A Celebration of Women Writers

"Chapter IX: Our Holiday." by Enid Yandell (1870-), Jean Loughborough, and Laura Hayes
Publication: Three Girls in a Flat. by Enid Yandell, Jean Loughborough, and Laura Hayes. Chicago: Knight, Leonard & Co., 1892. pp. 101-112.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 101] 

OUR HOLIDAY

CHAPTER IX.

THE unveiling of the Grant monument in Lincoln Park marked an epoch in the history of the flat as well as in that of Chicago, for we had a holiday, and moreover had received an invitation to go to Mrs. Palmer's in the afternoon to watch the procession from her balcony, and we were all in a consequent high state of satisfaction.

We had finished our early luncheon and commenced to dress, when a great noise of opening and shutting of drawers was heard in the Duke's room, and presently that young woman stalked forth calling in stentorian tones, "Who has seen my red gown?" Eliciting no reply she tried each room and closet but without success. Now the red gown was one of the ornaments of the flat, for it was a real, genuine, expensive, tailor-made garment of a rich shade of crimson, with a white vest heavily braided in silver. It also had a coat to match, with large buttons and high, rolling collar. And then there was a beautiful French hat, wide-brimmed, lined with crimson velvet and surmounted by masses of plumes.

Now the Duke does not usually affect Paris millinery, for she cares not a whit for dress, and is generally to be found in skirt and coat and soft felt hat, but in this attire she was always irresistible; the wide hat with its plumes [Page 102]  surmounting her black coils, giving, as Marjorie said, a Lord Fauntleroy effect, so we felt naturally anxious. We joined in the search, and calling Katie ransacked the entire flat, but to no avail. The missing garment could not be produced.

We had wasted a half-hour, and had quite given up the search when the Duke marched back to her room in disgust. As she brushed by a table, her dress caught in the clay model of a group which she had recently made, and I noticed a grim smile of satisfaction on her face as the head of old Father Abraham (who had been her special pride) flew far across the room. Marjorie rushed to pick him up, but the Duke, never uttering a word, crossed to her wardrobe and pulled out, with the air of a martyr, her old blue dress.

It was growing late, so we hastened to our rooms once more, when a familiar rap came at the door and we heard Mrs. Brown's voice, saying: "What, Miss Wendell, you home at this time of day? Now I am caught, for I just slipped in this morning and borrowed your tailor-made gown to copy for Ariadne, and I never meant that you should know I had it until you saw that dear child looking like your counterpart, for I borrowed your hat and coat last week and copied them exactly."

I do not think it would be wise to mention in polite society the remarks we heard in the Duke's room after Mrs. Brown had departed.

In a few minutes we were ready and hurrying with throngs of other people up the Lake-Shore Drive. The houses were gay with flags and bunting, and popcorn and peanut stands lined the street, so the scene was an animated one at every point. As we turned a corner in the [Page 103]  drive which brought us in view of Mrs. Palmer's house, we all uttered an exclamation of delight, for the irregular roof line, with its battlemented turrets, outlined against the blue sky, gave the appearance of an old feudal castle. A great silken flag shook out its folds in the breeze that came from the lake, and over the porte-cochère a gaily striped awning had been placed, making a pavilion from which the procession could be watched. As we entered the large double glass door, Mrs Palmer came toward us, welcoming her guests in the high, vaulted hall. Marjorie and I saw friends in the library and went to meet them, leaving the Duke alone for a moment. What followed can best be told in her own language, as she related the incident to us that night at the dinner-table.

"I was crossing the hall when Mrs. Palmer, taking my hand, said: 'I want to introduce you to Mrs. Grant,' and as [Page 104]  she turned toward us, 'let me present to you Miss Wendell, the young sculptor; she is at work on the Women's Building and we are very proud of her and think we have conferred on her an honor.' 'A sculptor! You cut marble?' I assented. 'I met one before,' she said, describing Vinnie Ream. 'She was a great deal about the General, but I don't approve of women sculptors as a rule.' Just then we were separated and I departed for the balcony to see the parade. A few minutes later, as I pushed back the black satin curtain, with its heavy gold dragons, and entered the Japanese room, I saw Mrs. Grant for an instant alone, during which I seated myself on the window ledge and took up the cudgels on behalf of working women. 'So you do not approve of me, Mrs. Grant ?' ' I don't disapprove of you, Miss Wendell,' she replied gently, 'but I think every woman is better off at home taking care of husband and children. The battle with the world hardens a woman and makes her unwomanly.' 'And if one has no husband?' I asked. 'Get one,' she answered laconically. 'But if every woman were to choose a husband the men would not go round; there are more women than men in the world.' 'Then let them take care of brothers and fathers,' she returned. 'I don't approve of these women who play on the piano and let the children roll about on the floor, or who paint and write and embroider in a soiled gown and are all cross and tired when the men come home and don't attend to the house or table. Can you make any better housewife for your cutting marble?' 'Yes,' I answered, 'I am developing muscle to beat biscuit when I keep house.'

