"WHAT A WONDER of a life you've lived, Diana dear," Mrs. Walsh said. "Perhaps my great-grandmother could equal you. Although I doubt it . . . She had a wilderness upbringing for a time. But she always had a house full of servants, so I'm sure it was not the same."
So was Diana. Servants? Hah! The fact Anne Walsh's gramer was assured a house disqualified her. But Diana didn't say this. You would have to have a heart of ice to mock a woman as sweet as Anne Walsh.
Anne was a small woman—just Diana's size—in her middle years. She had the face of a cherub, with lips like a bow that were always untying into a smile. Anne had a lovely full figure she fussed over as too fat and matronly, and wore billows for dresses to hide. Despite their difference in age and background, Mrs. Walsh and Diana became fast friends. Mrs. Walsh urged Diana to reside with her until she hired permanent lodgings. Diana refused this kind offer. She needed freedom of movement for her plans as much as she needed friendship. A lovely old boarding home was found, offering ample room and respectability. Meanwhile, Anne Walsh and her husband took Diana under their wings. Especially Anne.
With idle chatter and pleasantries, the woman kept hidden a mind as sharp as her husband's. But Diana noted that whenever Anne Walsh had an opinion to express, her husband listened, and always took her advice. Her kindly manner could deceive. Diana had watched her watching other people and caught the look of cool appraisal when sizing up a boaster. After weeks in her company, Diana knew that Anne Walsh passed on her views—many times unfavorable—to her husband. In short, she was a woman whose friendship was hard won, and therefore of immense value.
Still, she had many eccentricities. Like her love of nature—especially birds. The fact that Mister Peale—painter of revolutionary heroes, and keeper and owner of the city's fabled museum of American natural history—had actually raised and bred two hummingbirds, was of more import to her than the ratification progress of the Constitution. The states would either ratify it or they would not. General Washington would be president, or not. Life would go on, with or without the presence of these elements.
The high drama of the previous summer was still on everyone's lips. The meaning of General Washington's silence during the proceedings was still being debated. Madison's role as impresario and architect of the final document could still spark heated words, or worse. To Anne, the Congress had done nothing more than survive one of the hottest summers on record by drinking enormous quantities of punch.
"Every one of them was drunk," she sniffed one day when she and Diana were discussing the matter over tea. "Except possibly General Washington. Certainly not that thin-lipped little toad, Mister Madison. No wonder he carried the day. He was the only man among them sober. If the business had been turned over to women—and don't peep a word of my views to Mister Walsh—it would have been settled in a few days.
"There's talk—and money settling on that talk—that Congress will find a home here. In our city. You mark my words, Diana, if that happens, it will be our ruin."
But the matter of the hummingbirds in Mister Peak's museum . . . now that was progress of the grand scale, just as news of hunters or encroaching civilization threatening a feathered creature's existence was proof all mankind was at heart evil.
"Why, we don't even know how many species there are with any certainty," she wept, "and we've already killed off some. What if there are as many as two hundred—I believe the number to be slightly more—but by the time we learn it, there are only one hundred left? What tragedy our children should not see them!"
Diana had laid siege to Anne's lack of taste and style almost on first meeting. It took time to convince her she had an excellent figure which should be displayed to its best advantage. Which meant chopping away at the material Mrs. Walsh draped about herself until a woman's form emerged. Diana then instructed her seamstress on methods of defying the dictates of bustle and hoop.
Diana would live to see a time when underwear took on scandalous connotations, but in this day it was not considered unseemly for an outfit to reveal chemise or petticoat. Anne's choice in these things was dull, but with coaxing, Diana convinced her to buy delicately made and patterned small clothes, which could nod their provocative little heads at the world through artful slits and dips and tucks.
Diana's greatest success had just come out of the seamstress's shop. It was a walking dress—a costume Mrs. Walsh had always avoided because she said on her short form it made her look dumpy. This was not the case in Diana's design. The dress fell above the top of the toe and was slightly clinging to better display her rounded form. It featured a long robin's-egg-blue kerchief that exposed Anne's lovely white shoulders, slipped under her bosom, where it was tied with a ribbon, and extended to either side, where it was secured to the dress itself, which was silver in color. The kerchief continued to the back, where it formed a tasty outside bustle. (No, Anne, dear. We'll dispense with one underneath. You don't need help in that part of your anatomy.) She helped Anne choose a hat to set the whole thing off—wide-brimmed and trimmed with gauze and ribbon. But she talked her out of the frizzy hairdo favored by the young ladies of Philadelphia and instead guided her to a softer look, which framed Anne's face in a romantic portrait.
The improvements in Anne's wardrobe were greeted enthusiastically by her husband. He showered the two with compliments, Anne for her renewed beauty, Diana for her art. He needn't have said a word. Diana's ego had already been boosted by Mister Walsh's more private reactions. The couple had been going about all starry-eyed of late, with many sweet whisperings and furtive touching. It was obvious to her that although their long marriage was childless, it wasn't for lack of effort.
* * * *
Although the city Anne and Michael Walsh introduced Diana to would grow enormously during her lifetime, it would always retain its heart and basic form. Her first impressions of Philadelphia—no matter how romantically tinged—proved correct. This was the place to make her stand. But it wasn't until fall that Diana became confident enough to trust her business instincts.
Meanwhile, she had a city to investigate, a future life to ferret out. Mister Walsh had a carriage waiting outside the boardinghouse each day for Diana and her sons. She began the morning full of enthusiasm and ideas; by night they had all drifted into vagueness, like the reverse side of bad embroidery.
The first physical feature that struck Diana about Philadelphia was how flat it was. Flat and swampy, except for a slight rising tilt in the lands to the south. The city consisted of a few square miles between the Schuylkill and the Delaware, and owed its prosperity to the natural sheltered port the Delaware provided—the Schuylkill was useless for anything but small craft—plus the great road that led out beyond its western boundaries to Lancaster County, Chester, and beyond. Within a few years of her arrival, the road became the Lancaster Pike, the finest paved highway in America, connecting Philadelphia with the headwaters of the Ohio River.
There were a few foundries in the Schuylkill Valley that smelted iron with native hardwoods. It was a region that would soon see countless foundries, forges, and ironworks up and down the valley. From the Middle Ferry at the Schuylkill until just beyond Broad Street, there wasn't much to the city. Although the streets in this area were broad and straight and crisscrossed with alleys and courts, they were sparsely populated by the poor. Their homes ranged from Irish thatch-and-wattle straight from the Old Country, to pine shacks, to roofed-over holes.
One thing of note: even in the poor section, the city was as clean as a Dutch housewife's kitchen. Every morning and every evening the women and their unwilling children were out scrubbing steps, holystoning the board sidewalks— brick, or even white marble in the nicer areas—and actually washing down the flagstone streets on their hands and knees. It would be five years before Diana learned there was more behind this cleanliness than a charming Quaker-influenced custom.
No one visited Philadelphia in those times without being stunned by the main market area, and Diana was no exception. Philadelphians bragged the High Market was the largest of its kind in all the states. There was no exaggeration. It ran a full mile—eight squares—down the High. More remarkably, the whole thing was entirely roofed over. On main market days all but foot traffic was barred by the chain men, who also hustled a fistful of pennies parking and minding carriages for their owners.
The official market days were Tuesdays and Fridays, but actually every day was Market Day in Philadelphia—including Sunday, when an enlightened ordinance allowed the delivery of fresh milk. In a letter to Ruth, Diana told how she saw the milk being brought to market in churns. But not ordinary churns. These were "white as curd and bound with copper hoops, and as bright as hands and clean sand can make them."
There were also spontaneous market days when a fresh boatload of provisions arrived from the West Indies or France and the whole city would be turned out by the great market bell. A bell alerted people to the arrival of mail, and they'd rush to the central delivery area with their shillings—or even empty-handed—to loiter about and hear other people's news. Another event was the arrival of the stage, and the folk would hurry to the Indian Queen Hotel to see what famous person was arriving.
The High Market was exceptionally clean, with all the benches and stalls scrubbed white. Even the meat was clean, well-cut and laid out on tables covered with constantly changed white cloth. The butchers presided over their stalls, nodding and smiling at the crowds, looking like brawny, red-faced angels in the white linen frocks that covered their clothes. There were vegetables of every variety, and also fruit, which included oranges from the Indies; fish and shellfish—especially the oysters; game right from the hunter's pocket; butter and cheese; and spices and herbs from far afield, "fit to flavor any dish or cure any ailment."
