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THE Sphinx and I had not met for quite a long time. We hadn't dined together for -- O I should think -- four years; and it was strange to both of us to be sitting opposite to each other once more in the friendly glitter of a little dinner table -- that glitter which is made up of skillfully mitigated electric light falling on various delicate objects of pleasure: the slim, fluted crystal of the wineglasses, the lustral linen, the tinkling ice in its silver jug, the moon-white roses, and the opals on the Sphinx's long fingers. We were both a trifle conscious, and we looked at each other half inquiringly across the table. "Are we the same people?" presently asked the Sphinx. "Of course, you are, my dear Sphinx; but I hope, for your sake, that I am not." "For my sake?" "I mean that it is a poor compliment to a woman one adores always to bring the same man to dinner." "I see -- you have haven't changed a bit... Yes, you have," she added, after a pause. "Why, you're growing grey. How have you managed that at your age?" "'Sorrows like mine would blanch an angel's hair,'" I answered, with pathos, quoting from a noble sonnet of our own time. "Sorrows! If you said pleasures, you would be nearer the mark. It is pleasure, not sorrow, that makes the butterfly's wings turn grey." "One's sorrows are one's pleasures -- are they not?" I retorted. "Yes!" said the Sphinx, wistfully, "you are right. 'Of our tears she hath made us pearls, and of our sobbing she hath made unto us a song' -- who said that? Was it you?" "Very likely," said I. "Yes! you are right," she continued. "Our pleasures we could spare -- but not our sorrows -- our beautiful sorrows." "Sorrows," I ventured, "are the opals of the soul." Then the Sphinx stretched her opalled hand across the table and patted mine and said, "You dear," just as in the old days. The tears came to my eyes. "Mark your influence!" I said. "That is the first good thing I have said for four years." "What appalling faithfulness!" laughed the Sphinx. "But I would rather a man were faithful to me with his brain than with his heart. It means more. Faithful hearts are comparatively common -- but when a man is faithful with his brain... " "His hair turns grey," I got in. "Yes! Now tell me about your grey hair. I am sure you have some beautiful explanation to offer, some picturesque excuse, some vindicatory fancy." "Suppose I were to say that I grew it grey to please a girl who thought she would like it so?" "I should believe you -- for I never knew a man who would do so much for a woman as you!" answered the Sphinx, laughing. "And did -- or rather does -- she like it?" "No," I answered sadly, "she thought she would, but she doesn't. She wants it brown again, but it is too late." "It will always be brown for me," said the Sphinx. Sentiment threatened us a moment, but the April cloud passed without falling. "Tell me another reason," asked the Sphinx, "you have plenty more I am sure." "To tell the truth there are several explanations," I continued gravely. "I hardly know which to choose. The scientific one is probably this: Nature is beginning to retrench. She cannot afford any longer to keep up so expensive a house of life. Her bank account of vitality is no longer what it was. Time was when she poured her blood through one's veins like a spendthrift, and kept up ever so fine and flashing a style. One's members lived like princes in their pride, and there was colour and dash for all and to spare. But now nature feels that she can no longer afford this prodigality -- she feels, as I said, the need of retrenchment.

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