THE PROFESSOR INSISTS
Crouched over his writing table, with sheets of manuscript on every side of him, Burton worked like a slave at his novel. After a week devoted by Mr. Waddington and himself to a fruitless search for the missing plant, they had handed the matter over to a private detective and Burton had settled down to make the most of the time before him. Day after day of strange joys had dawned and passed away. He had peopled his room with shadows. Edith had looked at him out of her wonderful eyes, he had felt the touch of her fingers as she had knelt by his side, the glow which had crept into his heart as he had read to her fragments of his story and listened to her words of praise. The wall which he had built stood firm and fast. He lived in his new days. Life was all foreground, and hour by hour the splendid fancies came.
It was his first great effort at composition. Those little studies of his, as he had passed backwards and forwards through the streets and crowded places, had counted for little. Here he was making serious demands upon his new capacity. In a sense it was all very easy, all very wonderful, yet sometimes dejection came. Then his head drooped upon his folded arms, he doubted himself and his work, he told himself that he was living in a fool’s Paradise—a fool’s Paradise indeed!
One afternoon there came a timid knock at his door. He turned in his chair a little impatiently. Then his pen slipped from his fingers. His left hand gripped the side of the table, his right hand the arm of his chair. It was a dream, of course!
“I hope we do not disturb you, Mr. Burton?” the professor inquired, with anxious amiability. “My daughter and I were in the neighborhood and I could not resist the visit. We had some trouble at first in finding you.”
Burton rose to his feet. He was looking past the professor, straight into Edith’s eyes. In her white muslin gown, her white hat and flowing white veil, she seemed to him more wonderful, indeed, than any of those cherished fancies of her which had passed through his room night and day to the music of his thoughts.
“I am glad,” he said simply. “Of course I am glad to see you! Please come in. It is very untidy here. I have been hard at work.”
He placed chairs for them. The professor glanced around the room with some satisfaction. It was bare, but there was nothing discordant upon the walls or in the furniture. There were many evidences, too, of a scholarly and cultivated taste. Edith had glided past him to the window and was murmuring her praises of the view.
“I have never seen a prettier view of the river in my life,” she declared, “and I love your big window. It is almost like living out of doors, this. And how industrious you have been!”
She pointed to the sea of loose sheets which covered the table and the floor. He smiled. He was beginning to recover himself.