At a sharp wall corner a clump of tall poinsettias flamed against the sky. Zora laughed full-heartedly.
“Here we are in the middle of a Fairy Tale. What are the Powers of Darkness in your case, Sir Red Cross Knight?”
“Jebusa Jones’s Cuticle Remedy,” said Sypher savagely.
That was Clem Sypher’s Dragon—Jebusa Jones’s Cuticle Remedy. He drew so vivid a picture of its foul iniquity that Zora was convinced that the earth had never harbored so scaly a horror. Of all Powers of Evil in the universe it was the most devastating.
She was swept up by his eloquence to his point of view, and saw things with his eyes. When she came to examine the poor dragon in the cool light of her own reason it appeared at the worst to be but a pushful patent medicine of an inferior order which, on account of its cheapness and the superior American skill in distributing it, was threatening to drive Sypher’s Cure off the market.
“I’ll strangle it as Hercules strangled the dog-headed thing,” cried Sypher.
He meant the Hydra, which wasn’t dog-headed and which Hercules didn’t strangle. But a man can be at once unmythological and sincere. Clem Sypher was in earnest.
“You talk as if your cure had something of a divine sanction,” said Zora. This was before her conversion.
“Mrs. Middlemist, if I didn’t believe that,” said Sypher solemnly, “do you think I would have devoted my life to it?”
“I thought people ran these things to make money,” said Zora.
It was then that Sypher entered on the exordium of the speech which convinced her of the diabolical noisomeness of the Jebusa Jones unguent. His peroration summed up the contest as that between Mithra and Ahriman.
Yet Zora, though she took a woman’s personal interest in the battle between Sypher’s Cure and Jebusa Jones’s Cuticle Remedy, siding loyally and whole-heartedly with her astonishing host, failed to pierce to the spirituality of the man—to divine him as a Poet with an Ideal.
“After all,” said Sypher on the way back—Septimus, with his coat-collar turned up over his ears, still sat on guard by the chauffeur, consoled by a happy hour he had spent alone with his mistress after lunch, while Sypher was away putting the fear of God into his agent, during which hour he had unfolded to her his scientific philosophy of perambulators—“after all,” said Sypher, “the great thing is to have a Purpose in Life. Everyone can’t have my Purpose “—he apologized for humanity—“but they can have some guiding principle. What’s yours?”
Zora was startled by the unexpected question. What was her Purpose in Life? To get to the heart of the color of the world? That was rather vague. Also nonsensical when so formulated. She took refuge in jest.
“I thought you had decided that my mission was to help you slay the dragon?”