“I did not know there was more to it than that!” I had spoken loudly with much conviction. My appeal was to the empty bedroom of my husband, our nuptial vows being only then one week old. I had risen suddenly to a sitting position, the twisted sheets strangling my body and then slithering away at my tugs so that with my tangled hair and nightdress awry, I must have looked like a mummy fleeing in horror from her shroud.
I was fleeing. In fact, I had fled. The poverty of my new husband did not dismay me. I had deliberately seized upon this opportunity of marriage because it afforded a way out for me from all that I had suffered and been suffering. This marriage provided geographical separation as well as protection by sanctity. I was to be oh, so, safe.
Now the very rite of the marriage in which I lay quite obviously saturated had itself catapulted me quite forcibly back into the middle of all I had left behind or had hoped that I would leave behind. Now I was forced by new knowledge to rethink everything and apply to it what I had learned. Oh, dear God! why should I have to do that…and I why can’t I simply refuse and keep it all from destroying me, now not from the outside but from the inside. But I must, I must look at it again and see it, oh, so differently. With less guilt, with no shame, -how scarred my life had been and with less reason. How different will it seem- and the punishment so undeserved.
Ah! There must be many women like me who were “gently reared” and who know nothing of the innuendos and sophistications and all that passes in the relationships of the sexes. Now I should be troubled and haunted for the years to come for that lack, but perhaps I should be so anyway and I should at least enjoy a physical separation from the past. That. xxx xxx
I don’t remember the first occasion when Pauley and Tillie came to our house. I do remember they were often there before they moved into our household. Of course, I do remember a particular occasion that happens also to be my earliest memory of their being visitors to our house and not members of our household.
That was my birthday. I was eight years old and there were an abundance of grown-ups milling about the lawn in the bright sunshine. There was a house-party that weekend and my afternoon birthday party was the first of the planned events of the weekend agenda of that late July.
Pauley and Tillie seemed to wander up out of nowhere and greeted me with overwhelming delight. I happily recognized both of them as particular favorites of mine so it reasonable to assume that they were well-known and familiar to me. Undoubtedly they has not wandered up out of nowhere but had arrived and made themselves known, perhaps even settled in a little before making their way around to the scenario of my “honary”-but such is a child’s memory. Each of them had brought a gift for me and presented them to me for opening. I remember all that quite well. Wearing a white ruffly dress with pastel ribbons fluttering from the bodice and sleeves, a bit of cake frosting on my lips and the corners of my mouth, I paused in my celebratory cavorting to solemnly greet and examine their gifts with the carefulness with which i have to put to such matters all of my life. At such times I am busily making tidy mental notes so that I will remember always afterward.
Tillie had brought me a set of handkerchiefs, very ornately decorated with satin rosettes, tiny bow, and very much lace, the sort of which would be fastened to a child’s dress with a pin at the waist or near a pocket (if there were one) while a plainer one was placed inside the pocket for use. Pauley’s gift was a small crystal castle that sparkled outrageously in the light. There were a number of wonderful details, like a staircase, that made it complex and fascinating. It has been a special treasure over the years. I often held it to the light and turned it prettily in my hands as I held it so and made wishes on it. I gazed at it in moonlight and set it in a special place on the table nearest my bed. Later, it graduated to my dressing table as I put away the various trappings of childhood, the castle stayed as an ornament and keepsake “for always.”
I received many pretty books that day and a straw hat that I wore at dinner. By that time I had retired to my rooms because I had become flushed and ate dinner all alone with my nurse and went to bed early. There was dinner party downstairs and the sounds of the music that accompanied these things drifted upstairs. I have never forgotten my eighth birthday party and it stands out as being representational of our way of life.
My father was well-off and although he did quite a bit of looking after his interests, I think he mainly concentrated on living the good life. He was not a care-free person, but was very serious about the enjoyment of life. He was very serious looking, too. He was a very big man and slow-moving and dark and bearded. Though he was very somber, he set about enjoying the activities” he created about him and his efforts were well-received.
My mother was quite fair and slender, and a bit more pleasant. She was somewhat remote for the most part, her heart and soul were immersed in the on-going social activity and the chit-chat of her peers. When there were no others present, she was quiet and did not talk a good deal. i could not say she was shallow, but she often looked quite blank at these times. I think she was resting or found her life-style satisfying and had no need to fill in the between times. I do not know. I do believe she was thinking, I don’t believe she was in a stupor. She was lovely, she seemed elegant. She was my mother. I was a happy enough child and she regarded me as if she seemed to know all about me and was content about it. And so was I. I do not remember a troublesome childhood.
Mother was the daughter of a minister. She had come from a family that was fairly well-placed, socially, and so she was no religious oracle. She seemed to understand most things well about life and her farseeing eyes seemed to penetrate into and encompass every situation. She had the constitution of a brick-bat and immense staying power.
