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n't meet with much credence. "Why did n't he ever come before?" was Sadie Kate's skeptical question. But Santa Claus is undoubtedly coming this time. I asked the doctor, out of politeness, to play the chief rôle at our Christmas-tree; and being certain ahead of time that he was going to refuse, I had already engaged Percy as an understudy. But there is no counting on a Scotchman. Sandy accepted with unprecedented graciousness, and I had privately to unengage Percy!
Is n't it funny, the way some inconsequential people have of pouring out whatever happens to be churning about in their minds at the moment? They seem to have no residue of small talk, and are never able to dismiss a crisis in order to discuss the weather.
This is apropos of a call I received today. A woman had come to deliver her sister's child-sister in a sanatorium for tuberculosis; we to keep the child until the mother is cured, though I fear, from what I hear, that will never be. But, anyway, all the arrangements had been made, and the woman had merely to hand in the little girl and retire. But having a couple of hours between trains, she intimated a desire to look about, so I showed her the kindergarten-rooms and the little crib that Lily will occupy, and our yellow dining-room, with its frieze of bunnies, in order that she might report as many cheerful details as possible to the poor mother. After this, as she seemed tired, I socially asked her to walk into my parlor and have a cup of tea. Doctor MacRae, being at hand and in a hungry mood (a rare state for him; he now condescends to a cup of tea with the officers of this institution about twice a month), came, too, and we had a little party.
The woman seemed to feel that the burden of entertainment rested upon her, and by way of making conversation, she told us that her husband had fallen in love with the girl who sold tickets at a
moving-picture show (a painted, yellowhaired thing who chewed gum like a cow, was her description of the enchantress), and he spent all of his money on the girl, and never came home except when he was drunk. Then he smashed the furniture something awful. An easel, with her mother's picture on it, that she had had since before she was married, he had thrown down just for the pleasure of hearing it crash. And finally she had just got too tired to live, so she drank a bottle of swamp-root because somebody had told her it was poison if you took it all at once. But it did n't kill her; it only made her sick. And he came back, and said he would choke her if she ever tried that on him again; so she guessed he must still care something for her. All this quite casually while she stirred her
I tried to think of something to say, but it was a social exigency that left me dumb. But Sandy rose to the occasion like a gentleman. He talked to her beautifully and sanely, and sent her away actually uplifted. Our Sandy, when he tries, can be exceptionally nice, particularly to people who have no claim upon him. I suppose it is a matter of professional etiquette-part of a doctor's business to heal the spirit as well as the body. Most spirits appear to need it in this world. My caller has left me needing it. I have been wondering ever since what I should do if I married a man who deserted me for a chewing-gum girl, and who came home and smashed the bric-àbrac. I suppose, judging from the theaters this winter, that it is a thing that might happen to any one, particularly in the best society.
You ought to be thankful you 've got Jervis. There is something awfully certain about a man like him. The longer I live, the surer I am that character is the only thing that counts. But how on earth can you ever tell? Men are so good at talking!
Good-by, and a merry Christmas to Jervis and both Judies.
P.S. It would be a pleasant attention if you would answer my letters a little more promptly.
John Grier Home, December 29. Dear Judy:
Sadie Kate has spent the week composing a Christmas letter to you, and it leaves nothing for me to tell. Oh, we've had a wonderful time! Besides all the presents and games and fancy things to eat, we have had hay-rides and skatingparties and candy-pulls. I don't know whether these pampered little orphans will ever settle down again into normal children.
Many thanks for my six gifts. I like them all, particularly the picture of Judy, Junior; the tooth adds a pleasant touch to her smile.
You'll be glad to hear that I 've placed out Hattie Heaphy in a minister's family, and a dear family they are; they never blinked an eyelash when I told them. about the communion-cup. They 've given her to themselves for a Christmas present, and she went off so happily, clinging to her new father's hand!
I won't write more now, because fifty children are writing thank-you letters, and poor Aunt Judy will be buried beneath her mail when this week's steamer gets in.
My love to the Pendletons.
P.S. Singapore sends his love to Togo, and is sorry he bit him on the ear.
John Grier Home, December 30. Oh dear, Gordon, I have been reading the most upsetting book!
I tried to talk some French the other day, and not making out very well, decided that I had better take my French in hand if I did n't want to lose it entirely. That Scotch doctor of ours has mercifully abandoned my scientific education, so I have a little time at my own disposal. By some unlucky chance I began with "Numa Roumestan," by Daudet. It is a terribly disturbing book for a girl
to read who is engaged to a politician. Read it, Gordon dear, and assiduously train your character away from Numa's. It's the story of a politician who is disquietingly fascinating (like you). Who is adored by all who know him (like you). Who has a most persuasive way of talking and makes wonderful speeches (again like you). He is worshiped by everybody, and they all say to his wife, "What a happy life you must lead, knowing so intimately that wonderful man!"
But he was n't very wonderful when he came home to her-only when he had an audience and applause. He would drink with every casual acquaintance, and be gay and bubbling and expansive; and then return morose and sullen and down. "Joie de rue, douleur de maison," is the burden of the book.
I read it till twelve last night, and honestly I did n't sleep for being scared. I know you'll be angry, but really and truly, Gordon dear, there 's just a touch too much truth in it for my entire amusement. I did n't mean even to refer again to that unhappy matter of August 20,we talked it all out at the time,—but you know perfectly that you need a bit of watching. And I don't like the idea. I want to have a feeling of absolute confidence and stability about the man I marry. I never could live in a state of anxious waiting for him to come home.
Read "Numa" for yourself, and you'll see the woman's point of view. I'm not patient or meek or long-suffering in any way, and I'm a little afraid of what I'm capable of doing if I have the provocation. My heart has to be in a thing in order to make it work, and, oh, I do so want our marriage to work!
Please forgive me for writing all this. I don't mean that I really think you'll be a "joy of the street, and sorrow of the home." It's just that I did n't sleep last night, and I feel sort of hollow behind the eyes.
May the year that 's coming bring good counsel and happiness and tranquillity to both of us! As ever, S.
Something terribly sort of queer has happened, and positively I don't know whether it did happen or whether I dreamed it. I'll tell you from the beginning, and I think it might be as well. if you burned this letter; it's not quite proper for Jervis's eyes.
You remember my telling you the case of Thomas Kehoe, whom we placed out last June? He had an alcoholic heredity on both sides, and as a baby seems to have been fattened on beer instead of milk. He entered the John Grier at the age of nine, and twice, according to his record in the Doomsday Book, he managed to get himself intoxicated, once on beer stolen from some workmen, and once (and thoroughly) on cooking brandy. You can see with what misgivings we placed him out; but we warned the family (hard-working temperate farmingpeople) and hoped for the best.
Yesterday the family telegraphed that they could keep him no longer. Would I please meet him on the six o'clock train? Turnfelt met the six o'clock train. No boy. I sent a night message telling of his non-arrival and asking for particulars.
I stayed up later than usual last night putting my desk in order and sort of making up my mind to face the New Year. Toward twelve I suddenly realized that the hour was late and that I was very tired. I had begun getting ready for bed when I was startled by a banging on the front door. I stuck my head out of the window and demanded who was there.
"Tommy Kehoe," said a very shaky voice.
I went down and opened the door, and that lad, sixteen years old, tumbled in, dead drunk. Thank Heaven! Percy Witherspoon was within call, and not away off in the Indian camp! I roused him, and together we conveyed Thomas to our guest-room, the only decently isolated spot in the building. Then I telephoned for the doctor, who, I am afraid, had already had a long day. He came,
and we put in a pretty terrible night. It developed afterward that the boy had brought along with his luggage a bottle of liniment belonging to his employer. It was made half of alcohol and half of witch-hazel; and Thomas had refreshed his journey with this!
He was in such shape that positively I did n't think we 'd pull him throughand I hoped we would n't. If I were a physician, I'd let such cases gently slip away for the good of society; but you should have seen Sandy work! That terrible life-saving instinct of his was aroused, and he fought with every inch of energy he possessed.
I made black coffee, and helped all I could, but the details were pretty messy, and I left the two men to deal with him alone and went back to my room. But I did n't attempt to go to bed; I was afraid they might be wanting me again. Toward four o'clock Sandy came to my library with word that the boy was asleep and that Percy had moved up a cot and would sleep in his room the rest of the night. Poor Sandy looked sort of ashen and haggard and done with life. As I looked at him, I thought about how desperately he worked to save others, and never saved himself, and about that dismal home of his, with never a touch of cheer, and the horrible tragedy in the background of his life. All the rancor I've been saving up seemed to vanish, and a wave of sympathy swept over me. I stretched my hand out to him; he stretched his out to me. And suddenlyI don't know-something electric happened. In another moment we were in each other's arms. He loosened my hands, and put me down in the big arm-chair. "My God! Sallie, do you think I 'm made of iron?" he said and walked out. I went to sleep in the chair, and when I woke the sun was shining in my eyes and Jane was standing over me in amazed consternation.
This morning at eleven he came back, looked me coldly in the eye without so much as the flicker of an eyelash, and told me that Thomas was to have hot milk
every two hours and that the spots in Maggie Peters's throat must be watched.
Here we are back on our old standing, and positively I don't know but what I dreamed that one minute in the night!
But it would be a piquant situation, would n't it, if Sandy and I should discover that we were falling in love with each other, he with a perfectly good wife in the insane asylum and I with an outraged fiancé in Washington? I don't know but what the wisest thing for me to do is to resign at once and take myself home, where I can placidly settle down to a few months of embroidering "S. McB." on table-cloths, like any other respectable engaged girl.
I repeat very firmly that this letter is n't for Jervis's consumption. Tear it into little pieces and scatter them in the Caribbean.
You are right to be annoyed. I know I'm not a satisfactory love-letter writer. I have only to glance at the published correspondence of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning to realize that the warmth of my style is not up to standard. But you know already-you have known a long time-that I am not a very emotional person. I suppose I might write a lot of such things as: "Every waking moment you are in my thoughts." "My dear boy, I only live when you are near." But it would n't be absolutely true. You don't fill all my thoughts; 107 orphans do that. And I really am quite comfortably alive whether you are here or not. I have to be natural. You surely don't want me to pretend more desolation than I feel. But I do love to see you,-you know that perfectly, and I am disappointed when you can't come. I fully appreciate all your charming qualities, but, my dear boy, I can't be sentimental on paper. I am always thinking about the hotel chambermaid who reads the letters you casually leave on your bureau. You need n't expostulate that you carry them next
your heart, for I know perfectly well that you don't.
Forgive me for that last letter if it hurt your feelings. Since I came to this asylum I am extremely touchy on the subject of drink; you would be, too, if you had seen what I have seen. Several of my chicks are the sad result of alcoholic parents, and they are never going to have a fair chance all their lives. You can't look about a place like this without "aye keeping up a terrible thinking."
You are right, I am afraid, about it 's being a woman's trick to make a great show of forgiving a man, and then never letting him hear the end of it. Well, Gordon, I positively don't know what the word "forgiving" means. It can't include "forgetting," for that is a physiological process, and does not result from an act of the will. We all have a collection of memories that we would happily lose, but somehow those are just the ones that insist upon sticking. If "forgiving" means promising never to speak of a thing again, I can doubtless manage that. But it is n't always the wisest way to shut an unpleasant memory inside you. It grows and grows, and runs all through you like a poison.
Oh dear! I really did n't mean to be saying all this. I try to be the cheerful, care-free (and somewhat light-headed) Sallie you like best; but I 've come in touch with a great deal of realness during this last year, and I 'm afraid I 've grown into a very different person from the girl you fell in love with. I'm no longer a gay young thing playing with life. I know it pretty thoroughly now, and that means that I can't be always laughing.
I know this is another beastly uncheerful letter, as bad as the last, and maybe worse, but if you knew what we 've just been through! A boy-sixteen-of unspeakable heredity has nearly poisoned himself with a disgusting mixture of alcohol and witch-hazel. We have been working three days over him, and are just sure now that he is going to recuperate sufficiently to do it again! "It's a gude warld, but they 're ill that 's in 't.'
I hope my two cablegrams did n't give you too dreadful a shock. I would have waited to let the first news come by letter, with a chance for details, but I was so afraid you might hear it in some indirect way. The whole thing is dreadful enough, but no lives were lost, and only one serious accident. We can't help shuddering at the thought of how much worse it might have been, with over a hundred sleeping children in this fire-trap of a building. That new fire-escape was absolutely useless. The wind was blowing toward it, and the flames simply enveloped it. We saved them all by the center stairs-but I'll begin at the beginning, and tell the whole story.
It had rained all day Friday, thanks to a merciful Providence, and the roofs were thoroughly soaked. Toward night it began to freeze, and the rain turned to sleet. By ten o'clock, when I went to bed, the wind was blowing a terrible gale from the northwest, and everything loose about the building was banging and rattling. About two o'clock I suddenly started wide
awake, with a bright light in my eyes. I jumped out of bed and ran to the window. The carriage-house was a mass of flames, and a shower of sparks was sweeping over our eastern wing. I ran to the bath-room and leaned out of the window. I could see that the roof over the nursery was already blazing in half a dozen places.
Well, my dear, my heart just simply did n't beat for as much as a minute. I thought of those seventeen babies up under that roof, and I could n't swallow. I finally managed to get my shaking knees to work again, and I dashed back to the hall, grabbing my automobile coat as I
I drummed on Betsy's and Miss Matthew's and Miss Snaith's doors, just as Mr. Witherspoon, who had also been wakened by the light, came tumbling upstairs three steps at a time, struggling into an overcoat as he ran.
"Get all the children down to the dining-room, babies first," I gasped. "I'll turn in the alarm."
He dashed on up to the third floor while I ran to the telephone-and oh, I thought I'd never get Central! She was sound asleep.
"The John Grier Home is burning! Turn in the fire-alarm and rouse the village. Give me 505," I said.
In one second I had the doctor. Maybe I was n't glad to hear his cool, unexcited voice!
"We're on fire!" I cried. "Come quick, and bring all the men you can!"
"I'll be there in fifteen minutes. Fill the bath-tubs with water and put in blankets." And he hung up.
I dashed back to the hall. Betsy was ringing our fire-bell, and Percy had already routed out his Indian tribes in dormitories B and C.
Our first thought was not to stop the fire, but to get the children to a place of safety. We began in G, and went from crib to crib, snatching a baby and a blanket, and rushing them to the door, and handing them out to the Indians, who lugged them down-stairs. Both G and