“One cannot eat encouragement,” retorted Dr. Gates sagely. “And friendliness between you and any man—bah! Even Peter is only human, my dear.”
“I am sure he is very good.”
“So he is. He is very poor. But you are very attractive. There, I’m a skeptic about men, but you can trust Peter. Only don’t fall in love with him. It will be years before he can marry. And don’t let him fall in love with you. He probably will.”
Whereupon Dr. Gates taking herself and her pink flannel off to prepare for lunch, Harmony sent a formal note to Peter Byrne, regretting that a headache kept her from taking the afternoon walk as she had promised. Also, to avoid meeting him, she did without dinner, and spent the afternoon crying herself into a headache that was real enough.
Anna Gates was no fool. While she made her few preparations for dinner she repented bitterly what she had said to Harmony. It is difficult for the sophistry of forty to remember and cherish the innocence of twenty. For illusions it is apt to substitute facts, the material for the spiritual, the body against the soul. Dr. Gates, from her school of general practice, had come to view life along physiological lines.
With her customary frankness she approached Peter after the meal.
“I’ve been making mischief, Peter. I been talking too much, as usual.”
“Certainly not about me, Doctor. Out of my blameless life—”
“About you, as a representative member of your sex. I’m a fool.”
Peter looked serious. He had put on the newly pressed suit and his best tie, and was looking distinguished and just now rather stern.
“To the young Wells person. Frankly, Peter, I dare say at this moment she thinks you are everything you shouldn’t be, because I said you were only human. Why it should be evil to be human, or human to be evil—”
“I cannot imagine,” said Peter slowly, “the reason for any conversation about me.”
“Nor I, when I look back. We seemed to talk about other things, but it always ended with you. Perhaps you were our one subject in common. Then she irritated me by her calm confidence. The world was good, everybody was good. She would find a safe occupation and all would be well.”
“So you warned her against me,” said Peter grimly.
“I told her you were human and that she was attractive. Shall I make ’way with myself?”
“Cui bono?” demanded Peter, smiling in spite of himself. “The mischief is done.”
Dr. Gates looked up at him.
“I’m in love with you myself, Peter!” she said gratefully. “Perhaps it is the tie. Did you ever eat such a meal?”