Read CHAPTER XVI - PEACE DISCOVERS SOME SECRETS of Heart of Gold , free online book, by Ruth Alberta Brown, on

Peace was on crutches!  And her delight knew no bounds.

“Why, I didn’t s’pose I’d ever really come to use them!” she exclaimed in breathless wonder while the doctor was adjusting the pads to her arms and showing her how to manage them.

“Didn’t I tell you that some fine day you would be walking again?” he demanded.

“O, yes, but I thought that was just so I’d keep on hoping for something which never could happen.”

The doctor glanced in surprise over the brown head at the big sister Gail, who was watching proceedings with interest, and his lips formed the question, “Doesn’t she know the whole truth?”

“No, I think not,” Gail whispered back.

“Then let’s not tell her.  She will enjoy it more if she finds it out herself.”

Gail nodded brightly; and as the little sister hopped nimbly out into the hallway, anxious to display her new accomplishment to other patients and nurses, the two grown-ups fell into a confidential chat, and Peace was for the moment forgotten.  That just suited the small maid, eager to try her wings by herself, and finding that neither doctor nor sister followed her, she tapped her way down the corridor to the broad stairway leading to the first floor, and began a laborious descent, fearful every moment lest someone should hear and prevent her from carrying out her daring plan.  But no one came to stop her, and with much resting and readjusting of the awkward crutches, Peace managed to reach the bottom of the flight without serious mishap.

“Mercy! but that’s hard work!” she panted, pausing to get her breath before resuming her journey.  “Now where, I wonder?  O, there’s the office.  I’ll go call on Miss Murch first.  She hasn’t been up to see me for days.  I guess she must be sick herself.”

Softly, slowly, she tapped across the hallway to the office door, but stopped on the threshold.  The room was empty.  That is, Miss Murch was not there; but at the sound of her crutches, a coarsely clad, uncouth giant rose from the dimmest corner and shuffled toward her, twirling a greasy felt hat in his ham-like hands, and looking decidedly ill at ease.  For once Peace was at a loss for a word of greeting, but stood with mouth open surveying him much as if he had been an ogre, until finally he growled out, “Well, d’you b’long to this shebang?”


“Well, where the deuce is the head mogul?  I’ve been waiting here ’most an hour and not a soul has hove in sight.  I came to see about Essie Martin.”

“Essie Martin!” Peace was awake at once.  That was the name of the little girl whom Miss Wayne had told her about long ago.  “Where is Essie Martin?”


“In this building?”


“When did she come?”

“A fortnight ago.”

“What’s the matter with her?”

“Darned nonsense.  The doctor calls it appendiceetis.”

“Are you her father?”


He had turned so the light from a nearby window fell full upon his face, and Peace deliberately surveyed him from head to heels; then calmly, as if speaking to herself, she remarked, “Well, Miss Wayne was right.  You do look like a hog, don’t you?  Only the hogs I know are some cleaner.”

The man glared angrily at her, but being too thick-skinned to take in the full meaning of the child’s words, he caught only the familiar name she had spoken.  “Miss Wayne?” he bellowed.  “A nurse?  Is she here?”

“No, but she was once.  She took care of me.  Has Essie still got her doll?”

“Doll!” snarled the father savagely.  “She can’t think of nothing else.  The lazy jade!”

“I knew it, I knew it!” cried Peace, clapping her hands triumphantly.  “I told Miss Wayne that Essie and her mother were all right.  ’Twas just you that wanted that plug of tobacco.  Why didn’t Essie’s mother come, too?”

“She’s dead.”

“O!” Peace was staggered by his blunt, indifferent reply, but before she could frame another question, Miss Murch appeared from an inner office, at the same moment that Miss Keith stepped through the doorway from behind them in search of her truant patient; and Peace suffered herself to be led docilely away.  So absorbed was she in her new discovery that even her pleasure in her ability to walk again was forgotten.

Dr. Shumway and Gail had disappeared when she reached her room, and the nurse reported that they had gone motoring; but the fact that they had neglected to invite her to accompany them failed to bother her much.  Her busy brain was seething with new schemes.  She must find Essie Martin and talk with her.  Where was the head nurse? She would know all about the case.  There, Miss Keith had gone to answer someone’s bell.  Peace clapped her hands in silent glee, and making sure that the eagle-eyed nurse was actually out of range, she hurriedly set out to find Miss Gee, knowing full well that that kindly woman would be able to tell her what she wanted most to learn.

The next day when Gail appeared, prepared for a storm of passionate reproaches, Peace pounced upon her with the exclamation, “O, sister, I’ve got the most questions to ask and the most things to tell!  It’s been ages since I’ve seen you.  I hardly know where to begin,-whether to tell about Essie first, or-”

“Who is Essie?” laughed Gail, settling herself composedly for the torrent of prattle that was sure to follow.

“Why, Essie Martin, the little girl which Miss Wayne told me about,-the one she sent two dolls to.  One got burned up, you ’member.”

“O, yes.  Well, what is the news about her?”

“She is here in the hospital.  I met her father yesterday.  Her mother died three months ago, and Essie has been dreadful sick with appendage-itis.  It’s cut out now, and she is going to get well, but her father don’t want her any more.  She is only a girl and it will be years before she’s big enough to keep house.  So he means to put her in an orphant asylum,-just give her away, Gail, for someone to adopt!  Isn’t it perfectly heathenish?”

“But maybe she will be better off, dear, than she is now,” Gail answered gravely, recalling some of the sad incidents connected with unfortunate Essie’s brief history.

“That’s what Miss Keith said when I was telling her about it, but it seems dreadful for an own father to give away his only little girl.  I couldn’t bear to think of her in a ’sylum, Gail, for she is an awful sweet little thing.  I’ve been in to see her, and she looks lots like our Allee.  So I asked Miss Gee if she didn’t s’pose Aunt Pen could make room for her at Oak Knoll, and we’ve written to find out.  How I’d like to see Miss Wayne again and tell her that Essie does love her doll and that her mother didn’t want that tobacco.  Essie don’t want to go there-to the ’sylum, I mean,-but she doesn’t want to go home, either.  Don’t you think Oak Knoll would be a nice place for her?”

“Yes, indeed, and I am sure she would like it there, too.  If Aunt Pen can possibly find room for her, she will certainly do so.  I am glad Miss Gee has written already.”

“So’m I. It will be nice to have Essie in Martindale where I can go to see her sometimes.  She is so nice.  I know Allee will like her, too.  She brought her Christmas doll along when she came to the hospital, and is wild to see Miss Wayne.  The doll is dressed ever so cute, and is just as clean as when she got it, in spite of her father being such a hoggy-looking man.  She must have had hard work to keep it like that if the rest of the family are as dirty as he is.  Miss Wayne thought all the Martins wanted of her was what presents they could get, but you see Essie really loves her doll.  She has named it Helen, after Miss Wayne.  Why, there she is, now.  I’ve a good notion to holler to her.”  Peace, having glanced casually down into the street below, suddenly started up from her chair with a gleeful shout.

“Who?” demanded Gail, startled at the exclamation.

“Miss Wayne, of course.  She is sitting in Dr. Race’s auto, and isn’t in her uniform today, either.  I wonder why.  That is the third time I have seen her riding with the doctor when she didn’t have on her white clothes.  She can’t have very many cases these days, I guess.  Aren’t there any sick folks to take care of?”

“Why-er-I think she is going to take care of the doctor after this,” laughed Gail, a conscious blush flooding her pretty face.

“What doctor?”

“Dr. Race.”

“Is he sick?”

“No.  O, no.  But Miss Wayne is soon to become his wife, my dear.”

“His wife!  Mercy sakes!  Ain’t that just my luck?  O, dear!” wailed the small sister in distress.

“Why, what in the world is the matter?” cried Gail in great surprise.  “I am sure that is a delightful sequel to a beautiful romance.  Dr. Race is such a good man as well as a wonderfully successful physician, and Miss Wayne will make an ideal wife for him.  Think how happy they will be in a little home of their very own.”

“That may all be so,” Peace reluctantly admitted, “but what am I going to do now for a pattern?  She was an old maid-she said so herself-and I’d made up my mind to be just like her; and here she’s going to be married after all.  That’s the way it happens every time with me.  I thought Miss Swift wanted Dr. Race for a husband.  The nurses used to joke about it all the time, and if Miss Wayne was going to get married at all, I don’t see why she didn’t pick out Dr. Dick.  I like him best of all.  O, I forgot to tell you,-he broke his leg last night.”

“Who?” Gail flew out of her chair like a ball from a cannon’s mouth.

“Dr. Dick.”

“Peace Greenfield, what do you mean?” shrieked the older girl, seizing the small sister by the shoulder with a grip that hurt.

“Ouch!  Leggo!  Don’t you ever pinch me like that again!  His automobile ran into a telegraph pole when he tried to turn out so’s he wouldn’t hit a baby playing in the street, and he fell out and broke his leg.  It’s a wonder that he wasn’t hurt eternally.  They brought him here and Dr. Kruger set it.  My, but he’s ugly!  I’ve been in to see him already this morning.  I just had to get even with him for the trick he played on me when I first came here, so I told him that when he wanted to walk to remember he would find four legs under his bed.  But he never thought it a bit funny.  Doctors and nurses do make the meanest patients when they are sick of anyone I know,” concluded Peace sagely.

Gail had stood like one petrified as Peace chattered volubly on, but now she found her voice and excitedly interrupted, “But Dick-Dr. Shumway-where is he now?  Why didn’t anyone tell me before?”

“He’s in Room 10, down the hall,-though I don’t see why you should be told any sooner than-”

But Gail had vanished; and Peace, after one long, amazed look after the fleeing form, grabbed her crutches and started in pursuit, muttering as she hobbled along, “I’m going to see what’s the matter.”

At the threshold of the doctor’s room, however, she paused, transfixed at the sight of Gail bending over the prostrate figure on the narrow bed, kissing-yes, actually kissing-a pair of mustached lips.

“Mercy!” she gasped, backing out precipitately.

But the lovers neither heard nor heeded.

“I thought you would never come!” the doctor was saying fervently, while he held Gail fast in his arms.  “Kruger promised that he would ’phone you last night.”

“I never knew a word about it until Peace told me a minute ago,” Gail protested.

“What would we do without our Peace?” he murmured.  Then discovering the shocked face in the doorway, he exclaimed, “Why, here she is herself!  Hello, chicken!”

“You-you kissed her,” Peace exploded. “I saw you!

“Yes,” he answered brazenly, “and I am going to do it again.”

“Are you-have you gone and got married,-you two?”

“Not yet,” he laughed boyishly.  “But we are going to do just that very thing as soon as I can coax her to set the day.  You don’t mean to say that you object?”

“No-O, no.  If she’s got to have a husband, I don’t know of a better one than you, except St. John, and he is already married once.  But-I-am-surprised!  Isn’t she-er-rather young?”

And she could not understand why they laughed.