But John had neither eyes nor ears for Uncle Richard’s wrath. He snatched the key and the paper upon which the supercilious clerk had inscribed, at Marjorie’s embarrassed dictation, “Mrs. Underwood, West Hills, N.J. (husband to arrive later), 625 and 6,” and, since love is keen, he jumped to the right conclusion and the open elevator without further delay.
An hour or so later the attention of the clerk and the telephone-girl was again drawn to the complicated Blakes. A party of four sauntered out of the dining-room and approached the desk.
“I’ll register now, I think,” said John. And when he had finished he turned to the star-eyed girl behind him.
“Look carefully at this, Marjorie,” he admonished. “Mr. and Mrs. John Blake. You are Mrs. John Blake. Do you think you can remember that?”
“Don’t laugh at me,” she pleaded, “Gladys says it was a most natural mistake, and so does Bob. Don’t you, Gladys and Bob?”
“An almost inevitable mistake,” they chorused mendaciously, “but,” added Bob, “a rather disastrous mistake for your uncle to explain to his wife, the doctor and the nurse. He’ll be able for it, though; I never saw so game an old chap.”
“And I’ll never do it again,” she promised. People never do when they’ve been married a long, long time, and I feel as though I had been married thousands and thousands of years.”
“Poor, tired little girl,” said John, “you have had a rather indifferent time of it. Say good-night to Dick and Gladys. Come, my dear.”
“But, Win,” remonstrated the bride-elect, “I really don’t think we could. Wouldn’t it look awfully strange? I don’t think I ever heard of its being done.”
“Neither did I,” he agreed. “And yet I want you to do it. Look at it from my point of view. I persuade John Mead to stop wandering around the world and to take an apartment with me here in New York. Then I meet you. The inevitable happens and in less than a year John is to be left desolate. You know how eccentric he is, and how hard it will be for him to get on with any other companion—”
“I know,” said Patty, “that he never will find any one—but you—to put up with his eccentricities.”
“And then, as if abandoning him were not bad enough, I go and maim the poor beggar: blind him temporarily—permanently, if he is not taken care of—and disfigure him beyond all description. Honestly, Patty, you never saw anything like him.”
“I know,” said she, “I know. A pair of black eyes.”
“Black!” he cried, “why, they’re all the colors of the rainbow and two more beside, as the story-book says. All the way from his hair to his mustache he is one lurid sunset. I don’t want to minimize this thing. It has only one redeeming feature: he will be a complete disguise. No amount of rice or ribbon could counteract his sinister companionship. No bridal suspicions could live in the light of it. Doesn’t that thought help?”.