“If work will do it—”
“Nothing worth while is ever done without work. Go up and see him.”
At the sound of a familiar step upon the stair, Allison turned deathly white. He waited, scarcely daring to breathe, until the half-closed door opened, and his father stood before him, smiling in welcome. Allison sprang forward, unbelieving, until his hand touched his father’s, not cold, as though he had risen from the grave, but warmly human and alive.
“Lad, dear lad! I’ve come back at last!” Allison’s answering cry of joy fairly rang through the house. “Dad! Oh, Dad! I thought you were dead!”
Alternately possessed by hope and doubt, the young surgeon worked during the weeks that followed as he had never worked before. He kept his doubt to himself, however, and passed on his hope to the others when he could do so conscientiously. Allison had ceased to ask questions, but eagerly watched the doctor’s face. He knew, without being told, just when the outlook was dubious and when it was encouraging.
The doctor did not permit either Rose or Colonel Kent to hope too much. Both were with Allison constantly, and Madame drove over three or four times a week. Gradually a normal atmosphere was established, and, without apparent effort, they kept Allison occupied and amused.
It seemed only natural and right that Rose should be there, and both Allison and his father had come to depend upon her, in a way, as though she were the head of the household. The servants came to her for orders, people who came to inquire for Allison asked for her, and she saved the Colonel from many a lonely evening after Allison had said good-night and the Doctor had gone out for a long walk as he said, “to clear the cobwebs from his brain.”
Because of Isabel, whom he felt that he could not meet, the Colonel did not go over to Bernard’s. Allison had not alluded to her in any way, but Madame had told the Colonel at the first opportunity. He had said, quietly: “A small gain for so great a loss,” and made no further comment, yet it was evident that he was relieved.
Rose and Allison were back upon their old friendly footing, to all intents and purposes. Never by word or look did Rose betray herself; never by the faintest hint did Allison suggest that their relation to each other had in any way been changed. He was frankly glad to have her with him, urged her to come earlier and to stay later, and gratefully accepted every kindness she offered.
Perhaps he had forgotten—Rose rather thought he had, but her self-revelation stood before her always like a vivid, scarlet hour in a procession of grey days. Yet the sting and shame of it were curiously absent, for nothing could exceed the gentle courtesy and deference that Allison instinctively accorded her. He saw her always as a thing apart; a goddess who, through divine pity, had stooped for an instant to be a woman—and had swiftly returned to her pedestal.