A Very Short Courtship
Dr. Graham having passed a very creditable examination before the Army Medical Board, was commissioned an assistant surgeon in the United States army in 18__, and ordered to report for duty to the commanding officer at Fort M’Kavett, Texas.
There were no railroads In the western country at that time and the usual way of getting to Texas was by the Mississippi river to New Orleans, and then crossing the Gulf to stage It up through the State.
Dr. Graham was very desirous of examining the western country mineralogically, so applied and received permission from the War Department to go by way of Arkansas and the Indian Territory to his post.
On his arrival at St. Louis he shipped the greater part of his baggage by way of the river, and taking only what he could carry on horseback, started on his journey.
While in St. Louis, at the Planter’s Hotel, he formed the acquaintance of a gentleman, who, learning where he was going, gave him a letter of introduction to his brother, who was a farmer living on his route to Arkansas.
It is not necessary for us to follow him on his road, or tell what discoveries he made in the interest of science; sufficient it is that one day, toward dusk, he reached the house of the gentleman to whom he had the letter, and dismounted, knocked at the door and presented his letter to the judge (even in those days every one was a judge in Arkansas), who would not have needed it to have accorded him an open-handed welcome; for travelers were a God-send and news was as much sought after then as now.
After a short visit, he proposed to go on to the next town, about four miles off, where he intended to put up for the night. The judge would not listen to his leaving, and was so cordial in his desire for him to stay that he would have been rude not to have done so.
The judge, after directing one of the servants to attend to his horse, invited him into the dining room, where he was introduced to the wife and daughter of his host, and also to a substantial western supper, to which he did ample justice.
After supper they adjourned to the parlor, and he entertained his new-made friends with the latest news from the outside world. The judge brewed some stiff whisky punch, which Graham, socially inclined, imbibed quite freely. The old couple retired, and left their daughter to entertain him; and whether it was the punch, or what, at all events he made hot love to her, and finally asked her to be his wife and go to Texas with him, to which she consented. She being very unsophisticated and innocent, took everything he said in downright earnest, and with her it was a case of “love at first sight.”
But I am anticipating. During the night our friend, the doctor, woke up, and remembered what he had said, and it worried him; but he said to himself, after emptying his water pitcher:
“Never mind, I’ll make it all right in the morning. I must have made a fool of myself. She’s lovely, but what must she not think of me!” and rolled over and went to sleep again.
Morning came, and upon his going to the parlor, he found the young lady alone, for which he blessed his lucky stars, and was just about to make an apology, when she said:
“I told mamma, and she said it was all right,” at the same time giving him a kiss which nearly took his breath away. “Papa is going to town this morning, dear, and you ride in with him and talk it over; but he won’t object, I know.”
“But, my dear miss, I was very foolish, and—“
“No, indeed; you were all right.”
“Well, I will go to my post, and return for you, for I must go on at once.’
“No, I can go with you.”
“You won’t have the time.”
“Oh, yes, I will. Papa will fix that. It would be such an expense for you to come back all the way here.”
“But I have no way of taking you.”
“I have thought of that; that does not make any difference. Father will give us a team.”
With nearly tears in his eyes he went in to breakfast, to which at that moment both were summoned; but, alas! appetite he had none. It was not that she was not pretty and nice; but he thought what a confounded fool she must be not to see that he wanted to get out of it. But it was no use. When the judge started for town, Dr. Graham was sitting beside him. The judge saved him the trouble of broaching the subject by starting it himself:
“I always, young man, give Nell her own way; so it is all right; you need not say a word.”
“But I’ve got to go on to-day.”
The old judge turned his eyes toward him. He had an Arkansas bowie in each, and one of those double-barrel shot-gun looks as he said:
“You ain’t trying to get out of it, are you?”
The doctor, taking in the situation, said, promptly, all hope being gone:
“That’s right. I will fix everything for you; give you that black team of mine, and a light wagon to carry your wife’s things.” (here the doctor shuddered) “and a thousand as a starter. You can be married to-night, and leave early in the morning. That will suit, won’t it?”
“Yes, sir,” answered Graham, faintly. But on the judge turning toward him, he said, “yes, sir, certainly.”
“After you get fixed at your post I’ll come down and pay you a visit. I have been thinking about selling out and moving to Texas for some time; it’s getting crowded here, and things are a-moving as slow as ‘lasses in wintertime.”
Things were arranged as the old judge said. The marriage took place, and the army received an addition to its ladies in the person of the Arkansas judge’s daughter, and Dr. Graham has never regretted the obduracy of his father-in-law, or the amiable simplicity of his wife.
Marin [CA] Journal 27 March 1879: p. 1
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Perhaps Mrs Daffodil wrongs young Mrs Graham, but “unsophisticated” and “amiable simplicity” are not the adjectives she would have selected. A young lady whose Papa always gave her her own way was unlikely to have been satisfied with life on a molasses-slow Arkansas farm. She must have dreamed of the day that a dashing, sun-bronzed Army officer would come to call and partake of her father’s fatal punch. The notion of a carefully reared young lady being left to entertain a gentleman on her own also suggests a certain familial calculation. Mrs Daffodil, for one horrified moment, thought she was witnessing the opening lines of a risque “farmer’s daughter” anecdote…. But the “hot love” was, we are assured by the context and the fact that the Marin Journal was a family newspaper, probably no more than an innocent spot of waist-encircling or tiny-hand-pressing. It is rather a relief to learn that it all worked out so well. Young ladies who are used to their own way often do not take kindly to martial or marital discipline. But one suspects that Nell was far from being a “confounded fool.”
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.