An Autobiography HTML version

Sorrow And Change
In the long and cheerful life of my dear mother there at last came a change. At 94 she fell
and broke her wrist. The local doctor (a stranger), who was called in, not knowing her
wonderful constitution, was averse from setting the wrist, and said that she would never
be able to use the hand. But I insisted, and in six, weeks she was able to resume her
knitting, and never felt any ill effects. At 95 she had a fall, apparently without cause, and
was never able to stand again. She had to stay in bed for the last 13 months of her life,
with a gradual decay of the faculties which had previously been so keen. My mother
wanted me with her always. Her talk was all of times far back in her life--not of Melrose,
where she had lived for 25 years, but of Scoryhall (pronounced Scole), where she had
lived as a girl. I had been shown through the house by my aunt Handyside in 1865, and I
could follow her mind wanderings and answer her questions. As she suffered so little
pain it was difficult for my mother to realize the seriousness of her illness; and, tiring of
her bedroom, she begged to be taken to the study, where, with her reading and knitting,
she had spent so many happy hours while I did my writing. Delighted though she was at
the change, a return to her bed--as to all invalids--was a comfort, and she never left it
again. Miss Goodham--an English nurse and a charming woman, who has since remained
a friend and correspondent of the family--was sent to help us for a few days at the last.
Another sorrow came to us at this time in the loss of my ward's husband, and Rose Hood-
-nee Duval--returned to live near me with her three small children. Her commercial
training enabled her to take a position as clerk in the State Children's Department, which
she retained until her death. The little ones were very sweet and good, but the supervision
of them during the day added a somewhat heavy responsibility to our already
overburdened household. In these days, when one hears so much of the worthlessness of
servants, it is a joy to remember how our faithful maid--we kept only one for that large
house--at her own request, did all the laundry work for the family of five, and all through
the three years of Eleanor's illness waited on her with untiring devotion.
An amusing episode which would have delighted the heart of my dear friend Judge
Lindsay occurred about this time. The fruit from our orange trees which grew along the
wall bordering an adjoining paddock was an irresistible temptation to wandering
juveniles, and many and grievous were the depredations. Patience, long drawn out, at last
gave way, and when the milkman caught two delinquents one Saturday afternoon with
bulging blouses of forbidden fruit it became necessary to make an example of some one.
The trouble was to devise a fitting punishment. A Police Court, I had always maintained,
was no place for children; corporal punishment was out of the question; and the culprits
stood tremblingly awaiting their fate till a young doctor present suggested a dose of
Gregory's powder. His lawyer friend acquiesced, and Gregory's powder it was. A
moment's hesitation and the nauseous draught was swallowed to the accompaniment of
openly expressed sympathy, one dear old lady remarking, "Poor children and not so much
as a taste of sugar." Probably, however, the unkindest cut of all was the carrying away by
the milkman of the stolen fruit! The cure was swift and effective; and ever after the youth
of the district, like the Pharisee of old, passed by on the other side.