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- The Window-Gazer - 5/55 -
to rise again and felt the sweat upon his forehead did he remember the doctor's story. . . . Spence swore under his breath and attempted to pull himself up by the table.
"Wait a moment!"
The cold voice held authority--the authority he had come to respect in hospital--and he waited, setting his teeth. Next moment he set them still harder, for Li Ho and the girl picked him up without ceremony and laid him, whitefaced, upon the sprawling sofa.
"Why didn't you say you had sciatica?" asked Miss Farr, belligerently.
It seemed unnecessary to answer.
"I know it is sciatica," she went on, "because I've seen it before. And if you had no more sense than to bathe in that pool you deserve all you've got."
"It looked all right." "Oh--looked! It's melted ice--simply."
"So I realized, afterwards."
"You seem to do most things afterwards. caused it in the first place, cold?"
"The sciatica? No--an injury."
There was a slight pause.
"Was it--in the war?" The new note in her voice did not escape Spence. He lied promptly--too promptly. Desire Farr was an observant young person, quite capable of drawing conclusions.
"I'm not going to be sympathetic," she said. "That," with sudden illumination, "is probably what you ran away from. But you'd better be truthfull Was it a bullet?"
"And the treatment?"
"Rest, and the tablets in my bag."
"Right--I'll get them."
It was quite like old hospital times. The sofa was hard and the pillows knobby. But he had lain upon worse. Li Ho was not more unhandy than many an orderly. And the tablets, quickly and neatly administered by Miss Farr, brought something of relief.
Not until she saw the strain within his eyes relax did his self- appointed nurse pass sentence.
"You certainly can't move until you are better," she said. "You'll have to stay. It can't be helped but--father will have a fit."
"A fit?" murmured Spence. Privately he thought that a fit might do the old gentleman good.
"He hates having anyone here," she went on thoughtfully. "It upsets him."
"Does it? But why? I can understand it upsetting you. But he--he doesn't do the work, does he?"
"Not exactly," the girl smiled. "But--oh well, I don't believe in explanations. You'll see things for your-self, perhaps. And now I'll get you a book. I won't warn you not to move for I know you can't."
With a glance which, true to her promise, was not overburdened with sympathy, his strangely acquired hostess went out and closed the door.
He tried to read the book she had handed him ("Green Mansions"--ho-r had it wandered out here?) but his mind could not detach itself. It insisted upon listening for sounds outside. And presently a sound came--the high, thin sound of a voice shaking with weakness or rage. Then the cool tones of his absent nurse, then the voice again-- certainly a most unpleasant voice--and the crashing sound of something being violently thrown to the ground and stamped upon. Through the closed door, the professor seemed to see a vision of an absurd old man with pale eyes, who shrieked and stamped upon an umbrella.
"That," said Hamilton Spence, with resignation, "that must be father having a fit!"
Letter from Professor Hamilton Spence to his friend, John Rogers, M.D.
DEAR Bones: Chortle if you want to--your worst prognostications have come true. The unexpectedness of the sciatic nerve, as set forth in your parting discourse, has amply proved itself. The dashed thing is all that you said of it--and more. It did not even permit me to collapse gracefully--or to choose my public. Your other man had a policeman, hadn't he?
Here I am, stranded upon a sofa from which I cannot get up and detained indefinitely upon a mountain from which I cannot get down. My nurse (I have a nurse) refuses to admit the mountain. She insists upon referring to this dizzy height as "just above sea-level" and declares that the precipitous ascent thereto is "a slight grade." Otherwise she is quite sane.
But sanity is more than I feel justified in claiming for anyone else in this household. There is Li Ho, for instance. Well, I'm not certain about Li Ho. He may be Chinese-sane. My nurse says he is. But I have no doubts at all about my host. He is so queer that I sometimes wonder if he is not a figment. Perhaps I imagine him. If so, my imagination is going strong. What I seem to see is a little old man in a frock coat so long that his legs (like those of the Queen of Spain) are negligible. He has a putty colored face (so blurred that I keep expecting him to rub it out altogether), white hair, pale blue eyes--and an umbrella.
Yesterday, attempting to establish cordial relations, I asked him why the umbrella. He had a fit right on the spot?
Let me explain about the fits. When his daughter just said, "Father will have a fit," I thought she spoke in a Pickwickian sense, meaning, "Father will experience annoyance." But when I heard him having it, I realized that she had probably been quite literal. When father has a fit he bangs his umbrella to the floor and jumps on it. Also he tears his hair. I have seen the pieces.
I said to my nurse: "The mention of his umbrella seems to agitate your father." She turned quite pale. "It does," she said. "I hope you haven't mentioned it." I said that I had merely asked for information. "And did you get it?" asked she. I said that I had-- since it was apparent that one has to carry an umbrella if one wishes to have it handy to jump upon. She didn't laugh at all, and looked so withdrawn that it was quite plain I need expect no elucidation from her.
I had to dismiss the subject altogether. But, later on, Li Ho (who appears to partially approve of me) gave a curious side light on the matter. At night as he was tucking me up safely (the sofa is slippery), he said, "Honorable Boss got hole in head-top. Sun velly bad. Umblella keep him off."
"But he carries it at night, too," I objected.
Li Ho wagged his parchment head. "Keep moon off all same. Moon muchy more bad. Full moon find urn hole. Make Honorable Boss much klasy."
Remarkably lucid explanation--don't you think so? The "hole in head top" is evidently Li Ho's picturesque figure for "mental vacuum." Therefore I gather that our yellow brother suspects his honorable boss of being weak-headed, a condition aggravated by the direct rays of the sun and especially by the full moon. He may be right--though the old man seems harmless enough. "Childlike and bland" describes him usually. Though there are times when he looks at me with those pale eyes--and I wish that I were not quite so helpless! He dislikes me. But I have known quite sane people do that.
I am writing nonsense. One has to, with sciatica. I hope this confounded leg lets me get some sleep tonight.
P.S.: Not exactly an ideal home for a young girl--is it?
It had rained all night. It had rained all yesterday. It had rained all the day before. It was raining still. Apparently it could go on raining indefinitely.
Miss Farr said not. She said that it would be certain to clear up in a day or two. "And then," she said, "you will forget that it ever rained."
Professor Spence doubted it. He had a good memory.
"You look much better this morning," his nurse went on. "Have you tried to move your leg yet?"
"I am thinking of trying it."
This was not exactly a fib on the part of the professor because he was thinking of it. But it did not include the whole truth, because he had already tried it, tried it very successfully only a few moments before. First he had made sure that he was alone in the room and then he had proceeded with the trial. Very cautiously he had drawn his lame leg up, and tenderly stretched it out. He had turned over and back again. He had wiggled his toes to see how many of them were present--only the littlest toe was still numb. He had realized that he was much better. If the improvement kept on, he knew that in
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