Part 3 out of 5
plumage. As it is, I wear an evening gown every night just to
wear them out--no, not entirely that; to make myself believe that
I'm still an ordinary girl despite this extraordinary life that
you have pushed me into.
The Hon. Cy found me yesterday arrayed in a Nile-green crepe
(Jane's creation, though it looked Parisian). He was quite
puzzled when he found I wasn't going to a ball. I invited him to
stay and dine with me, and he accepted! We got on very affably.
He expands over his dinner. Food appears to agree with him. If
there's any Bernard Shaw in New York just now, I believe that I
might spare a couple of hours Saturday afternoon for a matinee.
G. B. S.'s dialogue would afford such a life-giving contrast to
the Hon. Cy's.
There's no use writing any more; I'll wait and talk.
P.S. Oh dear! just as I had begun to catch glimmerings of
niceness in Sandy, he broke out again and was ABOMINABLE. We
unfortunately have five cases of measles in this institution, and
the man's manner suggests that Miss Snaith and I gave the measles
to the children on purpose to make him trouble. There are many
days when I should be willing to accept our doctor's resignation.
Your brief and dignified note of yesterday is at hand. I have
never known anybody whose literary style resembled so exactly his
And you will be greatly obliged if I will drop my absurd
fashion of calling you "Enemy"? I will drop my absurd fashion of
calling you Enemy just as soon as you drop your absurd fashion of
getting angry and abusive and insulting the moment any little
thing goes wrong.
I am leaving tomorrow afternoon to spend four days in New
CHEZ THE PENDLETONS, New York.
My dear Enemy:
I trust that this note will find you in a more affable frame of
mind than when I saw you last. I emphatically repeat that it was
not due to the carelessness of the superintendent of our
institution that those two new cases of measles crept in, but
rather to the unfortunate anatomy of our old-fashioned building,
which does not permit of the proper isolation of contagious
As you did not deign to visit us yesterday morning before I
left, I could not offer any parting suggestions. I therefore
write to ask that you cast your critical eye upon Mamie Prout.
She is covered all over with little red spots which may be
measles, though I am hoping not. Mamie spots very easily.
I return to prison life next Monday at six o'clock.
P.S. I trust you will pardon my mentioning it, but you are not
the kind of doctor that I admire. I like them chubby and round
THE JOHN GRIER HOME,
You are an awful family for an impressionable young girl to
visit. How can you expect me to come back and settle down
contentedly to institution life after witnessing such a happy
picture of domestic concord as the Pendleton household
All the way back in the train, instead of occupying myself
with two novels, four magazines, and one box of chocolates that
your husband thoughtfully provided, I spent the time in a mental
review of the young men of my acquaintance to see if I couldn't
discover one as nice as Jervis. I did! (A little nicer, I
think.) From this day on he is the marked-down victim, the
I shall hate to give up the asylum after getting so excited
over it, but unless you are willing to move it to the capital, I
don't see any alternative.
The train was awfully late. We sat and smoked on a siding
while two accommodations and a freight dashed past. I think we
must have broken something, and had to tinker up our engine. The
conductor was soothing, but uncommunicative.
It was 7:30 when I descended, the only passenger, at our
insignificant station in the pitch darkness and RAIN, without an
umbrella, and wearing that precious new hat. No Turnfelt to meet
me; not even a station hack. To be sure, I hadn't telegraphed
the exact time of my arrival, but, still, I did feel rather
neglected. I had sort of vaguely expected all ONE HUNDRED AND
THIRTEEN to be drawn up by the platform, scattering flowers and
singing songs of welcome. Just as I was telling the station man
that I would watch his telegraph instrument while he ran across
to the corner saloon and telephoned for a vehicle, there came
whirling around the corner two big searchlights aimed straight at
me. They stopped nine inches before running me down, and I heard
Sandy's voice saying:
"Weel, weel, Miss Sallie McBride! I'm thinking it's ower
time you came back to tak' the bit bairns off my hands."
That man had come three times to meet me on the off chance of
the train's getting in some time. He tucked me and my new hat
and bags and books and chocolates all in under his waterproof
flap, and we splashed off. Really, I felt as if I was getting
back home again, and quite sad at the thought of ever having
to leave. Mentally, you see, I had already resigned and packed
and gone. The mere idea that you are not in a place for the rest
of your life gives you an awfully unstable feeling. That's why
trial marriages would never work. You've got to feel you're in a
thing irrevocably and forever in order to buckle down and really
put your whole mind into making it a success.
It's astounding how much news can accrue in four days. Sandy
just couldn't talk fast enough to tell me everything I wanted to
hear. Among other items, I learned that Sadie Kate had spent two
days in the infirmary, her malady being, according to the
doctor's diagnosis, half a jar of gooseberry jam and Heaven knows
how many doughnuts. Her work had been changed during my absence
to dishwashing in the officers' pantry, and the juxtaposition of
so many exotic luxuries was too much for her fragile virtue.
Also, our colored cook Sallie and our colored useful man Noah
have entered upon a war of extermination. The original trouble
was over a little matter of kindling, augmented by a pail of hot
water that Sallie threw out of the window with, for a woman,
unusual accuracy of aim. You can see what a rare character the
head of an orphan asylum must have. She has to combine the
qualities of a baby nurse and a police magistrate.
The doctor had told only the half when we reached the house,
and as he had not yet dined, owing to meeting me three times, I
begged him to accept the hospitality of the John Grier. I would
get Betsy and Mr. Witherspoon, and we would hold an executive
meeting, and settle all our neglected businesses.
Sandy accepted with flattering promptness. He likes to dine
outside of the family vault.
But Betsy, I found, had dashed home to greet a visiting
grandparent, and Percy was playing bridge in the village. It's
seldom the young thing gets out of an evening, and I'm glad for
him to have a little cheerful diversion.
So it ended in the doctor's and my dining tete-a-tete on a
hastily improvised dinner,--it was then close upon eight, and our
normal dinner hour is 6:30,--but it was such an improvised dinner
as I am sure Mrs. McGurk never served him. Sallie, wishing to
impress me with her invaluableness, did her absolutely Southern
best. And after dinner we had coffee before the fire in my
comfortable blue library, while the wind howled outside and the
We passed a most cordial and intimate evening. For the first
time since our acquaintance I struck a new note in the man.
There really is something attractive about him when you once come
to know him. But the process of knowing him requires time and
tact. He's no' very gleg at the uptak. I've never seen such a
tantalizing inexplicable person. All the time I'm talking to him
I feel as though behind his straight line of a mouth and his
half-shut eyes there were banked fires smoldering inside. Are
you sure he hasn't committed a crime? He does manage to convey
the delicious feeling that he has.
And I must add that Sandy's not so bad a talker when he lets
himself go. He has the entire volume of Scotch literature at his
"Little kens the auld wife as she sits by the fire what the
wind is doing on Hurly-Burly-Swire," he observed as a specially
fierce blast drove the rain against the window. That sounds pat,
doesn't it? I haven't, though, the remotest idea what it means.
And listen to this: between cups of coffee (he drinks far too
much coffee for a sensible medical man) he casually let fall the
news that his family knew the R. L. S. family personally, and
used to take supper at 17 Heriot Row! I tended him assiduously
for the rest of the evening in a
Did you once see Shelley plain,
And did he stop and speak to you?
frame of mind.
When I started this letter, I had no intention of filling it
with a description of the recently excavated charms of Robin
MacRae; it's just by way of remorseful apology. He was so nice
and companionable last night that I have been going about today
feeling conscience-smitten at the thought of how mercilessly I
made fun of him to you and Jervis. I really didn't mean quite
all of the impolite things that I said. About once a month the
man is sweet and tractable and engaging.
Punch has just been paying a social call, and during the
course of it he lost three little toadlings an inch long. Sadie
Kate recovered one of them from under the bookcase, but the other
two hopped away; and I'm so afraid they've taken sanctuary in my
bed! I do wish that mice and snakes and toads and angleworms
were not so portable. You never know what is going on in a
perfectly respectable-looking child's pocket.
I had a beautiful visit in Casa Pendleton. Don't forget your
promise to return it soon.
Yours as ever,
P.S. I left a pair of pale-blue bedroom slippers under the bed.
Will you please have Mary wrap them up and mail them to me? And
hold her hand while she writes the address. She spelt my name on
the place cards "Mackbird."
As I told you, I left an application for an accomplished nurse
with the employment bureau of New York.
Wanted! A nurse maid with an ample lap suitable for the
accommodation of seventeen babies at once.
She came this afternoon, and this is the fine figure of a
woman that I drew!
We couldn't keep a baby from sliding off her lap unless we
fastened him firmly with safety pins.
Please give Sadie Kate the magazine. I'll read it tonight
and return it tomorrow.
