After a reluctant parting with Walter, I walked about for a few minutes to calm myself before meeting Sir Arthur for the Senate session. As I passed Hutchinson's Ladies' Furnishings on Pennsylvania Avenue, the window dressing caught my eye. Bolt after bolt of lace, draped across bars suspended high from the ceiling, flowed down and across the floor like waterfalls, with individual silk flowers of every color scattered and “floating” among them. And then it hit me. My trousseau. I didn't have a trousseau.
Unlike some girls who had years of linens and underclothes delicately sewn and stored in a hope chest, waiting for the groom to come along, I had not spent a single moment contemplating what I would need if I were ever to marry. But I was now engaged (I still couldn't believe it!) and, as I admired the lovely lace in the window, realized I was terribly under-equipped. I pulled my notebook and pencil out of my chatelaine bag and jotted down the minimum I needed to properly furnish myself.
a reception dress
three day dresses
three pairs of drawers
two dozen pairs of plain stockings
a set of towels
I still had a little time before meeting Sir Arthur, so I stepped in and, after explaining my predicament, found an enthusiastic shopgirl to help me. She looked at my list and within minutes pulled everything I needed from the glass cases and wooden shelves lining the walls of the store. Not having anticipated the extra expense, I stood firm when she suggested adding more drawers, chemises, and nightgowns to my order. The only extravagance I allowed myself was to add embroidery to the petticoats and exquisite French lace to the nightdresses. As the shopgirl took my address to have my packages delivered, a gasp behind me made me glance up. Two women in shirtwaists and skirts, their heads bent toward one another, whispered while staring and pointing at something at the door. I followed their gaze, and my mouth opened agape. Standing just inside, in a crimson evening gown covered with flounces of alternating yellow and lavender lace, was the “fallen woman” I'd seen sunning herself on the balcony of the bawdy house this morning.
I couldn't decide what was more astonishing, that she had the audacity to come in a respectable shop, which was, to be fair, mere blocks away from the establishment where the girl worked, that she was wearing an evening gown in the early afternoon, or that I'd seen this same girl twice in one day.
Either way, close your mouth, Davish,
I chided myself,
and stop staring.
She might be what she was, but that didn't give me cause to act less than respectable.
As I clamped my jaw shut and looked slightly away, though keeping the girl in my sights, she glanced about her as if not certain how to proceed. Immediately a matronly woman, in a simple but well-tailored black dress, most likely a senior member of the staff, approached and whispered something to the girl.
“No, I will not leave,” the girl said with a harsh twang, defiantly loud.
“If you don't go quietly, you will be forcibly removed,” the matron said.
“I'm going to be respectable very soon and you'll regret treating me like this.”
“That's all very well. But please leave.” When the girl in the garish dress didn't move, the matron waved her hand to a man in the cap and uniform of a guard, who immediately approached. “Mr. Homer, would you please escort this âgirl' from the store and see that she doesn't return?”
“My pleasure, ma'am,” the guard said, gripping the girl's arm.
“Let go of me!” The flounces on the girl's dress flapped as she struggled to free herself from the guard's hold.
“Mr. Homer?” the matron said. And with that the guard opened the door with one hand and proceeded to drag the girl outside with the other.
“You can't treat me like this!” she shouted. “You don't know who I know. My man is powerful in this city. Just you wait until I tell him what you've done.”
And then the door closed behind her and all was quiet in the store once more. The matron wiped her hands on her skirt, turned her back on the door, and returned to the accessories counter.
“I have to admit,” the shopgirl helping me said, as she finished writing my address and then leaned over the counter, “I've never seen one of âthem' before.”
If only I could say the same thing.
* * *
“Sir, may I have a word?”
Sir Arthur checked his watch. A slight frown inched across his face. “Later perhaps, Hattie. There isn't time now. The session is soon to begin.”
“Here's your gallery pass.”
Sir Arthur handed me a small piece of paper with an etching of the Capitol and the United States Senate Chamber across the top. Next to the typewritten word
ADMIT, Sir Arthur Windom-Greene and friends
was handwritten. It was signed
Meriwether Lewis Smith, U.S. Senator
. After ordering my trousseau, I had met Sir Arthur at the Smith home on Lafayette Square. I'd accompanied him on the ride to the Capitol, a massive white stone building dominated by a towering central dome flanked by two wings, in silence. Equally overwhelmed by the imposing presence of the iconic seat of America's government and the daunting task of broaching the subject of my engagement with my employer, I'd said nothing during the entire ride. Now waiting outside the Senate Chamber, I drew up my courage to speak.
“And you have your map of the Senate floor so you know who is who?” I showed him the 53rd Congress's
Official Congressional Directory
that Claude Morris had given me, with its map of numbered desks and list of the senators' names who sat at each desk.
“Yes, sir. Butâ”
“Ah, Smith. Is it time?” Sir Arthur said, cutting off anything I was about to say, when he saw our host, Senator Smith, approaching.
The senator, a solid older man with a thick gray mustache, standing several inches shorter than Sir Arthur, nodded while looking up at me through his spectacles. The intensity in his eyes and the perpetual scowl on his face remained unchanged.
“Sir Arthur.” The senator acknowledged him with the slightest bow of his bald head. “Why is Miss Davish here?”
“She is going to record the session for me,” Sir Arthur said. “Shouldn't we go in?”
“Quite right,” Senator Smith said, wrinkling his nose in obvious distaste at my presence. And he continued to scowl as a young, handsome man with thick brown hair and a beard smiled at the senator as he passed.
“Fine day, eh, Meriwether?” the man said, in an obvious Southern drawl.
“Go to Hell, Abbott,” Senator Smith sneered under his breath. The young man laughed as he headed down the hall to the Senate Chamber.
