The pale young man eased
himself carefully into the low chair, and rolled his head to the side,
so that the cool chintz comforted his cheek and temple.
"Oh, dear," he said."Oh,
dear, oh, dear, oh, dear. Oh."
The clear-eyed girl, sitting
light and erect on the couch, smiled brightly at him.
"Not feeling so well today?"
"Oh, I'm great," he said.
"Corking, I am. Know what time I got up? Four o'clock this afternoon, sharp.
I kept trying to make it, and every time I took my head off the pillow,
it would roll under the bed. This isn't my head I've got on now. I think
this is something that used to belong to Walt Whitman. Oh, dear, oh, dear,
"Do you think maybe a drink
would make you feel better?" she said.
"The hair of the mastiff
that bit me?" he said. "Oh, no, thank you. Please never speak of anything
like that again. I'm through. I'm all, all through. Look at that hand;
steady as a humming-bird. Tell me, was I very terrible last night?"
"Oh, goodness," she said,
"everybody was feeling pretty high. You were all right."
"Yeah," he said. "I must
have been dandy. Is everybody sore at me?"
"Good heavens, no," she
said. "Everybody thought you were terribly funny. Of course, Jim Pierson
was a little stuffy, there, for a minute at dinner. But people sort of
held him back in his chair, and got him calmed down. I don't think anybody
at the other tables noticed it at all. Hardly anybody."
"He was going to sock me?"
he said. "Oh, Lord. What did I do to him?"
"Why, you didn't do a thing,"
she said. "You were perfectly fine. But you know how silly Jim gets, when
he thinks anybody is making too much fuss over Elinor."
"Was I making a pass at
Elinor?" he said, "Did I do that?"
"Of course you didn't."
she said. "You were only fooling that's all. She thought you were awfully
amusing. She was having a marvelous time. She only got a little tiny bit
annoyed just once, when you poured the clam-juice down her back."
"My God," he said. "Clam-juice
down that back. And every vertebra a little Cabot. Dear God. What'll I
"Oh, she'll be all right,"
she said. "Just send her some flowers, or something. Don't worry about
it. It isn't anything."
"No I won't worry," he
said. "I haven't got a care in the world. I'm sitting pretty. Oh, dear,
oh, dear. Did I do any other fascinating tricks at dinner?"
"You were fine," she said.
"Don't be so foolish about it. Everybody was crazy about you. The maître
d'hôtel was a little worried because you wouldn't stop singing, but he
really didn't mind. All he said was, he was afraid they'd close the place
again, if there was so much noise. But he didn't care a bit, himself. I
think he loved seeing you have such a good time. Oh, you were just singing
away, there, for about an hour. It wasn't so terribly loud, at all."
"So I sang," he said. "That
must have been a treat. I sang."
"Don't you remember?" she
said. "You just sang one song after another. Everybody in the place was
listening. They loved it. Only you kept insisting that you wanted to sing
some song about some kind of fusiliers or other, and everybody kept shushing
you, and you'd keep trying to start it again. You were wonderful. We were
all trying to make you stop singing for a minute, and eat something, but you
wouldn't hear of it. My, you were funny."
"Didn't I eat any dinner?"
"Oh, not a thing," she
said. "Every time the waiter would offer you something, you'd give it right
back to him, because you said that he was your long-lost brother, changed
in the cradle by a gypsy band, and that everthing you had was his. You
had him simply roaring at you."
"I bet I did," he said,
"I bet I was comical. Society's Pet, I must have been. And what happened
then, after my overwhelming success with the waiter?"
"Why, nothing much," she
said. "You took a sort of dislike to some old man with white hair, sitting
across the room, because you didn't like his necktie and you wanted to
tell him about it. But we got you out, before he got really mad."
"Oh, we got out," he said.
"Did I walk?"
"Walk! Of course you did,"
she said. "You were absolutely all right. There was that nasty stretch
of ice on the sidewalk, and you did sit down awfully hard, you poor dear.
But good heavens, that might have happened to anybody."
"Oh, sure," he said. "Louisa
Alcott or anybody. So I fell down on sidewalk. That would explain what's
the matter with my—Yes. I see. And then what, if you don't mind?"
"Ah, now, Peter!" she said.
"You can't sit there and say you don't remember what happened after that!
I did think that maybe you were a little tight at dinner—oh, you were
perfectly all right, and all that, but I did know you were feeling pretty
gay. But you were so serious, from the time you fell down—I never knew
you to be that way. Don't you know how you told me I had never seen your
real self before? Oh, Peter, I just couldn't bear it, if you didn't remember
that lovely long ride we took together in the taxi! Please, you do remember
that, don't you? I think it would simply kill me, if you didn't."
"Oh, yes," he said. "Riding
in the taxi. Oh, yes, sure. Pretty long ride, hmm?"
"Round and round and round
the park," she said. "Oh, and the trees were shining so in the moonlight.
And you said you never knew before that you really had a soul."
"Yes," he said. "I said
that. That was me."
"You said such lovely,
lovely things," she said. "And I'd never known, all this time, how you
had been feeling about me, and I'd never dared to let you see how I felt
about you. And then last night—oh, Peter dear, think that taxi ride was
the most important thing that ever happened to us in our lives."
"Yes," he said. "I guess
it must have been."
"And we're going to be
so happy," she said. "Oh, I just want to tell everybody! But I don't know—I
think maybe it would be sweeter to keep it all to ourselves."
"I think it would be,"
"Isn't it lovely?" she
"Yes," he said. "Great."
"Lovely!" she said.
"Look here," he said, "do
you mind if I have a drink? I mean, just medicinally, you know. I'm off
the stuff for life, so help me. But I think I feel a collapse coming on."
"Oh, I think it would do
you good," she said. "You poor boy, it's a shame you feel so awful. I'll
go make you a whisky and soda."
"Honestly," he said, "I
don't see how you could ever want to speak to me again, after I made such
a fool of myself, last night. I think I'd better go join a monastery in
"You crazy idiot!" she
said. "As if I could ever let you go away now! Stop talking like that. You
were perfectly fine."
She jumped up from the
couch, kissed him quickly on the forehead, and ran out of the room.
The pale young man looked
after her and shook his head long and slowly, then dropped it in his damp
and trembling hands.
"Oh, dear," he said. "Oh,
dear, oh, dear, oh, dear."