Was there ever a more docile and obedient pupil than
My dear Judy:
I've been spending the last three days busily getting under way
all those latest innovations that we planned in New York. Your
word is law. A public cooky jar has been established.
Also, the eighty play boxes have been ordered. It is a
wonderful idea, having a private box for each child, where he can
store up his treasures. The ownership of a little personal
property will help develop them into responsible citizens. I
ought to have thought of it myself, but for some reason the idea
didn't come. Poor Judy! You have inside knowledge of the
longings of their little hearts that I shall never be able to
achieve, not with all the sympathy I can muster.
We are doing our best to run this institution with as few
discommoding rules as possible, but in regard to those play boxes
there is one point on which I shall have to be firm. The
children may not keep in them mice or toads or angleworms.
I can't tell you how pleased I am that Betsy's salary is to
be raised, and that we are to keep her permanently. But the Hon.
Cy Wykoff deprecates the step. He has been making inquiries, and
he finds that her people are perfectly able to take care of her
without any salary.
"You don't furnish legal advice for nothing," say I to him.
"Why should she furnish her trained services for nothing?"
"This is charitable work."
"Then work which is undertaken for your own good should be
paid, but work which is undertaken for the public good should not
"Fiddlesticks!" says he. "She's a woman, and her family
ought to support her."
This opened up vistas of argument which I did not care to
enter with the Hon. Cy, so I asked him whether he thought it
would be nicer to have a real lawn or hay on the slope that leads
to the gate. He likes to be consulted, and I pamper him as much
as possible in all unessential details. You see, I am following
Sandy's canny advice: "Trustees are like fiddlestrings; they
maunna be screwed ower tight. Humor the mon, but gang your ain
gait." Oh, the tact that this asylum is teaching me! I should
make a wonderful politician's wife.
You will be interested to hear that I have temporarily placed
out Punch with two charming spinsters who have long been
tottering on the brink of a child. They finally came last week,
and said they would like to try one for a month to see what the
sensation felt like.
They wanted, of course, a pretty ornament, dressed in pink
and white and descended from the Mayflower. I told them that any
one could bring up a daughter of the Mayflower to be an ornament
to society, but the real feat was to bring up a son of an Italian
organ-grinder and an Irish washerwoman. And I offered Punch.
That Neapolitan heredity of his, artistically speaking, may turn
out a glorious mixture, if the right environment comes along to
choke out all the weeds.
I put it up to them as a sporting proposition, and they were
game. They have agreed to take him for one month and concentrate
upon his remaking all their years of conserved force, to the end
that he may be fit for adoption in some moral family. They both
have a sense of humor and ACCOMPLISHING characters, or I should
never have dared to propose it. And really I believe it's going
to be the one way of taming our young fire-eater. They will
furnish the affection and caresses and attention that in his
whole abused little life he has never had.
They live in a fascinating old house with an Italian garden,
and furnishings selected from the whole round world. It does
seem like sacrilege to turn that destructive child loose in such
a collection of treasures. But he hasn't broken anything here
for more than a month, and I believe that the Italian in him will
respond to all that beauty.
I warned them that they must not shrink from any profanity
that might issue from his pretty baby lips.
He departed last night in a very fancy automobile, and maybe
I wasn't glad to say good-by to our disreputable young man! He
has absorbed just about half of my energy.
The pendant arrived this morning. Many thanks! But you
really ought not to have given me another; a hostess cannot be
held accountable for all the things that careless guests lose in
her house. It is far too pretty for my chain. I am thinking of
having my nose pierced, Cingalese fashion, and wearing my new
jewel where it will really show.
I must tell you that our Percy is putting some good
constructive work into this asylum. He has founded the John
Grier Bank, and has worked out all the details in a very
professional and businesslike fashion, entirely incomprehensible
to my non-mathematical mind. All of the older children possess
properly printed checkbooks, and they are each to be paid five
dollars a week for their services, such as going to school and
accomplishing housework. They are then to pay the institution
(by check) for their board and clothes, which will consume their
five dollars. It looks like a vicious circle, but it's really
very educative; they will comprehend the value of money before we
dump them into a mercenary world. Those who are particularly
good in lessons or work will receive an extra recompense. My
head aches at the thought of the bookkeeping, but Percy
waves that aside as a mere bagatelle. It is to be accomplished
by our prize arithmeticians, and will train them for positions of
trust. If Jervis hears of any opening for bank officials, let me
know; I shall have a well-trained president, cashier, and paying
teller ready to be placed by this time next year.
Our doctor doesn't like to be called "Enemy." It hurts his
feelings or his dignity or something of the sort. But since I
will persist, despite his expostulations, he has finally
retaliated with a nickname for me. He calls me "Miss Sally
Lunn," and is in a glow of pride at having achieved such an
He and I have invented a new pastime: he talks Scotch, and I
answer in Irish. Our conversations run like this:
"Good afthernoon to ye, docther. An' how's yer health the
"Verra weel, verra weel. And how gas it wi' a' the bairns?"
"Shure, they're all av thim doin' foin."
"I'm gey glad to hear it. This saft weather is hard on folk.
There's muckle sickness aboot the kintra."
"Hiven be praised it has not lighted here! But sit down,
docther, an' make yersilf at home. Will ye be afther havin' a
cup o' tay?"
"Hoot, woman! I would na hae you fash yoursel', but a wee
drap tea winna coom amiss."
"Whist! It's no thruble at all."
You may not think this a very dizzying excursion into
frivolity; but I assure you, for one of Sandy's dignity, it's
positively riotous. The man has been in a heavenly temper ever
since I came back; not a single cross word. I am beginning to
think I may reform him as well as Punch.
This letter must be about long enough even for you. I've
been writing it bit by bit for three days, whenever I happened to
pass my desk.
Yours as ever,
P.S. I don't think much of your vaunted prescription for hair
tonic. Either the druggist didn't mix it right, or Jane didn't
apply it with discretion. I stuck to the pillow this morning.
THE JOHN GRIER HOME,
Your letter of Thursday is at hand, and extremely silly I
consider it. Of course I am not trying to let you down easy;
that isn't my way. If I let you down at all, it will be suddenly
and with an awful bump. But I honestly didn't realize that it
had been three weeks since I wrote. Please excuse!
Also, my dear sir, I have to bring you to account. You were
in New York last week, and you never ran up to see us. You
thought we wouldn't find it out, but we heard--and are insulted.
Would you like an outline of my day's activities? Wrote
monthly report for trustees' meeting. Audited accounts.
Entertained agent of State Charities Aid Association for
luncheon. Supervised children's menus for next ten days.
Dictated five letters to families who have our children. Visited
our little feeble-minded Loretta Higgins (pardon the reference; I
know you don't like me to mention the feeble-minded), who is
being boarded out in a nice comfortable family, where she is
learning to work. Came back to tea and a conference with the
doctor about sending a child with tubercular glands to a
sanatorium. Read an article on cottage VERSUS congregate system
for housing dependent children. (We do need cottages! I wish
you'd send us a few for a Christmas present.) And now at nine
o'clock I'm sleepily beginning a letter to you. Do you know many
young society girls who can point to such a useful day as that?
Oh, I forgot to say that I stole ten minutes from my accounts
this morning to install a new cook. Our Sallie Washington-
Johnston, who cooked fit for the angels had a dreadful, dreadful
temper and terrorized poor Noah, our super-excellent furnace man,
to the point of giving notice. We couldn't spare Noah. He's
more useful to the institution than its superintendent, and so
Sallie Washington-Johnston is no more.
When I asked the new cook her name, she replied, "Ma name is
Suzanne Estelle, but ma friends call me Pet." Pet cooked the
dinner tonight, but I must say that she lacks Sallie's delicate
touch. I am awfully disappointed that you didn't visit us while
Sallie was still here. You would have taken away an exalted
opinion of my housekeeping.
Drowsiness overcame me at that point, and it's now two days
Poor neglected Gordon! It has just occurred to me that you
never got thanked for the modeling clay which came two weeks ago,
and it was such an unusually intelligent present that I should
have telegraphed my appreciation. When I opened the box and saw
all that nice messy putty stuff, I sat down on the spot and
created a statue of Singapore. The children love it; and it is
very good to have the handicraft side of their training
After a careful study of American history, I have
determined that nothing is so valuable to a future president
as an early obligatory unescapable performance of CHORES.
Therefore I have divided the daily work of this institution
into a hundred parcels, and the children rotate weekly through a
succession of unaccustomed tasks. Of course they do everything
badly, for just as they learn how, they progress to something
new. It would be infinitely easier for us to follow Mrs.
Lippett's immoral custom of keeping each child sentenced for life
to a well-learned routine; but when the temptation assails me, I
recall the dreary picture of Florence Henty, who polished the
brass doorknobs of this institution for seven years--and I
sternly shove the children on.
