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The Shadowy Third
by [?]

WHEN the call came I remember that I turned from the telephone in a romantic flutter. Though I had spoken only once to the great surgeon, Roland Maradick, I felt on that December afternoon that to speak to him only once — to watch him in the operating-room for a single hour — was an adventure which drained the color and the excitement from the rest of life. After all these years of work on typhoid and pneumonia cases, I can still feel the delicious tremor of my young pulses; I can still see the winter sunshine slanting through the hospital windows over the white uniforms of the nurses.

“He didn’t mention me by name. Can there be a mistake?” I stood, incredulous yet ecstatic, before the superintendent of the hospital.

“No, there isn’t a mistake. I was talking to him before you came down.” Miss Hemphill’s strong face softened while she looked at me. She was a big, resolute woman, a distant Canadian relative of my mother’s, and the kind of nurse, I had discovered in the month since I had come up from Richmond, that Northern hospital boards, if not Northern patients, appear instinctively to select. From the first, in spite of her hardness, she had taken a liking — I hesitate to use the word “fancy” for a preference so impersonal — to her Virginia cousin. After all, it isn’t every Southern nurse, just out of training, who can boast a kinswoman in the superintendent of a New York hospital. If experience was what I needed, Miss Hemphill, I judged, was abundantly prepared to supply it.

“And he made you understand positively that he meant me?” The thing was so wonderful that I simply couldn’t believe it.

“He asked particularly for the nurse who was with Miss Hudson last week when he operated. I think he didn’t even remember that you had a name — this isn’t the South, you know, where people still regard nurses as human, not as automata. When I asked if he meant Miss Randolph, he repeated that he wanted the nurse who had been with Miss Hudson. She was small, he said, and cheerful-looking. This, of course, might apply to one or two others, but none of these was with Miss Hudson. Miss Maupin, the only nurse, except you, who went near her, is large and heavy.”

“Then I suppose it is really true?” My pulses were tingling.”And I am to be there at six o’clock?”

“Not a minute later. The day nurse goes off duty at that hour, and Mrs. Maradick is never left by herself for an instant.”

“It is her mind, isn’t it? And that makes it all the stranger that he should select me, for I have had so few mental cases.”

“So few cases of any kind.” Miss Hemphill was smiling, and when she smiled I wondered if the other nurses would know her.”By the time you have gone through the treadmill in New York, Margaret, you will have lost a good many things besides your inexperience. I wonder how long you will keep your sympathy and your imagination? After all, wouldn’t you have made a better novelist than a nurse?”

“I can’t help putting myself into my cases. I suppose one ought not to?”

“It isn’t a question of what one ought to do, but of what one must. When you are drained of every bit of sympathy and enthusiasm and have got nothing in return for it, not even thanks, you will understand why I try to keep you from wasting yourself.”

“But surely in a case like this — for Doctor Maradick?”