Copyright
George van Schaick.

Sweetapple Cove online

. (page 1 of 16)
Online LibraryGeorge van SchaickSweetapple Cove → online text (page 1 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Mary Meehan, and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team.








SWEETAPPLE COVE

BY GEORGE VAN SCHAIGK

1914




CHAPTER I

_From John Grant's Diary_


Have I shown wisdom or made an arrant, egregious fool of myself? This, I
suppose, is a question every man puts to himself after taking a sudden
decision upon which a great deal depends.

I have shaken the dust of the great city by the Hudson and forsaken its
rich laboratories, its vast hospitals, the earnest workers who were
beginning to show some slight interest in me. It was done not after
mature consideration but owing to the whim of a moment, to a sudden
desire to change the trend of things I felt I could no longer contend
with.

Now I live in a little house, among people who speak with an accent that
has become unfamiliar to the great outside world. They have given up
their two best rooms to me, at a rental so small that I am somewhat
ashamed to tender it, at the end of every week. I also obtain the
constant care and the pleasant smiles of a good old housewife who appears
to take a certain amount of pride in her lodger. As far as I know I am
the only boarder in Sweetapple Cove, as well as the only doctor. For a
day or two after my arrival I accompanied the local parson, Mr. Barnett,
on visits to people he considered to be in need of my ministrations. Now
they are coming in droves, and many scattered dwellers on the bleak coast
have heard of me. Little fishing-smacks meeting others from farther
outports have spread the amazing news that there is a doctor at the Cove.

With other pomps and vanities I have given up white shirts and collars,
and my recent purchases include oilskins and long boots. This is
fashionable apparel here, and my wearing them appears to impart
confidence in my ability.

My only reason for writing this is that the Barnetts go to bed early.
Doubtless I may also acquire the habit, in good time. Moreover, there is
always a danger of disturbing some important sermon-writing. In common
decency I can't bother these delightful people every evening, although
they have begged me to consider their home as my own. Mrs. Barnett is a
most charming woman, and never in my life have I known anything like the
welcome she impulsively extended, but she works hard and I cannot intrude
too much. Hence the hours after nine are exceedingly long, when it
chances that there are no sick people to look after. At first, of course,
I just mooned around, and called myself all sorts of names, honestly
considering myself the most stupendous fool ever permitted to exist in
freedom from restraint. I plunged into books and devoured the medical
weeklies which the irregular mails of the place brought me, yet this did
not entirely suffice, and now I have begun to write. It may help the time
to pass away, and prevent the attacks of mold and rust. Later on, if
things do not shape themselves according to my hopes, these dangers will
be of little import. These sheets may then mildew with the dampness of
this land, or fly away to sea with the shrewd breezes that sweep over our
coast, for all I shall care. At any rate they will have served their
purpose.

Of course I am trying to swallow my medicine like a little man. If there
is a being I despise it is the fellow who whimpers. There is little that
is admirable in professional pugilism, saving the smile often seen on a
fighter's face after he has just received a particularly hard and
crushing blow. Indeed, that smile is the bruiser's apology for his life.

Lest it be inferred that I have been fighting, I hasten to declare that
it was a rather one-sided contest in which I was defeated, lock, stock
and barrel, by a mere slip of a girl towards whom I had only lifted up my
hands in supplication.

"We are both very young, John," she explained to me, with an
exasperating, if unconscious, imitation of the doctors she had observed
as they announced very disagreeable things to their patients. "Our lives
are practically only beginning. Until now we have been like the
vegetables that are brought up in little wooden boxes. We are to be taken
up and planted in a field, where we are to grow up into something
useful."

"And we shall enjoy a great advantage over the young cabbages and
lettuces," I chimed in. "We shall have the inestimable privilege of being
permitted to select the particular farm or enclosure that pleases us
best."

"Of course," said Dora Maclennon, cheerfully.

"But I should be ever so glad to have you select for the two of us," I
told her. "I guarantee to follow you blindly."

She put her hand on my arm and patted it in the abominably soothing way
she has doubtless acquired in the babies' ward. In my case it was about
as effectual as the traditional red rag to a bull.

"Don't you dare touch me like that," I resented. "I'm quite through with
the mumps and measles. My complaint is one you don't understand at all.
You are unable to sympathize with me because love, to you, is a mere
theoretical thing. You've heard of it, perhaps you are even ready to
admit that some people suffer from such an ailment, but you don't really
know anything about it. It has not been a part of your curriculum. I've
been trying to inoculate you with this distemper but it won't take."

"I suppose I'm a poor sort of soil for that kind of culture," she
replied, rather wistfully.

"There is no finer soil in the world," I protested, doggedly.

Every man in the world and at least half the women would have agreed with
me. The grace of her charming figure, her smiles and that one little
dimple, the waving abundance of her silken hair, the rich inflections of
her voice, each and all contradicted that foolish supposition of hers.

"Well, I thought this was an invitation to dinner," remarked Dora,
sweetly, with all the brutal talent of her sex for changing the drift of
conversation. "Of course they fed us well at the hospital, when we had
time to eat, but...."

"Is that your last word?" I asked, trying to subdue the eagerness of my
voice.

"If you don't really care to go...."

I rose and sought my hat and overcoat, while Dora wandered about my
unpretentious office.

"Your landlady could take lessons from Paddy's pig in cleanliness," she
declared, running a finger over my bookcase and contemplating it with
horror. "I wonder that you, a surgeon, should be an accomplice to such a
mess."

"It's pretty bad," I admitted, "but the poor thing has weak eyes, and she
has seen better days."

"She deserves the bad ones, then," Dora exclaimed.

"As in the case of many other maladies, we have as yet been unable to
discover the microbe of woman's inhumanity to woman," I observed.

"When doggies meet they commonly growl," said Dora, "and when pussies
meet they usually spit and scratch. Each according to his or her nature.
And it seems to me that you could afford a new overcoat. That one is
positively becoming green."

"I do believe I have another one, somewhere," I admitted.

"Then go and find it," she commanded. "You need some one to look after
you."

I turned on her like the proverbial flash, or perhaps like the
Downtrodden worm.

"Isn't that just what I've been gnashing my teeth over?" I asked. "I'm
glad you have the grace to admit it."

"I'll admit anything you like," she said. "But, John dear, we can't
really be sure yet that I'm the one who ought to do it. And - and maybe
there will be no room at the tables unless we hurry a little."

She was buttoning up her gloves again, quite coolly, and cast approving
glances at some radiographic prints on my wall.

"That must have been a splendid fracture," she commented.

"You are a few million years old in the ways of Eve," I told her, "but
you are still young in the practice of trained nursing. To you broken
legs and, perhaps, broken hearts, are as yet but interesting cases."

She turned her shapely head towards me, and for an instant her eyes
searched mine.

"Do you really believe that?" she asked, in a very low-sweet voice.

I stood before her, penitently.

"I don't suppose I do," I acknowledged. "Let us say that it was just some
of the growling of the dog. He doesn't usually mean anything by it."

"You're an awfully good fellow, John," said the little nurse, pleasantly.
"I know I've been hurting you a bit. Please, I'm sorry the medicine
tastes so badly."

The only thing I could do was to lift up one of her hands and kiss a
white kid glove, _faute de mieux_. It was stretched over her fingers,
however, and hence was part of her.

When we reached the restaurant she selected a table and placed herself so
that she might see as many diners as possible. If there had been people
outside of Paradise, Eve would certainly have peeped through the palings.
I handed her the bill of fare and she begged for Cape Cods.

"You order the rest of it," she commanded. "I'm going to look."

While I discussed dishes with the waiter her eyes wandered over the big
room, taking in pretty dresses and becoming coiffures. Then she watched
the leader of the little orchestra, who certainly wielded a masterful
bow, and gave a little sigh of content.

"We really could afford this at least once or twice a week," I sought to
tempt her, "and the theatre besides, and - and - "

She looked at me very gravely, moving a little from side to side, as if
my head presented varied and interesting aspects.

"That's one of the troubles with you," she finally said. "You have some
money, a nice reasonable amount of money, and you can afford some things,
and I can't tell whether you're going to be an amateur or a
professional."

"An amateur?" I repeated, dully.

"I mean no reflection upon your abilities," she explained, hurriedly. "I
know all that you have done in London and in Edinburgh, and these German
places. You can tack more than half the letters of the alphabet after
your name if you choose to. But I don't quite see what you are doing in
New York."

"You wrote that you were coming to study nursing here," I reminded her.
"This is now a great centre of scientific research, thanks to the
princely endowments of the universities. Have you the slightest notion of
how many years I have loved you, Dora?"

"Not quite so loud," she reproved me. "I believe it began in dear old St.
John's. You were about fourteen when you declared your passion, and I
wore pigtails and exceedingly short skirts. My legs, also, were the
spindliest things."

"Yes, that was the beginning, Dora, and it has continued ever since.
During the years I spent abroad we kept on writing. It seemed to me that
the whole thing was settled. I've always had your pictures with me; the
first was little Dora, and the other one was taken when you first did
your hair up and wore long dresses. During all that time St. John's was
the garden of the Hesperides, and you were the golden thing I was toiling
for. When you wrote that you were coming to New York I took the next boat
over. Then you told me I must wait until you graduated. And now, after
your commencement, I hoped, indeed I hoped - I'm afraid I'm worrying you,
dear."

She smiled at me, very pleasantly, but the little dimple held naught but
mystery. I really think her eyes implied a sort of regret, as if she
wished she could make the ordeal less hard for me.

The waiter brought the oysters, which Dora consumed appreciatively. I was
simply compelled to eat also, lest she should deem me a peevish loser in
the great game I had sought to play. Yet I remember that these Cape Cods
were distinctly hard to swallow, delicious though they probably were.

Suddenly she looked up, and the little oyster impaled on her fork dropped
on the plate.

"There's Taurus!" she exclaimed, with gleaming eyes.

She was looking at a rather tall man, of powerful build, whose abundant
hair was splendidly tinged with silver, and who was coming in with a very
beautiful woman.

"Is that what you nurses call him?" I asked, recognizing one of the great
surgeons of the world.

"Yes," she answered. "Isn't he wonderful? We're all in love with him, the
mean thing."

"Kindly explain the adjective," I urged her. "Is it due to the fact that
he protected himself against the wiles of a host of pretty women by
marrying the sweetest one of the lot - with a single exception - to the
utter despair of the remainder?"

"Did you ever hear him blow up his house-staff?" Dora asked me.

"I have heard that he could be rather strenuous at times," I admitted.

"Well, that's how he infringes on our rights," Dora informed me. "I have
never heard him say an angry word to a nurse. He just has a way of
smiling at one, as if he were beholding an infinitesimal infant totally
incapable of understanding. The sarcasm of it is utterly fierce and the
nurse goes off, red and shaken, and feels like killing him. Don't you
think we've got just as good a right as any whipper-snapper of a new
intern to be blown up?"

"Evidently," I assented. "It is an unfair discrimination."

"And yet we're all just crazy for him. You can hardly understand how the
personality of the man permeates the wards, how he gives one the
impression of some wonderful being who has reached a pinnacle, and
remains there, smilingly, without heeding the crowd below that worships
and cheers. And how the patients adore him!"

She evidently expected no answer from me, nor did I venture upon one. Her
words were very significant, and gave me a rather hopeless feeling. She
was under the influence of the glamour of great names and reputations.
Her youth demanded hero-worship. Measured by her standards I was but a
nice friend, to whom she could even be affectionate.

Presently, in her enjoyment of our modest little dinner, she turned to
me, appearing to forget the crowd, and sighed happily.

"This would all be so delightful," she said, "if...."

"I'll tell you, girlie," I said, "let us agree that all this has been a
dream of mine. We will say that I have never been in love with you, and
regard you now with profound indifference. It has been that which some
very amazing practitioners are pleased to call an error. Now you will be
able to enjoy happiness. As far as I am concerned I don't suppose it can
make me feel any worse."

"You're a dear good boy, John," she answered. "We shall always be awfully
good friends, and perhaps, some day ... Now you must tell me all your
plans."

"Ladies first," I objected.

"Well, my heart is still in Newfoundland, you know. But I'm going to stay
at least a year in New York. I'm going to work among the poorest and most
unpleasant, because I want to become self-reliant. Then I shall go back
home. Think of a trained nurse let loose in some of those outports! I
should just revel in it. I am an heiress worth five hundred dollars a
year of my own. That would keep a lot of people up there. You see, I have
a theory!"

"Will you be so kind as to share it with me?" I asked.

"Well, ordinary nursing is a humdrum thing" and there are thousands to do
it. It is the same thing with you. Just now, having no practice as
yet, you are working in laboratories with a lot of others; you run around
hospitals - also with a crowd. What do you know about your ability to go
right out and do a man's work, by yourself? That is what counts, to my
mind."

"I see the point," I informed her, "and you expect surely to return to
the land of codfish."

"Yes," she nodded, "and now what about you?"

"Oh, I am going there next week," I replied. She opened her eyes very
wide, vaguely scenting some sort of joke, but in this she erred.

"I see no use in remaining here," I said, with a determination as strong
as it was recent. "It would take me a long time to put myself on the
level of men like Taurus, and I don't want a lot of nurses falling in
love with me; I only asked for one. You are going back after a time. Very
well, I'm going now, and I'll wait for you. I can easily find some place
where a doctor is badly needed. You will answer my letters, won't you?"

"I promise," she said, very gravely, "and it is a very good idea. One can
always do a man's work up there."

She ate a Nesselrode pudding while I enjoyed coffee and a cigar, to the
extent that I forgot to drink the one and allowed the other to go out
after a puff or two.

"Your money came from a good St. John's merchant who made it from the
people of the outports," she said. "You might spend a little on them now,
gracefully. They need it badly enough."

We remained silent for some time, thinking of the bleak coast of our big
island, where the price of our little dinner would have represented a
large sum, and then we left the restaurant and took a car up town.

When she finally held out her little hand to me it was warm, and I
fancied that from it came a current that was comforting, though it may
have been but the affectionate regard of some years of good friendship.

"You will dine again with me, next Thursday?" I asked her. "It will take
me a few days to get ready."

"Don't you think that Gordian knot had better be cut at once?" advised
Dora. "I won't change my mind, and you know I've always been an obstinate
thing. There are important things for both of us to achieve, somewhere. I
must grope about to find my share of them, for I feel like the ship that
did not find itself till it encountered a storm or two. If I promised to
meet you next week you would keep on hoping. Do plunge right in now
instead of shivering on the bank."

"Don't trouble about any more metaphors," I told her. "You promise to go
home within a year?"

"I firmly intend to," she replied, "but you can't always depend on a
woman's plans."

"If I can't depend on you I have very little left to believe in," I
declared.

"I'm pretty sure I'll come," she said, "and - and God bless you, John!"

So we separated there, in the silent street, before the nurses' home
where she had taken a room a few days after her graduation. I couldn't
trust myself to say anything more.

The door closed upon her and I slowly walked back to my quarters, with a
head full of dreary thoughts, and several times narrowly escaped speeding
taxis and brought down upon myself some picturesque language.

I fear that I was hardly in a mood to appreciate its beauty.




CHAPTER II

_From John Grant's Diary_


Four weeks ago, this evening, I sat with Dora in that bright dining room
at the Rochambeau. My description of that last meeting of ours is a
rather flippant one, I fancy, but some feminine faces are improved by
powder, and some men's sentiments by a veneer of assumed cheerfulness.
That cut of mine has not the slightest intention of healing by first
intention; it is gaping as widely as ever, as far as I can judge. Yet I
am glad I made no further effort. I suppose a man had better stop before
he gets himself disliked.

Yesterday morning I came out of a dilapidated dwelling in which I had
spent the whole night, and scrambled away over some rocks. When I sat
down my legs were hanging over a chasm at the foot of which grandly
rolling waves burst into foam, keeping up the warfare waged during a
million years against our sturdy cliffs.

Rays of dulled crimson sought to penetrate, feebly, through the fog, as
if the sun knew only too well how often it had been defeated in its
contest against the murky vapors of this hazy land.

My meeting with Mr. Barnett on the _Rosalind_ was a most fortunate
accident. The earnest little clergyman sat next to me at the table, and
immediately engaged me in conversation. I gathered from him that he had
been begging in the great city and had managed to collect a very few
hundred dollars for his little church. He spoke most cheerfully of all
that he meant to achieve with all this wealth.

"I am going to have the steeple finished," he said. "It will take but a
few feet of lumber, and we still have half a keg of nails. Some day I
expect to have a little reading room, and perhaps a magic lantern. I will
try to give them some short lectures. I am ambitious, and hope that I am
not expecting too much. We are really doing very nicely at Sweetapple
Cove."

"Where is that?" I asked him.

The little parson gave me the desired geographical information and,
finding me interested, began to speak of his work.

He was one of the small band of devoted men whose lives are spent on the
coast, engaged in serving their fellow-men to the best of their
abilities. The extent of his parish was scarcely limited by the ability
of a fishing boat to travel a day's journey, and he spoke very modestly
of some rather narrow escapes from storm and ice.

"If we only had a doctor!" he sighed. "Mrs. Barnett and I do our best.
Things are sometimes just heartrending."

At once I manifested interest, and angled for further information. This
was just the sort of place I had in mind. It appeared that the nearest
doctor was more than a day's travel away, and that the population was
rather too poor to afford the luxury of professional advice.

"We sometimes feel very hopeless," he told me.

"How do you reach Sweetapple Cove?" I asked him.

"There will be a little schooner in a few days," he answered.

"I am a physician," I announced, "and am looking for exactly that kind of
a practice."

We were strolling on the deck at this time. Mr. Barnett turned quickly
and grasped my arm.

"There is hardly a dollar there for you," he said. "No sane man would
come to such a place to practice. And there is a little hardship in that
sort of work. You don't realize it."

"I am under the impression that it is just the place for me," I told him.

"There is really good salmon fishing in Sweetapple River," he began,
excitedly, "and you can get caribou within a day's walk, and there are
lots of trout, and..."

I could see that he was eager to find some redeeming points for
Sweetapple Cove.

"Behold the tempter," I laughed.

"Dear me! Of course I did not mean to tempt you," he said, flushing like
a girl. "And I'm afraid you would have to live in some fisherman's house,
and to furnish medicines as well as your services. Of course they might
pay you something if the fishing happened to be good. It sometimes is,
you know."

As soon as we arrived in St. John's I made many and sundry purchases,
with a proper discount for cash, and three days later we sailed out of
the harbor on a tiny schooner laden with salt, barrels of flour and
various other provisions. In less than forty-eight hours we arrived in
Sweetapple Cove. The delighted reception I received from Mrs. Barnett, a
sweet lovable woman, exalted my ideas of the value of my profession. She
simply gloated over me and patted her husband on the back as if his
superior genius had been the true cause of my arrival. At once she made
arrangements for my living with Captain Sammy Moore, an ancient of the
sea whose nice old wife accepted with tremulous pride the honor of
sheltering me. The inhabitants and their offspring, the dogs and the
goats, the fowls and the solitary cow, trooped about me for closer
inspection, and my practice became at once established.

I have taken some formidable walks over the barrens back inland, and have
angled with distinguished success. The days are becoming fairly crowded
ones.

Shortly after sunrise, the day before yesterday, I was called upon to go
to a little island several miles out at sea. Captain Sammy and a man
called Frenchy took me out there. Their little fishing smack is the cab I
use for running my remoter errands. I found a man nearly dying from a bad
septic wound of his right arm. I judged that he might possibly survive an
amputation, but that the loss of the breadwinner's limb would have been
just as bad, as far as his family was concerned, as the death of the
patient. There was nothing to do but grit one's teeth and take chances. I
remained with him throughout the night, and in the morning was glad to
detect some slight improvement.

The keen breeze that expanded my lungs as I sat on the rocks did me a
great deal of good. It rested me after the dreary vigil and presently I
returned to my patient. I'm afraid that we men are poor nurses. We can
keep on fighting and struggling and trying, but when we have to sit still
and watch with folded arms the iron enters our souls, while the
consciousness of helpless waiting is after all the bitterest thing we can
contend against. Women are far more patient and enduring.

Constantly I renewed the dressings, and bathed the limb in antiseptics,
and gave a few stimulating drugs. Then I would watch the man's hurried


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryGeorge van SchaickSweetapple Cove → online text (page 1 of 16)