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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesTogether - Part Six - Chapter 59
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Together - Part Six - Chapter 59 Post by :Jay_White Category :Long Stories Author :Robert Herrick Date :May 2012 Read :1004

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Together - Part Six - Chapter 59


Just as Isabelle had completed her packing on Sunday afternoon, a message came to her from Dr. Renault through Margaret. "We need another woman,--two of our nurses have been called away and a third is sick. Will you give us some help?"

"I am going up myself for the night," Margaret added. "They are badly pushed,--six new cases the last three days."

So the night found Isabelle under the direction of Mrs. Felton, the little black-haired woman whose "case" the doctor had analyzed for her. It was a long night, and the next morning, all the experienced nurses being needed at an operation, Isabelle went on. The day was full and also the next two. The hospital force was inadequate, and though the doctor had telegraphed for help there would be no relief for a week. So Isabelle was caught up in the pressing activity of this organism and worked by it, impelled without her own will, driven hard as all around her were driven by the circumstances behind her. Dr. Renault abhorred noise, disorder, excitement, confusion of any kind. All had to run smoothly and quietly as if in perfect condition. He himself was evident, at all hours of day or night, chaffing, dropping his ironical comments, listening, directing,--the inner force of the organism. One night the little nurse dropped asleep, clearly worn out, and Isabelle sent her to bed. The ward was quiet; there was nothing to be done. Isabelle, pacing to and fro in the glass sun parlor to keep herself awake, suddenly became aware of the stillness within her. It was as if some noisy piece of machinery had ceased to revolve without her having noticed it. It was possible for her in this quiet moment to realize this: for the first time in five days she had not thought of herself. For five days she had not consciously thought! Doubtless she would have to pay for this debauch of work. She would collapse. But for five days she had not known whether she felt ill or well, was happy or distressed. Excitement--to be paid for! She shrank from the weary round of old thought that must come, the revolution of the wheels within. For five days she had not thought, she had not cared, she had not known herself! That must be the opiate of the poor, driven by labor to feed and clothe themselves; of the ambitious, driven by hope and desire.... She must work, too; work was a good thing. Why had Potts not included it in his panaceas? ...

Later when she walked back into the still ward, she thought she heard a stifled breathing, but when she went the rounds of the cots, all was still. It was not until nearly morning that she noticed something wrong with a little boy, observing the huddled position of the limbs drawn up beneath the blanket. She felt of his face--it was cold. Frightened, she hurried to the bell to summon the night doctor. As she reached it Renault entered the ward and with a warning hand brought her back to the cot. He put his fingers swiftly here and there on the child's body.

"Where is Mrs. Felton?" he demanded severely.

"She was so worn out I persuaded her to get some rest. Have I neglected anything?--is anything wrong?"

"The child is dead," Renault replied, straightening himself and covering up the little form.

"Oh, I have--done something wrong!"

"It would have made no difference what you did," the doctor replied dryly. "Nothing would have made any difference. There was the millionth part of a chance, and it was not for him."

As they stood looking down at the dead face, it seemed to Isabelle that suddenly he had become a person, this dead child, with his lost millionth of a chance,--not merely one of the invalids sleeping in the room. For this brief moment when life had ceased to beat in his frail body, and before decay had begun, there was an individuality given him that he had never achieved in life.

"Poor little fellow!" Isabelle murmured softly. "He must have suffered so much." Then with that common consolation with which the living evade the thought of death, she added, "He has escaped more pain; it is better so, perhaps!"

"No--that is wrong!"

Renault, standing beside the bed, his arms folded across his breast, looked up from the dead child straight into the woman's eyes.

"That is false!" he cried with sudden passion. "Life is GOOD--all of it--for every one."

He held her eyes with his glance while his words reverberated through her being like the CREDO of a new faith.

* * * * *

When another nurse had come to relieve Isabelle, she left the ward with the doctor. As they went through the passageway that led to the house, Renault said in his usual abrupt tone:--

"You had better run home, Mrs. Lane, and get some sleep. To-morrow will be another hard day."

She wheeled suddenly and faced him.

"How dare you say that life is good for any other human being! What do _you know of another's agony,--the misery that existence may mean, the daily woe?"

Her passionate burst of protest died in a sob.

"I say it because I believe it, because I _know it!"

"No one can know that for another."

"For animals the account of good and evil may be struck, the pains set against the satisfactions that life offers. When we judge that the balance is on the wrong side, we are merciful,--put the creature out of its misery, as we say. But no human being is an animal in that sense. And no human being can cast his balance of good and evil in that mechanical way--nor any one else for him!"

"But one knows for himself! When you suffer, when all is blank within and you cry as Job cried,--'would God it were morning, and in the morning would God it were night!' then life is _not good. If you could be some one else for a few hours, then you might understand--what defeat and living death--"

Oh, if she could tell! The impulse to reveal surged in her heart, that deep human desire to call to another across the desert, so that some one besides the silent stars and the wretched Self may know! Renault waited, his compelling eyes on her face.

"When you have lost the most in your life--hope, love! When you have killed the best!" she murmured brokenly. "Oh, I can't say it! ... I can never say it--tell the whole."

Tears fell, tears of pity for the dead child, for herself, for the fine-wrought agony of life.

"But I know!" Renault's voice, low and calm, came as it were from a shut corner of his heart. "I have felt and I have seen--yes, Defeat, Despair, Regret--all the black ghosts that walk."

Isabelle raised her eyes questioningly.

"And it is because of that, that I can raise my face to the stars and say, 'It is good, all good--all that life contains.' And the time will come when you will repeat my words and say to them, 'Amen.'"

"That I could!"

"We are not animals,--there is the Unseen behind the Seen; the Unknown behind the Observed. There is a Spirit that rises within us to slay the ghosts, to give them the lie. Call upon it, and it will answer.... For Peace is the rightful heritage of every soul that is born."

"Not Peace."

"Yes,--I say Peace! Health, perhaps; happiness, perhaps; efficiency, perhaps. But Peace always lies within the grasp of whomsoever will stretch out his hand to possess it." ...

As they stopped at the house door and waited in the deep silence of the dark morning, Renault put his hands on Isabelle's shoulders:--

"Call to it, and it will come from the depths! ... Goodnight."

There in the still dawning hour, when the vaulted heavens seemed brooding close to the hills and the forests, these two affirmations of a creed rang in Isabella's soul like the reverberating chords of some mystic promise:--

"Life is good ... all of it ... for every one!" And, "Peace is the rightful heritage of every soul. It lies within the grasp of whomsoever will stretch out his hand to possess it."

It was still within her.

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Together - Part Six - Chapter 60 Together - Part Six - Chapter 60

Together - Part Six - Chapter 60
PART SIX CHAPTER LXWhen Isabelle woke, the morning sun fretted the green shutters. She was tired in every limb,--limp, content to lie in bed while Mrs. Strong lighted the fire, threw open the shutters, and brought breakfast and the mail. Through the east windows the sun streamed in solidly, flooding the counterpane, warming the faded roses of the wall paper. A bit of the north range of hills, the flat summit of Belton's Top with a glittering ice-cap, she could see above the gray gable of the barn. The sky was a soft, cloudless blue, and the eaves were busily dripping

Together - Part Six - Chapter 55 Together - Part Six - Chapter 55

Together - Part Six - Chapter 55
PART SIX CHAPTER LVIt was a long, cold drive from the station at White River up into the hills. In the gloom of the December afternoon the aspect of the austere, pitiless northern winter was intensified. A thin crust of snow through which the young pines and firs forced their green tips covered the dead blackberry vines along the roadside. The ice of the brooks was broken in the centre like cracked sheets of glass, revealing the black water gurgling between the frozen banks. The road lay steadily uphill, and the two rough-coated farm horses pulled heavily at the stiff harness,