I get angry every time I think of Mrs Lippett. She had
exactly the point of view of a Tammany politician--no slightest
sense of service to society. Her only interest in the John Grier
Home was to get a living out of it.
What new branch of learning do you think I have introduced
into my asylum? Table manners!
I never had any idea that it was such a lot of trouble to
teach children how to eat and drink. Their favorite method is to
put their mouths down to their mugs and lap their milk like
kittens. Good manners are not merely snobbish ornaments, as Mrs.
Lippett's regime appeared to believe. They mean self-discipline
and thought for others, and my children have got to learn them.
That woman never allowed them to talk at their meals, and I
am having the most dreadful time getting any conversation out of
them above a frightened whisper. So I have instituted the custom
of the entire staff, myself included, sitting with them at the
table, and directing the talk along cheerful and improving lines.
Also I have established a small, very strict training table,
where the little dears, in relays, undergo a week of steady
badgering. Our uplifting table conversations run like this:
"Yes, Tom, Napoleon Bonaparte was a very great man--elbows
off the table. He possessed a tremendous power of concentrating
his mind on whatever he wanted to have; and that is the way to
accomplish--don't snatch, Susan; ask politely for the bread, and
Carrie will pass it to you.--But he was an example of the fact
that selfish thought just for oneself, without considering the
lives of others, will come to disaster in the--Tom! Keep your
mouth shut when you chew--and after the battle of Waterloo--let
Sadie's cooky alone--his fall was all the greater because--Sadie
Kate, you may leave the table. It makes no difference what he
did. Under no provocation does a lady slap a gentleman."
Two more days have passed; this is the same kind of
meandering letter I write to Judy. At least, my dear man, you
can't complain that I haven't been thinking about you this week!
I know you hate to be told all about the asylum, but I can't help
it, for it's all I know. I don't have five minutes a day to read
the papers. The big outside world has dropped away. My
interests all lie on the inside of this little iron inclosure.
I am at present,
Superintendent of the
John Grier Home.
"Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in." Hasn't that a very
philosophical, detached, Lord of the Universe sound? It comes
from Thoreau, whom I am assiduously reading at present. As you
see, I have revolted against your literature and taken to my own
again. The last two evenings have been devoted to "Walden," a
book as far removed as possible from the problems of the
Did you ever read old Henry David Thoreau? You really ought.
I think you'd find him a congenial soul. Listen to this:
"Society is commonly too cheap. We meet at very short intervals,
not having had time to acquire any new value for each other. It
would be better if there were but one habitation to a square
mile, as where I live." A pleasant, expansive, neebor-like man
he must have been! He minds me in some ways o' Sandy.
This is to tell you that we have a placing-out agent visiting
us. She is about to dispose of four chicks, one of them Thomas
Kehoe. What do you think? Ought we to risk it? The place she
has in mind for him is a farm in a no-license portion of
Connecticut, where he will work hard for his board, and live in
the farmer's family. It sounds exactly the right thing, and we
can't keep him here forever; he'll have to be turned out some day
into a world full of whisky.
I'm sorry to tear you away from that cheerful work on
"Dementia Precox," but I'd be most obliged if you'd drop in here
toward eight o'clock for a conference with the agent.
I am, as usual,
My dear Judy:
Betsy has perpetrated a most unconscionable trick upon a pair of
adopting parents. They have traveled East from Ohio in their
touring car for the dual purpose of seeing the country and
picking up a daughter. They appear to be the leading citizens of
their town, whose name at the moment escapes me; but it's a very
important town. It has electric lights and gas, and Mr. Leading
Citizen owns the controlling interest in both plants. With a
wave of his hand he could plunge that entire town into darkness;
but fortunately he's a kind man, and won't do anything so harsh,
not even if they fail to reelect him mayor. He lives in a brick
house with a slate roof and two towers, and has a deer and
fountain and lots of nice shade trees in the yard. (He carries
its photograph in his pocket.) They are good-natured, generous,
kind-hearted, smiling people, and a little fat; you can see what
desirable parents they would make.
Well, we had exactly the daughter of their dreams, only, as
they came without giving us notice, she was dressed in a
flannellet nightgown, and her face was dirty. They looked
Caroline over, and were not impressed; but they thanked us
politely, and said they would bear her in mind. They wanted to
visit the New York Orphanage before deciding. We knew well that,
if they saw that superior assemblage of children, our poor little
Caroline would never have a chance.
Then Betsy rose to the emergency. She graciously invited
them to motor over to her house for tea that afternoon and
inspect one of our little wards who would be visiting her baby
niece. Mr. and Mrs. Leading Citizen do not know many people in
the East, and they haven't been receiving the invitations
that they feel are their due; so they were quite innocently
pleased at the prospect of a little social diversion. The moment
they had retired to the hotel for luncheon, Betsy called up her
car, and rushed baby Caroline over to her house. She stuffed her
into baby niece's best pink-and-white embroidered frock, borrowed
a hat of Irish lace, some pink socks and white slippers, and set
her picturesquely upon the green lawn under a spreading beech
tree. A white-aproned nurse (borrowed also from baby niece)
plied her with bread and milk and gaily colored toys. By the
time prospective parents arrived, our Caroline, full of food and
contentment, greeted them with cooes of delight. From the moment
their eyes fell upon her they were ravished with desire. Not a
suspicion crossed their unobservant minds that this sweet little
rosebud was the child of the morning. And so, a few formalities
having been complied with, it really looks as though baby
Caroline would live in the Towers and grow into a leading
I must really get to work, without any further delay, upon
the burning question of new clothes for our girls.
With the highest esteem, I am,
Y'r most ob'd't and h'mble serv't,
My dearest Judy:
Listen to the grandest innovation of all, and one that will
delight your heart.
NO MORE BLUE GINGHAM!
Feeling that this aristocratic neighborhood of country
estates might contain valuable food for our asylum, I have of
late been moving in the village social circles, and at a luncheon
yesterday I dug out a beautiful and charming widow who wears
delectable, flowing gowns that she designs herself. She confided
to me that she would have loved to have been a dressmaker, if she
had only been born with a needle in her mouth instead of a golden
spoon. She says she never sees a pretty girl badly dressed but
she longs to take her in hand and make her over. Did you ever
hear anything so apropos? From the moment she opened her lips
she was a marked man.
"I can show you fifty-nine badly dressed girls," said I to
her, and you have got to come back with me and plan their new
clothes and make them beautiful."
She expostulated; but in vain. I led her out to her
automobile, shoved her in, and murmured, "John Grier Home" to the
chauffeur. The first inmate our eyes fell upon was Sadie Kate,
just fresh, I judge, from hugging the molasses barrel; and a
shocking spectacle she was for any esthetically minded person.
In addition to the stickiness, one stocking was coming down, her
pinafore was buttoned crookedly, and she had lost a hair-ribbon.
But--as always--completely at ease, she welcomed us with a cheery
grin, and offered the lady a sticky paw.
"Now," said I, in triumph, "you see how much we need you.
What can you do to make Sadie Kate beautiful?"
"Wash her," said Mrs. Livermore.
Sadie Kate was marched to my bathroom. When the scrubbing
was finished and the hair strained back and the stocking restored
to seemly heights, I returned her for a second inspection--a
perfectly normal little orphan. Mrs. Livermore turned her from
side to side, and studied her long and earnestly.
Sadie Kate by nature is a beauty, a wild, dark, Gypsyish
little colleen. She looks fresh from the wind-swept moors of
Connemara. But, oh, we have managed to rob her of her
birthright with this awful institution uniform!
After five minutes' silent contemplation, Mrs. Livermore
raised her eyes to mine.
"Yes, my dear, you need me."
And then and there we formed our plans. She is to head the
committee on C L O T H E S. She is to choose three friends to
help her. And they, with the two dozen best sewers among the
girls and our sewing-teacher and five sewing machines, are going
to make over the looks of this institution. And the charity is
all on our side. We are supplying Mrs. Livermore with the
profession that Providence robbed her of. Wasn't it clever of me
to find her? I woke this morning at dawn and crowed!
Lots more news,--I could run into a second volume,--but I am
going to send this letter to town by Mr. Witherspoon, who, in a
very high collar and the blackest of evening clothes, is on the
point of departure for a barn dance at the country club. I
told him to pick out the nicest girls he danced with to come and
tell stories to my children.
It is dreadful, the scheming person I am getting to be. All
the time I am talking to any one, I am silently thinking, "What
use can you be to my asylum?"
There is grave danger that this present superintendent will
become so interested in her job that she will never want to
leave. I sometimes picture her a white-haired old lady,
propelled about the building in a wheeled chair, but still
tenaciously superintending her fourth generation of orphans.
PLEASE discharge her before that day!
Yesterday morning, without the slightest warning, a station hack
drove up to the door and disgorged upon the steps two men, two
little boys, a baby girl, a rocking horse, and a Teddy bear, and
then drove off!
