He rose early, both from long habit, and from the scant sleep of an elderly man; he could not lie in bed; but his wife always had her breakfast there and remained so long that the chambermaid had done up most of the other rooms and had leisure for talk with her. As soon as he was awake, he stole softly out and was the first in the dining-room for breakfast. He owned to casual acquaintance in moments of expansion that breakfast was his best meal, but he did what he could to make it his worst by beginning with oranges and oatmeal, going forward to beefsteak and fried potatoes, and closing with griddle cakes and syrup, washed down with a cup of cocoa, which his wife decided to be wholesomer than coffee. By the time he had finished such a repast, he crept out of the dining-room in a state of tension little short of anguish, which he confided to the sympathy of the bootblack in the washroom.
He always went from having his shoes polished to get a toothpick at the clerk’s desk; and at the Middlemount House, the morning after he had been that drive with Mrs. Lander, he lingered a moment with his elbows beside the register. “How about a buckboa’d?” he asked.
“Something you can drive yourself “—the clerk professionally dropped his eye to the register—“Mr. Lander?”
“Well, no, I guess not, this time,” the little man returned, after a moment’s reflection. “Know anything of a family named Claxon, down the road, here, a piece?” He twisted his head in the direction he meant.
“This is my first season at Middlemount; but I guess Mr. Atwell will know.” The clerk called to the landlord, who was smoking in his private room behind the office, and the landlord came out. The clerk repeated Mr. Lander’s questions.
“Pootty good kind of folks, I guess,” said the landlord provisionally, through his cigar-smoke. “Man’s a kind of univussal genius, but he’s got a nice family of children; smaht as traps, all of ’em.”
“How about that oldest gul?” asked Mr. Lander.