THE WORKS OF
MARY ROBERTS RINEHART
THE REVIEW OF REVIEWS COMPANY
Publishers NEW YORK
PUBLISHED BY ARRANGEMENT
WITH GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY.
Copyright, 1919, By George H. Doran Company
Copyright, 1912, 1913, 1916, by the Curtis Publishing Company
Copyright, 1912, by The McClure Publications, Inc.
Copyright, 1917, by The Metropolitan Magazine Co.
IN THE PAVILION
"ARE WE DOWNHEARTED? NO!"
The Probationer's name was really Nella Jane Brown, but she was
entered in the training school as N. Jane Brown. However, she meant
when she was accepted to be plain Jane Brown. Not, of course, that
she could ever be really plain.
People on the outside of hospitals have a curious theory about
nurses, especially if they are under twenty. They believe that they
have been disappointed in love. They never think that they may
intend to study medicine later on, or that they may think nursing is
a good and honourable career, or that they may really like to care
for the sick.
The man in this story had the theory very hard.
When he opened his eyes after the wall of the warehouse dropped, N.
Jane Brown was sitting beside him. She had been practising counting
pulses on him, and her eyes were slightly upturned and very earnest.
There was a strong odour of burnt rags in the air, and the man
sniffed. Then he put a hand to his upper lip--the right hand. She
was holding his left.
"Did I lose anything besides this?" he inquired. His little
moustache was almost entirely gone. A gust of fire had accompanied
"Your eyebrows," said Jane Brown.
The man--he was as young for a man as Jane Brown was for a
nurse--the man lay quite still for a moment. Then:
"I'm sorry to undeceive you," he said. "But my right leg is off."
He said it lightly, because that is the way he took things. But he
had a strange singing in his ears.
"I'm afraid it's broken. But you still have it." She smiled. She had
a very friendly smile. "Have you any pain anywhere?"
He was terribly afraid she would go away and leave him, so, although
he was quite comfortable, owing to a hypodermic he had had, he
groaned slightly. He was, at that time, not particularly interested
in Jane Brown, but he did not want to be alone. He closed his eyes
and said feebly:
She gave him a teaspoonful, bending over him and being careful not
to spill it down his neck. Her uniform crackled when she moved. It
had rather too much starch in it.
The man, whose name was Middleton, closed his eyes. Owing to the
morphia, he had at least a hundred things he wished to discuss. The
trouble was to fix on one out of the lot.
"I feel like a bit of conversation," he observed. "How about you?"
Then he saw that she was busy again. She held an old-fashioned
hunting-case watch in her hand, and her eyes were fixed on his
chest. At each rise and fall of the coverlet her lips moved. Mr.
Middleton, who was feeling wonderful, experimented. He drew four
very rapid breaths, and four very slow ones. He was rewarded by
seeing her rush to a table and write something on a sheet of yellow
"Resparation, very iregular," was what she wrote. She was not a
particularly good speller.
After that Mr. Middleton slept for what he felt was a day and a
night. It was really ten minutes by the hunting-case watch. Just
long enough for the Senior Surgical Interne, known in the school as
the S.S.I., to wander in, feel his pulse, approve of Jane Brown, and
Jane Brown had risen nervously when he came in, and had proffered
him the order book and a clean towel, as she had been instructed. He
had, however, required neither. He glanced over the record, changed
the spelling of "resparation," arranged his tie at the mirror, took
another look at Jane Brown, and went out. He had not spoken.
It was when his white-linen clad figure went out that Middleton
wakened and found it was the same day. He felt at once like
conversation, and he began immediately. But the morphia did a
curious thing to him. He was never afterward able to explain it. It
made him create. He lay there and invented for Jane Brown a
fictitious person, who was himself. This person, he said, was a
newspaper reporter, who had been sent to report the warehouse fire.
He had got too close, and a wall had come down on him. He invented
the newspaper, too, but, as Jane Brown had come from somewhere else,
she did not notice this.
In fact, after a time he felt that she was not as really interested
as she might have been, so he introduced a love element. He was, as
has been said, of those who believe that nurses go into hospitals
because of being blighted. So he introduced a Mabel, suppressing her
other name, and boasted, in a way he afterward remembered with
horror, that Mabel was in love with him. She was, he related,
something or other on his paper.
At the end of two hours of babbling, a businesslike person in a
cap--the Probationer wears no cap--relieved Jane Brown, and spilled
some beef tea down his neck.
Now, Mr. Middleton knew no one in that city. He had been motoring
through, and he had, on seeing the warehouse burning, abandoned his
machine for a closer view. He had left it with the engine running,
and, as a matter of fact, it ran for four hours, when it died of
starvation, and was subsequently interred in a city garage. However,
he owned a number of cars, so he wasted no thought on that one. He
was a great deal more worried about his eyebrows, and, naturally,
about his leg.
When he had been in the hospital ten hours it occurred to him to
notify his family. But he put it off for two reasons: first, it
would be a lot of trouble; second, he had no reason to think they
particularly wanted to know. They all had such a lot of things to
do, such as bridge and opening country houses and going to the
Springs. They were really overwhelmed, without anything new, and
they had never been awfully interested in him anyhow.
He was not at all bitter about it.
That night Mr. Middleton--but he was now officially "Twenty-two," by
that system of metonymy which designates a hospital private patient
by the number of his room--that night "Twenty-two" had rather a bad
time, between his leg and his conscience. Both carried on
disgracefully. His leg stabbed, and his conscience reminded him of
Mabel, and that if one is going to lie, there should at least be a
reason. To lie out of the whole cloth----!
However, toward morning, with what he felt was the entire
pharmacopoeia inside him, and his tongue feeling like a tar roof, he
made up his mind to stick to his story, at least as far as the young
lady with the old-fashioned watch was concerned. He had a sort of
creed, which shows how young he was, that one should never explain
to a girl.
There was another reason still. There had been a faint sparkle in
the eyes of the young lady with the watch while he was lying to her.
He felt that she was seeing him in heroic guise, and the thought
pleased him. It was novel.
To tell the truth, he had been getting awfully bored with himself
since he left college. Everything he tried to do, somebody else
could do so much better. And he comforted himself with this, that he
would have been a journalist if he could, or at least have published
a newspaper. He knew what was wrong with about a hundred newspapers.
He decided to confess about Mabel, but to hold fast to journalism.
Then he lay in bed and watched for the Probationer to come back.
However, here things began to go wrong. He did not see Jane Brown
again. There were day nurses and night nurses and reliefs, and
_internes_ and Staff and the Head Nurse and the First Assistant
and--everything but Jane Brown. And at last he inquired for her.
"The first day I was in here," he said to Miss Willoughby, "there
was a little girl here without a cap. I don't know her name. But I
haven't seen her since."
Miss Willoughby, who, if she had been disappointed in love, had
certainly had time to forget it, Miss Willoughby reflected.
"Without a cap? Then it was only one of the probationers."
"You don't remember which one?"
But she only observed that probationers were always coming and
going, and it wasn't worth while learning their names until they
were accepted. And that, anyhow, probationers should never be sent
to private patients, who are paying a lot and want the best.
"Really," she added, "I don't know what the school is coming to.
Since this war in Europe every girl wants to wear a uniform and be
ready to go to the front if we have trouble. All sorts of silly
children are applying. We have one now, on this very floor, not a
day over nineteen."
"Who is she?" asked Middleton. He felt that this was the one. She
was so exactly the sort Miss Willoughby would object to.
"Jane Brown," snapped Miss Willoughby. "A little, namby-pamby,
mush-and-milk creature, afraid of her own shadow."
Now, Jane Brown, at that particular moment, was sitting in her
little room in the dormitory, with the old watch ticking on the
stand so she would not over-stay her off duty. She was aching with
fatigue from her head, with its smooth and shiny hair, to her feet,
which were in a bowl of witch hazel and hot water. And she was
crying over a letter she was writing.
Jane Brown had just come from her first death. It had taken place in
H ward, where she daily washed window-sills, and disinfected stands,
and carried dishes in and out. And it had not been what she had
expected. In the first place, the man had died for hours. She had
never heard of this. She had thought of death as coming quickly--a
glance of farewell, closing eyes, and--rest. But for hours and hours
the struggle had gone on, a fight for breath that all the ward could
hear. And he had not closed his eyes at all. They were turned up,
The Probationer had suffered horribly, and at last she had gone
behind the screen and folded her hands and closed her eyes, and said
"Dear God--please take him quickly."
He had stopped breathing almost immediately. But that may have been
However, she was not writing that home. Between gasps she was
telling the humours of visiting day in the ward, and of how kind
every one was to her, which, if not entirely true, was not entirely
untrue. They were kind enough when they had time to be, or when they
remembered her. Only they did not always remember her.
She ended by saying that she was quite sure they meant to accept her
when her three months was up. It was frightfully necessary that she
She sent messages to all the little town, which had seen her off
almost _en masse_. And she added that the probationers received the
regular first-year allowance of eight dollars a month, and she could
make it do nicely--which was quite true, unless she kept on breaking
thermometers when she shook them down.
At the end she sent her love to everybody, including even worthless
Johnny Fraser, who cut the grass and scrubbed the porches; and, of
course, to Doctor Willie. He was called Doctor Willie because his
father, who had taken him into partnership long ago, was Doctor
Will. It never had seemed odd, although Doctor Willie was now
sixty-five, and a saintly soul.
Curiously enough, her letter was dated April first. Under that very
date, and about that time of the day, a health officer in a near-by
borough was making an entry regarding certain coloured gentlemen
shipped north from Louisiana to work on a railroad. Opposite the
name of one Augustus Baird he put a cross. This indicated that
Augustus Baird had not been vaccinated.
By the sixth of April "Twenty-two" had progressed from splints to a
plaster cast, and was being most awfully bored. Jane Brown had not
returned, and there was a sort of relentless maturity about the
nurses who looked after him that annoyed him.
Lying there, he had a good deal of time to study them, and somehow
his recollection of the girl with the hunting-case watch did not
seem to fit her in with these kindly and efficient women. He could
not, for instance, imagine her patronising the Senior Surgical
Interne in a deferential but unmistakable manner, or good-naturedly
bullying the First Assistant, who was a nervous person in shoes too
small for her, as to their days off duty.
Twenty-two began to learn things about the hospital. For instance,
the day nurse, while changing his pillow slips, would observe that
Nineteen was going to be operated on that day, and close her lips
over further information. But when the afternoon relief, while
giving him his toothbrush after lunch, said there was a most
interesting gall-stone case in nineteen, and the night nurse, in
reply to a direct question, told Nineteen's name, but nothing else,
Twenty-two had a fair working knowledge of the day's events.
He seemed to learn about everything but Jane Brown. He knew when a
new baby came, and was even given a glimpse of one, showing, he
considered, about the colour and general contour of a maraschino
cherry. And he learned soon that the god of the hospital is the
Staff, although worship did not blind the nurses to their
weaknesses. Thus the older men, who had been trained before the day
of asepsis and modern methods, were revered but carefully watched.
They would get out of scrubbing their hands whenever they could, and
they hated their beards tied up with gauze. The nurses, keen,
competent and kindly, but shrewd, too, looked after these elderly
recalcitrants; loved a few, hated some, and presented to the world
unbroken ranks for their defence.
Twenty-two learned also the story of the First Assistant, who was in
love with one of the Staff, who was married, and did not care for
her anyhow. So she wore tight shoes, and was always beautifully
waved, and read Browning.
She had a way of coming in and saying brightly, as if to reassure
"Good morning, Twenty-two. Well, God is still in His heaven, and
all's well with the world."
Twenty-two got to feeling awfully uncomfortable about her. She used
to bring him flowers and sit down a moment to rest her feet, which
generally stung. And she would stop in the middle of a sentence and
look into space, but always with a determined smile.
He felt awfully uncomfortable. She was so neat and so efficient--and
so tragic. He tried to imagine being hopelessly in love, and trying
to live on husks of Browning. Not even Mrs. Browning.
The mind is a curious thing. Suddenly, from thinking of Mrs.
Browning, he thought of N. Jane Brown. Of course not by that
ridiculous name. He had learned that she was stationed on that
floor. And in the same flash he saw the Senior Surgical Interne
swanking about in white ducks and just the object for a probationer
to fall in love with. He lay there, and pulled the beginning of the
new moustache, and reflected. The First Assistant was pinning a
spray of hyacinth in her cap.
"Look here," he said. "Why can't I be put in a wheeled chair and get
about? One that I can manipulate myself," he added craftily.
She demurred. Indeed, everybody demurred when he put it up to them.
But he had gone through the world to the age of twenty-four, getting
his own way about ninety-seven per cent. of the time. He got it this
time, consisting of a new cast, which he named Elizabeth, and a
roller-chair, and he spent a full day learning how to steer himself
Then, on the afternoon of the third day, rolling back toward the
elevator and the _terra incognita_ which lay beyond, he saw a sign.
He stared at it blankly, because it interfered considerably with a
plan he had in mind. The sign was of tin, and it said:
"No private patients allowed beyond here."
Twenty-two sat in his chair and stared at it. The plaster cast
stretched out in front of him, and was covered by a grey blanket.
With the exception of the trifling formality of trousers, he was
well dressed in a sack coat, a shirt, waistcoat, and a sort of
college-boy collar and tie, which one of the orderlies had purchased
for him. His other things were in that extremely expensive English
car which the city was storing.
The plain truth is that Twenty-two was looking for Jane Brown. Since
she had not come to him, he must go to her. He particularly wanted
to set her right as to Mabel. And he felt, too, that that trick
about respirations had not been entirely fair.
He was, of course, not in the slightest degree in love with her. He
had only seen her once, and then he had had a broken leg and a
quarter grain of morphia and a burned moustache and no eyebrows left
to speak of.
But there was the sign. It was hung to a nail beside the elevator
shaft. And far beyond, down the corridor, was somebody in a blue
dress and no cap. It might be anybody, but again----
Twenty-two looked around. The elevator had just gone down at its
usual rate of a mile every two hours. In the convalescent parlour,
where private patients _en negligée_ complained about the hospital
food, the nurse in charge was making a new cap. Over all the
hospital brooded an after-luncheon peace.
Twenty-two wheeled up under the sign and considered his average of
ninety-seven per cent. Followed in sequence these events: (a)
Twenty-two wheeled back to the parlour, where old Mr. Simond's cane
leaned against a table, and, while engaging that gentleman in
conversation, possessed himself of the cane. (b) Wheeled back to the
elevator. (c) Drew cane from beneath blanket. (d) Unhooked sign with
cane and concealed both under blanket. (e) Worked his way back along
the forbidden territory, past I and J until he came to H ward.
Jane Brown was in H ward.
She was alone, and looking very professional. There is nothing quite
so professional as a new nurse. She had, indeed, reached a point
where, if she took a pulse three times, she got somewhat similar
results. There had been a time when they had run something like
Jane Brown was taking pulses. It was a visiting day, and all the
beds had fresh white spreads, tucked in neatly at the foot. In the
exact middle of the centre table with its red cloth, was a vase of
yellow tulips. The sun came in and turned them to golden flame.
Jane Brown was on duty alone and taking pulses with one eye while
she watched the visitors with the other. She did the watching better
than she did the pulses. For instance, she was distinctly aware that
Stanislas Krzykolski's wife, in the bed next the end, had just slid
a half-dozen greasy cakes, sprinkled with sugar, under his pillow.
She knew, however, that not only grease but love was in those cakes,
and she did not intend to confiscate them until after Mrs.
Krzykolski had gone.
More visitors came. Shuffling and self-conscious mill-workers,
walking on their toes; draggled women; a Chinese boy; a girl with a
rouged face and a too confident manner. A hum of conversation hung
over the long room. The sunlight came in and turned to glory, not
only the tulips and the red tablecloth, but also the brass basins,
the fireplace fender, and the Probationer's hair.
Twenty-two sat unnoticed in the doorway. A young girl, very lame,
with a mandolin, had just entered the ward. In the little stir of
her arrival, Twenty-two had time to see that Jane Brown was worth
even all the trouble he had taken, and more. Really, to see Jane
Brown properly, she should have always been seen in the sun. She was
The lame girl sat down in the centre of the ward, and the buzz died
away. She was not pretty, and she was very nervous. Twenty-two
frowned a trifle.
"Poor devils," he said to himself. But Jane Brown put away her
hunting-case watch, and the lame girl swept the ward with soft eyes
that had in them a pity that was almost a benediction.
Then she sang. Her voice was like her eyes, very sweet and rather
frightened, but tender. And suddenly something a little hard and
selfish in Twenty-two began to be horribly ashamed of itself. And,
for no earthly reason in the world, he began to feel like a cumberer
of the earth. Before she had finished the first song, he was
thinking that perhaps when he was getting about again, he might run
over to France for a few months in the ambulance service. A fellow
really ought to do his bit.
At just about that point Jane Brown turned and saw him. And although
he had run all these risks to get to her, and even then had an
extremely cold tin sign lying on his knee under the blanket, at
first she did not know him. The shock of this was almost too much
for him. In all sorts of places people were glad to see him,
especially women. He was astonished, but it was good for him.
She recognised him almost immediately, however, and flushed a
little, because she knew he had no business there. She was awfully
bound up with rules.
"I came back on purpose to see you," said Twenty-two, when at last
the lame girl had limped away. "Because, that day I came in and you
looked after me, you know, I--must have talked a lot of nonsense."
"Morphia makes some people talk," she said. It was said in an exact
copy of the ward nurse's voice, a frightfully professional and
"But," said Twenty-two, stirring uneasily, "I said a lot that wasn't
true. You may have forgotten, but I haven't. Now that about a girl
named Mabel, for instance----"
He stirred again, because, after all, what did it matter what he had
said? She was gazing over the ward. She was not interested in him.
She had almost forgotten him. And as he stirred Mr. Simond's cane
fell out. It was immediately followed by the tin sign, which only
gradually subsided, face up, on the bare floor, in a slowly
diminishing series of crashes.
Jane Brown stooped and picked them both up and placed them on his
lap. Then, very stern, she marched out of the ward into the
corridor, and there subsided into quiet hysterics of mirth.
Twenty-two, who hated to be laughed at, followed her in the chair,
looking extremely annoyed.
"What else was I to do?" he demanded, after a time. "Of course, if
you report it, I'm gone."
"What do you intend to do with it now?" she asked. All her
professional manner had gone, and she looked alarmingly young.
"If I put it back, I'll only have to steal it again. Because I am
absolutely bored to death in that room of mine. I have played a
thousand games of solitaire."
The Probationer looked around. There was no one in sight.
"I should think," she suggested, "that if you slipped it behind that
radiator, no one would ever know about it."
Fortunately, the ambulance gong set up a clamour below the window
just then, and no one heard one of the hospital's most cherished
rules going, as one may say, into the discard.
The Probationer leaned her nose against the window and looked down.
A coloured man was being carried in on a stretcher. Although she did
not know it--indeed, never did know it--the coloured gentleman in
question was one Augustus Baird.
Soon afterward Twenty-two squeaked--his chair needed
oiling--squeaked back to his lonely room and took stock. He found
that he was rid of Mabel, but was still a reporter, hurt in doing
his duty. He had let this go because he saw that duty was a sort of
fetish with the Probationer. And since just now she liked him for
what she thought he was, why not wait to tell her until she liked
him for himself?
He hoped she was going to like him, because she was going to see him
a lot. Also, he liked her even better than he had remembered that he
did. She had a sort of thoroughbred look that he liked. And he liked
the way her hair was soft and straight and shiny. And he liked the
way she was all business and no nonsense. And the way she counted
pulses, with her lips moving and a little frown between her
eyebrows. And he liked her for being herself--which is, after all,
the reason why most men like the women they like, and extremely
The First Assistant loaned him Browning that afternoon, and he read
"Pippa Passes." He thought Pippa must have looked like the
The Head was a bit querulous that evening. The Heads of Training
Schools get that way now and then, although they generally reveal it
only to the First Assistant. They have to do so many irreconcilable
things, such as keeping down expenses while keeping up requisitions,
and remembering the different sorts of sutures the Staff likes, and
receiving the Ladies' Committee, and conducting prayers and
lectures, and knowing by a swift survey of a ward that the stands
have been carbolised and all the toe-nails cut. Because it is
amazing the way toe-nails grow in bed.
The Head would probably never have come out flatly, but she had a
wretched cold, and the First Assistant was giving her a mustard
footbath, which was very hot. The Head sat up with a blanket over
her shoulders, and read lists while her feet took on the blush of
ripe apples. And at last she said:
"How is that Probationer with the ridiculous name getting along?"
The First Assistant poured in more hot water.
"N. Jane?" she asked. "Well, she's a nice little thing, and she
seems willing. But, of course----"
The Head groaned.
"Nineteen!" she said. "And no character at all. I detest fluttery
people. She flutters the moment I go into the ward."
The First Assistant sat back and felt of her cap, which was of
starched tulle and was softening a bit from the steam. She felt a
thrill of pity for the Probationer. She, too, had once felt fluttery
when the Head came in.
"She is very anxious to stay," she observed. "She works hard, too.
"She has no personality, no decision," said the Head, and sneezed
twice. She was really very wretched, and so she was unfair. "She is
pretty and sweet. But I cannot run my training school on prettiness
and sweetness. Has Doctor Harvard come in yet?"
"I--I think not," said the First Assistant. She looked up quickly,
but the Head was squeezing a lemon in a cup of hot water beside her.
Now, while the Head was having a footbath, and Twenty-two was having
a stock-taking, and Augustus Baird was having his symptoms recorded,
Jane Brown was having a shock.
She heard an unmistakable shuffling of feet in the corridor.
Sounds take on much significance in a hospital, and probationers
study them, especially footsteps. It gives them a moment sometimes
to think what to do next.
_Internes_, for instance, frequently wear rubber soles on their
white shoes and have a way of slipping up on one. And the engineer
goes on a half run, generally accompanied by the clanking of a tool
or two. And the elevator man runs, too, because generally the bell
is ringing. And ward patients shuffle about in carpet slippers, and
the pharmacy clerk has a brisk young step, inclined to be jaunty.
But it is the Staff which is always unmistakable. It comes along the
corridor deliberately, inexorably. It plants its feet firmly and
with authority. It moves with the inevitability of fate, with the
pride of royalty, with the ease of the best made-to-order boots. The
ring of a Staff member's heel on a hospital corridor is the most
authoritative sound on earth. He may be the gentlest soul in the
world, but he will tread like royalty.
But this was not Staff. Jane Brown knew this sound, and it filled
her with terror. It was the scuffling of four pairs of feet,
carefully instructed not to keep step. It meant, in other words, a
stretcher. But perhaps it was not coming to her. Ah, but it was!
Panic seized Jane Brown. She knew there were certain things to do,
but they went out of her mind like a cat out of a cellar window.
However, the ward was watching. It had itself, generally speaking,
come in feet first. It knew the procedure. So, instructed by low
voices from the beds around, Jane Brown feverishly tore the spread
off the emergency bed and drew it somewhat apart from its fellows.
Then she stood back and waited.
Came in four officers from the police patrol. Came in the Senior
Surgical Interne. Came two convalescents from the next ward to stare
in at the door. Came the stretcher, containing a quiet figure under
a grey blanket.
Twenty-two, at that exact moment, was putting a queen on a ten spot
and pretending there is nothing wrong about cheating oneself.
In a very short time the quiet figure was on the bed, and the Senior
Surgical Interne was writing in the order book: "Prepare for
Jane Brown read it over his shoulder, which is not etiquette.
"But--I can't," she quavered. "I don't know how. I won't touch him.
Then she took another look at the bed and she saw--Johnny Fraser.
Now Johnny had, in his small way, played a part in the Probationer's
life, such as occasionally scrubbing porches or borrowing a half
dollar or being suspected of stealing the eggs from the henhouse.
But _that_ Johnny Fraser had been a wicked, smiling imp, much given
to sitting in the sun.
Here lay another Johnny Fraser, a quiet one, who might never again
feel the warm earth through his worthless clothes on his worthless
young body. A Johnny of closed eyes and slow, noisy breathing.
"Why, Johnny!" said the Probationer, in a strangled voice.
The Senior Surgical Interne was interested.
"Know him?" he said.
"He is a boy from home." She was still staring at this quiet,
The Senior Surgical Interne eyed her with an eye that was only
partially professional. Then he went to the medicine closet and
poured a bit of aromatic ammonia into a glass.
"Sit down and drink this," he said, in a very masculine voice. He
liked to feel that he could do something for her. Indeed, there was
something almost proprietary in the way he took her pulse.
Some time after the early hospital supper that evening Twenty-two,
having oiled his chair with some olive oil from his tray, made a
clandestine trip through the twilight of the corridor back of the
elevator shaft. To avoid scandal he pretended interest in other
wards, but he gravitated, as a needle to the pole, to H. And there
he found the Probationer, looking rather strained, and mothering a
quiet figure on a bed.
He was a trifle puzzled at her distress, for she made no secret of
Johnny's status in the community. What he did not grasp was that
Johnny Fraser was a link between this new and rather terrible world
of the hospital and home. It was not Johnny alone, it was Johnny
scrubbing a home porch and doing it badly, it was Johnny in her
father's old clothes, it was Johnny fishing for catfish in the
creek, or lending his pole to one of the little brothers whose
pictures were on her table in the dormitory.
Twenty-two felt a certain depression. He reflected rather grimly
that he had been ten days missing and that no one had apparently
given a hang whether he turned up or not.
"Is he going to live?" he inquired. He could see that the ward nurse
had an eye on him, and was preparing for retreat.
"O yes," said Jane Brown. "I think so now. The _interne_ says they
have had a message from Doctor Willie. He is coming." There was a
beautiful confidence in her tone.
Things moved very fast with the Probationer for the next twenty-four
hours. Doctor Willie came, looking weary but smiling benevolently.
Jane Brown met him in a corridor and kissed him, as, indeed, she had
been in the habit of doing since her babyhood.
"Where is the young rascal?" said Doctor Willie. "Up to his old
tricks, Nellie, and struck by a train." He put a hand under her
chin, which is never done to the members of the training school in a
hospital, and searched her face with his kind old eyes. "Well, how
does it go, Nellie?"
Jane Brown swallowed hard.
"All right," she managed. "They want to operate, Doctor Willie."
"Tut!" he said. "Always in a hurry, these hospitals. We'll wait a
while, I think."
"Is everybody well at home?"
It had come to her, you see, what comes to every nurse once in her
training--the thinness of the veil, the terror of calamity, the fear
"All well. And----" he glanced around. Only the Senior Surgical
Interne was in sight, and he was out of hearing. "Look here,
Nellie," he said, "I've got a dozen fresh eggs for you in my
satchel. Your mother sent them."
She nearly lost her professional manner again then. But she only
asked him to warn the boys about automobiles and riding on the backs
Had any one said Twenty-two to her, she would not have known what
was meant. Not just then, anyhow.
In the doctors' room that night the Senior Surgical Interne lighted
a cigarette and telephoned to the operating room.
"That trephining's off," he said, briefly.
Then he fell to conversation with the Senior Medical, who was rather
worried about a case listed on the books as Augustus Baird,
Twenty-two did not sleep very well that night. He needed exercise,
he felt. But there was something else. Miss Brown had been just a
shade too ready to accept his explanation about Mabel, he felt, so
ready that he feared she had been more polite than sincere. Probably
she still believed there was a Mabel. Not that it mattered, except
that he hated to make a fool of himself. He roused once in the night
and was quite sure he heard her voice down the corridor. He knew
this must be wrong, because they would not make her work all day and
all night, too.
But, as it happened, it _was_ Jane Brown. The hospital provided
plenty of sleeping time, but now and then there was a slip-up and
somebody paid. There had been a night operation, following on a busy
day, and the operating-room nurses needed help. Out of a sound sleep
the night Assistant had summoned Jane Brown to clean instruments.
At five o'clock that morning she was still sitting on a stool beside
a glass table, polishing instruments which made her shiver. All
around were things that were spattered with blood. But she looked
anything but fluttery. She was a very grim and determined young
person just then, and professional beyond belief. The other things,
like washing window-sills and cutting toe-nails, had had no
significance. But here she was at last on the edge of mercy. Some
one who might have died had lived that night because of this room,
and these instruments, and willing hands.
She hoped she would always have willing hands.
She looked very pale at breakfast the next morning, and rather
older. Also she had a new note of authority in her voice when she
telephoned the kitchen and demanded H ward's soft-boiled eggs. She
washed window-sills that morning again, but no longer was there
rebellion in her soul. She was seeing suddenly how the hospital
required all these menial services, which were not menial at all but
only preparation; that there were little tasks and big ones, and one
graduated from the one to the other.
She took some flowers from the ward bouquet and put them beside
Johnny's bed--Johnny, who was still lying quiet, with closed eyes.
The Senior Surgical Interne did a dressing in the ward that morning.
He had been in to see Augustus Baird, and he felt uneasy. He vented
it on Tony, the Italian, with a stiletto thrust in his neck, by
jerking at the adhesive. Tony wailed, and Jane Brown, who was the
"dirty" nurse--which does not mean what it appears to mean, but is
the person who receives the soiled dressings--Jane Brown gritted her
"Keep quiet," said the S.S.I., who was a good fellow, but had never
been stabbed in the neck for running away with somebody else's wife.
"Eet hurt," said Tony. "Ow."
Jane Brown turned very pink.
"Why don't you let me cut it off properly?" she said, in a strangled
The total result of this was that Jane Brown was reprimanded by the
First Assistant, and learned some things about ethics.
"But," she protested, "it was both stupid and cruel. And if I know I
"How are you to know you are right?" demanded the First Assistant,
crossly. Her feet were stinging. "'A little knowledge is a dangerous
thing.'" This was a favorite quotation of hers, although not
Browning. "Nurses in hospitals are there to carry out the doctor's
orders. Not to think or to say what they think unless they are
asked. To be intelligent, but----"
"But not too intelligent!" said the Probationer. "I see."
This was duly reported to the Head, who observed that it was merely
what she had expected and extremely pert. Her cold was hardly any
It was taking the Probationer quite a time to realise her own total
lack of significance in all this. She had been accustomed to men who
rose when a woman entered a room and remained standing as long as
she stood. And now she was in a new world, where she had to rise and
remain standing while a cocky youth in ducks, just out of medical
college, sauntered in with his hands in his pockets and took a
_boutonnière_ from the ward bouquet.
It was probably extremely good for her.
She was frightfully tired that day, and toward evening the little
glow of service began to fade. There seemed to be nothing to do for
Johnny but to wait. Doctor Willie had seemed to think that nature
would clear matters up there, and had requested no operation. She
smoothed beds and carried cups of water and broke another
thermometer. And she put the eggs from home in the ward pantry and
made egg-nogs of them for Stanislas Krzykolski, who was
unaccountably upset as to stomach.
She had entirely forgotten Twenty-two. He had stayed away all that
day, in a sort of faint hope that she would miss him. But she had
not. She was feeling rather worried, to tell the truth. For a Staff
surgeon going through the ward, had stopped by Johnny's bed and
examined the pupils of his eyes, and had then exchanged a glance
with the Senior Surgical Interne that had perplexed her.
In the chapel at prayers that evening all around her the nurses sat
and rested, their tired hands folded in their laps. They talked a
little among themselves, but it was only a buzzing that reached the
Probationer faintly. Some one near was talking about something that
"Gone?" she said. "Of course it is gone. The bath-room man reported
it to me and I went and looked."
"But who in the world would take it?"
"My dear," said the first speaker, "who _does_ take things in a
hospital, anyhow? Only--a tin sign!"
It was then that the Head came in. She swept in; her grey gown, her
grey hair gave her a majesty that filled the Probationer with awe.
Behind her came the First Assistant with the prayer-book and hymnal.
The Head believed in form.
Jane Brown offered up a little prayer that night for Johnny Fraser,
and another little one without words, that Doctor Willie was right.
She sat and rested her weary young body, and remembered how Doctor
Willie was loved and respected, and the years he had cared for the
whole countryside. And the peace of the quiet room, with the Easter
lilies on the tiny altar, brought rest to her.
It was when prayers were over that the Head made her announcement.
She rose and looked over the shadowy room, where among the rows of
white caps only the Probationer's head was uncovered, and she said:
"I have an announcement to make to the training school. One which I
regret, and which will mean a certain amount of hardship and
"A case of contagion has been discovered in one of the wards, and it
has been considered necessary to quarantine the hospital. The doors
were closed at seven-thirty this evening."
Considering that he could not get out anyhow, Twenty-two took the
news of the quarantine calmly. He reflected that, if he was shut in,
Jane Brown was shut in also. He had a wicked hope, at the beginning,
that the Senior Surgical Interne had been shut out, but at nine
o'clock that evening that young gentleman showed up at the door of
his room, said "Cheer-o," came in, helped himself to a cigarette,
gave a professional glance at Twenty-two's toes, which were all that
was un-plastered of the leg, and departing threw back over his
shoulder his sole conversational effort:
"Hell of a mess, isn't it?"
Twenty-two took up again gloomily the book he was reading, which was
on Diseases of the Horse, from the hospital library. He was in the
midst of Glanders.
He had, during most of that day, been making up his mind to let his
family know where he was. He did not think they cared, particularly.
He had no illusions about that. But there was something about Jane
Brown which made him feel like doing the decent thing. It annoyed
him frightfully, but there it was. She was so eminently the sort of
person who believed in doing the decent thing.
So, about seven o'clock, he had sent the orderly out for stamps and
paper. He imagined that Jane Brown would not think writing home on
hospital stationery a good way to break bad news. But the orderly
had stopped for a chat at the engine house, and had ended by playing
a game of dominoes. When, at ten o'clock, he had returned to the
hospital entrance, the richer by a quarter and a glass of beer, he
had found a strange policeman on the hospital steps, and the doors
The quarantine was on.
Now there are different sorts of quarantines. There is the sort
where a trained nurse and the patient are shut up in a room and
bath, and the family only opens the door and peers in. And there is
the sort where the front door has a placard on it, and the family
goes in and out the back way, and takes a street-car to the office,
the same as usual. And there is the hospital quarantine, which is
the real thing, because hospitals are expected to do things
So our hospital was closed up as tight as a jar of preserves. There
were policemen at all the doors, quite suddenly. They locked the
doors and put the keys in their pockets, and from that time on they
opened them only to pass things in, such as newspapers or milk or
groceries or the braver members of the Staff. But not to let
anything out--except the Staff. Supposedly Staffs do not carry
And, indeed, even the Staff was not keen about entering. It thought
of a lot of things it ought to do about visiting time, and
prescribed considerably over the telephone.
At first there was a great deal of confusion, because quite a number
of people had been out on various errands when it happened. And they
came back, and protested to the office that they had only their
uniforms on under their coats, and three dollars; or their slippers
and no hats. Or that they would sue the city. One or two of them got
quite desperate and tried to crawl up the fire-escape, but failed.
This is of interest chiefly because it profoundly affected Jane
Brown. Miss McAdoo, her ward nurse, had debated whether to wash her
hair that evening, or to take a walk. She had decided on the walk,
and was therefore shut out, along with the Junior Medical, the
kitchen cat, the Superintendent's mother-in-law and six other
The next morning the First Assistant gave Jane Brown charge of H
"It's very irregular," she said. "I don't exactly know--you have
only one bad case, haven't you?"
The First Assistant absent-mindedly ran a finger over the top of a
table, and examined it for dust.
"Of course," she said, "it's a great chance for you. Show that you
can handle this ward, and you are practically safe."
Jane Brown drew a long breath and stood up very straight. Then she
ran her eye over the ward. There was something vaguely reminiscent
of Miss McAdoo in her glance.
Twenty-two made three brief excursions back along the corridor
that first day of the quarantine. But Jane Brown was extremely
professional and very busy. There was an air of discipline over the
ward. Let a man but so much as turn over in bed and show an inch of
blanket, and she pounced on the bed and reduced it to the most
horrible neatness. All the beds looked as if they had been made up
with a carpenter's square.
On the third trip, however, Jane Brown was writing at the table.
Twenty-two wheeled himself into the doorway and eyed her with
"What do you mean by sitting down?" he demanded sarcastically.
"Don't you know that now you are in charge you ought to keep
To which she replied, absently:
"Three buttered toasts, two dry toasts, six soft boiled eggs, and
twelve soups." She was working on the diet slips.
Then she smiled at him. They were quite old friends already. It is
curious about love and friendship and all those kindred emotions.
They do not grow nearly so fast when people are together as when
they are apart. It is an actual fact that the growth of many an
intimacy is checked by meetings. Because when people are apart it is
what they _are_ that counts, and when they are together it is what
they do and say and look like. Many a beautiful affair has been
ruined because, just as it was going along well, the principals met
However, all this merely means that Twenty-two and Jane Brown were
infinitely closer friends than four or five meetings really
The ward was very quiet on this late afternoon call of his save for
Johnny's heavy breathing. There is a quiet hour in a hospital,
between afternoon temperatures and the ringing of the bell which
means that the suppers for the wards are on their way--a quiet hour
when over the long rows of beds broods the peace of the ending day.
It is a melancholy hour, too, because from the streets comes faintly
the echo of feet hurrying home, the eager trot of a horse bound
stableward. To those in the eddy that is the ward comes at this time
a certain heaviness of spirit. Poor thing though home may have been,
they long for it.
In H ward that late afternoon there was a wave of homesickness in
the air, and on the part of those men who were up and about, who
shuffled up and down the ward in flapping carpet slippers, an
inclination to mutiny.
"How did they take it?" Twenty-two inquired. She puckered her
"They don't like it," she confessed. "Some of them were about ready
to go home and it--_Tony!_" she called sharply.
For Tony, who had been cunningly standing by the window leading to a
fire-escape, had flung the window up and was giving unmistakable
signs of climbing out and returning to the other man's wife.
"Tony!" she called, and ran. Tony scrambled up on the sill. A sort
of titter ran over the ward and Tony, now on the platform outside,
waved a derisive hand through the window.
"Good-bye, mees!" he said, and--disappeared.
It was not a very dramatic thing, after all. It is chiefly
significant for its effect on Twenty-two, who was obliged to sit
frozen with horror and cursing his broken leg, while Jane Brown
raced a brown little Italian down the fire-escape and caught him at
the foot of it. Tony took a look around. The courtyard gates were
closed and a policeman sat outside on a camp-stool reading the
newspaper. Tony smiled sheepishly and surrendered.
Some seconds later Tony and Jane Brown appeared on the platform
outside. Jane Brown had Tony by the ear, and she stopped long enough
outside to exchange the ear for his shoulder, by which she shook
Twenty-two turned his chair around and wheeled himself back to his
room. He was filled with a cold rage--because she might have fallen
on the fire-escape and been killed; because he had not been able to
help her; because she was there, looking after the derelicts of
life, when the world was beautiful outside, and she was young;
because to her he was just Twenty-two and nothing more.
He had seen her exactly six times.
Jane Brown gave the ward a little talk that night before the night
nurse reported. She stood in the centre of the long room, beside the
tulips, and said that she was going to be alone there, and that she
would have to put the situation up to their sense of honour. If they
tried to escape, they would hurt her. Also they would surely be
caught and brought back. And, because she believed in a combination
of faith and deeds, she took three nails and the linen-room
flatiron, and nailed shut the window onto the fire-escape.
After that, she brushed crumbs out of the beds with a whiskbroom and
rubbed a few backs with alcohol, and smoothed the counterpanes, and
hung over Johnny's unconscious figure for a little while, giving
motherly pats to his flat pillow and worrying considerably because
there was so little about him to remind her of the Johnny she knew
After that she sat down and made up her records for the night nurse.
The ward understood, and was perfectly good, trying hard not to muss
its pillows or wrinkle the covers. And struggling, too, with a new
idea. They were prisoners. No more release cards would brighten the
days. For an indefinite period the old Frenchman would moan at
night, and Bader the German would snore, and the Chinaman would
cough. Indefinitely they would eat soft-boiled eggs and rice and
beef-tea and cornstarch.
The ward felt extremely low in its mind.
* * * * *
That night the Senior Surgical Interne went in to play cribbage with
Twenty-two, and received a lecture on leaving a young girl alone in
H with a lot of desperate men. They both grew rather heated over the
discussion and forgot to play cribbage at all. Twenty-two lay awake
half the night, because he had seen clearly that the Senior Surgical
Interne was interested in Jane Brown also, and would probably loaf
around H most of the time since there would be no new cases now. It
was a crowning humiliation to have the night nurse apply to the
Senior Surgical Interne for a sleeping powder for him!
Toward morning he remembered that he had promised to write out from
memory one of the Sonnets from the Portuguese for the First
Assistant, and he turned on the light and jotted down two lines of
it. He wrote:
"_For we two look two ways, and cannot shine
With the same sunlight on our brow and hair._"--
And then sat up in bed for half an hour looking at it because he was
so awfully afraid it was true of Jane Brown and himself. Not, of
course, that he wanted to shine at all. It was the looking two ways
The next evening the nurses took their airing on the roof, which was
a sooty place with a parapet, and in the courtyard, which was an
equally sooty place with a wispy fountain. And because the whole
situation was new, they formed in little groups on the wooden
benches and sang, hands folded on white aprons, heads lifted, eyes
upturned to where, above the dimly lighted windows, the stars peered
palely through the smoke.
The S.S.I. sauntered out. He had thought he saw the Probationer from
his window, and in the new relaxation of discipline he saw a chance
to join her. But the figure he had thought he recognised proved to
be some one else, and he fell to wandering alone up and down the
He was trying to work out this problem: would the advantage of
marrying early and thus being considered eligible for certain
cases, offset the disadvantage of the extra expense?
He decided to marry early and hang the expense.
The days went by, three, then four, and a little line of tension
deepened around Jane Brown's mouth. Perhaps it has not been
mentioned that she had a fighting nose, short and straight, and a
wistful mouth. For Johnny Fraser was still lying in a stupor.
Jane Brown felt that something was wrong. Doctor Willie came in once
or twice, making the long trip without complaint and without hope of
payment. All his busy life he had worked for the sake of work, and
not for reward. He called her "Nellie," to the delight of the ward,
which began to love him, and he spent a long hour each time by
Johnny's bed. But the Probationer was quick to realise that the
Senior Surgical Interne disapproved of him.
That young man had developed a tendency to wander into H at odd
hours, and sit on the edge of a table, leaving Jane Brown divided
between proper respect for an _interne_ and fury over the wrinkling
of her table covers. It was during one of these visits that she
spoke of Doctor Willie.
"Because he is a country practitioner," she said, "you--you
"Not at all," said the Senior Surgical Interne. "Personally I like
The Senior Surgical Interne waved a hand toward Johnny's bed.
"Look there," he said. "You don't think that chap's getting any
better, do you?"
"If," said Jane Brown, with suspicious quiet, "if you think you know
more than a man who has practised for forty years, and saved more
people than you ever saw, why don't you tell him so?"
There is really no defence for this conversation. Discourse between
a probationer and an _interne_ is supposed to be limited to yea,
yea, and nay, nay. But the circumstances were unusual.
"Tell him!" exclaimed the Senior Surgical Interne, "and be called
before the Executive Committee and fired! Dear girl, I am
inexpressibly flattered, but the voice of an _interne_ in a hospital
is the voice of one crying in the wilderness."
Twenty-two, who was out on crutches that day for the first time, and
was looking very big and extremely awkward, Twenty-two looked back
from the elevator shaft and scowled. He seemed always to see a flash
of white duck near the door of H ward.
To add to his chagrin, the Senior Surgical Interne clapped him on
the back in congratulation a moment later, and nearly upset him. He
had intended to go back to the ward and discuss a plan he had, but
he was very morose those days and really not a companionable person.
He stumped back to his room and resolutely went to bed.
There he lay for a long time looking at the ceiling, and saying, out
of his misery, things not necessary to repeat.
So Twenty-two went to bed and sulked, refusing supper, and having
the word "Vicious" marked on his record by the nurse, who hoped he
would see it some time. And Jane Brown went and sat beside a
strangely silent Johnny, and worried. And the Senior Surgical
Interne went down to the pharmacy and thereby altered a number of
The pharmacy clerk had been shaving--his own bedroom was dark--and
he saw the Senior Surgical Interne in the little mirror hung on the
"Hello," he said, over the soap. "Shut the door."
The Senior Surgical Interne shut the door, and then sniffed. "Smells
like a bar-room," he commented.
The pharmacy clerk shaved the left angle of his jaw, and then turned
"Little experiment of mine," he explained. "Simple syrup, grain
alcohol, a dash of cochineal for colouring, and some flavouring
extract. It's an imitation cordial. Try it."
The Senior Surgical Interne was not a drinker, but he was willing
to try anything once. So he secured a two-ounce medicine glass, and
"Looks nice," he commented, and tasted it. "It's not bad."
"Not bad!" said the pharmacy clerk. "You'd pay four dollars a bottle
for that stuff in a hotel. Actual cost here, about forty cents."
The Senior Surgical Interne sat down and stretched out his legs. He
had the glass in his hand.
"It's rather sweet," he said. "But it looks pretty." He took another
After he had finished it, he got to thinking things over. He felt
about seven feet tall and very important, and not at all like a
voice crying in the wilderness. He had a strong inclination to go
into the Superintendent's office and tell him where he went wrong in
running the institution--which he restrained. And another to go up
to H and tell Jane Brown the truth about Johnny Fraser--which he
On the way up he gave the elevator man a cigar.
He was very explicit with Jane Brown.
"Your man's wrong, that's all there is about it," he said. "I can't
say anything and you can't. But he's wrong. That's an operative
case. The Staff knows it."
"Then, why doesn't the Staff do it?"
The Senior Surgical Interne was still feeling very tall. He looked
down at her from a great distance.
"Because, dear child," he said, "it's your man's case. You ought to
know enough about professional ethics for that."
He went away, then, and had a violent headache, which he blamed on
confinement and lack of exercise. But he had sowed something in the
For she knew, suddenly, that he had been right. The Staff had meant
that, then, when they looked at Johnny and shook their heads. The
Staff knew, the hospital knew. Every one knew but Doctor Willie. But
Doctor Willie had the case. Back in her little town Johnny's mother
was looking to Doctor Willie, believing in him, hoping through him.
That night Twenty-two slept, and Jane Brown lay awake. And down in H
ward Johnny Fraser had a bad spell at that hour toward dawn when the
vitality is low, and men die. He did not die, however. But the night
nurse recorded, "Pulse very thin and iregular," at four o'clock.
She, too, was not a famous speller.
During the next morning, while the ward rolled bandages, having
carefully scrubbed its hands first, Jane Brown wrote records--she
did it rather well now--and then arranged the pins in the ward
pincushion. She made concentric circles of safety-pins outside and
common pins inside, with a large H in the centre. But her mind was
not on this artistic bit of creation. It was on Johnny Fraser.
She made up her mind to speak to Doctor Willie.
Twenty-two had got over his sulking or his jealousy, or whatever it
was, and during the early hours, those hours when Johnny was hardly
breathing, he had planned something. He thought that he did it to
interest the patients and make them contented, but somewhere in the
back of his mind he knew it was to see more of Jane Brown. He
planned a concert in the chapel.
So that morning he took Elizabeth, the plaster cast, back to H ward,
where Jane Brown was fixing the pincushion, and had a good minute of
feasting his eyes on her while she was sucking a jabbed finger. She
knew she should have dipped the finger in a solution, but habit is
strong in most of us.
Twenty-two had a wild desire to offer to kiss the finger and make it
well. This, however, was not habit. It was insanity. He recognised
this himself, and felt more than a trifle worried about it, because
he had been in love quite a number of times before, but he had never
had this sort of feeling.
He put the concert up to her with a certain amount of anxiety. If
she could sing, or play, or recite--although he hoped she would not
recite--all would be well. But if she refused to take any part, he
did not intend to have a concert. That was flat.
"I can play," she said, making a neat period after the H on the
He was awfully relieved.
"Good," he said. "You know, I like the way you say that. It's
so--well, it's so competent." He got out a notebook and wrote "Miss
Brown, piano selections."
It was while he was writing that Jane Brown had a sort of mental
picture--the shabby piano at home, kicked below by many childish
feet, but mellow and sweet, like an old violin, and herself sitting
practising, over and over, that part of Paderewski's Minuet where,
as every one knows, the fingering is rather difficult, and outside
the open window, leaning on his broom, worthless Johnny Fraser,
staring in with friendly eyes and an extremely dirty face. To
Twenty-two's unbounded amazement she flung down the cushion and made
for the little ward linen room.
He found her there a moment later, her arms outstretched on the
table and her face buried in them. Some one had been boiling a
rubber tube and had let the pan go dry. Ever afterward Twenty-two
was to associate the smell of burning rubber with Jane Brown, and
with his first real knowledge that he was in love with her.
He stumped in after her and closed the door, and might have ruined
everything then and there by taking her in his arms, crutch and
all. But the smell of burning rubber is a singularly permeating one,
and he was kept from one indiscretion by being discovered in
It was somewhat later that Jane Brown was reprimanded for being
found in the linen room with a private patient. She made no excuse,
but something a little defiant began to grow in her eyes. It was not
that she loved her work less. She was learning, day by day, the
endless sacrifices of this profession she had chosen, its
unselfishness, its grinding hard work, the payment that may lie in a
smile of gratitude, the agony of pain that cannot be relieved. She
went through her days with hands held out for service, and at night,
in the chapel, she whispered soundless little prayers to be
accepted, and to be always gentle and kind. She did not want to
become a machine. She knew, although she had no words for it, the
difference between duty and service.
But--a little spirit of rebellion was growing in her breast. She did
not understand about Johnny Fraser, for one thing. And the matter of
the linen room hurt. There seemed to be too many rules.
Then, too, she began to learn that hospitals had limitations. Jane
Brown's hospital had no social worker. Much as she loved the work,
the part that the hospital could not do began to hurt her. Before
the quarantine women with new babies had gone out, without an idea
of where to spend the night. Ailing children had gone home to such
places as she could see from the dormitory windows, where the work
the hospital had begun could not be finished.
From the roof of the building at night she looked out over a city
that terrified her. The call of a playing child in the street began
to sound to her like the shriek of accident. The very grinding of
the trolley cars, the smoke of the mills, began to mean the
operating room. She thought a great deal, those days, about the
little town she had come from, with its peace and quiet streets. The
city seemed cruel. But now and then she learned that if cities are
cruel, men are kind.
Thus, on the very day of the concert, the quarantine was broken for
a few minutes. It was broken forcibly, and by an officer of the law.
A little newsie, standing by a fire at the next corner, for the
spring day was cold, had caught fire. The big corner man had seen it
all. He stripped off his overcoat, rolled the boy in it, and ran to
the hospital. Here he was confronted by a brother officer, who was
forbidden to admit him. The corner man did the thing that seemed
quickest. He laid the newsie on the ground, knocked out the
quarantine officer in two blows, broke the glass of the door with a
third, slipped a bolt, and then, his burden in his arms, stalked in.
It did not lessen the majesty of that entrance that he was crying
all the time.
The Probationer pondered that story when she heard it. After all,
laws were right and good, but there were higher things than laws.
She went and stood by Johnny's bed for a long time, thinking.
In the meantime, unexpected talent for the concert had developed.
The piano in the chapel proving out of order, the elevator man
proved to have been a piano tuner. He tuned it with a bone forceps.
Strange places, hospitals, into which drift men from every walk of
life, to find a haven and peace within their quiet walls. Old Tony
had sung, in his youth, in the opera at Milan. A pretty young nurse
went around the corridors muttering bits of "Orphant Annie" to
herself. The Senior Surgical Interne was to sing the "Rosary," and
went about practising to himself. He came into H ward and sang it
through for Jane Brown, with his heart in his clear young eyes. He
sang about the hours he had spent with her being strings of pearls,
and all that, but he was really asking her if she would be willing
to begin life with him in a little house, where she would have to
answer the door-bell and watch telephone calls while he was out.
Jane Brown felt something of this, too. For she said: "You sing it
beautifully," although he had flatted at least three times.
He wrote his name on a medicine label and glued it to her hand. It
looked alarmingly possessive.
Twenty-two presided at the concert that night. He was extravagantly
funny, and the sort of creaking solemnity with which things began
turned to uproarious laughter very soon.
Everything went off wonderfully. Tony started his selection too
high, and was obliged to stop and begin over again. And the two
Silversteins, from the children's ward, who were to dance a Highland
fling together, had a violent quarrel at the last moment and had to
be scratched. But everything else went well. The ambulance driver
gave a bass solo, and kept a bar or two ahead of the accompaniment,
dodging chords as he did wagons on the street, and fetching up with
a sort of garrison finish much as he brought in the ambulance.
But the real musical event of the evening was Jane Brown's playing.
She played Schubert without any notes, because she had been taught
to play Schubert that way.
And when they called her back, she played little folk songs of the
far places of Europe. Standing around the walls, in wheeled chairs,
on crutches, pale with the hospital pallor, these aliens in their
eddy listened and thrilled. Some of them wept, but they smiled also.
At the end she played the Minuet, with a sort of flaming look in
her eyes that puzzled Twenty-two. He could not know that she was
playing it to Johnny Fraser, lying with closed eyes in the ward
upstairs. He did not realise that there was a passion of sacrifice
throbbing behind the dignity of the music.
Doctor Willie had stayed over for the concert. He sat, beaming
benevolently, in the front row, and toward the end he got up and
told some stories. After all, it was Doctor Willie who was the real
hit of the evening. The convalescents rocked with joy in their
roller chairs. Crutches came down in loud applause. When he sat down
he slipped a big hand over Jane Brown's and gave hers a hearty
"How d'you like me as a parlour entertainer, Nellie?" he whispered.
She put her other hand over his. Somehow she could not speak.
The First Assistant called to the Probationer that night as she went
past her door. Lights were out, so the First Assistant had a candle,
and she was rubbing her feet with witch hazel.
"Come in," she called. "I have been looking for you. I have some
news for you."
The exaltation of the concert had died away. Jane Brown, in the
candle light, looked small and tired and very, very young.
"We have watched you carefully," said the First Assistant, who had
her night garments on but had forgotten to take off her cap.
"Although you are young, you have shown ability, and--you are to be
"Thank you, very much," replied Jane Brown, in a strangled tone.
"At first," said the First Assistant, "we were not sure. You were
very young, and you had such odd ideas. You know that yourself now."
She leaned down and pressed a sore little toe with her forefinger.
Then she sighed. The mention of Jane Brown's youth had hurt her,
because she was no longer very young. And there were times when she
was tired, when it seemed to her that only youth counted. She felt
that way to-night.
When Jane Brown had gone on, she blew out her candle and went to
bed, still in her cap.
Hospitals do not really sleep at night. The elevator man dozes in
his cage, and the night watchman may nap in the engineer's room in
the basement. But the night nurses are always making their sleepless
rounds, and in the wards, dark and quiet, restless figures turn and
Before she went to bed that night, Jane Brown, by devious ways,
slipped back to her ward. It looked strange to her, this cavernous
place, filled with the unlovely noises of sleeping men. By the one
low light near the doorway she went back to Johnny's bed, and sat
down beside him. She felt that this was the place to think things
out. In her room other things pressed in on her; the necessity of
making good for the sake of those at home, her love of the work, and
cowardice. But here she saw things right.
The night nurse found her there some time later, asleep, her
hunting-case watch open on Johnny's bed and her fingers still on his
quiet wrist. She made no report of it.
Twenty-two had another sleepless night written in on his record that
night. He sat up and worried. He worried about the way the Senior
Surgical Interne had sung to Jane Brown that night. And he worried
about things he had done and shouldn't have, and things he should
have done and hadn't. Mostly the first. At five in the morning he
wrote a letter to his family telling them where he was, and that he
had been vaccinated and that the letter would be fumigated. He also
wrote a check for an artificial leg for the boy in the children's
ward, and then went to bed and put himself to sleep by reciting the
"Rosary" over and over. His last conscious thought was that the
hours he had spent with a certain person would not make much of a
string of pearls.
The Probationer went to Doctor Willie the next day. Some of the
exuberance of the concert still bubbled in him, although he shook
his head over Johnny's record.
"A little slow, Nellie," he said. "A little slow."
Jane Brown took a long breath.
"Doctor Willie," she said, "won't you have him operated on?"
He looked up at her over his spectacles.
"Operated on? What for?"
"Well, he's not getting any better," she managed desperately.
"I'm--sometimes I think he'll die while we're waiting for him to get
He was surprised, but he was not angry.
"There's no fracture, child," he said gently. "If there is a clot
there, nature is probably better at removing it than we are. The
trouble with you," he said indulgently, "is that you have come here,
where they operate first and regret afterward. Nature is the best
She cast about her despairingly for some way to tell him the truth.
But even when she spoke she knew she was foredoomed to failure.
"But--suppose the Staff thinks that he should be?"
Doctor Willie's kindly mouth set itself into grim lines.
"The Staff!" he said, and looked at her searchingly. Then his jaws
set at an obstinate angle.
"Well, Nellie," he said, "I guess one opinion's as good as another
in these cases. And I don't suppose they'll do any cutting and
hacking without my consent." He looked at Johnny's unconscious
figure. "He never amounted to much," he added, "but it's surprising
the way money's been coming in to pay his board here. Your mother
sent five dollars. A good lot of people are interested in him. I
can't see myself going home and telling them he died on the
He patted her on the arm as he went out.
"Don't get an old head on those young shoulders yet, Nellie," he
said as he was going. "Leave the worrying to me. I'm used to it."
She saw then that to him she was still a little girl. She probably
would always be just a little girl to him. He did not take her
seriously, and no one else would speak to him. She was quite
The ward loved Doctor Willie since the night before. It watched him
out with affectionate eyes. Jane Brown watched him, too, his fine
old head, the sturdy step that had brought healing and peace to a
whole county. She had hurt him, she knew that. She ached at the
thought of it. And she had done no good.
That afternoon Jane Brown broke another rule. She went to Twenty-two
on her off duty, and caused a mild furore there. He had been drawing
a sketch of her from memory, an extremely poor sketch, with one eye
larger than the other. He hid it immediately, although she could not
possibly have recognised it, and talked very fast to cover his
"Well, well!" he said. "I knew I was going to have some luck to-day.
My right hand has been itching--or is that a sign of money?" Then he
saw her face, and reduced his speech to normality, if not his heart.
"Come and sit down," he said. "And tell me about it."
But she would not sit down. She went to the window and looked out
for a moment. It was from there she said:
"I have been accepted."
"Good." But he did not, apparently, think it such good news. He drew
a long breath. "Well, I suppose your friends should be glad for
"I didn't come to talk about being accepted," she announced.
"I don't suppose, by any chance, you came to see how I am getting
along?" he inquired humbly.
"I can see that."
"You can't see how lonely I am." When she offered nothing to this
speech, he enlarged on it. "When it gets unbearable," he said, "I
sit in front of the mirror and keep myself company. If that doesn't
make your heart ache, nothing will."
"I'm afraid I have a heart-ache, but it is not that." For a
terrible moment he thought of that theory of his which referred to a
disappointment in love. Was she going to have the unbelievable
cruelty to tell him about it?
"I have to talk to somebody," she said simply. "And I came to you,
because you've worked on a newspaper, and you have had a lot of
experience. It's--a matter of ethics. But really it's a matter of
life and death."
He felt most horribly humble before her, and he hated the lie,
except that it had brought her to him. There was something so direct
and childlike about her. The very way she drew a chair in front of
him, and proceeded, talking rather fast, to lay the matter before
him, touched him profoundly. He felt, somehow, incredibly old and
And then, after all that, to fail her!
"You see how it is," she finished. "I can't go to the Staff, and
they wouldn't do anything if I did--except possibly put me out.
Because a nurse really only follows orders. And--I've got to stay,
if I can. And Doctor Willie doesn't believe in an operation and
won't see that he's dying. And everybody at home thinks he is right,
because--well," she added hastily, "he's been right a good many
He listened attentively. His record, you remember, was his own way
some ninety-seven per cent of the time, and at first he would not
believe that this was going to be the three per cent, or a part of
"Well," he said at last, "we'll just make the Staff turn in and do
it. That's easy."
"But they won't. They can't."
"We can't let Johnny die, either, can we?"
But when at last she was gone, and the room was incredibly empty
without her,--when, to confess a fact that he was exceedingly
shame-faced about, he had wheeled over to the chair she had sat in
and put his cheek against the arm where her hand had rested, when he
was somewhat his own man again and had got over the feeling that his
arms were empty of something they had never held--then it was that
Twenty-two found himself up against the three per cent.
The hospital's attitude was firm. It could not interfere. It was an
outside patient and an outside doctor. Its responsibility ended with
providing for the care of the patient, under his physician's orders.
It was regretful--but, of course, unless the case was turned over to
He went back to the ward to tell her, after it had all been
explained to him. But she was not surprised. He saw that, after all,
she had really known he was going to fail her.
"It's hopeless," was all she said. "Everybody is right, and
everybody is wrong."
It was the next day that, going to the courtyard for a breath of
air, she saw a woman outside the iron gate waving to her. It was
Johnny's mother, a forlorn old soul in what Jane Brown recognised as
an old suit of her mother's.
"Doctor Willie bought my ticket, Miss Nellie," she said nervously.
"It seems like I had to come, even if I couldn't get in. I've been
waiting around most all afternoon. How is he?"
"He is resting quietly," said Jane Brown, holding herself very
tense, because she wanted to scream. "He isn't suffering at all."
"Could you tell me which window he's near, Miss Nellie?"
She pointed out the window, and Johnny Fraser's mother stood,
holding to the bars, peering up at it. Her lips moved, and Jane
Brown knew that she was praying. At last she turned her eyes away.
"Folks have said a lot about him," she said, "but he was always a
good son to me. If only he'd had a chance--I'd be right worried,
Miss Nellie, if he didn't have Doctor Willie looking after him."
Jane Brown went into the building. There was just one thing clear in
her mind. Johnny Fraser must have his chance, somehow.
In the meantime things were not doing any too well in the hospital.
A second case, although mild, had extended the quarantine.
Discontent grew, and threatened to develop into mutiny. Six men
from one of the wards marched _en masse_ to the lower hall, and were
preparing to rush the guards when they were discovered. The Senior
Surgical Interne took two prisoners himself, and became an emergency
case for two stitches and arnica compresses.
Jane Brown helped to fix him up, and he took advantage of her
holding a dressing basin near his cut lip to kiss her hand, very
respectfully. She would have resented it under other circumstances,
but the Senior Surgical Interne was, even if temporarily, a patient,
and must be humoured. She forgot about the kiss immediately, anyhow,
although he did not.
Her three months of probation were drawing to a close now, and her
cap was already made and put away in a box, ready for the day she
should don it. But she did not look at it very often.
And all the time, fighting his battle with youth and vigour, but
with closed eyes, and losing it day by day, was Johnny Fraser.
Then, one night on the roof, Jane Brown had to refuse the Senior
Surgical Interne. He took it very hard.
"We'd have been such pals," he said, rather wistfully, after he saw
it was no use.
"We can be, anyhow."
"I suppose," he said with some bitterness, "that I'd have stood a
better chance if I'd done as you wanted me to about that fellow in
your ward, gone to the staff and raised hell."
"I wouldn't have married you," said Jane Brown, "but I'd have
thought you were pretty much of a man."
The more he thought about that the less he liked it. It almost kept
him awake that night.
It was the next day that Twenty-two had his idea. He ran true to
form, and carried it back to Jane Brown for her approval. But she
was not enthusiastic.
"It would help to amuse them, of course, but how can you publish a
newspaper without any news?" she asked, rather listlessly, for her.
"News! This building is full of news. I have some bits already.
Listen!" He took a notebook out of his pocket. "The stork breaks
quarantine. New baby in O ward. The chief engineer has developed a
boil on his neck. Elevator Man arrested for breaking speed limit.
Wanted, four square inches of cuticle for skin grafting in W. How's
that? And I'm only beginning."
Jane Brown listened. Somehow, behind Twenty-two's lightness of tone,
she felt something more earnest. She did not put it into words, even
to herself, but she divined something new, a desire to do his bit,
there in the hospital. It was, if she had only known it, a
milestone in a hitherto unmarked career. Twenty-two, who had always
been a man, was by way of becoming a person.
He explained about publishing it. He used to run a typewriter in
college, and the convalescents could mimeograph it and sell it.
There was a mimeographing machine in the office.
The Senior Surgical Interne came in just then. Refusing to marry him
had had much the effect of smacking a puppy. He came back, a trifle
timid, but friendly. So he came in just then, and elected himself to
the advertising and circulation department, and gave the Probationer
the society end, although it was not his paper or his idea, and sat
down at once at the table and started a limerick, commencing:
"_We're here in the city, marooned_"
However, he never got any further with it, because there are,
apparently, no rhymes for "marooned." He refused "tuned" which
several people offered him, with extreme scorn.
Up to this point Jane Brown had been rather too worried to think
about Twenty-two. She had grown accustomed to seeing him coming
slowly back toward her ward, his eyes travelling much faster than he
did. Not, of course, that she knew that. And to his being, in a way,
underfoot a part of every day, after the Head had made rounds and
was safely out of the road for a good two hours.
But two things happened that day to turn her mind in onto her heart.
One was when she heard about the artificial leg. The other was when
she passed the door of his room, where a large card now announced
"Office of the _Quarantine Sentinel_." She passed the door, and she
distinctly heard most un-hospital-like chatter within. Judging from
the shadows on the glass door, too, the room was full. It sounded
joyous and carefree.
Something in Jane Brown--her mind, probably--turned right around and
looked into her heart, and made an odd discovery. This was that Jane
Brown's heart had sunk about two inches, and was feeling very queer.
She went straight on, however, and put on a fresh collar in her
little bedroom, and listed her washing and changed her shoes,
because her feet still ached a lot of the time. But she was a brave
person and liked to look things in the face. So before she went back
to the ward, she stood in front of her mirror and said:
"You're a nice nurse, Nell Brown. To--to talk about duty and brag
about service, and then to act like a fool."
She went back to the ward and sat beside Johnny. But that night she
went up on the roof again, and sat on the parapet. She could see,
across the courtyard, the dim rectangles of her ward, and around a
corner in plain view, "room Twenty-two." Its occupant was sitting at
the typewriter, and working hard. Or he seemed to be. It was too far
away to be sure. Jane Brown slid down onto the roof, which was not
very clean, and putting her elbows on the parapet, watched him for a
long time. When he got up, at last, and came to the open window, she
hardly breathed. However, he only stood there, looking toward her
but not seeing her.
Jane Brown put her head on the parapet that night and cried. She
thought she was crying about Johnny Fraser. She might have felt
somewhat comforted had she known that Twenty-two, being tired with
his day's work, had at last given way to most horrible jealousy of
the Senior Surgical Interne, and that his misery was to hers as five
is to one.
The first number of the _Quarantine Sentinel_ was a great success.
It served in the wards much the same purpose as the magazines
published in the trenches. It relieved the monotony, brought the
different wards together, furnished laughter and gossip. Twenty-two
wrote the editorials, published the paper, with the aid of a couple
of convalescents, and in his leisure drew cartoons. He drew very
well, but all his girls looked like Jane Brown. It caused a ripple
The children from the children's ward distributed them, and went
back from the private rooms bearing tribute of flowers and fruit.
Twenty-two himself developed a most reprehensible habit of
concealing candy in the _Sentinel_ office and smuggling it to his
carriers. Altogether a new and neighbourly feeling seemed to
follow in the wake of the little paper. People who had sulked
in side-by-side rooms began, in the relaxed discipline of
convalescence, to pay little calls about. Crotchety dowagers knitted
socks for new babies. A wave of friendliness swept over every one,
and engulfed particularly Twenty-two.
In the glow of it he changed perceptibly. This was the first
popularity he had ever earned, and the first he had ever cared a
fi-penny bit about. And, because he valued it, he felt more and more
unworthy of it.
But it kept him from seeing Jane Brown. He was too busy for many
excursions to the ward, and when he went he was immediately the
centre of an animated group. He hardly ever saw her alone, and when
he did he began to suspect that she pretended duties that might have
One day he happened to go back while Doctor Willie was there, and
after that he understood her problem better.
Through it all Johnny lived. His thin, young body was now hardly an
outline under the smooth, white covering of his bed. He swallowed,
faintly, such bits of liquid as were placed between his lips, but
there were times when Jane Brown's fingers, more expert now, could
find no pulse at all. And still she had found no way to give him his
She made a last appeal to Doctor Willie that day, but he only shook
his head gravely.
"Even if there was an operation now, Nellie," said Doctor Willie
that day, "he could not stand it."
It was the first time that Twenty-two had known her name was Nellie.
That was the last day of Jane Brown's probation. On the next day she
was to don her cap. The _Sentinel_ came out with a congratulatory
editorial, and at nine o'clock that night the First Assistant
brought an announcement, in the Head's own writing, for the paper.
"The Head of the Training School announces with much pleasure the
acceptance of Miss N. Jane Brown as a pupil nurse."
Twenty-two sat and stared at it for quite a long time.
That night Jane Brown fought her battle and won. She went to her
room immediately after chapel, and took the family pictures off her
little stand and got out ink and paper. She put the photographs out
of sight, because she knew that they were counting on her, and she
could not bear her mother's eyes. And then she counted her money,
because she had broken another thermometer, and the ticket home was
rather expensive. She had enough, but very little more.
After that she went to work.
It took her rather a long time, because she had a great deal to
explain. She had to put her case, in fact. And she was not strong on
either ethics or logic. She said so, indeed, at the beginning. She
said also that she had talked to a lot of people, but that no one
understood how she felt--that there ought to be no professional
ethics, or etiquette, or anything else, where it was life or death.
That she felt hospitals were to save lives and not to save feelings.
It seemed necessary, after that, to defend Doctor Willie--without
naming him, of course. How much good he had done, and how he came to
rely on himself and his own opinion because in the country there was
no one to consult with.
However, she was not so gentle with the Staff. She said that it was
standing by and letting a patient die, because it was too polite to
interfere, although they had all agreed among themselves that an
operation was necessary. And that if they felt that way, would they
refuse to pull a child from in front of a locomotive because it was
its mother's business, and she didn't know how to do it?
_Then she signed it._
She turned it in at the _Sentinel_ office the next morning while
the editor was shaving. She had to pass it through a crack in the
door. Even that, however, was enough for the editor in question to
see that she wore no cap.
"But--see here," he said, in a rather lathery voice, "you're
accepted, you know. Where's the--the visible sign?"
Jane Brown was not quite sure she could speak. However, she managed.
"After you read that," she said, "you'll understand."
He read it immediately, of course, growing more and more grave, and
the soap drying on his chin. Its sheer courage made him gasp.
"Good girl," he said to himself. "Brave little girl. But it finishes
her here, and she knows it."
He was pretty well cut up about it, too, because while he was
getting it ready he felt as if he was sharpening a knife to stab her
with. Her own knife, too. But he had to be as brave as she was.
The paper came out at two o'clock. At three the First Assistant,
looking extremely white, relieved Jane Brown of the care of H ward
and sent her to her room.
Jane Brown eyed her wistfully.
"I'm not to come back, I suppose?"
The First Assistant avoided her eyes.
"I'm afraid not," she said.
Jane Brown went up the ward and looked down at Johnny Fraser. Then
she gathered up her bandage scissors and her little dressing forceps
and went out.
The First Assistant took a step after her, but stopped. There were
tears in her eyes.
Things moved very rapidly in the hospital that day, while the guards
sat outside on their camp-stools and ate apples or read the
newspapers, and while Jane Brown sat alone in her room.
First of all the Staff met and summoned Twenty-two. He went down in
the elevator--he had lost Elizabeth a few days before, and was using
a cane--ready for trouble. He had always met a fight more than
halfway. It was the same instinct that had taken him to the fire.
But no one wanted to fight. The Staff was waiting, grave and
perplexed, but rather anxious to put its case than otherwise. It
felt misunderstood, aggrieved, and horribly afraid it was going to
get in the newspapers. But it was not angry. On the contrary, it was
trying its extremely intelligent best to see things from a new
The Senior Surgical Interne was waiting outside. He had smoked
eighteen cigarettes since he received his copy of the _Sentinel_,
and was as unhappy as an _interne_ can be.
"What the devil made you publish it?" he demanded.
"Because," he said, "I have always had a sneaking desire to publish
an honest paper, one where public questions can be discussed. If
this isn't a public question, I don't know one when I see it."
But he was not smiling when he went in.
An hour later Doctor Willie came in. He had brought some flowers for
the children's ward, and his arms were bulging. To his surprise,
accustomed as he was to the somewhat cavalier treatment of the
country practitioner in a big city hospital, he was invited to the
To the eternal credit of the Staff Jane Brown's part in that painful
half hour was never known. The Staff was careful, too, of Doctor
Willie. They knew they were being irregular, and were most
wretchedly uncomfortable. Also, there being six of them against one,
it looked rather like force, particularly since, after the first two
minutes, every one of them liked Doctor Willie.
He took it so awfully well. He sat there, with his elbows on a table
beside a withering mass of spring flowers, and faced the
white-coated Staff, and said that he hoped he was man enough to
acknowledge a mistake, and six opinions against one left him nothing
else to do. The Senior Surgical Interne, who had been hating him
for weeks, offered him a cigar.
He had only one request to make. There was a little girl in the
training school who believed in him, and he would like to go to the
ward and write the order for the operation himself.
Which he did. But Jane Brown was not there.
Late that evening the First Assistant, passing along the corridor in
the dormitory, was accosted by a quiet figure in a blue uniform,
without a cap.
"How is he?"
The First Assistant was feeling more cheerful than usual. The
operating surgeon had congratulated her on the way things had moved
that day, and she was feeling, as she often did, that, after all,
work was a solace for many troubles.
"Of course, it is very soon, but he stood it well." She looked up at
Jane Brown, who was taller than she was, but who always, somehow,
looked rather little. There are girls like that. "Look here," she
said, "you must not sit in that room and worry. Run up to the
operating-room and help to clear away."
She was very wise, the First Assistant. For Jane Brown went, and
washed away some of the ache with the stains of Johnny's operation.
Here, all about her, were the tangible evidences of her triumph,
which was also a defeat. A little glow of service revived in her.
If Johnny lived, it was a small price to pay for a life. If he died,
she had given him his chance. The operating-room nurses were very
kind. They liked her courage, but they were frightened, too. She,
like the others, had been right, but also she was wrong.
They paid her tribute of little kindnesses, but they knew she must
It was the night nurse who told Twenty-two that Jane Brown was in
the operating-room. He was still up and dressed at midnight, but the
sheets of to-morrow's editorial lay blank on his table.
The night nurse glanced at her watch to see if it was time for the
twelve o'clock medicines.
"There's a rumour going about," she said, "that the quarantine's to
be lifted to-morrow. I'll be rather sorry. It has been a change."
"To-morrow," said Twenty-two, in a startled voice.
"I suppose you'll be going out at once?"
There was a wistful note in her voice. She liked him. He had been an
oasis of cheer in the dreary rounds of the night. A very little
more, and she might have forgotten her rule, which was never to be
sentimentally interested in a patient.
"I wonder," said Twenty-two, in a curious tone, "if you will give me
He was clad, at that time, in a hideous bathrobe, purchased by the
orderly, over his night clothing, and he had the expression of a
person who intends to take no chances.
"Thanks," said Twenty-two. "And--will you send the night watchman
The night nurse went out. She had a distinct feeling that something
was about to happen. At least she claimed it later. But she found
the night watchman making coffee in a back pantry, and gave him her
Some time later Jane Brown stood in the doorway of the
operating-room and gave it a farewell look. Its white floor and
walls were spotless. Shining rows of instruments on clean towels
were ready to put away in the cabinets. The sterilisers glowed in
warm rectangles of gleaming copper. Over all brooded the peace of
order, the quiet of the night.
Outside the operating-room door she drew a long breath, and faced
the night watchman. She had left something in Twenty-two. Would she
go and get it?
"It's very late," said Jane Brown. "And it isn't allowed, I'm sure."
However, what was one more rule to her who had defied them all? A
spirit of recklessness seized her. After all, why not? She would
never see him again. Like the operating-room, she would stand in the
doorway and say a mute little farewell.
Twenty-two's door was wide open, and he was standing in the centre
of the room, looking out. He had heard her long before she came in
sight, for he, too, had learned the hospital habit of classifying
He was horribly excited. He had never been so nervous before. He had
made up a small speech, a sort of beginning, but he forgot it the
moment he heard her, and she surprised him in the midst of trying,
agonisingly, to remember it.
There was a sort of dreadful calm, however, about Jane Brown.
"The watchman says I have left something here."
It was clear to him at once that he meant nothing to her. It was in
"You did," he said. And tried to smile.
"Then--if I may have it----"
"I wish to heaven you could have it," he said, very rapidly. "I
don't want it. It's darned miserable."
"It's an ache," he went on, still rather incoherent. "A pain. A
misery." Then, seeing her beginning to put on a professional look:
"No, not that. It's a feeling. Look here," he said, rather more
slowly, "do you mind coming in and closing the door? There's a man
across who's always listening."
She went in, but she did not close the door. She went slowly,
looking rather pale.
"What I sent for you for is this," said Twenty-two, "are you going
away? Because I've got to know."
"I'm being sent away as soon as the quarantine is over. It's--it's
perfectly right. I expected it. Things would soon go to pieces if
the nurses took to--took to doing what I did."
Suddenly Twenty-two limped across the room and slammed the door
shut, a proceeding immediately followed by an irritated ringing of
bells at the night nurse's desk. Then he turned, his back against
"Because I'm going when you do," he said, in a terrible voice. "I'm
going when you go, and wherever you go. I've stood all the waiting
around for a glimpse of you that I'm going to stand." He glared at
her. "For weeks," he said, "I've sat here in this room and listened
for you, and hated to go to sleep for fear you would pass and I
wouldn't be looking through that damned door. And now I've reached
A sort of band which had seemed to be fastened around Jane Brown's
head for days suddenly removed itself to her heart, which became
"And I want to say this," went on Twenty-two, still in a savage
tone. He was horribly frightened, so he blustered. "I don't care
whether you want me or not, you've got to have me. I'm so much in
love with you that it hurts."
Suddenly Jane Brown's heart settled down into a soft rhythmic
beating that was like a song. After all, life was made up of love
and work, and love came first.
She faced Twenty-two with brave eyes.
"I love you, too--so much that it hurts."
The gentleman across the hall, sitting up in bed, with an angry
thumb on the bell, was electrified to see, on the glass door across,
the silhouette of a young lady without a cap go into the arms of a
very large, masculine silhouette in a dressing-gown. He heard, too,
the thump of a falling cane.
Late that night Jane Brown, by devious ways, made her way back to H
ward. Johnny was there, a strange Johnny with a bandaged head, but
with open eyes.
At dawn, the dawn of the day when Jane Brown was to leave the little
world of the hospital for a little world of two, consisting of a man
and a woman, the night nurse found her there, asleep, her fingers
still on Johnny's thin wrist.
She did not report it.
Having retired to a hospital to sulk, Jane remained there. The
family came and sat by her bed uncomfortably and smoked, and finally
retreated with defeat written large all over it, leaving Jane to the
continued possession of Room 33, a pink kimono with slippers to
match, a hand-embroidered face pillow with a rose-coloured bow on
the corner, and a young nurse with a gift of giving Jane daily the
appearance of a strawberry and vanilla ice rising from a meringue of
Jane's complaint was temper. The family knew this, and so did
Jane, although she had an annoying way of looking hurt, a gentle
heart-brokenness of speech that made the family, under the
pretence of getting a match, go out into the hall and swear softly
under its breath. But it was temper, and the family was not
deceived. Also, knowing Jane, the family was quite ready to
believe that while it was swearing in the hall, Jane was biting
holes in the hand-embroidered face pillow in Room 33.
It had finally come to be a test of endurance. Jane vowed to stay
at the hospital until the family on bended knee begged her to emerge
and to brighten the world again with her presence. The family, being
her father, said it would be damned if it would, and that if Jane
cared to live on anæmic chicken broth, oatmeal wafers and massage
twice a day for the rest of her life, why, let her.
The dispute, having begun about whether Jane should or should not
marry a certain person, Jane representing the affirmative and her
father the negative, had taken on new aspects, had grown and
altered, and had, to be brief, become a contest between the
masculine Johnson and the feminine Johnson as to which would take
the count. Not that this appeared on the surface. The masculine
Johnson, having closed the summer home on Jane's defection and gone
back to the city, sent daily telegrams, novels and hothouse grapes,
all three of which Jane devoured indiscriminately. Once, indeed,
Father Johnson had motored the forty miles from town, to be told
that Jane was too ill and unhappy to see him, and to have a glimpse,
as he drove furiously away, of Jane sitting pensive at her window in
the pink kimono, gazing over his head at the distant hills and
clearly entirely indifferent to him and his wrath.
So we find Jane, on a frosty morning in late October, in triumphant
possession of the field--aunts and cousins routed, her father
sulking in town, and the victor herself--or is victor feminine?--and
if it isn't, shouldn't it be?--sitting up in bed staring blankly at
Jane had just wakened--an hour later than usual; she had rung the
bell three times and no one had responded. Jane's famous temper
began to stretch and yawn. At this hour Jane was accustomed
to be washed with tepid water, scented daintily with violet,
alcohol-rubbed, talcum-powdered, and finally fresh-linened, coifed
and manicured, to be supported with a heap of fresh pillows and fed
creamed sweet-bread and golden-brown coffee and toast.
Jane rang again, with a line between her eyebrows. The bell was not
broken. She could hear it distinctly. This was an outrage! She would
report it to the superintendent. She had been ringing for ten
minutes. That little minx of a nurse was flirting somewhere with one
of the internes.
Jane angrily flung the covers back and got out on her small bare
feet. Then she stretched her slim young arms above her head, her
spoiled red mouth forming a scarlet O as she yawned. In her
sleeveless and neckless nightgown, with her hair over her shoulders,
minus the more elaborate coiffure which later in the day helped
her to poise and firmness, she looked a pretty young girl,
almost--although Jane herself never suspected this--almost an
amiable young person.
Jane saw herself in the glass and assumed immediately the two lines
between her eyebrows which were the outward and visible token of
what she had suffered. Then she found her slippers, a pair of
stockings to match and two round bits of pink silk elastic of
private and feminine use, and sat down on the floor to put them on.
The floor was cold. To Jane's wrath was added indignation. She
hitched herself along the boards to the radiator and put her hand on
it. It was even colder than Jane.
