By Beatrice R. Parsons
The week following Margaret’s sudden death was a
bushy busy one for Dr. Wire. An outbreak of measles in the valley kept Matt, Uncle John, and Hallie continually on the go. Lorna was glad that Matt was too busy to dwell on Margaret’s passing. His hurt and pain had been deep, but it was slowly drifting away. Now that Uncle John could take up the reins of his practice, with Hallie’s assistance, Matt was beginning to talk of going back to Utah.
Lorna was growing more and more certain of her pregnancy. She wanted to share the wonder of her knowledge with her husband, but the time never seemed to come. Matt was out of the house most of his waking hours, and when he came home, he usually dropped to sleep over his late dinner.
When, at last, on a beautiful sunshiny morning, he announced, with a twinkle of relief in his eyes, that the epidemic was past and that he and his lovely wife were due for a holiday, Lorna was jubilant.
She packed a picnic basket with everything he liked, and went over and over in her mind about how she was going to tell him of their coming child.
When she turned the key in the lock, she gave the telephone a little grimace of distaste. “Now, ring as much as you like! Matt won’t hear you.” She tucked her hand under Matt’s arm and urged him down the walk. She said playfully, “I’m beginning to think of that instrument as having a hundred arms, each one of them always reaching out to snatch you away from me.”
Matt sighed tiredly as he got out the car. As they drove out of the yard, he said, “You won’t have to fear the telephone much longer, darling. I’ve made up my mind to go back. I’m not needed here any longer.”
“You’ll always be needed, Matt,” she interrupted warmly, and was as surprised as he was to hear herself saying it. “That is,” she amended gently, “you’ll always be needed wherever a doctor is needed, darling.”
But she knew that her words hadn’t gone deep enough into the truth. People would always need Matt for his professional skill. But wherever he went, whatever he did, people would always need Matt for himself, too. She was suddenly sorry for the many families in Westfield who would feel Matt’s loss.
Yet, this was what she had always wanted. This was what she had dreamed so long. To go back with Matt, to see him established in an office, which would not take so much of his time, so much of himself.
Whatever was the matter with her? Thinking about going away made her a little sad. She looked about with wondering eyes. This cottonwood-shaded street was as familiar to her as the back of her hand. Once it had seemed strange, unwelcoming. Now it seemed to be part of herself. She knew all the people in all the houses. They were her friends!
Matt didn’t talk much as they drove. That left Lorna to look around her. Her mind registered sights and sounds that had been so terrifying to her the day they arrived. Things she had scarcely been aware of during the nervous tension of her arrival in Sky Valley opened up before her amazed glance with a clarity, and a beauty, that surprised her.
The gray mountains seemed blue in the morning sunlight. The jagged peaks, which had so frightened her the day she came, were emerald-jeweled with scattered pines. Even the long, pencil-thin strip of highway that crossed Nevada and flung itself headlong into the salt flats of her native State was not so strange as once it had been.
Their wheels pounded a gay rhythm as they passed the marching poplar trees and crossed the sturdy steel bridge. She smiled a little at the trickle of water in the deep gorge and remembered the night that Matt had worried about Jim Nason.
That was her Matt – thoughtful, kind – always worrying about others, never consciously remembering himself. She knew now that this quality in her husband was what made him such a fine doctor. She laughed suddenly, happily, to see a gaily striped lizard scamper out of range of danger from their wheels.
In the distance the lake was blue as the dress Netty had worn for her wedding reception. Along the sides of the road the great, flowering yucca lifted worshiping heads to the desert breeze. The Joshua trees cast manlike shadows before the blazing sun. Large gray jack rabbits hopped out of the sage and surveyed their hurrying car with lifted ears.
Lorna said suddenly, ‘Oh, Matt, isn’t it beautiful?”
He interrupted slyly. “I told you it was.”
“So you did,” she said wonderingly, and knew that this was the time and place to tell Matt about the baby. Her face was shining as she sought for what she must say, and remembered Mrs. Honson. “How are the twins, Matt? Have they gained weight? What formula do they have?” On, on, asking question after question, filing the answers away for future reference for her own child.
Matt grinned. “Their weight has increased exactly as it should. Mrs. Honson is doing wonderfully, too.” He was thoughtful, saying slowly, “I’ve been studying the new technique in child-birth, Lorna. Uncle John and I have been discussing it. It’s controversial, but I think it’s good. In some hospitals, the new mother is urged to walk around soon after her child is born. Doctors have found that it prevents circulatory complications.”
