By morning Grace was as nervous and anxious as her patient, who had momentarily the advantage of her in having fallen asleep. She went stealthily out, and walked the length of the piazza, bathing her eyes with the sight of the sea, cool and dim under a clouded sky. At the corner next the kitchen she encountered Barlow, who, having kindled the fire for the cook, had spent s moment of leisure in killing some chickens at the barn; he appeared with a cluster of his victims in his hand, but at sight of Grace he considerately put them behind him.
She had not noticed them. "Mr. Barlow," she said, "how far is it to Corbitant?"
Barlow slouched into a conversational posture, easily resting on his raised hip the back of the hand in which he held the chickens. "Well, it 's accordin' to who you ask. Some says six mile, and real clever folks makes it about four and a quarter."
"I ask you," persisted Grace.
"Well, the last time I was there, I thought it was about sixty. 'Most froze my fingers goin' round the point. 'N' all I was afraid of was gettin' there too soon. Tell you, a lee shore ain't a pleasant neighbor in a regular old northeaster. 'F you go by land, I guess it's about ten mile round through the woods. Want to send for Dr. Mulbridge? I thought mebbe"—
"No, no!" said Grace. She turned back into the house, and then she came running out again; but by this time Barlow had gone into the kitchen, where she heard him telling the cook that these were the last of the dommyneckers. At breakfast several of the ladies came and asked after Mrs. Maynard, whose restless night they had somehow heard of. When she came out of the dining-room' Miss Gleason waylaid her in the hall.
"Dr. Breen," she said, in a repressed tumult, "I hope you won't give way. For woman's sake, I hope you won't! You owe it to yourself not to give way! I'm sure Mrs. Maynard is as well off in your hands as she can be. If I did n't think so, I should be the last to advise your being firm; but, feeling as I do, I do advise it most strongly. Everything depends on it."
"I don't know what you mean, Miss Gleason," said Grace.
"I'm glad it hasn't come to you yet. If it was a question of mere professional pride, I should say, By all means call him at once. But I feel that a great deal more is involved. If you yield, you make it harder for other women to help themselves hereafter, and you confirm such people as these in their distrust of female physicians. Looking at it in a large way, I almost feel that it would be better for her to die than for you to give up; and feeling as I do"—
"Are you talking of Mrs. Maynard?" asked Grace.
"They are all saying that you ought to give up the case to Dr. Mulbridge. But I hope you won't. I should n't blame you for calling in another female physician"—
"Thank you," answered Grace. "There is no danger of her dying. But it seems to me that she has too many female physicians already. In this house I should think it better to call a man." She left the barb to rankle in Miss Gleason's breast, and followed her mother to her room, who avenged Miss Gleason by a series of inquisitional tortures, ending with the hope that, whatever she did, Grace would not have that silly creature's blood on her hands. The girl opened her lips to attempt some answer to this unanswerable aspiration, when the unwonted sound of wheels on the road without caught her ear.
"What is that, Grace?" demanded her mother, as if Grace were guilty of the noise.
"Mr. Libby," answered Grace, rising.
"Has he come for you?"
"I don't know. But I am going down to see him."
At sight of the young man's face, Grace felt her heart lighten. He had jumped from his buggy, and was standing at his smiling ease on the piazza steps, looking about as if for some one, and he brightened joyfully at her coming. He took her hand with eager friendliness, and at her impulse began to move away to the end of the piazza with her. The ladies had not yet descended to the beach; apparently their interest in Dr. Breen's patient kept them.
"How is Mrs. Maynard this morning?" he asked; and she answered, as they got beyond earshot,—
"Not better, I'm afraid."
"Oh, I'm sorry," said the young man. "Then you won't be able to drive with me this morning? I hope she is n't seriously worse?" he added, recurring to Mrs. Maynard at the sight of the trouble in Grace's face.
"I shall ask to drive with you," she returned. "Mr. Libby, do you know where Corbitant is?"
"And will you drive me there?"
"Why, certainly!" he cried, in polite wonder.
"Thank you." She turned half round, and cast a woman's look at the other women. "I shall be ready in half an hour. Will you go away, and comeback then? Not sooner."
"Anything you please, Miss Breen," he said, laughing in his mystification. "In thirty minutes, or thirty days."
They went back to the steps, and he mounted his buggy. She sat down, and taking some work from her pocket, bent her head over it. At first she was pale, and then she grew red. But these fluctuations of color could not keep her spectators long; one by one they dispersed and descended the cliff; and when she rose to go for her hat the last had vanished, with a longing look at her. It was Miss Gleason.
Grace briefly announced her purpose to her mother, who said, "I hope you are not doing anything impulsive"; and she answered, "No, I had quite made up my mind to it last night."
Mr. Libby had not yet returned when she went back to the piazza, and she walked out on the road by which he must arrive. She had not to walk far. He drew in sight before she had gone a quarter of a mile, driving rapidly. "Am I late?" he asked, turning, and pulling up at the roadside, with well-subdued astonishment at encountering her.
"Oh, no; not that I know." She mounted to the seat, and they drove off in a silence which endured for a long time. If Libby had been as vain as he seemed light, he must have found it cruelly unflattering, for it ignored his presence and even his existence. She broke the silence at last with a deep-drawn sigh, as frankly sad as if she had been quite alone, but she returned to consciousness of him in it. "Mr. Libby, you must think it is very strange for me to ask you to drive me to Corbitant without troubling myself to tell you my errand."
"Oh, not at all," said the young man. "I'm glad to be of use on any terms. It is n't often that one gets the chance."
"I am going to see Dr. Mulbridge," she began, and then stopped so long that he perceived she wished him to say something.
He said, "Yes?"
"Yes. I thought this morning that I should give Mrs. Maynard's case up to him. I shouldn't be at all troubled at seeming to give it up under a pressure of opinion, though I should not give it up for that. Of course," she explained, "you don't know that all those women have been saying that I ought to call in Dr. Mulbridge. It's one of those things," she added bitterly, "that make it so pleasant for a woman to try to help women." He made a little murmur of condolence, and she realized that she had thrown herself on his sympathy, when she thought she had been merely thinking aloud. "What I mean is that he is a man of experience and reputation, and could probably be of more use to her than I, for she would trust him more. But I have known her a long time, and I understand her temperament and her character,—which goes for a good deal in such matters,—and I have concluded not to give up the case. I wish to meet Dr. Mulbridge, however, and ask him to see her in consultation with me. That is all," she ended rather haughtily, as if she had been dramatizing the fact to Dr. Mulbridge in her own mind.
"I should think that would be the right thing," said Libby limply, with uncalled-for approval; but he left this dangerous ground abruptly. "As you say, character goes for a great deal in these things. I've seen Mrs. Maynard at the point of death before. As a general rule, she does n't die. If you have known her a long time, you know what I mean. She likes to share her sufferings with her friends. I've seen poor old Maynard"—
"Mr. Libby!" Grace broke in. "You may speak of Mr. Maynard as you like, but I cannot allow your disrespectfulness to Mrs. Maynard. It's shocking! You had no right to be their friend if you felt toward them as you seem to have done."
"Why, there was no harm in them. I liked them!" explained the young man.
"People have no right to like those they don't respect!"
Libby looked as if this were rather a new and droll idea. But he seemed not to object to her tutoring him. "Well," he said, "as far as Mrs. Maynard was concerned, I don't know that I liked her any more than I respected her."
Grace ought to have frowned at this, but she had to check a smile in. order to say gravely, "I know she is disagreeable at times. And she likes to share her sufferings with others, as you say. But her husband was fully entitled to any share of them that he may have borne. If he had been kinder to her, she wouldn't be what and where she is now."
"Kinder to her!" Libby exclaimed. "He's the kindest fellow in the world! Now, Miss Breen," he said earnestly, "I hope Mrs. Maynard hasn't been talking against her husband to you?"
"Is it possible," demanded Grace, "that you don't know they're separated, and that she's going to take steps for a divorce?"
"A divorce? No! What in the world for?"
"I never talk gossip. I thought of course she had told you"—
"She never told me a word! She was ashamed to do it! She knows that I know Maynard was the best husband in the world to her. All she told me was that he was out on his ranch, and she had come on here for her health. It's some ridiculous little thing that no reasonable woman would have dreamt of caring for. It's one of her caprices. It's her own fickleness. She's tired of him,—or thinks she is, and that's all about it. Miss Breen, I beg you won't believe anything against Maynard!"
"I don't understand," faltered Grace, astonished at his fervor; and the light it cast upon her first doubts of him. "Of course, I only know the affair from her report, and I haven't concerned myself in it, except as it affected her health. And I don't wish to misjudge him. And I like your—defending him," she said, though it instantly seemed a patronizing thing to have said. "But I couldn't withhold my sympathy where I believed there had been neglect and systematic unkindness, and finally desertion."
"Oh, I know Mrs. Maynard; I know her kind of talk. I've seen Maynard's neglect and unkindness, and I know just what his desertion would be. If he's left her, it's because she wanted him to leave her; he did it to humor her, to please her. I shall have a talk with Mrs. Maynard when we get back."
"I 'm afraid I can't allow it at present," said Grace, very seriously.
"She is worse to-day. Otherwise I should n't be giving you this trouble."
"Oh, it's no trouble"—"But I'm glad—I'm glad we've had this understanding. I'm very glad. It makes me think worse of myself and better of—others."
Libby gave a laugh. "And you like that? You're easily pleased."
She remained grave. "I ought to be able to tell you what I mean. But it is n't possible—now. Will you let me beg your pardon?" she urged, with impulsive earnestness.
"Why, yes," he answered, smiling.
"And not ask me why?"
"Thank you. Yes," she added hastily, "she is so much worse that some one of greater experience than I must see her, and I have made up my mind. Dr. Mulbridge may refuse to consult with me. I know very well that there is a prejudice against women physicians, and I couldn't especially blame him for sharing it. I have thought it all over. If he refuses, I shall know what to do." She had ceased to address Libby, who respected her soliloquy. He drove on rapidly over the soft road, where the wheels made no sound, and the track wandered with apparent aimlessness through the interminable woods of young oak and pine. The low trees were full of the sunshine, and dappled them with shadow as they dashed along; the fresh, green ferns springing from the brown carpet of the pine-needles were as if painted against it. The breath of the pines was heavier for the recent rain; and the woody smell of the oaks was pungent where the balsam failed. They met no one, but the solitude did not make itself felt through her preoccupation. From time to time she dropped a word or two; but for the most she was silent, and he did not attempt to lead. By and by they came to an opener place, where there were many red field-lilies tilting in the wind.
"Would you like some of those?" he asked, pulling up.
"I should, very much," she answered, glad of the sight of the gay things. But when he had gathered her a bunch of the flowers she looked down at them in her lap, and said, "It's silly in me to be caring for lilies at such a time, and I should make an unfavorable impression on Dr. Mulbridge if he saw me with them. But I shall risk their effect on him. He may think I have been botanizing."
"Unless you tell him you have n't," the young man suggested.
"I need n't do that."
"I don't think any one else would do it."
She colored a little at the tribute to her candor, and it pleased her, though it had just pleased her as much to forget that she was not like any other young girl who might be simply and irresponsibly happy in flowers gathered for her by a young man. "I won't tell him, either!" she cried, willing to grasp the fleeting emotion again; but it was gone, and only a little residue of sad consciousness remained.
The woods gave way on either side of the road, which began to be a village street, sloping and shelving down toward the curve of a quiet bay. The neat weather-gray dwellings, shingled to the ground and brightened with door-yard flowers and creepers, straggled off into the boat-houses and fishing-huts on the shore, and the village seemed to get afloat at last in the sloops and schooners riding in the harbor, whose smooth plane rose higher to the eye than the town itself. The salt and the sand were everywhere, but though there had been no positive prosperity in Corbitant for a generation, the place had an impregnable neatness, which defied decay; if there had been a dog in the street, there would not have been a stick to throw at him.
One of the better, but not the best, of the village houses, which did not differ from the others in any essential particular, and which stood flush upon the street, bore a door-plate with the name Dr. Rufus Mulbridge, and Libby drew up in front of it without having had to alarm the village with inquiries. Grace forbade his help in dismounting, and ran to the door, where she rang one of those bells which sharply respond at the back of the panel to the turn of a crank in front; she observed, in a difference of paint, that this modern improvement had displaced an old-fashioned knocker. The door was opened by a tall and strikingly handsome old woman, whose black eyes still kept their keen light under her white hair, and whose dress showed none of the incongruity which was offensive in the door-bell: it was in the perfection of an antiquated taste, which, however, came just short of characterizing it with gentle womanliness.
"Is Dr. Mulbridge at home?" asked Grace.
"Yes," said the other, with a certain hesitation, and holding the door ajar.
"I should like to see him," said Grace, mounting to the threshold.
"Is it important?" asked the elder woman.
"Quite," replied Grace, with an accent at once of surprise and decision.
"You may come in," said the other reluctantly, and she opened a door into a room at the side of the hall.
"You may give Dr. Mulbridge my card, if you please," said Grace, before she turned to go into this room; and the other took it, and left her to find a chair for herself. It was a country doctor's office, with the usual country doctor's supply of drugs on a shelf, but very much more than the country doctor's usual library: the standard works were there, and there were also the principal periodicals and the latest treatises of note in the medical world. In a long, upright case, like that of an old hall-clock, was the anatomy of one who had long done with time; a laryngoscope and some other professional apparatus of constant utility lay upon the leaf of the doctor's desk. There was nothing in the room which did not suggest his profession, except the sword and the spurs which hung upon the wall opposite where Grace sat beside one of the front windows. She spent her time in study of the room and its appointments, and in now and then glancing out at Mr. Libby, who sat statuesquely patient in the buggy. His profile cut against the sky was blameless; and a humorous shrewdness which showed in the wrinkle at his eye and in the droop of his yellow mustache gave its regularity life and charm. It occurred to her that if Dr. Mulbridge caught sight of Mr. Libby before he saw her, or before she could explain that she had got one of the gentlemen at the hotel—she resolved upon this prevarication—to drive her to Corbitant in default of another conveyance, he would have his impressions and conjectures, which doubtless the bunch of lilies in her hand would do their part to stimulate. She submitted to this possibility, and waited for his coming, which began to seem unreasonably delayed. The door opened at last, and a tall, powerfully framed man of thirty-five or forty, dressed in an ill-fitting suit of gray Canada homespun appeared. He moved with a slow, pondering step, and carried his shaggy head bent downwards from shoulders slightly rounded. His dark beard was already grizzled, and she saw that his mustache was burnt and turned tawny at points by smoking, of which habit his presence gave stale evidence to another sense. He held Grace's card in his hand, and he looked at her, as he advanced, out of gray eyes that, if not sympathetic, were perfectly intelligent, and that at once sought to divine and class her. She perceived that he took in the lilies and her coming color; she felt that he noted her figure and her dress.
She half rose in response to his questioning bow, and he motioned her to her seat again. "I had to keep you waiting," he said. "I was up all night with a patient, and I was asleep when my mother called me." He stopped here, and definitively waited for her to begin.
She did not find this easy, as he took a chair in front of her, and sat looking steadily in her face. "I'm sorry to have disturbed you" "Oh, not at all," he interrupted. "The rule is to disturb a doctor."
"I mean," she began again, "that I am not sure that I am justified in disturbing you."
He waited a little while for her to go on, and then he said, "Well, let us hear."
"I wish to consult with you," she broke out, and again she came to a sudden pause; and as she looked into his vigilant face, in which she was not sure there was not a hovering derision, she could not continue. She felt that she ought to gather courage from the fact that he had not started, or done anything positively disagreeable when she had asked for a consultation; but she could not, and it did not avail her to reflect that she was rendering herself liable to all conceivable misconstruction,—that she was behaving childishly, with every appearance of behaving guiltily.
He came to her aid again, in a blunt fashion, neither kind nor unkind, but simply common sense. "What is the matter?"
"What is the matter?" she repeated.
"Yes. What are the symptoms? Where and how are, you sick?"
"I am not sick," she cried. They stared at each other in reciprocal amazement and mystification.
"Then excuse me if I ask you what you wish me to do?"
"Oh!" said Grace, realizing his natural error, with a flush. "It is n't in regard to myself that I wish to consult with you. It's another person—a friend"—
"Well," said Dr. Mulbridge, laughing, with the impatience of a physician used to making short cuts through the elaborate and reluctant statements of ladies seeking advice, "what is the matter with your friend?"
"She has been an invalid for some time," replied Grace. The laugh, which had its edge of patronage and conceit, stung her into self-possession again, and she briefly gave the points of Mrs. Maynard's case, with the recent accident and the symptoms developed during the night. He listened attentively, nodding his head at times, and now and then glancing sharply at her, as one might at a surprisingly intelligent child.
"I must see her," he said decidedly, when she came to an end. "I will see her as soon as possible. I will come over to Jocelyn's this afternoon,—as soon as I can get my dinner, in fact."
There was such a tone of dismissal in his words that she rose, and he promptly followed her example. She stood hesitating a moment. Then, "I don't know whether you understood that I wish merely to consult with you," she said; "that I don't wish to relinquish the case to you"—
"Relinquish the case—consult"—Dr. Mulbridge stared at her. "No, I don't understand. What do you mean by not relinquishing the case? If there is some one else in attendance."
"I am in attendance," said the girl firmly. "I am Mrs. Maynard's physician."
"If you have looked at my card"—she began with indignant severity.
He gave a sort of roar of amusement and apology, and then he stared at her again with much of the interest of a naturalist in an extraordinary specimen.
"I beg your pardon," he exclaimed. "I did n't look at it"; but he now did so, where he held it crumpled in the palm of his left hand. "My mother said it was a young lady, and I did n't look. Will you will you sit down, Dr. Breen?" He bustled in getting her several chairs. "I live off here in a corner, and I have never happened to meet any ladies of our profession before. Excuse me, if I spoke under a—mistaken impression. I—I—I should not have—ah—taken you for a physician. You"—He checked himself, as if he might have been going to say that she was too young and too pretty. "Of course, I shall have pleasure in consulting with you in regard to your friend's case, though I've no doubt you are doing all that can be done." With a great show of deference, he still betrayed something of the air of one who humors a joke; and she felt this, but felt that she could not openly resent it.
"Thank you," she returned with dignity, indicating with a gesture of her hand that she would not sit down again. "I am sorry to ask you to come so far."
"Oh, not at all. I shall be driving over in that direction at any rate. I've a patient near there." He smiled upon her with frank curiosity, and seemed willing to detain her, but at a loss how to do so. "If I had n't been stupid from my nap I should have inferred a scientific training from your statement of your friend's case." She still believed that he was laughing at her, and that this was a mock but she was still helpless to resent it, except by an assumption of yet colder state. This had apparently no effect upon Dr. Mulbridge. He continued to look at her with hardly concealed amusement, and visibly to grow more and more conscious of her elegance and style, now that she stood before him. There had been a time when, in planning her career, she had imagined herself studying a masculine simplicity and directness of address; but the over-success of some young women, her fellows at the school, in this direction had disgusted her with it, and she had perceived that after all there is nothing better for a girl, even a girl who is a doctor of medicine, than a ladylike manner. Now, however, she wished that she could do or say something aggressively mannish, for she felt herself dwindling away to the merest femininity, under a scrutiny which had its fascination, whether agreeable or disagreeable. "You must," he said, with really unwarrantable patronage, "have found that the study of medicine has its difficulties,—you must have been very strongly drawn to it."
"Oh no, not at all; I had rather an aversion at first," she replied, with the instant superiority of a woman where the man suffers any topic to become personal. "Why did you think I was drawn to it?"
"I don't know—I don't know that I thought so," he stammered. "I believe I intended to ask," he added bluntly; but she had the satisfaction of seeing him redden, and she did not volunteer anything in his relief. She divined that it would leave him with an awkward sense of defeat if he quitted the subject there; and in fact he had determined that he would not. "Some of our ladies take up the study abroad," he said; and he went on to speak, with a real deference, of the eminent woman who did the American name honor by the distinction she achieved in the schools of Paris.
"I have never been abroad," said Grace.
"No?" he exclaimed. "I thought all American ladies had been abroad"; and now he said, with easy recognition of her resolution not to help him out, "I suppose you have your diploma from the Philadelphia school."
"No," she returned, "from the New York school,—the homoeopathic school of New York."
Dr. Mulbridge instantly sobered, and even turned a little pale, but he did not say anything. He remained looking at her as if she had suddenly changed from a piquant mystery to a terrible dilemma.
She moved toward the door. "Then I may expect you," she said, "about the middle of the afternoon."
He did not reply; he stumbled upon the chairs in following her a pace or two, with a face of acute distress. Then he broke out with "I can't come! I can't consult with you!"
She turned and looked at him with astonishment, which he did his best to meet. Her astonishment congealed into hauteur, and then dissolved into the helplessness of a lady who has been offered a rudeness; but still she did not speak. She merely looked at him, while he halted and stammered on.
"Personally, I—I—should be—obliged—I should feel honored—I—I—It has nothing to do with your—your—being a—a—a—woman lady. I should not care for that. No. But surely you must know the reasons—the obstacles—which deter me?"
"No, I don't," she said, calm with the advantage of his perturbation. "But if you refuse, that is sufficient. I will not inquire your reasons. I will simply withdraw my request."
"Thank you. But I beg you to understand that they have no reference whatever to you in—your own—capacity—character—individual quality. They are purely professional—that is, technical—I should say disciplinary,—entirely disciplinary. Yes, disciplinary." The word seemed to afford Dr. Mulbridge the degree of relief which can come only from an exactly significant and luminously exegetic word.
"I don't at all know what you mean," said Grace. "But it is not necessary that I should know. Will you allow me?" she asked, for Dr. Mulbridge had got between her and the door, and stood with his hand on the latch.
His face flushed, and drops stood on his forehead. "Surely, Miss—I mean Doctor—Breen, you must know why I can't consult with you! We belong to two diametrically opposite schools—theories—of medicine. It would be impracticable—impossible for us to consult. We could find no common ground. Have you never heard that the—ah regular practice cannot meet homoeopathists in this way? If you had told me—if I had known—you were a homoeopathist, I could n't have considered the matter at all. I can't now express any opinion as to your management of the case, but I have no doubt that you will know what to do—from your point of view—and that you will prefer to call in some one of your own—persuasion. I hope that you don't hold me personally responsible for this result!"
"Oh, no!" replied the girl, with a certain dreamy abstraction. "I had heard that you made some such distinction—I remember, now. But I could n't realize anything so ridiculous."
Dr. Mulbridge colored. "Excuse me," he said, "if, even under the circumstances, I can't agree with you that the position taken by the regular practice is ridiculous."
She did not make any direct reply. "But I supposed that you only made this distinction, as you call it, in cases where there is no immediate danger; that in a matter of life and death you would waive it. Mrs. Maynard is really—"
"There are no conditions under which I could not conscientiously refuse to waive it."
"Then," cried Grace, "I withdraw the word! It is not ridiculous. It is monstrous, atrocious, inhuman!"
A light of humorous irony glimmered in Dr. Mulbridge's eye. "I must submit to your condemnation."
"Oh, it isn't a personal condemnation!" she retorted. "I have no doubt that personally you are not responsible. We can lay aside our distinctions as allopathist and homoeopathist, and you can advise with me"—
"It's quite impossible," said Dr. Mulbridge. "If I advised with you, I might be—A little while ago one of our school in Connecticut was expelled from the State Medical Association for consulting with"—he began to hesitate, as if he had not hit upon a fortunate or appropriate illustration, but he pushed on—"with his own wife, who was a physician of your school."
She haughtily ignored his embarrassment. "I can appreciate your difficulty, and pity any liberal-minded person who is placed as you are, and disapproves of such wretched bigotry."
"I am obliged to tell you," said Dr. Mulbridge, "that I don't disapprove of it."
"I am detaining you," said Grace. "I beg your pardon. I was curious to know how far superstition and persecution can go in our day." If the epithets were not very accurate, she used them with a woman's effectiveness, and her intention made them descriptive. "Good-day," she added, and she made a movement toward the door, from which Dr. Mulbridge retired. But she did not open the door. Instead, she sank into the chair which stood in the corner, and passed her hand over her forehead, as if she were giddy.
Dr. Mulbridge's finger was instantly on her wrist. "Are you faint?"
"No, no!" she gasped, pulling her hand away. "I am perfectly well." Then she was silent for a time before she added by a supreme effort, "I have no right to endanger another's life, through any miserable pride, and I never will. Mrs. Maynard needs greater experience than mine, and she must have it. I can't justify myself in the delay and uncertainty of sending to Boston. I relinquish the case. I give it to you. And I will nurse her under your direction, obediently, conscientiously. Oh!" she cried, at his failure to make any immediate response, "surely you won't refuse to take the case!"
"I won't refuse," he said, with an effect of difficult concession. "I will come. I will drive over at once, after dinner."
She rose now, and put her hand on the door-latch. "Do you object to my nursing your patient? She is an old school friend. But I could yield that point too, if"—
"Oh, no, no! I shall be only too glad of your help, and your"—he was going to say advice, but he stopped himself, and repeated—"help."
They stood inconclusively a moment, as if they would both be glad of something more to say. Then she said tentatively, "Good-morning," and he responded experimentally, "Good-morning"; and with that they involuntarily parted, and she went out of the door, which he stood holding open even after she had got out of the gate.
His mother came down the stairs. "What in the world were you quarrelling with that girl about, Rufus?"
"We were not quarrelling, mother."
"Well, it sounded like it. Who was she?
"Who?" repeated her son absently. "Dr. Breen."
"Doctor Breen? That girl a doctor?"
"I thought she was some saucy thing. Well, upon my word!" exclaimed Mrs. Mulbridge. "So that is a female doctor, is it? Was she sick?"
"No," said her son, with what she knew to be professional finality. "Mother, if you can hurry dinner a little, I shall be glad. I have to drive over to Jocelyn's, and I should like to start as soon as possible."
"Who was the young man with her? Her beau, I guess."
"Was there a young man with her?" asked Dr. Mulbridge.
His mother went out without speaking. She could be unsatisfactory, too.