But Mrs. Strange had followed, and now she spoke up in a matter-of-fact tone: “Doctor nothing,” she said. “I know more than all the doctors. Paloma, you go into the house and get a bed ready for him, and you men lug him in. Come, now, on the run, all of you! I’ll show you what to do.” She took instant charge of the situation, and when Dave refused to leave the carriage and began to fight off his friends, gabbling wildly, it was she who quieted him. Elbowing Blaze and her husband out of the way, she loosed the young man’s frenzied clutch from the carriage and, holding his hands in hers, talked to him in such a way that he gradually relaxed. It was she who helped him out and then supported him into the house. It was she who got him up-stairs and into bed, and it was she who finally stilled his babble.
“The poor man is burning up with a fever,” she told the others, “and fevers are my long suit. Get me some towels and a lot of ice.”
Blaze, who had watched the snake-charmer’s deft ministrations with mingled amazement and suspicion, inquired: “What are you going to do with ice? Ice ain’t medicine.”
“I’m going to pack his head in it.”
“God’l’mighty!” Blaze was horrified. “Do you want to freeze his brain?”
Mrs. Strange turned on him angrily. “You get out of my way and mind your own business. ‘Freeze his brain!’” With a sniff of indignation she pushed past the interloper.
But Blaze was waiting for her when she returned a few moments later with bowls and bottles and various remedies which she had commandeered. He summoned sufficient courage to block her way and inquire:
“What you got there, now, ma’am?”
Mrs. Strange glared at him balefully. With an effort at patience she inquired: “Say! What ails you, anyhow?”
Jones swallowed hard. “Understand, he’s a friend of mine. No damned magic goes.”
“No—cockroaches or snakes’ tongues, or—”
Mrs. Strange fingered a heavy china bowl as if tempted to bounce it from Blaze’s head. Then, not deigning to argue, she whisked past him and into the sick-room. It was evident from her expression that she considered the master of the house a harmless but offensive old busybody.
For some time longer Blaze hung about the sick-room; then, his presence being completely ignored, he risked further antagonism by telephoning for Jonesville’s leading doctor. Not finding the physician at home, he sneaked out to the barn and, taking Paloma’s car, drove away in search of him. It was fully two hours later when he returned to discover that Dave was sleeping quietly.
A WARNING AND A SURPRISE