Read CHAPTER XI - DOCTOR DICK of Heart of Gold , free online book, by Ruth Alberta Brown, on ReadCentral.com.

It was Christmas Day, but the Campbell house was very still.  All sounds of revelry and mirth were hushed, for Peace, worn out by her long struggle with pain, had wakened only long enough to view the many gifts heaped about her cot, and then sleep had claimed her again.  So the two younger girls had been despatched to the Hill Street parsonage, where St. John and Elspeth were having a Christmas tree for Glen and tiny Bessie; and the three older sisters settled down to a quiet day at home, refusing all invitations from their many friends, because of a nameless fear that tugged at each breast, a feeling that perhaps they might be needed before the day was done.

It had been such a strange day, so un-Christmas-like, so uncanny.  All the long hours through, they had scarcely caught a glimpse of Dr. or Mrs. Campbell.  Dr. Coates had made repeated trips to the house, the minister’s son had spent several hours in the President’s study, the minister himself had been there a time or two, but through it all no one had come to tell them what it was about, and Peace had slept wearily on.

Then as the winter twilight gathered over the city, Gussie appeared to summon them to the library below, but she could not answer their eager questions, for she knew no more than they; and each girl looked at the others with apprehensive eyes, as each heart whispered, “It can’t be that we have lost her,-that she is dead instead of sleeping.”  So with quaking limbs they hurried to the dimly-lighted study where the haggard President and his wife awaited them.

“What do you think about another operation for Peace?” Dr. Campbell began, with distraught abruptness.

Three hearts beat wildly with relief.  She was still alive!

“Is there no other hope?” Gail implored.

He shook his head.

“Will a second operation give her a chance?” Hope eagerly questioned.

“A fighting chance, we think.”

“And without the operation-will she die?” asked Faith.

“She will suffer as her Lilac Lady suffered and go as she went.  Perhaps in five years, perhaps in ten.  Perhaps-one will tell the story.”

A deep silence fell upon them.  Mrs. Campbell sat with her head buried in her arms, and from the occasional convulsive shiver of her shoulders, they knew that she was crying.  Was the situation then so desperate?

“Who will operate?” Hope’s low-voiced question sounded like the notes of a trumpet through the stillness of the room.

“Dr. Shumway-”

“The minister’s son?”

“Yes.”

“But he is so young!”

“He has made a marvelous name for himself already as a children’s surgeon.  He seldom loses a case.”

“But-but he is a physician in Fairview, is he not?” asked Gail in worried tones.

“Yes, that is where the rub comes.  I thought perhaps if we offered him enough money he might operate here in Martindale and be with her through the worst of it at least, before returning to his work in Fairview, but he can’t see his way clear.  He wants to take her back with him-”

“O, that would be dreadful,” the girls broke in.  “Supposing she should-die-there all alone!”

“She wouldn’t be alone,” the President explained.  “Mother and I would go, too.”

“But the University-doesn’t it take months for a patient to get well after such an operation?” protested Faith.

“Yes, but we would not stay until she had entirely recovered; only long enough to be sure all was well, and then-”

“I would go,” said Gail simply.

“Wouldn’t I do?” asked Hope.  “This is Gail’s last year at the University, and she can’t graduate if she loses a whole term.”

“Peace is worth dozens of terms,” Gail answered softly.  “Besides, I am the oldest, and Mother left her in my care.  It is my place to go.”

“But we haven’t decided yet whether or not Peace herself is going to Fairview,” Faith reminded them.

“That’s so,” agreed Dr. Campbell.  “What is your wish in the matter?”

“It seems to me we have decided,” suggested Gail.  “We want to do everything we can for her, and if you think there is a-a chance-”

“Does she know?” interrupted Faith.

“Not yet.”

“Then why not leave the decision with her?”

The President shook his head.  “She is too young to know what is best for her, and we cannot raise false hopes in her heart.  She has suffered too much already to be disappointed again-should the operation fail to accomplish the desired results.”

“But how are you going to get her to Fairview without her knowing?” Hope frowned in bewilderment.

“O, she will have to know about the operation, but not what we hope will result.  Hark!  Don’t I hear her calling?”

Just then the library door opened behind them, and Marie announced young Dr. Shumway.

“Right on time,” said the President, consulting his watch, “and your patient is just now awake.  Will you tell her, doctor?  We have decided to take the chance, but think you will make a better job of breaking the news to her.”

“Very well,” replied the doctor promptly, not pausing to meet the other members of the family.  “I’ll go right on up.”

So he mounted the stairs to the Flag Room, wondering how he should broach the subject to the small maid soon to become his patient, but she gave him no chance for speech, for the instant she saw him bending over her, she exclaimed, “I dreamed about you last night,-the queerest dream!”

“You did!  Well now, isn’t that strange!  I dreamed about you, too.”

“O, tell me your dream,” she commanded, delighted at his words.

“You first, my girl.  Then you shall hear mine.”

“Well, I thought I was on a hard, hard bed in the middle of a great, big room, and all around the room were rows and rows of shelves, just like the pickle closet in our Parker cellar.  They were empty at first, but just as I was beginning to wonder what they were all for, I noticed a funny little hump-backed man sitting in one corner, dangling his legs over the edge of the shelf, and when I asked him who he was, he said he was one of my naughties.  I didn’t know what he meant, so he ’xplained that he was the bad spirit inside of me, which painted Mr. Hardman’s barn once when I got mad at him.  Then all of a sudden, I saw that the shelves were full,-just plumb full of people.  Some were little and ugly, like the hump-back, and some were big and beautiful.  The big ones were the goodies I had done.  There was the time I sang for the hand-organ man, and the time I gave my circus money to the miss’nary, and the time I took the sick monkey home, and the time I carried pansies to my Lilac Lady, and-oh, crowds of ’em.  But I ’most believe there were more naughties than goodies like Faith’s State Fair cake which I spoiled, and the faces I made at old Skinflint when he wouldn’t let us pick raspberries and all the times I bothered Grandpa by giving away my own and other folks’s junk.  O, I could see them all piled up on those shelves, and I began to cry about it, when who should come into the room but you and what do you s’pose you did, Dr. Dick?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea,” he confessed.  “Tell me quickly.”

“You fished a pair of wooden legs out of your pocket and laid them on the bed, and when I asked you what they were for, you said you had brought them for me, so I could get up and chase the naughties away, to leave more room for the goodies.”

“And did you do it?” the doctor gravely inquired as the story-teller ceased abruptly.

“I don’t know,” she answered wistfully.  “I woke up just then.  That’s always the way,-you never find out anything from a dream.”

“Well, I think I must have finished up your dream for you,” said the doctor musingly, “for in my dream I was back at my old job in the hospital and I found the head nurse making up a bed in one of the little rooms one day.  The head nurse, mind you, who has altogether too many things to attend to without making up beds.  So I asked her what she thought she was doing, and she said there was a little girl in the office downstairs, who wanted a new pair of legs, and she was getting the room ready so we could mend this child right away.  So I went off to see if I could find some nice, strong legs for the little girl, and when I came back she was lying in the bed, and I was surprised to discover that I knew her.  Who do you suppose it was?”

“I s’pose you dreamed it was me,” said Peace, not much impressed by the narrative, which sounded quite flat and tame to her.

“Yes,” said the doctor, somewhat disconcerted by her lack of interest.  “I dreamed it was you.  How do you think you would like to make the dream come true?”

“How?” she asked, a little startled at the suggestion.

“By going to the hospital and having another operation-”

“O, I’m tired of being cut up,” she interrupted wearily.  “I had one operation already, and the pain came back just the same, even if we did hire some old doctors which had been in the business for ages and ages.”

“Well, I am not a graybeard,” Dr. Shumway assented, “but I think I could help the little back some, anyway.”

“Would you do the operating?” The big brown eyes opened wide in surprise.

“Sure.  Why not?”

“Yon don’t look as if you knew enough.”

The doctor gasped.

“Well, I mean you haven’t got any white hair and wrinkles,” Peace explained, perceiving that she had said something amiss.  “You look as if you hadn’t been a man for a very long time.  But p’r’aps you know more than folks would think.  Have you talked to Grandpa about it?”

“Yes, and he is willing to take the chance if you are.”

“Well, that’s something,-from him.  It was ever so long before he would let Dr. Coates operate.  You must know your business or he’d never have said yes.  When will it happen?” she asked.

“In a couple of days or so-”

That soon?”

“The sooner the better.  Well leave here tomorrow for Fairview-”

“O, do I have to go away for it?” The great eyes looked startled and half fearful.

“Yes, to Danbury Hospital in Fairview, and-”

“O, then I’ll go, sure!” She clapped her thin hands gleefully.  “I always did want to see the insides of a hospital.  I’ve often visited one, but never had to live there a day, for they operated on me at home before.  Mercy, I’m having a lot of ’xperiences, ain’t I?  Here comes Grandpa now, and the rest of the bunch.  Hello, folkses!  Guess what’s going to happen!  I’m going to Fairview Hospital tomorrow in Danbury, and be cut to pieces again.  Dr. Dick is to do the operation.  I b’lieve he knows enough, even if he ain’t a gray-back; and he thinks he can stop the hurting, so it won’t come back any more.  That’s worth trying for, ain’t it?”

“But tomorrow-” gasped the girls.  “Is it to be that soon?”

“We ought to leave here tomorrow,” explained Dr. Shumway.  “The operation will take place as soon after that as we can get her rested up for it.”

“Then it is all settled!” sighed the President in relief, and a great burden seemed lifted from his shoulders.  Somehow, the strong, earnest face of the young doctor inspired confidence and courage in the hearts of others, and they could not but feel that all would go well with their little invalid.

So they departed the next day for Fairview,-the President and his wife, Dr. Shumway and his patient,-and a few days later Peace found herself lying on the operating table in a great, white room of the hospital, with white-capped nurses flitting noiselessly about, and white-gowned doctors passing to and fro.

“It’s like my dream,” she whispered.  “Only there aren’t any shelves filled with goods and bads.-Well, Dr. Dick, if you aren’t a fright!  I never should have known you if you hadn’t spoken.  You look like the pictures in our Sunday School lessons of how they used to bury folks in the Bible, with that nightgown on and all that white stuff over your head.  It’s rather ’propriate, though, for this room looks like a car-slop-egus.  Isn’t that what you call the graves they used to put people in?”

“Sarcophagus,” suggested the doctor, only the twinkle of his deep blue eyes betraying his amusement.  “That is a casket of stone.  Is that what you mean?”

“Yes, I guess so, though I thought it was a room hacked out of the side of a hill where they stuck folks when they died, instead of putting them in graves like we do.  Where is the man which is going to give me the antiseptic?”

“Right here, my girl,” chuckled a deep voice on the other side of her, and she looked up into the eyes of a second white-swathed figure, already beginning to adjust the anaesthetizer over her head.  “Now don’t be afraid.  Just take a deep, deep breath-”

“I know all about it,” she interrupted.  “I’ve been through this same performance once before.  That stuff hasn’t changed its smell a bit, either.  Are you all ready?  Well, then, good-night.  If Dr. Dick don’t know his business, I ’xpect I’m a goner.”

The bright eyes drooped shut, the childish voice trailed off into silence, and the little patient slept while the skillful surgeons mended the bruised back and useless limbs.