FICTION

Men Don't Do Such Things

ADDISON SIMMONS February 15 1933
FICTION

Men Don't Do Such Things

ADDISON SIMMONS February 15 1933

Men Don't Do Such Things

ADDISON SIMMONS

HER NAME was Mercy Trainor, but no one ever called her Mercy. She had been called Mike ever since she could remember, and had often been sorry that she was not born boy. She had three roughneck brothers, all of them heavyweight boxers at college. They had been brought up with boxing gloves on and had arrived at that perfection which practice is said to make. Ever since any one could remember, Mike had been a sparring partner for them. They would put a headguard on her and let her have it. She could take it, too.

She had punched a bag since she was scarcely bigger than the bag itself; the light bag, that is. She didn’t bother much with the heavy bag because her mother had said it would make her fists big, and after all she had to assume at least the appearance of femininity. She could do that. too. In an evening gown she made men catch their breath at their first sight of her, with her miraculously white skin— in winter—and her honey-colored hair and dark eyes.

She liked men, liked them immensely; but she only laughed at their words of love. Sometimes it made them sad and moody; sometimes it made them mad as blazes. Once, one of them just laughed with her and slapped her on the back and said, “All right. Forget it.” Somehow or other, she liked him best of all. “What an arrogant female you are!” he had said. But he had treated her as man to man. She liked that. He had said, further, that it didn’t seem there was any man good enough for her.

He was apparently right about that. She played about with them heartily as long as they wanted merely to play tennis or golf or ride horses. As soon as they wanted to get married she pulled the rope and let them through the trapdoor. She had left a long trail of victims behind her, even at the age of twenty-four.

Her three brothers were Red, Ed and Bert. All three stood six feet tall. Red weighed 190 pounds, Ed 195, and Bert an even 200. Boxing was an obsession with them. In the summer they set up the light and heavy bags in the fenced-off area behind the house and had their workouts there.

It was on a morning early in summer that strange things began to happen. On that morning Mike, attired in shorts, a crimson sweat shirt and regulation boxing shoes, was whaling away at the light bag. working on a complicated stroke combination. She had been there about ten minutes when Bert stuck his dark head out a window and said: “Mike, last call if you’re coming riding. We’ll wait till you get dressed, if you want.”

“Not today,” Mike said, pushing behind her ears a few stray golden hairs that persisted in tickling her nose. “You thought of this darned thing and I’m going to learn it. Is this it -elbow, backhand, fist, elbow, backhand, fistalternating right and left?”

“That’s it,” said Bert. “Accent the fist. See you later. And listen for the phone. There’ll be nobody here.” He disappeared, and Mike went on working out the stroke combination, methodically and determinedly.

She had been at it for ten minutes when she noticed a head watching her over the fence. Anyone whose chin showed over the fence must be six feet tall, like Ed, Red and Bert. Mike liked them tall. She let the bag swing untouched. She waved a hand at him.

“Hi there, neighbor.” she said.

“Hi,” said the neighbor calmly. He had thick, short hair the color of chestnuts, and a snub, sunburned nose. He strolled to the gate and came in. He was dressed in flannels and a white shirt open at the throat, and wore rubber-soled sport shoes on which he seemed to slink along at a lazy pace. He had the kind of quiet blue eyes that she liked.

“Women punch bags up this way, I see,” he remarked. “Stranger here, aren’t you?” she asked.

“More or less. You’re the girl they call Mike Trainor?” "Yes. Who are you?”

“Nobody in particular. Name's Bill.”

“Well, howdy, Bill. Do you punch a bag?”

“Box any?”

“No. I’m going to learn some day, though. You take pupils?” He sat down on the chest where the lifting weights were kept.

“Not generally»” she replied, “but you’ve got the build of a boxer. Y'ou really ought to learn.”

“Will you teach me?”

She grinned.

“I might. Let’s see how you’d whack the bag.” He got up and strolled over. She set the bag swinging and he made a vicious thrust at it. He missed it entirely and almost fell down.

She laughed. “Well,” she said, “teaching you will be very elementary. Allright. I’ll give you a lesson.”

The boxing gloves were in the chest. She took off her punching bag mitts and produced the twelve-ounce gloves. They were fitted with elastic wristlets, to do away with lacing. That was Bert’s idea. “Put ’em on,” she said. He did so and looked very awkward with them. . .

