Infomotions, Inc.The White Linen Nurse / Abbott, Eleanor Hallowell, 1872-1958



Author: Abbott, Eleanor Hallowell, 1872-1958
Title: The White Linen Nurse
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): senior surgeon; linen nurse; senior; white linen; surgeon; malgregor; linen; rae malgregor; senior surgeon's; nurse; miss malgregor; zillah forsyth; linen nurse's; helene churchill; crippled girl; little crippled; rae malgregor's; white
Contributor(s): Morley, Harry [Illustrator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 48,135 words (really short) Grade range: 7-10 (grade school) Readability score: 63 (easy)
Identifier: etext14506
Delicious Bookmark this on Delicious

Discover what books you consider "great". Take the Great Books Survey.

Project Gutenberg's The White Linen Nurse, by Eleanor Hallowell Abbott

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net


Title: The White Linen Nurse

Author: Eleanor Hallowell Abbott

Release Date: December 29, 2004 [EBook #14506]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE WHITE LINEN NURSE ***




Produced by Robert Shimmin, Mary Meehan, and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team.










                          The White Linen Nurse

                       By Eleanor Hallowell Abbott

    Author of "Molly Make-Believe," "The Sick-a-Bed Lady," etc., etc.

                                  1913




TO MAURICE HOWE RICHARDSON

WHO LOVED ROMANCE ALMOST AS MUCH AS HE LOVED SURGERY, THIS LITTLE STORY
IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED IN TOKEN OF TWO PERSONS' UNFADING MEMORIES




THE WHITE LINEN NURSE




CHAPTER I


The White Linen Nurse was so tired that her noble expression ached.

Incidentally her head ached and her shoulders ached and her lungs ached
and the ankle-bones of both feet ached quite excruciatingly. But nothing
of her felt permanently incapacitated except her noble expression. Like
a strip of lip-colored lead suspended from her poor little nose by two
tugging wire-gray wrinkles her persistently conscientious sickroom smile
seemed to be whanging aimlessly against her front teeth. The sensation
certainly was very unpleasant.

Looking back thus on the three spine-curving, chest-cramping,
foot-twinging, ether-scented years of her hospital training, it dawned
on the White Linen Nurse very suddenly that nothing of her ever had
felt permanently incapacitated except her noble expression!

Impulsively she sprang for the prim white mirror that capped her prim
white bureau and stood staring up into her own entrancing,
bright-colored Novia Scotian reflection with tense and unwonted
interest.

Except for the unmistakable smirk which fatigue had clawed into her
plastic young mouth-lines there was certainly nothing special the matter
with what she saw.

"Perfectly good face!" she attested judicially with no more than common
courtesy to her progenitors. "Perfectly good and tidy looking face! If
only--if only--" her breath caught a trifle. "If only--it didn't look so
disgustingly noble and--hygienic--and dollish!"

All along the back of her neck little sharp prickly pains began suddenly
to sting and burn.

"Silly--simpering--pink and white puppet!" she scolded squintingly,
"I'll teach you how to look like a real girl!"

Very threateningly she raised herself to her tiptoes and thrust her
glowing, corporeal face right up into the moulten, elusive,
quick-silver face in the mirror. Pink for pink, blue for blue, gold for
gold, dollish smirk for dollish smirk, the mirror mocked her seething
inner fretfulness.

"Why--darn you!" she gasped. "Why--darn you! Why, you looked more human
than that when you left the Annapolis Valley three years ago! There were
at least--tears in your face then, and--cinders, and--your mother's best
advice, and the worry about the mortgage, and--and--the blush of Joe
Hazeltine's kiss!"

Furtively with the tip of her index-finger she started to search her
imperturbable pink cheek for the spot where Joe Hazeltine's kiss had
formerly flamed.

"My hands are all right, anyway!" she acknowledged with infinite relief.
Triumphantly she raised both strong, stub-fingered, exaggeratedly
executive hands to the level of her childish blue eyes and stood
surveying the mirrored effect with ineffable satisfaction. "Why my hands
are--dandy!" she gloated. "Why they're perfectly--dandy! Why they're
wonderful! Why they're--." Then suddenly and fearfully she gave a
shrill little scream. "But they don't go with my silly doll-face!" she
cried. "Why, they don't! They don't! They go with the Senior Surgeon's
scowling Heidelberg eyes! They go with the Senior Surgeon's grim gray
jaw! They go with the--! Oh! what shall I do? What shall I do?"

Dizzily, with her stubby finger-tips prodded deep into every jaded
facial muscle that she could compass, she staggered towards the air, and
dropping down into the first friendly chair that bumped against her
knees, sat staring blankly out across the monotonous city roofs that
flanked her open window,--trying very, very hard for the first time in
her life, to consider the General-Phenomenon-of-Being-a-Trained-Nurse.

All around and about her, inexorable as anesthesia, horrid as the hush
of tomb or public library, lurked the painfully unmistakable sense of
institutional restraint. Mournfully to her ear from some remote kitcheny
region of pots and pans a browsing spoon tinkled forth from time to time
with soft-muffled resonance. Up and down every clammy white corridor
innumerable young feet, born to prance and stamp, were creeping
stealthily to and fro in rubber-heeled whispers. Along the somber
fire-escape just below her windowsill, like a covey of snubbed doves,
six or eight of her classmates were cooing and crooning together with
excessive caution concerning the imminent graduation exercises that were
to take place at eight o'clock that very evening. Beyond her dreariest
ken of muffled voices, beyond her dingiest vista of slate and brick, on
a far faint hillside, a far faint streak of April green went roaming
jocundly skyward. Altogether sluggishly, as though her nostrils were
plugged with warm velvet, the smell of spring and ether and scorched
mutton-chops filtered in and out, in and out, in and out, of her
abnormally jaded senses.

Taken all in all it was not a propitious afternoon for any girl as tired
and as pretty as the White Linen Nurse to be considering the general
phenomenon of anything--except April!

In the real country, they tell me, where the Young Spring runs wild and
bare as a nymph through every dull brown wood and hay-gray meadow, the
blasé farmer-lad will not even lift his eyes from the plow to watch the
pinkness of her passing. But here in the prudish brick-minded city where
the Young Spring at her friskiest is nothing more audacious than a
sweltering, winter-swathed madcap, who has impishly essayed some fine
morning to tiptoe down street in her soft, sloozily, green,
silk-stockinged feet, the whole hob-nailed population reels back aghast
and agrin before the most innocent flash of the rogue's green-veiled
toes. And then, suddenly snatching off its own cumbersome winter
foot-habits, goes chasing madly after her, in its own prankish,
vari-colored socks.

Now the White Linen Nurse's socks were black, and cotton at that, a
combination incontestably sedate. And the White Linen Nurse had waded
barefoot through too many posied country pastures to experience any
ordinary city thrill over the sight of a single blade of grass pushing
scarily through a crack in the pavement, or puny, concrete-strangled
maple tree flushing wanly to the smoky sky. Indeed for three hustling,
square-toed, rubber-heeled city years the White Linen Nurse had never
even stopped to notice whether the season was flavored with frost or
thunder. But now, unexplainably, just at the end of it all, sitting
innocently there at her own prim little bed-room window, staring
innocently out across indomitable roof-tops,--with the crackle of glory
and diplomas already ringing in her ears,--she heard, instead, for the
first time in her life, the gaily dare-devil voice of the spring, a
hoydenish challenge flung back at her, leaf-green, from the crest of a
winter-scarred hill.

"Hello, White Linen Nurse!" screamed the saucy city spring. "Hello,
White Linen Nurse! Take off your homely starched collar! Or your silly
candy-box cap! Or any other thing that feels maddeningly artificial! And
come out! And be very wild!"

Like a puppy dog cocking its head towards some strange, unfamiliar
sound, the White Linen Nurse cocked her head towards the lure of the
green-crested hill. Still wrestling conscientiously with the
General-Phenomenon-of-Being-a-Trained-Nurse she found her collar
suddenly very tight, the tiny cap inexpressibly heavy and vexatious.
Timidly she removed the collar--and found that the removal did not rest
her in the slightest. Equally timidly she removed the cap--and found
that even that removal did not rest her in the slightest. Then very,
very slowly, but very, very permeatingly and completely, it dawned on
the White Linen Nurse that never while eyes were blue, and hair gold,
and lips red, would she ever find rest again until she had removed her
noble expression!

With a jerk that started the pulses in her temples throbbing like two
toothaches she straightened up in her chair. All along the back of her
neck the little blonde curls began to crisp very ticklingly at their
roots.

Still staring worriedly out over the old city's slate-gray head to that
inciting prance of green across the farthest horizon she felt her whole
being kindle to an indescribable passion of revolt against all Hushed
Places. Seething with fatigue, smoldering with ennui, she experienced
suddenly a wild, almost incontrollable impulse to sing, to shout, to
scream from the housetops, to mock somebody, to defy everybody, to break
laws, dishes, heads,--anything in fact that would break with a crash!
And then at last, over the hills and far away, with all the outraged
world at her heels, to run! And run! And run! And run! And run! And
laugh! Till her feet raveled out! And her lungs burst! And there was
nothing more left of her at all,--ever--ever--any more!

Discordantly into this rapturously pagan vision of pranks and posies
broke one of her room-mates all awhiff with ether, awhirr with starch.

Instantly with the first creak of the door-handle the White Linen Nurse
was on her feet, breathless, resentful, grotesquely defiant.

"Get out of here, Zillah Forsyth!" she cried furiously. "Get out of
here--quick!--and leave me alone! I want to think!"

Perfectly serenely the newcomer advanced into the room. With her pale,
ivory-tinted cheeks, her great limpid brown eyes, her soft dark hair
parted madonna-like across her beautiful brow, her whole face was like
some exquisite, composite picture of all the saints of history. Her
voice also was amazingly tranquil.

"Oh, Fudge!" she drawled. "What's eating you, Rae Malgregor? I won't
either get out! It's my room just as much as it is yours! And Helene's
just as much as it is ours! And besides," she added more briskly, "it's
four o'clock now, and with graduation at eight and the dance afterwards,
if we don't get our stuff packed up now, when in thunder shall we get it
done?" Quite irrelevantly she began to laugh. Her laugh was perceptibly
shriller than her speaking voice. "Say, Rae!" she confided. "That
minister I nursed through pneumonia last winter wants me to pose as
'Sanctity' for a stained-glass window in his new church! Isn't he the
softie?"

"Shall--you--do--it?" quizzed Rae Malgregor a trifle tensely.

"Shall I do it?" mocked the newcomer. "Well, you just watch me! Four
mornings a week in June--at full week's wages? Fresh Easter lilies every
day? White silk angel-robes? All the high-souls and high-paints
kowtowing around me? Why it would be more fun than a box of monkeys!
Sure I'll do it!"

Expeditiously as she spoke the newcomer reached up for the framed motto
over her own ample mirror and yanking it down with one single tug began
to busy herself adroitly with a snarl in the picture-cord. Like a withe
of willow yearning over a brook her slender figure curved to the task.
Very scintillatingly the afternoon light seemed to brighten suddenly
across her lap. _You'll Be a Long Time Dead!_ glinted the motto through
its sun-dazzled glass.

Still panting with excitement, still bristling with resentment, Rae
Malgregor stood surveying the intrusion and the intruder. A dozen
impertinent speeches were rioting in her mind. Twice her mouth opened
and shut before she finally achieved the particular opprobrium that
completely satisfied her.

"Bah! You look like a--Trained Nurse!" she blurted forth at last with
hysterical triumph.

"So do you!" said the newcomer amiably.

With a little gasp of dismay Rae Malgregor sprang suddenly forward. Her
eyes were flooded with tears.

"Why, that's just exactly what's the matter with me!" she cried. "My
face is all worn out trying to look like a Trained Nurse! Oh, Zillah,
how do you know you were meant to be a Trained Nurse? How does anybody
know? Oh, Zillah! Save me! Save me!"

Languorously Zillah Forsyth looked up from her work, and laughed. Her
laugh was like the accidental tinkle of sleighbells in mid-summer,
vaguely disquieting, a shiver of frost across the face of a lily.

"Save you from what, you great big overgrown, tow-headed doll-baby?" she
questioned blandly. "For Heaven's sake, the only thing you need is to go
back to whatever toy-shop you came from and get a new head. What in
Creation's the matter with you lately, anyway? Oh, of course, you've had
rotten luck this past month, but what of it? That's the trouble with you
country girls. You haven't got any stamina."

With slow, shuffling-footed astonishment Rae Malgregor stepped out into
the center of the room. "Country girls," she repeated blankly. "Why,
you're a country girl yourself!"

"I _am_ not!" snapped Zillah Forsyth. "I'll have you understand that
there are nine thousand people in the town I come from--and not a rube
among them. Why I tended soda fountain in the swellest drug-store there
a whole year before I even thought of taking up nursing. And I wasn't as
green--when I was six months old--as you are now!"

Slowly with a soft-snuggling sigh of contentment she raised her slim
white fingers to coax her dusky hair a little looser, a little farther
down, a little more madonna-like across her sweet, mild forehead, then
snatching out abruptly at a convenient shirt-waist began with
extraordinary skill to apply its dangly lace sleeves as a protective
bandage for the delicate glass-faced motto still in her lap, placed the
completed parcel with inordinate scientific precision in the exact
corner of her packing-box, and then went on very diligently, very
zealously, to strip the men's photographs from the mirror on her bureau.
There were twenty-seven photographs in all, and for each one she had
already cut and prepared a small square of perfectly fresh, perfectly
immaculate white tissue wrapping-paper. No one so transcendently
fastidious, so exquisitely neat, in all her personal habits had ever
trained in that particular hospital before.

Very soberly the doll-faced girl stood watching the men's pleasant
paper countenances smooth away one by one into their chaste white
veilings, until at last quite without warning she poked an accusing,
inquisitive finger directly across Zillah Forsyth's shoulder.

"Zillah!" she demanded peremptorily. "All the year I've wanted to know!
All the year every other girl in our class has wanted to know! Where did
you ever get that picture of the Senior Surgeon? He never gave it to you
in the world! He didn't! He didn't! He's not that kind!"

Deeply into Zillah Forsyth's pale, ascetic cheek dawned a most amazing
dimple. "Sort of jarred you girls some, didn't it," she queried, "to see
me strutting round with a photo of the Senior Surgeon?" The little cleft
in her chin showed suddenly with almost startling distinctness. "Well,
seeing it's you," she grinned, "and the year's all over, and there's
nobody left that I can worry about it any more, I don't mind telling you
in the least that I--bought it out of a photographer's show-case!
There! Are you satisfied now?"

With easy nonchalance she picked up the picture in question and
scrutinized it shrewdly.

"Lord! What a face!" she attested. "Nothing but granite! Hack him with a
knife and he wouldn't bleed but just chip off into pebbles!" With
exaggerated contempt she shrugged her supple shoulders. "Bah! How I hate
a man like that! There's no fun in him!" A little abruptly she turned
and thrust the photograph into Rae Malgregor's hand. "You can have it if
you want to," she said. "I'll trade it to you for that lace corset-cover
of yours!"

Like water dripping through a sieve the photograph slid through Rae
Malgregor's frightened fingers. With nervous apology she stooped and
picked it up again and held it gingerly by one remotest corner. Her eyes
were quite wide with horror.

"Oh, of course I'd like the--picture, well enough," she stammered. "But
it wouldn't seem--exactly respectful to--to trade it for a
corset-cover."

"Oh, very well," drawled Zillah Forsyth. "Tear it up then!"

Expeditiously with frank, non-sentimental fingers Rae Malgregor tore the
tough cardboard across, and again across, and once again across, and
threw the conglomerate fragments into the waste-basket. And her
expression all the time was no more, no less, than the expression of a
person who would infinitely rather execute his own pet dog or cat than
risk the possible bungling of an outsider. Then like a small child
trotting with infinite relief to its own doll-house she trotted over to
her bureau, extracted the lace corset-cover, and came back with it in
her hand to lean across Zillah Forsyth's shoulder again and watch the
men's faces go slipping off into oblivion. Once again, abruptly without
warning, she halted the process with a breathless exclamation.

"Oh, of course this waist is the only one I've got with ribbons in it,"
she asserted irrelevantly. "But I'm perfectly willing to trade it for
that picture!" she pointed out with unmistakably explicit finger-tip.

Chucklingly Zillah Forsyth withdrew the special photograph from its
half-completed wrappings.

"Oh! Him?" she said. "Oh, that's a chap I met on the train last summer.
He's a brakeman or something. He's a--"

Perfectly unreluctantly Rae Malgregor dropped the fluff of lace and
ribbons into Zillah's lap and reached out with cheerful voraciousness to
annex the young man's picture to her somewhat bleak possessions. "Oh, I
don't care a rap who he is," she interrupted briskly. "But he's sort of
cute-looking, and I've got an empty frame at home just that odd size,
and Mother's crazy for a new picture to stick up over the kitchen
mantelpiece. She gets so tired of seeing nothing but the faces of people
she knows all about."

Sharply Zillah Forsyth turned and stared up into the younger girl's
face, and found no guile to whet her stare against.

"Well of all the ridiculous--unmitigated greenhorns!" she began.
"Well--is that all you wanted him for? Why, I supposed you wanted to
write to him! Why, I supposed--"

For the first time an expression not altogether dollish darkened across
Rae Malgregor's garishly juvenile blondeness.

"Maybe I'm not quite as green as you think I am!" she flared up
stormily. With this sharp flaring-up every single individual pulse in
her body seemed to jerk itself suddenly into conscious activity again
like the soft, plushy pound-pound-pound of a whole stocking-footed
regiment of pain descending single file upon her for her hysterical
undoing. "Maybe I've had a good deal more experience than you give me
credit for!" she hastened excitedly to explain. "I tell you--I tell you
I've been engaged!" she blurted forth with a bitter sort of triumph.

With a palpable flicker of interest Zillah Forsyth looked back across
her shoulder. "Engaged? How many times?" she asked quite bluntly.

As though the whole monogamous groundwork of civilization was threatened
by the question, Rae Malgregor's hands went clutching at her breast.
"Why, once!" she gasped. "Why, once!"

Convulsively Zillah Forsyth began to rock herself to and fro. "Oh
Lordy!" she chuckled. "Oh Lordy, Lordy! Why I've been engaged four times
just this past year!" In a sudden passion of fastidiousness she bent
down over the particular photograph in her hand and snatching at a
handkerchief began to rub diligently at a small smouch of dust in one
corner of the cardboard. Something in the effort of rubbing seemed to
jerk her small round chin into almost angular prominence. "And before
I'm through," she added, at least two notes below her usual alto tones,
"And before I'm through--I'm going to get engaged to--every profession
that there is on the surface of the globe!" Quite helplessly the thin
paper skin of the photograph peeled off in company with the smouch of
dust. "And when I marry," she ejaculated fiercely, "and when I
marry--I'm going to marry a man who will take me to every place that
there is--on the surface of the globe! And after that--!"

"After what?" interrogated a brand new voice from the doorway.




CHAPTER II


It was the other room-mate this time. The only real aristocrat in
the whole graduating class, high-browed, high-cheekboned,--eyes like
some far-sighted young prophet,--mouth even yet faintly arrogant
with the ineradicable consciousness of caste,--a plain, eager,
stripped-for-a-long-journey type of face,--this was Helene Churchill.
There was certainly no innocuous bloom of country hills and pastures in
this girl's face, nor any seething small-town passion pounding
indiscriminately at all the doors of experience. The men and women who
had bred Helene Churchill had been the breeders also of brick and
granite cities since the world was new.

Like one infinitely more accustomed to treading on Persian carpets than
on painted floors she came forward into the room.

"Hello, children!" she said casually, and began at once without further
parleying to take down the motto that graced her own bureau-top.

It was the era when almost everybody in the world had a motto over his
bureau. Helene Churchill's motto was: _Inasmuch As Ye Have Done It Unto
One Of The Least Of These Ye Have Done It Unto Me_. On a scroll of
almost priceless parchment the text was illuminated with inimitable
Florentine skill and color. A little carelessly, after the manner of
people quite accustomed to priceless things, she proceeded now to roll
the parchment into its smallest possible circumference, humming
exclusively to herself all the while an intricate little air from an
Italian opera.

So the three faces foiled each other, sober city girl, pert town girl,
bucolic country girl,--a hundred fundamental differences rampant between
them, yet each fervid, adolescent young mouth tamed to the same
monotonous, drolly exaggerated expression of complacency that
characterizes the faces of all people who, in a distinctive uniform, for
a reasonably satisfactory living wage, make an actual profession of
righteous deeds.

Indeed among all the thirty or more varieties of noble expression which
an indomitable Superintendent had finally succeeded in inculcating into
her graduating class, no other physiognomies had responded more
plastically perhaps than these three to the merciless imprint of the
great _hospital machine_ which, in pursuance of its one repetitive
design, _discipline_, had coaxed Zillah Forsyth into the semblance of a
lady, snubbed Helene Churchill into the substance of plain womanhood,
and, still uncertain just what to do with Rae Malgregor's rollicking
rural immaturity, had frozen her face temporarily into the smugly
dimpled likeness of a fancy French doll rigged out as a nurse for some
gilt-edged hospital fair.

With characteristic desire to keep up in every way with her more mature,
better educated classmates, to do everything, in fact, so fast, so well,
that no one should possibly guess that she hadn't yet figured out just
why she was doing it at all, Rae Malgregor now with quickly readjusted
cap and collar began to hurl herself into the task of her own packing.
From her open bureau drawer, with a sudden impish impulse towards
worldly wisdom, she extracted first of all the photograph of the young
brakeman.

"See, Helene! My new beau!" she giggled experimentally.

In mild-eyed surprise Helene Churchill glanced up from her work. "_Your_
beau?" she corrected. "Why, that's Zillah's picture."

"Well, it's mine now!" snapped Rae Malgregor with unexpected edginess.
"It's mine now all right. Zillah said I could have him! Zillah said I
could--write to him--if I wanted to!" she finished a bit breathlessly.

Wider and wider Helene Churchill's eyes dilated. "Write to a man--whom
you don't know?" she gasped. "Why, Rae! Why, it isn't even--very
nice--to have a picture of a man you don't know!"

Mockingly to the edge of her strong white teeth Rae Malgregor's tongue
crept out in pink derision. "Bah!" she taunted. "What's 'nice'? That's
the whole matter with you, Helene Churchill! You never stop to consider
whether anything's fun or not; all you care is whether it's 'nice'!"
Excitedly she turned to meet the cheap little wink from Zillah's
sainted eyes. "Bah! What's 'nice'?" she persisted a little lamely. Then
suddenly all the pertness within her crumbled into nothingness.
"That's--the--whole trouble with you, Zillah Forsyth!" she stammered.
"You never give a hang whether anything's nice or not; all you care is
whether it's fun!" Quite helplessly she began to wring her hands. "Oh,
how do I know which one of you girls to follow?" she demanded wildly.
"How do I know anything? How does anybody know anything?"

Like a smoldering fuse the rambling query crept back into the inner
recesses of her brain and fired once more the one great question that
lay dormant there. Impetuously she ran forward and stared into Helene
Churchill's face. "How do you know you were meant to be a Trained Nurse,
Helene Churchill?" she began all over again. "How does anybody know she
was really meant to be one? How can anybody, I mean, be perfectly sure?"
Like a drowning man clutching out at the proverbial straw, she clutched
at the parchment in Helene Churchill's hand. "I mean--where did you get
your motto, Helene Churchill?" she persisted with increasing
irritability. "If--you don't tell me--I'll tear the whole thing to
pieces!"

With a startled frown Helene Churchill jerked back out of reach. "What's
the matter with you, Rae?" she quizzed sharply, and then turning round
quite casually to her book-case began to draw from the shelves one by one
her beloved Marcus Aurelius, Wordsworth, Robert Browning. "Oh, I did so
want to go to China," she confided irrelevantly. "But my family have
just written me that they won't stand for it. So I suppose I'll have to
go into tenement work here in the city instead." With a visible effort
she jerked her mind back again to the feverish question in Rae
Malgregor's eyes. "Oh, you want to know where I got my motto?" she
asked. A flash of intuition brightened suddenly across her
absent-mindedness. "Oh!" she smiled, "you mean you want to know--just
what the incident was that first made me decide to--devote my life
to--to humanity?"

"Yes!" snapped Rae Malgregor.

A little shyly Helene Churchill picked up her copy of Marcus Aurelius
and cuddled her cheek against its tender Morocco cover. "Really?" she
questioned with palpable hesitation. "Really you want to know? Why,
why--it's rather a--sacred little story to me. I wouldn't exactly want
to have anybody--laugh about it."

"I'll laugh if I want to!" attested Zillah Forsyth forcibly from the
other side of the room.

Like a pugnacious boy, Rae Malgregor's fluent fingers doubled up into
two firm fists.

"I'll punch her if she even looks as though she wanted to!" she signaled
surreptitiously to Helene.

Shrewdly for an instant the city girl's narrowing eyes challenged and
appraised the country girl's desperate sincerity. Then quite abruptly
she began her little story.

"Why, it was on an Easter Sunday--Oh, ages and ages ago," she faltered.
"Why, I couldn't have been more than nine years old at the time." A
trifle self-consciously she turned her face away from Zillah Forsyth's
supercilious smile. "And I was coming home from a Sunday school festival
in my best white muslin dress with a big pot of purple pansies in my
hand," she hastened somewhat nervously to explain. "And just at the edge
of the gutter there was a dreadful drunken man lying in the mud with a
great crowd of cruel people teasing and tormenting him. And,
because--because I couldn't think of anything else to do about it,
I--I walked right up to the poor old creature,--scared as I could
be--and--and I presented him with my pot of purple pansies. And
everybody of course began to laugh, to scream, I mean, and shout with
amusement. And I, of course, began to cry. And the old drunken man
straightened up very oddly for an instant, with his battered hat in one
hand and the pot of pansies in the other,--and he raised the pot of
pansies very high, as though it had been a glass of rarest wine--and
bowed to me as--reverently as though he had been toasting me at my
father's table at some very grand dinner. And 'Inasmuch!' he said. Just
that,--'Inasmuch!' So that's how I happened to go into nursing!" she
finished as abruptly as she had begun. Like some wonderful
phosphorescent manifestation her whole shining soul seemed to flare
forth suddenly through her plain face.

With honest perplexity Zillah Forsyth looked up from her work.

"So that's--how you happened to go into nursing?" she quizzed
impatiently. Her long, straight nose was all puckered tight with
interrogation. Her dove-like eyes were fairly dilated with slow-dawning
astonishment. "You--don't--mean?" she gasped. "You don't mean that--just
for that--?" Incredulously she jumped to her feet and stood staring
blankly into the city girl's strangely illuminated features.

"Well, if I were a swell--like you!" she scoffed, "it would take a heap
sight more than a drunken man munching pansies and rum and Bible-texts
to--to jolt me out of my limousines and steam yachts and Adirondack
bungalows!"

Quite against all intention Helene Churchill laughed. She did not often
laugh. Just for an instant her eyes and Zillah Forsyth's clashed
together in the irremediable antagonism of caste,--the Plebeian's
scornful impatience with the Aristocrat, equaled only by the
Aristocrat's condescending patience with the Plebeian.

It was no more than right that the Aristocrat should recover her
self-possession first. "Never mind about your understanding. Zillah
dear," she said softly. "Your hair is the most beautiful thing I ever
saw in my life!"

Along Zillah Forsyth's ivory cheek an incongruous little flush of red
began to show. With much more nonchalance than was really necessary she
pointed towards her half-packed trunk.

"It wasn't--Sunday school--I was coming home from--when I got my motto!"
she remarked dryly, with a wink at no one in particular. "And, so far as
I know," she proceeded with increasing sarcasm, "the man who inspired my
noble life was not in any way--particularly addicted to the use of
alcoholic beverages!" As though her collar was suddenly too tight she
rammed her finger down between her stiff white neck-band and her soft
white throat. "He was a--New York doctor!" she hastened somewhat airily
to explain. "Gee! But he was a swell! And he was spending his summer
holiday up in the same Maine town where I was tending soda fountain.
And he used to drop into the drug-store, nights, after cigars and
things. And he used to tell me stories about the drugs and things,
sitting up there on the counter swinging his legs and pointing out this
and that,--quinine, ipecac, opium, hasheesh,--all the silly patent
medicines, every sloppy soothing syrup! Lordy! He knew 'em as though
they were people! Where they come from! Where they're going to! Yarns
about the tropics that would kink the hair along the nape of your neck!
Jokes about your own town's soup-kettle pharmacology that would make you
yell for joy! Gee! But the things that man had seen and known! Gee! But
the things that man could make you see and know! And he had an
automobile," she confided proudly. "It was one of those billion dollar
French cars. And I lived just round the corner from the drug-store. But
we used to ride home by way of--New Hampshire!"

Almost imperceptibly her breath began to quicken. "Gee! Those nights!"
she muttered. "Rain or shine, moon or thunder,--tearing down those
country roads at forty miles an hour, singing, hollering, whispering!
It was him that taught me to do my hair like this--instead of all the
cheap rats and pompadours every other kid in town was wearing," she
asserted, quite irrelevantly; then stopped with a quick, furtive glance
of suspicion towards both her listeners and mouthed her way delicately
back to the beginning of her sentence again. "It was _he_ that taught me
to do my hair like this," she repeated with the faintest possible
suggestion of hauteur.

For one reason or another along the exquisitely chaste curve of her
cheek a narrow streak of red began to show again.

"And he went away very sudden at the last," she finished hurriedly. "It
seems he was married all the time." Blandly she turned her wonderful
face to the caressing light. "And--I hope he goes to Hell!" she added
perfectly simply.

With a little gasp of astonishment, shock, suspicion, distaste, Helene
Churchill reached out an immediate conscientious hand to her.

"Oh, Zillah!" she began. "Oh, poor Zillah dear! I'm so--sorry! I'm so--"

Absolutely serenely, through a mask of insolence and ice, Zillah
Forsyth ignored the proffered hand.

"I don't know what particular call you've got to be sorry for me, Helene
Churchill," she drawled languidly. "I've got my character, same as
you've got yours. And just about nine times as many good looks. And when
it comes to nursing--" Like an alto song pierced suddenly by one shrill
treble note, the girl's immobile face sharpened transiently with a
single jagged flash of emotion. "And when it comes to nursing? Ha!
Helene Churchill! You can lead your class all you want to with your
silk-lined manners and your fuddy-duddy book-talk! But when genteel
people like you are moping round all ready to fold your patients' hands
on their breasts and murmur 'Thy will be done,'--why, that's the time
that little 'yours truly' is just beginning to roll up her sleeves and
get to work!"

With real passion her slender fingers went clutching again at her harsh
linen collar. "It isn't you, Helene Churchill," she taunted, "that's
ever been to the Superintendent on your bended knees and begged for the
rabies cases--and the small-pox! Gee! You like nursing because you
think it's pious to like it! But I like it--_because I like it!"_ From
brow to chin as though fairly stricken with sincerity her whole bland
face furrowed startlingly with crude expressiveness. "The smell of
ether!" she stammered. "It's like wine to me! The clang of the ambulance
gong? I'd rather hear it than fire-engines! I'd crawl on my hands and
knees a hundred miles to watch a major operation! I wish there was a
war! I'd give my life to see a cholera epidemic!"

Abruptly as it came the passion faded from her face, leaving every
feature tranquil again, demure, exaggeratedly innocent. With saccharine
sweetness she turned to Rae Malgregor.

"Now, Little One," she mocked, "tell us the story of your lovely life.
Having heard me coyly confess that I went into nursing because I had
such a crush on this world,--and Helene here brazenly affirm that she
went into nursing because she had such a crush on the world to
come,--it's up to you now to confide to us just how you happened to take
up so noble an endeavor! Had you seen some of the young house doctors'
beautiful, smiling faces depicted in the hospital catalogue? Or was it
for the sake of the Senior Surgeon's grim, gray mug that you jilted your
poor plow-boy lover way up in the Annapolis Valley?"

"Why, Zillah!" gasped the country girl. "Why, I think you 're perfectly
awful! Why, Zillah Forsyth! Don't you ever say a thing like that again!
You can joke all you want to about the flirty young Internes. They're
nothing but fellows. But it isn't--it isn't respectful--for you to talk
like that about the Senior Surgeon. He's too--too terrifying!" she
finished in an utter panic of consternation.

"Oh, now I know it was the Senior Surgeon that made you jilt your
country beau!" taunted Zillah Forsyth with soft alto sarcasm.

"I didn't, either, jilt Joe Hazeltine!" stormed Rae Malgregor
explosively. Backed up against her bureau, eyes flaming, breast heaving,
little candy-box cap all tossed askew over her left ear, she stood
defying her tormentor. "I didn't, either, jilt Joe Hazeltine!" she
reasserted passionately. "It was Joe Hazeltine that jilted me! And we
'd been going together since we were kids! And now he's married the
dominie's daughter and they've got a kid of their own most as old as he
and I were when we first began courting each other. And it's all because
I insisted on being a trained nurse," she finished shrilly.

With an expression of real shock Helene Churchill peered up from her
lowly seat on the floor.

"You mean?" she asked a bit breathlessly. "You mean that he didn't want
you to be a trained nurse? You mean that he wasn't big enough,--wasn't
fine enough to appreciate the nobility of the profession?"

"Nobility nothing!" snapped Rae Malgregor. "It was me scrubbing strange
men with alcohol that he couldn't stand for! And I don't know as I
exactly blame him," she added huskily. "It certainly is a good deal of a
liberty when you stop to think about it."

Quite incongruously her big, childish, blue eyes narrowed suddenly into
two dark, calculating slits. "It's comic," she mused, "how there isn't a
man in the world who would stand letting his wife or daughter or sister
have a male nurse. But look at the jobs we girls get sent out on! It's
very confusing!"

With sincere appeal she turned to Zillah Forsyth. "And yet--and yet,"
she stammered. "And yet--when everything scary that's in you has once
been scared out of you,--why, there's nothing left in you to be scared
_with_ any more, is there?"

"What? What?" pleaded Helene Churchill. "Say it again! What?"

"That's what Joe and I quarreled about my first vacation home!"
persisted Rae Malgregor. "It was a traveling salesman's thigh. It was
broken bad. Somebody had to take care of it. So I did! Joe thought it
wasn't modest to be so willing." With a perplexed sort of defiance she
raised her square little chin. "But you see I was willing!" she said.
"I was perfectly willing. Just one single solitary year of hospital
training had made me perfectly willing. And you can't _un_-willing a
willing--even to please your beau, no matter how hard you try!" With a
droll admixture of shyness and disdain she tossed her curly blonde head
a trifle higher. "Shucks!" she attested. "What's a traveling salesman's
thigh?"

"Shucks yourself!" scoffed Zillah Forsyth. "What's a silly beau or two
up in Nova Scotia to a girl with looks like you? You could have married
that typhoid case a dozen times last winter if you'd crooked your little
finger! Why, the fellow was crazy about you. And he was richer than
Croesus. What queered it?" she demanded bluntly. "Did his mother hate
you?"

Like one fairly cramped with astonishment Rae Malgregor doubled up very
suddenly at the waist-line, and thrusting her neck oddly forward after
the manner of a startled crane, stood peering sharply round the corner
of the rocking-chair at Zillah Forsyth.

"Did his mother hate me?" she gasped. "Did--his--mother--hate--me? Well,
what do you think? With me who never even saw plumbing till I came down
here, setting out to explain to her with twenty tiled bathrooms how to
be hygienic though rich? Did his mother hate me? Well, what do you
think? With her who bore him, her who _bore_ him, mind you, kept
waiting down stairs in the hospital ante-room--half an hour every
day--on the raw edge of a rattan chair--waiting--worrying--all old and
gray and scared--while little young, perky, pink and white _me_ is
upstairs--brushing her own son's hair and washing her own son's
face--and altogether getting her own son ready to see his own mother!
And then me obliged to turn her out again in ten minutes, flip as you
please, for fear she'd stayed too long,--while I stay on the rest of the
night? _Did his mother hate me!"_

Stealthily as an assassin she crept around the corner of the
rocking-chair and grabbed Zillah Forsyth by her astonished linen
shoulder.

"Did his mother hate me?" she persisted mockingly. "Did his mother hate
me? Well rather! Is there any woman from here to Kamchatka who doesn't
hate us? Is there any woman from here to Kamchatka who doesn't look upon
a trained nurse as her natural born enemy? I don't blame 'em!" she added
chokingly. "Look at the impudent jobs we get sent out on! Quarantined
upstairs for weeks at a time with their inflammable, diphtheritic
bridegrooms--while they sit down stairs--brooding over their wedding
teaspoons! Hiked off indefinitely to Atlantic City with their gouty
bachelor uncles! Hearing their own innocent little sisters'
blood-curdling deathbed deliriums! Snatching their own new-born babies
away from their breasts and showing them, virgin-handed, how to nurse
them better! The impudence of it, I say! The disgusting, confounded
impudence! Doing things perfectly--flippantly--_right_--for twenty-five
dollars a week--and washing--that all the achin' love in the world don't
know how to do right--just for love!"

Furiously she began to jerk her victim's shoulder. "I tell you it's
awful, Zillah Forsyth!" she insisted. "I tell you I just won't stand
it!"

With muscles like steel wire Zillah Forsyth scrambled to her feet, and
pushed Rae Malgregor back against the bureau.

"For Heaven's sake, Rae, shut up!" she said. "What in Creation's the
matter with you to-day? I never saw you act so before!" With real
concern she stared into the girl's turbid eyes. "If you feel like that
about it, what in thunder did you go into nursing for?" she demanded not
unkindly.

Very slowly Helene Churchill rose from her lowly seat by her precious
book-case and came round and looked at Rae Malgregor rather oddly.
"Yes," faltered Helene Churchill. "What did you go into nursing for?"
The faintest possible taint of asperity was in her voice.

Quite dumbly for an instant Rae Malgregor's natural timidity stood
battling the almost fanatic professional fervor in Helene Churchill's
frankly open face, the raw, scientific passion, of very different
caliber, but no less intensity, hidden so craftily behind Zillah
Forsyth's plastic features. Then suddenly her own hands went clutching
back at the bureau for support, and all the flaming, raging red went
ebbing out of her cheeks, leaving her lips with hardly blood enough left
to work them.

"I went into nursing," she mumbled, "and it's God's own truth,--I went
into nursing because--because I thought the uniforms were so cute."

Furiously, the instant the words were gone from her mouth, she turned
and snarled at Zillah's hooting laughter.

"Well, I had to do something!" she attested. The defense was like a flat
blade slapping the air.

Desperately she turned to Helene Churchill's goading, faintly
supercilious smile, and her voice edged suddenly like a twisted sword.
"Well, the uniforms _are_ cute!" she parried. "They are! They are! I bet
you there's more than one girl standing high in the graduating class
to-day who never would have stuck out her first year's bossin' and slops
and worry and death--if she'd had to stick it out in the unimportant
looking clothes she came from home in! Even you, Helene Churchill, with
all your pious talk,--the day they put your coachman's son in as new
Interne and you got called down from the office for failing to stand
when Mr. Young Coachman came into the room, you bawled all night,--you
did,--and swore you'd chuck your whole job and go home the next day--if
it wasn't that you'd just had a life-size photo taken in full nursing
costume to send to your brother's chum at Yale! So there!"

With a gasp of ineffable satisfaction she turned from Helene Churchill.

"Sure the uniforms are cute!" she slashed back at Zillah
Forsyth. "That's the whole trouble with 'em. They're so
awfully--masqueradishly--cute! Sure, I could have got engaged to the
Typhoid Boy. It would have been as easy as robbing a babe! But lots of
girls, I notice, get engaged in their uniforms, feeding a patient
perfectly scientifically out of his own silver spoon, who don't seem
to stay engaged so especially long in their own street clothes, bungling
just plain naturally with their own knives and forks! Even you, Zillah
Forsyth," she hacked, "even you who trot round like the Lord's Anointed
in your pure white togs, you're just as Dutchy looking as anybody else,
come to put you in a red hat and a tan coat and a blue skirt!"

Mechanically she raised her hands to her head as though with some silly
thought of keeping the horrid pain in her temples from slipping to her
throat, her breast, her feet.

"Sure the uniforms are cute," she persisted a bit thickly. "Sure the
Typhoid Boy was crazy about me! He called me his 'Holy Chorus Girl,' I
heard him--raving in his sleep. Lord save us! What are we to any man but
just that?" she questioned hotly with renewed venom. "Parson, actor,
young sinner, old saint--I ask you frankly, girls, on your word of
honor, was there ever more than one man in ten went through your hands
who didn't turn out soft somewhere before you were through with him?
Mawking about your 'sweet eyes' while you're wrecking your optic nerves
trying to decipher the dose on a poison bottle! Mooning over your
wonderful likeness to the lovely young sister they--never had! Trying to
kiss your finger tips when you're struggling to brush their teeth!
Teasin' you to smoke cigarettes with 'em--when they know it would cost
you your job!"

Impishly, without any warning, she crooked her knee and pointed at one
homely square-toed shoe in a mincy dancing step. Hoydenishly she threw
out her arms and tried to gather Helene and Zillah both into their
compass.

"Oh, you Holy Chorus Girls!" she chuckled with maniacal delight.
"Everybody, all together, now! Kick your little kicks! Smile your little
smiles! Tinkle your little thermometers! Steady,--there!
One--two--three--One--two--three!"

Laughingly Zillah Forsyth slipped from the grasp. "Don't you dare 'holy'
me!" she threatened.

In real irritation Helene released herself. "I'm no chorus girl," she
said coldly.

With a little shrill scream of pain Rae Malgregor's hands went flying
back to her temples. Like a person giving orders in a great panic she
turned authoritatively to her two room-mates, her fingers all the while
boring frenziedly into her temples.

"Now, girls," she warned, "stand well back! If my head bursts, you know,
it's going to burst all to slivers and splinters--like a boiler!"

"Rae, you're crazy!" hooted Zillah.

"Just plain vulgar--looney," faltered Helene.

Both girls reached out simultaneously to push her aside.

Somewhere in the dusty, indifferent street a bird's note rang out in
one wild, delirious ecstasy of untrammeled springtime. To all intents
and purposes the sound might have been the one final signal that Rae
Malgregor's jangled nerves were waiting for.

"Oh, I _am_ crazy, am I?" she cried with a new, fierce joy. "Oh, I _am_
crazy, am I? Well, I'll go ask the Superintendent and see if I am! Oh,
surely they wouldn't try and make me graduate if I really was crazy!"

Madly she bolted for her bureau, and snatching her own motto down,
crumpled its face securely against her skirt and started for the door.
Just what the motto was no one but herself knew. Sprawling in
paint-brush hieroglyphics on a great flapping sheet of brown
wrapping-paper, the sentiment, whatever it was, had been nailed face
down to the wall for three tantalizing years.

"No you don't!" cried Zillah now, as she saw the mystery threatening so
meanly to escape her.

"No you don't!" cried Helene. "You've seen our mottoes--and now we're
going to see yours!"

Almost crazed with new terror Rae Malgregor went dodging to the
right,--to the left,--to the right again,--cleared the rocking-chair,--a
scuffle with padded hands,--climbed the trunk,--a race with padded
feet,--reached the door-handle at last, yanked the door open, and with
lungs and temper fairly bursting with momentum, shot down the
hall,--down some stairs,--down some more hall,--down some more stairs,
to the Superintendent's office where, with her precious motto still
clutched securely in one hand, she broke upon that dignitary's startled,
near-sighted vision like a young whirl-wind of linen and starch and
flapping brown paper. Breathlessly, without prelude or preamble, she
hurled her grievance into the older woman's grievance-dulled ears.

"Give me back my own face!" she demanded peremptorily. "Give me back my
own face, I say! And my own hands! I tell you I want my own hands!
Helene and Zillah say I'm insane! And I want to go home!"




CHAPTER III


Like a short-necked animal elongated suddenly to the cervical
proportions of a giraffe, the Superintendent of Nurses reared up
from her stoop-shouldered desk-work and stared forth in speechless
astonishment across the top of her spectacles.

Exuberantly impertinent, ecstatically self-conscious, Rae Malgregor
repeated her demand. To her parched mouth the very taste of her own
babbling impudence refreshed her like the shock and prickle of cracked
ice.

"I tell you I want my own face again! And my own hands!" she reiterated
glibly. "I mean the face with the mortgage in it, and the cinders--and
the other human expressions!" she explained. "And the nice grubby
country hands that go with that sort of a face!"

Very accusingly she raised her finger and shook it at the
Superintendent's perfectly livid countenance.

"Oh, of course I know I wasn't very much to look at. But at least I
matched! What my hands knew, I mean, my face knew! Pies or plowing or
May-baskets, what my hands knew my face knew! That's the way hands and
faces ought to work together! But you? you with all your rules and your
bossing and your everlasting 'S--sh! S--sh!' you've snubbed all the
know-anything out of my face--and made my hands nothing but two
disconnected machines--for somebody else to run! And I hate you! You're
a Monster! You're a ----, everybody hates you!"

Mutely then she shut her eyes, bowed her head, and waited for the
Superintendent to smite her dead. The smite she felt quite sure would be
a noisy one. First of all, she reasoned it would fracture her skull.
Naturally then of course it would splinter her spine. Later in all
probability it would telescope her knee-joints. And never indeed now
that she came to think of it had the arches of her feet felt less
capable of resisting so terrible an impact. Quite unconsciously she
groped out a little with one hand to steady herself against the edge of
the desk.

But the blow when it came was nothing but a cool finger tapping her
pulse.

"There! There!" crooned the Superintendent's voice with a most amazing
tolerance.

"But I won't 'there--there'!" snapped Rae Malgregor. Her eyes were wide
open again now, and extravagantly dilated.

The cool fingers on her pulse seemed to tighten a little. "S--sh!
S--sh!" admonished the Superintendent's mumbling lips.

"But I won't 'S--sh--S--sh'!" stormed Rae Malgregor. Never before in
her three years' hospital training had she seen her arch-enemy, the
Superintendent, so utterly disarmed of irascible temper and arrogant
dignity, and the sight perplexed and maddened her at one and the same
moment. "But I won't 'S--sh--S--sh'!" Desperately she jerked her curly
blonde head in the direction of the clock on the wall. "Here it's four
o'clock now!" she cried. "And in less than four hours you're going to
try and make me graduate--and go out into the world--God knows
where--and charge innocent people twenty-five dollars a week and
washing, likelier than not, mind you, for these hands," she gestured,
"that don't co-ordinate at all with this face," she grimaced, "but with
the face of one of the House Doctors--or the Senior Surgeon--or even
you--who may be way off in Kamchatka--when I need him most!" she
finished with a confused jumble of accusation and despair.

Still with unexplainable amiability the Superintendent whirled back into
place in her pivot-chair and with her left hand which had all this time
been rummaging busily in a lower desk drawer proffered Rae Malgregor a
small fold of paper.

"Here, my dear," she said. "Here's a sedative for you. Take it at once.
It will quiet you perfectly. We all know you've had very hard luck this
past month, but you mustn't worry so about the future." The slightest
possible tinge of purely professional manner crept back into the older
woman's voice. "Certainly, Miss Malgregor, with your judgment--"

"With my judgment?" cried Rae Malgregor. The phrase was like a red rag
to her. "With my judgment? Great Heavens! That's the whole trouble! I
haven't got any judgment! I've never been allowed to have any judgment!
All I've ever been allowed to have is the judgment of some flirty young
medical student--or the House Doctor!--or the Senior Surgeon!--or you!"

Her eyes were fairly piteous with terror.

"Don't you see that my face doesn't know anything?" she faltered,
"except just to smile and smile and smile and say 'Yes, sir--No,
sir--Yes, sir'?" From curly blonde head to square-toed, commonsense
shoes her little body began to quiver suddenly like the advent of a
chill. "Oh, what am I going to do," she begged, "when I'm way off
alone--somewhere--in the mountains--or a tenement--or a palace--and
something happens--and there isn't any judgment round to tell me what
I ought to do?"

Abruptly in the doorway as though summoned by some purely casual flicker
of the Superintendent's thin fingers another nurse appeared.

"Yes, I rang," said the Superintendent. "Go and ask the Senior Surgeon
if he can come to me here a moment, immediately."

"The Senior Surgeon?" gasped Rae Malgregor. "The Senior Surgeon?" With
her hands clutching at her throat she reeled back against the wall for
support. Like a shore bereft in one second of its tide, like a tree
stripped in one second of its leafage, she stood there, utterly stricken
of temper or passion or any animating human emotion whatsoever.

"Oh, now I'm going to be expelled! Oh, now I know I'm going to
be--expelled!" she moaned listlessly.

Very vaguely into the farthest radiation of her vision she sensed the
approach of a man. Gray-haired, gray-bearded, gray-suited, grayly
dogmatic as a block of granite, the Senior Surgeon loomed up at last in
the doorway.

"I'm in a hurry," he growled. "What's the matter?"

Precipitously Rae Malgregor collapsed into the breach.

"Oh, there's--nothing at all the matter, sir," she stammered. "It's
only--it's only that I've just decided that I don't want to be a trained
nurse."

With a gesture of ill-concealed impatience the Superintendent shrugged
the absurd speech aside.

"Dr. Faber," she said, "won't you just please assure Miss Malgregor once
more that the little Italian boy's death last week was in no conceivable
way her fault,--that nobody blames her in the slightest, or holds her in
any possible way responsible."

"Why, what nonsense!" snapped the Senior Surgeon. "What--!"

"And the Portuguese woman the week before that," interrupted Rae
Malgregor dully.

"Stuff and nonsense!" said the Senior Surgeon. "It's nothing but
coincidence! Pure coincidence! It might have happened to anybody!"

"And she hasn't slept for almost a fortnight." the Superintendent
confided, "nor touched a drop of food or drink, as far as I can make
out, except just black coffee. I've been expecting this break-down for
some days."

"And-the-young-drug-store-clerk-the-week-before-that," Rae Malgregor
resumed with sing-song monotony.

Brusquely the Senior Surgeon stepped forward and taking the girl by her
shoulders, jerked her sharply round to the light, and, with firm,
authoritative fingers, rolled one of her eyelids deftly back from its
inordinately dilated pupil. Equally brusquely he turned away again.

"Nothing but moonshine!" he muttered. "Nothing in the world but too much
coffee dope taken on an empty stomach,--'empty brain,' I'd better have
said! When will you girls ever learn any sense?" With searchlight
shrewdness his eyes flashed back for an instant over the haggard gray
lines that slashed along the corners of her quivering, childish mouth. A
bit temperishly he began to put on his gloves. "Next time you set out to
have a 'brain-storm,' Miss Malgregor," he suggested satirically, "try to
have it about something more sensible than imagining that anybody is
trying to hold you personally responsible for the existence of death in
the world. Bah!" he ejaculated fiercely. "If you are going to fuss like
this over cases hopelessly moribund from the start, what in thunder are
you going to do some fine day when out of a perfectly clear and clean
sky Security itself turns septic and you lose the President of the
United States--or a mother of nine children--with a hang-nail?"

"But I wasn't fussing, sir!" protested Rae Malgregor with a timid sort
of dignity. "Why, it never had occurred to me for a moment that anybody
blamed me for--anything!" Just from sheer astonishment her hands took a
new clutch into the torn flapping corner of the motto that she still
clung desperately to even at this moment.

"For Heaven's sake stop crackling that brown paper!" stormed the Senior
Surgeon.

"But I wasn't crackling the brown paper, sir! It's crackling itself,"
persisted Rae Malgregor very softly. The great blue eyes that lifted to
his were brimming full of misery. "Oh, can't I make you understand,
sir?" she stammered. Appealingly she turned to the Superintendent. "Oh,
can't I make anybody understand? All I was trying to say,--all I was
trying to explain, was--that I _don't want to be a trained nurse--after
all_!"

"Why not?" demanded the Senior Surgeon with a rather noisy click of his
glove fasteners.

"Because--my--face--is--tired," said the girl quite simply.

The explosive wrath on the Senior Surgeon's countenance seemed to be
directed suddenly at the Superintendent.

"Is this an afternoon tea?" he asked tartly. "With six major operations
this morning and a probable meningitis diagnosis ahead of me this
afternoon I think I might be spared the babblings of an hysterical
nurse!" Casually over his shoulder he nodded at the girl. "You're a
fool!" he said, and started for the door.

Just on the threshold he turned abruptly and looked back. His forehead
was furrowed like a corduroy road and the one rampant question in his
mind at the moment seemed to be mired hopelessly between his bushy
eyebrows.

"Lord!" he exclaimed a bit flounderingly. "Are _you_ the nurse that
helped me last week on that fractured skull?"

"Yes, sir," said Rae Malgregor.

Jerkily the Senior Surgeon retraced his footsteps into the office and
stood facing her as though with some really terrible accusation.

"And the freak abdominal?" he quizzed sharply. "Was it _you_ who
threaded that needle for me so blamed slowly--and calmly--and surely,
while all the rest of us were jumping up and down and cursing you--for
no brighter reason than that we couldn't have threaded it ourselves if
we'd had all eternity before us and--all creation bleeding to death?"

"Y-e-s, sir," said Rae Malgregor.

Quite bluntly the Senior Surgeon reached out and lifted one of her hands
to his scowling professional scrutiny.

"Gad!" he attested. "What a hand! You're a wonder! Under proper
direction you're a wonder! It was like myself working with twenty
fingers and no thumbs! I never saw anything like it!"

Almost boyishly the embarrassed flush mounted to his cheeks as he jerked
away again. "Excuse me for not recognizing you," he apologized gruffly.
"But you girls all look so much alike!"

As though the eloquence of Heaven itself had suddenly descended upon a
person hitherto hopelessly tongue-tied, Rae Malgregor lifted an utterly
transfigured face to the Senior Surgeon's grimly astonished gaze.

"Yes! Yes, sir!" she cried joyously. "That's just exactly what the
trouble is! That's just exactly what I was trying to express, sir! My
face is all worn out trying to 'look alike'! My cheeks are almost sprung
with artificial smiles! My eyes are fairly bulging with unshed tears! My
nose aches like a toothache trying never to turn up at anything! I'm
smothered with the discipline of it! I'm choked with the affectation! I
tell you--I just can't breathe through a trained nurse's face any more!
I tell you, sir, I'm sick to death of being nothing but a type. I want
to look like _myself_! I want to see what Life could do to a silly face
like mine--if it ever got a chance! When other women are crying, I want
the fun of crying! When other women look scared to death, I want the fun
of looking scared to death!" Hysterically again with shrewish emphasis
she began to repeat: "I won't be a nurse! I tell you, I won't! I
_won't_!"

"Pray what brought you so suddenly to this remarkable decision?"
scoffed the Senior Surgeon.

"A letter from my father, sir," she confided more quietly. "A letter
about some dogs."

"Dogs?" hooted the Senior Surgeon.

"Yes, sir," said the White Linen Nurse. A trifle speculatively for an
instant she glanced at the Superintendent's face and then back again to
the Senior Surgeon's. "Yes, sir," she repeated with increasing
confidence. "Up in Nova Scotia my father raises hunting-dogs. Oh, no
special fancy kind, sir," she hastened in all honesty to explain. "Just
dogs, you know,--just mixed dogs,--pointers with curly tails,--and
shaggy-coated hounds,--and brindled spaniels, and all that sort of
thing,--just mongrels, you know, but very clever; and people, sir, come
all the way from Boston to buy dogs of him, and once a man came way from
London to learn the secret of his training."

"Well, what is the secret of his training?" quizzed the Senior Surgeon
with the sudden eager interest of a sportsman. "I should think it would
be pretty hard," he acknowledged, "in a mixed gang like that to decide
just which particular dog was suited to what particular game!"

"Yes, that's just it, sir," beamed the White Linen Nurse. "A dog, of
course, will chase anything that runs,--that's just dog,--but when a dog
really begins to _care_ for what he's chasing he--wags! That's hunting!
Father doesn't calculate, he says, on training a dog on anything he
doesn't wag on!"

"Yes, but what's that got to do with you?" asked the Senior Surgeon a
bit impatiently.

With ill-concealed dismay the White Linen Nurse stood staring blankly at
the Senior Surgeon's gross stupidity.

"Why, don't you see?" she faltered. "I've been chasing this nursing job
three whole years now--and there's no wag to it!"

"Oh Hell!" said the Senior Surgeon. If he hadn't said "Oh Hell!" he
would have grinned. And it hadn't been a grinning day, and he certainly
didn't intend to begin grinning at any such late hour as that in the
afternoon. With his dignity once reassured he relaxed then a trifle.
"For Heaven's sake, what _do_ you want to be?" he asked not unkindly.

With an abrupt effort at self-control Rae Malgregor jerked her head into
at least the outer semblance of a person lost in almost fathomless
thought.

"Why I'm sure I don't know, sir," she acknowledged worriedly. "But it
would be a great pity, I suppose, to waste all the grand training that's
gone into my hands." With sudden conviction her limp shoulders stiffened
a trifle. "My oldest sister," she stammered, "bosses the laundry in one
of the big hotels in Halifax, and my youngest sister teaches school in
Moncton. But I'm so strong, you know, and I like to move things round
so,--and everything,--maybe--I could get a position somewhere as general
housework girl."

With a roar of amusement as astonishing to himself as to his listeners,
the Senior Surgeon's chin jerked suddenly upward.

"You're crazy as a loon!" he confided cordially. "Great Scott! If you
can work up a condition like this on coffee,--what would you do on," he
hesitated grimly, "malted milk?" As unheralded as his amusement, gross
irritability overtook him again. "Will--you--stop--rattling that brown
paper?" he thundered at her.

Innocently as a child she rebuffed the accusation and ignored the
temper.

"But I'm not rattling it, sir!" she protested. "I'm simply trying to
hide what's on the other side of it."

"What is on the other side of it?" demanded the Senior Surgeon bluntly.

With unquestioning docility the girl turned the paper around.

From behind her desk the austere Superintendent twisted her
neck most informally to decipher the scrawling hieroglyphics.
"_Don't--Ever--Be_--_bumptious_!" she read forth jerkily with a
questioning, incredulous sort of emphasis.

"Don't ever be bumptious?" squinted the Senior Surgeon perplexedly
through his glasses.

"Yes," said Rae Malgregor very timidly. "It's my--motto."

"Your motto?" sniffed the Superintendent.

"Your motto?" chuckled the Senior Surgeon.

"Yes, my motto," repeated Rae Malgregor with the slightest perceptible
tinge of resentment. "And it's a perfectly good motto, too! Only, of
course, it hasn't got any style to it. That's why I didn't want the
girls to see it," she confided a bit drearily. Then palpably before
their eyes they saw her spirit leap into ineffable pride. "My Father
gave it to me," she announced briskly. "And my Father said that, when
I came home in June, if I could honestly say that I'd never once been
bumptious--all my three years here,--he'd give me a--heifer! And--"

"Well I guess you've lost your heifer!" said the Senior Surgeon bluntly.

"Lost my heifer?" gasped the girl. Big-eyed and incredulous she stood
for an instant staring back and forth from the Superintendent's face to
the Senior Surgeon's. "You mean?" she stammered, "you mean--that
I've--been--bumptious--just now? You mean--that after all these years
of--meachin' meekness--I've lost--?"

Plainly even to the Senior Surgeon and the Superintendent the bones in
her knees weakened suddenly like knots of tissue paper. No power on
earth could have made her break discipline by taking a chair while the
Senior Surgeon stood, so she sank limply down to the floor instead, with
two great solemn tears welling slowly through the fingers with which she
tried vainly to cover her face.

"And the heifer was brown, with one white ear; it was awful cunning,"
she confided mumblingly. "And it ate from my hand--all warm and sticky,
like--loving sandpaper." There was no protest in her voice, nor any
whine of complaint, but merely the abject submission to Fate of one who
from earliest infancy had seen other crops blighted by other frosts.
Then tremulously with the air of one who, just as a matter of spiritual
tidiness, would purge her soul of all sad secrets, she lifted her
entrancing, tear-flushed face from her strong, sturdy, utterly
unemotional fingers and stared with amazing blueness, amazing blandness
into the Senior Surgeon's scowling scrutiny.

"And I'd named her--for you!" she said. "I'd named her--Patience--for
you!"

Instantly then she scrambled to her knees to try and assuage by some
miraculous apology the horrible shock which she read in the Senior
Surgeon's face.

"Oh, of course, sir, I know it isn't scientific!" she pleaded
desperately. "Oh, of course, sir, I know it isn't scientific at all! But
up where I live, you know, instead of praying for anybody, we--we name a
young animal--for the virtue that that person--seems to need the most.
And if you tend the young animal carefully--and train it right--!
Why--it's just a superstition, of course, but--Oh, sir!" she floundered
hopelessly, "the virtue you needed most in your business was what I
meant! Oh, really, sir, I never thought of criticizing your character!"

Gruffly the Senior Surgeon laughed. Embarrassment was in the laugh, and
anger, and a fierce, fiery sort of resentment against both the
embarrassment and the anger,--but no possible trace of amusement.
Impatiently he glanced up at the fast speeding clock.

"Good Lord!" he exclaimed, "I'm an hour late now!" Scowling like a
pirate he clicked the cover of his watch open and shut for an uncertain
instant. Then suddenly he laughed again, and there was nothing
whatsoever in his laugh this time except just amusement.

"See here, Miss--Bossy Tamer," he said. "If the Superintendent is
willing, go get your hat and coat, and I'll take you out on that
meningitis case with me. It's a thirty mile run if it's a block, and I
guess if you sit on the front seat it will blow the cobwebs out of your
brain--if anything will," he finished not unkindly.

Like a white hen sensing the approach of some utterly unseen danger the
Superintendent seemed to bristle suddenly in every direction.

"It's a bit--irregular," she protested in her most even tone.

"Bah! So are some of the most useful of the French verbs!" snapped the
Senior Surgeon. In the midst of authority his voice could be inestimably
soft and reassuring, but sometimes on the brink of asserting said
authority he had a tone that was distinctly unpleasant.

"Oh, very well," conceded the Superintendent with some waspishness.

Hazily for an instant Rae Malgregor stood staring into the
Superintendent's uncordial face. "I'd--I'd apologize," she faltered,
"but I--don't even know what I said. It just blew up!"

Perfectly coldly and perfectly civilly the Superintendent received the
overture. "It was quite evident, Miss Malgregor, that you were not
altogether responsible at the moment," she conceded in common justice.

Heavily then, like a person walking in her sleep the girl trailed out of
the room to get her coat and hat.

Slamming one desk-drawer after another the Superintendent drowned the
sluggish sound of her retreating footsteps.

"There goes my best nurse!" she said grimly. "My very best nurse! Oh no,
not the most brilliant one, I didn't mean that, but the most reliable!
The most nearly perfect human machine that it has ever been my privilege
to see turned out,--the one girl that week in, week out, month after
month, and year after year, has always done what she's told,--when she
was told,--and the exact way she was told,--without questioning
anything, without protesting anything, without supplementing anything
with some disastrous original conviction of her own--_and look at her
now_!" Tragically the Superintendent rubbed her hand across her worried
brow. "Coffee, you said it was?" she asked skeptically. "Are there any
special antidotes for coffee?"

With a queer little quirk to his mouth the gruff Senior Surgeon jerked
his glance back from the open window where with the gleam of a slim
torn-boyish ankle the frisky young Spring went scurrying through the
tree-tops.

"What's that you asked?" he quizzed sharply. "Any antidotes for coffee?
Yes. Dozens of them. But none for Spring."

"Spring?" sniffed the Superintendent. A little shiveringly she reached
out and gathered a white knitted shawl around her shoulders. "Spring? I
don't see what Spring's got to do with Rae Malgregor or any other young
outlaw in my graduating class. If graduation came in November it would
be just the same! They're a set of ingrates, every one of them!"
Vehemently she turned aside to her card-index of names and slapped the
cards through one by one without finding one single soothing exception.
"Yes, sir, a set of ingrates!" she repeated accusingly. "Spend your life
trying to teach them what to do and how to do it! Cram ideas into those
that haven't got any, and yank ideas out of those who have got too many!
Refine them, toughen them, scold them, coax them, everlastingly drill
and discipline them! And then, just as you get them to a place where
they move like clock-work, and you actually believe you can trust them,
then graduation day comes round, and they think they're all safe,--and
every single individual member of the class breaks out and runs a-muck
with the one dare-devil deed she's been itching to do every day the past
three years! Why this very morning I caught the President of the Senior
Class with a breakfast tray in her hands--stealing the cherry out of her
patient's grape fruit. And three of the girls reported for duty as bold
as brass with their hair frizzed tight as a nigger doll's. And the girl
who's going into a convent next week was trying on the laundryman's
derby hat as I came up from lunch. And now, now--" the Superintendent's
voice went suddenly a little hoarse, "and now--here's Miss
Malgregor--intriguing--to get an automobile ride with--_you!_"

"Eh?" cried the Senior Surgeon with a jump. "What? Is this an Insane
Asylum? Is it a Nervine?" Madly he started for the door. "Order a ton of
bromides!" he called back over his shoulder. "Order a car-load of them!
Saturate the whole place with them! Drown the whole damned place!"

Half way down the lower hall, all his nerves on edge, all his unwonted
boyish impulsiveness quenched noxiously like a candle flame, he met and
passed Rae Malgregor without a sign of recognition.

"God! How I hate women!" he kept mumbling to himself as he struggled
clumsily all alone into the torn sleeve lining of his thousand dollar
mink coat.




CHAPTER IV


Like a train-traveler coming out of a long, smoky, smothery tunnel
Into the clean-tasting light, the White Linen Nurse came out of the
prudish-smelling hospital into the riotous mud-and-posie promise of the
young April afternoon.

The God of Hysteria had certainly not deserted her! In all the full
effervescent reaction of her brain-storm,--fairly bubbling with
dimples, fairly foaming with curls,--light-footed, light-hearted, most
ecstatically light-headed, she tripped down into the sunshine as though
the great, harsh, granite steps that marked her descent were nothing
more nor less than a gigantic, old, horny-fingered hand passing her
blithely out to some deliciously unknown Lilliputian adventure.

As she pranced across the soggy April sidewalk to what she supposed was
the Senior Surgeon's perfectly empty automobile she became conscious
suddenly that the rear seat of the car was already occupied.

Out from an unseasonable snuggle of sable furs and flaming red hair a
small, peevish face peered forth at her with frank curiosity.

"Why, hello!" beamed the White Linen Nurse. "Who are you?"

With unmistakable hostility the haughty little face retreated into its
furs and its red hair. "Hush!" commanded a shrill childish voice. "Hush,
I say! I'm a cripple--and very bad-tempered. Don't speak to me!"

"Oh, my Glory!" gasped the White Linen Nurse. "Oh my Glory, Glory,
Glory!" Without any warning whatsoever she felt suddenly like
Nothing-At-All, rigged out in an exceedingly shabby old ulster and an
excessively homely black slouch hat. In a desperate attempt at tangible
tom-boyish nonchalance she tossed her head and thrust her hands down
deep into her big ulster pockets. That the bleak hat reflected no decent
featherish consciousness of being tossed, that the big threadbare
pockets had no bottoms to them, merely completed her startled sense of
having been in some way blotted right out of existence.

Behind her back the Senior Surgeon's huge fur-coated approach dawned
blissfully like the thud of a rescue party.

But if the Senior Surgeon's blunt, wholesome invitation to ride had been
perfectly sweet when he prescribed it for her in the Superintendent's
office, the invitation had certainly soured most amazingly in the
succeeding ten minutes. Abruptly now, without any greeting, he reached
out and opened the rear door of the car, and nodded curtly for her to
enter there.

Instantly across the face of the little crippled girl already ensconced
in the tonneau a single flash of light went zig-zagging crookedly from
brow to chin,--and was gone again. "Hello, Fat Father!" piped the shrill
little voice. "Hello,--Fat Father!" Yet so subtly was the phrase
mouthed, to save your soul you could not have proved just where the
greeting ended and the taunt began.

There was nothing subtle however about the way in which the Senior
Surgeon's hand shot out and slammed the tonneau door bang-bang again on
its original passenger. His face was crimson with anger. Brusquely he
pointed to the front seat.

"You may sit in there, with me, Miss Malgregor!" he thundered.

"Yes, sir," crooned the White Linen Nurse.

Meek as an oiled machine she scuttled to her appointed place. Once
More in smothered giggle and unprotesting acquiescence she sensed the
resumption of eternal discipline. Already in just this trice of time
she felt her rampant young mouth resettle tamely into lines of smug,
determinate serenity. Already across her idle lap she felt her clasped
fingers begin to frost and tingle again like a cheerfully non-concerned
bunch of live wires waiting the one authoritative signal to connect
somebody,--anybody,--with this world or the next. Already the facile tip
of her tongue seemed fairly loaded and cocked like a revolver with all
the approximate "Yes, sirs," "No, sirs," that she thought she should
probably need.

But the only immediate remarks that the Senior Surgeon addressed to any
one were addressed distinctly to the crank of his automobile.

"Damn having a chauffeur who gets drunk the one day of the year when
you need him most!" he muttered under his breath, as with the same
exquisitely sensitive fingers that could have dissected like a caress
the nervous system of a humming bird, or re-set unbruisingly the broken
wing of a butterfly, he hurled his hundred and eighty pounds of
infuriate brute-strength against the calm, chronic, mechanical
stubbornness of that auto crank. "Damn!" he swore on the upward pull.
"Damn!" he gasped on the downward push. "Damn!" he cursed and sputtered
and spluttered. Purple with effort, bulging-eyed with strain, reeking
with sweat, his frenzied outburst would have terrorized the entire
hospital staff.

With an odd little twinge of homesickness, the White Linen Nurse slid
cautiously out to the edge of her seat so that she might watch the
struggle better. For thus, with dripping foreheads and knotted
neck-muscles and breaking backs and rankly tempestuous language, did
the untutored men-folk of her own beloved home-land hurl their great
strength against bulls and boulders and refractory forest trees. Very
startlingly as she watched, a brand new thought went zig-zagging through
her consciousness. Was it possible,--was it even so much as remotely
possible--that the great Senior Surgeon,--the great, wonderful,
altogether formidable, altogether unapproachable Senior Surgeon,--was
just a--was just a--? Stripped ruthlessly of all his social
superiority,--of all his professional halo,--of all his scientific
achievement, the Senior Surgeon stood suddenly forth before her--a mere
man--just like other men! _Just exactly_ like other men? Like the sick
drug-clerk? Like the new-born millionaire baby? Like the doddering old
Dutch gaffer? The very delicacy of such a thought drove the blood
panic-stricken from her face. It was the indelicacy of the thought that
brought the blood surging back again to brow, to cheeks, to lips, even
to the tips of her ears.

Glancing up casually from the roar and rumble of his abruptly repentant
engine the Senior Surgeon swore once more under his breath to think that
any female sitting perfectly idle and non-concerned in a seven thousand
dollar car should have the nerve to flaunt such a furiously strenuous
color.

Bristling with resentment and mink furs he strode around the fender and
stumbled with increasing irritation across the White Linen Nurse's knees
to his seat. Just for an instant his famous fingers seemed to flash with
apparent inconsequence towards one bit of mechanism and another. Then
like a huge, portentous pill floated on smoothest syrup the car slid
down the yawning street into the congested city.

Altogether monotonously in terms of pain and dirt and drug and disease
the city wafted itself in and out of the White Linen Nurse's
well-grooved consciousness. From every filthy street corner sodden age
or starved babyhood reached out its fluttering pulse to her. Then,
suddenly sweet as a draught through a fever-tainted room, the squalid
city freshened into jocund, luxuriant suburbs with rollicking tennis
courts, and flaming yellow forsythia blossoms, and green velvet lawns
prematurely posied with pale exotic hyacinths and great scarlet
splotches of lusty tulips.

Beyond this hectic horticultural outburst the leisurely Spring faded out
again into April's naturally sallow colors.

Glossy and black as an endless typewriter ribbon, the narrow, tense
State Road seemed to wind itself everlastingly in--and in--and
in--on some hidden spool of the car's mysterious mechanism.
Clickety-Click-Click-Clack,--faster than any human mind could
think,--faster than any human hand could finger,--hurtling up hazardous
hills of thought,--sliding down facile valleys of fancy,--roaring with
emphasis,--shrieking with punctuation,--the great car yielded itself
perforce to Fate's dictation.

Robbed successively of the city's humanitarian pang, of the suburb's
esthetic pleasure, the White Linen Nurse found herself precipitated
suddenly into a mere blur of sight, a mere chaos of sound. In whizzing
speed and crashing breeze,--houses--fences--meadows--people--slapped
across her eyeballs like pictures on a fan. On and on and on through
kaleidoscopic yellows and rushing grays the great car sped, a purely
mechanical factor in a purely mechanical landscape.

Rigid with concentration the Senior Surgeon stared like a dead man into
the intrepid, on-coming road.

Intermittently from her green, plushy laprobes the little crippled girl
struggled to her feet, and sprawling clumsily across whose-ever shoulder
suited her best, raised a brazenly innocent voice, deliberately flatted,
in a shrill and maddeningly repetitive chant of her own making, to the
effect that

All the birds were there
With yellow feathers instead of hair,
And bumble bees crocheted in the trees--
And bumble bees crocheted in the trees--
And all the birds were there--
And--And--

Intermittently from the front seat the Senior Surgeon's wooden face
relaxed to the extent of a grim mouth twisting distractedly sideways in
one furious bellow.

"Will--you--stop--your--_noise_--and--go--back--to--your--seat!"

Nothing else happened at all until at last, out of unbroken stretches of
winter-staled stubble, a high, formal hemlock hedge and a neat, pebbled
driveway proclaimed the Senior Surgeon's ultimate destination.

Cautiously now, with an almost tender skill, the big car circled a tiny,
venturesome clump of highway violets and crept through a prancing,
leaping fluff of yellow collie dogs to the door of the big stone house.

Instantly from inestimable resources a liveried serving man appeared to
help the Surgeon from his car; another, to take the Surgeon's coat;
another, to carry his bag.

Lingering for an instant to stretch his muscles and shake his great
shoulders, the Senior Surgeon breathed into his cramped lungs a friendly
impulse as well as a scent of budding cherry trees.

"You may come in with me, if you want to, Miss Malgregor." he conceded.
"It's an extraordinary case. You will hardly see another one like it."
Palpably he lowered his already almost indistinguishable voice. "The boy
is young," he confided, "about your age, I should guess, a college
foot-ball hero, the most superbly perfect specimen of young manhood it
has ever been my privilege to behold. It will be a long case. They have
two nurses already, but would like another. The work ought not to be
hard. Now if they should happen to--fancy you!" In speechless
expressiveness his eyes swept estimatingly over sun-parlors, stables,
garages, Italian gardens, rapturous blue-shadowed mountain views--every
last intimate detail of the mansion's wonderful equipment.

Like a drowning man feeling his last floating spar wrenched away from
him, the White Linen Nurse dug her finger-nails frantically into every
reachable wrinkle and crevice of the heavily upholstered seat.

"Oh, but sir, I don't want to go in!" she protested passionately. "I
tell you, sir, I'm quite done with all that sort of thing! It would
break my heart! It would! Oh, sir, this worrying about people for whom
you've got no affection,--it's like sledding without any snow! It grits
right down on your naked nerves. It--"

Before the Senior Surgeon's glowering, incredulous stare her heart began
to plunge and pound again, but it plunged and pounded no harder, she
realized suddenly, than when in the calm, white hospital precincts she
was obliged to pass his terrifying presence in the corridor and murmur
an inaudible "Good Morning" or "Good Evening." "After all, he's nothing
but a man--nothing but a man--nothing but a mere--ordinary--two-legged
man," she reasoned over and over to herself. With a really desperate
effort she smoothed her frightened face into an expression of utter
guilelessness and peace and smiled unflinchingly right into the Senior
Surgeon's rousing anger as she had once seen an animal-trainer smile
into the snarl of a crouching tiger.

"Th--ank you very much!" she said. "But I think I won't go in,
sir,--thank you! My--my face is still pretty tired!"

"Idiot!" snapped the Senior Surgeon as he turned on his heel and started
up the steps.

From the green plushy robes on the back seat the White Linen Nurse could
have sworn that she heard a sharply ejaculated, maliciously joyful "Ha!"
piped out. But when both she and the Senior Surgeon turned sharply round
to make sure, the Little Crippled Girl, in apparently complete
absorption, sat amiably extracting tuft after tuft of fur from the thumb
of one big sable glove, to the rumbling, sing-song monotone of "He loves
me--Loves me not--Loves me--Loves me not."

Bristling with unutterable contempt for all femininity, the Senior
Surgeon proceeded up the steps between two solemn-faced lackeys.

"Father!" wailed a feeble little voice. "Father!" There was no
shrillness in the tone now, nor malice, nor any mischievous thing,--just
desolation, the impulsive, panic-stricken desolation of a little child
left suddenly alone with a stranger. "Father!" the frightened voice
ventured forth a tiny bit louder. But the unheeding Senior Surgeon had
already reached the piazza. "Fat Father!" screamed the little voice.
Barbed now like a shark-hook the phrase ripped through the Senior
Surgeon's dormant sensibilities. As one fairly yanked out of his
thoughts he whirled around in his tracks.

"What do you want?" he thundered.

Helplessly the little girl sat staring from a lackey's ill-concealed
grin to her Father's smoldering fury. Quite palpably she began to
swallow with considerable difficulty. Then quick as a flash a
diminutively crafty smile crooked across one corner of her mouth.

"Father?" she improvised dulcetly. "Father? May--may I--sit--in the
White Linen Nurse's lap?"

Just for an instant the Senior Surgeon's narrowing eyes probed
mercilessly into the reekingly false little smile. Then altogether
brutally he shrugged his shoulders.

"I don't care where in blazes you sit!" he muttered, and went on into
the house.

With an air of unalterable finality the massive oak door closed after
him. In the resonant click of its latch the great wrought-iron lock
seemed to smack its lips with ineffable satisfaction.

Wringing suddenly round with a whish of starched skirts the White Linen
Nurse knelt up in her seat and grinned at the Little Crippled Girl.

"'Ha'--yourself!" she said.

Against all possible expectancy the Little Crippled Girl burst out
laughing. The laugh was wild, ecstatic, extravagantly boisterous, yet
awkward withal, and indescribably bumpy, like the first flight of a
cage-cramped bird.

Quite abruptly the White Linen Nurse sat down again, and commenced
nervously with the wrist of her chamois glove to polish the slightly
tarnished brass lamp at her elbow. Equally abruptly after a minute she
stopped polishing and looked back at the Little Crippled Girl.

"Would--you--like--to sit in my lap?" she queried conscientiously.

Insolent with astonishment the Little Girl parried the question. "Why in
blazes--should I want to sit in your lap?" she quizzed harshly. Every
accent of her voice, every remotest intonation, was like the Senior
Surgeon's at his worst. The suddenly forked eyebrow, the snarling twitch
of the upper lip, turned the whole delicate little face into a grotesque
but desperately unconscious caricature of the grim-jawed father.

As though the father himself had snubbed her for some unimaginable
familiarity the White Linen Nurse winced back in hopeless confusion.
Just for sheer shock, short-circuited with fatigue, a big tear rolled
slowly down one pink cheek.

Instantly to the edge of her seat the Little Girl jerked herself
forward. "Don't cry, Pretty!" she whispered. "Don't cry! It's my legs.
I've got fat iron braces on my legs. And people don't like to hold me!"

Half the professional smile came flashing back to the White Linen
Nurse's mouth.

"Oh, I just adore holding people with iron braces on their legs," she
affirmed, and, leaning over the back of the seat, proceeded with
absolutely perfect mechanical tenderness to gather the poor, puny,
surprised little body into her own strong, shapely arms. Then dutifully
snuggling her shoulder to meet the stubborn little shoulder that refused
to snuggle, to it, and dutifully easing her knees to suit the stubborn
little knees that refused to be eased, she settled down resignedly in
her seat again to await the return of the Senior Surgeon. "There! There!
There!" she began quite instinctively to croon and pat.

"Don't say 'There! There!'" wailed the Little Girl peevishly. Her body
was suddenly stiff as a ram-rod. "Don't say 'There! There!' If you've
got to make any noise at all, say 'Here! Here!'"

"Here! Here!" droned the White Linen Nurse. "Here! Here! Here! Here!" On
and on and interminably on, "Here! Here! Here! Here!"

At the end of about the three-hundred-and-forty-seventh "Here!" the
Little Girl's body relaxed, and she reached up two fragile fingers to
close the White Linen Nurse's mouth. "There! That will do," she sighed
contentedly. "I feel better now. Father does tire me so."

"Father tires--_you_?" gasped the White Linen Nurse. The giggle that
followed the gasp was not in the remotest degree professional. "Father
tires _you_?" she repeated accusingly. "Why, you silly Little Girl!
Can't you see it's you that makes Father so everlastingly tired?"
Impulsively with her one free hand she turned the Little Girl's listless
face to the light. "What makes you call your nice father 'Fat Father'?"
she asked with real curiosity. "What makes you? He isn't fat at all.
He's just big. Why, what ever possesses you to call him 'Fat Father,' I
say? Can't you see how mad it makes him?"

"Why, of course it made him mad!" said the Little Girl with plainly
reviving interest. Thrilled with astonishment at the White Linen Nurse's
apparent stupidity she straightened up perkily with inordinately
sparkling eyes. "Why, of course it makes him mad!" she explained
briskly. "That's why I do it! Why, my Parpa--never even looks at
me--unless I make him mad!"

"S--sh!" said the White Linen Nurse. "Why, you mustn't ever say a thing
like that! Why, your Marma wouldn't like you to say a thing like that!"

Jerking bumpily back against the White Linen Nurse's unprepared shoulder
the Little Girl prodded a pallid finger-tip into the White Linen Nurse's
vivid cheek. "Silly--Pink and White--Nursie!" she chuckled, "Don't you
know there _isn't_ any Marma?" Cackling with delight over her own
superior knowledge she folded her little arms and began to rock herself
convulsively to and fro.

"Why, stop!" cried the White Linen Nurse. "Now you stop! Why, you wicked
little creature laughing like that about your poor dead mother! Why,
just think how bad it would make your poor Parpa feel!"

With instant sobriety the Little Girl stopped rocking, and stared
perplexedly into the White Linen Nurse's shocked eyes. Her own little
face was all wrinkled up with earnestness.

"But the Parpa--didn't like the Marma!" she explained painstakingly.
"The Parpa--_never_ liked the Marma! That's why he doesn't like me! I
heard Cook telling the Ice Man once when I wasn't more than ten minutes
old!"

Desperately with one straining hand the White Linen Nurse stretched her
fingers across the Little Girl's babbling mouth. Equally desperately,
with the other hand, she sought to divert the Little Girl's mind by
pushing the fur cap back from her frizzly red hair, and loosening her
sumptuous coat, and jerking down vainly across two painfully obtrusive
white ruffles, the awkwardly short, hideously bright little purple
dress.

"I think your cap is too hot," she began casually, and then proceeded
with increasing vivacity and conviction to the objects that worried her
most. "And those--those ruffles," she protested, "they don't look a bit
nice being so long!" Resentfully she rubbed an edge of the purple dress
between her fingers. "And a little girl like you,--with such bright red
hair,--oughtn't to wear--purple!" she admonished with real concern.

"Now whites and blues--and little soft pussy-cat grays--"

Mumblingly through her finger-muzzled mouth the Little Girl burst into
explanations again.

"Oh, but when I wear gray," she persisted, "the Parpa--never sees me!
But when I wear purple he cares,--he cares--most awfully!" she boasted
with a bitter sort of triumph. "Why when I wear purple and frizz my hair
hard enough,--no matter who's there, or anything,--he'll stop right off
short in the middle of whatever he's doing--and rear right up so
perfectly beautiful and mad and glorious--and holler right out 'For
Heaven's sake, take that colored Sunday supplement away!'"

"Your Father's nervous," suggested the White Linen Nurse.

Almost tenderly the Little Girl reached up and drew the White Linen
Nurse's ear close down to her own snuggling lips.

"Damned nervous!" she confided laconically.

Quite against all intention the White Linen Nurse giggled. Floundering
to recover her dignity she plunged into a new error. "Poor little
dev--," she began.

"Yes," sighed the Little Girl complacently. "That's just what the Parpa
calls me." Fervidly she clasped her little hands together. "Yes, if I
can only make him mad enough daytimes," she asserted, "then at night
when he thinks I'm all asleep he comes and stands by my cribby-house
like a great black shadow-bear and shakes and shakes his most beautiful
head and says, 'Poor little devil--poor little devil.' Oh, if I can only
make him mad enough daytimes!" she cried out ecstatically.

"Why, you naughty little thing!" scolded the White Linen Nurse with an
unmistakable catch in her voice. "Why, you--naughty--naughty--little
thing!"

Like the brush of a butterfly's wing the child's hand grazed the White
Linen Nurse's cheek. "I'm a lonely little thing," she confided
wistfully. "Oh, I'm an awfully lonely little thing!" With really
shocking abruptness the old malicious smile came twittering back to her
mouth. "But I'll get even with the Parpa yet!" she threatened joyously,
reaching out with pliant fingers to count the buttons on the White
Linen Nurse's dress. "Oh, I'll get even with the Parpa yet!" In the
midst of the passionate assertion her rigid little mouth relaxed in a
most mild and innocent yawn.

"Oh, of course," she yawned, "on wash days and ironing days and every
other work day in the week he has to be away cutting up people 'cause
that's his lawful business. But Sundays, when he doesn't really need to
at all, he goes off to some kind of a green, grassy club--all day
long--and plays golf."

Very palpably her eyelids began to droop. "Where was I?" she asked
sharply. "Oh, yes, 'the green, grassy club.' Well, when I die," she
faltered, "I'm going to die specially on some Sunday when there's a big
golf game,--so he'll just naturally have to give it up and stay home
and--amuse me--and help arrange the flowers. The Parpa's crazy about
flowers. So am I," she added broodingly. "I raised almost a geranium
once. But the Parpa threw it out. It was a good geranium, too. All it
did was just to drip the tiniest-teeniest bit over a book and a writing
and somebody's brains in a dish. He threw it at a cat. It was a good
cat, too. All it did was to--"

A little jerkily her drooping head bobbed forward and then back again.
Her heavy eyes were almost tight shut by this time, and after a moment's
silence her lips began moving dumbly like one at silent devotions. "I'm
making a little poem, now," she confided at last. "It's about--you and
me. It's a sort of a little prayer." Very, very softly she began to
repeat.

Now I sit me down to nap
All curled up in a Nursie's lap,
If _she_ should die before I wake--

Abruptly she stopped and stared up suspiciously into the White Linen
Nurse's eyes. "Ha!" she mocked, "you thought I was going to say 'If I
should die before I wake,'--didn't you? _Well, I'm not_!"

"It would have been more generous," acknowledged the White Linen Nurse.

Very stiffly the Little Girl pursed her lips. "It's plenty generous
enough--when it's all done!" she said severely. "And I'll thank
you,--Miss Malgregor,--not to interrupt me again!" With excessive
deliberateness she went back to the first line of her poem and began
all over again,

Now I sit me down to nap,
All curled up in a Nursie's lap,
If _she_ should die before I wake,
Give her--give her ten cents--for Jesus' sake!

"Why that's a--a cunning little prayer," yawned the White Linen Nurse.
Most certainly of course she would have smiled if the yawn hadn't caught
her first. But now in the middle of the yawn it was a great deal easier
to repeat the "very cunning" than to force her lips into any new
expression. "Very cunning--very cunning," she kept crooning
conscientiously.

Modestly like some other successful authors the Little Girl flapped her
eyelids languidly open and shut for three or four times before she
acknowledged the compliment. "Oh, cunning as any of 'em," she admitted
off-handishly. Only once again did she open either mouth or eyes, and
this time it was merely one eye and half a mouth. "Do my fat iron
braces--hurt you?" she mumbled drowsily.

"Yes, a little," conceded the White Linen Nurse.

"Ha! They hurt me--all the time!" gibed the Little Girl.

Five minutes later, the child who didn't particularly care about being
held, and the girl who didn't particularly care about holding her, were
fast asleep in each other's arms,--a naughty, nagging, restive little
hornet all hushed up and a-dream in the heart of a pink wild-rose!

Stalking out of the house in his own due time the Senior Surgeon reared
back aghast at the sight.

"Well--I'll be hanged!" he muttered. "Most everlastingly hanged! Wonder
what they think this is? A somnolent kindergarten show? Talk about
fiddling while Rome burns!"

Awkwardly, on the top step, he struggled alone into his cumbersome coat.
Every tingling nerve in his body, every shuddering sensibility, was
racked to its utmost capacity over the distressing scenes he had left
behind him in the big house. Back in that luxuriant sickroom, Youth
Incarnate lay stripped, root, branch, leaf, bud, blossom, fruit, of
All its manhood's promise. Back in that erudite library, Culture
Personified, robbed of all its fine philosophy, sat babbling illiterate
street-curses into its quivering hands. Back in that exquisite pink and
gold boudoir, Blonded Fashion, ravished for once of all its artistry,
ran stumbling round and round in interminable circles like a disheveled
hag. In shrill crescendos and discordant basses, with heartpiercing
jaggedness, with blood-curdling raspishness, each one, boy, father,
mother, meddlesome relative, competent or incompetent assistant,
indiscriminate servant, filing his separate sorrow into the Senior
Surgeon's tortured ears!

With one of those sudden revulsions to materialism which is liable
to overwhelm any man who delves too long at a time in the brutally
unconventional issues of life and death, the Senior Surgeon stepped down
into the subtle, hyacinth-scented sunshine with every latent human greed
in his body clamoring for expression--before it, too, should be hurtled
into oblivion. "Eat, you fool, and drink, you fool, and be merry,--you
fool,--for to-morrow--_even you,--Lendicott R. Faber--may have to die_!"
brawled and re-brawled through his mind like a ribald phonograph tune.

At the edge of the bottom step a precipitous lilac branch that must have
budded and bloomed in a single hour smote him stingingly across his
cheek. "Laggard!" taunted the lilac branch.

With the first crunching grit of gravel under his feet, something
transcendently naked and unashamed that was neither Brazen Sorrow nor
Brazen Pain thrilled across his startled consciousness. Over the
rolling, marshy meadow, beyond the succulent willow-hedge that hid the
winding river, up from some fluent, slim canoe, out from a chorus of
virile young tenor voices, a little passionate Love Song--divinely
tender--most incomparably innocent--came stealing palpitantly forth into
that inflammable Spring world without a single vestige of accompaniment
on it!

Kiss me, Sweet, the Spring is here,
And Love is Lord of you and me,
There's no bird in brake or brere,
But to his little mate sings he,
"Kiss me, Sweet, the Spring is here
And Love is Lord of you--and me!"

Wrenched like a sob out of his own lost youth the Senior Surgeon's
faltering college memories took up the old refrain.

As I go singing, to my dear,
"Kiss me, Sweet, the Spring is here,
And Love is Lord of you and me!"

Just for an instant a dozen long-forgotten pictures lanced themselves
poignantly into his brain,--dingy, uncontrovertible old recitation
rooms where young ideas flashed bright and futile as parade
swords,--elm-shaded slopes where lithe young bodies lolled on green
velvet grasses to expound their harshest cynicisms! Book-history,
book-science, book-economics, book-love,--all the paper passion of all
the paper poets swaggering imperiously on boyish lips that would have
died a thousand bashful deaths before the threatening imminence of a
real girl's kiss! Magic days, with Youth the one glittering, positive
treasure on the Tree of Life--and Woman still a mystery!

"Woman a mystery?" Harshly the phrase ripped through the Senior
Surgeon's brain. Croakingly in that instant all the grim gray scientific
years re-overtook him, swamped him, strangled him. "Woman a _mystery_?
Oh ye Gods! And Youth? Bah! Youth,--a mere tinsel tinkle on a rotting
Christmas tree!"

Furiously with renewed venom he turned and threw his weight again upon
the stubbornly resistant crank of his automobile.

Vaguely disturbed by the noise and vibration the White Linen Nurse
opened her big, drowsy, blue eyes upon him.

"Don't--jerk--it--so!" she admonished hazily, "You'll wake the Little
Girl!"

"Well, what about my convenience, I'd like to know?" snapped the Senior
Surgeon in some astonishment.

Heavily the White Linen Nurse's lashes shadowed down again across her
sleep-flushed cheeks.

"Oh, never mind--about--that," she mumbled non-concernedly.

"Oh, for Heaven's sake--wake up there!" bellowed the Senior Surgeon
above the sudden roar of his engine.

Adroitly for a man of his bulk he ran around the radiator and jumped
into his seat. Joggled unmercifully into wakefulness, the Little Girl
greeted his return with a generous if distinctly non-tactful
demonstration of affection. Grabbing the unwitting fingers of his
momentarily free hand she tapped them proudly against the White Linen
Nurse's plump pink cheek.

"See! I call her 'Peach'!" she boasted joyously with all the triumphant
air of one who felt assured that mental discrimination such as this
could not possibly fail to impress even a person so naturally obtuse
as--a father.

"Don't be foolish!" snarled the Senior Surgeon.

"Who? Me?" gasped the White Linen Nurse in a perfect agony of confusion.

"Yes! You!" snapped the Senior Surgeon explosively half an hour later
after interminable miles of absolute silence--and dingy yellow
field-stubble--and bare brown alder bushes.

Truly out of the ascetic habit of his daily life, "where no rain was,"
as the Bible would put it, it did seem to him distinctly foolish, not to
say careless, not to say out and out incendiary, for any girl to go
blushing her way like a fire-brand through a world so palpably populated
by young men whose heads were tow, and hearts indisputably tinder,
rather than tender.

"Yes! You!" he reasserted vehemently at the end of another silent mile.

Then plainly begrudging this second inexcusable interruption of his most
vital musings concerning Spinal Meningitis he scowled his way savagely
back again into his own grimly established trend of thought.

Excited by so much perfectly good silence that nobody seemed to be using
the Little Crippled Girl ventured gallantly forth once more into the
hazardous conversational land of grown-ups.

"Father?" she experimented cautiously with most commendable discretion.

Fathoms deep in abstraction the Senior Surgeon stared unheeding into the
whizzing black road. Pulses and temperatures and blood-pressures were
seething in his mind; and sharp sticks and jagged stones and the general
possibilities of a puncture; and murmurs of the heart and râles of the
lungs; and a most unaccountable knock-knock-knocking in the engine; and
the probable relation of middle-ear disease; and the perfectly positive
symptoms of optic neuritis; and a damned funny squeak in the steering
gear!

"Father?" the Little Girl persisted valiantly.

To add to his original concentration the Senior Surgeon's linen collar
began to chafe him maddeningly under his chin. The annoyance added two
scowls to his already blackly furrowed face, and at least ten miles an
hour to his running time; but nothing whatsoever to his conversational
ability.

"Father!" the Little Girl whimpered with faltering courage. Then
panic-stricken, as wiser people have been before her, over the dreadful
spookish remoteness of a perfectly normal human being who refuses either
to answer or even to notice your wildest efforts at communication, she
raised her waspish voice in its shrillest, harshest war-cry. "Fat
Father! _Fat Father! F-a-t F-a-t-h-e-r!_" she screeched out frenziedly
at the top of her lungs.

The gun-shot agony of a wounded rabbit was in the cry, the last gurgling
gasp of strangulation under a murderer's reeking fingers,--catastrophe
unspeakable,--disaster now irrevocable!

Clamping down his brakes with a wrench that almost tore the insides out
of his engine the Senior Surgeon brought the great car to a staggering
standstill.

"What is it?" he cried in real terror. "What is it?"

Limply the Little Girl stretched down from the White Linen Nurse's lap
till she could nick her toe against the shiniest woodwork in sight.
Altogether aimlessly her small chin began to burrow deeper and deeper
into her big fur collar.

"For Heaven's sake, what do you want?" demanded the Senior Surgeon. Even
yet along his spine the little nerves crinkled with shock and
apprehension. "For Heaven's sake what do you want?"

Helplessly the child lifted her turbid eyes to his. With unmistakable
appeal her tiny hand went clutching out at one of the big buttons on his
coat. Desperately for an instant she rummaged through her brain for some
remotely adequate answer to this most thunderous question,--and then
retreated precipitously as usual to the sacristy of her own
imagination.

"All the birds _were_ there, Father!" she confided guilelessly. "All the
birds _were_ there,--with yellow feathers instead of hair! And
bumblebees--crocheted in the trees. And--"

Short of complete annihilation there was no satisfying vengeance
whatsoever that the Senior Surgeon's exploding passion could wreak upon
his offspring. Complete annihilation being unfeasible at the moment he
merely climbed laboriously out of the car, re-cranked the engine,
climbed laboriously back into his place and started on his way once
more. All the red blustering rage was stripped completely from him.
Startlingly rigid, startlingly white, his face was like the death-mask
of a pirate.

Pleasantly excited by she-didn't-know-exactly-what, the Little Girl
resumed her beloved falsetto chant, rhythmically all the while with her
puny iron-braced legs beating the tune into the White Linen Nurse's
tender flesh.

All the birds were there
With yellow feathers instead of hair,
And bumblebees crocheted in the trees
And--and--all the birds were there,
With yellow feathers instead of hair,
And--

Frenziedly as a runaway horse trying to escape from its own pursuing
harness and carriage the Senior Surgeon poured increasing speed into
both his own pace and the pace of his tormentor. Up hill,--down
dale,--screeching through rocky echoes,--swishing through blue-green
spruce-lands,--dodging indomitable boulders,--grazing lax, treacherous
embankments,--the great car scuttled homeward. Huddled behind his
steering wheel like a warrior behind his shield, every body-muscle taut
with strain, every facial muscle diabolically calm, the Senior Surgeon
met and parried successively each fresh onslaught of yard, rod, mile.

Then suddenly in the first precipitous descent of a mighty hill the
whole earth seemed to drop out from under the car. Down-down-down with
incredible swiftness and smoothness the great machine went diving
towards abysmal space! Up-up-up with incredible bumps and bouncings,
trees, bushes, stonewalls went rushing to the sky!

Gasping surprisedly towards the Senior Surgeon the White Linen Nurse
saw his grim mouth yank round abruptly in her direction as it yanked
sometimes in the operating-room with some sharp, incisive order of life
or death. Instinctively she leaned forward for the message.

Not over-loud but strangely distinct the words slapped back into her
straining ears.

"If--it will rest your face any--to look scared--by all means--do so!
I've lost control of the machine!" called the Senior Surgeon
sardonically across the roar of the wind.

The phrase excited the White Linen Nurse but it did not remotely
frighten her. She was not in the habit of seeing the Senior Surgeon lose
control of any situation. Merely intoxicated with speed, delirious with
ozone, she snatched up the Little Girl close, to her breast.

"We're flying!" she cried. "We're dropping from a parachute! We're--!"

Swoopingly like a sled striking glare, level ice the great car swerved
from the bottom of the hill into a soft rolling meadow. Instantly from
every conceivable direction, like foes in ambush, trees, stumps, rocks
reared up in threatening defiance.

Tighter and tighter the White Linen Nurse crushed the Little Girl to her
breast. Louder and louder she called in the Little Girl's ear.

_"Scream!"_ she shouted. _"There might be a bump! Scream louder than a
bump! Scream! Scream! Scream!"_

In that first over-whelming, nerve-numbing, heart-crunching terror of
his whole life as the great car tilted up against a stone,--plowed down
into the mushy edge of a marsh,--and skidded completely round,
_crash-bang--_ into a tree, it was the last sound that the Senior
Surgeon heard,--the sound of a woman and child screeching their lungs
out in diabolical exultancy!




