Tristram of Blent Part 46

Tristram of Blent -

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Harry Tristram awoke the next morning with visions in his head--no unusual thing with young men, yet strange and almost unknown to him.

They had not been wont to come at Blent, nor had his affair with Janie Iver created them. Possibly a constant, although unconscious, reference of all attractions to the standard, or the tradition, of Addie Tristram's had hitherto kept him free; or perhaps it was merely that there were no striking attractions in the valley of the Blent. Anyhow the visions were here now, a series of them covering all the hours of the evening before, and embodying for him the manifold changes of feeling which had marked the time. He saw himself as well as Cecily, and the approval of his eyes was still for himself, their irritation for her. But he could not dismiss her from the pictures; he realized this with a new annoyance. He lay later than his custom was, looking at her, recalling what she had said as he found the need of words to write beneath each mental apparition. Under the irritation, and greater than it, was the same sort of satisfaction that his activities had given him--a feeling of more life and broader; this thing, though rising out of the old life, fitted in well with the new. Above all, that sentence of hers rang in his head, its extravagance perhaps gaining pre-eminence for it: "If ever the time comes, I shall remember!" The time did not seem likely to come--so far as he could interpret the vague and rather threadbare phrase--but her resolution stirred his interest, and ended by exacting his applause. He was glad that she had resisted, and had not allowed herself to be trampled on. Though the threat was very empty, its utterance showed a high spirit, such a spirit as he still wished to preside over Blent. It was just what his mother might have said, with an equal intensity of determination and an equal absence of definite purpose. But then the whole proceedings had been just what he could imagine his mother bringing about. Consequently he was rather blind to the extraordinary character of the step Cecily had taken; so far he was of the same clay as his cousin. He was, however, none the less outraged by it, and none the less sure that he had met it in the right way. Yet he did not consider that there was any quarrel between them, and he meant to see more of her; he was accustomed to "scenes" occurring and leaving no permanent estrangement or bitterness; the storms blew over the sand, but they did not in the end make much difference in the sand.

There was work to be done--the first grave critical bit of work he had ever had to do, the first real measuring of himself against an opponent of proved ability. So he would think no more about the girl. This resolve did not work. She, or rather her apparition, seemed to insist that she had something to do with the work, was concerned in it, or at least meant to look on at it. Harry found that he had small objection, or even a sort of welcome for her presence. Side by side with the man's pleasure in doing the thing, there was still some of the boy's delight in showing he could do it. What had pa.s.sed yesterday, particularly that idea of doing things for him which he had detected and raged at, made it additionally pleasant that he should be seen to be capable of doing things for himself. All this was vague, but it was in his mind as he walked to Sloyd's offices.

Grave and critical! Sloyd's nervous excitement and uneasy deference toward Iver were the only indications of any such thing. Duplay was there in the background, cool and easy. Iver himself was inclined to gossip with Harry and to chaff him on the fresh departure he had made, rather than to settle down to a discussion of Blinkhampton. That was after all a small matter--so his manner seemed to a.s.sert; he had been in town anyhow, so he dropped in; Duplay had made a point of it in his scrupulous modesty as to his own experience. Harry found that he could resist the impression he was meant to receive only by saying to himself as he faced his old friend and present antagonist: "But you're here--you're here--you're here!" Iver could neither gossip nor argue that fact away.

"Well now," said Iver with a glance at his watch, "we must really get to business. You don't want to live in Blinkhampton, you gentlemen, I suppose? You want to leave a little better for your visit, eh? Quite so.

That's the proper thing with the sea-side. But you can't expect to find fortunes growing on the beach. Surely Major Duplay mistook your figures?"

"Unless he mentioned fifty thousand, he did," said Harry firmly.

"H'm, I did you injustice, Major--with some excuse, though. Surely, Mr Sloyd----?" He turned away from Harry as he spoke.

"I beg pardon," interrupted Harry. "Am I to talk to Major Duplay?"

Iver looked at him curiously. "Well, I'd rather talk to you, Harry," he said. "And I'll tell you plainly what I think. Mr Sloyd's a young business man--so are you."

"I'm a baby," Harry agreed.

"And blackmailing big people isn't a good way to start." He watched Harry, but he did not forget to watch Sloyd too. "Of course I use the word in a figurative sense. The estate's not worth half that money to you; we happen to want it--Oh, I'm always open!--So----" He gave a shrug.

"Sorry to introduce new and immoral methods into business, Mr Iver. It must be painful to you after all these years." Harry laughed good-humoredly. "I shall corrupt the Major too!" he added.

"We'll give you five thousand for your bargain--twenty-five in all."

"I suggested to Major Duplay that being ahead of you was so rare an achievement that it ought to be properly recognized."

Duplay whispered to Iver. Sloyd whispered to Harry. Iver listened attentively, Harry with evident impatience. "Let it go for thirty, don't make an enemy of him," had been Sloyd's secret counsel.

