« AnkstesnisTęsti »
I must omit the others-there were several more and return to the Mrs. Tyrrell whom he had mentioned in the first instance, with her boy of ten and her girl of twelve, and a second girl who was grown up and out in the world. These seemed to suit his case better than any of the rest, and he seemed to suit theirs very perfectly and fully.
"I like her," he had commented, reverting to Mrs. Tyrrell. "She 's very straightforward and natural. She sees quite plainly what I 'm after, and she 's not thinking of herself at all. One could make a very good friend of her. She 's keen on giving those two kids a chance. Her eighteen-year old girl, the one that 's independent, just went off and found herself a job. Had n't got to be driven-full of pluck and a good head on her. She saw that her mother was not having exactly a rosy time of it, though she is n't the sort that complains. The two of them are something like sisters, and there 's rather a dash of the protective attitude about that girl. She's somebody's secretary. I call her the secretary-bird; there's one at the zoo, where I'm taking the kids to-morrow. They 're quite unspoiled and think me wonderful. Poor little devils, they'll get a hell of a shock some day when they know the truth!"
But for all his passing off the matter lightly, he could not avoid a burst of confidence where it came to "those two kids." Some people might call it balked paternal instinct; but it was, rather, a fine light that he threw over the three of them, dropping all his disguises at last and speaking as he felt about it-about himself and Mrs. Tyrrell's little boy and girl.
"You see, their mother had never
tried for a job before," he had run on, "and she was a bit timid about it; but for their sakes-I guess it is for their sakes a deuced sight more than for her own. She wrote from the house where she was living with her 'in-laws,' and I told her to come up and see me. I've a sitting-room now in that hotel you so despise. Well, she turned up all right, and she understood me. She was a trifle shy at first, but when she found herself, and we really got to talking and she discovered I was n't so very terrible, she became easier, and I felt that if the kids were all right, she 'd do. I asked her about them next, and she confessed that they were waiting down-stairs for her in the hall. You see, she had n't quite fancied the job of asking, and being interviewed by a man from Lord knows where, and she 'd wanted something to keep up her pluck; and so she 'd brought them along as a kind of body-guard or for company. I don't think she put it quite that way, but one feels these things. It gave her more confidence. And I said, 'Let 's send for them, or I'll go down myself.'
"I went down, and found them waiting very good on a settee, the girl a bit motherly, being two years the older; the boy a chubby little chap in an Eton suit; thoroughbreds both. They were n't a bit afraid of me, bless them! They looked up when I spoke, and read me and trusted me, and when they do that, it's difficult to resist. I only had to put out a hand, and they came quite simply, quite naturally, as though we had known one another all our lives. "You 're Captain Vignolles,' they said.
"How did you know?' I answered, and laughed.
"We knew,' they both answered.
'Mummy told us about it and read us your letter.'
"It did n't seem strange to them, nothing seemed strange to them. If we 'd only had bread and cheese for lunch, they would n't have minded; and when we drove down to the house and I told them that, if they liked, they could live there, they did n't seem to feel it was strange or wonderful or unpleasant or anything, but just said, 'Yes.' For the world is a queer place to children and they never quite know what 's going to happen next. But whatever happens is very interesting as long as it does n't hurt too much, as long as it does n't over-pain their body or their soul. We 've agreed to do half a dozen things together," he ended, "and if we don't bore one another too much, the Tyrrells are going down to live in that old house."
There had been something contradictory in Vignolles's account of his relations with those two children. In one breath they thought him "wonderful," and yet were quite unstirred by the material comforts and other benefits his friendship offered or seemed to promise. I asked him about this, for I could n't well follow it.
"My dear old chump," he responded, "don't you see that it 's me, Vignolles, they think wonderful, and that the house and home and all the rest of it are only a house and home. The things money, sordid cash, can buy don't interest them; but to have me as a friend, me to romp with and to chatter to, they seem to like that, and it's very new and unexpected. Most of the others were after my money. I had it, and they wanted it, and I don't suppose they thought much
further. Yes, even the children seemed to share that taint; had drawn it from whatever home or atmosphere they came from. But these two are free from it, and we can just be friends; and of course I 'm wonderful, because I'm a grown-up, and because I 'm ready to talk to them quite seriously and listen very seriously to all they have to say. And then they seem to think I've done things, seen the world, and had adventures. They make discoveries about me every day. Can't help it. We go to the zoo, and they find out that I 've seen eagles, not in cages, but flying in the air and sitting on nests; and that I 've seen elephants and camels in their own countries, and sailed down rivers full of hippos and crocodiles. And Kit 's found out that I once killed a man; I was n't aware of it till he told me. You see, the other fellow was just a Chink who tried to do me in. I did him in instead. It had never occurred to me that I 'd done anything very out of the way till Kit blazed up about it and Eden opened her eyes. No, those two don't care a button about money and the house, but they do love grabbing hold of me and making me confess. I rather let myself go with them," he added, with a curious, shy tenderness, and one could read the love he 'd missed and the gratitude he felt at picking up these crumbs, or, it might be, a banquet, late in middle age.
