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- Dawn - 14/52 -


"You ARE too tired, then?"

"Yes, I'm too tired." And Keith, with another spasmodic jerk under the bedclothes, turned his face to the wall again.

"All right, dear, you shan't. That's the better way, I think myself," sighed his aunt. "I wouldn't have you overtax yourself for the world. Now isn't there anything, ANYTHING I can do for you?"

And Keith said no, not a thing, not a single thing. And his face was still to the wall.

"Then if you're all right, absolutely all right, I'll go out to walk and get a little fresh air. Now don't move. Don't stir. TRY to go to sleep if you can. And if you want anything, just ring. I'll put this little bell right by your hand on the bed; and you must ring if you want anything, ANYTHING. Then Susan will come and get it for you. There, the bell's right here. See? Oh, no, no, you CAN'T see!" she broke off suddenly, with a wailing sob. "Why will I keep talking to you as if you could?"

"Well, I wish you WOULD talk to me as if I could see," stormed Keith passionately, sitting upright in bed and flinging out his arms. "I tell you I don't want to be different! It's because I AM different that I am so---"

But his aunt, aghast, interrupted him, and pushed him back.

"Oh, Keithie, darling, lie down! You mustn't thrash yourself around like that," she remonstrated. "Why, you'll make yourself ill. There, that's better. Now go to sleep. I'm going out before you can talk any more, and get yourself all worked up again," she finished, hurrying out of the room with the breakfast tray.

A little later in the kitchen she faced Susan a bit haughtily.

"Master Keith is going to sleep," she said, putting down the breakfast tray. "I have left a bell within reach of his hand, and he will call you if he wants anything. I am going out to get a little air."

"All right, ma'am." Susan kept right on with the dish she was drying.

"You are sure you can hear the bell?"

"Oh, yes, my hearin' ain't repaired in the least, ma'am." Susan turned her back and picked up another dish. Plainly, for Susan, the matter was closed.

Mrs. Colebrook, after a vexed biting of her lip and a frowning glance toward Susan's substantial back, shrugged her shoulders and left the kitchen. A minute later, still hatless, she crossed the yard and entered the McGuires' side door.

"Take the air, indeed!" muttered Susan, watching from the kitchen window. "A whole lot of fresh air she'll get in Mis' McGuire's kitchen!"

With another glance to make sure that Mrs. Nettie Colebrook was safely behind the McGuires' closed door, Susan crossed the kitchen and lifted the napkin of the breakfast tray.

"Humph!" she grunted angrily, surveying the almost untouched breakfast. "I thought as much! But I was ready for you, my lady. Toast an' oatmeal, indeed!" With another glance over her shoulder at the McGuire side door Susan strode to the stove and took from the oven a plate of crisply browned hash and a hot corn muffin. Two minutes later, with a wonderfully appetizing-looking tray, she tapped at Keith's door and entered the room.

"Here's your breakfast, boy," she announced cheerily.

"I didn't want any breakfast," came crossly from the bed.

"Of course you didn't want THAT breakfast," scoffed Susan airily; "but you just look an' see what I'VE brought you!"

Look and see! Susan's dismayed face showed that she fully realized what she had said, and that she dreaded beyond words its effect on the blind boy in the bed.

She hesitated, and almost dropped the tray in her consternation. But the boy turned with a sudden eagerness that put to rout her dismay, and sent a glow of dazed wonder to her face instead.

"What HAVE you got? Let me see." He was sitting up now. "Hash--and-- johnny-cake!" he crowed, as she set the tray before him, and he dropped his fingers lightly on the contents of the tray. "And don't they smell good! I don't know--I guess I am hungry, after all."

"Of course you're hungry!" Susan's voice was harsh, and she was fiercely brushing back the tears. "Now, eat it quick, or I'll be sick! Jest think what'll happen to Susan if that blessed aunt of yours comes an' finds me feedin' you red-flannel hash an' johnny-cake! Now I'll be up in ten minutes for the tray. See that you eat it up--every scrap," she admonished him, as she left the room.

Susan had found by experience that Keith ate much better when alone. She was not surprised, therefore, though she was very much pleased--at sight of the empty plates awaiting her when she went up for the tray at the end of the ten minutes.

"An' now what do you say to gettin' up?" she suggested cheerily, picking up the tray from the bed and setting it on the table.

"Can I dress myself?"

"Of course you can! What'll you bet you won't do it five minutes quicker this time, too? I'll get your clothes."

Halfway back across the room, clothes in hand, she was brought to a sudden halt by a peremptory: "What in the world is the meaning of this?" It was Mrs. Nettie Colebrook in the doorway.

"I'm gettin' Keith's clothes. He's goin' to get up."

"But MASTER Keith said he did not wish to get up."

"Changed his mind, maybe." The terseness of Susan's reply and the expression on her face showed that the emphasis on the "Master" was not lost upon her.

"Very well, then, that will do. You may go. I will help him dress."

"I don't want any help," declared Keith.

"Why, Keithie, darling, of course you want help! You forget, dear, you can't see now, and--"

"Oh, no, I don't forget," cut in Keith bitterly. "You don't let me forget a minute--not a minute. I don't want to get up now, anyhow. What's the use of gettin' up? I can't DO anything!" And he fell back to his old position, with his face to the wall.

"There, there, dear, you are ill and overwrought," cried Mrs. Colebrook, hastening to the bedside. "It is just as I said, you are not fit to get up." Then, to Susan, sharply: "You may put Master Keith's clothes back in the closet. He will not need them to-day."

"No, ma'am, I don't think he will need them--now." Susan's eyes flashed ominously. But she hung the clothes back in the closet, picked up the tray, and left the room.

Susan's eyes flashed ominously, indeed, all the rest of the morning, while she was about her work; and at noon, when she gave the call to dinner, there was a curious metallic incisiveness in her voice, which made the call more strident than usual.

It was when Mrs. Colebrook went into the kitchen after dinner for Keith's tray that she said coldly to Susan:

"Susan, I don't like that absurd doggerel of yours."

"Doggerel?" Plainly Susan was genuinely ignorant of what she meant.

"Yes, that extraordinary dinner call of yours. As I said before, I don't like it."

There was a moment's dead silence. The first angry flash in Susan's eyes was followed by a demure smile.

"Don't you? Why, I thought it was real cute, now."

"Well, I don't. You'll kindly not use it any more, Susan," replied Mrs. Colebrook, with dignity.

Once again there was the briefest of silences, then quietly came Susan's answer:

"Oh, no, of course not, ma'am. I won't--when I work for you. There, Mis' Colebrook, here's your tray all ready."

And Mrs. Colebrook, without knowing exactly how it happened, found herself out in the hall with the tray in her hands.

CHAPTER IX

SUSAN SPEAKS HER MIND

"How's Keith?"

It was Monday morning, and as usual Mrs. McGuire, seeing Susan in the clothes-yard, had come out, ostensibly to hang out her own clothes, in reality to visit with Susan while she was hanging out hers.

"About as usual." Susan snapped out the words and a pillow-case with equal vehemence.

"Is he up an' dressed?"

"I don't know. I hain't seen him this mornin'--but it's safe to say he ain't."

"But I thought he was well enough to be up an' dressed right along now."


Dawn - 14/52

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