“I’m sick,” the boy whispered—“sick.”
The tramp looked up and down the road, but he could see no houses or any sign of help. Yet even as he supported the boy doubtfully in the middle of the road a motor car suddenly flashed in the middle distance, and came smoothly through the snow.
“What’s the trouble?” said the driver quietly as he pulled up. “I’m a doctor.” He looked at the boy keenly and listened to his strained breathing.
“Pneumonia,” he commented. “I’ll give him a lift to the infirmary, and you, too, if you like.”
The tramp thought of the workhouse and shook his head “I’d rather walk,” he said.
The boy winked faintly as they lifted him into the car.
“I’ll meet you beyond Reigate,” he murmured to the tramp. “You’ll see.” And the car vanished along the white road.
All the morning the tramp splashed through the thawing snow, but at midday he begged some bread at a cottage door and crept into a lonely barn to eat it. It was warm in there, and after his meal he fell asleep among the hay. It was dark when he woke, and started trudging once more through the slushy roads.
Two miles beyond Reigate a figure, a fragile figure, slipped out of the darkness to meet him.
“On the road, guv’nor?” said a husky voice. “Then I’ll come a bit of the way with you if you don’t walk too fast. It’s a bit lonesome walking this time of day.”
“But the pneumonia!” cried the tramp, aghast.
“I died at Crawley this morning,” said the boy.
Jack, the postmaster’s little son, stood in the bow-window of the parlour and watched his mother watering the nasturtiums in the front garden. A certain intensity of purpose was expressed by the manner in which she handled the water-pot. For though it was a fine afternoon the carrier’s man had called over the hedge to say that there would be a thunderstorm during the night, and every one knew that he never made a mistake about the weather. Nevertheless, Jack’s mother watered the plants as if he had not spoken, for it seemed to her that this meteorological gift smacked a little of sorcery and black magic; but in spite of herself she felt sure that there would be a thunderstorm and that her labour was therefore vain, save perhaps as a protest against idle superstition. It was in the same spirit that she carried an umbrella on the brightest summer day.
Jack had been sent indoors because he would get his legs in the way of the watering-pot in order to cool them, so now he had to be content to look on, with his nose pressed so tightly against the pane that from outside it looked like the base of a sea-anemone growing in a glass tank. He could no longer hear the glad chuckle of the watering-pot when the water ran out, but, on the other hand, he could write his name on the window with his tongue, which he could