The men were artists, and the little ones were children of
another artist, dead three weeks ago. They had brought the mites
to us because they thought "John Grier" sounded solid and
respectable, and not like a public institution. It had never
entered their unbusinesslike heads that any formality is
necessary about placing a child in an asylum.
I explained that we were full, but they seemed so stranded
and aghast, that I told them to sit down while I advised them
what to do. So the chicks were sent to the nursery, with a
recommendation of bread and milk, while I listened to their
history. Those artists had a fatally literary touch, or maybe it
was just the sound of the baby girl's laugh, but, anyway, before
they had finished, the babes were ours.
Never have I seen a sunnier creature than the little Allegra
(we don't often get such fancy names or such fancy children).
She is three years old, is lisping funny baby talk and bubbling
with laughter. The tragedy she has just emerged from has never
touched her. But Don and Clifford, sturdy little lads of five
and seven, are already solemn-eyed and frightened at the hardness
Their mother was a kindergarten teacher who married an artist
on a capital of enthusiasm and a few tubes of paint. His friends
say that he had talent, but of course he had to throw it away to
pay the milkman. They lived in a haphazard fashion in a rickety
old studio, cooking behind screens, the babies sleeping on
But there seems to have been a very happy side to it--a great
deal of love and many friends, all more or less poor, but
artistic and congenial and high-thinking. The little lads, in
their gentleness and fineness, show that phase of their
upbringing. They have an air which many of my children, despite
all the good manners I can pour into them, will forever lack.
The mother died in the hospital a few days after Allegra's
birth, and the father struggled on for two years, caring for his
brood and painting like mad--advertisements, anything--to keep a
roof over their heads.
He died in St. Vincent's three weeks ago,--overwork, worry,
pneumonia. His friends rallied about the babies, sold such of
the studio fittings as had escaped pawning, paid off the debts,
and looked about for the best asylum they could find. And,
Heaven save them! they hit upon us!
Well, I kept the two artists for luncheon,--nice creatures
in soft hats and Windsor ties, and looking pretty frayed
themselves,--and then started them back to New York with the
promise that I would give the little family my most parental
So here they are, one little mite in the nursery, two in the
kindergarten room, four big packing cases full of canvases in the
cellar, and a trunk in the store room with the letters of their
father and mother. And a look in their faces, an intangible
spiritual SOMETHING, that is their heritage.
I can't get them out of my mind. All night long I was
planning their future. The boys are easy. They have already
been graduated from college, Mr. Pendleton assisting, and are
pursuing honorable business careers. But Allegra I don't know
about; I can't think what to wish for the child. Of course the
normal thing to wish for any sweet little girl is that two kind
foster parents will come along to take the place of the real
parents that Fate has robbed her of. But in this case it would
be cruel to steal her away from her brothers. Their love for the
baby is pitiful. You see, they have brought her up. The only
time I ever hear them laugh is when she has done something funny.
The poor little fellows miss their father horribly. I found Don,
the five-year-old one, sobbing in his crib last night because he
couldn't say good night to "daddy."
But Allegra is true to her name, the happiest young miss of
three I have ever seen. The poor father managed well by her, and
she, little ingrate, has already forgotten that she has lost him.
Whatever can I do with these little ones? I think and think
and think about them. I can't place them out, and it does seem
too awful to bring them up here; for as good as we are going to
be when we get ourselves made over, still, after all, we are an
institution, and our inmates are just little incubator chicks.
They don't get the individual, fussy care that only an old hen
There is a lot of interesting news that I might have been
telling you, but my new little family has driven everything out
of my mind.
Bairns are certain joy, but nae sma' care.
P.S. Don't forget that you are coming to visit me next week.
P.S. II. The doctor, who is ordinarily so scientific and
unsentimental, has fallen in love with Allegra. He didn't so
much as glance at her tonsils; he simply picked her up in his
arms and hugged her. Oh, she is a little witch! Whatever is to
become of her?
My dear Judy:
I may report that you need no longer worry as to our inadequate
fire protection. The doctor and Mr. Witherspoon have been giving
the matter their gravest attention, and no game yet devised has
proved so entertaining and destructive as our fire drill.
The children all retire to their beds and plunge into alert
slumber. Fire alarm sounds. They spring up and into their
shoes, snatch the top blanket from their beds, wrap it around
their imaginary nightclothes, fall into line, and trot to the
hall and stairs.
Our seventeen little tots in the nursery are each in charge
of an Indian, and are bundled out, shrieking with delight. The
remaining Indians, so long as there is no danger of the roof
falling, devote themselves to salvage. On the occasion of our
first drill, Percy in command, the contents of a dozen clothes
lockers were dumped into sheets and hurled out of the windows. I
usurped dictatorship just in time to keep the pillows and
mattresses from following. We spent hours resorting those
clothes, while Percy and the doctor, having lost all interest
strolled up to the camp with their pipes.
Our future drills are to be a touch less realistic. However,
I am pleased to tell you that, under the able direction of Fire
Chief Witherspoon, we emptied the building in six minutes and
That baby Allegra has fairy blood in her veins. Never did
this institution harbor such a child, barring one that Jervis and
I know of. She has completely subjugated the doctor. Instead of
going about his visits like a sober medical man, he comes down to
my library hand in hand with Allegra, and for half an hour at a
time crawls about on a rug, pretending he's a horse, while the
bonnie wee lassie sits on his back and kicks. You know, I am
thinking of putting a card in the paper:
Characters neatly remodeled.
Sandy dropped in two nights ago to have a bit of conversation
with Betsy and me, and he was FRIVOLOUS. He made three jokes,
and he sat down at the piano and sang some old Scotch, "My luve's
like a red, red rose," and "Come under my plaidie," and "Wha's at
the window? Wha? Wha?" not in the least educational, and then
danced a few steps of the strathspey!
I sat and beamed upon my handiwork, for it's true, I've done
it all through my frivolous example and the books I've given him
and the introducing of such lightsome companions as Jimmie and
Percy and Gordon Hallock. If I have a few more months in which
to work, I shall get the man human. He has given up purple ties,
and at my tactful suggestion has adopted a suit of gray.
You have no idea how it sets him off. He will be quite
distinguished looking as soon as I can make him stop carrying
bulgy things in his pockets.
Good-by; and remember that we're expecting you on Friday.
P.S. Here is a picture of Allegra, taken by Mr. Witherspoon.
Isn't she a love? Her present clothes do not enhance her beauty,
but in the course of a few weeks she will move into a pink
Wednesday, June 24, 10 A.M.
MRS. JERVIS PENDLETON.
Your letter is at hand, stating that you cannot visit me on
Friday per promise, because your husband has business that keeps
him in town. What clishmaclaver is this! Has it come to such a
pass that you can't leave him for two days?
I did not let 113 babies interfere with my visit to you, and
I see no reason why you should let one husband interfere with
your visit to me. I shall meet the Berkshire express on Friday
My dear Judy:
That was a very flying visit you paid us; but for all small
favors we are grateful. I am awfully pleased that you were so
delighted with the way things are going, and I can't wait for
Jervis and the architect to get up here and really begin a
You know, I had the queerest feeling all the time that you
were here. I can't make it seem true that you, my dear,
wonderful Judy, were actually brought up in this institution, and
know from the bitter inside what these little tots need.
Sometimes the tragedy of your childhood fills me with an anger
that makes me want to roll up my sleeves and fight the whole
world and force it into making itself over into a place more fit
for children to live in. That Scotch-Irish ancestry of mine
seems to have deposited a tremendous amount of FIGHT in my
If you had started me with a modern asylum, equipped with
nice, clean, hygienic cottages and everything in running order, I
couldn't have stood the monotony of its perfect clockwork. It's
the sight of so many things crying to be done that makes it
possible for me to stay. Sometimes, I must confess, I wake up in
the morning and listen to these institution noises, and sniff
this institution air, and long for the happy, carefree life that
by rights is mine.
You my dear witch, cast a spell over me, and I came. But
often in the night watches your spell wears thin, and I start the
day with the burning decision to run away from the John Grier
Home. But I postpone starting until after breakfast. And as I
issue into the corridor, one of these pathetic tots runs to meet
me, and shyly slips a warm, crumpled little fist into my hand,
and looks up with wide baby eyes, mutely asking for a little
petting, and I snatch him up and hug him. And then, as I look
over his shoulder at the other forlorn little mites, I long to
take all 113 into my arms and love them into happiness. There is
something hypnotic about this working with children. Struggle as
you may, it gets you in the end.
Your visit seems to have left me in a broadly philosophical
frame of mind; but I really have one or two bits of news that I
might convey. The new frocks are marching along, and, oh, but
they are going to be sweet! Mrs. Livermore was entranced
with those parti-colored bales of cotton cloth you sent,--you
should see our workroom, with it all scattered about,--and when I
think of sixty little girls, attired in pink and blue and yellow
and lavender, romping upon our lawn of a sunny day, I feel that
we should have a supply of smoked eye glasses to offer visitors.
