“To-night I have brought the chart,” he said excitedly.
Miss Livermore smiled at the newcomer. “I am afraid I was stupid last evening ? ”
“Not stupid,” he assured her, “the thing is very complicated.”
It certainly looked so from the young man’s preparations; he carried a package of notes, a long sharpened pencil, and, under his arm, a stiff pasteboard roll.
“This will make it clearer,” he began; “it is roughly done, of course, still the color scheme is suggested, and the fourpart symbolism —”
“Did you do it last night ?” she asked.
“Yes, I did n’t feel like sleeping after — our splendid talk,” he said.
She brightened. “Does it really help to talk things over?”
Roscoe Manning surveyed her for an instant; she was a slender, gray-eyed woman with delicate hands and ears.
“It is everything,” he replied, “to have a listener.”
Mary Livermore returned his gaze solicitously. “You promised not to work at night, you know?”
“Ah, but I don’t, except when the spirit moves me. When it does, the precious moment must be seized.”
He drew his chair up to the table. The room was small, a kind of improvised parlor; in the corner there was a curtained alcove for the bed.
“ Had n’t you better sit a little nearer ? ”
The girl complied; his eagerness was infectious.
He spread the chart out feverishly as he spoke. “Can you hold one end?” he asked. “Now what is your first impression?” His eyes were on her.
“It is wonderful,” she faltered, “especially the color scheme. How splendid it will be upon the stage!”
His face lit up.
“ Yes, I thought so. You see the scenes as if by flashlight? But I wall just run through them hurriedly — you can follow my pencil, can’t you, on the chart ?”
“Yes,” she murmured, bending forward patiently, — how often she had listened to his résumés before! It had been her pleasure, though, — her one diversion after the hard day’s work was done; they both worked hard, and so they prized their evenings, passed together since the time when he had first proposed the plan. Their meeting-place had always been Miss Livermore’s room, because, being a woman, its mistress had made the most of its poor possibilities, concealing drawbacks and emphasizing good points, until, at least to Roscoe Manning, the bare, back bedroom seemed a paradise of cheer and comfort.
“Always keep in mind, please, that in my drama all the arts combine in one great whole — music, painting, architecture, dancing, the elements, the seasons, poetry in all its forms. This is the background out of which the human figures emerge and sing their life song, The Epic of Neurosis.”
“ Oh, do they sing ?” she asked.
The man looked annoyed. “I did n’t mean that literally,” he said.
The girl drooped; of late he had been sharp with her, — or was it that she was growing dull ? “The idea is such a vast one, I get confused sometimes in details.”
She glanced at him a little wistfully; they had talked about the play for sixty nights.
“I love to hear,” she went on hastily, “I am so proud that you will tell me; you said, I think, that no one knew except myself ? ”
Her wistful eyes still asked a question.
“No, I do not talk about it,” he said, “but we digress. The first scene (I will sketch the whole impressionally, but you must always keep the main idea in mind) the first, scene stands for youth, —green woods in spring, sweet breezes, flowers, dancing, lyrics, — the beginning of things.”
“ It will be a lovely scene,” the girl put in, eager to retrieve her earlier blunder.
“ It will be the simplest one,” he said.
Again she felt that she had failed to understand him.
“The chief personages appear, the youthful lovers, unconscious as yet of their inheritance, though seized already by the restless longing — the desire for life, they call it. This is the one dark point in a scene otherwise quite charming, the sign of incipient neurosis in both boy and girl. On the chart I have tried to show an earthly paradise, where, but for the fatal nerve disease, my people might have lived in peace and joy, — you see that, don’t you ?”
“Yes,” she murmured. What she did see was that his hands were shaking.
“The second scene,” he continued eagerly, “represents summer, — the sea, love rhapsodies, — the color, blue, — the element, water, — the music, stormy, full of passion, — the setting, angry waves — a mighty ocean steamer, on board of which the same two people meet again, no longer boy and girl, but man and woman. Each has tasted life, and each has broken down under it. Each seeks recuperation; they find each other,—the jaded broker and the weary beauty —
“Will people understand what comes between ?” the girl asked timidly.
Manning frowned. “You forget, that is all explained in their interview; you liked that dialogue especially.”
