“That’s his infernal cleverness. I’d have told him to go to the devil.”
“You can resign now,” she pointed out. “But I think you’d be foolish. You can do such big things. You are doing such big things with The Patriot. Cousin Billy Enderby says that if Laird is elected it will be your doing. Where else could you find such opportunity?”
“Tell me this, Io,” he said, after a moment of heavy-browed brooding very unlike his usual blithe certainty of bearing. “Suppose that lumber property were my own, and this thing had broken out.”
“Oh, I’d say to print it, every word,” she answered promptly. “Or”—she spoke very slowly and with a tremor of color flickering in her cheeks—“if it were mine, I’d tell you to print it.”
He looked up with a transfigured face. His hand fell on hers, in the covert of the little shelter of plants behind which they sat. “Do you realize what that implies?” he questioned.
“Perfectly,” she answered in her clear undertone.
He bent over to her hand, which turned, soft palm up, to meet his lips. She whispered a warning and he raised his head quickly. Ely Ives had passed near by.
“Marrineal’s familiar,” said Banneker. “I wonder how he got here. Certainly I didn’t ask him.... Very well, Io. I’ll compromise. But ... I don’t think I’ll put that quotation from the Areopagitica at the head of my column. That will have to wait. Perhaps it will have to wait until I—we get a paper of our own.”
“Poor Ban!” whispered Io.
Once a month Marrineal gave a bachelor dinner of Lucullan repute. The company, though much smaller than the gatherings at The House With Three Eyes, covered a broader and looser social range. Having declined several of his employer’s invitations in succession on the well-justified plea of work, Banneker felt it incumbent upon him to attend one of these events, and accordingly found himself in a private dining-room of the choicest of restaurants, tabled with a curiously assorted group of financiers, editors, actors, a small selection of the more raffish members of The Retreat including Delavan Eyre; Ely Ives; an elderly Jewish lawyer of unsavory reputation, enormous income, and real and delicate scholarship; Herbert Cressey, a pair of the season’s racing-kings, an eminent art connoisseur, and a smattering of men-about-town. Seated between the lawyer and one of the racing-men, Banneker, as the dinner progressed, found himself watching Delavan Eyre, opposite, who was drinking with sustained intensity, but without apparent effect upon his debonair bearing. Banneker thought to read a haunting fear in his eyes, and was cogitating upon what it might portend, when his attention was distracted by Ely Ives, who had been requested (as he announced) to exhibit his small skill at some minor sleight-of-hand tricks. The skill, far from justifying its possessor’s modest estimate, was so unusual as to provoke expressions of admiration from Mr. Stecklin, the lawyer on Banneker’s right.