They drove along in silence for a while.
“May I ask,” said John, at length, “when you intend to ’take down your sign,’ as you put it?”
“Whenever you say the word,” declared David, with a chuckle and a side glance at his companion. John turned in bewilderment.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Wa’al,” said David with another short laugh, “fur ’s the sign ’s concerned, I s’pose we could stick a new one over it, but I guess it might ’s well come down; but we’ll settle that matter later on.”
John still looked at the speaker in utter perplexity, until the latter broke out into a laugh.
“Got any idee what’s goin’ onto the new sign?” he asked.
“You don’t mean——”
“Yes, I do,” declared Mr. Harum, “an’ my notion ‘s this, an’ don’t you say aye, yes, nor no till I git through,” and he laid his left hand restrainingly on John’s knee.
“The new sign ’ll read ‘Harum & Comp’ny,’ or ‘Harum & Lenox,’ jest as you elect. You c’n put in what money you got an’ I’ll put in as much more, which ‘ll make cap’tal enough in gen’ral, an’ any extry money that’s needed—wa’al, up to a certain point, I guess I c’n manage. Now putty much all the new bus’nis has come in through you, an’ practically you got the hull thing in your hands. You’ll do the work about ’s you’re doin’ now, an’ you’ll draw the same sal’ry; an’ after that’s paid we’ll go snucks on anythin’ that’s left—that is,” added David with a chuckle, “if you feel that you c’n stan’ it in Homeville.”
* * * * *
“I wish you was married to one of our Homeville girls, though,” declared Mr. Harum later on as they drove homeward.
Since the whooping-cough and measles of childhood the junior partner of Harum & Company had never to his recollection had a day’s illness in his life, and he fought the attack which came upon him about the first week in December with a sort of incredulous disgust, until one morning when he did not appear at breakfast. He spent the next week in bed, and at the end of that time, while he was able to be about, it was in a languid and spiritless fashion, and he was shaken and exasperated by a persistent cough. The season was and had been unusually inclement even for that region, where the thermometer sometimes changes fifty degrees in thirty-six hours; and at the time of his release from his room there was a period of successive changes of temperature from thawing to zero and below, a characteristic of the winter climate of Homeville and its vicinity. Dr. Hayes exhibited the inevitable quinine, iron, and all the tonics in his pharmacopoeia, with cough mixtures and sundry, but in vain. Aunt Polly pressed bottles of sovereign decoctions and infusions upon him—which were received with thanks and neglected with the blackest ingratitude—and exhausted not only the markets of Homeville, but her own and Sairy’s culinary resources (no mean ones, by the way) to tempt the appetite which would not respond. One week followed another without any improvement in his condition; and indeed as time went on he fell into a condition of irritable listlessness which filled his partner with concern.