Excerpt: The Awakening
Kingman, California July, 1913
A Gentle breeze stirred the grasses on the flat, rich farmland of the fifteen hundred acres of the Caulden Ranch. The leaves on the fruit and nut trees moved; there were peaches, figs, walnuts and almonds. Cornstalks dried in the scorching heat. As usual, it hadn’t rained a drop in two months now and everyone in the Kingman area was hoping the rains would hold off another few weeks until the hops were in.
The hops, the major crop of the Caulden Ranch, were close to peak ripeness, hanging off fifteen-foot-tall poles, beginning to turn yellow and bursting with their wet succulence. In another few weeks the pickers would arrive and the hop vines would be torn from their strings and taken to the kilns to dry.
It was very early morning, with the many permanent farm workers just beginning to rise and start about their chores. Already, the day was hot and most of the workers would be in the fields, long flat acres with no relief from the sun. Some luckier workers would be spending the day in the shaded hop fields, the vines overhead forming a canopy of shelter from the blazing sun.
Through the middle of the ranch ran a well-used dirt road with other roads branching off it, all roads leading past enormous barns, barracks for the workers and the huge, chimneyed hop kilns.
In the middle of the ranch, facing north, stood the big Caulden house, constructed of local red brick, with a painted white verandah around two sides, balconies protruding from the second story. Tall palm trees and an old magnolia sheltered the house from the sun and kept the darkened interior cool.
Inside, in the west bedroom on the second floor, Amanda Caulden was still sleeping, her thick chestnut hair pulled back into a respectable braid. Her sedate, characterless nightgown was buttoned to her chin, the cuffs carefully covering her wrists. She lay on her back, the sheet folded perfectly across her breasts, her hands clasped across her rib cage. The bedclothes were only barely disturbed, the bed looked as if it had just been turned down—yet a twenty-two-year-old woman had spent the night here.
The room was as tidy as the bed. Apart from the young woman lying so utterly still, there were very few signs of life. There was the bed, expensive and of good quality—as was the woman—and two chairs, a table here and there, a closet door, curtains on the three windows. There were no lace doilies on the tables, no prizes won by a male admirer at a fair, no satin dancing slipper hastily kicked under the bed. There was no powder on the dresser, no hairpins left out. Inside the drawers and the closet, everything was perfectly neat. There were no dresses shoved to the back that had been bought on the spur of the moment then never worn. There were eighteen books in a case under one window, all leather bound, all of great intellectual importance. There were no novels about some pretty young thing’s seduction by some handsome young thing.
Up the back stairs, bustling, straightening her impeccably neat blue dress, came Mrs. Gunston. She straightened her spine and calmed herself outside Amanda’s door before giving one quick, sharp knock then opening the door.
“Good morning,” she said in a loud, commanding tone that actually meant, Get out of that bed immediately, I don’t have time to waste pampering you. She rushed across the room to thrust aside the curtains as if they were her enemy. She was a big woman: big-boned, big-faced, big-footed, hands like gardening plows.
Amanda woke as neatly as she slept. One second she was asleep, the next she was awake, the next she was standing quietly by the bed looking at Mrs. Gunston.
Mrs. Gunston frowned, as she always did, at the slender delicacy of Amanda. It was amazing to think that these two people were of the same species, for, just as Mrs. Gunston was heavy and thick, Amanda was tall, slim and fragile-looking. But Mrs. Gunston only felt a kind of exasperation in Amanda’s femininity because she equated her delicacy with weakness.
“Here’s your schedule,” Mrs. Gunston said, slapping a piece of paper on the table under the west window, “and you are to wear the”—she checked another piece of paper she’d taken from one of her numerous pockets—”the vieux rose dress with the lace yoke. Do you know which one it is?”
“Yes,” Amanda answered softly. “I know.”
“Good,” Mrs. Gunston said curtly, as if this were a big accomplishment for Amanda. “Breakfast is promptly at eight and Mr. Driscoll will be waiting for you.” With that, she left the room.
