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for some of his most critical orders as if he had told
her to go outside and stamp three times on the ground
before giving the patient a drink of water. I knew he
must have left as little to her as possible, but she was
in charge : he had to work with her as with other in-
struments of fate that must have met him at every
turn in his practice outside the Reservation.
|T He was a small man with a big-topped head and
scornful nostrils, lean and dark from service on the
Mexican border. I bowed to him in every particular
and I enjoyed his slashing remarks. He was faithful
but irascible. To Mrs. Lavinus his words were few ;
they illustrated the truth, which I have never disputed
in her person, of the rude old saying:

"A woman, a dog, and a hickory-tree,
The more you thrash them, the better they be."

It was a warm week, the first week in May. Phoebe
was in short socks and Dutch-necked dresses, and I

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EDITH BONHAM

had fastened around her throat, which was tanned by
the spring sun a soft pale brown, a chain of white
coral beads, a little too long for her. It was one of
my own trinkets of the days when it was part of my
recognized business to deck myself for papa's eyes
that took note of everything I put on and everything I
wore with it. He had taken a book I was reading out of
my hands because it had a yellow cover and the dress
I had on was blue, not an artist's blue. "Primary
colors ! " was his comment. The dress was one Aunt
Essie had given me which I needed ; he swore it
ruined his eye whenever I put it on.

Between our back lawn and the vegetable garden,
and in one spot extending to the fence, there was a little
orchard of perhaps twenty or thirty trees of mixed
fruits. The grass had been allowed to grow where it
would, or the ground ran to weeds beneath the trees,
but peach-blossoms were scattering their petals im-
partially upon weeds and grass. Apple-blossoms were
at their best, smothering the low boughs with clusters
of beatific bloom ; we were embowered, cut off from
all but glimpses of the bamboo hedge massed in flick-
ering green against the dividing-fence it was planted
there to hide. In one spot it had been much trampled,
and behind this was the board in dispute. I had not
visited it often, but Hing reported that it was always
in place ; he complained no more of Mrs. Pettyjohn's
chickens in his lettuce-bed, and so I regarded the in-
cident (and the board) as closed.

That day under the apple-trees, I remember, I had
been reading "The Grandissimes," a book that must

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AUNT EDITH

have been written with tears and laughter. One can't
help wondering why the Creole families in New Or-
leans were not enchanted with their ancestors in its
pages? It seems they were not ! We like, I suppose,
to have our blood-relations taken more seriously them-
selves and some of their institutions not so seriously.
But how the author adored them personally, who
can help but see and how adorable he has made
them! I had got to the "Fete de Grandpre," intri-
cate, delicious chapter, marvelously mixed, with cryptic
allusions no reader is expected to more than half un-
derstand ; but one saw the scene the great " mother-
mansion" of the Grandissimes, its belvedered roof
and immense, encircling verandas "where twenty
Creole girls could walk abreast." As I read I saw the
"laughing squadron" wheel and disappear and re-
appear at an end of the veranda and challenge the
group of young male cousins smoking on the steps.
... I was far away and spell-bound, when the con-
sciousness of a rather long silence where had been a
succession of happy sounds caused me to look up and
ask myself, " Where is Phoebe ? " She had been skip-
ping about under the transparencies of bloom that
softened but did not shade the sun upon her upraised
face and changing attitudes. How could I have buried
my head in a book instead of gazing at her? What
was there in Louisiana gardens lovelier than that pic-
ture which suddenly I missed. She was nowhere to
be seen.

I hunted high and low. My next thought, after
rushing all over the place and asking every one I

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EDITH BONHAM

met, was the fence. I went to the trampled spot
the board had been pushed aside by some hand
stronger than a child's and left. I squeezed through
into Mrs. Pettyjohn's back premises, bare and broom-
swept and smelling of fowls. A poor place, neat with
that pathetic surface cleanness of her kind that pro-
tests so much, but by the odors cannot go very deep.
Phoebe was there, face to face with a big girl of nine
or ten who had taken off the coral chain and put it
around her own neck and was lipping it to feel its
smoothness. Seeing me, she hastily undid the neck-
lace and endeavored to restore it, but having trouble
with the clasp, fumbling under Phoebe's long hair,
she let it fall and ran into the house where I could
hear women's voices in a gale of conversation.

