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A short story by Josephine Daskam Bacon

The Legacy

Title:     The Legacy
Author: Josephine Daskam Bacon [More Titles by Bacon]

Of course, it doesn't make any difference to me whether anybody believes this or not. It's only because Dr. Stanchon asked me to, that I'm writing it, anyway. And nobody needs to get the idea that I think I'm a writer, either: I'm not such a fool as all that. But there's not a nurse in the place who wouldn't lie down and let the doctor walk over her, if he wanted to--and he knows it, too. Not that he's cocky about it, though.

"You know I'm no magazine muck-rake, doctor," I said as I got out of the motor (he had taken me up through the Park to Morningside and back, while I was telling him), "and I'll probably be a little shy on style."

"Style be damned," he said. "You're long on facts, and that's all I want, my dear. And don't for heaven's sake work in any of that C----r's rot on me!"

I had to laugh, really, at that, because he was so funny about it. I took care of Mr. C----r, the novelist, when he had his appendix removed, and he used to dictate a lot to me, and Dr. Stanchon always insisted that my charts were made out in his style, after that. But of course they weren't.

"Just tell it as it happened, you know," he said, "and in your own language. I'd like to keep it."

And of course anybody can do that. Although Mr. C----r told me once that that was the hardest job he ever tackled. He said he could write like his heroes easy enough, but not like himself. But he was always joshing, that man.

"Why, Miss Jessop," he used to say to me, "if I could write like myself, I'd have won the Nobel prize any time this last ten years!"

But he wrote awfully well, I always thought. Hardly a patient I had that year, but if I offered to read, they'd say:

"Oh, well, what's the last C----r's?" and when I got to the parts I'd taken for him (I learned stenography before I took up nursing) it used to give me a queer sort of feeling, really!

It was Dr. Stanchon that got me the case. He 'phoned me to drop in at the office, and a patient of mine took me around in her car: I'd been shopping with her all the morning. She had just invited me to go out to her country place for a few days, and I was quite pleased with the idea, for I was a little tired: I was just off a hard pneumonia case that had been pretty sad in lots of ways, and I felt a little blue. It's an awfully funny thing, but nurses aren't supposed to have any feelings: when that poor girl died, I felt as bad as if it had been my own sister, almost. She was lovely.

But when the doctor asked if I was free, of course I had to say yes, though my suit-case was all packed for the country.

"That's good," he said, "for I specially want you. It's nothing to do, really, and you'll enjoy it, you're such a motor-fiend. There's a family I'm looking after wants a nurse to go along on a tour through the country--New England, I believe. They've got a big, dressy car, and they expect to be gone anywhere from two weeks to a month, if the weather's reasonably good."

"What do they want of a nurse?" I said.

"Oh, they just want one along, in case of anything happening," he said. "They can afford it, so why shouldn't they have it?"

Well, that sounded all right, and yet I got the idea that it wasn't the real reason, somehow. I don't know why. Those things are queer.

Of course, there was no reason why it shouldn't be so: I spent a month on a private yacht, one summer, just to be there in case of sickness, and nobody wanted me all the time we were gone, for a minute. As a matter of fact, the lady's maid took care of me the first three days out!

But I never happened to be asked on a motor-trip in that way, and it seemed a little different. For of course you could pick up a nurse almost anywhere, if you wanted one, on that sort of a tour, and every place in the tonneau counts.

"Isn't there anything the matter with any of them?" I asked.

"What a suspicious lot you nurses are!" he said, with his queer little chuckle (all the young doctors try to imitate it in the hospital). "The daughter's a little nervous, that's all. It's for her they're taking the trip, to give her a change."

"Now look here, Dr. Stanchon," I said, "I'm here to tell you that I don't want any of your old dope cases, and I might just as well say so first as last. That last young man of yours was about all I wanted. He was a sweet creature, wasn't he?"

This probably sounds very fresh to you, but everybody knows me: I speak right out, and if you want me, you have to stand it! And the way I slaved over that boy, and he getting morphine from his valet right along--it was simply disgusting.

"It's nothing like that--nothing at all," said he; "don't get so excited!"

"Oh, very well," I said, "then I suppose it's melancholia. Not for mine, if you please. Perhaps you remember that charming woman that jumped out of the window? I'm no clairvoyant, and that was enough for me, thank you."

"You're getting saucy, Jessop," he said, "but it's not melancholia. But you certainly had a hard time with that one."

And I should say I did. The foxy thing was as good as gold for three weeks, minded everything I said, fairly ate out of my hand, and got us so that we all believed she did better for me alone than when I had help handy. Of course I kept my eye on her, but nevertheless, the other nurse just above gave up the job, and used to be off learning French from the governess they had, most of the time. So when madam got us where she wanted us, she tied me to the door knob and jumped out of the window before my eyes! And I can tell you, the thirty dollars a week that would get me on a case like that again, never left the Treasury!

"I assure you it's not that at all," he said. "It's a case of nerves, that's all."

"Nerves! nerves!" I repeated (I was pretty snippy, I suppose). "That's all right for the family, doctor, but what's the matter with her? I've got to know, haven't I, some time?"

"Well, I must say you nurses are getting to be the limit," he said. "The truth is, I spoil you. But there's something in what you say, of course. Now here's the whole business. This girl, and she's a sweet, lovely girl, too, had a maid, that was a sort of nurse, I believe, when she was a child, and had seen her grow up, and was very much attached to her, and all that. Like all those old servants she was pretty well spoilt, I imagine, and seems to have had the girl under her thumb. She always slept in the room with her. Now; the maid had bad headaches and used to take all sorts of proprietary remedies for them--coal-tar, of course, and probably had weakened her heart with them. Anyway, she waked the girl up one night with her troubles and the girl gets up and gives her an overdose in the dark, and the maid's dead in her bed in the morning."

"Oh, I see," I said, trying to make up for my nasty attitude about that suicidal woman. "So she's blue about it, and thinks she's to blame. An automobile trip will certainly do her a lot of good."

"Well, there's a little more to it than that," he said. "As a matter of fact, she's a very sensible sort of girl and she knows she's not to blame, really. Of course it was pretty rough, but then, the maid had no business to expect her to wait on her, and she ought to have given careful directions about the dose, anyhow. She might have gone off any time, and the girl knows it. But the night of the funeral, after the girl was in bed, what does she see but the maid sitting on the foot of the bed, looking at her! Of course she was overwrought nervously. Only the trouble is, this was three months ago, and she swears the woman comes every night. She knows it's hallucination, optical delusion, anything you like, and she tries to treat it as such, but she's beginning to break down under it, and I don't know what to do. They've travelled, they've had her in a sanitarium, they've tried auto-suggestion--no use. She's all right through the day, but at night, in any bedroom, under any circumstances, this thing appears and she just has to go through with it till morning."

"Why doesn't she have some one sleep with her?" I asked.

"It doesn't make the slightest difference," he said. "One week she had a bed between her father's and mother's, but it was just the same, and of course they got pretty bad, out of sympathy. They'd spend two or three ordinary fortunes to cure her--but it's one of the cases where money doesn't talk, unfortunately. So there we are. It came over me last night that I'd like to have you try what you can do with her."

"But, heavens and earth, what good will I be?" I said. "Am I a ghost-catcher? I never knew it."

"No," says he, "but I'm sorry for the ghost that would run up against you, Jessop--honestly, I am!"

"Much obliged, I'm sure," I said, "but why doesn't she take her sleep in the daytime? That would fool the ghost from her point of view--wouldn't it?"

I'll never forget the look he gave me. "Listen to me, my girl," he said, running out his jaw in the way he does when he's in dead earnest and means you to know it, "listen to me, now. If that young woman ever takes to living by night and sleeping by day, on that account, she's a gone goose!"

"What do you mean?" said I.

"I mean it's all up with her, and she might as well engage a permanent suite in Jarvyse's little hotel up the river," he says, very sharp and gruff. "I've staved that off for a month now, but they can't see it and they're bound to try it: Jarvyse himself half advises it. And I'll risk my entire reputation on the result. If she can't fight it out--she's gone."

He waited a moment and put out his jaw.

"She's gone," he said again, and I felt creepy when he said it, and I tell you I believed him.

"Well, I'll try my best," I said, and I went on the case the next morning.

As soon as I saw her I got the idea of her I've always had since: that's me, all over. I went to a palmist's once with a lot of the other nurses and that's the first thing he said to me.

"It's first impressions with you, young woman," he said. "Take care to trust 'em and act on 'em, and you'll never need to count on the old ladies' home!"

Well, as soon as I saw Miss Elton she put me in mind of one of Mr. C----r's heroines, looks and clothes and ways, and all, and I've never changed my mind. Her things were all plain, but they had the loveliest lines, and she always looked as if she'd been born in them, they suited her so! Her hair was that heavy, smooth blond kind that makes a Marcel wave look too vulgar to think about, and her eyes and complexion went with it. And with all her education she was as simple as a child: there were any number of things she didn't seem to know. She took to me directly, her mother said, and I could see she liked me, though she hardly spoke. She had big rings under her eyes and seemed very tired.

She got a nap after lunch--only two hours, by the doctor's orders--and it did seem a shame to wake her, she was off so sound, but of course I did, and then we walked for an hour in the park. I didn't talk much at first, but I saw that she liked it, and so gradually we got on to different subjects, and I think she was entertained. She seemed interested to hear about the nurses at the hospital and some of the funny things that happen there, and I could see that she was trying to keep her end up--oh, she was all right, Anne Elton was, and no mistake! There was nothing morbid about her: she was trying to help all she could.

When I came down for dinner there was a young man with them, a handsome, dark fellow, and he talked a great deal with me--I could see he was trying to size me up, and it was easy to see that he was pretty far gone as far as Miss Elton was concerned, and didn't care who knew it. We must have seemed a strange party to any one who didn't know the ins and outs of the thing--only the five of us in that big dining-room with the conservatory opening into it; the mother, one of those stringy, grey New York women, that always wear diamond dog-collars, worried to death and nervous as a witch; Mr. Elton--he was Commodore of the New York Yacht Club at that time--fat and healthy and reddish-purple in the face; young Mr. Ferrau (he was from an old French family and looked it, though a born New Yorker) and me in my white uniform and cap next to Miss Elton, all in white with a big rope of pearls and pearls on her fingers. She could wear a lower cut gown and look more decent in it than any woman I ever saw. All her evening dresses were like that, perfectly plain, just draped around her, with long trains and no trimmings: her skin was like cream-coloured marble, not a mark or line or vein on it, but just one brown mole on the right shoulder blade, and that, as her mother said, was really an addition.

Nobody talked much but Mr. Ferrau and the old gentleman--there's no doubt he had been a gay old boy in his day!--for I never do talk when I dine with the family, and the mother was too nervous for anything but complaining of the food. The Lord knows why, for it beat any French restaurant I ever ate in, or Delmonico's either, and Mr. Ferrau and I got quite jolly over how they put soft-boiled eggs into those round, soufflee sort of things with tomato sauce over them, without spilling the yolks. Then they asked if I'd play bridge a bit, and though I don't care for games much, I learned to play pretty well with my morphine-fiend and his mother, so of course I did, and the old gentleman and I played the young couple, and Madam Elton crocheted, sitting up straight as a poker on a gold sofa.

It always makes me laugh when I read what some persons' ideas are of how rich people amuse themselves. The nurses are always jollying me about my rich friends and playing the races and champagne suppers and high-flying generally, and I often wish they could have seen us those evenings at the Eltons, playing bridge--no money, mind you, and Apollinaris at ten! The Commodore had to have ginger-ale, the ladies hardly ever drank, and I never take anything but water when I'm on a case, so Mr. Ferrau had all the champagne there was at that dinner. At ten the masseuse came and rubbed Miss Elton to sleep, and I got into my bed next hers before she went off, not to risk disturbing her. There was a night lamp in her bath and I could just make out her long braid on the pillow--the pillow cases had real lace insertions and the monograms on the sheets were the most beautiful I ever saw.

I went off myself about eleven, for I was determined to act perfectly natural: I knew I'd wake if anything was wrong. And sure enough: all of a sudden I began to dream, a thing I seldom if ever do, and I dreamed that my suicidal case was clambering over me to jump out of the window, and woke with a start.

Miss Elton was sitting up in bed staring at me, breathing short.

"Can I do anything for you?" I asked quietly and she gave a sort of gasp and said,

"No--I think not, thank you. I'm sorry to bother you, but the doctor told me to."

"Why, of course," said I, "that's what I'm here for. Do you see anybody?"

I didn't say, "Do you think you see anybody?" for I never put things that way.

"Yes," she said, "she's there--Janet." I glanced about, and of course there was no one, and I tell you, I felt awfully sorry for her. It was all the worse that she was so pretty and calm and decent about it: I didn't like that a bit.

"Where is she?" said I.

"Right on the foot of the bed," she answered, in that grim, edgy kind of way they always talk when they're holding on to themselves. Oh, how that morphine boy of mine used to begin!

"Excuse me, Miss Jessop, but would you mind assuring me that there's nobody crouching under the bed?" he used to say. "Of course I know there's not, but there appears to be, and I'd be obliged if you'd look!"

If I went under that bed once, I went fifty times.

"Why, to tell you the truth, Miss Elton, I don't see a thing," I said. "Shall I turn on the light?"

"No--not yet," she said. "The doctor said to hold out as long as I could. Would you mind putting your hand there?"

"Not a bit," said I, and I pawed all over the foot of her bed. Finally I got up and sat there.

"What happens now?" I asked her.

"She just moves up and sits farther out," said she.

I couldn't think of much to say to that, she was so quiet and hopeless, so I waited awhile and finally I said,

"Would it help you any to talk about it?"

"Oh, if you didn't mind!" she cried out, and then the poor thing began. It makes me tired, the way people treat a patient like that. There was that girl just bottled up, you might as well say, because they all thought it would make her worse to talk about it. Her father pooh-poohed it, and her mother cried and asked her to send for their rector, and even Dr. Stanchon slipped up there, it seemed to me, for he advised her not to dwell on it. Not dwell on it! Why, how could she help it, I'd like to know?

"What I can't understand," she'd say, over and over, "is her coming, when it hurts me so. Why, Janet loved me, Miss Jessop, she loved the ground I walked on, everybody said! And she knows--she must know--that I wouldn't have hurt her for the world. Why should I? She took care of me since I was six years old--sixteen years! She said to put in those powders in the box and I put them in. How could I know?"

"Of course you couldn't know," I said, "she knows that."

"Then why does she do this?" she asked me, so pitifully, just like a child. "Why does she, Miss Jessop?"

"Well, you know, Miss Elton," I said, "you wouldn't believe me if I lied to you, now, would you? And so I must tell you that I don't think she does do it: none of us do. It's just your idea. If Janet's there, why don't I see her? You're overstrained and excited and you feel that she might not have died----"

"Ah, but I didn't feel that the night she came!" she broke out, "truly I didn't. Dr. Stanchon and all of them said I was very brave and sensible. He talked to me and made me see: if Janet had been sleeping with one of the maids and waked her up and told her not to turn on the light because it hurt her head, but just to give her the powders in the box, that maid would have done it. I can see that."

"Of course," said I.

"I didn't blame myself--really," she went on, and suddenly she looked straight to the foot of the bed.

"Janet," she said, "the doctor said never to speak to you, and I never will again, but I must, this once. Janet, do you blame me? Are you really there? Why do you come this way? You're killing me, you know. I can't sleep. You shouldn't have taken that strong medicine, and the doctor told you not to, you know, yourself. Won't you go, Janet? Not to please Nannie?"

Really, it would have melted a stone to hear her.

She was still a moment and then she began to cry and whimper, and I knew that it had made no difference.

"She won't go--she won't go," she said, crying, "not even for Nannie!"

Well, I talked to her and read to her and stroked her head, and by two o'clock or so she was off for an hour, and I got a nap myself. But from three till nearly five she was awake again, and I had to light up the room; she said she hardly saw her then--only felt her, and that wasn't so bad.

I don't know that anything different took place for a week after that. We went through the same business every night, and I took a nap every afternoon when she did. She told me, what I wasn't much surprised to hear, that she and Mr. Ferrau were engaged--or just about--when this precious Janet died, and that now she wouldn't hear of it and had refused to marry him till she was well again. And I must say I think she was right. Of course the old gentleman didn't see it that way, and we had many a discussion about it, he and I.

"God Almighty, Miss Jessop, my dear," he used to say to me, "you know as well as I do--I'm speaking, of course, to a woman of practical sense and experience, and therefore I speak plainly--you know as well as I do that the day after the wedding all this will be done for! We'll never hear of that damned Janet nonsense again. Now, would we?"

"Well, Commodore, maybe not, but you can't tell," I'd say. "It's a good bet, but--it's a bet, after all. It would be awkward if it didn't work out, you know."

"Oh, bosh, bosh!" he'd burst out, and roll off to the Yacht Club. People that live in big houses like that, I've noticed, always have to go out to get a little peace, they say, and privacy. It's funny.

The weather was bad, so we didn't go on the motor trip at all, and that was just as well, for if we had, I should never have gone up to the hospital that day and never seen old Margaret. She was an old darky woman that used to come in to clean the wards when they were short of help, and all the nurses knew her, because she used to tell fortunes with cards and a glass ball she looked into--pretty fair fortunes, too. I've known of some awfully queer things she told different nurses that were only too true. She always liked me because I used to jolly her up, and I stopped to speak to her, and she asked me where I was working.

"Oh, a grand place on the Avenue, Margaret," I told her, "marble stairs and a fountain in the hall."

"What's the sickness, honey?" she asked, for those darkies are always curious.

"The patient's got a ghost, Margaret," I said, just to see what she'd say, "and I'm sorry to say we can't seem to cure her."

"Co'se you cayn't cure her," says she, "no stuff in bottles for that, honey! What the ghos' want?"

"Nothing at all," said I. "It just sits on the bed and looks."

"Laws, honey, Miss Jessop, but that yer kine's the wors' of all," says she, staring at me. "She'll jes' have ter leave it onto somebody else, that's all."

"Why, can you do that?" I asked.

"Sure you can do it," she says. "Was it one that loved her?"

"They all say so," said I.

She struck her hands together.

"I knew it--I knew it!" she cried out. "It's always that-a-way. My ole mudder she had that ha'nt fer ten years, and it was her half-sister that brung her up from three years ole! She'll jes' have ter leave it onto some one."

"Well, I'll tell her so," said I, just in joke, of course.

"You do," says she, solemn as the grave, "you do, Miss Jessop, honey, an' she'll bless you all her life. You get some one ter say they'll take that ha'nt off her right w'ile it's there, so it hears 'em, and w'ile there's a witness there ter hear bofe sides, an' you hear to me, now, she'll go free!"

"I'll certainly tell her, Margaret," I said, and I went on and never gave it another thought, of course.

We went up to the Elton's camp in Maine all of a sudden, for Miss Elton got the idea she'd feel better there, and though it was cold as Greenland, it did seem for a little as if she got a bit more sleep. But not for long. We slept out on pine-bough beds around a big fire, for that made more light, and that precious Janet seemed to be fainter, but she was there, just the same, and the poor girl had lost eighteen pounds and I felt pretty blue about it. It didn't really look as if we got ahead any, as I told the doctor, and she hardly spoke all day. I'm not much for the country, as a rule, it always smells so damp at night, but the Lord knows I'd have lived there a year if it would have helped her any.

Then came the night when Mr. Ferrau ran up to see how she was getting along. It was too cold for Madam and the Commodore, so we were there alone except for a gang of guides and servants and chauffeurs and masseuses. She had a bad night that night, for she got the idea that this lovely Janet was sitting up nearer and nearer to her, and she had it in her head that when she got to a certain point it would be all up with her. And when I told the doctor that, over the telephone, all he said was:

"Too bad, too bad!" So I knew how he felt.

Well, she got talking rather hysterically for her, and I began to wish somebody else was around, when Mr. Ferrau jumps out of his door in the bachelor quarters and dashes over to us in a heavy bathrobe, white as a sheet.

"For God's sake, Miss Jessop, do something!" he said, but I just shrugged my shoulders. There was nothing to do, you see. She was all bundled up in a seal-skin sleeping-bag with a wool helmet over her head; her eyes certainly looked bad. I just about gave up hope, then. The moon made everything a sort of bluish-white and we all must have looked pretty ghastly.

"I think I'll give her a little codeine," I said. "Just stay here a moment, will you?"

He knelt down by her bunk while I began to unwind myself from all the stuff you have to get into up there.

"Oh, Anne, my dearest, dearest girl," he said, "if only I could take this instead of you! If only I could see her, and you not!"

"Would you--would you, really, Louis?" I heard her say. "You do love me, don't you? But that would be too dreadful. I couldn't allow that to happen."

"Heavens, my dear girl, I'd take it in a minute, if I could!" he cried. "Oh, Anne, do try to look at it in that way--try to give it to me! Perhaps if you used your will-power enough for that----"

"That can't be, Louis," she said, "this is just my fate. I must bear it--till it kills me. But if it could be, I'll tell you this: I would give it to you, dearest, for you are stronger, and maybe a man could fight it better."

I was off to the main camp then, but when I got back with the codeine she was asleep with her head on his shoulder, and he kneeled there till four without moving--he was game, that Mr. Ferrau, and no mistake!

She slept right through till eight, and I left them together all day, as much as I could, and I let her off her nap, she begged so. I could see from the solemn way she talked that she was saying good-bye to him, as much as he'd let her. She told me that as soon as it began to get on her brain, really, and she got worse (we always called it "getting worse"), she was going up to Dr. Jarvyse's place, and he wasn't to see her at all.

