My older sister, Fanny, put me in a closet once when we were children. She, being the elder, had her reasons, I suppose. I can think of half a dozen reasons right now why she may have done it. I was always a plague to Fanny. Like the time I stole her pearl hair comb when she was going to a party where Herman Melville was to be guest of honor. Mr. Melville came from Troy, New York, where I come from.
We have both a small farm and a town house in Troy, across from the Hart-Cluett mansion. Life there was not dull. But it was confining. Before I made the decision to come to Washington City, my life was like I was in a...