“Yes, you know him, of course. Bocqueraz—that’s who it is!”
“Not Stephen Graham Bocqueraz!” ejaculated Susan, round-eyed.
“Yes—yes!” Mr. Browning liked her enthusiasm.
“But is he here?” Susan asked, almost reverently. “Why, I’m perfectly crazy about his books!” she confided. “Why—why—he’s about the biggest there is!”
“Yes, he writes good stuff,” the man agreed. “Well, now, don’t you miss meeting him! He’ll be here directly,” his eyes roved to the stairway, a few feet from where they were sitting. “Here he is now!” said he. “Come now, Miss Brown—–”
“Oh, honestly! I’m scared—I don’t know what to say!” Susan said in a panic. But Browning’s fat little hand was firmly gripped over hers and she went with him to meet the two or three men who were chatting together as they came slowly, composedly, into the ball-room.
From among them she could instantly pick the writer, even though all three were strangers, and although, from the pictures she had seen of him, she had always fancied that Stephen Bocqueraz was a large, athletic type of man, instead of the erect and square-built gentleman who walked between the other two taller men. He was below the average height, certainly, dark, clean-shaven, bright-eyed, with a thin-lipped, wide, and most expressive mouth, and sleek hair so black as to make his evening dress seem another color. He was dressed with exquisite precision, and with one hand he constantly adjusted and played with the round black-rimmed glasses that hung by a silk ribbon about his neck. Susan knew him, at this time, to be about forty-five, perhaps a little less. If her very first impression was that he was both affected and well aware of his attractiveness, her second conceded that here was a man who could make any affectation charming, and not the less attractive because he knew his value.
“And what do I do, Mr. Br-r-rowning,” asked Mr. Bocqueraz with pleasant precision, “when I wish to monopolize the company of a very charming young lady, at a dance, and yet, not dancing, cannot ask her to be my partner?”
“The next is the supper dance,” suggested Susan, dimpling, “if it isn’t too bold to mention it!”
He flashed her an appreciative look, the first they had really exchanged.
“Supper it is,” he said gravely, offering her his arm. But Browning delayed him for a few introductions first; and Susan stood watching him, and thinking him very distinguished, and that to study a really great man, so pleasantly at her ease, was very thrilling. Presently he turned to her again, and they went in to supper; to Susan it was all like an exciting dream. They chose a little table in the shallow angle of a closed doorway, and watched the confusion all about them; and Susan, warmed by the appreciative eyes so near her, found herself talking quite naturally, and more than once was rewarded by the writer’s unexpected laughter. She asked him if Mrs. Bocqueraz and his daughter were with him, and he said no, not on this particular trip.