When he and George were left alone he said tersely: “Of course you and your mother are lying. You had this man stripped, he did cry out, and he did die from the pain of the treatment you tried to give him, in his condition. By the way, where’s your wife? This is a bad thing for her right now. Come, let’s find her and see what state she is in.”
Together they left the room and entered Kate’s door. As soon as the doctor was busy with her, George slipped back into the closed room, rolled Peter on his back and covered him, in the hope that the blood would settle until it would efface the marks of his work before the Coroner arrived. By that time the doctor was too busy to care much what happened to Peter Mines; he was a poor old soul better off as he was. Across Kate’s unconscious body he said to George Holt: “I’m going to let the Coroner make what he pleases out of this, solely for your wife’s sake. But two things: take down that shingle. Take it down now, and never put it up again if you want me to keep still. I’ll give you what you paid for that table. It’s a good one. Get him out as soon as you can. Set him in another room. I’ve got to have Mrs. Holt where I can work. And send Sarah Nepple here to help me. Move fast! This is going to be a close call. And the other thing: I’ve heard you put in an application for our school this winter. Withdraw it! Now move!”
So they set Peter in the living room, cleaned Kate’s room quickly, and moved in her bed. By the time the Coroner arrived, the doctor was too busy to care what happened. On oath he said a few words that he hoped would make life easier for Kate, and at the same time pass muster for truth; told the Coroner what witnesses to call; and gave an opinion as to Peter’s condition. He also added that he was sure Peter’s family would be very glad he was to suffer no more, and then he went back to Kate who was suffering entirely too much for safety. Then began a long vigil that ended at midnight with Kate barely alive and Sarah Nepple, the Walden mid-wife, trying to divide a scanty wardrobe between a pair of lusty twins.
A NEW IDEA
Kate slowly came back to consciousness. She was conscious of her body, sore from head to foot, with plenty of pain in definite spots. Her first clear thought was that she was such a big woman; it seemed to her that she filled the room, when she was one bruised ache from head to heels. Then she became conscious of a moving bundle on the bed beside her, and laid her hand on it to reassure herself. The size and shape of the bundle were not reassuring.
“Oh, Lord!” groaned Kate. “Haven’t You any mercy at all? It was Your advice I followed when I took wing and started out in life.”
A big sob arose in her throat, while at the same time she began to laugh weakly. Dr. James heard her from the hall and entered hastily. At the sight of him, Kate’s eyes filled with terrified remembrance. Her glance swept the room, and rested on her rocking chair. “Take that out of here!” she cried. “Take it out, split it into kindling wood, and burn it.”