“Which leaves us,” said Ravenslee thoughtfully, “which leaves us the beautiful City of Perhaps. It is a wonderful thought, that!”
“But only a thought!” she sighed.
“Is it? Are you quite sure?”
“Well, isn’t it?” she questioned wistfully.
“No!” he answered gravely, “the City of Perhaps is very, very real.”
“What do you mean?”
Once again their hands touched in the shadow, but this time his fingers closed upon her hand, the hand that held the medicine bottle, drawing her nearer in the dimness of that dingy landing.
“I mean,” he answered, “that for every one of us there is a City of Perhaps waiting to open its gates to our coming, and I am sure we shall reach it sooner or later, all three of us—the Princess and you and I—yes, even I, when I have done something worth while. And then, Hermione, then—nothing shall keep me from—my heart’s delight—nothing, Hermione!” As he ended, she felt an arm about her in the dimness; an arm fierce and strong that gripped and swept her close—then, as suddenly, loosed her. For a breathless moment he stood with head bowed in seeming humility, then, stooping, he crushed her hand, medicine bottle and all, to lips that burned with anything but humility.
“Good night, dear Princess Nobody!” he said, and watched her turn away, nor moved until the door had closed upon her. That night he smoked many pipes, weaving him fancies of the beautiful City of Perhaps, and dreamed dreams of what might be, and his eyes glowed bright and wide, and his mouth grew alternately grim and tender. And, that night, long after he lay asleep, Hermione’s golden head was bowed above her work, but, more than once she stayed her humming sewing-machine to look at one white hand with eyes shy and wistful—the hand that had held the medicine bottle, of course.
OF A TEXT, A LETTER, AND A SONG
Ravenslee opened his eyes to find his small chamber full of a glory of sun which poured a flood of radiance across his narrow bed; it brought out the apoplectic roses on the wall paper and lent a new lustre to the dim and faded gold frame that contained a fly-blown card whereon was the legend:
And with his gaze upon this time-honoured text, Ravenslee smiled, and leaping out of bed proceeded to wash and shave and dress, pausing often to glance glad-eyed from his open window upon the glory of the new day. And indeed it was a morning of all-pervading beauty, one such that even Mulligan’s, its dingy bricks and mortar mellowed by the sun, seemed less unlovely than its wont, and its many windows, catching a sunbeam here and there, winked and twinkled waggishly.
So Ravenslee washed and shaved and dressed, glancing now and then from this transfigured Mulligan’s to the fly-blown text upon the wall, and once he laughed, though not very loudly to be sure, and once he hummed a song and so fell to soft whistling, all of which was very strange in Geoffrey Ravenslee.