Dear George, Love Margaret (Amanda C Davis)
My Dearest George:
Only an hour ago I watched your train pull away from the station, and already I am compelled to send my words of love. How will I tolerate these long years without you? Already I miss your voice, your comforting presence. I will bear up. But, my love, I will count the days.
The automaton you bought me has made itself at home, it seems, and taken the liberty of commanding the household. It considers the maid inadequate and the cook barely tolerable. George, how can a machine judge such a thing as cooking? Lord knows what happens to the samples it ingests.
Forgive me—I know you think I am too often crude. Consider me distraught at your absence, and think kindly on my flaws.
The automaton is insisting that I help close up your room so that it may be easily prepared upon your return. This I can do gladly, although working so near to a bronze monster will try my nerves. (Do not think ill of my repulsion! I know you only meant well.) For the sake of my love for you, I will control my emotions. Let him be bronze. I will be steel.
And terribly lonely,
My Dearest George:
Your letter filled my heart with joy—and not a little fear. To think of the dangers you face rattles me. When you described the red Indians I was forced to put down your letter and request the automaton to read it aloud for me. My only hope is that you return to me in two years. (Twenty-two months! I cling to the calendar!) I cannot bear the thought that you might be prevented.
The bronze man has invented a calculation regarding your chances of survival. When I told him, quite forcefully, that I did not appreciate his efforts, he grew still, in the manner of a chastened child. I am under no illusions regarding his emotive capability (I deny them utterly) and yet he performs an unsettling simulation.
Enough talk of metal monsters! I shall speak instead of fleshly ones. Your parents are thriving, and lavishing their favor upon your brother—the good one, who did not marry a schoolteacher’s “vulgar” daughter and did not head West for the promise of a better life—forgive me, the thought of them sets me to boiling. I stand strong with you, my love. We stand together, though many miles apart.
May we stand beside one another soon.
My Dear George:
I will not tell you the bronze man’s calculation of your survival odds. Such unseemly efforts benefit no one. Besides, I have no wish to encourage his ghastly mathematical hobbies.
The creature will not leave my side except by direct order—and oftimes, not even then. I fear his cognitive machinery may be calibrated for a more fawning servant than I care for. I wish to have him tuned to my preference; will you please advise me of a tinkerer who might perform a careful alteration? I promise I shall find the means in our household budget.
Your brother came calling, delivered his fill of insults toward my person, and left again carrying, I suspect, your grandfather’s cufflinks. I make no formal accusations but I have not seen them since. How your father could prefer him to kind, reliable George is a vexing mystery!
These four months have been torment, George, but you would be proud at how I fill my days. I find comfort in the garden and in the church. I have founded and developed friendships amongst other women of our class. This city is not so cold as I thought it once.
I am proud of you, also, for the hardships you bear for our sakes.
My Dear George:
When next you embark on a hunting excursion, I beg you to keep the details to yourself. Your description of the buffalo-killing (and everything done to its poor corpse!) quite turned my stomach.
As you see no value in proper care of my bronze man, I have rolled up my sleeves and taken the steps that I must. Many of my friends’ husbands have some interest in automation; they were good enough to loan me several relevant books. After many long hours of study—and more than one grave mistake!—I have successfully altered the bronze man’s persona. He is more independent, less critical. And to my great relief, he no longer samples the cooking. George, you might have warned me of his waste disposal methods. I would have learned eventually.
The summer grows long. The months pass without news of you. Please, my husband—remember me.
Loving and trusting,
My Dearest George:
I beg you to forgive me for the impertinent tone of my previous letters. I fear the strain of your absence leads me to forget my place. If it is your wish, I will make no further adjustments to the bronze man, and I truly and humbly welcome any details of your adventures. You are risking so much for our sake, I can do no less.
I am pleased to hear of your successes out West. I pray daily for your safety. Every day brings us closer again.
Your brother has been by again, and this time I observed him pluck a figurine from the mantle and put it into his pocket! When I made it clear that I had seen, he claimed that it was his and he had been “meaning to reclaim it.” I did not prevent him, but I write this so that you may confirm or more probably refute his story. If the figure is in fact yours, I shall call on your brother and snatch it again from his mantelpiece. It is the ivory figure of a shepherd inlaid with gold. Please do reply, I am anxious to confront him.
Be safe, my darling.
and ever loving
GEORGE STOP TERRIBLE ACCUSATIONS REGARDING FINANCES STOP PLEASE WIRE EXPLANATION STOP I DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO MAKE OF IT STOP POSTSCRIPT I LOVE YOU STOP MARGARET STOP
GEORGE PLEASE WRITE TO ME STOP VERY WORRIED STOP MARGARET STOP
While I am still very anxious to hear what you have to say for yourself, I have ferreted out the truth and must—as a dutiful wife and a once trusting woman—confront you with it.