"'But, Mrs. Grant, are there no circumstances under which a woman may go to work?' 'I may be old-fash- [Page 105]  ioned; I don't like this modern movement,' she said, 'but I don't think so; and yet, there are certain sorts of work a woman may well do; teaching, being governess, or any taking care of children.' 'But,' I replied, 'suppose a case: A young brother and two strong sisters; the young man makes a good salary but can't get ahead because all his earnings are consumed in taking care of the girls. Hadn't they better go to work and give him a chance to get ahead and have a house of his own, they being as able to work as he? Are they being unwomanly in so doing? Or, the case of the father with a large family of girls and a small income–are they less gentlewomen for helping earn a living, lessening the providing of food for care of so many mouths by adding to the family funds ?'

"For a moment Mrs. Grant thought, and then, looking far over my head, across the shining summer sea, answered: 'You may be right; in that case,' slowly, 'they ought to go into the world.'"

After the Duke had finished talking with Mrs. Grant we all went out on the balcony to watch the great procession as it passed.

The throng was wonderful and I heard a gentleman say that he had seen the crowds on Derby Day, and had been a part of the vast concourse of people who witnessed the Wimbledon Review in London, but never in all his life had he seen as many people gathered together at any one time. From the porte-cochère where Mrs. Grant reviewed the procession, the scene was superb. I have never beheld such a mass of people. They surged over to the sea-wall on the shore of the lake, and were packed in like sardines up to the very doors of the house, even trampling upon the flower-beds, as the police were powerless to resist them. [Page 106]  Mrs. Grant is a very warm-hearted and kindly woman, and spoke with feeling of the wonderful demonstration in honor of our hero. It was very interesting to meet so many people who have achieved prominence. General Miles, the great Indian fighter, and his interesting wife; Mrs. Strong, widow of the late Gen. Strong; Judge Gresham, Gen. Chetlain, young Mr. Logan, the son of Gen. Logan, besides many members of the Board of Lady Managers. The ladies all carried flowers, and waved to the orderly ranks of troops who marched by the house with uplifted hats in honor of the distinguished widow.

The bright uniforms, gay flags and stirring music were most inspiring. As the fourth division of the procession passed the house, Mrs. Grant and her son and Mr. and Mrs. Palmer took their places in the procession, and in carriages just back of them came Mrs. Palmer's guests. The ride to the grand stand was one that cannot easily be forgotten. The princely homes upon the Lake-Shore Drive were draped in flags, and for miles the streets were one dense mass of humanity. The trees upon each side of the drive were decorated with small boys, who hung on to the branches like monkeys.

As Mrs. Grant alighted from her carriage every hat was raised, and the eager faces of many scarred veterans gazed wistfully at the beloved wife of the soldier whose memory they were honoring. All down the broad avenue, spreading over the beautiful esplanade on to the wide beach beyond, and standing around the base of the monument were members of the Grand Army, and it is estimated that fully 500,000 people witnessed the ceremony. As far as the eye could reach the drive was thronged, and as the different companies marched up, each standard-bearer took [Page 107]  his position upon the stone steps that formed the base of the monument.

The sun shone upon the hundreds of fluttering flags and gleaming bayonets, while slowly, very slowly, the flag parted and the majestic bronze figure of General Grant was revealed to the thousands of eager spectators. In the hush that fell upon the multitude, I glanced at the wife, who was gazing upward with streaming eyes at the cold, still figure. It was not the hero, or the soldier, that she strained her eyes to see, but outlined against the sky was the face of the man she had loved. And it is little wonder that the hats of the veterans were solemnly raised, and there were few dry eyes in that vast throng as they witnessed her emotion. [Page 108] 

The unveiling was followed by a great uproar, as the Navy and the Army vied with each other in a deafening salute.

