Grace S. Richmond.

Red Pepper's Patients With an Account of Anne Linton's Case in Particular online

. (page 13 of 14)
Online LibraryGrace S. RichmondRed Pepper's Patients With an Account of Anne Linton's Case in Particular → online text (page 13 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

I believe will work out some day. My word, I know it will!"

The other two looked at each other, smiling joyously.

"He's getting well," said Ellen Burns.

"No doubt of it in the world," agreed Jordan King.

"Sit down here where I can look at you both," commanded the
convalescent. "Jord, isn't my wife something to look at in that blue
frock she's wearing? I like these things she melts into evenings, like
that smoky blue she has on now. It seems to satisfy my eyes."

"Not much wonder in that. She would satisfy anybody's eyes."

"That's quite enough about me," Ellen declared. "The thing that's really
interesting is that your eyes are brighter to-night, Red, than they have
been for two long months. I believe it's getting downstairs."

"Of course it is. Downstairs has been a mythical sort of place for a
good while. I couldn't quite believe in it. I've thought a thousand
times of this blue couch and these pillows. I've thought of that old
grand piano of yours, and of how it would seem to hear you play it
again. Play for me now, will you, Len?"

She sat down in her old place, and his eyes watched her hungrily, as
King could plainly see. To the younger man the love between these two
was something to study and believe in, something to hope for as a
wonderful possibility in his own case.

When Ellen stopped playing Burns spoke musingly. Speech seemed a
necessity for him to-night - happiness overflowed and must find

"I've had a lot of stock advice for my patients that'll mean something I
understand for myself now," he said. He sat almost upright among the
blue pillows, his arm outstretched along the back of the couch, his long
legs comfortably extended. It was no longer the attitude of the invalid
but of the well man enjoying earned repose. "I wonder how often I've
said to some tired mother or too-busy housewife who longed for rest: 'If
you were to become crippled or even forbidden to work any more and made
to rest for good, how happy these past years would seem to you when you
were tired because you had accomplished something.' I can say that now
with personal conviction of its truth. It looks to me as if to come in
dog-tired and drop into this corner with the memory of a good job done
would be the best fun I've ever had."

"I know," King nodded. "I learned that, too, last spring."

"Of course you did. And now, instead of going to work, I've got to take
this blamed sea voyage of a month. Van and Leaver are pretty hard on me,
don't you think? The consolation in that, though, is that my wife needs
it quite as much as I do. I want to tan those cheeks of hers. Len, will
you wear the brown tweeds on shipboard?"

"Of course I will. How your mind seems to run to clothes to-night. What
will Your Highness wear himself?"

"The worst old clothes I can find. Then when I get back I'll go to the
tailor's and start life all over again, with the neatest lot of stuff he
can make me - a regular honeymoon effect." Burns laughed, lifting his
chin with the old look of purpose and power touching his thin face.

"I'm happy to-night," he went on; "there's no use denying it. I'm not
sorry, now it's over, I've had this experience, for I've learned some
things I've never known before and wouldn't have found out any other
way. I know now what it means to be down where life doesn't seem worth
much, and how it feels to have the other fellow trying to pull you out.
I know how the whisper of a voice you love sounds to you in the middle
of a black night, when you think you can't bear another minute of pain.
Oh, I know a lot of things I can't talk about, but they'll make a
difference in the future. If I don't have more patience with my patients
it'll be because memory is a treacherous thing, and I've forgotten what
I have no business to forget - because the good Lord means me to



It was the first day of May. Burns and Ellen had not been at home two
days after their return from the long, slow sea voyage which had done
wonders for them both, when Burns received a long-distance message which
sent him to his wife with his eyes sparkling in the old way.

"Great luck, Len!" he announced. "I'm to get my first try-out in
operating, after the late unpleasantness, on an out-of-town case. Off in
an hour with Amy for a place two hundred miles away in a spot I never
heard of - promises to be interesting. Anyhow, I feel like a small boy
with his first kite, likely to go straight off the ground hitched to the
tail of it."

"I'm glad for you, Red. And I wish" - she bit her lip and turned
away - "it may be a wonderful case."

"That's not what you started to say." He came close, laid a hand on
either side of her face, and turned it up so that he could look into it,
his lips smiling. "Tell me. I'll wager I know what you wish."

"No, you can't."

"That you could go with me - to take Amy's place and assist."

A flood of colour poured over her face, such a telltale, significant
colour as he had rarely seen there before. She would have concealed it
from him, but he was merciless. A strange, happy look came into his own
face. "Len, don't hide that from me. It's the one thing I've always
wished you'd show, and you never have. I'm such a jealous beggar myself
I've wanted you to care - that way, and I've never been able to discover
a trace of it."

"But I'm not really jealous in the way you think. How could I be? - with
not the slightest cause. It's only - envy of Amy because she is - so
necessary to you. O Red, I never, never meant to say it!"

"I'd rather hear you say it than anything else on earth. I'd like to
hear you own that you were mad with jealousy, because I've been eaten up
with it myself ever since I first laid eyes on you. Not that you've ever
given me a reason for it, but because it's my red-headed nature. Now I
must go; but I'll take your face with me, my Len, and if I do a good
piece of work it'll be for love of you."

"And of your work, Red. I'm not jealous of that; I'm too proud of it."

"I know you are, bless you."

Then he was off, all his old vigour showing in his preparations for the
hurried trip, and as he went away Ellen felt as might those on shore
watching a lusty life-saver put off in a boat to pull for a sinking

* * * * *

Burns and Amy Mathewson were away three days, during which Red kept
Ellen even more closely in touch with himself than usual, by means of
the long wire. When he returned it was with the bearing of a conqueror,
for the case had tried his regained mettle and he had triumphed more
surely than he could have hoped.

"The hand's as good as new, Len, and the touch not a particle affected.
Van's a trump, and I stopped on the way out to tell him so. He was
pleased as a boy; think of it, Len - my ancient enemy and my new good
friend! And the case is fine as silk. They've a good local man to look
after it till I come again, which will be Thursday. And I'm going to
drive there - and take you - and Jord King and Jord's mother. How's that
for a plan?"

"It sounds very jolly, Red, but will the Kings go? And why Mrs. King?
Will she care to?"

"Because I've found some old friends of hers in the place, though I'll
not tell her whom. Besides, I want to keep on her right side, for
reasons. And Jord's back has been bothering him lately and I've
prescribed a rest. We'll take the Kings' limousine and go in state.
It'll be arranged in five minutes, see if it won't. By the way, Jord
says Aleck's new arm is really going to do him some service besides
improving his looks."

He pulled her away to the telephone and held her on his knee while he
talked to Jordan King, giving her a laughing hug, when, to judge by the
things he was saying into the transmitter, he had brought about his

"Yes, I know I sound crazy," he admitted to King, "but you must give
something to a man who has been buried alive and dug up again. I've
taken this notion and I'm going to carry it through. Mrs. King will
enjoy every foot of the way, and you and I will jump out and pick apple
blossoms for the ladies whenever they ask. It's a peach of a plan, and
the whole idea is to minister to my pride. I want to arrive in a great
prince of a car like yours and impress the natives down there. See? Yes,
go and put it up to your mother, and then call me up. Don't you dare say

"No wonder he's astonished," Ellen commented while they waited. "For
you, who are never content except when you're at the steering wheel, to
ask Jordan, who is another just like you, to elect to travel in a
limousine with a liveried chauffeur - well, I admit I am puzzled myself."

"Why, it's simple enough. I want to take you and Mrs. Alexander King.
She wouldn't go a step in Jord's roadster at his pace. And if she would,
and we went in pairs, Jord would be always wanting to change off and
take you with him - and as you very well know I'm not made that way. Stop
guessing, Len, and prepare yourself to break down Mrs. King's
opposition, if she makes any - which I don't expect."

Mrs. King made no opposition, or none which her son thought best to
convey to the Burnses, and the trip was arranged.

"Is there a good hotel in the place?" Ellen asked.

"No hotel within miles - nor anything else. We're to stay overnight with
the family. You won't mind. They can put us up pretty comfortably, even
if not just as we're accustomed to be." Burns's eyes were twinkling, and
he refused to say more on the subject.

It did not matter. It was early May, and the world was a wilderness of
budding life, and to go motoring seemed the finest way possible to get
into sympathy with spring at her loveliest. And although Ellen would
have much preferred to drive alone with her husband in his own car, she
found herself anticipating the affair, as it was now arranged, with not
a little curiosity to stimulate her interest. Mrs. Alexander King, for
her son's sake, was sure to be a complaisant and agreeable companion,
and Ellen was glad to feel that such a pleasure might come her way.

"This is great stuff!" exulted Jordan King early on Thursday morning as
the big, shining car, standing before Burns's door, received its full
complement of passengers. "Mother and I are tremendously honoured,
aren't we, mother?"

"Even though we had the audacity to invite ourselves and ask for this
magnificent car?" Burns inquired, grasping Mrs. Alexander King's gloved
hand, and smiling at her as her delicate face was lifted to him with a
look of really charming greeting. He knew well enough that she liked him
in spite of certain pretty plain words he had said to her in the past,
and he had prepared himself to make her like him still better on this
journey together. "I'm the one who is responsible, you know. I've merely
broken out in a new place."

"We appreciate your caring to include us in your party," Mrs. King said
cordially. "The car is all too little used, for Jordan prefers his own,
and I go about mostly in the small coupe. I have never taken so long a
drive as you plan, and it will doubtless be a pleasant experience. I see
so little of my son I am happy to be with him on such a trip."

"Altogether we're mightily pleased with the whole arrangement," declared
Jordan King, regarding Mrs. Burns with high approval. "Mother, did you
ever see a more distinguished-looking pair?"

"In spite of our brown faces?" Ellen challenged him gayly.

"My wife's face simply turns peachy when she tans. I look like an
Indian," observed Burns, bestowing certain professional luggage where it
would be most out of the way.

"That's it; you've said it. Great Indian Chief go make big medicine for
sick squaw; take along whole wigwam; wigwam tickled to death to go!" And
King settled himself with an air of complete satisfaction.

He had had no word from Anne Linton for nearly two months, and was as
restless as a young man may well be when his affairs do not go to please
him. She had kept her promise and had written from time to time, but
though her letters were the most interesting human documents King had
ever dreamed a woman could write, they were, from the point of view of
the suitor, extremely unsatisfying. As she had agreed, she had given him
with each letter an address to which he might send an immediate reply,
and he had made the most of each such opportunity; but, since it takes
two to seal a bargain, he had not been able to feel his cause much
advanced by all his efforts. He had welcomed this chance to accompany
Burns as a diversion from his restless thoughts, for a few days'
interval in his engineering plans, caused by a delay in the arrival of
certain necessary material, was making him wild with eagerness for
something - anything - to happen.

Two hundred miles in a high-powered car over finely macadamized roads
are more quickly and comfortably covered in these days than a
thirty-mile drive behind horses over such country highways as existed a
decade ago. Aleck, at the wheel, his master's orders in his willing ears
from time to time, gradually accelerated his rate of speed until by the
end of the first two hours he was carrying his party along at a pace
which Mrs. King had frequently condemned as one which would be to her
unbearable. Burns and King exchanged glances more than once as the car
flew past other travellers, and the good lady, talking happily with
Ellen or absorbed in some far-reaching view, took no note of the fact
that she was annihilating space with a smooth swiftness comparable only
to the flight of some big, strong-winged bird.

"Over halfway there, and plenty of time for lunch," Burns announced.
"And here's the best roadside inn in the country. If it hadn't been for
our coming this way I should have suggested bringing our own hampers,
but I wanted you to have some of this little Englishman's brook trout
and hot scones."

Mrs. King enjoyed that hot and delicious meal as she had seldom enjoyed
a luncheon anywhere. As she sat at the faultlessly served table, her
eyes travelling from the wide view at the window to the faces of her
companions, she grew more and more cheerful in manner, and was even
heard to laugh softly aloud now and then at one of Burns's gay quips,
turning to Ellen in appreciation of her husband's wit, or to Jordan
himself as he came back at his friend with a rejoinder worth hearing.

"This is doing my mother a world of good," King said in Ellen's ear as
the party came out on a wide porch to rest for a half hour before taking
to the car again. "I don't know when I've seen her expand like this and
seem really to be forgetting her cares and sorrows."

"It's a pleasure to watch her," Ellen agreed. "Red vowed this morning
that he meant to bring about that very thing, and he's succeeding much
better than I had dared to hope."

"Who wouldn't be jolly in a party where Red was one? Did you ever see
the dear fellow so absolutely irresistible? Sometimes I think there's a
bit of hypnotism about Red, he gets us all so completely."

"What are you two whispering about?" said a voice behind them, and they
turned to look into the brilliant hazel eyes both were thinking of at
the moment.

"You," King answered promptly.

"Rebelling against the autocracy of the Indian Chief?"

"No. Prostrating ourselves before his bulky form. He's some Indian

"He will be before the day is over, I promise you. He'll call a council
around the campfire to-night, and plenty pipes will be smoked. Everybody
do as Big Chief says, eh?"

"Sure thing, Geronimo; that's what we came for."

"You don't know what you came for. Absolutely preposterous this thing
is - surgeon going to visit his case and bringing along a lot of people
who don't know a mononuclear leucocyte from an eosinophile cell."

"Do you know a vortex filament from a diametral plane?" demanded King.

Burns laughed. "Come, let's be off! I must spare half an hour to show
Mrs. King a certain view somewhat off the main line."

The afternoon was gone before they could have believed it, detours
though there were several, as there usually are in a road-mending
season. As the car emerged from a long run through wooded country and
passed a certain landmark carefully watched for by Red Pepper, he spoke
to Aleck.

"Run slowly now, please. And be ready to turn to the left at a point
that doesn't show much beforehand."

They were proceeding through somewhat sparsely settled country, though
marked here and there by comfortable farmhouses of a more than
ordinarily attractive type - apparently homes of prosperous people with
an eye to appearances. Then quite suddenly the car, rounding a turn,
came into a different region, one of cultivated wildness, of studied
effects so cleverly disguised that they would seem to the unobservant
only the efforts of nature at her best. A long, heavily shaded avenue of
oaks, with high, untrimmed hedges of shrubbery on each side, curved
enticingly before them, and all at once, Burns, looking sharply ahead,
called, "There, by that big pine, Aleck - to the left." In a minute more
the car turned in at a point where a rough stone gateway marked the
entrance to nothing more extraordinary than a pleasant wood.

"Patient lives in a hut in the forest?" King inquired with interest.
"Or a rich man's hunting lodge?"

"You'll soon see." Burns's eyes were ahead; a slight smile touched his

The car swept around curve after curve of the wood, came out upon the
shore of a small lake and, skirting it halfway round, plunged into a
grove of pines. Then, quite without warning, there showed beyond the
pines a long, white-plumed row of small trees of a sort unmistakable - in
May. Beside the row lay a garden, gay with all manner of spring flowers,
and farther, through the trees, began to gleam the long, low outlines of
a great house.

"Stop just here, Aleck, for a minute," Burns requested, and the car came
to a standstill. Burns looked at Jordan King.

"Ever see that row of white lilacs before, Jord?" he asked with

King was staring at it, a strange expression of mingled perplexity and
astonishment upon his fine, dark face. After a minute he turned to

"What - when - where - " he stammered, and stopped, gazing again at the
lilac hedge and the box-bordered beds with their splashes of bright

"Well, I don't know what, when, or where, if you don't," Burns returned.

But evidently King did know, or it came to him at that instant, for he
set his lips in a certain peculiar way which his friend understood meant
an attempt at quick disguise of strong feeling. He gave his mother one
glance and sat back in his seat. Then he looked again at Burns. "What is
this, anyway?" he asked rather sternly. "The home of your patient, or a
show place you've stopped to let us look at?"

"My patient's in the house up there. Drive on, Aleck, please. They'll be
expecting us at the back of the house, where the long porches are, and
where they're probably having afternoon tea at this minute." He glanced
at his watch. "Happy time to arrive, isn't it?"

Ellen found herself experiencing a most extraordinary sensation of
excitement as the car rounded the drive and approached the porch, where
she could see a number of people gathered. The place was not more
imposing than many with which she was familiar, and if it had been the
home of one of the world's greatest there would have been nothing
disconcerting to her in the prospect. But something in her husband's
manner assured her that he had been preparing a surprise for them all,
and she had no means of guessing what it might be. The little hasty
sketch of lilac trees against a spring sky, though she had seen it, had
naturally made no such impression upon her as upon King, and she did
not even recall it now.

The car rolled quietly up to the porch steps, and immediately a tall
figure sprang down them. "It's Gardner Coolidge, my old college friend,
Len," Burns said in his wife's ear. "Remember him?" The afternoon
sunlight shone upon the smooth, dark hair and thin, aristocratic face of
a man who spoke eagerly, his quick glance sweeping the occupants of the

"Mrs. King! This is a great pleasure, I assure you - a great pleasure.
Mrs. Burns - we are delighted. And this is your son, Mrs. King - welcome
to you, my dear sir! Red, no need to say we're glad to see you back. Let
me help you, Mrs. King. Don't tell me you wouldn't have known me; that
would be a blow. Alicia" - he turned to the graceful figure approaching
across the porch to meet the elder lady of the party as she came up the
steps upon the arm of the man who had taken her from the car - "Mrs.
King, this is my wife."

Red Pepper Burns, laughing and shaking hands warmly with Alicia
Coolidge, was watching Mrs. Alexander King as, after the first look of
bewilderment, she cried out softly with pleasure at recognizing the son
of an old friend.

"But it has all been kept secret from me," she was saying. "I had no
possible idea of where we were coming, and I am sure my son had not."
She turned to that son, but she could not get his attention, for the
reason that his astonished gaze was fastened upon a person who had at
that moment appeared in the doorway and paused there.



Jordan King looked, and looked again, and it was a wonder he did not rub
his eyes to make sure he was fully awake. As he looked the figure in the
doorway came forward. It was that of a girl in a white serge coat and
skirt, with a smart little white hat upon her richly ruddy hair, and the
look, from head to foot, of one who had just returned to a place where
she belonged. And the next instant Anne Linton was greeting Ellen Burns
and coming up to be presented to Mrs. Alexander King.

"This is my little sister, Mrs. King," said Gardner Coolidge, smiling,
and putting his arm about the white-serge-clad shoulders. "She is your
hostess, you know. Alicia and I are only making her a visit."

"I am so glad you are here, Mrs. King," said a voice Jordan King well
remembered, and Anne Linton's eyes looked straight into those of her
oldest guest, whose own were puzzled.

"I think," said Mrs. King, holding the firm young hand which she had
taken, "I have seen you before, my dear, though my memory - "

"Yes, Mrs. King," the girl replied - and there was not the smallest
shadow of triumph discernible in her tone or look - "you have. I came to
see your son in the hospital, with Mrs. Burns, just before I left. It's
not strange you have forgotten me, for we went away almost at once. We
are so delighted to have you come to see us. Isn't it delightful that
you knew our mother so well at school?"

Well, it came Jordan King's turn in the end, although Anne Linton, so
extraordinarily labelled "hostess" by her brother, discharged every duty
of greeting her other guests before she turned to him. Meanwhile he had
stood, frankly staring, hat in hand and growing colour on his cheek,
while his eyes seemed to grow darker and darker under his heavily marked
brows. When Anne turned to him he had no words for her, and hardly a
smile, though his good breeding came to his rescue and put him through
the customary forms of action, dazed though he yet was. He found himself
presented to other people on the porch, whom he recognized as
undoubtedly those whom he had met in the passing car at the time when he
was in doubt as to Anne's identity. Her aunt, uncle, and cousins they
proved to be, though the young man whom he remembered as being present
on that occasion was now happily absent. Jordan King found himself
completely reconciled to this at once.

"How is our patient?" Burns said to Anne at the first opportunity.
"Shall I go up at once?"

"Oh, please wait a minute, Doctor Burns; I want to go with you, and I
must see my guests having some tea first."

There followed, for King, what seemed an interminable interval of time,
during which he was forced to sit beside one of Anne's girl cousins - and
a very pretty girl she was, too, only he didn't seem able to appreciate
it - drinking tea, and handing sugar, and doing all the proper things. In
the midst of this Anne vanished with Red Pepper at her heels, leaving
the tea table to Mrs. Coolidge. At this point, however, King found
himself glad to listen to Miss Stockton.

"I don't suppose anybody in the world but Anne Linton Coolidge would
have thought of sending two hundred miles for a surgeon to operate on
her housekeeper," she was saying when his attention was arrested by her
words. "But she thinks such a lot of Timmy - Mrs. Timmins - she would pay
any sum to keep her in the world. She was Anne's nurse, you see, and of

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13

Online LibraryGrace S. RichmondRed Pepper's Patients With an Account of Anne Linton's Case in Particular → online text (page 13 of 14)