“You are under no obligations to me, pecuniary or other.”

Isaac Hays wrote those words in a brief 19 November 1833 letter to Sally Minis, which he signed as “Your friend.” The phrase has a ritual ring to it, though I am not sufficiently informed on nineteenth century courtship practices to say so with any degree of certainty.

The couple married in Savannah the following year. Earlier letters, much more wordy, are filled with lines written at ninety degree angles, filling the page with cubes (but remaining legible, with some effort).