“Yes, it is,” she assented placidly. “I’m glad we don’t have to go through it again, Freddie; though you’re only eighty-two, and with a girl like Julia Atwater around nobody ought to be sure.”
Although Noble had saluted the old couple so crossly, thus unconsciously making them, as he made the sidewalk, proxy for Mr. Atwater, so to speak, yet the sight of them penetrated his outer layers of preoccupation and had an effect upon him. In the midst of his suffering his imagination paused for a shudder: What miserable old gray shadows those two were! Thank Heaven he and Julia could never be like that! And in the haze that rose before his mind’s eye he saw himself leading Julia through years of adventure in far parts of the world: there were glimpses of himself fighting grotesque figures on the edge of Himalayan precipices at dawn, while Julia knelt by the tent on the glacier and prayed for him. He saw head-waiters bowing him and Julia to tables in “strange, foreign cafes,” and when they were seated, and he had ordered dishes that amazed her, he would say in a low voice: “Don’t look now, but do you see that heavy-shouldered man with the insignia, sitting with that adventuress and those eight officers who are really his guards? Don’t be alarmed, Julia, but I am here to get that man! Perhaps you remember what your father once said of me? Now, when what I have to do here is done, perhaps you may wish to write home and mention a few things to that old man!” And then a boy’s changing voice seemed to sound again close by: “He said he just could stand the smell of some cigarettes, but if you burned any more o’ yours on his porch——” And Noble came back miserably to town again.
From an upper window of a new stucco house two maidens of nineteen peered down at him. The shade of a striped awning protected the window from the strong sun and the maidens from the sight of man—the latter protection being especially fortunate, since they were preparing to take a conversational afternoon nap, were robed with little substance, and their heads appeared to be antlered; for they caught sight of Noble just as they were preparing to put silk-and-lace things they called “caps” on their heads.
“Who’s that?” the visiting one asked.
“It’s Noble Dill; he’s kind of one of the crowd.”
“Is he nice?”
“Oh, sort of. Kind of shambles around.”
“Looks like last year’s straw hat to me,” the visiting one giggled.
“Oh, he tries to dress—lately, that is—but he never did know how.”
“Looks mad about something.”
“Yes. He’s one of the ones in love with that Julia Atwater I told you about.”
“Has he got any chance with her?”
“Noble Dill? Mercy!”
“Is he much in love with her?”
The visiting one turned from the window and yawned. “Come on: let’s lie down and talk about some of the nice ones!”