Had he and I gone into the pine woods, as he proposed, upon marriage; had we been married under an equitable law or had he emigrated to Minnesota, as he proposed, before I thought of going, there would have been no separation; but after fifteen years in his mother’s house I must run away or die, and leave my child to a step-mother. So I ran away. He thought I would return; enlarged and improved the house, wrote and waited for us; could make no deed without my signature; I would sign none, and after three years he got a divorce for desertion. In ’70 he married again, and I having, voluntarily, assumed the legal guilt of breaking my marriage contract, do cheerfully accept the legal penalty—a life of celibacy—bringing no charge against him who was my husband, save that he was not much better than the average man. Knew his rights, and knowing sought to maintain them against me; while, in some respects, he was to me incalculably more than just. Years after I left him, he said to our neighbor, Miss Hawkins, when speaking of me:
“I believe she is the best woman God ever made, and we would have had no trouble but for her friends.”
My sister had removed with her husband to St. Cloud, Minnesota, and through him I had secured forty acres of land on the shore of one of a nest of lovely lakes, lying on the east side of the Mississippi, twelve miles from St. Cloud. On this little farm I would build a cabin of tamarac logs, with the bark on and the ends sticking out at the corners criss-cross. My cabin would have one room and a loft, each with a floor of broad rough boards well jointed, and a ladder to go from one to the other. It would have an open fire-place, a rough flag hearth, and a rustic porch, draped with hop vines and wild roses. I would have a boat, catch fish and raise poultry. No sound of strife should ever come into my cabin but those of waves, winds, birds and insects. Ah, what a paradise it would be!
I had not yet learned that every human soul is a Shunamite, “a company of two armies,” and wherever there is one, there is strife.
To live is to contend,
And life is finished when contentions end.
At St. Paul I took a stage, and night came on when we were still twenty miles from St. Cloud. The wolves stood and looked at the stage, and I knew they were between me and my hermitage; but they were only prairie wolves, and all day my cabin had been growing more and more beautiful. The lakes, the flowers, the level prairies and distant knolls, but most of all the oak openings were enchanting, and in one of these my cabin would stand.
The passengers talked politics and I talked too, and one man said to me:
“Did you say you were going to St. Cloud?
“Well, I tell you, madam, them sentiments of yours won’t go down there. Gen. Lowrie don’t allow no abolition in these parts and he lives in St. Cloud.”
I had had many surprises, but few to equal this; had heard of Gen. Lowrie as a man of immense wealth and influence, but no one had hinted at this view of his character. I had thought of him as the friend of my friends; but as the other passengers were confirming this account and I watching the wolves, there flashed across my mind the thought: “This is a broad country; but if this be true, there is not room in it for Gen. Lowrie and me.”