Upon one side, at least, the meeting between the two cousins on the previous night had been wholly unexpected.
Late that afternoon, an ambulance train had come in, loaded with men from the over-crowded field hospital at Krugersdorp, and for hours Alice had been in ceaseless attendance upon the surgeon in charge. Little by little, the girl had found her nerves steadying down to the task in hand; nevertheless, the past ten weeks, in return for the increase of her poise, had taken something from her vitality. Quickness of eye, firmness of hand, evenness of temper: all these may be gifts of the gods. Their use is a purely human function, and proportionately exhausting. The girl's one salvation lay in the fact that her quick sympathy with her patients was for the most part impersonal. Up to this time, Weldon had been her only patient whom she had known outside the routine duties of her hospital life. In a sense, it had been a relief to meet some one whom she knew to be of her own world; in a sense, the case had worn upon her acutely. She could watch with a greater degree of stolidity the sufferings of other men.
Among her new charges, that day, only one had made any distinct impression upon her overworked brain. That was a jovial young fellow, handsome as Phoebus Apollo, in spite of a slashing scar across one cheek. He had answered to her questions regarding his wounded foot with an accent so like that of Weldon that involuntarily she lingered beside him to add a word of cheery consolation. His was her final case, that night. As she wearily turned towards her own room, she made no effort to analyze her exhaustion.
She found Ethel, still in her hat and jacket, sitting on the edge of her own narrow cot.
"Yes, dear." The girl's tone was nonchalant, even while the telltale color came into her cheeks.
"Visiting me! But, Cooee, I really don't know where I can put you."
With perfect composure, Ethel passed her hand over the surface of the cot.
"Oh, I think this nutmeg-grater will carry two. Still, Alice, I must say that your hospitality isn't exactly exuberant."