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Authors: Elizabeth Gilzean

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BOOK: Yankee Surgeon
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“When do we go?”

Sally

s thoughts were racing ahead to when she would see John again.

“Didn

t John tell you? We start tomorrow night. By going then we miss the worst of the heat and the heavy traffic. We

ll stop for the night and then go on first thing. It will be easier on Mrs. Tremayne doing the journey in two jumps. I know it

s only five hours, but that

s fast driving. Good night, Sally.”

“Good night and thanks for everything.”

Sally flew upstairs and got ready for bed. She was hugging the thought to her almost as if she were afraid to take it out and look at it properly.
John asked me to marry him.
John
...

Sally tried to balance the map on her lap and pick out the landmarks at the same time, but they always seemed to whiz past before she could be sure which one they had passed.

“I

ll give you a running commentary of the places we

re whizzing through,” John suggested, “and you can have a kiss for everyone you remember afterward!”

Sally strung the names like beads on a bracelet. Falmouth ... Coonamessett
...
Santuit ...
Hyannis ... Harwich ... Chatham “We turn off just past Nickerson Park, Sally, and then it

s a rough track through the sand dunes.”

Sally stared through the windscreen as they began to move more slowly. They were leaving the flat open expanses of the cranberry marshes upon which many an American Thanksgiving dinner would depend for its cranberry sauce, and huge sand dunes presented a bewildering choice of rough tracks for them to follow. “How can you tell which one to take?”

John patted her knee. “

Fraid I

m going to lose you? We turn just by the dune with that big tree stump on it. Sometimes in the spring you have to do some guessing because the storms may have shifted the dunes some distances or even plonked a new one right where you want to go. Keep your eyes peeled. Our place is around the next corner.”

Sally stared ahead obediently and at first she couldn

t make out the cottage, so perfectly did it blend in with the off-white of the dunes, the bleached gray of the driftwood tossed high by winter storms, and the pale green of the dune grasses. There was only a door and a small window in the blank expanse of wall that faced them.

“All the windows face out over the sea,” John explained. He fished in his pocket for the key. “Come on. We

ll bring the bags in afterward.”

Sally followed him into a narrow hallway off of which were a series of doors. John went past them all to the far end and threw open a glass-paneled door and stood aside to let Sally go first.

Her initial impression was one of stepping out on deck, so close did the white-crested bre
a
kers seem as they went racing past to crash in sun-touched splendor on the point beyond. One wall facing the sea was completely of glass. A second wall was built of narrow pine planks, and in it was set a long, low fireplace. Driftwood was piled on the hearth waiting for a match and a basket of logs stood ready. Across one corner was a curved counter and behind it Sally could see a door and a hatch opening into a small kitchen. Green plants and flowers stood about in tubs and brought a touch of the living land into the austerity of the sea. Casual, comfortable furniture gave bright colors to the scene.

“Like it, honey?” John crossed to the fireplace and lighted the fire. “I know you couldn

t call it cold but I guess Mother would enjoy it. She

s bound to be feeling tired.”

Sally drew a deep breath. “I think it

s lovely! I don

t see how you can bear to work in New York when you could be here.”

“It was Dad

s last gift to Mother and he only had time for one summer in it,” John said a trifle sadly. “But because it was his idea she insists on coming each year and it isn

t always easy to get someone to give her a hand ... it

s rather isolated. Come here, Sally.”

She approached him shyly but she didn

t pull away when John took her to him and buried his face in her hair.

“Oh, Sally, I do love you, you know. You

ve kind of got into my bloodstream or something. Think you could bear to live in the States if I take you to England now and again?”

Sally ran her fingers through his fair hair. “If you promise to bring me down here sometimes for a breath of real air now and again, I think I could face up to the rest,” Sally teased him.

John kissed the tip of her nose. “I

m just brimming with ideas and anyway our clinic isn

t in New York City and it

s air-conditioned and living over here is getting used to a different way of life and a different pace, and I think I can wangle an exchange with the local doctor
here ...
offer him a couple of months of working in our clinic while I take over his practice, and then we could be here. I know Mother would love having a daughter to fuss over and if you want to work as my office nurse part of the summer you can and if you want to lie on the beach until I come home you can and when the kids start arriving, well, we can organize that as well
and...”

“John! I thought we weren

t really saying yes for another fourteen days!” Sally protested.

“Thirteen days, darling. We

ve used up one day already. Give me a kiss and then we

ll do some work.”

Sally lifted her face to his and the beauty around them faded into insignificance beside the glory of the love that surged between them.

“Come on, honey. We

d better ration ourselves I

m thinking,” John said shakily.

The days that followed made a pattern of delight. They explored the Cape and found they both preferred the out-of-the-way places rather than the newer luxury centers that were springing up everywhere. Together they admired the lovely church spire designed by Christopher Wren at Sandwich, then watched the sails of the
old windmill at Eastham turn merrily.

