But again he was staring at a pansy and the cloud of purple floated hazily away. Tired, ill and aeons old, Brian opened his eyes.
“I’m glad you’re awake,” said Joan gently. “You were dreaming. Drugs frighten me.”
“Nothing was clear,” said Brian, touching his forehead, “but the pansy and you. And purple—like that.” He pointed to her ring. “What an odd ring it is, Joan! Wistaria?”
Joan nodded, her color bright.
“Wistaria on a ladder. It’s the ring Kenny gave me.”
Brian’s startled eyes met and held her own. “Why?” he asked.
“I’m going to marry him. Didn’t you know?”
“No,” said Brian. “I—I didn’t know.”
April with its tender flame of green brought lagging days of worry. Brian, said Kenny wistfully, was just—not Brian. He was an irritable convalescent in a plaster cast, too nervous to be patient. His pain had been intense, the shock disastrous to his self-control. The haggard mark of it upon his face Don read with scalding heart and brooded. When after a refractory week of undisciplined nerves and temper that strained the doctor’s endurance to the breaking point, Brian went out of his head for forty-eight hours and babbled like a madman about a face in the mist, Kenny in terror wired for Frank Barrington. Brian, he thought, must be frantic with pain.
Frank came, mystified and apprehensive. He found a white and apathetic patient who, with his delirium gone, denied abnormal pain.
“It isn’t pain,” Frank reported. “Of that I’m convinced. His head’s in excellent condition and his danger of lameness is at an end. Though he resented the suggestion, I think there’s something on his mind. And whatever it is, he’s much too shattered nervously to give it a normal valuation.”
“Keep that kid out of his room,” advised Kenny hotly. “I can’t. He moons around up there like a ghost. Brian admits that he’s so sorry for him at times that it makes him feel sick.”
“Hum!” said Frank and went in search of Don.
“I suppose you think I’m too much of a kid to have an opinion,” Don told him, his face white and fierce, “but I—I did it. And I watch him more than anybody else—” He choked and blinked back boyish tears of indignation.
“Keep Mr. O’Neill out of Brian’s room,” he snorted. “He’d excite anybody!”
“I intend to keep you all out,” was Frank’s verdict in the end. “All but the nurse and Joan. Joan’s not temperamental and she has nothing on her conscience. She has moreover a sedative convincing type of cheer that’s a mighty good influence. The rest of you are simply on a sentimental spree of penance. You, Kenny, are so anxious to square yourself that you make him nervous and he fumes and blames himself. And Don can’t look at him without remorse in his eyes. You’re both too flighty and penitential for Brian’s good.”