Part 5 out of 5
lamb. Now, in the time of our need, what do you think that
blessed man has done? He has fitted up an empty tenant house on
the estate for our babies, has himself engaged an English trained
baby nurse to take charge, and furnishes them with the superior
milk from his own model dairy. He says he has been wondering for
years what to do with that milk. He can't afford to sell it,
because he loses four cents on every quart!
The twelve older girls from dormitory A I am putting into the
farmer's new cottage. The poor Turnfelts, who had occupied it
just two days, are being shoved on into the village. But they
wouldn't be any good in looking after the children, and I need
their room. Three or four of these girls have been returned from
foster homes as intractable, and they require pretty efficient
supervision. So what do you think I've done? Telegraphed to
Helen Brooks to chuck the publishers and take charge of my girls
instead. You know she will be wonderful with them. She
accepted provisionally. Poor Helen has had enough of this
irrevocable contract business; she wants everything in life to be
For the older boys something particularly nice has happened;
we have received a gift of gratitude from J. F. Bretland. He
went down to thank the doctor for Allegra. They had a long talk
about the needs of the institution, and J. F. B. came back and
gave me a check for $3000 to build the Indian camps on a
substantial scale. He and Percy and the village architect have
drawn up plans, and in two weeks, we hope, the tribes will move
into winter quarters.
What does it matter if my one hundred and seven children have
been burned out, since they live in such a kind-hearted world as
I suppose you are wondering why I don't vouchsafe some
details about the doctor's condition. I can't give any first-
hand information, since he won't see me. However, he has seen
everybody except me--Betsy, Allegra, Mrs. Livermore, Mr.
Bretland, Percy, various trustees. They all report that he is
progressing as comfortably as could be expected with two broken
ribs and a fractured fibula. That, I believe, is the
professional name of the particular leg bone he broke. He
doesn't like to have a fuss made over him, and he won't pose
gracefully as a hero. I myself, as grateful head of this
institution, called on several different occasions to present my
official thanks, but I was invariably met at the door with word
that he was sleeping and did not wish to be disturbed. The first
two times I believed Mrs. McGurk; after that--well, I know our
doctor! So when it came time to send our little maid to prattle
her unconscious good-bys to the man who had saved her life, I
despatched her in charge of Betsy.
I haven't an idea what is the matter with the man. He was
friendly enough last week, but now, if I want an opinion from
him, I have to send Percy to extract it. I do think that he
might see me as the superintendent of the asylum, even if he
doesn't wish our acquaintance to be on a personal basis. There
is no doubt about it, our Sandy is Scotch!
It is going to require a fortune in stamps to get this letter
to Jamaica, but I do want you to know all the news, and we have
never had so many exhilarating things happen since 1876, when we
were founded. This fire has given us such a shock that we are
going to be more alive for years to come. I believe that every
institution ought to be burned to the ground every twenty-five
years in order to get rid of old-fashioned equipment and obsolete
ideas. I am superlatively glad now that we didn't spend Jervis's
money last summer; it would have been intensively tragic to have
had that burn. I don't mind so much about John Grier's, since he
made it in a patent medicine which, I hear, contained opium.
As to the remnant of us that the fire left behind, it is
already boarded up and covered with tar-paper, and we are living
along quite comfortably in our portion of a house. It affords
sufficient room for the staff and the children's dining room and
kitchen, and more permanent plans can be made later.
Do you perceive what has happened to us? The good Lord has
heard my prayer, and the John Grier Home is a cottage
The busiest person north of the equator,
THE JOHN GRIER HOME,
Please, please behave yourself, and don't make things harder than
they are. It's absolutely out of the question for me to give up
the asylum this instant. You ought to realize that I can't
abandon my chicks just when they are so terribly in need of me.
Neither am I ready to drop this blasted philanthropy. (You can
see how your language looks in my handwriting!)
You have no cause to worry. I am not overworking. I am
enjoying it; never was so busy and happy in my life. The papers
made the fire out much more lurid than it really was. That
picture of me leaping from the roof with a baby under each arm
was overdrawn. One or two of the children have sore throats, and
our poor doctor is in a plaster cast. But we're all alive, thank
Heaven! and are going to pull through without permanent scars.
I can't write details now; I'm simply rushed to death. And
don't come--please! Later, when things have settled just a
little, you and I must have a talk about you and me, but I want
time to think about it first.
Helen Brooks is taking hold of those fourteen fractious girls in
a most masterly fashion. The job is quite the toughest I had to
offer, and she likes it. I think she is going to be a valuable
addition to our staff.
