GUY EVANS swept over the broad smooth highway at a rate that would have won him ten days in the jail at Santa Ana had his course led him through that village. The impression that Custer’s words had implanted in his mind was that Grace was ill, for Pennington had not gone into the details of his unhappy interview with the girl, choosing to leave to her brother a realization of her changed condition, which would have been incredible to him even from the lips of so trusted a friend as Custer.
And so it was that when he approached the bungalow on Circle Terrace, and saw a coupe standing at the curb, he guessed what it portended; for though there were doubtless hundreds of similar cars in the city, there was that about this one which suggested the profession of its owner.
There was no response to his ring, and as the inner door was open he entered. A door on the opposite side of the living room was ajar. As Guy approached it, a man appeared in the doorway, and beyond him the visitor could see Grace lying, very white and still, upon a bed.
“Who are you—this woman’s husband?” demanded the man in curt tones.
“I am her brother. What is the matter? Is she very ill?”
“Did you know of her condition?”
“I heard last night that she was not well, and I hurried up here. I live in the country. Who are you? What has happened? She is not—my God, she is not—”
“Not yet. Perhaps we can save her. I am a doctor. I was called by a Japanese, who said that he was a servant here. He must have left after he called me, for I have not seen him. Her condition is serious, and requires an immediate operation—an operation of such a nature that I must learn the name of her own physician and have him present. Where is her husband?”
“Husband! My sister is not—” Guy ceased speaking, and went suddenly white. “My God, doctor, you don’t mean that she—that my sister—Oh no, not that!”
“She had a fall night before last, and an immediate operation is imperative. Her condition is such that we cannot even take the risk of removing her to a hospital. I have my instruments in my car, but I should have help. Who is her doctor?”
“I do not know.”
“I’ll get some one. I have given her something to quiet her.”
The doctor stepped to the telephone and gave a number. Evans entered the room where his sister lay. She was moving about restlessly and moaning, though it was evident that she was still unconscious.
Changed! Guy wondered that he had known her at all, now that he was closer to her. Her face was pinched and drawn. Her beauty was gone—every vestige of it. She looked old and tired and haggard, and there were terrible lines upon her face that stilled her brother’s heart and brought the tears to his eyes.
He heard the doctor summoning an assistant and directing him to bring ether. Then he heard him go out of the house by the front door—to get his instruments, doubtless. The brother knelt by the girl’s bed.
“Grace!” he whispered, and threw an arm about her.
Her lids fluttered, and she opened her eyes.
She recognized him—she was conscious.
“Who did this?” he demanded. “What is his name?”
She shook her head.
“What is the use?” she asked. “It is done.”
“You would kill him—and be punished. It would only make it worse—for—you—and mother. Let it die with me!”
“You are not going to die. Tell me, who is he? Do you love him?”
“I hate him!”
“How were you injured?”
“He threw me—against—a table.”
Her voice was growing weaker. Choking back tears of grief and anger, the young man rose and stood beside her.
“Grace, I command you to tell me!”
Her eyes moved to something beyond the foot of the bed, back to his, and back again to whatever she had been looking at, as if she sought to direct his attention to something in that part of the room. He followed the direction of her gaze. There was a dressing table there, and on it a photograph of a man in a silver frame. Guy stepped to the table and picked up the picture.
“This is he?” His eyes demanded an answer. Her lips moved soundlessly, and weakly she nodded an affirmative. “What is his name?”
She was too weak to answer him. She gasped, and her breath came flutteringly. The brother threw himself upon his knees beside the bed, and took her in his arms. His tears mingled with his kisses on her cheek. The doctor came then and drew him away.
“She is dead!” said the boy, turning away and covering his face with his hands.
“No,” said the doctor, after a brief examination. “She is not dead. Get into the kitchen, and get some water to boiling. I’ll be getting things ready in here. Another doctor will be here in a few minutes.”
A moment later the doctor came in. He had removed his coat and vest and rolled up his sleeves. He placed his instruments in the pan of water on the stove, and then he went to the sink and washed his hands. While he scrubbed, he talked. He was an efficient-looking, businesslike person, and he inspired Guy with confidence and hope.
“She has a fighting chance,” he said. “I’ve seen worse cases pull through. She’s had a bad time, though. She must have been lying here for pretty close to twenty-four hours without any attention. I found her fully dressed on her bed—fully dressed except for what clothes she’s torn off in pain. If some one had called a doctor yesterday at this time, it might have been all right. It may be all right even now. We’ll do the best we can.”
The bell rang.
“That’s the doctor. Let him in, please.”
Guy went to the door and admitted the second physician, who removed his coat and vest and went directly to the kitchen. The first doctor was entering the room where Grace lay. He turned and spoke to his colleague, greeting him; then he disappeared within the adjoining room. The second doctor busied himself about the sink sterilizing his hands. Guy lighted another burner and put on another vessel with water in it.
A moment later the first doctor returned to the kitchen.
“It will not be necessary to operate, doctor,” he said. “We were too late!”
His tone and manner were still very businesslike and efficient, but there was an expression of compassion in his eyes as he crossed the room and put his arm about Guy’s shoulders.
“Come into the other room, my boy. I want to talk to you,” he said.
Guy, dry-eyed, and walking as one in a trance, accompanied him to the little living room.
“You have had a hard blow,” said the doctor. “What I am going to tell you may make it harder; but if she had been my sister I should have wanted to know about it. She is better off. The chances are that she didn’t want to live. She certainly made no fight for life—not since I was called.”
“Why should she want to die?” Guy asked dully. “We would have forgiven her. No one would have ever known about it but me.”
“There was something else—she was a drug addict. That was probably the reason why she didn’t want to live. The morphine I had to give her to quiet her would have killed three ordinary men.”
And so Guy Evans came to know the terrible fate that had robbed his sister of her dreams, of her ambition, and finally of her life. He placed the full responsibility upon the man whose picture had stood in its silver frame upon the girl’s dressing table. As he knelt beside the dead girl, he swore to search until he had learned the identity of that man, and found him, and forced from him the only expiation that could satisfy the honour of a brother.