The Primrose Ring by Ruth Sawyer


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Page 1

As for the primrose ring--reach across it to Bridget and let her give
you back again the heart of a child which you may have lost somewhere
along the road of Growing-Old-and-Wise.

R. S.




Would it ever have happened at all if Trustee Day had not fallen on the
30th of April--which is May Eve, as everybody knows?

This is something you must ask of those wiser than I, for I am only the
story-teller, sitting in the shadow of the market-place, passing on the
tale that comes to my ears. But I can remind you that May Eve is one
of the most bewitched and bewitching times of the whole year--reason
enough to account for any number of strange happenings; and I can point
out to your notice that Margaret MacLean, in charge of Ward C at Saint
Margaret's, found the flower-seller at the corner of the street that
morning with his basket full of primroses. Now primroses are "gentle
flowers," as everybody ought to know--which means that the faeries have
been using them for thousands of years to work magic; and Margaret
MacLean bought the full of her hands that morning.

And this brings us back to Trustee Day at Saint Margaret's--which fell
on the 30th of April--and to the beginning of the story.

Saint Margaret's Free Hospital for Children does not belong to the
city. It was built by a rich man as a memorial to his son, a little
crippled lad who stayed just long enough to leave behind as a legacy
for his father a great crying hunger to minister to all little ailing
and crippled bodies. There are golden tales concerning those first
years of the hospital--tales passed on by word of mouth alone and so
old as to have gathered a bit of the misty glow of illusion that hangs
over all myths and traditions. They made of Saint Margaret's an
arcadian refuge, where the Founder wandered all day and every day like
a patron saint. Tradition endowed him with all the attributes of all
saints belonging to childhood: the protectiveness of Saint Christopher,
the tenderness of Saint Anthony, the loving comradeship of Saint
Valentine, and the joyfulness of Saint Nicholas.

But that was more than fifty years ago; and institutions can change
marvelously in half a century. Time had buried more than the Founder.

The rich still support Saint Margaret's. Society gives bazars and
costumed balls for it annually; great artists give benefit concerts;
bankers, corporation presidents, and heiresses send liberal checks once
a year--and from this last group are chosen the trustees. They have
made of Saint Margaret's the best-appointed hospital in the city. It
is supplied with everything money and power can obtain; leading
surgeons are listed on its staff; its nurses rank at the head. It has
outspanned the greatest dream of the Founder--professionally. And
twelve times a year--at the end of every month--the trustees hold their
day; which means that all through the late afternoon, until the
business meeting at five-thirty, they wander over the building.

Now it is the business of institutional directors to be thorough, and
the trustees of Saint Margaret's, previous to the 30th of April, never
forgot their business. They looked into corners and behind doors to
see what had not been done; they followed the work-trails of every
employee--from old Cassie, the scrub-woman, to the Superintendent
herself; and if one was a wise employee one blazed conspicuously and
often. They gathered in little groups and discussed methods for
conservation and greater efficiency, being as up to date in their
charities as in everything else. Also, they brought guests and showed
them about; for when one was rich and had put one's money into
collections of sick and crippled children instead of old ivories and
first editions, it did not at all mean that one had not retained the
same pride of exhibiting.

There are a few rare natures who make collections for the sheer love of
the objects they collect, and if they can be persuaded to show them off
at all it is always with so much tenderness and sympathy that even the
feelings of a delicately wrought Buddha could not be bruised. But
there were none of these natures numbered among the trustees of Saint
Margaret's. And because it was purely a matter of charity and pride
with them, and because they never had any time left over from being
thorough and business-like to spend on the children themselves, they
never failed to leave a shaft of gloom behind them on Trustee Day. The
contagious ward always escaped by virtue of its own power of
self-defense; but the shaft started at the door of the surgical ward
and went widening along through the medical and the convalescent until
it reached the incurables at an angle of indefinite radiation. There
was a reason for this--as Margaret MacLean put it once in paraphrase:

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Wed 26th Jan 2022, 21:23