THE COMIC SPIRIT
Pausing at the foot of the stoop, Miss Lessing looked up at the two young men and smiled.
“Good-evening,” she said with a pretty nod for P. Sybarite; and, with its fellow for George, “Good-evening, Mr. Bross,” she added.
Having acknowledged this salutation with that quaint courtesy which somehow seemed to fit him like a garment, P. Sybarite smiled strangely at the shipping clerk.
The latter mumbled something incoherent, glanced wildly toward the young woman, and spluttered explosively; all with a blush so deep that its effect was apoplectic.
Alarmed by this exhibition, Miss Lessing questioned P. Sybarite with her lifted brows and puzzled eyes.
“George is a little bit excited,” he apologised. “Every so often he becomes obsessed with mad desire to impose upon some simple and credulous nature like mine. And failure always unbalances him. He becomes excitable—ah—irrational—”
With an inarticulate snort, Mr. Bross turned and fled into the house.
Confusion possessed him, and with it rage: stumbling blindly on the first flight of steps, he clawed the atmosphere with fingers that itched for vengeance.
“I’ll get even!” he muttered savagely—“I’ll get hunk with that boob if it’s the last act of my life!”
Fortunately, the hall was gloomy and at that moment deserted.
On the first landing he checked, clutched the banisters for support, and endeavoured to compose himself—but with less success than he realised.
It was with a suggestion of stealth that he ascended the second flight—with an enforced deliberateness and caution that were wasted. For as he reached the top, the door of the back hall-bedroom opened gently for the space of three inches. Through this aperture were visible a pair of bright eyes, with the curve of a plump and pretty cheek, and an adorable bare arm and shoulder.
“That you, George?” Violet Prim demanded with vivacity.
Reluctantly he stopped and in a throaty monosyllable admitted his identity.
“Well, how’d it go off?”
“He fell for it?”
“All over himself. Honest, Vi, it was a scream to watch his eyes pop. You could’ve clubbed ’em outa his bean without touchin’ his beak. I ’most died.”
Miss Prim giggled appreciatively.
“You’re a wonder, George,” she applauded. “It takes you to think ’em out.”
“Ah, I don’t know,” returned her admirer with becoming modesty.
“He’s gone on her, all right, ain’t he?”
“Crazy about her!”
“Think he’ll make a play for her now?”
George demurred. Downright lying was all very well; he could manage that with passable craft, especially when, as in this instance, detection would be difficult; but prophecy was a little out of his line. Though with misgivings, he resorted to unvarnished truth: