THE rain had poured in torrents all day, and now, for the third time since morning, I came home, wet, uncomfortable and weary. I half dreaded to look at the slate, lest some urgent call should stare me in the face.
"It must indeed be a case of life and death, that takes me out again to-night," said I, as my good wife met me in the entry, and with light hands, made active by love, assisted in the removal of my great coat and comforter.
"Now come into the sitting-room," she said, "your slippers are on the rug, and your dressing-gown warmed and waiting. Tea is ready, and will be on the table by the time you feel a little comfortable. What a dreadful day it has been!"
"Dreadful for those who have been compelled to face the storm," I remarked, as I drew off my boots, and proceeded to take advantage of all the pleasant arrangements my thoughtful wife had ready for my solace and delight.
It was on my lip to inquire if any one had called since I went out, but the ringing of the tea-bell sent my thought in a new direction; when, with my second self leaning on an arm, and my little Aggy holding tightly by my hand, I moved on to the dining-room, all the disagreeable things of the day forgotten.
"Has any one been here?" I asked, as I handed my cup for a third replenishing. Professional habit was too strong—the query would intrude itself.
"Mrs. Wallingford called to see you."
"Ah! Is anybody sick?"
"I believe so—but she evaded my inquiry, and said that she wished to speak a word with the Doctor."
"She don't want me to call over to-night, I hope. Did she leave any word?"
"No. She looked troubled in her mind, I thought."
"No other call?"
"Yes. Mary Jones sent word that something was the matter with the baby. It cried nearly all last night, her little boy said, and to-day has fever, and lies in a kind of stupor."
"That case must be seen to," I remarked, speaking to myself.
"You might let it go over until morning," suggested my wife. "At any rate, I would let them send again before going. The child may be better by this time."
"A call in time may save life here, Constance," I made answer; the sense of duty growing stronger as the inner and outer man felt the renovating effects of a good supper, and the brightness and warmth of my pleasant home. "And life, you know, is a precious thing—even a baby's life."
And I turned a meaning glance upon the calm, sweet face of our latest born, as she lay sleeping in her cradle. That was enough. I saw the tears spring instantly to the eyes of my wife.
"I have not a word to say. God forbid, that in the weakness of love and care for you, dear husband, I should draw you aside from duty. Yes—yes! The life of a baby is indeed a precious thing!"
And bending over the cradle, she left a kiss on the lips, and a tear on the pure brow of our darling. Now was I doubly strengthened for the night. There arose at this instant a wild storm-wail, that shrieked for a brief time amid the chimneys, and around the eaves of our dwelling, and then went moaning away, sadly, dying at last in the far distance....