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Unformatted text preview: at must be Captain Ralph Paton,' I said slowly.
'I have not seen him about here before?' 'No, he has not been here for some time. But he is the son adopted son, rather - of Mr Ackroyd of Fernly Park.' My neighbour made a slight gesture of impatience.
'Of course, I should have guessed. Mr Ackroyd spoke of him many times.' 'You know Mr Ackroyd?' I
said, slightly surprised.
'Mr Ackroyd knew me in London - when I was at work there. I have asked him to say nothing of my
profession down here.' 'I see,' I said, rather amused by this patent snobbery, as I thought it.
But the little man went on with an almost grandiloquent smirk.
'One prefers to remain incognito. I am not anxious for notoriety. I have not even troubled to correct the
local version of my name.' 'Indeed,' I said, not knowing quite what to say.
'Captain Ralph Paton,' mused Mr Porrott. 'And so he is engaged to Mr Ackroyd's niece, the charming
Miss Flora.' 'Who told you so?' I asked, very much surprised.
'Mr Ackroyd. About a week ago. He is very pleased about it - has long desired that such a thing should
come to pass, or so I understood from him. I even believe that he brought some pressure to bear upon
the young man. That is never wise. A young man should marry to please himself - not to please a
stepfather from whom he has expectations.' My ideas were completely upset. I could not see Ackroyd
taking a hairdresser into his confidence, and discussing the marriage of his niece and stepson with him.
Ackroyd extends a genial patronage to the lower orders, but he has a very great sense of his own dignity.
I began to think that Porrott couldn't be a hairdresser after all.
To hide my confusion, I said the first thing that came into my head. 'What made you notice Ralph Paton? His good looks?' 'No, not that alone - though he is unusually
good-looking for an Englishman - what your lady novelists would call a Greek God. No, there was
something about that young man that I did not understand.' He said the last sentence in a musing tone of
voice which made an indefinable impression upon me. It was as though he was summing up the boy by
the light of some inner knowledge that I did not share. It was that impression that was left with me, for at
that moment my sister's voice called me from the house.
I went in. Caroline had her hat on, and had evidently just come in from the village. She began without
'I met Mr Ackroyd.' 'Yes?' I said.
'I stopped him, of course, but he seemed in a great hurry, and anxious to get away.' I have no doubt but
that that was the case. He would feel towards Caroline much as he had felt towards Miss Gannett earlier
in the day - perhaps more so. Caroline is less easy to shake off.
'I asked him at once about Ralph. He was absolutely astonished. Had no idea the boy was down here.
He actually said he thought I must have made a mistake. I! A mistake!' 'Ridiculous,' I said. 'He ought to
have known you better.' 'Then he went on to tell me that Ralph and Flora are engaged.' 'I knew that,
too,' I interrupted, with modest pride.
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