The After House
The After House by Mary roberts
By the bequest of an elder brother, I was left enough money to see me
through a small college in Ohio, and to secure me four years in a medical school
in the East. Why I chose medicine I hardly know. Possibly the career of a
surgeon attracted the adventurous element in me. Perhaps, coming of a family of
doctors, I merely followed the line of least resistance. It may be, indirectly but
inevitably, that I might be on the yacht Ella on that terrible night of August 12,
more than a year ago.
I got through somehow. I played quarterback on the football team, and made
some money coaching. In summer I did whatever came to hand, from chartering
a sail-boat at a summer resort and taking passengers, at so much a head, to
checking up cucumbers in Indiana for a Western pickle house.
I was practically alone. Commencement left me with a diploma, a new dresssuit, an out-of-date medical library, a box of surgical instruments of the same
date as the books, and an incipient case of typhoid fever.
I was twenty-four, six feet tall, and forty inches around the chest. Also, I had
lived clean, and worked and played hard. I got over the fever finally, pretty much
all bone and appetite; but—alive. Thanks to the college, my hospital care had
cost nothing. It was a good thing: I had just seven dollars in the world.
The yacht Ella lay in the river not far from my hospital windows. She was not
a yacht when I first saw her, nor at any time, technically, unless I use the word in
the broad sense of a pleasure-boat. She was a two-master, and, when I saw her
first, as dirty and disreputable as are most coasting-vessels. Her rejuvenation was
the history of my convalescence. On the day she stood forth in her first coat of
white paint, I exchanged my dressing-gown for clothing that, however loosely it
hung, was still clothing. Her new sails marked my promotion to beefsteak, her
brass rails and awnings my first independent excursion up and down the corridor
outside my door, and, incidentally, my return to a collar and tie.
The river shipping appealed to me, to my imagination, clean washed by my
illness and ready as a child's for new impressions: liners gliding down to the bay
and the open sea; shrewish, scolding tugs; dirty but picturesque tramps. My
enthusiasm amused the nurses, whose ideas of adventure consisted of little jaunts
of exploration into the abdominal cavity, and whose aseptic minds revolted at the
sight of dirty sails.
One day I pointed out to one of them an old schooner, red and brown, with
patched canvas spread, moving swiftly down the river before a stiff breeze.
"Look at her!" I exclaimed. "There goes adventure, mystery, romance! I
should like to be sailing on her."
"You would have to boil the drinking-water," she replied dryly. "And the ship
is probably swarming with rats."
"Rats," I affirmed, "add to the local color. Ships are their native habitat. Only
sinking ships don't have them."
But her answer was to retort that rats carried bubonic plague, and to exit,
carrying the sugar-bowl. I was ravenous, as are all convalescent typhoids, and
one of the ways in which I eked out my still slender diet was by robbing the
sugar-bowl at meals.
That day, I think it was, the deck furniture was put out on the Ella—numbers
of white wicker chairs and tables, with bright cushions to match the awnings. I
had a pair of ancient opera-glasses, as obsolete as my amputating knives, and,
like them, a part of my heritage. By that time I felt a proprietary interest in the
Ella, and through my glasses, carefully focused with a pair of scissors, watched
the arrangement of the deck furnishings. A girl was directing the men. I judged,
from the poise with which she carried herself, that she was attractive—and knew
it. How beautiful she was, and how well she knew it, I was to find out before
long. McWhirter to the contrary, she had nothing to do with my decision to sign
as a sailor on the Ella.
One of the bright spots of that long hot summer was McWhirter. We had
graduated together in June, and in October he was to enter a hospital in Buffalo
as a resident. But he was as indigent as I, and from June to October is four
"Four months," he said to me. "Even at two meals a day, boy, that's
something over two hundred and forty. And I can eat four times a day, without a
struggle! Wouldn't you think one of these overworked-for-the-good-of-humanity
dubs would take a vacation and give me a chance to hold down his practice?" ...................... Download Now to read more about " The After House " by Mary Roberts
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