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- The Window-Gazer - 10/55 -
undoubtedly glad to see Li Ho. Li Ho may be a Chink, but he is human.
You may gather that our "battle of the Glances" did not smooth my pillow here. If the old chap didn't want me to stay before, he is even less anxious for my company now. But I am going to stay. Aunt Caroline would call this stubbornness. But of course it isn't. It is merely a certain strength of character and a business determination to carry out a business bargain. Dr. Farr allowed me to engage board here and to pay for it. I am under no obligation to take cognizance of his deeper feelings.
The only feelings which concern me in this matter are the feelings of his daughter. If my staying were to prove a burden for her I could not, of course, stay. But I see many ways in which I may be helpful, and I know that she needs and wants the secretarial work which I have given her. Usually she holds her head high and one isn't even allowed to guess. But one does guess. Her meagre ration of life is plain beyond all artifice of pride.
John, she interests me intensely. She is a strange child. She is a strange woman. For both child and woman she seems to be, in fascinating combination. But, lest you should mistake me, good old bone-head, let me make it plain that there is absolutely no danger of my falling in love with her. My interest is not that kind of interest. I am far too hard headed to be susceptible. I can appreciate the tragedy of a charming girl placed in such unsavory environment, and feel impelled to seek some way of escape for her without being for one moment disturbed by that unreasoning madness called love. Every student of psychology understands the nature and the danger of loving. 'Every sensible student profits by what he understands. You and I have had this out before and you know my unalterable determination never to allow myself to become the slave of those primitive and passing instincts. Nature, the old hussy, is welcome to the use of man as a tool for her own purposes. But there are enough tools without me. The race will not perish because I intend to remain my own man. But I shall have to evolve some way of helping Miss Farr. She cannot be left here under these conditions.
I am writing to Aunt Caroline, briefly, that I am immersed in study and that my return is indefinite. Don't, for heaven's sake, let her suspect that I have employed Miss Farr as secretary. You know Aunt Caroline's failing. Do be discreet!
B. H. S.
P.S.: Any arrangement I may find it necessary to propose in Miss Farr's case will be based on business, not sentiment. B.
Desire was seated upon a moss-covered rock, hugging her knees and gazing out to sea. It was her favorite attitude and, according to Professor Spence, a very dangerous one, especially in connection with a moss-covered rock. He would have liked to point out this obvious fact but that would have been fussy--and fussy the professor was firmly determined not to be. Aunt Caroline was fussy. The best he could do was to select another rock, not so slippery, and to provide an object lesson as to the proper way of sitting upon it. Unfortunately, Desire was not looking. They had come a little way "up trail"--at least Desire had said it was a little way, and her companion was too proud of his recovered powers of locomotion to express unkind doubt of the adjective. There had been no rainy days for a week. The air was sun-soaked, and salt-soaked, and somewhere there was a wind. But not here. Here some high rock angle shut it out and left them to the drowsy calm of wakening Summer. Below them lay the blue-green gulf, white-flecked and gently heaving; above them bent a sky which only Italy could rival--and if Miss Farr with her hands clasped round her knees were to move ever so little, either way, there was nothing to prevent her from falling off the face of the mountain. The professor tried not to let this reflection spoil his enjoyment of the view. He reminded him-self that she was probably much safer than she looked. And he remembered Aunt Caroline. Still--
"Don't you think you might sit a little farther back?" he suggested carelessly.
"I can't talk to the back of your head."
"Talk!" dreamily, "do you really have to talk?"
Naturally the professor was silent.
"That's rude, I suppose," said Desire, suddenly swinging round (a feat which brought Spence's heart into his mouth). "I don't seem to acquire the social graces very rapidly, do I?"
"I thought," the professor's tone was somewhat stiff, "that we came up here for the express purpose of talking."
"Y-es. You did express some such purpose. But--must we? It won't do any good, you know."
"I don't know. And it will do good. One can't get anywhere without proper discussion."
The girl sighed. "Very well--let's discuss. You begin."
"My month," said Spence firmly, "is almost up. I shall have to move along on Friday."
"On Friday?" If he had intended to startle her, he had certainly succeeded. "Was--was the arrangement only for a month?" she asked in a lowered voice.
"The arrangement was to continue for as long as I wished. But only one month's payment was made in advance. With Friday, Dr. Farr's obligation toward me ends. He is not likely to extend it."
She sat so still that he forgot how slippery the moss was and thought only of the growing shadow on her face.
"But, the work!" she murmured. "We are only just beginning. I wish-- oh, I shall miss it dreadfully."
"'It,'" said Spence, "is not a personal pronoun."
"I shall miss you, too, of course."
"Well, be careful not to overemphasize it."
Her grey eyes looked frankly and straightly into his. Their clear depths held a rueful smile. "You are conceited enough already," she said, "but if it will make you feel any better, I don't mind admitting that I shall miss you far, far more than you deserve."
"Spoken like a lady!" said Spence warmly. "And now let us consider my side of it. After the month that I have spent here--do you really think that I intend to go away--like that?"
"There is only one way of going, isn't there?"
"Not at all. There are various ways. Ways which are quite, quite different."
"You have thought of some other--some quite different way?"
"Yes. But I daren't tell it to you while you sit on that slippery rock. It is a somewhat startling way and you might--er--manifest emotion. I should prefer to have you manifest it in a less dangerous place."
Desire's very young laugh rippled out. "Fussy!" she said. But nevertheless she climbed down and sat demurely upon stones in the hollow. There was an unfamiliar light in her waiting eyes, the light of interest and of hope.
Spence, rather to his consternation, realized that it was up to him to justify that hope. And he wasn't at all sure . . . however, he had to go through with it, . . . There was a fighting chance, anyway.
"Let's think about the work for a moment," he began nervously. "That work, my book, you know, is simply going all to pot if you can't keep on with it. You can see yourself what it means to have a competent secretary. And you like the work. You've just admitted that you like it."
He saw the light begin to fade from her eyes. She shook her head.
"If you are going to suggest that I go with you as your secretary," she said with her old bluntness, "it is useless. I have tried that way out. I won't try it again." Her lips grew stern and her eyes dark with some too bitter memory.
"I honestly don't see what Dr. Farr could do," said Spence tentatively.
"You would," said Dr. Farr's daughter with decision.
"And anyway," proceeding hastily, "that wasn't what I was thinking of. I knew that you would refuse to go as my secretary. I ask you to go as my wife."
"Is this where I am expected to manifest emotion?" she asked dryly.
"Yes. And you're doing it! I knew you would. .Women are utterly unreasoning. You won't even listen to what I have to say."
The girl moved slowly away.
"And I can't get up without help," he added querulously.
Desire stopped. "You can," she said.
"I can't. Not after that dreadful climb."
"Then I shall wait until you are ready. But we do not need to continue this conversation."
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