"I want him to remember me--as I was," she said. It certainly was tough. I used to cry about it, when I was alone, sometimes. You get awfully fond of some patients.

He stayed the next night, too, and I took my regular nap from ten to one. I could nearly always count on that, and I'd got so I woke the moment she did. I was fast asleep when I felt her touch me, and I woke, feeling scared, for she almost never did that.

"What is it?" I said, half awake. "Is she coming nearer?"

"Miss Jessop, dear Miss Jessop, she isn't here at all!" she said, shaking and crying. "I've been awake an hour, and she hasn't come to-night! Oh, do you think, do you----"

"Yes, I do," I said, though I was pretty excited myself, I can tell you. "I believe you're getting better, Miss Elton, and now I think I'll have Miss Avidson rub you, and see if we can get through the night all right."

The Swedish woman put her right to sleep, working over her head, and we never opened our eyes till nine. One of the guides told me that Mr. Ferrau had been called to the city early, and had left quietly, not to disturb us, but we were both so delighted and yet so anxious not to be delighted too soon, that we didn't notice his going much. She ate three good meals that day, besides her tea, and we walked five or six miles--I wanted to wear her out. And that night she slept right through!

We waited one night more, to be certain, and then I 'phoned the doctor.

"Hurray!" he yelled, so I nearly dropped the receiver. "Bully for you! Keep out for a week and then move in--with a light. Drop the light in another week. Then I'll send 'em all off to Beachmount." This was their Long Island place.

Well, it all worked out perfectly. She gained nine pounds in three weeks, and I don't know when I've been so pleased. The old people came up to see her, and I spent most of my time convincing them that it was no case for tiaras and sunbursts, as I never wore them. Mrs. Elton really looked almost human. She cried so that I finally had to take a little string of pearls. They were small, but all matched, and she said I could wear them under my blouse and I could always sell them. You'd have thought that I'd cured the girl, when, as I told them, the thing had just run its natural course, and her youth and good sense and the outdoor life had done the rest.

Of course, there was no more use for me, and I went right off on a big operation case--a very interesting one, indeed. I promised to come to the wedding, if I possibly could; she told me she would be married just as soon as Mr. Ferrau wished, she felt she'd made him go through so much in the last four months. And it seemed that he had felt the strain more than they thought, for her mother told me that just as Anne recovered, he seemed to give way and got very nervous and had gone off on a yacht with some of his college friends to the south somewhere. I was rather surprised not to see him at the house, and so was Miss Anne, I thought; but he sent the loveliest flowers every day and telegrams, and of course they were working on the trousseau and pretty busy, anyway.

I couldn't get to the wedding, after all, for my patient was taken to Lakewood and simply refused to let me off, which was rather mean of her, for I could have run up for the afternoon as well as not. But that's what you have to expect, if you go into nursing, and you get used to it.

Mrs. Elton called me up once at the hotel, to see if I couldn't get away (they were going to send the car for me if I could), and I asked if Mr. Ferrau was all right again.

"Really, Miss Jessop," said she--and I could just see how she must have looked, from her voice--"really, my dear, I am terribly, terribly worried about Louis. He looks frightfully, so pale and nervous and run down. And he simply won't see a doctor, and when I earnestly begged him to consult Dr. Stanchon, he flew out at me--he really flew out!"

"What can it be?" said I. "What does Miss Elton think?"

"Why, how can she know, my dear?" says the old lady. "Only he assures her that it will be all right once they're married, and begs her so not to put it off, that she won't, though I don't entirely approve, myself. Really, you'd scarcely know Louis, Miss Jessop."

It did seem too bad, but then, those things will happen, and I just thought to myself that probably there was more to that southern trip than the old lady knew, and let it go at that. The doctor says that all the nurses have dime-novel imaginations--but where do we get them, I'd like to know, if not from what we see and hear? The Lord knows we don't have to invent things.

Miss Elton was dreadfully disappointed that I couldn't be there for the wedding, and promised me they'd stop a minute at the hotel on their wedding journey and see me. They were going on a motor trip, nobody knew just where, and Lakewood would only be a few miles out of their way. Wasn't that nice of them? But it was just like both of them. So I was quite excited, of course, and when it poured rain all day, and got worse and worse, I did feel so sorry for them and never expected they'd leave town. But, lo and behold, about five o'clock didn't the boy bring up their cards, and for a wonder my patient was decent and said she wouldn't want me till next morning--she had her own maid with her and really didn't need me but once a day.

