The Tempting of Tavernake
I.14. A Warning From Mr. Pritchard
Tavernake hesitated for a moment under the portico of the Milan Court, looking out at the
rain which had suddenly commenced to descend. He scarcely noticed that he had a
companion until the man who was standing by his side addressed him.
"Say, your name is Tavernake, isn't it?"
Tavernake, who had been on the point of striding away, turned sharply around. The man
who had spoken to him was wearing morning clothes of dark gray tweed and a soft
Homburg hat. His complexion was a little sallow and he was clean-shaven except for a
slight black moustache. He was smoking a black cigar and his accent was transatlantic.
Something about his appearance struck Tavernake as being vaguely familiar, but he could
not at first recall where he had seen him before.
"That is my name, certainly," Tavernake admitted.
"I am going to ask you a somewhat impertinent question," his neighbor remarked.
"I suppose you can ask it," Tavernake rejoined. "I am not obliged to answer, am I?"
The man smiled.
"Come," he said, "that's honest, at any rate. Are you in a hurry for a few minutes?"
"I am in no particular hurry," Tavernake answered. "What do you want?"
"A few nights ago," the stranger continued, lowering his voice a little, "I met you with a
young lady whose appearance, for some reason which we needn't go into, interested me.
To-night I happened to overhear you inquiring, only a few minutes ago, for the sister of
the same young lady."
"What you heard doesn't concern me in the least," Tavernake retorted. "I should say that
you had no business to listen."
His companion smiled.
"Well," he declared, "I have always heard a good deal about British frankness, and it
seems to me that I'm getting some. Anyway, I'll tell you where I come in. I am interested
in Mrs. Wenham Gardner. I am interested, also, in her sister, whom I think you know--
Miss Beatrice Franklin, not Miss Tavernake!"
Tavernake made no immediate reply. The man was an American, without a doubt.
Perhaps he knew something of Beatrice. Perhaps this was one of the friends of that
former life concerning which she had told him nothing.