“You said you would help me,” she replied, ignoring his outburst, her eyes averted as if fearing to meet his gaze.
“Then tell me you trust me,” he returned, leaning toward her.
She raised her eyes frankly to his own.
“I do—I do trust you, but I do not trust myself. Now keep your promise—I insist on it. Believe me, it is better—wiser for us both.”
“Come, then,” he said, laying his hand tenderly on her shoulder—it had grown dark in the teakwood room—“let me tell you a story—a fairy tale.”
She looked at him with a mute appeal in her eyes. Then with a half moan she said: “I don’t want any story; I want your help and never so much as now. Think of something that will help me! Be quick! No more dreams—our minutes are too valuable; I must send you away at six.”
For some minutes he paced the room in silence. Then, as if a new thought had entered his mind, he stopped and resumed his professional manner.
“What about Margaret?” he asked quietly. “Is she fond of the woods?”
“Why—she adores them.” She had regained her composure now. “The child was quite mad about that wretched Long Lake. What a summer we had—I shudder when I think of it!”
“Did it ever occur to you, my dear friend, that Margaret needed the woods?” His eyes were searching hers now as if he wanted to read her inmost thought.
“Needed them—in what way?”
“I mean—er—wouldn’t it be better for her if she went to them? A winter at Saranac—or better still, a longer summer at the camp—if there is to be a camp. In that case her father would not leave her alone; there would be less chance, too, of his insisting on your being there—should you refuse. At least that would be a reason for his spending as much time as possible in camp with Margaret, and you might run up occasionally. I’m merely speaking in a purely professional way, of course,” he added.
A sudden pallor crept over her face.
“And you really believe Margaret to be delicate?” she asked in a trembling voice full of sudden apprehension.
Sperry regained his seat, his manner lapsing into one that he assumed at serious consultations.
“I am a pretty good diagnostician,” he went on, satisfied with the impression he had made. “Don’t think me brutal in what I am going to say, but I’ve watched that young daughter of yours lately. New York is not the place for her.”
“You don’t mean her lungs?” she asked in a barely audible tone.
The doctor nodded.
“Not seriously, of course, my dear friend—really not that sort of condition at present—only I deem it wisest to take precautions. I’m afraid if we wait it will—er—be somewhat difficult later. Margaret must be taken in time; she is just the sort of temperament tuberculosis gets hold of with annoying rapidity—often sooner than we who have had plenty of experience with the enemy suspect. I have always said that the Fenwick child might have been saved had it not been for the interference of Mrs. Fenwick after the consultation.”