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PAGE 3

Twenty-Two
by [?]

“You don’t remember which one?”

But she only observed that probationers were always coming and going, and it wasn’t worth while learning their names until they were accepted. And that, anyhow, probationers should never be sent to private patients, who are paying a lot and want the best.

“Really,” she added, “I don’t know what the school is coming to. Since this war in Europe every girl wants to wear a uniform and be ready to go to the front if we have trouble. All sorts of silly children are applying. We have one now, on this very floor, not a day over nineteen.”

“Who is she?” asked Middleton. He felt that this was the one. She was so exactly the sort Miss Willoughby would object to.

“Jane Brown,” snapped Miss Willoughby. “A little, namby-pamby, mush-and-milk creature, afraid of her own shadow.”

Now, Jane Brown, at that particular moment, was sitting in her little room in the dormitory, with the old watch ticking on the stand so she would not over-stay her off duty. She was aching with fatigue from her head, with its smooth and shiny hair, to her feet, which were in a bowl of witch hazel and hot water. And she was crying over a letter she was writing.

Jane Brown had just come from her first death. It had taken place in H ward, where she daily washed window-sills, and disinfected stands, and carried dishes in and out. And it had not been what she had expected. In the first place, the man had died for hours. She had never heard of this. She had thought of death as coming quickly–a glance of farewell, closing eyes, and–rest. But for hours and hours the struggle had gone on, a fight for breath that all the ward could hear. And he had not closed his eyes at all. They were turned up, and staring.

The Probationer had suffered horribly, and at last she had gone behind the screen and folded her hands and closed her eyes, and said very low:

“Dear God–please take him quickly.”

He had stopped breathing almost immediately. But that may have been a coincidence.

However, she was not writing that home. Between gasps she was telling the humours of visiting day in the ward, and of how kind every one was to her, which, if not entirely true, was not entirely untrue. They were kind enough when they had time to be, or when they remembered her. Only they did not always remember her.

She ended by saying that she was quite sure they meant to accept her when her three months was up. It was frightfully necessary that she be accepted.

She sent messages to all the little town, which had seen her off almost en masse. And she added that the probationers received the regular first-year allowance of eight dollars a month, and she could make it do nicely–which was quite true, unless she kept on breaking thermometers when she shook them down.

At the end she sent her love to everybody, including even worthless Johnny Fraser, who cut the grass and scrubbed the porches; and, of course, to Doctor Willie. He was called Doctor Willie because his father, who had taken him into partnership long ago, was Doctor Will. It never had seemed odd, although Doctor Willie was now sixty-five, and a saintly soul.

Curiously enough, her letter was dated April first. Under that very date, and about that time of the day, a health officer in a near-by borough was making an entry regarding certain coloured gentlemen shipped north from Louisiana to work on a railroad. Opposite the name of one Augustus Baird he put a cross. This indicated that Augustus Baird had not been vaccinated.

By the sixth of April “Twenty-two” had progressed from splints to a plaster cast, and was being most awfully bored. Jane Brown had not returned, and there was a sort of relentless maturity about the nurses who looked after him that annoyed him.