Dr. Nina and the Panther

by Shirley P. Wheeler, 1976

Part 1: "Lord in the Morning...."
Part 2: "Work, for the night is coming."
Part 3: "Some poor faint, struggling seaman you may rescue, you may save."
Part 4: "I walked in the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses."
Part 5: "And the darkness shall turn to dawning, and the dawning to noonday bright."
Part 6: "Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee."

Part 2: "Work, for the night is coming."

. . . 1
Accompanied by the train conductor, Nina found the church printing plant with no difficulty. Next to the plant was a large, wood-framed house, gabled, and fronted by such a narrow, high-roofed porch that the spaced supports, slender and plain, looked ludicrously delicate against the bulk of the house itself. It was a house whose destiny was inherent in its size; it would later become a boardinghouse. Later still, it would be bought for the value of the land by a real-estate developer who would demolish the house and with it even the memory of the lives that had been lived inside. There was a lamplight glowing from the windows.

"Well, Nina," said the conductor, "I guess you’re safe now. I’ll have to get back to the train. I hope you enjoy school as much as you think you will. I never liked it much myself, but maybe I should have thought about school differently. Too late now. Goodbye and good luck!" They shook hands warmly and Nina watched him as he walked through the front gate and merged into the night. She climbed the steps, crossed the porch, and knocked at the door.

Nina was to remember for years how frightened she was as she stood there in the dark, waiting for the door to open. When Sister Leeland stood in the opened doorway, a lamp held high, Nina’s spirits lifted as she realized that she had seen this woman before at the long-ago Camp Meeting. Sister Leeland was a link, tenuous enough and frail, with some known part of her past life. All was not lost.

"I’m Nina Mae Case," the child said. "You offered to take us all in but my mother and sister are going to Philadelphia and I’ve come to live with you."

"Gracious sakes!" Mrs. Leeland exclaimed. "Why didn’t your mother let me know? How brave of you to come all that way alone! You’re welcome, Nina Mae, and there’s plenty of room. Myra! Fred!" she called, drawing Nina into the front hall. "Come fast. Here’s Nina Mae come to live with us!" Such a welcome strengthens the frightened heart.

Myra came quietly into the hall. She was Nina’s age, but she was big and plump, with fat blond braids tied with big, bright ribbons. She had a habit of turning her head away to the side so that she looked at others with a sidelong glance that made her seem sly.

Fred bounced into the entrance hall with the flopsy-mopsy gait of an overgrown puppy. He was seven years old, and to him everything in life was fun and excitement.

"Myra," said Sister Leeland, "take Nina Mae up to the attic bedroom and then show her where to wash up. Nina Mae, when you’re ready, come down and we’ll fix you some supper. My goodness! It’s past eight o’clock. You must be starved."

Myra led the way as Nina followed wearily. They went up a long flight of stairs, turned down a long hall, and at the end went through a door to a closed stairway leading to the attic. At the top of the stairway was a vast attic with a small room partitioned off from the rest of the space. Nina looked around her room. How beautiful! she thought. There was a cot with a flowered washstand pitcher and slop jar; there was a chair with a cushion on the seat; there was a small table with a lace cover and a Bible on it; there was a motto on the wall, "The Kingdom of God is come nigh unto you," and on the dormer windows there were crisp white curtains. Directly opposite the door was a dresser with a mirror. This was the first time in three years that Nina had seen her own face except for the times she caught a dim reflection in Sinking Spring. She was entranced. The fat blonde girl standing next to her was giving her a blue, sidelong glance. What a beautiful room!

"This is your bedroom," Myra said, "and the bathroom is at the end of the hall downstairs, at the back. Come down when you’re ready." She set the oil lamp on the table next to the Bible. She slid out of the door and flew down the dark enclosed staircase as though she were pursued by demons.

Nina sat down on the chair. Suddenly she realized that her feet were burning beyond endurance. She pulled off her rubbers and unbuttoned her sturdy shoes. She pulled off her long black stockings. She was very tired. The emotional strain of parting, the seven-mile walk, the train trip, and the strangeness of being in a room with a real bed at just the hour her mother and sister must be settling down in their fragrant hemlock boughs, all combined to drain her of strength. She crept to the cot thinking, I’ll just lie down for a moment to rest, and when she woke she was undressed and under the covers, the sun was shining in the window, and from far away she heard voices and pots clinking.

She jumped out of bed and almost fell down as she tripped over the voluminous folds of a strange nightgown, obviously made for a large woman. The ruffles at the wrists covered her hands and the ruffle at the hem trailed behind her like a wedding train. She was so appalled at having slept so long that she had little time to be amazed at her nightdress. She crept down the stairs to the washroom, fled back to her room, dressed as carefully and as quickly as she could, combed and braided her long dark hair, and in bare feet made her way to the ground floor. The rattling of pots and pans led her through the dining room, where the table was set, the place settings covered over with a large white cloth. She went down two steps into the kitchen. Sister Leeland looked up from the stove where she was stirring cooked cereal in a large double boiler. She smiled kindly.

"Did you get your sleep out, Nina Mae?" she asked. "You really were tired. We tried to wake you to give you something to eat, but you wouldn’t wake up, so I put you to bed. I couldn’t find a nightgown in your box, so I used one of mine."

"My nightgowns are all worn out, so I sleep in my skin."

"Good gracious! How awful! Don’t mention such a thing to Myra or Fred."

"It’s not so awful. In fact, in some ways it’s better than sleeping in a gown." Nina was always candid. "I can curl up with myself with nothing pulling on me. Sometimes when it’s cold, though, I wish I had fur like a squirrel."

Sister Leeland was not mollified. "How awful! Don’t tell anybody! In this house we all wear nightclothes. You can use mine until we can make some for you. But goodness, child! Where are your shoes and stockings?"

"Oh!" Nina was amazed. "Should I wear them here in the house? I was saving them for school."

Just then they both heard the rest of the household coming downstairs and a deep male voice calling to Myra and Fred to come immediately for morning worship. Mrs. Leeland took off her apron and hung it on a hook by the kitchen door. She smoothed her hair. "We’ll talk after breakfast. Come along to the parlor for worship. You’ll meet the rest of the family."

Brother Leeland sat in a straight-backed armchair, looking, Nina thought, like King David. He was a tall, lean man with black hair, blue eyes, and a stern black beard. Millie, the spinster secretary of the Williamsport Church Conference, sat in a low rocking chair near the organ. Millie was tall, pale, and slender, with a bad complexion. Next to her sat Mr. Gibson, the printer, and next to him, Sister Munson, the Bible worker. Then Myra and Fred. Sister Leeland introduced Nina to the others and they took their places, Nina next to Fred. Mrs. Leeland completed the circle.

