Belle and Bride
THE TWO FRIENDS were going to make their debuts together. Kitty Garesché turned eighteen in the summer of 1868, six months after Kate O'Flaherty, and that fall Kitty and her family were back in St. Louis. The two Katherines had been apart for five years, ever since the Gareschés were banished, in that grief-filled year when both girls turned thirteen. Sent to her aunt's in New York, Kitty had continued her Sacred Heart education at Manhattanville, and she and Kate still mirrored each other: both had been elected Children of Mary.
Once the war ended, the two friends could write letters, and the bond they shared in childhood had been stretched -- but not broken. With their debuts, they expected to recapture the warmth, excitement, and "secret emotions" they shared with their first communions -- until Kitty's life took a sudden tragic turn. Just as workmen were completing a new home, from which she would make her debut, her father -- the munitions expert Bauduy Garesché, whose work for the Confederacy had sent the whole family into exile -- died suddenly. Instead of dancing at parties and balls, Kitty was in mourning.
On her own, Kate O'Flaherty was "already fast acquiring that knowledge of human nature which her stories show," her friend William Schuyler wrote years later. She was a bit too smart, or too forthright, for high society. Although she was "one of the acknowledged belles," known for beauty and "amiability of character," she was also noted for "cleverness" -- which, for women, is not always praise. Often it means that a young woman is unwilling to hide her intelligence. She has a voice, and she wants it to be known that she has brains.