“It has never been my own.” He went to a desk and took out an envelope. “It’s a rather sacred letter, but I want you to read it—I read it for the first time last night.”
When at last the Doctor laid the letter down, Derry said very low, “Do you blame me?”
“My dear fellow; she had no right to ask it.”
“But having asked—?”
“It is a moving letter, and you loved her—but I still contend she had no right to ask.”
“I gave my sacred word.”
“I question whether any promise should stand between a man and his country’s need of him.”
They faced each other. “I wonder—” Derry said, “I—I must think it over, Doctor.”
“Give yourself a chance if you do. We can go too far in our sacrifice for others—.” He resumed his brisk professional manner. “In the meantime you’ve a rather sick old gentleman on your hands. You’d better get a nurse.”
The argument came up at breakfast two days before Thanksgiving. It was a hot argument. Jean beat her little hands upon the table. Hilda’s hands were still, but it was an irritating stillness.
“What do you think, Daddy?”
“Hilda is right. There is no reason why we should go to extremes.”
“But a turkey—.”
“Nobody has said that we shouldn’t have a turkey on Thanksgiving—not even Hoover.” Hilda’s voice was as irritating as her hands.
“Well, we have consciences, Hilda. And a turkey would choke me.”
“You make so much of little things.”
“Is it a little thing to sacrifice our appetites?”
“I don’t think it is a very big thing.” The office bell rang, and Hilda rose. “If I felt as you do I should sacrifice something more than things to eat. I’d go over there and nurse the wounded. I could be of real service. But you couldn’t. With all your big ideas of patriotism you couldn’t do one single practical thing.”
It was true, and Jean knew that it was true, but she fired one more shot. “Then why don’t you go?” she demanded fiercely.
“I may,” Hilda said slowly. “I have been thinking about it. I haven’t made up my mind.”
Dr. McKenzie glanced at her in surprise. “I didn’t dream you felt that way.”
“I don’t think I do mean it in the way you mean. I should go because there was something worth doing—not as a grandstand play.”
She went out of the room. Jean stared after her.
The Doctor laughed. “She got you there, girlie.”
“Yes, she did. Do you really think she intends to go, Daddy?”
“It is news to me.”
He shook his head. “She is a very valuable nurse. I should hate to lose her.” He sat for a moment in silence, then stood up. “I shouldn’t hold out for a turkeyless Thanksgiving if I were you. It isn’t necessary.”