When at last she did so, the sapphire ring took on a new quality in the imagination of Capes. It ceased to be the symbol of liberty and a remote and quite abstracted person, and became suddenly and very disagreeably the token of a large and portentous body visible and tangible.
Manning appeared just at the end of the afternoon’s work, and the biologist was going through some perplexities the Scotchman had created by a metaphysical treatment of the skulls of Hyrax and a young African elephant. He was clearing up these difficulties by tracing a partially obliterated suture the Scotchman had overlooked when the door from the passage opened, and Manning came into his universe.
Seen down the length of the laboratory, Manning looked a very handsome and shapely gentleman indeed, and, at the sight of his eager advance to his fiancee, Miss Klegg replaced one long-cherished romance about Ann Veronica by one more normal and simple. He carried a cane and a silk hat with a mourning-band in one gray-gloved hand; his frock-coat and trousers were admirable; his handsome face, his black mustache, his prominent brow conveyed an eager solicitude.
“I want,” he said, with a white hand outstretched, “to take you out to tea.”
“I’ve been clearing up,” said Ann Veronica, brightly.
“All your dreadful scientific things?” he said, with a smile that Miss Klegg thought extraordinarily kindly.
“All my dreadful scientific things,” said Ann Veronica.
He stood back, smiling with an air of proprietorship, and looking about him at the business-like equipment of the room. The low ceiling made him seem abnormally tall. Ann Veronica wiped a scalpel, put a card over a watch-glass containing thin shreds of embryonic guinea-pig swimming in mauve stain, and dismantled her microscope.
“I wish I understood more of biology,” said Manning.
“I’m ready,” said Ann Veronica, closing her microscope-box with a click, and looking for one brief instant up the laboratory. “We have no airs and graces here, and my hat hangs from a peg in the passage.”
She led the way to the door, and Manning passed behind her and round her and opened the door for her. When Capes glanced up at them for a moment, Manning seemed to be holding his arms all about her, and there was nothing but quiet acquiescence in her bearing.
After Capes had finished the Scotchman’s troubles he went back into the preparation-room. He sat down on the sill of the open window, folded his arms, and stared straight before him for a long time over the wilderness of tiles and chimney-pots into a sky that was blue and empty. He was not addicted to monologue, and the only audible comment he permitted himself at first upon a universe that was evidently anything but satisfactory to him that afternoon, was one compact and entirely unassigned “Damn!”