Swiftly her father came running to her side. He thought it was her deathbed statement. “But Eve?” he pleaded. “Why, my own little girl. Why, my—”
Laboriously the big eyes lifted to his. “Mother was a rose,” persisted the stricken lips desperately.
“Yes, I know,” sobbed her father. “But—but—”
“But—nothing,” mumbled little Eve Edgarton. With an almost superhuman effort she pushed her sharp little chin across the confining edge of the blanket. Vaguely, unrecognizingly then, for the first time, her heavy eyes sensed the hotel proprietor’s presence and worried their way across the tearful ladies to Barton’s harrowed face.
“Mother—was a rose,” she began all over again. “Mother—was a rose. Mother—was—a rose,” she persisted babblingly. “And Father—g-guessed it—from the very first! But as for me—?” Weakly she began to claw at her incongruous bandage. “But—as—for me,” she gasped, “the way I’m fixed!—I have to—announce it!”
The Edgartons did not start for Melbourne the following day! Nor the next—nor the next—nor even the next.
In a head-bandage much more scientific than a blue-ribboned petticoat, but infinitely less decorative, little Eve Edgarton lay imprisoned among her hotel pillows.
Twice a day, and oftener if he could justify it, the village doctor came to investigate pulse and temperature. Never before in all his humdrum winter experience, or occasional summer-tourist vagary, had he ever met any people who prated of camels instead of motor-cars, or deprecated the dust of Abyssinia on their Piccadilly shoes, or sighed indiscriminately for the snow-tinted breezes of the Klondike and Ceylon. Never, either, in all his full round of experience had the village doctor had a surgical patient as serenely complacent as little Eve Edgarton, or any anxious relative as madly restive as little Eve Edgarton’s father.
For the first twenty-four hours, of course, Mr. Edgarton was much too worried over the accident to his daughter to think for a moment of the accident to his railway and steamship tickets. For the second twenty-four hours he was very naturally so much concerned with the readjustment of his railway and steamship tickets that he never concerned himself at all with the accident to his plans. But by the end of the third twenty-four hours, with his first two worries reasonably eliminated, it was the accident to his plans that smote upon him with the fiercest poignancy. Let a man’s clothes and togs vacillate as they will between his trunk and his bureau—once that man’s spirit is packed for a journey nothing but journey’s end can ever unpack it again!
With his own heart tuned already to the heart-throb of an engine, his pale eyes focused squintingly toward expected novelties, his thin nostrils half a-sniff with the first salty scent of the Far-Away, Mr. Edgarton, whatever his intentions, was not the most ideal of sick-room companions. Too conscientious to leave his daughter, too unhappy to stay with her, he spent the larger part of his days and nights pacing up and down like a caged beast between the two bedrooms.