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HOME > Short Stories > The Queen of Farrandale > CHAPTER VI VISITING THE SICK
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 As her secretary had said, it was Miss Frink’s policy to keep away from the White Room. Experts, the doctor and the nurse, had charge of it. Why should she hover about like a fussy old hen, getting in the way and causing confusion? She had her business to attend to, and there was no reason why her life should not go on as systematically as before. So she argued. Nevertheless, this was more easily said than done. She had been shocked out of her rut, and so long as that stalwart figure in bed in the White Room remained recumbent, she knew she could not really settle into her usual state of mind.
Miss Damon, the nurse, came to her three times a day with reports, and they were the interesting moments of the day to her. This noon she awaited the visit with unusual eagerness; and she hailed the young woman with a cheerful greeting.
“Dr. Morton says Mr. Stanwood may go for a drive this afternoon,” she said.
“Yes; he is sitting up by the window now,[69] Miss Frink. I thought perhaps you would like to come in and visit him. He is rather low-spirited, you see.”
“Is he? Is he?” responded Miss Frink tensely. “What do you think he wants?”
“Oh, just to get well, I suppose. Convalescence is the hardest part after such a fever as he has had.”
“Well, I’ll come,” said Miss Frink, straightening herself valiantly, and she followed to the White Room, where in an armchair by the window sat a young man with long, pensive eyes. He was wearing, besides a gloomy expression, a small mustache and short beard carefully trimmed. A soft blanket was folded about his shoulders and another spread over the feet that rested on a cushioned stool.
Miss Frink’s startled eyes drew from the nurse the explanation that Dr. Morton had not wished the patient to be shaved as yet, and there was no change of expression in the pale, handsome face as Hugh looked up at her approach.
“Are you willing to shake hands with the old thing that got you into this mess?” inquired the visitor, and Hugh took her offered hand.
“I see they let you look out of both eyes now.” She seated herself near him.
“Yes, that scratch is all right,” he responded.
“Miss Damon thought I would be a cheerful visitor; but I suppose I’ll never look cheerful to you. Now I just want to know if there is anything more we can do for you than is being done.” Miss Frink’s emphatic tone had its usual businesslike ring. “Don’t you want to smoke?”
At this Hugh’s mustache did curve upward a little, showing a line of gleaming teeth.
“You don’t like it,” he returned.
“Who said so? Anyway, you’ll teach me.”
Hugh’s smile widened. “She is a good old sport,” he reflected.
“I don’t want that now,” he said, grave again.
“Well, is there anything on your mind?” pursued Miss Frink. The nurse had left the room. Her taciturn patient had never said an unnecessary word to her. Perhaps his hostess would have more success.
“Now, your Aunt Sukey,” went on Miss Frink in a gentler tone than could have been expected from her. “Don’t be surprised that we know about your Aunt Sukey; for you called for her incessantly in your delirium, and I assure you if you would like to see her[71] it will give me all the pleasure in the world to send for her and have her stay as long as you like.”
The effect of this offer astonished the speaker. Color slowly flowed up all over the pale face, and Hugh grinned.
“Did I really call for her? Priceless! No, no, Miss Frink. You’re a trump, but I don’t want her sent for.”
“Not on good terms, then, I judge from the way you take it.”
“No, we’re not. You’ve hit the nail on the head. I imagine that’s your way.” Still coloring, he met the solicitous eyes bent upon him as Miss Frink grimaced her glasses off.
“Perhaps she is opposing a love affair. Don’t mind an old woman’s plain speaking; but, of course, we saw the sweet face in your photograph, and it doesn’t seem as if there could be anything wrong with that girl. I like the quaint way she does her hair. I’m a lady of the old school, and it’s refreshing to see a coiffure like that in this day of bobbed idiots. Did Aunt Sukey oppose her?”
“With tooth and nail,” replied Hugh. “You are a mind reader.”
“Well—dear boy”—Miss Frink hesitated—“I want to do anything in this world I can[72] for you. Are you sure I can’t do anything in this matter?”
“It’s a little late,” said Hugh.
