The boy’s face fell.
“Ain’t you going to stay? Why, it’s all over town that you’re the new doctor come to take old Doc. Simmonds’s practice. Mournful Mark, that you drove up with, told it. He said he shouldn’t wonder if you’re real clever. Says he suspects you’re an old friend of Doc. Coombe’s folks—went to college with the doctor, mebby. Says that likely Alviry will have you next time she gets a stroke.”
“Tempting as the prospect is, boy, I fear ...”
“Oh, dang it! There’s the bell again.”
He darted out, bumped down the sounding stairs and, while the doctor was still considering the words of his ultimatum, appeared again at the door, this time decorously on duty.
“A call for you, sir,” said Bubble primly.
“A call, sir. Mrs. Sykes wants to know if the new doctor will call ’round first thing in the morning to see Mrs. Sykes’s Ann. She dunno, but she thinks it’s smallpox.”
“Quit your fooling, boy.”
“Cross my heart, doctor!”
“Oh!” cheerfully, “I don’t cross my heart to that. Mrs. Sykes always thinks things is smallpox. Ann’s had smallpox several times now. But the rest is on the level. What message, sir?”
Callandar hesitated. (And while he hesitated the Fateful Sisters manipulated a great many threads very swiftly.) “What train ...” he began. (The Fateful Sisters slipped a bobbin through and tied a cunning knot.) Without knowing why, Callandar decided to stay. He laughed. Bubble stood eagerly expectant.
“Tell Mrs. Sykes I’ll come, and ...” but Bubble did not wait for the end of the message.
Coombe is a pretty place. It has broad streets, quiet and tree-lined. It has sunny, empty lots where children play. No one is crowded or shut in. The houses stand in their own green lawns, and are comfortable and even picturesque. The Swiss chalet style has not yet come to Coombe, so the architecture, though plain, is not productive of nightmare. The roads are like country roads, soft and yellowish; green grass grows along the sides of many of them, and board sidewalks are still to be found, springy and easy to the tread. There is a main street with macadamised roadway and stone pavements, real flat stone, for they were laid before the appearance of the all-conquering cement. There is a postoffice with a tower and a clock, a courthouse with a fountain and a cannon, a park with a bandstand and a baseball diamond, a townhall with a belfry and no bell, an exhaustive array of churches, the Imperial Hotel, and the market. We mention the market last (as we were taught at school) because on account of its importance it ought to come first.