“There aren’t any others.”
“If there aren’t there will be. You’ve kept yourself protected so far by that little independent manner of yours, which scares men off. But some day a man will come who won’t be scared—and then it will be a fight to the finish between him—and me.”
“Oh, Porter, I don’t want to think of marrying—not for ten million years.”
“And yet,” he said prophetically, “if to-morrow you should meet some man who could make you think he was the Only One, you’d marry him in the face of all the world.”
“No man of that kind will ever come.”
“That will make me willing to lose the world.”
The rain was beating against the windows of the cab.
“Porter, please. We must go home.”
“Not unless you’ll promise to let me prove it—to let me show that I’m a man—not a—boy.”
“You’re the best friend I’ve ever had. I wish you wouldn’t insist on being something else.”
“But I do insist——”
“And I insist upon going home. Be good and take me.”
It was said with decision, and he gave the order to the driver. And so they whirled at last up the avenue of the Presidents and along the edges of the Park, and arrived at the foot of the terrace of the big house.
There was a light in the tower window.
“That fellow is up yet,” Porter said. He had an umbrella over her, and was shielding her as best he could from the rain. “I don’t like to think of him in the house.”
“Oh, he sees you every day. Talks to you every day. And what do you know of him? And I who’ve known you all my life must be content with scrappy minutes with other people around. And anyhow—I believe I’d be jealous of Satan himself, Mary.”
They were under the porch now, and she drew away from him a bit, surveying him with disapproving eyes.
“You aren’t like yourself to-night, Porter.”
He put one hand on her shoulder and stood looking down at her. “How can I be? What am I going to do when I leave you, Mary, and face the fact that you don’t care—that I’m no more to you—than that fellow up there in the—tower?”
He straightened himself, then with the madness of his earlier mood upon him, he said one thing more before he left her:
“Contrary Mary, if I weren’t such a coward, and you weren’t so—wonderful—I’d kiss you now—and make you—care——”
In Which a Little Bronze Boy Grins in the Dark; and in Which Mary Forgets That There is Any One Else in the House.
Up-stairs among his books Roger Poole heard Mary come in. With the curtains drawn behind him to shut out the light, he looked down into the streaming night, and saw Porter drive away alone.
Then Mary’s footstep on the stairs; her raised voice as she greeted Aunt Isabelle, who had waited up for her. A door was shut, and again the house sank into silence.