“Children should not hear of such abstruse, far-off things,” observed Mrs. Rexford; “it does harm; but with no nursery, no schoolroom, what can one do?”
Trenholme told them of Alec’s telegram, and something of what he knew concerning Bates. His own knowledge was scanty, but he had not even said all he might have said when Mrs. Rexford politely regretted that her husband and son, taking advantage of the rain, had both gone to the next town to see some machinery they were buying, and would be away over Sunday, otherwise they would not have missed the opportunity offered by Sunday’s leisure to call upon the newcomers.
“Oh, he’s quite a common working-man, I fancy,” added Trenholme, hastily, surprised at the gloss his words had thrown on Bates’s position, and dimly realising that his way of putting things might perhaps at some other times be as misleading as it had just that moment been.
Then he went away rather abruptly, feeling burdened with the further apologies she made with respect to Alec.
Trenholme went home and sat down to write an article for a magazine. Its subject was the discipline of life. He did not get on with it very well. He rose more than once to look at the weather-glass and the weather. Rain came in torrents, ceasing at intervals. The clouds swept over, with lighter and darker spaces among them. The wind began to rise. Thunder was in the air; as it became dusk lightning was seen in the far distance.
A little after dark he heard a quick, light step upon the garden path. The voice of the young dentist was audible at the door, and Mrs. Martha ushered him into the study. Trenholme had felt more or less prejudice against this fellow since he had become aware that he was in some way connected with the incident that had discomforted his brother in his lonely station. He looked at him with a glance of severe inquiry.
“I’m real sorry to disturb you,” said the dentist; “but, upon my word, I’m uneasy in my mind. I’ve lost old Mr. Cameron.”
It occurred to Trenholme now for the first time since he had heard of Bates’s coming that he, Bates, was the very man who could speak with authority as to whether the old man in question had a right to the name of Cameron. He wondered if the American could possibly have private knowledge of Bates’s movements, and knew that his coming could dispel the mystery. If so, and if he had interest in keeping up the weird story, he had done well now to lose his charge for the time being. Wild and improbable as such a plot seemed, it was not more extraordinary than the fact that this intensely practical young man had sought the other and protected him so long.
“Your friend is in the habit of wandering, is he not?” asked Trenholme, guardedly.
“Can’t say that he is since he came here, Principal. He’s just like a child, coming in when it’s dark. I’ve never”—he spoke with zeal—“I’ve never known that good old gentleman out as late as this, and it’s stormy.”