But Miriam’s condition persisted. When I pressed her, she reluctantly complained of burning sensations down there. Every summer she visited Edinburgh to “take the air,” as we told all of our acquaintances. No-one knew what was wrong with her except myself, my consulting physician, Miriam, and her lady doctor. Unless, of course, Miriam chose to confide in Helena Born, her bosom friend. But surely, even she wouldn’t do such a thing.
I picked up a Dresden Shepherdess. Her tiny waist and diminutive grace reminded me of my wife. She had been only nineteen when we married eight years ago. Her family, the Wheelers, were solidly respectable, with enough money to acquire a governess from Zurich, to bring up their four daughters in an atmosphere of continental refinement. My lovely Miriam could speak French, play the pianoforte, and paint with glowing colors. To-day, she was returning home from Edinburgh.
A rumble of wheels alerted me to her arrival. Straightening my cravat I hurried forward. She ran into the house in a swirl of sky blue silk, her skirts drawn back into a fashionably large bustle, which was without the usual adornments of tassels or flounces. On her head perched a plain straw hat decorated with a bow in matching sky-blue silk. She rose on the tips of her toes, and gave me a peck on the cheek.
I studied my wife in silence. Miriam looked healthy, her cheeks showing a faint pink, her dark blue eyes clear. I caught my breath. Was she cured? Something surged forth. I had not known the meaning of the word ‘hunger’ until now. I crushed Miriam to my chest, my lips seeking hers. But she pushed me away gently.
“Edward, I want you to meet my new friend.”
I looked up. A tall youth with dark auburn hair and fierce blue eyes stood beside her.
“Robert Allan Nicol at your service, sir.” [To be continued next week.]