Of course you know that some of those brilliant fabrics are going
to be very fadeable and impractical. But Mrs. Livermore is as
bad as you--she doesn't give a hang. She'll make a second and a
third set if necessary. DOWN WITH CHECKED GINGHAM!
I am glad you liked our doctor. Of course we reserve the
right to say anything about him we choose, but our feelings would
be awfully hurt if anybody else should make fun of him.
He and I are still superintending each other's reading. Last
week he appeared with Herbert Spencer's "System of Synthetic
Philosophy" for me to glance at. I gratefully accepted it, and
gave him in return the "Diary of Marie Bashkirtseff." Do you
remember in college how we used to enrich our daily speech with
quotations from Marie? Well, Sandy took her home and read her
painstakingly and thoughtfully.
"Yes," he acknowledged today when he came to report, "it is a
truthful record of a certain kind of morbid, egotistical
personality that unfortunately does exist. But I can't
understand why you care to read it; for, thank God! Sally Lunn,
you and Bash haven't anything in common."
That's the nearest to a compliment he ever came, and I feel
extremely flattered. As to poor Marie, he refers to her as
"Bash" because he can't pronounce her name, and is too disdainful
We have a child here, the daughter of a chorus girl, and she
is a conceited, selfish, vain, posing, morbid, lying little minx,
but she has eyelashes! Sandy has taken the most violent dislike
to that child. And since reading poor Marie's diary, he has
found a new comprehensive adjective for summing up all of
her distressing qualities. He calls her BASHY, and dismisses
Good-by and come again.
P.S. My children show a distressing tendency to draw out their
entire bank accounts to buy candy.
My dear Judy:
What do you think Sandy has done now? He has gone off on a
pleasure trip to that psychopathic institution whose head
alienist visited us a month or so ago. Did you ever know
anything like the man? He is fascinated by insane people, and
can't let them alone.
When I asked for some parting medical instructions, he
"Feed a cowld and hunger a colic and put nae faith in
With that advice, and a few bottles of cod-liver oil we are
left to our own devices. I feel very free and adventurous.
Perhaps you had better run up here again, as there's no telling
what joyous upheaval I may accomplish when out from under Sandy's
THE JOHN GRIER HOME,
Here I stay lashed to the mast, while you run about the country
disporting yourself with insane people. And just as I was
thinking that I had nicely cured you of this morbid predilection
for psychopathic institutions! It's very disappointing. You had
seemed almost human of late.
May I ask how long you are intending to stay? You had
permission to go for two days, and you've already been away four.
Charlie Martin fell out of a cherry tree yesterday and cut his
head open, and we were driven to calling in a foreign doctor.
Five stitches. Patient doing well. But we don't like to depend
on strangers. I wouldn't say a word if you were away on
legitimate business, but you know very well that, after
associating with melancholics for a week, you will come back home
in a dreadful state of gloom, dead sure that humanity is going to
the dogs; and upon me will fall the burden of getting you
decently cheerful again.
Do leave those insane people to their delusions, and come
back to the John Grier Home, which needs you.
I am most fervent'
Your friend and servant,
P.S. Don't you admire that poetical ending? It was borrowed
from Robert Burns, whose works I am reading assiduously as a
compliment to a Scotch friend.
That doctor man is still away. No word; just disappeared into
space. I don't know whether he is ever coming back or not, but
we seem to be running very happily without him.
I lunched yesterday CHEZ the two kind ladies who have taken
our Punch to their hearts. The young man seems to be very much
at home. He took me by the hand, and did the honors of the
garden, presenting me with the bluebell of my choice. At
luncheon the English butler lifted him into his chair and tied on
his bib with as much manner as though he were serving a prince of
the blood. The butler has lately come from the household of the
Earl of Durham, Punch from a cellar in Houston Street. It was a
very uplifting spectacle.
My hostesses entertained me afterward with excerpts from
their table conversations of the last two weeks. (I wonder the
butler hasn't given notice; he looked like a respectable man.)
If nothing more comes of it, at least Punch has furnished them
with funny stories for the rest of their lives. One of them is
even thinking of writing a book. "At least," says she, wiping
hysterical tears from her eyes, "we have lived!"
The Hon. Cy dropped in at 6:30 last night, and found me in an
evening gown, starting for a dinner at Mrs. Livermore's house.
He mildly observed that Mrs. Lippett did not aspire to be a
society leader, but saved her energy for her work. You know I'm
not vindictive, but I never look at that man without wishing he
were at the bottom of the duck pond, securely anchored to a rock.
Otherwise he'd pop up and float.
Singapore respectfully salutes you, and is very glad that you
can't see him as he now appears. A shocking calamity has
befallen his good looks. Some bad child--and I don't think she's
a boy--has clipped that poor beastie in spots, until he looks
like a mangy, moth-eaten checkerboard. No one can imagine who
did it. Sadie Kate is very handy with the scissors, but she is
also handy with an alibi! During the time when the clipping
presumably occurred, she was occupying a stool in the corner of
the schoolroom with her face to the wall, as twenty-eight
children can testify. However, it has become Sadie Kate's daily
duty to treat those spots with your hair tonic.
I am, as usual,
P.S. This is a recent portrait of the Hon. Cy drawn from life.
The man, in some respects, is a fascinating talker; he makes
gestures with his nose.
Sandy is back after a ten-days' absence,--no explanations,--and
plunged deep into gloom. He resents our amiable efforts to cheer
him up, and will have nothing to do with any of us except baby
Allegra. He took her to his house for supper tonight and never
brought her back until half-past seven, a scandalous hour for a
young miss of three. I don't know what to make of our doctor; he
grows more incomprehensible every day.
But Percy, now, is an open-minded, confiding young man. He
has just been making a dinner call (he is very punctilious
in all social matters), and our entire conversation was devoted
to the girl in Detroit. He is lonely and likes to talk about
her; and the wonderful things he says! I hope that Miss Detroit
is worthy of all this fine affection, but I'm afraid. He fetched
out a leather case from the innermost recesses of his waistcoat
and, reverently unwrapping two layers of tissue-paper, showed me
the photograph of a silly little thing, all eyes and earrings and
fuzzy hair. I did my best to appear congratulatory, but my heart
shut up out of pity for the poor boy's future.
Isn't it funny how the nicest men often choose the worst
wives, and the nicest women the worst husbands? Their very
niceness, I suppose, makes them blind and unsuspicious.
You know, the most interesting pursuit in the world is
studying character. I believe I was meant to be a novelist;
people fascinate me--until I know them thoroughly. Percy and the
doctor form a most engaging contrast. You always know at any
moment what that nice young man is thinking about; he is written
like a primer in big type and one-syllable words. But the
doctor! He might as well be written in Chinese so far as
legibility goes. You have heard of people with a dual nature;
well, Sandy possesses a triple one. Usually he's scientific and
as hard as granite, but occasionally I suspect him of being quite
a sentimental person underneath his official casing. For days at
a time he will be patient and kind and helpful, and I begin to
like him; then without any warning an untamed wild man swells up
from the innermost depths, and--oh, dear! the creature's
I always suspect that sometime in the past he has suffered a
terrible hurt, and that he is still brooding over the memory of
it. All the time he is talking you have the uncomfortable
feeling that in the far back corners of his mind he is thinking
something else. But this may be merely my romantic
interpretation of an uncommonly bad temper. In any case, he's
We have been waiting for a week for a fine windy afternoon,
and this is it. My children are enjoying "kite-day," a leaf
taken from Japan. All of the big-enough boys and most of the
girls are spread over "Knowltop" (that high, rocky sheep pasture
which joins us on the east) flying kites made by themselves.
I had a dreadful time coaxing the crusty old gentleman who
owns the estate into granting permission. He doesn't like
orphans, he says, and if he once lets them get a start in his
grounds, the place will be infested with them forever. You would
think, to hear him talk, that orphans were a pernicious kind of
But after half an hour's persuasive talking on my part, he
grudgingly made us free of his sheep pasture for two hours,
provided we didn't step foot into the cow pasture over the lane,
and came home promptly when our time was up. To insure the
sanctity of his cow pasture, Mr. Knowltop has sent his gardener
and chauffeur and two grooms to patrol its boundaries while the
flying is on. The children are still at it, and are having a
wonderful adventure racing over that windy height and getting
tangled up in one another's strings. When they come panting back
they are to have a surprise in the shape of ginger cookies and
These pitiful little youngsters with their old faces! It's a
difficult task to make them young, but I believe I'm
accomplishing it. And it really is fun to feel you're doing
something positive for the good of the world. If I don't fight
hard against it, you'll be accomplishing your purpose of turning
me into a useful person. The social excitements of Worcester
almost seem tame before the engrossing interest of 113 live,
warm, wriggling little orphans.
