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Toward noon the following day Norman, suddenly in need of a stenographer, sent out for Miss Purdy, one of the three experts at eighteen dollars a week who did most of the important and very confidential work for the heads of the firm. When his door opened again he saw not Miss Purdy but Miss Hallowell.
"Miss Purdy is sick to-day," said she. "Mr. Tetlow wishes to know if I would do."
Norman shifted uneasily in his chair. "Just as well--perfectly--certainly," he stammered. He was not looking at her--seemed wholly occupied with the business he was preparing to dispatch.
She seated herself in the usual place, at the opposite side of the broad table. With pencil poised she fixed her gaze upon the unmarred page of her open notebook. Instead of abating, his confusion increased. He could not think of the subject about which he wished to dictate. First, he noted how long her lashes were--and darker than her hair, as were her well-drawn eyebrows also. Never had he seen so white a skin or one so smooth. She happened to be wearing a blouse with a Dutch neck that day. What a superb throat! What a line of beauty its gently swelling curve made. Then his glance fell upon her lips, rosy-red, slightly pouted. And what masses of dead gold hair--no, not gold, but of the white-gray of wood ashes, and tinted with gold! No wonder it was difficult to tell just what color her hair was. Hair like that was ready to be of any color. And there were her arms, so symmetrical in her rather tight sleeves, and emerging into view in the most delicate wrists. What a marvelous skin!
"Have you ever posed?"
She startled and the color flamed in her cheeks. Her eyes shot a glance of terror at him. "I--I," she stammered. Then almost defiantly, "Yes, I did--for a while. But I didn't suppose anyone knew. At the time we needed the money badly."
Norman felt deep disgust with himself for bursting out with such a question, and for having surprised her secret. "There's nothing to be ashamed of," he said gently.
"Oh, I'm not ashamed," she returned. Her agitation had subsided. "The only reason I quit was because the work was terribly hard and the pay small and uncertain. I was confused because they discharged me at the last place I had, when they found out I had been a model. It was a church paper office."
Again she poised her pencil and lowered her eyes. But he did not take the hint. "Is there anything you would rather do than this sort of work?" he asked.
"Nothing I could afford," replied she.
"If you had been kind to Miss Burroughs yesterday she would have helped you."
"I couldn't afford to do that," said the girl in her quiet, reticent way.
"To do what?"
"To be nice to anyone for what I could get out of it."
Norman smiled somewhat cynically. Probably the girl fancied she was truthful; but human beings rarely knew anything about their real selves. "What would you like to do?"
She did not answer his question until she had shrunk completely within herself and was again thickly veiled with the expression which made everyone think her insignificant. "Nothing I could afford to do," said she. It was plain that she did not wish to be questioned further along that line.
"The stage?" he persisted.
"I hadn't thought of it," was her answer.
"I don't think about things I can't have. I never made any definite plans."
"But isn't it a good idea always to look ahead? As long as one has to be moving, one might as well move in a definite direction."
She was waiting with pencil poised.
"There isn't much of a future at this business."
She shrank slightly. He felt that she regarded his remark as preparation for a kindly hint that she was not giving satisfaction. . . . Well, why not leave it that way? Perhaps she would quit of her own accord--would spare him the trouble--and embarrassment--of arranging with Tetlow for another place for her. He began to dictate--gave her a few sentences mockingly different from his usual terse and clear statements--interrupted himself with:
"You misunderstood me a while ago. I didn't mean you weren't doing your work well. On the contrary, I think you'll soon be expert. But I thought perhaps I might be able to help you to something you'd like better."
He listened to his own words in astonishment. What new freak of madness was this? Instead of clearing himself of this uncanny girl, he was proposing things to her that would mean closer relations. And what reason had he to think she was fitted for anything but just what she was now doing--doing indifferently well?
"Thank you," she said, so quietly that it seemed coldly, "but I'm satisfied as I am."
Her manner seemed to say with polite and restrained plainness that she was not in the least appreciative of his interest or of himself. But this could not be. No girl in her position could fail to be grateful for his interest. No woman, in all his life, had ever failed to respond to his slightest advance. No, it simply could not be. She was merely shy, and had a peculiar way of showing it. He said:
"You have no ambition?"
"That's not for a woman."
She was making her replies as brief as civility permitted. He observed her narrowly. She was not shy, not embarrassed. What kind of game was this? It could not be in sincere nature for a person in her position thus to treat overtures, friendly and courteous overtures, from one in his position. And never before--never--had a woman been thus unresponsive. Instead of feeling relief that she had disentangled him from the plight into which his impulsive offer had flung him, he was piqued--angered--and his curiosity was inflamed as never before about any woman.
The relations of the sexes are for the most part governed by traditions of sex allurements and sex tricks so ancient that they have ceased to be conscious and have become instinctive. One of these venerable first principles is that mystery is the arch provoker. Norman, an old and expert student of the great game--the only game for which the staidest and most serious will abandon all else to follow its merry call--Norman knew this trick of mystery. The woman veils herself and makes believe to fly--an excellent trick, as good to-day as ever after five thousand years of service. And he knew that in it lay the explanation for the sudden and high upflaming of his interest in this girl. "What an ass I'm making of myself!" reflected he. "When I care nothing about the girl, why should I care about the mystery of her? Of course, it's some poor little affair, a puzzle not worth puzzling out."
All true and clear enough. Yet seeing it did not abate his interest a particle. She had veiled herself; she was pretending--perhaps honestly--to fly. He rose and went to the window, stood with his back to her, resumed dictating. But the sentences would not come. He whirled abruptly. "I'm not ready to do the thing yet," he said. "I'll send for you later."
Without a word or a glance she stood, took her book and went toward the door. He gazed after her. He could not refrain from speaking again. "I'm afraid you misunderstood my offer a while ago," said he, neither curt nor friendly. "I forgot how such things from a man to a young woman might be misinterpreted."
"I never thought of that," replied she unembarrassed. "It was simply that I can't put myself under obligation to anyone."
As she stood there, her full beauty flashed upon him--the exquisite form, the subtly graceful poise of her body, of her head--the loveliness of that golden-hued white skin--the charm of her small rosy mouth--the delicate, sensitive, slightly tilted nose--and her eyes--above all, her eyes!--so clear, so sweet. Her voice had seemed thin and faint to him; its fineness now seemed the rarest delicacy--the exactly fitting kind for so evasive and delicate a beauty as hers. He made a slight bow of dismissal, turned abruptly away. Never in all his life, strewn with gallant experiences--never had a woman thus treated him, and never had a woman thus affected him. "I am mad--stark mad!" he muttered. "A ten-dollar-a-week typewriter, whom nobody on earth but myself would look at a second time!" But something within him hurled back this scornful fling. Though no one else on earth saw or appreciated--what of it? She affected him thus--and that was enough. "I want her! . . . I want her! I have never wanted a woman before."
He rushed into the dressing room attached to his office, plunged his face into ice-cold water. This somewhat eased the burning sensation that was becoming intolerable. Many were the unaccountable incidents in his acquaintance with this strange creature; the most preposterous was this sudden seizure. He realized now that his feeling for her had been like the quiet, steady, imperceptible filling of a reservoir that suddenly announces itself by the thunder and roar of a mighty cascade over the dam. "This is madness--sheer madness! I am still master within myself. I will make short work of this rebellion." And with an air of calmness so convincing that he believed in it he addressed himself to the task of sanity and wisdom lying plain before him. "A man of my position caught by a girl like that! A man such as I am, caught by any woman whatever!" It was grotesque. He opened his door to summon Tetlow.
The gate in the outside railing was directly opposite, and about thirty feet away. Tetlow and Miss Hallowell were going out--evidently to lunch together. She was looking up at the chief clerk with laughing eyes--they seemed coquettish to the infuriated Norman. And Tetlow--the serious and squab young ass was gazing at her with the expression men of the stupid squab sort put on when they wish to impress a woman. At this spectacle, at the vision of that slim young loveliness, that perfect form and deliciously smooth soft skin, white beyond belief beneath its faintly golden tint--the hot blood steamed up into Norman's brain, blinded his sight, reddened it with desire and jealousy. He drew back, closed his door with a bang.
"This is not I," he muttered. "What has happened? Am I insane?"
* * * * * * *
When Tetlow returned from lunch the office boy on duty at the gate told him that Mr. Norman wished to see him at once. Like all men trying to advance along ways where their fellow men can help or hinder, the head clerk was full of more or less clever little tricks thought out with a view to making a good impression. One of them was to stamp upon all minds his virtue of promptness--of what use to be prompt unless you forced every one to feel how prompt you were? He went in to see Norman, with hat in hand and overcoat on his back and one glove off, the other still on. Norman was standing at a window, smoking a cigarette. His appearance--dress quite as much as manner--was the envy of his subordinate--as, indeed, it was of hundreds of the young men struggling to rise down town. It was so exactly what the appearance of a man of vigor and power and high position should be. Tetlow practiced it by the quarter hour before his glass at home--not without progress in the direction of a not unimpressive manner of his own.
As Tetlow stood at attention, Norman turned and advanced toward him. "Mr. Tetlow," he began, in his good-humored voice with the never wholly submerged under-note of sharpness, "is it your habit to go out to lunch with the young ladies employed here? If so, I wish to suggest--simply to suggest--that it may be bad for discipline."
Tetlow's jaw dropped a little. He looked at Norman, was astonished to discover beneath a thin veneer of calm signs of greater agitation than he had ever seen in him. "To-day was the first time, sir," he said. "And I can't quite account for my doing it. Miss Hallowell has been here several months. I never specially noticed her until the last few days--when the question of discharging her came up. You may remember it was settled by you." Norman flung his cigarette away and stalked to the window.
"Mr. Norman," pursued Tetlow, "you and I have been together many years. I esteem it my greatest honor that I am able--that you permit me--to class you as my friend. So I'm going to give you a confidence--one that really startles me. I called on Miss Hallowell last night."
Norman's back stiffened.
"She is even more charming in her own home. And--" Tetlow blushed and trembled--"I am going to make her my wife if I can."
Norman turned, a mocking satirical smile unpleasantly sparkling in his eyes and curling his mouth "Old man," he said, "I think you've gone crazy."
Tetlow made a helpless gesture. "I think so myself. I didn't intend to marry for ten years--and then--I had quite a different match in mind."
"What's the matter with you, Billy?" inquired Norman, inspecting him with smiling, cruelly unfriendly eyes.
"I'm damned if I know, Norman," said the head clerk, assuming that his friend was sympathetic and dropping into the informality of the old days when they were clerks together in a small firm. "I'd have proposed to her last night if I hadn't been afraid I'd lose her by being in such a hurry. . . . You're in love yourself."
Norman startled violently.
"You're going to get married. Probably you can sympathize. You know how it is to meet the woman you want and must have."
Norman turned away.
"I've had--or thought I had--rather advanced ideas on the subject of women. I've always had a horror of being married for a living or for a home or as an experiment or a springboard. My notion's been that I wouldn't trust a woman who wasn't independent. And theoretically I still think that's sound. But it doesn't work out in practice. A man has to have been in love to be able to speak the last word on the sex question."
Norman dropped heavily into his desk chair and rumpled his hair into disorder. He muttered something--the head clerk thought it was an oath.
"I'd marry her," Tetlow went on, "if I knew she was simply using me in the coldest, most calculating way. My only fear is that I shan't be able to get her--that she won't marry me."
Norman sneered. "That's not likely," he said.
"No, it isn't," admitted Tetlow. "They--the Hallowells--are nice people--of as good family as there is. But they're poor--very poor. There's only her father and herself. The old man is a scientist--spends most of his time at things that won't pay a cent--utterly impractical. A gentleman--an able man, if a little cracked--at least he seemed so to me who don't know much about scientific matters. But getting poorer steadily. So I think she will accept me."
A gloomy, angry frown, like a black shadow, passed across Norman's face and disappeared. "You'd marry her--on those terms?" he sneered.
"Of course I hope for better terms----"
Norman sprang up, strode to the window and turned his back.
"But I'm prepared for the worst. The fact is, she treats me as if she didn't care a rap for the honor of my showing her attention."
"A trick, Billy. An old trick."
"Maybe so. But--I really believe she doesn't realize. She's queer--has been queerly brought up. Yes, I think she doesn't appreciate. Then, too, she's young and light--almost childish in some ways. . . . I don't blame you for being disgusted with me, Fred. But--damn it, what's a man to do?"
"Cure himself!" exploded Norman, wheeling violently on his friend. "You must act like a man. Billy, such a marriage is ruin for you. How can we take you into partnership next year? When you marry, you must marry in the class you're moving toward, not in any of those you're leaving behind."
"Do you suppose I haven't thought of all that?" rejoined Tetlow bitterly. "But I can't help myself. It's useless for me to say I'll try. I shan't try."
"Don't you want to get over this?" demanded Norman fiercely.
"Of course--No--I don't. Fred, you'd think better of me if you knew her. You've never especially noticed her. She's beautiful."
Norman dropped to his chair again.
"Really--beautiful," protested Tetlow, assuming that the gesture was one of disgusted denial. "Take a good look at her, Norman, before you condemn her. I never was so astonished as when I discovered how good-looking she is. I don't quite know how it is, but I suppose nobody ever happened to see how--how lovely she is until I just chanced to see it." At a rudely abrupt gesture from Norman he hurried on, eagerly apologetic, "And if you talk with her--She's very reserved. But she's the lady through and through--and has a good mind. . . . At least, I think she has. I'll admit a man in love is a poor judge of a woman's mind. But, anyhow, I know she's lovely to look at. You'll see it yourself, now that I've called your attention to it. You can't fail to see it."
Norman threw himself back in his chair and clasped his hands behind his head. "Why do you want to marry her?" he inquired, in a tone his sensitive ear approved as judicial.
"How can I tell?" replied the head clerk irritably. "Does a man ever know?"
"Always--when he's sensibly in love."
"But when he's just in love? That's what ails me," retorted Tetlow, with a sheepish look and laugh.
"Billy, you've got to get over this. I can't let you make a fool of yourself."
Tetlow's fat, smooth, pasty face of the overfed, underexercised professional man became a curious exhibit of alarm and obstinacy.
"You've got to promise me you'll keep away from her--except at the office--for say, a week. Then--we'll see."
"It's highly improbable that anyone else will discover these irresistible charms. There's no one else hanging round?"
"No one, as I told you the other day, when you questioned me about her."
Norman shifted, looked embarrassed.
"I hope I didn't give you the impression I was ashamed of loving her or would ever be ashamed of her anywhere?" continued Tetlow, a very loverlike light in his usually unromantic eyes. "If I did, it wasn't what I meant--far from it. You'll see, when I marry her, Norman. You'll be congratulating me."
Norman sprang up again. "This is plain lunacy, Tetlow. I am amazed at you--amazed!"
"Get acquainted with her, Mr. Norman," pleaded the subordinate. "Do it, to oblige me. Don't condemn us----"
"I wish to hear nothing more!" cried Norman violently. "Another thing. You must find her a place in some other office--at once."
"You're right, sir," assented Tetlow. "I can readily do that."
Norman scowled at him, made an imperious gesture of dismissal. Tetlow, chopfallen but obdurate, got himself speedily out of sight.
Norman, with hands deep in his pockets, stared out among the skyscrapers and gave way to a fit of remorse. It was foreign to his nature to do petty underhanded tricks. Grand strategy--yes. At that he was an adept, and not the shiftiest, craftiest schemes he had ever devised had given him a moment's uneasiness. But to be driving a ten-dollar-a-week typewriter out of her job--to be maneuvering to deprive her of a for her brilliant marriage--to be lying to an old and loyal retainer who had helped Norman full as much and as often as Norman had helped him--these sneaking bits of skullduggery made him feel that he had sunk indeed. But he ground his teeth together and his eyes gleamed wickedly. "He shan't have her, damn him!" he muttered. "She's not for him."
He summoned Tetlow, who was obviously low in mind as the result of revolving the things that had been said to him. "Billy," he began in a tone so amiable that he was ashamed for himself, "you'll not forget I have your promise?"
"What did I promise?" cried Tetlow, his voice shrill with alarm.
"Not to see her, except at the office, for a week."
"But I've promised her father I'd call this evening. He's going to show me some experiments."
"You can easily make an excuse--business."
"But I don't want to," protested the head clerk. "What's the use? I've got my mind made up. Norman, I'd hang on after her if you fired me out of this office for it. And I can't rest--I'm fit for nothing--until this matter's settled. I came very near taking her aside and proposing to her, just after I went out of here a while ago."
"You damn fool!" cried Norman, losing all control of himself. "Take the afternoon express for Albany instead of Harcott and attend to those registrations and arrange for those hearings. I'll do my best to save you. I'll bring the girl in here and keep her at work until you get out of the way."
Tetlow glanced at his friend; then the tears came into his eyes. "You're a hell of a friend!" he ejaculated. "And I thought you'd sympathize because you were in love."
"I do sympathize, Billy," Norman replied with an abrupt change to shamefaced apology. "I sympathize more than you know. I feel like a dog, doing this. But it can't result in any harm, and I want you to get a little fresh air in that hot brain of yours before you commit yourself. Be reasonable, old man. Suppose you rushed ahead and proposed--and she accepted--and then, after a few days, you came to. What about her? You must act on the level, Tetlow. Do the fair thing by yourself and by her."
