“Me?—an old man with only the remembrance of happiness?”
“You, who have had happiness granted to you. That isn’t what made me cry, though. I cried because I was glad. You and I, with all this great span of years between us, and yet—so wonderfully alike! I had always thought of myself as a creature utterly apart.”
“Ah, that is how all young people think of themselves. It wears off. Tell me about this wonderful resemblance of ours.”
He sat attentive while she described her heart to him. But when, at the close of her confidences, she said, “So you see it’s a case of sheer heredity, grand-papa,” the word “Fiddlesticks!” would out.
“Forgive me, my dear,” he said, patting her hand. “I was very much interested. But I do believe young people are even more staggered by themselves than they were in my day. And then, all these grand theories they fall back on! Heredity... as if there were something to baffle us in the fact of a young woman liking to be admired! And as if it were passing strange of her to reserve her heart for a man she can respect and look up to! And as if a man’s indifference to her were not of all things the likeliest to give her a sense of inferiority to him! You and I, my dear, may in some respects be very queer people, but in the matter of the affections we are ordinary enough.”
“Oh grand-papa, do you really mean that?” she cried eagerly.
“At my age, a man husbands his resources. He says nothing that he does not really mean. The indifference between you and other young women is that which lay also between me and other young men: a special attractiveness... Thousands of slippers, did I say? Tens of thousands. I had hoarded them with a fatuous pride. On the evening of my betrothal I made a bonfire of them, visible from three counties. I danced round it all night.” And from his old eyes darted even now the reflections of those flames.
“Glorious!” whispered Zuleika. “But ah,” she said, rising to her feet, “tell me no more of it—poor me! You see, it isn’t a mere special attractiveness that I have. I am irresistible.”