Lorna’s eyes were shining, and she nodded eagerly. “I’m going to try it, Matt!”
He lifted his head and stared at her. “You, Lorna?”
After all her plans for telling him romantically, she blurted out, “We’re going to have a baby, darling. You and I. And you’re going to be my doctor. We’ll try out the new technique together.”
“Lorna, Lorna!” Matt was delighted. So delighted that he slowed the car, stopped it, and turned to look into her eyes. When he saw the truth, he kissed her gently. Then started the car again, saying tenderly, “Lorna, I do believe I’m the happiest, luckiest man in all the world.”
She was glad that she had been able to contribute to his happiness, and what he called his “luck.” But it went deeper than that. The word he should have used was “love.” Love and luck and happiness were all mixed up together in what they had. And a lot of unselfishness, too. Matt’s unselfishness. And soon, her own, she told herself, firmly. Then they would have everything that goes to make happiness.
She knew that she would never entirely conquer her possessiveness of Matt. Perhaps of their child! But she would teach herself the truth of something Matt had said to her when she had first come to Westfield – nothing worth entirely possessing, is worthy of possession! So she would school herself to let Matt wing like a gray hawk into the wide-spreading field of his profession, and she would let her child go from her side, at manhood, secure, in the wise, courageous things she would teach him.
As they came within a short distance of Jim Nason’s farm, she smiled grimly, remembering how selfish the old man had grown. She stared at his neat stone house, his dike of sandbags at the edge of the meandering brook which could turn into a rushing torrent during a desert storm, and frowned a little to see Jim waving an authoritative hand in Matt’s direction.
“Oh, oh,” she groaned, “that awful old man! Now what in the world can he want of you, Matt?”
Matt didn’t know, but he slowed the car beside the neat rail fence and called, “Hi, Jim!”
But the old man was looking at Lorna, and scarcely returned his greeting. He came briefly to the point.
“Been thinkin’ over the things you said to me, young woman! Been thinkin’ that maybe a hospital is better’n a statue. Been thinkin’ that maybe when I git a little time I’ll have a talk with your husband.”
He stopped abruptly as he turned and went into his house. Surprise turned Lorna’s gray eyes into opals, and as he started the car, Matt’s surprised whistle cut through the air.
It wasn’t until they were halfway to the lake that Lorna remembered that they hadn’t even thanked Jim. Tears stood in her eyes and she touched Matt’s arm. He looked down at her in sudden anxiety.
“Lorna, don’t cry! I know how little you want to stay in Westfield. I’ve promised that we’d soon go back. Uncle John can handle everything.”
His words made her sob a little, and she hurried to interrupt. “Matt! You can’t run off and leave everything to Uncle John! You’ve got to stay and help with the hospital. What would the people of Westfield think if you walked out on them now?”
Matt was staring at her in brown-eyed astonishment. For a moment he struggled to find words. Then he burst out, “Lorna, do you know what you’re saying? Do you know …?”
She nodded firmly, wiping her tears away with the back of her hand, and sniffing childishly.
“Of course, I know, Matt! I’m telling you that we’ve got to remain in Westfield. Help the people get their fine, modern hospital.” Her face was shining with plans. “We’ll both work, darling. And Uncle John and Hallie, too. And when our son grows up, he’ll be a doctor just like his father, and …”
She stopped, realizing that the car had stopped, too. They were at the edge of the lake. Matt was looking at her with such a happy, wonderful glow in his eyes that she felt warm to the very core of her being.
There were people in gay little groups all over the white beach, so he could not take her in his arms and kiss her. But she found him trembling a little as he helped her out of the car.
She lifted her hand and put it against his arm. Not with her old, possessive gesture, but with a new confidence and love. His fingers closed over hers and clung for a long, silent moment. Then they got out the picnic basket and spread their brilliant Indian blanket on the sand.
There were children playing all about them, and people shouting, laughing. Yet Lorna didn’t mind. All these people were her friends. This beautiful lake, this spreading valley, the gray hills, and the low stone houses far in the distance behind the soldierly poplars were hers and Matt’s.
And after a while it would be their children’s. Lorna’s heart glowed with happiness as she opened the picnic basket and handed Matt a sandwich. They looked into each other’s eyes and suddenly they were laughing like two gay, carefree children sharing some wondrous little secret.
Matt’s eyes and voice caressed Lorna as he whispered: “Darling, do you think any two people were ever so happy as we are? And will always be,” he added very, very softly.