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Other People’s Troubles

An Antidote for Your Own [Part 3]

Author of A Japanese Nightingale, Heart of Hyacinth, Wisteria, Marion, Me, Delia, etc., etc.
Synopsis—Other People’s Troubles is the new type of a continued story wherein each episode is a complete story itself, but the whole is connected through the central figure of Dr. Carpenter, a very fine character, who believes that to get interested in other people’s troubles is the best cure for your own. Dr. Carpenter has his niece, Laura, living with him, and also the servant, telling her of the great sorrow of Lenox Holt, a lawyer, who has been accused of killing his wife’s lover, and, although let free by the court, has the stigma of murder attached to his name To him the doctor is going to entrust Laura’s case.
So he lives in an old house, just outside Fort Washington Park; and he avoids his friends and shrinks away from that portion of the city where previously he had been one of the leading lights. There are no servants even in the old Holt place, just an ancient Irish pair who previously cared for the place as janitors, at the time when Holt and his wife were part of the gay rushing life of Newport and Manhattan. They don’t take very good care of the place. It looks dog-eared and run-down, forsaken and neglected. You’d never suspect he was under forty, and a man of means. For he looks more like a tramp. He roams about Fort Washington Park and its environs, looking at the water and sometimes muttering to himself. He fancies people point him out, and often he turns upon them like a savage and asks them what they are staring at. And he wont go away, because he says it was here he was born, and it was away from here he was betrayed. Friends who had not cut him, he has cut, for when shame throws its black mantle upon us, it is then one’s friends drop off like withered leaves, or cling greenly to the branches. And I cling on to Lenox Holt, in spite of his oftentimes insulting cynicisms regarding my profession and my aims. For Holt believes all men are knaves and all women wantons and liars.1
Are you asleep, Laura?
Her face was hidden against his knee. She looked up slowly, her dark eyes moist.
No, she said gently. Oh, the poor man, the poor man!
She was very silent for a long time after that; presently she stood up and, bending over, softly kissed the top of his head.
Oh, Uncle Dan, dear, why is the world not all sad when there is so much trouble in it?
Because the world’s so sweet, my dear. It’s a recompense for the blacker things. When the sordid, harrowing things of life press the hardest on us, there is still always the sky and the stars left us to see—and be thankful for.

VI.

Dr. Carpenter picked up the telephone on his desk and grunted into the receiver.
Er-hum! Yes, it’s Dr. Carpenter.
Where?
Can’t you get——
But I want to go to bed. What’s that?
Er-hum! Very well.
He grunted again, and rang off.
Oh, Uncle Dan dear, said Laura, in a tone of gentle exasperation: Have you got to go out again?
She followed him into the hall and helped him slip into his great-coat.
You were up all last night, dear, she said plaintively.
Yes, admitted the doctor, and then clearing his throat with his cheery rough Er-hum!:
But remember, Laura—there were twins last night—twins! It was worth it. It was worth it!
I had hoped you could get to bed early to-night. Dear old dear! They’ll wear you out between them. Who is the call from this time?
Barnato’s Theatre.
Little Bonnie Snow in some sort of trouble—conglomeration of sprained ankle and hysterics, I imply from the message. You remember Bonnie?
Of course, though I haven’t seen her since I came to New York. Tell her, wont you, that I’m here with you now, Uncle Dan.
Er-hum! Now trot along to bed with you.
He raised her face, with his hand under her chin. Then he flicked a forefinger across the shadows under her eyes.
To-morrow morning I expect to see these gone, said he.
She smiled sadly and shook her head a bit.
I’m out of cold cream, she said, whimsically, and really, Uncle Dan, dear, I don’t want to get the regulation ‘massage face’.
Sleep is the best Masseur in the world! growled the doctor, and closed his gloves with a snap upon each button. You get. Into bed and blow your mind adrift, and whenever you find it fastening upon things that disturb you, pull it away with a firm grip, and fasten it at once upon other people’s troubles. I prescribe Lenox Holt’s for to-night. Think of him—of his tragedy to-night, as Mrs. Holmes has thought of Mrs. Finnerty, and——
Did you know, she interrupted earnestly, that she went to see Mrs. Finnerty, and she is giving her work of a lighter kind than washing, and——
Did she say anything about her own—delusions?
No, she didn’t. You see she was fixing her flat all up for the coming of her mother, and Mrs. Finnerty was helping her. I thought she looked quite well, for her.
The doctor chuckled, and pursed out his lips. Then he kissed his niece with a great deal of tenderness, and hurried 332 out, slamming the door cheerfully behind him.
There was some confusion behind the scenes of Barnato’s Theatre, but in front a shrill, triumphant voice was wildly proclaiming:
I’m the cutest thing of Broadway, so they say!
The doctor had little difficulty in making his way back of the scenes, for it seems he had been expected. A young, sad-eyed chorus man, with a dejected cigarette hanging loosely in his mouth, seized the doctor by the arm and dragged him along through the wings.
I tell you what, it’s a sad case if ever there was one, he volunteered mournfully.
No bones broken, I hope, said the doctor.
No—o. I guess not. Just a nasty twist, ugly enough to knock her flat for a time.
Somewhere close at hand now the doctor could hear sounds of muffled moaning, and as his guide threw open the door of a diminutive dressing-room, the sole occupant changed her moaning to loud wailing, much as a child would have done at the advent of a parent.
Well, well, said the doctor, briskly, and how’s Bonnie?
Instead of answering the doctor, she bounced up on the couch, and turned a wrathful face upon the doctor’s guide.
What’s the matter with you? Can’t you get the doctor a chair. Oh, doctor! Oh-h! Oh-h-h!
In great pain?
Agony! Torture! I wish I was dead!
Stuff and nonsense. Here, let me see your foot. Er-hum!
He pursed out his lower lip in his characteristic way. Then he frowned upon the girl on the couch.
Why, this is nothing—nothing! A little measly sprain. I’m surprised at you, Bonnie. To get your good old doctor friend out of his comfortable bed for a mean little sprain like this!
Bonnie sat up again with a jerk.
Mean little sprain! she shrieked. D’ye know what that sprain’s going to mean? The ruin of—my—c-career! The loss of my one ch-chance—my only hope on earth. I wish I were d-dead and b-buried!
Aw, Bonnie! began her friend, but she threw the slipper the doctor had removed from her foot at his head.
You shut up! she cried. It’s all your fault!
The doctor was shaking his head gravely, and was examining the sprained foot from several angles.
Where would you care to have the amputation, Bonnie?
Now, Doctor Carpenter, if you’re going to make odious remarks you can just go. I know you’re sore because I got you out when you wanted to stay in, b-but I didn’t want you because of the ankle. It doesn’t hurt anyhow worth a snuffle. It’s—it’s—other——
You’re hurt somewhere else? asked the doctor anxiously.
Ye-es, she sobbed. My heart’s broke. It is. Literally broke, and you’ve got to give me some sort of dope to put me to sleep to-night, or I’ll——Oh, I could almost kill myself for the f-fool I’ve been—f-for my dam luck!
The doctor had moved a bit nearer to the girl, and now he took Bonnie’s hand. It was very hot, and he hastily felt her head, blinked, drew out his thermometer and put it under her tongue, holding her pulse meanwhile. She tried to talk with the thermometer still in her mouth, but he stopped her.
One minute, Bonnie. Now, let’s see! and he held the glass to the light. I think I’ll have to put you to bed, Bonnie, for—say— Can you afford a week’s rest?
Afford it! Why they’ll hand it to me to-morrow in chunks, she said bitterly.
The chorus man threw away his cigarette viciously. It was unlighted, and he had aimed it at an ash-tray, but she shrieked as it touched her hand, and in an instant the boy—for he was nothing but a boy—was kneeling by her, frantically kissing the hand, and imploring the doctor to assure him that he had not burned it.
Burn! said the doctor, examining the hand, Stuff and nonsense!
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Notes

1
No closing quotation mark in original.

People Mentioned

Winnifred Eaton

  • Born: August 21, 1875
  • Died: April 08, 1954
See the Biographical Timeline for biographical information on Winnifred Eaton.

Pseudonyms used in this text

Mary Chapman

Mary Chapman is the Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive, a Professor of English, and Academic Director of the Public Humanities Hub at University of British Columbia. She is the author of the award-winning monograph Making Noise, Making News: Suffrage Print Culture and US Modernism (Oxford UP) and of numerous articles about American literature and women writers. She has also edited Becoming Sui Sin Far: Early Fiction, Journalism and Travel Writing by Edith Maude Eaton (McGill-Queen’s UP) and published essays on the Eaton sisters in American Quarterly, MELUS, Legacy, Canadian Literature, and American Periodicals. Her current research project is a microhistory of the Eaton family. For more information, see http://faculty.arts.ubc.ca/mchapman/.

Joey Takeda

Joey Takeda is the Technical Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive and the User Interface Developer at the Digital Humanities Innovation Lab (Simon Fraser University). He is also an M.A. student in English at the University of British Columbia where his research focuses on Indigenous and diasporic Canadian literature; he is currently completing a digital edition of His Royal Nibs.

Organizations Mentioned