“Oh, William!” she clasped her hands. “Does it hurt all the time?”
Her solicitude was flattering.
“I don’t talk much about it, anyway, do I?” he said manfully.
She started up and stared at him with big blue eyes.
“Oh, William! Is it—is it your—lungs? I’ve got an aunt that’s got lungs and she coughs and coughs,” William coughed hastily, “and it hurts her and makes her awful bad. Oh, William, I do hope you’ve not got lungs.”
Her tender, anxious little face was upturned to him. “I guess I have got lungs,” he said, “but I don’t make a fuss about ’em.”
He coughed again.
“What does the doctor say about it?”
William considered a minute.
“He says it’s lungs all right,” he said at last. “He says I gotter be jolly careful.”
“William, would you like my new paintbox?”
“I don’t think so. Not now. Thanks.”
“I’ve got three balls and one’s quite new. Wouldn’t you like it, William?”
“No—thanks. You see, it’s no use my collectin’ a lot of things. You never know—with lungs.”
Her distress was pathetic.
“Of course,” he said hastily, “if I’m careful it’ll be all right. Don’t you worry about me.”
“Joan!” from the house.
“That’s Mother. Good-bye, William dear. If Father brings me home any chocolate, I’ll bring it in to you. I will—honest. Thanks for the Gooseberry Eyes. Good-bye.”
“Good-bye—and don’t worry about me,” he added bravely.
He put another Gooseberry Eye into his mouth and wandered round aimlessly to the front of the house. His grown-up sister, Ethel, was at the front door, shaking hands with a young man.
“I’ll do all I can for you,” she was saying earnestly.
Their hands were clasped.
“I know you will,” he said equally earnestly.
Both look and handclasp were long. The young man walked away. Ethel stood at the door, gazing after him, with a far-away look in her eyes. William was interested.