“Why?” I fairly shouted.
She slid her sketch into a groove in the box, which she closed, and rose to her feet before answering. Then she set her hat a little straighter with a touch, looking so fixedly and with such grave interest over my shoulder that I turned to follow her glance and encountered our reflections in a window of the inn. Her own shed a light upon that mystery, at all events.
“I might tell you some day,” she said indifferently, “if I gained enough confidence in you through association in daily pursuits.”
“My dear young lady,” I cried with real exasperation, “I am a working man, and this is a working summer for me!”
“Do you think I’d spoil it?” she urged gently.
“But I get up with the first daylight to paint,” I protested, “and I paint all day—”
She moved a step nearer me and laid her hand warningly upon my sleeve, checking the outburst.
I turned to see what she meant.
Oliver Saffren had come in from the road and was crossing to the gallery steps. He lifted his hat and gave me a quick word of greeting as he passed, and at the sight of his flushed and happy face my riddle was solved for me. Amazing as the thing was, I had no doubt of the revelation.
“Ah,” I said to Miss Elliott when he had gone, “I won’t have to take pupils to get the answer to my question, now!”
“Ha, these philosophers,” said the professor, expanding in discourse a little later—“these dreamy people who talk of the spirit, they tell you that spirit is abstract!” He waved his great hand in a sweeping semicircle which carried it out of our orange candle-light and freckled it with the cold moonshine which sieved through the loosened screen of honeysuckle. “Ha, the folly!”
“What do you say it is?” I asked, moving so that the smoke of my cigar should not drift toward Oliver, who sat looking out into the garden.
“I, my friend? I do not say that it is! But all such things, they are only a question of names, and when I use the word ‘spirit’ I mean identity—universal identity, if you like. It is what we all are, yes— and those flowers, too. But the spirit of the flowers is not what you smell, nor what you see, that look so pretty: it is the flowers themself! Yet all spirit is only one spirit and one spirit is all spirit—and if you tell me this is Pant’eism I will tell you that you do not understand!”
“I don’t tell you that,” said I, “neither do I understand.”
“Nor that big Keredec either!” Whereupon he loosed the rolling thunder of his laughter. “Nor any brain born of the monkey people! But this world is full of proof that everything that exist is all one thing, and it is the instinct of that, when it draws us together, which makes what we call ‘love.’ Even those wicked devils of egoism in our inside is only love which grows too long the wrong way, like the finger nails of the Chinese empress. Young love is a little sprout of universal unity. When the young people begin to feel it, they are not abstract, ha? And the young man, when he selects, he chooses one being from all the others to mean—just for him—all that great universe of which he is a part.”