Mary Roberts Rinehart.

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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
the Staff - -

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
of talk.

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.

Twenty-two smiled.

"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
Staff room.

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
my cane?"

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
her voice.

"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 - what?"

"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
the door.

"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
the limit."

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
extremely irregular.

"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
bed linen.

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

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Online LibraryMary Roberts RinehartLove Stories → online text (page 4 of 17)