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New York Evening Telegram, April 28, 1921
Continuing her stories of ill-treatment at the hands of W. E. D. Stokes, millionaire hotel man, who is suing her for divorce, Mrs. Helen E. Stokes today declared that even the suggestion that they move from the Ansonia Hotel to an apartment brought forth invectives from her husband and placed her in a position where blows were imminent.

Questioned by Herbert Smyth, chief counsel for Mr. Stokes, the pretty witness, testifying in her own defense, told of how she had pleaded that they move from the Ansonia, owned by her husband, to a more homelike abode, not for her own sake "but on the children's account."

"Did you not know that Mr. Stokes built the Ansonia, had most of his money invested in the hotel and was completely wrapped up in it?" Mr. Smyth asked the witness.

“Wrapped Up in Himself”
"He was wrapped up in himself and nobody or nothing else," retorted Mrs. Stokes. "A real home means nothing to him."

Under further questioning Mrs. Stokes declared she had been married to the clubman ninety-four months and twenty-four days up to the time they separated.

"Is it not true that you were away from him about forty-eight months of that time?" she was asked.

"I should say not," declared Mrs. Stokes. "Whatever times I was away, I always was near the city somewhere, and Mr. Stokes would visit me over the weekends."

Mr. Smyth then referred to an operation Mrs. Stokes underwent. He asked if her husband had not shown her every consideration at that time.

"Yes, but ... ," hesitated the witness.

"No buts," snapped Mr. Smyth. "I want yes or no."

The witness replied in the affirmative. Referring to the same period of illness, a letter written to Mrs. Stokes' mother was read. It stated that 'If it had not been for Will I don't know what I would have done." Mrs. Stokes explained the letter was written just after she had come out of the ether.

Mr. Smyth tried to get the witness to admit her chief concern was money. His numerous questions along that line availed nothing. To each query she would reply that her chief concern was her "babies."

$1,500 Monthly Allowance
Referring to financial matters, the witness said that before their marriage Mr. Stokes agreed to give her $1,500 monthly for her personal use and buy her clothing besides. She denied Smyth's contention that the agreement was $500 and that Stokes gave her more voluntarily. She also denied going to see Mr. Gleason, personal friend and advisor to Stokes, in an effort to have him prevail on Stokes to give her $30,000.

In another effort to show that Mr. Stokes’ alleged cruelty was not as bad as it was painted by his wife. Mr. Smyth introduced in evidence a letter written by her to him on October 26, 1916. It read In part:—

“My Dear Will:—If you were here I would treat you like a child. I would give you a spanking and send you to bed ...

"Yet, in spite of your faults, you are a dear, sweet thing."

A postscript warned Stokes not to "pay any attention to that Lydig woman." Mrs. Lydig was his first wife. Referring to this letter. Mr. Smyth asked if it did not show that at the time it was written there was not real estrangement.

“Yes," agreed the witness, “but I always cared more for Mr. Stokes than he did for me."

Mr. Smyth declared that in 102 months, from the time of their marriage, Mr. Stokes had given his wife $84,493. She denied the sum was so large, but the attorney declared check stubs in his possession would show the truthfulness of his statement.

"I never had a happy day with him.” announced Mrs. Stokes in answer to a question of Mr. Smyth as to whether she loved her husband or not.

"I do not love him now. I loved him when we were first married and when I wrote those letters, but I do not love him now."

Mrs. Stokes then, under further cross-examination, went again into the scene she alleges her husband created when he choked her and held her against the wall in their dining room, while Tom Stokes, a brother, calmly partook of luncheon. She again stated that Tom Stokes had used vile language to her and refused point blank to repeat some of the phrases.

"Have you anything In your diary relative to this Tom Stokes incident?" asked Mr. Smyth.

“I do not know," she answered. "I shall have to look and see."

Sisterly Kisses for Billig
Mr. Smyth then again delved into the friendship between Mrs. Stokes and Hal Bllllg, her cousin. It had been testified that they had been seen "hugging and kissing." She again
fell back on her laconic "absolutely false" answer.

"Perhaps I may have kissed him as I would a brother," she admitted later. "I always looked upon him as a brother. If I ever did kiss him it was after a long absence, and then It was merely a sisterly kiss."

"How about the photograph of Billig that reposed on your dresser and on which, according to testimony, he had written ‘To my sweetheart’?” she was asked.

