Some days had actually passed before Amber Severn read the “time-study” on the subject of Platonic Friendship which had been confided to her by her friend Josephine. She read the quickly written and vaguely worded treatise with alternate smiles and frowns, and the last words that it contained called for a very becoming rose mantle of blushes.

“It is so like Joe!” she muttered. “So very like Joe. And it’s all wrong—all wrong!”

She had thrown herself in her dressing-gown on the sofa in her dressing-room hoping to have half an hour’s doze before dressing to go out to dinner; and she had found the document in the pocket of the luxurious garment of quilted satin and lace which suited her so well that her maid had often lamented the fact that the convenances of modern English Society precluded her being seen within its folds by any one except her mother and her maid.

“It is so like Joe! And it is meant as a commentary upon my friendships. But it is wrong—wrong!” This was her thought as she lay back upon the sofa, until the pillows among which she had thrown herself surged up all about her as though they were billows of the sea.

And then, instead of going asleep, she began to review three or four of the friendships which she had formed during the past few years—friendships which might easily have degenerated into quite another feeling, if they had not been built on a foundation very different from that which Josephine West had assumed to be the basis of friendship according to Plato.

There was Arthur Galmyn for instance. He and she had become very friendly when they had first met the year before. He had been at Oxford with her brother and had won one of those pernicious prizes which are offered for the best poem of the year—to be more exact, for the poem which is most highly approved of by the adjudicating authorities of the University. She quickly perceived that the effect of winning this prize was, upon young Mr. Galmyn, most disquieting; for he had actually settled down as a poet on the strength of winning it.

Instead of saying, “I have written the poem which has met with the approval of the most highly graduated pedants in the world, therefore I am no poet,” he assumed that pedant was another word for prophet, and that their judgment had conferred immortality upon him and perhaps even upon themselves; for whenever his name came to be spoken in the awful whisper which people employ in mentioning the name of a poet, the names of the adjudicators of the prize would also be mentioned.

He hoped to go through life writing poetry—not the poetry which appears on a Christmas card or imprinted on the little ship which never loses the curl that is originally gained by being enwound about the almond in the after dinner cracker—not even the poetry which is sung, when wedded to melody, by the light of a piano candle,—no; but that form of poetry which is absolutely an unsalable commodity in the public market—unless it was of that high quality which appeared over the signature of Alençon Hope to which Amber had frequently called the inattention of her father.

It was just when he was in this critical position that he came under the influence of Amber Severn. They had become ostentatiously Platonic friends. To be sure he had, after their second meeting, addressed to her a sonnet written in exquisite accordance with the true Petrarchian model, embodying a fervent hope in the last line of the sextett—the two quatrains (each ending with a semicolon) had been mainly descriptive—but she had explained to him that she would take a lenient view of this action on his part, if he would promise to do his best to resist in the future the inspiration which had forced him into it.

He had promised her all that she asked; but he gave her to understand that he did so only through fear of alienation from her.=

“I shrink from life from Amber alienate,"=

was the last line of the sonnet which he promptly composed after she had lectured him; and then he had settled down into that graceful philosophical friendship with her, which had sent him on the Stock Exchange before three months had elapsed.

It took three months to convince him that she was quite right in her suggestion that instead of spending the best years of his life writing poetry, having nothing to look forward to beyond the perpetual struggle of trying to live within the four hundred pounds a year which represented all his private means, he should endeavour to make a career for himself in some direction where his undoubted gifts of imagination would be appreciated—say the Stock Exchange.

“My dear Arthur,” she had said, “what I fear most for you is the possibility of your making a mercenary marriage. You know as well as I do that it would be ridiculous for you to marry on your present income, and I know your nature sufficiently well to be convinced that you would never be happy so long as you felt that your wife’s fortune was supporting you. Don’t you agree with me?”

He thought that she took too narrow a view of the conditions under which he could be happy; but he thought it better to nod his acquiescence in the flattering estimate which she had formed of his nature.

“I knew you would agree with me,” she said. “And that’s why I urge upon you this step.” (The step she urged upon him was the Stock Exchange Steps.) “You will have to study hard at first, and I believe that you must begin by trusting nobody—especially avoiding every one who wants to be your friend; but by this means you will eventually gain not only a competence—not only complete independence, but such a Fortune as will make you a Power in the world, and then—well, then you can marry any one you please.”

Although the poem which he considered the best that he had ever written was one in praise of a young woman who had remained true to her love for a poet without a penny, in the face of the opposition of her parents who wished her to wed a very rich person in a good paying business, he said he was sure that she was right, and he would give her his promise to buy a twenty-five shilling silk hat the very next day: that being, as he was informed, the first step necessary to be taken by any one with aspirations after financial success.

He had an idea that, after all, he had underrated the practical outlook of the modern young woman. Could it be possible, he asked himself, that after all the penniless poet who wrote on the Petrarchian model, was a less attractive figure in the eyes of a girl—even of a girl who could not be seen by any one without suggesting the thoughts of a flower—perhaps a lily—than the man with a million invested in various excellent securities?

He feared that it was impossible for him to arrive at any other conclusion than this one which was forced upon him; and the worst of the matter was that he found that all his sympathies were on the side of the modern young woman, although he would have died sooner than withdraw a single line of the poem which he had written holding up to admiration the young woman who refused to leave her penniless poet for the man of millions.

He bought a fine silk hat the next day, and forthwith wrote a series of rondeaux bidding farewell to the Muse. He felt that such an act of renunciation on his part demanded celebration on the analogy of the Lenten Carnival. But when his days of riotous indulgence in all the exotic forms of French verse had come to an end, he gave himself up to a consideration of his bank book and found to his amazement that his accumulations including a legacy of two thousand pounds which he had received from the executors of his godmother, amounted to close upon four thousand pounds.

For over two years his account had been increasing, the trustees of the estate of his father (deceased) having been in the habit of lodging the quarterly payments of his income (less expenses) to his credit, and yet he was receiving no penny of interest on all this money.

He was innocent enough to ask the young man at the bank how it was that no circular had been sent to him letting him know that his account was overgrown. If it had been overdrawn he would have been informed of the fact.

The young man had only smiled and said that he was sure the matter had been overlooked; for there was nothing that the bank found so embarrassing as large balances bearing no interest.

In the course of a few weeks he would have blushed to ask such a question as he had put to the clerk. He began to study the methods of finance for the first time and had almost mastered the art embodied in a gold mine prospectus—it is the Petrarchian Sonnet of the money market—before he had been a month at the work. By a rigid attention to Amber’s precept of placing the most implicit distrust in every one connected with finance, he had made a very good start for himself.

His principle was an excellent one. He made several friends among those disinterested financiers who give advice gratis as to what stocks to buy and he had never failed to act contrary to the tips which they had given him; so that when a few days later, they came to him with assumed long faces and frank admissions of fallibility in the past but of promises of certainty for the future, he had shown them that he was made of the stuff that goes to the composition of a real financier by being in no way put out; and disdaining to level a single reproach at them.

“Distrust your best friend,” was the motto which he placed in a conspicuous place on his mantelpiece, and by observing it he had made some hundreds of pounds in the course of a few weeks.

And then he made a stroke; for on hearing from a great authority on the Stock Exchange that there was going to be no war in the Transvaal, and that those rumours regarding strained relations between that State and Great Britain were simply due to the fact that some members of the Cabinet had given orders to their brokers to buy up for them all South African Stock the moment that it fell to a certain figure—on hearing this on so excellent an authority, Mr. Galmyn had felt so sure that war was imminent that he did not hesitate for a moment in joining a syndicate for the purchase of the full cinematograph rights in the campaign.

When the war became inevitable he sold out his shares at a profit of two hundred per cent., and the next week he learned that the War Office had prohibited all cinematographers from joining the troops ordered to South Africa.

He rubbed his hands and felt that he was a born financier.

For some months after, he had been content, Amber knew, with very small earnings, consequently his losses had been proportionately small; and yet now, as she lay back upon her sofa she recalled with pride (she fancied) that he had never written to her a single sonnet. He had never once given expression to a sentiment that would bear to be construed into a departure from the lines of that friendship which was the ideal of Plato.

And yet Josephine could write that “time-study” suggesting that such an ideal was impracticable if not absolutely unattainable!

She lost all patience with her friend.

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