STONE GATE, WORCESTER, MASSACHUSETTS,
Your letter is here. I have read it twice, and with amazement. Do I understand that Jervis has given you, for a Christmas present, the making over of the John Grier Home into a model institution, and that you have chosen me to disburse the money? Me—I, Sallie McBride, the head of an orphan asylum! My poor people, have you lost your senses, or have you become addicted to the use of opium, and is this the raving of two fevered imaginations? I am exactly as well fitted to take care of one hundred children as to become the curator of a zoo.
And you offer as bait an interesting Scotch doctor? My dear Judy,—likewise my dear Jervis,—I see through you! I know exactly the kind of family conference that has been held about the Pendleton fireside.
"Isn't it a pity that Sallie hasn't amounted to more since she left college? She ought to be doing something useful instead of frittering her time away in the petty social life of Worcester. Also [Jervis speaks] she is getting interested in that confounded young Hallock, too good-looking and fascinating and erratic; I never did like politicians. We must deflect her mind with some uplifting and absorbing occupation until the danger is past. Ha! I have it! We will put her in charge of the John Grier Home." Oh, I can hear him as clearly as if I were there! On the occasion of my last visit in your delectable household Jervis and I had a very solemn conversation in regard to (1) marriage, (2) the low ideals of politicians, (3) the frivolous, useless lives that society women lead.
Please tell your moral husband that I took his words deeply to heart, and that ever since my return to Worcester I have been spending one afternoon a week reading poetry with the inmates of the Female Inebriate Asylum. My life is not so purposeless as it appears.
Also let me assure you that the politician is not dangerously imminent; and that, anyway, he is a very desirable politician, even though his views on tariff and single tax and trade-unionism do not exactly coincide with Jervis's.
Your desire to dedicate my life to the public good is very sweet, but you should look at it from the asylum's point of view.
Have you no pity for those poor defenseless little orphan children?
I have, if you haven't, and I respectfully decline the position which you offer.
I shall be charmed, however, to accept your invitation to visit you in New York, though I must acknowledge that I am not very excited over the list of gaieties you have planned.
Please substitute for the New York Orphanage and the Foundling Hospital a few theaters and operas and a dinner or so. I have two new evening gowns and a blue and gold coat with a white fur collar.
I dash to pack them; so telegraph fast if you don't wish to see me for myself alone, but only as a successor to Mrs. Lippett. Yours as ever,
And intending to remain so,
P.S. Your invitation is especially seasonable. A charming young politician named Gordon Hallock is to be in New York next week. I am sure you will like him when you know him better. P.S. 2. Sallie taking her afternoon walk as Judy would like to see her:
I ask you again, have you both gone mad?
THE JOHN GRIER HOME,
We arrived in a snowstorm at eleven last night, Singapore and Jane and I. It does not appear to be customary for superintendents of orphan asylums to bring with them personal maids and Chinese chows. The night watchman and housekeeper, who had waited up to receive me, were thrown into an awful flutter. They had never seen the like of Sing, and thought that I was introducing a wolf into the fold. I reassured them as to his dogginess, and the watchman, after studying his black tongue, ventured a witticism. He wanted to know if I fed him on huckleberry pie.
It was difficult to find accommodations for my family. Poor Sing was dragged off whimpering to a strange woodshed, and given a piece of burlap. Jane did not fare much better. There was not an extra bed in the building, barring a five-foot crib in the hospital room. She, as you know, approaches six. We tucked her in, and she spent the night folded up like a jackknife. She has limped about today, looking like a decrepit letter S, openly deploring this latest escapade on the part of her flighty mistress, and longing for the time when we shall come to our senses, and return to the parental fireside in Worcester.
I know that she is going to spoil all my chances of being popular with the rest of the staff. Having her here is the silliest idea that was ever conceived, but you know my family. I fought their objections step by step, but they made their last stand on Jane. If I brought her along to see that I ate nourishing food and didn't stay up all night, I might come—temporarily; but if I refused to bring her—oh, dear me, I am not sure that I was ever again to cross the threshold of Stone Gate! So here we are, and neither of us very welcome, I am afraid.
I woke by a gong at six this morning, and lay for a time listening to the racket that twenty-five little girls made in the lavatory over my head. It appears that they do not get baths,—just face-washes,—but they make as much splashing as twenty-five puppies in a pool. I rose and dressed and explored a bit. You were wise in not having me come to look the place over before I engaged.
While my little charges were at breakfast, it seemed a happy time to introduce myself; so I sought the dining room. Horror piled on horror—those bare drab walls and oil-cloth-covered tables with tin cups and plates and wooden benches, and, by way of decoration, that one illuminated text, "The Lord Will Provide"! The trustee who added that last touch must possess a grim sense of humor.
Really, Judy, I never knew there was any spot in the world so entirely ugly; and when I saw those rows and rows of pale, listless, blue-uniformed children, the whole dismal business suddenly struck me with such a shock that I almost collapsed. It seemed like an unachievable goal for one person to bring sunshine to one hundred little faces when what they need is a mother apiece.
I plunged into this thing lightly enough, partly because you were too persuasive, and mostly, I honestly think, because that scurrilous Gordon Hallock laughed so uproariously at the idea of my being able to manage an asylum. Between you all you hypnotized me. And then of course, after I began reading up on the subject and visiting all those seventeen institutions, I got excited over orphans, and wanted to put my own ideas into practice. But now I'm aghast at finding myself here; it's such a stupendous undertaking. The future health and happiness of a hundred human beings lie in my hands, to say nothing of their three or four hundred children and thousand grandchildren. The thing's geometrically progressive. It's awful. Who am I to undertake this job? Look, oh, look for another superintendent!
Jane says dinner's ready. Having eaten two of your institution meals, the thought of another doesn't excite me.
The staff had mutton hash and spinach, with tapioca pudding for dessert. What the children had I hate to consider.
I started to tell you about my first official speech at breakfast this morning. It dealt with all the wonderful new changes that are to come to the John Grier Home through the generosity of Mr. Jervis Pendleton, the president of our board of trustees, and of Mrs. Pendleton, the dear СКАЧАТЬ