Norman had often had occasion to feel proud of the ingenuity and resourcefulness of his brain. He had never been quite so proud as he was when he finished that speech. It pacified Tetlow; it lightened his own sense of guilt; it gave him a respite.
Tetlow rewarded Norman with the look that in New York is the equivalent of the handclasp friend seeks from friend in times of stress. "You're right, Fred. I'm much obliged to you. I haven't been considering her side of it enough. A man ought always to think of that. The women--poor things--have a hard enough time to get on, at best."
Norman's smile was characteristically cynical. Sentimentality amused him. "I doubt if there are more female wrecks than male wrecks scattered about the earth," rejoined he. "And I suspect the fact isn't due to the gentleness of man with woman, either. Don't fret for the ladies, Tetlow. They know how to take care of themselves. They know how to milk with a sure and a steady hand. You may find it out by depressing experience some day."
Tetlow saw the aim. His obstinate, wretched expression came back. "I don't care. I've got----"
"You went over that ground," interrupted Norman impatiently. "You'd better be catching the train."
As Tetlow withdrew, he rang for an office boy and sent him to summon Miss Hallowell.
Norman had been reasoning with himself--with the aid of the self that was both better and more worldly wise. He felt that his wrestlings had not been wholly futile. He believed he had got the strength to face the girl with a respectful mind, with a mind resolute in duty--if not love--toward Josephine Burroughs. "I love Josephine," he said to himself. "My feeling for this girl is some sort of physical attraction. I certainly shall be able to control it enough to keep it within myself. And soon it will die out. No doubt I've felt much the same thing as strongly before. But it didn't take hold because I was never bound before--never had the sense of the necessity for restraint. That sense is always highly dangerous for my sort of man."
This sounded well. He eyed the entering girl coldly, said in a voice that struck him as excellent indifference, "Bring your machine in here, Miss Hallowell, and recopy these papers. I've made some changes. If you spoil any sheets, don't throw them away, but return everything to me."
"I'm always careful about the waste-paper baskets," said she, "since they warned me that there are men who make a living searching the waste thrown out of offices."
He made no reply. He could not have spoken if he had tried. Once more the spell had seized him--the spell of her weird fascination for him. As she sat typewriting, with her back almost toward him, he sat watching her and analyzing his own folly. He knew that diagnosing a disease does not cure it; but he found an acute pleasure in lingering upon all the details of the effect she had upon his nerves. He did not dare move from his desk, from the position that put a huge table and a revolving case of reference books between them. He believed that if he went nearer he would be unable to resist seizing her in his arms and pouring out the passion that was playing along his nerves as the delicate, intense flame flits back and forth along the surface of burning alcohol.
A knock at the door. He plunged into his papers. "Come!" he called.
Tetlow thrust in his head. Miss Hallowell did not look up. "I'm off," the head clerk said. His gaze was upon the unconscious girl--a gaze that filled Norman with longing to strangle him.
"Telegraph me from Albany as soon as you get there," said Norman. "Telegraph me at my club."
Tetlow was gone. The machine tapped monotonously on. The barette which held the girl's hair at the back was so high that the full beauty of the nape of her neck was revealed. That wonderful white skin with the golden tint! How soft--yet how firm--her flesh looked! How slender yet how strong was her build----
"How do you like Tetlow?" he asked, because speak to her he must.
She glanced up, turned in her chair. He quivered before the gaze from those enchanting eyes of hers. "I beg pardon," she said. "I didn't hear."
"Tetlow--how do you like him?"
"He is very kind to me--to everyone."
"How did your father like him?"
He confidently expected some sign of confusion, but there was no sign. "Father was delighted with him," she said merrily. "He took an interest in the work father's doing--and that was enough."
She was about to turn back to her task. He hastened to ask another question. "Couldn't I meet your father some time? What Tetlow told me interested me greatly."
"Father would be awfully pleased," replied she. "But--unless you really care about--biology, I don't think you'd like coming."
"I'm interested in everything interesting," replied Norman dizzily. What was he saying? What was he doing? What folly was his madness plunging him into?
"You can come with Mr. Tetlow when he gets back."
"I'd prefer to talk with him alone," said Norman. "Perhaps I might see some way to be of service to him."
Her expression was vividly different from what it had been when he offered to help her. She became radiant with happiness. "I do hope you'll come," she said--her voice very low and sweet, in the effort she was making to restrain yet express her feelings.
"When? This evening?"
"He's always at home."
"You'll be there?"
"I'm always there, too. We have no friends. It's not easy to make acquaintances in the East--congenial acquaintances."
