"AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN UNIMPORTANT PERSON"

BY MINNETTE SLAYBACK CARPER

 

Part V

 

DIARY: At home, at the gate, our young hopeful, Lonnie, poked his head

out of a window and yelled: "Ah! There, Jack!" That was a nice beginning for me

and I was dreadfully embarrassed. But when I reached upstairs Mama was stand-

over "the Kid" with a strap which had been called into active service.

Jack came at half past eight and stayed till half past eleven. I think he

didn't realize it. He is certainly very charming, and he looked better tonight than

I have ever seen him. He was really handsome. I hope it will not be his last call.

The next day was Sunday and I had told Jack I was going to see Georgie,

who was sick, after church. After the visit, as I came out of her door he came out

of his. He joined me and asked me to go with him to the post-office on Easton

Avenue, and then he brought me home.

Then he asked me to go to the theater and I went and enjoyed Minnie

Palmer. I continually ran across him where-ever I turned in the neighborhood.

The tableaux we had been rehearsing came off successfully. My song was en-

cored and I sang again.

I received two notes, one from Will Matthews saying he would come to

call Thursday; one from Jack saying he could not call Thursday, but could he

call Saturday? On Friday he met me and we took a long walk.

DIARY: Saturday, March 3'. This evening Jack was here. He is so agreeable,

and so intelligent that I love to be with him. One very seldom meets a sensible

or smart fellow, and when one does he is refreshing.

I got my school report for the five weeks. My lesson average was ninety

but I had two indecorums for talking!

DIARY: I am twenty tomorrow (March seventh 1888) Twenty! Why at

twenty girls should be women! I wonder if this time next year I shall look with

complacent approval on the days that shall pass by? I only know I have gained

much while I was nineteen. I must be dreadfully stupid to be graduating at

twenty. Heavens! Twenty!

On this birthday I received a fountain pen. My first fountain pen.

And now, here is an entry that amuses me very much, because my

charming little love-affair with Jack ended because of injudicious chattering,

and evidently he was as bad as I was.

DIARY: Kitzie (my nick-name for Katherine) told me today that Jack had

been talking of nothing but me to one girl, she told another girl and this girl

told Katie. So it goes. I should be flattered to death if I could believe this. If I

could only keep him interested in me - which I think he certainly is at present.

He's such a flirt, it would be a great joke if he were caught in his own kind of trap.

DIARY: During our Indian club exercise today I received a public compli-

ment on my progress in that line which covered me simultaneously with glory

and confusion. Then, again, in Miss Hagen's class she asked who was the best

reader. Dorothea Elliot suggested her friend Miss B., of whom we knew nothing.

Then I suggested Ada Elliot, then Letty Parker suggested me. We all read.

We went to a concert, Bessie Bond, Katie and I. Heard MME Torricelli,

violinist, Etelka Gerster, Campanini, Schalchi, Galassi. I was disappointed in

Scalchi. Her voice is huge and full, and perfectly flexible, but I had an idea that

a contralto voice would be tenderly sympathetic. But Schalchi's voice is, if

anything, harsh, and with no feeling or sympathy in it. I was pleased with

Gerster, however, and enjoyed her very much. Companini has an exquisite

tenor.

At the Unitarian Church we gave the St. Cecilia Mass. Jack had told some-

one he would be there, but he was laid up with a cold in his eyes.

Tuesday, March 13' 1888. Things have always happened tragically to me

on the thirteenth. I am almost sure that it was this especial thirteenth that put a

quietus on the devotion of my friend Jack. It did not matter to me how much

he chattered about me to people. In fact I think I was rather flattered that he

thought enough of me to talk of me at all. But of course I do not know what

Daisy said, whether she ridiculed the affair or not; because he was the sort of

person that ridicule would flatten right out. I never knew what it was, only

that she had repeated to him something I told her he had said to me. In other

words, I had betrayed his confidence in me. Maybe it was a good lesson to me.

I only know that enough of that sort of thing has happened to me to make me

exceedingly close-mouthed in my old age. If I have a secret, no one even knows

that I have a secret.

On the morning of the twelfth I had met her by accident on my way to

school in the morning. Coming home I met Daisy again. We sat on a coping

and talked for a long time. On the thirteenth, as I came home from school, there

was Daisy. I gave her my stories to read. She took a great interest in them and was

very complimentary indeed. She made me very happy, for I was crazy about Daisy.

Also arrived to call on me Georgie Towner and July Thompson. July was one of

the young girls who were devoted to me at school. In the short time Daisy was

with me I had told her everything Jack ever said to me, I guess.

I went home with Georgie, and on my way back there was Jack. He had

on huge black glasses, but they were not one bit unbecoming, and I told him so.

He said he did not go to college with his eyes in that condition, and he had

nothing to do. I suggested that he come over and go walking with me, sometime.

He said he would come over and have me read to him. Then very naively my

diary says: "Now I do not know whether I am well enough acquainted with him

to say such things or not, but Heavens! I think we are good friends, and I thought

he might like to take a walk with me rather than die of ennui at home. (Which

gives an idea of the narrow life we lived in the eighteen eighties.)

Now, Jack had a brother, and one afternoon I smiled and bowed to the

brother by mistake, and I suppose his brother teased him. At any rate next time

I saw him I told him I had spoken to his brother for him. He grumbled and pre-

tended to be very much offended that I did not know him well enough to avoid

speaking to other people for him. I think we rather quarreled. Maybe he was

only teasing me and I did not understand. At all events we were out of sympathy.

And about this time Daisy called on me again. She was not in the habit of

calling on me so frequently, and there must have been some purpose in this de-

votion. Then Jack called one evening. The diary says:

"He had the blues - another phase of him. He is the queerest mortal that

every breathed. I wonder if he was ever really interested in me? He is not now,

at all events. I wonder how I feel about it? I wonder - shall I will that he care.

People have done such things. But I had to exert myself this evening to raise his

spirits, and I cannot say I succeeded. For one thing he said every one must pose,

and at present he was posing as the indifferent. Then he asked me if I had ab-

sorbed that carefully. He looked very nice tonight, but he always does. He gave

me the first involuntary compliment. Said the dress I wore the last time he was

here was very becoming. That I should always wear tight fitting clothes I had

such a nice figure!

Mr. Kroeger asked the choir at the Church of the Messiah if we would

sing for a big wedding to be given at Christ Church Cathedral. He told us we

would each get five dollars. We laughed with glee at that, and we prepared

to take part in it. Except for four paid soloists the choir was a volunteer organiza-

tion. In our chorus there were some exceedingly clever and cultivated people who

sang for the pure joy of studying the fine, classical music that Ernest Kroeger knew

so well how to conduct. One man was a university professor, Professor Hosmer,

and Mrs. Hosmer. One was the secretary of Washington University Miss Bruere

who has since become an important figure in the Women's Banking Organiza-

tion, Theo Richards and Eben Richards, Mrs. Charles Allen, Hugh McKittrick. I

think there were sixteen in all.

Jack was really a swell and went with the nicest sort of people. He

seemed to know the characters of the little nuptial drama about to unfold for

us. The bride to be was Miss Martha Blow, a very handsome young lady in

St. Louis high society, and the groom was from Canada, whom I knew well by

sight only. Jack told me that at one time he had been engaged to four girls

simultaneously! And that he was simply rolling in money.

 

We had a rehearsal of the music once at the Unitarian Church, and

again a rehearsal of the wedding at the Cathedral. We stood up in the organ

loft where we looked directly down upon a set of ultra swell society folks, and

they, in turn, looked down upon the choir at the same time they raised their

eyes to see us. To them we were just hired hands, and they put on many

amusing, little airs. It interested me, for I was studying human beings, but it

had an opposite effect upon some of the little chorus ladies and quite put them

out of humor. The groom danced a can-can down the long aisle to amuse the

crowd, and Miss Mattie Blow persistently used her lorgnette, but perhaps she

was near-sighted.

Monday, April 2' 1888.

DIARY: "Today I stayed home from school to attend the Blow wedding.

Mama and I first went to Mr. Kunkle's office, where we were to have a rehearsal.

I had an animated talk with Hugh McKittrick. He then walked up to the church,

Hugh with me. The Cathedral was filled with "everybody," and I amused my-

self for a while picking out people. The wedding party was late but when it

came it redeemed itself. Six bridesmaids and six ushers, everything being

very English except the bride's dress. It was of white silk, with an overdress of

thin gauze, which she had drawn through her wedding-ring. This was draped

over the dress and train, and is to be burnt, they say, after she wears it. Upon

her pretty head was the most charming wreath of orange blossoms, and

leaves, and a border of the same garnished the bottom of the dress and train.

But, from being low-necked and without sleeves, the dress was not English.

She looked so happy! No wonder. He has so much money she can do as she

likes. But the groom also seemed delighted. As she came down the long

aisle she looked up at the organ loft, - right at me! I suppose she may have

seen the admiration I felt for her. At any rate, she smiled, and I, smiling as

much as my singing permitted, sang "Hail Wedded Love" to her. It was an

exquisite wedding, and though there seemed a little affectation about her,

I could endure it. Mrs. Wadsworth.

 

My girl-friend, Georgie, had been sick in various ways during that winter;

at one time threatened with typhoid fever, and now with an abscess in her ear.

It was for this reason that I went to see her so much. Georgie was always so

sweet to everyone herself that all who knew her loved her. She was the center

of a circle of young women who possessed her with their regard. But she and I

were close affinities because of our mutual interest in art and music and litera-

ture. We had a wild dream of someday having a studio together, where she

would have a grand piano and I would paint a picture on the inside of the lid.

We remained pals till marriage separated us.

In April I had my class pictures taken, wearing the same pink and green

dress I had worn at the spring dance.

I met Jack on my way home. We were still friends. But that evening Paul

Rossire, a friend of Talbot Simpson's came to call, with a letter of introduction.

He was a very handsome chap, - startlingly good-looking, with very black hair

and beard, and beautiful teeth that enhanced a humorous smile. Devoted to

singing, and playing the piano; brought me a box of candy - quite astonished

us by wanting us to go to the base-ball game. We did not know any women who

went to a base-ball park! We would have to ask Mama. The next day was

Saturday. We met him down town at Barr's by appointment, and we sauntered

about the shopping district, all my girl friends popping their eyes out at my

smart looking, handsome acquisition. We went into a confectioner's for an

ice-cream soda, and there was Daisy Brookmire.

Paul put me on the car at noon, and in the afternoon came out to attend

a tennis game at the Old Friends' Club. Harrison Steedman belonged to the club

and I had asked him about it. Harrison kindly came over and took us to the

court. After the game both men walked to my house, a short distance, and

Harrison departed. Soon after he left a box of Katherine Mermet roses came

to the door. They were the most beautiful roses I had ever seen. They were

from Paul. I was almost overcome. After some cunning little maneuvering he

obtained an invitation to come out in the evening, again, but after that bunch

of flowers it was not difficult. The next day he went to the Church of the

Messiah and sat in the congregation while I sat in the choir. He and Georgie

came to dinner, I went walking with him in the afternoon and then he said

goodbye. He said he had come Friday evening for Talbot's sake, but after that

for his own sake. Diary says:

"He was, withal, very complimentary."

That same day one of the newspapers printed a very fulsome

"puff." The same chestnut about talented daughter of my father, very versatile,

and so forth."

April 17' Diary.

Last night I was invited to Mrs. Douglas'. Mr. Douglas came for me.

The guests were Miss Alice Kroeger, Mr. Will Douglas, Mr. Kroeger and I. Mr.

Kroeger played and I sang. I sang some of his compositions. Then they presented

us each with a beautiful bunch of flowers, after which we had refreshments.

Coming home Mr. Kroeger informed me that he took an interest in me and had

watched me; that I would be different when I had to fight the world by myself,

but now Mama kept her eye on me and certain traits of my character had no

chance to develop.

(Page 109 is totally missing, much to the regret of all!)

 

cannot help being ambitious, and if I can only be refined, intelligent and

have good common sense, I shall be happy. Why can I not, - if I will?

Thursday, April 19' 1888.

Yesterday I went by Daisy Brookmire's after school. She was getting

ready to go to a tea and a wedding, - Hennie Johnson's, (to which I was going later.)

She dressed while I waited. I sewed the ribbon in her dress, - a perfect beauty,

cream-colored China silk with violets all over it, and combined with plain cream

and purple and exquisite Irish lace. Her hat was a great leghorn flat, with helio-

trope flowers and leaves over the top. She brought me home in her coupe. Then

I got dressed and Katie and I went to the wedding, a "lilac" wedding - Hennie

Johnson and Tom Neidringhaus, a lovely wedding. Went over to Georgie's and

stayed to supper.

