‘So,’ said the girl, ‘you did know.’

‘Yes; he told me. We even talked it over a little.’

‘What did he do it for?’ asked Isabel abruptly.

‘Why, as a kind of compliment.’

‘A compliment on what?’

‘On your so beautifully existing.’

‘He liked me too much,’ she presently declared.

‘That’s a way we all have.’

‘If I believed that I should be very unhappy. Fortunately I don’t believe it. I want to be treated with justice; I want nothing but that.’

‘Very good. But you must remember that justice to a lovely being is after all a florid sort of sentiment.’

‘I’m not a lovely being. How can you say that, at the very moment when I’m asking such odious questions? I must seem to you delicate!’

‘You seem to me troubled,’ said Ralph.

‘I am troubled.’

‘About what?’

For a moment she answered nothing; then she broke out: ‘Do you think it good for me suddenly to be made so rich? Henrietta doesn’t.’

‘Oh, hang Henrietta!’ said Ralph coarsely. ‘If you ask me I’m delighted at it.’

‘Is that why your father did it—for your amusement?’

‘I differ with Miss Stackpole,’ Ralph went on more gravely. ‘I think it very good for you to have means.’

Isabel looked at him with serious eyes. ‘I wonder whether you know what’s good for me—or whether you care.’

‘If I know depend upon it I care. Shall I tell you what it is? Not to torment yourself.’

‘Not to torment you, I suppose you mean.’

‘You can’t do that; I’m proof. Take things more easily. Don’t ask yourself so much whether this or that is good for you. Don’t question your conscience so much—it will get out of tune like a strummed piano. Keep it for great occasions. Don’t try so much to form your character—it’s like trying to pull open a tight, tender young rose. Live as you like best, and your character will take care of itself. Most things are good for you; the exceptions are very rare, and a comfortable income’s not one of them.’ Ralph paused, smiling; Isabel had listened quickly. ‘You’ve too much power of thought—above all too much conscience,’ Ralph added. ‘It’s out of all reason, the number of things you think wrong. Put back your watch. Diet your fever. Spread your wings; rise above the ground. It’s never wrong to do that.’

She had listened eagerly, as I say; and it was her nature to understand quickly. ‘I wonder if you appreciate what you say. If you do, you take a great responsibility.’

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