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HOME > Classical Novels > The Admirable Tinker > CHAPTER NINE TINKER INTERVENES
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 Sir Tancred lingered on at Ardrochan Lodge1, for he saw that in that strong air Tinker was losing the last of the delicacy2 which had been the effect of his attack of scarlet3 fever. And when Lord Crosland and two other men joined him there, he was very well contented4. The others shared his content; Tinker, more and more the Baron5 Hildebrand of Ardrochan, was quite happy, and there they stayed till the Scotch6 winter came down on them in all its fell severity.  
Then they moved southwards to Melton Mowbray, and hunted till the frost put an end to that sport. On the third night of the frost, as they were cutting for partners for a fresh rubber of bridge, Lord Crosland said: "I tell you what, Beauleigh, the sooner we get out of this weather the better. Let's be off to Monte Carlo, make up a pool, and try that system of yours."
"It's a very good idea," said Sir Tancred. "The only question is whether the English winter isn't good for Tinker. It's hardening, you know."
"Always Tinker," said Lord Crosland with a smile. "I tell you what, Nature ought to have made you a woman: what a splendid mother you'd have made!"
"I think she'd have found she'd made a pretty bad mistake," said Sir Tancred.
"Besides," said Lord Crosland, "the Admirable is as hard as a tenpenny nail as it is. I've never seen the little beggar tired yet; and I've seen him at the end of some hardish days."
"Well, we'll see," said Sir Tancred. "We're partners." And the game went on.
Next morning he asked Tinker if he would like to go to the south of France, or stay and be hardened. Tinker thought a while, made up his mind that his father would like to go to the South of France, and said, "I think I'm hard enough, sir,—to go on with. Besides,
"When the wind is in the East
It's neither fit for man nor beast.
In fact it shrivels me up. I should like some sunshine."
"Then we will go," said Sir Tancred.
Accordingly, the middle of the next week found them lodged7 at the Hôtel des Princes, Monte Carlo, enjoying the nourishing sunshine of the Riviera. At least Tinker was enjoying it; the demands of a system required his father and Lord Crosland to spend most of their day in the darker, though hardly cooler air of the Temple of Fortune. But the system went well, and they did not repine.
The first time he dined in the restaurant of the hotel, Sir Tancred was disagreeably surprised to see sitting at a neighbouring table his loathed8 uncle, Sir Everard Wigram. They had met now and again during the past nine years; but as such a meeting had always resulted in some severe wound to the Baronet's dignity, he shunned9 his nephew like the pest, and abused him from a distance. At the same table sat a charming, peach-complexioned English girl. After a careful scrutiny10 of her, Sir Tancred decided11 that she must be his cousin Claire, Sir Everard's eldest12 child, and admitted with a very grudging13 reluctance14 that even the rule that thorns do not produce grapes is proved by exceptions. The third person at their table was a handsome young man, with glossy15 black hair, a high-coloured, florid face, and a roving black eye. Sir Tancred's gaze rested on him with a malicious16 satisfaction; he knew all about Mr. Arthur Courtnay.
Presently Lord Crosland's eye fell on that table. "Hullo!" he said sharply. "How on earth comes that bounder Courtnay to be dining with the Wigrams?"
"Like to like," said Sir Tancred with a surprising, cheerful animation17.
A few mornings later Sir Tancred, Tinker, and Lord Crosland were sitting in the gardens of the Temple of Fortune, and on a bench hard by sat Claire and Courtnay. He was bending over her, talking volubly, in a loverlike attitude, exceedingly offensive in so public a place. To Sir Tancred's shrewd eyes he seemed to be deliberately18 advertising19 their intimacy20. She was gazing dreamily before her with happy eyes, over the sea. Lord Crosland grew more and more fidgety; and at last he said hotly, "You ought to interfere21!"
"Not I!" said Sir Tancred. "I'm not going to interfere. I have enough to do to keep Tinker out of mischief22 without acting23 as dry-nurse to the children of Uncle Bumpkin."
"But hang it all, the man's a regular bad hat!" said Lord Crosland. "He was advised to resign from the Bridge Club, and I happen to know that he is actually wanted in London about a cheque."
"And in Paris, Berlin, Petersburg, Vienna, and Buda-Pesth. Men who speak French as well as he does always are," said Sir Tancred. "Which reminds me, Tinker, your accent is getting too good. The honest English tongue was never made to speak French like a Frenchman. Let up on it a little."
"Yes, sir," said Hildebrand Anne.
"But you ought to do something, don't you know?" said Lord Crosland. "The child's very pretty, and nice, and sweet, and all that. It would be no end of a shame if she came to grief with that bounder Courtnay."
"I won't stir a finger," said Sir Tancred firmly, "for two reasons. One, Bumpkin Wigram helped my stepmother spoil my early life; two, if this bounder Courtnay has got round Bumpkin words would be wasted. Bumpkin is as dense24 and as obstinate25 as any clodhopper who ever chawed bacon."
"But she's a pretty child and worth saving," said Lord Crosland. "What do you think, Tinker?"
"I should think she was rather inexperienced," said Hildebrand Anne, with admirable judgment26.
"Solomon, va!" said Lord Crosland, clutching the boy's ribs27, and drawing from him a sudden yell.
"Well, come along; we have a hard day's work before us," said Sir Tancred; and the two of them rose and strolled off towards the Temple of Fortune.
They left Tinker sitting still and thoughtful, the prey28 of a case of conscience. He knew the story of his father's marriage, his separation from his wife by the action of Lady Beauleigh and Sir Everard. He had been trained to detest29 them, and to believe any revenge on them a mere30 act of justice. But his dead mother was but a shadowy figure to him, and this girl was very charming, and sweet, and kind, for he had had a long talk with her one evening, and she had shared a box of chocolates with him. Did those chocolates constitute the tie of bread and salt between them which his father had taught him was so binding31? He wished to help the girl, therefore he made up his mind that they did. With a sigh of satisfaction he rose, sauntered up to the absorbed lovers, and began to parade up and down before them. His nearness put something of a check on the eloquence32 of Mr. Arthur Courtnay, and every time Tinker's shadow fell on them he looked up and frowned.
At last he said, "Go away, my lad, and play somewhere else."
"I don't want any cheek from a hairdresser's assistant," said Tinker with blithe33 readiness.
There is nothing so wounding as the truth, and Courtnay knew that he was weak about the hair; he never could bring himself to keep it properly cropped; it was so glossy. His florid face became quickly florider, and he cried, "You impudent34 young dog!"
"Do not speak to me until you've been introduced. You're always forcing your acquaintance upon someone, Roland Macassar," said Tinker.
It was again the wounding truth; and Courtnay sprang up and dashed for him. Tinker bolted round a group of shrubs36, Courtnay after him. Finding him unpleasantly quick on his feet Tinker bolted into the shrubs. Courtnay plunged37 after him right into a well-grown specimen38 of the flowering cactus39. It brought him up short. He began to swear, and though he could have sworn with equal fluency40 and infelicity in French, German, or Italian, in the depth of his genuine emotion he returned to the tongue of his boyhood, and swore in English. When he came out of the shrubs, adorned42 on one side of his face and both hands with neat little beads43 of blood, he found that Claire had risen from her seat, and was looking shocked, surprised, and worst of all, disgusted. He did not mend matters much by mixing his apologies with threats of vengeance44 on Tinker; but his temper, once out of control, was not easily curbed45. He made a most unfortunate impression on her; the beads of blood scarcely excited her pity at all.
Meanwhile Tinker had taken advantage of his pursuer's meeting with the cactus to leave the terrace swiftly. He went back to the Hôtel des Princes, and took out Blazer for a walk, and as he walked, his seraph-like face glowed with the pleasantest complacency. Blazer did not like Monte Carlo at all; for him there was no sport and little exercise in it; Tinker liked it very much. He had made many friends in it, and enjoyed many amusements, the chief a pleasant, perpetual war against the heavy, liveried guardians46 of the gambling48 rooms. It was his opinion that people came to Monte Carlo to gamble; it was the opinion of the Société des Bains de Mer de Monte Carlo that children ought not to be admitted to the tables. They asserted their opinion; and Tinker asserted his, with the result that his bolt into the Salles de Jeu and his difficult extrication49 from them by the brawny50, but liveried officials was fast becoming one of the events of the day. Sometimes Tinker would make his bolt from the outermost52 portal; sometimes, with the decorous air of one going to church, he would join the throng53 filing into the concert room, and bolt from the midst of it. The process of expulsion was always conducted with the greatest courtesy on either side; for his bolt had become an agreeable variety in the monotonous54 lives of the guardians; they never knew when or in what fashion it would come next.
Now he had another occupation, the shadowing of Mr. Arthur Courtnay. That florid Adonis never grew used to hearing a gentle voice singing softly:
"Get your hair cut! Get your hair cut!"
"Oh, Tatcho! Oh, Tatcho!
Rejoice, ye bald and weary men!
You'll soon be regular hairy men!
Sing! Rejoice! Let your voices go!
Sprinkle some on your cranium!
What, ho! Tatcho!"
The poetry was vulgar; but long ago his insight into the heart of man had taught Tinker to attack the vulgar with the only weapon effective against them, vulgarity.
Sooner or later, whether he was walking, or sitting with Claire, those vulgar strains would be wafted55 to Mr. Arthur Courtnay's ears, and they injured his cause. They kept alive in the girl's mind an uneasy doubt whether her father was right in asserting Arthur Courtnay to be one of the nicest fellows he had ever met, a veritable gentleman of the old school, an opinion founded on the fact that Courtnay was the only man who had ever given two hours' close attention to his views on Protection.
But, for all this lurking56 doubt, Courtnay's influence over her was growing stronger and stronger. He was forever appealing to her pity by telling her of the hard and lonely life he had lived since his father, a poor gentleman of good family, had died in exile at Boulogne. Really, his father, a stout57 but impecunious58 horse-dealer of the name of Budgett, certainly in exile at Boulogne owing to a standing59 difference with the bankruptcy60 laws of his country, was alive still. But Arthur was very fond of himself, and once in the mood of self-pity, he could invent pathetic anecdote61 after pathetic anecdote of his privations which would have touched the heart of a hardened grandmother, much more of a susceptible62 girl. She fell into the way of calling him "King Arthur" to herself.
He devoted63 himself to winning her with an unrelaxing energy, for she had forty thousand pounds of her own.
But he cared very little for her, and sometimes he found his love-making hard work. She was not the type of girl whom he admired; her delicacy irritated him; he preferred what the poet has called "an armful of girl," buxom64 and hearty65. Often, therefore, when she had gone to bed, he would refresh himself by a vigorous flirtation66 with Madame Séraphine de Belle-Île, a brisk and vivacious67 young widow, who affected68 always gowns of a peculiarly vivid and searching scarlet. And this self-indulgence proved in the end the ruin of his fine scheme of establishing himself in life on a sound monetary69 basis.
Tinker was about to get into bed one evening, and found himself slow about it. His conscience was worrying him about some duty left undone70, and he could not remember what the duty was. Of a sudden his terrible omission71 flashed into his mind: in his patient application to the task of shadowing and annoying Mr. Arthur Courtnay he had forgotten his daily bolt into the gambling rooms. Reluctant, but firm, he slipped on his pumps and went downstairs. Four minutes later the feverish72 gamblers in the Salles de Jeu were gratified by the sight of a seraph-like child in blue silk pyjamas73 who flew gaily74 round the tables pursued by two stout and joyfully75 excited Southern Europeans in livery. The pursuit was lively, but short, for Tinker ran into the arms of a wily croupier who had slipped from his seat, and unexpectedly joined the chase. He was handed over to his pursuers and conducted from the rooms, amidst the plaudits of the gamblers. He bade good-night to his liveried friends on the threshold of the Casino, congratulating them on their increasing efficiency in "Le Sport," and warm, but happy with the sense of one more duty done, he strolled into the gardens to cool.
He was noiseless in his pumps, and coming quietly round a clump76 of shrubs, he caught Mr. Arthur Courtnay in the act of trying to kiss Madame de Belle-Île with a fervour only justified77
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