"If you'd had fifteen, and Father could have spared me, I'd have taken you. Fifteen dollars a week is three pounds two and sixpence, and I've known curates' wives that had to bring up families on less. It wouldn't go as far in New York as it would in the country in England, but we could have made it do—until you got more. I know you, too, Mr. Temple Barholm."
He turned to her father, and saw in his florid countenance that which spurred him to bold disclosure.
"Say," he put it to him, as man to man, "she stands there and says a thing like that, and she expects a fellow not to jerk her into his arms and squeeze the life out of her! I daren't do it, and I'm not going to try; but—well, you said her mother was like her, and I guess you know what I'm up against."
Hutchinson's grunting chuckle contained implications of exultant tenderness and gratified paternal pride.
"She's th' very spit and image of her mother," he said, "and she had th' sense of ten women rolled into one, and th' love of twenty. You let her be, and you're as safe as th' Rock of Ages."
"Do you think I don't know that?" answered Tembarom, his eyes shining almost to moisture. "But what hits me, by thunder! is that I've lost the chance of seeing her work out that fifteen-dollar-a-week proposition, and it drives me crazy."
"I should have downright liked to try it," said Little Ann, with speculative reflection, and while she knitted her brows in lovely consideration of the attractive problem, several previously unknown dimples declared themselves about her mouth.
"Ann," Tembarom ventured, "if I go to Temple Barholm and try it a year and learn all about it—-"
"It would take more than a year," said Ann.
"Don't make it two," Tembarom pleaded. "I'll sit up at night with wet towels round my head to learn; I'll spend fourteen hours a day with girls that look like the pictures in the 'Ladies' Pictorial', or whatever it is in England; I'll give them every chance in life, if you'll let me off afterward. There must be another lost heir somewhere; let's dig him up and then come back to little old New York and be happy. Gee! Ann,"—letting himself go and drawing nearer to her,— "how happy we could be in one of those little flats in Harlem!"
She was a warm little human thing, and a tender one, and when he came close to her, glowing with tempestuous boyish eagerness, her eyes grew bluer because they were suddenly wet, and she was obliged to move softly back.
"Yes," she said; "I know those little flats. Any one could—-" She stopped herself, because she had been going to reveal. what a home a woman could make in rooms like the compartments in a workbox. She knew and saw it all. She drew back a little again, but she put out a hand and laid it on his sleeve.
"When you've had quite time enough to find out, and know what the other thing means, I'll do whatever you want me to do," she said. "It won't matter what it is. I'll do it."
"She means that," Hutchinson mumbled unsteadily, turning aside. "Same as her mother would have meant it. And she means it in more ways than one."
And so she did. The promise included quite firmly the possibility of not unnatural changes in himself such as young ardor could not foresee, even the possibility of his new life withdrawing him entirely from the plane on which rapture could materialize on twenty dollars a week in a flat in Harlem.
Type as exotic as Tembarom's was to his solicitor naturally suggested problems. Mr. Palford found his charge baffling because, according to ordinary rules, a young man so rudimentary should have presented no problems not perfectly easy to explain. It was herein that he was exotic. Mr. Palford, who was not given to subtle analysis of differences in character and temperament, argued privately that an English youth who had been brought up in the streets would have been one of two or three things. He would have been secretly terrified and resentful, roughly awkward and resentful, or boastfully delighted and given to a common youth's excitedly common swagger at finding himself suddenly a "swell."
This special kind of youth would most assuredly have constantly thought of himself as a "swell" and would have lost his head altogether, possibly with results in the matter of conduct in public which would have been either maddening or crushing to the spirit of a well-bred, mature-minded legal gentleman temporarily thrust into the position of bear-leader.
But Tembarom was none of these things. If he was terrified, he did not reveal his anguish. He was without doubt not resentful, but on the contrary interested and curious, though he could not be said to bear himself as one elated. He indulged in no frolics or extravagances. He saw the Hutchinsons off on their steamer, and supplied them with fruit and flowers and books with respectful moderation. He did not conduct himself as a benefactor bestowing unknown luxuries, but as a young man on whom unexpected luck had bestowed decent opportunities to express his friendship. In fact, Palford's taste approved of his attitude. He was evidently much under the spell of the slight girl with the Manchester accent and sober blue eyes, but she was neither flighty nor meretricious, and would have sense enough to give no trouble even when he naturally forgot her in the revelations of his new life. Her father also was plainly a respectable working-man, with a blunt Lancashire pride which would keep him from intruding.
"You can't butt in and get fresh with a man like that," Tembarom said. "Money wouldn't help you. He's too independent."
After the steamer had sailed away it was observable to his solicitor that Mr. Temple Barholm was apparently occupied every hour. He did not explain why he seemed to rush from one part of New York to another and why he seemed to be seeking interviews with persons it was plainly difficult to get at. He was evidently working hard to accomplish something or other before he left the United States, perhaps. He asked some astutely practical business questions; his intention seeming to be to gain a definite knowledge of what his future resources would be and of his freedom to use them as he chose.
Once or twice Mr. Palford was rather alarmed by the tendency of his questions. Had he actually some prodigious American scheme in view? He seemed too young and inexperienced in the handling of large sums for such a possibility. But youth and inexperience and suddenly inherited wealth not infrequently led to rash adventures. Something which Palford called "very handsome" was done for Mrs. Bowse and the boarding-house. Mrs. Bowse was evidently not proud enough to resent being made secure for a few years' rent. The extraordinary page was provided for after a large amount of effort and expenditure of energy.
"I couldn't leave Galton high and dry," Tembarom explained when he came in after rushing about. "I think I know a man he might try, but I've got to find him and put him on to things. Good Lord! nobody rushed about to find me and offer me the job. I hope this fellow wants it as bad as I did. He'll be up in the air." He discovered the where- abouts of the young man in question, and finding him, as the youngster almost tearfully declared, "about down and out," his proposition was met with the gratitude the relief from a prospect of something extremely like starvation would mentally produce. Tembarom took him to Galton after having talked him over in detail.
"He's had an education, and you know how much I'd had when I butted into the page," he said. "No one but you would have let me try it. You did it only because you saw—you saw—"
"Yes, I saw," answered Galton, who knew exactly what he had seen and who found his up-town social representative and his new situation as interesting as amusing and just touched with the pathetic element. Galton was a traveled man and knew England and several other countries well.
"You saw that a fellow wanted the job as much as I did would be likely to put up a good fight to hold it down. I was scared out of my life when I started out that morning of the blizzard, but I couldn't afford to be scared. I guess soldiers who are scared fight like that when they see bayonets coming at them. You have to."
"I wonder how often a man finds out that he does pretty big things when bayonets are coming at him," answered Galton, who was actually neglecting his work for a few minutes so that he might look at and talk to him, this New York descendant of Norman lords and Saxon kings.
"Joe Bennett had been trying to live off free-lunch counters for a week when I found him," Tembarom explained. "You don't know what that is. He'll go at the page all right. I'm going to take him up-town and introduce him to my friends there and get them to boost him along."
"You made friends," said Galton. "I knew you would."
"Some of the best ever. Good-natured and open-handed. Well, you bet! Only trouble was they wanted you to eat and drink everything in sight, and they didn't quite like it when you couldn't get outside all the champagne they'd offer you."
He broke into a big, pleased laugh.
"When I went in and told Munsberg he pretty near threw a fit. Of course he thought I was kidding. But when I made him believe it, he was as glad as if he'd had luck himself. It was just fine the way people took it. Tell you what, it takes good luck, or bad luck, to show you how good-natured a lot of folks are. They'll treat Bennett and the page all right; you'll see."
"They'll miss you," said Galton.
"I shall miss them," Tembarom answered in a voice with a rather depressed drop in it.
"I shall miss you," said Galton.
Tembarom's face reddened a little.
"I guess it'd seem rather fresh for me to tell you how I shall miss you," he said. "I said that first day that I didn't know how to tell you how I—well, how I felt about you giving a mutt like me that big chance. You never thought I didn't know how little I did know, did you?" he inquired almost anxiously.
"That was it—that you did know and that you had the backbone and the good spirits to go in and win," Galton replied. "I'm a tired man, and good spirits and good temper seem to me about the biggest assets a man can bring into a thing. I shouldn't have dared do it when I was your age. You deserved the Victoria Cross," he added, chuckling.
"What's the Victoria Cross?" asked Tembarom.
"You'll find out when you go to England."
"Well, I'm not supposing that you don't know about how many billion things I'll have to find out when I go to England."
"There will be several thousand," replied Galton moderately; "but you'll learn about them as you go on."
"Say," said Tembarom, reflectively, "doesn't it seem queer to think of a fellow having to keep up his spirits because he's fallen into three hundred and fifty thousand a year? You wouldn't think he'd have to, would you?"
"But you find he has?" queried Galton, interestedly.
Tembarom's lifted eyes were so honest that they were touching.
"I don't know where I'm at," he said. "I'm going to wake up in a new place—like people that die. If you knew what it was like, you wouldn't mind it so much; but you don't know a blamed thing. It's not having seen a sample that rattles you."
"You're fond of New York?"
"Good Lord! it's all the place I know on earth, and it's just about good enough for me, by gee! It's kept me alive when it might have starved me to death. My! I've had good times here," he added, flushing with emotion. "Good times— when I hadn't a whole meal a day!"
"You'd have good times anywhere," commented Galton, also with feeling. "You carry them over your shoulder, and you share them with a lot of other people."
He certainly shared some with Joe Bennett, whom he took up-town and introduced right and left to his friendly patrons, who, excited by the atmosphere of adventure and prosperity, received him with open arms. To have been the choice of T. Tembarom as a mere representative of the EARTH would have been a great thing for Bennett, but to be the choice of the hero of a romance of wildest opulence was a tremendous send- off. He was accepted at once, and when Tembarom actually "stood for" a big farewell supper of his own in "The Hall," and nearly had his hand shaken off by congratulating acquaintances, the fact that he kept the new aspirant by his side, so that the waves of high popularity flowed over him until he sometimes lost his joyful breath, established him as a sort of hero himself.
Mr. Palford did not know of this festivity, as he also found he was not told of several other things. This he counted as a feature of his client's exoticism. His extraordinary lack of concealment of things vanity forbids many from confessing combined itself with a quite cheerful power to keep his own counsel when he was, for reasons of his own, so inclined.
"He can keep his mouth shut, that chap," Hutchinson had said once, and Mr. Palford remembered it. "Most of us can't. I've got a notion I can; but I don't many's the time when I should. There's a lot more in him than you'd think for. He's naught but a lad, but he is na half such a fool as he looks."
He was neither hesitant nor timid, Mr. Palford observed. In an entirely unostentatious way he soon realized that his money gave things into his hands. He knew he could do most things he chose to do, and that the power to do them rested in these days with himself without the necessity of detailed explanation or appeal to others, as in the case, for instance, of this mysterious friend or protege whose name was Strangeways. Of the history of his acquaintance with him Palford knew nothing, and that he should choose to burden himself with a half-witted invalid —in these terms the solicitor described him— was simply in-explainable. If he had asked for advice or by his manner left an opening for the offering of it, he would have been most strongly counseled to take him to a public asylum and leave him there; but advice on the subject seemed the last thing he desired or anticipated, and talk about his friend was what he seemed least likely to indulge in. He made no secret of his intentions, but he frankly took charge of them as his own special business, and left the rest alone.
"Say nothing and saw wood," Palford had once been a trifle puzzled by hearing him remark casually, and he remembered it later, as he remembered the comments of Joseph Hutchinson. Tembarom had explained himself to Little Ann.
"You'll understand," he said. " It is like this. I guess I feel like you do when a dog or a cat in big trouble just looks at you as if you were all they had, and they know if you don't stick by them they'll be killed, and it just drives them crazy. It's the way they look at you that you can't stand. I believe something would burst in that fellow's brain if I left him. When he found out I was going to do it he'd just let out some awful kind of a yell I'd remember till I died. I dried right up almost as soon as I spoke of him to Palford. He couldn't see anything but that he was crazy and ought to be put in an asylum. Well, he's not. There're times when he talks to me almost sensible; only he's always so awful low down in his mind you're afraid to let him go on. And he's a little bit better than he was. It seems queer to get to like a man that's sort of dotty, but I tell you, Ann, because you'll understand —I've got to sort of like him, and want to see if I can work it out for him somehow. England seems to sort of stick in his mind. If I can't spend my money in living the way I want to live,— buying jewelry and clothes for the girl I'd like to see dressed like a queen—I'm going to do this just to please myself. I'm going to take him to England and keep him quiet and see what'll happen. Those big doctors ought to know about all there is to know, and I can pay them any old thing they want. By jings! isn't it the limit—to sit here and say that and know it's true!"
Beyond the explaining of necessary detail to him and piloting him to England, Mr. Palford did not hold himself many degrees responsible. His theory of correct conduct assumed no form of altruism. He had formulated it even before he reached middle age. One of his fixed rules was to avoid the error of allowing sympathy or sentiment to hamper him with any unnecessary burden. Natural tendency of temperament had placed no obstacles in the way of his keeping this rule. To burden himself with the instruction or modification of this unfortunately hopeless young New Yorker would be unnecessary. Palford's summing up of him was that he was of a type with which nothing palliative could be done. There he was. As unavoidable circumstances forced one to take him,—commonness, slanginess, appalling ignorance, and all,—one could not leave him. Fortunately, no respectable legal firm need hold itself sponsor for a "next of kin" provided by fate and the wilds of America.
The Temple Barholm estate had never, in Mr. Palford's generation, been specially agreeable to deal with. The late Mr. Temple Temple Barholm had been a client of eccentric and abominable temper. Interviews with him had been avoided as much as possible. His domineering insolence of bearing had at times been on the verge of precipitating unheard-of actions, because it was almost more than gentlemanly legal flesh and blood could bear. And now appeared this young man.
He rushed about New York strenuously attending to business concerning himself and his extraordinary acquaintances, and on the day of the steamer's sailing he presented himself at the last moment in an obviously just purchased suit of horribly cut clothes. At all events, their cut was horrible in the eyes of Mr. Palford, who accepted no cut but that of a West End tailor. They were badly made things enough, because they were unconsidered garments that Tembarom had barely found time to snatch from a "ready-made" counter at the last moment. He had been too much "rushed" by other things to remember that he must have them until almost too late to get them at all. He bought them merely because they were clothes, and warm enough to make a voyage in. He possessed a monster ulster, in which, to Mr. Palford's mind, he looked like a flashy black-leg. He did not know it was flashy. His opportunities for cultivating a refined taste in the matter of wardrobe had been limited, and he had wasted no time in fastidious consideration or regrets. Palford did him some injustice in taking it for granted that his choice of costume was the result of deliberate bad taste. It was really not choice at all. He neither liked his clothes nor disliked them. He had been told he needed warm garments, and he had accepted the advice of the first salesman who took charge of him when he dropped into the big department store he was most familiar with because it was the cheapest in town. Even when it was no longer necessary to be cheap, it was time-saving and easy to go into a place one knew.
The fact that he was as he was, and that they were the subjects of comment and objects of unabated interest through-out the voyage, that it was proper that they should be companions at table and on deck, filled Mr. Palford with annoyed unease.
Of course every one on board was familiar with the story of the discovery of the lost heir. The newspapers had reveled in it, and had woven romances about it which might well have caused the deceased Mr. Temple Barholm to turn in his grave. After the first day Tembarom had been picked out from among the less-exciting passengers, and when he walked the deck, books were lowered into laps or eyes followed him over their edges. His steamer-chair being placed in a prominent position next to that of a pretty, effusive Southern woman, the mother of three daughters whose eyes and eyelashes attracted attention at the distance of a deck's length, he was without undue delay provided with acquaintances who were prepared to fill his every moment with entertainment.
"The three Gazelles," as their mother playfully confided to Tembarom her daughters were called in Charleston, were destructively lovely. They were swaying reeds of grace, and being in radiant spirits at the prospect of "going to Europe," were companions to lure a man to any desperate lengths. They laughed incessantly, as though they were chimes of silver bells; they had magnolia-petal skins which neither wind nor sun blemished; they had nice young manners, and soft moods in which their gazelle eyes melted and glowed and their long lashes drooped. They could dance, they played on guitars, and they sang. They were as adorable as they were lovely and gay.
"If a fellow was going to fall in love," Tembarom said to Palford, "there'd be no way out of this for him unless he climbed the rigging and dragged his food up in a basket till he got to Liverpool. If he didn't go crazy about Irene, he'd wake up raving about Honora; and if he got away from Honora, Adelia Louise would have him 'down on the mat.'" From which Mr. Palford argued that the impression made by the little Miss Hutchinson with the Manchester accent had not yet had time to obliterate itself.
The Gazelles were of generous Southern spirit, and did not surround their prize with any barrier of precautions against other young persons of charm. They introduced him to one girl after another, and in a day or two he was the center of animated circles whenever he appeard. The singular thing, however, was that he did not appear as often as the other men who were on board. He seemed to stay a great deal with Strangeways, who shared his suite of rooms and never came on deck. Sometimes the Gazelles prettily reproached him. Adelia Louise suggested to the others that his lack of advantages in the past had made him feel rather awkward and embarrassed; but Palford knew he was not embarrassed. He accepted his own limitations too simply to be disturbed by them. Palford would have been extremely bored by him if he had been of the type of young outsider who is anxiouus about himself and expansive in self-revelation and appeals for advice; but sometimes Tembarom's air of frankness, which was really the least expansive thing in the world and revealed nothing whatever, besides concealing everything it chose, made him feel himself almost irritatingly baffled. It would have been more natural if he had not been able to keep anything to himself and had really talked too much.
The necessary business in London having been transacted, Tembarom went north to take possession of the home of his forefathers. It had rained for two days before he left London, and it rained steadily all the way to Lancashire, and was raining steadily when he reached Temple Barholm. He had never seen such rain before. It was the quiet, unmoved persistence of it which amazed him. As he sat in the railroad carriage and watched the slanting lines of its unabating downpour, he felt that Mr. Palford must inevitably make some remark upon it. But Mr. Palford continued to read his newspapers undisturbedly, as though the condition of atmosphere surrounding him were entirely accustomed and natural. It was of course necessary and proper that he should accompany his client to his destination, but the circumstances of the case made the whole situation quite abnormal. Throughout the centuries each Temple Barholm had succeeded to his estate in a natural and conventional manner. He had either been welcomed or resented by his neighbors, his tenants, and his family, and proper and fitting ceremonies had been observed. But here was an heir whom nobody knew, whose very existence nobody had even suspected, a young man who had been an outcast in the streets of the huge American city of which lurid descriptions are given. Even in New York he could have produced no circle other than Mrs. Bowse's boarding-house and the objects of interest to the up-town page, so he brought no one with him; for Strangeways seemed to have been mysteriously disposed of after their arrival in London.
Never had Palford & Grimby on their hands a client who seemed so entirely alone. What, Mr. Palford asked himself, would he do in the enormity of Temple Barholm, which always struck one as being a place almost without limit. But that, after all, was neither here nor there. There he was. You cannot undertake to provide a man with relatives if he has none, or with acquaintances if people do not want to know him. His past having been so extraordinary, the neighborhood would naturally be rather shy of him. At first, through mere force of custom and respect for an old name, punctilious, if somewhat alarmed, politeness would be shown by most people; but after the first calls all would depend upon how much people could stand of the man himself.
The aspect of the country on a wet winter's day was not enlivening. The leafless and dripping hedges looked like bundles of sticks; the huge trees, which in June would be majestic bowers of greenery, now held out great skeleton arms, which seemed to menace both earth and sky. Heavy-faced laborers tramped along muddy lanes; cottages with soaked bits of dead gardens looked like hovels; big, melancholy cart- horses, dragging jolting carts along the country roads, hung their heads as they splashed through the mire.
