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  • The Milpitas MaidenA Story of Some Women’s Rights and Others’ Sufferance
  • Miriam Michelson

It was at the big National Woman’s Suffrage Convention that she turned up, but not till the third day late in the morning. Enderby, of the Express, was trying to confide something important to me, when Frank McGowan spotted her.

“Get on to the lady journalist, Rhoda,” he whispered maliciously as she came up the aisle, self-conscious as only a newspaper woman can be on her first public appearance.

I turned to look at her, and, of course, Cohen and Enderby and the rest turned, too. She was tall and slim: one of those stunning brunettes with cheeks like deep velvet roses and bulging brown eyes, so big and shiny they might have been used for paper-weights.

“My name is Miss Florence Longley,” she said primly, after a moment’s hesitation, as she sat down in the vacant place beside me—Thompson’s place.

“How do you do?” I said, jumping in to do the honors. “I’m Rhoda Massey. This grinning little jackanapes is Frank McGowan of the Press. Mr. Cohen’s the Times-Record artist; Mr. Aiken’s of the News, my own paper, you know; Mr. Bliss of the Evening Mail, and Mr. Enderby—Mr. Enderby “I paused to attract old Enderby’s attention.

“Enderby’s of the Temperance Twaddler—it’s a blue-ribbon paper,” interjected McGowan saucily.

“Oh is he? Are you?” She turned to Enderby eagerly.

He looked across at her from out [of] misty eyes. When Enderby’s off he finds it hard to take in strange voices and new faces. Poor old Enderby! He never was a journalistic Beau Brummel, but he looked like an untidy little terrier that morning. I found myself wondering what he had done to his clothes. He was grimy with coal-dust.

“I am so glad,” Miss Longley went on, her cowlike big eyes resting interestedly upon him. “I didn’t know reporters cared for such serious things. In my town they say the reporters are awful wild. And have all the reporters on the Temperance Twaddler signed the pledge, Mr.—Mr.—”

“Enderby,” supplied McGowan gravely.

Cohen’s shoulders shook with laughter, and Aiken, who was caricaturing [End Page 339] stout, florid, untidy Bertha Mayberry Dean, chairman of the convention, stopped to stare at Miss Longley.

“Eh?” grunted Enderby aloud in his bewilderment.

“Sh—sh!” came a warning hiss from the platform where sat Dr. Hester Dalrymple, slim, self-possessed and executive. Her clear, ironical eyes turned reprovingly down upon us and then went quickly back to her rival, Mrs. Dean.

I hastened to take Miss Longley’s attention. “What is your paper?” I asked softly.

“The Milpitas Mercury,” she answered composedly.

“I beg your pardon?” put in McGowan with suspicious politeness.

“The Milpitas Mercury,” she repeated, looking curiously at him. I suppose she wondered whether all city reporters were deaf.

“The Mercury? Oh yes—the New York Mercury or the Chicago evening paper?” whispered Frankie enjoyingly.

“No, the Mil—” she began.

But I wouldn’t have it. I wouldn’t let that impudent little Frank McGowan make fun of her; not if the Milpitas Mercury were twice the farce it is, and Milpitas itself half as big a village as its nine hundred inhabitants make it.

“You’re late, Miss Longley,” I interrupted, giving Frank a look that ought to have squelched him. “It’s only the dreary minutes of the previous meeting they’re busy with up there now”—I nodded up at the crowded platform—“but there are some things I can give you. This morning there was a committee meeting from which reporters were excluded. That, of course, we’re all out on, unless we can find a leak somewhere. But the regular stuff in here I can give you, if—”

“Oh, no—no, thank you,” she said. “I’ve got it all. A reporter who happened to be standing beside me in the back of the hall told me what to take down. He wanted to arrange for me to go to the big reception to Bertha Mayberry Dean and Dr. Hester Dalrymple...


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pp. 339-352
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