“Will you show me a place to enlist?” challenged the boy. “And,” he added with a malicious grin, “will you enlist with me?”
“Sure!” said the Little Red Doctor. “I’ll show you. But they won’t take me.” He bestowed a bitter glance on his twisted foot. “Come along.”
They went off together, while Mrs. Berthelin scandalized Our Square by an exhibition of hysterics involving language not at all in accord with the rich respectability of her apparel and her limousine.
We waited at the Bonnie Lassie’s for the Little Red Doctor’s return. He came back alone. I thought that I detected a pathetic little gleam of disappointment in Mayme’s deep eyes.
“He’s done it,” said the Little Red Doctor. And I was sorry for him, so much was there of tragic envy in his face.
“Did you give him your blessing?” I asked.
“I did. He shook hands like a man. There’s maybe something in that boy, if it weren’t for the old hell-cat of a mother. However, she won’t have much chance. He’s off to-morrow.”
“Will he write?” said Mayme in a curious, strained voice.
“He will. He’ll report to me from time to time.”
“Didn’t he—wasn’t there any message?”
“Just good-bye and good luck,” answered the Little Red Doctor, censoring ruthlessly.
The Bonnie Lassie went over and put her arms around Mayme McCartney.
“My dear,” she said softly. “It wouldn’t do. It really wouldn’t. He isn’t worth it. You’re going to forget him.”
“All right.” Suddenly Mayme looked like a very helpless and sorrowful little girl. “Only, it—it isn’t goin’ to be as easy as you think. He was so pretty,” said Mayme McCartney wistfully.
Summer was smiting Our Square with white-hot bolts of sun-fire, from which one could scarcely find refuge beneath the scraggly shelter of parched shrubbery, when one morning the Bonnie Lassie approached my bench with a fell and purposeful smile.
“Dominie, you’re a dear old thing,” she began in her most insinuating tones.
“I won’t do it,” I said determinedly, foreboding something serious.
The Bonnie Lassie raised her eyebrows at me, affecting aggrieved innocence. “Won’t do what?” she inquired.
“Whatever it is that you’re trying to wheedle me into.”
The eyebrows resumed their normal arch, and a dimple flickered in the corner of the soft lips. By this I knew that the case was hopeless. “Oh, but you’ve already done it,” she said.
“Help! Tell me the worst and get it over with.”
“It must be lovely to be rich,” said the Bonnie Lassie meditatively. “And so generous!”
“How much is it? What do you want it for? I haven’t got that much,” I hastily remarked.
“And to keep it an absolute secret from everybody. Even from Mayme herself.”
“Go on. Don’t mind me,” I murmured.