“Yes, I remember, it was magnificent.; your dialogues are splendid. I think if we leaned back that we could hold the chart up so that we could see?”
They were sitting bolt upright on their stiff bedroom chairs. “I am quite comfortable,” he said.
“The third scene, — autumn on a windy moorland, — color, brown, — element, earth —the return to nature; the same two people reappear; they are taking enforced rest after serious nervous breakdown; they are at an institution of some kind. This is the final phase before complete prostration; the music is elegiac, the setting mournful, the language weak and disconnected; passion is gone, ambition, love of action; their minds are torpid, their wills diseased, their faculties benumbed.
“It is splendid, having the chart,” she murmured, “especially —”
“Especially for the last scene,” he interrupted. “ You have never had the final scene, you know?”
His comrade wavered. “You are going to keep that back a little ?” she suggested.
“No,” he cried, “I am going to tell it to you. I was afraid it might depress you; but to-night it won’t, — we both feel sane and rested.”
She braced herself obediently. “If it will help you,” she began, and then she changed it. “I am eager to know the end,” she said.
“Are you ready?” he asked. “Prepare yourself. I don’t want you to be frightened.”
She looked at him in sudden perturbation; his eyes were hard now, almost cruel. Her heart revolted, and then, seeing his strained anxiety, her tenderness returned again.
“I shan’t be afraid,” she said gently.
She bent down nervously; a corner of the chart had been concealed hitherto by Manning’s arm.
“What do you see?” he cried.
“Two figures dancing.”
“A room with grated windows!” “Ah!” he said.
The girl drew back. “You never told me it would end in that?”
“I thought you knew; what else could it end with ? ”
Mary Livermore rolled the chart up with decision. “ I can’t bear any more toil ight.”
Manning’s eyes flashed; he rose abruptly. “ I am sorry that I have tired you so,” he said.
The girl sprang up and stood beside him; she only reached as high as his stooping shoulders. “Don’t,” she begged; “you know I did n’t mean it that way! I was only nervous and — upset. Oh! won’t you stay a minute ? I — I — have something for you.”
Politeness forced him to do as she desired ; he waited gloomily while she sought the curtained recess. When she returned, she brought a small, flat parcel.
“I had an extra one,” she explained, “auntie sent me several; she knew I hated cotton. If you are like me, you will sleep much better on a linen pillow case.”
He took the parcel awkwardly; he was not used to presents; he had no womankind to give him any. “It is very sweet of you,” he stammered. “I shall value it extremely.”
She smiled. “You won’t work tonight ? ” she urged.
“Only a little at the last scene — I feel just like it. Oh, by the way, here are the sheets to be re-typed at your convenience. ”
Mary Livermore took the loose pages from him. “You won’t do that scene?” she begged, “not at night — you must not. ”
“Yes,” he said, “I must!”
She tried again, although she knew it would be useless. " But people recover,” she ventured, “even after serious breakdowns ? ”
“ My people could n’t recover; it would be an anti-climax. Besides, when once the boundary is overstepped — ”
He looked at her, and a nameless terror held her speechless.
“Good-night,” he said. She put. her hand out; he took it vaguely
“To-morrow I will read you the last scene!”
The next day, however, the journalist was stretched upon his bed, incapable of moving; the landlady called in a doctor, who shook his head and promised to return at night. When he did return, he shook his head again and gave the landlady some directions, which she received unwillingly.
“He can’t afford such things,” she objected. “He is only a poor newspaper man.”
“Well, he must be looked to, all the same. Has n’t he a mother, or a sister ?”
“As far as I know, not a blessed soul.”
The doctor moved down the stairs; his time was very precious; the landlady in her alarm had summoned the nearest physician, who happened to be a famous specialist for nerves. At the first landing — Manning occupied a third-floor hall bedroom — the physician was intercepted by Mary Livermore.
“ I have just heard that Mr. Manning is ill,” she said.
The doctor paused, surveying the slight figure. “ You are not. a relative ? ”
“Oh no,” she stammered, “just a friend.”
“ Ah, then I can tell you; the fact is I am extremely anxious about that young man. The landlady seems quite incompetent; he needs care, tact, devotion, patient nursing. She tells me that he has no woman belonging to him?”
