“I’m off duty to-night.”
“I see. Could you get off duty some afternoon and come to tea, if I’ll promise to have Io there to meet you?”
“Your party seems to be making signals of distress, Miss Forbes.”
“That’s the normal attitude of my friends and family toward me. You’ll come, won’t you, Mr. Banneker?”
“Thank you: but reporting keeps one rather too busy for amusement.”
“You won’t come,” she murmured, aggrieved. “Then it is true about you and Io.”
This time she achieved a result. Banneker flushed angrily, though he said, coolly enough: “I think perhaps you would make an enterprising reporter, yourself, Miss Forbes.”
“I’m sure I should. Well, I’ll apologize. And if you won’t come for Io—she’s still abroad, by the way and won’t be back for a month—perhaps you’ll come for me. Just to show that you forgive my impertinences. Everybody does. I’m going to tell Bertie Cressey he must bring you.... All right, Bertie! I wish you wouldn’t follow me up like—like a paper-chase. Good-night, Mr. Banneker.”
To her indignant escort she declared that it couldn’t have hurt them to wait a jiffy; that she had had a most amusing conversation; that Mr. Banneker was as charming as he was good to look at; and that (in answer to sundry questions) she had found out little or nothing, though she hoped for better results in future.
“But he’s Io’s passion-in-the-desert right enough,” said the irreverent Miss Forbes.
Banneker sat long over his cooling coffee. Through haunted nights he had fought maddening memories of Io’s shadowed eyes, of the exhalant, irresistible femininity of her, of the pulses of her heart against his on that wild and wonderful night in the flood; and he had won to an armed peace, in which the outposts of his spirit were ever on guard against the recurrent thoughts of her.
Now, at the bitter music of her name on the lips of a gossiping and frivolous girl, the barriers had given away. In eagerness and self-contempt he surrendered to the vision. Go to an afternoon tea to see and speak with her again? He would, in that awakened mood, have walked across the continent, only to be in her presence, to feel himself once more within the radius of that inexorable charm.
“Katie’s” sits, sedate and serviceable, on a narrow side street so near to Park Row that the big table in the rear rattles its dishes when the presses begin their seismic rumblings, in the daily effort to shake the world. Here gather the pick and choice of New York journalism, while still on duty, to eat and drink and discuss the inner news of things which is so often much more significant than the published version; haply to win or lose a few swiftly earned dollars at pass-three hearts. It is the unofficial press club of Newspaper Row.
Said McHale of The Sphere, who, having been stuck with the queen of spades—that most unlucky thirteener—twice in succession, was retiring on his losses, to Mallory of The Ledger who had just come in: