“Why, father,” she cried, standing back and studying carefully his cheerful, sunburnt face, and his look of health and strength, “you are more like the old father than you have been for ever so long.”
Dr. Trenire burst into a roar of hearty laughter. “Well,” he cried, “after my spending three months in trying to renew my youth, I do think you might have called me a ‘young father.’ Never mind, Kitty, I feel young, which is more than you do, I expect, dear, with all the cares you have had on your shoulders lately. I suppose you have left Miss Pidsley finally,” with a smile, “and I have to pay her a term’s fees for nothing?”
Kitty looked a little ashamed of herself as she smiled ruefully. “Yes. I don’t seem able to stay at any school more than one term, do I? I think you had better give up trying, father, and keep me home altogether now.”
“I think I had,” said her father seriously. “I think I can’t try again to get on without you, dear—even,” quizzically, “if there isn’t always boiling water when Jabez gets his head knocked.”
Aunt Pike grew slowly and gradually stronger, and in time was able to be dressed, and could sit up in her chair. But she knew, and the doctors knew, that she would never again be the same strong, active woman that she was before. The doctors had hopes that in time she would be able to walk again, and take up some of her old ways and duties; but she herself was not so hopeful, and with the prospect before her of a long spell of invalidism, she insisted on leaving Dr. Trenire’s home for one of her own.
The doctor and all protested warmly, but Aunt Pike was determined. “Kitty can look after the house now better than she could,” she said, “and I shall be glad of the rest and quiet. I shall not leave Gorlay. I want to be near you all, so that if Kitty wants any advice I shall be at hand to give it.”
So, seeing that her heart was set upon it, and feeling that the quieter, less busy home would be better for her, Dr. Trenire gave in, and they all set to work to find a house to suit her. But here they found a task which taxed all their time and patience. It had to be a small house, sheltered yet sunny, of a moderate rent, but in a good position; it must have, as well as a sitting-room, a room on the ground floor that Mrs. Pike could turn into a bedroom, and it must have a garden with no steps—a rarity in hilly Gorlay.
There were not very many houses in Gorlay, and very few to let; certainly few with all, or even half, of the advantages Mrs. Pike demanded; and at last in despair the doctor had to prevail on an old friend and patient of his own to move from his house and give it up to the invalid, which, marvellous to tell, he did, and, even more marvellous, the house pleased Aunt Pike immensely. The garden was made to suit her by removing all the steps and replacing them with sloping, winding paths and various other cunning devices; and the doctor saw that everything that could add to her comfort was done for her. Then came the great excitement of furnishing the house and stocking the garden.