He found his pocketbook and counted out a hundred and twenty dollars, which he handed over to her. She folded it and put it away in her wrist-bag. The glow of her hadn’t faded, but once more it was turned on something—or some one—else. It wasn’t until he rose a little abruptly from the marble bench, that she roused herself with a shake of the head, arose too, and once more faced him.
“You’re right about our having to hurry,” she said. “Don’t you suppose that some of the department stores on the west side of State Street would still be open—on account of Christmas, you know?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “Very likely. But look here!” He pulled out his watch. “It’s after seven already. And rehearsal’s at eight-thirty. You’ve got to get some dinner, you know.”
“Dinner doesn’t take long at the place where I go,” she reminded him. “But if I can get one or two things now—I don’t mean the materials—why, I can get a start to-night after the rehearsal’s over.”
“I don’t like it,” he said glumly. “Oh, I know, it’s a rush job and you’ll have to work at it at all sorts of hours. If only you ... If I could just ease up a bit on your rehearsals! Only, you see, the sextette would he lost without you. Look here! There’s nothing life or death about this, you know. You don’t want to forget that you’ve got a limit, and crowd the late-at-night and early-in-the-morning business too hard. Think where we’d be if you turned up missing on the opening night!”
“I shan’t do that,” she said absently almost, and not in his direction. Then, with another little shake, bringing herself back to him with a visible effort: “If you only knew what a wonderful thing it’s going to be, to have something for late at night and early in the morning ...”
Before he could find the first one of the words he wanted, she had given him that curt farewell nod which, so inexplicably, from the first had stirred and warmed him, and turned away toward the door.
And she had never seen what was fairly shining in his face; no more than she had heard the thing that rang so eagerly in his voice through the thin disguise of an impersonal, director-like concern that she shouldn’t impair her health so far as to spoil her for the sextette!
THE END OF A FIXED IDEA
She couldn’t of course have missed a thing as plain as that but for a complete preoccupation of thought and feeling that would have left her oblivious to almost anything that could happen to her. Galbraith himself had detected this preoccupation, but he would have been staggered had he known its intensity. He had likened it in his own thoughts, to an effect that might have been caused by the presence with her of another person whom he could neither see nor hear. And that, had he believed it seriously, would have been an almost uncannily correct guess.