“Willie, Willie,” she called, but Willie paid no heed, and as Eudora had said, was directly under foot when she unlocked the door, his the first form distinctly seen, his the first face which met the doctor’s view, and his fearless baby laugh the first sound, which welcomed the doctor home!
It was not a disagreeable picture—that chubby, rose-cheeked little boy. Willie had run to the door because he heard the bell. He had not expected to see a stranger, and at sight of the tall figure he drew back timidly and half hid himself behind Mrs. Richards, whom he knew to be the warmest ally he had in the hall.
As the doctor had said to Irving Stanley, he disliked children, but he could not help noticing Willie, and after the first greetings were over he asked, “Who have we here? Whose child is this?”
Eudora and Asenath tried to frown, but the expression of their faces softened perceptibly as they glanced at Willie, who had followed them into the parlor, and who, with one little foot thrown forward, and his fat hands pressed together, stood upon the hearth rug, gazing at the doctor with that strange look which had so often puzzled, bewildered and fascinated the entire Richards’ family.
“Anna wrote you that the maid she so much wanted had come to her at last—a very ladylike person, who has evidently seen better days, and this is her child, Willie Markham. He is such a queer little fellow that we allow him more liberties than we ought.”
It was Mrs. Richards who volunteered this explanation, while her son stood looking down at Willie, wondering what it was about the child which seemed familiar. Anna had casually mentioned Rose Markham in her letter, had said how much she liked her, and had spoken of her boy, but the doctor was too much absorbed in his own affairs to care for Rose Markham; so he had not thought of her since, notwithstanding that ’Lina had tried many times to make him speak of Anna’s maid, so as to calculate her own safety. The sight of Willie, however, set the doctor to thinking, and finally carried him back to the crowded car, the shrieking child, and the young woman to whom Irving Stanley had been so kind.
“I hope I shall not be obliged to see her,” he thought, and then he answered his mother’s speech concerning Willie. “So you’ve taken to petting a servant’s child, for want of something better. Just wait until my boy comes here.”
Eudora tried to blush, Asenath looked unconscious, while Mrs. Richards replied: “If I ever have a grandson one half as pretty or as bright as Willie, I shall be satisfied.”
The doctor did not know how rapidly a lively, affectionate child will win one’s love, and he thought his proud mother grown almost demented; but still, in spite of himself, he more than once raised his hand to lay it on Willie’s head, pausing occasionally in his conversation to watch the gambols of the playful child sporting on the carpet.