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HOME > Classical Novels > The Admirable Tinker > CHAPTER THREE TINKER ACCEPTS HIS NAME
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 The child sat very still on Selina's lap, shrinking back as far as possible from Sir Tancred. Selina kept talking to him, and his father spoke1 to him several times, but he uttered never a sound. Once when Sir Tancred moved suddenly, he threw up his little thin arm to guard his face; and Sir Tancred swore.  
They agreed that he would be happier if they took no notice of him for a while, and sat quiet. He seemed relieved, for he sank into an easier position on Selina's lap, and presently they saw him stroke his coat with a caressing2 gesture, as though its softness pleased him. After a long while, he sat up, looked at the horse, said in a quaint3, thin whisper, "Gee-gee—mine like gee-gee"; and then looked swiftly round with frightened eyes, fearful lest he had drawn4 attention to his existence.
Suddenly he began to blink, then, lulled5 by the motion of the cab, he fell asleep. They sat quiet, and had reached a more civilised part of London, when Sir Tancred said, "Do you think I could hold him without waking him?"
Selina nodded, and lifted him into his arms, and so they came to the Hotel Cecil.
When the cab stopped, the child awoke frightened, and at once began to struggle. Sir Tancred handed him over to Selina, who soothed6 him, and carried him to the lift. As soon as they were in his rooms, Sir Tancred rang for a waiter, and when he came, bade him bring up bread and hot milk at once. The child heard the words and said plaintively7, "Mine hungly! Mine hungly!"
"All right, my lamb," said Selina. "You shall have dinner very soon."
When the waiter brought the bread and milk, Selina prepared it, and sat down at the table with the child on her knee. In a flash his grimy little hands were in the basin, and he was thrusting the bread and milk into his mouth with both of them. Selina pushed the bowl out of his reach, and fed him with a spoon, very slowly, nor did she give him much. Sir Tancred watched his ravenous8 eating with a constricted9 heart. When she had given him as much as she thought good for him, Selina put the bowl out of sight. The look of supreme10 content on his little face was even more pathetic in its extravagance than his ravenous hunger. He curled himself up on Selina's lap, surveyed the room for a while with drowsy11 eyes, and fell asleep.
Sir Tancred opened the note from Lord Crosland, which he had left unheeded on the table; it ran:
"I have moved myself and my belongings12 to 411 and 412, till you have got things arranged. I'm off to Lord's for the day, but shall dine at the Cecil. Let us dine together.
"Yours sincerely, 
Sir Tancred felt relieved, and grateful for Lord Crosland's thoughtfulness.
"We shall be able to have these rooms to ourselves," he said to Selina.
"Yes, sir," said Selina. "And he'll want some clothes. When he's had a little sleep, and I've given him a bath, I'd better go out and get some."
"No: I'll go now myself," said Sir Tancred. "Then, when he's had his bath, they'll be ready for him."
He hurried down into a cab, and drove to Swan & Edgar's. There he bought the finest little vests and petticoat and frocks and socks and coats they could find him. On his way back with his purchases he remembered shoes, stopped the cab at the boot-maker's, and bought a dozen pairs. When he came back to his rooms, followed by two waiters loaded with parcels, he heard a splashing in the bathroom, and when they had set down their loads and were gone, Selina came to him and said, "I should like you to come and look at him, sir."
She had been crying.
Sir Tancred went into the bathroom, and found Hildebrand Anne splashing in the bath: "Hallo, Tinker," he said cheerfully, and turned sick at the sight of the wales and bruises13 about the thin little body.
"Look at that, sir," said Selina fiercely; and she touched the worst of them.
The child winced14 at her touch, gentle as it was, and said in his quaint, thin voice, "Halbut did do that. Mine not like Halbut. No: mine not like Halbut." And he shook his little head vigorously.
Sir Tancred groaned15, and wished with all his heart that he had taken advantage of his brief meeting with Halbut to give him a sound thrashing. Then he thought with a vindictive16 satisfaction how bitterly the brute17 would feel the loss of liquors consequent upon the loss of his income. He went out, rang for a waiter, and bade him send for a doctor.
When the doctor came he examined the bruises, and felt all the tiny bones carefully. He declared that none of them were broken and that, in spite of having been starved, the child was sound and healthy. The moment the doctor's grip on him loosed, Tinker wriggled18 off his knee and fled to Selina, who carried him away along with a selection from the parcels to dress him.
"A bad case," said the doctor. "But I've seen worse, much worse. I hope you'll put the matter into the hands of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and have the parents prosecuted19—picked him up in the gutter20 I suppose."
"I haven't made up my mind about prosecuting21 them," said Sir Tancred.
"Oh, have them prosecuted! Have them prosecuted! It stops others," said the doctor. "And besides, they might get the cat: it's the only thing brutes22 of this kind understand." Then he added thoughtfully, "There's one uncommon23 thing about this child—quite uncommon."
"What's that?"
"His vitality—he ought to be in bed, half-dying, with those bruises, and starved as he is. But you saw how he struggled to get away from me. Well, I'll write you a prescription24 for as strong a tonic25 as I dare give a child."
He wrote the prescription, promised to be round every morning, and took his fee. As he went away he said, "Someone ought to get six month's hard labour for maltreating him."
After a while Selina brought in Tinker, dressed in his new clothes, with his mat of hair cut close to his head. He was still grimy—many baths were yet needed before he would be clean; but Sir Tancred saw that, once clean, and his peaked face filled out a little, he would be a very pretty baby. His features were fine, his eyes of a deep blue, his head was small and well-shaped, and the close-cut hair clustered about it in little curls.
He clung to Selina's gown, and Sir Tancred bade her sit down, and see what he would do. It was a long time before he stirred from her side, and then only a little way, moving with a curious, stealthy gait, casting fearful glances at Sir Tancred. He was attracted by the bright stuffs which covered the furniture, and went from piece to piece, stroking it. Then he saw himself in the unnecessarily mirrored door of the sideboard, and surveyed his image with an almost excited curiosity, and, it almost seemed, approbation26.
An idea struck Sir Tancred; he went out, took a cab, came back with an armful of toys, and set them in the middle of the room. The child stared and stared at them with great eyes. After a long while, in his stealthy, timid way, he made a few steps towards them, and scuttled27 back to Selina. He sallied out again, came nearer to them, and fled back. In the fourth attempt he carried off a little horse, and escaped with it behind the sofa. There he played with it, or rather sat hugging it, stroking it, or fingering it, in a dead silence. Sir Tancred watched his every movement, his every expression, missing nothing; his eyes could not have enough of him.
Twice again Selina fed him, and twice he was again ravenous. At half-past six she put him to bed.
Sir Tancred dressed for dinner, made arrangements for the feeding of Selina, and went into the smoking-room. There Lord Crosland found him, and they dined together. After dinner Lord Crosland pressed him to go to a theatre or a music-hall; but Sir Tancred would not: the discoveries of the day had left him no heart for amusement. He saw Lord Crosland set out in search of diversion; came back to his room, and sent Selina to her supper, while he watched over the child. He sat by the window, looking up the river, and smoking, in an unhappy reverie. Now and again he went and looked long at his sleeping boy.
When Selina came up from her supper he heard for the first time the story of his wife's death, and received her last message, which had been so long delivering. It was no little comfort to him in this revival28 of sorrow to hear that she had learned of the accident which prevented him from coming to her, and, sure of their ultimate meeting, had come to bear patiently their separation. And the knowledge that she must die without seeing him again had come to her in the merciful and indifferent weariness so often the forerunner29 of death.
When he had heard, and heard again, all that Selina could tell him, he gave her a cheque for five hundred pounds, putting aside her protestations that she had never looked for it, and would rather not have it, with the declaration that he had actually written out the advertisement offering that reward for information about his missing child, when she had brought it.
Long after she had gone to bed, he sat thinking over her story, immersed in unhappy memories and unavailing regrets, and his bitterness against his stepmother and uncle grew and grew in him at the ill treatment his child had endured through their interference and neglect, to a strength to which his own wrongs had never brought it.
The suppression and ignoring of Selina's last letters was inexplicable30 to him; he could only suppose that his stepmother had burnt them on reading only the signature; or had believed them to be the misrepresentations of a person trying to supplant31 Mrs. Bostock. He thought for a while of writing to his stepmother out of the fulness of his heart; and then he told himself that it was no use. At last he went heavily to bed. Three times in the night he awoke, and went and listened at the door of the boy's bedroom; there was no sound; he was sleeping peacefully.
After his morning bath Tinker looked a shade less grimy, and even the few meals he had enjoyed since his rescue had filled out his face a little. About eleven it was decided32 that a walk in the Embankment gardens would be good for him, and Selina carried him out. But it was very soon plain that it was anything but good for him. Every passer-by thrilled him with a fresh terror; in three minutes he clung to Selina panting and gasping33 with fright, his little fingers gripping her with a convulsive clutch, his eyes starting out of his head, but all in a terrible silence. It was appalling34 to see such an extremity35 of emotion not dare to find a vocal36 expression. Quickly they perceived that there was no reassuring37 or soothing38 him; Sir Tancred blindfolded39 him with his handkerchief, took him from Selina, and carried him quickly back to the hotel. He sat on Selina's lap, recovering very slowly, for nearly an hour. Then he got to his toys.
That afternoon Sir Tancred made a search, and discovered a staircase leading up to the roof. It was somewhat besprent with blacks; but there the child could take an airing, unterrified, in a solitude40 à trois, and in a very fresh air, when a south or west wind blew.
By the afternoon of the next day he had grown used to Sir Tancred, and, when he was tired of his silent play with his toys, would sit on his knee in perfect content. The skin of his face was almost white; now only his knees were really grimy.
On the evening of the fourth day, as he was having his supper, eating it with much less of the ravenous fervour of a wolf in winter-time, Sir Tancred distinctly saw him smile; it was very faint, but it was an undoubted smile.
Three mornings later Sir Tancred was lying awake, when his door was pushed wider open, and Tinker stole in:
"Hallo, Tinker! Come here! You'll catch cold! What are you looking for?" said Sir Tancred.
"Gee-gee," said Tinker.
"Come here, and get warm."
After a little thought Tinker accepted the invitation, and Sir Tancred lifted him into bed. He huddled41 up to Sir Tancred, and presently found that his unshaven chin was rough, and stroked it with some wonder.
"You are a funny little Tinker," said Sir Tancred fondly.
"Mine Tinker. Mine Tinker!" said the child with a faint crow.
Arsene Lupin
The Three Eyes19章节

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