FOR a week David had not been near the House that Jack Built, and
that, too, when Jill had been confined within doors for several
days with a cold. Jill, indeed, was inclined to be grieved at
this apparent lack of interest on the part of her favorite
playfellow; but upon her return from her first day of school,
after her recovery, she met her brother with startled eyes.
"Jack, it has n't been David's fault at all," she cried
remorsefully. "He's sick."
"Yes; awfully sick. They've had to send away for doctors and
"Why, Jill, are you sure? Where did you hear this?"
"At school to-day. Every one was talking about it."
"But what is the matter?"
"Fever—some sort. Some say it's typhoid, and some scarlet, and
some say another kind
 that I can't remember; but everybody says
he's awfully sick. He got it down to Glaspell's, some say,—and
some say he did n't. But, anyhow, Betty Glaspell has been sick
with something, and they have n't let folks in there this week,"
finished Jill, her eyes big with terror.
"The Glaspells? But what was David doing down there?"
"Why, you know,—he told us once,—teaching Joe to play. He's
been there lots. Joe is blind, you know, and can't see, but he
just loves music, and was crazy over David's violin; so David
took down his other one—the one that was his father's, you
know—and showed him how to pick out little tunes, just to take
up his time so he would n't mind so much that he could n't see.
Now, Jack, was n't that just like David? Jack, I can't have
anything happen to David!"
"No, dear, no; of course not! I'm afraid we can't any of us, for
that matter," sighed Jack, his forehead drawn into anxious
lines. "I'll go down to the Hollys', Jill, the first thing
tomorrow morning, and see how he is and if there's anything we
can do. Meanwhile, don't take it too much to heart, dear. It may
 half so bad as you think. School-children always get
things like that exaggerated, you must remember," he finished,
speaking with a lightness that he did not feel.
To himself the man owned that he was troubled, seriously
troubled. He had to admit that Jill's story bore the earmarks of
truth; and overwhelmingly he realized now just how big a place
this somewhat puzzling small boy had come to fill in his own
heart. He did not need Jill's anxious "Now, hurry, Jack," the
next morning to start him off in all haste for the Holly
farmhouse. A dozen rods from the driveway he met Perry Larson and
stopped him abruptly.
"Good morning, Larson; I hope this is n't true—what I hear—that
David is very ill."
Larson pulled off his hat and with his free hand sought the one
particular spot on his head to which he always appealed when he
was very much troubled.
"Well, yes, sir, I'm afraid 't is, Mr. Jack—er—Mr. Gurnsey, I
mean. He is turrible sick, poor little chap, an' it's too
bad—that's what it is—too bad!"
"Oh, I'm sorry! I hoped the report was
 exaggerated. I came down
to see if—if there was n't something I could do."
"Well, 'course you can ask—there ain't no law ag'in' that; an'
ye need n't be afraid, neither. The report has got 'round that
it's ketchin'—what he's got, and that he got it down to the
Glaspells'; but 't ain't so. The doctor says he did n't ketch
nothin', an' he can't give nothin'. It's his head an' brain that
ain't right, an' he's got a mighty bad fever. He's been kind of
flighty an' nervous, anyhow, lately.
"As I was sayin', 'course you can ask, but I'm thinkin' there
won't be nothin' you can do ter help. Ev'rythin' that can be done
is bein' done. In fact, there ain't much of anythin' else that is
bein' done down there jest now but 'tendin' ter him. They've got
one o' them 'ere edyercated nurses from the Junction—what wears
caps, ye know, an' makes yer feel as if they knew it all, an' you
did n't know nothin'. An' then there's Mr. an' Mis' Holly
besides. If they had their way, there would n't neither of 'em
let him out o' their sight fur a minute, they're that cut up
"I fancy they think a good deal of the boy
 —as we all do,"
murmured the younger man, a little unsteadily.
Larson wrinkled his forehead in deep thought.
"Yes; an' that's what beats me," he answered slowly; " 'bout
him,—Mr. Holly, I mean. 'Course we'd 'a' expected it of
her—losin' her own boy as she did, an' bein' jest naturally so
sweet an' lovin'-hearted. But him—that's diff'rent. Now, you
know jest as well as I do what Mr. Holly is—every one does, so I
ain't sayin' nothin' sland'rous. He's a good man—a powerful good
man; an' there ain't a squarer man goin' ter work fur. But the
fact is, he was made up wrong side out, an' the seams has always
showed bad—turrible bad, with ravelin's all stickin' out every
which way ter ketch an' pull. But, gosh! I'm blamed if that 'ere
boy ain't got him so smoothed down, you would n't know, scursely,
that he had a seam on him, sometimes; though how he's done it
beats me. Now, there's Mis' Holly—she's tried ter smooth 'em,
I'll warrant, lots of times. But I'm free ter say she hain't
never so much as clipped a ravelin' in all them forty years
they've lived tergether. Fact is, it's worked the other way with
her. All that her
 rubbin' up ag'in' them seams has amounted to is
ter git herself so smoothed down that she don't never dare ter
say her soul's her own, most generally,—anyhow, not if he
happens ter intermate it belongs ter anybody else!"
