“Oh, she’s out in the summer house with the Wall Paper Man,” she mumbled indifferently.
Altogether jerkily the Senior Surgeon started up the walk for his own perfectly formal and respectable brown stone mansion. Deep down in his lurching heart he felt a sudden most inordinate desire to reach that brown stone mansion just as quickly as possible. But abruptly even to himself he swerved off instead at the yellow sassafras tree and plunged quite wildly through a mass of broken sods towards the rickety, no-account cedar summer house.
Startled by the crackle and thud of his approach the two young figures in the summer house jumped precipitously to their feet, and limply untwining their arms from each other’s necks stood surveying the Senior Surgeon in unspeakable consternation,—the White Linen Nurse and a blue overalled lad most unconscionably mated in radiant youth and agonized confusion.
“Oh, my Lord, Sir!” gasped the White Linen Nurse. “Oh, my Lord, Sir! I wasn’t looking for you—for another week!”
“Evidently not!” said the Senior Surgeon incisively. “This is the second time this evening that I’ve been led to infer that my home-coming was distinctly inopportune!”
Very slowly, very methodically, he put down first his precious rod-case and then his grip. His brain seemed fairly foaming with blood and confusion. Along the swelling veins of his arms a dozen primitive instincts went surging to his fists.
Then quite brazenly before his eyes the White Linen Nurse reached out and took the lad’s hand again.
“Oh, forgive me, Dr. Faber!” she faltered. “This is my brother!”
“Your brother?—what?—eh?” choked the Senior Surgeon. Bluntly he reached out and crushed the young fellow’s fingers in his own. “Glad to see you, Son!” he muttered with a sickish sort of grin, and turning abruptly, picked up his baggage again and started for the big house.
Half a step behind him his White Linen Bride followed softly.
At the edge of the piazza he turned for an instant and eyed her a bit quizzically. With her big credulous blue eyes, and her great mop of yellow hair braided childishly down her back, she looked inestimably more juvenile and innocent than his own little shrewd-faced six-year-old whom he had just left domestically ensconced in the middle of the broad gravel path.
“For Heaven’s sake, Miss Malgregor,” he asked. “For Heaven’s sake—why didn’t you tell me that the Wall Paper Man was your—brother?”
Very contritely the White Linen Nurse’s chin went burrowing down into the soft collar of her dress and as bashfully as a child one finger came stealing up to the edge of her red, red lips.
“I was afraid you’d think I was—cheeky—having any of my family come and live with us—so soon,” she murmured almost inaudibly.