“Maybe not,” admitted the Senior Surgeon.
“U—m—m,” said the White Linen Nurse. “And if you’d happened to take one of the other girls to-day—instead of me,—why then I suppose you’d have felt that she was the one you really needed? And if you’d taken the Superintendent of Nurses—instead of any of us girls—you might even have felt that she was the one you most needed?”
With surprising agility for a man with a sprained back the Senior Surgeon wrenched himself around until he faced her quite squarely.
“Now see here, Miss Malgregor!” he growled. “For Heaven’s sake listen to sense, even if you can’t talk it! Here am I, a plain professional man—making you a plain professional offer. Why in thunder should you try to fuss me all up because my offer isn’t couched in all the foolish, romantic, lace-paper sort of flub-dubbery that you think such an offer ought to be couched in? Eh?”
“Fuss you all up, sir?” protested the White Linen Nurse with real anxiety.
“Yes—fuss me all up!” snarled the Senior Surgeon with increasing venom. “I’m no story-writer! I’m not trying to make up what might have happened a year from next February in a Chinese junk off the coast of—Nova Zembla—to a Methodist preacher—and a—and a militant suffragette! What I’m trying to size up is—just what’s happened to you and me—to-day! For the fact remains that it is to-day! And it is you and I! And there has been an accident! And out of that accident—and everything that’s gone with it—I have come out—thinking of something that I never thought of before! And there were marigolds!” he added with unexpected whimsicality. “You see I don’t deny—even the marigolds!”
“Yes, sir,” said the White Linen Nurse.
“Yes what?” jerked the Senior Surgeon.
Softly the White Linen Nurse’s chin burrowed down a little closer against the sleeping child’s tangled hair. “Why—yes—thank you very much—but I never shall love again,” she said quite definitely.
“Love?” gasped the Senior Surgeon. “Why, I’m not asking you to love me!” His face was suddenly crimson. “Why, I’d hate it, if you—loved me! Why, I’d—”
“O—h—h,” mumbled the White Linen Nurse in new embarrassment. Then suddenly and surprisingly her chin came tilting bravely up again. “What do you want?” she asked.
Helplessly the Senior Surgeon threw out his hands. “My goodness!” he said. “What do you suppose I want? I want some one to take care of us!”
Gently the White Linen Nurse shifted her shoulder to accommodate the shifting little sleepyhead on her breast.
“You can hire some one for that,” she suggested with real relief.
“I was trying to hire—you!” said the Senior Surgeon quite tersely.
“Hire me?” gasped the White Linen Nurse. “Why! Why!”
Adroitly she slipped both hands under the sleeping child and delivered the little frail-fleshed, heavily ironed body into the Senior Surgeon’s astonished arms.