Today went for a walk with Ella Wyman. She is such a lovely girl; I am

n love with her, and she is in love with Daisy. Always so.

Wednesday I received a letter from Mr. Love saying he had to leave town

tonight on business and could not take me to the University Hop. My heart is

"cleft in twain" with disappointment.

Saturday, April 21.

Took Mabel, Grace, Lon and Belle Wagner to see the horse-trainer, Gleason.

I enjoyed the exhibition very much.

Learned today from High McKittrick that my absence from the Hop Friday

was NOTICED.

Friday, April 27' .

This morning had the last rehearsal for tonight's concert. We soloists

were scared to death. Blanch Euston so much so that she couldn't reach a certain

high note. It almost unnerved her but I grasped her arm and held her in place and

Mrs. Brainard made her try again. I got through all safe and sound, and the girls

applauded terrifically for me.

Saturday, April 28'

10:40 A.M. Sang last night at the "Rehearsal" concert. Everything went

off beautifully. In the morning I was so frightened I could hardly stand. Last

night I was not one bit frightened. I got not a single flower but one rose that a

girl threw at me. Every one else got flowers. BUT I received a most decided encore

(Which I was forbidden to give,) and by large odds the most applause, so I didn't

mind the flowers. Everybody was there; conspicuous among them being Mr. Pope

and Mr. McKittrick. I took Georgie.

Thursday, May 3' 1888.

We girls at school signed a petition to have an informal dance tomorrow

night after the "Rehearsal." It was refused. Went to Sadie's then to Georgie's;

asked him how he liked the singing - he said he was "thrilled." He is so unkindly

frivolous.

Friday, May 4'

Was successful this morning in the second rehearsal. Got Georgie this

afternoon and when we reached home it was seven o'clock. I ate my dinner and

dressed in fifteen minutes. Reached the school in good season. Everything went

off beautifully. When I rose up to sing they clapped - beforehand! That was

delightful, but it was dreadfully like a public concert. I sang better than I ever did

before, and the applause was simply terrific. I got seven bouquets. One from

Sophie Daughaday, with "worlds of love." One from Georgie, after I had made

her promise she would not send any. I love her bouquet, - it was red carnations.

One of narcissi from my cousin Ernest Chapman! An exquisite basket of red and

pink roses from Mrs. Nathan Cole, and an immense bouquet from "Friends of the

Fourth Class." How perfectly lovely of them. Then one of Bon Silenes from

Lisle Colby and Belle Holmes! I was literally overpowered. After it was over I

was nearly smothered with kisses from all the girls. As I went down the stairs,

Jack Pope came forward and congratulated me. I got a basket which had no

name to it, - a flat, oval basket of roses, and I asked if he sent it. Alas! No!

I felt cheap, then. He put my cloak on for me, but he could not go home with

me as he had his sister with him. He had waited for me, though.

Louis Woods and Joe Taylor walked home with Georgie and me; Katie

and W. B. came after, and the crowd of us took Georgie home, and then returned

with us. Louis Woods is so nice. He tried to make me believe I was in love with

Jack Pope, but I refused to admit it and tried to convince him it was with Radford

Bascome. I wonder, does he believe me? Jim Lucas sent me a beautiful basket of

white roses. That made eight bouquets. How lovely to live! Oh! I have had

enough compliments this week to satiate anyone. Tonight was a triumph. My

voice was stronger than any of the others' and easily filled the hall. They did not

stop clapping, and orders were misunderstood so that I had to rise and make the

others rise, too, for the next song. What larks I had! And it is all over, - for good, - for

me.

April 9'

Met Jack Pope this evening on my way home, and he asked if he might

walk home with me. Of course I was willing and he did. I shall not put down what

was said, but I know that we quarreled all the way. I am very much disappointed

in him.

April 13' 1888.

Friday was Field Day and a lot of us went out together. Mr. Bascome is

lovely. Daisy Brookmire brought Jack Pope over to talk to Georgette, who sat

near us, and as luck would have it he sat by me, and acted like a perfect ninny;

fussed and fumed. Idiot! I wonder if he thinks such conduct had any effect

on me.

Today went over to Geord's. Missed Bertie and Selby at home. But as

Selby was going to Geord's anyway. I met him, and Bertie came over there to

see me. Selby leaves tonight.

May 29'

Went to Barnum's curcus, with Ernest, Aunt Laura and Col. Lane. The

best circus I ever attended.....Everything about it was bright and clean, too.

May 30' 1888.

Just at present life seems very blue indeed. The essays were decided upon

at school and announced today, and to my everlasting sorrow mine was not

chosen. They chose those of Ada Elliot, Lettie Parker, Lisle Colby, Juliet Hammond,

Eliza Wherry, Laura Malburn and Belle Holmes. Carrie Williams got the toast,

Ella Wyman the music of the hymn and Kate Pope the words of the class hymn. I

did not shed a tear although I was dreadfully "cut up." Some of them cried a few

quiet tears, but for the most part the class conducted itself admirably.

(Getting away from the exact quotations of the diary, I must say that I

suppose people never did get over wondering why I did not have an essay at the

graduation. I can only think that I was not in a position to think and study enough.

I have always tried to accomplish too much at once. I was doing too many things,

and, if the truth must come out, having too much company and going out too

much. I did not have a real inspiration from the titles they gave us to choose from,

and when I finally picked one out for myself, I tried to be facetious and I suppose

the college fathers could not see that I was being humorous. I put it off till the

last minute and then dashed off something that was not worthy of me.)

The next three days of my diary were very interesting. Talbot Simpson

and Seth Serat were two young men whom I saw a great deal of in the summer

when I visited Lexington. And now within the space of two days I saw both of

them. One lived in New York and one was in business in Lexington. Talbot was

on his way from New York to Lexington, and stopped off to pay me a call of an

hour. I described him as "a good solid fellow, I should judge." Well, the next

day, the 12' of June, Mr. Serat passed through the city on his way from New York

to Lexington, and he also came to call on me. Talbot, finding out that it was my

graduating time gave Mama a ten dollar bill and asked her to buy me a gift for

him. She bought me a pair of tortoise-shell lorgnettes, which were the fashion, -

and how silly they were! My eyes were perfect. I did not begin to wear spectacles

till I was forty-four. But Talbot had told her to buy them and so she did.

(The Diary.)

Georgie gave ma a beautiful little vinaigrette of Royal Worcester ware.

Katherine gave me a tennis racquet. Rita Maxon gave me a lace pin of tiny

enameled flowers. Laura Harrison asked if she might give me my bouquet. Are

they not lovely people?

June 13' 1888.

Today I graduated from the Mary Institute. I am perfectly happy, although

I did not get an essay or an honor. Still, I led the singing and sang a solo obligato

to myself, and received praise for that. My dress was the prettiest on the platform,

Mama said, - the draping was so beautiful. It does not signify, therefore, that only

a fine dressmaker can make a pretty dress, for I draped every bit of my silk myself.

I had twenty-five yards of fine white china silk with an eccentric figure over it.

Mrs. Towner requested to fit the waist, which I allowed her to do, of course.

Mama made the sleeves, Minnie, the seamstress made the skirt, and I made the

drapery, and sat up till twelve o'clock to do it. As soon as I came home today, I

ripped it off. and folded the goods up because it wrinkles dreadfully and I am

not to wear it till next year. I wore long, gray gloves of undressed kid. Laura

Harrison gave me my bouquet of Katherine Mermet roses, and Mrs. T.H. Morgan

gave me my fan, gray gauze painted in pink flowers. Just before I started

Grandma Slayback gave me a lovely lace handkerchief. Sophie Daughaday

gave me a beautiful silver________________________ the Alumni

dinner; ar_______________________________________tle operetta in

the primary rooms, and __________________________received flowers from

Cousins and from friends old and young.

My charcoal drawing of the Venus De Milo was in the most conspicuous

place in the drawing rooms and a great many people said it was the best work

there. I had lots of compliments and fun. Mr. Bascome sought me out and he

and I talked nonsense for quite a while. Belle Holmes brought me home in her

carriage. After I reached home I got out of my clothes in a hurry. We had been

walking curiosities.

That volume of my diary ends with my school career.

 

Minnette's Journal

Scott's Time Portal to Old St. Louis

Copyright 2001, Carol Jane Belding, All right reserved.  HTML and graphics edited by Scott Williams. Transcription by Deanna Adams Holm