Part 1 out of 4
Charles Franks and tehe Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
[Illustration: THE WOMAN]
THE ROMANCE AND TRAGEDY OF A WIDELY KNOWN BUSINESS MAN OF NEW YORK
BY HIMSELF (WILLIAM INGRAHAM RUSSELL)
TO MY WIFE
Who, after more than forty years of married life,
is still my sweetheart
TO MY READERS
A true story of a life I give you; not in its completion, for it
is still unfinished. The romance of youth has lingered through all
the later years and the tragedy of these years could not destroy
it. In the manuscript tears have fallen on some pages, smiles
on others, and still others have been scorched with the fire of
Why is it written? To bear testimony to the love and devotion of a
noble woman; to set straight before the world certain matters now
misunderstood; to give evidence of the insincerity of friendship
that comes to one in prosperity only to vanish in adversity; and
also, in the hope that an appreciative public will buy the book.
Not all the names used are fictitious, and where they are so, no
effort has been made to conceal identity.
No spirit of malice has animated the writer. Although his wounds
have been deep he knows now no feeling save sorrow and regret that
they should have been inflicted by his "_friends_"
WILLIAM INGRAHAM RUSSELL.
February 1, 1905.
AUTHOR'S NOTE TO SECOND EDITION
This narrative, first published in an author's autograph edition,
limited to one thousand copies, was privately circulated, the entire
edition having been sold by the author through correspondence.
A second edition is now offered to the public. The original narrative,
except for the correction of a few minor errors, is unchanged, and
added to it are two chapters disclosing a remarkable sequel and
also setting forth a lesson for the younger generation of business
men, showing clearly how different would have been the conditions
had my wisdom come before my experience.
This latter chapter was written at the suggestion of an eminently
successful New York business man, president of one of the largest
and oldest concerns in the United States.
WILLIAM INGRAHAM RUSSELL.
February 15th, 1907.
AUTHOR'S NOTE TO THIRD EDITION
Why is it published?
The second Edition--long out of print, still orders that could not
be filled were continually received. These have come from nearly
every State in the Union and as the book has never been advertised
other than by press reviews and the favorable comment of readers,
this demand means something.
Perhaps if you read the narrative you will discover the answer.
WILLIAM INGRAHAM RUSSELL
August 23rd, 1913.
I The First Round of the Ladder
II I Meet My Affinity
III A Co-Partnership Dissolved
IV And the Answer Was "Yes"
V Wedding Bells
VI A First Reverse of Fortune
VII The Coming of the Stork
VIII The New Partner
IX Suburban Life
X My Partner Retires
XI A Year of Sunshine
XII An Ideal Life
XIII Prosperous Days
XIV Near the Dark Valley
XV A Successful Maneuver
XVII Our Neighbors
XVIII An Uneventful Year
XIX The Stream Broadens
XXI The Dam Gives Way
XXII The Calm Before the Storm
XXIII "A Few Weak French Speculators"
XXIV Exciting Times
XXV "Come and Dance in the Barn"
XXVI An Importer and Dealer
XXVII Sad Hearts at Knollwood
XXVIII New Faces
XXIX A Short Year and a Merry One
XXX A Voucher
XXXI Two Sides to the Question
XXXII The Panic of Ninety-Three
XXXIII Farewell to "Redstone"
XXXIV A Summer on the Sound
XXXV Monmouth Beach
XXXVI The Ship Founders
XXXVII The Family and Friends
XXXVIII "W. E. Stowe & Co., Incorporated"
XXXIX The Struggle Commenced
XL The Struggle Continued
XLI Darkness Before the Dawn
XLII Brighter Days
XLIII Smooth Sailing Into Rough Waters
XLIV The Tyranny of the Jury Law
XLV Bitter Trials
XLVI At the Brink of the Grave
XLVII Again at the Helm
XLVIII A Nightmare
L A Dream
LI "From God and the King"
LII A Foundation Principle
Off for a drive
Eighty-sixth Street and West End Avenue
[ILLUSTRATION: The Author]
THE FIRST ROUND OF THE LADDER
NEW YORK, February 23, 1866.
"Master Walter E. Stowe:
"If you have not yet procured a situation, please call at my office,
45 Duane Street, and oblige.
"Per T. E. D."
This letter came to me in response to my application for a
situation as an office-boy. I had replied to the advertisement in
the _Herald_, without consulting my parents, knowing they would
raise objections to my leaving school.
My father, one of New York's old-time shipping merchants, running
a line of packets to Cuban ports, had failed in business as a result
of losses during the war, the crowding out of sailing vessels by
steamers, and unfortunate outside investments.
It did not require great discernment to see the necessity of my
giving up all idea of going to Columbia College, for which I was
preparing, and thus, before I was sixteen years of age, I commenced
as an office-boy at a salary of three dollars per week. The position
in those days was vastly different from what it is to-day. The
work now done by janitors and porters fell to the office-boy, and
my duties included sweeping and dusting the office, cleaning windows,
and in winter making fires.
This work, menial and distasteful as it was to the boy brought up
in luxury, was cheerfully undertaken, and it is only referred to
here to show that my start was from the first round of the ladder.
My employer, a north of Ireland man, though frequently brusque with
others, often to the detriment of his own interest, always treated
me with consideration and probably my life at the office ran as
smoothly as that of any lad in similar position. The only other
employee was a younger brother of Mr. Derham, who was taken in as
a limited partner shortly after I was employed. The firm carried on
a brokerage business, requiring no capital, and stood in the trade
as well and perhaps a little better than any of its competitors,
of which there were but few.
Much of the business done by the firm consisted in the execution
of orders for out-of-town dealers and consumers, but by far the
greater volume comprised the negotiations carried on between the
different importers and dealers of New York.
The entire business of the United States, in their line of trade,
was practically controlled by these importers and dealers. The
characteristics of the trade as they existed then, exist to-day.
A few of the old firms have gone out of existence through failure
or liquidation, and some accessions have been made, chiefly of
foreign blood, but most of the old concerns remain, and though the
personality of these has changed, through the departure of many on
the long journey and the taking of their places by their successors,
the same spirit that was in evidence in the years immediately
following the war, animates the trade to-day.
Admitting that sentiment has no place in business and brotherly
love is not to be expected amongst business competitors, I feel
safe in saying that in no other trade has jealous rivalry so nearly
approached to personal animosity.
Preeminent in the trade stands a firm with name unchanged for
three generations, of world-wide reputation for its wealth and the
philanthropy of its individual members, past and present, all of
whom have been prominent in New York's religious and social life.
Another firm only a few years ago discontinued a custom of hanging
on the walls of its offices scriptural texts. Of still another
firm, the most active member is a leader of Brooklyn's annual
Sunday-school processions, though he prides himself on his cold
blood, and before leaving his home in the morning to go to his office
replaces his heart with a paving-stone. But why go on? Suffice it
to say that the trade is eminently respectable and rich, in some
instances possessed of enormous wealth, and this is the trade in
which I began my career.
My office life for the first two years was routine and devoid of
excitement, except for occasional strenuous experiences the result
of Mr. Derham's brusqueness and quickness to resent anything that
he deemed an attempt to take advantage of, or put a slight upon him.
He was the sort of man that makes a steadfast friend or a bitter
enemy, with no room for anything in between.
"Walter, take this contract to Winter and bring me his acceptance,"
said Mr. Derham on one occasion, when, having made what in those
days was considered a large sale, he was feeling particularly
good-natured over it.
"Yes, sir," I replied, and was off at once, little knowing the
reception awaiting me in the Beaver Street office of Rudolph C.
On entering the office I approached Mr. Winter's desk and handed
him the contract. He glanced at it, and then all the nervous
irritability for which that individual was noted came to the surface
at once. Springing up from his desk, upsetting the chair in his
haste and rushing toward me, he shouted:
"Here! take this back to Mr. Derham; tell him I won't have it!
I didn't sell it; get out!" And pushing me across the office, he
opened the door and thrust me into the street, throwing after me
my hat, which had been knocked from my hand.
