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A Poor Wise Man

Chapter 46
DOCTOR Smalley was by way of achieving a practice. During his morning and
evening office hours he had less and less time to read the papers and the current
magazines in his little back office, or to compare the month's earnings, visit by
visit, with the same month of the previous year.
He took to making his hospital rounds early in the morning, rather to the outrage
of various head nurses, who did not like the staff to come a-visiting until every
counterpane was drawn stiff and smooth, every bed corner a geometrical angle,
every patient washed and combed and temperatured, and in the exact center of
the bed.
Interns were different. They were like husbands. They came and went, seeing
things at their worst as well as at their best, but mostly at their worst. Like
husbands, too, they developed a sort of philosophy as to the early morning, and
would only make occasional remarks, such as:
"Cyclone struck you this morning, or anything?"
Doctor Smalley, being a bachelor, was entirely blind to the early morning
deficiencies of his wards. Besides, he was young and had had a cold shower and
two eggs and various other things, and he saw the world at eight A.M. as a good
place. He would get into his little car, whistling, and driving through the market
square he would sometimes stop and buy a bag of apples for the children's ward,
or a bunch of fall flowers. Thus armed, it was impossible for the most austere of
head nurses to hate him.
"We're not straightened up yet, doctor," they would say.
"Looks all right to me," he would reply cheerfully, and cast an eager eye over the
ward. To him they were all his children, large and small, and if he did not exactly
carry healing in his wings, having no wings, he brought them courage and a
breath of fresh morning air, slightly tinged with bay rum, and the feeling that this
was a new day. A new page, on which to write such wonderful things (in the
order book) as: "Jennie may get up this afternoon." Or: "Lizzie Smith, small piece
of beef steak."
On the morning after the election Doctor Smalley rose unusually early, and did
five minutes of dumb bells, breathing very deep before his window, having
started the cold water in the tub first. At the end of that time he padded in his
bare feet to the top of the stairs and called in a huge, deep-breathing voice:
 
 
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