“I know, because it is he who gave you to me to be my friend. Don’t you remember?”
“Yes, I remember,” she answered, softly. “It was when you were so sympathetic with my foolish whim that I felt we were really friends.”
“And I, when you confided your pretty fancy to me, thanked you for the gift of your friendship, and treasured it, and do still treasure it, above everything on earth.”
She looked at me quickly with a sort of nervousness in her manner, and cast down her eyes. Then, after a few moments’ almost embarrassed silence, as if to bring our talk back to a less emotional plane, she said:
“Do you notice the curious way in which this memorial divides itself up into two distinct parts?”
“How do you mean?” I asked, a little disconcerted by the sudden descent.
“I mean that there is a part of it that is purely decorative and a part that is expressive or emotional. You notice that the general design and scheme of decoration, although really Greek in feeling, follows rigidly the Egyptian conventions. But the portrait is entirely in the Greek manner, and when they came to that pathetic farewell, it had to be spoken in their own tongue, written in their own familiar characters.”
“Yes. I have noticed that and admired the taste with which they have kept the inscription so inconspicuous as not to clash with the decoration. An obtrusive inscription in Greek characters would have spoiled the consistency of the whole scheme.”
“Yes, it would.” She assented absently as if she were thinking of something else, and once more gazed thoughtfully at the mummy. I watched her with deep content: noted the lovely contour of her cheek, the soft masses of hair that strayed away so gracefully from her brow, and thought her the most wonderful creature that had ever trod the earth. Suddenly she looked at me reflectively.
“I wonder,” she said, “what made me tell you about Artemidorus. It was a rather silly, childish sort of make-believe, and I wouldn’t have told anyone else for the world; not even my father. How did I know that you would sympathise and understand?”
She asked the question in all simplicity with her serious, grey eyes looking inquiringly into mine. And the answer came to me in a flash, with the beating of my own heart.
“I will tell you how you knew, Ruth,” I whispered passionately. “It was because I loved you more than anyone in the world has ever loved you, and you felt my love in your heart and called it sympathy.”
I stopped short, for she had blushed scarlet and then turned deathly pale. And now she looked at me wildly, almost with terror.
“Have I shocked you, Ruth, dearest?” I exclaimed penitently, “have I spoken too soon? If I have, forgive me. But I had to tell you. I have been eating my heart out for love of you for I don’t know how long. I think I have loved you from the first day we met. Perhaps I shouldn’t have spoken yet, but, Ruth, dear, if you only knew what a sweet girl you are, you wouldn’t blame me.”