She was also struck by the orderliness, especially after the confused squalor of New York. "Everyone has a place assigned to them" she wrote to Ruth in Boston. "The butcher his table, the woman her stall . . . and there is no one moving about except the public, who come and go throughout the day from nine o'clock of the morning till nine that night . . . and all in great order, with only a little prompting from the chain men. ..."
There were other markets in the city, but the one on High Street would remain her favorite. With one exception: the Southwark Market by the Delaware. But only on what was known locally as Jersey Market Day. Anne tried to describe it to her, but kept succumbing, lapsing into honks of laughter. Finally, she gave up and took her friend to see for herself.
Diana met the ladies from Jersey that day. They were overgrown, shapeless businesswomen who were accomplished bargainers in the morning, but grew friendlier and less tight-fisted as the day progressed. This was because, as Anne said, they had a "fondness for the comfortable, which you can spy for yourself as that great jug of jack they keep under their stools. Mark my word, dear, they'll nip at that jug until they're well corned and fast asleep where they sit. Then watch the fun begin."
A hefty snore fluttering the lips of a face as round as a melon and purple as a plum. The first snore brought the plunderers. The second the thieves. The third the saucy children who plagued the area. Diana watched as two of them sauntered up to a cake stall. Behind it, Mrs. Plum Face, arms folded on a vast bosom, chins tucked under her shawl, lips in a dainty quiver of sleep. One child snatched, then the other. They would have gone undetected, but a neighbor of Mrs. Plum Face raised a howl. This brought Plum Face to her feet, sputtering and wailing as the boys took to their heels. And off she went after them, like a Spanish galleon, sailing into first one stall then another, until the boys were gone and she collapsed in weeping self-pity on the ground. But another Jersey woman—you could make them out, Anne said, because they are thicker than they are long, and their faces are like the Lady Moon at the full—brought her a jug of comfort. Soon the incident was forgotten in a big boozy embrace.
Now to the shops, Anne sang, and off they went to the district sprawling along Chestnut. A profusion of merchandise filled the long, low windows that projected into the street. Dry goods were strewn along the brick sidewalks. Flannels, cloths, muslins, silks, and calicoes hung over doors in whole pieces, or draped down on either side of the pavement. Other materials were stacked in rolls all down the street, pure heaven for a seamstress. There were barrels of sugar and raisins and coffee and dried fruit, intermingled with shoe shops, jewelers, saddlers; china, tin, iron, and copperware; and grocers with goods from every hill and creek in the land.
Anne giggled and pointed to the fine young men lined up to see the daily parade of beauties, who vied with hoop, bustle, and big flowered hat for their attention. Diana couldn't help but imagine how she would nip here, tuck there, and blouse out there, and tsk, tsk, don't you think the color a touch drab and matronly, Madame?
To James Emmett, the best time was night, when the little man went around with his small can of oil, bag of tools, and a short ladder over his shoulder. James never tired of watching the man. The lamplighter would clean the glass of each streetlight, trim its wick, top it off with oil, and light it with his long match. This went on for street after street, until the whole town glowed. Now the shops gave off a magic gleam. Especially those filled with silver, or worked glass, or the medicinal stores with their beautifully colored potions in even more beautifully colored bottles of every shape and style, filling row after gleaming row until the whole window throbbed with light.
The ever practical Farrell most admired the homes. He noted that the best residences—including the Walshes', who lived a few houses down from the eminent Dr. Benjamin Rush—were near the city center, especially in the Walnut area between Third and Fourth streets. Farrell loved to stroll down these avenues. The homes were of elegantly handcrafted brick, shaded by beautiful buttonwoods and willows and other native trees. Farther west, toward the Schuylkill, were the less elegant, but comfortable homes of the tradesmen. Like those of the rich, these residences were also tree-shaded against the city's stifling summers.