As soon as the door closed, Amanda yawned and stretched—then cut off both halfway and looked about guiltily as if expecting someone to have seen her. Neither her father nor her fiance, Taylor Driscoll, approved of yawns.
But Amanda didn’t have much time to contemplate whether or not a yawn and stretch would merit disapproval, for she had no time to waste.
With unconsciously graceful movements, she hurried across the room to look at her schedule. Every night Taylor made out a new schedule of courses for her, for Taylor was not only to be her husband, he was also her teacher. Her father had hired him years ago when Amanda was only fourteen, saying that Taylor’s instructions were to make Amanda into a lady. At twenty, when Taylor deemed her educated enough to be called a “gentlewoman,” he asked her father for permission to marry her as soon as he had further educated her enough to be his wife.
Amanda’s father, J. Harker Caulden, had been delighted and had accepted promptly for his daughter. No one had found it necessary to ask Amanda so important a question. One evening at dinner Taylor had interrupted a stimulating conversation on the influence of baroque art on the world today to tell her they were to be married. At first she had not known what to say. J. Harker had said, with a touch of disgust, that she was now engaged to Taylor. Taylor had smiled and said, “If you agree to the marriage, that is.”
J. Harker had been horrified at the idea of giving a woman a choice. “Of course she wants to!” he’d bellowed.
Amanda, her cheeks pink, had held her hands tightly together and looked at her lap. “Yes,” she’d managed to whisper.
To marry Taylor! she’d thought all through the rest of dinner. To marry this tall, handsome man who knew everything, who had been her teacher and her guide since she was an adolescent! It was a dream she’d never allowed to cross her mind. After dinner she’d pleaded a headache and gone to her room. She had not heard her father’s angry mutterings of, “Just like her mother,” for Grace Caulden spent most of her life reclining alone in her little sitting room at the back of the top floor.
Amanda had not been able to sleep that night and so had done poorly on a test on the French policies of Charles I that Taylor had given her the next day. Justifiably so, he had berated her rather fiercely and Amanda had vowed to make herself worthy of the great honor of being his wife. She would work and study and learn all that she could and someday she might be worthy of him. Of course, she’d never know half as much about life and the world as he did, but then a woman didn’t need to know as much as a man. All she wanted to do was please Taylor and be the best wife she could be.
She picked up her schedule. Once again, a little shiver of gratitude went through her as she saw the list written in Taylor’s own neat, even, small handwriting.
Every evening he took time out from his busy schedule of learning how to run the ranch that would someday be his to write out her curriculum. She began to memorize today’s schedule.
7:15 A.M. Rise and dress
8:00 A.M. Breakfast: one three-minute egg, one piece of toast, coffee with half milk. We will discuss President Wilson’s tariff revisions.
8:42 A.M. Study for examination on French irregular verbs. Complete essay on Puritan ethics.
11:06 A.M. Gymnastic exercises with Mrs. Gunston
11:32 A.M. Bathe
12:04 A.M. Review for examination on identification of birds of the finch family
1:00 P.M. Luncheon: steamed chicken, fresh fruit, lemonade. We will discuss the symbolism in
Gray’s “Elegy in a Country Churchyard.”
2:12 P.M. Examination on French irregular Verbs. Complete essay on Puritan ethics.
2:34 P.M. Watercolors if examination score is 96 or better. If not—study!
3:11 P.M. Rest
4:37 P.M. Sewing with Mrs. Gunston. Practice in cut work.
5:39 P.M. Dress for dinner. Wear the pink Jeanne Hallet dress—do not forget the rose belt.
6:30 P.M. Dinner: two steamed vegetables, broiled fish, skimmed milk. Discussions will include
late-nineteenth-century literary masterpieces.
7:38 P.M. Reading aloud in the parlor; tonight’s passage is from Thoreau’s Walden. (Be prepared to discuss that region’s flora and fauna.)
