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"Oh, no; he has an extraordinary sense of direction. It's a sixth sense with him. It 's an intuition. He's like a homing pigeon. And then he 's traveled and explored all his life. That 's helped."
He meditated a moment.
"Do you think I had better call up the police station and tell them where you are in case he should inquire there?"
"The police station?" she repeated. Through her voice surged a dread purely feminine of such a course. "Oh, that might mean getting into the papers!"
"Not necessarily," he reassured her; "I think we 'd better do that. Then the instant he calls up they can relieve his mind. He'll know you 're safe."
"Safe?" she queried.
"Yes, you must go over and wait in my
It 's big and comfortable, and it's warm there. It happens, though, that nobody but myself is at home. The family have all gone away for the night. I guess I'm asking you to trust me a good deal. Perhaps you'd rather not do that."
"Oh, I do trust you! I shall be very glad to go to your room." Her voice rounded over the reassurance with which she met both of his interrogatives.
"You see," he exclaimed, "if he calls up any police station, my address will be with. them; and if he comes back to this corner without doing that, we shall see him from the window."
"Oh, yes, I see." Tremendous relief volleyed into her voice, but at the same time her figure drooped. "I think I'm very cold and tired," she said forlornly.
"And hungry," he added for her. "I'll make you some hot chocolate. It's just opposite.
He closed his umbrella, possessed himself of hers, and, with a hand under her arm, helped her across the street. She leaned against the wall while he unlocked the door; but the warmth indoors effected a temporary revival.
"How luscious this heat is!" she murmured as they passed up the dimly lighted stairs. "Oh, I do hate to be cold! I think I should rather be hungry."
"I would n't," he laughed.
Up-stairs in a big front room he helped her off with her rubbers, her veil, and found the pins in her hat for her. "I'm going to telephone now," he said. "Will you tell me your name?"
She gave it, and he left her.
She made no attempt to take off the long cape she wore. She stood with a bewildered expression, looking about her. The furniture in the room was cheap and innocuous, but clean and ample-a bedroom set in curly maple. It was unmistakably the room of a man; it was unmistakably the room of a very young man. It was unmistakably the room of a very young man in that period when, having established no canons of taste for himself, he feels that he must prove in all his Lares and Penates the virility of his point of view. Boxing-gloves, dumb-bells, a baseball mask indicated an athletic instinct. Beer mugs and tankards testified to a convivial strain. A small collection of novels on a shelf in one corner were all romantically martial in theme. The feminine influence was not lacking. Cushions, a little violent in color and displaying every variation of handiwork, crowded the couch. On the bureau and chiffonier many dainty embroidered linen impedimenta made amusing contrast with toiletarticles, heavily masculine, in ebonized wood. On the walls there were many poster-pictures of pretty girls. At one end was a big trunk, and beside it a box.
How much of this the lady saw is a matter of conjecture. Suddenly she began to sway and sag and slide. When the owner of the room returned, she was a mere crumpled heap of clothes on the floor. He bounded to her side, knelt down, raised her. Again her eyes opened, and again that startling effect of luminosity.
"I guess I was colder and more frightened than I realized." She smiled, but the smile came as the result of a tremendous effort. He helped her to the couch. She lay there still for a while and then, with a sudden recrudescence of energy, stood briskly up.
"Of course you were," he said, watch
ing her closely. "I'm kicking myself because I did n't beat it over there before. But you'll be all right as soon as you have something hot to drink. I 've done the telephoning, and put some milk on the gas-stove. There'll be some hot chocolate in a little while. You'd better take off that wet cape."
Her long, gray military cape came off, revealing a surprise. She wore an eveninggown of a transparent, floating gray. came down to gray satin slippers with silver buckles. She pulled away a scarf, also a transparent, floating gray. Her shoulders, neck, and arms were bare except where a necklace of delicately carved gold. dropped pendent topazes that were like ovals of petrified honey; their pendent reflections were like drops of yellow wine on her white skin. Her arms were very slim and long, and so were her hands. Her eyes were large and changing, slate color in the shadow and gray in the light. Her ripply hair, coiled very simply in the neck and thrust through with a yellow satin rose, must once have been dark-a smoky dark. Now, though she was young, it was gray, a brilliant gray, as though here, there, everywhere sparks of silver had been set in the smoke. The tired pallor of her face intensified a certain sculpturesque quality in her features.
He drew the couch over to the fire; he heaped the cushions comfortably.
"Now lie down and take it easy," he begged. "That 's a peach of a sofa. I'll be back in a jiffy." He poked the fire vigorously and disappeared.
She did exactly as she was told; but her fine, luminous eyes moved languidly over that part of the room which came within the range of her vision. As the result of his vigorous efforts, the fire had come up, beating its way through a thick film of charred paper. From under the pile of pillows which he had thrown on the hearth protruded crumpled sheets of letter-paper covered with writing, stray envelops, and a photograph or two, face down.
He came in presently with a bowl of steaming chocolate, a plate bearing a por
tion of cold chicken that still preserved the shape of the tin, some crackers, and some little cakes. He drew a low, jiggly table beside the couch, spread the things out. "Now get busy," he commanded, "and eat!"
"Oh, I'll eat," she murmured. never was so hungry! You see, I 've had no dinner. And you know so wonderfully just what to do! Men differ so very much in that respect. Old men who 've had a lot of experience are often quite helpless when women go to pieces. But you are extraordinary, and you 're only a boy." He laughed.
"It 's many years since I was a boy. I'm twenty-five."
"You don't look that," she commented. "Besides, twenty-five is not a very advanced age."
His look of adolescence was as much a matter of figure as of face. He had carried into the twenties much of the boyish slimness of the teens; yet his figure had the strength of maturity, though he moved as lightly as a cat. His face, however, was not shadowed with even a touch of that maturity. His olive-dark skin glowed with a cleanly athleticism; his tar-black eyes sparkled with it. His look was alert, candid, friendly. He would have been almost too pretty if it had not been for that obvious muscularity and for the scar that gashed upward from one corner of his mouth. A shade of boyish melancholy clouded his face for an instant.
"Sometimes I feel so old! And I have n't got as much speed as I had once. Why, at the gym there are kids that put it all over me running and swimming. They can't any of them box with me yet." He bragged quite openly of that. "I'm a light-weight-amateur; I fight at a hundred and twenty-nine. That's how I got that scar." He touched the cicatrice on his upper lip as though it were the decoration of the Legion of Honor. "I'm never going to stop exercising, though; and if I ever start to run to stomach, I'll make a hole in the river."
She was sipping the steaming chocolate with a delicate eagerness, disposing of
bites of the chicken with a dainty celerity, nibbling alternately, and with a kind of pretty ferocity, first at a cracker then at a cake.
"That's right," she approved between bites; "don't stop exercising. I do so hate to see men get unsightly. There's really no need of it. My husband's figure is superb, and he 's over fifty; but he exercises every morning of his life. You look awfully fit. I know enough about it to guess how you must have worked to develop yourself the way you have."
With a quick athletic pounce, he was on his knees on the floor before her. He lifted to her investigation an upper arm which, flexed, mounded into swelling biceps. "Feel that muscle!" he ordered proudly. Her slim fingers enfolded his arm for an instant. He turned it over so that the ridged triceps manifested themselves. "Feel that!" he commanded exultantly. She obeyed. The arm straightened. He unfastened his cuff, pushed up his sleeve. He thrust his forearm, the fist clenched, nearer for her examination. "How about that?" he demanded triumphantly. The forearm presented a plane of what looked like solid iron covered with satin, stretching from elbow to wrist.
Her slim fingers made experimental, but unsuccessful, attempts to dent this muscular plane.
"That 's wonderful!" she approved. "How you must have worked!"
"I wish you could have seen me when I first went to the gym," he said. "My poor little arms were like sticks, and as for my chest-well, I had just about as much chest as a sick chicken. Everybody was afraid I would get the consumption. But I began to run and swim and box, and the first thing I knew I was the healthiest kid in the place, with some punch in my arm, too. I believe in the healthy mind in the healthy body, you know," he concluded in the tone of one who had come on a great discovery.
"So do I," she said. "I hope you'll never stop working. Why, in England I have seen men of nearly seventy playing
tennis. Of course they did not look like boys, but neither did they look like old men, and with such fine, straight, slim figures still. I hate fat."
"So do I," he agreed. He took her empty cup and plate from her. "Do you feel better?" he asked politely.
