Early in the fall George had taken over the superintendency of Lincoln Avenue Sunday School, a branch of the Methodist Church, which we had joined. I was very opposed to his doing it because it meant that we would never have any Sunday leisure and that was the only time my family was free. We were also expected to attend church both morning and evening plus Sunday School and now Lincoln Sunday School at three in the afternoon.
My reasons didn’t carry and George took over. At the same time I took charge of the music and taught a class of young girls. For Christmas we decided to put on a cantata and I had trained a chorus and soloists. We were doing pretty well when my commitment put an end to rehearsals and forced me to see that someone needed to take over the music.
On my dresser stood an illuminated card. Aunt Jeannie Caldwell had given it to me.
“Build a little fence of trust around today.
Fill the space with loving work and therein stay.
Look not through the sheltering bars upon tomorrow.
God will help thee bear what comes of joy and sorrow.”
It was a simple enough verse for me to understand and had helped me many a time. Now it boosted me over a very rough spot.
As I lay in bed I could read it and I did a great deal of thinking. My nurse, too, proved to be devoutly religious. As I grew stronger, both she and the doctor diverted me with case stories. I didn’t gain physically, however.
Then one day I woke with an earache that refused to respond to ordinary remedies. I couldn’t sleep. Mother Cook and Gorge had heard of putting live leeches on the flesh to draw blood and they told Dr. Pelton about it. Dr. Pelton countered by telling them it was an out-of-date and ineffectual treatment. I was horrified at the prospect and begged them not to do it, but they insisted and the doctor complied. I screamed at the feel of the horrible things. It did no good whatsoever.
Then Dr. Pelton called an Elgin specialist in for consultation. He hurt me terribly in the examination but could find nothing to report, so he said – no evidence of swelling or ear infection. Dr. Pelton gathered the family around the dining table and told them it might be meningitis and that he doubted my ability to recover. He had just reached this point when my nurse clunked down the stairs and reported that the abscess had broken and the ear was discharging. I judge it was a moment of crisis. I had been under the influence of narcotics so long that the relief now was the other extreme.
I have no idea how long I was ill. I remember Christmas had come and gone with a big celebration at Mother Cook’s, with my family present, and Howell and David were given silver watches by the Cooks to their great delight, but not mine. It seemed too patronizing to me, until George broke down my pride. Weeks passed before I could hear again and get up and about the house, and George decided to take me to Mama’s [Mama Howell] for a stay.
Mary, my sister, was an assistant to Aunt Allen in the University of Chicago‘s Laboratory School Kindergarten at the time. The gymnasium teacher at the school was a friend of Mary’s. In the hope that corrective gymnastics might help, I went to see Miss Crawford. She had me lie on the floor and lifted my arms and legs, but she concluded that I was not yet strong enough to do anything for myself. I seemed to be a complete wreck.
Mother and Father Cook went to Florida every winter, so they suggested that George and I stay in their house and close ours for the time they were gone. Minnie, their housekeeper, was in complete charge and I was supposed to do a great deal of resting.
I found it so lonesome in this house that I began to take a little handwork and go to the office with George. His new secretary, Elizabeth Ansley, a Canadian girl, had been very kind to me. She had helped me pack away the layette and bassinette and we had loved each other from our first meeting. She had taken the position and had her first dictation in our house the day the baby was born. So I sat in her office day after day and tried to get my health back. George would take me to lunch in the cafeteria.
Dr. Pelton had told me I should not have another baby for three years or I might miscarry again. Eventually I reached a place where I would have gone through fire and water to be well. It was about that time that I heard of the Winfield Illinois Sanatorium, more properly called “Rest Farm”. Here two Scotch women known as the Forsythe Sisters conducted a rest cure. The treatment was rest in bed, massage, and over-feeding. Anne Tomlinson had tried it for a couple of weeks. So my family, in conjunction with George, decided to try it out on me.
It was very expensive, $50.00 a week, but we still had quite a bit of the $5,000 left. It had been put into steel stock in George’s name by this time, so I didn’t know how much remained.
At the beginning of George’s second year at the publishing house his salary had been increased to $150 a month. That helped a lot. Up to the baby’s birth, I had had an allowance of $12.00 a week to run the house. The maid cost only $3.00 a week.
I had managed to save by little economies which annoyed George. I saw no reason why, if I wanted to eat less butter, I shouldn’t be allowed to save for articles I wanted. The allowance ceased with my illness, however, and – just like Mother Cook – we now ordered by telephone. We charged groceries and meats and George did our other buying. While we had lived at 105 N. Gifford, Minnie had ordered and we were practically without expenses, which was wonderful.