The office boy was out on an errand and in his absence the switchboard was Miss Beach’s care.
“The—The Girl Up-stairs?” she repeated.
“That’s what he said, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” she assented. “That’s—the name of it.”
He might have been expected, after giving an order like that, to go striding back into his private office and slam the door after him. It wasn’t at all his way to keep a lingering hand on a task after he’d delegated it to some one else. But he didn’t on this occasion act as she’d expected him to; remained abstractedly where he was while something turned itself over in his mind.
There was nothing urgent about his order of course, and it was natural enough that she should go on with her typing to the end of a sentence, or even of a paragraph. But he stayed on and on, and Miss Beach went steadily on with her typing. Finally he roused himself enough to look around at her.
“Go ahead and telephone,” he said. “I want to find out if I can get a seat.”
She arose obediently and moved over to the switchboard, then began fumbling with the directory.
“Good lord!” said Rodney. “You know the number of the University Club!”
Of course it was true she did. She called it up for him on an average of a dozen times a week. He was looking at her now with undisguised curiosity. She was acting, for a perfectly infallible machine like Miss Beach, almost queer. But she acted queerer the next moment. She laid down the directory, clasped her hands tight and pressed her lips together. Then, without looking around at him, she said:
“You don’t want to go to see that show, Mr. Aldrich. It—it isn’t good at all.”
Rodney was more nearly amused than he had been in a month.
“You’ve been to see it?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said, and managed to go on a little more naturally, “Mr. Craig took me. We had a bet on what the Supreme Court’s decision would be in the Roderick case—theater tickets against two pounds of home-made fudge, and I won. And—that’s where we went.”
“And you didn’t like it, eh?”
“No,” she said.
By now he was grinning at her outright. “Vulgar?” he asked.
Her color had mounted again. “Yes,” she said.
The notion of having his dramatic entertainment censored by a frail, prim little thing like Miss Beach tickled his burly sense of humor. “It would be a horrible thing if I should go to see anything vulgar, wouldn’t it?” he observed. “But I think I’ll take a chance. You go ahead and telephone.”
At that she rose and, for the first time, faced him. To his amazement, he saw that she was in a perfect panic of embarrassment and fright. But, for some grotesque reason, she was determined, too. She was blushing up to the hair and her lips were trembling.
“Mr. Aldrich,” she said, “you won’t like that show. If—if you go, you’ll be sorry.”