never—from the hour you came back. You’ve never mentioned to me one of your masters, one of your comrades, nor the least little thing that ever happened to you at school. Never, little Miles—no, never—have you given me an inkling of anything that may have happened there. Therefore you can fancy how much I’m in the dark. Until you came out, that way, this morning, you had, since the first hour I saw you, scarce even made a reference to anything in your previous life. You seemed so perfectly to accept the present.” It was extraordinary how my absolute conviction of his secret precocity (or whatever I might call the poison of an influence that I dared but half to phrase) made him, in spite of the faint breath of his inward trouble, appear as accessible as an older person—imposed him almost as an intellectual equal. “I thought you wanted to go on as you are.”

It struck me that at this he just faintly colored. He gave, at any rate, like a convalescent slightly fatigued, a languid shake of his head. “I don’t—I don’t. I want to get away.”

“You’re tired of Bly?”

“Oh, no, I like Bly.”

“Well, then—?”

“Oh, you know what a boy wants!”

I felt that I didn’t know so well as Miles, and I took temporary refuge. “You want to go to your uncle?”

Again, at this, with his sweet ironic face, he made a movement on the pillow. “Ah, you can’t get off with that!”

I was silent a little, and it was I, now, I think, who changed color. “My dear, I don’t want to get off!”

“You can’t, even if you do. You can’t, you can’t!”—he lay beautifully staring. “My uncle must come down, and you must completely settle things.”

“If we do,” I returned with some spirit, “you may be sure it will be to take you quite away.”

“Well, don’t you understand that that’s exactly what I’m working for? You’ll have to tell him—about the way you’ve let it all drop: you’ll have to tell him a tremendous lot!”

The exultation with which he uttered this helped me somehow, for the instant, to meet him rather more. “And how much will you, Miles, have to tell him? There are things he’ll ask you!”

He turned it over. “Very likely. But what things?”

“The things you’ve never told me. To make up his mind what to do with you. He can’t send you back—”

“Oh, I don’t want to go back!” he broke in. “I want a new field.”

He said it with admirable serenity, with positive unimpeachable gaiety; and doubtless it was that very note that most evoked for me the poignancy, the unnatural childish tragedy, of his probable reappearance at the end of three months with all this bravado and still more dishonor. It overwhelmed me now that I should never be able to bear that, and it made me let myself go. I threw myself upon him and in the tenderness of my pity I embraced him. “Dear little Miles, dear little Miles—!”

My face was close to his, and he let me kiss him, simply taking it with indulgent good humor. “Well, old lady?”

“Is there nothing—nothing at all that you want to tell me?”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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