Our house and lives were full. My parents were generous and gregarious-they loved to be with people. This was their sustenance, their life’s blood. As was the custom, we had a menage of relatives who were living with us and sometimes people who were not related temporarily in residence_for weeks, months, or years. There was my father’s uncle, Gerard. There was mother’s older sister, Florence, and their youngest brother, Roger (the other two brothers had homes, lives and families elsewhere and never came to visit). there was father’s niece and two elderly cousins. The niece was youthful and quite homely and was a kind of secretary to the household. The elderly cousins made their contributions, too, but mostly helped keep continuity at mealtimes by being put there or here so as there would be someone next to so and so or to keep this situation from becoming too much and so being placed between this or that party. They were dull and smiling and kind.
Then there were the houseguests. Always coming or going-either here for this weekend or a few days to a week or a month or whatever. There were couples who were my parents friends and a friend of my father’s or a business associate or lady-friends of my mothers. There were always people.
And Pauley and Tillie lived nearby. Originally, they would come by of an evening or for an evening. Or drop in in the afternoon. Or stay the whole weekend. Pauley was a friend of father’s and Tillie was a pleasant person and so regarded by both my father and my mother. I don’t know what happened. Pauley’s business interests had failed-someone had cheated him in some disastrous affair and he hadn’t been able to pull things together after that. Father could have lent him the money and I guess it was intended that he meant to do so. They were asked to come and spend a few weeks until the thing was worked out. And, then, my father finally urged him to sell everything and get out with what he had and start fresh, stay here in the meantime until something good came along or could be found, or thought of. They’d work at it. Father finally urged him to “quit looking and throw in with me.” I heard it late one night after dinner when I had been allowed to tarry in the library after dinner. Whatever it meant, it was never anything specific, I think, though, that Pauley did rather well with father. He didn’t want to leave and he wasn’t being asked to. Pauley seemed to have money enough and was pleased with the way things were going and never spoke of getting another place. He and my father were great good friends.
Pauley was very handsome. He was very blond and dark browed. He was slender but strong and sinewy. His fingers were tapered and he was always brown from the sun-even in winter he had a good color, as though it was natural to him. Perhaps, it was. He was charming-he had a-charisma. He was good-humored and always looked directly at you. His gaze was piercing but did not make you uncomfortable. And Tillie, his wife, was young and bubblingly full of life. She wore her curling hair swept up tightly above her ears so that she wore what seemed to be a surprised look in her soft grey eyes. She got on famously with mother and neither imposed on the other.
Then, Uncle Jerry, Gerard, died suddenly. He had been responsible for the maintaining of the house, the site of our lives, the house, the grounds, the accounts. He had kept the whole place running effectively, the fires lit. His son, Harold, who had assisted him and who often traveled with father on business, expressed a desire to go and join in a current business venture with his sister’s husband in Chicago and perhaps find a wife. Pauley, seemingly tried to, I think, fill-in, in his way, putting things in order, hanging pictures and so forth. It did not seem to make father happy afterall, that his guest felt sorry for him or something. His mood stiffened and he went into the study to smoke a pipe, which he never did unless something was troubling him. Harold said, “Trying to hand a picture?” “You need a hammer. Besides, it isn’t your job, old boy.” No one seemed willing to help.
Over the ensuing months my father’s attitude seemed to change. He seemed harried by the additional burden of handling the personal accounts. No one else could be persuaded to help him and he hadn’t the desire to impose it on Pauley. He didn’t want to hire anyone, and Bernice (mother’s niece) wasn’t up to all that. No one person was. Jerry had been a magician, brilliant and subtle, putting the whole end of his life to the “show.” father wanted to sell out, live on a less grand scale.
Parties were fewer. Life was more routine, guests weren’t as frequent. There were parties. They were smaller, close knit, more intimate, more casual. The elderly cousins were the first to speed change. They wanted to move off to a small cottage in their hometown. Mother’s brother wanted to see Europe. Mother’s sister wanted to go off to live with one of the brothers with whom she was also close. Our household began to dwindle. Father began letting go some of the help.
Mother actually strove to shed a tear over the altered lifestyle. But it was difficult for her to accomplish. A single tear was all I saw. It wended its way down her cheek as she declared trying to make a firm note of it, “It seems the end of an era.”
It wasn’t. Father soon found a stately looking, several storied smaller house elsewhere. It hadn’t the gaiety, the sweep, or the magnitude, but it had an equal number of terraces and an outside veranda, a summerhouse, a carriagehouse, and a large full garden at the center of which was a large landscaped reflecting pool, at the center of which was a centerpiece with rocks and benches and foliage like an island. There was a footbridge across for access and the summerhouse lay at the back of the garden. It was all wickedly and lathed and well roofed and arbored. The grounds were small but well-treed on all sides of the house to which there was a long drive which ended in an elevation above which the house sat. The house in front was shingled darkly with stone arising through to the second story. What enchanted me were the turrets so that it looked like a small castle. The turrets contained small upper rooms and there were stairs all over from floor to floor.
The foyer was not a large one and the library, a large comfortable room in which there were two fireplaces, lay off to the the left. Behind the foyer was a large central room and behind that, the formal dining room. off to either side there were smaller rooms for various suitable uses and the kitchens jutted off from those. The staircases ended on all sides of the dining room and there was a hallway that led to a large room at the rear where there was an indoor fountain superimposed over a large mass of natural rock. One could pass outside by either of two sets of doors on either side of the fountain onto a large veranda. Directly above this on the second floor was a wide balcony where were my new rooms. Along the side of these to the front were my school and playrooms and the rest of the second floor were to be Pauley’s and Tillie’s. And there was a second balcony on the other side of the house which was also to be Pauley and Tillies’.
Mother and father were to halve the third floor exactly. Above that was the guest floor and the last floor was storage and this is where the turrets began and so the stairs rose above the storage which provided easy access to this “attic” space. There were several small single stairways outside leading from doors on the 3d and 4th floors to the ground as my father and the previous owner (and builder) had a horror of possible fires entrapping the tenants.
We moved in immediately and the old house was put up for sale. The new arrangement was incredible to me. At first there were a lot of strangers in the house, cleaning and placing things. Then, there was mostly us in this new and much more intimate atmosphere. I liked it at once. The jungle-like rear garden with its novelty arrangements and (summer) pavilion. The turret rooms, the balconies (mine had a stair down to one side of the garden, most discreet and inobvious). (The other had none.) The dimness of the sparse woods and huge old trees. The hedges on the “far” side of the garden (which began almost at the foot of my outer stairs). The elegant “front” room (easily convertible to a small ballroom. The network of staircases among the floors. Excellent for intimacy or for privacy (or for distancing). I loved it. My own apartments were romantic. The only difference was the arrangement of the third floor. Previously my parents rooms were joined (or separated) by only a common dressing room and their “apartments” were entered by one door to all their rooms. Now there bedrooms were as far apart as possible and each had several rooms of their own and there was no hint of anything joined-even the stairways they employed had no common bond. Yet, the floor, the entire floor was exclusively theirs and I seldom entered onto their floor or in their rooms for the rest of my growing up years. I felt emancipated. And more adult. Independent.
An actual “governess” was employed for me-mostly referred to as “companion” or “tutoress” and her room was on the fourth floor among the houseguest rooms. The housekeeper also lived in a room on the kitchen end of the fourth floor, but the cook lived in a room off the kitchens and the houseman and my father’s driver lived in rooms attached to the carriagehouse. The houseman had a small room he kept near the front door and there was a housemaid who lived in with the cook. Other than that, all the household help came in by the day and not always. I wondered if my father had lost the large part of his fortune.
Not long, however. We were not settled in more than a few months when the parties began again. They had taken on a different flavor-these were more intimate friends and the parties were much smaller. Often the friends were invited to stay for a given rather than an indefinite period of time and they blended more casually into the household. Few stayed for longer than a week.
I had become nearly adolescent and and adventuress. The overall area was one of good incomes and now I had a few good friends who visited back and forth with me. My half-brother Jack was now through school (Jack was my mother’s son by a previous marriage) and had first “gone West” to travel and then “into a position”-mainly because there was a young woman of interest to him and he wished to make a different sort of a life, and my father found no quarrel with that for Jack was not his son. and my little sister Teresa had a nursery of sorts in my mother’s apartments. She was only seven now and my mother seemed to dote on her.
Although my mother was warm with me, I felt that I was under my father’s direction and that had something to do with why my mother was not as close to me. It was as if Jack was her son, so I was father’s child, although he hadn’t time for me. I felt his eyes on me more often than I heard his words. I heard from Mother, “your Father says,” or “feels”, so often I felt I took only his direction. I never heard her say those words to Jack-or to Theresa. Having got the say of one child Father seemed happy to relinquish Theresa entirely to Mother and Mother kept her under her very wing.
Since none of this was very direct except during those social occasions within the house with everyone present that my father had words of praise or conversation with me. Seldom was our discourse private or one to one, father to daughter. With everyone else present as a buffer to our relationship, I never sensed any dictatorial or rulerish overtures but the look in his eyes was that of possession and I felt this strongly.
As my hours were spent on the second floor, most of my personal encounters were with the Boardmans, Pauley and Tillie. I spent a good bit of time in their company generally and downstairs-but one or the other (or both) was often dropping by my rooms, especially my “dayroom” (or “schoolroom”), as it were, to chat or observe or sit down. They were very entertaining amd though I was fond of Tillie, I am certain I had always been enchanted by Pauley.
He had often caught me at my exploits and knew I was given to sneaking out by the balcony into the moonlit garden or very early morning into the nearer part of the woods. I often walked on the grounds. Afternoons I was allowed to ride awhile on my pony but that was mostly well supervised. On the times my parents were abroad on some trip, he would look into the if Pauley were not gone with them, he would lock into the role of uncle and keep a strict eye on me. Teresa still remained at the elbow of Mother and was either gone along if it were a long business trip or tucked up tight with her nurse if it were not.
But I was at large.