And I forgot to tell you about Punch. When the fire
occurred, those two nice women who kept him all summer were on
the point of catching a train for California--and they simply
tucked him under their arms, along with their luggage, and
carried him off. So Punch spends the winter in Pasadena and I
rather fancy he is theirs for good. Do you wonder that I am in
an exalted mood over all these happenings?
Poor bereaved Percy has just been spending the evening with
me, because I am supposed to understand his troubles. Why must I
be supposed to understand everybody's troubles? It's awfully
wearing to be pouring out sympathy from an empty heart. The poor
boy at present is pretty low, but I rather suspect--with Betsy's
aid--that he will pull through. He is just on the edge of
falling in love with Betsy, but he doesn't know it. He's in the
stage now where he's sort of enjoying his troubles. He feels
himself a tragic hero, a man who has suffered deeply. But I
notice that when Betsy is about, he offers cheerful assistance in
whatever work is toward.
Gordon telegraphed today that he is coming tomorrow. I am
dreading the interview, for I know we are going to have an
altercation. He wrote the day after the fire and begged me
to "chuck the asylum" and get married immediately, and now he's
coming to argue it out. I can't make him understand that a job
involving the happiness of one hundred or so children can't be
chucked with such charming insouciance. I tried my best to keep
him away, but, like the rest of his sex, he's stubborn. Oh dear,
I don't know what's ahead of us! I wish I could glance into next
year for a moment.
The doctor is still in his plaster cast, but I hear is doing
well, after a grumbly fashion. He is able to sit up a little
every day and to receive a carefully selected list of visitors.
Mrs. McGurk sorts them out at the door, and repudiates the ones
she doesn't like.
Good-by. I'd write some more, but I'm so sleepy that my eyes
are shutting on me. (The idiom is Sadie Kate's.) I must go to
bed and get some sleep against the one hundred and seven troubles
With love to the Pendletons,
This letter has nothing to do with the John Grier Home. It's
merely from Sallie McBride.
Do you remember when we read Huxley's letters our senior
year? That book contained a phrase which has stuck in my memory
ever since: "There is always a Cape Horn in one's life that one
either weathers or wrecks oneself on." It's terribly true; and
the trouble is that you can't always recognize your Cape Horn
when you see it. The sailing is sometimes pretty foggy, and
you're wrecked before you know it.
I've been realizing of late that I have reached the Cape
Horn of my own life. I entered upon my engagement to Gordon
honestly and hopefully, but little by little I've grown doubtful
of the outcome. The girl he loves is not the ME I want to be.
It's the ME I've been trying to grow away from all this last
year. I'm not sure she ever really existed. Gordon just
imagined she did. Anyway, she doesn't exist any more, and the
only fair course both to him and to myself was to end it.
We no longer have any interests in common; we are not
friends. He doesn't comprehend it; he thinks that I am making it
up, that all I have to do is to take an interest in his life, and
everything will turn out happily. Of course I do take an
interest when he's with me. I talk about the things he wants to
talk about, and he doesn't know that there's a whole part of me--
the biggest part of me--that simply doesn't meet him at any
point. I pretend when I am with him. I am not myself, and if we
were to live together in constant daily intercourse, I'd have to
keep on pretending all my life. He wants me to watch his face
and smile when he smiles and frown when he frowns. He can't
realize that I'm an individual just as much as he is.
I have social accomplishments. I dress well, I'm
spectacular, I would be an ideal hostess in a politician's
household--and that's why he likes me.
Anyway, I suddenly saw with awful distinctness that if I kept
on I'd be in a few years where Helen Brooks is. She's a far
better model of married life for me to contemplate just this
moment than you, dear Judy. I think that such a spectacle as you
and Jervis is a menace to society. You look so happy and
peaceful and companionable that you induce a defenseless onlooker
to rush off and snap up the first man she meets--and he's always
the wrong man.
Anyway, Gordon and I have quarreled definitely and finally.
I should rather have ended without a quarrel, but considering his
temperament,--and mine, too, I must confess,--we had to go off in
a big smoky explosion. He came yesterday afternoon, after
I'd written him not to come, and we went walking over Knowltop.
For three and a half hours we paced back and forth over that
windy moor and discussed ourselves to the bottommost recesses of
our beings. No one can ever say the break came through
misunderstanding each other!