It did not take me long to get back to Mr. Derham and give him an
account of what had occurred.
In a fury he put on his hat, and saying "come with me," we walked
rapidly to Winter's office. Entering the door with blood in his
eye, Mr. Derham stepped up to the still wrathful merchant.
"Winter, I understand you decline to accept this contract."
"But," began Winter, when down on the desk came Mr. Derham's clenched
"No explanations now; sign first, and then after you have apologized
to my messenger, who is my representative when I send him to you,
perhaps I'll listen, and I am not sure I will not give you a good
The fury of Winter disappeared and in its place there was a very
mild spring. He signed the contract, told me he was sorry he had
been so hasty, and when I left them he was trying to pacify Mr.
On another occasion, Mr. Brightman, of Brightman & Smart, a dignified
gentleman at that time acting as consul for the Netherlands, called
at the office.
It appeared he had made a sale which he regretted and he called to
have it cancelled, claiming that he had been induced to make the
sale through the alleged misrepresentation by Mr. Thomas Derham,
of certain features of the market.
The argument became heated and Brightman called Thomas a liar.
His brother looked at him in silence for a moment, long enough
to discover that he was lacking either in pluck or inclination to
resent the insult, then springing at Brightman he literally threw
him out of the office.
These scenes, though not of daily occurrence, were frequent enough
to relieve the monotony of office life and at the same time to give
me a wholesome fear of incurring my employer's displeasure.
In the summer of 1868 Mr. Thomas Derham was married. For some
reason unknown to me his brother did not approve, and a little
later differences arose between them, the friction increasing until
finally a separation of their business interests was agreed upon.
Mr. Thomas Derham launched out on his own account, and the competition
between the brothers became a bitter warfare, all personal intercourse
At this time my salary was seven dollars per week, and Mr. Derham,
after the dissolution of partnership with his brother, advanced it
to ten dollars.
As he was my only employer and there were no further advances later,
this is the largest salary I was ever paid.
How large it looked to me then I remember well, and although matters
had gone from bad to worse at home and most of my earnings had to
contribute to keep the pot boiling, it seemed to me as if I were
rich the first Saturday night I carried home the ten-dollar bill.
From this time my position in the office became more dignified. A
woman was employed to do the cleaning, and Mr. Derham delegated to
me the placing of many of the smaller orders and occasionally sent
me on business trips to near-by cities.
I worked hard and faithfully to make my services valuable.
I kept the books, made collections, attended to a portion of the
correspondence, and it was not long before I had acquired a thorough
knowledge of the methods of doing the business and was able to carry
out transactions to a finish without having to consult my employer.
In October, 1870, Mr. Derham told me he had decided to give up the
business and accept an offer which had been made him by one of the
large importing firms, to go to England as its foreign representative.
He proposed that I take his business, paying him for the good-will
twenty-five per cent of the profits for three years.
As I was not yet twenty years of age, he thought me too young to
assume the business alone, and advised a partnership on equal terms
with a Mr. Bulkley, then doing a brokerage business in a line that
would work in well with ours, it being his idea to combine the two.
Adam Bulkley, a tall, handsome fellow of thirty-five, was a personal
friend of Mr. Derham. He was a captain in the Seventh Regiment
and had seen service. A man of attractive personality, he had many
friends and had married the daughter of one of the wealthiest hide
and leather brokers in the "swamp."
I do not know why, but in my first interview with this man I took
an aversion to him. I tried to convince Mr. Derham that I could
do better without a partner, but he thought otherwise, and not
unnaturally, under the circumstances, I allowed matters to take
their course as he planned them, and the partnership was made for
a period of three years.
Early in November Mr. Derham sailed for England, leaving as his
successor the firm of Bulkley & Stowe.
I MEET MY AFFINITY
My home was in Brooklyn. On my mother's side the family came from
the old Dutch settlers of that section of Greater New York. My
mother's father was a commissioned officer in the war of 1812. My
father came from Connecticut, of English ancestry. I used to tell
my mother the only thing I could never forgive her was that I was
born in Brooklyn, and I have never gotten over my dislike for the
place, though it is nearly thirty years since I left there.
The family for generations back have been Episcopalians, and from
earliest childhood I was accustomed to attend regularly Sunday-school
and church services.
After my father's failure we moved into a house on St. James Place,
and our church home was old St. Luke's, on Clinton avenue. Doctor
Diller, the rector, who lost his life in the burning of a steamboat
on the East River, was a life-long friend of the family, and my
social intercourse was chiefly with the young people of his church.
Mr. Sherman, the treasurer and senior warden of the church and
superintendent of the Sunday-school, a fine old gentleman, now
gathered to his fathers, was one of Hon. Seth Low's "Cabinet," when
he was Mayor of Brooklyn. Seth Low, by the way, is the same age as
myself, and we were schoolmates at the Polytechnic Institute.
As librarian of the Sunday-school and one of the committee in charge
of the social meetings of the young people, I became intimate with
Mr. Sherman and his family.
On December 20th, 1870, the first sociable of the season was held
and I had looked forward to it with considerable interest, owing
to the fact that a niece of Mr. Sherman, residing in Chicago and
then visiting him for the winter, was to be present. I had heard
the young lady spoken of in such glowing terms that I anticipated
much pleasure in meeting her.
When the evening came and I met Miss Wilson, I must confess I was
not deeply impressed, and I have since learned that the lady, who
had heard much of me from her cousin, Miss Sherman, regarded me
On this occasion, the saying that "first impressions go a great
way" was disproved, for two weeks later, after returning from the
second sociable, where I again met Miss Wilson, I said to my sister,
whom I had escorted:
"What do you think of Miss Wilson"?
"A very charming girl" she replied, and I then told her I had lost
my heart and was determined to win her for my wife.
Miss Wilson was of the brunette type. Her face, surmounted by a
mass of dark brown, silky hair, was most attractive. A clear olive
complexion, charming features, and beneath long lashes, large
brilliant eyes. Her figure, was finely proportioned and graceful.
Endowed with unusual common sense and well educated she was a most
interesting conversationalist, while her voice was musical and well
Why I did not discover all these charms on the occasion of our
first meeting I never have been able to understand, unless it was
because our intercourse on that evening was limited to little more
than a formal introduction.
Thereafter, I sought every possible opportunity for the enjoyment
of Miss Wilson's society.
Our acquaintance quickly grew into a friendship which permitted
almost daily intercourse and enabled me to fathom the noble nature
of the girl, and to realize what a blessing would be mine if I
could win her affection.
A girl of strong character, there was nothing of the frivolous about
her. In the frequent informal social gatherings she was always the
life of the occasion, but never did her merriment get down to the
level of silliness. Without a suspicion of prudishness there was
always with her the natural dignity of the true-born gentlewoman.
Of course, it need not be said that Miss Wilson had many
admirers--altogether too many for my peace of mind.
When I would get temporary relief by thinking I was getting the
best of the Brooklyn element, I would suffer a heart-throb because
of news that some flame left behind in Chicago was burning brighter.
When that would dim or become extinguished, depressing news would
reach me from West Point, where Miss Wilson visited her cousin,
the wife of an officer.
Thus I was kept guessing most of the time, and though I could not
but feel I was steadily gaining my way to the goal, I cannot say
that I did not spend many an anxious hour pondering over the other
In the early summer Miss Wilson left Brooklyn for a visit to
relatives in Boston.
A few days later I followed her to that city, and her pleasure at
seeing me was so evident, her reception so cordial, that I dismissed
from my mind all fear of my rivals and determined to take an early
opportunity of offering her my hand and heart.
How impatiently I awaited her return. The days dragged along. I
was restless and unhappy. We did not correspond, so there were no
letters to brighten the gloomy days of waiting.
To a small degree I derived some comfort from frequent calls on
Miss Sherman, who was good enough to tell me of her letters from
her cousin and good-natured enough to permit me to spend most of
the evening in talking about her. I was certainly very much in love,
and as the case with most young men in that condition of mind, the
object of my adoration was always in my thoughts.
