The Apple of Venus
The Apple of Venus
BY MARJORIE BOWEN
THE long alley of chestnut trees leading to the château was barred with light and shade; the great green leaves were all atremble in the warm air, and in the thick grass the daisies lay wide open to the sun.
The clock of the distant village struck four as Mademoiselle Sophie came slowly on between the sun-flecked trunks, holding up her pink skirt from her reluctant feet. She was frowning, and her full red lips pouted a little in a manner not unbecoming to her sleepy beauty; her long brown eyes, her thick rich auburn hair, her clear skin, flushed from the sun, were noticeable points in a sumptuous appearance. She gave the impression of something golden, soft, and sullen as she came across the bright silent park land.
Her dress was of something that shimmered in pink silks; where the tight bodice was cut away over her white bosom she had pinned a peony of flaring scarlet; her hands were locked behind her, and now and then she tossed her head impatiently as the ends of her shining curls were blown in her face.
Walking so, slowly, she came to the confines of the park; here an old and sunken wall of brick divided it from open meadow-land that dipped slowly to the hollow where the village lay. The sun glittered on the distant vane on the church spire and shone golden in broad fields of grain and rich orchards. Sophie, with no regard to this slumbrous prospect before her, climbed the low wall and descended the slope of grass beyond. At the bottom of this slope a little wood was to be entered by a path crossed by a wooden stile; leaning against this stile a man in faded vermilion velvet stood in a very intent attitude, absolutely motionless, his head turned from Sophie's advance. She, as soon as she saw him, slackened her pace, and paused altogether at length to gaze at him in a slow, half-resentful manner.
The flaming foliage of the bramble and the soft green leaves of the hazel trees overhanging the stile cast waving shadows over him, but the sun falling through the shifting branches dazzled in his rare bright brown hair.
Sophie came forward with a sudden movement, the tall meadowsweet dragging at the hem of her gown, and the man at the stile turned and raised a clearcut English face, half pleasantly scornful and wholly alluring.
"You have frightened them away," he smiled, and he indicated two pheasants that flashed into the undergrowth at her approach.
Sophie frowned, disdaining a reply.
"You are always late," he said, easily.
She came up to the post of the stile and rested her round white arms on it.
"Do you think I have nothing else to do but keep time to the minute with you?" she asked. "Do you imagine my thoughts are so full of you, Paulyn?" And as she spoke she knew that it had taken a fierce effort of her will to delay her coming, and that, so much had she wished to be soon, she had dragged out the weary time, and with difficulty, that she might be late, Paulyn, Lord Frere, answered with a deepening of his smile.
"I, you see, have nothing better to do," he said, "and so I am here to time—always."
The reply, given lightly, as a compliment, stung her; she did not care that he should avow so carelessly his liking for her company.
"I wonder why I come at all?" she said, heavily.
He moved from the stile, and leaning against the tree trunk, looked at her curiously. His clothes, though they had been splendid once, were much worn and faded, the tinsel braid on his coat was tarnished, and the cravat knotted round his throat of fine but torn lace; he looked what he was—an adventurer of birth and parts, with attraction of daredevilry, youth, and breed to weigh against his obvious poverty.
"You know why you come, Sophie," he answered her. "The old house is dull."
Her anger rose at his unconcerned pleasantness; she pulled at the velvet leaves of the hazel and tore them mercilessly in her strong white fingers.
"Not so dull," she said, with a flashing look under her heavy brows, "as you, perchance, may think. Another of your cold nation has come to Luneville."
"My cold nation!" he laughed. "Now what made you say that?"
She ignored the question.
"Sir Gilbert Fraser is my father's guest," she continued. "He is a fine gentleman."
"Fifty," said Lord Frere, "and old for that. I know him."
Sophie tossed her head.
"Not so old, m'sieu," she answered; "there are some would say wealth were better than youth—since it can be shared—"
Lord Frere smiled.
"You would remind me, my dear, that it is owing to the difference between poverty and wealth that he is honored at the château—while your acquaintance with me is clandestine, and your father would not receive a ruined prodigal. Still"—he lifted slowly his gray eyes—"you leave the château for the hedgerow, do you not?"
She scattered the torn fragments of hazel leaf to the wind.
"What do you know of Sir Gilbert?" she asked.
He laughed, as if amused at the seriousness of her question.