We did not wait for the speeches but returned to the house, and spent an hour wandering about the various rooms, which the Duke had never before seen.

The interior of this stately home exceeds in grandeur any expectations that could be formed of it. We wandered through the library, the ceiling of which is beautifully painted by a famous artist with scenes and characters from many well-known books. At one corner Juliet leaned coquettishly from her balcony, while opposite her Faust and Marguerite strolled about their garden The carved woodwork over the mantel, which was almost [Page 109]  blackened with age, represented the full-length figures of beautiful women, and was taken, so Marjorie told us, from an old Flemish cathedral.

From this room we stepped into the little music-room, which is copied exactly from a Moorish palace. The opalescent hanging-lamps by night, and the pink-silk draperies by day, shed a roseate hue which almost warms into life the beautiful statues. We crossed the open, circular court, with its mosaic floor of Indian pattern and coloring, noting as we passed the lovely little Puck in marble by Harriet Hosmer, and the famous Nydia and Zenobia; and midway Marjorie bade us pause and raise our eyes, when lo, there burst upon our sight, through the graceful Moorish arches of the balcony, high above our heads, a cavalcade of brave knights on horseback, with crimson and golden banners outlined against the blue sky. The Duke could not resist an exclamation of surprise and delight on seeing this rich picture in stained glass.

We spent an hour in the Louis Quatorze drawing-room, where the roses, flung in handfuls on the snowy mosaic floor, gave a softness of effect that was simply marvelous. The ceiling was painted by Perraud in the most exquisite colorings; sleeping cherubs representing night nestled among the clouds and stars on one side, while others, bathed in the light of the rising sun, laughed opposite them.

The magnificent mantel of pure white onyx was laden with priceless jades, while wonderful vases of cameo, peach-blow, and Chinese "heavenly blue" reflected themselves in the mirrored walls. Snowy fur rugs were scattered over the floor at intervals, and at one end a Russian sleigh served as a chair. Slender tables stood about the [Page 110]  room, whose crystal tops revealed collections of marvelous curios. The first contained watches alone of rare and curious workmanship; one that I noticed was a beetle not more than an inch in length, which raised its ruby wings to display the hours; others showed coins and spun silver and queer Oriental jewelry–all these valuable objects being safely locked into their transparent receptacles. I shall not attempt to describe the dining-room, with its mahogany woodwork, its priceless tapestries, its sideboards gleaming with precious silver, and its frescoed walls, painted by the skilful hand of Mr. John Elliot, whose beautiful wife is the daughter of Mrs. Julia Ward Howe.

We glanced into the reception-room with its rich hangings and its delicate carvings of dull teak wood; where rare paintings gleamed from the dim background like jewels set in dark enamel.

Rousseau and Diaz, Corot, Millet, all were there, and I noticed the gray-green of a Bastien-Lepage as we passed; but Marjorie would not let us go up stairs, for she feared that if the Duke once saw the magnificent collection of paintings there we should never be able to get her home.

But the place that most fascinated me was the conservatory. Tall palms met overhead and rare tropical plants exhaled spicy odors, while long ferns and sweetest flowers [Page 111]  fringed the tesselated marble walks. The soft plash of the lake was heard in the distance, and in one charming corner swung an Indian hammock of white, braided palmetto, with its soft, crimson silk cushions. The only light at night radiates from the jeweled lamps overhead; but we were there in the afternoon, and it seemed a place where the sunshine loved to linger all day long.

When we reached home that night and gathered around the table in our own little dining-room, the flat had never seemed so small and shabby. Marjorie re- [Page 112]  marked that she had never noticed before that the papering on the wall and ceiling did not harmonize, while the Duke cast a glance of withering scorn at our favorite Bohemian glass vase, which happened to contain nothing better at the moment than one limp, pink rose. It was not until we had tasted the steaming soup and delicious dinner that Katie had provided that we were restored to our usual happy confidence in ourselves and our surroundings, but Marjorie remarked as she retired to her room that night, that to apply Chas. Dudley Warner's sage remark, "there is nothing like getting a new point of view," was not always consistent with one's peace of mind.

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom