14. Chapter XIV.
As he came out into the lobby Archer ran across his
friend Ned Winsett, the only one among what
Janey called his "clever people" with whom he cared to
probe into things a little deeper than the average level
of club and chop-house banter.
He had caught sight, across the house, of Winsett's
shabby round-shouldered back, and had once noticed
his eyes turned toward the Beaufort box. The two men
shook hands, and Winsett proposed a bock at a little
German restaurant around the corner. Archer, who
was not in the mood for the kind of talk they were
likely to get there, declined on the plea that he had
work to do at home; and Winsett said: "Oh, well so
have I for that matter, and I'll be the Industrious
They strolled along together, and presently Winsett
said: "Look here, what I'm really after is the name of
the dark lady in that swell box of yours--with the
Beauforts, wasn't she? The one your friend Lefferts
seems so smitten by."
Archer, he could not have said why, was slightly
annoyed. What the devil did Ned Winsett want with
Ellen Olenska's name? And above all, why did he couple
it with Lefferts's? It was unlike Winsett to manifest
such curiosity; but after all, Archer remembered, he
was a journalist.
"It's not for an interview, I hope?" he laughed.
"Well--not for the press; just for myself," Winsett
rejoined. "The fact is she's a neighbour of mine--queer
quarter for such a beauty to settle in--and she's been
awfully kind to my little boy, who fell down her area
chasing his kitten, and gave himself a nasty cut. She
rushed in bareheaded, carrying him in her arms, with
his knee all beautifully bandaged, and was so sympathetic
and beautiful that my wife was too dazzled to
ask her name."
A pleasant glow dilated Archer's heart. There was
nothing extraordinary in the tale: any woman would
have done as much for a neighbour's child. But it was
just like Ellen, he felt, to have rushed in bareheaded,
carrying the boy in her arms, and to have dazzled poor
Mrs. Winsett into forgetting to ask who she was.