A hold-up on stage space got us into the interior of Peg O'My Heart's cottage a couple of days late. As a result I had to stay up all night dressing the set. The night was cold, and about four in the morning I felt pretty much all in. Ever since the Leaside crash, any kind of physical exertion had made me sweat. This time I had a fever, but I kept on till the job was done. Before I got through I had a coughing spell.
Goddamn," I said.
My handkerchief was covered with blood.
But for a rustic table coming out from Clark's rental house, the set was ready to shoot. The table could not get there before eight, so I left a note for the property man and chalked the floor where it was to go.
I walked home....
All day I lay in bed, my field boots rolled in my trench coat under the pillow to bolster it up. When I lay flat I had trouble breathing. A few times I dozed off, though not for long. I was very thirsty, but did not dare to attempt the dozen paces between bed and washstand. The effort might start me coughing again, and I dreaded a return of that flooding sensation of liquid warmth in throat and mouth....My wind was up.
About four in the afternoon the landlady came in. She was a kind woman, but had her own troubles. Her rent had to be paid too, and the owner of the building was exigent. She had a client for my room who wanted it for two months and was willing to pay a month in advance. I owed her three weeks' rent. She said if I could not pay she would have to ask me to give up the room in the morning. I counted what money I had left, $1.55. She said it was not enough. I told her I had salary coming to me at the Lasky Studio. She said I had told her the same story when I was at Universal. It was difficult and tiring to argue with her. I asked her to telephone the studio. This she agreed to do. In a while she came back, having talked to Hoffman's office. His secretary had said Mr. Hoffman knew nothing about the matter. This time the landlady was hard boiled, convinced I was trying to bluff her.
"Will you call up Mr. William de Mille?" I asked.
She told me she had no more time to waste and her client had to have an answer right away. She wanted the room by noon the next day. While she was speaking someone had been standing in the doorway. I heard voices and then the door closed. I tried to rise. The effort brought on a coughing fit, but I was desperate. I started for the door. I got as far as the washstand...blood was splashing down into the basin. I felt my knees giving way....Then someone caught me under the arms...
I was on the bed again. When I tried to speak a hand was placed over my mouth. It seemed to be quite dark in the room. My lips were being wiped with a wet towel. After that I was conscious of nothing....
When I opened my eyes there was a dim light in the room. A khaki shirt hung over the light fixture. Someone was sitting on my bed. The eyes first, I saw. I put out my hand.
"Timber-witch," I said, "I've got to get hold of six bucks or I'll get thrown out of this joint in the morning. I can't get up. I want you to phone Mr. William de Mille for me right away. Ask him—"
The same hand was laid across my lips again. "Don't talk now," she said. "Nobody's going to throw you out."
"You don't understand," I said desperately, pulling her hand away, "I've got to pay this dame my rent....I've dough coming to me at the studio."
"There's nothing to pay," she said. "It's paid. Keep quiet now."
In the morning when I awoke she was there. She had that funny dressing gown around her again, but underneath it she was in her street clothes. The blind was down. I could not see very well.
"Better not talk," she said when I tried to ask the time. "I'm going to work now. I'll phone your friend from the office. They got to get a doctor for you."
Her hand was cool on my forehead. I took it in both of mine and put it over my lips. She leaned over and kissed me....
Before noon Anna de Mille and Bessie Lasky came. Bessie said she had phoned her doctor, a Canadian. He was coming right away. When he came my temperature was way up. He listened to my breathing and said I must have absolute rest. He was sending some medicine for me to take. He went to the door with Anna and Bessie. When he came back he said:
"You mustn't worry. I'll stop by again this evening."
Later on a package came from the drug store. The landlady put it on the table beside my bed, but I did not attempt to open it.
When the doctor came back I sat up to take the medicine and began coughing again...a tumblerful of blood this time. I looked up at him.
"How long have I got?" I said.
"You can't stay here," he said.
"Where can I go?" I said.
"Don't make me laugh," I said. "Where's the dough going to come from?"
"You have good friends," he said. "They'll see you're taken care of. The main thing now is not to worry."
He poured the contents of the tumbler into a phial and scraped the sputum from a newspaper I had been spitting on.