Through all this Farrell remained his humorless, but dependable self. His lack of humor made conversation dullish, but when Diana thought about James Emmett, she supposed this was a blessing. Now there was a boy who had humor stuffed into him like a great bag of pudding that kept swelling and swelling until it burst in every direction. The child was curious about anything not good for him. She'd already caught him experimenting with tobacco, spirits, gaming, and even a girl—his breeches down to his knees and his bony behind sticking out, and him brandishing his little thing as if he knew what to do with it.
Yes, she punished him. Sometimes she feared she was too strict. But then just as she was considering some other approach, off he would go again, committing a transgression whose only answer was a licking. But it never seemed to do any good. No matter how much he was punished, James Emmett never relented. Never said he was sorry. Not that he was sullen, or resentful. Oh, no, not James Emmett Shannon. The boy would bide his time, then come up to you with a great soft smile on his lips, love in his eyes and an embrace to melt a snow witch. It was as if you were being forgiven for not realizing all he did was as necessary as breath itself. And he pitied you for not understanding.
Only Farrell had some control over James Emmett, although who actually was doing the controlling could be debated. Regardless, Farrell's protectiveness of his half brother was one of the few things that made him human. He was stern with the child, but seemed to know his fears and needs more than Diana. Although the two were nothing alike, Farrell usually anticipated his brother. If he didn't, and the error threatened disaster, James would throw himself on Farrell's mercy. This would result in a stern lecture, which the child listened to in all apparent seriousness. Then would come the inevitable rescue. Sometimes this would mean intercession with Diana. Most likely, Farrell would cover up the trail James Emmett left.
It was the only time Farrell would lie. Diana had never chastised him for this, or even told Farrell she knew he was lying. Because if she did—if she confronted him, broke him—she wasn't sure what, or who, would be left.
One day after the Jersey Market, Diana and Anne had taken the boys for an outing on Front Street. A lovely stroll on a riverfront packed with ships and people and bargains from everywhere. Suddenly Diana noted a Great Absence of James Emmett. Fortunately, so did Farrell. He looked about with a start, then noticed Diana doing the same. More eye-darting, and then a sigh of relief. "There he is, Mother," he said, pointing vaguely at a crowd of people. "You go on. I'll fetch him."
Go on, they did. Fetch him, he did not. For a long time. Just past the point of worry, as Diana was trying to turn Anne about without alerting her, she spied Farrell. And James Emmett, coming from quite another direction. She saw Farrell shaking a finger at the child, James Emmett hanging his head in shame. More lecturing. More head hanging. Then James fumbled in his pocket and handed an object to Farrell, who looked nervously about before stuffing it away. Then Farrell hustled James down a side street and out of sight. A moment later they'd both appeared, this time walking from the correct direction. James's face was as innocent as an angel's as he joined her on the stroll.
That night she searched Farrell's clothing. A small, wooden object fell out. It was a carving of a man and a woman, in naked embrace, and carved in such stark detail that Diana flushed in shame. And then the flush disappeared as she marveled at the craftsmanship. And their features, not rutting rictus grins. She saw, or imagined, tenderness . . . brought to life by soft burnishing. She thought of the hand that had brought out such emotion with each stroke of emery. And in a slip of a dream it became Emmett's sweet stroking. . . . She shuddered, suddenly cold, and replaced the figurine.
* * * *
The priest was a fiery old man in purple vestments. His name was Father Coogan and he held the congregation spellbound as he led the faithful through the mysteries of the mass.
St. Joseph's Church at Fourth and Walnut was a plain building, a square, drab edifice with only a tower and bell to prove it a church; no different from any built by the Protestant faiths. Ostentation was distrusted in these days of Republicanism, and there was nothing about the church to test this view. It sat upon land owned by the lay members of the congregation—also like the Protestants.
Inside there was no elaborate statuary, only hard pews, and a cross above a thin, pine tabernacle without even a simple carving to show it held the Sacred Host. The drabness of the church, however, gave way to a mystical hue the moment the priest entered and the mass began. The atmosphere was heavy with incense, the silence thick as fog; so that each Latin phrase falling from the priest's lips had a romantic, ghostly tone. During the blessing of the Sacrament, small bells chimed, chalices rang like larger bells, and the leaves of the great book the priest read from rustled—all with unnatural loudness.
