Zekiel dropped the harness and laid his hand gently on his mother’s forehead. “There isn’t anything there, dear mother,” he said soothingly.
“Zeke!” she exclaimed, jerking away with a short reluctant laugh.
“‘Mother, dear mother, come home with me now,’” he roared sentimentally, so that Essex Maid lifted her beautiful head and looked out in surprise. “Remember Fanshaw, and put more water in it after this,” he added, dropping his arm to his mother’s neck and capturing her with a hug.
“’Zekiel!” she protested. “’Zekiel!”
THE CHICAGO LETTER
The mother was still laughing and struggling in the irresistible embrace when both became aware that a third person was regarding them in open-mouthed astonishment.
“’Zekiel, let me go!” commanded the scandalized woman, and pushed herself free from her tormentor, who forthwith returned rather sheepishly to his buckles.
The young man with trim-pointed beard and mirthful eyes, who stood in the driveway, had just dismounted from a shining buggy. Doubt and astonishment were apparently holding him dumb.
The housekeeper, smoothing her disarranged locks and much flushed of face, returned his gaze, rising from her chair.
“I couldn’t believe it was you, Mrs. Forbes!” declared the newcomer. “Fanshaw isn’t—” He looked around vaguely.
“No, he isn’t, Dr. Ballard,” returned Mrs. Forbes shortly. “He forgot to rub down Essex Maid one evening when she came in hot, and that finished him with Mr. Evringham.”
The young doctor’s lips twitched beneath his mustache as he looked at ’Zekiel, polishing away for dear life.
“You seem to have some one else here—some friend,” he remarked tentatively.
“Friend!” echoed the housekeeper with exasperation, feeling to see just how much Zeke had rumpled her immaculate collar. “We looked like friends when you came up, didn’t we!”
“Like intimate friends,” murmured the doctor, still looking curiously at the big fair-haired fellow, who was crimson to his temples.
“I don’t know how long we shall continue friends if he ever grabs me again like that just after I’ve put on a clean collar. He’s got beyond the place where I can correct him. I ought to have done it oftener when I had the chance. This is my boy ’Zekiel, Dr. Ballard,” with a proud glance in the direction of the youth, who looked up and nodded, then continued his labors. “Mr. Evringham has engaged him on trial. He’s been with horses a couple of years, and I guess he’ll make out all right.”
“Glad to know you, ’Zekiel,” returned the doctor. “Your mother has been a good friend of mine half my life, and I’ve often heard her speak of you. Look out for my horse, will you? I shall be here half an hour or so.”
When the doctor had moved off toward the house Mrs. Forbes nodded at her son knowingly.