The After House (Chapter 1, page 1 of 6)


 
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Chapter 1

By the bequest of an elder brother, I was left enough money to see
me through a small college in Ohio, and to secure me four years in
a medical school in the East. Why I chose medicine I hardly know.
Possibly the career of a surgeon attracted the adventurous element
in me. Perhaps, coming of a family of doctors, I merely followed
the line of least resistance. It may be, indirectly but inevitably,
that I might be on the yacht Ella on that terrible night of August
12, more than a year ago.

I got through somehow. I played quarterback on the football team,
and made some money coaching. In summer I did whatever came to
hand, from chartering a sail-boat at a summer resort and taking
passengers, at so much a head, to checking up cucumbers in Indiana
for a Western pickle house.

I was practically alone. Commencement left me with a diploma, a
new dress-suit, an out-of-date medical library, a box of surgical
instruments of the same date as the books, and an incipient case
of typhoid fever.

I was twenty-four, six feet tall, and forty inches around the chest.
Also, I had lived clean, and worked and played hard. I got over the
fever finally, pretty much all bone and appetite; but--alive.
Thanks to the college, my hospital care had cost nothing. It was a
good thing: I had just seven dollars in the world.

The yacht Ella lay in the river not far from my hospital windows.
She was not a yacht when I first saw her, nor at any time,
technically, unless I use the word in the broad sense of a
pleasure-boat. She was a two-master, and, when I saw her first,
as dirty and disreputable as are most coasting-vessels. Her
rejuvenation was the history of my convalescence. On the day she
stood forth in her first coat of white paint, I exchanged my
dressing-gown for clothing that, however loosely it hung, was still
clothing. Her new sails marked my promotion to beefsteak, her brass
rails and awnings my first independent excursion up and down the
corridor outside my door, and, incidentally, my return to a collar
and tie.

 
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