The Making of Marty
by Elsie Talmage Brandley
Chapter 7 – Marty’s Duty Is Clear
It was a hot day in July. Not a breeze was stirring anywhere and Marty Lane felt that she would melt if it got any warmer. She and Claire were shelling peas on the front steps. That was the shadiest spot to be found anywhere, for there were vines covering the entire east side, and the sun did not seem quite so hot there.
“Marty, what do you want to be when you grow up?” Claire asked suddenly.
“I don’t know. I never have thought of being anything except a girl. What do you want to be?” was Marty’s reply.
“Sometimes I think I’d like to be a schoolteacher and then my mind changes and I think I’d rather have a chicken-ranch and raise hundreds of tiny, fluffy chickens. Dora says I’m not gifted in either line, or I’d know what I wanted and not change so often. Dora wants to be a nurse, and nothing else ever enters her head. She reads every book on “First Aid to the Injured” and “Household Hints in Sickness” that she can get her hands on. She loves to be around sick people, and pat their pillows up for them, and her main joy in life is talking to folks about what ails them. She went over to North Creek once last year to visit a friend who was in the hospital, and for weeks Dora couldn’t talk about anything except the nice clean smell, and the nice white nurses, and the nice clean floors, and the nice doctors, until I nearly went frantic. I suppose it must mean that she is a born nurse, for I’m sure I’d faint at the sight of a hospital, and the smell of ether always makes me deathly sick.”
“I never would do for a nurse either,” laughed Marty. “I’ve been to the hospital a time or two with Daddy, but it doesn’t leave me longing to go there again. Everything does look clean, but the poor sick people are so pale that they frighten me. It must be awfully hard for the nurses to be with sick people all the time.”
“Especially weather like this. Imagine a day when you were roasting to death but anyway had to go around giving medicine to people burning up with fever. It seems much nicer to me to think of a yard full of little biddies scratching around in the cool earth, doesn’t it to you?”
Marty considered a moment. “Yes, it does sound cooler, but I never did like to touch things with feathers on. I wouldn’t do for a chicken lady any better than a nurse. To tell the truth I never could do a thing before I came here, and now all I know anything about is a little housework. I can wash dishes and dust and tend one or two little children, so I’ll either have to marry someone and keep house for him or else go out as a maid in some rich family. Oh, there comes Dora, running up the street as though a tribe of wild Indians was after her.”
“She must have some good news,” Claire guessed.
Dora came in the gate just then, and her face looked as though the news was not so good.
She sat on the step and fanned herself with her hat while she caught her breath.
“Girls,” she said slowly and sorrowfully. “The most dreadful thing has happened! Tommy Sayre has some kind of a fever, and the doctor is afraid it is typhoid. He is out of his head, and hot as blazes. Jessie is nearly crazy, for if she stops her work, they won’t have enough money to live on. The doctor says that Tommy should have somebody with him all the time, and everyone in town is willing to help all they can, but nobody can spare their full time. Jessie doesn’t know what to do.”
The sisters had not been looking at Marty or they would have seen her grow very white and frightened. When Dora finished, Marty dropped her head on the next step above her and began to cry as if her heart would break. Claire and Dora stared at each other in surprise.
“What shall I do?” moaned the girl. “That poor little boy lying there sick and maybe dying, and his family worried sick – and it’s all my fault.”
Her cousins were almost dumb with amazement.
“Of course it isn’t your fault,” scolded Claire. “Sit up and tell us what is wrong with you. How could it be your fault?”
“Oh, it is, it is my fault! That was the trust I didn’t keep. Aunt Nanna told me that Sunday not to let any one go near the old Simms well, but I forgot, and let Tommy go. He took a drink of water there, and that’s where he got typhoid.”
Marty burst into violent sobbing again, and nothing the others said gave her any comfort. Soon they grew alarmed and Dora went in to call her mother, partly explaining the situation on the way out.
Aunt Nanna drew Marty up on the porch, and sat down in a rocking chair, drawing the girl over to her lap.
“Tell me all about it, Marty, dear. Why are you feeling so bad?”
Again Marty sobbed out her heartbroken story, and again burst into bitter crying. Aunt Nanna looked very grave, for she could see how great a trouble it would be for the Sayre family, with all the other trials they had to bear.
“Well, child, brace up,” she commanded. “It does no good to cry, and might do you harm. Let us talk matters over, and see if we can find a way out somewhere. We must do something to help them, but what shall it be?”
Here Dora chimed in. “The doctor isn’t going to charge a cent. He told Jessie that in the beginning, but it is the nurse question that is hard to settle.”
“None of you girls are old enough to go into a sickroom, and I can’t be spared all the time. I will go a little while each day, and your work will be to keep this house in running order, and do a little cooking for their family. Do you think you could do that?”
“Yes, we could,” her daughters answered, but Marty did not speak. She was still crying very hard.
