Nicholas took up the list and reread it carefully. “The men I have named I believe to be best suited to the positions,” he returned. “One, you may observe, is a Republican—that will call for hostile criticism—but he was beyond doubt the best man. I regret the fact that the majority of these men are Webb partisans, but I wish to make these appointments for reasons entirely apart from politics.”
Galt had risen, and he now stood looking down upon the governor with a smile in his eyes.
“So it goes?” he asked, pointing to the sheet of paper.
The other nodded.
“Yes, it goes. I am not a fool, Ben. I wish things were different—but it goes.”
“And so do I,” laughed Galt easily. “You won’t mind my remarking, by the way, that you are a brick, but a brick in the wrong road. However, you hold on to Rann, and the rest of us will hold on to you. Oh, we’ll see you to-night at Carrie’s coming-out affair, of course. The child wouldn’t have you absent for worlds. If my wife and daughter represented the community you might become Dictator of Richmond. Good morning!”
As he crossed the little gallery where the portraits hung there was an abstracted smile about the corners of his shrewd mouth.
“Juliet!” called Galt as he swung open his house door.
It was his habit to call for his wife as soon as he crossed the threshold, and she was accustomed to respond from the drawing-room, the pantry, or the nursery, as the case might be. This evening her voice floated from the dining-room, and following the sound he stumbled over a shadowy palm and came upon Juliet as she put the last touches to a long white table, radiant with cut glass and roses.
She wore a faded blue dressing-gown, caught loosely together, and her curling hair, untouched by gray, fell carelessly from its coil across her full, fair cheek. She had developed from a fragile girl into a rounded matron without losing the peculiar charm of her beauty. The abundant curve of her white throat was still angelic in its outline. As she leaned over to settle the silver candelabra on the table, the light deepened the flush in her face and imparted a shifting radiance to her full-blown loveliness.
“How is it, little woman?” asked Galt as he put his arm about the blue dressing-gown. “Working yourself to death, are you?”
Since entering his home he had lost entirely the air of business-like severity which he had worn all day. He looked young and credulous. Juliet laughed with the pettish protest of a half-spoiled wife and drew back from the table.
“It is almost time to dress Carrie,” she said, “and the ice-cream hasn’t come. Everything else is here. Did you get dinner downtown?”
“Such as it was—a miserable pretence. For heaven’s sake, let’s have this over and settle down. I only wish it were Carrie’s wedding; then we might hope for a rest.”