All things finally come to an end, and early in July Miss Wilson
returned to Brooklyn. She was to remain but a few days before
leaving for a visit in Connecticut.
In the interim I felt I must speak, and yet now that the opportunity
had arrived, what a mighty proposition it seemed.
For days and days I had been thinking of it, at night I dreamed of
it. It seemed so easy to tell the woman I loved, that I loved her,
and yet when the time had come my courage waned. I let day after
day pass in spite of a resolution each morning that before sleeping
again I would know my fate.
I tried to reason with myself.
I knew that my personality was not objectionable. I had lived an
absolutely clean life, had no vices. My associates were of the
right kind, business prospects satisfactory. Why should I hesitate
to offer a hand that was clean, a heart that was pure to the woman
I loved? "I will do it," I said aloud, and I did--that evening.
It was the evening of July 10th, 1870.
The day had been warm and oppressive, but after sundown a pleasant
breeze cooled the air.
As I entered the grounds surrounding Mr. Sherman's home I stood for
a few moments beneath the foliage of his fine old trees, inhaling
the fragrance of the flowers blooming on the lawn.
My mind was filled with a feeling of awe at the great responsibility
I was about to assume.
I had perfect confidence in my ability to care for the well-being
and happiness of the object of my affection. I knew my love was
sincere and lasting, and yet, when I thought of all it meant, to
take a girl from a home in which she was loved and happy, to bind
her to me for all time, to share what might come of good or evil in
the uncertainties of life, it came over me with tremendous force
that if this girl should intrust her heart to my keeping, a lifetime
of devotion should be her reward.
The early part of the evening was passed in general conversation
with the family, and after a little music we were finally left
The hour had come!
At my request Miss Wilson sat at the piano and played a few strains
of an old waltz we had been discussing. I stood beside her while
she sat there, and in tones trembling with the intensity of my
feelings I poured forth the old, old story. I told her of my love
in such words as I could command in my agitation.
Then, while my heart almost ceased beating, Miss Wilson told me in
the kindest possible manner of her appreciation of the offer and
also of her complete surprise. She said that while she esteemed me
highly as a friend and liked me personally very much, she had not
thought of me as a lover, and that she could not regard me in that
To say that I was crushed by the blow, kindly as it had fallen, does
not express my feelings. When, however, in reply to my question I
learned that there was no one else--that she was still heart free,
I gained courage; and when, before I had left her that evening, she
had consented to leave the matter open until some future time, my
hopes of ultimate success were very far from being destroyed.
A CO-PARTNERSHIP DISSOLVED
Before Mr. Derham had landed in England my feeling of dislike for
my partner had increased materially.
His own business, which had been represented as worth at least five
hundred dollars per month to the firm, was, so far as I could see,
largely a myth.
He had a habit of arriving at the office at half-past ten or
eleven o'clock, and leaving at three. By frequent demands on his
father-in-law he kept himself in funds to provide for his extravagant
living, and it seemed to me his principal object in coming to the
office at all was to meet various fast-looking men who called there
to see him.
To cap the climax, he had a half-patronizing, half-nagging way of
treating me that I simply could not put up with. I was doing all
the business, earning all the money that was made, and this man
was entitled to fifty per cent of the net results. I stood it for
a few months, meanwhile writing fully to Mr. Derham of the position
in which I was placed.
Finally, on the 10th of March, 1871 when I saw on Bulkley's desk a
note for a few hundred dollars, drawn to his own order and signed
by him with the firm's name, and in response to my inquiry as to
the meaning of it, he told me it was a little matter he was putting
through by a friend for his own accommodation, I cut the knot and
insisted on a dissolution of our co-partnership.
I had to pay him a small sum to get his consent, and though I had
to borrow the money to make the payment, I did so rather than have
any litigation, which he threatened.
It was with a feeling of immense relief that I went to the office
the following morning, knowing that I was rid of the leaden weight
which Mr. Derham had bound to me in an error of judgment, which he
The sign was removed and in its place went up another bearing my
Although in the trade I enjoyed a fair measure of popularity,
which is the key-note to a broker's success, I found my youth a
disadvantage when it came to seeking important business.
The dealers hesitated to intrust me with the carrying out of large
contracts, while favoring me with the smaller orders. This was
a great trial and I could not but feel it an injustice. Still,
there was nothing I could do except to be grateful for the favors
I received and strive in every way to demonstrate my ability.
Another thing I had to fight against was the questionable methods
of a firm which was my principal competitor.
Naturally there was a very active effort made to get away from
me the old trade which Mr. Derham had held well in hand for many
years. This I had expected, but I did not count upon my competitor
waiving commissions whenever we came into a contest for business
of any importance.
This sort of competition I could not meet, not only as a matter
of principle based on the idea that "the laborer is worthy of his
hire," but because I could not afford to do business for nothing.
Despite the handicap of youth and unfair competition, I kept steadily
at work increasing the strength of my position where it was already
established, and striving to the utmost to get a foothold where I
had not yet secured it.
At the end of the year, when the books were balanced, I found that
I had made about twenty-five hundred dollars, as compared with
twelve thousand dollars made by Mr. Derham the year previous.
This was most unsatisfactory to me, for while of course it was
a much larger income than I had ever before earned, it was so far
below my expectations that I could not but feel keen disappointment.
Still, I knew that I now possessed a business, and as the prospects
were good I started the new year with courage and the determination
to make a better showing.
Early in the year two incidents occurred that helped me immensely.
The largest consumers in our line were the oil refiners, all of
whom have since been absorbed by the Standard Oil Company.
These concerns were heavy buyers, and Mr. Thomas Derham had the
preference on their business. From the first I had struggled to get
a share of it, without having made them, after a year of constant
effort, a single sale. Still, I made a daily call on each and
finally secured my first order.
It was given to me by Mr. J. A. Bostwick personally, and the order
was so large I could scarcely believe I had captured it. This was
the entering wedge, and throughout the year, although not getting
more than a very small proportion of the business, I succeeded in
selling occasionally to all of the refiners.
The other incident was even more important in its results, for it
was the commencement of intimate relations with the important firm
which stood at the head of the trade.
This firm had up to that time shown a decided favoritism for my chief
competitor, but this feeling changed in consequence of investments
in a mining stock, both by the firm and by its most active individual
member, which they had been led into through the influence of my
The investment proved disastrous, resulting in losses of more than
a hundred thousand dollars, and though this sum was insignificant
to people of such large wealth, the feeling of bitterness aroused
was most acute.
My competitor had for many years as a Boston correspondent the
firm of W. B. Tatnall & Company, and through it a large business
was done with the Boston dealers; but the most important phase of
this connection was the fact that Tatnall controlled the selling
of a certain commodity imported in large quantities by a Boston
firm, and of which the leading firm in New York was the largest
Tatnall & Company had severed abruptly its connection with my
competitor, and without my solicitation made me a proposition which
I promptly accepted. The competing firm immediately established
in Boston as its correspondent a brother of the senior partner.
The first battle for supremacy came over the sale of a cargo due
to arrive at Boston by a sailing vessel. This was before the days
of the telephone, and numerous telegrams passed between us before
the transaction was closed.
When the final message confirming the sale reached me, it read
as follows: "Closed, contracts coming, competitors conquered,
congratulations, cocktails, cigars, careful contemplation."
In a feeling of exuberance Tatnall had written this telegram, and
by his closing words meant me to remember that "one swallow does
not make a summer," and that over-confidence on the occasion of a
first success would be unwise.
Mr. W. B. Tatnall came to New York a few days later. It was our
first meeting and I found him a delightful man, a typical Bostonian.
He was highly cultured, well up in art, a book-collector of some
I recall one little incident of his visit which amused me greatly.
The weather was very stormy and his salutation on greeting me was,
"Good-morning Mr. Stowe; fine day for birds of an aquatic nature."
We called on all the trade, and in every office he made the same
remark. Before the day was over I concluded I was not likely ever
to forget that rain makes "a fine day for ducks."