"I knew him in England, my dear,—he is a worthy gentleman. He would make you a good husband."
"Ah!" said Sophie. "Though he is fifty, and old for that?"
Lord Frere suddenly sighed.
"Ah, my dear, he is rich, as you have said,—and you are not fitted for a poor man's wife—as I have recognized."
Sophie moved a little farther away among the sun-flecked foliage.
"I do not understand you," she said, while in her heart she understood only too well—he did not care as she cared; bitterly she wondered if men ever did care as women did. She pulled at a fading leaf beside her. "It is autumn," she said, with a faint laugh, "Summer is over, and you must ride away!"
"It has been a pleasant season," said Lord Frere, softly. "You have been very gracious to a vagabond."
The yellow leaf fluttered from her fingers.
"You are going?" she asked.
"I think that you are tired of me," he said. "Yes, Sophie—as you have said, the summer is over." He came up to the stile and rested against it. Words choked in her throat; her hands lay over the peony at her breast.
"If I had been rich, now," sighed Lord Frere, "it had been different."
She was standing half with her back to him, and he could not see the slow color mount into her face, nor how the peony rose and fell over her heart.
"Well?" she said, unsteadily, without looking at him. "How different, m'sieu?"
He lifted his eyebrows and glanced away from her down the cool green glade of the little wood; an expression of rather whimsical melancholy rested on his handsome face; he broke off one of the tall late buttercups growing by the post and twisted it in his fingers.
"Ah, different!" he said, absently.
A hot sideway glance of hers discovered his indifferent bearing. Was he a coward, or did he not understand?—Was it possible he did not understand? She sought desperately for words which should enlighten him, but the precious minutes flew past and she was silent.
A bird whirred out of the covert near, and Lord Frere's sleepy gray eyes were following it as it flitted down the woodland sun-flecked path. Sophie spoke—not as she wished to speak, still with some attempt to get within his guard.
"You are a spendthrift at heart," she said. "And what do you care for money? If one offered you a fortune to-morrow, you would hardly lift your hand to take it."
"You read me well," he said, never looking round at her; "over-well, perhaps. This friend of yours, Sir Gilbert Fraser, offered me a fortune yesteryear that I refused."
"What do you mean?" she cried, and the blood rushed into her face.
"He collects curiosities, does he not?" Lord Frere glanced at her over his shoulder. "I had something left from the ruin of my fortunes that he wished to buy."
"And you would not sell it?"
"Not for anything he or any man could offer-—for some foolish reason I value it greatly."
Sophie felt a giddiness in her head. So he did not value what a fortune could have bought—would buy now—her family's toleration—the position of her equal.
"So," she said, in a voice as quiet as she could make it, "you have it still—this thing?"
Lord Frere twirled the buttercup between his white teeth.
"Yes—I have it." He put his hand into his vest pocket. "With me now and always."
She answered; her eyes sparkled brilliantly.
"You are mad to carry it there—worth a fortune! You will be robbed or murdered for your folly!"
"Why, I can protect it," he said, easily, as he held out a little carved wood case on the palm of his fine hand.
She would not touch it: her rival, the thing he "valued greatly"—she drew back with instinctive hatred of what the little box contained. He gave her a quick, sharp glance, then unfastened the case.
It contained an apple of pure gold, perfectly modelled, with two curling jade leaves set against the stalk. Lord Frere took it out and touched a little spring; the apple flew open in four quarters against the leaves, and disclosed a diamond as large as a lady's nail and beautifully cut.
"An ancestress of mine," said Lord Frere, "was judged the most beautiful woman in England, and her husband had this made for her—she wore it, I think, at her girdle. It was a pretty conceit."
"What is it to you?" asked Sophie, under her breath. "Would not the money buy what you would value more than this toy?"
"I know of nothing,"—and it seemed to her as if he had struck her insolently in the face.
She could not trust herself to speak, while he, all unconscious, showed her how the four quarters were carved inside with the likenesses of the four most beautiful women the world has known—Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, Queen Guinevere, and Lucretia Borgia.
"And she had red-gold hair—as you have," he said, pointing to this last.
The remark came to her with the shock of revelation.
"Do you think of me—of women—as—well, like that?" she asked, in a curious, breathless way. "As—such colored hair—such a shaped face—hands so made—" She half held out her own, then laughed. "Mon Dieu—you do not understand!"
"Why, no," he answered; his clear gray eyes were on her questioningly.
"It is not worth while," she flashed. "And now I think—it is over-late—I must return."
She came up to the stile and leaned a little towards him; the sunlight shimmered on her satin bodice and showed most wonderfully the glittering threads of her hair.
"I shall not come again," she said. Lord Frere closed the golden apple and returned it to his pocket.
"Why?" he asked. "You are tired of your amusement?"
Through the perfect golden green silence following on his speech, the church in the village below them struck, and the clear echo of the little bell seemed to hover a long while in the sweet air; Sophie moved with slow fingers a lock of hair back from her face.
"Keep your toy well, my lord," she smiled.
"You think I am a fool to keep it," he answered her. "Well, I shall never part with it—unless—"
She took him up quickly.
"God wot, I might come to starve!" he laughed.
She drew away from the stile.
"Then you can sell that jewel to Sir Gilbert," she said, and her eyes narrowed. "Now—good-by, Paulyn."
She held out her hand.
"You mean it?" he asked.
She answered quietly:
"We go to Paris in two days—and you," she smiled slowly—"you will be tired of our quiet village."
"Is this the end of our wayside acquaintance?" he laughed. "And you take leave of me—like this?"
"I will come again to-morrow," said Sophie. "To say good-by, Paulyn,—but now they are expecting me at the château."
Their hands met and clasped lightly above the heads of the tall buttercups and parsley flowers; then she gathered up her dress and turned away.
"Until to-morrow," said Lord Frere, and smiled at her carelessly.
She gave one glance at the slim figure in the faded scarlet and passed on her way. Her face was curiously pale and hardened; she walked very slowly and steadily towards the château, and paused now and then to shake the fragments of leaves and grass off the edge of her long gown.
On entering the great house she went straight to the library, where she found her father's guest over his books. He looked up as her gracious youth came into the room, and the warm color of her opulent beauty was jewel-like against the sombre background. Sir Gilbert rose from his place.
Without a word Sophie passed him, took the peony from her breast and set it in the dragon-painted vase on the mantel-shelf; then she turned.
"It is yes, after all, Sir Gilbert," she said, quietly. "I will be your wife."
The ruddy, steady glow of a fire that had burned to a great golden heart shone on the blue and purple of a Japanese vase that stood on a slim table by Sir Gilbert's chair and gave a slight color to his worn, bloodless face. By the tall window stood his wife, gazing out on Soho Square, growing dim in the waning English afternoon.
Sir Gilbert looked thoughtfully at her beautiful figure and the fine line of her bare throat and averted face.
"Will you come here, Sophie?" he said at last.
She turned at once and moved across the room in her usual slow manner; as she came into the glow of the fire the bright green of her gown, the carnation of her face, the glitter of her hair, and the white jewels at her throat showed as notable things.
"You wanted me?" she asked.
Sir Gilbert rose and unlocked the glass front of a black lacquer cabinet that stood against the wall; while, with slow, careful movements, he sought for something in its dark recesses, she watched him without interest.
After a while he found what he looked for and held it out to her.
"I wish you to wear this to-night," he said.
It was a little box that lay on his hand; she knew it and what it contained.
"What whim is this?." she asked, quietly.
"No whim at all." He unlocked the box and took out a gold apple with jade leaves. "You remember that I bought this two years ago, when you were in France?"
"I remember," said Sophie. She picked up a drawn-silk hand-screen and held it up before her face.
Sir Gilbert laughed dryly.
"The man who sold it to me came to-day to buy it back."
"Ah?" The rose-silk screen fluttered a little in her hand.
"He is coming to-night to dine with us," continued her husband. "I think he will amuse you."
"Amuse me?" The hand-screen was quite still now.
"Yes—he is interesting." Sir Gilbert was fixing the apple to a long, fine gold chain. "He was most stormy when I refused to sell this to him, but we parted good friends. He is Earl of Clare now, through a distant cousin's death, and, for the time at least, a swinging fortune. A scoundrel, of course."
"Why do you have him here?" asked Sophie. "Do you think scoundrels amuse me?"
"He is charming, too—I can read him very easily; he has set his heart on this." He touched the apple lightly. "He intends by any means to get it. I dare say"—again he laughed dryly—"he has thieved in his time."
His wife laid down the screen; for all the glow of the firelight, she was, had her husband eyes to notice, curiously pale for her.
"So you want me to wear it?" she asked.
"Hidden in your dress." He handed it to her.
She put the chain round her white neck and slipped the apple into the bosom of her gown.
"So?" she said, rather faintly; she felt a cold touch against her heart, and for a moment it was as if he had passed her again, after all these years.
"So." Sir Gilbert nodded, well pleased. "I shall puzzle him as to where I keep it, shall I not?"
"He is coming to discover that?" asked Sophie.
"I think so—ostensibly, of course, to see my collection: it will be a duel of wits."
She moved back into the warm shadows of the room.
"Why should he value it so highly?" she questioned; then suddenly, "You make him out a common thief, and yet let him come here!"
"He is amusing," repeated Sir Gilbert, "an attractive vagabond."
Sophie laughed, quite unreasonably scornful, it seemed to her husband.
"You have said you found it dull," he remarked.
Her fingers curled round the fine chain that held the apple.
"You offer a strange diversion."
Sir Gilbert answered sharply:
"Say I please myself, then, madam. I like the fellow."
She came to the fire and seated herself in one of the deep leathern chairs.
"It is no matter, either way—to me."
In this attitude, that was neither attention nor indifference, but like lifeless movement, sitting forward, motionless, with her head half turned to the door, and the firelight ruddy on her averted cheek, she sat long after her husband had left the room, and though the wood on the hearth was sinking into ashes she did not notice it.
She heard a carriage drive up without, and never moved; she heard footsteps on the stairs, and never moved.
Then, when the door opened, she rose suddenly, and her hands closing on the hand-screen, snapped the fragile stick. It was the servant with the candles.
With an impulse of daring and defiance she took the one set on the table near the Japanese vase and placed it on the mantel-shelf, so that the light fell on her face, and when—he—entered with Sir Gilbert she was standing so with her head erect. In the seconds that her husband used in introducing them her eyes flashed courageously over him.
Five years ago!
She had imagined many things; she had not been prepared for this: he was ostentatiously splendid, magnificently dressed, and the richness of his appointments suited his reckless face; he was as attractive now, standing within her door in his perfumed velvets, as her straying thoughts during these years had ever pictured him in his faded scarlet coat.
He accepted her presence, her position, with the calm she knew he would show; in the instant that she dared look into his dangerous eyes he showed her that their last meeting was as vivid in his mind as in hers. But had Sir Gilbert been as keen on the track of their secret as he was unconscious of it, he could have guessed nothing from the Earl's demeanor.
He said very little to Sophie; while her husband displayed the treasures with which the room was filled he leaned against the table, facing the fire, and his attention was all for the connoisseur and his collection.
Sophie pushed the candle away from her now and sat back in her chair watching. She saw her husband moving to and fro among his cabinets; the table laden with gold and silver ware that glittered in the candelight: ancient chasubles with rough-set gems, carved ivory coffers, and strange-shaped ornaments of rock crystal; and it was all but a dim background to the figure of the Earl.
He was in black and white velvet, with a great knot of pink ribbons on his shoulder; his profile was towards her, and she noticed a bunch of violets fastened in his Bruges-lace cravat. He talked and laughed with Sir Gilbert; he was entertaining, charming, flattering; he used that subtlest of incense, envy, and Sophie observed that despite his cool summing up, her husband was fascinated and enthralled.
She had lived very quietly since her marriage; how quietly she had not realized till now. As she sat in the shadow looking at the Earl she was aware that her life had stopped with his passing out of it, and that the long even years with Sir Gilbert had been filled with merely mechanical actions and aimless thoughts; now, like a tide dammed and suddenly set free, her blood flowed passionately. She knew that her husband was old and dull, that her days had been as dust; she knew what she had missed, and she looked with narrowed brown eyes at the careless figure of the man who had cheated her of it.
His brilliant presence had altered the sombre house as it had altered the quiet woods round her home; she could see Sir Gilbert was under the spell of the graces being so freely used for his captivation, although he had named the Earl—scoundrel.
Sophie put her fingers to the fine chain crossing her bosom: it was curious to remember the day when they had stood either side of the stile with tall buttercups between and the jewel now hidden over her heart had flashed in his open hand.
He never mentioned the apple; if he was observant of every detail that might discover to him its hiding-place, he gave no sign of it; careless and gay, absolutely at his ease, he appeared to have no motive beyond the moment.
At dinner, Sophie, seated between him and her husband, was so near him that their sleeves brushed when they moved; still, he spoke very little to her, and looked at her hardly at all. As she listened to his interested converse with Sir Gilbert she wondered if she had read aright that first glance of his—if, after all, he had not completely forgotten! It was likely enough: what had not these five years, so uneventful to her, been to him?
She colored hotly to think of it. Sir Gilbert remarked on her silence; he was secretly a little piqued that his beautiful wife had made so little impression on the Ear], though the latter's willing attention to his learned talk on his precious collection might be some recompense.
To Sophie the evening was intolerable; her blood stirred with a strange, unnameable excitement. When they returned to the up-stairs room, where Sir Gilbert's curios still glittered on the table, she escaped to the balcony and stood silent there, looking over the dark square and the winking lights of the town.
She could hear the voices of the two, so different in quality, modulated to the same tone; looking round sharply once, she saw her husband bending over one of his cabinets, and the Earl seated by the fire in the chair she had just left. She could only see his back; his attitude was that of some one writing,—the next instant he had risen, turned, and was coming towards her.
"You have dropped your fan, my lady."
He stood in the shadow of the window; the light from within caught his white sleeve as he held out her painted fan. She had left it, purposely, on the chair; without a demur, however, she took it, and the Earl, bowing, returned to Sir Gilbert, who was opening upon the gilt settee a portfolio.
Sophie stood perfectly still, gazing with unseeing eyes across the darkness. He had written something on her fan. She felt as though some one gripped her heart and held it so that she could not breathe. So—he was playing with her husband! What did he want with her—what did he dare to want with her?
She moved so that some of the light fell over her and unfurled her fan; yellow butterflies were painted on it, and they seemed to dance before her eyes like live things; then she read, in clear pencillings beneath them, his message:
"Venus wears the apple to-night—both are mine by right—I have been without both too long. I have so much to ask, to answer. After I leave to-night I shall return to your garden and wait for you. Paulyn."
Sophie closed her fan slowly; her desire was to laugh madly; this was characteristic of him: when he could have had her for the asking,—yes, it was the naked truth, for the asking,—he rode away, and now she was another man's wife, he would risk a great deal to whistle her back. She was to steal his jewel for him, and he put this on her fan!—his old recklessness—his old insolence.
Hardly a glance did she give him when he took his leave, but an hour later she was waiting at the end of the dark garden, with a cloak over her bright dress. The moon was out, and the stars, but their fire was quenched behind a soft veil of mist; the whole sky was dull and gray. The garden was not finely kept nor filled with blooms, but by the plane trees and the old stone seat at the wall grew a quantity of half -wild wallflowers, and their perfume was sweet and strong.
Sophie sat on the stone seat and twisted a spray in her fingers; the garden here was lit, in a gloomy flickering fashion, by the swinging street-lamp on the house opposite the wall.
The miserable thin moon cleared the dark chimney-tops and swam into the pallid sky with a trail of wet vapor after her. Sophie heard the steps of a passer-by echoing down the empty streets; the wallflowers fell from her hands on to the lap of her silk dress.
As the footsteps died away, another, bolder and firmer, sounded, coming nearer, and she could hear him singing, in a soft, reckless voice.
She rose and waited.
He knocked on the little wooden door in the garden wall.
"He is very sure I am here," she thought, and opened the door quietly.
He entered with a wholly delightful, half-hushed laugh; he wore a dark velvet riding-mantle, and swung his hat in his hand.
Sophie closed the door and went back to the seat; he followed her, eagerness on his lips.
"Now—forget five years—my dear!" He took her passive hand and held it warmly. "First, why did you never come the last time—as you promised?"
"You speak of too long ago," she answered,—"yet—you are much the same."
"To you always."
"I did not mean that." She had withdrawn her hand from his and closed it over the sprig of flowers in her lap. "I mean that you were reckless and careless in the way you behaved to-night—and—very certain."
He laughed in his old assured manner.
"Of what?" He had seated himself at the end of the seat and was leaning towards her; she could half see his face in the shadow of his dark hair. "Sophie—are you not glad that I have come?"
"Do you think that I have been waiting for you all these years?" she answered; her blood was running quick at the manner in which he took it for granted that she should come at his first bidding, the manner in which he accented, without either surprise or thanks, her compliance with his monstrous request, but there was little to be told from her quiet voice, little to be seen from her shrouded figure.
"Sophie," said the Earl, leaning closer, "I have often wondered why you never came to say farewell as you promised me. Sometimes I thought that I knew—"
She laid the wallflower to her lips.
"Why will you talk of five years ago? What have you come to say to me now?"
"I think that you know."
She could hear his quick breathing. Surely he was a little moved.
"Listen to me, Lord Clare, You went out of my life utterly. I only heard of you once—when my husband told me he had bought this toy from you."
She touched her bosom and saw his eyes flash. "I never thought to see you again until to-night—now, what can you imagine are my feelings towards you—now, what do you mean to say?"
Her hand rested on her knee; he laid his very gently over it.
"You care something or you had never remembered you ever cared more; you cared something or you had not come to-night. You belong, Sophie, to me, and I am here to claim you."
Her fingers trembled under his.
"Me—or your jewel?"
"Both—mine, both! The dotard sought to outwit me; he thought I should not guess where he had concealed the jewel; he thought that it would be impossible for me to steal it from such a hiding-place."
She stopped him swiftly.
"Yes—he thought so."
The Earl laughed at the recollection of the successful part he had played that evening.
"You have graced this dusty dwelling long enough, my dear."
Sophie rose suddenly; the perfume of the wallflowers was strong as wine to make her senses reel.
"You woo me late," she said, thickly.
"Before, I was a poor man." His voice came through the cross-shadows; she could see the dark outline of his figure against the flickering lamplight cast across the wall; she put out her hand and touched the smooth bark of the plane tree.
"Why did you sell—this?" Again she touched her bosom.
She felt he reined in eagerness as he answered,
"I was starving."
"So—what could not go for love went for bread!" She laughed. "And now—you have come to ask me to steal it for you, have you not—to give it to you?"
"No." He rose from his seat. "I want you, yourself—Venus as well as the apple, my dear."
She was breathing painfully.
"You—you would suggest I go with you?"
"You—you think I will?"
"By God! I think so."
Her fingers had closed over the chain across her bosom; she saw how he watched this.
"What else am I to steal from Sir Gilbert for you?" she asked; she moved away from him, but he leaned forward and caught at her glittering dress where the cloak fell aside.
"Are we to palter here until the old man sees us? Sophie, I am tired of England. Come with me back to France."
She was drawn against the wall now, crushed in among the wallflowers.
"Hush! they will hear us in the street! Stand away from me, my lord. You do not understand—nothing could make you understand!"
At the tone in her voice he instinctively stepped back, and she moved past him, with the dull light flickering on her figure.
"Do you think that there is nothing I value more than your late-flung favor?" she said, quietly. "If I were a free woman I would not trust myself to such as you—no! Stand away from me!" She flung out her hand and struck him lightly on the breast. "Once I amused you—to me it was something more; for five years you were silent; now—things are different; I came here to-night to tell you so." Her voice came in pants. "You think me a dull fool,"—she pulled at the chain round her neck. "Once I might—have followed you—anywhere; now—good night—oh, I can say it easily—farewell!"
He seized her hands, but she dragged them away.
"Here is what you came for—this that I have round my neck."
She tossed the chain at his feet. He sprang after her, but she ran down the dark length of the garden rapidly, and he heard her close and bolt the window.
At that Lord Clare went back to the plane and the wallflowers. At his feet the chain glittered in a tiny heap. What he had come for—yes—perhaps.
Yet Sophie—so suddenly unattainable—was provokingly alluring, unfathomable, and surprising. He gathered the jewel into his pocket without looking at it and stepped into the street. His swift vanity was reassured.
"After all, the jade cares," he thought, "or why did she give me this?"
He smiled, and leaning against the street post, leisurely drew it from his pocket. Sir Gilbert's jewel was a good guarantee of Sir Gilbert's wife.
The yellow lamplight and the cloudy radiance of the moon shone on the chain as he ran it over his fingers, looking for the familiar glitter of the golden apple. But in place of it hung a little gilded skull.
Lord Clare felt the blood run to his heart with a hateful sense of shock.
"By gad! does the jade care?" he said. Then he laughed curiously and, with her mocking gift hanging over his fingers, looked up at her dark house.
"And do I care to have missed the apple—or to have missed—Venus?"