Yes, to be sure, she had such a picture, but it was not of David’s father; it was of someone else, for she had never seen David’s father. In her heart was still another picture: it was a memory which had to do with the sad nativity of her little boy. So sad an event it was that she had left off being a head nurse at the hospital, in order to become a mother by proxy.
David might some day come to know that there was a fogyish, bachelor doctor who was almost a father in the same sort of way—almost, but not quite, for the child had been left not to him, but to her. A home, likewise, was her inheritance, a very pretty little home and all else that had once belonged to the real mother of the little boy.
A brave death she had died, that kinless widow at the hospital. And how could it have been otherwise, when so large a faith was hers in the nurse whose arm had gone lovingly around her, and whose voice, many and many a time, had given comfort and had known finally how to smooth the way to death?
But it was the Doctor’s hand, not the hand of the nurse, that had gently closed the mother’s eyes upon her last long sleep; and it was he, not the nurse, who had turned wofully away, and stared and stared and stared out of the window.
Grave pictures were these that Mother kept in her heart, and David was not to know how much he troubled her when he fell to questioning; and that is why, in the midst of his endless inquiries, he was wont to encounter the Great Never Mind.
Do you know what that is? It is a condition of soul common to all mothers who have little boys that want to know things.
The worst of it is that one is expected to understand when he is never to mind and when he is to mind. They are not the same thing; they are twins, and they are so hard to tell apart, and so disagreeable, and act so much alike that only an expert can tell which is which.
But Mother was an expert. She knew when you must and when you mustn’t; she had a talent for it. She also had a gift for telling David that she would see. If he wanted to go swimming with Mitch Horrigan in the creek near town, she said she would see about it, but somehow she never did get it seen about.
That was one great difference between her and Dr. Redfield. He did not say he would see; if given half a chance he always did see, and there was something so magical about him that one felt he was good for a miracle most any time. For all that, it was hard to ask him for anything, for when in his presence one always felt so queer and bashful and overpowered with the strange medicine smells which were such a big part of him. Yet David now felt that no boy has any right to hope for a father if he hasn’t spirit enough to ask for one. So firmly convinced of this was the little boy that early in the morning he made up his mind as to what he would do. It was something very daring and very naughty. He was going to run away.