At the doctor’s first remark, his listener had turned faint and sick and giddy; but she made a resolute attempt to steady herself.
“No,” she murmured, “he has no near relations; but,” she added timidly, “I am his comrade — I might perhaps be able to help ? ”
The specialist again surveyed the fragile speaker. “H’m,” he said, “it’s not an easy job. Of course you know what is the matter with him ? No one could be with him without discovering that!”
Mary’s eyes were wide with fear, but the doctor did not notice.
“ He has pronounced neurosis with certain madness coming,—certain, that is, unless he pulls up sharply; and he is in no state, poor chap, to do anything of the kind.”
The woman staggered slightly, but the hall was dark and the doctor’s thoughts were elsewhere.
“Yes,” he went on, “if he had a mother, as I said, or a devoted sister, or better still a wife or sweetheart, — some one who would watch him ceaselessly and keep his mind off from that confounded play.”
“The play?” she gasped.
“ Yes, that is a bad symptom — a fixed idea; they often have them. He talked about the thing to me at once. He has probably been dwelling on it continually until he can’t keep his thoughts for long on anything else. Well, that must be stopped; but how to do it?”
“ Will you tell me how you think it might be managed if — he had a woman belonging to him ?”
The doctor threw her a shrewd glance, after which his manner became more kindly.
“Well — when he recovers from this temporary breakdown, — he will recover from that in two days at most, —he should resume his work; that won’t hurt him; it will keep his mind off from that pernicious play. Now come the evenings; he probably gets home about six-thirty ? ”
“Yes, sometimes later.”
“Then something should be planned to fill the evening hours; the best thing would be a walk in this fine weather; the streets are lively, the air and exercise would do him worlds of good; or occasionally a music-hall, — not the theatre, that might recall his play; but a little cheerful music would n’t be bad. When it rains, a game of cards, or even a ride round town on the electric car, — anything to keep him occupied. Above all, no work at night, — no brain excitement:; it will be difficult, I know, for he is very obstinate, — nervous patients usually are, — nor can you deal with them by direct methods: that nearly always drives them into open war. And then he must be made to take more nourishment, — a glass of milk at Caswell’s on his evening walk. That would help him more than anything, for he is exceedingly run down. Well, these are hasty suggestions; the main point, of course, is to keep his mind from that brain-killing play.”
The girl had listened breathlessly. “Are you coming again ? ” she asked.
“No, I can’t do anything; it rests with the nursing. Physically, as I said, he is temporarily used up, — mentally, he is very ill indeed.”
These wrnrds hurt the girl like the sharp edge of iron.
“ One thing more,” she panted, for she saw he was impatient. “If his mind could be diverted, how long would it be before the — worst danger would be over ?”
“Oh, supposing the best possible conditions — I should say two months. If he is n’t worse by that time, but distinctly better, then the immediate danger would be past.”
The girl drew a long breath. “Will you give me your address, please ?”
The doctor gave her his card, after which he shook hands with her warmly.
“Don’t forget,” he said, “that sick nerves must be treated tenderly, — no abruptness, no prohibitions, no hint, above all, that the sufferer is not himself! All tact, all cheerfulness, incessant watching!”
She assented faintly.
“He is not brain-sick yet?” she faltered .
“Not about anything except his play, poor fellow. It is a case of madness for fame—‘ Grössenwahn,’ the Germans call it. Well, most sane people have it, too. Good-by, Miss — ? ”
“Livermore,” the girl answered in a low voice.
“All the same,” the doctor thought, as he drove away in his victoria, “ I wish the fellow had a mother to coddle him; that young woman is well-meaning, but the task is quite beyond her, — besides, she can’t be with him, as a mother could.”
Mary Livermore got upstairs and into her back bedroom; then she sank down on a chair and cried despairingly. After that she stumbled to her feet and paced the narrow chamber; she did not know how long she walked that floor. Suddenly she paused, and stood as if transfigured; her face, which had been haggard, looked almost happy. In a moment she sat down and proceeded to think out some complex problem; finally, by her tremulous sigh, she seemed to have succeeded.
“So help me God!” she whispered, and rose again. Her manner was no longer groping; she appeared to be inspired by some great, illuminating idea.
On the table there was a vase containing a few carnations; she had meant them as a surprise for Manning when he should, as usual, seek her room. She now pulled out the flowers, wiped them off, and clutched them firmly in her left hand; then she went out into the hall and stole upstairs to Manning’s door; she knocked and heard his answer, then she turned the knob and entered the room. Her friend was lying on the bed; the gas was burning dimly. The girl advanced and laid the flowers on the quilt.
“I have come to bring you these and to beg you to get better! ”
The man’s wild eyes caught hers and held them. “I want to talk to you,” he cried.
“Not now,” she said. “The doctor does not wish it; he says that if you rest, you will be able to work again much sooner, —in two days, he thinks.”
His face lit up. “I want to work.”
She knew he meant the play and hastened to speak further. “Well, then you must do exactly as he says.”
She lifted the untouched glass of milk and offered it to him.
He shook his head. “ I can’t, it chokes me.”
“Then you can’t work.”
“Did the doctor say that?”
“He said that plenty of nourishment would bring you up sooner than anything else.”
He raised the glass and drank down its contents slowly.
“There,” he said, “that shows what will can do.”
“Yes,” she assented. “Now I must go; but I will come up every evening, until you are well enough to come to me. In the mean time, don’t worry; I will see to everything, — all you have to do is to get well”
She smiled at him; the man’s face quivered.
“If you could only stay! I can’t keep my thoughts in order, I have such ugly fancies when I am alone.”
“I know,” she said, speaking very quietly; “I have them, too; that’s why I want you to get well quickly. My evenings are so dreary when I’m alone! ”
The man looked pleased. “Well, I will try,” he said.
She took his hand and pressed it; the soft, warm contact seemed to comfort him.
“ There,” she cried, “ I said you would be up again in two days.”
Roscoe Manning greeted her rather languidly; the girl’s eyes sought the chart and found it, protruding from beneath the young man’s arm.
“Shan’t we sit down ?” she said. Her head was dizzy. “Do you notice anything different?” she went on.
He glanced about him. “It all looks very cheerful. May I clear the table off ? There won’t be room enough.”
The woman flinched; she had bought a few cheap photographs and arranged them carefully where she thought they would attract his eye; in the centre of the table there was a vase of bright carnations. Mary herself was wearing her best gown.
“Don’t you think,” she urged, — her voice had a little quaver in it, — “that we had better look at the photographs tonight? You are not quite strong yet,— and the play is so exciting.”
“The play is what will cure me,” he replied. He drew his chair up to the table and began to push the pictures aside impatiently.
Mary watched him for an instant; her face was very white now.
“ I am sorry — but I shall have to tell you.”
“Tell me what?” he asked; but his eyes were on the table. He was planning how he could best remove the other things.
“The fact is — Oh — you must really pay attention!”
The sharpness of the cry made the man look up.
“What is it ?” he asked.
“I have been to see your doctor! ”
“Indeed! ” he said. The subject did not seem to interest him; he was chafing at the unfortunate delay.
“He is a great nerve specialist,” she continued desperately; “he told me something startling, — that I was extremely nervous, though I never knew it. He said I was neurotic in the highest degree.”
Manning gave a start, then he looked at her more attentively.
“Nonsense,” he said; “you haven’t any nervous tendencies. I know enough about nerves to tell you that!”
“That’s what I thought, until the doctor frightened me; but you see of late I have been feeling very queer. I have n’t talked of it, because there was no one to talk to; but when I told him the feelings—”
“What were the feelings ?” her friend inquired, still rather listlessly.
“Oh, I can’t describe them — but — they are very terrible — when I am alone I get beside myself. I — ”
At that the girl broke down; the collapse was unexpected: Manning sprang up and stood above her. He had never seen her cry before.
“You must n’t,” he said, and touched her shoulder. The movement was uncertain, full of vague alarm.
“You mustn’t,” he said again, this time more decidedly; he had put the chart down on a chair near by.
“I can’t help it,” she sobbed. She was trembling uncontrollably. The man surveyed her in increased alarm — what had she heard ? what had the doctor told her ?
He seated himself beside her and took her hands.
“You must tell me everything the doctor said to you — everything!”
“ What good would that do ? ” she demanded passionately. “It would only make you wretched, too.”
“Let me be the judge of that,” he said.
She glanced at him sidewise; his eyes were anxious.
“ He said I was on the eve of a bad nervous breakdown.”
“What else?” he asked.
“Is n’t that enough ?” .she cried.
“You must tell me everything,” he insisted.
“He said that if I did n’t get rid of this fixed idea of mine, he would n’t answer for the consequences.”
“What fixed idea?”
The girl looked stubborn. “ I can’t tell you.”
“ Oh yes, you can,” he said.
“I can’t,” she panted; “don’t ask me!”
“I do ask you, and you must tell me.”
She raised her eyes to his; the pupils were dilated.
“I have known for some time,” she whispered, “that I was the woman in your play!”
She paused, for Manning had started violently.
“What do you mean ? ” he asked.
“You know it, too,” she cried, “I see by your expression. Yes, I am that woman — I think as she does — I feel as she does — and — I shall end as she does! ”
Manning dropped her hands, his own were shaking; his terrible responsibility turned him sick and cold.
“You are not my woman,” he cried. “I know, because I made her — you are not my woman!”
His voice was husky; it was difficult for him to articulate his words.
“You are trying to put me off,” she muttered, “but I know I am that woman!”
He laid his hand upon her shoulder.
“You must stop this,” he said.
“1 can’t. You said she could n’t stop things, — when once the boundary was overstepped.”
She burst into tears again and pulled away from him, burying her head against the cushion of her chair.
Manning braced himself determinedly; the necessity for action had restored to him his shattered self-control.
“Sit up, please,” he said. “Stop crying; I must know exactly what the doctor said.”
To his intense relief, the girl obeyed him — at least, she sat up miserably and wiped her eyes.
“ Now what did he advise ? ”
She laughed hysterically. “Just about everything that I could not do! ”
“But what, — he must have told you something?”
“ Well, first, he ordered Lakewood! ”
“ The fool! What else ? ”
“Oh, more air, more nourishment, more diversions, no thinking, no work at night, no mental worry — nice little easy remedies for me.”
“Did n’t he go into particulars? Try to remember everything!”
“Particulars?” she cried, “why, I should think so — he mapped out a month for me elaborately! He said that I must go out every pleasant evening and walk about the streets for a couple of hours; he said the streets were gay— that they would amuse me! He advised a glass of milk at Caswell’s at the start; he said a little music would be good — or an evening auction. On rainy nights he suggested a game of cards with friends!”
She spoke sarcastically, but her friend listened eagerly.
“That doctor’s not a fool,” he cried; “you’d better try his treatment.”
She stared at him.
“What! drag myself about the streets at night when I am tired ? My evenings are the only time I have. Besides, do you think it would amuse me? What’s the fun in wandering about alone?”
“You would n’t be alone,” he said. “I should go with you.”
He rose abruptly and gathered his things together.
“I am going to undertake this case,” he said; “but you must follow my directions. My first one is to get your hat and come with me this instant.”
The girl’s lips trembled.
“You would hate to have me break down in the street ? ”
“ Yon won’t break down! Now it’s understood, Miss Mary, you are going to put yourself in my hands.”
She slipped her hand into his without replying; her head was lowered.
“ Ah! ” he said, “I shall come back for you in two minutes.”
When he returned, he found her ’waiting for him on the landing, and together they descended the dark stairs.
That walk was the beginning, — many others followed; for seven weeks the treatment was maintained. At first it was an hour; afterwards the hour was doubled; it took a very bad night, indeed, to keep them in. To start with, they each drank a glass of milk at Caswell’s, for Mary had refused to take her dose alone, and Manning had indulged her; it was strange how he enjoyed indulging her — except when a point of health was involved; then he insisted on obedience. It was strange how she enjoyed obeying him!
And so the haggard man and the whitefaced woman walked about the town each night from eight till ten; and by degrees he grew less haggard and she less whitefaced, though each watched the other with unflagging care.
Manning planned their expeditions elaborately. It was some time before he would consent to any variation in the routine, — a stroll along Broadway, a glance at the bright windows, a little cheerful talk, then home again.
One night, quite unexpectedly, he took her to a popular concert; they both enjoyed it hugely.