"Millie," asked Brother Leeland solemnly, "will you play for us?"

Millie went to the organ and they all sang a hymn.

"We will now read the eighth chapter of Deuteronomy," announced Brother Leeland. Fred was fidgeting in his chair. "Fred," said his father sternly, "sit still. Read the first two verses." Fred read haltingly. As he read, Mrs. Leeland said in an anxious aside to Nina, "Tomorrow bring your Bible down with you."

"That’s all right," Nina whispered, "I know this all by heart."

When Fred finished his two verses, Nina took up the theme with the next two verses, speaking softly in her clear young voice.

"And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knowest not, nor did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live. Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years."

When Harriet and the children had studied these verses on the mountain, Nina had pointed out to her mother that the children of Israel, in their wilderness, were lucky indeed; Nina’s raiment had worn out in less than three years and her feet were often swollen. Harriet found the comparison presumptuous.

Brother Leeland, unwaveringly solemn, commended Nina for needing no written text for her verses. He then said, "Let us pray," and they all knelt on the floor in front of their chairs. He prayed in a loud bishop’s voice for each one of those kneeling before him, calling each by name. Then they all rose and Millie played one verse of "Work, for the night is coming when man works no more."

Mrs. Leeland motioned to Myra and Nina to follow her. "You girls remove the cloth from the table, and then come and help me in the kitchen."

The children, one at each end of the table, lifted and folded the spotless white cloth that covered the breakfast place settings. They poured fresh water into the adults’ glasses and milk in the children’s mugs. They carried in a bowl of fruit and a bowl of hot cereal for each plate. Nina thought how fine it was to have so much for breakfast. She carried in two platters of thick brown slices of toast, and all was ready. The household gathered for breakfast.

There was little conversation. Millie spoke only when the printer of Brother Leeland asked her a question. Brother Leeland and Mr. Gibson talked of the work they would do that day at the office. Sister Munson spoke not at all. Mrs. Leeland busied herself with extra servings and with keeping Fred sitting in his chair. Nina, uncertain of what to do, watched the others and did what they did. She helped herself to toast when one of the big platters was passed to her side of the table, but turned it timidly around in her hand until she could see how the others ate it. Each one broke off a piece and began to chew. Nina laughed. Everyone stopped chewing at once.

"Well!" said Brother Leeland sternly. "What happened to you?"

"Nothing, really," Nina answered meekly, in an agony of embarrassment.

"Nothing? Nonsense! People don’t laugh at nothing."

"It was only that you all made such a funny noise chewing this hard toast that you sounded like Old Wally’s horses in the barn chewing their corn. It made me laugh, remembering Old Wally’s horses. They were always so serious about eating."

No one smiled. Millie looked at her plate. Mr. Gibson looked out of the window.

"That is not funny," announced Brother Leeland, "and little girls should be seen and not heard."

Breakfast continued. From then on, Nina are her meals without speaking unless she was spoken to and without laughing at the table, which the family never did.

That first morning in the kitchen after breakfast Sister Leeland said, "Since today is Friday, Nina Mae, I think you’d better not start to school. Wait until Monday. Today you can get acquainted with your duties here, and get used to the house so you won’t feel strange." Nina, who had already waited for twelve years to go to school, was willing to wait until Monday. After they had washed the breakfast dishes and cleaned the kitchen until it gleamed in the morning light, and after Myra and Fred had left for school, Mrs. Leeland and Nina went to the attic bedroom to look over Nina’s clothes.

"From what I saw last night," Mrs. Leeland said, "you don’t have many clothes. We will have to think what to do. By the way dear, what shall we call you? Are you Nina Mae or just Nina?"

"Oh, please call me just plain Nina," she said. "That’s all I’ve ever been called and it would seem more like home to me."

"Very well, just plain Nina." Sister Leeland laughed. "Let’s look at your clothes."

There weren’t many. Nina had on the same dress she had worn on the train – a black gingham made-over dress. She had the beautiful blue delaine for the Sabbath, a white embroidered blouse and blue skirt for school. She had a pitiful handful of underthings, one pair of black stockings, her shoes, and her rubbers.

"That’s not much," observed Mrs. Leeland, "but it will have to do for now. Maybe the sewing circle of the church can make over some dresses for you."

"Oh, no!" Nina was shocked. "There are many people in the world with less than this. The sewing circle mustn’t waste it’s time on me. I can wash my clothes at night." She was so distressed that Sister Leeland patted her hand and agreed that, with the addition of some nightgowns, there really were enough clothes.

"But," Sister Leeland said, "you must wear shoes all of the time, except in your own room."

The pattern of daily living in the household was well organized, and between Friday and Monday mornings Nina became part of a routine that was not to vary for the entire time she lived with the Leelands. It is to the credit of these kindly people that no one under their roof, spinster, widow, or orphan, was exploited. Nina was to work hard, but Myra shared all her tasks equally. The women and girls rose at five-thirty in the morning and collected the oil lamps, which, when they were blown out at night, were put outside the bedroom doors. Each person had his own particular lamp with its own individual place on the kitchen shelf. Nina, Myra, and Millie washed and refilled the bowls, trimmed the wicks, and washed and polished the chimneys before putting the lamps in order on the shelf. All of the beds were stripped to air. Then came morning worship, and then breakfast. After breakfast the women cleared the table, washed the dishes, and reset the table for dinner, covering the place settings with the big white cloth. They made the beds. The children left for school.

Dinner was at noon. There was only time for Myra and Nina to help serve the meal, eat, and get back to school. After school they did whatever Mrs. Leeland found for them to do – cleaned cupboards, ironed, beat rugs, dusted. Supper was a light meal, and after evening worship the children did their lessons and went to bed.

An orderly, useful life.


. . . 2
Monday morning came, and Nina was going to school. She woke in a glow of anticipation. After she had washed and dressed, she picked up her own lamp and, on the floor below, the lamp of Brother Gibson, and made her way down to the kitchen. As she reached the dining room she heard Myra sobbing in the kitchen.

"Oh, Mother! I won’t take Nina to school. All the girls will laugh at me! She doesn’t even know what grade she’s in. Maybe they’ll put her in the first grade and everyone will laugh. And she looks so funny – no hat, no ribbons in her hair. I won’t do it, and you can’t make me!"