Diana sat quietly in her pew, feeling as out of place as if she were attending the Presbyterian church in Cherry Valley. She knew she was witnessing a rare thing. Few people outside this city had ever seen a simple mass, much less a full-blown ceremony with lovely vestments for the priest, laymen to attend him, and a worshipful congregation that knew every step of the way—with enough churchly Latin at hand to decipher the holy words the priest spoke.
St. Joseph's was one of two Catholic churches in Philadelphia. It was nearly fifty-five years old when Mister and Mrs. Walsh took the Shannon family to the services. Before that Catholics in Philadelphia gathered at the home of Elizabeth McGauley on Nicetown Road for the plain, communal services and shared reading of prayers that Emmett had described to her.
Elsewhere, as Mister Walsh had said, intolerance kept the choices for Catholics slim. After all, there were perhaps no more than thirty priests in the whole country. In all of America there were 35,000 of the faith, Mister Walsh had said, and of that number, possibly 7,000 resided in Pennsylvania.
The mass was well-attended, but Diana's friends had reserved places ahead of time, so with a bit of squeezing she, Farrell, and James Emmett were made at home.
Prior to the service the first thing they noticed was a long line going up the far aisle. It stopped at a small door. Anne said it was people for confession. Diana saw Farrell raise his brows at that. He whispered a question to Anne, and she explained that Catholics confessed even their most dire sins to the priest in private, that the priest was sworn never to reveal the shame, and that a penance was set afterward. Once it was performed, absolution for the sin was assured.
From the look on Farrell's face, Diana could see he was impressed with this system, although she didn't know why. What possible sin could Farrell imagine was marring his young soul? Now, if it were James Emmett—she looked at her youngest son. As usual, he was squirming and paying little attention to anything. Ah, well. At least he was quiet.
Finally the mass began and Diana lost her direction in the dead language liturgy. She could see there was a rhythm to it that everyone else could follow, but it made no sense to her.
Later she asked Mister Walsh why they just didn't use plain English. Knowledge of Latin, he said, was the boast of noble, lettered men. This she thought pretentious, and a danger as well, because it hinted at a class system. This was a new nation, with theoretical equality. The language of the common folk—the vernacular—would be better. Mister Walsh agreed and said many others felt the same way. This included Father John Carroll of Maryland—one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence—whom everyone said was sure to be named by the Pope as the first bishop in America.
"They want no one to have the notion," Mister Walsh said, "that we do the bidding of a foreign monarch. But it's a battle I fear has been lost, once and for all. Some say— and I mean the common folk you spoke of—that Latin makes them feel special, that great secrets are being divulged to them, and them only. Personally, I believe they love the ceremony more than the Lord."
Little bells called the freshly innocent—Anne and Michael among them—to the altar, where they partook of the Host. This was followed by the gospel. Then a sermon in English. It was a thundering good one, too, Diana observed. Sinners were warned, hellfires were pumped up with scriptural bellows, and the repenters were praised. After that there were more odd mutterings by the priest, the big book and the chalices changed places for some reason, and the mass came to its conclusion.
Diana thought it was all very refreshing, but mainly because it was a new experience. Now that she had seen it, however, she had no desire for repetition. This was an attitude of hers she would have to watch. If she was too disdainful in front of her sons, she would be hard-pressed to keep her promise to Emmett that they would be raised in his faith.
James Emmett burst away as soon as the service ended. For a change, Farrell was not right on his heels, dragging him away from potential mischief. She saw Farrell had hung back. He was gazing at the tabernacle, his eyes wide, and there were tears welling up. Diana tugged at him to go, but he pulled away before he realized it was her plucking at his shirt.
He looked up at her, so full of emotion he seemed about to burst. "Didn't you feel it, Mother?" he asked. He rushed on before she could answer. "At first, I was a little bored, to tell the truth. Then, when the priest began speaking, I got interested in the Latin. I was trying to make out some of the words—it's not that hard, you know. A lot of them seem the same as English. I got so interested, I lost the time until communion.
"The priest was praying over the bread and wine for communion when I started thinking about what was really going on. That wine was becoming the blood of Jesus Christ . . . our Savior. And the bread became his flesh ... I thought, how could that be?"
Diana frowned, thinking of Farrell's trouble with all fictions, no matter how well meant. To this day he mocked Hamlet for its ghost. What was happening here, with her hard-headed practical son?
"Then it—I don't know—it suddenly made sense. No. Not sense." He stumbled for words, his face flushed with effort. Then: "He forgives you, Mother. He really does."
Farrell lapsed into silence, but she could see the thoughts swirling, swirling.
"What, Farrell? Forgives you what?"
"Brian," was all he said.
"But you don't need forgiveness for that, Farrell, dear," Diana said as gently as she could. "You weren't responsible for what happened to poor Brian."
Farrell looked up again, his eyes a tempest. He started to speak, but emotion overcame him and he just shook his head. "I'd like to come again," was all he said.
There was no reason for Diana to say no. She should be happy at this turn of events. Wasn't a church an important ritual in raising a child? Why did she distrust this so?
How could she deny him? And for what reasons? Diana said he could.
From that day forward, Farrell became the most devout member of the congregation. He went at religion as he did everything—at full force. In not many years he was as knowledgeable as the priest, if not more. Church became the center of him. Even James Emmett came second.
The oddest thing in his behavior was that as the mystical part of him rose, the practical side grew as well. In business he was still all facts and double totted-up figures.
Ah, well, Diana thought. If it comforts him, what can be the harm?
* * * *
In matters of finance, Mister Walsh was a disciple of patience. He constantly counseled and supported Diana to take her time in setting a future course. Just as he had counseled others since the end of the Revolution.
"Anyone could see difficult times were ahead and hurry would court disaster," he said one night. "It cost sixty million dollars to rout the king. All of it debt with no means to pay.
"Who was responsible? Congress? How were they to raise the funds? No law required it, and without a law, no one has yet volunteered to be the first to make the gesture. The small authority we granted gave us Shay and his rebellion.
"The states? Bah! They can't get funds for a bridge, much less a road of any length. No, the war debt will not be assumed by the states. That's why we must suffer these infernal lotteries. We have no other means of launching a civic program."
Diana listened intently, soaking up every bit of information. Mister Walsh smiled at her gently through his pipe fumes—seeing real talent in the young, pretty face, thinking what a fine son she would have made Anne and himself.
A cough from Anne brought him back to his point.
"But where we bought uncertainty for our sixty million, we also purchased opportunity," he said. "A little care. A little reason. And unless God smites thee, a profit will result."
Mister Walsh had kept his own counsel all those years. Especially the last four, when hard times had settled over the land as each state struggled to make sense of its own highly individual economy.
Alone, he believed, the task was nearly impossible. "You saw the result," he said, "when talk grew serious that we must all unite under one banner. To act in concert. Just talk of unity stirred the fires of hope . . . happy times, again. Just from talk, if I may repeat myself. Now, with ratification fever upon all the states, let us see what real action can do!"
"You present a lovely view," Diana said. "And I pray that it is real, and not the product of the fever you mentioned."
Mister Walsh sighed. Diana was correct in thinking he painted too glowing a picture. "Damned ignorant fools," he muttered. "Money is at the root of it. Just as money is the way out."
"I don't see the connection, if you please, Mister Walsh," Diana said.
"No, of course you don't, my dear," Anne broke in. "Michael prides himself in obscurity in matters of philosophy. This is because he has a notion that in the laws of finance, all things can be explained."
"Well, not all," Diana said. She knew some mysteries of life had nothing to do with money. But with a few tragic exceptions, she couldn't think of any. In a flash she eliminated one of those exceptions. It was money—or the lack of it—that killed Emmett. Just as sure as Frenchy McShane.
"Go on, then," she said to Mister Walsh.
"I said we must act in concert," he resumed on cue. "But we have a host of laws that prevent this. And the laws are different state by state. Why, in some of the places I travel, if my religion were revealed, I could be cast out, or worse. They fear because our spiritual leader is in Rome, that we Catholics are under the influence of some foreign devil of a monarch. Never mind how many of us took up arms and stood side by side with other Patriots. Our mettle somehow remains unproven, our Republican ideals and loyalty in question.
"In other towns, they would tax me at twice the rate of other citizens. Should I deny my Savior? Or withhold my business? Must Michael Walsh suffer the thrice-crowing cock? But I am a fortunate man. I have money to choose the countenance of saint or sinner, and let God be the judge when I'm done."
