Read CHAPTER XII - MISS WAYNE of Heart of Gold , free online book, by Ruth Alberta Brown, on

Peace awoke to find herself lying in a narrow iron bed, drawn close beside a window, through which she could see clouds of great, feathery snow-flakes swirling lazily, softly downwards; and not remembering where she was or how she came to be there, she murmured half aloud, “The angels seem to be shedding their feathers pretty lively today, don’t they?”

“What did you say?” asked a strange voice from somewhere in the background, and a sweet face framed in glossy black hair bent over her.

“Maybe it’s heaven after all,” mused Peace to herself, “though I should think they would have dec’rations on the walls of heaven, ’nstead of leaving ’em naked.”  Then she spoke aloud, surprised at the effort it cost her, “Are you a dead nurse?”

“Do I look very dead?” questioned the strange voice again, and the face above her broke into a rare smile.

“Well, then, how did you get to heaven?”

“This isn’t heaven, dear.  You are in Danbury Hospital.  Have you forgotten?”

“O, that’s so.  I remember now.  It’s nice to know you ain’t an angel.”

The nurse laughed outright.  “Yes, I’m glad, too, for I want to live a long time.  The world is full of so many things I want to see.”

“That’s me, too, but I thought I was dead sure this time.”

“No, dear, you are very much alive and are going to get well.”

“That’s good, but what’s the matter?  I can’t get my breath.”

“It’s the ether, childie.  You will be all right soon, but you must not talk now.  Just rest.  Sleep if you can, so you can visit with Grandfather and Grandmother Campbell.  They are anxious to see you.”

Meanwhile, downstairs in the office of the great hospital, the President and his wife had sat like statues through all those interminable minutes which were to tell the story of whether the little life was to be spared or sacrificed.  Vaguely they heard the bustle of busy nurses, vaguely they saw the doctors hurrying in and out about their duties; but not once did either man or woman move from the great chairs in which they sat.  Sometimes it seemed to the matron and head-nurse, who occasionally passed that way, as if both had been turned to stone, so fixed was their gaze, so rigid their bodies.  But in reality neither had ever been more keenly alive.  Each heart was reviewing with painful accuracy the two short years that had gone since the little band of orphans had come to live with them.  How much had happened in that time, and how dearly they had come to love each one of the sisters!

“I could not care more for them if they were my own,” whispered Mrs. Campbell to herself.

“They are like my own flesh and blood,” thought the President.

“I know a mother is not supposed to have favorites among her children,” mused Mrs. Campbell, half guiltily, “but there is something about Peace which makes her seem just a little the dearest to me.”

“They are all such lovable girls,” the President told himself, “but somehow I can’t help liking Peace a little the best.  Everyone does.  I wonder why.”

So they sat there side by side in the great hospital and pondered, waiting for the verdict from the white room above them.

Suddenly Dr. Shumway stood before them.  “It is all over,” he began, smiling cheerfully.  “She will-”

“All over,” whispered Mrs. Campbell, and fainted quite away.

When she opened her eyes again, the young doctor was bending over her, chafing her hands, and she heard his remorseful voice saying, “My dear Mrs. Campbell, you misunderstood me.  The operation was successful.  The little one will live.”

“Ah, yes, I know,” sighed the woman.  “But it was such a relief to know the ordeal was ended that I couldn’t bear the joy of the news.  I am all right now.  When can we see our girl?”

Quickly the good news was flashed over the wires to the anxious hearts in Martindale, “Operation successful.  Peace will walk again.”  And great was the rejoicing everywhere.

Only Peace herself seemed undisturbed, taking everything as a matter of course, obeying the nurse’s orders, and asking no questions concerning her own welfare, though she asked enough about other people’s affairs to make up, and soon became a source of unending amusement to the hospital attendants, who made every excuse imaginable to talk with this dear little, queer little patient in her room.

Peace was in her element.  Nothing suited her quite so well as to make new friends, and she was delighted at the interest the busy nurses and doctors displayed in her case.  “Why, Miss Wayne,” she sighed ecstatically one day when she had been in the hospital for a month, “I know the name of every nurse and doctor in this building, and pretty near all the patients.  The only trouble with them is they change so often I really can’t get much acquainted before they go home.  I’m just wild to get into that wheel-chair which Dr. Dick has promised me as soon as I get strong enough; for then I can go visiting the other sick folks, can’t I?  Dr. Dick says I can, and I’m crazy to see what they look like.  I can’t tell very well from what the nurses say about their patients just what they look like.  I try to ’magine while I’m lying here all day, but you know how ’tis,-the ones who have the prettiest names are as homely as sin usually; and the pretty ones have the homely names.

