“With Mrs. Sykes?” dryly.
“Certainly. Mrs. Sykes is part of the cure.”
“And the other part?”
“Oh—just everything. I hardly know why I like the place. But I do. Why analyse? I can sleep here. I wake in the morning like a man with the right to live, and for the first time in a year, Willits, a long torturing year, I am beginning to feel free of that oppression, that haunting sense that somewhere Molly is alive, that she needs me and that I cannot get to her. I had begun to fear that it would drive me mad. But, here, it is going. Yesterday I was walking down a country road and suddenly I felt free—exquisitely, gloriously free—the past wiped out! That—that was why I almost feared to see you, Elliott, you bring the past so close.”
The hands of the friends met in a firm handclasp.
“Have it your own way,” said the professor, smiling his grim smile. “Consider me silenced.”
The doctor’s answer was cut off by the jingling entrance of Mrs. Sykes bearing before her a large tray upon which stood tall glasses, a beaded pitcher of ice cold lemonade and some cake with white frosting.
“Seeing as it’s so hot,” said she amiably, “I thought a cold drink might cool you off some. Especially as breakfast will be five minutes late owing to the chicken. I thought maybe as you had a friend, doctor, a chicken—”
“A chicken will be delicious,” said the doctor, answering the question in her voice. “Mrs. Sykes, let me present Professor Willits; Willits, Mrs. Sykes! Let me take the tray.”
Mrs. Sykes shook hands cordially. “Land sakes!” she said. “I thought you were a priest! Not that I really suspicioned that the doctor, good Presbyterian as he is, would know any such. But priests is terrible wily. They deceive the very elect—and it’s best to be prepared. As it is, any friend of the doctor’s is a friend of mine. You’re kindly welcome, I’m sure.”
“Thank you,” said the professor limply.
The doctor handed them each a glass and raised his own.
“Let us drink,” he said, “to Coombe. ‘Coombe and the Soul cure!’”
“Amen!” said Willits.
“Land sakes!” said Mrs. Sykes. “I thought it was his spine!”
Zerubbabel Burk sat upon his stool of office in the doctor’s consulting room, swinging his legs. Would-be discoverers of perpetual motion might have received many hints from Bubble, though he himself would have scorned to consider the swinging of legs as motion. He was under the delusion that he was sitting perfectly still. For the doctor was asleep.
Asleep, at four o’clock on a glorious summer day! No wonder his friend and partner wore a tragic face.
“Doesn’t seem to care a hang if he never gets any patients!” mused Bubble, resentfully, stealing a half fond, half angry glance at the placid face of the sleeper. “Only two folks in all day and one a kid with a pin in its throat. And all he says is, ’Don’t worry, son, we’re getting on fine!’ We’ll go smash one of these days, that’s what we’ll do—just smash!”