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Title: Sweetapple Cove
Author: George van Schaick
Release Date: September 8, 2004 [EBook #13396]
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK SWEETAPPLE COVE ***
Have I shown wisdom or made an arrant, egregious fool of myself? This, I
suppose, is a question every man puts to himself after taking a sudden
decision upon which a great deal depends.
I have shaken the dust of the great city by the Hudson and forsaken its
rich laboratories, its vast hospitals, the earnest workers who were
beginning to show some slight interest in me. It was done not after
mature consideration but owing to the whim of a moment, to a sudden
desire to change the trend of things I felt I could no longer contend
Now I live in a little house, among people who speak with an accent that
has become unfamiliar to the great outside world. They have given up
their two best rooms to me, at a rental so small that I am somewhat
ashamed to tender it, at the end of every week. I also obtain the
constant care and the pleasant smiles of a good old housewife who appears
to take a certain amount of pride in her lodger. As far as I know I am
the only boarder in Sweetapple Cove, as well as the only doctor. For a
day or two after my arrival I accompanied the local parson, Mr. Barnett,
on visits to people he considered to be in need of my ministrations. Now
they are coming in droves, and many scattered dwellers on the bleak coast
have heard of me. Little fishing-smacks meeting others from farther
outports have spread the amazing news that there is a doctor at the Cove.
With other pomps and vanities I have given up white shirts and collars,
and my recent purchases include oilskins and long boots. This is
fashionable apparel here, and my wearing them appears to impart
confidence in my ability.
My only reason for writing this is that the Barnetts go to bed early.
Doubtless I may also acquire the habit, in good time. Moreover, there is
always a danger of disturbing some important sermon-writing. In common
decency I can't bother these delightful people every evening, although
they have begged me to consider their home as my own. Mrs. Barnett is a
most charming woman, and never in my life have I known anything like the
welcome she impulsively extended, but she works hard and I cannot intrude
too much. Hence the hours after nine are exceedingly long, when it
chances that there are no sick people to look after. At first, of course,
I just mooned around, and called myself all sorts of names, honestly
considering myself the most stupendous fool ever permitted to exist in
freedom from restraint. I plunged into books and devoured the medical
weeklies which the irregular mails of the place brought me, yet this did
not entirely suffice, and now I have begun to write. It may help the time
to pass away, and prevent the attacks of mold and rust. Later on, if
things do not shape themselves according to my hopes, these dangers will
be of little import. These sheets may then mildew with the dampness of
this land, or fly away to sea with the shrewd breezes that sweep over our
coast, for all I shall care. At any rate they will have served their
Of course I am trying to swallow my medicine like a little man. If there
is a being I despise it is the fellow who whimpers. There is little that
is admirable in professional pugilism, saving the smile often seen on a
fighter's face after he has just received a particularly hard and
crushing blow. Indeed, that smile is the bruiser's apology for his life.
Lest it be inferred that I have been fighting, I hasten to declare that
it was a rather one-sided contest in which I was defeated, lock, stock
and barrel, by a mere slip of a girl towards whom I had only lifted up my
hands in supplication.
"We are both very young, John," she explained to me, with an
exasperating, if unconscious, imitation of the doctors she had observed
as they announced very disagreeable things to their patients. "Our lives
are practically only beginning. Until now we have been like the
vegetables that are brought up in little wooden boxes. We are to be taken
up and planted in a field, where we are to grow up into something
"And we shall enjoy a great advantage over the young cabbages and
lettuces," I chimed in. "We shall have the inestimable privilege of being
permitted to select the particular farm or enclosure that pleases us
She put her hand on my arm and patted it in the abominably soothing way she has doubtless acquired in the babies' ward. In my case it was about as effectual as the traditional red rag to a bull.
"Don't you dare touch me like that," I resented. "I'm quite through with
the mumps and measles. My complaint is one you don't understand at all.
You are unable to sympathize with me because love, to you, is a mere
theoretical thing. You've heard of it, perhaps you are even ready to
admit that some people suffer from such an ailment, but you don't really
know anything about it. It has not been a part of your curriculum. I've
been trying to inoculate you with this distemper but it won't take."
Every man in the world and at least half the women would have agreed with
me. The grace of her charming figure, her smiles and that one little
dimple, the waving abundance of her silken hair, the rich inflections of
her voice, each and all contradicted that foolish supposition of hers.
"Well, I thought this was an invitation to dinner," remarked Dora,
sweetly, with all the brutal talent of her sex for changing the drift of
conversation. "Of course they fed us well at the hospital, when we had
time to eat, but...."
"If you don't really care to go...."
I rose and sought my hat and overcoat, while Dora wandered about my
"Your landlady could take lessons from Paddy's pig in cleanliness," she
declared, running a finger over my bookcase and contemplating it with
horror. "I wonder that you, a surgeon, should be an accomplice to such a
has seen better days."
"She deserves the bad ones, then," Dora exclaimed.
"As in the case of many other maladies, we have as yet been unable to
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