I ran down to one of the little reception rooms--I must say I like those big hotels--and when I saw them I nearly collapsed, for though she was looking perfectly beautiful and well as could be, poor Mr. Ferrau certainly did give me a shock. He was all tanned, well enough, but as thin as a rail, and dreadful around the eyes. And yet he looked very happy and seemed quite glad to see me.

"Isn't she looking magnificent?" he asked me, and I said--I just have to say right out what I think--"Yes, she is, but I can't say the same for you."

"Oh, I shall be all right--after a bit," he said, turning red and not meeting my eyes. "Just let me get away with Anne for a while, and you'll see."

They insisted on my having tea with them, and I couldn't help but think that she didn't realise how bad he looked and acted: his hand shook so that his tea-spoon jingled. And yet he was as straight as a string, I was sure.

It kept on pouring so dreadfully that they gave up the idea of going on anywhere, and he engaged a suite at the hotel for that night, and I said good-bye to them, then, for they were to have their dinner served by themselves and I knew they'd want to get off quietly in the morning. My patient kept her word and didn't bother me, and I listened to the music for a while and then went up to my room and wrote some letters. About ten I put my boots outside the door and happened to notice the boots opposite and saw that they were Mr. Ferrau's--they were patent leather, with rather queer cloth tops. So I knew that they had the suite opposite ours; there were only those two for the one little hall.

I couldn't seem to sleep that night at all. I kept dreaming about that suicide of mine, even when I did sleep, and finally I put on my wrapper and decided to take a few turns up and down the corridor. I opened the door softly and stepped out--and ran right into Mr. Ferrau! He was stalking along in a bathrobe, his arms spread out, and tears rolling down his cheeks, and he was chattering to himself like a monkey. His eyes rolled, and I could see he was just on the verge of a regular smash-up.

"Why, Mr. Ferrau, what's the matter?" I asked.

He stared at me like a crazy man. "You here!" he said. "For God's sake! Go up to her--go to Anne--I'm all in," he said. "Oh, Miss Jessop, it didn't work! It didn't work!"

He pointed to his door, and I went through the private dining-room and the sitting-room and a dressing-room and a big marble bath, and there she was, crying like a baby in one of the beds.

"Why, Miss Elton--I beg your pardon, Mrs. Ferrau--what is the matter?" I said, running up to her and taking hold of her hand. "Are you ill?"

She only sobbed and held on to me and suddenly something struck me and I said, "You haven't seen Janet again, have you?"

"No, no--but I wish I had! I wish I'd never stopped!" she gulped at me. "Oh, Miss Jessop, Louis sees her! He sees her all the time; that's what makes him look so ill! Ever since she stopped coming to me, he's seen her, and he never told."

"For heaven's sake!" said I.

"She sits on the bed, but she doesn't look at him--he only sees her profile. He walked twenty miles a day--he did boxing and fencing and riding--it was no use--he thought when we--when--he hoped if we were married--oh, Miss Jessop, she came just the same!"

"For heaven's sake!" I said again. It wasn't very helpful, but I simply couldn't think of anything else. She was so pretty and sweet, and he was so plucky, and who would have supposed it would have got on his nerves so!

Her night gown was solid real lace, and the front of it was sopping wet where she'd cried, and the top of the sheet, too.

"I gave her to him, and he won't give her back--I can't make him!" she went on, gasping and sobbing. "I begged him on my knees, but he wouldn't."

"And don't you see her?" I asked.

"No, no, I can't!" she cried. "I try, but I can't."

"Well, that's something, anyway," I said. "You wait till I go and speak to him again, and put some cold water on your eyes, why don't you?"

For it just occurred to me that maybe I could do something with him, after all. He was leaning against the window at the end of the corridor, and I never like to see excited people near windows, after my suicide woman, so I sprinted along till I got to him. But I really don't believe there was any need for it--he wasn't that kind.

"See here, Mr. Ferrau," I said, "do you really believe that Miss Elton--I beg your pardon, Mrs. Ferrau--really gave that old Janet ghost to you?"

"Believe it? believe it?" he said, staring at me out of his red eyes. "No, I don't believe it, Miss Jessop--I know it! I tell you I see the damned thing, in a brown dress, on the edge of my bed every night!"

"Well, then," I said, "do you think you could give it to anybody else?"

And just at that moment, and not before, I remembered old Margaret!

"Why--why, I never thought of that," he said. "I--I wouldn't put any one else through such a hell, though----"

"Oh, come, now," I said. "Maybe they wouldn't think it was so bad as you do, Mr. Ferrau."

"But who would--oh, it's too crazy!" he said, half angry, but all broken up, so he didn't much care how it sounded.

"Oh, lots of people," I told him. "Why, you might easily find some one with an incurable disease, you know, that hadn't long to live and wanted money----"

Of course, this was all nonsense, but anything to humour people in his condition--it's the only way. And what do you think? He turned around like a shot and stared at me as if I'd been a ghost, myself.

"That might be possible," he said, very slowly; "it's just possible I know ... excuse me, I'll go in and speak to my wife a moment!"

He left me there and in a few minutes he came for me again, and I went into their parlour. She had on a beautiful pale rose negligee all covered with lace and her braids were wound around her head: she'd wiped her eyes.

"Would you perhaps play a little bridge with us, Miss Jessop?" says he, trying to keep calm. "We think we'd better have some one with us."

So there we sat till four in the morning, playing three-handed bridge, and if anybody knows of a funnier wedding-night, I'd like to hear of it!

I suppose anybody would have thought us all crazy if they could have seen us, the next night, sitting, all three of us, by the bed of that queer old man that lived in old Greenwich Village. (My patient let me off, for I told her it was a case of a young bride and groom, and she was delighted to oblige the Eltons. She told me she should call on them after that! She was a climber, if there ever was one, that woman.)

He was an old valet of Mr. Ferrau's father, and Mr. Ferrau was supporting him till he died in a little cottage there. He had angina and was likely to go off any minute, and the Lord knows what Master Louis paid the old monkey--I'll bet it was no thirty cents! He only talked French, but I could see he thought Mr. Ferrau was crazy--he looked at me so queerly out of his little wrinkled eyes and nodded his head as if to say, "What a pity all this is! But we must humour him."

Mrs. Ferrau told me afterward that her husband promised him solemnly to take Janet back if he couldn't stand her--and he would have, too, and don't forget it! He was a game one. But the old fellow just kept saying:

"Bon, m'sieu, bon, bon!" and kept reaching for his envelope. He was only afraid they'd change their mind, you see.

Then Mr. Ferrau lay down on a cot next the old fellow's--he was kept very clean and neat by the woman that boarded him--and I stayed in the room while Master Louis gave that darned old Janet away. He insisted that I should witness it, and to tell you the truth, when I remembered what black Margaret had said about having a witness, I did feel rather queer, for a moment. But of course they were all crazy--as crazy as loons--so far as that one thing went. You see, it was what Dr. Stanchon calls an idee fixe. They had to be humoured.

Mrs. Ferrau and I went out, then, and walked up and down for an hour through the village with the chauffeur behind us, a little way, and I really thought I'd be dippy myself, before long, if I had to pretend to be serious about it much longer. It's no wonder to me the doctors in asylums get touched themselves, after what I went through with those two.

In just about an hour he came dashing out and pushed us into the car. We didn't need to ask him--he looked ashamed, but oh, so different!

"Let's get back to town," was all he said, and I never mentioned it to him again, any of it. Of course, a sensible fellow like him would feel too ridiculous; knowing he had that silly idea in his head, yet not being able to get over it without such childishness--I felt sorry for him.

I know that they didn't go back to Lakewood, for her maid packed up there, and a week after that the old lady wrote me from Long Island that they'd gone for a honeymoon tour in the car through Southern France, so I knew that father-in-law's valet hadn't gone back on his bargain. I never knew what that old monkey made on it, but Mrs. Ferrau told me he was going to leave it to the Catholic church in Normandy, where he was born. I hope it did some good.

I went up to Greenwich that summer with a little boy who had tuberculosis of the spine (the sweetest little fellow, and so clever!) and on one of my afternoons out with him I stopped at the old cottage where the valet lived, just to ask after him. The woman there told me he had passed away about ten days after I was there before.

"In the night?" I asked, more for something to say than any real reason.

"No, in his sleep, in the afternoon," she said. "He didn't sleep much at night, after his young gentleman came, I noticed. He seemed to have bad dreams. He'd be praying away and clicking those rosary beads half the night, sometimes. But he went out easy, at the last. I learned a little French when I was lady's maid to a party, once, so I could get along pretty well with him. But I couldn't make out about those dreams, exactly; they seemed to be about something brown, with its back to him, on the bed. But he was pretty contented by day, when he was awake; he kept telling me of all he was leaving to his church."

... When you think about it, it was queer, wasn't it?

[The end]
Josephine Daskam Bacon's short story: Legacy