“Yes. She wouldn’t leave him. She seemed ’most as crazy’s he was. My wife and me, we—”
But Parker did not wait to hear the rest. He ran at full speed to the door of the shanty. Grace herself opened it.
“How is he?” demanded the doctor.
“I think he seems a little easier; at any rate, he’s not delirious. He’s in there. Oh, I’m so thankful you’ve come.”
“Is that the doctor?” called Ellery weakly from the next room. “Is it?”
“Yes,” replied Parker, throwing off his coat and hat. “Coming, Mr. Ellery.”
“For God’s sake, doctor, send her away. Don’t let her stay. Make her go. Make her go! I’ve got the smallpox and if she stays she will die. Don’t you understand? she must go.”
“Hush, John,” said Grace soothingly. “Hush, dear.”
Dr. Parker stopped short and looked at her. She returned the look, but without the slightest semblance of self-consciousness or embarrassment. She did not realize that she had said anything unusual, which must sound inexplicably strange to him. Her thoughts were centered in that adjoining room and she wondered why he delayed.
“Well?” she asked impatiently. “What is it? Why do you wait?”
The doctor did not answer. However, he waited no longer, but hurried in to his new patient.
IN WHICH KEZIAH DECIDES TO FIGHT
The news was flying from house to house along the main road. Breakfasts were interrupted as some neighbor rushed in to tell the story which another neighbor had brought to him or her. Mr. Ellery was very sick and it was feared he had the smallpox, that was what Mrs. Parker, the doctor’s wife, told those who lived near her. By the time the Corners heard of it the tale had grown until the minister was said to be dying. And when it reached Gaius Winslow’s home at the upper end of the town he was reported dead. This was denied, upon investigation, but soon another rumor grew and spread; Grace Van Horne was with him, had taken him back to the shanty, and insisted upon staying there until the doctor came. Facing that dreadful disease and—It was wonderful—and queer.
At the Danielses’ house the servant girl rushed into the dining room to serve the toast and the story at one swoop. Captain Elkanah’s dignity deserted him for an instant and his egg spoon jingled to the floor. Annabel’s face turned a dull red. Her eyes flashed sparks.
“Pa!” she cried, “I—I—if you don’t do something now I’ll never—”
Her father shook his head warningly. “Debby,” he said to the maid, “you needn’t wait.”
Debby departed reluctantly. After the kitchen door had closed, Captain Elkanah said: “My dear, we mustn’t be too hasty in this matter. Remember, Mr. Ellery is very sick. As for—for the Van Horne girl, we haven’t heard the whole truth yet. She may not be there at all, or it may be just an accident—”