Once he almost saw them. The tulip bed had seemed to dance in the sunlight like a whirlpool of scarlet and yellow fire; then it stopped abruptly, but the blossoms still nodded and stirred, even after the wild dance was done. He was confident that he had come very near to seeing the fairies, but now he did not want to see them. They had done something to the house where Mother lived, and he wanted them to undo it. He would not look. They would please understand that this time he did not mean to deceive them.
“Cross my heart,” he murmured very solemnly, and gave the pledge.
But it did no good. They would not undo the queer things they had done to the house. They were spiteful and mean, and not to be trusted. The house remained without trees and vines, a scowling, ugly thing. The garden had no shrubs; the seeded grass was matted down and yellow, like hay, and there were bald places where the gray ground was showing through.
They did not know, those foolish fairy folk, of the courage and the faith that may be in the heart of a little boy. They might be stubborn if they chose; they might keep him waiting, but in the end they would not abuse his patience. All would come right. Only it did take such a long, long while for it to get that way! Hungry-time is very hard on little boys when they are waiting for things to come right, and it was so hard on David that twice he called aloud for Mother. A wooden echo, sent back from barns and sheds, dolefully repeated the last syllable of his cry. It was sad mockery, but David held doggedly to his belief that finally things would come right. His hands closed rigidly upon the sides of the fence-post, and from beneath the tight-shut eyelids slow tear-drops were squeezing out.
It was so that Dr. Redfield found him. With medicine-case in hand, the physician had come down the walk from the desolate, scowling house. As he seized the child in his arms, and as he felt the small arms of David go about his neck, the word that greeted him was “Fav-ver!”
AS A FOUNTAIN IN THE DESERT
The magic that is in the touch of a little boy! There is nothing like it to drive out the weariness from a heart that knows it must not grow too tired. So now, when Dr. Redfield left the house where he had been, it meant much to him that there should be such a welcome awaiting him at the gate. It was a gray and worn smile, but still a smile that answered the child’s unexpected greeting, and as the wee arms went tight about the man’s neck he asked no questions; he merely said:—
“I wish I were, little boy—I wish I were your father. We would have a rest, wouldn’t we? We would take time to know each other.”
As he said this there came into the Doctor’s face the same look which he had just seen in the eyes of the father and mother who were trusting to him to save their little boy. Many times other fathers and other mothers had made that mute appeal to him, and he had done what he could for them. He had done all that could be done. He was doing it to-day, and he had been doing it every day these past eight weeks that had been as twenty years to him.