By Beatrice R. Parsons
Synopsis: Lorna Ashton, an orphan, marries Dr. Matthew Wire and goes with him to his hometown, Westfield, Nevada, to take over the practice of his sick uncle, a doctor. Lorna is afraid that Matthew’s relatives and friends, and even his patients, will mean so much to him that he will never belong wholly to her. She likes Matthew’s Uncle John, and she admires Nurse Hallie, but it is Carole, a little neighbor girl, who brings comfort to Lorna in her loneliness. Two small china kittens, which Lorna has treasured from childhood, become to her a symbol of possession, but her husband tells her that nothing worth having is worth possessing.
A few nights later, Lorna came slowly out of a dream – a dream in which a bell kept jangling while Matt, who had been close to her side, seemed to drift further and further into distance.
Lorna called out chokingly: “Matt, Matt, don’t go! Don’t leave me!”
She felt hot tears on her lashes, felt that she was losing him, then she heard his voice, clam, reassuring, in the darkness. “It’s the telephone, darling. I’ll turn on the light.”
The light sprang up and Lorna was fully awake, yet still shaken by her experience. She smiled ruefully.
“I wonder if I’ll ever get used to calls in the middle of the night.”
Matt smiled. “Of course you will.” He answered the phone, talked for a moment, then put down the receiver, his face quietly grave. “The Honson twins have made up their minds to arrive.”
He dressed swiftly. Lorna’s eyes were wide and disturbed as she watched him.
“But Matt, it’s only a quarter to four!”
He knotted his blue tie. “The twins don’t care what time it is.” His eyes were smiling.
“Let me help,” cried Lorna, slipping into her long, white robe. Her lovely hair made a soft, red-gold mist across her shoulders.
Matt nodded towards the phone. “You can call Hallie …”
Going towards the telephone, Lorna wondered wistfully: “Why didn’t I take nurse’s training, Matt, instead of typing? Then I could be at your side, instead of Hallie.”
Seeing his face, her cheeks grew warm, and she dialed Hallie’s number quickly. When Hallie answered, Matt took the receiver and spoke into it.
“I’ll have the car out in a few minutes …”
Lorna, feeling a hot little rebellion at being left out, said sharply: “Matt, surely there is something I can do.” And then, as he began to shake his head, a little sharply: “Matt, I want to come. I hate being left behind. I want to share …”
His face was angered, yet he spoke softly: “Get dressed. There is something you can do.” He seemed, in his anger, to be testing her, yet his tone continued quiet: “There are four other little Honsons, Cliff, Jean, Harry, and Nelda. They range from three to seven. The Hansons’ home is small. A farmhouse. It’s rather difficult having the children within hearing. You can sit with them in the barn and tell stories.”
Lorna, who had been scrambling into her clothing, stopped brushing her hair. Her face was a mask of uncertainty. “But … but,” she stammered, “I’m not used to telling children’s stories. I can’t think of any. And …” she swallowed nervously, “I’d be frightened of the cows …” She stood there trembling, seeing Matt’s look.
He got his gray felt hat, put it on, and hesitated at the door. “Are you coming, Lorna?” His face said that she wouldn’t.
She burned under his look. She was shaking from head to foot. She disliked his knowing that she was afraid to go, yet couldn’t let him go alone. Her hands shook as she slipped into a light wrap and followed him outside to wait near the garage.
She had never known that night could be so dark. The stars seemed to brush against her curls. The noise of the car as Matt backed it from the garage sounded like thunder in her ears.
She saw a shadowy form crossing the lawn, and, although her common sense told her it was Hallie in cape and uniform, she made a queer, strangled little sound. Hallie stared at her in astonishment.
“Oh, it’s you, Mrs. Wire! I couldn’t think who’d be out at this time of night.” She glanced at Lorna’s wrap, and wrinkled her brows, asking confusedly, “Are you coming with us?”
Lorna flushed under her tone. She explained swiftly: “Matt asked me to baby sit …” Her voice trailed away, knowing that Hallie was still doubtful. “I’ll admit I don’t know quite what I’m to do.”
Capable, efficient Hallie turned back the corner of her dark cape and spoke quietly: “You’ll make out, Mrs. Wire.”
Lorna winced. Hallie suspected the truth – that she wanted to be with Matt. She crept silently into the rear seat and felt as though she didn’t belong. Matt and Hallie talked. Lorna didn’t understand some of the things they said. It was her first experience with birth. She knew they didn’t really need her. She wanted to tell Matt to take her back. but she knew she couldn’t. She felt that he had already forgotten her, and leaned forward to say something. Matt answered a little curtly.
He was driving swiftly, yet carefully. The streets of the town were slim pencils of brightness under his headlights. They passed the house where Anne lived. Then, a little further on, the house where Margaret lived with her elderly aunt. Then they were out in the plain of the valley. Her body grew weak as she thought of four small children and a creaking barn!