“Now, let’s see how you put your hands up.” she directed. He put them up. “Not bad,” she said, “but hold the right farther back. Then you’re set for a right punch without drawing back. If you draw back, you’re telegraphing what you’re going to do. Now watch my left. It’ll come over

when you don’t expect it.” She slipped a left past his guard and tapped him on the nose.

He grinned.

“Say, you’re fast,” he said. “Let me try that.” He let go with his left. It landed on her forearm. “Well, show me how you stopped that,” he said.

She showed him. His blue eyes were serious and slightly veiled with preoccupation as he concentrated on his lessor That was a very fine chin he had. And she liked his ears, small and set close to his head. They were much neater than Ed’s, Red’s or Bert’s, who could have flown with theirs had they been hinged.

“Now mix it up a little,” she suggested. “Feint a bit. You’re not half bad, just awkward. Let’s go.” She popped a neat left to the: nose again. He tried to brush it down but missed. He sent-pver his own left, and it went past her head as she ducked. She was too intent on what she was doing to notice his eyes now. It might not have done any good even had she seen what was happening to them. They were getting darker and narrower and there was a strange expression on his face, nearer to hate than anything else that has a name.

THEN it happened. A very efficient left, no more awkward than a diving seagull, swept over and clipped her on the side of the jaw. It was just enough of a blow to throw her off balance and snap her head over to the left. It was an introduction to the next blow, a soundly planted right hook that caught Mike square on the nose. She went down on the turf with a thump that dashed the breath out of her, and there she sa¿, mouth open, eyes staring.

For about ten seconds she couldn’t remember where she was nor what had happened. The first thing she realized was that a warm fluid was dripping slowly from her nose. She put a glove up to it. That brought her back. Blood!

The nice young man with the nice ears was standing there before her. He took off the big gloves and threw them down. He sneered at her bitterly.

“It wouldn’t be fair,” he said, “not to explain. Nor would there be half as much satisfaction. Maybe you remember a youngster named Paul Glover. It’s not long ago;, just this past college year. He wrote you a lot of poetry—fine poetry, too—too fine for you—all about you and the decent way he loved you. And what did you do but scatter his poetry all over the campus to make a laughing-stock out of him. Well, you broke him in two. ^hd he's my kid brother. We had to send him aw'ay to a sanatorium. He’s flat on his back and scared to death of what life will do to him next. All on your account. I hadn’t thought to even up the score in this manner, but as long as the opportunity presented itself, I think it was rather a good idea. I’ve heard about you from other sources, too; and from what I’ve heard, a good punch in the nose is exactly what you’ve needed for a long time.”

She glared at him balefully, still sitting there. The crimson stream was the color of her sweat shirt.

Without another word he turned and went out of the yard, dusting his hands as he went.

An hour later Mike was examining her injured nose in a« hand mirror in her room when the boys came in. Bert went by the door, looked in, stopped dead.

“Say, what the devil ! Did you fall on that nose?”

“No!” said Mike sullenly. “An angry gentleman hit me on it.”

Ed and Red appeared in the doorway, behind Bert. “What!” all three exclaimed in chorus. Bert said: “A what did what?” And Red demanded : “What for?” “It’s a long story,” Mike said, her anger simmering. “Well, tell it,” Eld insisted. And she did.

“Well, what about this kid brother of his?” Bert asked. “Did you really vamp him and then give him the works?” “What difference does it make what she did?” Red cried. “I’ll brain that guy!”

“Just a minute,” Bert said quietly. “Let’s have the dope, Mike.”

“Well,” Mike said, “he was a sophomore at college and he began sending me poetry and popping out from behind trees with a pair of moon eyes every place I went. He sent me poetry two or three times a week. It was good poetry too, if I’m any judge.”

“What did you pass it around campus for?” Bert asked. “I didn’t!” Mike protested hotly. “One of the girls I never found out who—took it out of my room and passed, it around. They stuck it up on bulletin boards and on trees and on the walls of the buildings. But I didn’t have a thing. to do with it.”

“You wouldn’t kid your big brother?” Bert said.

Mike said angrily: “You know I don’t lie.”

“That settles it!” Red said. “I’ll knock that guy goofy. Where’ll I find him?”

“Just a minute, Red,” Bert urged. “Don’t fly off. Wha{ was his name?”

“Bill Glover.”

“Let me at him !” said Red.

“Let’s go find him,” Ed said.

“Hold on,” Bert advised, “both of you. No street brawls. I’ve got a better idea.”

I’ve got a better idea.” They needed an outsider, so they got Pete Parker, who would have done anything for Mike, to be the decoy. When, several nights later, Pete drove up to his uncle’s farm—his uncle was in the city at the time—Bill Glover was with him in Pete’s roadster.

Continued on page 45

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“Come into the bam first,” Pete said. “I’ll show you the swellest little colt you ever saw.” Pete got out into the rain and pushed open the bam door. Behind him hastened Bill Glover. Pete took a lantern off the wall just inside the bam and closed the door behind them. He struck a match and lighted the lantern. “Well,” Pete said, “here we are.”

“Where’s the colt?” Bill asked, looking about. He grew suddenly rigid. “What’s the big idea?” he demanded.

“Good evening,” said Mike, stepping out of the darkness. ‘There isn’t any colt.”

“But there is a big idea,” said Bert softly.

“Who are you?” Bill demanded. “What’s this mean, Pete?”

Pete’s friendliness became cold as the rain outside. He only shrugged. Bill heard some one behind him and spun about.

“You’re not thinking of leaving so soon, are you?” Ed enquired, standing there before the closed door.

“I don’t think he’ll leave yet awhile,” said Red, emerging from the shadows. “Not a brave guy like him.”

“Brave guy is right,” Bert said quietly. “You’re the gent that goes around smacking girls in the nose, aren’t you? Mighty brave guy, I say.”

Bill Glover turned now to Mike.

“Well, let’s have it,” he said. “What do you people think you’re going to do?”

“We’re going to put on a little one-act play,” Red said. “And you’re the leading man. You know how to lead, don’t you— with your left?”

A grim look came over Bill Glover’s face.

“Oh, it’s a getting-even party, is it? And it’s going to be one-act, eh? Well, there may be four acts before it’s over.” He turned his glance upon Pete Parker.

“Make it five,” Ed suggested, “and beat up the little lady again. That ought to make you happy.”

“Cut the cheap talk,” said Bill Glover. “How’s it going to be? One at a time or a gang fight?”

“One at a time’s a pretty good idea,” Red said. “Take off your coat, mister.”

“With pleasure,” Bill Glover said grimly. He threw off his coat. “Who’s first?”

“Try me,” said Red. He was already in his shirtsleeves, the sleeves rolled up. Bert had moved away and was lighting more lamps. Bill Glover stepped out into the centre of the floor.

“All right,” he said, facing Red Trainor. “I’m waiting.”

Red advanced, his face settling into the scowl he always wore when he fought. Mike sat on a keg of nails, appraising the two. She couldn’t think when she had really hated a man as much as this. She hoped Red would snap his head off and sit him down. Anything that would be humiliating. That was the stuff for a boor like him. That hurt his kind worse than anything else.

Red went in slowly, then shot a quick left to the eye. Mike gripped her knees. This Glover began to show at once that he knew what he was doing and how to do it. His right deflected Red’s blow upward. There might have been a chance for Red to follow up with his right, but sometimes Red’s right had an anchor on it. Anyway, the Glover left beat him to it. Hard knuckles sounded against a hard chin. It was Red’s head that snapped. Red retreated behind his guard. He shook his head dizzily. It must have been a bad blow. Red didn’t go dizzy from a punch so early unless it was a pretty stiff one.

“Go get him, Red,” Eld called from ringside. But it suddenly became apparent that it was Glover who was going to do the go-getting. He walked right into Red, who hadn t finished his last bewildered head-

shake, and slammed over a right hook, and before Red knew what had happened, over came a left. Red went off balance, and as he went Glover drove a straight right punch for the point of the jaw. That finished Red, who had never before been finished so quickly. Red, the demon who usually mixed it up like a whirlwind, went back on his heels and sat down very hard.

Mike’s jaw was set. Just what she had hoped Red would do to him, he had done to Red. The humiliation was for them, not for Glover. The humiliation was double for the reason that he had finished Red so easily and quickly. Red sat there, stupefied, mouth open—Red who usually got up like a coiled spring.

“Well,” said Glover, waiting, “have you had enough?”

