The Gilded Hour Page 67

Assuming for a moment that the ring does please you and that you want it and me: I am happy to know that Sophie and your aunt approve of it. And of the man, as an aside.

We are scheduled to testify on the morning of the 17th in Superior Court, and by noon Oscar and I will be on the way home. If I have to push the train myself I will arrive at Grand Central on Saturday the 19th late in the day. I will come to you as soon as we are free of our prisoners.

Now about my sisters. You are right, I didn’t think to describe Sophie to them, though in retrospect it is clear that I should have. I am very sorry that Bambina handled herself so badly. I can apologize for my sisters, but the only promise I can make is that they will never again treat Sophie or Mr. and Mrs. Lee or anyone else with anything less than the respect they deserve. There is no excuse for Bambina’s behavior and I would not try to manufacture one, even to quiet your fears. But I do have thoughts about where these opinions originate.

Bambina considers herself ugly and undesirable, a belief that goes so deep that I doubt even a sincere marriage proposal from someone she liked would make a difference. And Sophie is beautiful, and accomplished, and wears a ring which, to Bambina at least, is anything but ugly. I would guess that she sees the color of Sophie’s skin as insult added to injury. I hope and trust she is clearheaded enough to admit fault and change her ways, though it may not happen as quickly as it should.

Now I’ll surprise you: I do think you should pay Bambina a visit. At some point when it feels right, ask her why we left Italy. This is a subject I have been meaning to raise with you, but it may be a way to start a conversation with Bambina.

As to the rest of the family, I wrote to my parents about you and mailed the letter on my way to Grand Central on Monday morning. It will give my mother time to think, so that when she meets you she will be ready to love you.

When I come I expect to find you with a ring on your finger. I imagine you wearing nothing else, but that falls soundly into the realm of wishful thinking.

you and no other

PS: I was promised time off in compensation for what was to be a short trip, remember. Now I have grounds to request a couple additional days, and I will see to it that I am available to be inspected by your extended family on the 24th and 25th, on board a ferry, at a wedding breakfast, or anywhere else as long as you are there. I am yours to command.

•   •   •

11th May, 1883

Dear Dr. Anna,

I write to say that I have inquired with my friends who live in a district you will not know, the one the coppers call the Tenderloin, asking about the two boys you are looking for. Nobody knows anything about a Dago kid with blue eyes. Now it could be that somebody does know something but is waiting for more encouragement to speak up. This is something I should have talked to you about the day we signed our Contract, that information usually comes at a price. If you are willing to put up some kind of reward please let me know. It might make a difference.

Also on another matter there is a rumor going around that you are going to marry D.S. Mezzanotte. I have declared this to be a falsehood. Why would someone like Dr. Anna who has money and position and everything she needs want a copper for a husband? So now, if this rumor is true, then of course I must offer you my best wishes but I will also offer you an observation: even those convicted to the penitentiary can look forward to the day they will be free of the law, but you won’t have that comfort. You will have a Life Sentence with no possibility of parole.

I will wait for your instructions on how to proceed.

Yours Most Sincerely,

•   •   •

11 May 1883

Dr. Savard
New Amsterdam Charity Hospital
New York, N.Y.

Dear Dr. Savard,

My name is Ambrose Leach. I am a tailor with my own small shop on Broadway. I am a respectable, God-fearing Christian, born and raised in this city. I have as wife a good woman who works hard to make a comfortable home. We have six children, the eldest twelve years and the youngest six months. The doctor tells us that another child would ruin my wife’s health and might well kill her, leaving me with six young children to raise on my own and a business to run and operate at the same time. And so I write to you. I need information on how to limit the size of my family, and without delay. Please, Dr. Savard, may I call on you for this purpose? I enclose a five-dollar note as a sign of my sincerity and hope to hear from you soonest.

Ambrose Leach
Post Office Box 1567
New York, NY

•   •   •


May 13, 1883

Mr. Anthony Comstock
New York Society for the Suppression of Vice
150 Nassau Street
New York N.Y.

Dear Mr. Comstock,

I am writing on behalf of Drs. Liliane and Sophie Savard in re the matter of the enclosed reproduction of a letter, addressed to the Drs. Savard at their place of employ, New Amsterdam Charity Hospital, and signed Mr. Ambrose Leach. This letter, seeking reliable information on contraception, as well as the purchase of whatever implements necessary, was mailed to “Dr. Savard” and arrived May 11, with five (5) U.S. dollars enclosed. The five-dollar bill is described as a consultation fee.

According to the city directory there is no tailor named Leach on Broadway or anywhere else in the city, and the tax assessor’s office has no record of such a person or business. I am forced to conclude that the letter constitutes an attempt on your part to entrap my clients for violation of the Comstock Act, as you have publicly admitted to doing with other physicians in the recent past.

A federal district judge has already thrown out one such case on the grounds that the authorities entrapped the accused (U.S. v. Whittier, 28 Fed. Cas. 591 (1878)), but if you are eager to see such practices condemned more emphatically, by a court closer to home, then by all means, proceed on your present course.

The Drs. Savard are members in good standing of the New York Society of Physicians and Surgeons, the American Medical Association, the New York Obstetrical Society, and the Association for the Advancement of the Medical Education of Women. Detailed information about this incident will be shared with these and similar organizations, and with the attorneys representing their interests.

In the unlikely event I am mistaken as to the provenance of this letter, please accept my humblest apologies.

Sincerely yours,
Conrad Belmont, Esq.

copies to: Peter Verhoeven, Esq., John Mayo, District Attorney.

•   •   •


May 15 1883

Dear Dr. Savard,

In receipt of your letter regarding an orphaned male infant about three months old, blue eyes, dark hair. Madam, we have no shortage of such orphans and every one of them is in dire need of a good Catholic family to adopt them. If you would like to pursue this matter you may find me at Mount Loretto on Staten Island.

Yours in Christ and in his Holy Mother
Father John McKinnawae

•   •   •

175 E. 68TH STREET

May 15 1883

Dear Dr. Savard,

I am in receipt of your letter requesting Sister Mary Augustin’s assistance when you call on Father McKinnawae at the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin in the coming week.

Sister Mary Augustin has been reassigned to the Mother House where she can better contemplate devotion to duty and detachment from self. While she will not be joining you, please be assured that we Sisters of Charity pray for you and ask God to guide your heart and hand as you continue your search for the missing Russo children.

Diriget Deus
Sr. Mary Irene

•   •   •


Wed., May 16 1883

Dearest Anna,

Tomorrow at noon we will be boarding the train and on our way home, the Deparacio brothers in tow. Look for me on Saturday evening. I will be polite for a half hour, and after that I will not want to share you with anyone, so be prepared to go out.

Some thoughts about the news in your last letter: I think that Baldy Ned is probably right. A reward might well be helpful but the amount is important. Too much will send the wrong message and could cause complications. Do you really need me to tell you your instincts are sound, or is there something else that has got you worried?

As for his suggestions regarding our plans, he is as cheeky as ever, but he is also absolutely right. It is a life sentence for both of us.

I was quite surprised by the Comstock business. This is something you haven’t told me much about, and I think it is a conversation we need to have as soon as I am home. In the meantime, I think you won’t have to worry about him now that you’ve handed the matter over to Conrad Belmont. Belmont’s reputation should be enough to scare off the self-proclaimed Weeder in the Garden of the Lord for good. A rich, well-connected man who cannot be won over to Comstock’s cause is one he avoids at all costs.

Finally, I am wondering if you paid Bambina a visit and are keeping that to yourself, or if you are still trying to work up the courage.

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