"My dear Harry, the simple fact is that the business won't stand more than a certain amount. If we put money into Blinkhampton, it's because we want it to come out again. Now the crop will be limited." He paused.

"I'll make you an absolutely final offer--thirty."

"My price is fifty," said Harry immovably.

"Out of the question."

"All right." Harry lit a cigarette with an air of having finished the business.

"It simply cannot be done on the figures," Iver declared with genuine vexation. "We've worked it out, Harry, and it can't be done. If I showed our calculations to Mr Sloyd, who is, I'm sure, willing to be reasonable----"

"Yes, Mr Iver, I am. I am, I hope, always desirous of--er--meeting gentlemen half-way; and nothing could give me greater pleasure than to do business with you, Mr Iver."

"Unfortunately you seem to have--a partner," Iver observed. "No, I've told you the most we can give." He leant back in his chair. This time it was he who had finished business.

"And I've told you the least we can take."

"It's hopeless. Fifty! Oh, we should be out of pocket. It's really unreasonable." He was looking at Sloyd. "It's treating me as an enemy,--and I shall have no alternative but to accept the situation.

Blinkhampton is not essential to me; and your hotel and so on won't flourish much if I leave my tumble-down cottages and pigsties just behind them. Will you put these papers together, Duplay?"

The Major obeyed leisurely. Sloyd was licking his lips and looking acutely unhappy.

"You're absolutely resolved, Harry?"

"Absolutely, Mr Iver."

"Well, I give it up. It's bad for me, and it's worse for you. In all my experience I never was so treated. You won't even discuss! If you'd said thirty-five, well, I'd have listened. If you'd even said forty, I'd have----"

"I say, done for forty!" said Harry quietly. "I'd a sort of idea all the time that that might be your limit. I expect the thing really wouldn't stand fifty, you know. Oh, that's just my notion."

Iver's face was a study. He was surprised, he was annoyed, but he was also somewhat amused. Harry's acting had been good. That obstinate, uncompromising immutable fifty!--Iver had really believed in it. And forty had been his limit--his extreme limit. He just saw his way to square his accounts satisfactorily if he were driven to pay that as the penalty of one of his rare mistakes. He glanced at Sloyd; radiant joy and relief illumined that young man's face, as he gave his mustache an upward twirl. Duplay was smiling--yes, smiling. At last Iver smiled too.

Harry was grave--not solemn--but merely not smiling because he did not perceive anything to smile at. No doubt he was gratified by the success of his tactics, and pleased that his formidable opponent had been deceived by them. But he thought nothing of what impressed Iver most.

The tactics had been, no doubt, well conceived and carried out, but they were ordinary enough in their nature; Iver himself, and dozens of men he had met, could have executed them as well. What struck him was that Harry knew how far he could go, that he stopped on the verge, but not beyond the boundary where a deal was possible. Mere guesswork could not account for that, nor had he commanded the sources of information which would have made the conclusion a matter of ordinary intelligent calculation. No, he had intuitions; he must have an eye. Now eyes were rare; and when they were found they were to be used. Iver was much surprised at finding one in Harry. Yet it must be in Harry; Iver was certain that Sloyd had known nothing of the plan of campaign or of the decisive figure on which his a.s.sociate had pitched.

"I'll give you forty," he said at last. "For the whole thing, lock, stock, and barrel--forty."

"It's a bargain," said Harry, and Iver, with a sigh (for forty was the extreme figure), pushed back his chair and rose to his feet.

"We've got a good many plans, sir," suggested Sloyd, very anxious to establish pleasant relations. "I'm sure we should be very glad if you found them of any service."

"You're very good, Mr Sloyd, but----"

"You may as well have a look at them," interrupted Harry. "There are one or two good ideas. You'll explain them, won't you, Sloyd?"

Sloyd had already placed one in Iver's hand, who glanced at it, took another, compared them, and after a minute's pause held both out to the Major.

"Well, Duplay, suppose you look at them and hear anything that Mr Sloyd is good enough to say, and report to me? You're at leisure?"

"Certainly," said Duplay. He was in good humor, better perhaps than if his chief had proved more signally successful. Harry turned to him, smiling.

"I saw Madame Zabriska last night, at Lady Tristram's house. She's forsaken you, Major?"

"Mina's very busy about something," smiled the Major.

"Yes, she generally is," said Harry, frowning a little. "If she tells you anything about me----"

"I'm not to believe it?"

"You may believe it, but not the way she puts it," laughed Harry.

"Now there's an end of business! Walk down to the Imperium with me, Harry, and have a bit of lunch. You've earned it, eh? How do you like the feeling of making money?"

"Well, I think it might grow on a man. What's your experience?"

"Sometimes better than this morning, or I should hardly have been your neighbor at Fairholme."

The two walked off together, leaving Duplay and Sloyd very amicable.

Iver was thoughtful.

"You did that well," he said as they turned the corner into Berkeley Square.

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