AND THE ANSWER WAS "YES"
Although when I left Miss Wilson on that evening in July it was not
as an accepted lover, as I had brought myself to believe it would
be, and my disappointment was overwhelming that such was the case,
my heart told me that all was not lost.
She had admitted that she admired and respected me more than any
other man of her acquaintance, while she did not feel the love for
me that a woman should give to the man she marries.
This admission I deemed a great point gained.
With a field cleared of rivals, it only remained to transform her
admiration and respect into love. How to do that was for me to
find out. That it could be done I felt reasonably certain.
It was my first love-affair, hence I was an amateur in such matters.
This I knew was a point in my favor, as Miss Wilson was not the
sort of girl to admire a man who had a habit of falling in love
with every pretty face. Life in her eyes had its serious side and
she was well equipped mentally to test the true ring of those with
whom she came in contact.
The following day I wrote Miss Wilson at length, reiterating and
enlarging on all that I had said, telling her I would wait until
she felt she could give me a definite answer, and begging her not
to hasten her decision if it was to be negative.
If I had any fear at all it was on this point--that she might feel
it imperative to decide the matter promptly, while I was prepared
to wait, years if necessary, rather than to take from those lips
which I so eagerly longed to press to mine own in love's first
caress, the relentless, cruel--no.
Miss Wilson's contemplated visit to Connecticut was postponed for
a while and this gave me an opportunity to see her daily.
That I laid vigorous siege to her heart was certain. I was most
assiduous in all those little attentions that please a woman, and
as our tastes were entirely congenial our hours of companionship
were delightful to both.
If I were a few minutes late in making my evening call, very rarely
the case, she would remark it, and I soon realized that the feature
of her day was the hours passed with me. In fact, my presence was
becoming necessary to her happiness.
As soon as this impression became fixed in my mind, I grew impatient
at delay in the culmination of my desires, and felt I must soon urge
Miss Wilson to relieve me of suspense by making me the happiest of
men. Probably I should have done this within a few days had it not
been for the fact that she left Brooklyn on her visit to Middletown,
Connecticut. Then I decided to await her return.
On the morning of the sixth of September I found in my mail at the
office an envelope addressed in a lady's handwriting, postmarked
It contained a brief note from Miss Wilson, stating that on that day
at one o'clock she would be due at New York and was going at once
for a week at West Point, and asked me, if convenient, to meet her
at the railroad station to escort her across the city to the boat.
There were three significant points in that note, the first I had
ever received from her.
First, it commenced with "Dear Walter." Always before I had been
Mr. Stowe. Next, it was signed as "Yours, with love"; and last, but
by no means least, Miss Wilson wrote, as a postscript, "I shall be
Would it be convenient for me to meet that train? I should say
I was at the station with a carriage at least half an hour ahead
of time and I walked the platform of the old Twenty-seventh Street
station of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company,
back and forth, looking at my watch every five minutes and wondering
if the train would ever come.
The train arrived on time, and as Miss Wilson alighted from the car,
I greeted her. How I gazed into those beautiful eyes and tried to
read there the love I hungered for.
We drove to the Hotel Brunswick for luncheon, and if "the proof
of the pudding is in the eating," the luncheon, despite the good
reputation of that old hostelry, then in its palmy days, must have
been a poor one. Either that, or we lacked appetite--more likely
After luncheon we again took the carriage, and drove to the pier
where the _Mary Powell_ was awaiting her passengers.
It was during that drive, while passing down Fifth Avenue, that
the word I so longed to hear was spoken. "Yes"--only a single word
and yet it spoke volumes to my heart. It bound together for all
time two beings, neither of whom had known for longer than a few
months even of the existence of the other, and yet a divine power
had brought these two hearts, beating in unison, to their natural
mate. While the lips whispered "yes," the hand found its way to
mine and the loving clasp was the only demonstration the surroundings
permitted; but when the carriage had turned into a comparatively
quiet side street and just before it reached the pier, I could no
Drawing the curtains at the carriage windows, I clasped to my heart
the lovely girl who was now my very own.
Oh, what an ecstasy of bliss that moment was!
I have owned many handsome carriages, luxurious in their appointments,
drawn by fine horses, but as I look back to that day of days, that
shabby public hack, with its rough-looking driver, holding the reins
over a pair of ill-fed animals, stands in my memory as almost ideal.
Of course I did not leave my promised wife at the boat. There
was no reason I should not take that delightful sail up the river
with her, and there was every reason why I should. I sought out a
secluded spot on deck and there, comparatively free from observation,
we let our thoughts revel in our new-found happiness.
It was possible, unseen, to occasionally clasp each other's hand,
and in this way a sort of lover's wireless telegraph kept us in
communication that emphasized to me the fact that my happiness was
real and not a dream.
Our conversation was not very animated; we were too happy to talk,
and the beautiful scenery of the Hudson was lost to us on that
To look into each other's eyes and read there all that was in our
hearts was the supreme pleasure and happiness of the moment.
When the boat arrived at West Point, Lieutenant Harper, then
Professor of Spanish at the Academy, afterwards major, and since
promoted to colonel for gallantry in the Philippines, met Miss
Wilson at the landing.
I had planned to at once take the ferry across the river--there
was no West Shore Railroad at that time--and return to New York by
train, but Lieutenant Harper insisted that I should dine with them
and take a later train, which I did.
Of course the, to us, great incident of the day was unknown to
Miss Wilson's friends, and she did not enlighten them until after
I had gone.
The two or three hours spent with Lieutenant Harper's family,
while I was supposed to be simply a friend of Miss Wilson, passed
quickly. I had hoped to be able on leaving to see her alone for
at least a few moments, but in this I was disappointed, and while
the clasp of her hand and the expression of her eyes conveyed a
great deal to me, our parting that evening was in its details most
unsatisfactory from a lover's point of view.
During that first week of our engagement, while separated, we
corresponded daily, and the rejoicing was mutual when, her visit
ended, Miss Wilson returned to Brooklyn.
Then for two short weeks I enjoyed to the full the privileges and
delights of an accepted lover. What visions of future happiness
those two weeks of close companionship opened to my eyes! The
refinement and natural dignity of the woman made her caresses of
exquisite daintiness and tenderness. Spontaneously and absolutely
without a suggestion of affectation her love was poured out generously
to the man who had won her heart, and each evening it seemed as if
my affection had increased a thousand fold.
Oh, what a wonderful thing is pure love! What would the world be
The day of our parting was drawing nigh.
At the end of September Miss Wilson was to return to her home in
Chicago. A month later I was to visit her there, but the thought
of that month of separation so soon after we had become engaged
saddened us and our hearts dreaded the ordeal. Still, come it
did, and as I watched the train pull out of the station, carrying
with it all that I loved best in the world, I felt a wrench at my
heartstrings and a loneliness that was inexpressible.
For a month I consoled myself as best I could with the letters
which reached me almost daily and always brought me happiness.
Then I turned my face westward.
Miss Wilson's father had been dead for many years. She, with her
mother, resided with her married sister, the wife of a general in
the army during the war, and at the time of which I write, judge
of the Probate Court. Until his death, a few years ago, he was one
of Chicago's best known and most highly respected citizens.
As the relatives approved of our engagement, my reception by the
family was all that could be desired. As to my reception by Miss
Wilson, I think it safe to leave it to the imagination of my readers.
It was entirely satisfactory to me.
My visit was of necessity a short one. For though I was not again
to see Miss Wilson until the time of our marriage, a full year
away, I had to return to New York after a few days and look after
my business interests, which required constant personal attention.
The days of my visit flew speedily, and back in New York I settled
down to business with increased ambition and the greatest possible
incentive to achieve success.
The year in which the days had been as weeks, the weeks as months,
had finally come to an end, and at six o'clock on the evening of
Saturday, October 19th, 1872, I started on my thirty-six hours'
journey to Chicago.
There was no "Twentieth Century Limited," making the trip in twenty
hours, in those days, and my two nights and a day on the road gave
me ample time for contemplation, which I was in a mood to avail
myself of. I felt all the eagerness of youth, the power of a love
that stirred my whole being, and was impressed with the solemnity
of the obligation I was about to incur.
