Like a white hen sensing the approach of some utterly unseen danger the Superintendent seemed to bristle suddenly in every direction.
“It’s a bit—irregular,” she protested in her most even tone.
“Bah! So are some of the most useful of the French verbs!” snapped the Senior Surgeon. In the midst of authority his voice could be inestimably soft and reassuring, but sometimes on the brink of asserting said authority he had a tone that was distinctly unpleasant.
“Oh, very well,” conceded the Superintendent with some waspishness.
Hazily for an instant Rae Malgregor stood staring into the Superintendent’s uncordial face. “I’d—I’d apologize,” she faltered, “but I—don’t even know what I said. It just blew up!”
Perfectly coldly and perfectly civilly the Superintendent received the overture. “It was quite evident, Miss Malgregor, that you were not altogether responsible at the moment,” she conceded in common justice.
Heavily then, like a person walking in her sleep the girl trailed out of the room to get her coat and hat.
Slamming one desk-drawer after another the Superintendent drowned the sluggish sound of her retreating footsteps.
“There goes my best nurse!” she said grimly. “My very best nurse! Oh no, not the most brilliant one, I didn’t mean that, but the most reliable! The most nearly perfect human machine that it has ever been my privilege to see turned out,—the one girl that week in, week out, month after month, and year after year, has always done what she’s told,—when she was told,—and the exact way she was told,—without questioning anything, without protesting anything, without supplementing anything with some disastrous original conviction of her own—and look at her now!” Tragically the Superintendent rubbed her hand across her worried brow. “Coffee, you said it was?” she asked skeptically. “Are there any special antidotes for coffee?”
With a queer little quirk to his mouth the gruff Senior Surgeon jerked his glance back from the open window where with the gleam of a slim torn-boyish ankle the frisky young Spring went scurrying through the tree-tops.
“What’s that you asked?” he quizzed sharply. “Any antidotes for coffee? Yes. Dozens of them. But none for Spring.”
“Spring?” sniffed the Superintendent. A little shiveringly she reached out and gathered a white knitted shawl around her shoulders. “Spring? I don’t see what Spring’s got to do with Rae Malgregor or any other young outlaw in my graduating class. If graduation came in November it would be just the same! They’re a set of ingrates, every one of them!” Vehemently she turned aside to her card-index of names and slapped the cards through one by one without finding one single soothing exception. “Yes, sir, a set of ingrates!” she repeated accusingly. “Spend your life trying to teach them what to do and how to do it! Cram ideas