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The Honor of a LadyFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

Soon after his wealthy father died, I married Truxtun Beale and we moved to Washington, D.C. where I spent much time alone in his mother’s elegant Decatur House, across from the White House, while he traveled to Central Europe and Siberia and other rough places he couldn’t take me. In two years we nevertheless managed to have a son, Walker.

“I don’t want to live with your mother anymore,” I said.

“Neither do I. We’re heading West.”

Truxtun purchased a house in San Francisco and was usually either absent or inattentive.

“I do wish you’d pay a bit more attention to Walker and me,” I said.

“You both have everything.”

“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 did have assets that included many friends in San Francisco and Marin County. I asked some questions.

“You won’t like the answers, Harriet,” said 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,” said 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 said. “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 bit 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 stroked my hair as I cried.

“I want to see her,” I said.

“I doubt Marie would receive us.”

“From a distance, then.”

In my friend’s carriage, guided by her coachman, we pulled under trees about fifty yards from the Oge mansion. We talked and waited until my friend said, “We really ought to go.”

“Just a bit longer.”

Eventually, the front door opened and a woman I knew was Marie Oge emerged in long dress and descended stairs from her porch. She had almond eyes and luminous hair thick and light brown. I stepped from the carriage and ran right at her, shouting, “You’re a trollop.”

“Who are you, my deranged madam?”

“Who do you think?”

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

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

I wished I had a gun even though I wouldn’t have used it.

That night I told Truxtun, “I met Marie Oge.”

“Who?”

“Your lovely whore.”

“How did you meet?”

I explained.

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

“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 delayed. I tried to look as pretty as Marie Oge. That didn’t work. Truxtun rarely entered my bedroom and then only to sternly announce another imminent absence for business.

“I’ll hire a private detective,” I said. “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 moved out of our home. I contacted newspaperman Frederick Marriott and told him everything. Marriott printed a lot less but much as he could.

Truxtun called friend Thomas Williams, owner of a jockey club, and they had drinks in a bar as my husband railed. He then telephoned Frederick Marriott and announced he was coming to visit. The newspaperman received his guests in gentlemanly fashion, took their hats and coats, and stepped into a nearby closet. Upon returning he saw two pistols pointed at him and lumbered up the stairs, past his wife, who screamed as three of several bullets fired ripped into his legs. The criminals left the premises and Mrs. Marriott called the police who interviewed the victims and collected evidence.

Two months later Frederick Marriott limped into superior court on crutches. Truxtun Beale and Thomas Williams were arraigned for assault with intent to kill. Marriott testified what happened, so did Mrs. Marriott, and the judge noted Marriot’s bloody garments and a hat bearing initials T.W. The judge decreed both suspects be held unless they paid bonds of ten thousand dollars. They walked out of court and, after weeks of legal chicanery, the charges disappeared.

I got my child and quite a lot of money. Truxtun Beale got his divorce and the hand of Marie Oge and, as his mother soon died, they moved to Decatur House and became famous, among Washington bluenoses, for their sumptuous parties. I only communicated with my former husband once, when our son, Walker, was 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.