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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Man's Woman - Chapter 3
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A Man's Woman - Chapter 3 Post by :Tom_Brownsword Category :Long Stories Author :Frank Norris Date :May 2012 Read :3124

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A Man's Woman - Chapter 3


As Lloyd Searight turned into Calumet Square on her way from the bookseller's, with her purchases under her arm, she was surprised to notice a drop of rain upon the back of one of her white gloves. She looked up quickly; the sun was gone. On the east side of the square, under the trees, the houses that at this hour of the afternoon should have been overlaid with golden light were in shadow. The heat that had been palpitating through all the City's streets since early morning was swiftly giving place to a certain cool and odorous dampness. There was even a breeze beginning to stir in the tops of the higher elms. As the drops began to thicken upon the warm, sun-baked asphalt under foot Lloyd sharply quickened her pace. But the summer storm was coming up rapidly. By the time she reached the great granite-built agency on the opposite side of the square she was all but running, and as she put her key in the door the rain swept down with a prolonged and muffled roar.

She let herself into the spacious, airy hallway of the agency, shutting the door by leaning against it, and stood there for an instant to get her breath. Rownie, the young mulatto girl, one of the servants of the house, who was going upstairs with an armful of clean towels, turned about at the closing of the door and called:

"Jus' in time, Miss Lloyd; jus' in time. I reckon Miss Wakeley and Miss Esther Thielman going to get for sure wet. They ain't neither one of 'em took ary umberel."

"Did Miss Wakeley and Miss Thielman both go out?" demanded Lloyd quickly. "Did they both go on a call?"

"Yes, Miss Lloyd," answered Rownie. "I don't know because why Miss Wakeley went, but Miss Esther Thielman got a typhoid call--another one. That's three f'om this house come next Sunday week. I reckon Miss Wakeley going out meks you next on call, Miss Lloyd."

While Rownie had been speaking Lloyd had crossed the hall to where the roster of the nurses' names, in little movable slides, hung against the wall. As often as a nurse was called out she removed her name from the top of this list and slid it into place at the bottom, so that whoever found her name at the top of the roster knew that she was "next on call" and prepared herself accordingly.

Lloyd's name was now at the top of the list. She had not been gone five minutes from the agency, and it was rare for two nurses to be called out in so short a time.

"Is it your tu'n?" asked Rownie as Lloyd faced quickly about.

"Yes, yes," answered Lloyd, running up the stairs, adding, as she passed the mulatto: "There's been no call sent in since Miss Thielman left, has there, Rownie?" Rownie shook her head.

Lloyd went directly to her room, tossed her books aside without removing the wrappers, and set about packing her satchel. When this was done she changed her tailor-made street dress and crisp skirt for clothes that would not rustle when she moved, and put herself neatly to rights, stripping off her rings and removing the dog-violets from her waist. Then she went to the round, old-fashioned mirror that hung between the windows of her room, and combed back her hair in a great roll from her forehead and temples, and stood there a moment or so when she had done, looking at her reflection.

She was tall and of a very vigorous build, full-throated, deep-chested, with large, strong hands and solid, round wrists. Her face was rather serious; one did not expect her to smile easily; the eyes dull blue, with no trace of sparkle and set deep under heavy, level eyebrows. Her mouth was the mouth of the obstinate, of the strong-willed, and her chin was not small. But her hair was a veritable glory, a dull-red flame, that bore back from her face in one great solid roll, dull red, like copper or old bronze, thick, heavy, almost gorgeous in its sombre radiance. Dull-red hair, dull-blue eyes, and a faint, dull glow forever on her cheeks, Lloyd was a beautiful woman; much about her that was regal, for she was very straight as well as very tall, and could look down upon most women and upon not a few men.

Lloyd turned from the mirror, laying down the comb. She had yet to pack her nurse's bag, or, since this was always ready, to make sure that none of its equipment was lacking. She was very proud of this bag, as she had caused it to be made after her own ideas and design. It was of black russia leather and in the form of an ordinary valise, but set off with a fine silver clasp bearing her name and the agency's address. She brought it from the closet and ran over its contents, murmuring the while to herself:

"Clinical thermometer--brandy--hypodermic syringe--vial of oxalic-acid crystals--minim-glass--temperature charts; yes, yes, everything right."

While she was still speaking Miss Douglass, the fever nurse, knocked at her door, and, finding it ajar, entered without further ceremony.

"Are you in, Miss Searight?" called Miss Douglass, looking about the room, for Lloyd had returned to the closet and was busy washing the minim-glass.

