“Would you mind giving me one—just to show Mr. Ridgely?”
Noble gave her an Orduma cigarette.
“Oh, thank you!” she said gratefully. “I mustn’t keep you another minute, because I know your father wouldn’t know what to do at the office without you! Thank you so much for this!” She turned and walked quickly halfway up the path, then paused, looking back over her shoulder. “I’ll only show it to him, Noble,” she said. “I won’t give it to him!”
She bit her lip as if she had said more than she should have; shook her head as in self-chiding; then laughed, and in a flash touched the tiny white cylinder to her lips, waved it to him;—then ran to the veranda and up the steps and into the house. She felt satisfied that she had set matters right, this kind Julia!
Before she thus set matters right with Noble he had been unhappy and his condition had been bad; now he was happy, but his condition was worse. In truth, he was much, much too happy; nothing rational remained in his mind. No elfin orchestra seemed to buzz in his ears as he went down the street, but a loud, triumphing brass band. His unathletic chest was inflated; he heaved up with joy; and a little child, playing on the next corner, turned and followed him for some distance, trying to imitate his proud, singular walk. Restored to too much pride, Noble became also much too humane; he thought of Mr. Atwater’s dream, and felt almost a motherly need to cherish and protect him, to be indeed his friend. There was a warm spot in Noble’s chest, produced in part by a yearning toward that splendid old man. Noble had a good home, sixty-six dollars in the bank and a dollar and forty cents in his pockets; he would have given all for a chance to show Mr. Atwater how well he understood him now, at last, and how deeply he appreciated his favour.
Students of alcoholic intoxication have observed that in their cups commonplace people, and not geniuses, do the most unusual things. So with all other intoxications. Noble Dill was indeed no genius, and some friend should have kept an eye upon him to-day; he was not himself. All afternoon in a mood of tropic sunrise he collected rents, or with glad vagueness consented instantly to their postponement. “I’ve come about the rent again,” he said beamingly to one delinquent tenant of his father’s best client; and turned and walked away, humming a waltz-song, while the man was still coughing as a preliminary to argument.
Late in the afternoon, as the entranced collector sat musing alone near a window in his father’s office, his exalted mood was not affected by the falling of a preternatural darkness over the town, nor was he roused to action by any perception of the fact that the other clerks and the members of the firm had gone home an hour ago; that the clock showed him his own duty to lock up the office and not keep his mother “waiting dinner”; and that he would be caught in a most outrageous thunderstorm if he didn’t hurry. No; he sat, smiling fondly, by the open window, and at times made a fragmentary gesture as of some heroic or benevolent impulse in rehearsal.