“You in the North!” she repeated. “And so your Northern eyes can’t see it, after all!” At these words my intelligence sailed into a great blank, while she continued: “Frankly—and forgive me for saying it—I was hoping that you were one Northerner who would see it.”
“But see what?” I barked in my despair.
She did not help me. “If I had been a man, nothing could have insulted me more than that. And that’s what you don’t see,” she regretfully finished. “It seems so strange.”
I sat in the midst of my great blank, while her handsome eyes rested upon me. In them was that look of a certain inquiry and a certain remoteness with which one pauses, in a museum, before some specimen of the cave-dwelling man.
“You comprehend so much,” she meditated slowly, aloud; “you’ve been such an agreeable disappointment, because your point of view is so often the same as ours.” She was still surveying me with the specimen expression, when it suddenly left her. “Do you mean to sit there and tell me,” she broke out, “that you wouldn’t have resented it yourself?”
“O dear!” my mind lamentably said to itself, inside. Of what may have been the exterior that I presented to her, sitting over my slice of Lady Baltimore, I can form no impression.
“Put yourself in his place,” the girl continued.
“Ah,” I gasped, “that is always so easy to say and so hard to do.”
My remark proved not a happy one. She made a brief, cold pause over it, and then, as she wheeled round from me, back to the counter: “No Southerner would let pass such an affront.”
It was final. She regained her usual place, she resumed her ledger; the curly dog, who had come out to hear our conversation, went in again; I was disgraced. Not only with the profile of her short, belligerent nose, but with the chilly way in which she made her pencil move over the ledger, she told me plainly that my self-respect had failed to meet her tests. This was what my remarkable ingenuity had achieved for me. I swallowed the last crumbs of Lady Baltimore, and went forward to settle the account.
“I suppose I’m scarcely entitled to ask for a fresh one to-morrow,” I ventured. “I am so fond of this cake.”
Her officialness met me adequately. “Certainly the public is entitled to whatever we print upon our bill-of-fare.”
Now this was going to be too bad! Henceforth I was to rank merely as “the public,” no matter how much Lady Baltimore I should lunch upon! A happy thought seized me, and I spoke out instantly on the strength of it.
“Miss La Heu, I’ve a confession to make.”
But upon this beginning of mine the inauspicious door opened and young John Mayrant came in. It was all right about his left eye; anybody could see that bruise!
“Oh!” he exclaimed, hearty, but somewhat disconcerted. “To think of finding you here! You’re going? But I’ll see you later?”