“Oh, Byrd, I’m afraid I’ll have to!” I sobbed, cuddling him close.
“Well, then, damn Pete!” he exploded.
THE BOOK OF LOVE
Most men are only a fraction of the greatness that the world adds them up to be, but Farrington is a whole man and then a fraction over. I enjoy talking to him just as much as I do to Sam or anybody else who is doing interesting things in a perfectly simple way. When we talked about Peter and the play he reminded me in lots of ways of old Dr. Chubb when he gets on the subject of spavined horses or sick cows; of course I don’t mean any disrespect to Peter in that comparison. I told Mr. Farrington the same thing, and he didn’t laugh at all; his eyes shone out from under his bushy white eyebrows like two wise old stars, and he said he saw exactly what I meant, and that he hoped to meet Dr. Chubb some day. And I continued to feel enthusiasm for him even after half an hour’s talk on the subject of his treatment of Peter, which Peter had led me to believe was atrocious.
“Dear, dearest Betty,” said Peter, as he met me at the train on the first day of September, “how wonderful to have you come just when I need you most! I am in the depths of despair.” And he looked it.
“Oh, Peter, is it about the play?” I gasped as I fairly hung on to his arm while he was languidly giving my traveling-bag to a footman. Peter looked like a literary version of what Sam called “the last of pea-time,” which is a very vivid expression to a person who has just seen her poor peas drop away in the August garden. “What has happened?”
“I care nothing more about the play, Betty. It is stolen from me,” answered Peter, gloomily, as he led me through the Pennsylvania Station and up the steps toward the limousine, where I knew Mabel would be waiting to eat me up and be in turn devoured.
“Why, Peter, what can you mean?” I gasped.
“I’ll tell you all about it when I get you to myself. Don’t mention it to Mabel—she doesn’t understand,” he answered from behind his teeth as he put me into the car and into Mabel’s arms, and also into Miss Greenough’s.
But for all my joy at seeing both those dear friends again I couldn’t help being depressed by every glance at Peter, sitting opposite me, looking white and glum.
“Don’t notice him—he’s more impossible than ever,” said Mabel, once, when Peter leaned out to be reproachful to the chauffeur for doing his duty and keeping us waiting for the traffic signal. “I’ll tell you all when I get you alone.”
Judge Vandyne met us at the lodge gate of the great Vandyne home out on the Island. He, too, treated Peter like a sick baby. I never was so puzzled; and dinner would have seemed long but for the fact that they all wanted to hear so much about Sam and The Briers and the whole Harpeth Valley. I never more enjoyed telling anything, and even Peter’s gloom lightened when I told him about the fat little duck the Byrd had insisted on sending him—alive in a box. Daddy was secretly expressing it to me, on the sleeping-car porter’s kindly advice, when he saw it in my baggage.