“But the danger.”
“Che sara, sara,” returned Io lightly. “I’ll trust him to take care of me.”
While Ban went out to prepare the horses with the aid of Pedro, strictly enjoined to secrecy, the two women got Io’s few things together.
“I can’t thank you,” said the girl, looking up as she snapped the lock of her case. “It simply isn’t a case for thanking. You’ve done too much for me.”
The older woman disregarded it. “How much are you hurting Ban?” she said, with musing eyes fixed on the dim and pure outline of the girlish face.
“I? Hurt him?”
“Of course he won’t realize it until you’ve gone. Then I’m afraid to think what is coming to him.”
“And I’m afraid to think what is coming to me,” replied the girl, very low.
“Ah, you!” retorted her hostess, dismissing that consideration with contemptuous lightness. “You have plenty of compensations, plenty of resources.”
“Perhaps. Up to now. What will he do when he wakes up to an empty world?”
“Write, won’t he? And then the world won’t be empty.”
“He’ll think it so. That is why I’m sorry for him.”
“Won’t you be sorry a little for me?” pleaded the girl. “Anyway, for the part of me that I’m leaving here? Perhaps it’s the very best of me.”
Miss Van Arsdale shook her head. “Oh, no! A pleasantly vivid dream of changed and restful things. That’s all. Your waking will be only a sentimental and perfumed regret—a sachet-powder sorrow.”
“I don’t want him hurt,” protested the other. “Why did you come here? What should a girl like you, feverish and sensation-loving and artificial, see in a boy like Ban to charm you?”
“Ah, don’t you understand? It’s just because my world has been too dressed up and painted and powdered that I feel the charm of—of—well, of ease of existence. He’s as easy as an animal. There’s something about him—you must have felt it—sort of impassioned sense of the gladness of life; when he has those accesses he’s like a young god, or a faun. But he doesn’t know his own power. At those times he might do anything.”
She shivered a little and her lids drooped over the luster of her dreaming eyes.
“And you want to tempt him out of this to a world where he would be a wretched misfit,” accused the older woman.
“Do I? No; I think I don’t. I think I’d rather hold him in my mind as he is here: a happy eremite; no, a restrained pagan. Oh, it’s foolish to seek definitions for him. He isn’t definable. He’s Ban....”
“And when you get back into the world, what will you do, I wonder?”
“I won’t send for him, if that’s what you mean.”
“But what will you do, I wonder?”
“I wonder,” repeated Io somberly.