"Now, dear, don’t be silly," said Sister Leeland soothingly. "Of course you must take her to school. She can wear some of your ribbons."

"I won’t let her. Everyone will know they’re mine."

"Land’s sake, Myra. Enough of this nonsense. You must conquer your pride."

As Myra drew in her breath to bully her mother, Nina marched into the kitchen with her lamps. She put them down with a thud on the wooden kitchen table. She turned to Myra, scorn in her eyes.

"I can find my way. You needn’t take me to school. I can take care of myself. I don’t need you. I won’t walk to school with you today, or ever." And she never did, although after a few days they always walked home from school together. Pride can be modified in many directions without being humbled.

Nina took a lamp chimney and turned abruptly to the basin of warm, soapy water in the sink. All of her glow was drained away. The long-wished-for day, the first day of school, was in ruins because of hair ribbons. She didn’t worry about what grade she would be put in; she knew it wouldn’t be the first grade, and any reasonable grade would be school. But her heart was sore and swollen in her chest to know she would look funny without a hat and without hair ribbons. She wanted so much to look ordinary, to take her place unobtrusively in the magic world of public school.

When the after-breakfast chores were finished, she slipped out of the house and followed other children down the street and around corners until she reached the main street of the town. There the children seemed to scatter. She didn’t know whom to follow. There was a big policeman directing traffic in the center of the main street, so she went out to him.

"Please, could you tell me the way to school?" she asked.

There wasn’t much traffic, as we know traffic today, but there were horse-drawn drays, carriages for the well-to-do, bicycles, surreys, and horsemen on their morning trips. The policeman changed his stop-and-go arrows and turned to Nina.

"What school do you want?" he asked. "The grammar school is over that way and the high school is down that street four blocks."

"The high school, I guess." Nina was doubtful. All she knew was that one day, after she was ten years old, her mother had said, "You’re in high school now, Nina." When the policeman changed his arrows again, she went down the street four blocks and there was the school.

She stood forlorn and alone in the big entrance hall. All of the other children were rushing about, greeting each other, pushing and laughing and moving with confidence and purpose. All of the girls wore hair ribbons.

A teacher, passing by, noticed Nina standing quietly against the wall. "Are you a new student?" he asked.

"Yes, sir, and I don’t know where I belong, or what to do."

"Come with me," he said. He took Nina to the office of the principal. There was no one in the office, but the teacher told Nina to sit down, and Mr. Worley, the principal, would be there soon. Nina sat.

In a few minutes Mr. Worley came in. He smiled at Nina in exactly the same way a school principal who likes young people should smile. He asked her where she had been to school.

"I’ve never been to school. My mother taught me at home."

Just then a teacher came in. Mr. Worley and the teacher conferred together about everyday morning problems. Then Mr. Worley asked Nina to sit down and wait while he rang the bells and got the classes under way. As he went out of the door he turned.

"Why don’t you, in the meantime, go over to those shelves of books, pick out the books you’ve studied, and put them on the table. Then we’ll have some idea of where we are." He smiled again, and Nina was sure his plan would work. She went to the shelves and was at once absorbed in the books. How wonderful! All those books! There were many she had never seen before, but there were many, many old friends. She peeked into some and patted others as she put them on the table. English, American history, ancient history, world history, geography, Latin, algebra, advanced algebra, trigonometry, geometry, physiology, French, English novels, American essays – so many friends! The shelves were sparse and the table was piled high with books when Mr. Worley finally returned.

"Well, well! Quite an array," he said, looking at her curiously. "Sit here by my desk and tell me about yourself. How old are you?"

"I’m twelve years old." Nina felt very much at home with this man. He looked at her with interest, the way one person should look at another person. He reached over to the table and picked up a book at random. It was a volume of poems by Catullus, in Latin. He flipped it open and asked her to translate a poem on that page.

Nina was pleased. She had never seen a whole volume of poems by Catullus, but he had been included in a fat volume of Roman poets she had studied, and this particular poem was one she liked, because it was so gay.

Give me a thousand kisses, and then another thousand!
Let us count the advice of our elders
Just to the worth of a cent.
Give me a thousand kisses! . . .

Mr. Worley smiled back at Nina as she finished. "You like to read, don’t you?" he asked.

"Oh, yes. Especially stories in English. I read all my mother’s books many times, but one summer day I found an abandoned house. The whole house had been papered inside with newspaper – the Pennsylvania Grit. They all had wonderful continued stories. I almost had to stand on my head to read some of the pages. The worst of it was that after searching all the walls and ceilings I sometimes couldn’t find the end of the stories, and sometimes I couldn’t even find the beginning. Yes, I like to read. You have many books I haven’t read yet."

"Are you sure you’ve read all those books on the table?" Mr. Worley asked doubtfully. As Nina nodded, he picked up a pointer from the desk. "Suppose you point out Afghanistan on that map and tell me what you know about the country."

"I’d love to. I lived there for almost a week."

"What?" Mr. Worley was astonished. More than astonished; distrustful. His face began to harden with distrust.

"Oh, I’m sorry." Nina blushed. "Not really. I didn’t really live in Afghanistan. Whenever we studied a country, Mother had us live there. We dressed and lived, during geography lesson, as we read how they dressed and lived there, and she asked us all about the country. We did that with all the different countries, and we couldn’t come back to America until we knew all about the major cities, the capital, the population, agriculture, industries, and folklore. We lived longest in Egypt, because we had to live in different periods. We were children of all the separate dynasties."

"That is interesting," said Mr. Worley, his face all kindness. Your mother must be a remarkable woman. Now it’s almost dinnertime. Come back here to the office after dinner and we’ll try to finish the examination and place you where you belong."

Nina hurried home. She was busy in the kitchen helping dish up the dinner when Myra came in.

"Where did they put you?" Myra asked.

"Nowhere, yet. I am to go back after dinner to finish being examined."

"Haven’t they sent you over to the grade school?"

"Not yet." Nina spoke pleasantly. In her heart there was a quiet, unruffled place that was Mr. Worley.

In the principal’s office after dinner, Mr. Worley had two teachers with him. They asked many questions. They gave Nina problems in geometry and algebra and trigonometry to solve. They had her translate French exercises. They asked her about events and dates in history. They were all friendly, good-humored, and fascinated. Nina enjoyed the afternoon. She didn’t feel on trial; they were all working together to find a place for her.

Shortly before three o’clock the principal said, "Come with me," and all four of them, Mr. Worley, Nina, and the two teachers, went into the assembly room. All of the high school was already seated there. A hush settled over the room as they filed down the aisle to the front of the hall. For the first time since the opening of school Nina thought about how she looked. They went to the front row, where Nina and the two teachers sat down. Mr. Worley stood before the assembled students and teachers. He explored general school problems and projects with the student body. Then he said:

"I want to introduce to you now a little girl whom I am proud to know. She is twelve years old, and she is being admitted into the senior class of this high school. She has already done most of the work of the senior class, but there are some gaps in her education we can fill this year, and she needs to be a regular member of a public school in order to have a diploma. She has never been to school before because she has been tutored at home, so she feels strange. I hope the girls in her class, and the girls her own age, will really try to welcome her and help her feel one of us. You can trust me when I say that she is worth being friends with. Nina, will you stand up?"

Nina stood up, but she was unable to turn around to face the school. All that the students saw, as they clapped, was her narrow dark head and her long braids held in neat order by thread wound around the tips. Everyone clapped boisterously, partly for the phenomenon that was Nina and partly because the school day was over.

At the close of the general assembly, girls, led by Genevieve Timbell, the senior beauty and leader of the in-group, gathered around Nina. The girls vied with each other to ask her questions and exclaim over her. They walked together slowly out of the school in a group, and down to the main street of town. There they scattered, chirping and shrilling goodbyes and see-you-tomorrows and let’s-all-get-together-Sunday-afternoon-for-some-fun. Nina walked sedately around the corner and, when she was out of sight of the rest, ran the rest of the way home in a burst of happiness and excitement. She fairly danced across the narrow porch and down the hall to the kitchen. In the kitchen, Myra was crying.

"Why didn’t you tell me you were so smart?" Myra burst out when Nina appeared.

Nina stood in the doorway at the top of the steps into the kitchen. Her excitement died, and she considered Myra thoughtfully.

The episode of Nina’s first day at school was to become one of our favorite stories. When we were children, it never failed to shock us deeply that Myra hadn’t wanted to take Mother to school. We felt a personal triumph when Nina was put in the senior class of high school. But it was the final scene, Myra undone by the sin of pride, that delighted us most. We could believe without question that right always wins, goodness and industry are always rewarded, and the mean of spirit always end up crying in the kitchen.

"I’m sorry, Myra," Nina said, "that I make you worry so much. This morning you cried because you thought I was stupid, and now you’re crying because you think I’m smart. I’m not smart; my mother made me work very hard. I thought you’d be glad I wasn’t put in the first grade."

Myra sniffled. Sister Leeland said that they were all glad for Nina. She alternately patted first one child and then the other, unable to decide which one needed mothering most. Brother Leeland, at evening worship, commented kindly on the success of Nina’s examinations. He looked sternly at Myra as he said, "’Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.’"


. . . 3
Nina read everything she could find to read. Late at night her lamp burned, with no one in her attic to say she must blow it out to sleep. One Sunday morning, having finished reading all the books she had brought home from school on Friday, she wandered over to the printing plant next door to see what there was to read. In the big sorting room she found a large stack of little books. They were children’s books called The House We Live In. It occurred to her that they were an ideal size to put in children’s Christmas stockings. She had been trying to think of a way to earn money for underwear and a warm coat for winter. She took a copy of the little book to Brother Leeland, who was in the printing plant office. If the books were not already ordered by some group, she asked, could she try to sell them in the neighborhood to earn some money? Brother Leeland thought about the proposal soberly. Yes, he decided, she could try. But for each one she sold, she must give a small part of the money to the plant for printing costs. He warned her that Williamsport was not a town noted for its reading public. The one bookstore in town had a hard time keeping its doors open. It would be even more difficult to sell a sectarian religious book door to door. But she could try.

Nina proposed that she be excused from her regular household chores for two hours after school every day. Brother Leeland consulted with his wife at dinner that noon, and it was agreed that Nina would be released from duty from then until Christmas, or for as long as she worked on the new project. On Monday afternoon she gathered up an armload of the little books and started out. In two hours she had sold all of the books.

Every day after school, regardless of the weather, she spent two hours peddling the little books, and every day she sold all she could carry. By Christmastime she had enough money for a coat, for material for a new skirt and blouse, and for extra underwear. And she had enough left over to send to the general store in Waterville the payment for her shoes, stockings, and rubbers. I expect Dave Lovett, in Waterville, was surprised to get the money, carefully folded in a paper "writ legal" and signed in Nina’s best handwriting, "Paid in full, Nina Mae Case." He was bound to think of her with pleasure, although they were never to meet again.


. . . 4
The class Nina enjoyed most at school was English composition. She had never had an opportunity to write stories and essays before. Harriet had seen little value in writing. She felt no need to write out her own fantasies; she was much too busy acting them out in real life. But her respect for the printed word was absolute, believing as she did that thoughts great enough to be set in type and bound into books deserved not only preservation but intelligent attention, whether one agreed with those thoughts or not. For Nina, to be encouraged to write down her own stories was both heaven and hell. She had no lack of material; her active, well-stocked mind was crammed with stories, but her idea of punctuation was derived directly from the King James version of the Bible. Such punctuation does not fit in with the average high school teacher’s view of humdrum clarity.

She was still too close to her immediate past life in the mountains to write about the actual events that had happened to her. Experiences of the past must be rewritten in the secret mind before they can be told to strangers. Nina’s stories were about witches and ghosts, Greek islands and Roman military camps in fearful virgin forests.

Myra and Fred had begun to spend most of their evenings after supper in Nina’s attic room, doing their own homework and listening in delicious terror to Nina’s latest composition. Nina’s fame as a storyteller spread from Myra and Fred, and from her own classwork, until every Sunday afternoon a bevy of girls collected in the attic to listen in on the latest flight of fancy. One Sunday afternoon, someone suggested that they turn the stories into plays and act them out. Week after week, more and more lavish productions were staged, using the stored Seventh-Day Adventist Camp Meeting equipment for props. The attic and the big wooden house echoed with shrieks of laughter and groans of derision.

Sunday, for Brother Leeland, was a working day at the printing plant. One Sunday afternoon, however, he came back to the house early and, hearing unusual voices from the attic, went quietly up the stairs and stood watching the production. When the children finally became aware of an alien presence at the door, he stepped gravely into the attic. There was an apprehensive silence.

"What is the meaning of this? Who suggested doing this worldly thing, having a theater in our own home, playing lies, impossible things, witches and talking trees?"

Myra, who knew that her father must always be answered when he questioned, was the one who spoke. "Nina’s doing it, Papa. I was only listening," she said.

