Digital Downloads Mary Wollaston (Emobi/Kindle Ebook)

Mary Wollaston (Emobi/Kindle Ebook)

Mary Wollaston (Emobi/Kindle Ebook)
Catalog # SKU4072
Publisher TGS Publishing
Author Name Henry Kitchell Webster
ISBN 10: 0000000000
ISBN 13: 0000000000000
Quantity 1 (this product is downloadable)


Mary Wollaston

Electronic Digital Book

Henry Kitchell Webster

Miss Lucile Wollaston was set to exude sympathy, like an aphid waiting for an overworked ant to come down to breakfast. But there was no sympathizing with the man who came in from a doctor's all-night vigil like a boy from a ball-game, gave her a hard brisk kiss on the cheek-bone, and then, before taking his place at the table, unfolded the morning paper for a glance at the head-lines.



If there was something rigorous about the way she lighted the alcohol lamp under the silver urn and rang for Nathaniel, the old colored butler, it was from a determination not to let this younger brother of hers put her into a flurry again as he so often did. A very much younger brother indeed, he seemed when this mood was on him.

Miss Wollaston was born on the election day that made James Buchanan president of the United States and Doctor John within a few days of Appomattox. But one would have said, looking at them here at the breakfast table on a morning in March in the year 1919, that there was a good deal more than those ten years between them. He folded his paper and sat down when the butler suggestively pulled out his chair for him and his manner became, for the moment, absent, as his eye fell upon a letter beside his plate addressed in his daughter, Mary's, handwriting.

"I want a big platter of ham and eggs, Nat, sliced thick. And a few of Lucartha's wheat cakes." He made some sort of good-humored, half articulate acknowledgment of the old servitor's pleasure in getting such an order, but one might have seen that his mind was a little out of focus, for it was not exactly dealing with the letter either. He sliced it open with a table knife with the precise movement one would have expected from a surgeon and disengaged it in the same neat way from its envelope. But he read it as if he weren't very sharply aware of what, particularly, it had to say and he laid it beside his plate again without any comment.

"Did you have any sleep last night, at all?" Miss Wollaston asked.

It brought him back like a flash. "Not a wink," he said jovially.

This was a challenge and the look that went with it, one of clear boyish mischief, was one that none of John Wollaston's other intimates--and among these I include his beautiful young wife and his two grown-up children by an earlier marriage--ever saw. It was a special thing for this sister who had been a stately young lady of twenty when he was a bad little boy of ten. She had watched him, admiring yet rather aghast, ever since then.

To the world at large his social charm lay in--or was at least inseparable from--his really exquisite manners, his considerateness, the touch of old-fashioned punctilio there was about him. His first wife would have agreed with her successor about his possession of this quality though they would have appraised it rather differently. Only this elderly unmarried sister of his felt the fascination of the horrible about him.

This was to some extent inherent in his profession. He had a reputation that was growing to amount to fame as a specialist in the very wide field of gynecology, obstetrics and abdominal surgery. The words themselves made Miss Wollaston shudder.

When he replied to her question, whether or not he had had any sleep at all, with an open grin and that triumphant "Not a wink," she had a prophetic sense of what was going to happen. She was going to ask him more questions and he was going to tell her something perfectly ghastly.

She felt herself slipping, but she pulled up. "What's in Mary's letter?" she asked.

She knew that this was not quite fair, and the look that it brought to his face--a twinge of pain like neuralgia--awakened a sharp compunction in her. She did not know why--at least not exactly why--his relation with his daughter should be a sore spot in his emotional life, but she knew quite well that this was true. There was on the surface, nothing, or nowhere near enough, to account for it.

He had always been, Miss Wollaston felt, an adorer to the verge of folly of this lovely pale-blonde daughter of his. He had indulged her outrageously but without any evident bad results. Upon her mother's death, in 1912 that was, when Mary was seventeen years old, she had, to the utmost limit that a daughter could compass, taken her mother's place in the bereaved man's life. She had foregone the college course she was prepared for and had taken over very skillfully the management of her father's household; even, in a surprisingly successful way, too, the motherly guidance of her two-years-younger brother, Rush. Miss Wollaston's testimony on these two points was unbiased as it was ungrudging. She had offered herself for that job and had not then been wanted.

