By Alice Morrey Bailey
It was five o’clock in the afternoon. Alyn paced up and down the living room, not able to take her eyes from the clock. any minute now she would hear the elevator close and John’s key in the lock – John could be depended upon for punctuality. She was there to open the door for him when he came.
“John, did you see Tory Meade? did anything happen?” she asked instantly.
“Nothing very definite,” admitted John reluctantly, “but Tory’s a smart lawyer. I think he’ll get us through. It seems almost as hard to acquire a baby by adoption as by the normal procedure,” he finished, raising a quizzical eyebrow. “so much red tape … Are you going out?”
“I just got home from the hospital; forgot to remove my hat and coat. John, every time I see that baby I want him twice as much as I did before. They wouldn’t let me go into the room with him, of course, but I stood the whole two hours and watched him through the glass. Isn’t it lucky that his crib is so close to the window? And John, it’s against the rules for them to tell me how much he weighs, but he’s gaining; I can see it, and he’s a perfect …” Alyn stopped for want of adequate words to tell how dear, how precious the baby was.
“Yes, he’s definitely gaining. It seems I can notice a difference every day. He almost never cries, they say. His sleep is so angelic, and every once in a while he squirms and stretches exactly like a kitten. I asked at the office how long they will keep him. three more weeks, they say – that’s five weeks in all. John, we haven’t much time. We don’t want another living soul to get him from the hospital but us. What happened today?”
“I had a talk with Tory. He can’t get over the fact that we want to adopt a child. He says that child-placing agency is a good one, and that once we get our baby we can be certain that everything will be all right. Alyn, they check both sides of the baby’s family for everything, even insanity. the fact that Theo and Judith have no living relatives makes it very difficult, but it doesn’t stop them. They check us as thoroughly, too. If we have any family skeletons, they’re doomed to come out now.”
“Well, thank goodness we have nothing to hide, neither on the Merriweather side nor the Fordyce.”
“The agency is sending a woman to interview you tomorrow.”
“Oh, John! What shall I tell her?”
“I don’t know what she’ll ask; tell her nothing but the truth, of course.”
“Of course,” agreed Alyn.
“Alyn,” said John seriously. “There are some things we must discuss. Sit down, dear.”
John’s old habit – sitting down to discuss serious things – didn’t annoy Alyn now. She was quite as anxious to discuss things as John, quite as desirous of sitting down. it put one on solid ground, psychologically.
“Alyn, there are many things to be considered in adopting a baby. those questions we had to answer on the application blank are well enough thought out. for instance, you will be forty in two more years, and I will be forty-five. Had you thought that when he is grown we will be in our sixties?”
“Yes, John. but many women have babies of their own at my age, even older.”
“And there’s my income,” reminded John wryly. “I’m still making only $150 a month, you know.”
“I can learn to manage. Cecile Borden did, and they have four children. I can certainly do it if Cecile did. I’ve been studying budgets. I learned a good deal about money while I was with Lottie. By the way, John, Lottie called me this morning and wanted to know if I hadn’t stayed away long enough. The new girl isn’t doing very well.”
“What did you tell her?”
“I told her I wasn’t going to work any more, that you needed me at home. John, I could never go back with Judith gone, even if we don’t get the baby.”
“You told her the right thing, my darling. Having you at home has been perfectly wonderful. I’m glad it is to be permanent.”
“Maybe, before Lottie finds someone else, that poor girl will catch on and not have to lose her job.”
“I hope you have taken into consideration that where there is a baby there is extra work and such a thing as croup,” John continued. “You will be tied at home; there are many things that a baby interferes with.”
“I’ve thought of all that, and I don’t mind.” It seemed remarkable to Alyn that John had gone into the unfamiliar subject so thoroughly. “John, I am surprised at your thinking of all these things.”
John flashed her a smile. “Don’t flatter me, my good woman. Education, religious training, character building, health habits – many things must be considered.”
A horrible thought assailed Alyn. “John, you want him, don’t you? It isn’t that you don’t want …”
“Want him? Of course I want him. I haven’t wanted you to know, over the years, just how much I would have liked children of our own. this little fellow has a peculiar appeal to me. I don’t know just what it is. I had no idea a new-born baby had a distinct personality, but this one has.”
“He has, hasn’t he, John?” agreed Alyn. “do you notice the distinction in the shape of his head? His forehead is so intellectual, and his hands …”
“You’ll do all right, Alyn,” John broke in, laughing. “No real mother could sound more enthusiastic. Do you remember when Mary declared that her three-weeks’-old baby could understand what she said?”
“I don’t know how a mother could feel any nearer to a baby than I do to this one … I guess it was being so much with Judith, helping her to choose his layette, going to the hospital with her – most of all, being the first one to hold him.”
“Don’t leave me out of this. Didn’t I pace the hallway in a true fatherly fashion when …”
They both fell silent, remembering that hour of inferno – its tragic end.
“John, let’s call him Richard,” Alyn finally said.
“Richard …” said John thoughtfully. “Well, Richard is a good name, a strong name – a man’s name. It seems to fit him.”
“We’ll get him, won’t we, John? It would be awful to count so much on having him, and …”
“Tory says he will do all he can to help us, but the agency must take every precaution for the baby’s sake as well as for our sake. he says that if Judith had only given you some written word before she …”
“If …” said Alyn. “We seem walled in by ‘ifs.’ I know as well as I live that Judith would have wanted us to have him. She talked of my being like a sister to her a number of times; she approved of you completely and said our home life was like she and Theo had planned for themselves. Of course, she didn’t know that I …” Alyn stopped, aware that she had just about opened a subject that would e better not discussed – her earlier animosity toward John. Oh, what would John think?
John gave her a clairvoyant look, but instead of the rancor she half expected, he reached over and patted her reassuringly. “that’s behind us now, honey,” he said.
If Alyn had any qualms about the investigator, they were all confirmed when the worker arrived. The woman was as formal as her costume, precise, careful, even judicial in her search for facts. her questions were courteously plied, but one sensed an indefinable air of suspicion; a sort of warning that the least equivocation would be discovered.
Her eyes were keenly observant; they seemed to evaluate the articles of furniture and the character of the persons using them; the woman was a thorough investigator whose questions Alyn answered with an almost childlike obedience. if she had had any desire to temper the truth it wouldn’t have been in her to do it.
“why do you want this baby?” the woman asked.
Alyn opened her mouth, wishing for words to convey what the baby meant to her.
“Are you and your husband on good terms?” the woman went on, without waiting for Alyn’s reply.
“Yes. Oh, yes.”
“You don’t want him for the purpose of drawing you closer together, then,” she said, almost as an afterthought.
However nearly it might have been the truth six months ago, it was not so now. No, she wanted Richard for himself; she wanted to do for him what a mother would do; her desire was that he be not cheated of a good mother which is the rightful heritage of every child. How to convey her feelings was not easy for Alyn, who was in deeper water than she had ever been in before.
“How much does your husband earn?”
“One hundred and fifty dollars a month,” Alyn told her fearfully. the woman caught the inflection immediately.
“That’s an adequate amount. Many of our babies go to homes with that amount of income. What is your rent?”
“Eighty-five dollars,” Alyn admitted, realizing fully for the first time that it was much too high for their income if she did not return to work. “We are planning to move,” she offered. “My husband and I have talked of it.”
The woman listened intently as Alyn told her of her own background and upbringing, of the Merriweather and Fordyce families, and the things of which she had always been so proud.
“Motherhood, natural or foster, demands that one be ready at all times to adapt one’s program to the best interests of the child, regardless of the past,” was the cryptic remark of the worker as she closed her notebook. then the interview was over. What an inquisition it had been!
After she had gone, Alyn sat on the edge of the needlepoint chair and had a nervous chill.
“If only we had moved from this terrifically expensive apartment,” she summed up to John later. “I telephoned to Rufus Randolph about a house the minute she left. He said he had exactly what we wanted, and said that the crowd was buzzing like a beehive over our adopting a baby.”
“I can well imagine.”
“John, I felt apologetic for everything I have ever valued.”
John, to her relief, looked displeased. “The woman had no right to be so severe. They said at the agency that she was very capable.”
“That exactly describes her,” Alyn admitted. “O, John, I’m positive they’ll refuse us.”
“Nonsense,” said John. “If the woman is capable she couldn’t help seeing what an intelligent person you are; how well-kept and tasteful your house is. The is every evidence of breeding and background. All these things count.”
“I’m afraid I didn’t sound intelligent, John. I felt so inadequate. The things you mention seemed to count against me. When I told of Mother having a nurse for me, she seemed to think that unnecessary. On the other hand, she was not displeased when I told her the amount of your income.”
“You’ll see, darling. Our fears are pronounced in unfamiliar situations. Things come right when you least expect them.”
John was so comforting. Alyn felt better immediately.
“John,” she said, “I don’t often say things like this, but I think you are a wonderful man, and you’ll make a wonderful father.”
“Well,” said John, pleased. “now isn’t that something for a man to strut about?” and he poked out his chest. It was pathetic to see how such a little praise pleased him.
“I mean it. I’ve been too self-centered, thinking only of my own happiness. John, I never thought I’d tell you this, but … but right after you lost your position I … I thought of leaving you. John, perhaps I shouldn’t have told you. Perhaps you will never forgive me.”
“Honey, I knew that all along.”
“How?” asked Alyn, astounded.
“Well, I met Judge Oldham on the street one day, and he said you had called for an appointment which you didn’t keep, though the secretary swore you had come for it. He wondered what it was all about. ‘She’s not getting a divorce from you, is she John?’ he asked. He was joking me, of course; but I knew then, in some unaccountable way, that that had been your plan.”
“Oh!” said Alyn. “All these months …”
“Forget it,” said John easily. “Not an uncommon thing, I guess, in a world full of divorces. It worried me greatly for a while. I was staking our future on the change I had made in my employment. I had thought things out pretty well, even then, and I knew it was a real test for us both, but I was sure that our only hope for happiness was a sure foundation for myself. I had confidence in you, of that you may be sure. I have always thought of you as a thoroughbred.”
“And all the time you were the best friend I had, and you still are,” said Alyn.
“Come now. You’re promoting me, aren’t you? After being your husband all these years, at last we have become friends.”
“Well, not all people are friends, John – husbands and wives, I mean. These months have brought us closer together. I have had some business experience – learned the working person’s point of view. I have learned that your getting a job as you did was a real achievement. I have learned about people, life and death from Judith and little Richard. Hard as it is, you never really live until you touch some of those fundamental things. And now I love you, John, more than I ever have.”
“Alyn,” said John, deeply moved, “you’ve never said a nicer thing to me in your life.”
“I fought you so hard on the apricot business. I didn’t try to understand. I might have helped you more. I might have managed better the night that orchard man came for dinner – that Mr. Moyle. I could have been a better hostess, helped you more to sell it. I didn’t realize until after he’d gone just how much it meant to you. John, you haven’t become discouraged about it, have you? You never talk of it any more.”
“Oh, no. No, I haven’t become discouraged. I’m planning to bud it in the spring. No, sir! That limb of apricots … You see! You shouldn’t ask me – it gets me off on a lecture tour. I decided I was boring everyone with the details; that I’d better try and talk less and wait until I had accomplished more …”
“Of course, I was disappointed when Mr. Moyle didn’t see anything so unusual about it, and wondered for a while if I had been over-optimistic; but that time passed, and my faith in the sport came back. I’ll go ahead and bud it. My chance will come. It wasn’t your fault, though, dearest. You did very well that night; you gave us a wonderful dinner and listened eloquently – an unwomanly trait, I assure you.”
It was an interminable week before they heard anything more about the baby. Alyn had been to the hospital, and John picked her up on his way from work. the telephone was ringing when they came in. John answered, his voice rising in excitement as he talked.
“It was Tory Meade,” he said in such a strained voice that Alyn began to tremble. John gripped her hand.
“Darling,” he said, “Tory says that the agency report is unfavorable to us. They are going to recommend to the court that little Richard be placed elsewhere.”
Alyn crumpled on the lounge.
“John, we can’t have him?” she whispered.
John paced up and down the floor, his mind intent upon this unexpected blow, his eyes on the floor.
“Isn’t there something we can do?” she appealed to him.
“Yes,” said John grimly, “there is something else we can do.”
“John,” sobbed Alyn, “I prayed as I never have prayed before. I asked god to help me get that baby. Maybe this is His answer – maybe I’m not a fit mother for the baby. I’ve been spoiled and selfish. I’ve looked at things and people in the wrong light, but I thought I’d changed, John, in the last few months. Maybe I haven’t changed enough.”
“God expects us to work for the things we should have, dear. those people at the agency do a wonderful job, but they are only human, and must base their judgment on external things. They have no power to look into the human heart. there are people who will help us, friends and influences – not to be used wrongly – to make them see as we do. I’ll get Judge Oldham to help Tory – the old and the new – they’ll be a strong team. We’re going to fight for that baby.”