“Give it to your—father!” pleaded the White Linen Nurse.
Amazingly all in a second the ugliness vanished from the little face. Dartlingly like a bird the Child swooped down and planted one large round kiss on the Senior Surgeon’s astonished boot.
“Beautiful Father!” she cried, “I kiss your feet!”
Abruptly the Senior Surgeon plunged from the step and started down the walk. His cheek-bones were quite crimson.
Two or three rods behind him the White Linen Nurse followed falteringly. Once she stopped to pick up a tiny stick or a stone. And once she dallied to straighten out a snarled spray of red and brown woodbine.
Missing the sound or the shadow of her the Senior Surgeon turned suddenly to wait. So startled was she by his intentness, so flustered, so affrighted, that just for an instant the Senior Surgeon thought that she was going to wheel in her tracks and bolt madly back to the house. Then quite unexpectedly she gave an odd, muffled little cry, and ran swiftly to him like a child, and slipped her bare hand trustingly into his. And they went on together to the car.
With his foot already half lifted to the step the Senior Surgeon turned abruptly around and lifted his hat and stood staring back bareheaded for some unexplainable reason at the two silent figures on the piazza.
“Rae,” he said perplexedly, “Rae, I don’t seem to know just why—but somehow I’d like to have you kiss your hand to Aunt Agnes!”
Obediently the White Linen Nurse withdrew her fingers from his and wafted two kisses, one to “Aunt Agnes” and one to the Little Crippled Girl.
Then the White Linen Nurse and the Senior Surgeon climbed up into the tonneau of the car where they had never, never sat alone before, and the Senior Surgeon gave a curt order to his man and the big car started off again into—interminable spaces.
Mutely without a word, without a glance passing between them the Senior Surgeon held out his hand to her once more, as though the absence of her hand in his was suddenly a lonesomeness not to be endured again while life lasted.
Whizz—whizz—whizz—whirr—whirr—whirr the ribbony road began to roll up again on that hidden spool under the car.
When the chauffeur’s mind seemed sufficiently absorbed in speed and sound the Senior Surgeon bent down a little mockingly and mumbled his lips inarticulately at the White Linen Nurse.
“See!” he laughed. “I’ve got a text, too, to keep my courage up! Of course you look like an angel!” he teased closer and closer to her flaming face. “But all the time to myself—to reassure myself—I just keep saying—’ Bah! She ’s nothing but a Woman—nothing but a Woman—nothing but a Woman’!”
Within the Senior Surgeon’s warm, firm grasp the White Linen Nurse’s calm hand quickened suddenly like a bud forced precipitously into full bloom.
“Oh, don’t—talk, sir,” she whispered. “Oh, don’t talk, sir! Just—listen!”