After you accused your brother of theft, I of course visited him at once. I took the bronze man—in case of trouble. I admit this was against your wishes. In light of what I learned, I do not regret it.
The figurine was not upon his mantle, as I had hoped, so I, very sweetly, inquired as to where he had it. He looked stunned. When I told him that I knew it was yours, and that he had boldly stolen it, he threw back his head and let out a hard laugh, the likes of which I had never heard from him.
He began to describe in wretched detail a slanderous story: a story about you, George. How you had sunk into debts by gambling and vices even more vile. How you had settled for a wife with a small dowry so that you might pay down enough to allow you to escape West, where your creditors might not reach you. How your brother had been slowly paying off your debts with things stolen from your own home—from our home!—so that I might remain unmolested and the family name untarnished. How you had little inclination to return to us.
I could not believe any of this, and said as much. I (and the bronze man) left in a fury. We went immediately to the telegraph office to wire you for an explanation, which you, of course, passed off with a blithe reply that I should not worry. I should not worry! Either our finances are ruinous or our family a den of treachery! This could not go unexamined, and I did not allow it to.
George, I have met with your creditors. I know all. Whether by my own charms or by the very significant presence of the bronze man, I have obtained detailed accounts of your debt. You will be pleased to know that a schoolteacher’s daughter is well equipped to do sums. You will be less pleased to find that she can read, and can therefore discover where your wayward finances have gone.
By the time you receive this I will have begun selling your personal effects in order to pay your monstrous debt. I trust you will have little need of them until you return East, if indeed you do, and I will rely upon your brother to spare any family heirlooms from the pawnshop. No wonder your parents thought so ill of me, and so well of him! We are colored by your shadow.
If you have any wish to regain my affections or explain yourself, I encourage you to act with all haste.
Forgive me for being indelicate. I find your declarations of love, unaccompanied as they are by admission of guilt or sincere regret, unconvincing.
As for your inquiry regarding our estate, you might as well be apprised of the mess you have left behind. To repay your debts and maintain a reputable house is a trying puzzle. Your finest clothes and articles are not worth so much as I had hoped. I maintain the staff—I must! For the sake of the future and the neighborhood—and am successfully paying down your interest, but little of the principle. If you ever cared for me, George, send money, that we might not lose all. Even the distasteful set of illustrations secreted in your mattress did not bring in enough.
I have again adjusted the bronze man (who I have taken to calling “Samson” for his girth) to better serve his position as the man of the house; in this new situation I require him to be defender and protector, as well as servant. You cannot fault me for wishing to protect my person. Nor can you fault me the desire to save money by performing the adjustment myself!
I am considering a plan to offer my services to make ends meet. Were you by my side, we might discuss this as lovers and helpmeets; as you prefer the lonely West, I must decide on my own.
The season grows cold here. I can only assume it is the worse where you are. I wish you well.
GEORGE STOP I AM APPALLED AT YOUR INSINUATION STOP I AM NOT SO IMMORAL AS YOU THINK ME STOP LET US WASTE NO MORE WORDS ON THIS THEY ARE TOO DEAR STOP MARGARET STOP
If I suspected you were suffering for your indiscretions, I would tell you that you may now rest easy: the last of your creditors has been paid. Your debt is gone.
Shocked as I am at the lengths you thought me willing to go, I admit proudly that I earned the difference myself—not through the scandalous means you suspected, but by nimbleness of a different sort altogether. In allowing Samson to accompany me on social calls, I was able to advertise my own talent for making alterations to his brand of automaton—a popular one, you will recall. My friends placed a few orders, and were happy to pass on my name to others with the highest recommendations. Now half the bronze men in the city have a sweeter temperament. And you and I are free.
Your brother has spoken to your parents on my behalf. They graciously hosted me last weekend. I hope to return their generosity soon. From them I heard stories of the gentleman you were before being overtaken by your vices. I wonder: though the new George went West, could the old George return?
In the meantime, I have made one additional alteration to Samson. I intend it to help me bear the cold winter nights. So far, he performs admirably. The neighborhood ladies have been intrigued and I expect a few more discreet orders in the near future. So should your grand Western dreams fail, dear George, know that I shall be financially secure. And until you return to me, George, I shall not be lonely. I have my bronze man.
These sixteen months shall not last so long. I pray that they pass as pleasantly for you as they are sure to do for me.
Dutifully, lovingly, I send you all my best.