CHAPTER V


When the White Linen Nurse found anything again she found herself lying
perfectly flat on her back in a reasonably comfortable nest of grass and
leaves. Staring inquisitively up into the sky she thought she noticed a
slight black and blue discoloration towards the west, but more than
that, much to her relief, the firmament did not seem to be seriously
injured. The earth, she feared had not escaped so easily. Even way off
somewhere near the tip of her fingers the ground was as sore--as
sore--as could be--under her touch. Impulsively to her dizzy eyes the
hot tears started, to think that now, tired as she was, she should have
to jump right up in another minute or two and attend to the poor earth.
Fortunately for any really strenuous emergency that might arise there
seemed to be nothing about her own body that hurt at all except a queer,
persistent little pain in her cheek. Not until the Little Crippled
Girl's dirt-smouched face intervened between her own staring eyes and
the sky did she realize that the pain in her cheek was a pinch.

"Wake up! Wake up!" scolded the Little Crippled Girl shrilly.
"Naughty--Pink and White Nursie! I wanted to hear the bump! You screamed
so loud I couldn't hear the bump!"

With excessive caution the White Linen Nurse struggled up at last to a
sitting posture, and gazed perplexedly around her.

It seemed to be a perfectly pleasant field,--acres and acres of mild old
grass tottering palsiedly down to watch some skittish young violets and
bluets frolic in and out of a giggling brook. Up the field? Up the
field? Hazily the White Linen Nurse ground her knuckles into her
incredulous eyes. Up the field, just beyond them, the great empty
automobile stood amiably at rest. From the general appearance of the
stone-wall at the top of the little grassy slope it was palpably evident
that the car had attempted certain vain acrobatic feats before its
failing momentum had forced it into the humiliating ranks of the
back-sliders.

Still grinding her knuckles into her eyes the White Linen Nurse turned
back to the Little Girl. Under the torn, twisted sable cap one little
eye was hidden completely, but the other eye loomed up rakish and
bruised as a prizefighter's. One sable sleeve was wrenched disastrously
from its arm-hole, and along the edge of the vivid little purple skirt
the ill-favored white ruffles seemed to have raveled out into hopeless
yards and yards and yards of Hamburg embroidery.

A trifle self-consciously the Little Girl began to gather herself
together.

"We--we seem to have fallen out of something!" she confided with the air
of one who halves a most precious secret.

"Yes, I know," said the White Linen Nurse. "But what has become of--your
Father?"

Worriedly for an instant the Little Girl sat scanning the remotest
corners of the field. Then abruptly with a gasp of real relief she began
to explore with cautious fingers the geographical outline of her black
eye.

"Oh, never mind about Father," she asserted cheerfully. "I guess--I
guess he got mad and went home."

"Yes--I know," mused the White Linen Nurse. "But it doesn't
seem--probable."

"Probable?" mocked the Little Girl most disagreeably. Then suddenly her
little hand went shooting out towards the stranded automobile.

"Why, there he is!" she screamed. "Under the car! Oh,
Look--Look--Lookey!"

Laboriously the White Linen Nurse scrambled to her knees. Desperately
she tried to ram her fingers like a clog into the whirling dizziness
round her temples.

"Oh, my God! Oh, my God! What's the dose for anybody under a car?" she
babbled idiotically.

Then with a really herculean effort,--both mental and physical, she
staggered to her feet, and started for the automobile.

But her knees gave out, and wilting down to the grass she tried to crawl
along on all-fours, till straining wrists sent her back to her feet
again.

Whenever she tried to walk the Little Girl walked,--whenever she tried
to crawl the Little Girl crawled.

"Isn't it fun!" the shrill childish voice piped persistently. "Isn't it
just like playing ship-wreck!"

When they reached the car both woman and child were too utterly
exhausted with breathlessness to do anything except just sit down on the
ground and--stare.

Sure enough under that monstrous, immovable looking machine the Senior
Surgeon's body lay rammed face-down deep, deep into the grass.

It was the Little Girl who recovered her breath first.

"I think he's dead!" she volunteered sagely. "His legs look--awfully
dead--to me!" Only excitement was in the statement. It took a second or
two for her little mind to make any particularly personal application of
such excitement. "I hadn't--exactly--planned--on having him dead!" she
began with imperious resentment. A threat of complete emotional collapse
zig-zagged suddenly across her face. "I won't have him dead! I won't! I
_won't_!" she screamed out stormily.

In the amazing silence that ensued the White Linen Nurse gathered her
trembling knees up into the circle of her arms and sat there staring at
the Senior Surgeon's prostrate body, and rocking herself feebly to and
fro in a futile effort to collect her scattered senses.

"Oh, if some one would only tell me what to do,--I know I could do it!
Oh, I know I could do it! If some one would only tell me what to do!"
she kept repeating helplessly.

Cautiously the Little Girl crept forward on her hands and knees to the
edge of the car and peered speculatively through the great yellow
wheel-spokes. "Father!" she faltered in almost inaudible gentleness.
"Father!" she pleaded in perfectly impotent whisper.

Impetuously the White Linen Nurse scrambled to her own hands and knees
and jostled the Little Girl aside.

"Fat Father!" screamed the White Linen Nurse. "Fat Father! Fat Father!
_Fat Father!"_ she gibed and taunted with the one call she knew that
had never yet failed to rouse him.

Perceptibly across the Senior Surgeon's horridly quiet shoulders a
little twitch wrinkled and was gone again.

"Oh, his heart!" gasped the White Linen Nurse. "I must find his heart!"

Throwing herself prone upon the cool meadowy ground and frantically
reaching out under the running board of the car to her full arm's length
she began to rummage awkwardly hither and yon beneath the heavy weight
of the man in the desperate hope of feeling a heart-beat.

"Ouch! You tickle me!" spluttered the Senior Surgeon weakly.

Rolling back quickly with fright and relief the White Linen Nurse burst
forth into one maddening cackle of hysterical laughter. "Ha! Ha! Ha!"
she giggled. "Hi! Hi! Titter! Titter! Titter!"

Perplexedly at first but with increasing abandon the Little Girl's voice
took up the same idiotic refrain. "Ha-Ha-Ha," she choked. And
"Hi-Hi-Hi!" And "Titter! Titter! Titter!"

With an agonizing jerk of his neck the Senior Surgeon rooted his
mud-gagged mouth a half inch further towards free and spontaneous
speech. Very laboriously, very painstakingly, he spat out one by one two
stones and a wisp of ground pine and a brackish, prickly tickle of stale
golden-rod.

"Blankety-blank-blank--BLANK!" he announced in due time,
"Blankety-blank-blank-blank--BLANK! Maybe when you
two--blankety-blank--imbeciles have got through your blankety-blank
cackling you'll have the--blankety-blank decency to save my--my
blankety-blank-blank--blank--_blank-blank_ life!"

"Ha! Ha! Ha!" persisted the poor helpless White Linen Nurse with the
tears streaming down her cheeks.

"Hi! Hi! Hi!" snickered the poor Little Girl through her hiccoughs.

Feeling hopelessly crushed under two tons and a half of car, the Senior
Surgeon closed his eyes for death. No man of his weight, he felt quite
sure, could reasonably expect to survive many minutes longer the
apoplectic, blood-red rage that pounded in his ear-drums. Through his
tight-closed eyelids very, very slowly a red glow seemed to permeate. He
thought it was the fires of Hell. Opening his eyes to meet his fate like
a man he found himself staring impudently close instead into the White
Linen Nurse's furiously flushed face that lay cuddled on one plump cheek
staring impudently close at him.

"Why--why--get out!" gasped the Senior Surgeon.

Very modestly the White Linen Nurse's face retreated a little further
into its blushes.

"Yes, I know," she protested. "But I'm all through giggling now. I'm
sorry--I'm--"

In sheer apprehensiveness the Senior Surgeon's features crinkled
wincingly from brow to chin as though struggling vainly to retreat from
the appalling proximity of the girl's face.

"Your--eyelashes--are too long," he complained querulously.

"Eh?" jerked the White Linen Nurse's face. "Is it your brain that's
hurt? Oh, sir, do you think it's your brain that's hurt?"

"It's my stomach!" snapped the Senior Surgeon. "I tell you I 'm not
hurt,--I'm just--squashed! I'm paralyzed! If I can't get this car off
me--"

"Yes, that's just it," beamed the White Linen Nurse's face. "That's just
what I crawled in here to find out,--how to get the car off you. That's
just what I want to find out. I could run for help, of course,--only I
couldn't run, 'cause my knees are so wobbly. It would take hours--and
the car might start or burn up or something while I was gone. But you
don't seem to be caught anywhere on the machinery," she added more
brightly, "it only seems to be sitting on you. So if I could only get
the car off you! But it's so heavy. I had no idea it would be so heavy.
Could I take it apart, do you think? Is there any one place where I
could begin at the beginning and take it all apart?"

"Take it apart--Hell!" groaned the Senior Surgeon.

A little twitch of defiance flickered across the White Linen Nurse's
face. "All the same," she asserted stubbornly, "if some one would only
tell me what to do--I know I could do it!"

Horridly from some unlocatable quarter of the engine an alarming little
tremor quickened suddenly and was hushed again.

"Get out of here--quick!" stormed the Senior Surgeon's ghastly face.

"I won't!" said the White Linen Nurse's face. "Until you tell me--what
to do!"

Brutally for an instant the ingenuous blue eyes and the cynical gray
eyes battled each other.

"_Can_ you do what you're told?" faltered the Senior Surgeon.

"Oh, yes," said the White Linen Nurse.

"I mean can you do exactly--what you're told?" gasped the Senior
Surgeon. "Can you follow directions, I mean? Can you follow
them--explicitly? Or are you one of those people who listens only to her
own judgment?"

"Oh, but I haven't got any--judgment," protested the White Linen Nurse.

Palpably in the Senior Surgeon's blood-shot eyes the leisurely seeming
diagnosis leaped to precipitous conclusions.

"Then get out of here--quick--for God's sake--and get to work!" he
ordered.

Cautiously the White Linen Nurse jerked herself back into freedom and
crawled around and stared at the Senior Surgeon through the wheel-spokes
again. Like one worrying out some intricate mathematical problem his
mental strain was pulsing visibly through his closed eyelids.

"Yes, sir?" prodded the White Linen Nurse.

"Keep still!" snapped the Senior Surgeon. "I've got to think," he said.
"I've got to work it out! All in a moment you've got to learn to run the
car. All in a moment! It's awful!"

"Oh, I don't mind, sir," affirmed the White Linen Nurse serenely.

Frenziedly the Senior Surgeon rooted one cheek into the mud again. "You
don't--_mind_?" he groaned. "You don't--_mind_? Why, you've got to
learn--everything! Everything--from--the very beginning!"

"Oh, that's all right, sir," crooned the White Linen Nurse.

Ominously from somewhere a horrid sound creaked again. The Senior
Surgeon did not stop to argue any further.

"Now come here," ordered the Senior Surgeon. "I'm going to--I'm going
to--" Startlingly his voice weakened,--trailed off into
nothingness,--and rallied suddenly with exaggerated bruskness. "Look
here now! For Heaven's sake use your brains! I'm going to dictate to
you--very slowly--one thing at a time--just what to do!"

Quite astonishingly the White Linen Nurse sank down on her knees and
began to grin at him. "Oh, no, sir," she said. "I couldn't do it that
way,--not 'one thing at a time.' Oh, no indeed, sir! No!" Absolute
finality was in her voice,--the inviolable stubbornness of the perfectly
good-natured person.

"You'll do it the way I tell you to!" roared the Senior Surgeon
struggling vainly to ease one shoulder or stretch one knee-joint.

"Oh, no, sir," beamed the White Linen Nurse. "Not one thing at a time!
Oh, no, I couldn't do it that way! Oh, no, sir, I won't do it that
way--one thing at a time," she persisted hurriedly. "Why, you might
faint away or something might happen--right in the middle of it--right
between one direction and another--and I wouldn't know at all--what to
turn on or off next--and it might take off one of your legs, you know,
or an arm. Oh, no,--not one thing at a time!"

"Good-by--then," croaked the Senior Surgeon. "I'm as good as dead now."
A single shudder went through him,--a last futile effort to stretch
himself.

"Good-by," said the White Linen Nurse. "Good-by, sir.--I'd heaps rather
have you die--perfectly whole--like that--of your own accord--than have
me run the risk of starting the car full-tilt and chopping you up so--or
dragging you off so--that you didn't find it convenient to tell me--how
to stop the car."

"You're a--a--a--" spluttered the Senior Surgeon indistinguishably.

"Crinkle-crackle," went that mysterious, horrid sound from somewhere in
the machinery.

"Oh my God!" surrendered the Senior Surgeon. "Do it your own--damned
way! Only--only--" His voice cracked raspingly.

"Steady! Steady there!" said the White Linen Nurse. Except for a sudden
odd pucker at the end of her nose her expression was still perfectly
serene. "Now begin at the beginning," she begged. "Quick! Tell me
everything--just the way I must do it! Quick--quick--quick!"

Twice the Senior Surgeon's lips opened and shut with a vain effort to
comply with her request.

"But you can't do it," he began all over again. "It isn't possible. You
haven't got the mind!"

"Maybe I haven't," said the White Linen Nurse. "But I've got the memory.
Hurry!"

"Creak," said the funny little something in the machinery.
"Creak--drip--bubble!"

"Oh, get in there quick!" surrendered the Senior Surgeon. "Sit down
behind the wheel!" he shouted after her flying footsteps. "Are you
there? For God's sake--are you there? Do you see those two little levers
where your right hand comes? For God's sake--don't you know what a
lever is? Quick now! Do just what I tell you!"

A little jerkily then, but very clearly, very concisely, the Senior
Surgeon called out to the White Linen Nurse just how every lever, every
pedal should be manipulated to start the car!

Absolutely accurately, absolutely indelibly the White Linen Nurse
visualized each separate detail in her abnormally retentive mind!

"But you can't--possibly remember it!" groaned the Senior Surgeon.
"You can't--possibly! And probably the damn car's _bust_ and won't
start--anyway--and--!" Abruptly the speech ended in a guttural snarl of
despair.

"Don't be a--blight!" screamed the White Linen Nurse. "I've never
forgotten anything yet, sir!"

Very tensely she straightened up suddenly in her seat. Her expression
was no longer even remotely pleasant. Along her sensitive, fluctuant
nostrils the casual crinkle of distaste and suspicion had deepened
suddenly into sheer dilating terror.

"Left foot--press down--hard--left pedal!" she began to sing-song to
herself.

"No! _Right_ foot!--_right_ foot!" corrected the Little Girl
blunderingly from somewhere close in the grass.

"Inside lever--pull--way--back!" persisted the White Linen Nurse
resolutely as she switched on the current.

"No! _Outside_ lever! _Outside! Outside_!" contradicted the Little Girl.

"Shut your darned mouth!" screeched the White Linen Nurse, her hand on
the throttle as she tried the self starter.

Bruised as he was, wretched, desperately endangered there under the car
the Senior Surgeon could almost have grinned at the girl's terse,
unconscious mimicry of his own most venomous tones.

Then with all the forty-eight lusty, ebullient years of his life
snatched from his lips like an untasted cup, and one single noxious,
death-flavored second urged,--forced,--crammed down his choking throat,
he felt the great car quicken and start.

"God!" said the Senior Surgeon. Just "God!" The God of mud, he meant!
The God of brackish grass! The God of a man lying still hopeful under
more than two tons' weight of unaccountable mechanism, with a novice in
full command.

Up in her crimson leather cushions, free-lunged, free-limbed, the White
Linen Nurse heard the smothered cry. Clear above the whirr of wheels,
the whizz of clogs, the one word sizzled like a red-hot poker across her
chattering consciousness. Tingling through the grasp of her fingers on
the vibrating wheel, stinging through the sole of her foot that hovered
over the throbbing clutch, she sensed the agonized appeal. "Short
lever--spark--long lever--gas!" she persisted resolutely. "It must be
right! It must!"

Jerkily then, and blatantly unskilfully, with riotous puffs and spinning
of wheels, the great car started,--faltered,--balked a bit,--then
dragged crushingly across the Senior Surgeon's flattened body, and with
a great wanton burst of speed tore down the sloping meadow into the
brook--rods away. Clamping down the brakes with a wrench and a racket
like the smash of a machine-shop the White Linen Nurse jumped out into
the brook, and with one wild terrified glance behind her staggered back
up the long grassy slope to the Senior Surgeon.

Mechanically through her wooden-feeling lips she forced the greeting
that sounded most cheerful to her. "It's not much fun, sir,--running an
auto," she gasped. "I don't believe I'd like it!"

Half propped up on one elbow,--still dizzy with mental chaos, still
paralyzed with physical inertia,--the Senior Surgeon lay staring blankly
all around him. Indifferently for an instant his stare included the
White Linen Nurse. Then glowering suddenly at something way beyond her,
his face went perfectly livid.

"Good God! The--the car's on fire!" he mumbled.

"Yes, sir," said the White Linen Nurse. "Why! Didn't you know it, sir?"




CHAPTER VI


Headlong the Senior Surgeon pitched over on the grass,--his last vestige
of self-control stripped from him,--horror unspeakable racking him
sobbingly from head to toe.

Whimperingly the Little Girl came crawling to him, and settling down
close at his feet began with her tiny lace handkerchief to make futile
dabs at the mud-stains on his gray silk stockings. "Never mind, Father,"
she coaxed, "we'll get you clean sometime."

Nervously the White Linen Nurse bethought her of the brook. "Oh, wait a
minute, sir--and I'll get you a drink of water!" she pleaded.

Bruskly the Senior Surgeon's hand jerked out and grabbed at her skirt.

"Don't leave me!" he begged. "For God's sake--don't leave me!"

Weakly he struggled up again and sat staring piteously at the blazing
car. His unrelinquished clutch on the White Linen Nurse's skirt brought
her sinking softly down beside him like a collapsed balloon. Together
they sat and watched the gaseous yellow flames shoot up into the sky.

"It's pretty, isn't it?" piped the Little Girl.

"Eh?" groaned the Senior Surgeon.

"Father," persisted the shrill little voice. "Father,--do people ever
burn up?"

"_Eh?_" gasped the Senior Surgeon. Brutally the harsh, shuddering sobs
began to rack and tear again through his great chest.

"There! There!" crooned the White Linen Nurse, struggling desperately to
her knees. "Let me get--everybody--a drink of water."

Again the Senior Surgeon's unrelinquished clutch on her skirt jerked her
back to the place beside him.

"I said _not to leave me_!" he snapped out as roughly as he jerked.

Before the affrighted look in the White Linen Nurse's face a sheepish,
mirthless grin flickered across one corner of his mouth.

"Lord! But I'm shaken!" he apologized. "Me--of all people!" Painfully
the red blood mounted to his cheeks. "Me--of all people!" Bluntly he
forced the White Linen Nurse's reluctant gaze to meet his own. "Only
yesterday," he persisted, "I did a laparotomy on a man who had only one
chance in a hundred of pulling through--and I--I scolded him for
fighting off his ether cone,--scolded him--I tell you!"

"Yes, I know," soothed the White Linen Nurse. "But--"

"But _nothing_!" growled the Senior Surgeon. "The fear of death? Bah!
All my life I've scoffed at it! _Die_? Yes, of course,--when you have
to,--but with no kick coming! Why, I've been wrecked in a typhoon in the
Gulf of Mexico. And I didn't care! And I've lain for nine days more dead
than alive in an Asiatic cholera camp. And I didn't care! And I've been
locked into my office three hours with a raving maniac and a dynamite
bomb. And I didn't care! And twice in a Pennsylvania mine disaster I've
been the first man down the shaft. And I didn't care! And I've been
shot, I tell you,--and I've been horse-trampled,--and I've been
wolf-bitten. And I've never cared! But to-day--to-day--" Piteously all
the pride and vigor wilted from his great shoulders, leaving him all
huddled up like a woman, with his head on his knees. "But to-day, I've
_got mine!_" he acknowledged brokenly.

Once again the White Linen Nurse tried to rise. "Oh, please, sir, let me
get you a--drink of water," she suggested helplessly.

"I said _not to leave me!_" jerked the Senior Surgeon.

Perplexedly with big staring eyes the Little Crippled Girl glanced up at
this strange fatherish person who sounded so suddenly small and scared
like herself. Jealous instantly of her own prerogatives she dropped her
futile labors on the mud-stained silk stockings and scrambled
precipitously for the White Linen Nurse's lap where she nestled down
finally after many gyrations, and sat glowering forth at all possible
interlopers.

"Don't leave any of us!" she ordered with a peremptoriness not unmixed
with supplication.

"Surely some one will see the fire and come and get us," conceded the
Senior Surgeon.

"Yes--surely," mused the White Linen Nurse. Just at that moment she was
mostly concerned with adjusting the curve of her shoulder to the curve
of the Little Girl's head. "I could sit more comfortably," she suggested
to the Senior Surgeon, "if you'd let go my skirt."

"Let go of your skirt? Who's touching your skirt?" gasped the Senior
Surgeon incredulously. Once again the blood mounted darkly to his face.
"I think I'll get up--and walk around a bit," he confided coldly.

"Do, sir," said the White Linen Nurse.

Ouchily with a tweak of pain through his sprained back the Senior
Surgeon sat suddenly down again. "I sha'n't get up till I'm good and
ready!" he attested.

"I wouldn't, sir," said the White Linen Nurse.

Very slowly, very complacently, all the while she kept right on
renovating the Little Girl's personal appearance, smoothing a wrinkled
stocking, tucking up obstreperous white ruffles, tugging down
parsimonious purple hems, loosening a pinchy hook, tightening a wobbly
button. Very slowly, very complacently the Little Girl drowsed off to
sleep with her weazened little iron-cased legs stretched stiffly out
before her. "Poor little legs! Poor little legs! Poor little legs!"
crooned the White Linen Nurse.

"I don't know--as you need to--make a song about it!" winced the Senior
Surgeon. "It's just about the crudest case of complete muscular atrophy
that I've ever seen!"

Blandly the White Linen Nurse lifted her big blue eyes to his. "It
wasn't her 'complete muscular atrophy' that I was thinking about!" she
said. "It's her panties that are so unbecoming!"

"Eh?" jumped the Senior Surgeon.

"Poor little legs--poor little legs--poor little legs," resumed the
White Linen Nurse droningly.

Very slowly, very complacently, all around them April kept right
on--being April.

Very slowly, very complacently, all around them the grass kept
On growing, and the trees kept right on budding. Very slowly, very
complacently, all around them the blue sky kept right on fading into
its early evening dove-colors.

Nothing brisk, nothing breathless, nothing even remotely hurried was
there in all the landscape except just the brook,--and the flash of a
bird,--and the blaze of the crackling automobile.

The White Linen Nurse's nostrils were smooth and calm with the lovely
sappy scent of rabbit-nibbled maple bark and mud-wet arbutus buds. The
White Linen Nurse's mind was full of sumptuous, succulent marsh
marigolds, and fluffy white shad-bush blossoms.

The Senior Surgeon's nostrils were all puckered up with the stench of
burning varnish. The Senior Surgeon's mind was full of the horrid
thought that he'd forgotten to renew his automobile fire-insurance,--and
that he had a sprained back,--and that his rival colleague had told him
he didn't know how to run an auto anyway--and that the cook had given
notice that morning,--and that he had a sprained back,--and that the
moths had gnawed the knees out of his new dress suit,--and that the
Superintendent of Nurses had had the audacity to send him a bunch of
pink roses for his birthday,--and that the boiler in the kitchen
leaked,--and that he had to go to Philadelphia the next day to read a
paper on "Surgical Methods at the Battle of Waterloo,"--and he hadn't
even begun the paper yet,--and that he had a sprained back,--and that
the wall-paper on his library hung in shreds and tatters waiting for
him to decide between a French fresco effect and an early English
paneling,--and that his little daughter was growing up in wanton
ugliness under the care of coarse, indifferent hirelings,--and that the
laundry robbed him weekly of at least five socks,--and that it would
cost him fully seven thousand dollars to replace this car,--and that he
had a sprained back!

"It's restful, isn't it?" cooed the White Linen Nurse.

"Isn't _what_ restful?" glowered the Senior Surgeon.

"Sitting down!" said the White Linen Nurse.

Contemptuously the Senior Surgeon's mind ignored the interruption and
reverted precipitously to its own immediate problem concerning the
gloomy, black-walnut shadowed entrance hall of his great house, and how
many yards of imported linoleum at $3.45 a yard it would take to
recarpet the "damned hole,"--and how it would have seemed anyway if--if
he hadn't gone home--as usual to the horrid black-walnut shadows that
night--but been carried home instead--feet first and--quite dead--dead,
mind you, with a red necktie on,--and even the cook was out! And they
wouldn't even know where to lay him--but might put him by mistake in
that--in that--in his dead wife's dead--bed!

Altogether unconsciously a little fluttering sigh of ineffable
contentment escaped the White Linen Nurse.

"I don't care how long we have to sit here and wait for help," she
announced cheerfully, "because to-morrow, of course, I'll have to get up
and begin all over again--and go to Nova Scotia."

"Go _where_?" lurched the Senior Surgeon.

"I'd thank you kindly, sir, not to jerk my skirt quite so hard!" said
the White Linen Nurse just a trifle stiffly.

Incredulously once more the Senior Surgeon withdrew his detaining hand.
"I'm not even touching your skirt!" he denied desperately. Nothing but
denial and reiterated denial seemed to ease his self-esteem for an
instant. "Why, for Heaven's sake, should I want to hold on to your
skirt?" he demanded peremptorily. "What the deuce--?" he began
blusteringly. "Why in--?"

Then abruptly he stopped and shot an odd, puzzled glance at the White
Linen Nurse, and right there before her startled eyes she saw every
vestige of human expression fade out of his face as it faded out
sometimes in the operating-room when in the midst of some ghastly,
unforeseen emergency that left all his assistants blinking helplessly
around them, his whole wonderful scientific mind seemed to break up like
some chemical compound into all its meek component parts,--only to
reorganize itself suddenly with some amazing explosive action that
fairly knocked the breath out of all on-lookers--but was pretty apt to
knock the breath into the body of the person most concerned.

When the Senior Surgeon's scientific mind had reorganized itself to meet
_this_ emergency he found himself infinitely more surprised at the
particular type of explosion that had taken place than any other person
could possibly have been.

"Miss Malgregor!" he gasped. "Speaking of preferring 'domestic
service,' as you call it,--speaking of preferring domestic service
to--nursing,--how would you like to consider--to consider a position
of--of--well,--call it a--a position of general--heartwork--for a family
of two? Myself and the Little Girl here being the 'two,'--as you
understand," he added briskly.

"Why, I think it would be grand!" beamed the White Linen Nurse.

A trifle mockingly the Senior Surgeon bowed his appreciation. "Your
frank and immediate--enthusiasm," he murmured, "is more, perhaps, than I
had dared to expect."

"But it would be grand!" said the White Linen Nurse. Before the odd
little smile in the Senior Surgeon's eyes her white forehead puckered
all up with perplexity. Then with her mind still thoroughly unawakened,
her heart began suddenly to pitch and lurch like a frightened horse
whose rider has not even remotely sensed as yet the approach of an
unwonted footfall. "What--did--you--say?" she repeated worriedly. "Just
exactly what was it that you said? I guess--maybe--I didn't understand
just exactly what it was that you said."

The smile in the Senior Surgeon's eyes deepened a little. "I asked you,"
he said, "how you would like to consider a position of 'general
heartwork' in a family of two,--myself and the Little Girl here being
the 'two.' 'Heartwork' was what I said. Yes,--'Heartwork,'--not
housework!"

"_Heartwork?_" faltered the White Linen Nurse. "_ Heartwork?_ I don't
know what you mean, sir." Like two falling rose-petals her eyelids
fluttered down across her affrighted eyes. "Oh, when I shut my eyes,
sir, and just hear your voice, I know of course, sir, that it's some
sort of a joke. But when I look right at you--I--don't know--what it
is!"

"Open your eyes and keep them open then till you do find out!" suggested
the Senior Surgeon bluntly.

Defiantly once again the blue eyes and the gray eyes challenged each
other.

"'Heartwork' was what I said," persisted the Senior Surgeon. Palpably
his narrowing eyes shut out all meaning but one definite one.

The White Linen Nurse's face went almost as blanched as her dress.
"You're--you're not asking me to--marry you, sir?" she stammered.

"I suppose I am!" acknowledged the Senior Surgeon.

"Not marry you!" cried the White Linen Nurse. Distress was in her
voice,--distaste,--unmitigable shock, as though the high gods themselves
had fallen at her feet and splintered off into mere candy fragments.

"Oh--not _marry_ you, sir?" she kept right on protesting. "Not
be--_engaged_, you mean? Oh, not be _engaged_--and everything?"

"Well, why not?" snapped the Senior Surgeon.

Like a smitten flower the girl's whole body seemed to wilt down into
incalculable weariness.

"Oh--no--no! I couldn't!" she protested. "Oh, no,--really!" Appealingly
she lifted her great blue eyes to his, and the blueness was all blurred
with tears. "I've--I've been engaged--once--you know," she explained
falteringly. "Why--I was engaged, sir, almost as soon as I was born, and
I stayed engaged till two years ago. That's almost twenty years. That's
a long time, sir. You don't get over it--easy." Very, very gravely she
began to shake her head. "Oh--no--sir! No! Thank you--very much--but
I--I just simply couldn't begin at the beginning and go all through it
again! I haven't got the heart for it! I haven't got the spirit! Carvin'
your initials on trees and--and gadding round to all the Sunday school
picnics--"

Brutally like a boy the Senior Surgeon threw back his head in one wild
hoot of joy. Infinitely more cautiously as the agonizing pang in his
shoulder lulled down again he proceeded to argue the matter, but the
grin in his face was even yet faintly traceable.

"Frankly, Miss Malgregor," he affirmed, "I'm infinitely more addicted to
carving people than to carving trees. And as to Sunday school picnics?
Well, really now--I hardly believe that you'd find my demands in that
direction--excessive!"

Perplexedly the White Linen Nurse tried to stare her way through his
bantering smile to his real meaning. Furiously, as she stared, the red
blood came flushing back into her face.

"You don't mean for a second that you--that you love me?" she asked
incredulously.

"No, I don't suppose I do!" acknowledged the Senior Surgeon with equal
bluntness. "But my little kiddie here loves you!" he hastened somewhat
nervously to affirm. "Oh, I'm almost sure that my little kiddie
here--loves you! She needs you anyway! Let it go at that! Call it that
we both--need you!"

"What you mean is--" corrected the White Linen Nurse, "that needing
somebody--very badly, you've just suddenly decided that that somebody
might as well be me?"

"Well--if you choose to put it--like that!" said the Senior Surgeon a
bit sulkily.

"And if there hadn't been an auto accident?" argued the White Linen
Nurse just out of sheer inquisitiveness, "if there hadn't been just
this particular kind of an auto accident--at this particular hour--of
this particular day--of this particular month--with marigolds
and--everything, you probably never would have realized that you did
need anybody?"

"Maybe not," admitted the Senior Surgeon.

"U--m--m," said the White Linen Nurse. "And if you'd happened to take
one of the other girls to-day--instead of me,--why then I suppose you'd
have felt that she was the one you really needed? And if you'd taken the
Superintendent of Nurses--instead of any of us girls--you might even
have felt that _she_ was the one you most needed?"

With surprising agility for a man with a sprained back the Senior
Surgeon wrenched himself around until he faced her quite squarely.

"Now see here, Miss Malgregor!" he growled. "For Heaven's sake listen
to sense, even if you can't talk it! Here am I, a plain professional
man--making you a plain professional offer. Why in thunder should you
try to fuss me all up because my offer isn't couched in all the
foolish, romantic, lace-paper sort of flub-dubbery that you think such
an offer ought to be couched in? Eh?"

"Fuss you all up, sir?" protested the White Linen Nurse with real
anxiety.

"Yes--fuss me all up!" snarled the Senior Surgeon with increasing venom.
"I'm no story-writer! I'm not trying to make up what might have happened
a year from next February in a Chinese junk off the coast of--Nova
Zembla--to a Methodist preacher--and a--and a militant suffragette! What
I'm trying to size up is--just what's happened to you and me--to-day!
For the fact remains that it is to-day! And it is you and I! And there
has been an accident! And out of that accident--and everything that's
gone with it--I have come out--thinking of something that I never
thought of before! And there were marigolds!" he added with unexpected
whimsicality. "You see I don't deny--even the marigolds!"

"Yes, sir," said the White Linen Nurse.

"Yes what?" jerked the Senior Surgeon.

Softly the White Linen Nurse's chin burrowed down a little closer
against the sleeping child's tangled hair. "Why--yes--thank you very
much--but I never shall love again," she said quite definitely.

"Love?" gasped the Senior Surgeon. "Why, I'm not asking you to love me!"
His face was suddenly crimson. "Why, I'd hate it, if you--loved me! Why,
I'd--"

"O--h--h," mumbled the White Linen Nurse in new embarrassment. Then
suddenly and surprisingly her chin came tilting bravely up again. "What
do you want?" she asked.

Helplessly the Senior Surgeon threw out his hands. "My goodness!" he
said. "What do you suppose I want? _I want some one to take care of
us!_"

Gently the White Linen Nurse shifted her shoulder to accommodate the
shifting little sleepyhead on her breast.

"You can hire some one for that," she suggested with real relief.

"I was trying to hire--you!" said the Senior Surgeon quite tersely.

"Hire me?" gasped the White Linen Nurse. "Why! Why!"

