TOM SLADE PICKS A WINNER
The boy lay in a large, thickly upholstered Morris chair in the living room. His mother had lowered the back of this chair so that he could recline upon it, and she kneeled beside him holding his hand in one of hers while she gently bathed his forehead with the other. She watched his face intently, now and again averting her gaze to observe a young girl, her daughter, who had lifted aside the curtain in the front door and was gazing expectantly out into the quiet street.
“Is that he?” Mrs. Cowell asked anxiously.
“No, it’s a grocery car,” the girl answered.
Her mother sighed in impatience and despair. “Hadn’t you better ’phone again?” she asked.
“I don’t see what would be the use, mother; he said he’d come right away.”
“There he is now,” said Mrs. Cowell.
“No, it’s that Ford across the way,” said the girl patiently.
“I don’t see why people have Fords; look up the street, dear, and see if he isn’t coming; it must be half an hour.”
“It’s only about ten minutes, mother dear; you don’t feel any pain now, do you, Will?”
The boy moved his head from side to side, his mother watching him anxiously.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“I can’t go to camp now, I suppose,” the boy said.
The girl frowned significantly at their mother as if to beseech her not to say the word which would mean disappointment to the boy.
“We’ll talk about that later, dear,” said Mrs. Cowell. “You don’t feel any of that—like you said—that dizzy feeling now?”
“Maybe I could go later,” said the boy.
Again the girl availed herself of the momentary chance afforded by her brother’s averted glance to give her mother a quick look of reproof, as if she had not too high an opinion of her mother’s tact. Poor Mrs. Cowell accepted the silent reprimand and warning and compromised with her daughter by saying:
“Perhaps so, we’ll see.”
“I know what you mean when you say you’ll see,” said the boy wistfully.
“You must just lie still now and not talk,” his mother said, as she soothed his forehead, the while trying to glimpse the street through one of the curtained windows.
In the tenseness of silent, impatient waiting, the clock which stood on the mantel sounded with the clearness of artillery; the noise of a child’s toy express wagon could be heard rattling over the flagstones outside where the voice of a small girl arose loud and clear in the balmy air.
“What are they doing now?” Mrs. Cowell asked irritably.
“They’re coasting, mother.”
“I should think that little Wentworth girl wouldn’t feel much like coasting after what she saw.”
But indeed the little Wentworth girl, having gaped wide-eyed at the spectacle of Wilfred Cowell reeling and collapsing and being carried into the house, had resumed her rather original enterprise of throwing a rubber ball and coasting after it in the miniature express wagon.
“He might be—dying—for all she knows,” said Mrs. Cowell. “He might,” she added, lowering her voice, “he might be——”
“Shh, mother,” pleaded the girl; “you know how children are.”
“I never knew a little girl to make so much noise,” said the distraught lady. “Are you sure he said he’d come right away?”
“For the tenth time, yes, mother.”
Arden Cowell quietly opened the front door and looked searchingly up and down the street. Half-way up the block was the little Wentworth girl enthroned in anything but a demure posture upon her rattling chariot, her legs astride the upheld shaft.
It was a beautiful day of early summer, and the air was heavy with the sweetness of blossoms. Near the end of the quiet, shady block, the monotonous hum of a lawn-mower could be heard making its first rounds upon some area of new grass. A grateful stillness reigned after the return to school of the horde of pupils home for the lunch hour.
Terrace Avenue was a direct route from Bridgeboro Heights to the Grammar School and groups of students passed through here on their way to and from luncheon. It was on the return to school after their exhilarating refreshment that they loitered and made the most noise. Sometimes for a tumultuous brief period their return pilgrimage could be likened to nothing less terrible than a world war occurring during an earthquake. Then suddenly, all would be silence.
It was on the return to school on this memorable day that the boys of Bridgeboro had witnessed the scene destined to have a tragic bearing on the life of Wilfred Cowell. But now, of all that boisterous company, only the little Wentworth girl remained, sovereign of the block, inelegantly squatted upon her rattling, zigzagging vehicle, pursuing the fugitive ball.
Arden Cowell, finding solace in the quietude and fragrance of the outdoors, stood upon the porch scanning the vista up Terrace Avenue and straining her eyes to discover the distant approach of the doctor’s car. But Doctor Brent’s sumptuous Cadillac coupe was not the first car to appear in this quiet, residential neighborhood.
Instead a little Ford, renouncing the advantages of an imposing approach down the long vista, came scooting around the next corner and stopped in front of the house. It was all so sudden and precipitous that Arden Cowell could only stare aghast.