A country home.
The delight expressed in her diary upon her removal to Plashet, found vent in efforts to beautify the grounds. The garden-nooks and plantations were filled with wild flowers, gathered by herself and children in seasons of relaxation, and transferred from the coppices, hedgerows and meadows, to the grounds, which appeared to her to be only second in beauty to Earlham. Mrs. Fry was possessed of a keen eye for Nature’s beauties. Quick to perceive, and eager to relish the delights of the fair world around, she took pleasure in them, finding relaxation from the many duties which clustered about her in the spot of earth on which her lot was cast. Her journal tells of trials and burdens, and sometimes there peeps out a sentence of regret that the ideal which she had formed of serving God, in the lost years of youth, had been absorbed in “the duties of a careworn wife and mother.” Yet what she fancied she had lost in this waiting-time had been gained, after all, in preparation. This quiet, domestic life was not what she had looked forward to when in the first flush of youthful zeal. Still, she was thereby trained to deal with the young and helpless, to enter into sorrows and woes, and to understand and sympathize with quiet suffering. But the time was coming for more active outward service, and when the call came Elizabeth Fry was found ready to obey it.
Towards the end of 1809 her father died, after great suffering; summoned by one of her sisters, Elizabeth hurried down to Earlham to catch, if possible, his parting benediction. She succeeded in arriving soon enough to bear her much-loved parent company during his last few hours of life, and to hear him express, again and again, his confidence in the Saviour, who, in death, was all-sufficient for his needs. As he passed away, her faith and confidence could not forbear expression, and, kneeling at the bedside, she gave utterance to words of thanksgiving for the safe and happy ending of a life which had been so dear to her. The truth was, a burden had been weighing her down for some time past, causing her to question herself most seriously as to whether she were willing to obey “the inward voice” which prompted her to serve God in a certain way. This specific way was the way of preaching in Meeting, or “bearing testimony,” as she phrased it, “at the prompting of the Holy Spirit.” It will be remembered that this is a distinguishing peculiarity of the society which George Fox founded. Preaching is only permitted upon the spur of the moment, as people of the world would say, but at the prompting of the inward voice, as Quakers deem. Certainly no one ever became a preacher among the Friends “for a piece of bread.” If fanatics sometimes “prophesied” out of the fullness of excited brains, or fervid souls, no place-hunter adopted the pulpit as a profession. Only, sometimes, it needs the presence of an overwhelming trial to bring out the latent strength in a person’s nature; and this trial was furnished to Elizabeth Fry in the shape of her father’s death. The thanksgiving uttered by her at his death was also publicly repeated at the funeral, probably with additional words, and from that time she was known as a “minister.”