A Spinner in the Sun (Chapter 4, page 2 of 5)

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Chapter 4

He wrote frequently, however, and Doctor Dexter invariably went to the post-office himself on the days Ralph's letters were expected. He had the entire correspondence on file and whiled away many a lonely evening by reading and re-reading the breezy epistles. The last one was in his pocket now.

"To think, Father," Ralph had written, "in three weeks more or less, I shall be at home with my sheepskin and a fine new shingle with 'Dr. Ralph Dexter' painted on it, all ready to hang up on the front of the house beside yours. I'll be glad to get out of the grind for a while, I can tell you that. I've worked as His Satanic Majesty undoubtedly does when he receives word that a fresh batch of Mormons has hit the trail for the good-intentions pavement. Decensus facilis Averni. That's about all the Latin I've got left.

"At first, I suppose, there won't be much for me to do. I'll have to win the confidence of the community by listening to the old ladies' symptoms three or four hours a day, regularly. Finally, they'll let me vaccinate the kids and the rest will be pitifully easy. Kids always like me, for some occult reason, and if the children cry for me, it won't be long till I've got your whole blooming job away from you. Never mind, though, dad--I'll be generous and whack up, as you've always done with me."

Remembering the boyishness of it, Anthony Dexter smiled a little and took another satisfying look at the pictured face before him. Ralph's eyes were as his father's had been--frank and friendly and clear, with no hint of suspicion. His chin was firm and his mouth determined, but the corners of it turned up decidedly, and the upper lip was short. The unprejudiced observer would have seen merely an honest, intelligent, manly young fellow, who looked as if he might be good company. Anthony Dexter saw all this--and a great deal more.

It was his pride that he was unemotional. By rigid self-discipline, he had wholly mastered himself. His detachment from his kind was at first spasmodic, then exceptionally complete. Excepting Ralph, his relation to the world was that of an unimpassioned critic. He was so sure of his own ground that he thought he considered Ralph impersonally, also.

Over a nature which, at the beginning, was warmly human, Doctor Dexter had laid this glacial mask. He did what he had to do with neatness and dispatch. If an operation was necessary, he said so at once, not troubling himself to approach the subject gradually. If there was doubt as to the outcome, he would cheerfully advise the patient to make a will first, but there was seldom doubt, for those white, blunt fingers were very sure. He believed in the clean-cut, sudden stroke, and conducted his life upon that basis.

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