“There’s the little lady down the hall who keeps sending me jelly and things she can’t eat.  The head nurse, Miss Gee,-ain’t that an awful funny name?  I call her Skew Gee, because her first name is Sue.  Well, she told me that this lady has been in the hospital four years. Four years! Think of it!  And that she never says a cross word to anyone, but when the pain gets bad she sings until it’s better.  No wonder that man loved her and wanted to marry her even if she will always be an invalid.”

“What do you know about love and marriage?” teased the nurse, laying out fresh linen and testing the water in a huge bowl by the bed.

“I know I’d have married her, too, if I’d been in his shoes.  She must be a darling.  I’m very anxious to see if she is pretty.  Miss Gee says she is.  She says that typhoid girl is pretty, too.  The one who has been here ten weeks now and is still so sick.  I don’t s’pose they’d let me see her yet.  She calls one of her legs Isaiah and the other Jeremiah, ’cause one of ’em doesn’t bother her and the other does.  Isaiah in the Bible told about the good things that were going to happen, and Jeremiah was always growling about the bad things that had happened.  She must be a funny girl to figure all that out, don’t you think?  Then there are those two little girls in the Children’s Ward,-the one with the hip disease that’s been here two whole years, and the other that’s got pugnacious aenemia.  I’d like awful well to see them, ’cause neither one has a mother.  And there’s the weenty, weenty woman with nervous prospertation, but I’m most p’ticularly interested in Billy Bolée.

“Nurse Redfern brought him in to see me a few minutes ago, while you were eating your breakfast.  Isn’t he the prettiest little fellow you ever saw, and hasn’t he got the worst name?  I don’t see what his mother could be thinking about to call him that.”

“But that isn’t his real name, dear,” answered the nurse, busy at making her talkative little patient comfortable for the day.

“Then why do they call him that?”

“Because we don’t know his real name.  His mother died here in the hospital weeks ago without telling us who she was or anything about her history.  The baby talked nothing but Dutch, and though Dr. Kruger, of the hospital staff, is Dutch, he could not make out from the child’s baby-talk what his name is.”

“And so they picked out that horrid Billy-Bolée name,” exclaimed Peace disgustedly.

“That was because he kept saying something which sounded like Billy Bolée.  We didn’t know what he meant, but began to refer to him in that manner, and the name stuck.”

“Does he talk American now?”

“A little, but of course it is like learning to talk again, and we often have to get Dr. Kruger to interpret his wants even yet.  I’ll never forget one of the first nights he was here.  He cried and cried until the whole staff of nurses was nearly frantic, because we could find nothing to soothe him.  He kept repeating some strange words, as if he was trying to tell us what he wanted, but none of us understood.  At that time we didn’t even know his nationality, but while he was still howling lustily, Dr. Kruger came upstairs on his evening round of calls, and he stopped to see what was the trouble with Miss Redfern’s charge.  Then how he laughed!  Poor Billy Bolée was begging to be put in bed, and here we’d been trying for an hour to find out what was the matter.”

Peace laughed heartily.  “That was a good joke on the nurses, wasn’t it?” she remarked, when her merriment had subsided.  “But why do you keep him here now if his mother is dead?”

“The doctors are endeavoring to cure his little foot so he can walk all right again.  He was hurt in the same railroad accident which killed his mother, and the injury has made one leg shorter than the other.”

“O,” cried Peace in horror.  “And he hasn’t any relations to take care of him after he gets well?”

“Not that we know of.”

“Then what will you do with him?  He can’t live here always, can he?”

“No.  Some day he will have to be sent to a Children’s Home or some such institution where homeless waifs are cared for, until some kind heart adopts him.”

“But no one wants lame children to adopt,” Peace protested.  “Do you s’pose Billy Bolée will ever get adopted?”

“We hope so.”

Peace was silent a moment, then thoughtfully remarked, “There was a fat old hen in our church-there!  I didn’t mean to say fat, ’cause I wouldn’t hurt your feelings for the world,-but Mrs. Burns was fat, and she used to come over to our house after I got hurt and tell me how thankful I ought to be.  It made me awful mad at first, but I b’lieve I know now what she meant.  Now there’s my Lilac Lady,-she had heaps of money, and a great, splendid house to live in, and Aunt Pen to take care of her; so even if she never could walk again, ’twasn’t as bad as it would have been s’posing she was poor and didn’t have anything of her own.  Then there’s me.  If I had fallen off a roof in Parker and cracked my back, ’twould have been perfectly awful, ’cause there would have been no money for doctors and such like, and I guess it costs heaps to get operated on.  But as it is now, I’ve got Grandpa and Grandma Campbell to take care of me, and there ain’t any danger of my being sent to a Children’s Home or the poor farm.  There are a pile of thankfuls in this world, ain’t there?”

“Yes indeed,” answered the nurse warmly.  “This world is a pretty good old world, and no matter what happens, there is always something left for every one to be thankful about.  Isn’t that so?”

