“What is going to happen to me, grandfather, except that I shall be twenty-one?”
“We shall see to-morrow. Patience, my dear—patience.”
He spread out his hands and laughed. What was going to happen to himself was a small thing compared with the restoration of Iris to her own.
“Mr. Emblem,” said Arnold, “I also have something of importance to say.”
“You, too, Mr. Arbuthnot? Cannot yours wait also until to-morrow?”
“No; it is too important. It cannot wait an hour.”
“Well, sir”—Mr. Emblem pushed up his spectacles and leaned back in his chair—“well, Mr. Arbuthnot, let us have it.”
“I think you may guess what I have to say, Mr. Emblem. I am sure that Lala Roy has already guessed it.”
The philosopher inclined his head in assent.
“It is that I have this afternoon asked Iris to marry me, Mr. Emblem. And she has consented.”
“Have you consented, Iris, my dear?” said her grandfather.
She placed her hand in Arnold’s for reply.
“Do you think you know him well enough, my dear?” Mr. Emblem asked gravely, looking at her lover. “Marriage is a serious thing: it is a partnership for life. Children, think well before you venture on the happiness or ruin of your whole lives. And you are so young. What a pity—what a thousand pities that people were not ordained to marry at seventy or so!”
“We have thought well,” said Arnold. “Iris has faith in me.”
“Then, young man, I have nothing to say. Iris will marry to please herself, and I pray that she may be happy. As for you, I like your face and manners, but I do not know who you are, nor what your means may be. Remember that I am poor—I am so poor—I can tell you all now, that to-morrow we shall—well, patience—to-morrow I shall most likely have my very stock seized and sold.”
“Your stock sold? Oh, grandfather!” cried Iris; “and you did not tell me! And I have been so happy.”
“Friend,” said Lala, “was it well to hide this from me?”
“Foolish people,” Mr. Emblem went on, “have spread reports that I am rich, and have saved money for Iris. It is not true, Mr. Arbuthnot. I am not rich. Iris will come to you empty-handed.”
“And as for me, I have nothing,” said Arnold, “except a pair of hands and all the time there is. So we have all to gain and nothing to lose.”
“You have your profession,” said Iris, “and I have mine. Grandfather, do not fear, even though we shall all four become poor together.”
It seemed natural to include Lala Roy, who had been included with them for twenty years.
“As for Iris being empty-handed,” said Arnold, “how can that ever be? Why, she carries in her hands an inexhaustible cornucopia, full of precious things.”
“My dear,” said the old man, holding out his arms to her, “I could not keep you always. Some day I knew you would leave me; it is well that you should leave me when I am no longer able to keep a roof over your head.”