Adroitly she slipped both hands under the sleeping child and delivered
the little frail-fleshed, heavily ironed body into the Senior Surgeon's
astonished arms.

"I--I don't want to hold her," he protested.

"She--isn't mine!" argued the White Linen Nurse.

"But I can't talk while I'm holding her!" insisted the Senior Surgeon.

"I can't listen--while I'm holding her!" persisted the White Linen
Nurse.

Freely now, though cross-legged like a Turk, she jerked herself forward
on the grass and sat probing up into the Senior Surgeon's face like an
excited puppy trying to solve whether the gift in your up-raised hand is
a lump of sugar--or a live coal.

"You're trying to hire--_me_?" she prompted him nudgingly with her
voice. "Hire me--for money?"

"Oh my Lord, no!" said the Senior Surgeon. "There are plenty of people I
can hire for money! But they won't stay!" he explained ruefully. "Hang
it all,--they won't stay!" Above his little girl's white, pinched face
his own ruddy countenance furrowed suddenly with unspeakable anxiety.

"Why, just this last year," he complained, "we've had nine different
housekeepers--and thirteen nursery governesses!" Skilfully as a surgeon,
but awkwardly as a father, he bent to re-adjust the weight of the little
iron leg-braces. "But I tell you--no one will stay with us!" he finished
hotly. "There's--something the matter--with us! I don't seem to have
money enough in the world to make anybody--stay with us!"

Very wryly, very reluctantly, at one corner of his mouth his sense of
humor ignited in a feeble grin.

"So you see what I'm trying to do to you, Miss Malgregor, is to--hire
you with something that will just--naturally compel you to stay!"

If the grin round his mouth strengthened a trifle, so did the anxiety in
his eyes.

"For Heaven's sake, Miss Malgregor," he pleaded. "Here's a man and a
house and a child all going to--rack and ruin! If you're really and
truly tired of nursing--and are looking for a new job,--what's the
matter with tackling us?"

"It would be a job!" admitted the White Linen Nurse demurely.

"Why, it would be a deuce-of-a-job!" confided the Senior Surgeon with no
demureness whatsoever.




CHAPTER VII


Very soberly, very thoughtfully then, across the tangled, snuggling head
of his own and another woman's child, he urged the torments--and the
comforts of his home upon this second woman.

"What is there about my offer--that you don't like?" he demanded
earnestly. "Is it the whole idea that offends you? Or just the way I put
it? 'General Heartwork for a Family of Two?' What is the matter with
that? Seems a bit cold to you, does it, for a real marriage proposal? Or
is it that it's just a bit too ardent, perhaps, for a mere plain
business proposition?"

"Yes, sir," said the White Linen Nurse.

"Yes what?" insisted the Senior Surgeon.

"Yes--_sir_," flushed the White Linen Nurse.

Very meditatively the Senior Surgeon reconsidered his phrasing.
"'General Heartwork for a Family of Two'? U--m--m." Quite abruptly
even the tenseness of his manner faded from him, leaving his face
astonishingly quiet, astonishingly gentle. "But how else, Miss
Malgregor," he queried, "How else should a widower with a child proffer
marriage to a--to a young girl like yourself? Even under conditions
directly antipodal to ours, such a proposition can never be a purely
romantic one. Yet even under conditions as cold and business-like as
ours, there's got to be some vestige of affection in it,--some vestige
at least of the _intelligence_ of affection,--else what gain is there
for my little girl and me over the purely mercenary domestic service
that has racked us up to this time with its garish faithlessness?"

"Yes, sir," said the White Linen Nurse.

"But even if I had loved you, Miss Malgregor," explained the Senior
Surgeon gravely, "my offer of marriage to you would not, I fear,
have been a very great oratorical success. Materialist as I
am,--cynic--scientist,--any harsh thing you choose to call me,--marriage
in some freak, boyish corner of my mind, still defines itself as being
the mutual sharing of a--mutually original experience. Certainly
whether a first marriage be instigated in love or worldliness,--whether
it eventually proves itself bliss, tragedy, or mere sickening ennui, to
two people coming mutually virgin to the consummation of that marriage,
the thrill of establishing publicly a man-and-woman home together is an
emotion that cannot be reduplicated while life lasts."

"Yes, sir," said the White Linen Nurse.

Bleakly across the Senior Surgeon's face something gray that was not
years shadowed suddenly and was gone again.

"Even so, Miss Malgregor," he argued, "even so--without any glittering
romance whatsoever, no woman I believe is very grossly unhappy in
any--affectional place--that she knows distinctly to be her _own_ place.
It's pretty much up to a man then I think,--though it tear him brain
from heart, to explain to a second wife quite definitely just exactly
what place it is that he is offering her in his love,--or his
friendship,--or his mere desperate need. No woman can ever hope to step
successfully into a second-hand home who does not know from her man's
own lips the measure of her predecessor. The respect we owe the dead is
a selfish thing compared to the mercy we owe the living. In my own
case--"

Unconsciously the White Linen Nurse's lax shoulders quickened, and the
sudden upward tilt of her chin was as frankly interrogative as a French
inflection. "Yes, sir," she said.

"In my own case," said the Senior Surgeon bluntly, "in my own case, Miss
Malgregor, it is no more than fair to tell you that I--did not love my
wife. And my wife did not love me." Only the muscular twitch in his
throat betrayed the torture that the confession cost him. "The details
of that marriage are unnecessary," he continued with equal bluntness.
"It is enough perhaps to say that she was the daughter of an eminent
surgeon with whom I was exceedingly anxious at that time to be allied,
and that our mating, urged along on both sides as it was by strong
personal ambitions was one of those so-called 'marriages of convenience'
which almost invariably turn out to be marriages of such dire
inconvenience to the two people most concerned. For one year we lived
together in a chaos of experimental acquaintanceship. For two years we
lived together in increasing uncongeniality and distaste. For three
years we lived together in open and acknowledged enmity. At the last, I
am thankful to remember, that we had one year together again that was at
least an--armed truce."

Darkly the gray shadow and the red flush chased each other once more
across the man's haggard face.

"I had a theory," he said, "that possibly a child might bridge the chasm
between us. My wife refuted the theory, but submitted herself
reluctantly to the fact. And when she--in giving birth to--my
theory,--the shock, the remorse, the regret, the merciless self-analysis
that I underwent at that time almost convinced me that the whole
miserable failure of our marriage lay entirely on my own shoulders."
Like the stress of mid-summer the tears of sweat started suddenly on his
forehead. "But I am a fair man, I hope,--even to myself, and the cooler,
less-tortured judgment of the subsequent years has practically assured
me that, for types as diametrically opposed as ours, such a thing as
mutual happiness never could have existed."

Mechanically he bent down and smoothed a tickly lock of hair away from
the little girl's eyelids.

"And the child is the living physical image of her," he stammered. "The
violent hair,--the ghost-white skin,--the facile mouth,--the arrogant
eyes,--staring--staring--maddeningly reproachful, persistently accusing.
My own stubborn will,--my own hideous temper,--all my own ill-favored
mannerisms--mocked back at me eternally in her mother's--unloved
features." Mirthless as the grin of a skull, the Senior Surgeon's mouth
twisted up a little at one corner. "Maybe I could have borne it better
if she'd been a boy," he acknowledged grimly. "But to see all your
virile--masculine vices come back at you--so sissified--in _skirts_!"

"Yes, sir," said the White Linen Nurse.

With an unmistakable gasp of relief the Senior Surgeon expanded his
great chest.

"There! That's done!" he said tersely. "So much for the Past! Now for
the Present! Look at us pretty keenly and judge for yourself! A man and
a very little girl,--not guaranteed,--not even recommended,--offered
merely 'As Is' in the honest trade-phrase of the day,--offered frankly
in an open package,--accepted frankly,--if at all--'at your own risk.'
Not for an instant would I try to deceive you about us! Look at us
closely, I ask, and--decide for yourself! I am forty-eight years old. I
am inexcusably bad-tempered,--very quick to anger, and not, I fear, of
great mercy. I am moody. I am selfish. I am most distinctly unsocial.
But I am not, I believe, stingy,--nor ever intentionally unfair. My
child is a cripple,--and equally bad-tempered as myself. No one but a
mercenary has ever coped with her. And she shows it. We have lived alone
for six years. All of our clothes, and most of our ways, need mending. I
am not one to mince matters, Miss Malgregor, nor has your training, I
trust, made you one from whom truths must be veiled. I am a man with all
a man's needs,--mental, moral, physical. My child is a child with all a
child's needs,--mental, moral, physical. Our house of life is full of
cobwebs. The rooms of affection have long been closed. There will be a
great deal of work to do! And it is not my intention, you see, that you
should misunderstand in any conceivable way either the exact nature or
the exact amount of work and worry involved. I should not want you to
come to me afterwards with a whine, as other workers do, and say 'Oh,
but I didn't know you would expect me to do _this!_ Oh, but I hadn't any
idea you would want me to do _that!_ And I certainly don't see why you
should expect me to give up my Thursday afternoon just because you,
yourself, happened to fall down stairs in the morning and break your
back!'"

Across the Senior Surgeon's face a real smile lightened suddenly.

"Really, Miss Malgregor," he affirmed, "I'm afraid there isn't much of
anything that you won't be expected to do! And as to your 'Thursdays
out'? Ha! If you have ever yet found a way to temper the wind of your
obligations to the shorn lamb of your pleasures, you have discovered
something that I myself have never yet succeeded in discovering! And as
to 'wages'? Yes! I want to talk everything quite frankly! In addition
to my average yearly earnings,--which are by no means small,--I have a
reasonably large private fortune. Within normal limits there is no
luxury I think that you cannot hope to have. Also, exclusive of the
independent income which I would like to settle upon you, I should be
very glad to finance for you any reasonable dreams that you may cherish
concerning your family in Nova Scotia. Also,--though the offer looks
small and unimportant to you now, it is liable to loom pretty large
to you later,--also, I will personally guarantee to you--at some time
every year, an unfettered, perfectly independent two months' holiday.
So the offer stands,--my 'name and fame,'--if those mean anything to
you,--financial independence,--an assured 'breathing spell' for at least
two months out of twelve,--and at last but not least,--my eternal
gratitude! 'General Heartwork for a Family of Two'! _There!_ Have I made
the task perfectly clear to you? Not everything to be done all at once,
you know. But immediately where necessity urges it,--gradually as
confidence inspires it,--ultimately if affection justifies it,--every
womanish thing that needs to be done in a man's and a child's neglected
lives? Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir," said the White Linen Nurse.

"Oh, and there's one thing more," confided the Senior Surgeon. "It's
something, of course, that I ought to have told you the very first thing
of all!" Nervously he glanced down at the sleeping child, and lowered
his voice to a mumbling monotone. "As regards my actual morals you have
naturally a right to know that I've led a pretty decent sort of
life,--though I probably don't deserve any special credit for that. A
man who knows enough to be a doctor isn't particularly apt to lead any
other kind. Frankly,--as women rate vices I believe I have only one.
What--what--I'm trying to tell you--now--is about that one." A little
defiantly as to chin, a little appealingly as to eye, he emptied his
heart of its last tragic secret. "Through all the male line of my
family, Miss Malgregor, dipsomania runs rampant. Two of my brothers, my
father, my grandfather, my great grandfather before him, have all gone
down as the temperance people would say into 'drunkards' graves.' In my
own case, I have chosen to compromise with the evil. Such a choice,
believe me, has not been made carelessly or impulsively, but out of the
agony and humiliation of--several less successful methods." Hard as a
rock, his face grooved into its granite-like furrows again. "Naturally,
under these existing conditions," he warned her almost threateningly, "I
am not peculiarly susceptible to the mawkishly ignorant and sentimental
protests of--people whose strongest passions are an appetite
for--chocolate candy! For eleven months of the year," he hurried on a
bit huskily, "for eleven months of the year,--eleven months,--each day
reeking from dawn to dark with the driving, nerve-wracking,
heart-wringing work that falls to my profession, I lead an absolutely
abstemious life, touching neither wine nor liquor, nor even indeed tea
or coffee. In the twelfth month,--June always,--I go way, way up into
Canada,--way, way off in the woods to a little log camp I own
there,--with an Indian who has guided me thus for eighteen years. And
live like a--wild man for four gorgeous, care-free, trail-tramping,
salmon-fighting,--whisky-guzzling weeks. It is what your temperance
friends would call a--'spree.' To be quite frank, I suppose it is
what--anybody would call a 'spree.' Then the first of July,--three or
four days past the first of July perhaps,--I come out of the
woods--quite tame again. A little emotionally nervous, perhaps,--a
little temperishly irritable,--a little unduly sensitive about being
greeted as a returned jail-bird,--but most miraculously purged of all
morbid craving for liquor, and with every digital muscle as coolly
steady as yours, and every conscious mental process clamoring cleanly
for its own work again."

Furtively under his glowering brows he stopped and searched the White
Linen Nurse's imperturbable face. "It's an--established custom, you
understand," he rewarned her. "I'm not advocating it, you
understand,--I'm not defending it. I'm simply calling your attention to
the fact that it is an established custom. If you decide to come to us,
I--I couldn't, you know, at forty-eight--begin all over again to--to
have some one waiting for me on the top step the first of July to tell
me--what a low beast I am--till I go down the steps again--the following
June."

"No, of course not," conceded the White Linen Nurse. Blandly she lifted
her lovely eyes to his. "Father's like that!" she confided amiably.
"Once a year,--just Easter Sunday only,--he always buys him a brand new
suit of clothes and goes to church. And it does something to him,--I
don't know exactly what, but Easter afternoon he always gets drunk,--oh
mad, fighting drunk is what I mean, and goes out and tries to tear up
the whole county." Worriedly two black thoughts puckered between her
eyebrows. "And always," she said, "he makes Mother and me go up to
Halifax beforehand to pick out the suit for him. It's pretty hard
sometimes," she said, "to find anything dressy enough for the morning,
that's serviceable enough for the afternoon."

"Eh?" jerked the Senior Surgeon. Then suddenly he began to smile again
like a stormy sky from which the last cloud has just been cleared.
"Well, it's all right then, is it? You'll take us?" he asked brightly.

"Oh, no!" said the White Linen Nurse. "Oh, no, sir! Oh, no indeed,
sir!" Quite perceptibly she jerked her way backward a little on the
grass. "Thank you very much!" she persisted courteously. "It's been very
interesting! I thank you very much for telling me, but--"

"But what?" snapped the Senior Surgeon.

"But it's too quick," said the White Linen Nurse. "No man could tell
like that--just between one eye-wink and another what he wanted about
anything,--let alone marrying a perfect stranger."

Instantly the Senior Surgeon bridled. "I assure you, my dear young
lady," he retorted, "that I am entirely and completely accustomed to
deciding between 'one wink and another' just exactly what it is that I
want. Indeed, I assure you that there are a good many people living
to-day who wouldn't be living, if it had taken me even as long as a wink
and three-quarters to make up my mind!"

"Yes, I know, sir," acknowledged the White Linen Nurse. "Yes, of course,
sir," she acquiesced with most commendable humility. "But all the same,
sir, I couldn't do it!" she persisted with inflexible positiveness.
"Why, I haven't enough education," she confessed quite shamelessly.

"You had enough, I notice, to get into the hospital," drawled the Senior
Surgeon a bit grumpily. "And that's quite as much as most people have, I
assure you! 'A High School education or its equivalent,'--that is the
hospital requirement, I believe?" he questioned tartly.

"'A High School education or its--equivocation' is what we girls call
it," confessed the White Linen Nurse demurely. "But even so, sir," she
pleaded, "it isn't just my lack of education! It's my brains! I tell
you, sir, I haven't got enough brains to do what you suggest!"

"I don't mean at all to belittle your brains," grinned the Senior
Surgeon in spite of himself. "Oh, not at all, Miss Malgregor! But you
see it isn't especially brains that I'm looking for! Really what I need
most," he acknowledged frankly, "is an extra pair of hands to go with
the--brains I already possess!"

"Yes, I know, sir," persisted the White Linen Nurse. "Yes, of
course, sir," she conceded. "Yes, of course, sir, my hands
work--awfully--well--with your face. But all the same," she kindled
suddenly, "all the same, sir, I can't! I won't! I tell you sir, I won't!
Why, I'm not in your world, sir! Why, I'm not in your class! Why--my
folks aren't like your folks! Oh, we're just as good as you--of
course--but we aren't as nice! Oh, we're not nice at all! Really and
truly we're not!" Desperately through her mind she rummaged up and down
for some one conclusive fact that would close this torturing argument
for all time. "Why--my father--eats with his knife," she asserted
triumphantly.

"Would he be apt to eat with mine?" asked the Senior Surgeon with
extravagant gravity.

Precipitously the White Linen Nurse jumped to the defense of her
father's intrinsic honor. "Oh, no!" she denied with some vehemence.
"Father's never cheeky like that! Father's simple sometimes,--plain,
I mean. Or he might be a bit sharp. But, oh, I'm sure he'd never
be--cheeky! Oh, no, sir! No!"

"Oh, very well then," grinned the Senior Surgeon. "We can consider
everything all comfortably settled then I suppose?"

"No, we can't!" screamed the White Linen Nurse. A little awkwardly with
cramped limbs she struggled partly upward from the grass and knelt there
defying the Senior Surgeon from her temporarily superior height. "No, we
can't!" she reiterated wildly. "I tell you I can't, sir! I won't! I
won't! I've been engaged once and it's enough! I tell you, sir, I'm all
engaged out!"

"What's become of the man you were engaged to?" quizzed the Senior
Surgeon sharply.

"Why--he's married!" said the White Linen Nurse. "And they've got a
kid!" she added tempestuously.

"Good! I'm glad of it!" smiled the Senior Surgeon quite amazingly. "Now
he surely won't bother us any more."

"But I was engaged so long!" protested the White Linen Nurse. "Almost
ever since I was born, I said. It's too long. You don't get over it!"

"He got over it," remarked the Senior Surgeon laconically.

"Y-e-s," admitted the White Linen Nurse. "But I tell you it doesn't seem
decent. Not after being engaged--twenty years!" With a little helpless
gesture of appeal she threw out her hands. "Oh, can't I make you
understand, sir?"

"Why, of course, I understand," said the Senior Surgeon briskly. "You
mean that you and John--"

"His name was 'Joe,'" corrected the White Linen Nurse.

With astonishing amiability the Senior Surgeon acknowledged the
correction. "You mean," he said, "you mean that you and--Joe--have been
cradled together so familiarly all your babyhood that on your wedding
night you could most naturally have said 'Let me see--Joe,--it's two
pillows that you always have, isn't it? And a double-fold of blanket at
the foot?' You mean that you and Joe have been washed and scrubbed
together so familiarly all your young childhood that you could identify
Joe's headless body twenty years hence by the kerosene-lamp scar across
his back? You mean that you and Joe have played house together so
familiarly all your young tin-dish days that even your rag dolls called
Joe 'Father'? You mean that since your earliest memory,--until a year or
so ago,--Life has never once been just You and Life, but always You and
Life and Joe? You and Spring and Joe,--You and Summer and Joe,--You and
Autumn and Joe,--You and Winter and Joe,--till every conscious nerve in
your body has been so everlastingly Joed with Joe's Joeness that you
don't believe there 's any experience left in life powerful enough to
eradicate that original impression? Eh?"

"Yes, sir," flushed the White Linen Nurse.

"Good! I'm glad of it!" snapped the Senior Surgeon. "It doesn't make you
seem quite so alarmingly innocent and remote for a widower to offer
marriage to. Good, I say! I'm glad of it!"

"Even so--I don't want to," said the White Linen Nurse. "Thank you very
much, sir! But even so, I don't want to."

"Would you marry--Joe--now if he were suddenly free and wanted you?"
asked the Senior Surgeon bluntly.

"Oh, my Lord, no!" said the White Linen Nurse.

"Other men are pretty sure to want you," admonished the Senior Surgeon.
"Have you made up your mind--definitely that you'll never marry
anybody?"

"N--o, not exactly," confessed the White Linen Nurse.

An odd flicker twitched across the Senior Surgeon's face like a sob in
the brain.

"What's your first name, Miss Malgregor?" he asked a bit huskily.

"Rae," she told him with some surprise.

The Senior Surgeon's eyes narrowed suddenly again.

"Damn it all, Rae," he said, "_I--want you!_"

Precipitously the White Linen Nurse scrambled to her feet. "If you don't
mind, sir," she cried, "I'll run down to the brook and get myself a
drink of water!"

Impishly like a child, muscularly like a man, the Senior Surgeon
clutched out at the flapping corner of her coat.

"No you don't!" he laughed, "till you've given me my definite
answer--yes or no!"

Breathlessly the White Linen Nurse spun round in her tracks. Her breast
was heaving with ill-suppressed sobs. Her eyes were blurred with tears.
"You've no business--to hurry me so!" she protested passionately. "It
isn't fair!--It isn't kind!"

Sluggishly in the Senior Surgeon's jolted arms the Little Girl woke from
her feverish nap and peered up perplexedly through the gray dusk into
her father's face.

"Where's--my kitty?" she asked hazily.

"Eh?" jerked the Senior Surgeon.

Harshly the little iron leg-braces clanked together.

In an instant the White Linen Nurse was on her knees in the grass. "You
don't hold her right, sir!" she expostulated. Deftly with little soft,
darting touches, interrupted only by rubbing her knuckles into her own
tears, she reached out and eased successively the bruise of a buckle or
the dragging weight on a little cramped hip.

Still drowsily, still hazily, with little smacking gasps and gulping
swallows, the child worried her way back again into consciousness.

"All the birds _were_ there, Father," she droned forth feebly from her
sweltering mink-fur nest.

All the birds _were_ there
With yellow feathers instead of--hair,
And bumble bees--and bumble bees--
And bumble bees?--And bumble bees--?

Frenziedly she began to burrow the back of her head into her Father's
shoulder. "And bumble bees?--And bumble bees--?"

"Oh, for Heaven's sake--'buzzed' in the trees!" interpolated the Senior
Surgeon.

Rigidly from head to foot the little body in his arms stiffened
suddenly. As one who saw the supreme achievement of a life-time swept
away by some one careless joggle of an infinitesimal part, the Little
Girl stared up agonizingly into her father's face. "Oh, I don't
think--'buzzed' was the word!" she began convulsively. "Oh, I don't
think--!"

Startlingly through the twilight the Senior Surgeon felt the White Linen
Nurse's rose-red lips come smack against his ear.

"Darn you! Can't you say 'crocheted' in the trees?" sobbed the White
Linen Nurse.

Grotesquely for an instant the Senior Surgeon's eyes and the White Linen
Nurse's eyes glared at each other in frank antagonism.

Then suddenly the Senior Surgeon burst out laughing. "Oh, very well!" he
surrendered. "'Crocheted in the trees'!"

Precipitously the White Linen Nurse sank back on her heels and began to
clap her hands.

"Oh, now I will! Now I will!" she cried exultantly.

"Will what?" frowned the Senior Surgeon.

Abruptly the White Linen Nurse stopped clapping her hands and began to
wring them nervously in her lap instead. "Why--will--will!" she
confessed demurely.

"Oh!" jumped the Senior Surgeon. "_Oh!"_ Then equally jerkily he began
to pucker his eyebrows. "But for Heaven's sake--what's the 'crocheted
in the trees' got to do with it?" he asked perplexedly.

"Nothing much," mused the White Linen Nurse very softly. With sudden
alertness she turned her curly blonde head towards the road. "There's
somebody coming!" she said. "I hear a team!"

Overcome by a bashfulness that tried to escape in jocosity, the Senior
Surgeon gave an odd little choking chuckle.

"Well, I never thought I should marry a--trained nurse!" he acknowledged
with somewhat hectic blitheness.

Impulsively the White Linen Nurse reached for her watch and lifted it
close to her twilight-blinded eyes. A sense of ineffable peace crept
suddenly over her.

"You won't, sir!" she said amiably.

"It's twenty minutes of nine, now. And the graduation was at eight!"




CHAPTER VIII


For any real adventure except dying, June is certainly a most auspicious
month.

Indeed it was on the very first rain-green, rose-red morning of June
that the White Linen Nurse sallied forth upon her extremely hazardous
adventure of marrying the Senior Surgeon and his naughty little crippled
daughter.

The wedding was at noon in some kind of a gray granite church. And the
Senior Surgeon was there, of course,--and the necessary witnesses. But
the Little Crippled Girl never turned up at all, owing--it proved
later,--to a more than usually violent wrangle with whomever dressed
her, concerning the general advisability of sporting turquoise-colored
stockings with her brightest little purple dress.

The Senior Surgeon's stockings, if you really care to know, were gray.
And the Senior Surgeon's suit was gray. And he looked altogether very
huge and distinguished,--and no more strikingly unhappy than any
bridegroom looks in a gray granite church.

And the White Linen Nurse,--no longer now truly a White Linen Nurse but
just an ordinary, every-day, silk-and-cloth lady of any color she chose,
wore something rather coat-y and grand and bluish, and was distractingly
pretty of course but most essentially unfamiliar,--and just a tiny bit
awkward and bony-wristed looking,--as even an Admiral is apt to be on
his first day out of uniform.

Then as soon as the wedding ceremony was over, the bride and groom went
to a wonderful green and gold café all built of marble and lined with
music, and had a little lunch. What I really mean, of course, is that
they had a very large lunch, but didn't eat any of it!

Then in a taxi-cab, just exactly like any other taxi-cab, the White
Linen Nurse drove home alone to the Senior Surgeon's great, gloomy house
to find her brand new step-daughter still screaming over the turquoise
colored stockings.

And the Senior Surgeon in a Canadian-bound train, just exactly like any
other Canadian-bound train, started off alone,--as usual, on his annual
June "spree."

Please don't think for a moment that it was the Senior Surgeon who was
responsible for the general eccentricities of this amazing wedding day.
No indeed! The Senior Surgeon didn't _want_ to be married the first day
of June! He _said_ he didn't! He _growled_ he didn't! He _snarled_ he
didn't! He _swore_ he didn't! And when he finished saying and growling
and snarling and swearing,--and looked up at the White Linen Nurse for a
confirmation of his opinion, the White Linen Nurse smiled perfectly
amiably and said, "Yes, sir!"

Then the Senior Surgeon gave a great gasp of relief and announced
resonantly, "Well, it's all settled then? We'll be married some time in
July,--after I get home from Canada?" And when the White Linen Nurse
kept on smiling perfectly amiably and said, "Oh, no, sir! Oh, no, thank
you, sir! It wouldn't seem exactly legal to me to be married any other
month but June!" Then the Senior Surgeon went absolutely dumb with rage
that this mere chit of a girl,--and a trained nurse, too,--should dare
to thwart his personal and professional convenience. But the White Linen
Nurse just drooped her pretty blonde head and blushed and blushed and
blushed and said, "I was only marrying you, sir, to--accommodate
you--sir,--and if June doesn't accommodate you--I'd rather go to Japan
with that monoideic somnambulism case. It's very interesting. And it
sails June second." Then "Oh, Hell with the 'monoideic somnambulism
case'!" the Senior Surgeon would protest.

Really it took the Senior Surgeon quite a long while to work out the
three special arguments that should best protect him, he thought, from
the horridly embarrassing idea of being married in June.

"But you can't get ready so soon!" he suggested at last with real
triumph. "You've no idea how long it takes a girl to get ready to be
married! There are so many people she has to tell,--and everything!"

"There's never but two that she's got to tell--or bust!" conceded the
White Linen Nurse with perfect candor. "Just the woman she loves the
most--and the woman she hates the worst. I'll write my mother to-morrow.
But I told the Superintendent of Nurses yesterday."

"The deuce you did!" snapped the Senior Surgeon.

Almost caressingly the White Linen Nurse lifted her big blue eyes to
his. "Yes, sir," she said, "and she looked as sick as a young
undertaker. I can't imagine what ailed her."

"Eh?" choked the Senior Surgeon. "But the house now," he hastened to
contend. "The house now needs a lot of fixing over! It's all run down!
It's all--everything! We never in the world could get it into shape by
the first of June! For Heaven's sake, now that we've got money enough to
make it right, let's go slow and make it perfectly right!"

A little nervously the White Linen Nurse began to fumble through the
pages of her memorandum book. "I've always had money enough to 'go slow
and make things perfectly right,'" she confided a bit wistfully. "Never
in all my life have I had a pair of boots that weren't guaranteed, or a
dress that wouldn't wash, or a hat that wasn't worth at least three
re-pressings. What I was hoping for now, sir, was that I was going to
have enough money so that I could go fast and make things wrong if I
wanted to,--so that I could afford to take chances, I mean. Here's this
wall-paper now,"--tragically she pointed to some figuring in her
note-book--"it's got peacocks on it--life size--in a queen's garden--and
I wanted it for the dining-room. Maybe it would fade! Maybe we'd get
tired of it! Maybe it would poison us! Slam it on one week--and slash it
off the next! I wanted it just because I wanted it, sir! I thought
maybe--while you were way off in Canada--"

Eagerly the Senior Surgeon jerked his chair a little nearer to
his--fiancée's.

"Now, my dear girl," he said. "That's just what I want to explain!
That's just what I want to explain! Just what I want to explain!
To--er--explain!" he continued a bit falteringly.

"Yes, sir," said the White Linen Nurse.

Very deliberately the Senior Surgeon removed a fleck of dust from one of
his cuffs.

"All this talk of yours--about wanting to be married the same day I
start off on my--Canadian trip!" he contended. "Why, it's all damned
nonsense!"

"Yes, sir," said the White Linen Nurse.

Very conscientiously the Senior Surgeon began to search for a fleck of
dust on his other cuff.

"Why my--my dear girl," he persisted. "It's absurd! It's outrageous! Why
people would--would hoot at us! Why they'd think--!"

"Yes, sir," said the White Linen Nurse.

"Why, my dear girl," sweated the Senior Surgeon. "Even though you and I
understand perfectly well the purely formal, business-like conditions of
our marriage, we must at least for sheer decency's sake keep up a
certain semblance of marital conventionality--before the world! Why, if
we were married at noon the first day of June--as you suggest,--and I
should go right off alone as usual--on my Canadian trip--and you should
come back alone to the house--why, people would think--would think that
I didn't care anything about you!"

"But you don't," said the White Linen Nurse serenely.

"Why, they'd think," choked the Senior Surgeon. "They'd think you were
trying your--darndest--to get rid of me!"

"I am," said the White Linen Nurse complacently.

With a muttered ejaculation the Senior Surgeon jumped to his feet and
stood glaring down at her.

Quite ingenuously the White Linen Nurse met and parried the glare.

"A gentleman--and a red-haired kiddie--and a great walloping house--all
at once! It's too much!" she confided genially. "Thank you just the
same, but I'd rather take them gradually. First of all, sir, you see,
I've got to teach the little kiddie to like me! And then there's a
green-tiled paper with floppity sea gulls on it--that I want to try for
the bath-room! And--and--" Ecstatically she clapped her hands together.
"Oh, sir! There are such loads and loads of experiments I want to try
while you are off on your spree!"

"S--h--h!" cried the Senior Surgeon. His face was suddenly
blanched,--his mouth, twitching like the mouth of one stricken with
almost insupportable pain. "For God's sake, Miss Malgregor!" he pleaded,
"can't you call it my--Canadian trip?"

Wider and wider the White Linen Nurse opened her big blue eyes at him.

"But it is a 'spree,' sir!" she attested resolutely. "And my father
says--" Still resolutely her young mouth curved to its original
assertion, but from under her heavy-shadowing eyelashes a little blue
smile crept softly out. "When my father's got a lame trotting horse,
sir, that he's trying to shuck off his hands," she faltered, "he doesn't
ever go round mournful-like with his head hanging--telling folks about
his wonderful trotter that's just 'the littlest, teeniest, tiniest
bit--lame.' Oh no! What father does is to call up every one he knows
within twenty miles and tell 'em, 'Say Tom,--Bill,--Harry,'--or whatever
his name is--'what in the deuce do you suppose I've got over here in my
barn? A lame horse--that wants to trot! Lamer than the deuce, you know!
But can do a mile in 2.40.'" Faintly the little blue smile quickened
again in the White Linen Nurse's eyes. "And the barn will be full of men
in half an hour!" she said. "Somehow nobody wants a trotter that's lame!
But almost anybody seems willing to risk a lame horse--that's plucky
enough to trot!"

"What's the 'lame trotting horse' got to do with--me?" snarled the
Senior Surgeon incisively.

Darkly the White Linen Nurse's lashes fringed down across her cheeks.

"Nothing much," she said, "Only--"

"Only what?" demanded the Senior Surgeon. A little more roughly than he
realized he stooped down and took the White Linen Nurse by her
shoulders, and jerked her sharply round to the light. "Only _what?_" he
insisted peremptorily.

Almost plaintively she lifted her eyes to his. "Only--my father says,"
she confided obediently, "my father says if you've got a worse
foot--for Heaven's sake put it forward--and get it over with!

"So--I've _got_ to call it a 'spree'!" smiled the White Linen Nurse.
"'Cause when I think of marrying a--_surgeon_--that goes off and gets
drunk every June--it--it scares me almost to my death! But--" Abruptly
the red smile faded from her lips, the blue smile from her eyes.
"But--when I think of marrying a--June drunk--that's got the grit to
pull up absolutely straight as a die and be a _surgeon_--all the other
'leven months in the year--" Dartingly she bent down and kissed the
Senior Surgeon's astonished wrist. "Oh, then I think you're perfectly
_grand_!" she sobbed.

