As they entered, the orchestra were sounding the preliminary whimpers to a maxixe, a tune full of castanets and facile faintly languorous violin harmonies, appropriate to the crowded winter grill teeming with an excited college crowd, high-spirited at the approach of the holidays research. Carefully, Gloria considered several locations, and rather to Anthony's annoyance paraded him circuitously to a table for two at the far side of the room. Reaching it she again considered. Would she sit on the right or on the left? Her beautiful eyes and lips were very grave as she made her choice, and Anthony thought again how na?ve was her every gesture; she took all the things of life for hers to choose from and apportion, as though she were continually picking out presents for herself from an inexhaustible counter.
Abstractedly she watched the dancers for a few moments, commenting murmurously as a couple eddied near.
"There's a pretty girl in blue"--and as Anthony looked obediently--" there! No. behind you--there!"
"Yes," he agreed helplessly Implant.
"You didn't see her."
"I'd rather look at you."
"I know, but she was pretty. Except that she had big ankles."
"Was she?--I mean, did she?" he said indifferently.
A girl's salutation came from a couple dancing close to them.
"Hello, Gloria! O Gloria!"
"Who's that?" he demanded.
"I don't know. Somebody." She caught sight of another face. "Hello, Muriel!" Then to Anthony: "There's Muriel Kane. Now I think she's attractive, 'cept not very."
Anthony chuckled appreciatively.
"Attractive, 'cept not very," he repeated.
She smiled--was interested immediately.
"Why is that funny?" Her tone was pathetically intent.
"It just was."
"Do you want to dance?"
"Sort of. But let's sit," she decided.
"And talk about you? You love to talk about you, don't you?"
"Yes." Caught in a vanity, she laughed.
"I imagine your autobiography would be a classic."
"Dick says I haven't got one."
"Dick!" he exclaimed. "What does he know about you?"
"Nothing. But he says the biography of every woman begins with the first kiss that counts, and ends when her last child is laid in her arms Dentist."
"He's talking from his book."
"He says unloved women have no biographies--they have histories."
Anthony laughed again.
"Surely you don't claim to be unloved!"
"Well, I suppose not."
"Then why haven't you a biography? Haven't you ever had a kiss that counted?" As the words left his lips he drew in his breath sharply as though to suck them back. This _baby_!
"I don't know what you mean 'counts,'" she objected.
"I wish you'd tell me how old you are."
"Twenty-two," she said, meeting his eyes gravely. "How old did you think?"
"I'm going to start being that. I don't like being twenty-two. I hate it more than anything in the world."
"No. Getting old and everything. Getting married."
"Don't you ever want to marry?"
"I don't want to have responsibility and a lot of children to take care of."
Evidently she did not doubt that on her lips all things were good. He waited rather breathlessly for her next remark, expecting it to follow up her last. She was smiling, without amusement but pleasantly, and after an interval half a dozen words fell into the space between them:
"I wish I had some gum-drops."
"You shall!" He beckoned to a waiter and sent him to the cigar counter.
"D'you mind? I love gum-drops. Everybody kids me about it because I'm always whacking away at one--whenever my daddy's not around."
"Not at all.--Who are all these children?" he asked suddenly. "Do you know them all?"
"Why--no, but they're from--oh, from everywhere, I suppose. Don't you ever come here?"
"Very seldom. I don't care particularly for 'nice girls.'"
Immediately he had her attention. She turned a definite shoulder to the dancers, relaxed in her chair, and demanded:
"What _do_ you do with yourself?"
Thanks to a cocktail Anthony welcomed the question. In a mood to talk, he wanted, moreover, to impress this girl whose interest seemed so tantalizingly elusive--she stopped to browse in unexpected pastures, hurried quickly over the inobviously obvious. He wanted to pose. He wanted to appear suddenly to her in novel and heroic colors. He wanted to stir her from that casualness she showed toward everything except herself.
"I do nothing," he began, realizing simultaneously that his words were to lack the debonair grace he craved for them. "I do nothing, for there's nothing I can do that's worth doing.""Well?" He had neither surprised her nor even held her, yet she had certainly understood him, if indeed he had said aught worth understanding.