One night while Gregory sat on a high stool and rested his elbow on the desk before it, with his chin in his hand, looking down upon Fane, who sprawled sadly in his chair, and listening to the last dance playing in the distant parlor, Fane said. “Now, what’ll you bet that they won’t every one of ’em come and look for a letter in her box before she goes to bed? I tell you, girls are queer, and there’s no place like a hotel to study ’em.”
“I don’t want to study them,” said Gregory, harshly.
“Think Greek’s more worth your while, or know ’em well enough already?” Fane suggested.
“No, I don’t know them at all,” said the student.
“I don’t believe,” urged the clerk, as if it were relevant, “that there’s a girl in the house that you couldn’t marry, if you gave your mind to it.”
Gregory twitched irascibly. “I don’t want to marry them.”
“Pretty cheap lot, you mean? Well, I don’t know.”
“I don’t mean that,” retorted the student. “But I’ve got other things to think of.”
“Don’t you believe,” the clerk modestly urged, “that it is natural for a man—well, a young man—to think about girls?”
“I suppose it is.”
“And you don’t consider it wrong?”
“Well, a waste of time. I don’t know as I always think about wanting to marry ’em, or be in love, but I like to let my mind run on ’em. There’s something about a girl that, well, you don’t know what it is, exactly. Take almost any of ’em,” said the clerk, with an air of inductive reasoning. “Take that Claxon girl, now for example, I don’t know what it is about her. She’s good-looking, I don’t deny that; and she’s got pretty manners, and she’s as graceful as a bird. But it a’n’t any one of ’em, and it don’t seem to be all of ’em put together that makes you want to keep your eyes on her the whole while. Ever noticed what a nice little foot she’s got? Or her hands?”
“No,” said the student.
“I don’t mean that she ever tries to show them off; though I know some girls that would. But she’s not that kind. She ain’t much more than a child, and yet you got to treat her just like a woman. Noticed the kind of way she’s got?”
“No,” said the student, with impatience.
The clerk mused with a plaintive air for a moment before he spoke. “Well, it’s something as if she’d been trained to it, so that she knew just the right thing to do, every time, and yet I guess it’s nature. You know how the chef always calls her the Boss? That explains it about as well as anything, and I presume that’s what my mind was running on, the other day, when I called her Boss. But, my! I can’t get anywhere near her since!”
“It serves you right,” said Gregory. “You had no business to tease her.”
“Now, do you think it was teasing? I did, at first, and then again it seemed to me that I came out with the word because it seemed the right one. I presume I couldn’t explain that to her.”