It was a wretched incident. I washed Phoebe's
neck and the chain in alcohol and tried to con-
trol my imagination. But Mrs. Lavinus, when we
sat together at tea that evening, gave me the final
stroke !

She was not nearly so unpleasant to sit beside,
since the doctor had lambasted her. She took a cer-
tain pride in her enforced regeneration ; her daily
bath and clean apron and twice-a-week clean dress
set her up in her own regard. Being now ranged
with the sheep, she looked with corresponding sus-
picion upon her former goatish companions.

" I see that Briggs girl going in with her mother
to Mrs. Pettyjohn's this afternoon. I 'd like to hear
what Doc Davenport would say to that ! She was
took out of school for scarlet fever 't wa'n't three

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AUNT EDITH

weeks ago and I know it. If there 's anything in this
six-weeks' quarantine idee, whether it's a light case
or a hard one, some one 's in for a dose of it, the way
that young one 's let to run. Don't you say nothhV
I would n't want it to come from me. But I seen
her all right."

I read no more " Grandissimes." The sight of that
old green cloth volume to this day gives me waves
of dim sickness of the soul. ... All we knew was
when to expect the blow if it came. The plan of the
house made it difficult to cut ourselves off from the
baby. It might have been managed, but who, under
these circumstances, could undertake to manage
Mrs. Lavinus. The doctor himself was afraid of her.
That old war-horse, snuffing the battle, might break
her bonds and go careering into the midst of our
quarantine. I became suddenly hysterical as we
talked of her. The doctor looked at me severely ; he
knew that if he sympathized, I should have to leave
the room. "You must get yourself in perfect con-
dition, you understand : if she 's taken, you '11 have to
go out there."

I asked where?

"To the place on the mesa," he said.

We could not wait for Mr. Maclay's return before
deciding what to do. His consent to what we decided
on must be taken for granted. The doctor said " we,' 1
meaning himself.

" There is one thing that is n't going to be taken
for granted : that 's my nursing Phoebe," I said. " If
her father is willing to trust me after what has

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EDITH BONHAM

happened, then your orders stand, in my case not
otherwise ! "

"You exaggerate, you know," said the doctor.
" But that 's natural. Keep yourself in condition all
the same. Careful of your diet, and very careful of
hers. And don't worry."

He rode out to the Doldrums and inspected the
premises, talked over Mrs. Aden, the care-taker's
wife, into cooperating with her cooking, and gave
orders how our scarlet-fever camp was to be organ-
ized when the blow struck (if it did), with help from
the Adens that should not endanger their own chil-
dren. This was a good deal to do, but all had been
arranged when, in the very nick, Phoebe's father
came home. I saw him tested then through and
through, I should call it.

I don't think he made a single comment in words
upon my bitter confession. We stood by Phcebe's
bed (and the blow had struck). Her face was darkly
flushed and the delicate little throat I had adorned
so fondly showed the ugly marks of the Fear that
had crept in under my slack guard. His answer was
to give me the higher, the supreme trust the fight
out there alone for the life of .his child. Yes ; he made
one other sign. He dropped the " Miss Bonham " and
called me " Edith " as if he had done so all his life.
That somehow sealed the terms on which we entered
into this new and fearful test of amateur efficiency. I
told him, of course, that I had never nursed anything
more serious than the common cold of New York
winters and the common sick-headache in my life.



PART III

THE WATCH ON THE MESA



XV

THE water of the Boise River was being fought for
in those days by irrigation companies little and big.
Some were dying, some were dead, some were sleep-
ing like the Eastern canal company Nanny had told
me of, and some were crawling along as usual these
were the pioneer ditches of local ownership that could
use but little water here below, but wanted that little
very much to themselves. Few of the old settlers be-
lieved in the engineering talk of reservoirs in the hills
to store the river's fitful surplus not believing it,
they knew there was n't enough water to go 'round,
at the rate the big corporations were laying out their
long-line canals with thousands of acres under them.
And they were not friendly to the Easterners in a
business way, though good-natured enough as man
to man. Maclay was a mining-man and one of the
sufferers by the break-down of the " Big Ditch," as
it was called. He was if anything more popular per-
sonally for his losses, though losses on such a scale
give a man away pretty badly as to his judgment.
The misfortunes of our neighbors are nothing against
them, if they don't explain too much. Maclay did
not explain.

