Burns turned upon Winifred, who sat nearest. “Tell me the truth about this thing,” he commanded.
She shook her head, but she got no peace until at length she gave him the tale.
“Arthur and I were over at Jim’s. He came in and said a wager was up among some men outside as to whether if that poor boy came and fiddled under your window you’d take him in and keep him over night. Somebody’d been saying things against you, down street somewhere—” she hesitated, glancing at her husband, who nodded, and said, “Go on—he’ll have it out of us now, anyhow.”
“They said,” she continued, “that you were the most brutal surgeon in the State, and that you hadn’t any heart. Some of them made this wager, and they all sneaked up here behind the one that steered Franz to your window.”
Burns’s quick colour had leaped to his face at this recital, as they were all accustomed to see it, but for an instant he made no reply. Winifred looked at him steadily, as one who was not afraid.
“We were all in a dark window watching. If you hadn’t taken him in we would. But—O Red! We knew—we knew that heart of yours.”
“And who started that wager business?” Burns inquired, in a muffled voice.
“Why, Jim, of course. Who else would take such a chance?”
“Was it a serious wager?”
“Of course it was.”
“No, it was Jim against the crowd. And for a ridiculously high stake.”
Red Pepper glared at James Macauley once more. “You old pirate!” he growled. “How dared you take such a chance on me? And when you know I’m death on that gambling propensity of yours?”
“I know you are,” replied Macauley, with a satisfied grin. “And you know perfectly well I haven’t staked a red copper for a year. But that sort of talk I overheard was too much for me. Besides, I ran no possible risk for my money. I was betting on a sure thing.”
Burns got up, amidst the affectionate laughter which followed this explanation, and walked over to where Franz stood, his eager eyes fixed upon his new and adored friend, who, he somehow divined, was the target for some sort of badinage.
“Little Hungary,” he said, smiling into the uplifted, boyish face, with his hand on the slender shoulder, “it came out all right that time, but don’t you ever play under my window again in a January blizzard. If you do, I’ll kick you out into the storm!”
ANNE LINTON’S TEMPERATURE
“Is Doctor Burns in?”