Lurana Waterhouse Sheldon.

My Queen: A Weekly Journal for Young Women. Issue 3, October 13, 1900 online

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follow.

She had not told either Miss Allyn or Dollie that she knew this young
man, so she was prepared for something like a scene from Miss Allyn.

“Good-night, Miss Marlowe,” said young Brookes, holding out his hand.

“Good-night,” Marion answered, her lips curving into a smile, “and I do
hope you will keep your promise about coming to Charity.”

“I will, indeed,” said the young man, softly. The next moment he turned
and confronted Miss Allyn.

“Miss Allyn! Alma! Is it possible?” he cried in astonishment.

“Hello, Reggie, what the mischief are you doing here?” was the answer.

Then as Miss Allyn caught sight of Marion, she added promptly: “Oh, I
see, you are making love to the noblest girl in creation!”


CHAPTER VIII.

A PROPHECY CAME TRUE.

“Well, if you are not a sly one,” remarked Miss Allyn, as soon as she
and Marion were alone in the little parlor.

Marion indulged in a hearty laugh before she told her how she had met
young Brookes and his mother on the train the day she came back from
the country.

“Will you take my advice and marry him if he asks you,” said Miss
Allyn, shortly. “There are not many men like Reginald Brookes, Marion,
I can tell you.”

“Is he better than Mr. Ray?” asked Marion, jokingly. “I have been
trying to answer that question for myself all the evening.”

“Poor Mr. Ray! His chances are fading,” said Miss Allyn, smiling.
“Well, it wouldn’t be fair to the absent to praise his rival, so I’ll
decline the responsibility of answering your question.”

“That’s just like you, Alma,” said Marion, soberly. “You are the most
loyal woman that I ever met or heard of.”

“Well, I know another that answers to that description,” said Miss
Allyn, quickly. “Do you want to see her?”

She grasped Marion by the shoulders and whirled her around so that she
faced the mirror directly over the mantel.

Marion blushed and was about to speak, when Dollie tapped on the door.
Her lover, Ralph Moore, was with her and begged the girls to let him
come in a minute.

“Come right in, Brother Ralph,” said Marion, teasingly. “Come in and
see Dollie’s new home, and I’ll introduce you to Miss Allyn.”

Ralph Moore was a handsome fellow, with charming manners, and since his
engagement to Dollie he was just like a big brother to Marion.

“It’s very pretty,” he said, admiringly. “I hope I’ll soon be able to
furnish as pretty a one for Dollie.”

“What, and take her away from me?” asked Miss Allyn, quickly. “Well,
that settles it, Mr. Moore. You can consider me your sworn enemy.”

“Oh, you’ll have to live with us,” retorted Dollie. “We’ll take a
bigger flat and all live together.”

“No, thanks,” said Miss Allyn, laughing; “none of that for me. Do you
suppose I could stand it to see you forever spooning?”

After a laugh at this remark, Mr. Moore took his departure, boldly
kissing his sweetheart in the tenderest manner.

“Good-by, Ralph,” said Marion. “I will not see you again. I have an
engagement to-morrow night, and Monday I go to the Island.”

“Well, good luck, Sister Marion,” said Ralph, taking her hand; then he
turned toward Dollie with a pleading expression.

“Yes, you can kiss her, seeing it’s Marion,” said Dollie, laughing,
“but just look out for yourself, sir. If I ever catch you kissing any
other girl, why, I’d just scratch your eyes out, even if I do love you.”

“I won’t take any chances,” said Ralph, in mock terror; then he kissed
Marion good-by and said good night to Miss Allyn.

“A mighty fine fellow,” was Miss Allyn’s comment.

“A noble young man,” was Marion’s answer. “We can never forget how
loyally he has defended us.”

Miss Allyn knew what she meant, and nodded her head. She had heard the
story of Ralph Moore’s strange deed, how he had appropriated a jewel
from his aunt and pawned it to keep the girls from starvation.

“I’d trust a man like that anywhere,” she said, slowly, “for no matter
what he did, no one would suffer by it; he would look at both sides of
a brook before he jumped it.”

The girls were soon in bed and sound asleep. They had had a tiresome
day, but would have been absolutely happy had not the unfaithfulness of
Miss Allyn’s lover cast a cloud upon their thoughts.

