The Gilded Hour Page 109


He said, “Sophie, Sam Reason and his grandmother are waiting in a room just down the hall to talk to you.”

Sophie stiffened. “He was arrested?”

Jack nodded. “But he won’t be charged. He’s free to go home.”

“What? How?”

“Comstock overplayed his hand. And he’s not the only one who knows people in the district attorney’s office. Sophie, be warned, Reason is—”

“Rude. I know,” she said. “But he has cause.”

•   •   •

DELILAH REASON WAS thinner than she had been, her cheekbones more prominent and the shoulders of her shirtwaist not quite so well filled out. But her smile was genuine, and Sophie was so glad to see that small sign of sincere welcome that her hands began to tremble.

“I’m so glad to see you,” Sophie said. “Though I wish the circumstances weren’t quite so grim.”

“You look like you haven’t got much sleep,” Mrs. Reason said. “Are you taking care of yourself?”

“Dr. Verhoeven has staff to take care of her,” Sam Reason said. He was standing near the door, very straight and tall and so tense he seemed to vibrate.

“Sam,” said Mrs. Reason. “I did not raise you to be impolite. Dr. Savard—”

“Sophie. Please, call me Sophie. Sam has good cause to be angry with me.”

They both looked at her as if she had suddenly started speaking Greek.

Sophie said, “I assumed that Comstock raided your offices because of our pamphlets, that he traced them somehow. That’s not what happened?”

“The other way around,” said Sam Reason. “He—or better said, one of his men—brought one of your pamphlets in to me and asked what it would cost to reprint it.”

“But why were you arrested?” Sophie asked him directly.

“I was caught off guard and I did the first thing that came to mind. I handed him our price sheet. The one I use to calculate estimates, page count and paper stock, and so on. That’s all it took. Next thing Comstock came in himself and arrested me.”

“Because he didn’t reject the job straight out,” Mrs. Reason supplied.

“But it was one of the pamphlets I showed you?”

Sam nodded. “No doubt in my mind, it was my grandfather’s work.”

“It’s none of your doing,” said his grandmother to Sophie.

“I fear it is. I embarrassed Comstock in court yesterday,” Sophie told them. “I can’t help feeling there’s a connection.”

“Maybe so.” Sam Reason turned his hat around and around in his hands. “But it’s over and done now. Maybe you can thank the detective sergeant for speaking up for me. I’d be spending another night in a cell if he hadn’t.”

“I have already asked him to keep an eye out for Comstock on your behalf. You must be very careful from now on. He doesn’t like being bested.”

For the first time she saw a flicker of a smile on Sam Reason’s face. “Nobody does.”

Mrs. Reason picked up her reticule, and, taking a moment to gather her thoughts, she launched into what Sophie thought must have been a rehearsed speech.

“I saw in the newspaper that you married just a few days ago,” she said. “And I’d like to wish you and Mr. Verhoeven every happiness.”

“Thank you.” Sophie resisted the urge to turn away. “I should explain—”

“You don’t owe anybody an explanation,” Sam said. “It’s nobody’s business but your own who you marry.”

Sophie nodded. “Still, I wanted to say that I had hoped to come and visit again, but there have been so many complications. We leave tomorrow for Europe. Cap—my husband—Cap is going into treatment at a sanatorium, for tuberculosis. I don’t know when I’ll be back.”

“Whenever that is, you are both very welcome at my home. Any time at all. I hope Mr. Verhoeven’s health is restored to him quickly.”

“That’s very unlikely,” Sophie said, and at the look on Mrs. Reason’s face, she realized how heartless she must have sounded.

“He is very ill,” she started again. “It is a matter of months, at the most.”

Sam moved suddenly. “I’ll wait outside.” And just that quickly he was gone.

“Talk of illness makes him uneasy. He has a deep fear of it.”

“Most people do,” Sophie pointed out.

