Oct. 4th: 1500 hours
The next afternoon, the redheaded nurse was sitting outside her tent, gazing at the blue sky overhead and watching the camp activities. She smiled as she saw Major Winchester strolling towards her.
"Good afternoon, Lieutenant." He called to her.
"Howdy, major. It's a glorious day, isn't it?" She answered enthusiastically. "I love this time of year! Back home, when the air is cool like this, the horses start feeling frisky. The whole herd will come thundering by: neighing and prancing and kicking up their heels---just for the fun of it. I like to watch them run."
Seeing his amused expression, she said, "I reckon y'all don't have too many horse herds running loose in Boston, do y'all?"
"Not very many." He agreed. "Lieutenant, I was traveling to the mess tent for some coffee. May I bring you back a cup, as well?"
"Not you, too." MacAllister shook her head. "Major, I smell a conspiracy."
"Actually," he informed her, "judging from the wind direction, I would say that you are experiencing the effluvium from the garbage dump."
"There is something going on, sir. Every time I have set foot outside this tent, someone has come by to run errands for me. Klinger insisted on bringing me breakfast. Liza took my tray back to the mess tent. Kellye brought me a pitcher of water. Father Mulcahy brought me dinner. B J and Hawkeye stopped by to take that tray back. And now you're offering to bring me coffee."
"Merely coincidences, Lieutenant. Would you care for a cup of coffee?" He repeated his offer.
She laughed. Obviously, she wasn't going to get any answers from him. "Of course, they were all coincidences. Yes, Major. I would like some coffee---but only if you can stay awhile and talk."
"I can and I shall."
MacAllister opened the door as Winchester neared her tent. She observed the tray he carried. "I thought you were just going for coffee."
"I brought some sweet biscuits from my larder that I thought you might like."
"Bring them into the living room, sir." She pointed to the corner of her tent where she had arranged her chairs. "Go ahead and sit down."
The doctor placed the tray on the small table next to the cloth flower centerpiece. He looked at the additions to her quarters and commented, "I see you are remodeling."
"Yes, I thought I'd add a library to the east wing." She joked. Since he was still standing, she added, "Please, sir, sit down."
The major shook his head. "Civilization, as we know it, may be crumbling at our feet. However, Winchester chivalry is not yet extinct." He replied. With gentle courtesy, he took the crutches from her and helped her into a chair. He leaned her crutches against the canvas wall and pulled a crate closer to her position before taking his own seat.
MacAllister propped her feet on the packing crate. Her smile was brilliant. "Thank you, Major Winchester."
"You may call me Charles, if you like. Anytime we're off duty, of course."
She smiled again. "Only if you will call me Sarabeth."
"Agreed." The man smiled back at her. "Sarabeth is a lovely name. I don't believe I have ever heard it before, however."
"You probably haven't. Before I was born, my mama declared, that while she was proud to have her children named for people important in Texas history, she was going to name this baby after my daddy's mama, Sara, and after her sister, Beth." The woman grinned. "Luckily, I turned out to be a girl." "Luckily." He agreed. "Sarabeth is a very pretty name for a very pretty lady." Winchester raised his mug to her in salute. "Here's to stronger ankles."
"And to more civilized worlds." MacAllister responded. She tasted the hot drink and grimaced in distaste . "This coffee is thick enough to plow."
Sitting with her, eating cookies, drinking coffee and sharing experiences, Winchester discovered that he was enjoying himself. He hadn't realized how much he had missed friendly conversation.
"Tell me, Charles, if y'all don't watch the horses run in the fields, what do y'all do for entertainment in Boston?"
"Y'all." He mused. "How strange is the language. To me, Sarabeth, yawl, is a two-masted sailing vessel."
"Do you sail?"
Winchester gazed into the distance, remembering. "I haven't sailed in years. I used to---every time I could get away. It was exhilarating to feel the wind catch the sails and dance the ship over the waves." Realizing he had revealed too much about himself, he stopped abruptly and waited for the expected derision.
The woman, however was nodding her head in approval. "Dance the ship over the waves...I like that." With a smile, she added softly:
‘I must go down to sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky,....'
‘And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,....' The major whispered the next line. He looked at her in surprise. "You know poetry, Sarabeth?"
With anger in her voice, she answered, "Just because I was raised on a cattle ranch doesn't mean that I'm ignorant!"
"NO!" The mans protested. "No." He repeated calmer. "I never intended to imply that! It is simply that---here---no one is interested in poetry.
I had given up hope that any one, other than myself, would ever appreciate the beauty or the power of the emotions contained within a poem."
"Exactly." MacAllister agreed. "I reckon that's why I like poetry so much...because they say many things to me." With visible feeling, she recited the next two lines of the poem:
‘And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea's face and a gray dawn breaking.' (John Masefield)
Major Winchester had closed his eyes and was listening with pleasure to her recitation. When he opened his eyes, they were glistening. He leaned forward in his chair and grasped both of her hands. "My dear," he said as he gently squeezed her hands in gratitude, "you have thrown a rope to a man clinging to the edge of a cliff."
Suddenly aware of what he was doing, the surgeon self-consciously moved away. Tactfully shifting positions, MacAllister reached for another chocolate biscuit. She concentrated on it until he was settled back into his chair.
Raising her eyes to meet his, smiling, she asked, "Charles, will you read some of your favorite poems to me, sometime? Hearing poetry recited is the best way to enjoy it." She grinned, adding mischievously, "If it isn't too much of an ode-deal for you."
He sighed. "Enduring your puns is an ordeal, Sarabeth. However sharing some of my favorite passages with you will be a pleasure."
Their talk eventually switched back to the medical fields. They were in the midst of an intense discussion on surgical procedures when the major glanced at his watch.
"Good heavens! Where has the time gone? As much as I would like to stay, Sarabeth, it is almost time for me to begin rounds." The man closed the lid on the tin of chocolate treats. "I'd like to leave these here, if I may. We can finish them the next time I bring you some coffee."
"Besides," she added, "it will keep Hawkeye out of them."
"That thought also occurred to me. Thank you, Sarabeth for transporting me out of this leper's colony---even if only for a few hours."
"I enjoyed it, too, Charles. Please come back again."
"Certainly." He looked at the tray on her table. "Lieutenant MacAllister, would you like for me to return this to the mess tent?"
"Major Winchester, coincidentally, I would like for you to return this tray." Her face was neutral but he could see the laughter in her eyes.
"Very well then, I shall." Tray in hand, he exited with stately dignity. But Sarabeth caught a glimpse of his smile as he left.