Part 55 out of 78
Barlow broke into a grim laugh. "She won't need it, except for a
windin'-sheet!" he roared. "Don't you see the boat's drivin' right on t'
the sand? She'll be kindlin' wood in a minute."
"But they're inside the reef! They can come to anchor!" she shrieked in
reply. He answered her with a despairing grin and a shake of the head.
"They can't. What has your boat gone out for, then?"
"To pick 'em up out the sea. But they'll never git 'em alive. Look how
she slaps her boom int' the water! Well! He DOES know how to handle a
It was Libby at the helm, as she could dimly see, but what it was in his
management that moved Barlow's praise she could not divine. The boat
seemed to be aimed for the shore, and to be rushing, head on, upon the
beach; her broad sail was blown straight out over her bow, and flapped
there like a banner, while the heavy boom hammered the water as she rose
and fell. A jagged line of red seamed the breast of the dark wall
behind; a rending crash came, and as if fired upon, the boat flung up her
sail, as a wild fowl flings up its wing when shot, and lay tossing keel
up, on the top of the waves. It all looked scarcely a stone's cast away,
though it was vastly farther. A figure was seen to drag itself up out of
the sea, and fall over into the boat, hovering and pitching in the
surrounding welter, and struggling to get at two other figures clinging
to the wreck. Suddenly the men in the boat pulled away, and Grace
uttered a cry of despair and reproach: "Why, they're leaving it, they're
"Don't expect 'em to tow the wreck ashore in this weather, do ye?"
shouted Barlow. "They've got the folks all safe enough. I tell ye I see
'em!" he cried, at a wild look of doubt in. her eyes. "Run to the
house, there, and get everything in apple-pie order. There's goin' to be
a chance for some of your doctor'n' now, if ye know how to fetch folks
It was the little house on the beach, which the children were always
prying and peering into, trying the lock, and wondering what the boat was
like, which Grace had seen launched. Now the door yielded to her, and
within she found a fire kindled in the stove, blankets laid in order, and
flasks of brandy in readiness in the cupboard. She put the blankets to
heat for instant use, and prepared for the work of resuscitation. When
she could turn from them to the door, she met there a procession that
approached with difficulty, heads down and hustled by the furious blast
through which the rain now hissed and shot. Barlow and one of the boat's
crew were carrying Mrs. Maynard, and bringing up the rear of the huddling
oil-skins and sou'westers came Libby, soaked, and dripping as he walked.
His eyes and Grace's encountered with a mutual avoidance; but whatever
was their sense of blame, their victim had no reproaches to make herself.
She was not in need of restoration. She was perfectly alive, and
apparently stimulated by her escape from deadly peril to a vivid
conception of the wrong that had been done her. If the adventure had
passed off prosperously, she was the sort of woman to have owned to her
friend that she ought not to have thought of going. But the event had
obliterated these scruples, and she realized herself as a hapless
creature who had been thrust on to dangers from which she would have
shrunk. "Well, Grace!" she began, with a voice arid look before which
the other quailed, "I hope you are satisfied! All the time I was
clinging to that wretched boat. I was wondering how you would feel.
Yes, my last thoughts were of you. I pitied you. I did n't see how you
could ever have peace again."
"Hold on, Mrs. Maynard!" cried Libby. "There's no, time for that, now.
What had best be done, Miss Green? Had n't she better be got up to the
"Yes, by all means," answered Grace.
"You might as well let me die here," Mrs. Maynard protested, as Grace
wrapped the blankets round her dripping dress. "I 'm as wet as I can be,
Libby began to laugh at these inconsequences, to which he was probably
well used. "You would n't have time to die here. And we want to give
this hydropathic treatment a fair trial. You've tried the douche, and
now you're to have the pack." He summoned two of the boatmen, who had
been considerately dripping outside, in order to leave the interior to
the shipwrecked company, and they lifted Mrs. Maynard, finally wrapped
in, Grace's India-rubber cloak, and looking like some sort of strange,
huge chrysalis, and carried her out into the storm and up the steps.
Grace followed last with Mr. Libby, very heavyhearted and reckless. She
had not only that sore self-accusal; but the degradation of the affair,
its grotesqueness, its spiritual squalor, its utter gracelessness, its
entire want of dignity, were bitter as death in her proud soul. It was
not in this shameful guise that she had foreseen the good she was to do.
And it had all come through her own wilfulness and selfrighteousness.
The tears could mix unseen with the rain that drenched her face, but they
blinded her, and half-way up the steps she stumbled on her skirt, and
would have fallen, if the young man had not caught her. After that, from
time to time he put his arm about her, and stayed her against the gusts.
Before they reached the top he said, "Miss Breen, I'm awfully sorry for
all this. Mrs. Maynard will be ashamed of what she said. Confound it!
If Maynard were only here!"
"Why should she be ashamed?" demanded Grace. "If she had been drowned,
I should have murdered her, and I'm responsible if anything happens to
her,--I am to blame." She escaped from him, and ran into the house. He
slunk round the piazza to the kitchen door, under the eyes of the ladies
watching at the parlor windows.
"I wonder he let the others carry her up," said Miss Gleason. "Of course,
he will marry her now,--when she gets her divorce." She spoke of Mrs.
Maynard, whom her universal toleration not only included in the mercy
which the opinions of the other ladies denied her, but round whom her
romance cast a halo of pretty possibilities as innocently sentimental as
the hopes of a young girl.
The next morning Grace was sitting beside her patient, with whom she had
spent the night. It was possibly Mrs. Maynard's spiritual toughness
which availed her, for she did not seem much the worse for her adventure:
she had a little fever, and she was slightly hoarser; but she had died
none of the deaths that she projected during the watches of the night,
and for which she had chastened the spirit of her physician by the
repeated assurance that she forgave her everything, and George Maynard
everything, and hoped that they would be good to her poor little Bella.
She had the child brought from its crib to her own bed, and moaned over
it; but with the return of day and the duties of life she appeared to
feel that she had carried her forgiveness far enough, and was again
remembering her injuries against Grace, as she lay in her morning gown on
the lounge which had been brought in for her from the parlor.
"Yes, Grace, I shall always say if I had died and I may die yet--that I
did not wish to go out with Mr. Libby, and that I went purely to please
you. You forced me to go. I can't understand why you did it; for I
don't suppose you wanted to kill us, whatever you did."
Grace could not lift her head. She bowed it over the little girl whom
she had on her knee, and who was playing with the pin at her throat, in
apparent unconsciousness of all that was said. But she had really
followed it, with glimpses of intelligence, as children do, and now at
this negative accusal she lifted her hand, and suddenly struck Grace a
stinging blow on the cheek.
Mrs. Maynard sprang from her lounge. "Why, Bella! you worthless little
wretch!" She caught her from Grace's knee, and shook her violently.
Then, casting the culprit from her at random, she flung herself down
again in a fit of coughing, while the child fled to Grace for
consolation, and, wildly sobbing, buried her face in the lap of her
"I don't know what I shall do about that child!" cried Mrs. Maynard.
"She has George Maynard's temper right over again. I feel dreadfully,
"Oh, never mind it," said Grace, fondling the child, and half addressing
it. "I suppose Bella thought I had been unkind to her mother."
"That's just it!" exclaimed Louise. "When you've been kindness itself!
Don't I owe everything to you? I should n't be alive at this moment if
it were not for your treatment. Oh, Grace!" She began to cough again;
the paroxysm increased in vehemence. She caught her handkerchief from
her lips; it was spotted with blood. She sprang to her feet, and
regarded it with impersonal sternness. "Now," she said, "I am sick, and
I want a doctor!"
"A doctor," Grace meekly echoed.
"Yes. I can't be trifled with any longer. I want a man doctor!"
Grace had looked at the handkerchief. "Very well," she said, with
coldness. "I shall not stand in your way of calling another physician.
But if it will console you, I can tell you that the blood on your
handkerchief means nothing worth speaking of. Whom shall I send for?"
she asked, turning to go out of the roam. "I wish to be your friend
still, and I will do anything I can to help you."
"Oh, Grace Breen! Is that the way you talk to me?" whimpered Mrs.
Maynard. "You know that I don't mean to give you up. I'm not a stone;
I have some feeling. I did n't intend to dismiss you, but I thought
perhaps you would like to have a consultation about it. I should think
it was time to have a consultation, should n't you? Of course, I'm not
alarmed, but I know it's getting serious, and I'm afraid that your
medicine is n't active enough. That's it; it's perfectly good medicine,
but it is n't active. They've all been saying that I ought to have
something active. Why not try the whiskey with the white-pine chips in
it? I'm sure it's indicated." In her long course of medication she had
picked up certain professional phrases, which she used with amusing
seriousness. "It would be active, at any rate."
Grace did not reply. As she stood smoothing the head of the little girl,
who had followed her to the door, and now leaned against her, hiding her
tearful face in Grace's dress, she said, "I don't know of any
homoeopathic physician in this neighborhood. I don't believe there's one
nearer than Boston, and I should make myself ridiculous in calling one so
far for a consultation. But I'm quite willing you should call one, and I
will send for you at once."
"And wouldn't you consult with him, after he came?"
"Certainly not. It would be absurd."
"I shouldn't like to have a doctor come all the way from Boston," mused
Mrs. Maynard, sinking on the lounge again. "There must be a doctor in
the neighborhood. It can't be so healthy as that!"
"There's an allopathic physician at Corbitant," said Grace passively.
"A very good one, I believe," she added.
"Oh, well, then!" cried Mrs. Maynard, with immense relief. "Consult with
"I've told you, Louise, that I would not consult with anybody. And I
certainly wouldn't consult with a physician whose ideas and principles I
knew nothing about."
"Why but, Grace," Mrs. Maynard expostulated. "Is n't that rather
prejudiced?" She began to take an impartial interest in Grace's
position, and fell into an argumentative tone. "If two heads are better
than one,--and everybody says they are,--I don't see how you can
consistently refuse to talk with another physician."
"I can't explain to you, Louise," said Grace. "But you can call Dr.