Douglas, as I was trying now to call him, sat in
front with Aden ; we were driving out to the mesa,

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EDITH BONHAM

crossing the wooden bridge from town to the desert
valley beyond the strip of ranch-land under the old
ditch east of the river. It was a heavenly morn-
ing, the river in flood booming along under the
bridge. All the little fields we were leaving behind
us were a mist of green and patched with crops just
springing. The doctor had said that with so much
fever as Phoebe had she could not take cold, but we
had the window up between us, the pariahs on the
back seat, and those who were responsible to the
human family at large. Our side-windows were down,
and as the breeze fluttered through intermittently, I
caught a word or two from the front seat. Such queer,
matter-of-fact remarks, between the two men ; Aden
risking his children on our good faith, Douglas tak-
ing his child out and how should we bring her
back again ! They spoke of the old carriage, how
it held its own after the years in the hayless barn at
the Doldrums (since the establishment begun in
hope had declined to the uses of waiting without
hope). Aden said he used canned milk in his family,
but we could get milk and ice from a dairy-ranch,
and he pointed it out with his whip as we passed it.
He was an Englishman of the plain people and no
one was quite sure whether his name was Aden or
Hayden, but it did n't matter : he was keeping his
provisional word to the doctor and was even cheer-
ful about it. He told Douglas that his wife was n't
scared. She had a doctor's book which said just the
same as Dr. Davenport did about giving the fever.
As far as they had read up in the book, the doctor

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THE WATCH ON THE MESA

seemed to be about right. We 'd all do our best and
obey orders, and if anything happened, we 'd have
to take it as it come implying that the ways of
Providence are not writ in any book that man has
learned to read.

We were in the very heart of the morning light,
moving swiftly across the gray-green plain. The line
of the mesa-lands, low at first with mountains snow-
capped above it, now rose brown and bare (where
ploughed ground had gone back to desert) close ahead
and cut off the mountains. Also a windmill strode up
against the sky. We drove in through a gate that
stood open and I saw the long sweep on and up the
bluff of two lines of skeleton poplars those that had
leafed out and died " when the May winds began to
blow." The May wind was blowing now, but there
was nothing more left that could die unless I held
it here in my arms. I choked as I heard that wind,
the same that had haunted the silences coming across
on the Oregon Short Line. Thrills of excitement
shuddered inside me. This was my first stark responsi-
bility for life and death, and one mistake, one slip of
mine, one moment's forgetfulness, might ruin all the
others' work and lose the battle. The fear of it almost
stopped my breathing as we came in sight of the
house on our slow climb, and drew up in front of a
long, empty veranda opposite a door wide open into
a room bare and full of light.

We went inside, and when I saw the clean, lifeless
rooms smiling in the morning sunshine that flooded
them through curtainless windows, I thought of the

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EDITH BONHAM

smiling dead alone with their mysterious dreams.
The gentle ghosts of that house gathered in the empti-
ness, the wide, cool, peaceful rooms received their
child. Little Phoebe stretched herself out on her moth-
er's bed, turned easily on one side and slid into the
half-delirious sleep of fever. We watched her a few
moments and went softly outside for our first consul-
tation.

It began with a man's notebook always handy, a
bent head listening, and things, things! I knew a
little what was before us, and all the way out I had
been trying to remember not to forget things I
might need in the middle of the night three miles
from town.

The house was the first sketch of a home. There
was a very definite plan, but no architecture. It lay
out on that long shelf of land, the main rooms facing
the view, like dominoes placed endwise. The wing
which the Adens occupied made an L at the back,
and what plumbing there was, all the living conven-
iences, were with them. I had the big fireplace in the
sitting-room, the chimney going up outside against
the gable, and the two piazzas that made our halls of
communication and gave us a few feet of shade. Noth-
ing rose above the level of the mesa except the chim-
ney, one or two stovepipes for the kitchen and the
mighty windmill farther down the bluff, where it nar-
rowed and fell away like a cape into the sea of plain.
Grass and weeds and dead little poplars all seemed
desiccated in the sun and wind. And there was com-
plete silence save our own sounds about the empty

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THE WATCH ON THE MESA

house and the whir and clank of the windmill which
practically never ceased and so became one with the
wind which never ceased. Yes ; there were occasional
silences, when Aden unshipped the windmill in order
to climb the derrick and oil machinery up there seventy-
five feet from the ground. Then we heard the wind
alone.

