CHAPTER I I HAVE A WARNING
When it was all over Mr. Sam came out to the spring-house to say good-by to me before he and Mrs. Sam left. I hated to see him go, after all we had been through together, and I suppose he saw it in my face, for he came over close and stood looking down at me, and smiling. "You saved us, Minnie," he said, "and I needn't tell you we're grateful; but do you know what I think?" he asked, pointing his long forefinger at me. "I think you've enjoyed it even when you were suffering most. Red-haired women are born to intrigue, as the sparks fly upward."
"Enjoyed it!" I snapped. "I'm an old woman before my time, Mr. Sam. What with trailing back and forward through the snow to the shelter-house, and not getting to bed at all some nights, and my heart going by fits and starts, as you may say, and half the time my spinal marrow fairly chilled—not to mention putting on my overshoes every morning from force of habit and having to take them off again, I'm about all in."
"It's been the making of you, Minnie," he said, eying me, with his hands in his pockets. "Look at your cheeks! Look at your disposition! I don't believe you'd stab anybody in the back now!"
(Which was a joke, of course; I never stabbed anybody in the back.)
He sauntered over and dropped a quarter into the slot-machine by the door, but the thing was frozen up and refused to work. I've seen the time when Mr. Sam would have kicked it, but he merely looked at it and then at me.
"Turned virtuous, like everything else around the place. Not that I don't approve of virtue, Minnie, but I haven't got used to putting my foot on the brass rail of the bar and ordering a nut sundae. Hook the money out with a hairpin, Minnie, and buy some shredded wheat in remembrance of me."
He opened the door and a blast of February wind rattled the window-frames. Mr. Sam threw out his chest under his sweater and waved me another good-by.
"Well, I'm off, Minnie," he said. "Take care of yourself and don't sit too tight on the job; learn to rise a bit in the saddle."
"Good-by, Mr. Sam!" I called, putting down Miss Patty's doily and following him to the door; "good-by; better have something before you start to keep you warm."
He turned at the corner of the path and grinned back at me.
"All right," he called. "I'll go down to the bar and get a lettuce sandwich!"
Then he was gone, and happy as I was, I knew I would miss him terribly. I got a wire hairpin and went over to the slot-machine, but when I had finally dug out the money I could hardly see it for tears.
It began when the old doctor died. I suppose you have heard of Hope Sanatorium and the mineral spring that made it famous. Perhaps you have seen the blotter we got out, with a flash-light interior of the spring-house on it, and me handing the old doctor a glass of mineral water, and wearing the embroidered linen waist that Miss Patty Jennings gave me that winter. The blotters were a great success. Below the picture it said, "Yours for health," and in the body of the blotter, in red lettering, "Your system absorbs the health-giving drugs in Hope Springs water as this blotter soaks up ink."
The "Yours for health" was my idea....