In a Boston and Albany parlor-car, east bound through the Berkshires, sat a young man respectfully, but intently studying a young woman. Now and then, from the newspapers heaped in mannish confusion about his chair, he selected another sheet. Always, he took advantage of this opportunity to face the chair across the aisle and to sweep a glance over a piquant little profile, intent on a sober-looking book. Again, he would gaze out of the window; and he gazed oftenest when a freight train hid the beauties of outside nature. The dun sides of freight cars make out of a window a passable mirror. Twice, in those dim and confused glimpses, he caught just a flicker of her eye across her book, as though, she, on her part, were studying him.
It was her back hair which had first entangled Dr. Blake’s thoughts; it was the graceful nape of her neck which had served to hold them fast. When the hair and the neck below dawned on him, he identified her as that blonde girl whom he had noted at the train gate, waving farewell to some receding friend—and noted with approval. As a traveler on many seas and much land, he knew the lonely longing to address the woman in the next seat. He knew also, as all seasoned travelers in America know, that such desire is sometimes gratified, and without any surrender of decency, in the frank and easy West—but never east of Chicago. This girl, however, exercised somehow, a special pull upon his attention and his imagination. And he found himself playing a game by which he had mitigated many a journey of old. He divided his personality into two parts—man and physician—and tried, by each separate power, to find as much as he could from surface indications about this travel-mate of his.
Mr. Walter Huntington Blake perceived, besides the hair like dripping honey, deep blue eyes—the blue not of a turquoise but of a sapphire—and an oval face a little too narrow in the jaw, so that the chin pointed a delicate Gothic arch. He noted a good forehead, which inclined him to the belief that she “did” something—some subtle addition which he could not formulate confirmed that observation. He saw that her hands were long and tipped with nails no larger than a grain of maize, that when they rested for a moment on her face, in the shifting attitudes of her reading, they fell as gently as flower-stalks swaying together in a breeze. He saw that her shoulders had a slight slope, which combined with hands and eyes to express a being all feminine—the kind made for a lodestone to a man who has known the hard spots of the world, like Mr. Walter Huntington Blake.
“A pippin!” pronounced Mr. Blake, the man.