She was in tears, but subdued any active exhibition of emotion until Alice, on the assurance that her father was resting comfortably at the hospital, was induced to retire.
Then she broke down utterly, and Bart had a hard time keeping her from being hysterical.
She said that her mother intended staying all night at the side of her suffering husband and had tried to send some reassuring word to her son.
“You must tell me the worst, you know, Bertha,” said Bart. “What do they say at the hospital? Is father in serious danger? Will he die?”
“No,” answered the sobbing girl, “he will not die, but oh! Bart—the doctor says he may be blind for life!”
READY FOR BUSINESS
Bart Stirling stood ruefully regarding the ruins of the burned express shed. It was the Fourth of July, and early as it was, the air was resonant with the usual echoes of Independance Day.
Bart, however, was little in harmony with the jollity and excitement of the occasion. He had spent a sleepless night, tossing and rolling in bed until daybreak, when his mother returned from the hospital.
Mr. Stirling was resting easily, she reported, in very little pain or discomfort, but his career of usefulness and work was over—the doctors expressed an opinion that he would never regain his eyesight.
Mrs. Stirling was pale and sorrowed. She had grown older in a single night, but the calm resignation in her gentle face assured Bart that they would be of one mind in taking up their new burdens of life in a practical, philosophical way.
“Poor father!” he murmured brokenly. Then he added: “Mother, I want you to go in and get some rest, and try not to take this too hard. I will attend to everything there is to do about the express office.”
“I don’t see what there can be to do,” she responded in surprise. “Everything is burned up, your father will never be able to resume his position. We are through with all that, I fancy.”
“There is considerable to do,” asserted Bart in a definite tone that instantly attracted his mother’s attention because of its seriousness. “Father is a bonded employee of the express service. Their business doesn’t stop because of an accidental fire, and they have a system to look after here that must not be neglected. I know the ropes pretty well, thanks to father, and I think it a matter of duty to act just as he would were he able to be about, and further and protect the company’s interests. Outside of that, mother,” continued the boy, earnestly, “you don’t suppose I am going to sit down idly and let things drift at haphazard, with the family to take care of and everything to be done to make it easy and comfortable for father.”
A look of pride came into the mother’s face. She completely recognized the fidelity and sense of her loyal son, allowed Bart to lead her into the house, and tried to be calm and cheerful when he bade her good-bye, and, evading celebrating groups of his boy friends, made his way down to the ruined express shed.