“Oh, Ella, why did you clear the table?” “I didn’t clear it, Mamma. It was like this when I came in.”
“Did you do it, Mabel?” "Tell me, is this a joke? Where did you put the table cloth?”
“No, Mamma, I didn’t touch anything.”
“But I had the tablecloth on and the silverware out. Where is the silverware? And where’s that loaf of bread I left on the serving table when I was called to the door? Who’s been in the kitchen? Did you see anyone come into the house, Mabel?”
“No, but I saw a tall lady come out; and it looked as though she was carrying something under her apron.”
“So that’s what was going on while our neighbor lady was entertaining me in the front room! The two women were evidently working together. While one was so kindly telling me where I could buy the best strawberries, the other came to the back door and picked up whatever she could lay her hands on. That reminds me of what the grocery man told your father. He said, ‘Be sure to lock your doors when you go out; for there’s nothing to hot or too heavy for some people to carry away.’”
After that we were more careful about turning the key when we left the house. We watched the clothesline on washday. And we tried to remember not to leave anything of value in the yard. But even though we took the best of precautions, articles occasionally disappeared. At this time we were living in a rented house in Cooranbong, waiting for our cottage to be built across the road from Grandma White’s house near Avondale.
One day when we returned home from church, mother sent me to get a rice pudding from the cooler house, a small stone building by the kitchen door. But the pudding was gone, dish and all, and with it a pitcher of milk.
When we told Grandma about it, she said, “Don’t any of you say a word about this to anyone!” She made friendly visits around the neighborhood, even calling on the family suspected of the thievery. “We’re coming to live here among you.” She told them, and I trust you’ll find us pleasant neighbors. We’re establishing a school nearby where you can send your children to receive an education. We’re ready to help you in any way we can."
Not long after this grandma had the opportunity she was looking for to help her neighbors. Although the surrounding country was sparsely settled and without telephones, word spread rapidly that Mrs. White had a nurse in her family. Miss Sara McEnterfer, from the famous Battle Creek Sanitarium. This was welcome news, for the nearest hospital or doctor’s office was at Newcastle, twenty-three miles up the railway line. The first call for help came from a home where a little boy had scalded his leg by upsetting a pot of boiling tea.
When the famous nurse from Battle Creek reached the house, she found the six-year old patient suffering from a very sore leg. It had become infected, and for sometime the little fellow had cried day and night with pain. Every morning for nearly two weeks Aunt Sara, as she soon became called throughout the neighborhood, drove with grandma’s horse and carriage to the home and treated the scalded leg until it was entirely healed. After that calls for help came thick and fast.
Soon the Avondale school was opened, though the buildings were not quite finished. Grandma and her family of helpers had settled at Sunnyside, and grandma was busy with her writing. Four typewriters were clicking away as everyone worked earnestly copying, duplicating, and addressing pieces ready to mail—articles, letters, and book manuscripts. Our family had moved into the new cottage across the road.
One day a man came riding up to Sunnyside on horseback. All in one breath he said, “We have a very sick boy in our house, and we don’t know what to do for him. Someone told us that a nurse lives here. Could she help us?
When Aunt Sara reached the house, she found a boy of nine lying on a cot. His head was hot with fever, and his eyes were red and swollen from crying. His mother was in bed with a new baby, and his aunt was doing her best to take care of all three.
“Now tell me all about what happened,” the nurse said,
“About a week ago, when Willie was driving a calf out of the yard, he stepped into a hole where some broken glass had been thrown and cut a gash in his ankle an inch and a half long and as deep as the bone,” the aunt explained. “His mother rubbed lard on the cut and tied it up, but it grew worse every day, and became so bad that his father took him to a doctor in Newcastle. The doctor cleaned and dressed the wound and sent some medicine for the boy to take, and said to apply bread-and-milk poultices every few hours.
“Then the baby came, and the boy’s mother was laid up. I have to take care of Willie, but I don’t know what to do for him. I don’t even know how to make the poultices. His father didn’t ask the doctor how they should be made. [Aunt Sara learned that they had been soaking the bread in milk and laying it on the wound cold.] The doctor said if the leg got worse to bring the boy back; he might have to amputate. Then we heard about Mrs. White and the Battle Creek nurse that lives with her, and so we sent for you, and we’re so glad you’ve come to help us!”
Aunt Sara examined the patient. “It’s blood poisoning, and a serious case, she said. ”Put the kettle on and heat water immediately. We’ll do all we can to save that leg.” She had brought her flannel fomentation cloths, as she always did when called out on duty. For two hours without interruption she applied alternate hot and cold fomentations, then dressed the wound. Before she had finished, the patient was asleep. After telling Willie’s aunt how to continue the treatments, the nurse left, promising to return the next day.
When she returned the following morning, she found that the aunt had slipped while carrying a kettle of boiling water and had scalded her leg from the ankle to the knee. She was in so much pain that she could scarcely get around. So the nurse had two patients instead of one. She decided to bring them to Sunnyside, where she could care for them both. Willie’s father carried the boy to the carriage and then helped the aunt in.
All the way home, Aunt Sara was wondering where she could find room in the house for those two sick folks. The four upstairs bedrooms served also as office workrooms. The cook and a girl attending school occupied a room over the carriage barn. Over night guests were in the parlor. But Aunt Sara was used to contriving. She managed to find a vacant spot where she could set up a cot for the aunt until the guests had left. She brought the boy across the road to our cottage.
It was my duty, as soon as school was dismissed to stoke the kitchen stove and keep plenty of hot water ready for Willie’s treatments. We gave him alternate hot and cold leg baths several times a day. Aunt Sara came over every evening and applied charcoal poultices. Once when she removed the poultice, a piece of glass the size of a kernel of wheat was lying on the surface of the wound. As the leg healed, the treatments were given less frequently.
At the end of ten days the patients were taken home, and Willie astonished the neighbors with his story about the wonderful cure “just with hot and cold water and charcoal.” From that time on, Miss McEnterfer was frequently called to give help and instruction in caring for the sick. No charge was ever made, although at times she had to travel long distances.
The calls for help came so fast that she could not keep up with them and attend to her other duties.