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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.

"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
show Jerry."

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
lived with.

"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
comfortable.

"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.
[Signed] D.L.S.

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 plot.

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
course. Only - - "

"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.


IV

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
her eyes.

"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
refused politely.

"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
about it.

"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
it!"

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
three-o'clock medicines.

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
grew.

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
doubt!

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
Probationer.

"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
it first.

"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
his chair.

"Jerry?"

"Yes."

"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


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