The presence of the Rich Young Man was a complication I had neither wished nor planned on, and became a disturbing influence both to my work and my peace of mind that fall. When the Dean demanded to know what the Rich Young Man was doing ‘round these parts,’ I knew that a crisis was impending, that I should no longer beg the question. It was a difficult decision.
Before George and I became engaged I was in very poor health and he suggested to Mama that I consult the Cook family physician and surgeon, Dr. Albert Ochsner of Chicago. Dr. Oschner was a fine man and he gave me what in those days was supposed to be a good check-up. He found nothing seriously the matter, only digestive difficulties plus extreme nervousness and fatigue – in fact, nothing that could not be cured by rest and care and a few bad-tasting medicines. The rest was to be complete after at least three months.
I was no longer in doubt as to whether I loved the Rich Young Man - his set-up and background were far from what I had hoped for. In the first place, I still disliked the aroma of wealth. Secondly, I felt utterly incapable of filling the role of wife to a man engaged in religious work.
I, who disliked family prayers, who loathed pious manners and hypocrisies, would not see myself leading a missionary meeting. In my terms, that Bishop’s daughter would do it much better.
Then there was that little matter of the Rich Young Man’s mother, who from the first moment of my appearance at her board had found it difficult to conceal her aversion for me. When I first mentioned it to the Rich Young Man, he had condoned it as a natural attitude for a mother, who would regard all women as potential enemies of her son. Now, since the years had given no evidence of her piratical tendencies, the Rich Young Man assured me that her objections to me had vanished in thin air. I am sure I had hoped he was right, but there was a curious regularity in the breaking of dates that fall.
My mother had become very fond of the Rich Young Man and she espoused his cause with fervor. Divorce had not extinguished her love of romance. Then, too, she felt sorry for the Rich Young Man and his need of me. So, one by one, my oppositions were neutralized and we became engaged. My diamond solitaire, set in pure gold, dug from the generosity of the Rich Young Man’s father, by my fiancé, aroused genuine admiration.
Another obstacle to accepting an engagement to marry was my attitude toward pregnancy. I had no intention to have a baby until I was good and ready. I intended to make a go of my marriage and, when I had a baby, it would be when I was able to do it successfully – able for both babies and myself. I knew, better than many, the cost of children in energy and strain.
I had never read anything about sex and its ramifications but I had observed that brides were barely married before they plunged into pregnancy, and gossips counted the months and oohed and aahed as if it were shameful. That would not be my way.
I would first learn to live with a man. I had seen many of the pitfalls involved in that adjustment at close range in my childhood, and was none too sanguine about my ability to handle them. At any rate, I intended to go slow, taking one thing at a time. When I had learned to cook, manage a house and satisfy a husband, I’d order the babies.
This was exceedingly important to me, so I talked things over with George. He agreed and gave me a solemn promise that there would be no babies ‘til I said the word and was strong and adjusted to married living. In the meantime, my health was a first consideration, so Florida was agreed upon as the most comfortable honeymoon spot – there I could recuperate from the pressure I had experienced for so many years. For three months we were to live there in the sunshine and warmth of a tropical climate. I was so tired from putting together an inexpensive but suitable trousseau, planning a wedding, and long hours of teaching, almost to the wedding date, that a honeymoon seemed like heaven to contemplate.