“John, darling,” she purred, “you will do everything you are told to by the doctors while I am away, won’t you?” and she caressed his forehead with her soft hand. “So that I may not have to worry as dreadfully as I have been doing, when I come back. It has made me quite ill—that is why I must go to Carlsbad. You will be good now; so that I may find you as strong and handsome as ever on my return.” Then she bent and kissed him.
He promised faithfully, and she never saw the whimsical gleam in his eyes, because for the moment having gained her end her faculties had resumed their normal condition, which was not one of superlative sensitiveness. Like everything else in her utilitarian equipment, fine perceptions were only assumed when the magnitude of the goal in view demanded their presence. And even then they merely went as far as sentinels to warn or encourage her in the progress of her aims, never wasting themselves upon irrelevant objects.
When her scented presence had left the room, John Derringham clasped his hands behind his head, and, before he was aware of it, his lips had murmured “Thank God!”
And then Nemesis fell upon him—his schoolboy sensation of recreation-time at hand left him, and a blank sense of failure and hopeless bondage took its place.
Surely he had bartered his soul for a very inadequate mess of pottage.
And where would he sink to under this scorpion whip? Where would go all his fine aspirations which, even in spite of all the juggling of political life, still lived in his aims. Halcyone would have understood.
“Oh! my love!” he cried. “My tender love!”
Then that part of him which was strong reasserted itself. He would not give way to this repining, the thing was done and he must make the best of it. He asked for some volumes from the library. He would read, and he sent the faithful and adoring Brome to request Miss Clinker to send him up the third and fourth volume of “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” He often turned to Gibbon when he was at war with things. The perfect balance of the English soothed him—and he felt he would read of Julian, for whom in his heart he felt a sympathy.
Arabella brought the volumes herself, and placed them on his table, and then went to settle some roses in a vase before she left the room.
A thin slip of paper fell out of one of the books as he opened it, and he read it absently while he turned the pages.
On the top was a date in pencil, and in a methodical fashion there was written in red ink:
“Notes for the instruction of M. E.,” and then underneath, “Subjects to be talked of at dinner to-night—Was there cause for Julian’s apostasy? What appealed most to Julian in the old religions—etc., etc.”