Once or twice the treatment was disturbed, though very slightly. Manning had, at these times, come home with the old harassed expression; and instantly the girl, too, had drooped. Seeing this, the man had always rallied, exerting himself to drive away the cloud.
And now June had arrived and the evenings were very sultry; but the friends enjoyed their walks as much as ever. One night, however, — it was just seven weeks after the original expedition, — Manning fancied that the girl was anxious to get home; he thought, too, that she said good-night a little hurriedly, — usually they had lingered at her door.
Fifteen minutes later, Manning had occasion to go downstairs again; he had left a book he wanted in the lower hall. He paused — what was that noise ? It came from Mary’s bedroom. He listened. Yes, it was unmistakable, — the steady tick-tack of her Remington.
He knocked; the sound ceased; Manning opened the door and entered. Mary Livermore was seated at her typewriting machine.
She rose precipitantly. “I never do it: this is the first time. They asked me at the office; it was only a matter of an hour’s work.”
“You promised not to do it.”
“I know,” she admitted. “But that was when I was so miserable; now I am entirely myself again.”
“ You are better,” he corrected. “ Who knows whether you are well yet? Besides, you promised.”
She saw that he was hurt. “ I won’t do it again. I am sorry!”
Her eyes were penitent.
“Will you stop now,” he asked, “and go to bed ?”
She hesitated; she needed the extra money; there had been expenses which she could not well disclose to him.
“I must really finish this,” she stammered.
Manning started forward and caught her hands up from the machine; then he caught her whole small person up and set her on her feet.
“I must have the right to know what you are doing, both by day and night,” he cried.
At these words the hot blood mounted to her forehead; but she stood quite still where he had placed her.
“If you could care, — if you could only care!” he urged vehemently; “if you could only love me even half as much as I love you! I can’t expect that you should feel as I do — but —”
“But I do feel so,” she cried, and hid her face against him. The next instant he had clasped her to his heart.
When they could speak, — they had been murmuring to one another, — Manning took her face between his hands.
“You are much too rare for me,” he said. “Don’t think I do not know it, you little fragile lily. Now, when shall we be married?”
She laughed and blushed, and then grew strangely sober.
“I can’t promise anything until I see the doctor.”
“Because I must have his opinion. You said yourself that I was not entirely cured.”
“Nonsense!” he exclaimed, “you are positively blooming; besides, I thought I was your doctor, now.”
“So you are; but I want a consultation. If you and he agree — then —”
“You will marry me ? But I intend to have you whatever he says, — don’t you know that — don’t you know that you belong to me, nerves and all?”
She gave him one long look. “Yes,” she murmured, “I am yours whatever happens, whatever happens — always — to the end!”
He kissed her and she returned the kiss with tremulous solemnity.
“And now,” he cried, “when can the man be seen?”
She smiled; Manning had always been impatient.
“We must make a special appointment,” she began. “I will write and ask him to let us come some evening; he knows we can’t get to him in the day. And, you will go in with me, won’t you, and let him take a look at you ? You’ve been all right, of course, since that little attack in April; still, for my sake?”
Manning smiled indulgently.
“Yes, I will go,” he said. “Besides, I can explain things. You won’t tell him that you need a permanent nurse!”
He stroked her soft brown hair; his fingers were not quite steady.
“We will have a little flat,” he murmured. “I’m sure we can afford it, and you will make the place a little palace, with all your pretty touches. I know it from the way you’ve fixed this room! Your own home — think of it — our home together!”
She put her arms up and clung to him.
“I think I am too happy, dear,” she said.
“Ah,” the doctor cried, “good-evening, Mr. Manning. When last we met things were not so bright?”
He spoke facetiously. The three were standing in the doctor’s small receptionroom.
“Suppose we sit down,” the specialist suggested. “Miss Livermore is,of course, my present patient; but I may consider you a kind of former one, may I not?”
Manning bowed; to him this seemed unnecessary, — a most unnecessary waste of time. Still if Mary preferred to begin with his small ailments, she must be allowed to have her way. So he answered the doctor’s questions, though rather shortly. The girl listened anxiously. At last the doctor rose.
“That is all, I think, for you. Now, Miss Livermore, will you give me a few minutes ? Will you come with me into my other room ? ”
Mary sprang up and so did Manning.
“But she has n’t told you,” the young man cried impulsively,—“she hasn’t told you why we are consulting you tonight! It is because she has agreed to marry me, — if you pronounce that she is well again. That is her idea, but I tell her that as I’m her under-doctor, my opinion ought to be sufficient — and my opinion is that the wedding should be next week!”
The doctor stared, but Mary answered quickly.
“Yes,” she said, “he has been most strict with me; he has made me follow your rules exactly. Once I disobeyed, so now he doesn’t trust me; he wants to have me always under his eye!”
She broke off nervously, for she had caught the doctor’s curious glances.
“I will do my best,” the latter said, addressing Manning, “but I can see already that she looks immensely better in every way.”
Manning beamed upon him. “Ah! what did I tell you ? ” he exclaimed.
When Miss Livermore and he were alone, the doctor began immediately.
“Really, I am greatly mystified. I did as your note requested, but you — my patient? And what have you done to him ? ”
“Done to him?” she cried, “Oh, surely you don’t see anything?”
“ See anything ? Why, my dear young lady, he is cured!”
She flushed and then grew white; the long suspense was over, — the fear that had tormented her at night.
“ Oh, are you sure ? Could you judge ? Is all danger past ? He never talks about his play.”
“ But how, by all that’s wonderful, was it accomplished ? ”
“Oh, I just twisted things. I said that I was on the eve of a nervous breakdown ” She told him the whole story.
The doctor’s eyes sparkled. “ Magnificent — superb. My dear Miss Livermore, I have no words, — I feel like a schoolboy ! ”
“Something had to be done,” she said simply, “and I was the only one to do it. But what I want to ask you is whether I can tell him ? I can’t bear to marry him until he knows.”
The doctor shook his head.
“No, no, don’t tell him, — not, at least, at present. You have made a brilliant cure; don’t run the risk of spoiling it; if he should learn the truth, it might unsettle him. Let him think of you and watch over you — it is the best possible preventive. Good Heavens, if I could only get my other nervous patients to interest themselves in some one else’s cure! Yes, let him nurse you; don’t be too energetic; it does him good to consider you — his anxiety has made another man of him. And let me say, his case has made another woman of you!”
She smiled and then grew wistful. “So you think I ought not to tell him ?”
“No, don’t tell him, but marry him — God bless you! And,” he added, smiling, “should you ever want a job — I doubt if you ever will, though — come to me and I will recommend you as my prize nurse for neurosis! Bless me, what a clever idea it was!”
“What did he say?” Manning asked her, as the doctor’s front door closed behind them.
“Oh, everything nice!”
Her elation was so apparent that her lover questioned confidently.
“That you are cured? that we can be married?”
“That I am cured — and that with care —”
“Care?” he interrupted. “Oh, you shall have that, don’t you worry! But did he say the nerves were working as they should?”
“He said we could be married!”
“My little girl,” he cried, “my little woman!”
“Yes,” she said, “your woman!”
The words slipped out, but instantly she regretted them, for Manning turned towards her, in quick alarm.
“Not that,” he murmured, “never that. But I wanted to tell you that — she — no longer exists. I could n’t bear the sight of her, — so now we need n’t think of her again.”
Finally they reached their own dim street. Suddenly the man stooped and kissed the woman. She shrank a little, glancing round.
“Oh, no one can see, except the dear old streets,” he cried. “Don’t you love them ? Think what they have done for us! I love even the ugly parts of them, — the rough pavement, the dirt, the dinginess! That’s why I want one of them, at least, to see our happiness! Don’t tell me that streets can’t see!”
She looked up at him admiringly.
“What pretty thoughts you have! Yes, I like the streets, especially this one; it was the first to welcome us, the last to greet us on our walks!”
“The last?” he echoed. “Are n’t we going to walk when we are married ? I had planned all sorts of expeditions; are n’t you coming with me?”
“Yes,” she answered, “always with you — always with you —— wherever you wish to go!”
The man’s eyes grew strangely dim; he mounted the steps in silence. At the top, he paused and looked behind.
“Dear old streets,”he murmured, “between us we have cured this little girl!”
Mary leaned against him; her eyes, too, were shining.
“Dear old streets—God bless you!” she whispered under her breath.