Two years later there had been a quarrel between John and his daughter. She fell in love, or thought she did--for indeed, how could a child of nineteen know?--with a man to whom her father decisively and almost violently objected. Just how well founded this objection was Miss Wollaston had no means of deciding for herself. There was nothing flagrantly wrong with the man's manners, position or prospects; but she attributed to her brother a wisdom altogether beyond her own in matters of that sort and sided with him against the girl without misgiving. And the fact that the man himself married another girl within a month or two of Mary's submission to her father's will, might be taken as a demonstration that he was right.

John had done certainly all he could to make it up with the girl. He tried to get her to go with him on what was really a junket to Vienna--there was no better place to play than the Vienna of those days--though there was also some sort of surgical congress there that spring that served him as an excuse, and Mary, Miss Wollaston felt, had only herself to blame for what happened.

She had elected to be tragic; preferred the Catskills with a dull old aunt to Vienna with a gay young father. John went alone, sore from the quarrel and rather adrift. In Vienna, he met Paula Carresford, an American opera singer, young, extraordinarily beautiful, and of unimpeachable respectability. They were in Vienna together the first week in August, 1914. They got out together, sailed on the same ship for America and in the autumn of that year, here in Chicago, in the most decorous manner in the world, John married her.

There was a room in Miss Wollaston's well ordered mind which she had always guarded as an old-fashioned New England village housewife used to guard the best parlor, no light, no air, no dust, Holland covers on all the furniture. Rigorously she forbore to speculate upon the attraction which had drawn John and Paula together--upon what had happened between them--upon how the thing had looked and felt to either of them. She covered the whole episode with one blanket observation: she supposed it was natural in the circumstances.

And there was much to be thankful for. Paula was well-bred; she was amiable; she was "nice"; nice to an amazing degree, considering. She had made a genuine social success. She had given John a new lease on life, turned back the clock for him, oh--years.

Mary, Miss Wollaston felt, had taken it surprisingly well. At the wedding she had played her difficult part admirably and during the few months she had stayed at home after the wedding, she had not only kept on good terms with Paula but had seemed genuinely to like her. In the spring of the next year, 1915, she had, indeed, left home and had not been back since except for infrequent visits. But then there was reason enough--excuse enough, anyhow--for that. The war was enveloping them all. Rush had left his freshman year at Harvard uncompleted to go to France and drive an ambulance (he enlisted a little later in the French Army). Mary had gone to New York to work on the Belgian War Relief Fund, and she had been working away at it ever since.

There was then no valid reason--no reason at all unless she were willing to go rummaging in that dark room of her mind for it--why John should always wince like that when one reminded him of Mary. It was a fact, though, that he did, and his sister was too honest-minded to pretend she did not know it. He answered her question now evenly enough. "She's working harder than ever, she says, closing up her office. She wants some more money, of course. And she's heard from Rush. He's coming home. He may be turning up almost any day now. She hopes to get a wire from him so that she can meet him in New York and have a little visit with him, she says, before he comes on here."

It was on Miss Wollaston's tongue to ask crisply, "Why doesn't she come home herself now that her Fund is shutting up shop?" But that would have been to state in so many words the naked question they tacitly left unasked. There was another idea in her brother's mind that she thought she could deal with. He had betrayed it by the emphasis he put on the fact that it was to Mary and not to himself that Rush had written the news that he was coming home. Certainly there was nothing in that.

"Why," she asked brightly, "don't you go to New York yourself and meet him?"

He answered instantly, almost sharply, "I can't do that." Then not liking the way it sounded in his own ear, he gave her a reason. "If you knew the number of babies that are coming along within the next month...."

"You need a rest," she said, "badly. I don't see how you live through horrors like that. But there must be other people--somebody who can take your work for you for a while. It can't make all that difference."

"It wouldn't," he admitted, "nine times out of ten. That call I got last evening that broke up the dinner party,--an intern at the County Hospital would have done just as well as I. There was nothing to it at all. Oh, it was a sort of satisfaction to the husband's feelings, I suppose, to pay me a thousand dollars and be satisfied that nobody in town could have paid more and got anything better. But you see, you never can tell. The case I was called in on at four o'clock this morning was another thing altogether." A gleam had come into his eyes again as over the memory of some brilliantly successful audacity. The gray old look had gone out of his face.

"I don't altogether wonder that Pollard blew up," he added, "except that a man in that profession has got no business to--ever."

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