“You are a child,” he answered evasively. “You do not know as yet to what world you will belong. It is as your stepmother said to me. With your fortune you may marry into one of the great families of Europe. You might almost take a part in the world’s history. It is not for such as myself to dream of interfering with a destiny such as yours may be.”
“For that reason,” she remarked, leaning a little towards him, “you went fishing in a dirty little boat with those common sailors for three weeks. For that reason you bow to me when you meet me as though I were an acquaintance whom you barely remembered. For that reason, I suppose, you were hurrying away when your brother found you.”
“It was the inevitable thing to do,” he answered. “You may think to-day one thing, but it is for others who are older and wiser than you to remember that you are only a child, and that you have not realized yet the place you fill in the world. If it pleases you to know it, let me tell you that I am very glad indeed that you came to Salthouse. You have made me think more seriously. You have made me understand that after all the passing life is short, that idle days and physical pleasures do not make up the life which is worthiest. I am going to try other things. For the inspiration which bids me seek them, I have to thank you.”
She touched his great brown hand with the delicate tips of her fingers.
“Dear Mr. Andrew,” she said, “you are very big and strong and obstinate. You will have your own way however I may plead. Go, then, and strike your great blows upon the anvil of life. You say that I am passing the threshold, that as yet I am ignorant. Very well, I will make my way in with the throng. I will look about me, and see what this thing, life, is, and how much more it may mean to me because I chance to be the possessor of many ill-earned millions. Before very long we will meet again and compare notes, only I warn you, Mr. Andrew, that if any change comes, it comes to you. I am one of the outsiders who has looked into life, and who knows very well what is there even from across the borders.”
He rose at once. To stay there was worse torture than to go.
“So it shall be,” he said. “We will each take our draught of experience, and we will meet again and speak of the flavour of it. Only remember that whatever may be your lot, hold fast to those simple things which we have spoken of together, and the darkest days of all can never come.”
She gave him her hand, and flashed a look at him which he was not likely to forget.
“So!” she said simply. “I shall remember.”