By Lisa Hallahan
There was an alluring draw to the playground on the first day of school in Clearfield Pennsylvania the year of 1851. It must have been a strong pull because every child (more boys then girls) in town was striving to be at the playground. The cause was sweet 15 year old Victoria Boulur. In her white “southern belle” dress with long green sashes, she looked like an angel in a small mud puddle of a town. Her thick auburn curls danced in the air as she swung back and forth on the swing chatting with her friends. Her rosy cheeks and red plump lips were the most attractive feature on her charming face. Every boy in town had high hopes of winning her heart. Even the college boys were drawn to her sweet but strong willed character.
But no boy or man was devoutly attracted to her then young Nathaniel Ashby; a boy of 17, who lived only 2 blocks down the street from Victoria. Nat (as his friends called him), couldn’t see past anything but Victoria’s mysterious green eyes. “They play tricks on me,” he wrote once in his daily journal; “One moment they are begging me to come chat and the next her eyes laugh me away saying ‘you think you are good enough to talk to me?’”
Nat wanted desperately to talk to Victoria, but as he knew all too well, no boy ever said more then 5 words to her. The only time Nat had ever opened his mouth to her was 2 years ago they had been at a Christmas School Party and Victoria had lost a silk glove. Nat had seen it on a chair, picked it up and returned it saying: “I found this for you miss,” in a rather straight-forward manner. Victoria had thanked him and skipped lightly away.
How could Nat ever win a place in Victoria’s heart? He was, by far, much poorer then Victoria’s plantation owning family. She, being the talk of all the single boys and match-making mothers conversations; and he being a small factory worker knew he could never amount to much in light of Victoria’s standards.
Now I don’t want to paint Victoria as a flippant, flirtatious, bachelorette, because she was not. She was simply an age appropriate handsome girl, of an insurmountable dowry and heiress to the Boulur family estate; thus rendering her the most suitable “possible bride” in Pennsylvania. She was actually a very calm girl and quite reserved. She loved the outdoors and hated talking about money. She was what you might call a very rare case of blue-bloods. She cared for others and did not want much for herself. That (we all know) is an extremely rare character for a spoiled rich young girl.
Now let’s take a look at Nat’s background and history. When Nat was 5, his mother and father had died of yellow fever. Nathaniel had caught it as well but his case was not fatal. He recovered quickly although it did not leave him without leaving a permanent scar. Nat would have black-outs at random times and could not recover unless properly treated with a dose of a costly remedy. This proved very unfortunate for him at times. Once while swimming he went unconscious and nearly drowned, had it not been for his little school mates.
After his parents died Nat went to live with his sweet but sometimes fiery- tempered grandmother. The only time his grandmother was ever uppity or enraged about something was when she was in a hot discussion about politics. The “discussion” would repeatedly turn into a “very spirited argument”. Some compared Nat’s grandmother to the late Mrs. Abigail Adams.
Nat loved this ambitious old woman. He treasured every little bit of wisdom she gave him. When Nathaniel was 14 he went to work at Kirks Iron Factory in town. He liked being responsible and supporting his elderly grandmother.
Nat was a handsome young man. He had a broad chest, brown eyes and a smile that could put a light in anyone’s heart. He had light brown hair and a firm face. Nat was not tall, but he was not short either. He was very strong and stout. Nat was as attractive as he was good hearted.
“If I could tell you in words this young mans character it could only be described like this,” said Nat’s grandmother to a neighbor one day. “‘But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control.’” His grandmother could not have been more right at that moment then she had ever been. Nat had a very unusual character. Nat was loyal, he was trustworthy and very attentive to others needs. Truly he possessed all the above mentioned qualities of the Fruit of the Spirit. The only trait that Nat lacked in, (which was not that great of a lack for he worked on improving in it daily) was that of patience. He was apt to get easily angered at something that bothered him. An example would be when he was 15 a boy older then he was teasing Nat about his old clothes. Nat didn’t mind at first, but became angry after awhile. Nat was twice as strong any boy his age, and equally strong as any young man older then himself. So we gather he was strong physically and characteristically. But here he lost his temper and tackled the man to the ground forcing him to take back his words.
Nat could have been President of the United States when he was 10 because of his unearthly character and his historical and political knowledge (due of course to his grandmother).
But Nat’s grandmother died at age 79 when he was almost 17. He had been her caretaker the last few years of her life. He stayed by her side and supported her till she was gone. After she had died Nathaniel stayed in the lonely little house that he had grown up in and that was only 2 blocks down the road from the love of his life. He worked and ate and slept.
Now back to our story. Nat’s heart was broken, even before Victoria had ever heard of him or given a thought to breaking his heart, so Nat lived in despondency.
One day he was invited to an evening social with his friends. Nathaniel was not going to attend until he heard that Victoria was going to be there.
The day of the social was a cloudy one. “Bad luck,” thought Nat. He had been at the social for about an hour and he had still not seen Victoria. So after waiting for her a little longer Nat said goodbye to his friends and started toward the streets. Before he reached the street lamp on the other side of the sidewalk he heard a soft sweet voice behind him saying,
“You’re not leaving, are you sir?”
Nat whirled around and almost choked when he saw beautiful Victoria Boulur staring right at him. He stepped backward and looked at her as though he were in a dream. Victoria was wearing a twilight purple dress. Her long thick curls of hair dangled down her shoulders. Her eyes shone more mysteriously then ever. Victoria stood smiling while waiting for a reply. Nat looked over his shoulder to see if Victoria was really talking to him.
“I… I…” He stumbled over his words. He felt himself turning red. He quickly recollected himself and stood up straight.
