"If I were fifty years old," said the Young Doctor quite bluntly, "and found myself suddenly stripped of practically all my motor powers except my pocketbook and my sense of humor; and was told that I could make one wish——"
"But I am fifty years old," admitted the Sick Woman. "And I do find myself stripped of practically all my motor powers, except my pocketbook and my sense of humor!"
"Then for Heaven's sake—wish!" snapped the Young Doctor.
"Oh, my goodness!" mocked the Sick Woman. "You're not by any chance a—a fairy god-doctor, are you?"
"Fairy god-doctor?" bristled the young man. "The phrase is an unfamiliar one to me," he confided with some hauteur.
Quizzically then for a moment among her hotel pillows the woman lay staring out through the open window into the indefinite slate-roofed vista of Beyond—and Beyond—and Beyond. Then so furtively that the whites of her eyes showed suddenly like a snarling dog's she glanced back at the Young Doctor's grimly inscrutable face.
"You're quite sure that it isn't a will you want me to make? Not a wish?" she asked.
"Quite sure," said the Young Doctor, without emotion.
As two antagonists searching desperately for some weak spot in each other's mental armor, the patient's eyes narrowed to the doctor's, the doctor's to the patient's.
It was the patient who fled first from the probe.
"How many years can you give me?" she surrendered dully.
"I can't give you any! I can't afford it!" slapped the Young Doctor's brisk, cool voice.
"How many years can you sell me, then?" roused the woman with the first faint red flare of vigor across her cheek bones.
"Oh, I don't know," admitted the Young Doctor. Sagging back a little wearily against the edge of the bureau, with his long arms folded loosely across his breast he stood staring tensely down through the woman's question into the actual case itself. "Oh, I don't know," he admitted. "Oh, of course, if you had some one brand-new interest to revitalize you? If the matter of congenial climate could be properly adjusted? With all your abundant financial resources? And all the extra serenities and safeguards that financial resources can wrap a sick person in? Oh, I suppose one could almost positively guarantee you—guarantee you,—oh, years and years," he finished a trifle vaguely.
"Only that?" winced the woman. "Years and years?" she quoted mockingly. "It isn't enough! Not nearly enough!" she flared with sudden passion.