“Strange boy sick at Judge Hollis’s. How’s trade?”
“Fair to middlin’,” answered the miller. “Do you reckon that there boy has got anything ketchin’?”
“Catching?” repeated the doctor savagely. “What if he has?” he demanded. “Two epidemics of typhoid, two of yellow fever, and one of smallpox—that’s my record, sir!”
“Looks like my children will ketch a fly-bite,” said the miller, apologetically.
A little farther on the doctor was stopped again—this time by a maiden in a pink-and-white gingham, with a mass of light curls bobbing about her face.
“Dad!” she called as she scrambled over the fence. “Where you g-going, dad?”
The doctor flapped the lines nervously and tried to escape, but she pursued him madly. Catching up with the buggy, she pulled herself up on the springs and thrust an impudent, laughing face through the window at the back.
“Annette,” scolded her father, “aren’t you ashamed? Fourteen years old, and a tomboy! Get down!”
“Where you g-going, dad?” she stammered, unabashed.
“To Judge Hollis’s. Get down this minute!”
“Somebody’s sick. Get down, I say!”
Instead of getting down, she got in, coming straight through the small window, and arriving in a tangle of pink and white at his side.
The doctor heaved a prodigious sigh. As a colonel of the Confederacy he had exacted strict discipline and unquestioning obedience, but he now found himself ignominiously reduced to the ranks, and another Fenton in command.
At Hollis Farm the judge met them at the gate. He was large and loose-jointed, with the frame of a Titan and the smile of a child. He wore a long, loose dressing-gown and a pair of slippers elaborately embroidered in green roses. His big, irregular features were softened by an expression of indulgent interest toward the world at large.
“Good morning, doctor. Howdy, Nettie. How are you all this morning?”
“Who’s sick?” growled the doctor as he hitched his horse to the fence.
“It’s a stray lad, doctor; my old cook, Melvy, played the good Samaritan and picked him up off the road last night. She brought him to me this morning. He’s out of his head with a fever.”
“Where’d he come from?” asked the doctor.
“Mrs. Hollis says he was peddling goods up at Main street and the bridge last night.”
“Which one is he?” demanded Annette, eagerly, as she emerged from the buggy. “Is he g-good-looking, with blue eyes and light hair? Or is he b-black and ugly and sort of cross-eyed?”
The judge peered over his glasses quizzically. “Thinking about the boys, as usual! Now I want to know what business you have noticing the color of a peddler’s eyes?”
Annette blushed, but she stood her ground. “All the g-girls noticed him. He wasn’t an ordinary peddler. He was just as smart and f-funny as could be.”