Random Recollections
by FQC Gardner

Copyright, all rights reserved


18. I MEET ELEANOR HAIGHT

These meandering reminiscences of mine are intended to be in more or less chronological sequence. And I have now reached the time that will, I imagine, be of more interest to you all (particularly to Shirley and Kitty) than any other in my narrative -- the time when I first met your mother and grandmother.

While I was stationed at Fort Totten I met a Mrs. Senff, the wealthy widow of a President of the Sugar Trust, who had a place at Whitestone, near Fort Totten (as well as several other places, including one in New York City). She had a box at the Metropolitan Opera, and was very fond of entertaining. I, being an available young bachelor, was included in many of her parties, and I met many of her friends. Among them were Mr. and Mrs. Winthrop Cowdin, of Mount Kisco, N. Y. Mrs. Cowdin, a Virginian, was related to the Echols, of Fort Smith. They had a beautiful place at Mount Kisco, and they were also very found of entertaining -- particularly with week end House Parties, to which they frequently invited me. "Winnie" Cowdin had, in his youth, been a member of the famous Squadron A in New York, and he felt very kindly toward the Army. He had been an enthusiastic horseman and had some fine riding horses. We seemed to have many things in common, and we became good friends. He was a prominent member of the University Club, in New York, and he put me up for membership. On one occasion, early in 1916, after I had known them for several years, when I was at their home, he said to me, "You know, I have been thinking about you. Tell me, why have you never married?" I gave him the usual reply in such cases, that I had never been lucky enough to find any girl that wanted to marry me, and that I really hadn't had much time to think about it. He said, "Well, you are nearly 34 years old now and we think it is about time for you to begin thinking about it seriously. And, after much careful consideration, we have finally decided upon the girl that you should marry. She is Eleanor Haight. She has been in Europe, with her mother, for the past four or five years, but they will, I hope, come back to this country soon. Mrs. Haight and her brother, Benjamin Barker, have been life long friends of mine and I have known Eleanor Haight ever since she was born. I think she is the finest girl I ever knew, and we are going to give you the opportunity to meet her. The rest is up to you."

I had heard before of wonderful girls that I was to meet, and I was not particularly interested. However, I assured them that if she came up to his representations I would certainly do my best to get to know her. There the matter rested for a year or more; nothing more was said on the subject, and it gradually passed from my mind.

Sometime (about October) in the fall of 1916 I was again the guest of the Cowdin's one week end. I had arrived from the train rather early, had changed my clothes, and was ready to go down stairs to the big Living Room to await the descent of the other house guests for cocktails before dinner. As I made the turn in the wide staircase and started down toward the Living Room I was astonished to see, standing in front of the big fireplace, a girl whom I had never seen before. She was dressed in a very becoming pale blue (or maybe gray -- or green) dress (the one you see in the life size painting over the fireplace in our Living Room). There were quite a number of steps in the stairs, and I had a very good opportunity to observe the girl. I had not the slightest idea who she was, and it never occurred to me that she might be Eleanor Haight. By the time I had reached the bottom of the steps I had arrived, in my mind, at the definite and fixed conclusion "There is the girl I'm going to marry some day if she will have me."

I came on down, introduced myself, was practically at a loss for words to learn that she was Eleanor Haight; that she and her mother had just returned from Europe and had taken a cottage at Chappaqua (near Mount Kisco, and the family seat ever since the Revolution), and that the Cowdin's had insisted that she come for dinner that evening. In a few minutes the other guests began to assemble and I had no further opportunity to talk to her until after dinner, when we were all seated in front of the big fireplace having coffee.

The conversation was general, but when it got on the subject of horses (Cowdin's nephew was one of the most famous polo players in the country) and she indicated that she was fond of horses and riding, I took advantage of the opportunity to ask her if she wouldn't like to take a ride the next week end on some of Cowdin's horses. She assured me that she would. We had this ride, although I now have no idea where we rode to (I am not even sure that I noticed it at the time.) I was invited to dinner the next week end at the Haight's in Chappaqua. On the next week end the invitation was repeated.

On this occasion I asked her if she would marry me. Two weeks later she said yes. It was all quite simple.

A few weeks later Mrs. Haight and her daughter went to Charleston for a short visit with Ned and Gertrude Thomas (who were distant relatives of hers). Mrs. Haight liked Charleston so much that she decided to take an apartment there (2 1/2 Lamboll Street) as she had sold the family home in Fall River some years before, before going abroad.


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