by Vera Leff

Marie pushed open the door of Dr. Anderson’s surgery. She blinked in the hard glaring light of the waiting-room, and looked nervously for a quiet corner.
“Here y’are dear!” A rather plump woman moved up on the bench and Marie squeezed in beside her and a tough-looking bus driver still in his uniform. “Might as well be comfortable” said the woman to Marie. “It won’t be your turn for a long while yet.” She opened a bulging shopping-bag resting at her feet an took out an outsize sock.
“I’ve knitted my old man dozens of pairs, waiting to see the Doctor!” she chatted as her fingers moved up and down busily.
Marie looked at her in horror.
“Well, I’ve been coming for my bottle of medicine every Friday for years now!” She smiled proudly. “Me and Doctor Anderson’s old friends.”
“Always a bottle of medicine?” asked Marie, leaning her head wearily against the dark wall. She felt so tired, after a half day at the factory; her wide grey eyes had shadows beneath them, and her fresh youthful face looked drawn. Perhaps a bottle of medicine would put her right, she hoped.
The door between the waiting-room and the surgery opened and shut, and the people came and went, clutching bottles and little round pill-boxes as though they contained magic potions to cure all their ills.
Marie’s neighbour continued her chatter. She made quite a social event of her weekly visit to the Doctor, and seemed to know the private history of almost every one of the patients. Marie listened, half-asleep but grateful for her friendliness.
“Once Doctor Anderson went on a holiday!” said her neighbour, as though it was the last thing he should ever do.” And the young man who took his place gave me my bottle, and when I got home, what do you think?” she stopped knitting.
“I don’t know!” said Marie. Even the bus-driver found himself listening.
“It was something different!” She resumed her knitting clicking the needles indignantly. “As though I didn’t know the taste! Of course I threw it down the sink, and when Doctor Anderson came back I made him give me an extra bottle. Young upstart!” she muttered. “As though I wouldn’t know!”

“Well, I must be going, Dad. Mustn’t keep the customers waiting!” He grinned.
“Go to the concert, Donald!” His father pressed a ticket into his hand.”You look tired, son, a little relaxation good. Send the next patient in, will you?”

At last it was Marie’s turn. She sat shyly on the edge of the chair and answered Doctor Anderson’s brief questions with a rather trembling inward feeling. There seemed to be so much illness and disease that one could have; these patients in the waiting-room would have looked like the usual normal folk walking along the street, but within the four bare walls of the surgery they made up a total of ill-health that was frightening.
The Doctor examined her with quick but efficient hands; then he wrote on her record card, made out a prescription, and looked at her with the same earnest gaze she felt she had seen somewhere before. He could devote to her only five minutes of his time, but in those few minutes he tried to be as conscientiously and wholeheartedly her adviser as an over-worked and over-burdened doctor can be.
“You need rest and relaxation Miss–” he glanced at her card, “Miss Roberts. You have no specific disease fortunately, but you are over-worked and run-down.You must stay off work for at least a month. I’ll give you a certificate for the works-manager.” Marie gaped.
Stay off? What about Mum and Pop? They needed her money. Insurance money would hardly pay for her food . . . .
“And eat good nourishing meals. plenty of fish, liver, eggs, milk. All you can get.”
“Yes, Doctor,” she said, feeling the impossibility of explaining all her difficulties. He was a Doctor, not a charitable institution.
She walked to the door, dumbly clutching the papers he had given her.
The five minutes were up, but he called her back. “Miss Roberts–” She turned and looked at him unhappily.
“You must take my advice!” He spoke quietly but firmly, and now she knew that he understood her troubles.”If you don’t it will cost you a lot more later on.”
“Yes, Doctor.”
Youthfulness and sadness don’t go together. On an impulse, he reached for the other concert-ticket which was on his paper-littered desk.
“Here, go to the concert and enjoy yourself. It’ll do you good!” His eyes smiled at her. “Yes, Doctor!” she said dutifully, feeling a little better for his unexpected kindness.

Chapter 2

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