“All right,” said Dr. James calmly. “I’ll guarantee that you never see it again. Is there anything else you want?”
“You — you didn’t —?”
The doctor shook his head. “Very sorry,” he said, “but there wasn’t a thing could be done.”
“Where is he?” she asked in a whisper.
“His people took him home immediately after the Coroner’s inquest, which found that he died from heart failure, brought on by his long walk in the heat.”
Kate stared at him with a face pitiful to behold.
“You let him think that?” she whispered again.
“I did,” said the old doctor. “I thought, and still think, that for the sake of you and yours,” he waved toward the bundle, “it was the only course to pursue.”
“Thank you,” said Kate. “You’re very kind. But don’t you think that I and mine are going to take a lot of shielding? The next man may not be so kindly disposed. Besides, is it right? Is it honest?”
“It is for you,” said the doctor. “You had nothing to do with it. If you had, things would not have gone as they did. As for me, I feel perfectly comfortable about it in my conscience, which is my best guide. All I had to do was to let them tell their story. I perjured myself only to the extent of testifying that you knew nothing about it. The Coroner could well believe that. George and his mother could easily manage the remainder.”
Kate waved toward the bundle: “Am I supposed to welcome and love them?”
“A poet might expect you to,” said the doctor. “In the circumstances, I do not. I shall feel that you have done your whole duty if you will try to nurse them when the time comes. You must have a long rest, and they must grow some before you’ll discover what they mean to you. There’s always as much chance that they’ll resemble your people as that they will not. The boy will have dark hair and eyes I think, but he looks exactly like you. The girl is more Holt.”
“Where is George?” she asked.
“He was completely upset,” said the doctor. “I suggested that he go somewhere to rest up a few days, so he took his tackle and went fishing, and to the farm.”
“Shouldn’t he have stayed and faced it?” asked Kate.
“There was nothing for him to face, except himself, Kate,” said the doctor.
Kate shook her head. She looked ghastly ill.
“Doctor,” she said, “couldn’t you have let me die?”
“And left your son and your little daughter to them?” he asked. “No, Kate, I couldn’t have let you die; because you’ve your work in the world under your hand right now.”
He said that because when he said “left your son and your little daughter to them,” Kate had reached over and laid her hand possessively, defensively, on the little, squirming bundle, which was all Dr. James asked of her. Presently she looked the doctor straight in the face. “Exactly what do you know?” she asked.