“Yeah,” he said, surprised. “What do you know about it?”
“That under the Sherman Purchase Act, the government purchased millions of ounces of silver. It was supposed to improve the economy by directly helping miners who were struggling due to an oversupply of silver, and indirectly by raising inflation and letting farmers pay off their debts.”
“Yeah, but the problem was that the law required the Treasury to buy the silver with specially issued treasury notes that could be redeemed for either silver or gold.”
“Why was that a problem?”
“Because almost everyone redeemed the treasury notes for gold.”
“And the country almost became bankrupt?”
“And the country almost became bankrupt.”
“So what are you investigating?”
“The tip mentioned the name of a bank, the National Bank of the Potomac. It piqued my interest because I've always suspected it of having insider information, knowing about the passing of the Sherman Purchase Act before it was even passed and then knowing about its repeal beforehand. Having such knowledge, it bought as many treasury notes as it could when silver was at its lowest and then exchanged them for gold.”
“And you suspect they also knew when the gold reserves were growing dangerously low, but continued to exchange the notes for gold anyway?”
“But is that illegal?”
“No, but it's scandalous, especially if the head of the bank is a relative of a member of Congress and he used congressional insight for profit. The Division of Notes, Coupons, and Currency should have a record of all the transactions. I hoped to look into it.”
“But why? Didn't you say that Coxey's Army is the big story?”
“Sure it is. But after they march to the Capitol tomorrow, there won't be a story any more. I was hoping to get a jump on a new storyâthis bank scandal could've been just the thing. Or maybe you have something to tell me that is even better?”
“Yes, I believe so.”
“I'm all ears, Miss Davish. All ears!”
* * *
“People underestimate the prostitutes of this city,” Simeon Harper said as we plodded along. Unlike Walter, who drove with reckless abandon at breakneck speed, Mr. Harper handled his horse with casual inattention. And I was almost as much on edge as if Walter were driving. We trudged along so slowly, I could've walked faster.
“Most people ignore that they even exist,” he said. “In fact, I'll be surprised if the police spend more than the time it takes to type the paperwork investigating this. They did inform Lottie of the girl's fate, but I think Jasper's right. That man, who fled the scene, won't be sought unless I bring the injustice of it to light.”
As promised, I'd told Mr. Harper about the carriage accident I'd witnessed and about how the victim was one of Lottie Fox's girls. He'd insisted I show him the exact spot where Annie entered the water. So he'd assisted me into his gig, introduced me to Swift (named for Jonathan Swift and not the horse's inclination toward speed), who flicked his tail at a fly in acknowledgment and proceeded ever so slowly back to the carp ponds. When I told Mr. Harper, I'd watched his face carefully for any signs he knew this story already, that he was guilty of abandoning that poor “unfortunate woman.” I saw nothing but honest surprise and professional interest. But I've known murderers to lie before. I had to ask.
“So several people can verify that you were at Coxey's camp and not with the dead woman this morning?”
“Lots of people.”
“Thank goodness. I can't imagine what Sir Arthur would've thought if you were caught up in this business.”
“You're right there. I certainly wouldn't be invited to dine again.” He laughed. Both of us knew, after his confrontation with Chester Smith, Mr. Harper wasn't going to be dining at the Smith home ever again.
“But I saw you,” I said, my conscience on Sir Arthur's behalf not yet clear.
“You're mistaken, Miss Davish,” Simeon Harper said, misunderstanding me. “Truly, I wasn't there.”
“No, I mean I saw you at the place where Annie . . . worked.” I stammered at the thought of what she actually did to make her living.
“Of course you did.” He flashed me a mock look of surprise before smirking. “You were there as well, remember? And you never did tell me what you were doing there.”
“No, I mean I saw you there before. On Saturday.” He raised an eyebrow. Before he could come to the wrong conclusion, I added, “I was walking to the depot. By chance I happened to see Annie sunning herself on a balcony as I passed. When I crossed the street, I saw you speaking to another . . . such woman in the doorway of the same house.”
“Yes, you caught me. I'm a regular there.” When my eyes widened, he added, “No, it's not what you think. I didn't know Annie. Well, maybe I've met her once or twiceâI've met all Madam Fox's girls once or twiceâbut I do know Lottie Fox. It's like I was saying earlierâprostitutes are unappreciated, and that goes double for their madams. Lottie is one of my best sources. You'd be shocked to hear some of things she's told me over the past few months.”
“Yes, I'm sure I would be,” I said in all seriousness. He laughed.
“Things I eventually wrote for the paper,” he said, chuckling at my misapprehension. He was enjoying my discomfort a bit as well.
“Oh,” was all I could say.
