SHE CHANGED HER MIND - A TRUE STORY by CARL H. CLAUDY
Timmy O'Rourke is as Irish as his name, and one of the hardest working Lodge Secretaries I know. I like Timmy for many reasons, maybe you'll guess why before you have finished this page. "It was back a few years," Timmy confided to me after Lodge was closed one night. "Oh, I don't know—the girls are fifteen and seventeen—fourteen, fifteen years ago."
"Our girls—Tuscan Lodge's girls. Stop interrupting!" growled Timmy. "'Tis a good story you'll be spoiling ..."
I promised to say not another word.
" Tuscan had a Brother Cohen—and he was as fine a chap as you'd want to meet. Cohen had two babies—one two, the other four—beautiful girl babies. Mrs. Cohen died, and Cohen took his bairns and went to board with Mrs. Halloran. Mrs. Halloran is just the way all Mrs. Hallorans who keep boarding houses ought to be; she's fat and sixty-nine now, and Irish and Catholic, and with a brogue as big as her heart. And, of course, she took the motherless babies to her heart and loved them in the ample Irish way. This was in a city some five hundred miles from Tuscan Lodge.
Then Brother Cohen got himself killed in an auto accident, and there was no kith nor kin to look after body or babies. A Lodge in the city where he died wired us for instructions; what were they to do with the body of our Brother, and with his bairns? Tuscan wired back to bury Brother Cohen and send us the bill, and ship on the babies—we'd adopt them and put them in the Home.
"The Lodge buried Brother Cohen, but the Welfare Board or the Court, some one, wouldn't let them send us the babies. It seems orphans just can't be shipped around like dead bodies. Well, we wanted the babies.
Cohen was ours and we loved him, and his babies, by the beard of Solomon (did Solomon have a beard?) were ours, too. So we wrote to the Court. "But Mrs. Halloran wanted the babies, too. She had grown to love them, and she resented with all her huge Irish heart the idea of any group of men in general, and Masons in particular, robbing her as she thought of it, of 'her' children. She got her a lawyer and we got us a lawyer, and at the right time the Lodge sent me on to the city where the Court was to decide.
"Mrs. Halloran's lawyer put her on the stand, and she did a great job of damning the Masons and loving the kiddies; she had witnesses to prove she had means enough to take care of them, and she didn't need any witnesses to make every one sure she loved the little girls—and her lawyer hadn't overlooked the bet of having them present, all dressed up in their best bibs and tuckers. Mrs. Halloran was a star at dramatic loving of the children, and when she got through every one seemed satisfied they were hers.
"Well, I liked the old lady. But I had a job to do, too, so I told the court how the Lodge had loved Cohen, and of how we had a beautiful Masonic Home—I had photographs to show him—and of how we, the Lodge, had an income sufficient to take care of a hundred orphans. And I stressed that we didn't want the babies for any ulterior motive, but just because they were our Brother's children. And I guess I laid it on pretty thick about the educational advantages of the Home . . .
"The Court didn't take long to decide. 'Any group of men who want those children badly enough to undertake to bring them up, and who would send a representative on a journey of five hundred miles for no other reason than brotherly love, deserve consideration,' the Court said.
'Mrs. Halloran cannot offer the children so many advantages, and it is obvious the children should be brought up in the father's religion. So the Court awards these minors to Tuscan."
"Mrs. Halloran broke into a storm of weeping, and the babies cried, and a lot of women in the Court sniffled, and it was a very damp party, indeed. The judge called me to the Bench and said 'You have what you came after. But if I were you I'd be a little tactful with Mrs. Halloran. You can see she loves the children. . . .'
"I went over and sat down by Mrs. Halloran. She was trying to say good-bye to the babies and making very wet work of it.
" 'You think I am a bad man,' I began, 'but. . .'
" 'Bad, is ut!" she stormed at me. "Faith, an' if I thot ye was bad, I'd have th' loife of yez. Staling my babies. . . I think ye fought f'r a principle but I hate yez. Now I can part with 'em. . ." She wept afresh. "The poor childer. ."
" 'But I'm not asking you to say good-bye to them, now," I interrupted. "She looked at me, puzzled." 'You take them home and get them ready. Pack up their things. Then, after a week or so, I want you to bring them to the Masonic Home.
We'll pay your expenses both ways. Come with them. See for yourself what a lovely place it is. Meet the House Mother—you'll know when you see her she will love and take care of the children. And if you are not entirely satisfied—well, you can bring them back with you again.'
"Maybe that was stretching it a little, but the old lady was in real distress.
" 'Ye mane I can bring 'em mesilf! Ye mane I can make shure th childer will be well trated?'
" 'Exactly so,' I said, and Mrs. Halloran gathered up her bag, her umbrella, a parcel, and her two babies and swept her two hundred and fifty pounds from the Court.
"In due time Mrs. Halloran came to the Home. I met her. She came with a chip on her shoulder and, metaphorically, a chain around the neck of each baby. But we have a swell Home, and after she had been there two days, and seen the School, and the other children, and talked with the Superintendent and his staff, and with the guests . . .well, she changed her mind. She backed me into a corner.
" 'Tis a fine job ye did, young man!" she accused me. "Fine, indade, winnin' me over whin I wasn't to be won. But I c'n see ye can do more f'r thim here than I can, an'—' "Heaven gave me the wit to know what she was trying to say and couldn't get past the lump.
" 'Indeed, yes, Mrs. Halloran! You can come as often as you want, and in summer they can come to you for a vacation—we want them to have you and your love . . ."
"And then I was hugged in public—smothered is more nearly the term, and I loved it! And now once a year Mrs. Halloran comes to see her girls, and once a year they spend two weeks with her. And if you could hear her talk about the Masons! 'Sure, th' good father says ye are forbid by th' church,' she says, 'but I knows what I know. 'Tis good men ye are an I'll fight wid enywan who says ye ain't.
'Tis all goin' th' same road—"
I thought this over for a moment. Then: "How does Mrs. Halloran get enough money to make the journey every year? Does the Lodge . . ."
"It does not," said Timmy, rather shortly, "and 'tis none of your business."
He was right. It wasn't. But I think I know.
Which is one of many reasons why I like Timmy......