Chapter XXXI. What Susan Did Not See
 

There was apparently no limit to Daniel Burton's enthusiastic cooperation with Dorothy Parkman on the matter of establishing a workroom for the blind. He set to work with her at once. The very next morning after her initial visit, he went with her to Mazie Sanborn's father, and together they formulated the first necessary plans.

Thomas Sanborn was generous, and cordially enthusiastic, though his words and manner carried the crisp terseness of the busy man whose time is money. At the end of five minutes he summoned one David Patch to the office, and introduced him to Miss Dorothy and Daniel Burton as one of his most expert engineers.

"And now I'll turn the whole thing over to you," he declared briskly, with his finger already on the button that would summon his stenographer for dictation. "Just step into that room there and stay as long as you like. Whatever Patch says I'll back up. You'll find him thoroughly capable and trustworthy. And now good luck to you," he finished, throwing wide the door of the adjoining room.

The next moment Miss Dorothy and Daniel Burton found themselves alone with the keen-eyed, alert little man who had been introduced as David Patch. And David Patch did, indeed, appear to be very capable. He evidently understood his business, and he gave interested attention to Miss Dorothy's story of what she had seen, and of what she wished now to try to do. He took them then for a tour of the great shop, especially to the department where the busy fingers were winding with tape the thousands of wire coils.

Miss Dorothy's eyes sparkled with excitement, and she fairly clapped her hands in her delight, while Daniel Burton said that even he could see the possibilities of that kind of work for their purpose.

At the end of a long hour of talking and planning, Miss Dorothy and Daniel Burton started for home. But even then Daniel Burton had yet more to say, for at his gate, which was on Miss Dorothy's way home, he begged her to come in for a moment.

"I had another letter to-day about a blind soldier--this time from Baltimore. I want to show it to you. You see, so many write to me, on account of my own boy. You will come in, just a minute?"

"Why, yes, of course I--will." The pause, and the half-stifled word that finished the sentence came as the tall figure of Keith Burton turned the corner of the piazza and walked toward the steps.

"Hullo! Dad?" Keith's voice was questioning.

"Yes; and--"

"And Dorothy Parkman," broke in the girl with a haste so precipitate as to make her almost choke.

"Miss Parkman?" Once again, for a moment, Keith's face lighted as with a flame. "Come up. Come around on the south side," he cried eagerly. "I've been sunning myself there. You'd think it was May instead of March."

"No, she can't go and sun herself with you," interposed Daniel Burton with mock severity. "She's coming with me into the house. I want to show her something."

"Well, I--I like that," retorted the youth. He spoke jauntily, and gave a short little laugh. But the light had died from his face and a slow red had crept to his forehead.

"Well, she can't. She's coming with me," reiterated the man. "Now run back to your sun bath. If you're good maybe we'll be out pretty soon," he laughed back at his son, as he opened the house door for his guest. "That's right--you didn't want him to know, yet, did you?" he added, looking a bit anxiously into the girl's somewhat flushed face as he closed the hall door.

"Quite right. No, I don't want him to know yet. There's so much to be done to get started, and he'd want to help. And he couldn't help about that part; and't would only fret him and make him unhappy."

"My idea exactly," nodded the man. "When we get the room, and the goods there, we'll want to tell him then."

"Of course, you'll tell him then," cried the girl.

"Yes, indeed, of course we will!" exclaimed the man, very evidently not noticing the change in the pronoun. "Now, if you'll wait a minute I'll get that letter, then we'll go out to Keith on the piazza."

It was a short letter, and one quickly read; and very soon they were out on the piazza again. But Miss Dorothy said "No, no!" very hastily when he urged her to go around on the other side; and she added, "I really must go home now," as she hurried down the steps. Daniel Burton went then around the corner of the piazza to explain her absence to his son Keith. But he need not have hurried. His son Keith was not there.

For all the good progress that was made on that first day, things seemed to move a bit slowly after that. To begin with, the matter of selecting a suitable room gave no little difficulty. The right room in the right location seemed not to be had; and Daniel Burton even suggested that they use some room in his own house. But after a little thought he gave up this idea as being neither practical nor desirable.

Meanwhile he was in daily communication with Dorothy Parkman, and the two spent hours together, thrashing out the different problems one by one as they arose, sometimes at her home, more frequently at his; for "home" to Dorothy in Hinsdale meant the Sanborn house, where Mazie was always in evidence--and Daniel Burton did not care for Mazie. Especially he did not care for her advice and assistance on the problems that were puzzling him now.

To be sure, at his own home there was Keith; but he contrived to avoid Keith on most occasions. Besides, Keith himself seemed quite inclined to keep out of the way (particularly if he heard the voice of Dorothy Parkman), which did not disturb Daniel Burton in the least, under the circumstances. Until they got ready to tell Keith, he was rather glad that he did keep so conveniently out of the way. And as Dorothy seemed always glad to avoid seeing Keith or talking to him, there was really very little trouble on that score; and they could have their consultations in peace and quietness.

And there were so many of them--those consultations! When at last the room was found, there were the furnishings to select, and the final plans to be made for the real work to be done. David Patch proved himself to be invaluable then. As if by magic a long table appeared, and the coils and the tape, and all the various paraphernalia of a properly equipped winding-room marched smoothly into place. Meanwhile three soldiers and one civilian stood ready and eager to be taught, needing only the word of command to begin.

"And now we'll tell Keith," said Daniel Burton.

"Yes; now you must tell Keith," said Miss Dorothy.

"To-morrow at nine."

"To-morrow at nine," bowed Miss Dorothy.

"I'll bring him down and we'll show him."

"And I do so hope he'll like it."

"Of course, he'll like it!" cried Daniel Burton. "You wait and see."

But she did not see. She was not there to see.

Promptly at nine o'clock Daniel Burton appeared at the winding-room with Keith. But Dorothy Parkman was nowhere in sight. He waited ten, fifteen minutes; then he told Keith the story of the room, and of what they hoped to do there, fuming meanwhile within himself because he had to tell it alone.

But it was not lack of interest that kept Miss Dorothy away. It could not have been; for that very afternoon she sought Daniel Burton out and asked eagerly what his son had said, and how he had taken it. And her eyes shone and her breath quickened at the story Daniel Burton told; and so eager was she to know every little word that had fallen from Keith's lips that she kept Daniel Burton repeating over and over each minute detail.

Yet the next day when Keith and four other blind youths began work in earnest, she never once went near Keith's chair, though she went often to the others, dropping here and there a word of encouragement or a touch of aiding fingers. When night came, however, and she found an opportunity for a few words alone with Daniel Burton, she told him that, in her opinion, Keith had done the best work of the five, and that it was perfectly marvelous the way he was taking hold. And again her eyes sparkled and her breath quickened; and she spent the entire ten minutes talking about Keith to his father. Yet the next day, when the work began again, she still went to the back of every chair but Keith's.

Things happened very rapidly after that. It was not a week before the first long table in the big room was filled with eager workers, and the second one had to be added to take care of the newcomers.

The project was already the talk of the town, and not the least excited and interested of the observers was John McGuire's mother. When the news came of the second table's being added to the equipment of the place, she hurried over to Susan's kitchen without delay-- though with the latest poem of her son's as the ostensible excuse.

"It's 'The Stumbling-Block,'" she announced. "He just got it done yesterday, an' I copied it for you. I think it's the best yet," she beamed, handing over a folded paper. "It's kind of long, so don't stop to read it now. Say, is it true? Have they had to put in another table at that blind windin'-room?"

"They have."

"Well, if that ain't the greatest! I think it's just grand. They took my John down there to see the place yesterday. Do you know? That boy is a different bein' since his book an' his writin'. An' he's learnin' to do such a lot of things for himself, an' he's so happy in it! An' he doesn't mind seein' anybody now. An' it's all owin' to your wonderful Keith an' his father. I wouldn't ever have believed it of them."

Susan's chin came up a bit.

"I would. I knew. An' I always told you that Daniel Burton was a superlative man in every way, an' his son's jest like him. Only you wouldn't believe me."

"Nobody'd believe you," maintained Mrs. McGuire spiritedly. "Nobody'd believe such a thing could be as my John bein' changed like that--an' all those others down to the windin'-room, too. They say it's perfectly marvelous what Keith an' his father are doin' with those men an' boys. Aren't they awful happy over it--Keith an' his father, I mean?"

"Daniel Burton is. Why, he's like a different man, Mis' McGuire. You'd know that, jest to see him walk, an' hear him speak. An' I don't hear nothin' more about his longin' to get over there. I guess he thinks he's got work enough to do right here. An' he hardly ever touches his war maps these days."

"But ain't Keith happy, too?"

"Y-yes, an' no," hesitated Susan, her face clouding a little. "Oh, he's gone into it heart an' soul; an' while he's workin' on somethin' he's all right. But when it's all quiet, an' he's settin' alone, I don't like the look on his face. But I know he's glad to be helpin' down there; an' I know it's helpin' him, too."

"It's helpin' everybody--not forgettin' Miss Dorothy Parkman," added Mrs. McGuire, with a smile and a shrug, as she rose to go. "But, then, of course, we all know what she's after."

"After! What do you mean?"

"Susan Betts!" With a jerk Mrs. McGuire faced about. "It ain't possible, with eyes in your head, that you hain't seen!"

"Seen what?"

"Well, my lan'! With that girl throwin' herself at Daniel Burton's head for the last six weeks, an' you calmly set there an' ask 'seen what?'!"

"Daniel Burton--Dorothy Parkman!" There was no mistaking Susan's dumfounded amazement.

"Yes, Daniel Burton an' Dorothy Parkman. Oh, I used to think it was Keith; but when the money came to old Daniel I guess she thought he wasn't so old, after all. Besides, Keith, with his handicap--you couldn't blame the girl, after all, I s'pose."

"Daniel Burton an' Dorothy Parkman!" repeated Susan, this time with the faintness of stupefaction.

"Why, Susan, you must've seen it--her runnin' in here every day, walkin' home with him, an' talk, talk, talkin' to him every chance she gets!"

"But, they--they've been makin' plans for--for the work," murmured Susan.

"Work! Well, I guess it no need to've taken quite so many consultations for just the work. Besides, she never thought of such a scheme as this before the money came, did she? Not much she did! Oh, come, Susan, wake up! She'll be walkin' off with him right under your nose if you don't look out," finished Mrs. McGuire with a sly laugh, as she took her departure.

Left alone, Susan sat for some time absorbed in thought, a deep frown on her face; then with a sigh and a shrug, as if throwing off an incomprehensible burden, she opened the paper Mrs. McGuire had left with her.

Once, twice, three times she read the verses; then with a low chuckle she folded up the paper, tucked it into her apron pocket, and rose to her feet. A minute later she had attacked the pile of dishes in the sink, and was singing lustily:

"I've taken my worries, an' taken my woes,
 I have, I have,
 An' shut 'em up where nobody knows,
 I have, I have.
 I chucked 'em down, that's what I did,
 An' now I'm sittin' upon the lid,
 An' we'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marchin' home.
 I'm sittin' upon the lid, I am,
 Hurrah! Hurrah!
 I'm tryin' to be a little lamb,
 Hurrah! Hurrah!
 But I'm feelin' more like a great big slam
 Than a nice little peaceful woolly lamb,
 But we'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marchin' home."