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|Strictly Business||O Henry|
XII. A Ramble In Aphasia
|Page 5 of 8||
The man dropped to one side, apparently astonished. As I walked to the clerk's desk I heard him call to a bell boy and say something about telegraph blanks.
"You will give me my bill," I said to the clerk, "and have my baggage brought down in half an hour. I do not care to remain where I am annoyed by confidence men."
I moved that afternoon to another hotel, a sedate, old-fashioned one on lower Fifth Avenue.
There was a restaurant a little way off Broadway where one could be served almost al fresco in a tropic array of screening flora. Quiet and luxury and a perfect service made it an ideal place in which to take luncheon or refreshment. One afternoon I was there picking my way to a table among the ferns when I felt my sleeve caught.
"Mr. Bellford!" exclaimed an amazingly sweet voice.
I turned quickly to see a lady seated alone--a lady of about thirty, with exceedingly handsome eyes, who looked at me as though I had been her very dear friend.
"You were about to pass me," she said, accusingly. "Don't tell me you do not know me. Why should we not shake hands--at least once in fifteen years?"
I shook hands with her at once. I took a chair opposite her at the table. I summoned with my eyebrows a hovering waiter. The lady was philandering with an orange ice. I ordered a cr`eme de menthe. Her hair was reddish bronze. You could not look at it, because you could not look away from her eyes. But you were conscious of it as you are conscious of sunset while you look into the profundities of a wood at twilight.
"Are you sure you know me?" I asked.
"No," she said, smiling. "I was never sure of that."
"What would you think," I said, a little anxiously, "if I were to tell you that my name is Edward Pinkhammer, from Cornopolis, Kansas?"
"What would I think?" she repeated, with a merry glance. "Why, that you had not brought Mrs. Bellford to New York with you, of course. I do wish you had. I would have liked to see Marian." Her voice lowered slightly--"You haven't changed much, Elwyn."
I felt her wonderful eyes searching mine and my face more closely.
"Yes, you have," she amended, and there was a soft, exultant note in her latest tones; "I see it now. You haven't forgotten. You haven't forgotten for a year or a day or an hour. I told you you never could."
I poked my straw anxiously in the cr`eme de menthe.
"I'm sure I beg your pardon," I said, a little uneasy at her gaze. "But that is just the trouble. I have forgotten. I've forgotten everything."
She flouted my denial. She laughed deliciously at something she seemed to see in my face.
"I've heard of you at times," she went on. "You're quite a big lawyer out West--Denver, isn't it, or Los Angeles? Marian must be very proud of you. You knew, I suppose, that I married six months after you did. You may have seen it in the papers. The flowers alone cost two thousand dollars."
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