The Tempting of Tavernake
I.7. Mr. Pritchard Of New York
Later in the evening, Beatrice and Tavernake traveled together in a motor omnibus from
their rooms at Chelsea to Northumberland Avenue. Tavernake was getting quite used to
the programme by now. They sat in a dimly-lit waiting-room until the time came for
Beatrice to sing. Every now and then an excitable little person who was the secretary to
some institution or other would run in and offer them refreshments, and tell them in what
order they were to appear. To-night there was no departure from the ordinary course of
things, except that there was slightly more stir. The dinner was a larger one than usual. It
came to Beatrice's turn very soon after their arrival, and Tavernake, squeezing his way a
few steps into the dining-room, stood with the waiters against the wall. He looked with
curious eyes upon a scene with which he had no manner of sympathy.
A hundred or so of men had dined together in the cause of some charity. The odor of their
dinner, mingled with the more aromatic perfume of the tobacco smoke which was already
ascending in little blue clouds from the various tables, hung about the over-heated room,
seeming, indeed, the fitting atmosphere for the long rows of guests. The majority of them
were in a state of expansiveness. Their faces were redder than when they had sat down; a
certain stiffness had departed from their shirt-fronts and their manners; their faces were
flushed, their eyes watery. There were a few exceptions--paler-faced men who sat there
with the air of endeavoring to bring themselves into accord with surroundings in which
they had no real concern. Two of these looked up with interest at the first note of
Beatrice's song. The one was sitting within a few places of the chairman, and he was too
far away for his little start to be noticed by either Tavernake or Beatrice. The nearer one,
however, Tavernake happened to be watching, and he saw the change in his expression.
The man was, in his way, ugly. His face was certainly not a good one, although he did not
appear to share the immediate weaknesses of his neighbors. To every note of the song he
listened intently. When it was over, he rose and came toward Tavernake.
"I beg your pardon," he said, "but did I not see you come in with the young lady who has
just been singing?"
"You may have," Tavernake answered. "I certainly did come with her."
"May I ask if you are related to her?"
Tavernake had got over his hesitation in replying to such questions, by now. He answered
"I am her brother," he declared.
The man produced a card.
"Please introduce me to her," he begged, laconically.