“A pleasant journey!” Mary said.
“Luck, Sir Chaps, luck!” called Jasper Ewold.
Jack’s easy stride, as he passed out into the night, confirmed the last glimpse of his smiling, whimsical “I don’t care” attitude, which never minded the danger sign on the precipice’s edge.
“He does not really want to go back to New York,” Mary remarked, and was surprised to find that she had spoken her thought aloud.
“I hardly agree with that opinion,” said her father absently, his thoughts far afield from the fetter of his words. “But of one thing I am sure, John Wingfield! A smile and a square chin!”
OBLIVION IS NOT EASY
“A smile and a square chin!” Mary repeated, as they went back into the living-room.
“Yes, hasn’t he both, this Wingfield?” asked her father.
“This Wingfield”—on the finish of the sentence there was a halting, appreciable accent. He moved toward the table with the listlessness of some enormous automaton of a man to whom every step of existence was a step in a treadmill. There was a heavy sadness about his features which rarely came, and always startled her when it did come with a fear that they had so set in gloom that they would never change. He raised his hand to the wick screw of the lamp, waiting for her to pass through the room before turning off the flame which bathed him in its rays, giving him the effect of a Rodinesque incarnation of memory.
Any melancholy that beset him was her own enemy, to be fought and cajoled. Mary slipped to his side, dropping her head on his shoulder and patting his cheek. But this magic which had so frequently rallied him brought only a transient, hazy smile and in its company what seemed a random thought.
“And you and he came down the pass together? Yes, yes!” he said. His tone had the vagueness of one drawing in from the sea a net that seemed to have no end.
Had Jack Wingfield been more than a symbol? Had he brought something more than an expression of culture, manner, and ease of a past which nothing could dim? Had he suggested some personal relation to that past which her father preferred to keep unexplained? These questions crowded into her mind speculatively. They were seeking a form of conveyance when she realized that she had been adrift with imaginings. He was getting older. She must expect his preoccupation and his absent-mindedness to become more exacting.
“Yes, yes!” His voice had risen to its customary sonority; his eyes were twinkling; all the hard lines had become benignant wrinkles of Olympian charm. “Yes, yes! You and this funny tourist! What a desert it is! I wonder—now, I wonder if he will go aboard the Pullman in that stage costume. But come, come, Mary! It’s bedtime for all pastoral workers and subjects of the Eternal Painter. Off you go, or we shall be playing blind-man’s-buff in the dark!” He was chuckling as he turned down the wick. “His enormous spurs, and Jag Ear and Wrath of God!” he said.