SHE came at once. She stepped before him at the bedside, and stood there, without moving. She let him look at her as long as he would. It was not long. He felt very ill. He regarded her confusedly. He perceived a woman of medium height, with a well-shaped head. He felt the dress and carriage of a lady. His eye fell upon her hands, which were crossed lightly on the edge of the little table where his medicines stood. Sick as he was, he noticed unusual signs of strength in her fingers, which were yet not deficient in delicacy. Yorke had always judged people a good deal by their hands. He repeated his nervous phrase:—
“ I am in a woman’s hands ! ”
She spread them out before him with a swift, fine gesture; then made as if she put something unseen at one side from them.
“ Let me send for the man I spoke of. You are irresolute. You are losing strength and time. This is a mistake as well as a misfortune. I can’t help being a woman, but I can help your suffering from the fact.”
“ No, — not yet. No. Wait a moment. I wish to speak with you. W ill you pardon me if I ask — a few questions ? ”
“ I will pardon anything. But they must be very few. I shall not stand by and see you spend your breath unnecessarily.”
“ Are you an educated physician, madam ? ”
“ Yes, sir.”
“ A beginner ? ”
“ I have practiced several years.”
“ Do you think you understand my case ? ”
“ I think I do.”
“ This old man you speak of, — this other doctor, — what is he ? ”
“ His patients trust him.”
“ Do you think I should trust him ? ”
“ No, sir.”
“ Are you the only homœopathist in this region ? ”
“ There is one at Cherryfield ; other’s at Bangor ; none within thirty miles.”
“ Can you get consultation ? ”
“ I have already telegraphed to Bangor for advice: there is an eminent surgeon there ; he will come if needed.
I know him well.”
“ How much am I hurt ? ”
“ A good deal, sir.”
“ Where are the injuries ? ”
“ In the head, the foot, and the right arm.”
“ What are they ? ”
“ I do not wish you to talk of them.
I do not wish you to talk any more of anything.”
“ Just this, — am I in danger ? ”
“I hope not, Mr. Yorke.”
“ I see you can tell the truth.”
“ I am telling the truth.”
“ I begin to trust you.”
She put her finger on her lip. He Stirred heavily, with an ineffectual attempt to writhe himself into another position.
“ I cannot move. I did not know my arm was hurt before— Ah, there ! ”
As he spoke, blood sprang. The doctor made towards him a motion remarkable for its union of swiftness with great composure. Her face had a stern but perfectly steady light. She said calmly :
“ Lie still. Mr. Yorke,” and with one hand held him down upon the pillow. He perceived then that a bandage had slipped from a deep wound just below the shoulder, and that a severed artery was oozing red and hot. He grew giddy and faint, but managed to keep his wits together to watch and see what the young woman would do. She quickly bared his arm, from which the sleeve was already cut away.
“ Mrs. Butterwell,” she called quietly, “ will you please bring me some hot water ? ”
During the little delay which ensued on this order — a momentary one, for Mrs. Isaiah Butterwell was one of those housekeepers whose conscience would admit of a lukewarm sanctification sooner than a lukewarm boiler—the doctor gently unrolled the bandage from the wound, which she then thoroughly sponged and cleansed. The patient thought he heard her say something about “ secondary hæmorrhages ; ” but the words, if indeed she used them at all, were not addressed to him. The hot water did not stop the blood, which seemed to him to be sucking his soul out.
“ Hold this arm, Mrs. Butterwell,” said the young lady —“just so. Keep it in this position till I tell you to let go. Do you understand ? There. No, stay. Call Mr. Butterwell. I want two.”
She drew her surgical case from her pocket, and selected an artery forceps. She opened the wound, and instructed Mr. Butterwell how to hold the forceps in position while she ligated the artery. She bandaged the arm, and adjusted it to suit her upon a pillow. She had a firm and fearless touch. Her face betrayed no uneasiness; only the contraction of the brows inseparable from studious attention.
The patient looked at the physician with glazing eyes.
“Write to my mother,” he said weakly. “ Don’t say you are not a man. Only say you are not an allopath — and that I have given my case unreservedly to you. Tell her not to worry. Give her my love. Tell her ” —
And with this he fainted quite away.
This faint was the prelude to a hard pull. Days of alternate syncope and delirium followed. Short intervals of consciousness found him quiet, but alarmingly weak. His early anxiety had ceased to manifest itself. He yielded to the treatment he received without criticism or demur. In fact, he was too ill to do anything else. This condition lasted for more than a week.
One day he awoke, conscious and calm. It was a sunny day. There seemed to be a faint woody perfume in the room, from some source unknown. A long, narrow block of light lay yellow on the stiff-patterned brown carpet; it was by no means, however, a cheap carpet. There was an expensive red and gold paper on the walls, and marbletopped furniture. There were two pictures. One was a framed certificate setting forth the fact of Mr. Butterwell’s honored and honorable career as a Freemason. The other was an engraving of the Sistine Madonna. Yorke had hardly noticed the contents of his room before. He observed these details with the vivid interest of a newly-made invalid, wondering how long he was likely to lie and look at them. As his eye wandered weakly about the room it rested upon the bureau, which stood somewhat behind him. A vase of yellow Austrian glass was on the bureau ; it held a spray of apple-blossoms.
While he lay breathing in their delicate outlines like a perfume, and feeling their perfume like a color, the halfopened door pushed gently in, and a woman — a lady — entered with a quick step. She was a young lady; or at least she was under thirty. She stopped on seeing that he was awake, and the two regarded each other. She saw a very haggard-looking young fellow, with a sane eye and a wain smile. He saw a blooming creature. She had her hat on and driving-gloves in her hand. Her face was sensitive with pleasure at the change in the patient. She advanced towards him heartily, holding out her hand. He said, —
“ Are you the doctor ? ”
“ Yes, sir.”
“ What is — excuse me — but, madam, I don’t know your name.”
“ My name is Lloyd. You are better to-day ! ”
“ Infinitely! Wait, please. . . . I have seen you before. Where have I seen you ? ”
“ Three times a day for a week, without counting the nights,” said the young lady, with mischief in her voice. She had a pleasant voice. She spoke a little too quickly, perhaps. She stood beside his bed. She stood erect and strong. Her hair was dark, and she had rather large, dark blue eyes. He thought it was a fine, strong face ; he did not know but it might be safe to call it beautiful. She wore a blue flannel dress.
“ I know ! ” he said suddenly. “ You are the caryatid.”
“ What, sir ? ”
“ You are the blue caryatid — Never mind. I am not deranged again. Have I been very crazy ? ”
“ Sometimes,” said the lady gravely. Her expression and manner had changed. She sat down beside him and opened her medicine-case, which she laid upon the table. He smiled when he saw the tiny vials. She either did not observe or did not return the smile. Her face had settled into an intent and studious form, like a hardening cast. He thought, She is not beautiful.
She took out her note-book, and began to ask him a series of professional questions. She spoke with the distinct but rapid enunciation which he had noticed before. She wrote down his answers carefully. Many of her questions were more personal than he had expected ; he was not used to what Mrs. Butterwell called “ doctoring.” This young lady required his age, his habits, family history, and other items not immediately connected in the patient’s mind with a dislocated ankle.
“ Now your pulse, please,” she said, when she had reached the end of her catechism. She took his wrist in a business-like way. The young man experienced a certain embarrassment. The physician gave evidence of none. She laid his hand down again, as if it had been a bottle or a bandage, told him that she was greatly gratified with his marked improvement, prepared his powders, and, drawing the little rubber clasp over her medicine-case, gave him to understand by her motion and manner that she considered the consultation at an end.
“ One powder in six tablespoonfuls of water ; one tablespoonful every four hours,” she said, rising. “ Are you quite able to remember ? Or I will speak to Mrs. Butterwell myself as I go out. She will be with you soon, and I have directed that some one shall be within call whenever you are left alone. You do not object to being alone somewhat?”
“ I like it.”
“ I was sure of it. I prefer you to be alone as much as you can bear now. But you will not be neglected. I will see you again at night.”
“ I should like to talk with you a little,” stammered Yorke, hardly knowing what was the etiquette of this anomalous position. “ Cannot you stay longer ? ”
She looked at her watch, hesitated, and sat down again.
“ I can give you a few minutes. I have a busy day before me.”
“ Did you write to my mother,” began the patient, “ and what has she answered ? ”
“ If you go on improving at this rate, you may read your letters to-morrow, Mr. Yorke.”
“ Not to-day ? ”
“ You are arbitrary, Miss — Dr. Lloyd.”
She gave him a cool, keen look.
“ That is my business,” she said.
“ What has been the matter with me ? ” persisted the young man. “ What are my injuries? I wish to know.”
“ A dislocation of the ankle ; a severed artery in the arm ; and concussion of the brain, — besides the minor cuts attendant on such an accident as yours. Each of these is doing finely. You have now no cause for alarm. It was a beautiful dislocation! ” added the physician, with enthusiasm.
“ Have I been dangerously ill ? ”
“ Have you had consultation ? ”
“ By telegraph every day, your worst days ; by letter when I have thought you would feel easier to know that I had it,”
“ How soon shall I be about again?”
“ I cannot promise you anything at present. You are doing remarkably well. But you will have occasion for patience, sir.”
“ I must have seemed very rude — or — distrustful of you, at the first.”
“ On the contrary, Mr. Yorke, you have shown me every reasonable confidence, — far more than I could have expected under the circumstances. I have appreciated it.”
That sensitiveness had come into her face again ; she gave him a direct, full look; and he thought once more that she was a beautiful woman.
“ Believe,” he said earnestly, " that I am grateful to you, madam.”
She smiled indulgently, bowed, and left him. He heard her quick step in the hall, and her voice speaking to Mrs. Buttenvell; then he heard her chirrup to her pony, and the sound of wheels. She drove rapidly, and was soon gone.
The day passed in the faint, sweet, hazy way that only the convalescent knows. No other creature ever gets behind that glamour. Returning life paces towards one so solemnly that the soul would keep upon its knees, were it not so weak ; one dares not pray ; one ventures only to see the frolic in the eyes of the advancing power, and dashes into joy as bees into rhythm, or as flowers into color. Waldo Yorke was very happy. He thought of his mother ; his heart was full. He looked at the block of yellow light upon the carpet; at the apple-blossoms in the vase ; at the patch of June sky that burned beyond that one open window. Life and light, he thought, are here.
Mrs. Isaiah Butter well, however, was there, too. She was extremely kind. She entertained the young man with a graphic account of his accident and its consequences. Mr. Butterwell himself came in, for a moment, and briefly considered it (although the Bangor horse was killed) a lucky thing.
“ When he brought you home,” observed the lady, " I said, ' He’s dead.’ 1 must say I hoped you were, for I said to my husband, ' He ’ll be an idiot if he lives.’ It always seems to me as if the Creator was thinking he had n’t made enough of ’em, after all, and was watching opportunities to increase the stock. But our doctor’s been a match for him this time ! ” added Mrs. Isaiah, with a snap of her soft eyes.
“ Why, — Sar-ah ! ” rebuked her husband, gently.
“ Well, she has ! ” insisted Sarah; " and I don’t see the harm. He made her, too, I suppose, did n’t he ? I think he ought to be proud of her. I’ve no doubt he is, — not the least in the world.”
“ Why, Sarah ! ” repeated Mr. Butterwell. He had the air of being just as much surprised by these little conversational peculiarities in his consort as if he had not wintered and summered them for better and worse for forty years. This amused the invalid. He liked to bear them talk. He was so happy that day that Mrs. Isaiah seemed to him really very witty. He drew her out. She dwelt a good deal upon the doctor. She explained to him her dilficulty in concealing the fact of the physician’s sex from him those first few days,
“ I would not tell a fib for you, Mr. Yorke, even if you did die. And when you ran on so about seeing the doctor, I was hard up. I could n’t say ‘ she,’ and I would n’t say ' he,’ for she was n’t a ‘he,’ now, was she? Once I got stuck in the middle of a sentence; and Mr. Butterwell was here, and I said, ' Sh— Isaiah! — he ; ’ so I cut the word in two, don’t you see? Only I spelled it with an extra h. But I’d rather sacrifice my spellin’ than my conscience. And Isaiah asked me afterwards what I sh-shd him up for, when he had n’t opened his mouth. He did n’t open it very often while you were sick, Mr. Yorke. But he spoke about your uncle, and was blue enough. I had to make up my mind to do the talking for two, when I married Mr. Butterwell. What time did Doctor Zay say she should look in again, Mr. Yorke? ”
“ Doctor Zay ? ” repeated the young gentleman blankly.
“ Oh, we call her Doctor Zay. You see there were two of them, she and the old man ; and, as luck would, they must have the same name. I suppose he was ashamed of his,—Adoniram; I don’t blame him. At any rate, there’s the sign, ' Dr. A. Lloyd.’ And she has some kind of a heathen name herself; I never can pronounce it; so she takes to ‘ Dr. Z. A. Lloyd,’and that’s how we come by it. Everybody calls her Doctor Za. But she spells it with ay herself. We love the sound of it,” added Mrs. Butterwell gently. “ So would you, if you’d been a woman Down East, and she the first one, of all you’d read about and needed, you ’d ever seen.”
“ But I “m not a woman,” interrupted the patient, laughing. “ I can’t call her Doctor Zay. The young lady has done admirably by me ; I 'll admit that. How much I must have troubled her, to come here so often ! ”
“ I would n’t waste your feelings, sir,” observed Mrs. Butterwell, dryly. “ Feelings are too rich cream to be skimmed for nothing. Doctor would have done her duty by you, anyhow ; but it’s been less of a sacrifice, considering she lives here.”
The subsiding expression of weariness on the sick man’s face rose to one of interest. He repeated, “ Lives here ? ” not without something like energy.
“ Yes, I’ve had her a year. She was starving at the Sherman Hotel, and I took her in. I used to go to school with some connections of hers, so I felt a kind of responsibility for her. And then I’m always glad of society, as I told you when I took you. I’m social in my nature. I suppose that’s why Providence went out of his way to marry me to Mr. Butterwell. If my lot had been cast in Portland, or Bangor, I’m afraid I should have been frivolous, as I said to Doctor Zay, the first time I saw her, — it was chilblains; I thought I could trust her ; I did n’t know her then, you see. Do you mean to say you did n’t notice her sign ? Then, if she ’d got sick at the hotel, they’d have said she was A WOMAN. I had the cause to consider,” added Mrs. Butterwell, solemnly.
The physician came again at night, as she had promised. She was later than usual. Yorke listened for her wheels, and got restless. It made him nervous when the country wagons rolled up, and rumbled by. He had flushed with the end of the day, and was feverish and miserable. He attended to his sensations anxiously. He wished she would come. It was quite dark when the low wheels of the phaeton came smoothly and suddenly to a stop in the great back yard ; he heard the doctor’s voice speaking cheerily to her boy. “ Handy,” she called him. Handy took the horse; a light step passed the corner of the house, and vanished. “ She must have gone on to the office door,” thought Yorke. He found himself absorbed in a little uneasiness ; he wondered if she would take her tea first.
