“What relatives has the child?” asked the doctor shortly.
“She has none at all in these parts,” replied Gertrude. “She has been with me all through her mother’s illness, and now she is mine. Her mother’s family are all gone. She might perhaps be sent to her father’s parish in Bergamaskische, but I shall not do that; she belongs now to us.”
“I would not go there,” said the child firmly in a low tone, clinging to Gertrude’s dress with both hands.
The doctor opened a big book, tore out a leaf, and drew his pen twice across the closely written page.
“There,” he said, handing the cancelled sheet to Gertrude, “that is all the bill I shall give you.”
“Oh, doctor, may God reward you,” said Gertrude. “Go, child, and thank the doctor, for you owe him a great deal.”
The child obeyed after her own fashion. She planted herself before the big man, looked steadily at him with her great black eyes and said somewhat hoarsely,
“Thank you.” It sounded more like a command than anything else.
The doctor laughed.
“She is rather alarming,” he said, “she is evidently not accustomed to say anything she does not really mean. I like that. But come, I must be off,” and handing the medicine to Gertrude he left the room quickly so as to avoid her repeated thanks.
The little boy was standing where his mother had left him, still staring at the restless horse. The doctor looked kindly at the little fellow.
“Would you like to take care of a horse?” he asked, as he got into his wagon.
“No, I should like to drive one of my own,” replied the child without hesitation.
“Well, you are quite right there: stick to that, my boy,” said the doctor, and drove away.
As Gertrude, holding a child by each hand, climbed the hillside, the boy said gaily,
“Say, mother, I can have one, can’t I?”