“Sally, I guess we

re either homesick—or else we both like the older unspoiled things uncluttered with too many gadgets.” They were standing on the dock at Hyannis Port waiting for the
Sirsconset
to take them for a trip to Nantucket and Martha

s Vineyard.

Sally smiled up at him. The brisk breeze had whipped the fresh color into her cheeks and she had little resemblance to the pale girl who had come to the Cape ten days before.

“Gadgets are useful as long as you don

t live for them. I

m old-fashioned enough to prefer the simple things, but since you

re a modern American I

ll make due allowances for you,” she teased him.

“If you scratch me hard enough you

ll find I

m just as old-fashioned myself.” He ruffled her hair gently. “Your Aunt Agnes made any comments about us yet?”

Sally laughed. “Not a one. In fact she

s so casual about my comings and goings with you that you wouldn

t think they were of the slightest interest to her. What about your mother?”

John scratched his chin. “She hasn

t said anything but she

s looked plenty, mostly approving.”

“You don

t think there

s a conspiracy going on?” Sally asked curiously.

He laughed. “You mean like trying to throw us into one another

s arms? We couldn

t be more cooperative, honey, if we tried.”

“John, what makes you so sure your mother would like to have me as a daughter-in-law?”

“Because I love you and that would always be reason enough for her. I guess you really haven

t had time to get to know her well, but she is an independent sort of person and she respects other people

s independence in the same kind of way. Since her illness she

s quieted down a bit but you wait until she

s better and you

ll find her as lively as a cricket.”

Sally sighed a little. “I can

t believe it

s all happening to us ... to me especially. I feel almost as if I were here under false pretenses ... taking the place of someone who hadn

t been able to come.”

The steamer whistled and John took Sally

s arm and led her toward the gangway. “The crazy things you say, honey. Who could have more right to be here with me than you?”

Sally pushed away her uneasiness. “What

s on the program tomorrow?”

“Swimming at Nauset Beach in the morning for me and thee and in the afternoon we

re all going to Provincetown—it

s a little like your St. Ives
...
artists and all.”

Sally wakened slowly the next morning. Her dreams still separated her from the reality of daylight. A breeze ruffled the curtains at her window and blew across her face. She shivered slightly at its coolness and then she was wide awake. John would want to start early for the beach. He liked a long stretch on the sands before plunging into the breakers and he would be impolitely patient with her if she were late for breakfast. She jumped out of bed and felt her swimsuit gingerly. It wasn

t really damp, and she could put it on under her seersucker dress.

Only Agnes Raynor greeted her when she went into breakfast. “Have a good sleep, honey?”

Sally kissed her. “Lovely, thank you. Am I the first?”

The older woman shook her head. “No, the last. John

s taken his mother into East Orleans. He says he

ll meet you on the beach just below the coastguard station.”

Something in her aunt

s tone tugged at Sally

s attention. “Is anything the matter?” she asked quickly.

Her aunt hesitated. “I don

t know ... nothing I can be sure about. John had a letter from England that made him go all quiet after he

d read it and then Mrs. Tremayne asked him to drive her into the village—sort of out of the blue ... because as you know we

re going into Provincetown this afternoon and I would have thought the one trip in the car enough for her.”

Sally thought that one over. “Maybe she remembered something she had to do.”

“Could be,” her aunt agreed.

Sally poured herself some orange juice. “John say what time he wanted me to be there?”

“No particular time ... when you were ready, I think he meant. Eggs and bacon?”

Sally nodded. “Yes, please.”

She wasn

t really hungry but she had a feeling that the butterflies in her tummy might settle after a good breakfast.

Sally helped her aunt with the dishes and then she picked up her beach bag and started on her journey across the dunes toward the coastguard station. Tucked away here and there were other cottages but the wild stretches of sand in between gave each one its impression of isolated privacy. The wind was gusty and blowing up little whirlwinds of sand in Sally

s face. She remembered John

s telling her that in bad storms the coastguardmen had to do their patrols with boards held up to protect their faces from the stinging particles of grit. Here and there tangles of logs and smaller driftwood testified to the fury of the winter gales. Sally reached the edge of the cliffs and started looking for John.

The dazzle of the sun on sea and sand made her squint until a passing cloud threw the little groups on the beach into sharp relief. At first she couldn

t see him and then she spied him perched on a solitary boulder looking out toward the sea.

Sally scrambled down the rough cliff steps and walked slowly in his direction. At last she stood a few paces behind him and her presence must have penetrated his unawareness and he swung around to face her. He got to his feet and crossed the space that lay between them and took both her hands in his. She noticed that his were cold as if he had been sitting there for a very long time. He wasn

t smiling and the outlines of his features seemed sharper and more severe without the usual grin. His eyes were searching her face as if looking for something he wasn

t sure he would find.

Then all of a sudden he relaxed and let out a sigh. “Come on, Sally. Let

s find a yard of dry sand where we can sit and talk.”

There was an urgency about his tone that held Sally silent. Together they walked up the beach in a unison that was contradicted by the barrier that seemed to lie between them.

John spread out his beach towel with great deliberation. “Sit down, Sally.”

