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- The Window-Gazer - 6/55 -
a day or so he would be able to walk with the aid of a cane. And he also knew that, with his walking, his status as an invalid guest would vanish. Luckily, no one but himself could say when the walking stage was reached--hence the strict privacy of his experiments.
"Father thinks that you should be able to walk in about three days," said Miss Farr cheerfully.
Spence said he hoped that Dr. Farr was right. But the rain, he feared, might keep him back a bit, "I am really sorry," he added, "that my presence is so distasteful to the doctor. I have been here almost two weeks and I have seen so little of him that I'm afraid I am keeping him out of his own house."
"No, you are not doing that," the girl's reassurance was cordial enough, "Father is having an outside spell just now. He quite often does. Sometimes for weeks together he spends most of his time out of doors. Then, quite suddenly, he will settle down and be more like-- other people."
It was her way, the professor noticed, to state facts, not to explain them.
"Then he has what I call an 'inside spell,'" she went on. "That is when he does most of his writing. He does some quite good things, you know. And a few of them get published."
"Scientific articles?" asked Spence.
"Well--articles. You might not call them scientific. Science is very exact, isn't it? Father would rather be interesting than exact any day."
Her hearer found no difficulty in believing this.
"His folk-lore stories are the best--and the least exact," continued she, heedless of the shock inflicted upon the professorial mind. "He knows exactly the kind of things Indians tell, and tells it very much better,"
"You mean he--he fakes it?"
"Well--he calls it 'editing.'"
"But, my dear girl, you can't edit folk-lore!"
"But--but it isn't done! Such material loses all value if not authentic."
The question was indifferent. So indifferent, in the face of a matter of such moment, that Hamilton Spence writhed upon his couch. Here at least there was room for genuine missionary work. He cleared his throat.
"I will tell you just how much it matters," he began firmly. But the fates were not with him, neither was his audience. Attracted by some movement which he had missed she, the audience, had slipped to the door, and was opening it cautiously.
"What is it?" asked the baffled lecturer crossly.
"S-ssh! I think it's Sami."
"A tame bear?"
"No. Wait. I'll prop you up so you can see him. Look, behind the veranda post."
The professor looked and forgot about the value of authenticity; for from behind the veranda post a most curious face was peeping--a round, solemn baby face of cafe au lait with squat, wide nose and flat-set eyes.
"A Jap?" exclaimed Spence in surprise.
"No. He's Indian. Some of the babies are so Japaneesy that it's hard to tell the difference. Father says it's a strain of the same blood. But they are not all as pretty as Sami. Isn't he a duck?"
"He is at home in the rain, anyway. Why doesn't he come in?"
"He's afraid of you."
"That's unusual--until one has seen me."
"Sami doesn't need to see a stranger."
"Well, that's primitive enough, surely! Let's call him in."
"I'd like to, but Sami won't come for calling."
"Oh, won't he? Leave the door open and watch him."
As absorbed now as the girl herself, the professor put his finger to his lips and whistled--a low, clear whistle, rather like the calling of a meditative bird. Several times he whistled so, on different notes; and then, to her surprise, the watching girl saw the little wild thing outside stir in answer to the call. Sami came out from behind the post and stood listening, for all the world like an inquiring squirrel. The whistle sounded again, a plaintive, seeking sound, infinitely alluring. It seemed to draw the heart like a living thing. Slowly at first and then with the swift, gliding motion of the woods, the wide-eyed youngster approached the open door and stood there waiting, poised and ready for advance or flight. Again the whistle came, and to it came Sami, straight as a bird to its calling mate.
"Tamed!" said the professor softly. "See, he is not a bit afraid."
"How on earth did you do it?" asked Miss Farr when the shy, brown baby had been duly welcomed. The whistler was visibly vain.
"Oh, it's quite simple. I merely talked to him in his own language."
"I see that. But where did you learn the language?"
"Well, a fellow taught me that--man I met at Ypres. He could have whistled back the dodo, I think. He knew all kinds of calls--said all the wild things answered to them."
"Was he a great naturalist?"
The cheerful vanity faded from Spence's face, leaving it sombre.
"He--would have been," he said briefly.
Miss Farr asked no more questions. It was a restful way she had. And perhaps because she did not ask, the professor felt an unaccustomed impulse. "He was a wonderful chap," he volunteered. "There are few like him in a generation. It seemed--rather a waste."
The girl nodded. "Used or wasted--it's as it happens," she said. "There is no plan."
"That's a heathen sentiment!" The professor recovered his cheerfulness. "A sentiment not at all suited for the contemplation of extreme youth."
"I am not extremely young."
"You? I was referring to our brown brother. He is becoming uneasy again. What's the matter with him?"
Whatever was the matter, it reached, at that moment, an acute stage and Sami disappeared through the door into the kitchen. Perhaps his ears were sharper than theirs and his eyes keener. He may have seen a large umbrella coming across the clearing.
Miss Farr frowned. "Sami is afraid of father," she explained briefly. The door opened as she added, "I wonder why?"
"A caprice of childhood, my daughter," said the old doctor mildly. "Who indeed can account for the vagaries of the young?"
"They are usually quite easy to account for," replied his daughter coldly. "You must have frightened the child some time."
"Tut, tut, my dear. How could an old fogey like myself frighten anyone?"
"I don't know. But I should like to."
Father and daughter looked at each other for a moment. And again the captive on the sofa found himself disliking intensely the glance of the old man's pale blue eyes. He was glad to see that they fell before the grey eyes of the girl.
"Well, well!" murmured Dr. Farr vaguely, looking away. "It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. Tut, tut, a trifle!"
"I don't think so," said she. And abruptly she went out after the child.
"Fanciful, very fanciful," murmured the old man, looking after her. "And stubborn, very stubborn. A bad fault in one so young. But," beaming benevolently upon his guest, "we must not trouble you with our small domestic discords. You are much better, I see, much better. That is good."
"Getting along very nicely, thanks," said Spence. "I was able to change position this morning without assistance."
"Only that?" The doctor's disappointment was patent. "Come, we should progress better than that. If you will allow me to prescribe- -"
"Thank you--no. I feel quite satisfied with the treatment prescribed by old Bones--I mean by my friend, Dr. Rogers. He understands the case thoroughly. One must be patient."
"Quite so, quite so." The curiously blurred face of the doctor seemed for a moment to take on sharper lines. Spence had observed it do this before under stress of feeling. But as the exact feeling which caused the change was usually obscure, it seemed safest to ignore it altogether. He was growing quite expert at ignoring things. For, quite contrary to the usual trend of his character, he
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