“It doesn’t in the least, Mr. Ballard,” I said dryly. “I shall survive the ordeal with composure.”
He glanced at me, smiled and then went on.
“Except for the presence of Miss Redwood, who goes today, the new regulation has been in force here for a month. The farmers and gamekeepers are all bachelors. We have an excellent steward, also a bachelor. You and he will understand each other. In all things that pertain to the boy he is under your orders. Questions of authority where you differ are to be referred to me.”
“I understand. I am not difficult to get on with.”
My employer had described to me thoroughly but quite impersonally all the conditions of his trust and mine, but had made no comments which by the widest stretch of imagination could be construed into opinions. He gave me the impression then as he did later that he was carrying out strictly the letter of his instructions from the dead. He had a face graven into austere lines, which habit had schooled into perfect obedience to his will. He might have believed the experiment to which he was committed a colossal joke, and no sign of his opinion would be reflected in his facial expression, which was, save on unimportant matters, absolutely unchanging. Nor did he seem to care what my own thoughts might be in regard to the matter, though I had not refrained from expressing my interest in the project. My character, my reputation for conscientiousness, my qualifications for the position were all that seemed to concern him. I was merely a piece of machinery, the wheels of which he was to set in motion, which would perform its allotted task to his satisfaction.
The road soon reached an eminence from which Horsham Manor was visible, a fine Georgian house set handsomely enough in a cleft of the hills, before which were broad lawns that sloped to the south and terminated at the borders of a stream which meandered through a rocky bed to the lake below. Wealth such as this had never awed me. John Benham with all his stores of dollars had been obliged to come at last to a penurious philosopher to solve for his son the problem of life that had baffled the father. So intent was I upon the house which was to be my home that I caught but a glimpse of the fine valley of meadow and wood which ended in the faint purplish hills, beyond which somewhere was the Hudson River.
It was evident that our arrival had been telephoned from the lodge at the gate, for as the machine drew up at the main doorway of the house a servant in livery appeared and opened the door.
“Ah, Christopher,” said my companion. “Is Mr. Radford about?”
“Yes, sir. He’ll be up in a minute, sir.”
“This is Mr. Canby, Christopher, Master Jeremiah’s new tutor.”
“Yes, sir, you’ll find Miss Redwood and Master Jerry in the library.”
We went up the steps while the aged butler (who had lived with John Benham) followed with the valises, and were ushered into the library, where my pupil and his governess awaited us.