After the message had gone, it was easy to see in David’s face that he was glad he had not run away very far. Fav-ver Doctor had not blamed him, but Fav-ver Doctor had made him understand how much trouble it makes when little boys run away.
“That’s what it was all about,” said David.
“You mean, I suppose—”
“Fairies don’t like it if I run off. That’s why they changed things around so. I hardly knew the house; it was fixed so queer.”
“Yes,” the Doctor assented, “it looked shocking queer. How did you ever know the place?”
“They didn’t change the fence much,” said David, and the man now recognized the one point of similitude between that desolate home down in Duck Town and the House of Joy where David lived.
So grim was the contrast that the Doctor winked uneasily, for it brought him back to a problem he had thought settled. He had really meant to take a vacation. He was so tired; no one knew quite, how very tired he was, and he had thought that for a brief while he was justified in leaving the fight to some one else. He only wanted a week or so—a little chance to live, to play with this little boy, and perhaps be happy! Yet, after all, dared he leave those people to other hands when they were counting so on him, and had so little else to count upon? What, he asked, would she, the Gone-Away Lady, have counseled him to do?
Rather nervously he sought the eyes of a miniature on top of his desk, and as he looked into the eyes of that sweet-faced woman, the old comfort he always used to see in them when he had stood most in need of strength, was no longer there. “In the face of so much misery,” they seemed to say, “how can you think of forsaking the field?”
It was not a picture of David’s mother; no, it was a likeness that had ever kept the Doctor’s heart alive to gracious thoughts and gentle ways; it was the portrait of her who had not lived to be his wife, and a habit had come to him of fancying in the eyes of his patients something of the same beautiful look that was in the miniature. Particularly he had done so when David’s mother was struggling hard not to go away from her little boy, and often, since then, the Doctor had compared the face of the picture with that of the child; and to-day, as he was wont to do, he took the dainty bit of porcelain in his hand to see if he could not trace, feature by feature, the likeness he so loved to imagine.
The way of this was very interesting to David. He stood by the Doctor’s chair and leaned his elbows on the knees of his friend, with his plump chin in the wee, white hands.
“Is it your mother?” he questioned.
The Doctor smiled.
“No, David, but she would have been a good mother.”
“Who is it?”
“It is some one,” the Doctor slowly replied, “who would have loved you very, very much.”
“Where is she now?”
“She went away, little boy; years ago, David, she went away from me.”