It ended by Gordon's going, never to return. As I stood
there at the end and watched him drop out of sight over the brow
of the hill, and realized that I was free and alone and my own
master well, Judy, such a sense of joyous relief, of freedom,
swept over me! I can't tell you; I don't believe any happily
married person could ever realize how wonderfully, beautifully
ALONE I felt. I wanted to throw my arms out and embrace the
whole waiting world that belonged suddenly to me. Oh, it is such
a relief to have it settled! I faced the truth the night of the
fire when I saw the old John Grier go, and realized that a new
John Grier would be built in its place and that I wouldn't be
here to do it. A horrible jealousy clutched at my heart. I
couldn't give it up, and during those agonizing moments while I
thought we had lost our doctor, I realized what his life meant,
and how much more significant than Gordon's. And I knew then
that I couldn't desert him. I had to go on and carry out all of
the plans we made together.
I don't seem to be telling you anything but a mess of words,
I am so full of such a mess of crowding emotions. I want to talk
and talk and talk myself into coherence. But, anyway, I stood
alone in the winter twilight, and I took a deep breath of clear
cold air, and I felt beautifully, wonderfully, electrically free.
And then I ran and leaped and skipped down the hill and across
the pastures toward our iron confines, and I sang to myself. Oh,
it was a scandalous proceeding, when, according to all precedent,
I should have gone trailing home with a broken wing. I never
gave one thought to poor Gordon, who was carrying a broken,
bruised, betrayed heart to the railroad station.
As I entered the house I was greeted by the joyous clatter of
the children trooping to their supper. They were suddenly MINE,
and lately, as my doom became more and more imminent, they had
seemed fading away into little strangers. I seized the three
nearest and hugged them hard. I have suddenly found such new
life and exuberance, I feel as though I had been released from
prison and were free. I feel,--oh, I'll stop,--I just want you
to know the truth. Don't show Jervis this letter, but tell him
what's in it in a decently subdued and mournful fashion.
It's midnight now, and I'm going to try to go to sleep. It's
wonderful not to be going to marry some one you don't want to
marry. I'm glad of all these children's needs, I'm glad of Helen
Brooks, and, yes, of the fire, and everything that has made me
see clearly. There's never been a divorce in my family, and they
would have hated it.
I know I'm horribly egotistical and selfish; I ought to be
thinking of poor Gordon's broken heart. But really it would just
be a pose if I pretended to be very sorrowful. He'll find some
one else with just as conspicuous hair as mine, who will make
just as effective a hostess, and who won't be bothered by any of
these damned modern ideas about public service and woman's
mission and all the rest of the tomfoolery the modern generation
of women is addicted to. (I paraphrase, and soften our young
man's heartbroken utterances.)
Good-by, dear people. How I wish I could stand with you on
your beach and look across the blue, blue sea! I salute the
Dear Dr. MacRae:
I wonder if this note will be so fortunate as to find you awake?
Perhaps you are not aware that I have called four times to offer
thanks and consolation in my best bed-side manner? I am touched
by the news that Mrs. McGurk's time is entirely occupied in
taking in flowers and jelly and chicken broth, donated by the
adoring ladies of the parish to the ungracious hero in a plaster
cast. I know that you find a cap of homespun more comfortable
than a halo, but I really do think that you might have regarded
me in a different light from the hysterical ladies in question.
You and I used to be friends (intermittently), and though there
are one or two details in our past intercourse that might better
be expunged, still I don't see why we should let them upset our
entire relationship. Can't we be sensible and expunge them?
The fire has brought out such a lot of unexpected kindliness
and charity, I wish it might bring out a little from you. You
see, Sandy, I know you well. You may pose to the world as being
gruff and curt and ungracious and scientific and inhuman and
S C O T C H, but you can't fool me. My newly trained
psychological eye has been upon you for ten months, and I have
applied the Binet test. You are really kind and sympathetic and
wise and forgiving and big, so please be at home the next time I
come to see you, and we will perform a surgical operation upon
Time and amputate five months.
Do you remember the Sunday afternoon we ran away, and what a
nice time we had? It is now the day after that.
P.S. If I condescend to call upon you again, please condescend
to see me, for I assure you I won't try more than once! Also, I
assure you that I won't drip tears on your counterpane or try to
kiss your hand, as I hear one admiring lady did.
THE JOHN GRIER HOME,
You see, I'm feeling very friendly toward you this moment. When
I call you "MacRae" I don't like you, and when I call you "Enemy"
Sadie Kate delivered your note (as an afterthought). And
it's a very creditable production for a left-handed man; I
thought at first glance it was from Punch.
You may expect me tomorrow at four, and mind you're awake!
I'm glad that you think we're friends. Really, I feel that I've
got back something quite precious which I had carelessly mislaid.
P.S. Java caught cold the night of the fire and he has the
toothache. He sits and holds his cheek like a poor little
Thursday, January 29.
