The new-comer had time, however, to realise and enjoy a pleasant expectancy before she appeared. He was apparently occupied with the Times, but in reality he was very conscious all the time of his own affairs and of a certain crisis to which, in his own belief, he had now brought them. In the first place, he could not get over his astonishment at finding himself where he was. The very aspect of the Winnipeg hotel, as he looked curiously round it, seemed to prove to him both the seriousness of certain plans and intentions of his own, and the unusual decision with which he had been pursuing them.
For undoubtedly, of his own accord, and for mere travellers’ reasons, he would not at this moment be travelling in Canada. The old world was enough for him; and neither in the States nor in Canada had he so far seen anything which would of itself have drawn him away from his Cumberland house, his classical library, his pets, his friends and correspondents, his old servants and all the other items in a comely and dignified way of life.
He was just forty and unmarried, a man of old family, easy disposition, and classical tastes. He had been for a time Member of Parliament for one of the old Universities, and he was now engaged on a verse translation of certain books of the Odyssey. That this particular labour had been undertaken before did not trouble him. It was in fact his delight to feel himself a link in the chain of tradition—at once the successor and progenitor of scholars. Not that his scholarship was anything illustrious or profound. Neither as poet nor Hellenist would he ever leave any great mark behind him; but where other men talk of “the household of faith,” he might have talked rather of “the household of letters,” and would have seen himself as a warm and familiar sitter by its hearth. A new edition of some favourite classic; his weekly Athenaeum; occasional correspondence with a French or Italian scholar—(he did not read German, and disliked the race)—these were his pleasures. For the rest he was the landlord of a considerable estate, as much of a sportsman as his position required, and his Conservative politics did not include any sympathy for the more revolutionary doctrines—economic or social—which seemed to him to be corrupting his party. In his youth, before the death of an elder brother, he had been trained as a doctor, and had spent some time in a London hospital. In no case would he ever have practised. Before his training was over he had revolted against the profession, and against the “ugliness,” as it seemed to him, of the matters and topics with which a doctor must perforce be connected. His elder brother’s death, which, however, he sincerely regretted, had in truth solved many difficulties.