“Come in,” he said.
The next instant he was staring. The girl had entered and closed the door behind her. O’Connor’s picture stood in flesh and blood before him. The girl’s eyes met his own. They were like glorious violets, as O’Connor had said, but they were not the eyes he had expected to see. They were the wide-open, curious eyes of a child. He had visualized them as pools of slumbering flame—the idea O’Connor had given him—and they were the opposite of that. Their one emotion seemed to be the emotion roused by an overwhelming, questioning curiosity. They were apparently not regarding him as a dying human being, but as a creature immensely interesting to look upon. In place of the gratitude he had anticipated, they were filled with a great, wondering interrogation, and there was not the slightest hint of embarrassment in their gaze. For a space it seemed to Kent that he saw nothing but those wonderful, dispassionate eyes looking at him. Then he saw the rest of her— her amazing hair, her pale, exquisite face, the slimness and beauty of her as she stood with her back to the door, one hand still resting on the latch. He had never seen anything quite like her. He might have guessed that she was eighteen, or twenty, or twenty-two. Her hair, wreathed in shimmering, velvety coils from the back to the crown of her head, struck him as it had struck O’Connor, as unbelievable. The glory of it gave to her an appearance of height which she did not possess, for she was not tall, and her slimness added to the illusion.
And then, greatly to his embarrassment in the next instant, his eyes went to her feet. Again O’Connor was right—tiny feet, high-heeled pumps, ravishingly turned ankles showing under a skirt of some fluffy brown stuff or other—
Correcting himself, his face flushed red. The faintest tremble of a smile was on the girl’s lips. She looked down, and for the first time he saw what O’Connor had seen, the sunlight kindling slumberous fires in her hair.
Kent tried to say something, but before he succeeded she had taken possession of the chair near his bedside.
“I have been waiting a long time to see you,” she said. “You are James Kent, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I’m Jim Kent. I’m sorry Dr. Cardigan kept you waiting. If I had known—”
He was getting a grip on himself again, and smiled at her. He noticed the amazing length of her dark lashes, but the violet eyes behind them did not smile back at him. The tranquillity of their gaze was disconcerting. It was as if she had not quite made up her mind about him yet and was still trying to classify him in the museum of things she had known.
“He should have awakened me,” Kent went on, trying to keep himself from slipping once more. “It isn’t polite to keep a young lady waiting two hours!”
This time the blue eyes made him feel that his smile was a maudlin grin.
“Yes—you are different.” She spoke softly, as if expressing the thought to herself. “That is what I came to find out, if you were different. You are dying?”