Our first precaution for the Adens took the form
of a rope stretched across the front veranda part-way
down ; it was a little better than an imaginary line
dividing the clean from the unclean, to put it strongly.
On their side of that rope I never set foot nor they
on mine. My supplies of all sorts, ice and milk, fresh
water, clean clothes which Aden brought from town,
everything went over or under that rope. Mrs. Aden
slid her trays with my meals and the fever-diet under,
and tapped with a cane on the wall. When I sent
them back disinfected, I rang a little bell, which I
used like a leper when I went out of bounds. In a
general way I was n't expected to be seen around the
back premises at all. I rang my bell also to summon
Aden, who was our expressman to town. Every article
we sent to the laundry had first to be soaked in dis-
infectants, and nobody could help me here. Well I
remember the clank of those granite-iron tubs which
I used to haul about and the weight of the sheets
dripping from their bath of stinging chemicals. They
were hung out on the back piazza facing the morning
sun; Aden took them in when they were dry. As
there were no pantries or storeroom in my part, I had
to invent places for keeping things near by and these



EDITH BONHAM

we racked our brains to defend from the pack-rat
who was always with us. I can't say I ever saw but
one of him at once, though legions seemed to besiege
the house at night, but that one I have heard drop on
the floor from scuttling along a wainscot-ledge with
a thump like a large cat. By the doctor's orders, as I
had never had the fever, my cot was in the outer
room with the door open into Phoebe's room, but
after chasing a pack-rat over the floors and over the
foot of her bed one moonlight night, my darling
screaming and cowering under the bedclothes, I
moved inside and told the doctor why. He smiled !
He was a sensible man "Oh, well; you won't get
it," he prophesied.

He must have elaborated the details of our quaran-
tine with a fierce satisfaction. I can see now that he
carried it to the point of absurdity. One terrible mis-
take had visited this family under his care he must
have set his teeth (those remarkably square, white,
efficient-looking implements) on the resolve that
there should be no nonsense now, and there was n't.
Or if there was nonsense in the right direction, what
blessed folly it was ! We were the bond who alone are
free. Our bondage gave us the right to ask the Adens'
help with their own children as hostages. It gave
Douglas Maclay the right to visit us, under bonds,
each evening of our imprisonment, and those visits
after a while, when she was n't too sick to care, were
the best tonic his child could have had : whatever I
wanted her to do all day she did that papa at night
might know she had been "good." She cuddled

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THE WATCH ON THE MESA

down in the deep sleep of convalescence after the bliss
of his good-nights and it was only a look, or looks
and words, across the barrier between them, for the
sake of little brother's safety at home. She well
understood the meaning of our bonds. But this was
long later.

First, were the tired evenings when we walked the
top of the bluff, he to windward of my blowing skirts,
and I gave him the day's report and he schemed to
my advantage, thinking of ways to save work inside.
He supplied me with duplicate trays and dishes that
I might take my own time over the disinfecting and
boil my water in the cool of the morning, since it
had to be done over an open fire. Kerosene stoves
were smelly things in those days, and the wonderful
nursing-conveniences that have come in with electric-
ity were unknown. (Besides, we had no electricity.)

I reck nothing of piling on details in this part of my
story. Those six weeks on the mesa were the most
searching experience of my life, and their conse-
quences spread over many years that followed. As the
mesa lay out there under the bare sky, so was I ex-
posed and sorted and winnowed and beat upon in the
glare of a mortal mistake crueler than many a crime.
And as the shadow of the mesa at sunrise and at
moonrise extended far across the valley, so over the
subsequent levels of my life the shadow of that six
weeks extended. Also the mesa joins on to a higher
plain of its own on which it appears to proceed in-
definitely till it reaches the sky ; but the main thing
about it to me then, was its isolation and elevation, in

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EDITH BONHAM

a stripped, stern way, above the whole plain of my
former existence.

This is my apology, if apologies are needed, for
a Swiss Family Robinson sort of recital, and I pro-
ceed. I had not enough clothes suited to the work,
and through my masculine chain of communication
with town, Douglas to order, Dick to buy, Aden to
fetch and carry, a nurse's outfit was somehow pro-
vided. Plain short skirts and tailored blouses that
must have been chopped out by the million in Chicago
or New York, for the Western trade. But the touching
thing to me was they were all white! With that high
and haughty disregard for wash-bills which only a man
can soar to, I was become a white nurse ! Even the
doctor looked pleased.

Collars I forgot ; corsets likewise ; sleeves were
easily disposed of and had to be, as I was always
liable to be up to my elbows in something. Shoes,
as my feet gave out, were cast aside for a pair of
moccasins somebody dug up from somewhere it
was Douglas who produced them from his pocket
one night and sniffed their odor apologetically be-
fore handing them to me. They smelled curiously of
a long life in the neighborhood of camp-fires and
dried fish. We had a sort of dump below the bluff,
a scandal, of course, but we couldn't hide any-
thing, even our sins, in that place. I remember I sat
down at once and clothed my feet in those soft,
yielding treasures and flung my slippers with heels
clean over the edge. And Douglas approved the act
with a smile.

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THE WATCH ON THE MESA

And so all day and often half the night, I padded
about the floors of my hospital, floors that I cleaned
with my own hands. As I looked from room to room
I sighed to think how prisoned, " cabined " Nanny
must have felt before she found these ample halls of
peace. She wanted only one thing room, and he
gave it to her ; unadulterated space.

Silent, but not uncomprehending man ! Even in a
solitude like this she had dared to think of life with
him alone. Was there anything more to be said
about that marriage ! I at least thought not. He had
seen the one or two essentials as she saw them ; he
had known how to house her spirit living; he had
known where to lay her body dead. I sheathed my
sword of battle with this man (it had sneaked back
some time before) I took off my hat to him
though it 's hardly the custom and I never wore a
hat out there. And I no longer pitied Nanny even
the long waiting and the dying crops ; and when all
was lost and abandoned and the dream was done,
there could have been no ignoble regrets. It was a
good dream and their arrangements with nature had
been sound ; only certain men did not keep their
word, or could not, with certain other men. I under-
stood the place was called " Maclay's Folly." I could
not imagine that he would have cared what it was
called.

I don't know whether Captain Nashe had given
them to me or whether they came through my great
scare about Phoebe, but in the strong light I dressed
in every morning, I discovered my first gray hair

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EDITH BONHAM

several of them, in fact. They could n't conceal them-
selves, for my hair is absolutely black, soot-black,
papa called it. He liked its smoky fineness and ab-
sence of gloss, and because it was crispy its whole
length, it was easy to pack into any shape he desired.
All studios are a stage, and in our day we have
played many parts, my hair and I and every out-
ward feature of me. I don't know what papa would
have done without drawable daughters. Essie was
the ballroom beauty, superb in evening dress : I had
less avoirdupois and less beauty except to the weird
eye of an artist, but papa thought he could do more
with me in expression. He liked what he called the
" sling " to my poses I " slang " myself about
those rooms to some purpose in those days. I used
to wish (with that curious feeling that it was a life-
time ago) that the dear man could have seen me as
I was now ! He would n't have given a fig for his
Tahitian dancers if he could have drawn his own
daughter with her slop-pails. I was certainly as
brown as they. This hardened sort of self-conscious-
ness becomes second nature if one is brought up in
a studio. The outside of one is no more one's self
than the garments one poses in. I had personated,
off and on, most of the beautiful women in history,
or classic myth, or poetry, ancient and modern : I
had been Sister Helen, and Circe, and Isabella with
her Pot of Basil not for papa ! he smiled on literary
subjects as he did on illustration ; but he never spoiled
another child's game. One reason, I think, why he
could draw from me better than from Essie was a

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THE WATCH ON THE MESA

slight suspicion that Essie smiled on his game. Her
cool eye upon him when she posed for him, I could
see put him out. He was never so absorbed as to
lose his sensitiveness to the human eye, even the eye
of a daughter. As I say, I had begun to think of my
life in New York (not six months ago) as what old
people call the past. Long and forever past, it seemed
to me. I could afford to forgive its little grinds and


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