“That, too, is absolutely false. There is nothing written on the photograph."

"Where is the photograph?"

"In Denver, among my things."

"Why is it, when you knew that this photograph was one of the principal subjects of a certain witness’ testimony, that you did not produce it here, either to refute or to prove this testimony?"

"I could send for it if it is vital."

“Is it true that you invited your husband to come to Denver so you could sue him In Colorado?"

"Absolutely false. I did Invite him to come to see me out there, but I had no intention of suing him for divorce."

Stokes' statement that he had never struck any woman prompted his wife's attorney, Samuel Untermyer, to bring the first Mrs. Stokes into the courtroom.

New York Evening Telegram, April 28, 1921
Stokes Flogged Her With Coat, Says Mrs. Lydig

Mrs. Philip M. Lydig, first wife of W. E. D. Stokes, was a witness yesterday in the Supreme Court action brought against Mr. Stokes by his second wife, Mrs. Helen Ellwood Stokes, to set aside transfers of property which she charges were made to defeat her dower rights.

Mrs. Lydig, who divorced Mr. Stokes and then married Captain Philip M. Lydig, formerly of the American diplomatic corps, whom she also divorced, now is the fiancee of the Rev. Dr. Percy Stickney Grant, record of the Church of the Ascension. She was brought into the case by Samuel Untermyer, cousel for Mrs. Stokes, after Mr. Stokes had denied ever striking his first wife or any woman.

Mr. Stokes’s challenge was: “If it appears she said that I’ll get a retraction from her. I will have her come here to deny it.”

Mr. Untermyer anticipated such action by Mr. Stokes by serving Mrs. Lydig with a summons to appear and making her his own witness. Mrs. Lydig married Mr. Stokes in 1895, when she was nineteen years old, and obtained a divorce from him in 1900.

Mrs. Lydig testified that Mr. Stokes did strike her frequently during their married life, not with a stick, as has been alleged, but sometimes with a jacket and the buttons on it hurt her, she said. It was the first time she made that statement under oath, asserted Mrs. Lydig.

She said that a week ago last Thursday Mr. Stokes called her home on the telephone. Her man servant answered the call. Mr. Stokes wanted to make an appointment with her, but she refused to talk with her former husband. Undaunted, Mr. Stokes called at the residence of Mrs. Lydig, at 11 West 16th Street, last Thursday, but she had anticipated the call by having a policeman there and the meeting sought by Mr. Stokes did not take place.

Mrs. Lydig testified that Mr. Stokes had called on her on numerous occasions while the husband of the present Mrs. Stokes, that these visits had to do with financial arrangements for her son, W. E. D. Stokes Jr., and that one of her servants or some other person was always present at these meetings, which were in no way clandestine. Asked if Mrs. Stokes did not object to these visits, Mrs. Lydig replied: “I was not interested in Mrs. Stokes.”

“You hate and abhor Mr. Stokes, don’t you?” asked Isidor Gainsburg, counsel for Mr. Stokes.

“No, I just feel very sorry for him,” replied the witness.

Mrs. Lydig said that her divorce decree awarded the custody of her son to her, but she gave Mr. Stokes “Weddie’s” custody because he had an inheritance for him and she did not. She did this voluntarily, said the witness, and there was no financial consideration or settlement in return. The son voluntarily returned to his mother in 1916.

Rita Hernandez y de Alba De Acosta, aka the first Mrs. W. E. D. Stokes and Mrs. Philip Lydig, was prone to illness. Whether these occasionally were illnesses of convenience nobody knew for sure. Stokes himself seemed to be conveniently ill during his many legal battles. (During the second trial Mrs. Stokes' attorney, Samuel Untermyer, claimed Mr. Stokes had at least eight bouts of pneumonia during a two-year period.)

In any event Mrs. Lydig wasn't up for a return visit to the courtroom to face cross-examination. Thus her testimony was stricken from the case, which was of no consequence to Mrs. Stokes. The damage to her husband had been done. It's like that exchange between James Stewart, as the defense lawyer, and Ben Gazzara, as his client, in "Anatomy of a Murder," after the judge orders the jury to disregard certain testimony, and Gazzara asks, "How can they disregard something they've already heard?" and Stewart replies, "They can't."

My guess is that neither can most judges.

 
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