Yours with love,
P.S. I believe, to be accurate, that it's 107 children I possess
This being Sunday and a beautiful blossoming day, with a warm
wind blowing, I sat at my window with the "Hygiene of the Nervous
System" (Sandy's latest contribution to my mental needs) open in
my lap, and my eyes on the prospect without. "Thank Heaven!"
thought I, "that this institution was so commandingly placed that
at least we can look out over the cast-iron wall which shuts us
I was feeling very cooped-up and imprisoned and like an
orphan myself; so I decided that my own nervous system required
fresh air and exercise and adventure. Straight before me ran
that white ribbon of road that dips into the valley and up over
the hills on the other side. Ever since I came I have longed to
follow it to the top and find out what lies beyond those hills.
Poor Judy! I dare say that very same longing enveloped your
childhood. If any one of my little chicks ever stands by the
window and looks across the valley to the hills and asks, "What's
over there?" I shall telephone for a motor car.
But today my chicks were all piously engaged with their
little souls, I the only wanderer at heart. I changed my silken
Sunday gown for homespun, planning meanwhile a means to get to
the top of those hills.
Then I went to the telephone and brazenly called up 505.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. McGurk," said I, very sweet. "May I be
speaking with Dr. MacRae?"
"Howld the wire," said she, very short.
"Afternoon, Doctor," said I to him. "Have ye, by chance, any
dying patients who live on the top o' the hills beyant?"
"I have not, thank the Lord!"
"'Tis a pity," said I, disappointed. "And what are ye afther
doin' with yerself the day?"
"I am reading the `Origin of Species.'"
"Shut it up; it's not fit for Sunday. And tell me now, is
yer motor car iled and ready to go?"
"It is at your disposal. Are you wanting me to take some
orphans for a ride?"
"Just one who's sufferin' from a nervous system. She's taken
a fixed idea that she must get to the top o' the hills."
"My car is a grand climber. In fifteen minutes--"
"Wait!" said I. "Bring with ye a frying pan that's a decent
size for two. There's nothing in my kitchen smaller than a cart
wheel. And ask Mrs. McGurk can ye stay out for supper."
So I packed in a basket a jar of bacon and some eggs and
muffins and ginger cookies, with hot coffee in the thermos
bottle, and was waiting on the steps when Sandy chugged up with
his automobile and frying pan.
We really had a beautiful adventure, and he enjoyed the
sensation of running away exactly as much as I. Not once did I
let him mention insanity. I made him look at the wide stretches
of meadow and the lines of pollard willows backed by billowing
hills, and sniff the air, and listen to the cawing crows and the
tinkle of cowbells and the gurgling of the river. And we
talked--oh, about a million things far removed from our asylum.
I made him throw away the idea that he is a scientist, and
pretend to be a boy. You will scarcely credit the assertion, but
he succeeded--more or less. He did pull off one or two really
boyish pranks. Sandy is not yet out of his thirties and, mercy!
that is too early to be grown up.
We camped on a bluff overlooking our view, gathered some
driftwood, built a fire, and cooked the NICEST supper--a
sprinkling of burnt stick in our fried eggs, but charcoal's
healthy. Then, when Sandy had finished his pipe and "the sun
was setting in its wonted west," we packed up and coasted
He says it was the nicest afternoon he has had in years, and,
poor deluded man of science, I actually believe it's true. His
olive green home is so uncomfortable and dreary and uninspiring
that I don't wonder he drowns his troubles in books. Just as
soon as I can find a nice comfortable house mother to put in
charge, I am going to plot for the dismissal of Maggie McGurk,
though I foresee that she will be even harder than Sterry to pry
from her moorings.
Please don't draw the conclusion that I am becoming unduly
interested in our bad-tempered doctor, for I'm not. It's just
that he leads such a comfortless life that I sometimes long to
pat him on the head and tell him to cheer up; the world's full of
sunshine, and some of it's for him--just as I long to comfort my
hundred and seven orphans; so much and no more.
I am sure that I had some real news to tell you, but it has
completely gone out of my head. The rush of fresh air has made
me sleepy. It's half-past nine, and I bid you good night.
P.S. Gordon Hallock has evaporated into thin air. Not a word
for three weeks; no candy or stuffed animals or tokimentoes of
any description. What on earth do you suppose has become of that
attentive young man?
Hark to the glad tidings!
This being the thirty-first day of Punch's month, I
telephoned to his two patronesses, as nominated in the bond, to
arrange for his return. I was met by an indignant refusal. Give
up their sweet little volcano just as they are getting it trained
not to belch forth fire? They are outraged that I can make such
an ungrateful request. Punch has accepted their invitation to
spend the summer.
The dressmaking is still going on. You should hear the
machines whir and the tongues clatter in the sewing room. Our
most cowed, apathetic, spiritless little orphan cheers up and
takes an interest in life when she hears that she is to possess
three perfectly private dresses of her own, and each a different
color, chosen by herself. And you should see how it encourages
their sewing ability. Even the little ten-year-olds are bursting
into seamstresses. I wish I could devise an equally effective
way to make them take an interest in cooking. But our kitchen is
extremely uneducative. You know how hampering it is to one's
enthusiasm to have to prepare a bushel of potatoes at
I think you've heard me mention the fact that I should like
to divide up my kiddies into ten nice little families, with a
nice comfortable house mother over each? If we just had ten
picturesque cottages to put them in, with flowers in the front
yard and rabbits and kittens and puppies and chickens in the
back, we should be a perfectly presentable institution, and
wouldn't be ashamed to have these charity experts come visiting
I started this letter three days ago, was interrupted to talk
to a potential philanthropist (fifty tickets to the circus), and
have not had time to pick up my pen since. Betsy has been in
Philadelphia for three days, being a bridesmaid for a miserable
cousin. I hope that no more of her family are thinking of
getting married, for it's most upsetting to the J. G. H.
While there, she investigated a family who had applied for a
child. Of course we haven't a proper investigating plant, but
once in a while, when a family drops right into our arms, we do
like to put the business through. As a usual thing, we work with
the State Charities' Aid Association. They have a lot of trained
agents traveling about the State, keeping in touch with families
who are willing to take children, and with asylums that have them
to give. Since they are willing to work for us, there is no
slightest use in our going to the expense of peddling our own
babies. And I do want to place out as many as are available, for
I firmly believe that a private home is the best thing for the
child, provided, of course, that we are very fussy about the
character of the homes we choose. I don't require rich foster
parents, but I do require kind, loving, intelligent parents.
This time I think Betsy has landed a gem of a family. The child
is not yet delivered or the papers signed, and of course there is
always danger that they may give a sudden flop, and splash back
into the water.
Ask Jervis if he ever heard of J. F. Bretland of
Philadelphia. He seems to move in financial circles. The first
I ever heard of him was a letter addressed to the "Supt. John
Grier Home, Dear Sir,"--a curt, typewritten, businesslike letter,
from an AWFULLY businesslike lawyer, saying that his wife had
determined to adopt a baby girl of attractive appearance and good
health between the ages of two and three years. The child
must be an orphan of American stock, with unimpeachable
heredity, and no relatives to interfere. Could I furnish one as
required and oblige, yours truly, J. F. Bretland?
By way of reference he mentioned "Bradstreets." Did you ever
hear of anything so funny? You would think he was opening a
charge account at a nursery, and inclosing an order from our seed
We began our usual investigation by mailing a reference blank
to a clergyman in Germantown, where the J. F. B.'s reside.
Does he own any property?
Does he pay his bills?
Is he kind to animals?
Does he attend church?
Does he quarrel with his wife? And a dozen other impertinent
We evidently picked a clergyman with a sense of humor.
Instead of answering in laborious detail, he wrote up and down
and across the sheet, "I wish they'd adopt me!"
This looked promising, so B. Kindred obligingly dashed out to
Germantown as soon as the wedding breakfast was over. She is
developing the most phenomenal detective instinct. In the course
of a social call she can absorb from the chairs and tables a
family's entire moral history.
She returned from Germantown bursting with enthusiastic
Mr. J. F. Bretland is a wealthy and influential citizen,
cordially loved by his friends and deeply hated by his enemies
(discharged employees, who do not hesitate to say that he is a
HAR-RD man). He is a little shaky in his attendance at church,
but his wife seems regular, and he gives money.
She is a charming, kindly, cultivated gentlewoman, just out
of a sanatorium after a year of nervous prostration. The
doctor says that what she needs is some strong interest in
life, and advises adopting a child. She has always longed to do
it, but her hard husband has stubbornly refused. But finally, as
always, it is the gentle, persistent wife who has triumphed, and
hard husband has been forced to give in. Waiving his own natural
preference for a boy, he wrote, as above, the usual request for a
Mrs. Bretland, with the firm intention of taking a child, has
been reading up for years, and there is no detail of infant
dietetics that she does not know. She has a sunny nursery, with
a southwestern exposure, all ready. And a closet full of
surreptitiously gathered dolls! She has made the clothes for
them herself,--she showed them to Betsy with the greatest
pride,--so you can understand the necessity for a girl.