Awkwardly the Senior Surgeon pulled away and began to pace the floor.

"You're a--good little girl, Rae Malgregor," he mumbled huskily. "A good
little girl. I truly believe you're the kind that will--see me through."
Poignantly in his eyes humiliation overwhelmed the mist. Perversely in
its turn resentment overtook the humiliation. "But I won't be married in
June!" he reasserted bombastically. "I won't! I won't! I won't! I tell
you I positively refuse to have a lot of damn fools speculating about my
private affairs! Wondering why I didn't take you! Wondering why I didn't
stay home with you! I tell you I won't! I simply won't!"

"Yes, sir," stammered the White Linen Nurse.

With a real gasp of relief the Senior Surgeon stopped his eternal pacing
of the floor.

"Bully for you!" he said. "You mean then we'll be married some time in
July after I get back from my--trip?"

"Oh, no, sir," stammered the White Linen Nurse.

"But Great Heavens!" shouted the Senior Surgeon.

"Yes, sir," the White Linen Nurse began all over again. Dreamily
planning out her wedding gown, her lips without the slightest conscious
effort on her part were already curving into shape for her alternate
"No, sir."

"You're an idiot!" snapped the Senior Surgeon.

A little reproachfully the White Linen Nurse came frowning out of her
reverie. "Would it do just as well for traveling, do you think?" she
asked, with real concern.

"Eh? What?" said the Senior Surgeon.

"I mean--does Japan spot?" queried the White Linen Nurse. "Would it spot
a serge, I mean?"

"Oh, Hell with Japan!" jerked the Senior Surgeon.

"Yes, sir," said the White Linen Nurse.

Now perhaps you will understand just exactly how it happened that the
Senior Surgeon and the White Linen Nurse _were_ married on the first day
of June, and just exactly how it happened that the Senior Surgeon went
off alone as usual on his Canadian trip, and just exactly how it
happened that the White Linen Nurse came home alone to the Senior
Surgeon's great, gloomy house, to find her brand new step-daughter still
screaming over the turquoise-colored stockings. Everything now is
perfectly comfortably explained except the turquoise-colored stockings.
Nobody could explain the turquoise-colored stockings!

But even a little child could explain the ensuing June! Oh, June was
perfectly wonderful that year! Bud, blossom, bird-song, breeze,--rioting
headlong through the Land. Warm days sweet and lush as a green-house
vapor! Crisp nights faintly metallic like the scent of stars!
Hurdy-gurdies romping tunefully on every street-corner! Even the Ash-Man
flushing frankly pink across his dusty cheek-bones!

Like two fairies who had sublet a giant's cave the White Linen Nurse and
the Little Crippled Girl turned themselves loose upon the Senior
Surgeon's gloomy old house.

It certainly was a gloomy old house, but handsome withal,--square and
brown and substantial, and most generously gardened within high brick
walls. Except for dusting the lilac bushes with the hose, and weeding a
few rusty leaves out of the privet hedge, and tacking up three or four
scraggly sprays of English ivy, and re-greening one or two bay-tree
boxes, there was really nothing much to do to the garden. But the house?
Oh ye gods! All day long from morning till night,--but most particularly
from the back door to the barn, sweating workmen scuttled back and
forth till nary a guilty piece of black walnut furniture had escaped.
All day long from morning till night,--but most particularly from
ceilings to floors, sweltering workmen scurried up and down step-ladders
stripping dingy papers from dingier plasterings.

When the White Linen Nurse wasn't busy renovating the big house--or the
little step-daughter, she was writing to the Senior Surgeon. She wrote
twice.

"Dear Dr. Faber," the first letter said.

       *       *       *       *       *

DEAR DR. FABER,

How do you do? Thank you very much, for saying you didn't care what in
thunder I did to the house. It looks _sweet_. I've put white fluttery
muslin curtains most everywhere. And you've got a new solid-gold-looking
bed in your room. And the Kiddie and I have fixed up the most
scrumptious light blue suite for ourselves in the ell. Pink was wrong
for the front hall, but it cost me only $29.00 to find out. And now
that's settled for all time.

I am very, very, very, very busy. Something strange and new happens
every day. Yesterday it was three ladies and a plumber. One of the
ladies was just selling soap, but I didn't buy any. It was horrid soap.
The other two were calling ladies,--a silk one and a velvet one. The
silk one tried to be nasty to me. Right to my face she told me I was
more of a lady than she had dared to hope. And I told her I was sorry
for that as you'd had one "lady" and it didn't work. Was that all right?
But the other lady was nice. And I took her out in the kitchen with me
while I was painting the woodwork, and right there in her white kid
gloves she laughed and showed me how to mix the paint pearl gray. _She_
was nice. It was your sister-in-law.

I like being married, Dr. Faber. I like it lots better than I thought I
would. It's fun being the biggest person in the house. Respectfully
yours, RAE MALGREGOR,--AS WAS.

P.S. Oh, I hope it wasn't wrong, but in your ulster pocket, when I went
to put it away, I found a bottle of something that smelt as though it
had been forgotten.--I threw it out.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was this letter that drew the only definite message from the
itinerant bridegroom.

"Kindly refrain from rummaging in my ulster pockets," wrote the Senior
Surgeon quite briefly. "The 'thing' you threw out happened to be the
cerebellum and medulla of an extremely eminent English Theologian!"

"Even so,--it was sour," telegraphed the White Linen Nurse in a perfect
agony of remorse and humiliation.

The telegram took an Indian with a birch canoe two days to deliver, and
cost the Senior Surgeon twelve dollars. Just impulsively the Senior
Surgeon decided to make no further comments on domestic affairs,--at
that particular range.

Very fortunately for this impulse the White Linen Nurse's second letter
concerned itself almost entirely with matters quite extraneous to the
home.

"Dear Dr. Faber," the second letter ran.

       *       *       *       *       *

DEAR DR. FABER,

Somehow I don't seem to care so much just now about being the biggest
person in the house. Something awful has happened. Zillah Forsyth is
dead. Really dead, I mean. And she died in great heroism. You remember
Zillah Forsyth, don't you? She was one of my room-mates,--not the gooder
one, you know,--not the swell,--that was Helene Churchill. But Zillah?
Oh you know! Zillah was the one you sent out on that Fractured Elbow
case. It was a Yale student, you remember? And there was some trouble
about kissing,--and she got sent home? And now everybody's crying
because Zillah _can't_ kiss anybody any more! Isn't everything the
limit? Well, it wasn't a fractured Yale student she got sent out on this
time. If it had been, she might have been living yet. What they sent her
out on this time was a Senile Dementia,--an old lady more than eighty
years old. And they were in a sanitarium or something like that. And
there was a fire in the night. And the old lady just up and positively
refused to escape. And Zillah had to push her and shove her and yank her
and carry her--out the window--along the gutters--round the chimneys.
And the old lady bit Zillah right through the hand,--but Zillah wouldn't
let go. And the old lady tried to drown Zillah under a bursted water
tank,--but Zillah wouldn't let go. And everybody hollered to Zillah to
cut loose and save herself,--but Zillah wouldn't let go. And a wall
fell, and everything, and oh, it was awful,--but Zillah never let go.
And the old lady that wasn't any good to any one,--not even herself, got
saved of course. But Zillah? Oh, Zillah got hurt bad, sir! We saw her at
the hospital, Helene and I. She sent for us about something. Oh, it was
awful! Not a thing about her that you'd know except just her great
solemn eyes mooning out at you through a gob of white cotton, and her
red mouth lipping sort of twitchy at the edge of a bandage. Oh it was
awful! But Zillah didn't seem to care so much. There was a new Interne
there,--a Japanese, and I guess she was sort of taken with him. "But
my God, Zillah," I said, "_your_ life was worth more than that old
dame's!"

"Shut your noise!" says Zillah. "It was my job. And there's no kick
coming." Helene burst right out crying, she did. "Shut _your_ noise,
too!" says Zillah, just as cool as you please. "Bah! There's other lives
and other chances!"

"Oh, you do believe that now?" cries Helene. "Oh, you do believe that
now,--what the Bible promises you?" That was when Zillah shrugged her
shoulders so funny,--the little way she had. Gee, but her eyes were big!
"I don't pretend to know--what--your old Bible says," she choked. "It
was--the Yale feller--who was tellin' me."

That's all, Dr. Faber. It was her shrugging her shoulders so funny that
brought on the hemorrhage.

Oh, we had an awful time, sir, going home in the carriage,--Helene and
I. We both cried, of course, because Zillah was dead, but after we got
through crying for that, Helene kept right on crying because she
couldn't understand why a brave girl like Zillah _had_ to be dead. Gee!
But Helene takes things hard. Ladies do, I guess.

I hope you're having a pleasant spree.

Oh, I forgot to tell you that one of the wall-paperers is living here at
the house with us just now. We use him so much it's truly a good deal
more convenient. And he's a real nice young fellow, and he plays the
piano finely, and he comes from up my way. And it seemed more neighborly
anyway. It's so large in the house at night, just now, and so creaky in
the garden.

With kindest regards, good-by for now, from RAE.

P.S.

Don't tell your guide or _any one!_ But Helene sent Zillah's mother a
check for fifteen hundred dollars. I saw it with my own eyes. And all
Zillah asked for that day was just a little blue serge suit. It seems
she'd promised her kid sister a little blue serge suit for July. And it
sort of worried her.

Helene sent the little blue serge suit too! And a hat! The hat had
bluebells on it. Do you think when you come home--if I haven't spent too
much money on wall-papers--that I could have a blue hat with bluebells
on it? Excuse me for bothering you--but you forgot to leave me enough
money.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was some indefinite, pleasant time on Thursday, the twenty-fifth of
June, that the Senior Surgeon received this second letter.

It was Friday the twenty-sixth of June, exactly at dawn, that the Senior
Surgeon started homeward.

Nobody looks very well in the dawn. Certainly the Senior Surgeon didn't.
Heavily as a man wading through a bog of dreams, he stumbled out of his
cabin into the morning. Under his drowsy, brooding eyes appalling
shadows circled. Behind his sunburn,--deeper than his tan, something
sinister and uncanny lurked wanly like the pallor of a soul.

Yet the Senior Surgeon had been most blamelessly abed and asleep since
griddle-cake time the previous evening.

Only the mountains and the forest and the lake had been out all night.
For seventy miles of Canadian wilderness only the mountains and the
forest and the lake stood actually convicted of having been out all
night. Dank and white with its vaporous vigil the listless lake kindled
wanly to the new day's breeze. Blue with cold a precipitous mountain
peak lurched craggedly home through a rift in the fog. Drenched with
mist, bedraggled with dew, a green-feathered pine tree lay guzzling
insatiably at a leaf-brown pool. Monotonous as a sob the waiting birch
canoe slosh-sloshed against the beach.

There was no romantic smell of red roses in this June landscape. Just
tobacco smoke, and the faint reminiscent fragrance of fried trout, and
the mournful, sizzling, pungent consciousness of a camp-fire quenched
for a whole year with a tinful of wet coffee grounds.

Gliding out cautiously into the lake as though the mere splash of a
paddle might shatter the whole glassy surface, the Indian Guide
propounded the question that was uppermost in his mind.

"Cutting your trip a bit short this year,--ain't you, Boss?" quizzed the
Indian guide.

Out from his muffling mackinaw collar the Senior Surgeon parried the
question with an amazingly novel sense of embarrassment.

"Oh, I don't know," he answered with studied lightness. "There are one
or two things at home that are bothering me a little."

"A woman, eh?" said the Indian Guide laconically.

"A woman?" thundered the Senior Surgeon. "A--woman? Oh, ye gods! No!
It's wall paper!"

Then suddenly and unexpectedly in the midst of his passionate refutation
the Senior Surgeon burst out laughing,--boisterously, hilariously like a
crazy school-boy. Bluntly from an overhanging ledge of rock the echo of
his laugh came mocking back at him. Down from some unvisioned mountain
fastness the echo of that echo came wafting faintly to him.

The Senior Surgeon's laugh was made of teeth and tongue and palate and a
purely convulsive physical impulse. But the echo's laugh was a phantasy
of mist and dawn and inestimable balsam-scented spaces where little
green ferns and little brown beasties and soft-breasted birdlings
frolicked eternally in pristine sweetness.

Seven miles further down the lake, at the beginning of the rapids, the
Indian Guide spoke again. Racking the canoe between two
rocks,--paddling, panting, pushing, sweating, the Indian Guide lifted
his voice high,--piercing, above the swirling roar of waters.

"Eh, Boss!" shouted the Indian Guide. "I ain't never heard you laugh
before!"

Neither man spoke again more than once or twice during the long,
strenuous hours that were left to them.

The Indian Guide was very busy in his stolid mind trying to figure out
just how many rows of potatoes could be planted fruitfully between his
front door and his cow-shed. I don't know what the Senior Surgeon was
trying to figure out.

It was just four days later from a rolling, musty-cushioned hack that
the Senior Surgeon disembarked at his own front gate.

Even though a man likes home no better than he likes--tea, few men would
deny the soothing effect of home at the end of a long fussy railroad
journey. Five o'clock, also, of a late June afternoon is a peculiarly
wonderful time to be arriving home,--especially if that home has a
garden around it so that you are thereby not rushed precipitously upon
the house itself, as upon a cup without a saucer, but can toy visually
with the whole effect before you quench your thirst with the actual
draught.

Very, very deliberately, with his clumsy rod-case in one hand, and his
heavy grip in the other, the Senior Surgeon started up the long, broad
gravel path to the house. For a man walking as slow as he was, his heart
was beating most extraordinarily fast. He was not accustomed to
heart-palpitation. The symptom worried him a trifle. Incidentally also
his lungs felt strangely stifled with the scent of June. Close at his
right an effulgent white and gold syringa bush flaunted its cloying
sweetness into his senses. Close at his left a riotous bloom of phlox
clamored red-blue-purple-lavender-pink into his dazzled vision.
Multi-colored pansies tiptoed velvet-footed across the grass. In soft
murky mystery a flame-tinted smoke tree loomed up here and there like a
faintly rouged ghost. Over everything, under everything, through
everything, lurked a certain strange, novel, vibrating consciousness of
_occupancy_. Bees in the rose bushes! Bobolinks in the trees! A woman's
work-basket in the curve of the hammock! A doll's tea set sprawling
cheerfully in the middle of the broad gravel path!

It was not until the Senior Surgeon had actually stepped into the tiny
cream pitcher that he noticed the presence of the doll's tea set.

It was what the Senior Surgeon said as he stepped out of the cream
pitcher that summoned the amazing apparition from a ragged green hole in
the privet hedge. Startlingly white, startlingly professional,--dress,
cap, apron and all,--a miniature white linen nurse sprang suddenly out
at him like a tricky dwarf in a moving picture show. Just at that
particular moment the Senior Surgeon's nerves were in no condition to
wrestle with apparitions. Simultaneously as the clumsy rod-case dropped
from his hand, the expression of enthusiasm dropped from the face of the
miniature white linen nurse.

"Oh, dear--oh, dear--oh, dear! Have _you_ come home?" wailed the
familiar, shrill little voice.

Sheepishly the Senior Surgeon picked up his rod-case. The noises in his
head were crashing like cracked bells. Desperately with a boisterous
irritability he sought to cover also the lurching pound-pound-pound of
his heart.

"What in Hell are you rigged out like that for?" he demanded stormily.

With equal storminess the Little Girl protested the question.

"Peach said I could!" she attested passionately. "Peach said I could!
She did! She did! I tell you I didn't want her to marry us--that day! I
was afraid, I was! I cried, I did! I had a convulsion! They thought it
was stockings! So Peach said if it would make me feel any gooderer, I
could be the cruel new step-mother. And she'd be the unloved
offspring--with her hair braided all yellow fluffikins down her back!"

"Where _is_--Miss Malgregor?" asked the Senior Surgeon sharply.

Irrelevantly the Little Girl sank down on the gravel walk and began to
gather up her scattered dishes.

"And it's fun to go to bed--now," she confided amiably. "'Cause every
night I put Peach to bed at eight o'clock and she's so naughty always I
have to stay with her! And then all of a sudden it's morning--like going
through a black room without knowing it!"

"I said--where _is_ Miss Malgregor?" repeated the Senior Surgeon with
increasing sharpness.

Thriftily the Little Girl bent down to lap a bubble of cream from the
broken pitcher.

"Oh, she's out in the summer house with the Wall Paper Man," she mumbled
indifferently.




CHAPTER IX


Altogether jerkily the Senior Surgeon started up the walk for his own
perfectly formal and respectable brown stone mansion. Deep down in his
lurching heart he felt a sudden most inordinate desire to reach that
brown stone mansion just as quickly as possible. But abruptly even to
himself he swerved off instead at the yellow sassafras tree and plunged
quite wildly through a mass of broken sods towards the rickety,
no-account cedar summer house.

Startled by the crackle and thud of his approach the two young figures
in the summer house jumped precipitously to their feet, and limply
untwining their arms from each other's necks stood surveying the Senior
Surgeon in unspeakable consternation,--the White Linen Nurse and a blue
overalled lad most unconscionably mated in radiant youth and agonized
confusion.

"Oh, my Lord, Sir!" gasped the White Linen Nurse. "Oh, my Lord, Sir! I
wasn't looking for _you_--for another week!"

"Evidently not!" said the Senior Surgeon incisively. "This is the second
time this evening that I've been led to infer that my home-coming was
distinctly inopportune!"

Very slowly, very methodically, he put down first his precious rod-case
and then his grip. His brain seemed fairly foaming with blood and
confusion. Along the swelling veins of his arms a dozen primitive
instincts went surging to his fists.

Then quite brazenly before his eyes the White Linen Nurse reached out
and took the lad's hand again.

"Oh, forgive me, Dr. Faber!" she faltered. "This is my brother!"

"Your _brother?--what?--eh?_" choked the Senior Surgeon. Bluntly he
reached out and crushed the young fellow's fingers in his own. "Glad to
see you, Son!" he muttered with a sickish sort of grin, and turning
abruptly, picked up his baggage again and started for the big house.

Half a step behind him his White Linen Bride followed softly.

At the edge of the piazza he turned for an instant and eyed her a bit
quizzically. With her big credulous blue eyes, and her great mop of
yellow hair braided childishly down her back, she looked inestimably
more juvenile and innocent than his own little shrewd-faced six-year-old
whom he had just left domestically ensconced in the middle of the broad
gravel path.

"For Heaven's sake, Miss Malgregor," he asked. "For Heaven's sake--why
didn't you tell me that the Wall Paper Man was your--brother?"

Very contritely the White Linen Nurse's chin went burrowing down into
the soft collar of her dress and as bashfully as a child one finger
came stealing up to the edge of her red, red lips.

"I was afraid you'd think I was--cheeky--having any of my family come
and live with us--so soon," she murmured almost inaudibly.

"Well, what did you think I'd think you were--if he wasn't your
brother?" asked the Senior Surgeon sardonically.

"Very--economical, I hoped!" beamed the White Linen Nurse.

"All the same!" snapped the Senior Surgeon, with an irrelevance
surprising even to himself. "All the same do you think it sounds quite
right and proper for a child to call her--step-mother--'Peach'?"

Again the White Linen Nurse's chin went burrowing down into the
soft collar of her dress. "I don't suppose it is--usual," she
admitted reluctantly. "The children next door, I notice, call
theirs--'Cross-Patch.'"

With a gesture of impatience the Senior Surgeon proceeded up the
steps,--yanked open the old-fashioned shuttered door, and burst quite
breathlessly and unprepared upon his most amazingly reconstructed
house. All in one single second chintzes,--muslins,--pale blonde
maples,--riotous canary birds,--stormed revolutionary upon his outraged
eyes. Reeling back utterly aghast before the sight, he stood there
staring dumbly for an instant at what he considered,--and rightly
too,--the absolute wreck of his black walnut home.

"It looks like--Hell!" he muttered feebly.

"Yes, _isn't_ it sweet?" conceded the White Linen Nurse with
unmistakable joyousness. "And your library--" Triumphantly she threw
back the door to his grim work-shop.

"Good God!" stammered the Senior Surgeon. "You've made it--pink!"

Rapturously the White Linen Nurse began to clasp and unclasp her hands.
"I knew you'd love it!" she said.

Half dazed with bewilderment the Senior Surgeon started to brush an
imaginary haze from his eyes but paused mid-way in the gesture and
pointed back instead to a dapper little hall-table that seemed to be
exhausting its entire blonde strength in holding up a slender green vase
with a single pink rose in it. Like a caged animal buffeting for escape
against each successive bar that incased it, the man's frenzied
irritation hurled itself hopefully against this one more chance for
explosive exit.

"What--have--you--done--with the big--black--escritoire that
stood--there?" he demanded accusingly.

"Escritoire?--Escritoire?" worried the White Linen Nurse. "Why--why--I'm
afraid I must have mislaid it."

"Mislaid it?" thundered the Senior Surgeon. "Mislaid it? It weighed
three hundred pounds!"

"Oh, it did?" questioned the White Linen Nurse with great, blue-eyed
interest. Still mulling apparently over the fascinating weight of the
escritoire she climbed up suddenly into a chair and with the fluffy
broom-shaped end of her extraordinarily long braid of hair went angling
wildy off into space after an illusive cobweb.

Faster and faster the Senior Surgeon's temper began to search for a new
point of exit.

"What do you suppose the--servants think of you?" he stormed. "Running
round like that with your hair in a pig-tail like a--kid?"

"Servants?" cooed the White Linen Nurse. "Servants?" Very quietly she
jumped down from the chair and came and stood looking up into the Senior
Surgeon's hectic face. "Why, there aren't any servants," she explained
patiently. "I've dismissed every one of them. We're doing our own work
now!"

"Doing 'our own work'?" gasped the Senior Surgeon.

Quite worriedly the White Linen Nurse stepped back a little. "Why,
wasn't that right?" she pleaded. "Wasn't it right? Why, I thought people
always did their own work when they were first married!" With sudden
apprehensiveness she glanced round over her shoulder at the hall clock,
and darting out through a side door, returned almost instantly with a
fierce-looking knife.

"I'm so late now and everything," she confided. "Could you peel the
potatoes for me?"

"No, I couldn't!" said the Senior Surgeon shortly. Equally shortly he
turned on his heel, and reaching out once more for his rod-case and grip
went on up the stairs to his own room.

One of the pleasantest things about arriving home very late in the
afternoon is the excuse it gives you for loafing in your own room while
other people are getting supper. No existent domestic sound in the whole
twenty-four hours is as soothing at the end of a long journey as the
sound of other people getting supper.

Stretched out full length in a big easy chair by his bed-room window,
with his favorite pipe bubbling rhythmically between his gleaming
white teeth, the Senior Surgeon studied his new "solid gold bed" and
his new sage green wall-paper and his new dust-colored rug, to the
faint, far-away accompaniment of soft thudding feet, and a girl's
laugh, and a child's prattle, and the tink-tink-tinkle of
glass,--china,--silver,--all scurrying consciously to the service
of one man,--and that man,--_himself_.

Very, very slowly, in that special half hour an inscrutable little smile
printed itself experimentally across the right hand corner of the
Senior Surgeon's upper lip.

While that smile was still in its infancy he jumped up suddenly and
forced his way across the hall to his dead wife's room,--the one
ghost-room of his house and his life,--and there with his hand on the
turning door knob,--tense with reluctance,--goose-fleshed with
strain,--his breath gasped out of him whether or no with the one
word--"Alice!"

And behold! There was no room there!

Lurching back from the threshold, as from the brink of an elevator well,
the Senior Surgeon found himself staring foolishly into a most sumptuous
linen closet, tiered like an Aztec cliff with home after home for
pleasant prosy blankets, and gaily fringed towels, and cheerful white
sheets reeking most conscientiously of cedar and lavender. Tiptoeing
cautiously into the mystery he sensed at one astonished, grateful glance
how the change of a partition, the re-adjustment of a proportion, had
purged like a draft of fresh air the stale gloom of an ill-favored
memory. Yet so inevitable did it suddenly seem for a linen closet to be
built right there,--so inevitable did it suddenly seem for the child's
meager play-room to be enlarged just there, that to save his soul he
could not estimate whether the happy plan had originated in a purely
practical brain or a purely compassionate heart.

Half proud of the brain, half touched by the heart, he passed on
exploringly through the new play-room out into the hall again.

Quite distinctly now through the aperture of the back stairs the kitchen
voices came wafting up to him.

"Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" wailed his Little Girl's peevish voice. "Now
that--that Man's come back again--I suppose we'll have to eat in the
dining-room--all the time!"

"'That Man' happens to be your darling father!" admonished the White
Linen Nurse's laughing voice.

"Even so," wailed the Little Girl, "I love you best."

"Even so," laughed the White Linen Nurse, "I love _you_ best!"

"Just the same," cried the Little Girl shrilly, "just the same--let's
put the cream pitcher way up high somewhere--so he can't step in it!"

As though from a head tilted suddenly backward the White Linen Nurse's
laugh rang out in joyous abandon.

Impulsively the Senior Surgeon started to grin. Then equally impulsively
the grin soured on his lips. So they thought he was clumsy? Eh?
Resentfully he stared down at his hands,--those wonderfully
dexterous,--yes, ambidexterous hands that were the aching envy of all
his colleagues. Interruptingly as he stared the voice of the young Wall
Paper Man rose buoyantly from the lower hallway.

"Supper's all ready, sir!" called the cordial voice.

For some inexplainable reason, at that particular moment, almost nothing
in the world could have irritated the Senior Surgeon more keenly than to
be invited to his own supper,--in his own house,--by a stranger. Fuming
with a new sense of injury and injustice he started heavily down the
stairs to the dining-room.

Standing patiently behind the Senior Surgeon's chair with a laudable
desire to assist his carving in any possible emergency that might occur,
the White Linen Nurse experienced her first direct marital rebuff.

"What do you think this is? An autopsy?" demanded the Senior Surgeon
tartly. "For Heaven's sake--sit down!"

Quite meekly the White Linen Nurse subsided into her place.

The meal that ensued could hardly have been called a success though the
room was entrancing,--the cloth, snow-white--the silver, radiant,--the
guinea chicken beyond reproach.

Swept and garnished to an alarming degree the young Wall Paper Man
presided over the gravy and did his uttermost, innocent country-best to
make the Senior Surgeon feel perfectly at home.

Conscientiously, as in the presence of a distinguished stranger, the
Little Crippled Girl most palpably from time to time repressed her
insatiable desire to build a towering pyramid out of all the salt and
pepper shakers she could reach.

Once when the young Wall Paper Man forgot himself to the extent of
putting his knife in his mouth, the White Linen Nurse jarred the whole
table with the violence of her warning kick.

Once when the Little Crippled Girl piped out impulsively, "Say,
Peach,--what was the name of that bantam your father used to fight
against the minister's bantam?" the White Linen Nurse choked piteously
over her food.

Twice some one spoke about this year's weather.

Twice some one volunteered an illuminating remark about last year's
weather.

Except for these four diversions restraint indescribable hung like a
horrid pall over the feast.

Next to feeling unwelcome in your friend's house, nothing certainly is
more wretchedly disconcerting than to feel unwelcome in your own house!

Grimly the Senior Surgeon longed to grab up all the knives within reach
and ram them successively into his own mouth just to prove to the young
Wall Paper Man what a--what a devil of a good fellow he was himself!
Grimly the Senior Surgeon longed to tell the White Linen Nurse about the
pet bantam of his own boyhood days--that he bet a dollar could lick any
bantam her father ever dreamed of owning! Grimly the Senior Surgeon
longed to talk dolls,--dishes,--kittens,--yes, even cream pitchers, to
his Little Daughter, to talk anything in fact--to _any one_,--to
talk--sing--shout _anything_--that should make him, at least for the
time being, one at heart, one at head, one at table, with this
astonishingly offish bunch of youngsters!

But grimly instead,--out of his frazzled nerves,--out of his innate
spiritual bashfulness, he merely roared forth, "Where are the potatoes?"

"Potatoes?" gasped the White Linen Nurse. "Potatoes? Oh, potatoes?" she
finished more blithely. "Why, yes, of course! Don't you remember--you
didn't have time to peel them for me? I was so disappointed!"

"You were so disappointed?" snapped the Senior Surgeon. "You?--you?"

Janglingly the Little Crippled Girl knelt right up in her chair and
shook her tiny fist right in her father's face.

"Now, Lendicott Paber!" she screamed. "Don't you start in--sassing--my
darling little Peach!"

"_Peach?_" snorted the Senior Surgeon. With almost supernatural calm he
put down his knife and fork and eyed his offspring with an expression of
absolutely inflexible purpose. "Don't you--ever," he warned her,
"ever--ever--let me hear you call--this woman 'Peach' again!"

A trifle faint-heartedly the Little Crippled Girl reached up and
straightened her absurdly diminutive little white cap, and pursed her
little mouth as nearly as possible into an expression of ineffable
peace.

"Why--Lendicott Faber!" she persisted heroically.

"_Lendicott?_" jumped the Senior Surgeon. "What are
_you_--'Lendicotting' _me_ for?"

Hilariously with her own knife and fork the Little Crippled Girl began
to beat upon the table.

"Why, you dear Silly!" she cried. "Why, if I'm the new Marma, I've got
to call you 'Lendicott'! And Peach has got to call you 'Fat Father'!"

Frenziedly the Senior Surgeon pushed back his chair, and jumped to his
feet. The expression on his face was neither smile nor frown, nor war
nor peace, nor any other human expression that had ever puckered there
before.

"God!" he said. "This gives me the _willies_!" and strode tempestuously
from the room.

Out in his own work-shop fortunately,--whatever the grotesque new
pinkness,--whatever the grotesque new perkiness--his great free
walking-spaces had not been interfered with. Slamming his door
triumphantly behind him, he resumed once more the monotonous
pace-pace-pace that had characterized for eighteen years his first
night's return to--the obligations of civilization.

Sharply around the corner of his old battered desk the little path
started,--wanly along the edge of his dingy book-shelves the little path
furrowed,--wistfully at the deep bay-window where his favorite lilac
bush budded whitely for his departure, and rusted brownly for his
return, the little path faltered,--and went on again,--on and on and
on,--into the alcove where his instruments glistened,--up to the
fireplace where his college trophy-cups tarnished! Listlessly the Senior
Surgeon re-commenced his yearly vigil. Up and down,--up and down,--round
and round,--on and on and on,--through interminable dusks to
unattainable dawns,--a glutted, bacchanalian Soul sweating its own way
back to sanctity and leanness! Nerves always were in that vigil,--raw,
rattling nerves clamoring vociferously to be repacked in their
sedatives. Thirst also was in that vigil,--no mere whimpering tickle of
the palate, but a drought of the tissues,--a consuming fire of the
bones! Hurt pride was also there, and festering humiliation!

But more rasping, this particular night, than nerves, more poignant than
thirst, more dangerously excitative even than remorse, hunger rioted in
him,--hunger, the one worst enemy of the Senior Surgeon's cause,--the
simple, silly, no-account,--gnawing,--drink-provocative hunger of an
empty stomach. And 'one other hunger was also there,--a sudden fierce
new lust for Life and Living,--a passion bare of love yet pure of
wantonness,--a passion primitive,--protective,--inexorably
proprietary,--engendered strangely in that one mad, suspicious moment at
the edge of the summer house when every outraged male instinct in him
had leaped to prove that--love or no love--the woman was--_his_. Up and
down,--up and down,--round and round,--eight o'clock found the Senior
Surgeon still pacing.

At half past eight the young Wall Paper Man came to say good-by to him.

"As long as Sister won't be alone any more, I guess I'll be moving on,"
beamed the Wall Paper Man. "There's a dance at home Saturday night. And
I've got a girl of my own!" he confided genially.

"Come again," urged the Senior Surgeon. "Come again when you can stay
longer!"

With one honest prayer in stock, and at least two purely automatic
social speeches of this sort, no man needs to flounder altogether
hopelessly for words in any ordinary emergency of life. Thus with no
more mental interruption than the two-minute break in time, the Senior
Surgeon then resumed his bitter-thoughted pacing.

At nine o'clock, however,--patroling his long rangy book-shelves, he
sensed with a very different feeling through his heavy oak door, the
soft whirring swish of skirts and the breathy twitter of muffled voices.
Faintly to his acute ears came the sound of his little daughter's
temperish protest, "I won't! I won't!" and the White Linen Nurse's
fervid pleading, "Oh, you must,--you must!" and the Little Girl's
mumbled ultimatum, "Well, I won't unless _you_ do!"

Irascibly he crossed the room and yanked the door open abruptly upon
their surprise and confusion. His nerves were very sore.

"What in thunder do you want?" he snarled.

Nervously for an instant the White Linen Nurse tugged at the Little
Girl's hand. Nervously for an instant the Little Girl tugged at the
White Linen Nurse's hand. Then with a swallow like a sob the White Linen
Nurse lifted her glowing face to his.

"K--kiss us good night!" said the White Linen Nurse.

Telescopically all in that startling second, vision after vision beat
down like blows upon the Senior Surgeon's senses! The pink, pink flush
of the girl! The lure of her! The amazing sweetness! The physical
docility! Oh ye gods,--the docility! Every trend of her birth,--of her
youth,--of her training,--forcing her now--if he chose it--to
unquestioning submission to his will and his judgment! Faster and faster
the temptation surged through his pulses! The path from her lips to her
ear was such a little path,--the plea so quick to make, so short,--"I
want you _now!_"

"K--kiss us good night!" urged the Big Girl's unsuspecting lips. "Kiss
us good night!" mocked the Little Girl's tremulous echo.