The life of a lovely woman was to be intrusted to me, to make or
to mar according as I did my duty.
I passed many hours, as the train rolled on, mile after mile,
mentally reviewing the past, looking at the present, and planning
for the future.
My year of correspondence with my wife-to-be had increased the
strength of my affection, and to its growth there seemed no end. In
a worldly way I had prospered, accumulating five thousand dollars,
while my income from my business was, so far as I could see, making
a steady and gratifying increase. My health was perfect, I had not
a care in the world, and when I arrived in Chicago Monday morning
my happiness was complete. No, not quite; but it was a few minutes
later when I arrived at the home of my bride on Michigan avenue.
I remained a guest there until Tuesday, and then visited my married
sister, who resided in a suburb of Chicago.
Wednesday was one of those glorious October days when, with a clear
sky, the temperature is low enough to make the air bracing without
being too cold. I was at the Michigan avenue home early, and after
a few minutes with Miss Wilson, walking through the rooms, admiring
the floral decorations, I was deserted, and felt myself for the
time being as rather "a fifth wheel to a coach."
The bride was in the hands of her girl friends, everybody was busy
with the final preparations, and I wandered around, wishing that
the agony was over and I had my wife to myself.
At last the hour arrived.
Preceded by Miss Wilson's little nieces as flower-girls we entered
the crowded rooms, and in a few minutes the clergyman had pronounced
us man and wife.
As I am not writing for a society paper or fashion journal, I will
not attempt to describe the gown worn by the bride. It was very
handsome, no doubt.
But the woman who wore it! Ah, there was a subject for the pen of
a poet, the brush of an artist. Certainly I have never seen any
creature half so lovely; and as I looked into those eyes, beaming
with love, trust, confidence,--everything, that a noble woman could
give to the man she loved,--I thanked my God for the inestimable
blessing He had bestowed upon me.
I have made many mistakes in my life, most men have, and I have
done many things the wisdom of which was afterwards proven; but as
I write these lines, looking back over more than thirty-two years
of married life, I know that my marriage is the one act of my whole
career that stands pre-eminent as the wisest and best thing that
I have ever done.
In all these years my wife and I have been as one. In days of
prosperity she rejoiced with me, in times of adversity and bitter
trials she has stood nobly by me, always with absolute faith in
and unswerving loyalty to the man to whom she gave her heart.
Her love, courage, and cheerfulness have been the mainstays which
supported me when I would have fallen by the wayside, and her sweet
companionship and keen appreciation of refined pleasures have added
immeasurably to my enjoyment and happiness.
After a two-hour reception we donned our traveling garb and made
a race for the carriage, submitting good-naturedly to the usual
shower of rice and slippers.
We were to take the five o'clock train going East, and the Judge
rode with us to the station. When the last farewell had been said
while standing on the platform of the car as the train pulled out
from the station, we sought our drawing-room in the Pullman, and
closing the door I clasped my wife to my heart.
It was the first moment we had been alone since the ceremony.
Our wedding-trip was necessarily brief, as I had to get back to
my business; so after a day or two each at Toledo and Albany, the
early part of the following week found us in New York.
Like all young people on their wedding-trip, we tried to fool the
public into believing that we were not bride and groom; but I have
no doubt that if we fooled anybody, that individual must have been
very nearsighted and minus eye-glasses.
My wife possibly maintained her dignity, but I fear I was too happy
to be suppressed.
I remember well the peculiar way in which the clerk at the Boody
House, Toledo, looked at me when I registered. As I was not yet
twenty-two years of age I could hardly have expected him to take
us for "old married folks."
Before leaving for Chicago I had engaged an apartment and board with
a very pleasant and refined family in Fort Greene Place, Brooklyn,
and it was there we commenced our married life.
It was my custom to walk to Wall Street Ferry each morning on my
way to the office, and whenever the weather was suitable my wife
accompanied me to within a block or two of the ferry.
In the afternoon I was always home at the earliest possible moment.
I begrudged every hour that we were parted.
Each day I discovered something new to admire, some trait of
character, some mental attribute, or a dainty mannerism that was
Thus were our lives developing day after day.
In the evenings we had frequent callers, and while I was always
the gracious host to my friends, I was selfish enough to wish, at
times, that we could live on an island by ourselves, where we could
It is said "there is nothing half so sweet in life, as love's young
dream." I have found something far sweeter, as this narrative in
its natural progression will develop; but those were my days of
"love's young dream."
I was proud of my wife, proud of the admiration she commanded from
our friends, but I wanted her all to myself.
Our Sundays were looked forward to with eagerness. We attended
church service in the morning, and the afternoons were passed in
our apartment in delightful intercourse.
There was never a dull moment.
Sunday evening supper, which to me has always been a most attractive
meal, was usually taken either with my family or at Mr. Sherman's.
Occasionally we would attend an evening service, but as a rule we
would get home early and have a few hours to ourselves.
Our year of separation while engaged had to be atoned for.
We were lovers the first year of our wedded life, and after all
these years we are, no less ardently, lovers still.
THE FIRST REVERSE OF FORTUNE.
The Christmas holidays of 1872 were at hand and I was in full spirit
with the festivities of the season.
My home life was a constant revelation of delight and happiness.
The income from my business had increased to double that of the
previous year, and the future looked bright indeed.
Just at this time came to me in an evil hour a temptation to which
I yielded, and I have always wondered how, under all the conditions
then existing, I could have been so weak.
My accumulations had not been invested, and as I had in my business
no use for capital, the money remained idle in bank.
Crossing the ferry one morning I was joined by a friend in the employ
of a Stock Exchange firm, then well known, but since retired from
I had been thinking of an investment and spoke to him on the subject,
telling him the amount of money I had to invest. I had in mind the
buying of some good bonds.
My friend, who was a most plausible talker, had, I understood, made
considerable money in Wall Street, and when he told me of a movement
in certain stocks then being manipulated for a rise, through his
office, I was at first interested and then carried away with the
desire to enter what seemed such an easy road to wealth.
He told me of several instances where the investment of a few
thousands had resulted in enormous profits. These stories usually
get to public knowledge one way or another, but the other side, the
vastly greater number of cases where ruin and often worse follows,
one does not hear so much of.
Before I went home that day I had bought five hundred shares of stock
and had deposited as a margin five thousand dollars. I was told
that the margin would surely be ample to carry the stock through
any possible fluctuations, that I was not to feel alarmed if I saw
the price go off a point or two, and that I was certain to see a
twenty-point rise within a few weeks.
On my way home that afternoon I, for the first time in my life, read
in the paper closing prices at the Stock Exchange, before reading
My stock was up half a point above the price I paid and I experienced
a feeling of jubilation that was very pleasant. I saw in my mind
my five thousand dollars transformed into fifteen thousand.
It was great!
At first I thought I would tell my wife about it, then decided not
to do so, but to wait and surprise her with the good news when the
money was made.
Had I told my wife, as I should have done, she would surely have
advised me to sell out the first thing the following morning and
to let speculation entirely alone.
The following day the price receded a full point Then, for a week,
without any reaction, I watched it decline daily, by fractions,
until my margin was more than half exhausted.
My wife readily discovered there was something worrying me, though
I tried to conceal it, and in her sweet, loving way urged me to
tell her of my trouble. I put her off from day to day, hoping for
a change for the better.
Finally, when the price of the stock had reached a point where there
was hardly anything left of my five thousand dollars, the brokers
notified me I must make a further deposit or they would have to
sell me out. I could have borrowed the money, but I would not do
it, so the transaction was closed and my money lost.
As a matter of fact, which only goes to show what seems to the
small speculator the infernal ingenuity of the stock market, the
stock reacted almost immediately after I sold, and had I held on for
another two or three weeks, not only would I have saved my money,
but would have made in addition a very handsome profit.
Well, the money was gone--and now came the hardest part of it. I
had to tell my wife. I felt that I had wronged her confidence in
not telling her from the first, and this feeling hurt me far more
than the loss of the money.
