CHAPTER EIGHT
The Light That Failed
1883-86

Roosevelt had reason beyond those he told Gregor Lang for wanting to acquire a stake in the West; this same reason encouraged him to take extra care to soft-pedal to Alice the commitment and risk of his ranching venture. Namely, Alice was expecting a child.

When she discovered in July 1883 that she was pregnant, Roosevelt was predictably thrilled. As his remarks to Gregor Lang indicated, Roosevelt fully endorsed the traditional American ideal of large families. He believed that procreation was one of the highest of human obligations as well as a patriotic duty in a competitive world of expanding populations. And, theory aside, he simply thought children and family life were God's great blessings to humanity. The arrival of even a niece, nephew, or cousin excited him. "I could not write you a decent letter at first," he informed his cousin John and Nannie Roosevelt on learning of the birth of their child. "I was so 'knocked up' by the glorious news." Evidently Roosevelt and Alice had attempted to have children more or less from the start of their marriage, for when a couple of years passed with no luck in the matter, she consulted a physician. According to family tradition (handed down on the female side), Alice underwent some kind of surgery designed to facilitate conception. Perhaps the surgery succeeded; perhaps she would have conceived anyway. But the end result was that she learned she would bear a child sometime in February 1884.

Alice had long fussed over Theodore ("You must not dirty your new clothes or bite your handkerchiefs," she scolded in a typical note); now he had an excuse to fuss over her. He attended to her faithfully during the early autumn in Manhattan; when he returned to

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