Elia Peattie, an Uncommon Woman


Omaha World-Herald | Short Stories of the West | Ghost Stories | Short Novels | Children's Stories | Miscellaneous


Anna Gould has gone—and the gods be praised. She became a nuisance. It wasn't her fault, poor girl. It was the fault of those space writers in New York. One has nothing against the space writers. They must live—at least, they think they must. And New York is overrun with them as the cellar of a deserted house is with rats. It is more or less difficult to find something likely to be popular in its nature to write about every day. So these literary rats have fed and fattened on this Gould gossip. Now I am not myself, inclined to say off hand that Anna Gould sold herself for a title. For I know nothing about it. One should not scorn the nobly born. There is no reason why love should be crushed in a woman's heart merely because one's lover is a Frenchman and a count. Those are accidents over which the lover has no control, and ought not in fairness to militate against him. Let us be patient with the count. Perhaps after all he did not mean to be a count, and is sorry for it. Moreover, these two young people, even at the worst, have been no more reprehensible than people who are being married around us every day. The chief difference lies in the fact that the average marriage, while more or less a matter of convenience, is not sufficiently picturesque to attract our attention. These average marriages are, in fact, so uninteresting that we think they must be virtuous. Let us not, however, curse the Castellanes for being picturesque. They have been of signal service to the previously mentioned space writers, and such sources of diversion to our servant girls—of course it is only the servant girls who read such things—that we owe them a debt of gratitude. Perhaps, after all, we have been rather hard on them. And it would be distinctly amusing if we were one day to find out that these two are the most ardent of lovers and that while two continents were accusing them of being mercenary, they were really looking in each other's eyes and being marvelously happy over nothing at all, except that both of them were alike and had the right to love. If this should prove to be so, it would be a sort of international joke, in which we would not only be made to appear very foolish, but also rather coarse. It has on the whole, been rather mean of us to accuse these young people of venality, merely because they were rich and titled and thoroughly eligible. Why should we disapprove of anything so appropriate as the carrying off of beauty by the prince, when we all heartily gave our approval to some dull marriage of an ugly woman to a business man, and declare it is quite the most sensible thing in the world—whereas, as a matter of fact, it is probably the most nonsensical, and the two ennuied parties to it will yawn themselves into early graves. We have got in the habit of railing vehemently against these international marriages. But Cupid, it must be remembered, is no patriot. He is a cosmopolite. And while there may be some excuse for our indignation at the sale of American girls for European titles, it must be remembered that after all the thing is not one whit more base than the sale of American girls for American homes, or American money, or American positions. That we see every day, beginning with the Clevelands and ending—but no matter. It all goes to show how unthinking we are, that we do not more heartily condemn these petty matrimonial transactions of the barter and the sale sort here in our neighborhood. Our attention can only be arrested, it seems, by something spectacular.

One is really inclined to pity the Castellanes. A snail is more or less inconvenienced by the house on this back, which he must drag with him wherever he goes. But what shall be said of these other snails, so hampered with possessions that they must drag after them a weight of which a comet would tire? It took several days to haul the plunder of the invading Franks up to the Gould stronghold, where the little bride waited, already burdened almost to death with her own paraphernalia. A supply train will rumble after this bridal party wherever they go, and the rumble of it will drown their love whispers.

Material is bothersome thing! A hampering, degrading, care-creating thing! Life would be so simplified if it could only be dispensed with. We break our hearts over the acquirement of it, we betray our friends, forego our loves, lose our sleep and wreck our health to get it! And in the end it is hopelessly vulgar, very tiresome and bewilderingly evanescent. It never comforts in the hour of sorrow, or stays the approach of death. If it brightens daily living it is only as the accessory to other joys of a more substantial kind. It is all well enough for the savage. But it is a horrible nuisance to the civilized man.

What a rest it would be if we would all take the vow of poverty and simplify ourselves for a year. Our financial complications would disappear as the dew before the sun. No man would be hungry, no woman in rags, no child go uncared for. But we all so far as we can imitate this young count and his bride, and drag after us a quantity of stuff, in house, lots, furniture and clothes.

Vanity, vanity!

A hermit in a hut, with a carafe and a pallet seems, after all, the most enviable of creatures. But the worst of it is, that if we materialists were to try that sort of thing we would get a cut glass carafe of Bliss and the latest thing in pallets of Shiverick!

Probably we could not be put anywhere that we would not be foolish and selfish and ignorant.

"But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living. The depths saith, it is not in me; and the sea saith, it is not with me. It cannot be got for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof. It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire. The gold and crystal cannot equal it; and the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold. No mention shall be made of coral or pearls; for the price of wisdom is above rubies. The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold. Whence cometh this wisdom—and where is the place of understanding—seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air?"

There is the question. But the answer is not.

Omaha World-Herald, 7 March 1895, 8

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