Mulbridge, if you wish. That will be the right way for you to do, if you
have lost confidence in me."
"I have n't lost confidence in you, Grace. I don't see how you can talk
so. You can give me bread pills, if you like, or air pills, and I will
take them gladly. I believe in you perfectly. But I do think that in a
matter of this kind, where my health, and perhaps my life, is concerned,
I ought to have a little say. I don't ask you to give up your
principles, and I don't dream of giving you up, and yet you won't just to
please me!--exchange a few words with another doctor about my case,
merely because he's allopathic. I should call it bigotry, and I don't
see how you can call it anything else." There was a sound of voices at
the door outside, and she called cheerily, "Come in, Mr. Libby,--come in!
There's nobody but Grace here," she added, as the young man tentatively
opened the door, and looked in. He wore an evening dress, even to the
white cravat, and he carried in his hand a crush hat: there was something
anomalous in his appearance, beyond the phenomenal character of his
costume, and he blushed consciously as he bowed to Grace, and then at her
motion shook hands with her. Mrs. Maynard did not give herself the
fatigue of rising; she stretched her hand to him from the lounge, and he
took it without the joy which he had shown when Grace made him the same
advance. "How very swell you look. Going to an evening party this
morning?" she cried; and after she had given him a second glance of
greater intensity, "Why, what in the world has come over' you?" It was
the dress which Mr. Libby wore. He was a young fellow far too well made,
and carried himself too alertly, to look as if any clothes misfitted him;
his person gave their good cut elegance, but he had the effect of having
fallen away in them. "Why, you look as if you had been sick a month!"
Mrs. Maynard interpreted.
The young man surveyed himself with a downward glance. "They're
Johnson's," he explained. "He had them down for a hop at the Long Beach
House, and sent over for them. I had nothing but my camping flannels,
and they have n't been got into shape yet, since yesterday. I wanted to
come over and see how you were."
"Poor fellow!" exclaimed Mrs. Maynard. "I never thought of you! How in
the world did you get to your camp?"
"In all that rain?"
"Well, I had been pretty well sprinkled, already. It was n't a question
of wet and dry; it was a question of wet and wet. I was going off
bareheaded, I lost my hat in the water, you know,--but your man, here,
hailed me round the corner of the kitchen, and lent me one. I've been
taking up collections of clothes ever since."
Mr. Libby spoke lightly, and with a cry of "Barlow's hat!" Mrs. Maynard
went off in a shriek of laughter; but a deep distress kept Grace silent.
It seemed to her that she had been lacking not only in thoughtfulness,
but in common humanity, in suffering him to walk away several miles in
the rain, without making an offer to keep him and have him provided for
in the house. She remembered now her bewildered impression that he was
without a hat when he climbed the stairs and helped her to the house;
she recalled the fact that she had thrust him on to the danger he had
escaped, and her heart was melted with grief and shame. "Mr. Libby"--
she began, going up to him, and drooping before him in an attitude which
simply and frankly expressed the contrition she felt; but she could not
continue. Mrs. Maynard's laugh broke into the usual cough, and as soon
as she could speak she seized the word.
"Well, there, now; we can leave it to Mr. Libby. It's the principle of
the thing that I look at. And I want to see how it strikes him. I want
to know, Mr. Libby, if you were a doctor,"--he looked at Grace, and
flushed,--"and a person was very sick, and wanted you to consult with
another doctor, whether you would let the mere fact that you had n't been
introduced have any weight with you?" The young man silently appealed to
Grace, who darkened angrily, and before he could speak Mrs. Maynard
interposed. "No, no, you sha'n't ask her. I want your opinion. It's
just an abstract question." She accounted for this fib with a wink at
"Really," he said, "it's rather formidable. I've never been a doctor of
"Oh, yes, we know that!" said Mrs. Maynard. "But you are now, and now
would you do it?"
"If the other fellow knew more, I would."
"But if you thought he did n't?"
"Then I wouldn't. What are you trying to get at, Mrs. Maynard? I'm not
going to answer any more of your questions."
"Yes,--one more. Don't you think it's a doctor's place to get his
patient well any way he can?"
"Why, of course!"
"There, Grace! It's just exactly the same case. And ninety-nine out of
a hundred would decide against you every time."
Libby turned towards Grace in confusion. "Miss Breen--I did n't
understand--I don't presume to meddle in anything--You're not fair, Mrs.
Maynard! I have n't any opinion on the subject, Miss Breen; I haven't,
"Oh, you can't back out, now!" exclaimed Mrs. Maynard joyously. "You've
"And you're quite right, Mr. Libby," said Grace haughtily. She bade him
good-morning; but he followed her from the room, and left Mrs. Maynard to
"Miss Breen--Do let me speak to you, please! Upon my word and honor, I
didn't know what she was driving at; I did n't, indeed! It's pretty
rough on me, for I never dreamt of setting myself up as a judge of your
affairs. I know you're right, whatever you think; and I take it all
back; it was got out of me by fraud, any way. And I beg your pardon for
not calling you Doctor--if you want me to do it. The other comes more
natural; but I wish to recognize you in the way you prefer, for I do feel
He was so very earnest and so really troubled, and he stumbled about so
for the right word, and hit upon the wrong one with such unfailing
disaster, that she must have been superhuman not to laugh. Her laughing
seemed to relieve him even more than her hearty speech. "Call me how you
like, Mr. Libby. I don't insist upon anything with you; but I believe I
prefer Miss Breen."
"You're very kind! Miss Breen it is, then. And you'll, forgive my
siding against you?" he demanded radiantly.
"Don't speak of that again, please. I've nothing to forgive you."
They walked down-stairs and out on the piazza. Barlow stood before the
steps, holding by the bit a fine bay mare, who twitched her head round a
little at the sound of Libby's voice, and gave him a look. He passed
without noticing the horse. "I'm glad to find Mrs. Maynard so well.
With that cold of hers, hanging on so long, I didn't know but she'd be in
an awful state this morning."
"Yes," said Grace, "it's a miraculous escape."
"The fact is I sent over to New Leyden for my team yesterday. I did n't
know how things might turn out, and you're so far from a lemon here, that
I thought I might be useful in going errands."
Grace turned her head and glanced at the equipage. "Is that your team?"
"Yes," said the young fellow, with a smile of suppressed pride.
"What an exquisite creature!" said the girl.
"ISN'T she?" They both faced about, and stood looking at the mare, and
the light, shining, open buggy behind her. The sunshine had the after-
storm glister; the air was brisk, and the breeze blew balm from the heart
of the pine forest. "Miss Breen," he broke out, "I wish you'd take a
little dash through the woods with me. I've got a broad-track buggy,
that's just right for these roads. I don't suppose it's the thing at all
to ask you, on such short acquaintance, but I wish you would. I know
you'd enjoy it: Come?"
His joyous urgence gave her a strange thrill. She had long ceased to
imagine herself the possible subject of what young ladies call
attentions, and she did not think of herself in that way now. There was
something in the frank, eager boyishness of the invitation that
fascinated her, and the sunny face turned so hopefully upon her had its
amusing eloquence. She looked about the place with an anxiety of which
she was immediately ashamed: all the ladies were out of sight, and
probably at the foot of the cliff.
"Don't say no, Miss Breen," pleaded the gay voice.
The answer seemed to come of itself. "Oh, thank you, yes, I should like
"Good!" he exclaimed, and the word which riveted her consent made her
"But not this morning. Some other day. I--I--I want to think about Mrs.
Maynard. I--ought n't to leave her. Excuse me this morning, Mr. Libby."
"Why, of course," he tried to say with unaltered gayety, but a note of
disappointment made itself felt. "Do you think she's going to be worse?"
"No, I don't think she is. But--" She paused, and waited a space before
she continued. "I 'm afraid I can't be of use to her any longer. She
has lost confidence in me--It's important she should trust her
physician." Libby blushed, as he always did when required to recognize
Grace in her professional quality. "It's more a matter of nerves than
anything else, and if she does n't believe in me I can't do her any
"Yes, I can understand that," said the young man, with gentle sympathy;
and she felt, somehow, that he delicately refrained from any leading or
"She has been urging me to have a consultation with some doctor about her
case, and I--it would be ridiculous!"
"Then I would n't do it!" said Mr. Libby. "You know a great deal better
what she wants than she does. You had better make her, do what you say."
"I didn't mean to burden you with my affairs," said Grace, "but I wished
to explain her motive in speaking to you as she did." After she had said
this, it seemed to her rather weak, and she could not think of anything
else that would strengthen it. The young man might think that she had
asked advice of him. She began to resent his telling her to make Mrs.
Maynard do what she said. She was about to add something to snub him,
when she recollected that it was her own wilfulness which had
precipitated the present situation, and she humbled herself.
"She will probably change her mind," said Libby. "She would if you could
let her carry her point," he added, with a light esteem for Mrs. Maynard
which set him wrong again in Grace's eyes: he had no business to speak so
"Very likely," she said, in stiff withdrawal from all terms of confidence
concerning Mrs. Maynard. She did not add anything more, and she meant
that the young fellow should perceive that his, audience was at an end.
He did not apparently resent it, but she fancied him hurt in his
She went back to her patient, whom she found languid and disposed to
sleep after the recent excitement, and she left her again, taking little
Bella with her. Mrs. Maynard slept long, but woke none the better for
her nap. Towards evening she grew feverish, and her fever mounted as the
night fell. She was restless and wakeful, and between her dreamy dozes
she was incessant in her hints for a consultation to Grace, who passed
the night in her room, and watched every change for the worse with a
self-accusing heart. The impending trouble was in that indeterminate
phase which must give the physician his most anxious moments; and this
inexperienced girl; whose knowledge was all to be applied, and who had
hardly arrived yet at that dismaying stage when a young physician finds
all the results at war with all the precepts, began to realize the
awfulness of her responsibility. She had always thought of saving life,
and not of losing it.
By morning Grace was as nervous and anxious as her patient, who had
momentarily the advantage of her in having fallen asleep. She went
stealthily out, and walked the length of the piazza, bathing her eyes
with the sight of the sea, cool and dim under a clouded sky. At the
corner next the kitchen she encountered Barlow, who, having kindled the
fire for the cook, had spent s moment of leisure in killing some chickens
at the barn; he appeared with a cluster of his victims in his hand, but
at sight of Grace he considerately put them behind him.
She had not noticed them. "Mr. Barlow," she said, "how far is it to
Barlow slouched into a conversational posture, easily resting on his
raised hip the back of the hand in which he held the chickens. "Well,
it 's accordin' to who you ask. Some says six mile, and real clever
folks makes it about four and a quarter."
"I ask you," persisted Grace.
"Well, the last time I was there, I thought it was about sixty. 'Most
froze my fingers goin' round the point. 'N' all I was afraid of was
gettin' there too soon. Tell you, a lee shore ain't a pleasant neighbor
in a regular old northeaster. 'F you go by land, I guess it's about ten
mile round through the woods. Want to send for Dr. Mulbridge? I thought
"No, no!" said Grace. She turned back into the house, and then she came
running out again; but by this time Barlow had gone into the kitchen,
where she heard him telling the cook that these were the last of the
dommyneckers. At breakfast several of the ladies came and asked after
Mrs. Maynard, whese restless night they had somehow heard of. When she
came out of the dining-room' Miss Gleason waylaid her in the hall.
"Dr. Breen," she said, in a repressed tumult, "I hope you won't give way.
For woman's sake, I hope you won't! You owe it to yourself not to give
way! I'm sure Mrs. Maynard is as well off in your hands as she can be.
If I did n't think so, I should be the last to advise your being firm;
but, feeling as I do, I do advise it most strongly. Everything depends
"I don't know what you mean, Miss Gleason," said Grace.
"I'm glad it hasn't come to you yet. If it was a question of mere
professional pride, I should say, By all means call him at once. But I
feel that a great deal more is involved. If you yield, you make it
harder for other women to help themselves hereafter, and you confirm such
people as these in their distrust of female physicians. Looking at it in
a large way, I almost feel that it would be better for her to die than
for you to give up; and feeling as I do"--
"Are you talking of Mrs. Maynard?" asked Grace.
"They are all saying that you ought to give up the case to Dr. Mulbridge.
But I hope you won't. I should n't blame you for calling in another
"Thank you," answered Grace. "There is no danger of her dying. But it
seems to me that she has too many female physicians already. In this
house I should think it better to call a man." She left the barb to
rankle in Miss Gleason's breast, and followed her mother to her room, who
avenged Miss Gleason by a series of inquisitional tortures, ending with
the hope that, whatever she did, Grace would not have that silly
creature's blood on her hands. The girl opened her lips to attempt some
answer to this unanswerable aspiration, when the unwonted sound of wheels
on the road without caught her ear.
"What is that, Grace?" demanded her mother, as if Grace were guilty of
"Mr. Libby," answered Grace, rising.
"Has he come for you?"
"I don't know. But I am going down to see him."
At sight of the young man's face, Grace felt her heart lighten. He had
jumped from his buggy, and was standing at his smiling ease on the piazza
steps, looking about as if for some one, and he brightened joyfully at
her coming. He took her hand with eager friendliness, and at her impulse
began to move away to the end of the piazza with her. The ladies had not
yet descended to the beach; apparently their interest in Dr. Breen's
patient kept them.
"How is Mrs. Maynard this morning?" he asked; and she answered, as they
got beyond earshot,--
"Not better, I'm afraid."
"Oh, I'm sorry," said the young man. "Then you won't be able to drive
with me this morning? I hope she is n't seriously worse?" he added,
recurring to Mrs. Maynard at the sight of the trouble in Grace's face.
"I shall ask to drive with you," she returned. "Mr. Libby, do you know
where Corbitant is?"
"And will you drive me there?"
"Why, certainly!" he cried, in polite wonder.
"Thank you." She turned half round, and cast a woman's look at the other
women. "I shall be ready in half an hour. Will you go away, and
comeback then? Not sooner."
"Anything you please, Miss Breen," he said, laughing in his
mystification. "In thirty minutes, or thirty days."
They went back to the steps, and he mounted his buggy. She sat down, and
taking some work from her pocket, bent her head over it. At first she
was pale, and then she grew red. But these fluctuations of color could
not keep her spectators long; one by one they dispersed and descended the
cliff; and when she rose to go for her hat the last had vanished, with a
longing look at her. It was Miss Gleason.
Grace briefly announced her purpose to her mother, who said, "I hope you
are not doing anything impulsive"; and she answered, "No, I had quite
made up my mind to it last night."
Mr. Libby had not yet returned when she went back to the piazza, and she
walked out on the road by which he must arrive. She had not to walk far.
He drew in sight before she had gone a quarter of a mile, driving
rapidly. "Am I late?" he asked, turning, and pulling up at the roadside,
with wellsubdued astonishment at encountering her.
"Oh, no; not that I know." She mounted to the seat, and they drove off
in a silence which endured for a long time. If Libby had been as vain as
he seemed light, he must have found it cruelly unflattering, for it
ignored his presence and even his existence. She broke the silence at
last with a deep-drawn sigh, as frankly sad as if she had been quite
alone, but she returned to consciousness of him in it. "Mr. Libby, you
must think it is very strange for me to ask you to drive me to Corbitant
without troubling myself to tell you my errand."
"Oh, not at all," said the young man. "I'm glad to be of use on any
terms. It is n't often that one gets the chance."
"I am going to see Dr. Mulbridge," she began, and then stopped so long
that he perceived she wished him to say something.
He said, "Yes?"
"Yes. I thought this morning that I should give Mrs. Maynard's case up
to him. I shouldn't be at all troubled at seeming to give it up under a
pressure of opinion, though I should not give it up for that. Of course,"
she explained, "you don't know that all those women have been saying that
I ought to call in Dr. Mulbridge. It's one of those things," she added
bitterly, "that make it so pleasant for a woman to try to help women."
He made a little murmur of condolence, and she realized that she had
thrown herself on his sympathy, when she thought she had been merely
thinking aloud. "What I mean is that he is a man of experience and
reputation, and could probably be of more use to her than I, for she
would trust him more. But I have known her a long time, and I understand
her temperament and her character,--which goes for a good deal in such
matters,--and I have concluded not to give up the case. I wish to meet
Dr. Mulbridge, however, and ask him to see her in consultation with me.
That is all," she ended rather haughtily, as if she had been dramatizing
the fact to Dr. Mulbridge in her own mind.
"I should think that would be the right thing," said Libby limply, with
uncalled-for approval; but he left this dangerous ground abruptly. "As
you say, character goes for a great deal in these things. I've seen Mrs.
Maynard at the point of death before. As a general rule, she does n't
die. If you have known her a long time, you know what I mean. She likes
to share her sufferings with her friends. I've seen poor old Maynard"--
"Mr. Libby!" Grace broke in. "You may speak of Mr. Maynard as you like,
but I cannot allow your disrespectfulness to Mrs. Maynard. It's
shocking! You had no right to be their friend if you felt toward them as
you seem to have done."
"Why, there was no harm in them. I liked them!" explained the young man.
"People have no right to like those they don't respect!"
Libby looked as if this were rather a new and droll idea. But he seemed
not to object to her tutoring him. "Well," he said, "as far as Mrs.
Maynard was concerned, I don't know that I liked her any more than I
Grace ought to have frowned at this, but she had to check a smile in.
order to say gravely, "I know she is disagreeable at times. And she
likes to share her sufferings with others, as you say. But her husband
was fully entitled to any share of them that he may have borne. If he
had been kinder to her, she wouldn't be what and where she is now."
"Kinder to her!" Libby exclaimed. "He's the kindest fellow in the world!
Now, Miss Breen," he said earnestly, "I hope Mrs. Maynard hasn't been
talking against her husband to you?"
"Is it possible," demanded Grace, "that you don't know they're separated,
and that she's going to take steps for a divorce?"
"A divorce? No! What in the world for?"
"I never talk gossip. I thought of course she had told you"--
"She never told me a word! She was ashamed to do it! She knows that I
know Maynard was the best husband in the world to her. All she told me
was that he was out on his ranch, and she had come on here for her
health. It's some ridiculous little thing that no reasonable woman would
have dreamt of caring for. It's one of her caprices. It's her own
fickleness. She's tired of him,--or thinks she is, and that's all about
it. Miss Breen, I beg you won't believe anything against Maynard!"
"I don't understand," faltered Grace, astonished at his fervor; and the
light it cast upon her first doubts of him. "Of course, I only know the
affair from her report, and I haven't concerned myself in it, except as
it affected her health. And I don't wish to misjudge him. And I like
your--defending him," she said, though it instantly seemed a patronizing
thing to have said. "But I couldn't withhold my sympathy where I
believed there had been neglect and systematic unkindness, and finally
"Oh, I know Mrs. Maynard; I know her kind of talk. I've seen Maynard's
neglect and unkindness, and I know just what his desertion would be. If
he's left her, it's because she wanted him to leave her; he did it to
humor her, to please her. I shall have a talk with Mrs. Maynard when we
"I 'm afraid I can't allow it at present," said Grace, very seriously.
"She is worse to-day. Otherwise I should n't be giving you this
"Oh, it's no trouble"--
"But I'm glad--I'm glad we've had this understanding. I'm very glad. It
makes me think worse of myself and better of--others."
Libby gave a laugh. "And you like that? You're easily pleased."
She remained grave. "I ought to be able to tell you what I mean. But it
is n't possible--now. Will you let me beg your pardon?" she urged, with
"Why, yes," he answered, smiling.
"And not ask me why?"
"Thank you. Yes," she added hastily, "she is so much worse that some one
of greater experience than I must see her, and I have made up my mind.
Dr. Mulbridge may refuse to consult with me. I know very well that there
is a prejudice against women physicians, and I couldn't especially blame
him for sharing it. I have thought it all over. If he refuses, I shall
know what to do." She had ceased to address Libby, who respected her
soliloquy. He drove on rapidly over the soft road, where the wheels made
no sound, and the track wandered with apparent aimlessness through the
interminable woods of young oak and pine. The low trees were full of the
sunshine, and dappled them with shadow as they dashed along; the fresh,
green ferns springing from the brown carpet of the pineneedles were as if
painted against it. The breath of the pines was heavier for the recent
rain; and the woody smell of the oaks was pungent where the balsam
failed. They met no one, but the solitude did not make itself felt
through her preoccupation. From time to time she dropped a word or two;
but for the most she was silent, and he did not attempt to lead. By and
by they came to an opener place, where there were many red fieldlilies
tilting in the wind.
"Would you like some of those?" he asked, pulling up.
"I should, very much," she answered, glad of the sight of the gay things.
But when he had gathered her a bunch of the flowers she looked down at
them in her lap, and said, "It's silly in me to be caring for lilies at
such a time, and I should make an unfavorable impression on Dr. Mulbridge
if he saw me with them. But I shall risk their effect on him. He may
think I have been botanizing."
"Unless you tell him you have n't," the young man suggested.
"I need n't do that."
"I don't think any one else would do it."
She colored a little at the tribute to her candor, and it pleased her,
though it had just pleased her as much to forget that she was not like
any other young girl who might be simply and irresponsibly happy in
flowers gathered for her by a young man. "I won't tell him, either!" she
cried, willing to grasp the fleeting emotion again; but it was gone, and
only a little residue of sad consciousness remained.
The woods gave way on either side of the road, which began to be a
village street, sloping and shelving down toward the curve of a quiet
bay. The neat weather-gray dwellings, shingled to the ground and
brightened with door-yard flowers and creepers, straggled off into the
boat-houses and fishing-huts on the shore, and the village seemed to get
afloat at last in the sloops and schooners riding in the harbor, whose
smooth plane rose higher to the eye than the town itself. The salt and
the sand were everywhere, but though there had been no positive
prosperity in Corbitant for a generation, the place had an impregnable
neatness, which defied decay; if there had been a dog in the street,
there would not have been a stick to throw at him.
One of the better, but not the best, of the village houses, which did not
differ from the others in any essential particular, and which stood flush
upon the street, bore a door-plate with the name Dr. Rufus Mulbridge, and
Libby drew up in front of it without having had to alarm the village with
inquiries. Grace forbade his help in dismounting, and ran to the door,
where she rang one of those bells which sharply respond at the back of
the panel to the turn of a crank in front; she observed, in a difference
of paint, that this modern improvement had displaced an oldfashioned
knocker. The door was opened by a tall and strikingly handsome old
woman, whose black eyes still kept their keen light under her white hair,
and whose dress showed none of the incongruity which was offensive in the
door-bell: it was in the perfection of an antiquated taste, which,
however, came just short of characterizing it with gentlewomanliness.
"Is Dr. Mulbridge at home?" asked Grace.
"Yes," said the other, with a certain hesitation, and holding the door
"I should like to see him," said Grace, mounting to the threshold.
"Is it important?" asked the elder woman.
"Quite," replied Grace, with an accent at once of surprise and decision.
"You may come in," said the other reluctantly, and she opened a door into
a room at the side of the hall.
"You may give Dr. Mulbridge my card, if you please," said Grace, before
she turned to go into this room; and the other took it, and left her to
find a chair for herself. It was a country doctor's office, with the
usual country doctor's supply of drugs on a shelf, but very much more
than the country doctor's usual library: the standard works were there,
and there were also the principal periodicals and the latest treatises of
note in the medical world. In a long, upright case, like that of an old
hall-clock, was the anatomy of one who had long done with time; a
laryngoscope and some other professional apparatus of constant utility
lay upon the leaf of the doctor's desk. There was nothing in the room
which did not suggest his profession, except the sword and the spurs
which hung upon the wall opposite where Grace sat beside one of the front
windows. She spent her time in study of the room and its appointments,
and in now and then glancing out at Mr. Libby, who sat statuesquely
patient in the buggy. His profile cut against the sky was blameless; and
a humorous shrewdness which showed in the wrinkle at his eye and in the
droop of his yellow mustache gave its regularity life and charm. It
occurred to her that if Dr. Mulbridge caught sight of Mr. Libby before he
saw her, or before she could explain that she had got one of the
gentlemen at the hotel--she resolved upon this prevarication--to drive
her to Corbitant in default of another conveyance, he would have his
impressions and conjectures, which doubtless the bunch of lilies in her
hand would do their part to stimulate. She submitted to this
possibility, and waited for his coming, which began to seem unreasonably
delayed. The door opened at last, and a tall, powerfully framed man of
thirty-five or forty, dressed in an ill-fitting suit of gray Canada
homespun appeared. He moved with a slow, pondering step, and carried his
shaggy head bent downwards from shoulders slightly rounded. His dark
beard was already grizzled, and she saw that his mustache was burnt and
turned tawny at points by smoking, of which habit his presence gave stale
evidence to another sense. He held Grace's card in his hand, and he
looked at her, as he advanced, out of gray eyes that, if not sympathetic,
were perfectly intelligent, and that at once sought to divine and class
her. She perceived that he took in the lilies and her coming color; she
felt that he noted her figure and her dress.
She half rose in response to his questioning bow, and he motioned her to
her seat again. "I had to keep you waiting," he said. "I was up all
night with a patient, and I was asleep when my mother called me." He
stopped here, and definitively waited for her to begin.
She did not find this easy, as he took a chair in front of her, and sat
looking steadily in her face. "I'm sorry to have disturbed you"
"Oh, not at all," he interrupted. "The rule is to disturb a doctor."
"I mean," she began again, "that I am not sure that I am justified in
He waited a little while for her to go on, and then he said, "Well, let
"I wish to consult with you," she broke out, and again she came to a
sudden pause; and as she looked into his vigilant face, in which she was
not sure there was not a hovering derision, she could not continue. She
felt that she ought to gather courage from the fact that he had not
started, or done anything positively disagreeable when she had asked for
a consultation; but she could not, and it did not avail her to reflect
that she was rendering herself liable to all conceivable misconstruction,
--that she was behaving childishly, with every appearance of behaving
He came to her aid again, in a blunt fashion, neither kind nor unkind,
but simply common sense. "What is the matter?"
"What is the matter?" she repeated.
"Yes. What are the symptoms? Where and how are, you sick?"
"I am not sick," she cried. They stared at each other in reciprocal
amazement and mystification.
"Then excuse me if I ask you what you wish me to do?"
"Oh!" said Grace, realizing his natural error, with a flush. "It is n't
in regard to myself that I wish to consult with you. It's another
"Well," said Dr. Mulbridge, laughing, with the impatience of a physician
used to making short cuts through the elaborate and reluctant statements
of ladies seeking advice, "what is the matter with your friend?"
"She has been an invalid for some time," replied Grace. The laugh, which
had its edge of patronage and conceit, stung her into self-possession
again, and she briefly gave the points of Mrs. Maynard's case, with the
recent accident and the symptoms developed during the night. He listened
attentively, nodding his head at times, and now and then glancing sharply
at her, as one might at a surprisingly intelligent child.
"I must see her," he said decidedly, when she came to an end. "I will
see her as soon as possible. I will come over to Jocelyn's this
afternoon,--as soon as I can get my dinner, in fact."
There was such a tone of dismissal in his words that she rose, and he
promptly followed her example. She stood hesitating a moment. Then,
"I don't know whether you understood that I wish merely to consult with
you," she said; "that I don't wish to relinquish the case to you"--
"Relinquish the case--consult"--Dr. Mulbridge stared at her. "No, I
don't understand. What do you mean by not relinquishing the case?
If there is some one else in attendance"
"I am in attendance," said the girl firmly. "I am Mrs. Maynard's
"If you have looked at my card"--she began with indignant severity.
He gave a sort of roar of amusement and apology, and then he stared at
her again with much of the interest of a naturalist in an extraordinary
"I beg your pardon," he exclaimed. "I did n't look at it"; but he now
did so, where he held it crumpled in the palm of his left hand. "My
mother said it was a young lady, and I did n't look. Will you will you
sit down, Dr. Breen?" He bustled in getting her several chairs.
"I live off here in a corner, and I have never happened to meet any
ladies ofour profession before. Excuse me, if I spoke under a,--mistaken
impression. I--I--I should not have--ah--taken you for a physician.
You"--He checked himself, as if he might have been going to say that she
was too young and too pretty. "Of course, I shall have pleasure in
consulting with you in regard to your friend's case, though I've no doubt
you are doing all that can be done." With a great show of deference, he
still betrayed something of the air of one who humors a joke; and she
felt this, but felt that she could not openly resent it.
"Thank you," she returned with dignity, indicating with a gesture of her
hand that she would not sit down again. "I am sorry to ask you to come
"Oh, not at all. I shall be driving over in that direction at any rate.
I've a patient near there." He smiled upon her with frank curiosity, and
seemed willing to detain her, but at a loss how to do so. "If I had n't
been stupid from my nap I should have inferred a scientific training from
your statement of your friend's case." She still believed that he was
laughing at her, and that this was a mock but she was still helpless to
resent it, except by an assumption of yet colder state. This had
apparently no effect upon Dr. Mulbridge. He continued to look at her
with hardly concealed amusement, and visibly to grow more and more
conscious of her elegance and style, now that she stood before him.
There had been a time when, in planning her career, she had imagined
herself studying a masculine simplicity and directness of address; but
the over-success of some young women, her fellows at the school, in this
direction had disgusted her with it, and she had perceived that after all
there is nothing better for a girl, even a girl who is a doctor of
medicine, than a ladylike manner. Now, however, she wished that she
could do or say something aggressively mannish, for she felt herself
dwindling away to the merest femininity, under a scrutiny which had its
fascination, whether agreeable or disagreeable. "You must," he said,
with really unwarrantable patronage, "have found that the study of
medicine has its difficulties,--you must have been very strongly drawn
"Oh no, not at all; I had rather an aversion at first," she replied, with
the instant superiority of a woman where the man suffers any topic to
become personal. "Why did you think I was drawn to it?"
"I don't know--I don't know that I thought so," he stammered. "I believe
I intended to ask," he added bluntly; but she had the satisfaction of
seeing him redden, and she did not volunteer anything in his relief.
She divined that it would leave him with an awkward sense of defeat if he
quitted the subject there; and in fact he had determined that he would
not. "Some of our ladies take up the study abroad," he said; and he went
on to speak, with a real deference, of the eminent woman who did the
American name honor by the distinction she achieved in the schools of
"I have never been abroad," said Grace.
"No?" he exclaimed. "I thought all American ladies had been abroad"; and
now he said, with easy recognition of her resolution not to help him out,
"I suppose you have your diploma from the Philadelphia school."
"No," she returned, "from the New York school,--the homoeopathic school
of New York."
Dr. Mulbridge instantly sobered, and even turned a little pale, but he
did not say anything. He remained looking at her as if she had suddenly
changed from a piquant mystery to a terrible dilemma.
She moved toward the door. "Then I may expect you," she said, "about
the middle of the afternoon."
He did not reply; he stumbled upon the chairs in following her a pace or
two, with a face of acute distress. Then he broke out with "I can't
come! I can't consult with you!"
She turned and looked at him with astonishment, which he did his best to
meet. Her astonishment congealed into hauteur, and then dissolved into
the helplessness of a lady who has been offered a rudeness; but still she
did not speak. She merely looked at him, while he halted and stammered
"Personally, I--I--should be--obliged--I should feel honored--I--I--It
has nothing to do with your--your--being a--a--a--woman lady. I should
not care for that. No. But surely you must know the reasons--the
obstacles--which deter me?"
"No, I don't," she said, calm with the advantage of his perturbation.
"But if you refuse, that is sufficient. I will not inquire your reasons.
I will simply withdraw my request."
"Thank you. But I beg you to understand that they have no reference
whatever to you in--your own--capacity--character--individual quality.
They are purely professional--that is, technical--I should say
disciplinary,--entirely disciplinary. Yes, disciplinary." The word
seemed to afford Dr. Mulbridge the degree of relief which can come only
from an exactly significant and luminously exegetic word.
"I don't at all know what you mean," said Grace. "But it is not
necessary that I should know. Will you allow me?" she asked, for Dr.
Mulbridge had got between her and the door, and stood with his hand on
His face flushed, and drops stood on his forehead. "Surely, Miss--I
mean Doctor--Breen, you must know why I can't consult with you! We
belong to two diametrically opposite schools--theories--of medicine. It
would be impracticable--impossible for us to consult. We could find no
common ground. Have you never heard that the--ah regular practice cannot
meet homoeopathists in this way? If you had told me--if I had known--you
were a homoeopathist, I could n't have considered the matter at all. I
can't now express any opinion as to your management of the case, but I
have no doubt that you will know what to do--from your point of view--and
that you will prefer to call in some one of your own--persuasion. I hope
that you don't hold me personally responsible for this result!"
"Oh, no!" replied the girl, with a certain dreamy abstraction. "I had
heard that you made some such distinction--I remember, now. But I could
n't realize anything so ridiculous."
Dr. Mulbridge colored. "Excuse me," he said, "if, even under the
circumstances, I can't agree with you that the position taken by the
regular practice is ridiculous."
She did not make any direct reply. "But I supposed that you only made
this distinction, as you call it, in cases where there is no immediate
danger; that in a matter of life and death you would waive it. Mrs.
Maynard is really--"
"There are no conditions under which I could not conscientiously refuse
to waive it."
"Then," cried Grace, "I withdraw the word! It is not ridiculous. It is
monstrous, atrocious, inhuman!"
A light of humorous irony glimmered in Dr. Mulbridge's eye. "I must
submit to your condemnation."
"Oh, it isn't a personal condemnation!" she retorted. "I have no doubt
that personally you are not responsible. We can lay aside our
distinctions as allopathist and homoeopathist, and you can advise with
"It's quite impossible," said Dr. Mulbridge. "If I advised with you,
I might be--A little while ago one of our school in Connecticut was
expelled from the State Medical Association for consulting with"--he
began to hesitate, as if he had not hit upon a fortunate or appropriate
illustration, but he pushed on--"with his own wife, who was a physician
of your school."
She haughtily ignored his embarrassment. "I can appreciate your
difficulty, and pity any liberal-minded person who is placed as you are,
and disapproves of such wretched bigotry."
"I am obliged to tell you," said Dr. Mulbridge, "that I don't disapprove
"I am detaining you," said Grace. "I beg your pardon. I was curious to
know how far superstition and persecution can go in our day." If the
epithets were not very accurate, she used them with a woman's
effectiveness, and her intention made them descriptive. "Good-day," she
added, and she made a movement toward the door, from which Dr. Mulbridge
retired. But she did not open the door. Instead, she sank into the
chair which stood in the corner, and passed her hand over her forehead,
as if she were giddy.
Dr. Mulbridge's finger was instantly on her wrist. "Are you faint?"
"No, no!" she gasped, pulling her hand away. "I am perfectly well."
Then she was silent for a time before she added by a supreme effort, "I
have no right to endanger another's life, through any miserable pride,
and I never will. Mrs. Maynard needs greater experience than mine, and
she must have it. I can't justify myself in the delay and uncertainty of
sending to Boston. I relinquish the case. I give it to you. And I will
nurse her under your direction, obediently, conscientiously. Oh!" she
cried, at his failure to make any immediate response, "surely you won't
refuse to take the case!"
"I won't refuse," he said, with an effect of difficult concession.
"I will come. I will drive over at once, after dinner."
She rose now, and put her hand on the door-latch. "Do you object to my
nursing your patient? She is an old school friend. But I could yield
that point too, if"--
"Oh, no, no! I shall be only too glad of your help, and your"--he was
going to say advice, but he stopped himself, and repeated--"help."
They stood inconclusively a moment, as if they would both be glad of
something more to say. Then she said tentatively, "Good-morning," and be
responded experimentally, "Good-morning"; and with that they
involuntarily parted, and she went out of the door, which he stood
holding open even after she had got out of the gate.
His mother came down the stairs. "What in the world were you quarrelling
with that girl about, Rufus?"
"We were not quarrelling, mother."
"Well, it sounded like it. Who was she?
"Who?" repeated her son absently. "Dr. Breen."
"Doctor Breen? That girl a doctor?"
"I thought she was some saucy thing. Well, upon my word!" exclaimed Mrs.
Mulbridge. "So that is a female doctor, is it? Was she sick?"
"No," said her son, with what she knew to be professional finality."
Mother, if you can hurry dinner a little, I shall be glad. I have to
drive over to Jocelyn's, and I should like to start as soon as possible."
"Who was the young man with her? Her beau, I guess."
"Was there a young man with her?" asked Dr. Mulbridge.
His mother went out without'speaking. She could be unsatisfactory, too.
No one but Mrs. Breen knew of her daughter's errand, and when Grace came
back she alighted from Mr. Libby's buggy with an expression of thanks
that gave no clew as to the direction or purpose of it. He touched his
hat to her with equal succinctness, and drove away, including all the
ladies on the piazza in a cursory obeisance.
"We must ask you, Miss Gleason," said Mrs. Alger. "Your admiration of
Dr. Breen clothes you with authority and responsibility."
"I can't understand it at all," Miss Gleason confessed. "But I'm sure
there's nothing in it. He isn't her equal. She would feel that it
wasn't right--under the circumstances."
"But if Mrs. Maynard was well it would be a fair game, you mean," said
"No," returned Miss Gleason, with the greatest air of candor, "I can't
admit that I meant that."
"Well," said the elder lady, "the presumption is against them. Every
young couple seen together must be considered in love till they prove the
"I like it in her," said Mrs. Frost. "It shows that she is human, after
all. It shows that she is like other girls. It's a relief."
"She is n't like other girls," contended Miss Gleason darkly.
"I would rather have Mr. Libby's opinion," said Mrs. Merritt.
Grace went to Mrs. Maynard's room, and told her that Dr. Mulbridge was
coming directly after dinner.
"I knew you would do it!" cried Mrs. Maynard, throwing her right arm
round Grace's neck, while the latter bent over to feel the pulse in her
left. "I knew where you had gone as soon as your mother told me you had
driven off with Walter Libby. I'm so glad that you've got somebody to
consult! Your theories are perfectly right and I'm sure that Dr.
Mulbridge will just tell you to keep on as you've been doing."
Grace withdrew from her caress. "Dr. Mulbridge is not coming for a
consultation. He refused to consult with me."
"Refused to consult? Why, how perfectly ungentlemanly! Why did he
"Because he is an allopathist and I am a homoeopathist."
"Then, what is he coming for, I should like to know!"
"I have given up the case to him," said Grace wearily.
"Very well, then!" cried Mrs. Maynard, "I won't be given up. I will
simply die! Not a pill, not a powder, of his will I touch! If he thinks
himself too good to consult with another doctor, and a lady at that,
merely because she doesn't happen to be allopathist, he can go along!
I never heard of anything so conceited, so disgustingly mean, in my life.
No, Grace! Why, it's horrid!" She was silent, and then, "Why, of
course," she added, "if he comes, I shall have to see him. I look like a
fright, I suppose."
"I will do your hair," said Grace, with indifference to these vows and
protests; and without deigning further explanation or argument she made
the invalid's toilet for her. If given time, Mrs. Maynard would talk
herself into any necessary frame of mind, and Grace merely supplied the
monosyllabic promptings requisite for her transition from mood to mood.
It was her final resolution that when Dr. Mulbridge did come she should
give him a piece of her mind; and she received him with anxious
submissiveness, and hung upon all his looks and words with quaking and
with an inclination to attribute her unfavorable symptoms to the
treatment of her former physician. She did not spare him certain
apologies for the disorderly appearance of her person and her room.
Grace sat by and watched him with perfectly quiescent observance. The
large, somewhat uncouth man gave evidence to her intelligence that he was
all physician--that he had not chosen his profession from any theory or
motive, however good, but had been as much chosen by it as if he had been
born a Physician. He was incredibly gentle and soft in all his
movements, and perfectly kind, without being at any moment unprofitably
sympathetic. He knew when to listen and when not to listen,--to learn
everything from the quivering bundle of nerves before him without seeming
to have learnt anything alarming; he smiled when it would do her good to
be laughed at, and treated her with such grave respect that she could not
feel herself trifled with, nor remember afterwards any point of neglect.
When he rose and left some medicines, with directions to Grace for giving
them and instructions for contingencies, she followed him from the room.
"Well?" she said anxiously.
"Mrs. Maynard is threatened with pneumonia. Or, I don't know why I
should say threatened," he added; "she has pneumonia."
"I supposed--I was afraid so," faltered the girl.
"Yes." He looked into her eyes with even more seriousness than he spoke.
"Has she friends here?" he asked.
"No; her husband is in Cheyenne, out on the plains."
"He ought to know," said Dr. Mulbridge. "A great deal will depend upon
her nursing--Miss--ah--Dr. Breen."
"You need n't call me Dr. Breen," said Grace. "At present, I am Mrs.
He ignored this as he had ignored every point connected with the
interview of the morning. He repeated the directions he had already
given with still greater distinctness, and, saying that he should come in
the morning, drove away. She went back to Louise: inquisition for
inquisition, it was easier to meet that of her late patient than that of
her mother, and for once the girl spared herself.
"I know he thought I was very bad," whimpered Mrs. Maynard, for a
beginning. "What is the matter with me?"
"Your cold has taken an acute form; you will have to go to bed."
"Then I 'm going to be down sick! I knew I was! I knew it! And what am
I going to do, off in such a place as this? No one to nurse me, or look
after Bella! I should think you would be satisfied now, Grace, with the
result of your conscientiousness: you were so very sure that Mr. Libby
was wanting to flirt with me that you drove us to our death, because you
thought he felt guilty and was trying to fib out of it."
"Will you let me help to undress you?" asked Grace gently. "Bella shall
be well taken care of, and I am going to nurse you myself, under Dr.
Mulbridge's direction. And once for all, Louise, I wish to say that I
hold myself to blame for all"--
"Oh, yes! Much good that does now!" Being got into bed, with the sheet
smoothed under her chin, she said, with the effect of drawing a strictly
logical conclusion from the premises, "Well, I should think George
Maynard would want to be with his family!"
Spent with this ordeal, Grace left her at last, and went out on the
piazza, where she found Libby returned. In fact, he had, upon second
thoughts, driven back, and put up his horse at Jocelyn's, that he might
be of service there in case he were needed. The ladies, with whom he had
been making friends, discreetly left him to Grace, when she appeared, and
she frankly walked apart with him, and asked him if he could go over to
New Leyden, and telegraph to Mr. Maynard.
"Has she asked for him?" he inquired, laughing. "I knew it would come to
"She has not asked; she has said that she thought he ought to be with his
family," repeated Grace faithfully.
"Oh, I know how she said it: as if he had gone away wilfully, and kept
away against her wishes and all the claims of honor and duty. It
wouldn't take her long to get round to that if she thought she was very
sick. Is she so bad?" he inquired, with light scepticism.
"She's threatened with pneumonia. We can't tell how bad she may be."
"Why, of course I'll telegraph. But I don't think anything serious can
be the matter with Mrs. Maynard."
"Dr. Mulbridge said that Mr. Maynard ought to know."
"Is that so?" asked Libby, in quite a different tone. If she recognized
the difference, she was meekly far from resenting it; he, however, must
have wished to repair his blunder. "I think you need n't have given up
the case to him. I think you're too conscientious about it."
"Please don't speak of that now," she interposed.
"Well, I won't," he consented. "Can I be of any use here to-night?"
"No, we shall need nothing more. The doctor will be here again in the
"Libby did not come in the morning till after the doctor had gone, and
then he explained that he had waited to hear in reply to his telegram,
so that they might tell Mrs. Maynard her husband had started; and he had
only just now heard.
"And has he started?" Grace asked.
"I heard from his partner. Maynard was at the ranch. His partner had
gone for him."
"Then he will soon be here," she said.
"He will, if telegraphing can bring him. I sat up half the night with
the operator. She was very obliging when she understood the case."
"She?" reputed Grace, with a slight frown.
"The operators are nearly all women in the country."
"Oh!" She looked grave. "Can they trust young girls with such important
"They did n't in this instance," relied Libby. "She was a pretty old
girl. What made you think she was young?"
"I don't know. I thought you said she was young." She blushed, and
seemed about to say more, but she did not.
He waited, and then he said, "You can tell Mrs. Maynard that I
telegraphed on my own responsibility, if you think it's going to alarm
"Well," said Grace, with a helpless sigh.
"You don't like to tell her that," he suggested, after a moment, in which
he had watched her.
"How do you know?"
"Oh, I know. And some day I will tell you how--if you will let me."
It seemed a question; and she did not know what it was that kept her--
silent and breathless and hot in the throat. "I don't like to do it,"
she said at last. "I hate myself whenever I have to feign anything. I
knew perfectly well that you did n't say she was young," she broke out
"Say Mrs. Maynard was young?" he asked stupidly.
"No!" she cried. She rose hastily from the bench where she had been
sitting with him. "I must go back to her now."
He mounted to his buggy, and drove thoughtfully away at a walk.
The ladies, whose excited sympathies for Mrs. Maynard had kept them from
the beach till now, watched him quite out of sight before they began to
talk of Grace.
"I hope Dr. Breen's new patient will be more tractable," said Mrs.
Merritt. "It would be a pity if she had to give him up, too, to Dr.
Mrs. Scott failed of the point. "Why, is Mr. Libby sick?"
"Not very," answered Mrs. Merritt, with a titter of self-applause.
"I should be sorry," interposed Mrs. Alger authoritatively, "if we had
said anything to influence the poor thing in what she has done."
"Oh, I don't think we need distress ourselves about undue influence!"
Mrs. Merritt exclaimed.
Mrs. Alger chose to ignore the suggestion. "She had a very difficult
part; and I think she has acted courageously. I always feel sorry for
girls who attempt anything of that kind. It's a fearful ordeal."
"But they say Miss Breen was n't obliged to do it for a living," Mrs.
"So much the worse," said Mrs. Merritt.
"No, so much the better," returned Mrs. Alger.
Mrs. Merritt, sitting on the edge of the piazza, stooped over with
difficulty and plucked a glass-straw, which she bit as she looked
Mrs. Frost had installed herself as favorite since Mrs. Alger had praised
her hair. She now came forward, and, dropping fondly at her knee, looked
up to her for instruction. "Don't you think that she showed her sense in
giving up at the very beginning, if she found she was n't equal to it?"
She gave her head a little movement from side to side, and put the mass
of her back hair more on show.
"Perhaps," said Mrs. Alger, looking at the favorite not very favorably.
"Oh, I don't think she's given up," Miss Gleason interposed, in her
breathless manner. She waited to be asked why, and then she added,
"I think she's acting in consultation with Dr. Mulbridge. He may have a
certain influence over her,--I think he has; but I know they are acting
Mrs. Merritt flung her grass-straw away. "Perhaps it is to be Dr.
Mulbridge, after all, and not Mr. Libby."
"I have thought of that," Miss Gleason assented candidly. "Yes, I have
thought of that. I have thought of their being constantly thrown
together, in this way. It would not discourage me. She could be quite
as true to her vocation as if she remained single. Truer."
"Talking of true," said Mrs. Scott, "always does make me think of blue.
They say that yellow will be worn on everything this winter."
"Old gold?" asked Mrs. Frost. Yes, more than ever."
"Dear!" cried the other lady. "I don't know what I shall do. It
perfectly kills my hair."
"Oh, Miss Gleason!" exclaimed the young girl.
"Do you believe in character coming out in color?"
"Yes, certainly. I have always believed that."
"Well, I've got a friend, and she wouldn't have anything to do with a
girl that wore magenta more than she would fly."
"I should suppose," explained Miss Gleason, "that all those aniline dyes
implied something coarse in people."
"Is n't it curious," asked Mrs. Frost, "how red-haired people have come
in fashion? I can recollect, when I was a little girl, that everybody
laughed at red hair. There was one girl at the first school I ever went
to,--the boys used to pretend to burn their fingers at her hair."
"I think Dr. Breen's hair is a very pretty shade of brown," said the
Mrs. Merritt rose from the edge of the piazza. "I think that if she
hasn't given up to him entirely she's the most submissive consulting
physician I ever saw," she said, and walked out over the grass towards
The ladies looked after her. "Is Mrs. Merritt more pudgy when she's
sitting down or when she's standing up?" asked Mrs. Scott.
Miss Gleason seized her first chance of speaking with Grace alone.
"Oh, do you know how much you are doing for us all?"
"Doing for you, all? How doing?" faltered Grace, whom she had
whisperingly halted in a corner of the hall leading from the dining-room.
"By acting in unison,--by solving the most perplexing problem in women's
practising your profession. She passed the edge of her fan over her lips
before letting it fall furled upon her left hand, and looked luminously
into Grace's eyes.
"I don't at all know what you mean, Miss Gleason," said the other.
Miss Gleason kicked out the skirt of her dress, so as to leave herself
perfectly free for the explanation. "Practising in harmony with a
physician of the other sex. I have always felt that there was the great
difficulty,--how to bring that about. I have always felt that the TRUE
physician must be DUAL,--have both the woman's nature and the man's; the
woman's tender touch, the man's firm grasp. You have shown how the
medical education of women can meet this want. The physician can
actually be dual,--be two, in fact. Hereafter, I have no doubt we shall
always call a physician of each sex. But it's wonderful how you could
ever bring it about, though you can do anything! Has n't it worn upon
you?" Miss Gleason darted out her sentences in quick, short breaths,
fixing Grace with her eyes, and at each clause nervously tapping her
chest with her reopened fan.
"If you suppose," said Grace, "that Dr. Mulbridge and I are acting
professionally in unison, as you call it, you are mistaken. He has
entire charge of the case; I gave it up to him, and I am merely nursing
Mrs. Maynard under his direction."
"How splendid!" Miss Gleason exclaimed. "Do you know that I admire you
for giving up,--for knowing when to give up? So few women do that!
Is n't he magnificent?"
"I mean psychically. He is what I should call a strong soul You must
have felt his masterfulness; you must have enjoyed it! Don't you like to
"No," said Grace, "I should n't at all like it."
"Oh, I do! I like to meet one of those forceful masculine natures that
simply bid you obey. It's delicious. Such a sense of self-surrender,"
Miss Gleason explained. "It is n't because they are men," she added.
"I have felt the same influence from some women. I felt it, in a certain
degree, on first meeting you."
"I am very sorry," said Grace coldly. "I should dislike being controlled
myself, and I should dislike still more to control others."
"You're doing it now!" cried Miss Gleason, with delight. "I could not do
a thing to resist your putting me down! Of course you don't know that
you're doing it; it's purely involuntary. And you wouldn't know that he
was dominating you. And he would n't."
Very probably Dr. Mulbridge would not have recognized himself in the
character of all-compelling lady's-novel hero, which Miss Gleason
imagined for him. Life presented itself rather simply to him, as it does
to most men, and he easily dismissed its subtler problems from a mind
preoccupied with active cares. As far as Grace was concerned, she had
certainly roused in him an unusual curiosity; nothing less than her
homoeopathy would have made him withdraw his consent to a consultation
with her, and his fear had been that in his refusal she should escape
from his desire to know more about her, her motives, her purposes. He
had accepted without scruple the sacrifice of pride she had made to him;
but he had known how to appreciate her scientific training, which he
found as respectable as that of any clever, young man of their
profession. He praised, in his way, the perfection with which she
interpreted his actions and intentions in regard to the patient.
"If there were such nurses as you, Miss Breen, there would be very little
need of doctors," he said, with a sort of interogative fashion of
laughing peculiar to him.
"I thought of being a nurse once;" she answered. "Perhaps I may still be
one. The scientific training won't be lost."
"Oh, no? It's a pity that more of them have n't it. But I suppose they
think nursing is rather too humble an ambition."
"I don't think it so," said Grace briefly.
"Then you did n't care for medical distinction."
He looked at her quizzically, as if this were much droller than if she
had cared. "I don't understand why you should have gone into it.
You told me, I think, that it was repugnant to you; and it's hard work
for a woman, and very uncertain work for anyone. You must have had a
tremendous desire to benefit your race."
His characterization of her motive was so distasteful that she made no
reply, and left him to his conjectures, in which he did not appear
unhappy. "How do you find Mrs. Maynard to-day?" she asked.
He looked at her with an instant coldness, as if he did not like her
asking, and were hesitating whether to answer. But he said at last,
"She is no better. She will be worse before she is better. You see," he
added, "that I haven't been able to arrest the disorder in its first
stage. We must hope for what can be done now, in the second."
She had gathered from the half jocose ease with which he had listened to
Mrs. Maynard's account of herself, and to her own report, an
encouragement which now fell to the ground "Yes," she assented, in her
despair, "that is the only hope."
He sat beside the table in the hotel parlor, where they found themselves
alone for the moment, and drubbed upon it with an absent look. "Have you
sent for her husband?" he inquired, returning to himself.
"Yes; Mr. Libby telegraphed the evening we saw you."
"That's good," said Dr. Mulbridge, with comfortable approval; and he rose
to go away.
Grace impulsively detained him. "I--won't--ask you whether you consider
Mrs. Maynard's case a serious one, if you object to my doing so."
"I don't know that I object," he said slowly, with a teasing smile, such
as one might use with a persistent child whom one chose to baffle in that
She disdained to avail herself of the implied permission. "What I mean--
what I wish to tell you is--that I feel myself responsible for her
sickness, and that if she dies, I shall be guilty of her death."
"Ah?" said Dr. Mulbridge, with more interest, but the same smile.
"What do you mean?"
"She didn't wish to go that day when she was caught in the storm. But I
insisted; I forced her to go." She stood panting with the intensity of
the feeling which had impelled her utterance.
"What do you mean by forcing her to go?"
"I don't know. I--I--persuaded her."
Dr. Mulbridge smiled, as if he perceived her intention not to tell him
something she wished to tell him. He looked down into his hat, which he
carried in his hand.
"Did you believe the storm was coming?"
"And you did n't make it come?"
"Of course not!"
He looked at her and laughed.
"Oh, you don't at all understand!" she cried.
"I'm not a doctor of divinity," he said. "Good morning."
"Wait, wait!" she implored, "I'm afraid--I don't know--Perhaps my being
near her is injurious to her; perhaps I ought to let some one else nurse
her. I wished to ask you this"--She stopped breathlessly.
"I don't think you have done her any harm as yet," he answered lightly.
"However," he said, after a moment's consideration, "why don't you take a
holiday? Some of the other ladies might look after her a while."
"Do you really think," she palpitated, "that I might? Do you think I
ought? I'm afraid I ought n't"--
"Not if your devotion is hurtful to her?" he asked. "Send some one else
to her for a while. Any one can take care of her for a few hours."
"I couldn't leave her--feeling as I do about her."
"I don't know how you feel about her," said Dr. Mulbridge. "But you
can't go on at this rate. I shall want your help by and by, and Mrs.
Maynard doesn't need you now. Don't go back to her."
"But if she should get worse while I am away"--
"You think your staying and feeling bad would make her better? Don't go
back," he repeated; and he went out to his ugly rawboned horse, and,
mounting his shabby wagon, rattled away. She lingered, indescribably put
to shame by the brutal common sense which she could not impeach, but
which she still felt was no measure of the case. It was true that she
had not told him everything, and she could not complain that he had
mocked her appeal for sympathy if she had trifled with him by a partial
confession. But she indignantly denied to herself that she had wished to
appeal to him for sympathy.
She wandered out on the piazza, which she found empty, and stood gazing
at the sea in a revery of passionate humiliation. She was in that mood,
familiar to us all, when we long to be consoled and even flattered for
having been silly. In a woman this mood is near to tears; at a touch of
kindness the tears come, and momentous questions are decided. What was
perhaps uppermost in the girl's heart was a detestation of the man to
whom she had seemed a simpleton; her thoughts pursued him, and divined
the contempt with which he must be thinking of her and her pretensions.
She heard steps on the sand, and Libby came round the corner of the house
from the stable.
Libby's friends had broken up their camp on the beach, and had gone to a
lake in the heart of the woods for the fishing. He had taken a room at
the Long Beach House, but he spent most of his time at Jocelyn's, where
he kept his mare for use in going upon errands for Mrs. Maynard. Grace
saw him constantly, and he was always doing little things for her with a
divination of her unexpressed desires which women find too rarely in men.
He brought her flowers, which, after refusing them for Mrs. Maynard the
first time, she accepted for herself. He sometimes brought her books,
the light sort which form the sentimental currency of young people, and
she lent them round among the other ladies, who were insatiable of them.
She took a pleasure in these attentions, as if they had been for some one
else. In this alien sense she liked to be followed up with a chair to
the point where she wished to sit; to have her hat fetched, or her shawl;
to drop her work or her handkerchief, secure that it would be picked up
It all interested her, and it was a relief from the circumstances that
would have forbidden her to recognize it as gallantry, even if her own
mind had not been so far from all thought of that. His kindness followed
often upon some application of hers for his advice or help, for she had
fallen into the habit of going to him with difficulties. He had a prompt
common sense that made him very useful in emergencies, and a sympathy or
an insight that was quick in suggestions and expedients. Perhaps she
overrated other qualities of his in her admiration of the practical
readiness which kept his amiability from seeming weak. But the practical
had so often been the unattainable with her that it was not strange she
should overrate it, and that she should rest upon it in him with a trust
that included all he chose to do in her behalf.
"What is the matter, Mr. Libby?" she asked, as he came toward her.
"Is anything the matter?" he demanded in turn.
"Yes; you are looking downcast," she cried reproachfully.
"I didn't know that I mustn't look downcast. I did n't suppose it would
be very polite, under the circumstances, to go round looking as bobbish
as I feel."
"It's the best thing you could possibly do. But you're not feeling very
bobbish now." A woman respects the word a man uses, not because she
would have chosen it, but because she thinks that he has an exact
intention in it, which could not be reconveyed in a more feminine phrase.
In this way slang arises. "Is n't it time for Mr. Maynard to be here?"
"Yes," he answered. Then, "How did you know I was thinking of that?"
"I did n't. I only happened to think it was time. What are you keeping
back, Mr. Libby?" she pursued tremulously.
"Nothing, upon my honor. I almost wish there were something to keep
back. But there is n't anything. There have n't been any accidents
reported. And I should n't keep anything back from you."
"Because you would be equal to it, whatever it was."
"I don't see why you say that." She weakly found comfort in the praise
which she might once have resented as patronage.
"I don't see why I should n't," he retorted:
"Because I am not fit to be trusted at all."
"Do you mean"--
"Oh, I haven't the strength, to mean anything," she said. "But I thank
you, thank you very much," she added. She turned her head away.
"Confound Maynard!" cried the young man. "I don't see why he does n't
come. He must have started four days ago. He ought to have' had sense
enough to telegraph when he did start. I did n't tell his partner to ask
him. You can't think of everything. I've been trying to find out
something. I'm going over to Leyden, now, to try to wake up somebody in
Cheyenne who knows Maynard." He looked ruefully at Grace, who listened
with anxious unintelligence. "You're getting worn out, Miss Breen," he
said. "I wish I could ask you to go with me to Leyden. It would do you
good. But my mare's fallen lame; I've just been to see her. Is there
anything I can do for you over there?"
"Why, how are you going?" she asked.
"In my boat," he answered consciously.
"The same boat?"
"Yes. I've had her put to rights. She was n't much damaged."
She was silent a moment, while he stood looking down at her in the chair
into which she had sunk. "Does it take you long?"
"Oh, no. It's shorter than it is by land. I shall have the tide with me
both ways. I can make the run there and back in a couple of hours."
A sudden impulse, unreasoned and unreasonable, in which there seemed hope
of some such atonement, or expiation, as the same ascetic nature would
once have found in fasting or the scourge, prevailed with her. She rose.
"Mr. Libby," she panted, "if you will let me, I should like to go with
you in your boat. Do you think it will be rough?"
"No, it's a light breeze; just right. You need n't be afraid."
"I'm not afraid. I should not care if it were rough! I should not care
if it stormed! I hope it--I will ask mother to stay with Mrs. Maynard."
Mrs. Breen had not been pleased to have her daughter in charge of Mrs.
Maynard's case, but she had not liked her giving it up. She had said
more than once that she had no faith in Dr. Mulbridge. She willingly
consented to Grace's prayer, and went down into Mrs. Maynard's room, and
insinuated misgivings in which the sick woman found so much reason that
they began for the first time to recognize each other's good qualities.
They decided that the treatment was not sufficiently active, and that she
should either have something that would be more loosening to the cough,
or some application--like mustard plasters--to her feet, so as to take
away that stuffed feeling about the head.
At that hour of the afternoon, when most of the ladies were lying down in
their rooms, Grace met no one on the beach but Miss Gleason and Mrs.
Alger, who rose from their beds of sand under the cliff at her passage
with Mr. Libby to his dory.
"Don't you want to go to Leyden?" he asked jocosely over his shoulder.
"You don't mean to say you're going?" Miss Gleason demanded of Grace.
"Yes, certainly. Why not?"
"Well, you are brave!"
She shut her novel upon her thumb, that she might have nothing to do but
admire Grace's courage, as the girl walked away.
"It will do her good, poor thing," said the elder woman. "She looks
"I can understand just why she does it," murmured Miss Gleason in adoring
"I hope she does it for pleasure," said Mrs. Alger.
"It is n't that," returned Miss Gleason mysteriously.
"At any rate, Mr. Libby seemed pleased."
"Oh, she would never marry HIM!" said Miss Gleason.
The other laughed, and at that moment Grace also laughed. The
strong current of her purpose, the sense of escape from the bitter
servitude of the past week, and the wild hope of final expiation through
the chances she was tempting gave her a buoyancy long unfelt. She
laughed in gayety of heart as she helped the young man draw his dory down
the sand, and then took her place at one end while he gave it the last
push and then leaped in at the other. He pulled out to where the boat
lay tilting at anchor, and held the dory alongside by the gunwale that
she might step aboard. But after rising she faltered, looking intently
at the boat as if she missed something there.
"I thought you had a man to sail your boat"
"I had. But I let him go last week. Perhaps I ought to have told you,"
he said, looking up at her aslant. "Are you afraid to trust my
seamanship? Adams was a mere form. He behaved like a fool that day."
"Oh, I'm not afraid," said Grace. She stepped from the dory into the
boat, and he flung out the dory's anchor and followed. The sail went up
with a pleasant clucking of the tackle, and the light wind filled it.
Libby made the sheet fast, and, sitting down in the stern on the other
side, took the tiller and headed the boat toward the town that shimmered
in the distance. The water hissed at the bow, and seethed and sparkled
from the stern; the land breeze that bent their sail blew cool upon her
cheek and freshened it with a tinge of color.
"This will do you good," he said, looking into hers with his kind, gay
The color in her cheeks deepened a little. "Oh, I am better than I look.
I did n't come for"--
"For medicinal purposes. Well, I am glad of it. We've a good hour
between us and news or no news from Maynard, and I should like to think
we were out for pleasure. You don't object?"
"No. You can even smoke, if that will heighten the illusion."
"It will make it reality. But you don't mean it?"
"Yes; why not?"
"I don't know. But I could n't have dreamt of smoking in your presence.
And we take the liberty to dream very strange things."
"Yes," she said, "it's shocking what things we do dream of people. But
am I so forbidding?" she asked, a little sadly.
"Not now," said Libby. He got out a pouch of tobacco and some cigarette
papers, and putting the tiller under his arm, he made himself a
"You seem interested," he said, as he lifted his eyes from his work, on
which he found her intent, and struck his fusee.
"I was admiring your skill," she answered.
"Do you think it was worth a voyage to South America?"
"I shouldn't have thought the voyage was necessary."
"Oh, perhaps you think you can do it," he said, handing her the tobacco
and papers. She took them and made a cigarette. "It took me a whole day
to learn to make bad ones, and this, is beautiful. But I will never
smoke it. I will keep this always."
"You had better smoke it, if you want more," she said.
"Will you make some more? I can't smoke the first one!"
"Then smoke the last," she said, offering him the things back.
"No, go on. I'll smoke it."
She lent herself to the idle humor of the time, and went on making
cigarettes till there were no more papers. From time to time she looked
up from this labor, and scanned the beautiful bay, which they had almost
wholly to themselves. They passed a collier lagging in the deep channel,
and signalling for a pilot to take her up to the town. A yacht, trim and
swift, cut across their course; the ladies on board waved a salutation
with their handkerchiefs, and Libby responded.
"Do you know them?" asked Grace.
"No!" he laughed. "But ladies like to take these liberties at a safe
"Yes, that's a specimen of woman's daring," she said, with a self-
scornful curl of the lip, which presently softened into a wistful smile.
"How lovely it all is!" she sighed.
"Yes, there's nothing better in all the world than a sail. It is all the
world while it lasts. A boat's like your own fireside for snugness."
A dreamier light came into her eye, which wandered, with a turn of the
head giving him the tender curve of her cheek, over the levels of the
bay, roughened everywhere by the breeze, but yellowish green in the
channels and dark with the thick growth of eel-grass in the shallows;
then she lifted her face to the pale blue heavens in an effort that
slanted towards him the soft round of her chin, and showed her full
"This is the kind of afternoon," she said, still looking at the sky,
"that you think will never end."
"I wish it would n't," he answered.
She lowered her eyes to his, and asked: "Do you have times when you are
sorry that you ever tried to do anything--when it seems foolish to have
"I have the other kind of times,--when I wish that I had tried to do
"Oh yes, I have those, too. It's wholesome to be ashamed of not having
tried to do anything; but to be ashamed of having tried--it's like death.
There seems no recovery from that."
He did not take advantage of her confession, or try to tempt her to
further confidence; and women like men who have this wisdom, or this
instinctive generosity, and trust them further.
"And the worst of it is that you can't go back and be like those that
have never tried at all. If you could, that would be some consolation
for having failed. There is nothing left of you but your mistake."
"Well," he said, "some people are not even mistakes. I suppose that
almost any sort of success looks a good deal like failure from the
inside. It must be a poor creature that comes up to his own mark. The
best way is not to have any mark, and then you're in no danger of not
coming up to it." He laughed, but she smiled sadly.
"You don't believe in thinking about yourself," she said.
"Oh, I try a little introspection, now and then. But I soon get through:
there isn't much of me to think about."
"No, don't talk in that way," she pleaded, and she was very charming in
her earnestness: it was there that her charm lay. "I want you to be
serious with me, and tell me--tell me how men feel when."--
A sudden splashing startled her, and looking round she saw a multitude of
curious, great-eyed, black heads, something like the heads of boys, and
something like the heads of dogs, thrusting from the water, and flashing
under it again at sight of them with a swish that sent the spray into the
air. She sprang to her feet. "Oh, look at those things! Look at them!
Look at them!" She laid vehement hands upon the young man, and pushed
him in the direction in which she wished him to look, at some risk of
pushing him overboard, while he laughed at her ecstasy.
"They're seals. The bay's full of them. Did you never see them on the
reef at Jocelyn's?"
"I never saw them before!" she cried. "How wonderful they are! Oh!" she
shouted; as one of them glanced sadly at her over its shoulder, and then
vanished with a whirl of the head. "The Beatrice Cenci attitude!"
"They 're always trying that," said Libby. "Look yonder." He pointed to
a bank of mud which the tide had not yet covered, and where a herd of
seals lay basking in the sun. They started at his voice, and wriggling
and twisting and bumping themselves over the earth to the water's edge,
they plunged in. "Their walk isn't so graceful as their swim. Would you
like one for a pet, Miss Breen? That's all they 're good for since
kerosene came in. They can't compete with that, and they're not the kind
that wear the cloaks."
She was standing with her hand pressed hard upon his shoulder.
"Did they ever kill them?"
"They used to take that precaution."
"With those eyes? It was murder! "She withdrew her hand and sat down.
"Well, they only catch them, now. I tried it myself once. I set out at
low tide, about ten o'clock, one night, and got between the water and the
biggest seal on the bank. We fought it out on that line till daylight."
"And did you get it?" she demanded, absurdly interested.
"No, it got me. The tide came in, and the seal beat."
"I am glad of that."
"What did you want with it?"
"I don't think I wanted it at all. At any rate, that's what I always
said. I shall have to ask you to sit on this side," he added, loosening
the sheet and preparing to shift the sail. "The wind has backed round a
little more to the south, and it's getting lighter."
"If it's going down we shall be late," she said, with an intimation of
"We shall be at Leyden on time. If the wind falls then, I can get a
horse at the stable and have you driven back."
He kept scanning the sky. Then, "Did you ever hear them whistle for a
wind?" he asked.
"No. What is it like?"
"When Adams does it, it's like this." He put on a furtive look, and
glanced once or twice at her askance. "Well!" he said with the
reproduction of a strong nasal, "of course I don't believe there's
anything in it. Of course it's all foolishness. Now you must urge me a
little," he added, in his own manner.