“Not all girls now, Mrs. Sykes,” said the doctor cheerfully. “A son and heir arrived this morning. Fine little fellow. They appear to be delighted.”
The discomfited prophet leaned against the door-post for support.
“A boy? It can’t be a boy! It doesn’t stand to reason!”
“It never does, Mrs. Sykes.”
“And I was so sure ’twould be another girl!” There was an infinitesimal pause during which Mrs. Sykes’ whole outlook readjusted itself, and then with a heavy sigh she continued, “Poor Amelia Hill! She’ll certainly have her troubles now. I shouldn’t wonder a mite if it didn’t live. Miracles like that seldom do. And if it does, it will be spoiled to death. No boy can come along after nine sisters and not be made a sissy of. Far better if it had been a girl in the first place. And yet I suppose Amelia’s just as chirpy as possible? She never was one to look ahead to see what’s coming.”
“Lucky for her!” murmured Callandar, as he picked his way over the shining wetness of the veranda. “And now, Mrs. Sykes, I want you to do me a favour. Don’t go predicting to my patient that her boy baby will die, or if he doesn’t it would be better for him if he did. A woman who has mothered nine children is entitled to a little peace of mind with the tenth. Don’t you think so?”
“Land sakes, yes. If you put it that way. But the shock will be all the worse when it comes. Still, if you want the poor thing left in a fool’s paradise I don’t object. Perhaps it would be a good thing to have the three littlest Hills over here to spend a week with Ann. I can stand them if you can.”
“Good idea!” Callandar smiled at her, but attempted no thanks. He had learned early that she was as shy about doing a kindness as a child who hides its face, while offering you half of its lolly-pop. “I’ll fetch them. But some one will have to pick them out. Likely as not I’d bring the middle three instead.”
“They are dreadful similar,” assented Mrs. Sykes, pouring coffee. “I don’t know but what it was them Hill children that made me a suffragette!”
Mrs. Sykes did not notice the unflattering (or flattering) surprise in the doctor’s voice.
“Yes. I think it was the Hill children as much as anything. There they are, nine of them, like as peas in a pod, and all healthy. I shouldn’t wonder if the whole nine grows up—and what then? Amelia Hill just can’t hope to marry nine of them. Three out of the bunch would be about her limit. And what are the others going to get? I say, give them the vote. Land sakes! Why not? I ain’t one to refuse to others what I don’t want myself.”