The basement door at which he had been ringing a prolonged Morse dot and dash announcement of identity clicked back and revealed a dimly lighted tunnel. At the end a flight of steps led up into a courtyard.
Kenny closed the outer door and blocked out the roar of the city. New York receded, its hum very far away. Their heels clanked loudly in the quiet.
As they climbed the steps and came out in the courtyard, Ann’s windows, trimly curtained, twinkled pleasantly through the snow ahead.
A girl stood waiting in the doorway.
“Hello, Ann!” called Kenny joyously. “Is it you?”
“Hello, Kenny!” cried a pleasant contralto voice. “Hurry up. It’s snowing like fury.”
Kenny seized Joan’s hand and raced her across the courtyard and up the steps. When she came to a halt, shy and breathless, she was standing by a crackling wood-fire in a room that seemed all coziness and color and soft light.
A tall girl with black hair, a clear skin and intelligent eyes was smiling at them both.
“Kenny,” exclaimed Ann Marvin, “you Irish will-of-the-wisp! Where have you been? Everybody’s talking about you. Joan, dear, shake the snow off your coat. You’re beginning to melt.”
Joan’s eyes opened wide at the sound of her name. Ann laughed and pinched her flushed cheek.
“My dear,” she said drolly, “I know more than your name. Kenny sent me a letter of measures, spiritual, mental and physical that would turn Bertillon green with envy. If ever you default with all the foolish hearts in New York I’ll turn you over to the police. And you’ll never escape.”
Joan clung to her with a smile and a sigh of relief that made them both laugh.
“Ann,” said Kenny in heartfelt gratitude, “you’re a brick. I don’t wonder Frank Barrington’s head over heels in love with you. You’ll not be mindin’, Ann, dear, if I use your telephone?”
“Sure, no!” mimicked Ann broadly. “It’s yonder in the den.”
Kenny at the telephone called the Players’ Club and with his lips set for battle, asked for John Whitaker, whose methodical habits of diversion for once in his life he blessed. When Whitaker’s voice came, brief and somewhat bored, he forgot to say: “Hello.”
“Whitaker,” he demanded, “where’s Brian? You must know by now.”
“Kenny! Is that you?”
“Where on earth have you been?”
“Away. Where’s Brian?”
“Where’s Brian?” Whitaker snorted. “He ought to be in a lunatic asylum if you want my honest opinion. As to where he is, I told you before and I’m telling you again, I’m pledged to secrecy. I’ve even destroyed his address so I wouldn’t be tempted—and my memory couldn’t be worse. I’d like to say right now, however, that he’s more of an O’Neill than I thought and I’m through with him.”
“Phew!” whistled Kenny, much too astonished for battle. “What—what’s up, John?”