“Oh, my wisdom, then? You probably reverence me too deeply.”
“Probably not. I don’t know; I couldn’t do it—somehow—”
“Try it—unless you’re afraid.”
“I’m not afraid!”
“Yes, you are, if you don’t take a dare.”
“You dare me?”
“Philip,” she said, hesitating, adorable
in her embarrassment. “No! No!
No! I can’t do it that way in cold blood. It’s got to be ’Captain
Selwyn’. . . for a while, anyway. . . . Good-night.”
He took her outstretched hand, laughing; the usual little friendly shake followed; then she turned gaily away, leaving him standing before the whitening ashes.
He thought the fire was dead; but when he turned out the lamp an hour later, under the ashes embers glowed in the darkness of the winter morning.
“Mid-Lent, and the Enemy grins,” remarked Selwyn as he started for church with Nina and the children. Austin, knee-deep in a dozen Sunday supplements, refused to stir; poor little Eileen was now convalescent from grippe, but still unsteady on her legs; her maid had taken the grippe, and now moaned all day: “Mon dieu! Mon dieu! Che fais mourir!”
Boots Lansing called to see Eileen, but she wouldn’t come down, saying her nose was too pink. Drina entertained Boots, and then Selwyn returned and talked army talk with him until tea was served. Drina poured tea very prettily; Nina had driven Austin to vespers. The family dined at seven so Drina could sit up; special treat on account of Boots’s presence at table. Gerald was expected, but did not come.
The next morning, Selwyn went downtown at the usual hour and found Gerald, pale and shaky, hanging over his desk and trying to dictate letters to an uncomfortable stenographer.
So he dismissed the abashed girl for the moment, closed the door, and sat down beside the young man.
“Go home, Gerald” he said with decision; “when Neergard comes in I’ll tell him you are not well. And, old fellow, don’t ever come near the office again when you’re in this condition.”
“I’m a perfect fool,” faltered the boy, his voice trembling; “I don’t really care for that sort of thing, either; but you know how it is in that set—”
“Oh, the Fanes—the Ruthv—” He stammered himself into silence.
“I see. What happened last night?”
“The usual; two tables full of it. There was a wheel, too. . . . I had no intention—but you know yourself how it parches your throat—the jollying and laughing and excitement. . . . I forgot all about what you—what we talked over. . . . I’m ashamed and sorry; but I can stay here and attend to things, of course—”
“I don’t want Neergard to see you,” repeated Selwyn.
“W-why,” stammered the boy, “do I look as rocky as that?”