“Bobby,” Di was saying within that murmur, “Bobby, you don’t kiss me as if you really wanted to kiss me, to-night.”
The office of Dwight Herbert Deacon, Dentist, Gold Work a Speciality (sic) in black lettering, and Justice of the Peace in gold, was above a store which had been occupied by one unlucky tenant after another, and had suffered long periods of vacancy when ladies’ aid societies served lunches there, under great white signs, badly lettered. Some months of disuse were now broken by the news that the store had been let to a music man. A music man, what on earth was that, Warbleton inquired.
The music man arrived, installed three pianos, and filled his window with sheet music, as sung by many ladies who swung in hammocks or kissed their hands on the music covers. While he was still moving in, Dwight Herbert Deacon wandered downstairs and stood informally in the door of the new store. The music man, a pleasant-faced chap of thirty-odd, was rubbing at the face of a piano.
“Hello, there!” he said. “Can I sell you an upright?”
“If I can take it out in pulling your teeth, you can,” Dwight replied. “Or,” said he, “I might marry you free, either one.”
On this their friendship began. Thenceforth, when business was dull, the idle hours of both men were beguiled with idle gossip.
“How the dickens did you think of pianos for a line?” Dwight asked him once. “Now, my father was a dentist, so I came by it natural—never entered my head to be anything else. But pianos—”
The music man—his name was Neil Cornish—threw up his chin in a boyish fashion, and said he’d be jiggered if he knew. All up and down the Warbleton main street, the chances are that the answer would sound the same. “I’m studying law when I get the chance,” said Cornish, as one who makes a bid to be thought of more highly.
“I see,” said Dwight, respectfully dwelling on the verb.
Later on Cornish confided more to Dwight: He was to come by a little inheritance some day—not much, but something. Yes, it made a man feel a certain confidence....
“Don’t it?” said Dwight heartily, as if he knew.
Every one liked Cornish. He told funny stories, and he never compared Warbleton save to its advantage. So at last Dwight said tentatively at lunch:
“What if I brought that Neil Cornish up for supper, one of these nights?”
“Oh, Dwightie, do,” said Ina. “If there’s a man in town, let’s know it.”
“What if I brought him up to-night?”
Up went Ina’s eyebrows. To-night?
“’Scalloped potatoes and meat loaf and sauce and bread and butter,” Lulu contributed.
Cornish came to supper. He was what is known in Warbleton as dapper. This Ina saw as she emerged on the veranda in response to Dwight’s informal halloo on his way upstairs. She herself was in white muslin, now much too snug, and a blue ribbon. To her greeting their guest replied in that engaging shyness which is not awkwardness. He moved in some pleasant web of gentleness and friendliness.