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Chapter 10

  • There are many threads and many knots in a net; these can not be throw_ogether haphazard, lest the big fish slip through. At the bottom of the ne_s a small steel ring, and here the many threads and the many knots finall_eet. Forbes and Haggerty (who, by the way, thinks I'm a huge joke as _ovelist) and the young man named Webb recounted this tale to me by thread_nd knots. The ring was of Kitty Killigrew, for Kitty Killigrew, by Kitt_illigrew, to paraphrase a famous line.
  • At one of the quieter hotels—much patronized by touring Englishmen—there wa_egistered James Thornden and man. Every afternoon Mr. Thornden and his ma_ode about town in a rented touring car. The man would bundle his master'_nees in a rug and take the seat at the chauffeur's side, and from ther_irect the journey. Generally they drove through the park, up and dow_iverside, and back to the hotel in time for tea. Mr. Thornden drank tea fo_reakfast along with his bacon and eggs, and at luncheon with his lamb o_utton chops, and at five o'clock with especially baked muffins and apple- tarts.
  • Mr. Thornden never gave orders personally; his man always attended to that.
  • The master would, early each morning, outline the day's work, and the ma_ould see to it that these instructions were fulfilled to the letter. He wa_n excellent servant, by the way, light of foot, low of voice, serious o_ace, with a pair of eyes which I may liken to nothing so well as to a set o_cetylene blow-pipes—bored right through you.
  • The master was middle-aged, about the same height and weight as his valet. H_ore a full dark beard, something after the style of the early eighties o_ast century. His was also a serious countenance, tanned, dignified too; bu_is eyes were no match for his valet's; too dreamy, introspective. Screwed i_is left eye was a monocle down from which flowed a broad ribbon. In public h_lways wore it; no one about the hotel had as yet seen him without it, and h_ad been a guest there for more than a fortnight.
  • He drank nothing in the way of liquor, though his man occasionally wandere_nto the bar and ordered a stout or an ale. After dinner the valet's tim_ppeared to be his own; for he went out nearly every night. He seemed ver_uch interested in shop-windows, especially those which were filled wit_urios. Mr. Thornden frequently went to the theater, but invariably alone.
  • Thus, they attracted little or no attention among the clerks and bell boys an_aiters who had, in the course of the year, waited upon the wants of a roya_uke and a grand duke, to say nothing of a maharajah, who was still at th_otel. An ordinary touring Englishman was, then, nothing more than that.
  • Until one day a newspaper reporter glanced carelessly through the hote_egister. The only thing which escapes the newspaper man is the art of saving; otherwise he is omnipotent. He sees things, anticipates events, and ofte_rearranges them; smells war if the secretary of the navy is seen to run for _treet-car, is intimately acquainted with "the official in the position t_now" and "the man higher up," "the gentleman on the inside," and othe_nonymous but famous individuals. He is tireless, impervious to rebuff, als_elentless; as an investigator of crime he is the keenest hound of them all; often he does more than expose, he prevents. He is the Warwick of moder_imes; he makes and unmakes kings, sceptral and financial.
  • This particular reporter sent his card up to Mr. Thornden and was, after hal_n hour's delay, admitted to the suite. Mr. Thornden laid aside his tea-cup.
  • "I am a newspaper man, Mr. Thornden," said the young man, his eye roving abou_he room, visualizing everything, from the slices of lemon to the brillian_yes of the valet.
  • "Ah! a pressman. What will you be wanting to see me about, sir?"—neithe_ostile nor friendly.
  • "Do you intend to remain long in America—incog?"
  • "Incog!" Mr. Thorndon leaned forward in his chair and drew down his eyebro_ightly against the rim of his monocle.
  • "Yes, sir. I take it that you are Lord Henry Monckton, ninth Baron o_imbledon."
  • Master and man exchanged a rapid glance.
  • "Tibbets," said the master coldly, "you registered."
  • "Yes, sir."
  • "What did you register?"
  • "Oh," interposed the reporter, "it was the name Dimbledon caught my eye, sir.
  • You see, there was a paragraph in one of our London exchanges that you ha_ailed for America. I'm what we call a hotel reporter; hunt up prominent an_nteresting people for interviews. I'm sure yours is a very interesting story, sir." The reporter was a pleasant, affable young man, and that was why he wa_o particularly efficient in his chosen line of work.
  • "I was not prepared to disclose my identity so soon," said Lord Monckto_uefully. "But since you have stumbled upon the truth, it is far better that _ive you the facts as they are. Interviewing is a novel experience. What d_ou wish to know, sir?"
  • And thus it was that, next morning, New York—and the continent as well—learne_hat Lord Henry Monckton, ninth Baron of Dimbledon, had arrived in America o_ pleasure trip. The story read more like the scenario of a romantic nove_han a page from life. For years the eighth Baron of Dimbledon had lived i_eclusion, practically forgotten. In India he had a bachelor brother, a so_nd a grandson. One day he was notified of the death (by bubonic plague) o_hese three male members of his family, the baron himself collapsed and die_hortly after. The title and estate went to another branch of the family. _undred years before, a daughter of the house had run away with the head- gardener and been disowned. The great-great-grand-son of this woman became th_inth baron. The present baron's life was recounted in full; and a_dventurous life it had been, if the reporter was to be relied upon. Th_nterview appeared in a London journal, with the single comment—"How thos_merican reporters misrepresent things!"
  • It made capital reading, however; and in servants' halls the newspaper becam_ery popular. It gave rise to a satirical leader on the editorial page:
  • "What's the matter with us republicans? Liberty, fraternity and equality; w_launt that flag as much as we ever did. Yet, what a howdy-do when a titl_omes along! What a craning of necks, what a kotowing! How many earldoms an_ukedoms are not based upon some detestable action, some despicable servic_endered some orgiastic sovereign! The most honorable thing about the so- called nobility is generally the box-hedge which surrounds the manse. Kotow; pour our millions into the bottomless purses of spendthrifts; give them ou_ost beautiful women. There is no remedy for human nature."
  • It was this editorial which interested Killigrew far more than the story whic_ad given birth to it.
  • "That's the way to shout."
  • "Does it do any good?" asked Kitty. "If we had a lord for breakfast—I mean, a_reakfast—would you feel at ease? Wouldn't you be watching and wondering wha_t was that made him your social superior?"
  • "Social superior? Bah!"
  • "That's no argument. As this editor wisely says, there's no remedy for huma_ature. When I was a silly schoolgirl I often wondered if there wasn't a duk_n the family, or even a knight. How do you account for that feeling?"
  • "You were probably reading Bertha M. Clay," retorted her father, only too gla_f such an opening.
  • "What is your opinion of titles, Mr. Webb?" she asked calmly.
  • "Mr. Webb is an Englishman, Kitty," reminded her mother.
  • "All the more reason for wishing his point of view," was the reply.
  • "A title, if managed well, is a fine business asset." Thomas stared gravely a_is egg-cup.
  • "A humorist!" cried Killigrew, as if he had discovered a dodo.
  • "Really, no. I am typically English, sir." But Thomas was smiling this time; and when he smiled Kitty found him very attractive. She was leaning on he_lbows, her folded hands propping her chin; and in his soul Thomas knew tha_he was looking at him with those boring critical blue eyes of hers. Why wa_he always looking at him like that? "It is notorious that we English are dul_nd stupid," he said.
  • "Now you are making fun of us," said Kitty seriously.
  • "I beg your pardon!"
  • She dropped her hands from under her chin and laughed. "Do you really wish t_now the real secret of our antagonism, Mr. Webb?"
  • "I should be very glad."
  • "Well, then, we each of us wear a chip on our shoulder, simply because we'v_ever taken the trouble to know each other well. Most English we American_eet are stupid and caddish and uninteresting; and most of the Americans yo_ee are boastful, loud-talking and money-mad. Our mutual impressions ar_holly wrong to begin with."
  • "I have no chip on my shoulder," Thomas refuted eagerly.
  • "Neither have I."
  • "But I have," laughed her father. "I eat Englishmen for breakfast; fe-fo-fu_tyle."
  • How democratic indeed these kindly, unpretentious people were! thought Thomas.
  • A multimillionaire as amiable as a clerk; a daughter who would have graced an_ourt in Europe with her charm and elfin beauty. Up to a month ago he had hel_ll Americans in tolerant contempt.
  • It was as Kitty said: the real Englishman and the real American seldom met.
  • He did not realize as yet that his position in this house was unique. I_ngland all great merchants and statesmen and nobles had one or more privat_ecretaries about. He believed it to be a matter of course that American_ollowed the same custom. He would have been wonderfully astonished to lear_hat in all this mighty throbbing city of millions—people and money—ther_ight be less than a baker's dozen who occupied simultaneously the position_f private secretary and friend of the family. Mr. Killigrew had his privat_ecretary, but this gentleman rarely saw the inside of the Killigrew home; i_asn't at all necessary that he should. Killigrew was a sensible man; hi_usiness hours began when he left home and ended when he entered it.
  • "Do you know any earls or dukes?" asked Killigrew, folding his napkin.
  • "Really, no. I have moved in a very different orbit. I know many of them b_ight, however." He did not think it vital to add that he had often sold the_ollars and suspenders.
  • The butler and the second man pulled back the ladies' chairs. Killigre_urried away to his offices; Kitty and her mother went up-stairs; and Thoma_eturned to his desk in the library. He was being watched by Kitty; nothin_vert, nothing tangible, yet he sensed it: from the first day he had entere_his house. It oppressed him, like a presage of disaster. Back of his chai_as a fireplace, above this, a mirror. Once—it was but yesterday—while wit_is back to his desk, day-dreaming, he had seen her in the mirror. She stoo_n the doorway, a hand resting lightly against the portiere. There was n_mile on her face. The moment he stirred, she vanished.
  • Watched. Why?