Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Story of CCCQ Block 26 - A Broken Betrothal

This week's block is Block 26, Elizabeth Cummins.

Elizabeth's daughter Ellen also made a block for the Chester Criswell quilt.  Ellen's block had two names, Ellen Cummins and Humphrey Hood.

Ellen and Humphrey must have been betrothed when the quilt was made, but they did not marry each other.  What happened?  Humphrey Hood was easy to trace, he served as a surgeon in the American Civil War and went on to be a well respected member of his community.  His big claim to fame was being a representative at the Republican convention that elected  ....  Abraham Lincoln.  Ellen Cummins did not marry but worked as a domestic servant.

When I made each pattern and block for the quilt I also wrote a story to go with the block.  I'd like to share the Cummins story here, it's one of my favourites*

Margaret Dickey felt satisfied as the Faggs Manor congregation gathered outside the church building, waiting to greet the new Mr and Mrs Jesse Jackson Smith. A sensible match with good prospects for health and prosperity. As the wife of a congressman Margaret was used to being the focus of social gatherings, but today she was free to pay her attentions as she chose.  Margaret’s coachman would not bring the carriage around for another twenty minutes and Margaret was enjoying a chance for a little gossip before returning home to her busy husband and her eight children.
Margaret made her way across to John and Elizabeth Cummins.  Elizabeth looked well, thought Margaret, but their daughter Ellen was very pale with dark circles under her eyes.
“Mr. Cummins, Mrs. Cummins, so lovely to see you once again.  What a lovely day, and didn’t the bride look charming.  Good afternoon, Ellen, are you quite alright? You don’t look your best.”
John Cummins glared at his daughter and left the women.  Elizabeth spoke hesitantly. “Good afternoon to you, Mrs. Dickey, it is very kind of you to ask about our Ellen.  You see, uhm, well… Ellen’s young man has broken their engagement.”
“I am sorry to hear your news, no wonder you look distressed.  That was Mr. Humphrey Hood of Philadelphia, was it not?  He is at the medical school there, isn’t he?”
Mrs. Cummins nodded. “Yes that is correct, Mrs. Dickey.  He has recently qualified as a doctor but has decided to return to his home state of Illinois to start his practice.  We were expecting that Mr. Hood and Ellen would be married soon, but he informed Mr. Cummins that he no longer wished to be betrothed to my Ellen.”

Margaret gave an exasperated "pshaw" at the unreliability of young men. Obviously an unsuitable match from the outset, and one her parents should not have approved.  “You poor girl.  I imagine that Mr. Hood has tempted by another young lady?”
Ellen spoke with a quaver in her voice.  “I made the block for Mary’s quilt with his name and mine. He doesn’t have anyone else, Mrs. Dickey, he’s going to Illinois with his sister!”  A tiny sob escaped Ellen as she hid her face in a much used handkerchief.
Margaret Dickey was used to being in charge. “This will never do, here, use my hanky.  That man doesn’t deserve you, Ellen, I hope his sister is a horror to him.  Now, I need some help at home now that my sister-in-law Rachel is aiming for her own medical career.  I need a nanny for the little girls not in school, that’s Sarah and Maggie and the twins.  Get your mother to help you with your wardrobe and your father can bring you over, say in ten days’ time.  I will get Mr. Dickey to settle terms with your father.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Just say yes, there’s a girl, don’t cry. Men are not worth crying over, they don’t notice anyway.”


* I'd like to take full credit for this story but my editor and daughter Jennie waved her magic wand around my words.  The end result is a collaboration.

The stories are all collected in the e-book "Round is the Ring". Why not download it now?

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