By Alice Morrey Bailey
The ensuing week was a nightmare of confusion. There were endless conferences with Tory Meade and Judge Oldham. Finally, a hearing was set for Thursday – four days off.
“John,” said Alyn one morning, “you remember I told you about calling Rufus Randolph about locating another house for us? You have the day off today, so let’s go and see what he has found.”
“It’s a deal,” said John, and they were off.
“Well, John and Alyn,” said Rufus, greeting them heartily, “what’s this I hear about you adopting a baby? Josephine was telling me that some child-placing agency called her for references. She gave you a good send-off, you can bet.”
“Yes,” said John, “it’s true. We’re going to adopt a baby, and we’ll need a home.”
“Well,” said Rufus, “kids are great! Where have you people been keeping yourselves? Josephine has tried to call you, but no one ever answers the telephone.”
“I’ve been working,” said Alyn quickly.
“Working! Who? You? where?”
“In a hat shop – selling.” Alyn was surprised at herself making this admission, surprised that she didn’t care in the least if Rufus knew, even though he would impart the news to Josephine, who would quickly pass it on to the crowd. John caught her eye and winked – a little signal of applause.
The house Rufus had selected for them was in a good neighborhood, a residential district, but Alyn’s heart sank when she looked at the grounds – no lawns, no shrubs, just a long lot with a house in the middle of it and a single tree.
“That house has good lines,” Rufus pointed out. “Alyn said you wanted a big yard. This place has been owned by a carpenter, a plumber, and a stonemason, in turns.”
That accounted for the good lines and the rock wall that surrounded the place. Alyn hoped the plumbing was as good.
“Too bad a painter didn’t get hold of it, too,” said Alyn. Then grudgingly she added, “I’ve always wanted a place with a rock wall, but of course we can’t take this one. It looks terrible. What do you think of it, John?”
John’s eyes were shining. “This could be made into the prettiest place on the block,” he said. “A pond and a rock garden could be built there; a lawn could be planted, and shrubs banked against the rock wall. I’ve always wanted a place like this to putter around …”
“Say, that’s right. You did go in for landscaping or something, didn’t you, John?” remarked Rufus.
“You want it, John?” asked Alyn, dismayed.
“Well, I can’t say yet. Let’s have a look at the inside.”
“It’s a peach inside!” said Rufus, and he was right.
The house was well planned. Alyn could visualize her furniture in it. With little added expense they could furnish the place completely – all except the nursery.
“John,” said Alyn, when Rufus told them the window and floor measurements, “our rugs and draperies will fit! See this lovely, big bedroom; and the room adjoining it will be just right for Richard.”
Swift visions of a little boy playing with blocks on the floor, sailing boats on the pond, came to mind; she pictured a little, dark head among the flowers.
“Oh, John,” she breathed, “let’s take it.”
“Would you still want it even though we don’t get …?”
“Even though we don’t get Richard,” said Alyn, but despair gripped her heart. “John, if we move in before Thursday,” she appealed, “we can tell them that our rent is less.”
“Why don’t you buy the place?” asked Rufus. “We can arrange with the bank for a loan. I’ve discussed such a proposition with the appraisers. The payments would be about thirty-seven dollars per month, including insurance.” He sounded so offhand.
John and Alyn looked at each other, and a glance of agreement passed between them.
“We’ll do it,” said John, and Alyn caught her breath.
“And that,” she laughed later, “is how one becomes a homeowner.”
Moving was much harder than Alyn had anticipated. She scrubbed hard all day, and she and John worked far into the night, painting woodwork, polishing windows, cleaning after the paper hangers and the men who laid the rugs. When the van brought their furniture, all that was left to do was to place it and hang the draperies.
“The outside can wait,” said John, surveying the results. “A little enchanted forest in that corner of the back yard, with tiny trails where he can play Robin Hood and Indian …”
“The doting father,” laughed Alyn. “John, this looks like heaven. I really like to clean and scour and scrub. I didn’t think I would ever enjoy it.”
“Well, let’s have a hot bath and pile into bed,” said John. “I want you rested and beautiful for court tomorrow.”
“John, I’m afraid,” said Alyn. “I can’t face …”
“Come on,” said John, tipping her chin up with a finger. “Steady now! We’ve done our very best; and we’ll keep on trying, but we mustn’t be afraid. I like to think that somewhere Judith – and Theo, too, are pulling for us, and for their baby. We mustn’t give up now, for her sake or for the sake of little Richard. Fear will lick us from the start.”
Alyn knew John was right and forced a smile to her lips.
The next morning, with belief in their hearts and heads held high, she and John appeared in court. Alyn wore the blue dress with the white collar and the deep pockets.
“… because I wore it when I held him,” she told John. “I thought I could never bear to put it on again, but it brings me nearer to him – and to Judith.”
The court procedure was much less formal than Alyn had expected. People from the agency were there, as were Tory Meade and Judge Oldham, who were to speak for John and Alyn. The worker who had visited Alyn was nowhere in sight, but her handiwork was much in evidence through her report; Alyn especially noted the recurring use of such phrases as “the stability of the home,” “operating upon a sensible budget,” “a sound financial background for the child.”
