“Heaven only knows. But I think”—and she looked the young man in the face, and smiled, for his face had charmed her—“I think that if ever I finish with Mr. Blizzard, I shall ask you to be my next model.”
The admiration with which the young man regarded Barbara was no less frankly and openly expressed than was hers for him. “Until this moment,” he said, “I have never understood the eager desire which some people have to sit for their portraits. Whenever you say.”
She laughed. “And the new door-knobs?”
“Just because a man belongs to the secret service,” returned the youth, “is no reason why he shouldn’t attempt once in a while to do something really useful.”
And he knelt once more and took up his work where he had left off. Barbara stood by and watched him at it. “I would like to do his hands, too,” she thought, “when I can get round to it.” They were very strong, square, able hands. She found herself wishing to touch them. And since this was a wish that she had never experienced for any other pair of hands, she wondered at herself with a frank and childish wonder.
“Your taxi, Miss Barbara.”
“Thank you, Bubbles.”
She slipped out of her overall, and with swift touches adjusted her hat at a small mirror. The secret-service agent once more rose from his knees.
“Good-by,” said Barbara, “and thank you, and don’t forget.”
“Never,” said he.
She shook hands with him, and his firm strong clasp, literally swallowing her own little hand, was immensely pleasant to her and of a fine friendliness.
“Good-by, Bubbles. See you in the morning.”
“Good-by, Miss Barbara.”
She was gone. The man resumed his work. The boy watched.
“Was I right?”
[Illustration: Harry, the workman, ... rose to his feet, and turned to Barbara with a certain quiet eagerness]
“A wonder—or not?”
“You won’t leave Blizzard up to me all alone, will you? Not now, you won’t?”
“No, Bubbles, not now. Whenever he’s posing in this room, you and I won’t be far off.”
“Because,” said Bubbles, smiling with relief, “I’d do my best, but if it came to a show-down with him there ain’t a thing I could do.”
“One time or another,” said Harry, “we’ll get him. You and I will.”
“I betcher,” said Bubbles.
And in his little peaked face there was much that was threatening to the ultimate welfare of the legless beggar.
Barbara, ordinarily clear-minded and single-minded, drove uptown with her thoughts in a state of chaos. She wished to think only about her newly begun head of Satan fallen, since nothing else seemed to her at the moment of any importance, but the face, hands, and voice of the young secret-service agent refused to be banished, and kept suing for kindly notice.