He looked up at her, as she stood there in her blue suit, and white blouse, and trim blue hat and crisp veil. “Gad, Emma, it’s uncanny. I believe you’re right. You look exactly as you did when I first saw you, when you came in off the road after father died and I had just taken hold of the business.”
For answer she hummed a few plaintive bars. He grinned as he recognized “Silver Threads Among the Gold.” The train moved away, gathered speed. He followed it. They were not smiling now. She was leaning over the railing, as though to be as near to him as the fast-moving train would allow. He was walking swiftly along with the train, as though hypnotized. Their eyes held. The brave figure in blue on the train platform. The brave figure in khaki outside. The blue suddenly swam in a haze before his eyes; the khaki a mist before hers. The crisp little veil was a limp little rag when finally she went in to search for Upper Eleven.
The white-coated figure that had passed up and down the aisle unnoticed and unnoticing as she sat hidden behind the kindly folds of her newspaper suddenly became a very human being as Emma regained self-control, decided on dinner as a panacea, and informed the white coat that she desired Upper Eleven made up early.
The White Coat had said, “Yas’m,” and glanced up at her. Whereupon she had said:
And he, “Well, fo’ de lan’! ’F ‘tain’t Mis’ McChesney! Well, mah sakes alive, Mis’ McChesney! Ah ain’t seen yo’ since yo’ married. Ah done heah yo’ married yo’ boss an’ got a swell brownstone house, an’ ev’thing gran’—”
“I’ve got everything, William, but a lower berth to Chicago. They swore they couldn’t give me anything but an upper.”
A speculative look crept into William’s rolling eye. Emma recognized it. Her hand reached toward her bag. Then it stopped. She smiled. “No. No, William. Time was. But not these days. Four years ago I’d have slipped you fifty cents right now, and you’d have produced a lower berth from somewhere. But I’m going to fool you. My boss has gone to war, William, and so has my son. And I’m going to take that fifty cents and buy thrift stamps for Miss Emma McChesney, aged three, and Mr. Buddy McChesney, aged six months. And I’ll dispose my old bones in Upper Eleven.”
She went in to dinner.
At eight-thirty a soft and deferential voice sounded in her ear.
“Ah got yo’ made up, Mis’ McChesney.”
“But this is my—”
He beckoned. He padded down the aisle with that walk which is a peculiar result of flat feet and twenty years of swaying car. Emma followed. He stopped before Lower Six and drew aside the curtain. It was that lower which can always be produced, magically, though ticket sellers, Pullman agents, porters, and train conductors swear that it does not exist. The key to it is silver, but to-night Emma McChesney Buck had unlocked it with finer metal. Gold. Pure gold. For William drew aside the curtain with a gesture such as one of his slave ancestors might have used before a queen of Egypt. He carefully brushed a cinder from the sheet with one gray-black hand. Then he bowed like any courtier.