“Some other time,” she said, with a world of meaning in the promise; and then she flashed one wonderful look straight into his eyes and was gone.
“Isn’t she great?” Burnett asked, unlocking his suit-case in the most provokingly every-day style, as if this day was an every-day sort of day and not the beginning and end of all things. “Oh, I tell you, I’m almost dotty over that sister myself.”
“Do you suppose that I could manage to have her for dinner?” Jack asked, feeling desperately how dull any other place at the table would be now.
“I don’t know. When I go down to my mother I’ll try to manage it; shall I?”
“I wish you would.”
“I reckon I can; but, great loads of fire, fellow! don’t think you can play tag with her, and feel funny at the finish. She’ll do you up completely, and never turn a hair herself. She’s always at it. She don’t mean to be cruel, but she’s naturally a carnivorous animal. It’s her little way.”
Jack did not look as dismal as he should have done; he smiled, and looked out of the window instead.
“She’ll have to marry someone some day, you know,” he said thoughtfully.
“Have to marry someone some day!” Burnett cried. “Why, she is married. Didn’t you know that?” and he unbuckled the shirt portfolio as he spoke just as if calamities and tragedies and shooting stars might not follow on the heels of such a simple statement as that last.
It was an awful moment, but poor Jack did manage to continue looking out of the window. If any greater demand had been made upon him he might have sunk beneath the double weight.
“No,” he said at last, his voice painfully steady; “I didn’t know it.”
Burnett laughed heartlessly, hauling forth his apparel with a refined cruelty which took careful heed of possible interfolded shoes or cravats.
“She married an Englishman when she was nineteen years old,” he said. “That was when they sent me to Eton that little while,—until I drove the horse through the drug shop. The time I told you about, don’t you know?”
“Yes, I remember,” said Jack. He observed with sickening distinctness that the night had begun to fall, the river’s silver ribbon had become a black snake, and that the mountain range beyond loomed chill and dark and cheerless. “I guess I ought to be getting into my things,” he said, moving toward his own door.
“There’s a bath in here,” his friend called after him. “We’re to divide it.”
“Sure,” was the reply. It sounded a trifle thick.
“I don’t think that she ought to,” said the brother to himself, as he began to draw out his stick-pin before the mirror, “I don’t care if she is my favorite sister—I don’t think that she ought to.”
Then he went on to make ready for the securing of his half of the bath, and forthwith forgot his sister and his friend.