As Tembarom had known few persons who had ever been out of America, he had not heard that England was beautiful, and he saw nothing which led him to suspect its charms. London had impressed him as gloomy, dirty, and behind the times despite its pretensions; the country struck him as "the limit." Hully gee! was he going to be expected to spend his life in this! Should he be obliged to spend his life in it. He'd find that out pretty quick, and then, if there was no hard-and-fast law against it, him for little old New York again, if he had to give up the whole thing and live on ten per. If he had been a certain kind of youth, his discontent would have got the better of him, and he might have talked a good deal to Mr. Palford and said many disparaging things.
"But the man was born here," he reflected. "I guess he doesn't know anything else, and thinks it's all right. I've heard of English fellows who didn't like New York. He looks like that kind."
He had supplied himself with newspapers and tried to read them. Their contents were as unexciting as the rain-sodden landscape. There were no head-lines likely to arrest any man's attention. There was a lot about Parliament and the Court, and one of them had a column or two about what lords and ladies were doing, a sort of English up-town or down-town page.
He knew the stuff, but there was no snap in it, and there were no photographs or descriptions of dresses. Galton would have turned it down. He could never have made good if he had done no better than that. He grinned to himself when he read that the king had taken a drive and that a baby prince had the measles.
"I wonder what they'd think of the Sunday Earth," he mentally inquired.
He would have been much at sea if he had discovered what they really would have thought of it. They passed through smoke-vomiting manufacturing towns, where he saw many legs seemingly bearing about umbrellas, but few entire people; they whizzed smoothly past drenched suburbs, wet woodlands, and endless-looking brown moors, covered with dead bracken and bare and prickly gorse. He thought these last great desolate stretches worse than all the rest.
But the railroad carriage was luxuriously upholstered and comfortable, though one could not walk about and stretch his legs. In the afternoon, Mr. Palford ordered in tea, and plainly expected him to drink two cups and eat thin bread and butter. He felt inclined to laugh, though the tea was all right, and so was the bread and butter, and he did not fail his companion in any respect. The inclination to laugh was aroused by the thought of what Jim Bowles and Julius would say if they could see old T. T. with nothing to do at 4:30 but put in cream and sugar, as though he were at a tea-party on Fifth Avenue.
But, gee! this rain did give him the Willies. If he was going to be sorry for himself, he might begin right now. But he wasn't. He was going to see this thing through.
The train had been continuing its smooth whir through fields, wooded lands, and queer, dead-and-alive little villages for some time before it drew up at last at a small station. Bereft by the season of its garden bloom and green creepers, it looked a bare and uninviting little place. On the two benches against the wall of the platform a number of women sat huddled together in the dampness. Several of them held children in their laps and all stared very hard, nudging one another as he descended from the train. A number of rustics stood about the platform, giving it a somewhat crowded air. It struck Tembarom that, for an out- of-the-way place, there seemed to be a good many travelers, and he wondered if they could all be going away. He did not know that they were the curious element among such as lived in the immediate neighborhood of the station and had come out merely to see him on his first appearance. Several of them touched their hats as he went by, and he supposed they knew Palford and were saluting him. Each of them was curious, but no one was in a particularly welcoming mood. There was, indeed, no reason for anticipating enthusiasm. It was, however, but human nature that the bucolic mind should bestir itself a little in the desire to obtain a view of a Temple Barholm who had earned his living by blacking boots and selling newspapers, unknowing that he was "one o' th' gentry."
When he stepped from his first-class carriage, Tembarom found himself confronted by a very straight, clean-faced, and well-built young man, who wore a long, fawn-colored livery coat with claret facings and silver buttons. He touched his cockaded hat, and at once took up the Gladstone bags. Tembarom knew that he was a footman because he had seen something like him outside restaurants, theaters, and shops in New York, but he was not sure whether he ought to touch his own hat or not. He slightly lifted it from his head to show there was no ill feeling, and then followed him and Mr. Palford to the carriage waiting for them. It was a severe but sumptuous equipage, and the coachman was as well dressed and well built as the footman. Tembarom took his place in it with many mental reservations.
"What are the illustrations on the doors?" he inquired.
"The Temple Barholm coat of arms," Mr. Palford answered. "The people at the station are your tenants. Members of the family of the stout man with the broad hat have lived as yeoman farmers on your land for three hundred years."
They went on their way, with more rain, more rain, more dripping hedges, more soaked fields, and more bare, huge-armed trees. CLOP, CLOP, CLOP, sounded the horses' hoofs along the road, and from his corner of the carriage Mr. Palford tried to make polite conversation. Faces peered out of the windows of the cottages, sometimes a whole family group of faces, all crowded together, eager to look, from the mother with a baby in her arms to the old man or woman, plainly grandfather or grandmother—sharp, childishly round, or bleared old eyes, all excited and anxious to catch glimpses.
"They are very curious to see you," said Mr. Palford. "Those two laborers are touching their hats to you. It will be as well to recognize their salute."
At a number of the cottage doors the group stood upon the threshold and touched foreheads or curtsied. Tembarom saluted again and again, and more than once his friendly grin showed itself. It made him feel queer to drive along, turning from side to side to acknowledge obeisances, as he had seen a well-known military hero acknowledge them as he drove down Broadway.
The chief street of the village of Temple Barholm wandered almost within hailing distance of the great entrance to the park. The gates were supported by massive pillars, on which crouched huge stone griffins. Tembarom felt that they stared savagely over his head as he was driven toward them as for inspection, and in disdainful silence allowed to pass between them as they stood on guard, apparently with the haughtiest mental reservations.
The park through which the long avenue rolled concealed its beauty to the unaccustomed eye, showing only more bare trees and sodden stretches of brown grass. The house itself, as it loomed up out of the thickening rain-mist, appalled Tembarom by its size and gloomily gray massiveness. Before it was spread a broad terrace of stone, guarded by more griffins of even more disdainful aspect than those watching over the gates. The stone noses held themselves rigidly in the air as the reporter of the up-town society page passed with Mr. Palford up a flight of steps broad enough to make him feel as though he were going to church. Footmen with powdered heads received him at the carriage door, seemed to assist him to move, to put one foot before the other for him, to stand in rows as though they were a military guard ready to take him into custody.
Then he was inside, standing in an enormous hall filled with furnishings such as he had never seen or heard of before. Carved oak, suits of armor, stone urns, portraits, another flight of church steps mounting upward to surrounding galleries, stained-glass windows, tigers' and lions' heads, horns of tremendous size, strange and beautiful weapons, suggested to him that the dream he had been living in for weeks had never before been so much a dream. He had walked about as in a vision, but among familiar surroundings. Mrs. Bowse's boarders and his hall bedroom had helped him to retain some hold over actual existence. But here the reverently saluting villagers staring at him through windows as though he were General Grant, the huge, stone entrance, the drive of what seemed to be ten miles through the park, the gloomy mass of architecture looming up, the regiment of liveried men-servants, with respectfully lowered but excitedly curious eyes, the dark and solemn richness inclosing and claiming him—all this created an atmosphere wholly unreal. As he had not known books, its parallel had not been suggested to him by literature. He had literally not heard that such things existed. Selling newspapers and giving every moment to the struggle for life or living, one did not come within the range of splendors. He had indeed awakened in that other world of which he had spoken. And though he had heard that there was another world, he had had neither time nor opportunity to make mental pictures of it. His life so far had expressed itself in another language of figures. The fact that he had in his veins the blood of the Norman lords and Saxon kings may or may not have had something to do with the fact that he was not abashed, but bewildered. The same factor may or may not have aided him to preserve a certain stoic, outward composure. Who knows what remote influences express themselves in common acts of modern common life? As Cassivellaunus observed his surroundings as he followed in captive chains his conqueror's triumphal car through the streets of Rome, so the keen-eyed product of New York pavement life "took in" all about him. Existence had forced upon him the habit of sharp observance. The fundamental working law of things had expressed itself in the simple colloquialism, "Keep your eye skinned, and don't give yourself away." In what phrases the parallel of this concise advice formulated itself in 55 B.C. no classic has yet exactly informed us, but doubtless something like it was said in ancient Rome. Tembarom did not give himself away, and he took rapid, if uncertain, inventory of people and things. He remarked, for instance, that Palford's manner of speaking to a servant was totally different from the manner he used in addressing himself. It was courteous, but remote, as though he spoke across an accepted chasm to beings of another race. There was no hint of incivility in it, but also no hint of any possibility that it could occur to the person addressed to hesitate or resent. It was a subtle thing, and Tembarom wondered how he did it.
They were shown into a room the walls of which seemed built of books; the furniture was rich and grave and luxuriously comfortable. A fire blazed as well as glowed in a fine chimney, and a table near it was set with a glitter of splendid silver urn and equipage for tea.
"Mrs. Butterworth was afraid you might not have been able to get tea, sir," said the man-servant, who did not wear livery, but whose butler's air of established authority was more impressive than any fawn color and claret enriched with silver could have encompassed.
Tea again? Perhaps one was obliged to drink it at regular intervals. Tembarom for a moment did not awaken to the fact that the man was speaking to him, as the master from whom orders came. He glanced at Mr. Palford.
"Mr. Temple Barholm had tea after we left Crowly," Mr. Palford said. "He will no doubt wish to go to his room at once, Burrill."
"Yes, sir," said Burrill, with that note of entire absence of comment with which Tembarom later became familiar. "Pearson is waiting."
It was not unnatural to wonder who Pearson was and why he was waiting, but Tembarom knew he would find out. There was a slight relief on realizing that tea was not imperative. He and Mr. Palford were led through the hall again. The carriage had rolled away, and two footmen, who were talking confidentially together, at once stood at attention. The staircase was more imposing as one mounted it than it appeared as one looked at it from below. Its breadth made Tembarom wish to lay a hand on a balustrade, which seemed a mile away. He had never particularly wished to touch balustrades before. At the head of the first flight hung an enormous piece of tapestry, its forest and hunters and falconers awakening Tembarom's curiosity, as it looked wholly unlike any picture he had ever seen in a shop-window. There were pictures everywhere, and none of them looked like chromos. Most of the people in the portraits were in fancy dress. Rumors of a New York millionaire ball had given him some vague idea of fancy dress. A lot of them looked like freaks. He caught glimpses of corridors lighted by curious, high, deep windows with leaded panes. It struck him that there was no end to the place, and that there must be rooms enough in it for a hotel.
"The tapestry chamber, of course, Burrill," he heard Mr. Palford say in a low tone.
"Yes, sir. Mr. Temple Barholm always used it."
A few yards farther on a door stood open, revealing an immense room, rich and gloomy with tapestry-covered walls and dark oak furniture. A bed which looked to Tembarom incredibly big, with its carved oak canopy and massive posts, had a presiding personality of its own. It was mounted by steps, and its hangings and coverlid were of embossed velvet, time-softened to the perfection of purples and blues. A fire enriched the color of everything, and did its best to drive the shadows away. Deep windows opened either into the leafless boughs of close-growing trees or upon outspread spaces of heavily timbered park, where gaunt, though magnificent, bare branches menaced and defied. A slim, neat young man, with a rather pale face and a touch of anxiety in his expression, came forward at once.
"This is Pearson, who will valet you," exclaimed Mr. Palford.
"Thank you, sir," said Pearson in a low, respectful voice. His manner was correctness itself.
There seemed to Mr. Palford to be really nothing else to say. He wanted, in fact, to get to his own apartment and have a hot bath and a rest before dinner.
"Where am I, Burrill?" he inquired as he turned to go down the corridor.
"The crimson room, sir," answered Burrill, and he closed the door of the tapestry chamber and shut Tembarom in alone with Pearson.
For a few moments the two young men looked at each other, Pearson's gaze being one of respectfulness which hoped to propitiate, if propitiation was necessary, though Pearson greatly trusted it was not. Tembarom's was the gaze of hasty investigation and inquiry. He suddenly thought that it would have been "all to the merry" if somebody had "put him on to" a sort of idea of what was done to a fellow when he was "valeted." A valet, he had of course gathered, waited on one somehow and looked after one's clothes. But were there by chance other things he expected to do,—manicure one's nails or cut one's hair,—and how often did he do it, and was this the day? He was evidently there to do something, or he wouldn't have been waiting behind the door to pounce out the minute he appeared, and when the other two went away, Burrill wouldn't have closed the door as solemnly as though he shut the pair of them in together to get through some sort of performance.
"Here's where T. T. begins to feel like a fool," he thought. "And here's where there's no way out of looking like one. I don't know a thing."
But personal vanity was not so strong in him as healthy and normal good temper. Despite the fact that the neat correctness of Pearson's style and the finished expression of his neat face suggested that he was of a class which knew with the most finished exactness all that custom and propriety demanded on any occasion on which "valeting" in its most occult branches might be done, he was only "another fellow," after all, and must be human. So Tembarom smiled at him.
"Hello, Pearson," he said. "How are you?"
Pearson slightly started. It was the tiniest possible start, quite involuntary, from which he recovered instantly, to reply in a tone of respectful gratefulness:
"Thank you, sir, very well; thank you, sir."
"That's all right," answered Tembarom, a sense of relief because he'd "got started" increasing the friendliness of his smile. "I see you got my trunk open," he said, glancing at some articles of clothing neatly arranged upon the bed.
Pearson was slightly alarmed. It occurred to him suddenly that perhaps it was not the custom in America to open a gentleman's box and lay out his clothes for him. For special reasons he was desperately anxious to keep his place, and above all things he felt he must avoid giving offense by doing things which, by being too English, might seem to cast shades of doubt on the entire correctness of the customs of America. He had known ill feeling to arise between "gentlemen's gentlemen" in the servants' hall in the case of slight differences in customs, contested with a bitterness of feeling which had made them almost an international question. There had naturally been a great deal of talk about the new Mr. Temple Barholm and what might be expected of him. When a gentleman was not a gentleman,—this was the form of expression in "the hall,"—the Lord only knew what would happen. And this one, who had, for all one knew, been born in a workhouse, and had been a boot-black kicked about in American streets,—they did not know Tembarom,—and nearly starved to death, and found at last in a low lodging-house, what could he know about decent living? And ten to one he'd be American enough to swagger and bluster and pretend he knew everything better than any one else, and lose his temper frightfully when he made mistakes, and try to make other people seem to blame. Set a beggar on horseback, and who didn't know what he was? There were chances enough and to spare that not one of them would be able to stand it, and that in a month's time they would all be looking for new places.
So while Tembarom was rather afraid of Pearson and moved about in an awful state of uncertainty, Pearson was horribly afraid of Tembarom, and was, in fact, in such a condition of nervous anxiety that he was obliged more than once furtively to apply to his damp, pale young forehead his exceedingly fresh and spotless pocket-handkerchief.
In the first place, there was the wardrobe. What COULD he do? How could he approach the subject with sufficient delicacy? Mr. Temple Barholm had brought with him only a steamer trunk and a Gladstone bag, the latter evidently bought in London, to be stuffed with hastily purchased handkerchiefs and shirts, worn as they came out of the shop, and as evidently bought without the slightest idea of the kind of linen a gentleman should own. What most terrified Pearson, who was of a timid and most delicate-minded nature, was that having the workhouse and the boot-blacking as a background, the new Mr. Temple Barholm COULDN'T know, as all this had come upon him so suddenly. And was it to be Pearson's calamitous duty to explain to him that he had NOTHING, that he apparently KNEW nothing, and that as he had no friends who knew, a mere common servant must educate him, if he did not wish to see him derided and looked down upon and actually "cut" by gentlemen that WERE gentlemen? All this to say nothing of Pearson's own well- earned reputation for knowledge of custom, intelligence, and deftness in turning out the objects of his care in such form as to be a reference in themselves when a new place was wanted. Of course sometimes there were even real gentlemen who were most careless and indifferent to appearance, and who, if left to themselves, would buy garments which made the blood run cold when one realized that his own character and hopes for the future often depended upon his latest employer's outward aspect. But the ulster in which Mr. Temple Barholm had presented himself was of a cut and material such as Pearson's most discouraged moments had never forced him to contemplate. The limited wardrobe in the steamer trunk was all new and all equally bad. There was no evening dress, no proper linen,—not what Pearson called "proper,"— no proper toilet appurtenances. What was Pearson called upon by duty to do? If he had only had the initiative to anticipate this, he might have asked permission to consult in darkest secrecy with Mr. Palford. But he had never dreamed of such a situation, and apparently he would be obliged to send his new charge down to his first dinner in the majestically decorous dining-room, "before all the servants," in a sort of speckled tweed cutaway, with a brown necktie.
Tembarom, realizing without delay that Pearson did not expect to be talked to and being cheered by the sight of the fire, sat down before it in an easy-chair the like of which for luxurious comfort he had never known. He was, in fact, waiting for developments. Pearson would say or do something shortly which would give him a chance to "catch on," or perhaps he'd go out of the room and leave him to himself, which would be a thing to thank God for. Then he could wash his face and hands, brush his hair, and wait till the dinner-bell rang. They'd be likely to have one. They'd have to in a place like this.
But Pearson did not go out of the room. He moved about behind him for a short time with footfall so almost entirely soundless that Tembarom became aware that, if it went on long, he should be nervous; in fact, he was nervous already. He wanted to know what he was doing. He could scarcely resist the temptation to turn his head and look; but he did not want to give himself away more entirely than was unavoidable, and, besides, instinct told him that he might frighten Pearson, who looked frightened enough, in a neat and well-mannered way, already. Hully gee! how he wished he would go out of the room!
But he did not. There were gently gliding footsteps of Pearson behind him, quiet movements which would have seemed stealthy if they had been a burglar's, soft removals of articles from one part of the room to another, delicate brushings, and almost noiseless foldings. Now Pearson was near the bed, now he had opened a wardrobe, now he was looking into the steamer trunk, now he had stopped somewhere behind him, within a few yards of his chair. Why had he ceased moving? What was he looking at? What kept him quiet?
Tembarom expected him to begin stirring mysteriously again; but he did not. Why did he not? There reigned in the room entire silence; no soft footfalls, no brushing, no folding. Was he doing nothing? Had he got hold of something which had given him a fit? There had been no sound of a fall; but perhaps even if an English valet had a fit, he'd have it so quietly and respectfully that one wouldn't hear it. Tembarom felt that he must be looking at the back of his head, and he wondered what was the matter with it. Was his hair cut in a way so un-English that it had paralyzed him? The back of his head began to creep under an investigation so prolonged. No sound at all, no movement. Tembarom stealthily took out his watch—good old Waterbury he wasn't going to part with —and began to watch the minute-hand. If nothing happened in three minutes he was going to turn round. One—two— three—and the silence made it seem fifteen. He returned his Waterbury to his pocket and turned round.
Pearson was not dead. He was standing quite still and resigned, waiting. It was his business to wait, not to intrude or disturb, and having put everything in order and done all he could do, he was waiting for further commands—in some suspense, it must be admitted.
"Hello!" exclaimed Tembarom, involuntarily.
"Shall I get your bath ready, sir?" inquired Pearson. "Do you like it hot or cold, sir?"
Tembarom drew a relieved breath. He hadn't dropped dead and he hadn't had a fit, and here was one of the things a man did when he valeted you—he got your bath ready. A hasty recollection of the much-used, paint-smeared tin bath on the fourth floor of Mrs. Bowse's boarding- house sprang up before him. Everybody had to use it in turn, and you waited hours for the chance to make a dash into it. No one stood still and waited fifteen minutes until you got good and ready to tell him he could go and turn on the water. Gee whizz!
Being relieved himself, he relieved Pearson by telling him he might "fix it" for him, and that he would have hot water.
"Very good, sir. Thank you, sir," said Pearson, and silently left the room.
Then Tembarom got up from his chair and began to walk about rather restlessly. A new alarm seized him. Did Pearson expect to WASH him or to stand round and hand him soap and towels and things while he washed himself?
If it was supposed that you hadn't the strength to turn the faucets yourself, it might be supposed you didn't have the energy to use a flesh-brush and towels. Did valeting include a kind of shampoo all over?
"I couldn't stand for that," he said. "I'd have to tell him there'd been no Turkish baths in mine, and I'm not trained up to them. When I've got on to this kind of thing a bit more, I'll make him understand what I'm NOT in for; but I don't want to scare the life out of him right off. He looks like a good little fellow."
