He remembered. It was a Saturday in the first month of his first term at Tidborough School when his father had come over to see him. The loneliness of newness was still upon him. He had been affected almost to tears by being with some one whose mind was open, as it were, for him to jump into: some one to whom he could open his mind, unseal the home thoughts, unlock the timid tongue. He had talked how he had talked! He had felt bursting to talk; and only talking could ease the feeling; and how it had eased! Yes, this was the same again. He did not want her to go. He wanted to talk—how he wanted to talk!—to tell, unseal, unlock, expose.
He said, “I tell you what, Nona. I’ll tell you something. I’ve an idea sometimes of cutting out from all this place and starting an educational publishing business on my own.”
She was enormously interested. “Oh, Marko, if only you would!”
“Well, I think about it. I do. I can see a biggish thing in it. The Tidborough Press, I’d call it. Like the University Press, you know, Oxford and Cambridge. By Jove, it might go any distance, you know!”
“Oh, you must! You must!”
He began to pour out the tremendous and daring scheme.
He talked animatedly,—these long pent up enthusiasms. She attended, rapt and gleaming-eyed, following him with most delicious “Yes—yes” and with little nods; and he suddenly became aware of how poignant to him was the sympathy of her interest,—and stopped. Thus to pour out, thus to be heard, was to experience the exquisite pain that comes with sudden relief of intolerable pain, as when an anodyne steals through the veins of torture. He stopped. He could not bear it.
“Well, that’s all,” he said.
She declared, “It’s splendid. How well you’re doing, Marko. I knew you would.” She paused. “Not that that matters,” she said.
He asked her, “What do you mean—’not that that matters’?”
She made a little face at him. “Marko, you’re not to snap me up like that. I’ve noticed it two or three times. I mean it doesn’t matter what a man does. It’s what he is that matters.”
He laughed. “Well, that lets me down pretty badly if that’s the estimate. I’m awful, you know.”
She shook her head. “Oh, you’re not so bad.”
“You don’t know me. I’ve been growing awful these years.”
“Tell me how awful you are. Does Mabel think you’re awful?”
“You ask her! I’m the most unsatisfactory sort of person it’s possible to meet. Really.”
“Go on; tell me, Marko. I like this.”
“What, like hearing how unsatisfactory I am?”
“I like hearing you talk. You’ve got rather a nice voice—I used to tell you that, didn’t I?—and I like hearing you stumbling about trying to explain your ideas. You’ve got ideas. You’re rather an ideary person. Go on. Why are you unsatisfactory?”