“You have no idea what a scholarly man Dr. Ledsmar is,” Theron suddenly found himself inspired to volunteer. “He has the most marvellous collection of books—a whole library devoted to this very subject—and he has put them all quite freely at my disposal. Extremely kind of him, isn’t it?”
“Ledsmar? Ledsmar?” queried Alice. “I don’t seem to remember the name. He isn’t the little man with the birthmark, who sits in the pew behind the Lovejoys, is he? I think some one said he was a doctor.”
“Yes, a horse doctor!” said Theron, with a sniff. “No; you haven’t seen this Dr. Ledsmar at all. I—I don’t know that he attends any church regularly. I scraped his acquaintance quite by accident. He is really a character. He lives in the big house, just beyond the race-course, you know—the one with the tower at the back—”
“No, I don’t know. How should I? I’ve hardly poked my nose outside of the yard since I have been here.”
“Well, you shall go,” said the husband, consolingly. “You have been cooped up here too much, poor girl. I must take you out more, really. I don’t know that I could take you to the doctor’s place—without an invitation, I mean. He is very queer about some things. He lives there all alone, for instance, with only a Chinaman for a servant. He told me I was almost the only man he had asked under his roof for years. He isn’t a practising physician at all, you know. He is a scientist; he makes experiments with lizards—and things.”
“Theron,” the wife said, pausing lamp in hand on her way to the bedroom, “do you be careful, now! For all you know this doctor may be a loose man, or pretty near an infidel. You’ve got to be mighty particular in such matters, you know, or you’ll have the trustees down on you like a ‘thousand of bricks.’”
“I will thank the trustees to mind their own business,” said Theron, stiffly, and the subject dropped.
The bedroom window upstairs was open, and upon the fresh night air was borne in the shrill, jangling sound of a piano, being played off somewhere in the distance, but so vehemently that the noise imposed itself upon the silence far and wide. Theron listened to this as he undressed. It proceeded from the direction of the main street, and he knew, as by instinct, that it was the Madden girl who was playing. The incongruity of the hour escaped his notice. He mused instead upon the wild and tropical tangle of moods, emotions, passions, which had grown up in that strange temperament. He found something very pathetic in that picture she had drawn of herself in forecast, roaming disconsolate through her rooms the livelong night, unable to sleep. The woful moan of insomnia seemed to make itself heard in every strain from her piano.
Alice heard it also, but being unillumined, she missed the romantic pathos. “I call it disgraceful,” she muttered from her pillow, “for folks to be banging away on a piano at this time of night. There ought to be a law to prevent it.”