THE VOICE OF A FRIEND
“So you didn’t bring Nick after all. That was nice of you,” said Daisy Musgrave, with a little, whimsical smile. “I wanted to have you all to myself. The nicest of men can be horribly in the way sometimes.”
She smiled upon her visitor whom she had placed in the easiest chair and in the pleasantest corner of her drawing-room. Her pretty face was aglow with friendliness. No words of welcome were needed.
Muriel was already feeling happier than she had felt for many, many weary weeks. It had been an effort to come, but she was glad that she had made it.
“It was kind of you to ask me,” she said, “though of course I know that you did it for Nick’s sake.”
“You are quite wrong,” Daisy answered instantly. “He told me about you, I admit. But after that, I wanted you for your own. And now I have got you, Muriel, I am not going to stand on ceremony the least bit in the world. And you mustn’t either; but I can see you won’t. Your eyes are telling me things already. I don’t get on with stiff people somehow. Lady Bassett calls me effusive. And I think myself there must have been something meteoric about my birth star. Doubtless that is why I agree so well with Nick. He’s meteoric, too.” She slipped cosily down upon a stool by Muriel’s side. “He’s a nice boy, isn’t he?” she said sympathetically. “And is that his ring? Ah, let me look at it! I think I have seen it before. No, don’t take it off! That’s unlucky.”
But Muriel had already drawn it from her finger. “It’s beautiful,” she said warmly. “Do you know anything about it? It looks as if it had a history.”
“It has,” said Daisy. “I remember now. He showed it to me once when I was staying at his brother’s house in England. I know the Ratcliffes well. My husband used to live with them as a boy. It came from the old maiden aunt who left him all his money. She gave it to him before she died, I believe, and told him to keep it for the woman he was sure to love some day. Nick was an immense favourite of hers.”
“But the ring?” urged Muriel.
Daisy was frowning over the inscription within it, but she was fully aware of the soft colour that had flooded the girl’s face at her words.
“OMNIA VINCIT AMOR,” she read slowly. “That is it, isn’t it? Ah, yes, and the history of it. It’s rather sad. Do you mind?”
“I am used to sad things,” Muriel reminded her, with her face turned away toward the mountains.
Daisy pressed her hand gently. “It is a French ring,” she said. “It belonged to an aristocrat who was murdered in the Reign of Terror. He sent it by his servant to the girl he loved from the steps of the guillotine. I don’t know their names. Nick didn’t tell me that. But she was English.”
Muriel had turned quickly back. Her interest was aroused. “Yes,” she said eagerly, as Daisy paused. “And she?”