“Oh, I don’t like it too short. Can you get hold of it to pull it? It’s the only thing that helps you in perplexity to solve problems. You’d be utterly helpless, mentally, without your moustache. . . . When are we to take up our Etruscan symbols again?—or was it Evans’s monograph we were laboriously dissecting? Certainly it was; don’t you remember the Hittite hieroglyph of Jerabis?—and how you and I fought over those wretched floral symbols? You don’t? And it was only a week ago? . . . And listen! Down at Silverside I’ve been reading the most delicious thing—the Mimes of Herodas!—oh, so charmingly quaint, so perfectly human, that it seems impossible that they were written two thousand years ago. There’s a maid, in one scene, Threissa, who is precisely like anybody’s maid—and an old lady, Gyllis—perfectly human, and not Greek, but Yankee of to-day! Shall we reread it together?—when you come down to stay with us at Silverside?”
“Indeed we shall,” he said, smiling; “which also reminds me—”
He drew from his breast-pocket a thin, flat box, turned it round and round, glanced at her, balancing it teasingly in the palm of his hand.
“Is it for me? Really? Oh, please don’t be provoking! Is it really for me? Then give it to me this instant!”
[Illustration: “Turning, looked straight at Selwyn.”]
He dropped the box into the pink hollow of her supplicating palms. For a moment she was very busy with the tissue-paper; then:
“Oh! it is perfectly sweet of you!” turning the small book bound in heavy Etruscan gold; “whatever can it be?” and, rising, she opened it, stepping to the window so that she could see.
Within, the pages were closely covered with the minute, careful handwriting of her father; it was the first note-book he ever kept; and Selwyn had had it bound for her in gold.
For an instant she gazed, breathless, lips parted; then slowly she placed the yellowed pages against her lips and, turning, looked straight at Selwyn, the splendour of her young eyes starred with tears.
ERRANDS AND LETTERS
Alixe Ruthven had not yet dared tell Selwyn that her visit to his rooms was known to her husband. Sooner or later she meant to tell him; it was only fair to him that he should be prepared for anything that might happen; but as yet, though her first instinct, born of sheer fright, urged her to seek instant council with Selwyn, fear of him was greater than the alarm caused her by her husband’s knowledge.
She was now afraid of her husband’s malice, afraid of Selwyn’s opinion, afraid of herself most of all, for she understood herself well enough to realise that, if conditions became intolerable, the first and easiest course out of it would be the course she’d take—wherever it led, whatever it cost, or whoever was involved.