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"Where have you been?" she asked quietly as she came and stood against the other side of the cas.e.m.e.nt. The pain in his gray eyes set her heart to throbbing, but she had herself well in hand.
"When I came up the Road the others were all here and I waited to see you until they were gone," he answered her, just as quietly and in just as controlled a voice and with possibly just as wild a throb in his heart "I have been writing to Doctor Stein and there are the Press bulletins, subject to your approval," He pointed to some letters on the table which she never deigned to notice. She had drawn herself to her slim young height and looked him full in the face with a beautiful stateliness in her manner and glance. Her dark eyes never left his and she seemed waiting for him to say something further to her.
"You know without my telling you how very glad I am for you," he said gently and his hand trembled on the window ledge.
"Are you?" she asked in a low tone, still with her eyes fixed on his face, but her lips pressed close with a sharp intake of breath.
"Yes," he answered quickly, and this time the note of pain would sound clearly in his voice. "Yes, no matter what it means to me!"
The pain of it, the haggard gray eyes, the firm young mouth and the droop of the broad shoulders were too much for the singer girl and she smiled shakily as she held out her arms.
"Tom Mayberry," she pleaded with a little laugh, "please, please don't treat me this way. I promised your mother to be stern with you but--I can't! Don't you see that it can only mean to me what it means to your happiness--if--do you, could you possibly think it would make any difference to me? Do you suppose for all the wide world I would throw away what I have found here in Providence under Harpeth Hills--my Mother and you? Ah, Tom, I'll be good, I'll go to Italy and India with you! I'll--I'll 'do for' you just the best I can!"
"But, dear, it isn't right at all," whispered the young Doctor to the back of the singer lady's head, as he laid his cheek against the dark braids. "Your voice belongs to the world--there must be no giving it up. I can't let you--I--"
"Listen," said the singer girl as she raised her head and looked up into his face. "For all your life you will have to go where pain and grief call you, won't you? Can't you take my voice with you and use it--as one of your--remedies? Your Mother says songs can comfort where words fail; let me go with you! Your father brought her and her herb basket to Providence, won't you take me and my songs out into the world with you? Don't send me back to sing in the dreadful crowded theaters to people who pay to hear me. Let me give it all my lifelong, as she has given herself here in Providence. Please, Tom, please!" And again she buried her head against his coat.
And as was his wont, the silent young doctor failed to answer a single word but just held her close and comforted. And how long he would have held her, there is no way to know, because the strain had been too great on Mother Mayberry and in a few minutes she stood calmly in the door and looked at the pair of children with happy but quizzical eyes.
"It's just as well you got Tom Mayberry straightened out quick, Elinory," she remarked in her most jovial tone. "I've been getting madder and madder as I put Martin Luther to bed and though I ain't never had to whip him yet, I'd just about made up my mind to ask him out in the barn and dress him down for onct. Now are you well over your tantrum, sir?" she demanded as she eyed the shamefaced young Doctor delightedly.
"Mother!" he exclaimed as he turned his head away and the color rose under his tan.
"Have you done made up your mind to travel from town to town with Elinory and take in the tickets at the door and make yourself useful to her the rest of your life? Are you a-going to follow her peaceable all over Europe, Asia and Africa?" And her eyes fairly over-danced themselves with delight.
"Mother!" and this time the exclamation came from Miss Wingate as she came over to rest her cheek against Mother Mayberry's arm. She also blushed, but her eyes danced with an echo of the young Doctor's mother's laugh as she beheld his embarra.s.sment.
"Yes," answered the Doctor, rallying at last, "yes, I'm ready to go with her. Will you go too, Mother, as retained physician?"
"Well, I don't know about that," answered his Mother with a laugh; "not till 'Liza Pike have growed up to take my place here. But I'm mighty glad to see you take your dose of humble pie so nice, Tom, and I reckon I'll have to tell you how happy I am about my child here. It was kinder smart of you to cure her and then claim her sweet self as a fee, wasn't it?"
"I do feel that way, Mother, and I don't see how I can let her make the sacrifice. Her future is so brilliant and I--I--"
"Son," said Mother Mayberry with the banter all gone from her rich voice and the love fairly radiating from her face as she laid a tender hand on the singer lady's dark head on her shoulder, "I don't have to ask my honey-bird the choice she have made. A woman don't want to wear her life-work like no jewelry harness nor yet no sacrificial garment, but she loves to clothe herself in it like it were a soft-colored, homespun dress to cover the pillow of her breast and the cradle of her arms to hold the tired folks against. Take her to India's coral strand if you must, for it's gave a wife to follow the husband-star. Long ago I vowed you to the Master's high call and now with these words I dedicates my daughter the same. She have waded through much pain and sorrow, but do it matter along how hard a Road folks travels if at last they come to they Providence?"