"Push that thing in the middle on one side, Burrill," he said. "It's too high. I can't see Miss Alicia."
Burrill found it difficult to believe the evidence of his hearing.
"The epergne, sir? " he inquired.
"Is that what it's called, an apern? That's a new one on me. Yes, that's what I mean. Push the apern over."
"Shall I remove it from the table, sir?" Burrill steeled himself to exact civility. Of what use to behave otherwise? There always remained the liberty to give notice if the worst came to the worst, though what the worst might eventually prove to be it required a lurid imagination to depict. The epergne was a beautiful thing of crystal and gold, a celebrated work of art, regarded as an exquisite possession. It was almost remarkable that Mr. Temple Barholm had not said, "Shove it on one side," but Burrill had been spared the poignant indignity of being required to "shove."
"Yes, suppose you do. It's a fine enough thing when it isn't in the way, but I've got to see you while I talk, Miss Alicia," said Mr. Temple Barholm. The episode of the epergne— Burrill's expression, and the rigidly restrained mouths of Henry and James as the decoration was removed, leaving a painfully blank space of table-cloth until Burrill silently filled it with flowers in a low bowl—these things temporarily flurried Miss Alicia somewhat, but the pleased smile at the head of the table calmed even that trying moment.
Then what a delightful meal it was, to be sure! How entertaining and cheerful and full of interesting conversation! Miss Alicia had always admired what she reverently termed "conversation." She had read of the houses of brilliant people where they had it at table, at dinner and supper parties, and in drawing-rooms. The French, especially the French ladies, were brilliant conversationalists. They held "salons" in which the conversation was wonderful—Mme. de Stael and Mme. Roland, for instance; and in England, Lady Mary Wortley Montague, Sydney Smith, and Horace Walpole, and surely Miss Fanny Burney, and no doubt L. E. L., whose real name was Miss Letitia Elizabeth Landon— what conversation they must have delighted their friends with and how instructive it must have been even to sit in the most obscure corner and listen!
Such gifted persons seemed to have been chosen by Providence to delight and inspire every one privileged to hear them. Such privileges had been omitted from the scheme of Miss Alicia's existence. She did not know, she would have felt it sacrilegious to admit it even if the fact had dawned upon her, that "dear papa" had been a heartlessly arrogant, utterly selfish, and tyrannical old blackguard of the most pronounced type. He had been of an absolute morality as far as social laws were concerned. He had written and delivered a denunciatory sermon a week, and had made unbearable by his ministrations the suffering hours and the last moments of his parishioners during the long years of his pastorate. When Miss Alicia, in reading records of the helpful relationship of the male progenitors of the Brontes, Jane Austen, Fanny Burney, and Mrs. Browning, was frequently reminded of him, she revealed a perception of which she was not aware. He had combined the virile qualities of all of them. Consequently, brilliancy of conversation at table had not been the attractive habit of the household; "poor dear papa" had confined himself to scathing criticism of the incompetence of females who could not teach their menials to "cook a dinner which was not a disgrace to any decent household." When not virulently aspersing the mutton, he was expressing his opinion of muddle-headed weakness which would permit household bills to mount in a manner which could only bring ruin and disaster upon a minister of the gospel who throughout a protracted career of usefulness had sapped his intellectual manhood in the useless effort to support in silly idleness a family of brainless and maddening fools. Miss Alicia had heard her character, her unsuccessful physical appearance, her mind, and her pitiful efforts at table-talk, described in detail with a choice of adjective and adverb which had broken into terrified fragments every atom of courage and will with which she had been sparsely dowered.
So, not having herself been gifted with conversational powers to begin with, and never having enjoyed the exhibition of such powers in others, her ideals had been high. She was not sure that Mr. Temple Barholm's fluent and cheerful talk could be with exactness termed "conversation." It was perhaps not sufficiently lofty and intellectual, and did not confine itself rigorously to one exalted subject. But how it did raise one's spirits and open up curious vistas! And how good tempered and humorous it was, even though sometimes the humor was a little bewildering! During the whole dinner there never occurred even one of those dreadful pauses in which dead silence fell, and one tried, like a frightened hen flying from side to side of a coop, to think of something to say which would not sound silly, but perhaps might divert attention from dangerous topics. She had often thought it would be so interesting to hear a Spaniard or a native Hindu talk about himself and his own country in English. Tembarom talked about New York and its people and atmosphere, and he did not know how foreign it all was. He described the streets—Fifth Avenue and Broadway and Sixth Avenue—and the street-cars and the elevated railroad, and the way "fellows" had to "hustle" "to put it over." He spoke of a boarding-house kept by a certain Mrs. Bowse, and a presidential campaign, and the election of a mayor, and a quick- lunch counter, and when President Garfield had been assassinated, and a department store; and the electric lights, and the way he had of making a sort of picture of everything was really instructive and, well, fascinating. She felt as though she had been taken about the city in one of the vehicles the conductor of which described things through a megaphone.
Not that Mr. Temple Barholm suggested a megaphone, whatsoever that might be, but he merely made you feel as if you had seen things. Never had she been so entertained and enlightened. If she had been a beautiful girl, he could not have seemed more as though in amusing her he was also really pleasing himself. He was so very funny sometimes that she could not help laughing in a way which was almost unladylike, because she could not stop, and was obliged to put her handkerchief up to her face and wipe away actual tears of mirth.
Fancy laughing until you cried, and the servants looking on!
Once Burrill himself was obliged to turn hastily away, and twice she heard him severely reprove an overpowered young footman in a rapid undertone.
Tembarom at least felt that the unlifting heaviness of atmosphere which had surrounded him while enjoying the companionship of Mr. Palford was a thing of the past.
The thrilled interest, the surprise and delight of Miss Alicia would have stimulated a man in a comatose condition, it seemed to him. The little thing just loved every bit of it—she just "eat it up." She asked question after question, sometimes questions which would have made him shout with laughter if he had not been afraid of hurting her feelings. She knew as little of New York as he knew of Temple Barholm, and was, it made him grin to see, allured by it as by some illicit fascination. She did not know what to make of it, and sometimes she was obliged hastily to conceal a fear that it was a sort of Sodom and Gomorrah; but she wanted to hear more about it, and still more.
And she brightened up until she actually did not look frightened, and ate her dinner with an excellent appetite.
"I really never enjoyed a dinner so much in my life," she said when they went into the drawing-room to have their coffee. "It was the conversation which made it so delightful. Conversation is such a stimulating thing!"
She had almost decided that it was "conversation," or at least a wonderful substitute.
When she said good night to him and went beaming to bed, looking forward immensely to breakfast next morning, he watched her go up the staircase, feeling wonderfully normal and happy.
"Some of these nights, when she's used to me," he said as he stuffed tobacco into his last pipe in the library—"some of these nights I'm darned if I sha'n't catch hold of the sweet, little old thing and hug her in spite of myself. I sha'n't be able to help it." He lit his pipe, and puffed it even excitedly. "Lord!" he said, "there's some blame' fool going about the world right now that might have married her. And he'll never know what a break he made when he didn't."
A fugitive fine day which had strayed into the month from the approaching spring appeared the next morning, and Miss Alicia was uplifted by the enrapturing suggestion that she should join her new relative in taking a walk, in fact that it should be she who took him to walk and showed him some of his possessions. This, it had revealed itself to him, she could do in a special way of her own, because during her life at Temple Barholm she had felt it her duty to "try to do a little good" among the villagers. She and her long-dead mother and sister had of course been working adjuncts of the vicarage, and had numerous somewhat trying tasks to perform in the way of improving upon "dear papa's" harrying them into attending church, chivying the mothers into sending their children to Sunday-school, and being unsparing in severity of any conduct which might be construed into implying lack of appreciation of the vicar or respect for his eloquence.
It had been necessary for them as members of the vicar's family— always, of course, without adding a sixpence to the household bills— to supply bowls of nourishing broth and arrowroot to invalids and to bestow the aid and encouragement which result in a man of God's being regarded with affection and gratitude by his parishioners. Many a man's career in the church, "dear papa" had frequently observed, had been ruined by lack of intelligence and effort on the part of the female members of his family.
"No man could achieve proper results," he had said, "if he was hampered by the selfish influence and foolishness of his womenkind. Success in the church depends in one sense very much upon the conduct of a man's female relatives."
After the deaths of her mother and sister, Miss Alicia had toiled on patiently, fading day by day from a slim, plain, sweet-faced girl to a slim, even plainer and sweeter-faced middle-aged and at last elderly woman. She had by that time read aloud by bedsides a great many chapters in the Bible, had given a good many tracts, and bestowed as much arrowroot, barley-water, and beef-tea as she could possibly encompass without domestic disaster. She had given a large amount of conscientious, if not too intelligent, advice, and had never failed to preside over her Sunday-school class or at mothers' meetings. But her timid unimpressiveness had not aroused enthusiasm or awakened comprehension. "Miss Alicia," the cottage women said, "she's well meanin', but she's not one with a head." "She reminds me," one of them had summed her up, "of a hen that lays a' egg every day, but it's too small for a meal, and 'u'd never hatch into anythin'."
During her stay at Temple Barholm she had tentatively tried to do a little "parish work," but she had had nothing to give, and she was always afraid that if Mr. Temple Barholm found her out, he would be angry, because he would think she was presuming. She was aware that the villagers knew that she was an object of charity herself, and a person who was "a lady" and yet an object of charity was, so to speak, poaching upon their own legitimate preserves. The rector and his wife were rather grand people, and condescended to her greatly on the few occasions of their accidental meetings. She was neither smart nor influential enough to be considered as an asset.
It was she who "conversed" during their walk, and while she trotted by Tembarom's side looking more early-Victorian than ever in a neat, fringed mantle and a small black bonnet of a fashion long decently interred by a changing world, Tembarom had never seen anything resembling it in New York; but he liked it and her increasingly at every moment.
It was he who made her converse. He led her on by asking her questions and being greatly interested in every response she made. In fact, though he was quite unaware of the situation, she was creating for him such an atmosphere as he might have found in a book, if he had had the habit of books. Everything she told him was new and quaint and very often rather touching. She related anecdotes about herself and her poor little past without knowing she was doing it. Before they had talked an hour he had an astonishing clear idea of "poor dear papa" and "dearest Emily" and "poor darling mama" and existence at Rowcroft Vicarage. He "caught on to" the fact that though she was very much given to the word "dear,"—people were "dear," and so were things and places,—she never even by chance slipped into saying "dear Rowcroft," which she would certainly have done if she had ever spent a happy moment in it.
As she talked to him he realized that her simple accustomedness to English village life and all its accompaniments of county surroundings would teach him anything and everything he might want to know. Her obscurity had been surrounded by stately magnificence, with which she had become familiar without touching the merest outskirts of its privileges. She knew names and customs and families and things to be cultivated or avoided, and though she would be a little startled and much mystified by his total ignorance of all she had breathed in since her birth, he felt sure that she would not regard him either with private contempt or with a lessened liking because he was a vandal pure and simple.
And she had such a nice, little, old polite way of saying things. When, in passing a group of children, he failed to understand that their hasty bobbing up and down meant that they were doing obeisance to him as lord of the manor, she spoke with the prettiest apologetic courtesy.
"I'm sure you won't mind touching your hat when they make their little curtsies, or when a villager touches his forehead," she said.
"Good Lord! no," he said, starting. "Ought I? I didn't know they were doing it at me." And he turned round and made a handsome bow and grinned almost affectionately at the small, amazed party, first puzzling, and then delighting, them, because he looked so extraordinarily friendly. A gentleman who laughed at you like that ought to be equal to a miscellaneous distribution of pennies in the future, if not on the spot. They themselves grinned and chuckled and nudged one another, with stares and giggles.
"I am sorry to say that in a great many places the villagers are not nearly so respectful as they used to be," Miss Alicia explained. "In Rowcroft the children were very remiss about curtseying. It's quite sad. But Mr. Temple Barholm was very strict indeed in the matter of demanding proper respectfulness. He has turned men off their farms for incivility. The villagers of Temple Barholm have much better manners than some even a few miles away."
"Must I tip my hat to all of them?" he asked.
"If you please. It really seems kinder. You—you needn't quite lift it, as you did to the children just now. If you just touch the brim lightly with your hand in a sort of military salute—that is what they are accustomed to."
After they had passed through the village street she paused at the end of a short lane and looked up at him doubtfully.
"Would you—I wonder if you would like to go into a cottage," she said.
"Go into a cottage?" he asked. "What cottage? What for?"
He had not the remotest idea of any reason why he should go into a cottage inhabited by people who were entire strangers to him, and Miss Alicia felt a trifle awkward at having to explain anything so wholly natural.
"You see, they are your cottages, and the people are your tenants, and—"
"But perhaps they mightn't like it. It might make 'em mad," he argued. "If their water-pipes had busted, and they'd asked me to come and look at them or anything; but they don't know me yet. They might think I was Mr. Buttinski."
"I don't quite—" she began. "Buttinski is a foreign name; it sounds Russian or Polish. I'm afraid I don't quite understand why they should mistake you for him."
Then he laughed—a boyish shout of laughter which brought a cottager to the nearest window to peep over the pots of fuchsias and geraniums blooming profusely against the diamond panes.
"Say," he apologized, "don't be mad because I laughed. I'm laughing at myself as much as at anything. It's a way of saying that they might think I was 'butting in' too much— pushing in where I wasn't asked. See? I said they might think I was Mr. Butt-in-ski! It's just a bit of fool slang. You're not mad, are you?"
"Oh, no!" she said. "Dear me! no. It is very funny, of course. I'm afraid I'm extremely ignorant about—about foreign humor" It seemed more delicate to say "foreign" than merely "American." But her gentle little countenance for a few seconds wore a baffled expression, and she said softly to herself, "Mr. Buttinski, Butt-in—to intrude. It sounds quite Polish; I think even more Polish than Russian."
He was afraid he would yell with glee, but he did not. Herculean effort enabled him to restrain his feelings, and present to her only an ordinary-sized smile.
"I shouldn't know one from the other," he said; "but if you say it sounds more Polish, I bet it does."
"Would you like to go into a cottage?" she inquired. "I think it might be as well. They will like the attention."
"Will they? Of course I'll go if you think that. What shall I say?" he asked somewhat anxiously.
"If you think the cottage looks clean, you might tell them so, and ask a few questions about things. And you must be sure to inquire about Susan Hibblethwaite's legs."
"What?" ejaculated Tembarom.
"Susan Hibblethwaite's legs," she replied in mild explanation. "Susan is Mr. Hibblethwaite's unmarried sister, and she has very bad legs. It is a thing one notices continually among village people, more especially the women, that they complain of what they call 'bad legs.' I never quite know what they mean, whether it is rheumatism or something different, but the trouble is always spoken of as 'bad legs' And they like you to inquire about them, so that they can tell you their symptoms."
"Why don't they get them cured?"
"I don't know, I'm sure. They take a good deal of medicine when they can afford it. I think they like to take it. They're very pleased when the doctor gives them 'a bottle o' summat,' as they call it. Oh, I mustn't forget to tell you that most of them speak rather broad Lancashire."
"Shall I understand them?" Tembarom asked, anxious again. "Is it a sort of Dago talk?"
"It is the English the working-classes speak in Lancashire. 'Summat' means 'something.' 'Whoam' means 'home.' But I should think you would be very clever at understanding things."
"I'm scared stiff," said Tembarom, not in the least uncourageously; "but I want to go into a cottage and hear some of it. Which one shall we go into?"
There were several whitewashed cottages in the lane, each in its own bit of garden and behind its own hawthorn hedge, now bare and wholly unsuggestive of white blossoms and almond scent to the uninitiated. Miss Alicia hesitated a moment.
"We will go into this one, where the Hibblethwaites live," she decided. "They are quite clean, civil people. They have a naughty, queer, little crippled boy, but I suppose they can't keep him in order because he is an invalid. He's rather rude, I'm sorry to say, but he's rather sharp and clever, too. He seems to lie on his sofa and collect all the gossip of the village."
They went together up the bricked path, and Miss Alicia knocked at the low door with her knuckles. A stout, apple-faced woman opened it, looking a shade nervous.
"Good morning, Mrs. Hibblethwaite," said Miss Alicia in a kind but remote manner. "The new Mr. Temple Barholm has been kind enough to come to see you. It's very good of him to come so soon, isn't it?"
"It is that," Mrs. Hibblethwaite answered respectfully, looking him over. "Wilt tha coom in, sir?"
Tembarom accepted the invitation, feeling extremely awkward because Miss Alicia's initiatory comment upon his goodness in showing himself had "rattled" him. It had made him feel that he must appear condescending, and he had never condescended to any one in the whole course of his existence. He had, indeed, not even been condescended to. He had met with slanging and bullying, indifference and brutality of manner, but he had not met with condescension.
"I hope you're well, Mrs. Hibblethwaite," he answered. "You look it."
"I deceive ma looks a good bit, sir," she answered. "Mony a day ma legs is nigh as bad as Susan's."
"Tha 'rt jealous o' Susan's legs," barked out a sharp voice from a corner by the fire.
The room had a flagged floor, clean with recent scrubbing with sandstone; the whitewashed walls were decorated with pictures cut from illustrated papers; there was a big fireplace, and by it was a hard- looking sofa covered with blue- and-white checked cotton stuff. A boy of about ten was lying on it, propped up with a pillow. He had a big head and a keen, ferret-eyed face, and just now was looking round the end of his sofa at the visitors. "Howd tha tongue, Tummas! " said his mother. "I wunnot howd it," Tummas answered. "Ma tongue's th' on'y thing about me as works right, an' I'm noan goin' to stop it."
"He's a young nowt," his mother explained; "but, he's a cripple, an' we conna do owt wi' him."
"Do not be rude, Thomas," said Miss Alicia, with dignity.
"Dunnot be rude thysen," replied Tummas. "I'm noan o' thy lad."
Tembarom walked over to the sofa.
"Say," he began with jocular intent, "you've got a grouch on, ain't you?"
Tummas turned on him eyes which bored. An analytical observer or a painter might have seen that he had a burning curiousness of look, a sort of investigatory fever of expression.
"I dunnot know what tha means," he said. "Happen tha'rt talkin' 'Merican?"
"That's just what it is," admitted Tembarom. " What are you talking?"
"Lancashire," said Tummas. "Theer's some sense i' that."
Tembarom sat down near him. The boy turned over against his pillow and put his chin in the hollow of his palm and stared.
"I've wanted to see thee," he remarked. "I've made mother an' Aunt Susan an' feyther tell me every bit they've heared about thee in the village. Theer was a lot of it. Tha coom fro' 'Meriker?"
"Yes." Tembarom began vaguely to feel the demand in the burning curiosity.
"Gi' me that theer book," the boy said, pointing to a small table heaped with a miscellaneous jumble of things and standing not far from him. "It's a' atlas," he added as Tembarom gave it to him. "Yo' con find places in it." He turned the leaves until he found a map of the world. "Theer's 'Meriker," he said, pointing to the United States. "That theer's north and that theer's south. All th' real 'Merikens comes from the North, wheer New York is."
"I come from New York," said Tembarom.
"Tha wert born i' th' workhouse, tha run about th' streets i' rags, tha pretty nigh clemmed to death, tha blacked boots, tha sold newspapers, tha feyther was a common workin'-mon— and now tha's coom into Temple Barholm an' sixty thousand a year."
"The last part's true all right," Tembarom owned, "but there's some mistakes in the first part. I wasn't born in the workhouse, and though I've been hungry enough, I never starved to death—if that's what 'clemmed' means."
Tummas looked at once disappointed and somewhat incredulous.
"That's th' road they tell it i' th' village," he argued.
"Well, let them tell it that way if they like it best. That's not going to worry me," Tembarom replied uncombatively.
Tummas's eyes bored deeper into him.
"Does na tha care?" he demanded.
"What should I care for? Let every fellow enjoy himself his own way."
"Tha'rt not a bit like one o' th' gentry," said Tummas. "Tha'rt quite a common chap. Tha'rt as common as me, for aw tha foine clothes."
"People are common enough, anyhow," said Tembarom. "There's nothing much commoner, is there? There's millions of 'em everywhere — billions of 'em. None of us need put on airs."
"Tha'rt as common as me," said Tummas, reflectively. "An' yet tha owns Temple Barholm an' aw that brass. I conna mak' out how th' loike happens."
"Neither can I; but it does all samee."
"It does na happen i' 'Meriker," exulted Tummas. "Everybody's equal theer."
"Rats!" ejaculated Tembarom. "What about multimillionaires?"
He forgot that the age of Tummas was ten. It was impossible not to forget it. He was, in fact, ten hundred, if those of his generation had been aware of the truth. But there he sat, having spent only a decade of his most recent incarnation in a whitewashed cottage, deprived of the use of his legs.
Miss Alicia, seeing that Tembarom was interested in the boy, entered into domestic conversation with Mrs. Hibblethwaite at the other side of the room. Mrs. Hibblethwaite was soon explaining the uncertainty of Susan's temper on wash-days, when it was necessary to depend on her legs.
"Can't you walk at all?" Tembarom asked. Tummas shook his head. "How long have you been lame?"
"Ever since I wur born. It's summat like rickets. I've been lyin' here aw my days. I look on at foak an' think 'em over. I've got to do summat. That's why I loike th' atlas. Little Ann Hutchinson gave it to me onct when she come to see her grandmother."
Tembarom sat upright.
"Do you know her?" he exclaimed.
"I know her best o' onybody in th' world. An' I loike her best."
"So do I," rashly admitted Tembarom.
"Tha does?" Tummas asked suspiciously. "Does she loike thee?"
"She says she does." He tried to say it with proper modesty.
"Well, if she says she does, she does. An' if she does, then yo an' me'll be friends." He stopped a moment, and seemed to be taking Tembarom in with thoroughness. "I could get a lot out o' thee," he said after the inspection.
"A lot of what?" Tembarom felt as though he would really like to hear.
"A lot o' things I want to know about. I wish I'd lived th' life tha's lived, clemmin' or no clemmin'. Tha's seen things goin' on every day o' thy loife."
"Well, yes, there's been plenty going on, plenty," Tembarom admitted.
"I've been lying here for ten year'," said Tummas, savagely. "An' I've had nowt i' th' world to do an' nowt to think on but what I could mak' foak tell me about th' village. But nowt happens but this chap gettin' drunk an' that chap deein' or losin' his place, or wenches gettin' married or havin' childer. I know everything that happens, but it's nowt but a lot o' women clackin'. If I'd not been a cripple, I'd ha' been at work for mony a year by now, 'arnin' money to save by an' go to 'Meriker."
"You seem to be sort of stuck on America. How's that?"
"What dost mean?"
"I mean you seem to like it."
"I dunnot loike it nor yet not loike it, but I've heard a bit more about it than I have about th' other places on th' map. Foak goes there to seek their fortune, an' it seems loike there's a good bit doin'."
"Do you like to read newspapers?" said Tembarom, inspired to his query by a recollection of the vision of things "doin'" in the Sunday Earth.
"Wheer'd I get papers from?" the boy asked testily. "Foak like us hasn't got th' brass for 'em."
"I'll bring you some New York papers," promised Tembarom, grinning a little in anticipation. "And we'll talk about the news that's in them. The Sunday Earth is full of pictures. I used to work on that paper myself."
"Tha did?" Tummas cried excitedly. "Did tha help to print it, or was it th' one tha sold i' th' streets?"
"I wrote some of the stuff in it."
"Wrote some of th' stuff in it? Wrote it thaself ? How could tha, a common chap like thee?" he asked, more excited still, his ferret eyes snapping.
"I don't know how I did it," Tembarom answered, with increased cheer and interest in the situation. " It wasn't high-brow sort of work."
Tummas leaned forward in his incredulous eagerness.
"Does tha mean that they paid thee for writin' it—paid thee?"
"I guess they wouldn't have done it if they'd been Lancashire, "Tembarom answered." But they hadn't much more sense than I had. They paid me twenty-five dollars a week— that's five pounds."
"I dunnot believe thee," said Tummas, and leaned back on his pillow short of breath.
"I didn't believe it myself till I'd paid my board two weeks and bought a suit of clothes with it," was Tembarom's answer, and he chuckled as he made it.
But Tummas did believe it. This, after he had recovered from the shock, became evident. The curiosity in his face intensified itself; his eagerness was even vaguely tinged with something remotely resembling respect. It was not, however, respect for the money which had been earned, but for the store of things "doin'" which must have been required. It was impossible that this chap knew things undreamed of.
"Has tha ever been to th' Klondike ? " he asked after a long pause.
"No. I've never been out of New York."
Tummas seemed fretted and depressed.
"Eh, I'm sorry for that. I wished tha'd been to th' Klondike. I want to be towd about it," he sighed. He pulled the atlas toward him and found a place in it.
"That theer's Dawson," he announced. Tembarom saw that the region of the Klondike had been much studied. It was even rather faded with the frequent passage of searching fingers, as though it had been pored over with special curiosity.
"There's gowd-moines theer," revealed Tummas. "An' theer's welly newt else but snow an' ice. A young chap as set out fro' here to get theer froze to death on th' way."
"How did you get to hear about it?"
"Ann she browt me a paper onet." He dug under his pillow, and brought out a piece of newspaper, worn and frayed and cut with age and usage. "This heer's what's left of it." Tembarom saw that it was a fragment from an old American sheet and that a column was headed "The Rush for the Klondike."
"Why didna tha go theer?" demanded Tummas. He looked up from his fragment and asked his question with a sudden reflectiveness, as though a new and interesting aspect of things had presented itself to him.
"I had too much to do in New York," said Tembarom. "There's always something doing in New York, you know."
Tummas silently regarded him a moment or so.
"It's a pity tha didn't go," he said." Happen tha'd never ha' coom back."
Tembarom laughed the outright laugh.
"Thank you," he answered.
Tummas was still thinking the matter over and was not disturbed.
"I was na thinkin' o' thee," he said in an impersonal tone. "I was thinkin' o' t' other chap. If tha'd gon i'stead o' him, he'd ha' been here i'stead o' thee. Eh, but it's funny." And he drew a deep breath like a sigh having its birth in profundity of baffled thought.
Both he and his evident point of view were "funny" in the Lancashire sense, which does not imply humor, but strangeness and the unexplainable. Singular as the phrasing was, Tembarom knew what he meant, and that he was thinking of the oddity of chance. Tummas had obviously heard of "poor Jem" and had felt an interest in him.
"You're talking about Jem Temple Barholm I guess," he said. Perhaps the interest he himself had felt in the tragic story gave his voice a tone somewhat responsive to Tummas's own mood, for Tummas, after one more boring glance, let himself go. His interest in this special subject was, it revealed itself, a sort of obsession. The history of Jem Temple Barholm had been the one drama of his short life.
"Aye, I was thinkin' o' him," he said. "I should na ha' cared for th' Klondike so much but for him."
"But he went away from England when you were a baby."
"Th' last toime he coom to Temple Barholm wur when I wur just born. Foak said he coom to ax owd Temple Barholm if he'd help him to pay his debts, an' th' owd chap awmost kicked him out o' doors. Mother had just had me, an' she was weak an' poorly an' sittin' at th' door wi' me in her arms, an' he passed by an' saw her. He stopped an' axed her how she was doin'. An' when he was goin' away, he gave her a gold sovereign, an' he says, 'Put it in th' savin's-bank for him, an' keep it theer till he's a big lad an' wants it.' It's been in th' savin's- bank ever sin'. I've got a whole pound o' ma own out at interest. There's not many lads ha' got that."
"He must have been a good-natured fellow," commented Tembarom. "It was darned bad luck him going to the Klondike."
"It was good luck for thee," said Tummas, with resentment.
"Was it?" was Tembarom's unbiased reply. "Well, I guess it was, one way or the other. I'm not kicking, anyhow."
Tummas naturally did not know half he meant. He went on talking about Jem Temple Barholm, and as he talked his cheeks flushed and his eyes lighted.
"I would na spend that sovereign if I was starvin'. I'm going to leave it to Ann Hutchinson in ma will when I dee. I've axed questions about him reet and left ever sin' I can remember, but theer's nobody knows much. Mother says he was fine an' handsome, an' gentry through an' through. If he'd coom into th' property, he'd ha' coom to see me again I'll lay a shillin', because I'm a cripple an' I canna spend his sovereign. If he'd coom back from th' Klondike, happen he'd ha' towd me about it." He pulled the atlas toward him, and laid his thin finger on the rubbed spot. "He mun ha' been killed somewheer about here," he sighed. "Somewheer here. Eh, it's funny."
Tembarom watched him. There was something that rather gave you the "Willies" in the way this little cripple seemed to have taken to the dead man and worried along all these years thinking him over and asking questions and studying up the Klondike because he was killed there. It was because he'd made a kind of story of it. He'd enjoyed it in the way people enjoy stories in a newspaper. You always had to give 'em a kind of story; you had to make a story even if you were telling about a milk-wagon running away. In newspaper offices you heard that was the secret of making good with what you wrote. Dish it up as if it was a sort of story.
He not infrequently arrived at astute enough conclusions concerning things. He had arrived at one now. Shut out even from the tame drama of village life, Tummas, born with an abnormal desire for action and a feverish curiosity, had hungered and thirsted for the story in any form whatsoever. He caught at fragments of happenings, and colored and dissected them for the satisfying of unfed cravings. The vanished man had been the one touch of pictorial form and color in his ten years of existence. Young and handsome and of the gentry, unfavored by the owner of the wealth which some day would be his own possession, stopping "gentry-way" at a cottage door to speak good-naturedly to a pale young mother, handing over the magnificence of a whole sovereign to be saved for a new-born child, going away to vaguely understood disgrace, leaving his own country to hide himself in distant lands, meeting death amid snow and ice and surrounded by gold-mines, leaving his empty place to be filled by a boot-black newsboy—true there was enough to lie and think over and to try to follow with the help of maps and excited questions.
"I wish I could ha' seen him," said Tummas. "I'd awmost gi' my sovereign to get a look at that picture in th' gallery at Temple Barholm."
"What picture?" Tembarom asked. "Is there a picture of him there?"
"There is na one o' him, but there's one o' a lad as deed two hundred year' ago as they say wur th' spit an' image on him when he wur a lad hissen. One o' th' owd servants towd mother it wur theer."
This was a natural stimulus to interest and curiosity.
"Which one is it? Jinks! I'd like to see it myself. Do you know which one it is? There's hundreds of them."
"No, I dunnot know," was Tummas's dispirited answer, "an' neither does mother. Th' woman as knew left when owd Temple Barholm deed."
"Tummas," broke in Mrs. Hibblethwaite from the other end of the room, to which she had returned after taking Miss Alicia out to complain about the copper in the "wash-'us'—" "Tummas, tha'st been talkin' like a magpie. Tha'rt a lot too bold an' ready wi' tha tongue. Th' gentry's noan comin' to see thee if tha clacks th' heads off theer showthers."
"I'm afraid he always does talk more than is good for him," said Miss Alicia. "He looks quite feverish."
"He has been talking to me about Jem Temple Barholm," explained Tembarom. "We've had a regular chin together. He thinks a heap of poor Jem."
Miss Alicia looked startled, and Mrs. Hibblethwaite was plainly flustered tremendously. She quite lost her temper.
"Eh," she exclaimed, "tha wants tha young yed knocked off, Tummas Hibblethwaite. He's fair daft about th' young gentleman as—as was killed. He axes questions mony a day till I'd give him th' stick if he wasna a cripple. He moithers me to death."
"I'll bring you some of those New York papers to look at," Tembarom said to the boy as he went away.
He walked back through the village to Temple Barholm, holding Miss Alicia's elbow in light, affectionate guidance and support, a little to her embarrassment and also a little to her delight. Until he had taken her into the dining-room the night before she had never seen such a thing done. There was no over- familiarity in the action. It merely seemed somehow to suggest liking and a wish to take care of her.
"That little fellow in the village," he said after a silence in which it occurred to her that he seemed thoughtful, "what a little freak he is! He's got an idea that there's a picture in the gallery that's said to look like Jem Temple Barholm when he was a boy. Have you ever heard anything about it? He says a servant told his mother it was there."
"Yes, there is one," Miss Alicia answered. "I sometimes go and look at it. But it makes me feel very sad. It is the handsome boy who was a page in the court of Charles II. He died in his teens. His name was Miles Hugo Charles James. Jem could see the likeness himself. Sometimes for a little joke I used to call him Miles Hugo."
"I believe I remember him," said Tembarom. "I believe I asked Palford his name. I must go and have a look at him again. He hadn't much better luck than the fellow that looked like him, dying as young as that."
Form, color, drama, and divers other advantages are necessary to the creation of an object of interest. Presenting to the world none of these assets, Miss Alicia had slipped through life a scarcely remarked unit. No little ghost of prettiness had attracted the wandering eye, no suggestion of agreeable or disagreeable power of self-assertion had arrested attention. There had been no hour in her life when she had expected to count as being of the slightest consequence. When she had knocked at the door of the study at Rowcroft Vicarage, and "dear papa" had exclaimed irritably: "Who is that? Who is that?" she had always replied, "It is only Alicia."
This being the case, her gradual awakening to the singularity of her new situation was mentally a process full of doubts and sometimes of alarmed bewilderments. If in her girlhood a curate, even a curate with prominent eyes and a receding chin, had proposed to her that she should face with him a future enriched by the prospect of being called upon to bring up a probable family of twelve on one hundred and fifty pounds a year, with both parish and rectory barking and snapping at her worn-down heels, she would have been sure to assert tenderly that she was afraid she was "not worthy." This was the natural habit of her mind, and in the weeks which followed the foggy afternoon when Tembarom "staked out his claim" she dwelt often upon her unworthiness of the benefits bestowed upon her.
First the world below-stairs, then the village, and then the county itself awoke to the fact that the new Temple Temple Barholm had "taken her up." The first tendency of the world below-stairs was to resent the unwarranted uplifting of a person whom there had been a certain luxury in regarding with disdain and treating with scarcely veiled lack of consideration. To be able to do this with a person who, after all was said and done, was not one of the servant class, but a sort of lady of birth, was not unstimulating. And below-stairs the sense of personal rancor against "a 'anger-on" is strong. The meals served in Miss Alicia's remote sitting-room had been served at leisure, her tea had rarely been hot, and her modestly tinkled bell irregularly answered. Often her far from liberally supplied fire had gone out on chilly days, and she had been afraid to insist on its being relighted. Her sole defense against inattention would have been to complain to Mr. Temple Barholm, and when on one occasion a too obvious neglect had obliged her to gather her quaking being together in mere self- respect and say, "If this continues to occur, William, I shall be obliged to speak to Mr. Temple Barholm," William had so looked at her and so ill hid a secret smile that it had been almost tantamount to his saying, "I'd jolly well like to see you."
And now! Sitting at the end of the table opposite him, if you please! Walking here and walking there with him! Sitting in the library or wherever he was, with him talking and laughing and making as much of her as though she were an aunt with a fortune to leave, and with her making as free in talk as though at liberty to say anything that came into her head! Well, the beggar that had found himself on horseback was setting another one galloping alongside of him. In the midst of this natural resentment it was "a bit upsetting," as Burrill said, to find it dawning upon one that absolute exactness of ceremony was as much to be required for "her" as for "him." Miss Alicia had long felt secretly sure that she was spoken of as "her" in the servants' hall. That businesslike sharpness which Palford had observed in his client aided Tembarom always to see things without illusions. He knew that There was no particular reason why his army of servants should regard him for the present as much more than an intruder; but he also knew that if men and women had employment which was not made hard for them, and were well paid for doing, they were not anxious to lose it, and the man who paid their wages might give orders with some certainty of finding them obeyed. He was "sharp" in more ways than one. He observed shades he might have been expected to overlook. He observed a certain shade in the demeanor of the domestics when attending Miss Alicia, and it was a shade which marked a difference between service done for her and service done for himself. This was only at the outset, of course, when the secret resentment was felt; but he observed it, mere shade though it was.
He walked out into the hall after Burrill one morning. Not having yet adjusted himself to the rule that when one wished to speak to a man one rang a bell and called him back, fifty times if necessary, he walked after Burrill and stopped him.
"This is a pretty good place for servants, ain't it?" he said.
"Good pay, good food, not too much to do?"
"Certainly, sir," Burrill replied, somewhat disturbed by a casualness which yet suggested a method of getting at something or other.
"You and the rest of them don't want to change, do you?"
"No, sir. There is no complaint whatever as far as I have heard."
"That's all right." Mr. Temple Barholm had put his hands into his pockets, and stood looking non-committal in a steady sort of way. "There's something I want the lot of you to get on to—right away. Miss Temple Barholm is going to stay here. She's got to have everything just as she wants it. She's got to be pleased. She's the lady of the house. See?"
"I hope, sir," Burrill said with professional dignity, "that Miss Temple Barholm has not had reason to express any dissatisfaction."
"I'm the one that would express it—quick," said Tembarom. "She wouldn't have time to get in first. I just wanted to make sure I shouldn't have to do it. The other fellows are under you. You've got a head on your shoulders, I guess. It's up to you to put 'em on to it. That's all."
"Thank you, sir," said Burrill.
His master went back into the library smiling genially, and Burrill stood still a moment or so gazing at the door he closed behind him.
Be sure the village, and finally circles not made up of cottagers, heard of this, howsoever mysteriously. Miss Alicia was not aware that the incident had occurred. She could not help observing, however, that the manners of the servants of the household curiously improved; also, when she passed through the village, that foreheads were touched without omission and the curtseys of playing children were prompt. When she dropped into a cottage, housewives polished off the seats of chairs vigorously before offering them, and symptoms and needs were explained with a respectful fluency which at times almost suggested that she might be relied on to use influence.
"I'm afraid I have done the village people injustice," she said leniently to Tembarom. "I used to think them so disrespectful and unappreciative. I dare say it was because I was so troubled myself. I'm afraid one's own troubles do sometimes make one unfair."
"Well, yours are over," said Tembarom. "And so are mine as long as you stay by me."
Never had Miss Alicia been to London. She had remained, as was demanded of her by her duty to dear papa, at Rowcroft, which was in Somersetshire. She had only dreamed of London, and had had fifty-five years of dreaming. She had read of great functions, and seen pictures of some of them in the illustrated papers. She had loyally endeavored to follow at a distance the doings of her Majesty,— she always spoke of Queen Victoria reverentially as "her Majesty,"—she rejoiced when a prince or a princess was born or christened or married, and believed that a "drawing-room" was the most awe-inspiring, brilliant, and important function in the civilized world, scarcely second to Parliament. London—no one but herself or an elderly gentlewoman of her type could have told any one the nature of her thoughts of London.
Let, therefore, those of vivid imagination make an effort to depict to themselves the effect produced upon her mind by Tembarom's casually suggesting at breakfast one morning that he thought it might be rather a good "stunt" for them to run up to London. By mere good fortune she escaped dropping the egg she had just taken from the egg-stand.
"London!" she said. "Oh!"
"Pearson thinks it would be a first-rate idea," he explained. "I guess he thinks that if he can get me into the swell clothing stores he can fix me up as I ought to be fixed, if I'm not going to disgrace him. I should hate to disgrace Pearson. Then he can see his girl, too, and I want him to see his girl."
"Is—Pearson—engaged?" she asked; but the thought which was repeating itself aloud to her was "London! London!"
"He calls it 'keeping company,' or 'walking out,'" Tembarom answered. "She's a nice girl, and he's dead stuck on her. Will you go with me, Miss Alicia?"
"Dear Mr. Temple Barholm," she fluttered, "to visit London would be a privilege I never dreamed it would be my great fortune to enjoy— never."
"Good business!" he ejaculated delightedly. "That's luck for me. It gave me the blues—what I saw of it. But if you are with me, I'll bet it'll be as different as afternoon tea was after I got hold of you. When shall we start? To-morrow?"
Her sixteen-year-old blush repeated itself.
"I feel so sorry. It seems almost undignified to mention it, but—I fear I should not look smart enough for London. My wardrobe is so very limited. I mustn't," she added with a sweet effort at humor, "do the new Mr. Temple Barholm discredit by looking unfashionable."
He was more delighted than before.
"Say," he broke out, "I'll tell you what we'll do: we'll go together and buy everything 'suitable' in sight. The pair of us'll come back here as suitable as Burrill and Pearson. We'll paint the town red."
He actually meant it. He was like a boy with a new game. His sense of the dreariness of London had disappeared. He knew what it would be like with Miss Alicia as a companion. He had really seen nothing of the place himself, and he would find out every darned thing worth looking at, and take her to see it— theaters, shops, every show in town. When they left the breakfast-table it was agreed upon that they would make the journey the following day.
He did not openly refer to the fact that among the plans for their round of festivities he had laid out for himself the attending to one or two practical points. He was going to see Palford, and he had made an appointment with a celebrated nerve specialist. He did not discuss this for several reasons. One of them was that his summing up of Miss Alicia was that she had had trouble enough to think over all her little life, and the thing for a fellow to do for her, if he liked her, was to give her a good time and make her feel as if she was at a picnic right straight along—not let her even hear of a darned thing that might worry her. He had said comparatively little to her about Strangeways. His first mention of his condition had obviously made her somewhat nervous, though she had been full of kindly interest. She was in private not sorry that it was felt better that she should not disturb the patient by a visit to his room. The abnormality of his condition seemed just slightly alarming to her.
"But, oh, how good, how charitable, you are!" she had murmured.
"Good," he answered, the devout admiration of her tone rather puzzling him. "It ain't that. I just want to see the thing through. I dropped into it by accident, and then I dropped into this by accident, and that made it as easy as falling off a log. I believe he's going to get well sometime. I guess I kind of like him because he holds on to me so and believes I'm just It. Maybe it's because I'm stuck on myself."
His visit to Strangeways was longer than usual that afternoon. He explained the situation to him so that he understood it sufficiently not to seem alarmed by it. This was one of the advances Tembarom had noticed recently, that he was less easily terrified, and seemed occasionally to see facts in their proper relation to one another. Sometimes the experiments tried on him were successful, sometimes they were not, but he never resented them.
"You are trying to help me to remember," he said once. "I think you will sometime."
"Sure I will," said Tembarom. "You're better every day."
Pearson was to remain in charge of him until toward the end of the London visit. Then he was to run up for a couple of days, leaving in his place a young footman to whom the invalid had become accustomed.
The visit to London was to Miss Alicia a period of enraptured delirium. The beautiful hotel in which she was established, the afternoons at the Tower, the National Gallery, the British Museum, the evenings at the play, during which one saw the most brilliant and distinguished actors, the mornings in the shops, attended as though one were a person of fortune, what could be said of them? And the sacred day on which she saw her Majesty drive slowly by, glittering helmets, splendid uniforms, waving plumes, and clanking swords accompanying and guarding her, and gentlemen standing still with their hats off, and everybody looking after her with that natural touch of awe which royalty properly inspires! Miss Alicia's heart beat rapidly in her breast, and she involuntarily made a curtsey as the great lady in mourning drove by. She lost no shade of any flavor of ecstatic pleasure in anything, and was to Tembarom, who knew nothing about shades and flavors, indeed a touching and endearing thing.
He had never got so much out of anything. If Ann had just been there, well, that would have been the limit. Ann was on her way to America now, and she wouldn't write to him or let him write to her. He had to make a fair trial of it. He could find out only in that way, she said. It was not to be denied that the youth and longing in him gave him some half-hours to face which made him shut himself up in his room and stare hard at the wall, folding his arms tightly as he tilted his chair.
There arrived a day when one of the most exalted shops in Bond Street was invaded by an American young man of a bearing the peculiarities of which were subtly combined with a remotely suggested air of knowing that if he could find what he wanted, there was no doubt as to his power to get it. What he wanted was not usual, and was explained with a frankness which might have seemed unsophisticated, but, singularly, did not. He wanted to have a private talk with some feminine power in charge, and she must be some one who knew exactly what ladies ought to have.
Being shown into a room, such a feminine power was brought to him and placed at his service. She was a middle-aged person, wearing beautifully fitted garments and having an observant eye and a dignified suavity of manner. She looked the young American over with a swift inclusion of all possibilities. He was by this time wearing extremely well-fitting garments himself, but she was at once aware that his tailored perfection was a new thing to him.
He went to his point without apologetic explanation.
"You know all the things any kind of a lady ought to have," he said— "all the things that would make any one feel comfortable and as if they'd got plenty? Useful things as well as ornamental ones?"
"Yes, sir," she replied, with rising interest. "I have been in the establishment thirty years."
"Good business," Tembarom replied. Already he felt relieved. "I've got a relation, a little old lady, and I want her to fix herself out just as she ought to be fixed. Now, what I'm afraid of is that she won't get everything she ought to unless I manage it for her somehow beforehand. She's got into a habit of— well, economizing. Now the time's past for that, and I want her to get everything a woman like you would know she really wants, so that she could look her best, living in a big country house, with a relation that thinks a lot of her."
He paused a second or so, and then went further, fixing a clear and astonishingly shrewd eye upon the head of the department listening to him.
"I found out this was a high-class place," he explained. "I made sure of that before I came in. In a place that was second or third class there might be people who'd think they'd caught a 'sucker' that would take anything that was unloaded on to him, because he didn't know. The things are for Miss Temple Barholm, and she DOES know. I shall ask her to come here herself to-morrow morning, and I want you to take care of her, and show her the best you've got that's suitable." He seemed to like the word; he repeated it—"Suitable," and quickly restrained a sudden, unexplainable, wide smile.
The attending lady's name was Mrs. Mellish. Thirty years' experience had taught her many lessons. She was a hard woman and a sharp one, but beneath her sharp hardness lay a suppressed sense of the perfect in taste. To have a customer with unchecked resources put into her hands to do her best by was an inspiring incident. A quiver of enlightenment had crossed her countenance when she had heard the name of Temple Barholm. She had a newspaper knowledge of the odd Temple Barholm story. This was the next of kin who had blacked boots in New York, and the obvious probability that he was a fool, if it had taken the form of a hope, had been promptly nipped in the bud. The type from which he was furthest removed was that of the fortune-intoxicated young man who could be obsequiously flattered into buying anything which cost money enough.
"Not a thing's to be unloaded on her that she doesn't like," he added, "and she's not a girl that goes to pink teas. She's a—a—lady —and not young—and used to quiet ways."
The evidently New York word "unload" revealed him to his hearer as by a flash, though she had never heard it before.
"We have exactly the things which will be suitable, sir," she said. "I think I quite understand." Tembarom smiled again, and, thanking her, went away still smiling, because he knew Miss Alicia was safe.
There were of course difficulties in the way of persuading Miss Alicia that her duty lay in the direction of spending mornings in the most sumptuous of Bond Street shops, ordering for herself an entire wardrobe on a basis of unlimited resources. Tembarom was called upon to employ the most adroitly subtle reasoning, entirely founded on his "claim" and her affectionate willingness to give him pleasure.
He really made love to her in the way a joyful young fellow can make love to his mother or his nicest aunt. He made her feel that she counted for so much in his scheme of enjoyment that to do as he asked would be to add a glow to it.
"And they won't spoil you," he said. "The Mellish woman that's the boss has promised that. I wouldn't have you spoiled for a farm," he added heartily.
And he spoke the truth. If he had been told that he was cherishing her type as though it were a priceless bit of old Saxe, he would have stared blankly and made a jocular remark. But it was exactly this which he actually clung to and adored. He even had a second private interview with Mrs. Mellish, and asked her to "keep her as much like she was" as was possible.
Stimulated by the suppressed touch of artistic fervor, Mrs. Mellish guessed at something even before her client arrived; but the moment she entered the showroom all was revealed to her at once. The very hint of flush and tremor in Miss Alicia's manner was an assistance. Surrounded by a small and extremely select court composed of Mrs. Mellish and two low-voiced, deft-handed assistants, it was with a fine little effort that Miss Alicia restrained herself from exterior suggestion of her feeling that there was something almost impious in thinking of possessing the exquisite stuffs and shades displayed to her in flowing beauty on every side. Such linens and batistes and laces, such delicate, faint grays and lavenders and soft-falling blacks! If she had been capable of approaching the thought, such luxury might even have hinted at guilty splendor.
Mrs. Mellish became possessed of an "idea" To create the costume of an exquisite, early-Victorian old lady in a play done for the most fashionable and popular actor manager of the most "drawing-room" of West End theaters, where one saw royalty in the royal box, with bouquets on every side, the orchestra breaking off in the middle of a strain to play "God Save the Queen," and the audience standing up as the royal party came in — that was her idea. She carried it out, steering Miss Alicia with finished tact through the shoals and rapids of her timidities. And the result was wonderful; color,—or, rather, shades, — textures, and forms were made subservient by real genius. Miss Alicia — as she was turned out when the wardrobe was complete — might have been an elderly little duchess of sweet and modest good taste in the dress of forty years earlier. It took time, but some of the things were prepared as though by magic, and the night the first boxes were delivered at the hotel Miss Alicia, on going to bed, in kneeling down to her devotions prayed fervently that she might not be "led astray by fleshly desires," and that her gratitude might be acceptable, and not stained by a too great joy "in the things which corrupt."
The very next day occurred Rose. She was the young person to whom Pearson was engaged, and it appeared that if Miss Alicia would make up her mind to oblige Mr. Temple Barholm by allowing the girl to come to her as lady's-maid, even if only temporarily, she would be doing a most kind and charitable thing. She was a very nice, well-behaved girl, and unfortunately she had felt herself forced to leave her place because her mistress's husband was not at all a nice man. He had shown himself so far from nice that Pearson had been most unhappy, and Rose had been compelled to give notice, though she had no other situation in prospect and her mother was dependent on her. This was without doubt not Mr. Temple Barholm's exact phrasing of the story, but it was what Miss Alicia gathered, and what moved her deeply. It was so cruel and so sad! That wicked man! That poor girl! She had never had a lady's-maid, and might be rather at a loss at first, but it was only like Mr. Temple Barholm's kind heart to suggest such a way of helping the girl and poor Pearson.
So occurred Rose, a pretty creature whose blue eyes suppressed grateful tears as she took Miss Alicia's instructions during their first interview. And Pearson arrived the same night, and, waiting upon Tembarom, stood before him, and with perfect respect, choked.
"Might I thank you, if you please, sir," he began, recovering himself- -"might I thank you and say how grateful—Rose and me, sir—" and choked again.
"I told you it would be all right," answered Tembarom. "It is all right. I wish I was fixed like you are, Pearson."
When the Countess of Mallowe called, Rose had just dressed Miss Alicia for the afternoon in one of the most perfect of the evolutions of Mrs. Mellish's idea. It was a definite creation, as even Lady Mallowe detected the moment her eyes fell upon it. Its hue was dull, soft gray, and how it managed to concede points and elude suggestions of modes interred, and yet remain what it did remain, and accord perfectly with the side ringlets and the lace cap of Mechlin, only dressmaking genius could have explained. The mere wearing of it gave Miss Alicia a support and courage which she could scarcely believe to be her own. When the cards of Lady Mallowe and Lady Joan Fayre were brought up to her, she was absolutely not really frightened; a little nervous for a moment, perhaps, but frightened, no. A few weeks of relief and ease, of cheery consideration, of perfectly good treatment and good food and good clothes, had begun a rebuilding of the actual cells of her.
Lady Mallowe entered alone. She was a handsome person, and astonishingly young when considered as the mother of a daughter of twenty-seven. She wore a white veil, and looked pink through it. She swept into the room, and shook hands with Miss Alicia with delicate warmth.
"We do not really know each other at all," she said. "It is disgraceful how little relatives see of one another."
The disgrace, if measured by the extent of the relationship, was not immense. Perhaps this thought flickered across Miss Alicia's mind among a number of other things. She had heard "dear papa" on Lady Mallowe, and, howsoever lacking in graces, the vicar of Rowcroft had not lacked an acrid shrewdness. Miss Alicia's sensitively self- accusing soul shrank before a hasty realization of the fact that if he had been present when the cards were brought up, he would, on glancing over them through his spectacles, have jerked out immediately: "What does the woman want? She's come to get something." Miss Alicia wished she had not been so immediately beset by this mental vision.
Lady Mallowe had come for something. She had come to be amiable to Miss Temple Barholm and to establish relations with her.
"Joan should have been here to meet me," she explained. "Her dressmaker is keeping her, of course. She will be so annoyed. She wanted very much to come with me."
It was further revealed that she might arrive at any moment, which gave Miss Alicia an opportunity to express, with pretty grace, the hope that she would, and her trust that she was quite well.
"She is always well," Lady Mallowe returned. "And she is of course as interested as we all are in this romantic thing. It is perfectly delicious, like a three- volumed novel."
"It is romantic," said Miss Alicia, wondering how much her visitor knew or thought she knew, and what circumstances would present themselves to her as delicious.
"Of course one has heard only the usual talk one always hears when everybody is chattering about a thing," Lady Mallowe replied, with a propitiating smile. "No one really knows what is true and what isn't. But it is nice to notice that all the gossip speaks so well of him. No one seems to pretend that he is anything but extremely nice himself, notwithstanding his disadvantages."
She kept a fine hazel eye, surrounded by a line which artistically represented itself as black lashes, steadily resting on Miss Alicia as she said the last words.
"He is," said Miss Alicia, with gentle firmness, "nicer than I had ever imagined any young man could be—far nicer."
Lady Mallowe's glance round the luxurious private sitting-room and over the perfect "idea" of Mrs. Mellish was so swift as to be almost imperceptible.
"How delightful!" she said. "He must be unusually agreeable, or you would not have consented to stay and take care of him."
"I cannot tell you how HAPPY I am to have been asked to stay with him, Lady Mallowe," Miss Alicia replied, the gentle firmness becoming a soft dignity.
"Which of course shows all the more how attractive he must be. And in view of the past lack of advantages, what a help you can be to him! It is quite wonderful for him to have a relative at hand who is an Englishwoman and familiar with things he will feel he must learn."
A perhaps singular truth is that but for the unmistakable nature of the surroundings she quickly took in the significance of, and but for the perfection of the carrying out of Mrs. Mellish's delightful idea, it is more than probable that her lady-ship's manner of approaching Miss Alicia and certain subjects on which she desired enlightenment would have been much more direct and much less propitiatory. Extraordinary as it was, "the creature"—she thought of Tembarom as "the creature"— had plainly been so pleased with the chance of being properly coached that he had put everything, so to speak, in the little old woman's hands. She had got a hold upon him. It was quite likely that to regard her as a definite factor would only be the part of the merest discretion. She was evidently quite in love with him in her early-Victorian, spinster way. One had to be prudent with women like that who had got hold of a male creature for the first time in their lives, and were almost unaware of their own power. Their very unconsciousness made them a dangerous influence.
With a masterly review of these facts in her mind Lady Mallowe went on with a fluent and pleasant talk, through the medium of which she managed to convey a large number of things Miss Alicia was far from being clever enough to realize she was talking about. She lightly waved wings of suggestion across the scene, she dropped infinitesimal seeds in passing, she left faint echoes behind her— the kind of echoes one would find oneself listening to and trying to hear as definitely formed sounds. She had been balancing herself on a precarious platform of rank and title, unsupported by any sordid foundation of a solid nature, through a lifetime spent in London. She had learned to catch fiercely at straws of chance, and bitterly to regret the floating past of the slightest, which had made of her a finished product of her kind. She talked lightly, and was sometimes almost witty. To her hearer she seemed to know every brilliant personage and to be familiar with every dazzling thing. She knew well what social habits and customs meant, what their value, or lack of value, was. There were customs, she implied skilfully, so established by time that it was impossible to ignore them. Relationships, for instance, stood for so much that was fine in England that one was sometimes quite touched by the far-reachingness of family loyalty. The head of the house of a great estate represented a certain power in the matter of upholding the dignity of his possessions, of caring for his tenantry, of standing for proper hospitality and friendly family feeling. It was quite beautiful as one often saw it. Throughout the talk there were several references to Joan, who really must come in shortly, which were very interesting to Miss Alicia. Lady Joan, Miss Alicia heard casually, was a great beauty. Her perfection and her extreme cleverness had made her perhaps a trifle difficile. She had not done—Lady Mallowe put it with a lightness of phrasing which was delicacy itself— what she might have done, with every exalted advantage, so many times. She had a profound nature. Here Lady Mallowe waved away, as it were, a ghost of a sigh. Since Miss Temple Barholm was a relative, she had no doubt heard of the unfortunate, the very sad incident which her mother sometimes feared prejudiced the girl even yet.
"You mean—poor Jem!" broke forth involuntarily from Miss Alicia's lips. Lady Mallowe stared a little.
"Do you call him that?" she asked. "Did you know him, then?"
"I loved him," answered Miss Alicia, winking her eyes to keep back the moisture in them, "though it was only when he was a little boy."
"Oh," said Lady Mallowe, with a sudden, singular softness, "I must tell Joan that."
Lady Joan had not appeared even after they had had tea and her mother went away, but somehow Miss Alicia had reached a vaguely yearning feeling for her and wished very much the dressmaker had released her. She was quite stirred when it revealed itself almost at the last moment that in a few weeks both she and Lady Mallowe were to pay a visit at no great distance from Temple Barholm itself, and that her ladyship would certainly arrange to drive over to continue her delightful acquaintance and to see the beautiful old place again.
"In any case one must, even if he lived in lonely state, pay one's respects to the head of the house. The truth is, of course, one is extremely anxious to meet him, and it is charming to know that one is not merely invading the privacy of a bachelor," Lady Mallowe put it.
"She'll come for YOU," Little Ann had soberly remarked.
Tembarom remembered the look in her quiet, unresentful blue eyes when he came in to dinner and Miss Alicia related to him the events of the afternoon.
The spring, when they traveled back to the north, was so perceptibly nearer that the fugitive soft days strayed in advance at intervals that were briefer. They chose one for their journey, and its clear sunshine and hints at faint greenness were so exhilarating to Miss Alicia that she was a companion to make any journey an affair to rank with holidays and adventures. The strange luxury of traveling in a reserved first-class carriage, of being made timid by no sense of unfitness of dress or luggage, would have filled her with grateful rapture; but Rose, journeying with Pearson a few coaches behind, appeared at the carriage window at every important station to say, "Is there anything I may do for you, ma'am?" And there really never was anything she could do, because Mr. Temple Barholm remembered everything which could make her comfort perfect. In the moods of one who searches the prospect for suggestions as to pleasure he can give to himself by delighting a dear child, he had found and bought for her a most elegant little dressing-bag, with the neatest of plain-gold fittings beautifully initialed. It reposed upon the cushioned seat near her, and made her heart beat every time she caught sight of it anew. How wonderful it would be if poor dear, darling mama could look down and see everything and really know what happiness had been vouchsafed to her unworthy child!
Having a vivid recollection of the journey made with Mr. Palford, Tembarom felt that his whole world had changed for him. The landscape had altered its aspect. Miss Alicia pointed out bits of freshening grass, was sure of the breaking of brown leaf-buds, and more than once breathlessly suspected a primrose in a sheltered hedge corner. A country-bred woman, with country-bred keenness of eye and a country- bred sense of the seasons' change, she saw so much that he had never known that she began to make him see also. Bare trees would be thick- leaved nesting-places, hedges would be white with hawthorn, and hold blue eggs and chirps and songs. Skylarks would spring out of the fields and soar into the sky, dropping crystal chains of joyous trills. The cottage gardens would be full of flowers, there would be poppies gleaming scarlet in the corn, and in buttercup-time all the green grass would be a sheet of shining gold.
"When it all happens I shall be like a little East-Sider taken for a day in the country. I shall be asking questions at every step," Tembarom said. "Temple Barholm must be pretty fine then."
"It is so lovely," said Miss Alicia, turning to him almost solemnly, "that sometimes it makes one really lose one's breath."
He looked out of the window with sudden wistfulness.
"I wish Ann—" he began and then, seeing the repressed question in her eyes, made up his mind.
He told her about Little Ann. He did not use very many words, but she knew a great deal when he had finished. And her spinster soul was thrilled. Neither she nor poor Emily had ever had an admirer, and it was not considered refined for unsought females to discuss "such subjects." Domestic delirium over the joy of an engagement in families in which daughters were a drug she had seen. It was indeed inevitable that there should be more rejoicing over one Miss Timson who had strayed from the fold into the haven of marriage than over the ninety- nine Misses Timson who remained behind. But she had never known intimately any one who was in love— really in love. Mr. Temple Barholm must be. When he spoke of Little Ann he flushed shyly and his eyes looked so touching and nice. His voice sounded different, and though of course his odd New York expressions were always rather puzzling, she felt as though she saw things she had had no previous knowledge of—things which thrilled her.
"She must be a very—very nice girl," she ventured at length. "I am afraid I have never been into old Mrs. Hutchinson's cottage. She is quite comfortably off in her way, and does not need parish care. I wish I had seen Miss Hutchinson."
"I wish she had seen you," was Tembarom's answer.
Miss Alicia reflected.
"She must be very clever to have such—sensible views," she remarked.
If he had remained in New York, and there had been no question of his inheriting Temple Barholm, the marriage would have been most suitable. But however "superior" she might be, a vision of old Mrs. Hutchinson's granddaughter as the wife of Mr. Temple Barholm, and of noisy old Mr. Hutchinson as his father-in-law was a staggering thing.
"You think they were sensible?" asked Tembarom. "Well, she never did anything that wasn't. So I guess they were. And what she says GOES. I wanted you to know, anyhow. I wouldn't like you not to know. I'm too fond of you, Miss Alicia." And he put his hand round her neat glove and squeezed it. The tears of course came into her tender eyes. Emotion of any sort always expressed itself in her in this early- Victorian manner.
"This Lady Joan girl," he said suddenly not long afterward, "isn't she the kind that I'm to get used to—the kind in the pictorial magazine Ann talked about? I bought one at the news-stand at the depot before we started. I wanted to get on to the pictures and see what they did to me."
He found the paper among his belongings and regarded it with the expression of a serious explorer. It opened at a page of illustrations of slim goddesses in court dresses. By actual measurement, if regarded according to scale, each was about ten feet high; but their long lines, combining themselves with court trains, waving plumes, and falling veils, produced an awe-inspiring effect. Tembarom gazed at them in absorbed silence.
"Is she something like any of these?" he inquired finally.
Miss Alicia looked through her glasses.
"Far more beautiful, I believe," she answered. "These are only fashion-plates, and I have heard that she is a most striking girl."
"A beaut' from Beautsville!" he said. "So that's what I'm up against! I wonder how much use that kind of a girl would have for me."
He gave a good deal of attention to the paper before he laid it aside. As she watched him, Miss Alicia became gradually aware of the existence of a certain hint of determined squareness in his boyish jaw. It was perhaps not much more than a hint, but it really was there, though she had not noticed it before. In fact, it usually hid itself behind his slangy youthfulness and his readiness for any good cheer.
One may as well admit that it sustained him during his novitiate and aided him to pass through it without ignominy or disaster. He was strengthened also by a private resolve to bear himself in such a manner as would at least do decent credit to Little Ann and her superior knowledge. With the curious eyes of servants, villagers, and secretly outraged neighborhood upon him, he was shrewd enough to know that he might easily become a perennial fount of grotesque anecdote, to be used as a legitimate source of entertainment in cottages over the consumption of beans and bacon, as well as at great houses when dinner-table talk threatened to become dull if not enlivened by some spice. He would not have thought of this or been disturbed by it but for Ann. She knew, and he was not going to let her be met on her return from America with what he called "a lot of funny dope" about him.
"No girl would like it," he said to himself. "And the way she said she 'cared too much' just put it up to me to see that the fellow she cares for doesn't let himself get laughed at."
Though he still continued to be jocular on subjects which to his valet seemed almost sacred, Pearson was relieved to find that his employer gradually gave himself into his hands in a manner quite amenable. In the touching way in which nine out of ten nice, domesticated American males obey the behests of the women they are fond of, he had followed Ann's directions to the letter. Guided by the adept Pearson, he had gone to the best places in London and purchased the correct things, returning to Temple Barholm with a wardrobe to which any gentleman might turn at any moment without a question.
"He's got good shoulders, though he does slouch a bit," Pearson said to Rose. "And a gentleman's shoulders are more than half the battle."
What Tembarom himself felt cheered by was the certainty that if Ann saw him walking about the park or the village, or driving out with Miss Alicia in the big landau, or taking her in to dinner every evening, or even going to church with her, she would not have occasion to flush at sight of him.
The going to church was one of the duties of his position he found out. Miss Alicia "put him on" to that. It seemed that he had to present himself to the villagers "as an example." If the Temple Barholm pews were empty, the villagers, not being incited to devotional exercise by his exalted presence, would feel at liberty to remain at home, and in the irreligious undress of shirt-sleeves sit and smoke their pipes, or, worse still, gather at "the Hare and Hounds" and drink beer. Also, it would not be "at all proper" not to go to church.
Pearson produced a special cut of costume for this ceremony, and Tembarom walked with Miss Alicia across the park to the square-towered Norman church.
In a position of dignity the Temple Barholm pews over-looked the congregation. There was the great square pew for the family, with two others for servants. Footmen and house-maids gazed reverentially at prayer-books. Pearson, making every preparation respectfully to declare himself a "miserable sinner" when the proper moment arrived, could scarcely re- strain a rapid side glance as the correctly cut and fitted and entirely "suitable" work of his hands opened the pew-door for Miss Alicia, followed her in, and took his place.
Let not the fact that he had never been to church before be counted against him. There was nothing very extraordinary in the fact. He had felt no antipathy to church-going, but he had not by chance fallen under proselyting influence, and it had certainly never occurred to him that he had any place among the well- dressed, comfortable-looking people he had seen flocking into places of worship in New York. As far as religious observances were concerned, he was an unadulterated heathen, and was all the more to be congratulated on being a heathen of genial tendencies.
The very large pew, under the stone floor of which his ancestors had slept undisturbedly for centuries, interested him greatly. A recumbent marble crusader in armor, with feet crossed in the customary manner, fitted into a sort of niche in one side of the wall. There were carved tablets and many inscriptions in Latin wheresoever one glanced. The place was like a room. A heavy, round table, on which lay prayer- books, Bibles, and hymn-books, occupied the middle. About it were arranged beautiful old chairs, with hassocks to kneel on. Toward a specially imposing chair with arms Miss Alicia directed, him with a glance. It was apparently his place. He was going to sit down when he saw Miss Alicia gently push forward a hassock with her foot, and kneel on it, covering her face with her hands as she bent her head. He hastily drew forth his hassock and followed her example.
That was it, was it? It wasn't only a matter of listening to a sermon; you had to do things. He had better watch out and see that he didn't miss anything. She didn't know it was his first time, and it might worry her to the limit if he didn't put it over all right. One of the things he had noticed in her was her fear of attracting attention by failing to do exactly the "proper thing." If he made a fool of himself by kneeling down when he ought to stand up, or lying down when he ought to sit, she'd get hot all over, thinking what the villagers or the other people would say. Well, Ann hadn't wanted him to look different from other fellows or to make breaks. He'd look out from start to finish. He directed a watchful eye at Miss Alicia through his fingers. She remained kneeling a few moments, and then very quietly got up. He rose with her, and took his big chair when she sat down. He breathed more freely when they had got that far. That was the first round.
It was not a large church, but a gray and solemn impression of dignity brooded over it. It was dim with light, which fell through stained- glass memorial windows set deep in the thick stone walls. The silence which reigned throughout its spaces seemed to Tembarom of a new kind, different from the silence of the big house. The occasional subdued rustle of turned prayer-book leaves seemed to accentuate it; the most careful movement could not conceal itself; a slight cough was a startling thing. The way, Tembarom thought, they could get things dead-still in English places!
The chimes, which had been ringing their last summons to the tardy, slackened their final warning notes, became still slower, stopped. There was a slight stir in the benches occupied by the infant school. It suggested that something new was going to happen. From some unseen place came the sound of singing voices— boyish voices and the voices of men. Tembarom involuntarily turned his head. Out of the unseen place came a procession in white robes. Great Scott! every one was standing up! He must stand up, too. The boys and men in white garments filed into their seats. An elderly man, also in white robes, separated himself from them, and, going into his special place, kneeled down. Then he rose and began to read:
"When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness—"
Tembarom took the open book which Miss Alicia had very delicately pushed toward him. He read the first words,—that was plain sailing,— then he seemed to lose his place. Miss Alicia turned a leaf. He turned one also.
"Dearly beloved brethren—"
There you were. This was once more plain sailing. He could follow it. What was the matter with Miss Alicia? She was kneeling again, everybody was kneeling. Where was the hassock? He went down upon his knees, hoping Miss Alicia had not seen that he wasn't going to kneel at all. Then when the minister said "Amen," the congregation said it, too, and he came in too late, so that his voice sounded out alone. He must watch that. Then the minister knelt, and all the people prayed aloud with him. With the book before him he managed to get in after the first few words; but he was not ready with the responses, and in the middle of them everybody stood up again. And then the organ played, and every one sang. He couldn't sing, anyhow, and he knew he couldn't catch on to the kind of thing they were doing. He hoped Miss Alicia wouldn't mind his standing up and holding his book and doing nothing. He could not help seeing that eyes continually turned toward him. They'd notice every darned break he made, and Miss Alicia would know they did. He felt quite hot more than once. He watched Miss Alicia like a hawk; he sat down and listened to reading, he stood up and listened to singing; he kneeled, he tried to chime in with "Amens" and to keep up with Miss Alicia's bending of head and knee. But the creed, with its sudden turn toward the altar, caught him unawares, he lost himself wholly in the psalms, the collects left him in deep water, hopeless of ever finding his place again, and the litany baffled him, when he was beginning to feel safe, by changing from "miserable sinners" to "Spare us Good Lord" and "We beseech thee to hear us." If he could just have found the place he would have been all right, but an honest anxiety to be right excited him, and the fear of embarrassing Miss Alicia by going wrong made the morning a strenuous thing. He was so relieved to find he might sit still when the sermon began that he gave the minister an attention which might have marked him, to the chance beholder, as a religious enthusiast.
By the time the service had come to an end the stately peace of the place had seemed to sink into his being and become part of himself. The voice of the minister bestowing his blessing, the voices of the white-clothed choir floating up into the vaulted roof, stirred him to a remote pleasure. He liked it, or he knew he would like it when he knew what to do. The filing out of the choristers, the silent final prayer, the soft rustle of people rising gently from their knees, somehow actually moved him by its suggestion of something before unknown. He was a heathen still, but a heathen vaguely stirred.
He was very quiet as he walked home across the park with Miss Alicia.
"How did you enjoy the sermon? " she asked with much sweetness.
"I 'm not used to sermons, but it seemed all right to me," he answered. "What I've got to get on to is knowing when to stand up and when to sit down. I wasn't much of a winner at it this morning. I guess you noticed that."
But his outward bearing had been much more composed than his inward anxiety had allowed him to believe. His hesitations had not produced the noticeable effect he had feared.
"Do you mean you are not quite familiar with the service?" she said. Poor dear boy! he had perhaps not been able to go to church regularly at all.
"I'm not familiar with any service," he answered without prejudice." I never went to church before."
She slightly started and then smiled.
"Oh, you mean you have never been to the Church of England," she said.
Then he saw that, if he told her the exact truth, she would be frightened and shocked. She would not know what to say or what to think. To her unsophisticated mind only murderers and thieves and criminals NEVER went to church. She just didn't know. Why should she? So he smiled also.
"No, I've never been to the Church of England," he said.
The country was discreetly conservative in its social attitude. The gulf between it and the new owner of Temple Barholm was too wide and deep to be crossed without effort combined with immense mental agility. It was on the whole, much easier not to begin a thing at all than to begin it and find one must hastily search about for not too noticeable methods of ending it. A few unimportant, tentative calls were made, and several ladies who had remained unaware of Miss Alicia during her first benefactor's time drove over to see what she was like and perhaps by chance hear something of interest. One or two of them who saw Tembarom went away puzzled and amazed. He did not drop his h's, which they had of course expected, and he was well dressed, and not bad-looking; but it was frequently impossible to understand what he was talking about, he used such odd phrases. He seemed good natured enough, and his way with little old Miss Temple Barholm was really quite nice, queer as it was. It was queer because he was attentive to her in a manner in which young men were not usually attentive to totally insignificant, elderly dependents.
Tembarom derived an extremely diluted pleasure from the visits. The few persons he saw reminded him in varying degrees of Mr. Palford. They had not before seen anything like his species, and they did not know what to do with him. He also did not know what to do with them. A certain inelasticity frustrated him at the outset. When, in obedience to Miss Alicia's instructions, he had returned the visits, he felt he had not gone far.
Serious application enabled him to find his way through the church service, and he accompanied Miss Alicia to church with great regularity. He began to take down the books from the library shelves and look them over gravely. The days gradually ceased to appear so long, but he had a great deal of time on his hands, and he tried to find ways of filling it. He wondered if Ann would be pleased if he learned things out of books.
When he tentatively approached the subject of literature with Miss Alicia, she glowed at the delightful prospect of his reading aloud to her in the evenings— "reading improving things like history and the poets."
"Let's take a hack at it some night," he said pleasantly.
The more a fellow knew, the better it was for him, he supposed; but he wondered, if anything happened and he went back to New York, how much "improving things" and poetry would help a man in doing business.
The first evening they began with Gray's " Elegy," and Miss Alicia felt that it did not exhilarate him; she was also obliged to admit that he did not read it very well. But she felt sure he would improve. Personally she was touchingly happy. The sweetly domestic picture of the situation, she sitting by the fire with her knitting and he reading aloud, moved and delighted her. The next evening she suggested Tennyson's "Maud." He was not as much stirred by it as she had hoped. He took a somewhat humorous view of it.
"He had it pretty bad, hadn't he?"' he said of the desperate lover.
"Oh, if only you could once have heard Sims Reeves sing 'Come into the Garden, Maud'!" she sighed. "A kind friend once took me to hear him, and I have never, never forgotten it."
But Mr. Temple Barholm notably did not belong to the atmosphere of impassioned tenors.
On still another evening they tried Shakspere. Miss Alicia felt that a foundation of Shakspere would be "improving" indeed. They began with "Hamlet."
He found play-reading difficult and Shaksperian language baffling, but he made his way with determination until he reached a point where he suddenly grew quite red and stopped.
"Say, have you read this?" he inquired after his hesitation.
"The plays of Shakspere are a part of every young lady's education," she answered; "but I am afraid I am not at all a Shaksperian scholar."
"A young lady's education?" he repeated. "Gee whizz!" he added softly after a pause.
He glanced over a page or so hastily, and then laid the book down.
"Say," he suggested, with an evasive air, "let's go over that 'Maud' one again. It's—well, it's easier to read aloud."
The crude awkwardness of his manner suddenly made Miss Alicia herself flush and drop a stitch in her knitting. How dreadful of her not to have thought of that!
"The Elizabethan age was, I fear, a rather coarse one in some respects. Even history acknowledges that Queen Elizabeth herself used profane language." She faltered and coughed a little apologetic cough as she picked up her stitch again.
"I bet Ann's never seen inside Shakspere," said Tembarom. Before reading aloud in the future he gave some previous personal attention to the poem or subject decided upon. It may be at once frankly admitted that when he read aloud it was more for Miss Alicia's delectation than for his own. He saw how much she enjoyed the situation.
His effect of frankness and constant boyish talk was so inseparable from her idea of him that she found it a puzzling thing to realize that she gradually began to feel aware of a certain remote reserve in him, or what might perhaps be better described as a habit of silence upon certain subjects. She felt it marked in the case of Strangeways. She surmised that he saw Strangeways often and spent a good deal of time with him, but he spoke of him rarely, and she never knew exactly what hours were given to him. Sometimes she imagined he found him a greater responsibility than he had expected. Several times when she believed that he had spent part of a morning or afternoon in his room, he was more silent than usual and looked puzzled and thoughtful. She observed, as Mr. Palford had, that the picture-gallery, with its portraits of his ancestors, had an attraction. A certain rainy day he asked her to go with him and look them over. It was inevitable that she should soon wander to the portrait of Miles Hugo and remain standing before it. Tembarom followed, and stood by her side in silence until her sadness broke its bounds with a pathetic sigh.
"Was he very like him?" he asked.
She made an unconscious, startled movement. For the moment she had forgotten his presence, and she had not really expected him to remember.
"I mean Jem," he answered her surprised look. "How was he like him? Was there—" he hesitated and looked really interested—"was he like him in any particular thing?"
"Yes," she said, turning to the portrait of Miles Hugo again. "They both had those handsome, drooping eyes, with the lashes coming together at the corners. There is something very fascinating about them, isn't there? I used to notice it so much in dear little Jem. You see how marked they are in Miles Hugo."
"Yes," Tembarom answered. "A fellow who looked that way at a girl when he made love to her would get a strangle-holt. She wouldn't forget him soon."