“But I don’t like cheese.” In sheer relief from the loneliness of the day her spirits were rising.
“Then coffee! But not there. Coffee at the coffee-house on the corner. I say—” He hesitated.
“Would you—don’t you think a cup of coffee would set you up a bit?”
“It sounds attractive,”—uncertainly.
“Coffee with whipped cream and some little cakes?”
Harmony hesitated. In the gloom of the hall she could hardly see this brisk young American—young, she knew by his voice, tall by his silhouette, strong by the way he had caught her. She could not see his face, but she liked his voice.
“Do you mean—with you?”
“I’m a doctor. I am going to fill my own prescription.”
That sounded reassuring. Doctors were not as other men; they were legitimate friends in need.
“I am sure it is not proper, but—”
“Proper! Of course it is. I shall send you a bill for professional services. Besides, won’t we be formally introduced to-night by the landlady? Come now—to the coffee-house and the Paris edition of the ’Herald’!” But the next moment he paused and ran his hand over his chin. “I’m pretty disreputable,” he explained. “I have been in a clinic all day, and, hang it all, I’m not shaved.”
“What difference does that make?”
“My dear young lady,” he explained gravely, picking up the cheese and the tinned fish, “it makes a difference in me that I wish you to realize before you see me in a strong light.”
He rapped at the Portier’s door, with the intention of leaving his parcels there, but receiving no reply tucked them under his arm. A moment later Harmony was in the open air, rather dazed, a bit excited, and lovely with the color the adventure brought into her face. Her companion walked beside her, tall, slightly stooped. She essayed a fugitive little sideglance up at him, and meeting his eyes hastily averted hers.
They passed a policeman, and suddenly there flashed into the girl’s mind little Scatchett’s letter.
“Do be careful, Harry. If any one you do not know speaks to you, call a policeman.”
The coffee-house was warm and bright. Round its small tables were gathered miscellaneous groups, here and there a woman, but mostly men—uniformed officers, who made of the neighborhood coffee-house a sort of club, where under their breath they criticized the Government and retailed small regimental gossip; professors from the university, still wearing under the beards of middle life the fine horizontal scars of student days; elderly doctors from the general hospital across the street; even a Hofrath or two, drinking beer and reading the “Fliegende Blaetter” and “Simplicissimus”; and in an alcove round a billiard table a group of noisy Korps students. Over all a permeating odor of coffee, strong black coffee, made with a fig or two to give it color. It rose even above the blue tobacco haze and dominated the atmosphere with its spicy and stimulating richness. A bustle of waiters, a hum of conversation, the rattle of newspapers and the click of billiard balls—this was the coffee-house.