It was tantalizing to Selma to be skirting the edge of themes she would have enjoyed to hear treated seriously. She hoped that Mr. Dennison would inquire if she really wrote, and at least he would tell her something about his magazine and literary life in New York. But he took up again his task of buttering toast, and sought to interest her in that. Presently she was unable to resist the temptation of remarking that the editorship of a magazine must be one of the most interesting of all occupations; but he looked at her with his quizzical smile, and answered:
“Between you and me, Mrs. Littleton, I will confide to you that a considerable portion of the time it is a confounded bore. To tell the truth, I much prefer to sit next to you and butter toast.”
This was depressing and puzzling to Selma; but after the consumption of the rabbit and the oysters there was some improvement in the general tone of the conversation. Yet, not so far as she was concerned. Mr. Dennison neglected to confide to her the secrets of his prison house, and Dr. Page ruthlessly refused to discuss medicine, philosophy, or the Japanese. But here and there allusion was made by one or another of the company to something which had been done in the world of letters, or art, or music, which possessed merit or deserved discouragement. What was said was uttered simply, often trenchantly and lightly, but never as a dogma, or with the solemnity which Mrs. Earle had been wont to impart to her opinions. Just as the party was about to break up, Dr. Page approached Selma and offered her his hand. “It is a great pleasure to me to have met you,” he said, looking into her face with his honest eyes. “A good wife was just what Wilbur needed to insure him happiness and a fine career. His friends have great confidence in his ability, and we intrust him to you in the belief that the world will hear from him—and I, for one, shall be very grateful to you.”
He spoke now with evident feeling, and his manner suggested the desire to be her friend. Selma admired his large physique and felt the attraction of his searching gaze.
“Perhaps he did need a wife,” she answered with an attempt at the sprightliness which he had laid aside. “I shall try not to let him be too indifferent to practical considerations.”
“Who is Dr. Page?” asked Selma of her husband when they left the house.
“One of our best friends, and one of the leading physicians in the city. The energy of that man is tireless. He is absorbed in his profession. The only respite he allows himself are these Saturday evenings, and his devotion to his little son who has hip disease. He told me to-night that he had finished his day’s work only just before he came in. What did you think of him? He likes to tease.”
“Then he is married?”
“He is a widower.”
“He seems interested in you. He was good enough to say that he thought you needed a wife.”