My husband’s trip down the river was a failure, and he went back home. Remembering he had heard me say I could do so much better at corset-making if I could buy goods at wholesale, he sold his Wilkinsburg property and turned the proceeds into dry goods. To me this seemed very unwise, but I tried to make the best of it, and we took a business house on Fourth street. I cut and fitted dresses, and with a tape-line could take a measure from which I could make a perfect fit without trying on. I soon had more work than I could do, and took two new girls, but the goods were dead stock. My Husband was out of employment, and tried to assist in my business. He was out most of the day, and in the evening wanted to retire early. I was busy all day, and could not go out alone after dark, so came to be a prisoner.
One warm evening I was walking back and forth in front of our house, though I knew it a great risk, when a man overtook me, cleared his throat as if to speak, and passed on to the lamp-post, which had made one limit of my walk. I did not shorten my path, and when I came up to the post he again cleared his throat as if to speak, and next time stepped out, lifted his hat, and remarked:
“A very pleasant evening, Miss.”
I stopped, looked at him, and said:
“It is a very pleasant evening; had you not better walk on and enjoy it?”
He bowed low, and answered:
“I beg your pardon, madam. I was mistaken.”
“Pardon for what, sir? It is a very pleasant evening; please to pass on.”
He did, and I walked till I was tired, thinking of all the sacrifices I had made to be my husband’s housekeeper and keep myself in woman’s sphere, and here was the outcome! I was degrading him from his position of bread-winner. If it was my duty to keep his house, it must be his to find me a house to keep, and this life must end. I would go with him to the poorest cabin, but he must be the head of the matrimonial firm. He should not be my business assistant. I would not be captain with him for lieutenant. How to extricate myself I did not see, but extricated I would be.
We needed a servant. A Kentucky “gentleman,” full six feet three, with broad shoulders and heavy black whiskers, came to say: “I have a woman I can let you have! A good cook, good washah and ionah, fust rate housekeepah! I’ll let you have ah for two hundred dollahs a yeah; but I’ll tell you honest, you’ll have to hosswhipah youahself about twice a week, for that wife of youahs could nevah do anything with ah.”
While he talked I looked. His suit was of the finest black broadcloth, satin vest, a pompous display of chain, seals, studs and rings, his beaver on the back of his head, his thumbs in the arms of his vest, and feet spread like the Collossus of Rhodes.
This new use for Pennsylvania muscle seemed to strike my husband as infinitely amusing, for he burst out laughing, and informed the “gentleman” that he did not follow the profession of whipping women, and must decline his offer. But I wanted to be back on free soil, out of an atmosphere which killed all manhood, and furnished women-whippers as a substitute for men.