“Bubbles,” said the young man, “would die for you; but he is only a little boy. I am very strong.”
Barbara refused to rise at the implication that the strong young man was also ready and even eager to die for her. “Tell me more about Blizzard,” she said.
“He’s one of the half-dozen men in the city that we would like to have an eye on night and day. We want him.”
“Oh,” she said, “then you are not here entirely on my account? It is also your business to be here?”
He nodded, not altogether pleased with the turn the matter had taken.
“In that case,” she said, “I have no wish to stand in your way. But—I don’t propose to be a cat’s-paw. You may sit in Bubbles’s room if you like, but I won’t have you on your hands and knees at the studio door listening at the key-hole. That must be understood.”
The young man flushed with righteous anger. “You don’t look” he said, “as if you could say a thing like that to a fellow.”
Instantly, and almost humbly, she begged his pardon.
“Then I may come to-morrow?” he asked.
“And the next day,” said Barbara. “And, by the way, what is your name?”
“Harry,” he said.
A look very much like pathos came into his handsome eyes. “I want to be honest with you,” he said. “I don’t own any other name. I call myself West. But I’ve no right to it. I don’t know who my father was or what he was.”
“You don’t have to explain,” said Barbara. “I think you would have been quite within your rights in saying that your name was West and letting it go at that.”
It was not her intention to receive Mr. West’s confidences either at this time or any other. And so, of course, ten minutes later, as she drove uptown, she was “dying” to know all that there was to be known about him. He had gone downstairs with her, and put her into her cab. He might have been a prince with a passion for good manners. He seemed to her wonderfully graceful and at ease, in all that he did.
Dr. Ferris smiled tolerantly, and said to the footman who had brought the card: “I shall be very glad to see Mr. Allen.” And he kept on smiling after the footman had gone. The interview which he foresaw was of that kind which not only did him honor but amused him. Wilmot Allen would not be the first young man to whom the rich surgeon had had the pleasure of putting embarrassing questions: “What can you tell me of your past life and habits?” “Can you support my daughter in the way to which she has always been accustomed?” etc., etc.
But Wilmot Allen did not at once ask permission to address Barbara. He entered with that good-natured air of easy laziness which was rather attractive in him, and without looking in the least troubled announced that what he had come to say embarrassed him greatly.