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Some Dayton Saints and Prophets
The Two Mrs. Davies


ACROSS the street from the Lowe homestead, on the corner of Fourth, stood, in 1850-60, a white brick house with a law office on the corner. Long steps led up from the side-walk to a balcony, from which the children in the Davies family relationship used to watch processions on Main Street; a deep yard stretched back of the house on Fourth Street, with a long grape-arbor running the full length of it; the long grass shaded with trees and shrubbery. One can hardly imagine it now, on that noisy crowded corner. This was the home of Edward W. Davies. He was the partner of John G. Lowe; the two men associated in business and their wives in friendship, for many years. Sharpened by my experience in discovering old houses, I pursued investigations in this neighborhood; finding, behind a small store, some rooms, connected in my mind with affectionate memories of Mrs. Davies, though now filled with a display of fall millinery. This was not, however, the corner house where her friends like best to remember her, but a later and less interesting one; a house of bay windows and grates, whereas Mrs. Davies belonged by nature to a wood fire in an open fire-place. In the large old sitting-room, where the Davies family was brought up, there was such a fire-place, with shining brass andirons, and a low rocking-chair. Here you always found her. Seldom alone, her large family of children was supplemented from time to time by various other young people, wards of her husband's, who made the Davies home their own for months or years. To her came the children, small or large, of the wide family circle; to her came visitors who were sure of a welcome, sure of her interest in their affairs.
     One inestimable advantage of the fire-side life is the leisure it gives for friends. Mrs. Davies was never too busy to see you; you could tell her anything, whether of great or small, or no importance, there always remained the confident impression of her enjoyment in hearing you tell it. She had the rare faculty of listening well; never bored, never absent-minded, always smiling a gentle, placid smile with a sidewise twist of the lips, most characteristic and winning. She received her own family as she did outside friends, giving to them the undivided attention of the moment. Mr. Davies would stroll in through the back door of the office for a few moments to chat, he doing most of the chatting. Her brother, Mr. Jeremiah Pierce, came every afternoon without exception, to see her; sitting on the opposite side of the fire, enjoying in complete silence, the companionship of his sister. The Pierces were Quakers and this silent communion of brother and sister, this family Quaker meeting, was most characteristic. The custom lasted throughout the life-time of both.
     It is whispered now, when no one is yet living who could take offense, that there were times when the hospitable sympathy of Mrs. Davies was taken advantage of. Rather tiresome people often came to her; sometimes the telling of their troubles took a good while, and her children grew impatient for the departure of the too-confiding visitor; but Mrs. Davies never betrayed uneasiness, nor allowed her preferences to demand immunity. Her time belonged to those who seemed to need it most, and she listened to the end. To be "not at home" to a visitor was unheard of. Very often they took away with them something less intangible than sympathy; something in a basket!
     My remembrance of Mrs. Davies' domesticity, (the "Quiet Life" as Mary Steele's was "The Happy Life,") calls to mind a discussion that will be remembered by the members of the Woman's Literary Club, on the subject of our lives and our grandmother's---which the busier. One speaker said:

"When my mother reached the age of fifty, she resigned herself to her own fireside, her books, and her sewing," saying, 'When my children and my friends want to see me, they will find me here.' (Mrs. Harvey Conover). 'I shall never see fifty again myself,'.continued the speaker, 'but there is no chimney-corner in sight for me."

Alas! It seems as far off as heaven for most of us. Mrs. Davies, like Mrs. Lowe, pertained to the era when elderly ladies belonged in chimney-corners; they seemed to have been created and placed there for purposes of permanent adornment.
     Mrs. Davies, though a home-stayer, was not a recluse. Her interests went out beyond her fireside. She had traveled and read much, taking with her to distant lands the same affectionate interest in others that she always showed at home. One homesick girl in a strange city, unused to European ways, and needing advice, will gladly testify, after all these years, to Mrs. Davies' kind thought of, and care for her during a whole winter. The foreign sitting-room, with Mrs. Davies in it, held as much comfort for stray callers as the Dayton fire-side.