Early Monday morning Marion said good-by to her friend and to her
sister, for Miss Allyn and Dollie were going down town together, as it
was Dollie’s first day of service as a typewriter.

At ten o’clock Marion started out. Her boat left at eleven from the
East Twenty-sixth street dock, and she had a permit in her pocket which
the clerk at Charity Hospital had sent her.

It was to be a strange experience, and Marion trembled a little. Some
way she dreaded to see the sights that she was about to encounter.

“There are prisoners and crazy people of all kinds up there,” she
whispered to herself. “I just dread to face such misery, and yet some
one has to do it.”

She had packed her little trunk and sent it on before her, so now she
had nothing but a handbag to carry, and she quite enjoyed the ride from
Harlem in the elevated train.

Marion had just reached the street from the elevated station, when the
sharp clang of a bell startled her from her reflections.

There was a large group of people about half way down the block, and in
an instant an ambulance came dashing around the corner.

“A woman either sick or drunk,” said somebody near her.

Marion walked along slowly, so as not to get in the crowd which, like
all New York crowds, seemed to spring right up through the sidewalk.

“Get out of the way there, will you!” shouted a burly policeman, as he
rushed up. “Stand back there and give the doctor a chance. Move on, I
say, or I’ll club the heads off’n you!”

Marion shrank back a little, but she was the only one. The others
swarmed about the ambulance as though the officer had not spoken.

In the twinkling of an eye the ambulance swung around and a physician
in uniform sprang to the curbing.

The crowd fell back a little when the officer resorted to vigorous
measures, and the next moment Marion caught sight of a woman lying on
the sidewalk, with her head actually falling over the curb into the
gutter.

“Run out the stretcher,” ordered the physician as another officer
arrived on the scene. He picked the woman up bodily and laid her on the
floor of the ambulance, which was fitted with a mattress and blankets.

A break in the crowd enabled her to see clearly. In a second she was
staring hard, her breath almost choking her.

There was something familiar about the woman’s dress, which was of a
plain, dark homespun, so common in the country.

The next moment Marion had pressed forward until she obtained a clear
view of the poor creature’s face, and then a cry burst from her lips
that made the crowd stare at her.

“It is Sallie—Sallie Green!” she cried hysterically.

The ambulance bell clanged and there was a swaying of the crowd. Before
she could collect her senses the ambulance dashed off, carrying Silas
Johnson’s wretched wife to a cot in Bellevue Hospital.

Sallie had kept her word—she had “run away to the big city.”


CHAPTER IX.

MARION MEETS A MISSIONARY.

Marion made her way down to the dock, feeling almost dazed at what she
had seen. She was endeavoring to decide what was her duty in the matter.

She heard the clang of the bell as the ambulance dashed into Bellevue
Hospital yard, but she was too late to see more, for the great gate
closed as she reached it.

She took her permit from her pocket and glanced at it eagerly. It was
dated, so she knew she must use it that day, and, furthermore, it was
now five minutes of eleven, so there was no time to be spent in helping
Sallie.

“They’ll take good care of her, I am sure,” she whispered to herself,
“and, anyway, I can write to Silas as soon as I get up there. He can’t
be so bad but what he’ll come and get her.”

In less than five minutes she was on the dock, and here for a moment
Marion almost forgot poor Sallie. There were several policemen standing
around, as if waiting for something, and on the deck of the _Thomas
Brennan_, the ferryboat that was to convey her to Blackwell’s Island,
and which was moored to the dock, she could see several more men in
blue uniforms waiting.

As soon as Marion passed the dock entrance an officer came up to her.
Marion handed him her permit and he turned and nodded to the captain.

“Go right on deck, miss. The prisoners will stay down below,” he said,
kindly, as he led Marion over and helped her down the gangplank.

Marion glanced around the boat, which looked anything but attractive,
and was soon on the deck as the officer had directed her.

Just as she reached it a great covered wagon came lumbering down to the
dock.

“Here she comes at last! Here’s the ‘Black Maria!’” cried the captain;
then he gave some orders and at once all was activity.

Marion’s eyes were widely opened when she saw what followed, for there
were fourteen prisoners in the “Black Maria,” two of the worst ones
being handcuffed together.

In the quickest possible manner they were driven on to the boat, a
guard standing at each side of the gangplank to keep them from jumping
overboard.

As soon as they were all on, the order was given to start, and the boat
was soon ploughing its way up the East River and among the craft that
dotted the water.

“Is this a strange sight for you, miss?” asked a voice behind Marion.

The young girl turned quickly and confronted an elderly woman.

“It is, indeed,” said Marion promptly, “and it is about the saddest
sight that I ever dreamed of,” she added.

“Are you a nurse?” asked the woman again in a courteous manner.

“Not yet,” answered Marion, “but I am accepted on probation. I am on my
way to the Charity Hospital.”

The woman looked at her kindly, but Marion’s gaze was wandering. She
was trying to realize her extraordinary surroundings.

“Those are ‘ten-day’ men,” said the woman, as she saw Marion staring at
two of the deck hands on the steamer. “In other words, they have been
sent up for ten days and are allowed to work on the boat.”

Marion opened her eyes in absolute surprise. She had never before heard
of such an arrangement.

“Why, that is ever so much better than keeping them shut up,” she
said, quickly. “Poor fellows! I am sorry for them. They haven’t all got
bad faces.”

“And they are not all bad; now,” said the woman again. “I can assure
you, I have many good friends among the prisoners.”

Marion turned and looked at her with interest. She seemed to be both a
refined and an intelligent person.

“I am a Bible reader,” said the woman, smiling. “I visit some of the
islands every day, and my principal duty is to read the Bible to the
prisoners.”

Marion’s smile changed instantly into an expression of wonderment.

“Do they like that, madam?” she asked, a little bluntly.

“Some of them do,” said the woman, with a peculiar laugh, “but some are
very hardened. I can hardly get them to listen.”

“Well, I don’t wonder,” said the girl, with a heavy sigh. “I should
think that some parts of the Bible would make them feel decidedly
uncomfortable. Of course, there are many classes of criminals,” she
added, quickly. “There are those who sin through weakness and those who
are deliberately vicious. Then, of course, there are the others who sin
almost from necessity.”

The woman looked at her in a little surprise. She had not expected so
young a girl to be so serious on this subject.

“The good Word comforts each of these classes,” was her only answer.
“If they are truly sorry they will be forgiven.”

Marion’s next remark showed that she was thinking more than listening.

“Society is all to blame,” she said, very soberly. “If conditions were
right, there would be very few criminals, and none, I am sure, of
the last class I mentioned. If you could only read the Bible to our
lawmakers, madam, and to the rich men and women who are mighty and all
powerful.”

The woman smiled and looked at her curiously.

“Perhaps you are right,” she said, after a minute, “but we should rise
above conditions and not be slaves to them.”

“That is easier said than done,” said Marion, sharply. “When a man’s
strength is deficient he is not to blame for it.”

“They should have prayed for strength,” said the woman, devoutly, “and
at any rate they should not have fallen into sin. It is their own fault
that they are here doing penance for their wickedness.”

“Well, I am very sorry for them, anyway,” replied Marion, quickly,
“and I sincerely hope that you are able to comfort them, madam. To me
they look like poor creatures who have never had half a chance. No
doubt they would all have been honest if they could have earned decent
livings.”

She turned abruptly on her heel and walked away. Some way, it vexed her
to hear this woman blaming the poor creatures.

“Probably she was never hungry or in want in her life,” she thought,
angrily, “so what can she know of the temptations they have suffered?”

This glimpse of misery was making Marion depressed already. The faces
of the men haunted her, they were so pinched and eager.

She wandered across the boat and stood looking over the water, her
brain busy with the problems of how to help the poor creatures.

The woman did not come near her and Marion was glad of it. She wanted
to be alone and do a little hard thinking.

“I may be wrong in pitying them, but I can’t help it,” she thought.
“I am sure the struggle of life has been too hard for many of them.
I suppose that woman thinks I am a heathen, because I did not say I
thought they deserved what they were getting.”

A light ripple of laughter relieved her over-strained tension and for
the next few minutes the woman was forgotten.

Marion watched the prisoners land, with the guards beside them, and
then as they marched slowly toward the penitentiary, she left the boat
and started for the hospital.

It was all so strange, so almost alarming, this guarding and marching,
that for a minute she felt a sense of oppression in her soul. It was
as though she were breathing the air of a prison cell rather than the
breath of sweet liberty, which was her rightful possession.


CHAPTER X.

MARION’S FIRST WEEK AT CHARITY.

In less than a week Marion began to feel quite at home in the big
hospital, whose windows overlooked a scene of magnificence as well as
much that was less inspiring.

Strips of clear blue water stretched on both sides of the island, and
as Marion listened to the thrilling tales and traditions which have
long made Hell Gate a place of blood-curdling interest, she could
hardly turn her eyes from the far-famed danger spot. It seemed to
enthral her in some spell of enchantment.

The great cities of Brooklyn and New York made a magnificent background
to the scene. Spires towered from expensive churches, and at sunset the
plate-glass windows of the many noble structures gave back a glow which
was almost glorious.

Thus the city’s grandeur and luxury was before her eyes, while its
misery was in even closer proximity, for was she not caring for its
victims, its slaves and its outcasts in the very wards of this isolated
building?

“Oh, to think that such wretchedness should exist!” she sighed over and
over. “To think that with all the wealth and luxury of New York, these
poor, poor creatures should drag out such an existence!”

As Marion passed through the wards, her heart was heavy within her. It
was a condition which the simple country girl had never dreamed could
exist—a condition which she could by any possibility have imagined,
but, nevertheless, one of the saddest, sternest, most reliable facts in
the history of the city.

Inside were the sick, the deformed, the crippled. Women whom shame had
driven from the sight of the world, others whom care, abuse, over-work
and under-pay had reduced to that condition known as invalid vagrancy.

Outside, in the numerous buildings, were other classes—criminals,
“crooks,” “scapegraces” and prodigals and careworn men and decrepit
women—paupers, homeless and penniless at the close of life and
dependent upon what some have called a city’s “charity.”

It took Marion some time to grasp the full horror of the Island. The
spot was so beautiful that it made the realization more difficult.

True to her resolve, she had written at once to Silas, and as the hours
went by, she consoled herself by thinking that Sallie must be safely at
home, unless—and here a thrill of horror would cross her—unless she had
died in the hospital before Silas could get the letter.

The thought of poor Sallie made her keenly alive to the sufferings of
the unfortunates around her. That one glimpse of Sallie’s white face
seemed to haunt her continually.

Over and over she marveled at the apparent indifference of the other
nurses, and wondered if it were possible that she, too, would become
hardened to her surroundings.

“I am afraid I shall become morbid,” she said to the head nurse in her
ward one day. “I cannot drive the horrors of this Island out of my mind
for a minute. It is fortunate for me that you keep me so busy.”

Miss Williams smiled sadly. She was a sweet-faced woman.

“You will be obliged to grow indifferent. It is your only safeguard,”
she said, kindly. “An over-sympathetic nurse is never very successful.”

“I shall try not to show my feelings,” said Marion, quickly. “I know
that would be fatal to success, Miss Williams, but I am almost certain
that I can never help feeling.”

“Oh, but that is different,” was the cordial answer. “A nurse that
cannot feel is a mere machine. She will do her work well, and to
some patients this will be quite satisfactory, but to others, to the
majority, sympathy is more than medicine. An encouraging word, or a
kindly interest will heal the soul, which is often more stricken than
the body. There is Katie B——,” she went on more softly. “Just see how
that child hungers for a mother’s voice, yet she is a mother herself,
the poor unfortunate. A nurse who would be cold to her would lose the
child’s confidence altogether.”

“I understand you perfectly,” said Marion, slowly. “A nurse in Charity
Hospital has something to do besides make beds and give medicines. She
has human hearts to cheer and strengthen. Oh, I hope I may be wise
enough not to throw away my opportunity.”

“You are doing nobly,” said Miss Williams, smiling. “I have seldom seen
a ‘probationer’ take so kindly to her lot. Making beds and cleaning
wards is not very pleasant work, but we all had to do it before we
could wear strings to our aprons.”

Both girls laughed pleasantly at this allusion to future honors, for
even Marion had learned that a nurse’s highest ambition was to wear an
honorable graduate’s cap and apron.

“I shall be glad when my probation is ended,” said Marion, eagerly. “I
do so want to wear the regulation uniform. Of course, I am willing to
admit that I don’t like to do drudgery, but I remember that all have
to start at the beginning, and it won’t be long before I can wield the
temperature thermometer.”

Miss Williams sighed, and her face saddened for a minute.

“You will find that the responsibility has increased wonderfully by
that time,” she said, slowly. “Sometimes I wish that I could always
have been a ‘probationer.’”

The girls were busy in the medicine-room of the ward as they talked.
Miss Williams was getting out lint and bandages for a coming operation,
while Marion was busy cleaning a number of surgical instruments.

“I feel more like a scullery maid than I do like a nurse,” she said,
laughing, as she carefully polished some knives and arranged them in
the case.

“There’s your bell,” said Miss Williams, quickly, as she heard a soft
tinkle. Marion dropped her cloth and started toward her patient.

“Miss Marlowe!”

Miss Williams raised her voice, but spoke gently and pleasantly.

“Please pick up your cloth and lay it on the table, then move swiftly,
but more silently as you go to your patient!”

She smiled as she spoke, and Marion nodded gratefully.

“I see I am much too impulsive,” she said, regretfully. “Oh, will I
ever learn to discipline my emotions?”

“Of course you will,” said Miss Williams, as she passed out of the
door. “You’ll learn anything that you wish to, Miss Marion Marlowe.”

It was Kittie B—— who had rung the bell. She was lying in bed, her face
as white as her pillow, with a tiny red-faced infant nestling beside
her.

“May I have a drink of water?” she whispered, with a faint smile. “I
guess I am feverish—I’m awful thirsty.”

“Certainly you shall have it, dear,” was Marion’s prompt answer. Then
it suddenly occurred to her that she had no right to promise anything.

“I’ll have to ask Miss Williams first, though, Kittie,” she said,
quietly; “but I guess there is no doubt but what you can have the
water.”

It was only a minute before Marion returned with the water, but the
request had brought Miss Williams promptly to the bedside.

In a moment the trained nurse was feeling Kittie’s pulse. In another
minute the temperature thermometer was out, and it was discovered that
Kittie had a fever.

“The maternity ward is not the place for fevers,” said Miss Williams to
Marion when they were out of hearing of the patient. “Put the screen
around Kittie’s bed and keep her as quiet as possible. If the baby
annoys her or she annoys the baby, take it out and put it in the crib
beside the bed. I will look at her again in fifteen minutes.”

Marion went back to the bed and found Kittie fidgeting. There was a
look in her face that frightened Marion somewhat.

She took the baby up and laid it in the crib, then turned to soothe
Kittie with a smile and a few encouraging words.

The flush of fever was rising to the sick girl’s pale face now, so that
even Marion’s untrained eye could observe and study the symptoms.

She bathed her brow and moistened her lips, but the fire in the girl’s
veins seemed to burn hotter and hotter.

An hour later and Miss Williams had called the house physician to the
bedside.

Kittie was moaning softly and turning her head from side to side.

“It’s a pity we did not know more about her when she came,” said Dr.
Hall as he turned away. “The girl is in a very dangerous condition.”


CHAPTER XI.

SOME SHOCKING INCIDENTS.

The next two days were busy ones for Marion, for she was almost
constantly at the bedside of poor, delirious Kittie.

As the girl tossed on her pillow she talked incessantly, so that, bit
by bit, Marion learned her sad history, finding that, like herself, the
child had been born and bred in the country, but had run away from her
home only to find treachery and disgrace in a conscienceless city. The
names of “father” and “mother” were constantly on her lips. Then there
was another name which she tried to speak, but which seemed always to
be choked back by a flood of agony or a torrent of bitter, ill-timed
denunciations.

Marion guessed that this name would have meant a revelation. It was
doubtless the name of poor Kittie’s betrayer, which, for some reason
or other, she could never utter.

A sudden dislike to her own child was the next development of the
fever. When she saw its tiny face she screamed and shrieked with rage.
It was necessary to remove it from her sight entirely.

“It is a typical case,” said Miss Williams to Marion. “You can study
the chart as much as you wish. It will not hurt you to learn the
tracings, even though you are a ‘probationer.’”

On the very next bed to Kittie lay an older woman. She was also a
mother and was slowly dying of consumption.

As Kittie moaned and cried, this woman wept silently. In her own dire
distress she was consumed with pity.

“Oh, the misery of it all,” she sighed, as Marion bent over her.
“Bless your dear face, nurse, and may the good God keep you from such
wretchedness.”

Marion looked upon death for the first time that night, for the poor
consumptive died without a sound or struggle.


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Online LibraryLurana Waterhouse SheldonMy Queen: A Weekly Journal for Young Women. Issue 3, October 13, 1900 → online text (page 3 of 6)