Jessica Kay Murray | Nov 14, 2017 | 0
Converts: The Love Story of a Primitive Man and a Suffragette by Joan Paul
You can see how the issues of womens’ suffrage had made it into the mainstream by 1913! This is a fictional story about a love triangle between a suffragette, a non-suffragette woman, and an eligible bachelor. The gold digger, Stella, ultimately changes her ways and selflessly ends this story by bowing out of her pursuit of the wealthy Mr. Carlton and letting Gwyndolyn “have him”. I found it while scanning through the July 1913 issue of The Modern Priscilla. I’ve included the text (extruded from the image- so excuse typos). I think it’s a fascinating document of womens history, and the social history of voting rights in the USA.
PRECEDING CHAPTERS.— Gwendolen Allison and Estelle Rankin, occupying neighboring apartments in New York, are both young women of the modern type and possessed of independent means, but here the similarity ceases, Givendolen being ardently deroted to the cause of equal suffrage, while Estelle is chiefly concerned in securing the good things of life for her personal gratification. While on a visit to the country she meets Howard Carlton, who seems to her all that is desirable in the way of a husband,—rich, handsome, and talented. He comes to New York and on the way to a Fifth Avenue tea-room with Estelle meets G wendojen while she is marching in the cause of suffrage. At once there springs up a feeling of mutual sympathy, and Mr. Carlton receires his first introduction to the reasons for the demands for equal suffrage. He begs for permission to meet her again, and then Estelle, with a parting injunction to her friend not to get’ too hot and unwomanly, takes him away with her.
The second meeting takes place unexpectedly in Gwendolen’s apartment where Stella has sent Carlton to wait for her while she dresses to go out with him. Gwendolen is led by Carlton’s teasing to make a splendid plea for equality. He is impressed with the intensity and fineness of her emotion. In showing him a new picture her finger is scratched. A quick, sympathetic hand-clasp rereals them to each other, and before either can realize what has happened Stella is calling that she is ready. There is an accident in which Carlton is injured. Stella is unharmed. Gwendolen, ‘unable to stand the situation, decides to go away from New York, but does not leave until several notes from Carlton have made her feel sure that she is in danger of wrecking Stella’s happiness, Carlton resolves to follow her as soon as he is able.
I F only that infernal doctor would let him loose !
Perhaps,—here a little cold chill came over
his thoughts—perhaps she had some reason for running away. Perhaps suffragettes did not really want to marry, as Stella Rankin had once said !
“Miss Thomson,” he–ealled, and his special nurse, a plain, grim-faced woman, rose from her seat at a table and came towards him. She had hoped he had gone to sleep and that she was going to have some peace.
“Miss Thomson, are you a suffragette?”
Miss Thomson’s thin lips looked scornful. “No, indeed,” she said.
“And why not, pray?” Her tone annoyed him.
“Well, Mr. Carlton,” nurse’s arms folded about her own angular waist, “I don’t believe in women being better than men.”
: “But who said they wanted to be better than men?” he asked.
“I don’t know, I—I—”
. Miss Thomson walked with a worried expression to the open door, as if expecting, or hoping, some one outside was calling her.
“You musn’t talk so much. And anyhow, Mr. Carlton, a woman’s place is the Home !”
‘ “And anyhow,” Carlton had to raise his voice and head as his adversary was slipping away. “Anyway, it wouldn’t take a woman twelve months in , the year, nor twelve hours in the day to put her name in a ballot-box ! And anyhow—” but realizing he was addressing himself to empty air, he sank back more comfortably amongst his pillows, his keen sense of humor rising to the situation and bringing a smile to lips which had been drawn, till now, with discontent and pain.
NURSE had (Tone on down the corridor, and
coming toward her were his sister, Mrs. Vanderhyde, and Stella, on a visit to the patient.
“Mr. Carlton is not at all well to-day,” she said, bristling with importance and rather ruffled after her skirmish in the sick-room. “He has something on his mind, I fancy. ‘Woman’s suffrage,’ now it seems,” she laughed.
Mrs. Vanderhyde, who did not like Miss Thomson, passed on to her brother’s room ; but Stella lingered, arrested by a thought—and did a thing she never afterwards remembered without a flush of shame! She questioned the ruffled nurse and found out several things about suffrage literature, red roses, and a registered letter sent just before his relapse the day before to a woman whose name was on the cover of a book on the table.
She remembered many things she might not otherwise have noticed, and when she followed on into Canton’s room she was a very angry person indeed. She remained there long enough to re-
arrange some books on the table by his side, finding Gwen’s signature on two of them, then excusing herself on the grounds of the patient’s restlessness, went away.
Later when Mrs. Vanderhyde rose to go she bent over her worried-looking brother and begged him to tell her anything he needed, or that she could do. Short of bringing the North Pole to him, she would do it !
“There is something you can do, Lai,” he said. “Introduce Miss Stella to Teddy Everton, he will take her about, and—and fill up her odd moments. Also will you make up that yachting party we thought out last week and invite him and her ?”
“But, dear boy,” Mrs. Vanderhyde looked surprised, “I thought you were ePris there?”
“Not at all, not at all, only a mutually arranged entertaining society, nothing more.”
“Why, I’m sorry,” and her face expressed the disappointment she felt. “I did think—and she’s such a charming girl, dear !”
“I know all about it, Lal ; but it’s no use. We’ve met heaps of charming girls ! With pretty gowns and things to amuse them they will always remain ‘charming.’ But, Lal, I’ll be better —of some use, perhaps, with something more. .Dear, don’t ask me. And Lal, I am not going on the yacht this trip. Count me out, but don’t let on to anybody till the last. day, I don’t want to be questioned.”
He looked so childish with his brown eyes, pleading from under the white bandages covering his forehead, that his adoring sister, astonished though she felt, could only bend over and kiss him tenderly. There was something so pathetic about this strong man laid low.
“All right, old boy. You may reckon on me, you know. You have your reasons I guess and I wish you luck ! Good-by,”—as she moved away. “Be good and do what Nurse tells you,” and she laughed at his answering grimace.
But she did as she had been requested, and Teddy Everton from that evening forth became Stella’s devoted attendant.
Stella herself proved not averse to his attentions, town was getting empty and things were dnll ; but she had made up her mind to being Mrs. Howard Carlton, and redoubled her efforts to charm and amuse the invalid in every possible spare moment. The opportunities were hers, Gwen was away, Carlton could not anyhow have met her more than three. times, there was all the yachting tour to look forward to in his company—he would forget if she, Stella, made herself indispensable to him. In that, however, she was wrong. A man worth counting never values the too easily attainable ! Moreover this was a man who, rarely influenced, did not easily forget. To him, Gwen’s spirit alone filled all space ; into a future without her he could
not look ; so it was possible he never even noticed 1he attention and care by which he was surrounded.
So day after day went by till convalescence was reached, then strength regained, and the invalid forgot his pains in plans and preparations for the yachting party—and something else which in odd moments would make him pause, gazing into space with desperate longing, or smiling little smiles which surely had some serious meaning !
And so Stella did not know she was wrong until the night before the yachting party was to .sail.
She was one of a few guests at dinner to celebrate the invalid’s recovery at Mrs. Vanderhyde’s charming apartment on Riverside Drive, and the word had gone forth that Howard Carlton, though requiring, as he most evidently did, the rest and change some weeks on the sea could give, had decided to remain on shore !
Stella had hidden her disappointment and mortification cleverly at first; but later in the evening as she stood apart from the others, looking down from the wide window across the moonlit river, she had to bite her lips, to keep the temper down.
“Miss Rankin,” Howard Carlton stood beside • her, “or Stella, if I may ? Will you do me the great favor to write me down Miss Allison’s present address? There is a desk with ready materials just at your elbow. -I am booked for a motor trip and intend going that—Miss Allison’s way.”
So he did not even know where Gwen was! Gwen had been faithful to her friend in that at least.
Stella wished she could have spoken as she sat down at the little davenport and drew out an envelope ; but the abruptness of his move disconcerted her. She wished he had not come to her just at that moment when tears were so ready to fall !
However, he was not looking her way, his eyes were fixed now across the moonlit water, and their serious wistful expression suddenly melted the anger which had risen in her breast.
“Mr. Carlton, Howard, if I may,” she lifted her eyebrows humorously and the tears dried themselves, “if I put a note in this envelope will you give it to Gwen with your own hands?”
HOWARD CARLTON wrote a note on his own
account that night, and Gwen, receiving it two mornings after, nearly fainted over the breakfast table. What he said was surely enough to make many a stronger woman faint.
“A Primitive Man will call for you in an automobile between five and six o’clock on Thursday afternoon. He will carry a special license—not for the car—and will be glad if you will prepare to continue the journey with him on the follow-
“HOWARD RAYMOND CARLTON.”
This was Thursday morning.
When afternoon came she waited in her softest white lace gown to receive him. How she tortured herself as she paced the long drawing-room in an agony of yearning for his voice, his touch !
Suppose he didn’t understand. Suppose he—
There was a sound of a car coming up the drive. “If he kisses me–it will kill me !” she thought in her madness—but it didn’t.
The butler threw open the door, spoke his name, and softly withdrew. Howard Carlton stood for a moment gazing at her. It was some time later that he drew a letter from his pocket and handed it to her. It was from Stella and she read :
“You may have him ! I am going to join a Suffrage Society—to learn your ‘little ways.’