“Nothing to his discredit. He has had a lot of trouble—terrible trouble—more than anybody I know. I heard he had gone to Australia. I see now that he came to New York. Well, upon my soul, Sir Felix living over an express office!”
He handed her a bill, waited until John had fished up the change from the trousers pocket, repeated, in an absent-minded way: “Sir Felix living here! Good God! What next?” and, beckoning to the driver, stepped inside the hansom and drove off.
Kitty looked at her husband, her color coming and going. “What did I tell ye, John, dear? And ye wouldn’t believe a word of it.”
John returned Kitty’s look. He, too, was trying to grasp the full meaning of the announcement. “Are ye going to tell him ye know, Kitty?” Neither of them had the slightest doubt of its truth.
“No, I ain’t,” she flashed back. “Not a word—nor nobody else. When Mr. Felix O’Day gits ready to tell us, he will.”
“Will ye tell Father Cruse?” he persisted.
“I don’t know that I will. I’ll have to think it over. And now, John, remember!—not a word of this to any livin’ soul. Do ye promise?”
“I do.” He hesitated, another question struggling to his lips, and then added: “What’s up wid him, do ye think, Kitty?”
“I don’t know, John, dear. I wish I did, but whatever it is, its breakin’ his heart.”
The discovery of her lodger’s title made but little difference to Kitty, nor did it raise him a whit in her estimation. At best, it only confirmed her first impression of his being a gentleman—every inch of him. She may have studied the more closely her lodger’s habits, noting his constant care of his person, the way in which he used his knife and fork, the softness and cleanliness of his hands—all object-lessons to her, for she broke out on her husband the day after her talk with the Englishman in the hansom cab with:
“I want to tell ye that ye’ll have to stop spatterin’ yer soup around after this, John, dear. I’m going to have a clean table-cloth on every day, and a clean napkin for him, and as I’m doin’ the washing myself ye’ve got to help an’ not muss things. First thing ye know he’ll sour on what we are giving him and be goin’ off worse than ever, trampin’ the streets till all hours of the night.” At which John had stretched his big frame and with a prolonged yawn, his arms over his head, had remarked: “All right, Kitty, you’re boss. Sir or no sir, he’s got no frills about him—just plain man like the rest of us.”
Neither would his title, had they known it, have made the slightest difference to any one of the habitues who gathered in Tim Kelsey’s book-shop.
Who Felix was, or what he had done, or what he was about to do, were questions never considered, either by Kelsey or by his friends. That he was part of the driftwood left stranded and unrecognized on the intellectual shore was enough. All that any of them asked for was brains, and Felix, even before the first evening had ended, had uncovered a stock so varied, and of such unusual proportions, and of so brilliant a character that he was always accorded the right of way whenever he took charge of the talk.