Part 5 out of 5
lost Adam was redeemed,--that a holier light than the autumn sun's
now rested, and would forever rest, on the one landscape of her
youth. Her eyes shone with the pure brightness of girlhood, a soft
warmth colored her cheek and smoothed away the coming lines of her
brow, and her step was light and elastic as in the old time.
Eager to escape from the crowd, she crossed the highway, dusty
with its string of returning carriages, and entered the secluded
lane. The breeze had died away, the air was full of insect-sounds,
and the warm light of the sinking sun fell upon the woods and
meadows. Nature seemed penetrated with a sympathy with her own
But the crown of the benignant day was yet to come. A quick
footstep followed her, and ere long a voice, near at hand, called
her by name.
She stopped, turned, and for a moment they stood silent, face to
"I knew thee, Richard!" at last she said, in a trembling voice;
"may the Lord bless thee!"
Tears were in the eyes of both.
"He has blessed me," Richard answered, in a reverent tone; "and
this is His last and sweetest mercy. Asenath, let me hear that
thee forgives me."
"I have forgiven thee long ago, Richard--forgiven, but not
The hush of sunset was on the forest, as they walked onward, side
by side, exchanging their mutual histories. Not a leaf stirred in
the crowns of the tall trees, and the dusk, creeping along between
their stems, brought with it a richer woodland odor. Their voices
were low and subdued, as if an angel of God were hovering in the
shadows, and listening, or God Himself looked down upon them from
the violet sky.
At last Richard stopped.
"Asenath," said he, "does thee remember that spot on the banks of
the creek, where the rudbeckias grew?"
"I remember it," she answered, a girlish blush rising to her face.
"If I were to say to thee now what I said to thee there, what would
be thy answer?"
Her words came brokenly.
"I would say to thee, Richard,--`I can trust thee,--I DO love
"Look at me, Asenath."
Her eyes, beaming with a clearer light than even then when she
first confessed, were lifted to his. She placed her hands gently
upon his shoulders, and bent her head upon his breast. He tenderly
lifted it again, and, for the first time, her virgin lips knew the
kiss of man.
MISS BARTRAM'S TROUBLE.
It was a day of unusual excitement at the Rambo farm-house. On the
farm, it is true, all things were in their accustomed order, and
all growths did their accustomed credit to the season. The fences
were in good repair; the cattle were healthy and gave promise of
the normal increase, and the young corn was neither strangled with
weeds nor assassinated by cut-worms. Old John Rambo was gradually
allowing his son, Henry, to manage in his stead, and the latter
shrewdly permitted his father to believe that he exercised the
ancient authority. Leonard Clare, the strong young fellow who had
been taken from that shiftless adventurer, his father, when a mere
child, and brought up almost as one of the family, and who had
worked as a joiner's apprentice during the previous six months, had
come back for the harvest work; so the Rambos were forehanded, and
probably as well satisfied as it is possible for Pennsylvania
farmers to be.
In the house, also, Mrs. Priscilla Rambo was not severely haunted
by the spectre of any neglected duty. The simple regular
routine of the household could not be changed under her charge;
each thing had its appropriate order of performance, must be done,
and WAS done. If the season were backward, at the time
appointed for whitewashing or soap-making, so much the worse for
the season; if the unhatched goslings were slain by thunder, she
laid the blame on the thunder. And if--but no, it is quite
impossible to suppose that, outside of those two inevitable,
fearful house-cleaning weeks in each year, there could have been
any disorder in the cold prim, varnish-odored best rooms, sacred to
It was Miss Betty Rambo, whose pulse beat some ten strokes faster
than its wont, as she sat down with the rest to their early country
dinner. Whether her brother Henry's participated in the
accelerated movement could not be guessed from his demeanor. She
glanced at him now and then, with bright eyes and flushed cheeks,
eager to speak yet shrinking from the half magisterial air which
was beginning to supplant his old familiar banter. Henry was
changing with his new responsibility, as she admitted to herself
with a sort of dismay; he had the airs of an independent farmer,
and she remained only a farmer's daughter,--without any
acknowledged rights, until she should acquire them all, at a single
blow, by marriage.
Nevertheless, he must have felt what was in her mind; for, as he
cut out the quarter of a dried apple pie, he said carelessly:
"I must go down to the Lion, this afternoon. There's a fresh drove
of Maryland cattle just come."
"Oh Harry!" cried Betty, in real distress.
"I know," he answered; "but as Miss Bartram is going to stay two
weeks, she'll keep. She's not like a drove, that's here one day,
and away the next. Besides, it is precious little good I shall
have of her society, until you two have used up all your secrets
and small talk. I know how it is with girls. Leonard will drive
over to meet the train."
"Won't I do on a pinch?" Leonard asked.
"Oh, to be sure," said Betty, a little embarrassed, "only Alice--
Miss Bartram--might expect Harry, because her brother came for me
when I went up."
"If that's all, make yourself easy, Bet," Henry answered, as he
rose from the table. "There's a mighty difference between here and
there. Unless you mean to turn us into a town family while she
stays--high quality, eh?"
"Go along to your cattle! there's not much quality, high or low,
where you are."
Betty was indignant; but the annoyance exhausted itself healthfully
while she was clearing away the dishes and restoring the room to
its order, so that when Leonard drove up to the gate with the
lumbering, old-fashioned carriage two hours afterwards, she came
forth calm, cheerful, fresh as a pink in her pink muslin, and
entirely the good, sensible country-girl she was.
Two or three years before, she and Miss Alice Bartram, daughter of
the distinguished lawyer in the city, had been room-mates at the
Nereid Seminary for Young Ladies. Each liked the other for
the contrast to her own self; both were honest, good and lovable,
but Betty had the stronger nerves and a practical sense which
seemed to be admirable courage in the eyes of Miss Alice, whose
instincts were more delicate, whose tastes were fine and high, and
who could not conceive of life without certain luxurious
accessories. A very cordial friendship sprang up between them,--
not the effusive girl-love, with its iterative kisses, tears, and
flow of loosened hair, but springing from the respect inspired by
sound and positive qualities.
The winter before, Betty had been invited to visit her friend in
the city, and had passed a very excited and delightful week in the
stately Bartram mansion. If she were at first a little fluttered
by the manners of the new world, she was intelligent enough to
carry her own nature frankly through it, instead of endeavoring to
assume its character. Thus her little awkwardnesses became
originalities, and she was almost popular in the lofty circle when
she withdrew from it. It was therefore, perhaps, slightly
inconsistent in Betty, that she was not quite sure how Miss Bartram
would accept the reverse side of this social experience. She
imagined it easier to look down and make allowances, as a host,
than as a guest; she could not understand that the charm of the
change might be fully equal.
It was lovely weather, as they drove up the sweet, ever-changing
curves of the Brandywine valley. The woods fairly laughed in the
clear sunlight, and the soft, incessant, shifting breezes.
Leonard, in his best clothes, and with a smoother gloss on his
brown hair, sang to himself as he urged the strong-boned horses
into a trot along the levels; and Betty finally felt so quietly
happy that she forgot to be nervous. When they reached the station
they walked up and down the long platform together, until the train
from the city thundered up, and painfully restrained its speed.
Then Betty, catching sight of a fawn-colored travelling dress
issuing from the ladies' car, caught hold of Leonard's arm, and
cried: "There she is!"
Miss Bartram heard the words, and looked down with a bright, glad
expression on her face. It was not her beauty that made Leonard's
heart suddenly stop beating; for she was not considered a beauty,
in society. It was something rarer than perfect beauty, yet even
more difficult to describe,--a serene, unconscious grace, a pure,
lofty maturity of womanhood, such as our souls bow down to in the
Santa Barbara of Palma Vecchio. Her features were not "faultlessly
regular," but they were informed with the finer harmonies of her
character. She was a woman, at whose feet a noble man might kneel,
lay his forehead on her knee, confess his sins, and be pardoned.
She stepped down to the platform, and Betty's arms were about her.
After a double embrace she gently disengaged herself, turned to
Leonard, gave him her hand, and said, with a smile which was
delightfully frank and cordial: "I will not wait for Betty's
introduction, Mr. Rambo. She has talked to me so much of her
brother Harry, that I quite know you already."
Leonard could neither withdraw his eyes nor his hand. It was like
a double burst of warmth and sunshine, in which his breast seemed
to expand, his stature to grow, and his whole nature to throb with
some new and wonderful force. A faint color came into Miss
Bartram's cheeks, as they stood thus, for a moment, face to face.
She seemed to be waiting for him to speak, but of this he never
thought; had any words come to his mind, his tongue could not have
"It is not Harry," Betty explained, striving to hide her
embarrassment. "This is Leonard Clare, who lives with us."
"Then I do not know you so well as I thought," Miss Bartram said to
him; "it is the beginning of a new acquaintance, after all."
"There isn't no harm done," Leonard answered, and instantly feeling
the awkwardness of the words, blushed so painfully that Miss
Bartram felt the inadequacy of her social tact to relieve so
manifest a case of distress. But she did, instinctively, what was
really best: she gave Leonard the check for her trunk, divided her
satchels with Betty, and walked to the carriage.
