Mary Roberts Rinehart.

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"You - promised," he said again; but the Nurse only smiled
indulgently and rearranged the bottles on the stand in neat rows.

Jenks, the orderly, carried her supper to the isolation pavilion at
six o'clock - cold ham, potato salad, egg custard and tea. Also, he
brought her an evening paper. But the Nurse was not hungry. She went
into the bathroom, washed her eyes with cold water, put on a clean
collar, against the impending visit of the Staff Doctor, and then
stood at the window, looking across at the hospital and feeling very
lonely and responsible. It was not a great hospital, but it loomed
large and terrible that night. The ambulance came out into the
courtyard, and an interne, in white ducks, came out to it, carrying
a surgical bag. He looked over at her and waved his hand. "Big
railroad wreck!" he called cheerfully. "Got 'em coming in bunches."
He crawled into the ambulance, where the driver, trained to many
internes, gave him time to light a cigarette; then out into the
dusk, with the gong beating madly. Billy Grant, who had lapsed into
a doze, opened his eyes.

"What - about it?" he asked. "You're not - married already - are you?"

"Please try to rest. Perhaps if I get your beef juice - - "

"Oh, damn - the beef juice!" whispered Billy Grant, and shut his eyes
again - but not to sleep. He was planning how to get his way, and
finally, out of a curious and fantastic medley of thoughts, he
evolved something. The doctor, of course! These women had to do what
the doctor ordered. He would see the doctor! - upon which, with a
precision quite amazing, all the green monkeys on the footboard of
the bed put their thumbs to their noses at him.

The situation was unusual; for here was young Grant, far enough from
any one who knew he was one of the Van Kleek Grants - and, as such,
entitled to all the nurses and doctors that money could
procure - shut away in the isolation pavilion of a hospital, and not
even putting up a good fight! Even the Nurse felt this, and when the
Staff Man came across the courtyard that night she met him on the
doorstep and told him.

"He doesn't care whether he gets well or not," she said
dispiritedly. "All he seems to think about is to die and to leave
everything he owns so his relatives won't get it. It's horrible!"

The Staff Man, who had finished up a hard day with a hospital supper
of steak and fried potatoes, sat down on the doorstep and fished out
a digestive tablet from his surgical bag.

"It's pretty sad, little girl," he said, over the pill. He had known
the Nurse for some time, having, in fact, brought her - according to
report at the time - in a predecessor of the very bag at his feet,
and he had the fatherly manner that belongs by right to the man who
has first thumped one between the shoulder-blades to make one
breathe, and who had remarked on this occasion to some one beyond
the door: "A girl, and fat as butter!"

The Nurse tiptoed in and found Billy Grant apparently asleep.
Actually he had only closed his eyes, hoping to lure one of the
monkeys within clutching distance. So the Nurse came out again, with
the symptom record.

"Delirious, with two r's," said the Staff Doctor, glancing over his
spectacles. "He must have been pretty bad."

"Not wild; he - he wanted me to marry him!"

She smiled, showing a most alluring dimple in one cheek.

"I see! Well, that's not necessarily delirium. H'm - pulse,
respiration - look at that temperature! Yes, it's pretty sad - away
from home, too, poor lad!"

"You - - Isn't there any hope, doctor?"

"None at all - at least, I've never had 'em get well."

Now the Nurse should, by all the ethics of hospital practice, have
walked behind the Staff Doctor, listening reverentially to what he
said, not speaking until she was spoken to, and carrying in one hand
an order blank on which said august personage would presently
inscribe certain cabalistic characters, to be deciphered later by
the pharmacy clerk with a strong light and much blasphemy, and in
the other hand a clean towel. The clean towel does not enter into
the story, but for the curious be it said that were said personage
to desire to listen to the patient's heart, the towel would be
unfolded and spread, without creases, over the patient's
chest - which reminds me of the Irishman and the weary practitioner;
but every one knows that story.

Now that is what the Nurse should have done; instead of which, in
the darkened passageway, being very tired and exhausted and under a
hideous strain, she suddenly slipped her arm through the Staff
Doctor's and, putting her head on his shoulder, began to cry softly.

"What's this?" demanded the Staff Doctor sternly and, putting his
arm round her: "Don't you know that Junior Nurses are not supposed
to weep over the Staff?" And, getting no answer but a choke: "We
can't have you used up like this; I'll make them relieve you. When
did you sleep?"

