“They can afford to,” he returned. “They get every bit of pull there is to have. I told you we’ve been tenants of the Home Farm ever since there’s been a Home Farm, but old Jervaise could turn my father out any time, at six months’ notice. Would, too. Probably have to, for the sake of public opinion. Well, would you call that playing fair?”
“I shouldn’t,” I said with emphasis.
“Most people would,” he replied gloomily. I was wondering what his own “pull” might be, the pull he would not use because the use of it conflicted with his ideal of playing the game. I was inclined, with a foolish romanticism to toy with the notion of some old blood relationship between the families of Jervaise and Banks—some carefully hidden scandal that might even throw a doubt on the present owner’s right of proprietorship. I was still rebuilding that foolish, familiar story of the lost heir, when my new friend put an end to further speculation by saying,—
“But what’s the good of thinking about that—yet? Why, I don’t even know...”
I could not resist a direct question this time. “Don’t even know what?” I asked.
“I was forgetting,” he said. He got to his feet again, looked round for a moment, and then gave a yawn which seemed to spring from a nervous rather than a muscular origin.
“No good my compromising you, just now,” he said with a friendly smile. “You’ve probably guessed more, already, than’ll be altogether convenient for you when you see the family at breakfast. Perhaps, we’ll meet again some day.”
“I’m staying here till Monday,” I said.
“But I don’t know if I am,” he replied with a whimsical twist of his firm mouth. “Well, so long,” he went on quickly. “Glad to have met you, anyway.” He nodded with a repetition of that frank, engaging smile of his, and turned away.
He did not take the road by which I had found Jervaise Clump, but descended the hill on the opposite side; and, after he had gone for five minutes or so, I got up and took a view of the prospect in that direction. I had no thought of spying upon him. I just wished to see if the Home Farm lay over there, as I guessed it must from my memory of the general lie of the land during our moonlit return to the Hall.
I was right. The farm was clearly visible from the northern slope of the hill—an L-shaped, low, white house with a high, red-tiled roof. It stood on another little tumulus about a mile away, a small replica of Jervaise Clump; and the whole house was visible above the valley wood that lay between us.
At first I could not decide why the effect of the place gave me an impression of being unusual, and finally decided that this apparent air of individuality was due to the choice of site. In that country all the farms were built in the lower lands, crouching under the lee of woods and hills, humbly effacing themselves before the sovereignty of the Hall. The Home Farm alone, as far as I could see, presented a composed and dignified face to its overlord.