He did not sing, as he drove homewards down the valley. Seated on
the trunk, in front, he quietly governed the horses, while the two
girls, on the seat behind him, talked constantly and gaily. Only
the rich, steady tones of Miss Bartram's voice WOULD make their
way into his ears, and every light, careless sentence printed
itself upon his memory. They came to him as if from some
inaccessible planet. Poor fellow! he was not the first to
feel "the desire of the moth for the star."
When they reached the Rambo farm-house, it was necessary that he
should give his hand to help her down from the clumsy carriage. He
held it but a moment; yet in that moment a gentle pulse throbbed
upon his hard palm, and he mechanically set his teeth, to keep down
the impulse which made him wild to hold it there forever. "Thank
you, Mr. Clare!" said Miss Bartram, and passed into the house.
When he followed presently, shouldering her trunk into the upper
best-room, and kneeling upon the floor to unbuckle the straps, she
found herself wondering: "Is this a knightly service, or the
menial duty of a porter? Can a man be both sensitive and ignorant,
chivalrous and vulgar?"
The question was not so easily decided, though no one guessed how
much Miss Bartram pondered it, during the succeeding days. She
insisted, from the first, that her coming should make no change in
the habits of the household; she rose in the cool, dewy summer
dawns, dined at noon in the old brown room beside the kitchen, and
only differed from the Rambos in sitting at her moonlit window, and
breathing the subtle odors of a myriad leaves, long after Betty was
sleeping the sleep of health.
It was strange how frequently the strong, not very graceful figure
of Leonard Clare marched through these reveries. She occasionally
spoke to him at the common table, or as she passed the borders of
the hay-field, where he and Henry were at work: but his words to
her were always few and constrained. What was there in his
eyes that haunted her? Not merely a most reverent admiration of
her pure womanly refinement, although she read that also; not a
fear of disparagement, such as his awkward speech implied, but
something which seemed to seek agonizingly for another language
than that of the lips,--something which appealed to her from equal
ground, and asked for an answer.
One evening she met him in the lane, as she returned from the
meadow. She carried a bunch of flowers, with delicate blue and
lilac bells, and asked him the name.
"Them's Brandywine cowslips," he answered; "I never heard no other
"May I correct you?" she said, gently, and with a smile which she
meant to be playful. "I suppose the main thing is to speak one's
thought, but there are neat and orderly ways, and there are
careless ways." Thereupon she pointed out the inaccuracies of his
answer, he standing beside her, silent and attentive. When she
ceased, he did not immediately reply.
"You will take it in good part, will you not?" she continued. "I
hope I have not offended you."
"No!" he exclaimed, firmly, lifting his head, and looking at her.
The inscrutable expression in his dark gray eyes was stronger than
before, and all his features were more clearly drawn. He reminded
her of a picture of Adam which she had once seen: there was the
same rather low forehead, straight, even brows, full yet strong
mouth, and that broader form of chin which repeats and
balances the character of the forehead. He was not positively
handsome, but from head to foot he expressed a fresh, sound quality
Another question flashed across Miss Bartram's mind: Is life long
enough to transform this clay into marble? Here is a man in form,
and with all the dignity of the perfect masculine nature: shall the
broad, free intelligence, the grace and sweetness, the taste and
refinement, which the best culture gives, never be his also? If
not, woman must be content with faulty representations of her
So musing, she walked on to the farm-house. Leonard had picked up
one of the blossoms she had let fall, and appeared to be curiously
examining it. If he had apologized for his want of grammar, or
promised to reform it, her interest in him might have diminished;
but his silence, his simple, natural obedience to some powerful
inner force, whatever it was, helped to strengthen that phantom of
him in her mind, which was now beginning to be a serious trouble.
Once again, the day before she left the Rambo farmhouse to return
to the city, she came upon him, alone. She had wandered off to the
Brandywine, to gather ferns at a rocky point where some choice
varieties were to be found. There were a few charming clumps,
half-way up a slaty cliff, which it did not seem possible to scale,
and she was standing at the base, looking up in vain longing, when
a voice, almost at her ear, said:
"Which ones do you want?"
Afterwards, she wondered that she did not start at the voice.
Leonard had come up the road from one of the lower fields: he wore
neither coat nor waistcoat, and his shirt, open at the throat,
showed the firm, beautiful white of the flesh below the strong tan
of his neck. Miss Bartram noticed the sinewy strength and
elasticity of his form, yet when she looked again at the ferns, she
shook her head, and answered:
"None, since I cannot have them."
Without saying a word, he took off his shoes, and commenced
climbing the nearly perpendicular face of the cliff. He had done
it before, many a time; but Miss Bartram, although she was familiar
with such exploits from the pages of many novels, had never seen
the reality, and it quite took away her breath.
When he descended with the ferns in his hand, she said: "It was a
great risk; I wish I had not wanted them."
"It was no risk for me," he answered.
"What can I send you in return?" she asked, as they walked
forwards. "I am going home to-morrow."
"Betty told me," Leonard said; "please, wait one minute."
He stepped down to the bank of the stream, washed his hands
carefully in the clear water, and came back to her, holding them,
dripping, at his sides.
"I am very ignorant," he then continued,--"ignorant and rough. You
are good, to want to send me something, but I want nothing. Miss
Bartram, you are very good."
He paused; but with all her tact and social experience, she did not
know what to say.
"Would you do one little thing for me--not for the ferns, that was
nothing--no more than you do, without thinking, for all your
"Oh, surely!" she said.
"Might I--might I--now,--there'll be no chance tomorrow,--shake
hands with you?"
The words seemed to be forced from him by the strength of a fierce
will. Both stopped, involuntarily.
"It's quite dry, you see," said he, offering his hand. Her own
sank upon it, palm to palm, and the fingers softly closed over
each, as if with the passion and sweetness of a kiss. Miss
Bartram's heart came to her eyes, and read, at last, the question
in Leonard's. It was: "I as man, and you, as woman, are equals;
will you give me time to reach you?" What her eyes replied she
knew not. A mighty influence drew her on, and a mighty doubt and
dread restrained her. One said: "Here is your lover, your
husband, your cherished partner, left by fate below your station,
yet whom you may lift to your side! Shall man, alone, crown the
humble maiden,--stoop to love, and, loving, ennoble? Be you the
queen, and love him by the royal right of womanhood!" But the
other sternly whispered: "How shall your fine and delicate fibres
be knit into this coarse texture? Ignorance, which years cannot
wash away,--low instincts, what do YOU know?--all the servile
side of life, which is turned from you,--what madness to choose
this, because some current of earthly magnetism sets along your
nerves? He loves you: what of that? You are a higher being to
him, and he stupidly adores you. Think,--yes, DARE to
think of all the prosaic realities of life, shared with him!"
Miss Bartram felt herself growing dizzy. Behind the impulse which
bade her cast herself upon his breast swept such a hot wave of
shame and pain that her face burned, and she dropped her eyelids to
shut out the sight of his face. But, for one endless second, the
sweeter voice spoke through their clasped hands. Perhaps he kissed
hers; she did not know; she only heard herself murmur:
"Good-bye! Pray go on; I will rest here."
She sat down upon a bank by the roadside, turned away her head, and
closed her eyes. It was long before the tumult in her nature
subsided. If she reflected, with a sense of relief, "nothing was
said," the thought immediately followed, "but all is known." It
was impossible,--yes, clearly impossible; and then came such a wild
longing, such an assertion of the right and truth and justice of
love, as made her seem a miserable coward, the veriest slave of
Out of this struggle dawned self-knowledge, and the strength which
is born of it. When she returned to the house, she was pale and
weary, but capable of responding to Betty Rambo's constant
cheerfulness. The next day she left for the city, without having
seen Leonard Clare again.
Henry Rambo married, and brought a new mistress to the farm-house.
Betty married, and migrated to a new home in another part of
the State. Leonard Clare went back to his trade, and returned no
more in harvest-time. So the pleasant farm by the Brandywine,
having served its purpose as a background, will be seen no more in
Miss Bartram's inmost life, as a woman, was no longer the same.
The point of view from which she had beheld the world was shifted,
and she was obliged to remodel all her feelings and ideas to
conform to it. But the process was gradual, and no one stood near
enough to her to remark it. She was occasionally suspected of that
"eccentricity" which, in a woman of five-and-twenty, is looked upon
as the first symptom of a tendency to old-maidenhood, but which is
really the sign of an earnest heart struggling with the questions
of life. In the society of cities, most men give only the shallow,
flashy surface of their natures to the young women they meet, and
Miss Bartram, after that revelation of the dumb strength of an
ignorant man, sometimes grew very impatient of the platitudes and
affectations which came to her clad in elegant words, and
accompanied by irreproachable manners.
She had various suitors; for that sense of grace and repose and
sweet feminine power, which hung around her like an atmosphere,
attracted good and true men towards her. To some, indeed, she gave
that noble, untroubled friendship which is always possible between
the best of the two sexes, and when she was compelled to deny the
more intimate appeal, it was done with such frank sorrow, such
delicate tenderness, that she never lost the friend in losing
the lover. But, as one year after another went by, and the younger
members of her family fell off into their separate domestic orbits,
she began to shrink a little at the perspective of a lonely life,
growing lonelier as it receded from the Present.
By this time, Leonard Clare had become almost a dream to her. She
had neither seen him nor heard of him since he let go her hand on
that memorable evening beside the stream. He was a strange,
bewildering chance, a cypher concealing a secret which she could
not intelligently read. Why should she keep the memory of that
power which was, perhaps, some unconscious quality of his nature
(no, it was not so! something deeper than reason cried:), or long
since forgotten, if felt, by him?
The man whom she most esteemed came back to her. She knew the
ripeness and harmony of his intellect, the nobility of his
character, and the generosity of a feeling which would be satisfied
with only a partial return. She felt sure, also, that she should
never possess a sentiment nearer to love than that which pleaded
his cause in her heart. But her hand lay quiet in his, her pulses
were calm when he spoke, and his face, manly and true as it was,
never invaded her dreams. All questioning was vain; her heart gave
no solution of the riddle. Perhaps her own want was common to all
lives: then she was cherishing a selfish ideal, and rejecting the
positive good offered to her hands.
After long hesitation she yielded. The predictions of society came
to naught; instead of becoming an "eccentric" spinster, Miss
Bartram was announced to be the affianced bride of Mr. Lawrie. A
few weeks and months rolled around, and when the wedding-day came,
she almost hailed it as the port of refuge, where she should find
a placid and peaceful life.
They were married by an aged clergyman, a relative of the
bridegroom. The cross-street where his chapel stood, fronting a
Methodist church--both of the simplest form of that architecture
fondly supposed to be Gothic,--was quite blocked up by the
carriages of the party. The pews were crowded with elegant guests,
the altar was decorated with flowers, and the ceremony lacked
nothing of its usual solemn beauty. The bride was pale, but
strikingly calm and self-possessed, and when she moved towards the
door as Mrs. Lawrie, on her husband's arm, many matrons, recalling
their own experience, marvelled at her unflurried dignity.
Just as they passed out the door, and the bridal carriage was
summoned, a singular thing happened. Another bridal carriage drew
up from the opposite side, and a newly wedded pair came forth from
the portal of the Methodist church. Both parties stopped, face to
face, divided only by the narrow street. Mrs. Lawrie first noticed
the flushed cheeks of the other bride, her white dress, rather
showy than elegant, and the heavy gold ornaments she wore. Then
she turned to the bridegroom. He was tall and well-formed, dressed
like a gentleman, but like one who is not yet unconscious of his
dress, and had the air of a man accustomed to exercise some
She saw his face, and instantly all other faces disappeared. From
the opposite brink of a tremendous gulf she looked into his eyes,
and their blended ray of love and despair pierced her to the heart.
There was a roaring in her ears, followed a long sighing sound,
like that of the wind on some homeless waste; she leaned more
heavily on her husband's arm, leaned against his shoulder, slid
slowly down into his supporting clasp, and knew no more.
"She's paying for her mock composure, after all," said the matrons.
"It must have been a great effort."
Ten years afterwards, Mrs. Lawrie went on board a steamer at
Southampton, bound for New York. She was travelling alone, having
been called suddenly from Europe by the approaching death of her
aged father. For two or three days after sailing, the thick, rainy
spring weather kept all below, except a few hardy gentlemen who
crowded together on the lee of the smoke-stack, and kept up a
stubborn cheerfulness on a very small capital of comfort. There
were few cabin-passengers on board, but the usual crowd of
emigrants in the steerage.
Mrs. Lawrie's face had grown calmer and colder during these years.
There was yet no gray in her hair, no wrinkles about her clear
eyes; each feature appeared to be the same, but the pale,
monotonous color which had replaced the warm bloom of her youth,
gave them a different character. The gracious dignity of her
manner, the mellow tones of her voice, still expressed her
unchanging goodness, yet those who met her were sure to feel, in
some inexplicable way, that to be good is not always to be happy.
Perhaps, indeed, her manner was older than her face and form: she
still attracted the interest of men, but with a certain doubt and
Certain it is that when she made her appearance on deck, glad of
the blue sky and sunshine, and threw back her hood to feel the
freshness of the sea air, all eyes followed her movements, except
those of a forlorn individual, who, muffled in his cloak and
apparently sea-sick, lay upon one of the benches. The captain
presently joined her, and the gentlemen saw that she was bright and
perfectly self-possessed in conversation: some of them immediately
resolved to achieve an acquaintance. The dull, passive existence
of the beginning of every voyage, seemed to be now at an end. It
was time for the little society of the vessel to awake, stir
itself, and organize a life of its own, for the few remaining days.
That night, as Mrs. Lawrie was sleeping in her berth, she suddenly
awoke with a singular feeling of dread and suspense. She listened
silently, but for some time distinguished none other than the small
sounds of night on shipboard--the indistinct orders, the dragging
of ropes, the creaking of timbers, the dull, regular jar of the
engine, and the shuffling noise of feet overhead. But, ere long,
she seemed to catch faint, distant sounds, that seemed like cries;
then came hurry and confusion on deck; then voices in the
cabin, one of which said: "they never can get it under, at this
She rose, dressed herself hastily, and made her way through pale
and excited stewards, and the bewildered passengers who were
beginning to rush from their staterooms, to the deck. In the wild
tumult which prevailed, she might have been thrown down and
trampled under foot, had not a strong arm seized her around the
waist, and borne her towards the stern, where there were but few
"Wait here!" said a voice, and her protector plunged into the
She saw, instantly, the terrible fate which had fallen upon the
vessel. The bow was shrouded in whirls of smoke, through which
dull red flashes began to show themselves; and all the length and
breadth of the deck was filled with a screaming, struggling,
fighting mass of desperate human beings. She saw the captain,
officers, and a few of the crew working in vain against the
disorder: she saw the boats filled before they were lowered, and
heard the shrieks as they were capsized; she saw spars and planks
and benches cast overboard, and maddened men plunging after them;
and then, like the sudden opening of the mouth of Hell, the
relentless, triumphant fire burst through the forward deck and shot
up to the foreyard.
She was leaning against the mizen shrouds, between the coils of
rope. Nobody appeared to notice her, although the quarter-deck was
fast filling with persons driven back by the fire, yet still
shrinking from the terror and uncertainty of the sea. She
thought: "It is but death--why should I fear? The waves are at
hand, to save me from all suffering." And the collective horror of
hundreds of beings did not so overwhelm her as she had both fancied
and feared; the tragedy of each individual life was lost in the
confusion, and was she not a sharer in their doom?
Suddenly, a man stood before her with a cork life-preserver in his
hands, and buckled it around her securely, under the arms. He was
panting and almost exhausted, yet he strove to make his voice firm,
and even cheerful, as he said:
"We fought the cowardly devils as long as there was any hope. Two
boats are off, and two capsized; in ten minutes more every soul
must take to the water. Trust to me, and I will save you or die
"What else can I do?" she answered.
With a few powerful strokes of an axe, he broke off the top of the
pilot-house, bound two or three planks to it with ropes, and
dragged the mass to the bulwarks.
"The minute this goes," he then said to her, "you go after it, and
I follow. Keep still when you rise to the surface."
She left the shrouds, took hold of the planks at his side, and they
heaved the rude raft into the sea. In an instant she was seized
and whirled over the side; she instinctively held her breath, felt
a shock, felt herself swallowed up in an awful, fathomless
coldness, and then found herself floating below the huge towering
hull which slowly drifted away.
In another moment there was one at her side. "Lay your hand on my
shoulder," he said; and when she did so, swam for the raft, which
they soon reached. While she supported herself by one of the
planks he so arranged and bound together the pieces of timber that
in a short time they could climb upon them and rest, not much
washed by the waves. The ship drifted further and further, casting
a faint, though awful, glare over the sea, until the light was
suddenly extinguished, as the hull sank.
The dawn was in the sky by this time, and as it broadened they
could see faint specks here and there, where others, like
themselves, clung to drifting spars. Mrs. Lawrie shuddered with
cold and the reaction from an excitement which had been far more
powerful than she knew at the time.
Her preserver then took off his coat, wrapped it around her, and
produced a pocket-flask, saying; "this will support us the longest;
it is all I could find, or bring with me."
She sat, leaning against his shoulder, though partly turned away
from him: all she could say was: "you are very good."
After awhile he spoke, and his voice seemed changed to her ears.
"You must be thinking of Mr. Lawrie. It will, indeed, be terrible
for him to hear of the disaster, before knowing that you are
"God has spared him that distress," she answered. "Mr. Lawrie
died, a year ago."
She felt a start in the strong frame upon which she leaned. After
a few minutes of silence, he slowly shifted his position
towards her, yet still without facing her, and said, almost in a
"You have said that I am very good. Will you put your hand in
She stretched hers eagerly and gratefully towards him. What had
happened? Through all the numbness of her blood, there sprang a
strange new warmth from his strong palm, and a pulse, which she had
almost forgotten as a dream of the past, began to beat through her
frame. She turned around all a-tremble, and saw his face in the
glow of the coming day.
"Leonard Clare!" she cried.
"Then you have not forgotten me?"
"Could one forget, when the other remembers?"
The words came involuntarily from her lips. She felt what they
implied, the moment afterwards, and said no more. But he kept her
hand in his.
"Mrs. Lawrie," he began, after another silence, "we are hanging by
a hair on the edge of life, but I shall gladly let that hair break,
since I may tell you now, purely and in the hearing of God, how I
have tried to rise to you out of the low place in which you found
me. At first you seemed too far; but you yourself led me the first
step of the way, and I have steadily kept my eyes on you, and
followed it. When I had learned my trade, I came to the city. No
labor was too hard for me, no study too difficult. I was becoming
a new man, I saw all that was still lacking, and how to reach it,
and I watched you, unknown, at a distance. Then I heard of your
engagement: you were lost, and something of which I had begun
to dream, became insanity. I determined to trample it out of my
life. The daughter of the master-builder, whose first assistant I
was, had always favored me in her society; and I soon persuaded her
to love me. I fancied, too, that I loved her as most married men
seemed to love their wives; the union would advance me to a
partnership in her father's business, and my fortune would then be
secured. You know what happened; but you do not know how the sight
of your face planted the old madness again in my life, and made me
a miserable husband, a miserable man of wealth, almost a scoffer at
the knowledge I had acquired for your sake.
"When my wife died, taking an only child with her, there was
nothing left to me except the mechanical ambition to make myself,
without you, what I imagined I might have become, through you. I
have studied and travelled, lived alone and in society, until your
world seemed to be almost mine: but you were not there!"
The sun had risen, while they sat, rocking on their frail support.
Her hand still lay in his, and her head rested on his shoulder.
Every word he spoke sank into her heart with a solemn sweetness, in
which her whole nature was silent and satisfied. Why should she
speak? He knew all.
Yes, it seemed that he knew. His arm stole around her, and her
head was drawn from his shoulder to the warm breadth of his breast.
Something hard pressed her cheek, and she lifted her hand to move
it aside. He drew forth a flat medallion case; and to the
unconscious question in her face, such a sad, tender smile came to
his lips, that she could not repress a sudden pain. Was it the
miniature of his dead wife?
He opened the case, and showed her, under the glass, a faded,
"What is it?" she asked.
"The Brandywine cowslip you dropped, when you spoke to me in the
lane. Then it was that you showed me the first step of the way."
She laid her head again upon his bosom. Hour after hour they sat,
and the light swells of the sea heaved them aimlessly to and fro,
and the sun burned them, and the spray drenched their limbs. At
last Leonard Clare roused himself and looked around: he felt numb
and faint, and he saw, also, that her strength was rapidly failing.
"We cannot live much longer, I fear," he said, clasping her closely
in his arms. "Kiss me once, darling, and then we will die."
She clung to him and kissed him.
"There is life, not death, in your lips!" he cried. "Oh, God, if
we should live!"
He rose painfully to his feet, stood, tottering? on the raft, and
looked across the waves. Presently he began to tremble, then to
sob like a child, and at last spoke, through his tears:
"A sail! a sail!--and heading towards us!"
MRS. STRONGITHARM'S REPORT.
Mr. Editor,--If you ever read the "Burroak Banner" (which you will
find among your exchanges, as the editor publishes your prospectus
for six weeks every year, and sends no bill to you) my name will
not be that of a stranger. Let me throw aside all affectation of
humility, and say that I hope it is already and not unfavorably
familiar to you. I am informed by those who claim to know that the
manuscripts of obscure writers are passed over by you editors
without examination--in short, that I must first have a name, if I
hope to make one. The fact that an article of three hundred and
seventy-five pages, which I sent, successively, to the "North
American Review," the "Catholic World," and the "Radical," was in
each case returned to me with MY knot on the tape by which it
was tied, convinces me that such is indeed the case. A few years
ago I should not have meekly submitted to treatment like this; but
late experiences have taught me the vanity of many womanly dreams.
You are acquainted with the part I took (I am SURE you must have
seen it in the "Burroak Banner" eight years ago) in creating that
public sentiment in our favor which invested us with all the civil
and political rights of men. How the editors of the "Revolution,"
to which I subscribe, and the conventions in favor of the equal
rights of women, recently held in Boston and other cities, have
failed to notice our noble struggle, is a circumstance for which I
will not try to account. I will only say--and it is a hint which
SOME PERSONS will understand--that there are other forms of
jealousy than those which spring from love.
It is, indeed, incredible that so little is known, outside the
State of Atlantic, of the experiment--I mean the achievement--of
the last eight years. While the war lasted, we did not complain
that our work was ignored; but now that our sisters in other States
are acting as if in complete unconsciousness of what WE have
done--now that we need their aid and they need ours (but in
different ways), it is time that somebody should speak. Were
Selina Whiston living, I should leave the task to her pen; she
never recovered from the shock and mortification of her experiences
in the State Legislature, in '64--but I will not anticipate the
history. Of all the band of female iconoclasts, as the Hon. Mr.
Screed called us in jest--it was no jest afterwards, HIS image
being the first to go down--of all, I say, "some are married, and
some are dead," and there is really no one left so familiar with
the circumstances as I am, and equally competent to give a report
Mr. Spelter (the editor of the "Burroak Banner") suggests that I
must be brief, if I wish my words to reach the ears of the millions
for whom they are designed; and I shall do my best to be so. If I
were not obliged to begin at the very beginning, and if the
interests of Atlantic had not been swallowed up, like those of
other little States, in the whirlpool of national politics, I
should have much less to say. But if Mr. George Fenian Brain and
Mrs. Candy Station do not choose to inform the public of either the
course or the results of our struggle, am I to blame? If I could
have attended the convention in Boston, and had been allowed to
speak--and I am sure the distinguished Chairwoman would have given
me a chance--it would have been the best way, no doubt, to set our
case before the world.
I must first tell you how it was that we succeeded in forcing the
men to accept our claims, so much in advance of other States. We
were indebted for it chiefly to the skill and adroitness of Selina
Whiston. The matter had been agitated, it is true, for some years
before, and as early as 1856, a bill, drawn up by Mrs. Whiston
herself, had been introduced into the Legislature, where it
received three votes. Moreover, we had held meetings in almost
every election precinct in the State, and our Annual Fair (to raise
funds) at Gaston, while the Legislature was in session, was always
very brilliant and successful. So the people were not entirely
Although our State had gone for Fremont in 1856, by a small
majority, the Democrats afterwards elected their Governor; and
both parties, therefore, had hopes of success in 1860. The canvass
began early, and was very animated. Mrs. Whiston had already
inaugurated the custom of attending political meetings, and
occasionally putting a question to the stump orator--no matter of
which party; of sometimes, indeed, taking the stump herself, after
the others had exhausted their wind. She was very witty, as you
know, and her stories were so good and so capitally told, that
neither Democrat nor Republican thought of leaving the ground while
she was upon the stand.
Now, it happened that our Congressional District was one of the
closest. It happened, also, that our candidate (I am a Republican,
and so is Mr. Strongitharm) was rather favorably inclined to the
woman's cause. It happened, thirdly--and this is the seemingly
insignificant pivot upon which we whirled into triumph--that he,
Mr. Wrangle, and the opposing candidate, Mr. Tumbrill, had arranged
to hold a joint meeting at Burroak. This meeting took place on a
magnificent day, just after the oats-harvest; and everybody, for
twenty miles around, was there. Mrs. Whiston, together with Sarah
Pincher, Olympia Knapp, and several other prominent advocates of
our cause, met at my house in the morning; and we all agreed that
it was time to strike a blow. The rest of us magnanimously decided
to take no part in the concerted plan, though very eager to do so.
Selina Whiston declared that she must have the field to herself;
and when she said that, we knew she meant it.
It was generally known that she was on the ground. In fact,
she spent most of the time while Messrs. Wrangle and Tumbrill were
speaking, in walking about through the crowds--so after an hour
apiece for the gentlemen, and then fifteen minutes apiece for a
rejoinder, and the Star Spangled Banner from the band, for both
sides, we were not a bit surprised to hear a few cries of
"Whiston!" from the audience. Immediately we saw the compact gray
bonnet and brown serge dress (she knew what would go through a
crowd without tearing!) splitting the wedge of people on the steps
leading to the platform. I noticed that the two Congressional
candidates looked at each other and smiled, in spite of the
venomous charges they had just been making.
Well--I won't attempt to report her speech, though it was her most
splendid effort (as people WILL say, when it was no effort to
her at all). But the substance of it was this: after setting forth
woman's wrongs and man's tyranny, and taxation without
representation, and an equal chance, and fair-play, and a struggle
for life (which you know all about from the other conventions), she
turned squarely around to the two candidates arid said:
"Now to the practical application. You, Mr. Wrangle, and you, Mr.
