The result was that Howard hardly got a word with Maud; she did indeed say to him that she had made a beginning, and he was aware of a pleasant sense of trustfulness about her; but the party had been involved in vague and general talk, with a disturbing element somewhere. Howard found himself talking aimlessly and flatly, and the net result was a feeling of dissatisfaction.
When they were gone, Mrs. Graves said to Howard, “Jack is rather a masterful young man, I think. He has no sense of respect in his composition. Were you aware of the fact that he had us all under his thumb this evening?”
“Yes,” said Howard, “it was just what I was thinking!”
“He wants work,” said Mrs. Graves; “he ought not to dangle about at home and at Cambridge; he wants tougher material to deal with; it’s no use snubbing him, because he is on the right tack; but he must not be allowed to interfere too much. He wants a touch of misfortune to bring him to himself; he has a real influence over people—the influence that all definite, good-humoured, outspoken people have; it is easier for others to do what he likes than to resist him; he is not irritable, and he is pertinacious. He is the sort of man who may get very much spoilt if he doesn’t marry the right woman, because he is the sort of person women will tell lies to rather than risk displeasing him. If he does not take care he will be a man of the world, because he will not see the world as it is; it will behave to him as he wishes it to behave.”
“I think,” said Howard, “that he has got good stuff in him; he would never do anything mean or spiteful; but he would do anything that he thought consistent with honour to get his way.”
“Well, we shall see,” said Mrs. Graves; “but he is rather a bad influence for Maud just now. Maud doesn’t suspect his strength, and I can’t have her broken in. Mind, Howard, I look to you to help Maud along. You have a gift for keeping things reasonable; and you must use it.”
“I thought you believed in letting people alone!” said Howard.
“In theory, yes,” said Mrs. Graves, smiling; “I certainly don’t believe in influencing people; but I believe very much in loving them: it’s what I call imaginative sympathy that we want. Some people have imagination enough to see what other people are feeling, but it ends there: and some people have unintelligent sympathy, and that is only spoiling. But one must see what people are capable of, and what their line is, and help them to find out what suits them, not try to conform them to what suits oneself; and that isn’t as easy as it sounds.”