9:10 P.M. Prepare for bed (including breathing exercises)
10:00 P.M. Bed
At last, dressed in the elegant dress Taylor had chosen for her, both chosen from her closet and chosen from her dressmaker, Amanda left her room to go to the bathroom at the end of the hall. She glanced quickly at one of the clocks Taylor had insisted upon being distributed throughout the house and saw that she was exactly on schedule. The morning time in the bathroom was four minutes—Taylor had timed her, then subtracted a minute for efficiency’s sake. She checked her hair in the mirror to make sure there were no stray strands escaping. Taylor believed that unkempt hair was the sign of a wanton woman.
She left the bathroom, saw she was a full forty-five seconds overtime and began to hurry down the stairs.
It was Taylor’s voice, low, deep, and full of disapproval. He was standing in a shadow at the foot of the stairs, his pocket watch in his hand, a scowl bringing his dark brows together. Immediately, Amanda slowed her pace, hoping her wildly beating heart couldn’t be heard.
“Were you running, Amanda?” he inquired in the same tone one would ask, Were you trying to cut off the cat’s tail? It was a mixture of horror and disbelief.
Amanda had never thought of lying to Taylor. “I was hurrying, yes,” she said softly. “I apologize.”
“Good.” He put his watch back in the vest pocket of the dark suit he wore. Taylor was always immaculate, with never a wrinkle or dust spot to be seen on his person. He could ride in the back of an open auto along dusty roads and come out as clean as when he stepped into the car. No matter how hot it grew, Taylor never perspired. He also never bent. His back was straight and rigid, his shoulders back as far as any soldier’s. He was tall, very thin (which he said showed that he had control over one of the primitive aspects of man—hunger) and handsome in a dark, almost forbidding way. Sometimes Amanda thought Taylor looked a bit like a photograph of a handsome man that had come to life.
Taylor turned to Amanda and inspected her. He made sure every hair was pulled back, that her dress was perfectly ironed, that her stocking seams were straight, her shoes polished. He saw that she stood up very straight—no slumping in the woman he was to marry—and frowned briefly at her breasts. When she stood with her shoulders back like that she looked too . . . too feminine.
He turned on his heel and went toward the dining room, and Amanda breathed an inaudible sigh of relief. She had passed inspection and, what is more, he had not been angry with her for rushing down the stairs in her hoyden manner that he hated so much.
Courteously, Taylor held her chair out for her in the dining room, then took the place at the head of the table. As always, her mother took breakfast in her sitting room while her father ate earlier. Sometimes Amanda thought her father didn’t want to eat with her and Taylor, that perhaps their enlightened discussions bothered him. After all, J. Harker had quit school in the eighth grade to support his family and that was why he was so insistent that his daughter be educated and that she marry an educated man.
The maid placed Amanda’s egg before her, her single piece of dry toast to one side, and Amanda knew she was to start the conversation. Taylor liked to know that she had memorized the schedule he had so laboriously prepared.
“I believe free wool was one of the major issues of President Wilson’s tariff reform, that is, the removal of a duty on imported raw wool.”
Taylor didn’t speak but he nodded, so she knew she was right. It was so difficult remembering all the topics of current events.
“And the duty on manufactured woolen goods has been reduced to thirty-five percent. This, of course, puts a burden on American farmers who sell wool, but on the other hand American manufacturers can buy wool from anywhere in the world.”
Taylor nodded. “And the sugar?” “The tax on imported sugar protects the Louisiana cane growers and the Western beet farmers.” He raised an eyebrow at her. “You know nothing else about the sugar tariff?”
Frantically, she searched her memory. “Oh yes, the sugar tariff will be lifted in three years. The Western beet farmers say—”
They both looked up as J. Harker burst into the room. He was a short, squat, angry-looking man, a man who, a long time ago, had found out that the only way to get anything was to take it. He had brought himself up from nothing to owning the largest hop ranch in the world. He had fought every step of the way—even when there was no need for fighting, he had fought—and every punch he had taken had made him angrier.
“Look at this,” Harker said, holding out a letter toward Taylor. There were no preliminary courtesies of, good morning, nor even any acknowledgment of his daughter, merely the handing of the letter to Taylor, whom he, quite simply, thought was the smartest man on earth. Taylor’s illustrious family— albeit a penniless one—his education, his manners, his ease in society, were things that awed J. Harker.
