“Next and immediately,” said Mr. Dyke, “I am obtaining an address from the Mordaunt Estate, and I am then taking this evening off.”
“Take some advice also, my boy,” said I, mindful of the butterfly’s alarms. “Go slow.”
“Slow! Haven’t I lost time enough already?”
“Perhaps. But now you’ve got all there is. Don’t force the game. You’ve frightened that poor child so that she never can feel sure what you’re going to do next.”
“Neither can I, Dominie,” confessed the candid youth. “But you’re quite right. I’ll clamp on the brakes. I’ll be as cool and conventional as a slice of lemon on an iced clam. ’How well you’re looking to-night, Miss Leffingwell’—that’ll be my nearest approach to unguarded personalities. Trust me, Dominie, and thank you for the tip.”
The memorial and erratic clock of Our Square was just striking seven of the following morning, meaning approximately eight-forty, when my astonished eyes again beheld Martin Dyke seated on my bench, beautifully though inappropriately clad in full evening dress with a pink rose in his coat lapel, and gazing at Number 37 with a wild, ecstatic glare.
“What have you been doing here all night?” I asked.
I pointed to the flower. “Where did you get that?”
“A fairy gift.”
“Martin,” said I, “did you abide by my well-meant and inspired advice?”
“Dominie,” replied the youth with a guilty flush, “I did my best. I—I tried to. You mustn’t think—Nothing is settled. It’s only that—”
“It’s only that Age is a fool to advise Youth. Why should I expect you to abide by my silly counsels? Who am I to interfere with the dominant fates! Says the snail to the avalanche: ‘Go slow!’ and the avalanche—”
“Hey! Hi! You Mordaunt Estate!” broke in young Mr. Dyke, shouting. “I beg your pardon, Dominie, I’ve got to see the Estate for a minute.”
Rushing across the street, he intercepted that institutional gentleman in the act of dipping a brush into a can in front of Number 37.
“Don’t, for Heaven’s sake, touch that front!” implored the improver of it.
“Why not?” demanded the Estate.
“I want to rent it. As it is. From to-day.”
The Mordaunt Estate turned a dull, Wagboomish look of denial upon him. “Nope,” said he. “I’ve had enough of short rentals. It don’t pay. I’m going to paint her up and lease her for good.”
“I’ll take your lease,” insisted Martin Dyke.
“For how long a period?” inquired the other, in terms of the Estate again.
The light that never was, on sea or land, the look that I had surprised on the face of illusion-haunted Youth in the moon glow, gleamed in Martin Dyke’s eyes.
“Say a million years,” he answered softly.