Before Sir Arthur could question the senator about the incident, Senator Smith said, “Ah, Chester,” to a man of similar height, build, and sullen countenance as the senator making his way across the floor toward us. He too had a bald pate but a crescent of thick black hair encircled his crown. Sir Arthur glanced at his watch again.
“Chester, I don't think you've met our houseguest,” Senator Smith said.
“No, I haven't,” the new arrival said.
“Chester, this is Sir Arthur Windom-Greene. He's a renowned historian staying with us while he conducts his latest research. Sir Arthur, this is my son, Chester Smith.”
As Sir Arthur shook hands with the newly arrived man, I ignored the senator's snub of not introducing me and studied the new arrival. I had seen him before. He was the man I'd watched at the train station jab his carriage driver in the back with his umbrella for his presumed lack of haste. At the time, his resemblance to our host had struck me and now I knew why. My first impression was not improved upon as he began a discussion with the men without even looking at me in acknowledgment.
“Can you believe that counsel for Boss McKane filed an appeal today at the Supreme Court?” Chester said. “Do you think they'll consider it, Father?”
“I should say not,” Senator Smith said, taking off his spectacles and wiping them with a handkerchief.
“Anyone associated with Tammany Hall, any politician at all, for that matter, caught defrauding the voters deserves to be in prison,” Sir Arthur said.
Did Chester Smith wince? If he had, the look was gone as quickly as it came.
“Shall we go?” Sir Arthur said, less of a question than a command. The men turned their backs on me. As was expected, I followed.
“This is where I leave you,” the senator said when we arrived at the gallery doors. “Must go and take my seat now.”
“Right.” Sir Arthur, not hesitating a minute more, stepped through. Chester followed and I came in behind, relinquishing my pass to the attendant. “There's the ladies' gallery, Hattie.” Sir Arthur pointed to the other side of the room. “I'll meet you here when it's over.”
“Yes, sir,” I said, turning to make my way past the rows of gallery seats.
As the chamber was built with the acoustics of a theater, I heard Chester ask quietly, “Who is your lovely companion, Sir Arthur?”
“Pardon me, Mr. Smith, but I've been remiss in not introducing you. Hattie,” Sir Arthur said, beckoning me back.
“Chester Smith, this is Miss Hattie Davish.”
“Miss Davish, how charming,” Chester said, bowing his head, the distracted look in his eye not matching the smile on his face. “And how do you come to be here today?”
“Miss Davish is my private assistant and secretary,” Sir Arthur said, again pulling out his pocket watch.
“Oh, I see.” Chester Smith purposely glanced down at the chamber floor where the senators were gathering. “Shall we find our seats, Sir Arthur?” He avoided looking at me again.
“By all means.” The two men set off down the aisle.
Unperturbed by the senator's son's cool reception, I navigated my way across to the ladies' gallery. Armed with my pencil and notepaper, I settled myself in the front row next to a group of women all wearing National American Woman Suffrage Association stickpins. As the men below were still standing about in clusters whispering, I took the time to look around me. The chamber was a large rectangular room, at least 100 feet long and almost that wide, with second-story public galleries on each of the four sides, all crowded by now, all painted in hues of gold and white. Below where I sat, the senators' individual wooden desks, some dating back to the Old Senate Chamber almost a half-century ago, were arranged on a tiered semicircular platform facing a raised rostrum. Above me, beautifully illuminated by the sun rays streaming through, was a skylight made of iron and glass panels painted in the symbols of the Union, the army, the navy, and the medical arts.
There he is again!
As my eyes rested on the press gallery, directly above the desk of the president pro tempore on the raised rostrum, I instantly recognized the man I'd seen outside the bawdy house this morning. Craning his neck as if to find a particular person in the adjacent gallery, he smirked when he spied who he'd been looking for. He left his spot, shoving his way through the crush of journalists crammed together in his row, and headed down the aisle. He reached the gallery where Chester Smith and Sir Arthur sat and headed straight up toward them, taking two stairs at a time. I expected him to be greeted by Chester Smith, but Sir Arthur patted the man on the back. To my dismay, the two men shook hands. How could Sir Arthur know such a man? Could he know what that man was doing this morning? I doubted it. When Sir Arthur, by his gestures, introduced Chester Smith, the reporter wagged his finger toward the scowling senator's son. The two men obviously knew each other as well.
“The Senate will come to order.”
The sound of the gavel interrupted my ponderings and alerted me to my purpose for being here. Immediately I was poised with pencil and notepad to record every word, my attention absorbed by the men below. And after the chaplain led the prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited by all, the topic of the day's debate was soon evident and much to my surprise.
“Mr. President?” Senator Smith said, wiping his spectacles.
“The senator from Virginia,” Senator Isham Harris, the president pro tempore, said, acknowledging Smith.
“Mr. President, I would like to begin by reminding my esteemed colleagues of the 1882 Act to Regulate the Use of the Capitol Grounds.” He flipped open a large book of statutes. “As it states:
âWhereas the Capitol Grounds have been formed to subserve the quiet and dignity of the Capitol of the United States, and to prevent the occurrence near it of such disturbances as are incident to the ordinary use of public streets and places: Therefore, the following statute for the regulation of the public use of said grounds is hereby enacted.'
“I list only those parts of sections of which my friends who support Mr. Coxey and his followers should take heed.” He read again.
“ âThat it is forbidden to make any harangue or oration, or utter loud, threatening, or abusive language. That it is forbidden to parade, stand or move in processions or assemblages, or display any flag, banner, or device designed or adapted to bring into public notice any party, organization or movement. That it shall be the duty of all policemen having authority to make arrests in the District of Columbia to be watchful for offences against this act and to arrest and bring before the proper tribunal those who shall offend against it.' ”