“Never too late to mend,” returned Miss Frink stoutly and hopefully. She regarded the beauty of her companion, considering him in the r?le of a lover. “You look just as if you were ready to sing ‘Faust,’” she said. “I shall call her Marguerite until you tell me all about it.”
Miss Frink little suspected that she had set fire to a train of thought which hardened her companion against her, and accented the repugnance to the part he was playing; a repugnance which had dominated him ever since the breaking of his fever.
Many times he had definitely made up his mind that, the minute sufficient strength returned, he would disappear from Farrandale and repay John Ogden every cent of his investment if it took years to accomplish it. Two things deterred him: one, his last interview with Ogden in which the latter reminded him of his lack of initiative and self-control—in other words, his spinelessness. That stung his pride. “Remember,” said John Ogden, “of the unspoken word you are master. The spoken word is master of you.” The other incentive to continuing[73] the r?le in which he had made such a triumphant début was Miss Frink’s secretary. Hugh was a youth of intense likes and dislikes very quickly formed. In spite of himself he liked his brusque, angular hostess. To be sure, saving any one’s life creates an interest in the rescued, but it was not only that. Hugh liked the sporting quality of his great-aunt. He liked the way she had done her duty by him and not fussed around the sick-room. She was a good fellow, and he didn’t like her to be under the influence, perhaps domination, of the spectacled cockatoo who was also, in his own estimation, cock of the walk. If Miss Frink had kept away from the White Room, Leonard Grimshaw had not done so. He came in frequently with a masterful air and the seriousness with which he took himself, and his patronizing manner to patient and nurse grated on the convalescent.
“I’ll be darned if I’ll leave Aunt Sukey to him,” was the conclusion Hugh invariably reached after one of his visits.
“There is something on my mind, Miss Frink,” said Hugh, now, “and that is Mr. Ogden. I’m sure he is wondering why he doesn’t hear from me.”
“I’ll write him at once,” said Miss Frink.[74] “It shall go out this afternoon. We’ll mail it together.”
The patient’s long eyes rolled toward her listlessly.
“Yes. You’re going for a drive with me. Dr. Morton says you may.”
“H’m,” returned Hugh. “Not until I get a little more starch in my legs, I guess. I can barely get to this chair from the bed.”
“Oh, of course the butler and the coachman will carry you over the stairs.”
“Thanks, no. I prefer not to be handled like a rag doll.”
“What have you got that blanket on for?” demanded Miss Frink, suddenly becoming conscious of the patient’s garb.
“Why—” John Ogden in his preparations for his protégé had not had the foresight to prepare for inaction on his part. “I—I haven’t any bathrobe with me.”
Here the door opened and Leonard Grimshaw walked in. It entertained Hugh to note the abasement of the uplifted crest as the secretary saw his employer.
“I beg pardon. I didn’t know you were here, Miss Frink.”
“Whether you knew it or not, you might have knocked,” she retorted. “Look here,[75] Grim, Mr. Stanwood doesn’t wish to drive to-day, so I am going now instead of later.”
“Now, Miss Frink?” deferentially. “Luncheon will be served in fifteen minutes.”
“Now,” repeated Miss Frink. “There is an errand I wish to do. Order the horses at once, please.”
The secretary bowed in silence and withdrew.
“Bully for you, old girl. You know your own mind,” thought Hugh, and at that moment the nurse appeared with a tempting tray. The patient regarded it with a little less apathy than usual. The last few minutes had been an appetizer.
Miss Frink rose. “Eat all you can, my boy. I shall let you see my letter to Mr. Ogden before I mail it.”
“Do you know his address?”
“Certainly; Ross Graham buys of him. To tell the truth, I should have written him long before this if it hadn’t been I was ashamed to have him know the reception I gave his friend.”
Hugh smiled faintly. Age must have ripened Aunt Sukey. She was certainly a good sort. Grimshaw couldn’t put it over her whatever Mr. Ogden might think. Hugh still smiled as he thought of the depressed crest, and the deference of that voice so full of unction.
The secretary shook his head as he departed on his errand. To postpone luncheon—why, it was nearly as unheard of as to connive at cigarettes!
“She’s breaking—breaking,” he reflected. “It’s the beginning of the end.”

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