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"Mrs. McChesney!" He had just a charming trace of a brogue. His enemies said he assumed it. "Well, who was I thinkin' of but you a minute ago. What----"
"I'm on my way to Chicago. Saw you from the car window. You're on the New York train? I thought so. Tell me, you're surely seeing our man, aren't you?"
O'Malley's smiling face clouded. He was a temperamental Irishman--Ted O'Malley-- with ideas on the deference due him and his great house.
"I'll tell you the truth, Mrs. McChesney. I had a letter from your Mr. Buck. It wasn't much of a letter to a man like me, representing a house like Gage & Fosdick. It said both heads of the firm would be out of town, and would I see the manager. Me--see the manager! Well, thinks I, if that's how important they think my order, then they'll not get it--that's all. I've never yet----"
"Dear Mr. O'Malley, please don't be offended. As a McChesney to an O'Malley, I want to tell you that I've just been married."
"Married! God bless me--to----"
"To T. A. Buck, of course. He's on that train. He----"
She turned toward the train. And as she turned it began to move, ever so gently. At the same moment there sped toward her, with unbelievable swiftness, the figure of Sam the porter, his eyes all whites. By one arm he grasped her, and half carried, half jerked her to the steps of the moving train, swung her up to the steps like a bundle of rags, caught the rail by a miracle, and stood, grinning and triumphant, gazing down at the panting O'Malley, who was running alongside the train.
"Back in a week. Will you wait for us in New York?" called Emma, her breath coming fast. She was trembling, too, and laughing.
"Will I wait!" called back the puffing O'Malley, every bit of the Irish in him beaming from his eyes. "I'll be there when you get back as sure as your name's McBuck."
From his pocket he took a round, silver Western dollar and, still running, tossed it to the toothy Sam. That peerless porter caught it, twirled it, kissed it, bowed, and grinned afresh as the train glided out of the shed.
Emma, flushed, smiling, flew up the aisle.
Buck, listening to her laughing, triumphant account of her hairbreadth, harum-scarum adventure, frowned before he smiled.
"Emma, how could you do it! At least, why didn't you send back for me first?"
Emma smiled a little tremulously.
"Don't be angry. You see, dear boy, I've only been your wife for a week. But I've been Featherloom petticoats for over fifteen years. It's a habit."
Just how strong and fixed a habit, she proved to herself a little more than a week later. It was the morning of their first breakfast in the new apartment. You would have thought, to see them over their coffee and eggs and rolls, that they had been breakfasting together thus for years--Annie was so at home in her new kitchen; the deft little maid, in her crisp white, fitted so perfectly into the picture. Perhaps the thing that T. A. Buck said, once the maid left them alone, might have given an outsider the cue.
"You remind me of a sweetpea, Emma. One of those crisp, erect, golden-white, fresh, fragrant sweetpeas. I think it is the slenderest, sweetest, neatest, trimmest flower in the world, so delicately set on its stem, and yet so straight, so independent."
"T. A., you say such dear things to me!"
No; they had not been breakfasting together for years.
"I'm glad you're not one of those women that wears a frowsy, lacy, ribbony, what-do-you- call-'em-boudoir-cap--down to breakfast. They always make me think of uncombed hair. That's just one reason why I'm glad."
"And I'm glad," said Emma, looking at his clear eyes and steady hand and firm skin, "for a number of reasons. One of them is that you're not the sort of man who's a grouch at breakfast."
When he had hat and coat and stick in hand, and had kissed her good-by and reached the door and opened it, he came back again, as is the way of bridegrooms. But at last the door closed behind him.
Emma sat there a moment, listening to his quick, light step down the corridor, to the opening of the lift door, to its metallic closing. She sat there, in the sunshiny dining-room, in her fresh, white morning gown. She picked up her newspaper, opened it; scanned it, put it down. For years, now, she had read her newspaper in little gulps on the way downtown in crowded subway or street-car. She could not accustom herself to this leisurely scanning of the pages. She rose, went to the window, came back to the table, stood there a moment, her eyes fixed on something far away.
The swinging door between dining-room and butler's pantry opened. Annie, in her neat blue-and-white stripes, stood before her.
"Shall it be steak or chops to-night, Mrs. Mc--Buck?"
Emma turned her head in Annie's direction--then her eyes. The two actions were distinct and separate.
"Steak or----" There was a little bewildered look in her eyes.
Her mind had not yet focused on the question. "Steak--oh! Oh, yes, of course! Why--why, Annie"--and the splendid thousand-h.-p. mind brought itself down to the settling of this butter-churning, two-h.-p. question--"why, Annie, considering all things, I think we'll make it filet with mushrooms."
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Ferber's Short Stories Vol. 2 -by- Edna Ferber