Then explosively with the noblest rudeness of his life, "No, I _won't!_"
said the Senior Surgeon, and slammed the door in their faces.

Falteringly up the stairs he heard the two ascending,--speechless with
surprise, perhaps,--stunned by his roughness,--still hand in hand,
probably,--still climbing slowly bed-ward,--the soft, smooth, patient
footfall of the White Linen Nurse and the jerky, laborious
clang-clang-clang of a little dragging iron-braced leg.

Up and down,--round and round,--on and on and on,--the Senior Surgeon
resumed his pacing. Under his eyes great shadows darkened. Along the
corners of his mouth the lines furrowed like gray scars. Up and
down,--round and round,--on and on and on--and on!

At ten o'clock, sitting bolt upright in her bed with her worried eyes
straining bluely out across the Little Girl's somnolent form into
unfathomable darkness, the White Linen Nurse in the throb of her own
heart began to keep pace with that faint, horrid thud-thud-thud in the
room below. Was he passing the book-case now? Had he reached the
bay-window? Was he dawdling over those glistening scalpels? Would his
nerves remember the flask in that upper desk drawer? Up and down,--round
and round,--on and on,--the harrowing sound continued.

Resolutely at last she scrambled out of her snug nest, and hurrying into
her great warm, pussy-gray wrapper began at once very practically, very
unemotionally, with matches and alcohol and a shiny glass jar to prepare
a huge steaming cup of malted milk. Beef-steak was infinitely better,
she knew, or eggs, of course, but if she should venture forth to the
kitchen for real substantiate the Senior Surgeon, she felt quite
positive, would almost certainly hear her and stop her. So very
stealthily thus like the proverbial assassin she crept down the front
stairs with the innocent malted milk cup in her hand, and then with her
knuckles just on the verge of rapping against the grimly inhospitable
door, went suddenly paralyzed with uncertainty whether to advance or
retreat.

Once again through the sombre inert wainscoting, exactly as if a soul
had creaked, the Senior Surgeon sensed the threatening, intrusive
presence of an unseen personality. Once again he strode across the room
and jerked the door open with terrifying anger and resentment.

As though frozen there on his threshold by Her own little bare feet,--as
though strangled there in his doorway by her own great mop of golden
hair,--stolid and dumb as a pink-cheeked graven image the White Linen
Nurse thrust the cup out awkwardly at him.

Absolutely without comment, as though she trotted on purely professional
business and the case involved was of mutual concern to them both, the
Senior Surgeon took the cup from her hand and closed the door again in
her face.

At eleven o'clock she came again,--just as pink,--just as blue,--just as
gray,--just as golden. And the cup of malted milk she brought with her
was just as huge,--just as hot,--just as steaming,--only this time she
had smuggled two raw eggs into it.

Once more the Senior Surgeon took the cup without comment and shut the
door in her face.

At twelve o'clock she came again. The Senior Surgeon was unusually
loquacious this time.

"Have you any more malted milk?" he asked tersely.

"Oh, yes, sir!" beamed the White Linen Nurse.

"Go and get it!" said the Senior Surgeon.

Obediently the White Linen Nurse pattered up the stairs and returned
with the half depleted bottle. Frankly interested she recrossed the
threshold of the room and delivered her glass treasure into the hands of
the Senior Surgeon as he stood by his desk. Raising herself to her
tiptoes she noted with eminent satisfaction that the three big cups on
the other side of the desk had all been drained to their dregs.

Then very bluntly before her eyes the Senior Surgeon took the malted
milk bottle and poured its remaining contents out quite wantonly into
his waste basket. Then equally bluntly he took the White Linen Nurse by
the shoulders and marched her out of the room.

"For God's sake!" he said, "get out of this room! And stay out!"

_Bang_! the big door slammed behind her. Like a snarling fang the lock
bit into its catch.

"Yes, sir," said the White Linen Nurse. Even just to herself--all alone
there in the big black hall, she was perfectly polite. "Y-e-s, sir," she
repeated softly.

With a slightly sardonic grin on his face the Senior Surgeon resumed his
pacing. Up and down,--round and round,--on and on and on!

At one o'clock in the dull, clammy chill of earliest morning he stopped
long enough to light his hearthfire.

At two o'clock he stopped again to pile on a trifle more wood.

At three o'clock he dallied for an instant to close a window. The new
day seemed strangely cold.

At four o'clock, dawn the wonder,--the miracle,--the long despaired
of,--quickened wanly across the East. Then suddenly,--more like a
phosphorescent breeze than a glow, the pale, pale yellow sunshine came
wafting through the green gloom of the garden. The vigil was over!

Stumbling out into the shadowy hall to greet the new day and the new
beginning, the Senior Surgeon almost tripped and fell over the White
Linen Nurse sitting all huddled up and drowsy-eyed in a little gray heap
on his outer threshold. The sensation of stepping upon a human body is
not a pleasant one. It smote the Senior Surgeon nauseously through the
nerves of his stomach.

"What are you doing here?" he fairly screamed at her.

"Just keeping you company, sir," yawned the White Linen Nurse. Before
her hand could reach her mouth again another great childish yawn
overwhelmed her. "Just--watching with you, sir," she finished more or
less inarticulately.

"Watching with--me?" snarled the Senior Surgeon resentfully.
"Why--should--you--watch--with--me?"

Like the frightened flash of a bird the heavy lashes went swooping down
across the pink cheeks and lifted as suddenly again. "Because you're
my--_man!_" yawned the White Linen Nurse.

Almost roughly the Senior Surgeon reached down and pulled the White
Linen Nurse to her feet.

"God!" said the Senior Surgeon. In his strained, husky voice the word
sounded like an oath. Grotesquely a little smile went scudding zig-zag
across his haggard face. With an impulse absolutely alien to him he
reached out abruptly again and raised the White Linen Nurse's hand to
his lips. "_'Good_ God' was what I meant--Miss Malgregor!" he grinned a
bit sheepishly.

Quite bruskly then he turned and looked at his watch.

"I'd like my breakfast just as soon now as you can possibly get it!" he
ordered peremptorily,--in his own morbid pathological emergency no more
stopping to consider the White Linen Nurse's purely normal fatigue, than
he in any pathological emergency of hers would have stopped to consider
his own comfort,--safety,--or even perhaps, life!

Joyously then like a prisoner just turned loose, he went swinging up the
stairs to recreate himself with a smoke and a shave and a great,
splashing, cold shower-bath.

Only one thing seemed to really trouble him now. At the top of the
stairs he stopped for an instant and cocked his head a bit worriedly
towards the drawing-room where from some slow-brightening alcove
bird-carol after bird-carol went fluting shrilly up into the morning.

"Is that--those blasted canaries?" he asked briefly.

Very companionably the White Linen Nurse cocked her own towsled head on
one side and listened with him for half a moment.

"Only four of them are blasted canaries," she corrected very gently.
"The fifth one is a paroquet that I got at a mark-down because it was a
widowed bird and wouldn't mate again."

"Eh?" jerked the Senior Surgeon.

"Yes, sir," said the White Linen Nurse and started for the kitchen.

No one but the Senior Surgeon himself breakfasted in state at five
o'clock that morning. Snug and safe in her crib upstairs the Little
Crippled Girl slumbered peacefully on through the general disturbance.
And as for the White Linen Nurse herself,--what with chilling and
rechilling melons,--and broiling and unbroiling steaks,--and making and
remaking coffee,--and hunting frantically for a different-sized water
glass,--or a prettier colored plate, there was no time for anything
except an occasional hurried surreptitious nibble half way between the
stove and the table.

Yet in all that raucous early morning hour together neither man nor girl
suffered towards the other the slightest personal sense of contrition or
resentment, for each mind was trained equally fairly,--whether reacting
on its own case or another's--to differentiate pretty readily between
mean nerves and a--mean spirit.

Only once in fact across the intervening chasm of crankiness did the
Senior Surgeon hurl a smile that was even remotely self-conscious or
conciliatory. Glancing up suddenly from a particularly sharp and
disagreeable speech, he noted the White Linen Nurse's red lips mumbling
softly one to the other.

"Are you specially--religious,--Miss Malgregor?" he grinned quite
abruptly.

"No, not specially, sir," said the White Linen Nurse. "Why, sir?"

"Oh, it 's only--" grinned the Senior Surgeon dourly, "it's only that
every time I'm especially ugly to you, I see your lips moving as though
in 'silent prayer' as they call it--and I was just wondering--if there
was any special formula you used with me--that kept you
so--everlastingly--damned serene. Is there?"

"Yes, sir," said the White Linen Nurse.

"What is it?" demanded the Senior Surgeon quite bluntly.

"Do I have to tell?" gasped the White Linen Nurse. A little tremulously
in her hand the empty cup she was carrying rattled against its saucer.
"Do I have to tell?" she repeated pleadingly.

A delirious little thrill of power went fluttering through the Senior
Surgeon's heart.

"Yes, you have to tell me!" he announced quite seriously.

In absolute submission to his demand, though with very palpable
reluctance, the White Linen Nurse came forward to the table, put down
the cup and saucer, and began to finger a trifle nervously at the cloth.

"Oh, I'm sure I didn't mean any harm, sir," she stammered. "But all I
say is,--honest and truly all I say is,--'Bah! He's nothing but a
man--nothing but a man--nothing but a man!' over and over and
over,--just that, sir!"

Uproariously the Senior Surgeon pushed back his chair, and jumped to his
feet.

"I guess after all I'll have to let the little kid call
you--'Peach'--one day a week!" he acknowledged jocosely.

With infinite seriousness then he tossed back his great splendid
head,--shook himself free apparently from all unhappy memories,--and
started for his work-room,--a great gorgeously vital, extraordinarily
talented, gray-haired _boy_ lusting joyously for his own work and play
again--after a month's distressing illness!

From the edge of the hall he turned round and made a really boyish
grimace at her.

"Now if I only had the horns or the cloven hoof--that you think I have,"
he called, "what an easy time I'd make of it, raking over all the
letters and ads. that are stacked up on my desk!"

"Yes, sir," said the White Linen Nurse.

Only once did he come back into the kitchen or dining-room for anything.
It was at seven o'clock. And the White Linen Nurse was still washing
dishes.

As radiant as a gray-haired god he towered up in the doorway. The boyish
rejuvenation in him was even more startling than before.

"I'm feeling so much like a fighting cock this morning," he said, "I
think I'll tackle that paper on surgical diseases of the pancreas that I
have to read at Baltimore next month!" A little startlingly the gray
lines furrowed into his cheeks again. "For Heaven's sake--see that I'm
not disturbed by anything!" he admonished her warningly.

It must have been almost eight o'clock when the ear-splitting scream
from upstairs sent the White Linen Nurse plunging out panic-stricken
into the hall.

"Oh, Peach! Peach!" yelled the Little Girl's frenzied voice. "Come quick
and see--what Fat Father's doing _now_--out on the piazza!"

Jerkily the White Linen Nurse swerved off through the French door that
opened directly on the piazza. Had the Senior Surgeon hung himself, she
tortured, in some wild, temporary aberration of the "morning after"?

But staunchly and reassuringly from the further end of the _piazza_ the
Senior Surgeon's broad back belied her horrid terror. Quite prosily and
in apparently perfect health he was standing close to the railing of the
piazza. On a table directly beside him rested four empty bird cages.
Just at that particular moment he was inordinately busy releasing the
last canary from the fifth cage. Both hands were smouched with ink and
behind his left ear a fountain pen dallied daringly.

At the very first sound of the White Linen Nurse's step the Senior
Surgeon turned and faced her with a sheepish sort of defiance.

"Well, now, I imagine," he said, "well, now, I imagine I've really made
you--mad!"

"No, not mad, sir," faltered the White Linen Nurse. "No, not mad,
sir,--but very far from well." Coaxingly with a perfectly futile hand
she tried to lure one astonished yellow songster back from a swaying
yellow bush. "Why, they'll die, sir!" she protested. "Savage cats will
get them!"

"It's a choice of their lives--or mine!" said the Senior Surgeon
tersely.

"Yes, sir," droned the White Linen Nurse.

Quite snappishly the Senior Surgeon turned upon her. "For Heaven's
sake--do you think--canary birds are more valuable than I am?" he
demanded stentoriously.

Most disconcertingly before his glowering eyes a great, sad, round tear
rolled suddenly down the White Linen Nurse's flushed cheek.

"N--o,--not more valuable," conceded the White Linen Nurse. "But
more--c-cunning."

Up to the roots of the Senior Surgeon's hair a flush of real contrition
spread hotly.

"Why--Rae!" he stammered. "Why, what a beast I am! Why--! Why!" In
sincere perplexity he began to rack his brains for some adequate
excuse,--some adequate explanation. "Why, I'm sure I didn't mean to make
you feel badly," he persisted. "Only I've lived alone so long that I
suppose I've just naturally drifted into the way of having a thing if I
wanted it and--throwing it away if I didn't! And canary birds, now?
Well--really--" he began to glower all over again. "Oh, thunder!" he
finished abruptly, "I guess I'll go on down to the hospital where I
belong!"

A little wistfully the White Linen Nurse stepped forward. "The
hospital?" she said. "Oh,--the hospital? Do you think that perhaps you
could come home a little bit earlier than usual--to-night--and--and help
me catch--just one of the canaries?"

"What?" gasped the Senior Surgeon. Incredulously with a very inky finger
he pointed at his own breast. "What? I?" he demanded. "I? Come
home--early--from the hospital to help--you--catch a canary?"

Disgustedly without further comment he turned and stalked back again
into the house.

The disgust was still in his walk as he left the house an hour later.
Watching his exit down the long gravel path the Little Crippled Girl
commented audibly on the matter.

"Peach! Peach!" called the Little Crippled Girl. "What makes Fat Father
walk so--surprised?"

People at the hospital also commented upon him.

"Gee!" giggled the new nurses. "We bet he 's a Tartar! But isn't his
hair cute? And say--" gossiped the new nurses, "is it really true that
that Malgregor girl was pinned down perfectly helpless under the car and
he wouldn't let her out till she'd promised to marry him? Isn't it
_awful?_ Isn't it _romantic_?"

"Why! Dr. Faber 's back!" fluttered the senior nurses. "Isn't he
wonderful? Isn't he beautiful? But, oh, say," they worried, "what do
you suppose Rae ever finds to talk with him about? Would she ever dare
talk _things_ to him,--just plain every-day _things_,--hats, and going
to the theater, and what to have for breakfast?--breakfast?" they
gasped. "Why, yes, of course!" they reasoned more sanely. "Steak? Eggs?
Even oatmeal? Why, people had to eat--no matter how wonderful they were!
But evenings?" they speculated more darkly. "But evenings?" In the whole
range of human experience--was it even so much as remotely imaginable
that--evenings--the Senior Surgeon and--Rae Malgregor--sat in the
hammock and held hands? "Oh, Gee!" blanched the senior nurses.

"Good-morning, Dr. Faber!" greeted the Superintendent of Nurses from
behind her austere office desk.

"Good-morning, Miss Hartzen!" said the Senior Surgeon.

"Have you had a pleasant trip?" quizzed the Superintendent of Nurses.

"Exceptionally so, thank you!" said the Senior Surgeon.

"And--Mrs. Faber,--is she well?" persisted the Superintendent of Nurses
conscientiously.

"Mrs. Faber?" gasped the Senior Surgeon. "Mrs. Faber? Oh, yes! Why, of
course! Yes, indeed--she's extraordinarily well! I never saw her
better!"

"She must have been--very lonely without you--this past month?" rasped
the Superintendent of Nurses--perfectly politely.

"Yes--she was," flushed the Senior Surgeon. "She--she suffered--keenly!"

"And you, too?" drawled the Superintendent of Nurses. "It must have been
very hard for you."

"Yes, it was!" sweated the Senior Surgeon. "I suffered keenly, too!"

Distractedly he glanced back at the open door. An extraordinarily large
number of nurses, internes, orderlies, seemed to be having errands up
and down the corridor that allowed them a peculiarly generous length of
neck to stretch into the Superintendent's office.

"Great Heavens!" snapped the Senior Surgeon. "What 's the matter with
everybody this morning?" Tempestuously he started for the door. "Hurry
up my cases, please, Miss Hartzen!" he ordered. "Send them to the
operating room! And let me get to work!"

At eleven o'clock, absolutely calm, absolutely cool,--pure as a girl in
his fresh, white operating clothes--cleaner,--skin, hair, teeth,
hands,--than any girl who ever walked the face of the earth, in a white
tiled room as surgically clean as himself, with three or four small,
glistening instruments still boiling, steaming hot--and half a dozen
breathless assistants almost as immaculate as himself, with his gown,
cap and mask adjusted, his gloves finally on, and the faintest possible
little grin twitching oddly at the corner of his mouth, he "went in" as
they say, to a new born baby's tortured, twisted spine--and took
out--fifty years perhaps of hunched-back pain and shame and morbid
passions flourishing banefully in the dark shades of a disordered life.

At half-past twelve he did an appendix operation on the only son of his
best friend. At one o'clock he did another appendix operation. Whom it
was on didn't matter. It couldn't have been worse on--any one. At
half-past one no one remembered to feed him. At two, in another man's
operation, he saw the richest merchant in the city go wafted out into
eternity on the fumes of ether taken for the lancing of a stye. At three
o'clock, passing the open door of one of the public waiting-rooms, an
Italian peasant woman rushed out and spat in his face because her
tubercular daughter had just died at the sanitarium where the Senior
Surgeon's money had sent her. Only in this one wild, defiling moment did
the lust for alcohol surge up in him again, surge clamorously, brutally,
absolutely mercilessly, as though in all the known cleansants of the
world only interminable raw whisky was hot enough to cauterize a
polluted consciousness. At half past three, as soon as he could change
his clothes again, he re-broke and re-set an acrobat's priceless leg. At
five o'clock, more to rest himself than anything else, he went up to the
autopsy amphitheater to look over an exhibit of enlarged hearts, whose
troubles were permanently over.

At six o'clock just as he was leaving the great building with all its
harrowing sights, sounds, and smells, a peremptory telephone call from
one of the younger surgeons of the city summoned him back into the
stuffy office again.

"Dr. Faber?"

"Yes."

"This is Merkley!"

"Yes."

"Can you come immediately and help me with that fractured skull case I
was telling you about this morning? We'll have to trepan right away!"

"Trepan nothing!" grunted the Senior Surgeon. "I've got to go home early
to-night--and help catch a canary."

"Catch a--what?" gasped the younger surgeon.

"A canary!" grinned the Senior Surgeon mirthlessly.

"A--_what?_" roared the younger man.

"Oh, shut up, you damned fool! Of course I'll come!" said the Senior
Surgeon.

There was no "boy" left in the Senior Surgeon when he reached home that
night.

Gray with road-travel, haggard with strain and fatigue, it was long,
long after the rosy sunset time,--long, long after the yellow supper
light, that he came dragging up through the sweet-scented dusk of the
garden and threw himself down without greeting of any sort on the top
step of the piazza where the White Linen Nurse's skirts glowed palely
through the gloom.

"Well, I put a canary bird back into its cage for you!" he confided
laconically. "It was a little chap's soul. It sure would have gotten
away before morning."

"Who was the man that tried to turn it loose--_this_ time?" asked the
White Linen Nurse.

"I didn't say that anybody did!" growled the Senior Surgeon.

"Oh," said the White Linen Nurse. "Oh." Quite palpably a little shiver
of flesh and starch went rustling through her. "I've had a wonderful
day, too!" she confided softly. "I've cleaned the attic and darned nine
pairs of your stockings and bought a sewing-machine--and started to make
you a white silk negligee shirt for a surprise!"

"Eh?" jerked the Senior Surgeon.

The jerk seemed to liberate suddenly the faint vibration of dishes and
the sound of ice knocking lusciously against a glass.

"Oh, have you had any supper, sir?" asked the White Linen Nurse.

With a prodigious sigh the Senior Surgeon threw his head back against
the piazza railing and stretched his legs a little further out along the
piazza floor.

"Supper?" he groaned. "No! Nor dinner! Nor breakfast! Nor any
other--blankety-blank meal as far back as I can remember!" Janglingly
in his voice, fatigue, hunger, nerves, crashed together like the
slammed notes of a piano. "But I wouldn't--move--now," he snarled,
"if all the blankety-blank-blank foods in Christendom--were piled
blankety-blank-blank high--on all the blankety-blank-blank tables--in
this whole blankety-blank-blank house!"

Ecstatically the White Linen Nurse clapped her hands. "Oh, that's just
exactly what I hoped you'd say!" she cried. "'Cause the supper's--right
here!"

"Here?" snapped the Senior Surgeon. Tempestuously he began all over
again. "I--tell--you--I--wouldn't--lift--my--little finger--if all the
blankety-blank-blank-blank--"

"Oh, Goody then!" said the White Linen Nurse. "'Cause now I can feed
you! I sort of miss fussing with the canary birds," she added wistfully.

"Feed me?" roared the Senior Surgeon. Again something started a lump of
ice tinkling faintly in a thin glass. "Feed me?" he began all over
again.

Yet with a fragrant strawberry half as big as a peach held out suddenly
under his nose, just from sheer, irresistible instinct he bit out at
it--and nipped the White Linen Nurse's finger instead.

"Ouch--sir!" said the White Linen Nurse.

Mumblingly down from an upstairs window, as from a face flatted
smouchingly against a wire screen, a peremptory summons issued.

"Peach!--Peach!" called an angry little voice. "If you don't come to
bed--now--I'll--I'll say my curses instead of my prayers!"

A trifle nervously the White Linen Nurse scrambled to her feet.

"Maybe I'd--better go?" she said.

"Maybe--you had!" said the Senior Surgeon quite definitely.

At the edge of the threshold the White Linen Nurse turned for an
instant.

"Good-night, Dr. Faber!" she whispered.

"Good-night, Rae Malgregor--Faber!" said the Senior Surgeon.

"Good-night--_what?_" gasped the White Linen Nurse.

"Good-night, Rae Malgregor--Faber," repeated the Senior Surgeon.

Clutching at her skirts as though a mouse were after her, the White
Linen Nurse went scuttling up the stairs.

Very late--on into the night--the Senior Surgeon lay there on his piazza
floor staring out into his garden. Very companionably from time to time,
like a tame firefly, a little bright spark hovered and glowed for an
instant above the bowl of his pipe. Puff-puff-puff, doze-doze-doze,
throb-throb-throb,--on and on and on and on--into the sweet-scented
night.




CHAPTER X


So the days passed. And the nights. And more days. And more nights.
July--August,--on and on and on.

Strenuous, nerve-racking, heart-breaking surgical days--broken maritally
only by the pleasant, soft-worded greeting at the gate, or the
practical, homely appeal of good food cooked with heart as well as
hands, or the tingling, inciting masculine consciousness of there being
a woman's--blush in the house!

Strenuous, house-working, child-nursing, home-making, domestic
days--broken maritally only by the jaded, harsh word at the gate, the
explosive criticism of food, the deadening, depressing, feminine
consciousness of there being a man's--vicious temper in the house!

Now and again in one big automobile or another the White Linen Nurse and
the Senior Surgeon rode out together, always and forever with the Little
Crippled Girl sitting between them,--the other woman's little crippled
girl. Now and again in the late summer afternoons the White Linen Nurse
and the Senior Surgeon strolled together through the rainbow-colored
garden, always and forever with the Little Crippled Girl,--the other
woman's little crippled girl, tagging close behind them with her little
sad, clanking leg. Now and again in the long sweet summer evenings the
White Linen Nurse and the Senior Surgeon sat on the clematis-shadowed
porch together, always and forever with the Little Crippled Girl,--the
other woman's little crippled girl, mocking them querulously from some
vague upper window.

Now and again across the mutually ghost-haunted chasm that separated
them flashed the incontrovertible signal of sex and sense, as once when
a new Interne, grossly bungling, stepped to the hospital window with a
colleague to watch the Senior Surgeon's car roll away as usual with its
two feminine passengers.

"What makes the Chief so stingy with that big handsome girl of his?"
queried the new Interne a bit resentfully. "He won't ever bring her into
the hospital!--won't ever ask any of us young chaps out to his house!
And some of us come mighty near to being eligible, too!--Who's he saving
her for, anyway?--A saint?--A miracle-worker?--A millionaire medicine
man?--They don't exist, you know!"

"I'm saving her for myself!" snapped the Senior Surgeon most
disconcertingly from the doorway. "She--she happens to be my wife, not
my daughter,--thank you!"

When the Senior Surgeon went home that night he carried a big bunch of
magazines and a box of candy as large as his head tucked courtingly
under his arm.

Now and again across the chasm that separated them flashed the
incontrovertible signal of mutual trust and appreciation, as when once,
after a particularly violent vocal outburst on the Senior Surgeon's
part, he sobered down very suddenly and said:

"Rae Malgregor,--do you realize that in all the weeks we've been
together you've never once nagged me about my swearing? Not a word,--not
a single word!"

"I'm not very used to--words," smiled the White Linen Nurse hopefully.
"All I know how to nag with is--is raw eggs! If we could only get those
nerves of yours padded just once, sir! The swearing would get well of
itself."

In August the Senior Surgeon suggested sincerely that the house was much
too big for the White Linen Nurse to run all alone, but conceded equally
sincerely, under the White Linen Nurse's vehement protest, that
servants, particularly new servants did creak considerably round a
house, and that maybe "just for the present" at least, until he finished
his very nervous paper on brain tumors perhaps it would be better to
stay "just by ourselves."

In September the White Linen Nurse wanted very much to go home to Nova
Scotia to her sister's wedding but the Senior Surgeon was trying a very
complicated and worrisome new brace on the Little Girl's leg and it
didn't seem quite kind to go. In October she planned her trip all over
again. She was going to take the Little Crippled Girl with her this
time. But with their trunks already packed and waiting in the hall, the
Senior Surgeon came home from the hospital with a septic finger--and it
didn't seem quite best to leave him.

"Well, how do you like being married _now?_" asked the Senior Surgeon a
bit ironically in his work-room that night, after the White Linen Nurse
had stood for an hour with evil-smelling washes, and interminable
bandages trying to fix that finger the precise, particular way that he
thought it ought to be fixed. "Well--how do you like--being married
_now?_" he insisted trenchantly.

"Oh, I like it all right, sir!" said the White Linen Nurse. A little bit
wanly this time she smiled her pluck up into the Senior Surgeon's
questioning face. "Oh, I like it all right, sir! Oh, of course, sir,"
she confided thoughtfully--"Oh, of course, sir--it isn't quite as fancy
as being engaged--or quite as free and easy as being--single. But
still--" she admitted with desperate honesty--"but still there's a sort
of--a sort of a combination importance and--and comfort about it, sir,
like a--like a velvet suit--the second year, sir."

"Is that--all?" quizzed the Senior Surgeon bluntly.

"That's all--so far, sir," said the White Linen Nurse.

In November the White Linen Nurse caught a bit of cold that pulled her
down a little. But the Senior Surgeon didn't notice it specially among
all the virulent ills he lived and worked with from day to day. And then
when the cold disappeared, Indian Summer came like a reeking sweat after
a chill! And the house _was_ big! And the Little Crippled Girl _was_
pretty difficult to manage now and then! And the Senior Surgeon, no
matter how hard he tried not to, did succeed somehow in creating more or
less of a disturbance--at least every other day or two!

And then suddenly, one balmy gold and crimson Indian Summer morning,
standing out on the piazza trying to hear what the Little Crippled Girl
was calling from the window and what the Senior Surgeon was calling from
the gate, the White Linen Nurse fell right down in her tracks, brutally,
bulkily, like a worn-out horse, and lay as she fell, a huddled white
heap across the gray piazza.

"Oh, Father! Come quick! Come quick! Peach has deaded herself!" yelled
the Little Girl's frantic voice.

Just with his foot on the step of his car the Senior Surgeon heard the
cry and came speeding back up the long walk. Already there before him
the Little Girl knelt raining passionate, agonized kisses on her beloved
playmate's ghastly white face.

"Leave her alone!" thundered the Senior Surgeon. "Leave her alone, I
say!"

Bruskly he pushed the Little Girl aside and knelt to cradle his own ear
against the White Linen Nurse's heart.

"Oh, it's all right," he growled, and gathered the White Linen Nurse
right up in his arms--she was startlingly lighter than he had
supposed--and carried her up the stairs and put her to bed like a child
in the great sumptuous guest-room, in a great sumptuous nest of all the
best linens and blankets, with the Little Crippled Girl superintending
the task with many hysterical suggestions and sharp staccato
interruptions. For once in his life the Senior Surgeon did not stop to
quarrel with his daughter.

Rallying limply from her swoon the White Linen Nurse stared out with
hazy perplexity at last from her dimpling white pillows to see the
Senior Surgeon standing amazingly at the guest-room bureau with a glass
and a medicine-dropper in his hand, and the Little Crippled Girl hanging
apparently by her narrow peaked chin across the foot-board of the bed.

Gazing down worriedly at the lace-ruffled sleeve of her night-dress the
White Linen Nurse made her first public speech to the--world at large.

"Who--put--me--to--bed?" whispered the White Linen Nurse.

Ecstatically the Little Crippled Girl began to pound her fists on the
foot-board of the bed.

"Father did!" she cried in unmistakable triumph. "All the little hooks!
All the little buttons!--_wasn't_ it cunning?"

The Senior Surgeon would hardly have been human if he hadn't glanced
back suddenly over his shoulder at the White Linen Nurse's precipitously
changing color. Quite irrepressibly, as he saw the red, red blood come
surging home again into her cheeks, a little short chuckling laugh
escaped him.

"I guess you'll live--now," he remarked dryly.

Then because a Senior Surgeon can't stay home on the mere impulse of the
moment from a great rushing hospital, just because one member of his
household happens to faint perfectly innocently in the morning, he
hurried on to his work again. And saved a little boy, and lost a little
girl, and mended a fractured thigh, and eased a gun-shot wound, and came
dashing home at noon in one of his thousand-dollar hours to feel the
White Linen Nurse's pulse and broil her a bit of tenderloin steak with
his own thousand-dollar hands,--and then went dashing off again to do
one major operation or another, telephoned home once or twice during the
afternoon to make sure that everything was all right, and finding that
the White Linen Nurse was comfortably up and about again, went sprinting
off fifty miles somewhere on a meningitis consultation, and came
dragging home at last, somewhere near midnight, to a big black house
brightened only by a single light in the kitchen where the White Linen
Nurse went tiptoeing softly from stove to pantry in deft preparation of
an appetizing supper for him.

Quite roughly again without smile or appreciation the Senior Surgeon
took her by the shoulders and turned her out of the kitchen, and started
her up the stairs.

"Are you an--idiot?" he said. "Are you an--imbecile?" he came back and
called up the stairs to her just as she was disappearing from the upper
landing.

Then up and down, round and round, on and on and on, the Senior Surgeon
began suddenly to pace again.

Only, for some unexplainable reason to the White Linen Nurse upstairs,
his work-room didn't seem quite large enough for his pacing this night
Along the broad piazza she heard his footsteps creak. Far, far into the
morning, lying warm and snug in her own little bed, she heard his
footsteps crackling through the wet-leafed garden paths.

Yet the Senior Surgeon didn't look an atom jaded or forlorn when he came
down to breakfast the next morning. He had on a brand new gray suit that
fitted his big, powerful shoulders to perfection, and the glad glow of
his shower-bath was still reddening faintly in his cheeks as he swung
around the corner of the table and dropped down into his place with an
odd little grin on his lips directed intermittently towards the White
Linen Nurse and the Little Crippled Girl who already waited him there at
either end of the table.

"Oh, Father, isn't it lovely to have my darling--darling Peach all well
again!" beamed the Little Crippled Girl with unusual friendliness.

"Speaking of your--'darling Peach,'" said the Senior Surgeon quite
abruptly. "Speaking of your 'darling Peach,'--I'm going to--take her
away with me to-day--for a week or so."

"Eh?" jumped the Little Crippled Girl.

"What? What, sir?" stammered the White Linen Nurse.

Quite prosily the Senior Surgeon began to butter a piece of toast. But
the little twinkle around his eyes belied in some way the utter
prosiness of the act.

"For a little trip," he confided amiably. "A little holiday!"

A trifle excitedly the White Linen Nurse laid down her knife and fork
and stared at him, blue-eyed and wondering as a child.

"A holiday?" she gasped. "To a--beach, you mean? Would there be a--a
roller-coaster? I've never seen a roller-coaster!"

"Eh?" laughed the Senior Surgeon.

"Oh, I'm going, too! I'm going, too!" piped the Little Crippled Girl.

Most jerkily the Senior Surgeon pushed back his chair from the table
and swallowed half a cup of coffee at one single gulp.

"Going _three_, you mean?" he glowered at his little daughter. "Going
_three_?" His comment that ensued was distinctly rough as far as diction
was concerned, but the facial expression of ineffable peace that
accompanied it would have made almost any phrase sound like a
benediction. "Not by a--damned sight!" beamed the Senior Surgeon. "This
little trip is just for Peach and me!"

"But--sir?" fluttered the White Linen Nurse. Her face was suddenly
pinker than any rose that ever bloomed.

With an impulse absolutely novel to him the Senior Surgeon turned and
swung his little daughter very gently to his shoulder.

