Meanwhile, unconscious of her step-mother’s troubled musings, Esther was loitering delightfully on her way from school. Aunt Amy, who never looked at a clock, but who always knew the time by what Jane called “magic,” was beginning to wonder what had kept her. Strain her eyes as she would, there was no glint of a blue dress upon the long straight road, and Dr. Callandar, who in passing had stopped by the gate, declared that he had noticed a similar absence of that delectable colour between the cross roads and the school house.
“I thought that I might meet her,” he confessed ingenuously, “but when she was not in sight, I concluded that I was too late. Some of those angel children have probably had to be kept in. Could you make use of me instead? I run errands very nicely.”
“Oh, it isn’t an errand.” Aunt Amy smiled, for she liked Dr. Callandar and was always as simple as a child with him. His easy, courteous manner, which was the same to her as to every one else, helped her to be at once more like other people and more like herself. “It’s a letter. I wanted Esther to read it to me. Of course I can read myself,” as she saw his look of surprise, “but sometimes I do not read exactly what is written. My imagination bothers me. Do you ever have any trouble with your imagination, Doctor?”
“I have known it to play me tricks.”
“But you can read a letter just as it’s written, can’t you?”
“Yes. I can do that.”
“Then your imagination cannot be as large as mine. Mine is very large. It interferes with everything, even letters. When I read a letter myself I sometimes read things which aren’t there. At least,” with a faint show of doubt, “people say they aren’t there.”
“In other words,” said Callandar, “you read between the lines.”
Aunt Amy’s plain face brightened. It was so seldom that any one understood.
“Yes, that’s it! You won’t laugh at me when I tell you that everything, letters, handkerchiefs, dresses and everything belonging to people have a feeling in them—something that tells secrets? I can’t quite explain.”
“I have heard very sensitive people express some such idea. It sounds very fascinating. I should like very much to hear about it.”
“Would you? You are sure you won’t think me queer? My niece, Mary Coombe, does not like me to tell people about it. She has no imagination herself, none at all. She says it is all nonsense. But I think,” shrewdly, “that she would like to know some of the things that I know. Won’t you come in, Doctor? Come in and sit under the tree where it is cooler.”
The doctor’s hesitation was but momentary. He was keenly interested. And at the back of his mind was the thought that Esther must certainly be along presently. Fate had not favoured him of late. He had not seen her for five days. It is foolish to leave meetings to fate anyway. Then, if another reason were needed it was probable that if he stayed he would meet Esther’s mother. He was beginning to feel quite curious about Mrs. Coombe.