“Would you give me a lesson some time?”
“Indeed I would.”
“Better be careful, or I’ll be taking you up on that proposition. I’ll be coming up to your flat and making you give me that lesson.”
“Ye-es.” She was not offended, but she was non-committal. He warned himself, “Have some sense now, you chump! Don’t go making a fool of yourself again!” and with loftiness he discoursed:
“I wish I could dance like some of these young fellows, but I’ll tell you: I feel it’s a man’s place to take a full, you might say, a creative share in the world’s work and mold conditions and have something to show for his life, don’t you think so?”
“Oh, I do!”
“And so I have to sacrifice some of the things I might like to tackle, though I do, by golly, play about as good a game of golf as the next fellow!”
“Oh, I’m sure you do.... Are you married?”
“Uh—yes.... And, uh, of course official duties I’m the vice-president of the Boosters’ Club, and I’m running one of the committees of the State Association of Real Estate Boards, and that means a lot of work and responsibility—and practically no gratitude for it.”
“Oh, I know! Public men never do get proper credit.”
They looked at each other with a high degree of mutual respect, and at the Cavendish Apartments he helped her out in a courtly manner, waved his hand at the house as though he were presenting it to her, and ponderously ordered the elevator boy to “hustle and get the keys.” She stood close to him in the elevator, and he was stirred but cautious.
It was a pretty flat, of white woodwork and soft blue walls. Mrs. Judique gushed with pleasure as she agreed to take it, and as they walked down the hall to the elevator she touched his sleeve, caroling, “Oh, I’m so glad I went to you! It’s such a privilege to meet a man who really Understands. Oh! The flats some people have showed me!”
He had a sharp instinctive belief that he could put his arm around her, but he rebuked himself and with excessive politeness he saw her to the car, drove her home. All the way back to his office he raged:
“Glad I had some sense for once.... Curse it, I wish I’d tried. She’s a darling! A corker! A reg’lar charmer! Lovely eyes and darling lips and that trim waist—never get sloppy, like some women.... No, no, no! She’s a real cultured lady. One of the brightest little women I’ve met these many moons. Understands about Public Topics and—But, darn it, why didn’t I try? . . . Tanis!”
He was harassed and puzzled by it, but he found that he was turning toward youth, as youth. The girl who especially disturbed him—though he had never spoken to her—was the last manicure girl on the right in the Pompeian Barber Shop. She was small, swift, black-haired, smiling. She was nineteen, perhaps, or twenty. She wore thin salmon-colored blouses which exhibited her shoulders and her black-ribboned camisoles.