BILLY HAS HIS DOUBTS
The encounter in the bazaars that Thursday afternoon brought one more result to young Hill besides the bruise upon his chin and the privilege of bowing to Lady Claire and her vigilant chaperon, and the presence of Lady Claire’s little handkerchief in his coat pocket.
It brought a young German, scrupulously sober, soberly apologetic, in formal state to Billy’s hotel upon Friday morning, whose card announced him to be Frederick von Deigen and whose speech proclaimed him to be utterly aghast at his own untoward behavior.
“I was not myself,” he owned, with a sigh and a melancholy twist of his upstanding mustaches. “I had been lunching alone—and it is bad to lunch alone when one has a sadness. One drinks—to forget.... But you are too young to understand.” He waved his hand in compliment to Billy’s youth, then continued, with increasing energy, “But when I find what dummheit I have done—how I have so rudely addressed the young Fraeulein with you, and have used my fists upon you, even to the point of hurling you upon the street—I have no words for my shame.”
“Oh, it wasn’t exactly a hurl,” Billy easily amended. “There was a banana peel where my heel happened to be—and I wasn’t half scrapping. I could see you weren’t yourself.”
“Indeed no! Would I,” he struck himself gloomily upon the breast, “would I intrude upon a young Fraeulein, and attack her protector? It was that bottle—that last bottle.... I knew—at the time.... I offer you my apology. I can do no more—unless you would have satisfaction—no?”
“I guess I had all the satisfaction that was coming to me yesterday,” said Billy. “You’ve got a fist like a professional. But there’s no harm done.... Only you want to get over taking that last bottle and offering presents to young ladies,” he concluded, with an accent of youthful severity.
The German nodded a depressed head. His melancholy, bloodshot eyes fixed themselves sadly upon Billy. “Ach, it is so,” he assented meekly, “but when one has a sadness—” He sighed.
“Yes, of course, that’s tough,” agreed Billy sympathetically. “I hate a sadness.”
“Perhaps you have known—?” The other’s eyes lifted toward him, then dropped dispiritedly. “But, no, you are too young. But I—Ach!” He added in his own tongue a line of which Billy caught geliebt and gelebt, and so nodded understandingly.
“That geliebing business is bad stuff,” he returned, and again the other tugged at his mustaches with a nervous hand and shook his big blond head.
“She was to have met me here,” he said abruptly. “She wrote—I was to come quick—and then she comes not. That is woman, the ewige weibliche.” He scowled. “But, Gott, how enchantment was in her!”
Billy heard himself sigh in unison. The phrase suggested Arlee. And the situation was not dissimilar. He felt a positive sympathy for the big blond fellow in his pronounced clothes and glossy boots and careful boutonniere.... He smiled in friendly fashion.