“Nonsense! It isn’t hard to coo.”
“You don’t understand, laddie. You’re not a married man. I mean to say, whatever you say for or against marriage—personally I’m all for it and consider it a ripe egg—the fact remains that it practically makes a chappie a spent force as a cooer. I don’t want to dish you in any way, old bean, but I must firmly and resolutely decline to coo.”
Mr. Benham rose and looked at his watch.
“I’ll have to be moving,” he said. “I’ve got to get back to New York and report. I’ll tell them that I haven’t been able to do anything myself, but that I’ve left the matter in good hands. I know you will do your best.”
“Think,” said Mr. Benham, solemnly, “of all that depends on it! The other actors! The small-part people thrown out of a job! Myself—but no! Perhaps you had better touch very lightly or not at all on my connection with the thing. Well, you know how to handle it. I feel I can leave it to you. Pitch it strong! Good-bye, my dear old man, and a thousand thanks. I’ll do the same for you another time.” He moved towards the door, leaving Archie transfixed. Half-way there he turned and came back. “Oh, by the way,” he said, “my lunch. Have it put on your bill, will you? I haven’t time to stay and settle. Good-bye! Good-bye!”
RALLYING ROUND PERCY
It amazed Archie through the whole of a long afternoon to reflect how swiftly and unexpectedly the blue and brilliant sky of life can cloud over and with what abruptness a man who fancies that his feet are on solid ground can find himself immersed in Fate’s gumbo. He recalled, with the bitterness with which one does recall such things, that that morning he had risen from his bed without a care in the world, his happiness unruffled even by the thought that Lucille would be leaving him for a short space. He had sung in his bath. Yes, he had chirruped like a bally linnet. And now—
Some men would have dismissed the unfortunate affairs of Mr. George Benham from their mind as having nothing to do with themselves, but Archie had never been made of this stern stuff. The fact that Mr. Benham, apart from being an agreeable companion with whom he had lunched occasionally in New York, had no claims upon him affected him little. He hated to see his fellowman in trouble. On the other hand, what could he do? To seek Miss Silverton out and plead with her—even if he did it without cooing—would undoubtedly establish an intimacy between them which, instinct told him, might tinge her manner after Lucille’s return with just that suggestion of Auld Lang Syne which makes things so awkward.
His whole being shrank from extending to Miss Silverton that inch which the female artistic temperament is so apt to turn into an ell; and when, just as he was about to go in to dinner, he met her in the lobby and she smiled brightly at him and informed him that her eye was now completely recovered, he shied away like a startled mustang of the prairie, and, abandoning his intention of worrying the table d’hote in the same room with the amiable creature, tottered off to the smoking-room, where he did the best he could with sandwiches and coffee.