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THE SWEETSERS

From time to time, in conversation and in this story, reference has been made to one or more of the Sweetsers, so I suppose I should give a page or so to them, that you may know better who they are.

George Sweetser, of Marion, Ind., was the moderately well to do young widower who married the beautiful Mollie Cleveland, concerning whom I have told considerable in earlier pages. Mollie being my step-mother's sister, we were naturally thrown with the Sweetsers when we were kids and came to know them pretty well. In addition to George and Mollie, the family consisted of three girls; all distinctly blondes and of varying degrees of beauty, although all were worthy of mention in that respect.

GEORGIE (or Georgiana, as she liked to call herself in her later years - which weren't very late, as you will see) was the eldest, about five years older than I. She was a strikingly handsome girl of the statuesque type, distinctly masculine in most of her characteristics; a regular tomboy when she was a kid and possessed of one of the most evilly disagreeable dispositions with which I ever came in contact. When she grew up, she took to smoking, not cigarettes, which would have been merely a little ahead of her time, but good, big, fat cigars, which was terrible. I wouldn't have cared myself, if she hadn't found it necessary to spit so much. You are probably familiar with the occasional man who expectorates excessively when he smokes; well, she was such a case, only her being a notably handsome woman, made it something awful to contemplate. She didn't really relish liquor but she used to pretend that she did; trying to appear tough and still be rather prudish was her style; you can figure out how far that went with me.

Affected by tuberculosis of the throat, she died in her late twenties, which was perhaps just as well, as she was not designed temperamentally for a happy life. My brother Bob was, or liked to think he was, madly in love with her but I doubt its requital; in fact, she would have been more likely to fall in love with a girl - as ugly rumor had it she was (Minnie Murtaugh, just in case you think I am talking through my hat).

EDITH was the second one, a little slim, somewhat pretty girl, distinctly feminine and traditionally of delicate health. About the time she grew up, she became engaged to a young doctor in Marion, by the name of Dale. George and Mollie couldn't see it and, although they didn't cast him out, the engagement dragged along for several years, Edith's delicate health furnishing the needed excuse for postponements. Then one day, Edith became really ill; Edith was going to die, in fact. In order to speed her upon her ways as happily as might be, a death-bed wedding was arranged and she become Mrs. Doctor Dale. Edith then proceeded, with disconcerting alacrity, to get well and George and Mollie had Dale on their hands after all. Edith seems to have finished up the getting sick business, once and for all, as she was not notably an invalid thereafter; flourished, in fact, for years and may still be alive, for all I know. I saw her when she was approaching sixty and, while decidedly "dried-up" and with her "prettiness" much depleted, she seemed to be going strong.

MARY was the third, about my age, and the beauty of the three - I doubt if any of them actually came up to their mother - big but certainly fine looking. She married a young dentist named Arthur Lynne (or something similar) and had a couple of children, a boy and a girl. They lived in Wilmington, Del. for a while but Dr. Lynne dropped dead one day when the children were quite little, incidentally leaving Mary pretty well fixed. She came home to Marion and, shortly afterwards, married a man by the classic name of Smith, the superintendent of the electric light company, the traction company, or something of the kind. Mary's boy was named Arthur Sweetser Lynne, after his father died and, after Mary had been Mrs. Smith for some little time, having a pair of kids named Lynne seems to have become a bit of an inconvenience, so they arranged to have her new husband adopt them and their names were changed to Smith. I cite this merely as an index of Mary's character; it told me a lot. When the boy was about high-school age, or thereabouts, my father asked him how he liked his new name. "All right", he said, "only I don't think much my initials." I never saw the boy but that made me kind of like him.

Rumor had it that Mary became somewhat of a drunk in her later years but I can't confirm it.

George Sweetser had two brothers, Burr, who lived in Marion but concerning whom I know but little, and James, also living in Marion, who became quite wealthy. His wife was a Harter, sister of Ed Harter of Huntington, whose family your mother and I knew well when we were there. James and his wife had two daughters, Bessie (Elizabeth) and another named Delight, who fully lived up to the implication of her name. Both of these girls died, Bessie as child and Delight shortly after she was married to a fine fellow by the name of Prentice, from Cleveland. Thus, when James died, he left no heirs of the body and willed his wife a life interest in his large estate; after her death, it was to go to the heirs of his two brothers, George and Burr. Mrs. James Sweetser was a smart woman and made such good use of the income from the estate that, in a few years, she had as much or more money of her own than the estate of James amounted to; she then also died and the fat was in the fire.

Burr Sweetser's heirs were all dead and Edith and Mary, George's two remaining daughters, claimed everything under the provisions of the will of James Sweetser. The Harter girls of Huntington and a cousin or two in Wabash, as the heirs of9 Mrs. Sweetser, fought the claim, asserting their interest in Mrs. Sweetser's estate, as distinguished from her life interest in what James had left, and the two groups of girls had a lawsuit that was a lawsuit. Edith and Mary are reputed to have wasted their share, plus most of what George had left them, in the vain effort to get everything. They were unsuccessful and the Harter girls received their money, although probably much depleted, lawyers generally knowing how to see to that.

I haven't heard from the Sweetser girls for years and probably never will. Mary wrote me a letter, some fifteen years ago, trying to get me to contribute toward the support of Charles Arnold (he was their first cousin too), in his impoverished old age, and I, for good and sufficient reasons, replied with a missive so caustic that I was not surprised that no reply came.

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9Some of the Wabash Harters were second cousins of mine, on my father's side, it things weren't complicated enough to suit you.

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