As it turns out, Albert breaks his leg and has to go to the hospital in Perth. Scolded by the hospital governors, Sister Penny locks the doors at night, the nurses check the beds carefully, and all the children seem chastened and quiet.
As a result of the accident, the Golden Age has to surrender some of its unconventional ease, which is what made it such a good place for the children to recuperate. The concerns and conventions of the outside world are finally encroaching on what had been a remarkably secluded shelter.
One afternoon while Sister Penny is out, a strange man arrives at the Golden Age. It turns out to be Ann Lee’s father. To her mute delight, he picks her up and swings her around in the air. Gathering up her few possessions, he informs her happily that he’s taking her home.
Mr. Lee’s arrival is one of the novel’s many touching descriptions of the devotion between parents and child—a bond that, regardless of families’ individual flaws, is universal and helps them transcend the challenge of polio.
Sister Penny tries to persuade Mr. Lee that Ann Lee needs to stay at the hospital to truly recover her ability to walk, but Mr. Lee says he and his wife felt a “call” to take her home. Wearily, Sister Penny concedes; she’s upset because she knows Ann Lee will limp for the rest of her life. For the first time, she’s not optimistic about her patients.
Despite the beauty of their bond, it’s important that Mr. Lee’s love for Ann Lee ultimately prevents her from getting the therapy she needs. While she’s happy to be with her parents, she’ll never achieve the independence for which she first came to the hospital.