I hadn't an idea in the world; but it would have been cruel to confess
it and spoil her pretty game; so I never let on, but said: "Yes, I know,
sweetheart--how dear and good it is of you, too! But I want to hear
these lips of yours, which are also mine, utter it first--then its music
will be perfect." Pleased to the marrow, she murmured: "HELLO-CENTRAL!"
I didn't laugh--I am always thankful for that--but the strain ruptured
every cartilage in me, and for weeks afterward I could hear my bones
clack when I walked. She never found out her mistake. The first time she
heard that form of salute used at the telephone she was surprised, and
not pleased; but I told her I had given order for it: that henceforth
and forever the telephone must always be invoked with that reverent
formality, in perpetual honor and remembrance of my lost friend and her
small namesake. This was not true. But it answered. Well, during two
weeks and a half we watched by the crib, and in our deep solicitude we
were unconscious of any world outside of that sick-room. Then our reward
came: the center of the universe turned the corner and began to mend.
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