It was a miserable March day when George drove me in the Mobile down to Winfield, a few miles from Wheaton. The wind was blowing and I was chilled to the bone. Our little car had no covering, just a stiff cane-backed seat and Wheaton was a long drive from Elgin over dirt roads. There were gullies and rocks and other inequalities. Our wheels were wire with hard rubber tires. I was thoroughly tired when George left me at the big white colonial place, there to stay for six weeks. I was tucked into a single iron bed.
There the day’s regime would begin with an enormous cup of hot water. Fifteen minutes or a half-hour later, a nurse would appear with a man-sized tray of food. At least four slices of bread were to be consumed at each meal with huge dishes of cereal, fruit juice, bacon or sausage, eggs or – for dinner – meat, vegetables, salad, dessert and coffee, tea, or milk. It was not the food that was difficult…
It was very pleasant to have a near neighbor and we visited a great deal. At first, she had many tantrums and was a trial to the nurses. She was a protégé of Mrs. Brainerd, who later married William Vaughn Moody, the poet. At that time Mrs. Brainerd, a beautiful middle-aged woman who lived near the University of Chicago, made delicious messes of food. She was an expert cook. Working in her own kitchen each morning, she supplied delicacies to Marshall Field’s Tea Room, as well as to professors of the University who delightedly consumed them.
Alice Corwin, the protégé, who later became a poet and the wife of Henderson, was accustomed to Mrs. Brainerd’s style of cooking. The food Alice Corwin was compelled to eat at Miss Forsyth’s was far from palatable. Indeed, when Mother Cook paid me a visit at dinnertime, she declared it was the first time she had ever been served horse meat. That was Alice Corwin’s real cross to bear. Why hadn’t she eaten Mrs. Brainerd’s delicacies and avoided the dread anemia?
As for me, I really didn’t mind the food too much for I was never hungry. No one could be hungry with a constantly loaded stomach. It was not long before I asked for a cup of hot milk at three a.m. because gnawing and bad dreams kept me from sleeping.
I finally finished the six-week course with flying colors, brought up my blood count and my weight. At the peak, I had consumed the required dozen and a half eggs a day, and after George took me home, continued to get down eight a day for several weeks. I learned one valuable lesson during that period – Whether you think you can or not, you (mostly) can. The nurse used to say, “If your stomach hurts, call me and I’ll put a poultice on it for you.” I never needed it.
It was wonderful to get back to Elgin and our own house. Gradually I grew stronger and saw less of Dr. Pelton. With the coming of summer, I looked forward to a vacation at Saugatuck, where the Cooks were to build a summer cottage.