The family temper was fully awake by this time and ready for
business. Jane, sitting on the icy floor, jerked on her stockings,
snapped the pink bands into place, thrust her feet into her slippers
and rose, shivering. She went to the bed, and by dint of careful
manoeuvring so placed the bell between the head of the bed and the
wall that during the remainder of her toilet it rang steadily.
The remainder of Jane's toilet was rather casual. She flung on the
silk kimono, twisted her hair on top of her head and stuck a pin or
two in it, thus achieving a sort of effect a thousand times more
bewildering than she had ever managed with a curling iron and
twenty seven hair pins, and flinging her door wide stalked into the
hall. At least she meant to stalk, but one does not really stamp
about much in number-two, heelless, pink-satin mules.
At the first stalk--or stamp--she stopped. Standing uncertainly just
outside her door was a strange man, strangely attired. Jane clutched
her kimono about her and stared.
"Did--did you--are you ringing?" asked the apparition. It wore a
pair of white-duck trousers, much soiled, a coat that bore the words
"furnace room" down the front in red letters on a white tape, and a
clean and spotless white apron. There was coal dust on its face and
streaks of it in its hair, which appeared normally to be red.
"There's something the matter with your bell," said the young man.
"It keeps on ringing."
"I intend it to," said Jane coldly.
"You can't make a racket like that round here, you know," he
asserted, looking past her into the room.
"I intend to make all the racket I can until I get some attention."
"What have you done--put a book on it?"
"Look here"--Jane added another line to the two between her
eyebrows. In the family this was generally a signal for a retreat,
but of course the young man could not know this, and, besides, he
was red-headed. "Look here," said Jane, "I don't know who you are
and I don't care either, but that bell is going to ring until I get
my bath and some breakfast. And it's going to ring then unless I
The young man in the coal dust and the white apron looked at Jane
and smiled. Then he walked past her into the room, jerked the bed
from the wall and released the bell.
"Now!" he said as the din outside ceased. "I'm too busy to talk just
at present, but if you do that again I'll take the bell out of the
room altogether. There are other people in the hospital besides
At that he started out and along the hall, leaving Jane speechless.
After he'd gone about a dozen feet he stopped and turned, looking at
"Do you know anything about cooking?" he asked.
"I know more about cooking than you do about politeness," she
retorted, white with fury, and went into her room and slammed the
door. She went directly to the bell and put it behind the bed and
set it to ringing again. Then she sat down in a chair and picked up
a book. Had the red-haired person opened the door she was perfectly
prepared to fling the book at him. She would have thrown a hatchet
had she had one.
As a matter of fact, however, he did not come back. The bell rang
with a soul-satisfying jangle for about two minutes and then died
away, and no amount of poking with a hairpin did any good. It was
clear that the bell had been cut off outside!
For fifty-five minutes Jane sat in that chair breakfastless, very
casually washed and with the aforesaid Billie Burkeness of hair.
Then, hunger gaining over temper, she opened the door and peered
out. From somewhere near at hand there came a pungent odor of
burning toast. Jane sniffed; then, driven by hunger, she made a
short sally down the hall to the parlour where the nurses on duty
made their headquarters. It was empty. The dismantled bell register
was on the wall, with the bell unscrewed and lying on the mantel
beside it, and the odour of burning toast was stronger than ever.
Jane padded softly to the odour, following her small nose. It led
her to the pantry, where under ordinary circumstances the patients'
trays were prepared by a pantrymaid, the food being shipped there
from the kitchen on a lift. Clearly the circumstances were not
ordinary. The pantrymaid was not in sight.
Instead, the red-haired person was standing by the window scraping
busily at a blackened piece of toast. There was a rank odour of
boiling tea in the air.
"Damnation!" said the red-haired person, and flung the toast into a
corner where there already lay a small heap of charred breakfast
hopes. Then he saw Jane.
"I fixed the bell, didn't I?" he remarked. "I say, since you claim
to know so much about cooking, I wish you'd make some toast."
"I didn't say I knew much," snapped Jane, holding her kimono round
her. "I said I knew more than you knew about politeness."
The red-haired person smiled again, and then, making a deep bow,
with a knife in one hand and a toaster in the other, he said:
"Madam, I prithee forgive me for my untoward conduct of an hour
since. Say but the word and I replace the bell."
"I won't make any toast," said Jane, looking at the bread with
"Oh, very well," said the red-haired person with a sigh. "On your
head be it!"
"But I'll tell you how to do it," conceded Jane, "if you'll explain
who you are and what you are doing in that costume and where the
The red-haired person sat down on the edge of the table and looked
"I'll make a bargain with you," he said. "There's a convalescent
typhoid in a room near yours who swears he'll go down to the village
for something to eat in his--er--hospital attire unless he's fed
soon. He's dangerous, empty. He's reached the cannibalistic stage.
If he should see you in that ravishing pink thing, I--I wouldn't
answer for the consequences. I'll tell you everything if you'll make
him six large slices of toast and boil him four or five eggs, enough
to hold him for a while. The tea's probably ready; it's been boiling
for an hour."
Hunger was making Jane human. She gathered up the tail of her
kimono, and stepping daintily into the pantry proceeded to spread
herself a slice of bread and butter.
"Where is everybody?" she asked, licking some butter off her thumb
with a small pink tongue.
_Oh, I am the cook and the captain bold,
And the mate of the Nancy brig,
And the bosun tight and the midshipmite,
And the crew of the captain's gig._
recited the red-haired person.
"You!" said Jane with the bread halfway to her mouth.
"Even I," said the red-haired person. "I'm the superintendent, the
staff, the training school, the cooks, the furnace man and the
Jane was pouring herself a cup of tea, and she put in milk and sugar
and took a sip or two before she would give him the satisfaction of
asking him what he meant. Anyhow, probably she had already guessed.
Jane was no fool.
"I hope you're getting the salary list," she said, sitting on the
pantry girl's chair and, what with the tea inside and somebody to
quarrel with, feeling more like herself. "My father's one of the
directors, and somebody gets it."
The red-haired person sat on the radiator and eyed Jane. He looked
slightly stunned, as if the presence of beauty in a Billie Burke
chignon and little else except a kimono was almost too much for him.
From somewhere near by came a terrific thumping, as of some one
pounding a hairbrush on a table. The red-haired person shifted along
the radiator a little nearer Jane, and continued to gloat.
"Don't let that noise bother you," he said; "that's only the
convalescent typhoid banging for his breakfast. He's been shouting
for food ever since I came at six last night."
"Is it safe to feed him so much?"
"I don't know. He hasn't had anything yet. Perhaps if you're ready
you'd better fix him something."
Jane had finished her bread and tea by this time and remembered her
"I'll go back and dress," she said primly. But he wouldn't hear of
"He's starving," he objected as a fresh volley of thumps came along
the hall. "I've been trying at intervals since daylight to make him
a piece of toast. The minute I put it on the fire I think of
something I've forgotten, and when I come back it's in flames."
So Jane cut some bread and put on eggs to boil, and the red-haired
person told his story.
"You see," he explained, "although I appear to be a furnace man from
the waist up and an interne from the waist down, I am really the new
"I hope you'll do better than the last one," she said severely. "He
was always flirting with the nurses."
"I shall never flirt with the nurses," he promised, looking at her.
"Anyhow I shan't have any immediate chance. The other fellow left
last night and took with him everything portable except the
ambulance--nurses, staff, cooks. I wish to Heaven he'd taken the
patients! And he did more than that. He cut the telephone wires!"
"Well!" said Jane. "Are you going to stand for it?"
The red-haired man threw up his hands. "The village is with him," he
declared. "It's a factional fight--the village against the
fashionable summer colony on the hill. I cannot telephone from the
village--the telegraph operator is deaf when I speak to him; the
village milkman and grocer sent boys up this morning--look here."
He fished a scrap of paper from his pocket and read:
I will not supply the Valley Hospital with any fresh
meats, canned oysters and sausages, or do any plumbing
for the hospital until the reinstatement of Dr. Sheets.
T. CASHDOLLAR, Butcher.
Jane took the paper and read it again. "Humph!" she commented.
"Old Sheets wrote it himself. Mr. Cashdollar couldn't think
'reinstatement,' let alone spell it."
"The question is not who wrote it, but what we are to do," said the
red-haired person. "Shall I let old Sheets come back?"
"If you do," said Jane fiercely, "I shall hate you the rest of my
And as it was clear by this time that the red-haired person could
imagine nothing more horrible, it was settled then and there that he
"There are only two wards," he said. "In the men's a man named
Higgins is able to be up and is keeping things straight. And in the
woman's ward Mary O'Shaughnessy is looking after them. The furnaces
are the worst. I'd have forgiven almost anything else. I've sat up
all night nursing the fires, but they breathed their last at six
this morning and I guess there's nothing left but to call the
Jane had achieved a tolerable plate of toast by that time and four
eggs. Also she had a fine flush, a combination of heat from the gas
stove and temper.
"They ought to be ashamed," she cried angrily, "leaving a lot of
"Oh, as to that," said the red-headed person, "there aren't any
very sick ones. Two or three neurasthenics like yourself and a
convalescent typhoid and a D.T. in a private room. If it wasn't
that Mary O'Shaughnessy----"
But at the word "neurasthenics" Jane had put down the toaster, and
by the time the unconscious young man had reached the O'Shaughnessy
she was going out the door with her chin up. He called after her,
and finding she did not turn he followed her, shouting apologies at
her back until she went into her room. And as hospital doors don't
lock from the inside she pushed the washstand against the knob and
went to bed to keep warm.
He stood outside and apologised again, and later he brought a tray
of bread and butter and a pot of the tea, which had been boiling for
two hours by that time, and put it outside the door on the floor.
But Jane refused to get it, and finished her breakfast from a jar of
candied ginger that some one had sent her, and read "Lorna Doone."
Now and then a sound of terrific hammering would follow the
steampipes and Jane would smile wickedly. By noon she had finished
the ginger and was wondering what the person about whom she and the
family had disagreed would think when he heard the way she was being
treated. And by one o'clock she had cried her eyes entirely shut and
had pushed the washstand back from the door.
Now a hospital full of nurses and doctors with a bell to summon food
and attention is one thing. A hospital without nurses and doctors,
and with only one person to do everything, and that person mostly in
the cellar, is quite another. Jane was very sad and lonely, and to
add to her troubles the delirium-tremens case down the hall began to
sing "Oh Promise Me" in a falsetto voice and kept it up for hours.
At three Jane got up and bathed her eyes. She also did her hair,
and thus fortified she started out to find the red-haired person.
She intended to say that she was paying sixty-five dollars a week
and belonged to a leading family, and that she didn't mean to
endure for a moment the treatment she was getting, and being
called a neurasthenic and made to cook for the other patients.
She went slowly along the hall. The convalescent typhoid heard her
"Hey, doc!" he cried. "Hey, doc! Great Scott, man, when do I get
Jane quickened her steps and made for the pantry. From somewhere
beyond, the delirium-tremens case was singing happily:
_I--love you o--own--ly,
Jane shivered a little. The person in whom she had been interested
and who had caused her precipitate retirement, if not to a nunnery,
to what answered the same purpose, had been very fond of that song.
He used to sing it, leaning over the piano and looking into her
Jane's nose led her again to the pantry. There was a sort of soupy
odour in the air, and sure enough the red-haired person was there,
very immaculate in fresh ducks, pouring boiling water into three
tea-cups out of a kettle and then dropping a beef capsule into each
Now Jane had intended, as I have said, to say that she was being
outrageously treated, and belonged to one of the best families, and
so on. What she really said was piteously:
"How good it smells!"
"Doesn't it!" said the red-haired person, sniffing. "Beef capsules.
I've made thirty cups of it so far since one o'clock--the more they
have the more they want. I say, be a good girl and run up to the
kitchen for some more crackers while I carry food to the
convalescent typhoid. He's murderous!"
"Where are the crackers?" asked Jane stiffly, but not exactly caring
to raise an issue until she was sure of getting something to eat.
"Store closet in the kitchen, third drawer on the left," said the
red-haired man, shaking some cayenne pepper into one of the cups.
"You might stop that howling lunatic on your way if you will."
"How?" asked Jane, pausing.
"Ram a towel down his throat, or--but don't bother. I'll dose him
with this beef tea and red pepper, and he'll be too busy putting out
the fire to want to sing."
"You wouldn't be so cruel!" said Jane, rather drawing back. The
red-haired person smiled and to Jane it showed that he was actually
ferocious. She ran all the way up for the crackers and down again,
carrying the tin box. There is no doubt that Jane's family would
have promptly swooned had it seen her.
When she came down there was a sort of after-dinner peace reigning.
The convalescent typhoid, having filled up on milk and beef soup,
had floated off to sleep. "The Chocolate Soldier" had given way to
deep-muttered imprecations from the singer's room. Jane made herself
a cup of bouillon and drank it scalding. She was making the second
when the red-haired person came back with an empty cup.
"I forgot to explain," he said, "that beef tea and red pepper's the
treatment for our young friend in there. After a man has been
burning his stomach daily with a quart or so of raw booze----"
"I beg your pardon," said Jane coolly. Booze was not considered good
form on the hill--the word, of course. There was plenty of the
"Raw booze," repeated the red-haired person. "Nothing short of red
pepper or dynamite is going to act as a substitute. Why, I'll bet
the inside of that chap's stomach is of the general sensitiveness
and consistency of my shoe."
"Indeed!" said Jane, coldly polite. In Jane's circle people did not
discuss the interiors of other people's stomachs. The red-haired
person sat on the table with a cup of bouillon in one hand and a
cracker in the other.
"You know," he said genially, "it's awfully bully of you to come out
and keep me company like this. I never put in such a day. I've given
up fussing with the furnace and got out extra blankets instead. And
I think by night our troubles will be over." He held up the cup and
glanced at Jane, who was looking entrancingly pretty. "To our
troubles being over!" he said, draining the cup, and then found
that he had used the red pepper again by mistake. It took five
minutes and four cups of cold water to enable him to explain what he
"By our troubles being over," he said finally when he could speak,
"I mean this: There's a train from town at eight to-night, and if
all goes well it will deposit in the village half a dozen nurses, a
cook or two, a furnace man--good Heavens, I wonder if I forgot a
It seemed, as Jane discovered, that the telephone wires being cut,
he had sent Higgins from the men's ward to the village to send some
telegrams for him.
"I couldn't leave, you see," he explained, "and having some small
reason to believe that I am _persona non grata_ in this vicinity I
Jane had always hated the name Higgins. She said afterward that she
felt uneasy from that moment. The red-haired person, who was not
bad-looking, being tall and straight and having a very decent nose,
looked at Jane, and Jane, having been shut away for weeks--Jane
preened a little and was glad she had done her hair.
"You looked better the other way," said the red-haired person,
reading her mind in a most uncanny manner. "Why should a girl with
as pretty hair as yours cover it up with a net, anyhow?"
"You are very disagreeable and--and impertinent," said Jane,
sliding off the table.
"It isn't disagreeable to tell a girl she has pretty hair," the
red-haired person protested--"or impertinent either."
Jane was gathering up the remnants of her temper, scattered by the
events of the day.
"You said I was a neurasthenic," she accused him. "It--it isn't
being a neurasthenic to be nervous and upset and hating the very
sight of people, is it?"
"Bless my soul!" said the red-haired man. "Then what is it?" Jane
flushed, but he went on tactlessly: "I give you my word, I think you
are the most perfectly"--he gave every appearance of being about to
say "beautiful," but he evidently changed his mind--"the most
perfectly healthy person I have ever looked at," he finished.
It is difficult to say just what Jane would have done under other
circumstances, but just as she was getting her temper really in hand
and preparing to launch something, shuffling footsteps were heard in
the hall and Higgins stood in the doorway.
He was in a sad state. One of his eyes was entirely closed, and the
corresponding ear stood out large and bulbous from his head. Also he
was coated with mud, and he was carefully nursing one hand with the
He said he had been met at the near end of the railroad bridge by
the ex-furnace man and one of the ex-orderlies and sent back firmly,
having in fact been kicked back part of the way. He'd been told to
report at the hospital that the tradespeople had instituted a
boycott, and that either the former superintendent went back or the
entire place could starve to death.
It was then that Jane discovered that her much-vaunted temper was
not one-two-three to that of the red-haired person. He turned a sort
of blue-white, shoved Jane out of his way as if she had been a
chair, and she heard him clatter down the stairs and slam out of the
Jane went back to her room and looked down the drive. He was running
toward the bridge, and the sunlight on his red hair and his flying
legs made him look like a revengeful meteor. Jane was weak in the
knees. She knelt on the cold radiator and watched him out of sight,
and then got trembly all over and fell to snivelling. This was of
course because, if anything happened to him, she would be left
entirely alone. And anyhow the D.T. case was singing again and had
rather got on her nerves.
In ten minutes the red-haired person appeared. He had a
wretched-looking creature by the back of the neck and he alternately
pushed and kicked him up the drive. He--the red-haired person--was
whistling and clearly immensely pleased with himself.
Jane put a little powder on her nose and waited for him to come and
tell her all about it. But he did not come near. This was quite the
cleverest thing he could have done, had he known it. Jane was not
accustomed to waiting in vain. He must have gone directly to the
cellar, half pushing and half kicking the luckless furnace man, for
about four o'clock the radiator began to get warm.
At five he came and knocked at Jane's door, and on being invited in
he sat down on the bed and looked at her.
"Well, we've got the furnace going," he said.
"Then that was the----"
"Furnace man? Yes."
"Aren't you afraid to leave him?" queried Jane. "Won't he run off?"
"Got him locked in a padded cell," he said. "I can take him out to
coal up. The rest of the time he can sit and think of his sins. The
question is--what are we to do next?"
"I should think," ventured Jane, "that we'd better be thinking about
"The beef capsules are gone."
"But surely there must be something else about--potatoes or things
He brightened perceptibly. "Oh, yes, carloads of potatoes, and
there's canned stuff. Higgins can pare potatoes, and there's Mary
O'Shaughnessy. We could have potatoes and canned tomatoes and eggs."
"Fine!" said Jane with her eyes gleaming, although the day before
she would have said they were her three abominations.
And with that he called Higgins and Mary O'Shaughnessy and the four
of them went to the kitchen.
Jane positively shone. She had never realised before how much she
knew about cooking. They built a fire and got kettles boiling and
everybody pared potatoes, and although in excess of zeal the eggs
were ready long before everything else and the tomatoes scorched
slightly, still they made up in enthusiasm what they lacked in
ability, and when Higgins had carried the trays to the lift and
started them on their way, Jane and the red-haired person shook
hands on it and then ate a boiled potato from the same plate,
sitting side by side on a table.
They were ravenous. They boiled one egg each and ate it, and then
boiled another and another, and when they finished they found that
Jane had eaten four potatoes, four eggs and unlimited bread and
butter, while the red-haired person had eaten six saucers of stewed
tomatoes and was starting on the seventh.
"You know," he said over the seventh, "we've got to figure this
thing out. The entire town is solid against us--no use trying to get
to a telephone. And anyhow they've got us surrounded. We're in a
state of siege."
Jane was beating up an egg in milk for the D.T. patient, the
capsules being exhausted, and the red-haired person was watching her
closely. She had the two vertical lines between her eyes, but they
looked really like lines of endeavour and not temper.
She stopped beating and looked up.
"Couldn't I go to the village?" she asked.
"They would stop you."
"Then--I think I know what we can do," she said, giving the eggnog a
final whisk. "My people have a summer place on the hill. If you
could get there you could telephone to the city."
"Could I get in?"
"I have a key."
Jane did not explain that the said key had been left by her father,
with the terse hope that if she came to her senses she could get
into the house and get her clothes.
"Good girl," said the red-headed person and patted her on the
shoulder. "We'll euchre the old skate yet." Curiously, Jane did not
resent either the speech or the pat.
He took the glass and tied on a white apron. "If our friend doesn't
drink this, I will," he continued. "If he'd seen it in the making,
as I have, he'd be crazy about it."
He opened the door and stood listening. From below floated up the
_I--love you o--own--ly,
"Listen to that!" he said. "Stomach's gone, but still has a heart!"
Higgins came up the stairs heavily and stopped close by the
red-haired person, whispering something to him. There was a second's
pause. Then the red-haired person gave the eggnog to Higgins and
Jane was puzzled. She rather thought the furnace man had got out and
listened for a scuffle, but none came. She did, however, hear the
singing cease below, and then commence with renewed vigour, and she
heard Higgins slowly remounting the stairs. He came in, with the
empty glass and a sheepish expression. Part of the eggnog was
distributed over his person.
"He wants his nurse, ma'am," said Higgins. "Wouldn't let me near
him. Flung a pillow at me."
"Where is the doctor?" demanded Jane.
"Busy," replied Higgins. "One of the women is sick."
Jane was provoked. She had put some labour into the eggnog. But it
shows the curious evolution going on in her that she got out the
eggs and milk and made another one without protest. Then with her
head up she carried it to the door.
"You might clear things away, Higgins," she said, and went down the
stairs. Her heart was going rather fast. Most of the men Jane knew
drank more or less, but this was different. She would have turned
back halfway there had it not been for Higgins and for owning
herself conquered. That was Jane's real weakness--she never owned
The singing had subsided to a low muttering. Jane stopped outside
the door and took a fresh grip on her courage. Then she pushed the
door open and went in.
The light was shaded, and at first the tossing figure on the bed was
only a misty outline of greys and whites. She walked over, expecting
a pillow at any moment and shielding the glass from attack with her
"I have brought you another eggnog," she began severely, "and if you
Then she looked down and saw the face on the pillow.
To her everlasting credit, Jane did not faint. But in that moment,
while she stood staring down at the flushed young face with its
tumbled dark hair and deep-cut lines of dissipation, the man who had
sung to her over the piano, looking love into her eyes, died to her,
and Jane, cold and steady, sat down on the side of the bed and fed
the eggnog, spoonful by spoonful, to his corpse!
When the blank-eyed young man on the bed had swallowed it all
passively, looking at her with dull, incurious eyes, she went back
to her room and closing the door put the washstand against it. She
did nothing theatrical. She went over to the window and stood
looking out where the trees along the drive were fading in the dusk
from green to grey, from grey to black. And over the transom came
again and again monotonously the refrain:
_I--love you o--own--ly,
Jane fell on her knees beside the bed and buried her wilful head in
the hand-embroidered pillow, and said a little prayer because she
had found out in time.
The full realisation of their predicament came with the dusk. The
electric lights were shut off! Jane, crawling into bed tearfully at
half after eight, turned the reading light switch over her head, but
no flood of rosy radiance poured down on the hand-embroidered pillow
with the pink bow.
Jane sat up and stared round her. Already the outline of her dresser
was faint and shadowy. In half an hour black night would settle down
and she had not even a candle or a box of matches. She crawled out,
panicky, and began in the darkness to don her kimono and slippers.
As she opened the door and stepped into the hall the convalescent
typhoid heard her and set up his usual cry.
"Hey," he called, "whoever that is come in and fix the lights.
They're broken. And I want some bread and milk. I can't sleep on an
Jane padded on past the room where love lay cold and dead, down the
corridor with its alarming echoes. The house seemed very quiet. At a
corner unexpectedly she collided with some one going hastily. The
result was a crash and a deluge of hot water. Jane got a drop on her
bare ankle, and as soon as she could breathe she screamed.
"Why don't you look where you're going?" demanded the red-haired
person angrily. "I've been an hour boiling that water, and now it
has to be done over again!"
"It would do a lot of good to look!" retorted Jane. "But if you
wish I'll carry a bell!"
"The thing for you to do," said the red-haired person severely, "is
to go back to bed like a good girl and stay there until morning. The
light is cut off."
"Really!" said Jane. "I thought it had just gone out for a walk. I
daresay I may have a box of matches at least?"
He fumbled in his pockets without success.
"Not a match, of course!" he said disgustedly. "Was any one ever in
such an infernal mess? Can't you get back to your room without
"I shan't go back at all unless I have some sort of light,"
maintained Jane. "I'm--horribly frightened!"
The break in her voice caught his attention and he put his hand out
gently and took her arm.
"Now listen," he said. "You've been brave and fine all day, and
don't stop it now. I--I've got all I can manage. Mary O'Shaughnessy
is----" He stopped. "I'm going to be very busy," he said with half a
groan. "I surely do wish you were forty for the next few hours. But
you'll go back and stay in your room, won't you?"
He patted her arm, which Jane particularly hated generally. But Jane
had altered considerably since morning.
"Then you cannot go to the telephone?"
"Higgins has gone," he said. "He slipped off an hour ago. We'll have
to manage to-night somehow. Now will you be a good child?"
"I'll go back," she promised meekly. "I'm sorry I'm not forty."
He turned her round and started her in the right direction with a
little push. But she had gone only a step or two when she heard him
coming after her quickly.
"Where are you?"
"Here," quavered Jane, not quite sure of him or of herself perhaps.
But when he stopped beside her he didn't try to touch her arm again.
He only said:
"I wouldn't have you forty for anything in the world. I want you to
be just as you are, very beautiful and young."
Then, as if he was afraid he would say too much, he turned on his
heel, and a moment after he kicked against the fallen pitcher in the
darkness and awoke a thousand echoes. As for Jane, she put her
fingers to her ears and ran to her room, where she slammed the door
and crawled into bed with burning cheeks.
Jane was never sure whether it was five minutes later or five
seconds when somebody in the room spoke--from a chair by the window.
"Do you think," said a mild voice--"do you think you could find me
some bread and butter? Or a glass of milk?"
Jane sat up in bed suddenly. She knew at once that she had made a
mistake, but she was quite dignified about it. She looked over at
the chair, and the convalescent typhoid was sitting in it, wrapped
in a blanket and looking wan and ghostly in the dusk.
"I'm afraid I'm in the wrong room," Jane said very stiffly, trying
to get out of the bed with dignity, which is difficult. "The hall is
dark and all the doors look so alike----"
She made for the door at that and got out into the hall with her
heart going a thousand a minute again.
"You've forgotten your slippers," called the convalescent typhoid
after her. But nothing would have taken Jane back.
The convalescent typhoid took the slippers home later and locked
them away in an inner drawer, where he kept one or two things like
faded roses, and old gloves, and a silk necktie that a girl had made
him at college--things that are all the secrets a man keeps from his
wife and that belong in that small corner of his heart which also
he keeps from his wife. But that has nothing to do with Jane.
Jane went back to her own bed thoroughly demoralised. And sleep
being pretty well banished by that time, she sat up in bed and
thought things over. Before this she had not thought much, only
raged and sulked alternately. But now she thought. She thought about
the man in the room down the hall with the lines of dissipation on
his face. And she thought a great deal about what a silly she had
been, and that it was not too late yet, she being not forty and
"beautiful." It must be confessed that she thought a great deal
about that. Also she reflected that what she deserved was to marry
some person with even a worse temper than hers, who would bully her
at times and generally keep her straight. And from that, of course,
it was only a step to the fact that red-haired people are
She thought, too, about Mary O'Shaughnessy without another woman
near, and not even a light, except perhaps a candle. Things were
always so much worse in the darkness. And perhaps she might be going
to be very ill and ought to have another doctor!
Jane seemed to have been reflecting for a long time, when the church
clock far down in the village struck nine. And with the chiming of
the clock was born, full grown, an idea which before it was sixty
seconds of age was a determination.
In pursuance of the idea Jane once more crawled out of bed and began
to dress; she put on heavy shoes and a short skirt, a coat, and a
motor veil over her hair. The indignation at the defection of the
hospital staff, held in subjection during the day by the necessity
for doing something, now rose and lent speed and fury to her
movements. In an incredibly short time Jane was feeling her way
along the hall and down the staircase, now a well of unfathomable
blackness and incredible rustlings and creakings.
The front doors were unlocked. Outside there was faint starlight,
the chirp of a sleepy bird, and far off across the valley the
gasping and wheezing of a freight climbing the heavy grade to the
Jane paused at the drive and took a breath. Then at her best
gymnasium pace, arms close to sides, head up, feet well planted, she
started to run. At the sundial she left the drive and took to the
lawn gleaming with the frost of late October. She stopped running
then and began to pick her way more cautiously. Even at that she
collided heavily with a wire fence marking the boundary, and sat on
the ground for some time after, whimpering over the outrage and
feeling her nose. It was distinctly scratched and swollen. No one
would think her beautiful with a nose like that!
She had not expected the wire fence. It was impossible to climb and
more difficult to get under. However, she found one place where the
ground dipped, and wormed her way under the fence in most
undignified fashion. It is perfectly certain that had Jane's family
seen her then and been told that she was doing this remarkable thing
for a woman she had never seen before that day, named Mary
O'Shaughnessy, and also for a certain red-haired person of whom it
had never heard, it would have considered Jane quite irrational. But
it is entirely probable that Jane became really rational that night
for the first time in her spoiled young life.
Jane never told the details of that excursion. Those that came out
in the paper were only guess-work, of course, but it is quite true
that a reporter found scraps of her motor veil on three wire fences,
and there seems to be no reason to doubt, also, that two false curls
were discovered a week later in a cow pasture on her own estate. But
as Jane never wore curls afterward anyhow----
Well, Jane got to her own house about eleven and crept in like a
thief to the telephone. There were more rustlings and creakings and
rumblings in the empty house than she had ever imagined, and she
went backward through the hall for fear of something coming after
her. But, which is to the point, she got to the telephone and called
up her father in the city.
The first message that astonished gentleman got was that a
red-haired person at the hospital was very ill, having run into a
wire fence and bruised a nose, and that he was to bring out at once
from town two doctors, six nurses, a cook and a furnace man!
After a time, however, as Jane grew calmer, he got it straightened
out, and said a number of things over the telephone anent the
deserting staff that are quite forbidden by the rules both of the
club and of the telephone company. He gave Jane full instructions
about sending to the village and having somebody come up and stay
with her, and about taking a hot footbath and going to bed between
blankets, and when Jane replied meekly to everything "Yes, father,"
and "All right, father," he was so stunned by her mildness that he
was certain she must be really ill.
Not that Jane had any idea of doing all these things. She hung up
the telephone and gathered all the candles from all the candlesticks
on the lower floor, and started back for the hospital. The moon had
come up and she had no more trouble with fencing, but she was
desperately tired. She climbed the drive slowly, coming to frequent
pauses. The hospital, long and low and sleeping, lay before her,
and in one upper window there was a small yellow light.
Jane climbed the steps and sat down on the top one. She felt very
tired and sad and dejected, and she sat down on the upper step to
think of how useless she was, and how much a man must know to be a
doctor, and that perhaps she would take up nursing in earnest and
amount to something, and----
It was about three o'clock in the morning when the red-haired
person, coming down belatedly to close the front doors, saw a
shapeless heap on the porch surrounded by a radius of white-wax
candles, and going up shoved at it with his foot. Whereat the heap
moved slightly and muttered "Lemme shleep."
The red-haired person said "Good Heavens!" and bending down held a
lighted match to the sleeper's face and stared, petrified. Jane
opened her eyes, sat up and put her hand over her mutilated nose
with one gesture.
"You!" said the red-haired person. And then mercifully the match
"Don't light another," said Jane. "I'm an alarming sight.
Would--would you mind feeling if my nose is broken?"
He didn't move to examine it. He just kept on kneeling and staring.
"Where have you been?" he demanded.
"Over to telephone," said Jane, and yawned. "They're bringing
everybody in automobiles--doctors, nurses, furnace man--oh, dear me,
I hope I mentioned a cook!"
"Do you mean to say," said the red-haired person wonderingly, "that
you went by yourself across the fields and telephoned to get me out
of this mess?"
"Not at all," Jane corrected him coolly. "I'm in the mess myself."
"You'll be ill again."
"I never was ill," said Jane. "I was here for a mean disposition."
Jane sat in the moonlight with her hands in her lap and looked at
him calmly. The red-haired person reached over and took both her
"You're a heroine," he said, and bending down he kissed first one
and then the other. "Isn't it bad enough that you are beautiful
without your also being brave?"
Jane eyed him, but he was in deadly earnest. In the moonlight his
hair was really not red at all, and he looked pale and very, very
tired. Something inside of Jane gave a curious thrill that was half
pain. Perhaps it was the dying of her temper, perhaps----
"Am I still beautiful with this nose?" she asked.
"You are everything that a woman should be," he said, and dropping
her hands he got up. He stood there in the moonlight, straight and
young and crowned with despair, and Jane looked up from under her
"Then why don't you stay where you were?" she asked.
At that he reached down and took her hands again and pulled her to
her feet. He was very strong.
"Because if I do I'll never leave you again," he said. "And I must
He dropped her hands, or tried to, but Jane wasn't ready to be
"You know," she said, "I've told you I'm a sulky, bad-tempered----"
But at that he laughed suddenly, triumphantly, and put both his arms
round her and held her close.
"I love you," he said, "and if you are bad-tempered, so am I, only I
think I'm worse. It's a shame to spoil two houses with us, isn't
To her eternal shame be it told, Jane never struggled. She simply
held up her mouth to be kissed.
That is really all the story. Jane's father came with three
automobiles that morning at dawn, bringing with him all that goes to
make up a hospital, from a pharmacy clerk to absorbent cotton, and
having left the new supplies in the office he stamped upstairs to
Jane's room and flung open the door.
He expected to find Jane in hysterics and the pink silk kimono.
What he really saw was this: A coal fire was lighted in Jane's
grate, and in a low chair before it, with her nose swollen level
with her forehead, sat Jane, holding on her lap Mary O'Shaughnessy's
baby, very new and magenta-coloured and yelling like a trooper.
Kneeling beside the chair was a tall, red-headed person holding a
bottle of olive oil.
"Now, sweetest," the red-haired person was saying, "turn him on his
tummy and we'll rub his back. Gee, isn't that a fat back!"
And as Jane's father stared and Jane anxiously turned the baby, the
red-haired person leaned over and kissed the back of Jane's neck.
"Jane!" he whispered.
"Jane!!" said her father.
IN THE PAVILION
Now, had Billy Grant really died there would be no story. The story
is to relate how he nearly died; and how, approaching that bourne to
which no traveller may take with him anything but his sins--and this
with Billy Grant meant considerable luggage--he cast about for some
way to prevent the Lindley Grants from getting possession of his
Probably it would never have happened at all had not young Grant,
having hit on a scheme, clung to it with a tenacity that might
better have been devoted to saving his soul, and had he not said to
the Nurse, who was at that moment shaking a thermometer: "Come
on--be a sport! It's only a matter of hours." Not that he said it
aloud--he whispered it, and fought for the breath to do even that.
The Nurse, having shaken down the thermometer, walked to the table
and recorded a temperature of one hundred and six degrees through a
most unprofessional mist of tears. Then in the symptom column she
But Billy Grant was not delirious. A fever of a hundred and four or
thereabout may fuse one's mind in a sort of fiery crucible, but when
it gets to a hundred and six all the foreign thoughts, like seeing
green monkeys on the footboard and wondering why the doctor is
walking on his hands--all these things melt away, and one sees one's
past, as when drowning, and remembers to hate one's relations, and
is curious about what is coming when one goes over.
So Billy Grant lay on his bed in the contagious pavilion of the
hospital, and remembered to hate the Lindley Grants and to try to
devise a way to keep them out of his property. And, having studied
law, he knew no will that he might make now would hold against the
Lindley Grants for a minute, unless he survived its making some
thirty days. The Staff Doctor had given him about thirty hours or
Perhaps he would have given up in despair and been forced to rest
content with a threat to haunt the Lindley Grants and otherwise mar
the enjoyment of their good fortune, had not the Nurse at that
moment put the thermometer under his arm.
Now, as every one knows, an axillary temperature takes five minutes,
during which it is customary for a nurse to kneel beside the bed, or
even to sit very lightly on the edge, holding the patient's arm
close to his side and counting his respirations while pretending to
be thinking of something else. It was during these five minutes that
the idea came into Billy Grant's mind and, having come, remained.
The Nurse got up, rustling starchily, and Billy caught her eye.
"Every engine," he said with difficulty, "labours--in a low--gear.
No wonder I'm--heated up!"
The Nurse, who was young, put her hand on his forehead.
"Try to sleep," she said.
"Time for--that--later," said Billy Grant. "I'll--I'll be a--long
time--dead. I--I wonder whether you'd--do me a--favour."
"I'll do anything in the world you want."
She tried to smile down at him, but only succeeded in making her
chin quiver, which would never do--being unprofessional and likely
to get to the head nurse; so, being obliged to do something, she
took his pulse by the throbbing in his neck.
"One, two, three, four, five, six----"
"Then--marry me," gasped Billy Grant. "Only for an--hour or--two,
you know. You--promised. Come on--be a sport!"
It was then that the Nurse walked to the table and recorded
"Delirious" in the symptom column. And, though she was a Smith
College girl and had taken a something or other in mathematics, she
spelled it just then with two r's.
Billy Grant was not in love with the Nurse. She was a part of his
illness, like the narrow brass bed and the yellow painted walls,
and the thermometer under his arm, and the medicines. There were
even times--when his fever subsided for a degree or two, after a
cold sponge, and the muddled condition of mind returned--when she
seemed to have more heads than even a nurse requires. So sentiment
did not enter into the matter at all; it was revenge.
"You--promised," he said again; but the Nurse only smiled
indulgently and rearranged the bottles on the stand in neat rows.
Jenks, the orderly, carried her supper to the isolation pavilion at
six o'clock--cold ham, potato salad, egg custard and tea. Also, he
brought her an evening paper. But the Nurse was not hungry. She went
into the bathroom, washed her eyes with cold water, put on a clean
collar, against the impending visit of the Staff Doctor, and then
stood at the window, looking across at the hospital and feeling very
lonely and responsible. It was not a great hospital, but it loomed
large and terrible that night. The ambulance came out into the
courtyard, and an interne, in white ducks, came out to it, carrying
a surgical bag. He looked over at her and waved his hand. "Big
railroad wreck!" he called cheerfully. "Got 'em coming in bunches."
He crawled into the ambulance, where the driver, trained to many
internes, gave him time to light a cigarette; then out into the
dusk, with the gong beating madly. Billy Grant, who had lapsed into
a doze, opened his eyes.
"What--about it?" he asked. "You're not--married already--are you?"
"Please try to rest. Perhaps if I get your beef juice----"
"Oh, damn--the beef juice!" whispered Billy Grant, and shut his eyes
again--but not to sleep. He was planning how to get his way, and
finally, out of a curious and fantastic medley of thoughts, he
evolved something. The doctor, of course! These women had to do what
the doctor ordered. He would see the doctor!--upon which, with a
precision quite amazing, all the green monkeys on the footboard of
the bed put their thumbs to their noses at him.
The situation was unusual; for here was young Grant, far enough from
any one who knew he was one of the Van Kleek Grants--and, as such,
entitled to all the nurses and doctors that money could
procure--shut away in the isolation pavilion of a hospital, and not
even putting up a good fight! Even the Nurse felt this, and when the
Staff Man came across the courtyard that night she met him on the
doorstep and told him.
"He doesn't care whether he gets well or not," she said
dispiritedly. "All he seems to think about is to die and to leave
everything he owns so his relatives won't get it. It's horrible!"
The Staff Man, who had finished up a hard day with a hospital supper
of steak and fried potatoes, sat down on the doorstep and fished out
a digestive tablet from his surgical bag.
"It's pretty sad, little girl," he said, over the pill. He had known
the Nurse for some time, having, in fact, brought her--according to
report at the time--in a predecessor of the very bag at his feet,
and he had the fatherly manner that belongs by right to the man who
has first thumped one between the shoulder-blades to make one
breathe, and who had remarked on this occasion to some one beyond
the door: "A girl, and fat as butter!"
The Nurse tiptoed in and found Billy Grant apparently asleep.
Actually he had only closed his eyes, hoping to lure one of the
monkeys within clutching distance. So the Nurse came out again, with
the symptom record.
"Delirious, with two r's," said the Staff Doctor, glancing over his
spectacles. "He must have been pretty bad."
"Not wild; he--he wanted me to marry him!"
She smiled, showing a most alluring dimple in one cheek.
"I see! Well, that's not necessarily delirium. H'm--pulse,
respiration--look at that temperature! Yes, it's pretty sad--away
from home, too, poor lad!"
"You---- Isn't there any hope, doctor?"
"None at all--at least, I've never had 'em get well."
Now the Nurse should, by all the ethics of hospital practice, have
walked behind the Staff Doctor, listening reverentially to what he
said, not speaking until she was spoken to, and carrying in one hand
an order blank on which said august personage would presently
inscribe certain cabalistic characters, to be deciphered later by
the pharmacy clerk with a strong light and much blasphemy, and in
the other hand a clean towel. The clean towel does not enter into
the story, but for the curious be it said that were said personage
to desire to listen to the patient's heart, the towel would be
unfolded and spread, without creases, over the patient's
chest--which reminds me of the Irishman and the weary practitioner;
but every one knows that story.
Now that is what the Nurse should have done; instead of which, in
the darkened passageway, being very tired and exhausted and under a
hideous strain, she suddenly slipped her arm through the Staff
Doctor's and, putting her head on his shoulder, began to cry softly.
"What's this?" demanded the Staff Doctor sternly and, putting his
arm round her: "Don't you know that Junior Nurses are not supposed
to weep over the Staff?" And, getting no answer but a choke: "We
can't have you used up like this; I'll make them relieve you. When
did you sleep?"
"I don't want to be relieved," said the Nurse, very muffled.
