OMNIA VINCIT AMOR
“Funny, wasn’t it?” said Nick, jingling a small handful of coins in front of his fiancee. “Quite a harvest in its way! I had no idea you were so charitable.”
She caught his wrist. “You have no right to a single one of them. You obtained them under false pretences. What in the world induced you to do such a thing?”
Nick’s hand closed firmly upon the spoil. “It was a sheer, heaven-sent inspiration,” he declared. “Care to know how it came to me? It happened one night in the Indian Ocean when I was on the way out with Daisy. I was lying on deck under the stars, thinking of you, and the whole idea came to me ready-made. I didn’t attempt to shape it; it shaped itself. I was hungering for the sight of you, and I knew you would never find me out. You never would have, either, if I hadn’t had Daisy’s message. I was just going to quit my lonely vigil when it reached me. But that altered my plans, and I decided with Fraser’s assistance to face it out. You knew he was in the secret, of course? He is in every secret, that chap. As soon as I heard of Lady Bassett’s ingenious little fiction about the Buddhist monastery, I was ready to take the wan path. But you were invisible, you know. I had to wait till you emerged. Then came last night’s episode, and I had to take to my heels. I couldn’t face a public exposure, and it wouldn’t have been particularly pleasant for you, either. So now you have the whole touching story, and I think you needn’t grudge me a rupee and a few annas as a reward for my devotion.”
Muriel laughed rather tremulously. “I would have given you something better worth having—if I had known.”
“Never too late,” said Nick philosophically. “You can begin at once if you like. Let me have your hand. Hold it steady, my dear girl. Remember my limitations. You won’t refuse any longer to wear my ring?”
“I will wear it gladly,” she told him, as he fitted it back upon her finger. “I shall never part with it again.”
Her eyes were full of tears, but she would not let them fall, and Nick was too intent upon what he was doing to notice.
“That imp Olga nearly broke her poor little heart when she gave it back to me,” he said. “I think I shall have to send her a cable. What shall I say? OMNIA VINCIT AMOR? She is old enough to know what that means. And if I add, ‘From Muriel and Nick,’ she will understand. A pity she can’t come to our wedding! I’d sooner have seen her jolly little phiz than all Lady Bassett’s wreathed smiles. She is sure to smile, you know. She always does when she sees me.” He broke off with a hideous grimace.
“Don’t, Nick!” Muriel’s voice trembled a little. “Why does she hate you so?”
“Can’t imagine,” grinned Nick. “It’s a way some people have. Perhaps she will end by falling in love with me. Who knows?”