“I don’t care much for parties miss, unless,” he paused, “unless there is someone there attending that I am interested in seeing.”
“Well,” Victoria replied eloquently, “are you interested in staying now?” Her eyes danced as she spoke.
Nat cleared his throat and stood up straighter.
“Well I really shouldn’t, but…” He hesitated and tried to sound like a gentleman. “I suppose I could stay a little longer.”
Victoria smiled her enchanting smile and reached her arm out for Nat to take. Nat was not satisfied with his answer. Why couldn’t he have thought up something more elegant or conspicuous to say? But he quickly shrugged off his uneasiness, looked into Victoria’s fair face and took her arm in his. They began walking back to the social lawn.
Nathaniel wanted to take advantage of this rare opportunity with Victoria knowing this was his big “chance”.
“Victoria, did you come alone?” He asked politely trying to open a conversation while keeping his eyes on the sidewalk.
“No, my older cousin is here. He owns the park on Hapsburg you know.”
“Ah.” Nat suddenly became anxious, hoping the talk would not turn to finances. Victoria went on.
“My mother always told me that I would have to run our estate when I got older,” She paused spotting a nearby bench. “Let’s sit here.” She suggested. They sat down on a white wooden bench underneath a towering lilac tree. Victoria’s green luminous eyes shone brilliantly on her face. The thick scent of the flowering lilacs and the light breeze on Nat’s face made the moment with Victoria an everlasting memory in the young mans mind.
Victoria, perhaps not noticing the special moment, quickly fixed the slips on her gown and went on with her conversation.
“I should hate to “run” an entire plantation at all! I think t’would be droll, and,” she paused, thinking for a moment. “I know not all of life is young and gay as you and I are now, but I don’t want to be weighed down. Nat… Can I call you that?” Nat nodded his head trying to make sense of everything Victoria was telling him.
“I don’t know why I am telling you all of this, but I feel a confidence in you that I don’t in anyone else.”
Nat’s eyes glared, he couldn’t believe this was all really happening to him still. He tried to hide his bewilderment.
“Mother says I must marry soon. But I hate all the boys in this town.” Victoria was saying as she gazed down at the soft grass. Nat could see her mind was far away while she sat pouring out her thoughts to him. Did she even realize she was talking to a boy? Clearly she did not.
Victoria went on, “The boys all swagger about whenever I’m around, none of them could ever be my real friends.”
Suddenly Nat wanted to stop acting elegant.
“But Nat, you act civil and normal around me.” Now she turned her attention and her face to him. “You don’t mind if I am pretty or rich, you probably just think of me as just another girl, or friend don’t you?” She looked at Nat with a quizzical vulnerability.
Nat tilted his head and smiled with his lips rather sheepishly. “I, um, of course I do Victoria.” He said her name with emphasis. Victoria smiled at his bashfulness.
“Oh Nat, I wish I could just leave it all. Just fly away to, oh to nowhere and just be free! Wouldn’t you like to do that too Nat?” She looked so serene so serious. She was not joking. Nat just kept on smiling, he was afraid that if he said anything he would ruin it all.
Victoria went on and on for about an hour telling Nat all of her problems and worries, as well as all of her dreams and joys. She laughed and frowned; she daydreamed and showed her complete understanding of life and reality. All the while Nat sat smiling within himself. He might have burst out of sheer joy right by Victoria’s side, had it not been for his common sense.
Suddenly Victoria stood up and whirled around to face Nat, she looked at him through adventurous eyes.
“Nat lets go somewhere!” She exclaimed.
“What?” Nat was astonished.
“Lets take a short trip together Nat, a vacation of some sort. Oh please Nat! Let’s go right now.” Victoria was getting anxious as she pleaded with him. Nat looked puzzled and shook his head in confusion.
“Oh it will be fun! Come on lets leave right now.” She had her head bent down by Nat’s and had her hand on his and had not noticed it in her excitement. Her sweet face bent over his begged him. Nat wanted to just hold her, he was getting excited too.
“Well, where do you want to go Victoria?” He asked smiling.
Victoria was happy that she had persuaded him to go. She laughed and answered, “Let’s go to the lake Nat.”
“I will bring a bottle of cherry cordial.” He suggested.
“And I will rent a carriage!” Victoria added.
Nat paused, “Should we tell your cousin before we leave?” he asked.
“No, no silly! They would never allow it, but we have to go now.” Victoria grabbed Nat’s hand and pulled him to his feet. They would meet in half in hour with the cordial and carriage near the bakery, they had decided.
About an hour later we see the young pair strolling along side each-other, on the green grass by the lake waters laughing and talking.
Nat looked into the water then at Victoria.
“Do you dare me to jump into the water?” he pompously teased.
Victoria bust out laughing, her white teeth flashed across her young face. “You can’t swim Nat!” She taunted.
Nat widened his eyes, and confronted his dare. “I know how to do more then that, watch and see!” he laughed.
He turned and ran over to a nearby tree, and Victoria followed. Before scurrying up the tree Nat turned around and kissed Victoria quickly on her cheek. Nat smiled and flushed, then climbed up the tree as quick as he could; getting more and more excited as he went.
Nat stepped out on a thick limb that was over the water. His heart was beating wildly and his face felt like it was on fire. He looked into the water and was about to jump, when all of a sudden, black.
Two hours later it was reported that a young 17 year old man had been in a tree and went unconscious; he had fallen into the lake water, hit a rock and had drowned.
Also a Miss Victoria Boulur had run away, and was found under the tree that the boy had fallen out of. She had been crying the whole time.
Victoria Boulur never married. She inherited her parent’s estate and became an old woman in the large mansion. Every year she is seen going to the lake with a bottle of cherry cordial and with a rented carriage.