The White Linen Nurse eBook

Eleanor Hallowell Abbott
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 133 pages of information about The White Linen Nurse.

Very meditatively the Senior Surgeon reconsidered his phrasing.  “‘General Heartwork for a Family of Two’?  U—­m—­m.”  Quite abruptly even the tenseness of his manner faded from him, leaving his face astonishingly quiet, astonishingly gentle.  “But how else, Miss Malgregor,” he queried, “How else should a widower with a child proffer marriage to a—­to a young girl like yourself?  Even under conditions directly antipodal to ours, such a proposition can never be a purely romantic one.  Yet even under conditions as cold and business-like as ours, there’s got to be some vestige of affection in it,—­some vestige at least of the intelligence of affection,—­else what gain is there for my little girl and me over the purely mercenary domestic service that has racked us up to this time with its garish faithlessness?”

“Yes, sir,” said the White Linen Nurse.

“But even if I had loved you, Miss Malgregor,” explained the Senior Surgeon gravely, “my offer of marriage to you would not, I fear, have been a very great oratorical success.  Materialist as I am,—­cynic—­scientist,—­any harsh thing you choose to call me,—­marriage in some freak, boyish corner of my mind, still defines itself as being the mutual sharing of a—­mutually original experience.  Certainly whether a first marriage be instigated in love or worldliness,—­whether it eventually proves itself bliss, tragedy, or mere sickening ennui, to two people coming mutually virgin to the consummation of that marriage, the thrill of establishing publicly a man-and-woman home together is an emotion that cannot be reduplicated while life lasts.”

“Yes, sir,” said the White Linen Nurse.

Bleakly across the Senior Surgeon’s face something gray that was not years shadowed suddenly and was gone again.

“Even so, Miss Malgregor,” he argued, “even so—­without any glittering romance whatsoever, no woman I believe is very grossly unhappy in any—­affectional place—­that she knows distinctly to be her own place.  It’s pretty much up to a man then I think,—­though it tear him brain from heart, to explain to a second wife quite definitely just exactly what place it is that he is offering her in his love,—­or his friendship,—­or his mere desperate need.  No woman can ever hope to step successfully into a second-hand home who does not know from her man’s own lips the measure of her predecessor.  The respect we owe the dead is a selfish thing compared to the mercy we owe the living.  In my own case—­”

Unconsciously the White Linen Nurse’s lax shoulders quickened, and the sudden upward tilt of her chin was as frankly interrogative as a French inflection.  “Yes, sir,” she said.

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The White Linen Nurse from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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