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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

The chill of a rheumatic fever


Betty

fidgeted, inwardly. The conditions of the cab did not allow of much external fidgeting.

'I do not know why you ask me this,' she said.

'No; but indulge me! I do not ask you without a purpose.'

'I am afraid of your purpose! Yes; if I must tell you, I should say, Oh, take me out of this! Let me see the sun whenever he can be seen in this rainy London; and let me have sweet air outside of my windows. Then I would like somebody to look after me; to open my window in summer and make my fire in winter, and prepare nice meals for me. I would like good bread, and a cup of drinkable tea, and a little bit of butter on my bread. And clothes enough to keep clean; and then I would like to live to thank you!'

Betty had worked herself up to a point where she was very near a great burst of tears. She stopped with a choked sob in her throat, and looked out of the cab window. Pitt's voice was changed when he spoke.

'That is just what I thought.'

'And you have done it!'

'No; I am doing it. I could not at once find what I wanted. Now I have got it, I believe. Go on now, please, and tell me what ought to be done for the man in rheumatic fever.'

'The doctor would know better than I.'

'He cannot

pay for a doctor.'

'But he ought to have one!'

'Yes, I thought so.'

'I see what you are coming to,' said Betty; 'but, Mr. Pitt, I can _not_ see that it is your duty to pay physician's bills for everybody that cannot afford it.'

'I am not talking of everybody. I am speaking of this Mr. Hutchins.'

'But there are plenty more, as badly off.'

'As badly,--and worse.'

'You _cannot_ take care of them all.'

'Therefore--? What is your deduction from that fact?'

'Where are you going to stop?'

'Where ought I to stop? Put yourself, in imagination, in that condition I have described; the chill of a rheumatic fever, and a room without fire, in the depth of winter. What would your sense of justice demand from the well and strong and comfortable and _able?_ Honestly.'

'Why,' said Betty, again surveying Pitt from one side, '_with my notions_, I should want a doctor, and an attendant, and a comfortable room.'

'I do not doubt his notions would agree with yours,--if his fancy could get so far.'

'But who ought to furnish those things for him is another question.'


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