Agony found herself possessed in these last days of an ever increasing desire to be with Miss Amesbury, to hear her talk and watch the expressions play over her beautiful, mobile face. For this brilliant and accomplished woman Agony had conceived an admiration which stirred the very depths of her intense, passionate nature. To be famous and fascinating like Miss Amesbury, this was the secret ambition that filled her restless soul. To be near her now, to have her all to herself in a canoe in this most beautiful hour of the day, thrilled Agony to the verge of intoxication. Her voice trembled when she spoke, her hand shook as she dipped the paddle.
The wide flaming fire of the sunset toned down to a tawny orange; then faded into a pale primrose; the big, bright evening star appeared in the west. From all the woods around came the goodnight twitter of the birds.
“Sunset and evening star—” repeated Agony softly, echoing the words Miss Amesbury had spoken a few moments before. “Oh,” she declared, “sunset is the most perfect time of the day for me. I feel just bewitched. I could do anything just at sunset; all my dreams seem about to come true.”
And drifting there in the rosy afterglow they talked of dreams and hopes, and ambitions, and Agony laid her soul bare to the older woman. She spoke of the things she planned to do, the career of social service she had laid out for herself, and of the influence for good she would be in the world—all of this to take place in the golden sometime when she would be grown up and out of school.
Miss Amesbury heard her through with a quiet smile. Agony looked up, encountered her gaze and stopped speaking. “Don’t you think I can?” she asked quickly.
“It is possible,” replied Miss Amesbury tranquilly. “Everything is possible. ‘We are all architects of fate;’ you must have heard that line quoted before. Everyone carries his future in his own hands; fate has really nothing to do with it. Whatever kind of bud we are, such a flower we will be. We cannot make ourselves; all we can do is blossom. This Other Person that you see in your golden dreams is after all only you, changed from the You that you are now into the You that you hope to be. If we are little, stunted buds we cannot be big, glorious blossoms. The Future is only a great many Nows added up. It is the things you are doing now that will make your future glorious or abject. To be a noble woman you must have been a noble girl. You are setting your face now in the direction in which you are going to travel. Every worthy action you perform now will open the way for more worthy actions in the future, and the same is true of unworthy ones.”
Agony sat very still.
“It is the thing we stand for ourselves that makes us an influence for evil or good,” continued Miss Amesbury, “not the thing that we preach. That is why so much of the so-called ‘uplift work’ in the world has no effect upon the persons we are trying to uplift—we try to give them something which we do not possess ourselves. We cannot give something which we don’t possess, don’t ever forget that, dear child. Be sure that your own torch is burning brightly before you attempt to light someone else’s with it.