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Mrs. Red Pepper

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The Green Imp, long, low and powerful, carrying besides its two passengers a motor trunk, a number of bulky parcels, and a full share of mud, drew to one side of the road. The fifth April shower of the afternoon was on, although it was barely three o'clock.

Redfield Pepper Burns, physician and surgeon, descended from the car, a brawny figure in an enveloping gray motoring coat. He wore no hat upon his heavy crop of coppery red hair—somewhere under the seat his cap was abandoned, as usual. His face was brown with tan—a strong, fine face, with dark-lashed hazel eyes alight under thick, dark eyebrows. From head to foot he was a rather striking personality.

"This time," said he, firmly, "I'm going to leave the top up. It's putting temptation in the way of something very weak to keep lowering the top. We'll leave it up. There'll be one advantage." He looked round the corner of the top into the face of his companion, as his hands adjusted the straps.

"When we get to the fifty-miles-from-the-office stone, which we're going to do in about five minutes, I can take leave of my bride without having to observe the landscape except from the front."

"So you're going to take leave of her," observed his passenger. She did not seem at all disturbed. As the car moved on she drew back her veil from its position over her face, leaving her head covered only by a close-fitting motoring bonnet of dark green, from within which her face, vivid with the colouring born of many days driving with and without veils, met without flinching the spatter of rain the fitful April wind sent drifting in under the edge of the top. Her black eyelashes caught the drops and held them.

"Yes, I'm going to say good-bye to her at that stone," repeated Burns. "She's been the joy of my life for two weeks, and I'll never forget her. But she couldn't stand for the change of conditions we're going to find the minute we strike the old place. It's only my wife who can face those."

"If the bride is to be left behind, I suppose the bridegroom will stay with her? Together, they'll not be badly off."

Burns laughed. "Ye gods! Is that what I've been—a bridegroom? I'm glad I didn't realize it; it would have made me act queerer than I have. Well, it's been a happy time—a gloriously happy time, but—"

He paused and looked down at her for an instant, rather as if he hesitated to say what was in his mind. He did not know that he had already said it.

But she knew it, and she smiled at him, understanding—and sympathizing. "But you are glad you are on your way back to your work," said she. "So am I."

He drew a relieved breath. "Bless you," said he. "I'm glad you are—if it's true. It's only that I'm so refreshed by this wonderful fortnight that I—well—I want to go to work again—work with all my might. I feel as if I could do the best work of my life. That doesn't mean that I don't dread to see the first patient, for I do. Whoever he is, I hate the sight of him! Can you understand?"

She nodded. "It will be like the first plunge into cold water....