"At least you can afford that luxury," Diana said.
She did not mean this archly. To her the lesson of the Apostle Peter had always seemed incomplete. What of the two Marys? Whore and mother. No cock crowed for them. And it was they who rolled the stone from the grave. But Peter was rewarded in this world for his cowardice. The two Marys had to await the hereafter. But that had always been her trouble with religion. Gentle words, but muddled thinking. Of course she believed in and feared a higher power. But in her experience it always came with tomahawk or gun. Or was simply represented by a body of men who could change her life with a nod and a quill scratch on paper.
So that was what she meant by her comment. Mister Walsh was as secure in his home as he was in his beliefs. To Diana, the two went together. The afterlife was for the rich, or hopeless.
Mister Walsh plunged on, warming up to his favorite topic, the plight of the Average Man. "If you are poor, you can be compelled to take a master, who may use you and pay you as he wishes. If you are in debt, you can be placed in prison, or condemned to be chained to a barrow to collect the offal from the streets. On the land, the practice of tenancy can require you to toil for another's profit.
"And then there is the keeping of slaves. Illegal by the laws of God and man in all the civilized world. Which by definition does not include many of our sister states. Why, it was only outlawed two years past in New York! And here we are, the most modern people since the days of Athens, in the waning days of the eighteenth century, eighteen hundred years since the birth of our Lord and Savior."
Ah. Finally. Mister Walsh was nearing his goal.
"I submit to you, Diana Shannon, that in all those years since He died for our sins, we have made less than an inch of progress in matters of humanity. And most of that is recent. And most of that when we told the king to go to hell!
"So, yes, I see hope in unity. Despite the ills I mentioned. For in this land a pact was made for Freedom. The rich were the architects of the Revolution, true. But they could not accomplish it without striking a bargain with the poor. And now the rich have no choice but to see that bargain is kept."
It had not been kept in Cherry Valley, Diana thought. Or in Boston, where Ruth struggled to keep her optimism. Not even here, in Philadelphia. The City of the Enlightened, where the beggars swarmed behind the carts and gobbled the raw grain that fell in the filth. Or the Irish teagues who stayed eternally drunk at the waterfront taverns. The king was gone, but the order remained. And Diana believed her only hope was to build a wall so high and thick that not even Joshua's horn could bring it down.
Mister Walsh's views were pretty thoughts, in keeping with the times, if Diana was to judge from the free-spirited conversations she had heard during her journey. Here they all were, a few desperate souls abandoned on a narrow coastline with a great unexplored and dreaded wilderness at their backs. And if they could all put aside their narrow interests, that elusive and magical Grail of Freedom would be theirs.
But who was to define this Freedom? To Mister Walsh, it was the happy pursuit of fair profit. The farmer Shay agreed with that principle, and federal troops were sent against him. The printers in Philadelphia defined it as six dollars per week. They got it. But the next time they struck—especially if the commodity were more precious than the production of broadsides—would the fates smile so sweetly? For the desperately poor, a full plate would suffice. And a bit of fire. For the indentured and the enslaved, Mister Walsh's definition might take on philosophical tones again: Dignity. Ah, but fire and food were easier to win.
Some pursued this elusive freedom in distant forests and field. But it still had to be won at someone else's expense— the Indians. Or even the poor pigeons of passage that Anne mourned, shot from the rooftops by the hundreds of thousands as they soared to their winter homes.
Diana gave no hint of these thoughts as she looked at her mentor and smiled. He was quick to respond. "Do you see my point?" he said anxiously. "Do you agree?"
She didn't. She also wanted to ask how far her enlightened friend would take this business of equality. He said he was with the Radicals, or near to it. That all men—not just the propertied—should have a say in the nation's affairs. Did that mean in his Utopia, the freed man of color would have that right? Possibly. But what about her own sex? She doubted it. What if Diana married? Would Mister Walsh agree all her worldly goods were hers and hers alone, to be shared with her husband as she saw fit? Or would he agree with the law, that it would all belong to that man, as if he had earned it himself?
She looked over at Anne, who was watching her husband with loving eyes. Diana decided not to ask.
"I suppose you're right," she said.
RISING OUT OF THE ASHES, DIANA TAKES WING