Mrs. Peters came back with a bottle of sarsaparilla.
“I’m glad I happened to have that dollar,” she said. “You’re all run down, honey.”
Mr. Peters had a tablespoonful of the stuff inserted into him. Then Mrs. Peters sat on his lap and murmured:
“Call me tootsum wootsums again, James.”
He sat still, held there by his materialized goddess of spring.
Spring had come.
On the bench in Union Square Mr. Ragsdale and Mr. Kidd squirmed, tongue-parched, awaiting D’Artagnan and his dollar.
“I wish I had choked her at first,” said Mr. Peters to himself.
WHILE THE AUTO WAITS
Promptly at the beginning of twilight, came again to that quiet corner of that quiet, small park the girl in gray. She sat upon a bench and read a book, for there was yet to come a half hour in which print could be accomplished.
To repeat: Her dress was gray, and plain enough to mask its impeccancy of style and fit. A large-meshed veil imprisoned her turban hat and a face that shone through it with a calm and unconscious beauty. She had come there at the same hour on the day previous, and on the day before that; and there was one who knew it.
The young man who knew it hovered near, relying upon burnt sacrifices to the great joss, Luck. His piety was rewarded, for, in turning a page, her book slipped from her fingers and bounded from the bench a full yard away.
The young man pounced upon it with instant avidity, returning it to its owner with that air that seems to flourish in parks and public places—a compound of gallantry and hope, tempered with respect for the policeman on the beat. In a pleasant voice, he risked an inconsequent remark upon the weather—that introductory topic responsible for so much of the world’s unhappiness—and stood poised for a moment, awaiting his fate.
The girl looked him over leisurely; at his ordinary, neat dress and his features distinguished by nothing particular in the way of expression.
“You may sit down, if you like,” she said, in a full, deliberate contralto. “Really, I would like to have you do so. The light is too bad for reading. I would prefer to talk.”
The vassal of Luck slid upon the seat by her side with complaisance.
“Do you know,” he said, speaking the formula with which park chairmen open their meetings, “that you are quite the stunningest girl I have seen in a long time? I had my eye on you yesterday. Didn’t know somebody was bowled over by those pretty lamps of yours, did you, honeysuckle?”
“Whoever you are,” said the girl, in icy tones, “you must remember that I am a lady. I will excuse the remark you have just made because the mistake was, doubtless, not an unnatural one—in your circle. I asked you to sit down; if the invitation must constitute me your honeysuckle, consider it withdrawn.”