“I know it. But they’re good for you. They keep your red-headed doctor master of the situation. You want him to be that, don’t you?”
“He’d be that anyway,” said she confidently.
Burns smiled, but the smile faded quickly. He gave a few brief directions, then slipped away as quietly as he had come.
* * * * *
It was well into the next week when one morning he encountered Jordan King, who had been out of town for several days. King came up to him eagerly. Since this meeting occurred just outside the hospital, where Burns’s car had been standing in its accustomed place for the last hour, it might not have been a wholly accidental encounter.
King made no attempt to maneuver for information. Maneuvering with Red Pepper Burns, as the young man was well aware, seldom served any purpose but to subject the artful one to a straight exposure. He asked his question abruptly.
“I want to hear how Miss Linton is doing. I’m just back from Washington—haven’t heard for a week.”
Burns frowned. No physician likes to be questioned about his cases, particularly if they are not progressing to suit him. But he answered, in a sort of growl: “She’s not doing.”
King looked startled. “You mean—not doing well?”
“She’s fighting for existence—and—slipping.”
“But—you haven’t given her up?”
Burns exploded with instant wrath. King might have known that question would make him explode. “Given her up! Don’t you know a red-headed fiend like me better than that?”
“I know you’re a bulldog when you get your teeth in,” admitted Jordan King, looking decidedly unhappy and anxious. “If I’m just sure you’ve got ’em in, that’s enough.”
Burns grunted. The sound was significant.
King ventured one more question, though Red Pepper’s foot was on his starter, and the engine had caught the spark and turned over. “If there’s anything I could do,” he offered hurriedly and earnestly. “Supply a special nurse, or anything—”
Burns shook his head. “Two specials now, and half the staff interested. It’s up to Anne Linton and nobody else. If she can do the trick—she and Nature—all right. If not—well—Thanks for letting go the car, Jord. This happens to be my busy day.”
Jordan King looked after him, his heart uncomfortably heavy. Then he stepped into his own car and drove away, taking his course down a side street from which he could get a view of certain windows. They were wide open to the May breeze and the sunshine, but no pots of daffodils or other flowers stood on their empty sills. He knew it was useless to send them now.
“But if she does pull through,” he said to himself between his teeth, “I’ll bring her such an armful of roses she can’t see over the top of ’em. God send I get the chance!”