“And, Frowenfeld,” he said, at the end of their long and painful talk, “if there is any blame attached to not letting you go with them, I think I can take part of it; but if you ever want a friend,—one who is courteous to strangers and ill-mannered only to those he likes,—you can call for Charlie Keene. I’ll drop in to see you, anyhow, from time to time, till you get stronger. I have taken a heap of trouble to keep you alive, and if you should relapse now and give us the slip, it would be a deal of good physic wasted; so keep in the house.”
The polite neighbors who lifted their cocked hats to Joseph, as he spent a slow convalescence just within his open door, were not bound to know how or when he might have suffered. There were no “Howards” or “Y.M.C.A.’s” in those days; no “Peabody Reliefs.” Even had the neighbors chosen to take cognizance of those bereavements, they were not so unusual as to fix upon him any extraordinary interests an object of sight; and he was beginning most distressfully to realize that “great solitude” which the philosopher attributes to towns, when matters took a decided turn.
“AND WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?”
We say matters took a turn; or, better, that Frowenfeld’s interest in affairs received a new life. This had its beginning in Doctor Keene’s making himself specially entertaining in an old-family-history way, with a view to keeping his patient within doors for a safe period. He had conceived a great liking for Frowenfeld, and often, of an afternoon, would drift in to challenge him to a game of chess—a game, by the way, for which neither of them cared a farthing. The immigrant had learned its moves to gratify his father, and the doctor—the truth is, the doctor had never quite learned them; but he was one of those men who cannot easily consent to acknowledge a mere affection for one, least of all one of their own sex. It may safely be supposed, then, that the board often displayed an arrangement of pieces that would have bewildered Morphy himself.
“By the by, Frowenfeld,” he said one evening, after the one preliminary move with which he invariably opened his game, “you haven’t made the acquaintance of your pretty neighbors next door.”
Frowenfeld knew of no specially pretty neighbors next door on either side—had noticed no ladies.
“Well, I will take you in to see them some time.” The doctor laughed a little, rubbing his face and his thin, red curls with one hand, as he laughed.
The convalescent wondered what there could be to laugh at.
“Who are they?” he inquired.