meant to him, in all the varied years that followed, more than any words which he can find or can command could attempt to describe. He has always loved Henry Smart's music to "Hark, Hark, My Soul," because that was the chief hymn that was sung at that eventful Sunday evening's service.
He was then in his 27th year. The rules of the General Theological Seminary in New York decided that any student who married during his course should be dropped from the seminary at once.
So the wedding could not take place until his course was completed. This took effect in June, 1890. And on Tuesday afternoon, a beautiful day in June, at 4 o'clock, in St. Paul's Church, the Rev. Gemont Graves officiating, Frank Camp at the organ, and the church crowded with people, the wedding was solemnized. They had made their Communions together early that morning at the little Trinity Chapel in Winooski, a custom which they maintained on their wedding anniversaries through all the years of their busy lives together, until after their retirement.
Their wedding was a notable event in the social life of Burlington, though there was no reception after the church service. There were about one hundred wedding gifts, including a check for $500 from the California friend of John Henry's who had been Mrs. Mark Hopkins, of "Nob Hill," San Francisco, but who was Mrs. Edward F. Searles of New York and Great Barrington, Massachusetts, at the time of the wedding. Few Burlington brides, up to that date, had received one hundred wedding presents, and none had deserved them more than did Marie M. Graves, on that happy morning of the 10th of June, 1890. St. Paul's Church was beautifully decorated with flowers, and the family foraged widely in gathering them, the day before. John Henry's "best man" was his classmate of the General Theological Seminary, Charles E. Deuel, and, as has been stated, he invited his favorite cousin, Frank E. Camp, of Washington, District of Columbia, to play his old organ for the service. Marie's attendant was her sister Lillian. There were no bridesmaids.
The Bride and Groom left the church a few minutes after 4 p.m., and drove around Burlington and its environs until it was time, after changing to traveling dress, to take the steamboat Vermont for Plattsburgh, about 5 p.m. At the wharf there was a goodly gathering of kith and kin, and the forward deck of the steamer was soon covered with rice and old shoes, Marie's athletic brothers, Harmon and George, being dangerous shots with the shoes. The deck hands were careful to come around for their tips, after the boat had started, for they had quite a bit of work to clear away this debris!
The happy couple had of course told no one of their destination on their wedding trip, but the Windsor Hotel in Montreal was the first stopping place. Thence they took the Saguenay River trip, which lasted several days, as John Henry had misdirected their trunk, and they had to wait for it at "Ha Ha Bay" for four days, in a little fishing club's hotel. Now that part of Canada has become very popular as a summer resort, and there are fine hotels and the like. All the same, there was great charm in that part of the country in June, 1890.