It touched her to hear her Aunt Nanna and the girls plan so willingly to help, when she and she alone was at fault. Standing up dizzily she said she wanted to go in and lie down awhile. The others could tell that she wanted to be alone, so let her go without a word.
Marty threw herself on the bed and cried herself to sleep. She did not hear the call to lunch, and slept an hour into the afternoon. When she awoke there was a dull ache within her, and in a few seconds she remembered all that Dora had told her, and felt queer and sick again. For a long time she lay quietly trying to think of what she could do to help Jessie and Tommy and poor Mrs. Sayre. Of course she had her allowance of five dollars a month which her mother sent for any little things she might need, but that would not help very much. Jessie earned nearly as much as that every week at Sandstroms’, and they would need much more than that now they had another illness in the family. What could she do? How could she help them over this trouble she had brought into their home by her carelessness?
Suddenly Marty sat up straight on the bed. She had thought of the answer to her own question. She could see her path of duty ahead of her, and she would not falter. Getting up she hastily bathed her face, and brushed and braided her hair. The dress she had on was all rumpled and mussy, so she slipped into a fresh gingham and went downstairs.
“I’m going out for a little while, Aunt Nanna,” she said briefly, and Aunt Nanna, thinking the air would do her good, merely nodded her head.
Marty walked swiftly down the street and turned into the next block. She knew the way, for she had been there before. Her errand at the first house lasted about half an hour. From there she went to another house, where she stayed about twenty minutes. As she left this place and started homeward, there was a happier look on her face than she had had since Dora came in with the sad news that morning.
Supper was almost ready when she went in, so she put an apron on and helped set the table. She was quiet during the meal, but the Conway girls felt relieved to find her hungry and very much more cheerful than they had seen her last.
The dishes were done and the girls sitting again on the front porch with their mother when Marty told them of the plan she had worked out.
“I knew that I must do something to help Jessie and her mother, for it was my fault that Tommy was so sick. I hated to ask Daddy for money – that was too much like the old Marty – so I thought it out, and this is what I decided. Please don’t try to change my mind, for it is all arranged. I am to go and work for Mrs. Sandstrom in Jessie’s place, so Jessie can stay at home with Tommy. I told Mrs. Sandstrom that I couldn’t do nearly as well as Jessie, but that I would learn as fast as I could. She knows all about poor Tommy, and how he would never have been sick if I hadn’t been so careless, and she says she is willing to help them, too, and will pay me as much as she pays Jessie. I’ll give the money to the Sayres, and my allowance besides, so that they won’t be out that, anyway. Jessie didn’t want me to do it at first, but when I explained that it was the only way that I could ever be able to forgive myself, she said she could understand my feelings, and wanted me to do as I felt that I should. So I start tomorrow morning to work for Mrs. Sandstrom.”
Marty paused to hear the remarks the others might make. She had been afraid that Aunt Nanna might not like the plan very much, but she found herself mistaken.
“My dear little girl,” said Aunt Nanna in a voice so sweet that it made Marty want to cry again, “I think that is the nicest and best plan that anyone could have made in this case. I’m sure you will be glad all your life to remember the time when you honestly tried to right a wrong. It was only thoughtlessness on your part that caused all the trouble, but the trouble itself is very real to Jessie Sayre and her mother, and they need all the help we can give them. It will be hard for you, Marty, but it is the hard things in life that are often most worth while. When you are grown, you will be very proud to tell your children what you did to help some unfortunate friends, when you were not yet twelve years old.”
Just then little Teddy came in the gate with a neighbor boy.
“Mama,” he asked as he passed the porch, “where’s the hoe? Tommy Sayre is sick so Chick Gray and I are going to tend his garden for ‘im.”
“The hoe is in the corner of the shed, dear,” she answered.
“Some of the fellers thought we ought to help out when Tommy is sick.” And Teddy was gone to get the hoe.
There was silence on the front porch for a long time. The stars came out one by one, and a cricket near by chirped his evening song. Everything was calm and still and very peaceful.
“It is queer how things change, isn’t it?” asked Marty at last. “This morning out here on the porch I felt that life could never be happy for me again. And now, while I’m very sorry about Tommy, I feel that the darkness is lifting – a star has come out for me somewhere.”
“It is the star of loving service, Marty. That is the light which sheds happiness on the path of all who work for it. It is the light that made it possible for the Pioneers to face their trials and hardships, and we must all be true to the things they suffered for. Faith and service and love for our fellow-men – those are the principles that we should stand for. It is for us to carry on this work, not to destroy it by our selfishness and price.”
They rose to go in to bed, and Aunt Nanna as she kissed Marty good night whispered to her, “I’m sure that you are proving true to your trust now, my dear. I’m proud of you.”
Marty went to sleep that night saying over and over to herself, “Faith, service, and love for our fellow-men. That is what I must try to have in my heart.”