THANKS TO A BUMBLEBEE
“Has he changed much?” Mrs. Galland asked, when she learned that Marta had seen Westerling.
“Jove has reached his own—the very top of Olympus, and he likes the prospect,” Marta replied.
The only home news of importance that her mother had to impart related to a tiny strip of paper with the greeting, “Hello, Marta!” that had been dropped from the pilot aeroplane as the Brown aerial squadron flew over the garden after its race with the Gray. She noted Marta’s customary quickening interest at mention of Lanstron’s name. It had become the talisman of a hope whose fulfilment was always being deferred.
“How different Lanny and Westerling are!” Marta exclaimed, the picture of the two men rising before her vision. “Lanny trying so hard under the pressure of his responsibility not to be human and unable to forget himself, and Westerling trying, really trying, to be human at times, but unable to forget that he is Jove! Did you wave your acknowledgments to Lanny,’?”
“Why, no! How could I?” asked Mrs. Galland. “He went over so fast I didn’t know it was he—a little figure so far overhead.”
“It’s odd, but I think I’d know Lanny a mile away by a sort of instinct,” said Marta. “You know I’d like a gun that would fire a bomb and drop a message of ‘Hello, yourself!’ right on his knee. Wouldn’t that give him a surprise?”
“You and he are so full of nonsense that you—” But Mrs. Galland desisted. What was the use?
Sometimes she wished that Colonel Lanstron would stay away altogether and leave a free field for a newcomer. Yet if two or three weeks passed without a call from him she was apprehensive. Besides being one of the Thorbourg Lanstrons, he was a most charming, capable man, who had risen very rapidly in his profession. It had been only six months after he had bolted up from the wreck of his plane by way of self-introduction to Marta before he alighted in the field across the road from the garden to report a promise kept.
Once she knew that he was a Lanstron of Thorbourg, a fact of hardly passing interest to Marta, Mrs. Galland made him intimately welcome. By the time he had paid his third call he was Lanny to Marta and she was Marta to him, quite as if they had known each other from childhood. She had a gift for unaffected comradeship. He was the kind of man with whom she could be a comrade. There was always something to say the moment they met and they were never through talking when he had to go. They disagreed so often that Mrs. Galland thought they made a business of it. She wondered how real friendship could exist between two such controversialists. They could be seriously disputatious to the point of quarrelling; they could be light-heartedly disputatious to the bantering point, where either was uncertain which side of the argument he had originally espoused.