Tumbrill, want to be elected to Congress. The district is a close
one: you have both counted the votes in advance (oh, I know your
secrets!) and there isn't a difference of a hundred in your
estimates. A very little will turn the scale either way. Perhaps
a woman's influence--perhaps my voice--might do it. But I will
give you an equal chance. So much power is left to woman,
despite what you withhold, that we, the women of Putnam,
Shinnebaug, and Rancocus counties, are able to decide which of you
shall be elected. Either of you would give a great deal to have a
majority of the intelligent women of the District on your side: it
would already be equivalent to success. Now, to show that we
understand the political business from which you have excluded us--
to prove that we are capable of imitating the noble example of
MEN--we offer to sell our influence, as they their votes, to the
There was great shouting and cheering among the people at this, but
the two candidates, somehow or other, didn't seem much amused.
"I stand here," she continued, "in the interest of my struggling
sisters, and with authority to act for them. Which of you will bid
the most--not in offices or material advantages, as is the way of
your parties, but in the way of help to the Woman's Cause? Which
of you will here publicly pledge himself to say a word for us, from
now until election-day, whenever he appears upon the stump?"
There was repeated cheering, and cries of "Got 'em there!" (Men
are so vulgar).
I pause for a reply. Shall they not answer me?" she continued,
turning to the audience.
"Then there were tremendous cries of "Yes! yes! Wrangle! Tumbrill!"
Mr. Wrangle looked at Mr. Tumbrill, and made a motion with his
head, signifying that he should speak. Then Mr. Tumbrill looked at
Mr. Wrangle, and made a motion that HE should speak. The
people saw all this, and laughed and shouted as if they would never
Mr. Wrangle, on second thoughts (this is my private surmise), saw
that boldness would just then be popular; so he stepped forward.
"Do I understand," he said, "that my fair and eloquent friend
demands perfect political and civil equality for her sex?"
"I do!" exclaimed Selina Whiston, in her firmest manner.
"Let me be more explicit," he continued. "You mean precisely the
same rights, the same duties, the same obligations, the same
She repeated the phrases over after him, affirmatively, with an
emphasis which I never heard surpassed.
"Pardon me once more," said Mr. Wrangle; "the right to vote, to
hold office, to practise law, theology, medicine, to take part in
all municipal affairs, to sit on juries, to be called upon to aid
in the execution of the law, to aid in suppressing disturbances,
enforcing public order, and performing military duty?"
Here there were loud cheers from the audience; and a good many
voices cried out: "Got her there!" (Men are so very vulgar.)
Mrs. Whiston looked troubled for a moment, but she saw that a
moment's hesitation would be fatal to our scheme, so she brought
out her words as if each one were a maul-blow on the butt-end of a
"Then," said Mr. Wrangle, "I bid my support in exchange for the
women's! Just what the speaker demands, without exception or
modification--equal privileges, rights, duties and obligations,
without regard to the question of sex! Is that broad enough?"
I was all in a tremble when it came to that. Somehow Mr. Wrangle's
acceptance of the bid did not inspire me, although it promised so
much. I had anticipated opposition, dissatisfaction, tumult. So
had Mrs. Whiston, and I could see, and the crowd could see, that
she was not greatly elated.
Mr. Wrangle made a very significant bow to Mr. Tumbrill, and then
sat down. There were cries of "Tumbrill!" and that gentleman--none
of us, of course, believing him sincere, for we knew his private
views--came forward and made exactly the same pledge. I will do
both parties the justice to say that they faithfully kept their
word; nay, it was generally thought the repetition of their brief
pleas for woman, at some fifty meetings before election came, had
gradually conducted them to the belief that they were expressing
their own personal sentiments. The mechanical echo in public thus
developed into an opinion in private. My own political experience
has since demonstrated to me that this is a phenomenon very common
The impulse generated at that meeting gradually spread all over the
State. We--the leaders of the Women's Movement--did not rest until
we had exacted the same pledge from all the candidates of both
parties; and the nearer it drew towards election-day, the more
prominence was given, in the public meetings, to the illustration
and discussion of the subject. Our State went for Lincoln by a
majority of 2763 (as you will find by consulting the "Tribune
Almanac"), and Mr. Wrangle was elected to Congress, having received
a hundred and forty-two more votes than his opponent. Mr. Tumbrill
has always attributed his defeat to his want of courage in not
taking up at once the glove which Selina Whiston threw down.
I think I have said enough to make it clear how the State of
Atlantic came to be the first to grant equal civil and political
rights to women. When the Legislature of 1860-'61 met at Gaston,
we estimated that we might count upon fifty-three out of the
seventy-one Republican Senators and Assemblymen, and on thirty-four
out of the sixty-five Democrats. This would give a majority of
twenty-eight in the House, and ten in the Senate. Should the bill
pass, there was still a possibility that it might be vetoed by the
Governor, of whom we did not feel sure. We therefore arranged that
our Annual Fair should be held a fortnight later than usual, and
that the proceeds (a circumstance known only to the managers)
should be devoted to a series of choice suppers, at which we
entertained, not only the Governor and our friends in both Houses,
but also, like true Christians, our legislatorial enemies. Olympia
Knapp, who, you know, is so very beautiful, presided at these
entertainments. She put forth all her splendid powers, and with
more effect than any of us suspected. On the day before the
bill reached its third reading, the Governor made her an offer of
marriage. She came to the managers in great agitation, and laid
the matter before them, stating that she was overwhelmed with
surprise (though Sarah Pincher always maintained that she wasn't in
the least), and asking their advice. We discussed the question for
four hours, and finally decided that the interests of the cause
would oblige her to accept the Governor's hand. "Oh, I am so
glad!" cried Olympia, "for I accepted him at once." It was a
brave, a noble deed!
Now, I would ask those who assert that women are incapable of
conducting the business of politics, to say whether any set of men,
of either party, could have played their cards more skilfully?
Even after the campaign was over we might have failed, had it not
been for the suppers. We owed this idea, like the first, to the
immortal Selina Whiston. A lucky accident--as momentous in its way
as the fall of an apple to Newton, or the flying of a kite to Dr.
Franklin--gave her the secret principle by which the politics of
men are directed. Her house in Whittletown was the half of a
double frame building, and the rear-end of the other part was the
private office of--but no, I will not mention the name--a lawyer
and a politician. He was known as a "wirepuller," and the other
wire-pullers of his party used to meet in his office and discuss
matters. Mrs. Whiston always asserted that there was a mouse-hole
through the partition; but she had energy enough to have made a
hole herself, for the sake of the cause.
She never would tell us all she overheard. "It is enough," she
would say, "that I know how the thing is done."
I remember that we were all considerably startled when she first
gave us an outline of her plan. On my saying that I trusted the
dissemination of our principles would soon bring us a great
adhesion, she burst out with:
"Principles! Why if we trust to principles, we shall never
succeed! We must rely upon INFLUENCES, as the men do; we must
fight them with their own weapons, and even then we are at a
disadvantage, because we cannot very well make use of whiskey and
We yielded, because we had grown accustomed to be guided by her;
and, moreover, we had seen, time and again, how she could succeed--
as, for instance, in the Nelson divorce case (but I don't suppose
you ever heard of that), when the matter seemed nigh hopeless to
all of us. The history of 1860 and the following winter proves
that in her the world has lost a stateswoman. Mr. Wrangle and
Governor Battle have both said to me that they never knew a measure
to be so splendidly engineered both before the public and in the
After the bill had been passed, and signed by the Governor, and so
had become a law, and the grand Women's Jubilee had been held at
Gaston, the excitement subsided. It would be nearly a year to the
next State election, and none of the women seemed to care for the
local and municipal elections in the spring. Besides, there
was a good deal of anxiety among them in regard to the bill, which
was drawn up in almost the exact terms used by Mr. Wrangle at the
political meeting. In fact, we always have suspected that he wrote
it. The word "male" was simply omitted from all laws. "Nothing is
changed," said Mrs. Whiston, quoting Charles X., "there are only
201,758 more citizens in Atlantic!"
This was in January, 1861, you must remember; and the shadow of the
coming war began to fall over us. Had the passage of our bill been
postponed a fortnight it would have been postponed indefinitely,
for other and (for the men) more powerful excitements followed one
upon the other. Even our jubilee was thinly attended, and all but
two of the members on whom we relied for speeches failed us.
Governor Battle, who was to have presided, was at Washington, and
Olympia, already his wife, accompanied him. (I may add that she
has never since taken any active part with us. They have been in
Europe for the last three years.)
Most of the women--here in Burroak, at least--expressed a feeling
of disappointment that there was no palpable change in their lot,
no sense of extended liberty, such as they imagined would come to
transform them into brighter and better creatures. They supposed
that they would at once gain in importance in the eyes of the men;
but the men were now so preoccupied by the events at the South that
they seemed to have forgotten our political value. Speaking for
myself, as a good Union woman, I felt that I must lay aside,
for a time, the interests of my sex. Once, it is true, I proposed
to accompany Mr. Strongitharm to a party caucus at the Wrangle
House; but he so suddenly discovered that he had business in
another part of the town, that I withdrew my proposition.
As the summer passed over, and the first and second call for
volunteers had been met, and more than met, by the patriotic men of
the State (how we blessed them!) we began to take courage, and to
feel, that if our new civil position brought us no very tangible
enjoyment, at least it imposed upon us no very irksome duties.
The first practical effect of the new law came to light at the
August term of our County Court. The names of seven women appeared
on the list of jurors, but only three of them answered to their
names. One, the wife of a poor farmer, was excused by the Judge,
as there was no one to look after six small children in her
absence; another was a tailoress, with a quantity of work on hand,
some of which she proposed bringing with her into Court, in order
to save time; but as this could not be allowed, she made so much
trouble that she was also finally let off. Only one, therefore,
remained to serve; fortunately for the credit of our sex, she was
both able and willing to do so; and we afterward made a
subscription, and presented her with a silver fish-knife, on
account of her having tired out eleven jurymen, and brought in a
verdict of $5,000 damages against a young man whom she convicted of
seduction. She told me that no one would ever know what she
endured during those three days; but the morals of our county have
been better ever since.
Mr. Spelter told me that his State exchanges showed that there had
been difficulties of the same kind in all the other counties. In
Mendip (the county-town of which is Whittletown, Mrs. Whiston's
home) the immediate result had been the decision, on the part of
the Commissioners, to build an addition at the rear of the Court-
House, with large, commodious and well-furnished jury-rooms, so
arranged that a comfortable privacy was secured to the jury-women.
I did my best to have the same improvement adopted here, but, alas!
I have not the ability of Selina Whiston in such matters, and there
is nothing to this day but the one vile, miserable room, properly
furnished in no particular except spittoons.
The nominating Conventions were held in August, also, and we were
therefore called upon to move at once, in order to secure our fair
share. Much valuable time had been lost in discussing a question
of policy, namely, whether we should attach ourselves to the two
parties already in existence, according to our individual
inclinations, or whether we should form a third party for
ourselves. We finally accepted the former proposition, and I think
wisely; for the most of us were so ignorant of political tricks and
devices, that we still needed to learn from the men, and we could
not afford to draw upon us the hostility of both parties, in the
very infancy of our movement.
Never in my life did I have such a task, as in drumming up a
few women to attend the primary township meeting for the election
of delegates. It was impossible to make them comprehend its
importance. Even after I had done my best to explain the
technicalities of male politics, and fancied that I had made some
impression, the answer would be: "Well, I'd go, I'm sure, just to
oblige you, but then there's the tomatoes to be canned"--or, "I'm
so behindhand with my darning and patching"--or, "John'll be sure
to go, and there's no need of two from the same house"--and so on,
until I was mightily discouraged. There were just nine of us, all
told, to about a hundred men. I won't deny that our situation that
night, at the Wrangle House, was awkward and not entirely
agreeable. To be sure the landlord gave us the parlor, and most of
the men came in, now and then, to speak to us; but they managed the
principal matters all by themselves, in the bar-room, which was
such a mess of smoke and stale liquor smells, that it turned my
stomach when I ventured in for two minutes.
I don't think we should have accomplished much, but for a 'cute
idea of Mrs. Wilbur, the tinman's wife. She went to the leaders,
and threatened them that the women's vote should be cast in a body
for the Democratic candidates, unless we were considered in making
up the ticket. THAT helped: the delegates were properly
instructed, and the County Convention afterward nominated two men
and one woman as candidates for the Assembly. That woman was--as
I need hardly say, for the world knows it--myself. I had not
solicited the honor, and therefore could not refuse,
especially as my daughter Melissa was then old enough to keep house
in my absence. No woman had applied for the nomination for
Sheriff, but there were seventeen schoolmistresses anxious for the
office of County Treasurer. The only other nomination given to the
women, however, was that of Director (or rather, Directress) of the
Poor, which was conferred on Mrs. Bassett, wife of a clergyman.
Mr. Strongitharm insisted that I should, in some wise, prepare
myself for my new duties, by reading various political works, and
I conscientiously tried to do so--but, dear me! it was much more of
a task than I supposed. We had all read the debate on our bill, of
course; but I always skipped the dry, stupid stuff about the
tariff, and finance, and stay laws and exemption laws, and railroad
company squabbles; and for the life of me I can't see, to this day,
what connection there is between these things and Women's Rights.
But, as I said, I did my best, with the help of Webster's
Dictionary; although the further I went the less I liked it.
As election-day drew nearer, our prospects looked brighter. The
Republican ticket, under the editorial head of the "Burroak
Banner," with my name and Mrs. Bassett's among the men's, was such
an evidence, that many women, notably opposed to the cause, said:
"We didn't want the right, but since we have it, we shall make use
of it." This was exactly what Mrs. Whiston had foretold. We
estimated that--taking the County tickets all over the State--we
had about one-twentieth of the Republican, and one-fiftieth of
the Democratic, nominations. This was far from being our due, but
still it was a good beginning.
My husband insisted that I should go very early to the polls. I
could scarcely restrain a tear of emotion as I gave my first ballot
into the hands of the judges. There were not a dozen persons
present, and the act did not produce the sensation which I
expected. One man cried out: "Three cheers for our
Assemblywoman!" and they gave them; and I thereupon returned home
in the best spirits. I devoted the rest of the day to relieving
poorer women, who could not have spared the time to vote, if I had
not, meanwhile, looked after their children. The last was Nancy
Black, the shoemaker's wife in our street, who kept me waiting upon
her till it was quite dark. When she finally came, the skirt of
her dress was ripped nearly off, her hair was down and her comb
broken; but she was triumphant, for Sam Black was with her, and
SOBER." The first time since we were married, Mrs.
Strongitharm!" she cried. Then she whispered to me, as I was
leaving: "And I've killed HIS vote, anyhow!"
When the count was made, our party was far ahead. Up to this time,
I think, the men of both parties had believed that only a few
women, here and there, would avail themselves of their new right--
but they were roundly mistaken. Although only ten per cent. of the
female voters went to the polls, yet three-fourths of them voted
the Republican ticket, which increased the majority of that party,
in the State, about eleven thousand.
It was amazing what an effect followed this result. The whole
country would have rung with it, had we not been in the midst of
war. Mr. Wrangle declared that he had always been an earnest
advocate of the women's cause. Governor Battle, in his next
message, congratulated the State on the signal success of the
experiment, and the Democratic masses, smarting under their defeat,
cursed their leaders for not having been sharp enough to conciliate
the new element. The leaders themselves said nothing, and in a few
weeks the rank and file recovered their cheerfulness. Even Mrs.
Whiston, with all her experience, was a little puzzled by this
change of mood. Alas! she was far from guessing the correct
It was a great comfort to me that Mrs. Whiston was also elected to
the Legislature. My husband had just then established his
manufactory of patent self-scouring knife-blades (now so
celebrated), and could not leave; so I was obliged to go up to
Gaston all alone, when the session commenced. There were but four
of us Assemblywomen, and although the men treated us with great
courtesy, I was that nervous that I seemed to detect either
commiseration or satire everywhere. Before I had even taken my
seat, I was addressed by fifteen or twenty different gentlemen,
either great capitalists, or great engineers, or distinguished
lawyers, all interested in various schemes for developing the
resources of our State by new railroads, canals or ferries. I then
began to comprehend the grandeur of the Legislator's office. My
voice could assist in making possible these magnificent
improvements, and I promised it to all. Mr. Filch, President
of the Shinnebaug and Great Western Consolidated Line, was so
delighted with my appreciation of his plan for reducing the freight
on grain from Nebraska, that he must have written extravagant
accounts of me to his wife; for she sent me, at Christmas, one of
the loveliest shawls I ever beheld.
I had frequently made short addresses at our public meetings, and
was considered to have my share of self-possession; but I never
could accustom myself to the keen, disturbing, irritating
atmosphere of the Legislature. Everybody seemed wide-awake and
aggressive, instead of pleasantly receptive; there were so many
"points of order," and what not; such complete disregard, among the
members, of each other's feelings; and, finally--a thing I could
never understand, indeed--such inconsistency and lack of principle
in the intercourse of the two parties. How could I feel assured of
their sincerity, when I saw the very men chatting and laughing
together, in the lobbies, ten minutes after they had been facing
each other like angry lions in the debate?
Mrs. Whiston, also, had her trials of the same character. Nothing
ever annoyed her so much as a little blunder she made, the week
after the opening of the session. I have not yet mentioned that
there was already a universal dissatisfaction among the women, on
account of their being liable to military service. The war seemed
to have hardly begun, as yet, and conscription was already talked
about; the women, therefore, clamored for an exemption on
account of sex. Although we all felt that this was a retrograde
movement, the pressure was so great that we yielded. Mrs. Whiston,
reluctant at first, no sooner made up her mind that the thing must
be done, than she furthered it with all her might. After several
attempts to introduce a bill, which were always cut off by some
"point of order," she unhappily lost her usual patience.
I don't know that I can exactly explain how it happened, for what
the men call "parliamentary tactics" always made me fidgetty. But
the "previous question" turned up (as it always seemed to me to do,
at the wrong time), and cut her off before she had spoken ten
"Mr. Speaker!" she protested; "there is no question, previous to
this, which needs the consideration of the house! This is first in
importance, and demands your immediate--"
"Order! order!" came from all parts of the house.
"I am in order--the right is always in order!" she exclaimed,
getting more and more excited. "We women are not going to be
contented with the mere show of our rights on this floor; we demand
And so she was going on, when there arose the most fearful tumult.
The upshot of it was, that the speaker ordered the sergeant-at-arms
to remove Mrs. Whiston; one of the members, more considerate,
walked across the floor to her, and tried to explain in what manner
she was violating the rules; and in another minute she sat down, so
white, rigid and silent that it made me shake in my shoes to look
"I have made a great blunder," she said to me, that evening; "and
it may set us back a little; but I shall recover my ground." Which
she did, I assure you. She cultivated the acquaintance of the
leaders of both parties, studied their tactics, and quietly waited
for a good opportunity to bring in her bill. At first, we thought
it would pass; but one of the male members presently came out with
a speech, which dashed our hopes to nothing. He simply took the
ground that there must be absolute equality in citizenship; that
every privilege was balanced by a duty, every trust accompanied
with its responsibility. He had no objection to women possessing
equal rights with men--but to give them all civil rights and exempt
them from the most important obligation of service, would be, he
said, to create a privileged class--a female aristocracy. It was
contrary to the spirit of our institutions. The women had
complained of taxation without representation; did they now claim
the latter without the former?
The people never look more than half-way into a subject, and so
this speech was immensely popular. I will not give Mrs. Whiston's
admirable reply; for Mr. Spelter informs me that you will not
accept an article, if it should make more than seventy or eighty
printed pages. It is enough that our bill was "killed," as the men
say (a brutal word); and the women of the State laid the blame of
the failure upon us. You may imagine that we suffered under this
injustice; but worse was to come.
As I said before, a great many things came up in the Legislature
which I did not understand--and, to be candid, did not care
to understand. But I was obliged to vote, nevertheless, and in
this extremity I depended pretty much on Mrs. Whiston's counsel.
We could not well go to the private nightly confabs of the
members--indeed, they did not invite us; and when it came to the
issue of State bonds, bank charters, and such like, I felt as if I
were blundering along in the dark.
One day, I received, to my immense astonishment, a hundred and more
letters, all from the northern part of our county. I opened them,
one after the other, and--well, it is beyond my power to tell you
what varieties of indignation and abuse fell upon me. It seems
that I had voted against the bill to charter the Mendip Extension
Railroad Co. I had been obliged to vote for or against so many
things, that it was impossible to recollect them all. However, I
procured the printed journal, and, sure enough! there, among the
nays, was "Strongitharm." It was not a week after that--and I was
still suffering in mind and body--when the newspapers in the
interest of the Rancocus and Great Western Consolidated accused me
(not by name, but the same thing--you know how they do it) of being
guilty of taking bribes. Mr. Filch, of the Shinnebaug Consolidated
had explained to me so beautifully the superior advantages of his
line, that the Directors of the other company took their revenge in
this vile, abominable way.
That was only the beginning of my trouble. What with these
slanders and longing for the quiet of our dear old home at Burroak,
I was almost sick; yet the Legislature sat on, and sat on,
until I was nearly desperate. Then one morning came a despatch
from my husband: "Melissa is drafted--come home!" How I made the
journey I can't tell; I was in an agony of apprehension, and when
Mr. Strongitharm and Melissa both met me at the Burroak Station,
well and smiling, I fell into a hysterical fit of laughing and
crying, for the first time in my life.
Billy Brandon, who was engaged to Melissa, came forward and took
her place like a man; he fought none the worse, let me tell you,
because he represented a woman, and (I may as well say it now) he
came home a Captain, without a left arm--but Melissa seems to have
three arms for his sake.
You have no idea what a confusion and lamentation there was all
over the State. A good many women were drafted, and those who
could neither get substitutes for love nor money, were marched to
Gaston, where the recruiting Colonel was considerate enough to give
them a separate camp. In a week, however, the word came from
Washington that the Army Regulations of the United States did not
admit of their being received; and they came home blessing Mr.
Stanton. This was the end of drafting women in our State.
Nevertheless, the excitement created by the draft did not subside
at once. It was seized upon by the Democratic leaders, as part of
a plan already concocted, which they then proceeded to set in
operation. It succeeded only too well, and I don't know when we
shall ever see the end of it.
We had more friends among the Republicans at the start, because all
the original Abolitionists in the State came into that party in
1860. Our success had been so rapid and unforeseen that the
Democrats continued their opposition even after female suffrage was
an accomplished fact; but the leaders were shrewd enough to see
that another such election as the last would ruin their party in
the State. So their trains were quietly laid, and the match was
not applied until all Atlantic was ringing with the protestations
of the unwilling conscripts and the laments of their families.
Then came, like three claps of thunder in one, sympathy for the
women, acquiescence in their rights, and invitations to them,
everywhere, to take part in the Democratic caucuses and
conventions. Most of the prominent women of the State were deluded
for a time by this manifestation, and acted with the party for the
sake of the sex.
I had no idea, however, what the practical result of this movement
would be, until, a few weeks before election, I was calling upon
Mrs. Buckwalter, and happened to express my belief that we
Republicans were going to carry the State again, by a large
"I am very glad of it," said she, with an expression of great
relief, "because then my vote will not be needed."
"Why!" I exclaimed; "you won't decline to vote, surely?"
"Worse than that," she answered, "I am afraid I shall have to vote
with the other side."
Now as I knew her to be a good Republican, I could scarcely
believe my ears. She blushed, I must admit, when she saw my
"I'm so used to Bridget, you know," she continued, "and good girls
are so very hard to find, nowadays. She has as good as said that
she won't stay a day later than election, if I don't vote for
HER candidate; and what am I to do?"
"Do without!" I said shortly, getting up in my indignation.
"Yes, that's very well for you, with your wonderful PHYSIQUE,"
said Mrs. Buckwalter, quietly, "but think of me with my neuralgia,
and the pain in my back! It would be a dreadful blow, if I should
Well--what with torch-light processions, and meetings on both
sides, Burroak was in such a state of excitement when election
came, that most of the ladies of my acquaintance were almost afraid
to go to the polls. I tried to get them out during the first hours
after sunrise, when I went myself, but in vain. Even that early,
I heard things that made me shudder. Those who came later, went
home resolved to give up their rights rather than undergo a second
experience of rowdyism. But it was a jubilee for the servant
girls. Mrs. Buckwalter didn't gain much by her apostasy, for
Bridget came home singing "The Wearing of the Green," and let fall
a whole tray full of the best china before she could be got to bed.
Burroak, which, the year before, had a Republican majority of three
hundred, now went for the Democrats by more than five hundred. The
same party carried the State, electing their Governor by near
twenty thousand. The Republicans would now have gladly repealed
the bill giving us equal rights, but they were in a minority, and
the Democrats refused to co-operate. Mrs. Whiston, who still
remained loyal to our side, collected information from all parts of
the State, from which it appeared that four-fifths of all the
female citizens had voted the Democratic ticket. In New Lisbon,
our great manufacturing city, with its population of nearly one
hundred thousand, the party gained three thousand votes, while the
accessions to the Republican ranks were only about four hundred.
Mrs. Whiston barely escaped being defeated; her majority was
reduced from seven hundred to forty-three. Eleven Democratic
Assemblywomen and four Senatoresses were chosen, however, so that
she had the consolation of knowing that her sex had gained,
although her party had lost. She was still in good spirits: "It
will all right itself in time," she said.
You will readily guess, after what I have related, that I was not
only not re-elected to the Legislature, but that I was not even a
candidate. I could have born the outrageous attacks of the
opposite party; but the treatment I had received from my own
"constituents" (I shall always hate the word) gave me a new
revelation of the actual character of political life. I have not
mentioned half the worries and annoyances to which I was
subjected--the endless, endless letters and applications for
office, or for my influence in some way--the abuse and threats when
I could not possibly do what was desired--the exhibitions of
selfishness and disregard of all great and noble principles--and
finally, the shameless advances which were made by what men call
"the lobby," to secure my vote for this, that, and the other thing.
Why, it fairly made my hair stand on end to hear the stories which
the pleasant men, whom I thought so grandly interested in schemes
for "the material development of the country," told about each
other. Mrs. Filch's shawl began to burn my shoulders before I had
worn it a half a dozen times. (I have since given it to Melissa,
as a wedding-present).
Before the next session was half over, I was doubly glad of being
safe at home. Mrs. Whiston supposed that the increased female
representation would give her more support, and indeed it seemed
so, at first. But after her speech on the Bounty bill, only two of
the fifteen Democratic women would even speak to her, and all hope
of concord of action in the interests of women was at an end. We
read the debates, and my blood fairly boiled when I found what
taunts and sneers, and epithets she was forced to endure. I
wondered how she could sit still under them.
To make her position worse, the adjoining seat was occupied by an
Irishwoman, who had been elected by the votes of the laborers on
the new Albemarle Extension, in the neighborhood of which she kept
a grocery store. Nelly Kirkpatrick was a great, red-haired giant
of a woman, very illiterate, but with some native wit, and good-
hearted enough, I am told, when she was in her right mind.
She always followed the lead of Mr. Gorham (whose name, you see,
came before hers in the call), and a look from him was generally
sufficient to quiet her when she was inclined to be noisy.
When the resolutions declaring the war a failure were introduced,
the party excitement ran higher than ever. The "lunch-room" (as
they called it--I never went there but once, the title having
deceived me) in the basement-story of the State House was crowded
during the discussion, and every time Nelly Kirkpatrick came up,
her face was a shade deeper red. Mr. Gorham's nods and winks were
of no avail--speak she would, and speak she did, not so very
incoherently, after all, but very abusively. To be sure, you would
never have guessed it, if you had read the quiet and dignified
report in the papers on her side, the next day.
THEN Mrs. Whiston's patience broke down. "Mr. Speaker," she
exclaimed, starting to her feet, "I protest against this House
being compelled to listen to such a tirade as has just been
delivered. Are we to be disgraced before the world--"
"Oh, hoo! Disgraced, is it?" yelled Nelly Kirkpatrick, violently
interrupting her, "and me as dacent a woman as ever she was, or
ever will be! Disgraced, hey? Oh, I'll larn her what it is to
blaggard her betters!"
And before anybody could imagine what was coming, she pounced upon
Mrs. Whiston, with one jerk ripped off her skirt (it was silk, not
serge, this time), seized her by the hair, and gave her head such
a twist backwards, that the chignon not only came off in her
hands, but as her victim opened her mouth too widely in the
struggle, the springs of her false teeth were sprung the wrong way,
and the entire set flew out and rattled upon the floor.
Of course there were cries of "Order! Order!" and the nearest
members--Mr. Gorham among the first--rushed in; but the mischief
was done. Mrs. Whiston had always urged upon our minds the
necessity of not only being dressed according to the popular
fashion, but also as elegantly and becomingly as possible. "If we
adopt the Bloomers," she said, "we shall never get our rights,
while the world stands. Where it is necessary to influence men, we
must be wholly and truly WOMEN, not semi-sexed nondescripts; we
must employ every charm Nature gives us and Fashion adds, not hide
them under a forked extinguisher!" I give her very words to show
you her way of looking at things. Well, now imagine this elegant
woman, looking not a day over forty, though she was--but no, I have
no right to tell it,--imagine her, I say, with only her scanty
natural hair hanging over her ears, her mouth dreadfully fallen in,
her skirt torn off, all in open day, before the eyes of a hundred
and fifty members (and I am told they laughed immensely, in spite
of the scandal that it was), and, if you are human beings, you will
feel that she must have been wounded to the very heart.
There was a motion made to expel Nelly Kirkpatrick, and perhaps it
might have succeeded--but the railroad hands, all over the State,
made a heroine of her, and her party was afraid of losing five
or six thousand votes; so only a mild censure was pronounced. But
there was no end to the caricatures, and songs, and all sorts of
ribaldry, about the occurrence; and even our party said that,
although Mrs. Whiston was really and truly a martyr, yet the
circumstance was an immense damage to THEM. When she heard
THAT, I believe it killed her. She resigned her seat, went
home, never appeared again in public, and died within a year. "My
dear friend," she wrote to me, not a month before her death, "I
have been trying all my life to get a thorough knowledge of the
masculine nature, but my woman's plummet will not reach to the
bottom of that chaotic pit of selfishness and principle, expedience
and firmness for the right, brutality and tenderness, gullibility
and devilish shrewdness, which I have tried to sound. Only one
thing is clear--we women cannot do without what we have sometimes,
alas! sneered at as THE CHIVELRY OF THE SEX. The question of
our rights is as clear to me as ever; but we must find a plan to
get them without being forced to share, or even to SEE, all that
men do in their political lives. We have only beheld some
Principle riding aloft, not the mud through which her chariot
wheels are dragged. The ways must be swept before we can walk in
them--but how and by whom shall this be done?"
For my part, _I_ can't say, and I wish somebody would tell me.
Well--after seeing our State, which we used to be proud of,
delivered over for two years to the control of a party whose
policy was so repugnant to all our feelings of loyalty, we
endeavored to procure, at least a qualification of intelligence for
voters. Of course, we didn't get it: the exclusion from suffrage
of all who were unable to read and write might have turned the
scales again, and given us the State. After our boys came back
from the war, we might have succeeded--but their votes were over-
balanced by those of the servant-girls, every one of whom turned
out, making a whole holiday of the election.
I thought, last fall, that my Maria, who is German, would have
voted with us. I stayed at home and did the work myself, on
purpose that she might hear the oration of Carl Schurz; but old
Hammer, who keeps the lager-beer saloon in the upper end of
Burroak, gave a supper and a dance to all the German girls and
their beaux, after the meeting, and so managed to secure nine out
of ten of their votes for Seymour. Maria proposed going away a
week before election, up into Decatur County, where, she said, some
relations, just arrived from Bavaria, had settled. I was obliged
to let her go, or lose her altogether, but I was comforted by the
thought that if her vote were lost for Grant, at least it could not
be given to Seymour. After the election was over, and Decatur
County, which we had always managed to carry hitherto, went against
us, the whole matter was explained. About five hundred girls, we
were informed, had been COLONIZED in private families, as extra
help, for a fortnight, and of course Maria was one of them. (I
have looked at the addresses of her letters, ever since, and not
one has she sent to Decatur). A committee has been appointed,
and a report made on the election frauds in our State, and we shall
see, I suppose, whether any help comes of it.
Now, you mustn't think, from all this, that I am an apostate from
the principle of Women's Rights. No, indeed! All the trouble we
have had, as I think will be evident to the millions who read my
words, comes from THE MEN. They have not only made politics
their monopoly, but they have fashioned it into a tremendous,
elaborate system, in which there is precious little of either
principle or honesty. We can and we MUST "run the machine" (to
use another of their vulgar expressions) with them, until we get a
chance to knock off the useless wheels and thingumbobs, and scour
the whole concern, inside and out. Perhaps the men themselves
would like to do this, if they only knew how: men have so little
talent for cleaning-up. But when it comes to making a litter,
they're at home, let me tell you!
Meanwhile, in our State, things are about as bad as they can be.
The women are drawn for juries, the same as ever, but (except in
Whittletown, where they have a separate room,) no respectable woman
goes, and the fines come heavy on some of us. The demoralization
among our help is so bad, that we are going to try Co-operative
Housekeeping. If that don't succeed, I shall get brother Samuel,
who lives in California, to send me two Chinamen, one for cook and
chamber-boy, and one as nurse for Melissa. I console myself with
thinking that the end of it all must be good, since the principle
is right: but, dear me! I had no idea that I should be called
upon to go through such tribulation.
Now the reason I write--and I suppose I must hurry to the end, or
you will be out of all patience--is to beg, and insist, and implore
my sisters in other States to lose no more time, but at once to
coax, or melt, or threaten the men into accepting their claims. We
are now so isolated in our rights that we are obliged to bear more
than our proper share of the burden. When the States around us
shall be so far advanced, there will be a chance for new
stateswomen to spring up, and fill Mrs. Whiston's place, and we
shall then, I firmly believe, devise a plan to cleanse the great
Augean stable of politics by turning into it the river of female
honesty and intelligence and morality. But they must do this,
somehow or other, without letting the river be tainted by the heaps
of pestilent offal it must sweep away. As Lord Bacon says (in that
play falsely attributed to Shakespeare)--"Ay, there's the rub!"
If you were to ask me, NOW, what effect the right of suffrage,
office, and all the duties of men has had upon the morals of the
women of our State, I should be puzzled what to say. It is
something like this--if you put a chemical purifying agent into a
bucket of muddy water, the water gets clearer, to be sure, but the
chemical substance takes up some of the impurity. Perhaps that's
rather too strong a comparison; but if you say that men are worse
than women, as most people do, then of course we improve them by
closer political intercourse, and lose a little ourselves in the
process. I leave you to decide the relative loss and gain.
To tell you the truth, this is a feature of the question which I
would rather not discuss; and I see, by the reports of the recent
Conventions, that all the champions of our sex feel the same way.
Well, since I must come to an end somewhere, let it be here. To
quote Lord Bacon again, take my "round, unvarnished tale," and
perhaps the world will yet acknowledge that some good has been done by Yours truly,