Sally settled herself and waited. She sensed that John would tell her what was on his mind in his own good time and any interference from her would only put him off his stride.

John sat down and reached out for her hands again as if her touch would be the catalyst to help him into action. He tried to smile at her when he saw her troubled face but it was a stiff little smile that left his eyes as bleak as the cool ocean beyond.

“Sally, I

m not so good at saying things ... not things I really feel about. I had a letter this morning and it kicked me like a mule
...
made me feel sick and angry and sort of dirty
...
made me want to get away on my own until I

d sorted things out. I couldn

t face you until I knew what I believed and now I know and I could want to knock myself around the block for some of the things I thought in those first few minutes. I won

t blame you if you find it hard to forgive me and I
w
on

t be forgiving myself for a long time to come. Maybe if I

d known you longer, been surer of you, the letter wouldn

t have packed such a wallop.” He gripped her hands with an angry sort of desperation. “Tell me how much you love me, Sally, and maybe I can tell you what this is all about.”

Sally had never felt more sure of herself than in that moment. All doubts fell away and she only knew that here was the man she loved, the man who needed
her...

“I love you more than anything else in the world and for always,” she said very quietly and very firmly.

“Oh, Sally!” John buried his head on her shoulder and she could feel his strong body trembling against her. “I

ve been in such hell and it was mostly of my own making.”

Sally stroked the fair head so close to her own. “How about telling me what it

s all about?” she asked gently.

He lifted his face and his mouth twitched slightly. “You must be thinking I

ve lost my mind! I had a letter
...
guess I

ve told you that already. It was from Claris and maybe you even guessed that too. As you know it isn

t long before I

ll be back at St. Bride

s and she was bringing me up to date and asking me what cases I wanted in by the time I was in harness again. She brought me up to date all right and one item shook me. It sounded so true the way she put it and I suppose it knocked me off my rocker and I couldn

t think straight for a bit and ... this is the nasty
bit...”
He paused, but Sally

s hand never stopped its soothing motion through his hair. “I actually thought you might be two-timing me,” he went on, slowly. “Thought that you were using me while you were really engaged to George ... and then I had to work it out for myself that if you really were the sort of girl I wanted to marry you couldn

t be two-timing me but, Sally, I had to work it
out ...
I didn

t know!”

Sally

s two hands pulled John

s head around until he was facing her. “How could you know, John, any more than I knew about you and Claris until you put me straight? Loving isn

t just knowing, it

s understanding and accepting and taking the other person as a real person, not just a mock-up of what you think you would like!”

“Oh, Sally! To think I was telling you that you knew nothing about love and now you

re having to teach me! Come here, honey, and I

ll demonstrate how well I

ve learned the first lesson.”

Sally surrendered herself to his kisses feeling that she had never been quite so much alive before as at this moment. At last the flood of love ebbed a little and John released her.

“Sally, do you love me as much as I love you?” he teased her.

“Much, much more,” was her dreamy answer.

“Must we really wait until you

ve finished your course?” he demanded.

She stirred at that. “I think we would both be sorry,” she said slowly. “I don

t like leaving things unfinished and you still have your time to put in at St. Bride

s. There

s no point in my going back there now and Claris isn

t the only reason. If I complete my course I can be of more use to you, get to know your mother if she wants it that way and somehow I think she does, and I

ll be home early in the New Year. That will give Mother and Daddy time to get used to the idea and I can do any shopping I have to, and—”

“Four months, Sally!” John said fiercely. “Four whole months you

re asking me not to see you!”

She put her hand gently over his mouth. “There

ll be letters, don

t forget, and it won

t hurt either of us to make sure this is the real thing.”

“Sally! You haven

t any doubts, have you?”

Her kisses silenced him.

“Not a single one,” she murmured presently.

But John wasn

t listening. He was staring down toward the water

s edge where something large and black was thrashing about in the surf.

“Come on, Sally. Let

s see what it is.”

Other bathers were running down the beach and there were shouts and even screams from those already in the water.

As they got nearer, John suddenly pulled Sally to a standstill. “It

s a shark, Sally! It must be a man-eater
...
look at that guard
...
he

s got a rifle.”

Sally shivered. “We might have been in
swimming ...
I didn

t know sharks came here.”

“They don

t normally come so far north as this—not man-eaters.” John turned Sally

s head away as the guard leveled his rifle. “Come on, sweetie. We

ve had enough sharks for this morning. Why do you suppose Claris did it?”

“I suppose she thought you were a good catch.” Sally followed his thought. “George was fond of me and I suppose she saw no harm in stretching the truth a trifle. He always said she was ruthlessly honest about what she wanted and you did tell me she had announced her intentions toward
you ...
so you were warned.”

John laughed. “Come on, Sally; if you

re going to be the wife of an American surgeon, you

ve got to be tough ... last one in is a monkey

s uncle!”

Hand in hand they rushed toward the breakers well below where the shark had been caught. There was no fear on their A faces, only happiness for the future that lay at their feet
.

BOOK: Yankee Surgeon
10.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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