Read CHAPTER XV - THE RING THAT BUILT A HOSPITAL of Heart of Gold , free online book, by Ruth Alberta Brown, on

It was a hot June night.  Not a breath of air was stirring, and in the great Danbury Hospital every window was opened its widest.  Yet the patients lay panting and sweltering on their cots.  Peace, in her room, tossed and turned restlessly, dozed a few minutes, then wakened, changed her position, trying to find a cooler spot, and finally in desperation, raised her hand and jerked the bell-cord dangling at the head of her bed.  She could hear the answering whir in the hall outside, but no one came to minister to her wants, and after an impatient wait of a few seconds, she repeated the summons.

Still no one came.

“What in creation can be the matter with Miss Hays, I wonder,” she muttered, and savagely pulled the cord for the third time.

There was a faint patter of rapid steps through the corridor, and the night nurse, flushed and perspiring, flew into the room.  “What is it?” she asked crisply, mopping her warm face after a hasty survey of the small patient.

“O,” exclaimed Peace in relief.  “It’s you at last!  I thought you were never coming.  Is it hot outside tonight, or is it just me that’s hot?”

Poor, hurried, steaming Miss Hays glared down at the tumbled figure on the bed, and snapped, “It’s me that’s hot!  Did you chase me clear down two flights of stairs just to ask that question?”

“You do look warm,” said Peace in conciliatory tones, not quite understanding the cause of Miss Hays’ evident wrath.

“I am warm,-decidedly warm under the collar!” Suddenly the funny side of the situation burst upon her, and she laughed hysterically.  It was utterly ridiculous to think of the haste she had made to answer the frantic summons of that bell!

Then, with an effort she controlled her merriment, and asked soberly, “Was there anything you wanted?”

“No-that is-Hark!  What is that noise?  It sounds like a little baby crying.  That’s the third time tonight I’ve heard it squall.”

Miss Hays obediently strained her ears to listen.  “It does sound like a child, doesn’t it?” she admitted, as the plaintive wail was repeated.  “Who can it be?”

“Seems as if it came from the other part of the building,” said Peace, peering across the moonlit court toward the windows of the opposite wing.

“But there are no babies over there,” the nurse objected.  “Nearly all the patients in that section are old men, and the nurses’ rooms are on the top floor.”

“Well, that’s where the crying comes from anyway,” Peace insisted, as another low, persistent wail rose on the midnight air.  “Are you sure there ain’t any babies over there?”

“None that I know of.  I’ll go investigate.  It’s queer that Miss Gee did not mention it to me if any new patients were brought in there today.”

Puzzled Miss Hays turned to go when Peace stopped her with an imperative, “Wait!  There’s a nightcap sticking out of a topfloor window.  I guess it’s going to holler.”

“Nightcap?  Where?” demanded the nurse, again staring out over the court toward the other wing of the hospital.

“It looked like one, but it’s gone in out of sight.  O, I know I saw it.  There!  What did I tell you!”

Peace was right.  From an open window in the nurses’ quarters a white-capped head slowly protruded, followed by a huge pitcher.  There was a sound of splashing water, a startled caterwaul from the lawn below, some excited spitting and scratching, and two black shapes streaked across the court to the street.  The wailing ceased.  Silence reigned.

“Cats!” exclaimed Miss Hays in disgust.

“Making that crying noise?” demanded incredulous Peace.


“Not babies at all?”


“Well, I’ll-Say, that water splashed in through the window of the room below.  Listen to that man-swear!  He’s saying dreadful things!  Can’t you hear him?”

“I must go,” the nurse ejaculated, when a swift survey of the windows opposite had proved that the child’s observations were correct; but even as she darted through the doorway, the buzzer in the hall whirred viciously, and Peace heard her mutter, “My sakes! but the old gentleman is mad!”

Once more quiet descended over the great building, and for a long time Peace lay chuckling over the night’s unusual adventure.  Then in spite of the heat she at length fell asleep.  Nor did she waken until the sun was high in the sky and the bustle of the busy city floated up through the open window.

The first thing she was conscious of was the sound of Dr. Shumway’s voice sharp with bitter disappointment, and by craning her neck almost to breaking point, she could catch a glimpse of his coat-tails through the open door, as he said to some invisible audience, “No, we can hope for absolutely nothing from that source now, and we do need that addition so badly.  Why, man alive it would mean a chance for hundreds of helpless babies.  We simply haven’t the room to accept charity cases now.  Every bed in the institution filled this morning!  What a record!  But we have had to turn away ten cases this past month because we were too crowded to take charity patients.”

“What did the old codger have to say to the committee?” asked another voice, which Peace recognized as that of Dr. Race, though she could not see him.

