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Merry-Go-Round — Chapter 9

By: Ardis E. Parshall - July 22, 2011

The Merry-Go-Round

By Alice Morrey Bailey

Previous episode

Chapter Nine

Conscious of John’s voice, Alyn aroused herself from her meditations. “You were saying, John, that the scriptures give us the answer to what life is all about.”

“Of course,” John elucidated, ‘theologians put their own interpretation on the scriptures. Some say that men exist for the glorification of God – most of them say that, in fact.”

This was interesting. “What do you think, John?” said Alyn. It made things all right just to have John awake, talking to her.

“I like to think that God made people so that they could share the joy of living; so that they could know the satisfaction of growth; possibly, that they could experience the joy that He experienced – the joy of creating.”

“John, you’re marvelous. I had no idea you had thought things out so thoroughly. But John! We don’t have joy. Not many people are really happy.”

“Knowing you are not happy is the only impediment to my happiness. I can never be happy, knowing you are miserable,” said John. “I love you too much.”

“Oh,” said Alyn, not knowing what further to add. It was hard not to believe in John. How wrong it had been for her to judge him by the standards of money, to have judged his job in terms of pay. He seemed to have so much more of richness, so much more of depth since he had gone to work at the nurseries. He seemed not the same man who used to come home so often with nervous headaches, who balked at dinner parties. There was a new serenity about him. It was increasingly satisfying to talk to him.

They had been tenderly close to each other the first years of their marriage, John openly proud of her every thought and move, openly sharing her disappointments time after time at not having a baby, substituting everything that was in his power to give her – gifts, clothes, flowers, trips. She could see it all now, the gradual covering of her feelings at being childless, her increased inability to be made happy, her increased selfishness, wanting more and more until her desires far exceeded John’s abilities to fulfill them.

Yes, things seemed clear to her now, but would they be clear the next morning? Few people were happy – almost none, it seemed. Everyone had some great impediment. Lottie had the drag of a large family upon her. Judith had many of the ingredients for happiness – youth, health, a baby coming – but the whole thing was ashes because Theo was gone. Even John was kept on the narrow margin because of her. She herself, not knowing all the reasons, was definitely unhappy. She wished she had let John go on and suggest a solution for her.

The following Saturday, Judith’s last day at Lottie’s, was a hectic one. There was a convention in town, and the store was full of “lookers.” “I’ve shown a hundred hats and sold only two,” complained Ivy. Mrs. Pinkney was busy for more than an hour with one exacting customer who tried every hat in the store, it seemed, and then went out without buying. The storm broke the tubes of the intercommunicating system in the shop. Lottie was cross and blamed everyone for everything that went wrong.

Judith looked haggard. She hadn’t slept well the night before. “When this is over,” she said, “I’ll sleep for twenty years, like Rip Van Winkle.” Alyn hadn’t had much time to talk to her all day, except in snatches when she took her a sales slip. Yes, it had been a tense and nerve-wracking day for everyone, but particularly bad for Judith. At closing time Alyn went to the office.

“Get your things, Judith. John is calling for me, and we’ll take you home.”

“Alyn, you’re an angel. I’ve so much junk to take home. I’ve nearly made this shop my home. I had no idea I had accumulated so much.”

When they went out to get into the car John looked at Judith in quick concern. When they arrived at her home, he assisted her up the steps, not allowing her to carry so much as her handbag.

“You’re sure you’ll be all right?” he said. “I want you to promise me that if there is anything that Alyn and I can do to help you that you’ll let us know.”

“Both of you are wonderful. I certainly shall, for I know you mean it.”

“Come home with us, Judith, and have dinner,” Alyn urged. But Judith wouldn’t.

“My landlady has some hot soup for me, and I can’t think of a thing that I want except to get into bed. Some other time, when I get a little rested.”

They left reluctantly, and John was silent all the way home; nor did Alyn feel like talking. She was still thinking of Judith when she went to sleep.

At one o’clock the telephone rang. It was Judith.

“Alyn, I have to go to the hospital – now, tonight.”

“No!” said Alyn.

“Yes, I called Dr. Vance, and he says I must go right away. I wanted to tell you.”

“Judith, I’m going with you. You haven’t called a taxi yet, have you?”

“You darling! I hoped you would say that.

“What is it?” said John, raising on an elbow.

“Judith. She has to go to the hospital,” Alyn answered from the clothes closet. “I’m going with her.”

John threw back the covers and jumped out of bed.

“Hand me my shirt and tie, will you, darling?” he said. “I’m going too.”

A great sense of foreboding came over Alyn as she hurried with John to the garage. Never in all her sheltered life had she been anywhere near when a baby had been born. Of course, some of her friends had had babies, but her only contact with them had been when she went to see the mother with a gift and some flowers days after the baby was born. To have offered, as she had with Judith, to take any one of them to the hospital had never entered her mind; but with Judith it was different.

“John,” she said, when they were on the way, “do you think she’ll be all right? The baby was not due for another month, you know.”

John’s face was grave; it brought no assurance. But then it was silly to expect John to know any more about such a matter than she herself knew.

Judith stood waiting at the door with her hat on and her suitcase by her side when they arrived at the apartment. Her eyes were unnaturally bright, and her cheeks were scarlet. Her hands showed a fine tremor. When Alyn put an arm about her to help her down the steps, she found that Judith’s whole body shook in the same way – an uncontrollable way. Her teeth chattered, too, when she spoke.

“Judith, are you afraid?”

“No,” said Judith, lifting her head. “I’m not afraid of anything that might happen … to me.”

The great hospital rose tall and dark, except for an occasional light in the staff offices. The streets were empty and silent. John drove around to the service entrance at the back. Together they walked up the inline, John on one side of Judith, Alyn on the other. They were soon enveloped in hospital routine. Odors of mingled ether and medications peculiar to all hospitals surrounded them. Judith was entered officially at the office, placed in a wheel chair and taken upon the elevator to a room, John and Alyn hurrying to keep up with the brisk nurse who wheeled her.

“Will you step out one moment, please?” a nurse asked, almost before John could set Judith’s suitcase down.

“Can’t Mrs. Fordyce stay?” Judith asked appealingly of the nurse.

“Sorry. Against the rules.”

Alyn followed John into the hall. It was a long time before the nurse came out of the room leaving the door open behind her. Alyn went in.

Judith was in bed, clad in a coarse hospital jacket. She reached a hand for Alyn and smiled briefly.

“It is good having you here. It’s as if you were my own sister. It is something I never thought I should have.”

Tears stung Alyn’s eyelids. She squeezed Judith’s hand. It’s as good for me as for you. It is something I never thought would come to me either.”

Then Judith drew an envelop from underneath the pillow and handed it, face down to Alyn.

“Keep this for me, please. I’ll undoubtedly ask for it back again … after the baby comes.”

“Certainly,” said Alyn, and avoided looking at it as she took it. “It will be as safe in these deep pockets as if it were in a vault.” It probably contained Judith’s rings, she thought, and closed her mind to any curiosity about its contents.

Without warning, Judith’s eyes closed; she bit her lips, moaned, and rolled her head back and forth on the pillow. Alyn was terror stricken. As if she had been called, a nurse hurried in, the panels of her stiff uniform clapping together.

“Will you step out one moment, please?” she asked.

“Will you step out one moment, please?” Alyn repeated to John, whom she found waiting on the sunporch. “John, they said it exactly alike, and they were two different nurses. Do you think a parrot taught them?”

She heard the request often in the hours that followed, for she entered the room every time the door was left ajar.

“If Judith wants me, I’ll be there,” she told John. “They can wear their old phrase threadbare.”

John, of course, made no attempt to return to Judith’s room, but remained in the dark sunporch, which looked out upon the city. The hospital was situated high upon a hill, and at its foot the city lay sleeping in the moonlight. Neon signs in the business district made brilliant patches on the garment of the night.

“John,” said Alyn once, coming out to him, “it must be terrible. She looks at me sometimes and doesn’t seem to see me. I can’t bear it, but I can’t bear leaving her, either. John, why must there be so much suffering attached to it?”

“I don’t know, darling,” John said, putting an arm about her. “I don’t know, unless it is that a new life is a precious thing, and precious things seem always to exact a price in pain or sweat or despair. Human nature is so constituted that it holds of little value that which comes too easily. Look, dear, at all those roofs out there.”

Alyn knew that John was deliberately trying to draw her mind away from the distress of Judith, but she looked at the roofs. They stretched away one very hand discernible in the moonlight, some squat and low, some high and pretentious, some pointing beautifully out of trees, many of them drab and ugly.

“I have been thinking of the people under them – tens, hundreds, thousands of them. Each human being, each individual, has his own set of problems. Many set themselves up as judges of the rest, banding together in groups to promote their own selfish interests. Few fully realize that God is over all, that the ultimate destiny of the poorest, meanest wisp of humanity is as important to Him as you or I or any king. He has given us life and truth and beauty, but He lets us work out our own destinies; we make our own mistakes.”

“John, I never knew you were such a wonderful person,” said Alyn, feeling very humble. Tonight she felt in close touch with the truly big things of life. The coming of a new human being into the world focused her thoughts upon life as nothing had ever done before.

Meanwhile, Judith was fighting for that newcomer in a half-conscious world of pain that none of them could touch.

It seemed ages before a nurse approached Alyn and John.

“Are you Mrs. Fordyce?’ she asked Alyn.

“Yes. Is anything wrong?”

“The patient is asking for you.”

Alyn looked appealingly at John for reassurance.

“Only one of you may go in,” informed the nurse, misinterpreting the look.

Alyn followed her into a chamber where the nurse put a white surgeon’s gown over her blue wool dress.

Judith lay unrecognizable in swaths of linen, and a nurse in cap and mask was ministering to her.

The placed seemed unreal, like something from another land. The hours of darkness, the uncertainty of waiting, these masked people working silently and expertly at their appointed tasks lent a note of terror to the strange scene.

“Your friend is here,” she heard the nurse say to Judith in a soft, tender voice, a voice that somehow surprised Alyn in the midst of all this oddness. Judith rolled pain-stricken eyes to Alyn.

“I’m so glad you’ve come,” she said, and immediately closed her eyes. A strange sensation swept over Alyn. Fumes of ether rose and danced visibly in the air between her and the blinding light. She began to feel unreal and far away. “I will not faint,” she told herself trimly. “I will not faint.” She fought the sensation of diminished alertness, only dimly realizing the activities about her, dimly hearing Judith’s moans. Then the sharp cry of the newborn baby stirred an emotion within her such as she had never had before, an emotion that seemed to begin at the crown of her head and progress slowly downward to her toes. her nerves seemed electrified by the supreme moment of birth.

“A boy,” announced the doctor.

The whole attention of the room centered upon this little scrap of humanity, kicking and squalling incredibly on the sheet-covered table. A shaft of light from the new day shown slantwise through the east windows. It was as if heaven smiled upon this event, as if it were there with them, close enough to touch.

Emotion filled Alyn’s being. “I’ve never been so close to heaven,” she thought. “I shall never again think narrowly about anything.”

“Doctor! Doctor!” The voice of the anesthetist was low, but it had a terrible urgency. The doctor pushed Alyn back and looked at Judith.

“Nurse!” he said, and the alarm in that single word brought instant activity.

“Hold out your arms,” commanded a nurse of Alyn. Alyn obeyed automatically, and she threw a blanket over them. The next instant she had placed Judith’s baby into Alyn’s arms.

“Hold him firmly, but not too tight,” she cautioned. The next instant she was gone, leaving Alyn trembling, with the incredibly soft infant in her arms. Alyn looked down into the little velvet face and noted with amazement that the baby’s eyes were open. They seemed to look directly into her own, and the experience seemed to turn her bones to water; she felt weakened – exhausted.

“Hypo!” shouted the doctor. Suddenly Alyn was aware that something dreadful was happening to Judith. She knew that a dreadful drama was taking place – a drama that every person in the room knew the meaning of except herself. Doctors and nurses were working together, silently, skillfully, giving Judith artificial respiration, taking her pulse with anxious eyes and rapt attention.

Alyn could see no movement whatever under the linens.

“John,” she whispered, but the word came out in a scream. Immediately John was beside her, his arms enveloping her and the baby.

“Is she …? What has happened?” John demanded.

“I’m afraid the mother is … I’m afraid there is nothing further we can do.”

“Is Mrs. Wyatt dead?’ asked John sharply.

“Yes. Mrs. Wyatt is dead. Her heart …” said the doctor. “This experience has been too much for her.”

Judith dead! It was if the world swept out from under Alyn, crumbling as it went. John pulled a chair near with his toe and lowered her, the baby still in her arms, into it, supporting her lest she collapse.

“And this is the baby?” he asked, to get her attention.

“Yes,” she said numbly.

John pulled back the edge of the blanket with a finger and peeped in. “Boy or girl?” he asked.

“It’s a boy. John, I was the first to hold him,” sobbed Alyn. “He looked straight at me. I must have him. He is mine. Judith would want it so.”

“Yes, darling,” agreed John. “We must have him.”

Somehow, eventually, she and John were out of the hospital and into the car. At long last the car was moving. It seemed years since the telephone had rung to waken them at one o’clock to take Judith to the hospital.

“John, it happened so suddenly. Coming up this very street not six hours ago, Judith said: ‘I’m not afraid of anything that might happen … to me.’ do you remember, John?”

“Yes, I remember,” said John gravely. “She must have had a premonition.”

“She was so gallant. O, John! Never to have seen her precious baby …”

“Don’t let’s think about it. I talked to the doctor about … about Judith. There was nothing that could have been foreseen, nothing that could have been helped. The doctor said it is best for the baby to stay in the hospital for a while, since it was early in coming. I asked him about adoption, and he says it isn’t an easy matter. Left as the baby is, he becomes the property of the state. The best we can do is to place our application for him early at the child-placing agency that the court turns him over to. The doctor advised me to get our own attorney, and to get him soon.”

“John,” said Alyn in alarm, “we must have that baby!” A bond that was almost as strong as maternity had been formed between her and that infant by its first look. “Oh, I must have Judith’s baby. I couldn’t bear to think of it going to strangers, to anyone but us, John.” John would be a wonderful father, she knew. John was a good man, a wise man.

“If there’s any way under heaven,” John said, “we shall have him.”

(To be continued)



10 Comments »

  1. Well, isn’t that convenient. And I’m sure we can guess what’s in the envelope.

    Comment by Tiffany — July 22, 2011 @ 12:40 pm

  2. Sssshhhh! It’s important to the plot that you forget the envelope. Trust me.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 22, 2011 @ 12:52 pm

  3. I know the last time my wife and I had a conversation at 3:00 a.m., it sounded a lot like John and Alyn’s. And I definitely wore a tie to all my children’s births. Would not leave home without it.

    But the big disappointment for me was the dashing of my unrealistic hopes that John and Alyn were on the verge of being “tenderly close” right there in the pages of the Relief Society Magazine. But, no such luck in this chapter. Maybe in Chapter 10.

    Comment by Mark B. — July 22, 2011 @ 2:05 pm

  4. Forget the envelope, forget the envelope….

    It’s not working for me, but I certainly suspect that Alyn has forgotten all about it already.

    Comment by kevinf — July 22, 2011 @ 2:08 pm

  5. Next assignment, kevinf: Don’t think about a dog.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 22, 2011 @ 2:44 pm

  6. There certainly have been hints of the impending death throughout the previous episodes, but I can’t imagine that reading this wasn’t a shock to any number of subscribers back in the days when maternal morbidity and mortality were higher than they are now. Wikipedia gives a figure of 1 death per 100 live births in 1900. Nowadays the figures range around 11 to 17 per 100,000 live births, so the overall readership today would have a very different response than in the days when the women reading this story would have lost mothers or sisters or aunts to similar events.

    And we have to wait until Monday to see what’s in the envelope? Oh, the suspense…

    Comment by Researcher — July 22, 2011 @ 2:53 pm

  7. I knew that baby was gonna end up in Alyn’s arm, I just didn’t think it would be so abrupt. And John meets all the criteria for Mormon sainthood: kind, patient, wise, and always ready to put on a tie.

    Comment by Mommie Dearest — July 22, 2011 @ 3:06 pm

  8. Woof!

    Comment by kevinf — July 22, 2011 @ 3:18 pm

  9. Well, certainly more action in this installment than the last. I’ll give back the money I got back after the last installment. :-)

    Comment by Paul — July 22, 2011 @ 4:24 pm

  10. I knew it. Poor Judith, axed for a little bit of drama.

    Comment by LAT — July 22, 2011 @ 6:56 pm

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