XIII: The Girl Behind the Counter—III
I was still thinking the ode over as I dressed for breakfast, for which I was late, owing to my hair, which the changes in the weather had rendered somewhat recalcitrant. Yes; decidedly I must have it out with somebody. The weather was once more superb; and in the garden beneath my window men were already sweeping away the broken twigs and debris of the storm. I say “already,” because it had not seemed to me to be the Kings Port custom to remove debris, or anything, with speed. I also had it in my mind to perform at lunch Aunt Carola’s commission, and learn if the family of La Heu were indeed of royal descent through the Bombos. I intended to find this out from the girl behind the counter, but the course which our conversation took led me completely to forget about it.
As soon as I entered the Exchange I planted myself in front of the counter, in spite of the discouragement which I too plainly perceived in her countenance; the unfavorable impression which I had made upon her at our last interview was still in force.
I plunged into it at once. “I have a confession to make.”
“You do me surprising honor.”
“Oh, now, don’t begin like that! I suppose you never told a lie.”
“I’m telling the truth now when I say that I do not see why an entire stranger should confess anything to me.”
“Oh, my goodness! Well, I told you a lie, anyhow; a great, successful, deplorable lie.”
She opened her mouth under the shock of it, and I recited to her unsparingly my deception; during this recital her mouth gradually closed.
“Well, I declare, declare, declare!” she slowly and deliciously breathed over the sum total; and she considered me at length, silently, before her words came again, like a soft soliloquy. “I could never have believed it in one who”—here gayety flashed in her eyes suddenly—“parts his back hair so rigidly. Oh, I beg your pardon for being personal!” And her gayety broke in ripples. Some habitual instinct moved me to turn to the looking-glass. “Useless!” she cried, “you can’t see it in that. But it’s perfectly splendid to-day.”
Nature has been kind to me in many ways—nay, prodigal; it is not every man who can perceive the humor in a jest of which he is himself the subject. I laughed with her. “I trust that I am forgiven,” I said.
“Oh, yes, you are forgiven! Come out, General, and give the gentleman your right paw, and tell him that he is forgiven—if only for the sake of Daddy Ben.” With these latter words she gave me a gracious nod of understanding. They were all thanking me for the kettle-supporter! She probably knew also the tale of John Mayrant, the cards, and the bedside.
The curly dog came out, and went through his part very graciously.
“I can guess his last name,” I remarked.
“General’s? How? Oh, you’ve heard it! I don’t believe in you any more.”