« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
MY BROTHER'S KEEPER
He cam' on purpose to visit me.-Old Ballad. It was a blustering December day,—no snow to lay the dust or to allay the cold with its bright reflections; and Winter himself seemed shivering, despoiled of his ermine cloak.
In that very spirit in which some people seek out the worst side of human nature, the wind careered about,-picked up all the dust and straws it could find, and showered them upon the heads of innocent and well-dressed people. Not exclusively, to be sure, the wind was impartial in its bestowings; but if mischief may be measured by the trouble it gives and the effects it leaves behind it, then did “the upper ten" get more than their share that day. It mattered little to the chimney-sweeps that their caps were stuck with dry leaves, and their brown blankets flung about in every fantastical way--à la Don and à la Boreas,-the carters had no veils to blow off; and if now and then a rowdy's hat flew into the middle of the street, nobody pitied him and the hat was none the worse. But the ladies who fought the wind at every corner, and came upon an ambush of full-grown zephyrs in most unexpected places, found the enemy's reinforcements to be far beyond their own; while hair was frizzed after every fashion not approved; the colour of dark hats became doubtful; and if white ones ever looked white again, it was only because in town one takes a medium standard of purity:
In the midst of it all the sky was sometimes quite clear, and in the sunshine the driver of some incoming stage loomed out from his high station, and hackney-coachmen became visible. Then with the next gush the clouds rushed on, as white and almost as light as snowflakes,--drifting, meeting, covering the blue, and causing an instant fall in the thermometer.
Through the throng, of men and things a gig made its way, unmolested but not unheeded. Everybody looks at a doctor's gig, though everybody has seen one every day of his life,-everybody looks and wonders with a strange sort of interest. And there is always the same thing to be seen. On the one seat a remarkably comfortable-looking gentleman, in his multitude of greatcoats and wrappers (no doctor ever looked anything but comfortable); while the other seat contains with great ease a comparatively thin indi. vidual, hardly a sketch of the doctor, and usually habited in a cap, mittens, and a red worsted comforter. He enjoys, moreover, a share of the boot.
And it is no wonder that everybody looks; for there is a strange meeting of life and death in the air of that gig-its errand and itself so widely different!
The house towards which this one went had been already visited by the wind many times in the coursc of the day; and there it had demanded admittance as noisily as at any other house in the whole street. But of late the wind had grown respectful; and though just at the time when the doctor drove up Broadway it made one desperate dash at the third story windows, piling dry leaves and dust on every sash, --something it saw there seemed to calm its mood ;-the wind not only went down sighing, but took the dry leaves with it.
"I feel it not."-" Then take it every hour."
"THE doctor's come, Miss Rosalie," said a woman, opening the door of that very third story room. “ Been spry, aint he? I shouldn't wonder if his horse was somethin' more than common. But he's come, anyway. What's to be done with him?"
“Show him up here, Martha."
And as the door closed, the young lady's eyes came back to the bed by which she sat.
A child lay there, in that drowsiness which is of fever, not of sleep; to which the hot cheek and uneasy posture alike bore witness. She was not undressed, for the arm that lay above her head displayed a short merino sleeve at the shoulder; and at a very small distance down the bed one little shoe of childish cut moved restlessly from under the shawl fringe that half covered it. With what quick and fluttering action the fringe about her throat was stirred, the watcher noticed painfully; and softly drew it away, and was rewarded by the half unclosed eyes, and the lips that met to thank her.
“ You have been asleep,” Rosalie said, resting her own upon them.
“I don't know,” said the child, dreamily. "Who's that coming up-stairs ?"
" Doctor Buffem.” And even as she spoke, a long-continued and portentous creaking of boots came to a sudden stop at the door,Doctor Buffem having paused for breath and admittance. The last was the easiest obtained.
“What the mischief! Miss Rosalie,” he said, with some impatience. Why don't you emigrate to the stars at once? Venus would suit you well enough, or you might get a situation in Mars, you're of such a warlike disposition. You haven't got sense enough for Pallas, or you'd never be caught in the third story of a house while there were two below it."
“I thought it would be quieter up here,” Rosalie said, with a face that was grave only because she had no heart to smile.
“Nonsense!" said the doctor, “I should like to hear anybody make a noise in this house for once. Quieter! At this scale of elevation the music of the spheres’ is overpowering.". And putting his hands behind him, the doctor marched off to the window, and with a very panting enunciation gave,
“ Yon tall anchoring bark
Diminish'd to a cock,-her cock a buoy.
Appear as mice.” Very particularly comfortable he looked, with his gold spectacles and gold-headed cane; and a head of his own, which, if not all of the same precious metal, had at least “ golden opinions. A singular contrast to the figure standing by the bedside, and wishing very intently that his gesticulations might have an end.
"Well, what's the matter with the child?” he said, wheeling suddenly round as if her existence had but just occurred to him. “Out of breath with running up stairs, eh?”
And throwing down the shawl, Dr. Buffem took the little hand in his, and scientifically applied his three fingers to the wrist.
“All dressed, -ready to go to Albany,” he remarked “Let's see your tongue. S, c, a, r," said the doctor, looking round at Rosalie.
She gave no answer that he could see, and none for him to hear. One quick bound of the heart-a bright spot that came and as quickly left her cheek, and she stood there as before, the hands perhaps holding each other in a somewhat firmer clasp.
The doctor replaced the shawl, straightened himself up, and began to talk.
* Here's a fine case," he said; "but I guess you and I can manage it. What sort of a nurse will you be, hey?"
“ The best that I can, sir.”
“Hum--ah," said the doctor, with a recollective glance at Rosalie's black dress which sent a thrill to her finger-ends,-the wound would not bear even that slight touch. “Yes, I guess you'll do. Got a thermometer about the house?" She bowed assentingly.
Have it up here, then-hang it anywhere except over the fire and outside the window, and keep it just at 70°, -no hotter, no colder. And don't let in more than half the sunlight at once, keep the rest till afternoon,” said Doctor Buffem, walking off to the windows and closing the shutters. “You're so close to the sun up here, Miss Rosalie, that he'll put out the eyes of well people if you give him a chance. There-I'll leave you one crack to put your face straight by, important duty that in a sick-room. I'll come in again by-and-by, and bring you some powders, --came off without 'em this morning. And get her undressed and put to bed," he added, with a nod at the sick child. “She wont want to take much exercise to-day nor to-morrow. Ever had it yourself?"