“As you know,” the Judge said, “in deciding cases such as this, the court relies a great deal upon the experience, discretion, and recommendations of the agency to which the case has been referred. There are many important details that must be considered – details which the agency is better able to judge than is the law. Therefore, the law reposes confidence in the judgment of the agency. The agency is interested in the welfare of these little unfortunates as well as in the welfare of the prospective parents and of society. The court has respect for their judgment, and complete trust in their integrity.”
The remarks seemed a rebuke. It was just as Alyn had thought – the whole difficulty about getting Richard lay at her door; no one else was to blame. As the report was read, evidence piled up against her, black and convincing, and everything it said was true. She had always lived up to the limit of her husband’s income. She had saved nothing. The odious apartment, which she thoroughly hated now, had really cost them eighty-five dollars a month – out of an income of $150. Underlying these cold facts her character stood out, selfish, unstable, and uncooperative.
John and Alyn had no blood claim to this little orphan. In the eyes of the agency they had no right over any other possible parents, of whom there were many on the waiting list. Then their ages were a shade over the limit. The agency did have the child’s welfare at heart; it had to look at the facts coldly and without emotion. Out of an ever-increasing depth of hopelessness Alyn glanced at John.
His face betrayed no emotion, but his brown eyes had an intense look that told Alyn his mind was racing like lightning, and she took hope. “Don’t be afraid,” John had said, and once more she drove fear out by main force. “God expects us to work as well as pray for what we want,” she thought. “Well, we will do both.”
Tory talked brilliantly in their behalf; Judge Oldham warmly praised them and their families. Then John was on his feet, moving toward the judge. His voice was low and measured, but there was an urgency, a conviction in it that filled the room.
“There are some facts that have been corrected since the investigation. Mrs. Fordyce and I have bought a new home, one more suitable to both a child and our budget.”
John’s voice went on describing the home, the garden he had visualized, the enchanted forest, the little room with the sunshine coming through the window. He placed Richard in this setting, cleverly, subtly, and made him grow – first a baby, then a little boy in a sun suit, next, a scout with his friends, and later a young man going to college. Surely, surely such a flow of words could not fail to move the court.
“I have no immediate hope of increasing my earnings, and I would not willingly give up the work that I love in order to do so. Due to a change in my employment and a greatly decreased budget things have been very difficult for Mrs. Fordyce, but she has willingly and skillfully made adjustments. She has been a true helpmate to me, staying with me through adversity when many women of her social position would have resorted to divorce as the best way out. She has given up many luxuries and habits of life that she had been used to always. To ease the situation, she even took a position as a saleswoman – something that must have been intolerable to her – and made good at it, too.”
Alyn’s eyes misted, thinking John’s story was hardly the truth as she knew it, but knowing that John was telling the truth as he saw it, covering her deficiencies with a love that was as comforting and enveloping as a blanket. A lump came to her throat, emotion swept her. She felt a grateful pride in John. Tory was looking at him with respect, as were Judge Oldham and the people from the agency. How could she ever have felt apologetic for him? Now she felt only deep affection, sincere love, complete trust.
The Judge cleared his throat, looked doubtfully through the memoranda of the agency. The long moment was filled with suspense. Alyn clenched her hands until the nails bit deep into her palms. She shoved them deep into her pockets to still her agitation. There the right hand encountered a stiff paper, and she drew it out wonderingly.
Judith’s envelope – the one she had given her just before the birth of Richard. Alyn, in the excitement that had followed, had entirely forgotten about it. Judith had said she would ask for it afterward … Alyn turned it over slowly. “To John and Alyn,” it said in Judith’s familiar handwriting. With shaking fingers she tore it open.
“Dear John and Alyn,” she read. “I am waiting for you to come for me, to take me to the hospital. Perhaps I will laugh at this later, but I have an overwhelming feeling that I am not going to come through this experience. I suppose every mother feels so, but in the event of my death, if the baby lives I want you two to have it. Your home life is what Theo and I had planned for us. I hope there will be no necessity for you to ever read this, but …”
“I am not afraid of anything that may happen – to me,” Judith had said on the way to the hospital that tragic night – after she had written this letter.
The Judge cleared his throat again and picked up the papers. Alyn, looking at him, knew in that swift instant that in spite of everything – even John’s eloquent plea – he was going to refuse them. She half rose from her seat.
“John,” she said, and as he leaned over, she thrust the letter into his hand, explaining its presence in swift words. “Give it to the Judge. Judith gave us the baby!”
The Judge read the letter ponderously, glancing at John and Alyn, questioning John as to its source.
“Why wasn’t this presented before?” When John told him the circumstances his countenance brightened. “Well, that puts a different light on the case. It was evidently the mother’s wish that you have the baby, and now I see no reason why you shouldn’t have it, considering your statement of fitness.” Then to Alyn’s surprise, the agency officials nodded agreement. “The court will expect complete verification of the handwriting, of course,” the Judge concluded.
