“Well, he isn’t smart and funny now,” said the judge, with a grim laugh.
The two men passed up the long avenue and into the house. At the door they were met by Mrs. Hollis, whose small angular person breathed protest. Her black hair was arranged in symmetrical bands which were drawn tightly back from a straight part. When she talked, a gold-capped tooth was disclosed on each side of her mouth, giving rise to the judge’s joke that one was capped to keep the other company, since Mrs. Hollis’s sense of order and regularity rebelled against one eye-tooth of one color and the other of another.
“Good morning, doctor,” she said shortly; “there’s the door-mat. No, don’t put your hat there; I’ll take it. Isn’t this a pretty business for Melvy to come bringing a sick tramp up here—on general cleaning-day, too?”
“Aren’t all days cleaning-days to you, Sue?” asked the judge, playfully.
“When you are in the house,” she answered sharply. Then she turned to the doctor, who was starting up the stairs:
“If this boy is in for a long spell, I want him moved somewhere. I can’t have my carpets run over and my whole house smelling like a hospital.”
“Now, Susan,” remonstrated the judge, gently, “we can’t turn the lad out. We’ve got room and to spare. If he’s got the fever, he’ll have to stay.”
“We’ll see, we’ll see,” said the doctor.
But when he tiptoed down from the room above there was no question about it.
“Very sick boy,” he said, rubbing his hand over his bald head. “If he gets better, I might take him over to Mrs. Meech’s; he can’t be moved now.”
“Mrs. Meech!” cried Mrs. Hollis, in fine scorn. “Do you think I would let him go to that dirty house—and with this fever, too? Why, Mrs. Meech’s front curtains haven’t been washed since Christmas! She and the preacher and Martha all sit around with their noses in books, and never even know that the water-spout is leaking and the porch needs mopping! You can’t tell me anything about the Meeches!”
Neither of the men tried to do so; they stood silent in the doorway, looking very grave.
“For mercy sake! what is that in the front lot?” exclaimed Mrs. Hollis.
The doctor had an uncomfortable premonition, which was promptly verified. One of the judge’s friskiest colts was circling madly about the driveway, while astride of it, in triumph, sat Annette, her dress ripped at the belt, her hair flying.
“If she don’t need a woman’s hand!” exclaimed Mrs. Hollis. “I could manage her all right.”
The doctor looked from Mrs. Hollis, with her firm, close-shut mouth, to the flying figure on the lawn.
“Perhaps,” he said, lifting his brows; but he put the odds on Annette.
That night, when Aunt Melvy brought the lamp into the sitting-room, she waited nervously near Mrs. Hollis’s chair.
“Miss Sue,” she ventured presently, “is de cunjers comin’ out?”