“He wasn’t even decent about it.  Said if his father had seen fit to spend half his fortune erecting this hospital, it was no sign that he intended to follow his example.  What is more, he declared that we never would see another red cent of Danbury money if he could help it.  Called his father an old fool and every other uncomplimentary name he could think of.”

“Did you remind him that his father had intended to build this addition that we are so anxious for?”

“Yes, and got laughed at for my pains.  If only old John Danbury could have lived to see his building completed!  He used to say he cared for no other monument than Danbury Hospital.”

“Do you know,” said a new voice thoughtfully, “I think he recognized the worthlessness of his profligate son, and planned to sink his whole fortune in this institution?  Money has been the curse of Robson Danbury’s life, and his father knew that the only hope of making anything like a man out of him was the cutting him off without a cent, but the Death Angel claimed him before he had finished his plans.”

“Well, that doesn’t help us out of our predicament,” said Dr. Race in his crisp, curt tones.  “How are we to get our addition built?”

“Go to the Church for it,-that’s our only course now,” suggested Dr. Shumway resignedly.

“The Church!  Good gracious, man!  The church is bled to death now with its collections for this and subscriptions for that,” declared Dr. Rosencrans impatiently.  “They won’t listen to our cry for help.  I’m sorry this hospital is a denominational institution.  It is a serious handicap.”

“It ought not to be,” said Dr. Shumway stoutly.  “Our people should be proud of the chance to give to such a cause.”

“But the fact still remains that they raise a howl or have a fit every time they are asked for a copper,” returned Dr. Rosencrans pessimistically.

“Well, what are you going to do about it?” demanded Dr. Race briskly.  “Got anything tangible to work upon?”

“I happen to know that the bishop will give us his heartiest co-operation,” Dr. Shumway answered.  “We must confer with him and plan a state-wide campaign.  We’ve simply got to have that addition.”

“Then it’s to be the same old song and dance?” inquired Dr. Rosencrans in deep disgust.  “We’ll send out a professional beggar to the different churches of the state, and then sit back and wait for the money to roll in?”

“What is your plan?” quietly asked Dr. Shumway, but in such a tone that Peace, straining to catch every word, fairly jumped from her cot, and wondered whether there was to be a fight.

“I have none,” was the sulky reply, “but I’m tired of this lemon-squeezing farce.  We can never raise a thousand dollars, let alone seventy-five thousand.”

“I suggest that we take twenty-four hours to think on this thing before we make any decisions,” suggested Dr. Race in soothing tones.  “It is too important a question to settle without considerable thought.”

“Good idea,” seconded another voice, and after a brief parley as to their next meeting, the group of physicians just outside Peace’s door dispersed about their various duties.

But they had left the brown-eyed maid much food for thought.  Some of their conversation had puzzled her, but she gathered from their remarks that an addition to the hospital had become necessary, and for some reason seemed unobtainable, except by appealing to the churches for the money to build, which the doctors seemed loath to do.

“I’ll ask Gail, she’ll know,” Peace promised herself, when she found that she could not untangle the puzzling questions without further explanation.

So when Gail entered the white room that afternoon, the small sister was ready with an avalanche of queries.  “Why ain’t the hospital big enough as ’tis?  What do they need an edition for?  Why won’t Robinson Danbury give them any money, and why do they think he ought to?  What’s the matter with the churches and how do they bleed to death?”

Gail stopped short in her tracks.  “Why, girlie!” she cried apprehensively, noting the scarlet flush on the thin cheeks, “what do you mean?  What is the matter?  Have you been dreaming?  What are you talking about?”

So Peace told her of the conference held that morning just outside her door, and Gail listened attentively, surprised that the small maid should display such interest in a question supposed to concern only her elders.

“What’s all the fuss about?” Peace asked a second time before Gail could decide whether or not it would be advisable to try to explain.

“Well,” she said at length, “it happens that this is the only hospital in the state which belongs to our church,-that is, to our denomination, you understand.  A man by the name of John Danbury planned and built it with his own money, and gave it to the church with the understanding that it was to be supported by our people.  His plan was to have the hospital take only poor patients, but even with the church’s help they couldn’t anywhere nearly pay their way when they did that, and they have had to accept pay patients almost entirely.  So rather than give up this pet idea of his, Mr. Danbury decided to build an addition just for charity cases.  But he died without a will,-that is, without anything to show how he wanted his money spent, and his son, Robson, got it all.  The son was hurt in a railroad accident about a month ago, and was brought here to be treated.  Up to that time, he had absolutely refused to give the Hospital Board a dollar toward carrying out his father’s wishes, although he himself knew what the plans had been.  But while he was here, he sort of changed his mind.  I suppose he had never before realized how many people a hospital reaches; and he hinted that perhaps after all he might do a little to help the Board build its addition.  The committee was to visit him this morning and get his definite answer, but last night some cats got to squalling in the court under his window, and-”

“I know,” Peace interrupted.  “It sounded, like a baby.  I started Miss Hays off to find out who it was.”

