“But my dear Thayor—”
“I won’t listen to you, Dr. Sperry. It is a matter of the life or death of one of my men—a man who, Holcomb tells me, has been most faithful in his work. I will not hear of your going, and that ends it!”
Sperry rose, and for some moments regarded intently the blue spiral of smoke from his cigar curl lazily past his nose; then with a smile of ill-concealed triumph and a slight shrug of acquiescence, he replied:
“Of course, if you insist; yes, I’ll stay. I shall do my best to save him.”
“Thank you,” cried Thayor. “Now we will join Alice and Margaret. He held back the heavy portiere screening the door of the living room.
“Not a word to Margaret, remember,” Thayor whispered, “about Le Boeuf, nor to Mrs. Thayor—she doesn’t like these things and I try to keep them from her all I can.”
“Certainly not,” returned the doctor. “It would only worry her. Besides, I think I have a fighting chance to save him.”
As they entered the living room Alice raised her eyes. Margaret put down a treatise on forestry that Holcomb had lent her, rose, and said good-night. She did not relish the thought of general conversation when the doctor was present—especially after the experiences she had had.
“Ah, Alice,” said Thayor, as he crossed the room to where his wife was sitting, “I have a bit of news for you, my dear. Our friend here has positively refused to leave. Oh—it’s the air,” he added as the doctor laughed, “and the charm of old nature. You know, doctor, it’s contagious, this enchantment of the woods.” Alice gave an involuntary start and the little ball of blue worsted in her lap dropped to the floor, and unravelled itself to the edge of the Persian rug.
“Not really!” she exclaimed, smothering her secret joy. “You see what a useless person I am at persuasion, doctor. Come, be truthful—didn’t I try to persuade you to stay?”
“Yes, my dear lady, to be truthful you did; but I had no intention of wearing my welcome into shreds.”
The sense of an exquisite relief thrilled every nerve in Alice’s body. Sperry saw her breast heave a little, then their eyes met.
Thayor touched the bell for whiskey and soda. As the doctor drained his second glass he snapped out his watch.
“I must look in on Le Boeuf,” he said briskly.
Again Thayor touched the bell. “Blakeman will accompany you with a lantern, doctor.”
Sperry turned and bid Alice a formal good-night. “Don’t wait up for me; I may not be in until late—my overcoat, Blakeman”—and the two passed out into the night.
The days added to the doctor’s visit were not wholly given to the care of the sick. One morning Holcomb, who had been cross-cutting back to camp after looking over some timber in the thick woods through which chattered a small brook, heard the murmur of voices almost within reach of his hand. His skill as a still hunter had served him well—so quick was he to stop short in his tracks and so noiseless had been his approaching step, that neither Alice nor the doctor, seated beside the brook, had been aware of his presence.