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- Red Pepper Burns - 1/29 -


Red Pepper Burns

by Grace S. Richmond

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I. IN WHICH HE VOWS A VOW

II. IN WHICH HE CREATES A CIRCUS

III. IN WHICH HE ASSUMES A RESPONSIBILITY

IV. IN WHICH HE MAKES A CONCESSION

V. IN WHICH HE IS ROUGH ON A FRIEND

VI. IN WHICH HE PRESCRIBES FOR HIMSELF

VII. IN WHICH HE CONTINUES TO SAW WOOD

VIII. IN WHICH HE IS UNREASONABLY PREOCCUPIED

IX. IN WHICH HE SUFFERS A DEFEAT

X. IN WHICH HE PROVES HIMSELF A HOST

XI. IN WHICH HE GETS EVEN WITH HIMSELF

XII. IN WHICH HE HAS HIS OWN WAY

XIII. IN WHICH HE MAKES NO EVENING CALL

XIV. IN WHICH HE DEFIES SUPERSTITION

CHAPTER I

IN WHICH HE VOWS A VOW

"There comes the Green Imp "

"How can you tell?"

"Don't you hear? Red's coming in on five cylinders for all he can get out of 'em. Anybody else would stop and fix up. He's in too much of a hurry - as usual."

The Green Imp tore past the porch where Burns's neighbours waved arms of greeting which he failed to see, for he did not turn his head. The car went round the curve of the driveway at perilous speed, and only the fact that from road to old red barn was a good twenty rods made it seem possible that the Green Imp could come to a standstill in time to prevent its banging into the rear wall of the barn.

Two minutes later Burns ran by the Chesters' porch on his way to his own. Chester hailed him.

"What's your everlasting hurry, Red? Come up and sit down and cool off."

"Not now," called back a voice curtly, out of the June twilight. The big figure ran on and disappeared into the small house, the door slamming shut behind it.

"Red's in a temper. Tell by the sound of his voice.

"Is he ever in anything except a temper?" inquired a guest of the Chesters. Arthur Chester turned on her.

"Show's you don't know him much, Pauline. He's the owner of the fiercest good disposition ever heard of. He's the pepperest proposition of an angel this earth has ever seen. He's a red-headed, sharp-tongued brute of a saint - "

"Why, Arthur Chester!"

"He's a pot of mustard that's clear balm - if you don't mind getting stung when it's applied."

"Well, of all the - "

"I'm going over to get something for this abominable headache - and, incidentally, to find out what's the row. He's probably lost a patient - it always goes to his brain like that. When he abuses his beloved engine that way it's because some other machinery has stopped somewhere."

"If he's lost a patient you'd better let him alone, dear," advised his wife, Winifred.

"No - he needs to get his mind off it, on me. I can fix up a few symptoms for him."

"He'll see through you," called Mrs. Chester softly, after him.

"No doubt of that. But it may divert him, just the same."

Chester made his way across the lawn and in at the side door which led to the dimly lighted village offices of Redfield Pepper Burns, physician and surgeon. Not that the gilt-lettered sign on the glass of the office door read that way. "R. F. Burns, M.D." was the brief inscription above the table of "office hours," and the owner of the name invariably so curtailed it. But among his friends the full name had inevitably been turned into the nickname, for the big, red-haired, quick-tempered, warm-hearted fellow was "Red Pepper Burns" as irresistibly to them as he had been, a decade earlier, to his classmates in college.

As Chester went in at the door a figure arose slowly from its position - flung full length, face downward, on a couch in the shadowy inner office and came into view.

"Toothache? Dentist down the street," said a blurred voice unsympathetically.

Chester laughed. "Oh, come, Red," said he. "Give me some of that headache dope. I'm all out."

"Glad to hear it. You don't get any more from me."

"Why not? I've got a sure-enough headache - I didn't come over to quiz you. The blamed thing whizzes like a buzz saw."

"Can't help it. Go soak it."

Chester advanced. "I'll get the powders myself, then. I know the bottle."

A substantial barrier interposed. "No, you don't. You've taken up six ounces of that stuff do seven days. You quit to-night."

"Look here, Red, what's the use of taking it out on me like that, if you are mad at something? If your head - "

"I wish it did ache - like ten thousand furies. It might take some of the pressure off somewhere else," growled R. P. Burns. He shut the door of the inner office hard behind him.

"I thought so," declared Arthur Chester, suddenly forgetting about his headache in his anxiety to know the explanation of the five cylinders. It was a small suburban town in which they lived, and if something had gone wrong it was a matter of common interest. "Can you tell me about it ?" he asked - a little diffidently, for none knew better than he that things could not always be told, and that no lips were locked tighter than Red Pepper's when the secret was not his to tell.

"Engine's on the blink. Got to go out and fix it," was the unpromising reply. Burns picked up a sparkplug from the office desk as he spoke.

"Had your dinner?"

"Don't want it."

"Shall I go out with you?"

The answer was an unintelligible grunt. As Chester was about to follow his friend out - for there could be no doubt that Red Pepper Burns was his friend in spite of this somewhat surly, though by no means unusual, treatment - another door opened tentatively, and a head was cautiously inserted.

"Your dinner's ready, Doctor Burns," said a doubtful voice.

Burns turned. "Leave a pitcher of milk on the table for me, Cynthia," he said in a gentler voice than Chester had yet heard from him tonight, crisp though it was. "Nothing else."

Chester, catching a glimpse of a brightly lighted dining-room and a table lavishly spread, undertook to remonstrate. He had seen the housekeeper's disappointed face, also. But Burns cut him short.

"Come along - if you must," said he, and stalked out into the night.

For an hour, in the light from one of the Green Imp's lamps, Chester sat on an overturned box and watched Burns work. He worked savagely, as if applying surgical measures to a mood as well as to a machine. He worked like a skilled mechanic as well; every turn of a nut, every polish of a thread meaning definite means to an end. The night was hot and he had thrown off coat and collar and rolled his sleeves high, so a brawny arm gleamed in the bright lamplight, and the open shirt


Red Pepper Burns - 1/29

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