After dinner that evening, fortunately we were spared from callers,
sitting on the lounge with my arm around her, I told her all. How
practically all I had in the world was gone, through an act of
foolishness I should never have committed.
Then I told her of the feeling that overwhelmed me because I had
not informed her of the matter from the first. While I talked, her
little hand sought mine and from the frequent pressure I knew she
was listening with a heart full of loving sympathy.
When I had finished she raised her head, and after kissing me
fondly, said with a glorious smile:
"Why, my darling, is that all? I thought it was something terrible.
What do we care for the loss of a little money? We have each other
and our love. That is everything."
Then in the sunshine of that love my naturally good spirits returned
and my trouble was forgotten in the joy over this new insight into
the character of my wife.
With determination I resolved that I would devote myself closer than
ever to my business, and set for myself the task of accumulating
another five thousand dollars within a year.
During 1872 I had made about seven thousand dollars, but now nearly
five thousand dollars was represented by experience.
The other fellow had the money.
The holidays had come and gone. We enjoyed them in spite of our
We did not spend very much money, though we had just as good a time
as if we had done so. I had entirely recovered my mental equilibrium
and had put out of my mind all thought of my financial loss.
Life was moving on in the same delightful channel. Love was our
bark, and we sailed smoothly, as on a summer sea.
My business during the early months of the year was good, but in
April signs were not wanting of a general falling off in the commerce
of the entire country.
My trade began to feel the effect of the approaching "hard times."
This did not disturb me at first, for I did not think it would last
long, and in any event thought I could safely count on at least as
good a business as in the year previous.
At this period it became evident to me that my father was breaking
down, and that while he might accomplish a little toward the support
of his family, it was not to be depended on, and the burden must
rest on me.
It came at a bad time, but I accepted it as a duty which it was my
pleasure to perform so far as I was able.
Under these conditions we decided to give up our apartment and take
up our residence with my parents. They, as also my sisters, were
very fond of my wife and she of them, while I was always, from
infancy, accused of being the pet of the family.
As the summer months progressed I realized that beyond a doubt
the hard times were upon us. My customers were buying nothing and
complaining there was not enough business doing to use up the stock
of material they had on hand.
My savings of the first quarter of the year began to dwindle, and
in those days I thought often with regret of my lost five thousand
My wife, always the same bright, cheerful, loving woman, encouraged
me to keep up my spirits, and I did, for her sake as well as my
THE COMING OF THE STORK.
By the first of November I had exhausted all my savings, and from
then on knew that if my monthly earnings were insufficient to pay
my expenses, I should have to resort to borrowing money to tide me
over until better times.
A crisis was coming at home that demanded every effort of mine to
have matters there pleasant and comfortable. Under no circumstances
must my wife worry.
Thus I thought, but even yet I did not know the magnificent courage
of the woman.
Each evening when I returned home she greeted me with the brightest
of smiles, and as soon as dinner was over, in our own room, with
my arms around her, she insisted on knowing the history of the day
She grasped the situation thoroughly, caressed and encouraged me,
always asserting that everything would come out right in the end.
She had no fear and did not worry.
On the nineteenth of November our child was born.
A boy physically perfect. That his lungs were all right I personally
could swear to, and what sweet music his crying was to my ears when
first I heard it.
A little later I was permitted to enter the room, and did so in
As I kissed my wife and held her hand a few minutes, on her face,
more lovely than ever in her motherhood, was the same sweet smile
and an expression of devotion and love eternal. I looked at the
boy, the new rivet in the chain of love that bound us together,
and then, after another kiss, went quietly from the room.
Heroes, ancient and modern, the world has developed. Heroines,
also have their place in history, but the heroism of a woman in
ordinary life, in trials physical and mental, is something to be
regarded with awe and reverence.
Our wives! Our mothers! Heroines, all.
The mother recovered quickly her normal state of health and the
boy thrived and grew rapidly.
In March, 1874, I was greatly encouraged by a slight improvement
in business. I had been through a terribly hard winter, and with
the burden of the household on my shoulders had only just succeeded,
by the utmost prudence, in making both ends meet. With absolutely
no surplus I could not but feel uneasy most of the time.
It was while this was the condition of my finances that my most
intimate friend, the son of a man of some means, approached me on
the subject of getting his brother, then in Europe, but soon to
return, into business.
I knew his brother, but not intimately. I thought he might make
a good business man, and it occurred to me that if he was a hard
worker and his father was willing to buy him an interest in my
business, I might get efficient aid to my efforts and at the same
time get a cash surplus to relieve my mind of financial worry, which
I knew to be very desirable; for a man who has to worry about the
small expenses of living can never do himself full justice in his
Another point that induced me to consider the matter was the desire
of my wife and myself to go to housekeeping.
The relations with my parents and sisters were most pleasant, but
now that we had our boy we felt anxious to set up a modest little
establishment of our own, and indeed my mother advised it, though
she was sorry to have us leave her.
After several interviews with Mr. Allis we came to an agreement
that as soon as his son Thomas arrived from Europe I was to take
him into partnership on equal terms and he was to pay me a bonus
of three thousand dollars.
A couple of weeks later my sign again came down and a new one went
up, reading W. E. Stowe & Co.
With three thousand dollars in the bank my mind was again at ease
and we immediately looked for our new home.
We were offered a very prettily furnished, nicely located house,
a few blocks from my mother's, for the summer at a very low rent.
We decided to take it and not look up a permanent home until fall.
Our housekeeping that summer was a delightful experience and we
knew we should never again be satisfied to board. We were fortunate
in getting a good maid, the boy kept well, we had a cool summer,
business was fairly good and we had soon forgotten the hard times
of the previous winter.
Of course, we were prudent in our expenditures, but we lived well
and did a little entertaining.
In October we rented and furnished tastefully but inexpensively
a three-story and basement house, one of a new row in a pleasant
street, not far from the residence of Mr. Sherman.
While we did not own the house, the fact that the contents belonged
to us gave us a sense of proprietorship that we had not felt in
the house we had recently vacated.
We had enjoyed greatly our shopping for the furnishings and felt
very happy in our new home amidst our household gods.
Our efficient maid was devoted to our boy and to her mistress. The
housekeeping ran smoothly, and although we already began to talk
of the day when we should own our home and of what that home should
be, we were entirely contented and happy.
As the winter approached I began to suffer, slightly at first, with
muscular rheumatism. Not since the days of childhood, when I had
gone through the usual category of children's diseases, had I been
really ill. I always had suffered to some extent with neuralgic
headaches, inherited no doubt from my mother, who was a great
sufferer, and with the advent of the rheumatism these headaches
became more frequent and severe.
I did not regard the trouble seriously and I so enjoyed the
fond nursing and petting of my wife that the pain brought its own
recompense. It soon became evident, however, that I required medical
First one and then another physician was called upon without
getting relief, the attack recurring at shorter intervals and each
time seemingly more severe. I stood it through the winter, though
suffering greatly, and with the warmer weather my health improved.
THE NEW PARTNER.
Tom Allis, my new partner, was one of the most peculiar men I have
ever met. In social life he was affable and self-possessed, but
in his business intercourse exhibited confusion and a shyness that
was simply amazing.
Actually and in appearance he was about my age, while in his manner
he was a bashful boy of seventeen. It was impossible for him to
talk without blushing and appearing extremely embarrassed.
As I had only met him socially, this phase was a revelation to me.
I tried to get him out amongst the trade, thinking that after he
had become well acquainted his embarrassment would be overcome, or
at least partially so. My efforts in this direction failed and he
settled down to a routine office-man, and while he looked after
that end of the business satisfactorily, I could easily have found
a clerk at fifteen dollars per week to do as well.
This was disappointing, but I hoped that as he gained experience
his services would be of greater value to the firm. Meanwhile, I
let him relieve me entirely of the office work.
Tom had been with me only a few months when he came to me for advice
in a matter in which he felt he had become involved.
It appeared he had been calling regularly on a young lady, a pretty
little French girl. I had met her but once and then was impressed
with the idea that she had a temper which it would be unpleasant
to arouse, though I may have done her an injustice.
At all events, Tom said he thought the girl was in love with him;
that probably he had given her reason to believe his attentions
were serious, and he saw no honorable way out except to ask her to
be his wife.
I saw that the boy, so he seemed to me, was really very much
disturbed. I told him before I could offer any advice I must know
every detail, and after learning that not one word of love had ever
passed between them, that their intercourse was really nothing more
than that of intimate friends, and he assuring me that he had not
a particle of love for the girl, I advised him strongly to give up
any idea of offering her marriage and to gently but firmly break
off the intimacy.
He accepted the advice gratefully and acted on it.
A few years later he married the girl, and I presume that he told
her of my share in this matter. She probably held me responsible
and no doubt influenced him to some extent in a course of action,
referred to farther on in this narrative, that I have always regarded
It is a thankless task to advise one in such matters, even though
the one be your friend.
Business continued to improve slowly, but at the end of the year
my partner had drawn as his share of the profits, for the eight
months he had been with me, twenty-two hundred dollars.
He was more than satisfied, and well he might be.
During the winter of 1874 and '75 I had another and more trying
siege of rheumatism. As in the previous spring, with the advent of
warmer weather I found relief, but I knew the disease had become
chronic and it worried me.
This worry, however, I soon dismissed from my mind to make room
for one more formidable and pressing.
Hard times were coming again and there were two now to divide the
The furnishing of our home had absorbed a good portion of the three
thousand dollars I had received from my partner, and my living
expenses together with what it was necessary for me to do toward
the support of my parents and sisters exhausted my income.
My always-cheerful and devoted wife, and my boy, just arriving
at an interesting age, made home so attractive that I was able to
forget business when away from the office.
Each morning with the parting caress came words of loving encouragement
that did much to support me through the day, and at night on my
return home, my greeting from wife and boy always dispelled the
clouds hanging over me.
I was happy, infinitely so, despite the business worry.
My physicians had advised my leaving Brooklyn for a dryer atmosphere.
We had a lease of our house until the spring of 1876, but had
decided that then we would try country life.
Many hours were passed pleasantly in discussing the plan and its
probable results. My wife's fertile brain would paint to me in
pleasing colors what the country home should be--the cottage and
its coziness, the garden, the lawn and flowers, my health restored,
the benefit of country life to the boy, and the relief to my mind
through largely reduced living expenses.
We were eager for the time to come to make the change.
On the twelfth of December our second child was born. My first boy
had a brother, and again my wife, noble woman, gave testimony of
her great love.
No trials that came to her prevented the outpouring of that love
She knew how I needed her fond encouragement, particularly at that
period, and she gave it to me daily, always with the same sweet
smile and tender caress.
That winter will never be forgotten by me for the torture which I
suffered from the almost nightly attacks of that awful rheumatism.
Medicine did not seem of any use.
Night after night until long past midnight my devoted wife, with
ceaseless energy, would apply every few moments hot applications
to relieve the cruel pains, until finally I would fall asleep for
a few hours' rest.
I lost flesh rapidly, and when spring came was hardly more than a
semblance of my former self.
It was indeed time that I should shake the dust of Brooklyn from
Before the winter was over we had commenced to scan the advertising
columns of the daily papers for "country places to rent." We wanted
if possible to get a place in the mountainous section of New Jersey.
I wanted to get away from air off the salt water and this section
of the country seemed the best.
It must be healthy and at a low rent. For the rest we must take
what we could get at the price we could pay.
Our search ended in our taking a place of about six acres, five
minutes' walk from a station on the Morris & Essex Railroad, between
Summit and Morristown.
On the property was a farm-house more than one hundred years old,
and this the owner repaired and improved by building an extra room
and a piazza across the front of the house.
The rent was two hundred dollars a year. We moved there early in
April. The last night in the Brooklyn house I had one of my worst
attacks of rheumatism. _I have never had the slightest twinge of
Blessed be New Jersey!
We had been in our new home but a very few days before we were
quite in accord with the sentiment that "God made the country and
man made the town."
The house in its exterior was the ordinary, old-fashioned,
one-and-a-half story farmhouse, improved by a piazza; but the
interior, under the deft hands and good taste of my wife, had an
appearance both home-like and cozy that was very attractive.
We had to get accustomed to the low ceilings, only seven feet
high; but this did not distress us, though in our parlor, a room
twenty-eight feet long, the effect was always peculiar.
The grounds around the house were not laid out. It was simply a
case of a house set on a little elevation, in the center of a rather
rough lawn, and without a path or a flower-bed, no shrubs and but
I hired a man with plow and horse for a day or two and we made
a path from the piazza to the road, set out an arbor-vitae hedge,
made two or three small flower-beds, and had the kitchen-garden
The man planted the potatoes and corn in a field next the garden,
but the kitchen garden was my hobby, and with all the enthusiasm
of a child with a new toy I took personal possession of it.
About an acre in extent, fenced and almost entirely free from even
small stones, the soil was rich and productive. I met with wonderful
success, and the crops that I raised, in their earliness and size,
astonished the natives.
Every pleasant morning I was up at five o'clock, and after a bowl
of crackers and milk, worked for two or three hours. Then a bath,
followed by breakfast, and after a day in town, which, owing to
dull business, I made very short, I was back in the afternoon at
How I did enjoy those days.
In the early stages my wife used to laugh at me for digging up
the seed to see if it had sprouted, so impatient was I to see the
We had an ice-house, filled for us by the owner without charge, and
in melon season I picked the melons in the morning and left them
in the ice-house all day.
My mouth waters at the thought of those delicious melons.
The fact that I raised everything myself, practically by my own
labor, added greatly to our enjoyment in the eating.
The walk between house and station was for most of the distance
through a private lane which was in part shaded by large trees.
The quaint old village, one of the oldest in the State, was interesting;
but not so the people, at least to us. It was a farming community,
and of social life there was none.
Still, we felt that no privation. We had found what we sought--a
pleasant, comfortable home, my return to good health, and economical
During the first year of our residence in the country our entire
expenditure was but thirteen hundred dollars, which was fully three
thousand dollars less than the year previous.
A few of our most intimate friends were invited occasionally for
visits of a few days, and these little visits we always enjoyed;
but to each other my wife and I were all-sufficient, and in the
dear little home there was never a feeling of loneliness.
It was truly "love in a cottage."
During the summer, about once a week, I would hire from a farmer
a horse and rockaway, and with wife and babies take a drive, our
favorite ride having as an objective point a visit to the old Ford
mansion, Washington's headquarters at Morristown.
There is certainly no section of country in the vicinity of New
York city that can compare in natural beauty with Morris County,
New Jersey, and we commanded the best of this, in rather antiquated
style of equipage to be sure, but at the small cost of half a dollar
for "all the afternoon."
Thinking of that old carriage recalls to mind an incident of later
years which so impressed me I shall never forget it:
With my wife I was spending a few days at Old Point Comfort, and
while we were there John Jacob Astor and his bride arrived, on
their wedding tour.
The hack service at the Point at that time was about the
worst imaginable. The hotel had none, and a few old negroes with
disreputable "foh de wah" vehicles and horses that could only get
over the poor roads by constant urging, picked up a few dollars by
driving guests of the hotel to the Hampton School.
One afternoon when there were just two of these hacks standing in
front of the hotel, I engaged the better one.
As a matter of fact, the only difference I could see was that the
one I selected had been washed probably at least once that season,
whereas the other appeared to be plastered with the dried mud of
We drove to the school and on our return met the other hack on its
The hackman had disappeared, and in his place, driving positively
the worst-looking turnout I ever saw, was John Jacob Astor with
his bride sitting beside him.
The spectacle of that man, with his social position and his enormous
wealth, driving under such conditions, struck me first as ludicrous
and then as a living example of the great leveling power that in
the end makes all men equal regardless of wealth or position.
My boys were thriving in the country air, living out of doors
most of the day. With only one maid, my wife had no difficulty in
keeping busy while I was in town, and the summer passed quickly
MY PARTNER RETIRES
Matters at the office had been going badly for many months and any
improvement in prospect was too far distant to be discerned.
