“And I did,” returned Ainsley complacently. “There were several false alarms, and I’d almost lost hope, but when the messengers came I knew them.”
With puzzled eyes the girl frowned and raised her head.
“Messengers?” she repeated. “I sent no message. Of course,” she went on, “when I said you would ‘read it in your heart’ I meant that if you really loved me you would not wait for a sign, but you would just come!” She sighed proudly and contentedly. “And you came. You understood that, didn’t you?” she asked anxiously.
For an instant Ainsley stared blankly, and then to hide his guilty countenance drew her toward him and kissed her.
“Of course,” he stammered—“of course I understood. That was why I came. I just couldn’t stand it any longer.”
Breathing heavily at the thought of the blunder he had so narrowly avoided, Ainsley turned his head toward the great red disk that was disappearing into the sands of the desert. He was so long silent that the girl lifted her eyes, and found that already he had forgotten her presence and, transfixed, was staring at the sky. On his face was bewilderment and wonder and a touch of awe. The girl followed the direction of his eyes, and in the swiftly gathering darkness saw coming slowly toward them, and descending as they came, six great white birds.
They moved with the last effort of complete exhaustion. In the drooping head and dragging wings of each was written utter weariness, abject fatigue. For a moment they hovered over the dahabiyeh and above the two young lovers, and then, like tired travellers who had reached their journey’s end, they spread their wings and sank to the muddy waters of the Nile and into the enveloping night.
“Some day,” said Ainsley, “I have a confession to make to you.”
When its turn came, the private secretary, somewhat apologetically, laid the letter in front of the Wisest Man in Wall Street.
“From Mrs. Austin, probation officer, Court of General Sessions,” he explained. “Wants a letter about Spear. He’s been convicted of theft. Comes up for sentence Tuesday.”
“Spear?” repeated Arnold Thorndike.
“Young fellow, stenographer, used to do your letters last summer going in and out on the train.”
The great man nodded. “I remember. What about him?”
The habitual gloom of the private secretary was lightened by a grin.
“Went on the loose; had with him about five hundred dollars belonging to the firm; he’s with Isaacs & Sons now, shoe people on Sixth Avenue. Met a woman, and woke up without the money. The next morning he offered to make good, but Isaacs called in a policeman. When they looked into it, they found the boy had been drunk. They tried to withdraw the charge, but he’d been committed. Now, the probation officer is trying to get the judge to suspend sentence. A letter from you, sir, would—”