"Oh, much better," she answered. "Thank you again." She arose and walked over to the window. The slim figure in its floating gray gown moved like a wraith through the air. And once quiet against the long, dark window-glass, her draperies seemed to blend with it. The white neck and shoulders and arms, the clean-cut profile, came out like marble. He watched her with the look of one who is unaware that he is watching.
"You need n't worry about that," he said. "I'll keep my eye on the street. The moment a man appears who seems to be looking for somebody I'll beat it out and flag him. It's a hundred to one shot, though, that your signal will come over the 'phone."
"What time is it?" she asked.
"It 's after one," he said, looking at his watch.
Her face seemed to receive a fresh accession of marble pallor.
"You don't think anything could have happened to him, do you?"
"No," he answered; "but I 'll go downstairs and 'phone the police station again. And I'll call up the hospitals, too."
"Oh, that would be so good of you!" Again that limpid luminosity flared in her
When he returned she was examining his boxing-gloves.
"I guess you do some exercising yourself," he said, giving the long, slim figure a shrewd, appraising glance.
"I fence a little, I play tennis rather well, I swim very well, and I ride beautifully." She announced this without vanity.
"Gee! I'd like to see you fence!" he said. "I don't do any of those things except swim. You can't ride in the city, of course, and I always looked on tennis as a kind of girly-girly game."
"Some men do. Oh, but-" she turned the subject quickly-"I 'm very sure you were doing something when you brought me over here. Please go on."
A shade of embarrassment fell across the boyish frankness of his look.
"I was just burning some things up. Sure, I guess I will finish the job if you'll excuse me for a few minutes."
"Please do!" she entreated. "I'll be looking at your books."
She moved over to the book-shelf and seated herself in a little chair in front of it. He moved over to the fireplace, squatted on a cushion on the hearth. She began to pull books out from the shelves, looking with obvious interest at the titles and with obvious amusement at the illustrations. He began to feed the fire with the documents that the pillow had partly obscured.
"It's all finished now," he said after a long interval, and sighed with what was evidently relief. "Won't you come back here to the sofa? It 's ever so much more comfortable."
She arose and swayed over to the fireplace and into the light. Her filmy, gray skirt rippled backward from the long lines of her figure, then closed swathingly in on it. The sheer gray scarf streamed like mist off her shoulders, dropped unheeded to her waist, rested on her slim wrists and on the slight salience of her hip. She seated herself among the cushions. Her shoulders drooped a little, and her chin sank. But her big eyes, flame-filmed, looked directly at him. The light above her head played like a million-pointed silver flame in her cloudy hair. It oozed through the topazes and licked in a dozen golden flames against her white skin.
"What a pippin of a thing that is you 're wearing about your neck!" he said.
Her long, slim hand went up to the golden stones. The golden tongues curled about her fingers.
"My topazes. I'm very fond of topazes; I bought these in Rome."
"They are just the color of white wine," he commented.
"Yes, I've often thought that." She unclasped the necklace and handed it to
him. He examined it with great interest. "I think that's a corking thing," he commented, handing it back.
"What time is it now?"
"After two," he answered, looking at his watch.
"You don't believe that anything has happened to him?” she entreated.
"No, but I'll find out for sure again." With a single impulse upward, his hands not touching the floor, he was on his feet again. He bounded with his quick, light step out of the room and down the stairs. "No, he 's not been heard from at the station or at the hospital," he announced cheerfully, returning in a few minutes.
"I can't understand what 's keeping him." She looked somberly out into the whirling white heart of the storm. "If I could only get to a hotel; but I don't suppose a taxi would venture-"
"Well, then just as soon as it lets up a little-"
"I'll take you anywhere you want to go," he promised; "but there is no reason why you should n't stay here. He 's bound to find you. And there will be nobody in this house all night long."
"But I'm keeping you up," she said. "I'm enjoying it," he asserted roundly. "I'm having the time of my life."
"But to-morrow you 'll have to work," she said regretfully.
"To-morrow!" he said and started. "To-morrow He paused abruptly. "I'm not going to work to-morrow. To-morrow I'm going-" He paused abruptly again. A strange expression came into his eyes, a strange smile played across his lips. "And to-morrow you 're going to sail somewhere, are n't you?"
"Yes, to Italy-to wonderful, appealing, endearing, romantic, colorful, beautiful, heartbreaking Italy." She lifted her long arms above her head in a sudden un