The mention of the doctor’s name would have jarred on Sam at any other time, but this morning he was too happy to care, and Alice, quick to notice it, pressed on:
“I do wish he could come up here for a rest. I saw him at the Trevises Thursday; he seemed utterly used up. Do you think he would come if we asked him, Sam? Besides,” she added cleverly, “I should like him to see Margaret.”
Thayor stopped abruptly and looked at his wife with a curious expression.
“So should I,” he replied with some severity. “I should like him to see that child now, if for nothing more than to have the satisfaction of seeing how much even these few hours in the woods have accomplished, and what a mistake he made when he said the child’s lungs needed looking after. Sperry is a surgeon, not a physician—and he only makes himself ridiculous when he tries to be.”
“I am quite of your opinion, Sam,” Alice declared, not daring to contradict her husband—a feeling of infinite rest creeping through her veins as she spoke.
“He will then see for himself, I believe, that he was mistaken,” continued Thayor in the same positive tone. “Margaret delicate! Nonsense, my dear! By George—his diagnosis was not only brutal, it was ridiculous. Why, Leveridge—”
“Be tolerant, Sam,” returned Alice. “You know you always tell others to be tolerant. Dr. Sperry evidently said what he believed to be the truth. If he has been wrong I am sure he will be the first one to acknowledge it, as any gentleman who has been mistaken would.”
“Then he shall have the chance,” replied Thayor. “You may invite him at once, Alice, if you wish, but for one week only. Too much of Sperry gets on my nerves.”
* * * * *
When Alice reached her bedroom she locked the door and threw herself on the bed in an ecstasy of tears. After some moments she arose with an exultant look in her eyes, went over to her desk, unlocked a jewel case and extracted from between the lining of a hidden compartment a small photograph of Sperry at thirty, taken at Heidelberg.
Below the torrent of Big Shanty laughed in the sunlight.
For Thayor to welcome Sperry with a warm grasp of the hand and an outburst of—“Oh! I’m glad you are here; it seems like a special Providence,” was so strange and unusual a performance that it is no wonder Alice, moving toward the buckboard to add her own greeting to her husband’s, was lost in astonishment even when the cause of the outburst became clear to her.
Her husband’s mental attitude toward the doctor, if the truth be told, was one of the things that had never ceased to trouble her. Polite as he was to everybody, he had been so particularly polite to Sperry that it always aroused her suspicions. She knew he had sent for him purely to oblige her and to help her over the chasm which divided Big Shanty from Newport, but what other reasons her husband had for inviting him to share his hospitality at the camp, she was not so familiar with. It therefore came as a distinct surprise when she heard him repeat with increased warmth in his manner: