He had an ascetic countenance that Niles (if that really was his name) had assured him would be an accurate forecast of the man. “Don’t try to get on his good side. He hasn’t one and beyond wasting your time, it will only tend to have the opposite effect than the one you intend with your efforts,” That had been the cautionary introduction Jonathon had been given that morning.
“Have you seen me trying to get on your good side?”
“Why would you?” Niles said affably with a rhetorical question of his own. “I’m far too glib for the likes of you to take seriously but not so the Great Man who has accomplished much and is extending himself by going out of his way to visit you on your manor. The mountain coming to Muhammad is an apt description in this instance and you might find yourself impressed as I would be.”
“I’m not often impressed by those whom I know much less by those I am about to meet.”
“Well,” said Niles, “we’ll just put that down to you being you and take no special notice of it. Greatness, unlike the postman of literary and Hollywood fame, doesn’t always ring twice. Sometimes he doesn’t even bloody ring at all.”
He sat across from Jonathon in the study having declined tea. Jonathon sipped his tea waiting for him to speak, but he seemed in no hurry to do so.
“Caravaggio,” he said finally after giving consideration to the surroundings.
Jonathon looked at the painting on the paneled wall to his right and said, “One of the lesser ones. It’s been in the family for decades.” There was no need to add that it was Anne’s family and not his own.
The man nodded as though receiving the sad news of a distant and unfortunate relative.
“Events like these aren’t commonplace and it does no good to invest in introspection nor should one indulge in any form of hubris at having been chosen. I wanted a personal glimpse of you as much to validate what I know to be true about life as what I suspected to be true of you. Thank you for allowing me this visit though I understand you are feeling like a guest in your own home. Is there anything you would like to know that I can tell you?”
There are only a thousand and one things I want to know thought Jonathon, but he remained curiously silent. Earlier, in preparation for this visit, he had made a mental list of recriminations and demands as well as a few well-articulated threats making reference to certain highly-placed family members--again, not his own family--that now seemed to be less urgent and something that could wait for a more appropriate moment.
“No? Then I shall leave you to it. I’d wish you well but I don’t think my wishes are especially important to you and, like the rest of us, you will do what needs doing without desire for consent or approbation. May your journey be instructive.”
With that, he took his leave.