“Why, how should I ever?” John demanded indignantly.
“After all, I was a help—for a long time when things were difficult and you had so much to learn—all that time you wanted me, and I was here.”
“Of course,” said John politely, but feeling within him that warning of approaching sentiment that he had learnt by now so fundamentally to dread.
Very well his friend understood his apprehension.
“That’s all. I’ve only come to you now to ask you to make me a promise—a very easy one.”
“Yes?” said John.
“It’s only that when you go off to school—before you leave this house—you will just, for a moment, remember me just then, and say good-bye to me. We’ve been a lot here in these rooms, in these passages, up and down together, and if only, as you go, you’ll think of me, I’ll be there.... Every year you’ve thought of me less—that doesn’t matter—but it matters more than you know that you should remember me just for an instant, just to say good-bye. Will you promise me?”
“Why, of course,” said John.
“Don’t forget! Don’t forget! Don’t forget!” And the kindly shadow had faded, the voice lingering about the room, mingling with the faint silver moonlight, passing out into the wider spaciousness of the rolling clouds.
With the clear light of morning came the confident certainty that it had all been the merest dream, and yet that certainty did not sweep the affair, as it should have done, from young John’s brain and heart. He was puzzled, perplexed, disturbed, unhappy. The “twenty-third” was approaching with terrible rapidity, and it was essential now that he should summon to aid all the forces of manly self-control and common-sense. And yet, just at this time, of all others, came that disturbing dream, and, in its train, absurd memories and fancies, burdened, too, with an urgent prompting of gratitude to some one or something. He shook it off, he obstinately rebelled, but he dreaded the night, and, with a sigh of relief, hailed the morning that followed a dreamless sleep.
Worst of all, he caught himself yielding to thoughts like these: “But he was kind to me—awfully decent” (a phrase caught from his elder brother). “I remember how He ...” And then he would shake himself. “It was only a silly old dream. He wasn’t real a bit. I’m not a rotten kid now that thinks fairies and all that true.”
He was bothered, too, by the affectionate sentiment (still disguised, but ever, as the days proceeded, more thinly) of his mother and sisters. The girls, May and Clare, adored young John. His elder brother was away with a school friend. John, therefore, was left to feminine attention, and very tiresome he found it. May and Clare, girls of no imagination, saw only the drama that they might extract for themselves out of the affair. They knew what school was