It was not until the Senior Surgeon had actually stepped into the tiny cream pitcher that he noticed the presence of the doll’s tea set.
It was what the Senior Surgeon said as he stepped out of the cream pitcher that summoned the amazing apparition from a ragged green hole in the privet hedge. Startlingly white, startlingly professional,—dress, cap, apron and all,—a miniature white linen nurse sprang suddenly out at him like a tricky dwarf in a moving picture show. Just at that particular moment the Senior Surgeon’s nerves were in no condition to wrestle with apparitions. Simultaneously as the clumsy rod-case dropped from his hand, the expression of enthusiasm dropped from the face of the miniature white linen nurse.
“Oh, dear—oh, dear—oh, dear! Have you come home?” wailed the familiar, shrill little voice.
Sheepishly the Senior Surgeon picked up his rod-case. The noises in his head were crashing like cracked bells. Desperately with a boisterous irritability he sought to cover also the lurching pound-pound-pound of his heart.
“What in Hell are you rigged out like that for?” he demanded stormily.
With equal storminess the Little Girl protested the question.
“Peach said I could!” she attested passionately. “Peach said I could! She did! She did! I tell you I didn’t want her to marry us—that day! I was afraid, I was! I cried, I did! I had a convulsion! They thought it was stockings! So Peach said if it would make me feel any gooderer, I could be the cruel new step-mother. And she’d be the unloved offspring—with her hair braided all yellow fluffikins down her back!”
“Where is—Miss Malgregor?” asked the Senior Surgeon sharply.
Irrelevantly the Little Girl sank down on the gravel walk and began to gather up her scattered dishes.
“And it’s fun to go to bed—now,” she confided amiably. “’Cause every night I put Peach to bed at eight o’clock and she’s so naughty always I have to stay with her! And then all of a sudden it’s morning—like going through a black room without knowing it!”
“I said—where is Miss Malgregor?” repeated the Senior Surgeon with increasing sharpness.
Thriftily the Little Girl bent down to lap a bubble of cream from the broken pitcher.