Spice Box

Spice Box by Grace Livingston Hill

Book: Spice Box by Grace Livingston Hill Read Free Book Online
Authors: Grace Livingston Hill
coffee, soup, I think you understand.”
    Janice bowed and hurried away. Just after the new patient arrived, she returned with the tray. The chauffeur who had brought the man was bringing in his luggage, the doctor was there with the male nurse, giving directions, and the patient stood angrily swaying in the middle of the room, straight in the path that led to the small table where Janice was expecting to put the tray. She paused, looked up at the patient, and then stood frozen with horror, the tray trembling in her frightened hands, her face as white as the cap she wore. There before her stood her dreaded brother-in-law, Herbert Stuart, glowering down at her with stormy eyes. Then, without warning, the tray fell from her nerveless fingers, and the little white nurse in her pretty blue uniform crumpled down in a heap at the feet of the patient.
    It was all so silently, unobtrusively done, that only the tray with its muffled clatter as it thumped upon the thick rug called attention that way. And the silent probationer lay still as death, without even a quiver of her eyelids.
    The doctor, with a stern white face, sprang forward instantly and gathered her up. He gave a quick look to the wild, dazed, drunken man who stood glaring angrily and muttering loud profanities about the way nurses behaved, frowning down upon the girl’s white face with startled eyes as if he were looking at a ghost.
    With a hurried direction to the nurse the doctor strode away with Janice, carrying her to her own room, followed by another nurse.
    As Sterling worked over the girl, he was trying to think what could have been the cause of her sudden collapse. It evidently had something to do with the patient, for he had seen her face when she first looked at him, and the sudden terror in her eyes was unmistakable. The man had supposedly come from New England—at least that was where he was registered as living at present, and not from anywhere near the region in which he had found the girl. Yet there must be some connection. As soon as she was able to talk calmly he must find out the whole situation. He could not have a mystery like this going on. Somehow he would have to make her tell him the whole trouble.
    Sterling knew very little of the new patient, but he had taken an instant dislike to his face. Even allowing for the dissipated life he must have lived, he had the look of one who was utterly selfish and almost cruel, who would stop at nothing to gain his own will. But if he was the secret of the girl’s fear, what possible relationship could there have been between them? Not her fiancé. No, that was unthinkable! He was not old enough to be her father. Her brother, perhaps, but how could a brother hold such a power over his sister that would put terror like that into her eyes? They did not resemble one another in the least. But of course brothers and sisters did not always look alike.
Husband
? He shuddered at the thought. Poor little girl, if she were in any way tied to this drunken beast of a man!
    Suddenly she opened her eyes and looked vaguely around the room then up into the doctor’s eyes with a question in her own, and then with returning memory there came that awful fear again, followed instantly by concealment. She was not going to explain that fear either.
    “What happened? Did I fall?” she asked fearsomely. “Did I drop something?”
    The doctor gave her a reassuring smile and bent to speak quietly so the nurse would not hear.
    “Did something frighten you, child?” he asked gently.
    “Oh? No, I guess not. I must have been a little tired. It’s been a warm day,” she said evasively. “I stayed overtime with the little lame girl in the east corridor. I’m so ashamed!”
    It was a simple enough explanation, and at another time he would have accepted it without a question. But now his eyes were keen with anxiety for her. He was sure she had not given the right reason for her disturbed state.
    “You don’t need to worry,” he

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