“I met Lottie Fox while I was following Coxey's Army. Ever heard of the Veiled Lady?”
The Veiled Lady? Of course I had. This mystery woman, a marcher who wore a black veil, was one of the many intrigues of the Commonweal of Christ that kept me, and I dare say many women, reading every story that was printed about Coxey's Army. The Veiled Lady, as we knew her, had disappeared from the march as mysteriously as she had appeared.
“You know who the Veiled Lady is?” He nodded but said nothing more. “Well?” Like thousands of others, I was eager for news of her, who she was, why she was there, and what had happened to her. To prolong my anticipation, he retrieved a yellow-and-red packet of Wrigley's Spearmint pepsin gum from his vest pocket. He offered the packet of gum to me, pointing the green arrow on the wrapper toward me.
“No, thank you.”
“Suit yourself.” He pulled out a stick, slowly unwrapped it, and popped it into his mouth.
After chewing several times, Harper finally answered me. “Lottie Fox.”
“Lottie Fox?” I couldn't believe it. “But the Veiled Lady was âthe Great Unknown's' wife. Are you saying that Lottie Fox is the wife of the Great Unknown?”
Coxey's Army was populated with many colorful characters: the Veiled Lady, of course; Abraham Lincoln Jenkins, an Irishman known for eating four pounds of cheese at a sitting; “Weary Bill,” a steamboat captain who perpetually looked exhausted driving the Army's signature panorama wagon; and HonorÃ© Jaxon, clad in the traditional dress of the MÃ©tis, who claimed to represent American Indians while carrying only a blanket, a hatchet, and some cooking utensils, to name but a few. But most intriguing of all, besides Marshal Carl Browne, was “The Great Unknown,” whose past, real name, and association with the Commonweal of Christ was an enigma. He was tall and handsome, had the bearing of a military man and a pronounced limp, and spoke passionately about the rise of the poor and the fall of the rich, bordering on anarchistic. After he joined the ranks of Coxey's Army, he became Carl Browne's assistant marshal and a regular feature in the newspapers.
“The veiled woman was not the Great Unknown's wife. She's one of the madams of C Street, hence the need for a veil. She's a devout follower of Marshal Browne and his odd brand of Theosophy, but Browne asked her to travel well ahead of the men. She tried to stay, wanting to hear Browne preach, by keeping her identity a secret. But Browne insisted, concerned the presence of a woman, let alone a madam, would call into question the morality of the marchers. I and a few others from Washington knew who she was, but the mystery was a better story than revealing her identity so we kept quiet. And then a third-rate hack writer from Allegheny City bragged that he was going to reveal her secret. So she left.”
“Then why didn't he reveal her secret?”
“He did. He said she was the wife of the âGreat Unknown.' ”
“Of course,” I said, chuckling. “How else would I have thought I knew who she was?”
“When the Army got close enough to Washington, I made a point of talking to her on her own grounds as often as I could. She's been informative.”
I was too embarrassed to even broach the subject of whether they met for more than professional reasons. Besides, as long as he had an alibi for this morning, it wasn't anyone's business but his own. And with that the silence stretched on as we plodded along block after block down Fifteenth Street, the Executive Mansion gardens on the right and the massive lumberyards on the left. I was relieved when we finally cut through the lush greenery of Washington Park and approached the carp ponds. I nearly leaped out of my seat.
“Okay, Miss Davish,” the journalist said, pulling out a notepad and another stick of gum, “show me where Annie and this man went in.”
fter giving Simeon Harper the details as I knew them, I left him at the site of the accident. I had no desire to spend any more time thinking about the poor dead woman or the man who had abandoned her to her fate. Instead I focused on the thrilling prospect of going to Coxey's Army camp later and, more immediately, on meeting Walter as we'd planned. Turning my back on the carp ponds, I strolled toward the Washington Monument, that famous landmark, an obelisk made of marble towering 555 feet in the sky, looming larger and larger as I approached. In height, it was second only to the Eiffel Tower in France as the tallest structure in the world, and I was going to the top of it. When I arrived, Walter was already there.
“Extremely punctual as usual,” Walter said, taking my hand and kissing me on the cheek.
“I almost had to cancel. Sir Arthur wanted me to copy an index of property destruction at the Treasury this morning.”
“But we arranged this with him on Saturday after the Senate session. He was to give you the morning off.”
“You forget who we are talking about. Sir Arthur wants what he wants, regardless of what he promised you.”
“I can't wait until we're wed,” Walter grumbled under his breath. “No Sir Arthur, or any other employers, to dictate what you do or don't do.”
“No, just you,” I teased. Walter smiled.