"Your Aunt Agnes is coming to stay with _you_--in just about ten
minutes!" he affirmed. "That's--what's going to happen to _you!_ And
maybe there'll be a pony--a white pony."

"But Peach is so--pleasant!" wailed the Little Crippled Girl. "Peach is
so pleasant!" she began to scream and kick.

"So it seems!" growled the Senior Surgeon. "And she's--dying of it!"

Tearfully the Little Girl wriggled down to the ground, and hobbled
around and thrust her finger-tip into the White Linen Nurse's blushiest
cheek.

"I don't want--Peach--to--die," she admitted worriedly. "But I don't
want anybody to take her away!"

"The pony is--very white," urged the Senior Surgeon with a diplomacy
quite alien to him.

Abruptly the Little Girl turned and faced him. "What color is Aunt
Agnes?" she asked vehemently.

"Aunt Agnes is--pretty white, too," attested the Senior Surgeon.

With the faintest possible tinge of superciliousness the Little Girl
lifted her sharp chin a trifle higher.

"If it's just a perfectly plain white pony," she said, "I'd rather have
Peach. But if it's a white pony with black blots on it, and if it can
pull a little cart, and if I can whip it with a little switch, and if it
will eat sugar-lumps out of my hand,--and if its name is--is--'Beautiful
Pretty-Thing'--"

"Its name has always been--'Beautiful Pretty-Thing,' I'm quite sure!"
insisted the Senior Surgeon. Inadvertently as he spoke he reached out
and put a hand very lightly on the White Linen Nurse's shoulder.

Instantly into the Little Girl's suspicious face flushed a furiously
uncontrollable flame of jealousy and resentment. Madly she turned upon
her father.

"You're a liar!" she screamed. "There _is_ no white pony! You're a
robber! You're a--a--drunk! You shan't have my darling Peach!" And threw
herself frenziedly into the White Linen Nurse's lap.

Impatiently the Senior Surgeon disentangled the little clinging arms,
and raising the White Linen Nurse to her feet pushed her emphatically
towards the hall.

"Go to my work-room," he said. "Quickly! I want to talk with you!"

A moment later he joined her there, and shut and locked the door behind
him. The previous night's loss of sleep showed plainly in his face now,
and the hospital strain of the day before, and of the day before that,
and of the day before _that_.

Heavily, moodily, he crossed the room and threw himself down in his desk
chair with the White Linen Nurse still standing before him as though she
were nothing but a--white linen nurse. All the splendor was suddenly
gone from him, all the radiance, all the exultant purpose.

"Well, Rae Malgregor," he grinned mirthlessly. "The little kid is right,
though I certainly don't know where she got her information. I _am_ a
Liar. The pony's name is not yet 'Beautiful Pretty-Thing'! I _am_
a--Drunk. I was drunk most of June! I _am_ a Robber! I have taken you
out of your youth--and the love-chances of your youth,--and shut you up
here in this great, gloomy old house of mine--to be my slave--and my
child's slave--and--"

"Pouf!" said the White Linen Nurse. "It would seem--silly--now, sir,--to
marry a boy!"

"And I've been a beast to you!" persisted the Senior Surgeon. "From the
very first day you belonged to me I've been a--beast to you,--venting
brutally on your youth, on your sweetness, on your patience,--all the
work, the worry, the wear and tear, the abnormal strain and stress of
my disordered days--and years,--and I've let my little girl vent also on
you all the pang and pain of _her_ disordered days! And because in this
great, gloomy, rackety house it seemed suddenly like a miracle from
heaven to have service that was soft-footed, gentle-handed,
pleasant-hearted, I've let you shoulder all the hideous drudgery,--the
care,--one horrid homely task after another piling up-up-up--till you
dropped in your tracks yesterday--still smiling!"

"But I got a good deal out of it, even so, sir!" protested the White
Linen Nurse. "See, sir!" she smiled. "I've got real lines in my
face--now--like other women! I'm not a doll any more! I'm not a--"

"Yes!" groaned the Senior Surgeon. "And I might just as kindly have
carved those lines with my knife! But I was going to make it all up to
you to-day!" he hurried. "I swear I was! Even in one short little week I
could have done it! You wouldn't have known me! I was going to take you
away,--just you and me! I would have been a Saint! I swear I would! I
would have given you such a great, wonderful, child-hearted holiday--as
you never dreamed of in all your unselfish life! A holiday all
_you--you--you!_ You could have--dug in the sand if you'd wanted to!
Gad! I'd have dug in the sand--if you'd wanted me to! And now it's all
gone from me, all the will, all the sheer positive self-assurance that I
could have carried the thing through--absolutely selflessly. That little
girl's sneering taunt? The ghost of her mother--in that taunt? God! When
anybody knocks you just in your decency it doesn't harm you specially!
But when they knock you in your Wanting-To-Be-Decent it--it undermines
you somewhere. I don't know exactly how! I'm nothing but a man
again--now, just a plain, every day, greedy, covetous, physical man--on
the edge of a holiday, the first clean holiday in twenty years,--that he
no longer dares to take!"

A little swayingly the White Linen Nurse shifted her standing weight
from one foot to the other.

"I'm sorry, sir!" said the White Linen Nurse. "I'd like to have seen a
roller-coaster, sir!"

Just for an instant a gleam of laughter went brightening across the
Senior Surgeon's brooding face, and was gone again.

"Rae Malgregor, come here!" he ordered quite sharply.

Very softly, very glidingly, like the footfall of a person who has never
known heels, the White Linen Nurse came forward swiftly and sliding in
cautiously between the Senior Surgeon and his desk, stood there with her
back braced against the desk, her fingers straying idly up and down the
edges of the desk, staring up into his face all readiness, all
attention, like a soldier waiting further orders.

So near was she that he could almost hear the velvet heart-throb of
her,--the little fluttering swallow,--yet by some strange, persistent
aloofness of her, some determinate virginity, not a fold of her gown,
not an edge, not a thread, seemed to even so much as graze his knee,
seemed to even so much as shadow his hand,--lest it short-circuit
thereby the seething currents of their variant emotions.

With extraordinary intentness for a moment the Senior Surgeon sat
staring into the girl's eyes, the blue, blue eyes too full of childish
questioning yet to flinch with either consciousness or embarrassment.

"After all, Rae Malgregor," he smiled at last, faintly--"After all, Rae
Malgregor,--Heaven knows when I shall ever get--another holiday!"

"Yes, sir?" said the White Linen Nurse.

With apparent irrelevance he reached for his ivory paper-cutter and
began bending it dangerously between his adept fingers.

"How long have you been with me, Rae Malgregor?" he asked quite
abruptly.

"Four months--actually with you, sir," said the White Linen Nurse.

"Do you happen to remember the exact phrasing of my--proposal of
marriage to you?" he asked shrewdly.

"Oh, yes, sir!" said the White Linen Nurse. "You called it 'general
heartwork for a family of two'!"

A little grimly before her steady gaze the Senior Surgeon's own eyes
fell, and rallied again almost instantly with a gaze as even and direct
as hers.

"Well," he smiled. "Through the whole four months I seem to have kept my
part of the contract all right--and held you merely as a--drudge in my
home. Have you then decided, once and for all time,--whether you are
going to stay on with us--or whether you will 'give notice' as other
drudges have done?"

With a little backward droop of one shoulder the White Linen Nurse began
to finger nervously at the desk behind her, and turning half way round
as though to estimate what damage she was doing, exposed thus merely the
profile of her pink face, of her white throat, to the Senior Surgeon's
questioning eyes.

"I shall never--give notice, sir!" fluttered the white throat.

"Are you perfectly sure?" insisted the Senior Surgeon.

The pink in the White Linen Nurse's profiled cheek deepened a little.

"Perfectly sure, sir!" attested the carmine lips.

Like the crack of a pistol the Senior Surgeon snapped the ivory paper
cutter in two.

"All right then!" he said. "Rae Malgregor, look at me! Don't take your
eyes from mine, I say! Rae Malgregor, if I should decide in my own mind,
here and now, that it was best for you--as well as for me--that you
should come away with me now--for this week,--not as my guest as I had
planned,--but as my wife,--even if you were not quite ready for it in
your heart,--even if you were not yet remotely ready for it,--would you
come because I told you to come?"

Heavily under her white, white eyelids, heavily under her black, black
lashes, the girl's eyes struggled up to meet his own.

"Yes, sir," whispered the White Linen Nurse.

Abruptly the Senior Surgeon pushed back his chair from the desk, and
stood up. The important decision once made, no further finessing of
words seemed either necessary or dignified to him.

"Go and pack your suit-case quickly then!" he ordered. "I want to get
away from here within half an hour!"

But before the girl had half crossed the room he called to her suddenly,
his whole bearing and manner miraculously changed, and his face in that
moment as haggard as if a whole lifetime's struggle was packed into it.

"Rae Malgregor," he drawled mockingly. "This thing shall be--barter way
through to the end,--with the credit always on your side of the account.
In exchange for the gift--of yourself--your--wonderful self--and the
trust that goes with it, I will give you,--God help me,--the ugliest
thing in my life. And God knows I have broken faith with myself once or
twice but--never have I broken my word to another! From now on,--in
token of your trust in me,--for whatever the bitter gift is worth to
you,--as long as you stay with me,--my Junes shall be yours--to do
with--as you please!"

"What, sir?" gasped the White Linen Nurse. "_What_, sir?"

Softly, almost stealthily, she was half way back across the room to him,
when she stopped suddenly and threw out her arms with a gesture of
appeal and defiance.

"All the same, sir!" she cried passionately, "all the same, sir,--the
place is too hard for the small pay I get! Oh, I will do what I
promised!" she attested with increasing passion. "I will never leave
you! And I will mother your little girl! And I will servant your big
house! And I will go with you wherever you say! And I will be to you
whatever you wish! And I will never flinch from any hardship you impose
on me--nor whine over any pain,--on and on and on--all my days--all my
years--till I drop in my tracks again and--die--as you say 'still
smiling'! All the same!" she reiterated wildly, "the place is too hard!
It always was too hard! It always will be too hard--for such small pay!"

"For such small pay?" gasped the Senior Surgeon.

Around his heart a horrid clammy chill began to settle. Sickeningly
through his brain a dozen recent financial transactions began to
rehearse themselves.

"You mean, Miss Malgregor," he said a bit brokenly. "You mean--that
I--haven't been generous enough with you?"

"Yes, sir," faltered the White Linen Nurse.

All the storm and passion died suddenly from her, leaving her just a
frightened girl again, flushing pink-white, pink-white, pink-white,
before the Senior Surgeon's scathing stare. One step, two steps, three,
she advanced towards him.

"Oh, I mean, sir," she whispered, "oh, I mean, sir,--that I'm just an
ordinary, ignorant country girl and you--are further above me than the
moon from the sea! I couldn't expect you to--love me, sir! I couldn't
even dream of your loving me! _But I do think you might like me just a
little bit with your heart!_"

"What?" flushed the Senior Surgeon. "_What?_"

Whacketty-bang against the window pane sounded the Little Crippled
Girl's knuckled fists! Darkly against the window pane squashed the
Little Crippled Girl's staring face.

"Father!" screamed the shrill voice. "Father! There's a white lady here
with two black ladies washing the breakfast dishes! Is it Aunt Agnes?"

With a totally unexpected laugh, with a totally unexpected desire to
laugh, the Senior Surgeon strode across the room and unlocked his door.
Even then his lips against the White Linen Nurse's ear made just a
whisper, not a kiss.

"God bless you!--_hurry!_" he said. "And let's get out of here before
any telephone message catches me!"

Then almost calmly he walked out on the piazza, and greeted his
sister-in-law.

"Hello, Agnes!" he said.

"Hello, yourself!" smiled his sister-in-law.

"How's everything?" he enquired politely.

"How's everything with you?" parried his sister-in-law.

Idly for a few moments the Senior Surgeon threw out stray crumbs of
thought to feed the conversation, while smilingly all the while from her
luxuriant East Indian chair his sister-in-law sat studying the general
situation. The Senior Surgeon's sister-in-law was always studying
something. Last year it was archaeology,--the year before,
basketry,--this year it happened to be eugenics, or something funny like
that,--next year again it might be book-binding.

"So you and your pink and white shepherdess are going off on a little
trip together?" she queried banteringly. "The girl's a darling,
Lendicott! I haven't had as much sport in a long time as I had that
afternoon last June when I came in my best calling-clothes and--helped
her paint the kitchen woodwork! And I had come prepared to be a bit
nasty, Lendicott! In all honesty, Lendicott, I might just as well 'fess
up that I had come prepared to be just a little bit nasty!"

"She seems to have a way," smiled the Senior Surgeon, "she seems to have
a way of disarming people's unpleasant intentions."

A trifle quizzically for an instant the woman turned her face to the
Senior Surgeon's. It was a worldly face, a cold-featured, absolutely
worldly face, with a surprisingly humorous mouth that warmed her nature
just about as cheer fully, and just about as effectually, as one open
fireplace warms a whole house. Nevertheless one often achieved much
comfort by keeping close to "Aunt Agnes's" humorous mouth, for Aunt
Agnes knew a thing or two,--Aunt Agnes did,--and the things that she
made a point of knowing were conscientiously amiable.

"Why, Lendicott Faber," she rallied him now. "Why, you're as nervous as
a school-boy! Why, I believe--I believe that you're going courting!"

More opportunely than any man could have dared to hope, the White Linen
Nurse appeared suddenly on the scene in her little blue serge
wedding-suit with her traveling-case in her hand. With a gasp of relief
the Senior Surgeon took her case and his own and went on down the path
to his car and his chauffeur leaving the two women temporarily alone.

When he returned to the piazza the Woman-of-the-World and the
Girl-not-at-all-of-the-World were bidding each other a really
affectionate good-by, and the woman's face looked suddenly just a little
bit old but the girl's cheeks were most inordinately blooming.

In unmistakable friendliness his sister-in-law extended her hand to him.

"Good-by, Lendicott, old man!" she said. "And good luck to you!" A
little slyly out of her shrewd gray eyes, she glanced up sideways at
him. "You've got the devil's own temper, Lendicott dear," she teased,
"and two or three other vices probably, and if rumor speaks the truth
you've run a-muck more than once in your life,--but there's one thing I
will say for you,--though it prove you a dear Stupid: you never were
over-quick to suspect that any woman could possibly be in love with
you!"

"To what woman do you particularly refer?" mocked the Senior Surgeon
impatiently.

Quite brazenly to her own heart which never yet apparently had stirred
the laces that enshrined it, his sister-in-law pointed with persistent
banter.

"Maybe I refer to--myself," she laughed, "and maybe to the only--other
lady present!"

"Oh!" gasped the White Linen Nurse.

"You do me much honor, Agnes," bowed the Senior Surgeon. Quite
resolutely he held his gaze from following the White Linen Nurse's
quickly averted face.

A little oddly for an instant the older woman's glance hung on his.
"More honor perhaps than you think, Lendicott Faber!" she said, and kept
right on smiling.

"Eh?" jerked the Senior Surgeon. Restively he turned to the White Linen
Nurse.

Very flushingly on the steps the White Linen Nurse knelt arguing with
the Little Crippled Girl.

"Your father and I are--going away," she pleaded. "Won't
you--please--kiss us good-by?"

"I've only got one kiss," sulked the Little Crippled Girl.

"Give it to your--father!" pleaded the White Linen Nurse.

Amazingly all in a second the ugliness vanished from the little face.
Dartlingly like a bird the Child swooped down and planted one large
round kiss on the Senior Surgeon's astonished boot.

"Beautiful Father!" she cried, "I kiss your feet!"

Abruptly the Senior Surgeon plunged from the step and started down the
walk. His cheek-bones were quite crimson.

Two or three rods behind him the White Linen Nurse followed falteringly.
Once she stopped to pick up a tiny stick or a stone. And once she
dallied to straighten out a snarled spray of red and brown woodbine.

Missing the sound or the shadow of her the Senior Surgeon turned
suddenly to wait. So startled was she by his intentness, so flustered,
so affrighted, that just for an instant the Senior Surgeon thought that
she was going to wheel in her tracks and bolt madly back to the house.
Then quite unexpectedly she gave an odd, muffled little cry, and ran
swiftly to him like a child, and slipped her bare hand trustingly into
his. And they went on together to the car.

With his foot already half lifted to the step the Senior Surgeon turned
abruptly around and lifted his hat and stood staring back bareheaded for
some unexplainable reason at the two silent figures on the piazza.

"Rae," he said perplexedly, "Rae, I don't seem to know just why--but
somehow I'd like to have you kiss your hand to Aunt Agnes!"

Obediently the White Linen Nurse withdrew her fingers from his and
wafted two kisses, one to "Aunt Agnes" and one to the Little Crippled
Girl.

Then the White Linen Nurse and the Senior Surgeon climbed up into the
tonneau of the car where they had never, never sat alone before, and the
Senior Surgeon gave a curt order to his man and the big car started off
again into--interminable spaces.

Mutely without a word, without a glance passing between them the Senior
Surgeon held out his hand to her once more, as though the absence of her
hand in his was suddenly a lonesomeness not to be endured again while
life lasted.

Whizz--whizz--whizz--whirr--whirr--whirr the ribbony road began to roll
up again on that hidden spool under the car.

When the chauffeur's mind seemed sufficiently absorbed in speed and
sound the Senior Surgeon bent down a little mockingly and mumbled his
lips inarticulately at the White Linen Nurse.

"See!" he laughed. "I've got a text, too, to keep my courage up! Of
course you look like an angel!" he teased closer and closer to her
flaming face. "But all the time to myself--to reassure myself--I just
keep saying--' Bah! She 's nothing but a Woman--nothing but a
Woman--nothing but a Woman'!"

Within the Senior Surgeon's warm, firm grasp the White Linen Nurse's
calm hand quickened suddenly like a bud forced precipitously into full
bloom.

"Oh, don't--talk, sir," she whispered. "Oh, don't talk, sir!
Just--listen!"

"Listen? Listen to what?" laughed the Senior Surgeon.

From under the heavy lashes that shadowed the flaming cheeks the Soul of
the Girl who was to be his peered up at the Soul of the Man who was to
be hers,--_and saluted what she saw!_

"Oh, my heart, sir!" whispered the White Linen Nurse. "Oh, my heart! My
heart! my _heart_!"


THE END





End of Project Gutenberg's The White Linen Nurse, by Eleanor Hallowell Abbott

*** END OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE WHITE LINEN NURSE ***

***** This file should be named 14506.txt or 14506.zip *****
This and all associated files of various formats will be found in:
        http://www.gutenberg.net/1/4/5/0/14506/

Produced by Robert Shimmin, Mary Meehan, and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team.


Updated editions will replace the previous one--the old editions
will be renamed.

Creating the works from public domain print editions means that no
one owns a United States copyright in these works, so the Foundation
(and you!) can copy and distribute it in the United States without
permission and without paying copyright royalties.  Special rules,
set forth in the General Terms of Use part of this license, apply to
copying and distributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works to
protect the PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm concept and trademark.  Project
Gutenberg is a registered trademark, and may not be used if you
charge for the eBooks, unless you receive specific permission.  If you
do not charge anything for copies of this eBook, complying with the
rules is very easy.  You may use this eBook for nearly any purpose
such as creation of derivative works, reports, performances and
research.  They may be modified and printed and given away--you may do
practically ANYTHING with public domain eBooks.  Redistribution is
subject to the trademark license, especially commercial
redistribution.



*** START: FULL LICENSE ***

THE FULL PROJECT GUTENBERG LICENSE
PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE YOU DISTRIBUTE OR USE THIS WORK

To protect the Project Gutenberg-tm mission of promoting the free
distribution of electronic works, by using or distributing this work
(or any other work associated in any way with the phrase "Project
Gutenberg"), you agree to comply with all the terms of the Full Project
Gutenberg-tm License (available with this file or online at
http://gutenberg.net/license).


Section 1.  General Terms of Use and Redistributing Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic works

1.A.  By reading or using any part of this Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic work, you indicate that you have read, understand, agree to
and accept all the terms of this license and intellectual property
(trademark/copyright) agreement.  If you do not agree to abide by all
the terms of this agreement, you must cease using and return or destroy
all copies of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works in your possession.
If you paid a fee for obtaining a copy of or access to a Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic work and you do not agree to be bound by the
terms of this agreement, you may obtain a refund from the person or
entity to whom you paid the fee as set forth in paragraph 1.E.8.

1.B.  "Project Gutenberg" is a registered trademark.  It may only be
used on or associated in any way with an electronic work by people who
agree to be bound by the terms of this agreement.  There are a few
things that you can do with most Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works
even without complying with the full terms of this agreement.  See
paragraph 1.C below.  There are a lot of things you can do with Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic works if you follow the terms of this agreement
and help preserve free future access to Project Gutenberg-tm electronic
works.  See paragraph 1.E below.

1.C.  The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation ("the Foundation"
or PGLAF), owns a compilation copyright in the collection of Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic works.  Nearly all the individual works in the
collection are in the public domain in the United States.  If an
individual work is in the public domain in the United States and you are
located in the United States, we do not claim a right to prevent you from
copying, distributing, performing, displaying or creating derivative
works based on the work as long as all references to Project Gutenberg
are removed.  Of course, we hope that you will support the Project
Gutenberg-tm mission of promoting free access to electronic works by
freely sharing Project Gutenberg-tm works in compliance with the terms of
this agreement for keeping the Project Gutenberg-tm name associated with
the work.  You can easily comply with the terms of this agreement by
keeping this work in the same format with its attached full Project
Gutenberg-tm License when you share it without charge with others.

1.D.  The copyright laws of the place where you are located also govern
what you can do with this work.  Copyright laws in most countries are in
a constant state of change.  If you are outside the United States, check
the laws of your country in addition to the terms of this agreement
before downloading, copying, displaying, performing, distributing or
creating derivative works based on this work or any other Project
Gutenberg-tm work.  The Foundation makes no representations concerning
the copyright status of any work in any country outside the United
States.

1.E.  Unless you have removed all references to Project Gutenberg:

1.E.1.  The following sentence, with active links to, or other immediate
access to, the full Project Gutenberg-tm License must appear prominently
whenever any copy of a Project Gutenberg-tm work (any work on which the
phrase "Project Gutenberg" appears, or with which the phrase "Project
Gutenberg" is associated) is accessed, displayed, performed, viewed,
copied or distributed:

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net

1.E.2.  If an individual Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work is derived
from the public domain (does not contain a notice indicating that it is
posted with permission of the copyright holder), the work can be copied
and distributed to anyone in the United States without paying any fees
or charges.  If you are redistributing or providing access to a work
with the phrase "Project Gutenberg" associated with or appearing on the
work, you must comply either with the requirements of paragraphs 1.E.1
through 1.E.7 or obtain permission for the use of the work and the
Project Gutenberg-tm trademark as set forth in paragraphs 1.E.8 or
1.E.9.

1.E.3.  If an individual Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work is posted
with the permission of the copyright holder, your use and distribution
must comply with both paragraphs 1.E.1 through 1.E.7 and any additional
terms imposed by the copyright holder.  Additional terms will be linked
to the Project Gutenberg-tm License for all works posted with the
permission of the copyright holder found at the beginning of this work.

1.E.4.  Do not unlink or detach or remove the full Project Gutenberg-tm
License terms from this work, or any files containing a part of this
work or any other work associated with Project Gutenberg-tm.

1.E.5.  Do not copy, display, perform, distribute or redistribute this
electronic work, or any part of this electronic work, without
prominently displaying the sentence set forth in paragraph 1.E.1 with
active links or immediate access to the full terms of the Project
Gutenberg-tm License.

1.E.6.  You may convert to and distribute this work in any binary,
compressed, marked up, nonproprietary or proprietary form, including any
word processing or hypertext form.  However, if you provide access to or
distribute copies of a Project Gutenberg-tm work in a format other than
"Plain Vanilla ASCII" or other format used in the official version
posted on the official Project Gutenberg-tm web site (www.gutenberg.net),
you must, at no additional cost, fee or expense to the user, provide a
copy, a means of exporting a copy, or a means of obtaining a copy upon
request, of the work in its original "Plain Vanilla ASCII" or other
form.  Any alternate format must include the full Project Gutenberg-tm
License as specified in paragraph 1.E.1.

1.E.7.  Do not charge a fee for access to, viewing, displaying,
performing, copying or distributing any Project Gutenberg-tm works
unless you comply with paragraph 1.E.8 or 1.E.9.

1.E.8.  You may charge a reasonable fee for copies of or providing
access to or distributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works provided
that

- You pay a royalty fee of 20% of the gross profits you derive from
     the use of Project Gutenberg-tm works calculated using the method
     you already use to calculate your applicable taxes.  The fee is
     owed to the owner of the Project Gutenberg-tm trademark, but he
     has agreed to donate royalties under this paragraph to the
     Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.  Royalty payments
     must be paid within 60 days following each date on which you
     prepare (or are legally required to prepare) your periodic tax
     returns.  Royalty payments should be clearly marked as such and
     sent to the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation at the
     address specified in Section 4, "Information about donations to
     the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation."

- You provide a full refund of any money paid by a user who notifies
     you in writing (or by e-mail) within 30 days of receipt that s/he
     does not agree to the terms of the full Project Gutenberg-tm
     License.  You must require such a user to return or
     destroy all copies of the works possessed in a physical medium
     and discontinue all use of and all access to other copies of
     Project Gutenberg-tm works.

- You provide, in accordance with paragraph 1.F.3, a full refund of any
     money paid for a work or a replacement copy, if a defect in the
     electronic work is discovered and reported to you within 90 days
     of receipt of the work.

- You comply with all other terms of this agreement for free
     distribution of Project Gutenberg-tm works.

1.E.9.  If you wish to charge a fee or distribute a Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic work or group of works on different terms than are set
forth in this agreement, you must obtain permission in writing from
both the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation and Michael
Hart, the owner of the Project Gutenberg-tm trademark.  Contact the
Foundation as set forth in Section 3 below.

1.F.

1.F.1.  Project Gutenberg volunteers and employees expend considerable
effort to identify, do copyright research on, transcribe and proofread
public domain works in creating the Project Gutenberg-tm
collection.  Despite these efforts, Project Gutenberg-tm electronic
works, and the medium on which they may be stored, may contain
"Defects," such as, but not limited to, incomplete, inaccurate or
corrupt data, transcription errors, a copyright or other intellectual
property infringement, a defective or damaged disk or other medium, a
computer virus, or computer codes that damage or cannot be read by
your equipment.

1.F.2.  LIMITED WARRANTY, DISCLAIMER OF DAMAGES - Except for the "Right
of Replacement or Refund" described in paragraph 1.F.3, the Project
Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation, the owner of the Project
Gutenberg-tm trademark, and any other party distributing a Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic work under this agreement, disclaim all
liability to you for damages, costs and expenses, including legal
fees.  YOU AGREE THAT YOU HAVE NO REMEDIES FOR NEGLIGENCE, STRICT
LIABILITY, BREACH OF WARRANTY OR BREACH OF CONTRACT EXCEPT THOSE
PROVIDED IN PARAGRAPH F3.  YOU AGREE THAT THE FOUNDATION, THE
TRADEMARK OWNER, AND ANY DISTRIBUTOR UNDER THIS AGREEMENT WILL NOT BE
LIABLE TO YOU FOR ACTUAL, DIRECT, INDIRECT, CONSEQUENTIAL, PUNITIVE OR
INCIDENTAL DAMAGES EVEN IF YOU GIVE NOTICE OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH
DAMAGE.

1.F.3.  LIMITED RIGHT OF REPLACEMENT OR REFUND - If you discover a
defect in this electronic work within 90 days of receiving it, you can
receive a refund of the money (if any) you paid for it by sending a
written explanation to the person you received the work from.  If you
received the work on a physical medium, you must return the medium with
your written explanation.  The person or entity that provided you with
the defective work may elect to provide a replacement copy in lieu of a
refund.  If you received the work electronically, the person or entity
providing it to you may choose to give you a second opportunity to
receive the work electronically in lieu of a refund.  If the second copy
is also defective, you may demand a refund in writing without further
opportunities to fix the problem.

1.F.4.  Except for the limited right of replacement or refund set forth
in paragraph 1.F.3, this work is provided to you 'AS-IS', WITH NO OTHER
WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO
WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTIBILITY OR FITNESS FOR ANY PURPOSE.

1.F.5.  Some states do not allow disclaimers of certain implied
warranties or the exclusion or limitation of certain types of damages.
If any disclaimer or limitation set forth in this agreement violates the
law of the state applicable to this agreement, the agreement shall be
interpreted to make the maximum disclaimer or limitation permitted by
the applicable state law.  The invalidity or unenforceability of any
provision of this agreement shall not void the remaining provisions.

1.F.6.  INDEMNITY - You agree to indemnify and hold the Foundation, the
trademark owner, any agent or employee of the Foundation, anyone
providing copies of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works in accordance
with this agreement, and any volunteers associated with the production,
promotion and distribution of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works,
harmless from all liability, costs and expenses, including legal fees,
that arise directly or indirectly from any of the following which you do
or cause to occur: (a) distribution of this or any Project Gutenberg-tm
work, (b) alteration, modification, or additions or deletions to any
Project Gutenberg-tm work, and (c) any Defect you cause.


Section  2.  Information about the Mission of Project Gutenberg-tm

Project Gutenberg-tm is synonymous with the free distribution of
electronic works in formats readable by the widest variety of computers
including obsolete, old, middle-aged and new computers.  It exists
because of the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and donations from
people in all walks of life.

Volunteers and financial support to provide volunteers with the
assistance they need, is critical to reaching Project Gutenberg-tm's
goals and ensuring that the Project Gutenberg-tm collection will
remain freely available for generations to come.  In 2001, the Project
Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation was created to provide a secure
and permanent future for Project Gutenberg-tm and future generations.
To learn more about the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation
and how your efforts and donations can help, see Sections 3 and 4
and the Foundation web page at http://www.pglaf.org.


Section 3.  Information about the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive
Foundation

The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation is a non profit
501(c)(3) educational corporation organized under the laws of the
state of Mississippi and granted tax exempt status by the Internal
Revenue Service.  The Foundation's EIN or federal tax identification
number is 64-6221541.  Its 501(c)(3) letter is posted at
http://pglaf.org/fundraising.  Contributions to the Project Gutenberg
Literary Archive Foundation are tax deductible to the full extent
permitted by U.S. federal laws and your state's laws.

The Foundation's principal office is located at 4557 Melan Dr. S.
Fairbanks, AK, 99712., but its volunteers and employees are scattered
throughout numerous locations.  Its business office is located at
809 North 1500 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84116, (801) 596-1887, email
business@pglaf.org.  Email contact links and up to date contact
information can be found at the Foundation's web site and official
page at http://pglaf.org

For additional contact information:
     Dr. Gregory B. Newby
     Chief Executive and Director
     gbnewby@pglaf.org

Section 4.  Information about Donations to the Project Gutenberg
Literary Archive Foundation

Project Gutenberg-tm depends upon and cannot survive without wide
spread public support and donations to carry out its mission of
increasing the number of public domain and licensed works that can be
freely distributed in machine readable form accessible by the widest
array of equipment including outdated equipment.  Many small donations
($1 to $5,000) are particularly important to maintaining tax exempt
status with the IRS.

The Foundation is committed to complying with the laws regulating
charities and charitable donations in all 50 states of the United
States.  Compliance requirements are not uniform and it takes a
considerable effort, much paperwork and many fees to meet and keep up
with these requirements.  We do not solicit donations in locations
where we have not received written confirmation of compliance.  To
SEND DONATIONS or determine the status of compliance for any
particular state visit http://pglaf.org

While we cannot and do not solicit contributions from states where we
have not met the solicitation requirements, we know of no prohibition
against accepting unsolicited donations from donors in such states who
approach us with offers to donate.

International donations are gratefully accepted, but we cannot make
any statements concerning tax treatment of donations received from
outside the United States.  U.S. laws alone swamp our small staff.

Please check the Project Gutenberg Web pages for current donation
methods and addresses.  Donations are accepted in a number of other
ways including including checks, online payments and credit card
donations.  To donate, please visit: http://pglaf.org/donate


Section 5.  General Information About Project Gutenberg-tm electronic
works.

Professor Michael S. Hart is the originator of the Project Gutenberg-tm
concept of a library of electronic works that could be freely shared
with anyone.  For thirty years, he produced and distributed Project
Gutenberg-tm eBooks with only a loose network of volunteer support.

Project Gutenberg-tm eBooks are often created from several printed
editions, all of which are confirmed as Public Domain in the U.S.
unless a copyright notice is included.  Thus, we do not necessarily
keep eBooks in compliance with any particular paper edition.

Most people start at our Web site which has the main PG search facility:

     http://www.gutenberg.net

This Web site includes information about Project Gutenberg-tm,
including how to make donations to the Project Gutenberg Literary
Archive Foundation, how to help produce our new eBooks, and how to
subscribe to our email newsletter to hear about new eBooks.

*** END: FULL LICENSE ***


Colophon

This file was acquired from Project Gutenberg, and it is in the public domain. It is re-distributed here as a part of the Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts (http://infomotions.com/alex/) by Eric Lease Morgan (Infomotions, Inc.) for the purpose of freely sharing, distributing, and making available works of great literature. Its Infomotions unique identifier is etext14506, and it should be available from the following URL:

http://infomotions.com/etexts/id/etext14506



Infomotions, Inc.

Infomotions Man says, "Give back to the 'Net."