In the course of two days Mr. Palford, having given his client the benefit of his own exact professional knowledge of the estate of Temple Barholm and its workings and privileges as far as he found them transferable and likely to be understood, returned to London, breathing perhaps something like a sigh of relief when the train steamed out of the little station. Whatsoever happened in days to come, Palford & Grimby had done their most trying and awkward duty by the latest Temple Barholm. Bradford, who was the steward of the estate, would now take him over, and could be trusted to furnish practical information of any ordinary order.
It did not appear to Mr. Palford that the new inheritor was particularly interested in his possessions or exhilarated by the extraordinary turn in his fortunes. The enormity of Temple Barholm itself, regarded as a house to live in in an everyday manner, seemed somewhat to depress him. When he was taken over its hundred and fifty rooms, he wore a detached air as he looked about him, and such remarks as he made were of an extraordinary nature and expressed in terms peculiar to America. Neither Mr. Palford nor Burrill understood them, but a young footman who was said to have once paid a visit to New York, and who chanced to be in the picture-gallery when his new master was looking at the portraits of his ancestors, over-hearing one observation, was guilty of a convulsive snort, and immediately made his way into the corridor, coughing violently. From this Mr. Palford gathered that one of the transatlantic jokes had been made. That was the New York idea—to be jocular. Yet he had not looked jocular when he had made the remark which had upset the equilibrium of the young footman. He had, in fact, looked reflective before speaking as he stood and studied a portrait of one of his ancestors. But, then, he had a trick of saying things incomprehensibly ridiculous with an unmoved expression of gravity, which led Palford to feel that he was ridiculous through utter ignorance and was not aware that he was exposing the fact. Persons who thought that an air of seriousness added to a humorous remark were especially annoying to the solicitor, because they frequently betrayed one into the position of seeming to be dull in the matter of seeing a point. That, he had observed, was often part of the New York manner—to make a totally absurdly exaggerated or seemingly ignorance-revealing observation, and then leave one's hearer to decide for himself whether the speaker was an absolute ignoramus and fool or a humorist.
More than once he had somewhat suspected his client of meaning to “get a rise out of him,” after the odious manner of the tourists described in “The Innocents Abroad,” though at the same time he felt rather supportingly sure of the fact that generally, when he displayed ignorance, he displayed it because he was a positive encyclopedia of lack of knowledge.
He knew no more of social customs, literature, and art than any other street lad. He had not belonged to the aspiring self-taught, who meritoriously haunt the night schools and free libraries with a view to improving their minds. If this had been his method, he might in one sense have been more difficult to handle, as Palford had seen the thing result in a bumptiousness most objectionable. He was markedly not bumptious, at all events.
A certain degree of interest in or curiosity concerning his ancestors as represented in the picture-gallery Mr. Palford had observed. He had stared at them and had said queer things—sometimes things which perhaps indicated a kind of uneducated thought. The fact that some of them looked so thoroughly alive, and yet had lived centuries ago, seemed to set him reflecting oddly. His curiosity, however, seemed to connect itself with them more as human creatures than as historical figures.
“What did that one do?” he inquired more than once. “What did he start, or didn't he start anything?”
When he disturbed the young footman he had stopped before a dark man in armor.
“Who's this fellow in the tin overcoat?” he asked seriously, and Palford felt it was quite possible that he had no actual intent of being humorous.
“That is Miles Gaspard Nevil John, who fought in the Crusades with Richard Coeur de Lion,” he explained. “He is wearing a suit of armor.” By this time the footman was coughing in the corridor.
“That's English history, I guess,” Tembarom replied. “I'll have to get a history-book and read up about the Crusades.”
He went on farther, and paused with a slightly puzzled expression before a boy in a costume of the period of Charles II.
“Who's this Fauntleroy in the lace collar?” he inquired. “Queer!” he added, as though to himself. “I can't ever have seen him in New York.” And he took a step backward to look again.
“That is Miles Hugo Charles James, who was a page at the court of Charles II. He died at nineteen, and was succeeded by his brother Denzel Maurice John.”
