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14. The Rookeries
Two conspicuous ornaments of Worthington's upper world visited Worthington's
underworld on a hot, misty morning of early June. Both were there on business, Dr. L.
André Surtaine in the fulfillment of his agreement with his son—the exact purpose of the
visit, by the way, would have inspired Harrington Surtaine with unpleasant surprise,
could he have known it; and Miss Esmé Elliot on a tour of inspection for the Visiting
Nurses' Association, of which she was an energetic official. Whatever faults or foibles
might be ascribed to Miss Elliot, she was no faddist. That which she undertook to do, she
did thoroughly and well; and for practical hygiene she possessed an inborn liking and
aptitude, far more so than, for example, her fortuitous fellow slummer of the morning,
Dr. Surtaine, whom she encountered at the corner where the Rookeries begin. The
eminent savant removed his hat with a fine flourish, further reflected in his language as
he said:—
"What does Beauty so far afield?"
"Thank you, if you mean me," said Esmé demurely.
"Do you see something else around here that answers the description?"
"No: I certainly don't," she replied, letting her eyes wander along the street where Sadler's
Shacks rose in grime and gauntness to offend the clean skies. "I am going over there to
see some sick people."
"Ah! Charity as well as Beauty; the perfect combination."
The Doctor's pomposity always amused Esmé. "And what does Science so far from its
placid haunts?" she mocked. "Are you scattering the blessings of Certina amongst a
grateful proletariat?"
"Not exactly. I'm down here on some other business."
"Well, I won't keep you from it, Dr. Surtaine. Good-bye."
The swinging doors of a saloon opened almost upon her, and a short, broad-shouldered
foreigner, in a ruffled-up silk hat, bumped into her lightly and apologized. He jogged up
to Dr. Surtaine.
"Hello, De Vito," said Dr. Surtaine.
"At the service of my distinguish' confrère," said the squat Italian. "Am I require at the
"No. I've come to look into this sickness. Where is it?"