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The School-teacher




Three months passed. Little by little Andrew got used to this strange town, surrounded by the mountains, and to the people most of whom worked in the mines. The town was full of mines, factories, churches and small dirty, old houses. There was no theatre, not even a cinema the workers could go to after work. But Andrew liked the people. They spoke little and worked much. They liked football, and what was more interesting, they were fond of music, good classical music. He often heard the sound of a piano, coming from this or that house.

It was clear to Andrew now, that Doctor Page would never see a patient again. Manson did all the work, and Mrs. Page received all the money. She paid out to Manson less than one sixth of that — twenty pounds and sixteen shillings a month. Almost all of it Andrew sent to the University to pay his debt. But at that time the question of money was not important to him. He had a few shillings in his pocket to buy cigarettes and he had his work, and that was more than enough for him. He had to work hard and to think much for he saw now that the professors at his University had given him very little to know about practical medicine.

He thought about all that, walking in the direction of Riskin Street. There in Number 3 he found a small boy of nine years of age ill with measles.

"I am sorry, Mrs. Howells," Andrew said to the boy's mother. "But you must keep Idris home from school."* (Idris was Mrs. Howells' other son.)

"But Miss Barlow says he may come to school."

"Oh? Who is Miss Barlow?"

"She is the teacher."

"Miss Barlow has no right to let him come to school when his brother has measles," Andrew said angrily.

Five minutes later he entered a classroom of the school. A very young woman of about twenty or twenty-two was writing something ’on the blackboard. She turned to him.

"Are you Miss Barlow?"

"Yes." Her large brown eyes were looking at him friendly.

"Are you Doctor Page's new assistant?"

Andrew reddened suddenly.

"Yes," he said, "I'm Doctor Manson. You know Idris' brother has measles and so Idris must not be here."



"Yes, I know, but the family is so poor and Mrs. Howells is so busy. If Idris stays at home, he won’t get his cup of milk. And, Doctor Manson, most of the the children here have had measles already."

"And what about the others? You must send that boy home at once."

"Well, Doctor," she interrupted him suddenly. "Don't you understand that I'm the teacher of this class and here it's my word that counts?" *

"You can't have him here, Miss Barlow. If you don't send him home at once, I'll have to report you."

"Then report me, or have me arrested* if you like." She quickly turned to the class. "Stand up, children, and say: "Good-bye, Doctor Manson. Thank you for coming."

Before Andrew could say a word the door closed quietly in his face.*

6. The Party at Bramwell's

Manson tried to forget about that episode. He decided he had been wrong. But he could not so easily forget Miss Christine Barlow. He tried to imagine what she might think of him. He knew he was shy and awkward with women. He did not ask himself if she was beautiful. He still saw her brown eyes warm with indignation* and her thin small figure.



Two weeks later he met Mrs. Bramwell in the street and she invited him to a social part she was giving on Saturday. When she told him that among others Christine Barlow had been invited, he agreed at once.

"Why, of course, I'll come, Mrs. Bramwell," he smiled foolishly. "Thank you for asking me."

Mrs. Bramwell's "evening" began at nine o’clock. For a full ten minutes Andrew dared not look at Christine. Hardly knowing what he said he began to talk to Mrs. Watkins, who was sitting at the table next to him. He was almost happy when all of them rose from the table and Mr. Bramwell invited them to the drawing-room. In the drawing-room when everybody was comfortably seated, Mrs. Bramwell played the piano and Doctor Bramwell sang several songs. The guests applauded heartily, all laughed and talked gayly and thanked the actors.

By that time it was after eleven o'clock, and the guests prepared to leave. Putting on his coat Andrew thought that he had not said a word to Christine during the whole evening.

He went out and stood at the gate waiting. He felt that he must speak to her. Though she had not seemed to look at him, she had been there, near him, in the same room, and he had looked foolishly upon his boots.

At last she came, down the steps and walked towards him alone. He gathered all his strength and stammered: "Miss Barlow may I see you home?"

"I'm afraid —" she paused. "I've promised to wait for Mr. and Mrs. Watkins."

His heart sank. He wanted to turn away, yet something held him. His face was pale as he began:



"I only want to say that I'm sorry about that talk. What you did about the boy, was quite right. I admire you for it. I am sorry to bother you with all this, but I had to say it. Good night!"

He could not see her face, and did not wait for her answer. He started walking down the road. For the first time in many days be felt happy.

 

7. He Called Her Christine!

Almost four months passed. Now there were over seventy more men on "Doctor Page's list"* than there had been before Manson's arrival. It had greatly enlarged Mrs. Page's income, but now she was afraid that Manson could be taken "on the list" by the Company instead of Doctor Page. This problem troubled her very much.

