Very tenderly, as if he were an executioner considerate of the victims of an inexorable law, he was snipping the stems, his head bent close to the blooms, when a bumblebee appeared among the salvias a few feet away. Perhaps army staffs who neglect no detail have made a mistake in overlooking the whirring of bumblebees’ wings in affecting the fate of nations. These plunderers are not dangerous from their size, but they have not yet been organized to the hep-hep-hep of partisanship. They would as soon live in a Gray as a Brown garden, as soon probe for an atom of honey on one side of the white posts as the other. This one as it drew nearer was well to one side over Feller’s shoulders. With eyes and mind intent on his work, Feller turned his head absently, as one will at an interruption.
“There you are again, my dear!” he said. “You must think you’re a battery of automatics.”
He went on cutting chrysanthemums, apparently unconscious that he had spoken.
“Bring them up on the veranda, please,” Marta wrote on the pad, her fingers moving with unusual nervous rapidity, the only sign of her inward excitement.
Coming to the head of the steps of the terrace above, she looked back. Feller’s face was quite hidden under his hat and suddenly she seemed to stub her toe and fall, while she uttered a low cry of pain. The hat rose like a jack-in-the-box with the cover released. Feller bounded toward her, taking two of steps at a time. She scrambled to her feet hastily, laughed, and gestured to show that she was not hurt. He drew his shoulders together and bent over spasmodically, gripping his knee.
“I can run off if something starts me just as spry as if I were twenty,” he said. “But after I’ve done it and the kinks come, I realize I’ve got old legs.”
“Now I know he’s not deaf!” Marta murmured, as he returned to his work. She frowned. She was angry. “Lanny, you have something to explain,” she thought.
But when Feller brought his armful of chrysanthemums to her on the veranda, there was no trace in her expression of the discovery she had made, and she wrote a direction on his pad in the usual fashion.
A SUNDAY MORNING CALL
As a boy, Arthur Lanstron had persisted in being an exception to the influences of both heredity and environment. Though his father and both grandfathers were officers who believed theirs to be the true gentleman’s profession, he had preferred any kind of mechanical toy to arranging the most gayly painted tin soldiers in formation on the nursery floor; and he would rather read about the wonders of natural history and electricity than the campaigns of Napoleon and Frederick the Great and my lord Nelson. Left to his own choice, he would miss the parade of the garrison for inspection by an excellency in order to ask questions of a man wiping the oil off his hands with cotton-waste, who was far more entertaining to him than the most spick-and-span ramrod of a sergeant.