Chapter 54

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It seems like winter will never let go of its grip. People even begin wild speculations about its tenacity, blaming the long season on the huge guns erupting overseas and messing up the seasonal weather patterns all over the world. Grain crops are not as far along as they should be and wildflowers have not blossomed. Even as late as May Day, the temperatures are still very cold.

Cal and Abra had been waiting to have their promised picnic among the azaleas. But on the day they scheduled to go, a cold rain fell. Inclement weather postponed their date for another two weeks.

Frustrated with continually buying fresh bread for their picnic, Lee asks Cal why they shouldn't just go anyway. Cal says no; he had promised her azaleas, and it will be another week or so before he can fulfill his promise. 

Adam is on the mend and Lee is not surprised. He had studied his friend's condition for some time with the local doctor. At first, Doctor Murphy had been annoyed with Lee, regarding him as merely a meddlesome servant, but soon he came to respect Lee's sharp mind and tenacity.

Lee learned that Adam suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. While Adam's brain appears to have absorbed it, Lee fears another may occur. He commits himself to keeping Adam's blood pressure down by remaining calm and offering him daily "conversational therapy."

Things are improving on the war front as well. American troops have established a new line and successfully defeated two German counterattacks. 

By the end of May, Cal receives the welcome news that the azaleas finally have blossomed. Through a series of signs and signals, Cal is able to capture Abra's attention. She catches up with him once they are beyond the sight and sound of the school. They decide to go right then to see the flowers instead of waiting until the next day. The pair run home to have Lee prepare their picnic. 

Cal and Abra share an idyllic afternoon, gathering azalea branches and loading them in the back seat of the car. They stick their feet in the running brook and soak up the warm sun.

Suddenly Abra grabs Cal's hand, tired of waiting for him to make the move. Once again, both are comforted by knowing neither one is "good."

Abra has something to tell Adam. Her father is in trouble. She knows he is not sick, as he has been claiming; he is scared. From what Abra has overheard, she thinks he has been embezzling money from his company. His partners know but her father does not know whether they will prosecute him or let him pay them back. Abra confesses that she is afraid of what will happen. 

Lee is home flipping through a seed catalogue and talking to himself when the doorbell rings. He has a bad feeling about who may be at the door and allows whoever is there to ring again and again. Finally, the visitor gives up and the ringing stops.

Reluctantly, Lee forces himself to go to the door. He finds an envelope but refuses to open it, knowing it contains bad news. He tells himself it is not his news, but after short reflection realizes he is a coward, afraid to face the information the telegram surely contains. He forces himself to calm down. When Adam arrives home, he is steady. 

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