“So you-all depend upon her safety for your safety! Take it—and be damned! She’s been with me—yo’ followin’ me? She’s been with me, rightful married and happy—happy! From now on I’ll manage lil’ Nella-Rose’s doings, and the first whisper from man or woman agin her will be agin me—and God knows I won’t be blamed for what I do then! Tell that skunk of yours,” Lawson glared at the terrified Marg, “I’m strong enough to outbid him with the devil, but from now on him and you—mind this well, Marg Greyson—him and you are to be our loving brother and sister. See?”
With a wild laugh Burke took to the woods.
Two years and a half following William Truedale’s death found things much as the old gentleman would have liked. Often Lynda Kendall, sitting beside the long, low, empty chair, longed to tell her old friend all about it. Strange to say, the recluse in life had become very vital in death. He had wrought, in his silent, lonely detachment, better even than he knew. His charities, shorn of the degrading elements of many similar ones, were carried on without a hitch. Dr. McPherson, under his crust of hardness, was an idealist and almost a sentimentalist; but above all he was a man to inspire respect and command obedience. No hospital with which he had to deal was unmarked by his personality. Neglect and indifference were fatal attributes for internes and nurses.
“Give the youngsters sleep enough, food and relaxation enough,” he would say to the superintendents, “but after that expect—and get—faithful, conscientious service with as much humanity as possible thrown in.”
The sanatorium for cases such as William Truedale’s was already attracting wide attention. The finest men to be obtained were on the staff; specially trained nurses were selected; and Lynda had put her best thought and energy into the furnishing of the small rooms and spacious wards.
Conning, becoming used to the demands made upon him, was at last dependable, and grew to see, in each sufferer the representative of the uncle he had never understood; whom he had neglected and, too late, had learned to respect. He was almost ashamed to confess how deeply interested he was in the sanatorium. Recalling at times the loneliness and weariness of William Truedale’s days—picturing the sad night when he had, as Lynda put it, opened the door himself, to release and hope—Conning sought to ease the way for others and so fill the waiting hours that less opportunity was left for melancholy thought. He introduced amusements and pastimes in the hospital, often shared them himself, and still attended to the other business that William Truedale’s affairs involved.
The men who had been appointed to direct and control these interests eventually let the reins fall into the hands eager to grasp them and, in the endless labour and sense of usefulness, Conning learned to know content and comparative peace. He grew to look upon his present life as a kind of belated reparation. He was not depressed; with surprising adaptability he accepted what was inevitable and, while reserving, in the personal sense, his past for private hours, he managed to construct a philosophy and cheerfulness that carried him well on the tide of events.