"Yes, yes," cried Lloyd, "I am. Sit down."

"Rownie told me you are next on call," said the other, dropping on Lloyd's couch.

"So I am; I was very nearly caught, too. I ran over across the square for five minutes, and while I was gone Miss Wakeley and Esther Thielman were called. My name is at the top now."

"Esther got a typhoid case from Dr. Pitts. Do you know, Lloyd, that's--let me see, that's four--seven--nine--that's ten typhoid cases in the City that I can think of right now."

"It's everywhere; yes, I know," answered Lloyd, coming out of the room, carefully drying the minim-glass.

"We are going to have trouble with it," continued the fever nurse; "plenty of it before cool weather comes. It's almost epidemic."

Lloyd held the minim-glass against the light, scrutinising it with narrowed lids.

"What did Esther say when she knew it was an infectious case?" she asked. "Did she hesitate at all?"

"Not she!" declared Miss Douglass. "She's no Harriet Freeze."

Lloyd did not answer. This case of Harriet Freeze was one that the nurses of the house had never forgotten and would never forgive. Miss Freeze, a young English woman, newly graduated, suddenly called upon to nurse a patient stricken with smallpox, had flinched and had been found wanting at the crucial moment, had discovered an excuse for leaving her post, having once accepted it. It was cowardice in the presence of the Enemy. Anything could have been forgiven but that. On the girl's return to the agency nothing was said, no action taken, but for all that she was none the less expelled dishonourably from the midst of her companions. Nothing could have been stronger than the _esprit de corps of this group of young women, whose lives were devoted to an unending battle with disease.

Lloyd continued the overhauling of her equipment, and began ruling forms for nourishment charts, while Miss Douglass importuned her to subscribe to a purse the nurses were making up for an old cripple dying of cancer. Lloyd refused.

"You know very well, Miss Douglass, that I only give to charity through the association."

"I know," persisted the other, "and I know you give twice as much as all of us put together, but with this poor old fellow it's different. We know all about him, and every one of us in the house has given something. You are the only one that won't, Lloyd, and I had so hoped I could make it tip to fifty dollars."


"We need only three dollars now. We can buy that little cigar stand for him for fifty dollars."


"And you won't give us just three dollars?"


"Well, you give half and I'll give half," said Miss Douglass.

"Do you think it's a question of money with me?" Lloyd smiled.

Indeed this was a poor argument with which to move Lloyd--Lloyd whose railroad stock alone brought her some fifteen thousand dollars a year.

"Well, no; I don't mean that, of course, but, Lloyd, do let us have three dollars, and I can send word to the old chap this very afternoon. It will make him happy for the rest of his life."

"No--no--no, not three dollars, nor three cents."

Miss Douglass made a gesture of despair. She might have expected that she could not move Lloyd. Once her mind was made up, one might argue with her till one's breath failed. She shook her head at Lloyd and exclaimed, but not ill-naturedly:

"Obstinate! Obstinate! Obstinate!"

Lloyd put away the hypodermic syringe and the minim-glass in their places in the bag, added a little ice-pick to its contents, and shut the bag with a snap.

"Now," she announced, "I'm ready."

When Miss Douglass had taken herself away Lloyd settled herself in the place she had vacated, and, stripping the wrappings from the books and magazines she had bought, began to turn the pages, looking at the pictures. But her interest flagged. She tried to read, but soon cast the book from her and leaned back upon the great couch, her hands clasped behind the great bronze-red coils at the back of her head, her dull-blue eyes fixed and vacant.

For hours the preceding night she had lain broad awake in her bed, staring at the shifting shadow pictures that the electric lights, shining through the trees down in the square, threw upon the walls and ceiling of her room. She had eaten but little since morning; a growing spirit of unrest had possessed her for the last two days. Now it had reached a head. She could no longer put her thoughts from her.

It had all come back again for the fiftieth time, for the hundredth time, the old, intolerable burden of anxiety growing heavier month by month, year by year. It seemed to her that a shape of terror, formless, intangible, and invisible, was always by her, now withdrawing, now advancing, but always there; there close at hand in some dark corner where she could not see, ready at every instant to assume a terrible and all too well-known form, and to jump at her from behind, from out the dark, and to clutch her throat with cold fingers. The thing played with her, tormented her; at times it all but disappeared; at times she believed she had fought it from her for good, and then she would wake of a night, in the stillness and in the dark, and know it to be there once more--at her bedside--at her back--at her throat--till her heart went wild with fear, and the suspense of waiting for an Enemy that would not strike, but that lurked and leered in dark corners, wrung from her a suppressed cry of anguish and exasperation, and drove her from her sleep with streaming eyes and tight-shut hands and wordless prayers.

For a few moments Lloyd lay back upon the couch, then regained her feet with a brusque, harassed movement of head and shoulders.

"Ah, no," she exclaimed under her breath, "it is too dreadful."

She tried to find diversion in her room, rearranging the few ornaments, winding the clock that struck ships' bells instead of hours, and turning the wicks of the old empire lamps that hung in brass brackets on either side the fireplace. Lloyd, after building the agency, had felt no scruple in choosing the best room in the house and furnishing it according to her taste. Her room was beautiful, but very simple in its appointments. There were great flat wall-space unspoiled by bric-a-brac, the floor marquetry, with but few rugs. The fireplace and its appurtenances were of brass. Her writing-desk, a huge affair, of ancient and almost black San Domingo mahogany.

But soon she wearied of the small business of pottering about her clock and lamps, and, turning to the window, opened it, and, leaning upon her elbows, looked down into the square.

By now the thunderstorm was gone, like the withdrawal of a dark curtain; the sun was out again over the City. The square, deserted but half an hour ago, was reinvaded with its little people of nurse-maids, gray-coated policemen, and loungers reading their papers on the benches near the fountain. The elms still dripped, their wet leaves glistening again to the sun. There was a delicious smell in the air--a smell of warm, wet grass, of leaves and drenched bark from the trees. On the far side of the square, seen at intervals in the spaces between the foliage, a passing truck painted vermilion set a brisk note of colour in the scene. A newsboy appeared chanting the evening editions. On a sudden and from somewhere close at hand an unseen hand-piano broke out into a gay, jangling quickstep, marking the time with delightful precision.

A carriage, its fine lacquered flanks gleaming in the sunlight, rolled through the square, on its way, no doubt, to the very fashionable quarter of the City just beyond. Lloyd had a glimpse of the girl leaning back in its cushions, a girl of her own age, with whom she had some slight acquaintance. For a moment Lloyd, ridden with her terrors, asked herself if this girl, with no capabilities for either great happiness or great sorrow, were not perhaps, after all, happier than she. But she recoiled instantly, murmuring to herself with a certain fierce energy:

"No, no; after all, I have lived."

And how had she lived? For the moment Lloyd was willing to compare herself with the girl in the landau. Swiftly she ran over her own life from the time when left an orphan; in the year of her majority she had become her own mistress and the mistress of the Searight estate. But even at that time she had long since broken away from the conventional world she had known. Lloyd was a nurse in the great St Luke's Hospital even then, had been a probationer there at the time of her mother's death, six months before. She had always been ambitious, but vaguely so, having no determined object in view. She recalled how at that time she knew only that she was in love with her work, her chosen profession, and was accounted the best operating nurse in the ward.

She remembered, too, the various steps of her advancement, the positions she had occupied; probationer first, then full member of the active corps, next operating nurse, then ward manager, and, after her graduation, head nurse of ward four, where the maternity cases were treated. Then had come the time when she had left the hospital and practised private nursing by herself, and at last, not so long ago, the day when her Idea had so abruptly occurred to her; when her ambition, no longer vague, no longer personal, had crystallised and taken shape; when she had discovered a use for her money and had built and founded the house on Calumet Square. For a time she had been the superintendent of nurses here, until her own theories and ideas had obtained and prevailed in its management. Then, her work fairly started, she had resigned her position to an older woman, and had taken her place in the rank and file of the nurses themselves. She wished to be one of them, living the same life, subject to the same rigorous discipline, and to that end she had never allowed it to be known that she was the founder of the house. The other nurses knew that she was very rich, very independent and self-reliant, but that was all. Lloyd did not know and cared very little how they explained the origin and support of the agency.

Lloyd was animated by no great philanthropy, no vast love of humanity in her work; only she wanted, with all her soul she wanted, to count in the general economy of things; to choose a work and do it; to help on, _donner un coup d'epaule_; and this, supported by her own stubborn energy and her immense wealth, she felt that she was doing. To do things had become her creed; to do things, not to think them; to do things, not to talk them; to do things, not to read them. No matter how lofty the thoughts, how brilliant the talk, how beautiful the literature--for her, first, last, and always, were acts, acts, acts--concrete, substantial, material acts. The greatest and happiest day of her life had been when at last she laid her bare hand upon the rough, hard stone of the house in the square and looked up at the facade, her dull-blue eyes flashing with the light that so rarely came to them, while she murmured between her teeth:


As she recalled this moment now, leaning upon her elbows, looking down upon the trees and grass and asphalt of the square, and upon a receding landau, a wave of a certain natural pride in her strength, the satisfaction of attainment, came to her. Ah! she was better than other women; ah! she was stronger than other women; she was carrying out a splendid work. She straightened herself to her full height abruptly, stretching her outspread hands vaguely to the sunlight, to the City, to the world, to the great engine of life whose lever she could grasp and could control, smiling proudly, almost insolently, in the consciousness of her strength, the fine steadfastness of her purpose. Then all at once the smile was struck from her lips, the stiffness of her poise suddenly relaxed. There, there it was again, the terror, the dreadful fear she dared not name, back in its place once more--at her side, at her shoulder, at her throat, ready to clutch at her from out the dark.

She wheeled from the window, from the sunlight, her hands clasped before her trembling lips, the tears brimming her dull-blue eyes. For forty-eight hours she had fought this from her. But now it was no longer to be resisted.

"No, no," she cried half aloud. "I am no better, no stronger than the others. What does it all amount to when I know that, after all, I am just a woman--just a woman whose heart is slowly breaking?"

But there was an interruption. Rownie had knocked twice at her door before Lloyd had heard her. When Lloyd had opened the door the girl handed her a card with an address written on it in the superintendent's hand.

"This here jus' now come in f'om Dr. Street, Miss Lloyd," said Rownie; "Miss Bergyn" (this was the superintendent nurse) "ast me to give it to you."

It was a call to an address that seemed familiar to Lloyd at first; but she did not stop at that moment to reflect. Her stable telephone hung against the wall of the closet. She rang for Lewis, and while waiting for him to get around dressed for the street.

For the moment, at the prospect of action, even her haunting fear drew off and stood away from her. She was absorbed in her work upon the instant--alert, watchful, self-reliant. What the case was she could only surmise. How long she would be away she had no means of knowing--a week, a month, a year, she could not tell. But she was ready for any contingency. Usually the doctors informed the nurses as to the nature of the case at the time of sending for them, but Dr. Street had not done so now.

However, Rownie called up to her that her coupe was at the door. Lloyd caught up her satchels and ran down the stairs, crying good-bye to Miss Douglass, whom she saw at the farther end of the hall. In the hallway by the vestibule she changed the slide bearing her name from the top to the bottom of the roster.

"How about your mail?" cried Miss Douglass after her.

"Keep it here for me until I see how long I'm to be away," answered Lloyd, her hand upon the knob. "I'll let you know."

Lewis had put Rox in the shafts, and while the coupe spun over the asphalt at a smart clip Lloyd tried to remember where she had heard of the address before. Suddenly she snapped her fingers; she knew the case, had even been assigned to it some eight months before.

"Yes, yes, that's it--Campbell--wife dead--Lafayette Avenue--little daughter, Hattie--hip disease--hopeless--poor little baby."

Arriving at the house, Lloyd found the surgeon, Dr. Street, and Mr. Campbell, who was a widower, waiting for her in a small drawing-room off the library. The surgeon was genuinely surprised and delighted to see her. Most of the doctors of the City knew Lloyd for the best trained nurse in the hospitals.

"Oh, it's you, Miss Searight; good enough!" The surgeon introduced her to the little patient's father, adding: "If any one can pull us through, Campbell, it will be Miss Searight."

The surgeon and nurse began to discuss the case.

"I think you know it already, don't you, Miss Searight?" said the surgeon. "You took care of it a while last winter. Well, there was a little improvement in the spring, not so much pain, but that in itself is a bad sign. We have done what we could, Farnham and I. But it don't yield to treatment; you know how these things are--stubborn. We made a preliminary examination yesterday. Sinuses have occurred, and the probe leads down to nothing but dead bone. Farnham and I had a consultation this morning. We must play our last card. I shall exsect the joint to-morrow."

Mr. Campbell drew in his breath and held it for a moment, looking out of the window.

Very attentive, Lloyd merely nodded her head, murmuring:

"I understand."

When Dr. Street had gone Lloyd immediately set to work. The operation was to take place at noon the following day, and she foresaw there would be no sleep for her that night. Street had left everything to her, even to the sterilising of his instruments. Until daylight the following morning Lloyd came and went about the house with an untiring energy, yet with the silence of a swiftly moving shadow, getting together the things needed for the operation--strychnia tablets, absorbent cotton, the rubber tubing for the tourniquet, bandages, salt, and the like--and preparing the little chamber adjoining the sick-room as an operating-room.

The little patient herself, Hattie, hardly into her teens, remembered Lloyd at once. Before she went to sleep Lloyd contrived to spend an hour in the sick-room with her, told her as much as was necessary of what was contemplated, and, by her cheery talk, her gentleness and sympathy, inspired the little girl with a certain sense of confidence and trust in her.

"But--but--but just how bad will it hurt, Miss Searight?" inquired Hattie, looking at her, wide-eyed and serious.

"Dear, it won't hurt you at all; just two or three breaths of the ether and you will be sound asleep. When you wake up it will be all over and you will be well."

Lloyd made the ether cone from a stiff towel, and set it on Hattie's dressing-table. Last of all and just before the operation the gauze sponges occupied her attention. The daytime brought her no rest. Hattie was not to have any breakfast, but toward the middle of the forenoon Lloyd gave her a stimulating enema of whiskey and water, following it about an hour later by a hundredth grain of atropia. She braided the little girl's hair in two long plaits so that her head would rest squarely and flatly upon the pillow. Hattie herself was now ready for the surgeon.

Now there was nothing more to be done. Lloyd could but wait. She took her place at the bedside and tried to talk as lightly as was possible to her patient. But now there was a pause in the round of action. Her mind no longer keenly intent upon the immediate necessities of the moment, began to hark back again to the one great haunting fear that for so long had overshadowed it. Even while she exerted herself to be cheerful and watched for the smiles on Hattie's face her hands twisted tight and tighter under the folds of her blouse, and some second self within her seemed to say:

"Suppose, suppose it should come, this thing I dread but dare not name, what then, what then? Should I not expect it? Is it not almost a certainty? Have I not been merely deceiving myself with the forlornest hopes? Is it not the most reasonable course to expect the worst? Do not all indications point that way? Has not my whole life been shaped to this end? Was not this calamity, this mighty sorrow, prepared for me even before I was born? And one can do nothing, absolutely nothing, nothing, but wait and hope and fear, and eat out one's heart with longing."

There was a knock at the door. Instead of calling to enter Lloyd went to it softly and opened it a few inches. Mr. Campbell was there.

"They've come--Street and the assistant."

Lloyd heard a murmur of voices in the hall below and the closing of the front door.

Farnham and Street went at once to the operating-room to make their hands and wrists aseptic. Campbell had gone downstairs to his smoking-room. It had been decided--though contrary to custom--that Lloyd should administer the chloroform.

At length Street tapped with the handle of a scalpel on the door to say that he was ready.

"Now, dear," said Lloyd, turning to Hattie, and picking up the ether cone.

But the little girl's courage suddenly failed her. She began to plead in a low voice choked with tears. Her supplications were pitiful; but Lloyd, once more intent upon her work, every faculty and thought concentrated upon what must be done, did not temporise an instant. Quietly she gathered Hattie's frail wrists in the grip of one strong palm, and held the cone to her face until she had passed off with a long sigh. She picked her up lightly, carried her into the next room, and laid her upon the operating-table. At the last moment Lloyd had busied herself with the preparation of her own person. Over her dress she passed her hospital blouse, which had been under a dry heat for hours. She rolled her sleeves up from her strong white forearms with their thick wrists and fine blue veining, and for upward of ten minutes scrubbed them with a new nail-brush in water as hot as she could bear it. After this she let her hands and forearms lie in the permanganate of potash solution till they were brown to the elbow, then washed away the stain in the oxalic-acid solution and in sterilised hot water. Street and Farnham, wearing their sterilised gowns and gloves, took their places. There was no conversation. The only sounds were an occasional sigh from the patient, a direction given in a low tone, and, at intervals, the click of the knives and scalpel. From outside the window came the persistent chirping of a band of sparrows.

Promptly the operation was begun; there was no delay, no hesitation; what there was to be done had been carefully planned beforehand, even to the minutest details. Street, a master of his profession, thoroughly familiar with every difficulty that might present itself during the course of the work in hand, foreseeing every contingency, prepared for every emergency, calm, watchful, self-contained, set about the exsecting of the joint with no trace of compunction, no embarrassment, no misgiving. His assistants, as well as he himself, knew that life or death hung upon the issue of the next ten minutes. Upon Street alone devolved the life of the little girl. A second's hesitation at the wrong stage of the operation, a slip of bistoury or scalpel, a tremor of the wrist, a single instant's clumsiness of the fingers, and the Enemy--watching for every chance, intent for every momentarily opened chink or cranny wherein he could thrust his lean fingers--entered the frail tenement with a leap, a rushing, headlong spring that jarred the house of life to its foundations. Lowering close over her head Lloyd felt the shadow of his approach. He had arrived there in that commonplace little room, with its commonplace accessories, its ornaments, that suddenly seemed so trivial, so impertinent--the stopped French clock, with its simpering, gilded cupids, on the mantelpiece; the photograph of a number of picnickers "grouped" on a hotel piazza gazing with monolithic cheerfulness at this grim business, this struggle of the two world forces, this crisis in a life.

Then abruptly the operation was over.

The nurse and surgeons eased their positions immediately, drawing long breaths. They began to talk, commenting upon the operation, and Lloyd, intensely interested, asked Street why he had, contrary to her expectations, removed the bone above the lesser trochanter. He smiled, delighted at her intelligence.

"It's better than cutting through the neck, Miss Searight," he told her. "If I had gone through the neck, don't you see, the trochanter major would come over the hole and prevent the discharges."

"Yes, yes, I see, of course," assented Lloyd.

The incision was sewn up, and when all was over Lloyd carried Hattie back to the bed in the next room. Slowly the little girl regained consciousness, and Lloyd began to regard her once more as a human being. During the operation she had forgotten the very existence of Hattie Campbell, a little girl she knew. She had only seen a bit of mechanism out of order and in the hands of a repairer. It was always so with Lloyd. Her charges were not infrequently persons whom she knew, often intimately, but during the time of their sickness their personalities vanished for the trained nurse; she saw only the "case," only the mechanism, only the deranged clockwork in imminent danger of running down.

But the danger was by no means over. The operation had been near the trunk. There had been considerable loss of blood, and the child's power of resistance had been weakened by long periods of suffering. Lloyd feared that the shock might prove too great. Farnham departed, but for a little while the surgeon remained with Lloyd to watch the symptoms. At length, however, he too, pressed for time, and expected at one of the larger hospitals of the City, went away, leaving directions for Lloyd to telephone him in case of the slightest change. At this hour, late in the afternoon, there were no indications that the little girl would not recover from the shock. Street believed she would rally and ultimately regain her health.

"But," he told Lloyd as he bade her good-bye, "I don't need to impress upon you the need of care and the greatest vigilance; absolute rest is the only thing; she must see nobody, not even her father. The whole system is numbed and deadened just yet, but there will be a change either for better or worse some time to-night."

For thirty-six hours Lloyd had not closed an eye, but of that she had no thought. Her supper was sent up to her, and she prepared herself for her night's watch. She gave the child such nourishment as she believed she could stand, and from time to time took her pulse, making records of it upon her chart for the surgeon's inspection later on. At intervals she took Hattie's temperature, placing the clinical thermometer in the armpit. Toward nine in the evening, while she was doing this for the third time within the hour, one of the house servants came to the room to inform her that she was wanted on the telephone. Lloyd hesitated, unwilling to leave Hattie for an instant. However, the telephone was close at hand, and it was quite possible that Dr. Street had rung her up to ask for news.

But it was the agency that had called, and Miss Douglass informed her that a telegram had arrived there for her a few moments before. Should she hold it or send it to her by Rownie? Lloyd reflected a moment.

"Oh--open it and read it to me," she said. "It's a call, isn't it?--or--no; send it here by Rownie, and send my hospital slippers with her, the ones without heels. But don't ring up again to-night; we're expecting a crisis almost any moment."

Lloyd returned to the sick-room, sent away the servant, and once more settled herself for the night. Hattie had roused for a moment.

"Am I going to get well, am I going to get well, Miss Searight?"

Lloyd put her finger to her lips, nodding her head, and Hattie closed her eyes again with a long breath. A certain great tenderness and compassion for the little girl grew big in Lloyd's heart. To herself she said:

"God helping me, you shall get well. They believe in me, these people--'If any one could pull us through it would be Miss Searight.' We will 'pull through,' yes, for I'll do it."

The night closed down, dark and still and very hot. Lloyd, regulating the sick-room's ventilation, opened one of the windows from the top. The noises of the City steadily decreasing as the hours passed, reached her ears in a subdued, droning murmur. On her bed, that had for so long been her bed of pain, Hattie lay with closed eyes, inert, motionless, hardly seeming to breathe, her life in the balance; unhappy little invalid, wasted with suffering, with drawn, pinched face and bloodless lips, and at her side Lloyd, her dull-blue eyes never leaving her patient's face, alert and vigilant, despite her long wakefulness, her great bronze-red flame of hair rolling from her forehead and temples, the sombre glow in her cheeks no whit diminished by her day of fatigue, of responsibility and untiring activity.

For the time being she could thrust her fear, the relentless Enemy that for so long had hung upon her heels, back and away from her. There was another Enemy now to fight--or was it another--was it not the same Enemy, the very same, whose shadow loomed across that sick-bed, across the frail, small body and pale, drawn face?

With her pity and compassion for the sick child there arose in Lloyd a certain unreasoned, intuitive obstinacy, a banding together of all her powers and faculties in one great effort at resistance, a steadfastness under great stress, a stubbornness, that shut its ears and eyes. It was her one dominant characteristic rising up, strong and insistent the instant she knew herself to be thwarted in her desires or checked in a course she believed to be right and good. And now as she felt the advance of the Enemy and saw the shadow growing darker across the bed her obstinacy hardened like tempered steel.

"No," she murmured, her brows levelled, her lips compressed, "she shall not die. I will not let her go."

A little later, perhaps an hour after midnight, at a time when she believed Hattie to be asleep, Lloyd, watchful as ever, noted that her cheeks began alternately to puff out and contract with her breathing. In an instant the nurse was on her feet. She knew the meaning of this sign. Hattie had fainted while asleep. Lloyd took the temperature. It was falling rapidly. The pulse was weak, rapid, and irregular. It seemed impossible for Hattie to take a deep breath.

Then swiftly the expected crisis began to develop itself. Lloyd ordered Street to be sent for, but only as a matter of form. Long before he could arrive the issue would be decided. She knew that now Hattie's life depended on herself alone.

"Now," she murmured, as though the Enemy she fought could hear her, "now let us see who is the stronger. You or I."

Swiftly and gently she drew the bed from the wall and raised its foot, propping it in position with half a dozen books. Then, while waiting for the servants, whom she had despatched for hot blankets, administered a hypodermic injection of brandy.

"We will pull you through," she kept saying to herself, "we will pull you through. I shall not let you go."

The Enemy was close now, and the fight was hand to hand. Lloyd could almost feel, physically, actually, feel the slow, sullen, resistless pull that little by little was dragging Hattie's life from her grip. She set her teeth, holding back with all her might, bracing herself against the strain, refusing with all inborn stubbornness to yield her position.

"No--no," she repeated to herself, "you shall not have her. I will not give her up; you shall not triumph over me."

Campbell was in the room, warned by the ominous coming and going of hushed footsteps.

"What is the use, nurse? It's all over. Let her die in peace. It's too cruel; let her die in peace."

The half-hour passed, then the hour. Once more Lloyd administered hypodermically the second dose of brandy. Campbell, unable to bear the sight, had withdrawn to the adjoining room, where he could be heard pacing the floor. From time to time he came back for a moment, whispering:

"Will she live, nurse? Will she live? Shall we pull her through?"

"I don't know," Lloyd told him. "I don't know. Wait. Go back. I will let you know."

Another fifteen minutes passed. Lloyd fancied that the heart's action was growing a little stronger. A great stillness had settled over the house. The two servants waiting Lloyd's orders in the hall outside the door refrained even from whispering. From the next room came the muffled sound of pacing footsteps, hurried, irregular, while with that strange perversity which seizes upon the senses at moments when they are more than usually acute Lloyd began to be aware of a vague, unwonted movement in the City itself, outside there behind the drawn curtains and half-opened window--a faint, uncertain agitation, a trouble, a passing ripple on the still black pool of the night, coming and going, and coming again, each time a little more insistent, each time claiming a little more attention and notice. It was about half past three o'clock. But the little patient's temperature was rising--there could be no doubt about that. The lungs expanded wider and deeper. Hattie's breathing was unmistakably easier; and as Lloyd put her fingers to the wrist she could hardly keep back a little exultant cry as she felt the pulse throbbing fuller, a little slower, a little more regularly. Now she redoubled her attention. Her hold upon the little life shut tighter; her power of resistance, her strength of purpose, seemed to be suddenly quadrupled. She could imagine the Enemy drawing off; she could think that the grip of cold fingers was loosening.

Slowly the crisis passed off, slowly the reaction began. Hattie was still unconscious, but there was a new look upon her face--a look that Lloyd had learned to know from long experience, an intangible and most illusive expression, nothing, something, the sign that only those who are trained to search for it may see and appreciate--the earliest faint flicker after the passing of the shadow.

"Will she live, will she live, nurse?" came Mr. Campbell's whisper at her shoulder.

"I think--I am almost sure--but we must not be too certain yet. Still there's a chance; yes, there's a chance."

Campbell, suddenly gone white, put out his hand and leaned a moment against the mantelpiece. He did not now leave the room. The door-bell rang.

"Dr. Street," murmured Lloyd.

But what had happened in the City? There in the still dark hours of that hot summer night an event of national, perhaps even international, importance had surely transpired. It was in the air--a sense of a Great Thing come suddenly to a head somewhere in the world. Footsteps sounded rapidly on the echoing sidewalks. Here and there a street door opened. From corner to corner, growing swiftly nearer, came the cry of newsboys chanting extras. A subdued excitement was abroad, finding expression in a vague murmur, the mingling of many sounds into one huge note--a note that gradually swelled and grew louder and seemed to be rising from all corners of the City at once.

There was a step at the sick-room door. Dr. Street? No, Rownie--Rownie with two telegrams for Lloyd.

Lloyd took them from her, then with a sharp, brusque movement of her head and suddenly smitten with an idea, turned from them to listen to the low, swelling murmur of the City. These despatches--no, they were no "call" for her. She guessed what they might be. Why had they come to her now? Why was there this sense of some great tidings in the wind? The same tidings that had come to the world might come to her--in these despatches. Might it not be so? She caught her breath quickly. The terror, the fearful anxiety that had haunted and oppressed her for so long, was it to be lifted now at last? The Enemy that lurked in the dark corners, ever ready to clutch her, was it to be driven back and away from her forever? She dared not hope for it. But something was coming to her; she knew it, she felt it; something was preparing for her, coming to her swifter with every second--coming, coming, coming from out the north. She saw Dr. Street in the room, though how and when he had arrived she could not afterward recall. Her mind was all alert, intent upon other things, listening, waiting. The surgeon had been leaning over the bed. Suddenly he straightened up, saying aloud to Campbell:

"Good, good, we're safe. We have pulled through."

Lloyd tore open her telegrams. One was signed "Bennett," the other "Ferriss."

"Thank God!" exclaimed Mr. Campbell.

"Oh," cried Lloyd, a great sob shaking her from head to heel, a smile of infinite happiness flashing from her face. "Oh--yes, thank God, we--we _have pulled through."

"Am I going to get well, am I going to get well, Miss Searight?" Hattie, once more conscious, raised her voice weak and faint.

Lloyd was on her knees beside her, her head bent over her.

"Hush; yes, dear, you are safe." Then the royal bronze-red hair bent lower still. The dull-blue eyes were streaming now, the voice one low quiver of sobs. Tenderly, gently Lloyd put an arm about the child, her head bending lower and lower. Her cheek touched Hattie's. For a moment the little girl, frail, worn, pitifully wasted, and the strong, vigorous woman, with her imperious will and indomitable purpose, rested their heads upon the same pillow, both broken with suffering, the one of the body, the other of the mind.

"Safe; yes, dear, safe," whispered Lloyd, her face all but hidden. "Safe, safe, and saved to me. Oh, dearest of all the world!"

And then to her ears the murmur of the City seemed to leap suddenly to articulate words, the clanging thunder of the entire nation--the whole round world thrilling with this great news that had come to it from out the north in the small hours of this hot summer's night. And the chanting cries of the street rolled to her like the tremendous diapason of a gigantic organ:

"Rescued, rescued, rescued!"

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A Man's Woman - Chapter 4 A Man's Woman - Chapter 4

A Man's Woman - Chapter 4
CHAPTER IVOn the day that Lloyd returned to the house on Calumet Square (Hattie's recovery being long since assured), and while she was unpacking her valise and settling herself again in her room, a messenger boy brought her a note. "Have just arrived in the City. When may I see you? BENNETT." News of Ward Bennett and of Richard Ferriss had not been wanting during the past fortnight or so. Their names and that of the ship herself, even the names of Adler, Hansen, Clarke, and Dennison, even Muck Tu, even that of Kamiska, the one surviving dog, filled the mouths

A Man's Woman - Chapter 2 A Man's Woman - Chapter 2

A Man's Woman - Chapter 2
CHAPTER IIBy eleven o'clock at night the gale had increased to such an extent and the sea had begun to build so high that it was a question whether or not the whaleboat would ride the storm. Bennett finally decided that it would be impossible to reach the land--stretching out in a long, dark blur to the southwest--that night, and that the boat must run before the wind if he was to keep her afloat. The number two cutter, with Ferriss in command, was a bad sailer, and had fallen astern. She was already out of hailing distance; but Bennett, who