Jerome: part two
He had beckoned to the attendant…one of the wonderful luxuries with which the American Pullman car was appointed; and speaking low, had made his request: “You will please deliver this to the gentleman, there, whose voice we have been hearing.” He had written on the back of his card: “Sir, I ask a word with you, if you are so kind.” Ebrach had come up the gangway at once, and lowered himself onto the seat across from Jerome, offering his hand and saying, simultaneous to leaning forward, elbows on knees, “Mr. Jerome, I have the advantage of you at present; but I will make amends by introducing myself…”
And Jerome, launching his enquiry with an uncertain construction, had tried: “Mr. Ebrach, how does it come to be…?” He could not find the words he wanted. He tried again. “I have heard you say Monsieur Gremot…”
“Ah!” Ebrach interrupted him. “Gremot…the name is French.”
They had made their way, then, to this loose arrangement of traveling together, Ebrach attaching himself to Jerome; or Jerome growing dependent on Ebrach, as the case might be. Ebrach took things over, and Jerome, whose well-being was badly affected by rail travel, had wanted him to do so.
As to his third reason, he knew that he would lose this fight―in which he’d had no wish to engage―no matter whether he protested the use Ebrach was making of him, or allowed it. He might have said, “I am not so stupid, monsieur. I have heard of these things, this farce of speaking to the dead―”
Angered by this thought, Jerome flung his hand in a dismissive gesture, as though the argument were real. However, Ebrach had mastered his seduction of strangers. He would look about him for allies. He portrayed himself―his “philosophical bent”―as under attack; this was an old trick. Having forewarned of it, Ebrach would see his reputation benefit when the attack came. That was all. If Jerome found himself cast against his will as Ebrach’s accomplice, he must weigh the question in terms of his own vulnerability. Ebrach made an unsatisfactory friend and protector, but Jerome could not abandon Ebrach until he had found a new friend and protector.
He did not intend to impose himself on the benevolence of W. A. Gremot. While becoming to a man of property, charitable feeling was by no means to be relied on. And for having corresponded with his relative; or, more accurately, for having badgered a response from Gremot after two years of experiment, Jerome had gained some measure of his character.
(2017, Stephanie Foster)