Read CHAPTER XVII - A HOSPITAL WEDDING of Heart of Gold , free online book, by Ruth Alberta Brown, on

Peace, with writing pad and pencil in hand, climbed laboriously up into the deep window recess overlooking the wide lawns of Danbury Hospital, and propped her crutches against the sash, so that by no chance they could fall to the floor out of her reach while she was composing her weekly letter to St. Elspeth.

“I’ve got so much to write her,” she sighed, chewing her pencil abstractedly.  “I wish I could work a typewriter.  ’Twould be so much easier to ’tend to all my letters then.  It’s tiresome writing things by hand.  If it wasn’t Elspeth, I wouldn’t try today.  It’s so lovely and cool just to sit here and watch folks pass along the street.  I ’most wish now that I had gone with Gail and Dr. Dick in their auto.-There, that’s the first thing I must tell Elspeth.  She’ll be awful glad to know Gail is going to have such a nice husband.  And the ring he gave her is too pretty for anything.  Everyone has diamonds for their ’gagement rings, but it takes someone with brains to think up a ring out of sapphires and topazes, ’cause his birthday is in September and hers in November.  When I get married, that’s the kind of a ring I want, only I hope my husband’s birthday stone is a ruby, ’cause I like them best of all.”

Peace paused in her soliloquy long enough to write the date at the top of the page; then again thrust the pencil point into her mouth as she gazed reflectively out of the open window.

“Well,” said a voice with startling abruptness almost at her elbow, “I shouldn’t want to be in her shoes.  No matter which place she chooses someone is going to feel hurt.”

“That’s what she gets for being so popular,” laughed another voice, which Peace recognized as that of Miss Keith.

“You should say ‘they,’ instead of ‘she,’ for Dr. Race is as popular as Miss Wayne,” interposed a third speaker; and the pair of startled brown eyes peering around the corner of the window seat beheld a quartette of white-capped nurses seated at a long table in the hallway, busy with heaps of snowy cotton and great squares of surgeon’s gauze.

“I wonder what Miss Wayne has done now?” thought Peace, when, as if in echo of her thoughts, the fourth member of the little group asked hesitatingly, “What is all the fuss about?  You see, I am so new here that I don’t understand.”

“Well, Miss Kellogg, neither do some of us older ones,” retorted Miss Swift with an unpleasant laugh.  “It seems to me that it is ’much ado about nothing.’  Whose business is it if a doctor and a nurse decide to get married?  Why don’t they go to the justice of the peace or some parsonage and have it over with, instead of making such a stew-”

“You see, Miss Kellogg,” interrupted Miss Keith mischievously, “our friend Swift had her eye on the doctor-”

“Now, girls,” suggested the quiet voice of the first speaker, gentle Miss Gerald, “don’t enter into personalities, please.  They always breed ill feeling.  You have met Helen Wayne, have you not, Miss Kellogg?”

“Yes, indeed.  I think she is lovely.”

“So does Dr. Race and all the rest of us,” put in Miss Keith, unable to resist another wicked glance at her neighbor.

“Well, they are to be married very soon, and neither of them has any relatives living here in Fairview, so-”

“All their friends began to interfere,” said Miss Swift.

“O!” But Miss Kellogg still looked mystified.

“Now don’t pretend that it was as bad as all that,” protested Miss Gerald.  “It seems that Dr. Shumway was a classmate of Dr. Race, and they have always been great friends; so Mrs. Wood, Dr. Shumway’s sister, asked them to be married at her house.  But Dr. Kruger’s wife and Helen graduated from the same school, and the Krügers urged them to have the ceremony performed at their place.”

“And then Dr. Canfield bobs up with the assurance that he will feel most dreadfully hurt if they don’t honor him by coming there,” interrupted Miss Keith.  “Miss Wayne nursed her first case under him, and he thinks her popularity is due solely to the recommendation he gave her,-the dear old fogy!”

“Also the Fairview Club, to which Dr. Race belongs, wants them to be married at the Club-house.  O, it’s great to be popular!”

“Why don’t they simplify matters by having a church wedding?” asked Miss Kellogg, much interested.

“Ha-ha-ha!” laughed her three companions.  “That’s where the joke comes.  They belong to different churches, and are both intimate friends of their pastors’ families.”

“Well, that does complicate matters, doesn’t it?” said the newcomer musingly.  “She is surely in a dilemma, isn’t she?”

“Don’t you agree with me that she would better patronize a justice of the peace?” asked Miss Swift.

I don’t,” replied a decided voice just behind them, and the quartette jumped nervously at the unexpected sound, for not one of them was aware of the hidden listener.

“You don’t what?” they gasped, as the curly brown head came into view from the deep recess.

“I don’t think she ought to patternize the justice of the p’lice,” replied Peace, limping over to the long table where they were all at work, “I’d just be married here at the hospital and fool ’em all.”

“At the hospital!” echoed Miss Keith.

“What utter nonsense!” flashed Miss Swift.

“I think it is a novel idea,” put in the new nurse decidedly.

“And why not?” asked Miss Gerald, after her first gasp of surprise.  “Who would have a better right?  Helen Wayne graduated from this institution, and Harvey Race was house doctor for a long time.”

“But whoever heard of a wedding in a hospital?” exclaimed Miss Swift sarcastically.  “It is utterly ridiculous.”

“The ceremony could take place in that bay window at the end of the hall,” planned Miss Kellogg, ignoring the attitude of her sister nurse.  “It would make a lovely archway.”

“And the roses are just at their best now,” added Miss Gerald.  “That is her favorite flower.”

“Miss Foster is a musician, isn’t she?” asked Miss Keith, entering into their plans with spirit.  “We could get her to play the wedding march.”

“On what?” inquired the dissenting member of the party.  “Our lovely little baby organ which has an incurable case of asthma?  Or the grand piano which we don’t possess?”

“The grand piano, by all means,” replied Miss Keith, nettled by her companion’s words.

“Perhaps the hospital’s fairy godmother will turn up with a piano for the occasion,” suggested the gentle little peacemaker nurse.  “We certainly need a decent instrument badly enough.”

“Maybe we could hire one for just that night,” Peace excitedly proposed.  “We did that in Parker.  Our school didn’t own a piano, so we hired one when we needed it.”

“You make me laugh,” jeered Miss Swift.  “You talk as if it were all settled.  Do you suppose for one moment that the Hospital Board would listen to such a thing?”

“They meet today,-we’ll ask them,” quietly answered Miss Gerald.

“And supposing they should consent to such a preposterous scheme, do you think the doctors would allow their patients to be excited and disturbed over having such an event in this building?”

“It would be the best kind of a tonic for every soul under this roof.  ‘All the world loves a lover,’ you know.”

An audible sniff was the only reply their disgruntled comrade made; but at that moment Dr. Race himself entered the corridor and beckoned to Miss Gerald.  So the quartette dispersed to take up other duties.

Peace, her desire for letter writing forgotten, wandered forlornly away to her room to await Gail’s return, mentally chiding herself that she had allowed the big sister to go motoring without her.  “I could have gone as well as not; but they prob’ly wouldn’t have driven very far if I had; while as ’tis, they’ll likely stay till dark.”

She curled up in a comfortable bunch on the couch, propped her head against the window sash and fell to daydreaming, until the big eyes grew heavy with sleep, and she drifted away to the Land of Nod, where she dreamed that her beloved Miss Wayne was married to the man of her choice by a blue-coated policeman, on the flat roof of the Martindale fire-house, while all the doctors and nurses and sick folks from Danbury Hospital marched around and around in procession, vainly seeking some means of mounting to the room also.

Then suddenly the small sleeper was aroused by feeling a pair of strong arms encircling her and lifting her into somebody’s capacious lap.

“You precious child!” she heard a familiar voice saying, and a warm kiss was pressed upon her forehead.

Her eyes flew quickly open, as she cried, “O, I know who you are-Miss Wayne!  Are-are you married yet?”

“No, goosie.  Did you suppose I could get married without having you there, too?  You’re almost as important as the bridegroom.”