“And I will be the most lenient of masters.” When my eyes widened at his choice of words, he leaned in close and kissed the tip of my nose. “Most lenient.” I giggled despite myself. “But you're here now, despite Sir Arthur, and that's all that matters.”
“I'm here thanks to Coxey's Army.” When Walter raised a brow in question, I added, “What I heard on Saturday was true. The Treasury was locked due to concerns over the potential for rogue members of the Commonweal to storm the building. I wasn't allowed to enter.”
“Thank you, Coxey!”
“You can thank the man in person this afternoon,” I reminded him. Walter laughed.
“That I might.”
He offered me his arm, and we headed to the base of the famous obelisk. When we inquired at the door, we were told we needed to wait for the next elevator. It would be another ten or fifteen minutes. We found a spot to wait among the other visitors and took in the view from the top of the knoll, the well-groomed lawns of the Executive Mansion gardens to our left, a large party picnicking on the grass, and the long, lush, wooded greenery of the Mall, its winding paths stretching out for blocks before us, dotted on both sides with grand redbrick museums and the white Capitol magnificent at the far end.
“Since you couldn't work, what have you been up to? Get in any hiking?”
“I did go hiking this morning, but I wish I hadn't.” Walter's head turned in my direction, concern clouding his countenance. He could tell from my face and tone of voice that I wasn't teasing this time.
“Hattie, what happened?”
I retold the whole incident again.
“You saw the man resurface and run away?” I nodded. “That's despicable!” I was surprised by his choice of words. It was the same thing the man, Billy, had said. “What kind of man would abandon a helpless woman to her death?”
It was a rhetorical question, so I remained silent as I stared out across the Mall.
“It is bad enough you had to witness the accident, but to be exposed to that type of woman in life and in death. . . .”
“You know I've seen worse,” I reminded him. Should I tell him that I'd twice been to the establishment where the dead woman worked? I would, I decided, but said nothing yet.
He nodded slowly. “Yes, you have. I'm proud of how well you are taking the whole affair.” He took my hand, turned it over, and put two fingers to my wrist. “Not even a rapid pulse.”
“It happened hours ago.”
“Yes, but you do seem much calmer about it. Remember how shocked you were when you found that man's body in Grotto Spring?” How could I forget anything about my stay in Eureka Springs? I'd found two dead bodies and had met Walter. It wasn't a trip easily forgotten. “Your heart raced for a while.”
“You're right. I am calmer. Since my visit to St. Joe and resolving my fears surrounding my father's death, I've found that I'm not nearly as excitable. If I'd been told a few years ago I was going to accompany Sir Arthur to Coxey's camp, I would've been apprehensive. Now it sounds thrilling.” Walter smiled.
“Next!” yelled the attendant near the elevator. “Next elevator to the top.”
We scuttled into the building, joining the other thrill seekers, and took our places in the elevator. When everyone was inside, the elevator doors clanked closed. With a low grinding noise and a jerk, it started its slow ascent.
“This should prove to be thrilling too. I've wanted to do this since they finished it ten years ago,” I said. I sounded brave, but I was more than grateful that Walter and I stood arm in arm. My knees were a bit weak just thinking about being in an elevator for the ten-minute ascent. His closeness, like everything about Walter, made me feel safe while at the same time sending delicious chills through my body.
“And I've been wanting to do this since I saw you this morning.” Walter kissed me, right in front of everyone. “I can't wait until you're my wife, Hattie,” he whispered, his breath tickling my ear.
“Well, you'll have to, Dr. Grice. We don't even have Sir Arthur's blessing yet.” Walter groaned his disapproval as the guide pointed out, through the metal bars of the elevator, a memorial stone from the state of Iowa set into the wall of the monument.
“Over 175 stone tablets are set into the interior walls of the monument,” our guide said. “Most of the stones date from 1849 through 1855. Every state has its own stone, as do various cities and towns, foreign countries, fraternal and community organizations, and individual personages. The stones are made of marble, granite, limestone, sandstone, soapstone, and even jade. No two stones are alike. You will be able to see many of them before we reach the top.”
“When will we reach the top?” a woman standing across from me said in a squeaky voice as she wiped tiny beads of perspiration from her brow with her handkerchief.
“In a few more minutes, ma'am. Trust me, the view will be worth the wait.”
Walter glanced over at me, purposely allowing his eyes to roam across my body. I began to blush and then outright gasped in both shock and pleasure when he whispered, “The view will most definitely be worth the wait.”
