She poured out the tea, therefore, without one word of sympathy. This would have seemed hard if her grandfather had expected any. He did not, however, because he did not know that the trouble showed in his face, and was trying to look as if nothing had happened. Yet in his brain were ringing and resounding the words, “Within three weeks—within three weeks,” with the regularity of a horrid clock at midnight, when one wants to go to sleep.
“Oh,” cried Iris, forced, as young people always are, to speak of her own trouble, “oh, grandfather, he is coming to-night.”
“Who is coming to-night, my dear?” and then he listened again for the ticking of the clock: “Within three weeks—within three weeks.” “Who is coming to-night, my dear?”
He took the cup of tea from her, and sat down with an old man’s deliberation, which springs less from wisdom and the fullness of thought that from respect to rheumatism.
The iteration of that refrain, “Within three weeks,” made him forget everything, even the trouble of his granddaughter’s mind.
“Oh, grandfather, you cannot have forgotten!”
She spoke with the least possible touch of irritation, because she had been thinking of this thing for a week past, day and night, and it was a thing of such stupendous interest to her, that it seemed impossible that anyone who knew of it could forget what was coming.
“No, no.” The old man was stimulated into immediate recollection by the disappointment in her eyes. “No, no, my dear, I have not forgotten. Your pupil is coming. Mr. Arbuthnot is coming. But, Iris, child, don’t let that worry you. I will see him for you, if you like.”
“No; I must see him myself. You see, dear, there is the awful deception. Oh, how shall I tell him?”
“No deception at all,” he said stoutly. “You advertised in your own initials. He never asked if the initials belonged to a man or to a woman. The other pupils do not know. Why should this one? What does it matter to him if you have done the work for which he engaged your services?”
“But, oh, he is so different! And the others, you know, keep to the subject.”
“So should he, then. Why didn’t he?”
“But he hasn’t. And I have been answering him, and he must think that I was drawing him on to tell me more about himself; and now—oh, what will he think? I drew him on and on—yet I didn’t mean to—till at last he writes to say that he regards me as the best friend and the wisest adviser he has ever had. What will he think and say? Grandfather, it is dreadful!”
“What did you tell him for, Iris, my dear? Why couldn’t you let things go on? And by telling him you will lose your pupil.”