“I feel as if I'd had a dream about him sometime or other,” said Tembarom, and he stood still a few seconds before he passed on. “Perhaps I saw something like him getting out of a carriage to go into the Van Twillers' fancy-dress ball. Seems as if I'd got the whole show shut up in here. And you say they're all my own relations?” Then he laughed. “If they were alive now!” he said. “By jinks!”
His laughter suggested that he was entertained by mental visions. But he did not explain to his companion. His legal adviser was not in the least able to form any opinion of what he would do, how he would be likely to comport himself, when he was left entirely to his own devices. He would not know also, one might be sure, that the county would wait with repressed anxiety to find out. If he had been a minor, he might have been taken in hand, and trained and educated to some extent. But he was not a minor.
On the day of Mr. Palford's departure a thick fog had descended and seemed to enwrap the world in the white wool. Tembarom found it close to his windows when he got up, and he had dressed by the light of tall wax candles, the previous Mr. Temple Barholm having objected to more modern and vulgar methods of illumination.
“I guess this is what you call a London fog,” he said to Pearson.
“No, not exactly the London sort, sir,” Pearson answered. “A London fog is yellow—when it isn't brown or black. It settles on the hands and face. A fog in the country isn't dirty with smoke. It's much less trying, sir.”
When Palford had departed and he was entirely alone, Tembarom found a country fog trying enough for a man without a companion. A degree of relief permeated his being with the knowledge that he need no longer endeavor to make suitable reply to his solicitor's efforts at conversation. He had made conversational efforts himself. You couldn't let a man feel that you wouldn't talk to him if you could when he was doing business for you, but what in thunder did you have to talk about that a man like that wouldn't be bored stiff by? He didn't like New York, he didn't know anything about it, and he didn't want to know, and Tembarom knew nothing about anything else, and was homesick for the very stones of the roaring city's streets. When he said anything, Palford either didn't understand what he was getting at or he didn't like it. And he always looked as if he was watching to see if you were trying to get a joke on him. Tembarom was frequently not nearly so much inclined to be humorous as Mr. Palford had irritably suspected him of being. His modes of expression might on numerous occasions have roused to mirth when his underlying idea was almost entirely serious. The mode of expression was merely a result of habit.
Mr. Palford left by an extremely early train, and after he was gone, Tembarom sat over his breakfast as long as possible, and then, going to the library, smoked long. The library was certainly comfortable, though the fire and the big wax candles were called upon to do their best to defy the chill, mysterious dimness produced by the heavy, white wool curtain folding itself more and more thickly outside the windows.
But one cannot smoke in solitary idleness for much more than an hour, and when he stood up and knocked the ashes out of his last pipe, Tembarom drew a long breath.
“There's a hundred and thirty-six hours in each of these days,” he said. “That's nine hundred and fifty-two in a week, and four thousand and eighty in a month—when it's got only thirty days in it. I'm not going to calculate how many there'd be in a year. I'll have a look at the papers. There's Punch. That's their comic one.”
He looked out the American news in the London papers, and sighed hugely. He took up Punch and read every joke two or three times over. He did not know that the number was a specially good one and that there were some extremely witty things in it. The jokes were about bishops in gaiters, about garden-parties, about curates or lovely young ladies or rectors' wives and rustics, about Royal Academicians or esthetic poets. Their humor appealed to him as little and seemed as obscure as his had seemed to Mr. Palford.
“I'm not laughing my head off much over these,” he said. “I guess I'm not on to the point.”
He got up and walked about. The “L” in New York was roaring to and fro loaded with men and women going to work or to do shopping. Some of them were devouring morning papers bearing no resemblance to those of London, some of them carried parcels, and all of them looked as though they were intent on something or other and hadn't a moment to waste. They were all going somewhere in a hurry and had to get back in time for something. When the train whizzed and slackened at a station, some started up, hastily caught their papers or bundles closer, and pushed or were pushed out on the platform, which was crowded with other people who rushed to get in, and if they found seats, dropped into them hastily with an air of relief. The street-cars were loaded and rang their bells loudly, trucks and carriages and motors filled the middle of the thoroughfares, and people crowded the pavements. The store windows were dressed up for Christmas, and most of the people crowded before them were calculating as to what they could get for the inadequate sums they had on hand.
The breakfast at Mrs. Bowse's boarding-house was over, and the boarders had gone on cars or elevated trains to their day's work. Mrs. Bowse was getting ready to go out and do some marketing. Julius and Jim were down-town deep in the work pertaining to their separate “jobs.” They'd go home at night, and perhaps, if they were in luck, would go to a “show” somewhere, and afterward come and sit in their tilted chairs in the hall bedroom and smoke and talk it over. And he wouldn't be there, and the Hutchinsons' rooms would be empty, unless some new people were in them. Galton would be sitting among his papers, working like mad. And Bennett—well, Bennett would be either “getting out his page,” or would be rushing about in the hundredth streets to find items and follow up weddings or receptions.
“Gee!” he said, “every one of them trying their best to put something over, and with so much to think of they've not got time to breathe! It'd be no trouble for THEM to put in a hundred and thirty-six hours. They'd be darned glad of them. And, believe me, they'd put something over, too, before they got through. And I'm here, with three hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year round my neck and not a thing to spend it on, unless I pay some one part of it to give me lessons in tatting. What is tatting, anyhow?”
He didn't really know. It was vaguely supposed to imply some intensely feminine fancy-work done by old ladies, and used as a figure of speech in jokes.
“If you could ride or shoot, you could amuse yourself in the country,” Palford had said.
“I can ride in a street-car when I've got five cents,” Tembarom had answered. “That's as far as I've gone in riding—and what in thunder should I shoot?”
“Game,” replied Mr. Palford, with chill inward disgust. “Pheasants, partridges, woodcock, grouse—”
“I shouldn't shoot anything like that if I went at it,” he responded shamelessly. “I should shoot my own head off, or the fellow's that stood next to me, unless he got the drop on me first.”
He did not know that he was ignominious. Nobody could have made it clear to him. He did not know that there were men who had gained distinction, popularity, and fame by doing nothing in particular but hitting things animate and inanimate with magnificent precision of aim.
He stood still now and listened to the silence.
“There's not a sound within a thousand miles of the place. What do fellows with money DO to keep themselves alive?” he said piteously. “They've got to do SOMETHING. Shall I have to go out and take a walk, as Palford called it? Take a walk, by gee!”
He couldn't conceive it, a man “taking a walk” as though it were medicine—a walk nowhere, to reach nothing, just to go and turn back again.
“I'll begin and take in sewing,” he said, “or I'll open a store in the village—a department store. I could spend something on that. I'll ask Pearson what he thinks of it—or Burrill. I'd like to see Burrill if I said that to him.”
He decided at last that he would practise his “short” awhile; that would be doing something, at any rate. He sat down at the big writing-table and began to dash off mystic signs at furious speed. But the speed did not keep up. The silence of the great room, of the immense house, of all the scores of rooms and galleries and corridors, closed in about him. He had practised his “short” in the night school, with the “L” thundering past at intervals of five minutes; in the newspaper office, with all the babel of New York about him and the bang of steam-drills going on below in the next lot, where the foundation of a new building was being excavated; he had practised it in his hall bedroom at Mrs. Bowse's, to the tumultuous accompaniment of street sounds and the whizz and TING-A-LING of street-cars dashing past, and he had not been disturbed. He had never practised it in any place which was silent, and it was the silence which became more than he could stand. He actually jumped out of his chair when he heard mysterious footsteps outside the door, and a footman appeared and spoke in a low voice which startled him as though it had been a thunderclap.
“A young person with her father wants to see you, sir,” he announced. “I don't think they are villagers, but of the working-class, I should say.”
“Where are they?”
“I didn't know exactly what to do, sir, so I left them in the hall. The young person has a sort of quiet, determined way—”
“Little Ann, by gee!” exclaimed Tembarom with mad joy, and shot out of the room.
The footman—he had not seen Little Ann when she had brought Strangeways—looked after him and rubbed his chin.
“Wouldn't you call that a rummy sort for Temple Barholm?” he said to one of his fellows who had appeared in the hall near him.
“It's not my sort,” was the answer. “I'm going to give notice to old Butterworth.”
Hutchinson and Little Ann were waiting in the hall. Hutchinson was looking at the rich, shadowy spaces about him with a sort of proud satisfaction. Fine, dark corners with armored figures lurking in them, ancient portraits, carved oak settles, and massive chairs and cabinets—these were English, and he was an Englishman, and somehow felt them the outcome of certain sterling qualities of his own. He looked robustly well, and wore a new rough tweed suit such as one of the gentry might tramp about muddy roads and fields in. Little Ann was dressed in something warm and rough also, a brown thing, with a little close, cap-like, brown hat, from under which her red hair glowed. The walk in the cold, white fog had made her bloom fresh, soft-red and white-daisy color. She was smiling, and showing three distinct dimples, which deepened when Tembarom dashed out of the library.
“Hully gee!” he cried out, “but I'm glad to see you!”
He shook hands with both of them furiously, and two footmen stood and looked at the group with image-like calm of feature, but with curiously interested eyes. Hutchinson was aware of them, and endeavored to present to them a back which by its stolid composure should reveal that he knew more about such things than this chap did and wasn't a bit upset by grandeur.
“Hully gee!” cried Tembarom again, “how glad I am! Come on in and sit down and let's talk it over.”
Burrill made a stately step forward, properly intent on his duty, and his master waved him back.
“Say,” he said hastily, “don't bring in any tea. They don't want it. They're Americans.”
Hutchinson snorted. He could not stand being consigned to ignominy before the footmen.
“Nowt o' th' sort,” he broke forth. “We're noan American. Tha'rt losing tha head, lad.”
“He's forgetting because he met us first in New York,” said Little Ann, smiling still more.
“Shall I take your hat and cane, sir?” inquired Burrill, unmovedly, at Hutchinson's side.
“He wasn't going to say anything about tea,” explained Little Ann as they went into the library. “They don't expect to serve tea in the middle of the morning, Mr. Temple Barholm.”
“Don't they?” said Tembarom, reckless with relieved delight. “I thought they served it every time the clock struck. When we were in London it seemed like Palford had it when he was hot and when he was cold and when he was glad and when he was sorry and when he was going out and when he was coming in. It's brought up to me, by jinks! as soon as I wake, to brace me up to put on my clothes—and Pearson wants to put those on.”
He stopped short when they reached the middle of the room and looked her over.
“O Little Ann!” he breathed tumultuously. “O Little Ann!”
Mr. Hutchinson was looking about the library as he had looked about the hall.
“Well, I never thought I'd get inside Temple Barlholm in my day,” he exclaimed. “Eh, lad, tha must feel like bull in a china shop.”
“I feel like a whole herd of 'em,” answered Tembarom. Hutchinson nodded. He understood.
“Well, perhaps tha'll get over it in time,” he conceded, “but it'll take thee a good bit.” Then he gave him a warmly friendly look. “I'll lay you know what Ann came with me for to-day.” The way Little Ann looked at him—the way she looked at him!
“I came to thank you, Mr. Temple Barholm,” she said—“to thank you.” And there was an odd, tender sound in her voice.
“Don't you do it, Ann,” Tembarom answered. “Don't you do it.”
“I don't know much about business, but the way you must have worked, the way you must have had to run after people, and find them, and make then listen, and use all your New York cleverness—because you ARE clever. The way you've forgotten all about yourself and thought of nothing but father and the invention! I do know enough to understand that, and it seems as if I can't think of enough to say. I just wish I could tell you what it means to me.” Two round pearls of tears brimmed over and fell down her cheeks. “I promised mother FAITHFUL I'd take care of him and see he never lost hope about it,” she added, “and sometimes I didn't know whatever I was going to do.”
It was perilous when she looked at one like that, and she was so little and light that one could have snatched her up in his arms and carried her to the big arm-chair and sat down with her and rocked her backward and forward and poured forth the whole thing that was making him feel as though he might explode.
Hutchinson provided salvation.
“Tha pulled me out o' the water just when I was going under, lad. God bless thee!” he broke out, and shook his hand with rough vigor. “I signed with the North Electric yesterday.”
“Good business!” said Tembarom. “Now I'm in on the ground floor with what's going to be the biggest money-maker in sight.”
“The way tha talked New York to them chaps took my fancy,” chuckled Hutchinson. “None o' them chaps wants to be the first to jump over the hedge.”
“We've got 'em started now,” exulted Tembarom.
“Tha started 'em,” said Hutchinson, “and it's thee I've got to thank.”
“Say, Little Ann,” said Tembarom, with sudden thought, “who's come into money now? You'll have it to burn.”
“We've not got it yet, Mr. Temple Barholm,” she replied, shaking her head. “Even when inventions get started, they don't go off like sky-rockets.”
“She knows everything, doesn't she?” Tembarom said to Hutchinson. “Here, come and sit down. I've not seen you for 'steen years.”
She took her seat in the big arm-chair and looked at him with softly examining eyes, as though she wanted to understand him sufficiently to be able to find out something she ought to do if he needed help.
He saw it and half laughed, not quite unwaveringly.
“You'll make me cry in a minute,” he said. “You don't know what it's like to have some one from home and mother come and be kind to you.”
“How is Mr. Strangeways?” she inquired.
“He's well taken care of, at any rate. That's where he's got to thank you. Those rooms you and the housekeeper chose were the very things for him. They're big and comfortable, and 'way off in a place where no one's likely to come near. The fellow that's been hired to valet me valets him instead, and I believe he likes it. It seems to come quite natural to him, any how. I go in and see him every now and then and try to get him to talk. I sort of invent things to see if I can start him thinking straight. He's quieted down some and he looks better. After a while I'm going to look up some big doctors in London and find out which of 'em's got the most plain horse sense. If a real big one would just get interested and come and see him on the quiet and not get him excited, he might do him good. I'm dead stuck on this stunt I've set myself—getting him right. It's something to work on.”
“You'll have plenty to work on soon,” said Little Ann. “There's a lot of everyday things you've got to think about. They may seem of no consequence to you, but they ARE, Mr. Temple Barholm.”
“If you say they are, I guess they are,” he answered. “I'll do anything you say, Ann.”
“I came partly to tell you about some of them to-day,” she went on, keeping the yearningly thoughtful eyes on him. It was rather hard for her, too, to be firm enough when there was so much she wanted to say and do. And he did not look half as twinkling and light-heartedly grinning as he had looked in New York.
He couldn't help dropping his voice a little coaxingly, though Mr. Hutchinson was quite sufficiently absorbed in examination of his surroundings.
“Didn't you come to save my life by letting me have a look at you, Little Ann—didn't you?” he pleaded.
She shook her wonderful, red head.
“No, I didn't, Mr. Temple Barholm,” she answered with Manchester downrightness. “When I said what I did in New York, I meant it. I didn't intend to hang about here and let you—say things to me. You mustn't say them. Father and me are going back to Manchester in a few days, and very soon we have to go to America again because of the business.”
“America!” he said. “Oh, Lord!” he groaned. “Do you want me to drop down dead here with a dull, sickening thud, Ann?”
“You're not going to drop down dead,” she replied convincedly. “You're going to stay here and do whatever it's your duty to do, now you've come into Temple Barholm.”
“Am I?” he answered. “Well, we'll see what I'm going to do when I've had time to make up my mind. It may be something different from what you'd think, and it mayn't. Just now I'm going to do what you tell me. Go ahead, Little Ann.”
She thought the matter over with her most destructive little air of sensible intentness.
“Well, it may seem like meddling, but it isn't,” she began rather concernedly. “It's just that I'm used to looking after people. I wanted to talk to you about your clothes.”
“My clothes?” he replied, bewildered a moment; but the next he understood and grinned. “I haven't got any. My valet—think of T. T. with a valet!—told me so last night.”
“That's what I thought,” she said maternally. “I got Mrs. Bowse to write to me, and she told me you were so hurried and excited you hadn't time for anything.”
“I just rushed into Cohen's the last day and yanked a few things off the ready-made counter.”
She looked him over with impersonal criticism.
“I thought so. Those you've got on won't do at all.”
Tembarom glanced at them.
“That's what Pearson says.”
“They're not the right shape,” she explained. “I know what a gentleman's clothes mean in England, and—” her face flushed, and sudden, warm spirit made her speak rather fast—“I couldn't ABIDE to think of you coming here and—being made fun of—just because you hadn't the right clothes.”
She said it, the little thing, as though he were hers—her very own, and defend him against disrespect she WOULD. Tembarom, being but young flesh and blood, made an impetuous dart toward her, and checked himself, catching his breath.
“Ann,” he said, “has your grandmother got a dog?”
“Y-e-s,” she said, faltering because she was puzzled.
“How big is he?”
“He's a big one. He's a brindled bulldog. Why?”
“Well,” he said, half pathetic, half defiant, “if you're going to come and talk to me like that, and look like that, you've got to bring that bull along and set him on me when I make a break; for there's nothing but a dog can keep me where you want me to stay—and a big one at that.”
He sat down on an ottoman near her and dropped his head on his hands. It was not half such a joke as it sounded.
Little Ann saw it wasn't and she watched him tenderly, catching her breath once quickly. Men had ways of taking some things hard and feeling them a good bit more than one would think. It made trouble many a time if one couldn't help them to think reasonable.
“Father,” she said to Hutchinson.
“Aye,” he answered, turning round.
“Will you tell Mr. Temple Barholm that you think I'm right about giving him his chance?”
“Of course I think she's right,” Hutchinson blustered, “and it isn't the first time either. I'm not going to have my lass married into any family where she'd be looked down upon.”
But that was not what Little Ann wanted; it was not, in fact, her argument. She was not thinking of that side of the situation.
“It's not me that matters so much, Father,” she said; “it's him.”
“Oh, is it?” disagreed Hutchinson, dictatorially. “That's not th' road I look at it. I'm looking after you, not him. Let him take care of himself. No chap shall put you where you won't be looked up to, even if I AM grateful to him. So there you have it.”
“He can't take care of himself when he feels like this,” she answered. “That's WHY I'm taking care of him. He'll think steadier when he's himself again.” She put out her hand and softly touched his shoulder.
“Don't do that,” she said. “You make me want to be silly.” There was a quiver in her voice, but she tried to change it. “If you don't lift your head,” she added with a great effort at disciplinarian firmness, “I shall have to go away without telling you the other things.”
He lifted his head, but his attempt at a smile was not hilarious.
“Well, Ann,” he submitted, “I've warned you. Bring along your dog.”
She took a sheet of paper out of one of the neat pockets in her rough, brown coat.
“I just wrote down some of the very best tailors' addresses—the very best,” she explained. “Don't you go to any but the very best, and be a bit sharp with them if they're not attentive. They'll think all the better of you. If your valet's a smart one, take him with you.”
“Yes, Ann,” he said rather weakly. “He's going to make a list of things himself, anyhow.”
“That sounds as if he'd got some sense.” She handed him the list of addresses. “You give him this, and tell him he must go to the very best ones.”
“What do I want to put on style for?” he asked desperately. “I don't know a soul on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.”
“You soon will,” she replied, with calm perspicacity. “You've got too much money not to.”
A gruff chuckle made itself heard from Hutchinson's side of the room.
“Aye, seventy thousand a year'll bring th' vultures about thee, lad.”
“We needn't call them vultures exactly,” was Little Ann's tolerant comment; “but a lot of people will come here to see you. That was one of the things I thought I might tell you about.”
“Say, you're a wonder!”
“I'm nothing of the sort. I'm just a girl with a bit of common sense—and grandmother's one that's looked on a long time, and she sees things. The country gentlemen will begin to call on you soon, and then you'll be invited to their houses to meet their wives and daughters, and then you'll be kept pretty busy.”
Hutchinson's bluff chuckle broke out again.
“You will that, my lad, when th' match-making mothers get after you. There's plenty on 'em.”
“Father's joking,” she said. Her tone was judicially unprejudiced. “There are young ladies that—that'd be very suitable. Pretty ones and clever ones. You'll see them all.”
“I don't want to see them.”
“You can't help it,” she said, with mild decision. “When there are daughters and a new gentleman comes into a big property in the neighborhood, it's nothing but natural that the mothers should be a bit anxious.”
“Aye, they'll be anxious enough. Mak' sure o' that,” laughed Hutchinson.
“Is that what you want me to put on style for, Little Ann?” Tembarom asked reproachfully.
“I want you to put it on for yourself. I don't want you to look different from other men. Everybody's curious about you. They're ready to LAUGH because you came from America and once sold newspapers.”
“It's the men he'll have to look out for,” Hutchinson put in, with an experienced air. “There's them that'll want to borrow money, and them that'll want to drink and play cards and bet high. A green American lad'll be a fine pigeon for them to pluck. You may as well tell him, Ann; you know you came here to do it.”
“Yes, I did,” she admitted. “I don't want you to seem not to know what people are up to and what they expect.”
That little note of involuntary defense was a dangerous thing for Tembarom. He drew nearer.
“You don't want them to take me for a fool, Little Ann. You're standing up for me; that's it.”
“You can stand up for yourself, Mr. Temple Barholm, if you're not taken by surprise,” she said confidently. “If you understand things a bit, you won't be.”
His feelings almost overpowered him.
“God bless your dear little soul!” he broke out. “Say, if this goes on, that dog of your grandmother's wouldn't have a show, Ann. I should bite him before he could bite me.”
“I won't go on if you can't be sensible, Mr. Temple Barholm. I shall just go away and not come back again. That's what I shall do.” Her tone was that of a young mother.
He gave in incontinently.
“Good Lord! no!” he exclaimed. “I'll do anything if you'll stay. I'll lie down on the mat and not open my mouth. Just sit here and tell me things. I know you won't let me hold your hand, but just let me hold a bit of your dress and look at you while you talk.” He took a bit of her brown frock between his fingers and held it, gazing at her with all his crude young soul in his eyes. “Now tell me,” he added.
“There's only one or two things about the people who'll come to Temple Barholm. Grandmother's talked it over with me. She knew all about those that came in the late Mr. Temple Barholm's time. He used to hate most of them.”
“Then why in thunder did he ask them to come?”
“He didn't. They've got clever, polite ways of asking themselves sometimes. He couldn't bear the Countess of Mallowe. She'll come. Grandmother says you may be sure of that.”
“What'll she come for?”
Little Ann's pause and contemplation of him were fraught with thoughtfulness.
“She'll come for you,” at last she said.
“She's got a daughter she thinks ought to have been married eight years ago,” announced Hutchinson.
Tembarom pulled at the bit of brown tweed he held as though it were a drowning man's straw.
“Don't you drive me to drink, Ann,” he said. “I'm frightened. Your grandmother will have to lend ME the dog.”
This was a flightiness which Little Ann did not encourage.
“Lady Joan—that's her daughter—is very grand and haughty. She's a great beauty. You'll look at her, but perhaps she won't look at you. But it's not her I'm troubled about. I'm thinking of Captain Palliser and men like him.”
“He's one of those smooth, clever ones that's always getting up some company or other and selling the stock. He'll want you to know his friends and he'll try to lead you his way.”
As Tembarom held to his bit of her dress, his eyes were adoring ones, which was really not to be wondered at. She WAS adorable as her soft, kind, wonderfully maternal girl face tried to control itself so that it should express only just enough to help and nothing to disturb.
“I don't want him to spoil you. I don't want anything to make you—different. I couldn't bear it.”
He pulled the bit of dress pleadingly.
“Why, Little Ann?” he implored quite low.
“Because,” she said, feeling that perhaps she was rash—“because if you were different, you wouldn't be T. Tembarom; and it was T. Tembarom that—that was T. Tembarom,” she finished hastily.
He bent his head down to the bit of tweed and kissed it.
“You just keep looking after me like that,” he said, “and there's not one of them can get away with me.”
She got up, and he rose with her. There was a touch of fire in the forget-me-not blue of her eyes.
“Just you let them see—just you let them see that you're not one they can hold light and make use of.” But there she stopped short, looking up at him. He was looking down at her with a kind of matureness in his expression. “I needn't be afraid,” she said. “You can take care of yourself; I ought to have known that.”
“You did,” he said, smiling; “but you wanted to sort of help me. And you've done it, by gee! just by saying that thing about T. Tembarom. You set me right on my feet. That's YOU.”
Before they went away they paid a visit to Strangeways in his remote, undisturbed, and beautiful rooms. They were in a wing of the house untouched by any ordinary passing to and fro, and the deep windows looked out upon gardens which spring and summer would crowd with loveliness from which clouds of perfume would float up to him on days when the sun warmed and the soft airs stirred the flowers, shaking the fragrance from their full incense-cups. But the white fog shut out to-day even their winter bareness. There were light and warmth inside, and every added charm of rich harmony of deep color and comfort made beautiful. There were books and papers waiting to be looked over, but they lay untouched on the writing-table, and Strangeways was sitting close to the biggest window, staring into the fog. His eyes looked hungry and hollow and dark. Ann knew he was “trying to remember” something.
When the sound of footsteps reached his ear, he turned to look at them, and rose mechanically at sight of Ann. But his expression was that of a man aroused from a dream of far-off places.
“I remember you,” he said, but hesitated as though making an effort to recall something.
“Of course you do,” said Little Ann. “You know me quite well. I brought you here. Think a bit. Little—Little—”
“Yes,” he broke forth. “Of course, Little Ann! Thank God I've not forgotten.” He took her hand in both his and held it tenderly. “You have a sweet little face. It's such a wise little face!” His voice sounded dreamy.
Ann drew him to his chair with a coaxing laugh and sat down by him.
“You're flattering me. You make me feel quite shy,” she said. “You know HIM, too,” nodding toward Tembarom.
“Oh, yes,” he replied, and he looked up with a smile. “He is the one who remembers. You said you did.” He had turned to Tembarom.
“You bet your life I do,” Tembarom answered. “And you will, too, before long.”
“If I did not try so hard,” said Strangeways, thoughtfully. “It seems as if I were shut up in a room, and so many things were knocking at the doors—hundreds of them—knocking because they want to be let in. I am damnably unhappy—damnably.” He hung his head and stared at the floor. Tembarom put a hand on his shoulder and gave him a friendly shake.
“Don't you worry a bit,” he said. “You take my word for it. It'll all come back. I'm working at it myself.” Strangeways lifted his head.
“You are the one I know best. I trust you.” But there was the beginning of a slight drag in his voice. “I don't always—quite recollect—your name. Not quite. Good heavens! I mustn't forget that.”
Little Ann was quite ready.
“You won't,” she said, “because it's different from other names. It begins with a letter—just a letter, and then there is the name. Think.”
“Yes, yes,” he said anxiously.
Little Ann bent forward and fixed her eyes on his with concentrated suggestion. They had never risked confusing him by any mention of the new name. She began to repeat letters of the alphabet slowly and distinctly until she reached the letter T.
“T,” she ended with much emphasis—“R. S. T.”
His expression cleared itself.
“T,” he repeated. “T—Tembarom. R, S, T. How clever you are!”
Little Ann's gaze concentrated itself still more intently.
“Now you'll never forget it again,” she said, “because of the T. You'll say the other letters until you come to it. R, S, T.”
“T. Tembarom,” he ended relievedly. “How you help me!” He took her hand and kissed it very gently.
“We are all going to help you,” Ann soothed him, “T. Tembarom most of all.”
“Say,” Tembarom broke out in an aside to her, “I'm going to come here and try things on him every day. When it seems like he gets on to something, however little a thing it is, I'm going to follow it up and see if it won't get somewhere.”
“There'll be something some day,” she said. “Are you quite comfortable here?” she asked aloud to Strangeways.
“Very comfortable, thank you,” he answered courteously. “They are beautiful rooms. They are furnished with such fine old things. This is entirely Jacobean. It's quite perfect.” He glanced about him. “And so quiet. No one comes in here but my man, and he is a very nice chap. I never had a man who knew his duties better.”
Little Ann and Tembarom looked at each other.
“I shouldn't be a bit surprised,” she said after they had left the room, “if it wouldn't be a good thing to get Pearson to try to talk to him now and then. He's been used to a man-servant.”
“Yes,” answered Tembarom. “Pearson didn't rattle HIM, you bet your life.”