John took Alyn unashamedly into his arms. “It will be a simple matter, your Honor, to prove the handwriting, with the specimens we can find at her late employer’s office. These will be submitted to you for such investigation as the court pleases to make.”
At last the day came when they got the baby from the hospital. At last they were on their way home with him.
“John, doesn’t he look ridiculous in this resplendent hood? All his clothes simply drown him, and I thought they were so small. I wonder if I will ever be able to handle him like that nurse did. I wish you could have seen her, John. I feel afraid to hold him too tightly for fear of crushing him; yet if I don’t, I’ll drop him. O, John, I’m afraid!”
“Come now,” said John stoutly. “Many a real mother has felt the same. The days will pass, and you will soon be used to handling him. he will seem just like your own. He will be our own.”
It was not until later, after they had safely tucked the baby into bed, with many fears and much excitement, that Alyn suddenly remembered something.
“O, John, there was a letter for you this morning – nothing of importance, an advertisement from an orchard company back east, I think. I’ll get it for you.”
But John didn’t think it was an advertisement, a fact that was apparent from his interest. “It’s from the company that Mr. Moyle represented. I wonder …” He opened the letter nervously, Alyn watching as he read it. When he had finished, he handed it silently to her, watching her eyes for a response.
“Dear Sir,” it ran, “We have been informed by our representative, Mr. Moyle, that you have an apricot mutation that produces highly superior fruit. The size and quality, the fine grain, the juiciness and flavor, plus the earlier ripening date, are a combination of qualities that we have hoped for. We are prepared to make you a substantial offer on a contract, providing you can bud the mutation successfully. We urge that you exercise the utmost care and knowledge in handling it, for such a mutation is a rare find.”
“John! You may go down in history! Think of it. Your little limb of apricots might create a whole new species. How thrilling!”
“Then there’s the money, too, Alyn. Don’t forget that.”
“Yes, the money,” said Alyn, wrinkling her brow. “You’ll have to watch me closely if it’s very much, and don’t let it spoil me.”
“There should be several thousands – maybe more.”
“Thousands? O, John! But I thought you objected …”
“To making money? Not at all, if one likes the means whereby it’s made. It will take a lot of money for our family now,” said John easily. “Richard may decide to be a doctor, or a lawyer like his father, or an engineer, any one of which would take a lot of money. It won’t be any time until he’ll be grown. Look at him – nine pounds already.”
John was right. The days that followed, which might easily have been monotonous, were dream-filled days of accomplishment, punctured with occasional groundless fears: Was something radically wrong when Richard breathed thus? Was he ill or dying when he slept so long? Was he growing too fast? Too slowly? Alyn learned to adjust herself and to handle him. She learned to understand his crying – the lusty cry of anger, the insistent one of hunger, the little sing-song cry with which he put himself to sleep.
It was simply no time at all until Richard was walking, forming his first clumsy sentences: “Daddy go work,” he would say. Propelling his kiddie car with little fat legs, he would call to his mother, “Move, Mudder, here comes toot-toot.” His hair was black and stood in curls above his round baby features, his bright, blue eyes sparkled. Strangers invariably enthused over his likeness to Alyn, but Alyn knew it was Judith he would one day resemble, and the thought gave her pleasure.
On Richard’s third birthday, August 9, they had planned a picnic in the park, and Alyn had the lunch packed when John got home.
“I saw Bea this morning when I was shopping,” she told John as they rode along.
Richard had been pedaling solemnly along by her side on his tricycle when Bea drew her car to the curb.
“Alyn, how marvelous you look, and what a darling baby!”
“I’m not a baby,” Richard informed her frigidly. “I’m big like my daddy.”
Alyn stifled a smile, and Bea chattered on: “How do you do it, Alyn? I never saw you looking so young. For myself I feel like a rag, a bone, and a hank of hair. I have to give a luncheon today, too – for the wives of Wif’s office force. Wif has had a big deal on and has worked everyone to the bone. Whenever men get to feeling imposed upon, invite their wives to lunch, is Wif’s old standby, and it always works. You know how it is. Josephine is giving a dinner tonight, and tomorrow … all I do is rush around like a fireman in Hades.”
Alyn shuddered as she told John about it.
One day Alyn and John took Richard to the zoo.
“Well, son,” said John, “here we are. Shall we see the monkeys first, or the seals?”
“The merry-go-round,” shouted Richard. “I want to ride the merry-go-round.”
“Let him,” said Alyn, “and pray that he comes out with a whole stomach.”
“Whee-e-e,” whooped Richard in high glee as the machine started.
They watched him with some trepidation, watched the smile disappear from his face and a look of nausea come over it.
“Get him off, John,” said Alyn. “We oughtn’t to have let him.”
The machine stopped.
“How’d you come out, son,” said John, standing him on his feet, slapping him on the back. Did you like it?”
“I like it some,” said Richard judiciously. “Only it makes me silly in my stomach, and I think I’m going far, but then I’m right back where I started from.”
John’s eyes met Alyn’s in one long, parental look of astonishment.
“Well,” said Alyn at last, “there are merry-go-rounds – and merry-go-rounds.”