“What is it about?” she asked eagerly. “But don’t stand out there where everybody can hear but me. Come in and sit down.”
Now, I didn’t want to discuss the matter here, and, besides, there was not time. I therefore assumed an air of mystery.
“I can’t, Miss Oman. I’m due at the surgery now. But if you should be passing and should have a few minutes to spare, I should be greatly obliged if you would look in. I really don’t quite know how to act.”
“No, I expect not. Men very seldom do. But you’re better than most, for you know when you are in difficulties and have the sense to consult a woman. But what is it about? Perhaps I might be thinking it over.”
“Well, you know,” I began evasively, “it’s a simple matter, but I can’t very well—no, by Jove!” I added, looking at my watch, “I must run, or I shall keep the multitude waiting.” And with this I bustled away, leaving her literally dancing with curiosity.
THE SPHINX OF LINCOLN’S INN
At the age of twenty-six one cannot claim to have attained to the position of a person of experience. Nevertheless, the knowledge of human nature accumulated in that brief period sufficed to make me feel pretty confident that, at some time during the evening, I should receive a visit from Miss Oman. And circumstances justified my confidence; for the clock yet stood at two minutes to seven when a premonitory tap at the surgery door heralded her arrival.
“I happened to be passing,” she explained, and I forbore to smile at the coincidence, “so I thought I might as well drop in and hear what you wanted to ask me about.”
She seated herself in the patients’ chair and, laying a bundle of newspapers on the table, glared at me expectantly.
“Thank you, Miss Oman,” I said. “It is very good of you to look in on me. I am ashamed to give you all this trouble about such a trifling matter.”
She rapped her knuckles impatiently on the table.
“Never mind about the trouble,” she exclaimed
I stated my difficulties in respect of the supper-party, and, as I proceeded, an expression of disgust and disappointment spread over her countenance. “I don’t see why you need have been so mysterious about it,” she said glumly.
“I didn’t mean to be mysterious; I was only anxious not to make a mess of the affair. It’s all very fine to assume a lofty scorn of the pleasures of the table, but there is great virtue in a really good feed, especially when low-living and high-thinking have been the order of the day.”
“Coarsely put,” said Miss Oman, “but perfectly true.”
“Very well. Now, if I leave the management to Mrs. Gummer, she will probably provide a tepid Irish stew with flakes of congealed fat on it, and a plastic suet-pudding or something of that kind, and turn the house upside-down in getting it ready. So I thought of having a cold spread and getting the things in from outside. But I don’t want it to look as if I had been making enormous preparations.”