Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- T. Tembarom - 60/104 -
safely though not comfortably in a heap upon the grass.
It was of course no trifle of a shock, but its victim's sensations gave him strong reason to hope, as he rolled over, that no bones were broken. The following servants were on the spot almost at once, and took the pony's head.
The young man helped the duke to his feet and dusted him with masterly dexterity. He did not know he was dusting a duke, and he would not have cared if he had.
"Hello," he said, "you're not hurt. I can see that. Thank the Lord! I don't believe you've got a scratch."
His grace felt a shade shaky, and he was slightly pale, but he smiled in a way which had been celebrated forty years earlier, and the charm of which had survived even rheumatic gout.
"Thank you. I'm not hurt in the least. I am the Duke of Stone. This isn't really a call. It isn't my custom to arrive in this way. May I address you as my preserver, Mr. Temple Barholm?"
Upon the terrace, when he was led up the steps, stood a most perfect little elderly lady in a state of agitation much greater than his own or his rescuer's. It was an agitation as perfect in its femininity as she herself was. It expressed its kind tremors in the fashion which belonged to the puce silk dress and fine bits of collar and undersleeve the belated gracefulness of which caused her to present herself to him rather as a figure cut neatly from a book of the styles he had admired in his young manhood. It was of course Miss Alicia, who having, with Tembarom, seen the galloping pony from a window, had followed him when he darted from the room. She came forward, looking pale with charming solicitude.
"I do so hope you are not hurt," she exclaimed. "It really seemed that only divine Providence could prevent a terrible accident."
"I am afraid that it was more grotesque than terrible," he answered a shade breathlessly.
"Let me make you acquainted with the Duke of Stone, Miss Alicia," Tembarom said in the formula of Mrs. Bowse's boarders on state occasions of introduction. "Duke, let me make you acquainted, sir, with my--relation--Miss Alicia Temple Barholm."
The duke's bow had a remote suggestion of almost including a kissed hand in its gallant courtesy. Not, however, that Early Victorian ladies had been accustomed to the kissing of hands; but at the period when he had best known the type he had daily bent over white fingers in Continental capitals.
"A glass of wine," Miss Alicia implored. "Pray let me give you a glass of wine. I am sure you need it very much."
He was taken into the library and made to sit in a most comfortable easy-chair. Miss Alicia fluttered about him with sympathy still delicately tinged with alarm. How long, how long, it had been since he had been fluttered over! Nearly forty years. Ladies did not flutter now, and he remembered that it was no longer the fashion to call them "ladies." Only the lower-middle classes spoke of "ladies." But he found himself mentally using the word again as he watched Miss Alicia.
It had been "ladies" who had fluttered and been anxious about a man in this quite pretty way.
He could scarcely remove his eyes from her as he sipped his wine. She felt his escape "providential," and murmured such devout little phrases concerning it that he was almost consoled for the grotesque inward vision of himself as an aged peer of the realm tumbling out of a baby-carriage and rolled over on the grass at the feet of a man on whom later he had meant to make, in proper state, a formal call. She put her hand to her side, smiling half apologetically.
"My heart beats quite fast yet," she said. Whereupon a quaintly novel thing took place, at the sight of which the duke barely escaped opening his eyes very wide indeed. The American Temple Barholm put his arm about her in the most casual and informally accustomed way, and led her to a chair, and put her in it, so to speak.
"Say," he announced with affectionate authority, "you sit down right away. It's you that needs a glass of wine, and I'm going to give it to you."
The relations between the two were evidently on a basis not common in England even among people who were attached to one another. There was a spontaneous, every-day air of natural, protective petting about it, as though the fellow was fond of her in his crude fashion, and meant to take care of her. He was fond of her, and the duke perceived it with elation, and also understood. He might be the ordinary bestower of boons, but the protective curve of his arm included other things. In the blank dullness of his unaccustomed splendors he had somehow encountered this fine, delicately preserved little relic of other days, and had seized on her and made her his own.
"I have not seen anything as delightful as Miss Temple Barholm for many a year," the duke said when Miss Alicia was called from the room and left them together.