She did not. She came to him directly. Her things were off; her hair smoothly brushed ; she stood beside him, her pleasant figure, in its housedress. cut against the light that fell through the open door. She began at once : “ There are patients in the office, — I am late; I was detained by a troublesome case. I can give you five minutes now, or come back when they are gone. Let me see ! ” She went out and brought the lamp, scrutinized his face closely, sat down, and felt his pulse ; she did not count it, but quickly laid his hand aside.
“ Please come by and by,” urged the young man. Already he felt unaccountably better. “ I can wait.” She hesitated a moment, then said, “Very well,” and left him. She was gone half an hour.
“ Have you had your supper ? ” asked Yorke, when she came back.
“ Oh, my supper is used to waiting,” said Doctor Zay, cheerfully. “You have waited quite long enough, sir. Now, if you please, to business.”
The note-book, the pencil, the medicine-case, and the somewhat stolid, studious look presented themselves at once. Yorke felt half amused, half annoyed. He wanted to be talked to, as if she had been like other women. He thought it would do him more good than the aconite pellets which she prepared so confidingly. He was just enough better to begin to be homesick. He asked her if he might try to walk to-morrow. She promptly replied in the negative.
“ I must walk next week,” urged the patient, setting a touch of his natural imperiousness against her own. She gave him one of her composed looks.
“ You will walk, Mr. Yorke, when I allow you,” she said, courteously enough. She looked so graceful and gentle and womanly, sitting there beside him, that all the man in him rebelled at her authority. Their eyes met, and clashed.
“ When will that be ? ” he insisted, with a creditable effort at submission.
“ A dislocated ankle is not to be used in ten days,” replied the doctor quietly. “ It is going to take time.”
“ How much time ? ”
“ That depends partly on yourself, partly on me, a little on ” —
“Providence?” interrupted Yorke.
“ Not at all. God made the ankle, you dislocated it, I set it; nature must heal it.”
“ Mrs. Butterwell might have said that.”
“ Is it possible,” said the young lady, with a change of manner, “ that I am growing to talk like Mrs. Butterwell ? ”
This was the first personal accent which Yorke had caught in the doctor’s voice. Thinking, perhaps, to pursue a faint advantage, which he vaguely felt would be of interest to him when he grew stronger and had nothing else to do but study this young woman, he proceeded irrelevantly : —
“ I did not know that you stayed here, till to-day. It has been fortunate for me. It will be more fortunate still, if you are going to keep me on this bed all summer. Our hostess has been talking of you. She gave you such a pretty name! I've forgotten exactly what it was.”
“ We will move you to the lounge to-morrow,” replied the doctor, rising. Yorke made no answer. He felt as if he were too sick a man to be snubbed. He found it more natural to think that his overthrown strength ought to have appealed to her chivalry, than to question if he had presumed upon the advantage which it gave him. In the subdued light of the sick-room all the values of his face were deepened ; he looked whiter for its setting of black hair, and his eyes darker for the pallor through which they burned. But the doctor was not an artist. She observed, and said to herself, “ That is a cinchona look.”
She moved the night-lamp, gave a few orders, herself adjusted his window and blinds, and, stepping lightly, left him. She did not go out-of-doors, but crossed the hall, and disappeared in her own part of the house. He heard, soon after, what he now knew to be the officebell. It rang four or five times; and he heard the distant feet of patients on the graveled walk that led to her door. After this there was silence, and he thought, " They have let her alone to rest now.” It had not occurred to him before that she could be tired. He was restless, and did not sleep easily, and waked often. Once, far on in the night he thought it must have been, a noise in the back yard roused him. It was Handy rolling out the basket phaeton. Yorke heard whispers and hushed footfalls, and then the brisk trot of the gray pony. There was a lantern on the phaeton, which went flashing by his window, and crossed his wall with bright bars like those of a golden prison. He wished the blinds were open. He thought, “ Now they have called that poor girl out again ! ” He pictured the desolate Maine roads. A vision of the forest presented itself to him : the great throat of blackness; the outline of near things, wet leaves, twigs, fern-clumps, and fallen logs ; patches of moss and lichens, green and gray ; and the light from the lonely carriage streaming out; above it the solitary figure of the caryatid, courageous and erect. He hoped the boy went with her. He listened some time to hear her return, but she did not come.
When he woke again it was about seven o’clock. He was faint, and while he was ringing for his beef-tea, the phaeton came into the yard.
“ Put up the pony, Handy,” he heard her say ; “ she is tired out. Give me Old Oak, to-day.”
Yorke listened, feeling the strength of a new sensation. Was it possible that this young woman had practice enough to keep two horses ? He knew nothing of the natural history of doctresses. He had thought of them chiefly as a species of higher nurse, — poor women, who wore unbecoming clothes, took the horsecars, and probably dropped their “ g’s,” or said, “ Is that so ? ”
It was later than usual, that morning, when Doctor Zay came round to him.
It was another of those sentient, vivid June days, and the block of light on the brown carpet seemed to throb as she crossed it. The apple-blossoms on the bureau had begun to droop. She herself looked pale.
“You are tired ! ” began the patient impulsively.
“ I have been up all night,” said the doctor shortly. She sat down with the indefinable air which holds all personalities at arms-length, and went at once to work. She examined the wounded arm, she bathed and bandaged the injured foot; she had him moved to the lounge, with Mr. Butterwell’s assistance. She was incommunicative as a beautiful and obedient machine. Yorke longed to ask what was the matter with her, but he did not dare. He felt sorry to see her look so worn ; but he perceived that she did not require his sympathy. She looked more delicate for her weariness, which seemed to be subtly at odds with her professional manner. He would have liked to ask her a great many things, but her abstraction forbade him. He contented himself with the pathological ground upon which alone it was practicable to meet this exceptional young woman, and renewed his entreaties to be allowed to use his foot.
“ You do not trust me,” she said suddenly, laying down the sponge with which she had been bathing his arm.
“ You wrong me, Doctor Lloyd. I think I have proved that I do”
“ That is true. You have,” she said, softening. “ Trust me a while longer, then. No. Stay. Put your foot down, if you want to. Gently — slowly — but put it down.”
He did so. A low outcry escaped him ; he grew very pale.
“ Now put it back,” said the doctor grimly. But with that she melted like frost, and shone ; she hovered over him ; all the tenderness of the healer suffused her reticent face.
“ I am sorry to let you hurt yourself, but you will feel better; you will obey me now. Is the pain still so sharp ? Give me the foot.” As if it had been her property, she took the aching ankle in her warm, strong, and delicate hands, and for a few moments rubbed it gently and gravely ; the pain subsided under her touch.
“ What am I going to do ? ” cried Yorke, despairingly.
“ You are going to do admirably, Mr. Yorke, on invention for a while, on courage by and by. Your crutches will be here to-morrow night.”
Waldo Yorke looked at the young lady with a kind of loyal helplessness. He felt so subdued by his anomalous position that, had she said, “ I have sent to Bangor for' your work-basket,” or, “ to Omaha for your wife,” he would scarcely have experienced surprise. He repeated, “ My crutches ? ” in a vague, submissive tone.
“ I sent to Bangor for a pair of Whittemore crutches three days ago,” replied the doctor quietly, “ I should not want you to use them before to-morrow. The stage will bring them at five o’clock. If I should be out, do not meddle with them. No, on the whole, I had them addressed to myself. I wish to be present when you try them. One powder dry on the tongue, if you please, every four hours. Good-morning.”
“ Don’t go, please,” pleaded the young man ; " it is so lonely to be sick,”
An amused expression settled between her fine, level brows. She made no reply. He realized that he had said an absurd thing. He remembered into how many sick-rooms she must bring her bloom and bounteousness, and for the first time in his fortunate life he understood how corrosive is the need of the sick for the well. He remembered that he was but one of — how many ? dependent and complaining creatures, draining upon the life of a strong and busy woman. He let her go in silence, He turned his face over towards the back of the lounge ; it was a black hair-cloth lounge. “ I must look as if I were stretched on a bier, here,” thought the young man irritably. All his youth and vigor revolted from the tedious convalescence, which it was clear this fatally wise young woman foresaw, but was too shrewd to discuss with him. He remembered, with a kind of awe, some invalid friends of his mother’s. One lay on a bed in Chestnut Street for fifteen years. He recalled a man he met in the Tyrol once*who broke his kneepan in a gymnasium, — was crippled for life. Yorke had always found him a trifle tiresome. He wished he had been kinder to the fellow, who, he remembered, had rather a lonely look. Yorke was receiving that enlargement and enlightenment of the imagination which it is the privilege of endurance alone, of all forms of human assimilation, to bestow upon us. Experience may almost be called a faculty of the soul.
He was interesting himself to the best of his brave ability in this commendable train of thought, when something white fluttered softly between his heroically dismal face and the pall of smooth hair-cloth to which he had limited his horizon. It was a letter, and was followed by another, and another, — his mother’s letters. The big, weak, tender fellow caught them, like a lover, to his lips — they had taken him so suddenly — before he became aware that they fell from a delicately-gloved hand suspended between him and Mrs. Butterwell’s striped wall. He turned, as the doctor was hurrying away, quickly enough — for he was growing stronger every hour — to snatch from her face a kind of maternal gentleness, a beautiful look. She was brooding over him with that little pleasure ; he felt how glad she was to give it. But instantly an equally beautiful merriment darted over the upper part of the doctor’s face, deepening ray within ray through the blue circles of her eyes, like the spark in the aureola of ripples where a shell has struck the sea.
“ Another fit of the sulks to-day, if you dare ! ” she said, and, evanescent as an uncaptured fancy, she was gone.
Waldo Yorke was right in foreseeing for himself a tedious recovery. Had he at that time known the full extent of the shock he had undergone, that beautiful submission to the inevitable which he flattered himself he was cultivating to an extent that might almost be called feminine, and assuredly was super-masculine, would have received an important check. To his perplexed inquiries about certain annoying symptoms in the head and spine, his medical adviser returned that finely-constituted reply which is the historic solace and resource of the profession, — that he had received a nervous strain. This is a phrase which stands with a few others (notably among them “ the tissues,” “ the mucous membrane,” and “debility”), that science keeps on hand as a dropcurtain between herself and a confiding if expectant laity.
The young man got upon his crutches in the course of the week, but kept his room. He discovered the measure of his feebleness by the measure of his effort. He wrote cheerfully to Boston about both. In fact, he found himself more cheerful than one would have expected to be, under his really unusual circumstances. He wrote that Mrs. Butterwell read to him, and asked for more books. He deprecated distinctly a modest maternal plan for proposing to the eminent Dr. Fullkoffer to travel from Boston to Sherman to consult with the local physician. He assured his mother that he had every reason to be satisfied with his treatment. He still, from motives of consideration, neglected to reply to her minute inquiries as to the nature of the practitioner.
“ My mother wants to know whether he is ‘high’ or ‘low.’ What does she mean ? ” he asked. “ And are you a gentleman or a quack ? And does he ‘ alternate,’ — what’s that ? And does he use ‘attenuations,’—do you?—and something—I forget what—about what she calls ‘ triturations.’ It seems to be a very important point. I was not to omit to answer it. Then there was a treatise on — I think she called them ‘ aggravations.’ Don’t go just yet Doctor Zay — I beg your pardon ! I get so used to it with Mrs. Butterwell.”
“ Oh, never mind,” she said, with her gentler manner ; it was one of her easy days, and she had leisure to be kind.
“ I wish you would tell me,” pleaded Yorke, “ if you don't mind, how you came to have such an uncommon supply of initials. I ’ve never even heard your name.”
“Atalanta,” said the doctor, looking up pleasantly from the powder-paper she was folding with mathematical precision. He always liked to see her fold powders; it brought all the little delicate motions of her firm hands into play.
“ Ah, the apple - blossom ! ” said Yorke impulsively. The powder-paper remained for an instant motionless in Doctor Zay’s hand ; she turned her head slightly in the attitude of attention towards the hair-cloth sofa. He thought, “ She meant to do it.” Her eyes were bent. He thought for a moment he could sec the mischief beneath the lids, and that she would ripple into frolic over his daring speech, like any other young lady. Nothing of the sort happened. The doctor’s countenance presented a strictly scientific basis. “ She dropped it by accident,” said Yorke.
He contented himself with observing that it was an unusual name.
“ I had a mother who liked the name,” proceeded the doctor, leaning back in her chair, and looking over his head out of the window into the young June day. “ When I was a baby she had this fancy for romantic names. She called me Zaidee, to begin with. Then she happened on this. She always said it was cruelty to infants to impose names on them about which they were never consulted, and I should have my choice of either. I dropped the first, till I came here to practice. Then I had to make some compromise with fate as regarded Dr. Adoniram. There was something absurd in seeing ‘ Atlanta’ on a Down East doctor’s shingle, — I have known women do such things in that way! I had a classmate at New York who took out her diploma in the name of Cubbie Smith, M. D.; and there was one who was let loose upon a defenseless public as Dr. Teasie Trial. So I had recourse to the discarded initial. My patients have made a pretty use of it. I rather like it, myself.”
She gave that ominous snap to the elastic on the well-worn green morocco medicine-case, which had become philosophically associated in the invalid’s mind with the cessation of a pleasure. She was going. He hurried to say, —
“ Do you object to telling me how you came to settle in this village ? There are so many things I should like to ask. I never knew a lady physician before. The whole thing interests me. So it will my mother; she is familiar with such subjects. I believe she once consulted a doctress herself. I shall tell her about you when I get a little better ; when it is too late to worry.”
“ I will give you any facts about professional women that may interest you, certainly,” replied the doctor, rising, “ when I have time.”
“ Yon never have time ! ” cried the patient.
“ Have I neglected you, Mr. Yorke ? ” she said, coloring slightly ; her color became her. She wore a black dress that day, of almost extravagantly fine cashmere ; she was always well dressed. There was a carmine ribbon around her high, close collar of immaculate linen. The fastidious sick man wondered where this Down East doctress had her origin.
“ You have asked me all sorts of personal questions,” he went on, with his masculine insistence. “ You know all about me.”
“ It is my business,” said the doctor, coldly, “ to know all about you.”
“ In other words, it is none of mine to feel the faintest human curiosity in a scientific fact like yourself. You are candid, Doctor Lloyd.”
“And you are nervous, Mr. Yorke. Good-morning. I will send Mrs. Butterwell to read to you.”