Those must have been ten terribly incoherent pages I dashed off
to you last week. Did you respect my command to destroy that
letter? I should not care to have it appear in my collected
correspondence. I know that my state of mind is disgraceful,
shocking, scandalous, but one really can't help the way one
feels. It is usually considered a pleasant sensation to be
engaged, but, oh, it is nothing compared with the wonderful
untrammeled, joyous, free sensation of being unengaged! I have
had a terribly unstable feeling these last few months, and now at
last I am settled. No one ever looked forward to spinsterhood
more thankfully than I.
Our fire, I have come to believe, was providential. It was
sent from heaven to clear the way for a new John Grier. We are
already deep in plans for cottages. I favor gray stucco, Betsy
leans to brick, and Percy, half-timber. I don't know what our
poor doctor would prefer; olive green with a mansard roof appears
to be his taste.
With ten different kitchens to practice in, won't our
children learn how to cook! I am already looking about for ten
loving house mothers to put in charge. I think, in fact, I'll
search for eleven, in order to have one for Sandy. He's as
pathetically in need of a little mothering as any, of the chicks.
It must be pretty dispiriting to come home every night to the
ministrations of Mrs. McGur-rk.
How I do not like that woman! She has with complacent
firmness told me four different times that the dochther was
ashleep and not wantin' to be disturbed. I haven't set eyes on
him yet, and I have just about finished being polite.
However, I waive judgment until tomorrow at four, when I am
to pay a short, unexciting call of half an hour. He made the
appointment himself, and if she tells me again that he is
ashleep, I shall give her a gentle push and tip her over (she's
very fat and unstable) and, planting a foot firmly on her
stomach, pursue my way tranquilly in and up. Luellen, formerly
chauffeur, chambermaid, and gardener, is now also trained nurse.
I am eager to see how he looks in a white cap and apron.
The mail has just come, with a letter from Mrs. Bretland,
telling how happy they are to have the children. She inclosed
their first photograph--all packed in a governess cart, with
Clifford proudly holding the reins, and a groom at the pony's
head. How is that for three late inmates of the John Grier Home?
It's all very inspiring when I think of their futures, but a
trifle sad when I remember their poor father, and how he worked
himself to death for those three chicks who are going to forget
him. The Bretlands will do their best to accomplish that. They
are jealous of any outside influence and want to make the babies
wholly theirs. After all, I think the natural way is best--for
each family to produce its own children, and keep them.
I saw the doctor today. He's a pathetic sight, consisting
mostly of bandages. Somehow or other we got our
misunderstandings all made up. Isn't it dreadful the way two
human beings, both endowed with fair powers of speech, can manage
to convey nothing of their psychological processes to each other?
I haven't understood his mental attitude from the first, and he
even yet doesn't understand mine. This grim reticence that we
Northern people struggle so hard to maintain! I don't know after
all but that the excitable Southern safety valve method is the
But, Judy, such a dreadful thing--do you remember last year
when he visited that psychopathic institution, and stayed ten
days, and I made such a silly fuss about it? Oh, my dear, the
impossible things I do! He went to attend his wife's funeral.
She died there in the institution. Mrs. McGurk knew it all the
time, and might have added it to the rest of her news, but she
He told me all about her, very sweetly. The poor man for
years and years has undergone a terrible strain, and I fancy her
death is a blessed relief. He confesses that he knew at the time
of his marriage that he ought not to marry her, he knew all about
her nervous instability; but he thought, being a doctor, that he
could overcome it, and she was beautiful! He gave up his city
practice and came to the country on her account. And then after
the little girl's birth she went all to pieces, and he had to
"put her away," to use Mrs. McGurk's phrase. The child is six
now, a sweet, lovely little thing to look at, but, I judge from
what he said, quite abnormal. He has a trained nurse with her
always. Just think of all that tragedy looming over our poor
patient good doctor, for he is patient, despite being the most
impatient man that ever lived!
Thank Jervis for his letter. He's a dear man, and I'm glad
to see him getting his deserts. What fun we are going to have
when you get back to Shadywell, and we lay our plans for a new
John Grier! I feel as though I had spent this past year
learning, and am now just ready to begin. We'll turn this into
the nicest orphan asylum that ever lived. I'm so absurdly happy
at the prospect that I start in the morning with a spring, and go
about my various businesses singing inside.
The John Grier Home sends its blessing to the two best
friends it ever had!
THE JOHN GRIER HOME,
Saturday at half-past six in the morning!
My dearest Enemy:
"Some day soon something nice is going to happen."
Weren't you surprised when you woke up this morning and
remembered the truth? I was! I couldn't think for about two
minutes what made me so happy.