Jack Gurnsey suddenly choked over a cough.
"I wish I could—do something," he murmured uncertainly.
" 'T ain't likely ye can—not so long as Mr. an' Mis' Holly is on
their two feet. Why, there ain't nothin' they won't do, an'
you'll believe it, maybe, when I tell you that yesterday Mr.
Holly, he tramped all through Sawyer's woods in the rain, jest
ter find a little bit of moss that the boy was callin' for. Think
o' that, will ye? Simeon Holly huntin' moss! An' he got it, too,
an' brung it home, an' they say it cut him up somethin' turrible
when the boy jest turned away, and did n't take no notice. You
understand, 'course, sir, the little chap ain't right in his
head, an' so half the time he don't know what he says."
"Oh, I'm sorry, sorry!" exclaimed Gurnsey, as he turned away, and
hurried toward the farmhouse.
 Mrs. Holly herself answered his low knock. She looked worn and
"Thank you, sir," she said gratefully, in reply to his offer of
assistance, "but there is n't anything you can do, Mr. Gurnsey.
We're having everything done that can be, and every one is very
kind. We have a very good nurse, and Dr. Kennedy has had
consultation with Dr. Benson from the Junction. They are doing
all in their power, of course, but they say that—that it's going
to be the nursing that will count now."
"Then I don't fear for him, surely," declared the man, with
"I know, but—well, he shall have the very best possible—of
"I know he will; but is n't there anything—anything that I can
She shook her head.
"No. Of course, if he gets better—" She hesitated; then lifted
her chin a little higher; "When he gets better," she corrected
with courageous emphasis, "he will want to see you."
"And he shall see me," asserted Gurnsey. "And he will be better,
Mrs. Holly,—I'm sure he will."
 "Yes, yes, of course, only—oh, Mr. Jack, he's so sick—so very
sick! The doctor says he's a peculiarly sensitive nature, and
that he thinks something's been troubling him lately." Her voice
"Poor little chap!" Mr. Jack's voice, too, was husky.
She looked up with swift gratefulness for his sympathy.
"And you loved him, too, I know," she choked. "He talks of you
"Indeed I love him! Who could help it?"
"There could n't anybody, Mr. Jack,—and that's just it. Now,
since he's been sick, we've wondered more than ever who he is.
You see, I can't help thinking that somewhere he's got friends
who ought to know about him—now."
"Yes, I see," nodded the man.
"He is n't an ordinary boy, Mr. Jack. He's been trained in lots
of ways—about his manners, and at the table, and all that. And
lots of things his father has told him are beautiful, just
beautiful! He is n't a tramp. He never was one. And there's his
playing. You know how he can play."
 "Indeed I do! You must miss his playing, too."
"I do; he talks of that, also," she hurried on, working her
fingers nervously together; "but oftenest he—he speaks of
singing, and I can't quite understand that, for he did n't ever
sing, you know."
"Singing? What does he say?" The man asked the question because
he saw that it was affording the overwrought little woman real
relief to free her mind; but at the first words of her reply he
became suddenly alert.
"It's 'his song,' as he calls it, that he talks about, always. It
is n't much—what he says—but I noticed it because he always
says the same thing, like this: 'I'll just hold up my chin and
march straight on and on, and I'll sing it with all my might and
main.' And when I ask him what he's going to sing, he always
says, 'My song—my song,' just like that. Do you think, Mr. Jack,
he did have—a song?"
For a moment the man did not answer. Something in his throat
tightened, and held the words. Then, in a low voice he managed to
"I think he did, Mrs. Holly, and—I think he sang it, too." The
next moment, with a quick lifting of his hat and a murmured "I'll
call again soon," he turned and walked swiftly down the driveway.
So very swiftly, indeed, was Mr. Jack walking, and so
self-absorbed was he, that he did not see the carriage until it
was almost upon him; then he stepped aside to let it pass. What
he saw as he gravely raised his hat was a handsome span of black
horses, a liveried coachman, and a pair of startled eyes looking
straight into his. What he did not see was the quick gesture with
which Miss Holbrook almost ordered her carriage stopped the
minute it had passed him by.