"I don't want to be relieved," said the Nurse, very muffled.
"No-nobody else would know wh-what he wanted. I just - I just can't
bear to see him - to see him - - "

The Staff Doctor picked up the clean towel, which belonged on the
Nurse's left arm, and dried her eyes for her; then he sighed.

"None of us likes to see it, girl," he said. "I'm an old man, and
I've never got used to it. What do they send you to eat?"

"The food's all right," she said rather drearily. "I'm not
hungry - that's all. How long do you think - - "

The Staff Doctor, who was putting an antiseptic gauze cap over his
white hair, ran a safety pin into his scalp at that moment and did
not reply at once. Then, "Perhaps - until morning," he said.

He held out his arms for the long, white, sterilised coat, and a
moment later, with his face clean-washed of emotion, and looking
like a benevolent Turk, he entered the sick room. The Nurse was just
behind him, with an order book in one hand and a clean towel over
her arm.

Billy Grant, from his bed, gave the turban a high sign of greeting.

"Allah - is - great!" he gasped cheerfully. "Well, doctor - I guess
it's all - over but - the shouting."


Some time after midnight Billy Grant roused out of a stupor. He was
quite rational; in fact, he thought he would get out of bed. But his
feet would not move. This was absurd! One's feet must move if one
wills them to! However, he could not stir either of them. Otherwise
he was beautifully comfortable.

Faint as was the stir he made the Nurse heard him. She was sitting
in the dark by the window.

"Water?" she asked softly, coming to him.

"Please." His voice was stronger than it had been.

Some of the water went down his neck, but it did not matter. Nothing
mattered except the Lindley Grants. The Nurse took his temperature
and went out into the hall to read the thermometer, so he might not
watch her face. Then, having recorded it under the nightlight, she
came back into the room.

"Why don't you put on something comfortable?" demanded Billy Grant
querulously. He was so comfortable himself and she was so stiffly
starched, so relentless of collar and cap.

"I am comfortable."

"Where's that wrapper thing you've been wearing at night?" The Nurse
rather flushed at this. "Why don't you lie down on the cot and take
a nap? I don't need anything."

"Not - not to-night."

He understood, of course, but he refused to be depressed. He was too
comfortable. He was breathing easily, and his voice, though weak,
was clear.

"Would you mind sitting beside me? Or are you tired? But of course
you are. Perhaps in a night or so you'll be over there again,
sleeping in a nice white gown in a nice fresh bed, with no querulous
devil - - "


"You'll have to be sterilised or formaldehyded?"

"Yes." This very low.

"Will you put your hand over mine? Thanks. It's - company, you know."
He was apologetic; under her hand his own burned fire. "I - I spoke
to the Staff about that while you were out of the room."

"About what?"

"About your marrying me."

"What did he say?" She humoured him.

"He said he was willing if you were. You're not going to move - are

"No. But you must not talk."

"It's like this. I've got a little property - not much; a little." He
was nervously eager about this. If she knew it amounted to anything
she would refuse, and the Lindley Grants - - "And when I - you
know - - I want to leave it where it will do some good. That little
brother of yours - it would send him through college, or help to."

Once, weeks ago, before he became so ill, she had told him of the
brother. This in itself was wrong and against the ethics of the
profession. One does not speak of oneself or one's family.

"If you won't try to sleep, shall I read to you?"

"Read what?"

"I thought - the Bible, if you wouldn't mind."

"Certainly," he agreed. "I suppose that's the conventional thing;
and if it makes you feel any better - - Will you think over what
I've been saying?"

"I'll think about it," she said, soothing him like a fretful child,
and brought her Bible.

The clock on the near-by town hall struck two as she drew up her
chair beside him and commenced to read by the shaded light. Across
the courtyard the windows were dim yellowish rectangles, with here
and there one brighter than the others that told its own story of
sleepless hours. A taxicab rolled along the street outside, carrying
a boisterous night party.

The Nurse had taken off her cap and put it on a stand. The autumn
night was warm, and the light touch of the tulle had pressed her
hair in damp, fine curves over her forehead. There were purple
hollows of anxiety and sleeplessness under her eyes.