He held her to her promise, however; and the next time she came he returned to the subject. It was her mood to be tolerant of him that afternoon ; indeed, she was tolerant of everything. She had just brought a patient triumphantly through a mortal attack of erysipelas : she had been a good deal worn by the case for some time ; now her cruel care had slipped radiantly from her young shoulders. He had never heard her talk so naturally, so much like other women. It seemed to him at the moment as if she were really communicative. Afterwards, he remembered how little she had said ; and began to analyze the fine reserve upon which all her ease had been poised, like the pendulum of a golden clock upon its axis. She told him that she had been in active practice for four years ; that she was originally a Bangor girl; that she came to Sherman for a complexity of reasons which might not interest him. She paused there, as if there were nothing more to be said.
“ But where did you get your medical education ? ” asked Yorke. “ I don’t even know where such things are to be had.”
“ At New York, Zurich, and Vienna.”
“ But why did you select this wilderness to bury yourself in ? ” he repeated, his surprise overcoming his civility. “ You who had seen — Is it possible you have been abroad ? ”
She laughed outright at this, but did not otherwise comment upon it. A fine, good-natured scorn hovered over and seemed to be about to light upon her. He perceived at what a disadvantage he was showing himself ; he might ss well have said point-blank, “I thought you a crude, rural agitator.” He felt his cheeks burn with the quick fever of illness, while she went on indulgently to say,—
“ I used to come here summers, once. I knew Mrs. Butterwell and some people here. I must make my blunders somewhere. And then I had learned how terrible is the need of a woman by women, in country towns. One does not forget such things, who ever undorstands them. There is refinement and suffering and waste of delicate life enough in these desolate places to fill a circle in the Inferno. You do not know! ” she said, with rare impetuousness. “ No one knows, Mr. Yorke, but the woman healer.”
“ What led you to see it ? How came you to want to see it ? ” he asked, reverently. “ How came you to make such a sacrifice of yourself ? — such a young, bright life as yours! I cannot understand it.”
She did not answer him at once; and when he raised his eyes he perceived that her own swam with sudden tears. She held them back royally, commanded herself, and answered in a very low voice : —
“ It was owing to — my mother. She had a painful illness. There were only we two. I took care of her through it all. She spent that last summer here in Sherman, — it was cool here. She suffered so from the hot weather! My mother was greatly comforted, during a part of her illness, by the services of a woman doctor in Boston. There was one when we were in Paris, too, who helped her. I said, When she is gone,
I will do as much for some one else’s mother.”
Waldo Yorke was lying with his hands clasped behind his head, his thin face upturned towards her while she spoke. He did not say anything ; but his sense of sympathy with this lonely woman vibrated through him to the last sick nerve. He had, for a moment, that vague consciousness of gaining an unexpected hold upon an unknown privilege which is one of the keenest allurements and bitterest delusions of life. He dared not speak, lest he should startle her, — last he should touch the rainbow in a bubble. She saw his hand tremble; her manner changed at once.
“ And so I became a doctor,” she said, with superficial cheerfulness. “ Is there anything more you wanted to know ? ”
“I want to know everything,” said Yorke, in an undertone. She ignored this little slip, as she would a rise in his pulse after dinner, or a faint turn on a hot day.
“ If I knew what kind of information would interest you,” she continued good-naturedly ; “ but I have had a very simple history. It is like that of many others in my profession. I really have nothing to tell. It came to me the more easily because I always had a taste for science; I found that out in my Sophomore year. And I inherited it, besides.”
“ Sophomore ? ” repeated Yorke vaguely.
“ I was a Vassar girl,” said the doctor quietly.
“ I have seen educated women before, though you might n’t think it.,” returned Yorke, with humility. “ My mother has them at the house, sometimes. I never saw one like you. I never noticed them very much.”
“ You must have been too preoccupied, — a young man in your arduous profession, Mr. Yorke. I can readily understand that you would have little leisure to study feminine types.”
“It is unfair to be sarcastic with a patient, Doctor Lloyd ! I was going to say it was unmanly. I have never been busy in my life. You know it as well as I do.”
She scintillated for an instant with that charming merriment she had, but made no reply.
“ Instead of being successful, I have been rich,” he said bitterly. “ If I had had to work for a living, I might have been -worth something. There is nothing in life so fatal as to be fortunate.”
“ Ah,” she said indifferently, “ do you think so ? ”
“ Indeed I do.”
“ Have you had that stinging pain in the right side of the head, Mr. Yorke ? ”
“ And the dizziness you complained of?”
“ A good deal. How many years did you study, Doctor Lloyd ? Did you never shrink, — never want to give it up ? ”
“ It was hard sometimes, in the foreign lecture-rooms, among the men. They were very courteous to me. I never had anything to complain of. But they could not make it easy. I never saw a woman rudely treated but once ; that was her own fault. Then the dissecting-room was a trial to me, at first. It would have been easier if my mother had been living; if I could have gone home and talked to her. I was only twenty-one. But courage, like muscle, grows by exercise. No ; I never wanted to turn back.”
“ How many years did you study ? ”
“ Three years are necessary to a diploma from any reputable school. The fourth I spent abroad. But of course one always studies. That is one of the advantages of the Maine wilderness. If I had settled down among people I knew in a town, there would have been too many minor demands. It is never even a professional necessity, down here, to get into one’s best clothes ; and there’s been but one wedding reception since I've been here. I went to that on my way to a scarlet-fever patient. I could n’t come afterwards, with the risk. I did .waste a pair of gloves, but I went in my woolen dress, the one I meant to sacrifice to that case. I do miss the concerts,” she added ; but hastily collected herself, with the air of a woman who had been drawn to the verge of a grave moral imprudence.
“ Were you ever in Boston, — to stay,
I mean ? ” asked Yorke.
“ Oh, yes.”
“ I wish I had known it! I suppose it is unpardonable to ask where you were ? ”
“ Oh,” she said pleasantly, “ I used to stay with different people : at the Shirleys’ sometimes, and the Waynes’. I saw more of New York in my gay days ; we had more relatives there, and I liked it better than Boston. I used to be at the Garratts’ when I was a child. They were very kind to me, I remember, when I cried because I was homesick ; they never noticed me at the time, but always gave me orange marmalade for luncheon after it. When I got home I used to feel unappreciated, because tears and marmalade did not retain the relation of cause and effect.”
“Is it possible,” cried Yorke, “that you are the little girl from somewhere who used to come over to our house with Susy Garratt, once in a while, to blow soap-bubbles ? You had two long braids of black hair, and blew bigger bubbles than I did. I hated you.’”
“ Very likely,” said the doctor, laughing as she rose. “ I don’t remember it. I haven’t been to the Garratts’ for years. Or anywhere else, for that matter.”
“ You have had better things to do than to blow our soap-bubbles.”
She nodded gravely.
“ How many times have you walked across the room to-day, Mr. Yorke ? ”
“ Oh, wait a minute. Don’t go yet.”
“ How many times, I ask, have you walked about the room ? ”
“ Oh, ten, I believe, — yes, ten.”
“ I hope to get you out-of-doors next week. Are you suffering from restlessness ? Do you feel that rebellion you spoke of at the tediousness of the case ? I wish I could hasten your convalescence.”
“ I don’t,” said Yorke bluntly, “ though I am rebellious enough.”
She swept upon him the full fine rebuke of her professional look. He returned it with a certain defiance. She was a woman. She should not thrust him aside like this.
“ I believe I shall give you Nux,” observed the physician, after a silence which the patient had felt was fraught with a significance he could hardly believe she failed to perceive or share. He flushed painfully.
“ Doctor Lloyd,”he demanded, “ did you ever have a man for a patient before ? ”
“Oh, yes,” quietly. “I am treating a Mr. Bailey now, — the erysipelas case I spoke of. His wife is a patient of mine ; and Bob, the boy, and all the babies. They live about four miles out, beside the Black Forest.”
“ Do you often have us ? ” persisted Yorke.
“ I do not desire it, — no. It will sometimes happen. Most of my patients are women and children. That is as I prefer it.”
She was sweeping away. She had almost a society manner, like any other young lady. She spoke haughtily. She was evidently displeased. He had never seen her look so handsome. But he dashed on : —
“ Did you ever treat a young man, — a fellow like me ? ”
“ Certainly not.”
“ I never should have known but you had them every day, — never.”
“ And why should you ? ” she answered coolly. She left him without another word. He listened for her to call Handy ; for the nervous steps of the pony ; for the decreasing sound of the phaeton wheels, which had become so familiar and vital an event in the invalid’s dull day. He knew that he had made himself successfully wretched until he should see her once more. He knew that he had followed to the verge of folly a pathological, and therefore delusive, track in that region which lay marked upon the map of his nature as “ unexplored.” He knew that he should lie and think of it, regret it, curse it, set his teeth against it, and do it again.
“I must get well,” said the young man aloud; as if that result awaited only the expressed intention on his part, and fate, like woman, needed nothing but the proper masculine handling. He got over on his crutches to the tall bureau, and looked into the old-fashioned giltframed glass. He saw a fierce-looking fellow, all black and white, like a “ symphony” of Whistler’s, — a thundercloud in the eyes, symptoms of earthquake about the jaw, the fragility of mortal illness in the sunken cheeks. What kind of a man was that to command a woman’s respect ? He must be on a level in her mind with, say, a case of measles. What a pity he could not have had the whooping-cough, and done with it!
It occurred to him that he would go out-of-doors. It struck him just then that he should go into a decline if he housed himself here like an old tabby any longer. He hunted up his hat, and rolled Mrs. Butterwell’s somewhat accentuated red and black striped afghan anyhow about him, and hobbled to the front door. The day was damp and cheerless. It did not rain, but would have done so if it had dared. Yorke looked at the clouds grimly. “ They are probably ordered by their physician not to go out,” he thought. He got down upon the graveled walk, and stumped along towards the gate. He had never felt more guilty since, at the conscientious age of eleven, he kissed Susy Garratt without asking. As he stood there he caught sight suddenly of the doctor’s phaeton. She was turning a distant corner, over by the post-office. He maintained his ground sullenly ; at least he would not run from her. She did not see him, he was sure ; she was driving very fast. He watched her till she was out of sight, and then returned at once to the house. Mrs. Butter well, at the rear kitchen window, was making lemon pies, — a conscientious, not to say religious process. No one observed him. As he came up the walk he caught a glimpse of the doctor’s sign, and wondered, with the idle curiosity of illness, what her part of the house might be like. He felt himself extremely faint, after his exertion, and sank exhausted on the hair-cloth sofa, beneath the blazing but generous afghan. He looked at the marble-topped bureau, the Madonna and the framed certificate, the red and gold striped walls, the brown carpet, where the block of sunshine was conspicuously absent. The clock was striking ten. He tried to read. Sparks of fire darted before his eyes, and his ears rang. There was no mail-stage till four o’clock. Doctor Zay might not make her evening call before eight or nine.
“ How dare men ridicule or neglect sick women? ” thought Waldo Yorke.
The day dragged piteously enough. He felt unusually ill. He had Mrs. Butterwell in till she dilated before his eyes, and her head swelled and flashed fire like a jack-o’-lantern. He let her go, to call her back because her vacant chair undertook to rise and hop after her as she went. She read till he entreated her as an act of charity to stop, and talked till he begged her in selfdefense to read.
“ I ’m worried to death about Doctor,” observed Mrs. Butterwell, by way of saying something cheerful. It was the sick man’s habit to discourage his hostess in gossiping about the young lady ; perversely, to-day he let her run on ; he had already that prevailing sense of having broken the ten commandments which made the absence of an eleventh seem a philosophical lapse on the part of the Giver.
“ She will be worked half out of her wits,” proceeded Mrs. Butterwell, with that exasperating serenity which ignorance of one another’s mental processes gives to the most perceptive of us at times. “ East Sherman has the scarlet fever. It’s something about drains. There’s no society in East Sherman ; they ’re a miserable lot. Doctor will be up and down day and night, now, you’ll see. She has no more consideration for herself than a seraphim. She ’ll be one, if she don’t mind. The poorer they are, the more nobody else goes near ’em, the more they get of her. I’ve seen her go on like a lover to creatures you or I would n’t touch with our winter gloves on — hold ’em in her arms —dirty babies ; and once there was a woman at the poor-house—but there! I won’t go into that. You would n’t sleep a wink to-night. She has such a spirit! You’d expect it if she was n’t smart. When a woman ain't good for anything else she falls back on her spirit! You don’t look for it when she’s got bigger fish to fry. But there ! There’s more woman to our doctor than to the rest of us, just as there’s more brains. Seems to me as if there was love enough invested in her for half the world to live on the interest, and never know they had n’t touched the principal. If she did n't give so much, she’d be rich on her own account before now.”
“ Give so much what, — love ? ” asked Yorke, turning with the look and motion of momentarily arrested suffering.
“ Practice,” said Mrs. Isaiah severely, “ She will do it, for all anybody, when folks ain’t able to pay. Why, Mr. Yorke, if Doctor got all that’s owin’ her she ’d do a five-thousand-dollar practice every year of her life ; as it is, she don’t fall short of three. She’s sent for all over the county.”
“ Five thousand dollars! ” echoed the sick man faintly. That girl! ” He had never earned five hundred in his life.
“ And that, I’d have you understand,” pursued “ that girl’s ” adorer, “ is only because she shuts herself up down here with us, bless her ! If she lived in New York, I’ve no doubt it would be TWENTY-FIVE, — not the least in the world. What are you laughing at, Mr. Yorke? There is a woman out West that makes twenty.”
“ I don’t dispute that it might be seventy,” groaned Yorke.
“ Not that there’s the remotest need of it,” proceeded Mrs. Butterwell loftily. “ Doctor is quite independent of her practice.”
“ I never had heard of that! ” exclaimed Yorke savagely.
“ “Well, she is, all the same. Her father was one of the rich men in Bangor, — a doctor himself; she used to be round his laboratories, and so on, with him, when she was little. He died when she was fifteen. This girl is the only one left, and has it all. You don’t suppose Providence did n’t know what he was about when he planned out her life ! He sets too much by her. He never’d let her go skinning round in medical schools, do your own washing, and gesticulate skeletons or go out nursing, to make a few dollars.”
“ It is a remarkable case,” murmured Yorke. “ And I must have been a remarkable donkey.”
“ Oh, I would n’t dispute that, sir,” replied Mrs. Isaiah gently.
“ Why, Sarah ! ” objected Mr. Butterwell, whose prudent gray head appeared at the half-open door in season to receive the full force of this characteristic reply.
“ Well, I would n’t. I never argue with sick folks. You want to know what she does it for, Mr. Yorke ? I see you do. Well, I ’ll tell you. Don’t you know there are women that can’t get through this valley without men folks, in some shape or ’nother ? If there ain’t one round, they ’re as miserable as a peacock deprived of society that appreciates tail-feathers. You know the kind I mean : if it ain’t a husband, it’s a flirtation ; if she can’t flirt, she adores her minister. I always said I did n’t blame ’em, ministers and doctors and all those privileges, for walkin’ right on over women’s necks. It is n’t in human nature to take the trouble to step off the thing that’s under foot. Now, then ! There are women that love women, Mr. Yorke, care for ’em, grieve over ’em, worry about ’em, feel a fellow feeling and a kind of duty to ’em, and never forget they ’re one of ’em, misery and all, — and nonsense too, may be, if they had n’t better bread to set; and they lift up their strong arms far above our heads, sir, like statues I ’ve read of that lift up temples, and carry our burdens for love of us, God bless ’em I — and I would n’t think much of him if he did n’t! ”
“ Why, Sarah, Sarah ! ” said Mr. Butterwell. The sick man answered nothing. He tossed upon the hair-cloth sofa, and looked so uncommonly black that Mrs. Butterwell, acting upon an exceptionally vivid movement of the imagination, went to make him a blanc-mange. It was the whitest, not to say the most amiable, thing she could think of. She feared the patient was not improving, and experienced far more concern for Doctor Zay’s professional venture in the matter than if it had been her own.
It was half past nine that evening before the doctor got, upon her rounds, to Mrs. Butterwell’s spare chamber. The patient watched her dreamily, as she crossed the room through that mysterious half-light, in which he was so used to seeing her that he always thought of her in beautiful hazy outlines, standing between himself and the lamp upon the entry floor.
“ How are the fever patients ? ” he began, with a stupid idea of deferring personal consultation.
“ I have changed my dress,” said Doctor Zay, — “ every article. There is nothing to fear.”
“ I never thought of that! ” cried Yorke. She paid no attention to his thoughts, but sat down, and abruptly took his hand to count the pulse. He was in high fever.
“ It is just as I expected,” she said shortly. “ You will discontinue the other remedy, and take these powders dry on the tongue, every two hours.”
She brought the light to prepare the medicine. Her face, bent over the green morocco medicine-case, was stern. She did not talk to him. She rose, took up the light, and left the remedy and the room in silence.
“ Come back, please, Doctor ! ” called the culprit, faintly. She stood, the lamp in her hand, looking over her shoulder. It was a warm night, and she had on a cambric dress, of one of the “ brunette colors ; ” he did not know what to call it.
“ I am afraid I did a wrong thing today,” he began meekly. “ I went” —
“ It is unnecessary to talk about it, Mr. Yorke. I saw you.”
“ What don’t you see ! ”
“ Very little, I hope, which it is my business to see.”
He had thought she would say more, but perceived that she had no intention of discussing the matter with him ; he keenly felt this dignified rebuke.
“ I don’t suppose I did quite right,” he admitted hastily, “ but I am not versed in medical ethics. I did not realize, till I felt so much worse, how wrong it was by you.”
“ It was not honorable. But the real wrong is to yourself. We will not talk of it, if you please. I must go. I have had nothing to eat since twelve o’clock.”
He saw how tired she looked, and his heart smote him. He smothered an ineffectual groan. He felt that she was very angry with him, and that he deserved it. He would have pleaded with her. Unreasonably, he felt as if his suffering ought to appeal to her pity. Where was the woman in her that Mrs. Isaiah prated of ? Was there no weak point where his personality could struggle through and meet her own, man against woman, on level ground ? What an overthrow was his! He called impetuously : —
“ Doctor Zay ! ”
“ Sir ? ”
“ One moment ” —
“ I have no moments for you, at present, Mr. Yorke.” Her peremptoriness was the more incisive for being punctiliously polite. “ It would be perfectly just if I were to refuse to keep your case another day. You have disobeyed and distrusted me. You would have no right, after what I have done for you, sir, to complain, if I turned you over to old Doctor Adoniram to-morrow morning. Good-night.” And the woman of science left him, without a relenting word. It struck him forcibly, perhaps for the first time, that these exceptional women had an unfortunate power of looking beyond that gentle pressure of the individual, which, like the masque veils that their sex wore, heightened the complexion, if it did not brighten the eyesight. Obviously, her interest in her professional reputation overpowered her interest in her patient. He accepted his fate and his fever. This was easier to do, as he was quite ill for several days.
She took care of him conscientiously and skillfully. On his worst day, she even melted and brooded in that gracious, womanly way of hers that he watched for; but as soon as he began to get better again he felt that she distanced him.
“ You are harder than Heaven, Doctor,” he said. “ You cannot forgive.”
“Forgive what?” She looked up; she was bandaging his ankle. “ Oh, that disobedience of yours ? Honestly, I have been so hard-worked, I had almost forgotten it.”
“ Then what is the matter, Doctor Zay?”
She glittered upon him for an instant with her professional look. It was as if she held out a golden sceptre to measure the width at which she would keep him. There was no invitation in her eye. He did not press his question. When the consultation was over she told him that she should not be in again till the next morning.
“You no longer need two calls a day, Mr. Yorke. I will be here as usual, after office hours, before I start off, and will see you safely out upon the piazza I wish you to keep out, now, from one to three hours a day. I will superintend the experiment, to begin with. But you are perfectly able to dispense with this frequent attendance.”
Was she thinking of her — bill, perhaps ? The young man had really forgotten, till that moment, that any embarrassing basis of this sort awaited himself and this lady.
“ Oh, indeed, I don’t think I am well enough, at all,” he hastily said. “I — really — I have such troublesome sensations towards evening. I beg you will continue to come as you have, Doctor Lloyd.”
That amused look flitted for a moment over her bowed forehead ; he could see it in the little movements about the temples. She said, —
“It is impossible forme to call where I am not positively needed, just now. You do not realize how driven I am. You will find one daily call quite sufficient for your case. We will hope to dispense with that, before long.”
She was as bad as her word, and he did not see her for twenty-four hours.
When she came again, she looked at him and frowned. He was clearly worse.
“ I have found out now what my mother meant by e aggravations,’ ” said the patient. “ This must be one.”
She did not smile, as he had expected. Neither did she express the sympathy which he felt that the physician’s heart ought to keep on tap, like cider, and gush to order, at least upon a reasonably interesting invalid like himself. She leaned back in her chair with a look of annoyance, drumming lightly upon the table, with that nervous protest of the fingertips, which is a more natural expression of irritation among men than women. As she sat there, looking steadily at him, it occurred to him that she was about to say something of novelty and importance. A certain swift illumination of her thoughtful eyes struck him, and fell, like a ray of intercepted light. It was somehow made apparent to him, also, perhaps from the fact that she refrained from saying what she purposed, that it would not have been a matter of pleasurable interest to himself.
“ I will get you out-of-doors, now,” she observed, rising. She had never made him so short a call. He protested that he was too ill to go to-day ; and, in fact, he had no heart or health for it. He was full of aches and ails ; those, especially in the spine, were not of light importance; he was thoroughly dejected.
She paid no attention whatever to his opinions, but helped him out upon the piazza, overlooking the process carefully ; when she had him located to her mind, in the proper hygienic relations to wind, wet, sun, and shade, she gathered her driving-gloves, as if to go. “ You have not changed the medicine, Doctor,” he said, with difficult carelessness.
“ I do not propose to.”
“ Excuse me. I thought perhaps you had forgotten it.”
“ A physician cannot always give a patient the remedy he wants, you will understand; only the one he needs. I expect to find you better, when I come to-morrow.”
It was hardly possible, he thought, to be mistaken in attributing a significance to these words. Yet so ineffably fine are the intonations by which souls become articulate for each other, and so exceptional was the acoustic position of these two, that the young man experienced a modest and taunting doubt whether he might rate himself even of value enough to Ids physician to receive a clearly personal rebuff.
There exists, and there must exist, between woman and man an exquisite chromatic scale of relations, variable from the sublimest passions which glorify earth to the most futile movements of the fancy; from the profound and eternal sacrifices to the momentary deification of self; from divine oneness, past conscious separation, all the way down to little intellectual curiosities, and the contented reverences of slight and beautiful approach. Somewhere in this wide resource of harmony, thought Waldo Yorke, we must belong. Then where?
It was apt, he remembered, to be the woman whom nature or fate, God or at least man (the same thing, doubtless, to her), had relegated to the minor note. It occurred to him that in this case he seemed to have struck it himself.
He did not seek to detain her. They parted in silence, and she went to her day’s work. Handy was at the gate with the gray pony. Handy always wore hats that were too big for him, and coats that never by any mistake were large enough. The doctor went down the long front walk, drawing on her gauntleted gloves. She had the decisive step which only women of business acquire to whom each moment represents dollars, responsibilities, or projects. Yet he liked to see that she had not lost the grace of movement due to her eminently womanly form. She had preserved the curves of femineity. He had never even seen her put her hand upon her hip, with that masculine angle of the elbow, the first evidence of a mysterious process of natural selection, which goes on in women thrust by fate or choice to the front and the brunt of life ; and the last little peculiarity to leave them if, by choice or fate, they suffer a military recall to the civil status. She saluted him lightly with her free hand, as she gathered the long blue reins into her left, and, turning once, shot over her shoulder a sudden smile. She had, when she felt like it, a lovely smile. He found himself ridiculously better for it. He leaned back in the easy-chair where she had imprisoned him, and watched her drive away. The gray pony exhibited professional responsibility in every clean step that morning, and the consciousness of having made a timely diagnosis in each satisfied movement of her delicate ears. The doctor had on her linen dress and sack, and her figure absorbed the July morning light. Her color was fine. She was the eidolon of glorious health. Every free motion of her happy head and body was superb. She seemed to radiate health, as if she had too much for her own use, and to spare for half the pining world. She had the mysterious odic force of the healer, which is above science, and beyond experience, and behind theory, and which we call magnetism or vitality, tact or inspiration, according to our assimilating power in its presence, and our reverence for its mission.
It seemed to the nervously-strained patient on the piazza that he received a slowly-lessening strength from the doctor’s departing figure, as he received warmth from the sun, at that moment threatened by a cloud. It seemed to him a cruel thing that she should not permit him to see her for twenty-four hours more.
It cannot be said that the young man did not chafe under his unprecedented consciousness of dependence. He did. It had struck him yesterday that he was in danger of making a fool of himself. He had devoted the day to this inspiring discovery, and to those select resolves and broad aspirations by which the Columbus in the soul is moved. His present relapse, not to say collapse, was the humiliating result. As he sat there, patient and weak in the strong summer morning, thinking these things sadly over, he recognized the fact that he was still too sick a man to be wise. The grave urgencies of illness intercepted him. He was caught between the fires of a higher and lower species of self-defense. All that a man hath, particularly his good sense, will he give for his life.
“ Let me get well, first ; I will be prudent afterwards,” thought Yorke.
He waited to see her return at noon. He found himself strengthened — such is the hygienic influence of possessing an object in life — and calmed, as the morning wore away. It was a warm morning; would have been hot, outside of Maine. The soft, sudorific glow upon the small leaves of the acacia-trees in the front yard ; the opaque color of the dust in the dry, still street; the contented cluck of a brood of yellow chickens, that made futile attempts at acquaintance with him, around the shaded corner of the house ; the faint purr of unknown domestic mysteries in Mrs. Isaiah’s distant kitchen ; and then the sky, of whose intense blueness he was conscious, as if he had been a star gone out in it and become a part of the burning day, — these things emphasized the dreamy struggle after strength, in which he seemed to be alternately the victor and the vanquished, and to fight for high costs, and cover large arenas, and to live a long time in the hours of a short July morning. Well people will not understand.
Mr. Butterwell came out and sat with him a while; he tipped his chair back, and rocked on its hind legs, not having felt at liberty to be individual before since his guest was hurt. He talked of his horse, of Uncle Jed and the estate, of the doctor, of her horses, of Handy, of the lumber trade, and Sherman politics.
“ I hope you find it comfortable to be sick, Mr. Yorke,” he added hospitably. “ I hope you don’t mind it, bein’ on Sarah’s hands. Why, she likes it. The worse you were, the more she’d enjoy it. Sarah is a very uncommon woman. She and I used to argey one spell about profession. Sarah is a professor. Seems at first she could n’t sit down to it that I shouldn’t profess alongside* of her. But she gave it up after a while. Women are curious creeturs about what they call religion. It looks as if nature gave ’em their meetin’s and hymn-tunes much as she give men a store or a counting-room. I hey want places to go to, — that’s what they want. They ain’t like us, Mr. Yorke. There’s a monstrous difference. Why, there’s the doctor ! She’s a good girl, Doctor Zay is, if she is cute. There isn’t a horse in town, without it’s mine, can make the miles that pony can. Look there! The creetur wants her dinner. See how she holds her ? No blinders nor check-rein on her horses. She drives ’em by lovin’ ’em. There’s woman clear through that girl’s brains. You should see her in January. There ain’t three men in Sherman I’d trust to drive that mare in January without a good life insurance before they set out. Now, Mr. Yorke, may be you don’t feel as I do, but to my mind there’s no prettier sight under heaven than a brave girl and a fine horse that understand each other. I guess I ’ll speak to the little doctor.”
This was a long speech for Mr. Butterwell, who clearly took advantage of what he thought the first well-bred opportunity to relieve himself of his unwonted conversational responsibility. He was fond of Mr. Yorke, but he adored the doctor, who never wasted good English herself, and had cured the big sorrel of rheumatism. Yorke watched the two standing in the bright, unshaded yard. Mr. Butterwell patted the pony, and it seemed, although she did not touch him, as if the doctor patted the old man. There was a beautiful affectionateness about her, — Yorke had either never noticed or never seen it before,— a certain free, feminine impulse, which it is hard to describe, unless we say that it showed itself chiefly in the motion of her delicate chin. She nodded pleasantly to her patient as she came by, but did not stop.
Presently the dinner-bell rang, and she came through the long hall behind him, and out upon the piazza. He saw then that she had changed her " scarletfever dress ” for a fresh cambric, before coming near him. She had a vine, whose name he did not know, in her hand. She dropped it lightly over his shoulder; it floated down, and fell slowly ; it was a delicate thing. She said, —
“ Do you know too much about the spontaneous movements of plants ? I have some books that you may like, when you are strong enough, — one of Darwin’s, especially. It is a subject that interests me greatly. I found this sensitive thing stepping straight over the shrubs and logs for a certain birch-tree it fancied, to climb there; it went as if it were frightened, or starved, — like a creature. It made me feel as if it had a nervous system, and that the lack is in us, not in it; we have not the eyes fine enough to find its ganglia, that is all.”
“ It seems to shrink from my touch, like a woman,” said Yorke.
“ It was so delicate, I thought you would like it,” observed the doctor. “ But come! I must send you back to bed. I will have your dinner brought in. You have been here twenty minutes too long.”
He went, peaceably enough. He felt ridiculously, vaguely, pitifully happy.
Elizabeth Stuart Phelps.