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   As the three started down the hill toward the barn,
Abner had a thought.  "Hit's jest a shame these folks
never let none o' us know they needed a place ta stay
...we got plenty of room over thar at the place, and
we'd a been jest plumb glad ta have 'em."
   This reminded Grandpap of something he had
forgotten before. "Well, this man that called Doc said
they wuz lookin' fer a place ta stay, an' seen this ole
barn warn't bein' used, so they jest put up thar fer the
   "Well..." replied Abner, deep in thought.  "Er,
wharabouts do they live, Grandpap?  Did he say?"
   "Yeah, said they're from over around Pleasant Valley
somewheres," Grandpap said. "He tole Doc he never
had no cash money.. .said it taken ever nickel he had
ta pay his taxes.. .but he said if Doc'd make the call,
he'd work it out ez quick ez he could."
   Lum chuckled to himself.  "Well, ole Doc never
RE-fused a call in his life, I don't reckon."
   "Naw," Abner said, "I've knowed him ta git up in the
dead of night, in the wurst kinda weather, ta go call on
the sick when he knowed afore he went that he
wouldn't never git no pay fer hit."
   "Yeah, I don't know what we'd do without ole Doc in
this cammunity," Lum remarked.  "Whilst they's some
that sez his methods is a little old-fashioned, I
grannies, I'll take my chances with him ever time."
   "Yep, he's pulled me through the shadders time an'
again," Grandpap added.
   "Yeah, I've allus said that Doc never practiced
medicine fer what money he got out of it ez much ez
he does fer the good he kin be ta hiz feller man."
   "Nossir, if thar ever wuz a man who's got a
pre-sarved seat in the better world, hit's ole Doc
Miller," was Lum's final comment on the matter.
   By that time, Lum, Abner, and Grandpap had reached
the ruins of what was once the Gaddis farm.  The
charred remains of the house stood out from the white
snow like something out of another place and time,
and the old ramshackle barn was the only evidence
that a family had ever made its living there.  The three
old men approached the barn cautiously.
   "We better not be talkin' too loud here, fellers,"
warned Grandpap.  "We don't wanna disturb 'em none."
   "But we gotta let Doc know we're here some way or
another," Lum pondered.  "I reckon hit won't hurt
nothin' ta rap on the door, sorta gentle."
   "Naw, go ahead, Lum...they'll be needin' this oil
stove in thar," Abner said.
   Ever so softly, Lum rapped on the barn door.  
Listening, the three held their breath, waiting for some
   "I don't hear a sound in thar," observed Lum.
   "Well, I don't b'lieve ye knocked quite loud enough,"
Abner said critically.  "Maybe they never heared ye."
   "Wait a minute," interrupted Lum. "I hear somebody
comin' ta the door."
   There was the sound of a bolt being lifted, and then
the massive old door slowly swung open with a harsh
creak.  There, framed in the light from the inside,
stood a dried-up little old man wearing a black suit &
spectacles perched on the end of his nose.
   "Well, howdy, Doc," Lum grinned.
   "Oh...hello, there," the old physician responded,
staring at them over the top of his glasses, "Well, what
are you three old codgers doing out here this time of
the night?"
   Grandpap began to explain, "Well, we jest got ta
thinkin' after ye left, Doc, these folks might be needin'
   "Yeah, Doc," Abner broke in, "we brung a oil stove
an' some bed kivers..."
   "An' here's a box o' groceries," Lum finished up.
   Doc examined the gifts closely, "Well now, they're
sure needin' 'em," he said at last.  "They haven't got
any heat of any kind in there.  Takin' what little hay was
left, I piled it up in the manger and made a pretty good
bed, but now these blankets will come in awful handy."
   Lum started to say something, but he changed his
mind at the last minute.  Instead, in a quavering voice,
he asked, "How's the lady, Doc?"
   "Oh, getting along about as well as could be
expected, Lum," replied Doc with an expression that
was not exactly cheerful.  Then, not wishing to go into
detail, he said, "I'll just take these things on inside and
have her husband light this heater and warm that
place up a little...er, you men had better stay out here
for a while."