“My shoulder has grown all at once excessively painful,” he said hastily. “I’m afraid I must ask you to excuse me, Mr. Ware.”
Carrying the afflicted side with ostentatious caution, he led the way without ado round the house to the front gate on the road. He had put his left hand under his coat to press it against his aching shoulder, and his right hung palpably helpless. This rendered it impossible for him to shake hands with his guest in parting.
“You’re sure there’s nothing I can do,” said Theron, lingering on the outer side of the gate. “I used to rub my father’s shoulders and back; I’d gladly—”
“Oh, not for worlds!” groaned the doctor. His anguish was so impressive that Theron, as he walked down the road, quite missed the fact that there had been no invitation to come again.
Dr. Ledsmar stood for a minute or two, his gaze meditatively following the retreating figure. Then he went in, opening the front door with his right hand, and carrying himself once more as if there were no such thing as rheumatism in the world. He wandered on through the hall into the laboratory, and stopped in front of the row of little tanks full of water.
Some deliberation was involved in whatever his purpose might be, for he looked from one tank to another with a pondering, dilatory gaze. At last he plunged his hand into the opaque fluid and drew forth a long, slim, yellowish-green lizard, with a coiling, sinuous tail and a pointed, evil head. The reptile squirmed and doubled itself backward around his wrist, darting out and in with dizzy swiftness its tiny forked tongue.
The doctor held the thing up to the light, and, scrutinizing it through his spectacles, nodded his head in sedate approval. A grim smile curled in his beard.
“Yes, you are the type,” he murmured to it, with evident enjoyment in the conceit. “Your name isn’t Johnny any more. It’s the Rev. Theron Ware.”
The annual camp-meeting of the combined Methodist districts of Octavius and Thessaly was held this year in the second half of September, a little later than usual. Of the nine days devoted to this curious survival of primitive Wesleyanism, the fifth fell upon a Saturday. On the noon of that day the Rev. Theron Ware escaped for some hours from the burden of work and incessant observation which he shared with twenty other preachers, and walked alone in the woods.
The scene upon which he turned his back was one worth looking at. A spacious, irregularly defined clearing in the forest lay level as a tennis-court, under the soft haze of autumn sunlight. In the centre was a large, roughly constructed frame building, untouched by paint, but stained and weather-beaten with time. Behind it were some lines of horse-sheds, and still further on in that direction, where the trees began, the eye caught fragmentary glimpses of low roofs and