Looking Backward From 2000 to 1887 HTML version

Chapter 2
The thirtieth day of May, 1887, fell on a Monday. It was one of the annual holidays of the
nation in the latter third of the nineteenth century, being set apart under the name of
Decoration Day, for doing honor to the memory of the soldiers of the North who took
part in the war for the preservation of the union of the States. The survivors of the war,
escorted by military and civic processions and bands of music, were wont on this
occasion to visit the cemeteries and lay wreaths of flowers upon the graves of their dead
comrades, the ceremony being a very solemn and touching one. The eldest brother of
Edith Bartlett had fallen in the war, and on Decoration Day the family was in the habit of
making a visit to Mount Auburn, where he lay.
I had asked permission to make one of the party, and, on our return to the city at nightfall,
remained to dine with the family of my betrothed. In the drawing-room, after dinner, I
picked up an evening paper and read of a fresh strike in the building trades, which would
probably still further delay the completion of my unlucky house. I remember distinctly
how exasperated I was at this, and the objurgations, as forcible as the presence of the
ladies permitted, which I lavished upon workmen in general, and these strikers in
particular. I had abundant sympathy from those about me, and the remarks made in the
desultory conversation which followed, upon the unprincipled conduct of the labor
agitators, were calculated to make those gentlemen's ears tingle. It was agreed that affairs
were going from bad to worse very fast, and that there was no telling what we should
come to soon. "The worst of it," I remember Mrs. Bartlett's saying, "is that the working
classes all over the world seem to be going crazy at once. In Europe it is far worse even
than here. I'm sure I should not dare to live there at all. I asked Mr. Bartlett the other day
where we should emigrate to if all the terrible things took place which those socialists
threaten. He said he did not know any place now where society could be called stable
except Greenland, Patago- nia, and the Chinese Empire." "Those Chinamen knew what
they were about," somebody added, "when they refused to let in our western civilization.
They knew what it would lead to better than we did. They saw it was nothing but
dynamite in disguise."
After this, I remember drawing Edith apart and trying to persuade her that it would be
better to be married at once without waiting for the completion of the house, spending the
time in travel till our home was ready for us. She was remarkably handsome that evening,
the mourning costume that she wore in recognition of the day setting off to great
advantage the purity of her complexion. I can see her even now with my mind's eye just
as she looked that night. When I took my leave she followed me into the hall and I kissed
her good-by as usual. There was no circumstance out of the common to distinguish this
parting from previous occasions when we had bade each other good-by for a night or a
day. There was absolutely no premonition in my mind, or I am sure in hers, that this was
more than an ordinary separation.
Ah, well!