The flower picker bunched her flowers into a tight round knot which she surveyed with pride. “That step-mother of Esther’s now,” she said. “I don’t hold much with her. Flighty, I call her. Delicate, too, if looks don’t lie. Men are queer. The only thing queerer is women. What d’ye suppose a sensible middle-aged man like Doctor Coombe ever saw in that pretty doll? And what did she see in him—old enough to be her father? A queer match, I call it. But they do say that her side of it is easy explained. Anyway it must have been a trying thing when the doctor’s gold mine didn’t—”
Mrs. Sykes’ flow of words ceased abruptly, for rising from a last descent upon the rose bush she saw that her audience had vanished.
“Dear me! I hope he didn’t think I was trying to be curious,” said Mrs. Sykes.
It required some persuasion to induce Aunt Amy to consent to see the doctor. Doctors, she had found (with the single exception of Dr. Coombe), were terribly unreasonable. They asked all kinds of questions, and never believed a word of the answers.
“And if I have a doctor,” she declared tearfully, “I shall have to go to bed. And if I go to bed who will get supper? The sprigged tea-set—”
“But you won’t need to go to bed, Auntie. You aren’t ill, you know; just a little bit upset. If you feel like lying down why not use the sofa in my room? And even if you do not wish to see the doctor for yourself,” Esther’s tone was reproachful, “think what a good opportunity it is for us to get an opinion about mother. Don’t you remember saying just the other day that you thought mother was foolish to be so nervous about doctors?”
“Yes, but she needn’t stay in the room, need she, Esther? I don’t want her in the room. She laughs. But I would like to lie on your sofa and if I must see him I had better wear my lavender cap.”
“Yes, dear, and you will not mind mother staying—”
“But I do mind, Esther. And anyway she can’t,” triumphantly, “because she has gone out.”
“Gone out? Mother? But she knew the doctor was coming and she promised—”
“Yes, I know. She said to tell you she had fully intended staying in until the doctor had been, but she had forgotten about the Ladies’ Aid Meeting. She simply had to go to that. She said you could attend to the doctor quite as well as she could and that it was all nonsense anyway, because there was nothing whatever the matter with me.” The faded eyes filled with tears again and Esther had much ado to prevent their imminent overflow.
She settled Aunt Amy upon the couch and adjusted the lavender cap without further betrayal of her own feelings, but in her heart she was both angry and hurt. Her mother had known of the doctor’s intended visit and had distinctly promised to remain in to receive him. What would Dr. Callandar think? It was most humiliating.