“You must be a busy woman,” he said one morning, when he had been listening to one of her rattling accounts of her travels and gaieties, sprinkled over, as it was, with the shrewd remarks, and illumined by the keen insight into character that made her talk so charming.
“Busy, no; one of the idlest in the world, and a very worthless one to boot,” she answered, with a little sigh.
“Then, why don’t you change your life? it is in your own hands, if ever anybody’s was.”
“Do you think so? I doubt if anybody’s life is in their own hands. We follow an appointed course; if we did not, it would be impossible to understand why so many sensible, clever people make such a complete mess of their existence. They can’t do it from choice.”
“At any rate, you have not made a mess of yours, and your appointed course seems a very pleasant one.”
“Yes; and the sea beneath us is very smooth, but it has been rough before, and will be rough again—there is no stability in the sea. As to making a mess of my life, who knows what I may not accomplish in that way? Prosperity cannot shine down fear of the future, it only throws it into darker relief. Myself I am afraid of the future—it is unknown, and to me what is unknown is not magnificent, but terrible. The present is enough for me. I do not like speculation, and I never loved the dark.”
And, as they talked, Madeira, in all its summer glory, loomed up out of the ocean, for they had passed the “Desertas” and “Porto Santo” by night, and for a while they were lost in the contemplation of one of the most lovely and verdant scenes that the world can show. Before they had well examined it, however, the vessel had dropped her anchor, and was surrounded by boats full of custom-house officials, boats full of diving boys, of vegetables, of wicker chairs and tables, of parrots, fruit, and “other articles too numerous to mention,” as they say in the auctioneer’s catalogues, and they knew that it was time to go ashore.
“Well, it has been a pleasant voyage,” said Mrs. Carr. “I am glad you are not going on.”
“So am I.”
“You will come and see me to-morrow, will you not? Look, there is my house,” and she pointed to a large, white house opposite Leeuw Rock, that had a background of glossy foliage, and commanded a view of the sea. “If you come, I will show you my beetles. And, if you care to come next day, I will show you my mummies.”
“And, if I come the next, what will you show me?”
“So often as you may come,” she said, with a little tremor in her voice, “I shall find something to show you.”
Then they shook hands and took their respective ways, she—together with the unfortunate Miss Terry, who looked like a resuscitated corpse —on to the steam-launch that was waiting for her, and he in the boat belonging to Miles’ Hotel.