The Tempting of Tavernake
I.20. A Pleasant Reunion
Tavernake awoke some hours later with a puzzled sense of having lost his own identity,
of having taken up another man's life, stepped into another man's shoes. From the day of
his first arrival in London, a raw country youth, till the night when he had spoken to
Beatrice on the roof of Blenheim House, nothing that could properly be called an
adventure had ever happened to him. He had never for a moment felt the want of it; he
had not even indulged in the reading of books of romance. The thing which had happened
last night, as in the cold morning sunlight he sat up in his bed, seemed to him a thing
grotesque, inconceivable. It was not really possible that those people --those well-bred,
well-looking people--had seriously contemplated an enormity which seemed to belong to
the back pages of history, or that he, Tavernake, had burst through a wall with no
weapons in his hand, and had dominated the situation! He sat there steadily thinking. It
was incredible, but it was true! There existed still in his mind some faint doubt as to
whether they would really have proceeded to extremities. Pritchard himself had made
light of the whole affair, afterwards had treated it, indeed, as a huge practical joke.
Tavernake, remembering that little group as he had first seen it, remained doubtful.
By degrees, his own personal characteristics began to assert themselves. He began to
wonder how his action would affect his commercial interests. He had probably made an
enemy of this wonderful sister of Beatrice's, the woman who had so completely filled his
thoughts during the last few days, the woman, too, who was to have found the money by
means of which he was to set his feet upon the first rung of the ladder. This was a thing,
he decided, which must be settled at once. He must see her and know exactly what terms
they were on, whether or not she meant to be off with her bargain. The thought of action
of any sort was stimulating. He rose and dressed, had his breakfast, and set out on his
Soon after eleven o'clock, he presented himself at the Milan Court and asked for Mrs.
Wenham Gardner. For several minutes he waited about in nervous anticipation, then he
was told that she was not at home. More than a little disappointed, he pressed for news of
her. The hall porter thought that she had gone down into the country, and if so it was
doubtful when she would be back. Tavernake was now seriously disconcerted.
"I want particularly to wire to her," he insisted. "Please find out from her maid how I
shall direct a telegram."
The hall porter, who was a most superior person, regarded him blandly.
"We do not give addresses, sir," he explained, "unless at the expressed wish of our
clients. If you leave a telegram here, I will send it up to Mrs. Gardner's rooms to be
Tavernake scribbled one out, begging for news of her return, added his address and left
the place. Then he wandered aimlessly about the streets. There seemed something flat