Главная страница Случайная страница


АвтомобилиАстрономияБиологияГеографияДом и садДругие языкиДругоеИнформатикаИсторияКультураЛитератураЛогикаМатематикаМедицинаМеталлургияМеханикаОбразованиеОхрана трудаПедагогикаПолитикаПравоПсихологияРелигияРиторикаСоциологияСпортСтроительствоТехнологияТуризмФизикаФилософияФинансыХимияЧерчениеЭкологияЭкономикаЭлектроника

While the auto waits



Promptly at the beginning of twilight, came again to that quiet

corner of that quiet, small park the girl in gray. She sat upon a

bench and read a book, for there was yet to come a half hour in which

print could be accomplished.


To repeat: Her dress was gray, and plain enough to mask its

impeccancy of style and fit. A large-meshed veil imprisoned her

turban hat and a face that shone through it with a calm and

unconscious beauty. She had come there at the same hour on the day

previous, and on the day before that; and there was one who knew it.


The young man who knew it hovered near, relying upon burnt sacrifices

to the great joss, Luck. His piety was rewarded, for, in turning a

page, her book slipped from her fingers and bounded from the bench a

full yard away.


The young man pounced upon it with instant avidity, returning it to

its owner with that air that seems to flourish in parks and public

places--a compound of gallantry and hope, tempered with respect

for the policeman on the beat. In a pleasant voice, he risked an

inconsequent remark upon the weather--that introductory topic

responsible for so much of the world's unhappiness--and stood poised

for a moment, awaiting his fate.


The girl looked him over leisurely; at his ordinary, neat dress

and his features distinguished by nothing particular in the way of



" You may sit down, if you like, " she said, in a full, deliberate

contralto. " Really, I would like to have you do so. The light is too

bad for reading. I would prefer to talk."


The vassal of Luck slid upon the seat by her side with complaisance.


" Do you know, " he said, speaking the formula with which park chairmen

open their meetings, " that you are quite the stunningest girl I have

seen in a long time? I had my eye on you yesterday. Didn't know

somebody was bowled over by those pretty lamps of yours, did you,

honeysuckle? "


" Whoever you are, " said the girl, in icy tones, " you must remember

that I am a lady. I will excuse the remark you have just made because

the mistake was, doubtless, not an unnatural one--in your circle. I

asked you to sit down; if the invitation must constitute me your

honeysuckle, consider it withdrawn."


" I earnestly beg your pardon, " pleaded the young ran. His expression

of satisfaction had changed to one of penitence and humility. " It was

my fault, you know--I mean, there are girls in parks, you know--that

is, of course, you don't know, but--"


" Abandon the subject, if you please. Of course I know. Now, tell me

about these people passing and crowding, each way, along these paths.

Where are they going? Why do they hurry so? Are they happy? "


The young man had promptly abandoned his air of coquetry. His cue

was now for a waiting part; he could not guess the role he would be

expected to play.


" It IS interesting to watch them, " he replied, postulating her mood.

" It is the wonderful drama of life. Some are going to supper and some

to--er--other places. One wonders what their histories are."


" I do not, " said the girl; " I am not so inquisitive. I come here to

sit because here, only, can I be near the great, common, throbbing

heart of humanity. My part in life is cast where its beats are never

felt. Can you surmise why I spoke to you, Mr.--? "


" Parkenstacker, " supplied the young man. Then he looked eager and



" No, " said the girl, holding up a slender finger, and smiling

slightly. " You would recognize it immediately. It is impossible to

keep one's name out of print. Or even one's portrait. This veil and

this hat of my maid furnish me with an _incog_. You should have seen

the chauffeur stare at it when he thought I did not see. Candidly,

there are five or six names that belong in the holy of holies, and

mine, by the accident of birth, is one of them. I spoke to you, Mr.



" Parkenstacker, " corrected the young man, modestly.


" --Mr. Parkenstacker, because I wanted to talk, for once, with a

natural man--one unspoiled by the despicable gloss of wealth and

supposed social superiority. Oh! you do not know how weary I am of

it--money, money, money! And of the men who surround me, dancing

like little marionettes all cut by the same pattern. I am sick of

pleasure, of jewels, of travel, of society, of luxuries of all



" I always had an idea, " ventured the young man, hesitatingly, " that

money must be a pretty good thing."


" A competence is to be desired. But when you have so many millions

that--! " She concluded the sentence with a gesture of despair. " It

is the monotony of it, " she continued, " that palls. Drives, dinners,

theatres, balls, suppers, with the gilding of superfluous wealth over

it all. Sometimes the very tinkle of the ice in my champagne glass

nearly drives me mad."


Mr. Parkenstacker looked ingenuously interested.


" I have always liked, " he said, " to read and hear about the ways of

wealthy and fashionable folks. I suppose I am a bit of a snob. But I

like to have my information accurate. Now, I had formed the opinion

that champagn is cooled in the bottle and not by placing ice in the



The girl gave a musical laugh of genuine amusement.


" You should know, " she explained, in an indulgent tone, " that we of

the non-useful class depend for our amusement upon departure from

precedent. Just now it is a fad to put ice in champagne. The idea

was originated by a visiting Prince of Tartary while dining at the

Waldorf. It will soon give way to some other whim. Just as at a

dinner party this week on Madison Avenue a green kid glove was

laid by the plate of each guest to be put on and used while eating



" I see, " admitted the young man, humbly.


" These special diversions of the inner circle do not become familiar

to the common public."


" Sometimes, " continued the girl, acknowledging his confession of

error by a slight bow, " I have thought that if I ever should love a

man it would be one of lowly station. One who is a worker and not

a drone. But, doubtless, the claims of caste and wealth will prove

stronger than my inclination. Just now I am besieged by two. One is

a Grand Duke of a German principality. I think he has, or has had,

a wife, somewhere, driven mad by his intemperance and cruelty. The

other is an English Marquis, so cold and mercenary that I even prefer

the diabolism of the Duke. What is it that impels me to tell you

these things, Mr. Packenstacker?


" Parkenstacker, " breathed the young man. " Indeed, you cannot know how

much I appreciate your confidences."


The girl contemplated him with the calm, impersonal regard that

befitted the difference in their stations.


" What is your line of business, Mr. Parkenstacker? " she asked.


" A very humble one. But I hope to rise in the world. Were you

really in earnest when you said that you could love a man of lowly

position? "


" Indeed I was. But I said 'might.' There is the Grand Duke and the

Marquis, you know. Yes; no calling could be too humble were the man

what I would wish him to be."


" I work, " declared Mr. Parkenstacker, " in a restaurant."


The girl shrank slightly.


" Not as a waiter? " she said, a little imploringly. " Labor is noble,

but personal attendance, you know--valets and--"


" I am not a waiter. I am cashier in" --on the street they faced that

bounded the opposite side of the park was the brilliant electric sign

" RESTAURANT" --" I am cashier in that restaurant you see there."


The girl consulted a tiny watch set in a bracelet of rich design

upon her left wrist, and rose, hurriedly. She thrust her book into a

glittering reticule suspended from her waist, for which, however, the

book was too large.


" Why are you not at work? " she asked.


" I am on the night turn, " said the young man; " it is yet an hour

before my period begins. May I not hope to see you again? "


" I do not know. Perhaps--but the whim may not seize me again. I must

go quickly now. There is a dinner, and a box at the play--and, oh!

the same old round. Perhaps you noticed an automobile at the upper

corner of the park as you came. One with a white body."


" And red running gear? " asked the young man, knitting his brows



" Yes. I always come in that. Pierre waits for me there. He supposes

me to be shopping in the department store across the square.

Conceive of the bondage of the life wherein we must deceive even our

chauffeurs. Good-night."


" But it is dark now, " said Mr. Parkenstacker, " and the park is full

of rude men. May I not walk--"


" If you have the slightest regard for my wishes, " said the girl,

firmly, " you will remain at this bench for ten minutes after I have

left. I do not mean to accuse you, but you are probably aware that

autos generally bear the monogram of their owner. Again, good-night."


Swift and stately she moved away through the dusk. The young man

watched her graceful form as she reached the pavement at the park's

edge, and turned up along it toward the corner where stood the

automobile. Then he treacherously and unhesitatingly began to dodge

and skim among the park trees and shrubbery in a course parallel to

her route, keeping her well in sight.


When she reached the corner she turned her head to glance at the

motor car, and then passed it, continuing on across the street.

Sheltered behind a convenient standing cab, the young man followed

her movements closely with his eyes. Passing down the sidewalk of the

street opposite the park, she entered the restaurant with the blazing

sign. The place was one of those frankly glaring establishments, all

white paint and glass, where one may dine cheaply and conspicuously.

The girl penetrated the restaurant to some retreat at its rear,

whence she quickly emerged without her hat and veil.


The cashier's desk was well to the front. A red-haired girl an the

stool climbed down, glancing pointedly at the clock as she did so.

The girl in gray mounted in her place.


The young man thrust his hands into his pockets and walked slowly

back along the sidewalk. At the corner his foot struck a small,

paper-covered volume lying there, sending it sliding to the edge of

the turf. By its picturesque cover he recognized it as the book the

girl had been reading. He picked it up carelessly, and saw that

its title was " New Arabian Nights, " the author being of the name

of Stevenson. He dropped it again upon the grass, and lounged,

irresolute, for a minute. Then he stepped into the automobile,

reclined upon the cushions, and said two words to the chauffeur:


" Club, Henri."


Поделиться с друзьями:

mylektsii.su - Мои Лекции - 2015-2023 год. (0.028 сек.)Все материалы представленные на сайте исключительно с целью ознакомления читателями и не преследуют коммерческих целей или нарушение авторских прав Пожаловаться на материал