“It you will permit me,” he blushed and stammered, wondering at her ready acquiescence, “if you will permit me to call upon you sometimes—here, if you will allow me, or anywhere else. You know my name. I am by profession an artist, and I have a studio close at hand in Tite Street.”
“To call upon me here?” she repeated.
Now, when one is a tutor, and has been reading with a pupil for two years, one regards that pupil with a feeling which may not be exactly parental, but which is unconventional. If Arnold had said, “Behold me! May I, being a young man, call upon you, a young woman?” she would have replied: “No, young man, that can never be.” But when he said, “May I, your pupil, call sometimes upon you, my tutor?” a distinction was at once established by which the impossible became possible.
“Yes,” she said, “I think you may call. My grandfather has his tea with me every evening at six. You may call then if it will give you any pleasure.”
“You really will let me come here?”
The young man looked as if the permission was likely to give him the greatest pleasure.
“Yes; if you wish it.”
She spoke just exactly like an Oxford Don giving an undergraduate permission to take an occasional walk with him, or to call for conversation and advice at certain times in his rooms. Arnold noticed the manner, and smiled.
“Still,” he said, “as your pupil.”
He meant to set her at her ease concerning the propriety of these visits. She thought he meant a continuation of a certain little arrangement as to fees, and blushed.
“No,” she said; “I must not consider you as a pupil any longer. You have put an end to that yourself.”
“I do not mind, if only I continue your friend.”
“Oh,” she said, “but we must not pledge ourselves rashly to friendship. Perhaps you will not like me when you once come to know me.”
“Then I remain your disciple.”
“Oh no,” she flushed again, “you must already think me presumptuous enough in venturing to give you advice. I have written so many foolish things—”
“Indeed, no,” he interrupted, “a thousand times no. Let me tell you once for all, if I may, that you have taught me a great deal—far more than you can ever understand, or than I can explain. Where did you get your wisdom? Not from the Book of Human Life. Of that you cannot know much as yet.”
“The wisdom is in your imagination, I think. You shall not be my pupil nor my disciple, but—well—because you have told me so much, and I seem to have known you so long, and, besides, because you must never feel ashamed of having told me so much, you shall come, if you please, as my brother.”
It was not till afterward that she reflected on the vast responsibilities she incurred in making this proposal, and on the eagerness with which her pupil accepted it.
“As your brother!” he cried, offering her his hand. “Why, it is far—far more than I could have ventured to hope. Yes, I will come as your brother. And now, although you know so much about me, you have told me nothing about yourself—not even your name.”