The Tempting of Tavernake
I.13. An Evening Call
In the morning, when he left for the city, she was not down. When he came home in the
evening, she was gone. Without removing his hat or overcoat, he took the letter which he
found propped up on the mantelpiece and addressed to him to the window and read it.
DEAR BROTHER LEONARD,--It wasn't your fault and I don't think it was mine. If
either of us is to blame, it is certainly I, for though you are such a clever and ambitious
young person, you really know very little indeed of the world,--not so much, I think, as I
do. I am going to stay for a few nights, at any rate, with one of the girls at the theatre,
who I know wants some one to share her tiny flat with her. Afterwards, I shall see.
Don't throw this letter in the fire and don't think me ungrateful. I shall never forget what
you did for me. How could I?
I will send you my address as soon as I am sure of it, or you can always write me to the
YOUR SISTER BEATRICE.
Tavernake looked from the sheet of notepaper out across the gray square. He knew that
he was very angry, angry though he deliberately folded the letter up and placed it in his
pocket, angry though he took off his overcoat and hung it up with his usual care; but his
anger was with himself. He had blundered badly. This episode of his life was one which
he had better forget. It was absolutely out of harmony with all his ideas. He told himself
that he was glad Beatrice was gone. Housekeeping with an imaginary sister in this
practical world was an absurdity. Sooner or later it must have come to an end. Better
now, before it had gone too far--better now, much better! All the same, he knew that he
was going to be very lonely.
He rang the bell for the woman who waited upon them, and whom he seldom saw, for
Beatrice herself had supplied their immediate wants. He found some dinner ready, which
he ate with absolute unconsciousness. Then he threw himself fiercely into his work. It
was all very well for the first hour or so, but as ten o'clock grew near he began to find a
curious difficulty in keeping his attention fixed upon those calculations. The matter of
average rentals, percentage upon capital--things which but yesterday he had found
fascinating--seemed suddenly irksome. He could fix his attention upon nothing. At last he
pushed his papers away, put on his hat and coat, and walked into the street.
At the Milan Court, the hall-porter received his inquiry for Elizabeth with an air of faint
but well-bred surprise. Tavernake, in those days, was a person exceedingly difficult to
place. His clothes so obviously denoted the station in life which he really occupied, while
the slight imperiousness of his manner, his absolute freedom from any sort of