“Richard,” she twinkled, “is not like you. He loves my books.”
“He ought to know better,” George asserted severely, and at that moment in he came.
“George!” Richard was jubilant. “Have you heard the news?”
“What news?” George was thinking of the Carpentier-Lewis fight due that night.
“June has been awarded the Nobel prize.”
“How splendid!” George looked a little puzzled. “Is it for life saving?”
“Yes,” June put in quickly.
“I’m not at all surprised.” George beamed at her. “You always were as plucky as they made ’em and gifted. Do you remember how charmingly you used to sing? ‘Not a big voice, but so true,’ Mother used to say, and she’s a great judge.”
“Your mother has always been so sweet to me.”
“What a talented woman like you wants to write for beats me.”
George had got back to his grievance again, but she lured him on to the subject of irises on which they were both experts, and it was not till just before dinner that he hurried away.
Then suddenly he remembered that he hadn’t asked her whose life she had saved. How silly and how selfish! It was so like her not to talk about herself, and then he saw on a patch of posters: “June Rivers awarded the Nobel prize,” and though he was very late he stopped to buy an evening paper.
[To THE MARCHESE GIOVANNI VISCONTI VENOSTA]
Matthew half shut his eyes—as he always did when he particularly wanted to see.
“For the first time in my life,” he said, “I regret my myopia. Confronted with this room, imagination pales before sight.”
Virginia looked round—at the strawberry ice brocade, at the gilt, at the Bouchers—so painstaking and so painful—at the palms that seemed to conceal manicurists and barbers.
“Look,” he continued, “at our hostess. I am sure her ears and her nose take off at night. Her hair is a libel on horsehair and dye.”
“Oh,”—Virginia’s smile was playing like a light over his face—“think of the days when her eyes were like stars and her ears like shells and her hair was curling all over the place.”
“Virginia,” his voice was tender, “where you are there are no more palms, wigs turn into hair, rouge into blushes——”
“Matthew,” she said, “you are a romantic and I am the only person in the world who knows it.”
“You are the only person in the world with whom I am in love.”
“For the moment.”
“How practical you are!” he teased, “full of forethought and arriere pensees. Isn’t the moment the capture of the divine?”
She sighed a little—wise with the wisdom of frustrated dreams, and she thought how happy he was—happy with the happiness of iridescent, ever-changing whimsies.
“Virginia, does that young man love you?”