He went into the large central house and into the living-room, then out on the porch, beyond which lay the kitchen. But to the left, and at the end of the porch, was a small building. It was ceiled in dark yellow pine, with figured denim on the walls. A straight desk of rough hewn wood stood in the corner by the white-curtained window, and a couch and two large easy-chairs faced a tall narrow fireplace of uneven stone. A thick green rag-carpet covered the floor; a few pictures were on the walls—a Madonna, a scene of mad careering horses, and some sad baby faces. The room was a unity; things fitted together as if they belonged together. It was restful and beautiful, from the cheerful pine blaze before which Miss Smith was sitting, to the square-paned window that let in the crimson rays of gathering night. All round the room, stopping only at the fireplace, ran low shelves of the same yellow pine, filled with books and magazines. He scanned curiously Plato’s Republic, Gorky’s “Comrades,” a Cyclopaedia of Agriculture, Balzac’s novels, Spencer’s “First Principles,” Tennyson’s Poems.
“This is my university,” Zora explained, smiling at his interested survey. They went out again and wandered down near the old lagoon.
“Now, Bles,” she began, “since we understand each other, can we not work together as good friends?” She spoke simply and frankly, without apparent effort, and talked on at length of her work and vision.
Somehow he could not understand. His mental attitude toward Zora had always been one of guidance, guardianship, and instruction. He had been judging and weighing her from on high, looking down upon her with thoughts of uplift and development. Always he had been holding her dark little hands to lead her out of the swamp of life, and always, when in senseless anger he had half forgotten and deserted her, this vision of elder brotherhood had still remained. Now this attitude was being revolutionized. She was proposing to him a plan of wide scope—a bold regeneration of the land. It was a plan carefully studied out, long thought of and read about. He was asked to be co-worker—nay, in a sense to be a follower, for he was ignorant of much.
He hesitated. Then all at once a sense of his utter unworthiness overwhelmed him. Who was he to stand and judge this unselfish woman? Who was he to falter when she called? A sense of his smallness and narrowness, of his priggish blindness, rose like a mockery in his soul. One thing alone held him back: he was not unwilling to be simply human, a learner and a follower; but would he as such ever command the love and respect of this new and inexplicable woman? Would not comradeship on the basis of the new friendship which she insisted on, be the death of love and thoughts of love?
Thus he hesitated, knowing that his duty lay clear. In her direst need he had deserted her. He had left her to go to destruction and expected that she would. By a superhuman miracle she had risen and seated herself above him. She was working; here was work to be done. He was asked to help; he would help. If it killed his old and new-born dream of love, well and good; it was his punishment.