"I'm taking this to be analyzed. After that we'll make our plans," he said.
Before he left he said someone should be with me during the night..
"There is someone." I said.
"The directions are on the bottle," he said. "Absolute quiet, remember."
"You can't stay up every night this way," I said, holding her hand. "Even a timber-witch needs rest when she has to work all day."
"That shows how little you know about them," she replied.
"Go and get some sleep—please. You can push back the dresser and open the door between our rooms. Please."
She was leaning over me, smoothing back my hair. Her bathrobe was open in front, her nightrobe décolleté....Suddenly I remembered, and pushed her away.
"There's brandy in a flask in that haversack. Rinse your mouth," I said.
"Do what I tell you," I said. "That analysis may not turnout so good."
Doctor Mackenzie was smiling. He handed me the laboratory report. Zeros were marked on the line after t.b. bacilli.
"You know, you were too weak to be questioned before, and there's something here I don't understand," he said, "the particles of membrane in the sample of blood. These hemmorhages, how often have you had them—when did they start?"
"Three times since I got back," I said. "Before that three or four times after a forced landing I had. Was thrown out of the bus. Bleeding at the mouth when I got up. The M.O. said it was wrenched intestines."
"How long ago did this happen?"
"Three months or more."
"Well, the main thing is, there are no t.b. bugs," he said. "In a week or two we'll get you out of here. Open air cure. That's what you need."
In the afternoon Anna de Mille came. She was delighted with the news. The doctor had telephoned her. She brought me a small pay envelope. There was $50. in it.
"William saw Hoffman himself," she said.
I always suspected that this $50. came out of William's pocket. Never having drawn salary at the Lasky studio I could not have sworn to it, but I was under the impression the company paid by check.
"I've been up on the hill to see Elizabeth Waggoner. She's going to fix a bed on her porch for you," said Anna. "And the air is so wonderful up there! As soon as the doctor says you can be moved I'm coming for you myself in the car."
The tenth day the doctor said I could be moved. Anna de Mille was calling to fetch me the next morning. Elizabeth Waggoner had been to see me and told me her porch was all ready for me, and looked so inviting she felt like living on it herself.
"You'll sure be glad to get out of this place!"
"Sure going to miss the timber-witch," I said. "But she'll be able to get some sleep now."
"Had plenty of it the last few nights," she said. "So have you. You'll soon be well again."
"Thanks to you," I said taking her hand.
"Yes, nightnurse," I said. "That six bucks you paid up for me. Was so desperate I was ready to cough up a lung when that old bitch said I'd have to give her my room next day at noon. If she'd taken it I'd have coughed them both up. When you caught me that time I was headed for William de Mille's house the way I was."
Her hand was over mine, holding it tight.
"You'll come up and see me on the hill," I said.
She shook her head.
"I'm leaving here too," she said. "Should have gone a week ago."
"When are you going?" I asked with a sudden feeling of dismay.
"Tomorrow—today—it's after midnight now."
"You stayed over for me?" I asked.
She did not answer.
"Come closer," I said. "Here, next to me."
"No," she said. "You must keep quiet. Want to put your temperature up again?"
I tried to pull her toward me.
"Our last night," I said.
"I know," she said, sitting down. "It's hard to believe."
She laid her cheek against my breast.
"Your heart, how it is beating!" she said. "I want to kiss your heart."
Her nightrobe slipped down from the shoulder. She caught at it.
"No, no, leave it," I said..."like that night. I want to think of you always as you were that night."
She glanced toward her room. The door was ajar.
"In there," she said. "Put your arm around my shoulders, that way, come."
"Leave the light," I said.
"Tonight we have the moon," she said turning off the switch.
"Stand in front of the mirror," I said. "The way you did... raise your arms...."
In the moonlight her eyes were gleaming. On my face her breath was warm, sweet...for an instant I felt her teeth in my flesh, but I did not move....
"She-wolf...timber-witch," I whispered.
It was still dark. I was back in my own room again, almost asleep. Some one was leaning over me.
"Goodbye," said a low voice.
I turned away. I did not want to wake up, I wanted to keep on dreaming of her. She was in my arms. I did not want to wake up.
"Goodbye," I muttered.