She has just heard of an excellent English trained nurse that
she can secure, but she isn't sure but that it would be better to
start with a French nurse, so that the child can learn the
language before her vocal cords are set. Also, she was extremely
interested when she heard that Betsy was a college woman. She
couldn't make up her mind whether to send the baby to college or
not. What was Betsy's honest opinion? If the child were Betsy's
own daughter, would Betsy send her to college?
All this would be funny if it weren't so pathetic; but really
I can't get away from the picture of that poor lonely woman
sewing those doll clothes for the little unknown girl that she
wasn't sure she could have. She lost her own two babies years
ago, or, rather, she never had them; they were never alive.
You can see what a good home it's going to be. There's lots
of love waiting for the little mite, and that is better than all
the wealth which, in this case, goes along.
But the problem now is to find the child, and that isn't
easy. The J. F. Bretlands are so abominably explicit in their
requirements. I have just the baby boy to give them; but with
that closetful of dolls, he is impossible. Little Florence
won't do--one tenacious parent living. I've a wide variety of
foreigners with liquid brown eyes--won't do at all. Mrs.
Bretland is a blonde, and daughter must resemble her. I have
several sweet little mites with unspeakable heredity, but the
Bretlands want six generations of church-attending grandparents,
with a colonial governor at the top. Also I have a darling
little curly-headed girl (and curls are getting rarer and rarer),
but illegitimate. And that seems to be an unsurmountable barrier
in the eyes of adopting parents, though, as a matter of fact, it
makes no slightest difference in the child. However, she won't
do. The Bretlands hold out sternly for a marriage certificate.
There remains just one child out of all these one hundred and
seven that appears available. Our little Sophie's father and
mother were killed in a railroad accident, and the only reason
she wasn't killed was because they had just left her in a
hospital to get an abscess cut out of her throat. She comes from
good common American stock, irreproachable and uninteresting in
every way. She's a washed-out, spiritless, whiney little thing.
The doctor has been pouring her full of his favorite cod-liver
oil and spinach, but he can't get any cheerfulness into her.
However, individual love and care does accomplish wonders in
institution children, and she may bloom into something rare and
beautiful after a few months' transplanting. So I yesterday
wrote a glowing account of her immaculate family history to
J. F. Bretland, offering to deliver her in Germantown.
This morning I received a telegram from J. F. B. Not at all!
He does not purpose to buy any daughter sight unseen. He will
come and inspect the child in person at three o'clock on
Oh dear, if he shouldn't like her! We are now bending all
our energies toward enhancing that child's beauty-like a pup
bound for the dog show. Do you think it would be awfully
immoral if I rouged her cheeks a suspicion? She is too young to
pick up the habit.
Heavens! what a letter! A million pages written without a
break. You can see where my heart is. I'm as excited over
little Sophie's settling in life as though she were my own
Respectful regards to the president.
That was an obnoxious, beastly, low-down trick not to send me a
cheering line for four weeks just because, in a period of
abnormal stress I once let you go for three. I had really begun
to be worried for fear you'd tumbled into the Potomac. My chicks
would miss you dreadfully; they love their uncle Gordon. Please
remember that you promised to send them a donkey.
Please also remember that I'm a busier person than you. it's
a lot harder to run the John Grier Home than the House of
Representatives. Besides, you have more efficient people to
This isn't a letter; it's an indignant remonstrance. I'll
write tomorrow--or the next day.
P.S. On reading your letter over again I am slightly mollified,
but dinna think I believe a' your saft words. I ken weel ye only
flatter when ye speak sae fair.
I have a history to recount.
This, please remember, is Wednesday next. So at half-past
two o'clock our little Sophie was bathed and brushed and clothed
in fine linen, and put in charge of a trusty orphan, with anxious
instructions to keep her clean.
At three-thirty to the minute--never have I known a human
being so disconcertingly businesslike as J. F. Bretland--an
automobile of expensive foreign design rolled up to the steps of
this imposing chateau. A square-shouldered, square-jawed
personage, with a chopped-off mustache and a manner that inclines
one to hurry, presented himself three minutes later at my library
door. He greeted me briskly as "Miss McKosh." I gently
corrected him, and he changed to "Miss McKim." I indicated my
most soothing armchair, and invited him to take some light
refreshment after his journey. He accepted a glass of water (I
admire a temperate parent), and evinced an impatient desire to be
done with the business. So I rang the bell and ordered the
little Sophie to be brought down.
"Hold on, Miss McGee!" said he to me. "I'd rather see her in
her own environment. I will go with you to the playroom or
corral or wherever you keep your youngsters."
So I led him to the nursery, where thirteen or fourteen mites
in gingham rompers were tumbling about on mattresses on the
floor. Sophie, alone in the glory of feminine petticoats, was
ensconced in the blue-ginghamed arms of a very bored orphan. She
was squirming and fighting to get down, and her feminine
petticoats were tightly wound about her neck. I took her in my
arms, smoothed her clothes, wiped her nose, and invited her to
look at the gentleman.
That child's whole future hung upon five minutes of
sunniness, and instead of a single smile, she WHINED!
Mr. Bretland shook her hand in a very gingerly fashion and
chirruped to her as you might to a pup. Sophie took not the
slightest notice of him, but turned her back, and buried her face
in my neck. He shrugged his shoulders, supposed that they could
take her on trial. She might suit his wife; he himself didn't
want one, anyway. And we turned to go out.
Then who should come toddling straight across his path but
that little sunbeam Allegra! Exactly in front of him she
staggered, threw her arms about like a windmill, and plumped down
on all fours. He hopped aside with great agility to avoid
stepping on her, and then picked her up and set her on her feet.
She clasped her arms about his leg, and looked up at him with a
"Daddy! Frow baby up!"
He is the first man, barring the doctor, whom the child has
seen for weeks, and evidently he resembles somewhat her almost
J. F. Bretland picked her up and tossed her in the air as
handily as though it were a daily occurrence, while she
ecstatically shrieked her delight. Then when he showed signs of
lowering her, she grasped him by an ear and a nose, and drummed a
tattoo on his stomach with both feet. No one could ever accuse
Allegra of lacking vitality!
J. F. disentangled himself from her endearments, and emerged,
rumpled as to hair, but with a firm-set jaw. He set her on her
feet, but retained her little doubled-up fist.
"This is the kid for me," he said. "I don't believe I need
to look any further."
I explained that we couldn't separate little Allegra from
her brothers; but the more I objected, the stubborner his
jaw became. We went back to the library, and argued about it for
half an hour.
He liked her heredity, he liked her looks, he liked her
spirit, he liked HER. If he was going to have a daughter foisted
on him, he wanted one with some ginger. He'd be hanged if he'd
take that other whimpering little thing. It wasn't natural. But
if I gave him Allegra, he would bring her up as his own child,
and see that she was provided for for the rest of her life. Did
I have any right to cut her out from all that just for a lot of
sentimental nonsense? The family was already broken up; the best
I could do for them now was to provide for them individually.
"Take all three," said I, quite brazenly.
But, no, he couldn't consider that; his wife was an invalid,
and one child was all that she could manage.
Well, I was in a dreadful quandary. It seemed such a chance
for the child, and yet it did seem so cruel to separate her from
those two adoring little brothers. I knew that if the Bretlands
adopted her legally, they would do their best to break all ties
with the past, and the child was still so tiny she would forget
her brothers as quickly as she had her father.
Then I thought about you, Judy, and of how bitter you have
always been because, when that family wanted to adopt you, the
asylum wouldn't let you go. You have always said that you might
have had a home, too, like other children, but that Mrs. Lippett
stole it away from you. Was I perhaps stealing little Allegra's
home from her? With the two boys it would be different; they
could be educated and turned out to shift for themselves. But to
a girl a home like this would mean everything. Ever since baby
Allegra came to us, she has seemed to me just such another child
as baby Judy must have been. She has ability and spirit. We
must somehow furnish her with opportunity. She, too, deserves
her share of the world's beauty and good--as much as nature has
fitted her to appreciate. And could any asylum ever give
her that? I stood and thought and thought while Mr. Bretland
impatiently paced the floor.
"You have those boys down and let me talk to them," Mr.
Bretland insisted. "If they have a spark of generosity, they'll
be glad to let her go."
I sent for them, but my heart was a solid lump of lead. They
were still missing their father; it seemed merciless to snatch
away that darling baby sister, too.