But Pearson's duties as valet did not apparently include giving him his bath by sheer physical force. He was deft, calm, amenable. He led Tembarom down the corridor to the bath-room, revealed to him stores of sumptuous bath-robes and towels, hot- and cold-water faucets, sprays, and tonic essences. He forgot nothing and, having prepared all, mutely vanished, and returned to the bedroom to wait—and gaze in troubled wonder at the speckled tweed cutaway. There was an appalling possibility—he was aware that he was entirely ignorant of American customs—that tweed was the fashionable home evening wear in the States. Tembarom, returning from his bath much refreshed after a warm plunge and a cold shower, evidently felt that as a costume it was all that could be desired.
"Will you wear—these, sir,—this evening?" Pearson suggested.
It was suggestive of more than actual inquiry. If he had dared to hope that his manner might suggest a number of things! For instance, that in England gentlemen really didn't wear tweed in the evening even in private. That through some unforeseen circumstances his employer's evening-dress suit had been delayed, but would of course arrive to- morrow!
But Tembarom, physically stimulated by hot and cold water, and relief at being left alone, was beginning to recover his natural buoyancy.
"Yes, I'll wear 'em," he answered, snatching at his hairbrush and beginning to brush his damp hair. It was a wooden-backed brush that Pearson had found in his Gladstone bag and shudderingly laid in readiness on the dressing-table. "I guess they're all right, ain't they?"
"Oh, quite right, sir, quite," Pearson ventured—"for morning wear."
"Morning?" said Tembarom, brushing vigorously. "Not night?"
"Black, sir," most delicately hinted Pearson, "is—more usual—in the evening—in England." After which he added, "So to speak," with a vague hope that the mollifying phrase might counteract the effect of any apparently implied aspersion on colors preferred in America.
Tembarom ceased brushing his hair, and looked at him in good-natured desire for information.
"Frock-coats or claw-hammer?" he asked. Despite his natural anxiety, and in the midst of it, Pearson could not but admit that he had an uncondemnatory voice and a sort of young way with him which gave one courage. But he was not quite sure of "claw-hammer."
"Frock-coats for morning dress and afternoon wear, sir," he ventured. "The evening cut, as you know, is—"
"Claw-hammer. Swallow-tail, I guess you say here," Tembarom ended for him, quite without hint of rancor, he was rejoiced to see.
"Yes, sir," said Pearson.
The ceremony of dressing proved a fearsome thing as it went on. Pearson moved about deftly and essayed to do things for the new Mr. Temple Barholm which the new Mr. Temple Barholm had never heard of a man not doing for himself. He reached for things Pearson was about to hand to him or hold for him. He unceremoniously achieved services for himself which it was part of Pearson's manifest duty to perform. They got into each other's way; there was even danger sometimes of their seeming to snatch things from each other, to Pearson's unbounded horror. Mr. Temple Barholm did not express any irritation whatsoever misunderstandings took place, but he held his mouth rather close-shut, and Pearson, not aware that he did this as a precaution against open grinning or shouts of laughter as he found himself unable to adjust himself to his attendant's movements, thought it possible that he was secretly annoyed and regarded the whole matter with disfavor. But when the dressing was at an end and he stood ready to go down in all his innocent ignoring of speckled tweed and brown necktie, he looked neither flurried nor out of humor, and he asked a question in a voice which was actually friendly. It was a question dealing with an incident which had aroused much interest in the servants' hall as suggesting a touch of mystery.
"Mr. Strangeways came yesterday all right, didn't he?" he inquired.
"Yes, sir," Pearson answered. "Mr. Hutchinson and his daughter came with him. They call her 'Little Ann Hutchinson.' She's a sensible little thing, sir, and she seemed to know exactly what you'd want done to make him comfortable. Mrs. Butterworth put him in the west room, sir, and I valeted him. He was not very well when he came, but he seems better to-day, sir, only he's very anxious to see you."
"That's all right," said Tembarom. "You show me his room. I'll go and see him now."
And being led by Pearson, he went without delay.
The chief objection to Temple Barholm in Tembarom's mind was that it was too big for any human use. That at least was how it struck him. The entrance was too big, the stairs were too wide, the rooms too broad and too long and too high to allow of eyes accustomed to hall bedrooms adjusting their vision without discomfort. The dining-room in which the new owner took his first meal in company with Mr. Palford, and attended by the large, serious man who wore no livery and three tall footmen who did, was of a size and stateliness which made him feel homesick for Mrs. Bowse's dining-room, with its two hurried, incompetent, and often-changed waitresses and its prevailing friendly custom of pushing things across the table to save time. Meals were quickly disposed of at Mrs. Bowse's. Everybody was due up-town or down-town, and regarded food as an unavoidable, because necessary, interference with more urgent business. At Temple Barholm one sat half the night— this was the impression made upon Tembarom—watching things being brought in and taken out of the room, carved on a huge buffet, and passed from one man to another; and when they were brought solemnly to you, if you turned them down, it seemed that the whole ceremony had to be gone through with again. All sorts of silver knives, forks, and spoons were given to one and taken away, and half a dozen sorts of glasses stood by your plate; and if you made a move to do anything for yourself, the man out of livery stopped you as though you were too big a fool to be trusted. The food was all right, but when you knew what anything was, and were inclined to welcome it as an old friend, it was given to you in some way that made you get rattled. With all the swell dishes, you had no butter-plate, and ice seemed scarce, and the dead, still way the servants moved about gave you a sort of feeling that you were at a funeral and that it wasn't decent to talk so long as the remains were in the room. The head-man and the foot-men seemed to get on by signs, though Tembarom never saw them making any; and their faces never changed for a moment. Once or twice he tried a joke, addressing it to Mr. Palford, to see what would happen. But as Mr. Palford did not seem to see the humor of it, and gave him the "glassy eye," and neither the head-man nor the footmen seemed to hear it, he thought that perhaps they didn't know it was a joke; and if they didn't, and they thought anything at all, they must think he was dippy. The dinner was a deadly, though sumptuous, meal, and long drawn out, when measured by meals at Mrs. Bowse's. He did not know, as Mr. Palford did, that it was perfect, and served with a finished dexterity that was also perfection.
Mr. Palford, however, was himself relieved when it was at an end. He had sat at dinner with the late Mr. Temple Barholm in his day, and had seen him also served by the owners of impassive countenances; but he had been aware that whatsoever of secret dislike and resentment was concealed by them, there lay behind their immovability an acceptance of the fact that he represented, even in his most objectionable humors, centuries of accustomedness to respectful service and of knowledge of his right and power to claim it. The solicitor was keenly aware of the silent comments being made upon the tweed suit and brown necktie and on the manner in which their wearer boldly chose the wrong fork or erroneously made use of a knife or spoon. Later in the evening, in the servants' hall, the comment would not be silent, and there could be no doubt of what its character would be. There would be laughter and the relating of incidents. Housemaids and still-room maids would giggle, and kitchen-maids and boot-boys would grin and whisper in servile tribute to the witticisms of the superior servants. After dinner the rest of the evening could at least be spent in talk about business matters. There still remained details to be enlarged upon before Palford himself returned to Lincoln's Inn and left Mr. Temple Barholm to the care of the steward of his estate. It was not difficult to talk to him when the sole subject of conversation was of a business nature.
Before they parted for the night the mystery of the arrangements made for Strangeways had been cleared. In fact, Mr. Temple Barholm made no mystery of them. He did not seem ignorant of the fact that what he had chosen to do was unusual, but he did not appear hampered or embarrassed by the knowledge. His remarks on the subject were entirely civil and were far from actually suggesting that his singular conduct was purely his own business and none of his solicitor's; but for a moment or so Mr. Palford was privately just a trifle annoyed. The Hutchinsons had traveled from London with Strangeways in their care the day before. He would have been unhappy and disturbed if he had been obliged to travel with Mr. Palford, who was a stranger to him, and Miss Hutchinson had a soothing effect on him. Strangeways was for the present comfortably installed as a guest of the house, Miss Hutchinson having talked to the housekeeper, Mrs. Butterworth, and to Pearson. What the future held for him Mr. Temple Barholm did not seem to feel the necessity of going into. He left him behind as a subject, and went on talking cheerfully of other things almost as if he had forgotten him.
They had their coffee in the library, and afterward sat at the writing-table and looked over documents and talked until Mr. Palford felt that he could quite decorously retire to his bedroom. He was glad to be relieved of his duties, and Tembarom was amiably resigned to parting with him.
Tembarom did not go up-stairs at once himself. He sat by the fire and smoked several pipes of tobacco and thought things over. There were a lot of things to think over, and several decisions to make, and he thought it would be a good idea to pass them in review. The quiet of the dead surrounded him. In a house the size of this the servants were probably half a mile away. They'd need trolleys to get to one, he thought, if you rang for them in a hurry. If an armed burglar made a quiet entry without your knowing it, he could get in some pretty rough work before any of the seventy-five footmen could come to lend a hand. He was not aware that there were two of them standing in waiting in the hall, their powdered heads close together, so that their whispers and chuckles could be heard. A sound of movement in the library would have brought them up standing to a decorous attitude of attention conveying to the uninitiated the impression that they had not moved for hours.
Sometimes as he sat in the big morocco chair, T. Tembarom looked grave enough; sometimes he looked as though he was confronting problems which needed puzzling out and with which he was not making much headway; sometimes he looked as though he was thinking of little Ann Hutchinson, and not infrequently he grinned. Here he was up to the neck in it, and he was darned if he knew what he was going to do. He didn't know a soul, and nobody knew him. He didn't know a thing he ought to know, and he didn't know any one who could tell him. Even the Hutchinsons had never been inside a place like Temple Barholm, and they were going back to Manchester after a few weeks' stay at the grandmother's cottage.
Before he had left New York he had seen Hadman and some other fellows and got things started, so that there was an even chance that the invention would be put on its feet. He had worked hard and used his own power to control money in the future as a lever which had proved to be exactly what was needed.
Hadman had been spurred and a little startled when he realized the magnitude of what really could be done, and saw also that this slangy, moneyed youth was not merely an enthusiastic fool, but saw into business schemes pretty sharply and was of a most determined readiness. With this power ranging itself on the side of Hutchinson and his invention, it was good business to begin to move, if one did not want to run a chance of being left out in the cold.
Hutchinson had gone to Manchester, and there had been barely time for a brief but characteristic interview between him and Tembarom, when he rushed back to London. Tembarom felt rather excited when he remembered it, recalling what he had felt in confronting the struggles against emotion in the blunt-featured, red face, the breaks in the rough voice, the charging up and down the room like a curiously elated bull in a china shop, and the big effort to restrain relief and gratitude the degree of which might seem to under-value the merits of the invention itself.
Once or twice when he looked serious, Tembarom was thinking this over, and also once or twice when he grinned. Relief and gratitude notwithstanding, Hutchinson had kept him in his place, and had not made unbounded efforts to conceal his sense of the incongruity of his position as the controller of fortunes and the lord of Temple Barholm, which was still vaguely flavored with indignation.
When he had finished his last pipe, Tembarom rose and knocked the ashes out of it.
"Now for Pearson," he said.
He had made up his mind to have a talk with Pearson, and there was no use wasting time. If things didn't suit you, the best thing was to see what you could do to fix them right away —if it wasn't against the law. He went out into the hall, and seeing the two footmen standing waiting, he spoke to them.
"Say, I didn't know you fellows were there," he said. "Are you waiting up for me? Well, you can go to bed, the sooner the quicker. Good night." And he went up-stairs whistling.
The glow and richness and ceremonial order of preparation in his bedroom struck him as soon as he opened the door. Everything which could possibly have been made ready for his most luxurious comfort had been made ready. He did not, it is true, care much for the huge bed with its carved oak canopy and massive pillars.
"But the lying-down part looks about all right," he said to himself.
The fine linen, the soft pillows, the downy blankets, would have allured even a man who was not tired. The covering had been neatly turned back and the snowy whiteness opened. That was English, he supposed. They hadn't got on to that at Mrs. Bowse's.
"But I guess a plain little old New York sleep will do," he said. "Temple Barholm or no Temple Barholm, I guess they can't change that."
Then there sounded a quiet knock at the door. He knew who it would turn out to be, and he was not mistaken. Pearson stood in the corridor, wearing his slightly anxious expression, but ready for orders.
Mr. Temple Barholm looked down at him with a friendly, if unusual, air.
"Say, Pearson," he announced, "if you've come to wash my face and put my hair up in crimping-pins, you needn't do it, because I'm not used to it. But come on in."
If he had told Pearson to enter and climb the chimney, it cannot be said that the order would have been obeyed upon the spot, but Pearson would certainly have hesitated and explained with respectful delicacy the fact that the task was not "his place." He came into the room.
"I came to see, if I could do anything further and—" making a courageous onslaught upon the situation for which he had been preparing himself for hours—"and also—if it is not too late—to venture to trouble you with regard to your wardrobe." He coughed a low, embarrassed cough. "In unpacking, sir, I found—I did not find—"
"You didn't find much, did you?" Tembarom assisted him.
"Of course, sir," Pearson apologized, "leaving New York so hurriedly, your—your man evidently had not time to— er—"
Tembarom looked at him a few seconds longer, as if making up his mind to something. Then he threw himself easily into the big chair by the fire, and leaned back in it with the frankest and best- natured smile possible.
"I hadn't any man," he said. "Say, Pearson," waving his hand to another chair near by, "suppose you take a seat."
Long and careful training came to Pearson's aid and supported him, but he was afraid that he looked nervous, and certainly there was a lack of entire calm in his voice.
"I—thank you, sir,—I think I'd better stand, sir."
"Why?" inquired Tembarom, taking his tobacco-pouch out of his pocket and preparing to fill another pipe.
"You're most kind, sir, but—but—" in impassioned embarrassment—"I should really PREFER to stand, sir, if you don't mind. I should feel more—more at 'ome, sir," he added, dropping an h in his agitation.
"Well, if you'd like it better, that's all right," yielded Mr. Temple Barholm, stuffing tobacco into the pipe. Pearson darted to a table, produced a match, struck it, and gave it to him.
"Thank you," said Tembarom, still good-naturedly. "But there are a few things I've GOT to say to you RIGHT now."
Pearson had really done his best, his very best, but he was terrified because of the certain circumstances once before referred to.
"I beg pardon, sir," he appealed, "but I am most anxious to give satisfaction in every respect." He WAS, poor young man, horribly anxious. "To-day being only the first day, I dare say I have not been all I should have been. I have never valeted an American gentleman before, but I'm sure I shall become accustomed to everything QUITE soon—almost immediately."
"Say," broke in Tembarom, "you're 'way off. I'm not complaining. You're all right."
The easy good temper of his manner was so singularly assuring that Pearson, unexplainable as he found him in every other respect, knew that this at least was to be depended upon, and he drew an almost palpable breath of relief. Something actually allured him into approaching what he had never felt it safe to approach before under like circumstances—a confidential disclosure.
"Thank you, sir: I am most grateful. The—fact is, I hoped especially to be able to settle in place just now. I—I'm hoping to save up enough to get married, sir."
"You are?" Tembarom exclaimed. "Good business! So was I before all this"—he glanced about him—"fell on top of me."
"I've been saving for three years, sir, and if I can know I'm a permanency—if I can keep this place—"
"You're going to keep it all right," Tembarom cheered him up with. "If you've got an idea you're going to be fired, just you forget it. Cut it right out."
"Is—I beg your pardon, sir," Pearson asked with timorous joy, "but is that the American for saying you'll be good enough to keep me on?"
Mr. Temple Barholm thought a second.
"Is 'keep me on' the English for 'let me stay'?"
"Then we're all right. Let's start from there. I'm going to have a heart-to-heart talk with you, Pearson."
"Thank you, sir," said Pearson in a deferential murmur. But if he was not dissatisfied, what was going to happen?
"It'll save us both trouble, and me most. I'm not one of those clever Clarences that can keep up a bluff, making out I know things I don't know. I couldn't deceive a setting hen or a Berlin wool antimacassar."
Pearson swallowed something with effort.
"You see, I fell into this thing KERCHUNK, and I'm just RATTLED—I'm rattled." As Pearson slightly coughed again, he translated for him, "That's American for 'I don't know where I'm at'."
"Those American jokes, sir, are very funny indeed," answered Pearson, appreciatively.
"Funny!" the new Mr. Temple Barholm exclaimed even aggrievedly. "If you think this lay-out is an American joke to me, Pearson, there's where you're 'way off. Do you think it a merry jest for a fellow like me to sit up in a high chair in a dining-room like a cathedral and not know whether he ought to bite his own bread or not? And not dare to stir till things are handed to him by five husky footmen? I thought that plain-clothes man was going to cut up my meat, and slap me on the back if I choked."
Pearson's sense of humor was perhaps not inordinate, but unseemly mirth, which he had swallowed at the reference to the setting hen and the Berlin wool antimacassar, momentarily got the better of him, despite his efforts to cough it down, and broke forth in a hoarse, ill-repressed sound.
"I beg pardon, sir," he said with a laudable endeavor to recover his professional bearing. "It's your—American way of expressing it which makes me forget myself. I beg pardon."
Tembarom laughed outright boyishly.
"Oh, cut that out," he said. "Say, how old are you?"
"So am I. If you'd met me three months ago, beating the streets of New York for a living, with holes in my shoes and a celluloid collar on, you'd have looked down on me. I know you would."
"Oh, no, sir," most falsely insisted Pearson.
"Oh, yes, you would," protested Tembarom, cheerfully. "You'd have said I talked through my nose, and I should have laughed at you for dropping your h's. Now you're rattled because I'm Mr. Temple Temple Barholm; but you're not half as rattled as I am."
"You'll get over it, sir, almost immediately," Pearson assured him, hopefully.
"Of course I shall," said Tembarom, with much courage. "But to start right I've got to get over YOU."
"Me, sir?" Pearson breathed anxiously.
"Yes. That's what I want to get off my chest. Now, first off, you came in here to try to explain to me that, owing to my New York valet having left my New York wardrobe behind, I've not got anything to wear, and so I shall have to buy some clothes."
"I failed to find any dress-shirts, sir," began Pearson, hesitatingly.
Mr. Temple Barholm grinned.
"I always failed to find them myself. I never had a dress-shirt. I never owned a suit of glad rags in my life."
"Gl—glad rags, sir?" stammered Pearson, uncertainly.
"I knew you didn't catch on when I said that to you before dinner. I mean claw-hammer and dress-suit things. Don't you be frightened, Pearson. I never had six good shirts at once, or two pair of shoes, or more than four ten-cent handkerchiefs at a time since I was born. And when Mr. Palford yanked me away from New York, he didn't suspect a fellow could be in such a state. And I didn't know I was in a state, anyhow. I was too busy to hunt up people to tell me, because I was rushing something important right through, and I couldn't stop. I just bought the first things I set eyes on and crammed them into my trunk. There, I guess you know the most of this, but you didn't know I knew you knew it. Now you do, and you needn't be afraid to hurt my feelings by telling me I haven't a darned thing I ought to have. You can go straight ahead."
As he leaned back, puffing away at his pipe, he had thrown a leg over the arm of his chair for greater comfort, and it really struck his valet that he had never seen a gentleman more at his ease, even one who WAS one. His casual candidness produced such a relief from the sense of strain and uncertainty that Pearson felt the color returning to his face. An opening had been given him, and it was possible for him to do his duty.
"If you wish, sir, I will make a list," he ventured further, "and the proper firms will send persons to bring things down from London on appro."
"What's 'appro' the English for?"
"Good business! Good old Pearson!"
"Thank you, sir. Shall I attend to it to-night, to be ready for the morning post?"
"In five minutes you shall. But you threw me off the track a bit. The thing I was really going to say was more important than the clothes business."
There was something else, then, thought Pearson, some other unexpected point of view.
"What have you to do for me, anyhow?"
"Valet you, sir."
"That's English for washing my face and combing my hair and putting my socks on, ain't it?"
"Well, sir, it means doing all you require, and being always in attendance when you change."
"How much do you get for it?"
"Thirty shillings a week, sir."
"Say, Pearson," said Tembarom, with honest feeling, "I'll give you sixty shillings a week NOT to do it."
Calmed though he had felt a few moments ago, it cannot be denied that Pearson was aghast. How could one be prepared for developments of such an order?
"Not to do it, sir!" he faltered. "But what would the servants think if you had no one to valet you?"
"That's so. What would they think?" But he evidently was not dismayed, for he smiled widely. "I guess the plainclothes man would throw a fit."
But Pearson's view was more serious and involved a knowledge of not improbable complications. He knew "the hall" and its points of view.
"I couldn't draw my wages, sir," he protested. "There'd be the greatest dissatisfaction among the other servants, sir, if I didn't do my duties. There's always a—a slight jealousy of valets and ladies'- maids. The general idea is that they do very little to earn their salaries. I've seen them fairly hated."
"Is that so? Well, I'll be darned! " remarked Mr. Temple Barholm. He gave a moment to reflection, and then cheered up immensely.
"I'll tell you how we'll fix it. You come up into my room and bring your tatting or read a newspaper while I dress." He openly chuckled. "Holy smoke! I've GOT to put on my shirt and swear at my collar- buttons myself. If I'm in for having a trained nurse do it for me, it'll give me the Willies. When you danced around me before dinner—"
Pearson's horror forced him to commit the indiscretion of interrupting.
"I hope I didn't DANCE, sir," he implored. "I tried to be extremely quiet."
"That was it," said Tembarom. "I shouldn't have said danced; I meant crept. I kept thinking I should tread on you, and I got so nervous toward the end I thought I should just break down and sob on your bosom and beg to be taken back to home and mother."
"I'm extremely sorry, sir, I am, indeed," apologized Pearson, doing his best not to give way to hysterical giggling. How was a man to keep a decently straight face, and if one didn't, where would it end? One thing after another.
"It was not your fault. It was mine. I haven't a thing against you. You're a first-rate little chap."
"I will try to be more satisfactory to-morrow."
There must be no laughing aloud, even if one burst a blood- vessel. It would not do. Pearson hastily confronted a vision of a young footman or Mr. Burrill himself passing through the corridors on some errand and hearing master and valet shouting together in unseemly and wholly incomprehensible mirth. And the next remark was worse than ever.
"No, you won't, Pearson," Mr. Temple Barholm asserted. "There's where you're wrong. I've got no more use for a valet than I have for a pair of straight-front corsets."
This contained a sobering suggestion.
"But you said, sir, that—"
"Oh, I'm not going to fire you," said Tembarom, genially. "I'll 'keep you on', but little Willie is going to put on his own socks. If the servants have to be pacified, you come up to my room and do anything you like. Lie on the bed if you want to; get a jew's-harp and play on it—any old thing to pass the time. And I'll raise your wages. What do you say? Is it fixed?"
"I'm here, sir, to do anything you require," Pearson answered distressedly; "but I'm afraid—"
Tembarom's face changed. A sudden thought had struck him.
"I'll tell you one thing you can do," he said; "you can valet that friend of mine."
"Mr. Strangeways, sir?"
"Yes. I've got a notion he wouldn't mind it." He was not joking now. He was in fact rather suddenly thoughtful.
"Say, Pearson, what do you think of him?"
"Well, sir, I've not seen much of him, and he says very little, but I should think he was a GENTLEMAN, sir."
Mr. Temple Barholm seemed to think it over.
"That's queer," he said as though to himself. "That's what Ann said." Then aloud, "Would you say he was an American?"
In his unavoidable interest in a matter much talked over below stairs and productive of great curiosity Pearson was betrayed. He could not explain to himself, after he had spoken, how he could have been such a fool as to forget; but forget himself and the birthplace of the new Mr. Temple Barholm he did.
"Oh, no, sir," he exclaimed hastily; "he's QUITE the gentleman, sir, even though he is queer in his mind." The next instant he caught himself and turned cold. An American or a Frenchman or an Italian, in fact, a native of any country on earth so slighted with an unconsciousness so natural, if he had been a man of hot temper, might have thrown something at him or kicked him out of the room; but Mr. Temple Barholm took his pipe out of his mouth and looked at him with a slow, broadening smile.
"Would you call me a gentleman, Pearson?" he asked.
Of course there was no retrieving such a blunder, Pearson felt, but—
"Certainly, sir," he stammered. "Most—most CERTAINLY, sir."
"Pearson," said Tembarom, shaking his head slowly, with a grin so good-natured that even the frankness of his words was friendly humor itself—"Pearson, you're a liar. But that doesn't jolt me a bit. I dare say I'm not one, anyhow. We might put an 'ad' in one of your papers and find out."
"I—I beg your pardon, sir," murmured Pearson in actual anguish of mind.
Mr. Temple Barholm laughed outright.
"Oh, I've not got it in for you. How could you help it?" he said. Then he stopped joking again. "If you want to please ME," he added with deliberation, "you look after Mr. Strangeways, and don't let anything disturb him. Don't bother him, but just find out what he wants. When he gets restless, come and tell me. If I'm out, tell him I'm coming back. Don't let him worry. You understand—don't let him worry."
"I'll do my best—my very best, sir," Pearson answered devoutly. "I've been nervous and excited this first day because I am so anxious to please—everything seems to depend on it just now," he added, daring another confidential outburst. "But you'll see I do know how to keep my wits about me in general, and I've got a good memory, and I have learned my duties, sir. I'll attend to Mr. Strangeways most particular."
As Tembarom listened, and watched his neat, blond countenance, and noted the undertone of quite desperate appeal in his low voice, he was thinking of a number of things. Chiefly he was thinking of little Ann Hutchinson and the Harlem flat which might have been "run" on fifteen dollars a week.
"I want to know I have some one in this museum of a place who'll UNDERSTAND," he said—"some one who'll do just exactly what I say and ask no fool questions and keep his mouth shut. I believe you could do it."
"I'll swear I could, sir. Trust me," was Pearson's astonishingly emotional and hasty answer.
"I'm going to," returned Mr. Temple Barholm. "I've set my mind on putting something through in my own way. It's a queer thing, and most people would say I was a fool for trying it. Mr. Hutchinson does, but Miss Hutchinson doesn't."
There was a note in his tone of saying "Miss Hutchinson doesn't" which opened up vistas to Pearson—strange vistas when one thought of old Mrs. Hutchinson's cottage and the estate of Temple Barholm.
"We're just about the same age," his employer continued, "and in a sort of way we're in just about the same fix."
Their eyes looked into each other's a second; but it was not for Pearson to presume to make any comment whatsoever upon the possible nature of "the fix." Two or three more puffs, and Mr. Temple Barholm spoke again.
"Say, Pearson, I don't want to butt in, but what about that little bunch of calico of yours—the one you're saving up for?"
"Calico, sir?" said Pearson, at sea, but hopeful. Whatsoever the new Mr. Temple Barholm meant, one began to realize that it was not likely to be unfriendly.
"That's American for HER, Pearson. 'Her' stands for the same thing both in English and American, I guess. What's her name and where is she? Don't you say a word if you don't want to."
Pearson drew a step nearer. There was an extraordinary human atmosphere in the room which caused things to begin to go on in his breast. He had had a harder life than Tembarom because he had been more timid and less buoyant and less unselfconscious. He had been beaten by a drunken mother and kicked by a drunken father. He had gone hungry and faint to the board school and had been punished as a dull boy. After he had struggled into a place as page, he had been bullied by footmen and had had his ears boxed by cooks and butlers. Ladies'- maids and smart housemaids had sneered at him, and made him feel himself a hopeless, vulgar little worm who never would "get on." But he had got on, in a measure, because he had worked like a slave and openly resented nothing. A place like this had been his fevered hope and dream from his page days, though of course his imagination had not encompassed attendance on a gentleman who had never owned a dress- shirt in his life. Yet gentleman or no gentleman, he was a Temple Barholm, and there was something about him, something human in his young voice and grin and queer, unheard-of New York jokes, which Pearson had never encountered, and which had the effect of making him feel somehow more of a man than his timorous nature had ever allowed of his feeling before. It suggested that they were both, valet and master, merely masculine human creatures of like kind. The way he had said "Miss Hutchinson" and the twinkle in his eye when he'd made that American joke about the "little bunch of calico"! The curious fact was that thin, neat, white-blooded-looking Pearson was passionately in love. So he took the step nearer and grew hot and spoke low.
"Her name is Rose Merrick, sir, and she's in place in London. She's lady's-maid to a lady of title, and it isn't an easy place. Her lady has a high temper, and she's economical with her servants. Her maid has to sew early and late, and turn out as much as if she was a whole dressmaking establishment. She's clever with her needle, and it would be easier if she felt it was appreciated. But she's treated haughty and severe, though she tries her very best. She has to wait up half the night after balls, and I'm afraid it's breaking her spirit and her health. That's why,—I beg your pardon, sir," he added, his voice shaking—"that's why I'd bear anything on earth if I could give her a little home of her own."
"Gee whizz!" ejaculated Mr. Temple Barholm, with feeling. "I guess you would!"
"And that's not all, sir," said Pearson. "She's a beautiful girl, sir, with a figure, and service is sometimes not easy for a young woman like that. His lordship—the master of the house, sir,—is much too attentive. He's a man with bad habits; the last lady's-maid was sent away in disgrace. Her ladyship wouldn't believe she hadn't been forward when she saw things she didn't like, though every one in the hall knew the girl hated his bold ways with her, and her mother nearly broke her heart. He's begun with Rose, and it just drives me mad, sir, it does!"
He choked, and wiped his forehead with his clean handkerchief. It was damp, and his young eyes had fire in them, as Mr. Temple Barholm did not fail to observe.
"I'm taking a liberty talking to you like this, sir," he said. "I'm behaving as if I didn't know my place, sir."
"Your place is behind that fellow, kicking him till he'll never sit down again except on eider-down cushions three deep," remarked Mr. Temple Barholm, with fire in his eyes also. "That's where your place is. It's where mine would be if I was in the same house with him and caught him making a goat of himself. I bet nine Englishmen out of ten would break his darned neck for him if they got on to his little ways, even if they were lordships themselves."
"The decent ones won't know," Pearson said. "That's not what happens, sir. He can laugh and chaff it off with her ladyship and coax her round. But a girl that's discharged like that, Rose says, that's the worst of it: she says she's got a character fastened on to her for life that no respectable man ought to marry her with."
Mr. Temple Barholm removed his leg from the arm of his chair and got up. Long-legged, sinewy, but somewhat slouchy in his badly made tweed suit, sharp New York face and awful American style notwithstanding, he still looked rather nice as he laid his hand on his valet's shoulder and gave him a friendly push.
"See here," he said. "What you've got to say to Rose is that she's just got to cut that sort of thing out—cut it right out. Talking to a man that's in love with her as if he was likely to throw her down because lies were told. Tell her to forget it —forget it quick. Why, what does she suppose a man's FOR, by jinks? What's he FOR?"
"I've told her that, sir, though of course not in American. I just swore it on my knees in Hyde Park one night when she got out for an hour. But she laid her poor head on the back of the bench and cried and wouldn't listen. She says she cares for me too much to—"
Tembarom's hand clutched his shoulder. His face lighted and glowed suddenly.
"Care for you too much," he asked. "Did she say that? God bless her!"
"That's what I said," broke in Pearson.
"I heard another girl say that—just before I left New York—a girl that's just a wonder," said his master. "A girl can be a wonder, can't she?"
"Rose is, sir," protested Pearson. "She is, indeed, sir. And her eyes are that blue—"
"Blue, are they? " interrupted Tembarom. "I know the kind. I'm on to the whole thing. And what's more, I'm going to fix it. You tell Rose— and tell her from me—that she's going to leave that place, and you're going to stay in this one, and—well, presently things'll begin to happen. They're going to be all right—ALL RIGHT," he went on, with immensely convincing emphasis. "She's going to have that little home of her own." He paused a moment for reflection, and then a sudden thought presented itself to him. "Why, darn it!" he exclaimed, "there must be a whole raft of little homes that belong to me in one place or another. Why couldn't I fix you both up in one of them?"
"Oh, sir!" Pearson broke forth in some slight alarm. He went so fast and so far all in a moment. And Pearson really possessed a neat, well- ordered conscience, and, moreover, "knew his place." "I hope I didn't seem to be expecting you to trouble yourself about me, sir. I mustn't presume on your kindness."
"It's not kindness; it's—well, it's just human. I'm going to think this thing over. You just keep your hair on, and let me do my own valeting, and you'll see I'll fix it for you somehow."
What he thought of doing, how he thought of doing it, and what Pearson was to expect, the agitated young man did not know. The situation was of course abnormal, judged by all respectable, long-established custom. A man's valet and his valet's "young woman" were not usually of intimate interest. Gentlemen were sometimes "kind" to you—gave you half a sovereign or even a sovereign, and perhaps asked after your mother if you were supporting one; but—
"I never dreamed of going so far, sir," he said. "I forgot myself, I'm afraid."
"Good thing you did. It's made me feel as if we were brothers." He laughed again, enjoying the thought of the little thing who cared for Pearson "too much" and had eyes that were "that blue." "Say, I've just thought of something else. Have you bought her an engagement-ring yet?"
"No, sir. In our class of life jewelry is beyond the means."
"I just wondered," Mr. Temple Barholm said. He seemed to be thinking of something that pleased him as he fumbled for his pocket-book and took a clean banknote out of it. "I'm not on to what the value of this thing is in real money, but you go and buy her a ring with it, and I bet she'll be so pleased you'll have the time of your life."
Pearson taking it; and recognizing its value in UNreal money, was embarrassed by feeling the necessity of explanation.
"This is a five-pound note, sir. It's too much, sir, it is indeed. This would FURNISH THE FRONT PARLOR." He said it almost solemnly.
Mr. Temple Barholm looked at the note interestedly.
"Would it? By jinks!" and his laugh had a certain softness of recollection. "I guess that's just what Ann would say. She'd know what it would furnish, you bet your life!"
"I'm most grateful, sir," protested Pearson, "but I oughtn't to take it. Being an American gentleman and not accustomed to English money, you don't realize that—"
"I'm not accustomed to any kind of money," said his master. "I'm scared to be left alone in the room with it. That's what's the matter. If I don't give some away, I shall never know I've got it. Cheer up, Pearson. You take that and buy the ring, and when you start furnishing, I'll see you don't get left."
"I don't know what to say, sir," Pearson faltered emotionally. "I don't, indeed."
"Don't say a darned thing," replied Mr. Temple Barholm. And just here his face changed as Mr. Palford had seen it change before, and as Pearson often saw it change later. His New York jocular irreverence dropped from him, and he looked mature and oddly serious.
"I've tried to sort of put you wise to the way I've lived and the things I HAVEN'T had ever since I was born," he said, "but I guess you don't really know a thing about it. I've got more money coming in every year than a thousand of me would ever expect to see in their lives, according to my calculation. And I don't know how to do any of the things a fellow who is what you call 'a gentleman' would know how to do. I mean in the way of spending it. Now, I've got to get some fun out of it. I should be a mutt if I didn't, so I'm going to spend it my own way. I may make about seventy-five different kinds of a fool of myself, but I guess I sha'n't do any particular harm."
"You'll do good, sir,—to every one."
"Shall I?—said Tembarom, speculatively. "Well, I'm not exactly setting out with that in my mind. I'm no Young Men's Christian Association, but I'm not in for doing harm, anyway. You take your five-pound note—come to think of it, Palford said it came to about twenty- five dollars, real money. Hully gee! I never thought I'd have twenty-five dollars to GIVE AWAY! It makes me feel like I was Morgan."
"Thank you, sir; thank you," said Pearson, putting the note into his pocket with rapt gratitude in his neat face. "You —you do not wish me to remain—to do anything for you?"
"Not a thing. But just go and find out if Mr. Strangeways is asleep. If he isn't and seems restless, I'll come and have a talk with him."
"Yes, sir," said Pearson, and went at once.
In the course of two days Mr. Palford, having given his client the benefit of his own exact professional knowledge of the estate of Temple Barholm and its workings and privileges as far as he found them transferable and likely to be understood, returned to London, breathing perhaps something like a sigh of relief when the train steamed out of the little station. Whatsoever happened in days to come, Palford & Grimby had done their most trying and awkward duty by the latest Temple Barholm. Bradford, who was the steward of the estate, would now take him over, and could be trusted to furnish practical information of any ordinary order.
It did not appear to Mr. Palford that the new inheritor was particularly interested in his possessions or exhilarated by the extraordinary turn in his fortunes. The enormity of Temple Barholm itself, regarded as a house to live in in an everyday manner, seemed somewhat to depress him. When he was taken over its hundred and fifty rooms, he wore a detached air as he looked about him, and such remarks as he made were of an extraordinary nature and expressed in terms peculiar to America. Neither Mr. Palford nor Burrill understood them, but a young footman who was said to have once paid a visit to New York, and who chanced to be in the picture-gallery when his new master was looking at the portraits of his ancestors, over-hearing one observation, was guilty of a convulsive snort, and immediately made his way into the corridor, coughing violently. From this Mr. Palford gathered that one of the transatlantic jokes had been made. That was the New York idea—to be jocular. Yet he had not looked jocular when he had made the remark which had upset the equilibrium of the young footman. He had, in fact, looked reflective before speaking as he stood and studied a portrait of one of his ancestors. But, then, he had a trick of saying things incomprehensibly ridiculous with an unmoved expression of gravity, which led Palford to feel that he was ridiculous through utter ignorance and was not aware that he was exposing the fact. Persons who thought that an air of seriousness added to a humorous remark were especially annoying to the solicitor, because they frequently betrayed one into the position of seeming to be dull in the matter of seeing a point. That, he had observed, was often part of the New York manner—to make a totally absurdly exaggerated or seemingly ignorance-revealing observation, and then leave one's hearer to decide for himself whether the speaker was an absolute ignoramus and fool or a humorist.
More than once he had somewhat suspected his client of meaning to "get a rise out of him," after the odious manner of the tourists described in "The Innocents Abroad," though at the same time he felt rather supportingly sure of the fact that generally, when he displayed ignorance, he displayed it because he was a positive encyclopedia of lack of knowledge.
He knew no more of social customs, literature, and art than any other street lad. He had not belonged to the aspiring self-taught, who meritoriously haunt the night schools and free libraries with a view to improving their minds. If this had been his method, he might in one sense have been more difficult to handle, as Palford had seen the thing result in a bumptiousness most objectionable. He was markedly not bumptious, at all events.
A certain degree of interest in or curiosity concerning his ancestors as represented in the picture-gallery Mr. Palford had observed. He had stared at them and had said queer things —sometimes things which perhaps indicated a kind of uneducated thought. The fact that some of them looked so thoroughly alive, and yet had lived centuries ago, seemed to set him reflecting oddly. His curiosity, however, seemed to connect itself with them more as human creatures than as historical figures.
"What did that one do?" he inquired more than once. "What did he start, or didn't he start anything?"
When he disturbed the young footman he had stopped before a dark man in armor.
"Who's this fellow in the tin overcoat?" he asked seriously, and Palford felt it was quite possible that he had no actual intent of being humorous.
"That is Miles Gaspard Nevil John, who fought in the Crusades with Richard Coeur de Lion," he explained. "He is wearing a suit of armor." By this time the footman was coughing in the corridor.
"That's English history, I guess," Tembarom replied. "I'll have to get a history-book and read up about the Crusades."
He went on farther, and paused with a slightly puzzled expression before a boy in a costume of the period of Charles II.
"Who's this Fauntleroy in the lace collar?" he inquired. "Queer!" he added, as though to himself. "I can't ever have seen him in New York." And he took a step backward to look again.
"That is Miles Hugo Charles James, who was a page at the court of Charles II. He died at nineteen, and was succeeded by his brother Denzel Maurice John."
"I feel as if I'd had a dream about him sometime or other," said Tembarom, and he stood still a few seconds before he passed on. "Perhaps I saw something like him getting out of a carriage to go into the Van Twillers' fancy-dress ball. Seems as if I'd got the whole show shut up in here. And you say they're all my own relations?" Then he laughed. "If they were alive now!" he said. "By jinks!"