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- T. Tembarom - 70/104 -
A man-servant approaching to suggest a possible need of hot tea started at hearing his grace break into a sudden and plainly involuntary crow of glee. He had not heard that one before either. Palliser as a little sunbeam brightening the pathway of T. Tembarom, was, in the particular existing circumstances, all that could be desired of fine humor. It somewhat recalled the situation of the "Ladies" of the noble houses of Pevensy, Talchester, and Stone unconsciously passing in review for the satisfaction of little Miss Hutchinson. Tembarom laughed a little himself, but he went on with a sort of seriousness
"There's one thing sure enough. I've got on to it by listening and working out what he would do by what he doesn't know he says. If he could put the screws on me in any way, he wouldn't hold back. It'd be all quite polite and gentlemanly, but he'd do it all the same. And he's dead-sure that everybody's got something they'd like to hide--or get. That's what he works things out from."
"Does he think you have something to hide--or get?" the duke inquired rather quickly.
"He's sure of it. But he doesn't know yet whether it's get or hide. He noses about. Pearson's seen him. He asks questions and plays he ain't doing it and ain't interested, anyhow."
"He doesn't like you, he doesn't like you," the duke said rather thoughtfully. "He has a way of conveying that you are far more subtle than you choose to look. He is given to enlarging on the fact that an air of entire frankness is one of the chief assets of certain promoters of huge American schemes."
Tembarom smiled the smile of recognition.
"Yes," he said, "it looks like that's a long way round, doesn't it? But it's not far to T. T. when you want to hitch on the connection. Anyhow, that's the way he means it to look. If ever I was suspected of being in any mix-up, everybody would remember he'd said that."
"It's very amusin'," said the duke. " It's very amusin'."
They had become even greater friends and intimates by this time than the already astonished neighborhood suspected them of being. That they spent much time together in an amazing degree of familiarity was the talk of the country, in fact, one of the most frequent resources of conversation. Everybody endeavored to find reason for the situation, but none had been presented which seemed of sufficiently logical convincingness. The duke was eccentric, of course. That was easy to hit upon. He was amiably perverse and good-humoredly cynical. He was of course immensely amused by the incongruity of the acquaintance. This being the case, why exactly he had never before chosen for himself a companion equally out of the picture it was not easy to explain. There were plow-boys or clerks out of provincial shops who would surely have been quite as incongruous when surrounded by ducal splendors. He might have got a young man from Liverpool or Blackburn who would have known as little of polite society as Mr. Temple Barholm; there were few, of course, who could know less. But he had never shown the faintest desire to seek one out. Palliser, it is true, suggested it was Tembarom's "cheek" which stood him in good stead. The young man from behind the counter in a Liverpool or Blackburn shop would probably have been frightened to death and afraid to open his mouth in self-revelation, whereas Temple Barholm was so entirely a bounder that he did not know he was one, and was ready to make an ass of himself to any extent. The frankest statement of the situation, if any one had so chosen to put it, would have been that he was regarded as a sort of court fool without cap or bells.
No one was aware of the odd confidences which passed between the weirdly dissimilar pair. No one guessed that the old peer sat and listened to stories of a red-headed, slim-bodied girl in a dingy New York boarding-house, that he liked them sufficiently to encourage their telling, that he had made a mental picture of a certain look in a pair of maternally yearning and fearfully convincing round young eyes, that he knew the burnished fullness and glow of the red hair until he could imagine the feeling of its texture and abundant warmth in the hand. And this subject was only one of many. And of others they talked with interest, doubt, argument, speculation, holding a living thrill.
The tap of croquet mallets sounded hollow and clear from the sunken lawn below the mass of shrubs between them and the players as the duke repeated.
"It's hugely amusin'," dropping his "g," which was not one of his usual affectations.
"Confound it!" he said next, wrinkling the thin, fine skin round his eyes in a speculative smile, "I wish I had had a son of my own just like you."
All of Tembarom's white teeth revealed themselves.
"I'd have liked to have been in it," he replied, "but I shouldn't have been like me."
"Yes, you would." The duke put the tips of his fingers delicately together. "You are of the kind which in all circumstances is like itself." He looked about him, taking in the turreted, majestic age and mass of the castle. "You would have been born here. You would have learned to ride your pony down the avenue. You would have gone to Eton and to Oxford. I don't think you would have learned much, but you would have been decidedly edifying and companionable. You would have had a sense of humor which would have made you popular in society and at court. A young fellow who makes those people laugh holds success in his hand. They want to be made to laugh as much as I do. Good God! how they are obliged to be bored and behave decently under it! You would have seen and known more things to be humorous about than you know now. I don't think you would have been a fool about women, but some of them would have been fools about you, because you've got a way. I had one myself. It's all the more dangerous because it's possibility suggesting without being sentimental. A friendly young fellow always suggests possibilities without being aware of it.
"Would I have been Lord Temple Temple Barholm or something of that sort?" Tembarom asked.
"You would have been the Marquis of Belcarey," the duke replied, looking him over thoughtfully, "and your name would probably have been Hugh Lawrence Gilbert Henry Charles Adelbert, or words to that effect."
"A regular six-shooter," said Tembarom.
The duke was following it up with absorption in his eyes.
"You'd have gone into the Guards, perhaps," he said, "and drill would have made you carry yourself better. You're a good height. You'd have been a well-set-up fellow. I should have been rather proud of you. I can see you riding to the palace with the rest of them, sabres and chains clanking and glittering and helmet with plumes streaming. By Jove! I don't wonder at the effect they have on nursery-maids. On a sunny morning in spring they suggest knights in a fairytale."
"I should have liked it all right if I hadn't been born in Brooklyn," grinned Tembarom. "But that starts you out in a different way. Do you think, if I'd been born the Marquis of Bel--what's his name--I should have been on to Palliser's little song and dance, and had as much fun out of it?"
"On my soul, I believe you would," the, duke answered. "Brooklyn or Stone Hover Castle, I'm hanged if you wouldn't have been YOU."
After this came a pause. Each man sat thinking his own thoughts, which, while marked with difference in form, were doubtless subtly alike in the line they followed. During the silence T. Tembarom looked out at the late afternoon shadows lengthening themselves in darkening velvet across the lawns.
At last he said:
"I never told you that I've been reading some of the 'steen thousand books in the library. I started it about a month ago. And somehow they've got me going."
The slightly lifted eyebrows of his host did not express surprise so much as questioning interest. This man, at least, had discovered that one need find no cause for astonishment in any discovery that he had been doing a thing for some time for some reason or through some prompting of his own, and had said nothing whatever about it until he was what he called "good and ready." When he was "good and ready" he usually revealed himself to the duke, but he was not equally expansive with others.
"No, you have not mentioned it," his grace answered, and laughed a little. "You frequently fail to mention things. When first we knew each other I used to wonder if you were naturally a secretive fellow; but you are not. You always have a reason for your silences."
"It took about ten years to kick that into me--ten good years, I should say." T. Tembarom looked as if he were looking backward at many episodes as he said it. "Naturally, I guess, I must have been an innocent, blab-mouthed kid. I meant no harm, but I just didn't know. Sometimes it looks as if just not knowing is about the worst disease you can be troubled with. But if you don't get killed first, you find out in time that what you've got to hold on to hard and fast is the trick of 'saying nothing and sawing wood.'"
The duke took out his memorandum-book and began to write hastily. T. Tembarom was quite accustomed to this. He even repeated his axiom for him.
"Say nothing and saw wood," he said. "It's worth writing down. It means 'shut your mouth and keep on working.'"
"Thank you," said the duke. "It is worth writing down. Thank you."
"I did not talk about the books because I wanted to get used to them before I began to talk," Tembarom explained. "I wanted to get somewhere. I'd never read a book through in my life before. Never wanted to. Never had one and never had time. When night came, I was dog-tired and dog-ready to drop down and sleep."
Here was a situation of interest. A young man of odd, direct shrewdness, who had never read a book through in his existence, had
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