“Well, it bothered the nurses who were off duty, too, and finally Miss Gee could stand it no longer, so she deluged the cats with a pitcher of water,-”

“Yes, and some of it landed on the sill just under her window, and spattered a sick man inside.  Mercy! how he swore!”

“And that sick man was Robson Danbury.”

“Goodness gracious!” gasped Peace.  “No wonder he won’t build any more hospital.”

“It is such a pity to act so childish about it.”

“I s’pose it does seem so to everyone else, but just s’posing you had got settled comfortable on a boiling hot night, and someone spilled water all over you.  How would you like it?”

“But it was purely an accident, Peace.”

“Accidents don’t always make a fellow feel nice,” the child asserted.  “And the committee oughtn’t to have visited him just after he got half drowned.  They might have known he’d be ugly.”

“They knew nothing whatever of the accident until he told them.  It seems that even Miss Gee herself did not realize that anything but the cats had been soaked, He was so angry that he refused to stay here any longer, and as soon as he could get his clothes on, the ambulance took him home.  It is such a shame, for the hospital does need more room so badly, and now-”

“’F I was the hospital, I’d just show him that I could build all the rooms I wanted to without any of his old money.”

“O, they intend to try to raise seventy-five thousand dollars by subscriptions from the churches.  That was decided today.  But it will be a hard job.”

“Who’s going to do it?”

“Do what?”

“Why, the work, of course.  You said it would be a hard job.”

“O, they mean to open the campaign next Sunday in Martindale, and the bishop is to preach the first sermon.  After that, Rev. Mr. Murdock will do most of the preaching.  He is secretary of the Hospital Association, you know.”

“Is the bishop to preach in our church?”


“And take up a collection?”

“A subscription one.”

“And I won’t be there!  Why couldn’t they wait till I got home?”

“They must begin at once, dear, if they hope to raise such a great sum before Conference.”

“What’s the difference between a collection and a perscription?”

Subscription, child.  Well-er-we take up collections every Sunday in our regular services, but a subscription gives the people a longer time to pay what they have promised.”

The conversation turned to other subjects, but had Gail only known it, the busy brain under the curly brown thatch was puzzling over ways and means of taking part in that important subscription when she was miles away and absolutely bankrupt.  She had given her last mite to help purchase a typewriter for her little author lady.

But while the nurse was making her ready for the night, a sudden thought came to her, and holding up the slender finger on which gleamed her birthday ring, one of her most prized possessions, she asked, “How much do rings cost, Miss Keith?”

“Rings like yours?”


“Well, I’m not much of a judge of jewelry, but I should say that was worth maybe ten or fifteen dollars.  That stone looks like a real ruby.”

“’Tis a real ruby, though ’tain’t very big.”

“I never owned but one ring in my life, and that was a plain band.  I don’t know anything about precious stones, but no doubt your ring cost a pretty penny.”

When she had gone on to her next charge, Peace sat warily up in bed, snatched paper and pencil from the stand close by and scribbled a brief and hurried note, which read: 

“Deer Bishup,-I can’t be at church Sunday when you take up a subscription to build some more Danbury Hospittle, cause I am in the hospittle myself, and I have spent all my money.  Nurse says my ruby ring which Grandpa gave me on my last birthday cost as much as 10 or 15 dólars; so I am sending my ring for your collection.  You can sell it to some honest jueler and give the Money to the hospittle.  It has been worn only a little while for my birthday was New Years, and I’ve been in the hospittle ever since, so the ring is reely as good as new.  I would sell it myself if I could get out but I can’t. 
                                Yours truly,
                                         PEACE GREENFIELD.”

When the bishop rose to face the select and fashionable audience in the South Avenue Church the following Sabbath Day, his heart misgave him.  What message could he bring to this people which would open their hearts and pocketbooks to help in the Lord’s great work?  He had prepared a most careful and elaborate sermon for the occasion, but as he stood looking down into that sea of critical faces before him, he realized that here was a people who needed a soul’s awakening, and with a sudden determination he cast aside his scholarly efforts, and drawing from his pocket a hastily scrawled letter and a small, ruby ring, he told their simple story so beautifully and so well that purse-strings, as well as heart-strings, responded instantly, and the following day a telegram reached Danbury Hospital which read, “Fifteen thousand dollars subscribed at South Avenue Church.  Thank God for our ’Peace which passeth understanding.’”

The hospital staff was at a loss to explain these strange words until a visit from the bishop himself made everything clear.  Then great was the rejoicing, for instinctively each heart knew that the simple little ring had won the fight.  The story of its giving was an “open Sesame” wherever it was told, and the much needed addition to Danbury Hospital was made possible through the sacrifice of one childish heart’s dearest treasure.

Verily, “A little child shall lead them.”