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Chapter 22
Montague escaped the dreaded pneumonia. He rallied, at first it seemed rapidly. He begged a letter should be written home making light of all exaggerated rumors, and that he should be moved to his own home; but heavy cold and wrenched nerves and bitter memories were poor aids to health in his big empty house, where Susan stood guard over him and Bill kept watch in the kitchen.

The doctor went to see him and the professor. Two weeks went by, and the doctor was first surprised and then discouraged. Driving in from one of his visits he saw the professor on the sidewalk. He drew rein.

"How is Edward?" asked the professor quickly.

The doctor shifted the reins he held carelessly. "So, so," he said lightly, "not so well as I thought he would be by this time; it's dull out there."

[Pg 279]

The professor was listening, an anxious furrow down his forehead. "I will take him out some magazines."

"Hm!"

"And—what do you think he needs?"

"Company, I guess. Helen"—Mrs. Randall—"wants to go out. Every time I go I have so many other visits to make I cannot manage it."

"I'll take her!" eagerly interrupted the professor.

"Suppose you do. Beautiful weather," the doctor wandered on aimlessly; "feels like spring."

The professor listened impatiently; he was hurried, and had no time for weather comments.

"There's a honeysuckle in bloom out there!" he pulled a great sprig of it carelessly out of his button-hole, "it's sweet, smell it!" The professor sniffed at it disdainfully and handed it back. He felt it a travesty that two of the busiest men in the neighborhood should be standing on the busiest street of the town, its life surging[Pg 280] about them, talking of spring weather and honeysuckle.

"Give it to Frances!" and then, as if in afterthought, "take her out too!" He had made some curious prescriptions in his practice; "It will cheer him up!" And he was off at once, driving rapidly down the street, chuckling to himself as he looked back at the professor still standing there, honeysuckle in hand.

Take the doctor's wife out, and Frances? Why not? The doctor's wife was anxiously willing; the professor was half angered that Frances was not; only he gave scant heed to her indecision. "We are going this afternoon," he said; "if you have anything you think he would like to eat, fix it up for him," and Frances was forced to hide her reluctance in active preparation.

The professor was worried, too, to notice, once they were there—and the joy of their host was pathetic to see in his white, worn face—how few words Frances had to say of their thankfulness at his recovery. He had been looking after the affairs of the farm on[Pg 281] each visit he made. When he got up to go out to a distant field Susan saw him. She had been talking to Mrs. Randall, who was busied in the storeroom putting away the custards and jellies she had brought.

"Marse Robert," Susan called, soon as she had nearly caught up with his rapid steps half way across the orchard. "Marse Robert, Ise comin' back soon as Marse Edward is well. He is well 'nuff now!" she sniffed, remembering some of his crossness.

The professor stood looking down on the ground. "Susan," he said, when she had finished, "I'll come for you when you are ready. As long as I have a home, there's a place for you; but I tell you now, I will not have Bill hanging around!"

"Bill!" the old woman's big black eyes flashed. "He's gwine git married."

"In the name of sense who will have him?"

"She!" Susan pointed with dramatic forefinger to the narrow high window of the basement kitchen.

"She— Why—"

[Pg 282]

"She's ten years older dan he is if she's a day, but Bill say she can cook to beat de ban'!" The slang slipped glibly from the old woman's tongue.

"What's he going to do?" asked the professor, after a moment's astonished silence.

"First, he 'lowed as how he wanted me to give him de cabin, but, Marse Robert, I suttenly didn't want to, an' while I was projictin' roun' in my min' 'bout it, Marse Edward he want to know if Bill won't come hyar to work. His rhumatiz is most gone. An' den when he heard dey wanted to git married, he jis' laff an' say 't will suit him jis' as well; dey can lib in de out-do' kitchen.

"Marse Edward seemed mightily tickled," went on the old woman, slyly. "Seem lak he got some notions o' his own."

The blow told. The professor flushed, turned as if to go back, but turned fieldward again. Doubtless Mrs. Randall would be there even now. "Go on, Susan, into the house," he commanded.

Susan went into the kitchen. If that young man up there wanted to say anything[Pg 283] and ease his mind, she swore she would give him a chance; maybe he would be more peaceable if she did. She sat down by the kitchen fire quite unmindful of the fact she was spoiling the love-making Bill was clumsily striving at, while he smelled the chicken steaming and the hot rolls baking for the early supper, which Montague had ordered soon as he had caught sight of his guests.

When she heard Mrs. Randall's slow footstep up the stair and hurried up the other way, she found her charm had worked; her patient was peaceable as a lamb.

On Frances' face was a look it warmed the heart of the old woman to see,—the flushed, faint flickerings of the beginnings of a great happiness.


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