They came hand in hand, sturdy, fine little chaps, and stood
solemnly at attention, with big, wondering eyes fixed on the
"Come here, boys. I want to talk to you." He took each by a
hand. "In the house I live in we haven't any little baby, so my
wife and I decided to come here, where there are so many babies
without fathers and mothers, and take one home to be ours. She
will have a beautiful house to live in, and lots of toys to play
with, and she will be happy all her life--much happier than she
could ever be here. I know that you will be very glad to hear
that I have chosen your little sister."
"And won't we ever see her any more?" asked Clifford.
"Oh, yes, sometimes."
Clifford looked from me to Mr. Bretland, and two big tears
began rolling down his cheeks. He jerked his hand away and came
and hurled himself into my arms.
"Don't let him have her! Please! Please! Send him away!"
"Take them all!" I begged.
But he's a hard man.
"I didn't come for an entire asylum," said he, shortly.
By this time Don was sobbing on the other side. And then who
should inject himself into the hubbub but Dr. MacRae, with baby
Allegra in his arms!
I introduced them, and explained. Mr. Bretland reached for
the baby, and Sandy held her tight.
"Quite impossible," said Sandy, shortly. "Miss McBride
will tell you that it's one of the rules of this institution
never to separate a family."
"Miss McBride has already decided," said J. F. B., stiffly.
"We have fully discussed the question."
"You must be mistaken," said Sandy, becoming his Scotchest,
and turning to me. "You surely had no intention of performing
any such cruelty as this?"
Here was the decision of Solomon all over again, with two of
the stubbornest men that the good Lord ever made wresting poor
little Allegra limb from limb.
I despatched the three chicks back to the nursery and
returned to the fray. We argued loud and hotly, until finally J.
F. B. echoed my own frequent query of the last five months: "Who
is the head of this asylum, the superintendent or the visiting
I was furious with the doctor for placing me in such a
position before that man, but I couldn't quarrel with him in
public; so I had ultimately to tell Mr. Bretland with finality
and flatness, that Allegra was out of the question. Would he not
No, he'd be darned if he'd reconsider Sophie. Allegra or
nobody. He hoped that I realized that I had weakly allowed the
child's entire future to be ruined. And with that parting shot
he backed to the door. "Miss MacRae, Dr. McBride, good
afternoon." He achieved two formal bows and withdrew.
And the moment the door closed Sandy and I fought it out. He
said that any person who claimed to have any modern, humane views
on the subject of child-care ought to be ashamed to have
considered for even a moment the question of breaking up such a
family. And I accused him of keeping her for the purely selfish
reason that he was fond of the child and didn't wish to lose her.
(And that, I believe, is the truth.) Oh, we had the battle of
our career, and he finally took himself off with a stiffness and
politeness that excelled J. F. B.'s.
Between the two of them I feel as limp as though I'd been run
through our new mangling machine. And then Betsy came home, and
reviled me for throwing away the choicest family we have ever
So this is the end of our week of feverish activity; and both
Sophie and Allegra are, after all, to be institution children.
Oh dear! oh dear! Please remove Sandy from the staff, and send
me, instead, a German, a Frenchman, a Chinaman, if you choose--
anything but a Scotchman.
P.S. I dare say that Sandy is also passing a busy evening in
writing to have me removed. I won't object if you wish to do it.
I am tired of institutions.
You are a captious, caviling, carping, crabbed, contentious,
cantankerous chap. Hoot mon! an' why shouldna I drap into Scotch
gin I choose? An' I with a Mac in my name.
Of course the John Grier will be delighted to welcome you on
Thursday next, not only for the donkey, but for your sweet sunny
presence as well. I was planning to write you a mile-long letter
to make up for past deficiencies, but wha's the use? I'll be
seeing you the morn's morn, an' unco gude will be the sight o'
you for sair een.
Dinna fash yoursel, Laddie, because o'my language. My
forebears were from the Hielands.
All's well with the John Grier--except for a broken tooth, a
sprained wrist, a badly scratched knee, and one case of pinkeye.
Betsy and I are being polite, but cool, toward the doctor. The
annoying thing is that he is rather cool, too. And he seems to
be under the impression that the drop in temperature is all on
his side. He goes about his business in a scientific, impersonal
way, entirely courteous, but somewhat detached.
However, the doctor is not disturbing us very extensively at
present. We are about to receive a visit from a far more
fascinating person than Sandy. The House of Representatives
again rests from its labors, and Gordon enjoys a vacation, two
days of which he is planning to spend at the Brantwood Inn.
I am delighted to hear that you have had enough seaside, and
are considering our neighborhood for the rest of the summer.
There are several spacious estates to be had within a few miles
of the John Grier, and it will be a nice change for Jervis to
come home only at week ends. After a pleasantly occupied
absence, you will each have some new ideas to add to the common
I can't add any further philosophy just now on the subject of
married life, having to refresh my memory on the Monroe Doctrine
and one or two other political topics.
I am looking eagerly forward to August and three months with
It's very forgiving of me to invite you to dinner after that
volcanic explosion of last week. However, please come. You
remember our philanthropic friend, Mr. Hallock, who sent us the
peanuts and goldfish and other indigestible trifles? He will be
with us tonight, so this is your chance to turn the stream of his
benevolence into more hygienic channels.
We dine at seven.
You should have lived in the days when each man inhabited a
separate cave on a separate mountain.
Gordon is here, and a reformed man so far as his attitude toward
my asylum goes. He has discovered the world-old truth that the
way to a mother's heart is through praise of her children, and he
had nothing but praise for all 107 of mine. Even in the case of
Loretta Higgins he found something pleasant to say. He thinks it
nice that she isn't cross-eyed.
He went shopping with me in the village this afternoon, and
was very helpful about picking out hair-ribbons for a couple of
dozen little girls. He begged to choose Sadie Kate's himself,
and after many hesitations he hit upon orange satin for one braid
and emerald green for the other.
While we were immersed in this business I became aware of a
neighboring customer, ostensibly engaged with hooks and eyes, but
straining every ear to listen to our nonsense.
She was so dressed up in a picture hat, a spotted veil, a
feather boa, and a NOUVEAU ART parasol that I never dreamed she
was any acquaintance of mine till I happened to catch her eye
with a familiar malicious gleam in it. She bowed stiffly, and
disapprovingly; and I nodded back. Mrs. Maggie McGurk in her
That is a pleasanter expression than she really has. Her
smile is due to a slip of the pen.
Poor Mrs. McGurk can't understand any possible intellectual
interest in a man. She suspects me of wanting to marry every
single one that I meet. At first she thought I wanted to snatch
away her doctor; but now, after seeing me with Gordon, she
considers me a bigamous monster who wants them both.
Good-by; some guests approach.
I have just been giving a dinner for Gordon, with Betsy and
Mrs. Livermore and Mr. Witherspoon as guests. I graciously
included the doctor, but he curtly declined on the ground that he
wasn't in a social mood. Our Sandy does not let politeness
interfere with truth!
There is no doubt about it, Gordon is the most presentable
man that ever breathed. He is so good looking and easy and
gracious and witty, and his manners are so impeccable--Oh, he
would make a wonderfully decorative husband! But after all, I
suppose you do live with a husband. You don't just show him off
at dinners and teas.
He was exceptionally nice tonight. Betsy and Mrs. Livermore
both fell in love with him--and I just a trifle. He entertained
us with a speech in his best public manner, apropos of Java's
welfare. We have been having a dreadful time finding a sleeping
place for that monkey, and Gordon proved with incontestable logic
that, since he was presented to us by Jimmie, and Jimmie is
Percy's friend, he should sleep with Percy. Gordon is a natural
talker, and an audience affects him like champagne. He can argue
with us much emotional earnestness on the subject of a monkey as
on the greatest hero that ever bled for his country.
I felt tears coming to my eyes when he described Java's
loneliness as he watched out the night in our furnace cellar, and
pictured his brothers at play in the far-off tropical jungle.
A man who can talk like that has a future before him. I
haven't a doubt but that I shall be voting for him for President
in another twenty years.
We all had a beautiful time, and entirely forgot--for a space
of three hours--that 107 orphans slumbered about us. Much as I
love the little dears, it is pleasant to get away from them once
in a while.
My guests left at ten, and it must be midnight by now. (This
is the eighth day, and my clock has stopped again; Jane forgets
to wind it as regularly as Friday comes around.) However, I know
it's late; and as a woman, it's my duty to try for beauty sleep,
especially with an eligible young suitor at hand.
I'll finish tomorrow. Good night.
Gordon spent this morning playing with my asylum and planning
some intelligent presents to be sent later. He thinks that three
neatly painted totem poles would add to the attractiveness of our
Indian camps. He is also going to make us a present of three
dozen pink rompers for the babies. Pink is a color that is very
popular with the superintendent of this asylum, who is deadly
tired of blue! Our generous friend is likewise amusing himself