“Sam more than most. He lost his wife to cancer, you see. When you visited us that Sunday, he was gone to Savannah to tell her family in person. He’s been very shut off since her death, but I expect you’re familiar with that kind of thing, as a doctor.”

“I thought he disapproved of my marriage.”

Mrs. Reason lifted a shoulder, as if to shrug off the possibility. “But I do not, and you are welcome in Brooklyn when you come back. You will come back?”

“Oh, yes,” Sophie said. “Of course I will. This is my home.”

•   •   •


Wednesday, May 30, 1883




The jury impaneled to investigate the death of Mrs. Janine Campbell of 19 Charles Street on Thursday, May 24, met this evening at 5 o’clock pursuant to adjournment, in Judge Benedict’s courtroom at the Tombs.

Coroner Hawthorn informed the jurors that Archer Campbell, husband of the deceased, was the final witness to be called. He instructed the jury to give the matter careful consideration and to render a verdict regardless of consequences or public opinion. The jury retired and two hours later rendered the following


We, the jury, duly sworn and charged to inquire on behalf of the State and City of New York how and in what manner Janine Campbell came to her death, do upon their oaths and affirmations, say that the said Janine Campbell came to her death by septic peritonitis and blood loss due to an illegal and incompetent abortion performed late on Tuesday, May 22nd or early Wednesday, May 23rd. On the basis of the available evidence and sworn testimonies we are unable to reach a conclusion on the deceased’s state of mind or sanity at the time of the operation.

Further, we entirely exculpate Dr. Sophie Savard Verhoeven and Dr. Anna Savard, who attended her, from all blame and responsibility.

After close scrutiny of the evidence, we find that the abortion that led to Mrs. Campbell’s death may have been performed by the deceased herself, and otherwise was the work of person or persons unknown. We refer this matter to the police department for further investigation.

Dr. Morgan Hancock, Women’s Hospital
Dr. Manuel Thalberg, German Dispensary
Dr. Nicholas Lambert, Bellevue
Dr. Abraham Jacobi, Children’s Hospital
Dr. Josiah Stanton, Women’s Hospital
Dr. Benjamin Quinn, Bellevue and the Woman’s Medical School
Mr. Anthony Comstock, New York Society for the Suppression of Vice

•   •   •


Thursday, May 31, 1883


Sirs: Yesterday the inquest into the matter of the death of Mrs. Janine Campbell came to a close, but not before observers and reporters were treated to the questioning and testimony of the deceased’s husband, Archer Campbell, in the most disturbing and unnecessarily crass manner.

Mr. Campbell, having lost his wife to an illegal operation, has also lost his four young sons to an uncertain fate. Rather than plead prostration he has been searching for them day and night and only paused in his efforts in order to appear yesterday before the coroner’s jury to give testimony. For almost two hours Mr. Campbell suffered bullying and browbeating, and to what end? He was never a suspect. It was not he who performed the operation that ended his wife’s life; nor did he take his boys away from home and leave them somewhere without parental care and protection.

He gave honest answers to often impertinent questions posed, it seemed, for the titillation of the jury and gallery both. Mr. Archer is a man of upright character and Christian morals, a man who took his responsibilities to his wife and children with all seriousness and provided an excellent home for them. A loving father, if a strict one, and yet Coroner Hawthorn and the jurors seemed determined to paint him a cruel and uncaring husband, a man of narrow sensibilities, as if that were enough to excuse the terrible crimes visited upon himself and his sons, by a wife who was not worthy of his trust, a wife who deceived him and must, as he put so honestly, suffer the fires of hell for her sins.

We may never know the details of the operation that led to Mrs. Campbell’s death, but it is certain that she sought out and submitted to a vile procedure that violates the laws of God and man. She alone was culpable, and she has paid the price and will continue to pay it through all eternity. Mr. Campbell is free of blame; indeed, Coroner Hawthorn and the jurors are more worthy of disdain and correction than this good man who has suffered so much.

Dr. James McGrath Cameron

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