"Ain't she great?" was Tembarom's reply. "She's just great."
"It's an exquisite survival of type," said the duke. "She belongs to my time, not yours," he added, realizing that "survival of type" might not clearly convey itself.
"Well, she belongs to mine now," answered Tembarom. "I wouldn't lose her for a farm."
"The voice, the phrases, the carriage might survive,- they do in remote neighborhoods, I suppose--but the dress is quite delightfully incredible. It is a work of art," the duke went on. She had seemed too good to be true. Her clothes, however, had certainly not been dug out of a wardrobe of forty years ago.
"When I went to talk to the head woman in the shop in Bond Street I fixed it with 'em hard and fast that she was not to spoil her. They were to keep her like she was. She's like her little cap, you know, and her little mantles and tippets. She's like them," exclaimed Tembarom.
Did he see that? What an odd feature in a man of his sort! And how thoroughly New Yorkish it was that he should march into a fashionable shop and see that he got what he wanted and the worth of his money! There had been no rashness in the hope that the unexplored treasure might be a rich one. The man's simplicity was an actual complexity. He had a boyish eye and a grin, but there was a business-like line about his mouth which was strong enough to have been hard if it had not been good-natured.
"That was confoundedly clever of you," his grace commented heartily-- "confoundedly. I should never have had the wit to think of it myself, or the courage to do it if I had. Shop-women make me shy."
"Oh, well, I just put it up to them," Tembarom answered easily.
"I believe," cautiously translated the duke, "that you mean that you made them feel that they alone were responsible."
"Yes, I do," assented Tembarom, the grin slightly in evidence. "Put it up to them's the short way of saying it."
"Would you mind my writing that down?" said the duke. "I have a fad for dialects and new phrases." He hastily scribbled the words in a tablet that he took from his pocket. "Do you like living in England?" he asked in course of time.
"I should like it if I'd been born here," was the answer.
"I see, I see."
"If it had not been for finding Miss Alicia, and that I made a promise I'd stay for a year, anyhow, I'd have broken loose at the end of the first week and worked my passage back if I hadn't had enough in my clothes to pay for it." He laughed, but it was not real laughter. There was a thing behind it. The situation was more edifying than one could have hoped. "I made a promise, and I'm going to stick it out," he said.
He was going to stick it out because he had promised to endure for a year Temple Barholm and an income of seventy thousand pounds! The duke gazed at him as at a fond dream realized.
"I've nothing to do," Tembarom added.
"Neither have I," replied the Duke of Stone.
"But you're used to it, and I'm not. I'm used to working 'steen hours a day, and dropping into bed as tired as a dog, but ready to sleep like one and get up rested."
"I used to play twenty hours a day once," answered the duke, "but I didn't get up rested. That's probably why I have gout and rheumatism combined. Tell me how you worked, and I will tell you how I played."
It was worth while taking this tone with him. It had been worth while taking it with the chestnut-gathering peasants in the Apennines, sometimes even with a stone-breaker by an English roadside. And this one was of a type more unique and distinctive than any other--a fellow who, with the blood of Saxon kings and Norman nobles in his veins, had known nothing but the street life of the crudest city in the world, who spoke a sort of argot, who knew no parallels of the things which surrounded him in the ancient home he had inherited and in which he stood apart, a sort of semi-sophisticated savage. The duke applied himself with grace and finished ability to drawing him out. The questions he asked were all seemingly those of a man of the world charmingly interested in the superior knowledge of a foreigner of varied experience. His method was one which engaged the interest of Tembarom himself. He did not know that he was not only questioned, but, so to speak, delicately cross-examined and that before the end of the interview the Duke of Stone knew more of him, his past existence and present sentiments, than even Miss Alicia knew after their long and intimate evening talks. The duke, however, had the advantage of being a man and of cherishing vivid recollections of the days of his youth, which, unlike as it had been to that of Tembarom, furnished a degree of solid foundation upon which go to build conjecture.
Previous Page Next Page
1 10 20 30 40 50 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 70 80 90 100 104
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything