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HOME > Short Stories > The Crux: A Novel > CHAPTER VII. SIDE LIGHTS.
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 High shines the golden shield in front, To those who are not blind;
And clear and bright
In all men's sight,
The silver shield behind.
In breadth and sheen each face is seen;
How tall it is, how wide;
But its thinness shows
To only those
Who stand on either side.
Theophile wept aloud in the dining-room, nursing one hand in the other, like a hurt monkey.
Most of the diners had departed, but Professor Toomey and Mr. Cuthbert still lingered about Miss Susie's corner, to the evident displeasure of Mr. Saunders, who lingered also.
Miss Susie smiled upon them all; and Mr. Saunders speculated endlessly as to whether this was due to her general of , to an interest in pleasing her aunt's boarders, to personal preference, or, as he sometimes imagined, to a desire to tease him.
Morton was talking earnestly with Vivian at the other end of the table, from which the two angular waitresses had some time since removed the last plate. One of them opened the swing door a crack and thrust her head in.
"He's burnt his hand," she said, "and his Ma's out. We don't dare go near him." Both of these damsels great terror of the poor boy, though he was invariably good natured, and as timid as a rabbit.
"Do get the doctor!" cried Susie, ; she never felt at ease with Theophile.
"Dr. Bellair, I fear, is not in her office," Professor Toomey announced. "We might summon Dr. Hale."
"Nonsense!" said Mr. Cuthbert, rising heavily. "He's a great baby, that's all. Here! Quit that howling and show me your hand!"
He advanced upon Theophile, who fled toward Vivian. Morton rose in her defence. "Get out!" he said, "Go back to the kitchen. There's nothing the matter with you."
"Wait till you get burned, and see if you think it's nothing," Jimmy Saunders remarked with some . He did not like Mr. Elder. "Come here youngster, let me see it."
But the boy was afraid of all of them, and in a corner, still . "Stop your noise," Mr. Cuthbert shouted, "Get out of this, or I'll put you out."
Vivian rose to her feet. "You will do nothing of the kind. If you, all of you, will go away, I can quiet Theophile, myself."
Susie went . She had every confidence in her friend's management. Mr. Cuthbert was sulky, but followed Susie; and Mr. Saunders, after some , followed Susie, too.
Morton lingered, distrustful.
"Please go, Morton. I know how to manage him. Just leave us alone," Vivian urged.
"You'd better let me put him out, and keep him out, till the old woman comes back," Morton insisted.
"You mean , I don't doubt, but you're making me very angry," said the girl, flushing; and he reluctantly left the room. Professor Toomey had departed long since, to his suggestion of calling Dr. Hale, but when that gentleman appeared, he found that Vivian had quieted the boy, stayed him with flagons and comforted him with apples, as it were, and bound up his hand in wet cooking .
"It's not a very bad burn," she told the doctor, "but it hurt, and he was frightened. He is afraid of everybody but his mother, and the men were cross to him."
"I see," said Dr. Hale, watching Theophile as he his apple, keeping carefully behind Vivian and very near her. "He does not seem much afraid of you, I notice, and he's used to me. The soda is all right. Where did you learn first aid to the injured, and how to handle—persons of limited understanding?"
"The former I studied. The latter comes by nature, I think," replied the girl, annoyed.
He laughed, rather suddenly. "It's a good quality, often needed in this world."
"What's all this rumpus?" demanded Grandma, appearing at the door. "Waking me up out of my nap!" Grandma's smooth, fine, still dark hair, which she wore in "water waves," was somewhat disarranged, and she held a little shawl about her.
"Only the household baby, playing with fire," Dr. Hale answered. "Miss Lane resolved herself into a Red Cross society, and attended to the wounded. However I think I'll have a look at it now I'm here."
Then was Vivian surprised, and compelled to , to see with what wise gentleness the big man won the confidence of the frightened boy, examined the hurt hand, and bound it up again.
"You'll do, all right, won't you Theophile," he said, and offered him a shining nickel and a lozenge, "Which will you have, old man?"
After some cautious hesitation the boy chose the lozenge, and hastily it where it would do the most good.
"Where's Mrs. Jones all this time?" suddenly demanded Grandma, who had gone154 back to her room and fetched three fat, pink gumdrops for the further of the .
"She had to go out to buy clothes for him, she hardly ever leaves him you know," Vivian explained. "And the girls out there are so afraid that they won't take any care of him."
This was true enough, but Vivian did not know that "Mrs. Jones" had returned and, peering through her favorite peephole, had seen her send out the others, and attend to the boy's burn with her own hand. Jeanne Jeaune was not a person, and judged from her son's easy consolation that he was little hurt, but she watched the girl's prompt tenderness with tears in her eyes.
"She regards him, as any other boy;" thought the mother. "His infirmity, she does not recall it." Dr. Hale had long since won her approval, and when Theophile at last ran out, eager to share his gumdrops, he found her busy as usual in the kitchen.
She was a silent woman, professionally civil to the waitresses, but never cordial. The place pleased her, she was saving money, and she knew that there must be some waitresses—these were probably no worse than others. For her unfortunate son she expected little, and strove to keep him near her so far as possible; but Vivian's real kindness touched her deeply.
