It was business of serious importance which was to bring Captain Palliser's visit to a close. He explained it perfectly to Miss Alicia a day or so after Lady Mallowe and her daughter left them. He had lately been most amiable in his manner toward Miss Alicia, and had given her much valuable information about companies and stocks. He rather unexpectedly found it imperative that he should go to London and Berlin to “see people”—dealers in great financial schemes who were deeply interested in solid business speculations, such as his own, which were fundamentally different from all others in the impeccable firmness of their foundations.
“I suppose he will be very rich some day,” Miss Alicia remarked the first morning she and T. Tembarom took their breakfast alone together after his departure. “It would frighten me to think of having as much money as he seems likely to have quite soon.”
“It would scare me to death,” said Tembarom. She knew he was making a sort of joke, but she thought the point of it was her tremor at the thought of great fortune.
“He seemed to think that it would be an excellent thing for you to invest in—I'm not sure whether it was the India Rubber Tree Company, or the mahogany forests or the copper mines that have so much gold and silver mixed in them that it will pay for the expense of the digging—” she went on.
“I guess it was the whole lot,” put in Tembarom.
“Perhaps it was. They are all going to make everybody so rich that it is quite bewildering. He is very clever in business matters. And so kind. He even said that if I really wished it he might be able to invest my income for me and actually treble it in a year. But of course I told him that my income was your generous gift to me, and that it was far more than sufficient for my needs.”
Tembarom put down his coffee-cup so suddenly to look at her that she was fearful that she had appeared to do Captain Palliser some vague injustice.
“I am sure he meant to be most obliging, dear,” she explained. “I was really quite touched. He said most sympathetically and delicately that when women were unmarried, and unaccustomed to investment, sometimes a business man could be of use to them. He forgot”—affectionately—“that I had you.”
Tembarom regarded her with tender curiosity. She often opened up vistas for him as he himself opened them for the Duke of Stone.
“If you hadn't had me, would you have let him treble your income in a year?” he asked.
Her expression was that of a soft, woodland rabbit or a trusting spinster dove.
“Well, of course, if one were quite alone in the world and had only a small income, it would be nice to have it wonderfully added to in such a short time,” she answered. “But it was his friendly solicitude which touched me. I have not been accustomed to such interested delicacy on the part of—of gentlemen.” Her hesitance before the last word being the result of training, which had made her feel that it was a little bold for “ladies” to refer quite openly to “gentlemen.”
“You sometimes read in the newspapers,” said Tembarom, buttering his toast, “about ladies who are all alone in the world with a little income, but they're not often left alone with it long. It's like you said—you've got me; but if the time ever comes when you haven't got me just you make a dead-sure thing of it that you don't let any solicitous business gentleman treble your income in a year. If it's an income that comes to more than five cents, don't you hand it over to be made into fifteen. Five cents is a heap better—just plain five.”
“Temple!” gasped Miss Alicia. “You—you surely cannot mean that you do not think Captain Palliser is—sincere!”
Tembarom laughed outright, his most hilarious and comforting laugh. He had no intention of enlightening her in such a manner as would lead her at once to behold pictures of him as the possible victim of appalling catastrophes. He liked her too well as she was.
“Sincere?” he said. “He's sincere down to the ground—in what he's reaching after. But he's not going to treble your income, nor mine. If he ever makes that offer again, you just tell him I'm interested, and that I'll talk it over with him.”
“I could not help saying to him that I didn't think you could want any more money when you had so much,” she added, “but he said one never knew what might happen. He was greatly interested when I told him you had once said the very same thing yourself.”
Their breakfast was at an end, and he got up, laughing again, as he came to her end of the table and put his arm around her shoulders in the unconventional young caress she adored him for.
“It's nice to be by ourselves again for a while,” he said. “Let us go for a walk together. Put on the little bonnet and dress that are the color of a mouse. Those little duds just get me. You look so pretty in them.”
The sixteen-year-old blush ran up to the roots of her gray side-ringlets. Just imagine his remembering the color of her dress and bonnet, and thinking that anything could make her look pretty! She was overwhelmed with innocent and grateful confusion. There really was no one else in the least like him.
“You do look well, ma'am,” Rose said, when she helped her to dress. “You've got such a nice color, and that tiny bit of old rose Mrs. Mellish put in the bonnet does bring it out.”
“I wonder if it is wrong of me to be so pleased,” Miss Alicia thought. “I must make it a subject of prayer, and ask to be aided to conquer a haughty and vain-glorious spirit.”
She was pathetically serious, having been trained to a view of the Great First Cause as figuratively embodied in the image of a gigantic, irascible, omnipotent old gentleman, especially wrought to fury by feminine follies connected with becoming headgear.
“It has sometimes even seemed to me that our Heavenly Father has a special objection to ladies,” she had once timorously confessed to Tembarom. “I suppose it is because we are so much weaker than men, and so much more given to vanity and petty vices.”
He had caught her in his arms and actually hugged her that time. Their intimacy had reached the point where the affectionate outburst did not alarm her.
“Say!” he had laughed. “It's not the men who are going to have the biggest pull with the authorities when folks try to get into the place where things are evened up. What I'm going to work my passage with is a list of the few 'ladies' I've known. You and Ann will be at the head of it. I shall just slide it in at the box-office window and say, 'Just look over this, will you? These were friends of mine, and they were mighty good to me. I guess if they didn't turn me down, you needn't. I know they're in here. Reserved seats. I'm not expecting to be put with them but if I'm allowed to hang around where they are that'll be heaven enough for me.'”
“I know you don't mean to be irreverent, dear Temple,” she gasped. “I am quite sure you don't! It is—it is only your American way of expressing your kind thoughts. And of course”—quite hastily—“the Almighty must understand Americans—as he made so many.” And half frightened though she was, she patted his arm with the warmth of comfort in her soul and moisture in her eyes. Somehow or other, he was always so comforting.
He held her arm as they took their walk. She had become used to that also, and no longer thought it odd. It was only one of the ways he had of making her feel that she was being taken care of. They had not been able to have many walks together since the arrival of the visitors, and this occasion was at once a cause of relief and inward rejoicing. The entire truth was that she had not been altogether happy about him of late. Sometimes, when he was not talking and saying amusing New York things which made people laugh, he seemed almost to forget where he was and to be thinking of something which baffled and tried him. The way in which he pulled himself together when he realized that any one was looking at him was, to her mind, the most disturbing feature of his fits of abstraction. It suggested that if he really had a trouble it was a private one on which he would not like her to intrude. Naturally, her adoring eyes watched him oftener than he knew, and she tried to find plausible and not too painful reasons for his mood. He always made light of his unaccustomedness to his new life; but perhaps it made him feel more unrestful than he would admit.
As they walked through the park and the village, her heart was greatly warmed by the way in which each person they met greeted him. They greeted no one else in the same way, and yet it was difficult to explain what the difference was. They liked him—really liked him, though how he had overcome their natural distrust of his newsboy and bootblack record no one but himself knew. In fact, she had reason to believe that even he himself did not know—had indeed never asked himself. They had gradually begun to like him, though none of them had ever accused him of being a gentleman according to their own acceptance of the word. Every man touched his cap or forehead with a friendly grin which spread itself the instant he caught sight of him. Grin and salute were synchronous. It was as if there were some extremely human joke between them. Miss Alicia had delightedly remembered a remark the Duke of Stone had made to her on his return from one of their long drives.
“He is the most popular man in the county,” he had chuckled. “If war broke out and he were in the army, he could raise a regiment at his own gates which would follow him wheresoever he chose to lead it—if it were into hottest Hades.”
Tembarom was rather silent during the first part of their walk, and when he spoke it was of Captain Palliser.
“He's a fellow that's got lots of curiosity. I guess he's asked you more questions than he's asked me,” he began at last, and he looked at her interestedly, though she was not aware of it.
“I thought—” she hesitated slightly because she did not wish to be critical—“I sometimes thought he asked me too many.”
“What was he trying to get on to mostly?”
“He asked so many things about you and your life in New York—but more, I think, about you and Mr. Strangeways. He was really quite persistent once or twice about poor Mr. Strangeways.”
“What did he ask?”
“He asked if I had seen him, and if you had preferred that I should not. He calls him your Mystery, and thinks your keeping him here is so extraordinary.”
“I guess it is—the way he'd look at it,” Tembarom dropped in.
“He was so anxious to find out what he looked like. He asked how old he was and how tall, and whether he was quite mad or only a little, and where you picked him up, and when, and what reason you gave for not putting him in some respectable asylum. I could only say that I really knew nothing about him, and that I hadn't seen him because he had a dread of strangers and I was a little timid.”
She hesitated again.
“I wonder,” she said, still hesitating even after her pause, “I wonder if I ought to mention a rather rude thing I saw him do twice?”
“Yes, you ought,” Tembarom answered promptly; “I've a reason for wanting to know.”
“It was such a singular thing to do—in the circumstances,” she went on obediently. “He knew, as we all know, that Mr. Strangeways must not be disturbed. One afternoon I saw him walk slowly backward and forward before the west room window. He had something in his hand and kept looking up. That was what first attracted my attention—his queer way of looking up. Quite suddenly he threw something which rattled on the panes of glass—it sounded like gravel or small pebbles. I couldn't help believing he thought Mr. Strangeways would be startled into coming to the window.”
Tembarom cleared his throat.
“He did that twice,” he said. “Pearson caught him at it, though Palliser didn't know he did. He'd have done it three times, or more than that, perhaps, but I casually mentioned in the smoking-room one night that some curious fool of a gardener boy had thrown some stones and frightened Strangeways, and that Pearson and I were watching for him, and that if I caught him I was going to knock his block off—bing! He didn't do it again. Darned fool! What does he think he's after?”
“I am afraid he is rather—I hope it is not wrong to say so—but he is rather given to gossip. And I dare say that the temptation to find something quite new to talk about was a great one. So few new things happen in the neighborhood, and, as the duke says, people are so bored—and he is bored himself.”
“He'll be more bored if he tries it again when he comes back,” remarked Tembarom.
Miss Alicia's surprised expression made him laugh.
“Do you think he will come back?” she exclaimed. “After such a long visit?”
“Oh, yes, he'll come back. He'll come back as often as he can until he's got a chunk of my income to treble—or until I've done with him.”
“Until you've done with him, dear?” inquiringly.
“Oh! well,”—casually—“I've a sort of idea that he may tell me something I'd like to know. I'm not sure; I'm only guessing. But even if he knows it he won't tell me until he gets good and ready and thinks I don't want to hear it. What he thinks he's going to get at by prowling around is something he can get me in the crack of the door with.”
“Temple”—imploringly—“are you afraid he wishes to do you an injury?”
“No, I'm not afraid. I'm just waiting to see him take a chance on it,” and he gave her arm an affectionate squeeze against his side. He was always immensely moved by her little alarms for him. They reminded him, in a remote way, of Little Ann coming down Mrs. Bowse's staircase bearing with her the tartan comforter.
How could any one—how could any one want to do him an injury? she began to protest pathetically. But he would not let her go on. He would not talk any more of Captain Palliser or allow her to talk of him. Indeed, her secret fear was that he really knew something he did not wish her to be troubled by, and perhaps thought he had said too much. He began to make jokes and led her to other subjects. He asked her to go to the Hibblethwaites' cottage and pay a visit to Tummas. He had learned to understand his accepted privileges in making of cottage visits by this time; and when he clicked any wicket-gate the door was open before he had time to pass up the wicket-path. They called at several cottages, and he nodded at the windows of others where faces appeared as he passed by.
They had a happy morning together, and he took her back to Temple Barholm beaming, and forgetting Captain Palliser's existence, for the time, at least. In the afternoon they drove out together, and after dining they read the last copy of the Sunday Earth, which had arrived that day. He found quite an interesting paragraph about Mr. Hutchinson and the invention. Little Miss Hutchinson was referred to most flatteringly by the writer, who almost inferred that she was responsible not only for the inventor but for the invention itself. Miss Alicia felt quite proud of knowing so prominent a character, and wondered what it could be like to read about oneself in a newspaper.
About nine o'clock he laid his sheet of the Earth down and spoke to her.
“I'm going to ask you to do me a favor,” he said. “I couldn't ask it if we weren't alone like this. I know you won't mind.”
Of course she wouldn't mind. She was made happier by the mere idea of doing something for him.
“I'm going to ask you to go to your room rather early,” he explained. “I want to try a sort of stunt on Strangeways. I'm going to bring him downstairs if he'll come. I'm not sure I can get him to do it; but he's been a heap better lately, and perhaps I can.”
“Is he so much better as that?” she said. “Will it be safe?”
He looked as serious as she had ever seen him look—even a trifle more serious.
“I don't know how much better he is,” was his answer. “Sometimes you'd think he was almost all right. And then—! The doctor says that if he could get over being afraid of leaving his room it would be a big thing for him. He wants him to go to his place in London so that he can watch him.”
“Do you think you could persuade him to go?”
“I've tried my level best, but so far—nothing doing.”
He got up and stood before the mantel, his back against it, his hands in his pockets.
“I've found out one thing,” he said. “He's used to houses like this. Every now and again he lets something out quite natural. He knew that the furniture in his room was Jacobean—that's what he called it—and he knew it was fine stuff. He wouldn't have known that if he'd been a piker. I'm going to try if he won't let out something else when he sees things here—if he'll come.”
“You have such a wonderfully reasoning mind, dear,” said Miss Alicia, as she rose. “You would have made a great detective, I'm sure.”
“If Ann had been with him,” he said, rather gloomily, “she'd have caught on to a lot more than I have. I don't feel very chesty about the way I've managed it.”
Miss Alicia went up-stairs shortly afterward, and half an hour later Tembarom told the footmen in the hall that they might go to bed. The experiment he was going to make demanded that the place should be cleared of any disturbing presence. He had been thinking it over for sometime past. He had sat in the private room of the great nerve specialist in London and had talked it over with him. He had talked of it with the duke on the lawn at Stone Hover. There had been a flush of color in the older man's cheek-bones, and his eyes had been alight as he took his part in the discussion. He had added the touch of his own personality to it, as always happened.
“We are having some fine moments, my good fellow,” he had said, rubbing his hands. “This is extremely like the fourth act. I'd like to be sure what comes next.”
“I'd like to be sure myself,” Tembarom answered. “It's as if a flash of lightning came sometimes, and then things clouded up. And sometimes when I am trying something out he'll get so excited that I daren't go on until I've talked to the doctor.”
It was the excitement he was dubious about to-night. It was not possible to be quite certain as to the entire safety of the plan; but there might be a chance—even a big chance—of wakening some cell from its deadened sleep. Sir Ormsby way had talked to him a good deal about brain cells, and he had listened faithfully and learned more than he could put into scientific English. Gradually, during the past months, he had been coming upon strangely exciting hints of curious possibilities. They had been mere hints at first, and had seemed almost absurd in their unbelievableness. But each one had linked itself with another, and led him on to further wondering and exploration. When Miss Alicia and Palliser had seen that he looked absorbed and baffled, it had been because he had frequently found himself, to use his own figures of speech, “mixed up to beat the band.” He had not known which way to turn; but he had gone on turning because he could not escape from his own excited interest, and the inevitable emotion roused by being caught in the whirl of a melodrama. That was what he'd dropped into—a whacking big play. It had begun for him when Palford butted in that night and told him he was a lost heir, with a fortune and an estate in England; and the curtain had been jerking up and down ever since. But there had been thrills in it, queer as it was. Something doing all the time, by gee!
He sat and smoked his pipe and wished Ann were with him because he knew he was not as cool as he had meant to be. He felt a certain tingling of excitement in his body; and this was not the time to be excited. He waited for some minutes before he went up-stairs. It was true that Strangeways had been much better lately. He had seemed to find it easier to follow conversation. During the past few days, Tembarom had talked to him in a matter-of-fact way about the house and its various belongings. He had at last seemed to waken to an interest in the picture-gallery. Evidently he knew something of picture-galleries and portraits, and found himself relieved by his own clearness of thought when he talked of them.
“I feel better,” he said, two or three times. “Things seem clearer—nearer.”
“Good business!” exclaimed Tembarom. “I told you it'd be that way. Let's hold on to pictures. It won't be any time before you'll be remembering where you've seen some.”
He had been secretly rather strung up; but he had been very gradual in approaching his final suggestion that some night, when everything was quiet, they might go and look at the gallery together.
“What you need is to get out of the way of wanting to stay in one place,” he argued. “The doctor says you've got to have a change, and even going from one room to another is a fine thing.”
Strangeways had looked at him anxiously for a few moments, even suspiciously, but his face had cleared after the look. He drew himself up and passed his hand over his forehead.
“I believe—perhaps he is right,” he murmured.
“Sure he's right!” said Tembarom. “He's the sort of chap who ought to know. He's been made into a baronet for knowing. Sir Ormsby Galloway, by jings! That's no slouch of a name Oh, he knows, you bet your life!”
This morning when he had seen him he had spoken of the plan again. The visitors had gone away; the servants could be sent out of sight and hearing; they could go into the library and smoke and he could look at the books. And then they could take a look at the picture-gallery if he wasn't too tired. It would be a change anyhow.
To-night, as he went up the huge staircase, Tembarom's calmness of being had not increased. He was aware of a quickened pulse and of a slight dampness on his forehead. The dead silence of the house added to the unusualness of things. He could not remember ever having been so anxious before, except on the occasion when he had taken his first day's “stuff” to Galton, and had stood watching him as he read it. His forehead had grown damp then. But he showed no outward signs of excitement when he entered the room and found Strangeways standing, perfectly attired in evening dress.
Pearson, setting things in order at the other side of the room, was taking note of him furtively over his shoulder. Quite in the casual manner of the ordinary man, he had expressed his intention of dressing for the evening, and Pearson had thanked his stars for the fact that the necessary garments were at hand. From the first, he had not infrequently asked for articles such as only the resources of a complete masculine wardrobe could supply; and on one occasion he had suddenly wished to dress for dinner, and the lame excuses it had been necessary to make had disturbed him horribly instead of pacifying him. To explain that his condition precluded the necessity of the usual appurtenances would have been out of the question. He had been angry. What did Pearson mean? What was the matter? He had said it over and over again, and then had sunk into a hopelessly bewildered mood, and had sat huddled in his dressing-gown staring at the fire. Pearson had been so harrowed by the situation that it had been his own idea to suggest to his master that all possible requirements should be provided. There were occasions when it appeared that the cloud over him lifted for a passing moment, and a gleam of light recalled to him some familiar usage of his past. When he had finished dressing, Pearson had been almost startled by the amount of effect produced by the straight, correctly cut lines of black and white. The mere change of clothes had suddenly changed the man himself—had “done something to him,” Pearson put it. After his first glance at the mirror he had straightened himself, as if recognizing the fault of his own carriage. When he crossed the room it was with the action of a man who has been trained to move well. The good looks, which had been almost hidden behind a veil of uncertainty of expression and strained fearfulness, became obvious. He was tall, and his lean limbs were splendidly hung together. His head was perfectly set, and the bearing of his square shoulders was a soldierly thing. It was an extraordinarily handsome man Tembarom and Pearson found themselves gazing at. Each glanced involuntarily at the other.
“Now that's first-rate! I'm glad you feel like coming,” Tembarom plunged in. He didn't intend to give him too much time to think.
“Thank you. It will be a change, as you said,” Strangeways answered. “One needs change.”
His deep eyes looked somewhat deeper than usual, but his manner was that of any well-bred man doing an accustomed thing. If he had been an ordinary guest in the house, and his host had dropped into his room, he would have comported himself in exactly the same way.
They went together down the corridor as if they had passed down it together a dozen times before. On the stairway Strangeways looked at the tapestries with the interest of a familiarized intelligence.
“It is a beautiful old place,” he said, as they crossed the hall. “That armor was worn by a crusader.” He hesitated a moment when they entered the library, but it was only for a moment. He went to the hearth and took the chair his host offered him, and, lighting a cigar, sat smoking it. If T. Tembarom had chanced to be a man of an analytical or metaphysical order of intellect he would have found, during the past month, many things to lead him far in mental argument concerning the weird wonder of the human mind—of its power where its possessor, the body, is concerned, its sometime closeness to the surface of sentient being, its sometime remoteness. He would have known—awed, marveling at the blackness of the pit into which it can descend—the unknown shades that may enfold it and imprison its gropings. The old Duke of Stone had sat and pondered many an hour over stories his favorite companion had related to him. What curious and subtle processes had the queer fellow not been watching in the closely guarded quiet of the room where the stranger had spent his days; the strange thing cowering in its darkness; the ray of light piercing the cloud one day and seeming lost again the next; the struggles the imprisoned thing made to come forth—to cry out that it was but immured, not wholly conquered, and that some hour would arrive when it would fight its way through at last. Tembarom had not entered into psychological research. He had been entirely uncomplex in his attitude, sitting down before his problem as a besieger might have sat down before a castle. The duke had sometimes wondered whether it was not a good enough thing that he had been so simple about it, merely continuing to believe the best with an unswerving obstinacy and lending a hand when he could. A never flagging sympathy had kept him singularly alive to every chance, and now and then he had illuminations which would have done credit to a cleverer man, and which the duke had rubbed his hands over in half-amused, half-touched elation. How he had kept his head level and held to his purpose!
T. Tembarom talked but little as he sat in his big chair and smoked. Best let him alone and give him time to get used to the newness, he thought. Nothing must happen that could give him a jolt. Let things sort of sink into him, and perhaps they'd set him to thinking and lead him somewhere. Strangeways himself evidently did not want talk. He never wanted it unless he was excited. He was not excited now, and had settled down as if he was comfortable. Having finished one cigar he took another, and began to smoke it much more slowly than he had smoked his first. The slowness began to arrest Tembarom's attention. This was the smoking of a man who was either growing sleepy or sinking into deep thought, becoming oblivious to what he was doing. Sometimes he held the cigar absently between his strong, fine fingers, seeming to forget it. Tembarom watched him do this until he saw it go out, and its white ash drop on the rug at his feet. He did not notice it, but sat sinking deeper and deeper into his own being, growing more remote. What was going on under his absorbed stillness? Tembarom would not have moved or spoken “for a block of Fifth Avenue,” he said internally. The dark eyes seemed to become darker until there was only a pin's point of light to be seen in their pupils. It was as if he were looking at something at a distance—at a strangely long distance. Twice he turned his head and appeared to look slowly round the room, but not as normal people look—as if it also was at the strange, long distance from him, and he were somewhere outside its walls. It was an uncanny thing to be a spectator to.
“How dead still the room is!” Tembarom found himself thinking.
It was “dead still.” And it was a queer deal sitting, not daring to move—just watching. Something was bound to happen, sure! What was it going to be?
Strangeways' cigar dropped from his fingers and appeared to rouse him. He looked puzzled for a moment, and then stooped quite naturally to pick it up.
“I forgot it altogether. It's gone out,” he remarked.
“Have another,” suggested Tembarom, moving the box nearer to him.
“No, thank you.” He rose and crossed the room to the wall of book-shelves. And Tembarom's eye was caught again by the fineness of movement and line the evening clothes made manifest. “What a swell he looked when he moved about like that! What a swell, by jings!”
He looked along the line of shelves and presently took a book down and opened it. He turned over its leaves until something arrested his attention, and then he fell to reading. He read several minutes, while Tembarom watched him. The silence was broken by his laughing a little.
“Listen to this,” he said, and began to read something in a language totally unknown to his hearer. “A man who writes that sort of thing about a woman is an old bounder, whether he's a poet or not. There's a small, biting spitefulness about it that's cattish.”
“Who did it?” Tembarom inquired softly. It might be a good idea to lead him on.
“Horace. In spite of his genius, he sometimes makes you feel he was rather a blackguard.”
“Horace!” For the moment T. Tembarom forgot himself. “I always heard he was a sort of Y.M.C.A. old guy—old Horace Greeley. The Tribune was no yellow journal when he had it.”
He was sorry he had spoken the next moment. Strangeways looked puzzled.
“The Tribune,” he hesitated. “The Roman Tribune?”
“No, New York. He started it—old Horace did. But perhaps we're not talking of the same man.”
Strangeways hesitated again.
“No, I think we're not,” he answered politely.
“I've made a break,” thought Tembarom. “I ought to have kept my mouth shut. I must try to switch him back.”
Strangeways was looking down at the back of the book he held in his hand.
“This one was the Latin poet, Quintus Horatius Flaccus, 65 B. C. You know him,” he said.
“Oh, that one!” exclaimed Tembarom, as if with an air of immense relief. “What a fool I was to forget! I'm glad it's him. Will you go on reading and let me hear some more? He's a winner from Winnersville—that Horace is.”
Perhaps it was a sort of miracle, accomplished by his great desire to help the right thing to happen, to stave off any shadow of the wrong thing. Whatsoever the reason, Strangeways waited only a moment before turning to his book again. It seemed to be a link in some chain slowly forming itself to drag him back from his wanderings. And T. Tembarom, lightly sweating as a frightened horse will, sat smoking another pipe and listening intently to “Satires” and “Lampoons,” read aloud in the Latin of 65 B. C.
“By gee!” he said faithfully, at intervals, when he saw on the reader's face that the moment was ripe. “He knew it all—old Horace—didn't he?”
He had steered his charge back. Things were coming along the line to him. He'd learned Latin at one of these big English schools. Boys always learned Latin, the duke had told him. They just had to. Most of them hated it like thunder, and they used to be caned when they didn't recite it right. Perhaps if he went on he'd begin to remember the school. A queer part of it was that he did not seem to notice that he was not reading his own language.
He did not, in fact, seem to remember anything in particular, but went on quite naturally for some minutes. He had replaced Horace on the shelf and was on the point of taking down another volume when he paused, as if recalling something else.
“Weren't we going to see the picture-gallery?” he inquired. “Isn't it getting late? I should like to see the portraits.”
“No hurry,” answered T. Tembarom. “I was just waiting till you were ready. But we'll go right away, if you like.”
They went without further ceremony. As they walked through the hall and down the corridors side by side, an imaginative person might have felt that perhaps the eyes of an ancient darkling portrait or so looked down at the pair curiously: the long, loosely built New Yorker rather slouching along by the soldierly, almost romantic figure which, in a measure, suggested that others not unlike it might have trod the same oaken floor, wearing ruff and doublet, or lace jabot and sword. There was a far cry between the two, but they walked closely in friendly union. When they entered the picture-gallery Strangeways paused a moment again, and stood peering down its length.
“It is very dimly lighted. How can we see?” he said.
“I told Pearson to leave it dim,” Tembarom answered. “I wanted it just that way at first.”
He tried—and succeeded tolerably well—to say it casually, as he led the way ahead of them. He and the duke had not talked the scheme over for nothing. As his grace had said, they had “worked the thing up.” As they moved down the gallery, the men and women in their frames looked like ghosts staring out to see what was about to happen.
“We'll turn up the lights after a while,” T. Tembarom explained, still casually. “There's a picture here I think a good deal of. I've stood and looked at it pretty often. It reminded me of some one the first day I set eyes on it; but it was quite a time before I made up my mind who it was. It used to drive me half dotty trying to think it out.”
“Which one was it?” asked Strangeways.
“We're coming to it. I want to see if it reminds you of any one. And I want you to see it sudden.” “It's got to be sudden,” he had said to the duke. “If it's going to pan out, I believe it's got to be sudden.” “That's why I had the rest of 'em left dim. I told Pearson to leave a lamp I could turn up quick,” he said to Strangeways.
The lamp was on a table near by and was shaded by a screen. He took it from the shadow and lifted it suddenly, so that its full gleam fell upon the portrait of the handsome youth with the lace collar and the dark, drooping eyes. It was done in a second, with a dramatically unexpected swiftness. His heart jumped up and down.
“Who's that?” he demanded, with abruptness so sharp-pitched that the gallery echoed with the sound. “Who's that?”
He heard a hard, quick gasp, a sound which was momentarily a little horrible, as if the man's soul was being jerked out of his body's depths.
“Who is he?” he cried again. “Tell me.”
After the gasp, Strangeways stood still and stared. His eyes were glued to the canvas, drops of sweat came out on his forehead, and he was shuddering. He began to back away with a look of gruesome struggle. He backed and backed, and stared and stared. The gasp came twice again, and then his voice seemed to tear itself loose from some power that was holding it back.
“Th—at!” he cried. “It is—it—is Miles Hugo!”
The last words were almost a shout, and he shook as if he would have fallen. But T. Tembarom put his hand on his shoulder and held him, breathing fast himself. Gee! if it wasn't like a thing in a play!
“Page at the court of Charles the Second,” he rattled off. “Died of smallpox when he was nineteen. Miles Hugo! Miles Hugo! You hold on to that for all your worth. And hold on to me. I'll keep you steady. Say it again.”
“Miles Hugo.” The poor majestic-looking fellow almost sobbed it. “Where am I? What is the name of this place?”
“It's Temple Barholm in the county of Lancashire, England. Hold on to that, too—like thunder!”
Strangeways held the young man's arm with hands that clutched. He dragged at him. His nightmare held him yet; Tembarom saw it, but flashes of light were blinding him.
“Who”—he pleaded in a shaking and hollow whisper—“are you?”
Here was a stumper! By jings! By jings! And not a minute to think it out. But the answer came all right—all right!
“My name's Tembarom. T. Tembarom.” And he grinned his splendid grin from sheer sense of relief. “I'm a New Yorker—Brooklyn. I was just forked in here anyhow. Don't you waste time thinking over me. You sit down here and do your durndest with Miles Hugo.”