“Well, I dreamed you were, but I’m glad to hear it isn’t so.  Have you decided who you’re going to hurt yet?”

“Whom I am going to hurt?” echoed Miss Wayne in surprise.  “I hope I’m not going to hurt anyone.  That isn’t my business.”

“Miss Gerald said so many folks wanted you to be married at their house that you were bound to hurt someone’s feelings no matter what you did.”

“O, but you fixed that for me beautifully, Peace Greenfield!” and she kissed the white forehead again.

“Me!  How?”

“I’m going to be married here at the hospital.  The Board invited me to!  What do you think of that?  Surely everyone ought to be satisfied with that arrangement.”

“O, goody!” Peace clapped her hands gleefully.  “I was afraid the doctors wouldn’t let you.  Miss Swift said they wouldn’t.”

“Miss Swift-oh, you mustn’t remember anything she says,-poor girl.”

“Well, I won’t, but I guess she wanted your doctor herself-”

“Hush, childie.  Don’t say such things.  I couldn’t help it.  I didn’t try to make him love me.”

“I’m glad he had some sense. I had picked out Dr. Dick for you, but my own sister Gail got him; so it’s all right.  I like Dr. Race next best.  When are you going to be married?”

“Next week Wednesday.”

“So soon?  Why, I thought it took heaps of time to get ready for a marriage,-making clothes, and baking the cake and-and all such things as that.”

“I have taken heaps of time,” smiled the woman whimsically.

“Why, I didn’t know that.  When did you get time?  You have always been busy nursing since I knew you.”

“Years and years ago, when I was a little child, my father made me a beautiful cedar chest, and on every birthday mother laid away some pillow slips or linen sheets, or a piece of silverware.  When I grew older, I made some quilts and hemmed towels and napkins by the dozen, embroidered sofa-cushions and doilies, and even fashioned some window draperies for the ‘den’ of my house to be.  Only my own clothes remained undone when we decided to go hand in hand the rest of the way through life; and much of that work a dressmaker has done, because I have had neither time nor talent.”

“Did she make your wedding dress?” asked Peace eagerly.  “What is it like?  And are you going to have a veil?”

Miss Wayne hesitated.  “Well, I had thought some of being married in my uniform-”

“Uniform!” Peace interrupted in keen disappointment.  “Just your old white dress and cap and apron?  Why?”

“Because I am to be married here at the hospital.”

“But-but-that won’t be pretty.  What will the doctor do for a uniform,-so’s folks will know he is a doctor, I mean?  Will he wear his automobile gloves and lug his medicine v’lise?” Peace inquired.

Miss Wayne drew her breath in sharply, unable to decide whether the child in her lap was sarcastic or in earnest.  But before she could make reply, Peace continued, “Everyone knows what you look like in your nurse’s uniform, but we’ve none of us seen you in a sure-enough wedding dress.  You’d look lovely in one, I know, even if you are fat-I mean plump.  I don’t see why you are so stuck on being married in a white cap and apron.”

“Well, as to that, I only thought it might be more appropriate.  Some of the nurses hinted-”

“O, yes, that sounds like that Swift person’s plan; but I don’t think it is at all nice.  How does Dr. Race like it?”

“O, I haven’t told him yet.  In fact, I really haven’t fully decided.  I have mother’s wedding dress.  Sister Lucy and my cousin Dell were married in it, and perhaps I-”

“O, do!” shrieked Peace enraptured.  “Those long-ago wedding dresses are always so homely and cute.  I just love ’em.  Grandma still has hers, and she said she hoped some of us would want to wear it when we marry, but I guess she didn’t ’xpect any of us would be ready for it quite so soon.  She was awfully ’stonished when Dr. Dick wrote that he wanted Gail.  I wish she was going to be married when you are.  Then we could have a double wedding.  I’ve always wanted to see one of those things.”

Miss Wayne smiled at the child’s ingenious plans, but said seriously, “Well, if I am to be married in a satin gown and lace veil, we must do things up properly all around.  I’ll have Gail for one of my bridesmaids, and you must be my flower girl.”

“O,” gasped Peace, breathless with delight.  “Wouldn’t that be grand!  But I can’t, Miss Wayne.  A limpy flower girl would be dreadful.  Let Essie Martin be flower girl, and I’ll whistle for you to march up by.  How will that do?” She looked up eagerly at the face above her, but Miss Wayne had not heard her question.

“Essie Martin!” said the woman in grave wonder.  “What do you know about Essie Martin?”

“She is here-”


“Upstairs in Miss Blake’s ward.”

“Since when?  How did she get here?  Is she very sick?  How did you know her and why didn’t you tell me before?”

“I hain’t seen you myself since I found out that Essie was here.”  Peace suddenly remembered her grievance against her beloved friend.  “You haven’t been up once for weeks.  I’ve seen you only from my window when you were riding with Dr. Race.  Essie has got appendicitis, but it’s cut out now and she is almost well enough to go home,-that is, to Aunt Pen, for her father is going to give her away.  She still has her doll, and it is named ‘Helen’ after you, and her mother is dead, and she would be awfully pleased to be flower girl at your wedding, ’cause she likes you. She didn’t want that plug of tobacco, nor neither did her mother.  And her father looks like the hog you said he did, only he is dirtier.”

With quick intuition, Miss Wayne listened to this amazing jumble; then gently slid Peace back onto her couch as she said with abrupt decision, “I must see Essie.  Anyway, here comes Gail.  You will want to talk to her for a while, and it will soon be time for tea.  Good-bye, little Heart o’ Gold.”

She was gone, and Peace was left alone with the big sister to tell all the marvelous things that had happened that one afternoon.

So it was decided that Gail was to be bridesmaid with Miss Keith, Miss Gerald, and Miss Crane; Essie Martin was to be flower girl, and Billy Bolée the little page.  Miss Foster was to play the piano, borrowed for the occasion, with Peace to whistle the accompaniment.

O, it took hours of the most delightful planning!  Then nurses and doctors got busy.  Miss Wayne was banished from the building entirely, and Dr. Race was bidden to go his rounds with his eyes shut.  There was much rustling and bustling as the host of eager friends decorated the wide, white corridor for the occasion.  No sound of hammer must disturb the patients housed within those walls, but it was marvelous what miracles a few thumb tacks and bits of string accomplished.  Long ropes of smilax and syringa, intertwined with pink tulle, swung from the high ceiling.  The great chandelier and lesser lights were festooned with the same delicate greenery.  The elevator shaft was completely hidden by woodland vines which Gail and Keturah Wood had gathered, and huge jardinieres filled with waxy snowballs occupied every available corner.  The big window where the bride and groom were to stand was hung with fishnet, twined and intertwined with ferns from the forest and sweet wild roses with the dew sparkling on their rosy petals, for the wedding was to take place in early morning.

At last everything was in readiness, everyone was dressed in his best, the nurses and convalescent patients were assembled in one end of the corridor, the outside guests in the other end, and it lacked only the presence of the bridal party to make the beautiful scene complete.

Peace, resplendent in filmy white, had stolen from her place behind the piano for one last glimpse of the festive decorations, while she waited impatiently for the chimes of the distant court-house to strike the hour.  “O, but it’s lovely,” she breathed in ecstasy, as her eyes wandered from floor to ceiling.  “How everyone loves Miss Wayne!”

“Do you know why?” asked a voice at her elbow, and she looked up into the grave face of the kindly matron.

“No,” she managed to stammer.  “Why?”

“Because she has a heart of gold.”

Miss Wayne’s parting words of yesterday flashed through the active brain, and Peace asked with breathless eagerness, “O, tell me how to get a heart of gold, then.”

“The good Lord gives us each one when we come into the world,” answered the gray-haired woman earnestly.  “But many of us are content enough with the glitter of the fool’s gold which is found a-plenty in every life; and we don’t delve for the real gold.  We slip along in a don’t-care way, neglecting the opportunities that come to us to better humanity; seeking the easiest tasks, satisfied with that kind of existence.  The miner who digs in the bowels of the earth for his gold has to work and struggle and strive.  So we, too, if we make the most of God’s gifts to us, must work and struggle and strive.”

A little perplexed, for poor Peace could not understand many of the long words which the matron had used, she seemed to grasp the “tiny text” of the little sermon, and said thoughtfully as she turned away, “Then I’ll work and stumble and thrive, for I want a heart of gold like Miss Wayne’s.”

Then slowly the silvery toned chimes began to ring, there was a rustling sound on the stairway, and Peace had just time to slip into her place again when the strains of the piano began the measured notes of stately Lohengrin.  From somewhere Dr. Race and the minister appeared and took their places beneath the canopy of wild roses, but Peace paid scant attention to them.  Her eyes were glued upon the other end of the corridor where the bridal procession was already approaching, with Essie Martin in the lead, and-could it be?-yes, it was golden-haired, radiant Allee marching beside her, both scattering rose petals from dainty baskets hung from their arms.  How had Allee gotten there?  Peace almost forgot her part when her amazed eyes fell upon that familiar form.  But close behind the little flower girls came the four bridesmaids, gowned in delicate and garlanded with wild roses; and the sight of the older sister’s sweet face restored the young musician’s composure, so that after only one or two quavering notes, she whistled more blithely than ever.  This certainly was a day of delightful happenings!

Following the pretty bridesmaids toddled wee Billy Bolée, clad in white from head to toe, and bearing in his chubby little hands a tiny white velvet pillow upon which rested the simple gold wedding ring.  The bride was almost too lovely to describe, dressed as she was in the heavy brocaded satin gown which had been her mother’s forty years before, and half hidden by the clinging, filmy veil, which floated like a fleecy cloud about her.

Peace never could remember what happened after that.  She saw the bride take her place beside Dr. Race, and she saw the black-frocked minister stand up in front of them.  Then someone gave a signal and a shower of rose petals fell from the bell above their heads and covered doctor and nurse with sweet fragrance.  Immediately the guests began to file past to greet the happy couple, and a subdued murmur of voices filled the long corridor.

“But when is the wedding to be?” demanded Peace in surprise.  “Seems to me folks are in an awful hurry.  Why don’t they wait till the wedding is over?”

“The wedding is already over,” answered Miss Foster, laughing at the child’s dismay.

“They aren’t married yet?” protested Peace in great astonishment.

“Yes, they are, and the wedding breakfast will be served directly at Dr. Kruger’s house.”

“But-but-doesn’t it take longer to get married than that?”


“I-I thought it would.”

“Why, childie?”

“Well, it took so long to put the dec’rations up, and for everyone to dress, it seems ’s if the minister might have talked a little longer.  They’d hardly stood up together before it was all over.”

Again Miss Foster laughed merrily.  “Just you wait, little girl, till it comes your turn to stand up while the minister talks, and you will think it is plenty long enough,” she warned, rising to join the bridal party moving slowly down the corridor toward the waiting autos in the street below.

At last the wonderful event was over, the happy doctor and his smiling bride had departed on their honeymoon amid a shower of fragrant rose petals; and Peace, clinging fast to Allee, was again in her room with Gail.

“O, but it was beau-ti-ful!” she sighed blissfully.  “I hope my wedding will be as nice.  Didn’t the music sound lovely?  I ’most forgot to whistle when I saw Allee coming along with Essie Martin,-I was so ’stonished!  Nobody had hinted a word that she was going to be here.  I didn’t even ’spect Miss Wayne knew her.  My! but the day has been full of s’prises!  There was the wedding first,-I’d no idea it could be so pretty,-and then there was Allee’s coming when I thought she was at home in Martindale.  And then Dr. Dick told me while we were at breakfast that I could go home in two weeks more, and right after that along came Mrs. Wood and said you and Allee and me were to be her guests for the last week we were here.  And now Essie Martin has just been in to tell the best news of all,-Miss Wayne, I mean Mrs. Race-is going to adopt her, and she won’t have to go to Oak Knoll after all.  O, Gail I do feel ’s if I could flap my wings and crow,-I’m so happy!”

Tenderly Gail drew the small sisters closely to her side, and smiled radiantly down at the two up-turned faces, as she said simply, “And I, too.”