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9 A Judicial Wedding On reaching my Elm Street home the next day, I was surprised and deeply gratified to find on my desk a letter from William Dean Howells, in which he said:“I am at the Palmer House. I hope you will come to see me soon,for I start for Kansas on a lecture trip in a few days.” Although I had long been urging that he should come to Chicago, he had steadfastly declined to accept a lecture engagement west of Ohio,and I could not quite understand what had led him so far afield as Kansas.I hastened to call upon him,and,at the first appropriate pause in the conversation, I spoke to him of my engagement.“Miss Taft loves your books and would keenly appreciate the honor of meeting you.” With instant perception of my wish to have him know my future wife, he replied,“My dear fellow, I am eager to meet her. Perhaps my gray hairs will excuse your bringing her to call upon me.” “At your convenience,” I replied eagerly.“I want you to know her. She is very much worth while.” “I am sure of that,” he smilingly retorted. He was billed to speak that night, and as he was leaving for Rock Island the following day he arranged that I should bring Zulime to the hotel just before he started for his lecture. After telling her of his wish to see her, I explained the significance of it.“You must understand that Mr.Howells is a kind of literary father confessor to me.He is a man of most delicate courtesy. Once you have seen him, once you have looked into his face,you will love him.” She was as ready as I was to take her, and promptly on the minute we sent up our names and took seats in the Ladies’ Parlor. It had been years since I had entered the Palmer House,and as we waited we compared memories of its old-time splendor.“My father still regards it as the grandest hotel in theWest,and it is prob103 Garland_Daughter_to press 10/20/06 3:43 PM Page 103 able that Mr. Howells knew of no other. So far as I know he has never been in Chicago before, unless possibly for a few days during the World’s Fair.” Zulime was much excited at the thought of meeting the great novelist, but when he came,she took his hand with graceful composure ,expressing just the right mingling of reserve and pleasure. I was proud of her,and the fact that Howells instantly and plainly approved of her, added to my satisfaction. “I congratulate you both,” he said as we were leaving. “You see,” he added,addressing himself to Zulime,“your husband-elect is one of my boys. I am particularly concerned with his good fortune .I like his bringing you to see me,and I hope we shall see you both in NewYork.” In a literary sense this was my paternal blessing, for“Mr. Howells ” had been a kind of spiritual progenitor and guide ever since my first meeting with him in ’87.His wisdom,his humor,his exquisite art,had been of incalculable assistance to me,as they had been to Clemens, Burroughs, and many others of my fellow-craftsmen, and his commendation of me to my intended wife almost convinced me, for the moment, of my worthiness. How delightful he was! How delicate—how understanding! We both went away,rich in the honor of his approval of our prospective union. Rich in his friendship, I was but poorly furnished in other respects . I recall with shame the shopping tour which I made along State Street, searching for an engagement ring, a gauge which Zulime, knowing my poverty, stoutly insisted that she did not need—a statement which I was simple enough to believe until her sister enlightened me.“That’s only Zuhl’s way.Of course she wants a ring—every girl does.Don’t fail to get her one—a nice one!” I found one at last that Zulime thought I could afford. It was a small gold band with five opals, surrounded by several very minute diamonds,all of which could be had for the sum of thirtyeight dollars. As I bought this ring Zulime’s girlish delight in it touched as well as instructed me.Each time she held her finger up for me to see (she had a...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780873516662
Related ISBN
9780873515665
MARC Record
OCLC
835517518
Pages
352
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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