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     A daily visitor, at the Main Street home, was a sister-in-law, Mrs. Hiley Davies. Both named Mary, and marrying brothers; the two ladies were distinguished among their friends as "Mrs. Edward," and "Mrs. Hiley; among the large circle of nephews and nieces, as "Aunt Mary Edward," and "Aunt Mary Hiley." Never were two women more admirable in character, more lovable in disposition, or more widely different. "Mrs. Edward," so gentle and placid that nothing (except, perhaps, unkind criticism of other people) ever roused her: Mrs. Hiley, vigorous, aggressive, critical, but equally excellent. "Mrs. Edward," serene, silent, and smiling; "Mrs. Hiley" burdened with cares; out in all weather; buffeted by circumstances; alert, wiry, astonishing, and refreshing. The contrast was striking ; each the antithesis and the complement of the other.
     Mrs. Hiley came often to my mother's house, where her vivacity and her quickness of repartee made her a welcome visitor. I used to look on in silent amazement that one could talk so fast, so long, and say so many clever things. No one could keep up with her; no one ever tried to. I remember my father going off, laughing, across the wide yard to his office, utterly routed; while Mrs. Hiley stood on the porch with my mother, looking whimsically after him. It was told that Mrs. Edward and Mrs. Hiley used to make calls, of an afternoon, Mrs. Hiley doing all the talking, while Mrs. Edward listened and smiled. The next day Mrs. Hiley was so horrified at the number of things she had said that should not have been said, that it was necessary to spend another afternoon making the rounds and exacting strict confidence upon all points discussed.
     If this was a biography, there would he a long history of misfortune bravely met, to record to Mrs. Hiley's credit. Most of it came under the heads of illness, death, and lack of money; but no one ever saw her downcast. She supported her four orphaned children in various ways; by administration of the Public Library, by a clerkship in the Post-office, and by taking boarders. A daughter of General Loury and a sister of Fielding Loury, she had the Loury quickness of wit and versatility of mind. This combination helped her, as some one said, "to bob up like a cork" after each new trouble, as buoyant and intrepid as ever.
     My recollections of Mrs. Hiley Davies are chiefly connected with the Public Library, when it occupied an upper floor in the Phillips building, on the corner of Main and Second. This was in the Sixties, before modern library methods had come in. The books were behind wire screens like burglar-proof basement windows. You could not see the titles very well, and were allowed, under no circumstances, to handle them. Mrs. Hiley Davies sat at a desk in the middle of the room, austere and absorbed in her knitting. When you had made an experimental choice from the back of a book, she came with a bunch of keys and unlocked the shelf. If what you took to be a good novel, turned out to be only a religious work, you were obliged to take it and go; no more attention for you that day! Asked whether the library contained anything on Russia, Mrs. Hiley was apt to reply:

"I don't know, just look around," and go on with her knitting. This was not neglect of duty, it was all that the public and the trustees required of her. Not knowing that Mrs. Hiley was pleasanter than she appeared, I used to dread to be sent to the library. If I raised on tip-toe to look over the edge of the desk, and said, "Mother wants The Woman in White,'" I was afraid she would scowl. Her glasses and her keys made her formidable. I am glad I learned to love as well as to admire her.
     A valiant character she was, who faced death as she had life, unafraid. One morning, passing her open door in a boarding-house, my mother was called in by the cheery voice and begged to sit awhile. Mrs. Hiley was dusting-up the hearth as she spoke. The talk was of various things, at last touching upon Mrs. John G. Lowe, who had just celebrated an advanced birthday.
     "I am better than that," said Mrs. Hiley, cheerfully. "Yes, I am older by several years, but," in her animated way, "I am ready to go when my time comes,---ready any time."

     My mother said good-by and returned to her home.
     A short half hour later, the simple announcement was made to her:

     "Mrs. Hiley Davies is dead."

     She had answered "Ad sum" with her duster in her hand.

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