“It amounts to this, then,” said Willits presently. “You are cured. The balance is swinging true again. It has taken a long time, but the cure is all the more complete for that. Now, when are you coming back to us?”
Callandar did not answer.
“You are needed. Not a day passes that your absence is not felt. You used to have a strong sense of responsibility toward your work. What has become of it?”
“I have it still. I am not slighting my work by taking time to build myself into better shape for it.”
“But you will simply stagnate here!” querulously. “You are becoming slack already. You let your watch run down.”
The doctor laughed.
“If many of my patients could do the same without worry they would not need a doctor. Half of the nervous trouble of the age can be ultimately traced to watches which won’t run down. Leisure—unhurried leisure—that is what we want. We’ve got to have it!”
“Piffle! I shall hear you talk about inviting your soul next.”
“Well, if I do he is in better shape to accept the invitation than he used to be.”
The professor’s gesture was sufficiently expressive.
“Very well. I give up. Remember, I advise against it. I think you are making a mistake!—I’ll have that cigar now. I suppose one is allowed to smoke in the garden?”
“Yes, do, that’s a good fellow! I must run up and make myself presentable. I suppose you haven’t seen Lorna lately?”
“I have seen her very lately. She asked to be remembered.”
“Oh, you old prevaricator! Lorna never asked to be remembered in her life. What she really said was, ‘If you see Harry give him my love!’”
“If she did, you don’t deserve it! Oh, boy,” with sudden earnestness, “why will you make a fool of yourself? She’s a woman in a thousand. Others see it if you don’t. Since you’ve been away, MacGregor is paying her marked attention.”
“Good old Gregor!” The doctor’s exclamation was one of pure pleasure. “And yet you say my absence isn’t doing any good? Go along with you! Take your cigar and wait for me underneath the Bough. I’ll not be long.”
He was long, however. The professor’s cigar and his cogitations came to an end together without the promised reappearance. Even when he returned to the office it was empty except for Ann, who in the stiffest of starched muslin and whitest of stockings was spread out carefully upon the widest chair. Her black hair was parted as if by a razor blade and plastered tightly in slablike masses while the tension of the braids was such that they stuck out on either side of the small head like decorated sign posts. Weariness, disgust and defiance were painted visibly upon the elfish face.
“This is the best chair!” said Ann politely, “but if you’ll excuse me I shan’t get up. Every time I sit down it makes a crease in a fresh place. By the time church is over I look like I was crumpled all over. It’s the starch!” she added in sullen explanation.