“Huh?” said Red. “Huh?”

In silence Bert moved out of the shadows and lifted Red to his feet.

“Who’s next?” Bill Glover demanded.

“You are,” Ed said. He came in swiftly. Glover barely had time to get set again. Ed pointed a left at him and hammered in a right, then a left, then a right. He was wasting no time. Glover fell back, then stopped Ed’s forward march with a left jab. Ed was halted momentarily. Glover’s left kept darting in like the head of a striking snake. Ed went under it suddenly and came up with a right cross to the jaw. It was Ed’s best punch and Bill Glover’s turn to retreat. Ed forced him back across the bam. Glover stumbled and fell but was up again in a flash. Ed kept driving him back. Ele got him straight on the jaw with a hard punch. Glover covered up and kept retreating. He felt that punch. He didn’t like it.

Eld stepped in now to finish him, believing he could. A quick thrill went up Mike’s spine. She gripped her knees fiercely and sat forward on the keg of nails. They began to mix it furiously. It became something more than a boxing contest.

“Keep your head!” Bert cried, knowing Ed’s failing; but Ed was past that stage. He was a fist-flailing maniac by now. He knocked Glover down and Mike shouted for joy. Then Glover got up and knocked Ed down, and Mike shouted to him to get up. He did so and knocked Glover down again, and Glover was no sooner up than Ed crashed him to the floor once more. Glover’s eye was cut and so was his chin. His face was spattered and smeared with blood. Ed was more than his match. Glover was | groggy. He was out on his feet. Ed had his number and would finish him in about i half a minute.

Probably Ed would have. But the j important thing is that Bill Glover finished Ed first. It was with a terrific left slam to ¡ the solar plexus. Ordinarily Ed could stand up and let you whack him in the solar plexus all you pleased. He was proud of his muscular development there. Ever since he had been a youngster he had let people slam him there just to show how tough he was. Many a stiff puncher had hit him in the bread-basket, but it had always been with something less than this Glover had. Ed’s eyes bulged and his hands dropped. He went down on his knees. He doubled up and rolled over on the floor. Mike ran out to him. Glover staggered back, fists still up and moving slowly in and out, his face quite terrible in its bloody calm.

“Who’s next?” he gasped. “I’m waiting.”

Bert had taken off his coat and was moving in. Bert had it all figured out. Glover had put all he had into finishing Ed. He was ripe for a one-punch knockout. All ; Bert had to do was send over the one punch. ! But first of all, Bert had a few words to | say, and he spoke them as he circled with Glover, each watching for an opening:

“You’re a good man, Glover,” he said. ; “and I hate to do this. Three against one is no picnic. You’re nearly out on your feet j now. But there are certain lessons a fellow j has to leam no matter how much it hurts, j The thing that you have to leam is that a 1 man doesn't hit a woman—not even a woman who plays around with boxing gloves. It isn’t done—see? Now, the chief point of this lesson, and the most painful part of it for me, is that presently I’m going to knock you cold as a ham. I’m going to do it and you know I’m going to do it. When you wake up, if you ever do, mark it down in your book that a guy who hits a girl isn’t fit company even for a skunk.”

With that he feinted swiftly for the Glover mid-section. The Glover guard came down with a nervous jerk and Bert’s huge right fist crashed over that guard to the point of the jaw . . .

Mike sat there beside him until he came to. She bathed his face with one of Bert’s handkerchiefs soaked with rainwater, Glover opened his eyes and looked up at her.

“How do you feel?” she asked.

He made no reply, but glanced about slowly, moving his head painfully from side to side.

“They’ve gone,” Mike said, “Well, what are you doing here?” he asked slowly, dazedly.

"I thought I’d better wait and see that you were all right. Besides, you’ve no way to get back to town, and I have my car here.”

He got up slowly. He wavered on his feet a little and moved toward his coat, turning down his shirtsleeves as he went. He put on the coat and started for the door. Mike got up hastily and began putting out the lanterns. When she turned lie had gone out into the rain.

“Wait a minute,” Mike called. “There’s something I’ve got to explain. Wait, please.”

She hurried out, looked about for him. He had vanished into the black wetness, She got into her car and drove slowly out to the road. There was no sign of him. Her heart was thumping, but she did not know why.

After a while she gave up hope of finding him. She drove along at thirty, gripping the wheel with white knuckles. She fought back senseless tears till her throat ached and her head throbbed. They had beaten him three of them. Three of them had beaten one man. Bert had made a great speech before finishing him; Bert, fresh and assured, had knocked him out. One tear got away from her, and another, rolling in slow course down her bronzed cheeks. She set her jaw till it ached. But the tears would not stop. They came with stubborn reluctance, one at a time, begrudged because they had no place in reason, coming because reason no longer seemed reason; because this night had been intensely hateful and scarcely to be borne . . .

IT TOOK a long time, nevertheless, for her I to decide; to get up courage. It took a whole week. And she decided because she felt that it would be cowardly, unfair, not to do it. So, a week and a day later, she drove her little roadster into the wide driveway of the Hillside Sanatorium and asked to see Paul Glover.

They told her at first that he could see no one, hut when she asked if she could send a note to him, they agreed to permit that. She wrote a few words and the nurse took the note, returning in a while to say that she might go up. The nurse led her up one flight and down a wide, cool corridor to a white dcx>r at the corridor’s end. “Only few minutes,” the nurse said as she went away.

Mike was frightened for half a minute. Those words came back to her. “He’s flat on his back and scared to death of what life will do to him next.” It took courage to knock. At length she did so. There was a murmur from within and she took it for a bidding to enter. She opened the door.

Her heart sank and sank, as though there was no end to its sinking. Paul lay there in the bed. his face smaller than she had ever seen it, its pallor ghostly. She thought his lip trembled a little as he spoke.

“Hello,” he said softly.

She came hesitantly to the bedside. He

raised a hand toward her. She took it quickly and said:

“Hello, Paul. It was good of you to let me come in.”

A little color came to his face.

“Oh. no,” he said. “It was good of you to come. Won’t you sit down?”

She did so. There was an awkward silence.

“I didn’t know you were here until a short time ago,” she said. His pale blue eyes were fixed u¡x)n her, but there was no reproach in them. “I’d have come sooner if I had known. I really would.”

He smiled and said, “That’s very nice of you, Mercy.” He was the only one who had called lier Mercy in years. That poetry he had written had been not for Mike but for Mercy. Only in those poems had she ever thought the name had any dignity or beauty.

“You’ve been terribly ill, haven’t you, Paul?” she said. He made no reply. There was another brief period of silence. Then Mike said: “What I came to tell you, Paul, is that I had absolutely nothing to do with that despicable trick that was played on you. That’s the truth. Some one stole the poems out of my room and did it—probably some one that hated not you but me. I never found out who did it. And I didn’t know it had done this to you. I really didn’t. I hope you’ll believe me.”

His face had become almost radiant with happiness. Tears sprang into his eyes. He was speechless for some seconds, but then he said :

“Of course I believe you. I understand now. And I didn’t until now. I couldn’t. It didn’t seem like you. It didn’t seem you could do such a thing. But what was Ï to believe?”

He said, after a pause:

“You know, I’m not half the sap you may think I am. I know I never had the right to write those poems for you. But I was stubborn, wasn’t I? Kept right at it until . . . Oh, I know that I’m not your kind of guy, Mercy. I always did know that. I never hoped for anything. I hoped only that you’d like what I wrote and understand how I felt. I was terribly in love with you—terribly; but all I wanted was to have you understand about it. I know the kind of man you’ll have some day. Some one a lot different from me. He’ll be much more of a lion than I am.” He smiled faintly. “He’ll be some one whose nose looks over the top of your head instead”—the smile was rueful now—“of some one like me, who’s a shrimp and a skinny one at that.”

She smiled, scarcely daring, lest the smile be suddenly swept away by tears. And he said:

“You like me, though, don’t you, Mercy? You do. I can tell. I think you always did. At any rate I thought you did at school. That’s what made it so hard when—that happened. I thought you had only been playing me up for a laugh. Some of them got an awfully big laugh out of it, didn’t they?”

She laid her hand on his.

“You’ll forget about that, won’t you, Paul? Please do, for my sake.”

He nodded.

“Yes. It won’t be difficult now.”

“And you’ll try to get well—soon—very soon?”

“Of course. I feel better already. I’ve weighed a couple of ton since I’ve been here, but now—already—I feel light as air.

I do, really.” His eyes were bright. “You’re absolutely swell to come, Mercy.” There was a tap at the door.

“Time’s up.” said the nurse, entering. “You mustn’t tire him. Why, Mr. Glover, you look a hundred per cent better!”

The invalid grinned. “That’s a prettylow estimate,” he said.

“I’ll be right out,” Mike said, and the! nurse disappeared.

“You’ll come to see me again?” Paul asked. “It won’t be too much trouble?”

“Of course I'll come,” she said. “I’ll come often, if you’ll let me.” She leaned forward quickly and kissed his cheek.

“You’re sweet to understand,” she said, “Good-by.”

She went out and down the corridor with the nurse.

“You’re good for him,” the nurse said. “You must come again.”

“I will,” said Mike and went out of the building.

THE NEXT DAY was bright and warm.

On the big chest where the weights were kept, a portable phonograph was grinding out a foxtrot. To its rhythm Mike was slamming away at the light bag. She had Bert’s stroke down very well now. She rolled the bag like a snare drum.

The crimson sweat shirt hung on a hook on the wall of the house. Mike wore only a white sleeveless jersey. The sun shone on the golden brown skin of her arms and legs, which would be miraculously white again in winter.

Nobody else was at home. Red and Ed and Bert were riding. Mother was at the morning meeting of the Women’s Club. Anise, the cook, was down town shopping.

Mike punished the bag severely. She began to practise alternating right and left hooks. She worked on these until the phonograph record was finished. Then she put on another record and turned back to the bag.

It was then that she noticed him. He was standing in the same spot where she had first seen him that other day. His chin looked just over the top of the fence. Her heart stopped, then began to pound.

They stared at each other for several seconds. Then he grinned.

“Hi, there,” he said.

“Hi,” said Mike.

The chin moved along the top of the fence and then he appeared in the open gateway. He walked in and sat down on the weight chest, beside the phonograph.

“You’re pretty expert at that, aren’t you?” he said. “Do you take pupils?”

“Not generally.”

“Wonder if you’d teach me.”

“Well,” she said thoughtfully, “you’ve got the build of a boxer. You really ought to learn. Let’s see how you’d hit the bag.” He got up and strolled over. She set the bag swinging and he made a vicious thrust at it, missed it entirely and almost fell down. He straightened up. his grin wider.

“You aren’t very good at that,” she told him. “I’d better give you a lesson.” She took the twelve-ounce gloves out of the chest and began to remove her punchingbag mitts. But he took hold of the punchingbag mitts and held them. She locked up at him and hoped that he could not feel the hammering of her pulse in her wrists.

“All this light stuff aside,” he said; “you were awfully grand to Paul yesterday.” ‘Tm glad if you think so,” she murmured soberly.

“I do think so. He’ll get well now— quickly, I’m sure. And you were awfully decent to me that night in the bam— afterward. I wasn’t out as long as you thought. Part of the time I was lying there, thinking.”

The phonograph ran down; made sombre, gulping sounds and stopped.

“Thinking? About what?”

“Oh, about what a funny, illogical world it is.”

“Just how funny and illogical is it?” Mike was scared. For the first time in her life she was scared about a man: about what he would say, or wouldn’t say.

“Well, it’s at least this funny,” he replied. “I came down here not so many days ago and stood behind that fence and watched you, and realized in only a few minutes why men went crazy about you. And then I walked in here and socked you on the nose. If that isn’t illogical, what is?”

“It wasn’t illogical,” she said, “considering what you thought I had done to your brother. I’d have done the same thing if I had been you.”

“Would you? Then perhaps you forgive me. Do you?”

“If you forgive me.”

‘There’s nothing for me to forgive. I got exactly what was coming to me.”

“Oh, no. Three against one—that was terrible.”

“Not at all. It was flattering. It showed what an excellent opinion you had of me. It was a compliment.”

She laughed suddenly. “You’re nice, to look at it that way.”

“Perhaps. But I wish I could prove to you that I’m half as nice as you were yesterday—to Paul.”

I íe must certainly feel her pulse hammering now, so it didn’t matter. Besides, she had been frank with men all her life and couldn’t be otherwise now. She said:

"You can prove anything to me that you want to prove.”

His blue eyes shone. The light breeze stirred his brown hair.

“Anything?” he echoed, after a small silence.

“Anything,” she assured him.