Unconsciously he opened the door as he spoke, and Stafford said:
“Is this your room, sir?”
“Yes; walk in, my boy,” replied Sir Stephen.
Stafford walked in and stood stock-still with amazement. The room was as plainly furnished as a servant’s—more plainly, probably, than the servants who were housed under his roof. Saving for a square of carpet by the bed and dressing-table the floor was bare; the bed was a common one of iron, narrow and without drapery, the furniture was of painted deal. The only picture was a portrait of Stafford enlarged from a photograph, and it hung over the mantel-piece so that Sir Stephen could see it from the bed. Of course neither Stafford nor Howard made any remark.
“Remember that portrait, Stafford?” asked Sir Stephen, with a smile. “I carry it about with me wherever I go. Foolish and fond old father, eh, Mr. Howard? It’s a good portrait, don’t you think?”
Stafford held out his hand.
“Good-night, sir,” he said in a very low voice.
“Good-night, my boy! Sure you’ve got everything you want? And you, Mr. Howard? Don’t let me disturb you in the morning. I’ve got a stupid habit of getting up early—got it years ago, and it clings, like other habits. Hope you’ll sleep well. If you don’t, change your rooms before the crowd comes. Good-night.”
“Did you see the room?” asked Stafford, huskily, when he and Howard had got into Stafford’s.
“I feel as if I could pitch all this”—Stafford looked at the surrounding luxuries—“out of the window! I don’t understand him. Great Heaven! he makes me feel the most selfish, pampered wretch on the face of the earth. He’s—he’s—”
“He is a man!” said Howard, with an earnestness which was strange in him.
“You are right,” said Stafford. “There never was such a father. And yet—yet—I don’t understand him. He is such a mixture. How such a man could talk as he did—no I don’t understand it.”
“I do,” said Howard.
But then Sir Stephen had given him the key to the enigma.
Stafford slept well, and was awake before Measom came to call him. It was a warm and lovely morning, and Stafford’s first thoughts flew to a bath. He got into flannels, and found his way to the lake, and as he expected, there was an elaborate and picturesque bathing-shed beside the Swiss-looking boat-house, in which were an electric launch and boats of all descriptions. There also was a boatman in attendance, with huge towels on his arm.
“Did you expect me?” asked Stafford, as the man touched his hat and opened the bathing-shed.
“Yes, sir; Sir Stephen sent down last night to say that you might come down.”
Stafford nodded. His father forgot nothing! The boatman rowed him out into the lake and Stafford had a delightful swim. It reminded him of Geneva, for the lake this morning was almost as clear and as vivid in colouring: and that is saying a great deal.