She kept a sharp eye on whatever went on in the dining-room, and what with the frequent dances and the little groups which used to hang about the table after meals, or fill a corner of the big room for quiet chats, she had good opportunities.
Morton's visible devotion she watched with deep ; though she was not at all certain that her "young lady" was favorably disposed toward him. She could see and judge the feelings of the men, these many men who ate and drank and laughed and paid court to both the girls. Dr. Hale's brusque coldness she accepted, as from a higher order of being. Susie's gay coquetries were to her; but Vivian she could not read so well.
The girl's deep , her courtesy and patience with all, and the gentle way in which she the attentions so156 offered, were new to Jeanne's experience. When Morton hung about and tried always to talk with Vivian exclusively, she saw her listen with kind attention, but somehow without any of that answering gleam which made Susie's blue eyes so .
"She has the lovers, but she has no beauty—to compare with my young lady!" Jeanne commented inwardly.
If the sad-eyed Jeanne had been of extraction instead of French, she might have quoted the explanation of the widow of three husbands when questioned by the good-looking spinster, who closed her by saying aggrievedly, "And ye'r na sae bonny."
"It's na the bonny that does it," explained the triple widow, "It's the come hither i' the een."
Susie's eyes sparkled with the "come hither," but those who came failed to make any marked progress. She was somewhat more cautious after the sudden approach and of Mr. A. Smith; yet more than one young gentleman boarder found business called him elsewhere, with marked suddenness; his place eagerly taken by another. The Cottonwoods had a waiting list, now.
Vivian made friends first, lovers . Then if the love proved vain, the friendship had a way of lingering. Hers was one of those involved and over-conscientious characters, keenly sensitive to the thought of duty and to others, pain. She could not play with hearts that might be hurt in the handling, nor could she find in herself a quick and simple response to the appeals made to her; there were so many things to be considered.
Morton studied her with more than he had ever before to another human being; his admiration and respect grew with acquaintance, and all that was best in him rose in response to her wise, sweet womanliness. He had the background of their childhood's common experiences and her early sentiment—how much he did not know, to aid him. Then there was the unknown country of his years of changeful travel, many tales that he could tell her,158 many more which he found he could not.
He pressed his advantage, cautiously, finding the fullest response when he used the appeal to her uplifting influence. When they talked in the dining-room the sombre eye at the peephole watched with growing disapproval. The kitchen was largely left to her and her son by her fellow workers, on account of their nervous dislike for Theophile, and she her opportunities.
Vivian had provided the boy with some big bright picture blocks, and he spent happy hours in matching them on the white table, while his mother sewed, and watched. He had forgotten his burn by now, and she sewed for there was no one talking to her young lady but Dr. Hale, who lingered unaccountably.
To be sure, Vivian had brought him a plate of cakes from the pantry, and he seemed to find the little brown things seductive, or perhaps it was Grandma who held him, sitting bolt upright in her usual place, at the head of one table, and asking a series of firm but friendly questions. This she found the only way of inducing Dr. Hale to talk at all.
Yes, he was going away—Yes, he would be gone some time—A matter of weeks, perhaps—He could not say—His boys were all well—He did not wonder that they saw a good deal of them—It was a good place for them to come.
"You might come oftener yourself," said Grandma, "and play real whist with me. These young people play Bridge!" She used this word with angry scorn, as symbol of all degeneracy; and also despised pinochle, refusing to learn it, though any one could induce her to play bezique. Some of the more venturous and argumentative, strove to persuade her that the games were really the same.
"You needn't tell me," Mrs. Pettigrew would say, "I don't want to play any of your foreign games."
"But, Madam, bezique is not an English word," Professor Toomey had insisted, on one occasion; to which she had promptly responded, "Neither is '!'"
Dr. Hale shook his head with a smile. He had a very nice smile, even Vivian admitted that. All the hard lines of his face curved and melted, and the light came into those deep-set eyes and shone warmly.
"I should enjoy playing whist with you very often, Mrs. Pettigrew; but a doctor has no time to call his own. And a good game of whist must not be interrupted by telephones."
"There's Miss Orella!" said Grandma, as the front door was heard to open. "She's getting to be quite a gadder."
"It does her good, I don't doubt," the doctor gravely remarked, rising to go. Miss Orella met him in the hall, and bade him good-bye with regret. "We do not see much of you, doctor; I hope you'll be back soon."
"Why it's only a little trip; you good people act as if I were going to Alaska," he said, "It makes me feel as if I had a family!"
"Pity you haven't," remarked Grandma with her usual definiteness. Dykeman stood holding Miss Orella's wrap, with his dry smile. "Good-bye, Hale," he said. "I'll chaperon your for you. So long."
"Come out into the dining-room," said Miss Orella, after Dr. Hale had departed. "I know you must be hungry," and Mr. Dykeman did not deny it. In his quiet way, he enjoyed this enlarged family circle as much as the younger fellows, and he and Mr. Unwin seemed to vie with one another to convince Miss Orella that life still held charms for her. Mr. Skee also about her to a considerable extent, but most of his devotion was upon damsels of extreme youth.
"Here's one that's hun............
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