* * *
And the view from the top, miles and miles of wondrously miniaturized landscapes, was indeed worth the ten-minute elevator ride. We lingered for some time, in part enjoying the thrill of being over 500 feet high in the air, seeing the view once only a bird could see and in part dreading the long elevator ride back down. But soon it was time to leave; Sir Arthur would be expecting me. After the long descent, it felt good to have my feet on the ground again. I glanced once more at the monument soaring above me before taking Walter's hand and heading down the hill. We strolled over to Fifteenth Street, purposely avoiding the carp ponds, and caught the trolley. As we rode toward Lafayette Park, my excitement began to build. I'd enjoyed the peaceful time with Walter, but with the outing to Brightwood Riding Park, the current camp of Coxey's Army, imminent, the thrill of meeting Marshal Browne made my heart flutter. We arrived at Senator Smith's home with minutes to spare as everyone was gathering to go.
“Hattie!” Sarah, Walter's sister, called when she and her husband arrived moments after we did. As Daniel Clayworth and Walter shook hands, Sarah rushed across the room. “Isn't this exciting?” She grabbed and squeezed my hand to accentuate her point.
“It certainly is,” I said, returning her enthusiasm.
“I can't believe we're going to meet Coxey and his men,” she said, releasing me to clap her hands. “I can't imagine walking all the way from Ohio. I heard Mrs. Browne and Mrs. Coxey and their little baby will be there too. Can you imagine bringing your baby on a march?”
As Sarah chatted on, I half listened, forcing myself to double-check for my notebook and pencil in my bag. I shared Sarah's enthusiasm and could easily allow it to distract me, but Sir Arthur expected me to be prepared.
“Are we all here?” Sir Arthur said, pulling out his pocket watch. “We ought to be going.”
“Chester!” Senator Smith yelled. “We're leaving without you!”
Spencer barked as Chester Smith came down the stairs.
“I can't believe you're bringing that dog to the camp,” Senator Smith complained to his wife. Mildred Smith ignored him. “This isn't a place for women, let alone a dog.”
“You need us there, dear,” Mrs. Smith said, smiling and patting her husband on the cheek. “Remember, the contrast between the civilized and the ruffians?”
“Yes, well . . .” Senator Smith grumbled.
“I'm so glad you could join us, Dr. Grice,” Mrs. Smith said, smiling. “Congressman Clayworth, Mrs. Clayworth, I'm always delighted to see you.”
“If you could sign this before you leave,” Claude Morris, the senator's aide, said, entering the hall from the study. He led the senator to the hall table where a pen and inkwell waited. He laid down the document he was carrying.
“Of course, of course, but make it quick,” Senator Smith said, retreating to the table.
“Aren't you joining us, Mr. Morris?” Sarah asked. The man seemed surprised by the question.
“No, why would I?” His expression was at odds with his words. I understood his conflict. The only reason I was being allowed to go was because Sir Arthur needed me there in a professional capacity. Like me, Mr. Morris desperately wanted to go but had to hide that desire behind a faÃ§ade of professional detachment. It is what we do.
“Because not every day do you get to visit the Commonweal of Christ,” Sarah said. “You should come with us.”
“I have work to do,” he said, regret in his voice. He quickly turned his back and retrieved the now signed document.
“You could come if you want,” Senator Smith said without conviction.
“Don't you need Mr. Morris to document the visit?” I said.
Sir Arthur was going simply out of curiosity and the desire to be able to say he'd been there. But it was obvious Senator Smith and Congressman Clayworth were attending for political reasons. The more I was around the senator, the more I learned he did nothing uncalculated, nothing but for its political significance. A trip to the camp of the Commonweal of Christ must have its benefits. So why not have it on record? Mr. Morris's eyes lit up with hope.
“That's an excellent idea,” the senator said, taking off his spectacles and wiping them with a handkerchief. “Sorry, Morris, your work here will have to wait. You're going with us.”
“What? Why don't we bring Cook and Pratt as well?” Chester sneered. His father scowled back.
“Very well, sir.” Claude Morris tipped his head in acquiescence to the senator, ignored Chester, but to me he gave an almost imperceptible smile.
“Your hired vehicle is here, Senator,” Pratt, the butler, announced.
We all spilled out onto the walk in front of the Smiths' house and headed to the hired excursion wagon. As we clambered aboard I counted our numberâMr. and Mrs. Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Clayworth, Chester Smith, Claude Morris, Sir Arthur, Walter, and me. Not counting Spencer snuggling in Mrs. Smith's arms, it made nine. It would be a tight fit for the hour's journey to Brightwood Riding Park. I couldn't help but remember the elevator ride with Walter to the top of the Washington Monument. I easily kept myself from blushing by focusing on the scowl on Chester Smith's face and the buttons on his vest. They were polished white horn buttons.
I hope this is worth the trip,
I thought, Walter's words echoing in my mind. But with my enthusiasm dulled by the complaints of father and son, this time I wasn't so certain.