She laid her hand upon his. The touch of her fingers was wonderful, cool and soft and somehow reassuring. He felt a sense of relaxation, felt the strain of living suddenly grow less.
“You know,” she said, “all my friends tell me that I am a restful person. You are living at high pressure, are you not? Try and forget it. Fate makes queer uses of all of us sometimes. She sends her noblest sons down into the shadows and pitchforks her outcasts into the high places of life. Those do best who learn to control themselves, to live and think for the best.”
“Go on talking to me,” he begged. “Is it your voice, I wonder, that is so soothing, or just what you say?”
She smiled reassuringly.
“You are glad because you have found a friend,” she told him, “and a friend who, even if she does not understand, does not wish to understand. Do you see?”
“I wish I felt that I deserved it,” he groaned.
She laughed almost gaily.
“What a sorting up there would be of our places in life,” she declared, “if we all had just what we deserved!... Now give me your arm. I want to walk a little. While we walk, if you like, I will try to tell you what I can about New York. It may interest you.”
They walked up and down the deck, and by degrees their conversation drifted into a discussion of such recent plays as were familiar to both of them. At the far end of the ship she clung to him once or twice as the wind came booming over the freshening waves. She weighed and measured his criticisms of the plays they spoke of, and in the main approved of them. When at last she stopped outside the companionway and bade him good night, the deck was almost deserted. They were near one of the electric lights, and he saw her face more distinctly than he had seen it at all, realised more adequately its wonderful charm. The large, firm mouth, womanly and tender though it was, was almost the mouth of a protector. She smiled at him as one might smile at a boy.
“You are to sleep well,” she said firmly. “Those are my orders. Good night!”
She gave him her hand—a woman’s soft and delicate fingers, yet clasping his with an almost virile strength and friendliness. She left him with just that feeling about her—that she was expansive, in her heart, her sympathies, even her brain and peculiar gifts of apprehension. She left him, too, with a curious sense of restfulness, as though suddenly he had become metamorphosed into the woman and had found a sorely-needed guardian. He abandoned without a second thought his intention of going to the smoking-room and sitting up late. The thought of his empty stateroom, a horror to him a few hours ago, seemed suddenly almost alluring, and he made his way there cheerfully. He felt the sleep already upon his eyes.
All the physical exhilaration of his unlived youth seemed to be dancing in Philip Romilly’s veins when he awoke the next morning to find an open porthole, the blue sea tossing away to infinity, and his steward’s cheerful face at his bedside.