"No-nobody else would know wh-what he wanted. I just--I just can't
bear to see him--to see him----"
The Staff Doctor picked up the clean towel, which belonged on the
Nurse's left arm, and dried her eyes for her; then he sighed.
"None of us likes to see it, girl," he said. "I'm an old man, and
I've never got used to it. What do they send you to eat?"
"The food's all right," she said rather drearily. "I'm not
hungry--that's all. How long do you think----"
The Staff Doctor, who was putting an antiseptic gauze cap over his
white hair, ran a safety pin into his scalp at that moment and did
not reply at once. Then, "Perhaps--until morning," he said.
He held out his arms for the long, white, sterilised coat, and a
moment later, with his face clean-washed of emotion, and looking
like a benevolent Turk, he entered the sick room. The Nurse was just
behind him, with an order book in one hand and a clean towel over
Billy Grant, from his bed, gave the turban a high sign of greeting.
"Allah--is--great!" he gasped cheerfully. "Well, doctor--I guess
it's all--over but--the shouting."
Some time after midnight Billy Grant roused out of a stupor. He was
quite rational; in fact, he thought he would get out of bed. But his
feet would not move. This was absurd! One's feet must move if one
wills them to! However, he could not stir either of them. Otherwise
he was beautifully comfortable.
Faint as was the stir he made the Nurse heard him. She was sitting
in the dark by the window.
"Water?" she asked softly, coming to him.
"Please." His voice was stronger than it had been.
Some of the water went down his neck, but it did not matter. Nothing
mattered except the Lindley Grants. The Nurse took his temperature
and went out into the hall to read the thermometer, so he might not
watch her face. Then, having recorded it under the nightlight, she
came back into the room.
"Why don't you put on something comfortable?" demanded Billy Grant
querulously. He was so comfortable himself and she was so stiffly
starched, so relentless of collar and cap.
"I am comfortable."
"Where's that wrapper thing you've been wearing at night?" The Nurse
rather flushed at this. "Why don't you lie down on the cot and take
a nap? I don't need anything."
He understood, of course, but he refused to be depressed. He was too
comfortable. He was breathing easily, and his voice, though weak,
"Would you mind sitting beside me? Or are you tired? But of course
you are. Perhaps in a night or so you'll be over there again,
sleeping in a nice white gown in a nice fresh bed, with no querulous
"You'll have to be sterilised or formaldehyded?"
"Yes." This very low.
"Will you put your hand over mine? Thanks. It's--company, you know."
He was apologetic; under her hand his own burned fire. "I--I spoke
to the Staff about that while you were out of the room."
"About your marrying me."
"What did he say?" She humoured him.
"He said he was willing if you were. You're not going to move--are
"No. But you must not talk."
"It's like this. I've got a little property--not much; a little." He
was nervously eager about this. If she knew it amounted to anything
she would refuse, and the Lindley Grants---- "And when I--you
know---- I want to leave it where it will do some good. That little
brother of yours--it would send him through college, or help to."
Once, weeks ago, before he became so ill, she had told him of the
brother. This in itself was wrong and against the ethics of the
profession. One does not speak of oneself or one's family.
"If you won't try to sleep, shall I read to you?"
"I thought--the Bible, if you wouldn't mind."
"Certainly," he agreed. "I suppose that's the conventional thing;
and if it makes you feel any better---- Will you think over what
I've been saying?"
"I'll think about it," she said, soothing him like a fretful child,
and brought her Bible.
The clock on the near-by town hall struck two as she drew up her
chair beside him and commenced to read by the shaded light. Across
the courtyard the windows were dim yellowish rectangles, with here
and there one brighter than the others that told its own story of
sleepless hours. A taxicab rolled along the street outside, carrying
a boisterous night party.
The Nurse had taken off her cap and put it on a stand. The autumn
night was warm, and the light touch of the tulle had pressed her
hair in damp, fine curves over her forehead. There were purple
hollows of anxiety and sleeplessness under her eyes.
"The perfect nurse," the head of the training school was fond of
saying, "is more or less of a machine. Too much sympathy is a
handicap to her work and an embarrassment to her patient. A perfect,
silent, reliable, fearless, emotionless machine!"
Poor Junior Nurse!
Now Billy Grant, lying there listening to something out of Isaiah,
should have been repenting his hard-living, hard-drinking young
life; should have been forgiving the Lindley Grants--which story
does not belong here; should have been asking for the consolation of
the church, and trying to summon from the depths of his
consciousness faint memories of early teachings as to the life
beyond, and what he might or might not expect there.
What he actually did while the Nurse read was to try to move his
legs, and, failing this, to plan a way to achieve the final revenge
of a not particularly forgiving life.
At a little before three o'clock the Nurse telephoned across for an
interne, who came over in a bathrobe over his pajamas and shot a
hypodermic into Billy Grant's left arm. Billy Grant hardly noticed.
He was seeing Mrs. Lindley Grant when his surprise was sprung on
her. The interne summoned the Nurse into the hall with a jerk of his
"About all in!" he said. "Heart's gone--too much booze probably. I'd
stay, but there's nothing to do."
"Oh, you can try it if you like. It's like blowing up a leaking
tire; but if you'll feel better, do it." He yawned and tied the cord
of his bathrobe round him more securely. "I guess you'll be glad to
get back," he observed, looking round the dingy hall. "This place
always gives me a chill. Well, let me know if you want me. Good
The Nurse stood in the hallway until the echo of his slippers on the
asphalt had died away. Then she turned to Billy Grant.
"Well?" demanded Billy Grant. "How long have I? Until morning?"
"If you would only not talk and excite yourself----"
"Hell!" said Billy Grant, we regret to record. "I've got to do all
the talking I'm going to do right now. I beg your pardon--I didn't
intend to swear."
"Oh, that's all right!" said the Nurse vaguely. This was like no
deathbed she had ever seen, and it was disconcerting.
"Shall I read again?"
"No, thank you."
The Nurse looked at her watch, which had been graduation present
from her mother and which said, inside the case: "To my little
girl!" There is no question but that, when the Nurse's mother gave
that inscription to the jeweller, she was thinking of the day when
the Staff Doctor had brought the Nurse in his leather bag, and had
slapped her between the shoulders to make her breathe. "To my little
girl!" said the watch; and across from that--"Three o'clock."
At half-past three Billy Grant, having matured his plans, remarked
that if it would ease the Nurse any he'd see a preacher. His voice
was weaker again and broken.
"Not"--he said, struggling--"not that I think--he'll pass me.
But--if you say so--I'll--take a chance."
All of which was diabolical cunning; for when, as the result of a
telephone conversation, the minister came, an unworldly man who
counted the world, an automobile, a vested choir and a silver
communion service well lost for the sake of a dozen derelicts in a
slum mission house, Billy Grant sent the Nurse out to prepare a
broth he could no longer swallow, and proceeded to cajole the man of
God. This he did by urging the need of the Nurse's small brother for
an education and by forgetting to mention either the Lindley Grants
or the extent of his property.
From four o'clock until five Billy Grant coaxed the Nurse with what
voice he had. The idea had become an obsession; and minute by
minute, panting breath by panting breath, her resolution wore away.
He was not delirious; he was as sane as she was and terribly set.
And this thing he wanted was so easy to grant; meant so little to
her and, for some strange reason, so much to him. Perhaps, if she
did it, he would think a little of what the preacher was saying.
At five o'clock, utterly worn out with the struggle and finding his
pulse a negligible quantity, in response to his pleading eyes the
Nurse, kneeling and holding a thermometer under her patient's arm
with one hand, reached the other one over the bed and was married in
a dozen words and a soiled white apron.
Dawn was creeping in at the windows--a grey city dawn, filled with
soot and the rumbling of early wagons. A smell of damp asphalt from
the courtyard floated in and a dirty sparrow chirped on the sill
where the Nurse had been in the habit of leaving crumbs. Billy
Grant, very sleepy and contented now that he had got his way,
dictated a line or two on a blank symptom record, and signed his
will in a sprawling hand.
"If only," he muttered, "I could see Lin's face when that's--sprung
The minister picked up the Bible from the tumbled bed and opened it.
"Perhaps," he suggested very softly, "if I read from the Word of
Satisfied now that he had fooled the Lindley Grants out of their
very shoebuttons, Billy Grant was asleep--asleep with the
thermometer under his arm and with his chest rising and falling
The minister looked across at the Nurse, who was still holding the
thermometer in place. She had buried her face in the white
"You are a good woman, sister," he said softly. "The boy is happier,
and you are none the worse. Shall I keep the paper for you?"
But the Nurse, worn out with the long night, slept where she knelt.
The minister, who had come across the street in a ragged
smoking-coat and no collar, creaked round the bed and threw the edge
of the blanket over her shoulders.
Then, turning his coat collar up over his unshaved neck, he departed
for the mission across the street, where one of his derelicts, in
his shirtsleeves, was sweeping the pavement. There, mindful of the
fact that he had come from the contagious pavilion, the minister
brushed his shabby smoking-coat with a whiskbroom to remove the
Billy Grant, of course, did not die. This was perhaps because only
the good die young. And Billy Grant's creed had been the honour of a
gentleman rather than the Mosaic Law. There was, therefore, no
particular violence done to his code when his last thoughts--or what
appeared to be his last thoughts--were revenge instead of salvation.
The fact was, Billy Grant had a real reason for hating the Lindley
Grants. When a fellow like that has all the Van Kleek money and a
hereditary thirst, he is bound to drink. The Lindley Grants did not
understand this and made themselves obnoxious by calling him "Poor
Billy!" and not having wine when he came to dinner. That, however,
was not his reason for hating them.
Billy Grant fell in love. To give the devil his due, he promptly set
about reforming himself. He took about half as many whisky-and-sodas
as he had been in the habit of doing, and cut out champagne
altogether. He took up golf to fill in the time, too, but gave it up
when he found it made him thirstier than ever. And then, with
things so shaping up that he could rise in the morning without
having a drink to get up on, the Lindley Grants thought it best to
warn the girl's family before it was too late.
"He is a nice boy in some ways," Mrs. Lindley Grant had said on the
occasion of the warning; "but, like all drinking men, he is a broken
reed, eccentric and irresponsible. No daughter of mine could marry
him. I'd rather bury her. And if you want facts Lindley will give
them to you."
So the girl had sent back her ring and a cold little letter, and
Billy Grant had got roaring full at a club that night and presented
the ring to a cabman--all of which is exceedingly sordid, but rather
human after all.
The Nurse, having had no sleep for forty-eight hours, slept for
quite thirty minutes. She wakened at the end of that time and
started up with a horrible fear that the thing she was waiting for
had come. But Billy Grant was still alive, sleeping naturally, and
the thermometer, having been in place forty minutes, registered a
hundred and three.
At eight o'clock the interne, hurrying over in fresh ducks, with a
laudable desire to make the rounds before the Staff began to drop
in, found Billy Grant very still and with his eyes closed, and the
Nurse standing beside the bed, pale and tremulous.
"Why didn't you let me know?" he demanded, aggrieved. "I ought to
have been called. I told you----"
"He isn't dead," said the Nurse breathlessly. "He--I think he is
Whereon she stumbled out of the room into her own little room across
the hall, locking the door behind her, and leaving the interne to
hunt the symptom record for himself--a thing not to be lightly
overlooked; though of course internes are not the Staff.
The interne looked over the record and whistled.
"Wouldn't that paralyse you!" he said under his breath. "'Pulse very
weak.' 'Pulse almost obliterated.' 'Very talkative.' 'Breathing hard
at four A.M. Cannot swallow.' And then: 'Sleeping calmly from five
o'clock.' 'Pulse stronger.' Temperature one hundred and three.' By
gad, that last prescription of mine was a hit!"
So now began a curious drama of convalescence in the little
isolation pavilion across the courtyard. Not for a minute did the
two people most concerned forget their strange relationship; not for
worlds would either have allowed the other to know that he or she
remembered. Now and then the Nurse caught Billy Grant's eyes fixed
on her as she moved about the room, with a curious wistful
expression in them. And sometimes, waking from a doze, he would find
her in her chair by the window, with her book dropped into her lap
and a frightened look in her eyes, staring at him.
He gained strength rapidly and the day came when, with the orderly's
assistance, he was lifted to a chair. There was one brief moment in
which he stood tottering on his feet. In that instant he had
realised what a little thing she was, after all, and what a cruel
advantage he had used for his own purpose.
When he was settled in the chair and the orderly had gone she
brought an extra pillow to put behind him, and he dared the first
personality of their new relationship.
"What a little girl you are, after all!" he said. "Lying there in
the bed shaking at your frown, you were so formidable."
"I am not small," she said, straightening herself. She had always
hoped that her cap gave her height. "It is you who are so tall.
You--you are a giant!"
"A wicked giant, seeking whom I may devour and carrying off lovely
girls for dinner under pretence of marriage----" He stopped his
nonsense abruptly, having got so far, and both of them coloured.
Thrashing about desperately for something to break the wretched
silence, he seized on the one thing that in those days of his
convalescence was always pertinent--food. "Speaking of dinner," he
said hastily, "isn't it time for some buttermilk?"
She was quite calm when she came back--cool, even smiling; but
Billy Grant had not had the safety valve of action. As she placed
the glass on the table at his elbow he reached out and took her
"Can you ever forgive me?" he asked. Not an original speech; the
usual question of the marauding male, a query after the fact and too
late for anything but forgiveness.
"Forgive you? For not dying?"
She was pale; but no more subterfuge now, no more turning aside from
dangerous subjects. The matter was up before the house.
"For marrying you!" said Billy Grant, and upset the buttermilk. It
took a little time to wipe up the floor and to put a clean cover on
the stand, and after that to bring a fresh glass and place it on the
table. But these were merely parliamentary preliminaries while each
side got its forces in line.
"Do you hate me very much?" opened Billy Grant. This was, to change
the figure, a blow below the belt.
"Why should I hate you?" countered the other side.
"I should think you would. I forced the thing on you."
"I need not have done it."
"But being you, and always thinking about making some one else happy
"Oh, if only they don't find it out over there!" she burst out. "If
they do and I have to leave, with Jim----"
Here, realising that she was going to cry and not caring to screw up
her face before any one, she put her arms on the stand and buried
her face in them. Her stiff tulle cap almost touched Billy Grant's
Billy Grant had a shocked second.
"My little brother," from the table.
Billy Grant drew a long breath of relief. For a moment he had
"I wonder--whether I dare to say something to you." Silence from the
table and presumably consent. "Isn't he--don't you think that--I
might be allowed to--to help Jim? It would help me to like myself
again. Just now I'm not standing very high with myself."
"Won't you tell me why you did it?" she said, suddenly sitting up,
her arms still out before her on the table. "Why did you coax so?
You said it was because of a little property you had, but--that
wasn't it--was it?"
"Or because you cared a snap for me." This was affirmation, not
"No, not that, though I----"
She gave a hopeless little gesture of despair.
"For one of the meanest reasons I know--to be even with some people
who had treated me badly."
The thing was easier now. His flat denial of any sentimental reason
had helped to make it so.
"A girl that you cared about?"
"Partly that. The girl was a poor thing. She didn't care enough to
be hurt by anything I did. But the people who made the trouble----"
Now a curious thing happened. Billy Grant found at this moment that
he no longer hated the Lindley Grants. The discovery left him
speechless--that he who had taken his hate into the very valley of
death with him should now find himself thinking of both Lindley and
his wife with nothing more bitter than contempt shocked him. A state
of affairs existed for which his hatred of the Lindley Grants was
alone responsible; now the hate was gone and the state of affairs
"I should like," said Billy Grant presently, "to tell you a
little--if it will not bore you--about myself and the things I have
done that I shouldn't, and about the girl. And of course, you know,
I'm--I'm not going to hold you to--to the thing I forced you into.
There are ways to fix that."
Before she would listen, however, she must take his temperature and
give him his medicine, and see that he drank his buttermilk--the
buttermilk last, so as not to chill his mouth for the thermometer.
The tired lines had gone from under her eyes and she was very lovely
that day. She had always been lovely, even when the Staff Doctor
had slapped her between the shoulders long ago--you know about
that--only Billy Grant had never noticed it; but to-day, sitting
there with the thermometer in his mouth while she counted his
respirations, pretending to be looking out the window while she did
it, Billy Grant saw how sweet and lovely and in every way adorable
she was, in spite of the sad droop of her lips--and found it hard to
say the thing he felt he must.
"After all," he remarked round the thermometer, "the thing is not
irrevocable. I can fix it up so that----"
"Keep your lips closed about the thermometer!" she said sternly, and
snapped her watch shut.
The pulse and so on having been recorded, and "Very hungry" put down
under Symptoms, she came back to her chair by the window, facing
him. She sat down primly and smoothed her white apron in her lap.
"Now!" she said.
"I am to go on?"
"If you are going to change the pillows or the screen, or give me
any other diabolical truck to swallow," he said somewhat peevishly,
"will you get it over now, so we can have five unprofessional
"Certainly," she said; and bringing an extra blanket she spread it,
to his disgust, over his knees.
This time, when she sat down, one of her hands lay on the table near
him and he reached over and covered it with his.
"Please!" he begged. "For company! And it will help me to tell you
some of the things I have to tell."
She left it there, after an uneasy stirring. So, sitting there,
looking out into the dusty courtyard with its bandaged figures in
wheeled chairs, its cripples sunning on a bench--their crutches
beside them--its waterless fountain and its dingy birds, he told her
about the girl and the Lindley Grants, and even about the cabman and
the ring. And feeling, perhaps in some current from the small hand
under his, that she was knowing and understanding and not turning
away, he told her a great deal he had not meant to tell--ugly
things, many of them--for that was his creed.
And, because in a hospital one lives many lives vicariously with
many people, what the girl back home would never have understood
this girl did and faced unabashed. Life, as she knew it, was not all
good and not all bad; passion and tenderness, violence and peace,
joy and wretchedness, birth and death--these she had looked on, all
of them, with clear eyes and hands ready to help.
So Billy Grant laid the good and the bad of his life before her,
knowing that he was burying it with her. When he finished, her hand
on the table had turned and was clasping his. He bent over and
kissed her fingers softly.
After that she read to him, and their talk, if any, was impersonal.
When the orderly had put him back to bed he lay watching her moving
about, rejoicing in her quiet strength, her repose. How well she was
taking it all! If only--but there was no hope of that. She could go
to Reno, and in a few months she would be free again and the thing
would be as if it had never been.
At nine o'clock that night the isolation pavilion was ready for the
night. The lights in the sickroom were out. In the hall a nightlight
burned low, Billy Grant was not asleep. He tried counting the
lighted windows of the hospital and grew only more wakeful.
The Nurse was sleeping now in her own room across, with the doors
open between. The slightest movement and she was up, tiptoeing in,
with her hair in a long braid down her back and her wrapper sleeves
falling away loosely from her white, young arms. So, aching with
inaction, Billy Grant lay still until the silence across indicated
that she was sleeping.
Then he got up. This is a matter of difficulty when one is still
very weak, and is achieved by rising first into a sitting posture by
pulling oneself up by the bars of the bed, and then by slipping
first one leg, then the other, over the side. Properly done, even
the weakest thus find themselves in a position that by the aid of a
chairback may become, however shaky, a standing one.
He got to his feet better than he expected, but not well enough to
relinquish the chair. He had made no sound. That was good. He would
tell her in the morning and rally her on her powers as a sleeper. He
took a step--if only his knees----
He had advanced into line with the doorway and stood looking through
the open door of the room across.
The Nurse was on her knees beside the bed, in her nightgown, crying.
Her whole young body was shaken with silent sobs; her arms, in their
short white sleeves, stretched across the bed, her fingers clutching
Billy Grant stumbled back to his bed and fell in with a sort of
groan. Almost instantly she was at the door, her flannel wrapper
held about her, peering into the darkness.
"I thought I heard--are you worse?" she asked anxiously.
"I'm all right," he said, hating himself; "just not sleepy. How
"Not asleep yet, but--resting," she replied.
She stood in the doorway, dimly outlined, with her long braid over
her shoulder and her voice still a little strained from crying. In
the darkness Billy Grant half stretched out his arms, then dropped
"Would you like another blanket?"
"If there is one near."
She came in a moment later with the blanket and spread it over the
bed. He lay very still while she patted and smoothed it into place.
He was mustering up his courage to ask for something--a curious
state of mind for Billy Grant, who had always taken what he wanted
"I wish you would kiss me--just once!" he said wistfully. And then,
seeing her draw back, he took an unfair advantage: "I think that's
the reason I'm not sleeping."
"Don't be absurd!"
"Is it so absurd--under the circumstances?"
"You can sleep quite well if you only try."
She went out into the hall again, her chin well up. Then she
hesitated, turned and came swiftly back into the room.
"If I do," she said rather breathlessly, "will you go to sleep? And
will you promise to hold your arms up over your head?"
"But my arms----"
"Over your head!"
He obeyed at that, and the next moment she had bent over him in the
darkness; and quickly, lightly, deliciously, she kissed--the tip of
She was quite cheerful the next day and entirely composed. Neither
of them referred to the episode of the night before, but Billy Grant
thought of little else. Early in the morning he asked her to bring
him a hand mirror and, surveying his face, tortured and disfigured
by the orderly's shaving, suffered an acute wound in his vanity. He
was glad it had been dark or she probably would not have---- He
borrowed a razor from the interne and proceeded to enjoy himself.
Propped up in his chair, he rioted in lather, sliced a piece out of
his right ear, and shaved the back of his neck by touch, in lieu of
better treatment. This done, and the ragged and unkempt hair over
his ears having been trimmed in scallops, due to the work being done
with curved surgical scissors, he was his own man again.
That afternoon, however, he was nervous and restless. The Nurse was
troubled. He avoided the subject that had so obsessed him the day
before, was absent and irritable, could not eat, and sat in his
chair by the window, nervously clasping and unclasping his hands.
The Nurse was puzzled, but the Staff Doctor, making rounds that day,
"He has pulled through--God and you alone know how," he said. "But
as soon as he begins to get his strength he's going to yell for
liquor again. When a man has been soaking up alcohol for years----
Drat this hospital cooking anyhow! Have you got any essence of
The Nurse brought the pepsin and a medicine glass and the Staff
Doctor swallowed and grimaced.
"You were saying," said the Nurse timidly--for, the stress being
over, he was Staff again and she was a Junior and not even entitled
to a Senior's privileges, such as returning occasional badinage.
"Every atom of him is going to crave it. He's wanting it now. He has
been used to it for years." The Nurse was white to the lips, but
steady. "He is not to have it?"
"Not a drop while he is here. When he gets out it is his own affair
again, but while he's here--by-the-way, you'll have to watch the
orderly. He'll bribe him."
"I don't think so, doctor. He is a gentleman."
"Pooh! Of course he is. I dare say he's a gentleman when he's drunk
too; but he's a drinker--a habitual drinker."
The Nurse went back into the room and found Billy Grant sitting in a
chair, with the book he had been reading on the floor and his face
buried in his hands.
"I'm awfuly sorry!" he said, not looking up. "I heard what he said.
He's right, you know."
"I'm sorry. And I'm afraid this is a place where I cannot help."
She put her hand on his head, and he brought it down and held it
"Two or three times," he said, "when things were very bad with me,
you let me hold your hand, and we got past somehow--didn't we?"
She closed her eyes, remembering the dawn when, to soothe a dying
man, in the presence of the mission preacher, she had put her hand
in his. Billy Grant thought of it too.
"Now you know what you've married," he said bitterly. The bitterness
was at himself of course. "If--if you'll sit tight I have a fighting
chance to make a man of myself; and after it's over we'll fix this
thing for you so you will forget it ever happened. And I---- Don't
take your hand away. Please!"
"I was feeling for my handkerchief," she explained.
"Have I made you cry again?"
"I saw you last night in your room. I didn't intend to; but I was
trying to stand, and----"
She was very dignified at this, with her eyes still wet, and tried
unsuccessfully to take her hand away.
"If you are going to get up when it is forbidden I shall ask to be
"You wouldn't do that!"
"Let go of my hand."
"You wouldn't do that!!"
"Please! The head nurse is coming."
He freed her hand then and she wiped her eyes, remembering the
"perfect, silent, reliable, fearless, emotionless machine."
The head of the training school came to the door of the pavilion,
but did not enter. The reason for this was twofold: first, she had
confidence in the Nurse; second, she was afraid of contagion--this
latter, of course, quite _sub rosa_, in view of the above quotation.
The Head Nurse was a tall woman in white, and was so starchy that
she rattled like a newspaper when she walked.
"Good morning," she said briskly. "Have you sent over the soiled
clothes?" Head nurses are always bothering about soiled clothes;
and what becomes of all the nailbrushes, and how can they use so
"Yes, Miss Smith."
"Meals come over promptly?"
"Yes, Miss Smith."
"Getting any sleep?"
"Oh, yes, plenty--now."
Miss Smith peered into the hallway, which seemed tidy, looked at the
Nurse with approval, and then from the doorstep into the patient's
room, where Billy Grant sat. At the sight of him her eyebrows rose.
"Good gracious!" she exclaimed. "I thought he was older than that!"
"Twenty-nine," said the Nurse; "twenty-nine last Fourth of July."
"H'm!" commented the Head Nurse. "You evidently know! I had no idea
you were taking care of a boy. It won't do. I'll send over Miss
The Nurse tried to visualise Billy Grant in his times of stress
clutching at Miss Hart's hand, and failed.
"Jenks is here, of course," she said, Jenks being the orderly.
The idea of Jenks as a chaperon, however, did not appeal to the head
nurse. She took another glance through the window at Billy Grant,
looking uncommonly handsome and quite ten years younger since the
shave, and she set her lips.
"I am astonished beyond measure," she said. "Miss Hart will relieve
you at two o'clock. Take your antiseptic bath and you may have the
afternoon to yourself. Report in L Ward in the morning."
Miss Smith rattled back across the courtyard and the Nurse stood
watching her; then turned slowly and went into the house to tell
Now the stories about what followed differ. They agree on one point:
that Billy Grant had a heart-to-heart talk with the substitute at
two o'clock that afternoon and told her politely but firmly that he
would none of her. Here the divergence begins. Some say he got the
superintendent over the house telephone and said he had intended to
make a large gift to the hospital, but if his comfort was so little
considered as to change nurses just when he had got used to one, he
would have to alter his plans. Another and more likely story,
because it sounds more like Billy Grant, is that at five o'clock a
florist's boy delivered to Miss Smith a box of orchids such as never
had been seen before in the house, and a card inside which said:
"Please, dear Miss Smith, take back the Hart that thou gavest."
Whatever really happened--and only Billy Grant and the lady in
question ever really knew--that night at eight o'clock, with Billy
Grant sitting glumly in his room and Miss Hart studying typhoid
fever in the hall, the Nurse came back again to the pavilion with
her soft hair flying from its afternoon washing and her eyes
shining. And things went on as before--not quite as before; for with
the nurse question settled the craving got in its work again, and
the next week was a bad one. There were good days, when he taught
her double-dummy auction bridge, followed by terrible nights, when
he walked the floor for hours and she sat by, unable to help. Then
at dawn he would send her to bed remorsefully and take up the fight
alone. And there were quiet nights when both slept and when he would
waken to the craving again and fight all day.
"I'm afraid I'm about killing her," he said to the Staff Doctor one
day; "but it's my chance to make a man of myself--now or never."
The Staff Doctor was no fool and he had heard about the orchids.
"Fight it out, boy!" he said. "Pretty soon you'll quit peeling and
cease being a menace to the public health, and you'd better get it
over before you are free again."
So, after a time, it grew a little easier. Grant was pretty much
himself again--had put on a little flesh and could feel his biceps
rise under his fingers. He took to cold plunges when he felt the
craving coming on, and there were days when the little pavilion was
full of the sound of running water. He shaved himself daily, too,
and sent out for some collars.
Between the two of them, since her return, there had been much of
good fellowship, nothing of sentiment. He wanted her near, but he
did not put a hand on her. In the strain of those few days the
strange, grey dawn seemed to have faded into its own mists. Only
once, when she had brought his breakfast tray and was arranging the
dishes for him--against his protest, for he disliked being waited
on--he reached over and touched a plain band ring she wore. She
"My mother's," she said; "her wedding ring."
Their eyes met across the tray, but he only said, after a moment:
"Eggs like a rock, of course! Couldn't we get 'em raw and boil them
It was that morning, also, that he suggested a thing which had been
in his mind for some time.
"Wouldn't it be possible," he asked, "to bring your tray in here and
to eat together? It would be more sociable."
"It isn't permitted."
"Do you think--would another box of orchids----"
She shook her head as she poured out his coffee. "I should probably
He was greatly aggrieved.
"That's all foolishness," he said. "How is that any worse--any more
unconventional--than your bringing me your extra blanket on a cold
night? Oh, I heard you last night!"
"Then why didn't you leave it on?"
"And let you freeze?"
"I was quite warm. As it was, it lay in the hallway all night and
did no one any good."
Having got thus far from wedding rings, he did not try to get back.
He ate alone, and after breakfast, while she took her half-hour of
exercise outside the window, he sat inside reading--only apparently
Once she went quite as far as the gate and stood looking out.
"Jenks!" called Billy Grant.
Jenks has not entered into the story much. He was a little man,
rather fat, who occupied a tiny room in the pavilion, carried meals
and soiled clothes, had sat on Billy Grant's chest once or twice
during a delirium, and kept a bottle locked in the dish closet.
"Yes, sir," said Jenks, coming behind a strong odour of _spiritus
"Jenks," said Billy Grant with an eye on the figure at the gate, "is
that bottle of yours empty?"
"The one in the closet."
Jenks eyed Billy Grant, and Billy eyed Jenks--a look of man to man,
brother to brother.
"Not quite, sir--a nip or two."
"At," suggested Billy Grant, "say--five dollars a nip?"
"About that," he said. "Filled?"
Billy Grant debated. The Nurse was turning at the gate.
"No," he said. "As it is, Jenks. Bring it here."
Jenks brought the bottle and a glass, but the glass was motioned
away. Billy Grant took the bottle in his hand and looked at it with
a curious expression. Then he went over and put it in the upper
bureau drawer, under a pile of handkerchiefs. Jenks watched him,
"Just a little experiment, Jenks," said Billy Grant.
Jenks understood then and stopped smiling.
"I wouldn't, Mr. Grant," he said; "it will only make you lose
confidence in yourself when it doesn't work out."
"But it's going to work out," said Billy Grant. "Would you mind
turning on the cold water?"
Now the next twenty-four hours puzzled the Nurse. When Billy Grant's
eyes were not on her with an unfathomable expression in them, they
were fixed on something in the neighbourhood of the dresser, and at
these times they had a curious, fixed look not unmixed with triumph.
She tried a new arrangement of combs and brushes and tilted the
mirror at a different angle, without effect.
That day Billy Grant took only one cold plunge. As the hours wore on
he grew more cheerful; the look of triumph was unmistakable. He
stared less at the dresser and more at the Nurse. At last it grew
unendurable. She stopped in front of him and looked down at him
severely. She could only be severe when he was sitting--when he was
standing she had to look so far up at him, even when she stood on
"What is wrong with me?" she demanded. "You look so queer! Is my cap
"It is a wonderful cap."
"Is my face dirty?"
"It is a won---- No, certainly not."
"Then would you mind not staring so? You--upset me."
"I shall have to shut my eyes," he replied meekly, and worried her
into a state of frenzy by sitting for fifty minutes with his head
back and his eyes shut.
So--the evening and the morning were another day, and the bottle lay
undisturbed under the handkerchiefs, and the cold shower ceased
running, and Billy Grant assumed the air of triumph permanently.
That morning when the breakfast trays came he walked over into the
Nurse's room and picked hers up, table and all, carrying it across
the hall. In his own room he arranged the two trays side by side,
and two chairs opposite each other. When the Nurse, who had been
putting breadcrumbs on the window-sill, turned round Billy Grant was
waiting to draw out one of the chairs, and there was something in
his face she had not seen there before.
"Shall we breakfast?" he said.
"I told you yesterday----"
"Think a minute," he said softly. "Is there any reason why we should
not breakfast together?" She pressed her hands close together, but
she did not speak. "Unless--you do not wish to."
"You remember you promised, as soon as you got away, to--fix
"So I will if you say the word."
"And--to forget all about it."
"That," said Billy Grant solemnly, "I shall never do so long as I
live. Do you say the word?"
"What else can I do?"
"Then there is somebody else?"
He took a step toward her, but still he did not touch her.
"If there is no one else," he said, "and if I tell you that you have
made me a man again----"
"Gracious! Your eggs will be cold." She made a motion toward the
egg-cup, but Billy Grant caught her hand.
"Damn the eggs!" he said. "Why don't you look at me?"
Something sweet and luminous and most unprofessional shone in the
little Nurse's eyes, and the line of her pulse on a chart would have
looked like a seismic disturbance.
"I--I have to look up so far!" she said, but really she was looking
down when she said it.
"Oh, my dear--my dear!" exulted Billy Grant. "It is I who must look
up at you!" And with that he dropped on his knees and kissed the
starched hem of her apron.
The Nurse felt very absurd and a little frightened.
"If only," she said, backing off--"if only you wouldn't be such a
silly! Jenks is coming!"
But Jenks was not coming. Billy Grant rose to his full height and
looked down at her--a new Billy Grant, the one who had got drunk at
a club and given a ring to a cabman having died that grey morning
some weeks before.
"I love you--love you--love you!" he said, and took her in his arms.
* * * * *
Now the Head Nurse was interviewing an applicant; and, as the H.N.
took a constitutional each morning in the courtyard and believed in
losing no time, she was holding the interview as she walked.
"I think I would make a good nurse," said the applicant, a trifle
breathless, the h.n. being a brisk walker. "I am so sympathetic."
The H.N. stopped and raised a reproving forefinger.
"Too much sympathy is a handicap," she orated. "The perfect nurse is
a silent, reliable, fearless, emotionless machine--this little
building here is the isolation pavilion."
"An emotionless machine," repeated the applicant. "I see--an e----"
The words died on her lips. She was looking past a crowd of birds on
the windowsill to where, just inside, Billy Grant and the Nurse in a
very mussed cap were breakfasting together. And as she looked Billy
Grant bent over across the tray.
"I adore you!" he said distinctly and, lifting the Nurse's hands,
kissed first one and then the other.
"It is hard work," said Miss Smith--having made a note that the boys
in the children's ward must be restrained from lowering a pasteboard
box on a string from a window--"hard work without sentiment. It is
not a romantic occupation."
She waved an admonitory hand toward the window, and the box went up
swiftly. The applicant looked again toward the pavilion, where
Billy Grant, having kissed the Nurse's hands, had buried his face in
her two palms.
The mild October sun shone down on the courtyard, with its bandaged
figures in wheel-chairs, its cripples sunning on a bench, their
crutches beside them, its waterless fountain and dingy birds.
The applicant thrilled to it all--joy and suffering, birth and
death, misery and hope, life and love. Love!
The H.N. turned to her grimly, but her eyes were soft.
"All this," she said, waving her hand vaguely, "for eight dollars a
"I think," said the applicant shyly, "I should like to come."
The great God endows His children variously. To some He gives
intellect--and they move the earth. To some He allots heart--and the
beating pulse of humanity is theirs. But to some He gives only a
soul, without intelligence--and these, who never grow up, but remain
always His children, are God's fools, kindly, elemental, simple, as
if from His palette the Artist of all had taken one colour instead
The Dummy was God's fool. Having only a soul and no intelligence, he
lived the life of the soul. Through his faded, childish old blue
eyes he looked out on a world that hurried past him with, at
best, a friendly touch on his shoulder. No man shook his hand in
comradeship. No woman save the little old mother had ever caressed
him. He lived alone in a world of his own fashioning, peopled by
moving, noiseless figures and filled with dreams--noiseless because
the Dummy had ears that heard not and lips that smiled at a
kindness, but that did not speak.
In this world of his there was no uncharitableness--no sin. There
was a God--why should he not know his Father?--there were brasses to
clean and three meals a day; and there was chapel on Sunday, where
one held a book--the Dummy held his upside down--and felt the
vibration of the organ, and proudly watched the afternoon sunlight
smiling on the polished metal of the chandelier and choir rail.
* * * * *
The Probationer sat turning the bandage machine and watching the
Dummy, who was polishing the brass plates on the beds. The plates
said: "Endowed in perpetuity"--by various leading citizens, to whom
God had given His best gifts, both heart and brain.
"How old do you suppose he is?" she asked, dropping her voice.
The Senior Nurse was writing fresh labels for the medicine closet,
and for "tincture of myrrh" she wrote absently "tincture of mirth,"
and had to tear it up.
"He can't hear you," she said rather shortly. "How old? Oh, I don't
know. About a hundred, I should think."
This was, of course, because of his soul, which was all he had, and
which, having existed from the beginning, was incredibly old. The
little dead mother could have told them that he was less than
The Probationer sat winding bandages. Now and then they went
crooked and had to be done again. She was very tired. The creaking
of the bandage machine made her nervous--that and a sort of
disillusionment; for was this her great mission, this sitting in a
silent, sunny ward, where the double row of beds held only querulous
convalescent women? How close was she to life who had come to soothe
the suffering and close the eyes of the dying; who had imagined that
her instruments of healing were a thermometer and a prayer-book; and
who found herself fighting the good fight with a bandage machine
and, even worse, a scrubbing brush and a finetooth comb?
The Senior Nurse, having finished the M's, glanced up and surprised
a tear on the Probationer's round young cheek. She was wise, having
trained many probationers.
"Go to first supper, please," she said. First supper is the Senior's
prerogative; but it is given occasionally to juniors and
probationers as a mark of approval, or when the Senior is not
hungry, or when a probationer reaches the breaking point, which is
just before she gets her uniform.
The Probationer smiled and brightened. After all, she must be doing
fairly well; and if she were not in the battle she was of it.
Glimpses she had of the battle--stretchers going up and down in the
slow elevator; sheeted figures on their way to the operating room;
the clang of the ambulance bell in the courtyard; the occasional cry
of a new life ushered in; the impressive silence of an old life
going out. She surveyed the bandages on the bed.
"I'll put away the bandages first," she said. "That's what you said,
I think--never to leave the emergency bed with anything on it?"
"Right-oh!" said the Senior.
"Though nothing ever happens back here--does it?'
"It's about our turn; I'm looking for a burned case." The
Probationer, putting the bandages into a basket, turned and stared.
"We have had two in to-day in the house," the Senior went on,
starting on the N's and making the capital carefully. "There will be
a third, of course; and we may get it. Cases always seem to run in
threes. While you're straightening the bed I suppose I might as well
go to supper after all."
So it was the Probationer and the Dummy who received the new case,
while the Senior ate cold salmon and fried potatoes with other
seniors, and inveighed against lectures on Saturday evening and
other things that seniors object to, such as things lost in the
wash, and milk in the coffee instead of cream, and women from the
Avenue who drank carbolic acid and kept the ambulance busy.
The Probationer was from the country and she had never heard of
the Avenue. And the Dummy, who walked there daily with the
superintendent's dog, knew nothing of its wickedness. In his soul,
where there was nothing but kindness, there was even a feeling of
tenderness for the Avenue. Once the dog had been bitten by a terrier
from one of the houses, and a girl had carried him in and washed the
wounds and bound them up. Thereafter the Dummy had watched for her
and bowed when he saw her. When he did not see her he bowed to the
The Dummy finished the brass plates and, gathering up his rags and
polish, shuffled to the door. His walk was a patient shamble, but he
covered incredible distances. When he reached the emergency bed he
stopped and pointed to it. The Probationer looked startled.
"He's tellin' you to get it ready," shrilled Irish Delia, sitting up
in the next bed. "He did that before you was brought in," she called
to Old Maggie across the ward. "Goodness knows how he finds out--but
he knows. Get the spread off the bed, miss. There's something
* * * * *
The Probationer had come from the country and naturally knew nothing
of the Avenue. Sometimes on her off duty she took short walks there,
wondering if the passers-by who stared at her knew that she was a
part of the great building that loomed over the district, happily
ignorant of the real significance of their glances. Once a girl,
sitting behind bowed shutters, had leaned out and smiled at her.
"Hot to-day, isn't it?" she said.
The Probationer stopped politely.
"It's fearful! Is there any place near where I can get some soda
The girl in the window stared.
"There's a drug store two squares down," she said. "And say, if I
"Oh, nothing!" said the girl in the window, and quite unexpectedly
slammed the shutters.
The Probationer had puzzled over it quite a lot. More than once she
walked by the house, but she did not see the smiling girl--only,
curiously enough, one day she saw the Dummy passing the house and
watched him bow and take off his old cap, though there was no one in
Sooner or later the Avenue girls get to the hospital. Sometimes it
is because they cannot sleep, and lie and think things over--and
there is no way out; and God hates them--though, of course, there is
that story about Jesus and the Avenue woman. And what is the use of
going home and being asked questions that cannot be answered? So
they try to put an end to things generally--and end up in the
emergency bed, terribly frightened, because it has occurred to them
that if they do not dare to meet the home folks how are they going
to meet the Almighty?
Or sometimes it is jealousy. Even an Avenue woman must love some
one; and, because she's an elemental creature, if the object of her
affections turns elsewhere she's rather apt to use a knife or a
razor. In that case it is the rival who ends up on the emergency
Or the life gets her, as it does sooner or later, and she comes in
with typhoid or a cough, or other things, and lies alone, day after
day, without visitors or inquiries, making no effort to get better,
because--well, why should she?
And so the Dummy's Avenue Girl met her turn and rode down the street
in a clanging ambulance, and was taken up in the elevator and along
a grey hall to where the emergency bed was waiting; and the
Probationer, very cold as to hands and feet, was sending mental
appeals to the Senior to come--and come quickly. The ward got up on
elbows and watched. Also it told the Probationer what to do.
"Hot-water bottles and screens," it said variously. "Take her
temperature. Don't be frightened! There'll be a doctor in a minute."
The girl lay on the bed with her eyes shut. It was Irish Delia who
saw the Dummy and raised a cry.
"Look at the Dummy!" she said. "He's crying."
The Dummy's world had always been a small one. There was the
superintendent, who gave him his old clothes; and there was the
engineer, who brought him tobacco; and there were the ambulance
horses, who talked to him now and then without speech. And, of
course, there was his Father.
Fringing this small inner circle of his heart was a kaleidoscope of
changing faces, nurses, _internes_, patients, visitors--a wall of
life that kept inviolate his inner shrine. And in the holiest place,
where had dwelt only his Father, and not even the superintendent,
the Dummy had recently placed the Avenue Girl. She was his saint,
though he knew nothing of saints. Who can know why he chose her? A
queer trick of the soul perhaps--or was it super-wisdom?--to choose
her from among many saintly women and so enshrine her.
Or perhaps---- Down in the chapel, in a great glass window, the
young John knelt among lilies and prayed. When, at service on
Sundays, the sunlight came through on to the Dummy's polished choir
rail and candles, the young John had the face of a girl, with short
curling hair, very yellow for the colour scheme. The Avenue Girl had
hair like that and was rather like him in other ways.
And here she was where all the others had come, and where countless
others would come sooner or later. She was not unconscious and at
Delia's cry she opened her eyes. The Probationer was off filling
water bottles, and only the Dummy, stricken, round-shouldered,
unlovely, stood beside her.
"Rotten luck, old top!" she said faintly.
To the Dummy it was a benediction. She could open her eyes. The
miracle of speech was still hers.
"Cigarette!" explained the Avenue Girl, seeing his eyes still on
her. "Must have gone to sleep with it and dropped it. I'm--all in!"
"Don't you talk like that," said Irish Delia, bending over from the
next bed. "You'll get well a' right--unless you inhaled. Y'ought to
'a' kept your mouth shut."
Across the ward Old Maggie had donned her ragged slippers and a blue
calico wrapper and shuffled to the foot of the emergency bed. Old
Maggie was of that vague neighbourhood back of the Avenue, where
squalor and poverty rubbed elbows with vice, and scorned it.
"Humph!" she said, without troubling to lower her voice. "I've seen
her often. I done her washing once. She's as bad as they make 'em."
"You shut your mouth!" Irish Delia rose to the defence. "She's in
trouble now and what she was don't matter. You go back to bed or
I'll tell the Head Nurse on you. Look out! The Dummy----"
The Dummy was advancing on Old Maggie with threatening eyes. As the
woman recoiled he caught her arm in one of his ugly, misshapen hands
and jerked her away from the bed. Old Maggie reeled--almost fell.
"You all seen that!" she appealed to the ward. "I haven't even spoke
to him and he attacked me! I'll go to the superintendent about it.
The Probationer hurried in. Her young cheeks were flushed with
excitement and anxiety; her arms were full of jugs, towels,
bandages--anything she could imagine as essential. She found the
Dummy on his knees polishing a bed plate, and the ward in
order--only Old Maggie was grumbling and making her way back to bed;
and Irish Delia was sitting up, with her eyes shining--for had not
the Dummy, who could not hear, known what Old Maggie had said about
the new girl? Had she not said that he knew many things that were
hidden, though God knows how he knew them?
The next hour saw the Avenue Girl through a great deal. Her burns
were dressed by an _interne_ and she was moved back to a bed at the
end of the ward. The Probationer sat beside her, having refused
supper. The Dummy was gone--the Senior Nurse had shooed him off as
one shoos a chicken.
"Get out of here! You're always under my feet," she had said--not
unkindly--and pointed to the door.
The Dummy had stood, with his faded old-young eyes on her, and had
not moved. The Senior, who had the ward supper to serve and beds to
brush out and backs to rub, not to mention having to make up the
emergency bed and clear away the dressings--the Senior tried
diplomacy and offered him an orange from her own corner of the
medicine closet. He shook his head.
"I guess he wants to know whether that girl from the Avenue's going
to get well," said Irish Delia. "He seems to know her."
There was a titter through the ward at this. Old Maggie's gossiping
tongue had been busy during the hour. From pity the ward had veered
"Humph!" said the Senior, and put the orange back. "Why, yes; I
guess she'll get well. But how in Heaven's name am I to let him
She was a resourceful person, however, and by pointing to the Avenue
Girl and then nodding reassuringly she got her message of cheer over
the gulf of his understanding. In return the Dummy told her by
gestures how he knew the girl and how she had bound up the leg of
the superintendent's dog. The Senior was a literal person and not
occult; and she was very busy. When the Dummy stooped to indicate
the dog, a foot or so from the ground, she seized that as the key of
"He's trying to let me know that he knew her when she was a baby,"
she observed generally. "All right, if that's the case. Come in and
see her when you want to. And now get out, for goodness' sake!"
The Dummy, with his patient shamble, made his way out of the ward
and stored his polishes for the night in the corner of a
scrub-closet. Then, ignoring supper, he went down the stairs, flight
after flight, to the chapel. The late autumn sun had set behind the
buildings across the courtyard and the lower part of the silent room
was in shadow; but the afterglow came palely through the
stained-glass window, with the young John and tall stalks of white
lilies, and "To the Memory of My Daughter Elizabeth" beneath.
It was only a coincidence--and not even that to the Dummy--but
Elizabeth had been the Avenue Girl's name not so long ago.
The Dummy sat down near the door very humbly and gazed at the
Time may be measured in different ways--by joys; by throbs of pain;
by instants; by centuries. In a hospital it is marked by night
nurses and day nurses; by rounds of the Staff; by visiting days; by
medicines and temperatures and milk diets and fever baths; by the
distant singing in the chapel on Sundays; by the shift of the
morning sun on the east beds to the evening sun on the beds along
the west windows.
The Avenue Girl lay alone most of the time. The friendly offices of
the ward were not for her. Private curiosity and possible kindliness
were over-shadowed by a general arrogance of goodness. The ward
flung its virtue at her like a weapon and she raised no defence. In
the first days things were not so bad. She lay in shock for a time,
and there were not wanting hands during the bad hours to lift a cup
of water to her lips; but after that came the tedious time when
death no longer hovered overhead and life was there for the asking.
The curious thing was that the Avenue Girl did not ask. She lay for
hours without moving, with eyes that seemed tired with looking into
the dregs of life. The Probationer was in despair.
"She could get better if she would," she said to the _interne_ one
day. The Senior was off duty and they had done the dressing
together. "She just won't try."
"Perhaps she thinks it isn't worth while," replied the _interne_,
who was drying his hands carefully while the Probationer waited for
She was a very pretty Probationer.
"She hasn't much to look forward to, you know."
The Probationer was not accustomed to discussing certain things with
young men, but she had the Avenue Girl on her mind.
"She has a home--she admits it." She coloured bravely. "Why--why
cannot she go back to it, even now?"
The _interne_ poured a little rosewater and glycerine into the palm
of one hand and gave the Probationer the bottle. If his fingers
touched hers, she never knew it.
"Perhaps they'd not want her after--well, they'd never feel the
same, likely. They'd probably prefer to think of her as dead and let
it go at that. There--there doesn't seem to be any way back, you
He was exceedingly self-conscious.
"Then life is very cruel," said the Probationer with rather shaky
And going back to the Avenue Girl's bed she filled her cup with ice
and straightened her pillows. It was her only way of showing
defiance to a world that mutilated its children and turned them out
to die. The _interne_ watched her as she worked. It rather galled
him to see her touching this patient. He had no particular sympathy
for the Avenue Girl. He was a man, and ruthless, as men are apt to
be in such things.
The Avenue Girl had no visitors. She had had one or two at
first--pretty girls with tired eyes and apologetic glances; a
negress who got by the hall porter with a box of cigarettes, which
the Senior promptly confiscated; and--the Dummy. Morning and evening
came the Dummy and stood by her bed and worshipped. Morning and
evening he brought tribute--a flower from the masses that came in
daily; an orange, got by no one knows what trickery from the
kitchen; a leadpencil; a box of cheap candies. At first the girl had
been embarrassed by his visits. Later, as the unfriendliness of the
ward grew more pronounced, she greeted him with a faint smile. The
first time she smiled he grew quite pale and shuffled out. Late that
night they found him sitting in the chapel looking at the window,
which was only a blur.
For certain small services in the ward the Senior depended on the
convalescents--filling drinking cups; passing milk at eleven and
three; keeping the white bedspreads in geometrical order. But the
Avenue Girl was taboo. The boycott had been instituted by Old
Maggie. The rampant respectability of the ward even went so far as
to refuse to wash her in those early morning hours when the night
nurse, flying about with her cap on one ear, was carrying tin basins
about like a blue-and-white cyclone. The Dummy knew nothing of the
washing; the early morning was the time when he polished the brass
doorplate which said: Hospital and Free Dispensary. But he knew
about the drinking cup and after a time that became his
On Sundays he put on his one white shirt and a frayed collar two
sizes too large and went to chapel. At those times he sat with his
prayer book upside down and watched the Probationer who cared for
his lady and who had no cap to hide her shining hair, and the
_interne_, who was glad there was no cap because of the hair. God's
fool he was, indeed, for he liked to look in the _interne's_ eyes,
and did not know an _interne_ cannot marry for years and years, and
that a probationer must not upset discipline by being engaged. God's
fool, indeed, who could see into the hearts of men, but not into
their thoughts or their lives; and who, seeing only thus, on two
dimensions of life and not the third, found the Avenue Girl holy and
worthy of all worship!
* * * * *
The Probationer worried a great deal.
"It must hurt her so!" she said to the Senior. "Did you see them
call that baby away on visiting day for fear she would touch it?"
"None are so good as the untempted," explained the Senior, who had
been beautiful and was now placid and full of good works. "You
cannot remake the world, child. Bodies are our business here--not
souls." But the next moment she called Old Maggie to her.
"I've been pretty patient, Maggie," she said. "You know what I mean.
You're the ringleader. Now things are going to change, or--you'll go
back on codliver oil to-night."
"Yes'm," said Old Maggie meekly, with hate in her heart. She loathed
the codliver oil.
"Go back and straighten her bed!" commanded the Senior sternly.
"It hurts my back to stoop over," whined Old Maggie, with the ward
watching. "The doctor said that I----"
The Senior made a move for the medicine closet and the bottles
"I'm going," whimpered Old Maggie. "Can't you give a body time?"
And she went down to defeat, with the laughter of the ward in her
ears--down to defeat, for the Avenue Girl would have none of her.
"You get out of here!" she said fiercely as Old Maggie set to work
at the draw sheet. "Get out quick--or I'll throw this cup in your
The Senior was watching. Old Maggie put on an air of benevolence and
called the Avenue Girl an unlovely name under her breath while she
smoothed her pillow. She did not get the cup, but the water out of
it, in her hard old face, and matters were as they had been.
The Girl did not improve as she should. The _interne_ did the
dressing day after day, while the Probationer helped him--the Senior
disliked burned cases--and talked of skin grafting if a new powder
he had discovered did no good. _Internes_ are always trying out new
things, looking for the great discovery.
The powder did no good. The day came when, the dressing over and the
white coverings drawn up smoothly again over her slender body, the
Avenue Girl voiced the question that her eyes had asked each time.
"Am I going to lie in this hole all my life?" she demanded.
The _interne_ considered.
"It isn't healing--not very fast anyhow," he said. "If we could get
a little skin to graft on you'd be all right in a jiffy. Can't you
get some friends to come in? It isn't painful and it's over in a
"Friends? Where would I get friends of that sort?"
"Well, relatives then--some of your own people?"
The Avenue Girl shut her eyes as she did when the dressing hurt her.
"None that I'd care to see," she said. And the Probationer knew she
lied. The _interne_ shrugged his shoulders.
"If you think of any let me know. We'll get them here," he said
briskly, and turned to see the Probationer rolling up her sleeve.
"Please!" she said, and held out a bare white arm. The _interne_
stared at it stupefied. It was very lovely.
"I am not at all afraid," urged the Probationer, "and my blood is
good. It would grow--I know it would."
The _interne_ had hard work not to stoop and kiss the blue veins
that rose to the surface in the inner curve of her elbow. The
dressing screens were up and the three were quite alone. To keep his
voice steady he became stern.
"Put your sleeve down and don't be a foolish girl!" he, commanded.
"Put your sleeve down!" His eyes said: "You wonder! You beauty! You
brave little girl!"
Because the Probationer seemed to take her responsibilities rather
to heart, however, and because, when he should have been thinking of
other things, such as calling up the staff and making reports, he
kept seeing that white arm and the resolute face above it, the
_interne_ worked out a plan.
"I've fixed it, I think," he said, meeting her in a hallway where
he had no business to be, and trying to look as if he had not known
she was coming. "Father Feeny was in this morning and I tackled him.
He's got a lot of students--fellows studying for the priesthood--and
he says any daughter of the church shall have skin if he has to flay
"But--is she a daughter of the church?" asked the Probationer. "And
even if she were, under the circumstances----"
"What circumstances?" demanded the _interne_. "Here's a poor girl
burned and suffering. The father is not going to ask whether she's
of the anointed."
The Probationer was not sure. She liked doing things in the open and
with nothing to happen later to make one uncomfortable; but she
spoke to the Senior and the Senior was willing. Her chief trouble,
after all, was with the Avenue Girl herself.
"I don't want to get well," she said wearily when the thing was put
up to her. "What's the use? I'd just go back to the same old thing;
and when it got too strong for me I'd end up here again or in the
"Tell me where your people live, then, and let me send for them."
"Why? To have them read in my face what I've been, and go back home
to die of shame?"
The Probationer looked at the Avenue Girl's face.
"There--there is nothing in your face to hurt them," she said,
flushing--because there were some things the Probationer had never
discussed, even with herself. "You--look sad. Honestly, that's all."
The Avenue Girl held up her thin right hand. The forefinger was
still yellow from cigarettes.
"What about that?" she sneered.
"If I bleach it will you let me send for your people?"
"I'll--perhaps," was the most the Probationer could get.
Many people would have been discouraged. Even the Senior was a bit
cynical. It took a Probationer still heartsick for home to read in
the Avenue Girl's eyes the terrible longing for the things she had
given up--for home and home folks; for a clean slate again. The
Probationer bleached and scrubbed the finger, and gradually a little
of her hopeful spirit touched the other girl.
"What day is it?" the Avenue Girl asked once.
"That's baking day at home. We bake in an out-oven. Did you ever
smell bread as it comes from an out-oven?" Or: "That's a pretty
shade of blue you nurses wear. It would be nice for working in the
dairy, wouldn't it?"
"Fine!" said the Probationer, and scrubbed away to hide the triumph
in her eyes.
That was the day the Dummy stole the parrot. The parrot belonged to
the Girl; but how did he know it? So many things he should have
known the Dummy never learned; so many things he knew that he seemed
never to have learned! He did not know, for instance, of Father
Feeny and the Holy Name students; but he knew of the Avenue Girl's
loneliness and heartache, and of the cabal against her. It is one of
the black marks on record against him that he refused to polish the
plate on Old Maggie's bed, and that he shook his fist at her more
than once when the Senior was out of the ward.
And he knew of the parrot. That day, then, a short, stout woman with
a hard face appeared in the superintendent's office and demanded a
"Parrot?" said the superintendent blandly.
"Parrot! That crazy man you keep here walked into my house to-day
and stole a parrot--and I want it."
"The Dummy! But what on earth----"
"It was my parrot," said the woman. "It belonged to one of my
boarders. She's a burned case up in one of the wards--and she owed
me money. I took it for a debt. You call that man and let him look
me in the eye while I say parrot to him."
"He cannot speak or hear."
"You call him. He'll understand me!"
They found the Dummy coming stealthily down from the top of the
stable and haled him into the office. He was very calm--quite
impassive. Apparently he had never seen the woman before; as she
raged he smiled cheerfully and shook his head.
"As a matter of fact," said the superintendent, "I don't believe he
ever saw the bird; but if he has it we shall find it out and you'll
get it again."
They let him go then; and he went to the chapel and looked at a dove
above the young John's head. Then he went up to the kitchen and
filled his pockets with lettuce leaves. He knew nothing at all of
parrots or how to care for them.
Things, you see, were moving right for the Avenue Girl. The stain
was coming off--she had been fond of the parrot and now it was close
at hand; and Father Feeny's lusty crowd stood ready to come into a
hospital ward and shed skin that they generally sacrificed on the
football field. But the Avenue Girl had two years to account
for--and there was the matter of an alibi.
"I might tell the folks at home anything and they'd believe it
because they'd want to believe it," said the Avenue Girl. "But
there's the neighbours. I was pretty wild at home. And--there's a
fellow who wanted to marry me--he knew how sick I was of the old
place and how I wanted my fling. His name was Jerry. We'd have to
The Probationer worried a great deal about this matter of the alibi.
It had to be a clean slate for the folks back home, and especially
for Jerry. She took her anxieties out walking several times on her
off-duty, but nothing seemed to come of it. She walked on the Avenue
mostly, because it was near and she could throw a long coat over her
blue dress. And so she happened to think of the woman the girl had
"She got her into all this," thought the Probationer. "She's just
got to see her out."
It took three days' off-duty to get her courage up to ringing the
doorbell of the house with the bowed shutters, and after she had
rung it she wanted very much to run and hide; but she thought of the
girl and everything going for nothing for the want of an alibi, and
she stuck. The negress opened the door and stared at her.
"She's dead, is she?" she asked.
"No. May I come in? I want to see your mistress."
The negress did not admit her, however. She let her stand in the
vestibule and went back to the foot of a staircase.
"One of these heah nurses from the hospital!" she said. "She wants
to come in and speak to you."
"Let her in, you fool!" replied a voice from above stairs.
The rest was rather confused. Afterward the Probationer remembered
putting the case to the stout woman who had claimed the parrot and
finding it difficult to make her understand.
"Don't you see?" she finished desperately. "I want her to go
home--to her own folks. She wants it too. But what are we going to
say about these last two years?"
The stout woman sat turning over her rings. She was most
uncomfortable. After all, what had she done? Had she not warned them
again and again about having lighted cigarettes lying round.
"She's in bad shape, is she?"
"She may recover, but she'll be badly scarred--not her face, but her
chest and shoulders."
That was another way of looking at it. If the girl was scarred----
"Just what do you want me to do?" she asked. Now that it was down
to brass tacks and no talk about home and mother, she was more
"If you could just come over to the hospital while her people are
there and--and say she'd lived with you all the time----"
"That's the truth all right!"
"And--that she worked for you, sewing--she sews very well, she
says. And--oh, you'll know what to say; that she's been--all right,
you know; anything to make them comfortable and happy."
Now the stout woman was softening--not that she was really hard, but
she had developed a sort of artificial veneer of hardness, and good
impulses had a hard time crawling through.
"I guess I could do that much," she conceded. "She nursed me when I
was down and out with the grippe and that worthless nigger was drunk
in the kitchen. But you folks over there have got a parrot that
belongs to me. What about that?"
The Probationer knew about the parrot. The Dummy had slipped it
into the ward more than once and its profanity had delighted the
patients. The Avenue Girl had been glad to see it too; and as it sat
on the bedside table and shrieked defiance and oaths the Dummy had
smiled benignly. John and the dove--the girl and the parrot!
"I am sorry about the parrot. I--perhaps I could buy him from you."
She got out her shabby little purse, in which she carried her
munificent monthly allowance of eight dollars and a little money she
had brought from home.
"Twenty dollars takes him. That's what she owed me."
The Probationer had seventeen dollars and eleven cents. She spread
it out in her lap and counted it twice.
"I'm afraid that's all," she said. She had hoped the second count
would show up better. "I could bring the rest next month."
The Probationer folded the money together and held it out. The stout
woman took it eagerly.
"He's yours," she said largely. "Don't bother about the balance.
When do you want me?"
"I'll send you word," said the Probationer, and got up. She was
almost dizzy with excitement and the feeling of having no money at
all in the world and a parrot she did not want. She got out into the
air somehow and back to the hospital. She took a bath immediately
and put on everything fresh, and felt much better--but very
poor. Before she went on duty she said a little prayer about
thermometers--that she should not break hers until she had money for
a new one.
* * * * *
Father Feeny came and lined up six budding priests outside the door
of the ward. He was a fine specimen of manhood and he had asked no
questions at all. The Senior thought she had better tell him
something, but he put up a white hand.
"What does it matter, sister?" he said cheerfully. "Yesterday is
gone and to-day is a new day. Also there is to-morrow"--his Irish
eyes twinkled--"and a fine day it will be by the sunset."
Then he turned to his small army.
"Boys," he said, "it's a poor leader who is afraid to take chances
with his men. I'm going first"--he said fir-rst. "It's a small
thing, as I've told you--a bit of skin and it's over. Go in smiling
and come out smiling! Are you ready, sir?" This to the _interne_.
That was a great day in the ward. The inmates watched Father Feeny
and the _interne_ go behind the screens, both smiling, and they
watched the father come out very soon after, still smiling but a
little bleached. And they watched the line patiently waiting outside
the door, shortening one by one. After a time the smiles were rather
forced, as if waiting was telling on them; but there was no
deserter--only one six-foot youth, walking with a swagger to
contribute his little half inch or so of cuticle, added a sensation
to the general excitement by fainting halfway up the ward; and he
remained in blissful unconsciousness until it was all over.
Though the _interne_ had said there was no way back, the first step
had really been taken; and he was greatly pleased with himself and
with everybody because it had been his idea. The Probationer tried
to find a chance to thank him; and, failing that, she sent a
grateful little note to his room:
Is Mimi the Austrian to have a baked apple?
[Signed] WARD A.
P.S.--It went through wonderfully! She is so cheerful
since it is over. How can I ever thank you?
The reply came back very quickly:
Baked apple, without milk, for Mimi. WARD A.
P.S.--Can you come up on the roof for a little air?
She hesitated over that for some time. A really honest-to-goodness
nurse may break a rule now and then and nothing happen; but
a probationer is only on trial and has to be exceedingly
careful--though any one might go to the roof and watch the sunset.
She decided not to go. Then she pulled her soft hair down over her
forehead, where it was most becoming, and fastened it with tiny
hairpins, and went up after all--not because she intended to, but
because as she came out of her room the elevator was going up--not
down. She was on the roof almost before she knew it.
The _interne_ was there in fresh white ducks, smoking. At first they
talked of skin grafting and the powder that had not done what was
expected of it. After a time, when the autumn twilight had fallen on
them like a benediction, she took her courage in her hands and told
of her visit to the house on the Avenue, and about the parrot and
The _interne_ stood very still. He was young and intolerant. Some
day he would mellow and accept life as it is--not as he would have
it. When she had finished he seemed to have drawn himself into a
shell, turtle fashion, and huddled himself together. The shell was
pride and old prejudice and the intolerance of youth. "She had to
have an alibi!" said the Probationer.
"Oh, of course," very stiffly.
"I cannot see why you disapprove. Something had to be done."
"I cannot see that you had to do it; but it's your own affair, of
"Please go on."
"Well, one cannot touch dirt without being soiled."
"I think you will be sorry you said that," said the Probationer
stiffly. And she went down the staircase, leaving him alone. He was
sorry, of course; but he would not say so even to himself. He
thought of the Probationer, with her eager eyes and shining hair and
her warm little heart, ringing the bell of the Avenue house and
making her plea--and his blood ran hot in him. It was just then
that the parrot spoke on the other side of the chimney.
"Gimme a bottle of beer!" it said. "Nice cold beer! Cold beer!"
The _interne_ walked furiously toward the sound. Must this girl of
the streets and her wretched associates follow him everywhere? She
had ruined his life already. He felt that it was ruined. Probably
the Probationer would never speak to him again.
The Dummy was sitting on a bench, with the parrot on his knee
looking rather queer from being smuggled about under a coat and fed
the curious things that the Dummy thought a bird should eat. It had
a piece of apple pie in its claw now.
"Cold beer!" said the parrot, and eyed the _interne_ crookedly.
The Dummy had not heard him, of course. He sat looking over the
parapet toward the river, with one knotted hand smoothing the bird's
ruffled plumage and such a look of wretchedness in his eyes that it
hurt to see it. God's fools, who cannot reason, can feel. Some
instinct of despair had seized him for its own--some conception,
perhaps, of what life would never mean to him. Before it, the
_interne's_ wrath gave way to impotency.
"Cold beer!" said the parrot wickedly.
The Avenue Girl improved slowly. Morning and evening came the Dummy
and smiled down at her, with reverence in his eyes. She could smile
back now and sometimes she spoke to him. There was a change in the
Avenue Girl. She was less sullen. In the back of her eyes each
morning found a glow of hope--that died, it is true, by noontime;
but it came again with the new day.
"How's Polly this morning, Montmorency?" she would say, and give him
a bit of toast from her breakfast for the bird. Or: "I wish you
could talk, Reginald. I'd like to hear what Rose said when you took
the parrot. It must have been a scream!"
He brought her the first chrysanthemums of the fall and laid them on
her pillow. It was after he had gone, while the Probationer was
combing out the soft short curls of her hair, that she mentioned the
Dummy. She strove to make her voice steady, but there were tears in
"The old goat's been pretty good to me, hasn't he?" she said.
"I believe it is very unusual. I wonder"--the Probationer poised the
comb--"perhaps you remind him of some one he used to know."
They knew nothing, of course, of the boy John and the window.
"He's about the first decent man I ever knew," said the Avenue
Girl--"and he's a fool!"
"Either a fool or very, very wise," replied the Probationer.
The _interne_ and the Probationer were good friends again, but they
had never quite got back to the place they had lost on the roof.
Over the Avenue Girl's dressing their eyes met sometimes, and there
was an appeal in the man's and tenderness; but there was pride too.
He would not say he had not meant it. Any man will tell you that he
was entirely right, and that she had been most unwise and needed a
good scolding--only, of course, it is never the wise people who make
life worth the living.
And an important thing had happened--the Probationer had been
accepted and had got her cap. She looked very stately in it, though
it generally had a dent somewhere from her forgetting she had it on
and putting her hat on over it. The first day she wore it she knelt
at prayers with the others, and said a little Thank You! for getting
through when she was so unworthy. She asked to be made clean and
pure, and delivered from vanity, and of some use in the world. And,
trying to think of the things she had been remiss in, she went out
that night in a rain and bought some seed and things for the parrot.
Prodigal as had been Father Feeny and his battalion, there was more
grafting needed before the Avenue Girl could take her scarred body
and soul out into the world again. The Probationer offered, but was
"You are a part of the institution now," said the _interne_, with
his eyes on her cap. He was rather afraid of the cap. "I cannot
cripple the institution."
It was the Dummy who solved that question. No one knew how he knew
the necessity or why he had not come forward sooner; but come he did
and would not be denied. The _interne_ went to a member of the staff
"The fellow works round the house," he explained; "but he's taken a
great fancy to the girl and I hardly know what to do."
"My dear boy," said the staff, "one of the greatest joys in the
world is to suffer for a woman. Let him go to it."
So the Dummy bared his old-young arm--not once, but many times.
Always as the sharp razor nicked up its bit of skin he looked at the
girl and smiled. In the early evening he perched the parrot on his
bandaged arm and sat on the roof or by the fountain in the
courtyard. When the breeze blew strong enough the water flung over
the rim and made little puddles in the hollows of the cement
pavement. Here belated sparrows drank or splashed their dusty
feathers, and the parrot watched them crookedly.
The Avenue Girl grew better with each day, but remained
wistful-eyed. The ward no longer avoided her, though she was never
one of them. One day the Probationer found a new baby in the
children's ward; and, with the passion of maternity that is the real
reason for every good woman's being, she cuddled the mite in her
arms. She visited the nurses in the different wards.
"Just look!" she would say, opening her arms. "If I could only steal
The Senior, who had once been beautiful and was now calm and placid,
smiled at her. Old Maggie must peer and cry out over the child.
Irish Delia must call down a blessing on it. And so up the ward to
the Avenue Girl; the Probationer laid the baby in her arms.
"Just a minute," she explained. "I'm idling and I have no business
to. Hold it until I give the three o'clocks." Which means the
When she came back the Avenue Girl had a new look in her eyes; and
that day the little gleam of hope, that usually died, lasted and
At last came the day when the alibi was to be brought forward. The
girl had written home and the home folks were coming. In his strange
way the Dummy knew that a change was near. The kaleidoscope would
shift again and the Avenue Girl would join the changing and
disappearing figures that fringed the inner circle of his heart.
One night he did not go to bed in the ward bed that was his only
home, beside the little stand that held his only possessions. The
watchman missed him and found him asleep in the chapel in one of the
seats, with the parrot drowsing on the altar.
Rose--who was the stout woman--came early. She wore a purple dress,
with a hat to match, and purple gloves. The ward eyed her with scorn
and a certain deference. She greeted the Avenue Girl effusively
behind the screens that surrounded the bed.
"Well, you do look pinched!" she said. "Ain't it a mercy it didn't
get to your face! Pretty well chewed up, aren't you?"
"Do you want to see it?"
"Good land! No! Now look here, you've got to put me wise or I'll
blow the whole thing. What's my little stunt? The purple's all right
for it, isn't it?"
"All you need to do," said the Avenue Girl wearily, "is to say that
I've been sewing for you since I came to the city. And--if you can
say anything good----"
"I'll do that all right," Rose affirmed. She put a heavy silver bag
on the bedside table and lowered herself into a chair. "You leave it
to me, dearie. There ain't anything I won't say."
The ward was watching with intense interest. Old Maggie, working the
creaking bandage machine, was palpitating with excitement. From her
chair by the door she could see the elevator and it was she who
announced the coming of destiny.
"Here comes the father," she confided to the end of the ward. "Guess
the mother couldn't come."
It was not the father though. It was a young man who hesitated in
the doorway, hat in hand--a tall young man, with a strong and not
unhandsome face. The Probationer, rather twitchy from excitement and
anxiety, felt her heart stop and race on again. Jerry, without a
The meeting was rather constrained. The girl went whiter than her
pillows and half closed her eyes; but Rose, who would have been
terrified at the sight of an elderly farmer, was buoyantly relieved
and at her ease.
"I'm sorry," said Jerry. "I--we didn't realise it had been so bad.
The folks are well; but--I thought I'd better come. They're
expecting you back home."
"It was nice of you to come," said the girl, avoiding his eyes.
"I--I'm getting along fine."
"I guess introductions ain't necessary," put in Rose briskly. "I'm
Mrs. Sweeney. She's been living with me--working for me, sewing.
She's sure a fine sewer! She made this suit I'm wearing."
Poor Rose, with "custom made" on every seam of the purple! But Jerry
was hardly listening. His eyes were on the girl among the pillows.
"I see," said Jerry slowly. "You haven't said yet, Elizabeth. Are
you going home?"
"If--they want me."
"Of course they want you!" Again Rose: "Why shouldn't they? You've
been a good girl and a credit to any family. If they say anything
mean to you you let me know."
"They'll not be mean to her. I'm sure they'll want to write and
thank you. If you'll just give me your address, Mrs. Sweeney----"
He had a pencil poised over a notebook. Rose hesitated. Then she
gave her address on the Avenue, with something of bravado in her
voice. After all, what could this country-store clerk know of the
Avenue? Jerry wrote it down carefully.
"Sweeney--with an e?" he asked politely.
"With three e's," corrected Rose, and got up with dignity.
"Well, good-bye, dearie," she said. "You've got your friends now and
you don't need me. I guess you've had your lesson about going to
sleep with a cig--about being careless with fire. Drop me a postal
when you get the time."
She shook hands with Jerry and rustled and jingled down the ward,
her chin well up. At the door she encountered Old Maggie, her arms
full of bandages.
"How's the Avenue?" asked Old Maggie.
Rose, however, like all good actresses, was still in the part
as she made her exit. She passed Old Maggie unheeding, severe
respectability in every line of her figure, every nod of her purple
plumes. She was still in the part when she encountered the
"It's going like a house afire!" she said. "He swallowed it
all--hook and bait! And--oh, yes, I've got something for you." She
went down into her silver bag and pulled out a roll of bills. "I've
felt meaner'n a dog every time I've thought of you buying that
parrot. I've got a different view of life--maybe--from yours; but
I'm not taking candy from a baby."
When the Probationer could speak Rose was taking herself and the
purple into the elevator and waving her a farewell.
"Good-bye!" she said. "If ever you get stuck again just call on me."
With Rose's departure silence fell behind the screen. The girl broke
"They're all well, are they?"
"All well. Your mother's been kind of poorly. She thought you'd
write to her." The girl clenched her hands under the bedclothing.
She could not speak just then. "There's nothing much happened. The
post office burned down last summer. They're building a new one.
And--I've been building. I tore down the old place."
"Are you going to be married, Jerry?"
"Some day, I suppose. I'm not worrying about it. It was something to
do; it kept me from--thinking."
The girl looked at him and something gripped her throat. He knew!
Rose might have gone down with her father, but Jerry knew! Nothing
was any use. She knew his rigid morality, his country-bred horror of
the thing she was. She would have to go back--to Rose and the
others. He would never take her home.
Down at the medicine closet the Probationer was carbolising
thermometers and humming a little song. Everything was well. The
Avenue Girl was with her people and at seven o'clock the Probationer
was going to the roof--to meet some one who was sincerely repentant
and very meek.
In the convalescent ward next door they were singing softly--one of
those spontaneous outbursts that have their origin in the hearts of
people and a melody all their own:
_'Way down upon de S'wanee Ribber,
Far, far away,
Dere's wha my heart is turnin' ebber--
Dere's wha de old folks stay._
It penetrated back of the screen, where the girl lay in white
wretchedness--and where Jerry, with death in his eyes, sat rigid in
"I--I guess I've been pretty far away."
"Don't tell me about it!" A cry, this.
"You used to care for me, Jerry. I'm not expecting that now; but if
you'd only believe me when I say I'm sorry----"
"I believe you, Elizabeth."
"One of the nurses here says----Jerry, won't you look at me?" With
some difficulty he met her eyes. "She says that because one starts
wrong one needn't go wrong always. I was ashamed to write. She made
me do it."
She held out an appealing hand, but he did not take it. All his life
he had built up a house of morality. Now his house was crumbling and
he stood terrified in the wreck. "It isn't only because I've been
hurt that I--am sorry," she went on. "I loathed it! I'd have
finished it all long ago, only--I was afraid."
"I would rather have found you dead!"
There is a sort of anesthesia of misery. After a certain amount of
suffering the brain ceases to feel. Jerry watched the white curtain
of the screen swaying in the wind, settled his collar, glanced at
his watch. He was quite white. The girl's hand still lay on the
coverlet. Somewhere back in the numbed brain that would think only
little thoughts he knew that if he touched that small, appealing
hand the last wall of his house would fall.
It was the Dummy, after all, who settled that for him. He came with
his afternoon offering of cracked ice just then and stood inside the
screen, staring. Perhaps he had known all along how it would end,
that this, his saint, would go--and not alone--to join the vanishing
circle that had ringed the inner circle of his heart. Just at the
time it rather got him. He swayed a little and clutched at the
screen; but the next moment he had placed the bowl on the stand and
stood smiling down at the girl.
"The only person in the world who believes in me!" said the girl
bitterly. "And he's a fool!"
The Dummy smiled into her eyes. In his faded, childish eyes there
was the eternal sadness of his kind, eternal tenderness, and the
blur of one who has looked much into a far distance. Suddenly he
bent over and placed the man's hand over the girl's.
The last wall was down! Jerry buried his face in the white
* * * * *
The _interne_ was pacing the roof anxiously. Golden sunset had faded
to lavender--to dark purple--to night.
The Probationer came up at last--not a probationer now, of course;
but she had left off her cap and was much less stately.
"I'm sorry," she explained; "but I've been terribly busy. It went
off so well!"
"Of course--if you handled it."
"You know--don't you?--it was the lover who came. He looks so strong
and good--oh, she is safe now!"
"That's fine!" said the _interne_ absently. They were sitting on the
parapet now and by sliding his hand along he found her fingers.
"Isn't it a glorious evening?" He had the fingers pretty close by
that time; and suddenly gathering them up he lifted the hand to his
"Such a kind little hand!" he said over it. "Such a dear, tender
little hand! My hand!" he said, rather huskily.
Down in the courtyard the Dummy sat with the parrot on his knee. At
his feet the superintendent's dog lay on his side and dreamed of
battle. The Dummy's eyes lingered on the scar the Avenue Girl had
bandaged--how long ago!
His eyes wandered to the window with the young John among the
lilies. In the stable were still the ambulance horses that talked to
him without words. And he had the parrot. If he thought at all it
was that his Father was good and that, after all, he was not alone.
The parrot edged along his knee and eyed him with saturnine
Big Mary was sweeping the ward with a broom muffled in a white bag.
In the breeze from the open windows, her blue calico wrapper
ballooned about her and made ludicrous her frantic thrusts after the
bits of fluff that formed eddies under the beds and danced in the
She finished her sweeping, and, with the joyous scraps captured in
her dust-pan, stood in the doorway, critically surveying the ward.
It was brilliantly clean and festive; on either side a row of beds,
fresh white for the day; on the centre table a vase of Easter
lilies, and on the record-table near the door a potted hyacinth. The
Nurse herself wore a bunch of violets tucked in her apron-band. One
of the patients had seen the Junior Medical give them to her. The
Eastern sun, shining across the beds, made below them, on the
polished floor, black islands of shadow in a gleaming sea of light.
And scattered here and there, rocking in chairs or standing at
windows, enjoying the Sunday respite from sewing or the
bandage-machine, women, grotesque and distorted of figure, in
attitudes of weariness and expectancy, with patient eyes awaited
their crucifixion. Behind them, in the beds, a dozen perhaps who had
come up from death and held the miracle in their arms.
The miracles were small and red, and inclined to feeble and
ineffectual wrigglings. Fists were thrust in the air and brought
down on smiling, pale mother faces. With tight-closed eyes and open
mouths, each miracle squirmed and nuzzled until the mother would
look with pleading eyes at the Nurse. And the Nurse would look
severe and say:
"Good gracious, Annie Petowski, surely you don't want to feed that
infant again! Do you want the child to have a dilated stomach?"
Fear of that horrible and mysterious condition, a dilated stomach,
would restrain Annie Petowski or Jennie Goldstein or Maggie McNamara
for a time. With the wisdom of the serpent, she would give the child
her finger to suck--a finger so white, so clean, so soft in the last
week that she was lost in admiration of it. And the child would take
hold, all its small body set rigid in lines of desperate effort.
Then it would relax suddenly, and spew out the finger, and the quiet
hospital air would be rent with shrieks of lost illusion. Then Annie
Petowski or Jennie Goldstein or Maggie McNamara would watch the
Nurse with open hostility and defiance, and her rustling exit from
the ward would be followed by swift cessation of cries, and, close
to Annie or Jennie or Maggie's heart, there would be small ecstatic
In her small domain the Nurse was queen. From her throne at the
record-table, she issued proclamations of baths and fine combs, of
clean bedding and trimmed nails, of tea and toast, of regular hours
for the babies. From this throne, also, she directed periodic
searches of the bedside stands, unearthing scraps of old toast,
decaying fruit, candy, and an occasional cigarette. From the throne,
too, she sent daily a blue-wrappered and pig-tailed brigade to the
kitchen, armed with knives, to attack the dinner potatoes.
But on this Easter morning, the queen looked tired and worn. Her
crown, a starched white cap, had slipped back on her head, and her
blue-and-white dress was stained and spotted. Even her fresh apron
and sleevelets did not quite conceal the damage. She had come in for
a moment at the breakfast hour, and asked the Swede, Ellen Ollman,
to serve the breakfast for her; and at half past eight she had
appeared again for a moment, and had turned down one of the beds and
put hot-water bottles in it.
The ward ate little breakfast. It was always nervous when a case was
"on." Excursions down the corridor by one or another of the
blue-wrappered brigade brought back bits of news:
"The doctor is smoking a cigarette in the hall;" or, "Miss Jones,
the day assistant, has gone in;" and then, with bated breath, "The
doctor with the red mustache has come"--by which it was known that
things were going badly, the staff man having been summoned.
Suggestions of Easter began to appear even in this isolated ward,
denied to all visitors except an occasional husband, who was usually
regarded with a mixture of contempt and scepticism by the other
women. But now the lilies came, and after them a lame young woman
who played the organ in the chapel on Sundays, and who afterward
went from ward to ward, singing little songs and accompanying
herself on the mandolin she carried with her. The lame young woman
seated herself in the throne-chair and sang an Easter anthem, and
afterward limped around and placed a leaflet and a spray of
lilies-of-the-valley on each bedside stand.
She was escorted around the ward by Elizabeth Miller, known as "Liz"
in Our Alley, and rechristened Elizabeth by the Nurse. Elizabeth
always read the tracts. She had been there four times, and knew all
the nurses and nearly all the doctors. "Liz" had been known, in a
shortage of nurses, to be called into the mysterious room down the
hall to assist; and on those occasions, in an all-enveloping white
gown over her wrapper, with her hair under a cap, she outranked the
queen herself in regalness and authority.
The lame mandolin-player stopped at the foot of the empty bed.
"Shall I put one here?" she asked, fingering a tract.
Liz meditated majestically.
"Well, I guess I would," she said. "Not that it'll do any good."
Liz jerked her head toward the corridor.
"She's not getting on very well," she said; "and, even if she gets
through, she won't read the tract. She held her fingers in her ears
last Sunday while the Bible-reader was here. She's young. Says she
hopes she and the kid'll both die."
The mandolin-player was not unversed in the psychology of the ward.
"Then she--isn't married?" she asked, and because she was young, she
Liz stared at her, and a faint light of amusement dawned in her
"Well, no," she admitted; "I guess that's what's worrying her. She's
a fool, she is. She can put the kid in a home. That's what I do.
Suppose she married the fellow that got her into trouble? Wouldn't
he be always throwing it up to her?"
The mandolin-player looked at Liz, puzzled at this new philosophy
"Have--have you a baby here?" she asked timidly.
"Have I!" said Liz, and, wheeling, led the way to her bed. She
turned the blanket down with a practised hand, revealing a tiny red
atom, so like the others that only mother love could have
"This is mine," she said airily. "Funny little mutt, isn't he?"
The mandolin-player gazed diffidently at the child.
"He--he's very little," she said.
"Little!" said Liz. "He holds the record here for the last six
months--eleven pounds three ounces in his skin, when he arrived. The
She put the blanket tenderly back over the little devil's sleeping
form. The mandolin-player cast about desperately for the right thing
"Does--does he look like his father?" she asked timidly. But
apparently Liz did not hear. She had moved down the ward. The
mandolin-player heard only a snicker from Annie Petowski's bed, and,
vaguely uncomfortable, she moved toward the door.
Liz was turning down the cover of the empty bed, and the Nurse, with
tired but shining eyes, was wheeling in the operating table.
The mandolin-player stepped aside to let the table pass. From the
blankets she had a glimpse of a young face, bloodless and wan--of
hurt, defiant blue eyes. She had never before seen life so naked, so
relentless. She shrank back against the wall, a little sick. Then
she gathered up her tracts and her mandolin, and limped down the
The door of the mysterious room was open, and from it came a shrill,
high wail, a rising and falling note of distress--the voice of a new
soul in protest. She went past with averted face.
Back in the ward Liz leaned over the table and, picking the girl up
bodily, deposited her tenderly in the warm bed. Then she stood back
and smiled down at her, with her hands on her hips.
"Well," she said kindly, "it's over, and here you are! But it's no
picnic, is it?"
The girl on the bed turned her head away. The coarsening of her
features in the last month or two had changed to an almost bloodless
refinement. With her bright hair, she looked as if she had been
through the furnace of pain and had come out pure gold. But her eyes
"Go away," she said petulantly.
Liz leaned down and pulled the blanket over her shoulders.
"You sleep now," she said soothingly. "When you wake up you can have
a cup of tea."
The girl threw the cover off and looked up despairingly into Liz's
"I don't want to sleep," she said. "My God, Liz, it's going to live
and so am I!"
Now, the Nurse had been up all night, and at noon, after she had
oiled the new baby and washed out his eyes and given him a
teaspoonful of warm water, she placed Liz in charge of the ward, and
went to her room to put on a fresh uniform. The first thing she did,
when she got there, was to go to the mirror, with the picture of her
mother tucked in its frame, and survey herself. When she saw her cap
and the untidiness of her hair and her white collar all spotted, she
Then she took the violets out of her belt and put them carefully in
a glass of water, and feeling rather silly, she leaned over and
kissed them. After that she felt better.
She bathed her face in hot water and then in cold, which brought her
colour back, and she put on everything fresh, so that she rustled
with each step, which is proper for trained nurses; and finally she
tucked the violets back where they belonged, and put on a new cap,
which is also proper for trained nurses on gala occasions.
If she had not gone back to the mirror to see that the general
effect was as crisp as it should be, things would have been
different for Liz, and for the new mother back in the ward. But she
did go back; and there, lying on the floor in front of the bureau,
all folded together, was a piece of white paper exactly as if it has
been tucked in her belt with the violets.
She opened it rather shakily, and it was a leaf from the ward
order-book, for at the top it said:
Annie Petowski--may sit up for one hour.
And below that:
Goldstein baby--bran baths.
And below that:
I love you. E.J.
"E.J." was the Junior Medical.
So the Nurse went back to the ward, and sat down, palpitating, in
the throne-chair by the table, and spread her crisp skirts, and
found where the page had been torn out of the order-book.
And as the smiles of sovereigns are hailed with delight by their
courts, so the ward brightened until it seemed to gleam that Easter
afternoon. And a sort of miracle happened: none of the babies had
colic, and the mothers mostly slept. Also, one of the ladies of the
House Committee looked in at the door and said:
"How beautiful you are here, and how peaceful! Your ward is always a
sort of benediction."
The lady of the House Committee looked across and saw the new
mother, with the sunshine on her yellow braids, and her face refined
from the furnace of pain.
"What a sweet young mother!" she said, and rustled out, leaving an
odor of peau d'Espagne.
The girl lay much as Liz had left her. Except her eyes, there was
nothing in her face to show that despair had given place to wild
mutiny. But Liz knew; Liz had gone through it all when "the first
one" came; and so, from the end of the ward, she rocked and watched.
The odor of peau d'Espagne was still in the air, eclipsing the
Easter lilies, when Liz got up and sauntered down to the girl's bed.
"How are you now, dearie?" she asked, and, reaching under the
blankets, brought out the tiny pearl-handled knife with which the
girl had been wont to clean her finger-nails. The girl eyed her
savagely, but said nothing; nor did she resist when Liz brought out
her hands and examined the wrists. The left had a small cut on it.
"Now listen to me," said Liz. "None of that, do you hear? You ain't
the only one that's laid here and wanted to end it all. And what
happened? Inside of a month they're well and strong again, and they
put the kid somewhere, and the folks that know what's happened get
used to it, and the ones that don't know don't need to know. Don't
be a fool!"
She carried the knife off, but the girl made no protest. There were
The Nurse was very tired, for she had been up almost all night. She
sat at the record-table with her Bible open, and, in the intervals
of taking temperatures, she read it. But mostly she read about Annie
Petowski being allowed to sit up, and the Goldstein baby having bran
baths, and the other thing written below!
At two o'clock came the Junior Medical, in a frock-coat and grey
trousers. He expected to sing "The Palms" at the Easter service
downstairs in the chapel that afternoon, and, according to
precedent, the one who sings "The Palms" on Easter in the chapel
must always wear a frock-coat.
Very conscious, because all the ward was staring at his
gorgeousness, he went over to the bed where the new mother lay. Then
he came back and stood by the table, looking at a record.
"Have you taken her temperature?" he said, businesslike and erect.
"Her pulse is strong?"
"Yes; she's resting quietly."
"Good.--And--did you get my note?"
This, much as if he had said, "Did you find my scarf-pin?" or
anything merely casual; for Liz was hovering near.
"Yes." The nurse's red lips were trembling, but she smiled up at
him. Liz came nearer. She was only wishing him Godspeed with his
wooing, but it made him uncomfortable.
"Watch her closely," he said, "she's pretty weak and despondent."
And he looked at Liz.
"Elizabeth," said the Nurse, "won't you sit by Claribel and fan
Claribel was the new mother. Claribel is, of course, no name for a
mother, but she had been named when she was very small.
Liz went away and sat by the girl's bed, and said a little prayer to
the effect that they were both so damned good to everybody, she
hoped they'd hit it off. But perhaps the prayer of the wicked
"You know I meant that," he said, from behind a record. "I--I love
you with all my heart--and if only you----"
The nurse shook down a thermometer and examined it closely. "I love
you, too!" she said. And, walking shakily to one of the beds, she
put the thermometer upside down in Maggie McNamara's mouth.
The Junior Medical went away with his shoulders erect in his
frock-coat, and his heavy brown hair, which would never part
properly and had to be persuaded with brilliantine, bristling with
And the Nurse-Queen, looking over her kingdom for somebody to lavish
her new joy on, saw Claribel lying in bed, looking at the ceiling
and reading there all the tragedy of her broken life, all her
So she rustled out to the baby-room, where the new baby had never
batted an eye since her bath and was lying on her back with both
fists clenched on her breast, and she did something that no trained
nurse is ever supposed to do.
She lifted the baby, asleep and all, and carried her to her mother.
But Claribel's face only darkened when she saw her.
"Take the brat away," she said, and went on reading tragedies on the
Liz came and proffered her the little mite with every art she knew.
She showed her the wrinkled bits of feet, the tiny, ridiculous
hands, and how long the hair grew on the back of her head. But when
Liz put the baby on her arm, she shuddered and turned her head away.
So finally Liz took it back to the other room, and left it there,
The fine edge of the Nurse's joy was dulled. It is a characteristic
of great happiness to wish all to be well with the world; and here
before her was dry-eyed despair. It was Liz who finally decided her.
"I guess I'll sit up with her to-night," she said, approaching the
table with the peculiar gait engendered of heel-less hospital
carpet-slippers and Mother Hubbard wrappers. "I don't like the way
she watches the ceiling."
"What do you mean, Elizabeth?" asked the Nurse.
"Time I had the twins--that's before your time," said Liz--"we had
one like that. She went out the window head first the night after
the baby came, and took the kid with her."
The Nurse rose with quick decision.
"We must watch her," she said. "Perhaps if I could find--I think
I'll go to the telephone. Watch the ward carefully, Elizabeth, and
if Annie Petowski tries to feed her baby before three o'clock, take
it from her. The child's stuffed like a sausage every time I'm out
for five minutes."
Nurses know many strange things: they know how to rub an aching back
until the ache is changed to a restful thrill, and how to change the
bedding and the patient's night-dress without rolling the patient
over more than once, which is a high and desirable form of
knowledge. But also they get to know many strange people; their
clean starchiness has a way of rubbing up against the filth of the
world and coming away unsoiled. And so the Nurse went downstairs to
the telephone, leaving Liz to watch for nefarious feeding.
The Nurse called up Rose Davis; and Rosie, who was lying in bed with
the Sunday papers scattered around her and a cigarette in her
manicured fingers, reached out with a yawn and, taking the
telephone, rested it on her laced and ribboned bosom.
"Yes," she said indolently.
The nurse told her who she was, and Rosie's voice took on a warmer
"Oh, yes," she said. "How are you?... Claribel? Yes; what about
"Yes," said the Nurse. "A girl--seven pounds."
"My Gawd! Well, what do you think of that! Excuse me a moment; my
cigarette's set fire to the sheet. All right--go ahead."
"She's taking it pretty hard, and I--I thought you might help her.
"How much do you want?" said Rose, a trifle coldly. She turned in
the bed and eyed the black leather bag on the stand at her elbow.
"I don't think it's money," said the Nurse, "although she needs that
too; she hasn't any clothes for the baby. But--she's awfully
despondent--almost desperate. Have you any idea who the child's
Rosie considered, lighting a new cigarette with one hand and
balancing the telephone with the other.
"She left me a year ago," she said. "Oh, yes; I know now. What time
"I'll tell you what I'll do," said Rosie. "I'll get the fellow on
the wire and see what he's willing to do. Maybe he'll give her a
dollar or two a week."
"Do you think you could bring him to see her?"
"Say, what do you think I am--a missionary?" The Nurse was wise, so
she kept silent. "Well, I'll tell you what I will do. If I can bring
him, I will. How's that yellow-haired she-devil you've got over
there? I've got that fixed all right. She pulled a razor on me
first--I've got witnesses. Well, if I can get Al, I'll do it. So
It did not occur to the Nurse to deprecate having used an evil
medium toward a righteous end. She took life much as she found it.
And so she tiptoed past the chapel again, where a faint odour of
peau d'Espagne came stealing out into the hall, and where the
children from the children's ward, in roller-chairs and on crutches,
were singing with all their shrill young voices, earnest eyes
The white Easter lilies on the altar sent their fragrance out over
the gathering, over the nurses, young and placid, over the hopeless
and the hopeful, over the faces where death had passed and left its
inevitable stamp, over bodies freshly risen on this Easter Sunday
to new hope and new life--over the Junior Medical, waiting with the
manuscript of "The Palms" rolled in his hand and his heart singing a
hymn of happiness.
The Nurse went up to her ward, and put a screen around Claribel,
and, with all her woman's art, tidied the immaculate white bed and
loosened the uncompromising yellow braids, so that the soft hair
fell across Claribel's bloodless forehead and softened the defiance
in her blue eyes. She brought the pink hyacinth in its pot, too, and
placed it on the bedside table. Then she stood off and looked at her
work. It was good.
Claribel submitted weakly. She had stopped staring at the wall, and
had taken to watching the open window opposite with strange
intentness. Only when the Nurse gave a final pat to the bedspread
"Was it a boy--or a girl?" she asked.
"Girl," said the nurse briskly. "A little beauty, perfect in every
"A girl--to grow up and go through this hell!" she muttered, and her
eyes wandered back to the window.
But the Nurse was wise with the accumulated wisdom of a sex that has
had to match strength with wile for ages, and she was not yet ready.
She went into the little room where eleven miracles lay in eleven
cribs, and, although they all looked exactly alike, she selected
Claribel's without hesitation, and carried it to the mysterious room
down the hall--which was no longer a torture-chamber, but a
resplendently white place, all glass and tile and sunlight, and
where she did certain things that are not prescribed in the hospital
First of all, she opened a cupboard and took out a baby dress of
lace and insertion,--and everybody knows that such a dress is used
only when a hospital infant is baptised,--and she clothed Claribel's
baby in linen and fine raiment, and because they are very, very red
when they are so new, she dusted it with a bit of talcum--to break
the shock, as you may say. It was very probable that Al had never
seen so new a baby, and it was useless to spoil the joy of
parenthood unnecessarily. For it really was a fine child, and
eventually it would be white and beautiful.
The baby smelled of violet, for the christening-robe was kept in a
Finally she gave it another teaspoonful of warm water and put it
back in its crib. And then she rustled starchily back to the
throne-chair by the record-table, and opened her Bible at the place
where it said that Annie Petowski might sit up, and the Goldstein
baby--bran baths, and the other thing written just below.
The music poured up the well of the staircase; softened by distance,
the shrill childish sopranos and the throaty basses of the medical
staff merged into a rising and falling harmony of exquisite beauty.
Liz sat on the top step of the stairs, with her baby in her arms;
and, as the song went on, Liz's eyes fell to her child and stayed
At three o'clock the elevator-man brought Rosie Davis along the
hall--Rosie, whose costume betrayed haste, and whose figure, under a
gaudy motor-coat, gave more than a suggestion of being unsupported
and wrapper-clad. She carried a clinking silver chatelaine, however,
and at the door she opened it and took out a quarter, extending it
with a regal gesture to the elevator-man.
"Here, old sport," she said, "go and blow yourself to a drink. It's
Such munificence appalled the ward.
Rosie was not alone. Behind her, uncomfortable and sullen, was Al.
The ward, turning from the episode of the quarter, fixed on him
curious and hostile eyes; and Al, glancing around the ward from the
doorway, felt their hostility, and plucked Rosie's arm.
"Gee, Rose, I'm not going in there," he said. But Rosie pulled him
in and presented him to the Nurse.
Behind the screen, Claribel, shut off from her view of the open
window, had taken to staring at the ceiling again.
When the singing came up the staircase from the chapel, she had
moaned and put her fingers in her ears.
"Well, I found him," said Rosie cheerfully. "Had the deuce of a time
locating him." And the Nurse, apprising in one glance his stocky
figure and heavy shoulders, his ill-at-ease arrogance, his weak, and
just now sullen but not bad-tempered face, smiled at him.
"We have a little girl here who will be glad to see you," she said,
and took him to the screen. "Just five minutes, and you must do the
Al hesitated between the visible antagonism of the ward and the
mystery of the white screen. A vision of Claribel as he had seen her
last, swollen with grief and despair, distorted of figure and
accusing of voice, held him back. A faint titter of derision went
through the room. He turned on Rosie's comfortable back a look of
black hate and fury. Then the Nurse gave him a gentle shove, and he
was looking at Claribel--a white, Madonna-faced Claribel, lying now
with closed eyes, her long lashes sweeping her cheek.
The girl did not open her eyes at his entrance. He put his hat
awkwardly on the foot of the bed, and, tiptoeing around, sat on the
edge of the stiff chair.
"Well, how are you, kid?" he asked, with affected ease.
She opened her eyes and stared at him. Then she made a little clutch
at her throat, as if she were smothering.
"How did you--how did you know I was here?"
"Saw it in the paper, in the society column." She winced at that,
and some fleeting sense of what was fitting came to his aid. "How
are you?" he asked more gently. He had expected a flood of
reproaches, and he was magnanimous in his relief.
"I've been pretty bad; I'm better."
"Oh, you'll be around soon, and going to dances again. The Maginnis
Social Club's having a dance Saturday night in Mason's Hall."
The girl did not reply. She was wrestling with a problem that is as
old as the ages, although she did not know it--why this tragedy of
hers should not be his. She lay with her hands crossed quietly on
her breast and one of the loosened yellow braids was near his hand.
He picked it up and ran it through his fingers.
"Hasn't hurt your looks any," he said awkwardly. "You're looking
With a jerk of her head she pulled the braid out of his fingers.
"Don't," she said and fell to staring at the ceiling, where she had
written her problem.
"How's the--how's the kid?"--after a moment.
"I don't know--or care."
There was nothing strange to Al in this frame of mind. Neither did
he know or care.
"What are you goin' to do with it?"
Al considered this a moment. Things were bad enough now, without
Claribel murdering the child and making things worse.
"I wouldn't do that," he said soothingly. "You can put it somewhere,
can't you? Maybe Rosie'll know."
"I don't want it to live."
For the first time he realised her despair. She turned on him her
tormented eyes, and he quailed.
"I'll find a place for it, kid," he said. "It's mine, too. I guess
I'm it, all right."
"Yours!" She half rose on her elbow, weak as she was. "Yours! Didn't
you throw me over when you found I was going to have it? Yours! Did
you go through hell for twenty-four hours to bring it into the
world? I tell you, it's mine--mine! And I'll do what I want with it.
I'll kill it, and myself too!"
"You don't know what you're saying!"
She had dropped back, white and exhausted.
"Don't I?" she said, and fell silent.
Al felt defrauded, ill-treated. He had done the right thing; he had
come to see the girl, which wasn't customary in those circles where
Al lived and worked and had his being; he had acknowledged his
responsibility, and even--why, hang it all----
"Say the word and I'll marry you," he said magnanimously.
"I don't want to marry you."
He drew a breath of relief. Nothing could have been fairer than his
offer, and she had refused it. He wished Rosie had been there to
And just then Rosie came. She carried the baby, still faintly
odorous of violets, held tight in unaccustomed arms. She looked
awkward and conscious, but her amused smile at herself was half
"Hello, Claribel," she said. "How are you? Just look here, Al! What
do you think of this?"
Al got up sheepishly and looked at the child.
"Boy or girl?" he asked politely.
"Girl; but it's the living image of you," said Rose--for Rose and
the Nurse were alike in the wiles of the serpent.
"Looks like me!" Al observed caustically. "Looks like an over-ripe
But he drew himself up a trifle. Somewhere in his young and
hardened soul the germs of parental pride, astutely sowed, had taken
"Feel how heavy she is," Rose commanded. And Al held out two arms
unaccustomed to such tender offices.
"Heavy! She's about as big as a peanut."
"Mind her back," said Rose, remembering instructions.
After her first glance Claribel had not looked at the child. But
now, in its father's arms, it began to whimper. The mother stirred
uneasily, and frowned.
"Take it away!" she ordered. "I told them not to bring it here."
The child cried louder. Its tiny red face, under the powder, turned
purple. It beat the air with its fists. Al, still holding it in his
outstretched arms, began vague motions to comfort it, swinging it up
and down and across. But it cried on, drawing up its tiny knees in
spasms of distress. Claribel put her fingers in her ears.
"You'll have to feed it!" Rose shouted over the din.
The girl comprehended without hearing, and shook her head in sullen
"What do you think of that for noise?" said Al, not without pride.
"She's like me, all right. When I'm hungry, there's hell to pay if
I'm not fed quick. Here,"--he bent down over Claribel,--"you might
as well have dinner now, and stop the row."
Not ungently, he placed the squirming mass in the baptismal dress
beside the girl on the bed. With the instinct of ages, the baby
stopped wailing and opened her mouth.
"The little cuss!" cried Al, delighted. "Ain't that me all over?
Little angel-face the minute I get to the table!"
Unresisting now, Claribel let Rose uncover her firm white breast.
The mother's arm, passively extended by Rose to receive the small
body, contracted around it unconsciously.
She turned and looked long at the nuzzling, eager mouth, at the red
hand lying trustfully open on her breast, at the wrinkled face, the
indeterminate nose, the throbbing fontanelle where the little life
was already beating so hard.
"A girl, Rose!" she said. "My God, what am I going to do with her?"
Rose was not listening. The Junior Medical's turn had come at last.
Downstairs in the chapel, he was standing by the organ, his head
thrown back, his heavy brown hair (which would never stay parted
without the persuasion of brilliantine) bristling with earnestness.
"_O'er all the way, green palms and blossoms gay_,"
he sang, and his clear tenor came welling up the staircase to Liz,
and past her to the ward, and to the group behind the screen.
"_Are strewn this day in festal preparation,
Where Jesus comes to wipe our tears away--
E'en now the throng to welcome Him prepare._"
On the throne-chair by the record-table, the Nurse sat and listened.
And because it was Easter and she was very happy and because of the
thrill in the tenor voice that came up the stairs to her, and
because of the page in the order-book about bran baths and the rest
of it, she cried a little, surreptitiously, and let the tears drop
down on a yellow hospital record.
The song was almost done. Liz, on the stairs, had fed her baby
twenty minutes too soon, and now it lay, sleeping and sated, in her
lap. Liz sat there, brooding over it, and the last line of the song
came up the staircase.
"_Blessed is He who comes bringing sal-va-a-a-ation!_"
the Junior Medical sang.
The services were over. Downstairs the small crowd dispersed slowly.
The minister shook hands with the nurses at the door, and the Junior
Medical rolled up his song and wondered how soon he could make
rounds upstairs again.
Liz got up, with her baby in her arms, and padded in to the
throne-chair by the record-table.
"He can sing some, can't he!" she said.
"He has a beautiful voice." The Nurse's eyes were shining.
Liz moved off. Then she turned and came back.
"I--I know you'll tell me I'm a fool," she said; "but I've decided
to keep the kid, this time. I guess I'll make out, somehow."
Behind the screen, Rosie had lighted a cigarette and was smoking,
sublimely unconscious of the blue smoke swirl that rose in telltale
clouds high above her head. The baby had dropped asleep, and
Claribel lay still. But her eyes were not on the ceiling; they were
on the child.
Al leaned forward and put his lips to the arm that circled the baby.
"I'm sorry, kid," he said. "I guess it was the limit, all right. Do
you hate me?"
She looked at him, and the hardness and defiance died out of her
eyes. She shook her head.
"Do you--still--like me a little?"
"Yes," in a whisper.
"Then what's the matter with you and me and the little mutt getting
married and starting all over--eh?"
He leaned over and buried his face with a caressing movement in the
hollow of her neck.
Rose extinguished her cigarette on the foot of the bed, and, careful
of appearances, put the butt in her chatelaine.
"I guess you two don't need me any more," she said yawning. "I'm
going back home to bed."
"ARE WE DOWNHEARTED? NO!"
There are certain people who will never understand this story,
people who live their lives by rule of thumb. Little lives they are,
too, measured by the letter and not the spirit. Quite simple too.
Right is right and wrong is wrong.
That shadowy No Man's Land between the trenches of virtue and sin,
where most of us fight our battles and are wounded, and even die,
does not exist for them.
The boy in this story belonged to that class. Even if he reads it he
may not recognise it. But he will not read it or have it read to
him. He will even be somewhat fretful if it comes his way.
"If that's one of those problem things," he will say, "I don't want
to hear it. I don't see why nobody writes adventure any more."
Right is right and wrong is wrong. Seven words for a creed, and all
of life to live!
This is not a war story. But it deals, as must anything that
represents life in this year of our Lord of Peace, with war. With
war in its human relations. Not with guns and trenches, but with
men and women, with a boy and a girl.
For only in the mass is war vast. To the man in the trench it
reduces itself to the man on his right, the man on his left, the man
across, beyond the barbed wire, and a woman.
The boy was a Canadian. He was twenty-two and not very tall. His
name in this story is Cecil Hamilton. He had won two medals for
life-saving, each in a leather case. He had saved people from
drowning. When he went abroad to fight he took the medals along. Not
to show. But he felt that the time might come when he would not be
sure of himself. A good many men on the way to war have felt that
way. The body has a way of turning craven, in spite of high
resolves. It would be rather comforting, he felt, to have those
medals somewhere about him at that time. He never looked at them
without a proud little intake of breath and a certain swelling of
On the steamer he found that a medal for running had slipped into
one of the cases. He rather chuckled over that. He had a sense of
humour, in spite of his seven-word creed. And a bit of superstition,
for that night, at dusk, he went out on to the darkened deck and
flung it overboard.
The steamer had picked him up at Halifax--a cold dawn, with a few
pinched faces looking over the rail. Forgive him if he swaggered up
the gangway. He was twenty-two, he was a lieutenant, and he was a
The girl in the story saw him then. She was up and about, in a short
sport suit, with a white tam-o'-shanter on her head and a white
woolen scarf tucked round her neck. Under her belted coat she wore a
middy blouse, and when she saw Lieutenant Cecil Hamilton, with
his eager eyes--not unlike her own, his eyes were young and
inquiring--she reached into a pocket of the blouse and dabbed her
lips with a small stick of cold cream.
Cold air has a way of drying lips.
He caught her at it, and she smiled. It was all over for him then,
Afterward, when he was in the trenches, he wondered about that. He
called it "Kismet" to himself. It was really a compound, that first
day or two, of homesickness and a little furtive stirring of anxiety
and the thrill of new adventure that was in his blood.
On the second afternoon out they had tea together, she in her
steamer chair and he calmly settled next to her, in a chair
belonging to an irritated English lawyer. Afterward he went down to
his cabin, hung round with his new equipment, and put away the
photograph of a very nice Toronto girl, which had been propped up
back of his hairbrushes.
They got rather well acquainted that first day.
"You know," he said, with his cup in one hand and a rather stale
cake in the other, "it's awfully bully of you to be so nice to me."
She let that go. She was looking, as a matter of fact, after a tall
man with heavily fringed eyes and English clothes, who had just gone
"You know," he confided--he frequently prefaced his speeches with
that--"I was horribly lonely when I came up the gangway. Then I saw
you, and you were smiling. It did me a lot of good."
"I suppose I really should not have smiled." She came back to him
with rather an effort. "But you caught me, you know. It wasn't
rouge. It was cold cream. I'll show you."
She unbuttoned her jacket, against his protest, and held out the
little stick. He took it and looked at it.
"You don't need even this," he said rather severely. He disapproved
of cosmetics. "You have a lovely mouth."
"It's rather large. Don't you think so?"
"It's exactly right."
He was young, and as yet more interested in himself than in anything
in the world. So he sat there and told her who he was, and what he
hoped to do and, rather to his own astonishment, about the medals.
"How very brave you are!" she said.
That made him anxious. He hoped she did not think he was swanking.
It was only that he did not make friends easily, and when he did
meet somebody he liked he was apt to forget and talk too much about
himself. He was so afraid that he gulped down his tepid tea in a
hurry and muttered something about letters to write, and got himself
away. The girl stared after him with a pucker between her eyebrows.
And the tall man came and took the place he vacated.
Things were worrying the girl--whose name, by the way, was Edith. On
programs it was spelled "Edythe," but that was not her fault. Yes,
on programs--Edythe O'Hara. The business manager had suggested
deHara, but she had refused. Not that it mattered much. She had been
in the chorus. She had a little bit of a voice, rather sweet, and
she was divinely young and graceful.
In the chorus she would have remained, too, but for one of those
queer shifts that alter lives. A girl who did a song and an
eccentric dance had wrenched her knee, and Edith had gone on in her
place. Something of her tomboy youth remained in her, and for a few
minutes, as she frolicked over the stage, she was a youngster,
dancing to her shadow.
She had not brought down the house, but a man with heavily fringed
eyes, who watched her from the wings, made a note of her name. He
was in America for music-hall material for England, and he was
shrewd after the manner of his kind. Here was a girl who frolicked
on the stage. The English, accustomed to either sensuous or sedate
dancing, would fall hard for her, he decided. Either that, or she
would go "bla." She was a hit or nothing.
And that, in so many words, he told her that afternoon.
"Feeling all right?" he asked her.
"Better than this morning. The wind's gone down, hasn't it?"
He did not answer her. He sat on the side of the chair and looked
"You want to keep well," he warned her. "The whole key to your doing
anything is vitality. That's the word--Life."
She smiled. It seemed so easy. Life? She was full-fed with the joy
of it. Even as she sat, her active feet in their high-heeled shoes
were aching to be astir.
"Working in the gymnasium?" he demanded.
"Two hours a day, morning and evening. Feel."
She held out her arm to him, and he felt its small, rounded muscle,
with a smile. But his heavily fringed eyes were on her face, and he
kept his hold until she shook it off.
"Who's the soldier boy?" he asked suddenly.
"Lieutenant Hamilton. He's rather nice. Don't you think so?"
"He'll do to play with on the trip. You'll soon lose him in London."
The winter darkness closed down round them. Stewards were busy
closing ports and windows with fitted cardboards. Through the night
the ship would travel over the dangerous lanes of the sea with only
her small port and starboard lights. A sense of exhilaration
possessed Edith. This hurling forward over black water, this sense
of danger, visualised by precautions, this going to something new
and strange, set every nerve to jumping. She threw back her rug, and
getting up went to the rail. Lethway, the manager, followed her.
"Nervous, aren't you?"
"Not frightened, anyhow."
It was then that he told her how he had sized the situation up. She
was a hit or nothing.
"If you go all right," he said, "you can have the town. London's for
you or against you, especially if you're an American. If you go
She had not thought of that. What would she do then? Her salary was
not to begin until the performances started. Her fare and expenses
across were paid, but how about getting back? Even at the best her
salary was small. That had been one of her attractions to Lethway.
"I'll have to go home, of course," she said. "If they don't like me,
and decide in a hurry, I--I may have to borrow money from you to get
"Don't worry about that." He put a hand over hers as it lay on the
rail, and when she made no effort to release it he bent down and
kissed her warm fingers. "Don't you worry about that," he repeated.
She did worry, however. Down in her cabin, not so tidy as the
boy's--littered with her curiously anomalous belongings, a great
bunch of violets in the wash bowl, a cheap toilet set, elaborate
high-heeled shoes, and a plain muslin nightgown hanging to the
door--down there she opened her trunk and got out her contract.
There was nothing in it about getting back home.
For a few minutes she was panicky. Her hands shook as she put the
document away. She knew life with all the lack of illusion of two
years in the chorus. Even Lethway--not that she minded his casual
caress on the deck. She had seen a lot of that. It meant nothing.
Stage directors either bawled you out or petted you. That was part
of the business.
But to-night, all day indeed, there had been something in Lethway's
face that worried her. And there were other things.
The women on the boat replied coldly to her friendly advances. She
had spoken to a nice girl, her own age or thereabouts, and the
girl's mother or aunt or chaperon, whoever it was, had taken her
away. It had puzzled her at the time. Now she knew. The crowd that
had seen her off, from the Pretty Coquette Company--that had queered
her, she decided. That and Lethway.
None of the girls had thought it odd that she should cross the ocean
with Lethway. They had been envious, as a matter of fact. They had
brought her gifts, the queer little sachets and fruit and boxes of
candy that littered the room. In that half hour before sailing they
had chattered about her, chorus unmistakably, from their smart,
cheap little hats to their short skirts and fancy shoes. Her
roommate, Mabel, had been the only one she had hated to leave. And
Mabel had queered her, too, with her short-bobbed yellow hair.
She did a reckless thing that night, out of pure defiance. It was a
winter voyage in wartime. The night before the women had gone down,
sedately dressed, to dinner. The girl she had tried to speak to had
worn a sweater. So Edith dressed for dinner.
She whitened her neck and arms with liquid powder, and slicked up
her brown hair daringly smooth and flat. Then she put on her one
evening dress, a black net, and pinned on her violets. She rouged
her lips a bit too.
The boy, meeting her on the companionway, gasped.
That night he asked permission to move over to her table, and after
that the three of them ate together, Lethway watching and saying
little, the other two chattering. They were very gay. They gambled
to the extent of a quarter each, on the number of fronds, or
whatever they are, in the top of a pineapple that Cecil ordered in,
and she won. It was delightful to gamble, she declared, and put the
fifty cents into a smoking-room pool.
The boy was clearly infatuated. She looked like a debutante, and,
knowing it, acted the part. It was not acting really. Life had only
touched her so far, and had left no mark. When Lethway lounged away
to an evening's bridge Cecil fetched his military cape and they went
"I'm afraid it's rather lonely for you," he said. "It's always like
this the first day or two. Then the women warm up and get friendly."
"I don't want to know them. They are a stupid-looking lot. Did you
ever see such clothes?"
"You are the only person who looks like a lady to-night," he
observed. "You look lovely. I hope you don't mind my saying it?"
She was a downright young person, after all. And there was something
about the boy that compelled candour. So, although she gathered
after a time that he did not approve of chorus girls, was even
rather skeptical about them and believed that the stage should be an
uplifting influence, she told him about herself that night.
It was a blow. He rallied gallantly, but she could see him
straggling to gain this new point of view.
"Anyhow," he said at last, "you're not like the others." Then
hastily: "I don't mean to offend you when I say that, you know. Only
one can tell, to look at you, that you are different." He thought
that sounded rather boyish, and remembered that he was going to the
war, and was, or would soon be, a fighting man. "I've known a lot of
girls," he added rather loftily. "All sorts of girls."
It was the next night that Lethway kissed her. He had left her alone
most of the day, and by sheer gravitation of loneliness she and the
boy drifted together. All day long they ranged the ship, watched a
boxing match in the steerage, fed bread to the hovering gulls from
the stern. They told each other many things. There had been a man in
the company who had wanted to marry her, but she intended to have a
career. Anyhow, she would not marry unless she loved a person very
He eyed her wistfully when she said that.
At dusk he told her about the girl in Toronto.
"It wasn't an engagement, you understand. But we've been awfully
good friends. She came to see me off. It was rather awful. She
cried. She had some sort of silly idea that I'll get hurt."
It was her turn to look wistful. Oh, they were getting on! When he
went to ask the steward to bring tea to the corner they had found,
she looked after him. She had been so busy with her own worries that
she had not thought much of the significance of his neatly belted
khaki. Suddenly it hurt her. He was going to war.
She knew little about the war, except from the pictures in
illustrated magazines. Once or twice she had tried to talk about it
with Mabel, but Mabel had only said, "It's fierce!" and changed the
The uniforms scattered over the ship and the precautions taken at
night, however, were bringing this thing called war very close to
her. It was just beyond that horizon toward which they were heading.
And even then it was brought nearer to her.
Under cover of the dusk the girl she had tried to approach came up
and stood beside her. Edith was very distant with her.
"The nights make me nervous," the girl said. "In the daylight it is
not so bad. But these darkened windows bring it all home to me--the
war, you know."
"I guess it's pretty bad."
"It's bad enough. My brother has been wounded. I am going to him."
Even above the sound of the water Edith caught the thrill in her
voice. It was a new tone to her, the exaltation of sacrifice.
"I'm sorry," she said. And some subconscious memory of Mabel made
her say: "It's fierce!"
The girl looked at her.
"That young officer you're with, he's going, of course. He seems
very young. My brother was older. Thirty."
"He has such nice eyes," said the girl. "I wish----"
But he was coming back, and she slipped away.
During tea Cecil caught her eyes on him more than once. He had taken
off his stiff-crowned cap, and the wind blew his dark hair round.
"I wish you were not going to the war," she said unexpectedly. It
had come home to her, all at once, the potentialities of that trim
uniform. It made her a little sick.
"It's nice of you to say that."
There was a new mood on her, of confession, almost of consecration.
He asked her if he might smoke. No one in her brief life had ever
before asked her permission to smoke.
"I'll have to smoke all I can," he said. "The fellows say cigarettes
are scarce in the trenches. I'm taking a lot over."
He knew a girl who smoked cigarettes, he said. She was a nice girl
too. He couldn't understand it. The way he felt about it, maybe
a cigarette for a girl wasn't a crime. But it led to other
things--drinking, you know, and all that.
"The fellows don't respect a girl that smokes," he said. "That's the
plain truth. I've talked to her a lot about it."
"It wasn't your friend in Toronto, was it?"
"Good heavens, no!" He repudiated the idea with horror.
It was the girl who had to readjust her ideas of life that day. She
had been born and raised in that neutral ground between the lines of
right and wrong, and now suddenly her position was attacked and she
must choose sides. She chose.
"I've smoked a cigarette now and then. If you think it is wrong I'll
not do it any more."
He was almost overcome, both at the confession and at her
renunciation. To tell the truth, among the older Canadian officers
he had felt rather a boy. Her promise reinstated him in his own
esteem. He was a man, and a girl was offering to give something up
if he wished it. It helped a lot.
That evening he laid out his entire equipment in his small cabin,
and invited her to see it. He put his mother's picture behind his
brushes, where the other one had been, and when all was ready he
rang for a stewardess.
"I am going to show a young lady some of my stuff," he explained.
"And as she is alone I wish you'd stay round, will you? I want her
to feel perfectly comfortable."
The stewardess agreed, and as she was an elderly woman, with a son
at the front, a boy like Cecil, she went back to her close little
room over the engines and cried a little, very quietly.
It was unfortunate that he did not explain the presence of the
stewardess to the girl. For when it was all over, and she had stood
rather awed before his mother's picture, and rather to his surprise
had smoothed her hair with one of his brushes, she turned to him
outside the door.
"That stewardess has a lot of nerve," she said. "The idea of
standing in the doorway, rubbering!"
"I asked her," he explained. "I thought you'd prefer having some one
She stared at him.
Lethway had won the ship's pool that day. In the evening he played
bridge, and won again. He had been drinking a little. Not much, but
enough to make him reckless.
For the last rubber or two the thought of Edith had obsessed him,
her hand on the rail as he had kissed it, her cool eyes that were at
once so wise and so ignorant, her lithe body in the short skirt and
middy blouse. He found her more alluring, so attired, than she had
been in the scant costume of what to him was always "the show."
He pondered on that during all of a dummy hand, sitting low in his
chair with his feet thrust far under the table. The show business
was going to the bad. Why? Because nobody connected with it knew
anything about human nature. He formulated a plan, compounded of
liquor and real business acumen, of dressing a chorus, of suggesting
the feminine form instead of showing it, of veiling it in chiffons
of soft colours and sending a draft of air from electric fans in the
wings to set the chiffons in motion.
"Like the Aurora," he said to himself. "Only not so beefy. Ought to
be a hit. Pretty? It will be the real thing!"
The thought of Edith in such a costume, playing like a dryad over
the stage, stayed with him when the dummy hand had been played and
he had been recalled to the game by a thump on the shoulder. Edith
in soft, pastel-coloured chiffons, dancing in bare feet to light
string music. A forest setting, of course. Pan. A goat or two. All
that sort of thing.
On his way down to his cabin he passed her door. He went on,
hesitated, came back and knocked.
Now Edith had not been able to sleep. Her thrifty soul, trained
against waste, had urged her not to fling her cigarettes overboard,
but to smoke them.
"And then never again," she said solemnly.
The result was that she could not get to sleep. Blanketed to the
chin she lay in her bunk, reading. The book had been Mabel's
farewell offering, a thing of perverted ideals, or none, of cheap
sentiment, of erotic thought overlaid with words. The immediate
result of it, when she yawned at last and turned out the light over
her bed, was a new light on the boy.
"Little prig!" she said to herself, and stretched her round arms
luxuriously above her head.
Then Lethway rapped. She sat up and listened. Then, grumbling, she
got out and opened the door an inch or two. The lights were low
outside and her own cabin dark. But she knew him.
"Are we chased?" she demanded. In the back of her mind, fear of
pursuit by a German submarine was dogging her across the Atlantic.
"Sure we are!" he said. "What are you so stingy about the door for?"
She recognised his condition out of a not inconsiderable experience
and did her best to force the door shut, but he put his foot over
the sill and smiled.
"Please go away, Mr. Lethway."
"I'll go if you'll kiss me good night."
She calculated the situation, and surrendered. There was nothing
else to do. But when she upturned her face he slipped past her and
into the room. Just inside the door, swinging open and shut with
every roll of the ship, he took her in his arms and kissed her, not
once but many times.
She did not lose her head. She had an arm free and she rang the
bell. Then she jerked herself loose.
"I have rung for the stewardess," she said furiously. "If you are
here when she comes I'll ask for help."
"You young devil!" was all he said, and went, slamming the door
behind him. His rage grew as he reached his own cabin. Damn the
girl, anyhow! He had not meant anything. Here he was, spending money
he might never get back to give her a chance, and she called the
stewardess because he kissed her!
As for the girl, she went back to bed. For a few moments sheer rage
kept her awake. Then youth and fatigue triumphed and she fell
asleep. Her last thought was of the boy, after all. "He wouldn't do
a thing like that," she reflected. "He's a gentleman. He's the real
Her eyes closed.
Lethway apologised the next day, apologised with an excess of manner
that somehow made the apology as much of an insult as the act. But
she matched him at that game--took her cue from him, even went him
one better as to manner. When he left her he had begun to feel that
she was no unworthy antagonist. The game would be interesting. And
she had the advantage, if she only knew it. Back of his desire to
get back at her, back of his mocking smile and half-closed eyes, he
was just a trifle mad about her since the night before.
That is the way things stood when they reached the Mersey. Cecil was
in love with the girl. Very earnestly in love. He did not sleep at
night for thinking about her. He remembered certain semi-harmless
escapades of his college days, and called himself unworthy and
various other things. He scourged himself by leaving her alone in
her steamer chair and walking by at stated intervals. Once, in a
white sweater over a running shirt, he went to the gymnasium and
found her there. She had on a "gym" suit of baggy bloomers and the
usual blouse. He backed away from the door hastily.
At first he was jealous of Lethway. Then that passed. She confided
to him that she did not like the manager. After that he was sorry
for him. He was sorry for any one she did not like. He bothered
Lethway by walking the deck with him and looking at him with what
Lethway refused to think was compassion.
But because, contrary to the boy's belief, none of us is quite good
or quite evil, he was kind to the boy. The khaki stood for something
which no Englishman could ignore.
"Poor little devil!" he said on the last day in the smoking room,
"he's going to a bad time, all right. I was in Africa for eight
years. Boer war and the rest of it. Got run through the thigh in a
native uprising, and they won't have me now. But Africa was cheery
to this war."
He asked the boy into the smoking room, which he had hitherto
avoided. He had some queer idea that he did not care to take his
uniform in there. Absurd, of course. It made him rather lonely in
the hours Edith spent in her cabin, preparing variations of costume
for the evening out of her small trunk. But he was all man, and he
liked the society of men; so he went at last, with Lethway, and
He had not allowed himself to think much beyond the end of the
voyage. As the ship advanced, war seemed to slip beyond the edge of
his horizon. Even at night, as he lay and tossed, his thoughts were
either of the next day, when he would see Edith again, or of that
indefinite future when he would return, covered with honors, and go
to her, wherever she was.
He never doubted the honors now. He had something to fight for. The
medals in their cases looked paltry to him, compared with what was
coming. In his sleep he dreamed of the V.C., dreams he was too
modest to put into thoughts in waking hours.
Then they reached the Mersey. On the last evening of the voyage he
and Edith stood on the upper deck. It was a zone of danger. From
each side of the narrowing river flashlights skimmed the surface of
the water, playing round but never on the darkened ship. Red and
green lights blinked signals. Their progress was a devious one
through the mine-strewn channel. There was a heavy sea even there,
and the small lights on the mast on the pilot boat, as it came to a
stop, described great arcs that seemed, first to starboard, then to
port, to touch the very tips of the waves.
"I'm not crazy about this," the girl said, as the wind tugged at her
skirts. "It frightens me. Brings the war pretty close, doesn't it?"
Emotion swelled his heart and made him husky--love and patriotism,
pride and hope, and a hot burst of courage.
"What if we strike a mine?" she asked.
"I wouldn't care so much. It would give me a chance to save you."
Overhead they were signalling the shore with a white light. Along
with the new emotions that were choking him came an unaccustomed
impulse of boastfulness.
"I can read that," he said when she ignored his offer to save her.
"Of course it's code, but I can spell it out."
He made a move to step forward and watch the signaler, but she put
her hand on his arm.
"Don't go. I'm nervous, Cecil," she said.
She had called him by his first name. It shook him profoundly, that
and the touch of her hand on his arm.
"Oh, I love you, love you!" he said hoarsely. But he did not try to
take her in his arms, or attempt to caress the hand that still clung
to him. He stood very erect, looking at the shadowy outline of her.
Then, her long scarf blowing toward him, he took the end of it and
kissed that very gravely.
"I would die for you," he said.
Then Lethway joined them.
London was not kind to him. He had felt, like many Canadians, that
in going to England he was going home. But England was cold.
Not the people on the streets. They liked the Canadians and they
cheered them when their own regiments went by unhailed. It appealed
to their rampant patriotism that these men had come from across the
sea to join hands with them against common foe. But in the clubs,
where his letters admitted the boy, there was a different
atmosphere. Young British officers were either cool or, much worse,
patronising. They were inclined to suspect that his quiet confidence
was swanking. One day at luncheon he drank a glass of wine, not
because he wanted it but because he did not like to refuse. The
result was unfortunate. It loosened his tongue a bit, and he
mentioned the medals.
Not noisily, of course. In an offhand manner, to his next neighbor.
It went round the table, and a sort of icy silence, after that,
greeted his small sallies. He never knew what the trouble was, but
his heart was heavy in him.
And it rained.
It was always raining. He had very little money beyond his pay, and
the constant hiring of taxicabs worried him. Now and then he saw
some one he knew, down from Salisbury for a holiday, but they had
been over long enough to know their way about. They had engagements,
things to buy. He fairly ate his heart out in sheer loneliness.
There were two hours in the day that redeemed the others. One was
the hour late in the afternoon when, rehearsal over, he took Edith
O'Hara to tea. The other was just before he went to bed, when he
wrote her the small note that reached her every morning with her
In the seven days before he joined his regiment at Salisbury he
wrote her seven notes. They were candid, boyish scrawls, not love
letters at all. This was one of them:
_Dear Edith_: I have put in a rotten evening and am just
going to bed. I am rather worried because you looked so
tired to-day. Please don't work too hard.
I am only writing to say how I look forward each night to
seeing you the next day. I am sending with this a small
bunch of lilies of the valley. They remind me of you.
The girl saved those letters. She was not in love with him, but he
gave her something no one else had ever offered: a chivalrous
respect that pleased as well as puzzled her.
Once in a tea shop he voiced his creed, as it pertained to her, over
a plate of muffins.
"When we are both back home, Edith," he said, "I am going to ask you
"Why not now?"
"Because it wouldn't be quite fair to you. I--I may be killed, or
something. That's one thing. Then, it's because of your people."
That rather stunned her. She had no people. She was going to tell
him that, but she decided not to. She felt quite sure that he
considered "people" essential, and though she felt that, for any
long period of time, these queer ideas and scruples of his would be
difficult to live up to, she intended to do it for that one week.
"Oh, all right," she said, meekly enough.
She felt very tender toward him after that, and her new gentleness
made it all hard for him. She caught him looking at her wistfully at
times, and it seemed to her that he was not looking well. His eyes
were hollow, his face thin. She put her hand over his as it lay on
"Look here," she said, "you look half sick, or worried, or
something. Stop telling me to take care of myself, and look after
yourself a little better."
"I'm all right," he replied. Then soon after: "Everything's strange.
That's the trouble," he confessed. "It's only in little things that
don't matter, but a fellow feels such a duffer."
On the last night he took her to dinner--a small French restaurant
in a back street in Soho. He had heard about it somewhere. Edith
classed it as soon as she entered. It was too retiring, too demure.
Its very location was clandestine.
But he never knew. He was divided that night between joy at getting
to his regiment and grief at leaving her. Rather self-engrossed, she
They had a table by an open grate fire, with a screen "to shut off
the draft," the waiter said. It gave the modest meal a delightfully
homey air, their isolation and the bright coal fire. For the first
time they learned the joys of mussels boiled in milk, of French
_soufflé_ and other things.
At the end of the evening he took her back to her cheap hotel in a
taxicab. She expected him to kiss her. Her experience of taxicabs
had been like that. But he did not. He said very little on the way
home, but sat well back and eyed her wistful eyes. She chattered to
cover his silence--of rehearsals, of--with reservations--of Lethway,
of the anticipated London opening. She felt very sad herself. He had
been a tie to America, and he had been much more than that. Though
she did not realise it, he had had a profound effect on her. In
trying to seem what he thought her she was becoming what he thought
her. Her old reckless attitude toward life was gone, or was going.
The day before she had refused an invitation to a night club, and
called herself a fool for doing it. But she had refused.
Not that he had performed miracles with her. She was still frankly a
dweller on the neutral ground. But to that instinct that had kept
her up to that time what she would have called "straight" had been
added a new refinement. She was no longer the reckless and romping
girl whose abandon had caught Lethway's eye.
She had gained a soul, perhaps, and lost a livelihood.
When they reached the hotel he got out and went in with her. The
hall porter was watching and she held out her hand. But he shook his
"If I touched your hand," he said, "I would have to take you in my
arms. Good-bye, dear."
"Good-bye," she said. There were tears in her eyes. It was through a
mist that she saw him, as the elevator went up, standing at salute,
his eyes following her until she disappeared from sight.
Things were going wrong with Lethway. The management was ragging
him, for one thing.
"Give the girl time," he said almost viciously, at the end of a
particularly bad rehearsal. "She's had a long voyage and she's
tired. Besides," he added, "these acts never do go at rehearsal.
Give me a good house at the opening and she'll show you what she can
But in his soul he was worried. There was a change in Edith O'Hara.
Even her voice had altered. It was not only her manner to him. That
was marked enough, but he only shrugged his shoulders over it. Time
enough for that when the production was on.
He had engaged a hoyden, and she was by way of becoming a lady.
During the first week or so he had hoped that it was only the
strangeness of her surroundings. He had been shrewd enough to lay
some of it, however, to Cecil's influence.
"When your soldier boy gets out of the way," he sneered one day in
the wings, "perhaps you'll get down to earth and put some life in
But to his dismay she grew steadily worse. Her dancing was delicate,
accurate, even graceful, but the thing the British public likes to
think typically American, a sort of breezy swagger, was gone. To
bill her in her present state as the Madcap American would be sheer
Ten days before the opening he cabled for another girl to take her
He did not tell her. Better to let her work on, he decided. A German
submarine might sink the ship on which the other girl was coming,
and then where would they be?
Up to the last, however, he had hopes of Edith. Not that he cared to
save her. But he hated to acknowledge a failure. He disliked to
disavow his own judgment.
He made a final effort with her, took her one day to luncheon at
Simpson's, and in one of the pewlike compartments, over mutton and
caper sauce, he tried to "talk a little life into her."
"What the devil has come over you?" he demanded savagely. "You were
larky enough over in New York. There are any number of girls in
London who can do what you are doing now, and do it better."
"I'm doing just what I did in New York."
"The hell you are! I could do what you're doing with a jointed doll
and some wires. Now see here, Edith," he said, "either you put some
go into the thing, or you go. That's flat."
Her eyes filled.
"I--maybe I'm worried," she said. "Ever since I found out that I've
signed up, with no arrangement about sending me back, it's been on
"Don't you worry about that."
"But if they put some one on in my place?"
"You needn't worry about that either. I'll look after you. You know
that. If I hadn't been crazy about you I'd have let you go a week
ago. You know that too."
She knew the tone, knew instantly where she stood. Knew, too, that
she would not play the first night in London. She went rather white,
but she faced him coolly.
"Don't look like that," he said. "I'm only telling you that if you
need a friend I'll be there."
It was two days before the opening, however, when the blow fell. She
had not been sleeping, partly from anxiety about herself, partly
about the boy. Every paper she picked up was full of the horrors of
war. There were columns filled with the names of those who had
fallen. Somehow even his uniform had never closely connected the boy
with death in her mind. He seemed so young.
She had had a feeling that his very youth would keep him from
danger. War to her was a faintly conceived struggle between men, and
he was a boy.
But here were boys who had died, boys at nineteen. And the lists of
missing startled her. One morning she read in the personal column a
query, asking if any one could give the details of the death of a
young subaltern. She cried over that. In all her care-free life
never before had she wept over the griefs of others.
Cecil had sent her his photograph taken in his uniform. Because he
had had it taken to give her he had gazed directly into the eye of
the camera. When she looked at it it returned her glance. She took
to looking at it a great deal.
Two days before the opening she turned from a dispirited rehearsal
to see Mabel standing in the wings. Then she knew. The end had come.
Mabel was jaunty, but rather uneasy.
"You poor dear!" she said, when Edith went to her. "What on earth's
happened? The cable only said--honest, dearie, I feel like a dog!"
"They don't like me. That's all," she replied wearily, and picked
up her hat and jacket from a chair. But Mabel was curious.
Uncomfortable, too, as she had said. She slipped an arm round
"Say the word and I'll throw them down," she cried. "It looks like
dirty work to me. And you're thin. Honest, dearie, I mean it."
Her loyalty soothed the girl's sore spirit.
"I don't know what's come over me," she said. "I've tried hard
enough. But I'm always tired. I--I think it's being so close to the
Mabel stared at her. There was a war. She knew that. The theatrical
news was being crowded to a back page to make space for disagreeable
diagrams and strange, throaty names.
"I know. It's fierce, isn't it?" she said.
Edith took her home, and they talked far into the night. She had
slipped Cecil's picture into the wardrobe before she turned on the
light. Then she explained the situation.
"It's pep they want, is it?" said Mabel at last. "Well, believe me,
honey, I'll give it to them. And as long as I've got a cent it's
They slept together in Edith's narrow bed, two slim young figures
delicately flushed with sleep. As pathetic, had they known it, as
those other sleepers in their untidy billets across the channel.
Almost as hopeless too. Dwellers in the neutral ground.
Now war, after all, is to each fighting man an affair of small
numbers, an affair of the men to his right and his left, of the
A.M.S.C. in the rear and of a handful of men across. On his days of
rest the horizon is somewhat expanded. It becomes then a thing of
crowded and muddy village streets, of food and drink and tobacco and
a place to sleep.
Always, of course, it is a thing of noises.
This is not a narrative of war. It matters very little, for
instance, how Cecil's regiment left Salisbury and went to Soissons,
in France. What really matters is that at last the Canadian-made
motor lorries moved up their equipment, and that, after digging
practice trenches in the yellow clay of old battlefields, they were
moved up to the front.
Once there, there seemed to be a great deal of time. It was the lull
before Neuve Chapelle. Cecil's spirit grew heavy with waiting. Once,
back on rest at his billet, he took a long walk over the half-frozen
side roads and came without warning on a main artery. Three traction
engines were taking to the front the first of the great British
guns, so long awaited. He took the news back to his mess. The
general verdict was that there would be something doing now.
Cecil wrote a letter to Edith that day. He had written before, of
course, but this was different. He wrote first to his mother, just
in case anything happened, a long, boyish letter with a misspelled
word here and there. He said he was very happy and very comfortable,
and that if he did get his he wanted her to know that it was all
perfectly cheerful and not anything like the war correspondents said
it was. He'd had a bully time all his life, thanks to her. He hadn't
let her know often enough how he felt about her, and she knew he was
a dub at writing. There were a great many things worse than "going
out" in a good fight. "It isn't at all as if you could see the
blooming thing coming," he wrote. "You never know it's after you
until you've got it, and then you don't."
The letter was not to be sent unless he was killed. So he put in a
few anecdotes to let her know exactly how happy and contented he
was. Then he dropped the whole thing in the ten inches of mud and
water he was standing in, and had to copy it all over.
To Edith he wrote a different sort of letter. He told her that he
loved her. "It's almost more adoration than love," he wrote, while
two men next to him were roaring over a filthy story. "I mean by
that, that I feel every hour of every day how far above me you are.
It's like one of these _fusées_ the Germans are always throwing up
over us at night. It's perfectly dark, and then something bright and
clear and like a star, only nearer, is overhead. Everything looks
different while it floats there. And so, my dear, my dear,
everything has been different to me since I knew you."
Rather boyish, all of it, but terribly earnest. He said he had
wanted to ask her to marry him, but that the way he felt about it, a
fellow had no right to ask a girl such a thing when he was going to
a war. If he came back he would ask her. And he would love her all
The next day, at dawn, he went out with eighty men to an outpost
that had been an abandoned farm. It was rather a forlorn hope. They
had one machine gun. At nine o'clock the enemy opened fire on them
and followed it by an attack. The major in charge went down early.
At two Cecil was standing in the loft of the farmhouse, firing with
a revolver on men who beneath him, outside, were placing dynamite
under a corner of the building.
To add to the general hopelessness, their own artillery, believing
them all dead, opened fire on the building. They moved their wounded
to the cellar and kept on fighting.
At eight o'clock that night Cecil's right arm was hanging helpless,
and the building was burning merrily. There were five of them left.
They fixed bayonets and charged the open door.
* * * * *
When the boy opened his eyes he was lying in six inches of manure in
a box car. One of his men was standing over him, keeping him from
being trampled on. There was no air and no water. The ammonia fumes
from the manure were stifling.
The car lurched and jolted along. Cecil opened his eyes now and
then, and at first he begged for water. When he found there was none
he lay still. The men hammered on the door and called for air. They
made frantic, useless rushes at the closed and barred door. Except
Cecil, all were standing. They were herded like cattle, and there
was no room to lie or sit.
He lay there, drugged by weakness. He felt quite sure that he was
dying, and death was not so bad. He voiced this feebly to the man
who stood over him.
"It's not so bad," he said.
"The hell it's not!" said the man.
For the time Edith was effaced from his mind. He remembered the
wounded men left in the cellar with the building burning over them.
That, and days at home, long before the war.
Once he said "Mother." The soldier who was now standing astride of
him, the better to keep off the crowding men, thought he was asking
for water again.
Thirty hours of that, and then air and a little water. Not enough
water. Not all the water in all the cool streams of the earth would
have slaked the thirst of his wound.
The boy was impassive. He was living in the past. One day he recited
at great length the story of his medals. No one listened.
And all the time his right arm lay or hung, as he was prone or
erect, a strange right arm that did not belong to him. It did not
even swell. When he touched it the fingers were cold and bluish. It
felt like a dead hand.
Then, at the end of it all, was a bed, and a woman's voice, and
The woman was large and elderly, and her eyes were very kind. She
stirred something in the boy that had been dead of pain.
"Edith!" he said.
Mabel had made a hit. Unconscious imitator that she was, she stole
Edith's former recklessness, and added to it something of her own
dash and verve. Lethway, standing in the wings, knew she was not and
never would be Edith. She was not fine enough. Edith at her best
had frolicked. Mabel romped, was almost wanton. He cut out the
string music at the final rehearsal. It did not fit.
On the opening night the brass notes of the orchestra blared and
shrieked. Mabel's bare feet flew, her loose hair, cut to her ears
and held only by a band over her forehead, kept time in ecstatic
little jerks. When at last she pulled off the fillet and bowed to
the applause, her thick short hair fell over her face as she jerked
her head forward. They liked that. It savoured of the abandoned. She
shook it back, and danced the encore without the fillet. With her
scant chiffons whirling about her knees, her loose hair, her girlish
body, she was the embodiment of young love, of its passion, its
Edith had been spring, palpitant with gladness.
Lethway, looking with tired eyes from the wings, knew that he had
made a commercial success. But back of his sordid methods there was
something of the soul of an artist. And this rebelled.
But he made a note to try flame-coloured chiffon for Mabel. Edith
was to have danced in the pale greens of a water nymph.
On the night of her triumph Mabel returned late to Edith's room,
where she was still quartered. She was moving the next day to a
small apartment. With the generosity of her class she had urged
Edith to join her, and Edith had perforce consented.
"How did it go?" Edith asked from the bed.
"Pretty well," said Mabel. "Nothing unusual."
She turned up the light, and from her radiant reflection in the
mirror Edith got the truth. She lay back with a dull, sickening
weight round her heart. Not that Mabel had won, but that she herself
"You're awfully late."
"I went to supper. Wish you'd been along, dearie. Terribly swell
club of some sort." Then her good resolution forgotten: "I made them
sit up and take notice, all right. Two invitations for supper
to-morrow night and more on the way. And when I saw I'd got the
house going to-night, and remembered what I was being paid for it,
it made me sick."
"It's better than nothing."
"Why don't you ask Lethway to take you on in the chorus? It would do
until you get something else."
"I have asked him. He won't do it."
Mabel was still standing in front of the mirror. She threw her head
forward so her short hair covered her face, and watched the effect
carefully. Then she came over and sat on the bed.
"He's a dirty dog," she said.
The two girls looked at each other. They knew every move in the game
of life, and Lethway's methods were familiar ones.
"What are you going to do about it?" Mabel demanded at last.
"Believe me, old dear, he's got a bad eye. Now listen here," she
said with impulsive generosity. "I've got a scheme. I'll draw enough
ahead to send you back. I'll do it to-morrow, while the drawing's
"And queer yourself at the start?" said Edith scornfully. "Talk
sense, Mabel, I'm up against it, but don't you worry. I'll get
But she did not get anything. She was reduced in the next week to
entire dependence on the other girl. And, even with such miracles of
management as they had both learned, it was increasingly difficult
to get along.
There was a new element too. Edith was incredulous at first, but at
last she faced it. There was a change in Mabel. She was not less
hospitable nor less generous. It was a matter of a point of view.
Success was going to her head. Her indignation at certain phases of
life was changing to tolerance. She found Edith's rampant virtue a
trifle wearing. She took to staying out very late, and coming in
ready to meet Edith's protest with defiant gaiety. She bought
"You'll have to pay for them sometime," Edith reminded her.
"I should worry. I've got to look like something if I'm going to go
out at all."
Edith, who had never thought things out before, had long hours to
think now. And the one thing that seemed clear and undeniable was
that she must not drive Mabel into debt. Debt was the curse of most
of the girls she knew. As long as they were on their own they could
manage. It was the burden of unpaid bills, lightly contracted, that
drove so many of them wrong.
That night, while Mabel was asleep, she got up and cautiously
lighted the gas. Then she took the boy's photograph out of its
hiding place and propped it on top of her trunk. For a long time she
sat there, her chin in her hands, and looked at it.
It was the next day that she saw his name among the missing.
She did not cry, not at first. The time came when it seemed to her
she did nothing else. But at first she only stared. She was too
young and too strong to faint, but things went gray for her.
And gray they remained--through long spring days and eternal
nights--days when Mabel slept all morning, rehearsed or played in
the afternoons, was away all evening and far into the night. She did
not eat or sleep. She spent money that was meant for food on papers
and journals and searched for news. She made a frantic but
ineffectual effort to get into the War Office.
She had received his letter two days after she had seen his name
among the missing. She had hardly dared to open it, but having read
it, for days she went round with a strange air of consecration that
left Mabel uneasy.
"I wish you wouldn't look like that!" she said one morning. "You get
on my nerves."
But as time went on the feeling that he was dead overcame everything
else. She despaired, rather than grieved. And following despair came
recklessness. He was dead. Nothing else mattered. Lethway, meeting
her one day in Oxford Circus, almost passed her before he knew her.
He stopped her then.
"Haven't been sick, have you?"
"There's something wrong."
She did not deny it and he fell into step beside her.
"Doing anything?" he asked.
She shook her head. With all the power that was in her she was
hating his tall figure, his heavy-lashed eyes, even the familiar
ulster he wore.
"I wish you were a sensible young person," he said. But something in
the glance she gave him forbade his going on. It was not an ugly
glance. Rather it was cold, appraising--even, if he had known it,
Lethway had been busy. She had been in the back of his mind rather
often, but other things had crowded her out. This new glimpse of her
fired him again, however. And she had a new quality that thrilled
even through the callus of his soul. The very thing that had
foredoomed her to failure in the theatre appealed to him strongly--a
refinement, a something he did not analyse.
When she was about to leave him he detained her with a hand on her
"You know you can always count on me, don't you?" he said.
"I know I can't," she flashed back at him with a return of her old
"I'm crazy about you."
"Old stuff!" she said coolly, and walked off. But there was a tug of
fear at her heart. She told Mabel, but it was typical of the change
that Mabel only shrugged her shoulders.
It was Lethway's shrewdness that led to his next move. He had tried
bullying, and failed. He had tried fear, with the same lack of
effect. Now he tried kindness.
She distrusted him at first, but her starved heart was crying out
for the very thing he offered her. As the weeks went on, with no
news of Cecil, she accepted his death stoically at last. Something
of her had died. But in a curious way the boy had put his mark on
her. And as she grew more like the thing he had thought her to be
the gulf between Mabel and herself widened. They had, at last, only
in common their room, their struggle, the contacts of their daily
And Lethway was now always in the background. He took her for quiet
meals and brought her home early. He promised her that sometime he
would see that she got back home.
"But not just yet," he added as her colour rose. "I'm selfish,
Edith. Give me a little time to be happy."
That was a new angle. It had been a part of the boy's quiet creed to
make others happy.
"Why don't you give me something to do, since you're so crazy to
have me hanging about?"
"Can't do it. I'm not the management. And they're sore at you. They
think you threw them down." He liked to air his American slang.
Edith cupped her chin in her hand and looked at him. There was no
mystery about the situation, no shyness in the eyes with which she
appraised him. She was beginning to like him too.
That night when she got back to Mabel's apartment her mood was
reckless. She went to the window and stood looking at the crooked
and chimney-potted skyline that was London.
"Oh, what's the use?" she said savagely, and gave up the fight.
When Mabel came home she told her.
"I'm going to get out," she said without preamble.
She caught the relief in Mabel's face, followed by a purely
"Although," she hedged cautiously, "I don't know, dearie. People
look at things sensibly these days. You've got to live, haven't you?
They're mighty quick to jail a girl who tries to jump in the river
when she's desperate."
"I'll probably end there. And I don't much care."
Mabel gave her a good talking to about that. Her early training had
been in a church which regarded self-destruction as a cardinal sin.
Then business acumen asserted itself:
"He'll probably put you on somewhere. He's crazy about you, Ede."
But Edith was not listening. She was standing in front of her opened
trunk tearing into small pieces something that had been lying in the
Now the boy had tried very hard to die, and failed. The thing that
had happened to him was an unbelievable thing. When he began to use
his tired faculties again, when the ward became not a shadow land
but a room, and the nurse not a presence but a woman, he tried
feebly to move his right arm.
But it was gone.
At first he refused to believe it. He could feel it lying there
beside him. It ached and throbbed. The fingers were cramped. But
when he looked it was not there.
There was not one shock of discovery, but many. For each time he
roused from sleep he had forgotten, and must learn the thing again.
The elderly German woman stayed close. She was wise, and war had
taught her many things. So when he opened his eyes she was always
there. She talked to him very often of his mother, and he listened
with his eyes on her face--eyes like those of a sick child.
In that manner they got by the first few days.
"It won't make any difference to her," he said once. "She'd take me
back if I was only a fragment." Then bitterly: "That's all I am--a
fragment! A part of a man!"
After a time she knew that there was a some one else, some one he
was definitely relinquishing. She dared not speak to him about it.
His young dignity was militant. But one night, as she dozed beside
him in the chair, he reached the limit of his repression and told
"An actress!" she cried, sitting bolt upright. "_Du lieber_--an
"Not an actress," he corrected her gravely. "A--a dancer. But good.
She's a very good girl. Even when I was--was whole"--raging
bitterness there--"I was not good enough for her."
"No actress is good. And dancers!"
"You don't know what you are talking about," he said roughly, and
turned his back to her. It was almost insulting to have her assist
him to his attitude of contempt, and to prop him in it with pillows
behind his back. Lying there he tried hard to remember that this
woman belonged to his hereditary foes. He was succeeding in hating
her when he felt her heavy hand on his head.
"Poor boy! Poor little one!" she said. And her voice was husky.
When at last he was moved from the hospital to the prison camp she
pinned the sleeve of his ragged uniform across his chest and kissed
him, to his great discomfiture. Then she went to the curtained
corner that was her quarters and wept long and silently.
The prison camp was overcrowded. Early morning and late evening
prisoners were lined up to be counted. There was a medley of
languages--French, English, Arabic, Russian. The barracks were built
round a muddy inclosure in which the men took what exercise they
One night a boy with a beautiful tenor voice sang Auld Lang Syne
under the boy's window. He stood with his hand on the cuff of his
empty sleeves and listened. And suddenly a great shame filled him,
that with so many gone forever, with men dying every minute of
every hour, back at the lines, he had been so obsessed with himself.
He was still bitter, but the bitterness was that he could not go
back again and fight.
When he had been in the camp a month he helped two British officers
to escape. One of them had snubbed him in London months before. He
apologised before he left.
"You're a man, Hamilton," he said. "All you Canadians are men. I've
some things to tell when I get home."
The boy could not go with them. There would be canals to swim
across, and there was his empty sleeve and weakness. He would never
swim again, he thought. That night, as he looked at the empty beds
of the men who had gone, he remembered his medals and smiled grimly.
He was learning to use his left hand. He wrote letters home with it
for soldiers who could not write. He went into the prison hospital
and wrote letters for those who would never go home. But he did not
write to the girl.
* * * * *
He went back at last, when the hopelessly wounded were exchanged. To
be branded "hopelessly wounded" was to him a stain, a stigma. It put
him among the clutterers of the earth. It stranded him on the shore
of life. Hopelessly wounded!
For, except what would never be whole, he was well again. True,
confinement and poor food had kept him weak and white. His legs had
a way of going shaky at nightfall. But once he knocked down an
insolent Russian with his left hand, and began to feel his own man
again. That the Russian was weak from starvation did not matter. The
point to the boy was that he had made the attempt.
Providence has a curious way of letting two lives run along, each
apparently independent of the other. Parallel lines they seem,
hopeless of meeting. Converging lines really, destined, through long
ages, by every deed that has been done to meet at a certain point
and there fuse.
Edith had left Mabel, but not to go to Lethway. When nothing else
remained that way was open. She no longer felt any horror--only a
great distaste. But two weeks found her at her limit. She, who had
rarely had more than just enough, now had nothing.
And no glory of sacrifice upheld her. She no longer believed that by
removing the burden of her support she could save Mabel. It was
clear that Mabel would not be saved. To go back and live on her,
under the circumstances, was but a degree removed from the other
thing that confronted her.
There is just a chance that, had she not known the boy, she would
have killed herself. But again the curious change he had worked in
her manifested itself. He thought suicide a wicked thing.
"I take it like this," he had said in his eager way: "life's a thing
that's given us for some purpose. Maybe the purpose gets
clouded--I'm afraid I'm an awful duffer at saying what I mean. But
we've got to work it out, do you see? Or--or the whole scheme is
It had seemed very clear then.
Then, on a day when the rare sun made even the rusty silk hats of
clerks on tops of omnibuses to gleam, when the traffic glittered on
the streets and the windows of silversmiths' shops shone painful to
the eye, she met Lethway again.
The sun had made her reckless. Since the boy was gone life was
wretchedness, but she clung to it. She had given up all hope of
Cecil's return, and what she became mattered to no one else.
Perhaps, more than anything else, she craved companionship. In
all her crowded young life she had never before been alone.
Companionship and kindness. She would have followed to heel, like
a dog, for a kind word.
Then she met Lethway. They walked through the park. When he left her
her once clear, careless glance had a suggestion of furtiveness in
That afternoon she packed her trunk and sent it to an address he
had given her. In her packing she came across the stick of cold
cream, still in the pocket of the middy blouse. She flung it, as
hard as she could, across the room.
She paid her bill with money Lethway had given her. She had exactly
a sixpence of her own. She found herself in Trafalgar Square late in
the afternoon. The great enlisting posters there caught her eye,
filled her with bitterness.
"Your king and your country need you," she read. She had needed the
boy, too, but this vast and impersonal thing, his mother country,
had taken him from her--taken him and lost him. She wanted to stand
by the poster and cry to the passing women to hold their men back.
As she now knew she hated Lethway, she hated England.
She wandered on. Near Charing Cross she spent the sixpence for a
bunch of lilies of the valley, because he had said once that she was
like them. Then she was for throwing them in the street, remembering
the thing she would soon be.
"For the wounded soldiers," said the flower girl. When she
comprehended that, she made her way into the station. There was a
great crowd, but something in her face made the crowd draw back and
let her through. They nudged each other as she passed.
"Looking for some one, poor child!" said a girl and, following her,
thrust the flowers she too carried into Edith's hand. She put them
with the others, rather dazed.
* * * * *
To Cecil the journey had been a series of tragedies. Not his own.
There were two hundred of them, officers and men, on the boat across
the Channel. Blind, maimed, paralysed, in motley garments, they were
hilariously happy. Every throb of the turbine engines was a thrust
toward home. They sang, they cheered.
Now and then some one would shout: "Are we downhearted?" And
crutches and canes would come down on the deck to the unanimous
Folkestone had been trying, with its parade of cheerfulness, with
kindly women on the platform serving tea and buns. In the railway
coach to London, where the officers sat, a talking machine played
steadily, and there were masses of flowers, violets and lilies of
the valley. At Charing Cross was a great mass of people, and as they
slowly disembarked he saw that many were crying. He was rather
surprised. He had known London as a cold and unemotional place. It
had treated him as an alien, had snubbed and ignored him.
He had been prepared to ask nothing of London, and it lay at his
feet in tears.
Then he saw Edith.
Perhaps, when in the fullness of years the boy goes over to the
life he so firmly believes awaits him, the one thing he will carry
with him through the open door will be the look in her eyes when she
saw him. Too precious a thing to lose, surely, even then. Such
things make heaven.
"What did I tell you?" cried the girl who had given Edith her
flowers. "She has found him. See, he has lost his arm. Look
But he did not faint. He went even whiter, and looking at Edith he
touched his empty sleeve.
"As if that would make any difference to her!" said the girl, who
was in black. "Look at her face! She's got him."
Neither Edith nor the boy could speak. He was afraid of unmanly
tears. His dignity was very dear to him. And the tragedy of his
empty sleeve had her by the throat. So they went out together and
the crowd opened to let them by.
* * * * *
At nine o'clock that night Lethway stormed through the stage
entrance of the theatre and knocked viciously at the door of Mabel's
dressing room. Receiving no attention, he opened the door and went
The room was full of flowers, and Mabel, ready to go on, was having
her pink toes rouged for her barefoot dance.
"You've got a nerve!" she said coolly.
"I don't know and I don't care. She ran away, when I was stinting
myself to keep her. I'm done. Now you go out and close that door,
and when you want to enter a lady's dressing room, knock."
He looked at her with blazing hatred.
"Right-o!" was all he said. And he turned and left her to her
At exactly the same time Edith was entering the elevator of a small,
very respectable hotel in Kensington. The boy, smiling, watched her
He did not kiss her, greatly to the disappointment of the hall
porter. As the elevator rose the boy stood at salute, the fingers of
his left hand to the brim of his shabby cap. In his eyes, as they
followed her, was all that there is of love--love and a new
She had told him, and now he knew. His creed was still the same.
Right was right and wrong was wrong. But he had learned of that
shadowy No Man's Land between the lines, where many there were who
fought their battles and were wounded, and even died.
As he turned and went out two men on crutches were passing along the
quiet street. They recognised him in the light of the doorway, and
stopped in front of him. Their voices rang out in cheerful unison:
"Are we downhearted? No!"
Their crutches struck the pavement with a resounding thump.
The Red Un was very red; even his freckles were red rather than
copper-coloured. And he was more prodigal than most kings, for he
had two crowns on his head. Also his hair grew in varying
directions, like a wheatfields after a storm. He wore a coat without
a tail, but with brass buttons to compensate, and a celluloid collar
with a front attached. It was the Red Un's habit to dress first and
wash after, as saving labour; instead of his neck he washed his
The Red Un was the Chief Engineer's boy and rather more impressive
than the Chief, who was apt to decry his own greatness. It was the
Red Un's duty to look after the Chief, carry in his meals, make his
bed, run errands, and remind him to get his hair cut now and then.
It was the Red Un's pleasure to assist unassumingly in the
surveillance of that part of the ship where the great god, Steam,
ruled an underworld of trimmers and oilers and stokers and assistant
engineers--and even, with reservations, the Chief. The Red Un kept a
sharp eye on the runs and read the Chief's log daily--so much coal
in the bunkers; so much water in the wells; so many engine-room
miles in twenty-four hours--which, of course, are not sea miles
exactly, there being currents and winds, and God knows what, to
waste steam on.
The Red Un, like the assistants, was becoming a bear on the speed
market. He had learned that, just when the engines get heated enough
to work like demons, and there is a chance to break a record and get
a letter from the management, some current or other will show up--or
a fog, which takes the very tripe out of the cylinders and sends the
bridge yapping for caution.
The Red Un was thirteen; and he made the Chief's bed by pulling the
counterpane neatly and smoothly over the chaos underneath--and got
away with it, the Chief being weary at night. Also, in odd moments
he made life miserable for the crew. Up to shortly before, he had
had to use much energy and all his wits to keep life in his starved
little body; and even keeping an eye on the log and the Chief's
hair, and slipping down into the engine room, where he had no manner
of business, hardly used up his activities. However, he did not lie
and he looked the Chief square in the eye, as man to man.
The Chief had salvaged him out of the Hudson, when what he had taken
for a bobbing red tomato had suddenly revealed a blue face and two
set and desperate eyes. After that the big Scot had forgotten all
about him, except the next day when he put on his shoes, which had
shrunk in the drying. The liner finished coaling about that time,
took on passengers, luggage, steamer baskets and a pilot, and,
having stowed the first two, examined the cards on the third and
dropped the last, was pointed, nose to the east wind, for the race.
The arrow on the twin dials pointed to Stand By! for the long
voyage--three thousand miles or so without a stop. The gong, and
then Half Ahead!--great elbows thrust up and down, up and down; the
grunt of power overcoming inertia, followed by the easy swing of
limitless strength. Full Ahead!--and so off again for the great
struggle--man's wits and the engines and the mercy of God against
the upreaching of the sea.
The Chief, who sometimes dreamed his greatness, but who ignored it
waking, snapped his watch shut.
"Eleven-eleven!" he said to the Senior Second. "Well, here's luck!"
That is what he said aloud; to himself he always said a bit of a
prayer, realising perhaps even more than the bridge how little man's
wits count in the great equation. He generally said something to the
effect that "After all, it's up to Thee, O Lord!"
He shook hands with the Senior Second, which also was his habit; and
he smiled too, but rather grimly. They were playing a bit of a
game, you see; and so far the Chief had won all the tricks--just an
amusing little game and nothing whatever to do with a woman; the
Second was married, but the Chief had put all such things out of his
head years before, when he was a youngster and sailing to the Plate.
Out of his head, quite certainly; but who dreams of greatness for
himself alone? So the Chief, having glanced about and run his hand
caressingly over various fearful and pounding steel creatures, had
climbed up the blistering metal staircase to his room at the top and
was proceeding to put down eleven-eleven and various other things
that the first cabin never even heard of, when he felt that he was
being stared at from behind.
Now and then, after shore leave, a drunken trimmer or stoker gets up
to the Chief's room and has to be subdued by the power of executive
eye or the strength of executive arm. As most Chiefs are Scots, the
eye is generally sufficient. So the Chief, mightily ferocious,
turned about, eye set, as one may say, to annihilate a six-foot
trimmer in filthy overalls and a hangover, and saw--a small
red-haired boy in a Turkish towel.
The boy quailed rather at the eye, but he had the courage of nothing
to lose--not even a pair of breeches--and everything to gain.
"Please," said the apparition, "the pilot's gone, and you can't put
The Chief opened his mouth and shut it again. The mouth, and the
modification of an eye set for a six-foot trimmer to an eye for a
four-foot-ten urchin in a Turkish towel, produced a certain
softening. The Red Un, who was like the Chief in that he earned his
way by pitting his wits against relentless Nature, smiled a
little--a surface smile, with fear just behind.
"The Captain's boy's my size; I could wear his clothes," he
Now, back in that time when the Chief had kept a woman's picture in
his breast pocket instead of in a drawer of his desk, there had been
small furtive hopes, the pride of the Scot to perpetuate his line,
the desire of a man for a manchild. The Chief had buried all that in
the desk drawer with the picture; but he had gone overboard in his
best uniform to rescue a wharf-rat, and he had felt a curious sense
of comfort when he held the cold little figure in his arms and was
hauled on deck, sputtering dirty river water and broad Scotch, as
was his way when excited.
"And where ha' ye been skulking since yesterday?" he demanded.
"In the bed where I was put till last night. This morning early----"
"Don't lie! Where were ye?"
"In a passenger's room, under a bed. When the passengers came aboard
I had to get out."
"How did ye get here?"
This met with silence. Quite suddenly the Chief recognised the
connivance of the crew, perhaps, or of a kindly stewardess.
"Who told you this was my cabin?" A smile this time, rather like the
Senior Second's when the Chief and he had shaken hands.
"A nigger!" he said. "A coloured fella in a white suit."
There was not a darky on the boat. The Red Un, whose code was the
truth when possible, but any lie to save a friend--and that's the
code of a gentleman--sat, defiantly hopeful, arranging the towel to
cover as much as possible of his small person.
"You're lying! Do you know what we do with liars on this ship? We
throw them overboard!"
"Then I'm thinking," responded the Turkish towel, "that you'll be
needing another Chief Engineer before long!"
Now, as it happened, the Chief had no boy that trip. The previous
one had been adopted after the last trip by a childless couple who
had liked the shape of his nose and the way his eyelashes curled on
his cheek. The Chief looked at the Red Un; it was perfectly clear
that no one would ever adopt him for the shape of his nose, and he
apparently lacked lashes entirely. He rose and took a bathrobe from
a hook on the door.
"Here," he said; "cover your legs wi' that, and say a prayer if ye'
know wan. The Captain's a verra hard man wi' stowaways."
The Captain, however, who was a gentleman and a navigator and had a
sense of humour also, was not hard with the Red Un. It being
impracticable to take the boy to him, the great man made a special
visit to the boy. The Red Un, in the Chief's bathrobe, sat on a
chair, with his feet about four inches from the floor, and returned
the Captain's glare with wide blue eyes.
"Is there any reason, young man, why I shouldn't order you to the
lockup for the balance of this voyage?" the Captain demanded, extra
grim, and trying not to smile.
"Well," said the Red Un, wiggling his legs nervously, "you'd have to
feed me, wouldn't you? And I might as well work for my keep."
This being a fundamental truth on which most economics and all
governments are founded, and the Captain having a boy of his own at
home, he gave a grudging consent, for the sake of discipline, to the
Red Un's working for his keep as the Chief's boy, and left. Outside
the door he paused.
"The little devil's starved," he said. "Put some meat on those
ribs, Chief, and--be a bit easy with him!"
This last was facetious, the Chief being known to have the heart of
So the Red Un went on the payroll of the line, and requisition was
made on the storekeeper for the short-tailed coat and the long
trousers, and on the barber for a hair-cut. And in some curious way
the Red Un and the Chief hit it off. It might have been a matter of
red blood or of indomitable spirit.
Spirit enough and to spare had the Red Un. On the trip out he had
licked the Captain's boy and the Purser's boy; on the incoming trip
he had lashed the Doctor's boy to his triumphant mast, and only
three days before he had settled a row in the stokehole by putting
hot ashes down the back of a drunken trimmer, and changing his
attitude from menace with a steel shovel to supplication and prayer.
He had no business in the stokehole, but by that time he knew every
corner of the ship--called the engines by name and the men by
epithets; had named one of the pumps Marguerite, after the Junior
Second's best girl; and had taken violent partisanship in the
eternal rivalry of the liner between the engine room and the bridge.
"Aw, gwan!" he said to the Captain's boy. "Where'd you and your Old
Man be but for us? In a blasted steel tank, floating about on the
bloomin' sea! What's a ship without insides?"
The Captain's boy, who was fourteen, and kept his bath sponge in a
rubber bag, and shaved now and then with the Captain's razor,
retorted in kind.
"You fellows below think you're the whole bally ship!" he said
loftily. "Insides is all right--we need 'em in our business. But
what'd your steel tank do, with the engines goin', if she
wasn't bein' navigated? Steamin' in circles, like a tinklin'
It was some seconds after this that the Purser, a well-intentioned
but interfering gentleman with a beard, received the kick that put
him in dry dock for two days.
They were three days out of New York on the Red Un's second round
trip when the Second, still playing the game and almost despairing,
made a strategic move. The Red Un was laying out the Chief's
luncheon on his desk--a clean napkin for a cloth; a glass; silver; a
plate; and the menu from the first-cabin dining saloon. The menu was
propped against a framed verse:
_But I ha' lived and I ha' worked!
All thanks to Thee, Most High._
And as he placed the menu, the Red Un repeated the words from
McAndrew's hymn. It had rather got him at first; it was a new
philosophy of life. To give thanks for life was understandable, even
if unnecessary. But thanks for work! There was another framed card
above the desk, more within the Red Un's ken: "Cable crossing! Do
not anchor here!"
The card worked well with the first class, resting in the Chief's
cabin after the arduous labours of seeing the engines.
The Chief was below, flat on his back in a manhole looking for a
staccato note that did not belong in his trained and orderly chorus.
There was grease in his sandy hair, and the cranks were only a few
inches from his nose. By opening the door the Red Un was able to
command the cylinder tops, far below, and the fiddley, which is the
roof of hell or a steel grating over the cylinders to walk
on--depending on whether one is used to it or not. The Chief was
naturally not in sight.
This gave the Red Un two minutes' leeway--two minutes for
exploration. A drawer in the desk, always heretofore locked, was
unfastened--that is, the bolt had been shot before the drawer was
entirely closed. The Red Un was jealous of that drawer. In two
voyages he had learned most of the Chief's history and, lacking one
of his own, had appropriated it to himself. Thus it was not unusual
for him to remark casually, as he stood behind the Chief's chair at
dinner: "We'd better send this here postcard to Cousin Willie, at
"Ou-ay!" the Chief would agree, and tear off the postcard of the
ship that topped each day's menu; but, so far, all hints as to this
one drawer had been futile; it remained the one barrier to their
perfect confidence, the fly in the ointment of the Red Un's content.
Now, at last---- Below, a drop of grease in the Chief's eye set him
wiping and cursing; over his head hammered, banged and lunged his
great babies; in the stokehole a gaunt and grimy creature, yclept
the Junior Second, stewed in his own sweat and yelled for steam.
The Red Un opened the drawed quickly and thrust in a hand. At first
he thought it was empty, working as he did by touch, his eye on the
door. Then he found a disappointing something--the lid of a
cigar-box! Under that was a photograph. Here was luck! Had the Red
Un known it, he had found the only two secrets in his Chief's open
life. But the picture was disappointing--a snapshot of a young
woman, rather slim, with the face obscured by a tennis racket,
obviously thrust into the picture at the psychological moment. Poor
spoil this--a cigar-box lid and a girl without a face! However,
marred as it was, it clearly meant something to the Chief. For on
its reverse side was another stanza from McAndrew's hymn:
_Ye know how hard an idol dies,
An' what that meant to me--
E'en tak' it for a sacrifice
Acceptable to Thee._
The Red Un thrust it back into the drawer, with the lid. If she was
dead what did it matter? He was a literal youth--so far, his own
words had proved sufficient for his thoughts; it is after thirty
that a man finds his emotions bigger than his power of expressing
them, and turns to those that have the gift. The Chief was over
It was as he shut the drawer that he realised he was not alone. The
alley door was open and in it stood the Senior Second. The Red Un
eyed him unpleasantly.
"Sneaking!" said the Second.
"None of your blamed business!" replied the Red Un.
The Second, who was really an agreeable person, with a sense of
humour, smiled. He rather liked the Red Un.
"Do you know, William," he observed--William was the Red Un's
name--"I'd be willing to offer two shillings for an itemised
account of what's in that drawer?"
"Fill it with shillings," boasted the Red Un, "and I'll not tell
"Three?" said the Second cheerfully.
"Why don't you look yourself?"
"Just between gentlemen, that isn't done, young man. But if you
volunteered the information, and I saw fit to make you a present of,
say, a pipe, with a box of tobacco----"
"What do you want to know for?"
"I guess you know."
The Red Un knew quite well. The Chief and the two Seconds were still
playing their game, and the Chief was still winning; but even the
Red Un did not know how the Chief won--and as for the two Seconds
and the Third and the Fourth, they were quite stumped.
This was the game: In bad weather, when the ports are closed and
first-class passengers are yapping for air, it is the province of
the engine room to see that they get it. An auxiliary engine pumps
cubic feet of atmosphere into every cabin through a series of
So far so good. But auxiliaries take steam; and it is exceedingly
galling to a Junior or Senior, wagering more than he can afford on
the run in his watch, to have to turn valuable steam to
auxiliaries--"So that a lot of blooming nuts may smoke in their
bunks!" as the Third put it.
The first move in the game is the Chief's, who goes to bed and
presumably to sleep. After that it's the engine-room move, which
gives the first class time to settle down and then shuts off the
airpumps. Now there is no noise about shutting off the air in the
trunks. It flows or it does not flow. The game is to see whether the
Chief wakens when the air stops or does not. So far he had always
It was uncanny. It was worse than that--it was damnable! Did not the
Old Man sleep at all?--not that he was old, but every Chief is the
Old Man behind his back. Everything being serene, and the
engine-room clock marking twelve-thirty, one of the Seconds would
shut off the air very gradually; the auxiliary would slow down,
wheeze, pant and die--and within two seconds the Chief's bell would
ring and an angry voice over the telephone demand what the several
kinds of perdition had happened to the air! Another trick in the
game to the Chief!
It had gone past joking now: had moved up from the uncanny to the
impossible, from the impossible to the enraging. Surreptitious
search of the Chief's room had shown nothing but the one locked
drawer. They had taken advantage of the Chief's being laid up in
Antwerp with a boil on his neck to sound the cabin for hidden wires.
They had asked the ship's doctor anxiously how long a man could do
without sleep. The doctor had quoted Napoleon.
* * * * *
"If at any time," observed the Second pleasantly, "you would like
that cigarette case the barber is selling, you know how to get it."
"Thanks, old man," said the Red Un loftily, with his eye on the
The Second took a step forward and thought better of it.
"Better think about it!"
"I was thinking of something else," said the Red Un, still staring
at the wall. The Second followed his eye. The Red Un was gazing
intently at the sign which said: "Cable crossing! Do not anchor
As the Second slammed out, the Chief crawled from his manhole and
struggled out of his greasy overalls. Except for his face, he was
quite tidy. He ran an eye down the port tunnel, where the shaft
revolved so swiftly that it seemed to be standing still, to where at
the after end came the racing of the screw as it lifted, bearded
with scud, out of the water.
"It looks like weather to-night," he observed, with a twinkle, to
the Fourth. "There'll aye be air wanted." But the Fourth was gazing
at a steam gauge.
The Red Un's story, like all Gaul, is divided into three parts--his
temptation, his fall and his redemption. All lives are so divided: a
step back; a plunge; and then, in desperation and despair, a little
climb up God's ladder.
Seven days the liner lay in New York--seven days of early autumn
heat, of blistering decks, of drunken and deserting trimmers, of
creaking gear and grime of coal-dust. The cabin which held the Red
Un and the Purser's boy was breathless. On Sunday the four ship's
boys went to Coney Island and lay in the surf half the afternoon.
The bliss of the water on their thin young legs and scrawny bodies
was Heaven. They did not swim; they lay inert, letting the waves
move them about, and out of the depths of a deep content making
caustic comments about the human form as revealed by the relentless
"That's a pippin!" they would say; or, "My aunt! looks at his legs!"
They voiced their opinions audibly and were ready to back them up
with flight or fight.
It was there that the Red Un saw the little girl. She had come from
a machine, and her mother stood near. She was not a Coney Islander.
She was first-cabin certainly--silk stockings on her thin ankles,
sheer white frock; no jewelry. She took a snapshot of the four
boys--to their discomfiture--and walked away while they were still
"That for mine!" said the Red Un in one of his rare enthusiasms.
They had supper--a sandwich and a glass of beer; they would have
preferred pop, but what deep-water man on shore drinks pop?--and
made their way back to the ship by moonlight. The Red Un was terse
in his speech on the car: mostly he ate peanuts abstractedly. If he
evolved any clear idea out of the chaos of his mind it was to wish
she had snapped him in his uniform with the brass buttons.
The heat continued; the men in the stokehole, keeping up only enough
steam for the dynamos and donkey engines, took turns under the
ventilators or crawled up to the boatdeck at dusk, too exhausted to
dress and go ashore. The swimmers were overboard in the cool river
with the first shadows of night; the Quartermaster, so old that he
dyed his hair for fear he'd be superannuated, lowered his lean body
hand over hand down a rope and sat by the hour on a stringpiece of
the dock, with the water laving his hairy and tattooed old breast.
The Red Un was forbidden the river. To be honest, he was rather
relieved--not twice does a man dare the river god, having once been
crowned with his slime and water-weed. When the boy grew very hot
he slipped into a second-cabin shower, and stood for luxurious
minutes with streams running off his nose and the ends of his
fingers and splashing about his bony ankles.
Then, one night, some of the men took as many passengers' lifebelts
and went in. The immediate result was fun combined with safety; the
secondary result was placards over the ship and the dock, forbidding
the use of the ship's lifebelts by the crew.
From that moment the Red Un was possessed for the river and a
lifebelt. So were the other three. The signs were responsible.
Permitted, a ship's lifebelt was a subterfuge of the cowardly,
white-livered skunks who were afraid of a little water; forbidden, a
ship's lifebelt took on the qualities of enemy's property--to be
reconnoitred, assaulted, captured and turned to personal advantage.
That very night, then, four small bodies, each naked save for a
lifebelt, barrelshaped and extending from breast almost to knee,
slipped over the side of the ship with awkward splashes and
proceeded to disport themselves in the river. Scolding tugs sent
waves for them to ride; ferries crawled like gigantic bugs with a
hundred staring eyes. They found the Quartermaster on a stringpiece
immersed to the neck and smoking his pipe, and surrounded him--four
small, shouting imps, floating barrels with splashing hands and
"Gwan, ye little devils!" said the Quartermaster, clutching the
stringpiece and looking about in the gloom for a weapon. The Red Un,
quite safe and audacious in his cork jacket, turned over on his back
"Gwan yerself, Methuselah!" he sang.
They stole the old man's pipe and passed it from mouth to mouth;
they engaged him in innocent converse while one of them pinched his
bare old toe under water, crab-fashion. And at last they prepared to
shin up the rope again and sleep the sleep of the young, the
innocent and the refreshed.
The Chief was leaning over the rail, just above, smoking!
He leaned against the rail and smoked for three hours! Eight eyes,
watching him from below, failed to find anything in his face but
contemplation; eight hands puckered like a washerwoman's; eight feet
turned from medium to clean, from clean to bleached--and still the
Chief smoked on. He watched the scolding tugs and the ferryboats
that crawled over the top of the water; he stood in rapt
contemplation of the electric signs in Jersey, while the ship's
bells marked the passage of time to eternity, while the
Quartermaster slept in his bed, while the odours of the river stank
in their nostrils and the pressure of the ship's lifebelts weighed
like lead on their clammy bodies.
At eight bells--which is midnight--the Chief emptied his
twenty-fourth pipe over the rail and smiled into the gloom beneath.
"Ye'll better be coming up," he remarked pleasantly. "I'm for
turning in mysel'."
He wandered away; none of the watch was near. The ship was dark,
save for her riding lights. Hand over puckered hand they struggled
up and wriggled out of the belts; stark naked they ducked through
passageways and alleys, and stowed their damp and cringing forms
The Red Un served the Chief's breakfast the next morning very
carefully. The Chief's cantaloupe was iced; his kipper covered with
a hot plate; the morning paper propped against McAndrew's hymn. The
Red Un looked very clean and rather bleached.
The Chief was busy; he read the night reports, which did not amount
to much, the well soundings, and a letter from a man offering to
show him how to increase the efficiency of his engines fifty per
cent, and another offering him a rake-off on a new lubricant.
Outwardly the Chief was calm--even cold. Inwardly he was rather
uncomfortable: he could feel two blue eyes fixed on his back and
remembered the day he had pulled them out of the river, and how
fixed and desperate they were then. But what was it McAndrew said?
"Law, order, duty an' restraint, obedience, discipline!"
Besides, if the boys were going to run off with the belts some
damned first-class passenger was likely to get a cabin minus a belt
and might write to the management. The line had had bad luck; it did
not want another black eye. He cleared his throat; the Red Un
dropped a fork.
"That sort of thing last night won't do, William."
"Ye had seen the signs, of course?"
"Yes, sir." The Red Un never lied to the Chief; it was useless.
The Chief toyed with his kipper.
"Ye'll understand I'd ha' preferred dealin' with the matter mysel';
but it's--gone up higher."
The Quartermaster, of course! The Chief rose and pretended to glance
over the well soundings.
"The four of ye will meet me in the Captain's room in fifteen
minutes," he observed casually.
The Captain was feeding his cat when the Red Un got there. The four
boys lined up uncomfortably; all of them looked clean, subdued,
apprehensive. If they were to be locked up in this sort of weather,
and only three days to sailing time--even a fine would be better.
The Captain stroked the cat and eyed them.
"Well," he said curtly, "what have you four young imps been up to
The four young imps stood panicky. They looked as innocent as choir
boys. The cat, eating her kipper, wheezed.
"Please, sir," said the Captain's boy solicitously, "Peter has
something in his throat."
"Perhaps it's a ship's lifebelt," said the Captain grimly, and
caught the Chief's eye.
The line palpitated; under cover of its confusion the Chief,
standing in the doorway with folded arms, winked swiftly at the
Captain; the next moment he was more dour than ever.
"You are four upsetters of discipline," said the Captain, suddenly
pounding the table. "You four young monkeys have got the crew by the
ears, and I'm sick of it! Which one of you put the fish in Mrs.
Mrs. Schmidt was a stewardess. The Red Un stepped forward.
"Who turned the deckhose into the Purser's cabin night before last?"
"Please," said the Doctor's boy pallidly, "I made a mistake in the
room. I thought----"
"Who," shouted the Captain, banging again, "cut the Quartermaster's
rope two nights ago and left him sitting under the dock for four
The Purser's boy this time, white to the lips! Fresh panic seized
them; it could hardly be mere arrest if he knew all this; he might
order them hanged from a yardarm or shot at sunrise. He looked like
the latter. The Red Un glanced at the Chief, who looked apprehensive
also, as if the thing was going too far. The Captain may have read
their thoughts, for he said:
"You're limbs of Satan, all of you, and hanging's too good for you.
What do you say, Chief? How can we make these young scamps lessons
in discipline to the crew?"
Everybody breathed again and looked at the Chief--who stood tall and
sandy and rather young to be a Chief--in the doorway.
"Eh, mon," he said, and smiled, "I'm aye a bit severe. Don't ask me
to punish the bairns."
The Captain sniffed.
"Severe!" he observed. "You Scots are hard in the head, but soft in
the disposition. Come, Chief--shall they walk the plank?"
"Good deescipline," assented the Chief, "but it would leave us a bit
"True," said the Captain gloomily.
"I was thinkin'," remarked the Chief diffidently--one hates to think
before the Captain; that's always supposed to be his job.
"That we could make a verra fine example of them and still retain
their services. Ha' ye, by chance, seen a crow hangin' head down in
the field, a warnin' to other mischief-makers?"
"Ou-ay!" said the Captain, who had a Scotch mother. The line wavered
again; the Captain's boy, who pulled his fingers when he was
excited, cracked three knuckles.
"It would be good deescipline," continued the Chief, "to stand the
four o' them in ship's belt at the gangway, say for an hour, morning
and evening--clad, ye ken, as they were during the said
"You're a great man, Chief!" said the Captain. "You hear that,
"With--with no trousers'?" gasped the Doctor's boy.
"If you wore trousers last night. If not----"
* * * * *
The thing was done that morning. Four small boys, clad only in
ship's belts, above which rose four sheepish heads and freckled
faces, below which shifted and wriggled eight bare legs, stood in
line at the gangway and suffered agonies of humiliation at the hands
of crew and dockmen, grinning customs inspectors, coalpassers, and a
newspaper photographer hunting a human-interest bit for a Sunday
paper. The cooks came up from below and peeped out at them; the
ship's cat took up a position in line and came out in the Sunday
edition as "a fellow conspirator."
The Red Un, owing to an early training that had considered clothing
desirable rather than essential, was not vitally concerned. The
Quartermaster had charge of the line; he had drawn a mark with chalk
along the deck, and he kept their toes to it by marching up and down
in front of them with a broomhandle over his shoulder.
"Toe up, you little varmints!" he would snap. "God knows I'd be glad
to get a rap at you--keeping an old man down in the water half the
night! Toe up!"
Whereupon, aiming an unlucky blow at the Purser's boy, he hit the
Captain's cat. The line snickered.
It was just after that the Red Un, surmising a snap by the
photographer on the dock and thwarting it by putting his thumb to
his nose, received the shock of his small life. The little girl from
Coney Island, followed by her mother, was on the pier--was showing
every evidence of coming up the gangway to where he stood. Was
coming! Panic seized the Red Un--panic winged with flight. He
turned--to face the Chief. Appeal sprang to the Red Un's lips.
"Please!" he gasped. "I'm sick, sick as h--, sick as a dog, Chief.
I've got a pain in my chest--I----"
Curiously enough, the Chief did not answer or even hear. He, too,
was looking at the girl on the gangway and at her mother. The next
moment the Chief was in full flight, ignominious flight, his face,
bleached with the heat of the engine room and the stokehole, set as
no emergency of broken shaft or flying gear had ever seen it. Broken
shaft indeed! A man's life may be a broken shaft.
The woman and the girl came up the gangway, exidently to inspect
staterooms. The Quartermaster had rallied the Red Un back to the
line and stood before him, brandishing his broomhandle. Black fury
was in the boy's eye; hate had written herself on his soul. His
Chief had ignored his appeal--had left him to his degradation--had
The girl saw the line, started, blushed, recognised the Red Un--and
The great voyage began--began with the band playing and much waving
of flags and display of handkerchiefs; began with the girl and her
mother on board; began with the Chief eating his heart out over coal
and oil vouchers and well soundings and other things; began with the
Red Un in a new celluloid collar, lying awake at night to hate his
master, adding up his injury each day to greater magnitude.
The voyage began. The gong rang from the bridge. Stand By! said the
twin dials. Half Ahead! Full Ahead! Full Ahead! Man's wits once more
against the upreaching of the sea! The Chief, who knew that
somewhere above was his woman and her child, which was not his,
stood under a ventilator and said the few devout words with which he
commenced each voyage:
"With Thy help!" And then, snapping his watch: "Three minutes past
The chief engineer of a liner is always a gentleman and frequently a
Christian. He knows, you see, how much his engines can do and how
little. It is not his engines alone that conquer the sea, nor his
engines plus his own mother wit. It is engines plus wit plus _x_,
and the _x_ is God's mercy. Being responsible for two quantities out
of the three of the equation, he prays--if he does--with an eye on a
gauge and an ear open for a cylinder knock.
There was gossip in the engineers' mess those next days: the Old Man
was going to pieces. A man could stand so many years of the strain
and then where was he? In a land berth, growing fat and paunchy, and
eating his heart out for the sea, or---- The sea got him one way or
The Senior Second stood out for the Chief.
"Wrong with him? There's nothing wrong with him," he declared. "If
he was any more on the job than he is I'd resign. He's on the job
twenty-four hours a day, nights included."
There was a laugh at this; the mess was on to the game. Most of them
were playing it.
So now we have the Red Un looking for revenge and in idle moments
lurking about the decks where the girl played. He washed his neck
under his collar those days.
And we have the Chief fretting over his engines, subduing drunken
stokers, quelling the frequent disturbances of Hell Alley, which led
to the firemen's quarters, eating little and smoking much, devising
out of his mental disquietude a hundred possible emergencies
and--keeping away from the passengers. The Junior Second took down
the two parties who came to see the engine room and gave them
lemonade when they came up. The little girl's mother came with the
second party and neither squealed nor asked questions--only at the
door into the stokeholes she stood a moment with dilated eyes. She
was a little woman, still slim, rather tragic. She laid a hand on
the Junior's arm.
"The--the engineers do not go in there, do they?"
"Yes, madam. We stand four-hour watches. That is the Senior Second
Engineer on that pile of cinders."
The Senior Second was entirely black, except for his teeth and the
whites of his eyes. There was a little trouble in a coalbunker;
they had just discovered it. There would be no visitors after this
until the trouble was over.
The girl's mother said nothing more. The Junior Second led them
around, helping a pretty young woman about and explaining to her.
"This," he said, smiling at the girl, "is a pump the men have
nicknamed Marguerite, because she takes most of one man's time and
is always giving trouble."
The young woman tossed her head.
"Perhaps she would do better if she were left alone," she suggested.
The girl's mother said nothing, but, before she left, she took one
long look about the engine room. In some such bedlam of noise and
heat _he_ spent his life. She was wrong, of course, to pity him; one
need not measure labour by its conditions or by its cost, but by the
joy of achievement. The woman saw the engines--sinister, menacing,
frightful; the man saw power that answered to his hand--conquest,
victory. The beat that was uproar to her ears was as the throbbing
of his own heart.
It was after they had gone that the Chief emerged from the forward
stokehole where the trouble was. He had not seen her; she would not
have known him, probably, had they met face to face. He was quite
black and the light of battle gleamed in his eyes.
They fixed the trouble somehow. It was fire in a coalbunker, one of
the minor exigencies. Fire requiring air they smothered it one way
and another. It did not spread, but it did not quite die. And each
day's run was better than the day before.
The weather was good. The steerage, hanging over the bow, saw far
below the undercurling spray, white under dark blue--the blue
growing paler, paler still, until the white drops burst to the top
and danced free in the sun. A Greek, going home to Crete to marry a
wife, made all day long tiny boats of coloured paper, weighted with
corks, and sailed them down into the sea.
"They shall carry back to America my farewells!" he said, smiling.
"This to Pappas, the bootblack, who is my friend. This to a girl
back in America, with eyes--behold that darkest blue, my children;
so are her eyes! And this black one to my sister, who has lost a
The first class watched the spray also--as it rose to the lip of a
Now at last it seemed they would break a record. Then rain set in,
without enough wind to make a sea, but requiring the starboard ports
to be closed. The Senior Second, going on duty at midnight that
night, found his Junior railing at fate and the airpumps going.
"Shut 'em off!" said the Senior Second furiously.
"Shut 'em off yourself. I've tried it twice."
The Senior Second gave a lever a vicious tug and the pump stopped.
Before it had quite lapsed into inertia the Chief's bell rang.
"Can you beat it?" demanded the Junior sulkily. "The old fox!"
The Senior cursed. Then he turned abruptly and climbed the steel
ladder he had just descended. The Junior, who was anticipating a
shower and bed, stared after him.
The Senior thought quickly--that was why he was a Senior. He found
the Red Un's cabin and hammered at the door. Then, finding it was
not locked, he walked in. The Red Un lay perched aloft; the shirt of
his small pajamas had worked up about his neck and his thin torso
lay bare. In one hand he clutched the dead end of a cigarette. The
Senior wakened him by running a forefinger down his ribs, much as a
boy runs a stick along a paling fence.
"Wha' ish it?" demanded the Red Un in sleepy soprano. And then "Wha'
d'ye want?" in bass. His voice was changing; he sounded like two
people in animated discussion most of the time.
"You boys want to earn a sovereign?"
The Purser's boy, who had refused to rouse to this point, sat up in
"Whaffor?" he asked.
"Get the Chief here some way. You"--to the Purser's boy--"go and
tell him the Red Un's ill and asking for him. You"--to the Red
Un--"double up; cry; do something. Start him off for the
doctor--anything, so you keep him ten minutes or so!"
The Red Un was still drowsy, and between sleeping and waking we are
what we are.
"I won't do it!"
The Senior Second held out a gold sovereign on his palm.
"Don't be a bally little ass!" he said.
The Red Un, waking full, now remembered that he hated the Chief; for
fear he did not hate him enough, he recalled the lifebelt, and his
legs, and the girl laughing.
"All right!" he said. "Gwan, Pimples! What'll I have?
"Have a toothache," snapped the Senior Second. "Tear off a few
yells--anything to keep him!"
It worked rather well; plots have a way of being successful in
direct proportion to their iniquity. Beneficent plots, like loving
relatives dressed as Santa Claus, frequently go wrong; while it has
been shown that the leakiest sort of scheme to wreck a bank will go
through with the band playing.
The Chief came and found the Red Un in agony, holding his jaw. Owing
to the fact that he lay far back in an upper bunk, it took time to
drag him into the light. It took more time to get his mouth open;
once open, the Red Un pointed to a snag that should have given him
trouble if it didn't, and set up a fresh outcry.
Not until long after could the Red Un recall without shame his share
in that night's work--recall the Chief, stubby hair erect, kind blue
eyes searching anxiously for the offending tooth. Recall it? Would
he ever forget the arm the Chief put about him, and him: "Ou-ay!
laddie; it's a weeked snag!"
The Chief, to whom God had denied a son of his flesh, had taken Red
Un to his heart, you see--fatherless wharf-rat and childless
engineer; the man acting on the dour Scot principle of chastening
whomsoever he loveth, and the boy cherishing a hate that was really
only hurt love.
And as the Chief, who had dragged the Red Un out of eternity and was
not minded to see him die of a toothache, took him back to his cabin
the pain grew better, ceased, turned to fright. The ten minutes or
so were over and what would they find? The Chief opened the door; he
had in mind a drop of whisky out of the flask he never touched on a
trip--whisky might help the tooth.
On the threshold he seemed to scent something amiss. He glanced at
the ceiling over his bunk, where the airtrunk lay, and then--he
looked at the boy. He stooped down and put a hand on the boy's head,
turning it to the light.
"Tell me now, lad," he said quietly, "did ye or did ye no ha' the
"It's better now," sullenly.
"Did ye or did ye no?"
The Chief turned the boy about and pushed him through the doorway
into outer darkness. He said nothing. Down to his very depths he was
hurt. To have lost the game was something; but it was more than
that. Had he been a man of words he might have said that once again
a creature he loved had turned on him to his injury. Being a Scot
and a man of few words he merely said he was damned, and crawled
back into bed.
The game? Well, that was simple enough. Directly over his pillow, in
the white-painted airtrunk, was a brass plate, fastened with four
screws. In case of anything wrong with the ventilator the plate
could be taken off for purposes of investigation.
The Chief's scheme had been simplicity itself--so easy that the
Seconds, searching for concealed wires and hidden alarm bells, had
never thought of it. On nights when the air must be pumped, and
officious Seconds were only waiting the Chief's first sleep to shut
off steam and turn it back to the main engines, the Chief unlocked
the bolted drawer in his desk. First he took out the woman's picture
and gazed at it; quite frequently he read the words on the
back--written out of a sore heart, be sure. And then he took out
the cigar-box lid.
When he had unscrewed the brass plate over his head he replaced it
with the lid of the cigar-box. So long as the pumps in the engine
room kept the air moving, the lid stayed up by suction.
When the air stopped the lid fell down on his head; he roused enough
to press a signal button and, as the air started viciously, to
replace the lid. Then, off to the sleep of the just and the crafty
again. And so on _ad infinitum_.
Of course the game was not over because it was discovered and the
lid gone. There would be other lids. But the snap, the joy, was gone
out of it. It would never again be the same, and the worst of all
was the manner of the betrayal.
He slept but little the remainder of the night; and, because unrest
travels best from soul to soul at night, when the crowding emotions
of the day give it place, the woman slept little also. She was
thinking of the entrance to the stokehole, where one crouched under
the bellies of furnaces, and where the engineer on duty stood on a
pile of hot cinders. Toward morning her room grew very close: the
air from the ventilator seemed to have ceased.
Far down in the ship, in a breathless little cabin far aft, the Red
Un kicked the Purser's boy and cried himself to sleep.
The old ship made a record the next night that lifted the day's run
to four hundred and twenty. She was not a greyhound, you see.
Generally speaking, she was a nine-day boat. She averaged well under
four hundred miles. The fast boats went by her and slid over the
edge of the sea, throwing her bits of news by wireless over a
shoulder, so to speak.
The little girl's mother was not a good sailor. She sat almost all
day in a steamer chair, reading or looking out over the rail. Each
day she tore off the postal from the top of her menu and sent it to
the girl's father. She missed him more than she had expected. He had
become a habit; he was solid, dependable, loyal. He had never heard
of the Chief.
"Dear Daddy," she would write: "Having a splendid voyage so far, but
wish you were here. The baby is having such a good time--so popular;
and won two prizes to-day at the sports! With love, Lily."
They were all rather like that. She would drop them in the mailbox,
with a tug of tenderness for the man who worked at home. Then she
would go back to her chair and watch the sea, and recall the heat of
the engine room below, and wonder, wonder----
It had turned warm again; the edges of the horizon were grey and at
night a low mist lay over the water. Rooms were stifling, humid. The
Red Un discarded pajamas and slept in his skin. The engine-room
watch came up white round the lips and sprawled over the boat deck
without speech. Things were going wrong in the Red Un's small world.
The Chief hardly spoke to him--was grave and quiet, and ate almost
nothing. The Red Un hated himself unspeakably and gave his share of
the sovereign to the Purser's boy.
The Chief was suffering from lack of exercise in the air as well as
other things. The girl's mother was not sleeping--what with heat and
the memories the sea had revived. On the fifth night out, while the
ship slept, these two met on the deck in the darkness--two shadows
out of the past. The deck was dark, but a ray from a window touched
his face and she knew him. He had not needed light to know her;
every line of her was written on his heart, and for him there was no
one at home to hold in tenderness.
"I think I knew you were here all the time," she said, and held out
The Chief took one and dropped it. She belonged to the person at
home. He had no thought of forgetting that!
"I saw your name on the passenger list, but I have been very busy."
He never lapsed into Scotch with her; she had not liked it. "Is
your husband with you?"
"He could not come just now. I have my daughter."
Her voice fell rather flat. The Chief could not think of anything to
say. Her child, and not his! He was a one-woman man, you see--and
this was the woman.
"I have seen her," he said presently. "She's like you, Lily."
That was a wrong move--the Lily; for it gave her courage to put her
hand on his arm.
"It is so long since we have met," she said wistfully. "Yesterday,
after I saw the--the place where you lived and--and work----" She
choked; she was emotional, rather weak. Having made the situation
she should have let it alone; but, after all, it is not what the
woman is, but what the man thinks she is.
The Chief stroked her fingers on his sleeve.
"It's not bad, Lily," he said. "It's a man's job. I like it."
"I believe you had forgotten me entirely!"
The Chief winced. "Isn't that the best thing you could wish me?" he
"Are you happy?"
"'I ha' lived and I ha' worked!'" he quoted sturdily.
Very shortly after that he left her; he made an excuse of being
needed below and swung off, his head high.
They struck the derelict when the mist was thickest, about two that
morning. The Red Un was thrown out of his berth and landed, stark
naked, on the floor. The Purser's boy was on the floor, too, in a
tangle of bedding. There was a sickening silence for a moment,
followed by the sound of opening doors and feet in the passage.
There was very little speech. People ran for the decks. The Purser's
boy ran with them.
The Red Un never thought of the deck. One of the axioms of the
engine room is that of every man to his post in danger. The Red Un's
post was with his Chief. His bare feet scorched on the steel ladders
and the hot floor plates; he had on only his trousers, held up with
The trouble was in the forward stokehole. Water was pouring in from
the starboard side--was welling up through the floor plates. The
wound was ghastly, fatal! The smouldering in the bunker had weakened
resistance there and her necrosed ribs had given away. The Red Un,
scurrying through the tunnel, was met by a maddened rush of trimmers
and stokers. He went down under them and came up bruised, bleeding,
battling for place.
"You skunks!" he blubbered. "You crazy cowards! Come back and help!"
A big stoker stopped and caught the boy's arm.
"You come on!" he gasped. "The whole thing'll go in a minute. She'll
go down by the head!"
He tried to catch the boy up in his arms, but the Red Un struck him
on the nose.
"Let me go, you big stiff!" he cried, and kicked himself free.
Not all the men had gone. They were working like fiends. It was up
to the bulkhead now. If it held--if it only held long enough to get
the passengers off!
Not an engineer thought of leaving his place, though they knew,
better even than the deck officers, how mortally the ship was hurt.
They called to their aid every resource of a business that is
nothing but emergencies. Engines plus wit, plus the grace of
God--and the engines were useless. Wits, then, plus Providence. The
pumps made no impression on the roaring flood; they lifted floor
plates to strengthen the bulkheads and worked until it was death to
work longer. Then, fighting for every foot, the little band
retreated to the after stokehole. Lights were out forward. The Chief
was the last to escape. He carried an oil lantern, and squeezed
through the bulkhead door with a wall of water behind him.
The Red Un cried out, but too late. The Chief, blinded by his
lantern, had stumbled into the pit where a floor plate had been
lifted. When he found his leg was broken he cried to them to go on
and leave him, but they got him out somehow and carried him with
them as they fought and retreated--fought and retreated. He was
still the Chief; he lay on the floor propped up against something
and directed the fight. The something he leaned against was the
strained body of the Red Un, who held him up and sniffled shamefaced
tears. She was down by the head already and rolling like a dying
thing. When the water came into the after stokehole they carried the
Chief into the engine room--the lights were going there.
There had been no panic on deck. There were boats enough and the
lights gave every one confidence. It was impossible to see the
lights going and believe the ship doomed. Those who knew felt the
list of the decks and hurried with the lowering of the boats; the
ones who saw only the lights wished to go back to their cabins for
clothing and money.
The woman sat in the Quartermaster's boat, with her daughter in her
arms, and stared at the ship. The Quartermaster said the engineers
were still below and took off his cap. In her feeble way the woman
tried to pray, and found only childish, futile things to say; but in
her mind there was a great wonder--that they, who had once been life
each to the other, should part thus, and that now, as ever, the good
part was hers! The girl looked up into her mother's face.
"The redhaired little boy, mother--do you think he is safe?"
"First off, likely," mumbled the Quartermaster grimly.
All the passengers were off. Under the mist the sea rose and fell
quietly; the boats and rafts had drawn off to a safe distance. The
Greek, who had humour as well as imagination, kept up the spirits of
those about him while he held a child in his arms.
"Shall we," he inquired gravely, "think you--shall we pay extra to
the company for this excursion?"
* * * * *
The battle below had been fought and lost. It was of minutes now.
The Chief had given the order: "Every one for himself!" Some of the
men had gone, climbing to outer safety. The two Seconds had refused
to leave the Chief. All lights were off by that time. The after
stokehole was flooded and water rolled sickeningly in the
engine-pits. Each second it seemed the ship must take its fearful
dive into the quiet sea that so insistently reached up for her.
With infinite labour the Seconds got the Chief up to the fiddley,
twenty feet or less out of a hundred, and straight ladders instead
of a steel staircase. Ten men could not have lifted him without
gear, and there was not time!
Then, because the rest was hopeless, they left him there, propped
against the wall, with the lantern beside him. He shook hands with
them; the Junior was crying; the Senior went last, and after he had
gone up a little way he turned and came back.
"I can't do it, Chief!" he said. "I'll stick it out with you." But
the Chief drove him up, with the name of his wife and child. Far up
the shaft he turned and looked down. The lantern glowed faintly
The Chief sat alone on his grating. He was faint with pain. The
blistering cylinders were growing cold; the steel floor beneath was
awash. More ominous still, as the ship's head sank, came crackings
and groanings from the engines below. They would fall through at the
last, ripping out the bulkheads and carrying her down bow first.
Pain had made the Chief rather dull. "'I ha' lived and I ha'
worked!'" he said several times--and waited for the end. Into his
stupor came the thought of the woman--and another thought of the
Red Un. Both of them had sold him out, so to speak; but the woman
had grown up with his heart and the boy was his by right of
salvage--only he thought of the woman as he dreamed of her, not as
he had seen her on the deck. He grew rather confused, after a time,
and said: "I ha' loved and I ha' worked!"
Just between life and death there comes a time when the fight seems
a draw, or as if each side, exhausted, had called a truce. There is
no more struggle, but it is not yet death. The ship lay so. The
upreaching sea had not conquered. The result was inevitable, but not
yet. And in the pause the Red Un came back, came crawling down the
ladder, his indomitable spirit driving his craven little body.
He had got as far as the boat and safety. The gripping devils of
fear that had followed him up from the engine room still hung to his
throat; but once on deck, with the silent men who were working
against time and eternity, he found he could not do it. He was the
Chief's boy--and the Chief was below and hurt!
The truce still held. As the ship rolled, water washed about the
foot of the ladder and lapped against the cylinders. The Chief tried
desperately to drive him up to the deck and failed.
"It's no place for you alone," said the Red Un. His voice had
lost its occasional soprano note; the Red Un was a grown man.
"I'm staying!" And after a hesitating moment he put his small,
frightened paw on the Chief's arm.
It was that, perhaps, that roused the Chief--not love of life, but
love of the boy. To be drowned like a rat in a hole--that was not so
bad when one had lived and worked. A man may not die better than
where he has laboured; but this child, who would die with him rather
than live alone! The Chief got up on his usable knee.
"I'm thinking, laddie," he said, "we'll go fighting anyhow."
The boy went first, with the lantern. And, painful rung by painful
rung, the Chief did the impossible, suffering hells as he moved. For
each foot he gained the Red Un gained a foot--no more. What he would
not have endured for himself, the Chief suffered for the boy.
Halfway up, he clung, exhausted.
The boy leaned down and held out his hand.
"I'll pull," he said. "Just hang on to me."
Only once again did he speak during that endless climb in the
silence of the dying ship, and what he said came in gasps. He was
"About--that airtrunk," he managed to say--"I'm--sorry, sir!"
* * * * *
The dawn came up out of the sea, like resurrection. In the
Quartermaster's boat the woman slept heavily, with tears on her
cheeks. The Quartermaster looked infinitely old and very tired with
It was the girl, after all, who spied them--two figures--one inert
and almost lifeless; one very like a bobbing tomato, but revealing a
blue face and two desperate eyes above a ship's lifebelt.
The Chief came to an hour or so later and found the woman near, pale
and tragic, and not so young as he had kept her in his heart. His
eyes rested on hers a moment; the bitterness was gone, and the ache.
He had died and lived again, and what was past was past.
"I thought," said the woman tremulously--"all night I thought that
The Chief, coming to full consciousness, gave a little cry. His
eyes, travelling past hers, had happened on a small and languid
youngster curled up at his feet, asleep. The woman drew back--as
from an intrusion.
As she watched, the Red Un yawned, stretched and sat up. His eyes
met the Chief's, and between them passed such a look of
understanding as made for the two one world, one victory!
Romeo and Juliet
Women in Love
Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex
An Ideal Husband
Dream Psychology Psychoanalysis for Beginners
The Art of Public Speaking
An English Grammar
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