Brother Leeland gave his daughter a stern, reproving glance. Even a just man disapproves of stool pigeons. "You children must all go home. Do not come here again. Nina, bring all the wicked plays you have written into the parlor. We will read them over and let the family decide what we must do about it."

He trod heavily down the stairs, followed by the children. Nina was left alone to collect her stories and to meet the household in the parlor.

Brother and Sister Leeland, Millie, Sister Munson, and Brother Gibson were all assembled. Nina took a place in the circle, and Brother Leeland asked her to read her stories aloud. Past the lump in her throat and the tears in her eyes, Nina read. Once, looking up, she caught the trace of a smile on Brother Gibson’s face, but it vanished as he gazed carefully out the window.

The decision of the household was that Nina must confess her sin to the Lord so that she might not become the "mother of liars," and she must burn her manuscripts. The tears dried in her eyes and the lump in her breast was replaced by an iron bar of indignation.

"You can’t ask me to burn my stories! These are my stories, and you cannot have them to burn. I’m sorry about the plays. I should have asked. I didn’t know plays were worldly. But these stories are my own, and you have no right to destroy them."

Brother Leeland was not one to argue principles with a twelve-year-old girl. "You will burn them now," he said. "Go and put them into the stove."

Nina went. With dark rebellion in her heart, she watched the pages burn and the edges catch fire and a word leap out at her and fade into ashes.

This was a Pyrrhic victory for Brother Leeland. I think no one ever in the history of the world has won a lasting victory against ideas unacceptable to him by burning the paper on which the ideas are written. Nina was, after all, her mother’s daughter, and she had adopted as her own Harriet’s attitude, all the more easily accepted because it had been stated by example rather than discussion, that the written word is sacred and should not be burned up. Phoenixes rise from ashes.


. . . 5
In early May, 1897, after Nina had lived with the Leelands through the long cold winter, the weather turned unseasonably warm. The exuberant rambling roses that rioted over the fences between the front lawns and the tamped-earth sidewalks of Williamsport were all in bloom and the citizens walked slowly in a languid, rose-scented premature summer. At school, the children lazily turned the handles of the pencil sharpeners on the windowsills, dreamily gazing outside at nothing and hearing nothing being said within. No one hurried. No one did anything unexpected. But an event was about to take place that might seem unusual to anyone who has never lived within a close-knit, communal religious cult.

Graduation day was scheduled for mid-June. Nina, who was finishing in one school year the academic requirements that in those days usually took twelve years of formal education to achieve, was about to graduate from high school. Brother Leeland had already written to Harriet for suggestions as to what next might be done with her child. Harriet had not answered his letter. The responsibility of deciding Nina’s immediate future had fallen upon Brother Leeland, her guardian by default. He did not take responsibility lightly. At a moment when the coming necessity to make some decision must have been nagging at his mind, he had an offer from a member of the church congregation which would solve the problem of what would become of Nina after graduation. He was not slow to take a manna-from-Heaven view of the proposal, which came from Sister Lightner.

Sister Alice Lightner taught the Seventh-Day Adventist Sabbath School. Myra, Fred, Nina, and the other church children of Williamsport spent every Saturday morning every week of the year with Sister Lightner. She had formed a special relationship with Nina. I know this because Mother once told us that Myra had complained to her parents that Sister Lightner "likes Nina best. She only really talks to Nina, and that’s not fair!" Sister Lightner’s proposal was the Nina should live with her for the next few years.

Alice Lightner’s husband had been a well-to-do convert to the church. Their only child, Will, was five years old when Brother Lightner died in the rose-scented spring of the year. Alice’s husband had left enough money to keep his family in modest comfort. Alice planned to return to her home town of Battle Creek, Michigan; she offered to take Nina with her. Nina could help with little Will. Nina’s company would be welcome in the long sad evenings ahead. Sister Lightner, moreover, would pay the fees so that Nina could become a day student at Battle Creek College, one of the three Seventh-Day Adventist colleges in the United States in 1897.

Little wonder that Brother Leeland looked favorably on her proposal. It appeared to be an admirable plan for the child, whose mother had no plan for her at all. If it seems unusual that adults should be handing around them a child with whom none of them had any legal relationship, it is not uncommon even today for members of a closed religious group to regard each other as an extended family and to put consideration for the good of the cause far above concern for individual preferences, especially those of children. Brother Leeland wrote again to Harriet, this time outlining Sister Lightner’s specific proposal.

The day before graduation, a letter from Harriet arrived. She approved of the plan. She herself was not going back to the mountain. She had already sent for her possessions stored in Dave Lovett’s store. She could not take Nina. She was, as they knew, a penniless dependent. May God reward them for their kindness and may they all be happy in the Lord.

Only after Harriet's letter arrived was Nina consulted about her wishes. She was ecstatic. No grief for her lost mother diluted her joy. She would go on to school and somehow she would become a doctor. Harriet was unimportant. The rejecter was rejected. Freud once said, "When I have forgiven a man everything, I am through with him." I know nothing more of Harriet except that she left the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and the she died old. "For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away."


. . . 6
In Battle Creek, Michigan, in early July, Nina dressed for her first day of college. Sister Lightner had made her a new dress – dark blue with rows of red rickrack at the high neck, at the neat, close-fitting vee of the bodice, at the cuffs, and around the folds of the hem, which just cleared the floor. The dark bright blue made brilliant her pale clear-blue eyes. She walked the few blocks between their apartment and the Seventh-Day Adventist Battle Creek Sanitarium, and there was the college. It was only one big old building on the sweeping lawns of the sanitarium, but for Nina the lawns were a campus solely designed to make her college as significant and imposing as a college should be. I doubt if anyone, ever, found the day of matriculation in college so completely satisfying. "Doth not wisdom cry?… She crieth at the gates, at the entry… at the coming in at the doors." Nina, still twelve years old, entered the doors.

The summer session and the first full year of Battle Creek College that began in late September continued to be satisfactory. In English composition Nina could now, from a point of some perspective, write about life in the Pennsylvania forest. She wrote about the fire-killed ghost forest on Brown’s Run. She wrote about an old soldier’s funeral, and this essay was read by her English teacher one morning at chapel services. Nina was enthralled when at times his voice broke and the listening students sat in total silence. Words are powerful, she thought. And words are free; anyone can use them.

I don’t know what old soldier’s funeral she attended up there in the mountains. There are so many things about those years I’ll never know. What I do know about Nina’s life comes in part from the voluminous notes Nina herself kept. She was an inveterate writer. All her life she wrote things down and she never threw a note away. Many years later she handed me boxes and boxes of notes: shoeboxes; old-fashioned shirt boxes that once contained a dozen collarless shirts and a dozen stiff collars in their own separate compartments; cardboard cartons stamped with brand names of wares no longer found on the market. One box contained reminiscences that had been typed by a grateful patient, which must have been Nina’s attempt late in a busy life to bring order out of chaos.

The most important source of what I know comes, of course, from my own memories of what she said to me and to my sisters. When, later, Nina was to become the sole support of her own three little girls, she earned our daily bread as a doctor in an era when professional women were still unacceptable to those with enough money to pay fairly for professional care. We were very poor. Nina earned enough money for necessities, but there was never a cent left over for treats or entertainment. For those, all we had (and it was enough) were stories of when Mother was a girl, stories told and retold so often over the evenings of our childhood that even today any story can be recalled complete from her random notes written in the back of yellowed prescription blanks or on thin, slippery onionskin papers held firmly together with straight pins.

In Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1898, when Nina was nearing the end of her first full year of college work, the president of the college sent for her.

"Miss Case," he said, "I’ve been talking to your teachers. We have a Seventh-Day Adventist school in St. Joe, Michigan, which needs a teacher. You are only thirteen years old; you’re really much too young to get the most out of your college classes, and you’ll be too young to graduate from our two-year course a year from now. We have a rule that no one under sixteen can get a diploma. We’ve decided that, for your own good, you should take our teacher-training course this summer and teach for a year or two. Then you can come back and get your degree when you will be old enough to appreciate your classes." He was pleased with the arrangement they had all made for Nina’s future.

"I don’t want to be a teacher," Nina said flatly.

"Well, what do you think you want to do?" the president asked.

"I want to be a doctor."

"A doctor! That’s no field for a woman. Men are doctors. We will talk of this again before the term ends."

Nina, dismissed, went home to Sister Lightner.

I wonder what he meant, Nina said to herself, when he said medicine was no field for women. He acted as though he had made a mistake in talking to me at all.

Some weeks later they did talk again. Sister Lightner was present at the conference between Nina and the president. They both urged her to take advantage of the great opportunity that was being offered, to grow up a bit, to do useful work. School could wait. Then came the clincher.

"The school in St. Joe has only three beginning grades. The children will love you. The school is in a house that also has a small apartment for the teacher."

What thirteen-year-old girl could resist the love of small children and an apartment of her own? Especially a girl who for two years had eaten the bread of charity. By agreeing to go, Nina could give Sister Lightner and little Will a year’s free lodging in her very own place. She agree.

Nina studied teaching methods during the next summer session of college, and in early September she and Sister Lightner and Will moved into Nina’s apartment in St. Joseph, Michigan. Nina started teaching immediately, and by June of the following year, at the close of school, she was almost convinced that teaching should be her life’s work. She and the Lightners returned to Battle Creek in midsummer. Nina was prepared to discuss with the president a possible change of curriculum leading to a degree in education, but she was summoned to a conference for a totally different discussion.

"Miss Case," the president began, "how would you like to go to California?"

What a question! Everyone wanted to go to California. By 1899 the railroads had opened the West to ordinary people. If one were lucky enough to have the means, one could go to California, that still-magical never-never land of sun and gold and ripe fruit, without risking one’s life. Everyone wanted to go to California.

"We have a school in the northernmost county in California, on the banks of Eureka Bay. There are thirty-two children there who need a teacher."

He spoke of the glowing reports from the parents of the fifteen little children she had been teaching in St. Joe, and the enthusiastic comments of the church elders there. He pointed out that she was still only fourteen years old – plenty of time for college later.

"We would never consider sending a young girl way out there all alone, but if Sister Lightner will go with you, the church will pay for all of you to go."

They went.

They had trouble getting reservations west from Chicago. The Spanish-American War was drawing to a close in Cuba, but the United States had undertaken to quell the insurrection against Spanish rule in the Philippines. Troop trains were going north, south, and west in disorderly spasms. Our little group left, finally, on a tourist sleeper filled with officers and men. The trip from Chicago to San Francisco, always long, was delayed and complicated by the confusion of blocked intersections ahead.

During the long cinder-filled days, Nina entertained little Will with adventure stories she wove out of the passing landscape – stories of pioneers, Indians, rattlesnakes, and buffalo, of evil men who were caught and punished, of good young men and women who always won and never died. After the first day, two young officers on the seat ahead asked permission to turn their seats around and join in the storytelling. Sister Lightner gave consent, reluctantly. Nina was shy at first, but the obvious enjoyment of her two new listeners reassured her. More and more of the boys joined the group, standing in the aisles, leaning over the backs of the seats, perching on the arms.

Mother told us years later that it became a real strain for her to invent new stories day after day. Scheherazade, threatened by actual death for a thousand and one nights, found the same chore an even greater strain. Nina told us that she would prop herself up on one elbow in her berth at night and plan ahead for the next day’s story as she watched the night-quiet, moon-washed landscape slide by outside her window. During the days when the train chugged and smoked its way across the western deserts and when the white alkali dust coming through the open windows drifted over them all, she was ready with a ploy to move one or another of the boys into her story. Joe, Jim, Horace, Steve – each one in turn rode for help on a galloping horse, fought his way out of an impossible and implausible situation, saved the wagon train, captured the bandits. The boys loved being heroes; they slapped each other on the back, they hooted and shouted with glee. The days passed more quickly for all except Sister Lightner, who sat in puzzled disapproval. She felt she was betraying her trust to allow Nina to become the center of so much enthusiastic male attention, but each time she tried to bring the story sessions to a close, she was overruled by the young soldiers.

They said goodbye to each other in San Francisco. Our little group proceeded to Eureka and the boys embarked for the Philippines.


. . . 7
The church school at Eureka, California, was not at all like Nina’s previous school in St. Joseph, Michigan. California had proved to be fertile ground for Seventh-Day Adventist missionaries. So many new churches and church schools were being organized there in so many new towns far from each other that the printed materials supplied by Brother Leeland’s printing plant in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, had reached only the school’s in San Francisco and Los Angeles area. Nina’s one-room school in Eureka had no supplies at all. There were no books except a few old "worldly" books discarded by the public school. There was not even a blackboard. Nina had been instructed to add the doctrines of the church to her lessons and to delete from the books anything that might undermine the children’s faith.

Using only the Bible for the beginner’s class, she started with the story of the baby Moses. She sketched the land of Egypt and the river Nile on the floor in the front of the room, telling the children the story of the poor slaves, called Israelites, under the power of the Egyptians. The first week, the beginners learned to sight-read the words Egypt, king, Israelites, Nile River, boy, girl, princess, work, play. They learned to count from one to ten. The words and numbers were written down for them to take home at night. All the children brought Bibles to school after the first day and they learned how to find the place where the story begins. As soon as they learned to recognize and print one set of words, the story would be continued onward. The older children joined the beginner’s hour, helping the little ones so as to hurry the story along. The family of Moses was selected from the entire school. There was Amram, the father of Moses; there was Jochebed, the mother, Aaron, the brother, and Miriam, the sister. Moses himself started as a beginner and grew to be an eighth-grader as the story progressed. The rest of the children were Israelites or Egyptian nobles, soldiers, slave drivers. Everyone had a part as they first read the story, then acted it out. Parents became excited and helped the children at home. Nina added many events not recorded in the Bible. By spring each child could pick up the Bible and read, scarcely stumbling over the words. Parents were amazed at the progress their little ones had made. Ministers of the church visited the school, which became famous in the church as an example of what a church school could do.

The older classes used the worldly books as a foundation. Nina supplemented that material with problems in arithmetic and words for spelling from the Bible, poetry from the Psalms, memory tests from Proverbs.

In the schoolhouse yard on the hill overlooking the town, the children were getting ready, between rain showers, to cross the Red Sea. The play had reached such proportions that it has outgrown the schoolroom and moved outdoors. A stump of a giant redwood tree in the yard, big enough to seat all thirty-two children and their teacher, served usually for an outdoor stage. But that day, a month before the school term was to end, the older children had dug the Red Sea in the yard, heaping the dirt on both sides to represent the held-back waters.

The Israelites gathered on the bank of the Red Sea. Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, with the singers, crossed over first. Moses stood with uplifted rod on the far shore. The singers sang "Onward, Christian Soldiers" lustily as the rest of the Israelites entered the channel. Around the schoolhouse, with wild shrieks and fierce gestures, in all sorts of costumes and carts, came the Egyptians. The crossing was accomplished. The Egyptians lay dead in the channel while the Israelites danced and sang wildly on the other side.

Nina blew her whistle and sent the last child into the schoolhouse. She stood by the Red Sea and laughed. That was a good show! she said to herself. She remembered, she said years later, the acting out of the building of the pyramids. She remembered the court scenes they had played, and remembered "the plagues, which were especially funny." "He that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast."

When she entered the schoolroom, the children had begun to quiet down.

"If you want to start the trip into the desert on Monday, you must all study hard and have perfect lessons. We must reach and settle the Land of Canaan by the time the school year closes. We have many adventures ahead of us in the desert – wild beasts, desert tribes of wild men, snakes, earthquakes, fires, starvation, thirst, and sickness of spirit and body."

The children, wide-eyed with anticipation, settled down to earnest work.

We have an anomaly here. Three years before, Nina was in danger of becoming the "mother of liars" for doing exactly what she was now doing. Then she had been humiliated, reprimanded, and chastised for writing and directing plays. Now she was praised. Then, in tears and rebellion, she had watched the fire curl up and burn her creations. Now, during damp pauses between drizzles of the northern California rainy season, she laughed with delight at her creations, examples to others of how bricks could be made without straw.

The rainy season continued until late May. The skies were a dull gray that never changed. Rain came down in straight lines, gentle, steady, sometimes stopping only to start again without fanfare. Great green slugs crawled over the boardwalks, the grass, the bushes. Nina longed for the sun, or even for a storm. The damp monotony was smothering. Often after school she would walk down to sit on a high wall by the bay to watch a wood-fed railway engine with its overbig smokestack puff its way over the creaking trestle out into the bay, each dragging car behind loaded with one great redwood log. The logs would be dumped into the bay to float and collect together until the lumber boats came to hoist them aboard and take them to the San Francisco railheads. When the train engineer pulled the lever that let down one side of the freight cars, and when the great logs rolled into the bay, sending up waterspouts of spray and foam, California seemed somewhat less monotonous.

One Sunday she packed a lunch and started to walk to Mt. Shasta. Mt. Shasta turned out to be many more miles away than it appeared to be from her schoolroom window. Great solitary mountains always loom near. She walked and walked but she succeeded only in losing herself in a redwood forest. Ground water rose alarmingly as the rain began again. She was rescued in the early evening from a patch of high ground by a man in a boat and arrived back in damp, dark, sleeping Eureka in a milk wagon.

One afternoon the wind started to blow and the leaden sky turned black. Nina shepherded the children from the school, all of then leaning against the buffeting winds, to their homes in the town. Soon the great sheets of lightning, the scream of the rising wind, the roar of the thunder over the bay were a welcome change from the persistent quiet drizzle. In the night she was awakened by the wailing of fire sirens, the ringing of the church and school bells. She dressed hurriedly and, after reassuring Sister Lightner, ran out into the street. She had to gasp for breath when the wind and rain beat against her face. She followed running townspeople down to the shore, where a lifeboat was launched repeatedly but each time was washed back to shore by the pounding surf. In the flashes of lightning she could see waves breaking mountain-high over a helpless ship impaled on the rocks if the bar. The ship was a coastal steamer, the Wee Ott, bringing returning Eurekans home from San Francisco.

A breeches buoy was rigged at last, and those passengers who would be saved before the ship sank came riding in through a hell of thundering sound and darkness. Each survivor who arrived was more frantic than the last. "Hurry! The ship is filling fast. Hurry!" There was little time. A flash of lightning illuminated the stern of the ship as it rose high in the air. The next flash stabbed only at the wild black empty sea.

After the close of school Sister Lightner, Will, and Nina left Eureka on a sister ship of the Wee Ott. It must have taken courage to board. Mother was always afraid of water. They arrived safely in San Francisco and went by train to San Jose to attend the California Camp Meeting and Conference.

When the Conference closed, Nina was asked to go throughout the state as a Bible worker for the summer. She was to organize young people into study groups that would be more interesting for them than the regular church services on the Sabbath. The idea of Sunday school, already accepted by the Protestant churches in the East, was new and untried in the far West.

Sister Lightner’s father was ill. She felt she must go to him. She arranged for Nina to live and travel with Brother Horace Dayton and his wife while she visited her father in Pennsylvania. She planned to return in September in time to take Nina to enroll in the Seventh-Day Adventist Healdsburg College in Angevin, California, to finish up her schoolwork. Until then Nina and Brother and Sister Dayton would visit the California churches to organize Sabbath schools, and at the end of the summer would hold revival meetings in National City on the Mexican border, a couple of miles from San Diego.

After the meetings in National City, where large crowds had come to see the "girl preacher," one of the members of the San Diego church invited the church workers to spend a week at his orange ranch outside of town. Nina, pedaling a borrowed bicycle, returned from the ranch to San Diego ahead of the Daytons so she could prepare lessons for the children in the local church for the next day’s Sabbath. She was cutting and pasting cardboard figures when the door opened and in came Brother Dayton.

Startled, Nina jumped to her feet, spilling the contents of her lap.

"Oh, you frightened me. I wasn’t expecting anyone home until tomorrow in time for church. Are you all home? Where are Sister Dayton and Brother and Sister Walden?" Nina stopped to pick up the pieces of cardboard.

"Here, let me help. I’m sorry I frightened you. I thought of some things I must do, so I came in tonight. The rest will be here in the morning," he said.

Nina was uneasy. She didn’t like Brother Dayton. She thought him narrow-minded, selfish, and, in fact, just plain nosy. Every evening he demanded an accounting of every moment of the day from everyone. Sister Dayton was meek under his inquisition, but Nina was often irritated. Perhaps, she thought now, he thinks I might talk to someone worldly tonight. Silently she gathered her material together to go to her room.

"Please stay. Go on with your work. I really came in tonight to watch you," he said. "Do you know, Nina, you have beautiful hands. I love to watch you." As he spoke he moved nearer and, removing the cardboard material, took her hands in his. His hands were unpleasantly hot. She pulled free and moved away.

"Don’t be offish. I don’t believe you’ve ever had any love or affection. Didn’t anyone ever love you or kiss you?"

"No. And I don’t want anyone to love me or kiss me." Nina looked at his flushed face. Injun Jake! she thought. A fear ran through her mind. She had been able to forgive Injun Jake because she was fond of him. She was not fond of Brother Dayton. Her muscles tensed and her head drew back as he came over to her.

"You’re being very clever, or very stupid, I don’t know which," he said. "You know I came in tonight because you are here. You know I’m crazy about you."

She was astonished. "I don’t know! I never dreamed of such a thing. You must be out of your mind!" In her surprise and indignation, her alertness to danger relaxed at the wrong time.

He pulled her to him roughly, saying, "You’ll never learn any earlier."

With his right hand he caught and held her, twisting her head until her lips were imprisoned against his. His left arm held her right arm against her body, while that hand seized her firm young buttocks and pressed until she was plastered against him.

It would have been smarter if Brother Dayton had used that hand to imprison her left arm. But then, why carp? A sanctimonious, middle-aged churchman of any denomination does not have opportunity for sustained practice in seduction. As any roué will acknowledge, practice does make for more efficiency. Brother Dayton was not efficient. Nina’s free hand reached his face and her nails made red welts from his forehead to his chin. He released her abruptly and she escaped behind a table. The door, already ajar, opened wide and Elder Brownell walked in. Elder Brownell was Sister Dayton’s father. He stared hard at his son-in-law. Nina, weak from relief, sank down on a chair.

"Well, well, what’s going on here?" he asked.

"I had to run in for some notes for my sermon," Brother Dayton said. "I found Nina here. I was just trying to make her see how foolish it is for her to be always tempting me with her attentions."

Nina’s astonished "What!" came out louder than she had intended.

"Never mind, Nina," Elder Brownell said kindly. "Don’t be alarmed. I was taking my evening walk when I saw Horace come into the house. I thought I might talk to him about family matters, so I followed him in. I’ve been standing in the hall. I saw and heard everything. This isn’t the first time he has made a fool of himself and disgraced his calling." Turning to the humiliated man, he continued, "Let’s go out to the ranch. We’ll discuss this matter in the way."

It must have been a dreadful evening back at the ranch. "The way of transgressors is hard."

The next Monday morning Elder Brownell accompanied Nina to Angevin, California, site of the Seventh-Day Adventist Healdsburg College. Sister Lightner, whose father had died of his illness, was still in Pennsylvania settling the estate, so Elder Brownell arranged for Nina to live with Elder and Sister Trelour. It was a happy choice. Sister Trelour was a musician almost totally oblivious of any world outside the realm of music. She and Nina were often home alone together, and since Sister Trelour drifted through the real world of housekeeping, religion, and college affairs with detachment and disinterest, their conversations were necessarily confined to music. The hours Mother’s children, none of us truly musical, later spent at our piano can be accounted a direct result of Sister Trelour’s influence.

Elder Trelour was preoccupied with the college. He was gray, gentle, kindly. He liked to talk with young people. It was to him that Nina went in February when the first school semester was over to consult about her courses for the second half of the college year. Her experience with Brother Dayton had made church work unattractive. The months of study with her peers had reawakened her desire to be a doctor. Elder Trelour was dubious.

"It will take a great deal of money," he said, "and you will have to study for years before you can become a doctor."

"Well, the years will go by just the same," Nina reasoned, "and years from now, if I study medicine, I’ll be a doctor. If I go on teaching or doing Bible work, years from now I can only be a teacher or a Bible worker."

"I don’t see where you’ll get the money to study medicine." Mother remembered how wistful and baffled he seemed to be about money.

"I don’t know either," she said, but there must be a way, I’ll find the money somehow."

"You must pray about this," Elder Trelour cautioned. "It would be a shame to spoil a good teacher to make a poor doctor."

It often happens that a deeply felt dream of childhood thwarted, put aside, and neglected for years comes back with renewed enchantment after casual desires have lost their value. Nina was never again to turn away from her childhood ambition. But the medical schools that would admit women were in the East and Nina was in California. By the end of the school year she would need enough money to get from one side of the country to the other. She concentrated her second-semester courses in areas she hoped would be useful for medical school and in June she was given her diploma. That same day she received a letter from Sister Lightner in which a money order sufficient to pay her train fare to Pennsylvania was enclosed. Nina was jubilant.

"If this money hadn’t come," she told Elder Trelour, "I would have to stay here and teach to earn a living. Now at least I’ll be where the study of medicine is possible! This money is a sign unto me."

Elder Trelour, gentle and baffled, and Sister Trelour, working out intricate harmonies in her head for the final school concert, put her on the train for Pennsylvania.

Continue to Part 3: "Some poor faint, struggling seaman you may rescue, you may save."