"Chapter XII: Virginia's Diary." by Enid Yandell (1870-), Jean Loughborough, and Laura Hayes
As we were sitting around the fire one evening after dinner, the girls said: "Now, Virginia, do tell us about Lady Aberdeen; is she as lovely as they say ?"
"Indeed she is ! I am completely charmed with her."
"When did you see her?" queried the Duke.
"When she accepted Mrs. Palmer's invitation to visit the Board rooms of the Lady Managers."
"Is she handsome ?"
"She is tall and fine-looking, with a very intelligent face and a pair of earnest gray eyes. She seemed much interested in the Board of Lady Managers, and was anxious to know if Sir Henry Wood had yet nominated the committee of women in England, who were to co-operate with our Board. We told her we had not heard of it, and Sir Henry had scarcely had time to arrange a committee, as he had only sailed from New York on the fifth of October. She thinks it best, as there is a separate commission of men for Ireland, Scotland and England, that there should also be a [Page 136] separate commission of women, as the articles exhibited by women in each country would be so entirely different. Mrs. Palmer suggested that she should work that matter up upon her return to England.
"While we were talking, a gentleman called to see Mr Palmer in regard to having Belique ware manufactured upon the World's Fair grounds during the Exposition, and I think they have decided that the Belique manufactory which he represented will contribute a vase designed and made entirely by women, to the Woman's building.
"Before she left the office Mrs. Starkweather asked Lady Aberdeen to inscribe her name upon our autograph book, and she smilingly wrote, 'Ishbel Aberdeen, Haddo House, Scotland.' As she returned the pen she said 'I imagine you have few such unusual names, and do you know that Ishbel is the Gaelic for Elizabeth?'
"In her sweet, womanly way, Lady Aberdeen talked to us about our great work here for women, which she thought so fine, and her presence was so gracious and winning that [Page 137] she quite won our hearts. She told Mrs. Palmer that she thought the English women were far in advance of the American women in a political way, and referred to the recent article upon that subject by Justin McCarthy, in the North American Review, as a very correct presentation of the wonderful influence wielded by women in English politics.
"'But,' said her ladyship, 'I am convinced that in a business way the American woman is far ahead of the English. We have no such system of bookkeeping and office work as I see here among your women.'"
"Gene, I should think that you would see many interesting and queer people in the Board rooms. Why don't you put them down in a diary ?"
"Why, I have a little note book," said Gene, "it is somewhere in my room," and she soon returned with a much worn little memorandum book.
"That is great," said the Duke; "now read us some of the extracts in it."
"Won't it bore you ?"
"Of course not."
"Well, here is one :"
Nov. 23d.–"Now, girls, this is really remarkable" (aside) "Mrs –, specialist, has the secret of removing all wrinkles from the face. A queer-looking woman is with her, whom she calls one of her 'samples.' Six months ago, the 'sample' asserts, her face was as wrinkled as a checker-board. It is really quite round and rosy now. The wrinkles are removed by electric needles (which may account for the fact that the pupil in the 'sample's' left eye is three times as large as that in the right), and the process takes three months. The specialist has established a house here where patients may board until cured. She says she will do one eye for anybody free of charge." [Page 138]
"I think John L. Sullivan has made the same assertion," said the Duke, sotto voce.
"But, listen now, girls, this is really ridiculous." (Reads.)
"The specialist's idea of an exhibit is this: She will take some old lady, the older and more wrinkled the better, and removing the wrinkles from one side of her face, will exhibit her in the Woman's Building."
"Only a full-fledged voter would have the strength of mind to do that," said Marjorie aside.
"The old lady thus exhibited will have the wrinkles removed from the other side of her face after the Exposition, the entire treatment in this case to be free of charge."
"The only suggestion I would make," said the Duke, who was convulsed with laughter, "is this; that the old lady keep turning her head from side to side like a Chinese Mandarin, showing first one side and then the other."
"Now, you needn't laugh girls, for what I have read you actually occurred."
"Do read some more," came in chorus from the girls, who were highly amused.
"Well, here is a second extract, if you care to hear it."
Nov. 24th.–" I was sitting at my desk this morning, when the door opened and a little old lady glided softly in. She wore a bonnet like a candle-snuffer, with the strings tied down straight over her ears, while three black ostrich feathers, guiltless of all curl, stood straight up in front. She was small and thin and held a black shawl tightly around her with one hand, while she grasped a little black bag with the other. I think she would have called this bag a reticule. She wore large, owlish-looking glasses, and fixing her piercing eyes on me said in a deep, bass voice: 'I am a Daughter of the Revolution. [Page 139]
"'My grandfather was in the Revolutionary War, and so was my father.'
"As she peered at me through those horned glasses and looked so fierce, she added in a deep voice:
"'All my family have been fighters."
"Cold chills ran down my back at that announcement, but I arose and offered her a seat, and she stated her errand to me, which in spite of her terrible voice, was a very mild one."
"Here is another entry, girls, of the same date, which will make your blood run cold. It is almost too horrible to relate, but as it is a matter of history, I think I will tell you. Mr Hirst, Chief of Installation, sent down a letter to-day, in accordance with Mrs. Palmer's request that he would notify her of all [Page 140] applications made by women, announcing the fact that a certain woman, an embalmer by profession–"
"A what ?" screamed the Duke.
"An embalmer. Now listen, and if you don't say that the Lacy Managers have a queer collection of letters, I will be surprised. She wishes to exhibit her work, and adds that she desires to compete–think of it ! She says in a very matter-of-fact, business-like way, that she wants a corpse constantly on exhibition in the Woman's Building."
"Oh Gene, that is horrible; read us something else," said Marjorie.
"Well, I merely read it to let you see what queer people there are in the world."
The Duke arose and came over and stood by Gene, reading over her shoulder.
"There is something interesting ! Read that."
"Yes, that may amuse you, as it is an anecdote that a Presbyterian minister told me one day, when he came in the office on business.
"A young man before his marriage said to his fiancee 'I don't think we ought to have any secrets between us and so I will tell you that I am a somnambulist.' 'Oh that is of no consequence,' said she. 'I am a Presbyterian, and am willing to go half-way with you.'"
"Of course Gene would remember that little Presbyterian joke," said the Duke, laughing.
"Well ! I have only one more entry now to read:
Nov. 30th.–"A letter received by the Board of Lady Managers to-day, stated that the writer would be pleased to place an elevator of aluminum in the Woman's Building, for use during the Exposition, adding:
"'Though it seems presumptuous for a humble man like [Page 141] me to attempt the elevation of woman, the crown of creation.' Now, is not that gallant for a business letter ?"
"Is that all you have written ?" said the Duke.
Just then the front door was opened by Katie, and Mr. Middleton came in with a radiant face and a few American Beauties for Gene.
Marjorie and the Duke soon withdrew from the parlor, and as they sat by the dining-room lamp, the Duke said :
"Did you notice, Marjorie, how Virginia blushed when Mr. Middleton was announced ? I'm very much afraid that there is a romance brewing under our very eyes."
"Well! Jack Middleton is a true, loyal fellow, and I have always liked him," Marjorie answered; "but I am not afraid that we will lose Gene, for having had so much attention she is really over fastidious, and will not be very easily won."