"The perfect nurse," the head of the training school was fond of
saying, "is more or less of a machine. Too much sympathy is a
handicap to her work and an embarrassment to her patient. A perfect,
silent, reliable, fearless, emotionless machine!"

Poor Junior Nurse!

Now Billy Grant, lying there listening to something out of Isaiah,
should have been repenting his hard-living, hard-drinking young
life; should have been forgiving the Lindley Grants - which story
does not belong here; should have been asking for the consolation of
the church, and trying to summon from the depths of his
consciousness faint memories of early teachings as to the life
beyond, and what he might or might not expect there.

What he actually did while the Nurse read was to try to move his
legs, and, failing this, to plan a way to achieve the final revenge
of a not particularly forgiving life.

At a little before three o'clock the Nurse telephoned across for an
interne, who came over in a bathrobe over his pajamas and shot a
hypodermic into Billy Grant's left arm. Billy Grant hardly noticed.
He was seeing Mrs. Lindley Grant when his surprise was sprung on
her. The interne summoned the Nurse into the hall with a jerk of his

"About all in!" he said. "Heart's gone - too much booze probably. I'd
stay, but there's nothing to do."

"Would oxygen - - "

"Oh, you can try it if you like. It's like blowing up a leaking
tire; but if you'll feel better, do it." He yawned and tied the cord
of his bathrobe round him more securely. "I guess you'll be glad to
get back," he observed, looking round the dingy hall. "This place
always gives me a chill. Well, let me know if you want me. Good

The Nurse stood in the hallway until the echo of his slippers on the
asphalt had died away. Then she turned to Billy Grant.

"Well?" demanded Billy Grant. "How long have I? Until morning?"

"If you would only not talk and excite yourself - - "

"Hell!" said Billy Grant, we regret to record. "I've got to do all
the talking I'm going to do right now. I beg your pardon - I didn't
intend to swear."

"Oh, that's all right!" said the Nurse vaguely. This was like no
deathbed she had ever seen, and it was disconcerting.

"Shall I read again?"

"No, thank you."

The Nurse looked at her watch, which had been graduation present
from her mother and which said, inside the case: "To my little
girl!" There is no question but that, when the Nurse's mother gave
that inscription to the jeweller, she was thinking of the day when
the Staff Doctor had brought the Nurse in his leather bag, and had
slapped her between the shoulders to make her breathe. "To my little
girl!" said the watch; and across from that - "Three o'clock."

At half-past three Billy Grant, having matured his plans, remarked
that if it would ease the Nurse any he'd see a preacher. His voice
was weaker again and broken.

"Not" - he said, struggling - "not that I think - he'll pass me.
But - if you say so - I'll - take a chance."

All of which was diabolical cunning; for when, as the result of a
telephone conversation, the minister came, an unworldly man who
counted the world, an automobile, a vested choir and a silver
communion service well lost for the sake of a dozen derelicts in a
slum mission house, Billy Grant sent the Nurse out to prepare a
broth he could no longer swallow, and proceeded to cajole the man of
God. This he did by urging the need of the Nurse's small brother for
an education and by forgetting to mention either the Lindley Grants
or the extent of his property.

From four o'clock until five Billy Grant coaxed the Nurse with what
voice he had. The idea had become an obsession; and minute by
minute, panting breath by panting breath, her resolution wore away.
He was not delirious; he was as sane as she was and terribly set.
And this thing he wanted was so easy to grant; meant so little to
her and, for some strange reason, so much to him. Perhaps, if she
did it, he would think a little of what the preacher was saying.

At five o'clock, utterly worn out with the struggle and finding his
pulse a negligible quantity, in response to his pleading eyes the
Nurse, kneeling and holding a thermometer under her patient's arm
with one hand, reached the other one over the bed and was married in
a dozen words and a soiled white apron.

Dawn was creeping in at the windows - a grey city dawn, filled with
soot and the rumbling of early wagons. A smell of damp asphalt from
the courtyard floated in and a dirty sparrow chirped on the sill
where the Nurse had been in the habit of leaving crumbs. Billy
Grant, very sleepy and contented now that he had got his way,
dictated a line or two on a blank symptom record, and signed his
will in a sprawling hand.

"If only," he muttered, "I could see Lin's face when that's - sprung
on him!"

The minister picked up the Bible from the tumbled bed and opened it.

"Perhaps," he suggested very softly, "if I read from the Word of
God - - "

Satisfied now that he had fooled the Lindley Grants out of their
very shoebuttons, Billy Grant was asleep - asleep with the
thermometer under his arm and with his chest rising and falling

The minister looked across at the Nurse, who was still holding the
thermometer in place. She had buried her face in the white

"You are a good woman, sister," he said softly. "The boy is happier,
and you are none the worse. Shall I keep the paper for you?"

But the Nurse, worn out with the long night, slept where she knelt.
The minister, who had come across the street in a ragged
smoking-coat and no collar, creaked round the bed and threw the edge
of the blanket over her shoulders.

Then, turning his coat collar up over his unshaved neck, he departed
for the mission across the street, where one of his derelicts, in
his shirtsleeves, was sweeping the pavement. There, mindful of the
fact that he had come from the contagious pavilion, the minister
brushed his shabby smoking-coat with a whiskbroom to remove the


Billy Grant, of course, did not die. This was perhaps because only
the good die young. And Billy Grant's creed had been the honour of a
gentleman rather than the Mosaic Law. There was, therefore, no
particular violence done to his code when his last thoughts - or what
appeared to be his last thoughts - were revenge instead of salvation.

The fact was, Billy Grant had a real reason for hating the Lindley
Grants. When a fellow like that has all the Van Kleek money and a
hereditary thirst, he is bound to drink. The Lindley Grants did not
understand this and made themselves obnoxious by calling him "Poor
Billy!" and not having wine when he came to dinner. That, however,
was not his reason for hating them.

Billy Grant fell in love. To give the devil his due, he promptly set
about reforming himself. He took about half as many whisky-and-sodas
as he had been in the habit of doing, and cut out champagne
altogether. He took up golf to fill in the time, too, but gave it up
when he found it made him thirstier than ever. And then, with
things so shaping up that he could rise in the morning without
having a drink to get up on, the Lindley Grants thought it best to
warn the girl's family before it was too late.

"He is a nice boy in some ways," Mrs. Lindley Grant had said on the
occasion of the warning; "but, like all drinking men, he is a broken
reed, eccentric and irresponsible. No daughter of mine could marry
him. I'd rather bury her. And if you want facts Lindley will give
them to you."

So the girl had sent back her ring and a cold little letter, and
Billy Grant had got roaring full at a club that night and presented
the ring to a cabman - all of which is exceedingly sordid, but rather
human after all.

The Nurse, having had no sleep for forty-eight hours, slept for
quite thirty minutes. She wakened at the end of that time and
started up with a horrible fear that the thing she was waiting for
had come. But Billy Grant was still alive, sleeping naturally, and
the thermometer, having been in place forty minutes, registered a
hundred and three.

At eight o'clock the interne, hurrying over in fresh ducks, with a
laudable desire to make the rounds before the Staff began to drop
in, found Billy Grant very still and with his eyes closed, and the
Nurse standing beside the bed, pale and tremulous.

"Why didn't you let me know?" he demanded, aggrieved. "I ought to
have been called. I told you - - "

"He isn't dead," said the Nurse breathlessly. "He - I think he is

Whereon she stumbled out of the room into her own little room across
the hall, locking the door behind her, and leaving the interne to
hunt the symptom record for himself - a thing not to be lightly
overlooked; though of course internes are not the Staff.

The interne looked over the record and whistled.

"Wouldn't that paralyse you!" he said under his breath. "'Pulse very
weak.' 'Pulse almost obliterated.' 'Very talkative.' 'Breathing hard
at four A.M. Cannot swallow.' And then: 'Sleeping calmly from five
o'clock.' 'Pulse stronger.' Temperature one hundred and three.' By
gad, that last prescription of mine was a hit!"

So now began a curious drama of convalescence in the little
isolation pavilion across the courtyard. Not for a minute did the
two people most concerned forget their strange relationship; not for
worlds would either have allowed the other to know that he or she
remembered. Now and then the Nurse caught Billy Grant's eyes fixed
on her as she moved about the room, with a curious wistful
expression in them. And sometimes, waking from a doze, he would find
her in her chair by the window, with her book dropped into her lap
and a frightened look in her eyes, staring at him.

He gained strength rapidly and the day came when, with the orderly's
assistance, he was lifted to a chair. There was one brief moment in
which he stood tottering on his feet. In that instant he had
realised what a little thing she was, after all, and what a cruel
advantage he had used for his own purpose.

When he was settled in the chair and the orderly had gone she
brought an extra pillow to put behind him, and he dared the first
personality of their new relationship.

"What a little girl you are, after all!" he said. "Lying there in
the bed shaking at your frown, you were so formidable."

"I am not small," she said, straightening herself. She had always
hoped that her cap gave her height. "It is you who are so tall.
You - you are a giant!"

"A wicked giant, seeking whom I may devour and carrying off lovely
girls for dinner under pretence of marriage - - " He stopped his
nonsense abruptly, having got so far, and both of them coloured.
Thrashing about desperately for something to break the wretched
silence, he seized on the one thing that in those days of his
convalescence was always pertinent - food. "Speaking of dinner," he
said hastily, "isn't it time for some buttermilk?"

She was quite calm when she came back - cool, even smiling; but
Billy Grant had not had the safety valve of action. As she placed
the glass on the table at his elbow he reached out and took her

"Can you ever forgive me?" he asked. Not an original speech; the
usual question of the marauding male, a query after the fact and too
late for anything but forgiveness.

"Forgive you? For not dying?"

She was pale; but no more subterfuge now, no more turning aside from
dangerous subjects. The matter was up before the house.

"For marrying you!" said Billy Grant, and upset the buttermilk. It
took a little time to wipe up the floor and to put a clean cover on
the stand, and after that to bring a fresh glass and place it on the
table. But these were merely parliamentary preliminaries while each
side got its forces in line.

"Do you hate me very much?" opened Billy Grant. This was, to change
the figure, a blow below the belt.

"Why should I hate you?" countered the other side.

"I should think you would. I forced the thing on you."

"I need not have done it."

"But being you, and always thinking about making some one else happy
and comfortable - - "

"Oh, if only they don't find it out over there!" she burst out. "If
they do and I have to leave, with Jim - - "

Here, realising that she was going to cry and not caring to screw up
her face before any one, she put her arms on the stand and buried
her face in them. Her stiff tulle cap almost touched Billy Grant's

Billy Grant had a shocked second.


"My little brother," from the table.

Billy Grant drew a long breath of relief. For a moment he had
thought - -

"I wonder - whether I dare to say something to you." Silence from the
table and presumably consent. "Isn't he - don't you think that - I
might be allowed to - to help Jim? It would help me to like myself
again. Just now I'm not standing very high with myself."

"Won't you tell me why you did it?" she said, suddenly sitting up,
her arms still out before her on the table. "Why did you coax so?
You said it was because of a little property you had, but - that
wasn't it - was it?"


"Or because you cared a snap for me." This was affirmation, not

"No, not that, though I - - "

She gave a hopeless little gesture of despair.

"Then - why? Why?"

"For one of the meanest reasons I know - to be even with some people
who had treated me badly."

The thing was easier now. His flat denial of any sentimental reason
had helped to make it so.

"A girl that you cared about?"

"Partly that. The girl was a poor thing. She didn't care enough to
be hurt by anything I did. But the people who made the trouble - - "

Now a curious thing happened. Billy Grant found at this moment that
he no longer hated the Lindley Grants. The discovery left him
speechless - that he who had taken his hate into the very valley of
death with him should now find himself thinking of both Lindley and
his wife with nothing more bitter than contempt shocked him. A state
of affairs existed for which his hatred of the Lindley Grants was
alone responsible; now the hate was gone and the state of affairs

"I should like," said Billy Grant presently, "to tell you a
little - if it will not bore you - about myself and the things I have
done that I shouldn't, and about the girl. And of course, you know,
I'm - I'm not going to hold you to - to the thing I forced you into.
There are ways to fix that."

Before she would listen, however, she must take his temperature and
give him his medicine, and see that he drank his buttermilk - the
buttermilk last, so as not to chill his mouth for the thermometer.
The tired lines had gone from under her eyes and she was very lovely
that day. She had always been lovely, even when the Staff Doctor
had slapped her between the shoulders long ago - you know about
that - only Billy Grant had never noticed it; but to-day, sitting
there with the thermometer in his mouth while she counted his
respirations, pretending to be looking out the window while she did
it, Billy Grant saw how sweet and lovely and in every way adorable

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