HotFreeBooks.com
T. Tembarom
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"Her manner toward him is, to resort to New York colloquialisms, 'the limit,'" Palliser said quietly. "Is it your idea that his less good spirits have been due to Lady Joan's ingenuities? They are ingenious, you know."

"They are devilish," exclaimed her mother." She treads him in the mire and sails about professing to be conducting herself flawlessly. She is too clever for me," she added with bitterness.

Palliser laughed softly.

"But very often you have been too clever for her," he suggested. "For my part, I don't quite see how you got her here."

Lady Mallowe became not almost, but entirely, candid.

"Upon the whole, I don't quite know myself. I believe she really came for some mysterious reason of her own."

"That is rather my impression," said Palliser. "She has got something up her sleeve, and so has he."

"He!" Lady Mallowe quite ejaculated the word. "She always has. That's her abominable secretive way. But he! T. Tembarom with something up his sleeve! One can't imagine it."

"Almost everybody has. I found that out long years ago," said Palliser, looking at his cigar end again as if consulting it. "Since I arrived at the conclusion, I always take it for granted, and look out for it. I've become rather clever in following such things up, and I have taken an unusual interest in T. Tembarom from the first."

Lady Mallowe turned her handsome face, much softened by an enwreathing gauze scarf, toward him anxiously.

"Do you think his depression, or whatever it is, means Joan?" she asked.

"If he is depressed by her, you need not be discouraged," smiled Palliser. "The time to lose hope would be when, despite her ingenuities, he became entirely cheerful. But," he added after a moment of pause, "I have an idea there is some other little thing."

"Do you suppose that some young woman he has left behind in New York is demanding her rights?" said Lady Mallowe, with annoyance. "That is exactly the kind of thing Joan would like to hear, and so entirely natural. Some shop-girl or other."

"Quite natural, as you say; but he would scarcely be running up to London and consulting Scotland Yard about her," Palliser answered.

"Scotland Yard!" ejaculated his companion. "How in the world did you find that out?"

Captain Palliser did not explain how he had done it. Presumably his knowledge was due to the adroitness of the system of "following such things up."

"Scotland Yard has also come to him," he went on. "Did you chance to see a red-faced person who spent a morning with him last week?"

"He looked like a butcher, and I thought he might be one of his friends," Lady Mallowe said.

"I recognized the man. He is an extremely clever detective, much respected for his resources in the matter of following clues which are so attenuated as to be scarcely clues at all."

"Clues have no connection with Joan," said Lady Mallowe, still more annoyed. "All London knows her miserable story."

"Have you—" Captain Palliser's tone was thoughtful, "—has any one ever seen Mr. Strangeways?"

"No. Can you imagine anything more absurdly romantic? A creature without a memory, shut up in a remote wing of a palace like this, as if he were the Man with the Iron Mask. Romance is not quite compatible with T. Tembarom."

"It is so incongruous that it has entertained me to think it over a good deal," remarked Palliser. "He leaves everything to one's imagination. All one knows is that he isn't a relative; that he isn't mad, but only too nervous to see or be seen. Queer situation. I've found there is always a reason for things; the queerer they are, the more sure it is that there's a reason. What is the reason Strangeways is kept here, and where would a detective come in? Just on general principles I'm rather going into the situation. There's a reason, and it would be amusing to find it out. Don't you think so?"

He spoke casually, and Lady Mallowe's answer was casual, though she knew from experience that he was not as casual as he chose to seem. He was clever enough always to have certain reasons of his own which formulated themselves into interests large and small. He knew things about people which were useful. Sometimes quite small things were useful. He was always well behaved, and no one had ever accused him of bringing pressure to bear; but it was often possible for him to sell things or buy things or bring about things in circumstances which would have presented difficulties to other people. Lady Mallowe knew from long experience all about the exigencies of cases when "needs must," and she was not critical. Temple Barholm as the estate of a distant relative and T. Tembarom as its owner were not assets to deal with indifferently. When a man made a respectable living out of people who could be persuaded to let you make investments for them, it was not an unbusinesslike idea to be in the position to advise an individual strongly.

"It's quite natural that you should feel an interest," she answered. "But the romantic stranger is too romantic, though I will own Scotland Yard is a little odd."

"Yes, that is exactly what I thought," said Palliser.

He had in fact thought a good deal and followed the thing up in a quiet, amateur way, though with annoyingly little result. Occasionally he had felt rather a fool for his pains, because he had been led to so few facts of importance and had found himself so often confronted by T. Tembarom's entirely frank grin. His own mental attitude was not a complex one. Lady Mallowe's summing up had been correct enough on the whole. Temple Barholm ought to be a substantial asset, regarded in its connection with its present owner. Little dealings in stocks— sometimes rather large ones when luck was with him— had brought desirable returns to Captain Palliser throughout a number of years. Just now he was taking an interest in a somewhat imposing scheme, or what might prove an imposing one if it were managed properly and presented to the right persons. If T. Tembarom had been sufficiently lured by the spirit of speculation to plunge into old Hutchinson's affair, as he evidently had done, he was plainly of the temperament attracted by the game of chance. There had been no reason but that of temperament which could have led him to invest. He had found himself suddenly a moneyed man and had liked the game. Never having so much as heard of Little Ann Hutchinson, Captain Palliser not unnaturally argued after this wise. There seemed no valid reason why, if a vague invention had allured, a less vague scheme, managed in a more businesslike manner, should not. This Mexican silver and copper mine was a dazzling thing to talk about. He could go into details. He had, in fact, allowed a good deal of detail to trail through his conversation at times. It had not been difficult to accomplish this in his talks with Lady Mallowe in his host's presence. Lady Mallowe was always ready to talk of mines, gold, silver, or copper. It happened at times that one could manage to secure a few shares without the actual payment of money. There were little hospitalities or social amiabilities now and then which might be regarded as value received. So she had made it easy for Captain Palliser to talk, and T. Tembarom had heard much which would have been of interest to the kind of young man he appeared to be. Sometimes he had listened absorbedly, and on a few occasions he had asked a few questions which laid him curiously bare in his role of speculator. If he had no practical knowledge of the ways and means of great mining companies, he at least professed none. At all events, if there was any little matter he preferred to keep to himself, there was no harm in making oneself familiar with its aspect and significance. A man's arguments, so far as he himself is concerned, assume the character with which his own choice of adjectives and adverbs labels them. That is, if he labels them. The most astute do not. Captain Palliser did not. He dealt merely with reasoning processes which were applicable to the subject in hand, whatsoever its nature. He was a practical man of the world—a gentleman, of course. It was necessary to adjust matters without romantic hair-splitting. It was all by the way.

T. Tembarom had at the outset seemed to present, so to speak, no surface. Palliser had soon ceased to be at all sure that his social ambitions were to be relied on as a lever. Besides which, when the old Duke of Stone took delighted possession of him, dined with him, drove with him, sat and gossiped with him by the hour, there was not much one could offer him. Strangeways had at first meant only eccentricity. A little later he had occasionally faintly stirred curiosity, and perhaps the fact that Burrill enjoyed him as a grievance and a mystery had stimulated the stirring. The veriest chance had led him to find himself regarding the opening up of possible vistas.

From a certain window in a certain wing of the house a much-praised view was to be seen. Nothing was more natural than that on the occasion of a curious sunset Palliser should, in coming from his room, decide to take a look at it. As he passed through a corridor Pearson came out of a room near him.

"How is Mr. Strangeways to-day?" Palliser asked.

"Not quite so well, I am afraid, sir," was the answer.

"Sorry to hear it," replied Palliser, and passed on.

On his return he walked somewhat slowly down the corridor. As he turned into it he thought he heard the murmur of voices. One was that of T. Tembarom, and he was evidently using argument. It sounded as if he were persuading some one to agree with him, and the persuasion was earnest. He was not arguing with Pearson or a housemaid. Why was he arguing with his pensioner? His voice was as low as it was eager, and the other man's replies were not to be heard. Only just after Palliser had passed the door there broke out an appeal which was a sort of cry.

"No! My God, no! Don't send me away? Don't send me away!"

One could not, even if so inclined, stand and listen near a door while servants might chance to be wandering about. Palliser went on his way with a sense of having been slightly startled.

"He wants to get rid of him, and the fellow is giving him trouble," he said to himself. "That voice is not American. Not in the least." It set him thinking and observing. When Tembarom wore the look which was not a look of depression, but of something more puzzling, he thought that he could guess at its reason. By the time he talked with Lady Mallowe he had gone much further than he chose to let her know.



CHAPTER XXVIII

The popularity of Captain Palliser's story of the "Ladies" had been great at the outset, but with the passage of time it had oddly waned. This had resulted from the story's ceasing to develop itself, as the simplest intelligence might have anticipated, by means of the only person capable of its proper development. The person in question was of course T. Tembarom. Expectations, amusing expectations, of him had been raised, and he had singularly failed in the fulfilling of them. The neighborhood had, so to speak, stood upon tiptoe,—the feminine portion of it, at least,—looking over shoulders to get the first glimpses of what would inevitably take place.

As weeks flew by, the standing on tiptoe became a thing of the past. The whole thing flattened out most disappointingly. No attack whatever was made upon the "Ladies." That the Duke of Stone had immensely taken up Mr. Temple Barholm had of course resulted in his being accepted in such a manner as gave him many opportunities to encounter one and all. He appeared at dinners, teas, and garden parties. Miss Alicia, whom he had in some occult manner impressed upon people until they found themselves actually paying a sort of court to her, was always his companion.

"One realizes one cannot possibly leave her out of anything," had been said. "He has somehow established her as if she were his mother or his aunt—or his interpreter. And such clothes, my dear, one doesn't behold. Worth and Paquin and Doucet must go sleepless for weeks to invent them. They are without a flaw in shade or line or texture." Which was true, because Mrs. Mellish of the Bond Street shop had become quite obsessed by her idea and committed extravagances Miss Alicia offered up contrite prayer to atone for, while Tembarom, simply chortling in his glee, signed checks to pay for their exquisite embodiment. That he was not reluctant to avail himself of social opportunities was made manifest by the fact that he never refused an invitation. He appeared upon any spot to which hospitality bade him, and unashamedly placed himself on record as a neophyte upon almost all occasions. His well-cut clothes began in time to wear more the air of garments belonging to him, but his hat made itself remarked by its trick of getting pushed back on his head or tilted on side, and his New York voice and accent rang out sharp and finely nasal in the midst of low-pitched, throaty, or mellow English enunciations. He talked a good deal at times because he found himself talked to by people who either wanted to draw him out or genuinely wished to hear the things he would be likely to say.

That the hero of Palliser's story should so comport himself as to provide either diversion or cause for haughty displeasure would have been only a natural outcome of his ambitions. In a brief period of time, however, every young woman who might have expected to find herself an object of such ambitions realized that his methods of approach and attack were not marked by the usual characteristics of aspirants of his class. He evidently desired to see and be seen. He presented himself, as it were, for inspection and consideration, but while he was attentive, he did not press attentions upon any one. He did not make advances in the ordinary sense of the word. He never essayed flattering or even admiring remarks. He said queer things at which one often could not help but laugh, but he somehow wore no air of saying them with the intention of offering them as witticisms which might be regarded as allurements. He did not ogle, he did not simper or shuffle about nervously and turn red or pale, as eager and awkward youths have a habit of doing under the stress of unrequited admiration. In the presence of a certain slightingness of treatment, which he at the outset met with not infrequently, he conducted himself with a detached good nature which seemed to take but small account of attitudes less unoffending than his own. When the slightingness disappeared from sheer lack of anything to slight, he did not change his manner in any degree.

"He is not in the least forward," Beatrice Talchester said, the time arriving when she and her sisters occasionally talked him over with their special friends, the Granthams, "and he is not forever under one's feet, as the pushing sort usually is. Do you remember those rich people from the place they called Troy—the ones who took Burnaby for a year—and the awful eldest son who perpetually invented excuses for calling, bringing books and ridiculous things?"

"This one never makes an excuse," Amabel Grantham put in.

"But he never declines an invitation. There is no doubt that he wants to see people," said Lady Honora, with the pretty little nose and the dimples. She had ceased to turn up the pretty little nose, and she showed a dimple as she added: "Gwynedd is tremendously taken with him. She is teaching him to play croquet. They spend hours together."

"He's beginning to play a pretty good game," said Gwynedd. "He's not stupid, at all events."

"I believe you are the first choice, if he is really choosing," Amabel Grantham decided. "I should like to ask you a question."

"Ask it, by all means," said Gwynedd.

"Does he ever ask you to show him how to hold his mallet, and then do idiotic things, such as managing to touch your hand?"

"Never," was Gwynedd's answer. "The young man from Troy used to do it, and then beg pardon and turn red."

"I don't understand him, or I don't understand Captain Palliser's story," Amabel Grantham argued. "Lucy and I are quite out of the running, but I honestly believe that he takes as much notice of us as he does of any of you. If he has intentions, he 'doesn't act the part,' which is pure New York of the first water."

"He said, however, that the things that mattered were not only titles, but looks. He asked how many of us were 'lookers.' Don't be modest, Amabel. Neither you nor Lucy are out of the running," Beatrice amiably suggested.

"Ladies first," commented Amabel, pertly. There was no objection to being supported in one's suspicion that, after all, one was a "looker."

"There may be a sort of explanation," Honora put the idea forward somewhat thoughtfully. "Captain Palliser insists that he is much shrewder than he seems. Perhaps he is cautious, and is looking us all over before he commits himself."

"He is a Temple Barholm, after all," said Gwynedd, with boldness. "He's rather good looking. He has the nicest white teeth and the most cheering grin I ever saw, and he's as 'rich as grease is,' as I heard a housemaid say one day. I'm getting quite resigned to his voice, or it is improving, I don't know which. If he only knew the mere A B C of ordinary people like ourselves, and he committed himself to me, I wouldn't lay my hand on my heart and say that one might not think him over."

"I told you she was tremendously taken with him," said her sister. "It's come to this."

"But," said Lady Gwynedd, "he is not going to commit himself to any of us, incredible as it may seem. The one person he stares at sometimes is Joan Fayre, and he only looks at her as if he were curious and wouldn't object to finding out why she treats him so outrageously. He isn't annoyed; he's only curious."

"He's been adored by salesladies in New York," said Honora, "and he can't understand it."

"He's been liked," Amabel Grantham summed him up. "He's a likable thing. He's even rather a dear. I've begun to like him myself."

"I hear you are learning to play croquet," the Duke of Stone remarked to him a day or so later. "How do you like it?"

"Lady Gwynedd Talchester is teaching me," Tembarom answered. "I'd learn to iron shirt-waists if she would give me lessons. She's one of the two that have dimples," he added, reflection in his tone. "I guess that'll count. Shouldn't you think it would?"

"Miss Hutchinson?" queried the duke.

Tembarom nodded.

"Yes, it's always her," he answered without a ray of humor. "I just want to stack 'em up."

"You are doing it," the duke replied with a slightly twisted mouth. There were, in fact, moments when he might have fallen into fits of laughter while Tembarom was seriousness itself. "I must, however, call your attention to the fact that there is sometimes in your manner a hint of a businesslike pursuit of a fixed object which you must beware of. The Lady Gwynedds might not enjoy the situation if they began to suspect. If they decided to flout you,—'to throw you down,' I ought to say—where would little Miss Hutchinson be?"

Tembarom looked startled and disturbed.

"Say," he exclaimed, "do I ever look that way? I must do better than that. Anyhow, it ain't all put on. I'm doing my stunt, of course, but I like them. They're mighty nice to me when you consider what they're up against. And those two with the dimples,—Lady Gwynned and Lady Honora, are just peaches. Any fellow might"—he stopped and looked serious again—"That's why they'd count," he added.

They were having one of their odd long talks under a particularly splendid copper beech which provided the sheltered out-of-door corner his grace liked best. When they took their seats together in this retreat, it was mysteriously understood that they were settling themselves down to enjoyment of their own, and must not be disturbed.

"When I am comfortable and entertained," Moffat, the house steward, had quoted his master as saying, "you may mention it if the castle is in flames; but do not annoy me with excitement and flurry. Ring the bell in the courtyard, and call up the servants to pass buckets; but until the lawn catches fire, I must insist on being left alone."

"What dear papa talks to him about, and what he talks about to dear papa," Lady Celia had more than once murmured in her gently remote, high-nosed way, "I cannot possibly imagine. Sometimes when I have passed them on my way to the croquet lawn I have really seen them both look as absorbed as people in a play. Of course it is very good for papa. It has had quite a marked effect on his digestion. But isn't it odd!"

"I wish," Lady Edith remarked almost wistfully, "that I could get on better with him myself conversationally. But I don't know what to talk about, and it makes me nervous."

Their father, on the contrary, found in him unique resources, and this afternoon it occurred to him that he had never so far heard him express himself freely on the subject of Palliser. If led to do so, he would probably reveal that he had views of Captain Palliser of which he might not have been suspected, and the manner in which they would unfold themselves would more than probably be illuminating. The duke was, in fact, serenely sure that he required neither warning nor advice, and he had no intention of offering either. He wanted to hear the views.

"Do you know," he said as he stirred his tea, "I've been thinking about Palliser, and it has occurred to me more than once that I should like to hear just how he strikes you?"

"What I got on to first was how I struck him," answered Tembarom, with a reasonable air. "That was dead easy."

There was no hint of any vaunt of superior shrewdness. His was merely the level-toned manner of an observer of facts in detail.

"He has given you an opportunity of seeing a good deal of him," the duke added. "What do you gather from him— unless he has made up his mind that you shall not gather anything at all?"

"A fellow like that couldn't fix it that way, however much he wanted to," Tembarom answered again reasonably. "Just his trying to do it would give him away."

"You mean you have gathered things?"

"Oh, I've gathered enough, though I didn't go after it. It hung on the bushes. Anyhow, it seemed to me that way. I guess you run up against that kind everywhere. There's stacks of them in New York—different shapes and sizes."

"If you met a man of his particular shape and size in New York, how would you describe him?" the duke asked.

"I should never have met him when I was there. He wouldn't have come my way. He'd have been on Wall Street, doing high-class bucket-shop business, or he'd have had a swell office selling copper-mines—any old kind of mine that's going to make ten million a minute, the sort of deal he's in now. If he'd been the kind I might have run up against," he added with deliberation, "he wouldn't have been as well dressed or as well spoken. He'd have been either flashy or down at heel. You'd have called him a crook."

The duke seemed pleased with his tea as, after having sipped it, he put it down on the table at his side.

"A crook?" he repeated. "I wonder if that word is altogether American?"

"It's not complimentary, but you asked me," said Tembarom. "But I don't believe you asked me because you thought I wasn't on to him." "Frankly speaking, no," answered the duke. "Does he talk to you about the mammoth mines and the rubber forests?"

"Say, that's where he wins out with me," Tembarom replied admiringly. "He gets in such fine work that I switch him on to it whenever I want cheering up. It makes me sorter forget things that worry me just to see a man act the part right up to the top notch the way he does it. The very way his clothes fit, the style he's got his hair brushed, and that swell, careless lounge of his, are half of the make-up. You see, most of us couldn't mistake him for anything else but just what he looks like—a gentleman visiting round among his friends and a million miles from wanting to butt in with business. The thing that first got me interested was watching how he slid in the sort of guff he wanted you to get worked up about and think over. Why, if I'd been what I look like to him, he'd have had my pile long ago, and he wouldn't be loafing round here any more."

"What do you think you look like to him?" his host inquired.

"I look as if I'd eat out of his hand," Tembarom answered, quite unbiased by any touch of wounded vanity. "Why shouldn't I? And I'm not trying to wake him up, either. I like to look that way to him and to his sort. It gives me a chance to watch and get wise to things. He's a high-school education in himself. I like to hear him talk. I asked him to come and stay at the house so that I could hear him talk."

"Did he introduce the mammoth mines in his first call?" the duke inquired.

"Oh, I don't mean that kind of talk. I didn't know how much good I was going to get out of him at first. But he was the kind I hadn't known, and it seemed like he was part of the whole thing—like the girls with title that Ann said I must get next to. And an easy way of getting next to the man kind was to let him come and stay. He wanted to, all right. I guess that's the way he lives when he's down on his luck, getting invited to stay at places. Like Lady Mallowe," he added, quite without prejudice.

"You do sum them up, don't you?" smiled the duke.

"Well, I don't see how I could help it," he said impartially. "They're printed in sixty-four point black-face, seems to me."

"What is that?" the duke inquired with interest. He thought it might be a new and desirable bit of slang. "I don't know that one."

"Biggest type there is," grinned Tembarom. "It's the kind that's used for head-lines. That's newspaper-office talk."

"Ah, technical, I see. What, by the way, is the smallest lettering called?" his grace followed up.

"Brilliant," answered Tembarom.

"You," remarked the duke, "are not printed in sixty-four-point black- face so far as they are concerned. You are not even brilliant. They don't find themselves able to sum you up. That fact is one of my recreations."

"I'll tell you why," Tembarom explained with his clearly unprejudiced air. "There's nothing much about me to sum up, anyhow. I'm too sort of plain sailing and ordinary. I'm not making for anywhere they'd think I'd want to go. I'm not hiding anything they'd be sure I'd want to hide."

"By the Lord! you're not!" exclaimed the duke.

"When I first came here, every one of them had a fool idea I'd want to pretend I'd never set eyes on a newsboy or a boot-black, and that I couldn't find my way in New York when I got off Fifth Avenue. I used to see them thinking they'd got to look as if they believed it, if they wanted to keep next. When I just let out and showed I didn't care a darn and hadn't sense enough to know that it mattered, it nearly made them throw a fit. They had to turn round and fix their faces all over again and act like it was 'interesting.' That's what Lady Mallowe calls it. She says it's so 'interesting!'"

"It is," commented the duke.

"Well, you know that, but she doesn't. Not on your life! I guess it makes her about sick to think of it and have to play that it's just what you'd want all your men friends to have done. Now, Palliser—" he paused and grinned again. He was sitting in a most casual attitude, his hands clasped round one up-raised knee, which he nursed, balancing himself. It was a position of informal ease which had an air of assisting enjoyable reflection.

"Yes, Palliser? Don't let us neglect Palliser," his host encouraged him.

"He's in a worse mix-up than the rest because he's got more to lose. If he could work this mammoth-mine song and dance with the right people, there'd be money enough in it to put him on Easy Street. That's where he's aiming for. The company's just where it has to have a boost. It's just GOT to. If it doesn't, there'll be a bust up that may end in fitting out a high-toned promoter or so in a striped yellow-and-black Jersey suit and set him to breaking rocks or playing with oakum. I'll tell you, poor old Palliser gets the Willies sometimes after he's read his mail. He turns the color of ecru baby Irish. That's a kind of lace I got a dressmaker to tell me about when I wrote up receptions and dances for the Sunday Earth. Ecru baby Irish—that's Palliser's color after he's read his letters."

"I dare say the fellow's in a devil of a mess, if the truth were known," the duke said.

"And here's 'T. T.,' hand-made and hand-painted for the part of the kind of sucker he wants." T. Tembarom's manner was almost sympathetic in its appreciation. "I can tell you I'm having a real good time with Palliser. It looked like I'd just dropped from heaven when he first saw me. If he'd been the praying kind, I'd have been just the sort he'd have prayed for when he said his 'Now-I-lay-me's' before he went to bed. There wasn't a chance in a hundred that I wasn't a fool that had his head swelled so that he'd swallow any darned thing if you handed it to him smooth enough. First time he called he asked me a lot of questions about New York business. That was pretty smart of him. He wanted to find out, sort of careless, how much I knew—or how little."

The duke was leaning back luxuriously in his chair and gazing at him as he might have gazed at the work of an old master of which each line and shade was of absorbing interest.

"I can see him," he said. "I can see him."

"He found out I knew nothing," Tembarom continued. "And what was to hinder him trying to teach me something, by gee! Nothing on top of the green earth. I was there, waiting with my mouth open, it seemed like."

"And he has tried—in his best manner?" said his grace.

"What he hasn't tried wouldn't be worthy trying," Tembarom answered cheerfully. "Sometimes it seems like a shame to waste it. I've got so I know how to start him when he doesn't know I'm doing it. I tell you, he's fine. Gentlemanly —that's his way, you know. High-toned friend that just happens to know of a good thing and thinks enough of you in a sort of reserved way to feel like it's a pity not to give you a chance to come in on the ground floor, if you've got the sense to see the favor he's friendly enough to do you. It's such a favor that it'd just disgust a man if you could possibly turn it down. But of course you're to take it or leave it. It's not to his interest to push it. Lord, no! Whatever you did his way is that he'd not condescend to say a darned word. High-toned silence, that's all."

The Duke of Stone was chuckling very softly. His chuckles rather broke his words when he spoke.

"By—by—Jove!" he said. "You—you do see it, don't you? You do see it."

Tembarom nursed his knee comfortably.

"Why," he said, "it's what keeps me up. You know a lot more about me than any one else does, but there's a whole raft of things I think about that I couldn't hang round any man's neck. If I tried to hang them round yours, you'd know that I would be having a hell of a time here, if I'd let myself think too much. If I didn't see it, as you call it, if I didn't see so many things, I might begin to get sorry for myself. There was a pause of a second. "Gee!" he said, "Gee! this not hearing a thing about Ann!—"

"Good Lord! my dear fellow," the duke said hastily, "I know. I know."

Tembarom turned and looked at him.

"You've been there," he remarked. "You've been there, I bet."

"Yes, I've been there," answered the duke. "I've been there—and come back. But while it's going on—you have just described it. A man can have a hell of a time."

"He can," Tembarom admitted unreservedly. "He's got to keep going to stand it. Well, Strangeways gives me some work to do. And I've got Palliser. He's a little sunbeam."

A man-servant approaching to suggest a possible need of hot tea started at hearing his grace break into a sudden and plainly involuntary crow of glee. He had not heard that one before either. Palliser as a little sunbeam brightening the pathway of T. Tembarom, was, in the particular existing circumstances, all that could be desired of fine humor. It somewhat recalled the situation of the "Ladies" of the noble houses of Pevensy, Talchester, and Stone unconsciously passing in review for the satisfaction of little Miss Hutchinson. Tembarom laughed a little himself, but he went on with a sort of seriousness

"There's one thing sure enough. I've got on to it by listening and working out what he would do by what he doesn't know he says. If he could put the screws on me in any way, he wouldn't hold back. It'd be all quite polite and gentlemanly, but he'd do it all the same. And he's dead-sure that everybody's got something they'd like to hide—or get. That's what he works things out from."

"Does he think you have something to hide—or get?" the duke inquired rather quickly.

"He's sure of it. But he doesn't know yet whether it's get or hide. He noses about. Pearson's seen him. He asks questions and plays he ain't doing it and ain't interested, anyhow."

"He doesn't like you, he doesn't like you," the duke said rather thoughtfully. "He has a way of conveying that you are far more subtle than you choose to look. He is given to enlarging on the fact that an air of entire frankness is one of the chief assets of certain promoters of huge American schemes."

Tembarom smiled the smile of recognition.

"Yes," he said, "it looks like that's a long way round, doesn't it? But it's not far to T. T. when you want to hitch on the connection. Anyhow, that's the way he means it to look. If ever I was suspected of being in any mix-up, everybody would remember he'd said that."

"It's very amusin'," said the duke. " It's very amusin'."

They had become even greater friends and intimates by this time than the already astonished neighborhood suspected them of being. That they spent much time together in an amazing degree of familiarity was the talk of the country, in fact, one of the most frequent resources of conversation. Everybody endeavored to find reason for the situation, but none had been presented which seemed of sufficiently logical convincingness. The duke was eccentric, of course. That was easy to hit upon. He was amiably perverse and good-humoredly cynical. He was of course immensely amused by the incongruity of the acquaintance. This being the case, why exactly he had never before chosen for himself a companion equally out of the picture it was not easy to explain. There were plow-boys or clerks out of provincial shops who would surely have been quite as incongruous when surrounded by ducal splendors. He might have got a young man from Liverpool or Blackburn who would have known as little of polite society as Mr. Temple Barholm; there were few, of course, who could know less. But he had never shown the faintest desire to seek one out. Palliser, it is true, suggested it was Tembarom's "cheek" which stood him in good stead. The young man from behind the counter in a Liverpool or Blackburn shop would probably have been frightened to death and afraid to open his mouth in self-revelation, whereas Temple Barholm was so entirely a bounder that he did not know he was one, and was ready to make an ass of himself to any extent. The frankest statement of the situation, if any one had so chosen to put it, would have been that he was regarded as a sort of court fool without cap or bells.

No one was aware of the odd confidences which passed between the weirdly dissimilar pair. No one guessed that the old peer sat and listened to stories of a red-headed, slim-bodied girl in a dingy New York boarding-house, that he liked them sufficiently to encourage their telling, that he had made a mental picture of a certain look in a pair of maternally yearning and fearfully convincing round young eyes, that he knew the burnished fullness and glow of the red hair until he could imagine the feeling of its texture and abundant warmth in the hand. And this subject was only one of many. And of others they talked with interest, doubt, argument, speculation, holding a living thrill.

The tap of croquet mallets sounded hollow and clear from the sunken lawn below the mass of shrubs between them and the players as the duke repeated.

"It's hugely amusin'," dropping his "g," which was not one of his usual affectations.

"Confound it!" he said next, wrinkling the thin, fine skin round his eyes in a speculative smile, "I wish I had had a son of my own just like you."

All of Tembarom's white teeth revealed themselves.

"I'd have liked to have been in it," he replied, "but I shouldn't have been like me."

"Yes, you would." The duke put the tips of his fingers delicately together. "You are of the kind which in all circumstances is like itself." He looked about him, taking in the turreted, majestic age and mass of the castle. "You would have been born here. You would have learned to ride your pony down the avenue. You would have gone to Eton and to Oxford. I don't think you would have learned much, but you would have been decidedly edifying and companionable. You would have had a sense of humor which would have made you popular in society and at court. A young fellow who makes those people laugh holds success in his hand. They want to be made to laugh as much as I do. Good God! how they are obliged to be bored and behave decently under it! You would have seen and known more things to be humorous about than you know now. I don't think you would have been a fool about women, but some of them would have been fools about you, because you've got a way. I had one myself. It's all the more dangerous because it's possibility suggesting without being sentimental. A friendly young fellow always suggests possibilities without being aware of it.

"Would I have been Lord Temple Temple Barholm or something of that sort?" Tembarom asked.

"You would have been the Marquis of Belcarey," the duke replied, looking him over thoughtfully, "and your name would probably have been Hugh Lawrence Gilbert Henry Charles Adelbert, or words to that effect."

"A regular six-shooter," said Tembarom.

The duke was following it up with absorption in his eyes.

"You'd have gone into the Guards, perhaps," he said, "and drill would have made you carry yourself better. You're a good height. You'd have been a well-set-up fellow. I should have been rather proud of you. I can see you riding to the palace with the rest of them, sabres and chains clanking and glittering and helmet with plumes streaming. By Jove! I don't wonder at the effect they have on nursery-maids. On a sunny morning in spring they suggest knights in a fairytale."

"I should have liked it all right if I hadn't been born in Brooklyn," grinned Tembarom. "But that starts you out in a different way. Do you think, if I'd been born the Marquis of Bel—what's his name—I should have been on to Palliser's little song and dance, and had as much fun out of it?"

"On my soul, I believe you would," the, duke answered. "Brooklyn or Stone Hover Castle, I'm hanged if you wouldn't have been YOU."



CHAPTER XXIX

After this came a pause. Each man sat thinking his own thoughts, which, while marked with difference in form, were doubtless subtly alike in the line they followed. During the silence T. Tembarom looked out at the late afternoon shadows lengthening themselves in darkening velvet across the lawns.

At last he said:

"I never told you that I've been reading some of the 'steen thousand books in the library. I started it about a month ago. And somehow they've got me going."

The slightly lifted eyebrows of his host did not express surprise so much as questioning interest. This man, at least, had discovered that one need find no cause for astonishment in any discovery that he had been doing a thing for some time for some reason or through some prompting of his own, and had said nothing whatever about it until he was what he called "good and ready." When he was "good and ready" he usually revealed himself to the duke, but he was not equally expansive with others.

"No, you have not mentioned it," his grace answered, and laughed a little. "You frequently fail to mention things. When first we knew each other I used to wonder if you were naturally a secretive fellow; but you are not. You always have a reason for your silences."

"It took about ten years to kick that into me—ten good years, I should say." T. Tembarom looked as if he were looking backward at many episodes as he said it. "Naturally, I guess, I must have been an innocent, blab-mouthed kid. I meant no harm, but I just didn't know. Sometimes it looks as if just not knowing is about the worst disease you can be troubled with. But if you don't get killed first, you find out in time that what you've got to hold on to hard and fast is the trick of 'saying nothing and sawing wood.'"

The duke took out his memorandum-book and began to write hastily. T. Tembarom was quite accustomed to this. He even repeated his axiom for him.

"Say nothing and saw wood," he said. "It's worth writing down. It means 'shut your mouth and keep on working.'"

"Thank you," said the duke. "It is worth writing down. Thank you."

"I did not talk about the books because I wanted to get used to them before I began to talk," Tembarom explained. "I wanted to get somewhere. I'd never read a book through in my life before. Never wanted to. Never had one and never had time. When night came, I was dog-tired and dog-ready to drop down and sleep."

Here was a situation of interest. A young man of odd, direct shrewdness, who had never read a book through in his existence, had plunged suddenly into the extraordinarily varied literary resources of the Temple Barholm library. If he had been a fool or a genius one might have guessed at the impression made on him; being T. Tembarom, one speculated with secret elation. The primitiveness he might reveal, the profundities he might touch the surface of, the unexpected ends he might reach, suggested the opening of vistas.

"I have often thought that if books attracted you the library would help you to get through a good many of the hundred and thirty-six hours a day you've spoken of, and get through them pretty decently," commented the duke.

"That's what's happened," Tembarom answered. "There's not so many now. I can cut 'em off in chunks."

"How did it begin?"

He listened with much pleasure while Tembarom told him how it had begun and how it had gone on.

"I'd been having a pretty bad time one day. Strangeways had been worse—a darned sight worse—just when I thought he was better. I'd been trying to help him to think straight; and suddenly I made a break, somehow, and must have touched exactly the wrong spring. It seemed as if I set him nearly crazy. I had to leave him to Pearson right away. Then it poured rain steady for about eight hours, and I couldn't get out and 'take a walk.' Then I went wandering into the picture-gallery and found Lady Joan there, looking at Miles Hugo. And she ordered me out, or blamed near it."

"You are standing a good deal," said the duke.

"Yes, I am—but so is she." He set his hard young jaw and nursed his knee, staring once more at the velvet shadows. "The girl in the book I picked up—" he began.

"The first book? " his host inquired.

Tembarom nodded.

"The very first. I was smoking my pipe at night, after every one else had gone to bed, and I got up and began to wander about and stare at the names of the things on the shelves. I was thinking over a whole raft of things—a whole raft of them—and I didn't know I was doing it, until something made me stop and read a name again. It was a book called 'Good-by, Sweetheart, Good-by,' and it hit me straight. I wondered what it was about, and I wondered where old Temple Barholm had fished up a thing like that. I never heard he was that kind."

"He was a cantankerous old brute," said the Duke of Stone with candor, "but he chanced to be an omnivorous novel-reader. Nothing was too sentimental for him in his later years."

"I took the thing out and read it," Tembarom went on, uneasily, the emotion of his first novel-reading stirring him as he talked. "It kept me up half the night, and I hadn't finished it then. I wanted to know the end."

"Benisons upon the books of which one wants to know the end!" the duke murmured.

Tembarom's interest had plainly not terminated with "the end." Its freshness made it easily revived. There was a hint of emotional indignation in his relation of the plot.

"It was about a couple of fools who were dead stuck on each other— dead. There was no mistake about that. It was all real. But what do they do but work up a fool quarrel about nothing, and break away from each other. There was a lot of stuff about pride. Pride be damned! How's a man going to be proud and put on airs when he loves a woman? How's a woman going to be proud and stick out about things when she loves a man? At least, that's the way it hit me."

"That's the way it hit me—once," remarked his grace.

"There is only once," said Tembarom, doggedly.

"Occasionally," said his host. "Occasionally."

Tembarom knew what he meant.

"The fellow went away, and neither of them would give in. It's queer how real it was when you read it. You were right there looking on, and swallowing hard every few minutes— though you were as mad as hops. The girl began to die—slow —and lay there day after day, longing for him to come back, and knowing he wouldn't. At the very end, when there was scarcely a breath left in her, a young fellow who was crazy about her himself, and always had been, put out after the hard-headed fool to bring him to her anyhow. The girl had about given in then. And she lay and waited hour after hour, and the youngster came back by himself. He couldn't bring the man he'd gone after. He found him getting married to a nice girl he didn't really care a darn for. He'd sort of set his teeth and done it—just because he was all in and down and out, and a fool. The girl just dropped her head back on the pillow and lay there, dead! What do you think of that?" quite fiercely. "I guess it was sentimental all right, but it got you by the throat."

"'Good-bye, Sweetheart, Good-bye,"' his grace quoted. "First-class title. We are all sentimental. And that was the first, was it?"

"Yes, but it wasn't the last. I began to read the others. I've been reading them ever since. I tell you, for a fellow that knows nothing it's an easy way of finding out a lot of things. You find out what different kinds of people there are, and what different kinds of ways. If you've lived in one place, and been up against nothing but earning your living, you think that's all there is of it—that it's the whole thing. But it isn't, by gee!" His air became thoughtful. "I've begun to kind of get on to what all this means"—glancing about him—"to you people; and how a fellow like T. T. must look to you. I've always sort of guessed, but reading a few dozen novels has helped me to see WHY it's that way. I've yelled right out laughing over it many a time. That fellow called Thackeray—I can't read his things right straight through— but he 's an eye-opener."

"You have tried nothing BUT novels?" his enthralled hearer inquired.

"Not yet. I shall come to the others in time. I'm sort of hungry for these things about PEOPLE. It's the ways they're different that gets me going. There was one that stirred me all up—but it wasn't like that first one. It was about a man "—he spoke slowly, as if searching for words and parallels —"well, I guess he was one of the early savages here. It read as if they were like the first Indians in America, only stronger and fiercer. When Palford was explaining things to me he'd jerk in every now and then something about 'coming over with the Conqueror' or being here 'before the Conqueror.' I didn't know what it meant. I found out in this book I'm telling about. It gave me the whole thing so that you SAW it. Here was this little country, with no one in it but these first savage fellows it'd always belonged to. They thought it was the world." There was a humorous sense of illumination in his half-laugh. "It was their New York, by jings," he put in. "Their little old New York that they'd never been outside of! And then first one lot slams in, and then another, and another, and tries to take it from them. Julius Caesar was the first Mr. Buttinski; and they fought like hell. They were fighters from Fightersville, anyhow. They fought each other, took each other's castles and lands and wives and jewelry—just any old thing they wanted. The only jails were private ones meant for their particular friends. And a man was hung only when one of his neighbors got mad enough at him, and then he had to catch him first and run the risk of being strung up himself, or have his head chopped off and stuck up on a spike somewhere for ornament. But fight! Good Lord! They were at it day and night. Did it for fun, just like folks go to the show. They didn't know what fear was. Never heard of it. They'd go about shouting and bragging and swaggering, with their heads hanging half off. And the one in this book was the bulliest fighter of the lot. I guess I don't know how to pronounce his name. It began with H."

"Was it Hereward the Wake, by chance?" exclaimed his auditor. "Hereward the Last of the English?"

"That's the man," cried Tembarom.

"An engaging ruffian and thief and murderer, and a touching one also," commented the duke. "You liked him?" He really wanted to know.

"I like the way he went after what he wanted to get, and the way he fought for his bit of England. By gee! When he went rushing into a fight, shouting and boasting and swinging his sword, I got hot in the collar. It was his England. What was old Bill doing there anyhow, darn him! Those chaps made him swim in their blood before they let him put the thing over. Good business! I'm glad they gave him all that was coming to him—hot and strong."

His sharp face had reddened and his voice rose high and nasal. There was a look of roused blood in him.

"Are you a fighter from Fightersville?" the duke asked, far from unstirred himself. These things had become myths to most people, but here was Broadway in the midst of them unconsciously suggesting that it might not have done ill in the matter of swinging "Brain-Biter" itself. The modern entity slipped back again through the lengthened links of bygone centuries—back until it became T. Tembarom once more- - casual though shrewd; ready and jocular. His eyes resumed their dry New York humor of expression as they fixed themselves on his wholly modern questioner.

"I'll fight," he said, "for what I've got to fight for, but not for a darned thing else. Not a darned thing."

"But you would fight," smiled the duke, grimly. "Did you happen to remember that blood like that has come down to you? It was some drop of it which made you 'hot in the collar' over that engaging savage roaring and slashing about him for his 'bit of England."'

Tembarom seemed to think it out interestedly.

"No, I did not," he answered. "But I guess that's so. I guess it's so. Great Jakes! Think of me perhaps being sort of kin to fellows just like that. Some way, you couldn't help liking him. He was always making big breaks and bellowing out 'The Wake! The Wake!' in season and out of season; but the way he got there—just got there!"

He was oddly in sympathy with "the early savages here," and as understandingly put himself into their places as he had put himself into Galton's. His New York comprehension of their berserker furies was apparently without limit. Strong partizan as he was of the last of the English, however, he admitted that William of Normandy had "got in some good work, though it wasn't square."

"He was a big man," he ended. "If he hadn't been the kind he was I don't know how I should have stood it when the Hereward fellow knelt down before him, and put his hands between his and swore to be his man. That's the way the book said it. I tell you that must have been tough—tough as hell!" From "Good-bye, Sweetheart" to "Hereward the Last of the English" was a far cry, but he had gathered a curious collection of ideas by the way, and with characteristic everyday reasoning had linked them to his own experiences.

"The women in the Hereward book made me think of Lady Joan," he remarked, suddenly.

"Torfreda? " the duke asked.

He nodded quite seriously.

"She had ways that reminded me of her, and I kept thinking they must both have had the same look in their eyes—sort of fierce and hungry. Torfreda had black hair and was a winner as to looks; but people were afraid of her and called her a witch. Hereward went mad over her and she went mad over him. That part of it was 'way out of sight, it was so fine. She helped him with his fights and told him what to do, and tried to keep him from drinking and bragging. Whatever he did, she never stopped being crazy about him. She mended his men's clothes, and took care of their wounds, and lived in the forest with him when he was driven out."

"That sounds rather like Miss Hutchinson," his host suggested, "though the parallel between a Harlem flat and an English forest in the eleventh century is not exact."

"I thought that, too," Tembarom admitted. "Ann would have done the same things, but she'd have done them in her way. If that fellow had taken his wife's advice, he wouldn't have ended with his head sticking on a spear."

"Another lady, if I remember rightly," said the duke.

"He left her, the fool! " Tembarom answered. "And there's where I couldn't get away from seeing Lady Joan; Jem Temple Barholm didn't go off with another woman, but what Torfreda went through, this one has gone through, and she's going through it yet. She can't dress herself in sackcloth, and cut off her hair, and hide herself away with a bunch of nuns, as the other one did. She has to stay and stick it out, however bad it is. That's a darned sight worse. The day after I'd finished the book, I couldn't keep my eyes off her. I tried to stop it, but it was no use. I kept hearing that Torfreda one screaming out, 'Lost! Lost! Lost!' It was all in her face."

"But, my good fellow," protested the duke, despite feeling a touch of the thrill again, "unfortunately, she would not suspect you of looking at her because you were recalling Torfreda and Hereward the Wake. Men stare at her for another reason."

"That's what I know about half as well again as I know anything else," answered Tembarom. He added, with a deliberation holding its own meaning, "That's what I'm coming to."

The duke waited. What was it he was coming to?

"Reading that novel put me wise to things in a new way. She's been wiping her feet on me hard for a good while, and I sort of made up my mind I'd got to let her until I was sure where I was. I won't say I didn't mind it, but I could stand it. But that night she caught me looking at her, the way she looked back at me made me see all of a sudden that it would be easier for her if I told her straight that she was mistaken."

"That she is mistaken in thinking—?"

"What she does think. She wouldn't have thought it if the old lady hadn't been driving her mad by hammering it in. She'd have hated me all right, and I don't blame her when I think of how poor Jem was treated; but she wouldn't have thought that every time I tried to be decent and friendly to her I was butting in and making a sick fool of myself. She's got to stay where her mother keeps her, and she's got to listen to her. Oh, hell! She's got to be told!"

The duke set the tips of his fingers together.

"How would you do it?" he inquired.

"Just straight," replied T. Tembarom. "There's no other way."

From the old worldling broke forth an involuntary low laugh, which was a sort of cackle. So this was what he was coming to.

"I cannot think of any devious method," he said, "which would make it less than a delicate thing to do. A beautiful young woman, whose host you are, has flouted you furiously for weeks, under the impression that you are offensively in love with her. You propose to tell her that her judgment has betrayed her, and that, as you say, 'There's nothing doing.'"

"Not a darned thing, and never has been," said T. Tembarom. He looked quite grave and not at all embarrassed. He plainly did not see it as a situation to be regarded with humor.

"If she will listen—" the duke began.

"Oh, she'll listen," put in Tembarom. "I'll make her."

His was a self-contradicting countenance, the duke reflected, as he took him in with a somewhat long look. One did not usually see a face built up of boyishness and maturity, simpleness which was baffling, and a good nature which could be hard. At the moment, it was both of these last at one and the same time.

"I know something of Lady Joan and I know something of you," he said, "but I don't exactly foresee what will happen. I will not say that I should not like to be present."

"There'll be nobody present but just me and her," Tembarom answered.



CHAPTER XXX

The visits of Lady Mallowe and Captain Palliser had had their features. Neither of the pair had come to one of the most imposing "places" in Lancashire to live a life of hermit-like seclusion and dullness. They had arrived with the intention of availing themselves of all such opportunities for entertainment as could be guided in their direction by the deftness of experience. As a result, there had been hospitalities at Temple Barholm such as it had not beheld during the last generation at least. T. Tembarom had looked on, an interested spectator, as these festivities had been adroitly arranged and managed for him. He had not, however, in the least resented acting as a sort of figurehead in the position of sponsor and host.

"They think I don't know I'm not doing it all myself," was his easy mental summing-up. "They've got the idea that I'm pleased because I believe I'm It. But that's all to the merry. It's what I've set my mind on having going on here, and I couldn't have started it as well myself. I shouldn't have known how. They're teaching me. All I hope is that Ann's grandmother is keeping tab."

"Do you and Rose know old Mrs. Hutchinson?" he had inquired of Pearson the night before the talk with the duke.

"Well, not to say exactly know her, sir, but everybody knows of her. She is a most remarkable old person, sir." Then, after watching his face for a moment or so, he added tentatively, "Would you perhaps wish us to make her acquaintance for— for any reason?"

Tembarom thought the matter over speculatively. He had learned that his first liking for Pearson had been founded upon a rock. He was always to be trusted to understand, and also to apply a quite unusual intelligence to such matters as he became aware of without having been told about them.

"What I'd like would be for her to hear that there's plenty doing at Temple Barholm; that people are coming and going all the time; and that there's ladies to burn—and most of them lookers, at that," was his answer.

How Pearson had discovered the exotic subtleties of his master's situation and mental attitude toward it, only those of his class and gifted with his occult powers could explain in detail. The fact exists that Pearson did know an immense number of things his employer had not mentioned to him, and held them locked in his bosom in honored security, like a little gentleman. He made his reply with a polite conviction which carried weight.

"It would not be necessary for either Rose or me to make old Mrs. Hutchinson's acquaintance with a view to informing her of anything which occurs on the estate or in the village, sir," he remarked. "Mrs. Hutchinson knows more of things than any one ever tells her. She sits in her cottage there, and she just knows things and sees through people in a way that'd be almost unearthly, if she wasn't a good old person, and so respectable that there's those that touches their hats to her as if she belonged to the gentry. She's got a blue eye, sir—"

"Has she?" exclaimed Tembarom.

"Yes, sir. As blue as a baby's, sir, and as clear, though she's past eighty. And they tell me there's a quiet, steady look in it that ill- doers downright quail before. It's as if she was a kind of judge that sentenced them without speaking. They can't stand it. Oh, sir! you can depend upon old Mrs. Hutchinson as to who's been here, and even what they've thought about it. The village just flocks to her to tell her the news and get advice about things. She'd know."

It was as a result of this that on his return from Stone Hover he dismissed the carriage at the gates and walked through them to make a visit in the village. Old Mrs. Hutchinson, sitting knitting in her chair behind the abnormally flourishing fuchsias, geraniums, and campanula carpaticas in her cottage-window, looked between the banked- up flower-pots to see that Mr. Temple Barholm had opened her wicket- gate and was walking up the clean bricked path to her front door. When he knocked she called out in the broad Lancashire she had always spoken, "Coom in!" When he entered he took off his hat and looked at her, friendly but hesitant, and with the expression of a young man who has not quite made up his mind as to what he is about to encounter.

"I'm Temple Temple Barholm, Mrs. Hutchinson," he announced.

"I know that," she answered. "Not that tha looks loike th' Temple Barholms, but I've been watchin' thee walk an' drive past here ever since tha coom to th' place."

She watched him steadily with an astonishingly limpid pair of old eyes. They were old and young at the same time; old because they held deeps of wisdom, young because they were so alive and full of question.

"I don't know whether I ought to have come to see you or not," he said.

"Well, tha'st coom," she replied, going on with her knitting. "Sit thee doun and have a bit of a chat."

"Say!" he broke out. "Ain't you going to shake hands with me?" He held his hand out impetuously. He knew he was all right if she'd shake hands.

"Theer's nowt agen that surely," she answered, with a shrewd bit of a smile. She gave him her hand. "If I was na stiff in my legs, it's my place to get up an' mak' thee a curtsey, but th' rheumatics has no respect even for th' lord o' th' manor."

"If you got up and made me a curtsey," Tembarom said, "I should throw a fit. Say, Mrs. Hutchinson, I bet you know that as well as I do."

The shrewd bit of a smile lighted her eyes as well as twinkled about her mouth.

"Sit thee doun," she said again.

So he sat down and looked at her as straight as she looked at him.

"Tha 'd give a good bit," she said presently, over her flashing needles, "to know how much Little Ann's tow'd me about thee."

"I'd give a lot to know how much it'd be square to ask you to tell me about her," he gave back to her, hesitating yet eager.

"What does tha mean by square?" she demanded.

"I mean 'fair.' Can I talk to you about her at all? I promised I'd stick it out here and do as she said. She told me she wasn't going to write to me or let her father write. I've promised, and I'm not going to fall down when I've said a thing."

"So tha coom to see her grandmother?"

He reddened, but held his head up.

"I'm not going to ask her grandmother a thing she doesn't want me to be told. But I've been up against it pretty hard lately. I read some things in the New York papers about her father and his invention, and about her traveling round with him and helping him with his business."

"In Germany they wur," she put in, forgetting herself. "They're havin' big doin's over th' invention. What Joe 'u'd do wi'out th' lass I canna tell. She's doin' every bit o' th' managin' an' contrivin' wi' them furriners—but he'll never know it. She's got a chap to travel wi' him as can talk aw th' languages under th' sun."

Her face flushed and she stopped herself sharply.

"I'm talkin' about her to thee!" she said. "I would na ha' believed o' mysen'."

He got up from his chair.

"I guess I oughtn't to have come," he said, restlessly. "But you haven't told me more than I got here and there in the papers. That was what started me. It was like watching her. I could hear her talking and see the way she was doing things till it drove me half crazy. All of a sudden, I just got wild and made up my mind I'd come here. I've wanted to do it many a time, but I've kept away."

"Tha showed sense i' doin' that," remarked Mrs. Hutchinson. "She'd not ha' thowt well o' thee if tha'd coom runnin' to her grandmother every day or so. What she likes about thee is as she thinks tha's got a strong backbone o' thy own."

She looked up at him over her knitting, looked straight into his eyes, and there was that in her own which made him redden and feel his pulse quicken. It was actually something which even remotely suggested that she was not—in the deeps of her strong old mind—as wholly unswerving as her words might imply. It was something more subtle than words. She was not keeping him wholly in the dark when she said "What she likes about thee." If Ann said things like that to her, he was pretty well off.

"Happen a look at a lass's grandmother—when tha conna get at th' lass hersen—is a bit o' comfort," she added. "But don't tha go walkin' by here to look in at th' window too often. She would na think well o' that either."

"Say! There's one thing I'm going to get off my chest before I go," he announced, "just one thing. She can go where she likes and do what she likes, but I'm going to marry her when she's done it—unless something knocks me on the head and finishes me. I'm going to marry her."

"Tha art, art tha?" laconically; but her eyes were still on his, and the something in their depths by no means diminished.

"I'm keeping up my end here, and it's no slouch of a job, but I'm not forgetting what she promised for one minute! And I'm not forgetting what her promise means," he said obstinately.

"Tha'd like me to tell her that?" she said.

"If she doesn't know it, you telling her wouldn't cut any ice," was his reply. "I'm saying it because I want you to know it, and because it does me good to say it out loud. I'm going to marry her."

"That's for her and thee to settle," she commented, impersonally.

"It is settled," he answered. "There 's no way out of it. Will you shake hands with me again before I go?"

"Aye," she consented, "I will."

When she took his hand she held it a minute. Her own was warm, and there was no limpness about it. The secret which had seemed to conceal itself behind her eyes had some difficulty in keeping itself wholly in the background.

"She knows aw tha' does," she said coolly, as if she were not suddenly revealing immensities. "She knows who cooms an' who goes, an' what they think o' thee, an' how tha gets on wi' 'em. Now get thee gone, lad, an' dunnot tha coom back till her or me sends for thee."



Within an hour of this time the afternoon post brought to Lady Mallowe a letter which she read with an expression in which her daughter recognized relief. It was in fact a letter for which she had waited with anxiety, and the invitation it contained was a tribute to her social skill at its highest watermark. In her less heroic moments, she had felt doubts of receiving it, which had caused shudders to run the entire length of her spine.

"I'm going to Broome Haughton," she announced to Joan.

"When?" Joan inquired.

"At the end of the week. I am invited for a fortnight."

"Am I going?" Joan asked.

"No. You will go to London to meet some friends who are coming over from Paris."

Joan knew that comment was unnecessary. Both she and her mother were on intimate terms with these hypothetical friends who so frequently turned up from Paris or elsewhere when it was necessary that she should suddenly go back to London and live in squalid seclusion in the unopened house, with a charwoman to provide her with underdone or burnt chops, and eggs at eighteen a shilling, while the shutters of the front rooms were closed, and dusty desolation reigned. She knew every detail of the melancholy squalor of it, the dragging hours, the nights of lying awake listening to the occasional passing of belated cabs, or the squeaks and nibbling of mice in the old walls.

"If you had conducted yourself sensibly you need not have gone," continued her mother. "I could have made an excuse and left you here. You would at least have been sure of good food and decent comforts."

"After your visit, are we to return here?" was Lady Joan's sole reply.

"Don't look at me like that," said Lady Mallowe. "I thought the country would freshen your color at least; but you are going off more every day. You look like the Witch of Endor sometimes."

Joan smiled faintly. This was the brandishing of an old weapon, and she understood all its significance. It meant that the time for opportunities was slipping past her like the waters of a rapid river.

"I do not know what will happen when I leave Broome Haughton," her mother added, a note of rasped uncertainty in her voice. "We may be obliged to come here for a short time, or we may go abroad."

"If I refuse to come, would you let me starve to death in Piers Street?" Joan inquired.

Lady Mallowe looked her over, feeling a sort of frenzy at the sight of her. In truth, the future was a hideous thing to contemplate if no rescue at all was in sight. It would be worse for her than for Joan, because Joan did not care what happened or did not happen, and she cared desperately. She had indeed arrived at a maddening moment.

"Yes," she snapped, fiercely. And when Joan faintly smiled again she understood why women of the lower orders beat one another until policemen interfere. She knew perfectly well that the girl had somehow found out that Sir Moses Monaldini was to be at Broome Haughton, and that when he left there he was going abroad. She knew also that she had not been able to conceal that his indifference had of late given her some ghastly hours, and that her play for this lagging invitation had been a frantically bold one. That the most ingenious efforts and devices had ended in success only after such delay made it all the more necessary that no straw must remain unseized on.

"I can wear some of your things, with a little alteration," she said. "Rose will do it for me. Hats and gloves and ornaments do not require altering. I shall need things you will not need in London. Where are your keys?"

Lady Joan rose and got them for her. She even flushed slightly. They were often obliged to borrow each other's possessions, but for a moment she felt herself moved by a sort of hard pity.

"We are like rats in a trap," she remarked. "I hope you will get out."

"If I do, you will be left inside. Get out yourself! Get out yourself!" said Lady Mallowe in a fierce whisper.

Her regrets at the necessity of their leaving Temple Barholm were expressed with fluent touchingness at the dinner-table. The visit had been so delightful. Mr. Temple Barholm and Miss Alicia had been so kind. The loveliness of the whole dear place had so embraced them that they felt as if they were leaving a home instead of ending a delightful visit. It was extraordinary what an effect the house had on one. It was as if one had lived in it always—and always would. So few places gave one the same feeling. They should both look forward— greedy as it seemed—to being allowed some time to come again. She had decided from the first that it was not necessary to go to any extreme of caution or subtlety with her host and Miss Alicia. Her method of paving the way for future visits was perhaps more than a shade too elaborate. She felt, however, that it sufficed. For the most part, Lady Joan sat with lids dropped over her burning eyes. She tried to force herself not to listen. This was the kind of thing which made her sick with humiliation. Howsoever rudimentary these people were, they could not fail to comprehend that a foothold in the house was being bid for. They should at least see that she did not join in the bidding. Her own visit had been filled with feelings at war with one another. There had been hours too many in which she would have been glad—even with the dingy horrors of the closed town house before her- -to have flown from the hundred things which called out to her on every side. In the long-past three months of happiness, Jem had described them all to her—the rooms, gardens, pleached walks, pictures, the very furniture itself. She could enter no room, walk in no spot she did not seem to know, and passionately love in spite of herself. She loved them so much that there were times when she yearned to stay in the place at any cost, and others when she could not endure the misery it woke in her— the pure misery. Now it was over for the time being, and she was facing something new. There were endless varieties of wretchedness. She had been watching her mother for some months, and had understood her varying moods of temporary elation or prolonged anxiety. Each one had meant some phase of the episode of Sir Moses Monaldini. The people who lived at Broome Haughton were enormously rich Hebrews, who were related to him. They had taken the beautiful old country-seat and were filling it with huge parties of their friends. The party which Lady Mallowe was to join would no doubt offer opportunities of the most desirable kind. Among this special class of people she was a great success. Her amazingly achieved toilettes, her ripe good looks, her air of belonging to the great world, impressed themselves immensely.

T. Tembarom thought he never had seen Lady Joan look as handsome as she looked to-night. The color on her cheek burned, her eyes had a driven loneliness in them. She had a wonderfully beautiful mouth, and its curve drooped in a new way. He wished Ann could get her in a corner and sit down and talk sense to her. He remembered what he had said to the duke. Perhaps this was the time. If she was going away, and her mother meant to drag her back again when she was ready, it would make it easier for her to leave the place knowing she need not hate to come back. But the duke wasn't making any miss hit when he said it wouldn't be easy. She was not like Ann, who would feel some pity for the biggest fool on earth if she had to throw him down hard. Lady Joan would feel neither compunctions nor relentings. He knew the way she could look at a fellow. If he couldn't make her understand what he was aiming at, they would both be worse off than they would be if he left things as they were. But—the hard line showed itself about his mouth—he wasn't going to leave things as they were.

As they passed through the hall after dinner, Lady Mallowe glanced at a side-table on which lay some letters arrived by the late post. An imposing envelope was on the top of the rest. Joan saw her face light as she took it up.

"I think this is from Broome Haughton," she said. "If you will excuse me, I will go into the library and read it. It may require answering at once."

She turned hot and cold, poor woman, and went away, so that she might be free from the disaster of an audience if anything had gone wrong. It would be better to be alone even if things had gone right. The letter was from Sir Moses Monaldini. Grotesque and ignoble as it naturally strikes the uninitiated as seeming, the situation had its touch of hideous pathos. She had fought for her own hand for years; she could not dig, and to beg she was not ashamed; but a time had come when even the most adroit begging began to bore people. They saw through it, and then there resulted strained relations, slight stiffness of manner, even in the most useful and amiable persons, lack of desire to be hospitable, or even condescendingly generous. Cold shoulders were turned, there were ominous threatenings of icy backs presenting themselves. The very tradesmen had found this out, and could not be persuaded that the advertisement furnished by the fact that two beautiful women of fashion ate, drank, and wore the articles which formed the items in their unpaid bills, was sufficient return for the outlay of capital required. Even Mrs. Mellish, when graciously approached by the "relative of Miss Temple Barholm, whose perfect wardrobe you supplied," had listened to all seductions with a civil eye fixed unmovedly and had referred to the "rules of the establishment." Nearer and nearer the edge of the abyss the years had pushed them, and now if something did not happen—something— something—even the increasingly shabby small house in town would become a thing of the past. And what then? Could any one wonder she said to herself that she could have beaten Joan furiously. It would not matter to any one else if they dropped out of the world into squalid oblivion—oh, she knew that—she knew that with bitter certainty!—but oh, how it would matter to them!—at least to herself. It was all very well for Mudie's to pour forth streams of sentimental novels preaching the horrors of girls marrying for money, but what were you to do—what in heaven's name were you to do? So, feeling terrified enough actually to offer up a prayer, she took the imposingly addressed letter into the library.

The men had come into the drawing-room when she returned. As she entered, Joan did not glance up from the book she was reading, but at the first sound of her voice she knew what had occurred.

"I was obliged to dash off a note to Broome Haughton so that it would be ready for the early post," Lady Mallowe said. She was at her best. Palliser saw that some years had slipped from her shoulders. The moment which relieves or even promises to relieve fears does astonishing things. Tembarom wondered whether she had had good news, and Miss Alicia thought that her evening dress was more becoming than any she had ever seen her wear before. Her brilliant air of social ease returned to her, and she began to talk fluently of what was being done in London, and to touch lightly upon the possibility of taking part in great functions. For some time she had rather evaded talk of the future. Palliser had known that the future had seemed to be closing in upon her, and leaving her staring at a high blank wall. Persons whose fortunate names had ceased to fall easily from her lips appeared again upon the horizon. Miss Alicia was impressed anew with the feeling that she had known every brilliant or important personage in the big world of social London; that she had taken part in every dazzling event. Tembarom somehow realized that she had been afraid of something or other, and was for some reason not afraid any more. Such a change, whatsoever the reason for it, ought to have had some effect on her daughter. Surely she would share her luck, if luck had come to her.

But Lady Joan sat apart and kept her eyes upon her book. This was one of the things she often chose to do, in spite of her mother's indignant protest.

"I came here because you brought me," she would answer. "I did not come to be entertaining or polite."

She was reading this evening. She heard every word of Lady Mallowe's agreeable and slightly excited conversation. She did not know exactly what had happened; but she knew that it was something which had buoyed her up with a hopefulness which exhilarated her almost too much—as an extra glass of wine might have done. Once or twice she even lost her head a little and was a trifle swaggering. T. Tembarom would not recognize the slip, but Joan saw Palliser's faint smile without looking up from her book. He observed shades in taste and bearing. Before her own future Joan saw the blank wall of stone building itself higher and higher. If Sir Moses had capitulated, she would be counted out. With what degree of boldness could a mother cast her penniless daughter on the world? What unendurable provision make for her? Dare they offer a pound a week and send her to live in the slums until she chose to marry some Hebrew friend of her step-father's? That she knew would be the final alternative. A cruel little smile touched her lips, as she reviewed the number of things she could not do to earn her living. She could not take in sewing or washing, and there was nothing she could teach. Starvation or marriage. The wall built itself higher and yet higher. What a hideous thing it was for a penniless girl to be brought up merely to be a beauty, and in consequence supposably a great lady. And yet if she was born to a certain rank and had height and figure, a lovely mouth, a delicate nose, unusual eyes and lashes, to train her to be a dressmaker or a housemaid would be a stupid investment of capital. If nothing tragic interfered and the right man wanted such a girl, she had been trained to please him. But tragic things had happened, and before her grew the wall while she pretended to read her book.

T. Tembarom was coming toward her. She had heard Palliser suggest a game of billiards.

"Will you come and play billiards with us?" Tembarom asked. "Palliser says you play splendidly."

"She plays brilliantly," put in Lady Mallowe. "Come, Joan."

"No, thank you," she answered. "Let me stay here and read."

Lady Mallowe protested. She tried an air of playful maternal reproach because she was in good spirits. Joan saw Palliser smiling quietly, and there was that in his smile which suggested to her that he was thinking her an obstinate fool.

"You had better show Temple Barholm what you can do," he remarked. "This will be your last chance, as you leave so soon. You ought never let a last chance slip by. I never do."

Tembarom stood still and looked down at her from his good height. He did not know what Palliser's speech meant, but an instinct made him feel that it somehow held an ugly, quiet taunt.

"What I would like to do," was the unspoken crudity which passed through his mind, "would be to swat him on the mouth. He's getting at her just when she ought to be let alone."

"Would you like it better to stay here and read?" he inquired.

"Much better, if you please," was her reply.

"Then that goes," he answered, and left her.

He swept the others out of the room with a good-natured promptness which put an end to argument. When he said of anything "Then that goes," it usually did so.



CHAPTER XXXI

When she was alone Joan sat and gazed not at her wall but at the pictures that came back to her out of a part of her life which seemed to have been lived centuries ago. They were the pictures that came back continually without being called, the clearness of which always startled her afresh. Sometimes she thought they sprang up to add to her torment, but sometimes it seemed as if they came to save her from herself—her mad, wicked self. After all, there were moments when to know that she had been the girl whose eighteen-year-old heart had leaped so when she turned and met Jem's eyes, as he stood gazing at her under the beech-tree, was something to cling to. She had been that girl and Jem had been—Jem. And she had been the girl who had joined him in that young, ardent vow that they would say the same prayers at the same hour each night together. Ah! how young it had been—how YOUNG! Her throat strained itself because sobs rose in it, and her eyes were hot with the swell of tears.

She could hear voices and laughter and the click of balls from the billiard-room. Her mother and Palliser laughed the most, but she knew the sound of her mother's voice would cease soon, because she would come back to her. She knew she would not leave her long, and she knew the kind of scene they would pass through together when she returned. The old things would be said, the old arguments used, but a new one would be added. It was a pleasant thing to wait here, knowing that it was coming, and that for all her fierce pride and fierce spirit she had no defense. It was at once horrible and ridiculous that she must sit and listen—and stare at the growing wall. It was as she caught her breath against the choking swell of tears that she heard Lady Mallowe returning. She came in with an actual sweep across the room. Her society air had fled, and she was unadornedly furious when she stopped before Joan's chair. For a few seconds she actually glared; then she broke forth in a suppressed undertone:

"Come into the billiard-room. I command it!"

Joan lifted her eyes from her book. Her voice was as low as her mother's, but steadier.

"No," she answered.

"Is this conduct to continue? Is it?" Lady Mallowe panted.

"Yes," said Joan, and laid her book on the table near her. There was nothing else to say. Words made things worse.

Lady Mallowe had lost her head, but she still spoke in the suppressed voice.

"You SHALL behave yourself!" she cried, under her breath, and actually made a passionate half-start toward her. "You violent-natured virago! The very look on your face is enough to drive one mad!"

"I know I am violent-natured," said Joan. "But don't you think it wise to remember that you cannot make the kind of scene here that you can in your own house? We are a bad-tempered pair, and we behave rather like fishwives when we are in a rage. But when we are guests in other people's houses—"

Lady Mallowe's temper was as elemental as any Billingsgate could provide.

"You think you can take advantage of that!" she said. "Don't trust yourself too far. Do you imagine that just when all might go well for me I will allow you to spoil everything?"

"How can I spoil everything?"

"By behaving as you have been behaving since we came here—refusing to make a home for yourself; by hanging round my neck so that it will appear that any one who takes me must take you also."

"There are servants outside," Joan warned her.

"You shall not stop me!" cried Lady Mallowe.

"You cannot stop yourself," said Joan. "That is the worst of it. It is bad enough when we stand and hiss at each other in a stage whisper; but when you lose control over yourself and raise your voice—"

"I came in here to tell you that this is your last chance. I shall never give you another. Do you know how old you are?"

"I shall soon be twenty-seven," Joan answered. "I wish I were a hundred. Then it would all be over."

"But it will not be over for years and years and years," her mother flung back at her. "Have you forgotten that the very rags you wear are not paid for?"

"No, I have not forgotten." The scene was working itself up on the old lines, as Joan had known it would. Her mother never failed to say the same things, every time such a scene took place.

"You will get no more such rags—paid or unpaid for. What do you expect to do? You don't know how to work, and if you did no decent woman would employ you. You are too good-looking and too bad- tempered."

Joan knew she was perfectly right. Knowing it, she remained silent, and her silence added to her mother's helpless rage. She moved a step nearer to her and flung the javelin which she always knew would strike deep.

"You have made yourself a laughing-stock for all London for years. You are mad about a man who disgraced and ruined himself."

She saw the javelin quiver as it struck; but Joan's voice as it answered her had a quality of low and deadly steadiness.

"You have said that a thousand times, and you will say it another thousand—though you know the story was a lie and was proved to be one."

Lady Mallowe knew her way thoroughly.

"Who remembers the denials? What the world remembers is that Jem Temple Barholm was stamped as a cheat and a trickster. No one has time to remember the other thing. He is dead—dead! When a man's dead it's too late."

She was desperate enough to drive her javelin home deeper than she had ever chanced to drive it before. The truth—the awful truth she uttered shook Joan from head to foot. She sprang up and stood before her in heart-wrung fury.

"Oh! You are a hideously cruel woman!" she cried. "They say even tigers care for their young! But you—you can say that to me. 'When a man's dead, it's too late.'"

"It is too late—it IS too late!" Lady Mallowe persisted. Why had not she struck this note before? It was breaking her will: "I would say anything to bring you to your senses."

Joan began to move restlessly to and fro.

"Oh, what a fool I am!" she exclaimed. "As if you could understand—as if you could care!"

Struggle as she might to be defiant, she was breaking, Lady Mallowe repeated to herself. She followed her as a hunter might have followed a young leopardess with a wound in its flank.

"I came here because it is your last chance. Palliser knew what he was saying when he made a joke of it just now. He knew it wasn't a joke. You might have been the Duchess of Merthshire; you might have been Lady St. Maur, with a husband with millions. And here you are. You know what's before you—when I am out of the trap."

Joan laughed. It was a wild little laugh, and she felt there was no sense in it.

"I might apply for a place in Miss Alicia's Home for Decayed Gentlewomen," she said.

Lady Mallowe nodded her head fiercely.

"Apply, then. There will be no place for you in the home I am going to live in," she retorted.

Joan ceased moving about. She was about to hear the one argument that was new.

"You may as well tell me," she said, wearily.

"I have had a letter from Sir Moses Monaldini. He is to be at Broome Haughton. He is going there purposely to meet me. What he writes can mean only one thing. He means to ask me to marry him. I'm your mother, and I'm nearly twenty years older than you; but you see that I'm out of the trap first."

"I knew you would be," answered Joan.

"He detests you," Lady Mallowe went on. "He will not hear of your living with us—or even near us. He says you are old enough to take care of yourself. Take my advice. I am doing you a good turn in giving it. This New York newsboy is mad over you. If he hadn't been we should have been bundled out of the house before this. He never has spoken to a lady before in his life, and he feels as if you were a goddess. Go into the billiard-room this instant, and do all a woman can. Go!" And she actually stamped her foot on the carpet.

Joan's thunder-colored eyes seemed to grow larger as she stared at her. Her breast lifted itself, and her face slowly turned pale. Perhaps—she thought it wildly—people sometimes did die of feelings like this.

"He would crawl at your feet," her mother went on, pursuing what she felt sure was her advantage. She was so sure of it that she added words only a fool or a woman half hysteric with rage would have added. "You might live in the very house you would have lived in with Jem Temple Barholm, on the income he could have given you."

She saw the crassness of her blunder the next moment. If she had had an advantage, she had lost it. Wickedly, without a touch of mirth, Joan laughed in her face.

"Jem's house and Jem's money—and the New York newsboy in his shoes," she flung at her. "T. Tembarom to live with until one lay down on one's deathbed. T. Tembarom!"

Suddenly, something was giving way in her, Lady Mallowe thought again. Joan slipped into a chair and dropped her head and hidden face on the table.

"Oh! Mother! Mother!" she ended. "Oh! Jem! Jem!"

Was she sobbing or trying to choke sobbing back? There was no time to be lost. Her mother had never known a scene to end in this way before.

"Crying!" there was absolute spite in her voice. "That shows you know what you are in for, at all events. But I've said my last word. What does it matter to me, after all? You're in the trap. I'm not. Get out as best you can. I've done with you."

She turned her back and went out of the room—as she had come into it- -with a sweep Joan would have smiled at as rather vulgar if she had seen it. As a child in the nursery, she had often seen that her ladyship was vulgar.

But she did not see the sweep because her face was hidden. Something in her had broken this time, as her mother had felt. That bitter, sordid truth, driven home as it had been, had done it. Who had time to remember denials, or lies proved to be lies? Nobody in the world. Who had time to give to the defense of a dead man? There was not time enough to give to living ones. It was true—true! When a man is dead, it is too late. The wall had built itself until it reached her sky; but it was not the wall she bent her head and sobbed over. It was that suddenly she had seen again Jem's face as he had stood with slow- growing pallor, and looked round at the ring of eyes which stared at him; Jem's face as he strode by her without a glance and went out of the room. She forgot everything else on earth. She forgot where she was. She was eighteen again, and she sobbed in her arms as eighteen sobs when its heart is torn from it. "Oh Jem! Jem!" she cried. "If you were only in the same world with me! If you were just in the same world!"

She had forgotten all else, indeed. She forgot too long. She did not know how long. It seemed that no more than a few minutes had passed before she was without warning struck with the shock of feeling that some one was in the room with her, standing near her, looking at her. She had been mad not to remember that exactly this thing would be sure to happen, by some abominable chance. Her movement as she rose was almost violent, she could not hold herself still, and her face was horribly wet with shameless, unconcealable tears. Shameless she felt them—indecent—a sort of nudity of the soul. If it had been a servant who had intruded, or if it had been Palliser it would have been intolerable enough. But it was T. Tembarom who confronted her with his common face, moved mysteriously by some feeling she resented even more than she resented his presence. He was too grossly ignorant to know that a man of breeding, having entered by chance, would have turned and gone away, professing not to have seen. He seemed to think—the dolt!—that he must make some apology.

"Say! Lady Joan!" he began. "I beg your pardon. I didn't want to butt in."

"Then go away," she commanded. "Instantly—instantly!"

She knew he must see that she spoke almost through her teeth in her effort to control her sobbing breath. But he made no move toward leaving her. He even drew nearer, looking at her in a sort of meditative, obstinate way.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11     Next Part
Home - Random Browse