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One Eventful Night

By: Ardis E. Parshall - September 23, 2013

Isabella M. Blake was Relief Society President in Glasgow, Scotland during World War I; her branch won special recognition from the British Red Cross Society for their outstanding production of clothing and comfort items for soldiers at the front.

From the Relief Society Magazine, 1934 –

One Eventful Night

by Isabelle Blake

“Oh! It’s cold tonight, Mother,” said Anna Macdonald, as she took off her coat in the “lobby” before entering the warm kitchen.

“Aye, March has certainly come in like a lion. Come in, lassie, there’s a good fire.”

“We’ve visitors,” she added, as the girl entered and smiled at the two men standing by the fire.

“Oh! good evening, President,” exclaimed Anna. “Hello, Andrew, why so gloomy?”

“Your hands are like ice, dear,” Andrew Lorimer said, drawing her to the fire. Come and sit down.” But Anna stopped him and said to President Smith, “Anything wrong, Brother Smith? You look very serious.”

“Nothing exactly wrong, Anna, but I went up to administer to Margaret Pirie and she was asking for you. They think it may be tonight, and Donald is very low spirited.”

“I’ve told you she can’t go up to Pirie’s tonight,” interrupted Andrew angrily. “She is coming with me to our staff dance and it will take her all her time to change and go.”

“Come awa’ and get your supper and then talk,” said Mrs. Macdonald firmly. “The lassie’s hungry and you lads have had nothing since dinner.”

Andrew said he wasn’t hungry but President Smith sat down with an air of eagerness and Mrs. Macdonald’s hot scones started to disappear with amazing rapidity. Meanwhile Anna ate on the run.

“We can go along with President Smith, Andy, and I’ll run up to see Margaret before we go to the dance.”

“I don’t see why you have to go at all. The nurse and doctor will be there and probably her folks.”

“Well,” said President Smith, “Margaret’s folks have not been near since she joined the Church and as Relief Society visitor Anna has been there a great deal and Margaret has come to depend on her a lot.”

“She’s not the only one,” said Lorimer rather savagely. “Half the members of the Branch seem to be that way.”

“She’s a good lassie,” said Mrs. Macdonald. “And she will no shirk her duty.”

“And in this case duty and inclination meet,” cried Anna emerging from the bedroom in her pretty dance frock, a warm coat on her arm. “And if you think I won’t be in at the finish after these long hours of watchful waiting, well, you’re all wrong. If you two men are ready we’ll be going. Mother, don’t sit up for me, dear.”

“All right, lassie, if my leg wasna so bad I’d go along to Margaret. Tell her sorrow and pain endure for the night but joy cometh in the morning.”

“And a wee son, we’ll hope,” answered Anna cheerfully. “Come on, boys.”

It had stopped raining but a cold wind was blowing as the three emerged from the “close” into the street.

“Scotland forever,” laughed Anna. “You can aye depend on a wet night whatever you plan. But spring will be here soon. I saw some crocus spears today and the shop windows are full of daffodils.”

“Must be grown under glass or come from the Channel islands,” murmured Andrew, while President Smith thought longingly of a Utah farm where sometimes it was dry and daffodils grew in the open yard.

In a few minutes they came to the “close” where Margaret lived.

“I’ll wait here, dear,” said Andrew. “Don’t be long.”

The other two went silently upstairs and in a minute were in the little two-roomed house that was the Pirie home. Margaret threw her arms around Anna.

“I’m so glad you’ve come. You’re the only real woman friend I’ve got,” and Margaret Pirie clung to her friend.

“Mother says,” whispered Anna through trembling lips, “Joy cometh in the morning, Margaret.”

“Yes, but it’s a long time till morning – You won’t go, will you, Anna?”

Anna glanced at the clock. Nine-thirty – a long time till morning. “Yes, I’ll wait. I’ll tell Andy.”

“Tell him I’ll – do as much – for you,” gasped Margaret as Anna ran away.

“Yes, she’s pretty bad. Probably not before morning,” whispered the nurse and Anna sped downstairs.

Andrew stared at her, white-faced. “You know this isn’t the first time, but I thought tonight seeing it was to meet my sister and my boss you’d show a little consideration for me. It comes to this, Anna. If your Relief Society work means so much to you and I so little, I’d better go now.”

“Margaret is my dear friend, Andy, but it is more than that. She gave up her home and her people for a principle and as a sister I must stand by.”

“Then you are willing to say goodbye now.”

“As well now as later,” Anna’s voice was crisp but her eyes were full of tears. “If a dance is going to spoil our love story, the sooner we end it the better.”

“Goodbye then,” said Andrew grimly. “You’ve made your choice.” Anna leaned against the wall a minute before she entered the room again. Her heart hurt so.

Margaret was talking rapidly and constantly now. Only for a few minutes was she silent while her husband and Elder Smith administered to her. Anna heard them as from a great distance – “Mother in Israel, a son or daughter – God bless thee and keep thee.” Why! the balm was falling on her heart, too.

An hour sped by – two hours. At midnight Donald was sent running for the doctor. When he returned he was sent out again to pace the wet street back and forth – back and forth.

At three o’clock Anna caught a warm bundle from the nurse’s arms and wept over the wee red face.

“It was grand of you to stay,” whispered Margaret. “Send Donald up and go on home to bed.”

Anna went down stairs slowly with a heavy step. She was so tired. Then she saw Donald’s bowed head and shoulders and laughed aloud.

As he turned she said gaily, “Unto you a son is born, old friend.”

“Is it really true? Oh, Anna! how’s Margaret?”

“Fine, go on up.”

“Bless you, Anna, go on home. Andy’ll take you.”

“What do you mean, “Andy’ll take you’?”

“What would he mean,” asked a voice from the shadows of the close.

“I thought we had parted forever,” she exclaimed.

“I went to the dance and stayed long enough to make our apologies and came back just as Donald came down. So I’ve been walking up and down with him ever since. A nerve-wracking business.”

“What did your sister say, Andy?” asked Anna.

“Said I was lucky to get a girl that thought more of her friend than a dance and wants me to bring you to see her on Saturday. I’m sorry I was so selfish. I got a different slant on things from poor old Donald. Maybe we’ll be glad of a Relief Society visitor ourselves some day.”

And so they walked home through the rain.



11 Comments »

  1. Leave it to the Scots to write the best stories!

    Comment by Mark B. — September 23, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

  2. This sounds like it could be based on a personal experience. And it happened in only one night. It seems like so many others skim over years and generations.

    Comment by Carol — September 23, 2013 @ 8:23 pm

  3. A beautiful story. I take it that this program was more than the visiting teaching we have now, but after women were encouraged to give blessings?

    Comment by Juliathepoet — September 24, 2013 @ 12:50 am

  4. Lovely! I could picture absolutely everything in the story, the descriptions are spot on. Thank you, Ardis.

    Comment by Alison — September 24, 2013 @ 11:30 am

  5. That was good, thank you.

    Do we know what happened to the author- did she emigrate? I haven’t seen her name mentioned in any of the Scottish Church history I’ve read, or maybe Alison knows?

    Comment by Anne (UK) — September 24, 2013 @ 11:39 am

  6. The name rings no bells with me, and unfortunately the last of that generation of sisters that I knew has recently passed away.

    Comment by Alison — September 24, 2013 @ 11:46 am

  7. I was waiting with bated breath for the Scots (and even the non-Scots who live there) to weigh in on this one.

    At last! And I’m glad you liked it, too!

    And, New Family Search has an Isabella Taylor Blake, born 1904 in Glasgow, married in 1933, in Oakland, California, to George Thomas Borge (Silva), and died in 1982, also in California. Same person?

    Be careful if you Google her name–you might end up in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel This Side of Paradise.

    Comment by Mark B. — September 24, 2013 @ 12:30 pm

  8. Mark- whilst your lady seems to fit- if she was born in 1904, would she have been a 14 year old RS President during the Great War?

    Comment by Anne (UK) — September 24, 2013 @ 3:41 pm

  9. That’s what happens when I ignore the editor’s note at the top. That is a bit young to be RS President, isn’t it?

    Comment by Mark B. — September 24, 2013 @ 9:16 pm

  10. Isabella is in this photo with one version of the Red Cross news.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 25, 2013 @ 1:09 am

  11. The RS Magazine of the day describes her as “Mrs. Isabella M. Blake, president of the Glasgow Relief Society”.

    Comment by Alison — September 25, 2013 @ 10:03 am

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