“I think not,” replied my sister, “and I therefore give you my warning before it is too late. If you don’t heed it and decide on marrying Miss Dalmayne, I shall naturally do any little thing in my power to endeavour to prove that I have been a false prophetess; but, mark my words, John, I shan’t succeed. And, to tell you the truth, my dear brother, I tremble for the future.”
“You’re a sweet little silly goose,” I answered. “You let your affection for me run away with your better judgment. Why in heaven’s name should I not be happy with Marie? She is beautiful, and I admit that it was her rare beauty that first commended her to me, and she has a sweet nature and character; and after all, goodness of character outweighs even good looks. Then, too, she is very clever and bright, and altogether she is exactly the sort of girl calculated to make a man happy.”
“I hope that I may be wrong, and that you may be right, John,” said Ruth; “but I don’t think that I am wrong, and, of course, time will only show. At present we need say no more. Your mind is evidently made up, and I shall urge nothing further to prevent you from following your own inclinations. But in the time to come, don’t forget that your sister warned you.” And with that last shaft Ruth left the room.
My name is John Gardner, my age is thirty-six, and I am what is generally known as “a self-made man.” But had I really had the making of myself I should have endeavoured to produce a different being. I recollect at the grammar school in Cambridgeshire, where I received a plain education, hearing one of the masters, Mr. Ruddock, mention a Greek proverb, “Know thyself,” and advise the boys in his form to act upon the advice given by the Greek sage who pronounced these words. I was not, as a rule, struck with much that fell from Mr. Ruddock’s lips, for he was a dull, stupid, and pompous man, possessing much more force of manner than of character. But I did take this advice to heart and endeavoured to act up to it, with the result that I know as much about my own uninteresting self as most other human beings know about themselves.
Well, this is how I appear in my own eyes. A strong, healthy man with an active disposition, and capable of, and a lover of hard work. A blunt manner, and with an entire absence of tact in anything in which strict business is not concerned. I know that I am truthful, for, in addition to a natural hatred of lying which I must have inherited from my dear parents, I have always recognised the fact that in business and in everything else the truth always pays the best. During the sixteen years that I have devoted to business I have endeavoured to act squarely and fairly with everyone with whom I have been brought in contact, and I may say without conceit that I have earned a good name in addition to the three hundred thousand pounds that I have been able to save.