“I’ll do it,” he said, pressing David’s face against his hollow and unshaven cheek. “I’ll do it, little boy; I will be your father.”
Then David asked encouragingly:
“Is it your picture that Mother keeps in her heart?”
“No, David; not mine, I’m afraid.”
This was a sad blow to the little boy. A very solemn look came into his face.
“You won’t do,” he said, “unless you can get your picture into Mother’s heart.”
For a second time Dr. Redfield smiled, and then he asked:
“How did you get here?”
David did not answer the question; perhaps he did not hear what was said to him. A thoughtful look had come into his face, and presently he was asking, with great earnestness in his voice:
“Why have I got curls for? Why don’t I have trouvers? Why don’t I have warts on me?”
Dr. Redfield was walking hand in hand with the little boy at his side. They were going toward the place where the horse and buggy stood waiting, and as they strode along the little boy kept falling over his chubby legs. It was hard for him to go so fast, for he was very tired, and besides, he was looking up into the man’s face.
“Warts aren’t nice for little boys,” said Dr. Redfield. “You and I don’t want them on us, do we?”
“Don’t I, please?” said David, very earnestly. Then he wanted to know if he could not be born in Indiana. That is where Mitch Horrigan had been born, and he was always bragging about it. But the Doctor didn’t seem to be in a conversational humor. He made no reply to David’s request, and that vexed the little boy. He suddenly let go of the man’s hand and stood still. Then the Doctor stopped, too, and asked what was wrong. It was now that David closed his fist upon his thumbs and frowned savagely.
“I am not,” he declared; “I am not neither a girl, am I?”
The reply of his big friend was consoling, but not satisfying, and it was some time before the man again felt the little, soft fist in his hand and saw the little boy looking wistfully up into his face.
“If only I had a few of them, Fav-ver Doctor,” said David, “only just a few little warts!”
THE GONE-AWAY LADY
Proud business for David! Sitting on the edge of the seat of the buggy, he was holding the reins very tight. One must always do that if he does not want the horse to kick and run away. Not knowing that the horse was tied to the hitching-post, David was fulfilling his mission with ceremony, and when Dr. Redfield appeared from the door of a drug shop across the way, the little boy called to him gayly:—
“He didn’t run away, did he? I held him all right, didn’t I?”
Dr. Redfield had been absent long enough to use the telephone in notifying Miss Eastman, whom David knew only by the sweeter name of Mother, that her little boy had been waylaid and would probably not be home to luncheon. She was not permitted to know that the pretty rogue had run away, but the man himself strongly suspected the truth. For some time, though, he charitably refrained from speaking of the matter. In fact, three important events in David’s life took place before the painful subject was broached.