Self-possession in his speech he almost had; but the blood in his cheeks and forehead was beyond his control.
A reply came from behind the counter: “We don’t expect payment until delivery.”
“But—a—but on that morning I shall be rather particularly engaged.” His tones sank almost away on these words.
“We should prefer to wait, then. You will leave your address. In half-pound boxes, I suppose?”
“Boxes? Oh, yes—I hadn’t thought—no—just a big, round one. Like this, you know!” His arms embraced a circular space of air. “With plenty of icing.”
I do not think that there was any smile on the other side of the counter; there was, at any rate, no hint of one in the voice. “And how many pounds?”
He was again staggered. “Why—a—I never ordered one before. I want plenty—and the very best, the very best. Each person would eat a pound, wouldn’t they? Or would two be nearer? I think I had better leave it all to you. About like this, you know.” Once more his arms embraced a circular space of air.
Before this I had never heard the young lady behind the counter enter into any conversation with a customer. She would talk at length about all sorts of Kings Port affairs with the older ladies connected with the Exchange, who were frequently to be found there; but with a customer, never. She always took my orders, and my money, and served me, with a silence and a propriety that have become, with ordinary shopkeepers, a lost art. They talk to one indeed! But this slim girl was a lady, and consequently did the right thing, marking and keeping a distance between herself and the public. To-day, however, she evidently felt it her official duty to guide the hapless young, man amid his errors. He now appeared to be committing a grave one.
“Are you quite sure you want that?” the girl was asking.
“Lady Baltimore? Yes, that is what I want.”