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The Honor of a LadyFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

I smile at Truxtun and say, “You’re fortunate to be the son of so distinguished a soldier, businessman, and diplomat as Edward Beale.”

“I wonder if you’d consider yourself lucky to be exiled thirteen years at Tejon Ranch.”

“He trusted you to manage the largest ranch in the California,” I say.

“He expected me to turn the place into Eden and complained I merely produced profit. I dreaded his annual visits, which lasted months.”

“You could’ve left.”

“I’d have forfeited everything. Eventually, I started asking and even badgering my father to speak to President Benjamin Harrison in my behalf. I’m grateful the president appointed me minister to Persia.”

“I wish I’d been with you.”

“I didn’t feel free until Father died and I inherited Tejon Ranch.”

The following year I, Harriet Blaine, marry Truxtun Beale. He’s fifteen years my senior but warns, “I can’t be confined. I must see the world.”

“Let’s move to Paris or London.”

“I’ve already seen most of Europe. I shall travel to Siberia and Central Asia.”

“I can’t go places like that.”

“I’ll visit when I can.”

He isn’t often at home, his mother’s elegant Decatur House, across from the White House, but in two years we manage to have a son, Walker.

“I don’t want to live with your mother or on Tejon Ranch anymore,” I say.

“I’ve business there but agree we can more often stay in my house in San Francisco.”

Wherever we live Truxtun uses most of his time to travel, write about his travels, and relax with friends. I content myself with the honor of being Mrs. Truxtun Beale and the mother of a wonderful son, and am proud my husband donates ten thousand dollars to Bakersfield, a hot and rough place not far from Tejon Ranch, for the construction of Beale Library. Upon the death of his mother, Mary, Truxtun inherits her Decatur House and celebrates the windfall by donating funds for a clock tower to be placed near the library in downtown Bakersfield. In the local newspaper he thanks citizens for their “good opinion and good will” in naming a street Truxtun and notes his “strong attachment to this city,” which he can say he “almost inherited.”

“Truxtun, I do wish you’d spend a bit more time with Walker and me.”

“You both have everything,” he says.

“We don’t have you.”

“I’ve business in Marin County.”

“What sort of business?”

“The kind that enables you to live in luxury.”

I do have assets that include many friends in San Francisco and Marin County. I ask some questions.

“You won’t like the answers,” says a San Rafael matron.

“Nevertheless, I must have them.”

“Do you know Marie Oge?”

“I know of her. She’s rather a showoff, I’ve heard.”

“She is, indeed,” says my friend. “She’s also perhaps the most beautiful woman I’ve seen. And still in her twenties.”

“A shallow sort, I expect.”

“She’s actually quite well-read and witty, easily the most popular woman in the county.”

“What has this to do with Truxtun?”

“He calls on her when he’s in town.”

“They visit a bit in her parents’ parlor?”

“For a decent interval,” she says. “Then Truxtun takes her riding in a carriage.”

“Where do they go?”

“I’d prefer not say.”

“Please, tell me.”

“They go to the lovely home of a Mr. so and so and stay a long time.”

I bite my lower lip.

“Sometimes, Marie Oge takes the ferry to San Francisco where Truxtun lifts her onto the dock and escorts her to the finest hotels.”

My friend strokes my hair as I cry.

“I want to see her,” I say.

“I doubt Marie would receive us.”

“From a distance, then.”

In my friend’s carriage, guided by her coachman, we pull under trees about fifty yards from the Oge mansion. We talk and wait until my friend says, “We really ought to go.”

“Just a bit longer.”

Eventually, the front door opens and a woman I know is Marie Oge emerges in long dress and descends stairs from her porch. She has almond eyes and luminous hair thick and light brown. I step from the carriage and run right at her, shouting, “You’re a trollop.”

“Who are you, my deranged madam?”

“Who do you think?”

My friend hurries to embrace me and says, “Harriet, please, let’s go.”

“Take heed or I’ll call the police,” says Marie Oge.

I wish I had a gun. I wouldn’t fire but I’d certainly brandish it.

In a couple of weeks Truxtun returns from Tejon Ranch.

“I met Marie Oge,” I tell him.

“Who?”

“Your lovely Miss Oge.”

“How did you meet?”

I tell him.

“How dare you disgrace me like that,” he says.

“I’m the one who’s been wronged, Truxtun, but I’ll forgive you one time.”

“I ask not for forgiveness, Harriet. I demand a divorce.”

I delay. I try to look as pretty as Marie Oge. That doesn’t work. Truxtun rarely enters my bedroom and then only to sternly announce another imminent absence for business.

“I’ll hire a private detective,” I say. “We’ll destroy you.”

“A man of my wealth can’t be harmed. You should lose some weight and find another husband. Take care of Walker, whom I shall visit whenever I please.”

He moves out of our home. I contact newspaperman Frederick Marriott and tell him everything. Marriott prints a lot less but much as he can.

Truxtun calls friend Thomas Williams, owner of a jockey club, and they have drinks in a bar as my husband rails. He then telephones Frederick Marriott and announces he’s coming to visit. The newspaperman receives his guests in gentlemanly fashion, takes their hats and coats, and steps into a nearby closet. Upon returning he sees two pistols pointed at him and lumbers up the stairs, past his wife, who screams as three of several bullets fired rip into his legs. The criminals leave the premises and Mrs. Marriott calls the police who interview the victims and collect evidence.

Two months later Marriott limps into superior court on crutches. Truxtun Beale and Thomas Williams are arraigned for assault with intent to kill. Frederick Marriott testifies what happened, so does Mrs. Marriott, and the judge notes his bloody garments and a hat bearing initials T.W. The judge decrees both suspects be held unless they pay bonds of ten thousand dollars. They walk out of court and, after weeks of legal chicanery, the charges disappear.

I get my child and quite a lot of money. Truxtun Beale gets his divorce and the hand of Marie Oge and, as his mother soon dies, they move to Decatur House and become famous, among Washington bluenoses, for their sumptuous parties. I only communicate with my former husband once, when our son, Walker, is killed in action during World War I.

“Tales of Romance” by George Thomas Clark

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This entry was posted in Bakersfield, Divorce, Edward Beale, Gold, Infidelity, Marriage, Mexican-American War, Mexico, Sex, Truxtun Beale, Ulysses S. Grant.