Of course mother was astounded. It required only a little make-believe on her part to indicate that this was some strange boy whom she had never seen before. The surprising change in him had impressed her so disagreeably that she had been in no mood to speak of it. Even as she had taken off the wide-brimmed sailor hat, when David reached the house in Dr. Redfield’s arms, she had made no comment on the close-cropped, flaxen head. She had of course remarked each detail of the little boy’s altered appearance, but what she had seen even more clearly was the look in the man’s face when he had told her that her little boy was not well. It was this that she had seen at a glance, and it was this that she had taken deeply to heart, but now she diligently tried to enter into the spirit of trouvers.
All of a sudden the earnest look in David’s face was swept away by a smile. His little legs began to dance; his hands danced, and his piping laughter danced best of all. Making a prancing dash for Mother’s skirts, he demanded that she smell the good, barber smell of his hair. But she laughed such a queer laugh, as she gathered him up in her arms, that the gleefulness suddenly went out of him.
“I’m afraid,” she said, “I’m afraid there’s not enough left of your hair to smell.”
The suspicion came to David that Mother was not glad. Instead of applauding his fine hair-cut, she had a silly way of asking what had been done with the curls.
This is the way mothers act sometimes when they want to be downright discouraging. David showed how he felt about it by asking if supper wouldn’t soon be ready, and throughout the meal he bore himself with dignity. Although it is not easy to pass the rolls when one’s arms are so short and the plate is so large and wobbly, the little boy was sure that to-night he was reaching a surprising distance across the table. Surely Mother must have been impressed with this new and astonishing length of arm.
When it came bed-time, David felt it would be weakness on his part, now that he was almost grown to be a man, to allow Mother to continue her absurd habit of sitting beside him while he went to sleep. He told her very delicately that in the future she need not go to so much trouble. He was resolved not to be such a nuisance. Hereafter he would always go to sleep all by himself.
But in beginning this practice he did not think it advisable to take off his trousers. Perhaps he would not feel so man-grown if he took them off; perhaps the kilts-and-blouse feeling would come on him in the night, unless he were consciously secure in knickerbockers.
“I—I couldn’t keep them on, could I, Mother?” The question came plaintively, from the very depths of his desire.
“But, David,” said Mother, “if you wear them out by sleeping in them, then how are you to get any more? And besides, don’t you think they need a rest as well as you?”
Anybody could see the logic of that. David reluctantly permitted his trousers to be taken off, and he was particularly eager to see that they should have honorable treatment. He had a misgiving that Mother did not know where they should properly be stowed for the night, and his doubt thus found expression: