“But,”—Mr. Bullsom paused as though striving to straighten out the matter in his own mind, “but if you are Lord Arranmore’s son there is no secret about it, is there? Why do you still call yourself Mr. Brooks?”
Mr. Bullsom, whose powers of observation were not remarkably acute, looking steadily into his visitor’s face, saw there some signs of a certain change which others had noticed and commented upon during the last few months—a hardening of expression and a slight contraction of the mouth. For Brooks had spent many sleepless nights pondering upon this new problem which had come into his life.
“I do not feel inclined,” he said, quietly, “for many reasons, to accept the olive-branch which it has pleased my father to hold out to me after all these years. I have still some faint recollections of the close of my mother’s life—hastened, I am sure, by anxiety and sorrow on his account. I remember my own bringing up, the loneliness of it. I remember many things which Lord Arranmore would like me now to forget. Then, too, my father and I are as far apart as the poles. He has not the least sympathy with my pursuits or the things which I find worth doing in life. There are other reasons which I need not trouble you with. It is sufficient that for the present I prefer to remain Mr. Brooks, and to lead my own life.”
“But—you won’t be offended, but I want to understand. The thing seems such a muddle to me. You’ve given up your practice—how do you mean to live?”
“There is an income which comes to me from the Manor of Kingston,” Brooks answered, “settled on the eldest sons of the Arranmore peerage, with which my father has nothing to do. This alone is comparative wealth, and there are accumulations also.”
“It don’t seem natural,” Mr. Bullsom said. “If you’ll excuse my saying so, it don’t sound like common-sense. You can live on what terms you please with your father, but you ought to let people know who you are. Great Scott,” he added, with a little chuckle, “what will Julia and the girls say?
“You will understand, Mr. Bullsom,” Brooks said, hastily, “that I trust you to preserve my confidence in this matter. I have told you because I wanted you to understand why I could not accept this invitation to contest the borough, also because you were one of my best friends when I was here. But you are the only person to whom I have told my secret.”
Mr. Bullsom sighed. It would have been such a delightful disclosure.
“As you wish, of course,” he said. “But my it don’t seem possible! Lord Arranmore’s son—the Marquis of Arranmore! Gee whiz!”
“Some day, of course,” Brooks said, “it must come out. But I don’t want it to be yet awhile. If that clock is right hadn’t I better be going up-stairs?”
Mr. Bullsom nodded.
“If you’ll come with me,” he said, “I’ll show you your room.”