"I'd want you to be there," he explained with great care, "because you could help him and me in getting acquainted."
"Oh, he'll talk freely--to anyone. He talks only the one subject. He never thinks of anything else."
She was resting her crossed arms on the back of her chair and, with her chin upon them, was looking at him--a childlike pose and a childlike expression. He said: "You are sure you are twenty?"
She smiled gayly. "Nearly twenty-one."
"Old enough to be in love."
She lifted her head and laughed. She had charming white teeth--small and sharp and with enough irregularity to carry out her general suggestion of variability. "Yes, I shall like that, when it comes," she said; "But the chances are against it just now."
She was much amused. "Oh, he's far too old and serious."
Norman felt depressed. "Why, he's only thirty-five."
"But I'm not twenty-one," she reminded him. "I'd want some one of my own age. I'm tired of being so solemn. If I had love, I'd expect it to change all that."
Evidently a forlorn and foolish person--and doubtless thinking of him, two years the senior of Tetlow and far more serious, as an elderly person, in the same class with her father. "But you like biology?" he said. The way to a cure was to make her talk on.
"I don't know anything about it," said she, looking as frivolous as a butterfly or a breeze-bobbed blossom. "I listen to father, but it's all beyond me."
Yes--a light-weight. They could have nothing in common. She was a mere surface--a thrillingly beautiful surface, but not a full-fledged woman. So little did conversation with him interest her, she had taken advantage of the short pause to resume her work. No, she had not the faintest interest in him. It wasn't a trick of coquetry; it was genuine. He whom women had always bowed before was unable to arouse in her a spark of interest. She cared neither for what he had nor for what he was, in himself. This offended and wounded him. He struggled sulkily with his papers for half an hour. Then he fell to watching her again and----
"You must not neglect to give me your address," he said. "Write it on a slip of paper after you finish. I might forget it."
"Very well," she replied, but did not turn round.
"Why, do you think, did Tetlow come to see you?" he asked. He felt cheapened in his own eyes--he, the great man, the arrived man, the fiance of Josephine Burroughs, engaged in this halting and sneaking flirtation! But he could not restrain himself.
She turned to answer. "Mr. Tetlow works very hard and has few friends. He had heard of my father and wanted to meet him--just like you."
"Naturally," murmured Norman, in confusion. "I thought--perhaps--he was interested in you."
She laughed outright--and he had an entrancing view of the clean rosy interior of her mouth. "In me?--Mr. Tetlow? Why, he's too serious and important for a girl like me."
"Then he bored you?"
"Oh, no. I like him. He is a good man--thoroughly good."
This pleased Norman immensely. It may be fine to be good, but to be called good--that is somehow a different matter. It removes a man at once from the jealousy-provoking class. "Good exactly describes him," said Norman. "He wouldn't harm a fly. In love he'd be ridiculous."
"Not with a woman of his own age and kind," protested she. "But I'm neglecting my work."
And she returned to it with a resolute manner that made him ashamed to interrupt again--especially after the unconscious savage rebukes she had administered. He sat there fighting against the impulse to watch her--denouncing himself--appealing to pride, to shame, to prudence--to his love for Josephine--to the sense of decency that restrains a hunter from aiming at a harmless tame song bird. But all in vain. He concentrated upon her at last, stared miserably at her, filled with longing and dread and shame--and longing, and yet more longing.
When she finished and stood at the other side of the desk, waiting for him to pass upon her work, she must have thought he was in a profound abstraction. He did not speak, made a slight motion with his hand to indicate that she was to go. Shut in alone, he buried his face in his arms. "What madness!" he groaned. "If I loved her, there'd be some excuse for me. But I don't. I couldn't. Yet I seem ready to ruin everything, merely to gratify a selfish whim--an insane whim."
On top of the papers she had left he saw a separate slip. He drew it toward him, spread it out before him. Her address. An unknown street in Jersey City!
"I'll not go," he said aloud, pushing the slip away. Go? Certainly not. He had never really meant to go. He would, of course, keep his engagement with Josephine. "And I'll not come down town until she has taken another job and has caught Tetlow. I'll stop this idiocy of trying to make an impression on a person not worth impressing. What weak vanity--to be piqued by this girl's lack of interest!"
Nevertheless--he at six o'clock telephoned to the Burroughs' house that he was detained down town. He sent away his motor, dined alone in the station restaurant in Jersey City. And at half past seven he set out in a cab in search of--what? He did not dare answer that interrogation.
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