Grace S. Richmond.

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

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ought to have a job in a hotel orchestra. Louis and I between us might
get him one."

Burns went to bed still working on this problem, and Ellen rejoiced that
it had superseded the anxieties of the past day. Next morning he was
early at the little foreigner's bedside, to find him resting quietly,
the fever gone, and only the intense fatigue remaining, the cure for
which was simply rest and food.

"Shall we let him stay till he's fit?" Burns asked his wife.

"Of course. Both Cynthia and Amy are much interested, and between them
he will have all he needs."

"And I'll bring Louis out, if I have to pay for a waiter to take his
place," promised Burns.

He was as good as his word. When he returned that afternoon from the
daily visit to the city hospital, where he had always many patients, he
brought with him in the powerful roadster which he drove himself a
dark-faced, pointed moustached countryman of little Hungary, who spoke
tolerable English, and was much pleased and flattered to be of service
to the big doctor whom he was accustomed to serve in his best manner.

Taken to the bedside, Louis gazed down at its occupant with
condescending but comprehending eyes, and spoke a few words which caused
the thin face on the pillow to break into smiles of delight, as the
eager lips answered in the same tongue. Question and answer followed in
quick succession and Louis was soon able to put Burns in possession of a
few significant facts.

"He say he come to dis countree October. Try find work New York - no
good. He start to valk to countree, find vork farm. Bad time. Seeck,
cold, hungree. Fear he spoil hands for veolinn - dat's vhy he not take
vork on road, vat he could get. He museecian - good one."

"Does he say that?" Burns asked, amused.

Louis nodded. "Many museecians in Hungary. Franz come from Budapest. No
poor museecians dere. Budapest great ceety - better Vienna, Berlin,
Leipsic - oh, yes! See, I ask heem."

He spoke to the boy again, evidently putting a meaning question, for
again the other responded with ardour, using his hands to emphasize his
assertion - for assertion it plainly was.

Louis laughed. "He say ze countree of Franz Liszt know no poor museeck.
He named for Franz Liszt. He play beeg museeck for you and ze ladee
last night. So?"

"He did - and took us off our feet. Tell him, will you?"

"He no un'erstand," laughed Louis, "eef I tell him 'off de feet.'"

"That's so - no American idioms yet for him, eh? Well, say he made us
very happy with his wonderful music. I'll wager that will get over to

Plainly it did, to judge by the eloquence of Franz's eyes and his joyous
smile. With quick speech he responded.

"He say," reported Louis, "he vant to vork for you. No wagees till he
plees you. He do anyting. You van' heem?"

"Well, I'll have to think about that," Burns temporized. "But tell him
not to worry. We'll find a job before we let him go. He ought to play in
a restaurant or theatre, oughtn't he, Louis?"

Louis shook his head. "More men nor places," he said. "But ve see - ve

"All right. Now ask him how he came to stand in front of my house in the
storm and fiddle."

To this Louis obtained a long reply, at which he first shook his head,
then nodded and laughed, with a rejoinder which brought a sudden rush of
tears to the black eyes below. Louis turned to Burns.

"He say man lead heem here, make heem stand by window, make sign to
heem to play. I tell heem man knew soft heart eenside."

To the edge of his coppery hair the blood rushed into the face of Red
Pepper Burns. Whether he would be angry or amused was for the moment an
even chance, as Ellen, watching him, understood. Then he shook his fist
with a laugh.

"Just wait till I catch that fellow!" he threatened. "A nice way out of
his own obligations to a starving fellow man."

He sent Louis back to town on the electric car line, with a round fee in
his pocket, and the instruction to leave no stone unturned to find Franz
work for his violin, himself promising to aid him in any plan he might

In three days the young Hungarian was so far himself that Burns had him
downstairs to sit by the office fire, and a day more put him quite on
his feet. Careful search had discovered a temporary place for him in a
small hotel orchestra, whose second violin was ill, and Burns agreed to
take him into the city. The evening before he was to go, Ellen invited a
number of her friends and neighbours in to hear Franz play.

Dressed in a well-fitting suit of blue serge Franz looked a new being.
The suit had been contributed by Arthur Chester, Burns's neighbour and
good friend next door upon the right, and various other accessories had
been supplied by James Macauley, also Burns's neighbour and good friend
next door upon the left and the husband of Martha Macauley, Ellen's
sister. Even so soon the rest and good food had filled out the deepest
hollows in the emaciated cheeks, and happiness had lighted the sombre
eyes. Those eyes followed Burns about with the adoring gaze of a
faithful dog.

"It's evident you've attached one more devoted follower to your train,
Red," whispered Winifred Chester, in an interval of the violin playing.

"Well, he's a devotee worth having," answered Burns, watching his
protégé as Franz looked over a pile of music with Ellen, signifying his
pleasure every time they came upon familiar sheets. The two had found
common ground in their love of the most emotional of all the arts, and
Ellen had discovered rare delight in accompanying that ardent violin in
some of the scores both knew and loved.

"He's as handsome as a picture to-night, isn't he?" Winifred pursued.
"How Arthur's old blue suit transforms him. And wasn't it clever of
Ellen to have him wear that soft white shirt with the rolling collar and
flowing black tie? It gives him the real musician's look."

"Trust you women to work for dramatic effects," murmured Burns. "Here we
go - and I'll wager it'll be something particularly telling, judging by
the way they both look keyed up to it. Ellen plays like a virtuoso
herself to-night, doesn't she?"

"It's enough to inspire any one to have that fiddle at her shoulder,"
remarked James Macauley, who, hanging over the couch, had been listening
to this bit of talk.

The performance which followed captured them all, even practical and
energetic Martha Macauley, who had often avowed that she considered the
study of music a waste of time in a busy world.

"Though I think, after all," she observed to Arthur Chester, who lounged
by her side, revelling in the entertainment with the zest of the man who
would give his whole time to affairs like these if it were not necessary
for him to make a living at the practice of some more prosaic
profession, "it's quite as much the interest of having such a stagey
character performing for us as it is his music. Did you ever see any
human being throw his whole soul into anything like that? One couldn't
help but watch him if he weren't making a sound."

"It's certainly refreshing, in a world where we all try to cover up our
real feelings, to see anybody give himself away so naïvely as that,"
Chester replied. "But there's no doubt about the quality of his music.
He was born, not made. And, by George, Len certainly plays up to him. I
didn't know she had it in her, for all I've been admiring her
accomplishments for four years."

"Ellen's all temperament, anyway," said Ellen's sister.

Chester looked at her curiously. Martha was a fine-looking young woman,
in a very wholesome and clean-cut fashion. There was no feminine
artfulness in the way she bound her hair smoothly upon her head, none in
the plain cut of her simple evening attire, absolutely none in her
manner. Glancing from Martha to her sister, as he had often done before
in wonderment at the contrast between them, he noted as usual how
exquisitely Ellen was dressed, though quite as simply, in a way, as her
practical sister. But in every line of her smoke-blue silken frock was
the most subtle art, as Chester, who had a keen eye for such matters and
a fastidious taste, could readily recognize. From the crown of her dark
head to the toe of the blue slipper with which she pressed the pedal of
the great piano which she had brought from her old home in the South,
she was a picture to feast one's eyes upon.

"Give me temperament, then - and let some other fellow take the common
sense," mused Arthur Chester to himself. "Ellen has both, and Red's in
luck. It was a great day for him when the lovely young widow came his
way - and he knows it. What a home she makes him - what a home!"

His eyes roved about the beautiful living room, as they had often done
before. His own home, next door, was comfortable and more than
ordinarily attractive, but he knew of no spot in the town which
possessed the subtle charm of this in which he sat. His wife, Winifred,
was always trying to reproduce within their walls the indefinable
quality which belonged to everything Ellen touched, and always saying in
despair, "It's no use - Ellen is Ellen, and other people can't be like

"Better let it go at that," her husband sometimes responded. "You're
good enough for me." Which was quite true, for Winifred Chester was a
peculiarly lovable young woman. He noted afresh to-night that beside
Martha Macauley's somewhat heavy good looks Winifred seemed a creature
of infinite and delightful variety.

Perhaps the music had made them all more or less analytic, for in an
interval James Macauley, comfortably ensconced in a great winged chair
for which he was accustomed to steer upon entering this room, where he
was nearly as much at home as within his own walls, remarked, "What is
there about music like that that sets you to thinking everybody in sight
is about the best ever?"

"Does it have that effect on you?" queried Burns, lazily, from the blue
couch. "That's a good thing for a fellow of a naturally critical

"Critical, am I? Why, within a week I paid you the greatest compliment
in my power."


"If it hadn't been for me this company would never have been gathered,
to listen to these wondrous strains."

"How's that?" Burns turned on him a suddenly interested eye.

"Oh, I'm not telling. It's enough that the thing came about." Macauley
looked around for general approbation.

Red Pepper sat up. "It was you stood the poor beggar up under my window,
on that howling night, was it, Jim? I've been looking for the man that
did it."

"Why," said Macauley comfortably, "the chap asked me to point him to a
doctor's office - said he had a bit of a cold. I said you were the one
and only great and original M.D. upon earth, and as luck would have it
he was almost at your door. I said that if he didn't find you in he
should come over to my house and we would fix him up with cough drops.
He thanked me and passed on. As luck would have it you were in."

Red Pepper glared at him. A chuckle from Arthur Chester caused him to
turn his eyes that way. He scrutinized his guests in turn, and detected
signs of mirth. Winifred Chester's pretty shoulders were shaking. Martha
Macauley's lips were pressed close together. The others were all

Burns turned upon Winifred, who sat nearest. "Tell me the truth about
this thing," he commanded.

She shook her head, but she got no peace until at length she gave him
the tale.

"Arthur and I were over at Jim's. He came in and said a wager was up
among some men outside as to whether if that poor boy came and fiddled
under your window you'd take him in and keep him over night. Somebody'd
been saying things against you, down street somewhere - " she hesitated,
glancing at her husband, who nodded, and said, "Go on - he'll have it out
of us now, anyhow."

"They said," she continued, "that you were the most brutal surgeon in
the State, and that you hadn't any heart. Some of them made this wager,
and they all sneaked up here behind the one that steered Franz to your

Burns's quick colour had leaped to his face at this recital, as they
were all accustomed to see it, but for an instant he made no reply.
Winifred looked at him steadily, as one who was not afraid.

"We were all in a dark window watching. If you hadn't taken him in we
would. But - O Red! We knew - we knew that heart of yours."

"And who started that wager business?" Burns inquired, in a muffled

"Why, Jim, of course. Who else would take such a chance?"

"Was it a serious wager?"

"Of course it was."

"Even odds?"

"No, it was Jim against the crowd. And for a ridiculously high stake."

Red Pepper glared at James Macauley once more. "You old pirate!" he
growled. "How dared you take such a chance on me? And when you know I'm
death on that gambling propensity of yours?"

"I know you are," replied Macauley, with a satisfied grin. "And you know
perfectly well I haven't staked a red copper for a year. But that sort
of talk I overheard was too much for me. Besides, I ran no possible risk
for my money. I was betting on a sure thing."

Burns got up, amidst the affectionate laughter which followed this
explanation, and walked over to where Franz stood, his eager eyes fixed
upon his new and adored friend, who, he somehow divined, was the target
for some sort of badinage.

"Little Hungary," he said, smiling into the uplifted, boyish face, with
his hand on the slender shoulder, "it came out all right that time, but
don't you ever play under my window again in a January blizzard. If you
do, I'll kick you out into the storm!"



"Is Doctor Burns in?"

"He's not in. He will be here from two till five this afternoon. Could
you come then?" Miss Mathewson regarded the young stranger at the door
with more than ordinary interest. The face which was lifted to her was
one of quite unusual beauty, with astonishing eyes under resolute dark
brows, though the hair which showed from under the small and
close-fitting hat of black was of a wonderful and contradictory colour.
It was almost the shade, it occurred to Amy Mathewson, of that which
thatched the head of Red Pepper Burns himself, but it was more
picturesque hair than his, finer of texture, with a hint of curl. The
mass of it which showed at the back as the stranger turned her head away
for a moment, evidently hesitating over her next course of action, had
in it tints of bronze which were more beautiful than Burns's coppery

"Would you care to wait?" inquired Miss Mathewson, entirely against her
own principles.

It was not quite one o'clock, and Burns always lunched in the city,
after his morning at the hospital, and reached home barely in time for
those afternoon village office hours which began at two. His assistant
did not as a rule encourage the arrival of patients in the office as
early as this, knowing that they were apt to become impatient and
aggrieved by their long wait. But something about the slightly drooping
figure of the girl before her, in her black clothes, with a small
handbag on her arm, and a look of appeal on her face, suggested to the
experienced nurse that here was a patient who must not be turned away.

The girl looked up eagerly. "If I might," she said in a tone of relief.
"I really have nowhere to go until I have seen the Doctor."

Miss Mathewson led her in and gave her the most comfortable chair in the
room, a big, half shabby leather armchair, near the fireplace and close
beside a broad table whereon the latest current magazines were arranged
in orderly piles. The girl sank into the chair as if its wide arms were
welcome after a weary morning. She looked up at Miss Mathewson with a
faint little smile.

"I haven't been sitting much to-day," she said.

"This first spring weather makes every one feel rather tired," replied
Amy, noting how heavy were the shadows under the brown eyes with their
almost black lashes - an unusual combination with the undeniably russet

From her seat at the desk, where she was posting Burns's day book, the
nurse observed without seeming to do so that the slim figure in the old
armchair sat absolutely without moving, except once when the head
resting against the worn leather turned so that the cheek lay next it.
And after a very short time Miss Mathewson realized that the waiting
patient had fallen asleep. She studied her then, for something about the
young stranger had aroused her interest.

The girl was obviously poor, for the black suit, though carefully
pressed, was of cheap material, the velvet on the small black hat had
been caught in more than one shower, and the black gloves had been many
times painstakingly mended. The small feet alone showed that their owner
had allowed herself one luxury, that of good shoes - and the daintiness
of those feet made a strong appeal to the observer.

As for the face resting against the chair back, it was flushed after a
fashion which suggested illness rather than health, and Miss Mathewson
realized presently that the respiration of the sleeper was not quite
what it should be. Whether this were due to fatigue or coming illness
she could not tell.

Half-past one! The first early caller was slowing a small motor at the
curb outside when Amy Mathewson gently touched the girl's arm. "Come
into the other room, please," she said.

The brown eyes opened languidly. The black-gloved hand clutched at the
handbag, and the girl rose. "I'm so sorry," she murmured. "I don't know
how I came to go to sleep."

"You were tired out. If I had known I should have brought you in here
before," Amy said, leading her into the consulting room. "It is still
half an hour before Doctor Burns will be in, and you must lie here on
his couch while you wait."

"Oh, thank you, but I ought not to go to sleep. I - have you just a
minute to spare? I should like to show you a little book I am selling - "

Miss Mathewson suffered a sudden revulsion of feeling. So this girl was
only a book agent. First on the list of what by two o'clock would be a
good-sized assemblage of waiting patients, she must not be allowed to
take Doctor Burns's time to exploit her wares. Yet, even as Amy
regretted having brought a book agent into this inner sanctum, the girl
looked up from searching in her handbag and seemed to recognize the
prejudice she had excited.

"Oh, but I'm a patient, too," she said with a little smile. "I didn't
expect to take the Doctor's time telling him about the book. But you - I
thought you might be interested. It's a little book of bedtime stories
for children. They are very jolly little tales. Would you care to see

Now Amy Mathewson was the fortunate or unfortunate - as you happen to
regard such things - possessor of a particularly warm heart, and the
result of this appeal was that she took the book away with her into the
outer office, promising to look it over if the seller of it would lie
down upon the couch and rest quietly. She was convinced that the girl
was much more than weary - she was very far from well. The revealing
light of that consulting room had struck upon the upturned face and had
shown Miss Mathewson's trained eyes certain signs which alarmed her.

So it came about that Red Pepper Burns, coming in ruddy from his
twelve-mile dash home, and feeling particularly fit for the labours of
the afternoon in consequence of having found every hospital patient of
his own on the road to recovery - two of them having taken a
right-about-face from a condition which the day before had pointed
toward trouble - discovered his first office patient lying fast asleep
upon the consulting room couch.

"She seemed so worn out I put her here," explained Miss Mathewson,
standing beside him. "She falls asleep the moment she is off her feet."

"Hm - m," was his reply as he thrust his arms into his white
office-jacket. "Well, best wake her up, though it seems a pity. Looks as
if she'd been on a hunger strike, eh?" he added under his breath.

Miss Mathewson had the girl awake again in a minute, and she sat up, an
expression of contrition crossing her face as she caught sight of the
big doctor at the other side of the room, his back toward her. When
Burns turned, at Amy's summons, he beheld the slim figure sitting
straight on the edge of the broad couch, the brown eyes fixed on him.

"Tired out?" he asked pleasantly. "Take this chair, please, so I can see
all you have to tell me - and a few things you don't tell me."

It did not take him long. His eyes on the face which was too flushed,
his fingers on the pulse which beat too fast, his thermometer
registering a temperature too high, all told him that here was work for
him. The questions he asked brought replies which confirmed his fears.
Nothing in his manner indicated, however, that he was doing considerable
quick thinking. His examination over, he sat back in his chair and began
a second series of questions, speaking in a more than ordinarily quiet
but cheerful way.

"Will you tell me just a bit about your personal affairs?" he asked. "I
understand that you come from some distance. Have you a home and

"No family - for the last two years, since my father died."

"And no home?"

"If I am ill, Doctor Burns, I will look after myself."

He studied her. The brown eyes met the scrutinizing hazel ones without
flinching. Whether or not the spirit flinched he could not be sure. The
hazel eyes were very kindly.

"You have relatives somewhere whom we might let know of this?"

She shook her head determinedly. Her head lifted ever so little.

"You are quite alone in the world?"

"For all present purposes - yes, Doctor Burns."

"I can't just believe," he said gently, "that it is not very important
to somebody to know if you are ill."

"It is just my affair," she answered with equal courtesy of manner but
no less finally. "Believe me, please - and tell me what to do. Shall I
not be better to-morrow - or in a day or two?"

He was silent for a moment. Then, "It is not a time for you to be
without friends," said Red Pepper Burns. "I will prove to you that you
have them at hand. After that you will find there are others. I am
going to take you to a pleasant place I know of, where you will have
nothing to do but to lie still and rest and get well. The best of nurses
will look after you. You will obey orders for a little - my orders, if
you want to trust me - "

"Where is this place?" The question was a little breathless.

"Where do you guess?"

"In - a hospital?"

"In one of the best in the world."

"I am - pretty ill then?"

"It's a bit of a wonder," said Burns in his quietest tone, "how you have
kept around these last four days. I wish you hadn't."

"If I hadn't," said the girl rather faintly, "I shouldn't have been in
this town and I shouldn't have come to Doctor Burns. So - I'm glad I

"Good!" said Burns, smiling. "It's fine to start with the confidence of
one's patient. I'm glad you're going to trust me. Now we'll take you to
another room where you can lie down again till my office hours are over
and I can run into the city with you."

He rose, beckoning. But his patient protested: "Please tell me how to
get there. I can go perfectly well. My head is better, I think."

"That's lucky. But the first of my orders Miss Linton, is that you come
with me now."

He summoned Miss Mathewson, gave her directions, and dismissed the two.
In ten minutes the heavy eyes were again closed, while their owner lay
motionless again upon a bed in an inner room which was often used for
such purposes.

"I'm sorry I can't take her in now," Burns said to Amy presently in an
interval between patients. "I don't want to call the ambulance out here
for a walking case, and there's no need of startling her with it,
anyhow. I wish I had some way to send her."

"Mr. Jordan King just came into the office. His car is outside. Couldn't
he take her in?"

"Of course he could - and would, I've no doubt. He's only after his
mother's prescription. Send him in here next, will you, please?"

To the tall, well-built, black-eyed young man who answered this summons
in some surprise at being admitted before his turn, Burns spoke crisply:

"Here's the prescription, Jord, and you'll have to take it to Wood's to
get it filled. I hope it'll do your mother a lot of good, but I'm not
promising till I've tried it out pretty well. Now will you do me a

"Anything you like, Doctor."

"Thanks. I'm sending a patient to the hospital - a stranger stranded here
ill. She ought not to be out of bed another hour, though she walked to
the office and would walk away again if I'd let her - which I won't. I

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Online LibraryGrace S. RichmondRed Pepper's Patients With an Account of Anne Linton's Case in Particular → online text (page 3 of 14)