By good fortune he found Dr. Merritt in.
“You’ve got Esme Elliot at the typhus hospital,” he said breathlessly.
“Yes. In the isolation ward.”
“She’s been exposed. She carried a child, in convulsions, into the hospital. The child developed typhus late Saturday night; must have been infected at the time. As soon as I knew, I sent for her, and she came like the brave girl she is, yesterday morning.”
“Will she get the fever?”
“God forbid! Every precaution has been taken.”
“Merritt, that’s an awful place for a girl like Miss Elliot. Get her out.”
“Don’t ask me! I’ve got to treat all exposed cases alike.”
“But, Merritt,” pleaded Hal, “in this case an exception can’t injure any one. She can be completely quarantined at home. You told Wayne you owed the ‘Clarion’ and me a big debt. I wouldn’t ask it if it were anything else; but—”
“Would you do it yourself?” said the young health officer steadily. “Have you done it in your paper?”
“But this may be her life,” argued the advocate desperately. “Think! If it were your sister, or—or the woman you cared for.”
Dr. Merritt’s fine mouth quivered and set. “Kathleen Pierce is quarantined with Esme,” he said quietly.
The pair looked each other through the eyes into the soul and knew one another for men.
“You’re right, Merritt,” said Hal. “I’m sorry I asked.”
“I’ll keep you posted,” said the official, as his visitor turned away.
Meantime, Esme had volunteered as an emergency nurse, and been gladly accepted. In the intervals of her new duties she had received from her distracted cousin, who had been calling up every half-hour to find out whether she “had it yet,” Hal’s message that he would not be able to see her that day, and, not having seen the “Clarion,” was at a loss to understand it.
Chance, by all the truly romantic, is supposed to be a sort of matrimonial agency, concerned chiefly in bringing lovers together. In the rougher realm of actuality it operates quite as often, perhaps, to keep them apart. Certainly it was no friend to Esme Elliot on this day. For when later she learned from her guardian of his attack upon Hal (though he took the liberty of editing out the finale of the encounter as he related it), she tried five separate times to reach Hal by ’phone, and each time Chance, the Frustrator, saw to it that Hal was engaged. The inference, to Esme’s perturbed heart, was obvious; he did not wish to speak to her. And to a woman of her spirit there was but one course. She would dismiss him from her mind. Which she did, every night, conscientiously, for many weary days.