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- Wild Youth, Volume 1. - 3/13 -
The Young Doctor did not want to know. As a doctor he did not want to know.
"Not now," he said firmly. "Tell me when I come again."
A look of pain came into her face. "But who can tell when you'll come again!" she pleaded.
"When I will things to be, they generally happen," he answered in a commonplace tone. "You are my patient now, and I must keep an eye on you. So I'll come."
Again, with an almost spasmodical movement towards him, she said:
"I must tell you. I wanted to tell you the first day I saw you. You seemed the same kind of man my father was. My name's Louise. It was my mother made me do it. There was a mortgage--I was only sixteen. It's three years ago. He said to my mother he'd tear up the mortgage if I married him. That's why I'm here with him--Mrs. Mazarine. But my name's Louise."
"Yes, yes, I know," the Young Doctor answered soothingly. "But you must not talk of it now. I understand perfectly. Tell me all about it another time."
"You don't think I should have--" She paused.
"Of course. I tell you I understand. Now you must be quiet. Drink this." He got up and poured some liquid into a glass.
At that moment there was a noise below in the hall. "That's my husband," the girl-wife said, and the old wan captive-look came into her face.
"That's all right," replied the Young Doctor. "He'll find you better."
At that moment the half-breed woman entered the room. "He's here," she said, and came towards the bed.
"That old woman has sense," the Young Doctor murmured to himself. "She knows her man."
A minute later Joel Mazarine was in the room, and he saw the half-breed woman lift his wife's head, while the Young Doctor held a glass to her lips.
"What's all this?" Mazarine said roughly. "What?" He stopped suddenly, for the Young Doctor faced him sharply.
"She must be left alone," he said firmly and quietly, his eyes fastening the old man's eyes; and there was that in them which would not be gainsaid. "I have just given her medicine. She has been in great pain.
"We are not needed here now." He motioned towards the door. "She must be left alone."
For an instant it seemed that the old man was going to resist the dictation; but presently, after a scrutinizing look at the still, shrinking figure in the bed, he swung round, left the room and descended the stairs, the Young Doctor following.
"I HAVE FOUGHT WITH BEASTS AT EPHESUS"
The old man led the way outside the house, as though to be rid of his visitor as soon as possible. This was so obvious that, for an instant, the Young Doctor was disposed to try conclusions with the old slaver, and summon him back to the dining-room. The Mazarine sort of man always roused fighting, masterful forces in him. He was never averse to a contest of wills, and he had had much of it; it was inseparable from his methods of healing. He knew that nine people out of ten never gave a true history of their physical troubles, never told their whole story: first because they had no gift for reporting, no observation; and also because the physical ailments of many of them were aggravated or induced by mental anxieties. Then it was that he imposed himself; as it were, fought the deceiver and his deceit, or the ignorant one and his ignorance; and numbers of people, under his sympathetic, wordless inquiry, poured their troubles into his ears, as the girl-wife upstairs had tried to do.
When the old man turned to face him in the sunlight, his boots soiled with dust and manure, his long upper lip feeling about over the lower lip and its shaggy growth of beard like some sea-monster feeling for its prey, the Young Doctor had a sensation of rancour. His mind flashed to that upstairs room, where a comely captive creature was lying not an arm's length from the coats and trousers and shabby waistcoats of this barbarian. Somehow that row of tenantless clothes, and the top-boots, greased with tallow, standing against the wall, were more characteristic of the situation than the old land-leviathan himself, blinking his beady, greenish eyes at the Young Doctor. That blinking was a repulsive characteristic; it was like serpents gulping live things.
"What's the matter with her?" the old man asked, jerking his head towards the upper window.
The Young Doctor explained quickly the immediate trouble, and then added:
"But it would not have taken hold of her so if she was not run down. She is not in a condition to resist. When her system exhausts, it does not refill, as it were."
"What sort of dictionary talk is that? Run down--here!" The old man sniffed the air like an ancient sow. "Run down--in this life, with the best of food, warm weather, and more ozone than a sailor gets at sea! It's an insult to Jehovah, such nonsense."
"Mr. Mazarine," rejoined the Young Doctor with ominous determination in his eye, "you know a good deal, I should think, about spring wheat and fall ploughing, about making sows fat, or burning fallow land--that's your trade, and I shouldn't want to challenge you on it all; or you know when to give a horse bran-mash, or a heifer salt-petre, but--well, I know my job in the same way. They will tell you, about here, that I have a kind of hobby for keeping people from digging and crawling into their own graves. That's my business, and the habit of saving human life, because you're paid for it, becomes in time a habit of saving human life for its very own sake. I warn you--and perhaps it's a matter of some concern to you--Mrs. Mazarine is in a bad way."
Resentful and incredulous, the old man was about to speak, but the Young Doctor made an arresting gesture, and added:
"She has very little strength to go on with. She ought to be plump; her pulses ought to beat hard; her cheeks ought to be rosy; she should walk with a spring and be strong and steady as a soldier on the march; but she is none of these things, can do none of these things. You've got a thousand things to do, and you do them because you want to do them. There is something making new life in you all the time, but Mrs. Mazarine makes no new life as she goes on. Every day is taking something out of her, and there's nothing being renewed. Sometimes neither good food nor ozone is enough; and you've got to take care, or you'll lose Mrs. Mazarine." He could not induce himself to speak of her as "wife."
For a moment the unwholesome mouth seemed to be chewing unpleasant herbs, and the beady eyes blinked viciously.
"I'm not swallowin' your meaning," Mazarine said at last. "I never studied Greek. If a woman has a disease, there it is, and you can deal with it or not; but if she hasn't no disease, then it's chicanyery-- chicanyery. Doctors talk a lot of gibberish these here days. What I want to know is, has my wife got a disease? I haven't seen any signs. Is it Bright's, or cancer, or the lungs, or the liver, or the kidneys, or the heart, or what's its name?"
The Young Doctor had an impulse to flay the heathen, but for the girl- wife's sake he forbore.
"I don't think it is any of those troubles," he replied smoothly. "She needs a thorough examination. But one thing is clear: she is wasting; she is losing ground instead of going ahead. There's a malignant influence working. She's standing still, and to stand still in youth is fatal. I can imagine you don't want to lose her, eh?"
The Young Doctor's gray-blue eyes endeavoured to hold the blinking beads under the shaggy eyebrows long enough to get control of a mind which had the cunning and cruelty of an animal. He succeeded.
The old man would a thousand times rather his wife lived than died. In the first place, to lose her was to sacrifice that which he had paid for dearly--a mortgage of ten thousand dollars torn up. Louise Mazarine represented that to him first-ten thousand dollars. Secondly, she was worth it in every way. He had what hosts of others would be glad to have--men younger and better looking than himself. She represented the triumph of age. He had lived his life; he had buried two wives; he had had children; he had made money; and yet here, when other men of his years were thinking of making wills, and eating porridge, and waiting for the Dark Policeman to come and arrest them for loitering, he was left a magnificent piece of property like Tralee; and he had all the sources of pleasure open to a young man walking the primrose path. He was living right up to the last. Both his wives were gray-headed when they died--it turned them gray to live with him; both had died before they were fifty; and here he was the sole owner of a wonderful young head, with hair that reached to the waist, with lips like cool fruit from an orchard-tree, and the indescribable charm of youth and loveliness which the young themselves never really understood. That was what he used to say to himself; it was only age could appreciate youth and beauty; youth did not understand.
Thus the Young Doctor's question roused in him something at once savage and apprehensive. Of course he wanted Louise to live. Why should she not live?
"Doesn't any husband want his wife to live!" he answered sullenly. "But I want to know what ails her. What medicine you going to give her?"
"I don't know," the Young Doctor replied meditatively. "When she is quite rid of this attack, I'll examine her again and let you know."
Suddenly there shot into the greenish old eyes a reddish look of rage; jealousy, horrible, gruesome jealousy, took possession of Joel Mazarine. This young man to come in and go out of his wife's bedroom, to--Why weren't there women doctors? He would get one over from the Coast, or from Winnipeg, or else there was old Doctor Gensing, in Askatoon--who was seventy-five at least. He would call him in and get rid of this offensive young pill-maker.
"I don't believe there's anything the matter with her," he declared
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