Two young artists, Sue and Joanna, had their studio at the top of a three-story brick house. In November, Joanna got sick with pneumonia. She was lying on her bed, looking through the small window at the blank side of the next brick house.
One morning the doctor called Sue into the hallway. "She has one chance in-let us say, ten," he said, as he shook the thermometer. "And that chance is for her to want to live. Your little lady has made up her mind that she's not going to get well. Has she anything on her mind?"
"She-she wanted to paint the Bay of Naples some day," said Sue.
"Paint?!" exclaimed the doctor. "I will do all that science can accomplish. But whenever my patient begins to count the carriages in her funeral procession I subtract 50 per cent from the healing power of medicines."
After the doctor had gone Sue went into the workroom and cried. Then she walked into Joanna's room with her drawing board. She saw Joanna lying with her face toward the window and thought she was asleep.
She arranged her board and began a drawing to illustrate a magazine story. Suddenly she heard a low sound, several times repeated. She went quickly to the bedside.
Joanna's eyes were open wide. She was looking out the window and counting-counting backward.
"Twelve," she said, and a little later "eleven;" and then "ten," and "nine;" and then "eight" and "seven," almost together.
What was there to count? There was only a bare, boring yard to be seen, and the blank side of the brick house twenty feet away. An old, old ivy vine with hardly any leaves on it climbed half way up the brick wall.
"What is it, dear?" asked Sue.
"Six," said Joanna, in almost a whisper. "They're falling faster now. Three days ago there were almost a hundred. It made my head ache to count them. But now it's easy. There goes another one. There are only five left now."
"Five what, dear?"
"Leaves. On the ivy vine. When the last one falls I must go, too. I've known that for three days. Didn't the doctor tell you?"
"Oh, I never heard of such nonsense," Sue protested. "What have old ivy leaves to do with your getting well? The doctor told me this morning that your chances for getting well real soon were ten to one! Try to take some broth now, and let me go back to my drawing."
"No, I don't want any broth," said Joanna, keeping her eyes fixed out the window. "There goes another. That leaves just four. I want to see the last one fall before it gets dark. Then I'll go, too."
"Joanna, dear," said Sue, bending over her, "will you promise me to keep your eyes closed, and not look out the window until I am done working? I must hand those drawings in by tomorrow. I need the light, or I would draw the shade down. I don't want you to keep looking at those silly ivy leaves."
"Tell me as soon as you have finished," said Joanna, closing her eyes, "because I want to see the last one fall."
"Try to sleep," said Sue. "I must ask Behrman to be my model for the picture. Don't try to move until I come back."