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Old Mr. Wiley   By: (1880-1969)

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[Illustration: Old Mr. Wiley and the dog came over every night ... but were they real? ]

"He just lies here tossing and moaning until he's so weak that he sinks into a kind of coma," said the boy's father huskily. "There doesn't seem anything particular the matter with him now but weakness. Only," he choked, "that he doesn't care much about getting well."

Miss Beaver kept her eyes on that thin little body outlined by the fine linen sheet. She caught her breath and bit her lower lip to check its trembling. So pitiful, that small scion of a long line of highly placed aristocratic and wealthy forebears, that her cool, capable hand went out involuntarily to soothe the fevered childish brow. She wanted suddenly to gather the little body into her warm arms, against her kind breast. Her emotion, she realized, was far from professional; Frank Wiley IV had somehow laid a finger on her heartstrings.

"If you can rouse him from this lethargy and help him find some interest in living," Frank Wiley III said thickly, "you won't find me unappreciative, Miss Beaver."

The nurse contemplated that small, apathetic patient in silence. Doctor Parris had warned her that unless the boy's interest could somehow be stimulated, the little fellow would die from sheer lack of incentive to live. Her emotion moistened her eyes and constricted her throat muscles. She had to clear her throat before she could speak.

"I can only promise to do my very best for this dear little boy," she said hurriedly. "No human being can do more than his best."

"Doctor Parris tells me you have been uniformly successful with the cases he's put you on. I hope," the young father entreated, "that you'll follow your usual precedent."

"The doctor is too kind," murmured Miss Beaver with slightly lifted brows. "I fear he gives me more credit than I deserve."

"There I hope you're wrong. He calls you an intuitive psychic. It is upon your intuitions that I'm banking now. My affection hampers me from fathoming Frank's inner most thoughts. If I were really sure what he needed most, I'd get it for him if it were a spotted giraffe," declared his father passionately. "But I'm unable to go deeply enough into his real thoughts."

"If his own father cannot think of something he would care for enough to make him want to live, how can an outsider find out what he might be wanting?" argued the nurse, a touch of resentment in her voice. "Would not his own mother know what would make him want to take hold on life?"

There was an awkward pause.

"His mother," began Frank Wiley III and was interrupted by a light tap on the door panel, at which he went silent, turning away as if relieved to escape any explanation.

The door swung open, permitting the entrance of a young and very pretty woman, one who knew exactly what a charming picture she made in jade negligee over peach pajamas. About her exceedingly well shaped head ash blonde hair lay in close artificial waves. She was such a distinctively blonde type that Miss Beaver could not control her slightly startled downward glance at the dark child tossing on the bed. Her upward look of bewilderment was met by Frank Wiley's faint smile.

"He takes after the founder of our family," said he in a low, almost confidential voice. "His great grandfather was said to have had Indian blood in his veins, as well as a touch of old Spain. The boy doesn't look like his mother or me. He's a real throw back."

The pretty woman had come across the room, pettishly lifting her silk clad shoulders. Through the straps of embroidered sandals red tipped toes wriggled. At the tumbled bed and its small restless occupant she threw what appeared to Miss Beaver a distasteful glance, ignoring the nurse entirely although she had not met her previously and must have known that the strange young woman was the new night nurse.

"Do come to bed, Frank," she urged crossly, placing a proprietary hand on her husband's coat sleeve. "It won't do you any good to moon around in here and it might disturb Francis... Continue reading book >>

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