Authors: Eleanor Farnes
When Diana Pevrill went to Switzerland with Anthea Wellis, to see that that wealthy and spoiled young lady obeyed the orders of a famous specialist, she found herself living in an almost incredible world of beauty and luxury and leisure. “Too story-book,” she thought. “I shall wake up and find myself by the cinders in rags. But at least, it is interesting. At least, I can’t say with any degree of certainty what will happen tomorrow. And with Anthea, I have a feeling that anything might
And sure enough, plenty of things did—to Diana and Anthea, to Hans and Katrina, to Dr. Frederic and the children’s clinic that meant so much to him, before the lovely, fresh Swiss summer drew to its happy close.
walked into his sun-filled dining room, and crossed the thick carpet to the small table laid for breakfast by the window. This was a beautiful morning of spring, and soon the snow would all be gone and summer would fill the towns and villages once more. He took pleasure in the sunlight and the clarity of the air, took pleasure in the small table with its crisp white cloth, and gleaming silver coffee pot. His eggs were just as he liked them, the rolls were hot, the coffee good. He glanced through the papers as he ate; and then, pouring his last cup of coffee, he rang the bell for his secretary.
She appeared with an assortment of papers and letters in her hands. She was about thirty years of age, neat, efficient and unobtrusive. She adored the doctor, and there was always a special pleasure in this first meeting of the day, the good morning greeting and the discussion that followed it.
“Good morning, Dr. Frederic,” she said, smiling.
“Good morning, Fraulein. Have you my appointments book?”
“Yes, it is here. The earliest is at half past ten.”
“Good. We have plenty of time. And anything urgent in the post?”
“Nothing really urgent, except that Dr. Duval at the clinic wishes to consult you on a troublesome case. We had a very cosmopolitan post this morning, doctor.”
“A Prime Minister, an opera singer from Lisbon, an Indian potentate and a letter from England.”
“Let us hope the opera singer is not as troublesome as the last one we had. Leave the letters here, Fraulein, and I will look at them.”
“And the Contessa telephoned twice yesterday and already again this morning.”
“Ah. What did you tell h
“I explained that you were away at an important conference, and that you had a full day booked for today. But she is most persistent.”
The doctor put the letters on the table before him, and looked up at his secretary.
“We must be firm with her, very firm. I have no time to waste on such foolish women. All that is the matter with her is over-indulgence; and she has not enough to do. Any doctor can deal with her who has the patience, and who would like to collect some fat fees. I cannot see her. My time is really too valuable to waste in such a manner. We must write to her and tell her that it is not quite my line, and that I recommend her heartily to Dr. So-and-so, who is very clever and will understand her case very well. Whom shall we send her to, Fraulein? But I can trust you to manage that, and to be tactful yet firm.”
“Yes, of course.”
“That other letter. Is that for me, too?”
“Yes. I must apologize about this one. I should have put it with the private letters for you, but it had so much the look of a business letter, and it was not marked private, and I opened it. It is the letter from England.”
“Ah, so you have started to read my love letters, have you?”
She blushed a little as she smiled.
“It is not a love letter, doctor. It is about a case.”
He took the letter from her, and read it. Then he looked up at her, waiting silently at his side. “Yet another foolish woman,” he said.
“I have no patience with them,” he said, a frown on his handsome, dark face.
“Another firm but tactful letter?” suggested his secretary.
“Mmm. No, not in this case. Mr. Wellis, the writer of this letter, is my friend. He was on the committee of management of that very useful little home which was to be shut down for lack of funds.
Not only did he lend me all his support to keep it open, but he contributed handsomely to the appeal we made. I have had more than one occasion to be glad of his far-seeing support. Also, of course, I have enjoyed his hospitality in England on several occasions. I am afraid I shall have to take on his daughter, for his sake.”
“She will come here as a patient?”
“He seems doubtful of that. He says that she is to spend the summer quietly in Switzerland, but that she will not hear of hospitals or nursing homes. From what I remember of her, and she was very young then—she is completely spoiled.” He studied the letter thoughtfully. “When there are so many people really ill, through no fault of their own, I begrudge giving my time to those who let their health break down because they have no idea of self-discipline. This girl, her father says, is twenty-one; but because she diets too stringently, because she drinks and smokes and keeps late hours, and will not look after herself, her health has suffered. So somebody now must have the job of restoring her strength. And it looks as if I must have the job, Fraulein Elissa. I will answer this myself.”
“Here is the appointment book, then. And you are lunching with Mademoiselle Nicol.”
“Ah yes. And that is all?”
“You said I was to remind you to telephone little Bruno. Did you mean that?”
“But of course! What time did I say?”
“You said about nine o’clock.”
“And it is ten past. He will be waiting by the telephone, thinking I have forgotten him. Put the line through to me here and I will do it at once.” When he had given the number, he was answered by a childish voice, speaking loudly. He said, very seriously:
“I wish to speak to Signor Bruno Be
“This is Bruno speaking,” yelled the childish voice.
“Impossible. That is a young man with a fine, strong voice.”
“No, this is Bruno,” insisted the child; and when the doctor had teased him a little longer, he pretended suddenly to believe that it was indeed Bruno. They had a short conversation, and then the doctor, telling him that he must still not shout too much, rang off. There was a pleased smile about his mouth. He was proud of this young boy, who had cooperated throughout a long illness, who had not used his voice above a whisper for months, and who now was almost restored to full health and strength. This was the kind of thing that was worth doing. These others, people like the Contessa and the foolish daughter of his friend Richard Wellis, these were the ones he resented having to find time for.
He took up the letter once more. He must reply to this at once. He would telephone Doctor Duval at the clinic, perhaps getting the consultation in before the arrival of his first patient, and then write to Wellis.
He drank the last of his coffee, now quite cold, gathered up his letters and appointments book, and went out of the room.
Richard Wellis was very glad to receive Dr. Frederic’s letter. The fact that so eminent a man was prepared to keep an eye on Anthea this summer was a great relief to him; but it was the solution to only one half of his problem. The half that was not yet solved was the question of where to send her, this difficult daughter of his, and under whose care. It would be simple, indeed, if she would go into one of the many establishments in Switzerland provided solely for such cases as hers; but she would not. She was obstinate, spoiled, inconsiderate, and quite likely to run away from such a place, if ever he got her into one. She had flatly refused to be imprisoned anywhere; and when he had suggested that his wife should accompany Anthea, both of them had shown a marked reluctance. Mrs. Wellis had no
intention of spending the summer quietly anywhere, particularly in Switzerland. Anthea was always bored with her mother’s company. Her father had to admit to himself that it would not be a successful combination;
would not be
any better looked after then than she was now, and they would both be bored. But where to look for a suitable companion, and who would be likely to take on such an unattractive proposition? For he had no illusions about his own child. He had always been absorbed in business, and he would have said, if challenged on the point, that it was his wife’s duty to look after Anthea and bring her up properly. Now that he realized how hopelessly spoiled she was, it was too late. The bringing-up was finished, and Anthea thought she was competent to manage her life herself.
He pondered on this problem at intervals during the morning, but when he left his palatial office to go to luncheon, he was no nearer a solution. It struck him that the air was very fresh and spring-like, and he decided that he would walk the short distance to his favorite restaurant. It was when he was crossing Piccadilly that he noticed the young woman standing on the pavement, waiting to cross; and, after a moment or two of puzzlement, suddenly recognized her. Why, of course, he thought, old Miss Pevrill’s niece, but heavens, how pale and ill she looks.
He raised his hat and paused. Diana Pevrill smiled up at him, and he thought how much better she looked when she smiled. The pallor was less noticeable, and her smile lit up her face and her eyes. It was a very sweet smile, he decided.
“Why, it’s Mr. Wellis. How are you?”
“And you’re Diana, Miss Pevrill’s niece. I won’t ask how you are, because you don’t look at all well
but then, how stupid and forgetful of me. It’s only a little over a week since
“Since the funeral,” said Diana steadily. “Yes. But I’m quite well, really.”
“But worn out. Yes, I know. Quite worn out. Your aunt would have worn out anybody. Look here, have you lunched yet? No? Nor meeting anybody? Then come along and have some lunch with me, and you can tell me all your news.”
Diana found herself being led gently along Piccadilly, a firm hand at her elbow. She was led into a restaurant, very much more expensive than she could have afforded herself, and seated opposite Mr. Wellis at a table for two. He was well known here, and his wants immediately catered for, and Diana felt a sudden relief at having somebody to order for her, somebody to ply her with wine, somebody to take care of her, if only for the length of a luncheon. She had been wandering about London, vaguely thinking of jobs she could possibly do, telling herself it was time she had a meal, without doing anything about it, and here was this nice man, being kind and thoughtful, and smiling at her across the small table.
“Now,” he said, “tell me how you are placed. Your aunt left you her property?”
“She hadn’t any to leave,” said Diana sadly. “When she refused to take your advice about her investments, and quarrelled with you, she seemed to lose all her common sense, and rushed into quite hare-brained schemes. For all the last months of her life, she was penniless.”
“My dear child! But at least you have the house?”
“No. Mortgaged, up to the hilt. She lost everything. I got a job, and she sold the valuable pieces of furniture, and we just jogged along. But I had to give up the job to nurse her when she was ill. Now I suppose I shall have to get another.”
“Where are you living then?”
“At the moment, at a friend’s flat. She’s so kind. She says I can stay until I get a job, and until I find somewhere to live.” Suddenly, Diana raised her eyes to his, and he saw what beautiful, clear grey eyes she had. “Mr. Wellis, you wouldn’t know of a job that would be suitable, I suppose?”
At once, he thought of the job. Why, it was providential, nothing less, that she should have crossed his path this morning. Surely this was the right companion for Anthea; and she looked as if a quiet summer in Switzerland would do her as much good as it would Anthea. He knew her to be sensible, patient, kind; she had lived with that erratic, unpredictable aunt; she had nursed her through her last illness; and she was not sorry for herself, but insisted that she was quite well and still smiled with a most surprising sweetness. He felt a regret that his own womenfolk were not more like her: suddenly, to his great surprise, he found himself thinking that it would be a pleasant thing to return home each evening to such a sweet smile, to such straightforward looks from those clear grey eyes. He had not entertained such thoughts for years, and they must be shunned at once. He said slowly:
“Well, I do know of a job, as it happens. I’m not at all sure that it would be suitable for you, though.”
“Oh please, do tell me about it. I do have to have a job.”
“This is rather an unusual one, and, if you feel any doubts about it, don’t hesitate to turn it down. I don’t mind telling you I should have qualms about taking it on myself.”
“You make it sound quite frightening. What is it?”
“It’s acting as—what shall we say, duenna?
to a girl of twenty-one who has been recommended to spend the summer quietly in Switzerland, for the benefit of her health.”
“Well, that doesn’t sound very frightening after all. What are the snags?”
“The snag, my dear Diana, is that the girl happens to be a selfish, obstinate, trying person who doesn’t want to go in the first place, and who will probably contrive to make life difficult, in the second place.”
“Who is she, and what is the matter with her?”
“She is my daughter Anthea, and the trouble is that the specialist detects the beginning of disease in one lung; the very beginning, you understand.”
sorry,” said Diana quickly. “Poor Anthea.”
“Yes, poor Anthea indeed. She has brought it on herself, the silly child, by the jittery kind of life she leads. Her mother and I are very much to blame, for not bringing her up more sensibly and giving her a worth-while kind of existence. Late nights, too little food, too many drinks and smokes, keeping up with the gayest of her crazy young friends
well, it is a good thing it was discovered in time. The specialist says that six months of quiet in the mountain air should cure her.”
“I do hope so. How worrying for you all.”
“Well, what do you think about the job, Diana?”