“A discreet visitor, eh?”
“More than he need be. My mother actually wanted him to stay on in the house—in her pink chintz room. Think of it! But he says houses smother him. I take it he’s lived for years in the open.”
“In the open where?”
“I can’t make out, except that it was somewhere in the East. ’East of everything—beyond the day-spring. In places not on the map.’ That’s the way he put it; and when I said: ’You’ve been an explorer, then?’ he smiled in his beard, and answered: ’Yes; that’s it—an explorer.’ Yet he doesn’t strike me as a man of action: hasn’t the hands or the eyes.”
“What sort of hands and eyes has he?”
Wade reflected. His range of observation was not large, but within its limits it was exact and could give an account of itself.
“He’s worked a lot with his hands, but that’s not what they were made for. I should say they were extraordinarily delicate conductors of sensation. And his eye—his eye too. He hasn’t used it to dominate people: he didn’t care to. He simply looks through ’em all like windows. Makes me feel like the fellows who think they’re made of glass. The mitigating circumstance is that he seems to see such a glorious landscape through me.” Wade grinned at the thought of serving such a purpose.
“I see. I’ll come on Sunday and be looked through!” Bernald cried.
BERNALD came on two successive Sundays; and the second time he lingered till the Tuesday.
“Here he comes!” Wade had said, the first evening, as the two young men, with Wade’s mother sat in the sultry dusk, with the Virginian creeper drawing, between the verandah arches, its black arabesques against a moon-lined sky.
In the darkness Bernald heard a step on the gravel, and saw the red flit of a cigar through the shrubs. Then a loosely-moving figure obscured the patch of sky between the creepers, and the red spark became the centre of a dim bearded face, in which Bernald discerned only a broad white gleam of forehead.
It was the young man’s subsequent impression that Winterman had not spoken much that first evening; at any rate, Bernald himself remembered chiefly what the Wades had said. And this was the more curious because he had come for the purpose of studying their visitor, and because there was nothing to divert him from that purpose in Wade’s halting communications or his mother’s artless comments. He reflected afterward that there must have been a mysteriously fertilizing quality in the stranger’s silence: it had brooded over their talk like a large moist cloud above a dry country.
Mrs. Wade, apparently apprehensive lest her son should have given Bernald an exaggerated notion of their visitor’s importance, had hastened to qualify it before the latter appeared.