“What do you think of it?” he asked.
She came closer to the lamp. It was only pretense, but Warrington was not aware of it. She had stared at the sheet, reading only her miserable thoughts. Presently she smiled; the girlish exuberance amused her.
“She has put you quite out of reach. What a fine thing it must be to have such faith in any man!”
“And I’m not worth in her esteem an ounce to the pound.” He was quite frank with himself. “I would to Heaven I were!”
“And this is the kind of woman that you will fall violently in love with, some day, Dick. It will be your punishment.” She had fully recovered by now, and the old-time raillery was in the ascendant. “Oh, she has read you fairly well. You are good and kind and wise, but these virtues are not of equal weight. Your goodness and wisdom will never catch up with your abundant kindness. I’ve a good deal to thank you for, Dick; a good deal.”
“Nonsense! The shoe is on the other foot. You have made half my plays what they are to-day.” He rang and ordered some coffee.
She dropped into his desk-chair and propped her chin in her palms, viewing him through half-closed, speculative eyes.
“We’ve had some jolly larks together,” he said. “I shall miss you; how much I shall know only when you are gone. Is he good-looking?”
“Very. He is tall and straight, with a manly face, fine eyes, and a good nose. You know that I’m always particular about a man’s nose.”
“And young, of course?” not without some feeling of jealousy.
“Tell me all about him,” drawing up a chair and facing her.
“He is a lucky chap,” he summed up when she had done.
“That remains to be seen,” lightly. “I may prove the worst wife possible. Perhaps, when I have burned my bridges, I shall be mad for the very publicity I’m trying to escape. Women are like extinct volcanos; they are most to be dreaded when written perfectly harmless.”
Warrington shook his head and laughed. Here the coffee came in. He dismissed his man, and poured the nectar himself.
“You are the one man I know who never asks to sweeten my coffee,” she observed.
“And yet I had to learn. You haven’t taught this other fellow yet, I see. Is he warranted house-broken, or will he have to be chained?”
“He will not have to be chained; and a man who is a recluse seldom has to be broken in.”
“A recluse? What’s his hobby: butterflies, stones, stamps, or coins?—No, girl; I don’t mean that. I’m a little heavy to-night. Do you recollect the night you donned a suit of mine, bundled your hair under a felt hat, and visited the studios? What a romp! Not a soul ever found out who you were; and if I hadn’t been in the secret, I shouldn’t have known, either. I shall never forget how funny Dolman looked when he started a certain popular story of his and you shut him up. ‘Gentlemen,’ you said, ’neither listen to, nor repeat that kind of story in the presence of ladies.’ ‘Ladies?’ cried Dolman. ’I see no ladies.’ ‘But there are gentlemen,’ you added quickly. Later, Dolman advised me not to bring any more of my Sunday-school friends to his studio.”