“You hungry little beggar, how you do eat up your sensations!”
“They give me indigestion sometimes.”
The foyer of the Plaza was like a reception. The tea-room was a-clatter and a-clack with tongues.
“Like the clatter of sleek little squirrels,” said Bambi, as she followed the head-waiter to their table.
Her comments on people about them, the nicknames she donated to them, convulsed Strong. He would never again see that pompous head-waiter except as “Papa Pouter!”
“Would you get tired of it if you were here all the time?”
“I suppose so. It is all so alike. The women all look alike, and the men, and the waiters. If you dropped through the ceiling, you could hardly tell whether you were in the Ritz, the Plaza, the Manhattan, or the Knickerbocker. You would know it was New York—that’s all.”
“What train do you take to-night, or shall you stay over?”
“I shall go on the 11:50, if you’ll play with me until then.”
He smiled at her affectation.
“Suppose we try another kind of crowd to-night, and dine at the Lafayette.”
“Delighted! I’ve never been there.”
“It’s jolly. You’ll like it, I think.”
“Where is it?”
“Way downtown—University Place. What shall we do between now and dinner-time?”
“Let’s walk down.”
“Oh, that’s a long walk.”
“But I love to walk, unless it is too much for you.”
The walk was one never to be forgotten by Strong. To have Bambi all to himself, to look forward to hours of such bliss, to have her swinging along beside him, laughing and chattering, now and again laying her hand on his arm in confident friendliness—it was intoxicating.
By sheer force of will he kept his hand on the throttle of his emotions. One look, one false move, would ruin it all. He knew, without any doubts that she did not love him. He even told himself she loved Jocelyn. He knew that he must make himself a valuable friend and not an undesired lover, but his want of her was great, and his fury at Jarvis’s indifference white hot. She caught his set look.
He turned his eyes on her.
“You’re tired of me. I won’t talk any more.”
He drew her hand through his arm, and held her there.
“Don’t say that sort of thing, please; it isn’t fair.”
“Take it back.”
The Lafayette filled her with excitement. They had a table on a raised balcony overlooking the main dining-room. Richard pointed out celebrities, bowed to many friends, talked charming personalities. A feast of Lucullus was served them. Music and wine and excitement bewitched Bambi. She sparkled and laughed. She capped his every sally with a quick retort. She was totally different from the girl-boy who had walked downtown beside him.
“What are you thinking about me?” she challenged him, her head tipped back provokingly.