Ester was sitting upon the back porch, hulling strawberries and watching with absent amusement the tireless efforts of Jane to induce a very fat and entirely brainless pup to shake hands. It had been a busy day, for owing to the absence of the free and independent “Saturday Help” Esther had insisted upon helping Aunt Amy in the kitchen. Now the Saturday pies and cakes were accomplished and only the strawberries lay between Esther and freedom.
She had intended, a little later, to walk out along the river road in search of marguerites, but when Mary, more than usually restless after her fainting spell of yesterday, had offered to go instead, she had not demurred. It would be quite as pleasant to take a book and sit out under the big elm. Esther was at that stage when everything seems to be for the best in this “best of all possible worlds.” She was living through those suspended moments when life stands tiptoe, breathless with expectancy, yet calm with an assurance of joy to come.
With the knowledge that Henry Callandar was not quite as other men, had come an intense, delicious shyness; the aloofness of the maiden who feels love near yet cannot, through her very nature, take one step to meet it.
There was no hurry. She was surrounded with a roseate haze, lapped in deep content; for, while the doctor had learned nothing from their last meeting under the elm, Esther had learned everything. She had not seemed to look at him as they parted, yet she had known, oh, she had known very well, how he had looked at her! All she wanted, now, was to be alone with that look; to hold it there in her memory, not to analyse or question, but to glance at it shyly now and again, feeding with quick glimpses the new strange joy at the heart.
“D’ye think He ever forgets to put brains into dogs?” asked Jane suddenly. “Oh, you silly thing, don’t roll over like that! Stop wriggling and give me your paw!”
“He, who?” vaguely.
Jane made a disgusted gesture. “You’re not listening, Esther! You know there is only one Person who puts brains into dogs!”
“But Pickles is such a puppy, Jane. Give him time.”
“It’s not age,” gloomily. “It’s stupidness. All puppies are stupid, but Pickles is the most abnormously stupid puppy I ever saw.”
Esther laughed. “Where did you get the word, ducky?”
“From the doctor. It was something he said about Aunt Amy. Say, Esther, isn’t he going to take you driving any more? I saw him going past this very afternoon. He turned down towards the river road. There was lots of room. Next time he takes you, may Pickles and me go too?”
“Pickles and I, Jane.”
“Well, may we?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps. When did the doctor go past?”
“Nearly two hours ago. I wonder if there’s some one kick down there? Bubble says they’re getting a tremenjous practice. I don’t like Bubble any more. He thinks he’s smart. I don’t like Ann, either. I shan’t ask her to my birthday party.”