There were lights in the small, low farmhouse as Matt turned the car into a cluttered dooryard. Lorna stumbled a little on a child’s toy as Matt helped her out of the car. Her fingers clung in desperation to his. He loosened them firmly, yet gently. She saw his face. It was intent, serious.
“I’ll send Mr. Honson out with the children, Lorna. You wait here.” He motioned to Hallie, and opened the screen. Lorna felt darkness crushing down upon her. She wanted to run after them, to cling to Matt’s arm.
Almost immediately Mr. Honson came out, leading the four little children. They had been wakened from sleep, and Lorna saw that their small faces were pinched and fearful. Although she knew she was talking in a too-grown-up manner, she wanted to reassure them, and herself.
“Children, come out with me. I’ll tell you a story in the barn. Your Mummy will be all right, and pretty soon she’ll have two babies for you to play with.”
The little girls jumped up and down in their tiny slippers, and clapped their small hands in delight at the thought of the babies. The boys were not quite so jubilant. Mr. Honson thanked her gratefully.
“It’s good of you, Mrs. Wire, to want to come way out here to look after the children. My wife and I can never thank you enough.”
Lorna’s cheeks were hot, and she was glad it was dark. She led the chattering youngsters into the barn. She heard a horse stamping his hay, and a cow made a low sound behind her.
The moon made a faint path of silver through the opened door, with a shadow advancing in it. Lorna jumped until she saw that it was only a kitten which had joined their little group. Mr. Honson spread clean hay for them to sit on. The children clustered near, the smallest one clinging anxiously to her hand.
The eldest girl asked helplessly, “Is Mummy very sick?”
Lorna shook her head and patted the little girl’s arm. “Your Mummy is all right. Dr. Matt is with her.” What consolation in the words, even for herself. Matt was near. Everything would be all right. Now, if only she could remember some stories. She cast about in her mind. She made herself speak cheerfully, although her heart beat swiftly at each unfamiliar noise.
“I’ll tell you about …” She tried hard to remember any story which Cousin Em had told. But there hadn’t been many. Cousin Em had always been too busy to bother about children’s stories. She could remember none, except the story of the Baby Jesus.
She groped for the right words. The children’s eyes grew wide with eagerness as she commenced. Once in a while Cliff or Harry corrected her carefully. Once in a while her voice died quickly while she listened for sounds from the house.
Almost with the finish of her story, a tiny wail came through the opened door. It was followed, within minutes, by another one. Harry, the eldest boy, stood up, his face solemn, yet filled with glory.
“Just like in the story, Mrs. Wire. A little baby – two little babies – are born.”
All of them wanted to rush inside. Lorna had all she could do to keep them at her side. When their father came, telling them that their mother was all right, and they could see the twins, they leaped with excitement and happiness.
Lorna calmed them. “You all must be as quiet as little mice! Mummy will be sleepy. So will the twins. Now, let’s all walk softly …”
She smiled to see them rise on tiptoe in their little slippers. They whispered as they walked across the yard. The smallest clung to her hand so that she, too, must go inside and see the babies. Her eyes filled with sudden tears as Mrs. Honson spoke in a faint, grateful voice.
“It was so kind, Mrs. Wire.”
Lorna was ashamed. She saw Matt and Hallie getting ready to leave. She avoided Matt’s eyes. She went out and stood on the doorstep and shame swept over her.
She hadn’t been kind and generous. She had been selfish and possessive. Matt knew and so did Hallie. There was no use pretending. When they came out, she spoke stiffly.
“It’s almost dawn, Matt.”
He looked at her, and said cryptically, “So it is, darling,” as though he had only just noticed.
He helped her into the car. Hallie sat at his side, her shoulders bent with weariness under her dark cape. She took off her stiff white cap to let the cool wind stir her short, graying hair.
The air was cool against Lorna’s hot face. She looked at the valley in the pale dawn and saw that all the harsh gray lines had been washed away by the night.
She sighed tiredly. She had been so frightened during the night. Her heart had pounded so loudly that more than once she had been worried lest it alarm the children.
A smile curved her soft mouth. They were such nice children! The little girls were so soft and cuddly. The boys more manful, yet glad that she was there.
She wondered about that. The children had been glad she was there to tell them a story. They had been nervous, upset. And yet their fears had flown when they sat with her in the barn.
Lorna was surprised to find another thought in her mind. Why, in quieting their fears, she had forgotten her own. She smiled. That was what Uncle John had meant when he told her that life and cacti were filled with unsuspected prickles. She hadn’t suspected that in spite of her own selfish desires, she could help others! She was glad it had turned out that way!
(To be continued)