Every day on Daily Readers' Book Club we offer an article length section of a book until that book is done. We are currently reading Leona Darlymple's When the Yule Log Burns: A Christmas Story. This book will have 14 parts.
"She is very lonely," said Madge uncertainly and Ralph bit his lip.
"Mother lonely!" he said. "She didn't tell me that."
"Roger is wild to stay," went on Madge, looking away--"but I--oh--I fear it is only their wonderful kindness. Still there's the Doctor's rheumatism--and he does need some one to keep his books."
"Rheumatism!" said Ralph sharply.
"Yes," nodded Madge in surprise--"didn't you know. It's been pretty bad this winter. He's been thinking some of breaking in young Doctor Price to take part of his practise now and perhaps all of it later."
"Price!" broke out Ralph indignantly. "Oh--that's absurd! Price couldn't possibly swing Dad's work. He's not clever enough."
"He's the only one there is," said Madge and Ralph fell silent.
All about them lay a glittering moonlit country of peaceful, firelit homes and snowy hills--of long quiet roads and shadowy trees and presently Ralph spoke again.
"You like all this," he said abruptly, "the quiet--the country--and all of it?"
Sister Madge's black eyes glowed.
"After all," she said, "is it not the only way to live? This scent of the pine, the long white road, the wild-fire of the winter sunset and the wind and the hills--are they not God-made messages of mystery to man? Life among man-made things--like your cities--seems somehow to exaggerate the importance of man the maker. Life among the God-made hills dwarfs that artificial sense of egotism. It teaches you to marvel at the mystery of Creation. Yesterday when the Doctor and I were gathering the Christmas boughs, the holly glade in the forest seemed like some ancient mystic Christmas temple of the Druids where one might tell his rosary in crimson holly beads and forget the world!"
Well--perhaps there was something fine and sweet and holy in the country something--a tranquil simplicity--a hearty ruggedness--that city dwellers forfeited in their head-long rush for man-made pleasure. After all, perhaps the most enduring happiness lay in the heart of these quiet hills.
"My chief is very keen on country life," said Ralph suddenly. "He preaches a lot. Development of home-spirit and old-fashioned household gods--that sort of thing! He's a queerish sort of chap--my chief--and a bit too--er--candid at times. He was dad's old classmate, you know." And Ralph fell silent again, frowning.
So Price was to take his father's practise! How it must gall the old Doctor! And mother was lonely, eh?--and Dad's rheumatism getting the best of him--Why Great Guns! mother and dad were growing old! And some of those snow-white hairs of theirs had come from worrying over him--John had said so. Ralph's dark face burned in the chill night wind. Well, for all old John's cutting sarcasm, his father still had faith in him and the trust in young Roger's eloquent eyes had fairly hurt him. God! they did not know! And then this queer Christmas heart-glow. How Griffin and Edwards and the rest of his gay friends would mock him for it? Friends! After all--had he any friends in the finer sense of that finest of words? Such warm-hearted loyal friends for instance as these neighbors of his father's who had been dropping in all day with a hearty smile and a Christmas hand-shake. And black-eyed Sister Madge--this brave, little fighting gipsy-poet here--where--But here Ralph frowned again and looked away and even when the cheerful lights of home glimmered through the trees he was still thinking--after an impetuous burst of confidence to Sister Madge.
So, later, when Doctor Ralph entered his father's study--his chin was very determined.
"I was ashamed to tell you this morning, sir," he said steadily, "but I--I'm no longer on the staff of St. Michael's. My hand was shaking and--and the chief knew why. And, dad," he faced the old Doctor squarely, "I'm coming back home to keep your practise out of Price's fool hands. You've always wanted that and my chief has preached it too, though I couldn't see it somehow until to-day. And presently, sir, when--when my hand is steadier, I'm going to make the little chap walk and run. I've--promised Sister Madge." And the old Doctor cleared his throat and gulped--and finally he wiped his glasses and walked away to the window. For of all things God could give him--this surely was the best!