The two children and he invaded my rooms one afternoon with paper bags of cakes and baker's stuff, and announced that they had come for tea, Vignolles acting as spokesman. That was my own introduction to this new alliance. My rooms are in the Temple, and between them they discovered that I was a Knight Templar and some
thing of a successor to the rascals who had fought in the Crusades and who occurred in "Ivanhoe," a book those kids were full of. But all the same they unpacked their cakes and scones, laid the table, and boiled a kettle of water on the gas-stove, and had a regular picnic with me as their sole guest. It was quite an eventful afternoon for all of us.
I caught the three of them together again one chilly afternoon as I was crossing London Bridge. Everybody else was busy and hurried and absorbed; but these three stood quite openly upon the bridge and got in people's way and looked at the gulls and shipping and wharves and water, like travelers lingering over the sights and wonders of a foreign land.
I knew the spot for one of Vignolles's favorite haunts when he had felt lonely and restless, when the call from ocean after ocean had come to him, asking why he had turned deserter. From here one could watch the ships and their broad highway running out to the salt seas and leading to every corner and crevice of that fabulous world wherein for thirty years he had adventured. To-day he was talking it over with these children, and they were as wide-awake and as mystery-lured as he. I could understand then how to them our friend was "wonderful." He had been out there and come back; he had known shipwreck-they had made him own up to it-and seen savage men and cannibals and sharks and whales, and fish that flew in air.
Once or twice he came into me dead beat, tired out with answering questions, with making himself quite small again, with seeing the world through their fresh, happy eyes. But in the main he could hold his own, and en
joyed himself thoroughly, reliving his past with them, finding again old scenes, old faces, old sorrows, old temptations; relieved of trouble, of grossness, of disillusionment, of all the struggles he had known and overcome, the fears, the hauntings. Rosily and through mists he now could see these things, and if he was to hold his two companions, that was the right way. Soon enough they would touch a fuller knowledge. Meanwhile they had made a hero of him; he admitted it.
"Well, somebody has to make a hero of you," he added, laughing; “or else life's not much fun, now, is it?"
And while all this was going on in London, Mrs. Tyrrell, duly appointed and given a free hand, was occupied with getting servants and making ready for their move into the house.
I have never known exactly what were the business arrangements that brought Mrs. Tyrrell and the two children out of Richmond, where they had shared a home with the elder Tyrrells, down to the house that Vignolles had bought and furnished on the edge of the country.
Kit now went to a new school, the best in the district, and wore as the mark of it a sky-blue cap with a yellow cross. Eden, whose real name was Evelyn, but who somehow had slipped into this more appropriate designation, had become one of an establishment the pupils of which wore black straw hats with an embroidered device in brown on the front of a dark-blue ribbon. They rode to school on bicycles, with a satchel slung from their shoulder, and the boy was engrossed in foot-ball, and Eden was great on hockey. I often had week-ends with
them, and grew to know Mrs. Tyrrell, and Berta, the girl who was out in the world and somebody's secretary; and there were the two "in-laws." Mr. and Mrs. Tyrrell, senior, we will call them, though perhaps I ought more properly to speak of "the Honorable," for they had that courtesy title, or handle, or whatever it is, being the younger children of persons of distinction long defunct.
Three generations, therefore, of that family were sometimes together under the one roof, and to me it was ever an interesting study to watch them; for I felt it was almost like watching history and the processes of evolution out of hand. Mrs. Tyrrell, it was true, was only a daughter-in-law and not a daughter; but still she might have been. She was entirely of the Tyrrell class and their tradition. Rather a helpless class and a tradition, it occurred to me, aware of a new world marching on.
In addition to his new-found friends, I met Mrs. Carey-Holt, the sister of whom Vignolles had occasionally spoken. And there was her husband, the stock-broker, and young Francis Carey-Holt and Miss Jane Carey-Holt, their offspring. Vignolles did not seem exactly enamoured of his niece and nephew.
"The boy 's too much like a young lady for my taste," he said, discussing them; "had everything done for himnever seems to have put his nose outside of London. Been to all the cinemas and dances all the latest dances; but after that you come to a blank wall. It's a pity he did n't get roped in for the war; he 'd have traveled, at any rate, and probably been kicked a little."
nolles, she was quite definitely out to get a husband. That was her purpose in life, and she was n't very particular whom she got so long as he had the right income and was moderately presentable.
"The little devil makes no bones about it," he exclaimed, smiling. "She 's honest, at least, though I tell her she might as well mark herself up for sale openly as do it that way; comes to the same thing. And she answers, 'Uncle, you 're a back number'; and she shakes her head over me and says, 'No wonder you never got on; you never would have done if it had n't been for this old war.' I rather like her in a curious way," he added. "She 's got more stuff in her than the boy and she bullies her father."
Carey-Holt, the stock-broker, I never knew with any intimacy, and it never seemed to me that there was anything to know. I believe he had persuaded himself that he had fallen in love with his wife before he had married her; he went to the City every morning and was engrossed in the ups and downs of his stocks and shares; and he was, I suppose, of some use as a kind of instigator and lubricant. But outside of this he did as everybody else did of his rather narrow acquaintanceship: wore the same clothes, played the same golf, ate the same dinners, sat down to the same rubbers of "auction," and drank and smoked much as his friends. And for doing all this he seemed to get paid a very comfortable income. I often wondered why; but I don't think he ever troubled, except to feel that it was n't large enough and never would be. And yet he was n't conceited. He was rather a heavy, simple
As for his niece, according to Vig- kind of fellow, with no particular pre