“Why, Harold,” exclaimed the girl, “there is nothing the matter with father! He was never better in his life nor more cheerful.”
“That’s the side of him that he lets you see,” replied the man. “His gaiety is all forced. If you could see him after you leave you would realize that he is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Your father is not an old man in years, but he has placed a constant surtax on his nervous system for the last twenty-five years without a let-up, and it doesn’t make any difference how good a machine may be it is going to wear out some day, and the better the machine the more complete will be the wreck when the final break occurs.”
As he spoke he watched the girl’s face, the changing expression of it, which marked her growing mental perturbation.
“You really believe it is as bad as that, Harold?” she asked.
“It may be worse than I think,” he said. “It is surely fully as bad.”
The girl rose slowly from the chair. “I will try and persuade him to see Dr. Earle.”
The man took a step toward her. “I don’t believe a doctor is what he needs,” he said quickly. “His condition is one that even a nerve specialist might not diagnose correctly. It is only some one in a position like mine, who has an opportunity to observe him almost hourly, day by day, who would realize his condition. I doubt if he has any organic trouble whatever. What he needs is a long rest, entirely free from any thought whatever of business. At least, Elizabeth, it will do him no harm, and it may prolong his life for years. I wouldn’t go messing around with any of these medical chaps.”
“Well,” she said at last, with a sigh, “I will talk to him and see if I can’t persuade him to take a trip. He has always wanted to visit Japan and China.”
“Just the thing!” exclaimed Bince; “just the thing for him. The long sea voyage will do him a world of good. And now,” he said, stepping to her side and putting an arm around her.
She pushed him gently away.
“No,” she said; “I do not feel like kissing now,” and turning she entered her father’s office, followed by Bince.
From her father’s works Elizabeth and Harriet drove to the shopping district, where they strolled through a couple of shops and then stopped at one of the larger stores.
Jimmy Torrance was arranging his stock, fully nine-tenths of which he could have sworn he had just shown an elderly spinster who had taken at least half an hour of his time and then left without making a purchase. His back was toward his counter when his attention was attracted by a feminine voice asking if he was busy. As he turned about he recognized her instantly—the girl for whom he had changed a wheel a month before and who unconsciously had infused new ambition into his blood and saved him, temporarily at least, from becoming a quitter.