Burns turned to his desk, and King obediently went out. Five minutes later, as he stood waiting beside his car, a fine but hard-used roadster of impressive lines and plenty of power, the office nurse and her patient emerged. King noted in some surprise the slender young figure, the interest-compelling face with its too vivid colour in cheeks that looked as if ordinarily they were white, the apparel which indicated lack of means, though the bearing of the wearer unmistakably suggested social training.
“I thought she’d be an elderly one somehow,” he said in congratulation of himself. “Jolly, what hair! Poor little girl; she does look sick—but plucky. Hope I can get her in all right.”
Outwardly he was the picture of respectful attention as Miss Mathewson presented him, calling the girl “Miss Linton,” and bidding him wrap her warmly against the spring wind.
“I’ll take the best care of her I know,” he promised with a friendly smile. He tucked a warm rug around her, taking special pains with her small feet, whose well-chosen covering he did not fail to note. “All right?” he asked as he finished.
“Very comfortable, thank you. It’s ever so kind of you.”
“Glad to do anything for Doctor Burns,” King responded, taking his place beside her. “Now shall we go fast or slow?”
“Just as you like, please. I don’t feel very ill just now, and this air is so good on my face.”
TWO RED HEADS
Jordan King set his own speed in the powerful roadster, reflecting that Miss Linton, to judge from her worn black clothes, was probably not accustomed to motoring and so making the pace a moderate one. Fast or slow, it would not take long to cover the twelve miles over the macadamized road to the hospital in the city, and if it was to be her last bath in the good outdoors for some time, as the doctor had said—King drew a long breath, filling his own sturdy lungs with the balmy yet potent April air, feeling very sorry for the unknown little person by his side.
“Would you rather I didn’t talk?” he inquired when a mile or two had been covered in silence.
She lifted her eyes to his, and for the first time he got a good look into them. They were very wonderful eyes, and none the less wonderful because of the fever which made them almost uncannily brilliant between their dark lashes.
“Oh, I wish you would talk, if you don’t mind!” she answered—and he noted as he had at first how warmly pleasant were the tones of her voice, which was a bit deeper than one would have expected. “I’ve heard nobody talk for days—except to say they didn’t care to buy my book.”
“Your book? Have you written a book?”
“I’m selling one.” This astonished him, but he did not let it show. It was certainly enough to make any girl ill to have to go about selling books. He wondered how it happened. She opened her handbag and took out the small book. “I don’t want to sell you one,” she said. “You wouldn’t have any use for it. It’s a little set of stories for children.”