“Uh-huh.  That’s what Papa used to tell us, and before every Thanksgiving dinner we had to think up some p’tic’lar big thankful that had happened to us that year.  Even after he and Mamma had gone to Heaven, Gail made us do the same thing, and you’d be s’prised to see the things we dug up to be thankful about even if we were orphants, and poorer than mice.  One year I managed to kill a turkey that b’longed to another man; so we had some meat for dinner when we hadn’t really expected any.  ’Twasn’t often we got turkey, either,-not even when Papa was alive.  But we always have it at Grandpa’s on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I’m very fond of turkey, ain’t you?”

“Yes, I am quite partial to Mr. Gobbler, too,” smiled Miss Wayne reminiscently, “but we nurses don’t always get a taste of it on Thanksgiving Day, either.”

“Can’t the hospital afford turkeys once a year?” asked Peace in shocked surprise.

“But a nurse doesn’t live at the hospital always, you know.  After she graduates, most of her cases are in private homes, and it all depends upon where she is on the holidays as to what she gets to eat or how she amuses herself.  Now, Christmas Day this year I spent with my married brother on his farm near St. Cloud, but it is the first time I have been with any of my own people for a holiday during the last four years.  On Thanksgiving I was taking care of a little girl who had diphtheria, and we were shut off upstairs all by ourselves, seeing no one but the doctor from one day’s end to the next.  Poor Zella was too sick to know what day it was, and I was too anxious about her to care, so neither of us got any turkey.

“One year I was miles out in the country, nursing a worn-out mother, who had seven children, all younger than you.  She was a farmer’s wife, and they were huddled in the dirtiest bit of a hovel that I ever saw.  The hogs and chickens used to come into the kitchen whenever the door was opened, and no one ever thought of driving them out.  They didn’t know what it meant to be clean, and were shocked almost to death when I tried to give the latest baby a bath.  There wasn’t a broom in the house and no one knew what I wanted when I asked for a mop.  We had literally to shovel the dirt off those floors.

“The children had never been taught to pray, they knew absolutely nothing about the Bible, had never even heard the name of Jesus except in swearing.  Christmas Day was unheard of, and Thanksgiving a riddle; and when I asked the father if we might not have a hen for dinner on that occasion, he said there were none to spare for such nonsensical purposes.”

“But you got one anyway, didn’t you?” Peace eagerly asked, for she had learned to love Miss Wayne dearly, and seemed to think that the earnest, whole-hearted, sympathizing woman was capable of anything.

“No, not from him,” the nurse replied, knitting her brows as if the thought still made her angry.  “But his answer got my dander up, and the children were so disappointed, for I had told them all about our Thanksgiving Day, that I determined to cook them a sure-enough Thanksgiving dinner if I could manage it.  There was one girl in the family,-little five-year-old Essie,-and I gave her a half dollar and sent her over to their nearest neighbor to see if he would sell us a small turkey.  He had already disposed of his turkeys, however, and had no hens for sale either; but he gave Essie a big duck and a handful of silver in exchange for the money she had given him, and she came back as proud as a peacock to display her wares.  I saw at once when she passed me the change that he had not charged her a cent for the duck, so I put the money back into her little hand and told her that she was to keep it.  At first she was reluctant, though her big, eager eyes showed how much she really wanted it; and after a while I made her understand that I actually meant to give it to her for her very own.  But when she took it to her mother, the little woman called me to the bed and explained that it would do the child no good in that form, because the lazy, shiftless, good-for-nothing father would take it to buy tobacco.  ’The children can’t save a penny,’ she said sadly.  ’When once he gets his hands on it, they never see it again.  But if you really want Essie to have the money, won’t you take it and buy her a doll?  She has never had one of her own, and it would please her more than anything you could do.’

“So I put the money back into my purse and promised Essie a doll instead, which should open and shut its eyes and have real hair.  Christmas was near at hand, and I made up my mind that I would dress the doll as daintily as possible and send it to her in time for Christmas Eve, so the mother could put it in her little stocking, for all the children had expressed a determination to hang up their stockings that year like the children in the stories I had told them.  So, when about a week before Christmas, I was able to leave the dirty little hovel, I searched the stores through for the kind of a doll Essie wanted, and made it a beautiful set of lace-trimmed clothes which really buttoned up.  My mother and sisters were greatly interested in the story of this neglected family, and they decided that we must pack a box for all the children, so none of the little stockings would be empty on Christmas morn.  Accordingly, we picked up some old clothing, whole and serviceable-”

“Just like the ladies do each year for the missionaries on the frontier,” Peace interrupted with breathless interest.

“Very much, only on a smaller scale.  We didn’t try to outfit the whole family, but included something for each member,-except the father,-and filled up the corners with candy and nuts.  Poor Mrs. Martin had been so interested in the Bible stories which she had heard me telling the children that I got her a nicely bound Bible, marking the passages which she had liked the best; and she really seemed delighted to get it.  She could write a little, and she sent me a very grateful little letter of thanks when the box arrived, telling me how much the children had enjoyed their share of the good things, and particularly how pleased Essie was with her doll.

“When I first went to care for Mrs. Martin on the worthless little farm, there was only one stove in the ramshackle house and that was in the kitchen.  It was positively necessary to have her bed-room warm and comfortable, so I made Mr. Martin get another stove for that purpose.  There was no chimney in that part of the house, however, and he cut a hole through the ceiling and stuck the stove-pipe through that into a big chamber above, where, by some means or other, he connected it up with the kitchen chimney.  It was very unsafe, of course, and I protested against it, but he would not listen to me; so all the while I was under that roof, I watched the stove every minute, for fear it would set the house afire.  But it didn’t, and he laughed at my worry, but not long after I had left there while it was still very cold weather, the old place did burn down one night.  The family was rescued by their neighbors, but they lost everything they had.  Mrs. Martin wrote me about the disaster, telling how sorry she was to lose her Bible, and how terribly grieved Essie was over the loss of her treasure.  Naturally I was sorry, too, and when Christmas came again, I dressed another doll for Essie, bought another Bible for Mrs. Martin, and packed another box for the whole family.  Again the mother wrote me a letter of thanks, but it didn’t sound sincere to me this time, and when in closing she said that Jerry, her husband, thought I might at least have included a plug of tobacco for him, I made up my mind that all they wanted was what they could get out of me.”

“So you didn’t send them any more dolls and Bibles,” Peace soliloquized, when the nurse paused in her narrative.

“They didn’t appreciate them,” Miss Wayne answered wistfully.  “One doesn’t enjoy being liked for one’s money.  I want folks to like me.”

The little invalid lay with intent eyes fixed upon the ceiling while she reviewed the story she had just heard; then she said gravely, “I think it was Jerry who wrote for the plug of tobacco.”


“Well, Mr. Martin, I mean.”

“But Mrs. Martin wrote the letter.”

“I’ll bet he was peeking over her shoulder and made her put in about that plug of tobacco, just the same,” Peace persisted.  “I b’lieve Essie and her mother really cared.  ’Twas him that wanted just your money.  Some women get married to some awful mean men.”

“Yes,” sighed the nurse, more to herself than for Peace’s benefit.  “That is very true, and Jerry was one of them.”

“There are lots of nice men, though,” Peace hastened to add, for Miss Wayne’s face looked so unusually grave and sad.  “There’s Grandpa and St. John, and-and Dr. Dick. He isn’t married yet, either.  Neither is Dr. Race, is he?  When I was in the sun parlor yesterday afternoon, I heard one of the nurses tell that new special that Miss Swift had set her trap for Dr. Race.  What did she mean?  It sounded like they thought he was a mouse-”

“Hush!  O, Peace!  You misunderstood.  You mustn’t repeat such things.  It-I-oh, dear, what can I say?”

“Well, I ’xpect they meant that Miss Swift is trying to marry Dr. Race, and I s’pose the rest are jealous.  Frances Sherrar is going to be married to one of the professors at the University, and I heard Gail telling Grandma how jealous some of the girls are.  I s’pose it’s the same with the nurses.  Only I sh’d hate to see Dr. Race marry Miss Swift ’cause I don’t like her.  She’s too snippy.  Why didn’t you ever get married?  You’re so nice and-and-”

Miss Wayne’s face had flushed a brilliant crimson, and hastily gathering up soap and towels, she made ready for a hurried flight, but found her way blocked by a stalwart figure in the doorway, whose twinkling eyes and smiling lips betrayed the fact that he had overheard at least part of their conversation.

Embarrassed, the nurse set down the bowl of water poised perilously on one arm, and stammered, “I-I beg your pardon, Dr. Shumway.  You are rather late this morning, or am I early?  I mean, you-I-we-”

“There, there.  Miss Wayne, don’t get excited,” a laughing voice said teasingly.  “Take heart.  Remember, ’the Race is not always to the Swift.’”

“O, Dr. Dick!” Peace interrupted from the little cot by the window.  “Is that you at last?  I’ve been watching hours for you to come.  I’ve got the splendidest news to tell. Gail is here,-my sister Gail.  I know you will like her.”  Then, as her eyes fell upon the great wicker chair which the doctor was dragging behind him, she straightway forgot all else, and shrieked ecstatically, “Dr. Dick, what have you got there?  Is it for me?  A wheel-chair?  Oh, oh, oh!  Put me in it right away. Now I can go and see some of the other sick folks, can’t I?”