“Easier for you, too?”
He looked at her. “Do I have to speak the truth?”
“You must. If you would rather be there—”
“I would rather be as near you as I can stay. There’s no use denying that. But Van Horn wants me at the hospital.”
“Is he to look after you?”
“Yes. Queer, isn’t it? But he wants the job. No,” at the unspoken question in her face, “it wasn’t Van. But he came in just as the trouble began to show and—well, you know we’re the best of friends now, and I think I’d rather have him—and Buller, good old Buller—than anybody else.”
“Oh, but you won’t need them both?” she cried, and then bit her lip.
“Of course not. But you know how the profession are—if one of them gets down they all fall over one another to offer their services.”
“They may all offer them, but they will have to come to you. You are going to stay at home. You shall have the big guest room—made as you want it. Just tell me what to do—”
“You may as well strip it,” he told her quietly. “And—Len, I’d rather be right there than anywhere else in the world. I think, when it’s ready, I’ll just go to bed. I’d bluff a bit longer if I could, but—perhaps—”
“I’m sure you ought,” she said as quietly as he. But she was very glad when the car turned in at the driveway.
Two hours later, under her direction and with her efficient help, Cynthia and Johnny Carruthers in medical parlance had “stripped” the guest room, putting it into the cleared bare order most useful for the purpose needed. If Ellen’s heart was heavy as she saw the change made she let nothing show. And when, presently, she called her husband from the couch where he had lain, feverish and beginning to be tortured by pain, and put him between the cool, fresh sheets, she had her reward in the look he gave, first at the room and then at her.
“Decks all cleared for action,” he commented with persistent cheerfulness, “and the captain on deck. Well—let them begin to fire; we’re ready. All I know is that I’m glad I’m on your ship. Just pray, Len, will you—that I keep my nerve?”
This was the beginning, as Burns himself had foreseen, of that which proved indeed to be a long fight. Strong of physique though he unquestionably was, pure as was the blood which flowed in his veins, the poison he had received unwittingly and therefore taken no immediate measures to combat was able to overcome his powers of resistance and take shattering hold upon his whole organism. There followed day after day and week after week of prostrating illness, during which he suffered much torturing pain in the affected hand and arm, with profound depression of mind and body, though he bore both as bravely as was to have been expected. Two nurses, Amy Mathewson and Selina Arden, alternated in attendance upon him, day and night, and Ellen herself was always at hand to act as substitute, or to share in the care of the patient when it was more than ordinarily exacting.