“What place do you like best in this beautiful old world?” she asked, drawing down a snowy bough. Some of the blossoms fell and lay entrapped in her hair.
“This,” he answered frankly. She met his gaze quickly, and with suspicion. His face was smiling, but not so his eyes. “Wherever I am, if content, I like that place best. And I am content here.”
“You fought with Greece?”
“How that country always rouses our sympathies! Isn’t there a little too much poetry and not enough truth about it?”
“There is. I fought with the Greeks because I disliked them less than the Turks.”
“And Mr. Breitmann?”
He smiled. “He fought with the Turks to chastise Greece, which he loves.”
“What adventures you two must have had! To be on opposing sides, like that!”
“Opposing newspapers. The two angles of vision made our copy interesting. There was really no romance about it. It was purely a business transaction. We offered our lives and our pencils for a hundred a week and our expenses. Rather sordid side to it, eh? And a fourth-rate order or two—”
“You were decorated?” excitedly. “I am sure it was for bravery.”
“Don’t you believe it. The king of Greece and the sultan both considered the honor conferred upon us as good advertising.”
“You are laughing.”
“Well, war in the Balkans is generally a laughing matter. Sounds brutal, I know, but it is true.”
“I know,” gaily. “You are conceited, and are trying to make me believe that you are modest.”
“And this Mr. Breitmann has been decorated for valor? And yet to-day he becomes my father’s private secretary. The two do not connect.”
“May I ask you to mention nothing of this to him? It would embarrass him. I had no business to bring him into it.”
She grew meditative, brushing her lips with the blossoms. “He will be something of a mystery. I am not overfond of mysteries outside of book covers.”
“There is really no mystery; but it is human for a man in his position to wish to bury his past greatness.”
By and by the sun touched the southwest shoulder of the hill, and the two strolled back to the house.
From his window, Breitmann could see them plainly.
“Damn those scars!” he murmured, striking with his fist the disfigured cheek, which upon a time had been a source of pride and honor. “Damn them!”
THEY DRESS FOR DINNER