eBooks Cube


I had my hands full the next day. We'd had another snow-storm
during the night and the trains were blocked again. About ten
o'clock we got a telegram from the new doctor we'd been
expecting, that he'd fallen on the ice on his way to the train
and broken his arm, and at eleven a delegation from the guests
waited on Mr. Pierce and told him they'd have to have a house
physician at once.

Senator Biggs was the spokesman. He said that, personally, he
couldn't remain another day without one; that he should be under
a physician's care every moment of his fast, and that if no
doctor came that day he'd be in favor of all the guests showing
their displeasure by leaving together.

"Either that," Thoburn said from the edge of the crowd, "or call
it a hotel at once and be done with it. A sanatorium
without a doctor is like an omelet without eggs!"

"Hamlet without ham," somebody said.

"We're doing the best we can," Mr. Pierce explained. "We--we
expect a doctor to-day."

"When?" from Mr. Jennings, who had come on a cane and was
watching Mr. Pierce like a hawk.

"This afternoon, probably. As there is no one here very ill--"

But at that they almost fell on him and tore him to pieces. I
had to step in front of him myself and say we'd have somebody
there by two o'clock if we had to rob a hospital to get him. And
Mr. Sam cried, "Three cheers for Minnie, the beautiful spring-
house girl!" and led off.

There's no doubt about it--a man ought to be born to the
sanatorium business. A real strong and healthy man has no
business trying to run a health resort, and I saw Mr. Pierce
wasn't making the hit that I'd expected him to.

He was too healthy. You only needed to look at him to know that
he took a cold plunge every morning, and liked to walk ten miles
a day, and could digest anything and go to sleep the minute his
head touched the pillow. And he had no tact. When Mrs.
Biggs went to him and explained that the vacuum cleaner must not
be used in her room--that it exhausted the air or something, and
she could hardly breathe after it--he only looked bewildered and
then drew a diagram to show her it was impossible that it could
exhaust the air. The old doctor knew how: he'd have ordered an
oxygen tank opened in the room after the cleaner was used and
she'd have gone away happy.

Of course Mr. Pierce was most polite. He'd listen to their
complaints--and they were always complaining, that's part of the
regime--with a puzzled face, trying to understand, but he
couldn't. He hadn't a nerve in his body. Once, when one of the
dining-room girls dropped a tray of dishes and half the women
went to bed with headache from the nervous shock, he never even
looked up, but went on with his dinner, and the only comment he
made afterward was to tell the head waitress to see that Annie
didn't have to pay breakage--that the trays were too heavy for a
woman, anyhow. As Miss Cobb said, he was impossible.

Well, as if I didn't have my hands full with getting meals
to the shelter-house, and trying to find a house doctor, and
wondering how long it would be before "Julia" came face to face
with Dick Carter somewhere or other, and trying to keep one eye
on Thoburn while I kept Mr. Pierce straight with the other--that
day, during luncheon, Mike the bath man came out to the spring-
house and made a howl about his wages. He'd been looking surly
for two days.

"What about your wages?" I snapped. "Aren't you getting what
you've always had?"

"No tips!" he said sulkily. "Only a few taking baths--only one
daily, and that's that man Jennings. There's no use talking,
Miss Minnie, I've got to have a double percentage on that man or
you'll have to muzzle him. He--he's dangerous."

"If I give you the double percentage, will you stay?"

"I don't know but that I'd rather have the muzzle, Miss Minnie,"
he answered slowly, "but--I'll stay. It won't be for long."

Which left me thinking. I'd seen Thoburn talking to Mike more
than once lately, and he'd been going around with an air of
assurance that didn't make me any too cheerful. Evenings,
when I'd relieved Amanda King at the news stand, I'd seen Thoburn
examining the woodwork of the windows, and only the night before,
happening on the veranda unexpectedly, I found Mike and him
measuring it with a tape line. As I say, Mike's visit left me

The usual crowd came out that afternoon and drank water and sat
around the fire and complained--all except Senator Biggs, who
happened in just as I was pouring melted butter over a dish of
hot salted pop-corn. He stood just inside the door, sniffling,
with his eyes fixed on the butter, and then groaned and went out.

He looked terrible--his clothes hung on him like bags; as the
bishop said, it was ghastly to see a convexity change to such a
concavity in three days.

Mr. Moody won three dollars that day from the slot-machine and
was almost civil to his wife, but old Jennings sat with his foot
on a stool and yelled if anybody slammed the door. Mrs. Hutchins
brought him out with her eyes red and asked me if she could leave
him there.

"I'm sorry if I was rude to you the other night, Minnie,"
she said, "but I was upset. I'm so worn-out that I'll have to
lie down for an hour, and if he doesn't get better soon, I--I
shall have to have help. My nerves are gone."

At four o'clock Mr. Sam came in, and he had Mr. Thoburn tight by
the arm.

"My dear old chap," he was saying, "it would be as much as your
life's worth. That ground is full of holes and just now covered
with snow--!"

He caught my eye, and wiped his forehead.

"Heaven help us!" he said, coming over to the spring, "I found
him making for the shelter-house, armed with a foot rule!
Somebody's got to take him in hand--I tell you, the man's a

"What about the doctor?" I asked, reaching up his glass.

"Be here to-night," he answered, "on the--"

But at that minute a boy brought a telegram down and handed it to
him. The new doctor was laid up with influenza!

We sat there after the others had gone, and Mr. Sam said he was
for giving up the fight, only to come out now with the truth
would mean such a lot of explaining and a good many people would
likely find it funny. Mr. Pierce came in later and we gave
him the telegram to read.

"I don't see why on earth they need a doctor, anyhow," he said,
"they're not sick. If they'd take a little exercise and get some
air in their lungs--"

"My dear fellow," Mr. Sam cried in despair, "some people are born
in sanatoriums, some acquire them, and others have them thrust
upon them--I've had this place thrust upon me. I don't know why
they want a doctor, but they do. They balked at Rodgers from the
village. They want somebody here at night. Mr. Jennings has the
gout and there's the deuce to pay. Some of them talk of

"Let 'em leave," said Mr. Pierce. "If they'd go home and drink
three gallons of any kind of pure water a day--"

"Sh! That's heresy here! My dear fellow, we've got to keep

Mr. Pierce glanced at the telegram and handed it back.

"Lot's of starving M. D.'s would jump at the chance," he said,
"but if it's as urgent as all this we can't wait to hunt. I'll
tell you, Van Alstyne, there's a chap down in the village he was
the character man with the Sweet Peas Company--and he's
stranded there. I saw him this morning. He's washing dishes in
the depot restaurant for his meals. We used to call him Doc, and
I've a hazy idea that he's a graduate M. D.--name's Barnes."

"Great!" cried Mr. Van Alstyne. "Let's have Barnes. You get
him, will you, Pierce?"

Mr. Pierce promised and they started out together. At the door
Mr. Sam turned.

"Oh, by the way, Minnie," he called, "better gild one of your
chairs and put a red cushion on it. The prince has arrived."

Well, I thought it all out that afternoon as I washed the
glasses, and it was terrible. I had two people in the shelter-
house to feed and look after like babies, with Tillie getting
more curious every day about the basket she brought, and not to
be held much longer; and I had a man running the sanatorium and
running it to the devil as fast as it could go. Not that he
wasn't a nice young man, big, strong-jawed and all that, but you
can't make a diplomat out of an ordinary man in three days, and
it takes more diplomacy to run a sanatorium a week than it does
to be secretary of state for four years. Then I had a
prince incognito, and Thoburn stirring up mischief, and the
servants threatening to strike, and no house doctor--

Just as I got to that somebody opened the door behind me and
looked in. I glanced around, and it was a man with the reddest
hair I ever saw. Mine was pale by comparison. He was rather
short and heavy-set, and he had a pleasant face, although not
handsome, his nose being slightly bent to the left. But at first
all I could see was his hair.

"Good evening," he said, edging himself in. "Are you Miss

"Yes," I said, rising and getting a glass ready, "although I'm
not called that often, except by people who want to pun on my
name and my business." I looked at him sharply, but he hadn't
intended any pun.

He took off his hat and came over to the spring where I was
filling his glass.

"If that's for me, you needn't bother," he said. "If it tastes
as it smells, I'm not thirsty. My name's Barnes, and I was to
wait here for Mr. Van Alstyne."

"Barnes!" I repeated. "Then you're the doctor."

He grinned, and stood turning his hat around in his hands.

"Not exactly," he said. "I graduated in medicine a good many
years ago, but after a year of it, wearing out more seats of
trousers waiting for patients than I earned enough to pay for,
and having to have new trousers, I took to other things."

"Oh, yes," I said. "You're an actor now."

He looked thoughtful.

"Some people think I'm not," he answered, "but I'm on the stage.
Graduated there from prize-fighting. Prize-fighting, the stage,
and then writing for magazines--that's the usual progression.
Sometimes, as a sort of denouement before the final curtain, we
have dinner at the White House."

I took a liking to the man at once. It was a relief to have
somebody who was willing to tell all about himself and wasn't
incognito, or in hiding, or under somebody else's name. I put a
fresh log on the fire, and as it blazed up I saw him looking at

"Ye gods and little fishes!" he said. "Another redhead! Why,
we're as alike as two carrots off the same bunch!"

In five minutes I knew how old he was, and where he was
raised, and that what he wanted more than anything on earth was a
little farmhouse with chickens and a cow.

"Where you can have air, you know," he said, waving his hands,
which were covered with reddish hair. "Lord, in the city I
starve for air! And where, when you're getting soft you can go
out and tackle the wood-pile. That's living!"

And then he wanted to know what he was to do at the sanatorium
and I told him as well as I could. I didn't tell him everything,
but I explained why Mr. Pierce was calling himself Carter, and
about the two in the shelter-house. I had to. He knew as well
as I did that three days before Mr. Pierce had had nothing to his
name but a folding automobile road map or whatever it was.

"Good for old Pierce!" he said when I finished. "He's a prince,
Miss Waters. If you'd seen him sending those girls back to
town--well, I'll do all I can to help him. But I'm not much of a
doctor. It's safe to acknowledge it; you'll find it out soon

Mr. and Mrs. Van Alstyne came in just then, and Mr. Sam told him
what he was expected to do. It wasn't much: he was to tell
them at what temperatures to take their baths, "and Minnie will
help you out with that," he added, and what they were to eat and
were not to eat. "Minnie will tell you that, too," he finished,
and Mr. Barnes, DOCTOR Barnes, came over and shook my hand.

"I'm perfectly willing to be first assistant," he declared.
"We'll put our heads together and the result will be--"

"Combustion!" said Mr. Sam, and we all laughed.

"Remember," Mr. Sam instructed him, as Doctor Barnes started out,
"when you don't know what to prescribe, order a Turkish bath.
The baths are to a sanatorium what the bar is to a club--they pay
the bills."

Well, we got it all fixed and Doctor Barnes started out, but at
the door he stopped.

"I say," he asked in an undertone, "the stork doesn't light
around here, does he?"

"Not if they see him first!" I replied grimly, and he went out.

Where There's A Will by Mary Roberts Rinehart
General Fiction

Mystery and detective stories
Nabou.com: the big site