A Poor Wise Man HTML version
She did not ask Lily's name, but left her in the dark little hall and creaked up the
stairs. Lily hesitated. Then, feeling that Aunt Elinor might not like to find her so
unceremoniously received, she pushed open a door which was only partly
closed, and made a step into the room. Only then did she see that it was
occupied. A man sat by the fire, reading. He was holding his book low, to get the
light from the fire, and he turned slowly to glance at Lily. He had clearly expected
some one else. Elinor, probably.
"I beg your pardon," Lily said. "I am calling on Mrs. Doyle, and when I saw the
firelight - "
He stood up then, a tall, thin man, with close-cropped gray mustache and heavy
gray hair above a high, bulging forehead. She had never seen Jim Doyle, but
Mademoiselle had once said that he had pointed ears, like a satyr. She had
immediately recanted, on finding Lily searching in a book for a picture of a satyr.
This man had ears pointed at the top. Lily was too startled then to analyze his
face, but later on she was to know well the high, intellectual forehead, the keen
sunken eyes, the full but firmly held mouth and pointed, satyr-like ears of that
brilliant Irishman, cynic and arch scoundrel, Jim Doyle.
He was inspecting her intently.
"Please come in," he said. "Did the maid take your name?"
"No. I am Lily Cardew."
"I see." He stood quite still, eyeing her. "You are Anthony's granddaughter?"
"Just a moment." He went out, closing the door behind him, and she heard him
going quickly up the stairs. A door closed above, and a weight settled down on
the girl's heart. He was not going to let her see Aunt Elinor. She was frightened,
but she was angry, too. She would not run away. She would wait until he came
down, and if he was insolent, well, she could be haughty. She moved to the fire
and stood there, slightly flushed, but very straight.
She heard him coming down again almost immediately. He was outside the door.
But he did not come in at once. She had a sudden impression that he was
standing there, his hand on the knob, outlining what he meant to say to her when
he showed the door to a hated Cardew. Afterwards she came to know how right
that impression was. He was never spontaneous. He was a man who debated
everything, calculated everything beforehand.
When he came in it was slowly, and with his head bent, as though he still
debated within himself. Then: