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- T. Tembarom - 30/104 -
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
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