My partner was absolutely useless to me except as a clerk, and indeed
a good clerk would have been better, for I could have commanded
him to do things that I could only request of my partner, and I
had long since learned that these requests carried no weight unless
they were in the line of duty that was agreeable to him.
On first taking up my residence in the country I felt it necessary,
in consequence of poor health, to remain at home a day or two each
week, but I soon had to abandon this custom, for on such days there
was nothing accomplished.
Orders by mail and wire which should have had immediate attention
were held over until the following day, and this of course could
not be permitted, without jeopardizing the business.
When I would ask Tom why he had not been out in the trade instead
of remaining at his desk all day, the only satisfaction I could
get was his statement that the trade treated him as boy and he did
not like it.
I knew but too well that the trade sized him up about right.
He meant well enough, but it simply wasn't in him to assert himself.
He had been with me a little over two years and during that time
his share of the profits had returned him the three thousand dollars
he had invested and in addition paid him what would have been a
good salary for the services rendered.
As he was unmarried and lived with his parents, paying no board,
a very small business would give him an income sufficient for his
requirements, and apparently he was contented to let matters go on
as they were.
What might be considered easy times for him with no responsibilities,
was for me, with a wife and two children, parents and two sisters,
to provide for, an impossible proposition.
Something had to be done to change the status.
I waited until the first of September in hopes of some sign of
better times, but business looked worse rather than better, and I
decided to make him an offer for his interest. I thought best to
put this in writing, and while doing so went fully into our affairs
and endeavored to show him how impossible it was for me to go on
any longer under existing conditions. Incidentally I emphasized
the fact that after more than two years' experience he was still
unable to accomplish anything that could not be done by a clerk.
Then I made him an offer of two thousand dollars to be paid in
monthly instalments of fifty dollars each, without interest, the
first payment to be made in January. For these payments I offered
him my notes.
I had written this on Saturday morning, and having finished while
he was at luncheon, laid it on his desk and took my usual train
home, which gave him an opportunity to think the matter over until
When we met on Monday morning I was not surprised to find him in
a bad temper.
He said at once that he declined my offer, and having paid his
money to come into the concern he proposed to stay.
I told him I was sorry I could not see my way clear to make any
better offer and it was that or nothing. If he would not accept
it, then the only alternative was for me to step out and leave him
This suggestion startled him. He knew he could not carry on the
business without me.
After going to his father's office for consultation he returned
and said he had decided to accept my offer. "As to those notes,"
he said, "you may give them to me if you like, but I don't suppose
you will ever pay them."
We terminated our partnership that day, but I continued the business
under the same style, W. E. Stowe & Co., complying with the legal
requirements governing such action.
While Allis was my partner, on more than one occasion, when we were
discussing the wretched state of business, he would call himself
a "Jonah," and in the light of later developments it really looked
as if such was the fact.
When we separated, unquestionably the outlook was most gloomy.
I could not see a ray of light ahead, and without the constant
encouragement of my wife, who always insisted that brighter days
were in store for us, I might have given up the ship.
Before I had been alone a month an improvement was perceptible, in
another month it was more decided, and by the end of the year there
was no longer any doubt that an era of good times was approaching.
Those notes for two thousand dollars given Allis, and which he
thought I would never pay, carried no interest. There was no reason
I should anticipate the payments if I did not wish to. Probably he
would have been glad to have me discount them. I had forty months
in which to pay them. I paid them all in full within six months.
I thought he would appreciate my doing so. Quite the contrary.
Of course my prepayment so far in advance of maturity was evidence
of my prosperity.
He, in his small soul, could not but believe I knew this prosperity
was coming and had forced him out of the firm, just in advance of
its arrival. I met him in the street frequently and noticed the
change in his manner. A few weeks later he did not return my bow
and we have since been strangers.
When I heard shortly after of his engagement to the little French
girl, I concluded that his envy of my success and her prejudice
for my share in the temporary cessation of his intimacy with her
had cost me a friend. And yet it surely was through no fault of
A YEAR OF SUNSHINE
The year 1878 was to me a memorable one.
The improvement in business the previous year had been sufficient
to enable me to pay my indebtedness to Allis, meet all my current
expenses, and enter the new year with a good balance in bank.
My health had become entirely restored, and with mind free from
worry life was indeed well worth the living. The home life, happy
under adverse circumstances, was of course made more enjoyable by
my improved financial condition.
The little rivulet of prosperity of 1877 broadened in 1878 to
a stream, small at first, but ever widening and leading on to the
On the second of July there was born to us our first daughter.
My wife and myself were delighted with this latest arrival from
love-land. We had looked forward with fond anticipation to the event,
and our hearts' desire was that a daughter should be added to the
family circle. The blessing had come to us and we were grateful.
What shall I say of the mother of that little daughter?
What can I say that would do justice to her love and devotion?
It is said "there is no love like a mother's love." True, but with
all reverence to my own sainted mother, there is another love that
has come to me, the love of a wife for her husband, that I cannot
but maintain is the greatest of all.
How completely that little baby girl ruled the household was soon
in evidence. For the time being she was queen and we her loyal
subjects, anxious to do her honor. The little brothers were more
than pleased to have a sister and rivaled each other in their
efforts to entertain her.
The mother was proud of her girl and I--well, to tell the truth,
I was deeply in love with the entire family.
Our lease of the place had expired in April but I arranged to keep
it until the first of October.
We felt warranted, in our improved circumstances, in seeking a
better home, amidst refined surroundings, and had concluded to make
a change in the fall. We did not want to give up country life. My
wife and I enjoyed it and we knew it was best for the children.
Our desire was for a house with modern conveniences, neighbors,
pleasant, cultured people whose society we could enjoy.
On my trips to and from the city I had observed from the car window
a section of country not far from where we were then residing, and
as the few houses I could see were modern, the elevation high and
beautifully wooded, we thought it worth while to investigate.
With my wife I drove there one afternoon and we were both surprised
and delighted at what we saw.
A gentleman of wealth had purchased many hundreds of acres of
land, and after building for himself a handsome home had commenced
development of the property for residences of the better class.
There was nothing of the cheap real estate scheme about the place.
The owner would sell or rent only to such people as he deemed
Although the water supply and sewerage system had been established,
miles of roads built, a handsome railroad station erected, and
a large Casino in course of erection, there were at that time but
six houses completed.
Knollwood was to be a park, and as a unique feature no two houses
were to be alike. How successful it has been is shown by the fact
that to-day there is no more beautiful or flourishing residence
park in the vicinity of New York.
As a result of our visit to the property, an arrangement was made
for a house to be built for us on a lease of three years, and we
were permitted to select the plans of the house, its site, and the
interior decorations. Work was to commence at once and possession
given us in April, 1879.
Not wishing to spend another winter where we were, we returned
to Brooklyn and remained with my parents until the new house was
When we commenced our packing preparatory to leaving the little
farm, as we called it, there was a feeling akin to homesickness.
We had been very happy and great blessings had come to us while
there. The dear little baby girl, my health, prosperity in worldly
affairs--all this and the thought of how the place had been a sort
of lovers' retreat, where I had my wife all to myself most of the
time, made the homely old farm-house seem something sacred.
We could not but feel a little sentimental over it all.
The garden, the arbor-vitae hedge, planted with my own hands, and
now tall and almost impenetrable, the play-house which I built in
the orchard for the children, all had to be visited with a feeling
of saying good-by to old friends.
There was hardly a summer for years after that we did not at least
once drive down the old lane and look over the place where our
country life had commenced, and I shall have for it always a tender
spot in my memory.
When, at the end of the year, the books were closed at the office,
I was pleased to find that I had made a little over twelve thousand
It had taken me eight years to catch up to the point where Mr.
Derham left off, but I had finally succeeded.
As I was but twenty-eight years of age, I congratulated myself with
a little self-conceit that was perhaps pardonable.
It had certainly been a hard up-hill fight.