It's not light yet, but I'm wide awake and excited and having
to write to you. I shall despatch this note by the first to-be-
trusted little orphan who appears, and it will go up on your
breakfast tray along with your oatmeal.
I shall follow VERY PROMPTLY at four o'clock this afternoon.
Do you think Mrs. McGurk will ever countenance the scandal if I
stay two hours, and no orphan for a chaperon?
It was in all good faith, Sandy, that I promised not to kiss
your hand or drip tears on the counterpane, but I'm afraid I did
both--or worse! Positively, I didn't suspect how much I cared
for you till I crossed the threshold and saw you propped up
against the pillows, all covered with bandages, and your hair
singed off. You are a sight! If I love you now, when fully one
third of you is plaster of Paris and surgical dressing, you can
imagine how I'm going to love you when it's all you!
But my dear, dear Robin, what a foolish man you are! How
should I ever have dreamed all those months that you were caring
for me when you acted so abominably S C O T C H? With most men,
behavior like yours would not be considered a mark of affection.
I wish you had just given me a glimmering of an idea of the
truth, and maybe you would have saved us both a few heartaches.
But we mustn't be looking back; we must look forward and be
grateful. The two happiest things in life are going to be ours,
a FRIENDLY marriage and work that we love.
Yesterday, after leaving you, I walked back to the asylum
sort of dazed. I wanted to get by myself and THINK, but instead
of being by myself, I had to have Betsy and Percy and Mrs.
Livermore for dinner (already invited) and then go down and talk
to the children. Friday night-social evening. They had a lot of
new records for the victrola, given by Mrs. Livermore, and I had
to sit politely and listen to them. And, my dear--you'll think
this funny--the last thing they played was "John Anderson, my jo
John," and suddenly I found myself crying! I had to snatch up
the earnest orphan and hug her hard, with my head buried in her
shoulder, to keep them all from seeing.
John Anderson, my jo John,
We clamb the hill thegither,
And monie a canty day, John,
We've had wi' ane anither;
Now we maun totter down, John,
But hand in hand we'll go,
And sleep thegither at the foot,
John Anderson, my jo.
I wonder, when we are old and bent and tottery, can you and I
look back, with no regrets, on monie a canty day we've had wi'
ane anither? It's nice to look forward to, isn't it--a life of
work and play and little daily adventures side by side with
somebody you love? I'm not afraid of the future any more. I
don't mind growing old with you, Sandy. "Time is but the stream
I go a-fishing in."
The reason I've grown to love these orphans is because they
need me so, and that's the reason--at least one of the reasons--
I've grown to love you. You're a pathetic figure of a man, my
dear, and since you won't make yourself comfortable, you must be
We'll build a house on the hillside just beyond the asylum--
how does a yellow Italian villa strike you, or preferably a pink
one? Anyway, it won't be green. And it won't have a mansard
roof. And we'll have a big cheerful living room, all fireplace
and windows and view, and no McGURK. Poor old thing! won't she
be in a temper and cook you a dreadful dinner when she hears the
news! But we won't tell her for a long, long time--or anybody
else. It's too scandalous a proceeding right on top of my own
broken engagement. I wrote to Judy last night, and with
unprecedented self-control I never let fall so much as a hint.
I'm growing Scotch mysel'!
Perhaps I didn't tell you the exact truth, Sandy, when I said
I hadn't known how much I cared. I think it came to me the night
the John Grier burned. When you were up under that blazing roof,
and for the half hour that followed, when we didn't know whether
or not you would live, I can't tell you what agonies I went
through. It seemed to me, if you did go, that I would never get
over it all my life; that somehow to have let the best friend I
ever had pass away with a dreadful chasm of misunderstanding
between us--well--I couldn't wait for the moment when I should be
allowed to see you and talk out all that I have been shutting
inside me for five months. And then--you know that you gave
strict orders to keep me out; and it hurt me dreadfully. How
should I suspect that you really wanted to see me more than any
of the others, and that it was just that terrible Scotch moral
sense that was holding you back? You are a very good actor,
Sandy. But, my dear, if ever in our lives again we have the
tiniest little cloud of a misunderstanding, let's promise not to
shut it up inside ourselves, but to TALK.
Last night, after they all got off,--early, I am pleased to
say, since the chicks no longer live at home,--I came upstairs
and finished my letter to Judy, and then I looked at the
telephone and struggled with temptation. I wanted to call up 505
and say good night to you. But I didn't dare. I'm still quite
respectably bashful! So, as the next best thing to talking with
you, I got out Burns and read him for an hour. I dropped asleep
with all those Scotch love songs running in my head, and here I
am at daybreak writing them to you.
Good-by, Robin lad, I lo'e you weel.