"I didn't mean so bad as that, Aleck; I didn't really mean immoral piety, I only meant--meant--well, conventional piety, you know; er--shop piety; the--the--why, YOU know what I mean. Aleck--the--well, where you put up that plated article and play it for solid, you know, without intending anything improper, but just out of trade habit, ancient policy, petrified custom, loyalty to--to--hang it, I can't find the right words, but YOU know what I mean, Aleck, and that there isn't any harm in it. I'll try again. You see, it's this way. If a person--"
"You have said quite enough," said Aleck, coldly; "let the subject be dropped."
"I'M willing," fervently responded Sally, wiping the sweat from his forehead and looking the thankfulness he had no words for. Then, musingly, he apologized to himself. "I certainly held threes-- I KNOW it--but I drew and didn't fill. That's where I'm so often weak in the game. If I had stood pat--but I didn't. I never do. I don't know enough."
Confessedly defeated, he was properly tame now and subdued. Aleck forgave him with her eyes.
The grand interest, the supreme interest, came instantly to the front again; nothing could keep it in the background many minutes on a stretch. The couple took up the puzzle of the absence of Tilbury's death-notice. They discussed it every which way, more or less hopefully, but they had to finish where they began, and concede that the only really sane explanation of the absence of the notice must be--and without doubt was--that Tilbury was not dead. There was something sad about it, something even a little unfair, maybe, but there it was, and had to be put up with. They were agreed as to that. To Sally it seemed a strangely inscrutable dispensation; more inscrutable than usual, he thought; one of the most unnecessary inscrutable he could call to mind, in fact--and said so, with some feeling; but if he was hoping to draw Aleck he failed; she reserved her opinion, if she had one; she had not the habit of taking injudicious risks in any market, worldly or other.
The pair must wait for next week's paper--Tilbury had evidently postponed. That was their thought and their decision. So they put the subject away and went about their affairs again with as good heart as they could.
Now, if they had but known it, they had been wronging Tilbury all the time. Tilbury had kept faith, kept it to the letter; he was dead, he had died to schedule. He was dead more than four days now and used to it; entirely dead, perfectly dead, as dead as any other new person in the cemetery; dead in abundant time to get into that week's SAGAMORE, too, and only shut out by an accident; an accident which could not happen to a metropolitan journal, but which happens easily to a poor little village rag like the SAGAMORE. On this occasion, just as the editorial page was being locked up, a gratis quart of strawberry ice-water arrived from Hostetter's Ladies and Gents Ice-Cream Parlors, and the stickful of rather chilly regret over Tilbury's translation got crowded out to make room for the editor's frantic gratitude.
On its way to the standing-galley Tilbury's notice got pied. Otherwise it would have gone into some future edition, for WEEKLY SAGAMORES do not waste "live" matter, and in their galleys "live" matter is immortal, unless a pi accident intervenes. But a thing that gets pied is dead, and for such there is no resurrection; its chance of seeing print is gone, forever and ever. And so, let Tilbury like it or not, let him rave in his grave to his fill, no matter--no mention of his death would ever see the light in the WEEKLY SAGAMORE.
Five weeks drifted tediously along. The SAGAMORE arrived regularly on the Saturdays, but never once contained a mention of Tilbury Foster. Sally's patience broke down at this point, and he said, resentfully:
"Damn his livers, he's immortal!"
Aleck give him a very severe rebuke, and added with icy solemnity:
"How would you feel if you were suddenly cut out just after such an awful remark had escaped out of you?"
Without sufficient reflection Sally responded:
"I'd feel I was lucky I hadn't got caught with it IN me."
Pride had forced him to say something, and as he could not think of any rational thing to say he flung that out.