“Just a moment, sir,” said the dazed voice of the porter.
“What’s the matter? Didn’t I make it clear about Rose? She was the sister whom the—”
“Just hold the line a moment, sir,” implored the porter. “Here’s the gentleman himself coming in.”
I handed the telephone to Celia. “Here he is,” I said.
But I was quite sorry to go, for I was getting interested in those sisters. Rose, I think, will always be my favourite. Her life, though short, was full of incident, and there were many things about her which I could have told that porter. But perhaps he would not have appreciated them. It is a hard thing to say of any man, but he appeared to me to be entirely lacking in intellect.
Celia had been calling on a newly married friend of hers. They had been schoolgirls together; they had looked over the same algebra book (or whatever it was that Celia learnt at school—I have never been quite certain); they had done their calisthenics side by side; they had compared picture post cards of Lewis Waller. Ah, me! the fairy princes they had imagined together in those days ... and here am I, and somewhere in the City (I believe he is a stockbroker) is Ermyntrude’s husband, and we play our golf on Saturday afternoons, and go to sleep after dinner, and—Well, anyhow, they were both married, and Celia had been calling on Ermyntrude.
“I hope you did all the right things,” I said. “Asked to see the wedding-ring, and admired the charming little house, and gave a few hints on the proper way to manage a husband.”
“Rather,” said Celia. “But it did seem funny, because she used to be older than me at school.”
“Isn’t she still?”
“Oh, no! I’m ever so much older now.... Talking about wedding-rings,” she went on, as she twisted her own round and round, “she’s got all sorts of things written inside hers—the date and their initials and I don’t know what else.”
“There can’t be much else—unless perhaps she has a very large finger.”
“Well, I haven’t got anything in mine,” said Celia, mournfully. She took off the offending ring and gave it to me.
On the day when I first put the ring on her finger, Celia swore an oath that nothing but death, extreme poverty or brigands should ever remove it. I swore too. Unfortunately it fell off in the course of the afternoon, which seemed to break the spell somehow. So now it goes off and on just like any other ring. I took it from her and looked inside.
“There are all sorts of things here too,” I said. “Really, you don’t seem to have read your wedding-ring at all. Or, anyhow, you’ve been skipping.”
“There’s nothing,” said Celia in the same mournful voice. “I do think you might have put something.”
I went and sat on the arm of her chair, and held the ring up.