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Chapter 6

  • The ordeal was not so dreadful, after all. Dr. Trent was as gruff and abrup_s usual, but he did not tell her her ailment was imaginary. After he ha_istened to her symptoms and asked a few questions and made a quic_xamination, he sat for a moment looking at her quite intently. Valanc_hought he looked as if he were sorry for her. She caught her breath for _oment. Was the trouble serious? Oh, it couldn't be, surely—it really hadn'_othered her  _much_ —only lately it had got a little worse.
  • Dr. Trent opened his mouth—but before he could speak the telephone at hi_lbow rang sharply. He picked up the receiver. Valancy, watching him, saw hi_ace change suddenly as he listened, "'Lo—yes—yes— _what?_ —yes—yes"—a brie_nterval—"My God!"
  • Dr. Trent dropped the receiver, dashed out of the room and upstairs withou_ven a glance at Valancy. She heard him rushing madly about overhead, barkin_ut a few remarks to somebody—presumably his housekeeper. Then he came tearin_ownstairs with a club bag in his hand, snatched his hat and coat from th_ack, jerked open the street door and rushed down the street in the directio_f the station.
  • Valancy sat alone in the little office, feeling more absolutely foolish tha_he had ever felt before in her life. Foolish—and humiliated. So this was al_hat had come of her heroic determination to live up to John Foster and cas_ear aside. Not only was she a failure as a relative and non-existent as _weetheart or friend, but she was not even of any importance as a patient. Dr.
  • Trent had forgotten her very presence in his excitement over whatever messag_ad come by the telephone. She had gained nothing by ignoring Uncle James an_lying in the face of family tradition.
  • For a moment she was afraid she was going to cry. It  _was_  al_o—ridiculous. Then she heard Dr. Trent's housekeeper coming down the stairs.
  • Valancy rose and went to the office door.
  • "The doctor forgot all about me," she said with a twisted smile.
  • "Well, that's too bad," said Mrs. Patterson sympathetically. "But it wasn'_uch wonder, poor man. That was a telegram they 'phoned over from the Port.
  • His son has been terribly injured in an auto accident in Montreal. The docto_ad just ten minutes to catch the train. I don't know what he'll do i_nything happens to Ned—he's just bound up in the boy. You'll have to com_gain, Miss Stirling. I hope it's nothing serious."
  • "Oh, no, nothing serious," agreed Valancy. She felt a little less humiliated.
  • It was no wonder poor Dr. Trent had forgotten her at such a moment.
  • Nevertheless, she felt very flat and discouraged as she went down the street.
  • Valancy went home by the short-cut of Lover's Lane. She did not often g_hrough Lover's Lane—but it was getting near supper-time and it would never d_o be late. Lover's Lane wound back of the village, under great elms an_aples, and deserved its name. It was hard to go there at any time and no_ind some canoodling couple—or young girls in pairs, arms intertwined,
  • earnestly talking over their secrets. Valancy didn't know which made her fee_ore self-conscious and uncomfortable.
  • This evening she encountered both. She met Connie Hale and Kate Bayley, in ne_ink organdy dresses with flowers stuck coquettishly in their glossy, bar_air. Valancy had never had a pink dress or worn flowers in her hair. Then sh_assed a young couple she didn't know, dandering along, oblivious t_verything but themselves. The young man's arm was around the girl's wais_uite shamelessly. Valancy had never walked with a man's arm about her. Sh_elt that she ought to be shocked—they might leave that sort of thing for th_creening twilight, at least—but she wasn't shocked. In another flash o_esperate, stark honesty she owned to herself that she was merely envious.
  • When she passed them she felt quite sure they were laughing at her—pityin_er—"there's that queer little old maid, Valancy Stirling. They say she neve_ad a beau in her whole life"—Valancy fairly ran to get out of Lover's Lane.
  • Never had she felt so utterly colourless and skinny and insignificant.
  • Just where Lover's Lane debouched on the street, an old car was parked.
  • Valancy knew that car well—by sound, at least—and everybody in Deerwood kne_t. This was before the phrase "tin Lizzie" had come into circulation—i_eerwood, at least; but if it had been known, this car was the tinniest o_izzies—though it was not a Ford but an old Grey Slosson. Nothing mor_attered and disreputable could be imagined.
  • It was Barney Snaith's car and Barney himself was just scrambling up fro_nder it, in overalls plastered with mud. Valancy gave him a swift, furtiv_ook as she hurried by. This was only the second time she had ever seen th_otorious Barney Snaith, though she had heard enough about him in the fiv_ears that he had been living "up back" in Muskoka. The first time had bee_early a year ago, on the Muskoka road. He had been crawling out from unde_is car then, too, and he had given her a cheerful grin as she went by—_ittle, whimsical grin that gave him the look of an amused gnome. He didn'_ook bad—she didn't believe he was bad, in spite of the wild yarns that wer_lways being told of him. Of course he went tearing in that terrible old Gre_losson through Deerwood at hours when all decent people were in bed—ofte_ith old "Roaring Abel," who made the night hideous with his howls—"both o_hem dead drunk, my dear." And every one knew that he was an escaped convic_nd a defaulting bank clerk and a murderer in hiding and an infidel and a_llegitimate son of old Roaring Abel Gay and the father of Roaring Abel'_llegitimate grandchild and a counterfeiter and a forger and a few other awfu_hings. But still Valancy didn't believe he was bad. Nobody with a smile lik_hat could be bad, no matter what he had done.
  • It was that night the Prince of the Blue Castle changed from a being of gri_aw and hair with a dash of premature grey to a rakish individual wit_verlong, tawny hair, dashed with red, dark-brown eyes, and ears that stuc_ut just enough to give him an alert look but not enough to be called flyin_ibs. But he still retained something a little grim about the jaw.
  • Barney Snaith looked even more disreputable than usual just now. It was ver_vident that he hadn't shaved for days, and his hands and arms, bare to th_houlders, were black with grease. But he was whistling gleefully to himsel_nd he seemed so happy that Valancy envied him. She envied him his light-
  • heartedness and his irresponsibility and his mysterious little cabin up on a_sland in Lake Mistawis—even his rackety old Grey Slosson. Neither he nor hi_ar had to be respectable and live up to traditions. When he rattled past he_ few minutes later, bareheaded, leaning back in his Lizzie at a rakish angle,
  • his longish hair blowing in the wind, a villainous-looking old black pipe i_is mouth, she envied him again. Men had the best of it, no doubt about that.
  • This outlaw was happy, whatever he was or wasn't. She, Valancy Stirling,
  • respectable, well-behaved to the last degree, was unhappy and had always bee_nhappy. So there you were.
  • Valancy was just in time for supper. The sun had clouded over, and a dismal,
  • drizzling rain was falling again. Cousin Stickles had the neuralgia. Valanc_ad to do the family darning and there was no time for  _Magic of Wings_.
  • "Can't the darning wait till tomorrow?" she pleaded.
  • "Tomorrow will bring its own duties," said Mrs. Frederick inexorably.
  • Valancy darned all the evening and listened to Mrs. Frederick and Cousi_tickles talking the eternal, niggling gossip of the clan, as they knitte_rearily at interminable black stockings. They discussed Second Cousi_ilian's approaching wedding in all its bearings. On the whole, they approved.
  • Second Cousin Lilian was doing well for herself.
  • "Though she hasn't hurried," said Cousin Stickles. "She must be twenty-five."
  • "There have not—fortunately—been many old maids in our connection," said Mrs.
  • Frederick bitterly.
  • Valancy flinched. She had run the darning needle into her finger.
  • Third Cousin Aaron Gray had been scratched by a cat and had blood-poisoning i_is finger. "Cats are most dangerous animals," said Mrs. Frederick. "I woul_ever have a cat about the house."
  • She glared significantly at Valancy through her terrible glasses. Once, fiv_ears ago, Valancy had asked if she might have a cat. She had never referre_o it since, but Mrs. Frederick still suspected her of harbouring the unlawfu_esire in her heart of hearts.
  • Once Valancy sneezed. Now, in the Stirling code, it was very bad form t_neeze in public.
  • "You can always repress a sneeze by pressing your finger on your upper lip"
  • said Mrs. Frederick rebukingly.
  • Half-past nine o'clock and so, as Mr. Pepys would say, to bed. But Firs_ousin Stickles' neuralgic back must be rubbed with Redfern's Liniment.
  • Valancy did that. Valancy always had to do it. She hated the smell o_edfern's Liniment—she hated the smug, beaming, portly, be-whiskered, be-
  • spectacled picture of Dr. Redfern on the bottle. Her fingers smelled of th_orrible stuff after she got into bed, in spite of all the scrubbing she gav_hem.
  • Valancy's day of destiny had come and gone. She ended it as she had begun it,
  • in tears.