Andrew knew nothing about it. He felt lonely there, lie had never thought seriously of love. At the University he had been poor, badly dressed and too busy with his studies and examinations to come much in contact with the other sex.* Now in Blaenelly he tried to be careful with his rising feelings towards Christine. He tried coldly to examine Christine's defects. She was not beautiful, her figure was too small and thin. Besides she probably hated him. On the other hand* he was only an assistant, he had to work much and to think only of his work.

But try as he would* he could not get Christine out of his heart. He had not seen her since that "evening". What did she think of him? Did she ever think of him?

Then on Saturday, May 25, when he had almost given up all hope to see her, he received a note from her.

Dear Doctor Manson,

Mr. and Mrs. Watkins are coming to supper with me tomorrow, Sunday evening. If you have nothing better to do, would you come too? Half past seven.

Christine Barlow.

He could not believe his eyes. On the following evening he went there. It was Christine herself who opened the door for him, her face welcoming, smiling towards him. Yes, she was smiling. And he had thought she disliked him!

They sat down.

"Mr. and Mrs. Watkins will be a little late," she said. "Do you mind waiting a few minutes?"

Mind! A few minutes! If she only knew how he had waited all those days, how wonderful it was to be here with her. He looked round the room. Everything was so simple and beautiful. She noticed his look and smiled again. His interest was so great that he forgot his awkwardness and began to ask her about herself.

She answered him simply. She had no family now. Her mother had died when she was fifteen. Her father and her only brother John, worked as engineers in a mine at that time. Five years later, when she became a teacher, her father and John began working in a mine twenty miles from Blaenelly. Six months after their arrival there was an exploision in the mine. John was killed. Her father, hearing of it, had immediately gone down into the mine and was also killed. A week later his body and John’s were brought out together.

When she finished, there was a silence.

"I'm sorry," Andrew said.

"People were kind to me. I got this job at school here."

They talked much that evening. Andrew told her how it was difficult for him to work, that the doctors often treated their patients, who believed in them, with "good old water" instead of medicine and that the doctors knew little and did not want to learn, and of many such things. And he saw Christine deeply interested in everything he was saying.

Then the Watkinses came. The evening passed quickly. Christine accompanied him to the door. She was so different from anyone he had ever known, with her quietness, her dark clever eyes.

"I can't thank you enough* for inviting me. Please, can I see you again, Christine?"

Her eyes smiled at him. Oh, how he wanted to kiss her. But he only pressed her hand, turned and ran down the steps. Oh, she was a wonderful girl. How well she had understood him when he spoke of the difficulties in his work. She was clever, cleverer than he. And he called her Christine!

***

Christine now occupied his thoughts more than ever. He felt happy, hopeful. He wanted to work, to leam, to be scientific,* to be worthy of Christine. But his cases were uninteresting: small wounds, cut fingers, colds in the head.*

One day at six o'clock in the morning Anny woke him up and gave him a letter. It was from Doctor Bramwell:

Come at once to Emrys Hughes' place. I want you to help me to diagnose a dangerous case.

He found Doctor Bramwell in the front room.

"Hughes has gone mad,"* Bramwell said. "We’ll have to send him to the hospital in Pontynewdd.* That means two signatures on the certificate — yours and mine."

"Why do you think he’s mad?" Manson asked.

"He wanted to kill his wife with a knife this night. He talks nonsense. It’s clear, I think."

"Well, I’ll take a look at him."

Emrys Hughes was in bed; two strong young workers were sitting beside him. His face was pale and swollen. His eyes were closed. Andrew spoke to him, but the answer was quite unintelligible.

A silence followed. Andrew thought hard. Why did Emrys talk like this? Supposing the man had gone mad, but why? Why is the face swollen? Andrew pressed his finger to Emrys’ face and noticed that the swelling did not pit.* Why?

And suddenly his heart jumped! He had it, oh, yes, he had it.* No, no, he must not hurry! He must be careful, be sure! He examined limrys again. Yes, he was right!

Rising, he went to the room where Doctor Bramwell was waiting for him.

"Look here, Bramwell! I don't think this man must be sent to Pontynewdd."

"Wh-What?" Bramwell was so astonished that he could not speak. "But he has gone mad!"

"I don't think so," Andrew answered. "I feel it is a thyroid gland disease.* Well, let us see. You know Pontynewdd. If Hughes gets there, he'll never get out. We can help him here."

"Why, Doctor," Bramwell stammered, "I don’t see —"

"Doctor Bramwell, imagine what the people will think and say about you, if you get him well again.* I'll ask Mrs. Hughes to come here. She is crying her eyes out,* because she thinks Emrys is going away. You can tell her we are going to try some new medicine."

Emrys was not sent anywhere and the treatment began. Two weeks later he was out of bed, and at the end of the month he was back at his work. And though Doctor Bramwell walked about the town proudly now, everybody in Blaenelly knew the name of the man who had really saved the poor worker's life and the good name.

 


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