The smile took on a slightly ironical edge. “Don’t bother about me, my dear. You see, I come from that frightfully exciting West, and I know all about the pet rattlesnakes and the wildly Bohemian cowboys. Run along and play with your book—I’ll be off to bed in a few minutes.”
Rosemary retired obediently to the deep chair in the corner, and with the smile gone but the irony still hovering, she slipped the cord off the packet. A meager and sorry enough array—words had never been for her the swift, docile servitors that most people found them. But the thin gray sheet in her fingers started out gallantly enough—“Beloved.” Beloved! She leaned far forward, dropping it with deft precision into the glowing pocket of embers. What next? This was more like—it began “Dear Captain Langdon” in the small, contained, even writing that was her pride, and it went on soberly enough, “I shall be glad to have tea with you next Friday—not Thursday, because I must be at the hut then. It was stupid of me to have forgotten you—next time I will try to do better.” Well, she had done better the next time. She had not forgotten him again—never, never again. That had been her first letter; how absurd of Jerry, the magnificently careless, to have treasured it all that time, the miserable, stilted little thing! She touched it with curious fingers. Surely, surely he must have cared, to have cared so much for that!
It seemed incredible that she hadn’t remembered him at once when he came into the hut that second time. Of course she had only seen him for a moment and six months had passed—but he was so absurdly vivid, every inch of him, from the top of his shining, dark head to the heels of his shining, dark boots—and there were a great many inches! How could she have forgotten, even for a minute, those eyes dancing like blue fire in the brown young face, the swift, disarming charm of his smile, and, above all, his voice—how, in the name of absurdity could any one who had once heard it ever forget Jeremy Langdon’s voice? Even now she had only to close her eyes, and it rang out again, with its clipped, British accent and its caressing magic, as un-English as any Provincial troubadour’s! And yet she had forgotten—he had had to speak twice before she had even lifted her head.
“Miss America—oh, I say, she’s forgotten me, and I thought that I’d made such an everlasting impression!” The delighted amazement reached even her tired ears, and she had smiled wanly as she pushed the pile of coppers nearer to him.
“Have you been in before? It’s stupid of me, but there are such hundreds of thousands of you, and you are gone in a minute, you see. That’s your change, I think.”
“Hundreds of thousands of me, hey?” He had leaned across the counter, his face alight with mirth. “I wish to the Lord my angel mother could hear you—it’s what I’m forever tellin’ her, though just between us, it’s stuff and nonsense. I’ve got a well-founded suspicion that I’m absolutely unique. You wait and see!”