Carefully blotting the corners of his lips, Taylor took the letter and read it.
“Well?” J. Harker demanded in his blunt way.
Taylor carefully folded the letter and took his time answering. The letter was from the governor of California, stating that he was afraid there might be labor trouble this year with the migrant workers who came to pick the hops. The ULW, the United Laborers of the World, were talking of coming to Kingman and seeing if they could get the laborers to strike against the hop growers and, since the Caulden ranch would be the first to be picked, the governor suspected the trouble would start there.
Taylor ignored J. Harker’s glaring and continued to give the matter some thought. This year hop prices were at rock bottom and the Caulden ranch was going to have to cut corners to make ends meet, and these cut corners would, no doubt, cause problems with those crazy labor leaders. But those men could be handled. Didn’t J. Harker contribute enough to the various causes in Kingman to be able to ask for a little protection from the sheriff and his deputies? Yes, the labor leaders could be dealt with.
It was the second part of the governor’s letter that bothered Taylor—and what was no doubt enraging J. Harker. The governor wanted to send some college professor, some man he’d just appointed Executive Secretary of Immigration and Migrant Labor, to Kingman to see if the professor could prevent any trouble. It would be all right, Taylor thought, if this man were stupid, but, somehow, Taylor doubted that he was. A Ph.D. in economics from Heidelberg University in Germany. No doubt this man had spent the last forty years of his life studying labor problems and had never been two miles off a college campus. No doubt he was all for the laborer and had never given a thought to the problems of the ranch owner, never considered the amount of money it cost to grow hops, just expected the “rich” owner to pay exorbitant wages to the “starving” pickers.
Taylor looked up at J. Harker. “Invite the man to come here,” he said.
“Here? To Kingman?” J. Harker’s face was getting red. He hated the concept of the government telling him how to run his ranch. It was his land, wasn’t it? And the pickers were free people, weren’t they? If they didn’t like what was going on, they could leave, yet the governor seemed to believe he had a right to tell J. Harker how to run his own ranch.
“No,” Taylor said, “I mean, invite him here to this house.” Before Harker could protest, Taylor continued. “Think about it. He’s a poor college professor, makes perhaps twenty-five hundred, three thousand a year. I wonder if he’s ever seen a ranch like this or visited a house like this. Bring him here now, weeks before the pickers arrive, and let him see that we aren’t monsters, let him see—” He broke off to turn his gaze on Amanda, who had put her hand out for the jam jar. “No,” he said simply, and Amanda withdrew her hand guiltily.
“A college professor?” J. Harker said. “Who’ll take care of the old guy? With the hops about ripe, I can’t spare a minute and I need you to—”
“Amanda,” Taylor said, making Amanda start.
She’d been only halfheartedly listening to the conversation since it didn’t pertain to her and now Taylor had caught her daydreaming.
“Amanda will entertain him,” Taylor said. “She can discuss several different aspects of economics with him and, if she doesn’t know enough, he can teach her. She can also show him Kingman. You can do that, can’t you, Amanda?”
Both Taylor and her father were staring at her with the intensity of hungry hawks watching a rabbit running across an open field. These were the two people she most wanted to please, but she knew she wasn’t very good with strangers. She didn’t meet too many people—rarely was meeting someone put on her schedule—and when she did, she didn’t have much to say to them. People didn’t seem to want to discuss what had made the Nile flood. They liked to talk of dances (something she’d never attended) and clothes (Taylor chose her clothes) and moving pictures (she’d never seen one) and baseball (never seen a game but she knew all the rules; she’d made 98 on that exam) and cars (she rarely went anywhere and then only with Taylor and a chauffeur, so she knew little about automobiles). No, she wasn’t good with strangers.
“Amanda?” Taylor said louder.
“Yes, I will try,” she said sincerely. Perhaps a college professor would be easier to talk to than other people.
“Good,” Taylor said and seemed disappointed in her hesitancy. He glanced at the tall clock at the end of the dining room. “You are three minutes off schedule. Now go and study.”
She rose immediately. “Yes, Taylor.” She glanced at her father. “Good morning,” she murmured before leaving the room.
Alone in her room, she sat down at her little desk, opened a drawer and took out her notes on French irregular verbs. At ten A.M. she worked on her essay on Puritan ethics. Twice she miswrote a word and had to start over again. Taylor insisted that each of her papers be in perfect form, with no errors.
At eleven A.M. Mrs. Gunston was waiting for her in a basement room. Amanda wore a blue serge gymnastic dress that reached only to mid-calf. Taylor had said this dress was necessary but he had designed a modest, long dress to be worn over it while Amanda walked down the back stairs—not the front stairs where she might be seen—to the basement.
For thirty minutes, Mrs. Gunston put Amanda through a rigorous program using heavy Indian clubs and weighted pulleys attached to the wall.
At 11:30, faint with hunger and fatigue, Amanda was allowed seventeen minutes in a tub full of cool water (Taylor said hot water aged a person’s skin).
According to her usual schedules, then she had to dress, study for tomorrow’s exam and be at luncheon at one sharp.
But today was different.
When Mrs. Gunston appeared in Amanda’s room at 12:45 with a tray of food, Amanda was immediately concerned.
“What has happened to Mr. Driscoll?” she asked, fearing that only death could make Taylor upset the schedule.
“He is with your father,” Mrs. Gunston said, “and he has given you a new schedule.” With her eyes wide in wonder, Amanda took the new schedule.
From 1:17 to 6:12 read the following: Veblen’s Instinct of Workmanship Hoxie’s Scientific Management Royce’s Philosophy of Loyalty Montgomery’s Labor and Social Problems
6:00 P.M. Dress for dinner. Wear the blue chiffon with the pearls.
6:30 P.M. Dinner: two steamed vegetables, broiled fish, skimmed milk, a one-inch piece of chocolate cake.
7:30 P.M. Discuss what you have read
9:30 P.M. Prepare for bed
10:00 P.M. Bed
Amanda looked up at Mrs. Gunston. “Chocolate cake?” she whispered. A maid walked in, set the four books on a table and left the room. Mrs. Gunston picked up one of them.
“This man, this Dr. Montgomery, he wrote this one and he’s coming here. You’re to know something to talk to him about, so you better stop dreaming of cake and get to work.” She turned away with an officious bustle and left the room.
Amanda sat absolutely rigid on a hard little chair and began to read the book by Dr. Henry Raine Montgomery first. At first it seemed such an odd book that she didn’t understand it. It was all about how the strikes of laborers were actually caused by the owners of the mines and factories and ranches.
Amanda hadn’t thought much about the men who worked in the fields. Sometimes she’d look up from her book and see them, far away, looking like toys, moving about under the blistering sun, but she’d always looked down at her book again and never given them another thought.
She read all afternoon, making her way through two of the books on the list, and by dinner time she felt confident she could discuss labor management with Taylor.
She was unprepared for his anger. It seemed she’d read the books incorrectly. She was to read the books from the management’s point of view.
“Have I taught you nothing?” Taylor had said to her in a cold voice.
She was sent to her room without the chocolate cake and she was to write a long essay on why the books of Montgomery and the others were wrong.
At midnight Amanda was still writing and she was coming to greatly dislike the name of Dr. Montgomery. He had turned her calm household upside down, made Taylor angry at her, cost her many hours extra work, and worst of all, cost her a slice of chocolate cake. If this was what his book did, what in the world was the man going to do?
She smiled in weariness and told herself she was too fanciful. Dr. Montgomery was merely a poor, old college professor who knew nothing about the economics of the real world, only the economics of a paper world. She imagined a gray-haired man bent over a desk, a dusty pile of books around him, and she wondered if he’d ever seen a moving-picture show. Perhaps the two of them could go into Kingman and . . . She stopped that thought. Taylor said moving pictures were mind-deadening and people who went to them were lower-class buffoons, so of course this college professor wouldn’t want to do something so unworthwhile.
She turned back to her essay and continued to write about how wrong Dr. Montgomery’s book was.