“Why, Annette, dear.” Mrs. Markham laughed her purring laugh—that laugh could grow, Dr. Blake discovered, until it achieved a singularly unpleasant quality. “Your romantic ideas are running away with you. Whenever we arrived anywhere, of course, like anybody else, I called at Government House and the authorities there always put me in the way of seeing whatever sights the neighborhood afforded. I met one rajah in passing and visited one Yogi monastery. Do tell me about the Philippines!” Annette settled back into her appearance of weariness.
Dr. Blake complied.
He had intended to stay an hour at this first formal call. He had hoped to be led on, by gentle feminine wiles, to add another hour. He had even dreamed that Aunt Paula might be so impressed by him as to hold him until midnight. As a matter of fact, he left the house just thirty-five minutes after he entered. Just why he retreated so early in the engagement, he had only the vaguest idea. Even fresh from it as he was, he could not enumerate the small stings, the myriad minor goads, by which it became established in his mind that his call was not a success, that he was boring the two ladies whom he was trying so hard to entertain. At the end, it was a labored dialogue between him and Mrs. Markham. Again and again, he tried to drag Annette into the conversation. She was tongue-tied. The best she did was to give him the impression that, deep down in her tired psychology, she was trying to listen. As for Aunt Paula—if his gaze wandered from her to Annette and then back, he caught her stifling a yawn. Her final shot was to interrupt his best story a hair’s breadth ahead of the point. When he said good-night, his manner—he flattered himself—betrayed nothing of his sense of defeat. But no fellow pedestrian, observing the savage vigor of his swift walk homeward, could have held any doubt as to his state of mind.
THE LIGHT WAVERS
As Blake drove the runabout north through the fine autumn morning, he perceived suddenly that his subconscious mind was playing him a trick. He had started out to get light, air, easement of his soul among woods and fields. And now, instead of turning into Central Park at Columbus Circle, he was following Upper Broadway, where, in order to reach the great out-of-doors, he must dodge trucks and cabs between miles of hotels and apartment houses. In fact, he had been manoeuvering, half-unconsciously, so that he might turn into the park at the Eighty-Sixth Street entrance and so pass that most important of all dwellings in Manhattan, the house where Annette Markham lived. Any irritation which he had felt against her, after the unpleasant evening before, was lost in his greater irritation with her aunt. Annette appeared to him, now, as the prize, the reward, of a battle in which Mrs. Paula Markham was his antagonist.