* * * * *
When Sypher arrived she welcomed him with an unaccustomed heart-beat. The masterful grip of his hands as they held hers gave her a new throb of pleasure. She glanced into his eyes and saw there the steady love of a strong, clean soul. She glanced away and hung her head, feeling unworthy.
“What’s this most particular thing you have to say to me?” he asked, with a smile.
“I can’t tell it to you like this. Let us sit down. Draw up that chair to the fire.”
When they were seated, she said:
“I want first to ask you a question or two. Do you know why Septimus married my sister? Be quite frank, for I know everything.”
“Yes,” he said gravely, “I knew. I found it out in one or two odd ways. Septimus hasn’t the faintest idea.”
Zora picked up an illustrated weekly from the floor and used it as a screen, ostensibly from the fire, really from Sypher.
“Why did you refuse the Jebusa Jones offer this morning?”
“What would you have thought of me if I had accepted? But Septimus shouldn’t have told you.”
“He didn’t. He told Emmy, who told me. You did it for my sake?”
“Everything I do is for your sake. You know that well enough.”
“Why did you send for Septimus?”
“Why are you putting me through this interrogatory?” he laughed.
“You will learn soon,” said Zora. “I want to get everything clear in my mind. I’ve had a great shock. I feel as if I had been beaten all over. For the first time I recognize the truth of the proverb about a woman, a dog, and a walnut tree. Why did you send for Septimus?”
Sypher leaned back in his chair, and as the illustrated paper prevented him from seeing Zora’s face, he looked reflectively at the fire.
“I’ve always told you that I am superstitious. Septimus seems to be gifted with an unconscious sense of right in an infinitely higher degree than any man I have ever known. His dealings with Emmy showed it. His sending for you to help me showed it. He has shown it in a thousand ways. If it hadn’t been for him and his influence on my mind I don’t think I should have come to that decision. When I had come to it, I just wanted him. Why, I can’t tell you.”
“I suppose you knew that he was in love with me?” said Zora in the same even tone.
“Yes,” said Sypher. “That’s why he married your sister.”
“Do you know why—in the depths of his heart—he sent me the tail of the little dog?”
“He knew somehow that it was right. I believe it was. I tell you I’m superstitious. But in what absolute way it was right I can’t imagine.”
“I can,” said Zora. “He knew that my place was by your side. He knew that I cared for you more than for any man alive.” She paused. Then she said deliberately: “He knew that I loved you all the time.”
Sypher plucked the illustrated paper from her hand and cast it across the room, and, bending over the arm of his chair, seized her wrist.