From the Relief Society Magazine, September 1936 –
Mrs. Bennett’s Baby
By Ruth Diane Fisher
Only one house separated the homes of Mrs. Dearbourne and Mrs. Young. For years they had been neighbors, for the last six they had not been congenial. The quarrel had happened so long ago that now the cause was forgotten. But the sting remained – a sting that rankled so irritatingly in their minds that the two women, formerly the best of friends, were not on speaking terms. Their passive enmity was now taken as a matter of course by other neighbors, who had ceased to worry about it.
When the nondescript family moved out of the intervening house, they vaguely wondered who would be the next to occupy it. Curious eyes peered from behind curtained windows as a young couple with a baby carriage came to the place one day. In a short time a large moving van followed and the new family was installed.
In a day or so, the windows that had looked so blank and desolate in the empty house became inviting. A child’s voice rang form the pretty back garden. The house was alive again! Neighbors watched the young mother as she wheeled the baby carriage to the corner store and back. Every evening they found themselves looking to see the tiny toddler run to meet his father as he came home from work. When they called they found Mrs. Bennett very charming and they went into raptures about her dear little boy, Bobby.
Mrs. Dearbourne was working in her garden one morning, when she heard the child’s gurgling laugh. She looked over the fence and was immediately captivated by the little boy who held out to her a nasturtium flower. With not very good grace, she took it, and then gained the child’s good will by giving him a cookie in return. Mrs. Bennett came to the door.
“Hello,” she called, smiling in such a way that another smile was soon reflected on the other woman’s face.
“Bobby, say ‘thank you’ to the kind lady.”
Bobby stopped chewing a moment, then piped obediently – “Tank ‘oo.”
“How old is he, Mrs. –?” she paused, embarrassed.
“Bennett is my name, and Bobby is just two. Won’t you call me Alice, Mrs. Dearbourne? We are such close neighbors and I haven’t many friends.”
Thus a friendship started that grew until the older woman seemed a mother to Alice and a grandmother to Bobby. Visits and confidences were exchanged nearly every day. Alice had brought into sight again something that had lain cramped in Mrs. Dearbourne’s heart ever since her daughter had died long ago. The neighbors were surprised to see her bouncing Bobby up and down on her knee to the child’s crowing delight. Mrs. Young saw the transformation with amazement.
“What’s come over the old grouch?” she wondered.
But she no longer wondered when she met Alice and Bobby in the corner store the next day. She, too, became a captive of both the young pirate’s charms and the girl’s friendliness. Alice’s was the type of character that brought happiness to any environment, and the neighbors’ eyes opened wide as they saw Mrs. Young making frequent visits to the cheerful home. They chuckled among themselves and speculated as to the outcome of the inevitable meeting between the two “warriors.” They rather hoped that, under the circumstances, peace would be restored.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Dearbourne and Mrs. Young vied in obtaining little Bobby’s favor. He received their kindnesses with a truly kingly beneficence, bestowing on each of his admirers the gifts of his smiles and kisses with liberal and equal grace. Alice knew of the relations existing between her two friends, but tactfully forbore to speak of them. She noted the rivalry for Bobby’s affection and was glad the child showed no favoritism. On her part, she strove to do likewise and was so successful that neither woman could complain that the other had more of her attention.
It was in the middle of September that Bobby became sick. The preceding summer had worn down his usual buoyant health so that when the germ of a dread disease entered his body, he had no strength to combat it.
Both Mrs. Dearbourne and Mrs. Young proffered the remedies that had cured their children of similar ailments. They were a little piqued when Mrs. Bennett refused to use them and adhered firmly to the orders of the competent physician in charge. However, they recognized the good sense that Alice displayed and respected her more because of her determination.
The crisis came quickly and suddenly. A special nurse had been provided who tactfully took the reins of management from Alice. Gratefully the girl accepted the carefully prepared foods and other articles that her friends brought her. The neighbors did what they could to alleviate the sorrow in that grief-stricken home. They were too busy with Bobby’s illness to notice the change that came over Mrs. Dearbourne and Mrs. Young. But Alice could have told them how the two women had met on the door-step of the home, each carrying a present to the child they loved. Mrs. Dearbourne had opened the door for Mrs. Young to let her enter first. In the silence that always hovers about the sick, Mrs. Young had whispered to the other woman as though nothing had happened between them:
“He looks a bit better today, don’t you think?”
And Mrs. Dearbourne had answered: “Yes, poor little mite – he will come through it all right.”
The two went out together, still talking of their common interest.
Little Bobby did get well and before long was running about in the garden, eating the ripened apples that fell from Mrs. Dearbourne’s tree and playing with the brilliant Chinese lanterns that Mrs. Young gave him.
The two neighbors now smiled at each other as they watched him and commented on his quick recovery. Mrs. Bennett waved to them from an upstairs window as she went on about her house work.
And one Sunday the whole neighborhood smiled as they saw the two old ladies walk home from church, arm in arm.